The Baptism of Jesus Christ - The Proof Text That Doesn't Prove Anything

What about the baptism of Christ? Doesn’t that prove the Trinity?

When discussing the Godhead, one of the proof texts for Trinitarian doctrine that is always brought up is the baptism of Jesus. It is so obvious. There are all three of them present. How could anyone not see it?

There were three present. Three of what? Is there any proof that there are three persons of God in view? Is this the purpose of the story, to introduce the most radical of all doctrines to the ancient Jews? Is this the proof given to explain the greatest of all mysteries? How conclusive would the proof be if the text was read without a Trinitarian presupposition? If you didn't believe that God was three persons, would you arrive at that conclusion by reading this text? 

John 1:32-34 

32And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. 33And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. 34And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.

According to this passage, the purpose of the miraculous signs was not to introduce a Trinity, but rather as a sign to John the Baptist. This was confirmation that the Messiah had arrived.

Matthew 3:17 

 17And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

John the Baptist was looking for one that would baptize with the fire of the Spirit. He was looking for one that would be greater than him. Surely John was very familiar with Isaiah’s prophecy that the Son would be the Mighty God and Everlasting Father. The voice and the dove all confirmed the same message that Jesus was, in fact, the Christ.

There were clearly three manifestations of God that day: the man, the dove, and the voice. This does not prove that there is an Eternal God the Father, an Eternal God the Son, and an Eternal God the Holy Ghost that are separate but equal thus encompassing One God in three persons.

Would any Jew present that day come to the conclusion that the one God was somehow three persons because a voice spoke and they saw the Spirit manifested as a dove? God had revealed Himself in a variety of ways throughout their nations history. If the purpose of this occurrence was to signify the relationship of three divine persons, why was it never explicitly explained? For that matter, why didn’t Jesus or any of his disciples ever discuss the fact that Israel had lived in complete darkness for thousands of years concerning the trinity?

John 5:39 

39Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

The teachings of the Old Testament testified of Christ. The Old Testament emphatically proclaimed that there was only one God.

Isaiah 43:10,11 

10Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me11I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.

Repeatedly He was called the Holy One, the only God, etc. There was never a mention of a trinity of persons in the Godhead. The idea of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost would have been quite foreign to the strictly monotheistic Jews of that day. 

I’m confident that everyone there left amazed that God had manifested Himself to them in a supernatural way. I’m equally confident that no one there left with any understanding of God existing as multiple persons in perfect unity. If that was the purpose of the signs, they would have failed. The onlookers probably did all leave believing that Jesus was clearly called and anointed by God. His public ministry was successful launched. It would not be until His last days, after He had performed many confirming works, that Jesus would clearly articulate His identity to His closest followers. 

This text proves that Jesus made a dramatic entrance onto the public stage. It does not prove anything regarding the nature of God.