Friday, December 5, 2014

Early Christian Writings on the Divinity of Christ

Contrary to the view that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity was invented centuries after Christ’s earthly life – a view popularized by Dan Brown’s thoroughly entertaining, but historically uninformed book The Da Vinci Code - Trinitarian references and expressions of belief in Christ’s divinity are found in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers.*  Note especially the quotes from Sts. Ignatius of Antioch (†107) and Clement of Rome (†99), who are widely believed to have been disciples of the Apostles, themselves (St. Ignatius is reputed to have been a disciple of St. John, and St. Clement of Rome is commonly identified with the Clement mentioned in Philippians 4:3).  The Baptismal formula stated in The Didache (which is frequently dated back to the latter half of the 1st century) is also illuminating.  In short, if orthodox doctrines of God are innovations, as non-Trinitarians suggest, then the innovations began well before the first Ecumenical Councils, and it seems far-fetched to believe that the Apostles' understanding of God could have been so distorted in one generation. 

“The procedure for baptizing is as follows.  After repeating all that has been said, immerse in running water ‘In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost’” (The Didache, p. 194).

As surely as God lives, as Jesus Christ lives, and the Holy Ghost also…” (1 Clement, 47)

“To the deservedly happy church as Ephesus in Asia; blessed with greatness by God the Father out of His own fullness; marked out since the beginning of time for glory unfading and unchanging; and owing its unity and its election to the true and undoubted Passion, by the will of the Father and Jesus Christ our God (Ignatius to the Ephesians, 61).

“Very Flesh, yet Spirit too;
Uncreated, and yet born;
God-and-Man in One agreed;
Very-Life-in-Death indeed,
Fruit of God and Mary’s seed;
At once impassible and torn
By pain and suffering here below:
Jesus Christ, whom as our Lord we know” (Ignatius to the Ephesians, 63).

“The age-old empire was overthrown, for God was now appearing in human form to bring in a new order, even life without end” (Ignatius to the Ephesians, 66).

“To her who has found mercy in the greatness of the All-Highest Father, and Jesus Christ His only Son; to the church beloved and enlightened in her love to our God Jesus Christ by the will of Him who will all things…” (Ignatius to the Romans, 85)

“All perfect happiness in Jesus Christ our God, to you who are bodily and spiritually at one with all His commandments, whole-heartedly filled with the grace of God, and purified from every alien and discoloring stain” (Ignatius to the Romans, 85).

“For my part, I know and believe that He was in actual human flesh, even after His resurrection…Moreover, He ate and drank with them after He was risen, like any natural man, though even then He and the Father were spiritually one” (Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, 101).

“So redouble your efforts, and watch out for every opportunity; but also keep your eyes on Him who has no need of opportunities, being outside all time.

Whom no senses can reveal
Was for us made manifest;
Who no ache or pain can feel
Was for us by pain oppressed;
Willing all things to endure,
Our salvation to procure” (Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, 110).

 “Little do they know that it could never be possible for us to abandon the Christ who died for the salvation of every soul that is to be saved in all the world – the Sinless One dying for sinners – or to worship any other” (The Martyrdom of Polycarp, 131).

 “Granted that the Lord was ready to undergo suffering in His concern for our life, yet He is, after all, the Lord of all the earth, to whom at the foundation of the world God had addressed the words, Let us make man in our own image and likeness” (The Martyrdom of Polycarp, 163).

“Furthermore, supposing that He had not come in the flesh, how could it then have been possible for men ever to ‘look on Him and be saved?’ – for even when they behold the sun, though it is but His own handiwork and must one day cease to exist, they cannot look directly at its beams” (The Epistle of Barnabas, 164).

“Though the Son of God was the divine Lord, and the future judge of living and dead alike, yet nevertheless He suffered, in order that His affliction might win life for us” (The Epistle of Barnabas, 167).

“Though the purpose of the Incarnation was partly to allow them to put the final seal on their sins, it was also that we might receive the Covenant of the Lord Jesus from its rightful heir.  It was this for which He had been ordained: by manifesting Himself in person…” (The Epistle of Barnabas, 176).

* All page references are from Early Christian Writings (Penguin).