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Part 6: The Watchtower misquoting various Anti-Nicene Fathers

The Watchtower Organization claimed a great apostasy occurred after the death of the apostles and the Christian Church went into darkness.  Only a remnant of true and faithful followers kept the doctrines of Jehovah’s Witnesses today.  As I showed in part 5 there is no historical evidence for believing this mass apostasy happened.  In fact the ancient writings of the early church fathers demonstrate the opposite.

The group of individuals that followed the death of the apostles was named the early church fathers or sometimes called ante-Nicene Fathers.  Some of them were disciples of the apostles themselves. As a group they stressed the importance of passing on the teachings of those that went before them.  Any introduction of non-apostolic doctrine would have immediately raised red flags and opposition would have formed from those who knew the truth firsthand.

We see examples of the apostolic teaching forming the foundation of the church in their writings.  Irenaeus, speaking about Clement of Rome, said, “He had seen the apostles and associated with them and still had their preaching sounding in his ears and their traditions before his eyes –- and not he alone, for there were many still left in his time who had been taught by the apostles.”[1]  Irenaeus then said, “Now the Church, although scattered over the whole civilized world to the end of the earth, received from the apostles and their disciples its faith in one God, the Father Almighty…and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was made flesh for our salvation, and in the Holy Spirit.”[2]  These quotes plus others make is reasonable to assume, when it comes to the key doctrines of the Christian faith, the writings of the early church fathers are a great source for discerning apostolic teachings.

The Watchtower booklet, “Should You Believe in the Trinity,” tries to make the case the ante-Nicene Fathers (writers prior to the council of Nicea or early church fathers) taught their doctrines.  The following was taken directly from the Jehovah’s Witnesses booklet.

“THE ante-Nicene Fathers were acknowledged to have been leading religious teachers in the early centuries after Christ’s birth. What they taught is of interest.

Justin Martyr, who died about 165 C.E., called the prehuman Jesus a created angel who is “other than the God who made all things.” He said that Jesus was inferior to God and “never did anything except what the Creator . . . willed him to do and say.”

Irenaeus, who died about 200 C.E., said that the prehuman Jesus had a separate existence from God and was inferior to him. He showed that Jesus is not equal to the “One true and only God,” who is “supreme over all, and besides whom there is no other.”

Clement of Alexandria, who died about 215 C.E., called Jesus in his prehuman existence “a creature” but called God “the uncreated and imperishable and only true God.” He said that the Son “is next to the only omnipotent Father” but not equal to him.

Tertullian, who died about 230 C.E., taught the supremacy of God. He observed: “The Father is different from the Son (another), as he is greater; as he who begets is different from him who is begotten; he who sends, different from him who is sent.” He also said: “There was a time when the Son was not. . . . Before all things, God was alone.”

Hippolytus, who died about 235 C.E., said that God is “the one God, the first and the only One, the Maker and Lord of all,” who “had nothing co-eval [of equal age] with him . . . But he was One, alone by himself; who, willing it, called into being what had no being before,” such as the created prehuman Jesus.

Origen, who died about 250 C.E., said that “the Father and Son are two substances . . . two things as to their essence,” and that “compared with the Father, [the Son] is a very small light.”

“There is no evidence that any sacred writer even suspected the existence of a [Trinity] within the Godhead.” – The Triune God [James Fortman].

“Summing up the historical evidence, Alvan Lamson says in The Church of the First Three Centuries: ‘The modern    popular doctrine of the Trinity . . . derives no support from the language of Justin [Martyr]: and this observation may be extended to all the ante-Nicene Fathers; that is, to all Christian writers for three centuries after the birth of Christ. It is true, they speak of the Father, Son, and . . . holy Spirit, but not as co-equal, not as one numerical essence, not as Three in One, in any sense now admitted by Trinitarians. The very reverse is the fact.'”

Thus, the testimony of the Bible and of history makes clear that the Trinity was unknown throughout Biblical times and for several centuries thereafter.  [Exert from the booklet, “Should You Believe in the Trinity?”]

I will demonstrate how the Watchtower deceitfully misrepresents the early church fathers and falsely tries to use them to justify their anti-Trinitarian beliefs.

Go to part 7 here



[1] Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.3.3, in Cyril C. Richardson, Early Christian Fathers (NY: Macmillan, 1970).

[2] Ibid. 1.10.1.

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