29 October 2015

Who was Isaiah the prophet?

Or rather, which of the writings attributed to him are really his?

Scholars have recognized for centuries that the single work as we have it is the composition of several writers over two or three centuries, maybe more.

First Isaiah, found in Chapters 1-39, contains what most scholar believe to be the true writings of the eighth century prophet himself. 

However, even there not everything is the work of Isaiah; to him belong chapters 1-12, 15-23, and 28-33.

Among that first set is an interpolation found in Isaiah 2:2-5, copied from Micah 4:1-5.

The oracles against Babylon in Isaiah 13-14, the “Apocalypse of Isaiah” in Isaiah 24-27.

The poems in Isaiah 34-35 were written by disciples of his or close associates. 

The passages in Isaiah 36-39 were adapted entirely from 2 Kings 18-20. 

Second Isaiah, Chapters 40-55, was written by an anonymous poet-prophet in the early post-Exilic period.  It includes the verse (Isaiah 45:7) that is the basis for the Yotzer ohr prayer benediction before the Shema of shacharit (Jewish morning prayer), the Servant Songs, and several “prophecies” classified as vaticinium ex eventu.  That many of these “prophecies” are of Koroush Kabir of Iranshar (Cyrus the Great of Iran) allowing the exiles to begin returning bears witness to their actual date of composition.

Third Isaiah was the work of several different writers over a broad period extending well into the Hellenistic era.


27 October 2015

The names of the Apostles

Contrary to popular belief, the title “apostle” is not limited to the twelve chief male disciples of Jesus the Nazorean plus Paul, nor did it die out in the Apostolic Era of the Church.  There were itinerant apostles around up to the early-to-mid second century.

The word “apostle” refers to ‘one who is sent out’; literally, an emissary.  Several groups so-designated in the New Testament are of note.

This essay is not about their function or whether they really existed, but about the contradictions in the various lists from different sources of the Early Church.

Groups of Christian apostles

First we should look at the different groups into which those designated as “apostle” were divided by the various writers of works of the New Testament.

The Twelve – Traditionally the disciples who made up his inner circle before the crucifixion.  Their identities are the subject of this essay, mostly because no two of the ancient sources agrees on their names.  In some cases, only the designation “The Twelve” is given.  The number twelve has numerous significance, with Israelite culture in particular referencing the Twelve Tribes.

The Three – ‘James, Cephas, and John’ in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, and ‘Peter, James, and John’ in the Synoptic gospels.  “James” in the first refers to the “brother of the Lord”, who was often called “James the Just”.  In the Synoptics, “James” in the passages where it mentions the Three refers to James, son of Zebedee and brother of John.

The Seventy – According to the Gospel of Luke, these were appointed and given nearly identical instructions to those given the Twelve in the Gospel of Matthew.  Several lists have been contrived of their identities, even as the composer of Luke contrived their existence as a group, of which no two agree any more than remotely.  Among Jews and Samaritans, the number seventy is symbolic of the Gentile nations of the earth.  In some manuscripts, there are seventy-two apostles rather than seventy.

The Seven – In New Testament lore, this refers to the seven men appointed to look after the Hellenistai (Greek-speaking Jews) living in Jerusalem, often called the first deacons.  Like the Twelve and the Seventy, the number seven has numerous mystical and philosophical shades of meaning and is likely invented.

Later apostles – The letters of Paul and several ancient church orders from the late first through the second century mention other called “apostle”, sometimes by name.

The Twelve in Christian literature

Now we can look at the contradictions of the various lists of the Twelve.

In the Gospel of Mark, the Twelve are named Simon Peter, Andrew, James bar Zebedee, John bar Zebedee, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James bar Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot.  Mark introduced the idea that the Three referred to Peter, James son of Zebedee, and John.  Since Paul actually met them and the composer of the Gospel of Mark was an anonymous Alexandrian who likely knew none of them, Paul’s account is probably more accurate.

In the Gospel of Luke, the Twelve are named Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James bar Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas of James, and Judas Iscariot.

In the Gospel of Matthew, the Twelve are named Simon Peter, Andrew, James bar Zebedee, John bar Zebedee, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James bar Alphaeus, Lebbaeus Thaddaeus, Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot.

In the Gospel of John, the Twelve are Simon Peter bar Jonah, Andrew bar Jonah, the two sons of Zebedee, Philip, Nathanael, Thomas Didymus, Judas (not Iscariot), Judas bar Simon Iscariot, and two other disciples unnamed.  You may notice this adds up to only eleven.

The Pauline Epistles mention “The Twelve” as a group, and give the names of the apostles James, Cephas, John, Peter, Paul, Apollos, Barnabas, Timothy, Andronicus, Junia, and Silas.  Depending on the correct reading of Galatians chapter 2, Cephas and Peter are either the same person or two different people.  The oldest manuscripts give the name Cephas at all five points, while many later manuscripts give that name only once.

In the Gospel of the Ebionites, a Jewish Christian gospel quoted by Epiphanius, the Twelve are named Simon, Andrew, James bar Zebedee, John bar Zebedee, Philip, Bartholomew, James bar Alphaeus, Thomas, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas the Iscariot, and Matthew.

In the Doctrina duodecim Apostolorum, a church order of the second century, the apostles are given as James the Just, Simon Cephas, John, Mark, Andrew, Luke, Jude Thomas, Addai (Thaddaeus, identified as one of the seventy-two, or seventy), Aggaeus the disciple of Addai; and also Paul and Timothy.

The Didascalia Apostolorum, a church order of the second century, around 230 CE, begins “We the Twelve” without naming any of those, adding Paul and James the Just.  Inserted into Chapter III, “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” names the Twelve as John, Matthew, Peter, Philip, Andrew, Simeon, James, Jude son of James, Nathaniel, Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthias, adding to their ranks as apostles James the Just, Paul, and Addai.

In the Apostolic Church Order of around 300, the Twelve are John, Matthew, Peter, Andrew, Philip, Simon, James, Nathaniel, Thomas, Cephas, Bartholomew, and Judas of James.  This is one of the earliest examples to include both “Peter” and “Cephas” among the Twelve.  By this time, Galatians, with the alterations, had clearly been distributed throughout Christendom.

In the Apostolic Constitutions, a compilation of church orders compiled around 375 in Antioch, the Twelve are Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alpheus, Lebbeus Thaddeus, Simon the Canaanite, and Matthias.  To their rank, the compiler adds James “the brother of the Lord, and Bishop of Jerusalem” and Paul “the teacher of the Gentiles”.

In the Epistula Apostolorum, a polemic against Gnostics written in the late fourth to early fifth century, John, Thomas, Peter, Andrew, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Nathanael, Judas the Zealot, and Cephas.  Some authorities were still confusing the one as two.

In the Testamentum Domini, a church order of fifth century Anatolia, the Apostles are named as Peter, John, Thomas, Matthew, Andrew, Matthias, and “the rest”.  The women Mary, Martha, and Salome are treated on the same level and get speaking parts in the preliminary section.

Epilogue


If written today, the Twelve might be called Jim, John, Pete, Andy, Thad, Tom, Phil, Jamie, Matt, Simon, Nate, and Jude, and their leader would be Joshua, or Josh for short.  Unless he were Latino, and then it would looked like “Jesus” and be pronounced “HaySOOS”.  Josh’s full name would be Joshua Huckleberry Christ; unlike two millennia ago, “Christ” is actually a surname in many parts of the world, in several languages.

24 October 2015

The Real Last Supper

I originally composed this as part of my work The Gospel of Jesus Chrestos according to Chuck, but then realized that to be consistent with what I have said elsewhere, I needed to redact it out since in that context it did not belong.  Essentially, the ‘Pericope of the Last Supper’ became part of the gospel story in response to the abuses such as those Paul talks about in Corinth, and also under the clear influence of the Hellenistic mystery cults (of Mithras in particular).

However, since I had already composed it, and because the myth has such a firm hold on the imagination of Christians across the world, I am now presenting the story separately.

When the hour had come, Jesus sat down with the disciples.  He received a cup, and gave thanks, saying, ‘Blessed be Yahweh our God, King of the Universe, who has kept us alive and preserved us and enabled us to reach this season’.  And the disciples replied, ‘Amen’.

Then he raised the cup, saying, ‘Blessed be Yahweh our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine’.  And the disciples replied, ‘Amen’.

He then said, ‘Take this, and share it among yourselves, for I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until kingdom of God comes’.

When they had finished, he took bread, and gave thanks, saying, ‘Blessed be Yahweh our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth’.  And the disciples replied, ‘Amen’.

Then he broke it, saying, ‘As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains but was brought together and became one, so let your Israel be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom’, and gave it to them.

Likewise, he took the cup after supper, and gave thanks, saying, ‘Blessed be Yahweh our God, King of the Universe, who sustains the entire universe with his goodness, grace, and mercy.  We give thanks to you, Yahweh our God,  that you prepared for our fathers a good land and brought us out of Egypt, and gave to us the Covenant, Torah, and all the food we could want.  Yahweh our God, have mercy upon Israel your people, upon Jerusalem your city, and upon that house that is called by your Name.  May you restore the kingdom of the house of David your Messiah to its rightful place’.  And the disciples replied, ‘Amen’.

‘May he who makes peace in the celestial heights create peace for us and for all Israel’.  And the disciples replied, ‘Amen’.

He lifted up the cup and said, ‘Blessed be Yahweh our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine’.  And the disciples replied, ‘Amen’.

He then gave it to them, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood’.


When they had finished it, he prayed, ‘Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world which he has created according to his will.  May he establish his kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the lifetime of the entire house of Israel, speedily and soon’.  And the disciples replied, ‘Amen’.

Gnostic passages in the New Testament

Several words and passages in the New Testament point to Gnosticism, or at least its direct influence.  Gnosticism was part of the same milieu that produced Christianity, and its membership met in synagogues, which suggests something of its origins.  Most schools of Gnostics borrowed from both Hellenistic and Jewish (including Christian) sources, though a few exclusively from one or the other.  Some aspects demonstrate the clear influence of Mazdayasna, or Zoroastrianism.

Much of the Gospel of John, if not outright Gnostic (several passages are), shows its writers to have been travelling in the same philosophical circles.

Other than John, most of the Gnostic references in the New Testament can be found in the letters attributed to Paul of Tarsus.  Though opinion from those quarters is far from unanimous, many scholars have identified—by shift of writing styles, abrupt shifts in subject, and other tell-tale signs—these passages as interpolations which they politely denominate “Deutero-Pauline”, but which I call what they are: “Pseudo-Pauline”.

* * * * *

‘Now they had forgotten to bring bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.  And he cautioned them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”   And they discussed it with one another, saying, “We have no bread.”  And being aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread?  Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?  Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?   And do you not remember?  When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.”  “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?”  And they said to him, “Seven.”  And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”’ (Mark 8:14-21)

The feeding of  the five thousand and of the four thousand in Mark and Matthew takes on Gnostic significance in the number of baskets of broken fruit collected after the crowds were fed.  In The Sophia of Jesus Christ, after his resurrection, Jesus has twelve disciples and seven female followers, for instance, and the numbers twelve and seven also stand for the twelve zodiac constellations and the seven planets.  ‘The Twelve’ also refers to the chief apostles and ‘The Seven’ to the first seven ‘deacons’.  A more direct Gnostic reference, common to nearly all systems, would be the Twelve lowest Aeons, known as the Dodecad, and the Seven highest Archons, known as the Hebdomad, contiguous to each other on either side of the Pleroma and the Kenoma (see below).

‘Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is inside (‘entos’) each of you”.’ (Luke 17:20-21)

Nearly all translators, uncomfortable with the idea that Jesus would be telling the Pharisees, not his biggest fans, that the kingdom of God is inside them, usually mistranslate this ‘entos’ as ‘among’ or ‘within’ implied as ‘among’.  While there are Greek words that can be translated that way as well as ‘inside’, ‘entos’ is not one of those; it is quite specific in referring to being inside the boundaries of an interior.

 ‘And from his Pleroma have we all received, Charis upon Charis.’ (John 1:16)

‘Pleroma’ is a Gnostic term meaning ‘fullness’, and referred to the Gnostic “region of light”, the hidden spiritual realm of archetypes.  Below Pleroma was the Kenoma, or visible manifest world created by the Demiurge but ordered by the Logos.

 ‘Charis’ was one of the chief aeons in several Gnostic hierarchies, in many systems equated with Sige, The Silence.

‘”Now is the judgment of this Aeon; now the Archon of this Aeon will be driven out”.’ (John 12:31)

In Hellenistic philosophy, ‘aeon’ meant ‘age’, as in ‘era’, as well as this current ‘world’; in most Gnostic systems it referred to emanations of The One, beings which roughly correspond to the Yazatas of Mazdayasna mythology, though it sometimes was used in the general Hellenistic sense.  The word literally means ‘eternity’.

‘“I will no longer talk much with you, for the Archon of this Aeon is coming.  He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the Cosmos may know that I love the Father”. ‘ (John 14:30-31a)

Supernatural ‘archons’, ‘rulers’, were a major motif of most Gnostic systems.  The ‘ruler of this world’, as “archon of this aeon” is usually translated, is the Demiurge, the lesser Aeon who created the Kenoma, or manifest visible realm, identified in some schools with Yahweh, the God of the Tanakh.  The other archons were servants of the Demiurge.  In some circles, there were seven archons, roughly corresponding to the Kamiligan Dewan of Mazdayasna, and they were considered the lowest of the emanations of the Godhead.

‘“And when he comes, he will prove the Cosmos wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment:  about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the archon of this aeon has been condemned”.’ (John 16:8-11)

Another reference to the Demiurge.

‘Now to the One who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was hidden in Sige for long aeons.’ (Romans 16:25)

The highest Aeon, or Immortal, in most Gnostic systems was the One, also known as the Monad, the Absolute, Aion Teleos, Bythos (Depth), he-Arke (Beginning), Proarke (Before the Beginning), Propator (‘First Father’), Afato Gonea (Ineffable Parent), Arrhetus (Unspeakable).  Among Christian Gnostics, the term Theos, literally ‘God’, was more often used.

Sige (‘The Silence’) was the primal feminine counterpart to the masculine One.  Sige was also called Ennoia (‘Intent’) and Charis (‘Grace’). 

The rest of the Aeons, some thirty of them (depending on the school), were offspring of the union of the One and the Silence and of their offspring.

‘Yet among the mature we do speak Sophia, though it is not Sophia of this aeon or the archons of this aeon, who are doomed to perish.  But we speak God’s Sophia, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the aeons for our glory.  None of the archons of this aeon understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.’ (1 Corinthians 2:6-8)

While Sophia (‘Wisdom’) was one of the highest ideals in most of Hellenistic society including among Hellenistic Jews such as Philo, among Gnostic Sophia was of the lesser Aeons.  Among Christian Gnostics, Sophia was the Bride of Christ, both being of the Aeons.

‘Those who are psychikoi do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.  Those who are pneumatikoi discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny.’ (1 Corinthians 2:14-15)

All Gnostic systems of thought shared a three-stage ranking of consciousness, or knowledge, in humans: (1) hylics, those governed by their body needs; (2) psychics, those governed by their souls, a feature shared with many  animals; and (3) pneumatics, those governed by the divine spark within them of which they had gnosis, or ‘knowledge’.  The references here are not even barely disguised.

‘To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of Sophia, and to another the utterance of Gnosis according to the same Spirit.’  (1 Corinthians 12:8)

Here Gnosis and Sophia are linked.  In Christian Gnostics systems, Sophia is not only the Bride of Christ, the feminine counterpart to the Aeon Christ, but also the Holy Spirit.

‘So with us; while we were minors, we were enslaved to the elemental spirits of the Cosmos. But when the Pleroma of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,  in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.’ (Galatians 4:3-5)

‘You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the Aeon of this world, following the Archon of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient.’ (Ephesians 2:2)

‘For in him all the Pleroma of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.’ (Colossians 1:19-20)

‘For in him the whole Pleroma of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to Pleroma in him, who is the head of every Archon and Authority.’ (Colossians 2:9-10)

‘He disarmed the Archons and Authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.’ (Colossians 2:15)

‘I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the Pleroma of the Logos of God known,  the mystery that has been hidden throughout the aeons and generations but has now been revealed to his saints.’ (Colossians 2:25-26)

‘If any of you lacks Sophia, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him.’ (James 1:5)

‘It is these psychikoi, devoid of the Spirit, who are causing divisions.’ (Jude 1:19)

The following passage is taken from the late first century-early second century document commonly known as the Didache.  In the early centuries of the Church, it was deemed part of the sacred New Testament canon, before that became standardized.  The prayers are those for the Eucharistic meal, and meal it was at that time, before the blessing was divorced from the meal it blessed and reduced to the equivalent of a magic incantation.

‘First concerning the Cup: We give you thanks, Father, for the holy vine of David your servant, which you made known to us through your servant Jesus; glory to you forever.

‘And concerning the broken Bread: We give you thanks, Father, for the Zoe (life) and Gnosis (knowledge) which you made known to us through your servant Jesus; glory to you forever.  As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains but was brought together and became one, so let your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom, for yours are the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever.

‘But after you are satisfied with food, thus give thanks: We give you thanks, holy Father, for making your holy name dwell in our hearts, and for the Gnosis and Pistis (faith) and Athanasia (immortality) which you made known to us through Jesus your servant; glory to you forever.
            ‘You, Lord Almighty, created all things for your name’s sake, and gave all humanity food and drink for our enjoyment, that we might give thanks to you, but you have blessed us with spiritual food and drink and eternal light through your servant.  Above all we give thanks that you are mighty; glory to you forever.
            ‘Remember, Lord, to deliver your Ekklesia (church) from all evil and to make it perfect in your love, and gather it together in holiness from the four winds to the kingdom which you have prepared for it; for yours are the power and the glory forever.
            ‘Let Charis come and let this Aeon (world) pass away.  Hosannah, God of David.  If anyone be holy, let them come! If anyone be not, let them repent: Maranatha.  Amen.’ (Didache, chapters 9 and 10)


The structure of this work is thoroughly Jewish in origin, yet on closer examination one finds elements of the Gnosticism which sprang from Judaic roots as did Christianity.

22 October 2015

Progressive development of the New Testament canon

In the beginning, Chrestians (as they were called for decades before the name “Christians” for them became standardized) used the same Scriptures as their Judaic antecessors, at least their Judaic antecessors known as the Hellenistai, i.e. Hellenistic Jews.  In other words, they used the Greek-language Septuagint.  Most of the works in the current New Testament were recognized with varying levels of acceptance across the Mediterranean and Southwest Asia.

The Septuagint, 3rd century BCE

Since the Vulgate re-ordered the books within its Old Testament, the order they fell in the Septuagint follow here:

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Kings1, 2 Kings2, 3 Kings3, 4 Kings4, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras5, Esther6, Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, 3 Maccabees, 4 Maccabees, Psalms7, Prayer of Manasseh, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Psalms of Solomon, Twelve Minor Prophets8, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Baruch, Lamentations, Letter of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel9

1 1 Samuel
2 2 Samuel
3 1 Kings
4 2 Kings
5 Ezra-Nehemiah
6 with additions
7 including Psalm 151
8 Hosea, Amos, Micah, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
9 with additions

The oldest copies of the Septuagint bore the Tetragrammaton in Hebrew script in those places in which it occurred in the Hebrew.

In addition to the above, many apocryphal “Old Testament” works are quoted or otherwise referenced in the New Testament and should get at least an honorable mention:

1 Enoch, Odes of Solomon, Assumption of Moses, Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah, Testament of Abraham, Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Jubilees

The earliest mention of anything approaching a scriptural canon appeared in the first half of the second century.

Doctrina duodecim Apostolorum, 2nd century CE

This church order, a generation or so after the Didache, recommends that only the Old Testament, the Prophets, the Gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles be read in church.

Marcion of Sinope, 138 CE

Marcion was founder of a heterodox sect named for him that was quasi-Gnostic.  He appeared in Rome in 138, bringing with him two volumes.  First was the Evangelikon, also known as the ‘Gospel of the Lord’, an early version of the later Gospel of Luke missing several later interpolations.  He also brought the Apostolikon, a compilation of letters attributed to Paul of Tarsus: Galatians, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Romans, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Philippians, Laodiceans, and Alexandrians

Justin Martyr, mid-2nd century CE

In the First Apology and Dialogue with Trypho, Justin discusses several “memoirs of the apostles” which clues reveal to be all the Synoptics, and possibly the Gospel of John as well.

Elsewhere he quotes or refers to Romans, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, Titus, and 1 Timothy.

Tatian, 165 CE

He and the Encratites, and their daughter sects (Severians, Aquarii, Apotactites), accepted the Torah, the Prophets, and the Gospels, but rejected Acts and the Pauline Epistles. 

Regarding the gospels, he composed what may be the first gospel harmony, called the Diatesseron.  This composite work compiled all material of the four canonical gospels except the two genealogies in Matthew and Luke and the Pericope Adulterae in John, which lends support for their later composition.  It also included material from several noncanonical gospels.  

The Diatesseron remained the official gospel of the Aramaic-speaking churches through the sixth century.

Muratorian Canon, 170 CE

This fragment of parchment list as canonical all the works of the canonical NT, save 3 John, plus the Apocalypse of Peter, the Wisdom of Solomon.  It recommends that The Shepherd of Hermas, brother of Pope Pius, be read privately but not in church.

Peshitta, c. 180

Its Old Testament had been translated into Aramaic from Hebrew in Edessa in the early first century CE.  The translators included all the canonical books in Hebrew, and later Christians may have included many of the apocryphal books as well.  The New Testament included the Diatesseron (which was accepted by all Aramaic-speakers), Acts, and the Pauline Epistles, but excluded the Catholic Epistles and the Apocalypse of John.

Clement of Alexandria, c. 200

Used all 27 canonical works, plus the Epistle of Barnabas, 1 Clement, Apocalypse of Peter, the Shepherd, Gospel of the Hebrews, Gospel of the Egyptians, Preaching of Peter, Traditions of Matthathias, Sibylline Oracles, and the Oral Gospel.

Origen, first half of the second century

Accepted all four gospels but rejected the letters of Paul

Eusebius, 330

In his History of the Christian Church, Eusebius divides the works of the New Testament into the following three categories:

Canonical: Four gospels, Acts, Pauline epistles (including Hebrews), 1 John, 1 Peter

Antilegomena: 2 John, 3 John, 2 Peter, James, Jude

Deuterocanonical: Acts of Paul, The Shepherd, Apocalypse of Peter, Epistle of Barnabas, Didache, Apocalypse of John

Claronmontanus Canon, c. 350

This codex’s New Testament lacked Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, and Hebrews, but in their place included 3 Corinthians, Acts of Paul, Apocalypse of Peter, Epistle of Barnabas, The Shepherd.

Council of Laodicea, 364

The clerics approved of all the current New Testament save the  Apocalypse of John.

Athanasius, Easter message 367

The bishop lists all the books of the current canon.

Apostolic Canons, 380

This church order published approximately this year adds Jubilees to the Old Testament, and 1 Clement, 2 Clement, and the Apostolic Constitutions to the New Testament

Vulgate Bible, 383

Commissioned by Pope Damasus I, and translated by Jerome, this translation into the lingua franca of the western empire more or less fixed the canon in the West, at least implicitly.

Synod of Hippo, 393

Presided over by Augustine of Hippo, this synod explicitly fixed the canonical works of the New Testament by decree, and also made canonical the fiction that Paul wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews.  These decisions were reaffirmed at the synods of Carthage in 397 and 419.

Ecclesiastical Canons of the Holy Apostles, 6th century

All books of the canonical New Testament save the Apocalypse of John, but including 1 Clement, 2 Clement, and the Apostolic Constitutions

Harklean version of the Peshitta, 616

This edition of the Aramaic scriptures marks the first inclusion of five books—2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Apocalypse of John—which had previously been excluded.

Armenian canon, 1200

Until this year, the canonical books among Armenian Christians included all books of the New Testament except for the Apocalypse of John.  Armenians sometimes still include 3 Corinthians in their canon, and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs in their Old Testament.

Coptic canon

The New Testament includes the twenty-seven books of the universal canon, plus 1 Clement and 2 Clement.

Ethiopian canon

The Ethiopian canon of the Tanakh, or Old Testament, includes the books of the Septuagint, though in different order, with Jubilees and I Enoch added to it; its broader canon includes the Book of Josephus son of Ben Garon, also known as Pseudo-Josephus.

The Ethiopian New Testament includes the twenty-seven universally recognized books plus the broader canon made up of the Book of the Covenant, in two parts; the Sinodos, a compilation of ancient church orders which includes the Apostolic Church Order, the Apostolic Tradition, and the Apostolic Constitutions, along with additional material, the whole being ascribe to Clement of Rome; the Book of Clement, in seven parts, a uniquely Ethiopian work; and the Ethiopian Didascalia, much different than the better known Didascalia Apostolorum, but similar to Books I-VII of the Apostolic Constitutions.


20 October 2015

Development of the Trinity in Church doctrine

The Gloria Patri, also known as the Lesser Doxology, which begins “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit” once began “Glory be to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit”.  That did not change until after the Ecumenical Councils (Nicaea, 325, and Constantinopolis, 381) in the fourth century.

The original is not “invalid”, but the newer was preferred as it is more explicitly supportive of the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity as defined in the Ecumenical Councils of the fourth century at Nicaea in 325 and in Constantinopolis in 381, another example of Christian retcon contributing toward that “pious fraud” that the teaching of the Catholic Church (the whole shebang, Roman, Eastern, Anglican, Old Catholic) is now as it always has been, forever and ever, world without end, unto ages of ages, eternal and unchanging.

Zoroastrian antecedents to the Holy Trinity

The religion of Zarathustra, Mazdayasna, not only gave to the Israelites in Samerina, Yehud, Egypt, and the Diaspora monotheism and dialectical monism, it also provided a framework and foundation for the doctrine of the Holy Trinity of the Chrestians/Christians, in all its variants.

In the earliest Gathas, the oldest scriptures of the Mazdayasna religion (aka Zoroastrianism), the ones written by Zarathustra himself, Ahura Mazda appears as a unitary deity from whom proceed both spenta mainyu (bounteous spirit or inclination) and angra maniyu (destructive spirit or inclination).  That paradigm did not long outlast its originator.

Sometime, probably not long, after Zarathustra died, Ahura Mazda formed a trinity with two other deities, Ahura Berezant, and Ahura Mithra.  Berezant (sometimes equated with Varuna) was identified with water, while Mithra was identified with fire, the two elements of Mazdayasna necessary for ritual purification.  The acts of one of the ahuras were considered acts of all three.

With the accession of Atraxerses II to the throne of Iranshahr (‘realm of the Aryans’) in 404 BCE, Berezant was replaced in the ahuric trinity by Anahita.

During the Sassanid period (224-642 CE), the form of Mazdayasna known as Zurvanism attempted to correct the sharp dualism which had crept into the religion juxtaposing Ahura Mazda against Angra Mainyu, now no longer merely an “inclination” of the first but his equal and rival.

After the fall of the Sassanids to the Arab armies, Mithra and Anahita also downgraded to the status of yazatas, like Berezant before them, and Mazdayasna’s deity returned to its original unitary form, but the dualism between Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu crept back in.

Since the nineteenth century, the theology of Mazdayasna has returned to nearly its origins, with Spenta Mainyu and Angra Mainyu as contrasting spirits extending from Ahura Mazda.

Hellenistic antecedents

Although the Hellenistic world contained within the borders of its mystical thought several triads of deities, none of these were a Trinity in the sense later adopted by the Catholic Church.  The closest examples would be beyond the borders of that cultural region.  In the east, some versions of the Trimurti (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva) have the same oikonomia (that term used here in the same sense as that of Tertullian) as the Christian Trinity.  In the west some versions of the Mor Righean and of Brigit among the Irish are the only ones that truly correspond.

Jewish antecedents

In first century Israelite mystical and philosophical thought, the Memra (Word) and Hokhma (Wisdom) are both emanations from God.  In some traditions, they are two faces of the same thing, in others they are separate.  Jewish mystics often equate Memra to Binah (Understanding, or Reason) and Hokhma to the Shekhinah (Presence).  The Memra is the creative agency of God, while the Shekhinah is the immanence in the universe of the transcendant God.  The Shekhinah is also known as the Ruach ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit).

Wisdom of Solomon 9:1-2, late 1st century BCE

This work, part of the abundant wisdom literature that mushroomed among Hellenistic Jews along with apocalyptic literature such as Daniel and 1 Enoch, has been thought by many to have been written by Philo, but that was probably not the case.

‘O God of my fathers and Lord of mercy, who hast made all things by thy Logos (Word), and by thy Sophia (Wisdom) hast formed man to have dominion over the creatures thou hast made…’

The best interpretation of these verses, which is the beginning of a lengthy prayer, is that the Logos is the agency by which God created the cosmos while the Sophia is the agency by which God created humanity.

Julius Philo Judaeus, turn of the era

The notable Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria adapted the Platonic-Stoic concept of the Logos to Jewish mysticism, equating the Logos with the Memra, and therefore implicitly to Binah, which is fitting since Logos in Greek means both ‘Word’ and ‘Reason’.

In other writings, Philo equated the Holy Spirit with the Hellenistic concept of Sophia (‘Wisdom’) and therefore with Hokhma.  Philo conceptualized these two agencies as emanations of the One True God rather than separate independent entities.

That was the beginning of Philo’s attempt to harmonize and synchronize Israelite religious philosophy with Platonism, Stoicism, and other Hellenistic philosophy.  One of Platonism’s central cosmological themes was that of the Logos as a medium between The One and Creation.

Gnostic antecedents

To find the origins of the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity, we have to go back to the earliest centuries of the Church, to another faith which spun off the Judaic trunk in the same milieu which produced Christianity.

Valentinus’ On the Three Natures, early 2nd century

The Gnostic sect progenitor Valentinus first defined God in the formula of  three hypostases and three persons sharing a single essence and coined the designations “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” and in this work, according to Marcellus of Ancyra in his On the Holy Church in the early 4th century, who claimed he borrowed the ideas from the writings of Hermes Trismegistos and Plato.  In the latter's philosophy, the Three Hypostases were The One, the Divine Mind, and the Logos-Soul.

Gospel of the Hebrews, mid 2nd century

Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Didymus the Blind all considered this gospel to be reliable if nevertheless somewhat a departure from the standard.  Written in Greek, it was used by and probably originated among Hellenistai who became Christians.  Several of its reported passages appear at least quasi-Gnostic.

Origen reports that the pericope of the post-baptismal temptation by Satan, narrated here from the point-of-view of Jesus himself, concludes with, “Even so did my Mother, the Holy Spirit, take me by one of my hairs and carry me away on to the great mountain Tabor.” 

This indicates a Trinity formula of “Father, Son, and Mother” which is found in at least one other Gnostic work from the early centuries CE.

Trimorphic Protennoia, late 2nd century

This Gnostic work found at Nag Hammadi is the other which refers to the Trinity as the Father, Son, and Mother.

Gospel of Philip, 3rd century

This Valentian works contains several references to the Trinity as three persons and discussion of the roles of each, using the standard designations Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Tripartite Tractate, mid-3rd century CE

This Gnostic work has a Trinity of sorts, the Father, the Son, and the Church, the last being a creation of the second.  It also discusses Sophia, and expounds at length on the Logos.

Spurious interpolations in the New Testament

Adherents of the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity, particularly evangelicals, point to three New Testament passages in particular to support the claim that followers of Jesus have always believed in the Trinity.  First is the Great Commission found in the Gospel of Matthew.  Second is in the First Epistle of John.  Third is in Paul of Tarsus’ Second Epistle to the Corinthians.

The problem with these as testimony is that the portions in italics, that part most relevant to the Trinitarians’ case, are spurious, interpolations by later editors. 

Gospel of Matthew 28:19

‘Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’

According to various Church Fathers, the words in italics were not in the earliest copies of this gospel.  In Chapter 14 of Against Noetus, Hippolytus of Rome does quote this verse as given above in 225 CE; however, Eusebius quotes the same passage eight times Books I and III of his Demonstratio Evangelica, published in 311, without any specific formula for baptism at all.

By 375, this reading of the passage had apparently become standard because the Apostolic Constitutions quotes the Great Commission as above in two separate places: Book II, Chapter XXVI and Book VII, Chapter XXII.

First Epistle of John 5:7

‘There are three that bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit: and these three are one.’

The oldest manuscripts available lack the words in italics.  Most modern translation eliminate them from the text; some include them in a footnote.

2 Corinthians 13:13

‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.’ (KJV)

According to the Latin Church Father Tertullian, the copy of this epistle brought to Rome by Marcion of Sinope, along with the others of the first ten Pauline and pseudo-Pauline epistles ever mentioned, lacked the words in italics.  Except for the Pastorals of pseudo-Paul from the second century, all the epistles attributed to Paul, save for Romans, end with ‘The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you’, so Tertullian’s report of Marcion’s wording is consistent and probably more accurate than any copy we have now. 

Those three “Pastorals”, incidentally, close with, ‘Grace be with you’.  The genuine part of the letter to the Romans ends with ‘The God of peace be with you all.  Amen’.

Didache, late 1st century

This document, from the genre of ancient church orders, was counted by many Church Fathers as a canonical book of the New Testament.  Even later, after most authorities ejected it from the canon, many Church Fathers, including Augustine of Hippo, deemed it important, enough to rank it as ‘deuterocanonical’. 

At Didache 7:1, it gives the Trinitarian baptismal formula, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”.  This is almost certainly an interpolation from the third century.  Later in the document, at Didache 9:5, there is an allusion to an earlier formula for baptism “in the name of the Lord”.

Valid New Testament references

Not to the Trinity, mind you, but references in whose name letters were sent to churches and new believers were baptized.  Paul’s letters, the genuine article as well as the pseudepigraphs which follow his lead, lift up ‘God our Father’ and ‘the Lord Jesus Christ’ in their greetings, and that of Jude does as well, a Binity of sorts rather than a Trinity, though many points indicate that the writer of a particular work even though he may consider Jesus divine, it is not on the same level as “God” or “God the Father”.  The Spirit, or Holy Spirit in some places, figures in as well, but none of the works of the New Testament ever spells out how.

Paul of Tarsus’ Epistles, mid 1st century

We’ve already taken a look at how Paul, and the one or more pseudo-Pauls after him writing in his name, close letters, now let’s look at the opening greetings.

The Pauline-attributed letters to the churches in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Colossae, Philippi, and Thessalonika, and to Philemon all open with the following:  ‘Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’

The two to Timothy begin:  ‘Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.’

That to Titus begins:  ‘Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.’

Jude, brother of James, Epistle, late 1st century

This epistle, probably pseudepigraphal, begins with this salutation: ‘To the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever.  Amen’.

Acts of the Apostles, mid 2nd century

The Acts of the Apostles, the earliest widely known work of the New Testament outside of the gospels.  The original form of this work dates from the mid-second century and supports the latter baptismal formula in the Didache at every reference to baptism.  As we now have it, the work dates from no earlier than the late second century, linked by a common editor with a heavily interpolated version of the gospel brought to Rome by Marcion of Sinope, to whom Acts was apparently unknown.

‘Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.’ (2:38)

‘For as yet he [the Holy Spirit] was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.’ (8:16)

‘And he [Peter] commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.  Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.’ (10:48)

“When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.’ (19:5)

Gospel of Luke 11:49-51a, late 2nd century

The text of the canonical gospel we have today was edited by someone sending linked copies of it and Acts to one “Theophilus”, whom many believe may be the eponymous bishop of Antioch, whose term in office was in the late second century.

‘Therefore also the Sophia of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles; and some of them they will kill and persecute, that the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zachariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary.’

Valid historical Trinitarian baptismal formulae

“Valid” as opposed to the fraudulent witnesses in Matthew and the Didache.  The first formulae for baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity, in form if not in substance, began to appear in the mid-second century.  These formulae were genuinely in use at the time they were given.

Justin Martyr, First Apology, Chapter 61, 151 CE

Justin’s two formulae are a good example of Trinitarian formulae for baptism in which the underlying theology does not quite match up to that later deemed “orthodox”.  On the surface, they look standard, but his comments elsewhere belie that.

In the first formula Justin gives, the candidate would be dunked after each person of the Trinity was named.

I baptize you in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit.

The same applies to the second, but with full sentences in this case.

I baptize you in the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe. 
I baptize you in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate. 
I baptize you in the name of the Holy Spirit, who through the prophets foretold all things about Jesus.

Old Roman baptismal interrogatory, mid-3rd century CE

This interrogatory was adapted from the “creedal” version, which itself was adapted from the original interrogatory.  By this point, the statement of simple belief contains an affirmation of the official doctrine and theology of the Church, which was common everywhere, not just at Rome.

The presbyters asks:

Do you believe in God the Father Almighty?

The candidate replies:

I believe.

And is then dunked.

Do you believe in Christ Jesus his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, who under Pontius Pilate was crucified and buried, who on the third day rose again from the dead, ascended to heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father, whence he will come to judge the living and the dead?

I believe.

And is then dunked.

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Church, the remission of sins, and the resurrection of the flesh?

I believe.

And is then dunked.

In later centuries, the baptismal interrogatory came to be preceded by a series of renunciations, short and simple at first, then longer.

Apostolic Constitutions, 375

This compilation of earlier church orders, including material from the Didache, the Didascalia Apostolorum, and the Apostolic Tradition, makes clear that the Trinitarian formula is now the sole one by which new believers may be ‘baptized into the death of the Lord’.

Book III, chapter XVI provides the same Trinitarian formula used now, ‘In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’, during which the candidate is dipped three times.

In the Ethiopian version of this chapter, the candidate first repeats, ‘I believe in the only true God, the Father Almighty, and in his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, and in the Holy Spirit, the Life-giver’, then is dunked thrice.

Book VII, Chapter XV insists that Trinitarian is the only acceptable formula for “true baptism”.

Pseudo-Ambrose’s On the Sacraments, 391

Included in a document written by an anonymous author posing as the famous Ambrose of Milan, this interrogatory is one of the most primitive surviving and probably dates back to at least the mid-second century.

Do you believe in God the Father Almighty?

I believe.

Do you believe in our Lord Jesus Christ and his Cross?

I believe.

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?

I believe.

Development in the Church Fathers

The doctrine of the Holy Trinity clearly did not fall off the back of the pick-up truck, so to speak, in one piece as we have it today.  After the Church Fathers “borrowed” the motif from their Gnostic rivals, they began to form it in their own image.  The first stage was, in fact, almost a word-for-word repeat of Philo’s hypotheses.

Justin Martyr of Flavia Neapolis and Rome, First Apology, Chapter 13, Verses 5–6, 151 CE

Here Justin ranks the “Persons” of the Trinity in order: the Father hold first place, the Son of the true God the second, and the Spirit the third.

‘We will prove that we worship him reasonably; for we have learned that he is the Son of the true God himself, that he holds a second place, and the Spirit of prophecy a third.  For this they accuse us of madness, saying that we attribute to a crucified man a place second to the unchangeable and eternal God, the Creator of all things; but they are ignorant of the mystery which lies therein.’

Justin also refers to Jesus as the Logos in Chapters 5 and 60 of his apology.

Athenagoras of Athens, A Plea for Christians, Chapter X: The Christians Worship the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, 176 CE

Here Athenagoras expounds on the role of the Son as the Logos as the creative agent of God the Father, much as the Platonic or Stoic Logos is the creative agent of the One, and asserts that the Spirit to be an “effluence” of God.

‘That we are not atheists, therefore, seeing that we acknowledge one God, uncreated, eternal, invisible, impassible, incomprehensible, illimitable, who is apprehended by the understanding only and the reason, who is encompassed by light, and beauty, and spirit, and power ineffable, by whom the universe has been created through his Logos, and set in order, and is kept in being-I have sufficiently demonstrated.  I say “his Logos”, for we acknowledge also a Son of God.  Nor let anyone think it ridiculous that God should have a Son.  For though the poets, in their fictions, represent the gods as no better than men, our mode of thinking is not the same as theirs, concerning either God the Father or the Son.

‘But the Son of God is the Logos of the Father, in thought and in operation; for by him and through him all things were made, the Father and the Son being one.  And, the Son being in the Father and the Father in the Son, in oneness and power of the Spirit, the Mind and the Word of the Father is the Son of God.  But if, in your surpassing intelligence, it occurs to you to inquire what is meant by “the Son”, I will state briefly that he is the first-begotten of the Father, not as having been brought into existence—for from the beginning, God had the Logos in himself, God being eternal mind and eternally rational; but in as much as he came forth to be the model and energizing force of all material things, which lay like a nature without attributes, and an inactive earth, the grosser particles being mixed up with the lighter.  The prophetic Spirit also agrees with our statements.  “The Lord,” it says, “made me, the beginning of his ways to his works.”  The Holy Spirit himself also, 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.’

Creed of Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 180 CE, Book I, Chapter X, Section 1

I supplied the entire text of this creed, or “Rule of Faith”, in my essay on the Creeds of the Christian Church; the opening phrases are those most relevant here.

‘The Church believes in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God...’

Again, as with Justin Martyr, the three “Persons” of the Trinity are given, but in a context somewhat less than orthodox by the standards of the fourth century ecumenical councils.

Theophilos of Antioch, Apology To Autolycus, Book II, Chapter 15, 181 CE

‘In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the Triad, of God, and his Logos, and his Sophia.  And the fourth is the type of man, who needs light, that so there may be God, the Logos, Sophia, man.’

Theophilos, who may be the individual to whom the editor of the composite Gospel of Luke-Acts of the Apostles addressed his works, used the metaphors of “hands of God” to illustrate the relationship Logos and Sophia to God the Father.

Tertullian of Carthage, Against Praxeas, 216 CE

Tertullian was the first of the Church Fathers to take the Trinitarian formula from the Gnostics and make it the Church’s own in the now-standard form of “Three Persons in One Being”.

‘And at the same time the mystery of the oikonomia is safeguarded, for the unity is distributed in a Trinity. Placed in order, the three are the Father, Son, and Spirit. They are three, however, not in condition, but in degree; not in being, but in form; not in power, but in kind; of one being, however, and one condition and one power, because he is one God of whom degrees and forms and kinds are taken into account in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’  This is very nearly the same as the definition of Valentinus the Gnostic.

Hippolytus of Rome,  Against Noetus, Chapter 14, 220 CE

Quasi-orthodox, this passage includes the quotation of the Great Commission at the end of the Gospel of Matthew in its current form, which, as we shall see, clearly did not appear in every copy of that gospel.

‘The Father’s Word, therefore, knowing the oikonomia and the will of the Father, to wit, that the Father seeks to be worshipped in none other way than this, gave this charge to the disciples after he rose from the dead: ‘Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’ And by this he showed that whosoever omitted any one of these, failed in glorifying God perfectly.  For it is through the Trinity that the Father is glorified.  For the Father willed, the Son did, and the Spirit manifested.’

Origen of Alexandria, On First Principles Book 1, Chapter 3, 225 CE

Here Origen uses what is now traditional terminology, but as we can infer from elsewhere in the same writing, does not do so with the same meaning.

‘For it is the Trinity alone which exceeds every sense in which not only temporal but even eternal may be understood. It is all other things, indeed, which are outside the Trinity, which are to be measured by time and ages....

‘It seems right to inquire into the reason why he who is “born again through God” to salvation has need of both Father and Son and Holy Spirit and will not obtain salvation apart from the entire Trinity, and why it is impossible to become partaker of the Father or the Son without the Holy Spirit.  In discussing these points it will undoubtedly be necessary to describe the activity which is peculiar to the Holy Spirit and that which is peculiar to the Father and Son.’

Origen of Alexandria, On First Principles, Book 1, Chapter 3, 225 CE

Here Origen’s views appear in plain language, that the Father is greater than the Son who is greater than the Holy Spirit.

‘The God and Father, who holds the universe together, is superior to every being that exists, for he imparts to each one from his own existence that which each one is; the Son, being less than the Father, is superior to rational creatures alone (for he is second to the Father); the Holy Spirit is still less, and dwells within the saints alone. So that in this way the power of the Father is greater than that of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and that of the Son is more than that of the Holy Spirit...’

Didascalia Apostolorum, 230 CE (Syria)

The first known major work from the Patristic period to do so, this opens ‘In the name of the Father Almighty, and of the Eternal Logos and only Son, and of the Holy Spirit, one true God’.

Novation of Rome, Treatise on the Trinity, Chapter 11, 256 CE

More in the field of Christology than theology, this passage from Novation’s work on the Trinity deals with the dual nature of Jesus Christ.

‘For Scripture as much announces Christ as also God, as it announces God himself as man.  It has as much described Jesus Christ to be man, as moreover it has also described Christ the Lord to be God.  Because it does not set forth him to be the Son of God only, but also the son of man; nor does it only say, the son of man, but it has also been accustomed to speak of him as the Son of God.  So that being of both, he is both, lest if he should be one only, he could not be the other. For as nature itself has prescribed that he must be believed to be a man who is of man, so the same nature prescribes also that he must be believed to be God who is of God…. Let them, therefore, who read that Jesus Christ the son of man is man, read also that this same Jesus is called also God and the Son of God.’

Eusebius of Caesarea, Demonstratio Evangelica, 311

Eusebius cites Matthew 28:19 as saying, “Go forth and make disciples of all nations in my name, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever that I have commanded you,” at several points in this work: three in Book I and five in Book III.

That he did so is proof beyond any reasonable doubt that the insertion of the Trinitarian formula into the passage is of relatively late date, almost certainly post-Nicaea (325).  True, Hippolytus quotes it with the formula in the early third century, but that was eighteen centuries before Al Gore and the birth of the internet, and would thus have taken some time to get around.  Also, until the ecumenical councils, the Church lacked imperial force.

Sacramentary of Sarapion, 360

Sarapion, one of the great saints of the Eastern Church and one of the Greek Fathers, uses a doxology condemned as heretical just a few decades later: “…through your only-begotten Jesus Christ, through whom to you is the glory and the strength in the Holy Spirit both now and to all the ages of ages”.  The only way this could be considered heterodox would be on the same basis as the older form of the Gloria Patri: not being sufficiently cheerleaderly of the party line.

Triumph of the Trinitarians

This came by way of the imperially-backed Ecumenical Councils, most importantly those of Nicaea in 325 and at Constantinopolis in 381.  The doctrinal statements of those two affairs are in my essay on the creeds.