Did Modalism Arise From Gnosticism?

Did Modalism Arise From Gnosticism?

Is there historical evidence to prove that Modalism sprang from Gnosticism?

Or did Arian and later Trinitarian theologies spring from Platonic Gnosticism?



Some have suggested that early Modalistic Monarchian theology (known as Oneness Theology), developed from the early Gnostic idea of the “demiurge” of Platonic Greek Philosophy. Is there any historical evidence to substantiate this claim?



There are three main reasons why some Trinitarians are suggesting that Modalism was developed from Gnosticism.


1. Firstly, Simon Magus, the sorcerer who was converted in Samaria in Acts chapter eight, later taught that he himself was the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


For this reason, some Trinitarians have alleged that Simon Magus was the first to teach the idea of Modalism. However, it is more likely that Simon learned the theology of Oneness Modalism from the first century apostles and then later exalted himself as if he was the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as one person. For if the apostles had taught the divinity of God to be One Individual as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, then Simon likely copied the theology of the apostles by alleging that he himself was the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as one individual person.

It is hard to imagine that Simon would not have been somewhat influenced by the teachings of the apostles. If the apostles were teaching three divine persons of a Trinity in the first century, then Simon would likely have claimed that he was one of the alleged three persons rather than one person manifesting himself as all three.

Wikipedia says, “Justin Martyr (in his Apologies, and in a lost work against heresies, which Irenaeus used as his main source) and Irenaeus (Adversus Haereses) record that after being cast out by the Apostles, Simon Magus came to Rome where, having joined to himself a profligate woman of the name of Helen, he gave out that it was he who appeared among the Jews as the Son, in Samaria as the Father and among other nations as the Holy Spirit. He performed such miracles by magic acts during the reign of Claudius that he was regarded as a god and honored with a statue on the island in the Tiber which the two bridges cross, with the inscription (Simoni Deo Sancto), ‘To Simon the Holy God’ (Apologia, XXVI).”

In Justin's First Apology (xxvi, lvi; "Dialogus c. Tryphonem”), he describes Simon as a man who, at the instigation of demons, claimed to be a god. Justin says further that Simon came to Rome during the reign of the Emperor Claudius and by his magic arts won many followers so that these erected on the island in the Tiber a statue to him as a divinity with the inscription “Simon the Holy God.”

In my book entitled, “The Origin of the Trinity”, I presented a great deal of historical data showing pagan trinities worshiped together as one. For example, James Hastings wrote in the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics:

“In Indian religion, e.g., we meet with the trinitarian group of Brahma, Siva, and Visnu; and in Egyptian religion with the trinitarian group of Osiris, Isis, and Horus … Nor is it only in historical religions that we find God viewed as a Trinity. One recalls in particular the Neo-Platonic views of the Supreme or Ultimate Reality which is triadically represented.”

Some Trinitarians have responded to my allegations that the Trinity idea came from paganism, by alleging that Satan copied the Trinity by perverting it into three pagan gods. Now if Satan could have allegedly copied and perverted a so called Monotheistic Trinity, then it is equally possible for Satan to have copied and perverted Monotheistic Modalism through Simon Magus. Since Oneness Modalism does not teach that any man other than Jesus Christ is God, and since Modalism does not believe in practicing “magic arts,” Simon Magus obviously perverted the Oneness Theology of the Apostles by exalting himself as the God of the Bible.


2. Secondly, some Trinitarian Scholars Are Falsely Alleging That Sabellius Taught Gnosticism By Using The Sun And It’s Rays As An Example Of The Father Sending The Son As A Ray Of Himself (like a “demiurge”).

On a YouTube Video, Mr R. C. Sproul purposefully misleads people into believing that there is a connection between Gnosticism and the teachings of Sabellius because Sabellius used the sun as an analogy for the Father sending out His own ray of light to the earth as the Son in the incarnation. Both Trinitarian and Oneness teachers have taught the poor example of water being in liquid form, vapour form, and as ice to explain God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yet no one would allege that water emanating into vapour, or vapour emanating into water or ice shows that any of us believe in the emanations of early Gnosticism. The same is true with a ray of the sun as an example of the incarnation.

The only analogy that Sabellius gave was the analogy of the sun as an example of the Father and one of its rays as the son. Mr Sproul gave no historical data in his lecture to show that Sabellius taught pantheism. Nor did Mr Sproul submit any historical data to show that Sabellius ever used rocks as an example of the incarnation of God manifested in the flesh as the Son.

Moreover, Trinitarians often falsely allege that Sabellius (who ministered in the early to mid-third century) was the first to use the analogy of the sun as an illustration of the Father sending His Son as a ray of Himself in the incarnation as a man.

In Justin’s First Apology 63 (written about 130-160 AD), Justin (a Semi Arian) referred to contemporary Christians who affirmed that the Son is the Father.

“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 …”

Justin further spoke of these Oneness believers within the second century in his Dialogue with Trypho 128. According to Justin, there were second century Christians who believed that the Son is inseparable from the Father, “just as the light of the sun (rays of the sun) on earth is indivisible and inseparable from the sun in the skies.”

“But SOME TEACH (other Christians) that this power (the Son) is indivisible and inseparable from the Father, just as the light of the sun on earth is indivisible and inseparable from the sun in the skies; for, when the sun sets, its light disappears from the earth. SO THEY CLAIM (other Christians), the Father by His will, can cause His power to go forth and, whenever He wishes, to return again ...”

Here we find that early Oneness believing Christians had used the same analogy of the sun (130-160) that Sabellius used (200-250) about one hundred years later as an example of the Father and the Son.

The historical evidence proves that the concept of “the demiurge” was first taught in Platonic Greek Philosophy starting in about 310 BC. The Gnostics later borrowed the concept of “the demiurge” from Greek Philosophy as a “subordinate deity” emanating from a higher deity. Merriam Webster Defined “Demiurge” as: A) A Platonic subordinate deity who fashions the sensible world in the light of eternal ideas. B) A Gnostic subordinate deity who is the creator of the material world.

Everyone knows that the Modalists were not teaching that the Son was a "subordinate deity." Thus Hippolytus condemned himself when he accused the Modalists of teaching the same thing as “Heraclitus” because he and other "Semi-Arians" like him (such as Tertullian), were alleging that the Son is a subordinate divine person who was produced by the Father before the creation of the world. The Modalists taught that the Son is the same substance of the Father and that He who became the Son was always the eternal Father. In contradistinction, Hippolytus and the “Semi-Arians” believed in a subordinate Son who was formed before the world was made. Thus we can see that the teachings of Hippolytus and the Semi-Arians is linked with the idea of a “demiurge” (a subordinate divine person) employed by some of the Platonic Greek Philosophers, while “demiurge” has no connection with the teachings of Modalism!

The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge plainly documents the historical influence that Greek Philosophy had on the development of the Trinity:

“The doctrine of the Logos and the Trinity received their shape from Greek Fathers, who … were much influenced, directly or indirectly, by the Platonic philosophy … that errors and corruptions crept into the Church from this source cannot be denied.”

The book entitled, The Church of the First Three Centuries says,

“The doctrine of the Trinity was of gradual and comparatively late formation … it had its origin in a source entirely foreign from that of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures; … it grew up, and was engrafted on Christianity, through the hands of the Platonizing Fathers.”

The historical evidence proves that the founding fathers of the Trinity doctrine were known as “Greek fathers” because they were “influenced” “by Platonic philosophy” from Plato and other Greek philosophers who were teaching the “demiurge” idea of a lesser deity emanating from a higher deity. It is no wonder that Paul gave a prophetic warning to the Greek city of Colossae to “beware lest any man cheat you through PHILOSOPHY (Colossians 2:8-12) …”

It is blatant hypocrisy when Trinitarians claim that Modalism arose from the demiurge of pagan Greek Philosophy when all of the historical evidence proves that it was the Arian and Trinitarian doctrines came from that pagan philosophy. It amazes me that Trinitarians deny the clear documented historical evidence proving that Justin, Hippolytus, Origen, and to a lesser extent, Tertullian, were influenced by the “demiurge” “emanation” theory of Pagan Greek Philosophy. It is even more astonishing when Trinitarians not only deny the evidence, but they have the blind hypocrisy to falsely allege that it was the Modalists who received their doctrine from the “demiurge” of Greek Philosophy without presenting a shred of historical evidence to justify their claim. Therefore I challenge all Trinitarian historians, scholars, and apologists to cite a single early Christian Modalist who ever referenced or cited any of the Greek Philosophers.

Justin, Hippolytus, Tertullian, and Origen were the most influential men that sowed the Greek Philosophical seeds that developed the doctrine of the Trinity, but these men are known as “Semi-Arians” because they believed that the Son is a subordinate deity who was created by the Father. Although Origen later taught eternal Sonship, he nevertheless held onto the subordinate idea of the Son being the “demiurge” as taught by the Greek Philosophers. Wherefore, although the Trinitarian doctrine emerged from the “demiurge” concept of Greek Philosophy (a subordinate lesser deity springing from a higher Deity), Trinitarians have the hypocrisy to falsely accuse the early Modalists for the very thing that the early Catholic fathers did.

3. Thirdly, Some Trinitarians Scholars Cite Hippolytus’s Book, Against All Heresies (Book 9, chapter 5) To Show That Modalism Originated From Heraclitus (A Pagan Greek Philosopher from 535-475 BC).


Hippolytus falsely charged that Noetus and other Monarchian teachers received their teachings from a fifth century BC Greek philosopher named Heraclitus.

The only legitimate historical connection that Trinitarians have to allege that Modalism sprang from Gnosticism is from Hippolytus’ work, “Against All Heresies”, book 9, Chapter 5 (early third century).

“But in this chapter Heraclitus simultaneously explains the entire peculiarity of his mode of thinking, but at the same time the (characteristic quality) of the heresy o