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Jeff Deuble in Christ Before Creeds says (p. 33-34)

The significant controversies about the Messiah that were strongly contested in the New Testament were: his death by crucifixion, his resurrection, and his subsequent ascension and glorification. [...] As you read through the book of Acts you will discover that these are the three facts that the apostles continue to preach and debate, especially with Jews (Acts 2:22-36, 3:17-26, 5:29-32, 10:34-43, 13:26-41, 17:2-4, 17:29-31, 26:19-23). [...] These basic Christological tenets differed from previous perceptions, so they were strongly proclaimed and debated from the inception of the church on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-36).

Yet, he continues

Nowhere is there reference to a debate over Jesus being "fully human and fully God," or being himself God or on the same level as God. It doesn't appear at all on the landscape of first-century church history, whereas it looms large, at center stage in the church history of the fourth and fifth centuries.

This silence is remarkable because the early church was strongly Jewish and the Jews were strongly monotheistic. Any suggestion that Jesus was Yahweh, or a part of Yahweh, or even equal to Yahweh, would have been vehemently resisted, would it not? This silence is certainly difficult to explain if, as claimed by some, Trinitarian doctrine existed from the outset, from the earliest days of the church.

How do those who hold that Trinitarian doctrine existed from the earliest days of the Church respond to the sort of argument Deuble lays out here?

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Peter Turner
    May 25 at 20:07
  • 1
    This question applies to binitarians as much as to trinitarians (i.e. no mention of holy spirit). May 26 at 12:48

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I’ll make two points that serve to give us grounds for strongly doubting this argument.

  1. Arguments from silence, especially in regard to the Biblical text or other ancient texts, fail because they don’t realize that the author has very specific intentions when he is writing, and certain events may be left out because the author doesn’t see the relevance in the event. One could counter this by saying the author of Acts would most certainly want to record debates over the Trinity, but that’s not something that can be proven. It’s just an assertion. One could also argue that he did record it, but the documents have been lost to history. Either way, it’s an argument from silence.
  2. Regardless of the lack of specific mentions of Trinity debates, there are mentions of disputes between the Jews and Christians. It’s entirely possible that these debates included trinitarian debates. Along with that, Luke does record the Pharisees objection to Jesus when they say he “makes himself to be God”.
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  • +1 Would you say Deuble's argument doesn't work at all, or do you think it has some merit (although perhaps it is weak)? May 25 at 20:30
  • @OneGodtheFather I don’t know where I stand on that. You’ve definitely made the valid point that not all arguments from silence are fallacious, but I definitely don’t think an argument from silence can ever prove anything. At the most, silence is an evidential chip.
    – Luke Hill
    May 26 at 0:22
  • @LukeHill Thanks for that - fair response. "At the most, silence is an evidential chip" Yes, that's how I would see it in this context as well. May 26 at 0:31
  • . . . . and if there was very strong agreement regarding doctrine in the first two centuries (heresies only arising later) one would not expect much discussion in literature about things that were universally settled and not a matter of debate. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    May 26 at 1:05
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    We must remember that the Apostolic Times and the Early Church were times of persecution. Thus doctrine could not be fully expounded until the Church had more freedom to exercise her doctrine properly. This freedom came about from the Edict of Milan in 313 AD. Some 12 years later the Council of Nicaea came into existence on June 12, 325 AD. Oh how some forget to put things into perspective. +1.
    – Ken Graham
    May 26 at 1:43

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