Binitarianism: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning

By COGwriter

The Old Testament
The New Testament
We Are to Be One With the Father and the Son
Modern Scholars Properly Conclude That Binitarianism is Not a New Concept
Early, Post New Testament, Writers
Dr. Arius
Sabbath-Keeping Semi-Arians
Continuing Throughout History
Seventh Day Adventists
Philadelphia and Beyond
Only God Can Be Worshipped
But Was Jesus Fully God on Earth?
Don't Trinitarians Notice That the Bible Makes it Clear, that Logically Speaking, Jesus Could Not Have Been Fully God?
What Difference Does it Make?


What is God? Is God a trinity? How is God one? What is the the Godhead comprised of? We in the Continuing Church of God believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit--but as the Bible, and not any council of men, defines them.

This article will attempt to provide biblical and historical evidence on the "binitarian nature" of God.

A non-Church of God scholar, Michael Barnes, explains the binitarian belief this way

The word “binitarian” is typically used by scholars and theologians as a contrast to a trinitarian theology: a theology of “two” in God rather than a theology of “three”... it is accurate to offer the judgment that most commonly when someone speaks of a Christian “binitarian” theology the “two” in God are the Father and the Son...A substantial amount of recent scholarship has been devoted to exploring the implications of the fact that Jesus was ''worshipped'' by those first Jewish Christians, since in Judaism "worship" was limited to the worship of God (Barnes M. Early Christian Binitarianism: the Father and the Holy Spirit. Early Christian Binitarianism – as read at NAPS 2001).

Much of the recent scholarship that Michael Barnes refers to has been the result of the translations of the Nag Hammadi and other ancient manuscripts which were not available (or in the case of the Panarion of Epiphanius, were not available in English) when older scholarly texts (such as W. Bousset's Kyrios Christos, 1913, which seemed to come to a different conclusion) were written (though the Bible, of course, was always available to them).

This article will discuss the Bible, unitarian views, trinitarian views, and the writings of certain historians to provide biblical and historical proofs that binitarianism should be considered to be the correct view of the Christian Godhead.

A related sermon is also available: Binitarian view of the Godhead.

The Old Testament

The Bible starts off with the following statement:

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1, NKJV throughout, unless otherwise noted)

The Hebrew word translated as 'God' is 'elohim. Strong's defines it this way:

OT:430 'elohiym (el-o-heem'); plural of OT:433; gods in the ordinary sense; but specifically used (in the plural thus, especially with the article) of the supreme God; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a superlative (Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.).

So the first time God is mentioned in the Bible, the indication is that God is mentioned as plural ("indication" because in some places 'elohim can refer to singular).

And to make sure the plurality of God was known, Genesis 1:26 states:

26 Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.

Genesis 1:26 shows that 'elohim above refers to "Us." Us is also plural.

Thus, there is no doubt that from the beginning, the plurality of God was shown. And this is accepted by both binitarians and trinitarians.

However, one unitarian assertion is:

There is no doubt that the elohim are a plural structure and that they are the messengers in the Bible texts referred to as angels and that Christ himself was the Angel of the Presence or the Angel of YHVH. It is thus absurd to suggest that no angel was referred to as creator when Christ was admitted to be creator and was also the Angel of YHVH. Moreover, there is no indication that the plural terms involving creators were confined to two Beings which were God and Christ. This is an unsupported assumption that is contrary to the Bible. It is, moreover, a basic assertion of Binitarianism, which is logically absurd and conveys within its structure the logical inevitability of Trinitarianism. This error entered the Church some 30-40 years ago and some people cannot divest themselves of their paradigm (Binitarianism and Trinitarianism (No. 76) (Edition 3.0 19941112-20001202). Copyright 1994, 2000 Wade Cox. Christian Churches of God).

Colossians 1:15-17, which will be quoted later, makes clear that God created all things through Jesus, hence the idea of God and Christ as the only two beings being involved in the creation is not a recent concept as they are the two mentioned in scripture (this article will document later that binitarianism is also not simply a recent paradigm for the Church of God).

Similarly, Hebrews 1:1-4 states:

1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

Jesus, while He was a messenger for the Father, is NOT what is commonly called an angel. Furthermore, the implication of one or more angels being part of Elohim in Genesis 1 suggests that one or more angels, and not necessarily God, created all things and that humans are in the image of angels. Yet Ezekiel 10:14 describes what that the portion of angels called cherubim, at least, look like, "Each one had four faces: the first face was the face of a cherub, the second face the face of a man, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle"--since they have four faces and humans have only one, it does not appear that Genesis 1:26 is referring to humans being made in the angel image.

While it is true that elohim can refer to beings other than the Father and the Son, it is also true that the word translated as 'god' (in both the Hebrew and the Greek) is sometimes used of pagan gods and humans. Yet the Father and the Son still are God.

Genesis 2:24 teaches:

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

This verse clearly shows that there are ways that two different beings can be considered one by God. Thus, the idea of two beings being part of one entity is not in any way a new concept, and, as will shown later, is mentioned several times in the New Testament.

Showing the duality of God, David wrote "The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand" (Psalm 110:1). When Jesus commented about this He stated, "If David then calls Him 'Lord,' how is He his Son?" (Matthew 22:45), Jesus was showing that He was that 'Lord' and thus that there were two.

Daniel makes this point fairly clear:

13 I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. 14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)

There were two.

The Ancient of Days, who is in the New Testament called the Father (Matthew 6:9) and the one like the Son of Man which is a term that Jesus referred to Himself as (Matthew 20:18). (Note: Jesus is specifically referred to twice in the New Testament as "One like the Son of Man", Revelation 1:13;14:14). Also, the New Testament shows that the dominion (Jude 25) and kingdom are given to Christ and that all peoples should serve Him (Revelation 11:15; 19:13-16). A son becomes the same species its father. Jesus is God.

In addition, Isaiah 44:6 says there is no other god, yet it shows two:

6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: 'I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.'

Note that the LORD (the King of Israel) And his Redeemer (the LORD of hosts) state 'I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.' Thus the Book of Isaiah clearly shows that there are two that are somehow one. Hence, the binitarian view is taught in the Old Testament.

While it is true that the Old Testament states, " Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! (Deuteronomy 6:4), the term God here is also the plural term 'elohim. This verse shows that there is a one-ness about this plurality that did not exist among pagan deities.

But did any Jews understand any of this? According to Daniel Boyarin, they certainly did:

There is significant evidence (uncovered in large part by Segal) that in the first century many—perhaps most—Jews held a binitarian doctrine of God (Boyarin D. Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006, p. 131).

Furthermore, according to some interpretations of the Talmud, even rabbinic Jewish writers endorsed a "binitarian worship" in some of their prayers (ibid, pp. 120-124).

Note: Many 'unitarian' objections to the current binitarian nature of the Godhead are in the article Binitarian View: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning.

The New Testament

In the New Testament, John begins by making the duality of God clear when he wrote:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made (John 1:1-3).

Thus the Word was God and was with God. And the Word, Jesus, is a lot like God the Father, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). It should probably be mentioned that those with a unitarian view believe this should be translated differently, but that does not change the totality of the scriptures on this subject--Jesus was ACTUALLY MADE FLESH and John never refers to the Holy Spirit as God.

Paul makes the duality of God clear in every book of the Bible he wrote. All the books he clearly wrote contain it in the introduction (the third verse in most books). Notice:

1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. 5 Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;

7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:1-7)

1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:1-3)

1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:1-2)

1 Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), 2 and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: 3 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Galatians 1:1-5)

1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:1-2)

1 Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:1-2)

1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Colossians 1:1-2)

1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:1)

1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:1-2)

1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope, 2 To Timothy, a true son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Timothy 1:1-2)

1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus, 2 To Timothy, a beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (2 Timothy 1:1-2)

1 Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, 3 but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior;

4 To Titus, a true son in our common faith:

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior. (Titus 1:1-4)

1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, 2 to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philemon 1-3)

Paul, never, of course, included the Holy Spirit in these introductions..

Notice also the following:

1 For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge...8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; (Colossians 2:1-3,8-9)

Paul is clear that the Godhead consists of the the Father and the Son. He stating that the binitarian view tends to be a mystery to many, yet he wrote that the Father and Christ were God.

Notice the following scholarly observation related to the Apostles Paul and John:

While Paul engages in a great deal of legitimation for his view of Torah, there is no indication that he felt the need to defendhimself against charges of ‘two powers’ heresy. Paul's view of the exalted Christ'sinvestiture with the divine name (Phil.2:9-11) must be viewed in relation to non-Christian Jewish texts such as the Apocalypse of Abraham. This work refers to an exalted angel,Yahoel, who bears the divine name ( Apoc.Abr. 10:3,8). There is simply no evidence that belief in a supreme mediator or agent of God, one that might later be called a ‘second power,’ was controversial at any point during the first century CE. ... In the case of Paul's claims about the exalted Christ and of Philo's view of the Logos as a second god , there is nothing to indicate thattheir contemporaries found them to be heretical or controversial.

The key witness usually appealed to as evidence for the existence of the ‘two powers heresy’ in the first century is the Gospel of John, and many NT scholars wouldagree that the Johannine Christians had been accused of abandoning monotheism. 24 While it cannot be denied that John bears witness to an intense conflict regardingchristology, this need not imply that it centred on monotheism per se. What is telling isthat within the Gospel of John the opponents of the Johannine Christians do not use the phrase 'two powers' nor do they charge Jesus or the Johannine Christians with rejecting monotheism. There are only two clear references to monotheism in the Fourth Gospel and both affirm the oneness of God in rather axiomatic language, without defense or explanation (John 5:44; 17:3). If the Johannine Christians had been charged withrejecting monotheism, we would expect the writer to make a more vigorous and explicitdefense. But it does not happen. (McGraff JF. Truex J. Two Powers' and Early Jewish and Christian Monotheism. Journal of Biblical Studies 4.1, 2004: 43-71)

Yes, binitarianism was accepted and was what Paul and John promoted.

Like Paul and John, Peter also made the duality of God clear in the introduction of his two books (I Peter 1:3; II Peter 1:2), where he too left out the Holy Spirit. Peter confirmed that he knew that Jesus was part of the God Family when he said to Jesus, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). Peter also seems to confirm that the Holy Spirit is not a person when in Acts 2:17-18 he quotes Joel about God pouring out His Spirit.

Additionally, and similar to Daniel 7:13, in the Book of Revelation in 3:21, 5:6, 7:17, and 22:1-3 Jesus (the Lamb) and God the Father sharing the throne of God, but no portrayal is made of the Holy Spirit also sharing this throne.

While some holding the unitarian position have cited portions of works such as William Bousset's Kyrios Christos (which was written in 1913), modern scholars have concluded that Bousset's logic was flawed. William Bousset considered that Jesus was Lord, but not God.

One reason is that much recent scholarship has been the result of the translations of the Nag Hammadi and other ancient manuscripts which were not available when Bousset's and other older scholarly texts were written.

A recently scholarly work was flatly questioning Bousset's view on the term Kyrios not representing God when it stated:

It is clear that Kyrios was used by Greek-speaking Jews for the Hebrew tetragrammaton (Yahweh) when reading aloud biblical texts (Hurtado LW. Lord Jesus Christ, Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. William B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, 2003, p. 21).

Yahweh is the name, in Hebrew, that God identified Himself to Moses by (Exodus 3:14, in Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.).


Traditionally, unitarians taught that the one called the Father is God and that is how God is one. The trinitarians traditionally teach God is one who shows Himself in three modes (or hypostases), Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all of the same substance.

Jesus taught, "I and My Father are one" (John 10:30), which totally contradicts the unitarian position that Jesus is not God (so does John 1, but that is another issue which they tend to dispute).

Matthew, who quoted Isaiah 7:14, also made Jesus' deity clear, "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us" " (Matthew 1:23)--Jesus thus has to be God or He would not be named "God with us"!

Notice what Jesus Himself taught:

27 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. (Matthew 11:27)

Note that only the Father and Son know each other (other than those Jesus reveals)--which shows, for example, that the Holy Spirit, which is not mentioned. It should be clear that according to Jesus' words, obviously the Holy Spirit is NOT a co-equal member of a Greco-Roman trinity. But Jesus' words are consistent with the binitarian view of the Godhead.

"And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" " (John 20:28-29).

Not only did Thomas call Jesus God, Jesus' statements confirmed the correctness of Thomas' assertion (which happened after the resurrection).

Also after the resurrection, Paul specifically stated, "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Colossians 2:9). Jesus clearly believed He was equal with God the Father as Paul points out, "Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God" (Philippians 2:5b-6).

The New Testament also teaches, "But to the Son He says: "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom" (Hebrews 1:8). Hence Hebrews says that the Son is God. Also, since this is quoting from Psalm 45, it is clear then, that this duality and Christ's deity was also taught in the Old Testament (Psalm 45:6-7).

Part of the problem of the modern trinitarian view of one God who manifests Himself in three modes is that it demands that God could not have different wills. Yet Jesus taught:

42 "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done" (Luke 22:42).

Jesus is clearly stating that on this point He had a different will than the Father. If Jesus was part of the currently defined trinity, He could not have a different will than the Father. Yet since He did have a different will (see also John 5:30;7:16) and would speak different words (John 14:24), He could not be part of the traditionally taught trinity. Jesus also said that the Father knew things that He did not (Mark 13:32) and that He was teaching the Father's doctrine and not His own (John 7:16)--they thus could not be the same as trinitarians teach. Jesus said He did not have the authority to determine who would sit at His right or left hand in the kingdom (Mark 10:39-40)--He is not the same as the Father. Jesus, in the future, is to deliver the Kingdom to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24), which also shows that the Two are not the same. Jesus will also remain subject to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:28). The binitarian explanation is the only one that properly reconciles these and other scriptures that confound the trinitarians.

Of course, this does not phase the unitarians. Unlike binitarians and trinitarians, some traditional unitarians teach that Jesus did not exist prior to His human birth. One such example is this by Wayne Atcheson, "The Biblical Confession Is That Christ Did Not Preexist" (Atcheson, Wayne. The Confession of 1 John 4:2 Is That Christ Did Not Preexist. Association for Christian Development's The One God Seminar. Tyler, Texas July 25–27, 2003), yet Paul strongly disputed this when he was inspired to write, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist" (Colossians 1:15-17).

Jesus also denied this unitarian assertion when He stated, "What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?" (John 6:62), as heaven is where He came from (3:13).

One unitarian response to these verses is to suggest that they may not be reliable as they were written after Jesus' resurrection, "But no Gospels, no epistles, and no Apocalypse were penned until decades after Jesus was taken up into the clouds. This fact is not debated. This point can be important when confronting the very few scriptures in the NT that seem to reference the preexistence of a glorified Christ" (Westby, Kenneth. Two Thrones, Two Lords, Two Saviors, One God. Association for Christian Development's The One God Seminar. Tyler, Texas July 25–27, 2003).

Apparently he forgot that Jesus taught, "Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). Since Paul wrote, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, That the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (II Timothy 3:16-17), those that believe the Bible will accept its teachings over those who have reasons to not wish to believe it.

Jesus, Himself, made His prior existence clear, while others were upset to learn that

"Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." Then the Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by" (John 8:56-59).

Paul referred to Jesus' pre-existence when he wrote:

9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Since the Bible does not record that Jesus was rich in His physical life on Earth (this verse is also consistent with Philippians 2:5-7, which will be quoted later)--thus it was prior to His human existence that He was rich.

Paul also referred to Jesus' pre-existence when he wrote:

Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples (1 Corinthians 10:1-6).

Hence since Christ was the Rock in the wilderness during the time of Moses, He clearly existed prior to His human birth.

We Are to Be One With the Father and the Son

Jesus also taught:

I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one (John 17:20-23).

Jesus is one with God the Father as He expects His people to be one. As His people are made up of different individuals, so therefore is God. Jesus continually emphasized the family relationship between Himself as Son and the Father. Furthermore, Jesus' statement makes it clear that those called will be part of God's family as well--how else will true Christians attain the same glory as Jesus? Paul essentially reiterates this in Romans 8:28-29 (which will be quoted later).

Notice what the New and Old Testaments teach:

And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." (Matthew 19:4-6)

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

The New Testament, thus, also clearly shows that two can be one!

Interestingly, Paul brings both concepts together in Ephesians when he writes:

"For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery-but I am talking about Christ and the church" (Ephesians 5:30-32).

Thus Paul shows that two are one flesh and that the marital relationship pictures Christ being one with the Church.

Which is part of what Jesus was talking about in John 17--that there is a oneness and two-ness in the relationship between He and the Father and that there will be a oneness between Him and Church--which is composed on many (not just two) members.

Paul also made this clear:

For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. (Romans 12:4-6)

Although many have attempted to portray the English word 'one' to mean there are not multiple beings in the God Family, both the Old Testament (which was written in Hebrew) and the New Testament (which was written in Greek) show that while God is also one, the Godhead (the term 'Godhead' could probably also be translated as 'divinity') is currently shared by two, including Jesus (Colossians 2:9; Romans 1:20).

It is the lack of understanding of these concepts by the traditional unitarians and trinitarians that can blind them to the plan of God. And that we are to be one with God as the God Family (now consisting of the Father and the Son) now is one!

Modern Scholars Properly Conclude That Binitarianism is Not a New Concept

Some, who have chosen to misinterpret these scriptures have claimed that the idea of God consisting of two beings is a relatively recent invention. However scholars have noted:

Earliest Christian worship specifies two figures, God and Jesus, as recipients (Hurtado Larry. Abstract: "The Binitarian Shape of Early Christian Worship." International Conference on the Historical Origins of the Worship of Jesus. 13-17 June 1998).

And in the New Testament and among second century Christians historians recognize:

...there are a fairly consistent linkage and subordination of Jesus to God "the Father" in these circles, evident even in the Christian texts from the latter decades of the first century that are commonly regarded as a very 'high' Christology, such as the Gospel of John and Revelation. This is why I referred to this Jesus-devotion as a "binitarian" form of monotheism: there are two distinguishable figures (God and Jesus), but they are posited in a relation to each other that seems intended to avoid the ditheism of two gods, and the devotional practices show a similar concern...In my judgment this Jesus-devotion amounts to a treatment of him as a recipient of worship at a surprisingly early point in the first century, and is certainly a programmatic inclusion of a second figure unparalleled in the monotheistic tradition of the time (Hurtado LW. Lord Jesus Christ, Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. William B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, 2003, pp. 52-53).

Interestingly, his book, (which at least one University of Notre Dame scholar calls "A fantastic work! Larry Hurtado has written what may well prove to be one of the more important works on Jesus in this generation"), demonstrates that there was a binitarian view in Christianity that can be proven from the early first century (from about the time of Christ's death) and that Professor Hurtado concludes that the trinitarian view came to be dominant later (Ibid, p.651).

And while Professor Hurtado does not personally seem to clearly refer to Christ as God, he specifically acknowledges:

...the "binitarian" pattern of devotion in which both God (the "Father") and Jesus are objects of such reverence goes back to the earliest observable stages of the movement that became Christianity...The central place given to Jesus...and...their concern to avoid ditheism by reverencing Jesus rather consistently with reference to "the Father", combine to shape the proto-orthodox "binitarian" pattern of devotion. Jesus truly is reverenced as divine" (Ibid, pp. 605, 618).

Professor Hurtado also notes that:

there are numerous places where Ignatius refers to Jesus as "God" (theos)...Yet Ignatius refers to Jesus as theos while still portraying him as subordinate to the ""Father" (Ibid. pp.637, 638).

That is a binitarian view. I would suggest that the early Christians were careful about avoiding the charge of ditheism because they were reinforcing the binitarian position that God is one family, currently consisting of the Father and the Son--a family relationship, in which the Father is greater than the Son (John 14:28).

The theological scholar Dr. Paula Frederickson wrote:

Second-century theologians concurred with each other that the high god the Father of Christ, who himself was therefore (and by definition) another, lower divinity. (Fredriksen P. Origen and Augustine on Paul and the Law. In Law and Lawlessness in Early Judaism and Early Christianity, Lincicum D, Sheridan R, Stang C, eds. Mohr Siebeck, 2019, p. 69)

The binitarian view that the Son was subordinated to the Father , though divine, was what 2nd century Christians understood.

Furthermore another scholar noted:

The argument that Christianity is not binitarian but trinitarian, hence could not be perceived as a two-powers heresy, ignores the fact that it is not so much what Christianity thought of itself that counts but how it appeared to its rabbinic critics. And there we see clearly that it was often described as binitarian or dualistic rather than trinitarian (Summary of response by Alan F. Segal. International Conference on the Historical Origins of the Worship of Jesus. 13-17 June 1998).

Hence, the early Jewish rabbis recognized early Christianity as binitarian, not trinitarian or unitarian. But this observation is not limited to critics of the Christian religion.

Another scholar, James McGrath, has noted:

While Paul engages in a great deal of legitimation for his view of Torah, there is no indication that he felt the need to defend himself against charges of 'two powers' heresy. Paul's view of the exalted Christ's investiture with the divine name (Phil.2:9-11) must be viewed in relation to non-Christian Jewish texts such as the Apocalypse of Abraham. This work refers to an exalted angel, Yahoel, who bears the divine name (Apoc.Abr.10:3,8). There is simply no evidence that belief in a supreme mediator or agent of God, one that might later be called a ‘second power,’ was controversial at any point during the first century CE. This is not to be explained by the lack of any universally recognized authority which could speak for Jewish ‘orthodoxy’ in this period. Even within the context of first century Jewish diversity, parties in conflict with one another took seriously the objections of their opponents and sought to respond to them. In the case of Paul's claims about the exalted Christ and of Philo's view of the Logos as a second god, there is nothing to indicate that their contemporaries found them to be heretical or controversial ... the Tosefta contains several references to Christians as minim (‘heretics’). The lack of explicit reference to ‘two powers’ cannot be explained as a lack of interest in Christianity, since the rabbis who composed the Tosefta took the trouble to polemicize against Christians. So, if Christian belief in ‘two powers in heaven’ was an issue at that time, it is quite surprising that the Mishnah and the Tosefta do not mention it" (James McGrath (Alliance Theological Seminary) with Jerry Truex (Tabor College). TWO POWERS’ AND EARLY JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN MONOTHEISM 9/18/04).

This writing, thus suggests, that certain binitarian ideas were not necessarily foreign to the Jewish religion at that time.

Regarding the New Testament, trinitarian scholar William Rusch has admitted:

The binitarian formulas are found in Rom. 8:11, 2 Cor. 4:14, Gal. 1:1, Eph. 1:20, 1 Tim 1:2, 1 Pet. 1:21, and 2 John 1:13...No doctrine of the Trinity in the Nicene sense is present in the New Testament...

There is no doctrine of the Trinity in the strict sense in the Apostolic Fathers...(Rusch W.G. The Trinitarian Controversy. Fortress Press, Phil., 1980, pp. 2-3).

So, a trinitarian scholar admits that the New Testament uses what he calls binitarian formulas and no doctrine of the trinity was found in early post-apostolic times from those known as "Apostolic Fathers." This would include people such as Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna.

Early, Post New Testament, Writers

Many of us in the true Church of God believe that the churches in Revelation 2 and 3 show the succession of the dominant true church throughout history (click here for the article Why the Churches of Revelation 2 & 3 Matter). As shown earlier in this article, it is clear that the New Testament Church, the one called Ephesus in Revelation 2, was binitarian. (More information on the early church can be found in the article Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome).

In "the oldest complete Christian sermon that has survived" (Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 2nd ed. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2004, p. 102)--outside those in the Bible--sometimes erroneously referred to as Second Letter of Clement, it seems to support binitarianism.

It was given perhaps with a year or so of John's death (thus may be towards the end of the time of Ephesus), begins with the following:

Brothers, we ought so to think of Jesus Christ, as of God, as "Judge of the living and the dead (An Ancient Christian Sermon (2 Clement), 1:1. In Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 2nd ed. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2004, p. 107)

So then, brothers, if we do the will of God our Father...(An Ancient Christian Sermon (2 Clement), 14:1. In Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 2nd ed. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2004, p.121).

Now the church, being spiritual was revealed in the flesh of Christ, thereby showing us that if any of us guard her in the flesh and do not corrupt her, he will receive her back again in the Holy Spirit. For this flesh is a copy of the Spirit. No one, therefore, who corrupts the copy, will share in the original. This, therefore, is what he means, brothers: guard the flesh, in order that you may receive of the Spirit. Now if we say that the flesh is the church and the Spirit is Christ, then the one who abuses the flesh hath abuses the church. Consequently such a person will not receive the Spirit, which is Christ. So great is the life and immortality which this flesh is able to receive, if the Holy Spirit is closely joined with it, that no one is able to proclaim or to tell "what things the Lord hath prepared" for his chosen ones (An Ancient Christian Sermon (2 Clement), 14:3-5. In Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 2nd ed. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2004, p.121).

Thus the oldest preserved sermon (which can be found in its entirety at Ancient "Christian" Sermon) says to think of Jesus as God and that the Father is God, but it never indicates that the Holy Spirit is God. This is consistent with the binitarian view. The Ephesus era of the Church of God taught binitarianism.

The next church in Revelation 2, following Ephesus, was Smyrna. Polycarp was known as the Bishop of Smyrna and probably the first physical head (under Jesus Christ) of the era when Smyrna dominated. He was neither trinitarian nor unitarian according to various historical documents. The following quote attributed to him (c. 135 A.D.) shows that he (and thus by inference the rest of Smyrna) was not unitarian:

Now may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal High-priest Himself, the [Son of] God Jesus Christ, build you up in faith and truth, and in all gentleness and in all avoidance of wrath and in forbearance and long suffering and in patient endurance and in purity; and may He grant unto you a lot and portion among His saints, and to us with you, and to all that are under heaven, who shall believe on our Lord and God Jesus Christ and on His Father (The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians in APOSTOLIC FATHERS (as translated by J.B. LIGHTFOOT) 12:6,7).

It probably should be noted that Dr. Lightfoot left out "Son of" in his translation, which is in the Latin. It should also be pointed out that I am aware of another translation of this section by Roberts and Donaldson in Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol, 1 which omitted the term "God" before Jesus Christ, but I verified that the term "deum" is in the Latin version of this epistle {the original Greek versions did not survive pass chapter 10}. Dr. Lightfoot's translation "our Lord and God Jesus Christ" is a literal translation of the Latin "dominum nostrum et deum Iesum Christum". The University of Notre Dame Latin Dictionary and Grammar Aid states "deus -i m. [a god , deity]". The term "deum" is the masculine accusatory form of the word "deus". Since traditional unitarians do not call Jesus God, it appears clear that Polycarp clearly was not one of them. Furthermore, he did not ever call the Holy Spirit God.

Also, Ignatius, who was known by Polycarp (and praised in this same Polycarp epistle, which is known as Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians), wrote around 108-120 A.D. (during the Ephesus era of the Church of God):

For our God, Jesus Christ, was conceived by Mary in accord with God's plan: of the seed of David, it is true, but also of the Holy Spirit. He was born and baptized so that by His submission He might purify the water (Ignatius of Antioch, Letters to the Ephesians 18,2--note this is translated the same by at least three separate translations as done by Dr. Lightfoot, J.H. Srawley, and Roberts & Donaldson).

…the fullness of God the Father…and of Jesus Christ our God…God appeared in human form to bring newness of eternal life (Ignatius. Letter the Ephesians, 0.0; 19,3. In Holmes: The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations. Baker Books, Grand Rapids (MI), 2004, pp. 137, 149).

Permit me to be an imitator of the passion of my God. (Ignatius, Letter to the Romans, 6,3)

Hence, Ignatius (who apparently lived in the times dominated by both the Ephesus and Smyrna eras of the Church), who received Polycarp's praise, also recognized Jesus as God, and thus could not have been a traditional unitarian. His statements are binitarian and recognize Jesus as God.

Even scholars like the Catholic Mauricio Saavedra Monroy recognize that Polycarp and Ignatius made binitarian statements:

As for the binitarian confessional formula, which confesses the Father and the Son, we likewise find examples in Polycarp and Ignatius. (Monroy MS. The Church of Smyrna: History and Theology of a Primitive Christian Community. Peter Lang edition, 2015, p. 292)

Ignatius wrote:

Ignatius, who is also Theophorus, unto her which hath been blessed in greatness through the plentitude of God the Father; which hath been foreordained before the ages to be for ever unto abiding and unchangeable glory, united and elect in a true passion, by the will of the Father and of Jesus Christ our God; even unto the church which is in Ephesus [of Asia], worthy of all felicitation: abundant greeting in Christ Jesus and in blameless joy (Ignatius' Letter to the Ephesians, Verse 0. In Apostolic Fathers. Lightfoot & Harmer, 1891 translation).

He also wrote something similar to the Smyrnaeans:

Ignatius, who is also Theophorus, to the church of God the Father and of Jesus Christ the Beloved, which hath been mercifully endowed with every grace, being filled with faith and love and lacking in no grace, most reverend and bearing holy treasures; to the church which is in Smyrna of Asia, in a blameless spirit and in the word of God abundant greeting. I give glory to Jesus Christ the God who bestowed such wisdom upon you" (Ignatius' Letter to the Symrnaeans, Verses 0-1.1. In Apostolic Fathers. Lightfoot & Harmer, 1891 translation).

It is important to note that Ignatius referred to both the Father and the Son as God in both places (and I verified that it is in the original Greek), but he never called the Holy Spirit 'God'. The Holy Spirit he referred to as "rope" (Ignatius. Letter the Ephesians, 9,1. In Holmes: The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations. Baker Books, Grand Rapids (MI), 2004, p. 143).

Justin Martyr wrote:

When Scripture says,' The Lord rained fire from the Lord out of heaven,' the prophetic word indicates that there were two in number: One upon the earth, who, it says, descended to behold the cry of Sodom; Another in heaven, who also is Lord of the Lord on earth, as He is Father and God; the cause of His power and of His being Lord and God. Again, when the Scripture records that God said in the beginning, 'Behold, Adam has become like one of Us,' this phrase, 'like one of Us,' is also indicative of number; and the words do not admit of a figurative meaning, as the sophists endeavor to affix on them, who are able neither to tell nor to understand the truth (Dialogue with Trypho. Chapter CXXIX).

The first scripture that Justin cited above was Genesis 19:24. Notice what a trinitarian supporting website posted about it:

There are two Yahweh's in Gen 19:24

A. "Then Yahweh [on earth in human form] rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Yahweh [in spirit form in heaven] out of heaven." Genesis 19:24 ...

There simply is no way to escape the clear context that there were two Yahweh's: One on earth that talked to Abraham and commanded Sodom be destroyed. And a second Yahweh in heaven who actually sent the fire. (Trinity Proof Texts: Gen 19:24)

The above author seems not to realize that he is defending a binitarian, not trinitarian, concept of the Godhead.

A second century apologist named Athenagoras wrote the following:

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 logos) of the Father is the Son of God...The Holy Spirit...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...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 (Athenagoras. A Plea for the Christians, Chapter X. Translated by B.P. Pratten. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Thus Athenagoras explained that the Father and the Son are God, have a onesness of power and spirit, and that the Holy Spirit is the effluence of God. He never called the Holy Spirit God. And he stated that both, the Father and the Son (the term in English refers to two), are both God and distinct--this is a binitarian view.

Near the end of the second century, Melito of Sardis (whom Catholics and others consider to be a saint) wrote

No eye can see Him, nor thought apprehend Him, nor language describe Him; and those who love Him speak of Him thus: `Father, and God of Truth" (Melito. A Discourse Which Was in the Presence of Antoninus Caesar).

Melito also wrote, "For the deeds done by Christ after His baptism, and especially His miracles, gave indication and assurance to the world of the Deity hidden in His flesh. For, being at once both God and perfect man likewise...He concealed the signs of His Deity, although He was the true God existing before all ages" (Melito. On the Nature of Christ. From Roberts and Donaldson).

This clearly shows that Melito considered Christ to be God (though with part of His deity concealed), as well as the Father. There is no indication in any of the surviving writings of Melito that he considered that the Holy Spirit was also God, hence he seemed to hold a binitarian view. Actually, like most binitarians, his writings suggest that the Holy Spirit was simply a manifestation of the power of God as he wrote:

The finger of the Lord-the Holy Spirit, by whose operation the tables of the law in Exodus are said to have been written (Melito. From the Oration on Our Lord's Passion. Online version copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby. 9/10/05).

Also near the end of the second century (Circa 180), Irenaeus (who is also considered to have been a saint by the Roman Catholics) wrote this in his famous paper against heresies:

...there is none other called God by the Scriptures except the Father of all, and the Son, and those who possess the adoption (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book IV, Preface, Verse 4. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Notice that Irenaeus states that only the Father, the Son, and those who possess the adoption (Christians) are God. This is a binitarian, not a trinitarian view.

Christianity Today (a Protestant publication) records this piece of Church history involving the Catholic Origen:

The great third-century theologian Origen, for example, pressed a bishop named Heraclides to define the relationship of Christ to God the Father. After much careful questioning, Heraclides admitted to believing in two Gods but clarified that "the power is one." Origen reminded Heraclides that some Christians would "take offense at the statement that there are two Gods. We must express the doctrine carefully to show in what sense they are two, and in what sense the two are one God." (Did You Know? Unusual facts about the Council of Nicea. Church History 2005. Christianity Today.

Hence even the Catholic and Protestant scholars must know that binitarianism was the earliest prevailing position among those who professed Christ.

Interestingly, Tertullian (often called "the father of Latin theology"), around 213 A.D. wrote:

Well then, you reply, if He was God who spoke, and He was also God who created, at this rate, one God spoke and another created; (and thus) two Gods are declared (Against Praxeas 13:1).

Tertullian also wrote:

The simple...are constantly throwing out against us that we are preachers of two gods and three gods...

Now, from this one passage of the epistle of the inspired apostle, we have been already able to show that the Father and the Son are two separate Persons, not only by the mention of their separate names as Father and the Son, but also by the fact that He who delivered up the kingdom, and He to whom it is delivered up -- and in like manner, He who subjected (all things), and He to whom they were subjected -- must necessarily be two different Beings. But since they will have the Two to be but One, so that the Father shall be deemed to be the same as the Son...For the Father is the entire substance, but the Son is a derivation and portion of the whole, as He Himself acknowledges: "My Father is greater than I." In the Psalm His inferiority is described as being "a little lower than the angels." Thus the Father is distinct from the Son, being greater than the Son (Tertullian. Against Praxeas, Chapters 3,4-5,9. Translated by Peter Holmes. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 3. Edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Around the same time Hippolytus (who, according to The Catholic Encyclopedia "was the most important theologian and the most prolific religious writer of the Roman Church in the pre-Constantinian era") wrote:

These things then, brethren, are declared by the Scriptures. And the blessed John, in the testimony of his Gospel, gives us an account of this economy (disposition) and acknowledges this Word as God, when he says, "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 (Hippolytus. Against Noetus, Chapter 14. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

Thus from Polycarp, Melito, Irenaeus, Tertullian (although he himself did not hold a binitarian view), Origen and Hippolytus, we have strong evidence that some sort of binitarian view was held during the time of Smyrna era of the Church of God (the second, third, and early fourth centuries).

There were binitarians (sometimes called Semi-Arians) probably called 'Paulicians' in the area of Antioch who also kept the seventh-day Sabbath in the third century. A leader, who was opposed to the allegorists, named Lucian arose (late third century). While I am not certain if Lucian was or was not in the Church of God, he and others in his area were Semi-Arian, rejected using allegory as the primary way of interpreting the Bible, and since they were considered practicing Judaism, they would have kept the Sabbath. Notice this condemnation by a Roman Catholic Cardinal:

Lucian, who schismatized or was excommunicated on his deposition, held heretical tenets of a diametrically opposite nature, that is, such as were afterwards called Semi-Arian . . . I would rather direct the reader’s attention to the particular form which the Antiochene corruptions seem to have assumed, viz., that of Judaism . . . (Cardinal Newman, John Henry. The Arians of the Fourth Century. Longmans, Green, & Co., New York, 1908, pp. 7,9).

So, there were people in the Antioch area that held to some form of Judeao-Christianity in the late third century according to Catholic sources.

The Methodist Review reported in 1903:

University of Halle, Germany. Loofs is a professor of Church history...He has introduced into theology a new term which may lead to almost endless discussion—the term binitarianism...In the study of the earliest developments of Christology he sees, as he imagines, a form of belief that is neither trinitarian nor unitarian, but that may be named binitarian...He thinks he sees this doctrine, among the earliest Christian writers, most plainly in the shepherd of Hermas, but also in Barnabas, the Second Epistle of Clement, and in Tertullian. He thinks the genuine form of this binitarian doctrine was local to Asia Minor, and that it was found in Asia Minor in Marcellus of Ancyra, who died 372 A. D. From Asia Minor it spread to the West through Ignatius and Irenaeus, and in the fourth century it was still more or less current in the West in the person of Hilary, bishop of Poitiers, who died in 368. {Waldemar}Macholz does not lay claim to originality, but, taking up the investigations of his master, Loofs, he carries the researches into more remote regions of Christian thought, and thinks he finds evidence that many writers were affected by binitarianism. For example, he thinks that Tertullian was a binitarian until the Montanists taught him trlnitarianism. How much truth, now, is there in all this? Simply this much, that the doctrine of the Spirit was late in developing...Binitarianism was opposed to unitarianism...(Methodist review, Volume 85, September 1903. Original from the University of California, Digitized Jan 2, 2008, p. 820)

The apparent 'headquarters' of the true Church of God in the second and early third centuries was in Asia Minor, so we would expect that those there held a binitarian view of the Godhead.

But it was more than in Asia Minor. Early Christians absolutely did NOT believe that Jesus was a co-equal member of any trinity.  Notice the following 2003 observation by Professor Hurtado:

In the first two centuries, all texts from, and affirmed in, the developing proto-orthodox tradition, from the New Testament writings onwards, reflect subordination Christology, the Son understood as the unique agent of the Father, serving the will of the Father, and leading the redeemed to the Father...I emphasize...this...belief about God was accompanied by and expressed by a "binitarian" pattern of devotional practice...(Hurtado LW. Lord Jesus Christ, Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. William B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, 2003, pp. 647, 651)

The binitarian explantion of the Godhead with the Son subservient to the Father was not only scriptural (Luke 22:42; John 14:28), it was documented in all the early writings that the Greco-Romans currently accept according to Professor Hurtado.

Furthermore, it perhaps should be mentioned that not just regular writings, but the sacra nomina (generally two-letter abbreviations, perhaps intended to identify the documents as “Christian”) found on early documents associated Christianity is also believed to support the position that those that professed Christ in the second century were binitarian. Larry Hurtado observed:

The Christian nomina sacra ... differ in form from any Jewish scribal devices ... Most significantly, the four earliest Christian nomina sacra are the two key words for God (Theos and Kyrios) and key designations for Jesus (Iēosus, Christos, and Kyrios).  If therefore, as is usually believed, the nomina sacra practice represents an expression of piety and reverence, it is a striking departure from pre-Christian Jewish scribal practice to extend to these designations of Jesus the same scribal treatment given to key designations for God.  That is, the four earliest Christian nomina sacra collectively manifest one noteworthy expression of what I have called the “binitarian shape” of earliest Christian piety and devotion (Hurtado LW.  The Earliest Christian Artifacts.  William B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids (MI), 2006, pp. 105-106).

S.D. Charlesworth and others have concluded, "the four earliest nomina sacra appear to give visual expression to 'the "binitarian shape" of earliest Christian piety and devotion' and theology" (Charlesworth SD. Consensus standardization in the systematic approach to nomina sacra in second- and third-century gospel manuscripts, Aegyptus 86 (2006), p. 40).

Here are some nomina sacra/ sacra nomina from the second and third centuries: ΘΥ, ΘΣ, ΚΥ, ΚΣ (Papyrus 4, 150-225 A.D.). Here are some nomina sacra/ sacra nomina from the third and fourth centuries: ΘΣ, ΘΥ, ΘΝ, ΙΥ, ΧΩ, ΧΥ (P. Heidelberg G. 645, 200-300 A.D.).

After Emperor Constantine's time, Pergamos (the next church in Revelation 2) began to become predominant. Many were known as 'Paulicians,' 'Bogomils,' 'Cathars,' and 'Patarenes,' with those towards to end sometimes known as 'Albigensians' (although most referred by those names were not in the true Church).

The Nationmaster Encyclopedia states:

The Albigensians and other Bogomil heretics...denied the third person of the Holy Trinity.

Perhaps it should be added that most historians do understand that early Christian writings (nearly all prior to the third century) were more supportive of binitarianism that trinitarianism. Interestingly, this is even acknowledged by a booklet against binitarianism that states:

There was an early heresy in the church known as Binitarianism. Binitarianism is a belief in the Deity of the Father and Son but not the Holy Spirit...The Binitarian heresy never gained much acceptance. (Stewart D. Is The Holy Spirit Merely Another Name For Jesus? (Binitarianism). 7/07/06).

Of course, since binitarianism existed from the beginning, it was not a heresy. Notice carefully that the above writer acknowledges that Binitarianism existed from an early time. I would add that the fact that the true Church of God is, and always has been, small, is not proof that it or our doctrines, such as binitarianism are in error. The plain truth is that unlike binitarianism, trinitarianism was not documented to exist in the true church ever, or even mainstream Christianity before the third century (though two universally recognized heretics, Montanus and Valentinus, espoused some version of it).

Actually, binitarianism was the main form of Christianity. It mainly declined in overall popularity as the separation between true Christians (often referred to by scholars as Nazarenes and Jewish Christians and sometimes Ebionites) widened.

The name of Nazarenes was deemed too honourable for those Christian Jews, and they soon received, from the supposed poverty of their understanding, as well as of their condition, the contemptuous epithet of Ebionites...The unfortunate Ebionites, rejected from one religion as apostates, and from the other as heretics, found themselves compelled to assume a more decided character; and although some traces of that obsolete sect may be discovered as late as the fourth century, they insensibly melted away either into the church or the synagogue...

It has been remarked with more ingenuity than truth that the virgin purity of the church was never violated by schism or heresy before the reign of Trajan or Hadrian, about one hundred years after the death of Christ (Gibbon E. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume I, Chapter XV, Section I. ca. 1776-1788).

In the first two centuries, both true Christians and those that were more Roman Catholic and/or Eastern Orthodox in their views were binitarian. People in those three groups are often referred to as "proto-orthodox".

..."Nazarene" Christianity, had a view of Jesus fully compatible with the beliefs favored by the proto-orthodox (indeed, they could be considered part of the circles that made up proto-orthodox Christianity of the time). Pritz contended that this Nazarene Christianity was the dominant form of Christianity in the first and second centuries ... the devotional stance toward Jesus that characterized most of the Jewish Christians of the first and second centuries seems to have been congruent with proto-orthodox devotion to Jesus ... the proto-orthodox "binitarian" pattern of devotion. (Hurtado LW. Lord Jesus Christ, Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. William B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, 2003, pp. 560-561,618).

However, as the Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox became less like original Christianity, they also adopted a different (a trinitarian) view of the Godhead. "Nazarene" Christianity completely separated from Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox "Christianity" by the end of the third century, with most of the separation occuring in the second century (please see the articles Apostolic Succession and The Smyrna Church Era).

Binitarianism existed during the Pergamos era of the Church of God.

Dr. Arius

But let's go back to the time of the Smyrna era.

Arius was a teacher (which is what the word "doctor" means, whether he is formally considered to be a doctor is unclear) from Alexandria who held to the belief that God the Father was supreme in authority to Jesus, and that the Holy Spirit was not the third member of the Godhead. However, he did hold at least one belief that binitarians did not hold--he believed that Jesus had a beginning, while binitarians do not accept that.

Regarding Arius, here is what The Catholic Encyclopedia records:

He described the Son as a second, or inferior God, standing midway between the First Cause and creatures; as Himself made out of nothing, yet as making all things else; as existing before the worlds of the ages; and as arrayed in all divine perfections except the one which was their stay and foundation. God alone was without beginning, unoriginate; the Son was originated, and once had not existed. For all that has origin must begin to be (Barry W. Transcribed by Anthony A. Killeen. Arianism. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I. Copyright © 1907 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

And while true Christians will understand that Christ is God and accepts the Son being under the authority of God the Father, we do not accept that He had a beginning (see Hebrews 7:3).

Perhaps, I should add what Herbert W. Armstrong wrote about Arius:

...another controversy was raging, between a Dr. Arius, of Alexandria, a Christian leader who died A.D. 336, and other bishops, over calling God a Trinity. Dr. Arius stoutly opposed the Trinity doctrine, but introduced errors of his own (Armstrong HW. Mystery of the Ages. Dodd, Mead & Company, New York, 1985, p. 54).

Herbert Armstrong is essentially stating that Dr. Arius' understanding was imperfect--and that would be at least on the point of Jesus at one time not existing.

Many people know that there was a great debate at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. Although he did not wish to go to this meeting, Emperor Constantine summoned and forced Dr. Arius to attend the pagan Emperor's council.

According to historical accounts, the attendees at this council were split into three factions:

1) Arians - Supporters of the position of Dr. Arius, about 10% of the attendees.
2) In-Between - Those who held a position between the Arians and Trinitarians, about 75% of the attendees. Eusebius was the main spokesperson for them.
3) Trinitarians - Those who supported the views of Athanasius, about 15% of the attendees.
(Feldmeth N. Early Christianity. CD Lecture. Fuller Theological Seminary, c. 2003)

Trinitarians were NOT the majority at Nicea as the historians Henry Bettenson and Chris Mauder admit:

The decisions of Nicaea were really the work of a minority, and they were…disliked by many who were not adherents of Arius. (Bettenson H, Mauder C. eds., Documents of the Christian Church.  London: Oxford University Press, 1943, p. 45)

Notice what a Roman Catholic priest wrote about Athanasius:

Remember the example of St. Athanasius, the great champion for the true Faith in the 4th-Century crisis concerning the Person and nature of Jesus Christ. St. Athanasius stood up against 90% of all the bishops in the Church, and even endured the appearance of being excommunicated by Pope Liberius . . . (Gruner N., Priest. Part II FATIMA: Roadblocks and Breakthroughs. The Fatima Crusader 110, Fall 2014, p. 48)

So, the above account claims that 90% of Greco-Roman bishops did NOT support the trinity. The idea that the trinity was a fundamental part of even the Greco-Roman faith simply does not agree with the facts.

Although, Eusebius led the biggest group, he did not win. Emperor Constantine was familiar with a trinitarian viewpoint as he had practiced Mithraism, which had a type of triad/trinity leading it (see Do You Practice Mithraism?). After an impassioned speech by Athanasius, Emperor Constantine arose. And since he was the Emperor (plus he was dressed as a golden "angel"; Feldmeth N. Early Christianity. CD Lecture. Fuller Theological Seminary, c. 2003), his standing was noticed by the bulk of the attendees who correctly interpreted the Emperor as now supporting Athanasius. Athanasius of Alexandria was the big supporter of the trinity and his speech moved Constantine. Because of Athanasius' speech and the Emperor's approval, the bulk of the attendees decided to come up with a statement on the Godhead that the Arians could not support.

This to a degree solved the Emperor's immediate concern about unity of his version of Christianity, and pretty much drove the Arians out.

The myth that is normally spread is that Dr. Arius caused all of this, but this is ignoring the fact that the Bible teaches binitarianism and that early professors of Christ actually taught a binitarian view of the Godhead.


The true Church of God opposed the efforts of the Roman Catholic Church at this time to become strictly trinitarian and, shortly after the Council of Nicea, most had to go into exile. Historical records at the time show that some version of binitarianism was a belief held by many professing Christians then (including many not actually in the Church of God). Some who are unitarians believe they have conflicting evidence, but part of the problem is that while it is true that Dr. Arius held a version of the unitarian position (which differs dramatically from certain current traditional unitarians), it is also true that the binitarians were considered to be 'semi-Arians' (even though there were different definitions of semi-Arians as well).

The leading Catholic historian of the Constantine era, Eusebius, was a Semi-Arian bishop who was succeeded by another Semi-Arian:

When in 338, Eusebius died in Caesarea he was succeeded by his disciple Acacius, who shared the semi-Arianism of his master (Bagatti, Bellarmino.  Translated by Eugene Hoade.  The Church from the Gentiles in Palestine, Part 1, Chapter 1.  Nihil obstat: Ignatius Mancini. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 28 Februarii 1970.  Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, p. 49).

In 359, there was even a "semi-Arian council of Seleucia (359)" attended by Greco-Roman church leaders (Ibid, p. 56). And "in 335, the semi-Arian bishops, returning from the council of Tyre" consecrated a basilica (Ibid, p. 59). In other words, even among the Greco-Roman bishops, many were "semi-Arians".

And at least one now claimed to be Pope (Liberius) was believed to have been Semi-Arian. Notice what The Catholic Encyclopedia teaches:

The second Formula of Sirmium (357) stated the doctrine of the Anomoeans, or extreme Arians. Against this the Semi-Arian bishops, assembled at Ancyra, the episcopal city of their leader Basilius, issued a counter formula, asserting that the Son is in all things like the Father, afterwards approved by the Third Synod of Sirmium (358). This formula, though silent on the term "homousios", consecrated by the Council of Nicaea, was signed by a few orthodox bishops, and probably by Pope Liberius, being, in fact, capable of an orthodox interpretation. The Emperor Constantius cherished at that time the hope of restoring peace between the orthodox and the Semi-Arians by convoking a general council (Benigni, Umberto. "Council of Rimini." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 11 Jul. 2008 <>).

Pneumatomachi…The majority of this sect were clearly orthodox on the Consubstantiality of the Son; they had sent a deputation from the Semi-Arian council of Lampsacus (364 A.D.) to Pope Liberius, who after some hesitation acknowledged the soundness of their faith; but with regard to the Third Person, both pope and bishops were satisfied with the phrase: "We believe in the Holy Ghost" (Arendzen, John. "Pneumatomachi." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 11 Jul. 2008 <>)

"In the Council of Rimini, 359 A.D...nearly all bishops present, 400 in number" decided "to sign a semi-Arian creed" (Kramer H.B. L. The Book of Destiny.  Nihil Obstat: J.S. Considine, O.P., Censor Deputatus.  Imprimatur: +Joseph M. Mueller, Bishop of Sioux City, Iowa, January 26, 1956.  Reprint TAN Books, Rockford (IL), p. 165).

Hence, the idea that the majority in the 4th century were semi-Arian has a lot of support in Greco-Roman writings. Also, the fact that 400 bishops who met in Rimini, Italy in 359 A.D. signed a "semi-Arian creed" indicates that the majority of leaders in West accepted some type of non-trinitarian position on the Godhead.

The Council of Rimini was also called the Council of Ariminum.  Notice what Sozomen reported about it:

The partisans of Acacius remained some time at Constantinople, and invited thither several bishops of Bithynia, among whom were Maris, bishop of Chalcedon, and Ulfilas, bishop of the Goths. These prelates having assembled together, in number about fifty, they confirmed the formulary read at the council of Ariminum, adding this provision, that the terms "substance" and "hypostasis" should never again be used in reference to God. They also declared that all other formularies set forth in times past, as likewise those that might be compiled at any future period, should be condemned (Sozomen, Book IV, Chapter 24 ).

Socrates Scholasticus reported the following as part of the declaration of that Council:

We believe in one God the Father Almighty…And in…Christ our Lord and God…

But since the term ούσία, substance or essence which was used by the fathers in a very simple and intelligible sense, but not being understood by the people, has been a cause of offense, we have thought proper to reject it, as it is not contained even in the sacred writings; and that no mention of it should be made in future, inasmuch as the holy Scriptures have nowhere mentioned the substance of the Father and of the Son. Nor ought the "subsistence" of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit to be even named. But we affirm that the Son is like the Father, in such a manner as the sacred Scriptures declare and teach (Socrates Scholasticus, Book II, Chapter 41, pp. 221,222).

The same Council also taught this about the Holy Spirit:

We believe also in the Holy Spirit…as the Comforter; according to how it is written, the Spirit of truth (Ibid, p. 221).

So while Semi-Arians believe that there is a Holy Spirit, they tend to limit their beliefs to what the Bible says about it—they do not declare it to be the third co-equal person of a non-existent Greco-Roman trinity.

In 359, there was also a semi-Arian council of Seleucia (359) attended by Greco-Roman church leaders (Bagatti, The Church from the Gentiles in Palestine, p.56). And "in 335, the semi-Arian bishops, returning from the council of Tyre" consecrated a basilica (Bagatti, The Church from the Gentiles in Palestine, p.59). In other words, even among the Greco-Roman bishops, many were "Semi-Arians."

Here is another important semi-Arian bishop according to The Catholic Encyclopedia:

St. Cyril of Jerusalem Bishop of Jerusalem and Doctor of the Church, born about 315; died probably 18 March, 386… He appeared at the Council of Seleucia in 359, in which the Semi-Arian party was triumphant… He belonged to the Semi-Arian, or Homoean party, and is content to declare that the Son is "in all things like the Father" (Chapman, John. St. Cyril of Jerusalem. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 3 Feb. 2010 <>

While some have questioned if Cyril was semi-Arian, it is also known that Maximus II (who preceded him as bishop of Jerusalem) had semi-Arian views.

The Catholic saint Jerome, while discussing Arian and anti-Arian writings wrote:

Fortunatianus,  an African by birth, bishop of Aquilia during the reign of Constantius, composed brief Commentaries on the gospels arranged by chapters, written in a rustic style, and is held in detestation because, when Liberius bishop of Rome was driven into exile for the faith, he was induced by the urgency of Fortunatianus to subscribe to heresy (Jerome. De Viris Illustribus (On Illustrious Men), Chapter 97).

Here is more modern Catholic writing about Pope Liberius:

Liberius (352-366)…the signing of a document that contained a formulation very close to the Arian thesis…he was criticized by many (Athanasius, Hilary of Poiters, Jerome) who saw this submission as a weakness due to fear of death (Lopes A. Translation by Charles Nopar. The Popes.  Pontifical Administration, Rome, 1997, p.12).

The Catholic Encylopedia claims:

However, when Constans died (350), and his Semi-Arian brother was left supreme, the persecution of Athanasius redoubled in violence. By a series of intrigues the Western bishops were persuaded to cast him off at Arles, Milan, Ariminum. It was concerning this last council (359) that St. Jerome wrote, "the whole world groaned and marvelled to find itself Arian". For the Latin bishops were driven by threats and chicanery to sign concessions which at no time represented their genuine views. (Barry, William. "Arianism." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 8 Nov. 2014 <>)

So, liars pretended not to be Semi-Arian? The reality is that until the late 4th century, the majority of Greco-Romans in the east did not believe in the trinity.

Even the Orthodox bishop of Constantinople in the fourth century held to some form of Semi-Arian view:

Towards the middle of the fourth century, Macedonius, Bishop of Constantinople, and, after him a number of Semi-Arians, while apparently admitting the Divinity of the Word, denied that of the Holy Ghost (Forget J. Transcribed by W.S. French, Jr. Holy Ghost. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Macedonius... denied the Divinity of the Holy Ghost, and was made Bishop of Constantinople A. D. 342 or 343 (Chrystal James. Authoritative Christianity: The First Ecumenical Council ... which was Held A.D. at Nicaea in Bithynia. Published by J. Chrystal, 1891 Item notes: v.1 Original from the New York Public Library Digitized Jul 11, 2006, p. 316).

Macedonius, bishop of Constantinople in the middle of the 4th century, denied that the Holy Ghost was equal in essence and dignity to God the Father. The Council of Alexandria in 363 declared this bishop and his adherents, the Pneumatomachists, teachers of heresy (Beach F.C. The Americana: A Universal Reference Library, Comprising the Arts and Sciences, Literature, History, Biography, Geography, Commerce, Etc., of the World. Published by Scientific American compiling department, 1912 Item notes: v.10 Original from the University of California Digitized May 8, 2008).

Perhaps it should also be noted that Socrates Scholasticus reported that Macedonius had long been a deacon before his election as Bishop of Constantinople, that he was aged, and that he was elected by the Arians (Socrates Scholasticus, Book II, Chapter 6 ) (sometimes "semi-Arians" are inaccurately referred to as Arians in certain Greco-Roman writings).  Thus, the "semi-Arian" view should not be considered as something that simply happened in the fourth century.  Instead, semiarianism was a teaching that ended up being replaced by the Greco-Roman trinity in the latter part of that century.  Furthermore, even the official website of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople admits that the arians/semi-semiarians ruled that “see” for at least “forty years” in the fourth century (Gregory I of Nazianzen 379-381. © 2010 The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. viewed 04/17/10). However, it should be understood that there is no evidence that Constantinople had any “bishops” prior to the fourth century who were actual trinitarians.  The reality is that amongst most of the Eastern Orthodox, they and their leaders had always held some type of semi-Arian/binitarian view of the Godhead.

The historian Sozomen reported:

Liberius...Constantius urged him, in the presence of the deputies of the Eastern bishops, and of the other priests who were at the camp, to confess that the Son is not of the same substance as the Father. He was instigated to this measure by Basil, Eustathius, and Eusebius, who possessed great influence over him. They had formed a compilation, in one document, of the decrees against Paul of Samosata, and Photinus, bishop of Sirmium; to which they subjoined a formulary of faith drawn up at Antioch at the consecration of the church, as if certain persons had, under the pretext of the term consubstantial, attempted to establish a heresy of their own. Liberius, Athanasius, Alexander, Severianus, and Crescens, a priest of Africa, were induced to assent to this document, as were likewise Ursacius, Germanius, bishop of Sirmium, Valens, bishop of Mursa, and as many of the Eastern bishops as were present (Sozomen.  Translated by Chester D. Hartranft.  Ecclesiastical History (Book IV), Chapter 15. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 2. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1890.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <>).

So, apparently even Athanasius “compromised” his beliefs for a time. Gregory of Cappadocia was semi-Arian, and although many of the Orthodox no longer count him as legitimate successor, he was appointed, and ruled, as the Bishop of Alexandria. And those that do not accept him (and even those that do) normally accept that Athanasius was a legitimate successor, even though Athanasius taught his opponents “ought to be held in universal hatred” (Jones W. The history of the Christian church: from the birth of Christ to the eighteenth century, including the very interesting account of the Waldenses and Albigenses, Volume 1, 3rd edition. R.W. Pomeroy, 1832. Original from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Digitized, Mar 13, 2008, p. 177).  This is not the sign of a real Christian leader as by stating what he did, Athanasius was being unfaithful to what Jesus taught about opponents (Matthew 5:44).

Most of the bishops of Antioch in the 4th century were either Arian or semi-Arian until the Council of Constantinople (Patriarchs of Antioch. Chronological List.  Syriac Orthodox Resources. viewed 04/12/10). The preceding identified seven “successors” as Arian, but failed to mention that several others were semi-Arian.  Gregory of Cappadocia was semi-Arian, and although many of the Orthodox no longer count him as legitimate successor, he was the Bishop of Alexandria (Gibbon, p. 496).

Here is what it is recorded that a one-time Orthodox Catholic and binitarian bishop named Marcellus of Ancyra (who also apparently put together what is known as the oldest 'Apostles' Creed', known as the 'Old Roman Form') wrote on the nature of God around the middle of the fourth century:

Now with the heresy of the Ariomaniacs, which has corrupted the Church of God...These then teach three hypostases, just as Valentinus the heresiarch first invented in the book entitled by him 'On the Three Natures'.  For he was the first to invent three hypostases and three persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he is discovered to have filched this from Hermes and Plato (Source: Logan A. Marcellus of Ancyra (Pseudo-Anthimus), 'On the Holy Church': Text, Translation and Commentary. Verses 8-9.  Journal of Theological Studies, NS, Volume 51, Pt. 1, April 2000, p.95).

Thus, into the middle of the fourth century, many major leaders of the Greco-Roman churches endorsed Semi-Arian, non-trinitarian positions (and both churches trace their so-called apostolic succession through them). At least one bishop/patriarch/pontiff of all of the so-called five Greco-Roman "apostolic sees" endorsed semi-Arian positions in the fourth century. Could "apostolic succession" include successors who were so at variance with doctrine on the Godhead.

Why do most of the Greco-Romans and Protestants claim then that not accepting the trinity is a major heresy and that it was the original view of the church? It is a historical fact that the trinity was NOT an original Christian doctrine.

Over time, however, the trinitarian bishops gained more influence however. But some offended the Semi-Arians.

Certain Catholics wanted to get their type of semi-Arians back more into the fold and that is significantly why they convened the Council of Constantinople in May of 381. Notice what The Catholic Encyclopedia states:

First Council of Constantinople (SECOND GENERAL COUNCIL.) This council was called in May, 381, by Emperor Theodosius, to provide for a Catholic succession in the patriarchal See of Constantinople, to confirm the Nicene Faith, to reconcile the semi-Arians with the Church...(Shahan TJ. Transcribed by Sean Hyland. First Council of Constantinople. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IV. Published 1908. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Yet, the Council of Constantinople so offended the semi-Arians that many of them walked out. Then, that council also "anathematized" the "semi-Arians" (Latourette K.S. A History of Christianity, Volume 1, Beginnings to 1500. Harper Collins, San Francisco, 1975, p.163).

The following, is also from the late fourth century, but by Gregory of Nyssa.  It suggests that even after the Greco-Roman alliance finally accepted the trinity as now taught, not everyone did.  Gregory wrote that the Manichaean/Paulicians did accept the Father and Son as God, but not the Holy Spirit, hence this additional evidence that they still held a binitarian/Semi-Arian view:

I am aware, too, that the Manichees go about vaunting the name of Christ. Because they hold revered the Name to which we bow the knee, shall we therefore number them amongst Christians? So, too, he who both believes in the Father and receives the Son, but sets aside the Majesty of the Spirit, has "denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel," and belies the name of Christ which he bears (Gregory of Nyssa. On the Holy Spirit, Against the Macedonians. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series Two, Volume 5. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1893. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

Did you realize that this "semi-arian" matter was so big?

Here is how one author defined those who were semi-arian:

Semi Arianism...They rejected the Arian view that Christ was created and had a different nature from God (anomoios dissimilar), but neither did they accept the Nicene Creed which stated that Christ was "of one substance (homoousios) with the Father." Semi Arians taught that Christ was similar ( homoios) to the Father, or of like substance (homoiousios), but still subordinate" (Pfandl, Gerhard. THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY AMONG ADVENTISTS. Biblical Research Institute Silver Spring, MD June 1999,, 7/12/04).

This is consistent with Jesus' statements about Himself and that He was subordinate to the Father (John 14:28; Luke 4:43) as well as Paul's statements (I Corinthians 15:27-28).

The Catholic Encyclopedia teaches this about the Semi-Arians,

A name frequently given to the conservative majority in the East in the fourth century...showing that the very name of father implies a son of like substance...rejected the Divinity of the Holy Ghost (Chapman, John. Transcribed by Douglas J. Potter. Semiarians and Semiarianism. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIII. Published 1912. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Thus, Catholic-approved writings acknowledge that the majority of those who professed Christ in Asia Minor (the East) in the 4th century were "Semi-Arians" and that the Pope along with about 400 other Western bishops acknowledged that the doctrines of the those that did not believe that the Holy Spirit was God (the Pneumatomachi) were sound.

Did you know this before?

Sabbath-Keeping Semi-Arians

There were Semi-Arians in Armenia in the late fourth century who also kept the seventh-day Sabbath:

Eustathius was succeeded by Erius, a...semi-Arian...he urged a purer morality and a stricter observance of the Sabbath (Davis, Tamar. A General History of the Sabbatarian Churches. 1851; Reprinted 1995 by Commonwealth Publishing, Salt Lake City, p. 20) .

After several Greco-Roman councils in the late fourth century, the Greco-Romans changed and had a different majority view of the Godhead. Once they had that, they began to turn more and more against those who held to a binitarian/Semi-Arian view of the Godhead.

Although Catholic writers have had many definitions of "Semi-Arians" (most of which disagree with the Church of God position), one that somewhat defines the binitarian view taken in this article would possibly be this one from Epiphanius in the late-4th Century,

Semi-Arians...hold the truly orthodox view of the Son, that he was forever with the Father...but has been begotten without beginning and not in time...But all of these blaspheme the Holy Spirit, and do not count him in the Godhead with the Father and the Son (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section VI, Verses 1,1 and 1,3. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, pp.471-472).

The above description is somewhat consistent with those held by the Continuing Church of God. We believe Jesus was always God and forever with the Father, but once begotten, became the Son. By not considering that the Holy Spirit is a separate Being, some form of binitarians were called the Pneumatomachi as a subset of Semi-Arians. The Catholic historian Epiphanius described them as

A sort of monstrous, half-formed people of two natures" (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section VI, Verses 1,1 and 1,3. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, p.471).

Hence, binitarians have long been subject to criticism by those who accepted the Nicene and later Councils.

Another in the fourth century, Gregory of Nyssa, describes the beliefs of non-trinitarians as follows:

But they reveal more clearly the aim of their argument. As regards the Father, they admit the fact that He is God, and that the Son likewise is honoured with the attribute of Godhead; but the Spirit, Who is reckoned with the Father and the Son, they cannot include in their conception of Godhead, but hold that the power of the Godhead, issuing from the Father to the Son, and there halting, separates the nature of the Spirit from the Divine glory ( On the Holy Trinity. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series Two, Volume 5. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1893. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

Around 600 A.D. some true, non-trinitarian, Christians were known as Paulicians by their opponents and since they believed "Christ came down from heaven" (Herzog, “Paulicians,” Philip Schaff, ed., A Religious Encyclopaedia or Dictionary of Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical Theology, 3rd edn, Vol. 2. Toronto, New York & London: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1894. pp.1776-1777,, 7/14/04), it appears they at least accepted the pre-existence of Christ and other evidence suggests that they most likely were also binitarian.

Binitarianism existed during the Pergamos era of the Church of God.

Continuing Throughout History

The next church in succession in Revelation 2 was Thyatira. Documents throughout its predominate time show that it was not trinitarian:

A heresy during the middle ages that developed in the town Albi in Southern France. This error taught that there were two gods...The Albigenses taught that Jesus was God but that He only appeared as a man while on earth (Albigenes. CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS & RESEARCH MINISTRY. 9/03/05).

Note: Most Albigenses were not in the Church of God (COG), though some COG critics called COG members Albigenses at that time. And the COG believes Jesus was a man while on the earth (and did not just appear to be so). It seems that some remnant of Thyatira remained in the Transcarpathian mountain regions, and at least some of them (in the Ukraine portion at least, who are affiliated with the United Church of God) are (and probably were previously) binitarian.

It should be pointed out that there are differences in opinion of what happened to this era, as many who may have been associated with it apparently became unitarians--the fact that many have historically left the true church for other doctrines does not make the other doctrines correct.

The next church in succession, beginning with the first verse of Revelation 3, was Sardis--later essentially incorporated as the Church of God, Seventh Day (CG7). It seems to partially have come from the binitarian portion of the Anabaptist movement--which traced itself back to the Paulicians (Lee. F. The Anabaptists and their Stepchildren., 7/14/04) though there were also unitarians who associated with it.

The Sardis era of the Church ended up having some members in what is now the United Kingdom with parts such as the London Mill Yard Church. After migration to the what is now the U.S.A., most faithful ones here eventually essentially incorporated as the Church of God, Seventh Day (CG7).

Richard Nickels noted this about one from Sardis era in the late 17th century:

Joseph Davis, Sr., a member of the London Mill Yard Church, wrote in 1670 that he believed in one God the Father, one Lord Christ, and that the Holy Spirit is the power of God, not part of a "Trinity" (Nickels R. We are Sabbath-Keepers, Not Seventh-Day Adventists. 03/10/06).

Although some of CG7's current leadership is apparently leaning towards trinitarianism, it was (and officially to some degree, still is) binitarian. It acknowledges the deity of both the Father and the Son, but specifically has taught against the divinity of the Holy Spirit (Dugger A.N., Todd C.O. A History of True Religion).

Actually one of the earlier published statement under a section titled False Doctrines is "About the year 379 the apostate church began to seek Scriptures to teach the erroneous doctrine of the deity of the Holy Ghost" (Ibid, p.87)--so the trend in CG7 to be more accepting of the trinity is not only disturbing, it absolutely conflicts with its past teachings.

The Seventh Day Adventists

The Seventh Day Adventists are one example of a group formed from people who once affiliated with the true Church of God, but essentially tried to take over (they actually did takeover, which is what caused CG7 to leave and form) and change doctrine--in the 1800s, although they remained Sabbatarians, they rejected the name 'Church of God', and adopted non-COG doctrines--the trinity became doctrine when Ellen White published a pamphlet in 1897 declaring the Holy Spirit "the third person of the Godhead"--Andrews University suggests the SDAs were binitarians before this).

Essentially, SDA scholars admit that the pioneers of the SDA church were binitarian/Semi-Arian, that James and Ellen White were at first, but that over a forty year span of time, Ellen White (and hence the SDA church) became essentially trinitarian, and that this was ratified officially about 100 years after the SDAs infiltrated the COG.

SDA scholar, G. Pfandl, wrote this about the Semi-Arians (a title that somewhat applies to those in the COGs):

While the Seventh day Adventist Church today espouses the doctrine of the Trinity, this has not always been so. The evidence from a study of Adventist history indicates that from the earliest years of our church to the 1890's a whole stream of writers took an Arian or semi Arian position (Pfandl, Gerhard. THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY AMONG ADVENTISTS. Biblical Research Institute Silver Spring, MD June 1999,, 5/12/06).

SDA scholar Dr. Jerry Moon wrote:

In 1846 James White dismissed the doctrine of the Trinity as "the old unscriptural trinitarian creed."2 A century later, in 1946, the denomination he co-founded voted a "Fundamental Beliefs" statement that specifically endorsed the doctrine of the Trinity. That most of the early leaders among Seventh-day Adventists held an antitrinitarian theology, and that a major shift has since occured, has become standard Adventist history...That Gane's characterization of Ellen White as a "trinitarian monotheist" is accurate regarding her mature concept of God, from 1898 onward. In the 1840s, however, she did not yet have all the components of that view in place. Her mature view developed through a 40-year process that can be extensively documented...At the core of the debate is the question whether Ellen White's position on the Trinity ever changed. Some assume that she never changed, that either she always believed in the Trinity or never believed in the Trinity.9 There is ample evidence, however, that Ellen White's beliefs did change...Brick by conceptual brick, (perhaps without even being aware of it herself) she was slowly but surely dismantling the substructure of the antitrinitarian view, and building a trinitarian view. In another clear break with the prevailing semi-Arian consensus, she declared in 1878 that Christ was the "eternal Son."41...In 1890, she followed up her 1888 affirmation of Christ's unity with the Father (in nature, character, and purpose) with perhaps her last major statement that can still be read ambiguously. "The Son of God shared the Father's throne, and the glory of the eternal, self-existent One encircled both."46 Retrospectively, this phrase harmonizes perfectly with her later statements (especially Desire of Ages, 530) that Christ is "self-existent" and that His Deity is not "derived" from the Father. It is also possible, however, to read the sentence from a binitarian (two-person Godhead) or even semi-Arian (Christ inferior to the Father) perspective...A pamphlet published in 1897 carried the next major component in her developing doctrine of God, that the Holy Spirit is "the third person of the Godhead." This concept would receive wider attention and more permanent form in The Desire of Ages (1898), where she repeated and emphasized the previous two points: "In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived," and the Holy Spirit is the "Third Person of the Godhead."49 In 1899 she confirmed the other side of the paradox, that in His "person," Christ was "distinct" from the Father.50 Here the essential trinitarian paradox of the unity of God in a plurality of persons is clearly articulated, and her trinitarianism is essentially complete. All that remains for her capstone statements of 1901 and 1905 is to affirm most explicitly that the three "eternal heavenly dignitaries," the "three highest powers in heaven," the "three living persons of the heavenly trio," are one in nature, character, and purpose, but not in person.51...

In the first part of our study we noted that the 1946 General Conference session voted the first officially Adventist endorsement of belief in the Trinity,81 just 100 years after James White's strong rejection of that idea in the 1846 Day-Star. This change was not a simple reversal. The evidence is that Ellen White agreed with the essential positive point of James's belief, namely that "the Father and the Son" are "two distinct, literal, tangible persons." Subsequent evidence shows that she also agreed with James's negative point: that the traditional, philosophical concepts held by many trinitarians did "spiritualize away" the personal reality of the Father and the Son.82

Soon after this she added the conviction, based on visions, that both Christ and the Father have tangible forms. She progressively affirmed the eternal equality of Christ and the Father, that Christ was not created, and by 1888, that an adequate concept of the atonement demands the full and eternal Deity of Christ. Only in the 1890s did she become aware of the full individuality and personhood of the Holy Spirit, but when she did, she referred to the Holy Spirit in literal and tangible terms much like those she had used in 1850 to describe the Father and the Son. For instance, at Avondale in 1899 she declared, "the Holy Spirit, who is as much a person as God is a person, is walking through these grounds, unseen by human eyes; . . . He hears every word we utter and knows every thought of the mind."83

This confirms the fourfold hypothesis with which this article opened. First, E. R. Gane's characterization of Ellen White as a "trinitarian monotheist" is accurate regarding her mature concept of God, from 1898 onward. (Moon J. "Ellen White and the Trinity"1. ENDTIME ISSUES NEWSLETTER No. 150. June 27, 2006).

Dr. Moon is admitting that the early Adventists were Semi-Arian, that is a Binitarian View! The view held by the faithful Church of God. So Dr. Moon admits that it was Ellen White who made a break with semi-arianism, but that even her writings at first seemed to support binitarianism. It also should be added that Dr. Moon also stated, "her husband James in 1846 when he condemned the "old unscriptural trinitarian creed" for "spiritualiz[ing] away the existence of the Father and the Son, as two distinct, literal, tangible persons."" In other words, Dr. Moon says that history shows that James White originally believed that the trinity was false, and the the Godhead consisted of the Father and the Son--a binitarian view!

Ellen White, the Trinity, and 666 are important ways that the SDAs differ from the COGs. We in the Continuing Church of God do not consider that the SDAs were part of the Church of God.

In August 1924, Church of God-Seventh day (CG7) officially wrote the following about the Godhead:

The Church of God recognizes two Divine Beings called God, the Father and Jesus Christ His Son. (General Conference Report, Catalog of Minutes. Stanberry, Missouri, August 1924, pp. 1-2 as quoted by Robert Coulter to Bob Thiel via telephone on 11/14/12; also Coulter, The Journey: A History of the Church of God (Seventh Day), p. 194)

Irrespective of the SDAs (who are not COG), binitarianism was taught during the Sardis era of the Church of God.

Philadelphia and Beyond

The next church in succession in Revelation 3 was Philadelphia. Most outside of the Sardis era of the Church of God, who believe in Church eras, believe that this was what was once known as the Radio Church of God, and for most, the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) under Herbert W. Armstrong.

A major portion of the remnant of this era became the old Global Church of God and then the early Living Church of God (LCG), and then the most faithful in the Continuing Church of God (CCOG). As the beginning of this article has pointed out, the COG is clearly binitarian (as was quoted in the beginning of this article) as was the Radio Church of God and the old WCG. In the letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia, Jesus states, "you have not denied my name" (Revelation 3:8). And while this also has something to do with governance, this may also be distinguishing the fact that the true portion of the Philadelphia church never denies Jesus' deity (perhaps, unlike some who might be part of other eras).

Here is something from the Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God:

A Binitarian or Semi-Arian view, that acknowledged the Holy Spirit, was held by the apostolic and post-apostolic true Christian leaders. ...

The Father was considered to be God by all early professing Christians. ...

Holy Spirit was not referred to as God or as a person by any early true Christians. ...

Jesus was considered to be God by the true Christians. ...


The Father and Son comprise the Godhead (Romans 1:20; Colossians 2:9) and work through the Holy Spirit. Scripture shows that God is one eternal divine Family consisting of two, God the Father and the Word, at this time (Genesis 1:26; Ephesians 2:19; 3:14-15; John 1:1,14), with faithful children to be added (Hebrews 2:10-11, 1 John 3:1-2; Ephesians 3:14-15) to become as Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29), who is God (John 1:1-3,14, 20:28-29; Colossians 2:9). The Holy Spirit is not a separate being in the theological sense and is given to those after those who have properly repented and been baptized (Acts 2:38-39). The early original Christians had what has been called a “binitarian” view of the Godhead.

Binitarianism was taught during the Philadelphia era of the Church of God and by its currently existing remnant.

The last church in succession in Revelation 3 is Laodicea. This is to be the predominate church at the time of the end. While its major branches, splinters, and independents are binitarian, it may be possible that it may contain some confused unitarians, though this may be doubtful (see Acts 4:12). The vast bulk of the Laodiceans are clearly binitarian.

The fact is that the duality within the Family of God was made clear in the Bible from the beginning. Moses wrote about it, David wrote about it, Daniel wrote about it, John wrote about it, Jesus declared it, and Paul and others wrote about it. The true Church of God still declares it.

Only God Can Be Worshipped

While traditional unitarians teach that Jesus was somehow special, they deny He was God. However, only God is supposed to be worshipped (Matthew 4:10; Revelation 19:10,22:8-9). And although He emptied Himself of His divinity on Earth (Philippians 2:7) and in that respect was a man (as indicated in Acts 2:22), Jesus still allowed Himself to be worshipped (Matthew 8:2;9:18;.14:33;15:25;28:8,17; Mark 5:6; Luke 24:52; John 9:38). Of course the fact that Jesus then emptied Himself of His divinity on Earth (Philippians 2:7), also shows that He was divine (and part of the Godhead), prior to His human birth.

Jesus specifically taught,

...all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him" (John 5:23).

Since the Father is honored as God, so the Son should be also--this statement from Jesus conclusively proves that Christ is God as the Father is God.

The Book of Revelation also shows a binitarian view that the two are essentially equally honored:

15 The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ (Revelation 11:15).

The Bible records that the Apostle Peter (Acts 10:25) would not allow himself to be worshipped because he was a man (note the same Greek word for worship, proskuneo, is in all the previously cited verses). Paul and Barnabas had a similar incident as well (Acts 14:11-18) were they had to stop the worship through sacrifices to themselves. Angels, also, are not allowed to be worshiped (Matthew 4:9-10;Colossians 2:18; Revelation 19:10,22:8-9).

Thus, even though Jesus emptied Himself of His divinity (Philippians 2:7), He still was representing God as He allowed Himself to be worshipped.

But Was Jesus Fully God on Earth?

Most binitarians do not believe that Jesus "was fully human and fully God," which is a major position held by most trinitarians. There is much evidence to support that position:

1. Binitarians believe that Jesus emptied Himself of His Divinity while in the flesh. 2 Corinthians 8:9 teaches that Jesus became poor, yet God is rich (Haggai 2:8).

Philippians 2:7 specifically teaches, "...Christ Jesus, who subsisting in (the) form of God thought (it) not robbery to be equal to God, but emptied Himself, taking (the) form of a slave, becoming in (the) likeness of men" (Literal translation. Green J.P. ed. Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, 3rd ed. Baker Books, Grand Rapids (MI), 1996, p. 607). Notice also:

5 For let this mind be in you that [is] also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, thought [it] not something to be seized to be equal to God, 7 but emptied Himself, having taken the form of a servant, having been made in the likeness of men, 8 and having been found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself, having become obedient to death—even death of a cross, (Philippians 2:5-8, Literal Standard Version)

Note that "emptied Himself" is the literal translation in the Greek (the Roman Catholic Church also teaches that Jesus "emptied Himself"--see Catechism of the Catholic Church, #461. Imprimatur Potest +Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Doubleday, NY 1995, p. 129).

Thus Jesus was not fully God (though God in the flesh) when He became a human.

2. Notice what Saint Ignatius wrote in the early second century:

Stop your ears, therefore, when any one speaks to you at variance with Jesus Christ, who was descended from David, and was also of Mary; who was truly born, and ate and drank. He was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate; He was truly crucified, and [truly] died, in the sight of beings in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth. He was also truly raised from the dead, His Father quickening Him, even as after the same manner His Father will so raise up us who believe in Him by Christ Jesus, apart from whom we do not possess the true life. (Ignatius. Letter to the Trallians, Chapter 9. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <>)

If Jesus was truly born, truly died, and had to be resurrected by the Father as Ignatius understood (and wrote perhaps within a decade or so after the death of the last apostle), then Jesus obviously was not fully God at that time. And Ignatius did not want Christians to listen to any who taught a contrary doctrine. Yet most trinitarians believe that Jesus did not really die as they tend to believe He remained alive in another location until the resurrection--but according to one of the first post-New Testament records, that was not what was understood by Christians.

3. Since Jesus repeatedly taught that He of Himself "could do nothing" prior to His resurrection (John 5:19,30;8:28), that He claimed He had "[a]ll authority" after the resurrection (Matthew 28:18), He was not fully God when He could do nothing. He also was not "fully God" when He could not do mighty works in an area because of unbelief (Mark 6:5)--God can do whatever He wills irrespective of human belief.

4. The Bible states that Jesus was tempted in all points as humans are (Hebrews 4:15) and that "God cannot be tempted by evil" (James 1:13). "Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren" (Hebrews 2:17). Since "scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35) He could not have been fully God while in the flesh.

5. Jesus was not called God in the flesh until after His resurrection (John 20:28).

Thus while Jesus was what God would be like in the flesh, He simply was not fully God then prior to His resurrection.

Even early Seventh-day Adventists (who had exposure to the Church of God back then) held a similar position. Notice what SDA "prophetess" Ellen White and SDA pioneer J. Waggoner wrote about Jesus:

Jesus Christ laid off His royal robe, His kingly crown, and clothed His divinity with humanity, in order to become a substitute and surety for humanity, that dying in humanity, He might by His death destroy him who had the power of death. He could not have done this as God, but by coming as man, Christ could die. (Ellen G. White, Letter 97, page 5. To “My Brethren in North Fitzroy,” November 18, 1898, Manuscript No. 10, MR No. 812)

Of course we cannot believe what men say about his being equal with God in every respect, and that the Divine Son of God could not suffer nor die.” These are mere human words. (J. H. Waggoner, Review and Herald, November 10th 1863, ‘The Atonement part II’)

The above is consistent with the view that we in the real Church of God hold.

By being empty of His divinity, Jesus simply did not have the direct powers (John 14:10), the inability to somehow die (and the Father raised him, He did not raise Himself--Acts 13:30-34; Romans 10:9; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 2:12), the inability to be tempted (Matthew 4:1; Hebrews 4:15), and the glory that He had prior to His human birth and after His resurrection--thus Jesus was not "fully God and fully human" while in the flesh as the trinitarians tend to believe. The fact that Jesus actually died, and that one who is fully God cannot, also shows that Jesus was not "fully God" while on Earth.

Jesus made His lack of such direct powers on Earth clear in scriptures previously quoted in this article as well as various comments He made about angels. For example, while human He stated, "do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matthew 26:53). Yet in various prophecies He said that later He had charge over the angels (Matthew 13:41) and that He would have the Father's glory (Matthew 16:27;25:31). Also, prior to His resurrection had limited authority on His own (John 5:27-30)--this differs from after the resurrection when He was given back all authority (Matthew 28:18). (It should be added that Jesus suggested that the miracles He performed while human had to do with faith, not His own power; see Mark 9:23;11:22-24.)

John wrote, "every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world" (1 John 4:3). The trinitarian teaching that Jesus was still fully God while on Earth suggests that Jesus did not actually empty Himself of His divinity and that He truly was not in all things made like His brethren (this is consistent with the trinitarian teaching that the same God exists simultaneously in three manifestations, always having the same power and will). The trinitarian teachings thus deny that Jesus truly came in the flesh (for more information, please see the article Some Doctrines of Antichrist). And sadly, as John points out, this heresy was around even in his time. The unitarian position that Jesus is not God would also seem to be condemned by the I John 4:3 statement.

But because both Roman Catholics and the Protestants teach that Jesus was 'fully human and fully God', they reject that He emptied Himself of His divinity (Philippians 2:7), thus they deny that He has truly came in the flesh.

A passage cited to support the view that Jesus was fully God would be Colossians 2:9-10 which states, "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power." While this is an excellent description of the risen Christ, who stated that He had all authority (Matthew 28:18), Jesus simply did not have all the powers of God on earth prior to His resurrection.

As someone else once put it, "During the time Jesus lived on earth, He was the same WHO (identity and history) He had always been, but he was not the same WHAT (immortal, invincible, all-knowing, etc.) that He had always been.  After living (and dying) as our example, the resurrection restored Him to what He had been."

Perhaps it should be noted that even what is believed to be the most ancient Christian complete sermon ever found, teaches that Jesus was Spirit and became flesh:

If Christ, the Lord who saved us, became flesh (even though he was originally spirit) and in that state called us...(Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 2nd ed, 9:5. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2004, p. 115).

This ancient sermon is saying that Jesus was originally spirit and became flesh like us! Thus, confirming the general binitarian position that Jesus, in fact, did fully empty Himself of His divinity while on Earth.

Furthermore, Irenaeus apparently agreed with this as he noted:

Vain indeed are those who allege that He appeared in mere seeming. For these things were not done in appearance only, but in actual reality. But if He did appear as a man, when He was not a man, neither could the Holy Spirit have rested upon Him -- an occurrence which did actually take place -- as the Spirit is invisible; nor, [in that case], was there any degree of truth in Him, for He was not that which He seemed to be...And I have proved already, that it is the same thing to say that He appeared merely to outward seeming, and [to affirm] that He received nothing from Mary. For He would not have been one truly possessing flesh and blood, by which He redeemed us, unless He had summed up in Himself the ancient formation of Adam. Vain therefore are the disciples of Valentinus who put forth this opinion, in order that they my exclude the flesh from salvation, and cast aside what God has fashioned (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book IV, Chapter 1 , Verse 2. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Irenaeus is essentially saying that Jesus, while on earth, was in the same basic situation as the Old Testament prophets. They were men who had the Holy Spirit rest upon them. And that is correct.

He is also condemning Valentinus, the one who came up with the concept that God existed in three hypostasis (please see article on the Trinity). Which is a concept that truly contradicts the view that Jesus was fully human on the earth.

Also notice that Melito of Sardis confirmed that Jesus was man when He was buried, but then truly became God:

The sheep was corruptible, but the Lord is incorruptible, who was crushed as a lamb, but who was resurrected as God....For the one who was born as Son, and led to slaughter as a lamb, and sacrificed as a sheep, and buried as a man, rose up from the dead as God, since he is by nature both God and man (Melito of Sardis. On the Passover, Verses 4 & 8. Translation from Kerux: The Journal of Northwest Theological Seminary, Vol.4,1;May 1989).

Jesus' nature is that He was fully God before being made fully man, and now He is fully God who had been man. But at no point was He both fully God and fully man--nor did Melito teach that. Melito, like us in the Church of God understood that while Jesus was "God with us" He was not fully God while on the earth, though He had the nature of God.

Even one that Roman Catholic scholars have referred to as one of the greatest early theologians, Hippolytus, understood that Jesus emptied Himself of His divinity and received it back after His resurrection. Notice what Hippolytus wrote (early third century):

The word of prophecy passes again to Immanuel Himself. For, in my opinion, what is intended by it is just what has been already stated in the words, "giving increase of beauty in the case of the shoot." For he means that He increased and grew up into that which He had been from the beginning, and indicates the return to the glory which He had by nature. This, if we apprehend it correctly, is (we should say) just "restored" to Him. For as the only begotten Word of God, being God of God, emptied Himself, according to the Scriptures, humbling Himself of His own will to that which He was not before, and took unto Himself this vile flesh, and appeared in the "form of a servant," and "became obedient to God the Father, even unto death," so hereafter He is said to be "highly exalted;" and as if well-nigh He had it not by reason of His humanity, and as if it were in the way of grace, He "receives the name which is above every name," according to the word of the blessed Paul. But the matter, in truth, was not a "giving," as for the first time, of what He had not by nature; far otherwise. But rather we must understand a return and restoration to that which existed in Him at the beginning, essentially and inseparably (Hippolytus. Translated by S. D. F. Salmond. The Extant Works and Fragments of Hippolytus. 04/17/06)..

Thus, the idea that Jesus truly emptied Himself of His divinity was long known.

Don't Trinitarians Notice That the Bible Makes it Clear that Logically Speaking, Jesus Could Not Have Been Fully God?

By now, you may have asked yourself, if the Bible makes it clear that logically speaking, Jesus could not have been fully God, how do trinitarians justify this?

Well, they do it basically by claiming that the God the trinitarians worship is a mystery.

This section will include are some admissions from Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant scholars.

Let's start with the Roman Catholic Encyclopedia:

IV. THE TRINITY AS A MYSTERY The Vatican Council has explained the meaning to be attributed to the term mystery in theology. It lays down that a mystery is a truth which we are not merely incapable of discovering apart from Divine Revelation, but which, even when revealed, remains "hidden by the veil of faith and enveloped, so to speak, by a kind of darkness" (Const., "De fide. cath.", iv). In other words, our understanding of it remains only partial, even after we have accepted it as part of the Divine messege {sic} (Joyce G. H. The Blessed Trinity. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Notice these admissions from the Eastern Orthodox:

Orthodoxy professes its faith in a simple trinity...If we speak of a simple Trinity, this self-contradictory expression means the distinctions...God is unknowable about what he is (Clendenin D.B. ed. Eastern Orthodox Theology, 2nd ed. Baker Academic, 2003, pp. 175,177).

Notice what one Protestant scholar (who is himself a trinitarian) wrote:

For Luther, as for the German mystics, God is Deus absconditus, the "hidden God," inaccessible to human reason...

By emphasizing the sole authority of Scripture and downgrading the work of the church fathers and the decisions of the ecumenical councils, Luther created a problem for his followers. One the one hand, Luther wanted to affirm traditional theology with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity and Christ, but on the other those doctrines are not explicit in Scripture. They are the product of church fathers and the councils (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, p. 314).

In a lecture I listened to by a Protestant theologian, he correctly and specifically taught that Philippians 2:7 shows that Jesus emptied Himself (the Greek word for emptied is kenosis). And while he did not quote it from the ASV, the ASV is one of the few common translations that has a correct rendering of that passage, which states (beginning with verse 5):

Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:5-7, ASV).

Anyway, the following is the quote from the Protestant theologian:

Kenosis: Literally means to empty. 

This is correct, yet then he incorrectly asserted that Christ did not cease to be God, while correctly admitting that Jesus did not have all the divine privileges He had prior to the incarnation. This admission that Jesus did not have all His divine privileges proves that Jesus was not “fully God” while on earth. 

And the contradictions continued. He contradicted himself by asserting that Jesus could not sin because God cannot sin—he referred to, but did not quote, James 1:13 as proof that Jesus was God. But let's look at that passage:

Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone (James 1:13).

Notice that verse says that God cannot be tempted. However, the Greek word for tempted (peirazo) is the same as the one used in Hebrews:

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

Thus, there is a contradiction in the Protestant theologian's logic here. By comparing James 1:13 to Hebrews 4:15 it is clear that since the Bible shows Jesus was tempted on earth (and this is repeated in many places in the New Testament) and that God cannot be tempted, that while on earth, Jesus was not fully God (though God in the flesh). Jesus was not God with all the godly attributes - but God in the flesh. God in the flesh is limited to the flesh. God in the flesh is subject to temptation to sin. The Word, prior to emptying Himself, was God UNlimited. While on earth He was limited, yet still God - but God in the flesh. The main difference between He and us is that He had the Holy Spirit, apparently without measure, from birth--and that He never sinned.

Furthermore, since we humans can sin, either Jesus was capable of sinning (which He was) or He was not tempted as we are. This also demonstrates that while on earth, Jesus was not fully God. However, as scripture shows, Jesus now is God--and was prior to His incarnation. It is a clear biblical truth that Jesus emptied Himself of His divinity to become a man prior to the resurrection.

Another trinitarian writer (S.C. Nair) goes so far as to list many reasons that are in conflict with the “Jesus was fully human and fully God” belief he has, and yet simply rationalizes them by referring to this situation as a "mystery”. Notice the following:

How can we understand this mystery? To put this in simple words, if at all this possible we could affirm the following:

1. God is the subject of the Incarnation. The word became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn.1.14). But the humanity in Him had no existence apart from His deity. At the same time the humanity is elevated and glorified by its union with the deity in the person of the Son of God.

2. In Incarnation Jesus took upon him sinless, perfect humanity. The Holy One born was the Son of God (Lk.1.35).

3. The Divine and the human in Jesus Christ were never in conflict but acted as one. He always identified Himself as "I" and not as "we".

4. He was tired and asleep in the boat but he is the omnipotent God

5. He gives water of life freely, but he said "I thirst". It is God who gives life, but it is man who is thirsty.

6. He is the Light of the World, but He hung in darkness. It is God who is light, but the man who is in darkness

7. God cannot be tempted, but Jesus Christ was tempted of the devil

8. He is God who cannot die, but He died

9. He dwells in unapproachable light, but calls us to himself

10. He is God who is a consuming fire, but his touch heals

Yet in all these it is the God-Man, Jesus Christ, who is the subject (Nair, Silas C. Christology. Indus School of Apologetics and Theology Resource 108A1, 2006 available edition).

The truth is that several of the above statements are not mysteries, but are contradictions with the basic trinitarian contention that Jesus was fully God and fully human while on earth, prior to the resurrection.

Trinitarians understand that their God cannot be truly understood and that their position about Jesus being both fully human and fully God while on earth is in logical conflict. The real mystery is why people who claim to be logical accept that rules of logic do not apply in their concept of God.

Yet, they also generally teach that anyone that does not accept their trinity is either in a cult or is not a Christian.

What Difference Does it Make?

Some will decide that they do not think this issue is of sufficient importance to care about. Others have taken a different view.

Wade Cox, who claims to be a traditional unitarian alleges:

If you are a Binitarian or a Trinitarian you are not in the first resurrection (Binitarianism and Trinitarianism (No. 76) (Edition 3.0 19941112-20001202). Copyright 1994, 2000 Wade Cox. Christian Churches of God).

By this, he clearly means that one is not a true Christian.

The Tkach-era WCG had a booklet called God Is which essentially took the trinitarian position that you can never understand the nature of God, but that God was one being with three hypostases.

Traditional Roman Catholics' believe:

It is impossible to believe explicitly in the mystery of Christ, without faith in the Trinity...Wherefore just as, before Christ, the mystery of Christ was believed explicitly by the learned, but implicitly and under a veil, so to speak, by the simple, so too was it with the mystery of the Trinity. And consequently, when once grace had been revealed, all were bound to explicit faith in the mystery of the Trinity (The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. Second and Revised Edition, 1920. Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by Kevin Knight. Nihil Obstat. F. Innocentius Apap, O.P., S.T.M., Censor. Theol. Imprimatur. Edus. Canonicus Surmont, Vicarius Generalis. Westmonasterii. APPROBATIO ORDINIS. Nihil Obstat. F. Raphael Moss, O.P., S.T.L. and F. Leo Moore, O.P., S.T.L. Imprimatur. F. Beda Jarrett, O.P., S.T.L., A.M., Prior Provincialis Angliæ).

And Protestants?

Luther called the Athansen Creed the grandest production of the Christian Church since the times of the apostles (Mueller, John Theodore. The Lutheran Confessions. circa 1953, p.5).

The Athansen Creed discusses the belief in the Trinity and the writing about it concludes with "This is the catholic (general) faith; which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved" (p.6).

Thus, the position of the Roman Catholics and the founder of the Protestant Reformation seems to be that salvation is not possible for those who do not accept the trinity. And it is a position of at least one unitarian that accepting that Christ is God stops one from being a true Christian.

Therefore this is an important subject.


Another problem with the unitarian and the trinitarian positions is that they normally limit who can truly be part of the God Family. Since those positions hold that there is only truly one God being--and that is all there ever can be--they essentially believe it is blasphemous to consider that God is reproducing Himself and intends to add others to His family.

Of course, just as the Son is under the authority of the Father, those added to God's family will be under the authority of the Father and Son.

The proper binitarian position is that God is reproducing Himself.

Paul knew this when he wrote,

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:28-29)

We are to be Christ's brethren (see also What is Your Destiny? Deification? Did the Early Church Teach That Christians Would Become God?).

Most of those who do not believe in the concept of One Family of God, currently with two beings, will not truly accept or understand this (it should be noted that the Eastern Orthodox Church, although trinitarian, do accept the idea that Christians are to become God). Nor will various other aspects of God's plan of salvation be understood by them as well.

Perhaps, I should add here that the idea of Christians becoming God is NOT a COG invention, but was written about even in the second century, as Theophilus of Antioch wrote:

When thou shalt have put off the mortal, and put on incorruption, then shall thou see God worthily. For God will raise thy flesh immortal with thy soul; and then, having become immortal, thou shalt see the Immortal, if now you believe on Him; and then you shall know that you have. spoken unjustly against Him (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 1, Chapter VI. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

For if He had made him immortal from the beginning, He would have made him that if he should incline to the things of immortality, keeping the commandment of God, he should receive as reward from Him immortality, and should become God...For God has given us a law and holy commandments; and every one who keeps these can be saved, and, obtaining the resurrection, can inherit incorruption (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter XXVII. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Theophilus basically argues that humans become God when they are immortal. That is the "threeness," if you will, about the Family of God.

Theophilus held to a binitarian view of the Godhead. He wrote the following:

You will say, then, to me: "You said that God ought not to be contained in a place, and how do you now say that He walked in Paradise?" Hear what I say. The God and Father, indeed, of all cannot be contained, and is not found in a place, for there is no place of His rest; but His Word, through whom He made all things, being His power and His wisdom, assuming the person of the Father and Lord of all, went to the garden in the person of God, and conversed with Adam. For the divine writing itself teaches us that Adam said that he had heard the voice. But what else is this voice but the Word of God, who is also His Son? Not as the poets and writers of myths talk of the sons of gods begotten from intercourse [with women], but as truth expounds, the Word, that always exists, residing within the heart of God. For before anything came into being He had Him as a counsellor, being His own mind and thought. But when God wished to make all that He determined on, He begot this Word, uttered, the first-born of all creation, not Himself being emptied of the Word [Reason], but having begotten Reason, and always conversing with His Reason. And hence the holy writings teach us, and all the spirit-bearing [inspired] men, one of whom, John, says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God," showing that at first God was alone, and the Word in Him. Then he says, "The Word was God; all things came into existence through Him; and apart from Him not one thing came into existence." The Word, then, being God, and being naturally produced from God, whenever the Father of the universe wills, He sends Him to any place; and He, coming, is both heard and seen, being sent by Him, and is found in a place (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book II, Chapter XXII. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

It is part of this particular teaching about the Son that seems to have an inappropriate translation. It seems to be a different way to explain a normal binitarian view--for the binitarian view presumes the Word was also God from the beginning.

My research indicates that the statement being naturally produced from God is a mistranslation. After looking at the original Greek of Theophilus and consulting with the Liddell Scott Greek-English Lexicon with the 1996 supplement (p. 325 and accessed 07/03/15), that statement seems to be better translated as naturally counseled/willed by God. Jesus, the Word, did what His Father wanted. And that is true.

There are also dangerous prophetic ramifications of not going along with the ecumenical trinitaritan compromise.

Consider the following:

Jane Le Royer, Sister of the Nativity, (died 1798): "When the time of the reign of Antichrist is near, a false religion will appear which be opposed to the unity of God and His Church. This will cause the greatest schism the world has ever known. (Culligan E. The Last World War and the End of Time. The book was blessed by Pope Paul VI, 1966. TAN Books, Rockford (IL), pp.127,128)

It should be understood that although we in the CCOG accept “the unity of God” (deification) that early writers like Ignatius referred to (Ignatius, Letter to the Romans, Chapter 9), The Catholic Encyclopedia asserts the trinity is the “unity of God” (Lebreton J. The Logos; Joyce G. The Blessed Trinity).

One of the reasons, the original catholics who were called Paulicians by the Romans were persectuted was because they denied the trinitarian “unity of God” (Gibbon E. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume 4. BF French, 1830, pp. 5,28,29). This looks to be a reason some may cite for future persecution.

It should also be pointed out that in the 21st century, tthe World Council of Churches still does not allow non-trinitarian churches to be members and that the Vatican's 2020 document, The Bishop and Christian Unity: An Ecumenical Vademecum, is also aimed at trinitarian churches.

Hence, it looks to be safely concluded that the ecumenical movement wants non-trinitarians out of the way. Non-trinitarians are expected to be targeted (cf. Revelation 13).

For more on history and warnings against ecumenical compromise, see also the free online book: Beliefs of the Original Catholic Church.


The dual nature of the current Godhead (Colossians 2:1-9), binitarianism, has significant biblical and historical evidence for being the correct position that those who profess Christ should hold to.

From Genesis (the first book of the Bible) and throughout the Old Testament, the concept that God is one consisting now of more than one person is confirmed.

The fact that the Father and the Son are God is clear from the New Testament. There are no direct references to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament that show that it is a person or anything outside the power of the Godhead which can be given to true believers.

Even the most ancient complete sermon ascribed to Christianity teaches that Jesus should be thought of as God and that the Father is God. But the Holy Spirit is shown as something given to true Christians.

Ignatius, Polycarp, and Melito, all major church leaders in the second century, refer to the Father as God, Jesus as God, but never the Holy Spirit as God. It was only from a heretic that the idea of three hypostasis developed, and even that idea is admitted as to coming from paganism.

All known early documents by real Christians and those accepted by others that way support the view that early Christians were binitarian and believed that Jesus was not co-equal to the Father.

Biblical scholars and historians can trace the binitarian belief that the Father and Son, but not the Holy Spirit, are separate persons throughout the history of those who profess Christ.

And it is the correct position from the Bible. Those who do not understand it correctly, simply do not understand the Bible correctly.

Ending Comment: While I have read articles from the Jehovah's Witnesses (or other unitarians) correctly arguing that the trinity is false or from the various trinitarians explaining why the unitarian position that Jesus was not God is false, they almost always overlook the binitarian position that the Bible clearly teaches that the Father and Son are God, but does not clearly teach that the Holy Spirit is God. Of course, the truth is that the Bible and the facts of early church history do support the basic binitarian view (the belief that God the Father is supreme in authority to Jesus, God the Son , and that the Holy Spirit is not the third member of the Godhead). It is distressing to me that so many will discount the biblical teachings on this subject (as well as others), but sadly most do.

A few additional articles of possible interest may be Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God Differs from the Protestant Churches and Some Similarities and Differences Between the Orthodox Church and the Continuing Church of God and The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3 and Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome.

A related sermon is also available: Binitarian view of the Godhead.

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Thiel B. Ph.D. Binitarianism: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning. (c)2004, 2005,2006,2007, 2008, 2009, 2010/2011/2012/2013/2014/2015/2016/2017/2018/2020 /2021 /2022 0901 edition.