1

Among the early church there was a dispute on the nature of Christ, with some Christians claiming that Jesus was not only God but was uncreated and some like Arius believing that Jesus Christ was created, but did the early church believe that Jesus Christ was uncreated?

2
  • 6
    "some Christians claiming that Jesus was not only God but was uncreated and some like Arius believing that Jesus Christ was created" You've answered the question yourself! So I don't understand what you mean. Unless you mean pre-Arius? Please edit this to be much clearer about what you're asking.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jan 5, 2023 at 11:42
  • 1
    Early Church meaning apostolic? Or 300 years after Jesus’ death?
    – 007
    Commented Jan 5, 2023 at 17:24

3 Answers 3

2

The first century Church knew Jesus to have been born of woman - the virgin Mary. They knew Jesus had been a helpless baby, circumcised on the eighth day, grew up like all children do, and then began a spectacular if short ministry until crucifixion, then they were witnesses to him being resurrected from the dead and ascending bodily into heaven.

However, they also knew other things about Jesus, due to what he told them about having existed before Abraham was on earth (when he was not known as the man, Jesus). They knew he had told them he would return to Father God in heaven after he had been raised from the dead. They knew he had told them of raising the dead and judging everyone when returning in glory with hosts of angels to this Earth. And I could go on. This simply gives some pointers towards how they soon discovered the man, Jesus, to be far greater than any other man that had ever lived. Once the Holy Spirit had been poured out on them, as Jesus promised would happen after he'd returned to heaven, they began to understand clearly, and wrote about their beliefs in what we now call the New Testament.

This means that **the 1st century Christian Church believed that the One they first knew as Jesus was uncreated, as can be shown in many of their writings in the Bible. **. The last book was written by 95 A.D. and is full of this, as is also the 4th gospel account, and all the theology sections of the various apostles which equally confirm this belief.

If the question seeks to go beyond the first century to the second and third centuries, that is where the beginnings of disputes about that belief start. Before Arius voiced his disbelief in the uncreated status of Christ in the late 3rd century, the early Church Father Irenaeus (circa 130 - 200) rejected Christ being "an emanation"; he rejected the idea that the Logos emerged at a point in time. He stated that the Logos has always existed as the One who reveals the Father, and thereby is personally distinct from him, not a 'mode' of the Father. The Son is God by nature, true God.

Irenaeus responded to un-Christian beliefs of that time. What he refuted was not in Christian circles but in pagan ones, but which was threatening to corrupt the Church. This book explains:

"The naive way to understand the Christian Gospel is to see it as a simple message, one that can be simply stated and relatively easily grasped... [but for others] they feel that a proper religion must offer something more, an intellectual challenge that puts it beyond the reach of the simple. The Gnostic position asserts that over and above the simple Gospel, which is all that ordinary spirits can understand, there is a secret, higher knowledge reserved for an elite... the Gnostic movement attempted to give the answers, and it did so by drawing on religious sources alien to Christianity and amalgamating them with elements of the Gospel of faith.

The Gnostic movement as a whole and even church-related Gnosticism are really too big and too foreign to the N.T. to be called heresies; they really represented an alternative religion... In producing docetism, Gnosticism presented us with the first heresy that can be clearly lodged within Christianity." Heresies and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church, Harold O.J. Brown, pp,39 - 42, Baker Book House Co. print 1998

Irenaeus exposed the teachings of Gnosticism, Docetism, and Modalism, and that was why he said what he said about the uncreated status of the Son of God. Then along came Arius, three-quarters of a century after Irenaeus had died. Also before Arius, the first early Church Father to use Latin for what we know as 'trinitarian language', had been and gone (Tertullian, 160 - 230).

"Tertullian's language anticipates the explicit statements of Chalcedon... reveals that we may speak of God, in the person of the Son, as already in evidence at least by implication as early as the beginning of the third century." (Ibid. p. 85)

This serves to give just a couple of examples of early Church Fathers - before Arius arrived on the Christian theological scene - upholding the uncreated status of the Word (Logos) of God who is the Son of God, known as Jesus when on Earth.

1

If by 'early church' you mean pre-Pauline, the group in Jerusalem with whom Paul had disagreements and contentions certainly did not believe Jesus to be more than a holy man who was adopted by God for a specific mission. This group was led by Jacob the Just the brother of Joshua and have been identified with the group called Ebionite. However, by 200 CE, there were many, many different sorts of Christianity with widely varying sets of beliefs about the person of Annointed Joshua -- including some who no doubt believed he was an uncreated one.

Sources:

  • The Judaisms of Jesus’ Followers: An Introduction to Early Christianity in its Jewish Context by Dr. Juan Marcos Bejarano-Gutierrez
  • After Jesus Before Christianity: A Historical Exploration of the First Two Centuries of Jesus Movements by Erin Vearncombe, Brandon Scott, et al.
  • Varieties of Early Christianity: The Formation of the Western Christian Tradition (Blackwell Ancient Religions) by Rebecca I. Denova
  • Comparing Christianities: An Introduction to Early Christianity by April DeConick
  • Alternative Christianities Volume I: Early Christian sects and the Formation of the Bible by Vince Nicolas
2
  • 1
    Please edit this to add some supporting references. Also, the "early church" generally is taken to mean from after the Apostles through to the end of the 4th century - so no pre-Pauline.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented May 14, 2023 at 22:01
  • @curiousdannii That's alright, they weren't called Christians until Antioch -- if Acts is to be taken as a credible source. So, Paul was already starting an Anointed Joshua movement before they were called Christians. I still think that is about as early as early gets, in spite of your definition. (I know you want it to include the orthodoxy, which was a later development.)
    – Tear--Here
    Commented May 18, 2023 at 0:35
0

How about the opening passage of John's gospel?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

Given that John's gospel was the latest, and uniquely emphasizes this point, one might conclude that it was in response to a controversy.

You must log in to answer this question.