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I'm essentially asking the counter-question to this one. Is there any historical evidence of Early Church Christians (post-New Testament) openly denying the divinity of Jesus in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD? I know that Arianism became a thing in the 3rd century AD, but what about the previous two centuries?


Some clarifications:

  • Documents published at the time that include unambiguous statements are preferred. By unambiguous statement I mean something like "Jesus is not God, he is not divine, he didn't pre-exist, he was just a human being and nothing more, period."
  • I'm open to answers that cite the New Testament as a piece of historical evidence, as long as only unambiguous quotes are provided (see previous point).
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    It should go without saying, but the texts of the NT themselves do not count as this evidence as they are clearly read as supporting his divinity by many in this period. I'm sure we all wish we could prove what the NT authors meant, but we can't. Answers to this question need to provide clear unambiguous evidence of early church Christians explicitly rejecting the teaching of Jesus's divinity, as the later Arians would do. – curiousdannii Apr 9 at 22:44
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    @curiousdannii The question is about historical evidence. You don't seem to understand what that phrase means. All citations of ancient authors (such as answers in the counter-question linked above) require interpretation of the ancient texts. The answerers cite passages from ancient authors that they think are evidence of (in that case) Jesus' divinity. – One God the Father Apr 9 at 23:04
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    @curiousdannii So first it's your POV that "None of those passages are even remotely close to a denial of divinity!". Then it's "you didn't answer the question." Then you edit the question to make it look like it wasn't an answer to what actually was the question. Then you say "Well, even if that is the question, those questions aren't allowed." Gimme a break, dude. – One God the Father Apr 9 at 23:25
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    "The straightforward reading of many NT passages" This is very much a matter of opinion. Obviously, based on how many major disagreements there are between the branches of Christianity. Answers can't simply appeal to what they think is the straightforward reading of the Bible if there is any alternative interpretation, no matter what the question is. I would and have deleted answers which try to appeal to trinitarian "straightforward readings" instead of providing specific explicit external evidence. – curiousdannii Apr 10 at 0:47
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    Are the writings of NT Authors not considered historical evidence? – Kris Apr 10 at 12:52
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In the first two centuries CE:

Adoptionism, reflected in canonical epistles, the earliest of which pre-date the writing of the gospels. The letters of Paul the Apostle, for example, do not mention a virgin birth of Christ. Paul describes Jesus as "born of a woman, born under the law" and "as to his human nature was a descendant of David" in the Epistle to the Galatians and the Epistle to the Romans.

Ebionism during the first 2 centuries CE - A majority of the Ebionites rejected as heresies the proto-orthodox Christian beliefs in Jesus's divinity and virgin birth.

Cerinthus in the late first and early second century. He lived in Asia Minor and was deemed heretical by early church fathers (e.g., Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 1.26.1; Hippolytus of Rome, Refutation 7.21; Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.28–35, 7.25.3). According to these sources, Cerinthus denied the virgin birth, taught that Jesus was a normal human who was exceedingly wise, and that he was empowered by the Christ-spirit upon his baptism.

Gnosticism - the oldest Christian critiques of gnosticism dat from the early 2nd century CE, so it must have been in existence before that, though we have few documents. Most scholars place the origin of Gnosticism around the first century CE. In particular, Marcion preached that the benevolent God of the Gospel who sent Jesus Christ into the world as the savior was the true Supreme Being, different and opposed to the malevolent demiurge or creator god, identified with the Hebrew God of the Old Testament.

Theodotus claimed that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit as a non-divine man, and though later "adopted" by God upon baptism (that is to say, he became the Christ), was not himself God until after his resurrection

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    I note you make mention of the Ebeonites. This group only read their version of the Gospel of Matthew (gospel of Hebrews I believe it was called). Also, if memory serves, they also rejected Paul as a heretic. – Adam May 8 at 9:36
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During the time of the early Christians, was there yet a doctrine of the deity of Christ to be denied? Let's read:

The Young Church, p. 48
"We read the Gospels and the book of Acts in the light of our understanding of the pre-existence and the incarnation of God the Son. However, the early Christians had no such concepts in their minds. They had no doctrine of the deity of Christ by which they might interpret Jesus."
(The Young Church: Acts of the Apostles, by George Eldon Ladd, edited by William Barclay and F. F. Bruce, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1964.)

During the time of the early Christians, was there yet a doctrine of the deity of Christ to be denied? According to Ladd, "They had no doctrine of the deity of Christ". 

As is common knowledge, how do many interpret the Scriptures today? According to Ladd, "in the light of our understanding of the pre-existence and the incarnation of God the Son". However, did the early Christians interpret the Scriptures in the same way? According to Ladd, "the early Christians had no such concepts in their minds". Hence, the concepts of pre-existence and the incarnation were unknown to the early Christians.

What is the proof? Where is any mention of the divinity of Christ noticeably absent? Let's read:

The Div. Trinity, p. 150
"… even the Didache, or “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,” the oldest literary monument of Christian antiquity outside of the New Testament canon … contains no formal profession of faith in the Divinity of Jesus Christ and the Atonement."
(The Divine Trinity. A Dogmatic Treatise by Pohle, Joseph, Rt. Rev. Msgr., PH.D., D.D., edited by Arthur Preuss, B. Herder Book Co., © 1911.)

Where is any mention of the divinity of Christ noticeably absent? According to Pohle, "the Didache". What is the Didache? According to Pohle, "the oldest literary monument of Christian antiquity outside of the New Testament canon". Many scholars hold that it was written sometime during the First Century.

Hence, even passages like, "I am My Father are one," (John 10:30) would not have been interpreted at the time as referring to "the Divinity of Jesus Christ". 

What is the proof that the concept of preëxistence was also unknown to the early Christians? Where is any mention of the preëxistent Christ noticeably absent? Let's read:

The Philo. of the Ch. Fathers, p. 190
"In contradistinction to these two types of works, in which there is either a specific mention of a preëxistent Christ or an allusion to it, there is the Old Roman or the so-called Apostles’ Creed (ca. 100), which follows the language of Matthew and Luke and makes no mention of the preëxistent Christ."
(The Philosophy of the Church Fathers, Wolfson, Harry Austryn. Volume 1: Faith, Trinity, Incarnation. 2nd rev. ed. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1964.)

Where is any mention of the preëxistent Christ noticeably absent? According to Wolfson, "the Old Roman or the so-called Apostles' Creed". When was this written? According to Wolfson, "ca. 100". This was also around the time when the last of the Apostles passed away.

Hence, even passages like, "In the beginning was the Word," (John 1:1) would not have been interpreted at the time as referring to "the preëxistent Christ".

Thus, during the First Century, there was not yet a doctrine of the deity of Christ to be denied, and so we will find no statements during that time outright refuting it in unambiguous terms.

What about in the Second Century? When was the earliest time known at which Jesus was deified? Let's read:

Sys. Theology, p. 305
"The earliest time known at which Jesus was deified was, after the New Testament writers, in the letters of Ignatius, at the beginning of the second century.”"
(Systematic Theology by Strong, Augustus Hopkins, D.D., LL. D., Philadelphia: The Judson Press, © 1907.)

When was the earliest time known at which Jesus was deified? According to Strong, "at the beginning of the second century". This was after the Apostles had already passed away.

In whose writings was Jesus first deified? According to Strong, "in the letters of Ignatius". Ignatius was one of the so-called Apostolic Fathers, who were believed, erroneously, to have been personal disciples of the Apostles.

When, however, was this doctrine only finalized? Let's read:

A Hist. of God, p. 81
"… the doctrine that Jesus had been God in human form was not finalized until the fourth century. The development of Christian belief in the Incarnation was a gradual, complex process."
(A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, by Karen Armstrong. New York: Ballantine Books, 1994.)

When, however, was this doctrine only finalized? According to Armstrong, "the fourth century". Hence, during the Second Century, very little of the doctrine existed to be refuted.

Was such a doctrine even widely known at that time? According to Tertullian, how did people in his day interpret Christ? Let's read:

Chall. of a Lib. Faith, p. 63
"Tertullian (160-230 A.D.), one of the most notable of the Church Fathers, wrote that in his day, “the common people think of Christ as a man.”"
(Challenge of a Liberal Faith, by Marshall, George N., New Canaan, Connecticut: Keats Publishing, Inc., © 1970.)

According to Tertullian, how did people in his day interpret Christ? According to Marshall, "the common people think of Christ as a man". Hence, during the Second Century, most were unaware that there even existed a doctrine of the deity of Christ to be denied, and still interpreted the Jesus of the Bible as a man.

When only would this doctrine be openly denied? Not until the Third Century, when it finally entered mainstream consciousness, after it was used as a response to a pagan philosopher who was causing the Christians to question their faith at that time. (I touch upon those events briefly here.)

Hence, during the First and Second Century, there exists no statement that outright denies the divinity of Jesus.

Does this, however, mean that the doctrine is in agreement with the teachings of the Bible? Whom does our Lord Jesus Christ introduce as God? Let's read:

John 17:1, 3 NKJV
1Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You,
3And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)

Whom does our Lord Jesus Christ introduce as God? Jesus said, "Father". What does Jesus call the Father? Jesus said, "the only true God". What is the definition of the word "only"? No more or nothing more besides. Hence, besides the Father, there is no other true God. 

What is Jesus' relationship to the Father? Jesus said, "Your Son". From this, we can make the following deduction:

1) The Father is the only true God; 
2) Jesus is not the Father; 
3) Jesus is therefore not the true God. 

In this way, Jesus has denied His own divinity.

This is what Jesus taught His disciples during the First Century, which would shape how the early Christians would interpret the Scripture.

How did God's people prior to the First Century also regard the Father? Let's read:

Isa. 64:8, 4 NKJV
8But now, O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand.
4For since the beginning of the world men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen any God besides You, Who acts for the one who waits for Him.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)

How did God's people prior to the First Century also regard the Father? Isaiah said, "nor has the eye seen any God besides You". From this, we can make the following deduction:

1) There is no God besides the Father;
2) Jesus is not the Father;
3) Jesus is therefore not God.

Hence, the belief of the early Christians, that there was no God besides the Father, was also the belief held in the centuries before them.

The doctrine of the divinity of Christ which would be introduced later, then, contradicts this.

According to the Apostle Paul, who did he maintain is the one God? Let's read:

I Cor. 8:6(a) LEB
6ayet to us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we are for him,
(Lexham English Bible. Bellingham, Washington: Logos Bible Software, 2011.)

According to the Apostle Paul, who did he maintain is the one God? Paul said, "the Father".

Likewise, according to the Prophet Malachi, who did he maintain is the one God? Let's read:

Mal. 2:10 NKJV
10Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously with one another by profaning the covenant of the fathers?
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)

According to the Prophet Malachi, who did he maintain is the one God? Malachi said, "Father". Hence, the teaching that only the Father is God is one that endured for many centuries. Thus, in this way, the Bible denies the divinity of Christ.

What are some other deductions that deny the divinity of Christ? Let's read:

Example #1:

Ezek. 28:2 NKJV
2"Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Because your heart is lifted up, and you say, 'I am a god, I sit in the seat of gods, in the midst of the seas,' yet you are a man, and not a god, though you set your heart as the heart of a god
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)
John 8:40 NKJV
40But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)
1) Man is not God; 
2) Jesus is man; 
3) Jesus is therefore not God.

Example #2:

John 4:24 KJV
24God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
(The Holy Bible: King James Version. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1962.)
Luke 24:39 NKJV
39Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have."
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)
1) God is a spirit; 
2) Jesus is not a spirit; 
3) Jesus is therefore not God.

Example #3:

Isa. 40:28 NKJV
28Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)
John 4:6 NKJV
6Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)
1) God never wearies; 
2) Jesus was weary; 
3) Jesus is therefore not God.

Example #4:

Ps. 121:3-4 GNB
3He will not let you fall; your protector is always awake. 4The protector of Israel never dozes or sleeps.
(Good News Bible: Today’s English Version. New York: United Bible Societies, 1992.)
Matt. 8:24 NKJV
24And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)
1) God never sleeps; 
2) Jesus slept; 
3) Jesus is therefore not God.

Example #5:

I Tim. 1:17 NLT
17All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen.
(Holy Bible: New Living Translation: Second Edition. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2005.)
Mark 15:37 GNB
37With a loud cry Jesus died.
(Good News Bible: Today’s English Version. New York: United Bible Societies, 1992.)
1) God never dies; 
2) Jesus died; 
3) Jesus is therefore not God.

Example #6:

I John 3:20 NKJV
20For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)
Mark 13:26, 32 NKJV
26Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.
32"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)
1) God knows everything; 
2) Jesus does not know everything; 
3) Jesus is therefore not God.

Example #7:

Isa. 46:9 NKJV
9Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me,
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)
John 20:17 NKJV
17Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, 'I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.'"
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)
1) God would not acknowledge another as God; 
2) Jesus acknowledges the Father as God; 
3) Jesus is therefore not God.

Example #8:

Job 34:13 NASB
13"Who gave Him authority over the earth? And who has laid on Him the whole world?
(The New American Standard Bible. New York, New York: American Bible Society, 1991.)
Matt. 28:18 NKJV
18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)
1) God has NATURAL authority; 
2) Jesus has ACQUIRED authority; 
3) Jesus is therefore not God.

Example #9:

Lev. 19:2 NKJV
2"Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: 'You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)
John 10:36 BBE
36Do you say of him whom the Father made holy and sent into the world, Your words are evil; because I said, I am God's Son?
(The Bible in Basic English. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2006.)
1) God has NATURAL holiness; 
2) Jesus has ACQUIRED holiness; 
3) Jesus is therefore not God.

Example #10:

Ps. 100:3 BBE
3Be certain that the Lord is God; it is he who has made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep to whom he gives food.
(The Bible in Basic English. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2006.)
Acts 2:36 NKJV
36"Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)
1) God has NATURAL lordship; 
2) Jesus has ACQUIRED lordship; 
3) Jesus is therefore not God.

Example #11:

Gen. 17:1 NLV
1When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord came to him and said, “I am God All-powerful. Obey Me, and be without blame.
(The Holy Bible: New Life Version. Uhrichsville, Ohio: Barbour Publishing, Inc., 2003.)
Acts 10:38 NKJV
38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)
1) God has NATURAL power; 
2) Jesus has ACQUIRED power; 
3) Jesus is therefore not God.

Example #12:

Gen. 18:25 NKJV
25Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)
Acts 10:42 NKJV
42And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)
1) God has NATURAL judgeship; 
2) Jesus has ACQUIRED judgeship; 
3) Jesus is therefore not God.

  Example #13:

Isa. 45:21 NKJV
21Tell and bring forth your case; yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Savior; there is none besides Me.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)
Acts 5:31 NKJV
31Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)
1) God has NATURAL saviorhood; 
2) Jesus has ACQUIRED saviorhood; 
3) Jesus is therefore not god.

Example #14:

I Cor. 15:27-28 GNB
27For the scripture says, "God put all things under his feet." It is clear, of course, that the words "all things" do not include God himself, who puts all things under Christ. 28But when all things have been placed under Christ's rule, then he himself, the Son, will place himself under God, who placed all things under him; and God will rule completely over all.
(Good News Bible: Today’s English Version. New York: United Bible Societies, 1992.)
1) God is OVER ALL; 
2) Jesus is UNDER God; 
3) Jesus is therefore not God.

Conclusion:

The early Christians did not openly deny the divinity of Christ, for no such doctrine yet existed in the First Century and was largely ignored during the Second Century. Rather, the Jesus they believed in was a man, and they, just as the Israelites did before them, believed in only one God, the Father.

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    no downvote from me, but what is your argument that Ignatius was not a disciple of an apostle? I'm not arguing for the inerrancy of Ignatius by any means...but suggesting he (and other apostolic fathers...which ones??) did not know the apostles seems like quite a stretch. – Hold To The Rod May 3 at 20:36
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    thank you for sharing your research. In fairness to Walker, the author of 2 Clement is unknown, and Hermas & Barnabas are at least debatable. But with respect to 1 Clement, Ignatius, & Polycarp, Walker is making an extraordinary claim...and there was no source listed for this claim. This is over and against the truly unparalleled arguments of Lightfoot--the founding father of the modern study of the Apostolic Fathers--his work is available online--links below: – Hold To The Rod May 3 at 23:02
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    part 1 & part 2 – Hold To The Rod May 3 at 23:02
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    @carsonfel You have much more patience than I do. :) The Old Roman Creed and Didache are the 2 very early 'dogs that didn't bark'. If people thought Jesus was God, that would be really important and they would say so. Not saying it is tantamount to denying it in those contexts. Same with John 20:31. If John is really intending to claim Jesus is God with Thomas' exclamation, why doesn't he say so in his takeaway summary? You think that would be important! So not saying it is contextual evidence that 20:28 isn't meant to be a claim that Jesus is God. Add in John 17:3 and John 20:17. – One God the Father May 5 at 19:16
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    Perhaps most clearly at 1 Clement 59:4 "Let all the Gentiles know that Thou art the God alone, and Jesus Christ is Thy Son." Thou art the God alone. – One God the Father May 29 at 18:39
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The first thing that has to be addressed is the idea of 'unambiguous' evidence. Given standard Trinitarian paraphrase of various passages, even a passage that said "Jesus was a man, and not God" would be ambiguous. First, Trinitarians hold that Jesus is fully man and fully God. So 'Jesus was a man' -> 'Jesus had a fully human nature in the context of a dual nature'. Second, Trinitarians hold that various references to 'God' in the NT refer to either the entire trinity or to one person of the trinity - the term, they hold, is ambiguous. So the phrase 'not God' here is compatible with Trinitarianism - Jesus is not God the Father, or God the Holy Spirit. Rather, He is of the category 'God'.

Let's begin with the Old Roman Creed (generally traced to the 2nd century), an older and shorter version of the Apostles' Creed, which another answerer mentioned. It is a 'dog that didn't bark' - a formula containing the basic, important elements of a worldview, that doesn't include a seemingly really important part - that Jesus is God. Instead, it says

"I believe in God the Father almighty; and in Christ Jesus His only Son, our Lord, Who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary"

A Biblical Unitarian would have no problem with this. Indeed, the creed sounds like it is stating the Father is God, but in distinction, Jesus is the Son of God (not God the Son).

This is similar to the more recent Apostles' Creed, which is to this day recited in various churches.

"I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary"

It is perhaps humorous to some Unitarians that you have millions upon millions of Trinitarians reciting a creed that very well may be Unitarian!

We can now move on to the the Didache (generally dated late 1st century to mid-2nd century), also referenced by another answerer. The Didache is another 'dog that didn't bark' - nowhere does it reference Jesus being God. As a manual of Christian living, this point would seem relevant.

1 Clement is the only extant uncontested writing of Pope Clement I. It is generally dated to the 1st Century. It is another early Christian 'dog that didn't bark' in that there is no mention of Jesus being God.

1 Clement not only does not mention that Jesus is God, it clearly and consistently distinguishes between God and Jesus. Perhaps the strongest instance of this is 1 Clement 59:4.

"Let all the Gentiles know that Thou art the God alone, and Jesus Christ is Thy Son."

This sounds quite similar to John 17:3, which is

"Now this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent."

Unlike John 17:3, where Trinitarians focus on the epithet 'true' to mark out 'God' here as 'God the Father', as opposed to the other persons of the trinity, Clement 59:4 has no such epithet. It is not clear how a Trinitarian would paraphrase this statement - it sounds, logically, like it entails a denial of Jesus being God. If so, it goes beyond being simply a dog that doesn't bark.

Martyrdom of Polycarp (mid-2nd century) is another argument from silence. But similar to the other texts (Didache, Old Roman Creed, 1 Clement, Epistle of Polycarp), throughout the text it sounds like the author is distinguishing between God and Jesus. For example, 14:1

"O Lord God Almighty, the Father of Thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received the knowledge of Thee[.]"

God Almighty seems to be identified with the Father, and distinguished from Jesus, the Son. If so, again it goes beyond being merely another dog that doesn't bark, and is a positive argument for unitarian belief for (in this case) Polycarp, who is being quoted (or the author of Martyrdom of Polycarp).

That leads to the Epistle of Polycarp to the Phillipians (first half 2nd century). This is another argument from silence, unless you think a textual variant in section 12, which puts 'God' in front of 'Jesus Christ' is original. That textual variant is at odds with repeated similar phraseology in the epistle, however, and not included in about half the manuscripts. See here for an argument that the textual variant is not original.

Outside of that textual variant, Polycarp consistently distinguishes between God and Jesus. Here is an example (also from section 12).

"But may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ Himself, who is the Son of God, and our everlasting High Priest"

It sounds like he's saying God is one thing and Jesus another. So again, if the one textual variant in section 12 which is questionable is set aside, you have another argument from silence and another seemingly positive argument.

To be continued ...

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I came across this documentary called, "The Secret Family of Jesus", by a British Academic Theologian named Dr. Robert Beckford. Among the topics discussed was Christ's divinity in the eyes of those close to him (his siblings). Though not stated explicitly or openly, the Documentary argues that because due to certain vernacular and language not being used to describe Christ as Divine (Virgin Birth, Saved by the Blood, etc) by his siblings (James and Jude) that they did not see him as being Divine in the sense of being GOD but as being more human. All of this beginning (roughly) at the 1hr 30Min, the documentary begins to focus on how Christ brothers were relegated in Christianity due to portraying Yashua/Jesus as their Master but not Divine, a human character blessed by GOD. A contributor within the Documentary, Dr. James Tabor states that the Epistle of James emphasizes the teachings of Christ but not the teachings about Christ: "Doesn't mention the cross of Christ, The Blood of Jesus, Doesn't mention forgiving of Sins through believing of our Lord and Savior who is in Heaven". In one of the texts mentioned in the documentary, The Didache, Dr. Robert Beckford alludes to it being weird how there is no mention of the Virgin Birth, no mention of the Resurrection, and no mention of Christ as GOD within the text. When asked why they speak of Jesus just as Lord and not LORD GOD, Archbishop Aristarchos (a representative of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem) stated that in his opinion (paraphrasing) "Within the New Testament there was a balance seeing Christ as The Son of Man and The Son of GOD.....The Lord in whom we believe is Divine but he is Human". The question stated, "Is there any historical evidence of Early Church Christians (post-New Testament) openly denying the divinity of Jesus in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD?", though the documentary did not show anything explicit material or sources that specifically pointed against Christ divinity, it goes to show that viewpoints that could possibly be interpreted as going against the doctrine of Christ being Divine were glossed over, not placed in the forefront and even almost downplayed in importance. Can read the here. (Didache).

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  • Video links aren't acceptable here sorry. Also I'm not sure how the Didache is evidence of people in the early church rejected the divinity of Jesus. Please edit this to explain in much more detail. – curiousdannii Apr 11 at 2:33
  • It would help a lot if you include quotes + timestamps of relevant parts of the documentary, quotes from the Didache and explain how the divinity of Jesus is being denied. That would make your answer self-contained (in the case the links are taken down) and help the reader understand your argument and reasoning. – Spirit Realm Investigator Apr 11 at 4:06
  • @curiousdannii Thanks for the heads up, I wasn't aware. Will make the necessary changes. – יהודה Apr 11 at 4:59
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator Sure no problem – יהודה Apr 11 at 4:59
  • 1
    I fail to understand how anyone can say early church did not believe Jesus was a deity...doubting Thomas less than 1 week after the crucifixion fell at Jesus feet and exclaimed "my Lord and my God"! Here is at least one very very prominent disciple who was clearly a believer in the deity of Jesus. The fact no other disciple in that room countered his statement means they all believed it too! – Adam May 8 at 9:52

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