For the first essay on the Trinity see "Is the Holy Spirit Part of a Trinity?" Nov 26, 2015.
Toward the end of the first century the situation is remarkably different from what I found in the letters of Paul at the middle of the century. Around the end of the century, the Gospel of John makes a definite advance in defining the relationship between Jesus and God, but there is no stated concept of a Triune God—i.e., Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons conceptualized as One God. Conceptualizing and describing a divine Trinity requires abstract logical thinking and systematic description, which are not found in John.
In John God is understood as spirit (John 4:24), which seems to describe God's nature or character (spirit; not the spirit, which indicates identity). Jesus is presented as God's "son" (1:49; 5:18; 10:36; 11:27; 19:7; 20:31). The son (1:14), was "with God" and "was God" (1:1-2, 18), and came forth from God, having been sent here by God (8:42). He became flesh (1:14; not quite the same as being born a human being). The essential identity of God and Jesus is made certain by the confession of Thomas: "My Lord and my God" (20:28). Other less certain clues appear in John reflecting an identity (10:30; 17:11, 21-22). The unity is apparently primordial (17:24). No attempt is made by the writer, however, to explain how that unity/identity could be so. In John there seems to be a duality of two distinct personae conceived as One God.
How the holy spirit should be conceived in relation to the divine Duality, however, is complicated, and unclear. At the beginning of Jesus' public life, John the baptizer testifies that he saw the spirit descend and remain (1:32) on Jesus, who as a result baptizes with (in?) the holy spirit (1:33). The descending spirit must also be holy, for the "Father" is holy (17:11) and is apparently the source of the holy spirit with which Jesus baptizes. The spirit is thus involved in the activities of Jesus (3:3-8; 4:23-24; 6:63), and God is not stingy in giving the spirit (3:34).
On one occasion, however, surprisingly an intrusive explanatory voice interrupts the narrative, asserting that there was no spirit yet, for Jesus had not yet been "glorified" (7:39) ("glorification" is a cryptic allusion to the crucifixion/resurrection, 12:23-24, 27-33; 17:1-5). Hence 7:39 clearly contradicts 1:32-33, for spirit remains with Jesus through his career enabling his words (6:63), making true worship possible (4:23-24), and generating new birth (3:3-8). Opposed to this idea that the spirit is active in the public life of Jesus is the surprising statement at the end of the Gospel that the holy spirit is finally given (20:22-23).
Before the crucifixion, Jesus tells his followers that he is going to the one who sent him (16:7) and at his departure the paraclete (16:4b-11) will come to them. The meaning of this word is unclear and translations vary. Immediately following this statement his followers learn that another figure is also coming to them: the spirit of truth (16:13). The temptation is to harmonize and read the paraclete and the spirit of truth as one and the same, but the figures have different functions: paraclete (16:8-11); spirit of truth (16:13-14). Nevertheless the two figures are awkwardly identified as one and the same at (14:16-17)—how seriously should one regard the reference to "another paraclete" (14:16)? Should one consider the spirit of truth as an additional (second) paraclete?
The holy spirit is awkwardly identified as the paraclete in 14:25-26, almost as an afterthought. Its appearance in 14:26 seems like an intrusion into the sentence, similar to the explanatory observation at 7:39 (among many others). All three figures paraclete, spirit of truth (i.e., paraclete #2?), and holy spirit have different functions, but they all come to replace Jesus, the son (14:25-26, 16:7-8, 16:12-13). This/these figures are not clearly identified as one with Jesus in the same sense that Jesus was identified with God; rather they are cast as performing Jesus' role in the community after he is gone. The language the writer of John employs to describe Jesus in relation to them puts a certain distance between Jesus, the paraclete, and the spirit of truth. John 14:25-26: "paraclete, whom the father will send in my [Jesus'] name; he will remind you all I have said"; 16:14: "He [spirit of truth] will glorify me"; 16:7: "I will send him [paraclete] to you. . ." This language, carefully distinguishing between Jesus and the figure(s) who replace him, does not encourage a reader to sense a close unity or union between the son and his replacement(s).
There are no Trinitarian formulae in John, the closest statement to such an idea being John 1:32-34, and John does not seem to be aware of the later theological concept Father, Son, Holy Spirit—three figures in one Godhead.
Charles W. Hedrick
Missouri State University