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The Doctrine of Christ
Views of the Early Church Fathers


Views of the Early Church Fathers

"To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and for whom we live; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and through whom we live." (1 Cor. 8:6, KJV and NIV)

If Jesus taught and revealed himself to be an uncreated "God the Son" rather than the Son of God, it should have been universally accepted by our early Church brethren. Their writings should show the Trinity to be understood and developed from the very start of the Apostolic Era. The fundamental doctrines of the Church were not to be originated by those following the Apostles. God did not give further revelations after their passing. (See Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 4:6; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 John 9, NAS.)

The doctrine of the Trinity, defined over a 264-year period from The Council of Nice in A.D. 325 to The Third Synod at Toledo in A.D. 589, states that there are three distinct persons of the same spiritual nature—The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. It is claimed that all three persons are uncreated and share in omnipotence, making them one. Therefore, the Trinity fails once it can be established that (1) There was a time when the uncreated Father was alone, (2) The Son, Jesus, was produced from the first creative act of God, and (3) The holy Spirit is not a person, but the power, the energy or force used by God (and in this sense is also uncreated).

Let’s examine what the students of the Apostles, their friends, peers and subsequent students had to say between A.D. 96–A.D. 320. We present these historical readings, not as a foundation for Truth, but simply to show that these early Christians had not come to believe in the Trinity. To those who feel comfortable going to the fourth and fifth centuries to establish this doctrine, we wish them well, but we cannot leave the Apostolic Era to come over to them. Biblically and historically, this early period is just too important to abandon. We submit the following:

Clement of Rome: according to many Christian writers before the Nicene Council, he is the Clement of Philippians 4:3. He was an elder in the Rome congregation from about A.D. 92-101. His Corinthian Epistle, written about A.D. 96, was held in high esteem, considered by many to be equal to the writings of the Apostles and was frequently used in their Sunday meetings. He was born about A.D. 30 and died about A.D. 100.

"We know you alone are ‘highest among highest’ . . . You have chosen those who love you through Jesus Christ, your beloved son, through whom you have instructed, sanctified and honored us. . . . Let all nations know that you are the only God, that Jesus Christ is your son and that we are your people." To The Corinthians, Chap. 59, vs. 3, 4.

Ignatius of Antioch: was surnamed "Theophorus," meaning "God-bearer," because of his gentle, kindly nature. He was an elder at the Antioch, Syria, congregation and was a student of the Apostle John. His authentic writings, being the short version of his seven epistles, were written about A.D. 110. He was born about A.D. 50 and was martyred A.D. 116.

"There is one God, who manifested Himself through Jesus Christ, His son, who being His Word, came forth out of the silence into the world and won full approval of Him whose ambassador he was." To the Magnesians, Chap. 8, vs. 2.

". . . who also really rose from the dead, since his Father raised him up,—his Father who will likewise raise us also who believe in Him through Jesus Christ, apart from whom we have no real life." To The Trallians, Chap. 9, vs. 2.

"You are well established in love through the Blood of Christ and firmly believe in our Lord. He is really ‘of the line of David according to the flesh’ and the son of God by the will and power of God." To The Smyrnaeans, Chap. 1, vs. 1.

Polycarp: born about A.D. 69, was also a student of the Apostle John, as well as a close friend of Ignatius of Antioch. He was an elder at the congregation in Smyrna, Asia Minor, and wrote his Philippian epistle before A.D. 140. He was burned at the stake February 23, 155.

"Now, may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Eternal Priest himself, Jesus Christ, the son of God, build you up in faith and truth." To The Philippians, Chap.12, vs. 2.

". . . to Him who is able to bring us all in His grace and bounty, to His Heavenly Kingdom, by His only-begotten child, Jesus Christ, be glory, honor, might and majesty forever." Martyrdom, Chap. 20, vs. 2.

Justin: called "Martyr" because of his martyrdom in A.D. 166, was born about A.D. 107 in Rome. He was a heathen philosopher converted to Christianity about A.D. 130. His first work, Dialogue with Trypho, was written in A.D. 135 as Trypho, a Jew, was fleeing Jerusalem after the Bar Kochba revolt. He wrote between A.D. 135 until just before his beheading.

"God begat before all creatures a Beginning who was a certain rational power proceeding from Himself, who is called by the holy spirit now ‘The Glory of the Lord,’ now ‘The Son,’ again ‘Wisdom,’ again ‘an Angel,’ then ‘God,’ then ‘Lord’ and ‘Logos;’ and on another occasion he calls himself ‘Captain.’" Dialogue with Trypho, Chap. 61.

"We follow the only unbegotten God through His Son." First Apology, Chap. 14.

"We assert that the Word of God was born of God in a peculiar manner, different from ordinary generation, let this, as said above, be no extraordinary thing to you who say that Mercury is the angelic word of God." First Apology, Chap. 22.

"The Father of all is unbegotten . . . And His Son, who alone is properly called Son, the Word . . . was with Him and was begotten before the world. . . ." Second Apology, Chap. 6.

Tatian: born in Assyria about A.D. 110, was a student of Justin Martyr. He wrote the earliest Bible commentary of the four Gospels known to exist. Sometime he became the leader of the Encratite sect of the Gnostics. Despite this, his writings give a semi-fair view of Christian doctrines. He wrote between A.D. 161-170 and died about A.D. 172.

"The Lord of the Universe, who is Himself the necessary ground of all being, inasmuch as no creature was yet in existence, was alone. . . . And by His simple will the Logos springs forth; and the Logos, not coming forth in vain becomes the first-begotten work of the Father and was the beginning of the world." To The Greeks, Chap. 5.

Melito: born about A.D. 110, was an elder at Sardis, Asia Minor, from about A.D. 160-170 and a friend of Ignatius of Antioch as a young child. He wrote between A.D. 165-70 and was martyred A.D. 177. Only small fragments exist.

"There is that which really exists and it is called God . . . This being is in no sense made, nor did He come into being, but has existed from eternity." Apology 1: To Antonius Caesar.

"Jesus Christ . . . is perfect Reason, the Word of God, he who was begotten before the light, he who is creator together with the Father." Apology 4: On Faith.

Theophilus of Antioch: was born about A.D. 130 and was an elder at Antioch, Syria, around A.D. 170-180. He wrote before A.D. 175 and died A.D. 181.

"God, then, having His own Word internal within His own womb begat him, emitting him along with His own Wisdom before all things. He had this Word as a helper in the things that were created by Him, and by him He created all things." To Autolychus, Chap. 10.

Athenagoras: born in Athens of heathen parents in A.D. 134 wrote his work "Defense for the Christians" in A.D. 176 and presented it to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, a fierce persecutor of Christians, in A.D. 177. He died A.D. 190.

"We acknowledge one God uncreated, eternal, invisible, impassable, incomprehensible, illimitable . . . by whom the universe has been created through His Logos and set in order . . . I say ‘His Logos’ for we acknowledge also a Son of God . . . He is the first product of the Father, not as having been brought into existence, for from the beginning, God, who is the eternal mind, had the Logos in Himself, being from eternity endowed with spiritual reason, coming forth as the idea and energy of all material things." Defense for the Christians, Chap. 10.

Irenaeus: one of the most recognized early Christians, was born A.D. 140 and was a student of Polycarp. He was an elder at the Lyons, France, congregation from A.D. 178. He was well known throughout the Western world of the time. He died in France A.D. 202. His writings can be dated from about A.D. 180.

"If anyone, therefore, says to us, ‘How, then, was the Son produced by the Father?’ we reply to him, that no one understands that production, or generation . . . no powers possess this knowledge but the Father only who begat and the Son who was begotten." Against Heresies, Book 2, Chap. 28, vs. 6.

Clement of Alexandria: born Titus Flavius Clemens A.D. 150, was born, raised and became an elder at Alexandria, Egypt. He wrote between A.D. 190-195 and died about A.D. 220. His writings are valuable because once he was converted to Christianity, he traveled throughout the Roman Empire to learn pure Christianity from the oldest and most respected Christians alive.

"The best thing on earth is the most pious: perfect man; and the best thing in heaven, the next and purer in place, is an angel, the partaker of the eternal and blessed life. But the nature of the Son, which is next to Him who is alone the Almighty One, is the most perfect." Miscellanies, Book 7, Chap. 2.

"He [Jesus] commences his teaching with this: turning the pupil to God, the good, and first and only dispenser of eternal life, which the Son, who received it of Him, gives to us." Salvation Of The Rich Man, Chap. 6.

Tertullian: was born in Carthage, Tunisia A.D. 160, of Libyan descent and a distant relative of Arius. His writings began about A.D. 190, about 10 years before he joined the Montanist sect of Christianity, who believed in continuing revelation [speaking in tongues, healing , etc.] and a life of asceticism. He continued writing until about A.D. 210 and died A.D. 230 in Carthage, where he was also an elder.

"Before all things God was alone—being in Himself and for Himself . . . the Word was in the beginning with God although it would be more suitable to regard Reason as the more ancient . . . For although God had not yet delivered His Word, He still had him within Himself . . . Now, while He was actually thus planning and arranging with His own reason, He was actually bringing forth the Word." Against Praxeas, Chap. 5.

"The Word, no doubt, was before all things. ‘In the beginning was the Word’; and in that beginning he was sent forth by the Father. The father, however, has no beginning, as proceeding from none; nor can He be seen since He was not begotten. He who has always been alone could never have order or rank." Against Praxeas, Chap. 5.

Hippolytus: born about A.D. 160, was a student of Irenaeus. He wrote about A.D. 220, dying August 13, 235, after being banished to the Mediterranean island of Sardinia.

"If therefore, all things are put under him [Jesus] with the exception of Him [God] who put them under him, he is the Lord of all and the Father is Lord of him . . . And this indeed is said by Christ himself, as when in the Gospel he confessed Him to be his Father and his God. . . . He [Jesus] did not say, ‘I and the Father am one,’ but ‘are one.’ For the word ‘are’ is not said of one person, but refers to two persons and one power. He has himself made this clear when he spoke to his Father concerning his disciples [in John 17:22-3] . . . For Christ had spoken of himself and showed himself among all to be as the Son . . . And as the author and fellow-counsellor and framer of the things that are in formation He begat the Word . . . He sent him forth to the world as Lord . . . And thus, there appeared another beside himself . . . For there is but one power, which is from the All; and the Father is the All, from whom comes this power, the Word . . . and was manifested as the Son of God. All things, then, are by Him and He alone is the Father." Against The Heresy Of One Noetus, Chaps. 6, 7, 10, 11.

Origen: born of Christian parents A.D. 185 in Alexandria, Egypt, Origen was the most prolific of all early Christian writers. Trained by Clement of Alexandria, he was elected elder at the age of 18 when Clement had to flee for his life. He was a friend of Hippolytus and is distinguished for the first complete Bible commentary. In A.D. 253, at age 70, he was captured, tortured and one week later died for his faith.

"We next notice John’s usage of the article in these sentences. He does not write without care in this respect, nor is he unfamiliar with the niceties of the Greek tongue . . . He uses the article when the name of ‘God’ refers to the uncreated of all things, and omits it when the Logos is named ‘God’ . . . The God who is over all is God with the article . . . all beyond the Only God is made god by participation in His divinity, and is not to be called simply ‘The God’ but rather ‘god’ . . . The true God, then, is ‘The God,’ and those who are formed after Him are gods, images as it were, of Him, the prototype." Commentary on John’s Gospel, Book 2, Chap. 2.

Novatian: who was born about A.D. 200 is known for his work that was posthumously titled Commentary on the Trinity. It was written about A.D. 240, 18 years before his death in 258.

"God the Father and Creator of all things, who only knows no beginning . . . when He willed it, the Son, the Word, was born . . . But now, whatever he is, he is not of himself because he is not unborn, but he is of the Father, because he is begotten . . . he owes his existence to the Father . . . He therefore is god, but begotten for this special result, that he should be god. He is also the Lord, but born for this very purpose of the Father, that he might be Lord. He is also an Angel, but he was destined of the Father as an Angel to announce the great counsel of God . . . God the Father is God of all, and the source also of His son himself whom He begot." Commentary on the Trinity, Chap 31.

Arnobius: born A.D. 253 in Sicca, Algeria, was first an enemy of Christianity. When converted, he became a teacher to many new Christians in the West. He wrote Against the Heathen about A.D. 300 and died about A.D. 327.

"We Christians are nothing else than worshippers of the Supreme King and Head, under our master, Christ . . . O greatest, O Supreme Creator of all things invisible . . . You are illimitable, unbegotten, immortal, enduring for age, God yourself alone, whom no bodily shape may represent, no outline delineate . . . ‘Is that Christ of yours a god, then?’ some raving, wrathful and excited man will say. A god, we will reply, and a god of the powers of heaven, and—what may still further torture unbelievers with the most bitter pains—he was sent to us by the King Supreme for a purpose of the very highest order." Against The Heathen, Book 1, Chaps. 27, 31, 42.

Lactantius: Lucius Coelius Firmianus Lactantius, born in Rome A.D. 260, was a student of Arnobius. He was the teacher of Emperor Constantine’s oldest son, Crispus. His work entitled The Divine Institutes was written about A.D. 320. Eventually moving to France, he died about A.D. 330.

"God, therefore, the contriver and founder of all things, as we have said in the second book, before He commenced this excellent work of the world, begat a pure and incorruptible Spirit whom He called His Son. And although He had afterwards created by Himself innumerable other beings, whom we call angels, this first-begotten, however, was the only one whom He considered worthy of being called by the divine name." The Divine Institutes, Book 4, Chap. 6