A Synopsis of the Development of Trinitarian Thought From The First Century Church Fathers to the Second Century Apologists -- By: Mark Carpenter
Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 26:2 (Fall 2005)
Article: A Synopsis of the Development of Trinitarian Thought From The First Century Church Fathers to the Second Century Apologists
Author: Mark Carpenter
TRINJ 26:2 (Fall 2005) p. 293
A Synopsis of the Development
of Trinitarian Thought From
The First Century Church Fathers
to the Second Century Apologists
Mark Carpenter is a Ph.D. student at Mid America Baptist Theological Seminary.
“What is truth?” The writer of this paper believes this to be one of the most amazing statements in the Bible. Why? Because when Pontius Pilate uttered this famous question he was standing face-to-face and looking eye-to-eye at eternal truth; and he did not see it! For the first two centuries of the Christian church, men of God took it upon themselves to study, expound, and publish works explaining their faith in the Christian God. Why? Because they stood face-to-face and looked eye-to-eye with a pagan world that claimed to desire truth but rejected it when they saw it. This world not only rejected the truths of God’s Word, frequently they attacked it.
Within the early church, men responded by presenting to the public a series of treatises challenging the opponents of Christianity. These writers were called apologists. When the earliest apologists wrote, they were not intending to define the Christian faith so much as to defend it. For this reason, the earliest Christian writings do not contain any deep systematic theology. This is perhaps due to the intended audience. Most of these apologetic works counter the attacks of the philosophical world and are themselves thoroughly philosophic. However, one may still glean from these writings various and valuable theological truths.
The aim in this study is to offer a chronological overview of early Christian writers. This overview will pertain solely on the development of Trinitarian thought. The Trinity was not a primary focus among these writers. Nevertheless, it is possible to find dotted throughout these works both allusions and explicit statements supporting Trinitarian theological convictions.
There are a few works, such as First and Second Clement, the Diatessaron, and the Shepherd of Hermas which are not addressed. These works do not contain enough data regarding the Trinity to merit much investigation. The Diatessaron is a harmony of the
TRINJ 26:2 (Fall 2005) p. 294
gospels compiled by Tatian.1 Though it does speak much of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, few original thoughts are found.
There are many secondary sources which attempt to chart the development of Trinitarian thought in this era. Many of these works, however, present mere cameo quotes from second and third century writers. The real arguments start with such as Tertullia...
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