The Bible does not describe God and His Son in terms of substance. The closest we get is Hebrews 1:3, where the Son is described as the mirror image of the hypostasis of God. At the time, hypostasis still had the same meaning as ousia (substance), as it also had in the 325 AD Nicene Creed. Therefore the NASB translates hypostasis as "substance" in Hebrews 1:3.
The Wikipedia page Sabellianism states that the Gnostics were the first to use the word in connection with their doctrine of emanation in which the generator and the generated have the same substance. Were these people also Christians? Did they perhaps bring substance language into the church debate?
The dates of the theologians that used the word substance, as I could gather from Wikipedia, in their apparent chronological sequence, are as follows:
- Praxeas lived at the end of the 2nd century/beginning of the 3rd century.
- Tertullian (155-220) - In Against Praxeas, Tertullian often refers to substance. Did he get it from Praxeas?
- Sabellius flourished about AD 215 - Prof Ninan stated that Sabellius used the word homoousian.
- Noetus was a presbyter around AD 230
- Origen (184-253) - According to his Wikipedia page, he rejected the belief that the Son and the Father were one hypostasis as heretical. But that implies that somebody was using that language before him. That would include Tertullian.
So, these people all lived more or less at the same time but given the early date for Tertullian, and since he wrote Against Praxeas, I assume Praxeas was the first of the authors. Is it possible that he was one of the gnostics and that he introduced the word substance into the debate?