Did the apostles believe God was a Trinity?

  • Our question

    During Jesus's ministry, he gathered together an inner circle of disciples who were 12 in number, i.e. "the 12 apostles." These disciples were especially close to Jesus and were taught by him as students. We mean to ask here whether these close disciples of Jesus, apostles who went on to lead the church after Jesus died, taught that God was triune (i.e. one being endowed with three centers of consciousness, of which Jesus was one).

“Yes, after all…
  • Polycarp affirms the Trinity

    Polycarp affirms the trinity.1 This is relevant because Polycarp's teachings matched that of the apostles.

      • Polycarp (writting in c. AD 110-140): “May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal High Priest Jesus Christ Himself, the Son of God, help you to grow in faith and truth, in unfailing gentleness and the avoidance of all anger, in patience and forbearance, and in calmness and purity. To you, and to ourselves as well, and to all those under heaven who shall one day come to believe in our Lord Jesus Christ and in His Father who raised Him from the dead, may He grant part and portion among His saints.” [Polycarp to the Phillipians Section 12]
  • Clement affirms the Trinity

    Clement affirms the trinity. This is relevant because Clement's teachings matched that of the apostles.1

    1. Consider three reasons to think their teachings largely matched:
      Irenaus reports that they matched.

      Irenaeus (writing in c. AD 180): “The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone [in this], for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles. In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the church in Rome despatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the apostles, proclaiming the one God, omnipotent, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Creator of man […][Against Heresies, Vol. 3, Ch. 3]

      Clement was bishop of Rome. This is relevant because this is unlikely if Clement did not know the apostles.
      The Clement in Phillippians is Clement of Rome.2 This is relevant because it indicates Clement's teachings matched Paul's (who wrote Phillipians), and this in turn is relevant because Paul's teachings matched the apostles. The reason to think the Clement in Phillians is the Clement of Rome is the following.

    2. The reason to think the Clement in Phillipians is Clement of Rome is as follows: both are associated with members of Caesar's houshold.
      • Clement of Rome is plausibly associated with members of Caesar's household (See names characteristic of household:
      • Clement (writing in AD 96): “Make haste and send our messengers, Claudius Ephebus, Valerius Vito, and Fortunatus, back to us in peace and joy…” [Epistle to the Corinthians Section 65]).
      • Clement: “As Nero belonged to the Claudian family, and his consort Messalina to the Valerian, several instances have been found of the two names Claudius (or Claudia) and Valerius (or Valeria) occurring in combination with reference to servants in the royal employment. Possibly this is the case here. It has even been conjectured that these two elderly envoys may have been among the members of 'Caesar's household' mentioned by St Paul in Philippians iv, 22.”
      • Clement in Phillipians is associated with members of Caesar's household (Philippians 4:22 “All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household.”)