Chapter 8

"THEY SHALL WANDER INTO MYTHS" (1)

The historical development of the Doctrine of the Trinity

400 B.C. TO 300 A.D. THE PHILOSOPHICAL BACKGROUND

To the ordinary reader it may seem a little strange to commence a review of the history of a Christian doctrine with a survey of the teachings and views of Greek philosophers. But in fact it is impossible to understand the development of the Trinity without this background. It was not mere rhetoric when St. Augustine confessed that he was in the dark about the Trinity until he read the writings of Plato; or when he told some to go and learn the Trinity from the Platonists. (2)

And Gibbon, in speaking of the Trinity, remarks that Platonic philosophy 'marvelously anticipated one of the most surprising discoveries of the Christian revelation'. (3)

Philosophy, literally 'love of wisdom', concerns man's search for an understanding of the world and himself. By means of human thought it attempts to explain what knowledge is and how it is gained. It advances propositions and tries to deduce conclusions from them by reasoned arguments. It is essentially a deductive process, no external revelation being admitted. The early Greeks specialised in this type of abstract reasoning, which was first established by Socrates and elaborated by his disciple, Plato.

PLATO

Plato commenced his voluminous writings in the early 4th century B.C., covering a wide range of topics. As far as theology was concerned, his deductions led him to the belief in a Supreme Being who, because of his absolute transcendence was detached from and outside the universe, but who manifested himself in two ways: as Ideas and as the Soul of the Universe. All created things he brought into being by means of his 'Ideas', also called the Demiurge. There was also the Soul or Spirit of the Universe, of which the soul of man was a part. These three, Supreme Being, Demiurge and World Soul, comprised the relationship between God and created things, although Plato himself did not define their relationship with any clarity.

Neo-Pythagorism, a revision of the famous 6th century B.C. philosopher's ideas, adopted a similar division into 'Principle of Being', the Demiurge who acted as creator, and the 'World'. One effect of Plato's ideas is worth noting. Because all humans participated in the 'World Soul' he believed that the individual souls of men were not only immortal but had also pre-existed.

STOICISM

This was an extremely moralistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in Cyprus around 300 BC. In contrast to the Platonists they believed that the Supreme God was within creation ('immanent') and that all creation was permeated with Divine Reason which they called Nous ('Mind') or Logos ('Word'). A part of this Logos was thought to reside in each human individual, from which he derived his reasoning ability, the spermatikos logos.

MIDDLE PLATONISM

In the first century B.C. followers of Plato defined more closely the relationship between Plato's components of the 'threefold One'. The Supreme Godhead was the originator of the other two, who preceded or 'emanated' from him. Later these came to be known as the Protos Theos ('First God'), Nous and Psyche. By using the term Nous for the 'second god' Middle Platonists effectively combined the teaching of Plato and the Stoics.

NEOPLATONISM

This was the final form of Platonism, reached at the beginning of the third century A.D., and developed especially by Plotinus (a fellow student of the famous Origen) at Alexandria. It combined most of the elements of the preceding philosophies, propounding the tripartite god of the One, the nous and the psyche. However, the relationship between the first two seems to be more closely defined:

'The original Being first of all throws out the nous, which is a perfect image of the One and the archetype of all existing things. It is at once being and thought, ideal world and idea. As image, the nous corresponds perfectly to the One, but as derived it is perfectly different.' (4)  

This nous ('a sort of second god' (5) ), which 'corresponds perfectly to the One' is the creator of all things, and within it is included the gods of the pantheon, and the stars, who were also considered to be gods.

Dominant in their teaching was the idea of a World Soul, which bore a similar relationship to the nous as the nous did to the One. This World Soul embraced innumerable individual human souls, which could either submit to be ruled by the nous and survive, or turn aside to sensuality and lose themselves in the infinite. In either event, as part of the World Soul, the individual ones pre-existed and were immortal. It is relevant to our present study that the Christian Neoplatonists believed in a tripartite division of man into soul, mind and body: a relationship that was thought to be derived from a similar tripartite division in the Godhead, seeing that man was made 'in the image of God' (Genesis 1.27. see also p. 349).

Gibbon's rather acerbic comments on the Neoplatonists, whilst possibly an example of his trenchant prose, no doubt contain more than a grain of truth:

'.. by mistaking the true object of philosophy, their labours contributed much less to improve than to corrupt the human understanding. ... they exhausted their strength in the verbal disputes of metaphysics, attempted to explore the secrets of the invisible world, and studied to reconcile Aristotle with Plato, on subjects of which both those philosophers were as ignorant as the rest of mankind'. (6)

Thus it can be seen that, whatever the differences in detail among the various theories of the philosophers, one almost common concept was that the Deity was composed of, or manifested himself through, three agencies. This idea was to prove of great significance to the development of the doctrine of the Trinity. Little sums up the effect of first and second century philosophy on the evolution of this doctrine:

'There was then evolved the conception of an Intermediary Divine Being, identical with the Supreme in essence, yet in dynamic relation with the generated world, who expressed the Divine will in the Creation, and continued to act as the Divine Agent in the administration of the universe. This Being was variously designated the Idea of Ideas, the First Principle, the Divine Potency, the Second God, or the Logos, according to the philosophical prepossessions of the writers. It was this Logos of the philosophers which was taken up into Christian theology and made to represent the historical Jesus Christ, son of God ...' (7)

IMPACT ON JUDAISM

 

After the almost universal spread of Greek culture and learning following the conquests of Alexander the Great, the teaching of the philosophers began to be incorporated into Jewish thought. In the apocryphal work described as the Wisdom of Solomon, dating from the 3rd century B.C., concepts such as the immortality and pre-existence of the soul, hitherto foreign to the Jewish religion, are introduced (3:1, 8:19-20). As Millman later said 'Platonism had already modified Judaism'. (8)

Thus by the first century A.D. the Jewish historian Josephus could describe their belief in Hades and Abraham's bosom as the respective abiding places of evil and good of departed souls. (9)

It is this importation from Greek philosophy that Jesus uses in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). Other examples could be given to show that Judaism had already become tainted with Greek thought; and it was inevitable that the newly founded Christian Church should be subject to a similar process. Some see the denial of the bodily resurrection by a few in the church at Corinth as a direct result of early Christians embracing or, more likely, not discarding Platonic views. (10)

As Stead has recently noted:

'Moreover the clash between Platonic and biblical views of the soul confused the Christian teaching on the afterlife. The Hebrews looked forward to a resurrection of the body; only so could consciousness be restored; and it would take place on a day of judgement after a period of absolute non-existence. But Christians tended (as many still do) to accept also the survival of the soul as Plato conceived it, so that consciousness continues without interruption beyond the moment of death. But granted the promise of a fully surviving consciousness, it is hard to see the point of a subsequent resurrection of the body, which Christians were bound to accept in accordance with their Creeds.' (11)

If Plato's idea of the immortality of the soul could thus be imported into Christian thought, it is far from surprising that his views on the Deity should also find a foothold in the early church.

In concluding this section it might be well to stress (without any slur upon the exceedingly able and perceptive minds of those great thinkers) the fact that philosophy is only the product of human intellect. Despite the claims that were later made for philosophy, it is not divine revelation such as is contained in Scripture. As Gibbon again says:

'They meditated on the Divine Nature, as a very curious and important speculation; and in the profound enquiry, they displayed the strength and weakness of the human understanding'. (12)

35-90 A.D. THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH

The whole thrust of this book is an attempt to demonstrate that the original Christians' beliefs and teaching about God and Christ were not Trinitarian. It is therefore unnecessary to restate here the arguments of other chapters. However, at this juncture it is useful to note that historians and commentators all down the centuries have acknowledged that the Trinity formed no part of the original Christian message, and that all New Testament evidence is that the first Christians regarded God as a unity and Jesus as subordinate to Him. The following are a sample of comments of such writers (almost all of whom were or are Trinitarians), and any who claim to find the Trinity implicitly, even if not explicitly, taught in Scripture are invited to ponder the evidence.

Hooker (1593): 'Our belief in the Trinity, the co-eternity of the Son of God with his Father, the proceeding of the Spirit from the Father and the Son, these with such other principal points are in Scripture nowhere to be found by express literal mention; only deduced they are out of Scripture by collection.' (13)

John Milton (1608-1674): 'For my part I adhere to the Holy Scriptures alone, I follow no other heresy or sect. If, therefore, the Father be the God of Christ, and the same be our God, and if there be none other God but one, there can be no God beside the Father.' (14)

'Milton's arguments against the Trinity are ultimately logical and commonsensical: Why create mystifications which are not to be found in the Bible? John Locke and Isaac Newton, with Milton the three greatest names of the period (c.1650), could not find Trinitarianism in the Bible'. (15)

Dr. Neander (1850): 'The Doctrine of the Trinity does not, it appears to me, belong strictly to the fundamentals of the Christian faith; as it appears from the fact that it is explicitly set forth in no one particular passage of the New Testament; for the only one in which this is done, the passage relating to the three that bear record (1 John 5) is undoubtedly spurious, and in its ungenuine shape testifies to the fact, how foreign such a collection is from the style of the New Testament writings. We find in the New Testament no other fundamental article besides that of which the apostle Paul says that other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, the preaching of Jesus Christ as the Messiah; and the foundation of His religion is designated by Christ himself as the faith in the only true God and in Jesus Christ whom He hath sent'. (16)

Dr. Joseph Priestly (1871): 'Why was not the doctrine of the Trinity taught as explicitly, and in as definite a manner, in the New Testament at least, as the doctrine of the divine Unity is taught in both the Old and New Testaments, if it be a truth? And why is the doctrine of the Unity always delivered in so unguarded a manner and without any exception made in favour of the Trinity, to prevent any mistake with respect to it?.' (17)

'It is well known, and mentioned by Eusebius, (18) that the Unitarians in the primitive church always pretended to be the oldest Christians, that the Apostles themselves had taught their doctrine, and that it generally prevailed till the time of Zephyrinius, bishop of Rome'. (19)

'Christians retained the same faith, believing in the strict unity of God, and the proper humanity of Christ, all the time of the Apostles and of those who conversed with them, but began to depart from that doctrine presently afterwards; and the defection advanced so fast, that in about one century more, the original doctrine was generally reprobated and deemed heretical.' (20)

Bishop Smallridge: 'It must be owned, that the doctrine of the Trinity as it is proposed in our Articles, our Liturgy, our Creeds, is not in so many words taught us in the Holy Scriptures. What we profess in our prayers we nowhere read in Scripture, that the one God, the one Lord, is not only one person, but three persons in one substance. There is no such text as this,'That the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped'. No one of the inspired writers hath expressly affirmed, that in the Trinity none is afore or after other, none is greater or less than another.' (21)

Mozeley (the brother-in-law of the famous nineteenth century Cardinal Newman) 'I ask with all humbleness where the idea of Threeness is expressed in the New Testament with a doctrinal sense and force? Where is the Triune God held up to be worshipped, loved and obeyed? Where is He preached and proclaimed in that threefold Character? We read 'God is one' as too, 'I and the Father are one'; but nowhere do we read that Three are one, unless it be in a text long since known to be interpolated ... To me the whole matter is most painful and perplexing, and I should not even speak as I now do did I not feel on the threshold of the grave, soon to appear before the Throne of all truth .... Certainly not in Scripture do we find the expression 'God the Son', or 'God the Holy Ghost'. Whenever I pronounce the name of God, simply and first, I mean God the Father, and I cannot help meaning that, if I mean anything.' (22)

Paine (1900): 'The Old Testament is strictly monotheistic. God is a single personal being. The idea that a trinity is to be found there, or even in any way shadowed forth, is an assumption that has long held sway in theology, but is utterly without foundation.' (23)

'In the Synoptic gospels ... there is no hint anywhere of a pre-incarnate life, ... or of a divine incarnation. He calls God his Father, but he also teaches that God is Father of All, and gives his disciples the Pater Noster. ... There is no evidence that the idea of a peculiar metaphysical union with God ever entered his mind. At least it did not appear in his synoptic teaching. (24)

'With this critical explanation, we take the New Testament writings as we find them, and ask what evidence they give us on the question of the evolution of the doctrine of the Trinity. The earliest stratum of the evolution is contained in the Book of Acts, and in the Synoptic gospels. The doctrine of Christ in the first stratum is distinctly that of Messiahship. Jesus is a man of God, sent of God to declare his gospel .... There is no assertion of Christ's divinity, or of his pre-existence or incarnation.' (25)

'That Paul ever confounded Christ with God himself, or regarded him in any way as the supreme Divinity, is a position invalidated not only by direct statements, but also by the whole drift of his epistles.' (26)

Dr. W. Matthews (1940): 'It must be admitted by everyone who has the rudiments of an historical sense that the doctrine of the Trinity, as a doctrine, formed no part of the original message. St. Paul knew it not, and would have been unable to understand the meaning of the terms used in the theological formula on which the Church ultimately agreed'. (27)

Encyclopedia of Religion (1987): 'Exegetes and theologians today are in agreement that the Hebrew Bible does not contain a doctrine of the Trinity, even though it was customary in past dogmatic tracts on the Trinity to cite texts like Gen. 1.26 "Let us make humanity in our image, after our likeness". Although the Hebrew Bible depicts God as the father of Israel and employs personifications of God such as Word, Spirit, Wisdom, and Presence, 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 ... 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.' (28)

Dunn (1989): 'All this raises the question whether the pre-existence-incarnation interpretation of these key passages in Paul and Hebrews is properly grounded in the exegesis of these passages. Has that interpretation properly understood the character and thrust of earliest Christianity's Adam christology? It is quite true that once the context of the original Adam theology faded from the immediate perspective the language which derived from that theology lent itself to a pre-existence-incarnation interpretation, particularly in the case of Phil. 2.6-11. ... but from what we have seen of the Adam christology in Paul and elsewhere in the early decades of Christianity, that interpretation goes beyond the meaning and intention of the original Philippian hymn and its use by Paul' . (29)

Speaking of Paul's reference in Col. 1.15-20, 'It is at least questionable whether ... he intended to assert the pre-existence of Christ, or to affirm that Jesus was a divine being personally active in creation.' (30)

'Paul was not seeking to win men to belief in a pre-existent being'. (31)

We repeat that with the exception of Dr. Priestly all the above writers are Trinitarians or members of the established church, and it is salutary to learn that even they acknowledge that the Scriptural basis for the doctrine of the Trinity is virtually non-existent.

DEVIATION FROM APOSTOLIC TEACHING PREDICTED (32)

One of the features of the early Christian movement was the fact that almost from its inception some of its basic tenets were challenged, and the Apostles had continually to be on their guard lest the variant ideas should take root. In Corinth the bodily resurrection was denied; in Colosse the unique position of Jesus in God's purpose was challenged, and throughout the Christian world the Judaisers were attempting to retain the new faith within the confines of the Law of Moses. The Apostles foresaw that such processes would intensify after their death and so gave many warnings to the flock to beware of departing from the truths they had been taught.

Paul gave this warning to the Ephesians on his final visit to them: 

'Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock ... I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.' (Acts 20:28-30).

A few years later, in his letter to Timothy, his warnings became more emphatic:

'Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, through the pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and enjoin abstinence from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth' (1 Timothy 4:1-3).

About the same time Peter gave similar warnings:

'But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their licentiousness, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words' (2 Peter 2:1-3).

As the guiding hand of the Apostles was gradually withdrawn, these predictions came to pass. In the closing years of the first century the very aged John had to write against those who were promulgating false views about the person of Christ (1 John 4:1-3; 2 John 7-8). In the final book of Scripture, in a message from Jesus himself, we learn of the false doctrines and evil practices that were already in his church (Revelation 2:14-16,20; 3:1-3).

Of course, the question has to be decided as to whether the doctrines that survived into the succeeding ages were the true original ones or the 'destructive heresies' that had been 'secretly brought in'. Daille's comment is very relevant here:

'Now I cannot believe that any faithful Christian will deny but that Christianity was at its zenith and perfection at the time of the blessed Apostles. ... It will follow then, that those times which were nearest to the Apostles were necessarily the purest, and less subject to suspicion of corruption, either in doctrine or in manners of Christian discipline: it being reasonable to believe that if any corruptions have crept into the Church, they came in little by little, and by degrees, as it happens in all other things ... but .. after the death of the Apostles the conspiracy of error began to discover itself with open face'. (33)

In later years Tertullian had a rule by which he detected heresy 'What was true was first, what was spurious afterwards' (34) and we will use a similar approach.

The problem is that variations to the original teaching poured in thick and fast in the second and third centuries so that what later times repudiated as heresies were in fact the original views. As one writer says: 'Many scholars believe that in some regions views later condemned as heresy predominated at first'. (35)

As most of the early 'heresies' concerned the position of Christ, it is reasonable to conclude that they were in fact the original Christian teaching. When the Church later discarded these early beliefs did it discard an important element of the Apostolic faith? We will submit evidence that it did.

THE EARLY 'RULES OF FAITH'

What, then, were the earliest beliefs about the relationship of God to Jesus? From almost the beginning it was felt necessary to define the basic items of faith, particularly in a form that could be used as a confession by baptismal candidates. From these developed more extensive rules of faith which in turn were enlarged into the creeds.

The earliest declaration of belief was probably a simple 'Jesus is Lord' (1 Corinthians 12.3) or 'Jesus is the Christ' (1 John 5:1). A slightly later confession runs: 'Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the Saviour'. The initial letters of this phrase in Greek produce the Greek word ichthys, i.e."fish", and therefore probably from a very early date a fish was chosen as the symbol of Christian faith. Soon the need was felt for a more comprehensive statement, or creed (from credo, I believe), such as an early one found in Egypt:

I believe in God, the Father, the Almighty;
And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord,
And in the Holy Ghost, the holy church, the resurrection
of the flesh.' (36)

By combining several references the creed of Justin (c.A.D. 150) has been deduced:

I believe in the Father of all things and the Lord God.
And in our Lord Jesus Christ, the first-born son of God, according to the Father's will born through a virgin and become man and crucified under Pontius Pilate and dead and risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, and will come again in glory as judge of all men.
And in the Holy Spirit of prophecy. (37)

Several similar creeds have been preserved from a similar date.

In the church at Rome in the fourth century was an already ancient Latin creed known as the Old Roman Creed, and which subsequently became known as the Apostles Creed. Its Latin form has been shown to be a translation from the Greek, and as this language ceased to be the language of the Roman Church in the middle of the third century, it must be dated before about A.D.250, and is almost certainly much older than that date. Although it is now believed that the title 'Apostles Creed' is a misnomer in the sense that there is little evidence that it was first written by the immediate disciples of Jesus, it is admitted by all that the creed is of great antiquity, and probably accurately reflected their teaching. It was added to over the centuries, but its earliest form is as follows:

I believe in God the Father Almighty;
And in Jesus Christ his only begotten Son, our Lord,
Who was born of the Holy Ghost, and the virgin Mary,
Who was crucified under Pontius Pilate and buried:
on the third day he rose from the dead,
ascended into heaven,
sat down at the right hand of the Father;
from whence he will come to judge the living and the dead;
And in the Holy Ghost, the holy church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the flesh.

Up to the beginning of the fourth century these creeds and rules of faith were essentially local statements by individual communities, and thus varied in detail from place to place. There was considerable flexibility of belief and opinion. It was not until later that creeds, such as the Nicene Creed, were drawn up by the whole church and used as a test of orthodoxy, with excommunication as a penalty for non-compliance.

It will be readily seen that none of these early statements of faith describe the relationship between God and Jesus in anything approaching Trinitarian terms, and are therefore strongly suggestive on Tertullian's rule that 'what was true was first' that subsequent developments were a modification of the immediate post-Apostolic faith.

A.D. 90-120. THE POST-APOSTOLIC PERIOD

In the immediate post-apostolic years conventionally called the times of the Apostolic Fathers little written evidence has come down to us that enables us to establish the then current beliefs. Just a few passing references and allusions are often all that we have to guide us. However, all that is extant is in line with the view that Trinitarian ideas were not yet being expressed; but at the same time the nature of Christ and his relationship to his Father was already engaging the minds of some, with widely differing views emerging.

DOCETISTS, EBIONITES AND NAZARENES

From the later standpoint of the official church historians of the fourth century (by which time the Church was virtually trinitarian) these three sects represented heretical movements as early as the latter years of the first century, each not believing that Jesus Christ was God. The Docetists believed that Jesus during his life on earth had not a real human body, but only an apparent one. (38)

This can be regarded as a genuine heresy, and appears to have been combated by the aged apostle John when he warned his readers that 'many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist' (2 John 7).

But can one place the Ebionites and the Nazarenes in the same category? The two names possibly describe but one group of early Christians in southern Syria. Mosheim (39), however, regards them as two separate groups, the Hebrew 'Nazarenes' being interchangeable with the Greek term 'Christians'. When Jerusalem was attacked by Titus in A.D. 66-70 the Christians in Judea, heedful of the warning of Jesus in his Mount Olivet Prophecy (Luke 21:21) fled the region before the Roman armies closed in. They moved north to Pella where they established a church that lasted for the next few hundred years. This group of Christians called themselves Nazarenes, but those outside, noting with disparagement their poverty, called them Ebionites ('poor men'). Does this very early group of Christians, cut off from the mainstream of developing Christianity, furnish us with clues to original beliefs?

One thing noted about the Nazarenes and Ebionites (40)  by the early writers was that they 'saw Jesus as an ordinary man indwelt by God's power at his baptism' (41)  The word 'ordinary' here needs some qualification. Certainly some of the Ebionites went so far as to say that Jesus was the actual son of Joseph, but another section within them held Jesus to be the Son of God by his conception through the Holy Spirit, but not pre-existent. 'They obstinately rejected the preceding existence and divine perfections of the Logos or the son of God'. (42)

Eusebius, the church historian of the 4th century, although his knowledge of and interest in Syrian Christianity was minimal and biased, (43)  describes them in these terms:

'Ebionites they were appropriately named by the first Christians, in view of the poor and mean opinions they held about Christ. They regarded him as plain and ordinary, a man esteemed as righteous through growth of character and nothing more, the child of a normal union between a man and Mary. A second group went by the same name, but escaped the outrageous absurdity of the first. They did not deny that the Lord was born of a virgin and the Holy spirit, but nevertheless shared their refusal to acknowledge His pre-existence as God the Word and Wisdom' (44)  (our italics).

Moeller suggests that this second group within the Ebionites were in fact the Nazarenes and says they closely represented apostolic Christianity:

'The survival down to a later age, of a Judaeo Christianity more closely approximating to that of the apostles, but through its isolation and seclusion taking on the character of a backward sect, distinguished from the more abruptly heretical character of the Ebionites, is attested by the fact that Epiphanius in his age (45)  distinguishes, under two names which were originally general names for Christians, between Nazarenes and Ebionites'. (46)

But how did the mainstream Christians of the time regard the Ebionites and Nazarenes? Did they condemn them for their failure to preach that Christ was pre-existent? There is no record of this, rather the contrary. Hegesippus, one of the earliest Christian writers 'who belonged after the first generation after the apostles' (47), and who 'in five short books gave an authentic account of the apostolic preaching', (48) makes no mention of this supposed heresy of the Nazarenes and Ebionites. This suggests that rejection of the pre-existence of Christ was then standard teaching (49) throughout the Christian world. About the same time other prominent Christian writers also noted the existence of the Ebionites and Nazarenes without denouncing their opinions as heretical:

'It is remarkable, however, that those who held the simple doctrine of the humanity of Christ, without asserting that Joseph was his natural father, were not reckoned heretics by Irenaeus ... and even those who held that opinion are mentioned with respect by Justin Martyr, who wrote some years before'. (50)

Of the few pastoral letters written which can be accepted as genuine in this immediate post-apostolic period is the First Epistle of Clement. Writing from Rome to a troubled Corinth community, he concludes with this benediction:

'Finally, may the all-seeing God and Master of spirits and Lord of all flesh, who chose the Lord Jesus Christ, and us through him for his own people, give to every soul that is called by his excellent and holy name, faith, fear, peace, patience, and long suffering, self-control, purity, and sober-mindedness, so that they may be well-pleasing to his name through our high priest and defender Jesus Christ, through whom unto him be glory and majesty, might and honour, both now and forever and ever. Amen.' (51)

Clearly to Clement God was supreme, above all. His is the 'excellent' name. It was He who 'chose' Jesus, and it is only He who receives praise 'through' Jesus. As Lamson says of this letter of Clement: 'What traces, then, does it contain of the modern doctrine of the Trinity? It contains not the faintest trace of the supreme divinity of the Son or of the Spirit'. (52)

So as the first century closes there is no evidence in Christian writing of belief in the personal pre-existence of Jesus, or that he was held to be equal to God or worshipped as God.

SECOND CENTURY DEVELOPMENTS


REFERENCES

1. 2 Timothy 4:4

2. Quoted by Stannus, p24. (For detailed bibliography see Appendix 3 at end of chapter).

3. Decline and Fall, ch.21

4. Encyclopaedia Britannica: Art. 'Neoplatonism'

5. ibid.

6. Gibbon, Decline and Fall Chap.13.

7. V.A.S. Little: The Christology of the Apologists pp.20-21. Pub. Duckworth (1934). Italics ours.

8. History of Christianity Vol. II p.355

9. Against Apion

10. e.g. Chadwick: The Early Church, p34.

11. Stead, C: Art. 'Greek Influence on Christian Thought', in Early Christianity, Ed. Hazlett.

12. Gibbon, Decline and Fall chap.2

13. Hooker, Richard, Ecclesiastical Polity, Bk. i, para 14.

14. Quoted by Stannus, p29.

15. Christopher Mill, Milton and the English Revolution pp.286,295

16. Neander, History of Christian Religion, vol. ii, p286

17. Priestly p.321

18. Bk. 5 para 28

19. Priestly, p7

20. Priestly p.7

21. Sixty Sermons, No. xxxiii, p348.

22. Reminiscences of Oriel College and the Oxford Movement.

23. A critical History of the Evolution of Trinitarianism, p4 (italics ours).

24. ibid, p5

25. ibid, p6-7.

26. ibid, p22. (italics ours)

27. Matthews, W.R. (Dean of St Paul's), God in Christian Thought and Experience.

28. Art. 'Trinity'

29. Dunn, J.D.G. Christology in the Making, p 128 (our italics).

30. ibid, p194

31. ibid, p195

32. See also pp. 135ff

33. Daille, The Right Use of the Fathers, p.2

34. Quoted in Blunt's Early Fathers, p155

35. History of Christianity, Lion, p.107

36. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Art. 'Creeds'.

37. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Art. 'Creeds'.

38. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Art. 'Docetae'

39. Vol. 1, ch.5

40. They also retained the original Christian belief in the future reign of Christ on earth, which was enough to ensure the censure of 3rd and 4th century Christianity, which by then had largely abandoned this element of Apostolic teaching.

41. History of Christianity, Lion, p110

42. Gibbon, Decline and Fall, ch. xx

43. Louth, A, Eusebius, p.xxiv-xxv.

44. Book III.27

45. 4th century

46. History of the Christian Church, p.100

47. Eusebius Bk.II.23

48. ibid, Bk.IV,7

49. Priestly, p.3

50. Priestly, p.6.

51. ch. 64.

52. Lamson op. cit. p.4.

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