In an earlier post, BK noted just how erroneous is Dan Brown's assertion that the early Christians did not believe Jesus was divine until the Council of Nicea. Just to drive the point home, I thought I would provide a sampling of some pre-Nicene writings that prove up that fact. I have already noted many statements affirming Jesus' divinity in the New Testament, here. I will proceed in this post to discuss early non-New Testament writings that do so too.
The first reference is actually from a pagan. Pliny the Younger was a Roman governor who wrote to the Emperor for advice on how to hande the "Christian problem." The letter was written around 111 AD, or more than 200 years before the Council of Nicea. In the letter, Pliny notes the following:
They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god,....
Thus, even the pagans new, hundreds of years before Constantine's reign and the Council of Nicea, that Christians worshipped Jesus as a divine being.
Next I list a number of quotations taken from early Christian writings. For more background on any particular writer, check out Peter Kirby's ever-helpful site, earlychristianwritings.com.
● Barnabas (70-130 AD):
“He is Lord of all the world, to whom God said at the foundation of the world, ‘Let us make man after our image, and after our likeness.’”
● Ignatius (110-15 AD):
“God himself was manifested in human form for the renewal of eternal life.”
“Continue in intimate union with Jesus Christ, our God.”
“I pray for your happiness forever in our God, Jesus Christ.”
● Aristedes of Athens (140 CE):
“The Christians trace the beginning of their religion to Jesus the Messiah. He is called the Son of the Most High God. It is said that God came down from heaven. He assumed flesh and clothed Himself with it from a Hebrew virgin. And the Son of God lived in a daughter of man.”
● The Martyrdom of Polycarp (155 CE):
“I do glorify you through the eternal and heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ, your beloved Child: through whom the glory to you with Him and with the Holy Spirit, both now and through ages yet to come. Amen."
● Justin Martyr (140-55 AD):
"For we have learned that [Jesus] is the Son of the True God Himself, that He holds a second place, and the Spirit of Prophecy a third."
“The Father of the universe has a Son. And He, being the First-Begotten Word of God, is even God.”
“He deserves to be worshipped as God and as Christ.”
● Melito, Bishop of Sardes in Lydia (170/190 AD):
“God was put to death, the King of Israel slain.”
● Irenaeus (180 AD):
“But Jesus is Himself in His own right, beyond all men who ever lived, God, King, eternal, and the Incarnate World. He is the Holy Lord, the Wonderful, the Counselor, the Beautiful in appearance, and the Mighty God.”
“Christ Himself, therefore, together with the Father, is the God of the living….”
“He received from the Father the power of remission of sins. He was man, and He was God. This was so that since as man He suffered for us, so as God He might have compassion on us.”
“He is God, for the name Emmanuel indicates this.”
“Thus He indicates in clear terms that He is God, and that His advent was in Bethlehem…. God, then, was made man, and the Lord did Himself save us.”
● Tertullian (197 AD):
"That which proceeds from God is God and Son of God, and both are one."
“Nor do we differ from the Jews concerning God. We must make, therefore, a remark or two as to Christ’s divinity.”
“To all He is equal, to all King, to all Judge, to all God and Lord.”
“This opens the ears of Christ our God.”
● Clement of Alexandria (195 AD):
“He is God in the form of man.”
“The Son in the Father and the Father in the Son…. God the Word, who became man for our sakes.”
“Nothing, then, is hated by God, nor by yet by the Word. For both are one—that is, God. For He has said, ‘In the beginning the Word was in God, and the Word was God.”
● Hippolytus (222 CE):
"For Christ is God over all, who was arranged to wash away sin from mankind."
Although only a sampling, the above demonstrates just how widely affirmed was the divinity of Jesus. There simply is no dispute here. Indeed, the makers of the movie seemed to realize this because they change the script to have Professor Langdon's character challenge Professor Teabing on this point, noting that "some" Christians believed Jesus was divine before Nicea. Actually, the fact is that most Christians who wrote about Jesus expressed belief in his divinity. The only challengers to that belief seems to have been a small sect of Jewish Christians known as the Ebionites. The evidence, therefore, is that belief in Jesus' divinity was widely held by the majority of Christians very early on.