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Justin Martyr
Ignatius
Irenaeus
Hippolytus
Clement of Alexandria
Tertullian
Melito of Sardis
Novatian
Epistle to Diognetus


Justin Martyr

Justin, martyred in mid-second century, seeks here to prove that Jesus Christ is the LORD of hosts of Psalm 24:

"And I said, 'As you wish, Trypho, I shall come to these proofs which you seek in the fitting place; but now you will permit me first to recount the prophecies, which I wish to do in order to prove that Christ is called both God and Lord of hosts, and Jacob, in parable by the Holy Spirit; and your interpreters, as God says, are foolish, since they say that reference is made to Solomon and not to Christ, when he bore the ark of testimony into the temple which he built.  The Psalm of David is this: "...Lift up your gates, ye rulers; and be yet lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory?  The Lord strong and mighty in battle.  Lift up your gates, ye rulers; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in.  Who is the King of glory?  The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory."  Accordingly, it is shown that Solomon is not the Lord of hosts; but when our Christ rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, the rulers in heaven, under appointment of God, are commanded to open the gates of heaven, that He who is King of glory may enter in, and having ascended, may sit on the right hand of the Father until He make the enemies His footstool, as has been made manifest by another Psalm.'" (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, XXXVI.).

The psalm which Justin quotes runs as follows in the Jehovah's Witnesses' own New World Translation: "Who, then, is this glorious King? Jehovah strong and mighty, Jehovah mighty in battle...Who, then, is he, this glorious King? Jehovah of armies -- he is the glorious King." (Psalm 24:8-10).  And Justin says it's Christ who is Jehovah of armies, the "glorious King."

Justin believed it was the Son of God who appeared to Moses in the burning bush, and accuses the Jews who rejected the Lord of confusing Father and Son:

“For at that juncture, when Moses was ordered to go down into Egypt and lead out the people of the Israelites who were there, and while he was tending the flocks of his maternal uncle in the land of Arabia, our Christ conversed with him under the appearance of fire from a bush, and said, 'Put off thy shoes, and draw near and hear.' [,,,] The Jews, accordingly, being throughout of opinion that it was the Father of the universe who spake to Moses, though He who spake to him was indeed the Son of God, who is called both Angel and Apostle, are justly charged, both by the Spirit of prophecy and by Christ Himself, with knowing neither the Father nor the Son. For they who affirm that the Son is the Father, are proved neither to have become acquainted with the Father, nor to know that the Father of the universe has a Son; who also, being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God. And of old He appeared in the shape of fire and in the likeness of an angel to Moses and to the other prophets; but now in the times of your reign, having, as we before said, become Man by a virgin, according to the counsel of the Father, for the salvation of those who believe on Him, He endured both to be set at nought and to suffer, that by dying and rising again He might conquer death.” (Justin Martyr, First Apology, Chapter 62-63).

Ignatius

Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, wrote valedictory letters shortly before his martyrdom early in the second century:

"I welcome in God your well-beloved name which you possess by reason of your righteous nature, which is characterized by faith in and love of Christ Jesus our Savior.  Being as you are imitators of God, once you took on new life through the blood of God [Acts 20:28] you completed perfectly the task so natural to you." (Ignatius, To the Ephesians, 1.1, p. 86, The Apostolic Fathers, Lightfoot, Harmer, Holmes).
"There is only one physician, who is both flesh and spirit, born and unborn, God in man, true life in death, both from Mary and from God, first subject to suffering and then beyond it, Jesus Christ our Lord." (To the Ephesians, 7.2, p. 88, The Apostolic Fathers, Lightfoot, Harmer, Holmes).
"Consequently all magic and every kind of spell were dissolved, the ignorance so characteristic of wickedness vanished, and the ancient kingdom was abolished, when God appeared in human form to bring the newness of eternal life; and what had been prepared by God began to take effect." (To the Ephesians, 19.3, p. 92, The Apostolic Fathers, Lightfoot, Harmer, Holmes).
"Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the church that has found mercy in the majesty of the Father Most High and Jesus Christ his only Son, beloved and enlightened through the will of him who willed all things that exist, in accordance with faith in and love for Jesus Christ our God, which also presides in the place of the district of the Romans, worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of blessing, worthy of praise, worthy of success, worthy of sanctification, and presiding over love, observing the law of Christ, bearing the name of the Father, which I also greet in the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the Father; to those who are united in flesh and spirit to every commandment of his, who have been filled with the grace of God without wavering and filtered clear of every alien color: heartiest greetings blamelessly in Jesus Christ our God." (To the Romans, Preface, pp. 101-102, The Apostolic Fathers, Lightfoot, Harmer, Holmes)
"For our God Jesus Christ is more visible now that he is in the Father." (To the Romans, 3.3., p. 103, The Apostolic Fathers, Lightfoot, Harmer, Holmes)
"Allow me to be an imitator of the suffering of my God." (To the Romans, 6.3, p. 104, The Apostolic Fathers, Lightfoot, Harmer, Holmes)
"I glorify Jesus Christ, the God who made you so wise, for I observed that you are established in an unshakable faith, having been nailed, as it were, to the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ in both body and spirit, and firmly established in love by the blood of Christ..." (To the Smyrnaeans, 1.1, p. 110, The Apostolic Fathers, Lightfoot, Harmer, Holmes)
"I bid you farewell always in our God Jesus Christ; may you remain in him, in the unity and care of God." (To Polycarp, 8.2, p. 118, The Apostolic Fathers, Lightfoot, Harmer, Holmes)

(Quotations from 'The Apostolic Fathers, Second Edition', J.B. Lightfoot and J.R. Harmer, Edited by Michael W. Holmes.)


Christ Among the Doctors


Irenaeus

Irenaeus combatted the gnostic heresy, which taught a multiplicity of gods, in the late second century.

“But Matthew says that the Magi, coming from the east, exclaimed 'For we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him;' and that, having been led by the star into the house of Jacob to Emmanuel, they showed, by these gifts which they offered, who it was that was worshipped; myrrh, because it was He who should die and be buried for the mortal human race; gold, because He was a King, 'of whose kingdom is no end;' and frankincense, because He was God, who also 'was made known in Judea,' and was 'declared to those who sought Him not.'” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 9.2).
“This is the mystery which he says was made known to him by revelation, that He who suffered under Pontius Pilate, the same is Lord of all, and King, and God, and Judge, receiving power from Him who is the God of all, because He became 'obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.'” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 12.9).
"By which is made manifest, that all things which had been foreknown of the Father, our Lord did accomplish in their order, season, and hour, foreknown and fitting, being indeed one and the same, but rich and great. For He fulfills the bountiful and comprehensive will of His Father, inasmuch as He is Himself the Savior of those who are saved, and the Lord of those who are under authority, and the God of all those things which have been formed, the only-begotten of the Father, Christ who was announced, and the Word of God, who became incarnate when the fullness of time had come, at which the Son of God had to become the Son of man." (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 16.7)
"But that He is Himself in His own right, beyond all men who ever lived, God, and Lord, and King Eternal, and the Incarnate Word, proclaimed by all the prophets, the apostles, and by the Spirit Himself, may be seen by all who have attained to even a small portion of the truth. Now, the Scriptures would not have testified these things of Him, if, like others, He had been a mere man. . . .and that He is the holy Lord, the Wonderful, the Counselor, the Beautiful in appearance, and the Mighty God, coming on the clouds as the Judge of all men;— all these things did the Scriptures prophesy of Him." (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 19.2).
“'Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son; and ye shall call His name Emmanuel. Butter and honey shall He eat:. . . .' Carefully, then, has the Holy Ghost pointed out, by what has been said, His birth from a virgin, and His essence, that He is God (for the name Emmanuel indicates this). And He shows that He is a man, when He says, 'Butter and honey shall He eat;' and in that He terms Him a child also, [in saying,] 'before He knows good and evil;' for these are all the tokens of a human infant.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 21.4).
“He says, 'have ye not read that which was spoken by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?' And He added, 'He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to Him.' By these arguments He unquestionably made it clear, that He who spake to Moses out of the bush, and declared Himself to be the God of the fathers, He is the God of the living. [...] But our Lord is Himself the resurrection, as He does Himself declare, 'I am the resurrection and the life.' [...] Christ Himself, therefore, together with the Father, is the God of the living, who spake to Moses, and who was also manifested to the fathers.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 5.2)
“...He did Himself declare to those who were accusing His disciples of not observing the tradition of the elders: 'Why do ye make void the law of God by reason of your tradition? For God said, Honor thy father and mother; and, Whosoever curseth father or mother, let him die the death.' And again, He says to them a second time: 'And ye have made void the word of God by reason of your tradition;' Christ confessing in the plainest manner Him to be Father and God, who said in the law, 'Honor thy father and mother; that it may be well with thee.' For the true God did confess the commandment of the law as the word of God, and called no one else God besides His own Father.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 9.3).
“Therefore, by remitting sins, He did indeed heal man, while He also manifested Himself who He was. For if no one can forgive sins but God alone, while the Lord remitted them and healed men, it is plain that He was Himself the Word of God made the Son of man, receiving from the Father the power of remission of sins; since He was man, and since He was God, in order that since as man He suffered for us, so as God He might have compassion on us, and forgive us our debts, in which we were made debtors to God our Creator.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, Chapter 17.3).

Hippolytus of Rome

Hippolytus was an 'anti-pope,' the unrecognized bishop of Rome. The heretic Callistus I holds his place in line by the Roman Catholic Church's reckoning:

"Let us look next at the apostle's word: 'Whose are the fathers, of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever.' This word declares the mystery of the truth rightly and clearly.  He who is over all is God; for thus He speaks boldly, 'All things are delivered unto me of my Father.' He who is over all, God blessed, has been born; and having been made man, He is (yet) God for ever.  For to this effect John also has said, 'Which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.' And well has he named Christ the Almighty.  For in this he has said only what Christ testifies of Himself." (Hippolytus, Against the Heresy of One Noetus, Chapter 6.)

Theophilus of Antioch

"But the moon wanes monthly, and in a manner dies, being a type of man; then it is born again, and is crescent, for a pattern of the future resurrection. In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the Trinity, of God, and His Word, and His wisdom." (Theophilus, To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter 15).

Clement of Alexandria

This writer, born in mid-second century, headed the catechical school at Alexandria:

"This Word, who alone is both God and man, the cause of all our good, appeared but lately in His own person to men; from whom learning how to live rightly on earth, we are brought on our way to eternal life." (Clement, Exhortation to the Greeks, Chapter 1, p. 17 Loeb edition).
"And they rage round the bit of flesh, which they despise as weak, while they are blind to the inner possessions, not knowing how great a 'treasure' we carry 'in an earthen vessel,' fortified by the power of God the Father and the blood of God the Son and the dew of the Holy Spirit." (Clement, The Rich Man's Salvation, Section 34, p. 343 Loeb edition).
"For not without divine care could so great a work have been accomplished, as it has been in so short a time by the Lord, who to outward seeming is despised, but in very deed is adored; who is the real Purifier, Saviour and Gracious One, the Divine Word, the truly most manifest God, who is made equal to the Master of the universe, because He was His Son and 'the Word was in God.'" (Clement, Exhortation to the Greeks, Chapter X, p. 235 Loeb edition).
"What else is necessary? Behold the mysteries of love, and then you will have a vision of the bosom of the Father, whom the only-begotten God alone declared. God in His very self is love, and for love's sake He became visible to us." (Clement, The Rich Man's Salvation, Section 37, p. 347 Loeb edition).

Tertullian

Tertullian wrote in the early third century. This Pentecostal author describes Father, Son and Holy Spirit as being of one substance: "...the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: three, however, not in condition, but in degree; not in substance, but in form; not in power, but in aspect; yet of one substance..." (Tertullian, Against Praxeas, Chapter II). This phraseology was later taken up by the Nicene Creed.

“Now although Christ is God, yet, being also man, 'He died according to the Scriptures,' and 'according to the same Scriptures was buried.'” (Tertullian, A Treatise on the Soul, Chapter 55).
"We who believe that God really lived on earth, and took upon Him the low estate of human form, for the purpose of man’s salvation, are very far from thinking as those do who refuse to believe that God cares for anything." (Tertullian, Five Books Against Marcion, Book 2, Chapter 16)
"By God, however, would that be done which the man Christ was to do, for He was likewise God." (Tertullian, Five Books Against Marcion, Book 4, Chapter 12)
“Moreover, he expressly called Christ God, saying: 'Of whom are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever.'” (Tertullian, Against Praxeas, Chapter 15).
“And as for the Father’s names, God Almighty, the Most High, the Lord of hosts, the King of Israel, the 'One that is,' we say (for so much do the Scriptures teach us) that they belonged suitably to the Son also, and that the Son came under these designations, and has always acted in them, and has thus manifested them in Himself to men. 'All things,' says He, 'which the Father hath are mine.' Then why not His names also? When, therefore, you read of Almighty God, and the Most High, and the God of hosts, and the King of Israel the 'One that is,' consider whether the Son also be not indicated by these designations, who in His own right is God Almighty, in that He is the Word of Almighty God, and has received power over all; is the Most High, in that He is 'exalted at the right hand of God,' as Peter declares in the Acts; is the Lord of hosts, because all things are by the Father made subject to Him; is the King of Israel because to Him has especially been committed the destiny of that nation; and is likewise 'the One that is,' because there are many who are called Sons, but are not.” (Tertullian, Against Praxeas, Chapter 17).

Tertullian is the author credited with first publication of the word 'Trinity' in Latin:



  • “In this principle also we must henceforth find a presumption of equal force against all heresies whatsoever — that whatever is first is true, whereas that is spurious
    which is later in date. But keeping this prescriptive rule inviolate, still some opportunity must be given for reviewing (the statements of heretics), with a view to the instruction and protection of divers persons; were it only that it may not seem that each perversion of the truth is condemned without examination, and simply prejudged; especially in the case of this heresy, which supposes itself to possess the pure truth, in thinking that one cannot believe in One Only God in any other way than by saying that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are the very selfsame Person. As if in this way also one were not All, in that All are of One, by unity (that is) of substance; while the mystery of the dispensation is still guarded, which distributes the Unity into a Trinity, placing in their order the three Persons — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: three, however, not in condition, but in degree; not in substance, but in form; not in power, but in aspect; yet of one substance, and of one condition, and of one power, inasmuch as He is one God, from whom these degrees and forms and aspects are reckoned, under the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. How they are susceptible of number without division, will be shown as our treatise proceeds.”
  • (Tertullian, Against Praxeas, Chapter II).


This development is sometimes assumed to be more momentous than it was in reality. The earlier authors are very clear in their ascription of Deity to Jesus Christ, as is also the Bible. The heresy against which Tertullian was arguing in 'Against Praxeas' built upon this inherited common understanding that Jesus is God, to advance to the next level and claim also that Jesus is the Father. If God were uni-personal, this would follow of necessity and thus it would be true. It is not unusual for orthodoxy to be studied and defined only upon challenge by heterodoxy. Christians had always believed that Jesus is God, and Christians had also always believed that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father.




It took the genius of Tertullian to insist that both inherited teachings are simultaneously true. The word 'Trinity' reminds us that God's oneness is not uni-personality.

Tertullian was not in fellowship with the church at Rome when he introduced this helpful term. When you point out to Roman Catholics that Tertullian did not believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary, they will tell you in no uncertain terms that he is not one of theirs, but then they are prone to forgive and forget when he says something good. He was a Montanist, a Pentecostal; the Carthaginian Montanists continued as an independent church up until the time of Augustine. Tertullian was in fellowship with the church at Rome so long as that was possible for a Montanist sympathizer; when Rome condemned the Montanist prophets as heretics and false prophets, he preferred to remain a Pentecostal.


Melito of Sardis

Melito was bishop of Sardis in the latter half of the second century.

"For born as a Son, led forth as a lamb, sacrificed as a sheep, buried as a man, he rose from the dead as God, being by nature God and man." (Melito, Homily on the Passion, p. 396, A Treasury of Early Christianity, editor Anne Fremantle).
"And so He is raised upon a high cross, and a title is set upon it making known Him who was slain. Who was He? Painful it is to tell, more terrible not to tell. Hear ye, and tremble before Him who made heaven and earth tremble. He who hung the earth in its place is hanged, He who fixed the heavens is fixed upon the cross, He who made all things fast is made fast upon the tree, the Master has been insulted..." (Melito, Homily on the Passion, A Treasury of Early Christianity, editor Anne Fremantle, pp. 397-398)
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Novatian

Novatian was a third century anti-pope:

"Why, then, should we hesitate to say what Scripture does not shrink from declaring? Why shall the truth of faith hesitate in that wherein the authority of Scripture has never hesitated? For, behold, Hosea the prophet says in the person of the Father: “I will not now save them by bow, nor by horses, nor by horsemen; but I will save them by the Lord their God.” If God says that He saves by God, still God does not save except by Christ. Why, then, should man hesitate to call Christ God, when he observes that He is declared to be God by the Father according to the Scriptures?" (Novatian, Treatise on the Trinity, Chapter 11).
"For since it is evident that all things were made by Christ, He is either before all things, since all things were by Him, and so He is justly God; or because He is man He is subsequent to all things, and justly nothing was made by Him. But we cannot say that nothing was made by Him, when we observe it written that all things were made by Him. He is not therefore subsequent to all things; that is, He is not man only, who is subsequent to all things, but God also, since God is prior to all things. For He is before all things, because all things are by Him, while if He were only man, nothing would be by Him; or if all things were by Him, He would not be man only, because if He were only man, all things would not be by Him; nay, nothing would be by Him. What, then, do they reply? That nothing is by Him, so that He is man only? How then are all things by Him? Therefore He is not man only, but God also, since all things are by Him; so that we reasonably ought to understand that Christ is not man only, who is subsequent to all things, but God also, since by Him all things were made." (Novatian, Treatise on the Trinity, Chapter 13).
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The Epistle to Diognetus

This second century document explains that the Creator of the World became incarnate in Jesus Christ:

"On the contrary, the omnipotent Creator of all, the invisible God himself, established among men the truth and the holy, incomprehensible word from heaven and fixed it firmly in their hearts, not, as one might imagine, by sending to men some subordinate, or angel or ruler or one of those who manage earthly matters, or one of those entrusted with the administration of things in heaven, but the Designer and Creator of the universe himself, by whom he created the heavens, by whom he enclosed the sea within its proper bounds, whose mysteries all the elements faithfully observe, from whom the sun has received the measure of the daily courses to keep, whom the moon obeys as he commands it to shine by night, whom the stars obey as they follow the course of the moon, by whom all things have been ordered and determined and placed in subjection, including the heavens and the things in the heavens, the earth and the things in the earth, the sea and the things in the sea, fire, air, abyss, the things in the heights, the things in the depths, the things in between — this one he sent to them!" (Epistle to Diognetus, 7.2, p. 300, The Apostolic Fathers, translated by J. B. Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, edited by Michael W. Holmes).
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