According to Wikipedia (and we know it’s true if it’s on Wikipedia):
The creator of the original ASCII emoticons : ) and :(, with a specific suggestion that they be used to express emotion, was Scott Fahlman; the text of his original proposal, posted to the Carnegie Mellon University computer science general board on 19 September 1982 (11:44) …
Well, after a tip from my crack investigative team (thanks Atticus), I found this reference in the New Testament:
More specifically, the reference is from the KJV Bible and can be found in Acts 10:36
I argue that this is the earliest use of the smiley emoticon and was indeed used as an expression of emotion — in this case: Glory, Hallelujah, Praise the Lord type of emotion. It is generally believed that this text was written between 60 and 80 A.D. which precedes Mr. Fahlman’s post by about 1900 years. There is some debate as to who authored the Acts but evidence suggests that the author was Luke the Physician. Therefore, let us attribute the modern day smiley emoticon to Luke rather than Mr. Fahlman (sorry Scott).