Jesus Christ as God and the Trinity Was Not Invented Until the Fourth Century?
by Rich Deem

Introduction

One of the most commonly held atheistic myths is that Christianity as we know it today was not invented until the fourth century, after the council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. The book, and recently released movie, The Da Vinci Code, makes this very claim (among other very bizarre assertions). Many say that the early Christian church thought of Jesus Christ as just a good moral teacher, and did not worship Him until the 4th century when the Trinity and deity of Christ was "invented." However, our examination of this question, using biblical sources, the writings of the early church fathers, and secular sources, will clearly establish that Jesus was worshipped as God no later than the early second century (113 A.D.).

Biblical sources

Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the GospelsCiting all the biblical sources that claim Jesus is God is beyond the scope of this paper. However, other pages on this site examine these issues in detail. They can be found below:

Even though many acknowledge that the Bible says clearly that Jesus is God, those people have claimed that the Bible was edited long after originally penned. Such claims fly in the face of volumes of documents written by the early church fathers, who cited verses liberally from New Testament gospels and letters in their own writings. Since many of these writings can be definitively dated to the first and second centuries,1 such claims of rewriting are obviously false. Some of this evidence will be cited below.

Early Christian sources

The earliest Aramaic-speaking Christians refer to Jesus as "Lord" in the earliest extra-canonical Christian book, the Didache, which scholars agree was written no later than the late 100s. The word "Lord" (Greek Kyrios) was used by the Greeks to designate divinity. Justin Martyr, a second-century church father, baptized new believers in the name of the triune God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, acknowledging the equality of the three distinct persons of the Trinity.

Polycarp of Smyrna composed an epistle to the Philippian church sometime between 110 to 140 AD, in which he indicated quite clearly that Jesus was considered to be God:

Now may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal High-priest Himself the Son of God Jesus Christ, build you up in faith and truth, and in all gentleness and in all avoidance of wrath and in forbearance and long suffering and in patient endurance and in purity; and may He grant unto you a lot and portion among His saints, and to us with you, and to all that are under heaven, who shall believe on our Lord and God Jesus Christ and on His Father that raised him from the dead.

Ignatius Theophorus, bishop of Antioch, wrote to the Ephesian church between 107 to 110 AD:

For our God, Jesus Christ, was, according to the appointment of God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost.

Justin Martyr, wrote from 155 to 160 AD:

And that Christ being Lord, and God the Son of God, and appearing formerly in power as Man, and Angel, and in the glory of fire as at the bush, so also was manifested at the judgment executed on Sodom, has been demonstrated fully by what has been said.

So, it is quite clear from Christian writers that Jesus was considered to be God well before the end of the second century.

Secular sources

Pliny the Younger as governor of Pontus/Bithynia from 111-113 A.D. wrote (in his Letters 10.96-97) to Emperor Trajan regarding the early Christian church, their worship of Christ, and how he persecuted, tortured, and murdered them:

"They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so."

This example shows quite clearly that even the Romans knew that Jesus was being worshipped and wanted to "check and cure" "the contagion of this superstition" that had "spread not only to the cities but also to the villages and farms."2

Archeology

Although not as early as the Pliny letter, another secular source indicating that Jesus was worshipped as God before the fourth century was recently discovered in Megiddo, Israel. The discovery is a third century Christian church with a tile floor inlaid with inscriptions. One of the inscriptions was a tribute to Jesus, "Akeptous, the God-loving, offered this table for (the) god Jesus Christ, as a remembrance." Obviously, the discovery of a third century inscription calling Jesus God discredits the idea that Jesus was not worshipped until the fourth century (see Early (3rd Century A.D.) Christian Church at Megiddo, Israel for more information).

Conclusion Top of page

So, despite the claims of atheists and The Da Vinci Code, Jesus Christ was thought of as being God certainly by the early second century, if not earlier. The assertion of Christianity's invention hundreds of years after Jesus lived is one of the most easily falsified myths found in secular circles. It is amazing that it has persisted to this day.



<< back


References Top of page

  1. Is Our Copy of the Bible a Reliable Copy of the Original?
  2. The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, 12:2, compiled by David Robert Palmer, May, 2015, pp 19-20.
  3. The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians, New Advent, Chapter 18, retrieved June 15, 2018.
  4. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, New Advent, Chapter 128, retrieved June 15, 2018.
  5. "For the contagion of this superstition has spread not only to the cities but also to the villages and farms. But it seems possible to check and cure it." Pliny and Trajan on the Christians (Letters 10.96-97).


Last Modified June 15, 2018

 

Rich's Blog

Jesus Christ as God and the Trinity Was Not Invented Until the Fourth Century?