In an article answering Georg Kaplan's 1 denials of the Trinitarian doctrine, Ken Temple states :

Even if the early Church had never applied the title θεός to Jesus, his deity would still be apparent in his being the object of human and angelic worship and of saving faith; the exerciser of exclusively divine functions such as creatorial agency, the forgiveness of sins, and the final judgment; the addressee in petitionary prayer; the possessor of all divine attributes; the bearer of numerous titles used of Yahweh in the OT; and the co-author of divine blessing.

Faith in the deity of Christ does not rest on the evidence or validity of a series of ‘proof-texts’ in which Jesus may receive the title θεός but on the general testimony of the NT corroborated at the bar of personal experience.147

Apologetics and Agape - Wordpress - March 19, 2018

Nevertheless he publishes a list of texts as an example.

However what attracted my attention and what prompts my question is his answer to the objection that the doctrine of the Trinity was formed in later centuries than the early church and the objector claims that the early church knew nothing of it until Nicea.

So Ken Temple further states :

... Ignatius, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, and Athanasius and Hillary and others had expressions of the Trinity in centuries (and at the same time – Athanasius and Hillary) before Gregory of Nyssa. Ignatius is clear on the Deity of Christ in early second century (around 107-110 AD) and has a simple expression of the Trinity.

So, Ken Temple then quotes from Ignatius (writing in 107-110 AD), which I shall not copy, it is in the linked document.

But all he says of Tertullian is :

Also, Tertullian, around 190-220 AD, used the basic words, “Trinitas Unitas” (three in one) and “persona” (the Latin equivalent of hypostatis) over 1 century before the Cappadocian Fathers, as did Origen around 250 AD.

My question is - Are there more susbstantial references available on this subject from Tertullian and Origen and Irenaeus ?

1 Georg Kaplan, a professed Unitarian, seems to be linked to the pseudonyms 'Gregory Blunt' and 'Thomas Pearne'. (Although, elsewhere it is spelt 'Kaplin').

Edit : Comment suggests that this is a third layer of pseudonym.


3 Answers 3


I found the following quotes on the doctrine of the Trinity: IRENAEUS –

“He is Himself in His own right God and Lord and Eternal King and Only begotten and Incarnate Word, proclaimed as such by all the prophets and by the Apostles and by the Spirit Himself… The Scriptures would not have borne witness to these things concerning Him, if, like everyone else, He were mere man.” (Against Heresies by Iranaeus, 3.10 pp1-2, Jurgens, Vol. 1)

“[The Gnostics] transfer the generation of the uttered word of men to the eternal Word of God, attributing to Him a beginning of utterance and a coming into being in a manner like to that of their own word. In what manner, then, would the Word of God – indeed, the great God Himself, since He is the Word – differ from the word of man, were He to have the same order and process of generation?” (Ibid. 2:13.8)


“Although He was God, He took flesh; and having been made man, He remained what He was, God… For we do not hold… that some part of the substance of God was converted into the Son, or that the Son was procreated by the Father from nonexistent substances, that is, from a substance outside Himself, so that there was a time when He did not exist.” (Fundamental Doctrines by Origen, Ibid., p1, pref.3-4)


“God alone is without sin. The only man without sin is Christ; for Christ is also God.” (The Soul by Tertullian, 41.3, Jurgens, Vol. 1) “But Christ,” they [the Gnostics] say, “also bore the nature of an angel.” For what reason? And why did He take human nature? … Christ bore human nature in order to be man’s salvation… There was no such reason why Christ would take upon Himself angelic nature.” (Ibid. 14.1)

Now let me quote from another book which deals with Tertullian and his theology – The Story of Christian Theology by Roger E. Olson, Apollos, 1999.

“Tertullian’s massive critique Against Praxeas was written after Tertullian had defected to Montanism, but its influence throughout the Western Christian churches was ‘immediate and permanent.’ Praxeas was perhaps the first Christian theologian to attempt to explain the doctrine of the Trinity in systematic detail. In the process, however, he apparently explained away the real ontological threeness of the persons of God. That is, Praxeas denied that Christians believed in three distinct identities or even relations within the one divine being… Praxeas’s view later came to be known as modalism and was revived by another later teacher of Christians in Rome named Sabellius… Tertullian perceived this modalistic explanation of the triunity of God as a dangerous heresy and declared in typical fashion, “Praxeas did a twofold service for the devil at Rome: he drove away prophecy, and he brought in heresy; he put to flight the Paraclete and crucified the Father”. (Tertullian, quoted in Justo Gonzalez, A History of Christian Thought, vol. 1, From the Beginnings to the Council of Chalcedon, rev. ed. (Nashville: Abingdon, 1992) p.178.) [Page 92 of Olson’s book.]

“Tertullian strove to explain why Christians worship Jesus Christ rather than Caesar or any other so-called god and yet at the same time insist that God is one and heavenly. In order to explain this, he turned to the often-used concept of the Logos of God and appropriated an analogy that would become a favorite one for Christian thinkers wrestling with this issue. The Logos, Tertullian carefully explained, is both God and God’s offshoot through which he relates to creation. This Logos is, of course, Christ, the Son of the Father. Tertullian used the sun analogy to explain their relationship: ‘This ray of God, then, as it was always foretold in ancient times, descending into a certain virgin, and made flesh in her womb, is in his birth God and man united’. (Tertullian Apology 21 ANF 3) [Page 93 of Olson’s book.]

“In Against Praxeas Tertullian provided a fairly clear statement of this organic monotheism: ‘All [three – Father, Son and Holy Ghost] are of One, by unity (that is) of substance; while the mystery of the dispensation is still to be guarded, which distributes the Unity into a Trinity, placing in their order the three Persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: three, however, not in condition, but in degree; not in substance, but in form; not in power, but in aspect; yet of one substance, and of one condition, and of one power.” (Tertullian Against Praxeas 2.) [Page 96 of Olson’s book, which also has more on Irenaeus and Origen – I do recommend this book.]

  • Excellent. A valuable piece of work. (+1) Much appreciated.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 23, 2020 at 13:33
  • Much better than my post! It wasn't up when I started work on my answer, but I'm pleased to have found some additional material.
    – Lesley
    Commented Jul 23, 2020 at 14:29

Irenaeus of Lyons, in ‘Against Heresies III, 6’ says this about the incarnation:

We have already shown from Scripture that not one of these sons of Adam is called "god" in the proper sense of the term, or named "lord". But that He (Jesus) is Himself, in His own right, beyond all men who ever lived, God, and Lord, and King Eternal, and Incarnate Word, proclaimed by the prophets, the apostles, and by the Spirit Himself. (5)

Irenaeus, when refuting different manifestations of Modalism, stressed that Jesus was a different "person" from the Father, which is consistent with Trinitarian theology. Regarding their essence, he says in ‘Against Heresies IV:5’:

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. (6)

Irenaeus says that the name of God is applicable to both the Father and the Son. In ‘Against Heresies III:6’ he says:

For the Spirit designates both (of them) by the name of God-both Him who is anointed as Son, and Him who does anoint, that is, the Father. (7)

Tertullian, in ‘Against Praexes, chapter 27’, says this about the nature of Jesus Christ:

But God cannot cease to be nor be anything other than Himself. Now the Word is God; moreover the Word of the Lord endures forever (Isaiah 40:8)...but the truth is we find him (Jesus Christ) expressly set forth as both God and man... being both God and man with each substance having its own distinct characteristics, since the Word is none other than God, and the flesh none other than man. (8)

The entire book ‘Against Praexes’ is dedicated to explaining and defending the principle of "Unity in Trinity" (12) and how the three persons of the Godhead are One God in substance, yet three distinct persons.

Origen ‘On First Principles IV, 28’ says this regarding Father and Son being of one substance/essence:

How, then, can it be asserted that there once was a time when He was not the Son? For that is nothing else than to say that there was once a time when He was not the Truth, nor the Wisdom, nor the Life, although in all these He is judged to be the perfect essence of God the Father; for these things cannot be severed from Him, or even be separated from His essence. And although these qualities are said to be many in understanding, yet in their nature and essence they are one, and in them is the fulness of divinity." (15)

One lesser known work of Origen's is his Dialogue with Heraclides, which was not extant until a copy was discovered in Toura, Egypt in 1941. In the discourse, he prods and questions a bishop who has been accused of holding heretical doctrine regarding the nature of Jesus Christ. After Origen carefully defined that the "Word was God", he qualifies that saying that Jesus was "God and man". "God" is defined as being "Almighty, the uncreated, who is Supreme and made all things". He further goes on to make sure that the bishop assents to the fact that Jesus was God before he came into the body. He also states:

Similarly our Savior and Lord in His relation to the Father and God of the Universe is not one flesh, nor one Spirit, but something higher than flesh and spirit, namely one God... we avoid falling into the blasphemous doctrine that denies the Deity of Christ.

(2) The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Hendrickson Publishers, copyright 1994 Vol. 1, pg. 184: (5) Ibid, pg. 419; (6) Ibid, pg. 467; (7) Ibid, pg. 419

(8) The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Hendrickson Publishers, copyright 1994. Vol. 3, pg. 623-624: (12) Ibid, pg. 598

(15) The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Hendrickson Publishers, copyright 1994. Vol. 4, pg. 376-377.

Source: http://www.earlychurch.net/believeintrinity.htm

  • Further excellence. +1. Also, much appreciated.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 23, 2020 at 14:32

I don't have quotes for the Holy Spirit, but here are some about Jesus: Ignatius (110 A.D.): "Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to the church at Ephesus in Asia . . . predestined from eternity for a glory that is lasting and unchanging, united and chosen through true suffering by the will of the Father in Jesus Christ our God”." "[T]o the church beloved and enlightened after the love of Jesus Christ, our God, by the will of him that has willed everything which is." "For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived by Mary according to God’s plan..." "Consequently all magic and every kind of spell were dissolved, the ignorance so characteristic of wickedness vanished, and the ancient kingdom was abolished, when God appeared in human form to bring the newness of eternal life..." "There is only one physician, who is both flesh and spirit, born and unborn, God in man, true life in death, both from Mary and from God, first subject to suffering and then beyond it, Jesus Christ our Lord." "I glorify Jesus Christ, the God who made you so wise..." "Being as you are imitators of God, once you took on new life through the blood of God you completed perfectly the task so natural to you."

Polycarp (135 A.D.): "Now may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal High Priest himself, the Son of God Jesus Christ, build you up in faith and truth and in all gentleness and in all freedom from anger and forbearance and steadfastness and patient endurance and purity, and may he give to you a share and a place among his saints, and to us with you, and to all those under heaven who will yet believe in our Lord and God Jesus Christ and in his Father who raised him from the dead." Justin Martyr (born 100, died 160 A.D.) "And that Christ being Lord, and God the Son of God, and appearing formerly in power as Man, and Angel, and in the glory of fire as at the bush, so also was manifested at the judgment executed on Sodom, has been demonstrated fully by what has been said." "[T]he Father of the universe has a Son; who also, being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God. And of old He appeared in the shape of fire and in the likeness of an angel to Moses and to the other prophets; but now in the times of your reign, having, as we before said, become Man by a virgin..."

Aristedes (140 A.D.) "[Christians] are they who, above every people of the earth, have found the truth, for they acknowledge God, the Creator and maker of all things, in the only-begotten Son and in the Holy Spirit."

Tatian the Syrian (170 A.D.) "We are not playing the fool, you Greeks, nor do we talk nonsense, when we report that God was born in the form of a man.”

Melito of Sardis (177 A.D.): "The activities of Christ after his baptism, and especially his miracles, gave indication and assurance to the world of the deity hidden in his flesh. Being God and likewise perfect man, he gave positive indications of his two natures: of his deity, by the miracles during the three years following after his baptism, of his humanity, in the thirty years which came before his baptism, during which, by reason of his condition according to the flesh, he concealed the signs of his deity, although he was the true God existing before the ages."

Iraneus (185 A.D.): "Carefully, then, has the Holy Ghost pointed out, by what has been said, His birth from a virgin, and His essence, that He is God (for the name Emmanuel indicates this). And He shows that He is a man ... we should not understand that He is a mere man only, nor, on the other hand, from the name Emmanuel, should suspect Him to be God without flesh." "For the church, although dispersed throughout the whole world even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and from their disciples the faith in one God, Father Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them; and in one Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became flesh for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit... that to Jesus Christ our Lord and God and Savior and King, in accord with the approval of the invisible Father, every knee shall bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth."

Clement of Alexandria (200 A.D.) "For it was not without divine care that so great a work was accomplished in so brief a space by the Lord, who, though despised as to appearance, was in reality adored, the expiator of sin, the Savior, the clement, the Divine Word, He that is truly most manifest Deity, He that is made equal to the Lord of the universe; because He was His Son, and the Word was in God..." "The Word, then, the Christ, is the cause both of our ancient beginning—for he was in God—and of our well-being. And now this same Word has appeared as man. He alone is both God and man, and the source of all our good things.” 

Tertullian (wrote these 210-216 A.D.): "The origins of both his substances display him as man and as God: from the one, born, and from the other, not born..." "...that there are two gods and two Lords, however, is a statement which we will never allow to issue from our mouth; not as if the Father and the Son were not God, nor the Spirit God, and each of them God; but formerly two were spoken of as gods and two as Lords, so that when Christ would come, he might both be acknowledged as God and be called Lord, because he is the Son of him who is both God and Lord."

Origen (225 A.D.): "Although he was God, he took flesh; and having been made man, he remained what he was: God." Hyppotlis (circa 228 A.D.): "Only [God’s] Word is from himself and is therefore also God, becoming the substance of God.”  “For Christ is the God over all, who has arranged to wash away sin from mankind, rendering the old man new."

Novatian (228 A.D.): "If Christ was only man, why did he lay down for us such a rule of believing as that in which he said, ‘And this is life eternal, that they should know you, the only and true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent?’ [John 17:3]. Had he not wished that he also should be understood to be God, why did he add, ‘And Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent,’ except because he wished to be received as God also? Because if he had not wished to be understood to be God, he would have added, ‘And the man Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent;’ but, in fact, he neither added this, nor did Christ deliver himself to us as man only, but associated himself with God, as he wished to be understood by this conjunction to be God also, as he is.”

Cyprian of Carthage (253 A.D.): "One who denies that Christ is God cannot become his temple [of the Holy Spirit]”   Gregory the Wonderworker (265 A.D.): "There is one God, the Father of the living Word, who is his subsistent wisdom and power and eternal image: perfect begetter of the perfect begotten, Father of the only-begotten Son. There is one Lord, only of the only, God of God, image and likeness of deity, efficient Word, wisdom comprehensive of the constitution of all things, and power formative of the whole creation, true Son of true Father, invisible of invisible, and incorruptible of incorruptible, and immortal of immortal and eternal of eternal. . . . And thus neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son; but without variation and without change, the same Trinity abides ever." Arnobius (305 A.D.): "Well, then,’ some raging, angry, and excited man will say, ‘is that Christ your God?’ ‘God indeed,’ we shall answer, ‘and God of the hidden powers’”  Lactantius (307 A.D.): "“He was made both Son of God in the spirit and Son of man in the flesh, that is, both God and man” (Divine Institutes 4:13:5 [A.D. 307]).

“We, on the other hand, are [truly] religious, who make our supplications to the one true God. Someone may perhaps ask how, when we say that we worship one God only, we nevertheless assert that there are two, God the Father and God the Son—which assertion has driven many into the greatest error . . . [thinking] that we confess that there is another God, and that he is mortal. . . . [But w]hen we speak of God the Father and God the Son, we do not speak of them as different, nor do we separate each, because the Father cannot exist without the Son, nor can the Son be separated from the Father."

These quotes are heavily borrowed from https://www.catholic.com/tract/the-divinity-of-christ, although the dates may be slightly different.

  • Thank you. Much appreciated.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Aug 12, 2020 at 2:25

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .