Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism Sacred Doctrine

Zanchi on the Trinity (2)

Today we move on to section two in Zanchi’s confession of the Holy Trinity, which asserts both the full deity of all three Persons as well as the unity of the Godhead.

Text and Translation

II. Ita unamquamque personam verum esse per se Deum, ut tamen non sint tres dii.

Ita enim credimus atque e sacris literis didicimus Patrem per se verum et perfectum esse Deum, Filium item per se Deum et Spiritum sanctum per se Deum, ut tamen non multi sint, sed unus tantum Iehova, a quo omnia, per quem omnia et in quem omniam.

II. That each person is of himself true God, but in such a way that there are not three gods.

For we believe and have learned from the sacred writings that the Father is of himself true and perfect God, the Son likewise [is] of himself [true and perfect God], and the Holy Spirit [is] of himself [true and perfect] God, but in such a way that they are not many [gods], but only one Jehovah, from whom [are] all things, through whom [are] all things, and in whom [are] all things.1


  1. Again, Zanchi avers that his Trinitarian confession is made upon the authority of Scripture: he has “learned from” Scripture that the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God.
  2. This fact does not, however, compromise their unity as the One God. They are, he says, each truly God, but “in such a way” (ita) that (ut) they do not thereby become three gods. He does not present an argument for this here, but takes it as the Christian confession required by the “sacred writings” (sacris literis). If Scripture teaches that there is one God, and also that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, both must be true. (This same general truth also could be said of the baptismal formula in particular, which loomed so large as a motivation for fourth century Cappadocian thought: “I baptize you in the name [singularity, the One God] of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit [plurality, the Three Persons]”). Hence classical Trinitarian thought, which sets the parameters for how this can be so.
  3. His confession echoes, among other things, the so-called “Athanasian Creed,” which reads in part: “So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords.”
  4. The proof-text noted in the margin is Romans 11.36: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Evidently, then, Zanchi, who cites the first part verbatim, reads this as being in reference to the Triune God as such, and not to the Father in particular. One wonders: how often do we see the word “God” in Scripture and reflexively think “Father,”2 rather than “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”?
  1. The translation is my own.
  2. Of course, sometimes it is used in this way.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.