ONENESS PENTECOSTAL ORIGINS
By: Thomas Weisser
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
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?
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
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
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
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
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.
-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.
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
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.
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
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
Neither Peter nor Paul wrote anything about the Trinitarian doctrine
in their epistles.
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
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
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
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 cannonized.
Certainly the tools were present for a strong church but
opposition to the faith once delivered to the saints was
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 aposticising of the church.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The Bishops of Rome
Eleutherus, Victor (189-199), Zephrinus (199-217), and
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
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
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 destory 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.
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