Trinity on Trial An in-depth examination of Trinitarian doctrine

Origen on John 1:1

In the following teaching, Origen explains that John is telling us that the Word was divine by nature at John 1:1 and is not telling us that the Word was that personal being known as "God."

"We next notice John's use of the article ["the"] in these sentences. He does not write without care in this respect, nor is he unfamiliar with the niceties of the Greek tongue. In some cases he uses the article ["the"], and in some he omits it. He adds the article ["the"] to logos, but to the name of theos he adds it sometimes only. He uses the article ["the"], when the name of theos refers to the uncreated cause of all things, and omits it when the logos is named theos. Does the same difference which we observe between theos with the article ["the], and theos without it, prevail also between logos with it and without it? We must enquire into this. As God who is over all is theos with the article ["the"] not without it, so also "the" logos is the source of that logos (reason} which dwells in every reasonable creature; the logos which is in each creature is not, like the former called par excellence "the" logos. Now there are many who are sincerely concerned about religion, and who fall here into great perplexity. They are afraid that they may be proclaiming two theos (gods), and their fear drives them into doctrines which are false and wicked. Either they deny that the Son has a distinct nature of His own besides that of the Father, and make Him whom they call the Son to be theos all but the name, or they deny the divinity of the Son, giving Him a separate existence of His own, and making His sphere of essence fall outside that of the Father, so that they are separable from each other. To such persons we have to say that God on the one hand is autotheos (God of Himself); and so the Saviour says in His prayer to the Father, "That they may know You the only true God;" but that all beyond the autotheos (God) is made theos by participation in His divinity, and is not to be called simply "the" theos but rather [just] theos. And thus the first-born of all creation, who is the first to be with God, and to attract to Himself divinity, is a being of more exalted rank than the other theos (gods) beside Him, of whom "the" theos (God) is "the" theos (God), as it is written, "The God of gods, the Lord, hath spoken and called the earth." It was by the offices of the first-born that they became (gods), for He drew from God in generous measure that they should be made theos gods, and He communicated it to them according to His own bounty. The true God, then, is ho theos ("the god"), and those who are formed after Him are (gods), images, as it were, of Him the prototype. But the archetypal image, again, of all these images is the ho logos ("the word") of ho theos ("the god") , who was in the beginning, and who by being with "the" theos ("God") is at all times theos ("god"), not possessing that of Himself, but by His being with the Father, and not continuing to be theos, if we should think of this, except by remaining always in uninterrupted contemplation of the depths of the Father. (Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of John, Book II, 2.) While Trinitarian apologists will quote Origen when they find his sayings useful for their own agendas, they tend to avoid this particular quotation for obvious reasons. Origen is very insistent the absence of the definite article in the second instance of the word theos at John 1:1 is indeed extremely significant. And who would comprehend the Greek language of John's gospel better than an expert in the language of the day? Notice that Origen distinguishes between "the god" or "God" as the creator of all things, and his Word which he does not consider to be the creator, and which he does not consider to be "God" but "god" in the sense that the Word is deity by essence but not "God" by identity. This is precisely what was taught by the early Christian writers, Tatian, Athenagoras, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian although Trinitarians will attempt to tell us otherwise. Also take careful note of Origen's interpretation of John 17:3, "that they may now you the only true God" as a reference to the Father alone, and excludes Jesus from that title. Now let us be careful about what Origen is not saying. He is not saying that Jesus is "a God" or "a god" in addition to the Father. Origen is saying, along with all his contemporaries, that the divinity, deity, divine nature (the "what") of the Word is derived from the person "God," but only the Father should be identified as "God" ("who"). Heis not saying that the Word is "the God" that created the universe; in fact he is insisting the opposite is true (the Word is not the Creator but "of" the Creator). Origen is saying that the Word is qualitatively divine ("god") because he is "of God" the quantitative person and derives his deity from "The Deity," the Creator of all things who is the Father. Origen understands that the Word has a God but the Father does not have a God and derives his deity from no one but himself. God Most High, the Father, is "autodeity", or "autogod" which is a fancy way of saying he is independently deity in and of himself. But Origen says that the divinity of the Word is not derived from himself but is dependent on the Father's deity and this is why the definite article is absent in the second occurrence of theos at John 1:1. The Word of God is not "The Divinity" by identity ("GOD"), but divine in essence because the Word is "of The Divinity", that is, "of God" but is not "The God." Put another way, he is saying that the Word is divinity of the Divinity or god of God or deity of the Deity but is not himself "The Deity," the entity we know as the Creator, God Most High. Origen emphasizes his point by quoting John 17:3 where Jesus indicates his Father is the only true "Deity", that is, "The Deity" and "The God" by identity as opposed to simply being "deity" in essence. Essentially, what Origen is getting at is that the definite article is used to indicate identity and is always and only used to refer to the Creator who he understands to be the Father who created alone through (by means of) his Word, and the absence of the article indicates "what" the Word is to distinguish "who" the Word is from God - the Word is deity of The Deity but is not The Deity. The Word is "what" of "the Who."

De Principiis

The particular points clearly delivered in the teaching of the apostles are as follow:- First, That there is one God, who created and arranged all things, and who, when nothing existed, called all things into being--God from the first creation and foundation of the world--the God of all just men, of Adam, Abel, Seth, Enos, Enoch, Noe, Sere, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the twelve patriarchs, Moses, and the prophets; and that this God in the last days, as He had announced beforehand by His prophets, sent our Lord Jesus Christ to call in the first place Israel to Himself, and in the second place the Gentiles, after the unfaithfulness of the people of Israel. This just and good God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Himself gave the law and the prophets, and the Gospels, being also the God of the apostles and of the Old and New Testaments. (Preface, 1).

Secondly, That Jesus Christ Himself, who came, was born of the Father before all creatures; that, after He had been the servant of the Father in the creation of all things--"For by Him were all things made"--He in the last times, divesting Himself, became a man, and was incarnate although God, and while made a man remained the God which He was. (Preface, 2).