Watchtower interprets early christians - need reference

by icocer 13 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • icocer

    We were quite surprised, then, to learn that the February 1, 1992
    Watchtower magazine contained an article that attempted to deal with
    the teachings of Ignatius of Antioch regarding the Deity of Christ.
    We knew that a series of articles had begun in the November 1, 1991
    Watchtower entitled "Did the Early Church Teach That God is a
    Trinity?" We felt that this series was an attempt to buttress the
    tremendously flawed material that had appeared in the "Trinity"
    booklet two years earlier. In the second part of this series, which
    is to be found in the February 1, 1992 edition of the Watchtower,
    pages 19-23, we find an attempt to deal with The Didache, Clement of
    Rome's letter to the Corinthians, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp,
    Hermas, and Papias. The article shows unconstrained bias in its
    dealing with each of these patristic sources, but we will focus our
    attention in this article upon the comments that take up all of page
    21, those comments that deal with Ignatius of Antioch.


    I found this article while googling for the "ignatius watchtower". Can someone obtain these watchtowers somehow? I would love to read them myself. I begged my JW co-worker for some CD he allways looks at when I have a question. He told me no, I needed to be studying to be a publisher. Tempting Actually, also how can I obtain one of those CD's?

  • Honesty
  • Justahuman24

    Go to the link that Honesty posted and download the CD version. I have read the WTS articles and wasn't sure how unbiased they were. Of course, it's human nature to always quote and use what supports one's belief or opinion but to misquote or purposefully misrepresent someone's belief is just wrong.

    justahuman - but super nonetheless

  • M.J.

    Why can't the WTS just be honest? True, Ignatius did not teach a developed Trinity doctrine. But he obviously believed in the deity of Christ. The argument that he rejected a main tenet of the Trinity when he spoke of Christ being subordinate to the Father is a straw-man, for the Trinity doctrine acknowleges this fact--contending that subordination is not equivalent to inferiority. The WTS knows this but keeps trotting out the same argument.

  • icocer

    So after I download this CD I can look up anything? Thanks you guys.

  • Leolaia

    The Watchtower has a schizophrenic attitude towards Ignatius. In one article, they praise his faith and willingness to face death during Roman persecution, in another article, they condemn him as the main force behind the development of ecclesiastical structure that deviated from the apostolic one, i.e. as a key person of the "Great Apostasy". Similarly, they praise Polycarp of Smyrna for his willingness to die for his faith and his defense of apostolic doctrine against gnostics, and yet Polycarp wrote much against some of the very teachings that the Society praises him for, such as their teaching that Jesus was not resurrected in the flesh.

  • jgnat

    The November 1, 1991 Article







    Did Jesus and his disciples teach the doctrine of the Trinity? Did church leaders of the next several centuries teach it? How did it originate? And why is it important to know the truth about this belief? Beginning with Part 1 in this issue, TheWatchtower will discuss these questions in a series of articles. Other articles in the series will appear periodically in later issues.

    THOSE who accept the Bible as God’s Word recognize that they have a responsibility to teach others about the Creator. They also realize that the substance of what they teach about God must be true.

    God rebuked Job’s "comforters" for not doing that. "Jehovah proceeded to say to Eliphaz the Temanite: ‘My anger has grown hot against you and your two companions, for you men have not spoken concerning me what is truthful as has my servant Job.’"—Job 42:7.

    The apostle Paul, when discussing the resurrection, said that we would be "found false witnesses of God" if we were to teach something about God’s activities that was not true. (1 Corinthians 15:15) This being so with the resurrection teaching, how careful we ought to be when we approach our teaching about who God is!



    Nearly all churches of Christendom teach that God is a Trinity. TheCatholicEncyclopedia calls the Trinity teaching "the central doctrine of the Christian religion," defining it this way:

    "In the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these Three Persons being truly distinct one from another. Thus, in the words of the Athanasian Creed: ‘the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God.’ . . . The Persons are co-eternal and co-equal: all alike are uncreated and omnipotent." 1


    BaptistEncyclopædia gives a similar definition. It says:

    "[Jesus] is . . . the eternal Jehovah . . . The Holy Spirit is Jehovah . . . The Son and Spirit are placed on an exact equality with the Father. If he is Jehovah so are they." 2



    In 325 C.E., a council of bishops in Nicea in Asia Minor formulated a creed that declared the Son of God to be "true God" just as the Father was "true God." Part of that creed stated:

    "But as for those who say, There was [a time] when [the Son] was not, and, Before being born He was not, and that He came into existence out of nothing, or who assert that the Son of God is of a different hypostasis or substance, or is created, or is subject to alteration or change—these the Catholic Church anathematizes." 3

    Thus, anyone who believed that the Son of God was not coeternal with the Father or that the Son was created was consigned to everlasting damnation. One can imagine the pressure to conform that this put on the mass of ordinary believers.

    In the year 381 C.E., another council met in Constantinople and declared that the holy spirit should be worshiped and glorified just as the Father and Son were. One year later, in 382 C.E., another synod met in Constantinople and affirmed the full divinity of the holy spirit. 4 That same year, before a council in Rome, Pope Damasus presented a collection of teachings to be condemned by the church. The document, called the Tome of Damasus, included the following statements:

    "If anyone denies that the Father is eternal, that the Son is eternal, and that the Holy Spirit is eternal: he is a heretic."

    "If anyone denies that the Son of God is true God, just as the Father is true God, having all power, knowing all things, and equal to the Father: he is a heretic."

    "If anyone denies that the Holy Spirit . . . is true God . . . has all power and knows all things, . . . he is a heretic."

    "If anyone denies that the three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, are true persons, equal, eternal, containing all things visible and invisible, that they are omnipotent, . . . he is a heretic."

    "If anyone says that [the Son who was] made flesh was not in heaven with the Father while he was on earth: he is a heretic."

    "If anyone, while saying that the Father is God and the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God, . . . does not say that they are one God, . . . he is a heretic." 5

    The Jesuit scholars who translated the foregoing from Latin added the comment: "Pope St. Celestine I (422-32) apparently considered these canons law; they may be considered definitions of faith." 6 And scholar Edmund J. Fortman asserts that the tome represents "sound and solid trinitarian doctrine." 7

    If you are a member of a church that accepts the Trinity teaching, do these statements define your faith? And did you realize that to believe in the Trinity doctrine as taught by the churches requires you to believe that Jesus was in heaven while he was on earth? This teaching is similar to what fourth-century churchman Athanasius stated in his book OntheIncarnation:

    "The Word [Jesus] was not hedged in by His body, nor did His presence in the body prevent His being present elsewhere as well. When He moved His body He did not cease also to direct the universe by His Mind and might. . . . He is still Source of life to all the universe, present in every part of it, yet outside the whole." 8


    Some have concluded that simply ascribing deity or godship to Jesus is all that the Trinity teaching means. For others, belief in the Trinity simply means belief in Father, Son, and holy spirit.

    However, a close examination of Christendom’s creeds exposes how woefully inadequate such ideas are in relation to the formal doctrine. Official definitions make it clear that the Trinity doctrine is not a simple idea. Instead, it is a complex set of separate ideas that have been brought together over a long period of time and interlocked into one another.

    From the picture of the Trinity doctrine that appeared after the Council of Constantinople in 381 C.E., from the Tome of Damasus in 382 C.E., from the Athanasian Creed that came some time later, and from other documents, we can clearly determine what Christendom means by the Trinity doctrine. It includes the following definite ideas:

    1. There are said to be three divine persons—the Father, the Son, and the holy spirit—in the Godhead.

    2. Each of these separate persons is said to be eternal, none coming before or after the other in time.

    3. Each is said to be almighty, with none greater or lesser than the other.

    4. Each is said to be omniscient, knowing all things.

    5. Each is said to be true God.

    6. However, it is said that there are not three Gods but only one God.

    Clearly the Trinity doctrine is a complex set of ideas including at least the above vital elements and involving even more, as revealed when the details are examined. But if we consider only the above basic ideas, it is apparent that if any are removed, what remains is no longer Christendom’s Trinity. To have the complete picture, all these pieces must be present.

    With this better understanding of the term "Trinity," we can now ask: Was it a teaching of Jesus and his disciples? If so, it should have appeared fully formed in the first century of our Common Era. And since what they taught is found in the Bible, then the Trinity doctrine is either a Bible teaching or it is not. If it is, it should be clearly taught in the Bible.

    It is not reasonable to think that Jesus and his disciples would teach people about God and yet not tell them who God is, especially when some believers would be asked to give up even their lives for God. Hence, Jesus and his disciples should have given the highest priority to teaching others about this vital doctrine.


    At Acts chapter 17, verse 11, people are called "noble-minded" because they were "carefullyexaminingtheScripturesdailyastowhetherthesethingswereso," things taught by the apostle Paul. They were encouraged to use the Scriptures to confirm the teachings even of an apostle. You should do the same.

    Keep in mind that the Scriptures are "inspired of God" and are to be used for "setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) So the Bible is complete in doctrinal matters. If the Trinity doctrine is true, it should be there.

    We invite you to search the Bible, especially the 27 books of the Christian Greek Scriptures, to see for yourself if Jesus and his disciples taught a Trinity. As you search, ask yourself:

    1. Can I find any scripture that mentions "Trinity"?

    2. Can I find any scripture that says that God is made up of three distinct persons, Father, Son, and holy spirit, but that the three are only one God?

    3. Can I find any scripture that says that the Father, Son, and holy spirit are equal in all ways, such as in eternity, power, position, and wisdom?

    Search as you may, you will not find one scripture that uses the word Trinity, nor will you find any that says that Father, Son, and holy spirit are equal in all ways, such as in eternity, power, position, and wisdom. Not even a single scripture says that the Son is equal to the Father in those ways—and if there were such a scripture, it would establish not a Trinity but at most a "duality." Nowhere does the Bible equate the holy spirit with the Father.


    Many scholars, including Trinitarians, admit that the Bible does not contain an actual doctrine of a Trinity. For example, TheEncyclopediaofReligion states:

    "Exegetes and theologians today are in agreement that the Hebrew Bible does not contain a doctrine of the Trinity . . . Although the Hebrew Bible depicts God as the father of Israel and employs personifications of God such as Word (davar), Spirit (ruah), Wisdom (hokhmah), and Presence (shekhinah), it would go beyond the intention and spirit of the Old Testament to correlate these notions with later trinitarian doctrine.

    "Further, exegetes and theologians agree that the New Testament also does not contain an explicit doctrine of the Trinity. God the Father is source of all that is (Pantokrator) and also the father of Jesus Christ; ‘Father’ is not a title for the first person of the Trinity but a synonym for God. . . .

    "In the New Testament there is no reflective consciousness of the metaphysical nature of God (‘immanent trinity’), nor does the New Testament contain the technical language of later doctrine (hupostasis,ousia,substantia,subsistentia,prosopon,persona). . . . It is incontestable that the doctrine cannot be established on scriptural evidence alone." 9

    Regarding the historical facts on this matter, TheNewEncyclopædiaBritannica states:

    "Neither the word Trinity nor the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament . . .

    "The doctrine developed gradually over several centuries and through many controversies. . . .

    "It was not until the 4th century that the distinctness of the three and their unity were brought together in a single orthodox doctrine of one essence and three persons." 10

    The NewCatholicEncyclopedia makes a similar statement regarding the origin of the Trinity:

    "There is the recognition on the part of exegetes and Biblical theologians, including a constantly growing number of Roman Catholics, that one should not speak of Trinitarianism in the New Testament without serious qualification. There is also the closely parallel recognition on the part of historians of dogma and systematic theologians that when one does speak of an unqualified Trinitarianism, one has moved from the period of Christian origins to, say, the last quadrant of the 4th century. It was only then that what might be called the definitive Trinitarian dogma ‘one God in three Persons’ became thoroughly assimilated into Christian life and thought. . . .

    "The formula itself does not reflect the immediate consciousness of the period of origins; it was the product of 3 centuries of doctrinal development." 11


    Trinitarians may say that the Bible "implies" a Trinity. But this claim is made long after the Bible was written. It is an attempt to read into the Bible what clergymen of later times arbitrarily decided should be doctrine.

    Ask yourself: Why would the Bible only "imply" its most important teaching—who God is? The Bible is clear on other basic teachings; why not on this, the most important one? Would not the Creator of the universe author a book that was clear on his being a Trinity if that were the case?

    The reason the Bible does not clearly teach the Trinity doctrine is simple: It is not a Bible teaching. Had God been a Trinity, he would surely have made it clear so that Jesus and his disciples could have taught it to others. And that vital information would have been included in God’s inspired Word. It would not have been left to imperfect men to struggle with centuries later.

    When we examine texts offered by Trinitarians as evidence that the Bible "implies" a Trinity, what do we find? An honest appraisal reveals that the scriptures offered do not speak of Christendom’s Trinity. Instead, theologians try to force into the scriptures their preconceived ideas of a Trinity. But those ideas are not in the scripture texts. In fact, those Trinitarian ideas conflict with the clear testimony of the Bible as a whole.

    An example of such texts is found at Matthew 28:19, 20. There the Father, the Son, and the holy spirit are mentioned together. Some claim that this implies a Trinity. But read the verses yourself. Is there anything in those texts that says that the three are one God equal in eternity, power, position, and wisdom? No, there is not. It is the same with other texts that mention the three together.

    As for those who see Trinitarian implications at Matthew 28:19, 20 in the use of "name" in the singular for the Father, Son, and holy spirit, please compare the use of "name," singular, for Abraham and Isaac at Genesis 48:16.—KingJamesVersion;NewWorldTranslationoftheHolyScriptures.

    Trinitarians also point to John 1:1 in some translations, where "the Word" is spoken of as being "with God" and as being "God." But other Bible translations say that the Word was "a god" or was "divine," meaning not necessarily God but a powerful one. Furthermore, that Bible verse says that "the Word" was "with" God. That would reasonably exclude him from being that same God. And no matter what is concluded about "the Word," the fact is that only two persons are mentioned at John 1:1, not three. Over and over again, all texts used to try to support the Trinity doctrine utterly fail to do so when examined honestly.

    Another factor to consider is this: If the Trinity doctrine had been taught by Jesus and his disciples, then surely leading churchmen who came immediately after them would also have taught it. But did those men, today called the Apostolic Fathers, teach the Trinity doctrine? This question will be discussed in Part 2 of this series in a later issue of TheWatchtower.


    1. TheCatholicEncyclopedia, 1912, Volume XV, page 47.

    2. TheBaptistEncyclopædia, edited by William Cathcart, 1883, pages 1168-9.

    3. AShortHistoryofChristianDoctrine, by Bernhard Lohse, 1980 Edition, page 53.

    4. Ibid., pages 64-5.

    5. TheChurchTeaches, translated and edited by John F. Clarkson, S.J., John H. Edwards, S.J., William J. Kelly, S.J., and John J. Welch, S.J., 1955, pages 125-7.

    6. Ibid., page 125.

    7. TheTriuneGod, by Edmund J. Fortman, 1982 Edition, page 126.

    8. OntheIncarnation, translated by Penelope Lawson, 1981 Edition, pages 27-8.

    9. TheEncyclopediaofReligion, Mircea Eliade, editor in chief, 1987, Volume 15, page 54.

    10. TheNewEncyclopædiaBritannica, 15th Edition, 1985, Volume 11, Micropædia, page 928.

    11. NewCatholicEncyclopedia, 1967, Volume XIV, page 295.

  • jgnat

    The Feb 1, 1992 Article




    In TheWatchtower of November 1, 1991, Part 1 of this series discussed whether Jesus and his disciples taught the Trinity doctrine—the idea that the Father, the Son, and the holy spirit were three equal persons but one God. The clear evidence from the Bible, from historians, and even from theologians is that they did not. What of church leaders who followed soon afterward—did they teach a Trinity?

    "APOSTOLIC FATHERS" is the designation used for churchmen who wrote about Christianity in the late first and early second centuries of our Common Era. Some of them were Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Hermas, and Papias.

    They were said to be contemporaries of some of the apostles. Thus, they should have been familiar with apostolic teachings. Regarding what those men wrote, TheNewEncyclopædiaBritannica says:

    "Taken as a whole the writings of the Apostolic Fathers are more valuable historically than any other Christian literature outside the New Testament." 1

    If the apostles taught the Trinity doctrine, then those Apostolic Fathers should have taught it too. It should have been prominent in their teaching, since nothing was more important than telling people who God is. So did they teach the Trinity doctrine?



    One of the earliest non-Biblical statements of Christian faith is found in a book of 16 short chapters known as TheDidache, or TeachingoftheTwelveApostles. Some historians date it before or about the year 100 C.E. Its author is unknown. 2


    Didache deals with things people would need to know to become Christians. In its 7th chapter, it prescribes baptism "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," the same words Jesus used at Matthew 28:19. 3 But it says nothing about the three being equal in eternity, power, position, and wisdom. In its 10th chapter, TheDidache includes the following confession of faith in the form of a prayer:

    "We thank you, Holy Father, for your holy Name which you have made to dwell in our hearts; and for the knowledge and faith and immortality which you have made known to us through Jesus your Servant. Glory to you forever! You, Almighty Master, created everything for your Name’s sake . . . And to us you have graciously given spiritual food and drink, and life eternal through Jesus your Servant." 4

    There is no Trinity in this. In TheInfluenceofGreekIdeasonChristianity, Edwin Hatch quotes the foregoing passage and then says:

    "In the original sphere of Christianity there does not appear to have been any great advance upon these simple conceptions. The doctrine upon which stress was laid was, that God is, that He is one, that He is almighty and everlasting, that He made the world, that His mercy is over all His works. There was no taste for metaphysical discussion." 5



    Clement of Rome, thought to have been a "bishop" in that city, is another early source of writings on Christianity. It is believed that he died about 100 C.E. In the material said to have been written by him, he makes no mention of a Trinity, either directly or indirectly. In the FirstEpistleofClementtotheCorinthians, he states:

    "Grace unto you, and peace, from Almighty God through Jesus Christ, be multiplied."

    "The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ has done so from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ."

    "May God, who seeth all things, and who is the Ruler of all spirits and the Lord of all flesh—who chose our Lord Jesus Christ and us through Him to be a peculiar people—grant to every soul that calleth upon His glorious and holy Name, faith, fear, peace, patience, long-suffering." 6

    Clement does not say that Jesus or the holy spirit is equal to God. He presents Almighty God (not just "Father") as distinct from the Son. God is spoken of as superior, since Christ is "sent forth" by God, and God "chose" Christ. Showing that God and Christ are two separate and unequal identities, Clement said:

    "We will beg with earnest prayer and supplication that the Creator of the universe will keep intact the precise number of his elect in the whole world, through his beloved Child Jesus Christ. . . . We realize you [God] alone are ‘highest among the highest’ . . . You alone are the guardian of spirits and the God of all flesh."

    "Let all the nations realize that you are the only God, that Jesus Christ is your Child." 7

    Clement calls God (not just "Father") "the highest," and refers to Jesus as God’s "Child." He also notes regarding Jesus: "Since he reflects God’s splendor, he is as superior to the angels as his title is more distinguished than theirs." 8 Jesus reflects God’s splendor, but he does not equal it, just as the moon reflects sunlight but does not equal the source of that light, the sun.

    If the Son of God were equal to God, who is the heavenly Father, it would have been unnecessary for Clement to say that Jesus was superior to the angels, since that would have been obvious. And his wording shows his recognition that while the Son is superior to angels, he is inferior to Almighty God.

    Clement’s position is quite plain: The Son is inferior to the Father and is secondary to him. Clement never viewed Jesus as sharing in a godhead with the Father. He shows that the Son is dependent upon the Father, that is, God, and says definitely that the Father is ‘God alone,’ sharing His position with no one. And nowhere does Clement give the holy spirit equality with God. Thus, there is no Trinity at all in Clement’s writings.


    Ignatius, a bishop of Antioch, lived from about the middle of the first century C.E. to early in the second century. Assuming that all the writings attributed to him were authentic, in none of them is there an equality of Father, Son, and holy spirit.

    Even if Ignatius had said that the Son was equal to the Father in eternity, power, position, and wisdom, it would still not be a Trinity, for nowhere did he say that the holy spirit was equal to God in those ways. But Ignatius did not say that the Son was equal to God the Father in such ways or in any other. Instead, he showed that the Son is in subjection to the One who is superior, Almighty God.

    Ignatius calls Almighty God "the only true God, the unbegotten and unapproachable, the Lord of all, the Father and Begetter of the only-begotten Son," showing the distinction between God and His Son. 9 He speaks of "God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ." 10 And he declares: "There is one God, the Almighty, who has manifested Himself by Jesus Christ His Son." 11

    Ignatius shows that the Son was not eternal as a person but was created, for he has the Son saying: "The Lord [Almighty God] created Me, the beginning of His ways." 12 Similarly, Ignatius said: "There is one God of the universe, the Father of Christ, ‘of whom are all things;’ and one Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord, ‘by whom are all things.’" 13 He also writes:

    "The Holy Spirit does not speak His own things, but those of Christ, . . . even as the Lord also announced to us the things that He received from the Father. For, says He [the Son], ‘the word which ye hear is not Mine, but the Father’s, who sent Me.’" 14

    "There is one God who manifested himself through Jesus Christ his Son, who is his Word which proceeded from silence and in every respect pleased him [God] who sent him. . . . Jesus Christ was subject to the Father." 15

    True, Ignatius calls the Son "God the Word." But using the word "God" for the Son does not necessarily mean equality with Almighty God. The Bible also calls the Son "God" at Isaiah 9:6. John 1:18 calls the Son "the only-begotten god." Being vested with power and authority from Jehovah God, the Father, the Son could properly be termed a "mighty one," which is what "god" basically means.—Matthew 28:18; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Hebrews 1:2.

    However, are the 15 letters attributed to Ignatius accepted as authentic? In TheAnte-NiceneFathers, Volume I, editors Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson state:

    "It is now the universal opinion of critics, that the first eight of these professedly Ignatian letters are spurious. They bear in themselves indubitable proofs of being the production of a later age . . . and they are now by common consent set aside as forgeries."

    "Of the seven Epistles which are acknowledged by Eusebius . . . , we possess two Greek recensions, a shorter and a longer. . . . Although the shorter form . . . had been generally accepted in preference to the longer, there was still a pretty prevalent opinion among scholars, that even it could not be regarded as absolutely free from interpolations, or as of undoubted authenticity." 16

    If we accept the shorter version of his writings as genuine, it does eliminate some phrases (in the longer version) that show Christ as subordinate to God, but what is left in the shorter version still does not show a Trinity. And regardless of which of his writings are genuine, they show at best that Ignatius believed in a duality of God and his Son. This was certainly not a duality of equals, for the Son is always presented as lesser than God and subordinate to him. Thus, regardless of how one views the Ignatian writings, a Trinity doctrine is not to be found in them.


    Polycarp of Smyrna was born in the last third of the first century and died in the middle of the second. It is said that he had contact with the apostle John, and he is said to have written the EpistleofPolycarptothePhilippians.

    Was there anything in Polycarp’s writing that would indicate a Trinity? No, there is no mention of it. Indeed, what he says is consistent with what Jesus and his disciples and apostles taught. For instance, in his Epistle, Polycarp stated:

    "May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ Himself, who is the Son of God, . . . build you up in faith and truth." 17

    Note that, like Clement, Polycarp does not speak of a Trinitarian "Father" and "Son" relationship of equals in a godhead. Instead, he speaks of "the God and Father" of Jesus, not just ‘the Father of Jesus.’ So he separates God from Jesus, just as the Bible writers repeatedly do. Paul says at 2 Corinthians 1:3: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." He does not just say, ‘Blessed be the Father of Jesus’ but, "Blessed be theGod and Father" of Jesus.

    Also, Polycarp says: "Peace from God Almighty, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour." 18 Here again, Jesus is distinct from Almighty God, not one person of an equal triune Godhead.


    Another Apostolic Father is Hermas, who wrote in the first part of the second century. In his work the Shepherd, or Pastor, does he say anything that would lead one to believe that he understood God to be a Trinity? Note some examples of what he said:

    "Nor when man wishes the spirit to speak does the Holy Spirit speak, but it speaks only when God wishes it to speak. . . . God planted the vineyard, that is to say, He created the people, and gave them to His Son; and the Son appointed His angels over them to keep them." 19

    "The Son of God is older than all his creation." 20

    Here Hermas says that when God (not just the Father) wishes the spirit to speak, it speaks, showing God’s superiority to the spirit. And he says that God gave the vineyard to his Son, showing God’s superiority to the Son. He also states that the Son of God is older than his, the Son’s, creatures, that is, those the Son of God created as God’s Master Worker, "because by means of him all other things were created in the heavens and upon the earth." (Colossians 1:15, 16) The fact is that the Son is not eternal. He was created as a spirit creature of high rank, before other spirit creatures, such as the angels, who were created by means of him.

    J. N. D. Kelly, in his EarlyChristianDoctrines, writes about the view of Hermas regarding the Son of God:

    "In a number of passages we read of an angel who is superior to the six angels forming God’s inner council, and who is regularly described as ‘most venerable’, ‘holy’, and ‘glorious’. This angel is given the name of Michael, and the conclusion is difficult to escape that Hermas saw in him the Son of God and equated him with the archangel Michael."

    "There is evidence also . . . of attempts to interpret Christ as a sort of supreme angel . . . Of a doctrine of the Trinity in the strict sense there is of course no sign." 21

    Papias is also said to have known the apostle John. Likely he wrote early in the second century, but only fragments of his writings exist today. In them he says nothing about a Trinity doctrine.


    In the matter of God’s supremacy and his relationship with Jesus, the teaching of the Apostolic Fathers is fairly consistent with the teaching of Jesus, the disciples, and the apostles, as recorded in the Bible. All of them speak of God, not as a Trinity, but as a separate, eternal, almighty, all-knowing Being. And they speak of the Son of God as a separate, lesser, subordinate spirit creature whom God created to serve Him in accomplishing His will. And the holy spirit is nowhere included as an equal of God.

    Thus, in those late-first-century and early-second-century writings of the Apostolic Fathers, there is no support for Christendom’s Trinity. They spoke of God, Jesus, and the holy spirit just as the Bible does. Look, for example, at Acts 7:55, 56:

    "Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand. ‘I can see heaven thrown open,’ he said, ‘and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’"—Catholic JerusalemBible.

    Stephen saw a vision of God in heaven with Jesus standing next to Him. The Son was standing next to the One termed, not just "Father," but "God," one completely separate in identity from Jesus. And there was no third person involved in what Stephen saw. The holy spirit was not seen in heaven with Jesus and his Father.

    That is similar to Revelation 1:1, which states: "This is the revelation given by God to Jesus Christ." (TheJerusalemBible) Again, the resurrected Christ in heaven is shown to be entirely separate from God, and the holy spirit is not mentioned. If Jesus were the second person of a Trinity, knowing all things, how could he be "given" a revelation?

    Scriptures such as these show clearly that there is no Trinity. And no scripture in the entire Bible speaks of God as being a Trinity. The writings of the Apostolic Fathers reflected this. They most certainly did not teach Christendom’s Trinity.

    The next important group of writings on Christianity came later in the second century. These were the works of churchmen who are called apologists. Did they teach a Trinity? In a future issue, Part 3 of this series will comment on their teachings.


    1. TheNewEncyclopædiaBritannica, 15th Edition, 1985, Micropædia, Volume 1, page 488.

    2. ADictionaryofChristianTheology, edited by Alan Richardson, 1969, page 95; TheNewEncyclopædiaBritannica, 15th Edition, 1985, Micropædia, Volume 4, page 79.

    3. TheApostolicFathers, Volume 3, by Robert A. Kraft, 1965, page 163.

    4. Ibid., pages 166-7.

    5. TheInfluenceofGreekIdeasonChristianity, by Edwin Hatch, 1957, page 252.

    6. TheAnte-NiceneFathers, Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors, American Reprint of the Edinburgh Edition, 1885, Volume I, pages 5, 16, 21.

    7. TheLibraryofChristianClassics, Volume 1, Early Christian Fathers, translated and edited by Cyril C. Richardson, 1953, pages 70-1.

    8. Ibid., page 60.

    9. TheAnte-NiceneFathers, Volume I, page 52.

    10. Ibid., page 58.

    11. Ibid., page 62.

    12. Ibid., page 108.

    13. Ibid., page 116.

    14. Ibid., page 53.

    15. TheApostolicFathers, Volume 4, by Robert M. Grant, 1966, page 63.

    16. TheAnte-NiceneFathers, Volume I, pages 46-7; CyclopediaofBiblical,Theological,andEcclesiasticalLiterature, by John McClintock and James Strong, reprinted by Baker Book House Co., 1981, Volume IV, pages 490-3; TheCatholicEncyclopedia, 1910, Volume VII, pages 644-7.

    17. TheAnte-NiceneFathers, Volume I, page 35.

    18. Ibid., page 33.

    19. TheAnte-NiceneFathers, Volume II, pages 27, 35.

    20. TheApostolicFathers (Loeb’s Classical Library) with an English Translation by Kirsopp Lake, 1976, page 249.

    21. EarlyChristianDoctrines, by J. N. D. Kelly, Second Edition, 1960, pages 94-5.

  • icocer

    Thank you, thank you all.

    Bummer nothing on Tertullian.

  • jgnat

    *** w02 5/15 pp. 29-31 The Paradox of Tertullian ***

    The Paradox of Tertullian

    ‘WHERE is there any likeness between the Christian and the philosopher? between one who corrupts the truth, and one who restores and teaches it? What concord is there between the Academy and the Church?’ Such bold questions were raised by Tertullian, a writer in the second and third centuries C.E. He came to be known as "one of the most prolific sources of the history of the Church and of the doctrines which were taught in his time." Virtually no aspect of religious life escaped his attention.

    Tertullian was perhaps best known for his paradoxical, or seemingly contradictory, statements, such as these: "God is then especially great, when He is small." "[The death of God’s Son] is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd." "[Jesus] was buried, and rose again; the fact is certain, because it is impossible."

    There is more to the paradox of Tertullian than his statements. Though he intended that his writings defend the truth and uphold the integrity of the church and her doctrines, he actually corrupted true teachings. His key contribution to Christendom turned out to be a theory upon which later writers built the doctrine of the Trinity. To gain insight into how this happened, let us first get a glimpse of Tertullian himself.

    "Incapable of Being Dull"

    Very little is known about the life of Tertullian. Most scholars agree that he was born about 160 C.E. in Carthage, North Africa. Evidently, he was well-educated and thoroughly familiar with the main schools of philosophy of his day. Apparently, what attracted him to Christianity was the willingness of professed Christians to die for their faith. Concerning Christian martyrdom, he asked: "For who that contemplates it, is not excited to inquire what is at the bottom of it? who, after inquiry, does not embrace our doctrines?"

    After his conversion to nominal Christianity, Tertullian became an inventive writer with a flare for terse and witty statements. "[He] possessed an ability rare among theologians," observes the book The Fathers of the Church. "He is incapable of being dull." One scholar said: "Tertullian [had] a gift for words rather than sentences and it is much easier to appreciate his sallies than it is to follow his arguments. Perhaps this is why he is so often quoted and so infrequently quoted at length."

    To the Defense of Christianity

    Tertullian’s most famous work is Apology, considered to be one of the most powerful literary defenses of nominal Christianity. It was written during a time when Christians were often victims of superstitious mobs. Tertullian came to the defense of these Christians and protested the irrational treatment of them. He said: "[Opposers] consider that the Christians are the cause of every public calamity and every misfortune of the people. . . . If the Nile does not rise to the fields, if the weather will not change, if there is an earthquake, a famine, a plague—straightway the cry is heard: ‘Toss the Christians to the lion!’"

    Although Christians were often accused of disloyalty to the State, Tertullian endeavored to show that they were actually the most trustworthy citizens in the realm. After calling attention to several attempts that were made to overthrow the government, he reminded his antagonists that those conspirators arose from the ranks of the pagans, not the Christians. Tertullian pointed out that when Christians were executed, the real loss was sustained by the State.

    Other works of Tertullian dealt with Christian living. For example, in his exposition On the Shows, Tertullian counseled against being present at certain places of entertainment, pagan games, and theatrical events. Apparently, there were new converts who saw no inconsistency in meeting for Bible instruction and then attending the pagan games. Trying to stir up their thinking ability, Tertullian wrote: "How monstrous it is to go from God’s church to the devil’s—from the sky to the stye." He said: "What you reject in deed, you are not to bid welcome to in word."

    Corrupts the Truth While Defending It

    Tertullian began his essay entitled Against Praxeas saying: "In various ways has the devil rivalled and resisted the truth. Sometimes his aim has been to destroy the truth by defending it." The man named Praxeas of this essay is not clearly identified, but Tertullian took issue with his teachings concerning God and Christ. He viewed Praxeas as a pawn of Satan covertly trying to corrupt Christianity.

    A crucial issue among professed Christians at that time was the relationship between God and Christ. Some among them, particularly those of Greek background, found it difficult to reconcile belief in one God with the role of Jesus as Savior and Redeemer. Praxeas attempted to solve their dilemma by teaching that Jesus was just a different mode of the Father and there was no difference between the Father and the Son. This theory, known as modalism, alleges that God revealed himself "as the Father in Creation and in the giving of the Law, as the Son in Jesus Christ, and as the Holy Spirit after Christ’s ascension."

    Tertullian showed that the Scriptures made a clear distinction between the Father and the Son. After quoting 1 Corinthians 15:27, 28, he reasoned: "He who subjected (all things), and He to whom they were subjected—must necessarily be two different Beings." Tertullian called attention to Jesus’ own words: "The Father is greater than I am." (John 14:28) Using portions of the Hebrew Scriptures, such as Psalm 8:5, he showed how the Bible describes the "inferiority" of the Son. "Thus the Father is distinct from the Son, being greater than the Son," Tertullian concluded. "Inasmuch as He who begets is one, and He who is begotten is another; He, too, who sends is one, and He who is sent is another; and He, again, who makes is one, and He through whom the thing is made is another."

    Tertullian viewed the Son as subordinate to the Father. However, in his attempt to counteract modalism, he went "beyond the things that are written." (1 Corinthians 4:6) As Tertullian erroneously sought to prove the divinity of Jesus by means of another theory, he coined the formula "one substance in three persons." Using this concept, he attempted to show that God, his Son, and the holy spirit were three distinct persons existing in one divine substance. Tertullian thus became the first to apply the Latin form of the word "trinity" to the Father, the Son, and the holy spirit.

    Beware of Worldly Philosophy

    How was Tertullian able to devise the theory of "one substance in three persons"? The answer lies in yet another paradox about the man—his view of philosophy. Tertullian called philosophy "‘the doctrines’ of men and ‘of demons.’" He openly criticized the practice of using philosophy to support Christian truths. "Away with all attempts to produce a mottled Christianity of Stoic, Platonic, and dialectic composition," he stated. Yet, Tertullian himself made liberal use of secular philosophy when it harmonized with his own ideas.—Colossians 2:8.

    One reference work states: "Trinitarian theology required the aid of Hellenistic concepts and categories for its development and expression." And the book The Theology of Tertullian notes: "[It was] a curious blend of juristic and philosophic ideas and terms, which enabled Tertullian to set out the trinitarian doctrine in a form which, despite its limitations and imperfections, supplied the framework for the later presentation of the doctrine at the Council of Nicaea." Hence, Tertullian’s formula—three persons in one divine substance—played a major role in the spreading of religious error throughout all of Christendom.

    Tertullian accused others of destroying the truth while they were trying to defend it. Ironically, however, by mixing divinely inspired Bible truth and human philosophy, he fell into the same trap. Let us therefore take to heart the Scriptural warning against "paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons."—1 Timothy 4:1.

    [Pictures on page 29, 30]

    Tertullian criticized philosophy but used it to advance his own ideas

    [Credit Line]

    Pages 29 and 30: © Cliché Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris

    [Picture on page 31]

    True Christians avoid mixing Bible truth with human philosophy

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