The Ante-Nicene Fathers
By: Elder Ross Drysdale
Are The Writings Of The So Called “Early Church Fathers” Reliable For Doctrine? Do These Writings Contain The “Fables” And “Heresies” Of Which Paul Warned Us?
THE WRITINGS OF THE EARLY FATHERS
Dr. Boyd makes sweeping claims concerning the early church Fathers and their supposed Trinitarianism. These men wrote after the death of the Apostles and their writings span a three hundred year period. Dr. Boyd is convinced not only that they were Trinitarians, but that “each of these figures understood himself to be simply passing on the faith that had been handed down by the Apostles from the beginning” (Boyd, p. 161). And he feels this Faith was an “unqualified Trinitarianism.” As far as Oneness is concerned, he will tell you they were the first to oppose it and “stand up behind the church tradition” (Boyd, p. 102). But is all this really so?
ONENESS AND THE CHURCH FATHERS
I am not going to devote much time to the discussion of the Early Church Fathers for two reasons. Primarily it would require more space than the limitations of my present book would permit. But secondarily, and more importantly, such a discussion is not really necessary at this point. Oneness scholars such as Bernard, Weissner, and Chalfont have thoroughly researched the writings of these Fathers and disclosed their findings in several excellent volumes available through the Pentecostal Publishing House. They have sorted the fact from the fiction and arrived at the Truth which lay buried beneath centuries of “vain tradition” and “holy forgeries.” I find their evidence to be unanswerable on all counts. When the true facts about the beliefs of the sub-Apostolic Church and the subsequent Trinitarian innovations are carefully sifted, no unbiased researcher would care to claim that the Early Fathers held an “unqualified Trinitarianism.” And perhaps even more significant, it becomes abundantly clear that not all of them were passing on the Faith that had been handed down by the Apostles.” A catalog of all that they were actually “passing on” leaves very little left for the imaginations.
HOW SOON DID APOSTACY SET IN
Trinitarians like to create the impression that for about three hundred years after the death of the apostles all was well. The church held the true faith, apostacy was kept at bay, and heresies were held in check. This is the picture they paint for us, but on examination of their writings reveals the exact opposite. One can find a cornucopia of strange and mutually contradictory doctrines nestled among their writings. The seeds of every latent heresy were sown in the fertile furrows of their manuscripts.
PAUL’S WARNING (AD 60)
How soon did this departure from the Truth begin? The Apostle Paul informs us in AD 60 that it was well under way in his very own day. If the mice were that active while the cat was at home, how much more so in his absence? Paul spent years weeping over the impending apostacy which he knew would expand vigorously after his death: “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore, watch and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears” (Acts 20:31). Paul also said in II Thess. 2:7 that “the mystery of iniquity cloth already work.” The great apostle knew that the first doctrine to be attacked after his death would be the Godhead. And he named the twin enemies in charge of it, namely, “vain tradition” and Greek Philosophy.” Listen to his echoing warning against the emerging Greek Trinitarian ideas which were trying to replace the full deity of Christ: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of this world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power” (Col. 2:8-9). What specifically was Paul referring to when he mentioned a “philosophy” that was trying to get in the church, and which would spoil them? This philosophy was Greek Platonism, which advocated a system of Trinitarianism known as “The Timaeus.” Using mathematics, the Greek Philosopher-Mathematician Plato (427-347 BC) worked out a system in which God was conceived of as three “coequals.” He used the equilateral triangle as both symbol and proof of this new Trinity-God. “An equilateral triangle, one having all three sides equal, was Plato’s Trinity, and he thought of it also as the elemental earth form” (L. Hoghen, Mathematics for the Millions, pp. 26-27). One of the “Early Fathers” Dr. Boyd mentions adapted this Greek Trinity for Catholic needs: “The Catholic lawyer, Tertullian, plagiarized Plato’s Timaeus and for the Catholic system he twisted it into the famous, ‘Trinitos.’ Here is the foundation of Rome’s Trinity” (Marvin Arnold, Nicea and the Nicene Council, p. 6).
JOHN’S WARNING (AD 90)
The aged Apostle John also saw the creeping influence of false teachers in his day. He wrote: “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists…” (I John 2:18). That is why he admonished them to remain in the original apostolic faith and to resist these new Godhead innovations: “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: but he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father” (I John 2:23-24). He also stated that ”many false prophets are gone out into the world” and we should therefore “try the spirits” (I John 4:1). The assault against truth was already in full swing when John penned these words in 90 AD. He fearlessly declared that “many deceivers are entered into the world” who did not have the true “doctrine of Christ” (II John 7-9). These false subverters of truth were not even to be allowed in the house! (II John 10). And what was this “doctrine of Christ” that this invading army of false prophets were already tearing down. John defined it for us: “He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son” (II John 9). The doctrine, that in Christ one has both the Father and the Son, was the target of attack. And John knew it!
JUDE’S WARNING AD 60
Jude recognized the same theological nightmare that was beginning to unfold in his day. In AD 66 he wrote: “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God and our Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4 ) . The focus of the attack by these heretics was the same as Paul and John mentioned. It was a denial of the full deity in Christ. Jude’s last clause could be translated: “denying the only Lord God, even our Lord Jesus Christ.” In the light of John 20:28, where Christ is called “Lord and God,” this is really the only proper translation.
Dr. Boyd says on page 162: “Finally, even if such an overhaul of Apostolic doctrine were possible, how could it occur without leaving one shred of evidence of anyone’s objecting or even questioning it?” The objections and “shreds” Dr. Boyd fails to see are plainly recorded for us by Paul, John and Jude, so that even “He that runneth may read.” They vigorously warned and protested the invading attempts to divide up Christ. Dr. Boyd’s problem is that he is looking for “objections” within the “objectionable” writings themselves. He needs to search the New Testament where protests and warnings abound!
THE NATURE OF THE ANTE-NICENE WRITINGS
These early writings, known as the Apostolic Fathers, or the Ante-Nicene Fathers, were not inspired of God. These authors were not “holy men who were moved upon by the Spirit of God.” Their writings are utterly uninspired. They are not “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, or instruction in righteousness,” because they were not given by ‘inspiration of God.” They are not “Thus saith the Lord.” Their promises are not “yea” and “amen.” No Holy Spirit conviction attends their reading. We are never commanded to search these writings. And what’s more, we will not be judged by what’s written in these books. (Thank God!) They are filled with errors, mistakes, contradictions and outright myths. However, they are of historical interest, and provide us with insights into church development and early Christian influences. Beyond this they are of no value.
TAMPERED WITH AND FORGED
We do not know exactly what the Ante-Nicene Fathers originally wrote, seeing the first autographs have been lost to history. We have only copies of copies. The manuscripts that we possess have been altered, reworked, amended, interpolated, redacted, recinded, and outrightly forged. The Catholic Church is a past master at forging and “reworking” historical documents. The greatest forgery of all time (and believed genuine for centuries) was the so-called “Donation of Constantine.” This was a product of the Catholic Church, as were the Isodorian Decretals and a host of other false documents. So it should not surprise us if these writings were “fixed up” by scribes “here a little, there a little,” in order to bolster the Trinitarian concept.
LETTERS OF IGNATIUS
Cyril C. Richardson says concerning the manuscripts of Ignatius` Letters: “We possess no pure manuscripts of the original Corpus, for in the Fourth Century the letters were interpolated and six additional ones added… The aim of these forgeries was to gain for a diluted form of Arianism the authority of a primitive martyr. Finally, in the Middle Ages, perhaps around the Twelfth Century, which saw a new development of the cult of the virgin–a correspondence between Ignatius and Mary, as well as two letters of Ignatius to John, was fabricated in the West” (Cyril C. Richardson, Early Christian Fathers, p. 81).
FIRST LETTER OF CLEMENT
Concerning the earliest Ante-Nicene writing, The First Letter of Clement, written AD 96, we read: “Here we see a version of the gospel which, while reflecting Paulinism, is more strongly influenced by Hellenistic Judaism, and which, in several ways, foreshadows the leading emphasis of later Roman Catholicism” (Richardson, p. 33). Hellenistic (Greek), Judaism and Roman Catholic Emphasis! And that is to be found in the “earliest” of the writings!
Even the dating of these writings is often open to question. Take the much touted “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” (Didache) for example: “At one time this tract was viewed as a very .ancient product—as early as AD 70 or 90. Recent study, however, has conclusively shown that, in the form we have it, it belongs to the Second Century. There is nevertheless, no unanimity among scholars about its exact date or purpose. It has appropriately been called the “spoiled Child of Criticism” (Richardson, p. 161). Concerning the forgeries and alterations of this ancient (?) document we read: “It is not possible to tell how much of the Church order he has faithfully preserved or has much he has altered” (Richardson, p. 165). “We should assume, then, that some scribe in Alexandria about 150 AD edited two ancient documents which came into his hands… He made some changes in them–how many we shall never know” (ibid, p. 165). “The Didache, thus, is the first of those fictitious Church Orders which edit ancient material and claim Apostolic authorship” (ibid, p. 165).
SECOND LETTER OF CLEMENT
The Second Letter of Clement does not fare any better. “The document that goes under this misleading name is neither a letter nor a genuine work of Clement of Rome” (Richardson, p. 183). It is tinged with “Gnostic speculation,” uses “semi-Gnostic phrases” and quotes for authority an apocryphal “Gospel of the Egyptians”(ibid, p. 183, 186).
This “Gospel of Egyptians” was even considered heretical in its own time!
FIRST APOLOGY OF JUSTIN
The First Apology of Justin, much quoted by Trinitarians, introduces Christ as a “second divine entity.” Justin actually used the Greek phrase “deuteros theos” which means a “second god.” He boldly admits worshipping and adoring an “army of good angels” whom he lists ahead of the Holy Spirit in order of dignity! (First Apology of Justin, 6). No wonder Dr. Boyd is forced to admit: “‘One can clearly see that the question one ought to have regarding the Apologists is not whether or not they thought of God as possessing a triune nature, but whether they pushed their understanding of the threeness of God too far” (Boyd, p. 159). Worshipping and adoring an army of angels” is certainly going a little “too far!” What do you think, dear reader? But we need not fear, for Dr. Boyd informs us that the Council of Nicea did a splendid job of rescuing us from the unorthodox ideas of the Early Apologists: “This sort of language in any case, would two centuries later be banned as unorthodox by the Council of Nicea” (Boyd, p. 158). Why call up these apologists as witnesses in the first place if they are “unorthodox” and require “banning?” Why call to the stand witnesses known to be in error. This is absurd to the point of hilarity.
PASSING DOWN THE FAITH
If the Early Fathers were all just “passing on” the true Faith as they received it from the Apostles, then we are going to have to “redefine” what constitutes the “True Faith.” For we find many things being “passed on” that were anything but Apostolic! The seeds of Romanism and ritualism were even at this early date beginning to bear fruit. This is not surprising in the light of the warnings the Apostles had sounded. Grievous wolves were very busy.
PAGAN MYTHS AND LEGENDS
The First Letter of Clement, chapter 25, offers up the ridiculous story of the mythological Phoenix as a proof of Christ’s Resurrection. “Let us note the remarkable token which comes from the East, from the neighborhood that is Arabia. There is a bird which is called a Phoenix. It is the only one of its kind and lives five hundred years. When the time for its departure and death draws near, it makes a burial nest for itself from from frankincense, myrrh and other spices: and when the time is up, it gets into it and dies. From its decaying flesh a worm is produced, which is nourished by the secretions of the dead creature and grows wings. When it is full-fledged, it takes up the burial nest containing the bones of its predecessor, and manages to carry them all the way from Arabia to the Egyptian city called Heliopolis. And in broad daylight, so that everyone can see, it lights at the alter of the sun and puts them down there, and so starts home again. The Priests then look up their dated records and discover it has come after a lapse of five hundred years.”
I have quoted this utterly fictitious nonsense in full, so that the reader may be completely aware of the type of things these Fathers were “passing on.” Things, Dr. Boyd informs us, “had handed down by the Apostles from the beginning” (Boyd, p. 161). Clement uses this absurdity as his theological climax in arguing for the resurrection: “Shall we, then, imagine that it is something great and surprising if the Creator of the universe raised up those who have served him in Holiness and in the assurance born of a good faith, when he uses a mere bird to illustrate the greatness of his promise?” Can you imagine the Apostle Paul resorting to such pagan drivil to prove the resurrection? And yet from such sources as Clement we are to receive confirmation of the Truth of the Trinity!
Such nonsense as this fable of the Phoenix precisely fulfills Paul’s warning: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they reap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (II Timothy 4:3-4).
The Roman Catholic dogma that the office of Bishop was to be passed on in an unbroken line of succession, similar to Kings, emerges in the Ante-Nicene Fathers very early. This doctrine of “Apostolic Succession” is the foremost argument used by Rome in her claims to being the “One True Church,” as opposed to Protestantism which lacks it. “Now our apostles, thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ, knew that there was going to be strife over the title of Bishop. It was for this reason… that they appointed the offices we have mentioned. Furthermore, they later added a codicil to the effect that, should these die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry” (I Clement, 44). I’d like to see that “codicil” they added, wouldn’t you?
SACRIFICE OF THE MASS
Instead of a memorial of Christ’s death, the Last Supper is being explained as a “sacrifice.” This is the heart of Romanism, and a direct contradiction of the Bible which says: “But this man (Christ) after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:14, and also we are told: “For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14).
In I Clement 44:4 we read of a “sacrificing” priesthood for the first time: “For we shall be guilty of no slight sin if we eject from the episcopate men who have offered the sacrifices with innocence and holiness.”
Catholicism is known far and wide for its insistence that the Communion bread wafer and wine are literally and actually changed into the very substance of the Lord’s flesh and blood. Catholics believe they actually eat the real flesh and blood of Christ at Mass. It is only “disguised” under the appearance of bread and wine. The Priest has really changed its substance by the words – “This is my body” and “This is my blood.” This is the foundation for the “sacrifice of the Mass.”
The Early Fathers had departed sufficiently from the Truth to also teach this “flesh eating, blood drinking” doctrine. Actually they “borrowed” it from the Mithra cults and the pagan Gnostics which surrounded them. They were all busy eating up their gods, flesh and blood, in order to acquire their “powers.”
Ignatius says: “What I want is God’s bread, which is the flesh of Christ… and for drink, I want his blood: an immortal love feast indeed” (Ignatius to the Romans 7:3). Drink the blood of a god, gain his immortality. Pure paganism! He gets worse: “They hold aloof from the Eucharist and from services of prayer, because they refuse to admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ” (Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, 7:1).
Justin in his First Apology, chapter 66 is even more explicit: “So also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the word of Prayer which comes from him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.” Justin is very clever however. He realizes he has “borrowed” from the pagan Mithra cult (not from the apostles) so he adds this “cover up” statement: “This also the wicked demons in imitation handed down as something to be done in the mysteries of Mithra; for bread and a cup of water are brought out in their secret rites of initiation, with certain invocations which you either know or can learn” (First Apology of Justin, 66).
Who’s borrowing from “whom” is the question. And seeing the Mithra religion had “transubstantiation” first, the answer is quite obvious. Justin seems to know an awful lot about what takes place in Mithra’s secret rites of initiation.
PRIMACY OF ROME
The dogma that the Church of Rome has authority to rule the other Churches of Christendom is the very definition of Roman Catholicism. This supposed right to meddle and rule has long been known as the “Primacy of Rome.”
Clement, Bishop of Rome, instructs the Corinthians to “bow the neck and adopt the attitude of obedience” and to give up their “futile revolt.” He further writes: “Yes, you will make us exceeding happy if you prove obedient to what we…have written…” Clement also sent “delegates” from his See, “trustworthy and discreet persons,” whose job it was to “mediate between us” (I Clement, 63). Who gave him the right, sitting across the Mediterranean Sea in Rome, to take authority over the Church of Corinth? No wonder Paul said in his day: “The mystery of iniquity cloth already work.”
The Early Fathers taught “baptismal regeneration.” They believed the mere contact with the water, coupled with the newly emerging Trinitarian formula, remitted sin automatically. Justin says: “Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are reborn by the same manner of rebirth by which we ourselves were reborn; for they are washed in the water in the name of God the Father and Master of all, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit”(First Apology of Justin, 61). Justin blasphemously censors out the truth of Jesus Name being the Name of the Father by saying: “There is named at the water… the name of God the Father and Master of all. Those who lead to the washing the one who is to be washed call on God by this term only. For no one may give a proper name to the ineffable God, and if anyone should dare to say there is one, he is hopelessly insane.”
Thus according to Justin, anyone who believes that God the Father has a name is “hopelessly insane.” Jesus said: “I am come in my father’s name” (John 5:43), and also, “I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it” (John 17:26). Justin the blasphemer wants none of this, inspite of what Christ has said! Here we see our choice is real clear: The Early Fathers or the Everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6).
Inspite of all this heresy and Mithric adaptations, including the censoring of God’s name, by these so-called Fathers, Dr. Boyd writes: “They are inherently conservative and resistant to change. Hence it may be safely assumed that the less time the tradition of the apostolic teaching had to be corrupted, the less likely it is that it was corrupted. This assumption is especially warranted in light of the fact the early post-apostolic Fathers were all self consciously trying to preserve and protect the apostolic teachings” (Boyd, p. 147-148), And, as we have seen, that included protecting such “teachings” as transubstantiation, Papal primacy, Sacrificial Mass, Baptismal regeneration, Apostolic Succession, Angel Worship, Second Gods, and 500 year old birds and worms!
This article “The Ante-Nicene Fathers” written by Elder Ross Drysdale is excerpted from the book Enter the Neo- Trinitarians.