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?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Peter Turner
    May 25, 2022 at 20:07
  • 1
    This question applies to binitarians as much as to trinitarians (i.e. no mention of holy spirit). May 26, 2022 at 12:48
  • The Church was strongly Jewish? Really? Perhaps in Jerusalem but hardly so in Corinth, Philippi, Ephesus, or any location in which Gentiles made up the large majority of the Church. How plausible is the position that polytheistic Gentiles, who prior to believing in Jesus, believed there were hundreds if not thousands of Gods, immediately moved to the radical, unbiblical, Second Temple brand of Jewish monotheism? Not only did they reject Jesus and the Holy Spirit as God(s), but believed the God of the Jews was the only God and their God? Far-fetched IMHO. Oct 6 at 17:57

3 Answers 3


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”.


Earliest Criticisms by the Roman Government.

To call into further question the idea that this was not a criticism of the early church, I cite Pliny the younger, writing in the early second century, who is our earliest primary source of criticism of the Christians.

Pliny then details the practices of Christians (sections 7–10): he says that they meet on a certain day before light where they gather and sing hymns to Christ as to a god. From Wikipedia

“Singing to Christ as to a god” is clearly indicative of an early deification of Christ by the church.

  • +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, 2022 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, 2022 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, 2022 at 0:31
  • 1
    . . . . 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, 2022 at 1:05
  • 2
    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, 2022 at 1:43

Early Violence Against the Church of God
Among the many misstatements and incorrect claims Deuble makes, his so called silence ignores the reaction of the Jews to the earliest members of the Church:

Acts 8:1:

And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem

The Church, which Paul calls the ecclesia of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:9, Galatians 1:13) consisted entirely of Jews. Paul testifies to his vehemence against fellow Jews:

Acts 22:4-5:

4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, 5 as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.

Acts 26:9-11:

9 “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

Paul persecuted these Jews to the death. He had raging fury against them. He voted to have them executed, and ...they were put to death.

What crime requiring the death penalty had these Jews committed?

Blasphemy is the only crime for which these Jews could receive the death penalty. Claiming Jesus is the Christ is not blasphemy. Claiming the Christ was God and thereby making Jesus God or equal to God would be blasphemy. Acts reports that the Apostle James was put to death and but for his miraculous release, Peter would have been executed in Jerusalem.

The hostility of the Jews towards Jews in the Church of God continued after Paul became a believer. It was Jews who stoned Paul in Lystra. What crime requires stoning? Apparently Deuble believes this early violence which continued throughout Paul's life was nothing more than illegal rage which had no justification from Scripture.

This hostility toward Jews in the Church of God did not always result in execution. Jews were beaten and expelled from the synagogue. The vehemence against Jews who proclaim belief Jesus is the Christ continues to this day. Civil laws protect them from execution, but they are considered to have died. They no longer exist as Jews.

The New Testament clearly indicates some Jews considered and did return to Judaism. The letter to the Hebrews, written to the Jews considering a return to the monotheistic Judaism Deuble envisions, clearly states the divinity of Jesus and the worthlessness of a Christ-less religion.

The "silence" Deuble claims was presented was much louder than he is willing to acknowledge.

Yahweh in the Septuagint
The name Septuagint (from the Latin septuaginta, “70”) was derived later from the legend that there were 72 translators, 6 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel, who worked independently to translate the whole and ultimately produced identical versions. Whether the legend was true, the historical reality is the Greek Old Testament was in use hundreds of years before Christ. It was used to bring the knowledge of God to the Greek speaking world. For hundreds of years it lead Gentiles away from polytheism to Judaism.

Despite this success, around the time the New Testament was completed, the Jews abandoned the Greek Old Testament and returned to the Hebrew or Aramaic text. Deuble, who incorrectly claims the Trinity was not even an issue until 300-400 AD, fails to address this change. Why would the Jews stop using what a Gentile could understand? Why stop using something which had successfully brought the truth of Judaism to the Greek speaking world and use something a Gentile could not understand?

The reason is simple. It is impossible to read the New Testament from the perspective of the LXX, and not recognize YHVH and Jesus are synonymous:

LXX-Deuteronomy 6:4 NETS:

And these are the statutes and the judgments which the Lord commanded to the sons of Israel in the wilderness as they were coming out from the land of Egypt. Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.

1 Corinthians 8:6:

Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

Deuble, like many who deny the Trinity, claim the Shema is a proof text Jews of Paul's time would never have accepted the claim Jesus was God. Yet, any Gentile who learned and repeated the Shema from the LXX, would have no doubt, the Lord Moses spoke of was Jesus Christ.

Why did the Jews abandon the LXX after hundreds of years of successfully bringing the word of God to the corrupt polytheistic world of the Gentiles? Because Christians used the LXX to prove Jesus was the Lord God proclaimed in the Shema.

It is not only Paul who makes this connection. On the Day of Pentecost Peter quotes Joel saying, whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. What is the name Peter says saves?

Acts 4:8-12:

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Peter. speaking by the Holy Spirit says salvation comes by one name only: Jesus Christ of Nazareth. This was the blasphemy for which Jews were put to death.

Maricon of Sinope
The earliest and best documented heresy in the Church was Marcionism. Concurrent with the Jews abandoning the LXX, Marcion of Sinope began to teach Jesus was not the Jewish Messiah and the God who sent Jesus was not the God described in the Old Testament. The very essence of this position is one of multiple Gods. There was God found in the Old Testament, which Marcion rejected in his canon, and there was God as Paul described:

1 Corinthians 8:6:

Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

Most Trinity deniers, like Deuble fail to acknowledge the significance of what Paul wrote about the Father. Paul's description of the Father is not found in either the Hebrew or Greek Old Testament. Consequently, Marcion could use Paul's letters to support his claim the Father Paul wrote of was not found in the Jewish Scriptures.

Marcion was excommunicated and his teachings outlawed, but the historical reality is Paul's letters were used to "prove" there was more than one God. The fact the Church rejected Marcion's misuse of Paul does not erase the reality such an interpretation was not only possible; it was attempted with some success. Even today some Jews claim the God of Israel is unrecognizable in Paul's writings. This is exactly what Marcion used to fuel his heresy.

The silence Deuble sees in the lack of an explicit statement Jesus is YHVH is only present if one ignores the earliest treatment of those persecuted believers in Jerusalem. One must also maintain the position Gentiles who converted to Christianity never read the Old Testament in Greek. Instead, they like second century Jews, lived as strict Second Temple monotheists as understood from a Hebrew text, they could not read.

On the other hand, if Gentile converts to Paul's presentation of the Gospel read about YHVH in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the so-called silence is explained by accepting what is without dispute: Jesus is Yahweh in the LXX.


The fact that we don't see anything in the NT where anyone disputed the deity of Christ proves that this controversy of Unitarianism was peculiar to the Heathen Churches (Romans/Greeks), which could not grasp the Jewish religion. The only dispute among the Jews was rejecting Jesus as the Christ, and not about his deity. The concept of the Messiah being divine was well attested; and the issue of his mortal death was the matter that raised objections. We see only two controversial issues in the Churches of the NT. First, the inclusion of Gentiles into the Church by faith without circumcision or Torah observance. The second was the doctrine of licentiousness of faith alone which removes the responsibility of works. In the early Churches, his humanity was the controversial and disputed topic, rather than his deity. As we see minor differences of opinion as Luke and Matthew attempts to present meticulous genealogies, and even remove his earthly parents from the picture, to present him as a divine Son of God.

The quotes from Jeff Deuble reveals that he holds the errors of the heathen churches from the later centuries, as the church became increasingly disconnected with the Jewish roots of the theology, abandoning authentic doctrines. The Jewish authorities condemned Jesus of blasphemy over his claims of being Christ, which indirectly shows that Christ's identity was no ordinary, he was the Son of God, deemed equal to God.

Anyone who has the basic study of the Jewish religion should know that the early (Jewish) Church had no problem in accepting the Trinity. They were already Trinitarians, as their monotheism was complex, as opposed to simple or Unitarian. We get the Trinity from the Jewish early Church, and not from the 4th century Romans. I recommend the biblestudying.net site for a detailed collection of quotes which proves the complex monotheism of Judaism, and Christianity being compatible with the Jewish theology.

As we read John 1 it is interesting to see the high degree of correspondence between fundamental New Testament teaching and the beliefs of Judaism prior to the close of the second century AD. John 1 parallels several important Jewish traditions that we have been discussing. First, correspondent to Jewish Complex Monotheism, John 1 repeatedly distinguishes between at least two hypostases or persons of God. Second, one of these hypostases is identified as the Logos or Word of YHWH. (In John 1, the Greek term translated as “Word” is “Logos.”) Third, John 1:1-3 parallels first-century Jewish traditions which identified the Word, or Logos, of God as God’s agent in the creation of the world and of mankind in Genesis 1. Fourth, we should remember that Jewish traditions identified the Word of YHWH as the “son of man” figure of Daniel. This title (“son of man”) is commonly used in the New Testament to refer to Jesus even in John 1. (See verse 51.) And fifth, note John 1:13’s connection to “kabod” traditions in identifying the Word as the glory of God.)

In the following quote, Sommer confirms this analysis of John 1 as he connects biblical concepts of the Temple to God’s intentions to become immanent on the earth and to New Testament teaching about God being immanent through the incarnation of the Word as Jesus. Once again, it is clear that the New Testament is simply applying existing biblical and Jewish traditions about God to Jesus.

This interpretive practice is especially clear in the work of the many modern scholars…maintain that P’s notion of divine presence involves what they call “tabernacling.” Scholars use this verb frequently, no doubt in order to call to mind John 1.14, which describes how God, in the form of the Word (that is, Jesus), came to dwell on earth: “And the Word became flesh and tabernacled [or “encamped; Greek, eskhnwsen] among us, and we looked at His glory [Greek, doxan, the same term that usually renders kabod in the Septuagint translation of Hebrew scripture], glory as of the only son begotten by the Father full of grace and truth.” This is an important verse, and not only because it appears on the seal of Northwestern University, whose generous sabbatical policies have led to the words you are now reading. In recalling this verse, scholars such as Wright, Cross, and Clements rightly emphasize themes that link the priestly tabernacle, the Jerusalem temple, and Jesus. All three of these are presented in scripture (whether Jewish and Christian scripture, in the case of tabernacle and temple, or Christian scripture in the case of Jesus) as attempts by the transcendent God to become immanent and accessible in the world God created. – Benjamin D. Sommer, The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel, p. 96

As we can see, these New Testament teachings are not foreign or contrary to pre-rabbinic (2000 BC – second century AD) or early rabbinic (second century AD) Judaism. To the contrary, as Sommer has said, the only novelty of the New Testament was in applying all of these existing Jewish, biblical traditions to a single, contemporary figure, Jesus.

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