Thursday, May 26, 2011
Note (26.) to "History of the 'Christian' Trinity - HIST"
26. Quotes from A Short History of the Early Church, by trinitarian scholar Dr. H. R. Boer, 1976, Eerdmans: "The Apostolic Fathers wrote between A. D. 90 and 140. Their discussion of the person of Jesus Christ simply repeated the teaching of the New Testament. None of the Apostolic Fathers presented a definite doctrine on this point. In this respect the New Testament, The Apostolic Fathers, and the Apostles' Creed stand in one line." - pp. 109-110, Boer.
Therefore, admits this trinitarian: none of the earliest sources calls Jesus "God the Son" (or the Holy Spirit "God the Holy Spirit") and there is no clear statement that "God is Three" or that "three (or even two) persons are equally God"! God is only spoken of as a single person, the Father of Jesus.
The very first Christians to really discuss Jesus' relationship with God in their writings, according to Boer, were "The Apologists." "Justin [Justin Martyr, `the best known' of the Apologists] and the other Apologists therefore taught that the Son is a creature. He is a high creature, a creature powerful enough to create the world but, nevertheless, A creature. In theology this relationship of the Son to the Father is called subordinationism. The Son is subordinate, that is, secondary to, dependent upon, and caused by the Father. The Apologists were subordinationists." - p. 110, Boer.
(In fact, the trinitarian Eerdman's Handbook to the History of Christianity, 1977, pp. 112-113 admits: "Before the Council of Nicaea (A D 325) all theologians viewed the Son as in one way or another subordinate to the Father." - also found on p. 114 in the revised 1990 ed. of The History of Christianity, Lion Publishing.)
Then came Saint Irenaeus (ca. 130-200) who still did not say that Jesus was equally God:
"'How then was the Son produced by the Father?' We [Irenaeus writes] reply to him, that no man understands that production, or generation, or calling, or revelation, or by whatever name one may describe His generation, which is in fact altogether indescribable." And, "But there is only one God, the creator ... He it is ... whom Christ reveals .... he is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ .... But the Son, eternally co-existing with the Father, from of old ... always reveals the Father to ... all to whom He wills that God should be revealed." - p. 111, Boer. (Also see pp. 406, 428, 434, vol. 1, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Roberts, Eerdmans Publishing.) And, "The Father is indeed above all, and He is the Head of Christ [cf. 1 Cor. 11:3]" - Against Heresies, Ireneaus, Book V, Chapter 18.2.
Irenaeus still didn't teach Jesus as being equally God with the Father (and didn't even suggest that the Holy Spirit was even a person, let alone a person who was equally God), but he did develop the concept that Jesus has somehow always existed beside the Father although not equally God Himself.
This development of the concept of Jesus' "eternal existence" by Irenaeus "led many to ask whether Christianity believed in polytheism. This fear found expression in ... very different conceptions." - p. 111, Boer.
26a. Even Clement of Alexandria (died ca. 215 A. D.) called Jesus in his prehuman existence "A creature" but called God "the uncreated and imperishable and only true God." He said that the Son "is next to the only omnipotent Father" but not equal to him. - ti-E, p. 7.
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