Athenagoras - The Trinity

Athenagoras the trinity: The Son is the Intelligence, Reason, Wisdom of the Father, and the Spirit an effluence, as light from fire. While the word Trinity is used, most of the early church fathers explained the trinity as God, His Word and His Wisdom or Spirit -- not as three people.

Augustine A Treatis on Faith and the Creed.
Theophilus who first used the Word Trias

The Gift of The Holy Spirit One
The Gift of The Holy Spirit Two
John Mark Hicks: claiming Alexander Campbell was a trinitarian
See Father Son Holy Spirit Trinity: there is ONE GOD Person. there is ONE GOD and Jesus of Nazareth whom God made to be both Lord and Christ

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Athenagoras: Chapter V.-Testimony of the Poets to the Unity of God. Flourished 2nd century AD

Poets and philosophers have not been voted atheists for inquiring concerning God. Euripides, speaking of those who, according to popular preconception, are ignorantly called gods, says doubtingly:-

"If Zeus indeed does reign in heaven above,
He ought not on the righteous ills to send."

But speaking of Him who is apprehended by the understanding as matter of certain knowledge, he gives his opinion decidedly, and with intelligence, thus:-

"Seest thou on high him who, with humid arms,
Clasps both the boundless ether and the earth?
Him reckon Zeus, and him regard as God."

For, as to these so-called gods, he neither saw any real existences, to which a name is usually assigned, underlying them ("Zeus," for instance: "who Zeus is I know not, but by report"), nor that any names were given to realities which actually do exist (for of what use are names to those who have no real existences underlying them? ); but Him he did see by means of His works, considering with an eye to things unseen the things which are manifest in air, in ether, on earth. Him therefore, from whom proceed all created things, and by whose Spirit they are governed, he concluded to be God; and Sophocles agrees with him, when he says:-

"There is one God, in truth there is but one,
Who made the heavens, and the broad earth beneath."

[Euripides is speaking] of the nature of God, which fills His works with beauty, and teaching both where God must be, and that He must be One.

Athenagoras the trinity: Chapter VI.-Opinions of the Philosophers as to the One God.

Philolaus, too, when he says that all things are included in God as in a stronghold, teaches that He is one, and that He is superior to matter. Lysis and Opsimus thus define God: the one says that He is an ineffable number, the other that He is the excess of the greatest number beyond that which comes nearest to it. So that since ten is the greatest number according to the Pythagoreans, being the Tetractys, and containing all the arithmetic and harmonic principles, and the Nine stands next to it, God is a unit-that is, one.

For the greatest number exceeds the next least by one. Then there are Plato and Aristotle-not that I am about to go through all that the philosophers have said about God, as if I wished to exhibit a complete summary of their opinions; for I know that, as you excel all men in intelligence and in the power of your rule, in the same proportion do you surpass them all in an accurate acquaintance with all learning, cultivating as you do each several branch with more success than even those who have devoted themselves exclusively to any one. But, in as much as it is impossible to demonstrate without the citation of names that we are not alone in confining the notion of God to unity, I have ventured on an enumeration of opinions.

Plato, then, says, "To find out the Maker and Father of this universe is difficult; and, when found, it is impossible to declare Him to all," conceiving of one uncreated and eternal God.

And if he recognises others as well, such as the sun, moon, and stars, yet he recognises them as created: "gods, offspring of gods, of whom I am the Maker, and the Father of works which are indissoluble apart from my will; but whatever is compounded can be dissolved." If, therefore, Plato is not an atheist for conceiving of one uncreated God, the Framer of the universe,

neither are we atheists who acknowledge and firmly hold that He is God who has framed all things by the Logos, and holds them in being by His Spirit.

For thus saith

the Lord (Jehovah)
that created the heavens;
God (Elohim) himself that
formed the earth and
made it; he hath
established it, he
created it not in vain,
he formed it to be inhabited:
I am the Lord (Jehovah); and there is none else. Isaiah 45:18

He hath made the earth by his power,
he hath established the world by his wisdom,
and hath
stretched out the heaven by his understanding. Jer 51:15
he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens;
and he
causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth:
maketh lightnings with rain,
bringeth forth the wind (spirit) out of his treasures. Jer 51:16

Every man is brutish by his knowledge; every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them. Jer 51:17

Aristotle, again, and his followers, recognising the existence of one whom they regard as a sort of compound living creature (zw=on),

speak of God as consisting of soul and body,
thinking His body to be the etherial space and the planetary stars and the sphere of the fixed stars, moving in circles; but His soul, the reason which presides over the motion of the body, itself not subject to motion, but becoming the cause of motion to the other.

The Stoics also, although by the appellations they employ to suit the changes of matter, which they say is permeated by the Spirit of God,

they multiply the Deity in name, yet in reality they consider God to be one. 20

For, if God is an artistic fire advancing methodically to the production of the several things in the world, embracing in Himself all the seminal principles by which each thing is produced in accordance with fate,

and if His Spirit pervades the whole world,
God is one according to them,

being named Zeus in respect of the fervid part (to/\ ze/on) of matter,
Hera in respect of the air (o9 a0h/r), and called by other names in respect of that particular part of matter which He pervades.

Athenagoras the trinity: Chapter VII.-Superiority of the Christian Doctrine Respecting God.

Since, therefore, the unity of the Deity is confessed by almost all, even against their will, when they come to treat of the first principles of the universe, and we in our turn likewise assert that He who arranged this universe is God,-why is it that they can say and write with impunity what they please concerning the Deity, but that against us a law lies in force, though we are able to demonstrate what we apprehend and justly believe, namely that there is one God, with proofs and reason accordant with truth?

For poets and philosophers, as to other subjects so also to this, have applied themselves in the way of conjecture, moved, by reason of their affinity with the afflatus from God, each one by his own soul, to try whether he could find out and apprehend the truth; but they have not been found competent fully to apprehend it, because they thought fit to learn, not from God concerning God, but each one from himself; hence they came each to his own conclusion respecting God, and matter, and forms, and the world. But we have for witnesses of the things we apprehend and believe, prophets, men who have pronounced concerning God and the things of God, guided by the Spirit of God.

And you too will admit, excelling all others as you do in intelligence and in piety towards the true God,
........... that it would be irrational for us to cease to believe in the Spirit from God,
........... who moved the mouths of the prophets like musical instruments,
........... and to give heed to mere human opinions.

Athenagoras the trinity: Chapter VIII.-Absurdities of Polytheism.

As regards, then, the doctrine that there was from the beginning one God, the Maker of this universe, consider it in this wise, that you may be acquainted with the argumentative grounds also of our faith.

If there were from the beginning two or more gods,

they were either in one and the same place, or each of them separately in his own.
In one and the same place they could not be.

For, if they are gods, they are not alike;

but because they are uncreated they are unlike:
for created things are like their patterns;
but the uncreated are unlike, being neither produced from any one, nor formed after the pattern of any one.

Hand and eye and foot are parts of one body, making up together one man: is God in this sense one?

And indeed Socrates was compounded and divided into parts,
just because he was created and perishable;
but God is
uncreated, and, impassible, and indivisible-does not, therefore, consist of parts.

But if, on the contrary, each of them exists separately,

since He that made the world is above the things created, and about the things He has made and set in order,
where can the other or the rest be?

For if the world, being made spherical, is confined within the circles of heaven,

and the Creator of the world is above the things created, managing that by His providential care of these,
what place is there for the second god, or for the other gods?

For he is not in the world, because it belongs to the other; nor about the world, for God the Maker of the world is above it.

But if he is neither in the world nor about the world (for all that surrounds it is occupied by this one ), where is he?

Is he above the world and [the first] God? In another world, or about another? But if he is in another or about another, then he is not about us, for he does not govern the world; nor is his power great, for he exists in a circumscribed space.

But if he is neither in another world (for all things are filled by the other), nor about another (for all things are occupied by the other), he clearly does not exist at all, for there is no place in which he can be.

Or what does he do, Seeing there is another to whom the world belongs,
and he is above the
Maker of the world, and yet is neither in the world nor about the world?

Is there, then, some other place where he can stand? But God, and what belongs to God, are above him. And what, too, shall be the place, seeing that the other fills the regions which are above the world? Perhaps he exerts a providential care? [By no means.] And yet, unless he does so, he has done nothing.

If, then, he neither does anything nor exercises providential care,
and if there is not another place in which he is,
then this Being of whom we speak is the one God from the beginning,
and the
sole Maker of the world.

Athenagoras the trinity: Chapter IX.-The Testimony of the Prophets.

If we satisfied ourselves with advancing such considerations as these, our doctrines might by some be looked upon as human. But, since the voices of the prophets confirm our arguments-for I think that you also, with your great zeal for knowledge, and your great attainments in learning, cannot be ignorant of the writings either of Moses or of Isaiah and Jeremiah,

and the other prophets, who, lifted in ecstasy above the natural operations of their minds by the impulses of the Divine Spirit,

uttered the things with which they were inspired,
the Spirit making use of them as a
flute-player breathes into a flute ;-what, then, do these men say?

"The Lord is our God; no other can be compared with Him."
And again: "I am God, the first and the last, and besides Me there is no God."

In like manner: "Before Me there was no other God, and after Me there shall be none; I am God, and there is none besides Me."

And as to His greatness: "Heaven is My throne, and the earth is the footstool of My feet: what house win ye build for Me, or what is the place of My rest? "

But I leave it to you, when you meet with the books themselves, to examine carefully the prophecies contained in them, that you may on fitting grounds defend us from the abuse cast upon us.

Athenagoras the trinity: Chapter X.-The Christians Worship the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

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 any one 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 idea and in operation;
for after the pattern of Him and by Him were all things 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 spirit,
........... the understanding and reason (nous kai\ lo/goj) 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 product of the Father, not as having been brought into existence (for from the beginning, 

God, who is the eternal mind [nous],

had the Logos in Himself, being from eternity instinct with Logos [logiko/j];
but in as much as
He came forth to be the idea and energizing power 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.

Another translation:

"The Son of God is the Word of the Father in thought and actuality. By him and through him all things were made, the Father and the Son being one. Since the Son is in the Father and the Father is in the Son by the unity and power of the Spirit,

"the Mind and Word of the Father is the Son of God.

"And if, in your exceedingly great wisdom, it occurs to you to inquire what is meant by `the Son,' I will tell you briefly: He is the first- begotten of the Father, not as having been produced

for from the beginning God had the Word in himself, God being eternal mind and eternally rational, but as coming forth to be the model and energizing force of all material things" (Athanagoras, 177 AD, Plea for the Christians 10:2-4).

Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. 1 Pet 1:11

And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus:

worship God:
for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Rev 19:10

Who, then, would not be astonished to hear men who speak of God the Father, and of God the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and who declare both their power in union and their distinction in order, called atheists?

Nor is our teaching in what relates to the divine nature confined to these points; but we recognise also a multitude of angels and ministers, whom God the Maker and Framer of the world distributed and appointed to their several posts by His Logos, to occupy themselves about the elements, and the heavens, and the world, and the things in it, and the goodly ordering of them all.

Athenagoras the trinity: Chapter XXIV.-Concerning the Angels and Giants.

What need is there, in speaking to you who have searched into every department of knowledge, to mention the poets, or to examine opinions of another kind? Let it suffice to say thus much. If the poets and philosophers did not acknowledge that there is one God, and concerning these gods were not of opinion, some that they are demons, others that they are matter, and others that they once were men,-there might be some show of reason for our being harassed as we are, since we employ language which makes a distinction between God and matter, and the natures of the two.

For, as we acknowledge a God, and a Son his Logos, and a Holy Spirit, united in essence,-the Father, the Son, the Spirit,
because the
Son is the Intelligence, Reason, Wisdom of the Father,
and the
Spirit an effluence, as light from fire;

Scholars are agreed that Paul equates the Holy Spirit to Jesus Christ in His pure or Holy Spirit form:

But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit : for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 1 Corinthians 2: 10

In verse 11, Paul says that God's Spirit is to God what our spirit is to us. We know that our spirit struggles against our flesh but we we are not created in the image of God as triplets.

For what man knoweth the things of a man,
save the spirit of man which is in him?
even so the things of God knoweth no man,
but the Spirit of God. 1 Corinthians 2: 11

God speaks through His Word or through Christ in person but now as pure or Holy Spirit. When the "Spirit guided Paul into all truth" His name was "Jesus of Nazareth."  

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world,
but the spirit which is of God;
that we might know the things a
that are freely given to us of God. 1 Corinthians 2: 12

Which things also we speak, not in the words which mans wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 1 Corinthians 2: 13

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually (figuratively) discerned. 1 Corinthians 2: 14

But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. 1 Corinthians 2: 15

In verse 16 Paul concludes the parallel comparison between God and His Spirit and we and our spirit. This Spirit of God is the Mind of Christ :

For who hath known the mind of the Lord,
that he may instruct him?
But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:16


Kenneth Sublett

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