OriginalChristianity

Not Traditional, Original

The Vision of OriginalChristianity.Net

The vision of OriginalChristianity.Net is to look at the beliefs and practices of the the original Christians.  The reason why this is important is that over the millennium Christianity has developed numerous factions that all claim that that they are the true continuation of original Christianity.  I heard exactly that when I visited a Greek Orthodox Church, I have read it in Roman Catholic literature, it is in the bulletin of a local non-denominational church in my area.  They make these claims despite the fact that they have disagreed, even violently at times.  For other articles on this topic, see A Major Objection to the Restoration Movement Is That Christianity Has Not Changed Substantially Over Time, and Another Claim of Original Christianity in Practice Today,

Throughout this website are numerous articles written on the numerous divisions in the Church that we have today, how a lot of these doctrines developed that are behind all these divisions, and some key points on how original Christianity differed from today.  It is important to look at all these things because they are part of Christianity now and play a big part, perhaps more as obstacles, in the faith of the individual believer.

But the key point of this website is to be able to envision what original Christianity, and in particular the time of Jesus and the apostles and disciples that he touched was really like. There was an incredible spirituality. With the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, and afterward the sending of the Holy Spirit we see the most incredible movement of God on earth since creation.

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This was a time of power, miracles, healing, and deliverance, not only by Jesus, but by those he touched, his apostles and disciples. People saw God in action through these men. They saw the word of God living, because they lived it together. There was incredible community and sharing. There was incredible believing. There was great faith.

It was a time of simple doctrine.  There were no official doctrines on infant baptism or believer’s baptism. There was no doctrine that prophecy and the other gifts and manifestations of the spirit had ceased. There were baptisms being carried out, and the last supper repeated as a memorial, but there were no “sacraments”, somehow mysteriously conveying grace by ritualistic practices. There were no autonomous churches disputing which form of church government was doctrinally correct, which end times theology was correct, or arguments over whether or not there was eternal security.

There was no argument over the status of the Bible, because there was no Bible. Jesus had referenced the law and the prophets, including the Psalms, as the word of God. And only those books with the addition of the words of Jesus were considered the word of God. There were no written Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There were no epistles of Peter, Paul, Hebrews, John, and Jude. So there was no argument over doctrines derived from them like eternal security, justification by grace, predestination, or even the Trinity.

Philosophy was rejected as an unwise practice of the Greeks that actually tore down faith more than it built, so discussion of faith wasn’t an analytical exercise in the nuances of the meanings of words, but rather simple directives, and powerful stories and analogies that emphasize the important meanings to be focused on while ignoring the myriad details that can lead people astray.

What existed was the good news that Jesus the Messiah had come, that he had fulfilled the law, had sent the Holy Spirit, and now many believers were walking in great faith and power. What existed was great praise, great faith, and great love of God.

All of this is not to say that this was an easy time. There were persecutions, challenges, and trials, as both the Jews and the Romans saw this burgeoning Christianity as a threat. But this just served to bring the Christians closer together, and more united in their faith.

Original Christianity was a time of great unity, simple doctrine, great believing, with many believers walking in the love of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

So as you read these articles that discuss all of the divisions, and developments, both good and bad throughout the millennia of history of Christianity, it is important to maintain the focus of the simple vision of original Christianity.  Pray, praise the Lord, walk in the power of the spirit, love God and love your neighbor, and rejoice in what Christ has done. Join together with any Christian who is doing the same.  And in the process perhaps we can bring some of what made original Christianity so great back to life.

© copyright 2012 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved.

Welcome to Original Christianity.Net

It appears that universally, in the church, we Christians marvel at both at Jesus’ miracles and the wisdom in his parables. We especially are in awe of his life, his incredible birth, his short but incredibly powerful ministry, his passion, death, and resurrection. We love him for those. We are also moved by the depth of the wisdom and inspiration of books like the Psalms and Proverbs. Almost universally, although most would say all true Christians, acknowledge him as Lord, and strive to follow his leadership as we walk in a dark world filled with daily challenges, including overcoming evil.

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In fact, there are some universal, and some almost universal, elements in Christianity. Universally held elements of Christianity include this deep awe of Christ, and likewise, for the bible. The bible, or at least for some, sections of the bible, such as the parables of Christ in the gospels, the powerful poetry of the Psalms, and the wisdom in Proverbs are universally held in the deepest regard. Almost universally held elements include the belief in Christ as the only begotten son of the Father, physically born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, who died for out sins, and was raised from the dead and is presently seated at the right hand of God. Christians look forward to spending eternity with the Lord. Even more, there is common ground as churches promote worship, baptism, and communion with some similarity.

But beyond some basics like these, there is far less agreement on the tenets of Christianity. In fact, there is an elephant in the Church, an elephant of disagreement resulting in tens of thousands of sects, disagreeing on many doctrines.

The disagreements have been legion, often bloody, and always confusing. Christians have killed other Christians for defying the rule of infant baptism and proclaiming “believer’s baptism”. Many Christians have declared other Christians apostate because of their view of the Bible, whether it is inerrant, infallible, or at least partially of human origin.

And even if they agree on the status of the Bible, they don’t agree on what it says on these issues. For example, there is disagreement over basic principles of interpretation like whether the overriding principle is based on the covenants of God versus which dispensation we are in.

There are Christians that call other Christians apostate (traitorous) because they believe that the gifts of the spirit, i.e., prophecy and speaking in tongues, etc. still exist, and vice versa. These days there are sharp divides over homosexuality, abortion, the Word of Faith movement, the emergent Church movement, and the role of women in the church.

Even if Christians don’t call others apostate, they still disagree to the point of not fellowshipping over issues like: dietary laws (whether they need to be followed), drinking alcohol, end times (Eschatology), eternal security, evolution vs. literal seven days of creation, giving vs. tithing, predestination, psychology: the acceptability of Christian counseling, sacraments as conveyers of grace or not, the “in the name of Jesus” debate, and pacifism vs. the concept of a just war, and other issues.

Then there is the ecumenical concept of Christian “orthodoxy” that suggests that none of the issues so far discussed really matter even there are huge divisions over them. The only issue that really matters in “orthodoxy” is whether one accepts the doctrine of the Trinity, that Jesus the man is really God and a person in a triune godhead with two other persons, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. This doctrine is promoted as the absolutely most important concept in Christianity even though this emphasis is totally missing for the first centuries of the church.

And let alone that the very doctrine of the Trinity has been disputed over the centuries with more Christians killing other Christians over this issue than any other. It appears that for some that as long as a church accepts the doctrine of the Trinity it doesn’t matter if it teaches that homosexuality is normal or apostate, and/or abortion is choice or murder, and/or baptism should be infant baptism or believer’s baptism, and/or there are two “ordinances” or seven sacraments, and so forth, and so on.

This mess is a huge blemish on the body of Christ. Some of these issues may be legitimate, but to have so many “orthodox” churches teaching so many disparate doctrines flies right in the face of Paul’s charge for believers to have the same mind:

Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you all say the same thing, and there be no divisions among you, but you be united in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10 LITV)

If, as Paul teaches, we corporately are the body of Christ, then does the current collective body of competing Christian theologies accurately reflect the mind of Christ. Certainly, no one can think so.

But, before the present time with our tens of thousands of Christian denominations, and before the Reformation that shifted the focus of Christianity from the decisions of church councils and the Pope to the Bible as the principle source of guidance, and before the great schism about a thousand years ago, even before there were arguments over the nature of Christ, the Trinity and whether Mary was the mother of God in the beginning of the age of Christendom (fourth century), even before there was a Catholic church (110 A.D.) there was original primitive Christianity.

While some of the focus of Christianity remains, much has changed over the millennia. The question is whether all or even any of the different traditions that have developed are correct, or the original believers were the ones that actually got it the most right. The place to start is by looking at the beliefs and practices of original, primitive Christianity, and seriously consider embracing them again even though some of them may be radically different from what you or I hold today.

In the days of original, primitive Christianity:

(In the listings below hyperlinks offer more information on the point being made.)

Elements usually still held today:

Elements still held today by some:

Elements held today by few, if any believers:

Elements that are divisive today but didn’t appear to exist then:

The most current blogs (articles) are below. The articles can touch on a large number of topics including ancient history, the original language of the bible, grammar and logic, dividing doctrines besides the basics of Christianity, what Jesus taught, and development (movements) in Christianity throughout the centuries. For an organized listing of the blogs (articles) to get an overview and better understanding of the contents on this web site, go to the table of contents. There is more information on design of this website on this page; look on the right sidebar under Original Christianity and click “Why? Click to Read More…”

T 1.10.1 Tradition in Original Christianity, Not Only Is Jesus Called God In Scripture, But So are Moses, Judges, Magistrates, The Adversary, And Devil Spirits, But All Are Subject to the Father

Previous posts have declared that Unitarianism was the belief in Original Christianity including the last post, T 1.10 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 10, The Apostles taught the Father alone was God, one of the Most Hidden Truths in Christianity Today. We have looked at references that admit that Unitarianism predated Trinitarianisn.  We looked at quotes that cite that unlike the apostles in scripture theologians after the apostles say philosophy is essential. And we looked at the reasons why. For example, look at this:

“Much contemporary Christianity is in essence adoptionistic. Early in the 19th century Frederick Schleiermacher conceived of Jesus as the man with the most sublime God consciousness, while Albrecht Ritschl saw him as endowed with the most perfect sense of duty. For the 20th century Anglican John A. T. Robinson, Jesus was “the man for others,” perfectly transparent to God. Adoptionistic ideas always arrive arise wherever Christians are reluctant to use the language and tools of philosophy [emphasis added] to grapple with the apparent conflict between the unity of God and the deity of Christ.[1]

I have underlined “reluctant to use the language and tools of philosophy”. The need for philosophy is given again here.  Without philosophy the conflict between the unity of God and the deity of Christ is too great. Brown says that without philosophy the natural result is adoptionism, which is a form of Unitarianism.

I have known some people that seemed to accept Unitarianism easily.  The Trinity was always so confusing to them. Unitarianism is easier by far and all of it is scriptural.  But, if you are like me at all, you may take a lot to be convinced on so important a topic.   I don’t change my mind that easily, some things can take years for me to be persuaded otherwise.  So, I don’t blame you if you are still unsure or skeptical.  What I will say is to keep at it.  Really consider the what is said.  Have you really tried to prove the Trinity?  Or, are you like me, I heard it mentioned as the truth so often for so many years that it was like second nature to accept it.  And this was in spite of the fact that when confronted I had to admit that I had never seen a proof of the Trinity. All I had heard were verses here and there that were used to support the Trinitarian argument. Even though it was confusing it was just so widespread and generally accepted for so long that I had a hard time believing that there was a chance that it might not be right.  But when I really looked at it, I said, oh my Lord, how could that have happened?  And likewise for many people throughout the millennia. And I came to the conclusion like so many before me; the Trinity is a man-made doctrine; only God the Father is God of all.  Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the King of Kings, but he is subject to God and not equal to him.

Today we’re going to look at more points of emphasis in the Trinitarian argument. The first is that Jesus is called God in places in scripture.  The second is the Trinitarian argument that says that Jesus admitted he was God.

I mean, after all, if the Bible clearly calls Jesus God and he also admits it, doesn’t that make the case for both the deity of Jesus and the Trinity?

It may be confusing to some when they read that Jesus is rightfully called God in some scriptures but not part of a Trinity, but only until it is understood that many beings subordinate to God including judges, prophets, idols, the adversary, and devil spirits are also called god.  But all are subject, subordinate to God the Father, even his son.

What adds to the confusion is when Bible translators capitalize God.  Capitalizing God is the custom in English when it is God the creator, the supreme being.  The Trinitarian tradition that includes the Son and Holy Spirit as part of God almighty adds to this confusion.  The theology of the translator is clearly evident here.

In numerous posts, we have looked at varied verses that are used in support of the Trinity, and in each case shown that those verses did not prove the Trinity.  As stated in Philosophy in Christianity – Welcome Addition or Intrusion of Worldly Reasoning? scholars admit that scripture does not directly teach the Trinity.  What they say is that the “elements” are there to construct the doctrine of the Trinity.  Here’s the New Bible Dictionary on the subject:

“As already indicated, Scripture does not give us a fully formulated doctrine of the Trinity, but it contains all the elements out of which theology has constructed the doctrine.”[2]

I think that is being generous but at least they admit that scripture does not directly teach the Trinity. It’s true that many elements of the trinity are taken from scripture. This definition fails to add that there are also elements not in scripture that required for the Trinity to work like the word homousias (of the same substance) and the doctrine that Jesus had two wills when there is no scripture to support it.

So, let’s look at where Jesus is called God in scripture.  For clarification, elohim is one of the Hebrew words translated God, and theos is the Greek word translated God. God the Father’s name is Yahweh.

The biggest lesson here is that just because something says “God” it does not necessarily refer to God the Father, creator of heaven and earth.

Now, the overwhelming majority of times God is referred to in scripture it is talking about God the Father, but there are times when the text says God, but it is not God the Father. It is true that Jesus is called god, but so are the divine council, judges, prophets (Moses especially), kings, and even the devil.  And God the Father is over all of them.

Here’s the first. Moses is called Elohim, God.

Yahweh said to Moses, “Behold, I have made you as God to Pharaoh; and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet. (Exo 7:1 WEB)

Moses is certainly not God. But he was called God, Elohim, because he represented God and the power of God flowed through him. Notice the capitalization.

In the New Testament, the Greek word theos corresponds to the Hebrew word Elohim.  This word is used of our adversary, the devil.

in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the Good News of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn on them. (2Co 4:4 WEB)

The adversary is clearly called god (theos) here. And no one disputes that he is not God Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth, the father in heaven.  The lack of capitalization is correct.

The same goes for false gods like Dagon, the fish god of the Philistines.

The lords of the Philistines gathered them together to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god, and to rejoice; for they said, “Our god has delivered Samson our enemy into our hand.” (Jdg 16:23 WEB)

The Hebrew word for god here is, guess what, elohimElohim just means god.  The name of the elohim here is Dagon.

(Of note, too, is that elohim is a plural noun but Dagon is a single god.  This is proof that the use of elohim does not automatically indicate a plurality. In other words, elohim refers to a single person or god. Just like Dagon is not a trinity, the use of elohim does not mean a trinity when it refers to Yahweh, God the Father.)

Likewise, the commandment not to worship false gods is the Hebrew word elohim.

“You shall have no other gods before me. (Exo 20:3 WEB)

Look at this one:

The king said to her, “Don’t be afraid! What do you see?” The woman said to Saul, “I see a god coming up out of the earth.”  (1Sa 28:13 WEB)

This is Saul with the medium of Endor.  Saul had inquired of Yahweh but Yahweh had stopped talking with Saul.  Saul made a major mistake and consulted a medium.  She said she saw a god (elohim) coming up out of the earth. That spirit was elohim.

Next, we are going to see a place where the translators understood that elohim could refer to even men. In this next verse that we are going to look at the text says Elohim (God), but it really means judges.

then his master shall bring him to God, and shall bring him to the door or to the doorpost, and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall serve him forever. (Exo 21:6 WEB)

This verse is talking about a slave that decides he wants to remain a slave because of how good the human master is, and so there’s a procedure for that. The slave goes before the judges, but in the text, it’s the word Elohim, and on earth the judges represent Elohim.

This is a case where people, in this case, judges, are called God because of representation. We use representation to refer to people all the time. Here’s an example, a couple of weeks ago my wife called me and asked me if Amazon had delivered her package. I told her, yes, I got it and put it by her desk. Now, Amazon is a huge global company. It did not take the huge global enterprise with all of its many thousands of employees to deliver that package. One sole driver drove it to our house. But what my wife said in my conversation with her was not incorrect. Amazon had delivered the package. The driver is Amazon’s representative just like the judge in Exodus 21 is God’s representative.

Next, look at a section where the king is referred to as god (elohim). These verses are important because later in the New Testament we will see that they are used in reference to Christ.

My heart overflows with a noble theme. I recite my verses for the king. My tongue is like the pen of a skillful writer. You are the most excellent of the sons of men. Grace has anointed your lips, therefore God has blessed you forever. Strap your sword on your thigh, mighty one: your splendor and your majesty. In your majesty ride on victoriously on behalf of truth, humility, and righteousness. Let your right hand display awesome deeds. Your arrows are sharp. The nations fall under you, with arrows in the heart of the king’s enemies. Your throne, God, is forever and ever. A scepter of equity is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness, and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows. (Psa 45:1-7 WEB)

It is very important to realize that the subject of these verses is the king as it says in verse one, “I recite my verses for the king”. Look at the pronouns. “You are the most excellent of the sons of men” starts a list of things talking about this king. Now, surprise!  In verse six, this king is called God (Elohim)! God is capitalized here but it shouldn’t be because it’s not talking about God the Father. Neither should the first use of god in verse seven where it says “therefore God, your God, has anointed you…”.  In Psalm 45 the king is referred to as God because kings were appointed by divine right. Kings were God’s representative on earth. We are going to take a look at this quote again when we come to discussing our Lord, Jesus Christ.

So, we have clearly established that just because the text reads elohim or theos, it does not mean God the Father.

By the way, I haven’t discovered that elohim and theos don’t always refer to God Almight on my own, in fact, this is pretty well known. It’s listed in dictionaries.[3]  And it is well understood by most bible students, whether they are Unitarian or Trinitarian

Next, we are going to look at a verse with our Lord Jesus Christ. And this is a verse that is used to supposedly support the Trinitarian doctrine that includes that Jesus is God. In this text, Jesus is accused of claiming he is God.

Therefore, Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of those works do you stone me?” The Jews answered him, “We don’t stone you for a good work, but for blasphemy: because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Isn’t it written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods?’ If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture can’t be broken), do you say of him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You blaspheme,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God?’ If I don’t do the works of my Father, don’t believe me. But if I do them, though you don’t believe me, believe the works; that you may know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” They sought again to seize him, and he went out of their hand. (Joh 10:31-39 WEB)

Yes, these Jews accused Jesus of claiming that he was God the Father. I have sat in a pew and heard it taught that Jesus was claiming to be God here! That is twisting the Scripture. Instead of acknowledging that he did say he was God, on the contrary, Jesus refutes their argument. You see, Jesus had just said, “I and my Father are one”. And he also made the connection to the divine council where God the Father called subordinate rulers gods.  But he also had said that he did his mighty works in the Father’s name. He had also said that the Father was greater than all, and “all” includes him even though he is the Christ. Jesus here does make the claim that he is the son of God. But he is the son of God because God is his Father. That doesn’t make him equal to God the Father. It just makes him the son of God. Jesus is actually teaching here that it is a mistake to equate saying that you are the son of God is the same as saying that you are God like the Father.

Just because someone is accused of saying something does not mean that they said it.  It may be that someone’s words are being twisted to say that someone is saying something that they did not say.  That is what is being done here. Jesus says as much.  The Jews took “I and my Father are one (in purpose)” and twisted it to “I and my Father are the same”!

To see that this oneness is in purpose compare “I and my Father are one” to “…that they may be one, even as we are one” later in John 17:22.

So, this verse does not say Jesus is claiming to be God. Rather, he is explaining his unique relationship with the Father.   But this scripture has been used to make the claim that Jesus said he was God.

Jesus, in John 10 above, makes the point of saying scripture calls some gods (small g).  Look at Psalms 82 here:

God presides in the great assembly. He judges among the gods. “How long will you judge unjustly, and show partiality to the wicked?” Selah. “Defend the weak, the poor, and the fatherless. Maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy. Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.” They don’t know, neither do they understand. They walk back and forth in darkness. All the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, “You are gods, all of you are sons of the Most High. Nevertheless you shall die like men, and fall like one of the rulers.” Arise, God, judge the earth, for you inherit all of the nations. (Psa 82:1-8 WEB)

Psalm 82 refers to what some call a divine council, a group of subordinates (angels, men?) to God where all of the subordinates are called gods (elohim). The job of these subordinate gods is to defend the weak, the poor, and the needy.  It is to maintain the rights of the poor and the oppressed.  It’s to deliver these from the wicked. They were put in charge to do things but they weren’t getting results.  They aren’t doing so well, and they are told they will die like men!  Yet they are elohim!

Now, let’s look in the book of Hebrews at another place where some have said Jesus is called God, and in this case, rightfully so.  But is it saying that he is God like God the Father? No.

God, having in the past spoken to the fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, has at the end of these days spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds. His Son is the radiance of his glory, the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, who, when he had by himself purified us of our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; having become so much better than the angels, as he has inherited a more excellent name than they have. For to which of the angels did he say at any time, “You are my Son. Today I have become your father?” and again, “I will be to him a Father, and he will be to me a Son?” When he again brings in the firstborn into the world he says, “Let all the angels of God worship him.” Of the angels he says, “Who makes his angels winds, and his servants a flame of fire.” But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your Kingdom. (Heb 1:1-8 WEB)

First, the “through” in “through whom he also made the worlds” is the Greek word en (Strongs G1223)En can mean the channel or cause that something is done, but it can also mean the reason something is done.  The translation “through” would be better translated “on account of” or “because of”.  This shows the theology of the translator.

Jesus is called God here. This verse in Hebrews is a quotation from Psalm 45 that we looked at earlier. However, this time it’s not talking about the current king. It is talking about Jesus Christ. However, the same thing that applied to the king in Psalm 45 applies the Jesus here. Just like the King was called God in Psalms, Jesus is called God in Hebrews. But then, we see the verse, following “therefore God, your God…  So, just like the king was subject to God the Father so Jesus Christ is subject to God the Father.

Therefore, Jesus Christ is referred to as god but he is still subordinate to God the Father.

I want to look at more verses that call Jesus God. Remember that when we are reading these verses in English they are just translations of mainly Greek texts. In T 1.31 More on Paul’s Decision To Go To Jerusalem, How Tradition Can Affect Translation And Meaning, Accepting Deliverance When Available I look at how translation is often not a simple, straightforward process. It can get complicated, and produce misleading results.

Here are some things involved in translating from Koine Greek to English. In translation the order of words in Greek sentences is different than that of English sentences. In English a noun is made plural usually by adding an “s”.  In Greek to make a noun plural you have to know both its gender and the letters in which it ends in order to attach the right ending to the noun. In Greek, nouns are masculine, feminine, and neuter. But that does not mean that the item that the noun represents is masculine, feminine, or neuter. Whether or not a noun has an article attached can change its meaning. For example, hos theos, is “God” (theos) with the article, “the”, hos.  That combination is the one that can indicate the supreme Deity, God the Father.  By itself, theos without the article means less, like god (small g), magistrate, or even godly.

And there is no punctuation! The words just run together.  There are other issues as well. Here’s a picture of a manuscript in Greek show no punctuation and words just running on and on.

How do you divide those Greek letters above into words that form sentences and whole thoughts? In the article mentioned above, I talk about Acts 21:14 where a problem like that was explored. Here are the text and translated words.

The use of a comma here dramatically changes the meaning of this verse.  A lot of translators translate this, “We stopped,  saying the will of the Lord be done.”  But without the comma, it is, “we stopped saying the will of the Lord be done.” A single comma there makes a difference as to whether or not something was even said. And it certainly dramatically changes the meaning. That’s how important the translator is. And it shows how impactful his theology (and the theology of his “school”) is in translation.

An example of that ambiguity is found in some verses that call Jesus God, and maybe not just God, but appear to at least imply God over all.

looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ; (Tit 2:13 WEB)

Once again, the Greek text does have these words; God, and, Savior, Jesus Christ. To see the difference that punctuation makes look at the same verse in Webster’s version.

Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Savior Jesus Christ; (Tit 2:13 Webster)

Do you see the difference? The WEB version says “our great God and Savior” as if it’s one and the same person. The Webster version says “great God, and our Savior Jesus Christ”, recognizing two different beings.

Let’s compare how these two versions translate second Peter 1:1 which is another example of the same thing.

Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a like precious faith with us in the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: (2Pe 1:1 WEB)

Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ: (2Pe 1:1 Webster)

This one is a little less conspicuous, but is still there. The WEB version says “God and Savior, Jesus Christ”, making Jesus both God and Savior. In contrast, Webster’s version says “God and our Savior Jesus Christ”. It doesn’t put the comma after Savior thereby lumping God and Savior as the descriptor for Jesus Christ. And, you can see here, hopefully, that the translators could have just as easily written, “God, and our Savior Jesus Christ”, clearly distinguishing between God, and Savior as two different entities.

The lesson here is that Trinitarian doctrine has influenced the translation as there is absolutely nothing in the Greek text that requires “God and Savior”.  And “God and Savior” contradicts verses like Eph 4:4-6 and 1 Cor 15 below. With the ambiguity these verses have they certainly don’t prove the  Trinity.

Compare the above two verses above with:

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you also were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in us all. (Eph 4:4-6 WEB)

Lord and God are both in this verse but they are not next to each other. The separation alone between “Lord”, and “one God and Father of all” indicates that they are not the same person. Also, it is itemized here that the “one God and Father” is of all, over all, through all, and in us all. God alone is over all. It is clear here that Jesus Christ is the Lord while God the Father is the one who is over all.

We have discussed this next one in Philosophy in Christianity – Welcome Addition or Intrusion of Worldly Reasoning?.

Without controversy, the mystery of godliness is great: God was revealed in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, and received up in glory. (1Ti 3:16 WEB)

How can “God was revealed in the flesh” not prove the Incarnation and thus the Trinity? It must, right? The truth is that there is a problem with the word God there. Instead of Theos in Greek, the Greek word used in texts other than the Alexandrian family is hos which simply means which or who. The verse actually talks about the mystery of godliness which was manifest in the flesh.  Every being with the holy spirit, which includes all true Christians, manifests godliness whenever they walk in the spirit. Every time someone speaks in tongues or hears from God or heals someone, they are manifesting godliness. This verse is talking about the mystery of godliness and how that works.  It is not a declaration of Jesus as part of a trinity.  No, this verse does not prove the Trinity.

Here is a translation that says “which” instead of God.

And evidently great is the mystery of godliness, which was manifested in the flesh, was justified in the spirit, appeared unto angels, hath been preached unto the Gentiles, is believed in the world, is taken up in glory. (1Ti 3:16 DRB)

This next verse is talking about Jesus Christ as the greatest example of godliness on earth. That is something we are charged to seek

For bodily exercise has some value, but godliness has value in all things, having the promise of the life which is now, and of that which is to come. (1Ti 4:8 WEB)

So we see that despite having a number of verses that look like what the Trinitarians say are clearly teaching both that Jesus Christ is God, and even God the father, it is not that simple.

Who, again is Jesus in relation to the Father? Remember Jesus’ words as he talked about who he was in relation to God:

This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and him whom you sent, Jesus Christ. (Joh 17:3 WEB)

Jesus delineates between God the Father who he declares is the only true God, and himself who he declares is the sent one, God’s agent, the Christ, the Messiah. God the Father is God over all.  Jesus Christ is his agent.  His power is totally dependent on the Father:

Jesus therefore answered them, “Most certainly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father doing. For whatever things he does, these the Son also does likewise. (Joh 5:19 WEB)

And next, in first Corinthians, we see that even though it reads that everything is subject to Christ, Christ is still subject to God the father.

Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1Co 15:24-28 ESV)

God, whether from elohim in Hebrew or theos in Greek may refer to God the Father, Jesus, prophets, angels, priests, judges, kings, the adversary, devil spirits, and false gods. But it is the verse above that sets the pecking order in the spiritual realm for men and gods.  Part of the Trinity doctrine is that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are co-equal and co-eternal.  But these verses above as well as other verses mentioned all put Jesus as not co-equal, but subject to the Father.  Jesus is not an equal partner in a trinity, Jesus is an underling.  Albeit, he is the Lord, he is the savior, he is second in command, he is still an underling who carries out what the Father directs.

That is Unitarianism.  God is one. There are other entities called god in scripture, angels, devils, judges, prophets, kings, even Jesus, but there is only one God who is over all, and through all, and in us all, and that is the Father.

Further Reading on Christian Unitarianism (including links to resources available online)

Encyclopedia Americana, 1920 Edition, Vol XXVII, p. O301 available online at https://ia800305.us.archive.org/33/items/encyclopediaame23unkngoog/encyclopediaame23unkngoog.pdf. This article in this century old Encyclopedia Americana is the better part of 10 pages long and reflects that Unitarianism was more known then. Find the topic Unitarianism

Statement of Reasons For Not Believing The Doctrines of the Trinitarians, Andrews Norton, London, 1846

The Doctrine of the Trinity, Anthony F. Buzzard and Charles F. Hunting, Atlanta Bible College and Restoration Fellowship, 1990

The Elements of Unitarianism, George Chryssides, Element Books, Dorset, 1998

The Epic of Unitarianism, David B. Parke, Skinner House Books, Boston, 1957

The History of The Doctrine of the Trinity The True Scriptural Picture, http://www.antipas.org/books/trinity/trinity1.html  

The Trinity: True Or False? Peter J. Southgate, Dawn Book Supply, 1995, A Christadelphian book available at https://www.the1way.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/THE-TRINITY-true-or-false-2nd-edition.pdf

The Racovian Catechism, available at http://thehumanjesus.org/media/pdf/The_Racovian_Catechism.pdf

The Two Treatises of Servetus on the Trinity, Michael Serveto, Translated by Earl Morse Wilbur, Wipf & Stock, Eugene, Published 2013

One God & One Lord : Reconsidering the Cornerstone of Christian Faith, Mark H Graeser, John A. Lynn, John W Schoenheit, Christian Educational Services, 2000

One God Over All (Class), Living Hope International Ministries, available at https://lhim.org/lhim-class/?id=84

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy; Trinity, at https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/trinity/ (Completely from a purely philosophical point of view – shows the debate about the philosophical merits and flaws in Trinitarian arguments)

Further Reading Pro – Trinitarian Sources including Philosophy, and Heresies

The New Bible Dictionary, Eerdman’s, Grand Rapids, 1962, Reprinted 1974, p. 1298-1300

The Trinity, Evidence & Issues, Dr. Robert A Morey, Xulon Press, 1996

The Trinity, The Classic Study of Biblical Unitarianism, Edward Henry Bickersteth, Kregal, Grand Rapids

The Doctrine of the Trinity, Leonard Hodgson, Nisbit, Digswell Place, Seventh Printing  1964

Delighting in the Trinity, An Introduction to the Christian Faith, IVP Academic, Downers Grove, 2012

Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem, Zondervan, Grand Rapids,1994, p. 226-261

Lectures in Systematic Theology, Henry C Theissen, Erdman’s, Grand Rapids, revised 1979, P. 89-99

Systematic Theology, Volume 3, Paul Tillich, the University of Chicago press, Chicago 1950 1P. 289-294

Heresies, Harold O. J. Brown, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody Massachusetts, 1984, P. 96, see index

Introduction to Philosophy, A Christian Perspective, Norman L Geisler and Paul D Feinberg, Baker books, Grand Rapids, 1980, P. 75, 174-177

The Blessed Trinity, New Advent (a Catholic organization)  at  https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15047a.htm

Early Christian Doctrines, J N D Kelly, Harper Collins, 1978

A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, David Bercot, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Seventh Printing, 2008, p. 651-657

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 18th Printing 2007, sections 232-260, see Index

The Code of Canon Law, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Published 1983

________________________________________________________

[1] Heresies, Harold O. J. Brown, Hendrickson publishers, Peabody Massachusetts, 1984, P. 96

[2] New Bible Dictionary, Erdman’s, Grand Rapids, 1962, P. 1299

[3] For ex., Strong’s definition is: el-o-heem’, Plural of H433; gods in the ordinary sense; but specifically used (in the plural thus, especially with the article) of the supreme God; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a superlative: – angels, X exceeding, God (gods) (-dess, -ly), X (very) great, judges, X mighty. In Strong’s definition, see how Elohim is defined as the supreme God or just gods, also magistrates, angels judges, or even godly or mighty.  Clearly, Elohim doesn’t just mean God the Father. Thayer says that besides God,  theos can also mean God’s representative or viceregent,  including magistrates and judges

last edited 11/11/21

T 1.10 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 10, The Apostles taught the Father alone was God, one of the Most Hidden Truths in Christianity Today

So then, brothers, stand firm, and hold the traditions which you were taught by us, whether by word, or by letter. (2Th 2:15 WEB)

OriginalChristianity.Net has been looking at where the Church is today doctrinally and in practice, and how the church has gotten from the exciting, powerful times of the New Testament to the church of today with many people professing Christianity, teaching scripture, even proclaiming manifestations of the spirit but also with many divisions and opposing viewpoints on many scriptural issues.  And we read again in the verse above the Apostles’ charge to us to maintain the traditions that they handed to us.  Traditions include beliefs and practices. We are charged to follow what they taught.  And we have been warned in Acts 20 that after the Apostles’ passing that there would be people from both outside the church and inside that would twist the scriptures, drawing people away from the truth that Paul and the Apostles taught.

I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Act 20:29-30 ESV)

This verse is a prophecy that there would be people teaching things twisted from what the Apostles taught. The doctrine that we are looking at today has both extra-biblical thinking, for example, Jesus had two wills, and terms like homoousia, of the same substance, that are not in scripture, which are crucial to the Trinitarian argument.

This verse and other prophecies of things that would happen before Christ’s return also indicate that what Paul and the Apostles taught was not just for the Apostles’ time on earth.  Their teaching was for the church age. As we are still awaiting the return of Christ, that includes us.

We are looking at a critical issue today, Unity vs Trinity, one person or three, what did the Apostles believe, teach, and practice?  The answer lies in the fact that while “essential Christian Doctrine” today focuses on the Trinity, the Trinity was not present in original Christianity but scholars all agree that it was developed in the early centuries after Christ. So, the question is then what was the belief, if not the Trinity, about the natures of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the holy spirit.[1]

The answer is that, in fact, as is discussed in John 1 – The meaning of the Logos; The Slippery Slope of Applying Mathematical Precision to Language Expressions and, as it is stated at places as a historical reality, original Christianity started out Unitarian.

(Before proceeding any further it must be emphasized that we are talking about Christian or biblical Unitarianism and not Unitarian Universalism which is totally different and may not be Christian at all.)

Unitarian comes from the number one just as Trinity comes from the number three.  It’s as simple as that, look it up.  Unitarianism, simply put, is the belief that God is one.  In contrast, Trinitarianism is the belief that God is three. Trinitarians say God is three persons while Unitarian just say God is one.  Look at these references to what people believed in the first centuries about whether they believed that God is one or three persons:

“Justin nowhere asserts that the father, Son, and Spirit constitute one God, as became the custom in later ages, after the doctrine of the Trinity was fully matured. Strictly speaking, he was a Unitarian, as were the orthodox fathers generally of his time: that is, they believe the Son to be being really distinct from the Father, and inferior to him; which we take to be the very essence of Unitarianism.”[2]

That is another reference to the fact that the “orthodox fathers” of Justin Martyr’s time were generally Unitarian, God is one, not three persons.  Look at this:

Even after the elimination of Gnosticism, the church remained without any uniform Christology; the Trinitarians and the Unitarians continue to confront each other, the latter at the beginning of the third century still forming the large majority.[3]

As it says above, Unitarians still formed a large majority at the beginning of the third century, indicating the Original Christian church started out Unitarian and continued that way for a least a couple of centuries.

And look at this Encyclopedia Americana reference to Unitarianism and its start:

“The most conspicuous point of departure from trinitarianism, the point usually emphasized, is the refusal to regard Jesus as “very God of very God” and the assertion that he was distinctly and unqualifiedly a human being. This belief in some form in a varying degree has accompanied Christianity from the beginning, at least as one of its forms.” [4]

There it is again; this belief [Unitarianism]… has accompanied Christianity from the beginning! That is the truth. But it’s also a truth that many theologians work to deny as evidenced in the next paragraph in the above-mentioned article. The Unitarianism of the original church is often denied today and it is barely conceded that the original church was not Trinitarian. Look at this careful wording as the article reads on:

It is usually conceded that even though it might not be correct to speak of Christianity during the first two or three centuries as being substantially Unitarian, it at least was not Trinitarian. It was this generally held belief that Christ was a man that Arius was trying to save in his conflict with Athanasius. It was this championship of Arius, of the human side of Jesus, that for centuries gave the name Arianism to any belief in the humanity of Jesus.[5]

“It is usually conceded” alludes to the reluctance that the Trinitarian faction in the Church to admit the legacy of Unitarianism and that the Church took centuries of human debate over scripture that also included extra-biblical thinking and extrabiblical terms like homoousia (of the same substance) before it was declared official doctrine and more centuries to be put into its final form. “That it might not be correct” allows for a small chance for error, possibly because the Trinitarian contingent is widespread and regular with anti-Unitarian rhetoric.  And it alludes to the fact that Unitarianism has never gone away, but has continued to be believed by some despite severe unscriptural practices like burning at the stake, the Inquisition, not to mention forfeiture of property, status, and position when churches and states were so intertwined.  This quote also alludes to the fact that Unitarianism is most commonly called Arianism which was denounced when the deity of Christ and Trinitarianism began to replace Unitarian doctrine in the fourth century. I say began because Arius’ Unitarian teaching continued for some time after the council of Nicea.

So, while many Trinitarians do not want to concede that the church started out as Unitarian, it did and we are going to look at what they believed.

Tertullian was the first to introduce the concept of a trinity at the start of the third century.  So, up until Tertullian the terms Trinitarianism, Unitarianism, and anti-trinitarianism didn’t apply so believers didn’t identify themselves as believing any of those doctrines, but in today’s terms, they were Unitarian.

Also, Trinitarians label Unitarianism as Arianism as if Arius invented it, but he didn’t.  While what Arius taught completely about his viewpoint is unknown and we don’t know how much it resembles scriptural Unitarianism in its entirety Arius just tried to continue some of what had been received by most as correct doctrine since the Church began, that Jesus was a man, a very special man, inferior to God, and certainly not God himself.

Also, in regards to terminology, there is a bias in being known as anti-anything,  For example, anti-abortion paints people as a negative while pro-life paints people in a positive. Is the other camp pro-choice or anti-fetal rights?  While Trinitarians like to call Unitarians “anti-trinitarian” they weren’t anti-trinitarian because Trinitarianism didn’t exist so there wasn’t even anything to be “anti” against at that in the first century. If anything, it is Trinitarians that are anti-Unitarian because Unitarianism predates Trinitarianism. And that makes Anathasius, Constantine, the majority of the Nicene council, and every one up to now that is Trinitarian “anti-Unitarian”.

Once again, as Merriam-Webster defines a Unitarian as someone who believes that the Deity exists only in one person, then they, the original Christian believers were Unitarian.  Unitarianism, though, has been seen in different forms.

Here’s another quote showing that Unitarianism came first, that it is the Apostles’ tradition:

“Unitarianism as a theological movement began much earlier in history; indeed it antedated trinitarianism by many decades. Christianity derives from Judaism, and Judaism was strictly Unitarian. The road which led from Jerusalem to Nicaea was scarcely a straight one. Fourth century trinitarianism did not reflect accurately early Christian teaching regarding the nature of God; it was on the contrary a deviation from this teaching. It developed therefore against constant Unitarian or at least anti-Trinitarian opposition.[6]

What is Unitarianism?  Compared to the Trinity, Unitarianism is simple and uncomplicated without the impossible to understand incongruities that the Trinity carries with it.  The Father alone is God.  Jesus was a special man, fathered by God, but just a man who took on the assignment of our salvation and died for our sins, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of God. As God is holy, and God is spirit, holy spirit is just God in action. Holy spirit is the term used when the power of God is communicated in creation and inspiration.  It’s that simple.

As Judaism is and was strictly Unitarian, no Jew misunderstood King David when he wrote:

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me. Don’t throw me from your presence, and don’t take your holy Spirit from me. (Psa 51:10-11 WEB)

David would have been shocked had someone said to him that the holy spirit he was talking about was another person in a triune Godhead! David understood that the holy spirit he had was his connection to God, placed upon him for inspiration and guidance. His request shows how God uses the holy spirit to form a relationship with him. He begs the father to not discard him and take his holy spirit away from him because he knows when his holy spirit is gone from him he is no longer in God’s presence. Remember that in the Old Testament holy spirit was placed upon select people whereas Christ made it available for all believers to receive the holy spirit in us. David’s predecessor, Saul, is an example of someone who lost his holy spirit in Old Testament times.

The original Christians believed that Jesus was subordinate to the father, not coequal, not coeternal, and not part of a Trinity!  Only the Father is God eternal!  Look at Jesus’ words:

This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and him whom you sent, Jesus Christ.  (Joh 17:3 WEB)

Jesus called the Father the only True God. That’s Unitarian doctrine. Jesus didn’t say they were God together, he said the Father is the only true God.

Paul, likewise, wrote of one God, the Father, and one Lord (Master, ruler, the guy in charge while he may have a boss).  Yahweh is God, while Jesus is Lord because Yahweh empowered him.

So, in this original Christian setting, who is the Father?

Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God. Yahweh is one. You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. (Deu 6:4-5 WEB)

The Lord God is one.  He is one person!  He alone is God.

Yahweh… says: “I am Yahweh, who makes all things; who alone stretches out the heavens; who spreads out the earth by myself;  (Isa 44:24b WEB)

Yahweh says he alone spread out creation.  Alone refers to a single person. Myself refers to one person! Yahweh says “I” here and in so many places. (Yes, there are a few places where the pronoun “we” is used but even there the verb indicates singular, not plural persons acting.) Yahweh is referred to as a person, but only one person.

Who is this God the Father, Yahweh? Yahweh’s declaration of his name to the children of Israel speaks loudly to who God is and how hard he is to comprehend to us mere humans.

Now Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the back of the wilderness, and came to God’s mountain, to Horeb. Yahweh’s angel appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the middle of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. Moses said, “I will go now, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When Yahweh saw that he came over to see, God called to him out of the middle of the bush, and said, “Moses! Moses!” He said, “Here I am.” He said, “Don’t come close. Take off your sandals, for the place you are standing on is holy ground.” Moreover he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look at God. Yahweh said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey; to the place of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite. Now, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to me. Moreover I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh, that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He said, “Certainly I will be with you. This will be the token to you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” Moses said to God, “Behold, when I come to the children of Israel, and tell them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you;’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What should I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM,” and he said, “You shall tell the children of Israel this: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”  (Exo 3:1-14 WEB)

God is not a person like you and me.  God is so awesome that we cannot look at him in our weak state.

“I am that I am” as a name is so powerful and speaks more to who God is than calling him just a person like the rest of us.

God named himself YHWH to which the vowels were added and became Yahweh, as it says in the next verse.

God said moreover to Moses, “You shall tell the children of Israel this, ‘Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and this is my memorial to all generations. (Exo 3:15 WEB)

Yahweh is the creator.  Scripture starts with the declaration that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  And as we read above (Isa 44:24) he did it alone.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen 1:1 WEB)

Now, in that creation, he created a lot of stuff, stars, worlds, etc.  He also created angels, though there is little about this in scripture.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. (Gen 2:1 ESV)

The host referred to above could mean all the stars, galaxies, planets, and such but it could also refer to angels.  Angels aren’t Yahweh, they are created spirit beings with power and responsibilities.

God alone is God, and his being, his power is beyond us to measure.

But will God in very deed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens can’t contain you; how much less this house that I have built! (1Ki 8:27 WEB)

But our God is in the heavens. He does whatever he pleases. (Psa 115:3 WEB)

Great is our Lord, and mighty in power. His understanding is infinite. (Psa 147:5 WEB)

We can’t fathom his thought processes, his mind, his intelligence.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa 55:9 WEB)

God speaks and things happen.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways,” says Yahweh. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain comes down and the snow from the sky, and doesn’t return there, but waters the earth, and makes it grow and bud, and gives seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so is my word that goes out of my mouth: it will not return to me void, but it will accomplish that which I please, and it will prosper in the thing I sent it to do. (Isa 55:8-11 WEB)

God’s word, his planning, his intelligence, his Logos, gets spoken and starts to work at the same time.

Now, while this does say that God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are so much higher than our thoughts that we can’t understand them, we can understand the things that he tells us.

The secret things belong to Yahweh our God; but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deu 29:29 WEB)

Yes, God is this incredible reality beyond our comprehension, but we can understand what he tells us because he knows what we will be able to understand and he wants us to know some things.  There is one and only way to know something about Yahweh; what he has revealed to us, the other things are secret.

In the physical world, we have a grasp of a lot of things and can experiment to test to see how things are.  That’s science. That’s inductive reasoning, and we can use it in the physical world to learn things.

Beyond what he has revealed we cannot be sure of how God works or his nature because he is so beyond our understanding.  Beyond what is revealed cannot be determined because of the uncertainty of trying to figure out something beyond measure and beyond our comprehension. Yes, we know some things he has revealed in his word, but there is so much that we don’t know that we cannot make determinations about what is not revealed.

But as it is written, “Things which an eye didn’t see, and an ear didn’t hear, which didn’t enter into the heart of man, these God has prepared for those who love him.” But to us, God revealed them through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For who among men knows the things of a man, except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so, no one knows the things of God, except God’s Spirit. But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that were freely given to us by God. Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual things. Now the natural man doesn’t receive the things of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to him, and he can’t know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1Co 2:9-14 WEB)

The words in these verses are all about the futility of trying to understand the nature and workings of God through human means like philosophizing and making hypotheses and testing them with inductive logic, incorporated with deductive logic and a priori assumptions, and the like which is how the doctrine of the Trinity was constructed.  Men can’t understand God with philosophy, human wisdom.  That’s what the verse above says.

“God revealed them through the Spirit” is how we know things about God!  Natural man can’t know them because they are spiritually discerned.

We know the things freely given to us by God via the spirit. That is what scripture says.  It also says we can’t know them with man’s wisdom.  Our philosophies (wisdom of men) can teach a lot of things but not things of the spirit of God. If we know a truth from God it has been spiritually discerned either by prophecy in scripture or personal revelation (refers more to things happening in a person’s life).

Jesus Christ in Unitarianism is a man who accepted the commission to be the Messiah.  Jesus clearly taught that by himself he did not have God’s power, but he was just following God the Father in what he did. Therefore, he is God’s appointed agent, his Messiah, his Christ. Here Yahweh’s Messiah talks about his relationship to the Father:

Jesus therefore answered them, “Most certainly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father doing. For whatever things he does, these the Son also does likewise. (Joh 5:19 WEB)

Jesus can do nothing of himself!  God can do things of himself, Jesus can’t. Jesus is subordinate.

Jesus was a man, a seed (offspring) of Eve, who was promised to rectify the debacle in the Garden of Eden when the Devil deceived Eve into sinning and Adam followed suit.

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Gen 3:15 KJV)

Jesus was special in that he was the second Adam, and born by the power of the holy spirit.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. (Mat 1:18 KJV)

And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. (1Co 15:45 KJV)

Jesus, being a man, didn’t know everything, he was limited in certain ways and had to grow as all people do.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (Luk 2:52 WEB)

But no one knows of that day and hour, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father only. (Mat 24:36 WEB)

But Jesus fulfilled his mission!  And Jesus was elevated to God’s second in command when he fulfilled that mission and was raised from the dead.  All power is given to him, except it is known that it is God the Father that gives him this power and is truly God over all, even over Christ.

This Jesus God raised up, to which we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted by the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this, which you now see and hear. (Act 2:32-33 WEB)

Still in all this Christ is subject to the Father as it says in the following verse.

The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For, “He put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when he says, “All things are put in subjection”, it is evident that he is excepted who subjected all things to him. When all things have been subjected to him, then the Son will also himself be subjected to him who subjected all things to him, that God may be all in all. (1Co 15:26-28 WEB)

The above verse says that God the Father put Christ over all things except the Father.  Everywhere and at all times Jesus was and is subordinate to the Father.

God is holy spirit because God is holy and God is spirit.  That is just who he is.  Whenever holy spirit is used in scripture it refers to God inspiring and empowering others in the gift he gives to us.

For I am Yahweh your God. Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am holy. (Lev 11:44a WEB)

God is spirit…” (Joh 4:24a WEB)

There it is: God is holy and God is spirit; God is holy spirit. When we believe, Yahweh gives us some of his holy spirit;

Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Act 2:38 WEB)

Yahweh communicates with the spirit he puts in us;

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God; (Rom 8:16 WEB)

Yahweh empowers us through his spirit;

that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that you may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; (Eph 3:16 WEB)

Yahweh enables different gifts to people through holy spirit;

Having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us, if prophecy, let’s prophesy according to the proportion of our faith; or service, let’s give ourselves to service; or he who teaches, to his teaching; or he who exhorts, to his exhorting; he who gives, let him do it with generosity; he who rules, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.  (Rom 12:6-8 WEB)

That is the Apostles’ tradition, what they handed down to us.  It’s what they put in practice.  It is what we are charged to follow in 2Tim 2:15 and other places.

Compared to the incomprehensible doctrine of the Trinity Unitarianism is a welcome breeze of fresh air.  It is much simpler.  It is understandable.  It is freeing not to be bound under the weight of the mind-boggling complexities of the Trinity, a man-made doctrine that took centuries to formulate, and then the Roman Church took extreme measure to enforce compliance to point that it is still embedded in so many Christian lives today.

Be free from the ravages of this incomprehensible doctrine.  If the Father is God and the Son is God and the Spirit is God why aren’t they equal to each other? In Philosophy that is called incongruence. It doesn’t work.  Where in scripture does it say that Jesus had two wills? Yet that is what the doctrine of the Trinity demands because Scripture says that God cannot be tempted but Jesus was tempted in all ways.  The incongruities go on and on. Be like the original Christians, accept the Unitarian view, God the Father alone is God, Jesus Christ, a man, was the son of God, and holy spirit refers to God in action with us as he gives the gift of holy spirit to men and interacts with them.

Always remember that we are charged by the Apostles to follow their tradition.

So then, brothers, stand firm, and hold the traditions which you were taught by us, whether by word, or by letter. (2Th 2:15 WEB)

In closing, I want to ask an interesting question. What do Henry W Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Cullen Bryant, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, John Q Adams, Millard Fillmore, William H Taft, and Daniel Webster all have in common? The answer is they were all Unitarians![7]  So were Isaac Newton and John Milton.[8] These are just some of the many notable people that have realized the truth in this area.  This is not a doctrine believed by just unlearned and ignorant men.

It’s time for all who call upon the name of the Lord to embrace Unitarianism again.

_______________________________________________________

Further Reading on Christian Unitarianism (including links to resources available online)

Encyclopedia Americana, 1920 Edition, Vol XXVII, p. O301 available online at https://ia800305.us.archive.org/33/items/encyclopediaame23unkngoog/encyclopediaame23unkngoog.pdf. This article in this century old Encyclopedia Americana is the better part of 10 pages long and reflects that Unitarianism was more known then. Find the topic Unitarianism

Statement of Reasons For Not Believing The Doctrines of the Trinitarians, Andrews Norton, London, 1846

The Doctrine of the Trinity, Anthony F. Buzzard and Charles F. Hunting, Atlanta Bible College and Restoration Fellowship, 1990

The Elements of Unitarianism, George Chryssides, Element Books, Dorset, 1998

The Epic of Unitarianism, David B. Parke, Skinner House Books, Boston, 1957

The History of The Doctrine of the Trinity The True Scriptural Picture, http://www.antipas.org/books/trinity/trinity1.html  

The Trinity: True Or False? Peter J. Southgate, Dawn Book Supply, 1995, A Christadelphian book available at https://www.the1way.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/THE-TRINITY-true-or-false-2nd-edition.pdf

The Racovian Catechism, available at http://thehumanjesus.org/media/pdf/The_Racovian_Catechism.pdf

The Two Treatises of Servetus on the Trinity, Michael Serveto, Translated by Earl Morse Wilbur, Wipf & Stock, Eugene, Published 2013

One God & One Lord : Reconsidering the Cornerstone of Christian Faith, Mark H Graeser, John A. Lynn, John W Schoenheit, Christian Educational Services, 2000

One God Over All (Class), Living Hope International Ministries, available at https://lhim.org/lhim-class/?id=84

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[1] Much of the groundwork for this has already been laid. In 03.25.1 The Great Councils Continued, Finishing the Development of Trinitarian Doctrine and Related Issues; Over 500 Years of Debate on the Nature of Christ and the Trinity we see that the Trinity was a slowly developed doctrine based on philosophical arguments that started early in the second century and was initially put in place at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.  That article explains how beliefs changed from original Christianity slowly and all of the changes to fully develop the Trinity weren’t fully in place until the seventh century A.D.  It also explains that in the process of developing this doctrine, extra-biblical terms and thinking processes were used to formulate it.
Also, the co-equality and co-eternality of the persons in the Trinity are building blocks of Trinitarian doctrine.  In John 1 – The meaning of the Logos; The Slippery Slope of Applying Mathematical Precision to Language Expressions. the true meaning of the Logos is presented. And it is shown that this section of John’s gospel does not substantiate the Trinitarian view.  Not only that, it is recognized and shown in the article that originally Christianity was not Trinitarian, but was actually Unitarian and this is written in sources such as:
The Encyclopaedia Britannica Vol.23 :  Internet Archive p.963, says “the Trinitarians and the Unitarians continued to confront each other, the latter at the beginning of the 3rd century still forming the large majority”[1].
Furthermore, it is impossible to prove the trinity without the a priori assumption of a triune God.  Only Trinitarian Christians believe in a triune God. Despite some imaginative research into Jewish writings, look at any Jewish site for support of the Trinity and you won’t find any. The original Apostles were all Jewish and believed likewise. Look at this statement on the Jewish encyclopedia.
(Despite arguments by Trinitarians purporting that the Jews believed in the Trinity),” The controversies between the Christians and the Jews concerning the Trinity centered for the most part about the problem whether the writers of the Old Testament bore witness to it or not, the Jews naturally rejecting every proof brought forward by their opponents.” (TRINITY: https://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14519-trinity).
According to Supplement to Trinity, Judaic and Islamic Objections, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/trinity/judaic-islamic-trinity.html, it is generally accepted that neither Jews nor Muslims believe in a triune God.  As the number of people believing in the trinity is not even a majority of persons this a priori assumption has poor justification.
Much of this including a priori assumptions is also discussed in Philosophy in Christianity – Welcome Addition or Intrusion of Worldly Reasoning?  A priori comes from the Latin meaning “before”. A priori claims are things that you can base your argument on because they are self-evident.  You don’t have to prove these claims because everyone knows that they are true, or at least that is the claim of the philosopher.  In math, all angles in a triangle add up to 180 degrees.  When you are arguing math, you don’t have to prove that.  Or that 1+1=2. In your argument, you can assume them to be true. When you use a priori claims you are starting with an assumption that something is true.  That is part of this process.

Do all math knowledgeable Christians, Jews, Muslims, and every other kind of religion all believe that the angles in a triangle add up to 180°? There is no dispute, no matter the religion on that claim. But, do all Christians, Jews, Muslims, and every other kind of religion all believe that God is triune? Of course, the answer is no, they do not. While some Christian groups have attempted to “prove” the existence of Trinitarian ideology in Jewish writings, there are no Jews or Muslims that believe in a triune God. That makes using the existence of a triune God as an a priori claim not justified. The original Apostles were all Jews and didn’t believe in the Trinity.

Additionally, in these and other articles, scripture verses that are used to preach the Trinity are shown that they don’t actually prove the Trinity as it is defined. Part of the reason for this that some verses are mistranslated to appear to substantiate the Trinity when they do not.  For example, things created on account of Jesus Christ are not the same as things created by Jesus Christ. That all things were written on account of Jesus Christ is what is written, and so forth.

[2] The Church of the First Three Centuries, Alva Lamson D.D., Horace Fuller, Boston, 1880, p.80 available at https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Church_of_the_First_Three_Centuries/i21QAQAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&printsec=frontcover

[3] The Encyclopaedia Britannica Vol.23 :  Internet Archive p.963

[4] Encyclopedia Americana, Vol 23,  page 301.

[5] Encyclopedia Americana, 1920 Edition, Vol XXVII, p. O301 available online at https://ia800305.us.archive.org/33/items/encyclopediaame23unkngoog/encyclopediaame23unkngoog.pdf. This article in the Encyclopedia Americana is the better part of 10 pages long. In a much more recent addition of the World Book Encyclopedia, the entry on Unitarianism was a long paragraph, a fraction of a page. That again demonstrates that the prominence of Unitarianism, the original belief of Judaism and its successor Christianity, has been slowly hidden over time. In searching the library catalog of my local library, there were no whole books on Unitarianism, and there were three books that had small references to the subject while a century ago Unitarianism was still a huge topic as demonstrated by the size of the entry into this encyclopedia that is about a century old!

[6] Encyclopedia Americana, volume 27, 1956, P. 2941, quoted in The Doctrine of the Trinity, Anthony F. Buzzard and Charles F. Hunting, Atlanta Bible College and Restoration Fellowship, 1990 P. 19

[7] Encyclopedia Americana, 1920 Edition, Vol XXVII, p. O301 available online at https://ia800305.us.archive.org/33/items/encyclopediaame23unkngoog/encyclopediaame23unkngoog.pdf

[8] The Doctrine of the Trinity, Anthony F. Buzzard and Charles F. Hunting, Atlanta Bible College and Restoration Fellowship, 1990 P. 112-113

revised 11/3/2021

John 1 – The meaning of the Logos; The Slippery Slope of Applying Mathematical Precision to Language Expressions

This is a rewrite of an article published a dozen or so years ago with more insight hopefully to make clearer what the beginning of the Gospel of John actually says.  As John 1:1-14 is not literal the original article focused on how languages are imprecise and could be misleading if someone tried to take the section literally,  In this rewrite, I have added more on the actual meaning of John chapter one, and that is where I want to start.

As always on this website, our goal is to discover what the original Christians believed in order to see how we got from what the scriptures actually say to the myriad denominations and traditions that disagree on so many things today, no matter how different it may be from what we think right now.

First, thinking that the first chapter of John is the first place that the concept of the logos, the word of God, in operation and as part of creation is discussed in the manner it is presented is a mistake. More likely it is God’s response to a topic already prevalent in the culture. As we will see later the concept of logos had developed in the culture at that time to take on a meaning that was very similar to and integrated with how wisdom was presented in Old Testament scripture.  This concept is recognized by writers from different denominational backgrounds today. I found an interesting article explaining just this by a Catholic priest.[1]

Part of the problem in this topic is that many people today don’t understand the concept of personification, Or, if they do, they don’t recognize it at times, like we are going to be looking at in scripture.  Look at these examples:

Let the sea roar with its fullness; the world, and those who dwell therein. Let the rivers clap their hands. Let the mountains sing for joy together. Let them sing before Yahweh, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity. (Psa 98:7-9 WEB)

These verses say that there are rivers that clap their hands and mountains that sing. What vivid imagery! What a powerful way to communicate. These nonhuman things, rivers, and mountains are talked about as people. That’s personification.

The waters saw you, God. The waters saw you, and they writhed. The depths also convulsed. (Psa 77:16 WEB)

Here’s another example. People writhe and convulse, waters really don’t. That’s personification. But what powerful imagery.

Yahweh said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries to me from the ground. (Gen 4:10 WEB)

Or how about this one? Blood may be part of a human, but it’s not a person. Yet this blood is “crying from the ground”. What a powerful impact these words make. That’s personification.

Look at how wisdom is personified in places in the Old Testament

Doesn’t wisdom cry out? Doesn’t understanding raise her voice? On the top of high places by the way, where the paths meet, she stands. Beside the gates, at the entry of the city, at the entry doors, she cries aloud: “To you men, I call! I send my voice to the sons of mankind…Yahweh possessed me in the beginning of his work, before his deeds of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, before the earth existed. When there were no depths, I was born, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was born; while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the beginning of the dust of the world. When he established the heavens, I was there; when he set a circle on the surface of the deep, when he established the clouds above, when the springs of the deep became strong, when he gave to the sea its boundary, that the waters should not violate his commandment, when he marked out the foundations of the earth; then I was the craftsman by his side. I was a delight day by day, always rejoicing before him, rejoicing in his whole world. My delight was with the sons of men.  (Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 WEB) [bolded emphasis added]

In the very first verse above wisdom and understanding are described as a person. “Doesn’t understanding raise her voice?” “She stands.”  “She cries out.” These are all sentences talking about a nonhuman thing as if it were a person. Personification is the figure of speech used here.

Personification is a figure of speech in which an idea or thing is given human attributes and/or feelings or is spoken of as if it were human. Personification is a common form of metaphor in that human characteristics are attributed to nonhuman things.[2]

In the above verses from Proverbs, we see that one of the ways that Jews thought about wisdom was to describe it as a wondrous lady. This wondrous lady, wisdom, was there from the beginning before the earth existed. She is described as the craftsman by Yahweh’s side. She’s described as of delight of the Lord. But wisdom is not a person. Wisdom is a quality that is extremely valuable. Wisdom is the capacity to understand and act accordingly. Wisdom is such an awesome thing, but it is not a person. Yet the Old Testament talks about it as if it were, this is one of the ways that the Jews thought about things.

Next, in verses 24 and 25 of Proverbs 8, it says this “I was born.”  Since wisdom was born, it is a created thing, it had a beginning.

Solomon is credited as the author of Proverbs. One source lists Solomon’s life as from 989 to 931 BC.[3] When Solomon wrote proverbs the Logos was not the concept that it would become later. Proverbs’ discussion of wisdom predates the promotion of the concept of the Logos especially the Stoic philosophy that was influential in the world at the time of the Apostles and which started around the fourth century BC.  The Stoics believed in the Logos as the animating, intelligent principle of the universe. The Stoics promoted seeking God’s wisdom in people’s lives by tapping into God’s powerful intelligence, i.e., the Logos.

“The Stoics believed that to achieve freedom, happiness, and meaning one should attune one’s life to the wisdom of God’s will, manifest in the second distinction (above) of Logos.”[4]

In the above statement we have a correlation between wisdom and the Logos that was part of contemporary thinking at the time of the apostles.

Having explained all this I make this claim, trying to take John 1:1-14 literally and mathematically analyze the wording to equate God, Jesus, and the Logos in the prologue of John’s gospel is a mistake and doesn’t reflect the meaning of the concept of Logos at all.  John 1:1-14 is not literal.  Just as wisdom is presented with the figure of speech personification, so is the Logos in John chapter one.

Just as today there are topics that are discussed around the world like evolution, Islamic Jihadism, communism, and so forth, there were concepts that were just as heavily discussed 2000 years ago.  We have already discussed the Stoic emphasis on the Logos but they were not alone in discussing the Logos in their writings.  Philosophers, religious writers, and others, one after another, identified the Logos in their scheme of reasoning as a divine principle in the grand scheme of life. Before the Stoics began incorporating the idea of the Logos there was Heraclitus centuries before them. And not only was the Logos part of Greek philosophical discussion it was in Indian, Egyptian, and Persian thinking, in their discussions of both philosophy and theology.[5]

In the previous article on stoicism, we discussed the stoic view of God, whom they defined as the Logos:

“… the universe is a single ordered whole, a perfect organism that unites within itself all that exists in the world. It is ruled by a supreme cosmic power, a fiery substance that the Stoics called Logos, Divine Reason, or God.  The Logos is the organizing, integrating, and energizing principle of the whole universe.  As a perfect entity, the universe combines within itself the Logos or Divine Reason, which is its soul, and matter, which serves as its body. Since everything is derived from God, everything is a part of God, but not separated or cut from the whole.  Each individual soul is a fragment of the universal Logos or God.”[6]

An individual who lived around the time of the writer of the gospel of John was the Jewish philosopher Philo. Philo wrote about the Logos.  Philo was familiar with the stoic interpretation of the Logos, but attempted to bring it closer to his understanding of the Old Testament.

“For the Stoics, logos was equally reason (individual and universal), nature, and God, while for Philo, logos is not ultimate reality but merely what we can see and understand of God, who is Himself very far from human comprehension. In Stoicism, logos is God; in Philo it corresponds to his specific doctrine of the dunameis, the powers of God who created the world and governs it.”[7]

These explanations of stoic and Philo’s interpretation of the Logos illustrate that the Logos was a concept people were talking about at the time that the gospel of John was written.  They also illustrate that there was debate about what it was.

Philo’s concept of the Logos as the dunameis, the power of God in action, is much closer to the explanation given in the prologue of the Gospel of John than any kind of quick mathematical analysis perfectly equating the Logos to both God and his Son.

More closely to the language of the times the prologue of John says that the Word of God is the powerful energized plan of God. It is God’s wisdom with dunamis power, This powerful energized plan of God has been with him from the beginning and is what we know about God the Father.

We see that energy in the Word of God (Logos) in Isaiah 55.

So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isa 55:11 KJV)

While man’s word may be powerless, as we see in the verse above, there is power in the word of God (the Logos).

In reality, as tiny, short-lived, finite beings we can only understand that part of God that he reveals to us. This Word of God, this plan of redemption that God set in motion, and revealed through the law and the prophets, and experienced through our spiritual connection with him is God to us.  But also in reality, the little bit of God that has been revealed to us cannot in any way fully express to our tiny minds who God is.  We will see more of this when we look at the translation of John 1:1 especially.

Now, onto the topic of trying to apply mathematical precision to language expressions because that is what a lot of people studying the Bible attempt to do with John chapter one. In a previous article, Grammar and Logic – Boring But Invaluable, I wrote “Another mistake is to substitute the logic of one discipline for another. An area where I have seen this kind of mistake is in the fields of mathematics and languages. For example, some people read the word “is” and ascribe to that word the mathematical definition of “equals”.”

One comment on the previous article was that a common-sense reading of John 1 is that the Word is someone and that someone is Jesus. This comment is taking the verses literally instead of recognizing that personification is being used here. That comment is saying that the Logos, the Word, is a person.  Then that person is equated to Jesus Christ.  That is taking the section literally and analyzing it mathematically.  The problem is that languages aren’t that precise, especially here which we shall see when we look at the Greek.

Greek, grammar, syntax, and mathematical notation are all boring, but they are the only way to know what something means. So, if you want to understand why it is important, you need to get through this more tedious part of the article

First of all, there is a mathematical language in the world that is used because it allows mathematicians to say things precisely.  There may be some English or other spoken language in Math but mainly it uses precise mathematical symbols.  For example, the following allows someone to express something precisely, in this case, part of Taylor’s Theorem:

I know, it looks like gibberish to a lot of people.  But, it’s not important what the above math says What’s important is that this statement is free from the ambiguity of English and other languages.  It’s precise.

On the other hand, you can’t just apply mathematical precision to English or other language expressions. For example, in mathematics, we have the axiom that two things that are both equal to a third thing are equal to each other. Or, as it is written mathematically, if a equals b, and b equals c, then a equals c. You can use this axiom ad infinitum. If c equals d also, then a would equal d, and so forth.

It is written like this:

If a = b and b = c, then a = c.

The difference is that the “=” symbol means equals. The word “is” may or may not mean “equals”.

This applies universally to expressions people use to communicate. Still, the temptation is to say that anywhere someone uses the word “is”, you can substitute the word “equals” and that is a slippery slope.

First, sometimes the logic does work, and here is an example:

Minerals are inanimate.  Quartz is a mineral.  Therefore, Quartz is inanimate.

The above is a syllogism, a concept introduced by Aristotle.

However, there are numerous examples where the word “is” doesn’t mean “equals”.  For example, US President Barack Obama (A) is a man (B). Nelson Mandela (C) is a man (B). Would anybody try to apply the above mathematical logic and say that Nelson Mandela is the U.S. president? Or that Nelson Mandela is Barack Obama?

Barack Obama (A) = a man (B) = Nelson Mandela (C)
Therefore Barack Obama (A) = Nelson Mandela (C).

That obviously doesn’t make sense! Nelson Mandela was at one time the President of South Africa and was a terrific world leader. Whether or not you agree with his politics Barack Obama held the power of the U.S. presidency, a position of great honor and power. Yet, trying to substitute “equals” for “is” equates Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama as the same man. These two both are men, but they do not equal each other; in fact, they are very different men. And in fact, there are no examples where one man would “equal” another. John McCain, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Peyton Manning, and James Earl Jones are all men. But we all agree John McCain is NOT Kobe Bryant who is NOT Lebron James who is NOT Peyton Manning who is NOT James Earl Jones.

Yet the application of mathematical precision to the word “is” as “equals” is exactly what many bible students do in the prologue of the gospel of John. The gospel of John says that the Logos is God.  It also says this same Logos was in the beginning with God.  A little further down the page, it says that the Logos became flesh and dwelt among men.  So, we have mathematically inclined students teaching that this is a mathematical expression. They say that the Logos equals God, that the Logos was in the beginning with God, and that the Logos was made flesh and dwelt among us. So, to them. we have a mathematical proof that Jesus is God, the God-man.

More specifically, defining “is” as “equals” to John 1 gives us this series of equations:

The Word = God

The  Word = Jesus Christ

Using the transitive property of mathematical precision we get:

The Word = God = Jesus Christ.

However, if you are going to apply mathematical precision defining “is” as “equals” to this statement then you need to apply it fully to all elements. The principle says that things equal to the same thing are equal to each other.  Why aren’t people saying that the Word is God?  There are three elements here all supposedly equal to each other, the Word, God (the Father), and Jesus (the word made flesh).  There is a trinity here, but there is no Holy Spirit.  The trinity here is God the Father, the Son, and the Word.  No one says that is the Trinity.

No one is saying that the Word fully equates to God, but if you apply their logic that would be the valid conclusion!

Here is more about how imprecise this language is. Take a look at John 1:1 in Greek. When the Greek refers to God the Father it uses the article “the”.  If it doesn’t include the article then it’s not referring to God the Father. Rather, it’s used to describe a “god” or even a magistrate, also used as a modifier like godly or godward.

Here’s is what Strong’s Greek Dictionary says about the word theos in Greek Texts:

Strong’s: 2316: theos: a deity, espec him. (with #3588, (the definite article “Ho”)): the supreme Divinity figuratively, a magistrate; by Heb. very:- exceeding, God, god [-ly, ward].

It is a little cryptic, but in Strong’s definition above, it says that the word theos with the definite article refers to the supreme Divinity. The supreme Divinity is God the Father. Otherwise, theos alone, without the definite article (ho), can refer to a god, or mean godly or godward.

Here’s the interlinear text:

Do you see how the Greek has “the God” the first place theos is used, but not the second?  The second place doesn’t say “the God” which is the Greek that refers to God Almighty.

So, the second place is more descriptive.  This is more accurate:

In this translation, I have used “godlike”.  As Strong’s says, I could have used godly.  When you don’t have the article, the meaning changes to “god” (small g) or becomes descriptive. In this verse “god” (small g) doesn’t work. So it is saying that the Logos is godlike.  The Logos is godly.  That phrase is absolutely not saying that the Logos is equal to “the God”.

The Greek text above does not even support the translation, “the Word was God”.  In order to even be accurately saying “the Word was God”, you really need an article before the word” God” in Greek.

However, most versions of the Bible have something like:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (Joh 1:1 WEB)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (Joh 1:1 ASV)

Again, in order for this verse to be saying that the Logos is actually God, it needs an article before God in Greek. These translations are imprecise, and as such, are misleading without the proper understanding.

John 1:1-14 personifies the Logos just like Proverbs chapter 8. Remember personification is treating a thing as if it were a person.  Wisdom in Proverbs was treated like a person, the Logos referred to here is treated like a person.  But neither is actually a person.  Yet the pronouns of she, he, him, and her in these verses refer to these non-human things, wisdom, and Logos (word).  I have added [wisdom] and [Logos] to the verses to emphasize that.

The prologue of John says that the Word of God, the Logos is wisdom with dunamis (a Greek word for dynamic power). This powerful energized plan of God has been with him from the beginning and is what we know about God the Father.

The same was in the beginning with God. (Joh 1:2 WEB)

This Logos, this Wisdom with dunamis power was there with him in the beginning just like it says in Prov 8:22.

“Yahweh possessed me [wisdom] in the beginning of his work, before his deeds of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, before the earth existed.
(Pro 8:22-23 WEB)

Both Logos and wisdom were there when things were being made.

All things were made through him [Logos]. Without him [Logos] was not anything made that has been made. (Joh 1:3 WEB)

Compare this to Proverbs chapter 8.

When he established the heavens, I [wisdom] was there; when he set a circle on the surface of the deep, when he established the clouds above, when the springs of the deep became strong, when he gave to the sea its boundary, that the waters should not violate his commandment, when he marked out the foundations of the earth; then I [wisdom] was the craftsman by his side. I [wisdom] was a delight day by day, always rejoicing before him, (Pro 8:27-30 WEB)

The Old Testament says wisdom, the Gospel of John says the Logos.  They are talking about the same thing, God’s power enabled wisdom, his energized plan.

In him [Logos] was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hasn’t overcome it. (Joh 1:4-5 WEB)

Compare that to:

For whoever finds me [wisdom], finds life, and will obtain favor from Yahweh. But he who sins against me [wisdom] wrongs his own soul. All those who hate me [wisdom] love death.” (Pro 8:35-36 WEB)

John 1:4 says the Logos is life, Proverbs 8:35 says wisdom is life. They are talking about the same thing.  The “him” in John 1 and the “me” in Proverbs 8 are the Logos, the wisdom. Again, this is the figure of speech, personification, calling an inhuman thing human.

Next, we have,

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hasn’t overcome it. There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. The same came as a witness, that he might testify about the light, that all might believe through him [Logos]. He was not the light, but was sent that he might testify about the light. (Joh 1:5-8 WEB)

This is the first time a real man is mentioned, John the Baptist.  He is part of this Wisdom, this Logos, and was sent to bear witness to the Light.  John wasn’t the light, John wasn’t the Logos, but was sent that all might believe through him (the Logos spoken of as a person).

Next, look at:

The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world. He [Logos] was in the world, and the world was made through him [Logos], and the world didn’t recognize him [Logos]. He [Logos] came to his own, and those who were his own didn’t receive him [logos]. But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become God’s children, to those who believe in his name: who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. The Word [Logos] became flesh, and lived among us. We saw his [Logos’] glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. (Joh 1:9-14 WEB)

These verses have no parallel in Proverbs 8 because John is announcing that the Wisdom of Proverbs 8, this Logos, has generated a solution in the flesh.  The Word became flesh.  It wasn’t flesh before, but Wisdom, the Logos had been working toward it all along. Part of this plan was to produce a man that was capable of redeeming mankind.  Here’s how that happened.

The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore also the holy one who is born from you will be called the Son of God. (Luk 1:35 WEB)

This act allowed the Word of God, Wisdom in Proverbs 8, the Logos in John 1 to become flesh and enter the world in the person of Jesus Christ. This was God’s plan all along.  This was the seed promised to Eve. This was Savior promised by the prophets. This man was created to become the embodiment of this plan.  And as such, he was a man called to be the living Word of God. He was called to carry out God’s plan for redemption.

Jesus Christ, our Lord, is that human fulfillment of God’s energized wisdom, the logos. Just as the logos is God to us, but less than the total of all that God is, Jesus is that part of God’s plan that works to provide a human savior for mankind. As such, Jesus is the embodiment, the wisdom for that energized plan.  He is the living Word of God.  That is in no ways a small feat, but that does not make the living Logos equal to the creator

In original Christianity, the Logos, which is wisdom in Proverbs 8, had a beginning.  It was before the creation of the earth, but it was not co-eternal.  All of this is important because this first chapter in John in the third century was misconstrued to say that this Logos is co-eternal with God, a foundational piece of fourth-century theology.  However, this was not the belief of the original Apostles. To see that we read Justin Martyr who around 150 AD wrote that Jesus Christ existed, before his birth, but it was only in the mind of God.  Justin wrote of the Logos and the Son as subordinate to the Father.

“Justin’s emphasis is on the divine Logos, subordinate to God the father , yet his Son,  His agent, and one with Him in some true, though rather indefinite, sense.”[8]

No matter what people believe now, this is documentation of what original Christianity believed.  In original Christianity, the Logos had a beginning,  Jesus Christ had a beginning.

It wasn’t until Kallistos in the middle of the third century that the logos Christology taught that Jesus Christ was coeternal with God. And after him, Novation started using the terminology that Jesus Christ shared a “communion of substance”.[9] But this is hundreds of years after Pentecost and perhaps a hundred and fifty years after the passing of the apostles.

So, what we see is that the Trinitarianism that has been dominant since the fourth century didn’t even exist in the time of the original apostles. With the advent of incorporating philosophy with the apologists, we see concepts such as the Logos changing over time. But the original apostles and other Christian believers believed that the Logos, the wisdom of God, had a beginning and understood that it was a personification of something that God created because that is part of how they communicated. Yes, these concepts changed over time, but as it says in Encyclopedia Britannica, even going into the third century, Unitarianism (God as one person) was the dominant belief of Christianity. The Logos as a creation of God was still dominant even though it was changing from its original meaning in the church as the church embraced philosophy.

“Even after the elimination of Gnosticism the church remained without any uniform Christology; the Trinitarians and the Unitarians continue to confront each other, the latter at the beginning of the third century still forming the large majority.”[10]

As it says above, Unitarians still formed a large majority at the beginning of the third century, indicating the Original Christian church started out Unitarian.

I have to admit I was shocked the first time I saw this (and other reputable references pointing to the same outcome) in print.   I had read a lot of things about how the Trinity was developed over time and wasn’t in place originally but I had never read that while there was debate early on, it was Unitarianism that was in place originally, that it was still the dominant belief going into the third century. What an eye-opener!

So, not only is the wording insufficient to establish the Logos is actually God, we have the historical record that shows that the original Christians didn’t believe the Logos was God the Father but subordinate to the Father. They believed that God the Father alone is God. They believed that both the son and the Logos were inferior and subordinate to the Father.  The first chapter of John personifies the Logos as a person just as wisdom is personified in the Old Testament but neither makes Wisdom or the Logos actually God. They are god-like, they represent the best we can understand of who God is.

John chapter one is an insight both into Jewish thinking and an explanation of how God works. God knew what would happen before creation so part of creation is a plan to redeem man whom God knew would sin.  God made a plan and energized it.  Proverbs 8 calls that plan wisdom, John 1 calls that plan the Logos. Part of that plan was to make produce a seed of Eve that would step on the head of the adversary, and redeem us from sin. The Logos is still working and will work until the final victory.

[1] Logos as Fulfilment of Wisdom in Israel, https://www.faith.org.uk/article/september-october-2009-logos-as-fulfilment-of-wisdom-in-israel

[2] https://literarydevices.net/personification/

[3] http://timeline.biblehistory.com/event/solomon

[4] Logos, https://www.pbs.org/faithandreason/theogloss/logos-body.html

[5] Logos philosophy and theology, https://www.britannica.com/topic/logos

[6] The Story of Philosophy, Will Durant, Touchstone, Simon & Schuster New York, 1961. p.51

[7] https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/philo/

[8] A History of The Christian Church, Williston Walker, Scribner, New York, 1959, p. 47

[9] A History of the Christian church, P. 70

[10]  The Encyclopaedia Britannica Vol.23 :  Internet Archive p.963

 

11.76 The Waldenses, Why Believers Complied With Roman Catholic Doctrine, Bans on Reading the Bible, The Inquisition and other Repressive Measures

Waldo (also called Valdez) was a prosperous merchant of Lyons in 1176 AD. At that time, he was affected by the song of a wandering minstrel who was singing about the best way to God. He was affected by this verse:

Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  (Mat 19:21 WEB)

This verse struck right at the heart of Waldo. He set up modest funding for his wife and daughters to live on and gave the rest to the poor. He then left his family. He wore poor raiment. He chose to live by whatever people gave him and went away preaching.

Remember that Western Bibles then were written in Latin, of course, while Eastern Bibles were mainly Greek. Waldo was not trained to read these languages, but he got clergymen friends to make translations for him of at least portions. These are what are known as vulgar translations. A vulgar translation is something that is translated into the ordinary, common language of the day which for Waldo was that of southern France around the end of the 12th century.

Waldo procured his vulgar New Testament and proceeded to study it intently as well as spread around copies. Within a year he was joined by both men and women and they all set out to preach repentance, calling themselves “poor in spirit”.

In 1179 they asked the third Lateran Council for permission to preach. The Council didn’t consider them heretical at that point but they did take them as ignorant laymen and Pope Alexander III denied permission.

Let’s compare the response of Pope Alexander III and the council to that of Annas the high priest and the Jewish leaders in the book of Acts:

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and had perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled. They recognized that they had been with Jesus…They called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.  (Act 4:13 WEB)

There is a pattern here.  Both the high priest with Jewish leaders and the pope with council leaders elevated the importance of intellect and tradition above following the simplicity that is in the scriptures.  They only respected intelligent, learned people.  Common people without higher education in the field they called ignorant and rejected them.  This was their standard and while they may have been aware that these ignorant people were doing something spiritually significant, they didn’t respect it and dismissed them as ignorant.

And it’s not that Waldo was able to see the way back to everything in the apostles’ tradition. There’s no evidence that Waldo’s followers manifested Holy Spirit, believed in the baptism of the Spirit even, or prophecy. They still kept the rituals of confession and communion as well as Orthodox doctrines like the deity of Christ. But it was a start. They saw some things that they recognized as unbiblical and they sought the change them.  That’s how all reformation and restoration movements are. People’s eyes are opened that something or some things in the current system are not the word of God, and they seek to change to a better practice that is more biblical.

Just as the Roman Catholic Church has incrementally built up a system over many centuries that has moved away from the purity of the word of God people have instituted reform and restoration incrementally. Waldo was just one in a line of men like Jan Hus and John Wycliff that were addressing deviations from Scripture before the major reformers. Their work culminated in men like Martin Luther and John Calvin bringing the process into fruition by redefining for people concepts such as redemption, grace, and faith and starting churches that taught those things.  With the reformers came the desire and drive for the people in the church to return to Scripture as the authority for faith and practice.

It’s awesome what all these men started. But their work was just the start. While Waldo did follow a model of universal priesthood, Luther and Calvin did not abandon the clergy/laity distinctions and a lot of the other unbiblical practices. They did not embrace speaking in tongues and the manifestations of the spirit in their practice, rather crediting those practices just to the original apostles’ time. Luther certainly challenged the role of philosophy in the church but he still accepted philosophy as part of theology. All of these men are part of the start of the return to original Christianity, but the church is still far from it.  Reformation and restoration has been an incremental process, and it is still going on. Waldo was an early leader.

Waldo and his followers considered the pope’s refusal false in the eyes of God and chose to continue preaching their message to the people. Pope Lucius III excommunicated them in 1184.

Waldo’s group came to be called the Waldenses.  They were later lumped into the group of heretical groups by the Church, but they weren’t dualists, believing in multiple gods, or living licentious lives like a number of the other groups. In fact, they would be considered as orthodox as any Protestant church today.

Waldo and his small group were soon growing a considerable following who chose to leave the Roman Catholic Church. Another group called the Humiliati was also interested in living a life that was common and penitent.  They also were excommunicated by the pope and now joined the Waldenses.

Very important to us, the chief tenet of the Waldenses was that the Bible, especially the New Testament, was the sole rule of belief and practice for the church. They sought to follow it to the letter. According to New Testament teaching, they went out two by two, living on the gifts of the hearers. They rejected the mass and prayers for the dead, they denied purgatory. They rejected most sacraments. They defended lay preaching. They ordained bishops, priests, and deacons from their own ministry. They denied the privileges of the priest’s office and proclaimed that any righteous man could perform the duties in alignment with the priesthood of all believers.

The Roman Church’s position at this time was that only Roman Catholic ordained priests could perform the sacraments, and it didn’t matter whether they were worthy or not, the sacraments would still be valid. The Waldenses objected to this doctrine

They had both a large following in public, and a number of secret followers who appeared to remain loyal to the Roman Catholic Church but were supporting the Waldenses.

Conflicts of opinion between the original faction of the Waldenses and the Lombard branch grew and resulted in a split by 1210 A.D. The group was not able to resolve the differences. In 1208 Pope Innocent the third had countered by organizing the pauperes catholici, a new religious order under the strict oversight of the Roman Catholic Church that had some similarities to the Waldenses. This was successful in retrieving some of the previously excommunicated people from the group, but by no means, all.  This new group did not last long though.

The Waldenses was an attempt like others for believers to get back to the word of God.  They didn’t go all the way back to scripture in everything but they were moving in the right direction and the Catholic church continued making moves to stamp it out. Missionary efforts failed, and Innocent III started an actual crusade against them in 1209 A.D. This resulted in 20 years of warfare!

In 1229 a synod was held in Toulouse. That synod went to the extreme step of forbidding the laity to even possess the Scriptures except for a few items used in services. All translations were denounced. While no universal ban was formally issued against Bible reading by the laity this tactic was used in other places and served as a deterrent.

The synod at Toulouse is also significant because it is credited with being the beginning of the Inquisition. The topic of the punishment of heretics had been an ongoing debate in light of the Waldenses as well as other previous groups such as the Cathari and the Manichaeans. While higher-ups in the church didn’t always support killing heretics the death penalty was clearly established for this crime (heresy) by Roman law. In recent times heretics had been killed by fire or at the hands of mobs. Peter I of Aragon had formally ordered the execution by fire of heretics in 1197. Pope Innocent III had declared that heresy, as treason against God was worse than treason against king or government. So, all of those kinds of punishments for heresy were already in play by the time of the synod at Toulouse.

The synod at Toulouse decided to start the systematic investigation and punishment of heresy, the start of the Inquisition. Inquisitors from the Dominican order were drafted. A papal bull by Innocent IV empowered the inquisitors with the power to torture. They were also allowed to confiscate property which was then distributed among lay authorities. Both the Cathari and the Waldenses were greatly repressed in the century following the start of the Inquisition.  However, the Waldenses did survive in pockets, mainly the Alps, until the Reformation when they began to practice more freely.

For the Protestant and Restoration worlds, this lesson explains the difficulty in even attempting to return to the word of God in life and practice and why it has been so hard for so long. Doing something for so long in the culture also makes changing it a hard habit to break. Right or wrong, it becomes ingrained in the fabric of people’s lives. Roman Catholic tradition was beaten into the fabric of Christian culture for most of the life of Christianity. And what were people going to compare Roman Catholicism to? Even reading the bible was a dangerous activity in many of those times.

Yet the Waldenses sprang up.  The Waldenses’ first priority was striving to follow the teachings of the New Testament. They challenged the sacraments, the teachings,  the authority of the Roman Church to decide such matters.  Starting with Roman government involvement in the running of the church the punishment for disagreeing with the established church was life-changing, to say the least, and not in a good way. Besides the death penalty mentioned above, if they did let you live, you could lose your job whether in the church or not. You could lose your possessions. There was the death penalty.  And a group that succeeded in spite of those weapons could see war waged against them.

Forced compliance with Roman Catholic doctrine resulting in various severe punishments started all the way back to Constantine and escalated to the Inquisition where Bishops were charged with rooting out heresy and removing it or they could lose their jobs as well as be punished.  The Inquisition brought a new level of persecution to those who disagreed with Roman Catholic doctrine. Inquisitors who were allowed to remain anonymous started a reign of terror where they tortured people for their disagreement with the supposedly apostolic decisions of the church.  Remember so many of these decisions were called apostolic, even the decision to have these punishments and the Inquisition.   Confiscating heretics property which different parties could get a share of added fuel to the fire.

The Roman Catholic Church used the big carrot of proclaiming themselves the continuation of Jesus’ and his apostles’ ministry in everything they did, but they carried a huge stick for anyone who disagreed with them as seen in the penalties they inflicted on those they proclaimed heretical.

In the Roman Catholic Church, there was no right to free speech even to people that didn’t seem that heretical like the Waldenses.  The Roman Catholic Church policed what people said, what they read, employed extreme measures, including starting crusades against groups proclaimed heretical as well as the Inquisition, in order to maintain its grip on controlling what was taught about anything Christian.

And, as far as the Waldenses, the Roman Catholic Church sent an army after these brave believers who only wanted to get away from the increasingly unbiblical practices of the Catholic Church and return to the simplicity of the Bible. Only a small fraction of them survived until the Reformation.

Bibliography

A History Of The Christian Church, Williston Walker , Scribner, New York, 1958, p. 229-232

HERESIES, Heresy and Orthodoxy In The History Of The Church, Harold O. J. Brown, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Mass, 2000, p, 262-264

The Story Of Christianity, Justo L. Gonzales, Harper one, New York, 2010, P. 358, 363, 367

Encyclopedia Brittanica, Waldenses religious movement, Waldenses | Description, History, & Beliefs | Britannica

last edited 8/17/2021

Montanism

Montanism refers to a group of Christians who followed the teachings of Montanus who came into prominence in Phrygia in Asia Minor mid-second century.  Montanus was a former priest of Cybele, a goddess similar to Gaia who was revered as the Earth Mother. Prophecy was not new to the area as the cults of Men, Cybele, and Dyonysus were familiar in the area, and people were receptive to the idea of Christian prophets.

Montanus prophesied previously as a priest of Cybele, and after converting to Christianity, prophesied in Christianity.  But his manner of prophecy, according to an opponent, was to fall into a sort of frenzy and ecstasy, where he raved and babbled and uttered strange things.  He did also teach speaking in tongues and other gifts of the spirit.  According to Eusebius his manner of prophecy was different than the tradition of the church that had been handed down from the beginning.

Montanus declared that he was a vehicle of the Holy Spirit about 156 AD.[1]  Montanus preached the Paraclete of John 14:16 was working through him and two female companions, Maximilla and Priscilla, who claimed to have the same power of the spirit as Montanus.  The three of them claimed to be new prophets who had a new word from God that superseded the New Testament.  The Holy Spirit was still operational, according to them, but their doctrines were radical. They preached the end of the world was near and that the heavenly Jerusalem would be established in their area, Phyrgia.[2] People left their jobs and homes and poured into the local countryside as prophecies foretold of wars, martyrdom, and instructed fasts and abstinences.

At first, second marriages were forbidden, and then marriage itself was forbidden.  They practiced extreme fasting and other forms of asceticism.  Montanists were critical of the church at large for not practicing the gifts of the holy spirit.

The movement of Montanism was exciting and received by a lot of people. Some participants were described as “boiling over with the Spirit” and the movement spurred a yearning for martyrdom.[3]  It lasted from the first until the sixth century. Frend describes the movement as having an “extraordinary tenacity” despite the failure of the prophecies to materialize.[4] While their views were extreme and extra-biblical Montanism represented that a significant number of the believers in the first century after Christ did not believe that the power of the Holy Spirit had ended. However, the failure of their prophecies to materialize worked to dissuade some against the continuing presence and power of the Spirit to manifest in their time.

As with all movements, not all people involved with the movement adhered to all of the beliefs.  For example, Tertullian, an early church father in the Latin heritage, converted to Montanism in the year 206.  Tertullian, while attracted to the teaching of the power of the Holy Spirit, differed from the originators of the sect in the excesses.  Tertullian had a powerful impact in changing the beliefs of Montanism.  Tertullian held to some of the beliefs of mainline Christianity of the time including the fullness of the spirit in the apostolic age.  Therefore, it appears that Montanism held to more orthodox views in the later centuries of its existence than at its beginning.

The asceticism of Montanism resurfaced in Monasticism in later centuries.[5]

It is interesting to note that as the world accepted orthodox Christianity, orthodox Christians were instrumental in the persecution of Montanists.  Constantine decreed that Montanists were to be deprived of their places of worship, forbidding their services.  The emperor Justinian in the sixth century literally wiped out the movement by gathering the Montanists together with their wives and children in their places of worship and setting the places on fire.

Some modern Pentecostalists have identified with Montanus with the same criticism of the mainline church as having abandoned the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  It needs to be noted, however, that, unlike Montanists, Pentecostals are devout in their belief in the New Testament, do not practice asceticism, and don’t promote abandoning the New Testament for new prophecy.

Things that identify this group then as heretical include abandoning the tradition of the Apostles that we are charged to follow, the push for martyrdom, the push for asceticism, and false prophecies.

[1] A History Of The Christian Church, Williston Walker, Scribner, New York, 1959, p. 56

[2] Walker p.56

[3] The Rise of Christianity, W.H.C. Frend, Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1984, P. 253-256

[4] Frend, p. 253-256

[5] Walker, p. 56

Other References

HERESIES, Heresy And Orthodoxy In The History Of The Church, Harold O. J. Brown, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Mass 2000, p, 66-68

INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARY OF PENTECOSTAL CHARISMATIC MOVEMENTS, Stanley Burgess, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2000

Last edited 8/10/2021


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