Irenaeus on the Trinity

In about A.D. 180, Irenaeus (pictured at right) wrote the statement below concerning the triune nature of God. Here we find the basic elements of the doctrine of the Trinity. Note, in particular, the distinct role of each member of the Godhead and its relationship to all of humanity.
This is the rule of our faith, the foundation of the building, and what gives support to our behavior.
God the Father uncreated, who is uncontained, invisible, one God, creator of the universe; this is the first article of our faith.
And the second is: The Word of God, the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who appeared to the prophets according to their way of prophesying and according to the dispensation of the Father. Through him all things were created. Furthermore, in the fullness of time, in order to gather all things to himself, he became a human being amongst human beings, capable of being seen and touched, to destroy death, bring life, and restore fellowship between God and humanity.
And the third article is: The Holy Spirit, through whom the prophets prophesied, and our forebears learned of God and the righteous were led in the paths of justice, and who, in the fullness of time, was poured out in a new way on our human nature in order to renew humanity throughout the entire world in the sight of God.
          (The Christian Theology Reader edited by Alister McGrath, p. 93)  


Anonymous said…
Hi Ted,

Thanks again for sharing exciting aspects of the faith. This quote from Irenaeus is particularly exciting to me. It expresses a profound understanding of God in a very few words.

It is also of note to me that Irenaeus thought of the Word of God as being Jesus Christ. In today’s world the Word of God is most often thought of as being the Bible.

Now I don’t dismiss the interpretation of the Word of God as being the Bible. But I find it much more helpful to view the Word of God as Jesus Christ. This is the view the early church fathers, like John, had, and this view opens the door to better understanding some of Paul’s writings as he focused on the active Christ within.

The best to you always!

J. Richard Parker
Ted Johnston said…
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Richard.

For a wonderful discussion on the implications of God, who is a trinity, being love, view the current "You're Included" interview at
Anonymous said…
Hi Ted,

I just listened to the interview you recommended. And it made my heart leap for joy. You see, it shows a growing understanding in a number of circles of Trinitarian Theology. It also shows that my journey is not alone. To this end, I want to share a bit of my story.

It seems that somewhere around 1995Joe Tkach gave me a push that channeled a number of disjointed thoughts and events in my life into the formal start of my journey into Trinitarian Theology. But as the years went by, I developed a sense that, even in my own denomination (GCI) and in Christianity as a whole, I was on my own. However, I kept plugging along and learning ever more about Christ in us, our hope of glory. From time to time, I would look around to see if others were also on that journey. But alas, I saw no one.

So I just kept studying and analyzing what Paul and John are saying to the point that I finally felt comfortable in standing firm in the gospel of belief (Trinitarian Theology.) Surely, I had my own somewhat basic terms for aspects of this stance. But at least, I found my theological, although somewhat lonely, home.

However, over the last several years, I have noted others who are also on the same journey, and this is great for me to see. I even see others in my own denomination on that journey. Praise God! And, when I hear a new voice to me, like Dr. Chris Kettler’s, speak, I am thrilled.

Now, I know that this journey is unique to each of us and our groupings, and we all have our issues in this matter to address. I for one would dearly love to see our denomination come to a better understanding of the place of law in Trinitarian Theology and also of what Jesus was up to when He walked this earth 2000 years ago. Failure to address these subjects makes it really hard for our membership to understand Trinitarian Theology. But I am praying that this understanding will come in due time.

In the meantime, it is good to see that the journey continues not just for me but for others as well.

Thank you so much.

J. Richard Parker
SonsLoveLetter said…
The Bible Is A Trinitarian Book:

From Genesis to Revelation there are references to the trinitarian nature of God. God is one as clearly stated in Deuteronomy 6:4 "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one". The bible presents God, who is one, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit - Three in one.
Genesis 1:26 "Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness..." The 'us' and 'our' in this verse are not references to God and His angels, as man is not made in the image of angels! It is a reference to the triune God: Father, Son and Spirit.
The prophecy in Isaiah chapter 9 and verse 6 about the Incarnation also illustrates the trinitarian nature of God. "For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace". (N.I.V.) There is no comma between 'Wonderful' and 'Counsellor' in several modern translations.
"Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God" is a reference to the Holy Spirit. "Everlasting Father" The Father. "Prince of Peace" Jesus the Son. "For in Christ all the fulness of the Deity lives in bodily form" (Colossians 2:9)
1 Corinthians 13:13 "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love" The 'love' chapter also illustrates the trinitarian nature of God. "God is love" (1 John 4:8;16) "Christ is our hope" (1 Timothy 1:1) And faith is a gift of the Spirit (Ephesians 2:8; Galatians 5:22).
Also in Revelation chapter 14, verses 1 and 13 refers to the triune God: Father, Son and Spirit.
"Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with Him 144,000 who had His name and His Father's name written on their foreheads...(verse 13) Then I heard a voice from heaven say, "Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Yes" says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them." (N.I.V)
John 1:29 "The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world."
These are just some of the verses that clearly show the bible to be a trinitarian book!
Anonymous said…
Dear Richard,

You seem to be intrigued by the topic of the trinity according to the Patristic Fathers (the earliest Christians, including Irenaeus). A note on the notion of the Word of God. In early Christian formation of doctrines, especially in the East, it helped those who were formulating the doctrines to be able to appeal to the audience they were addressing. For example, Justin Martyr and Irenaeus are associated with preaching to Greeks and Jews. In light of this, The Word, or logos, is a greek (Stoic) concept of a deity that is pure and eternal, which is why you see the early Christians like Martyr and Irenaeus appealing to God as the Word, as the greek audience of philosophers would have been able to associate with this definition of God. Christ is an incarnated form of the Logos (what Martyr calls the Logos-Son). I just thought I would share that in case you are in any way confused.
Anonymous said…
A Trinitarian does not grasp the nature of God. John 17:3 states that our salvation depends on our knowing God. How does John 1:29 support the Trinity doctrine?
Ted Johnston said…
Anonymous, note that the John 1:29 reference is referring back to Rev. 14:1, 13 where all three Persons of the Trinity are mentioned and the Son of God is referred to as "the Lamb" incidating his role as God's sacrifice for our salvation.
Godfrey Mark said…
This article of really helped me on my exams on Patrology.