The conclusion, that the Bible makes a distinction between God and Jesus, and therefore that Jesus is not God, given how the New Testament uses the title “God,” came as a surprise to me personally. To confirm my conclusion, I studied various books of the New Testament. These studies are available as articles:
Summary of the articles below
The Bible provides much evidence for Christ’s divinity but also that He is distinct from God and subordinate to the Father. We must consider both sets of evidence. This article summarizes the articles on this website about the nature of Christ.
Specific Bible Books
Book of Revelation
This article analyzes the relationship between God and Jesus in the book of Revelation, including how it uses divine titles. It concludes that the Son is subordinate to the Father, but also belongs with the Father when compared to the created universe.
Colossians Part 1
The roles of God and Christ in the letter to the Colossians – Are we saved by Christ or by God? Who created all things and who reconciled all things to God; God or Christ Jesus?
Colossians Part 2
This article discusses the view of Jesus in the letter to the Colossians; is Jesus God? Is He equal to the Father? Or is He a created being?
Specific Bible Passages
Philippians 2:5-11 describes four chronological stages of Christ’s life – before He became man – His human life – His death – and His exaltation after His ascension. Do these verses describe Him as God? If Jesus is not God, why will every knee bow to Him?
1 Corinthians 8:6
1 Corinthians 8:6 shows that God is the Father alone. Trinitarians counter by saying that Jesus is God because (1) He co-created with God, (2) “God” and “Lord” are synonyms, and (3) this verse divides the words of the Shema between the Father and the Son.
Did Jesus claim to be God?
In this verse, the Jews accused Jesus of claiming to be God. Based on Jesus’s debate with the Jews in this chapter, what did Jesus claim to be? Is verse 33 correctly translated? Or did Jesus, in John 10:36, claim to be THE Son of God?
I and the Father are one.
This article discusses three statements by Jesus that are often thought to mean that He is God Himself, namely “I and the Father are one,” “The Father is in Me, and I in the Father,” and “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 10:30; 38; 14:9).
Origin and Pre-Existence
As the “only-begotten,” Jesus is the only being generated from the being of the Father. But some argue that monogenēs should not be translated as “only begotten” but as “only unique.” This article motivates why “only begotten” is correct.
Firstborn Of All Creation This article argues that Colossians 1:15 refers to the Son as the firstborn in a literal sense, namely that He literally was the first to exist. But since He was “born,” He was not created. Rather, He, Himself is “the Beginning” (Col 1:18; Rev 3:14) of all creation.
Jesus existed before his birth.
The Son always existed in the form of God and was equal to God, but was sent by God, emptied Himself, and descended from heaven to be born as a human being.
God created through His Son.
God created all things through Jesus Christ. As begotten of God, the Son was not created. Since the Son also created time, He ‘always’ existed. But of the reality beyond time – the source of the universe – we know nothing.
Jesus in the Old Testament
Jesus always existed for God created all things through Him. We must, therefore, find Jesus in the Old Testament (OT). God is invisible but was seen in the OT. This article finds evidence of two divine beings in the OT, implying that one of them is Jesus.
Jesus is not God but subordinate to God.
Jesus is not God.
In the Trinity theory, God is one Being but three equal Persons. In contrast, the Bible always distinguishes between God and Jesus. For example, God is invisible but Jesus is visible, Jesus calls God His God, He is the image of God, and He is at God’s right hand.
Jesus is the Word of God.
Christ is the “Word of God” because everything that the creation receives from God, including existence, sustenance, knowledge, and salvation, flows through His Son. Also, through Christ, the adoration and thanksgiving of the creation flow back to God.
The Almighty is the Father.
The title, “the Almighty,” appears ten times in the New Testament. This article shows that the New Testament refers to the Father alone as “the Almighty.” Some verses make an explicit distinction, e.g., “the Lord God the Almighty AND the Lamb” (Rev 21:22).
The Son is subordinate to God.
The Son was subordinate to God before His birth and still is now after His ascension. Everything that the Son has, both as a human and eternally, He received from His Father, including His authority to raise the dead and to judge, and the Fullness of Deity.
If Jesus is not God, why must we worship Him? We may worship only God, but we must also worship Jesus. Does that mean that He is God? The English word “worship” implies worshiping God. The Greek word that is translated as worship (proskuneó) does not require the one worshiped to be God.
Summary of these articlesThe basic meaning of the Greek word translated as “God” (theos) is an immortal being with supernatural powers. To translate theos as “God” when it refers to Jesus is an application of the Trinity doctrine; not proof there-of.
What does theos mean?
The Greek word theos has a wide range of meanings, including false gods, God’s people, and the Almighty. The English word “God” refers only to the Almighty. This article analyses in what sense the New Testament refers to Jesus as theos.
John 1:18 – The Only Begotten God
Many ancient manuscripts of John 1:18 refer to Jesus as son and not as theos. In any case, the word “God” is an interpretation for theos means “god” and is only translated as “God” when the translator thinks that it refers to the Ultimate Reality.
John 20:28 – “My Lord and my God!“
Why did Thomas address Jesus as ho theos (literally, the god) in John 20:28? Thomas could not have called Jesus “my God” because Jesus never taught that He is God and because the disciples, at the time, did not think or teach that Jesus is God.
Is Jesus “God” in John’s gospel? The title “God” appears more than 100 times in John’s gospel and it consistently distinguishes between God and Jesus. Only 3 instances possibly refer to Jesus as God, but these instances are debatable. And John wrote that the Father is Jesus’ God.
Paul never refers to Jesus as God. He always distinguishes between Jesus and God. The huge variation in the translation of Romans 9:5 disqualifies it as evidence that Jesus is God. It depends on punctuation which, in the Bible, is interpretation.
Hebrews 1:8 refers to Jesus as theos but the next verse shows that He is NOT God for it says that God is His God. Furthermore, Hebrews 1:1-2, 6 makes an explicit distinction between Jesus and God and represents Jesus as subordinate to God.
John 1:1 is very important in the controversy over the deity of Christ. This article introduces the articles that discuss its translation, including alternative translations, and the meanings of “the Word,” “the beginning,” and “with God.”
The normal meaning of logos is “message.” Some propose that the logos in John 1:1 is not a person but a personification of God’s eternal plan. In Greek philosophy, the logos was the intermediary through whom God created all things.
The Word was a god. John 1:1b includes the article (the) before theos (God), but John 1:1c omits it. Jehovah’s Witnesses, therefore, translate John 1:1c as: “the Word was a god.” This article lists seven objections to this translation.
Theos is a count noun. To defend their translation, “the Word was a god,” Jehovah’s Witnesses argue that “God” is a count noun and count nouns must always be either definite or indefinite, even when used qualitatively. This article evaluates this argument.
The Word was God.
The translation, “the Word was God,” interprets theos as definite, but John 1:1c uses theos in a descriptive sense. In other words, it says that the Word was like God; He is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15; cf. Heb 1:3).
This translation interprets theos as definite, but John 1:1c uses theos in a descriptive sense. In other words, the Word was like God, as the Bible elsewhere states, He is the image of the invisible God and the exact representation of His nature.
Is John’s Logos the same as Philo’s Logos?
Philo, a Jewish philosopher who wrote a few decades before the NT was written, included the Logos of Greek philosophy in his interpretation of the Old Testament and described the Logos as very similar to the Logos in the New Testament (Jesus Christ). This article shows these parallels and explains why they exist.
This is the fifth article in the series that discusses the Christology of the main Christian authors of the first three centuries after Christ. The first article introduces the discussion, defined the Trinity doctrine and gave an overview of its conceptual and historical development. This was followed by articles discussing the views of Polycarp, Justin Martyr and Ignatius of Antioch. This fifth article discusses the view of Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons (c. 115-190).
Irenaeus became a bishop at Lyons about 178 AD. There are two major works by him known to us:
Against Heresies and
Proof of the Apostolic Preaching
This article discusses Irenaeus’ view of the nature of Christ (his Christology). In the quotes below, “P” stands for Proof of the Apostolic Preaching while “I” to “V” stands for the first five books of Against Heresies. Where I used more than one quote from a page, I added a, b or c.
Irenaeus’ writings are available from Earlychristianwritings.com. The text of the quotes from his works, that are referred to in this article, are listed at the end of this article.
The analysis of Irenaeus’ writings below concludes that the Father created all things but He created all things “through Christ Jesus.” Irenaeus describes the Father as the “One God, the Almighty,” as the only God and as the true God who “contains all things.”
By describing the Father as the Supreme God Almighty, the Most High, God of all, as ruling over all, who alone knows the very day and hour of judgment (II,28), Irenaeus indicated that the Son is subordinate to the Father. This is emphasized by statements such as that:
Jesus Christ became flesh according to the good pleasure of the Father” (I,9,2), that
He has received dominion over all creation from His Father (III,6a), and that
The Father is greater than Christ (II,28) and the Head of Christ” (V,18; cf. 1 Cor 2:3).
Although Irenaeus described the Father as the “one God” and as the “only God,” and the Son is subordinate to the Father, Irenaeus also described Jesus Christ as “eternally co-existing with the Father” (e.g. II,30) and as “God” (e.g. I,10,1). However, even in the phrases which referred to Jesus as God, Irenaeus described the Son as subordinate to the Father God. For example:
“He who suffered under Pontius Pilate, the same is Lord of all, and King, and God, and Judge, receiving power from Him who is the God of all” (III,12a).
Irenaeus gave two reasons why the Son is called God, namely:
He is the visible image of the invisible Father and
“That which is begotten of God is God” (P47).
To understand why Irenaeus was able to refer to the Son as “God” but still as subordinate to the Father, we need to understand the meaning of the Greek word which Irenaeus used, which is the word theos:
One of the possible meanings of theos is “God,” which is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe.” But theos also has a range of other possible meanings, such as:
Beings empowered by God to represent Him, such as Moses (Exo 7:1), and
People “to whom the word of God came” (John 10:35; cf. Psalm 82).
To describe a being as theos, therefore, does not mean that that being is God. A being is God if He is the almighty originator of the universe, as Merriam-Webster defined the title. Irenaeus described only the Father as such.
– END OF SUMMARY –
Irenaeus repeated the same concepts many times over. The following is one of his typical statements about the Father:
“The beginning of all things is God. For He Himself was not made by any, and by Him all things were made. And therefore, it is right first of all to believe that there is One God, the Father, who made and fashioned all things” (P4).
This statement is explicitly about the Father and says that:
The Father created all things.
He is the uncaused Cause of all things. Elsewhere, Irenaeus refers to the Father as “Maker of heaven, and earth,” and that He “created all things,” or “grants existence to all” (I,10,1; II,1; III,1; III,6b; III,8; III,12c; IV,5,1-2; IV,20,2b,c; P6).
The Father is “One God.”
Irenaeus was quite fond of the phrase “one God,” also expressed as “One God, the Almighty” (I,9,2; cf. I,10,1; III,1; III,12c; IV,1; IV,6b; IV,20,2a,b,c; V,18; V,22; P5). This is related to the New Testament’s “one God”-statements in which the “one God” always refers to the Father (John 5:44; 1 Cor 8:6; Eph 4:5-6; 1 Tim 2:5). Irenaeus also quoted these verses, for example:
“The Apostle Paul in like manner (stated), ‘There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father, who is above all, and through all, and in us all'”
(IV,32; cf. Eph 4:5-6).
The following is another one of Irenaeus’s typical statements:
“There is shown forth One God, the Father, not made, invisible, creator of all things; above whom there is no other God, and after whom there is no other God. And, since God is rational, therefore by [the] Word He created the things that were made.” (P5)
This statement again refers to the Father as “One God” and as the Creator. But it adds the following:
The Father is the only God.
As Irenaeus stated, above and after the Father there is no other God. Irenaeus frequently stated that the Father is the only God. For example, he would describe Jesus Christ as “the only-begotten Son of the Only God” (I,9,2) or state, “the Father, is the Only God and Lord, who Alone is God and ruler of all” (III,9a; cf. II,1; II,28; III,6b; III,6c; III,9b; III,25; IV,Preface; IV,1).
That the Father is the only God seems to be the meaning of the “one God” statements above. These two thoughts are integrated in categorical statements such as:
“There is One Almighty God” (III,11a)
“There is One God, the Maker of this universe” (III,11b; III,12b)
The Father is the true God.
Irenaeus identified the Father as the “true God” and as the “only true God” (III,15). For example:
“The apostles taught the Gentiles that they should leave vain wood and stones … and worship the True God, who had created and made all the humanity … and that they might look for His Son Jesus Christ” (III,5; cf. V,22).
The Father created all things by the Word.
As quoted above from P5, “by [the] Word He [the one God] created the things that were made.” Elsewhere, Irenaeus stated this principle as that:
“Through Him all things were made by the Father” (P5) or,
The Father created all things “through Christ Jesus” (III,4; cf. III,11a; IV,20,1; IV,20,2b)
The Father “contains all things.”
This interesting quote from (IV,20,2c) makes me think of the principle that God is not somewhere in the universe, rather, the universe is somewhere in God. Elsewhere, Irenaeus described “God the Creator” as “the Only God … alone containing all things” (II,1). Perhaps a related statement made by Irenaeus is that “the Father Himself is Alone called “God”, who has a real existence” (II,28). In other words, the existence of everything else is dependent on the Father’s existence.
Irenaeus contrasted Jesus Christ to the Father with phrases such as:
“The Church … has received … this faith: One God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation, and in the Holy Spirit …” (I,10,1; cf. I,9,2; III,1; IV,6b)
This sounds very similar to the opening phrase on the Nicene Creed, formulated more than a hundred years later:
We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Earlychurchtexts)
The One Christ Jesus
In Irenaeus’ statements, Jesus is the “one Christ Jesus” or the “one Jesus Christ” in contrast to the Father, who is the “One God.” The New Testament does not refer to Jesus as “one Christ Jesus” or as “one Jesus Christ,” but, in contrast to the “one God,” the New Testament does refer to Jesus as “one Lord” (Eph 4:5-6; 1 Cor 8:6). Apparently, the New Testament’s “one God” and “one Lord” statements were foundational for Irenaeus’ Christology. This is how it should be, for these statements are specifically formulated to explain the relationship between the Father and the Son. Theologians often mistakenly rely on less clear statements to formulate faulty Christologies.
The Father is Supreme.
As indicated by the following quotes, Irenaeus described the Father as above all, God Almighty, the Most High, God of all, the Supreme King, God over all, and as ruling over all:
“The Father is above all things for ‘the Father,’ says He, ‘is greater than I'” (II,28).
The Father is “God Almighty, The Most High, The Creator, The Maker” (II,35; cf. P8) – “the God of all, the Supreme King” (III,5).
“He it is who is God over all” (IV,5,1-2; cf. P5).
“God the Father (is) ruling over all” (III,6a)
“Therefore One God, the Father is declared, who is above all” (Book V,18; cf. IV,20,2a).
The Father is Almighty.
Irenaeus used the term “Almighty” frequently, but always only for the Father; never for Christ. For example, the following is a quote by Irenaeus from 1 Corinthians 8:6, to which he added “Almighty” to the description of the Father, as well as “a firm belief in the Spirit of God:”
“A full faith in One God Almighty, of whom are all things, and in the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom are all things … and a firm belief in the Spirit of God” (IV,33).
Since Irenaeus identified the Father alone as the “Almighty,” the Son is not Almighty. For a discussion of the title “Almighty” in the New Testament, see – Is Jesus the Almighty?
The Son is subordinate to the Father.
Irenaeus described the subordinate position of the Son in phrases such as:
Jesus Christ “became flesh” “according to the good pleasure of the Father” (I,9,2).
Every knee will bow to Jesus “according to the will of the invisible Father” (I,10,1).
“The Father alone knows the very day and hour of judgment” (II,28; cf. Matt 24:36)
“‘The Father,’ says He, ‘is greater than I'” (II,28; cf. John 14:28).
“His Son … has received dominion from His Father over all creation” (III,6a)
“’He shall he great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest’” (III,16);
“The Father is indeed above all, and He is the Head of Christ” (V,18; cf. 1 Cor 2:3).
The Son always existed.
Although the Son is subordinate to the Father, He always existed:
“Pre-existing with the Father,
begotten before all the creation of the world” (P30);
“Eternally co-existing with the Father”
(II,30; cf. IV,6; IV,20,1; IV,20,2a);
I have found that people struggle to understand how Christ could be eternal but still be subordinate to the Father. We need to remember that, to say that Jesus always existed means that He existed for as long as time existed, but time had a beginning – 13 billion years ago with the big bang (NASA). There is no time in the infinity beyond this universe. But that Infinity contains the real substance of our existence because it is the Source of the power and intelligence that brought forth this universe. In that infinity, the Son was begotten of the Father. But beyond that, we should say nothing of that infinity because that has not been revealed to us.
The Son is God.
Although he described the Father as the “one God” and as the “only God,” and described the Son as subordinate to the Father, Irenaeus described the Son also as “God” (I,10,1; III,15; III,19,2; IV,5,1-2; IV,6c; P40; P47). However, even in the phrases which refer to Jesus as God, Irenaeus described the Son as subordinate to the Father God:
“To Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, every knee should bow” (I,10,1).
“The apostles of freedom called no one else ‘God,’ or named him ‘Lord,’ except the Only true God, the Father, and His Word” (III,15).
“He who suffered under Pontius Pilate, the same is Lord of all, and King, and God, and Judge, receiving power from Him who is the God of all” (III,12a).
Irenaeus gave two reasons why the Son is called God:
“The Father is the invisible of the Son, but the Son the visible of the Father. And for this reason all spoke with Christ … and they named Him God” (IV,6c).
“That which is begotten of God is God” (P47).
The translation of theos
To understand why Irenaeus was able to refer to the Son as “God” but still as subordinate to the Father, we need to understand the meaning of the Greek word which Irenaeus used, which is the word theos.
The title “God” defined
Merriam-Webster defines the term “God” as “a being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe.”
Only one “omnipotent” (almighty) Being is possible. If there were more than one, one would limit to the power of the other. There can also only be one “originator … of the universe.”
Sola Gratia proposes a different definition for “God.” He says that any being that has “the exact same nature with the Father” is God. However, we cannot each have his or her own definition of “God.” That is what dictionaries are for. If we have different definitions for the same word, we will talk past one another.
Consider the historical development of the title “God:”
The meaning of theos
The Greek word, that is translated as “God,” is theos. In the ancient Greek culture, theos was used for the pantheon of the Greek gods such as Zeus, the god of heaven, Hera, Queen of the gods, Poseidon, God of the seas, and many others. The gods were thought of as immortal beings with supernatural powers over nature and mankind.
When Greek became the common language of the Empire, the Jews translated the Hebrew elohim as the Greek theos. Since elohim, in the Hebrew culture, was used for the true God but also for a range of other beings, theos took on the same meanings in Jewish and Christian writings, which included:
Any immortal being with supernatural powers;
Beings empowered by God to represent Him, such as Moses (Exo 7:1), and
People “to whom the word of God came” (John 10:35; cf. Psalm 82).
The original New Testament, written in Greek, was written only in capital letters. The same applies to Iranaeus’ writings. (He wrote in Greek.)
But, over the centuries, the distinction between upper- and lower-case letters developed. With that, over time, came the practice to capitalize the G and to use the word “God” to refer to one specific being, namely the One who exists without cause. In other words, we use the word “God,” with an upper case G, as the name for one specific Being, namely the One who exists without cause.
How the ancient writers distinguished
However, when the original New Testament as written, and when Irenaeus wrote, these writers did not have a word that is equivalent to God. Given the broad range of meanings of the word theos, Irenaeus and the other pre-Nicene fathers could refer to both the Father and Jesus Christ as theos. But they distinguished the Father from the other theos-beings in various other ways. Irenaeus (and the Bible writers), for example, as quoted above, described the Father as:
The “one God,”
“The only God,”
“One God … who is above all” and
“The True God,” and
“The Father … who Alone is God.”
To make sure that the reader understands, Irenaeus stated this also negatively, namely, “there is no other God” (P5).
How to translate theos
By means of such techniques, and by describing the Father as the Head of Christ, and as greater than Christ, Irenaeus represented Christ as subordinate to the Father. The point is that, as Irenaeus described Him, the Son is not “God” as defined above by Merriam-Webster, namely the omnipotent (almighty), omniscient originator of the universe. Given this definition, and given Irenaeus’ Christology, only the Father is “God” in modern English. Consequently, theos, when used by Irenaeus for Jesus, should not be translated as “God.”
On the other hand, to translate theos as “god” when it describes Jesus is also not acceptable because, in Christian circles, the title “god” is often understood as referring to false gods. That is a dilemma for translators to sort out.
God from God
Consider again the statement which Irenaeus made in P47: “That which is begotten of God is God.” This reminds me of the Nicene Creed, which reads:
God from God,
light from light,
true God from true God
Since the word theos, which is translated four times in this verse as “God,” merely means “god,” and in the ancient Greek language, simply means an immortal being with supernatural powers, all that Irenaeus meant was that, since the Father is an immortal being with supernatural powers, and since Jesus Christ is the only begotten of God, He is also an immortal being with supernatural powers. If that is correct, then Irenaeus’ statement must be translated as “That which is begotten of god is god.”
However, the Nicene Creed adds the word “true” before “theos.” As we have seen, both the New Testament and Irenaeus use the phrase “true theos” only for the Father (III,15; III,5; V,22; John 17:3; 1 Thess 1:9; 1 John 5:20). (For a discussion of 1 John 5:20, see the article on theos.)
Therefore, the question is, what does the Nicene Creed mean by “true theos? Does it mean that Jesus Christ is “God” in the modern sense of the word, or that He truly is an immortal being with supernatural powers? For a discussion, see the article on the interpretation of the Nicene Creed.
In the quotes above, Irenaeus used the title “Lord” many times and for both the Father and for Jesus Christ. This is also not proof that Jesus is “God” as defined above. The same principles that apply to the title “God,” also apply to the title “Lord,” namely that Irenaeus applied the title “Lord” to the Father in a special sense, for he refers to the Father as the “only Lord” and as “the true Lord:”
“The Father, is the Only God and Lord” (III,9a).
“God the Creator … since He is the Only God, the Only Lord, the Only Creator, the Only Father” (II,1).
“It was the true Lord and the One God … the same did Christ point out as the Father” (V,22).
Similar to theos, the Greek word that is translated as “lord” (kurios) has a wide range of meanings:
On the low end of the spectrum, it can simply be a respectful form of address to somebody in a more senior position, similar to “sir” or “master.”
But exalted beings, such as kings and gods were also addressed as “lord.”
Given the exalted view which the New Testament and Irenaeus have of “the only-begotten Son of the Only God” (I,9,2), such as that He “eternally co-existed with the Father” (II,30) and “has received dominion from His Father over all creation” (III,6a) so that every knee in heaven and on earth must bow to Him (I,10,1), Jesus Christ is most appropriately called “Lord.”
However, given the clear distinction between the “one God” (the Father) and the “one Lord, Jesus Christ” that is made by the “one God” statements (e.g., 1 Cor 8:6; Eph 4:4-6; 1 Titus 2:5), Jesus is not “Lord” in the same sense as the Father. Rather, “every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11).
One of the major ‘proofs” of the ‘divinity’ of Christ and of the Trinity is the triadic passages, which are passages in which the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are mentioned together, for example, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19). Irenaeus also mentions the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit many times together in a single passage (e.g. I,10,1; IV,6b; IV,20,1). These passages do include the Son and the Holy Spirit in “the divine identity,” if I may borrow a term from Richard Bauckham. However, we need to respect the clear statements in both the New Testament and Irenaeus’ writings that the Father is the “only true God” (III,15; John 17:3).
Irenaeus believed that the Father is “the only and the true God,” who also created all things. He alone is “Almighty.” He wrote that “every knee should bow” to Jesus because that is “the will of the invisible Father.” Irenaeus saw Christ as distinct from God and subordinate to the Father, explicitly quoting from the Bible that the Father is “the Head of Christ.” None of the quotes say that the Holy Spirit is self-aware. There is also no mention of one substance or of Christ’s proposed dual nature.
According to what I quoted above from Irenaeus, he was no philosopher. He simply takes the Scriptures as they are. However, he emphasized verses that Trinitarians avoid.
The purpose of the mini-series of articles is to determine whether the church fathers in the first three centuries believed in the Trinity. If we use Irenaeus, writing in the late second century, as a norm, then the answer must be a loud and clear “no.”
The following is quoted from Irenaeus’ voluminous work, Against Heresies.
John, proclaiming One God, the Almighty, and one Jesus Christ, the only-begotten, by whom all things were made … the only-begotten Son of the Only God, who, according to the good pleasure of the Father, became flesh for the sake of men. (I,9,2).
The Church … has received … this faith … (in) One God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in One Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit … (I,10,1)
To Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, “every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess” to him (I,10,1).
God the Creator, who made the heaven and the earth, and all things that are in it … since He is the Only God, the Only Lord, the Only Creator, the Only Father, alone containing all things, and Himself commanding all things into existence (II,1).
This God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul the apostle also has declared, “There is One God, the Father, who is above all, and through all, and in all” [Eph 4:6]. (II, 2).
Since the Father Himself is Alone called “God“, who has a real existence … the Scriptures acknowledge Him Alone as “God,” … the Lord confesses Him Alone as his own Father (II,28)
The Lord, the very Son of God, allowed that the Father Alone knows the very day and hour of judgment, when he plainly declares, “But of that day and that hour knows no man, neither the Son, but the Father Only.” (II,28)
The Father … has been declared by the Lord alone to know the hour and the day … we may learn through him that the Father is above all things. For “the Father,” says He, “is greater than I.” (II,28).
The Son, eternally co-existing with the Father, from of old, yea, from the beginning, always reveals the Father to Angels, Archangels, Powers, Virtues, and all to whom he wills that God should be revealed. (II,30)
All the other expressions likewise bring out the title of One and the same being; as, for example … God Almighty, The Most High, The Creator, The Maker, and such like. (II,35).
These [Apostles] have all declared to us that there is One God, Creator of heaven and earth … and one Christ the Son of God. (III,1).
The ancient tradition, believing in One God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and all things therein, through Christ Jesus, the Son of God (III,4).
Our Lord … acknowledged as God, even the God of all, the Supreme King, too, and his own Father (III,5)
The apostles taught the Gentiles that they should leave vain wood and stones … and worship the True God, who had created and made all the humanity … and that they might look for His Son Jesus Christ (III,5).
God the Father ruling over all, and His Son who has received dominion from His Father over all creation (III,6a)
I do also call upon You, LORD God of Abraham, and God of Isaac, and God of Jacob and Israel, who IS the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ … that we should know You, who has made heaven and earth, who rules over all … above whom there is no other God, do grant, by our Lord Jesus Christ, the governing power of the Holy Spirit, to every reader of this book to know You, that You Alone are God, to be strengthened in You (III,6b)
“We know that an idol is nothing, and that there is no other God but One. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, yet to us there is but One God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we through Him, and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.” (III,6c)
He indeed who made all things can alone, together with His Word, properly be termed God and Lord (III,8).
He, the Father, is the Only God and Lord, who Alone is “God” and ruler of all. (III,9a)
There is therefore One and the same God, the Father of our Lord. (III,9b).
There is One Almighty God, who made all things by His Word … that by the Word, through whom God made the creation, He also bestowed salvation on the men included in the creation (III,11a)
There is One God, the Maker of this universe … the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (III,11b).
He who suffered under Pontius Pilate, the same is Lord of all, and King, and God, and Judge, receiving power from Him who is the God of all (III,12a)
The One and the same God … that He was the Maker of all things, that He was the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (III,12b)
To the Greeks they preached One God, who made all things, and His Son Jesus Christ (III,12c)
The apostles of freedom called no one else “God,” or named him “Lord,” except the Only true God, the Father, and His Word. (III,15)
The angel said … He shall he great, and shall be called the Son of The Highest … And David … confessed him as Lord, sitting on the right hand of The Most High Father. (III,16).
He [Jesus] is … God, and Lord, and King Eternal, and the Incarnate Word … He had … in Himself that pre-eminent birth which is from the Most High Father. (III,19,2)
Their Creator, who is both God Alone, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. (III,25).
There is none other called God by the Scriptures except the Father of all, and the Son, and those who possess the adoption. (IV,Preface).
No other God or Lord was announced by the Spirit, except Him who, as God, rules over all, together with His Word (IV,1)
Our Lord … did also command us to confess no one as Father, except Him … who is the One God and the One Father (IV,1).
Whom Christ confessed as His Father. Now He is the Creator, and He it is who is God over all (IV,5,1-2)
Christ Himself, therefore, together with the Father, is the God of the living, who spake to Moses, and who was also manifested to the fathers. (IV,5,1-2).
The Son, being present with His own handiwork from the beginning, reveals the Father to all (IV,6a)
There is One God, the Father, and one Word, and one Son, and one Spirit, and one salvation to all who believe in Him. (IV,6b).
And through the Word Himself who had been made visible and palpable, was the Father shown forth … all saw the Father in the Son: for the Father is the invisible of the Son, but the Son the visible of the Father. And for this reason all spoke with Christ when He was present [upon earth], and they named Him God. (IV,6c).
For with Him were always present the Word and Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, by whom and in whom … He made all things, to whom also He speaks, saying, “Let Us make man after Our image and likeness.” (IV,20,1)
The apostle say, “There is One God, the Father, who is above all, and in us all.”…. the Word, namely the Son, was always with the Father; and that Wisdom also, which is the Spirit (IV,20,2a)
There is therefore One God, who by the Word and Wisdom created and arranged all things. (Book IV,20,2b)
There is One God the Father, who contains all things, and who grants existence to all (IV,20,2c).
The Apostle Paul in like manner (stated), “There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.” (Book IV,32). (Eph 4:5-6)
A full faith in One God Almighty, of whom are all things, and in the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom are all things … and a firm belief in the Spirit of God (IV, 33). (1 Cor 8:6)
And therefore One God, the Father is declared, who is above all, and through all, and in all. The Father is indeed above all, and He is the Head of Christ. (V,18; cf. 1 Cor 2:3).
It was the true Lord and the One God … the same did Christ point out as the Father, whom also it compels the disciples of Christ, alone to serve. (V,22)
Proof of the Apostolic Preaching
The following excerpts are from the translation by J. Armitage Robinson.
The beginning of all things is God. For He Himself was not made by any, and by Him all things were made. And therefore it is right first of all to believe that there is One God, the Father, who made and fashioned all things (P4).
There is shown forth One God, the Father, not made, invisible, creator of all things; above whom there is no other God, and after whom there is no other God. And, since God is rational, therefore by [the] Word He created the things that were made (P5).
The Word called the Son, and the Spirit the Wisdom of God. Well also does Paul His apostle say: One God, the Father, who is over all and through all and in us all. For over all is the Father; and through all is the Son, for through Him all things were made by the Father (P5)
This then is the order of the rule of our faith, and the foundation of the building … God, the Father, not made, not material, invisible; one God, the creator of all things (P6).
The Father is called Most High and Almighty and Lord of hosts (P8).
[The prophets] instructed the people and turned them to the God of their fathers, the Almighty; and they became heralds of the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God … pre-existing with the Father, begotten before all the creation of the world (P30).
Thus then the Word of God in all things hath the pre-eminence, for that He is true man and Wonderful Counsellor and Mighty God (P40).
So then the Father is Lord and the Son is Lord, and the Father is God and the Son is God; for that which is begotten of God is God. (P47).