Part 9: Exposing the Watchtower misquotes of Clement, Hippolytus, & Origin

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–211/216).

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–211/216). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I will finish my examination of the booklet “Should You Believe in the Trinity?” by looking at quotes from three additional anti-Nicene Fathers, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, and Origin.  These individuals are purported to be anti-Trinitarian by the booklet.   The primary argument put forth by the Watchtower is Jesus is a lesser god, a created being.  If I can show these writers called Jesus God, then the Watchtower Organization misrepresented what they truly believed.

Clement of Alexandria

Christian scholar Robert Bowman[1] is going to show how Clement of Alexandria taught Jesus was fully God.

 “The JW booklet claims that Clement of Alexandria held that Christ was “a creature” and inferior to God (p.7).  In fact, Clement held the opposite.  He taught that Christ is “truly most manifest Deity, He that is made equal to the Lord of the universe because He was His Son.”[2]

Clement also states: “There was then, a Word importing an unbeginning eternity; as also the Word itself, that is, the Son of God, who being, by equality of substance, one with the Father, is eternal and uncreated.”[3]  What I find amazing is the Watchtower Organization quotes an early church father who completely refutes their belief that Jesus was a created being.  So much of the language of Clement, such as eternal and uncreated Son, and equality of substance with the Father, demonstrates clear Trinitarian language.

Hippolytus

The booklet says Hippolytus said God was “alone by himself” and “called into being what had no being before.”  Both of these statements flow from standard understanding of the Trinity.  The Trinity teaches there is only one God and all creation was called into being from nothing.  The Watchtower then says Hippolytus taught the prehuman Jesus was called into being.    Again they alter what Hippolytus believed.  He never wrote those words.  Hippolytus writes, “A man, therefore, even though he will it not, is compelled to acknowledge God the Father Almighty, and Christ Jesus the Son of God, who being God, became man, to whom also the Father made all things subject, Himself excepted, and the Holy Spirit; and that these, therefore, are three.”[4]

Later in the same work Hippolytus writes, “God, subsisting alone, and having nothing contemporaneous with Himself, determined to create the world… there was nothing contemporaneous with God.  Beside Him there was nothing; but He, while existing alone, yet existed in plurality.”[5]  Obviously, this plurality was the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as mentioned in the prior quote.  The Trinity teaches there is only one God subsisting in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; co-equal and co-eternal.  Hippolytus was a Trinitarian.

Origen

Early church father Origen had some of his teachings eventually branded heretical by the church.  However, his teaching on the Trinity was not part of the judgment.  The church has always found some of his Trinitarian teachings helpful and other aspects false.

A few quotations from Edmund Fortman’s book The Triune God[6] might be helpful in understanding his beliefs.  As to the eternal nature of the Triune God Origen writes, “statements made regarding Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are to be understood as transcending all time, all ages, and all eternity.”[7]  Here he alludes to the eternal nature of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  This belief contradicts the teachings of the Watchtower.

Talking about all creation Origen says there is, “nothing which was not made, save the nature of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”[8]  In this quote he points to the uncreated nature of the Triune God.  He also stated, “Moreover, nothing in the Trinity can be called greater or less.”[9]  This statement contradicts the Jehovah’s Witnesses teaching Jesus is an inferior being; a lesser god.  All these quotes from Origen are solidly Trinitarian.

In conclusion I have demonstrated over and over again the Watchtower Organization deceitfully misrepresents the anti-Nicene Fathers.  This has to be intentional because the counter evidence is so easily accessed.

Dylan Valenzuela and I met with two Jehovah’s Witnesses for around a year and a half at my home.  We lovingly presented this information to them during that time.  They took home these quotes and many more from the anti-Nicene Fathers.  Neither could give an account for why the early church fathers refuted their beliefs.  They actually admitted the heretic Arius got it right, when he called Jesus a created being at the council of Nicea in 325 AD.  Their prior commitment to the Watchtower Organization forced them to reject the first 300 years of church writings and agree with a heretic, who wrote much later.

Is the Watchtower a deceitful organization?  Absolutely!  Only a devout Jehovah’s Witness would refuse to believe that statement.  Based on my series, there is no doubt Jehovah’s Witnesses have been deceived by the booklet “Should You Believe in the Trinity?”  It is time for the Watchtower Organization to admit the truth, remove this booklet from publication and their web site, and live up to their own standards of being a truth telling organization.



[1] Bowman, Robert, Why You Should Believe in the Trinity, Baker Book House Publ. March 1992, p. 30

[2] Clement, The Instructor 1.8.1.11. in ANF, 2:227, 234

[3] Clement, Fragments, Part 1, section III, 190 AD

[4] Hippolytus, Against Noetus 8, in ANF, 5:226

[5] Ibid. 10, in ANF, 5:227

[6] Edmund J. Fortman, Triune God: A Historical Study of the doctrine of the Trinity, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press 1972),  p. 58

[7] Origen, Principles, 4.28.

[8] Ibid, 4.35.

[9] Ibid, 1.3.7.

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Gabby December 16, 2013, 7:52 pm

    Jason Labonte:

    “Hippolytus himself MAY NOT have believed in the Trinity in the same way as we currently do, but it is hard to determine exactly what he believed. In any case, he believed that Jesus was a separate person from God the Father and yet still divine.”

    Jason is admitting that Hippo may actually NOT have believed in a Nicean Athanasian Constineapolitan co-equal “trinity” per se. But may have actually believed things similar to Arius (or maybe the Semi-Arians…though they were future groups). Jason is a Trinitarian…and admits that Hippo may not have been a real Trinitarian.

    But that context was that Hippo was simply speaking against “Modalism”, in his arguments against Noetus. So, no, kiddies, the WT did not “mis-quote”. They knew that Hippo (in some sense) believed in a “plurality” before ages. But did Hippo ever clearly say that the Son of God was co-eternal with no beginning, and the Father and Son were actually co-equal…in those words? No. So the hyper-trinitarian whiners and losers fail again.

  • Steve Bruecker December 19, 2013, 3:57 pm

    Dear Gabby,
    First you are quoting Jason Labonte, a source I did not use. I have no idea who he is or his credentials other than you say he is a Trinitarian. In the quote you provided he says nothing that changes anything I wrote.

    The doctrine of the Trinity accurately depicts who God is but had to be developed over time. The early church fathers were trying to describe in words the Biblical God. The Bible put forth the challenge in that it teaches 3 key points: 1) there is only 1 God, 2) Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct persons (possesses think rationally, have emotions, love, etc.), and 3) each person is God. Working with these parameters, it took around 100 years after the death of Hippolytus to describe this Triune God in the precise language of “Nicean Athanasian Constineapolitan co-equal “trinity” per se.”

    Where I disagree with Jason is if you read the quotes from his writing, Hippolytus was not an Arian (Jehovah’s Witness). In my post I quoted Hippolytus: “A man, therefore, even though he will it not, is compelled to acknowledge God the Father Almighty, and Christ Jesus the Son of God, who being God, became man, to whom also the Father made all things subject, Himself excepted, and the Holy Spirit; and that these, therefore, are three.” Here he clearly calls Jesus God. An Arian or Jehovah’s Witness would never do this.

    Additional quotes showing Hippolytus was not an Arian and had an elemental Trinitarian beliefs:

    • “As far as regards the power, therefore, God is one. But as far as regards the economy there is a threefold manifestation, as shall be proved afterwards when we give account of the true doctrine” (Against The Heresy Of One Noetus)

    • “Let us look next at the apostle’s word: “Whose are the fathers, of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever.” (Elucidations, Ch. 30)

    • “Beside Him there was nothing; but He [God], while existing alone, yet existed in plurality.” (Against Noetus, Part 10)

    • “The Logos [Jesus] is God, being the substance of God.” (Refutation of all Heresies, Book X, ch 29)

    • I could provide many additional quotes.

    Hippolytus did defend against modalism but was not an Arian, as seen in the quotes above. He seemed to have basic Trinitarian beliefs and believed Jesus was fully God and fully man. He is not anti-Trinitarian. As my article states, the Watchtower misquoted Hippolytus and in doing so are a deceitful organization.

    Steve

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