The concept of the Trinity in Efik Traditional Belief

©Philip Nosa-Adam

A trinity can be defined as the belief in the existence of three coeternal and consubstantial persons in one God. The concept of three persons in one God can be found in several faiths across the world. Followers of the Hindu religion, affirm a belief in a triune God i.e, Brahma the Creator; Vishnu who represents sustenance and Siva the Destroyer. The Ancient Babylonians also believed in a triune God which consisted of Ninki (also known as Ishtar), Enki (also known as Namakh) and Marduk. The most notable example of a trinity can be found in the Christian faith. Christian adherents affirm a belief in, God the Father, God the son and God the Holy Spirit. Thus, the aforementioned trinities represent the Divine in its threefold nature.

Before the introduction of Christianity, underlying beliefs of the trinity existed in the Efik traditional religion. Such concepts were more visible in folk tales and were noticed by Rev. Hugh Goldie and Rev. Hope Waddell. Rev. Hope Waddell in his Twenty-Nine Years in the West Indies (1863)…stated,

“It may be added that remnants of a tradition involving the idea of a trinity were found among them. There was one God Abasi and a son of God, mentioned in their inkes or fables and a third or middle God of whom they had heard little and knew nothing. But only a few admitted the existence of such traditions”

Goldie reveals the identity of the supreme God as Ibom Eno. He further defines Ibom Eno in his 1862 dictionary as,

“In Efik mythology, the father of Abasi, according to some nkes*. Hence some derive the names Abasi Ibom and Inyang Ibom, both being sons of Ibom Eno.”

Goldie’s description indicates that Ibom Eno was regarded as the supreme God who bore two sons. Richard Burton in his Wits and Wisdom from West Africa (1865), hypothesizes that the sons of Ibom Eno were personifications of Earth and Ocean. Thus, Abasi Ibom representing the Earth and Inyang Ibom representing the Ocean. With the arrival of the missionaries in Old Calabar in 1846, the Efik traditional belief in a triune God would be replaced with the Christian concept of the trinity. Today, the belief in the Christian interpretation of a Triune God is represented in the Efik prayer, “Itoro enyene Ete ye Eyen ye Edisana spirit, nte emi ekedide ke editọñọ, edi ntre idaha emi, edinyuñ idi ntre ke nsi-nsi. Amen”

©Philip Nosa-Adam

Image caption: A Celtic three headed deity

Image source: Christoph Bacher Archäologie

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