Did Most Early Christians Believe The Divinity of Christ?

RJM

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I don't recall any discussion of the Holy Spirit, if so it was peripheral to the debate. The information is not difficult to find, so there is no excuse for misrepresentation
Not deliberate. I stand corrected :( I learn here.

But the Holy Spirit is included in the Nicene Creed: which is the reason Constantine is said to have 'imposed' the Trinity upon Christian belief?
 
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Thomas

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I have asked the same question, still waiting on an answer.
Early Christianity seems generally to be Christianity up to Nicaea, or until the close of the fourth century?
 

muhammad_isa

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The agenda of the synod included the following issues:
  1. The Arian question regarding the relationship between God the Father and the Son (not only in his incarnate form as Jesus, but also in his nature before the creation of the world); i.e., are the Father and Son one in divine purpose only, or also one in being?
  2. The date of celebration of Pascha/Easter
  3. The Meletian schism
  4. Various matters of church discipline, which resulted in twenty canons
    1. Organizational structure of the Church: focused on the ordering of the episcopacy
    2. Dignity standards for the clergy: issues of ordination at all levels and of suitability of behavior and background for clergy
    3. Reconciliation of the lapsed: establishing norms for public repentance and penance
    4. Readmission to the Church of heretics and schismatics: including issues of when reordination and/or rebaptism were to be required
    5. Liturgical practice: including the place of deacons, and the practice of standing at prayer during liturgy[4

First Council of Nicaea - Wikipedia

Origen seems to have been the first ecclesiastical writer to use the word homoousios in a nontrinitarian context, but it is evident in his writings that he considered the Son's divinity lesser than the Father's, since he even calls the Son a creature. It was by Athanasius of Alexandria and the Nicene Council that the Son was taken to have exactly the same essence with the Father, and in the Nicene Creed the Son was declared to be as immutable as his Father
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homoousion

Ha ha :D
It seems many Christians like to go into the details of "Roman written history" to show that the above is not accurate.
One thing is for sure. There was a disagreement, which became political in nature.
 
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Thomas

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Origen seems ...
Speaks for itself. As the citation offers no expansion nor explanation ...

... and poor old Origen, many opponents of Orthodoxy have put so many words in his mouth over the years.
 

RJM

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"
Origen seems to have been the first ecclesiastical writer to use the word homoousios in a nontrinitarian context, but it is evident in his writings that he considered the Son's divinity lesser than the Father's, since he even calls the Son a creature. It was by Athanasius of Alexandria and the Nicene Council that the Son was taken to have exactly the same essence with the Father, and in the Nicene Creed the Son was declared to be as immutable as his Father
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homoousion
You omitted the next couple of paragraphs following the one above from the Wiki article you quoted:

"While it is common to find statements that Origen and other early apologist Church fathers held subordinationist views, Ilaria Ramelli discussed the "anti-subordinationism" of Origen.

Both the Nicene and Athanasian creeds affirm the Son as both begotten of, and equal to, His Father. If so, many concepts of the Holy Trinity would appear to have already existed relatively early while the specific language used to affirm the doctrine continued to develop ..."
 
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RJM

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..so "omitted" is perhaps irrelevant here ;)
In the sense you have selected the parts you like, and omitted those that that do not support your argument, from the same article?
 

muhammad_isa

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In the sense you have selected the parts you like, and omitted those that that do not support your argument, from the same article?

I have no intention of arguing here.
I don't know who wrote that quote in the said wiki page .. scandalous ;)
Ask yourselves this .. why has it not been removed from wiki if it cannot be substantiated?

Go for it ! Become a member of the wiki police. :D
 

RJM

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don't know who wrote that quote in the said wiki page .. scandalous ;)

Ask yourselves this .. why has it not been removed from wiki if it cannot be substantiated?
In the article it is balanced by also publishing the counter view directly below it? The way proper research works
 

Thomas

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Ask yourselves this .. why has it not been removed from wiki if it cannot be substantiated?
I would have thought the point is rather that, according to you, nothing Origen has written or been reported of him can be substantiated, so the question is why you think the wiki quote has any relevance at all?
 

Thomas

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Below is a precis of some salient points on Origen's theology from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

The author is Mark J Edwards, whom I have had the (dubious) pleasure of reading and observing in action. I say dubious because he is a formidable intellect, doesn't take prisoners and expects a great deal from his audience! Sorry if they're a bit complex, Mr Edwards is like that ...

Origen was the first Christian to speak of three hypostases in the Trinity and to use the term homoousios (though only by analogy) of the relation between the second of these hypostases and the first.

For Origen, God cannot be known to us in His ousia, His essence or being, but only by his dunamis, or power, by which he acts upon other beings (On Prayer 25.3). This dunamis is mediated by the Second Person of the Trinity, and is the source of every dunamis that is exercised by creatures, even by those who have fallen into apostasy and rebellion (CommJohn 1.39.291).

(Aside: At the time of the schism between East and West, Eastern Orthodox theologians generally regard a real distinction between ousia and energeia. Western theologians tended to reject the essence–energies distinction as real in the case of God, regarding it as a potentially heretical introduction of an unacceptable division in the Trinity, suggestive of polytheism)

The Second Person of the Trinity is spoken of as "another god" in his Dialogue with Heraclides (2) and a "second god" on two occasions in his work Against Celsus (5.39, 5.61). It does not occur in works addressed to Christians, perhaps avoided because it savoured of polytheism.

It is inconceivable that the Father could ever have lacked wisdom, and equally inconceivable to Origen that this wisdom could ever have taken a different form from the one that it now possesses as the Second Person or hypostasis of the Trinity (Princ. 1.2.2). He is the first theologian to state unequivocally that the “three hypostases” which constitute the Trinity are eternal not only in nature, but in their hypostatic character; there was never a time when wisdom was the latent thought of the Father and had not yet come forth as speech. (My emphasis – here Origen refutes Arius absolutely.)

Since the Word created the world, it was argued, there would have been no reason for it to exist before the creation as a distinct hypostasis. If He (the Second Person) existed at all, it was as the logos endiathetos, the word within, which had not yet emerged from the mind as logos prophorikos, or verbal utterance. In this latent phase Logos could be identified with the world of forms, which supplies the Platonic demiurge with his pattern for the creation. Clement of Alexandria accepted this equation, albeit perhaps without denying the hypostatic eternity of the Logos. Origen, however, resists the interpretation of Logos as “speech” because there are some who take this to imply that the Second Person is merely a function or epiphenomenon of the First (CommJohn 1.24.151).

Logos, in his view, is one of the numerous designations (epinoiai) which are conferred on the Second Person to define His relation, not to the Father (as “Son” and “Wisdom” do) but to his creatures (CommJohn 2.9.66): He is Logos as the paradigm and parent of all the logikai, or rational beings, who exercise reason only by participation in Him.

He cannot be identified with the world of forms, or Platonic ideas, because to Origen these ideas are imaginary entities which the Greeks absurdly suppose to be independent of the Creator (Princ. 2.3.6). Origen holds that all genera, all species and even the archetypes of all particular things are eternally present in the mind of God (Princ. 1.4.5).

From Genesis 1.1 we learn that God created the world in the beginning, and from John 1.1 that the Logos was with him in the beginning; but as we are also told that God created all things in wisdom, Origen takes this beginning to be not a temporal origin but the eternal desideratum of existence who is also the Second Person of the Trinity (CommJohn 1.39.289).

If this temporal world is the only one, an infinite cause has exhausted itself in a finite effect. Origen interpreted Solomon’s dictum, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1.10) to mean that worlds have existed before the present one (Princ. 3.1.6). This suggests an infinite succession of worlds before and after the present one, but even Origen’s enemies do not say that he went so far.

Origen posits a noetic realm, created but eternal, populated by logika, or rational entities, under the hegemony of the logos, and preceding ours in the ontological hierarchy rather than in the temporal continuum (Princ. 2.9.4). Evidence for this he found in the creation of a heaven and earth at Genesis 1.1 before the creation of the visible firmament (Genesis Homilies 1.5). This exegesis is not that of any Greek school, but of a Christian who has set himself a conundrum by his fidelity to Moses. It is a striking observation that the forms of particular things which coexist in the mind of God with the genera and species are not attested in any pagan Platonist before Plotinus, who happened to be Origen's younger contemporary and (as most believe) a fellow-pupil of Ammonius Saccas (cf. Plotinus, Enneads 5.7).

From the above, it would seem unlikely that Origen would have signed the Nicene Creed of 325, in which the Son is declared to be from the ousia of the Father, and therefore homoousios (of one essence, substance or nature) with Him (cf. CommJohn 20.18.157). A community of nature between the two is asserted at CommJohn 2.10.76); and in his Commentary on Hebrews, he deduces from Wisdom 7.26, where Wisdom is styled an aporroia or emanation of the Father, that the relation between the two persons of the Trinity is analogous to that which holds between an ointment and the exhalation which is homoousios with it (Pamphilus, Apology 99–104).

Although the Son is not “from the ousia” of the Father, He is said in the Latin translation of Origen’s Commentary on Hebrews to be ex substantia patris, from the hypostasis of the Father. That hypostasis, not ousia, was the original noun in Greek can be deduced from the text of Hebrews 1.3, where the Son is described as an impression of His [the Father’s] hypostasis. Here hypostasis appears to signify the reality disclosed by a phenomenon; the formula ex substantia patris was already axiomatic for Origen’s contemporary Tertullian (Against Praxeas 7.9). In Latin of this period substantia was used indifferently to represent both hypostasis and ousia; these Greek terms are not explicitly distinguished in Origen’s writings, though he refrains from attributing either one ousia or three to the Godhead. Some difference in concreteness is implied by his strictures on those who fail to qualify the ousia of the Son and thus deny him a hypostasis altogether (CommJoh 1.24.152): it seems, then that the hypostasis is a specific determination of the more generic ousia. Origen stipulates in his treatise On Prayer (15.1) that the Son should not receive the prayer of adoration which is offered to the Father because He differs from the Father in ousia and in substrate (hupokeimenon); the latter word is best understood with reference to the body that He assumed in the incarnation, and we cannot therefore be sure whether the ousia of which Origen speaks is that of the exalted Christ in His eternal or His human character. It is generally true that he takes fewer pains than later Christian authors to winnow what is said of the Son as Second Person of the Trinity from what is said of him as Jesus of Nazareth.

It may be that this restriction of the Son’s office implies a Greek rather than a biblical understanding of the term logos, but Greek thought knows of no supernal being who acts in the realm assigned by Origen to the Spirit. This Trinitarian hierarchy has been compared with that of the noetic principles being, life and mind in the system of Proclus, for whom being encompasses all that exists, life the more limited sphere of living creatures and mind the still more limited sphere of the rational. The correspondence, however, is far from exact, and, as Proclus wrote two centuries after Origen and under later influences, more compelling arguments will be required before we assign to a Platonic source the doctrine that Origen draws so effortlessly from the scriptures. No evidence has been produced to show that the Spirit functions in Origen as the soul of the world; he surmises on one occasion that the Logos is the soul of God (Princ. 2.8.5), but only because he needs to account for an anthropomorphic metaphor at Psalm 84.6.
 

Thomas

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From the above, it would seem unlikely that Origen would have signed the Nicene Creed of 325, in which the Son is declared to be from the ousia of the Father, and therefore homoousios (of one essence, substance or nature) with Him (cf. CommJohn 20.18.157).
This, according to Edwards.

The essay that wiki and @RJM Corbet alludes to by Ilaria Ramelli is available here. It offers a different reading than that of Edwards. If there is a desire for a continuing precis, I'll work through it ...
 

RJM

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This, according to Edwards.

The essay that wiki and @RJM Corbet alludes to by Ilaria Ramelli is available here. It offers a different reading than that of Edwards. If there is a desire for a continuing precis, I'll work through it ...
This is a way out of my league but it is great to get the detail and the context from @Thomas and @juantoo3 too

I feel it is too easy to selectively glean soundbites from Wikipedia in order to dismantle Christian belief without a decent working knowledge of Christianity or its scripture or appreciation of its mysteries. Therefore I will sit back and listen and learn

To me it's obvious most early Christians prayed to Christ or through Christ as to the Father -- responding directly to prayer -- begotten of the Father before all ages and worshipped on bended knee, etc
 
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RJM

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I mean not as a Yeshuan minor (Jewish) sect, taken up by Constantine and enobled as a tool of empire. It's myth busted, imo
 
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juantoo3

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The following is not my own research, but the facts are good:

Justin Martyr (c. 100 – c. 165)
Tertullian (155-240 CE)
St. Clement of Rome
The Bithynian Roman governor Pliny
,
Marcia (mistress of Commodus) - Wikipedia
I didn't know about Marcia, but I am not at all surprised. Wives, including Concubines, and I would add even Mothers, have routinely influenced policy throughout history. At least one instance of a daughter influencing policy is documented, not only in the Bible but in secular history as well (Salome).

The OP, even the title, opines whether or not *most* Christians believed in the Divinity of Christ. Going as far back as the original "band of Apostles," I think Christ's Divinity is pretty much a given...so the answer would be a definitive YES. The debate between Arius and Athanasius was about the nature of that Divinity, but neither side questioned the actual Divinity.

Certainly there were other points of view even than these two, look at all of the "heresies" that were put down centuries later for evidence. There are the Gnostic Gospels. We know that a traditional Greek method was to meld or blend various religious and philosophical attributes into a "Greatest Hits" album when the fancy suited, not that there wasn't good intent behind such but good intention by itself is insufficient...and to a great extent we can see very similar going on today with various "spiritualist" teachings.

We also know that while Rome did *accommodate* established religions, Christianity wasn't afforded the same accommodation at first. We've had the at length discussions regarding Paul and his missionary work spreading Christianity throughout a good part of the Empire. We know that the initial faith was born in and subscribed to all that is Judaism...not just the Noahide Laws or the Ten Commandments, *all* of it - lock, stock and barrel *plus* acknowledging Jesus as the anticipated Messiah. With the demolition of the Temple that began to change, those Christians within Israel were rocked back on their heels and never truly recovered, it was all they could do to stay alive...just like the rest of Judaism in that time and place. Qumran was destroyed, Masada was the Jewish "last stand" middle finger in the air to Rome.

By the time of Bar Kochba, the Jewish Christians didn't have the numbers to make a stand, and declined to side with Bar Kochba's followers, they did what they could to stay out of it. It didn't save them, but Judaism disowned anything to do with the Jewish Christians at that point (if not before), and once the Jews were exiled from their homeland that included the Jewish Christians, and outside of their homeland they were viewed as a strange new cult, and so were not afforded the same accommodations given to Judaism proper. It didn't help that the Jewish Christians philosophically clashed with the Pagan Christians on a number of key points, like circumcision and eating Pork. I am aware of the "discussion" (to be polite) between Paul and Peter, that doesn't mean it was in full effect everywhere, and frankly the Jewish Christians were quickly outnumbered by the Pagan Christians.

So the Pagan Christians got to write the rules pretty much from the time of the destruction of the Temple, and absolutely after the diaspora brought on by Bar Kochba. And just like the party game where a phrase is whispered in the next person's ear and makes its way around the room and by the time of the last person the phrase is changed, often so much as to be unrecognizable...the further Christianity got from its roots the more the "phrase" was distorted by time, culture, and pedigree. There were serious efforts to limit that, and I want to believe that helped a lot, but even by the time of Nicea what was practiced as Christianity was pretty far removed from what took place in the Upper Room and at Pentecost.

Scholars have argued this discussion for centuries, I have no illusions of solving everything here in this discussion. How much Paganism infiltrated or merged with (depending on perspective) Christianity is an open question. Was the Canon altered over time? Maybe, we have a few clues that are difficult to deny, but that was not by order of Constantine at Nicea.

But the Divinity of Christ, regardless whether inborn or innate or "earned," was never a serious question except among the most peripheral philosophers, and those who had a vested interest in maintaining the humanity of Jesus and denying his Divinity (because it would otherwise put them out of a job).

A key point in the spread of Christianity is the social service aspect. In fairness, Judaism also practiced a very similar social safety net, and likely that is where the concept came from. But the Roman world of that day and time had nothing similar to compare, you were on your own. If adversity hit, you broke a leg or your house burned down...that was fate or the avarice of the gods. "Love your neighbor" in the sense we think of today was a foreign concept introduced in the Empire to the Pagan masses by Christianity.
 
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