Binitarian View: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning

By COGwriter (portions of this paper were published in The Journal: News of the Churches of God).

Abstract on Binitarianism: Was either unitarianism or trinitarianism the original view of the New Testament Church? The Bible clearly teaches from the beginning that God is one, yet currently composed of two members essentially with a third (those begotten by the Holy Spirit, then born-again into the family of God) at the resurrection. This was also the view of the immediate post-New Testament Church and this so-called "binitarian" belief has been clearly held throughout Church history. Although often overlooked many certain academics in the past, modern scholars are now coming to the same conclusion. Although some might prefer to use the term Ditheist or Dualist instead of Binitarian, those terms suggests that God is not one (yet God is one family). I chose to use the term binitarian or binitarianism to describe the correct belief about the Godhead as it is currently used by scholars and is clearer than Semi-Arian (or Semi-Arianism) which, though also historically used (by critics), would not be at all understood by most today.

Contents:
Introduction
The Old Testament
Isaiah 45:22 and 44:6
The New Testament
Jesus
Trinitarian History Supports Binitarianism
The Filioque
We Are to Be One With the Father and the Son
Modern Scholars Properly Conclude That Binitarianism is Not a New Concept
Early, Post New Testament, Writers
Dr. Arius
Semi-Arians
Continuing Throughout History
Only God Can Be Worshipped
But Was Jesus Fully God on Earth?
What Difference Does it Make?
Ramifications
Conclusion
Appendix A - Addressing Unitarian Objections

Introduction

What is God? Is God a trinity? How is God one? What is the Godhead comprised of?

This article will attempt to provide biblical and historical evidence on the binitarian nature of God.

But first let's see the following:

The Father and the Son comprise the "Godhead." There is one God (1 Corinthians 8:4 and Deuteronomy 6:4). Scripture shows that God is a divine Family which began with two, God the Father and the Word (Official Statement of Fundamental Beliefs. Living Church of God, March 2004).

A non-Church of God scholar explains the binitarian belief this way

The word “binitarian” is typically used by scholars and theologians as a contrast to a trinitarian theology: a theology of “two” in God rather than a theology of “three”... it is accurate to offer the judgment that most commonly when someone speaks of a Christian “binitarian” theology the “two” in God are the Father and the Son...A substantial amount of recent scholarship has been devoted to exploring the implications of the fact that Jesus was ''worshipped'' by those first Jewish Christians, since in Judaism "worship" was limited to the worship of God (Barnes M. Early Christian Binitarianism: the Father and the Holy Spirit. Early Christian Binitarianism – as read at NAPS 2001).

Much of the recent scholarship that M. Barnes refers to has been the result of the translations of the Nag Hammadi and other ancient manuscripts which were not available (or in the case of the Panarion of Epiphanius, were not available in English) when older scholarly texts (such as W. Bousset's Kyrios Christos, 1913, which seemed to come to a different conclusion) were written (though the Bible, of course, was always available to them).

This article will discuss the Bible, unitarian views, trinitarian views, and the writings of certain historians to provide biblical and historical proofs that binitarianism should be considered to be the original (and still correct) view of the Christian Godhead.

The Old Testament

The Bible begins with the following statement:

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1, NKJV throughout, unless otherwise noted).

The Hebrew word translated as 'God' is 'elohim. Strong's defines it this way:

OT:430 'elohiym (el-o-heem'); plural of OT:433; gods in the ordinary sense; but specifically used (in the plural thus, especially with the article) of the supreme God; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a superlative (Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.).

So the first time God is mentioned in the Bible, the indication is that God is mentioned as plural ("indication" because in some places 'elohim can refer to singular).

And to make sure the plurality of God was known, Genesis 1:26 states,

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.

Genesis 1:26 shows that 'elohim above refers to "Us". Us is also plural.

Thus, there is no doubt that from the beginning of the Bible, the plurality of God was shown. And this is accepted by both binitarians and trinitarians.

However, one unitarian assertion is,

There is no doubt that the elohim are a plural structure and that they are the messengers in the Bible texts referred to as angels and that Christ himself was the Angel of the Presence or the Angel of YHVH. It is thus absurd to suggest that no angel was referred to as creator when Christ was admitted to be creator and was also the Angel of YHVH. Moreover, there is no indication that the plural terms involving creators were confined to two Beings which were God and Christ. This is an unsupported assumption that is contrary to the Bible. It is, moreover, a basic assertion of Binitarianism, which is logically absurd and conveys within its structure the logical inevitability of Trinitarianism. This error entered the Church some 30-40 years ago and some people cannot divest themselves of their paradigm (Cox, Wade. Binitarianism and Trinitarianism (No. 76) (Edition 3.0 19941112-20001202). Copyright 1994, 2000 Wade Cox. Christian Churches of God).

Contrary to the assertions of Wade Cox, the Bible nowhere states that an angel created the heavens and the earth. Colossians 1:15-17, which will be quoted later, makes clear that God created all things through Jesus, hence the idea of God and Christ as the only two beings being involved in the creation is not a recent (in the past 30-40 years as he asserts) concept as they are the two mentioned in scripture (this article will document later that binitarianism is also not simply a recent paradigm for the Church of God).

Similarly, Hebrews 1:1-4 states:

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they...

Jesus, while He was a messenger for the Father, is NOT what is commonly called an angel. Furthermore, the implication of one or more angels being part of Elohim in Genesis 1 suggests that one or more angels, and not necessarily God, created all things and that humans are in the image of angels. Yet Ezekiel describes what that the portion of angels called cherubim, at least, look like:

Each one had four faces: the first face was the face of a cherub, the second face the face of a man, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle (Ezekiel 10:14).

Since the cherubim have four faces and humans have only one, it does not appear that Genesis 1:26 is referring to humans being made in the angel image. Thus another unitarian assertion is disproved by the Bible.

While it is true that elohim can refer to beings other than the Father and the Son--that does not mean that elohim does not refer to the Godhead. Perhaps it should be noted that it is also true that the word translated as 'god' (in both the Hebrew and the Greek) is sometimes used of pagan gods and humans. Yet the Father and the Son still are 'God'. Thus unitarian arguments about the initial Hebrew not referring to the plurality of the Godhead fall in the light of scripture.

But there is more. Notice that Genesis 2:24 teaches,

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

This verse clearly shows that there are ways that two different beings can be considered one by God. Thus, the idea of two beings being part of one entity is not in any way a new concept. And, as will shown later, this concept is shown several times in the New Testament.

Showing the duality of God, David wrote:

The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand" (Psalm 110:1).

When Jesus commented about this He stated,

If David then calls Him 'Lord,' how is He his Son? (Matthew 22:45).

Jesus was showing that He was that 'Lord' and thus that there were two.

Daniel makes this point fairly clear,

I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14).

There were two. The Ancient of Days, who in the New Testament, seems to be called the Father (Matthew 6:9) and the one like the Son of Man which is a term that Jesus referred to Himself as (Matthew 20:18). (Note: Jesus is specifically referred to twice in the New Testament as "One like the Son of Man", Revelation 1:13;14:14). Also, the New Testament shows that the dominion (Jude 25) and kingdom are given to Christ and that all peoples should serve Him (Revelation 11:15; 19:13-16). Furthermore, since a son is the same species its father, Jesus is God.

While it is true that the Old Testament states, " Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! (Deuteronomy 6:4), the term God here is also the plural term 'elohim. This verse shows that there is a one-ness about this plurality that did not exist among pagan deities.

But did any Jews understand any of this? According to Daniel Boyarin, they certainly did:

There is significant evidence (uncovered in large part by Segal) that in the first century many—perhaps most—Jews held a binitarian doctrine of God (Boyarin D. Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006, p. 131).

Furthermore, according to some interpretations of the Talmud, even rabbinic Jewish writers endorsed a "binitarian worship" in several of their prayers (ibid, pp. 120-124).

Isaiah 45:22

One espousing a unitarian perspective who objected to this paper wrote to me stating:

"Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else." (Isaiah 45:22) Are you going to try to tell us that "me" is "us?" Should we, imperfect human beings, tell God, The Perfect Being, that He is mistaken?

He also alleged that I intentionally left this verse out of the first version of this paper, because he felt it disproved the binitarian position. It does not. Nor was it intentionally omitted (this paper was not intended to counter every trinitarian or unitarian argument, but simply to show from the Bible and history that binitarianism is the proper position).

Specifically, he also stated:

In fact, your draft article does not consider Isaiah 45 either. Why not? For one thing, it will not support your theory of "One God, Began with Two Beings." Nor does united's "Who Is God?" booklet expound on Isaiah 45, because God's Word does not support their theory of "...tow {sic} great personages, two uncreated, eternal Beings..."

Is he correct about Isaiah 45:22?

Let's look in somedetail at Isaiah 45:22, with the Strong's Greek number above each word, per the Interlinear Transliterated Bible (Copyright (c) 1994 by Biblesoft) :

6437.... 413........... 3467............ 3605.......657............ 776..... 3588... 589.. 9999... 410............369............5750
Look..unto me,. and be ye saved,.. all...... the ends of.. the earth:... for...... I ......am ...God,.. and there is none...else.

Now, what are the Hebrew words in Strong's 413 and Strong's 589 and what do they actually mean?

OT:413 'el (ale); (but only used in the shortened constructive form 'el (el)); a primitive particle; properly, denoting motion towards, but occasionally used of a quiescent position, i.e. near, with or among; often in general, to: KJV - about, according to after, against, among, as for, at, because (-fore, -side), both ... and, by, concerning, for, from, X hath, in (-to), near, (out) of, over, through, to (-ward), under, unto, upon, whether, with (-in). (Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.).

OT:589 'aniy (an-ee'); contracted from OT:595; I: KJV - I, (as for) me, mine, myself, we, X which, X who. (Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

So we see that Strong's 413 does not at all mean 'me'. And that Strong's 589 can mean we--it does not necessarily have to mean 'I' (it can mean 'I', but it is context related). And that 'am' is not in the original Hebrew (which means that 'are' could be inserted for English grammar)--for that is what #9999 represents.

Therefore, Isaiah 45:22 could literally be translated as:

Look near, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for we are God, and there is none else.

Thus, Isaiah 45:22 does not in any way prove the unitarian position or disprove the binitarian or trinitarian positions.

In addition, Isaiah 44:6 says there is no other god, yet it shows two:

Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: 'I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.'

Note that the LORD (the King of Israel) AND his Redeemer (the LORD of hosts) state 'I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.' The term translated LORD for both is Yahweh (or Yahveh), which shows that they are both God. Thus the Book of Isaiah clearly shows that there are two that are somehow one.

Thus, the Book of Isaiah actually provides proof against the unitarian position.

The New Testament

We in the genuine Church of God believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit--but as the Bible, and not any council of men defines them.

In the New Testament, John begins by making the initial duality of God clear when he wrote,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made (John 1:1-3).

Thus the Word was God and was with God. And the Word, Jesus, is a lot like God the Father, but notice:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

Notice that this shows that Jesus was God and that He became flesh--it does not state that He remained fully God on the earth. It should probably be mentioned that those with a unitarian view believe this should be translated differently, but that does not change the totality of the scriptures on this subject--Jesus BECAME FLESH (also John never refers to the Holy Spirit as God).

The theological scholar L. Hurtado observed this about Paul:

Prior to his conversion experience, Paul saw Jewish Christian beliefs and practices as so improper and dangerous as to call for urgent and forceful action to destroy the young religious movement. He said his own conversion specifically involved a "revelation" of Jesus' significance that produced as radical change in him, from opponent to devotee (e.g., Gal.1:12; 2 Cor. 5:16). So far as we can tell, immediately after this experience he espoused the remarkable "high" christological claims and "binitarian" devotional practice (Hurtado LW. Lord Jesus Christ, Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. William B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, 2003, pp. 175-176).

Paul makes a certain duality of the Godhead clear in every book of the Bible he wrote. All, except the Book of Hebrews, have a version of this in the introduction (the third verse in most books), "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 1:7). In Hebrews he words it quite differently, but still shows the duality of God in the introduction, "God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person" (Hebrews 1:1-3). Paul, never, of course, included the Holy Spirit in these introductions, as it is not God.

Like Paul, Peter also made the duality of God clear in the introduction of his two books (I Peter 1:3; II Peter 1:2), where he too left out the Holy Spirit. Peter confirmed that he knew that Jesus was part of the God Family when he said to Jesus, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). Peter also seems to confirm that the Holy Spirit is not a person when in Acts 2:17-18 he quotes Joel about God pouring out His Spirit.

While some holding the unitarian position have cited portions of works such as William Bousset's Kyrios Christos (which was written in 1913), modern scholars have concluded that Bousett's logic was flawed. One reason is that much recent scholarship has been the result of the translations of the Nag Hammadi and other ancient manuscripts which were not available when Bousett's and other older scholarly texts were written.

A recently scholarly work was flatly questioning Bousset's view on the term Kyrios not representing God when it stated,

It is clear that Kyrios was used by Greek-speaking Jews for the Hebrew tetragrammaton (Yahweh) when reading aloud biblical texts (Hurtado LW. Lord Jesus Christ, Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. William B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, 2003, p. 21).

Yahweh, of course, is the name, in Hebrew, that God identified Himself to Moses by (Exodus 3:14, in Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.).

Not only does the New Testament teach the current duality of the Godhead, it also teaches that God is a family. Notice what Paul wrote:

I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named (Ephesians 3:14-15).

It is true Christians who will be named of God, and hence part of that family:

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God (Revelation 3:12).

Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father's name written on their foreheads (Revelation 14:1).

The Bible clearly uses the term Father and Son to indicate those who are now in the Godhead. That is a FAMILY relationship. The following verses show that Christians are also the children of God, hence are to be part of that same family:

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him (1 John 3:1-2).

John specifically called Christians the "children of God" and taught that we will be like Him. I consider that my sons, my children, are part of my family. God considers His children are also part of His family.

Notice that Paul wrote that Jesus was the firstborn among many brethren and that we are also God's sons:

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified (Romans 8:29-30).

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10).

Notice that Paul wrote that Christians are to be glorified. And notice that Jesus prayed that we would have the same glory that He had:

And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one (John 17:22).

Hence, we are to share the glory of that same family (this is discussed further in the section We Are to Be One With the Father and the Son).

Jesus

Traditionally, unitarians taught that the one called the Father is God and that is how God is one. The trinitarians traditionally teach God is one who shows Himself in three modes (or hypostases), Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all of the same substance.

Jesus taught, "I and My Father are one" (John 10:30), which contradicts the unitarian position that Jesus is not God. Matthew, who quoted Isaiah 7:14, also made Jesus' deity clear, "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us" " (Matthew 1:23)--Jesus thus has to now be God or He would not be named, "God with us"!

Notice the that Jesus was clearly called God after the resurrection:

"And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" " (John 20:28-29).

Not only did Thomas call Jesus God, Jesus' statements confirmed the correctness of Thomas' assertion (which happened after the resurrection).

Also after the resurrection, Paul specifically stated,

For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9).

Jesus clearly believed He was equal with God the Father as Paul points out,

Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God (Philippians 2:5b-6).

Paul also taught,

But to the Son He says: "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom" (Hebrews 1:8).

Hence Paul says that the Son is God. Also, since Paul is quoting from Psalm 45, it is clear then, that this duality and Christ's deity was also taught in the Old Testament (Psalm 45:6-7).

Unlike binitarians and trinitarians, some traditional unitarians teach that Jesus did not exist prior to His human birth. One such example is this by Wayne Atcheson, "The Biblical Confession Is That Christ Did Not Preexist" (Atcheson, Wayne. The Confession of 1 John 4:2 Is That Christ Did Not Preexist. Association for Christian Development's The One God Seminar. Tyler, Texas July 25–27, 2003), yet Paul strongly disputed this when he was inspired to write,

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist (Colossians 1:15-17).

Jesus also denied this unitarian assertion when He stated, "What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?" (John 6:62), as heaven is where He came from (3:13).

One unitarian response to these verses is to suggest that they may not be reliable as they were written after Jesus' resurrection,

But no Gospels, no epistles, and no Apocalypse were penned until decades after Jesus was taken up into the clouds. This fact is not debated. This point can be important when confronting the very few scriptures in the NT that seem to reference the preexistence of a glorified Christ (Westby, Kenneth. Two Thrones, Two Lords, Two Saviors, One God. Association for Christian Development's The One God Seminar. Tyler, Texas July 25–27, 2003).

Apparently he forgot that Jesus taught, "Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). Since Paul wrote, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, That the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (II Timothy 3:16-17), those that believe the Bible will accept its teachings over those who have reasons to not wish to believe it.

Jesus, Himself, made His prior existence clear, while others were upset to learn that:

"Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." Then the Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by (John 8:56-59).

Paul referred to Jesus' pre-existence when he wrote, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich" (II Corinthians 8:9) because the Bible does not record that Jesus was rich in His physical life on Earth (this verse is also consistent with Philippians 2:5-7, which will be quoted later)--thus it was prior to His human existence that He was rich. Paul also referred to Jesus' pre-existence when he wrote,

Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples (I Corinthians 10:1-6).

Hence since Christ was the Rock in the wilderness during the time of Moses, He clearly existed prior to His human birth.

Trinitarian History Supports Binitarianism

The "trinity" is a doctrine that was not originally taught by the Christian Church. According to Roman Catholic sources, it was apparently voiced by the heretic Montanus and developed by a famous Gnostic heretic named Valentinus in the mid-2nd Century.

One of the so-called Montanist Oracles, spoken by Montanus who seemed to think he was speaking for God was:

"I am the Father and the Son and the Paraclete." (Didymus, De trinitate iii. 41. 1.) (Assembled in P. de Labriolle, La crise montaniste (1913), 34-105, by Bates College, Lewston (Maine) http://abacus.bates.edu/Faculty/Philosophy%20and%20Religion/rel_241/texts/montanism.html 01/31/06).

This is one of the first references to a trinitarian view of the Godhead (the other earliest one was from the heretic Valentinus--it is unclear which was first). The paraclete is a term used to signify the Holy Spirit (it is from the Greek term parakletos).

Here is what it is recorded that a one-time Orthodox Catholic and binitarian bishop named Marcellus of Ancyra (who also apparently put together what is known as the oldest 'Apostles' Creed', known as the 'Old Roman Form') wrote on the nature of God around the middle of the fourth century:

Now with the heresy of the Ariomaniacs, which has corrupted the Church of God...These then teach three hypostases, just as Valentinus the heresiarch first invented in the book entitled by him 'On the Three Natures'.  For he was the first to invent three hypostases and three persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he is discovered to have filched this from Hermes and Plato (Source: Logan A. Marcellus of Ancyra (Pseudo-Anthimus), 'On the Holy Church': Text, Translation and Commentary. Verses 8-9.  Journal of Theological Studies, NS, Volume 51, Pt. 1, April 2000, p.95 ).

Valentinus also wrote this in the heretical 'Gospel of Truth',

"The Father uncovers his bosom, which is the Holy Spirit, revealing his secret. His secret is his Son! " (Valentinus.  Gospel of Truth.  Verse 17.  English translation by Patterson Brown).

Hence Valentinus is the earliest known professing Christian writer to make clear trinitarian claims (though he, himself, did not come up with the term trinity). It also should be noted that Valentinus was denounced by Polycarp of Asia Minor, when Polycarp visited Rome as a heretic (Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 3, Verse 4) and is considered to have been a heretic by Roman Catholics, Orthodox, most Protestants, and those in the Churches of God (in addition, the modalists, monarchians, etc. also had a heretic view of the Godhead, please article on the Trinity).

Perhaps it should be noted that although Catholics and Protestants now freely use the expression "three hypostases" even Jerome of the late 4th century was so unsure what was meant by it that he stated in a letter to the Roman Pope as follows:

Just now, I am sorry to say, those Arians, the Campenses, are trying to extort from me, a Roman Christian, their unheard-of formula of three hypostases. And this, too, after the definition of Nicæa and the decree of Alexandria, in which the West has joined. Where, I should like to know, are the apostles of these doctrines? Where is their Paul, their new doctor of the Gentiles? I ask them what three hypostases are supposed to mean...I implore your blessedness, therefore, by the crucified Saviour of the world, and by the consubstantial trinity, to authorize me by letter either to use or to refuse this formula of three hypostases (Jerome. Letter 15 To Pope Damasus. c. 376/377. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3001015.htm 03/09/07).

Clearly, if what that expression meant was not clear to Jerome by 376 A.D., it would not seem possible that accepting three hypostases could not have been a clear belief of the true and early Christians.

The position of the Roman Catholic Church is that the term 'trinity' (from the Latin trinitas) was developed 85 years after the last book of the Bible was written

In Scripture there is as yet no single term by which the Three Divine Persons are denoted together...The word trias (of which the Latin trinitas is a translation) is first found in Theophilus of Antioch about A.D. 180...Afterwards it appears in its Latin form of trinitas in Tertullian ("De pud." c. xxi) (The Blessed Trinity. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight).

First of all, it should be understood, that claims of Catholic scholars to the contrary, that Theophilus of Antioch did not teach the modern trinity or that the Holy Spirit was a person (though Tertullian, who became a Montanist sort of did--the leaders of the churches in Asia Minor and Antioch opposed the Montanists--Montanists taught a" type" of trinity before the Roman Catholics clearly did). It was not until after Tertullian (over 100 years since the Book of Revelation was written) that professing Christian writers suggested the concept of the trinity close to how it is now understood--yet even Tertullian's version is not the same as what trinitarians now hold). Notice what he wrote below as it indicates that he did not consider that the Holy Spirit was a third person of a trinity:

...such, I say, were sent out from the beginning with mighty effusions of the Holy Spirit to preach to the world...Shining in His native glory, as He is the power of God, and the Spirit of God, and the Logos, and the Wisdom, and the Reason, and the Son of God (THE APOLOGY OF TERTULLIAN Translated and Annotated by WM. REEVE, A.M. SOMETIME VICAR OF CRANFORD, MIDDLESEX AND THE MEDITATIONS OF THE EMPEROR MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS Translated by JEREMY COLLIER, A.M. Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh Newberry House LONDON & SYDNEY The Ancient & Modern Library of Theological Literature, vol. 31. Price 1s. 6d. p. 55,78).

What about Theophilus of Antioch?

Here is a mistranslated version of what Theophilus wrote:

In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the Trinity, of God, and His Word, and His wisdom. And the fourth is the type of man, who needs light, that so there may be God, the Word, wisdom, man (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter XV. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

It is mistranslated because trinity is NOT a Greek word, nor is it a different case than the lower case words. Thus, the proper translation would be:

In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the three of God, and His Word, and His wisdom. And the fourth is the type of man, who needs light, that so there may be God, the Word, wisdom, man.

Now the trinitarian may argue that this is just a semantics issue and that Theophilus is actually still talking about the trinity. Well, he is not as the third part is what Theophilus is teaching that man becomes. And that is what Theophilus is teaching--that now man is a fourth, but will become part of God (see Deification: Did the Early Church Teach That Christians Would Become God?), a third part, when humans become God's offspring! And that clearly is a binitarian view-the threeness, if you will of God is that those begotten of the Holy Spirit who do not commit the unpardonable sin will be born-again in the Family of God--we, through the Holy Spirit, become the third part.

Lest anyone suggest that I am reading something into Theophilus that he does not mean, he verifies what I concluded when he wrote:

...if I call Him Wisdom, I speak of His offspring (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 1, Chapter III. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

We are to be God's offspring! We are to be God in the family of God (see also Deification: Did the Early Church Teach That Christians Would Become God?). Paul verified that when he wrote:

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:29).

Lest anyone suggest that I am further reading something into Theophilus of Antioch's writings that he does not mean, he verifies what I concluded when he wrote:

For if He had made him immortal from the beginning, He would have made him God...so that if he should incline to the things of immortality, keeping the commandment of God, he should receive as reward from Him immortality, and should become God...For God has given us a law and holy commandments; and every one who keeps these can be saved, and, obtaining the resurrection, can inherit incorruption (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter XXVII. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Theophilus did not teach that the Holy Spirit was, or somehow was, one of three persons in any trinity. He verified that when he taught the following about the Spirit of God:

...if I say He is Spirit, I speak of His breath...For as the pomegranate, with the rind containing it, has within it many cells and compartments which are separated by tissues, and has also many seeds dwelling in it, so the whole creation is contained by the spirit of God, and the containing spirit is along with the creation contained by the hand of God (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 1, Chapters III,V. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

This is my God, the Lord of all, who alone stretched out the heaven, and established the breadth of the earth under it; who stirs the deep recesses of the sea, and makes its waves roar; who rules its power, and stills the tumult of its waves; who founded the earth upon the waters, and gave a spirit to nourish it; whose breath giveth light to the whole, who, if He withdraw His breath, the whole will utterly fail (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 1, Chapters VII. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Therefore, do not be sceptical, but believe; for I myself also used to disbelieve that this would take place, but now, having taken these things into consideration, I believe. At the same time, I met with the sacred Scriptures of the holy prophets, who also by the Spirit of God foretold the things that have already happened, just as they came to pass, and the things now occurring as they are now happening, and things future in the order in which they shall be accomplished (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 1, Chapters XIV. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

It is not totally clear how Theophilus views the Holy Spirit, though life-giving breath may be close. The above writings suggest that it is the power of God, as opposed to a specific person--in no place does he suggest that the Holy Spirit is a separate person. Nor when he mentioned threeness did he speak of the Holy Spirit itself.

Theophilus is not the only one who has been mistranslated. The scholar Epiphanius, in the fourth century, actually claimed the following:

Through the Epistle to the Philippians, then Paul has taught us how the hypostasis of the Son is like the hypostasis of the Father (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section VI, Verse 18,1. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, p.451).

However, the Greek term for hypostasis IS NOT ONCE FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE PHILIPPIANS. Hence, this is either bad exegesis or an intentionally inaccurate translation (please see (Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.).

Although it seems to wish to act as if Tertullian only taught its version of the trinity, The Catholic Encyclopedia admits this about Tertullian's understanding of the Godhead:

He says that from all eternity there was reason (ratio) in God, and in reason the Word (Sermo), not distinct from God, but in vulva cordis. For the purpose of creation the Word received a perfect birth as Son. There was a time when there was no Son and no sin, when God was neither Father nor Judge. In his Christology Tertullian has had no Greek influence, and is purely Roman. Like most Latin Fathers he speaks not of two Natures but of two Substances in one Person, united without confusion, and distinct in their operations (Chapman J. Transcribed by Lucy Tobin. Tertullian. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

While Tertullian himself also wrote:

The simple...the majority of believers, are startled at the dispensation (of the Three in One)...are constantly throwing out against us that we are preachers of two gods and three gods...

Now, from this one passage of the epistle of the inspired apostle, we have been already able to show that the Father and the Son are two separate Persons, not only by the mention of their separate names as Father and the Son, but also by the fact that He who delivered up the kingdom, and He to whom it is delivered up -- and in like manner, He who subjected (all things), and He to whom they were subjected -- must necessarily be two different Beings. But since they will have the Two to be but One, so that the Father shall be deemed to be the same as the Son...For the Father is the entire substance, but the Son is a derivation and portion of the whole, as He Himself acknowledges: "My Father is greater than I." In the Psalm His inferiority is described as being "a little lower than the angels." Thus the Father is distinct from the Son, being greater than the Son (Tertullian. Against Praxeas, Chapters 3,4-5,9. Translated by Peter Holmes. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 3. Edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

In other words, neither of the two earliest sources of the word trinity, according to the Roman Catholics, actually clearly taught the concept the way it is now taught. Perhaps I should mention that while earlier portions of chapter 9 from Tertullian are often quoted as THE so-called EARLIEST extra-biblical PROOF of the trinity, the latter statement shown above PROVES that the trinity as now taught (three co-equal persons), was not understood by Tertullian--Tertullian's understanding of scripture is that the Father and Son CANNOT BE CO-EQUAL. The unbiblical concept of the trinity consisting of three co-equal hypostasis (as it is now understood) apparently did not happen until at least the third century--and even then most did not accept it according to Tertullian.

It should be noted that certain Roman Catholic scholars also claim that a much early post-New Testament writing supports the trinity. Here is The Catholic Encyclopedia's interpretation of The Letter of the Romans to the Corinthians which it calls First Clement:

There is little intentional dogmatic teaching in the Epistle, for it is almost wholly hortatory. A passage on the Holy Trinity is important. Clement uses the Old Testament affirmation "The Lord liveth", substituting the Trinity thus: "As God liveth, and the Lord Jesus Christ liveth and the Holy Spirit -- the faith and hope of the elect (Chapman J. Transcribed by Gerard Haffner. Pope St. Clement I. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IV. Copyright © 1908 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).

However, a careful reading of the above rendering simply says that the God and Christ live, but it does not say that about the Holy Spirit--this is because the Holy Spirit is not a being like the Father or the Son.

Interestingly even the Roman Catholics admit, "That "the Father" and "the Son" are distinct Persons follows from the terms themselves, which are mutually exclusive" (The Blessed Trinity, 1912)--this admission is more supportive of the "binitarian" position than the trinitarian position they now hold.

A binitarian view was still held by Roman leaders in the third century, such Hippolytus. Hippolytus wrote:

He did not say, "I and the Father am one, but are one." For the word are is not said of one person, but it refers to two persons, and one power...

And thus there appeared another beside Himself. But when I say another, I do not mean that there are two Gods, but that it is only as light of light, or as water from a fountain, or as a ray from the sun. For there is but one power, which is from the All; and the Father is the All, from whom comes this Power, the Word. And this is the mind which came forth into the world, and was manifested as the Son of God. All things, then, are by Him, and He alone is of the Father...

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." If, then, the Word was with God, and was also God, what follows? Would one say that he speaks of two Gods? 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...

Now what subject is meant in this sentence, "I came forth from the Father," but just the Word? And what is it that is begotten of Him, but just the Spirit, that is to say, the Word? But you will say to me, How is He begotten? In your own case you can give no explanation of the way in which you were begotten, although you see every day the cause according to man; neither can you tell with accuracy the economy in His case. For you have it not in your power to acquaint yourself with the practised and indescribable art (method) of the Maker, but only to see, and understand, and believe that man is God's work. Moreover, you are asking an account of the generation of the Word, whom God the Father in His good pleasure begat as He willed. Is it not enough for you to learn that God made the world, but do you also venture to ask whence He made it? Is it not enough for you to learn that the Son of God has been manifested to you for salvation if you believe, but do you also inquire curiously how He was begotten after the Spirit? No more than two, (Hippolytus. Against Noetus: Against the Heresy of One Noetus, Chapters 7,12,14).

Binitarians, also, do not teach that there are two Gods, but we word it a bit different than Hippolytus does. However, we do teach that God is one family and Hippolytus may have understood that as he also wrote:

For it is right, in the first place, to expound the truth that the Father is one God, "of whom is every family," "by whom are all things, of whom are all things, and we in Him." (Hippolytus. Against the Heresy of One Noetus. Circa 220 AD).

According to The Catholic Encyclopedia around 212 A.D.:

Hippolytus had combated the heresy of Theodotion and the Alogi; in like fashion he opposed the false doctrines of Noetus, of Epigonus, of Cleomenes, and of Sabellius, who emphasized the unity of God too one-sidedly (Monarchians) and saw in the concepts of the Father and the Son merely manifestations (modi) of the Divine Nature (Modalism, Sabellianism). Hippolytus, on the contrary, stood uncompromisingly for a real difference between the Son (Logos) and the Father, but so as to represent the Former as a Divine Person almost completely separate from God (Ditheism) and at the same time altogether subordinate to the Father (Subordinationism). Hippolytus had combated the heresy of Theodotion and the Alogi; in like fashion he opposed the false doctrines of Noetus, of Epigonus, of Cleomenes, and of Sabellius, who emphasized the unity of God too one-sidedly (Monarchians) and saw in the concepts of the Father and the Son merely manifestations (modi) of the Divine Nature (Modalism, Sabellianism). Hippolytus, on the contrary, stood uncompromisingly for a real difference between the Son (Logos) and the Father, but so as to represent the Former as a Divine Person almost completely separate from God (Ditheism) and at the same time altogether subordinate to the Father (Subordinationism). As the heresy in the doctrine of the Modalists was not at first clearly apparent, Pope Zephyrinus declined to give a decision. For this Hippolytus gravely censured him, representing him as an incompetent man, unworthy to rule the Church of Rome and as a tool in the hands of the ambitious and intriguing deacon Callistus, whose early life is maliciously depicted (Philosophumena, IX, xi-xii). Consequently when Callistus was elected pope (217-218) on the death of Zephyrinus, Hippolytus immediately left the communion of the Roman Church and had himself elected antipope by his small band of followers. These he calls the Catholic Church and himself successor to the Apostles, terming the great majority of Roman Christians the School of Callistus. He accuses Callistus of having fallen first into the heresy of Theodotus, then into that of Sabellius; also of having through avarice degraded ecclesiastical, and especially the penitential, discipline to a disgraceful laxity (St. Hippolytus of Rome, 1910).

Zephyrinus' lack of a decision demonstrates that the traditional trinitarian view had not been accepted by all of Roman Catholicism at this time. Notice that describing God as various modes (as the trinitarians normally now do) was one reason that led to a split. Furthermore, Zephyrinus and his predecessor Victor are believed to have been Sabellians. Notice what one scholar wrote:

Sabellius taught the strict unity of the godhead: "one Person (hypostasis), three names." God is hyiopater, Son-Father. The different names Father, Son, and Spirit, merely describe different forms of revelation; the Son revealed the Father as a ray reveals the sun. Now the Son has returned to heaven, and God reveals himself as the Holy Spirit...Despite these flaws, Sabelliansim seems to have won the adherence of two bishops of Rome, Victor and Zephyrinus, both who were involved in bitter struggles with the adoptionists. Zephyrinus' successor, Callistus, repudiated Sabellius, but continued to use rather Sabellian language...The entanglement of these three bishops...has proved a continuous embarrassment to the traditionalist Roman Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility...

The modalism of Sabellius influenced later orthodox formulations in that it insisted on the deity of the Holy Spirit...By insisting that the Holy Spirit is also God, Sabellianism helped counteract the tendency to what we might call ditheism (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, p. 103).

If the doctrine of the trinity is so critical to being a "Christian" than why did not even the Roman bishops misunderstand it so much? Could it have been because the true Church was never Sabellian nor trinitarian? If the doctrine of the trinity was true from the beginning (which it was not), why do Protestant scholars feel the need to credit the heretical Sabellian for insisting that the Holy Spirit is itself God? The simple truth is that the early true Church never considered that the Holy Spirit was God or that God was some type of the trinity as commonly now defined.

Notice that Sabellianism was condemned from the start in Asia Minor, then decades later in Rome according to Roman Catholic scholars:

Yet further evidence regarding the Church's doctrine is furnished by a comparison of her teaching with that of heretical sects. The controversy with the Sabellians in the third century proves conclusively that she would tolerate no deviation from Trinitarian doctrine. Noetus of Smyrna, the originator of the error, was condemned by a local synod, about A.D. 200. Sabellius, who propagated the same heresy at Rome c. A.D. 220, was excommunicated by St. Callistus (Joyce GH. The Blessed Trinity. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV. Published 1912. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York ).

It should be noted that the above writing is a bit in error. While it is true that the Church in Asia Minor (Symrna) would not tolerate Sabellian heresy from the beginning, the Roman Catholic Church did until around 220 A.D. (this is further proof that the Location of the Main Early True Church Was Asia Minor, Not Rome).

It should be noted that Hippolytus was a martyr and is still considered a saint by the Romans, yet was possibly some type of binitarian (though he made some comments about the Holy Spirit that make his binitarian status a question).

Furthermore, the Catholics have written this about him:

Hippolytus was the most important theologian and the most prolific religious writer of the Roman Church in the pre-Constantinian era (St. Hippolytus of Rome, The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910).

For his views, Hippolytus was called a Ditheist. As The Catholic Encyclopedia also records:

Hippolytus (somewhat diversely in the "Contra Noetum" and in the "Philosophumena," if they are both his) taught the same division of the Son from the Father as traditional, and he records that Pope Callistus condemned him as a Ditheist (Chapman J. Transcribed by Kevin Cawley. Fathers of the Church. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VI. Copyright © 1909 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, September 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).

But history also records that trinitarians did not want to be called Tritheists any more that binitarians wished to be called Ditheists. It should also be noted that Catholic history suggests that Bishop Callistus (they were not popes prior to Siricius of 384) was corrupt.

Origen, who essentially succeeded the Gnostic/semi-Gnostic Clement of Alexandria as a teacher, taught and used a term for trinity. Here one translated passage:

Moreover, nothing in the Trinity can be called greater or less, since the fountain of divinity alone contains all things by His word and reason, and by the Spirit of His mouth sanctifies all things which are worthy of sanctification...(Origen. De Principiis, Book 1, Chapter 7. Translated by Frederick Crombie. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/04121.htm>.)

Of course, the above disagrees with the words of Jesus who stated, "My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28). So, not all agreed with Origen's writings.

So, who really popularized the trinity? Well, the idea of the trinity was promoted by a student of Origen's called Gregory the Wonder Worker or Gregory Thaumaturgus according to The Catholic Encyclopedia:

The first creed in which it appears is that of Origen's pupil, Gregory Thaumaturgus. In his Ekthesis tes pisteos composed between 260 and 270, he writes:

There is therefore nothing created, nothing subject to another in the Trinity: nor is there anything that has been added as though it once had not existed, but had entered afterwards: therefore the Father has never been without the Son, nor the Son without the Spirit: and this same Trinity is immutable and unalterable forever (P.G., X, 986).

It is manifest that a dogma so mysterious presupposes a Divine revelation. (Joyce, George. "The Blessed Trinity." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 20 Apr. 2012 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15047a.htm>.)

That last statement is interesting as Gregory claimed to learn from an apparition allegedly of the Apostle John as well as Mary, the Mother of Jesus (and is considered the first such person to do so). Thus, it seems he may have gotten some "revelation" from a claimed Marian apparition. According to other sources, he had the power to cause death by placing his cloke on people, promoted non-biblical positions about Mary, and may have been the first to promote the expression "the Holy Trinity" (he used that is his Homily concerning the Holy Mother of God, Section 35. Translated from the Armenian by F. C. CONYBEARE The Expositor 5th series vol.3 (1896) pp.161-173.  http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/gregory_thaumaturgus_homily.htm 10/14/11).

Trinitarians rarely seem to realize the history of their doctrine.

The following was written in the fourth century by the trinitarian Gregory Nazianzen (whom the Catholics call a saint and doctor of the church) when talking to a binitarian:

XIII. What right have you who worship the Son, even though you have revolted from the Spirit, to call us Tritheists? Are not you Ditheists? For if you deny also the worship of the Only Begotten, you have clearly ranged yourself among our adversaries. And why should we deal kindly with you as not quite dead? But if you do worship Him, and are so far in the way of salvation, we will ask you what reasons you have to give for your ditheism, if you are charged with it? If there is in you a word of wisdom answer, and open to us also a way to an answer. For the very same reason with which you will repel a charge of Ditheism will prove sufficient for us against one of Tritheism. And thus we shall win the day by making use of you our accusers as our Advocates, than which nothing can be more generous.
XIV. What is our quarrel and dispute with both? To us there is One God, for the Godhead is One, and all that proceedeth from Him is referred to One, though we believe in Three Persons. (Gregory Nazianzen. Fifth Theological Oration. XIII & XIV. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Volume 7. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1894. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

The above provides further evidence that there was a early binitarian presence (though sometimes referred to as Ditheist by the trinitarians). And note that while the trinitarians (according to Gregory Nazianzen) believe in one Godhead in Three Persons, binitarians believe in one Godhead (family) that now consists of two persons (the Father and the Son), but that will have a third--the true saints.

Even later in the 4th century, there were still binitarians in Asia Minor. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that the Ditheism was still an issue with "even the Eastern moderates" (Chapman J. Transcribed by Thomas J. Bress. Photinus. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XII. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company). Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

The trinity was not formally adopted until after 325 A.D. the Council of Nicea (which was convened by Constantine, see Dr. Arius below). It was finally adopted essentially as now commonly understood by the 381 Council of Constantinople--though many in the Roman and Orthodox Church believed in versions of it prior to this (please see article Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity?)--but in the middle of the 4th century, apparently most of them were not trinitarian.

The trinitarian doctrine is considered to be so important that The Catholic Encyclopedia states:

The Trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the Christian religion (The Blessed Trinity, 1912).

Yet in the early third century, the bishop of Rome would not make a decision about the trinity as the nature of God. How central to the Christian religion could a doctrine, not fully embraced until a later date, actually be?

A bishop of the Orthodox Church confirmed its late acceptance:

...the councils defined once and for all the Church's teaching upon the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith -- the Trinity and the Incarnation. All Christians agree in regarding these things as 'mysteries' which lie beyond human understanding and language...the first two, held in the fourth century...formulated the doctrine of the Trinity...The work of Nicea was taken up by the second Ecumenical Council, held in Constantinople in 381. This council expanded and adapted the Nicene Creed, developing in particular that teaching upon the Holy Spirit, whom it affirmed to be God even as the Father and the Son are God...It was the supreme achievement of St. Athanasius of Alexandria to draw out the full implications of the key word in the Nicene Cred: homoousios, one in essence or substance, consubstantial. Complementary to his work was that of the three Cappadocian Fathers, Saints...(died 394). While Athanasius emphasized the unity of God -- Father and Son are one in essence (ousia) - the Cappadocians stressed God's threeness: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three persons (hypostasis) (Ware T. The Orthodox Church. Penguin Books, London, 1997, pp. 20-23).

If this doctrine were originally part of the true Christian Church, it would seem that this would be a charge laid against true Christians (such as Stephen, Peter, and Paul in the Book of Acts)--but it never was. And of course, as even most Roman and Orthodox Catholics admit, the term trinity is not mentioned in the Bible.

If this doctrine were originally part of the Christian Church, it would seem that Paul would have mentioned three members of the Godhead in his letters to the churches--he never does. Paul mentions the Father and Jesus in every introduction of every book he wrote (Rom 1:7;I Cor 1:3;II Cor 1:2;Gal 1:3;Eph 1:2; Phil 1:2;Col 1:2;I The 1:1;II Thes 1:2;I Tim 1:2;II Tim 1:2;Ti 1:1;Phi 1:3;Heb 1:1-2;), but he never mentions the Holy Spirit--this is a binitarian position. If the Holy Spirit was a co-equal member of the trinity, could this possibly be blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:28-29)?

Part of the problem of the modern trinitarian view of one God who manifests Himself in three modes is that it demands that God could not have different wills. Yet Jesus taught, "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done" (Luke 22:42). Jesus is clearly stating that on this point He had a different will than the Father. If Jesus was part of the trinity, He could not have a different will than the Father, but since He did have a different will (see also John 5:30;7:16) and would speak different words (John 14:24), He could not be part of the traditionally taught trinity. Jesus also said that the Father knew things that He did not (Mark 13:32)--they thus could not be the same as trinitarians teach.

(This may be a good time to remind everyone that although the NIV gets I John 5:7-8 right, in the KJV and NKJV I John 5:7-8 includes words not in the original text. On page 1918, The Ryrie Study Bible reminds everyone "Verse 7 should end with the word witness. The remainder of v. 7 and part of v. 8 are not in any ancient Greek manuscript...". In other words the words "in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth" are not inspired and are not supposed to be in the Bible).

Perhaps it should be mentioned here that the reason that the Bible teaches, "baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19) is that through being begotten by the Holy Spirit through baptism (Luke 3:16), we will ultimately be born in the family of God.

Romans 8:28-29 states,

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

By showing the Jesus was to be the firstborn among many brethren, Paul is teaching that we will be in the same family of God that Jesus is in.

The Filioque

One of the major doctrinal issues that caused the schism that resulted in the Eastern Orthodox (sometimes called the Greek, or Greek Orthodox, Church) Church to break from the Roman Catholic Church in 1054 A.D. was the so-called ''filioque'' clause added to the original Nicene Creed.

The Catholic Encyclopedia states:

Filioque is a theological formula of great dogmatic and historical importance. On the one hand, it expresses the Procession of the Holy Ghost from both Father and Son as one Principle; on the other, it was the occasion of the Greek schism (Maas A.J. Filioque, 1909).

Eastern Orthodox writers (like Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church, p. 213), and others, have suggested that this clause is supportive of binitarianism, and thus should not be accepted by the Roman Catholic Church who insisted on this addition to the original Nicene Creed.

The ''filioque'' clause states that the Holy Spirit, "proceeds from the Father and the Son." Most binitarians would agree with that statement (though not certain others) in that Creed (for information on the Creed, please see What Was the Original Apostles' Creed? What is the Nicene Creed?).

The Catholic Encyclopedia also states:

The dogma of the double Procession of the Holy Ghost from Father and Son as one Principle is directly opposed to the error that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father, not from the Son. Neither dogma nor error created much difficulty during the course of the first four centuries...As to the Sacred scripture, the inspired writers call the holy Ghost the Spirit of the Son (Gal., iv, 6), the spirit of Christ (Rom., viii, 9), the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Phil., i, 19), just as they call Him the Spirit of the Father (Matt., x, 20) and the Spirit of God (I Cor., ii, ll). Hence they attribute to the Holy Ghost the same relation to the Son as to the Father. Again, according to Sacred Scripture, the Son sends the Holy Ghost (Luke, xxiv, 49; John, xv, 26; xvi, 7; xx, 22; Acts, ii, 33,; Tit., iii.6)...as the Father sends the Holy Ghost (John, xiv, 26) (Maas A.J. Filioque, 1909).

Most binitarians would agree that the above quote is true and in accordance with history and with scripture. Binitarians believe that since Roman Catholics acknowledge that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, that this clearly shows that the Holy Spirit is not a separate divine Being as the Father and the Son are.

Perhaps it should be mentioned that even trinitarian scholars understand that the Holy Spirit is not biblically shown to be clearly a person. Notice the following:

Roman Catholic and Orthodox theologians agree in recognizing a certain anonymity characterizes the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. While the names Father and Son denote very clear personal distinctions, are in no sense interchangeable, and cannot in any case refer to the common nature of the two hypostases, the name Holy Spirit does not have that advantage. Indeed, we say that God is Spirit, meaning by that the common nature as much as any one of the persons. We say that he is holy...Taken in itself, the term Holy Spirit thus might be applied, not to a personal distinction...In that sense, Thomas Aquinas was right in saying that...the name Holy Spirit has been given to him...we find an image of the economy of the Third Person rather than an image of his hypostatic character: we find the procession of a divine force or spirit which accomplishes sanctification. We reach a paradoxical conclusions: all that we know about the Holy Spirit refers to his economy; all that we do not know makes us venerate him as a person (Clendenin D.B. ed. Eastern Orthodox Theology, 2nd ed. Baker Academic, 2003, pp. 165-166).

What an astounding admission! The main trinitarian groups understand that the Holy Spirit is simply a procession of a divine force and that it is venerated as a person based upon what scripture does not say (more on the Holy Spirit can be found in the article (Did Early Christians Think the Holy Spirit Was A Separate Person in a Trinity? ).

We Are to Be One With the Father and the Son

Jesus also taught:

I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one (John 17:20-23).

Jesus is one with God the Father as He expects His people to be one. As His people are made up of different individuals, so therefore is God. Jesus continually emphasized the family relationship between Himself as Son and the Father. Furthermore, Jesus' statement makes it clear that those called will be part of God's family as well--how else will true Christians attain the same glory as Jesus? Paul essentially reiterates this in Romans 8:28-29 (which will be quoted later).

Matthew recorded, "And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matthew 19:4-6). "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). The New Testament, thus, also clearly shows that two can be one!

Interestingly, Paul brings both concepts together in Ephesians when he writes,

"For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery-but I am talking about Christ and the church" (Ephesians 5:30-32).

Thus Paul shows that two are one flesh and that the marital relationship pictures Christ being one with the Church.

Which is part of what Jesus was talking about in John 17--that there is a oneness and two-ness in the relationship between He and the Father and that there will be a oneness between Him and Church--which is composed on many (not just two) members. Paul also made this clear,

"For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another" (Romans 12:4-6).

Although many have attempted to portray the English word 'one' to mean there are not multiple beings in the God Family, both the Old Testament (which was written in Hebrew) and the New Testament (which was written in Greek) show that while God is also one, the Godhead (the term 'Godhead' could probably also be translated as 'divinity') is currently shared by two, including Jesus (Colossians 2:9;Romans 1:20). Notice the following:

1 For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge...8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; NKJV (Colossians 2:1-3,8-9)

It is the lack of understanding of these scriptural concepts by the traditional unitarians and trinitarians that can blind them to the plan of God. And that we are to be one with God as the God Family (now consisting of the Father and the Son) now is one!

Modern Scholars Properly Conclude That Binitarianism is Not a New Concept

Some, who have chosen to misinterpret these scriptures have claimed that the idea of God consisting of two beings is a relatively recent invention. However scholars have noted,

Earliest Christian worship specifies two figures, God and Jesus, as recipients (Hurtado Larry. Abstract: "The Binitarian Shape of Early Christian Worship". International Conference on the Historical Origins of the Worship of Jesus. 13-17 June 1998).

And in the New Testament, and among second century Christians, historians recognize:

...there are a fairly consistent linkage and subordination of Jesus to God "the Father" in these circles, evident even in the Christian texts from the latter decades of the first century that are commonly regarded as a very 'high' Christology, such as the Gospel of John and Revelation. This is why I referred to this Jesus-devotion as a "binitarian" form of monotheism: there are two distinguishable figures (God and Jesus), but they are posited in a relation to each other that seems intended to avoid the ditheism of two gods, and the devotional practices show a similar concern...In my judgment this Jesus-devotion amounts to a treatment of him as a recipient of worship at a surprisingly early point in the first century, and is certainly a programmatic inclusion of a second figure unparalleled in the monotheistic tradition of the time (Hurtado LW. Lord Jesus Christ, Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. William B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, 2003, pp. 52-53).

Interestingly, Professor Hurtado's book (which at least one University of Notre Dame scholar calls "A fantastic work! Larry Hurtado has written what may well prove to be one of the more important works on Jesus in this generation") demonstrates that there was a binitarian view in Christianity that can be proven from the early first century (from about the time of Christ's death) and it concludes that the trinitarian view came to be dominant later (Ibid, p.651).

And while Professor Hurtado does not personally seem to clearly refer to Christ as God, he specifically acknowledges:

...the "binitarian" pattern of devotion in which both God (the "Father") and Jesus are objects of such reverence goes back to the earliest observable stages of the movement that became Christianity...The central place given to Jesus...and...their concern to avoid ditheism by reverencing Jesus rather consistently with reference to "the Father", combine to shape the proto-orthodox "binitarian" pattern of devotion. Jesus truly is reverenced as divine" (Ibid, pp. 605, 618).

Professor Hurtado also notes that:

"there are numerous places where Ignatius refers to Jesus as "God" (theos)...Yet Ignatius refers to Jesus as theos while still portraying him as subordinate to the ""Father"" (Ibid. pp.637, 638).

That is a binitarian view . I would suggest that the early Christians were careful about avoiding the charge of ditheism because they were reinforcing the binitarian position that God is one family, currently consisting of the Father and the Son--a family relationship, in which the Father is greater than the Son (John 14:28)--but that the true saints will be part of.

Furthermore another scholar noted,

The argument that Christianity is not binitarian but trinitarian, hence could not be perceived as a two-powers heresy, ignores the fact that it is not so much what Christianity thought of itself that counts but how it appeared to its rabbinic critics. And there we see clearly that it was often described as binitarian or dualistic rather than trinitarian (Summary of response by Alan F. Segal. International Conference on the Historical Origins of the Worship of Jesus. 13-17 June 1998).

Hence, the early Jewish rabbis recognized early Christianity as binitarian, not trinitarian or unitarian. But this observation is not limited to critics of the Christian religion.

Another scholar has noted:

While Paul engages in a great deal of legitimation for his view of Torah, there is no indication that he felt the need to defend himself against charges of ‘two powers’ heresy. Paul's view of the exalted Christ's investiture with the divine name (Phil.2:9-11) must be viewed in relation to non-Christian Jewish texts such as the Apocalypse of Abraham. This work refers to an exalted angel, Yahoel, who bears the divine name (Apoc.Abr.10:3,8). There is simply no evidence that belief in a supreme mediator or agent of God, one that might later be called a ‘second power,’ was controversial at any point during the first century CE. This is not to be explained by the lack of any universally recognized authority which could speak for Jewish ‘orthodoxy’ in this period. Even within the context of first century Jewish diversity, parties in conflict with one another took seriously the objections of their opponents and sought to respond to them. In the case of Paul's claims about the exalted Christ and of Philo's view of the Logos as a second god, there is nothing to indicate that their contemporaries found them to be heretical or controversial...the Tosefta contains several references to Christians as minim (‘heretics’). The lack of explicit reference to ‘two powers’ cannot be explained as a lack of interest in Christianity, since the rabbis who composed the Tosefta took the trouble to polemicize against Christians. So, if Christian belief in ‘two powers in heaven’ was an issue at that time, it is quite surprising that the Mishnah and the Tosefta do not mention it" (James McGrath (Alliance Theological Seminary) with Jerry Truex (Tabor College). TWO POWERS’ AND EARLY JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN MONOTHEISM http://www.iwu.edu/~religion/ejcm/McGrath_SBL2001_TwoPowers.htm 9/18/04).

This writing, thus suggests, that certain binitarian ideas were not necessarily foreign to the Jewish religion at that time.

Regarding the New Testament, even a trinitarian scholar has admitted:

The binitarian formulas are found in Rom. 8:11, 2 Cor. 4:14, Gal. 1:1, Eph. 1:20, 1 Tim 1:2, 1 Pet. 1:21, and 2 John 1:13...No doctrine of the Trinity in the Nicene sense is present in the New Testament...There is no doctrine of the Trinity in the strict sense in the Apostolic Fathers...(Rusch W.G. The Trinitarian Controversy. Fortress Press, Phil., 1980, pp. 2-3).

Early, Post New Testament, Writers

Many of us in the true Church of God believe that the churches in Revelation 2 and 3 show the succession of the dominant true church throughout history (click here for the article Why the Churches of Revelation 2 & 3 Matter). As shown earlier in this article, it is clear that the New Testament Church, the one called Ephesus in Revelation 2, was binitarian. (More information on the early church can be found in the article Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome).

In what has been called "the oldest complete Christian sermon that has survived" (Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 2nd ed. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2004, p. 102)--outside those in the Bible--sometimes erroneously referred to as Second Letter of Clement, it seems to support binitarianism. It was given perhaps with a year or so of John's death (though others have suggested that perhaps the Roman Bishop Soter wrote it c. 170, ibid, p103), begins with the following:

Brothers, we ought so to think of Jesus Christ, as of God, as "Judge of the living and the dead (An Ancient Christian Sermon (2 Clement), 1:1. In Holmes M.W., p. 107).

So then, brothers, if we do the will of God our Father...(An Ancient Christian Sermon (2 Clement), 14:1. In Holmes M.W., p.121).

Now the church, being spiritual was revealed in the flesh of Christ, thereby showing us that if any of us guard her in the flesh and do not corrupt her, he will receive her back again in the Holy Spirit. For this flesh is a copy of the Spirit. No one, therefore, who corrupts the copy, will share in the original. This, therefore, is what he means, brothers: guard the flesh, in order that you may receive of the Spirit. Now if we say that the flesh is the church and the Spirit is Christ, then the one who abuses the flesh hath abuses the church. Consequently such a person will not receive the Spirit, which is Christ. So great is the life and immortality which this flesh is able to receive, if the Holy Spirit is closely joined with it, that no one is able to proclaim or to tell "what things the Lord hath prepared" for his chosen ones (An Ancient Christian Sermon (2 Clement), 14:3-5. In Holmes M.W., p.121).

Thus, what may be the oldest preserved sermon (which can be found in its entirety at Ancient "Christian" Sermon) says to think of Jesus as God and that the Father is God, but it never indicates that the Holy Spirit is God. This is consistent with the binitarian view.

The next church in Revelation 2, following Ephesus, was Smyrna. Polycarp was known as the Bishop of Smyrna and probably the first physical head (under Jesus Christ) of the era when Smyrna dominated. He was neither trinitarian nor unitarian according to various historical documents. The following quote attributed to him shows that he (and thus by inference the rest of Smyrna) was not unitarian,

Now may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal High-priest Himself, the [Son of] God Jesus Christ, build you up in faith and truth, and in all gentleness and in all avoidance of wrath and in forbearance and long suffering and in patient endurance and in purity; and may He grant unto you a lot and portion among His saints, and to us with you, and to all that are under heaven, who shall believe on our Lord and God Jesus Christ and on His Father (The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians in APOSTOLIC FATHERS (as translated by J.B. LIGHTFOOT) 12:6,7).

It probably should be noted that Dr. Lightfoot left out "Son of" in his translation, which is in the Latin. It should also be pointed out that I am aware of another translation of this section by Roberts and Donaldson in Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol, 1 which omitted the term "God" before Jesus Christ, but I verified that the term "deum" is in the Latin version of this epistle {the original Greek versions did not survive pass chapter 10}. Dr. Lightfoot's translation "our Lord and God Jesus Christ" is a literal translation of the Latin "dominum nostrum et deum Iesum Christum". The University of Notre Dame Latin Dictionary and Grammar Aid states "deus -i m. [a god , deity]". The term "deum" is the masculine accusatory form of the word "deus". Since traditional unitarians do not call Jesus God, it appears clear that Polycarp clearly was not one of them. Furthermore, he did not ever call the Holy Spirit God.

Also, Ignatius, who was known by Polycarp (and praised in this same Polycarp epistle) wrote around 100-115 A.D.,

For our God, Jesus Christ, was conceived by Mary in accord with God's plan: of the seed of David, it is true, but also of the Holy Spirit. He was born and baptized so that by His submission He might purify the water (Ignatius of Antioch, Letters to the Ephesians 18,2--note this is translated the same by at least three separate translations as done by Dr. Lightfoot, J.H. Srawley, and Roberts & Donaldson).

...God appeared in human form to bring newness of eternal life (Ignatius. Letter the Ephesians, 19,3. In Holmes: The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations. Baker Books, Grand Rapids (MI), 2004, p. 149).

Hence, Ignatius (who apparently lived in the times dominated by both the Ephesus and Smyrna eras of the Church), who received Polycarp's praise, also recognized Jesus as God, and thus could not have been a traditional unitarian.

Ignatius also stated:

Ignatius, who is also Theophorus, unto her which hath been blessed in greatness through the plentitude of God the Father; which hath been foreordained before the ages to be for ever unto abiding and unchangeable glory, united and elect in a true passion, by the will of the Father and of Jesus Christ our God; even unto the church which is in Ephesus [of Asia], worthy of all felicitation: abundant greeting in Christ Jesus and in blameless joy (Ignatius' Letter to the Ephesians, Verse 0. In Apostolic Fathers. Lightfoot & Harmer, 1891 translation).

He also stated something similar to the Smyrnaeans:

Ignatius, who is also Theophorus, to the church of God the Father and of Jesus Christ the Beloved, which hath been mercifully endowed with every grace, being filled with faith and love and lacking in no grace, most reverend and bearing holy treasures; to the church which is in Smyrna of Asia, in a blameless spirit and in the word of God abundant greeting. I give glory to Jesus Christ the God who bestowed such wisdom upon you" (Ignatius' Letter to the Symrnaeans, Verses 0-1.1. In Apostolic Fathers. Lightfoot & Harmer, 1891 translation).

It is important to note that Ignatius referred to both the Father and the Son as God in both places (and I verified that it is in the original Greek), but he never called the Holy Spirit 'God'.

A second century apologist named Athenagoras wrote the following:

And, the Son being in the Father and the Father in the Son, in oneness and power of spirit, the understanding and reason (nous kai logos) of the Father is the Son of God...The Holy Spirit...which operates in the prophets, we assert to be an effluence of God, flowing from Him, and returning back again like a beam of the sun...Who, then, would not be astonished to hear men who speak of God the Father, and of God the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Athenagoras. A Plea for the Christians, Chapter X. Translated by B.P. Pratten. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Thus Athenagoras explained that the Father and the Son are God, have a onesness of power and spirit, and that the Holy Spirit is the effluence of God. He never called the Holy Spirit God. And he stated that both, the Father and the Son (the term in English refers to two), are both united and distinct--this is a binitarian view.

Near the end of the second century, Melito of Sardis (whom Catholics and others consider to be a saint) wrote

No eye can see Him, nor thought apprehend Him, nor language describe Him; and those who love Him speak of Him thus: `Father, and God of Truth" (Melito. A Discourse Which Was in the Presence of Antoninus Caesar. In Ante-Nicene Fathers by Roberts and Donaldson, Volume 8, 1885. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), printing 1999, p. 755).

Melito also wrote, "For the deeds done by Christ after His baptism, and especially His miracles, gave indication and assurance to the world of the Deity hidden in His flesh. For, being at once both God and perfect man likewise...He concealed the signs of His Deity, although He was the true God existing before all ages" (Melito. On the Nature of Christ. In Ante-Nicene Fathers by Roberts and Donaldson, Volume 8, 1885. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), printing 1999, 760).

This clearly shows that Melito considered Christ to be God, as well as the Father (though a God without some signs of His deity). There is no indication in any of the surviving writings of Melito that he considered that the Holy Spirit was also God, hence he seemed to hold a binitarian view. Actually, like most binitarians, his writings suggest that the Holy Spirit was simply the power of God as he wrote:

The tongue of the Lord-His Holy Spirit. In the Psalm: "My tongue is a pen." (Melito. From the Oration on Our Lord's Passion, IX. In Ante-Nicene Fathers by Roberts and Donaldson, Volume 8, 1885. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), printing 1999, p. 760).

The finger of the Lord-the Holy Spirit, by whose operation the tables of the law in Exodus are said to have been written (Melito. From the Oration on Our Lord's Passion. In Ante-Nicene Fathers by Roberts and Donaldson, Volume 8, 1885. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), printing 1999, p. 761).

Since God had the written the ten commandments Himself (Exodus 31:18), this shows that Melito only considered the Holy Spirit to be the power of God, not a separate person.

Instead of accepting what accepting what Melito taught about the Godhead and Holy Spirit as related to the original faith, at least trinitarian scholar (who is also an Anglican priest) wrote:

We must understand that Melito bears witness to the truth as it was understood in his day and that the orthodox faith has been gradually revealed (Stewart-Sykes A. Melito of Sardis On Pascha. St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood (NY), 2001, p. 29).

Christians believe that Jude 3 was correct, cannot accept that the "orthodox faith has been gradually revealed". Notice what God inspired Jude to write:

Contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered for the saints...

Since all legitimate scholars recognize that early Christian leaders did not support modern trinitarianism, those interested in the faith that was once for all delivered for the saints, would not accept the idea of that the true faith was gradually revealed.

Also near the end of the second century (Circa 180), Irenaeus (who is also considered to have been a saint by the Roman Catholics) wrote this in his famous paper against heresies:

...there is none other called God by the Scriptures except the Father of all, and the Son, and those who possess the adoption (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book IV, Preface, Verse 4. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Notice that he does not say that the Holy Spirit is also called God. Also notice that Irenaeus states that only the Father, the Son, and those who possess the adoption (Christians) are God. This is a "binitarian", not a trinitarian view.

At least one trinitarian scholar has acknowledged:

The language of the New Testament permits the Holy Spirit to be understood as an impersonal force or influence more readily than it does the Son...The attempt to develop an understanding of the Holy Spirit consistent with the trinitarian passages...came to fruition at Constantinople in 381...those who saw the Holy Spirit as a Person, were often heretical, for example, the Montanists (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, p. 140).

Christianity Today (a Protestant publication) records this piece of Church history involving the Catholic Origen:

The great third-century theologian Origen, for example, pressed a bishop named Heraclides to define the relationship of Christ to God the Father. After much careful questioning, Heraclides admitted to believing in two Gods but clarified that "the power is one." Origen reminded Heraclides that some Christians would "take offense at the statement that there are two Gods. We must express the doctrine carefully to show in what sense they are two, and in what sense the two are one God." (Did You Know? Unusual facts about the Council of Nicea. Church History 2005. Christianity Today. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/2005/001/4.2.html).

Hence even the Catholic and Protestant scholars must know that binitarianism was the earliest prevailing position among those who professed Christ.

Interestingly, Tertullian, around 213 A.D. wrote

Well then, you reply, if He was God who spoke, and He was also God who created, at this rate, one God spoke and another created; (and thus) two Gods are declared (Against Praxeas 13:1).

Thus from Ignatius, Polycarp, Melito, Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Origen, we have strong indication that the binitarian view was held during the time of Smyrna (the second, third, and early fourth centuries).

Furthermore, it perhaps should be mentioned that the sacra nomina (generally two-letter abbreviations, perhaps intended to identify the documents as “Christian”) found on early documents associated Christianity is also believed to support the position that those that professed Christ in the second century were binitarian.  Larry Hurtado observed:

The Christian nomina sacra…differ in form from any Jewish scribal devices…Most significantly, the four earliest Christian nomina sacra are the two key words for God (Theos and Kyrios) and key designations for Jesus (Iēosus, Christos, and Kyrios).  If therefore, as is usually believed, the nomina sacra practice represents an expression of piety and reverence, it is a striking departure from pre-Christian Jewish scribal practice to extend to these designations of Jesus the same scribal treatment given to key designations for God.  That is, the four earliest Christian nomina sacra collectively manifest one noteworthy expression of what I have called the “binitarian shape” of earliest Christian piety and devotion (Hurtado LW.  The Earliest Christian Artifacts.  William B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids (MI), 2006, pp. 105-106).

In Emperor Constantine's time, Pergamos (the next church in Revelation 2) began to become predominant. Many were known as 'Paulicians', 'Bogomils', 'Cathars', and 'Patarenes', with those towards to end sometimes known as 'Albigensians' (although most referred by those names were not in the true Church). The Nationmaster Encyclopedia states,

The Albigensians and other Bogomil heretics...denied the third person of the Holy Trinity.

Dr. Arius

Arius was a teacher (which is what the word "doctor" means, whether he formally considered to be a doctor is unclear) from Alexandria who held to the belief that God the Father was supreme in authority to Jesus, and that the Holy Spirit was not the third member of the Godhead. However, he did hold at least one belief that binitarians did not hold--he believed that Jesus had a beginning, while binitarians do not accept that.

Regarding Arius, here is what The Catholic Encyclopedia records:

He described the Son as a second, or inferior God, standing midway between the First Cause and creatures; as Himself made out of nothing, yet as making all things else; as existing before the worlds of the ages; and as arrayed in all divine perfections except the one which was their stay and foundation. God alone was without beginning, unoriginate; the Son was originated, and once had not existed. For all that has origin must begin to be (Barry W. Transcribed by Anthony A. Killeen. Arianism. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I. Copyright © 1907 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

And while true Christians will understand that Christ is God and accepts the Son being under the authority of God the Father, we do not accept that He had a beginning (see Hebrews 7:3).

Perhaps, I should add what Herbert W. Armstrong wrote about Arius:

...another controversy was raging, between a Dr. Arius, of Alexandria, a Christian leader who died A.D. 336, and other bishops, over calling God a Trinity. Dr. Arius stoutly opposed the Trinity doctrine, but introduced errors of his own (Armstrong HW. Mystery of the Ages. Dodd, Mead & Company, New York, 1985, p. 54).

Herbert Armstrong is essentially stating that Dr. Arius' understanding was imperfect--and that would be at least on the point of Jesus at one time not existing.

Many people know that there was a great debate at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. Although he did not wish to go to this meeting, Emperor Constantine summoned and forced Dr. Arius to attend the pagan Emperor's council.

According to historical accounts, the attendees at this council were split into three factions:

1) Arians - Supporters of the position of Dr. Arius, about 10% of the attendees.
2) In-Betweens - Those who held a position between the Arians and Trinitarians, about 75% of the attendees. Eusebius was the main spokesperson for them.
3) Trinitarians - Those who supported the views of Athanasius, about 15% of the attendees.

Notice that even within the Catholic/Orthodox Council, the majority of attending bishops did not hold to the trinitarian view before the Council. No matter what one may feel about the truthfulness of the trinity, how can any say that the acceptance of this doctrine is necessary for Christians as it was not the apparent belief of the majority of church leaders in the early fourth century?

Although, Eusebius led the biggest group, he did not win. After an impassioned speech by Athanasius, Emperor Constantine arose. And since he was the Emperor (plus he was dressed as a golden "angel"), his standing was noticed by the bulk of the attendees who correctly interpreted the Emperor as now supporting Athanasius. And because of Athanasius' speech and the Emperor's approval, the bulk of the attendees decided to come up with a statement on the Godhead that the Arians could not support.

This to a degree solved the Emperor's immediate concern about unity of his version of Christianity, and pretty much drove the Arians out.

The Emperor himself specifically decided what the "orthodox" belief would be:

On this faith being publicly put forth by us, no room for contradiction appeared; but our most pious Emperor, before any one else, testified that it comprised most orthodox statements. He confessed moreover that such were his own sentiments, and he advised all present to agree to it, and to subscribe its articles and to assent to them, with the insertion of the single word, One-in-essence, which moreover he interpreted as not in the sense of the affections of bodies, nor as if the Son subsisted from the Father in the way of division, or any severance; for that the immaterial, and intellectual, and incorporeal nature could not be the subject of any corporeal affection, but that it became us to conceive of such things in a divine and ineffable manner. And such were the theological remarks of our most wise and most religious Emperor (Eusebius. Letter on the Council of Nicaea. Letter of Eusebius of Cæsarea to the people of his Diocese).

Perhaps it should be mentioned here that even Roman Catholics admit that Constantine was still a pagan when he decided the nature of the Godhead for the Orthodox and Roman Catholics. Notice the following:

In the dedication of Constantinople in 330 a ceremonial half pagan, half Christian was used. The chariot of the sun-god was set in the market-place, and over its head was placed the Cross of Christ, while the Kyrie Eleison was sung. Shortly before his death Constantine confirmed the privileges of the priests of the ancient gods. Many other actions of his have also the appearance of half-measures, as if he himself had wavered and had always held in reality to some form of syncretistic religion (Herbermann Charles G. & Grupp Georg. Transcribed by Rick McCarty. Constantine. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IV. Published 1908. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Does any thinking person really feel that God would have waited hundreds of years to declare what He was and then use a pagan Emperor to decide?

Semi-Arians

The true Church of God opposed the efforts of the Roman Catholic Church at this time to become trinitarian. Historical records at the time show that some version of binitarianism was a belief held by many professing Christians then (including many not actually in the Church of God).

Some who are unitarians believe they have conflicting evidence, but part of the problem is that while it is true that Dr. Arius held a version of the unitarian position (which differs dramatically from certain current traditional unitarians), it is also true that the binitarians were considered to be 'semi-Arians' (even though there were different definitions of semi-Arians as well).

The leading Catholic historian of the Constantine era, Eusebius, was a Semi-Arian bishop who was succeeded by another Semi-Arian:

When in 338, Eusebius died in Caesarea he was succeeded by his disciple Acacius, who shared the semi-Arianism of his master (Bagatti, Bellarmino.  Translated by Eugene Hoade.  The Church from the Gentiles in Palestine, Part 1, Chapter 1.  Nihil obstat: Ignatius Mancini. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 28 Februarii 1970.  Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, p. 49).

In 359, there was even a "semi-Arian council of Seleucia (359)" attended by Greco-Roman church leaders (Ibid, p. 56). And "in 335, the semi-Arian bishops, returning from the council of Tyre" consecrated a basilica (Ibid, p. 59). In other words, even among the Greco-Roman bishops, many were "semi-Arians".

Here is another important semi-Arian bishop according to The Catholic Encyclopedia:

St. Cyril of Jerusalem Bishop of Jerusalem and Doctor of the Church, born about 315; died probably 18 March, 386… He appeared at the Council of Seleucia in 359, in which the Semi-Arian party was triumphant… He belonged to the Semi-Arian, or Homoean party, and is content to declare that the Son is "in all things like the Father". (Chapman, John. St. Cyril of Jerusalem. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 3 Feb. 2010 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04595b.htm> )

If someone could be a Greco-Roman “saint” and “Doctor of the Church” and be semi-Arian in the 4th century, then it should be illogical for any to conclude that trinitarianism was a “foundational belief” of the even the Greco-Roman churches prior to that century.

And at least one Pope (Liberius) was believed to have been Semi-Arian. Notice what The Catholic Encyclopedia teaches:

The second Formula of Sirmium (357) stated the doctrine of the Anomoeans, or extreme Arians. Against this the Semi-Arian bishops, assembled at Ancyra, the episcopal city of their leader Basilius, issued a counter formula, asserting that the Son is in all things like the Father, afterwards approved by the Third Synod of Sirmium (358). This formula, though silent on the term "homousios", consecrated by the Council of Nicaea, was signed by a few orthodox bishops, and probably by Pope Liberius, being, in fact, capable of an orthodox interpretation. The Emperor Constantius cherished at that time the hope of restoring peace between the orthodox and the Semi-Arians by convoking a general council (Benigni, Umberto. "Council of Rimini." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 11 Jul. 2008 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13057b.htm>).

Pneumatomachi…They denied the divinity of the Holy Ghost...The majority of this sect were clearly orthodox on the Consubstantiality of the Son; they had sent a deputation from the Semi-Arian council of Lampsacus (364 A.D.) to Pope Liberius, who after some hesitation acknowledged the soundness of their faith; but with regard to the Third Person, both pope and bishops were satisfied with the phrase: "We believe in the Holy Ghost" (Arendzen, John. "Pneumatomachi." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 11 Jul. 2008 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12174a.htm>)

"In the Council of Rimini, 359 A.D...nearly all bishops present, 400 in number" decided "to sign a semi-Arian creed" (Kramer H.B. L. The Book of Destiny.  Nihil Obstat: J.S. Considine, O.P., Censor Deputatus.  Imprimatur: +Joseph M. Mueller, Bishop of Sioux City, Iowa, January 26, 1956.  Reprint TAN Books, Rockford (IL), p. 165).

The Catholic Saint Jerome, while discussing Arian and anti-Arian writings wrote:

Fortunatianus,  an African by birth, bishop of Aquilia during the reign of Constantius, composed brief Commentaries on the gospels arranged by chapters, written in a rustic style, and is held in detestation because, when Liberius bishop of Rome was driven into exile for the faith, he was induced by the urgency of Fortunatianus to subscribe to heresy (Jerome. De Viris Illustribus (On Illustrious Men), Chapter 97).

Here is more modern Catholic writing about Pope Liberius:

Liberius (352-366)…the signing of a document that contained a formulation very close to the Arian thesis…he was criticized by many (Athanasius, Hilary of Poiters, Jerome) who saw this submission as a weakness due to fear of death (Lopes A. Translation by Charles Nopar. The Popes.  Pontifical Administration, Rome, 1997, p.12).

Thus at least one 4th century Roman Pope endorsed IN WRITING in one or more documents the soundness of Semi-Arian/Pneumatomachi positions on the Godhead.

Even the Orthodox bishop of Constantinople in the fourth century held to some form of Semi-Arian view:

Towards the middle of the fourth century, Macedonius, Bishop of Constantinople, and, after him a number of Semi-Arians, while apparently admitting the Divinity of the Word, denied that of the Holy Ghost (Forget J. Transcribed by W.S. French, Jr. Holy Ghost. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Therefore, into the middle of the fourth century, the two major leaders of the Greco-Roman churches endorsed Semi-Arian, non-trinitarian positions. How then can the Greco-Romans and Protestants claim then that the trinity was the original view of the church? It is a historical fact that it was NOT.

Those who claim that the true church always held a trinitarian view are in clear error as even Catholic sources clearly acknowledge that there were many (if not a majority) of Semi-Arians in the fourth century--including among their top leadership!

Overtime, however, the trinitarian bishops gained more influence however. But some offended the Semi-Arians (however, those associated with the true Church of God were not really associated with the Greco-Roman confederation at this time--they remained separate from them).

Certain Catholics wanted to get their type of semi-Arians back more into the fold and that is significantly why they convened the Council of Constantinople in May of 381. Notice what The Catholic Encyclopedia states:

First Council of Constantinople (SECOND GENERAL COUNCIL.) This council was called in May, 381, by Emperor Theodosius, to provide for a Catholic succession in the patriarchal See of Constantinople, to confirm the Nicene Faith, to reconcile the semi-Arians with the Church...(Shahan TJ. Transcribed by Sean Hyland. First Council of Constantinople. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IV. Published 1908. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Yet, the Council of Constantinople so offended the semi-Arians that many of them walked out. Then, that council also:

"anathematized...specifically... the semi-Arians" (Latourette K.S. A History of Christianity, Volume 1, Beginnings to 1500. Harper Collins, San Francisco, 1975, p.163).

Notice that afterwards, the Roman state did as well, as the following edict from Emperor Theodosius shows:

…let us believe in the one deity of the father, Son and Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity. We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title Catholic Christians; but as for the others, since in out judgment they are foolish madmen, we decree that the shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give their conventicles the name of churches. They will suffer in the first place the chastisement of divine condemnation an the second the punishment of out authority, in accordance with the will of heaven shall decide to inflict...(Theodosian Code XVI.1.2. Cited in Bettenson H, ed., Documents of the Christian Church, London: Oxford University Press, 1943, p. 31).

So the title “Catholic Christian” is supposed to be for those who believe in the trinity and other Greco-Roman doctrines.

Historical scholar Jonathan Roberts (who was not in the COG) wrote:

Until Theodosius commanded his subjects to believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, and enforced his commands upon them by the most inhumane ways, that doctrine was rejected and resisted by the Greek and Roman followers of the Christos…That so senseless and unnatural doctrine should have been forced upon any people, by any means, however tyrannical is a mystery even more mysterious than the arithmetic that can make one three, and three one (Roberts JM. Antiquity Unveiled: Ancient Voices from the the Spirit Realms Disclose the Most Startling Revelations, Proving Christianity to be of Heathen Origin ...Published by Oriental publishing co., 1894. Original from the University of Michigan, Digitized May 21, 2007, p. 468).

The following, is from the late fourth century, but by Gregory of Nyssa.  It suggests that even after the Greco-Roman alliance finally accepted the trinity as now taught, not everyone did.  Gregory wrote that the Manichaean/Paulicians did accept the Father and Son as God, but not the Holy Spirit, hence this additional evidence that they still held a binitarian/Semi-Arian view:

I am aware, too, that the Manichees go about vaunting the name of Christ. Because they hold revered the Name to which we bow the knee, shall we therefore number them amongst Christians? So, too, he who both believes in the Father and receives the Son, but sets aside the Majesty of the Spirit, has "denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel," and belies the name of Christ which he bears (Gregory of Nyssa. On the Holy Spirit, Against the Macedonians. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series Two, Volume 5. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1893. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

Did you realize that this "semi-arian" matter was so big? Have you been taught that the "trinity" was simply the result of church councils getting together?

Here is how one author defined those who were semi-arian:

Semi Arianism...They rejected the Arian view that Christ was created and had a different nature from God (anomoios dissimilar), but neither did they accept the Nicene Creed which stated that Christ was "of one substance (homoousios) with the Father." Semi Arians taught that Christ was similar ( homoios) to the Father, or of like substance (homoiousios), but still subordinate" (Pfandl, Gerhard. THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY AMONG ADVENTISTS. Biblical Research Institute Silver Spring, MD June 1999, http://www.macgregorministries.org/seventh_day_adventists/trinity.html, 7/12/04).

This is consistent with Jesus' statements about Himself and that He was subordinate to the Father (John 14:28; Luke 4:43) as well as Paul's statements (I Corinthians 15:27-28).

The Catholic Encyclopedia states,

Semiarians and Semiarianism A name frequently given to the conservative majority in the East in the fourth century...showing that the very name of father implies a son of like substance...rejected the Divinity of the Holy Ghost...

Thus it is clear that many held the binitarian view at that time (including no doubt, many who were not true Christians). Notice that the majority were essentially binitarian, which means that they were not trinitarian. Have you been taught this before? While some so-called scholars like to argue that this was a fourth century matter only, the fact is that the true Church was not trinitarian from the beginning and even Tertullian taught that "the majority of believers" (and he is referring mainly to those who accept the Greco-Roman faiths) did not accept the trinity in the late second/early third century. The majority had been semi-Arian/binitarian.

Although Catholic writers have had many definitions of "Semi-Arians" (most of which disagree with the Church of God position), one that somewhat defines the binitarian view taken in this article would possibly be this one from Epiphanius in the mid-4th Century,

Semi-Arians...hold the truly orthodox view of the Son, that he was forever with the Father...but has been begotten without beginning and not in time...But all of these blaspheme the Holy Spirit, and do not count him in the Godhead with the Father and the Son (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section VI, Verses 1,1 and 1,3. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, pp.471-472).

The above description is somewhat consistent with those held by the COGs. We believe Jesus was always God and forever with the Father, but once begotten, became the Son. By not considering that the Holy Spirit is a separate Being, some form of binitarians were called the Pneumatomachi as a subset of Semi-Arians. The Catholic historian Epiphanius described them as:

A sort of monstrous, half-formed people of two natures" (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section VI, Verses 1,1 and 1,3. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, p.471).

Hence, binitarians have long been subject to criticism by those who accepted the Nicene and later Councils.

In the fourth century, Gregory of Nyssa describes the beliefs of non-trinitarians as follows:

But they reveal more clearly the aim of their argument. As regards the Father, they admit the fact that He is God, and that the Son likewise is honoured with the attribute of Godhead; but the Spirit, Who is reckoned with the Father and the Son, they cannot include in their conception of Godhead, but hold that the power of the Godhead, issuing from the Father to the Son, and there halting, separates the nature of the Spirit from the Divine glory ( On the Holy Trinity. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series Two, Volume 5. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1893. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

Around 600 A.D. some true, non-trinitarian, Christians were known as Paulicians by their opponents and since they believed "Christ came down from heaven" (Herzog, “Paulicians,” Philip Schaff, ed., A Religious Encyclopaedia or Dictionary of Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical Theology, 3rd edn, Vol. 2. Toronto, New York & London: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1894. pp.1776-1777, http://www.medievalchurch.org.uk/h_paul.html, 7/14/04), it appears they at least accepted the pre-existence of Christ. This combined with anti-trinitarian evidence suggests that they most likely were also binitarian.

Continuing Throughout History

The next church in succession in Revelation 2 was Thyatira. Documents throughout its predominate time show that it was not trinitarian:

A heresy during the middle ages that developed in the town Albi in Southern France. This error taught that there were two gods...The Albigenses taught that Jesus was God but that He only appeared as a man while on earth (Albigenes. CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS & RESEARCH MINISTRY. http://www.carm.org/heresy/albigensis.htm 9/03/05).

Note: Most Albigenses were not in the Church of God (COG), though some COG critics called COG members Albigenses at that time. And the COG believes Jesus was a man while on the earth (and did not just appear to be so).

It should be pointed out that there are differences in opinion of what happened to this era, as many who may have been associated with it apparently became unitarians--the fact that many have historically left the true church for other doctrines does not make the other doctrines correct (the Seventh Day Adventists would be a somewhat more recent example of this--in the 1800s, although they remained Sabbatarians, they rejected the name 'Church of God', and adopted non-COG doctrines--the trinity became doctrine when Ellen White published a pamphlet in 1897 declaring the Holy Spirit "the third person of the Godhead"--Andrews University suggests the SDAs were binitarians before this--this is described in some detail in the article on SDA and COG Differences and even more information is in the article titled Binitarianism). It seems that some remnant of Thyatira remained in the Transcarpathian mountain regions, and at least some of them (in the Ukraine portion at least, who are affiliated with the United Church of God) are (and probably were previously) binitarian.

The next church in succession, beginning with the first verse of Revelation 3, was Sardis. The Sardis era of the Church ended up having some members in what is now the United Kingdom with parts such as the London Mill Yard Church. After migration to the what is now the U.S.A.,

... most faithful ones here eventually essentially incorporated as the Church of God, Seventh Day (CG7). It seems to have come from the binitarian portion of the Anabaptist movement--which traced itself back to the Paulicians (Lee. F. The Anabaptists and their Stepchildren. http://www.reformed.org/sacramentology/lee/anab_002.html, 7/14/04).

Richard Nickels noted this about one from Sardis era in the late 17th century:

Joseph Davis, Sr., a member of the London Mill Yard Church, wrote in 1670 that he believed in one God the Father, one Lord Christ, and that the Holy Spirit is the power of God, not part of a "Trinity" (Nickels R. We are Sabbath-Keepers, Not Seventh-Day Adventists. http://www.giveshare.org/churchhistory/sda/064.sda.html 03/10/06).

Although some of CG7's current leadership is apparently leaning towards trinitarianism, it was (and officially to some degree, still is) binitarian. It acknowledges the deity of both the Father and the Son, but specifically has taught against the divinity of the Holy Spirit (Dugger A.N., Todd C.O. A History of True Religion). Actually one of the earlier published statement under a section titled False Doctrines is:

"About the year 379 the apostate church began to seek Scriptures to teach the erroneous doctrine of the deity of the Holy Ghost" (Ibid, p.87).

So the trend in CG7 to be more accepting of the trinity is not only disturbing, it absolutely conflicts with its past teachings.

The next church in succession in Revelation 3 was Philadelphia. Most outside of the Sardis era of the Church of God, who believe in Church eras, believe that this was what was once known as the Radio Church of God, and for most, the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) under Herbert W. Armstrong. A major portion of the remnant of this era first became the old Global Church of God and then the current Living Church of God (LCG) and some others were elsewhere. As the beginning of this article has pointed out, the COG is clearly binitarian (as was quoted in the beginning of this article) as was the Radio Church of God and the old WCG. In the letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia, Jesus states, "you have not denied my name" (Revelation 3:8). And while this also has something to do with governance, this may also be distinguishing the fact that the true portion of the Philadelphia church never denies Jesus' deity (perhaps, unlike some who might be part of other eras).

The last church in succession in Revelation 3 is Laodicea. This is to be the predominate church at the time of the end. While its major branches, splinters, and independents are binitarian, it may be possible that it may contain some confused unitarians, though this may be doubtful (see Acts 4:12).

The fact is that the current duality within the Family of God was made clear in the Bible from the beginning. Moses wrote about it, David wrote about it, Daniel wrote about it, John wrote about it, Jesus declared it, and Paul and others wrote about it. The true Church of God still declares it.

Only God Can Be Worshipped

While traditional unitarians teach that Jesus was somehow special, they deny He was God. However, only God is supposed to be worshipped (Matthew 4:10; Revelation 19:10,22:8-9). And although He emptied Himself of His divinity on Earth (Philippians 2:7), and in that respect was a man (as indicated in Acts 2:22), Jesus still allowed Himself to be worshipped (Matthew 8:2;9:18;.14:33;15:25;28:8,17; Mark 5:6; Luke 24:52; John 9:38). Of course the fact that Jesus then emptied Himself of His divinity on Earth (Philippians 2:7), also shows that He was divine (and part of the Godhead), prior to His human birth.

Jesus specifically taught,

...all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him" (John 5:23).

Since the Father is honored as God, so the Son should be also--this statement from Jesus conclusively proves that Christ is God as the Father is God.

The Bible records that the Apostle Peter (Acts 10:25) would not allow himself to be worshipped because he was a man (note the same Greek word for worship, proskuneo, is in all the previously cited verses). Paul and Barnabas had a similar incident as well (Acts 14:11-18) were they had to stop the worship through sacrifices to themselves. Angels, also, are not allowed to be worshiped (Matthew 4:9-10;Colossians 2:18; Revelation 19:10,22:8-9).

Thus, even though Jesus emptied Himself of His divinity (Philippians 2:7), He still was representing God as He allowed Himself to be worshipped.

But Was Jesus Fully God on Earth?

Unlike trinitarians, most binitarians do not believe that Jesus "was fully human and fully God" (which is a major position held by most trinitarians). There are several points that support that position:

1. 2 Corinthians 8:9 teaches that Jesus became poor, yet God is rich (Haggai 2:8). Philippians 2:7 specifically teaches, "...Christ Jesus, who subsisting in (the) form of God thought (it) not robbery to be equal to God, but emptied Himself, taking (the) form of a slave, becoming in (the) likeness of men" (Literal translation. Green J.P. ed. Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, 3rd ed. Baker Books, Grand Rapids (MI), 1996, p. 607). Note that "emptied Himself" is the literal translation in the Greek (the Roman Catholic Church also teaches that Jesus "emptied Himself"--see Catechism of the Catholic Church, #461. Imprimatur Potest +Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Doubleday, NY 1995, p. 129).

Thus Jesus was not fully God (though God in the flesh) when He became a human. Binitarians essentially believe that Jesus emptied Himself of His Divinity while in the flesh, prior to the resurrection. (The kenosis of Christ is discussed in more detail in the article Jesus is God, But Was Made Man.)

2. Notice what Ignatius of Antioch wrote in the early second century:

Stop your ears, therefore, when any one speaks to you at variance with Jesus Christ, who was descended from David, and was also of Mary; who was truly born, and ate and drank. He was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate; He was truly crucified, and [truly] died, in the sight of beings in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth. He was also truly raised from the dead, His Father quickening Him, even as after the same manner His Father will so raise up us who believe in Him by Christ Jesus, apart from whom we do not possess the true life. (Ignatius. Letter to the Trallians, Chapter 9. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0106.htm>)

If Jesus was truly born, truly died, and had to be resurrected by the Father as Ignatius understood (and wrote perhaps within a decade or so after the death of the last apostle), then Jesus obviously was not fully God at that time. And Ignatius did not want Christians to listen to any who taught a contrary doctrine. Yet most trinitarians believe that Jesus did not really die as they tend to believe He remained alive in another location until the resurrection--but according to one of the first post-New Testament records, that was not what was understood by Christians.

3. Since Jesus repeatedly taught that He of Himself "could do nothing" prior to His resurrection (John 5:19,30;8:28), that He claimed He had "[a]ll authority" after the resurrection (Matthew 28:18), He was not fully God when He could do nothing.

4. The Bible states that Jesus was tempted in all points as humans are (Hebrews 4:15) and that "God cannot be tempted by evil" (James 1:13). "Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren" (Hebrews 2:17). Since "scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35) He could not have been fully God while in the flesh. (This point is discussed in more detail in the article Jesus is God, But Was Made Man.)

5. Jesus was not called God in the flesh until after His resurrection (John 20:28).

Thus while Jesus was what God would be like in the flesh, He simply was not fully God then. (Note: trinitarian scholars know these and other verses, but consider them to be "a mystery"--please see the article Binitarianism: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning).

By being empty of His divinity, Jesus simply did not have the direct powers (John 14:10), the inability to somehow die (and the Father raised him, He did not raise Himself--Acts 13:30-34; Romans 10:9; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 2:12), the inability to be tempted (Matthew 4:1; Hebrews 4:15), and the glory that He had prior to His human birth and after His resurrection--thus Jesus was not "fully God and fully human" while in the flesh as the trinitarians tend to believe.

Jesus made His lack of such direct powers on Earth clear in scriptures previously quoted in this article as well as various comments He made about angels. For example, while human He stated, "do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matthew 26:53). Yet in various prophecies He said that later He had charge over the angels (Matthew 13:41) and that He would have the Father's glory (Matthew 16:27;25:31). Also, prior to His resurrection had limited authority on His own (John 5:27-30)--this differs from after the resurrection when He was given back all authority (Matthew 28:18)--this is not something Jesus had while on earth. (It should be added that Jesus suggested that the miracles He performed while human had to do with faith, not His own power; see Mark 9:23;11:22-24.)

John wrote,

"...every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world" (I John 4:3).

The trinitarian teaching that Jesus was still fully God while on Earth suggests that Jesus did not actually empty Himself of His divinity and that He truly was not in all things made like His brethren (this is consistent with the trinitarian teaching that the same God exists simultaneously in three manifestations, always having the same power and will). The trinitarian teachings thus deny that Jesus truly came in the flesh. And sadly, as John points out, this heresy was around even in his time. The unitarian position that Jesus is not God would also seem to be condemned by the I John 4:3 statement.

But because both Roman Catholics and the Protestants teach that Jesus was 'fully human and fully God', they reject that He emptied Himself of His divinity (Philippians 2:7), thus they deny that He has truly came in the flesh. Yet they also admit that they do not understand what occurred, they tend to call it a mystery. Notice the following:

How did the Word, which was "in the beginning" (John 1:1) come to be "made flesh" (John 1:14) as the "one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5)? No full answer can be given, because the incarnation, like the Trinity, is a mystery, and will remain so (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, pp. 158-159).

(I will simply add here that because the trinitarians positions are contradictory, they tend to instead use the term "mystery". But since these "mysteries" disagree with scripture, they should be rejected.)

A passage that trinitarians have cited to support the view that Jesus was fully God would be Colossians 2:9-10 which states,

For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

While this is an excellent description of the risen Christ, who stated that He had all authority (Matthew 28:18), Jesus simply did not have all the powers of God on earth prior to His resurrection.

As someone else once put it, "During the time Jesus lived on earth, He was the same WHO (identity and history) He had always been, but he was not the same WHAT (immortal, invincible, all-knowing, etc.) that He had always been.  After living (and dying) as our example, the resurrection restored Him to what He had been."

Perhaps it should be noted that even what is believed to be the most ancient Christian complete sermon ever found, teaches that Jesus was Spirit and became flesh:

If Christ, the Lord who saved us, became flesh (even though he was originally spirit) and in that state called us...(Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 2nd ed, 9:5. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2004, p. 115).

This ancient sermon is saying that Jesus was originally spirit and became flesh like us! Thus, confirming the general binitarian position that Jesus, in fact, did fully empty Himself of His divinity while on Earth.

Furthermore, Irenaeus apparently agreed with this as he noted:

Vain indeed are those who allege that He appeared in mere seeming. For these things were not done in appearance only, but in actual reality. But if He did appear as a man, when He was not a man, neither could the Holy Spirit have rested upon Him -- an occurrence which did actually take place -- as the Spirit is invisible; nor, [in that case], was there any degree of truth in Him, for He was not that which He seemed to be...And I have proved already, that it is the same thing to say that He appeared merely to outward seeming, and [to affirm] that He received nothing from Mary. For He would not have been one truly possessing flesh and blood, by which He redeemed us, unless He had summed up in Himself the ancient formation of Adam. Vain therefore are the disciples of Valentinus who put forth this opinion, in order that they my exclude the flesh from salvation, and cast aside what God has fashioned (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book IV, Chapter 1 , Verse 2. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Irenaeus is essentially saying that Jesus, while on earth, was in the same basic situation as the Old Testament prophets. They were men who had the Holy Spirit rest upon them. And that is correct.

He is also condemning Valentinus, the one who came up with the concept that God existed in three hypostasis--which is a concept that truly contradicts the view that Jesus was fully human on the earth.

What Difference Does it Make?

Some will decide that they do not think this issue is of sufficient importance to care about. Others have taken a different view.

Wade Cox, who claims to be a traditional unitarian alleges:

If you are a Binitarian or a Trinitarian you are not in the first resurrection (Binitarianism and Trinitarianism (No. 76) (Edition 3.0 19941112-20001202). Copyright 1994, 2000 Wade Cox. Christian Churches of God).

By this, he clearly means that one is not a true Christian.

The Tkach-era WCG had a booklet called God Is which essentially took the trinitarian position that you can never understand the nature of God, but that God was one being with three hypostases.

Traditional Roman Catholics' believe:

It is impossible to believe explicitly in the mystery of Christ, without faith in the Trinity...Wherefore just as, before Christ, the mystery of Christ was believed explicitly by the learned, but implicitly and under a veil, so to speak, by the simple, so too was it with the mystery of the Trinity. And consequently, when once grace had been revealed, all were bound to explicit faith in the mystery of the Trinity (The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. Second and Revised Edition, 1920. Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by Kevin Knight. Nihil Obstat. F. Innocentius Apap, O.P., S.T.M., Censor. Theol. Imprimatur. Edus. Canonicus Surmont, Vicarius Generalis. Westmonasterii. APPROBATIO ORDINIS. Nihil Obstat. F. Raphael Moss, O.P., S.T.L. and F. Leo Moore, O.P., S.T.L. Imprimatur. F. Beda Jarrett, O.P., S.T.L., A.M., Prior Provincialis Angliæ).

The Roman Catholics also teach that the trinity cannot be fully understood.

And Protestants?

"Luther called the Athansen Creed the grandest production of the Christian Church since the times of the apostles" (Mueller, John Theodore. The Lutheran Confessions. circa 1953, p.5).

The creed discusses the belief in the Trinity and the writing about it concludes with,

"This is the catholic (general) faith; which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved" (p.6).

Thus, the position of the Roman Catholics and the founder of the Protestant Reformation seems to be that salvation is not possible for those who do not accept the trinity. And it is a position of at least one unitarian that accepting that Christ is God stops one from being a true Christian.

Therefore this is an important subject.

Ramifications

Another problem with the unitarian and the trinitarian positions is that they normally limit who can truly be part of the God Family. Since those positions hold that there is only truly one God being--and that is all there ever can be--they essentially believe it is blasphemous to consider that God is reproducing Himself and intends to add others to His family.

Of course, just as the Son is under the authority of the Father, those added to God's family will be under the authority of the Father and Son.

The proper binitarian position is that God is reproducing Himself.

LCG's last statement in its Official Statement of Fundamental Beliefs is

MANKIND’S ORIGIN, INCREDIBLE POTENTIAL AND ULTIMATE DESTINY God created mankind out of the "dust of the earth" (Genesis 2:7). Human beings are made in God’s "image [and] likeness" (Genesis 1:26; cf. 5:3); they are also given a God-like mind and emotions. God planned that those who repent of their sins and are baptized shall receive God’s Spirit (Acts 2:38-39; John 3:16). At Christ’s second coming, all of those converted in this life, whether dead or alive, will be given immortality—born as full "sons of God, being sons of the resurrection" (Luke 20:36). "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5; cf. Psalm 37:9, 11, 22, 29, 34). "He who overcomes shall inherit all things [the universe]" (Revelation 21:7). According to all the prophecies and promises of the Bible, God’s "firstfruits" (those called in this age) will be rewarded with a place or position of rulership in God’s Kingdom (John 14:1-3; Revelation 3:21; 20:4-6), right here on this earth (Revelation 2:26-27; 5:10; Daniel 2:44). The true saints will become full sons of God—"sons of the resurrection" (Luke 20:36). God’s purpose is that He is reproducing Himself and that those converted, ultimately, become full members of the Family of God, under the authority of the Father and the Son (1 John 3:1-3). They will share divine glory in the resurrection. Jesus prayed, "And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me" (John 17:22-23).

Paul knew this when he wrote, " And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:28-29). We are to be Christ's brethren.

Most of those who do not believe in the concept of One Family of God, currently with two beings, will not truly accept or understand this (it should be noted that the Eastern Orthodox Church, although trinitarian, does accept the idea that Christians are to become God). Nor will various other aspects of God's plan of salvation be understood by them as well.

Perhaps, I should add here that the idea of Christians becoming God is NOT a COG invention (see also Deification: Did the Early Church Teach That Christians Would Become God?), but was written about even in the second century, as Theophilus of Antioch wrote:

When thou shalt have put off the mortal, and put on incorruption, then shall thou see God worthily. For God will raise thy flesh immortal with thy soul; and then, having become immortal, thou shalt see the Immortal, if now you believe on Him; and then you shall know that you have. spoken unjustly against Him (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 1, Chapter VI. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885
Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

For if He had made him immortal from the beginning, He would have made him God...so that if he should incline to the things of immortality, keeping the commandment of God, he should receive as reward from Him immortality, and should become God...For God has given us a law and holy commandments; and every one who keeps these can be saved, and, obtaining the resurrection, can inherit incorruption (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter XXVII. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Theophilus basically argues that humans become God when they are immortal. For more information, please see Deification: Did the Early Church Teach That Christians Would Become God?

Conclusion

The dual nature of the Godhead, binitarianism, has significant biblical and historical evidence for being the correct position that those who profess Christ should hold to.

From Genesis (the first book of the Bible) and throughout the Old Testament, the concept that God is one consisting now of more than one person is confirmed.

The fact that the Father and the Son are God is clear from the New Testament. There are no direct references to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament that show that it is a person or anything outside the power of the Godhead which can be given to true believers.

Even the most ancient complete sermon ascribed to Christianity teaches that Jesus should be thought of as God and that the Father is God. But the Holy Spirit is shown as something given to true Christians.

Ignatius, Polycarp, and Melito, all major church leaders in the second century, refer to the Father as God, Jesus as God, but never the Holy Spirit as God. It was only from a heretic that the idea of three hypostasis developed, and even that idea is admitted as to coming from paganism. Even Catholic and Orthodox sources admit that the idea of the trinity as now understood came from Church Councils that were basically overseen by Roman emperors and that many (if not most) who professed Christ in the fourth century were Semi-Arian.

Biblical scholars and historians can easily trace the binitarian belief that the Father and Son, but not the Holy Spirit (unless they count the heretics Montanus and Valentinus, which they normally do label as heretics themselves), are separate persons throughout the early history of those who profess Christ.

And it is the correct position from the Bible. Those who do not understand it correctly, simply do not understand the Bible correctly. Those who accepted the church Council of 381 A.D. should acknowledge that their position is truly not based upon the Bible and early church doctrines, but on the "traditions of men".

While we in the genuine Church of God do believe in the Father (who is God), the Son (who is God) and the Holy Spirit (which is a power eminating from the Father and the Son), we do not accept the trinitarian definition of the Godhead as it is biblically inaccurate and a later historical development.

The fact is that the binitarian view is the only biblically and historically accurate view held by those who have truly tried to be faithful. Binitarians, unlike trinitarians or unitarians, truly have heeded Jude's writing to:

...contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

The faith that "which was once for all delivered to the saints" was binitarian and cannot be subject to massive change because of councils of men. And that is major proof of the soundness of the binitarian view--we have kept the original faith.

Do you truly believe what Jude wrote?

Some articles of possible interest may be Hope of Salvation: How the Genuine Church of God Differs from the Protestant Churches and Some Similarities and Differences Between the Orthodox Church and the Genuine Church of God and Deification: Did the Early Church Teach That Christians Would Become God? and Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Genuine Church of God?

An appendix containing other information on unitarianism can be found at the end of the article Was Unitarianism the Teaching of the Bible or Early Church? More on binitarianism is included in the article Binitarianism: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning--it includes some additional specific quotes not in this article.

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Thiel B., Ph.D. Binitarian View: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning. www.cogwriter.com (c) 2004, 2005,2006/2007/2008/2009/2010/2011/2012 0915 edition.