Oneness Modalism Was Once The Most Popular Christian Theology
The historical evidence proves that Oneness Modalistic Monarchianism was once the most popular Christian belief within the first three hundred years of Christian history and that the Trinitarian doctrine was not fully developed until well into the fifth century. Most Trinitarians falsely allege that the second and third century writers who believed in a pre-incarnate Son, or used the word “trinity” were all orthodox Trinitarians. Yet the writings of these men can at best be called “Semi-Trinitarian” because most of them denied the later Trinitarian doctrines of coequality and co-eternality of the Son. Wherefore, the real facts of early pre-Nicene Christian history prove that the majority of the earliest Post Apostolic Christians were Oneness in their theology [Modalistic Monarchian] and that the Oneness Modalists universally rejected the emerging Semi-Trinitarian and Semi-Arian teachings in the first few centuries.
In spite of the truth of the historical evidence, Trinitarian apologists often accuse Oneness apologists of revising and distorting the historical data. For example, Trinitarian author Edward Dalcour falsely accused Oneness authors Bernard and Chalfant of revising the “historical information.” Edward Dalcour wrote, “To maintain the idea that the early church was Oneness is a complicated task for Oneness teachers, for in order to do so, Oneness teachers must revise history. For instance, Bernard claims: ‘1. As far as we can tell, the early church Christian leaders in the days immediately following the apostolic age were Oneness. It is certain they did not teach the doctrine of the trinity as it later developed and as it exists today. 2. Even after the emergence of the trinitarian doctrine … the doctrine of the trinity did not replace Oneness as the dominant belief until around 300 A.D., and it did not become universally established until late in the fourth century.’” (The Oneness of God, David K. Bernard, Pg. 236-237 / cited in E. Dalcour’s book, A Definitive Look At Oneness Theology, Pg. 170)
Mr. Dalcour commented, “Oneness teachers routinely practice this kind of historical revisionism in order to substantiate the notion that the early church taught distinctive Oneness doctrines. Bernard’s assertion that the Trinity “did not replace Oneness as the dominant belief until around 300 A.D.” is the very conclusion he has yet to establish.” (A Definitive Look At Oneness Theology, Edward Dalcour, Pg. 170)
Although David Bernard has documented the historical evidence, I will document much more evidence in the next few chapters to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it is Mr. Dalcour and other Trinitarians like him who are guilty of revising and distorting the historical evidence within the first three hundred years of the Christian era. Many Trinitarians are promulgating the idea that the majority of the earliest Christians were Trinitarian and not Oneness. Yet the solid facts of history prove that the opponents of the Modalists were not only in the minority within the first three hundred years of Christian history, but the vast majority of them were not even what modern Trinitarians would consider orthodox in that they denied the latter Trinitarian doctrines of co-eternality and coequality of the Son.
Modalism Was The Ancient Christian Theology
The famed Eastern Orthodox church historian, Jaroslav Pelikan, wrote that “Many of the passages in ancient Christian writers sound like Modalistic Monarchianism” (The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition, Vol. 1, Pg. 177). Then in the same paragraph (page 177) Pelikan cited Ignatius of Antioch (40-113 AD) and Melito of Sardis (130-180 AD) to show that their writings sounded “like Modalistic Monarchianism”.
After citing Ignatius of Antioch and Melito of Sardis, Pelikan admitted that “Modalistic Monarchianism … turns out to have been a systematization of POPULAR Christian belief in ancient Christian theology (emphasis added).” (The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition Vol. I. – Page 179)
If Trinitarian thought had been a “popular Christian belief in ancient Christian theology,” we can be certain that Mr. Pelikan would have pointed it out to us. To the contrary, Pelikan (himself a Trinitarian historian) wrote that “Modalistic Monarchianism” was the “popular Christian belief” as the most “ancient Christian theology.” Why would famous Trinitarian historians admit that “Modalistic Monarchianism” was the “popular Christian belief in ancient Christian theology” while never stating that the Trinitarian belief was “popular” in the early days of Christianity? I challenge all Trinitarians to read Jaroslav Pelikan’s book, “The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition Vol. 1” and try to find a single line where Mr. Pelikan ever said that the Trinitarian belief the “popular Christian belief in ancient Christian theology.” I read Mr. Pelikan’s book, but I did not find anything to substantiate the false Trinitarian claim that the Trinity doctrine was the most popular Christian theology among the ancient Christians.
German Church historian Friedrich Loofs was a student of the renowned church historian Adolph Harnack. Loofs wrote, “… The Modalists were the successors to the apostles and not the Trinitarians. The Trinitarians expropriated the term 'catholic' (universal) from the writings of Ignatius. When they increased in power and in numbers, they branded the Modalists who preached one God as heretics, and styled their group as ‘catholic’...”(The History of the Primitive Church, translated into English by Ernest C. Messenger (London: Burns, Oates and Washburne Ltd., 1949) 3:600.)
Trinitarian Protestant author Harold Brown wrote that it is impossible to find true theological orthodoxy within the first two hundred years of Christian history.
“It is impossible to document what we now call orthodoxy in the first two centuries of Christianity.” (Heresy and Orthodoxy – In the History of the Church, Pg. 5, Harold Brown)
The context of Mr. Harold Brown's introduction to his book affirmed that there was no true Trinitarian orthodoxy within the first two centuries of the Christian era. Harold Brown was clearly addressing the theological orthodoxy regarding the Protestant idea of a Trinity. According to the Semi-Arian writers Tertullian and Origen, the Oneness Modalists were “always the majority” in the West (Tertullian Against Praxeus 3) and that the Oneness Modalists were “the general run of Christians” in the East (Origen’s Commentary of the Gospel of John, book 1, Chapter 23).
I find it amazing that even though the opponents of the Modalists such as Tertullian and Origen who themselves confessed that the Modalists were “always the majority of the faithful” as “the general run of Christians,” hard hearted Trinitarians continue to think they know more than those who actually lived during the second and third centuries. Since many Trinitarian scholars and historians have themselves admitted that the Modalists were the Christian “majority” before the Trinity developed, it really is shocking that Trinitarian authors like Edward Dalcour would revise the historical facts.
Dr. Dalcour actually wrote, “Oneness writers provide revised and disjointed historical information in order to convince the Oneness people that the early church fathers were modalists. Revising the historical record, William B. Chalfant makes these remarks:”
“The trinity doctrine exists only on paper … No apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ ever taught such a doctrine … None of the immediate disciples of the apostles (e.g., Clement, Ignatius, Hermas, or Polycarp) taught such a doctrine … Who began such a teaching? … Trinities abound in the ancient, false religions.” (Ancient Champions of Oneness. WB Chalfant, pg. 116-118; Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame, 1979 1979 / as cited in Edward Dalcour’s book, A Definitive Look At Oneness Theology, Pg. 175)
Edward Dalcour commented, “Here Chalfant assumes the conclusion he is wishing to reach, namely, that the early church fathers were modalists. With no objective historical justification provided, Oneness writers (e.g., Bernard 1991: 24, 264-65) engage frequently in this kind of patent historical revisionism. The foremost and most recognized Christian theologians and church historians strongly oppose the Oneness historical premise that ‘the early church Christian leaders in the days immediately following the apostolic age were Oneness’ (Bernard, 1983: 236) (From A Definitive Look At Oneness Theology, Page 175, Edward Dalcour).” Apparently, Mr. Dalcour has not extensively read “the foremost and most recognized Christian theologians and historians” within the past few hundred years because the foremost church historians acknowledge that the Oneness Modalists were numerically prominent in the early days of Christianity.
Church Historians Affirm The Predominance of Modalism
Adolph Harnack wrote that “Modalistic Monarchianism” was once “embraced by the great majority of all Christians” (Adolph Harnack, History of Dogma, London: Williams & Norgate, 1897, III, 51-54).
Trinitarian Historian John Henry Newman himself admitted that the majority of the third century Christians held to Oneness Modalistic theology.
“Sabellius, from whom the heresy has since taken its name. He was a bishop or presbyter in Pentapolis, a district of Cyrenaica, included within the territory afterwards called, and then virtually forming, the Alexandrian Patriarchate. Other bishops in his neighborhood adopting his sentiments, his doctrine became so popular among a clergy already prepared for it, or hitherto unpracticed in the necessity of a close adherence to the authorized formularies of faith, that in a short time (to use the words of Athanasius) ‘the Son of God was scarcely preached in the Churches.’” (Trinitarian Church Historian John Henry Newman’s Book, Arians of the Fourth Century, Chapter 1, Section 5, under “Sabellianism”)
If the Athanasian Trinitarian view of the Son of God was “scarcely preached in the churches,” before the time of Athanasius, then the Sabellian view was predominant, and the Trinitarian view had to be “scarce.”
Trinitarian Historian John Henry Newman clearly stated, “his doctrine (the context proves ‘Sabellius’) became so popular among a clergy already prepared for it, or hitherto unpracticed in the necessity of a close adherence to the authorized formularies of faith, that in a short time (to use the words of Athanasius) ‘the Son of God was scarcely preached in the Churches.’
Now if the later early fourth-century Athanasian idea of the Son of God ‘was scarcely preached in the Churches’ then that would mean that the Trinitarian idea was ‘scarce’ and that the Modalist idea was ‘so popular among the clergy’ at that time. Thus, Trinitarian historian John Henry Newman actually admitted that the Modalists (Sabellians) were predominant within the third century and that the later Athanasian idea of the Son of God was ‘scarcely preached in the Churches’ before the time of Athanasius (early fourth century).” (Trinitarian Church Historian John Henry Newman’s Book, Arians of the Fourth Century, Chapter 1, Section 5, under “Sabellianism”)
The context of John Henry Newman’s book, chapter 1, Section 5A (Page 118), proves that the “speculations” of “Praxeus” (A prominent Modalistic Leader in the late second and early third century) “remained alive in that part of the world, though latent [Note 3 - Tertull. in Prax.], till they burst into a flame about the middle of the third century, at the eventful era when the rudiments of Arianism were laid by the sophistical school at Antioch (Trinitarian Church Historian John Henry Newman’s Book, Arians of the Fourth Century, Chapter 1, Section 5, under “Sabellianism”).” If “the speculations of Praxeus remained alive,” in the hearts and minds of the early Christians, then these early Christians must have believed a lot like the Modalistic Monarchian teaching of Praxeus. For how could the speculations of Praxeus have “remained alive” within the early Christians if they had been true Trinitarians in their thinking?
The historical record indicates that Arians and Semi-Arians condemned Sabellian Modalism in Antioch in about 264-272 A.D. by condemning the Modalistic Monarchian belief that Jesus is the same homoousios, “of the same substance” as the Father. The Modalists were teaching that Jesus is the same substance or essence of being as the Father long before the Council of Nicaea while the Semi-Arians were teaching that Jesus is homoiousios, “of a similar substance”, but different from the Father. In fact, Semi-Arians such as Origen and Hippolytus were teaching that Jesus was a different “homoiousious” - “substance” or “essence of being” from the Father in opposition to the Modalists long before Nicaea.
Under Homoousion, the New Advent Encyclopedia says, “Origen, who is, however, inconsistent in his vocabulary, expressed the anti-Sabellian sense of Dionysius of Alexandria by calling the Son ‘Heteroousion.’ The question was brought into discussion by the Council of Antioch (264-272); and the Fathers seem to have rejected Homoousion (‘same substance’), even going so far as to propose the phrase heteras ousias, that is, Heteroousion, ‘of other or different ousia’ (‘different substance’ from the Father).”
Here we have documented evidence to prove that the Oneness Modalists were teaching that the Father and the Son are of the same “substance” or “essence” long before the Council of Nicaea convened in 325. The pre-Nicene Semi-Arian minority were teaching that the Father and the Son are distinct in that they have a different “substance” or “essence” apart from each other (an Arian anti-Nicene theology) while the Modalists were teaching that the Father and the Son are of the same “substance” (a pro-Nicene theology). Therefore the Oneness Modalists were teaching Nicene orthodoxy long before the Council of Nicaea convened in the early fourth century.
There can be no doubt that the Modalists were the Christian majority in the early days of Christianity while the Semi-Arians grew into the second largest group after the Modalists. The emerging Trinitarian thought of men like Athanasius “was scarcely preached in the churches” before the time of Athanasius in the early fourth century (Trinitarian Church Historian John Henry Newman’s Book, Arians of the Fourth Century, Chapter 1, Section 5, under “Sabellianism”). Therefore, Trinitarians cannot claim that their theological view was ever prominent before the fourth and fifth centuries.
Modalistic Monarchian Theology vs. Semi-Arian Theology
At 5:05 into the Christian Answers Part 5 Lecture on Early Christian History, Mr. Morrison said, “Jesus was in heaven FROM AGES PAST (https://youtu.be/t7gvebeL3AM).” Mr. Morrison was referencing the belief of the pre-Nicene Semi Arians when he said, “from ages past” rather than “from eternity past” because not a single early Christian writer before Origen (3rd century) ever taught an eternal Son. In contradistinction to the Semi Arians, Modalists such as Ignatius of Antioch (107 AD) taught that the timeless invisible God became visible via virgin conception and birth as the Son, but no one taught that an alleged timeless Son could be timelessly visible as a Son until the time of Origen (3rd century).
In about 107 AD, Ignatius wrote to Polycarp, “Look for Him who is above all time, THE TIMELESS, THE INVISIBLE, WHO FOR OUR SAKE BECAME VISIBLE ...” (Ignatius’ Epistle to Polycarp 3:2)
Trinitarian theologians often state that the Son was seen in the visible form of God before his virgin conception while God the Father cannot be seen. Thus modern Trinitarians and Jehovah's Witnesses are teaching the same theology as the pre-Nicene Semi-Arians in that the Son was seen as an angel before the incarnation (“Therefore neither Abraham, nor Isaac, nor Jacob, nor any other man, saw the Father and ineffable Lord of all, and also of Christ, but [saw] Him who was according to His will His Son, being God, and the Angel because He ministered to His will…” – Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, 127 / “God begat before all creatures a Beginning, a certain Reasonable Power from Himself, who is called by the Holy Spirit, now the Glory of the Lord, now the Son, again Wisdom, again an Angel, then God, and then Lord and Logos…” – Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 61)
Yet Ignatius, who lived before the Semi-Arians (40-107 AD), had taught that the timeless God was invisible before becoming visible via virgin conception and birth. Therefore the earliest Christian witness (predating Arianism and Trinitarianism) did not believe in the later Semi-Arian and Trinitarian view that the Son could be seen as an angel in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Origen of Alexandria (202-253 AD) gave us an important clue to what the early Oneness Modalists had taught (Origen identified them as "the general run of Christians” in the early to mid-third century) about the word (logos) being the impersonal utterances of the Father deposited in words until the child was actually born as a son (Luke 1:35; Matthew 1:20) later on in time. In his Commentary on the Gospel of John, Book 1, Chapter 23, Origen wrote,
“I wonder at the stupidity of THE GENERAL RUN OF CHRISTIANS (the Christian majority) in this matter. I do not mince matters; it is nothing but stupidity … they proceed differently and ask, WHAT IS THE SON OF GOD WHEN CALLED THE WORD? The passage they employ is that in the Psalms, ‘My heart has produced a good word;’ AND THEY IMAGINE THE SON TO BE THE UTTERANCE OF THE FATHER DEPOSITED, as it were, in syllables … THEY DO NOT ALLOW HIM … ANY INDEPENDENT HYPOSTASIS (Substance of Being), nor are they clear about His essence. I do not mean that they confuse its qualities, but the fact of His having AN ESSENCE OF HIS OWN (Origen’s Commentary of the Gospel of John, book 1, chapter 23).” Trinitarian historians readily admit that Origen’s Commentary of the Gospel of John, book 1, chapter 23, is addressing the Modalistic Monarchians as “the general run of Christians” who rejected the Semi-Arian belief about the logos being a distinct god person with a difference “essence of his own,” apart from the Father. Author Andrew Radde Gallwitz cited Trinitarian church historian Ronald E. Hein to show that Origen wrote the first portion of his Commentary on the Gospel of John (books 1 and 2) against the Modalists after being rejected as a heretic by the Modalistic Christian majority in Rome.
“The ﬁrst two books [of the Commentary on John] were written soon after Origen returned from Rome, and are largely structured by the modalist question … the modalist problem appears several times in his exegetical comments on John 1:1-5, and appears to have been much on his mind.”
Andrew Radde Gallwitz wrote that “Origen became particularly sensitive to modalists who denied the separate hypostatic existence of the Son and the Spirit during his visit to Rome during the episcopacy of Zephyrinus (bishop AD 198-217). Thus, despite the fact that in the Commentary on John, the most obvious adversary is the ‘Valentinian’ teacher Heracleon, Origen also spends a considerable amount of time arguing against modalists, which leads him to insist on the distinct, substantial reality of Son and Spirit. In his Commentary on John 2, Origen (wrote)… ‘the Spirit is made through the Son (as are ‘all things,’ according to John 1.3)’—Origen’s own view …” (Vigiliae Christianae, 65 (2011), © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2011 DOI: 10.1163 / 157007210X524277 / The Holy Spirit as Agent, not Activity: Origen’s Argument with Modalism and its Afterlife in Didymus, Eunomius, and Gregory of Nazianzus , Pg 232. Department of Theology, Loyola University Chicago,1032 W. Sheridan Rd., Chicago, IL 60660, USA, email@example.com) [Footnote: 12] Historian Ronald E. Heine, ‘Christology of Callistus,’ 59: ‘The ﬁrst two books [of the Commentary on John] were written soon after Origen returned from Rome, and are largely structured by the modalist question. Origen does not, of course, conduct a single-minded polemic against modalists in these books. He also argues against Marcionites (1.253), Gnostics (2.155, 171), and particularly Heracleon (2.100-104, 137-39). Nevertheless, the modalist problem appears several times in his exegetical comments on John 1:1-5, and appears to have been much on his mind.’])
Origen clearly revealed that the early Modalists were at that time “the general run of Christians (Origen’s Commentary of the Gospel of John, book 1, chapter 23)” who taught that the word (logos) is the divine utterance of the Father deposited in words until the Son was actually born after the fullness of time had come. Origen further admitted that the Modalists believed that the Son is the same substance (hypostasis) of the Father while Origen's Semi-Arian view led him to believe that the Son has an independent “essence of his own (a separate god person)” and that the Holy “Spirit is made through the Son” (Origen’s Commentary of the Gospel of John, book 2). If the Holy Spirit “is made through the Son,” then the Holy Spirit could not be timeless and coequal. Thus, Origen actually denied the later Trinitarian coequality of the Son and the Spirit as he affirmed that the Son has “a separate essence” of his “own” apart from the Father and that the Holy Spirit “is made through the Son.” In contradistinction, the ancient Modalists taught that the Son is the Holy Spirit incarnate who has the same “Essence of Being” (hypostasis – Heb. 1:3) as the Father. Therefore, the Modalists were actually more orthodox to the later Nicene Creed of 325 than Origen and the other Semi-Arians who were in fellowship with each other.
Origen wrote that the Modalists were “among the multitudes of believers” who called Jesus “the Most High God” while the Semi-Arian tendencies of Origen denied Christ’s full deity. Origen clearly rejected the deity of Christ because he wrote that Jesus is not the Most High God Himself.
Origen wrote in Contra Celsus 8:14, “Grant that there may be some individuals among the multitudes of believers who are not in entire agreement with us, and who incautiously assert that the Savior is the Most High God; however, we do not hold with them, but rather believe Him when He says, ‘The Father who sent Me is greater than I.’” (Contra Celsus 8:14)
Prominent Trinitarian scholars and historians have noted that although Origen “Arianized.” Origen was the first to write about a timeless eternal son who had no beginning before the Trinity doctrine fully developed. According to Johannes Quasten, Origin's doctrine of the eternality of the Son was “a remarkable advance in the development of theology and had a far reaching influence on ecclesiastical teaching (Patrology Vol. 2, Page 78).” Although Origen was the first to clearly teach that the Son always existed as a Son throughout eternity past, he taught “that the Son is not mightier than the Father, but inferior to Him” (Contra Celsus 8:15 - Patrology Vol. 2, Page 79).
Hippolytus of Rome and Origen of Alexandria personally knew each other and had the same basic theology as other Semi-Arians throughout the Roman Empire (Hippolytus warmly embraced Origen and his theology at Rome while the Roman Modalist Bishops rejected both Hippolytus and Origen - Jerome's De Viris Illustribus # 61; cp. Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica vi. 14, 10.). Hippolytus wrote in “Against All Heresies” Book 9, Part 5, “For in this manner he (Noetus – a modalist) thinks to establish the sovereignty of God, alleging that Father and Son, so called, are one and the same (substance), NOT ONE INDIVIDUAL PRODUCED FROM A DIFFERENT ONE, but Himself from Himself; and that He is styled by name Father and Son, according to vicissitude of times.” (Hippolytus, Against All Heresies, Book 9, Part 5) – Italicized words in parenthesis added –
Like Origen, Hippolytus condemned the Modalists for teaching that the Son is “one and the same substance” with the Father rather than “one individual produced from a different one.” Thus we can see that Hippolytus actually had a non-Trinitarian view because he taught that the Son was “produced from a different” “substance” or “essence” from the Father rather than “one and the same substance” with the Father. Origen taught the same in his Commentary on the Gospel of John, book 1, chapter 23.
We know that Origen visited Rome and was received into fellowship by Hippolytus in the early third century (Jerome's De Viris Illustribus # 61; cp. Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica vi. 14, 10.), but the Modalistic Monarchian majority in Rome rejected both Hippolytus and Origen's theology as “ditheism” (Johannes Quasten, Patrology Vol. 2, Page 200, “Thus Pope Callistus was correct in dubbing Hippolytus and his adherents DITHEISTS or worshipers of two gods, although Hippolytus resented this bitterly - Refutation of all Heresies 9:12”). Therefore, both Hippolytus and Origen were in fellowship with each other because they believed that the Son was literally “produced” as “a different one” from the Father (Hippolytus, Against All Heresies, Book 9, Part 5) before his birth and that the Son “has an essence of his own” distinct from the Father (Origen on the Gospel of John 1:23).
The historical evidence reveals that the new “Semi-Arian” professing Christians such as Origen and Hippolytus were in fellowship with each other while the Modalistic Monarchian Christian majority maintained their own fellowship outside of the emerging “Semi-Arian” and “Semi-Trinitarian” minorities. The historical evidence further proves that just as modern Oneness believers reject modern Arians, Semi-Arians, and Trinitarians as “ditheists (a belief in two gods)” and “tri-theists (a belief in three gods),” so the early Oneness believing Christians (the Modalistic Monarchians) also rejected the emerging Semi-Arian and Semi-Trinitarian theologies as a belief in two and three gods (“They are constantly throwing out against us that we are preachers of two gods and three gods, while they take to themselves pre-eminently the credit of being worshippers of the One God” -Tertullian, Against Praxeus 3).
Most of the Writings of the Modalists were Destroyed
The historical evidence cries out a red flag of warning when we consider the fact that virtually all of the writings of the Oneness Modalists of the mid-second century through the fifth century were destroyed by the later Roman Catholic Church. We know that the later Roman Catholic Church burned or destroyed the writings of their opponents after they had solidified their power through the secular Roman government. Therefore, almost all we know about the later Modalists is from the writings of their Semi-Arian and Semi-Trinitarian opponents.
Under Sabellius, the New Advent Encyclopedia admits, “All of his (Sabellius’) original works were burned.”
Trinitarian author Paul Pavao wrote, “No writings of Praxeas or Sabellius survive today because they were considered heresy by the Church.” (Author Paul Pavao, Christian History for Every man. Greatest Stories Ever Told. 2014. http://www.christian-history.org/page-name.html)
Church Historian B. B. Edwards wrote, “That he (Sabellius) was a writer cannot well be questioned. The younger Arnobius (de Deo uno, etc. p. 570 in Feuardent's edit, of Irenaeus) says that in the fifth century some of his writings were still extant. Of what nature these were, he has not told us.” (“THE BIBLICAL REPOSITORY AND QUARTERLY OBSERVER. By B. B. EDWARDS” Under Views of Sabellius, The Biblical Repository and Classical Review, American Biblical Repository)
The historical evidence proves that the later Roman Catholic Church purged most of the writings of the early Modalistic Monarchian Christians from their database of historical records. Thus it is easy to see how modern readers can peruse through the extant writings of the early Christians and falsely come up with the idea that the Modalistic Monarchian view was in the minority because almost all of their writings were later destroyed or burned. Therefore we can see why there is a much larger database of early Christian writings from the Semi-Arian/Semi-Trinitarian perspective than from the Modalists whose writings were destroyed.
What if David Bernard (who is likely most prominent Oneness leader) lived in the early third century and all of his writings, including the writings of the other Oneness Modalists living in the late second, third, and fourth centuries were destroyed (The writings of the early Oneness Modalistic leaders such as Praxeus, Noetus, Sabellius, Zephyrinus, and Callistus were all destroyed)? Since there was no printing press, recorded radio, or internet in the early days of Christianity, centuries later, most people would remember only the most well-known Oneness leaders, but only from the perspective of the extant writings of their opponents. Without the modern day printing press, computers, and the internet, how much would people know about Oneness Pentecostal leaders and their writings if they were all subsequently destroyed by the later Roman Catholic Church? Thus, it is historically accurate to affirm that we would know nothing about the less prominent Oneness leaders whose writings were destroyed, and we would only know a few things about the most prominent Oneness leaders from the surviving writings of their opponents.
The only reason why we know so much about the Semi-Arians like Hippolytus, Tertullian, Justin, Theophilus, Athenagoras, and Clement of Alexandria is due to the fact that we have some of their extant writings from Roman Catholic scribes who chose to save their writings over other writings that they neglected as more heretical. Hence, we would know very little if anything about the Semi-Arians if the Roman Catholic Church had decided to destroy their writings. Thus, the only things we would know centuries later would likely be about the most prominent leaders of the movement, but only from the writings of their detractors who might have easily misrepresented their views. This is precisely what happened in early Christian history. For how else can we explain why Tertullian identified the Modalists in the West as, “they that always make up the majority of believers,” (Tertullian in Against Praxeus 3) and why Origen identified the Modalists as “the general run of Christians” in the East (Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of John, book 1, chapter 23)?
Wherefore, Trinitarian apologists who cite surviving early Christian writings from the Roman Catholic points of view are depending only on the number of extant (surviving) early Christian writings without taking into consideration the enormous emotional bias that the later State Church used in determining what they perceived as heretical or orthodox. Thus, Trinitarian apologists who merely cite from the extant early Christian writings have a faulty method of finding what the majority of the earliest Christians actually believed in the earliest days of Christianity. The only way to gather the real historical narrative of early Christian history is by digging deeper into the earliest Christian writings along with reading what the most honest church historians have uncovered from their extensive research.
The Early Roman Church Was Oneness
In our debate in Austen Texas and in his YouTube lectures, Mr. Morrison stated that Praxeus brought Modalism into the city of Rome in the early third century and that only the Roman Bishops Zephyrinus and Callistus were Modalists. However, Praxeus was a prominent Oneness leader from Asia Minor who first visited Rome well before Zephyrinus and Callistus were bishops. The historical evidence proves that Praxeus visited Rome immediately after Irenaeus had visited Rome in about 178-179.
Under Montanists, the New Advent Encyclopedia states, “... the first appearance of Montanus leaves insufficient time for the development of the sect, which we know further to have been of great importance in 177 when the Church of Lyons wrote to Pope Eleutherius on the subject.”
Irenaeus was sent by the Church of Lyons (Southern France) to convince the Roman Bishop Eleutherus to embrace the Montanists into fellowship. In the late second century, there was much contention whether or not the Montanist prophecies were true or false which was why the Roman church was uncertain if they should fellowship with them. If the Roman church was against the gift of prophecy and the other Pentecostal gifts of the Spirit, why was bishop Eleutherus persuaded by Irenaeus to receive the Montanists into fellowship? Since Irenaeus was successful in persuading the Roman church to receive the prophecies of the Montanists, we know that the Roman church of 178 AD believed in the veracity of the Pentecostal gifts of the Spirit.
About one year after Irenaeus had visited Rome to successfully persuade the Roman church to receive the Montanists into fellowship, Bishop Eleutherus changed his mind and sided with Praxeus (A prominent Oneness leader from Asia Minor) who subsequently visited Rome to convince Bishop Eleutherus to reject the Montanists (also from Asia Minor) for their false prophecies. Since the Roman Bishop took Praxeus' advice over Irenaeus', it is hard to imagine that the Roman Bishop of 178 A.D. was not also a Modalist who warmly embraced Praxeus before Victor, Zephyrinus, and Callistus later became Roman bishops. These facts prove that the subsequent bishops of Rome received their modalistic theology in apostolic succession from bishop Eleutherus. Since Eleutherus was the Bishop of Rome from 175-189, we know that it was Eleutherus who warmly embraced Praxeus and his Oneness Modalism rather than Zephyrinus or Callistus (See Tertullian, Against Praxeus Chapter 1). Therefore, it is highly probable that the immediate successors of the Roman bishop Eleutherus were also Modalistic in their theology which would include his immediate successor, Bishop Victor.
Church historian Johannes Quasten wrote that the Roman Bishop “Eleutherus rejected Montanism in about 179 AD because of Praxeus (a Modalist) who visited Rome which infuriated Tertullian.” (Patrology Vol. 1, Page 279, Johannes Quasten)
At 15:17 into Part 2 (https://youtu.be/3zwmTjNBS_o) of his lecture on Church History, Mr. Morrison alleged that Praxeus was the first to bring Modalism into Rome in the early third century. Yet the facts of church history prove that Praxeus’ theology was well received in Rome during the late second century. I challenge Mr. Morrison or any Trinitarian apologist to cite historical data to prove that Praxeus first visited Rome with his Modalistic Theology in the early third century (210-230 AD) rather than in the late second century (178-179 AD – see Tertullian, Against Praxeus chapter 1). If Modalism first arrived in Rome through Praxeus in the early third century, how can Mr. Morrison explain why bishop Eleutherus embraced Praxeas (a Modalist) in the second century (about 177-179 AD)?
It makes sense to believe that the Roman Church was already Modalistic in theology (which would explain why Praxeus was so well received by the Roman church) rather than believing that the Roman Church turned away from Trinitarian theology to embrace a new theological position which would have certainly caused quite a commotion in Rome if the Roman church had been Trinitarian. Since we have no historical documentation to prove that the Roman church was Trinitarian, nor do we have any historical documentation to prove that the church in Rome experienced any theological debate with Praxeus when he arrived in Rome, we know that the early Roman church had to have held the same basic theology as Praxeus before he arrived in Rome.
Furthermore, why did both Clement and Hermas of Rome teach that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit who became incarnate as Christ within the first-century?
“The pre-existent Holy Spirit which created all things did God make to dwell in a body of flesh chosen by himself.” (The Shepherd of Hermas, Parable 5:6)
“After I had written down the commandments and similitudes of the Shepherd, the Angel of repentance, he came to me and said, ‘I wish to explain to you what the Holy Spirit that spoke with you in the form of the Church showed you, for that Spirit is the Son of God.’” (The Shepherd of Hermas, Parable 9:1)
Clement was a first-century bishop of Rome who personally knew some of the original apostles. 2 Clement 14:3-4 states that the Holy Spirit is “the Spirit which is Christ.”
“…the Holy Spirit …guard the flesh that you may partake of the (Holy) Spirit. Now if we say that the flesh is the Church as the Spirit is Christ, then verily he who has dishonored the flesh has dishonored the Church. Such a one, therefore, shall not partake of the Spirit which is Christ.”
Trinitarian theology teaches that the Holy Spirit is not the Son and that the Son is not the Holy Spirit but the first century Roman Church taught that the Holy Spirit is “that Spirit” who “IS THE SON OF GOD” “which IS CHRIST.” Since Arian theology teaches that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal active force (Jehovah’s Witnesses), and since Unitarian Socinian theology teaches that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father who is not the Son, the first century Roman Church had to be Oneness (Modalistic) in theology rather than Trinitarian, Arian, or Socinian.
Irenaeus Never Wrote Against The Modalists As Heretical
At 7:30 into Mr. Morrison's Part 2 video on church history (https://youtu.be/3zwmTjNBS_o), Mr. Morrison mentioned Irenaeus listing all of the heretical groups in his day in “Against Heresies” but he never mentioned the Modalists as heretics. I have already documented the historical fact that the Oneness Modalists were prevalent both before and during the time of Irenaeus. If Irenaeus thought that the Modalists were heretical, how is it that he never listed them in his work, “Against Heresies?” Also notice that Irenaeus never listed the Semi-Arians who believed that the Son was created as heretical (Examples: Justin, Theophilus, and Athenagoras were clearly Semi-Arians).
I have documented the evidence that Irenaeus held both Modalistic and Semi-Arian views about Christ. This explains why Irenaeus never spoke out against the Modalists or the Semi-Arians.
Irenaeus Believed In Semi-Arianism and Modalism
Irenaeus’ Semi-Arian Views
Irenaeus wrote in Against Heresies Book 9:30, “But the Son, eternally co-existing with the Father, from of old, YES FROM THE CREATION, always reveals the Father.” (Against Heresies Book 9:30)
“If anyone says to us, ‘HOW WAS THE SON PRODUCED BY THE FATHER?’ We reply to him, that NO MAN UNDERSTANDS THAT PRODUCTION OR GENERATION or calling or by whatever name one may describe his generation, which is in fact altogether indescribable … but the Father only who begat, and the Son who was begotten.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 2:28,6 / Patrology Vol. 1 Page 295)
Irenaeus believed that the Son was “produced or generated” by the Father who begat him “FROM THE CREATION.” Hence, according to Irenaeus, the Son was “produced” by being “born” (“begotten means “born”) “from the Creation” in order to “eternally coexist with the Father” throughout the timeless future. Irenaeus clearly taught that the Son was produced or generated (born) “from the creation.” Yet Irenaeus departed from other Semi-Arians by writing that the “Son and the Spirit” are the “hands of the Father” (as manifestations of the Father’s Person) who created mankind and that believers have received “the Spirit of the Father.” (Against Heresies 6:1 Patrology Vol. 1, Page 309)
Irenaeus’ Modalistic Views
Irenaeus identified the Spirit of the Savior as the indwelling Holy Spirit.
“But as for us, we still dwell upon the earth and have not yet sat down (with him) upon His throne. For although the Spirit of the Savior that is in him (in believers) searches all things, even the deep things of God, (1 Corinthians 2:10).” (Against Heresies, Book 2, 28:7)
1 Corinthians 2:10-11 proves that the Spirit of the Savior that Irenaeus was addressing is the Holy Spirit of God.
“For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.”
Trinitarians allege that 1 Corinthians 2:10-11 is addressing the Holy Spirit of God as an alleged third God Person, but Irenaeus confessed that the Holy Spirit of God is “the Spirit of the Savior” who “searches the deep things of God.” How could an omniscient, non-incarnate God the Holy Spirit be said to “search all things, even the deep things of God” while already being omniscient (Knowing all things)? For an omniscient God the Holy Spirit cannot be said to search the deep things of God if the alleged omniscient God the Spirit Person already knows all things to begin with. Since Irenaeus believed that the indwelling Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus Christ our Savior, Irenaeus could not have been a true Trinitarian.
Rather than writing about an alleged coequally distinct God the Word Person (i.e. a God the logos Person), Irenaeus wrote that the Word (Logos) is the “thought” and “mind” of the Father Himself.
“But God being all Mind, and all Logos, both speaks exactly what He thinks, and thinks exactly what He speaks. For His thought is Logos, and Logos is Mind, and Mind comprehending all things is the Father Himself. He, therefore, who speaks of the mind of God, and ascribes to it a special origin of its own, declares Him a compound Being, as if God were one thing, and the original Mind another.” (Against Heresies, Book 2, 28:5)
Trinitarians teach that the Logos is the coequal and coeternal God the Word Person called “God the Son;” yet Irenaeus identified the Logos as the “thought” and “Mind” of “God” who “is the Father Himself.” Irenaeus’ words sometimes sound Semi-Arian while at other times he sounds like a Modalist. Therefore Irenaeus, who read the writings of the Semi-Arians like Justin and the writings of the early Modalists, apparently mixed both Semi-Arian and Modalistic Monarchian thought within his theological teachings and regarded both views as orthodox.
Trinitarian Apologists Often Cite Modalists as Trinitarians
Mathetes To Diognetus (100 AD)
Dr. Morrison cited Modalists during our debate and then falsely alleged that they were Trinitarian. For example, The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus (about 100 AD) says,
“… having now revealed the Savior who is able to save even those things which it was [formerly] impossible to save, by both these facts He desired to lead us to trust in His kindness, to esteem Him our Nourisher, FATHER, Teacher, Counselor, Healer, our Wisdom, Light, Honor, Glory, Power, and Life, ...” (Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus Chapter 9)
Mathetes identified Jesus “the Savior” as the “Father, Teacher, Counselor, Healer” and “Wisdom.” He used scriptural titles for the Son of God such as “Counselor (Isaiah 9:6), Healer (Malachi 4:2 / Isaiah 35:5-6),” and “Wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:24)” along with “Father (Isaiah 9:6).” Since Mathetes identifies Jesus as the Father, he could not have been a Trinitarian.
Mathetes further wrote,
“This is He who, being from everlasting is to-day called the Son; …” (Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus Chapter 11)
Notice that Mathetes spoke of Christ as being the “He” who is from “Everlasting,” but “is today called the Son.” According to Mathetes, the Son was not actually called the Son until “today.” Do Trinitarians believe that the Son was not called a Son throughout eternity past, but was only “today called the Son?” I think not!
Ignatius of Antioch (67 – 108 AD)
Dr. Morrison cited Ignatius of Antioch as a Trinitarian in our debate because he wrote Jesus “was with the Father before all ages (Magnesians 6).” However, Ignatius had taught that Jesus was with the Father as the word (logos = “expressed thought”) of the Father (Magnesians 8:2; Ephesians 3:2), so Jesus could have been with the Father before all ages in God’s “expressed thought” (in His mind and plan which is the literal meaning of the Greek word “logos”).
Ignatius claimed that the Holy Spirit is the same divine person “who is Jesus Christ.”
“Fare ye well in the harmony of God, ye who have obtained the inseparable Spirit, who is Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3:17; Romans 8:9; John 14:16-18).” (Magnesians 15:1, Roberts-Donaldson Translation)
According to Ignatius, “the inseparable Spirit” “is Jesus Christ.” Just as Paul contextually wrote in his second Epistle to the Corinthians, “Christ Jesus the Lord (2 Cor. 4:5)” and “the Lord is the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:17),” so Ignatius faithfully followed the theology of the Apostles by writing, “the inseparable Spirit, who is Jesus Christ.” The early first and second century Christian writers often spoke of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit who became the Son through the virgin (Hermas, Clement, Mathetes, Aristides, Irenaeus, Melito) because this is precisely what the first century apostles had taught in all the churches.
Ignatius of Antioch wrote in Polycarp 3:2, “Look for Him who is above time - the Timeless, the Invisible, who for our sake became visible, the Impassible, who became subject to suffering on our account and for our sake endured everything.”
Ignatius wrote that the God who became “visible” was first “invisible” before his birth. Trinitarians often affirm that the Son was visible as one of the angels of Yahweh (Christophanies) in the Hebrew Scriptures, while the Father was invisible. But to Ignatius and the earliest Christian witness, the only invisible God later became the visible Son who was “subject to suffering on our account.” Therefore Ignatius had to have held Modalistic theology rather than Trinitarian theology.
It is believed that Ignatius was taught and mentored by the apostle John himself. This would explain why the Christians of Syria and Asia Minor highly venerated Ignatius as a great authority among the churches. Since Ignatius was highly esteemed as a great Christian leader by the Christians of Asia Minor and Syria, it is hard to believe that the Christians he wrote seven epistles too, including an epistle to Polycarp, did not believe in the same theology as Ignatius.
In our debate, Mr. Morrison had said that Modalism did not appear until the third century, but Ignatius believed that Jesus is the invisible and timeless Holy Spirit in the late first and early second century.
Melito of Sardis (140-180 AD)
Mr. Morrison cited Melito of Sardis as a Trinitarian in our debate. He further stated that there were no Oneness Modalists before the third century. But Melito wrote that Jesus Christ is both the Father and the Son in the mid second century.
“8 For as a Son born, and as a lamb led, and as a sheep slain, and as a man buried, he rose from the dead as God, being by nature God and Man. 9 For he is all things: in as much as he judges, Law; inasmuch as he teaches, Word; in as much as he saves, Grace; IN AS MUCH AS HE BEGETS, FATHER; IN AS MUCH AS HE IS BEGOTTEN, SON; in as much as he suffers, Sheep; inasmuch as he is buried, Man; in as much as he is raised, God. 10 This is Jesus the Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Stuart George Hall, pp. 5, 7. Oxford Early Christian Texts / Clarendon Press 1979)
Church historian Johannes Quasten affirmed the assessments of church historians Bonner and Hall that Melito of Sardis likely believed in Modalistic Monarchianism (Oneness Theology).
“The title ‘Father’ for Christ is unusual. It occurs in an important passage describing the various functions of Christ: For born as a son, and 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. Who is all things: in that he judges, Law, in that he teaches, Word in that he saves, Grace, in that he begets, Father, in that he is begotten, Son, in that he suffers, the sacrificial sheep, in that he is buried, Man, in that he arises, God. This is Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory to the ages of ages (8-10 Bonner).” (Johannes Quasten, Patrology Vol. 1, Page 244)
Melito taught that Jesus Christ is the divine person who “begets” as the “Father” and that Jesus Christ is the same divine identity who is “begotten” as the “Son.” Only Modalism teaches that Jesus Christ is the one who begets as the Father and who is begotten as the Son. Here we have clear evidence to show the popularity of Modalistic Monarchianism within the second century. Melito of Sardis was esteemed by the second century Christian majority as a prophetic teacher who was not only well known throughout Asia Minor, but also in the city of Rome itself (Eusebius, Church History V.24, The letter of Polycrates of Ephesus to the Roman bishop Victor states that “Melito the eunuch whose whole walk was in the Holy Spirit”).
Church historian Johannes Quasten affirmed the apparent Modalistic Monarchianism of Melito of Sardis when he wrote:
“This complete identification of Christ with the Godhead itself could be interpreted in favor of the monarchian modalism … If that were the case it would explain the neglect and eventual loss of Melito's works.” (Johannes Quasten, Patrology - Volume 1, Patrology, 1986 reprint, p. 244.)
Under “Melito,” the New Advent Encyclopedia states, “Of Melito's numerous works almost all have perished.”
Johannes Quasten identified Melito’s theology as probable “monarchian modalism” which “would explain the neglect and eventual loss of Melito’s works.” The fact that such a knowledgeable church historian as Johannes Quasten would state that Melito’s “monarchian modalism” “would explain the neglect and eventually loss” of his written “works” gives credence to the historical fact that the latter Roman Catholic Church did purge most of the writings of the Monarchian Modalists out of the surviving written records.
Melito further wrote that “The tongue of the Lord is His Holy Spirit (Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 8).” Since Melito gives the analogy of the Holy Spirit as the tongue of the Lord then he had to believe that the Holy Spirit is the same divine Person as God the Father. For how can God’s tongue be a separate person from Himself?
Melito further wrote that the Holy Spirit is “the finger of the Lord” - “by whose operation the tables of the law in Exodus are said to have been written.” (Ante Nicene Fathers Volume 8) Exodus 34:1 reveals that “Yahweh spoke to Moses” – “I will write on these tablets the words that were on the first tablets.”
Trinitarian scholars have called Melito’s theology “naïve Modalism.” Trinitarian scholar Stewart Sykes tried to explain why Melito and the earliest Christians did not believe in latter Trinitarian theology by stating, “We must understand that Melito bears witness to the truth as it was understood in his day and that THE ORTHODOX FAITH HAS BEEN GRADUALLY REVEALED.” (Melito of Sardis OnPascha. St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood NY, 2001, page 29)
Does it not make more sense to believe that the earliest Christians had the original truth of the Apostles doctrine in their day rather than believing that the latter so called Trinitarian orthodox faith needed to be “GRADUALLY REVEALED” later on in time? All knowledgeable scholars of church history recognize that the Theology of the earliest Christian leaders does not support modern day Trinitarian Theology.
Under “Melito”, the New Advent Catholic Encyclopaedia states that Melito “had been one of the great authorities in the Church of Asia...” and “…that he was esteemed a prophet by many of the faithful.” If Melito was “esteemed a prophet” and as “one of the great authorities in the Church of Asia” within the second-century, then that would mean that the second-century Christian majority of Asia would have held the same basic theology of Melito.
The Ancient Modalists Were Not Patripassians (the belief that the Father as the Father suffered and died)
The annals of church history inform us that most of the writings of the Oneness Modalists of the first few centuries were destroyed by the later Roman Catholic Church. Since most of the knowledge we have of the third and fourth century Modalists are from their opponents, it is most probable that Sabellius and most of the other prominent Modalistic Monarchians all taught the distinctions between the Father and the Son while being falsely called “Patripassians” [Patripassianism means a belief that the Father suffered and died as the Father] as a mocking label against them. We know that Sabellius lived in Rome and was in fellowship with the Roman bishops Zephyrinus and Callistus, so it is probable that Sabellius maintained the same basic theology as the bishops of the Roman Church (Under Monarchianism, History, the New Advent Encyclopedia says, “Sabellius soon became the leader of the Monarchians in Rome, perhaps even before the death of Zephyrinus - c. 218).
If the Roman Bishop Callistus had denied any distinction between the Father and the Son, then Hippolytus would not have accused him of combining the humanity of the Son from Theodotus' teaching with the Divine Modalistic explanation of Sabellius (Under Monarchianism, History, the New Advent Encyclopedia says, “Hippolytus accuses Callistus of now inventing a new heresy by combining the views of Theodotus and those of Sabellius”). It is unlikely that the theology of Callistus as the leading Roman bishop would have been substantially different from other prominent Christian leaders he was in fellowship with throughout the Roman Empire. Hence, we can see that the ancient Modalists were not really Patripassians (believing that Jesus suffered and died as the Father in flesh) at all, but in reality, they likely taught a balanced teaching about the Oneness Modalistic understanding of the deity of Christ along with his true humanity (his human sonship).
Interestingly, I have also been accused of combining Socinian Unitarian thought with Modalism. As a Oneness apologist, I must be able to defend the faith by giving explanations and exegesis upon all of the scriptures. There is no way to bring harmony to all of the scriptural data without a correct understanding of Christ's true humanity. Only a balanced scriptural understanding of Oneness Theology can explain the true humanity of Jesus with his true divinity.
Did Sabellius Teach Patripassian Sequential Modalism?
In about 125 A.D., Aristides of Athens wrote in his apology to the Emperor (chapter two),
“The Christians, then, trace the beginning of their religion from Jesus the Messiah; and he is named the Son of God Most High. And it is said (the majority of the Christians said) that God came down from heaven, and from a Hebrew virgin, assumed and clothed himself with flesh; and the Son of God lived in a daughter of man.” (The Apology of Aristides of Athens, chapter two) – Italicized words added –
According to the Christians of the early second century, about 25 years after the death of the apostle John, God Himself came down from heaven and “assumed and clothed himself with flesh; and THE SON OF GOD LIVED IN A DAUGHTER OF MAN.” Notice that Aristides did not say that God as God lived in a daughter of man, but rather, “the Son of God lived in a daughter of man” because God had also became a man within the Hebrew virgin. After God had become a man, it was the Son of God who lived in a human body of flesh as a real man. Therefore, God as God could not have suffered and died on the cross just as God as God could not have been tempted of evil (“God cannot be tempted of evil” – James 1:13). Hence, the earliest Christians had taught that after God came down from heaven to incarnate Himself within the virgin, it was the newly formed Son of God who experienced human attributes, human sufferings, and human temptations as a true man.
The New Advent Encyclopedia, under “Monarchianism”, states that “Hippolytus accuses Callistus (a Modalistic Monarchian) of now inventing a new heresy by combining the views of Theodotus (Theodotian Socinianism emphasized the humanity of Jesus but denied his deity) and those of Sabellius (Oneness Modalism emphasized the divinity of Jesus as the divinity of God the Father who had become a man).” - Italicized words in parenthesis added –
Under “Sabellianism”, the Catholic Encyclopedia states, “It is true that it is easy to suppose Tertullian and Hippolytus to have misrepresented the opinions of their opponents (the Sabellians).” – Italicized words added –
While Tertullian mocked the Modalists for allegedly denying any distinctions between the Father and Son, there is some historical evidence to prove that they never denied these distinctions. Oneness author David Bernard referenced church historian Harry Austryn Wolfson in which “Noetus said that Jesus was the Son by reason of his birth, but he was also the Father (Footnote 25 - Wolfson I, 591).” The Modalistic Roman bishop Zephyrinus had said, “I know only One God, Christ Jesus, and apart from him I know no other who was born or could suffer ... it was not the Father who died but the Son (Heresy and Orthodoxy Vol. IV, of A History of the Early Church, Pg. 155, by Jules Lebreton and Jacques Zeiller).”
The early Modalistic Monarchians taught that God the Father as God the Father could not suffer and die, but the Father's new manifestation as God with us as a true human Son “by reason of his birth” could suffer and die. Here we have the evidence to see that Oneness Theology was misrepresented by our opponents back in the third century just as it is being misrepresented today in order to make our position look bad through false statements about our alleged denial of any distinctions. For all knowledgeable Oneness Theologians believe that God also became a genuine man in the incarnation through the virgin who lived an authentic human life.
At 14:30 into Part 2 of his lecture on church history (https://youtu.be/3zwmTjNBS_o), Mr. Morrison alleged that the Sabellians held a "sequential Modalistic" doctrine in which the Father as the Father became the Son and became the Spirit during the time of Tertullian and Hippolytus. We must keep in mind that Mr. Morrison based his conclusions upon two of Sabellius' detractors, namely, Tertullian and Hippolytus, who falsely claimed that the Modalits were teaching sequential “Patripassianism” (Patripassianism: The Father as the Father became the Son to suffer and die as the Father). Since the subsequent Roman Catholic Church destroyed all of Sabellius’ writings, there is no way to prove that Sabellius ever taught patripassianism and sequential Modalism other than the Father becoming incarnate as a true man (a true human son).
The early Modalists likely taught that God as the Father did not suffer and die as the Son, but rather, God the Father entered into a new mode of existence as a true man (a true human son) through the virgin who could suffer and die for our sins in the Father’s new mode of existence as a true human son who was made 100% man.
Church historian B. B. Edwards wrote, “… that which makes out the Sabellians to be the same as Patripassians (meaning that the Father suffered and died as the Father), and represents them as denying the distinctions in the Godhead; is altogether a mistaken view of the subject.” (THE BIBLICAL REPOSITORY AND QUARTERLY OBSERVER. By B. B. EDWARDS. Under Views of Sabellius, The Biblical Repository and Classical Review, American Biblical Repository, 1835) – Italicized words in parenthesis added –
While Oneness theologians believe that the Father became the human Son in the incarnation through the virgin as a true man, we do not believe that the Father ever became the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of God the Father has always been the Spirit of God the Father throughout eternity past. Sabellius did not launch his successful ministry into North Africa until after 210-220 AD so the Modalistic doctrine did not originate with Sabellius. Tertullian's work “Against Praxeus” chapter 3 proves that the Modalists were the Christian majority both during and before the time of Tertullian (160-225). Tertullian wrote, “…they that always make up the majority of believers reject … the Trinitas.” The context proves that he was addressing the Modalists who believed like Praxeus. This statement alone proves that the Christian majority was not only Modalistic during the time of Tertullian (160-225) but as far back as Tertullian knew, the Modalists were “ALWAYS” the “Majority of the believers.”
The Majority of The Montanists Were Modalists
At 17:00 into Dr. Morrison’s Part 2 video on Church History (https://youtu.be/3zwmTjNBS_o), Mr. Morrison rightly stated that Tertullian joined the Montanists from Asia Minor. Yet even the majority of the Montanists were Modalistic in their theology. The New Advent Encyclopedia states that Montanus was himself a Modalist because he prophesied saying, “I am the Father, the Word, and the Paraclete,”… (Didymus, "De Trin.", III, xli); and again: “I am the Lord God omnipotent, who have descended into man”, and “neither an angel, nor an ambassador, but I, the Lord, the Father, am come” (Epiphanius, “Hær.”, xlviii, 11).” According to Montanus, “the Word, and the Spirit (Paraclete)” is “the Father” who has “come” to “descend into man.”
Under “Montanism, The New Advent Encyclopedia states that Jerome (in the late fourth century), ‘described them as Sabellians in their idea of the Trinity.’”
“It is interesting to take St. Jerome's account, written in 384, of the doctrines of Montanism as he believed them to be in his own time (Ep., xli). He describes them as Sabellians in their idea of the Trinity.”
Hippolytus described the Montanists as Noetian Modalists:
“But others of them, being attached to the heresy of the Noetians [Noetus was a Modalist], entertain similar opinions to those relating to the silly women of the Phrygians, and to Montanus. As regards, however, the truths appertaining to the Father of the entire existing of things, they are guilty of blasphemy, because they assert that He is Son and Father, visible and invisible, begotten and unbegotten, mortal and immortal. These have taken occasion from a certain Noetus to put forward their heresy.” (Hippolytus, Book 5, “CHAP. XXII.--THE PHRYGIANS OR MONTANISTS)
Here we have historical evidence from Hippolytus (who ministered from about 200 – 230 AD) that the majority of the early Montanists, including Montanus himself, believed in Modalism. Hippolytus clearly blamed Noetus for spreading Modalism among the Montanists which proves that Montanus and his followers were mostly Modalistic (Oneness) in their theology.
Under Montanism, the New Advent Encyclopedia says,
“Another Montanist (about 200), who seems to have separated from Proclus, was Æschines, who taught that ‘the Father is the Son’, and is counted as a Monarchian of the type of Noetus or Sabellius.”
The Early Oneness (Modalistic) Christians Were Pentecostals
At 24:45 into Mr. Morrison’s lecture on Early Christian Church History, Part 4 (https://youtu.be/Pn6U2gRNUF0), Mr. Morrison made a false assumption by alleging that the Modalistic Monarchians were not Pentecostal while Tertullian and the Montantists were Pentecostal. However, the historical evidence indicates that the Modalistic Christians were Pentecostals and that most of the Montantists were Modalistic Pentecostals as well. The only major difference between the Modalistic Montantists and other Modalists of that time was due to the fact that the Montantists were giving out false prophecies.
Irenaeus visited the Roman Church to persuade the Roman bishop Eleutherus to receive the Montanists into fellowship. There was much controversy in the late second century whether or not the prophecies of the Montanists were true or not. Since Irenaeus successfully persuaded bishop Eleutherus to receive the prophecies of the Montanists in about 178 AD, it is hard to imagine that the late second century Roman church did not believe in the gift of prophecy along with the other gifts of the Spirit. Hence, the second century Roman church had to have been Pentecostal in doctrine and practice for them to be willing to receive the Montanists into fellowship.
About one year after Irenaeus had successfully persuaded bishop Eleutherus to fellowship with the Montanists (178 AD), Praxeus (a Modalist) was well received by the Roman bishop Eleutherus in about 179 AD. Irenaeus had successfully gone to Rome in about 178 to persuade bishop Eleutherius to fellowship with the Montanists. Praxeus had ministered in Asia Minor where Montanus and some of his followers were giving out false prophecies. Praxeus later came to Rome just after Irenaeus and successfully persuaded the Roman bishop Eleutherus to change his mind in not receiving the Montanists into fellowship because of some of their false prophesies. Praxeus would not have rejected the theology of Montanus because Montanus was himself a Modalist so the rift had to have been caused by the known false prophesies of the Montanists rather a theological belief which differed from that of Praxeus and the Roman church.
The New Advent Encyclopedia states that Montanus was a Modalist because he prophesied saying, “I am the Father, the Word, and the Paraclete,… (Didymus, “De Trin.”, III, xli); and again: ‘I am the Lord God omnipotent, who have descended into man’, and ‘neither an angel, nor an ambassador, but I, the Lord, the Father, am come’ (Epiphanius, "Hær.", xlviii, 11).”
According to Montanus, “the Word, and the Spirit (Paraclete)” is “the Father” who has “come” to “descend into man.”
Since the historical data proves that Montanus himself was a Modalist, there is not a shred of historical data to affirm that Eleutherus and Praxeus would not fellowship with the Montanists because of doctrinal differences. All of the evidence points to Montanus and his followers being rejected by the majority of the churches because they were giving out false prophecies. Furthermore, Irenaeus himself wrote that the Pentecostal gifts of the Spirit were operational in the churches scattered throughout the whole world during the late second century (180-202 AD - Irenaeus, Vol. I Ante-Nicene Fathers 409). This would include the second century church of Rome along with the Modalistic Monarchian Churches which Tertullian himself called the Christian “majority” (Against Praxeus 3), and Origen himself identified as “the general run of Christians” (Origen’s Commentary of the Gospel of John, book 1, chapter 23).
Irenaeus clearly believed that the Pentecostal gifts of the Spirit were operational in the second century churches “scattered throughout the whole world.”
“Wherefore, also, those who are in truth His disciples, receiving grace from Him, do in His name perform miracles, so as to promote the welfare of other men, according to the gift which each one has received from Him. For some do certainly and truly drive out devils, so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe in Christ, and join themselves to the Church. Others have FOREKNOWLEDGE OF THINGS TO COME: THEY SEE VISIONS, AND UTTER PROPHETIC EXPRESSIONS. Others still, HEAL THE SICK BY LAYING THEIR HANDS UPON THEM, and they are made whole. Yea, moreover, as I have said, THE DEAD EVEN HAVE BEEN RAISED UP, and remained among us for many years. And what shall I more say? IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO NAME THE NUMBER OF GIFTS WHICH THE CHURCH, SCATTERED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE WORLD HAS RECEIVED from God, in the name of Jesus Christ ... (Irenaeus, Vol. I Ante-Nicene Fathers 409).”
Irenaeus wrote that “THE CHURCH, SCATTERED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE WORLD HAS RECEIVED” the “gifts” of the Holy Spirit rather than just a small group of Montanists. Therefore, according to Irenaeus, the Universal Church “scattered throughout the whole world has received” the Pentecostal gifts of the Spirit in the late second century. This would include the Modalistic Monarchians who were the Christian majority in the second and third centuries.
Irenaeus of Lyons believed that to receive the Spirit of God was to “speak all kinds of languages” and that if anyone did not receive “the outpouring of the Spirit” he is “of an animal nature,” “being left carnal.”
“For this reason does the apostle declare, We speak wisdom among them that are perfect, (1 Corinthians 2:6) terming those persons perfect who have received the Spirit of God, and who through the Spirit of God do speak in all languages, as he used Himself also to speak. In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the Church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God, whom also the apostle terms spiritual, they being spiritual because they partake of the Spirit … But when the spirit here blended with the soul is united to [God's] handiwork, the man is rendered spiritual and perfect because of the outpouring of the Spirit, and this is he who was made in the image and likeness of God. But if the Spirit be wanting to the soul, he who is such is indeed of an animal nature and being left carnal …” (Against Heresies, book 5, chapter 6)
Irenaeus testified that the late second century churches scattered throughout the whole world believed in the Pentecostal gifts of the Spirit and that receiving the Spirit of God meant to “speak in all languages.” Contrary to the historical evidence, Evangelical apologists like Steve Morrison and Larry Wessels of Christian Answers T.V. are giving out the false impression that the majority of the earliest Christians believed just like non-Pentecostal Evangelicals do today. They are giving out a false impression that the Christian majority was Trinitarian, that the Christian majority was against the Pentecostal gifts of the Spirit, and that the Christian majority was against baptism for the remission of sins. These statements presented by Christian Answers Television contradict the real historical evidence which has been documented by famous Trinitarian church historians themselves.
I have seen YouTube Videos produced by Christians Answers T.V which are anti-Pentecostal as Steve and Larry are against speaking in tongues and practicing the gifts of the Spirit. If Steve and Larry could go back in time and visit the majority of the earliest Christians within the first few hundred years of Christian history, they would be in for the shock of their lives as they would be rejected as carnal heretics by the early Christian majority!
Oneness Modalism Influenced The Nicene Creed
4th Century Semi Trinitarians Allied with Oneness Modalists Against Arianism
The historical evidence proves that Semi-Trinitarian and Oneness Modalists allied themselves together against the Arian and Semi-Arians who would have outnumbered them at Nicaea if they had not unified their efforts against Arianism. While the majority of uninformed people erroneously assume that the 325 Nicene Creed is explicitly Trinitarian, the historical evidence indicates that the early Nicene Creed actually supports Oneness Modalism while conflicting with latter fifth-century Trinitarian theology. For Athanasius of Alexandria clearly unified his efforts with the Modalists in opposing Arianism by allowing Modalistic theology to enter into the early Nicene Creed.
Church historian B. B. Edwards wrote, “Athanasius (a Semi-Trinitarian) and Marcellus (a Modalist), bishop of Ancyra appear to have been the two principal speakers in behalf of the orthodox party, and to have been the agents on whom most of the doings of the Council depended” (THE BIBLICAL REPOSITORY AND QUARTERLY OBSERVER. By B. B. EDWARDS. VOLUME FIFTH— Nos. XVII, XVIII. ANDOVER: GOULD AND NEWMAN, PUBLISHERS AND PRINTERS. BOSTON: PERKINS, MARTIN AND Co. 1835. Under Remarks on Nicaea, Page 291). – Italicized words in parenthesis added –
Here we have historical evidence indicating that Marcellus of Ancyra, a known Modalist, was a principal speaker at Nicaea along with Athanasius and that these two men were “the agents on whom most of the doings of the Council depended.” Since Marcellus was a Modalist, there can be little doubt that Oneness Modalistic Theology had a definitive influence upon the original Nicene Creed of 325 AD.
In his online YouTube lectures, Dr. Morrison spoke as if there were no Modalists alive during the Council of Nicaea. In our debate in Austen, Mr. Morrison even said that “Marcellus of Ancyra was after Nicaea (YouTube Video, 1:44:13 –1:44:26 https://youtu.be/cRvLAX68ms4).” Yet knowledgeable church historians tell us that Marcellus and other Oneness Modalists were not only alive during the Council of Nicaea, they even signed the Creed (The New Advent Encyclopedia says, “There was still Sabellianism to be found in the fourth century. Marcellus of Ancyra developed a Monarchianism of his own”).
Church historian Jaroslav Pelikan wrote that Marcellus of Ancyra “proved an embarrassment to Nicene Orthodoxy” because he and other “Sabellian” Monarchians were among “the signers in 325 (The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition, Vol. 1, Pg. 207).” How could Marcellus of Ancyra have signed the Nicene Creed if he was not involved in Nicaea?
If historians are correct about Athanasius and Marcellus uniting together to produce the Nicene Creed, we can be certain that Modalistic doctrine actually contributed to the development of the 325 AD Nicene Creed.
Church historian B. B. Edwards wrote, “Epiphanius (Haeres 62), about 375 AD, notes that the adherents of Sabellius were still to be found in great numbers, both in Mesopotamia and at Rome. The first general council at Constantinople in 381 in canon VII and the third general council at Constantinople in 680 in canon XCV declared the baptism of Sabellius to be invalid, which indicates that Sabellianism was still extant.” (“THE BIBLICAL REPOSITORY AND QUARTERLY OBSERVER. By B. B. EDWARDS” Under Views of Sabellius, The Biblical Repository and Classical Review, American Biblical Repository)
Since Oneness (Sabellian) adherents “were still to be found in great numbers” in “about 375 AD,” it is hard to believe that Oneness believers were not also “still to be found in great numbers” during the Council of Nicaea, just fifty years earlier.
ATHANASIUS BORROWED TERMS FROM THE SABELLIANS IN DEVELOPING THE NICENE CREED
The book entitled, “The Select Treatises of Athanasius – In Controversy with the Arians” says,
“It has been noted that the Greek term ‘homoousian’ or ‘con-substantial’, which Athanasius of Alexandria favored, was actually a term reported to be put forth by Sabellius, and was a term that many followers of Athanasius were uneasy about. Their objection to the term ‘homoousian’ was that it was considered to be un-Scriptural, suspicious, and ‘of a Sabellian tendency.’” (Select Treatises of St. Athanasius - In Controversy With the Arians - Freely Translated by John Henry Cardinal Newman - Longmans, Green, and Co., 1911, footnote, page 124)
Author Paul Pavao affirmed that “It is thought that modalist bishops and Nicene bishops allied together against the Arians, who were still numerous after Nicaea.” (Author Paul Pavao, Christian History for Everyman. Greatest Stories Ever Told. 2014. http://www.christian-history.org/page-name.html)
Under “Monarchianism”, the New Advent Encyclopedia says, “In the fourth century the Arians and Semi-Arians professed to be much afraid of it (Modalistic Monarchian theology), and indeed the alliance of Pope Julius and Athanasius with Marcellus (Marcellus was the chief speaker for the Modalists) gave some color to accusations against the Nicene formulas as opening the way to Sabellianism.” – Italicized words in parenthesis added –
If historians are correct about “the alliance” of the Athanasian camp with the Marcellan camp, we can be certain that Modalistic doctrine contributed to the development of the 325 AD Nicene Creed.
Bishop Jerry Hayes is a prominent Oneness author, apologist, and debater for the Apostolic Faith who wrote on his online blog: “Concerning the Council of Nicaea and the creed it produced, I do happen to have some very definite thoughts: First, I believe it was a council that was dominated by the Modalist bishops present, even though they were the minority.”
Jerry Hayes wrote: “The ‘Creed of Nicaea’ (also called the ‘Creed of the 318’ for the number of bishops who signed it at the Council of Nicaea -- according to Athanasius) was formulated around the word ‘homoousia’ which was the watchword of the Modalist. The purpose of the council was to formulate a common creed that would put the followers of Arius out of fellowship. The Modalist Monarchian’s watchword ‘homoousia’ would do the trick, so to speak ...”
Jerry Hayes further wrote, “If the thinking of the time is understood and considered (that the ‘Son’ was the ‘thought’ (Word) of the Father which had eternality with the Father -- for who can conceive of God without His thought -- who (the Word) was indeed the same as the Father (homo -ousious), then the Creed of Nicaea is a Monarchian document, not Trinitarian.” (Above quotes taken from Bishop Jerry Hayes online blog: http://bishopjerrylhayes.blogspot.com/)
According to church historian J. N. D. Kelly, “the majority of the 318 bishops were uncomfortable with the creed formulated at Nicaea but were forced to sign the creed in that it was the only wording that the Arians (followers of Arius) could not sign ...”
Church historian B. B. Edwards pointed out that the early 325 Nicene Creed actually contradicts later Trinitarianism while affirming Modalism:
“It lies, moreover, on the very face of the Nicene Creed, that it acknowledges the Father only as the Monad of the Godhead: ‘We believe in One God the Father almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God the only begotten of the Father, etc.’ Jesus Christ as here presented to us is not the one God, but the one Lord who was begotten of the substance of the one God or the Father, etc. The Father then, as presented in this Creed (Nicene), is not merely a distinct person, i.e. not merely one of the three persons, and on an equality with the other two; but he is the original, independent, self-existent monad.” (“THE BIBLICAL REPOSITORY AND QUARTERLY OBSERVER. By B. B. EDWARDS”, Under Remarks of the Nicene Creed, The Biblical Repository and Classical Review, American Biblical Repository, Page 295)
The historical evidence indicates that Oneness believing Modalistic bishops and Semi-Trinitarian bishops united together in their efforts to oppose the Arian and Semi-Arian bishops who would have vastly outnumbered them if they had not allied themselves together at Nicaea. Most uninformed people erroneously assume that the 325 Nicene Creed is an explicit Trinitarian Creed. However, the 325 Creed itself actually supports Oneness Modalism while contradicting later Trinitarian theology.
The Theology of the Semi-Arians
Under “Arianism,” the New Advent Encyclopedia explains the theology of the Semi-Arians:
“… while they affirmed the Word of God to be everlasting, they imagined Him as having become the Son to create the worlds and redeem mankind … Five ante-Nicene Fathers are especially quoted: Athenagoras, Tatian, Theophilus of Antioch, Hippolytus, and Novatian, whose language appears to involve a peculiar notion of Sonship, as though it did not come into being or were not perfect until the dawn of creation. To these may be added Tertullian and Methodius. Cardinal Newman held that their view, which is found clearly in Tertullian, of the Son existing after the Word, is connected as an antecedent with Arianism…”
Wiki Encyclopedia explains the theology of the Semi-Arians:
“… the Semi-Arians, however, admitted that the Son was ‘of a similar substance’ (homoiousios) as the Father but not "of the same substance" (homoousios) as him.”
The Semi-Arians believed that God the Father’s word (logos) was the Father’s own expressed purpose and plan for creation in which a future Son would “become the Son to create the worlds and redeem mankind.” Thus the Semi-Arians believed that the Son of God was a created heavenly person who was never the exact same substance of being as God the Father’s Person. Hence, according to the Semi-Arians, the Son was created of a “similar substance” as the Father but not “of the same substance.” In contradistinction to Semi-Arianism, the early Modalists had taught that the Son of God is “of the same substance” of the Father because the “Substance of Being” (“hypostasis” = “Substance of Being” – Heb. 1:3) of God the Father’s Holy Spirit later became a child born and son given via virgin conception and birth. Therefore the Semi-Arians insisted that the Son of God was made “of a similar substance” but not “of the same substance” as God the Father because they clearly denied that Jesus is the Most High God Himself incarnate as a man.
While Semi-Arian and Oneness Modalistic theology are diametrically opposed, we do find detailed evidence showing that even some of the Semi-Arians who were contending against the Modalistic Christian majority in the mid second century well into the fourth century actually taught a similar theology as the Modalists in that the word of the Father was the Father's own expressed thought (John 1:1, logos simply means a persons expressed thought) before the word became a personal Son. The early Semi-Arians had taught that Jesus was foreknown as the preconceived expressed thought of the Father before becoming a personal Son at the creation, while the Modalists had taught that Jesus was the preconceived expressed thought of the Father before becoming a personal Son at the incarnation.
Early Christian Writers Addressed the Pre-Creation of All Things in God’s Mind and Planning
At 20:08 into the Christian Answers TV Review of my debate with Dr. Morrison, (https://youtu.be/qSrvccpSPi0), Mr. Morrison said, “No early Christian, Greek speaking or otherwise, thought of the concept of precreation …”
Mr. Morrison clearly intended to debunk the statements I had made in my debate with him. However, it was Mr. Morrison who spoke inaccurately, as some of the earliest Christian writers stated that God already “created” or “made” his Creation within his preconception before the moon, sun, and world were actually created.
Clement was a bishop of the first century Roman Church. He wrote that “the first Church” “was created before the sun and moon.”
“Therefore, brothers, if we do the will of God our Father, we shall be of the first Church, the one that is spiritual, that was created before the sun and moon … And the Books and the Apostles plainly declare that the Church is not of the present, but from the beginning. For she (the church) was spiritual, as our Jesus also was, but was revealed in the last days that he might save us.” (2 Clement 14)
Notice that Clement of Rome actually used the word “created” in relation to the spiritual church being created before the sun and moon were literally created. Yet Mr. Morrison said, “No early Christian, Greek speaking or otherwise, thought of the concept of precreation …”
Also notice that the Church as God’s called out people “was spiritual, as our Jesus also was.” Since God’s elect people did not literally exist “before the sun and moon,” we know that the Son of God did not literally exist as a Son because God’s elect Church “was spiritual, as our Jesus also was” before the literal creation. The words, “as our Jesus also was” prove that the Son of God was also first spiritual like God’s elect Church was spiritual in the heart and mind of God. Since God’s elect people could not have literally been in existence before the sun, moon, and world was physically created, so Jesus as a Son could not have literally been in existence as a Son before his literal virgin conception and birth. Therefore we know that the Son and God’s elect could not have literally existed “before the sun and moon” except in the mind, planning, and utterances of the Father (the meaning of logos in John 1:1).
Hermas was a recognized prophet of the first century Roman Church. He wrote the words of an angel who said that “the Church” “was created first of all.”
Hermas Parable 9:1 says, “After I had written down the commandments and similitudes of the Shepherd, the Angel of repentance, he came to me and said, ‘I wish to explain to you what the Holy Spirit that spoke with you in the form of the Church showed you, for that Spirit is the Son of God.’”
In Hermas Vision 2:4, the same Angel explained to Hermas that the old woman was the form of the Church:
“Who do you think that old woman is from whom you received the book?” And I said, “The Sibyl.” “You are in a mistake,” says he; “it is not the Sibyl.” “Who is it then?” say I. And he said, “It is the Church.” And I said to him, “Why then is she an old woman?” “Because,” said he, “she was created first of all. On this account is she old. And for her sake was the world made.” (The Shepherd of Hermas Vision 2:4)
Hermas Parable 9:1 states that Hermas’ vision of the old woman represented the form of the Church and that “the Spirit” that addressed Hermas within the women is “that Spirit” who “is the Son of God.” Then Hermas Vision 2:4 states that the “old woman” which symbolized God’s elect Church and the son of God “… was created first of all. On this account is she old. And for her sake was the world made.” In the same way that the Church “was created first of all,” the Son as “the man Christ Jesus” was created first of all. Hence, “the rock is old” (Hermas Parable 9:12) because the Son was “the beginning of the creation of God (Rev. 3:14)” and “the firstborn of all creation (Col. 1:15)” before actually existing as a Son of God. Since God’s elect church was not literally created “first of all” as living people before the earth was created, we know that the Son of God was not literally created first of all as a living son person before the earth was created either.
Even Tertullian wrote that the only true God (the Father) “already made” all things through His own “Mind and Intelligence” (which is in God’s Mind and Plan) before the Son literally existed.
Tertullian wrote in AGAINST PRAXEUS CHAPTER 6, “Now, as soon as it pleased God to put forth into their respective substances and forms the things which He had planned and ordered within Himself, in conjunction with His Wisdom's Reason and Word, He first put forth the Word Himself, having within Him His own inseparable Reason and Wisdom, in order that all things might be made through Him through whom they had been planned and disposed, yea, and ALREADY MADE, so far forth as (they were) IN THE MIND AND INTELLIGENCE OF GOD.”
The words, “Already made … in the Mind and Intelligence of God” is essentially the same thing as saying the “precreation of all things.” Tertullian himself admitted that the Word (logos) was the Father's own Reason, Word, Mind, and Intelligence in which God the Father “ALREADY MADE” all things “THROUGH WHOM THEY HAD BEEN PLANNED.” Since the Son is the one addressed by Tertullian as “Him through whom they had been planned,” we know that all things that would be created were first “already made … in the mind and intelligence of God” before the word (logos) was “put forth” as a pre-incarnate Son, who according to Tertullian, actually performed the rest of the creation after being created himself by being “put forth” from the Father’s logos (the expressed reason, mind, and intelligence of the Father’s utterance).
The Anchor Bible Dictionary, page 111 states,
“IN THE TALMUD it states (tractate Pesachim 54a; cf. Nedarim 39b), seven things, i.e. the law, repentance, paradise, Gehinnom, the throne of glory, the heavenly sanctuary, and THE MESSIAH are not called pre-created, but pre-conceived in (God’s) thoughts.”
The ancient Jews during the time of Christ believed that the Messiah was “pre-conceived” in God’s expressed thoughts. Thus, we can understand why the apostle John, being a Jew, would have written that the word (logos = “expressed thought”) of God was with Him in John 1:1 and was later made flesh in John 1:14 to become the living Messiah who was “granted a life in himself” by his Father (John 5:26). “remained alive”
There Were No True Trinitarians Before 250 AD
Anyone who listens carefully to Mr. Morrison's quotations from so called Trinitarians in our debate can see that they all expressed Semi-Arian views of the Godhead rather than a Trinitarian view. The doctrine of the Trinity was clearly developed from Semi-Arianism over time. Even many Trinitarian Church Historians have admitted that the doctrine of eternal sonship was not even addressed in early Christian literature until the time of Origen in the third century.
According to Church Historian Johannes Quasten, Origin's doctrine of the eternality of the Son was “a remarkable advance in the development of theology and had a far reaching influence on ecclesiastical teaching (Patrology Vol. 2, Page 78 - Origen: "On Christ". De Principiis. Wherefore we have always held that God is the Father of His only-begotten Son, who was born indeed of Him, and derives from Him what He is, but without any beginning.”).” Although Origen was the first to clearly teach that the Son always existed as a Son throughout eternity past, he taught “that the Son is not mightier than the Father, but inferior to Him” (Contra Celsus 8:15 - Patrology Vol. 2, Page 79).
Semi-Arian Christians in the mid second century well into the fourth century actually taught a similar theology as the Modalists in that the word of the Father was the Father's own expressed thought (logos simply means the expressed thought of a person). Hence, Jesus is the expressed thought of the Father before becoming a personal Son. For example, Theophilus of Antioch (165-185 AD) wrote, “God then, having his own Word internal, within His own bowels begot him, emitting him along with wisdom before all things. He had this Word as a helper in the things that were created by Him, and by him, he made all things.” (Apology to Autolycus, Book 2, 10)
We can clearly see that Theophilus taught that God the Father “begot him” (the Son) by “emitting him along with wisdom before all things.” Here we can see that Theophilus was more of a Semi-Arian than a Trinitarian because he believed that the Son was literally “emitted” and “birthed” by the Father “along with wisdom before all (created) things.” Theophilus clarified what he meant about the word being begotten or emitted before all things in the same chapter of his Apology: “… as truth expounds, the Word that always exists, residing within the heart of God. For before anything came into being HE HAD HIM AS A COUNSELOR, BEING HIS OWN MIND AND THOUGHT. But when God wished to make all that he determined on, HE BEGOT HIS WORD, uttered the firstborn of all creation …” (Apology to Autolycus, Book 2, 22)
To Theophilus, the Word (logos) was the Father's own internal mind and thought. Hence, the Father had the Son as His counselor internally as the Father's own expressed thought (the meaning of logos/word) before the Son literally existed later on in time. Since Theophilus and other Semi-Arians were teaching that the Son served as the Father's counselor “being His (the Father's) own MIND AND THOUGHT,” before being begotten as the firstborn of all creation, it is likely that the Modalistic Christian majority at this time were also teaching the same thing.
I personally believe that the Semi-Arians were merely echoing the prevalent teaching of the Modalists in saying that the Son is the Father's Word and Counsel within Himself before the Son actually came into being. However, the Semi-Arians departed from the faith by alleging that the Son was literally “made” and “begotten” as a Son or Angelic figure rather than being “begotten” in the mind and utterances of the Father before the creation of the world.
Oneness Modalistic theologians agree that the Son existed in the heart of God as the Father's own Mind and Thought as “the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11 NASB) before being literally begotten in time as the child born and son given via virgin conception and birth. In contradistinction, Oneness adherents cannot agree with Theophilus' teaching when he wrote, “But when God wished to make all that he determined on, he begot (gave birth to) His Word, uttered the firstborn of all creation.”
At 6:42 into Mr. Morrison’s Part 2 lecture on church history (EARLY CHRISTIAN HISTORY PART 2, THE TRINITY DOCTRINE TAUGHT LONG BEFORE THE COUNCIL OF NICAEA IN 325 AD – Steve Morrison, YouTube Video - https://youtu.be/3zwmTjNBS_o), Mr. Morrison said that Theophilus of Antioch was the first person to use the word Trinity (in about 180 AD). However, Mr. Morrison neglected to inform his audience that Theophilus never used the words "three persons" like Tertullian did later and that he defined his idea of a “Trinity” as the “Father, Wisdom, and Word” rather than the Father, Son, and Spirit.
Theophilus wrote, “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. And the fourth is the type of man, who needs light, that so there may be God, the Word, wisdom, man (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter XV. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).”
Here we can see that Theophilus did not teach that the Holy Spirit was a part of a Trinity. He wrote that “God, and His word, and His wisdom” was a Trinity. Theophilus believed like modern Jehovah’s Witnesses in that the human son pre-existed as a created heavenly being with a beginning in time. However, like the ancient Modalists, the Semi-Arians had taught that Jesus existed in the mind and planning of the Father (like a blueprint) through whom God later created all material things that He had already planned through His Son in his logos (expressed thought) “in the beginning” (John 1:1), before the human ages actually commenced in time (1 Peter 1:20; Titus 1:2; Rev. 13:8; Rev. 3:14; John 17:5, 24).
ATHENAGORAS (130-190) also taught that the Son existed as “the idea and energizing power of all material things” in the Father's “eternal mind” within Himself before being “made.”
“But if, in your surpassing intelligence, it occurs to you to inquire what is meant by the Son, I will state briefly that HE IS THE FIRST PRODUCT OF THE FATHER, not as having been brought into existence (for from the beginning, God, who is the eternal mind, had the Logos in Himself, being from eternity instinct with Logos; but inasmuch as He came forth TO BE THE IDEA and energizing power of all material things, which lay like a nature without attributes, and an inactive earth, the grosser particles being mixed up with the lighter. The prophetic Spirit also agrees with our statements. ‘THE LORD,’ it says, ‘MADE ME, THE BEGINNING OF HIS WAYS TO HIS WORKS.’” (Athenagoras, Apology chapter 10)
Notice how Athenagoras also spoke of the Son as “the first product of the Father” in that the Son was the first production (creation) of the Father. Yet, like other early Semi-Arians, Athenagoras taught that the impersonal logos (word) impersonally existed as “the eternal mind” of “God” the Father as “the IDEA and energizing power of all material things.” Here again, we find that Greek speaking Semi-Arian writers taught that the word [the logos of the Father] pre-existed in the “mind” of the Father as “THE IDEA” from which all material things originated before the Son literally existed and before the actual creation of all things! It is in this light that the Son already served as the Father's counselor before his actually birth by begetting.
Luke 1:35 clearly informs us why the Son of God is called the Son in the first place. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you … for that reason the holy child shall be called the Son of God.” Jesus is called the Son of God for the reason of his virgin conception out of the Holy Spirit’s Substance of Being (Matthew 1:20; Hebrews 1:3) who descended upon the virgin rather than for the reason of an alleged heavenly birth before the incarnation. Therefore Luke 1:35 clearly refutes Arianism and Trinitarianism because both doctrines falsely assert that the son existed as a heavenly angelic son person before the incarnation through virgin conception.
I have clearly documented the historical evidence which proves that none of the early Christian writers before 250 AD were true Trinitarians. Even Origen, who first came up with the idea of a timeless Son in the third century, went on to contradict himself by also teaching that the Son was created as a lesser god person with a distinct essence of his own, apart from the Father, before his virgin conception and birth. In like manner, the historical evidence proves that before 250 A.D., the only early Christians who believed in the true divinity of Christ were the Oneness Modalists. The historical evidence further proves that the Oneness Modalistic belief happens to have been the most popular Christian belief among the earliest Christians within the first three hundred years of Christian history. Thus, it is sensible to believe that the majority of the earliest Christians would have been closest to the beliefs of the original apostles rather than the majority of the later Trinitarian Christians of the later fourth and fifth centuries.