The Trinity & Deity of Jesus in the Writings of Ante-Nicene Fathers

[This is the first installment for the new section on my Apologetics Page, “Bible Inserts”.  You can view a PDF of this post there.  It is intended to be printed as a half-sheet, placed in your Bible, and used as an apologetics guide or reference for evangelism.]

The following is a brief selection of the Ante-Nicene (before Nicaea) testimony to these fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, thus demonstrating that the doctrines of the Trinity and Deity of Jesus were not later inventions of the church at the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325), as is frequently asserted by various cults.[1]

Ignatius: (Wrote in the early 2nd Century)
“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.” (Epistle to the Ephesians, vii.)

“…because you are stones of a temple, prepared beforehand for the building of God the Father, hoisted up to the heights by the crane of Jesus Christ, which is the cross, using as a rope the Holy Spirit….” (Epistle to the Ephesians, ix.)

“For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived by Mary according to God’s plan, both from the seed of David and of the Holy Spirit.” (Epistle to the Ephesians, xviii.)

“…when God appeared in human form to bring the newness of eternal life.” (Epistle to the Ephesians, xix.)

“I glorify Jesus Christ, the God who made you so wise,…he is truly of the family of David with respect to human descent, Son of God with respect to the divine will and power….” (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, i.)

“…in accordance with faith in and love for Jesus Christ our God…. heartiest greetings blamelessly in Jesus Christ our God.” (Epistle to the Romans, Salutation.)

Polycarp: (Wrote in the early 2nd Century)
“…and to all those under heaven who will yet believe in our Lord and God Jesus Christ and in his Father who raised him from the dead.” (Epistle to the Philippians, xii.)

Hippolytus: (Wrote during the late 2nd Century to early 3rd Century)
“These things then, brethren, are declared by the Scriptures. And the blessed John, in the testimony of his Gospel, gives us an account of this economy (disposition) and acknowledges this Word as God, when he says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” If, then, the Word was with God, and was also God, what follows? Would one say that he speaks of two Gods? I shall not indeed speak of two Gods, but of one; of two Persons however, and of a third economy (disposition), viz., the grace of the Holy Ghost. For the Father indeed is One, but there are two Persons, because there is also the Son; and then there is the third, the Holy Spirit. The Father decrees, the Word executes, and the Son is manifested, through whom the Father is believed on. The economy of harmony is led back to one God; for God is One. It is the Father who commands, and the Son who obeys, and the Holy Spirit who gives understanding: the Father who is above all, and the Son who is through all, and the Holy Spirit who is in all. And we cannot otherwise think of one God, but by believing in truth in Father and Son and Holy Spirit. For the Jews glorified the Father, but gave Him not thanks, for they did not recognise the Son. The disciples recognised the Son, but not in the Holy Ghost; wherefore they also denied Him. The Father’s Word, therefore, knowing the economy (disposition) and the will of the Father, to wit, that the Father seeks to be worshipped in none other way than this, gave this charge to the disciples after He rose from the dead: “Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Mtt. 28:19) And by this He showed, that whosoever omitted any one of these, failed in glorifying God perfectly. For it is through this Trinity that the Father is glorified. For the Father willed, the Son did, the Spirit manifested. The whole Scriptures, then, proclaim this truth.” (Against the Heresy of Noetus, xiv.)

“Let us believe then, dear brethren, according to the tradition of the apostles, that God the Word came down from heaven, (and entered) into the holy Virgin Mary, in order that, taking the flesh from her, and assuming also a human, by which I mean a rational soul, and becoming thus all that man is with the exception of sin, He might save fallen man, and confer immortality on men who believe on His name.” (Against the Heresy of Noetus, xvii.)


[1] All quotations, except those of Hippolytus, are from The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 3rd Edition, by Michael W. Holmes.  The Hippolytus quotations are from Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 5.


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