The trinity doctrine confirms that the majority Christians believe that Jesus (Messiah, Al-Maseeh in Arabic is a title of Jesus) is the son of God but we do not have any such explicit evidence that the Jews believe that Ezra is the son of God. Apparently, the parallelity as stated in the above verse is an inconsistency in the Quran as we are not aware of anything like this among the present generation of Jews or from the Jewish history being the root of reporting it to be an controversial matter. However, some Muslim scholars have addressed the issue explaining that a small group of Jews used to believe that Ezra was the son of God as the Jewish tradition regards him as a second Moses noted in the Talmud. Hence, it is crucial for us to know about Ezra that might help us understand our teaching from such parallelity including the overall message coded in the verse:
Jew’s View of Ezra (Uzair in Arabic)
The verse 9:30 is the only place where Ezra (‘Uzair) is mentioned in the Quran. According to traditional Muslims, Ezra is considered to be one of the messengers of God. However, as we can see from the verse, God does not specifically identify Ezra as messenger. Yet, since it is mentioned in the Quran that he was idolized as Jesus was, it is reasonable to assume that he was a saintly man, if not a messenger but the Jews, on the other hand, hold him in very high esteem. The following quote was taken from the “Introduction” to the Book of Ezra in the Old Testament (The New American Bible for Catholics, World Catholic Press, 1986:
The genealogy of Ezra traces his priesthood back to Aaron, brother of Moses. This was the accepted way of establishing the legality of one’s priestly office. He is also called a scribe, well-versed in the law of Moses, indicating Ezra’s dedication to the study of Torah, which he sought to make the basic rule of life in the restored community. It was religious and cultic reform rather than in political affairs that Ezra made his mark as a postexilic leader and the Jewish tradition holds him in great honor; the Talmud even regards him as a second Moses, claiming that the Torah would have been given to Israel through Ezra had not Moses preceded him.
Ezra is sometimes accused of having been a mere legalist who gave excessive attention to the letter of the law. His work, however, should be seen and judged within a specific historical context. He gave to his people cohesion and spiritual unity which prevented disintegration of the small Jewish community. Had it not been for the intransigence of Ezra and those who adopted his ideal, it is doubtful that Judaism would have so effectively resisted Hellenism, then or in later centuries. Ezra set the tone of the postexilic community, and it was characterized by fidelity to the Torah, Judaism’s authentic way of life.
This view of Ezra which has evolved in the Judaic tradition is yet another example of the human tendency to assign ranks to God’s messengers. Notice that there are even those who have the arrogance to say that Ezra would have delivered the Torah if he had preceded Moses. In this way they take it upon themselves to judge and make a decision that none but God can make. Being considered a second Moses, it is possible that some Jews during the time of Ezra or afterwards might have called Ezra the son of God or he had been assigned rank equivalent to it, i.e., he was idolized as Jesus. Thus, the Quran teaches us that this was so but not an inconsistency as claimed.
Trinity is a false doctrine
The Trinity is one of mainstream Christianity’s most widely accepted and revered doctrines held by millions of Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox believers. They belief that God is three persons—the Father, Son and Holy Spirit—coexisting in one being is how the trinity doctrine is often defined. But the word “trinity” appears nowhere within the pages of the Bible.
Origin of Trinity
To briefly summarize what was pertinent, we start with mention of the famous Greek philosopher Plato (ca. 429-347 B.C.). He believed in a divine triad of “God, the ideas, [and] the World-Spirit,” though he “nowhere explained or harmonized this triad” (Charles Bigg, Christian Platonists of Alexandria, 1886, p. 249). Later Greek thinkers refined Plato’s concepts into what they referred to as three “substances”—the supreme God or “the One,” from which came “mind” or “thought” and a “spirit” or “soul.” In their thinking, all were different divine “substances” or aspects of the same God. Another way of expressing this was as “good,” the personification of that good, and the agent by which that good is carried out. Again, these were different divine aspects of that same supreme good—distinct and yet unified as one.
Such metaphysical thinking was common among the intelligentsia of the Greek world and carried over into the thinking of the Roman world of the New Testament period and succeeding centuries. As the last of the apostles began to die off, some of this metaphysical thinking began to affect and infiltrate the early Church—primarily through those who had already begun to compromise with paganism. As Bible scholars John McClintock and James Strong explain: “Towards the end of the 1st century, and during the 2nd, many learned men came over both from Judaism and paganism to Christianity, these brought with them into the Christian schools of theology their Platonic ideas and phraseology” ( Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, 1891, Vol. 10, “Trinity,” p. 553).
The true Church largely resisted such infiltration and held firm to the teaching of the apostles, drawing their doctrine from the writings of the apostles and “the Holy Scriptures [the books of the Old Testament] which are able to make you wise for salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make these wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. See All). As a result, two distinct threads of Christianity split and developed separately—one true to the plain and simple teachings of the Bible and the other increasingly compromised with pagan thought and practices adopted from the Greco-Roman world.
Thus, as debate swelled over the nature of God in the fourth century leading to the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople, it was no longer a debate between biblical truth and error. Both sides in the debate had been seriously compromised by their acceptance of unbiblical philosophical ideas. Many of the church leaders who formulated the doctrine of the Trinity were steeped in Greek and Platonic philosophy, and this influenced their religious views and teaching. The language they used in describing and defining the Trinity is, in fact, taken directly from Platonic and Greek philosophy. The word trinity itself is neither biblical nor Christian. Rather, the Platonic term trias, from the word for three, was Latinized as trinitas— the latter giving us the English word trinity.
“The Alexandria catechetical school, which revered Clement of Alexandria and Origen, the greatest theologian of the Greek Church, as its heads, applied the allegorical method to the explanation of Scripture. It’s thought was influenced by Plato: its strong point was [pagan] theological speculations. Athanasius and the three Cappadocians [the men whose Trinitarian views were adopted by the Catholic Church at the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople] had been included among its members” (Hubert Jedin, Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church: an Historical Outline, 1960, p. 28).
“The doctrines of the Logos [i.e., the “Word,” a designation for Christ in John 1] and the Trinity received their shape from Greek Fathers, who . . . were much influenced, directly or indirectly, by the Platonic philosophy . . . That errors and corruptions crept into the Church from this source cannot be denied” (The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Samuel Macauley Jackson, editor, 1911, Vol. 9, p. 91).
The preface to historian Edward Gibbons’ History of Christianity sums up the Greek influence on the adoption of the Trinity doctrine by stating: “If Paganism was conquered by Christianity, it is equally true that Christianity was corrupted by Paganism. The pure Deism [basic religion, in this context] of the first Christians . . . was changed, by the Church of Rome, into the incomprehensible dogma of the trinity. Many of the pagan tenets, invented by the Egyptians and idealized by Plato, were retained as being worthy of belief” (1883, p. xvi). (See “How Ancient Trinitarian Gods Influenced Adoption of the Trinity,” beginning on page 18.)
The link between Plato’s teachings and the Trinity as adopted by the Catholic Church centuries later is so strong that Edward Gibbon, in his masterwork The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, referred to Plato as “the Athenian sage, who had thus marvelously anticipated one of the most surprising discoveries of the Christian revelation” —the Trinity (1890, Vol. 1, p. 574).
Thus we see that the doctrine of the Trinity owes far less to the Bible than it does to the metaphysical speculations of Plato and other pagan Greek philosophers. No wonder the apostle Paul warns us in Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the word, and not after Christ. See All (New International Version) to beware of “hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ”!
Quran’s Views of Trinity
The Trinity doctrine was announced following the Nicene Conferences after 3 centuries of the death of Jesus Christ. As it is a false doctrine, the Quran teaches us not to believe in it. Here are the relevant verses of the Quran:
[4:171] O people of the scripture, do not transgress the limits of your religion, and do not say about God except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was a messenger of God, and His word that He had sent to Mary, and a revelation from Him. Therefore, you shall believe in God and His messengers. You shall not say, “Trinity.” You shall refrain from this for your own good. God is only one god. Be He glorified; He is much too glorious to have a son. To Him belongs everything in the heavens and everything on earth. God suffices as Lord and Master.
[5:73] Pagans indeed are those who say that God is a third of a trinity. There is no god except the one god. Unless they refrain from saying this, those who disbelieve among them will incur a painful retribution.
In addition, the history of seven sleepers in the cave has been described in the Quran that supports that it was a false doctrine and the righteous Christians avoided it:
[18:16] “Since you wish to avoid them, and their worshiping of other than God, let us take refuge in the cave. May your Lord shower you with His mercy and direct you to the right decision.”
It is noted that the tomb of the seven sleepers was found in Ephesus about 200 miles south of ancient Nicene, and 30 miles south of today’s Izmir in Turkey. The dwellers of the cave were young Christians who wanted to follow the teachings of Jesus, and worship God alone. They were fleeing the persecution of neo-Christians who proclaimed a corrupted Christianity three centuries after Jesus, following the Nicene Conferences, when the Trinity doctrine was announced.
Quran’s View of assigning the ranks to any God’s Messengers
The Quran protects us from the dangers of idolatry by teaching us that it is a fundamental trait of the believers that they do not assign ranks to God’s messengers that we find in the following verses:
[2:136] Say, “We believe in God, and what is sent down to us, and what was sent down to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Patriarchs; and what was given to Moses and Jesus, and what given to the prophets from their Lord. We do not make a distinction betwenn any of them, and to Him we are submitters.”
[2:285] The messenger believes in what was sent down to him from his Lord, and the believers. All believe in God, His angels, His scriptures, and His messengers. We do not make a distinction between any of His messengers, and they said, “We hear and we obey, forgive us, our Lord, and to You is the return.”
[3:84] Say, “We believe in God, and what is sent down to us, and what was sent down to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Patriarchs, and what was given to Moses, Jesus, and the prophets from their Lord. We do not make a distinction between any of them, and to Him we are submitters.”
[3:194] Our Lord, grant us what You promised us through Your messengers, and do not forsake us on the Day of Resurrection. Indeed, You never break a promise.
[4:152] And those who believe in God and His messengers, and they do not make a distinction between any of them, those He will give them their reward. And God is Forgiving, Most Merciful.
In addition, the Jew’s view of Ezra and the trinity doctrine indicate the inclination towards ranking God’s messengers and saints that allows the devil to inject idolatry into the worship of God alone. Once one allows for the possibility that one messenger is better than another, it means that he is then closer to God than other messengers and believers. From there it is not difficult to make the fatal mistake of assigning superior messengers the rank of God’s partner. In the verse immediately following the one in question (9:30) we read such warning:
[9:31] They have taken their rabbis and their monks to be lords besides God, and the Messiah, son of Mary, while they were commanded to worship but one god; there is no god except He. Glory be to Him from what they associate.
The parallelity in the above verse together with others teaches us to pray that we will not fall into this satanic trap of idol worship assigning rank or honor to any messengers of God, and it is also illogical to compare one messenger with another because of sending them at different times with different messages but the core message has always been the same to worship God alone (21:10, 21:25).
Peaceful Friday, Salaam and God bless.