The following articles have been compiled and indexed by inWORD Bible software.
Church Fathers Quoted the Comma?
For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. (1 John 5:7)
My Lord and My God
In his discussion of the imperial cult in Paul and the Faithfulness of God, Tom Wright notes that Domitian liked to be addressed as dominus et deus (“lord and god”)—a phrase “familiar to readers of John’s gospel” (341).
Satan in the Thought of Irenaeus and Tertullian
Wrestling yet further with the problem they’d created, the “fathers” then had to deal with the issue of how the death of Christ could destroy or damage Satan. Origen, Irenaeus and Tertullian created the idea that was developed and popularized later in novels and art—that God somehow tricked Satan. The reasoning went that Satan demanded the blood of Jesus, and so he made Jesus die—but unknown to Satan, Jesus was [supposedly] God, and He rose from the grave. Not only is Jesus never defined as ‘God’ in a trinitarian sense in the Bible; but the whole suggestion is purely fictional. The blood of Jesus was not “paid” to anyone. And an almighty God doesn’t need to trick Satan in order to win a game. Again we see that our view of God affects our view of Satan, and vice versa. And we see too that a forced, unnatural and unBiblical view of the atonement affects our view of Satan too. Gnostic and other criticism of ‘Christianity’ focused easily and powerfully on these contradictions and begged questions; and the “fathers” had to dig themselves yet deeper into a tortuous and contradictory theology. They were pushed on the point of whether Satan and his angels sinned at the same time and got thrown out of Heaven together; and whether in fact Satan and his angels committed the same sin, or different ones. Tertullian’s answer was that Satan sinned by envy, and was thrown out of Heaven for this. He then adjusted his view to say that Satan was given some period of grace between his sin and his expulsion, during which he corrupted some of the angels, and then they were thrown out after him. Clement, by contrast, insisted Satan and the angels fell together, at the same time. The answers of the “fathers” were totally fictional and not tied in at all to any actual Biblical statements. And yet these desperate men insisted they were guided to their views by God, and many generations of Christendom has blindly followed them. Tertullian likewise was pushed on the issue of whether Satan was an angel, or another kind of being—as the earlier church fathers had claimed. Tertullian amended the party line to claim that actually, Satan was an angel after all. He was then pushed on the issue of how exactly Satan and the angels got down to earth from Heaven. Seeing they had to travel through the air, Tertullian claimed [Apol. 22] that the Devil and his angels had wings.
Tertullian and the Lord’s Prayer
The Lord’s prayer “deliver us from evil” began to be quite arbitrarily translated by Tertullian as “deliver us from the evil one”, as if referring to a personal Satan. But the Greek text certainly doesn’t require this translation. In Greek, the phrase “from evil” can be understood as either neuter (“the [abstract] evil”) or masculine, “the evil one”, personifying the evil. God does lead men and women to the time of evil/testing—Abraham commanded to offer Isaac, and the testing of Israel by God in the desert are obvious examples. It’s observable that the Lord Jesus Himself prayed most parts of His model prayer in His own life situations. “Your will be done… Deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13; Luke 11:4) were repeated by Him in Gethsemane, when He asked for God’s will to be done and not His, and yet He prayed that the disciples would be delivered from evil (John 17:15, [AV, Young’s]). Paul’s letters are full of allusion to the Gospel records, and those allusions enable us to correctly interpret the passages alluded to. He uses the same Greek words for “deliver” and “evil” when he expresses his confidence that “the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18). Paul likewise had his inspired mind on this phrase of the Lord’s prayer when he commented that the Lord Jesus died in order “that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God” (Galatians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:3). Clearly enough, Paul didn’t understand “the evil” to be a personal Satan, but rather the “evil” of this world and those who seek to persecute believers. Perhaps the Lord Jesus Himself based this part of His prayer on Old Testament passages like 1 Chronicles 4:10; Psalms 25:22; 26:11; 31:8; 34:22; 69:18; 78:35,42; 140:1 and Proverbs 2:12; 6:24, which ask for ‘deliverance’ from evil people, sin, distress, tribulation etc. here on earth. Not one of those passages speaks of deliverance from a personal, superhuman Satan. Esther’s prayer in Esther 4:19 LXX is very similar—“Deliver us from the hand of the evildoer”, but that ‘evildoer’ was Haman, not any personal, superhuman Satan. Even if we insist upon reading ‘the evil one’, “the evil one” in the Old Testament was always “the evil man in Israel” (Deuteronomy 17:12; 19:19; 22:21-24 cp. 1 Corinthians 5:13)—never a superhuman being. And there may be another allusion by the Lord to Genesis 48:16, where God is called the One “who has redeemed me from all evil”. As the Old Testament ‘word made flesh’, the thinking of the Lord Jesus was constantly reflective of Old Testament passages; but in every case here, the passages He alluded to were not concerning a superhuman Devil figure. God ‘delivers from’ “every trouble” (Psalms 54:7), persecutors and enemies (Psalms 142:6; 69:14)—but as Ernst Lohmeyer notes, “There is no instance of the [orthodox understanding of the] devil being called ‘the evil one’ in the Old Testament or in the Jewish writings”⁵.
History of Trinitarian Doctrines
This supplementary document discusses the history of Trinity theories. Although early Christian theologians speculated in many ways on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, no one clearly and fully asserted the doctrine of the Trinity as explained at the top of the main entry until around the end of the so-called Arian Controversy. (See 3.2 below and section 3.1 of the supplementary document on unitarianism.) Nonetheless, proponents of such theories always claim them to be in some sense founded on, or at least illustrated by, biblical texts.
Unity and Diversity in Early Church Interpretations of Eschatology
The concern for establishing orthodoxy over and against heresy has occupied the minds of theologians for nearly two millennia. Those claiming to possess the orthodox faith argue that their view goes back to the original faith demonstrated by the earliest followers of Jesus. Even today, many churches, denominations, and sects maintain that their particular views are the original beliefs and practices of the church. In other words, they claim authority and theological validity by identifying with what is often called “the apostolic faith.” Modern students of eschatology and prophetic matters are among those who boldly and valiantly hold to a particular scheme or system of interpretations. It is often heard in these circles that their particular views are the very same perspectives held by the earliest Christians, and is therefore the purest form of the faith. All opposing interpretations, it is regularly contended, are deviant, false, or severely misguided.
Tertullian the Unitarian
This is a recording of a lecture given by Prof. Dale Tuggy on September 20, 2013 in Prague, Czech Republic, at the conference “Analytical Theology: Faith, Knowledge and the Trinity.”
The Ante-Nicene Fathers, subtitled “The Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325”, is a collection of books in 10 volumes (one volume is indexes) containing English translations of the majority of Early Christian writings. The period covers the beginning of Christianity until before the promulgation of the Nicene Creed at the First Council of Nicaea. The translations are very faithful, and provide valuable insights into the spirituality and theology of the early Church fathers.
The Ante-Nicene Period (literally meaning “before Nicaea”) of the history of early Christianity was the period following the Apostolic Age of the 1st century down to the First Council of Nicaea in 325. This period of Christian history had a significant impact on the unity of doctrine across all Christendom and the spreading of Christianity to a greater area of the world. Those seen as prominent figures of this era, referred to as the Ante-Nicene Fathers or Proto-orthodox Christians, generally agreed on most doctrine while the teachings of those early Christian writers which the general majority considered to be heretical, were rejected.
The Apostolic Fathers were Christian theologians who lived in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, who are believed to have personally known some of the Twelve Apostles, or to have been significantly influenced by them. Their writings, though popular in Early Christianity, were ultimately not included in the canon of the New Testament once it reached its final form. Many of the writings derive from the same time period and geographical location as other works of early Christian literature that did come to be part of the New Testament, and some of the writings found among the Apostolic Fathers’ seem to have been just as highly regarded as some of the writings that became the New Testament.
Tertullian (/tərˈtʌliən/), full name Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, c. 155 – c. 240 AD, was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He is from a Berber origin. He is the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. He also was a notable early Christian apologist and a polemicist against heresy, including contemporary Christian Gnosticism. Tertullian has been called “the father of Latin Christianity” and “the founder of Western theology.”