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  • Writer's pictureBerean Perspective Apologetics

Pre-Nicea Apostolic Church Fathers: 23 References on Trinity & Eternal Generation of the Son (Jesus)



Trinity and Jesus Existed Eternally Quotes from Early Church Fathers
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The early Church Fathers believed in the Trinity and eternal generation of the Son. Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Eusebius, Origen, Methodius of Olympus, Ignatius, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, Mathetes, Lactantius, Gregory Thaumaturgus, Dionysius Bishop of Alexandria, Novatian, Cyprian of Carthage taught and others about the Trinity. The video presentation provides 23 References from 15 Church Fathers on the Trinity & Eternal Generation of the Only Begotten Son (Jesus Christ). The 23 quotes/references below are from 15 different Apostolic early Church Fathers on the Trinity and Eternal Generation of the Son.


Did the pre Nicea Apostolic early Church Fathers believe in the Trinity doctrine? Did the pre Nicea Apostolic early Church Fathers believe in the eternal generation of the only begotten Son (Jesus)? Was Jesus the only begotten Son created or uncreated, brought into existence or eternally existed? Did the Apostolic early Church Fathers believe in the Trinitarian formula for water baptism in the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit? Did the Trinity doctrine come from the Nicene Council in 325 A.D.? Was the Trinity doctrine invented by the Roman Catholic Church and traditions? Was the Apostolic early Church Fathers Trinitarians?


These are many questions anti-Trinitarians ask. Before the pre Nicene council in 325 A.D. the Apostolic early Church Fathers were Trinitarians, taught the eternal generation of the Son (Jesus Christ), the Trinitarian formula for water baptism, and the doctrine of the Trinity. Below are 23 quotes/references from 15 different Apostolic early Church Fathers on the Trinity doctrine, Trinitarian formula for water baptism, and the Eternal Generation of the Son.


Jesus Without Beginning - Eternal Generation - Trinity


“For the kingdom of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is one, even as their substance is one and their dominion one. Whence also, with one and the same adoration, we worship the one Deity in three Persons, subsisting without beginning, uncreate, without end, and to which there is no successor. For neither will the Father ever cease to be the Father, nor again the Son to be the Son and King, nor the Holy Ghost to be what in substance and personality He is. For nothing of the Trinity will suffer diminution, either in respect of eternity, or of communion, or of sovereignty.


(Methodius of Olympus, Oration on the Psalms, 5)


“What therefore he says, “from the beginning,” the Presbyter explained to this effect, that the beginning of generation is not separated from the beginning of the Creator. For when he says, “That which was from the beginning,” he touches upon the generation without beginning of the Son, who is co-existent with the Father. There was; then, a Word importing an unbeginning eternity; as also the Word itself, that is, the Son of God, who being, by equality of substance, one with the Father, is eternal and uncreate. That He was always the Word, is signified by saying, In the beginning was the Word.”


(Clement of Alexandria, Comments First Epistle of John)


“Ver. 2. “The life was manifested.” For in the Gospel he thus speaks: “And what was made, in Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” John 1:3-4 “And we show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto you.” He signifies by the appellation of Father, that the Son also existed always, without beginning.”


(Clement of Alexandria, Comments First Epistle of John)


“Otherwise Christ could not be described as being man without flesh, nor the Son of man without any human parent; just as He is not God without the Spirit of God, nor the Son of God without having God for His father. Thus the nature of the two substances displayed Him as man and God — in one respect born, in the other unborn; in one respect fleshly, in the other spiritual;”


(Tertullian, On the Flesh of Christ, Chapter 5)


Early Church Baptism


“Luke 24:49 and lastly, He commands them to baptize into the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, not into a unipersonal God. And indeed it is not once only, but three times, that we are immersed into the Three Persons, at each several mention of Their names.”


(Tertullian, Against Praxeas, 26)


“12 When each of them to be baptized has gone down into the water, the one baptizing shall lay hands on each of them, asking, "Do you believe in God the Father Almighty?" 13 And the one being baptized shall answer, "I believe." 14 He shall then baptize each of them once, laying his hand upon each of their heads. 15 Then he shall ask, "Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and died, and rose on the third day living from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of the Father, the one coming to judge the living and the dead?" 16 When each has answered, "I believe," he shall baptize a second time. 17 Then he shall ask, "Do you believe in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Church and the resurrection of the flesh?" 18 Then each being baptized shall answer, "I believe." And thus let him baptize the third time. 19 Afterward, when they have come up out of the water, they shall be anointed by the elder with the Oil of Thanksgiving, saying, "I anoint you with holy oil in the name of Jesus Christ."”


(Hippolytus, The Apostolic Tradition of Rome, 21)


“18. Finally, when, after the resurrection, the apostles are sent by the Lord to the heathens, they are bidden to baptize the Gentiles in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. How, then, do some say, that a Gentile baptized without, outside the Church, yea, and in opposition to the Church, so that it be only in the name of Jesus Christ, everywhere, and in whatever manner, can obtain remission of sin, when Christ Himself commands the heathen to be baptized in the full and united Trinity?


(Cyprian of Carthage, Letters 72:18)


We believe in One God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in One Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, God from God, Light from Light, Life from Life, Son Only-begotten, first-born of every creature, before all the ages, begotten from the Father, by Whom also all things were made; Who for our salvation was made flesh, and lived among men, and suffered, and rose again the third day, and ascended to the Father, and will come again in glory to judge the quick and dead. And we believe also in One Holy Ghost: believing each of these to be and to exist, the Father truly Father, and the Son truly Son, and the Holy Ghost truly Holy Ghost, as also our Lord, sending forth His disciples for the preaching, said, Go teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost Matthew 28:19.”


(Eusebius , Letter to the People of His Diocese 3)


The Lord himself told his disciples that they should baptize all peoples in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit . . . for indeed, legitimate baptism is had only in the name of the Trinity.


(Origen, Commentary on Book of Romans 5:8)


Jesus Without Beginning - Eternal Generation - Trinity


For we do not say, as the heretics suppose, that some part of the substance of God was converted into the Son, or that the Son was procreated by the Father out of things non-existent, i.e., beyond His own substance, so that there once was a time when He did not exist...Nay, John also indicates that God is Light, and Paul also declares that the Son is the splendour of everlasting light. As light, accordingly, could never exist without splendour, so neither can the Son be understood to exist without the Father; for He is called the express image of His person, and the Word and Wisdom. How, then, can it be asserted that there once was a time when He was not the Son?”...”For it is the Trinity alone which exceeds the comprehension not only of temporal but even of eternal intelligence; while other things which are not included in it are to be measured by times and ages. This Son of God, then, in respect of the Word being God, which was in the beginning with God...”


(Origen, Origen De Principiis. Book IV Chapter I, 28)


“...He descended by coming from heaven; and if, whereas this word can be true of no man, “I and the Father are one, John 10:30” Christ alone declared this word out of the consciousness of His divinity; and if, finally, the Apostle Thomas, instructed in all the proofs and conditions of Christ's divinity, says in reply to Christ, “My Lord and my God;” John 20:28 and if, besides, the Apostle Paul says, “Whose are the fathers, and of whom Christ came according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed for evermore,” Romans 9:5 writing in his epistles; and if the same apostle declares that he was ordained an apostle not by men, nor of man, but by Jesus Christ; and if the same contends that he learned the Gospel not from men or by man, but received it from Jesus Christ, reasonably Christ is God.”


(Novatian, On the Trinity, 13)


Whence also, that there might be no doubt but that it was He who was the of Abraham on the destruction of the people of Sodom, it is declared: “Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrha fire and brimstone from the Lord out of heaven.” For thus also said the prophet in the person of God: “I have overthrown you, as the Lord overturned Sodom and Gomorrha.” Therefore the Lord overturned Sodom, that is, God overturned Sodom; but in the overturning of Sodom, the Lord rained fire from the Lord. And this Lord was the God seen by Abraham; and this God was the of Abraham, certainly seen because He was also touched. But although the Father, being invisible, was assuredly not at that time seen, He who was accustomed to be touched and seen was seen and received to hospitality. But this the Son of God, “The Lord rained from the Lord upon Sodom and Gomorrha brimstone and fire.” And this is the Word of God. And the Word of God was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and this is Christ. It was not the Father, then, who was a with Abraham, but Christ. Nor was it the Father who was seen then, but the Son; and Christ was seen. Rightly, therefore, Christ is both Lord and God, who was not otherwise seen by Abraham, except that as God the Word He was begotten of God the Father before Abraham himself.”


(Novatian, On the Trinity, 18)


Hebrews 1:3 and He has fitted and arranged all things by His wisdom, while He contains all things, but He Himself can be contained by no one: He is the Former, He the Builder, He the Discoverer, He the Creator, He the Lord of all; and there is no one besides Him, or above Him, neither has He any mother, as they falsely ascribe to Him; nor is there a second God, as Marcion has imagined; nor is there a Pleroma of thirty Æons, which has been shown a vain supposition; nor is there any such being as Bythus or Proarche; nor are there a series of heavens; nor is there a virginal light, nor an unnameable Æon, nor, in fact, any one of those things which are madly dreamt of by these, and by all the heretics. But there is one only God, the Creator — He who is above every Principality, and Power, and Dominion, and Virtue:”...

(Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book II, ch. 30, section 9)


“...He is Father, He is God, He the Founder, He the Maker, He the Creator, who made those things by Himself, that is, through His Word and His Wisdom — heaven and earth, and the seas, and all things that are in them: He is just; He is good; He it is who formed man, who planted paradise, who made the world, who gave rise to the flood, who saved Noah; He is the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of the living: He it is whom the law proclaims, whom the prophets preach, whom Christ reveals, whom the apostles make known to us, and in whom the Church believes. He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: through His Word, who is His Son, through Him He is revealed and manifested to all to whom He is revealed; for those [only] know Him to whom the Son has revealed Him. But the Son, eternally co-existing with the Father, from of old, yea, from the beginning, always reveals the Father to Angels, Archangels, Powers, Virtues, and all to whom He wills that God should be revealed."


(Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book II, ch. 30, section 9)


the Scripture says, “And God formed man, taking clay of the earth, and breathed into his face the breath of life.” Genesis 2:7 It was not angels, therefore, who made us, nor who formed us, neither had angels power to make an image of God, nor any one else, except the Word of the Lord, nor any Power remotely distant from the Father of all things. For God did not stand in need of these [beings], in order to the accomplishing of what He had Himself determined with Himself beforehand should be done, as if He did not possess His own hands. For with Him were always present the Word and Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, by whom and in whom, freely and spontaneously, He made all things, to whom also He speaks, saying, “Let Us make man after Our image and likeness;” Genesis 1:26


(Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book IV, ch. 20, section 1)


For no one was able, either in heaven or in earth, or under the earth, to open the book of the Father, or to behold Him, with the exception of the Lamb who was slain, and who redeemed us with His own blood, receiving power over all things from the same God who made all things by the Word, and adorned them by [His] Wisdom, when “the Word was made flesh;” that even as the Word of God had the sovereignty in the heavens, so also might He have the sovereignty in earth, inasmuch as [He was] a righteous man, “who did no sin, neither was there found guile in His mouth;””


(Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book IV, ch. 20, section 2)


“For they who affirm that the Son is the Father, are proved neither to have become acquainted with the Father, nor to know that the Father of the universe has a Son; who also, being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God. And of old He appeared in the shape of fire and in the likeness of an angel to Moses and to the other prophets...And that which was said out of the bush to Moses, I am that I am, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and the God of your fathers, Exodus 3:6...”


(Justin Martyr, First Apology 63)


"5. “Moreover, the Son alone, always co-existing with the Father, and filled with Him who is, Himself also is, since He is of the Father.”

8. ”But they are ignorant that neither the Father, in that He is Father, can be separated from the Son, for that name is the evident ground of coherence and conjunction; nor can the Son be separated from the Father, for this word Father indicates association between them. And there is, moreover, evident a Spirit who can neither be disjoined from Him who sends, nor from Him who brings Him. How, then, should I who use such names think that these are absolutely divided and separated the one from the other?”

9. “Thus, indeed, we expand the indivisible Unity into a Trinity; and again we contract the Trinity, which cannot be diminished, into a Unity.”

15. “If, from the fact that there are three hypostases, they say that they are divided, there are three whether they like it or no, or else let them get rid of the divine Trinity altogether. And Again: For on this account after the Unity there is also the most divine Trinity.”

16. ”And to God the Father, and His Son our Lord Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”"


(Dionysius Bishop of Alexandria, IV. Epistle to Dionysius Bishop of Rome,

First Book, Extant Fragments)


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; and then there is the third, the Holy Spirit. The Father decrees, the Word executes, and the Son is manifested, through whom the Father is believed on. The economy of harmony is led back to one God; for God is One. It is the Father who commands, and the Son who obeys, and the Holy Spirit who gives understanding: the Father who is above all, and the Son who is through all, and the Holy Spirit who is in all. And we cannot otherwise think of one God, but by believing in truth in Father and Son and Holy Spirit...Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. And by this He showed, that whosoever omitted any one of these, failed in glorifying God perfectly. For it is through this Trinity that the Father is glorified.


(Hippolytus, Against the Heresy of Noetus, 14)


There is one God, the Father of the living Word, who is His subsistent Wisdom and Power and Eternal Image: perfect Begetter of the perfect Begotten, Father of the only-begotten Son. There is one Lord, Only of the Only, God of God, Image and Likeness of Deity, Efficient Word, Wisdom comprehensive of the constitution of all things, and Power formative of the whole creation, true Son of true Father, Invisible of Invisible, and Incorruptible of Incorruptible, and Immortal of Immortal and Eternal of Eternal. And there is One Holy Spirit, having His subsistence from God, and being made manifest by the Son, to wit to men: Image of the Son, Perfect Image of the Perfect; Life, the Cause of the living; Holy Fount; Sanctity, the Supplier, or Leader, of Sanctification; in whom is manifested God the Father, who is above all and in all, and God the Son, who is through all. There is a perfect Trinity, in glory and eternity and sovereignty, neither divided nor estranged. Wherefore there is nothing either created or in servitude in the Trinity; nor anything superinduced, as if at some former period it was non-existent, and at some later period it was introduced. And thus neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son; but without variation and without change, the same Trinity abides ever.”


(Gregory Thaumaturgus, Declaration of Faith, 260 A.D.)


Jesus Christ, who was with the Father before the beginning of time, and in the end was revealed...as to one Jesus Christ, who came forth from one Father...there is one God, who has manifested Himself by Jesus Christ His Son, who is His eternal Word, not proceeding forth from silence, and who in all things pleased Him that sent Him."


(Ignatius, The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians, Chapters 6, 7, 8)


When we speak of God the Father and God the Son, we do not speak of them as different, nor do we separate each: because the Father cannot exist without the Son, nor can the Son be separated from the Father, since the name of Father cannot be given without the Son, nor can the Son be begotten without the Father...And since He is both faithful to the Most High Father, and beloved by Him, He is not separated from Him; just as the stream is not separated from the fountain, nor the ray from the sun: for the water of the fountain is in the stream, and the light of the sun is in the ray: just as the voice cannot be separated from the mouth, nor the strength or hand from the body.”


(Lactantius, Divine Institutes, Book 4, Chapter 29)


For which reason He (God the Father) sent the Word, that He might be manifested to the world; and He, being despised by the people [of the Jews], was, when preached by the Apostles, believed on by the Gentiles. This is He who was from the beginning, who appeared as if new, and was found old, and yet who is ever born afresh in the hearts of the saints. This is He who, being from everlasting, is to-day called the Son; through whom the Church is enriched, and grace, widely spread, increases in the saints, furnishing understanding, revealing mysteries, announcing times, rejoicing over the faithful, giving to those that seek, by whom the limits of faith are not broken through, nor the boundaries set by the fathers passed over.”


(Mathetes, The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus Chapter XI.

—These things are worthy to be known and believed)



Kelly Powers



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