The first attempt to understand the concept of Trinity was proposed by Sabellius around 217-220 AD.  Hence it is known as Sabellianism.  It is known also in various names in various forms in various areas of the then world.  

Monarchianism had two primary forms, Dynamic Monarchianism, Modalistic Monarchianism.  Modelistic Monarchianis can be further understood in two forms: Modalism and Partipassianism.








A: Dynamic Monarchianism: Adoptionism

Dynamic Monarchianism is the view that Jesus was not in His nature God. God existed in Jesus, just as God exists in all of us, but that God existed in Jesus in a particularly powerful way. Jesus was God because God inhabited Him. It thus denied that Jesus was God but God was in Jesus in a fuller way than other saints and prophets.  Just as Adam was called the Son of God by Luke (3:38), the second Adam -Jesus - was also the Son of God in the same manner.  Both Adam and Jesus were perfect humans.

Jesus was adopted as son and annointed with the Spirit at his baptism

Theodotus of Byzantium 

Dynamic Monarchianism was first proposed by held by Theodotus of Byzantium ( Θεoδoτoς; also known as Theodotus the Tanner, Theodotus the Shoemaker, and Theodotus the Fuller; flourished late 2nd century) who claimed that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit as a non-divine man,  miraculously conceived,  a normal human being and  later "adopted" by God upon baptism when he became the Christ - the anointed one.  As the anointed one he constituted the Son of God simply by the infinitely high degree- the Christ- in which he had been filled with divine wisdom and power. He was not himself made to sit at the right hand of God until after his resurrection.  

According to Hippolytus of Rome (Philosophumena, VII, xxiii) Theodotus taught that Jesus was a man born of a virgin, according to the Council of Jerusalem, that he lived like other men, and was most pious; but that at his baptism in the Jordan the "Christ" came down upon the man Jesus in the likeness of a dove. (Luke 3:22 And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. Luke 4:1 And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,) Therefore, wonders (Greek dynameis) were not wrought in him until the Spirit (which Theodotus called Christ) came down and was manifested in Him. (Philosophumena, VII, xxiii)

This doctrine, called "Dynamic Monarchianism" or "Adoptionism", was declared heretical by Pope Victor I, and Theodotus was excommunicated in 198 AD.

Theodotus had then founded an organized sect, with a bishop named Natalius to whom they paid a salary. Its leading men in the time of Victor's successor were Asclepiades and another Theodotus, a banker. These two undertook to clear the text of N.T. of corruptions, but our authority describes what they called "corrected" copies as simply ruined, the two not even agreeing as to their corrections. Theodotus the banker (ho trapezites) added to his master's doctrine the view that Melchisedech was a celestial power, who was the advocate for the angels in heaven, as Jesus Christ was for men upon earth (a view found among later sects). This teaching was of course grounded on Hebrews, vii, 3, and it is refuted at length by St. Epiphanius as Heresy

Theodotus' followers formed a separate heretical community at Rome ruled by another Theodotus, the Money Changer, and Asclepiodotus. Natalius, who was tortured for his faith during the persecution, was persuaded by Asclepiodotus to become a bishop in their sect in exchange for a monthly stipend of 150 denarii. The story goes that Natalius then reportedly experienced several visions warning him to abandon these heretics. According to an anonymous work entitled The Little Labyrinth and quoted by Eusebius, the story goes: Natalius was whipped a whole night by an angel. The next day he donned sackcloth and ashes, and weeping bitterly threw himself at the feet of Pope Zephyrinus.

Theodotus chiefly relied on texts of Scripture, specimens of which are given by Epiphanius (Haer. 54). He evidently acknowledged the authority of St. John's Gospel, for one of these texts was John 8. 40. He appealed to the prophecy, Deut. 18: 15, of the prophet who was to be like unto Moses, and therefore man, and quoted also Is. liii. 3, Jer. 17. 9 (LXX), and other texts in which our Lord is called man.  Our sole other primary authority for this Theodotus is Hippolytus. . There is an article on Theodotus in the later treatise of Hippolytus (Ref. 7. 35). The influence of Theodotus did not extend much beyond his own generation.The sect that lasted into the 3rd century under another Theodotus, the Money-changer.

Peter explains how it is possible. Notice how Jesus said that David was speaking "in the Spirit." David was speaking prophetically and this is also affirmed by Peter:

Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God... this man... you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised him up again... Brothers, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ.... This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: 'The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool.'26 Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.


God had raised David's son Jesus from the dead and seating Jesus down at His right hand, God had made this human being "Lord." Peter explains very clearly that Psalm 110:1 was fulfilled when Jesus sat down at the right hand of God, this positionally making the human son of David "Lord." Jesus rose from the dead and sat down at the right hand of God.A man sat down at the right hand of Power. A man had sat down on his the throne of his God and Father.  A man sat down on the throne of the God of Israel, the throne of YAHWEH.  His authority was God's authority since he sat down on the throne of God. He was exercising God's authority, "your throne the God to the age of the age." The ancient Jewish mind immediately understood that sitting on God's throne in this manner meant that God had given the man Jesus the right to exerices His, God's, authority. God had bodily anointed this man with His Holy Spirit giving the man Jesus YAHWEH's authority.  The idea here is the same as Pharaoh making Joseph Lord of all Egypt and granting Joseph the right to exericise his, Pharaoh's authority.  Or again, the idea is that the man Jesus sits on the throne of YAHWEH exercising rule over God's Kingdom just as David and Solomon sat on the throne of YAHWEH exercising rule of God's Kingdom Israel. (The Trinity Delusion) 


Hebrews 1:5 states that God said, "You are my son. Today I have begotten you"; This day was the day of baptism and show Adoptionist tendencies. But it is also almost a direct quote from Psalm 2:7


This view  again came in ascension and taught somewhat later by Arternon, who was excommunicated by Pope Zephyrinus.

Adoptionism is one of two main forms of monarchianism (the other is modalism, which regards "Father" and "Son" as two historical or soteriological roles of a single divine Person). Adoptionism (also known as dynamic monarchianism) denies the eternal pre-existence of Christ, and although it explicitly affirms his deity subsequent to events in his life. Many classical trinitarians claim that the doctrine implicitly denies it by denying the constant hypostatic union of the eternal Logos to the human nature of Jesus.  Under Adoptionism Jesus is currently divine and has been since his adoption, although he is not equal to the Father,  since Jesus himself admits that "my Father is greater than I" (John 14:28). This is subordinationism. There is a hierarchy within Godhead - Father being the Monarch

Adoptionism was one position in a long series of Christian disagreements about the precise nature of Christ  in the developing dogma of the Trinity.  It is an attempt to explain the relationship between Jesus of Nazareth- who is at the same time both  man and God, with the assertion that God the Father to be the ultimate God.  

Some scholars see Adoptionist concepts in the Gospel of Mark and in the writings of the Apostle Paul.

According to this view, Mark has Jesus as the Son of God, references occurring at the strategic points in
1:1 "The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God", (but this is not in all versions); 
5:7 "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?"  and
15:39 "Surely this man was the Son of God!",
However, the concept of the Virgin Birth of Jesus had not been developed or elucidated at the time of the writing of this early Christian text.

By the time the Gospels of Luke and Matthew were written, Jesus is identified as being the Son of God right from the time of birth.

Finally, the Gospel of John portrays him as the pre-existent Word (Greek: λόγος) as existing "in the beginning" and and one with God- “the Word was God” .  

Shepherd of Hermas

Hermas may have been the brother of Pius, Bishop of Rome from around 140 to 154, and Origen argues that he was the Hermas mentioned in Romans 16.14. Additionally, Hermas mentions someone named Clement in V 8.2, which may be a reference to Clement of Rome. Most scholars agree that the Shepherd was likely written between 110-140 CE, perhaps over a period of time.

The 2nd-century work Shepherd of Hermas also taught that Jesus was a virtuous man filled with the Holy Spirit and adopted as the Son.

“The Holy Pre-existent Spirit, which created the whole creation, God made to dwell in flesh that he desired. This flesh, therefore, in which the Holy Spirit dwelt, was subject unto the Spirit, walking honorably in holiness and purity, without in any way defiling the Spirit. When then it had lived honorably in chastity, and had labored with the Spirit, and had cooperated with it in everything, behaving itself boldly and bravely, he chose it as a partner with the Holy Spirit; for the career of this flesh pleased [the Lord], seeing that, as possessing the Holy Spirit, it was not defiled upon the earth.

He therefore took the son as adviser and the glorious angels also, that this flesh too, having served the Spirit unblamably, might have some place of sojourn, and might not seem to have lost the reward for its service; for all flesh, which is found undefiled and unspotted, wherein the Holy Spirit dwelt, shall receive a reward.”

Thus according to Shepherd of Hermas, Jesus was a man who was literally anointed with the Holy Spirit and having lived his life worthy of the calling, was given a status with the Father and the Holy Spirit as a Son and made him sit ar the right hand of God in the heavenlies.

This is explained as follows:
"Hermas never mentions Jesus Christ, or the Word, but only the Son of God, who is the highest angel. As holy spirit the Son dwells in the flesh; this human nature is God's adopted son" in, Patrick W. Carey, Joseph T. Lienhard (editors),
Biographical Dictionary of Christian Theologians, page 241 (Greenwood Press, 2008).  

While the Shepherd of Hermas was popular and sometimes bound with the canonical scriptures, it didn't retain canonical status. Bogdan G. Bucur  notes how widely accepted the Shepherd of Hermas was among "orthodox" Christians, yet was never criticized for apparently exhibiting an adoptionistic Christology.

Paul of Samosata

Paul was born at Samosata into a family of humble origin. He was elected bishop of Antioch in 260. He held the civil office of Procurator ducenarius.Paul of Samosata (lived from 200 to 275 AD) was Bishop of Antioch from 260 to 268.

Paul taught that Jesus was born a mere man, but that he was infused with the divine Logos or word of God. Hence, Jesus was seen not as God-become-man but as man-become-God.

God did not become a Man.  A Man became God
Paul of Samosata

In his Discourses to Sabinus, of which only fragments are preserved in a book against heresies ascribed to Anastasius, Paul writes:

· "Having been anointed by the Holy Spirit he received the title of the anointed (i.e. Christos), suffering in accordance with his nature, working wonders in accordance with grace. For in fixity and resoluteness of character he likened himself to God; and having kept himself free from sin was united with God, and was empowered to grasp as it were the power and authority of wonders. By these he was shown to possess over and above the will, one and the same activity (with God), and won the title of Redeemer and Saviour of our race."


· "The Saviour became holy and just; and by struggle and hard work overcame the sins of our forefather. By these means he succeeded in perfecting himself, and was through his moral excellence united with God; having attained to unity and sameness of will and energy (i.e. activity) with Him through his advances in the path of good deeds. This will be preserved inseparable (from the Divine), and so inherited the name which is above all names, the prize of love and affection vouchsafed in grace to him."


· "We do not award praise to beings which submit merely in virtue of their nature; but we do award high praise to beings which submit because their attitude is one of love; and so submitting because their inspiring motive is one and the same, they are confirmed and strengthened by one and the same indwelling power, of which the force ever grows, so that it never ceases to stir. It was in virtue of this love that the Saviour coalesced with God, so as to admit of no divorce from Him, but for all ages to retain one and the same will and activity with Him, an activity perpetually at work in the manifestation of good."


· "Wonder not that the Saviour had one will with God. For as nature manifests the substance of the many to subsist as one and the same, so the attitude of love produces in the many a unity and a sameness of will which is manifested by unity and sameness of approval and well-pleasingness."

Possibly, the Paulicians of Armenia adhered to his teachings, and received their name from him. However, historical records show that the Paulicians were bitterly persecuted more for their gnostic and iconoclastic views than for their adherence to Adoptionism.

Paul's pupil Lucian of Antioch is considered to have had a major influence on Arius the founder of Arianism.

Paul’s monarchianist teachings aroused strong opposition in the church. He was also accused of corruption on a grand scale



Spanish Adoptionism 8th -9th C

Spanish Adoptionism was a theological position which was articulated in Umayyad and Christian-held regions of the Iberian peninsula in the 8th and 9th centuries. The proposition was Jesus was merely a prophet among others. The beleagured Christians of Moorish Spain accomodated the Arabs by accepting the Adoptionist Creed which denied the Trinity and claimed Christ as God’s adopted son.

Early Christians considered Islam as a heresy of Christianity rather than a separate religion.

Elipando (717 - 808?)
Chief proponent of the 8th-century heresy of adoptionism in Spain; b. July 25, 717; d. after 800 (807?). He was appointed archbishop of Toledo c. 783. In condemning Migetius for sabellianism (Seville, c. 782), Elipandus himself became the author of the Spanish form of adoptionism, claiming that there are two distinct persons in Christ. Felix of Urgel, a contemporary and a subject of Charlemagne, introduced adoptionism into the southern part of Charles's kingdom. He is sometimes considered the author of adoptionism; but alcuin blames Elipandus (Patrologia Latina 101:231–300). beatus of liÉbana and Etherius, Bishop of Osma [Symbolum fidei Elipandianae (785); (Patrologia Latina 96:916–920], opposed Elipandus, and Pope adrian I condemned him.

Bishop Elipando was one of the founders of the Adoptivi sect.

Although he affirmed Catholic teaching that Jesus is true Son of God, eternally begotten from God the Father and thus of one divine nature with the Father. Spanish advocates predicated the term adoptivus of Christ only in respect to his humanity; once the divine Son of God "emptied himself" of divinity and "took the form of a servant" (Philippians 2:7), Christ's human nature was "adopted" as divine.

"The Son of God himself, who by emptying himself, takes up adoption."

The purpose of introducing the category of adoption was to make clear the right of Christ's humanity to the title "Son of God.  Jesus, as the son of David, according to his human nature was the adopted rather than he being the natural son of God.  Elipando's assertion seemed to suggest that Christ's human nature existed separately from His divine personhood. Thus, it seemed to be a nuanced form of Nestorianism and came to be known as Adoptionism. Elipando's teaching was condemned as heresy by the Councils of Ratisbon in 792 and of Frankfurt in 794.

Another leading advocate of this Christology was Felix of Urgel.

Bishop Felix of Urgel defended his views in the presence of Charlemagne at the Council of Regensburg (792) where he was induced to recant. Sent to Rome by Charlemagne, he was compelled to sign an orthodox confession which he subsequently repudiated. Alcuin* wrote extensively against him, opposing his use of the phrase “adopted son” with regard to Christ in His human nature. At the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle (798) Felix again acknowledged himself defeated, wrote a recantation, and called on the clergy of Urgel to follow his example. He was placed under the supervision of the archbishop of Lyons till his death.

12th century and later: Neo-Adoptionism

A third wave was the revived form ("Neo-Adoptionism") of Peter Abelard in the 12th century. Later, various modified and qualified Adoptionist tenets emerged from some theologians in the 14th century. Duns Scotus (1300) and Durandus of Saint-Pourçain (1320) admit the term Filius adoptivus in a qualified sense. In more recent times the Jesuit Gabriel Vásquez, and the Lutheran divines Georgius Calixtus and Johann Ernst Immanuel Walch, have defended Adoptionism as essentially orthodox.



Later Adoptionist groups (18th -19th C)

A form of Adoptionism surfaced in Unitarianism during the 18th century as the virgin birth was increasingly denied by Unitarians. In the 19th century the term Psilanthropism, was applied by Samuel Taylor Coleridge to the christology where he considers Jesus as the son of Joseph. The term derives from the combination of the Greek ψιλός (psilós), "plain," "mere" or "bare,"
ἄνθρωπος (ánthrōpos) "human."
Psilanthropism = mere human
Psilanthropists generally deny both the virgin birth of Jesus, and his divinity. Jesus is mere man.

A similar form of Adoptionism was expressed in the writings of James Strang, a Latter Day Saints leader who founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite) after the death of Joseph Smith in 1844. In his Book of the Law of the Lord, a purported work of ancient scripture found and translated by Strang, he offers an essay entitled "Note on the Sacrifice of Christ" in which he explains his unique (for Mormonism as a whole) doctrines on the subject. Jesus Christ, said Strang, was the natural-born son of Mary and Joseph, who was chosen from before all time to be the Savior of mankind, but who had to be born as an ordinary mortal of two human parents (rather than being begotten by the Father or the Holy Spirit) to be able to truly fulfill his Messianic role. Strang claimed that the earthly Christ was in essence "adopted" as God's son at birth, and fully revealed as such during the Transfiguration. After proving himself to God by living a perfectly sinless life, he was enabled to provide an acceptable sacrifice for the sins of men, prior to his resurrection and ascension. 




B: Modalistic Monarchianism = Modalism.

God  manifested Himself as the Father (primarily in the Old Testament),
other times
as the Son (primarily from Jesus’ conception to His ascension),
and other times
as the Holy Spirit (primarily after Jesus’ ascension into heaven)

It teaches that God has simply revealed Himself in three different modes, and that He is not three different Persons


Another aspect of  Modalism is called Patripassianism, which is the view that it was God the Father who became incarnate, suffered, died, and was resurrected.

Patripassianism essentially teaches that God the Father became Son of Man (as Jesus used the term) - in a sense His own Son. The Father became the Son after taking flesh of Mary.

Patri = Father
Passion = Suffering

Patri-Passion literally means Father suffered implying that

It was Father God himself who died on the cross for mankind.

 Hippolytus writes about it as follows:
”Some others are secretly introducing another doctrine, who have become disciples of one Noetus, who was a native of Smyrna, (and) lived not very long ago. This person was greatly puffed up and inflated with pride, being inspired by the conceit of a strange spirit. He alleged that Christ was the Father Himself, and that the Father Himself was born, and suffered, and died….Thus they say they prove that God is one. And then they answer in this manner: If therefore I acknowledge Christ to be God, He is the Father Himself, if He is indeed God; and Christ suffered, being Himself God; and consequently the Father suffered, for He was the Father Himself.”
Against Noetus

Noetus, a presbyter of the church of Asia Minor about AD 230, was a native of Smyrna, where (or perhaps in Ephesus) he became a prominent representative of Christology now called modalistic monarchianism or patripassianism.

His views, which led to his excommunication from the Orthodox Church, are known chiefly through the writings of Hippolytus, his contemporary at Rome, where he settled and had a large following. He accepted the fourth Gospel, but regarded its statements about the Logos as allegorical. His disciple Cleomenes held that God is both invisible and visible; as visible He is the Son.

Praxeas was a Monarchian from Asia Minor who lived in the end of the 2nd century/beginning of the 3rd century. He believed in the unity of the Godhead and vehemently disagreed with any attempt at division of the personalities or personages of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the Christian Church. He was opposed by Tertullian in his tract Against Praxeas (Adversus Praxean), and was influential in preventing the Roman Church from granting recognition to the New Prophecy. He came to Carthage before Tertullian had renounced the Catholic communion (c. 206-8). He taught Monarchian doctrine there. Tertullian remarks of him: "Paracletum fugavit et patrem crucifixit."- "Having driven out the Paraclete [Montanus], he now crucified the Father".




(3rd Century]


Sabellianism was a Christian heresy that was a more developed and less naive form

of Modalistic Monarchianism; it was propounded by Sabellius (c. A.D. 2l7—c. 220),

who was possibly a presbyter in Rome and was a denial of the Trinity.




Teaching in the early third century, Sabellius claimed that God the Father became

man in Jesus Christ; that Jesus and the Father were the same and the only divine



Later Sabellians professed that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were merely three aspects or elements of the same divine Person. Generally it was the belief that

the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three characterizations of one God, rather than

three distinct “persons” in one God.

Sabellius is said by Epiphanius to have founded his views on the Gospel according to the Egyptians, and the fragments of that apocryphon support this statement. Hippolytus hoped to convert Sabellius to his own views, and attributed his failure in this to the influence of Callistus. Pope, however, excommunicated Sabellius in c. 220   A number of Montanists led by Aeschines became Modalists. Sabellius may have considerably amplified the original Noetianism.

Marcellus of Ancyra developed a Monarchianism of his own, which was carried much further by his disciple, Photinus.

Priscillian was an extreme Monarchian and so was Commodian ("Carmen Apol.", 89, 277, 771). The "Monarchian Prologues" to the Gospels found in most old manuscripts of the Vulgate, were attributed by von Dobschütz and P. Corssen to a Roman author of the time of Callistus, but they are almost certainly the work of Priscillian.

Beryllus, Bishop of Bostra, is vaguely said by Eusebius (Church History VI.33) to have taught that the Saviour had no distinct pre-existence before the Incarnation, and had no Divinity of His own, but that the Divinity of the Father dwelt in Him. Origen disputed with him in a council and convinced him of his error. The minutes of the disputation were known to Eusebius. It is not clear whether Beryllus was a Modalist or a Dynamist.

About A.D. 375 the heresy was renewed at Neocaesarea and was attacked by Basil

the Great.


At the time of the Reformation, Sabellianism was reformulated by Michael Servetus,

a Spanish theologian and physician, to the effect that Christ and the Holy Spirit are

merely representative forms of the one Godhead, the Father. In the 18th century,

Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swedish mystical philosopher and scientist, also taught this

doctrine, as did his disciples, who founded the New Church.

Hippolytus of Rome knew Sabellius personally and mentioned him in his book Philosophumena. He knew Sabellius held this modalistic theology, yet he called Modal Monarchism the heresy of Noetus, not that of Sabellius implying it was first proposed by Noetus and not Sabellius.  Sabellianism was embraced by Christians in Cyrenaica, to whom Demetrius, Patriarch of Alexandria, wrote letters arguing against this belief. Little is actually known of his life because the most detailed information about him was contained in the prejudiced reports of his contemporary opponent, Hippolytus, an anti-Monarchian Roman theologian. In Rome there was an active struggle between the Monarchians and Trinitarians.   

It assumes that God is a single Person - a Monarch with absolute authority and unique - hence the name Monarchianism. 

Isaiah 45:5-6  "I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other,…

This sounds familiar in modern times since Islam has taken over this concept and is their basic declaration known as shahada. “la ilaha illa'llah”=“There is no God other than Allah”


According to this Oneness principle, God appears in his relation with his creation in various modes. God the Father, God the Son who incarnated in human form, and God the Holy Spirirt who guides and empowers believers are three different modes or aspects of one monadic God, rather than three distinct persons. The three divine Persons he believed to be three different roles acted out by one divine Being, much as one human person might be a husband, a father and a clerk. His view, of one sort or another, was quite popular in the early church, because it offered a way of believing in the deity of Christ while preserving the oneness of God. Sabellianism is thus also known as Modalism (3 different modes of the same God),  


Historic Sabellianism taught that God the Father was the only true existence of the Godhead, a belief known as Monarchianism. God is thus said to have three "faces" or "masks" (Greek πρόσωπα prosopa; Latin personae). When viewed from certain context and situations God is seen in that particular form.

Early historian Hippolytus summarized the modalist position as one in which the names “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit” did not stand for real distinctions in the Godhead, but rather mere names that described the actions of the one God at different times in history. In other words, “Father,” “Son,” and “Spirit” are merely adjectives describing how the one divine Being acts and is merely three modes that humans perceived.


According to Epiphanius of Salamis, Sabellius used the sun’s characteristics as an analogy of God’s nature. Just as the sun has "three powers" (warmth, light, and circular form), so God has three aspects: the warming power answers to the Holy Spirit; the illuminating power, to the Son; and the form or figure, to the Father. Sabellius used the term "prosopa" which is Greek for "faces" to describe how the person of God has three faces, this idea is found in 2 Corinthians 4:6 "...God’s glory displayed in the face (prosopon - singular form of prosopa) of Christ.


They describe these three modes in different ways.  In the Indian context Brahman the supreme God of Abrahm is defined as Sat-Chit-Ananda Murthi.

Satchitananda  is a compounded Sanskrit word consisting of "sat", "cit" and "ananda",  are all three considered as inseparable three attributes of Atman or Brahman in the Vedanta philosophy in Hinduism. The modern Hinduism, as I have explained in my book “Emergence of Hinduism from Christianity” was derived out of the St.Thomas Christianity after 150 AD. Thus the Trinity appears in the context of the nature of God there also.  The different forms of spelling Sat-Cit-Ananda as Brahman is driven by euphonic (sandhi) rules of Sanskrit, useful in different contexts. 

· Sat: In Sanskrit sat means "being, existing", "living, lasting, enduring", "real, actual", "true, good, right", "beautiful, wise, venerable, honest", or "that which really is, existence, essence, true being, really existent, good, true".

· Cit: means "to perceive, fix mind on", "to understand, comprehend, know", "to form an idea in the mind, be conscious of, think, reflect upon" (Loctefeld and other scholars translate it as "consciousness".)

· Ānanda:  means "happiness, joy, enjoyment, sensual pleasure", "pure happiness, ". Loctefeld and other scholars translate ananda as "bliss".

Brahma, Vishnu, Maheswara               Abba, Amma, Makan
Creator, Sustainer, destroyer               Father, Spirit, Son

Satchitananda is therefore translated as "Truth- Consciousness -Bliss",  "Reality -Consciousness - Bliss", "Existence- Consciousness- Bliss" corresponding to the ultimate three realities Body, Mind and Spirit : Jesus the incarnate, Father the Mind and Spirit the bringer of bliss.  When the unknowable became knowable it took three seperate forms: Brahma (Creator), Vishnu(Heavenly) and Maheswara (Great Yesu) in Vaishnavism; Appan (Siva -Father Love), Amma (Sakthi- Power) and Makan (Son - Ganapathi - Lord of Host)

These were the ways the Gnosticised Indian Christianity which later was called Hinuism (‘the religion of India’ by the colonisers) presented the Trinity. The identity of understanding is beyond doubt.


Modalists note that the only number ascribed to God in the Holy Bible is One and that there is no inherent threeness ascribed to God explicitly in scripture. 

After all God who by his very nature is a Spirit, cannot be known except through his interaction with the knower directly or indirectly.   The true question, therefore, turns on this, viz., what is it which constitutes what we name ‘person’ in the Godhead? Is it original, substantial, essential to divinity itself? ; Or does it belong to and arise from the exhibitions and developments which the divine Being has made of himself to his creatures?

The former Sabellius denied; the latter he fully admitted. Behind all the phenomena and knowledge of God’s existence is the Father, who was before all things.

It has been noted that the Greek term "homoousian" or "co-substantial", which Athanasius of Alexandria favoured, was a term reported to be put forth by Sabellius, and was a term that many followers of Athanasius were uneasy about. Their objection to the term "homoousian" was that it was considered to be un-Scriptural, suspicious, and "of a Sabellian tendency." This was because Sabellius also considered the Father and the Son to be "one substance." Meaning that, to Sabellius, the Father and Son were one  and the same essential person, though operating as different manifestation or mode.

An argument for modalism is provided by the examples of Space, Time and Matter.

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seem, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)



The idea seems to be derived from the Jewish Kabballistic mysticism where the pre-existent nothingness that contained God known as Ein (nothingness) transformed into Ein Sof and then to the eternal light form Ein Sof Aur.  Thus to Sabellius and the monists the true God is Ein Sof.  When the creation took place this Ein Sof was seen as three persons - The Everlasting Father, Son (the King of Kings and Lord of Lord) and Holy Spirit(Divine Mother that hovered over the primeaval nothingness in creation.)  These three are one and the same Ein Sof - the real Primeaval Eternal Father.


It may be better to present this in the following form  


In the Indian Theosophical terms which correspond to the Jewish Kabballah, this will turn out to be as follows:

Ein sof (without boundary or limit) is equivalent to the Sanskrit parabrahman (beyond Brahman). From it issue at karmic intervals universes great and small . . .” The Boundless, while having no attributes, was “conceived as containing a series of ‘concealed sefiroth’. While completely unmanifest, these nevertheless exhibit in potentia a three-in-one or a one-in-three garment of nonbeing: ‘ayin, ‘no-thing-ness,’ the darkness of pure nonbeing, which produced ‘ein sof, boundless or limitless light,’ the primal light of pre-manifestation.” When the Boundless wished to manifest itself, it focused its essence into a single point: the primal number or sefiroth, called Kether the Crown, from where it expanded to unfold and permeate a universe of tenfold character, unfolded into manifestation, by issuing “forth in time and space nine lower sefiroth or emanations of graduated spiritual and material texture.” (Grace F. Knoche: Theosophy in the Qabbālāh)”



Modalism teaches that the Heavenly Father, Crucified-Resurrected Son, and Holy Spirit of the Pentecost, identified as one God in three persons by the Trinity Doctrine, are actually different modes, faces, aspects, or roles of the One God, as perceived by the believer, rather than three co-eternal persons within the Godhead, or a "co-equal trinity". In passages of scripture such as Matthew 3:16-17 where the Son, Father, and Holy Spirit are separated in the text, they view this phenomenon as confirming God's omnipresence, and His ability to manifest himself as he pleases.  

Like Trinitarians, Oneness adherents believe that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. However, whereas Trinitarians believe that "God the Son", the eternal second person of the Trinity, became man, Oneness adherents hold that the one and only true God—who can manifests himself in any way he chooses, took the form of man while being Himself God.  

Oneness teaches that there is only one being, revealing himself in different ways. Explaining the Oneness view of God, as opposed to the Trinitarian viewpoint, Modalists cite passages in the New Testament that refer to God in the singular, and note the lack of the word "Trinity" in any canonical scripture. They claim that Colossians 1:15-20 refers to Christ's relationship with the Father in a similar sense:

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities; all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”

They also cite Christ's response to Philip's query on who the Father was in John 14:10:

“Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?”

The Monarchians, in their concern for the divine monarchy (the absolute unity and indivisibility of God), denied that such distinctions were ultimate or permanent.

Sabellius taught that: 
the Godhead is a monad,
expressing itself in three operations:
As Father, in creation (creator);
As Son, in redemption (Sustainer);
As Holy Spirit, in sanctification (Renewer).

Sabellianism has been rejected by the majority of Christian churches in favour of Trinitarianism, which was eventually defined as three distinct, co-equal, co-eternal persons by the Athanasian Creed, probably dating from the late 5th or early 6th century.



The chief critic of Sabellianism was Tertullian. In his work Adversus Praxeas, Chapter I, he wrote "By this Praxeas did a twofold service for the devil at Rome: he drove away prophecy, and he brought in heresy; he put to flight the Paraclete, and he crucified the Father." From this notion Tertullian called them "Patripassianism" movement, from the Latin words pater for "father", and passus from the verb "to suffer" because it implied that the Father suffered on the Cross. Montanist sects started by Montanus was Sabellians to which Tertullian later became part and probably formed an inner sect with trinitarian teaching.  Montanists actually believed in a form of dispensational monarchism where the concept is that:

The period between creation to Jesus can be considered as the dispensation of the Father and the rule of law.

The period between the birth of Jesus and the pentecost may be considered a the period of dispensation of the Son.

The period from Pentecost till the second coming may be considered as the period of dispensation of the Holy Spirit.

The period from the second coming to the ultimate defeat of Satan is the period of dispensation of the Son.

When death itself has been repealed, the final dispensation of the Father will again be established.

1 Cor 15: 26 - 28 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put everything under His feet.” Now when it says that everything has been put under Him, this clearly does not include the One who put everything under Him. And when all things have been subjected to Him, then the Son Himself will be made subject to Him who put all things under Him, so that God may be all in all.…

Sabellian dispensational approach:


 Tertullian seems to suggest that most of the unwise and unlearned believers at that time favoured the Sabellian view of the oneness of God. Epiphanius (Haeres 62) about 375 notes that the adherents of Sabellius were still to be found in great numbers, both in Mesopotamia and at Rome. The first general council at Constantinople in 381 in canon VII and the third general council at Constantinople in 680 in canon XCV declared the baptism of Sabellius to be invalid, which indicates that Sabellianism was still extant.

· Cyprian wrote - "...how, when God the Father is not known, nay, is even blasphemed, can they who among the heretics are said to be baptized in the name of Christ, be judged to have obtained the remission of sins?

· Hippolytus (A.D. 170–236) referred to them - "And some of these assent to the heresy of the Noetians, and affirm that the Father himself is the Son..."

· Pope Dionysius, Bishop of Rome from A.D. 259–269 wrote - "Sabellius...blasphemes in saying that the Son Himself is the Father and vice versa."

· Tertullian states - "He commands them to baptize into the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, not into a unipersonal God. And indeed it is not once only, but three times, that we are immersed into three persons, at each several mention of their names.”

· Von Mosheim states: “But while Sabellius maintained that there was but one divine person, he still believed the distinction of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, described in the Scriptures, to be a real distinction, and not a mere appellative or nominal one. That is, he believed the one divine person whom he recognized, to have three distinct forms, which are really different, and which should not be confounded.”

Pope Calixtus was at first inclined to be sympathetic to Sabellius’ teaching but later condemned it and excommunicated Sabellius.

Epiphanius (died 403) says that in his time Sabellians were still numerous in Mesopotamia and Rome - a fact confirmed by an inscription discovered at Rome in 1742, evidently erected by Sabellian Christians. Though we have descriptions of the Sabelians as heretics, they were never officially declared so nor excommunicated from the church at any time.