Dale Tuggy

Dale Tuggy is Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Fredonia, where he teaches courses in analytic theology, philosophy of religion, religious studies, and the history of philosophy.


  1. VaulDogWarrior
    April 30, 2016 @ 9:34 am

    I have been looking for a way to describe the fallacy of John Henry Newman’s Development of Doctrine for a long time now. The Inevitability Fallacy might do it, or how about perhaps The Doctrinal Development Fallacy or The Seed Fallacy? This idea that what we have now was a natural development of what we had then. JHN saw it like a seed that grew into a great oak, but of course this is assuming much. And it must be admitted by the proponents of such theories that the earlier Christians with their “poorer seed theologies”, never had any idea that their theology was one that would develop over centuries into something quite different from what it was then. They believed quite confidently that they had received the fullness of the truth from Jesus through His inspired Apostles.

  2. dizern
    December 15, 2015 @ 11:42 am

    I think you could make your point without accusing motivations; as if Trinitarians sit around sneakily thinking up elaborate ways to use “weasel language” in an “obvious total lack of evidence” and just “hope you don’t ask” about it. Really, lol? And things like wanting to “allow for doctrinal development” are somehow “trivially true interpretations.” Doesn’t that itself seem like weasel language?!

    >>There can be no obvious implications which no attentive reader notices for centuries!

    Hey Jews, that’s your Messiah over there.

  3. Miguel de Servet
    December 11, 2015 @ 10:22 am


    you provide us with a series of presumed trinitarian “fallacies” (the development fallacy, the “inevitability fallacy”, the “providential fallacy”). What you stubbornly refuse to consider (in spite of the umpteen opportunities that you have been given) is that, with all your “fallacies”, you end up trapped in a rather ludicrous … er … unscholarly position, viz. that the full-fledged (con-substantial, co-eternal, co-equal, tri-personal) trinity would have come to earth out of the blue, like a meteorite, some time in the 4th century CE.

    When exactly, BTW?

    Certainly NOT in 325 CE (Nicea). Please consider two of the most staunch defenders of Nicea.

    Marcellus of Ancyra (+ ca. 374 CE) refused to his last day, to speak of “three hypostases“.

    Also Athanasius of Alexandria (ca. 298 – 373 CE), at least until the Synod of Alexandria (362 CE) always spoke of God as one hypostasis.

    Then Athanasius met the Cappadocian scoundrels …

  4. John B
    December 7, 2015 @ 3:21 pm

    Obvious….ly not obvious

    We are often keen to know and teach the truth, yet we should know that information entering and processed by our minds is so powerfully affected by their interpretive lenses. Here is an example: I can be 100% certain that of those who believe in the 4th century version of the doctrine of the Trinity, of three con-substantial, co-eternal, coequal persons in one supreme God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (who are not each other), each and every one were taught
    it … I cannot be nearly so sure of other central doctrines: the creation; Jesus Christ, Lord and saviour; atoning sacrifice for sins, the resurrection; the second coming. Why? Because someone
    reading this might believe in those aspects of the Christian faith simply from having found them in a Bible.

    And yet, along with (or perhaps crowning) those more explicit statements of belief, the Trinity is central to most mainstream churches and is interwoven, at times very poorly indeed, into our doxology and prayer-life. It is everywhere, in fact, except for one crucial place – at least in its “everywhereness”.

    I want to put this now into perspective. Let us imagine that we are among the 3000 mentioned in Acts that rapidly became followers of the Way, but that this all happened at the close of 2015. We now follow Jesus, he is our Lord, and we can call on him, although we mainly still devote our prayer
    lives to God, whom Jesus so powerfully revealed as Father. We receive God’s Holy Spirit, we see God working powerfully in many ways and many lives and situations are transformed. We have life. We have joy. We have forgiveness. We experience belonging and hope. The Messiah has come at last as God had promised, he has even shown us what God is like.

    Within a few decades, we will have powerful teachers who even expound that Jesus perfectly represented and reflected God here on Earth. Some of us have started to “fall asleep” already, but our children are getting the picture, Jesus Christ’s reign and kingdom and authority are forever, because they are God-appointed. However, in almost every case, our leading spiritual authorities of the Way are careful to make distinctions between God himself and Jesus. No-one believes in or talks about anything like the Holy Trinity… in fact, for people to believe and discuss that this is central (and crucial) is going to take another 360 years, taking us approximately to the year 2375.

    So for people who might one day think that the Triune God is a simple obvious affair, or was a simple affair, they are missing something vital: this doctrine, as beautiful and defensible as you might find it in 2375, is not obvious to us now, since neither our children, nor our children’s children will define their beliefs in the divine this way. Our children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children will be
    starting to make that breakthrough, however, three and a half centuries from now.

    • Dale Tuggy
      December 7, 2015 @ 7:27 pm

      Excellent comment. For some reason, it’s so hard for us to put ourselves back in their time, in the first centuries. So many of us are taught only to peer down from the commanding heights (it is thought) of Nicea, or rather, Constantinople – as it all lead, surely inevitably to that. When you read a whole lot of pre-Nicene church history, it just doesn’t look inevitable or obvious. Of course, many are unwilling to do that. They want to stay on the Nicene mountaint, stick out a long fishing pole, and pull up a few choice quotes from mainstream Christians in the first three centuries which kind of sound like trinitarianism. Apologists would have us think that this is enough, but it’s not. It just gives us a few jewels with which to decorate the old catholic narrative.

      • John B
        December 8, 2015 @ 5:44 am

        I LOVE the Nicene mountain and fishing pole image! Can you find that on google image search…? Could trinities.org make good use of an in-house cartoonist (not me) 😉

  5. John Tracey
    December 6, 2015 @ 7:08 pm

    Hello Dale,

    Great site – thanks.

    I offer an opinion for your consideration.

    I am not an academic but I do consider myself an intellectual. My perspective comes from a basic understanding of Australian Aboriginal cosmology and ceremony and the deep connections I have found between it and the bible – if the Roman cultural baggage can be ignored.

    The basic difference between biblical cosmology and Nicean theology is not trinity v singularity. Both of these modes are cultural derivatives of Hellenic Gods – named personalities in the sky (Theos/Zeus). On the other hand, the bible is stories of tribal indigenous Hebrews. Biblical notions of God are the Elohiym (collective of creator spirits whose breath animates the world) and Yahwey (nameless existential presence) – derivative of African (and similar to Aus Aboriginal), not Hellenic, divine archetypes.

    The Hellenic theos is rooted in Hellenic dualism and the dimensional separation of spirit and matter. God lives in the other-world. The God of the bible and indigenous cosmology animates the material world and is not separate from the land or the people.

    I thrash it out a bit here – https://newaustralianwineskins.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/is-god-a-european/

    Of course notions of god are just the tip of the iceberg. The difference between a tribal indigenous reading of the bible and an imperial citizenship reading lead to very different meanings of things like salvation, ceremony, spiritual authority, notions of good and evil, sexuality, economics, etc.

    • John Tracey
      December 6, 2015 @ 8:00 pm

      p.s. In light of the above, I suggest that most if not all the times “pater” is used in the new testament it is referring to Abraham and/or Jacob, David or Adam. To the father of the son of man, not to God. Abraham is always referred to as pater. Only when “theos” is used can we be sure the new testament is referring to God.

      I suggest, “The father, son and holy ghost” refers to the relationship of the ancestors to the descendants (and jesus in particular). To be baptised into this is to be assimilated into the legacy of the ancestors – the covenant of Abraham and law of Moses (in defiance of Caesar’s claim to ancestral land).

      • Dale Tuggy
        December 7, 2015 @ 7:18 pm

        John, I’m sorry, but your interpretive suggestions about the NT are off the wall. “Ho “pater” is patently God in most cases. Of course, the same word is used of various humans, but the context, to my knowledge, always makes it clear which usage is at hand.

        Like many nowadays, you seem to think that panentheism (or pantheism?) is better than monotheism. I doubt that it is, though. The monotheists too thinks that God is in some sense “in” all of the cosmos.

        “I suggest, “The father, son and holy ghost” refers to the relationship
        of the ancestors to the descendants (and jesus in particular).”

        I like to think I’m a patient and open-minded guy, but this is just too much. I suggest you get a good study Bible and actually see what all scholars agree on concerning these matters. You’ll get better results that way than by flying by the seat of your pants.

        • John Tracey
          December 7, 2015 @ 9:21 pm

          “All the scholars” approach the bible from European culture and gestalt, the heritage of Rome. There are other cultural gestalts. The question is, what was the consciousness of the bible writers? Hebrew or gentile? That radical transformation of the church from one to the other in the first two centuries is the same process as today’s indigenous cultures being assimilated into the empire to the point that their old modes of knowledge are forgotten. Why would this not be the case for Hebrew consciousness after 70AD?

          I think Reza Aslan has begun to unpick some of the European cultural assumptions about Jesus?

          If you look at your concordance or lexicon you will see that pater is not patently god, the same word refers to all manner of relatives and ancestors. Finding the dividing line between ancestor reference and god reference is purely a matter of the lens through which you are looking at it.

          • Rivers
            December 8, 2015 @ 1:08 am


            The only way to determine the “consciousness” of the apostolic writers is to accurately exegete their own use of language in the canonical scriptures. A strong case can even be made that all of these documents were originally composed before the Jewish Wars (c. 70 AD).

            It’s evident in the canonical writings that Jesus and the apostles essentially repudiated the religion of the Jewish leaders and scribes of their own generation. Thus, there’s little benefit to entertaining speculation about any influence from uncorroborated external sources.

            • John Tracey
              December 8, 2015 @ 4:47 pm

              Rivers, while it is the consensus of Roman theology that “Jesus repudiated the religion of the Jewish leaders and scribes”, this orthodoxy is born of Roman anti-semitism, not what the bible says.

              Jesus said he had come to fulfill the law and prophets, not repudiate them. While Jesus was indeed condemning of the Hasmonean Dynasty, this was not because of its religion but because of its collaboration with Rome – and its abandonment of key religious law including the Jubilee (that threatened Roman banking). The old testament prophetic tradition is also very critical of Hebrew society but, like Jesus, the prophets call the people back into the covenantal relationship, not repudiate it. It is important to distinguish between Jesus’ mass movement in Galillee and the temple authorities in Jerusalem, but the church does not.

              I agree that some of the new testament was probably written before 70 AD. In the 7th decade their was a nationalist revolt against Rome, which was the context of the documenting of the stories, I strongly suspect that the Jesus story was a key element in the uprising. Jesus teaching about coins – “whose head?” seems a direct reference to the Hebrew “freedom coins” minted in the 7th decade in order to boycott Roman currencies.

              Even if it was all written after 70AD, it was still written by, for and about tribal indigenous Hebrews and centered on Abraham’s land covenant. By the time of Nicea there was no tribal indigenous Hebrew world view left in Christianity, it was a gentile religion with a very different idea of what a god is. Constantine even banned the passover and persecuted Jews.

              • John Tracey
                December 8, 2015 @ 5:07 pm

                Dale, Our father who is art in heaven? – Mat 8:11 “And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”

                • John Tracey
                  December 8, 2015 @ 5:10 pm

                  The biblical god does not live in heaven, it created heaven. This is a key paradigm difference between Hellenic and Hebrew cosmology.

                  • John Tracey
                    December 9, 2015 @ 6:07 pm

                    Regarding “ho pater”…

                    The Aramaic Abba, like the Greek Pater, means male ancestor. It is traditional Roman assumption alone that interprets this word as a synonym of theos.

                    I am not arguing that God and the ancestors are two different paradigms, quite the opposite. Ancestor veneration is not ancestor worship.

                    In Romans and Galations the word is used in the context of a discussion of children of God. The difference of paradigm comes in how it is that we are/become children of God. The ancestral/genealogical/tribal paradigm says that we (men) are sons of by way of the ancestors – father begat father begat father all the way back to Adam who was begat by God. God manifests in the tribal bloodline, this is the nature of the covenant – the descendants of Abraham and Jacob.

                    The Hellenist sky god archetype combined with the imperial relationship to land – by way of covenant with Caesar not God and the extinguishment of ancestral claim to land, provides a cultural platform that was/is blind to the primary bible story of indigenous connection to land and resistance to imperialism – and the spirituality of all that, including concepts of God.

                    Matthew’s genealogy begins by describing “Jesus as the Son of David, the Son of Abraham”. Luke’s genealogy goes back to Adam. Jesus always refers to himself as the son of man. Why should these things not be considered in exploring the meaning of “father, son and holy ghost”?

              • Rivers
                December 10, 2015 @ 11:28 pm


                I think the biblical testimony certainly suggests that Jesus and the apostles repudiated the Jewish leaders and scribes in Judea (Matthew 7:29; Matthew 23:13-29; Mark 15:31; Luke 19:47; 1 Corinthians 2:6-8, etc.).

                I don’t see a lot of evidence that Jesus was concerned about “Jewish collaboration with Rome.” The apostolic writers seem very careful to put the blame on their Jewish rulers for instigating all the persecution against Jesus and the disciples (e.g. Luke 23:4; John 19:12). In fact, the entire Acts seems to have been written to show that Paul did nothing to deserve any accusations from his Jewish opponents and that the Romans were helpful to him (e.g. Acts 21:31; Acts 23:7).

                I doubt if Jesus or his disciples had any part in the Jewish revolt. Jesus plainly told them not to leave when they saw the armies gathering for battle (Luke 21:20-22). From what I can tell, the canonical scriptures were all written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and Herod’s temple and we don’t know eye-witness testimony regarding what happened to most of the apostles and their disciples.

                I do agree with you that Jesus and the apostles were ministering exclusively to the Israelites. I think even Paul’s converts were physical descendants of Abraham (Romans 3-4; Galatians 3-4). The issue for Paul was that many Israelites were “uncircumcised” and thus their Jewish brethren were unwilling to associate with them (John 4:9; Acts 10:28). This is why the story of Abraham’s faith was critical to Paul’s “gospel to the uncircumcised.”

                • John Tracey
                  December 11, 2015 @ 4:57 am

                  Hello Rivers,

                  Yes Jesus certainly attacks the Jewish leaders however is attack is clear and specific – it is about their hypocrisy, not their adherence to the Hebrew law.

                  ““Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! “

                  ““Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

                  Jesus commentary on the law in the sermon on the mount deepens and broadens the law, it amplifies the law, not diminishes it.

                  The pharisees, saducees and scribes were part of the Hasmonean priestly government that jointly ruled with Rome. The corruption of the temple built with Roman loot, the role of Rome’s puppets, the Herod dynasty (and their fraudulent claim to Aaronite priesthood) are direct connections to Rome attacked by Jesus and John the Baptist. I urge you to explore Hillel (Pharisee at time of Jesus birth) and the Jubilee controversy to understand Jesus’ debates about Sabbath (Jubilee) law with the pharisees. The Jubilee itself, as proclaimed by Jesus, is a direct attack on Roman colonisation of land and the Roman banking system.

                  As I mentioned before, it is important to distinguish between the jesus movement in Galilee and the Jerusalem authorities.

                  According to the new testament, Jesus held mass meetings of thousands of people in Galilee. Then thousands marched from Galilee to Jerusalem picking up people in villages along the way. The march entered jerusalem declaring the reestablishment of David’s Kingdom with Jesus as King (Hosanna). Then Jesus disrupts the temple. After the resurrection, thousands in Jerusalem join the disciples and the whole province of Galilee joined the Jerusalem disciples – the reunification of Israel and Judea as foretold by the prophets.

                  It is naive to think that such a significant social movement had no part in the sixth decade rebellion. (Have you considered the connection between “freedom coins” and Jesus’ question, whose head is on the coin?)

                  Circumcision is Abraham’s land covenant – it is the covenant of the descendants. In the NT there is no controversy about hebrews being circumcised and all the men were. The controversy is over gentiles, who are not descendants of Abraham, being circumcised. The disciples ruling on the matter is that gentile followers should follow the law of Moses in all ways except for circumcision. This is an upholding of the law, not a diminishing of it.

                  • John Tracey
                    December 11, 2015 @ 5:04 am


                    the ancestral circumcision covenant – the covenant of ancestor (father) and descendant (son) is, I suggest, a clue to understanding the meaning of baptism in the name of the “father, son and holy ghost”.

                  • Rivers
                    December 11, 2015 @ 10:59 pm


                    I like your insights into the movement of the ministry of Jesus from Galilee to Judea. However, I don’t speculate about any involvement of Christianity in the Jewish Wars because there isn’t any biblical evidence to support it.

                    I also agree with the connection between circumcision and the land promise made to Abraham. However, I don’t think Paul’s uncircumcised converts were non-Abrahamic. Circumcision was only a matter of obedience for descendants of Abraham (Genesis 17:10-14). The Israelites understood that “the Law requires all heathens to be excluded from Israel” (Nehemiah 13:1-3).

                    There’s also no evidence in the Hebrew scriptures that any non-Abrahamic people were ever compelled to be circumcised either. Paul’s arguments in Galatians 3-4 and Romans 3-4 make no sense if his converts were not Abrahamic people. God never held the heathen nations accountable to the Law (Psalms 147:19-20; Amos 3:1-2).

                    • Roman
                      December 14, 2015 @ 10:46 am

                      He did to those who were proselytes, which was what the Whole question was about.
                      The Nation of Israel didn’t exist at that time outside of the Judeans that had returned from Babylon.

                    • John Tracey
                      December 14, 2015 @ 6:13 pm

                      Hello Roman, I’ll respond to all your comments here.

                      It is not absolutely clear that christians didn’t take part in the rebellion. I again refer to “Freedom coins” and Jesus’ question “whose head is on the coin” as a clear and specific confluence between Jesus and the rebellion. In early Acts we hear of a time of unity between Samaria, Galillee and Judea, where the Jubilee economic redistribution was happening and the Sanhedron was ruling without Rome. This, it seems to me, is clearly talking about the liberated Judea.

                      The rebellion did not follow Jesus, that is not what I am saying. The rebellion fought against itself more than against Rome, it did not manifest the unity of tribes declared by Jesus and the prophets. They fought the war in the city. Jesus said to run to the wilderness when the invasion came, just as the Maccabees revolt abandoned the cities to defeat the Greeks. So the revolution was certainly not Christian, it seems to me it was a betrayal of and deviation from the principles of tribal unity of the Galilee march and vision of the prophets. We can understand elements of the rebellion through the indigenous sovereignty of Jesus but we can’t see Jesus in the sectarian revolt.

                      I do not buy into the non-violent Jesus myth. He said he had not come to bring peace but a sword. The sword was the primary zealot symbol and Jesus repeatedly refers to it (as do the prophets). He entered the temple with a weapon (it was not just a piece of rope, it was a flagellum) and used it to evict people. “Love your enemy” and “turn the other cheek” have been misinterpreted, bastardised and reinvented. (the enemy was the Samaritans/Northern kingdom of Israel and turn the other cheek refers to Lamentations 3: 30). While jesus spoke repeatedly and explicitly about wealth and power, not once did he speak of violence and non-violence. The non-violent Jesus is a modern fiction.

                      Regarding your above comment about gentile influence on Hebrew consciousness……

                      Firstly, yes the new testament Hebrews were Hellenised, to various degrees from the wild John the Baptist at one end of the spectrum to the Tarsus born S/Paul at the other. The new testament has all manner of demons and evil spirits in line with Hellenist superstition that cannot be found in the old testament. However, does this mean that the hebrew concept of God was Hellenised?

                      The biblical history of the Hebrews from Jacob to Jesus is a history of colonial domination, from Egypt to Babylon to Greece to Rome. A common theme through out it all is the taboo on worshipping foreign gods. Paul’s acknowledgement of the unknown God at the rock of Mars (Acts 17) provides a clear juxtaposition of Hellenic and Hebrew theology at the time.

                      Also, you said – “The Nation of Israel didn’t exist at that time outside of the Judeans that had returned from Babylon” You are basically wrong in that Israel and Judea were the warring tribal groups – Judea was never Israel, or at least not since Solomon. However, Jesus concern for the lost sheep, the lost tribes of Israel, suggests that the broader national grouping was significant to him, as it was to the old testament prophets. As I see it, a reconcilliation of the tribes – Judah and all the rest(Israel), is central to jesus mission and the prophecy of Isaiah.

                      And also, you said “The Church established the “jubilee” as the Kingdom here while waiting for the eschaton”. This is not what the bible says it is. It is the epicentre of the Sabbath law of Moses. It was the return of all land to tribal custodians and the extinguishment of debt – both direct threats to Roman colonisation. I think this is what Jesus meant. It was banned by the Greeks and reestablished after Macabees but renegotiated with Rome. (see – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prozbul)

                    • Roman
                      December 15, 2015 @ 4:53 am

                      The Whole coin issue is interesting, but there are various interpretations, as to what these “Gods Things” are, What exactly do you mean by Judea, Sameria and Galilee in Unity, where does it say that? Also the redistibution was really just the Church? As far as teh Sanhedron being outside of Roman rulership, where are you getting that?
                      Also With Jesus going away during a rebellion … don’t know where you’re getting that either …
                      That Jesus was non-violent is not a myth, you get it from a ton of the Q sayings, you get it from parts of Mark, you get it from the fact that after Jesus was killed none of his disciples were. The Whole “I came to bring a sword” needs to be taken in context, what does he say RIGHT after? He talks about breaking apart families, what’s his point? His point is obviously metaphorical, he’s here to break up the Powers that be, but that does not imply violence, not at all. Jesus believed in the Eschaton.
                      Turn the other cheek, is not the only part of that saying, read the rest of the context, it’s Clear what it’s saying, and no the enemy was not galileans or Samaritans, because right after he says “pray for those persecuting you,” which is clearly the Romans.
                      The absolute monotheist God is found in the OT, not just the NT, InFact that is the big contribution of Judaism to the world.
                      After Israel was destroyed by Assyria it ceased to exist … This is a historical fact.
                      The Jubilee that Jesus is talking about has to be seen through the messianic prophesies of Isaiah, which is the means through which he referenced the Jubilee.

                    • John Tracey
                      December 15, 2015 @ 6:53 pm


                      You ask…..“What exactly do you mean by Judea, Sameria and Galilee in Unity, where does it say that?”

                      Acts 9: 31 Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified.

                      Acts 1:6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me[a] in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

                      Acts 8:5 Then Philip went down to the[a] city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. 6 And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip

                      Acts 8:14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, 15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.

                      All this is very significant in terms of Isaiah’s prophecy of the reunification of the tribes, not since the breakup of David’s Kingdom did such untiy exist, which I suspect is why it was recorded.

                      You ask – “As far as teh Sanhedron being outside of Roman rulership, where are you getting that?”

                      We know that Rome was evicted in the 60s, during that time obviously the Sanhedron was independent of Rome. The question is, what period does the book of Acts describe? It was written during or after this time. The freedom of the Acts community, the implications for Roman tax of the common purse and most of all the rapidly growing movement in Jerusalem and Samaria (as the gospels show, there was already a mass movement in Galillee) indicate a radical transformation from the power structure of Pilate, Herod and the priests during the crucifixion.

                      With regard to, for example Samaria, Acts covers a timespan from the disciples’ missions to Samaria to the whole of Samaria turning to God, so whatever the timeframe we are talking about a major social movement, perhaps over decades, happened.

                      My speculation would be that the relationship between the Sanhedron and Rome broke down when the statue of Caligula was put in the Jerusalem temple in the 40s. After that was sorted out the Roman factions were in conflict with each other as they jostled for power in the succession of emperors, their dysfunction being a major factor leading to the insurrection.

                      Regarding swords – it may be metaphorical but it is a lot deeper than just breaking apart families. The passage’s origin is Moses commanding the faithful to slaughter the unfaithful, even their own families – Exodus 32:25-29. This metaphor is reinforced with the zealot/Macabees symbol of the sword in that kin Hebrews who collaborated with the Greek invaders were assassinated along with the invaders. if you are into Q, the parallel passage in Luke is “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!”. I suggest the reference to families has to be understood in this more violent context.

                      And Isaiah spoke of the Jubilee as the restoration of Moses law too. The reunification of the tribes with their land was the hope of Isaiah’s vision.

                    • John Tracey
                      December 15, 2015 @ 7:17 pm


                      The Caligula statue reminded me of another question you asked – “Also With Jesus going away during a rebellion … don’t know where you’re getting that either”

                      Please consider – Mark 13:14 “So when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’[d] spoken of by Daniel the prophet,[e] standing where it ought not” (let the reader understand), “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let him who is on the housetop not go down into the house, nor enter to take anything out of his house. 16 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.

                      Could it be that the abomination was Caligula’s statue? If so, this would mark the beginning of the revolution, in Jesus terms, when the faithful should abandon the city just as the Macabees response to invading Greek armies. (But the insurrection tried to defend the city – but that is another story)

                    • Roman
                      December 16, 2015 @ 4:48 am

                      It could be, but I think it probably was the Roman Legion Idols that came in the 60s, because remember the Statue edict was quickly taken back.

                    • Roman
                      December 16, 2015 @ 4:46 am

                      Oh ok, that’s about the unity between Christians throughout Judea, Samaria and Galilee, not about generaly political unity of the population. During the revolutionary times Samaria certainly would not be included, since they were Heretics according to Zealous Jews, including Zealots.
                      Acts is a history of the ecclesia, the Church, not the political history of first Century palestine.
                      In the 60s the revolt was done by the Zealots, the Sanhedron was mostly made up of Saduccess and Pharisees who were Loyal to Rome … those People were killed by the Zealots, not left to rule …. Read Josephus’ accounts, the traditional Jewish rulership was NOT left in Place during the revolt.
                      Caligula put the the statue up, but remember he reversed the order, InFact he never actually put the statue up, so a revolt was averted. Antiquities book 18.
                      I don’t think the sword statement has anything to do With Exodus 32, but that being said, we have to take that stement within the larger context of the Q sayings, which are often explicitly pacifistic, radically so, and on the historical history of the the post execution of Jesus, his movement was not treated as a violent one, as well as the history of the early Church.
                      It was, if anything, pacifist. In 130, the Christians refused to go along With Bar Kochba’s revolt which put them at odds With many of the Jews that went along With it.
                      You can’t just take revolutionary statements by Jesus out of context, and assume he must be the same kind of revolutionary as the Zealots … when it’s completely Clear he wasn’t.

                    • Rivers
                      December 15, 2015 @ 10:00 pm


                      I don’t understand you comment.

                    • Roman
                      December 16, 2015 @ 3:00 am

                      Proselytes were those who were not descendants of Abraham, but who joined the nation of Israel and thus were under Law.
                      The question was whether or not gentile converts to Christianity should be treated like Proselytes and be under the Law.
                      After the destruction of the 10 tribe nation of Israel, the nation did not exist as a distinct People …

                    • Rivers
                      December 22, 2015 @ 7:09 am


                      There’s actually no evidence in scripture that “proselytes” were non-Israelites. Also, the “Jews” were the “nation” even after most of the northern tribes were dispersed (Acts 10:22; Acts 26:4).

                    • Roman
                      December 22, 2015 @ 8:08 am

                      The only is Israleites that existed were the Jews, outside of that there was no Israel, the diaspora were dispersed Jews. Had they actually been Israelites they wouldn’t have to be converted, Matthew 23:15, I mean it’s an amazing view you have, that some how the northern tribes existed …. Dispite the fact no historian thinks they survived the Assyrian conquest

                    • John Tracey
                      December 22, 2015 @ 5:20 pm

                      Mat 19:28 “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

                      Luke22:29 And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, 30 that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

                      Acts 26:7 To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain.

                      James 1:1 James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.

                    • Roman
                      December 23, 2015 @ 4:46 am

                      It’s a prophetic and mataphorical usage of the term.

                      I mean listen, if your going to throw away all historical evidence just to take those verses literally go ahead … Jews still today use “twelve tribe” language, but that doesn’t mean the tribes actually exist as distinct tribes.

                    • Rivers
                      December 26, 2015 @ 12:25 pm


                      I agree. The testimony of Jesus and the apostles certainly doesn’t support the idea that there were any “lost tribes” even after the Northern Kingdom was captured by the Assyrians.

                      Not only are the “twelve tribes” mentioned throughout the apostolic writings, but there are various people identified with a specific tribe (e.g. Luke 2:36). The writer of the 4th Gospel also identified the “Samaritans” and certain “Greeks” as fellow Israelites who were not “Jewish” (John 4:12; John 7:35).

                      The whole point of the “new covenant” promise (Jeremiah 31:31) was to restore the twelve tribes and unite them into one kingdom (Ezekiel 37:15-28). They even appear together in the “new heavens and new earth” (Revelation 21:12).

                    • Rivers
                      December 24, 2015 @ 8:12 am


                      The prophets often spoke of the restoration of the tribes of the Northern Kingdom (i.e. Israel). In fact the “new covenant” promise itself names “the house of Israel” along with “the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:31). Paul also quoted from the prophet Hosea in order to identify his uncircumcised “gentiles” converts with the restoration of the tribes of the Northern Kingdom (Romans 9:24-26) and of Jacob’s prophecy about “Ephraim” as “a fullness of gentiles” (Romans 11:26; cf. Genesis 48:19-20).

                      My original point was that, contrary to what some “historians” claim, there is no biblical evidence that any of these “proselytes” mentioned in scripture were non-Israelites. Thus, I don’t think it’s reasonable to conclude that the Jews were trying to convert heathens.

                    • Roman
                      December 26, 2015 @ 8:51 am

                      Yes there is evidence, in the law code they are called foreigners, and Israelites, had they been Israelites would have not needed to convert, proselytes did (Matthew 22:15).

                      Also it’s very naive and I think a little bit silly to insist on ignoring all of established history when interpreting the bible.

                      2 kings 17-18. And every historian agrees they disappeared as a distinct ex group, as almost all peoples destroyed by the Assyrians did.

                      A blizzare way over literal reading of Paul doesn’t change that.

                    • Rivers
                      December 26, 2015 @ 12:14 pm


                      I think it’s “a bit silly” for you to claim that Israelites (or Jews) were making proselytes of heathen people when there isn’t a single example of it in anywhere in scripture, and when they understood that “the Law excludes all foreigners from Israel” (Nehemiah 13:1-3) and thus they “separated themselves from all foreigners” (Nehemiah 9:2; Ezra 10:11; Nehemiah 10:28).

                      It’s also misleading for you to suggest that “all historians” and “established history” supposedly agree with your view. This is simply not true (and the biblical “history” should be considered the most relevant source of knowledge about how the Jews who interacted with Jesus and the apostles were practicing their own religion).

                  • Roman
                    December 14, 2015 @ 10:44 am

                    It’s absolutely Clear that the Christians, even those who followed James, didn’t take part in the rebellion. We know this because of the emnity which grew between Judaism and Christianity, starting post 70 and especially post 130.
                    Now yes, Jesus declared the Jubilee, and yes that was a revolutionary statemetn, and yes he declared the Kingdom of God, yes that was a revolutionary statement, and yes he attacked the temply economic system as corrupt.
                    But Jesus’ “revolution” was patently non-violent. We know this because after he was killed, his disciples were not immediately rounded up and killed. We also know this because of the distinctly pacifistic sayings in Q.
                    The Church established the “jubilee” as the Kingdom here while waiting for the eschaton as we can see at the end of Acts 2 and Acts 4, and Paul’s movement then universalized the idea.
                    The Zealots were not at all about Universalizing the Kingdom, as Jesus hinted at and Paul realized, they were (obviously) not pacifists, and they were all about the temple, whereas there is good reason to believe that the Jewish Christians didn’t sacrifice.
                    I think it’s important to not be binary here, yes Jesus was against the Roman system, so were the Zealots, that does not in anyway mean that they were in agreement over much at all.

          • Roman
            December 14, 2015 @ 10:23 am

            I just want to jump in here for one second. When it comes to the time when Jesus walked, there was no such thing as a Non-Gentile influenced Jewish consciousness. Ever since Alexander the Great walked into the Temple Judaism was struggling With and often against Hellenism. So for example, the concept of a Messiah was strongly tied to the fact of Foreign domination over Judea, and the Maccabean revolt, all of which was forced on the Judean world by Hellenistic Domination.
            As far as Reza Aslan, to be honest, a lot of what he does, and many others who follow the “social revolutionary” model (which of course is partially true, along With other Historical Jesus models, but it’s not the same story), is read Jesus in light of Enlightenment thinking, it’s an extremely European Cultural Reading.

  6. Thomas
    November 20, 2015 @ 1:16 pm

    “Trinitarian Protestants, many of them, would like it to mean that the biblical texts obviously implied that the one God is triune. (This is in fact what evangelical apologists pound the table over at every opportunity.)
    But that, obviously, is false, because no one drew that implication until the 4th century.”

    Tertullian at the very beginning of the 3rd century: “As if in this way also one were not All, in that All are of One, by unity (that is) of substance; while the mystery of the dispensation is still guarded, which distributes the Unity into a Trinity, placing in their order the three Persons— the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: three, however, not in condition, but in degree; not in substance, but in form; not in power, but in aspect; yet of one substance, and of one condition, and of one power, inasmuch as He is one God, from whom these degrees and forms and aspects are reckoned, under the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”

    And, of course, Irenaeus in the 2nd century called Jesus God explicitly and attributed exclusively divine properties and actions to the Holy Spirit. (Michel Barnes’ “Irenaeus’ Trinitarian Theology” in Nova et Vetera has the texts and a helpful discussion.)

    And Origen (b. 185) asserted the unity of the Trinity (probably even pioneering the term homoousios) and the diversity of the three hypostases, though the subordinationist elements arguably present in his thought tarnished his reputation.

    • Matt13weedhacker
      November 20, 2015 @ 3:45 pm

      “As if in this way also one were not All, in that All are of One, by unity (that is) of substance; while the mystery of the dispensation is still guarded, which distributes the Unity into a Trinity…”

      Historical context of Tertullian’s hypothesis of Ltn., “trinitas”.

      You quote the last part of chapter 2 of “Against Praxaes”. Try looking at the historical context and significance doctrinally of “Against Praxaes.”

      Tertullian’s extra-biblical revelations from: “the Paraclete” of: “the New Prophecy,” in this work, he believed were inspired, over and above what we now call: “the Bible”.

      Here’s some context from the chapter before your quote – chapter 1.

      TERTULLIAN OF CARTHAGE (circa. 145-225 C.E.):“…as he had not “the love” of God, whose “gifts” he even violated. For, when the then bishop of Rome was now recognizing
      THE PROPHECIES OF MONTANUS, PRISCA [Or: “PRISCILLA”] AND MAXIMILLA, and as the result of that recognition was seeking to introduce peace to the churches of Asia and Phrygia, it was he who did, by making false statements about THESE VERY PROPHETS and THEIR churches, and by defending the authoritative acts of his predecessors, compel him both to recall the letters of peace that had been already dispatched and to give up his project of welcoming THEIR gifts…” – (Chapter 1, Pages 26-28 “Against Praxaes,”
      Translated by Alexander Souter, 1920.)

      Compare a similar statement in another of Tertullians works:

      TERTULLIAN OF CARTHAGE (circa. 145-225 C.E.):“…It is these which raise controversy with THE PARACLETE; it is on this account that THE NEW PROPHECIES are rejected: not that MONTANUS AND PRISCILLA AND MAXIMILLA preach ( another God ), nor that ( they ) disjoin Jesus Christ [from God], nor that they overturn any particular rule of faith or hope […] They are therefore constantly reproaching ( us ) with Novelty; concerning the unlawfulness of which they lay down a prescriptive rule, that either it must be adjudged ( heresy ), if the point in dispute is a human presumption; or else pronounced ( pseudo-prophecy ), if it is a spiritual declaration; provided that, either way, ( we who ) reclaim hear sentence of anathema…”-(Chapter I:3, 5; “De Ieiunio Aduersus Psychicos” or: “On Fasting. In Opposition to the Psychics.” Translated by the Rev. S. Thelwall, 1870.)
      [Emphasis added]

      Modern Tri{3}nitarian’s would have you believe that the Montantist heresy was innocent, and only touched on minor things like discipline, conduct, fasting, marriage etc. But the quotes below show these so-called prophetic “revelations” go beyond discipline and conduct etc into “revelations” on SCRIPTURE DOCTRINE:

      TERTULLIAN OF CARTHAGE (circa. 145-225 C.E.): “…But yet Almighty God, in His most gracious providence, by: “pouring out of His Spirit in these last days, upon all flesh, upon His servants and on His handmaidens,” has checked these impostures of unbelief and perverseness, reanimated men’s faltering faith in the resurrection of the flesh, and cleared from all obscurity and equivocation THE ANCIENT SCRIPTURES OF BOTH GOD’S TESTAMENTS ( BY ) THE CLEAR LIGHT of their sacred words and meanings. Now, since it was: “needful that there should be heresies, in order that they which are approved might be made manifest;” since, however, these heresies would be unable to put on a bold front without some countenance from the Scriptures, it therefore is plain enough that the ancient Holy Writ has furnished them with sundry materials for their evil doctrine, which very materials indeed so distorted are refutable from the same Scriptures. It was fit and proper, therefore, that the holy ghost should no longer withhold THE EFFUSIONS OF HIS GRACIOUS LIGHT – UPON – THESE ( INSPIRED WRITINGS ), in order that they might be able to disseminate the seeds of truth with no admixture of heretical subtleties, and pluck out
      from it their tares. ( HE ) has accordingly — ( NOW ) — DISPERSED ALL THE PERPLEXITIES OF THE PAST, and their self-chosen allegories and parables, BY THE OPEN AND PERSPICUOUS — ( EXPLANATION ) — OF THE ENTIRE MYSTERY, through THE NEW PROPHECY, which descends in copious streams from THE PARACLETE. If you will only draw water from ( HIS ) fountains, you will never thirst for other doctrine: no feverish craving after subtle questions will again consume you…” – (Chapter 63:7-10, “De Resurrectione Carnis,” or: “On the Resurrection of the Flesh,” Translated by Dr. Paul Holmes, 1870.)

      TERTULLIAN OF CARTHAGE (circa. 145-225.C.E. ): “…For what kind of supposition is it, that, while the Devil is always operating and adding daily to the ingenuities of iniquity, the work of God should either have ceased, or else have desisted from advancing? whereas the reason why the Lord sent THE PARACLETE was, that, since human mediocrity was unable to take in all things at once, discipline should, little by little, be directed, and ordained, and carried on to perfection, by that Vicar of the Lord, the Holy Spirit. [7] “Still,” He said, “I have many things to say to you, but ye are not yet able to bear them: ( when ) that Spirit of truth shall have come, He will conduct you into all truth, and will report to you the supervening things.” But above, withal, He made a declaration concerning this His work. [8] What, then, is THE PARACLETE’S administrative office but this: the direction of discipline, THE – ( REVELATION OF ) – THE SCRIPTURES, the reformation of the intellect, THE ADVANCEMENT TOWARD THE “BETTER THINGS? ” Nothing is without stages of growth: all things await their season. In short, the preacher says, “A time to everything.” [9] Look how creation itself advances little by little to fructification. First comes the grain, and from
      the grain arises the shoot, and from the shoot struggles out the shrub: thereafter boughs and leaves gather strength, and the whole that we call a tree expands: then follows the swelling of the germen, and from the germen bursts the flower, and from the flower the fruit
      opens: that fruit itself, rude for a while, and unshapely, little by little, keeping the straight course of its development, is trained to the mellowness of its flavour. [10] So, too, righteousness — for the God of righteousness and of creation is the same–was first in a
      rudimentary state, having a natural fear of God: from that stage it advanced, THROUGH THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS, TO INFANCY; from that stage it passed, THROUGH THE GOSPEL, to the fervour of youth: – ( NOW ), – THROUGH THE PARACLETE, it is settling into maturity. [11] ( HE ) will be, after Christ, THE ONLY ONE TO BE CALLED AND REVERED
      AS MASTER; for he speaks not from himself, but what is commanded by Christ. ( HE ) IS THE ONLY PRELATE, BECAUSE ( HE ) ALONE – SUCCEEDS – CHRIST. They who have received Him set truth before custom. THEY WHO HAVE HEARD HIM PROPHESYING EVEN TO THE PRESENT TIME, not of old…” – (Chapter 1:6-10, “On the Veiling of Virgins,”
      Translated by the Rev. S. Thelwall 1870.)

      The work “Against Praxaes” — in itself — disproves this theory.

      Clearly, to Tertullian, Montanus’ “NEW PROPHECY” “REVELATION[‘S]” went far beyond the limitations of discipline. He says so.

    • Dale Tuggy
      November 21, 2015 @ 8:01 am

      Hi Thomas,

      Thanks for your comment. In brief, Tertullian is not a trinitanian; he posits no tripersonal God. He does have a unipersonal God, the Father, who a finite time age shares portions of his matter, so as to bring into existence the Son and the Spirit. The important texts are discussed here: http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-11-tertullian-the-unitarian/ Also here: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/trinity/trinity-history.html#Tertul

      Irenaeus, of course, called Jesus “God”, as the author of Hebrews does in ch 1. But that doesn’t mean that he thinks Jesus is the one God himself, or a Person within that god. Some relevant texts from him here: http://trinities.org/blog/?s=irenaeus

      Origen is, as clearly as could be, a unitarian, who thinks that the one true God is the Father (full stop). Only he is “ho theos” – others are merely “theos”. Yes, he has the Son and Spirit as additional beings, each eternally divine in a lesser way than, and because of the Father. His overall position discussed here http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-24-how-to-be-a-monotheistic-trinitarian/, and also in many posts. http://trinities.org/blog/?s=origen

      Finally, it must be said that their usage of “Trinity” tends to lead people astray. For them, “the Trinity” was not a god, but was rather a group of which God was the founding member. http://trinities.org/blog/10-steps-towards-getting-less-confused-about-the-trinity-8-trinity-vs-trinity/

      God bless,

      • Matt13weedhacker
        November 22, 2015 @ 4:17 am

        You may also want to consider Justin Martyr’s words that the Logos was Gk., ( ???? ??? ?????? ?????? ??? ).

        GREEK TEXT: “…???? ?????? ? ???? ?????????? ???? ??????, ????????? ??? ??????, ??? ???? ??? ??????? ???? ??? ?????? ?????? ??? ??? ??????? ??? ????, ?? ??? ??????? ????????, ??? ?? ????????? ???? ????????? ?????? ???????? ?????? ????????
        ? ??? ???? ???????, ???? ?? ????? ???? ??? ????…” – (Chapter 56:4, “Dialogue,” Edgar J. Goodspeed Edition. Göttingen : Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1915.)

        JUSTIN MARTYR (c. 110 to 165 C.E.): “…I again replied: “I shall attempt to persuade you further by my words, (seeing you men have understood{1} these scriptures), that he is being spoken of as a numerically additional god and lord, one that is both – INFERIOR AND OF DIFFERENT KIND [AND NATURE] TO{2} the Maker of everything that exists{2A} ; also he is called an Angel by reason of{3} the fact that he conveys{4} messages to the race of men{5} ; but in conveying these messages, he is constrained within the limitation of{6} passing on only what has been determined{7} by the One Who is{7A} the Maker of absolutely everything ; above{8} Whom, there exists no other{9} god in addition [to Him] who is of the same kind [and nature]…” – (Chapter 56:4, “Dialogue with Trypho a Jew,”)
        [FOOTNOTE 1]: Or: “perceived the meaning of”
        [FOOTNOTE 2]: Gk., ( ???? ??? ?????? ?????? ??? )
        [FOOTNOTE 2(A)]: Or:: “the entire universe”
        [FOOTNOTE 3]: Or: “on account of” Lit., “through”
        [FOOTNOTE 4]: Or: “communicates” “delivers”
        [FOOTNOTE 5]: Lit., “those of mankind”
        [FOOTNOTE 6]: Or: “limited to the extent of”
        [FOOTNOTE 7]: Or: “willed” “purposed”
        [FOOTNOTE 7(A)]: Perhaps: “that One [Person]”
        [FOOTNOTE 8]: Gk., ( ???? ) Or: “over”
        [FOOTNOTE 9]: Gk., ( ????? )

      • Miguel de Servet
        December 11, 2015 @ 5:55 pm


        a remarkable improvement on your part would consist (at least) of the following:

        – use the terms unitarian/unitarianism ONLY when historically appropriate (no earlier than 1680/1690 CE – from the Modern Latin unitarius);

        – consequently, stop using the expression “subordinationist unitarianism”, derivatives et similia (hint: Subordinationism is perfectly clear);

        – openly declare that, for you, the word “trinity” (and derivatives) ONLY refers to the full-fledged (con-substantial, co-eternal, co-equal, tri-personal) doctrine.

        P.S. Of course, if you ever followed the a.m. threefold advice, you would have to scrap … er … substantially revise your SEP articles on Trinity and associated … 😉

        • Dale Tuggy
          December 14, 2015 @ 2:56 pm

          You’ve demanded this many times, but you have not given me any good reason to change what is a useful and principled way to understand the trinitarian-unitarian divide – a way which, of course, I did not invent. http://trinities.org/blog/defining-the-concept-of-a-christian-unitarian/ http://trinities.org/blog/defining-the-concept-of-a-trinitarian/ John Biddle and many other early modern and modern unitarians were correct in seeing unitarian theology in the pre-Nicene catholics. Of course, no one at that time was “anti-trinitarian.”

          I think you may have missed this post, in which, following some translators of early Christian writings, I distinguish Trinity from trinity: http://trinities.org/blog/10-steps-towards-getting-less-confused-about-the-trinity-8-trinity-vs-trinity/ Perhaps thinking on that distinction will slightly calm your fury?

          I do think that “trinitarian” is best reserved for what has to do with the Trinity.

          • Miguel de Servet
            December 14, 2015 @ 6:01 pm

            @ Dale

            You do not need to remind me that I have “demanded this many times”. I was simply summing it up, as a refresher, commenting on a post where the weaseling is conspicuously and entirely yours.

            As for “useful” – to you – most likely, in the most obvious way. What you call “principled”, I have already called with its proper name.

            By referring to “John Biddle [“the Father of English Unitarianism” – 1615/1662] and many other early modern and modern unitarians” you are (unwittingly and spectacularly) confirming the validity of my first and second points, in particular.

            I do think that “trinitarian” is best reserved for what has to do with the Trinity.


            You have a rather peculiar way of applying the word “unitarian” when it is historically unwarranted, and of not applying the word “trinity” even when the Church Fathers themselves used it (Hippolytus of Rome, Tertullian, Origen, Novatian, Pope Dionysus, Gregory “the Wonderworker” …), with the ludicrous (ludicrous) motive that they did not … mean the “con-substantial, co-eternal, co-equal” final product.

            You confirm how inadequate your “analytic” approach [epitomized here: “… in sober truth, Theory 1.0, with claims A, B, C, is just a different theory than Theory 1.1 with claims B, C, D. 1.1 has replaced 1.0; it’s not that 1.0 changed into 1.1.”] is for confronting questions where understanding the historical development is essential, and leaning on the “analytic” approach leads to ridiculous (ridiculous) positions.

            But hey, enjoy your long pseudo-unitarian ride, if you feel that it makes you … healthy, and wealthy and wise 😉