Early church fathers, their writings: Goshen
Watchtower & Anti-Nicene 3
Origen, who died about 250 C.E., said that “the Father and Son are two substances…two things as to their essence,” and that “compared with the Father, [the Son] is a very small light.”
“We worship one God, the Father and the Son, therefore, as we have explained; and our argument against the worship of other gods still continues valid. And we do not `reverence beyond measure one who has but lately appeared,' as though He did not exist before; for we believe Himself when He says, `Before Abraham was, I am.' Again He says, `I am the truth;' and surely none of us is so simple as to suppose that truth did not exist before the time when Christ appeared. We worship, therefore, the Father of truth, and the Son, who is the truth; and these, while they are two, considered as persons or subsistences, are one in unity of thought, in harmony and in identity of will. So entirely are they one, that he who has seen the Son, `who is the brightness of God's glory, and the express image of His person,' has seen in Him, who is the image of God, God Himself.” (Against Celsus 8:12)
“…the Son is other than the Father in being and essence….” (On Prayer, Chapter 10)
“He is the invisible image of the invisible God….Now this image contains the unity of nature and substance belonging to Father and Son. For if the Son do, in like manner, all those things which the Father doth, then, in virtue of the Son doing all things like the Father, is the image of the Father formed in the Son, who is born of Him, like an act of His will proceeding from the mind. And I am therefore of opinion that the will of the Father ought alone to be sufficient for the existence of that which He wishes to exist. For in the exercise of His will He employs no other way than that which is made known by the counsel of His will. And thus also the existence of the Son is generated by Him. For this point must above all others be maintained by those who allow nothing to be unbegotten, i.e., unborn, save God the Father only. And we must be careful not to fall into the absurdities of those who picture to themselves certain emanations, so as to divide the divine nature into parts, and who divide God the Father as far as they can, since even to entertain the remotest suspicion of such a thing regarding an incorporeal being is not only the height of impiety, but a mark of the greatest folly, it being most remote from any intelligent conception that there should be any physical division of any incorporeal nature. Rather, therefore, as an act of the will proceeds from the understanding, and neither cuts off any part nor is separated or divided from it, so after some such fashion is the Father to be supposed as having begotten the Son, His own image….He is wisdom, and in wisdom there can be no suspicion of anything corporeal. He is the true light, which enlightens every man that cometh into this world; but He has nothing in common with the light of this sun. Our Saviour, therefore, is the image of the invisible God, inasmuch as compared with the Father Himself He is the truth: and as compared with us, to whom He reveals the Father, He is the image by which we come to the knowledge of the Father, whom no one knows save the Son, and he to whom the Son is pleased to reveal Him….In order, however, to arrive at a fuller understanding of the manner in which the Saviour is the figure of the person or subsistence of God, let us take an instance, which, although it does not describe the subject of which we are treating either fully or appropriately, may nevertheless be seen to be employed for this purpose only, to show that the Son of God, who was in the form of God, divesting Himself (of His glory), makes it His object, by this very divesting of Himself, to demonstrate to us the fulness of His deity. For instance, suppose that there were a statue of so enormous a size as to fill the whole world, and which on that account could be seen by no one; and that another statue were formed altogether resembling it in the shape of the limbs, and in the features of the countenance, and in form and material, but without the same immensity of size, so that those who were unable to behold the one of enormous proportions, should, on seeing the latter, acknowledge that they had seen the former, because it preserved all the features of its limbs and countenance, and even the very form and material, so closely, as to be altogether undistinguishable from it; by some such similitude, the Son of God, divesting Himself of His equality with the Father, and showing to us the way to the knowledge of Him, is made the express image of His person: so that we, who were unable to look upon the glory of that marvellous light when placed in the greatness of His Godhead, may, by His being made to us brightness, obtain the means of beholding the divine light by looking upon the brightness. This comparison, of course, of statues, as belonging to material things, is employed for no other purpose than to show that the Son of God, though placed in the very insignificant form of a human body, in consequence of the resemblance of His works and power to the Father, showed that there was in Him an immense and invisible greatness, inasmuch as He said to His disciples, `He who sees Me, sees the Father also;' and, `I and the Father are one.' And to these belong also the similar expression, `The Father is in Me, and I in the Father.'” (De Principiis 1:2:6,8)
“God [is] the Father of the true light - of whom it has been said, `God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.' Those, indeed, who worship sun, moon, and stars because their light is visible and celestial, would not bow down to a spark of fire or a lamp upon earth, because they see the incomparable superiority of those objects which are deemed worthy of homage to the light of sparks and lamps. So those who understand that God is light, and who have apprehended that the Son of God is `the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,' and who comprehend also how He says, `I am the light of the world,' would not rationally offer worship to that which is, as it were, a spark in sun, moon, and stars, in comparison with God, who is light of the true light. Nor is it with a view to depreciate these great works of God's creative power, or to call them, after the fashion of Anaxagoras, `fiery masses,' that we thus speak of sun, and moon, and stars; but because we perceive the inexpressible superiority of the divinity of God, and that of His only-begotten Son, which surpasses all other things. And being persuaded that the sun himself, and moon, and stars pray to the Supreme God through His only-begotten Son, we judge it improper to pray to those beings who themselves offer up prayers (to God), seeing even they themselves would prefer that we should send up our requests to the God to whom they pray, rather than send them downwards to themselves, or apportion our power of prayer between God and them. And here I may employ this illustration, as beating upon this point: Our Lord and Saviour, heating Himself on one occasion addressed as `Good Master,' referring him who used it to His own Father, said, `Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God the Father.' And since it was in accordance with sound reason that this should be said by the Son of His Father's love, as being the image of the goodness of God, why should not the sun say with greater reason to those that bow down to him, Why do you worship me? `For thou wilt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve;' for it is He whom I and all who are with me serve and worship. And although one may not be so exalted (as the sun), nevertheless let such an one pray to the Word of God (who is able to heal him), and still more to His Father, who also to the righteous of former times `sent His word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.' (Against Celsus 5:11)
“But since we quoted the language of Paul regarding Christ, where He says of Him that He is `the brightness of the glory of God, and the express figure of His person,' let us see what idea we are to form of this. According to John, `God is light.' The only-begotten Son, therefore, is the glory of this light, proceeding inseparably from (God) Himself, as brightness does from light, and illuminating the whole of creation. For, agreeably to what we have already explained as to the manner in which He is the Way, and conducts to the Father; and in which He is the Word, interpreting the secrets of wisdom, and the mysteries of knowledge, making them known to the rational creation; and is also the Truth, and the Life, and the Resurrection - in the same way ought we to understand also the meaning of His being the brightness: for it is by its splendour that we understand and feel what light itself is. And this splendour, presenting itself gently and softly to the frail and weak eyes of mortals, and gradually training, as it were, and accustoming them to bear the brightness of the light, when it has put away from them every hindrance and obstruction to vision, according to the Lord's own precept, `Cast forth the beam out of thine eye,' renders them capable of enduring the splendour of the light, being made in this respect also a sort of mediator between men and the light….wisdom is called the splendour of eternal light….That is properly termed everlasting or eternal which neither had a beginning of existence, nor can ever cease to be what it is. And this is the idea conveyed by John when he says that `God is light.' Now His wisdom is the splendour of that light, not only in respect of its being light, but also of being everlasting light, so that His wisdom is eternal and everlasting splendour. If this be fully understood, it clearly shows that the existence of the Son is derived from the Father but not in time, nor from any other beginning, except, as we have said, from God Himself.” (De Principiis 1:2:7,11)
Further Quotations from Origen:
“…what belongs to the nature of deity is common to the Father and the Son.” (De Principiis 1:1:8)
“…we call Him the wisdom of God….the only-begotten Son of God is His wisdom hypostatically existing….And who that is capable of entertaining reverential thoughts or feelings regarding God, can suppose or believe that God the Father ever existed, even for a moment of time, without having generated this Wisdom? For in that case he must say either that God was unable to generate Wisdom before He produced her, so that He afterwards called into being her who formerly did not exist, or that He possessed the power indeed, but - what cannot be said of God without impiety - was unwilling to use it; both of which suppositions, it is patent to all, are alike absurd and impious: for they amount to this, either that God advanced from a condition of inability to one of ability, or that, although possessed of the power, He concealed it, and delayed the generation of Wisdom. 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, not only such as may be measured by any divisions of time, but even that which the mind alone can contemplate within itself, or behold, so to speak, with the naked powers of the understanding. And therefore we must believe that Wisdom was generated before any beginning that can be either comprehended or expressed.” (De Principiis 1:2:2)
“John…says in the beginning of his Gospel, when defining God by a special definition to be the Word, `And God was the Word, and this was in the beginning with God.' Let him, then, who assigns a beginning to the Word or Wisdom of God, take care that he be not guilty of impiety against the unbegotten Father Himself, seeing he denies that He had always been a Father, and had generated the Word, and had possessed wisdom in all preceding periods, whether they be called times or ages, or anything else that can be so entitled.” (De Principiis 1:2:3)
“…we must of necessity hold that there is something exceptional and worthy of God which does not admit of any comparison at all, not merely in things, but which cannot even be conceived by thought or discovered by perception, so that a human mind should be able to apprehend how the unbegotten God is made the Father of the only-begotten Son. Because His generation is as eternal and everlasting as the brilliancy which is produced from the sun. For it is not by receiving the breath of life that He is made a Son, by any outward act, but by His own nature.” (De Principiis 1:2:4)
“Another power [i.e., the Son] accordingly is produced, which exists with properties of its own - a kind of breath, as Scripture says, of the primal and unbegotten power of God, deriving from Him its being, and never at any time non-existent. For if any one were to assert that it did not formerly exist, but came afterwards into existence, let him explain the reason why the Father, who gave it being, did not do so before. And if he shall grant that there was once a beginning, when that breath proceeded from the power of God, we shall ask him again, why not even before the beginning, which he has allowed; and in this way, ever demanding an earlier date, and going upwards with our interrogations, we shall arrive at this conclusion, that as God was always possessed of power and will, there never was any reason of propriety or otherwise, why He may not have always possessed that blessing which He desired. By which it is shown that that breath of God's power always existed, having no beginning save God Himself. Nor was it fitting that there should be any other beginning save God Himself, from whom it derives its birth.” (De Principiis 1:2:9)
“And that you may understand that the omnipotence of Father and Son is one and the same, as God and the Lord are one and the same with the Father, listen to the manner in which John speaks in the Apocalypse: `Thus saith the Lord God, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.' For who else was `He which is to come' than Christ? And as no one ought to be offended, seeing God is the Father, that the Saviour is also God; so also, since the Father is called omnipotent, no one ought to be offended that the Son of God is also called omnipotent.” (De Principiis 1:2:10)
“For as the image formed in a mirror unerringly reflects all the acts and movements of him who gazes on it, so would Wisdom have herself to be understood when she is called the stainless mirror of the power and working of the Father: as the Lord Jesus Christ also, who is the Wisdom of God, declares of Himself when He says, `The works which the Father doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.' And again He says, that the Son cannot do anything of Himself, save what He sees the Father do. As therefore the Son in no respect differs from the Father in the power of His works, and the work of the Son is not a different thing from that of the Father, but one and the same movement, so to speak, is in all things, He therefore named Him a stainless mirror, that by such an expression it might be understood that there is no dissimilarity whatever between the Son and the Father.” (De Principiis 1:2:12)
“It remains that we inquire what is the `image of His goodness;' and here, I think, we must understand the same thing which we expressed a little ago, in speaking of the image formed by the mirror. For He is the primal goodness, doubtless, out of which the Son is born, who, being in all respects the image of the Father, may certainly also be called with propriety the image of His goodness. For there is no other second goodness existing in the Son, save that which is in the Father. And therefore also the Saviour Himself rightly says in the Gospel, `There is none good save one only, God the Father,' that by such an expression it may be understood that the Son is not of a different goodness, but of that only which exists in the Father, of whom He is rightly termed the image, because He proceeds from no other source but from that primal goodness, lest there might appear to be in the Son a different goodness from that which is in the Father. Nor is there any dissimilarity or difference of goodness in the Son. And therefore it is not to be imagined that there is a kind of blasphemy, as it were, in the words, `There is none good save one only, God the Father,' as if thereby it may be supposed to be denied that either Christ or the Holy Spirit was good. But, as we have already said, the primal goodness is to be understood as residing in God the Father, from whom both the Son is born and the Holy Spirit proceeds, retaining within them, without any doubt, the nature of that goodness which is in the source whence they are derived. And if there be any other things which in Scripture are called good, whether angel, or man, or servant, or treasure, or a good heart, or a good tree, all these are so termed catachrestically, having in them an accidental, not an essential goodness.” (De Principiis 1:2:13)
“Now, what the Holy Spirit is, we are taught in many passages of Scripture….From all which we learn that the person of the Holy Spirit was of such authority and dignity, that saving baptism was not complete except by the authority of the most excellent Trinity of them all, i.e., by the naming of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and by joining to the unbegotten God the Father, and to His only-begotten Son, the name also of the Holy Spirit. Who, then, is not amazed at the exceeding majesty of the Holy Spirit, when he hears that he who speaks a word against the Son of man may hope for forgiveness; but that he who is guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit has not forgiveness, either in the present world or in that which is to come!” (De Principiis 1:3:2)
“But up to the present time we have been able to find no statement in holy Scripture in which the Holy Spirit could be said to be made or created….” (De Principiis 1:3:3)
“…the Holy Spirit [is] reckoned in the Unity of the Trinity, i.e., along with the unchangeable Father and His Son….” (De Principiis 1:3:4)
“…he who is regenerated by God unto salvation has to do both with Father and Son and Holy Spirit, and does not obtain salvation unless with the co-operation of the entire Trinity; and…it is impossible to become partaker of the Father or the Son without the Holy Spirit.” (De Principiis 1:3:5)
“Let no one indeed suppose that we…give a preference to the Holy Spirit over the Father and the Son, or assert that His dignity is greater, which certainly would be a very illogical conclusion….nothing in the Trinity can be called greater or less….there is no difference in the Trinity….” (De Principiis 1:3:7)
“…the divine benefits [are] bestowed upon us by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which Trinity is the fountain of all holiness….” (De Principiis 1:4:2)
“…spotless purity exists in the essential being of none save the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but is an accidental quality in every created thing….” (De Principiis 1:5:5)
“…these are they who are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth….there was no goodness in them by essential being, as in God and His Christ, and in the Holy Spirit. For in the Trinity alone, which is the author of all things, does goodness exist in virtue of essential being; while others possess it as an accidental and perishable quality, and only then enjoy blessedness, when they participate in holiness and wisdom, and in divinity itself.” (De Principiis 1:6:2)
“…it is an attribute of the divine nature alone - i.e., of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - to exist without any material substance, and without partaking in any degree of a bodily adjunct.” (De Principiis 1:6:4)
“There is no nature, then, which may not admit of good or evil, except the nature of God - the fountain of all good things - and of Christ; for it is wisdom, and wisdom assuredly cannot admit folly; and it is righteousness, and righteousness will never certainly admit of unrighteousness; and it is the Word, or Reason, which certainly cannot be made irrational; nay, it is also the light, and it is certain that the darkness does not receive the light. In like manner, also, the nature of the Holy Spirit, being holy, does not admit of pollution; for it is holy by nature, or essential being. If there is any other nature which is holy, it possesses this property of being made holy by the reception or inspiration of the Holy Spirit, not having it by nature, but as an accidental quality….” (De Principiis 1:8:3)
“…the Father generates an uncreated Son, and brings forth a Holy Spirit, not as if He had no previous existence, but because the Father is the origin and source of the Son or Holy Spirit, and no anteriority or posteriority can be understood as existing in them….” (De Principiis 2:2:1)
“…there are certain things, the meaning of which cannot be unfolded at all by any words of human language, but which are made known more through simple apprehension than by any properties of words. And under this rule must be brought also the understanding of the sacred Scripture, in order that its statements may be judged not according to the worthlessness of the letter, but according to the divinity of the Holy Spirit, by whose inspiration they were caused to be written.” (De Principiis 4:27)
“Seeing God the Father is invisible and inseparable from the Son, the Son is not generated from Him by `prolation,' as some suppose. For if the Son be a `prolation' of the Father (the term `prolation' being used to signify such a generation as that of animals or men usually is), then, of necessity, both He who `prolated' and He who was `prolated' are corporeal. For we do not say, as the heretics suppose, that some part of the substance of God was converted into the Son, or that the Son was procreated by the Father out of things non-existent, i.e., beyond His own substance, so that there once was a time when He did not exist; but, putting away all corporeal conceptions, we say that the Word and Wisdom was begotten out of the invisible and incorporeal without any corporeal feeling, as if it were an act of the will proceeding from the understanding.” (De Principiis 4:28)
“Now this expression which we employ - `that there never was a time when He did not exist' - is to be understood with an allowance. For these very words `when' or `never' have a meaning that relates to time, whereas the statements made regarding Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are to be understood as transcending all time, all ages, and all eternity. For it is the Trinity alone which exceeds the comprehension not only of temporal but even of eternal intelligence; while other things which are not included in it are to be measured by times and ages.” (De Principiis 4:28)
“After these points we shall appropriately remind (the reader) of the bodily advent and incarnation of the only-begotten Son of God, with respect to whom we are not to suppose that all the majesty of His divinity is confined within the limits of His slender body, so that all the `word' of God, and His `wisdom,' and `essential truth,' and `life,' was either rent asunder from the Father, or restrained and confined within the narrowness of His bodily person, and is not to be considered to have operated anywhere besides; but the cautious acknowledgment of a religious man ought to be between the two, so that it ought neither to be believed that anything of divinity was wanting in Christ, nor that any separation at all was made from the essence of the Father, which is everywhere….Let no one, however, suppose that by this we affirm that some portion of the divinity of the Son of God was in Christ, and that the remaining portion was elsewhere or everywhere, which may be the opinion of those who are ignorant of the nature of an incorporeal and invisible essence. For it is impossible to speak of the parts of an incorporeal being, or to make any division of them; but He is in all things, and through all things, and above all things, in the manner in which we have spoken above, i.e., in the manner in which He is understood to be either `wisdom,' or the `word,' or the `life,' or the `truth,' by which method of understanding all confinement of a local kind is undoubtedly excluded.” (De Principiis 4:30-31)
“As now by participation in the Son of God one is adopted as a son, and by participating in that wisdom which is in God is rendered wise, so also by participation in the Holy Spirit is a man rendered holy and spiritual. For it is one and the same thing to have a share in the Holy Spirit, which is (the Spirit) of the Father and the Son, since the nature of the Trinity is one and incorporeal….every rational creature needs a participation in the Trinity.” (De Principiis 4:32)
“…all things which exist were made by God, and that there was nothing which was not made, save the nature of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit….For there is nothing before God without either limit or measure. For by His power He comprehends all things, and He Himself is comprehended by the strength of no created thing, because that nature is known to itself alone. For the Father alone knoweth the Son, and the Son alone knoweth the Father, and the Holy Spirit alone searcheth even the deep things of God.” (De Principiis 4:35)
“…we regard and believe [Jesus] to have been from the beginning God, and the Son of God….” (Against Celsus 3:41)
“…although the Word which was in the beginning with God, which is also God Himself, should come to us, He does not give His place or vacate His own seat, so that one place should be empty of Him, and another which did not formerly contain Him be filled.” (Against Celsus 4:5)
“…the Divine Word…is God….” (Against Celsus 4:18)
“…[we] carefully ascertain from the statements made regarding Jesus, and the prophecies uttered concerning Him, who it is that we are to consider as having come down to the human race as God, and the Son of God[.]” (Against Celsus 5:3)
“…we listen to the God who speaks in Moses, and have accepted Jesus, whom he testifies to be God, as the Son of God, in hope of receiving the best rewards if we regulate our lives according to His word.” (Against Celsus 5:51)
“And who else is able to save and conduct the soul of man to the God of all things, save God the Word, who, `being in the beginning with God,' became flesh for the sake of those who had cleaved to the flesh, and had become as flesh, that He might be received by those who could not behold Him, inasmuch as He was the Word, and was with God, and was God?” (Against Celsus 6:68)
“But a Christian…prays for no trivial blessings, for he has learnt from Jesus to seek for nothing small or mean, that is, sensible objects, but to ask only for what is great and truly divine; and these things God grants to us, to lead us to that blessedness which is found only with Him through His Son, the Word, who is God.” (Against Celsus 7:44)
“For the Lord of those who are `ambassadors for Christ' is Christ Himself, whose ambassadors they are, and who is `the Word, who was in the beginning, was with God, and was God.'” (Against Celsus 8:6)
“For we sing hymns to the Most High alone, and His Only-begotten, who is the Word and God; and we praise God and His Only-begotten, as do also the sun, the moon, the stars, and all the host of heaven.” (Against Celsus 8:67)
“Moreover, we are debtors to Christ who bought us with His own blood, just as every house slave is also debtor to his purchaser for the sum of money given for him. We have also a certain indebtedness to the Holy Spirit: we are paying it when we do not grieve Him in whom we were sealed unto a day of redemption, and when, without grieving Him, we bear the fruits demanded of us, He being present with us and quickening our soul.” (On Prayer, Chapter 18, Paragraph 5)
“We must not, however, forget that the sojourning of Christ with men took place before His bodily sojourn….And as before His manifest and bodily coming He came to those who were perfect, so also, after His coming has been announced to all, to those who are still children, since they are under pedagogues and governors and have not yet arrived at the fulness of the time, forerunners of Christ have come to sojourn….But the Son Himself, the glorified God, the Word, has not yet come; He waits for the preparation which must take place on the part of men of God who are to admit His deity.” (Commentary on the Gospel of John 1:9)
“…the Word…is God after the Father of all.” (Commentary on the Gospel of John 1:11)
“And one of the names applied to the Saviour is that which He Himself does not utter, but which John records - the Word who was in the beginning with God, God the Word.” (Commentary on the Gospel of John 1:23)
“None of these testimonies, however, sets forth distinctly the Saviour's exalted birth; but when the words are addressed to Him, `Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee,' this is spoken to Him by God, with whom all time is to-day, for there is no evening with God, as I consider, and there is no morning, nothing but time that stretches out, along with His unbeginning and unseen life. The day is to-day with Him in which the Son was begotten, and thus the beginning of His birth is not found, as neither is the day of it.” (Commentary on the Gospel of John 1:32)
“For as with us the word is a messenger of those things which tile mind perceives, so the Word of God, knowing the Father, since no created being can approach Him without a guide, reveals the Father whom He knows.” (Commentary on the Gospel of John 1:42)
“Now the Word comes to men who formerly could not receive the advent of the Son of God who is the Word; but to God it does not come, as if it had not been with Him before. The Word was always with the Father; and so it is said, `And the Word was with God.' He did not come to God, and this same word `was' is used of the Word because He was in the beginning at the same time when He was with God, neither being separated from the beginning nor being bereft of His Father. And again, neither did He come to be in the beginning after He had not been in it, nor did He come to be with God after not having been with Him. For before all time and the remotest age the Word was in the beginning, and the Word was with God.” (Commentary on the Gospel of John 2:1)
“Now there are many who are sincerely concerned about religion, and who fall here into great perplexity. They are afraid that they may be proclaiming two Gods, and their fear drives them into doctrines which are false and wicked….they deny the divinity of the Son, giving Him a separate existence of His own, and making His sphere of essence fall outside that of the Father, so that they are separable from each other.” (Commentary on the Gospel of John 2:2)
“`He was in the beginning with God.' By his three foregoing propositions the Evangelist has made us acquainted with three orders, and he now sums up the three in one, saying, `This (Logos) was in the beginning with God.' In the first premise we learned where the Logos was: He was in the beginning; then we learned with whom He was, with God; and then who He was, that He was God. He now points out by this word `He,' the Word who is God, and gathers up into a fourth proposition the three which went before, `In the beginning was the Word,' `The Word was with God,' and `The Word was God.'” (Commentary on the Gospel of John 2:4)
“The Word was not made in the beginning; there was no time when the beginning was devoid of the Word, and hence it is said, `In the beginning was the Word.'” (Commentary on the Gospel of John 2:13)
“To this we must say that as there are many causes which may lead men to believe, since men who are not moved by one argument may be by another, so God is able to provide for men a number of occasions, any of which may cause their minds to open to the truth that God, who is over all, has taken on Himself human nature.” (Commentary on the Gospel of John 2:28)
“But if a man rashly enters on the subject, and is not aware of the mystery of the wisdom of God and of the Word Who was in the beginning with God and was Himself God, and that if we are to seek and find these things we must follow the instructions of the Word Who was also God, and conform to His wisdom, he must of necessity fall into fables and frivolous conceits and inventions of his own, for he exposes himself to danger for his impiety.” (Philocalia 1:28)
ANALYSIS: WAS THE TRINITY “UNKNOWN” TO THE CHURCH FATHERS?
Now that you've had a chance to read the writings of the ante-Nicene Church Fathers for yourself, let's recap the claims of the Watchtower concerning the Fathers' beliefs about God and Jesus.
Justin Martyr, who died about 165 C.E., called the prehuman Jesus a created angel who is “other than the God who made all things.” He said that Jesus was inferior to God and “never did anything except what the Creator…willed him to do and say.”
Irenaeus, who died about 200 C.E., said that the prehuman Jesus had a separate existence from God and was inferior to him. He showed that Jesus is not equal to the “One true and only God,” who is “supreme over all, and besides whom there is no other.”
Clement of Alexandria, who died about 215 C.E., called Jesus in his prehuman existence “a creature” but called God “the uncreated and imperishable and only true God.” He said that the Son “is next to the only omnipotent Father” but not equal to him.
Tertullian, who died about 230 C.E., taught the supremacy of God. He observed: “The Father is different from the Son (another), as he is greater; as he who begets is different from him who is begotten; he who sends, different from him who is sent.” He also said: “There was a time when the Son was not….Before all things, God was alone.” (The word “tri'as” appears in its Latin form of “trinitas” in Tertullian. While these words do translate to “Trinity,” this is no proof in itself that Tertullian taught the doctrine of the Trinity.)
Hippolytus, who died about 235 C.E., said that God is “the one God, the first and the only One, the Maker and Lord of all,” who “had nothing co-eval [of equal age] with him….But he was One, alone by himself; who, willing it, called into being what had no being before,” such as the created prehuman Jesus.
Origen, who died about 250 C.E., said that “the Father and Son are two substances…two things as to their essence,” and that “compared with the Father, [the Son] is a very small light.”
The testimony of history makes clear that the Trinity was unknown for several centuries after biblical times.
You've seen the evidence for yourself. What do you think?
Was the Trinity “unknown” to Justin Martyr? Justin says that “God begat before all creatures a Beginning, who was a certain rational power proceeding from Himself, which was truly brought forth from the Father, was with the Father before all the creatures, and the Father communed with Him.” This squares precisely with the Nicene Creed, which declares God the Son to be “begotten, not made.” Justin explains further that “this power is indivisible and inseparable from the Father,” and that the Son was “begotten from the Father, by His power and will, but not by abscission, as if the essence of the Father were divided,” which means that the Son is begotten from the very same essence which the Father himself possesses - not dividing the Godhead into parts, but rather allowing each divine person a full sharing in the Godhead - which is exactly what the doctrine of the Trinity maintains.
Was the Trinity “unknown” to Irenaeus? Irenaeus' teaching that “the Father is Lord and the Son is Lord, and the Father is God and the Son is God, since he who is born of God is God, and in this way, according to His being and power and essence, one God is demonstrated: but according to the economy of our salvation, there is both Father and Son,” couldn't be more Trinitarian. Moreover, Irenaeus distinguishes the Son and the Holy Spirit from created beings when he says, “The Word, namely the Son, was always with the Father; and that Wisdom also, which is the Spirit, was present with Him, anterior to all creation….There is therefore one God, who by the Word and Wisdom created and arranged all things.” So, according to Irenaeus, the Son and the Spirit are co-eternal with the Father, just like the doctrine of the Trinity says.
Was the Trinity “unknown” to Clement of Alexandria? Clement calls Jesus “the Divine Word, He that is truly most manifest Deity, He that is made equal to the Lord of the universe” as well as “God in the form of man, stainless, the minister of His Father's will, the Word who is God, who is in the Father, who is at the Father's right hand, and with the form of God is God.” And Clement is decidedly adamant that “the Son of God, being, by equality of substance, one with the Father, is eternal and uncreated.” Jesus, according to Clement, wasn't created, but “existed always, without beginning.” Rather than holding Jesus to be an inferior, created being, Clement clearly teaches that Jesus is “co-eternal” and “co-existent with the Father.” Isn't this exactly what the doctrine of the Trinity teaches?
Was the Trinity “unknown” to Tertullian? On the contrary, Tertullian loudly proclaims, “Bear always in mind that this is the rule of faith which I profess; by it I testify that the Father, and the Son, and the Spirit are inseparable from each other, and that the Father is one, and the Son one, and the Spirit one, and that They are distinct from Each Other.” He continues, “All are of One, by unity of substance; while the mystery of the dispensation distributes the Unity into a Trinity, placing in their order the three Persons - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: three, yet of one substance, and of one condition, and of one power, inasmuch as He is one God.” He finishes, “All the Scriptures attest the clear existence of, and distinction in, the Persons of the Trinity, and indeed furnish us with our Rule of faith,” and, “I must everywhere hold one only substance in three coherent and inseparable Persons.” To reproduce here all that Tertullian says in support of the Trinity would probably take up another page or two. Suffice it to say that in his declaration, “The Father is God, and the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God,” we have a nice, simply-rendered summary of the Trinity doctrine.
Was the Trinity “unknown” to Hippolytus? Hippolytus says, “The Logos alone of this God is from God himself; wherefore also the Logos is God, being the substance of God. Now the world was made from nothing; wherefore it is not God.” So Hippolytus, too, sets the Logos of God, a.k.a. Jesus, apart from all creation and all created beings. He further declares of Jesus that “by nature He is God,” and that Jesus, “who was co-existent with His Father before all time, and before the foundation of the world, always had the glory proper to Godhead.” According to Hippolytus, Jesus “was in essential being with His Father” and “is co-eternal with His Father,” just as the doctrine of the Trinity says. And, with regard to the Trinity as a whole, Hippolytus says, “We cannot otherwise think of one God, but by believing in truth in Father and Son and Holy Spirit,” and, “Whosoever omits any one of these, fails in glorifying God perfectly. For it is through this Trinity that the Father is glorified. For the Father willed, the Son did, the Spirit manifested. The whole Scriptures, then, proclaim this truth.” Clearly, Hippolytus is a Trinitarian.
Was the Trinity “unknown” to Origen? Origen teaches, “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, not only such as may be measured by any divisions of time, but even that which the mind alone can contemplate within itself, or behold, so to speak, with the naked powers of the understanding. And therefore we must believe that Wisdom was generated before any beginning that can be either comprehended or expressed.” Likewise, Origen says, “We have been able to find no statement in holy Scripture in which the Holy Spirit could be said to be made or created.” He therefore concludes that “all things which exist were made by God, and that there was nothing which was not made, save the nature of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” and that “the Father generates an uncreated Son, and brings forth a Holy Spirit, not as if He had no previous existence, but because the Father is the origin and source of the Son or Holy Spirit, and no anteriority or posteriority can be understood as existing in them.” Accordingly, “the Holy Spirit is reckoned in the Unity of the Trinity along with the unchangeable Father and His Son.” In all of Origen's teachings we have, once again, the doctrine of the Trinity proclaimed loud and clear.
So…was the Trinity “unknown” to the early Church Fathers, as the Watchtower would have us believe?
Answer: Absolutely NOT!
The truth is that every one of the Church Fathers cited by the Watchtower was a staunch defender of Trinitarian doctrine!
THE CHURCH FATHERS' INTERPRETATIONS OF CERTAIN KEY BIBLE VERSES
The Church Fathers, from Justin Martyr to Origen, were very knowledgable about the Scriptures and quoted them frequently in their writings. While I was poring over their works, I noticed a couple of key verses that were being cited by them repeatedly. Before concluding this paper, I thought it would be a good idea to briefly discuss these key verses and why the Fathers' interpretation of these verses is so important to the issue of the Trinity.
(Note: “KJV” means King James Version; “NWT” means New World Translation)
Genesis 19:24 (KJV) - Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven.
Genesis 19:24 (NWT) - Then Jehovah made it rain sulphur and fire from Jehovah, from the heavens, upon Sod´om and upon Go·mor´rah.
“When Scripture says, `The Lord rained fire from the Lord out of heaven,' the prophetic word indicates that there were two in number: One upon the earth, who, it says, descended to behold the cry of Sodom; Another in heaven, who also is Lord of the Lord on earth, as He is Father and God; the cause of His power and of His being Lord and God.” (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 129)
“Since, therefore, the Father is truly Lord, and the Son truly Lord, the Holy Spirit has fitly designated them by the title of Lord. And again, referring to the destruction of the Sodomites, the Scripture says, `Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah fire and brimstone from the Lord out of heaven.' For it here points out that the Son, who had also been talking with Abraham, had received power to judge the Sodomites for their wickedness.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3:6:1)
“Two are described as God….But I find in Scripture the name Lord also applied to them Both:…`Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven.'” (Tertullian, Against Praxeus, Chapter 13)
According to the Watchtower, “Jehovah” is the real name of God. Because the name essentially means “He Causes to Become,” the Watchtower insists that “only the true God could bear such a meaningful name.”* Even Jesus, they say, cannot bear the name “Jehovah” (though Jesus' name in Hebrew does mean, “Jehovah is Salvation”)**. So, according to the Watchtower, whenever the name “Jehovah” is used the the Bible, it is always used in reference to God the Father and is never used to identify any other person, even Jesus.
However, consider what Justin Martyr says: “When Scripture says, `Jehovah rained fire from Jehovah out of heaven,' the prophetic word indicates that there were two in number.” Tertullian confirms this: “Two are described as Jehovah. I find in Scripture the name Jehovah applied to them both.” So instead of reserving the name “Jehovah” to one person only - God the Father - the early Church Fathers had no reservations whatsoever about bestowing that name upon two persons (at least).
Justin Martyr concurs that one of these two persons to whom the name “Jehovah” is attributed is “Father and God.” But who is the other? “The Son,” says Ireneaus, since it was the Son “who had also been talking with Abraham” in the verses preceding the key verse.
So, according to the early Church Fathers, not only is the Father properly named “Jehovah”, but the Son is properly named “Jehovah” also, so one might actually translate Gen 19:24 as, “Then Jehovah the Son rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Jehovah the Father out of heaven.”
Two persons. One God. Add in the Holy Spirit as the third person, and you have the doctrine of the Trinity.
John 1:1 (KJV) - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:1 (NWT) - In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.
As you can see, according to the Watchtower, the correct translation of John 1:1 ends with “the Word was a god” rather than “the Word was God”. After all, to say that the Word was both “with God” and “God” is blatantly Trinitarian, as it implies that two persons are both God, co-equal and co-eternal.
But how did the early Church Fathers read and interpret John 1:1? If one were to believe the Watchtower's claims that none of the cited Church Fathers subscribed to the doctrine of the Trinity, then it would be logical to assume that none of them would have interpreted the last clause of John 1:1 to be “the Word was God,” either. Instead, each of these Church Fathers should have understood the last clause of John 1:1 to mean, “the Word was a god.”
So, what do the Church Fathers really say about John 1:1?
Justin Martyr is silent on the verse.
Irenaeus says nothing conclusive concerning the verse directly, though he does echo the verse's Trinitarian interpretation with his own words when he says in one place, “The sacred books acknowledge with regard to Christ” that Jesus is “the Word of God, and God,” and in another place, “The Father is God and the Son is God, since he who is born of God is God, and in this way, according to His being and power and essence, one God is demonstrated: but according to the economy of our salvation, there is both Father and Son.”
Clement of Alexandria, however, sheds some light on the proper interpretation of John 1:1 when, speaking of God and the Word of God, he says, “Both are one - that is, God. For He has said, `In the beginning the Word was in God, and the Word was God.” Like Ireneaus, Clement also echoes the Trinitaritan interpretation of John 1:1 when he says, “Our Instructor is like His Father God, whose son He is, the Word who is God, who is in the Father, who is at the Father's right hand, and with the form of God is God.” Moreover, Clement actually refers to Christ in one place as “God the Word.”
Now, if the preceding Church Fathers serve to shed some light on the proper interpretation of John 1:1, Tertullian shines upon the verse a brilliant spotlight of clarity, leaving no room for misunderstanding, for he says, “The Word of God is he `through whom all things were made, and without whom nothing was made.' The Word of God, then, is called the Son, who Himself is designated God. `The Word was with God, and the Word was God.' Now if He too is God, according to John, who says, `The Word was God,' then you have two Beings - on the ground of Personality, not of Substance - for although the Word was God, yet was He with God, because He is God of God.” Consider indeed how strong Tertullian's words are here, concerning the proper interpretation of John 1:1: “`In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.' Now, since these words may not be taken otherwise than as they are written, there is without doubt shown to be One who was from the beginning, and also One with whom He always was: one the Word of God, the other God although the Word is also God .”
Hippolytus, too, is crystal clear on the subject: “The blessed John, in the testimony of his Gospel, gives us an account of this economy (disposition) and acknowledges this Word as God, when he says, `In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.' If, then, the Word was with God, and was also God, what follows? Would one say that he speaks of two Gods? I shall not indeed speak of two Gods, but of one; of two Persons however, and of a third economy (disposition), viz., the grace of the Holy Ghost. And we cannot otherwise think of one God, but by believing in truth in Father and Son and Holy Spirit.”
Finally, Origen, who himself wrote a commentary on the Gospel of John, taught that “John says in the beginning of his Gospel, when defining God by a special definition to be the Word, `And God was the Word, and this was in the beginning with God.'” Speaking of John 1:2 in his commentary, Origen elaborates, “`He was in the beginning with God.' By his three foregoing propositions the Evangelist has made us acquainted with three orders, and he now sums up the three in one, saying, `This (Logos) was in the beginning with God.' In the first premise we learned where the Logos was: He was in the beginning; then we learned with whom He was, with God; and then who He was, that He was God. He now points out by this word `He,' the Word who is God, and gathers up into a fourth proposition the three which went before, `In the beginning was the Word,' `The Word was with God,' and `The Word was God.'”
Thus, it is clear that none of the Church Fathers, except perhaps Justin Martyr, understood the final clause of John 1:1 to say anything other than, “The Word was God.” (Of course, in Justin Martyr's case we have his own declaration concerning Christ: “He is God, Son of the only, unbegotten, unutterable God.” So it's fair to believe that Justin Martyr would have interpreted John 1:1 just like his collegues did.)
Luke 16:10 (KJV) - He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
Luke 16:10 (NWT) - The person faithful in what is least is faithful also in much, and the person unrighteous in what is least is unrighteous also in much.
Now that we've explored the testimony of the ante-Nicene Church Fathers concerning the Trinity, what can we conclude?
First, given the overwhelming evidence, we must conclude that the doctrine of the Trinity was not “unknown” for several centuries after biblical times, as the Watchtower would have us believe. We must additionally conclude that, contrary to the Watchtower's implications, the ante-Nicene Church Fathers cited by them - Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Hippolytus, and Origen - were all Trinitarians, as all of them believed that Jesus is of the same substance as God, thereby making him co-equal and co-eternal with the Father.
Given these conclusions, it is now appropriate to ask a critical question: Why would the Watchtower attempt to use the writings of these Church Fathers to support their anti-Trinitarian views? Did they simply not know that these Fathers were Trinitarians - i.e., can the Watchtower claim ignorance for an excuse?
Let's look at some of the quotations selected by the Watchtower and see if the excuse of ignorance holds up.
Justin Martyr…called the prehuman Jesus a created angel who is “other than the God who made all things.” He said that Jesus…“never did anything except what the Creator…willed him to do and say.”
These quotes are taken from Chapter 56 of Justin's Dialogue with Trypho, but, as we have shown above, this chapter is the exact same passage in which Justin Martyr interprets Gen 19:24 to assign the name “Jehovah” to both God the Father and Jesus! Moreover, just a few chapters from this one we see Justin say, “God begat before all creatures a Beginning, [who was] a certain rational power [proceeding] from Himself…. this Offspring, which was truly brought forth from the Father, was with the Father before all the creatures, and the Father communed with Him; even as the Scripture by Solomon has made clear, that He whom Solomon calls Wisdom, was begotten as a Beginning before all His creatures and as Offspring by God….He [is] God, Son of the only, unbegotten, unutterable God.”
Irenaeus…showed that Jesus is not equal to the “One true and only God.”
This quote is taken from Section 3:8:1 of Irenaeus' Against Heresies, and the full quote is, “…it is clearly proved that neither the prophets nor the apostles did ever name another God, or call [him] Lord, except the true and only God.” But just a couple chapters back Irenaeus says, “Therefore neither would the Lord, nor the Holy Spirit, nor the apostles, have ever named as God, definitely and absolutely, him who was not God, unless he were truly God; nor would they have named any one in his own person Lord, except God the Father ruling over all, and His Son who has received dominion from His Father over all creation….” And, within the very same chapter as that from which the quote was taken, leading into the chapter just following, he says, “He indeed who made all things can alone, together with His Word, properly be termed God and Lord: but the things which have been made cannot have this term applied to them, neither should they justly assume that appellation which belongs to the Creator. This, therefore, having been clearly demonstrated here (and it shall yet be so still more clearly), that neither the prophets, nor the apostles, nor the Lord Christ in His own person, did acknowledge any other Lord or God, but the God and Lord supreme: the prophets and the apostles confessing the Father and the Son; but naming no other as God, and confessing no other as Lord: and the Lord Himself handing down to His disciples, that He, the Father, is the only God and Lord, who alone is God and ruler of all;-it is incumbent on us to follow, if we are their disciples indeed, their testimonies to this effect.” Finally, just a few chapters forward from this, we have Irenaeus saying, “…they who were the preachers of the truth and the apostles of liberty termed no one else God, or named him Lord, except the only true God the Father, and His Word, who has the pre-eminence in all things….”
Clement of Alexandria…called Jesus in his prehuman existence "a creature”….
I myself was not able to find any verbatim reference in all of Clement's writings in which he referred to Jesus as a creature. However, I did find that in Book 5, Chapter 14 of his work The Stromata he says, “Wisdom…was the first of the creation of God.” But, if the Watchtower were to claim this particular reference as the source of their quotation, we would be obligated to ask them how they could have possibly missed Clement's words in the very same chapter: “And the address in the Timœus calls the creator, Father, speaking thus: `Ye gods of gods, of whom I am Father; and the Creator of your works.' So that when he says, `Around the king of all, all things are, and because of Him are all things; and he [or that] is the cause of all good things; and around the second are the things second in order; and around the third, the third,' I understand nothing else than the Holy Trinity to be meant; for the third is the Holy Spirit, and the Son is the second, by whom all things were made according to the will of the Father.”
Tertullian…observed: “The Father is different from the Son (another), as he is greater; as he who begets is different from him who is begotten; he who sends, different from him who is sent.” He also said: “There was a time when the Son was not….Before all things, God was alone.”
The first quote is taken from Chapter 9 of Tertullian's Against Praxeus: “Thus the Father is distinct from the Son, being greater than the Son, inasmuch as He who begets is one, and He who is begotten is another; He, too, who sends is one, and He who is sent is another; and He, again, who makes is one, and He through whom the thing is made is another.” Ironically, Tertullian's Against Praxeus is one of the first comprehensive apologetic defenses of the Trinity in Christian literature, so it astounds me that the Watchtower would choose to quote from such a source, especially seeing as how in the very second chapter of the work we find Tertullian expounding, “We…believe that there is one only God, but under the following dispensation…that this one only God has also a Son, His Word, who proceeded from Himself, by whom all things were made, and without whom nothing was made…. who sent also from heaven from the Father, according to His own promise, the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete, the sanctifier of the faith of those who believe in the Father, and in the Son, and in the Holy Ghost…. All are of One, by unity (that is) of substance; while the mystery of the dispensation is still guarded, which distributes the Unity into a Trinity, placing in their order the three Persons-the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: three, however, not in condition, but in degree; not in substance, but in form; not in power, but in aspect; yet of one substance, and of one condition, and of one power, inasmuch as He is one God, from whom these degrees and forms and aspects are reckoned, under the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
The second quote is taken from Chapter 3 of Tertullian's Against Hermogenes, in which he says, “I maintain that the substance existed always with its own name, which is God….but He has not always been Father and Judge, merely on the ground of His having always been God. For He could not have been the Father previous to the Son, nor a Judge previous to sin. There was, however, a time when neither sin existed with Him, nor the Son; the former of which was to constitute the Lord a Judge, and the latter a Father.” A cursory reading of this quote, devoid of context, would appear to provide us with a clear-cut profession on Tertullian's part that there was a time that the second person of the Trinity did not exist. However, if we take this quote within the context of Tertullian's whole body of work, we find that the topic at hand in this particular quote is the names of God, not the existence of the Son. According to Tertullian, it was not until Jesus proceeded forth from God to create the world that Jesus properly took for himself the name “Son,” and therefore it was not until the creation of the world that God could be properly termed “Father.” In other words, the second person of the Trinity, according to Tertullian, has always existed, only under names other than “Son” (e.g., “Reason,” “Word,” “Wisdom.”) That Tertullian believed in the eternal, uncreated existence of Christ is apparent from the opening chapter of Against Hermogenes, in which he criticizes the heretic Hermogenes: “[Hermogenes] does not appear to acknowledge any other Christ as Lord, though he holds Him in a different way; but by this difference in his faith he really makes Him another being - nay, he takes from Him everything which is God, since he will not have it that He made all things of nothing. For, turning away from Christians to the philosophers, from the Church to the Academy and the Porch, he learned there from the Stoics how to place Matter (on the same level) with the Lord, just as if it too had existed ever both unborn and unmade, having no beginning at all nor end, out of which, according to him, the Lord afterwards created all things.” Here Tertullian holds that Jesus is “ever both unborn and unmade, having no beginning at all nor end.”
The last quote from Tertullian selected by the Watchtower is perhaps the most damning against any excuse they might offer that their errors concerning the position of the Church Fathers on the Trinity are based in ignorance. For the source of this quote we return to Tertullian's Against Praxeus, Chapter 5 this time: “For before all things God was alone - being in Himself and for Himself universe, and space, and all things. Moreover, He was alone, because there was nothing external to Him but Himself. Yet even not then was He alone; for He had with Him that which He possessed in Himself, that is to say, His own Reason. For God is rational, and Reason was first in Him; and so all things were from Himself. This Reason is His own Thought (or Consciousness) which the Greeks call `logos’, by which term we also designate Word….I may therefore without rashness first lay this down (as a fixed principle) that even then before the creation of the universe God was not alone, since He had within Himself…His Word, which He made second to Himself by agitating it within Himself.” Now, given that the Watchtower use quotes from both Chapters 5 and 8 of Against Praxeus to attempt to support their anti-Trinitarian views, I would think it reasonable to presume that their researchers must have read Chapters 5, 6, 7, and 8 in their entirety. How in the world, then, did these researchers miss these very Trinitarian propositions put forward by Tertullian a mere two sentences away from the words they judiciously selected to support their anti-Trinitarian views?
Hippolytus…said that God is “the one God, the first and the only One, the Maker and Lord of all,” who “had nothing co-eval [of equal age] with him….But he was One, alone by himself; who, willing it, called into being what had no being before,” such as the created prehuman Jesus.
Both quotes come from Chapter 28 of Hippolytus' Refutation of All Heresies: “The first and only (one God), both Creator and Lord of all, had nothing coeval with Himself; not infinite chaos, nor measureless water, nor solid earth, nor dense air, not warm fire, nor refined spirit, nor the azure canopy of the stupendous firmament. But He was One, alone in Himself. By an exercise of His will He created things that are, which antecedently had no existence, except that He willed to make them.” Just one chapter following, however, we find Hippolytus adding, “Therefore this solitary and supreme Deity, by an exercise of reflection, brought forth the Logos first; not the word in the sense of being articulated by voice, but as a ratiocination of the universe, conceived and residing in the divine mind. Him alone He produced from existing things; for the Father Himself constituted existence, and the being born from Him was the cause of all things that are produced….The Logos alone of this God is from God himself; wherefore also the Logos is God, being the substance of God. Now the world was made from nothing; wherefore it is not God; as also because this world admits of dissolution whenever the Creator so wishes it.”
Origen…said that…“compared with the Father, [the Son] is a very small light.”
Again I could find no verbatim quotation for this particular reference. This may owe to the fact that Origen was an incredibly prolific writer, so I was only able to get access to a selection of his works. However, I did find a sort of parallel to the above quote in Book 1, Chapter 2, Section 7 of Origen's De Principiis, which reads, “According to John, `God is light.' The only-begotten Son, therefore, is the glory of this light, proceeding inseparably from (God) Himself, as brightness does from light, and illuminating the whole of creation. For, agreeably to what we have already explained as to the manner in which He is the Way, and conducts to the Father; and in which He is the Word, interpreting the secrets of wisdom, and the mysteries of knowledge, making them known to the rational creation; and is also the Truth, and the Life, and the Resurrection - in the same way ought we to understand also the meaning of His being the brightness: for it is by its splendour that we understand and feel what light itself is. And this splendour, presenting itself gently and softly to the frail and weak eyes of mortals, and gradually training, as it were, and accustoming them to bear the brightness of the light, when it has put away from them every hindrance and obstruction to vision, according to the Lord's own precept, `Cast forth the beam out of thine eye,' renders them capable of enduring the splendour of the light, being made in this respect also a sort of mediator between men and the light.” I suppose that one might look at this analogy and interpret it to mean that “compared with the Father, the Son is a very small light.” However, if one were to look a mere four sections ahead, one would also find Origen having some rather Trinitarian things to say about this “smaller light,” such as, “…wisdom is called the splendour of eternal light….That is properly termed everlasting or eternal which neither had a beginning of existence, nor can ever cease to be what it is. And this is the idea conveyed by John when he says that `God is light.' Now His wisdom is the splendour of that light, not only in respect of its being light, but also of being everlasting light, so that His wisdom is eternal and everlasting splendour. If this be fully understood, it clearly shows that the existence of the Son is derived from the Father but not in time, nor from any other beginning, except, as we have said, from God Himself.”
So, what must we conclude from all this? We see that for almost every quotation judiciously selected by the Watchtower from the ante-Nicene Church Fathers, there is a wealth of material often within the same book, sometimes within the same chapter, and in some cases even within the same paragraph, which contradicts the Watchtower's assertion that the doctrine of the Trinity was “unknown” to these Church Fathers.
What are we supposed to think? That the Watchtower's researchers took Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho and read Chapter 56 but not Chapter 61? That they perused Chapter 28 of Hippolytus' Refutation of All Heresies but skipped Chapter 29? That they read a mere five sentences into Chapter 5 of Tertullian's Against Praxeus and stopped reading there, a mere two sentences before their anti-Trinitarian views could be refuted by Tertullian's further teaching, miraculously choosing instead to skip to Chapter 8 and pull another quote out of context?
It is, unfortunately, impossible to ascribe either ignorance or carelessness to the Watchtower's research - unfortunate, I say, because the only option left for us to believe is that the Watchtower has selected these quotes from the ante-Nicene Church Fathers and placed them on their web site in support of their anti-Trinitarian stance for the sole purpose of deliberately misleading visitors to their web site into thinking that the early Christians had no knowledge of the doctrine of the Trinity, when in fact the ante-Nicene Church Fathers were Trinitarian through and through.
You've seen the evidence. Now judge for yourself. Is the Watchtower being honest concerning the views of the ante-Nicene Church Fathers? And, if not, what else are they being dishonest about?
Remember, Jesus taught, “The person unrighteous in what is least is unrighteous also in much.” If we can't trust the Watchtower to be honest in their presentation of the views of the ante-Nicene Church Fathers, can we trust them with matters of larger importance - for example, the translation of the Scriptures? We've already seen how, in the case of John 1:1, the Watchtower's translating abilities have been called into question by none other than the very same ante-Nicene Church Fathers whose teachings the Watchtower deceptively attempted to claim for their own anti-Trinitarian cause! Now, if the Watchtower can be trusted with neither the writings of the early Church Fathers nor the translation of the Scriptures, is there any reason to trust them with the interpretation of the Scriptures, or with determining the rules for Christian living, or, most importantly, with the salvation of our very souls?
If you are a Jehovah's Witness, I beg you to take this paper to your elders and ask them to explain the basis of the Watchtower's misleading statements concerning the views of the ante-Nicene Church Fathers. Take it all the way to the governing body themselves if you have to. But please, please do not dismiss the evidence you have just seen. The Watchtower's web site contains deliberate misinformation, and, if you are a person of good conscience, then you cannot allow this deliberate misinformation on the Watchtower's part to continue. The ante-Nicene Church Fathers were not anti-Trinitarians, and the Watchtower web site should not attempt to mislead people into believing that they were.