I think we can see the seeds of many of our core doctrines at a remarkably early point. Yes, it took time to develop these ideas. But it doesn’t seem like they were late impositions on the church as is so often claimed.
A good example of this phenomenon is an amazing paragraph in one of our earliest Christian apologies. Aristides, a converted Athenian philosopher, wrote an apology to emperor Hadrian around 125 A.D. As such, it is one of the earliest patristic writings we possess. It is a lengthy treatise which compares the God of Christianity with the gods of the barbarians, the Egyptians, and the Greeks.
But, at one point, he summarizes what Christians believe in a manner that would rival even the Apostle’s Creed:
The Christians, then, trace the beginning of their religion from Jesus the Messiah; and he is named the Son of God Most High. And it is said that God came down from heaven, and from a Hebrew virgin assumed and clothed himself with flesh; and the Son of God lived in a daughter of man. This is taught in the gospel, as it is called, which a short time was preached among them; and you also if you will read therein, may perceive the power which belongs to it. This Jesus, then, was born of the race of the Hebrews; and he had twelve disciples in order that the purpose of his incarnation might in time be accomplished. But he himself was pierced by the Jews, and he died and was buried; and they say that after three days he rose and ascended to heaven (Apol. 2, Syriac).
This is a surprisingly thorough and wide-ranging summary of core Christian doctrines at a very early point in the life of the church. https://t.co/Ur2ULFhham
— Trevin Wax (@TrevinWax) June 14, 2021