The Doctrine of Christ
Views of the Early Church
Views of the Early Church
"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)
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 natureThe 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).
Lets examine what the students of the Apostles, their
friends, peers and subsequent students had to say between A.D. 96A.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,
". . . 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
"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.
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 alonebeing 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 Johns 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 Johns 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, andwhat may still further
torture unbelievers with the most bitter painshe 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 Constantines oldest son, Crispus. His work entitled The Divine
Institutes was written about A.D. 320. Eventually moving to France, he died about
"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