Trinity and the Early Church

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by bobbyd, Nov 19, 2007.

  1. bobbyd

    bobbyd
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    I'm looking through my some what limited library of church history documents and writings and wonder if someone could help me here...what is the earliest known writings outside of Scripture and prior to Nicea that speak of the Triune Godhead?
     
  2. Humblesmith

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    Here are most of the pre-Nicean quotes that support the Trinity, with source documentation. Actually, considering it was during a time when Christianity was illegal, there is more than you would think. Those who say that the Trinity was invented at Nicea don't have a scholarly leg to stand on.


    ---First, see the Didache, a first century document that uses a trinitarian formula.




    ---Athenagoras the Athenian (c. 177)


    a)“Father and Son being one”

    b)The Son being in the Father and the Father in the Son, in oneness and power of spirit.”

    c)Son was not brought into existence.

    d)“The Holy Spirit Himself”

    e)“God the Father and God the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”

    f)“The oneness of the Son with the Father”

    g)“The communion of the Father with the Son”

    [FONT=&quot]h) “The unity of these three, the Spirit, the Son, the Father, and their distinction in unity” (Roberts, 133-134)

    [/FONT][FONT=&quot]

    ---Iranaeus (c.190) did not use the term Trinity, but wrote in a Trinitarian formulation, organizing an explanation in terms of the Father, Word, and Holy Spirit.
    [/FONT]



    ---Tertullian (220)


    a)“When a ray is projected from the sun it is a portion of the whole sun; but the sun will be in the ray because it is a ray of the sun; the substance is not separated but extended. … This ray of God…glided down into a virgin, in her womb was fashioned as flesh” (DOCC, 34)

    [FONT=&quot]b) Tertullian was the first to assert the tri-personality of God and to use the word “trinity.” He emphasized the fact that the three Persons are of one substance, and having number but without division. (HCD, 63)

    c) See Tertullian's book "Against Praxeas" where he more fully develops the doctrine of the Trinity. (See Schaff, Early Church Fathers, Vol. 3)


    [/FONT]
    ---Dionysius, Bishop of Rome (259-268)


    [FONT=&quot]“For the Divine Word must of necessity be united to the God of the Universe, and the Holy Spirit must have his habitation and abode in God; thus it is absolutely necessary that the Divine Triad be summed up and gathered into a unity, brought as it were to an apex, and by that Unity I mean the all sovereign God of the Universe. … For thus both the Holy Triad and the holy preaching of the Monarchy will be preserved.” (DOCC, 35)


    [/FONT]
    ---Gregory the Great (Gregorius Thaumaturgus) (c.270)


    a)Bishop of Neo-Caesarea in Pontus, 240-270; took a prominent part in Synod of Antioch, 269 A.D.

    [FONT=&quot]b) “There is one God, the Father of the living Word. . . the Father of the only-begotten Son. There is one LORD, one of one (only of the only), God of God, the image and likeness of the Godhead, the mighty Word. . . the power which produces all creation; the true Son of the true Father, Invisible of Invisible, and Incorruptible of Incorruptible, and Immortal of Immortal, and Everlasting of Everlasting. And there is one Holy Ghost, having his existence from God, and being manifested by the Son. . . God the Father, who is over all things and in all things, and God the Son, who is through all things: a perfect Trinity, not divided nor differing in glory and eternity and sovereignty. Neither, indeed, is there any thing created or subservient in the Trinity, nor introduced, as though not there before but coming in afterwards; nor indeed, has the Son ever been without the Father, nor the Spirit without the Son, but the Trinity is ever the same, unvarying and unchangeable.” (Schaff, Vol 2, p.24-25)


    [/FONT]
    ---Alexander of Alexandria (319)


    a)Preached about “The Great Mystery of Trinity in Unity”

    [FONT=&quot]b) Arius attacked, and claimed that Jesus was less than true God, and of a different essence than the Father. To Arius, Jesus was divine, but not deity. ([/FONT][FONT=&quot]Cairns[/FONT][FONT=&quot], 133, 134)



    ---Further, the Coucil of Nicea (325 A.D) was called to deal with the Arian heresy, which said that Jesus was not fully God, but rather a created being somwhere below God.




    Books Cited:
    [/FONT][FONT=&quot]DOCC: Bettenson, Henry, and Maunder, Chris, eds., Documents of the Christian Church. 3rd edition, Oxford University Press, 1999.

    [/FONT][FONT=&quot]Roberts, Alexander, and James Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Translations of The Writings of The Fathers Down To AD 325. Vol. 2, American reprint of the Edinburgh edition, rev. by A. Cox, Buffalo, The Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1885.

    HCD: [/FONT][FONT=&quot]Berkhof, Louis, The History of Christian Doctrines. [/FONT][FONT=&quot]Grand Rapids[/FONT][FONT=&quot], [/FONT][FONT=&quot]Mich.[/FONT][FONT=&quot], Baker Book House, 1975.

    [/FONT][FONT=&quot]Schaff, Philip, and Schaff, David, The Creeds of Christendom With a History and Critical Notes. Schaff, David, Revised, Volume II, [/FONT][FONT=&quot]Grand Rapids[/FONT][FONT=&quot], [/FONT][FONT=&quot]Mich.[/FONT][FONT=&quot], Baker Books, 1998.[/FONT]
     
    #2 Humblesmith, Nov 21, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 21, 2007
  3. webdog

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    Good stuff :thumbs:
     
  4. bobbyd

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    The Didache totally slipped my mind...appreciate it!
     
  5. rsr

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    That's a fine list.

    To it might be added:

    "I understand nothing else than the Holy Trinity to be meant; for the third is the Holy Spirit, and the Son is the second, by whom all things were made according to the will of the Father."

    -- Clement of Alexandria (c. 192), Stromata, Book V, Chapter 14 (in arguing that the Greek philosophers - in this case Plato - had "plagiarized" from the Hebrews.
     
  6. Humblesmith

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    Oh, that quote is excellent, since it pushes the first use of the word Trinity back about 30 years. The Louis Berkhof book says Tertullian was the first to use the word c.220, but this quote has Clement using it c.190.

    It is a fairly widespread myth that the doctrine of the Trinity was invented or coerced at Nicea in 325. We have now documented 5 direct uses of the term "Trinity" and three indirect uses, all before Nicea. Of course, the bible is the best source, but these quotes show that the doctrine was clearly established over a century before Nicea. Pretty good for a church that was more interested in staying alive and out of prison than they were in writing theology.
     
  7. Dick Fischer

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    Early Trinity

    Actually, the first we can find a "trinity" or triad of gods in Akkadian writings and predates the Bible itself. The father-god in heaven was called Ilu which evolved to El in Hebrew and Allah in Islam. Under pressure of the Sumerian An who was their father-god, Ilu became corrupted over time to "Anu" and is seen in later Akkadian writing. The second was a god called Ea whom the Sumerians adpted as Enki - meaning Lord of the Earth. The third was a god called Enlil meaning Lord of the "air," "breath," or "spirit." This is in my upcoming book: Historical Genesis from Adam to Abraham.
     
  8. Humblesmith

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    Well, before you publish your book, I would strongly suggest researching the writings of Edwin M. Yamauchi, if you have not done so already. He has spent the last 30 plus years totally destroying the viewpoint that you propose. His first series of articles that I know of were in Christianity Today back in April of '74, and he's published many books and articles since then. Good luck trying to get your viewpoint past him, cause you'll need it.
     
  9. Humblesmith

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    I have found some more quotes from early church fathers supporting the trinity. As far as I know, we've exhausted the list. But these are in addition to those liste earlier in this thread. Quite a good list, considering.

    ---Justin Martyr (c.160): “. . .with respect to the most true God, the Father of righteousness and temperance and the other virtues, who is free from all impurity. But both Him, and the Son . . .and the prophetic Spirit, we worship and adore, knowing them in reason and truth . . .” (Schaff, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol 1, 164.)

    ---Theophilus of Antioch (c.169 – c.183):

    a) “But the moon wanes monthly, and in a manner dies, being a type of man; then it is born again, and is crescent, for a pattern of the future resurrection. In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the Trinity, of God, and His Word, and His wisdom.”

    Of this quote, scholar Philip Schaff says “The earliest use of this word ‘Trinity.’ It seems to have been used by this writer in his lost works, also; and, as a learned friends suggests, the use he makes of it is familiar. He does not lug it in as something novel: ‘types of the Trinity,’ he says, illustrating an accepted word, not introducing a new one.” (Schaff, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2, 101)
     
  10. grahame

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    Good answer. Some people get so taken up with their own views that they forget to research their subject thoroughly. Great references in this thread. Thank you.
     

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