The word "trinity" does not occur in the Bible.

When, in early Christian writings and creeds, was the word "trinity" first used in reference to God?

After that first (known) occurrence, what are some of the other key earliest uses of the word "trinity" in reference to God in Christian writings and creeds?

(Please do not respond with general defenses of the doctrine of the Trinity. This is a doctrinal history question specifically about the earliest uses of the word "trinity" in relation to God.)


1 Answer 1


Without question, Theophilus of Antioch (d. 183) is your man. He wrote in Greek:

[God's creations on the first three days--light, sky, and vegetation--] are types of the Trinity [Τριάδος], of God, and His Word, and His wisdom. And the fourth [day, the creation of the moon and stars,] is the type of man, who needs light, that so there may be God, the Word, wisdom, man.

Theophilus to Autolycus, Book II

You often hear Tertullian's (155 - 240) name in connection with this, but he was the first Latin writer to use the term (trinitas in his case), as well as the first to connect it with the word "persons."

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    See also III. THE DOCTRINE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN JUSTIN AND IRENÆUS in the exquisite introduction to The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, which discusses the contemporary works of Theophilus, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus. Specifically, the author on p. 31 cites the above. As a whole, that document is very informative about the time and nature of the development of that doctrine within Christianity.
    – Andrew
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 13:17

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