By: Thomas Weisser

Article 1
Four hundred prophets chanted in one accord, "Go up; for the Lord shall deliver Ramoth-gilead into the hand of the King" (I Kg. 22:6). Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, couldn't be convinced even by this elaborate display. "Is there not here a prophet of the Lord besides, that we might enquire of Him?" (I Kg. 22:7). Ahab regretfully nodded and sent for his enemy Micaiah.

After being prompted to give a good answer Micaiah glibly answered the same as the four hundred. "Go up; for the Lord shall deliver Ramothgilead into the hand of the King." But when adjured to tell the truth, he described Ahab losing his life in this encounter with Syria.

"I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills. as sheep that have not a shepherd" (I Kg. 22:17). Ahab died even though he tried to disguise himself in battle.
This story illustrates an important principle. Not always is the majority opinion true. Though many support a theory, that theory is not necessarily right. In Church History there have been many Micaiahs. They have, for the most part, constituted the minority, but that doesn't make them heretics.

In this volume we will look at general Church History and something else. This other element is the Micaiahs of Church History-individuals and groups who rejected the general trends of the Church-men who looked to Scripture and God for direction rather than to other men. True , they were the minority, but that does not make them wrong- though the majority labelled them heretics and still does today.

Humanism and the Church
Philosophical bases are very important. Looking at historical events is much more meaningful when we perceive the philosophical bases behind them. To simplify things, we can say there have been two basic philosophical bases in the history of mankind. These are very important when we consider them in our study of Church History.
The first of these can probably best be represented by the Philosophy of Plato. Plato emphasized the importance of ideals or universals in his understanding of world existence. The greatest achievement of man was his ability to align himself with these changeless ideals (eg. courage, honesty, patience, etc.). He thereby would better himself and identify himself with concepts immortal. This philosophy, though not Christian, can be favorably compared to Christianity. In Christianity we find a book spelling out ideals or absolutes for man to live by. We also see a definite affirmation of the existence of an Almighty Being who created the material realm.
The second philosophical base we will consider is one that has been followed by the majority of mankind. Aristotle's ideas can be used to describe this one, as Aristotle emphasized the material realm. The apex of the world's beings was man. Man was the ultimate creation. Aristotle held some belief of a divine mover, but his God was impersonal and could best be described as pantheistic.

Looking at history and present day developments we see a general trend towards Aristotle's way of thinking. We refer to it today as Humanism. The emphasis is on the abilities and achievements of man. God is either ignored (doesn't exist) or is put in the background. The sad result of this philosophical base is that one who espouses it finds himself groping for answers to some basic questions. He can find no real reason for his existence. When man thinks he is autonomous he has to look to himself and/or other men for meaning. But when he is confined to the material realm he runs into a brick wall, so to speak, when considering his meaning for existence. Even the pagan with his idols is simply accepting a manmade solution to his existence and the world about him. Humanism with its accompanying theory of evolution is doing much the same thing.

The important thing we must recognize when considering all this in the light of Church History, is this: In the Church the trend of the majority, after the first two or three centuries, was that of going outside of the Bible for ultimate authority. Church Councils and Popes' decisions were placed above the Bible in importance. Consequently, with the intervention of man, Humanism bullied its way into the Church. Men blindly accepted the dictates of man when they conformed to the decisions of Church Councils. Of course, the Church claimed these dogmas came from God, but did they really?

Consider this:
The average young person today grows up in a humanistic environment. He is taught in public school from the standpoint that there is no God. Even if he attends Church it probably is one that doesn't mention anything about a real, personal experience with Jesus Christ like the early church had. He becomes disillusioned when he looks for absolute values to live by. He is told it is up to him to develop his own values. He may turn to drugs, the occult, immorality, lying, stealing, eastern religion, etc. This is exactly what we have today. People in authority cannot understand what has gone wrong. They could understand if they would look objectively at the philosophical base behind almost every influence upon our young people. It is a base devoid of God and meaning. Rules of conduct are arbitrarily based on man's own whims and fancies. There are no absolutes.

What is the Solution?
If humanism can be found in the Church what alternatives are left? Do we just resign ourselves to apathy? Or, worse yet, do we become suicidal? No! We still have the Bible and there are still churches that stand up for the truth. The greatest commandment in the Bible relates that there is one God and it our obligation and privilege to love him with all our mind, soul and strength. Jesus said, "Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." The Kingdom of God has remained in tact since the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and its adherents have obtained righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost in every generation since then. Don't be overwhelmed by this depressing world. Turn to the living God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.

The Trinitarian Dogma
The Church has suffered many setbacks but the worst have consistently been when men went outside of the Word of God. This is exactly what Satan did in the Garden. He enticed Eve outside of the safety of God's Word and into the realm of sin. The Church needs nothing outside of the Bible to substantiate creeds or dogmas. The Holy Scripture is all we need because it was and is inspired by God.

The great in justice of the Fourth Century and subsequent centuries was that the Church leaders went outside of the Bible for their authority. They said that decisions of Church Councils had just as much authority as the Bible. What they did not realize is that the very same thing that Satan did, they were doing. Damnable heresies started entering in. The greatest of these is the Trinitarian Doctrine. This doctrine is not found in Scripture! It is found in a creed established by men with almost total disregard for Scripture. Its wording was borrowed from paganism. The point is, that man looking to man ends up in confusion. Man looking to God and His Word ends up in harmony and with direction. The Trinitarian doctrine was formulated by men.

Since the formulation of the Trinitarian dogma in 381 A.D. the Catholic Church has persecuted and condemned any who would question it. It didn't matter that the dogma came from man. Pretending to be the representatives of God the Church claimed authority to condemn people for simply rejecting their manmade dogma. Making the denial of the Trinitarian dogma a capital offense, they revealed their hearts. The New Testament never gives license to kill. Neither does it sanction torture. The Early Church knew nothing but persecution. After the Third Century the tables turned. The Catholic Church became the persecutor and true believers were forced underground and declared heretics. If Peter and Paul had lived in the fourth or fifth centuries they would have been labelled heretics. The doctrines of the Trinity, Mariolotry, Veneration of Saints, etc. came not from God but from man. They could, therefore, be considered Humanistic.

Who was Jesus Christ?
Certainly the undisputed central character of the Bible is Jesus Christ. There are numerous prophecies concerning Him in the Old Testament and He definitely dominates the New. Because of the importance of Jesus Christ, it is essential for us to have a proper understanding of who He is.

There are three basic schools of thought concerning the person of Jesus Christ. Only one of these is Scripturally correct. The other two consist of misconceptions. This volume supports the one true conception of Christ and proves beyond a shadow of a doubt its pre-dating of the other two within the ranks of historical Christianity.

The first conception of Christ can be simply stated. The Apostle Paul put it very fittingly when he wrote: `in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9). With this brief portion of Scripture, let us open our eyes and see the folly of representing Christ as anything less than God Himself in flesh.
Secondly, we have the school that makes Christ a mere man adopted by God to bring about redemption. This supposedly upholds Jewish Monotheism, and not only destroys the significance of God Himself coming to earth, but also lowers the atonement to the act of a man. Thirdly, we have the theory which has been adopted by the majority of the Church world today. This theory is very confusing. It states that the second person of a triune God came to earth and carried out the work of redeeming the human race. This language cannot be found in Scripture. It is found in the Athanasian creed. It has been supported by the Catholic Church since its formulation (probably sixth century) and claims to offer eternal life to its believers and eternal damnation to its deniers.

It is my position that the first of these three is the only one Scripturally correct. Through history it has been labelled Modalistic Monarchianism, Patripassianism, Sabellianism, etc. In this book we will study courageous men and women who defended their Scriptural beliefs in the face of severe persecution. There have always been at least a few in every century since the Church began.

More on the Person of Christ
When asked what was the most important commandment, Jesus answered: "The first of all the commandments is, Hear, 0 Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength." Mk. 12:29,30.

The most important thing for us to understand about God is that He robed Himself in flesh to bring us salvation. The invisible God took on visible flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus was none other than the Father in flesh. "Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou, shew us the Father?" Jn. 14:8,9.
To say that Jesus Christ is someone besides the God of the Old Testament is to deny the authority of Scripture.

-Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Isa. 7:14 and Mt. 1:23

-For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Isa. 9:6
"The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Isa. 40:3
To say that the `Eternal Son' descended and took on flesh rather than God Himself is ludicrous. Nowhere in Scripture can such terminology be found. What is found in Scripture allows no separation between Jehovah and our Saviour.

-Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. Lk. 1:34, 35 
"Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the Lord? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God and there is none else. Isa. 45:21 , 22

-I, even I, am the Lord: and beside me there is no saviour. Isa. 43:11

-Yet I am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no saviour beside me. Hos. 13:4
So-called wise men shun away from the simplicity of this. They desire to confuse the issue, making it a subject of intellectual debate. Claiming to be wise, they prove themselves fools by going outside the safe perimeter of Scriptural language.

Jesus did not attack the iniquities of Roman rule, nor the major social issues of the day. But He had much to say about the Scribes and Pharisees (religious leaders.) In stinging rebuke He said to them: "Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition...But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Mt. 15:6,9.)

Isn't it justifiable to say that those who hold to the Athanasian Creed are making the commandments of God of none effect by their tradition? Isn't it true that the majority of Christendom teaches for doctrines the commandments of men? If the answer to the above two questions is `yes,' I ask you with all honesty, has Jesus Christ changed? Does Christ still feel the same way about such hypocrisy? If He does, we need to lay aside these weights of tradition and doctrines of men and acknowledge Jesus Christ as our God and our Redeemer.

Testimony of Peter and Paul
To prove that the Early Church was not humanistic and exalted Jesus Christ above all, let us direct our attention to two of the greatest apostles.

As any who have applied for a job know, the prospective employer invariably looks at an applicant's past experience. When we consider the position of Apostle we must admit that it required an exceptional person. Yet, when we look at Peter's qualifications I think we are confronted with obvious inconsistencies. First of all, his previous employment, that of a fisherman, gives little indication of ability to be a great Christian leader. He was not a well-educated man. His character could probably best be described as boisterous and a bit too conceited.

You say, forget about this applicant and on to the next. But wait; we aren't through. Probably the greatest action of Peter that would disqualify him as an Apostle was his denial of Christ. After he conceitedly said that he would stick with Jesus until the end (Mt. 26:33) he shortly thereafter denied any relationship with Christ at all (Jn. 18:25). You would think that this man would never make a great leader.

Yet, with all his weaknesses and inabilities Peter became the `Revival Speaker' on the Day of Pentecost recorded in Acts, chapters one and two. How could this man who had no past experience stand in front of thousands and boldly proclaim that they were responsible for the death of Christ? How could he with great boldness exhort the people there, after they had asked, "What shall we do?" (Acts 2:37) to  “Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:38)?

The only conclusion we can come to is that Peter was inspired by an outside force. One cannot honestly say that he had it in him to be a great Apostle. He became a flaming evangel only after he was filled with God's Spirit (Acts 2:4.) The Spirit of Christ worked through him to bring thousands to a like experience. This completely topples the tower of assumptions put forth by the secular humanist of today. If the Apostle Peter needed the Holy Ghost infilling to live for God, who are we to say we can be Christian without it? If there is no such thing as a new-birth experience, how can we explain Peter's change Humanistically? How do we explain his fearless proclamation of the Deity of Jesus Christ in the face of harsh persecution? The only explanation is the power of God working through Peter.

Paul is another example of a most unlikely person to fill the shoes of an Apostle of Jesus Christ. For one thing, he didn't want to be associated in any way or form with the followers of Christ. He saw this new ‘cult' as a dangerous force to undermine the Hebrew religion of his day. Consequently, he persecuted these early followers of Christ severely (Acts 8:1-3.) He approved the death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, and sent many to prison for simply believing in Christ.
His vehement hatred of Christians was so great that, after finding out about a group of them in Damascus, he obtained authority from the high priest in Jerusalem to go there and arrest them. This man would appear to be the least likely to ever become a follower of Christ as he purposefully approaches Damascus. But, on the way, Paul is knocked down after a light shone round about him. He hears a voice saying: "Why persecutest thou me?" (Acts 9:4.) Paul, having been humbled and realizing that only God could do such a thing asks: Who are thou Lord?" Jesus answers and Paul is, in a very short time, totally convinced that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel. He is convinced Jesus is God. Shortly thereafter Paul is baptized and receives the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 9:17, 18.) He confounds the Jews of Damascus when he begins to preach Christ in their synagogues.

How could Paul make a complete turnaround from being persecutor to persecuted (Acts 9:1, 23)? This cannot be explained humanistically. Man does not change that fast without an outside influence. Paul, just as Peter, needed the Holy Ghost in his life (Acts 9:17.) Without God they were evil, but with God they had power to do much good. If these great men of the Bible needed the Acts 2:38 experience, who are we to say we don't?
Neither Peter nor Paul wrote anything about the Trinitarian doctrine in their epistles.

Article 2
The Second Century
After the death of John the Revelator (c. 100 A.D.) the church was strong but not without its problems. Heresies were arising from within. A growing antagonism from without was brewing as the Romans saw that Christianity wasn't just an offshoot of Judaism. This was a whole new religion with practices that were antagonistic to Roman culture and religion.

The twelve apostles had died and with this the church saw a slight diminishing of enthusiasm. I certainly don't believe this diminishing was as great as many historians say. The enthusiasm of the Holy Ghost infilling and the Biblical worship of God was still present.
Rome and the Christians

The religion of Rome was polytheistic. Its gods constituted what could be termed an inflated image of mankind. These gods could manifest all the actions and thoughts common to man. They could be good and they could be evil. In Roman culture there were no real absolutes. There was hardly any real conception of right and wrong. Man was ruled by his own finiteness and the gods simply represented expanded humanity.

The greatest desire of Rome in the Second Century and until its fall (c. 500 A.D.) was to keep the empire in tact. This became more and more difficult with different factions arising and the consequent confusion this created. As this occurred the people, by necessity, gave the Emperor more and more power. Even though authoritarian rule was not desirable it temporarily brought unity to the endangered empire.

With totalitarian rule came a disgust for anything that appeared hostile to it. This is where the Christians enter the picture. The Emperor was given so much power that the people were forced to acknowledge him as a god. This, of course, was considered idolatrous by the Christians who worshipped one God in Jesus Christ. Even though there was no general persecution before 250 A.D. we can see in the Second Century the conflict that would naturally result.

Christianity, with its absolutes of the existence of one true God and its definite distinction between right and wrong, was diametrically opposed to the Roman culture. The Christians would have never been considered criminal had they worshipped both Christ and the Emperor. But because they would not bow to any but Christ they were considered atheists and anarchists. Rome fell while Christianity lives on even to this present day.

Heretical teachings and false prophets are nothing new.  History's picture is marred repeatedly by their presence. Gnosticism represented probably the first major deviation within the Christian community. It was widely prevalent in Asia Minor in the opening years of the second century and reached the height of its influence between 135 and 160 A.D.

The word, "Gnosticism" means Knowledge. The Knowledge, the Gnostics claimed was mystical or supernatural and they claimed a corner on the market. Everyone else was in darkness. By saying they understood a mystery that others could not, the Gnostics held themselves aloof and really made themselves equal with God. Dt. 29:29 says, "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed, belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." The mystery of living for God is revealed totally in the person of Jesus Christ and in the Holy Scriptures. "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." I Tim. 3:16.
Another characteristic of this group was that they thought anything material was evil. The world of matter constituted only evil and the only good was spiritual or that which is not seen. This is very unorthodox especially in light of the scripture that says a Christian is the temple of the Holy Ghost (I Cor. 6:19.) They propagated extreme asceticism and required celibacy (see I Tim. 4:1-3) on the part of initiates. This abhorrance for matter probably brought on the next and most important doctrine of the Gnostics.

They preached that Christ did not actually take on flesh while He lived on earth. They probably reasoned that since Christ was perfect or sinless and flesh (matter) is inherently sinful Christ couldn't have taken on flesh. This belief is referred to as Docetic Christology. The Scripture is not silent concerning this doctrine but speaks strongly against it. "For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an anti-christ." 2 Jn. 7 (see also I Jn. 4:2,3)

Another movement that invaded the church of the Second Century was Montanism. It spread quite rapidly in Asia Minor. So much so that the pastors of that area got together and held synods denouncing the new heresy.

Montanus, of Phrygia in Asia Minor, about 156 A.D. declared himself to be the mouthpiece of the Holy Ghost. It appears that he may have put himself on equal footing with God. He proclaimed that the Second Coming of Christ was at hand and required strict asceticism from his followers. His adherents were encouraged to practice celibacy (see I Tim. 4:1-3,) fasting and abstinence from meat.

The Bible plainly states that no man knows when Christ will return (Mt. 25:13.) Montanus placed himself above the authority of scripture by saying that the Second Coming was immediately at hand.

To sum up, we will simply quote I Tim. 4:1-3 to show that true believers were given prophecy of this movement and Gnosticism before they were prevalent:
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy: having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

Input of Church Leaders
In studying the writings of church Leaders of the Second Century we are confronted with a major difficulty. Many of the writings attributed to men such as Polycarp, Clement of Rome and Ignatius were spurious. They were written by other people at a later date than is attributed.
Many people have used Ignatius to support a Trinitarian viewpoint. They were forced to stop when they found out the very writings they used to support the Trinity and Mariolatry were not written by Ignatius or anyone else in the Second Century.

I do believe that some of the writings attributed to the Apostolic Fathers were genuine. The ones that are do not support the major Catholic doctrines. Rather, they support the Holy Scripture. Clement speaks of "the sufferings of God" when referring to Christ's death on the cross. According to him, the church is Christ's flock, and He is its Lord. He greatly exalts Jesus Christ.

Ignatius asserts the importance of the church's obligation to properly represent Christ to the world. About the incarnation he says, "Our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived in the womb of Mary according to a dispensation." He speaks of "the passion of my god," "the blood of God," and "Jesus Christ our God." "There is one God who manifested Himself through Jesus Christ."

The writer of The Second Epistle of Clement says that; "Christ being originally spirit became flesh."

Polycarp, in his epistle, tells us of "the coming of our Lord in flesh."

During the Second Century there was little controversy over the person of Christ. Among true Christians rested a common belief in the divinity of Christ. Exaltation of Christ was rampant, and the church grew greatly. 

The Romans, Gnostics and Montanists presented real threats to the Christian church of the second century. But generally speaking, the church was able to overcome these onslaughts. The greatest test was yet to come.

Godly leaders proclaimed basically the same message as the Apostles. Towards the end of the second century most of the New Testament as we know it today was canonized.
Certainly, the tools were present for a strong church but opposition to the faith once delivered to the saints was mounting.

We see also in this century the growing importance of Rome. "Irenaeus of Lyons, writing about 185, represented the general Western feeling of his time, when he not only pictures the Roman church as founded by Peter and Paul, but declares ‘it is a matter of necessity that every church should agree with this church.’" It was opinions like this and the diminishing influence of the other great Christian cities of the Empire (Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, and Alexandria) that set the groundwork for the excesses that we see in later centuries and even today. Unwarranted exaltation of Rome and the Bishop of Rome was a keystone in the apostatizing of the church.

Article 3
The Third Century
The church of the Third Century experienced widespread growth. Organization put more and more power into the hands of its leaders. Unfortunately, with the growth came an increasing tendency towards worldliness.

This led to a compromise of many teachings of the early church. The workings of the Spirit of God within congregations had become a tradition. The format for worship was increasingly being drawn from mystery religions. Things such as infant baptism were coming into the church (this practice wasn't universal until the sixth century.) The Lord hadn't returned and the urgency of getting right with God wasn't felt as at first. Although persecution brought many faithful martyrs the church as a whole was heading for a fateful union with worldliness and the state.

Church and State
The third century saw great growth for the church. Every major language group of the Roman Empire had Christian adherents. A Christian traveling in any area of the great empire would be sure to find friends. Although evangelism was successful and the church had much to rejoice over, this was a century of severe persecution.
Christianity was, on the books, illegal although some Emperors were tolerant. The Emperors, such as Decius (249-251,) who persecuted the church did so with great severity. This manifest hatred of Christianity continued on and off until the "Edict of Milan" in 313 where Constantine and Licinius agreed to stop all persecution of Christians. "

Receiving a life-changing spiritual experience and being intellectual can make any man a strong force for good. But having intelligence without a spiritual revolution can be destructive. The latter is the case with Origen.

He studied the Bible as well as philosophy. The fruits of his learning place him as one of the most important men of his age. In trying to harmonize Scripture with Grecian philosophy he accomplished a great injustice. His emphasis did not rest on the necessity of a life-changing experience with God but rather a carnal reasoning of what God is saying.

Although he may be renowned as a great intellect his teachings did little to help the true church of the third century. His expertise would have been very valuable had he emphasized the spiritual rebirth that the Apostle Peter did.

By mixing philosophy (man's wisdom) with Scripture Origen revealed himself as one who Paul warns about in Col. 2:8. "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ."

He taught that everyone will eventually be saved. Those who are sinners will be punished but only in a way that will bring them to a place of restoration. This is contrary to Scripture and presents no incentive to live a godly life.

Origen became the first of many theologians that have depended on man's wisdom rather than the spiritual understanding that Christ imparts. The command, "You must be born again," echoes down through the ages. All too often it falls on deaf ears and men continue in a futile attempt to serve God without the help of the indwelling Christ.

Born probably in Carthage in 160 A.D., Tertullian died sometime after 200 A.D. The son of a centurion serving the proconsul of Africa, he received a good education, becoming a lawyer. He is said to have converted to Christianity in 195 A.D., but it seems improbable that his attitude, which can best be depicted as rebellious, was ever properly Christian. "A 20th century analyst, Bernard Nisters, refers to schizoid features in Tertullian's temperament and suggests that his rigorims, his intolerance, his disputatious nonconfirmity, and his violent reaction to opposition approach paranoia."

The amazing thing about this man is that his theories of the Godhead were to a great extent adopted by the later church. Thus, the Trinity doctrine, which is the fundamental doctrine of most of the church world today, traces its history to a rebellious extremist named Tertullian.

Having been brought up in Northern Africa, he probably was familiar with Egyptian paganism. Milne's book, A History of Egypt, says this: "And it is not improbable that the development of the doctrine of the Trinity, which formed no part of the original Jewish Christianity, may be traced to Egyptian influence; as the whole of the older Egyptian theology was permeated with the idea of triple divinity, as seen by both in the triads of gods which the various cities worshipped, and in the threefold names, representing three differing aspects of the same personality, under which each god might be addressed." Whether Egyptian paganism influenced Tertullian or not is speculation. The above statement, however, is worthy of consideration.

Tertullian's treatise, Against Praxeas, sets forth his own unorthodox theory of the Godhead. Praxeas was a leader in the true church of his day (the end of the second and the beginning of the third centuries.) He moved from Asia Minor to Rome about 200 A.D. and enjoyed the friendship of the bishop (either Eleutherus or Victor.) at the turn of the third century, the majority of the church believed in the oneness of the Godhead, as Tertullian himself admits. The official doctrine at Rome, according to Harnack, was that which Praxeas taught: Jesus was God in a human body. Tertullian refers disparagingly to Latins in Against Praxeas. After visiting Rome, Praxeas travelled to Carthage, where he defended the orthodoxy of God in Christ.

In reading Tertullian's Against Praxeas, we conclude that he saw the Godhead as a descending triad: The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The Son he compares with the word or wisdom of God; and the Holy Ghost, which leads into truth, proceeds from the Son. Here are some statements from this treatise:
Now, observe, my assertion is that the Father is one and the Son is one, and the Spirit one, and that they are distinct from each other...
Thus the Father is distinct from the Son, being greater than the Son, inasmuch as He who begets is one, and He who is begotten is another.
Still, in these quotations the distinction (personism) of the Trinity is clearly set forth. "For there is the Spirit Himself who speaks, and the Father to whom He speaks, and the Son of whom He speaks."

In explaining (actually confusing) the many Scriptures in the Old Testament expressing God's ONENESS, Tertullian adds to the Scripture saying, " 'I am God, and there is none other beside me,' who shows us that He is the only God, but in company with His Son, with whom ‘He stretcheth out the heavens alone.'"

Being rebellious to the truth of Scripture, Tertullian twists the truth that Jesus expressed to Philip: "‘He that hath seen me hath seen the Father,' even in the same in which it was said in a previous passage, ‘I and my Father are one.' Wherefore? Because ‘I came forth from the Father, and am come (into the world);' and, ‘I am the way: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me;' and ‘No man can come to me, except the Father draw him;' and, `All things are delivered unto me by the Father;' and, ‘As the Father quickeneth (the dead), so also doth the Son; ' and again, ‘If ye had known me, ye would have known the Father also; for in all these passages He had shown Himself to be the Father's Commissioner..."

Tertullian formally broke away from the church and joined forces with Montanism in 212 or 213 A.D. He started a sect known as Tertullianists. He left proof of his sad spiritual condition through his many writings.

Since he is one of the great men of Christian history, it is sad that the only record we have of Praxeas is from his enemies.

We first meet this man in Asia Minor, where he taught the Word of God and was put in prison for a time. He wrote quite a bit, but none of his writings are left today.
Praxeas journeyed to Rome at a date earlier than Epigonus and before Hippolytus's earliest recollections. It is probable that he resided in Rome during the bishopric of Victor (189-199), and possibly as early as Eleutherus, the predecessor of Victor. His stay at Rome was short and without opposition to his teaching. He did not start a school but probably taught and preached a great deal while there. He warned the bishop about the heresy of Montanism, and the bishop in turn retracted his letters of peace to that sect.

Praxeas's teachings gave Christ His proper degree of divinity by making Him one with the Father. He taught that the Father was the Spirit which is God (Jn. 4:24) and that the Son designated the flesh or human element of Christ.  He represented the views of the majority of Christians of his day. This becomes apparent when we recognize that he met with no opposition at Rome.

From Rome Praxeas travelled to Carthage in North Africa. There we find him teaching the Word of God and warning against the heresy of Montanism.

Noetus, Epigonus, Cleomenes
Noetus of Smyrna (in Asia Minor) taught that Father and Son were different aspects of the same being. He said that the Father took flesh of Mary and became Son. The Son was the Manhood, the Father, the Godhead. Asia Minor was greatly blessed by the teaching of Noetus. From 180-200 he taught the truth of the Gospel, glorifying Christ in his teaching.

A disciple of Noetus, Epigonus came to Rome in the beginning of the third century and, with the favor of Zephyrinus (bishop of Rome 198-217,) expounded the truth of Scripture. A school was formed and no doubt, many came and feasted on the Word of God.

Cleomenes was the successor of Epigonus and continued teaching the marvellous truth that Noetus and Epigonus preached. Zephyrinus, who was likeminded, gave happy approval to the teaching of the truth.

Sabellius was a presbyter of the Pentapolis in North Africa. He influenced this area greatly by teaching the truth of one person in the Godhead. He took this truth to Rome in 215 A.D., while the Pentapolis continued to be a stronghold for the truth. In 260 A.D., Dionysius of Alexandria tried to refute the followers of Sabellius. In doing this, he introduced tritheism for which he was reprimanded by Dionysius of Rome (bishop of Rome.)

Sabellius became the successor of Cleomenes in Rome. He asserted that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were not distinct persons but modes of one divine person (hence the term modalistic monarchianism.) God was Father in creation, Son in redemption, and Holy Ghost in regeneration. In the following generations the doctrine of one person in the Godhead became associated with this man (Sabellianism.) The men of later times that were condemned for believing in one person in the Godhead were referred to as Sabellians.

Hippolytus was born in 170 A.D., probably somewhere in the East, and died in Sardinia in 235 or 236. He is referred to as the first anti-pope because of his attacks upon Callistus (bishop of Rome, 217-222.) The Catholic Encyclopedia says about him that "His vehemence, intransigence, and rigorism led him to make attacks on strictly orthodox positions in theology, church organization, and discipline."

Hippolytus attacked the modalism of Sabellius and Callistus while presenting Christ as subordinate to the Father. He seems to have taken on the same spirit of rebellion that was so characteristic of the heretic Tertullian. I assert that this spirit of rebellion brought the doctrine of the Trinity into the church.

In his writing Against Noetus, Hippolytus says, "I shall not indeed speak of two Gods, but of one; of two Persons however, and of a third economy (disposition,) viz. the grace of the Holy Ghost. For the Father indeed is One, but there are two Persons, because there is also the Son; and then there is the Third, the Holy Spirit ... It is the Father who commands, and the Son who obeys, and the Holy Spirit who gives understanding: the Father who is above all, and the Son who is through all, and the Holy Spirit who is in all."

In commenting on the statement that Jesus made to Philip, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father," Hippolytus says, "By which He means if thou hast seen me, thou mayest know the Father through me. For through the image, which is like (original), the Father is made readily known."

Hippolytus (like Tertullian) perverts the truth of Scripture by denying that Jesus Christ was the Father in flesh as the Scripture plainly attests. (Mt. 1:23; Jn. 10:38, 14:10-11, and 17:21.)

The Bishops of Rome
Eleutherus, Victor (189-199), Zephrinus (199-217), and Callistus (217-222)
According to Harnack, four bishops of Rome in succession (Eleutherus, Victor, Zephyrinus, Callistus) were in favor of Modalistic Christology (Christ was Father in flesh.)

It was either Eleutherus or Victor that Praxeas warned about false prophets and their communities in Asia Minor (Montanists.) As a result of the righteous intervention of Praxeas, the bishop retracted his letters of peace to the false prophets.

Victor supported the school of Epigonus and favored a modalistic view of the Godhead.

Zephryinus was called by Hippolytus an out-and-out modalist. Hippolytus quotes Zephyrinus: "I know only one God, Christ Jesus, and none other who was born and suffered." He viewed talk of "Persons" with suspicion. He held the tradition of belief that existed before any form of Trinitarianism.

Callistus, after becoming bishop of Rome, was treated sharply by Hippolytus, who attacked the character of this bishop and went as far as saying Callistus permitted adulterous practices on the part of his followers.

Hippolytus, caught up in an evil spirit of rebellion, cannot be trusted as being honest concerning the slander he placed upon Callistus. Hippolytus outlines Callistus's orthodox creed:

The Logos Himself is Son, and that Himself is Father; and that though denominated by (a different) title, yet that in reality He is one indivisible spirit. (And he maintains) that the Father is not one person and the Son another, but that they are one and the same; and that all things are full of the Divine Spirit, both those above and (those) below. (And he affirms) that the Spirit, which became incarnate in the virgin ('s womb), is not different from the Father, but one and the same. And (he adds), that this is what has been declared (by the Saviour):"Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me?" For that which is seen, which is man, (he considers) to be the Son; whereas the Spirit, which was contained in the Son, to be the Father! For, says (Callistus), "I will not profess belief in two Gods, Father and Son, but in one. For the Father, who subsisted in (the Son) Himself, after He had taken unto Himself our flesh, raised it to the nature of Deity, by bringing it into union with Himself and made it one; so that Father and Son must be styled one God, and that this Person being one, cannot be two." And in this way (Callistus contends) that the Father suffered along with the Son; for he does not wish to assert that the Father suffered, and is one Person, being careful to avoid blasphemy against the Father.

We can assume that the doctrine of one Person in the Godhead predominated in the thinking of Christians of the third century. The bishop of Rome from 259 to 268, Dionysius, pointed out about those who opposed Sabellius that many "divide and cut to pieces and destroy that most sacred doctrine of the Church of God, the Divine Monarchy, making it as it were three powers and partitive substances and godheads three."

The significance of this century has certainly been underplayed by a majority of church historians. The teachings of the Apostles were being mercilessly tampered with. A gradual incursion of worldliness was choking the Church of its spirituality. Many ignore the fact that this 'falling away' led to mass apostasy. More and more the leaders of the church were not depending on the unadulterated Word of God but were introducing damnable heresies not originating from Jesus Christ; the most destructive of these doctrines being the one that states that God is divided into three distinct persons. The door for gross idolatry and open worldliness was gradually being opened causing irreparable damage. Evil influences in many forms thronged into this open door and the church found itself becoming assimilated by the powers Peter exhorted for us to be separated from. (Acts 2:41)

The above article is an excerpt from the book "After the Way called Heresy" by Thomas Weisser.
Christian Information Network 1981