The doctrine of the Trinity deviates from the Nicene Creed.

This article series quotes extensively from leading scholars. Since not all readers are interested in detail, the green blocks summarize the longer sections. 

PURPOSE

The church adopted the Trinity doctrine at the conclusion of the fourth-century ‘Arian’ Controversy. However, discoveries of ancient documents and research over the past century have revealed that the traditional account of how and why the church accepted that doctrine is grossly inaccurate. Different articles in this series discuss different critical errors in the traditional narrative.

The current article addresses the false belief that the Trinity doctrine is consistent with the Nicene Creed of 325. For example, while the Creed uses hypostasis and ousia as synonyms, the Doctrine uses these terms for contrasting concepts; Person and Being. And while the Creed asserts that the Father and Son are a single hypostasis, the Doctrine proclaims three hypostases.

The New Terms in the Nicene Creed

To describe the Son of God, the Nicene Creed of 325 uses the terms hypostasis and ousia in three statements:

      • The Son is begotten “of the ousia of the Father,”
      • Father and Son are “homoousios,” meaning ‘same ousia’, and 
      • The Son is not “of another hypostasis or ousia.” (Ayres, p. 93)

These terms were not used in any previous Christian creed. A pro-Alexander pre-meeting was held in Antioch just a few months earlier and not even the draft creed produced at that meeting used these terms. (Ayres, p. 92)

The Anathema …

This article focuses on the third instance, one of the Creed’s anathemas. Early Church Texts translates it as:

“But as for those … who assert that the Son of God is of a different hypostasis or substance [ousia] … these the Catholic and apostolic Church anathematizes.”

With the double negative removed, it says that the Son is of the same hypostasis and ousia as the Father. This seems to deviate from the Trinity doctrine in two ways:

Uses Hypostasis and Ousia as Synonyms.

Firstly, while the traditional Trinity doctrine makes a distinction between the terms ousia and hypostasis, saying that God is one ousia (one Being) existing in three hypostases (three Persons); the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Anathema seems to use ousia and hypostasis as synonyms.

Scholars confirm that the Anathema seems to use ousia and hypostases as synonyms.

        • Ayres refers to “the seeming equation of ousia and hypostasis. (Ayres, p. 88)
        • R.P.C. Hanson says the Nicene Creed “apparently (but not quite certainly) identifies hypostasis and ousia.” (Hanson, p. 188)

In contrast, the Doctrine makes a distinction between the two terms. For example, the following is one possible definition of the Doctrine:

“The champions of the Nicene faith … developed a doctrine of God as a Trinity, as one substance or ousia who existed as three hypostases, three distinct realities or entities (I refrain from using the misleading word’ Person’), three ways of being or modes of existing as God.” (Hanson Lecture)

Says that Father and Son are One Person.

A second difference between the Anathema and the Trinity doctrine is that, while the Anathema seems to say that Father and Son are a single hypostasis, the Doctrine says they are three hypostases. 

Scholars confirm that the Anathema seems to teach a single hypostasis:

“The production of N … must have been deeply disturbing for many who could not seriously be described as Arian in sympathy but could not believe that God had only one hypostasis, as the creed apparently professed.” (Hanson, p. 274)

“That creed admits the possibility of only one ousia and one hypostasis.” (Hanson, p. 235)

A hypostasis is something that exists distinctly. When used for intelligent beings, it is often translated as ‘person’.

Purpose of this article

Therefore, the purpose of this article is to determine whether the Anathema:

    • Uses ousia and hypostasis as synonyms and 
    • Describes Father and Son as a single hypostasis.

Both the translation of the Anathema above and the definition of the Trinity doctrine quoted above explain ousia as ‘substance’. Today, we generally understand ‘substance’ as “the real physical matter of which a person or thing consists.” However, the purpose of the current article is to determine whether that was how the compilers of the Nicene Creed understood the term.

AUTHORS

This article is largely based on the following recent writings of world-class catholic scholars who are regarded as specialists in the fourth-century Arian Controversy:

Hanson – A 1981 lecture by R.P.C. Hanson on the Arian Controversy.

Hanson, Bishop RPC
The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God –

The Arian Controversy 318-381, 1987

Williams, Archbishop Rowan
Arius: Heresy and Tradition, 2002/1987

Ayres, Lewis
Nicaea and its legacy, 2004

Ayres is a Professor of Catholic and Historical Theology

Anatolios, Khaled,
Retrieving Nicaea, 2011
Ebook edition

BEFORE NICAEA

Etymologically, they are synonyms.

In the earliest uses of these words known to scholars today, ousia and hypostasis were synonyms. 

Etymologically (i.e., relating to the origin and historical development of words and their meanings), hypostasis and ousia are direct cognates (See – Ousía and hypostasis from the philosophers to the councils). That means they have the same linguistic derivation, just like the English father, the German Vater and the Latin pater are cognates. In other words, originally, hypostasis and ousia had the same meaning.

Philosophy: Synonyms for Fundamental Reality

The compilers of the Nicene Creed borrowed these terms from Greek philosophy and that philosophy used these terms as synonyms for the fundamental reality that supports all else.

The authors of the Nicene Creed derived these terms from Greek philosophy. For example, Hanson refers to “the new terms borrowed from the pagan philosophy of the day.” (Hanson, p. 846)1Hypostasis … became a key-word in Platonism.” (Hanson, p. 182) In Greek Philosophy:

Hypostasis is the underlying state or underlying substance and is the fundamental reality that supports all else.” (Wikipedia)

Note that both the terms hypostasis and ousia (substance) appear in this definition. In philosophy, a hypostasis was also a substance. Ancient Greek philosophers used these terms as synonyms for the primary, fundamental kind of being, in contrast to the objects in the sensible world which are mere shadows. In a Christian context, we might refer to “the fundamental reality” or Ultimate Reality as ‘God’.

Only one instance in the Bible

The compilers of the Creed did not obtain these terms from the Bible. The Bible never refers to God’s ousia and only once to God’s hypostasis. In that one instance, it is not clear whether hypostasis refers to God’s nature or His entire ‘Person’ (hypostasis). 

The word hypostasis “occurs five times in the New Testament.” (Hanson, p. 182) Four instances do NOT refer to God and are translated as ‘confidence’ and ‘assurance’ (2 Cor 9:4; 11:17; Heb 3:14; 11:1). The only instance where the term hypostasis describes God is Hebrews 1:3. 2“The only strictly theological use (of the word hypostasis) is that of Hebrews 1:3, where the Son is described as ‘the impression of the nature’ [hypostasis] of God.” (Hanson, p. 182) 3“The word also occurs twenty times in the LXX (the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament), but only one of them can be regarded as theologically significant. … At Wisdom 16:21 the writer speaks of God’s hypostasis, meaning his nature; and no doubt this is why Hebrews uses the term ‘impression of his nature’.” (Hanson, p. 182) In Hebrews 1:3, “the Son is described as the impression [exact image] of the Father’s hypostasis.” (Hanson, p. 187, 182) This is variously translated (BibleHub):

      • The exact representation of his being (NIV);
      • The exact imprint of his nature (ESV);
      • The express image of his person (King James & New King James);
      • The exact representation of His nature (NASB);
      • The very image of his substance (ASV);
      • The exact likeness of God’s own being (Good News)
      • The exact likeness of his being (ISV)
      • The very imprint of his being (New American)
      • The exact imprint of God’s very being (NRSV)

The three instances in red translate hypostasis as a characteristic or aspect of God but most versions translate it as referring to God as a distinct Individual or Person, meaning that the Son is the exact image of the Person of God, rather than of an aspect of God.

Hypostasis also occurs twenty times in the LXX (the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament), but only one instance uses this term to describe God. “At Wisdom 16:21 the writer speaks of God’s hypostasis … and no doubt this is why Hebrews uses the term ‘impression of his nature’.” (Hanson, p. 182)

Since the Bible never refers to God’s ousia and only once refers to His hypostasis, the use of the terms ousia and hypostasis in the Nicene Creed was not based on the Bible:

“The pro-Nicenes are at their worst, their most grotesque, when they try to show that the new terms borrowed from the pagan philosophy of the day were really to be found in Scripture.” (Hanson, p. 846)

Origen: Synonyms for distinct Individual

Origen wrote at the beginning of the third century. He used these terms as synonyms. While ousia is today often understood as “substance,” Origen used both terms for the Persons of the Trinity as distinct Individuals, as opposed to their substance.

For example:

He “used hypostasis and ousia freely as interchangeable terms to describe the Son’s distinct reality within the Godhead.” (Hanson, p. 185) “He can say … that the Son is ‘different in ousia’ from the Father, meaning that he is a distinct entity from the Father.” (Hanson, p. 66-67)

“For Origen the words hypostasis … and ousia are … synonyms for … distinct individual entity.” (Hanson, p. 66-67)

While Origen wrote that the Son is “separate in hypostasis or ousia from the Father” (Hanson, p. 66-67), the Nicene Creed states the exact opposite and condemns those who say that He “is of a different hypostasis or substance.”

The vast majority of the delegates to Nicaea were from the Eastern church and were followers of Origen, implying that they used these terms in the same way.

For example:

At Nicaea, “around 250–300 attended, drawn almost entirely from the eastern half of the empire.” (Ayres, p. 19)

“The great majority of the Eastern clergy [at Nicaea] were ultimately disciples of Origen.” (Bible.ca, quoting W.H.C. Frend)

This implies that most delegates to Nicaea regarded these terms as synonyms for the ‘Person’ of God.

Williams refers to “the respectable pre-Nicene usage of ousia for primary (individual) substance.” (Williams, p. 164)

WHEN THE CONTROVERSY BEGAN

Used differently by different people

When the Controversy began, considerable confusion existed as different people used these terms differently.

Hanson discusses how several ancient theologians used these terms. Did they use these terms to describe the Father and Son as Individuals (Persons) or their substance?

      • “Eusebius of Nicomedia” used ousia to mean Person. He said, “there are two ousiai and two facts.” (Hanson, p. 185)
      • “Eusebius of Caesarea … uses ousia to mean substance.” (Hanson, p. 185)
      • “Alexander of Alexandria … does not use the word ousia, but instead uses hypostasis for both ‘Person’ and ‘substance’.” (Hanson, p. 186)
      • Arius used hypostasis for Person. He “spoke readily of the hypostases of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” (Hanson, p. 186)
      • Asterius, a leading anti-Nicene, “said that there were three hypostases.” In other words, he used hypostasis for ‘Person’. “But he also described the Son as ‘the exact image of the ousia and counsel and glory and power’ of the Father.” In other words, he used ousia for substance. “Once again we find a writer who clearly did not confuse ousia and hypostasis.” (Hanson, p. 187) What Hanson means is that Asterius made a distinction between the two terms and used them as we use them today.

Therefore, considerable confusion existed.

“Considerable confusion existed about the use of the terms hypostasis and ousia at the period when the Arian Controversy broke out.” (Hanson, p. 181)

“Several alternative ways of treating these terms were prevalent.” (Hanson, p. 184)

“That continuing terminological confusion is reflected in the seeming equation of ousia and hypostasis [in the Nicene Creed].” (Ayres, p. 98)

Synonyms for many

Although different people used these terms differently, many used these terms as synonyms.

For example:

“For many people at the beginning of the fourth century the word hypostasis and the word ousia had pretty well the same meaning.” (Hanson, p. 181)

Importantly, Athanasius, the paragon of the West, also used these terms as synonyms: “Clearly for him hypostasis and ousia were still synonymous.” (Hanson, 440)

“For at least the first half of the period 318-381, and in some cases considerably later, ousia and hypostasis are used as virtual synonyms.” (Hanson, p. 183)

MEANING CHANGED

Much later in the Century

The fourth century was a search for orthodoxy; not the defense of orthodoxy. The outcome of that Controversy, the Trinity doctrine, did not yet exist when the Nicene Creed was formulated. As a key part of that search for the doctrine of God, theologians changed the meanings of the terms ousia and hypostasis.

As confirmation that the Nicene Creed does not teach the Trinity doctrine, Lewis Ayres explains that ‘pro-Nicene theology’, which is what we today understand as the Trinity doctrine, was developed later in that century and differs from the theology of the Nicene Creed:

“By ‘pro-Nicene’ I mean those theologies, appearing from the 360s to the 380s … of how the Nicene creed should be understood. … These theologies build closely on and adapt themes found earlier in the century, but none is identical with any original ‘Nicene’ theology apparent in the 320s or 330s.” (Ayres, p. 6)

Consistent with the idea that theology evolved over the fourth century, the meanings of these two terms changed over that period:

“It is only much later in the century that the two are more clearly distinguished by some.” (Ayres, p. 98)

“When at last the confusion was cleared up and these two distinct meanings were permanently attached to these words,” hypostasis and ousia respectively meant “’person’ and ‘substance’.” (Hanson, p. 181)

By the Cappadocians

Some of the ‘Arians’ were the first to distinguish between hypostasis and ousia but the Cappadiocian fathers were the first pro-Nicenes to make that distinction. Based on their authority, the distinction became accepted in the Trinitarian church.

The Cappadocian fathers are traditionally credited for being the first to make a clear distinction between ousia and hypostasis:

“The first person to propose a difference in the meanings of hypostasis and ousía … was Basil of Caesarea.”4Johannes, “Ousía and hypostasis from the philosophers to the councils”

“Basil’s most distinguished contribution towards the resolving of the dispute about the Christian doctrine of God was in his clarification of the vocabulary.” (Hanson, p. 690)

Basil “is often identified” with the “distinction between a unitary shared nature at one level, and the personal distinctions of Father, Son, and Spirit at another.” (Ayres, p. 190-191)

In reality, some of the Eusebians, the so-called Arians, right at the beginning of the Controversy, already made a distinction between hypostasis and ousia and used ousia for ‘substance’; the material a Being consists of:

Arius used hypostasis for ‘Person’. For example, he “spoke readily of the hypostases of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And he said that the hypostases of Father, Son and Holy Spirit “were different in kind and in rank.” (Hanson, p. 187) But he used ousia for “substance.“ He wrote, for example, “The Logos is alien and unlike in all respects to the Father’s ousia.” (Hanson, p. 186) “It seems likely that he was one of the few during this period who did not confuse the two.” (Hanson, p. 187)

Asterius, another leading ‘Arian’, “clearly did not confuse ousia and hypostasis.” He used hypostasis for ‘Person’. For example, he “said that there were three hypostases” and “certainly taught that the Father and the Son were distinct and different in their hypostases.” But he used ousia for ‘substance’. For example, “he also described the Son as ‘the exact image of the ousia and counsel and glory and power’ of the Father.” (Hanson, p. 187)

What we can say is that the Cappadocians were the first pro-Nicenes to make that distinction. While Basil was a three-hypostasis theologian (see here), Athanasius and the earlier pro-Nicene theologians believed in one hypostasis (see here) and did not need a distinction between hypostasis and ousia.

THE CREED

Uses these terms as synonyms.

The fact that, at the time, many people used the two terms as synonyms supports our conclusion above that the Anathema uses them as synonyms. That confirms that the Nicene Creed deviates from the Trinity doctrine in which the distinction between ousia and hypostases is foundational, saying that the Father, Son, and Spirit are three hypostases but one ousia.

It would furthermore mean that, in the Nicene Creed, these two terms “did not mean, and should not be translated, ‘person’ and ‘substance’, as they were used when at last … these two distinct meanings were permanently attached to these words.” (Hanson, p. 181) In other words, the translation of the Anathema as quoted above mistakenly translates ousia as ‘substance’. 

Teaches only one hypostasis.

Since the Anathema, with the double negatives removed, says that the Son is of the same hypostasis or substance as the Father, it claims that Father and Son are one single hypostasis. This deviates from the Trinity doctrine which asserts three hypostases.

Is Sabellian.

However, to say that Father and Son are a single hypostasis (a single Person) is Sabellianism.

Sabellianism was already condemned as heresy in the third century. Scholars confirm that the Anathema implies Sabellianism:

“By the standard of later orthodoxy, as achieved in the Creed of Constantinople of 381, it is a rankly heretical (i.e. Sabellian) proposition, because the Son must be of a different hypostasis (i.e. ‘Person’) from the Father.” (Hanson, p. 167)

“The Creed of Nicaea of 325 … ultimately confounded the confusion because its use of the words ousia and hypostasis was so ambiguous as to suggest that the Fathers of Nicaea had fallen into Sabellianism, a view recognized as a heresy even at that period.” (Hanson’s Lecture)

“If we are to take the creed N at its face value, the theology of Eustathius and Marcellus was the theology which triumphed at Nicaea. That creed admits the possibility of only one ousia and one hypostasis. This was the hallmark of the theology of these two men.” (Hanson, p. 235) Eustathius and Marcellus were the most famous Sabellians of the fourth century. (See here.)

Confirmed by Sabellian domination

A Sabellian statement was included in the Creed because Sabellians dominated at Nicaea through their alliance with Alexander and through the emperor’s support for Alexander.

The reader may question why the Creed would include a Sabellian statement. This is explained in the article on the meaning of the term Homoousios. (See here.) In brief:

During the Arian Controversy, theologians were divided into ‘one hypostasis’ and ‘three hypostasis’ camps. Following Origen, the Eusebians (the so-called Arians) said that Father, Son, and Spirit are three hypostases (three distinct Persons), each with his distinct ousia. In opposition to them, Sabellians said that Father, Son, and Spirit are one single hypostasis (Person).

Alexander and Athanasius, similar to the Sabellians, maintained that Father, Son, and Spirit are one single hypostasis. (See here.) For that reason, at Nicaea, they were able to join forces with the Sabellians. Emperor Constantine took Alexander’s side in his dispute with Arius. This gave the Sabellians the upper hand at Nicaea.

It is, therefore, no surprise that the Creed presents Father and Son as one single hypostasis. However:

“It is going too far to say that N is a clearly Sabellian document. … It is exceeding the evidence to represent the Council as a total victory for the anti-Origenist opponents of the doctrine of three hypostases. It was more like a drawn battle.” (Hanson, p. 172)

AGREES WITH THE ANATHEMA

However, if one goes beyond the formal wording of the Trinity doctrine to its essence, it does agree with the Anathema in two respects. Firstly, both describe the Father and the Son as a single hypostasis. Secondly, both use the terms ousia and hypostasis as synonyms.  

1. A Single Hypostasis

1a ‘Hypostases’ (Persons) are misleading.

Formally, the Doctrine confesses the Father, Son, and Spirit to be three hypostases (Persons). However, that is misleading. A hypostasis is a distinct being with a unique mind but, in the Doctrine, the Trinity is a single Being with a single mind.

The Trinity doctrine says that the Father, Son, and Spirit are “one substance or ousia who existed as three hypostases [Persons].” This leads the reader to think of three distinct Entities because, in normal English, each ‘person’ is a distinct entity with his or her own mind. A hypostasis is also defined as an “individual existence” (Hanson, p. 193) or “distinct existences” (Litfin); something that exists distinctly from other things.  

However, in the Doctrine, the Father, Son, and Spirit do not exist distinctly. They are a single Being with a single mind. For example, the leading Catholic scholar Karl Rahner (The Trinity) wrote:

“The element of consciousness … does not belong to it [the Person] in our context [the official doctrine of the {Catholic} Church].” “But there exists in God only one power, one will, only one self-presence. … Hence self-awareness is not a moment which distinguishes the divine “persons” one from the other.”

“When today we speak of person in the plural, we think almost necessarily, because of the modern meaning of the word, of several spiritual centers of activity [minds], of several subjectivities [biases, views] and liberties [freedoms]. But there are not three of these in God. … There are not three consciousnesses; rather the one consciousness subsists in a threefold way. There is only one real consciousness in God, which is shared by the Father, Son, and Spirit, by each in his own proper way.”

In other words, the Father, Son, and Spirit share one single will, consciousness, and self-awareness.

“Each Person shares the Divine will … that come from a mind. … Each Person’s self-awareness and consciousness is not inherent to that Person (by nature of that Person being that Person) but comes from the shared essence.” (Rahner) 5“We must, of course, say that Father, Son, and Spirit possess self-consciousness and that each one is aware of the other two ‘persons’. But precisely this self-consciousness … comes from the divine essence, is common as one to the divine persons.” (Rahner) 

If the traditional Trinity doctrine taught three equal Minds, that would have been Tritheism. Rahner and other Catholic scholars confirm that the term ‘Person’ is misleading:

“When today we speak of person in the plural, we think almost necessarily, because of the modern meaning of the word, of several spiritual centers of activity [minds], of several subjectivities [biases, views] and liberties [freedoms]. But there are not three of these in God. … There are not three consciousnesses; rather the one consciousness subsists in a threefold way. There is only one real consciousness in God, which is shared by the Father, Son, and Spirit, by each in his own proper way.”

“The champions of the Nicene faith … developed a doctrine of God as a Trinity, as one substance or ousia who existed as three hypostases, three distinct realities or entities (I refrain from using the misleading word’ Person’), three ways of being or modes of existing as God.” (Hanson Lecture)

“By the conventions of the late fourth century, first formulated in Greek by the ‘Cappadocian Fathers’, these three constituent members of what God is came to be referred to as hypostases (‘concrete individuals’) or, more misleadingly for us moderns, as prosōpa (‘persons’).” (Anatolios, xiii) 6In contrast to the traditional Trinity doctrine, some modern theologians propose a ‘Social Trinity’ with “three Centres of Consciousness” (Hanson, p. 737), i.e., three ‘minds’, but this article only considered the standard, traditional Doctrine.

Rather than the word ‘Person’, Hanson above explains the hypostases in the Trinity doctrine as “three ways of being or modes of existing” of the same one God. This reminds us of Modalism, the name Von Harnack gave to second-century Monarchianism; the teaching that Father, Son, and Spirit are merely three names for the same Entity.

1b Origins do not make them distinct.

In the Doctrine, the only distinction between the ‘Persons’ is their origins, but that is an internal and invisible distinction within the one Being. It does not make them three ‘Persons’. So, the three-ness of God is a verbal formula without any practical implications. For us, in the Doctrine, God is only one Person.

In the Doctrine, the Father, Son, and Spirit differ only in their “relationships of origin;” the Son is begotten from the Father and the Spirit proceeds from the Father (and from the Son in Western theology). 7 For example, Karl Rahner, a leading Catholic scholar, in his book – The Trinity – says: “It follows that we must say that the Father, Son, and Spirit are identical with the one godhead and are ‘relatively’ distinct from one another. These three as distinct are constituted only by their relatedness to one another … in God everything is one except where there is relative opposition.”

However, that does not mean that they exist distinctly because, firstly, the Son did not separate from the Father when He was begotten and the Spirit also does not separate when He proceeds:

“The eternal generation of the Son occurs within the unitary and incomprehensible divine being;” “within the unitary and simple Godhead.” (Ayres, p. 236)

Secondly, that distinction is invisible to created beings:

“By the last quarter of the fourth century, halting Christian attempts … had led … to … ‘the doctrine of the Holy Trinity’: the formulated idea that the God … is Father and Son and Holy Spirit, as one reality or substance, operating outward in creation always as a unity, yet always internally differentiated by the relationships of origin that Father and Son and Holy Spirit have with one another.” (Anatolios, xiii)

Therefore, in the Doctrine, from the perspective of the created universe, the Father, Son, and Spirit are one single Being. That agrees with the Anathema.

We also see the one-ness of God reflected in how the Doctrine interprets the term homoousios. Literally, it means ‘same substance’, implying two Entities with the same kind of substance. (See here.) But the Doctrine interprets it as ‘one substance’, which depicts Father and Son God as a single Entity, which we can describe as one hypostasis or one Person.

1c Conclusion

So, despite the evolution of theology in the fourth century and despite the change in the meanings of the terms ‘ousia’ and ‘hypostasis,’ in reality, the Doctrine of the Trinity continues to explain God as the Anathema and Athanasius explained Him; a single hypostasis.

As discussed here, Athanasius believed in one hypostasis. Above we concluded that the Anathema also implies one hypostasis. In its essence, despite its formal wording, the Trinity doctrine is still one-hypostasis theology.

2. Ousia and Hypostasis as synonyms

The Doctrine does not interpret the term ousia in the Creed as ‘substance’ but as referring to the Being of God. In other words, similar to the Anathema, it interprets ‘ousia’ as an individual existence, which is what hypostasis means.

We argued above that the Anathema uses hypostasis and ousia as synonyms. 8Ayres refers to “the seeming equation of ousia and hypostasis. (Ayres, p. 88) We also noted that Athanasius used them as synonyms. 9“Clearly for him hypostasis and ousia were still synonymous.” (Hanson, 440)

The Doctrine uses the same two terms but, as already stated, by asserting three hypostases (three Persons) and one ousia (one Being), the Doctrine seems to give different meanings to the two terms. 

However, if ‘substance’ means “the real physical matter of which a person or thing consists,” note that the Doctrine does not interpret ousia as ‘substance’. It interprets it as a ‘Being’ – an individual existence, another way of saying Person or hypostasis.

In other words, similar to Athanasius and the Anathema, the Doctrine uses hypostasis and ousia as synonyms; both meaning an individual existence.


OTHER ARTICLES

FOOTNOTES

  • 1
    Hypostasis … became a key-word in Platonism.” (Hanson, p. 182)
  • 2
    “The only strictly theological use (of the word hypostasis) is that of Hebrews 1:3, where the Son is described as ‘the impression of the nature’ [hypostasis] of God.” (Hanson, p. 182)
  • 3
    “The word also occurs twenty times in the LXX (the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament), but only one of them can be regarded as theologically significant. … At Wisdom 16:21 the writer speaks of God’s hypostasis, meaning his nature; and no doubt this is why Hebrews uses the term ‘impression of his nature’.” (Hanson, p. 182)
  • 4
    Johannes, “Ousía and hypostasis from the philosophers to the councils”
  • 5
    “We must, of course, say that Father, Son, and Spirit possess self-consciousness and that each one is aware of the other two ‘persons’. But precisely this self-consciousness … comes from the divine essence, is common as one to the divine persons.” (Rahner)
  • 6
    In contrast to the traditional Trinity doctrine, some modern theologians propose a ‘Social Trinity’ with “three Centres of Consciousness” (Hanson, p. 737), i.e., three ‘minds’, but this article only considered the standard, traditional Doctrine.
  • 7
    For example, Karl Rahner, a leading Catholic scholar, in his book – The Trinity – says: “It follows that we must say that the Father, Son, and Spirit are identical with the one godhead and are ‘relatively’ distinct from one another. These three as distinct are constituted only by their relatedness to one another … in God everything is one except where there is relative opposition.”
  • 8
    Ayres refers to “the seeming equation of ousia and hypostasis. (Ayres, p. 88)
  • 9
    “Clearly for him hypostasis and ousia were still synonymous.” (Hanson, 440)

The Macrostich (Long Lines Creed) reveals the heart of Arianism.

Christianity in the Fourth Century

This is an article in the series on the fourth-century Arian Controversy. It describes the events of the 340s after the failed Council of Serdica in 343 but focuses mostly on the Macrostich (the Long Liner Manifesto) as perhaps the most significant event of that period. At the Council of Serdica, the Western delegation formulated an explicitly one-hypostasis view. It says:

“We have received and have been taught this … tradition: that there is one hypostasis, which the heretics (also) call ousia, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Hanson, p. 301)

Against this view, the East, through the Macrostich, asserts three hypostases. These articles may seem complex and even unimportant but they are important for a proper understanding of the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation.

AUTHORS QUOTED

Ayres, Lewis, Nicaea and its Legacy, An Approach to Fourth-Century Trinitarian Theology, 2004

Hanson RPC, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy, 318-381. 1988

Due to discoveries of ancient documents and significant additional research, the scholarship of the past hundred years has concluded that the traditional account of the fourth-century Arian Controversy presents history from the winner’s perspective and is a complete travesty. These books reflect the revised account of that Controversy.

THEOLOGY CATEGORIES

One-hypostasis and three-hypostases theologies are key concepts in this article and, therefore, first explained.

One Hypostasis means one Person.

To say that Father, Son, and Spirit are one hypostasis is to say that they are a single Person with one single mind. There are variations of this view:

Three Names – The second-century Monarchians said that the Father, Son, and Spirit are three names for the same one God.

Three Parts – The third-century Sabellians taught that Father, Son, and Spirit are three parts of the one hypostasis (Person). Sabellius had many followers, but his teaching was formally condemned.

Part of the Father – Alexander and Athanasius maintained that the Son is part of the Father, namely, His only Word and Wisdom. Tertullian similarly said that the Father is the whole, and the Son is part of the whole. 

Three Hypostases means three Persons.

In the ‘three hypostases’ view, the Father, Son, and Spirit are three distinct Persons with three distinct minds. There are also variations of the ‘three hypostases’ theory:

In contrast to the ‘same substance’ (homoousios) of the Nicene Creed, some said their substances are unlike (heterousios), others said their substances are similar (homoiousios) and others refused to talk about substance (the Homoians).

Generally, in the ‘three hypostases’-view, the Son is subordinate to the Father. However, the Cappadocians had a three-hypostases view in which the substances are the same in all respects so that they are equal.

Hypostases in the Traditional Trinity Doctrine

There are various Trinity theories. (See – Tuggy) In the modern era, for example, some scholars propose a social Trinity in which the three hypostases are real Persons with real distinct minds. Similar to the Cappadocian view, this is open to the charge of tritheism. For that reason, the traditional Trinity doctrine, as taught by the Roman Church, retained Basil of Caesarea’s verbal formula of three hypostases but also describes the Father, Son, and Spirit as one Being. But it is important to note that the traditional Trinity doctrine uses the term hypostasis differently from how the ancients used it. In this doctrine, hypostasis does not mean ‘Person’ because each Person does not have a distinct mind. Rather, the three hypostases share a single mind. Therefore Hanson says: “I refrain from using the misleading word’ Person.” He describes the Three as “three ways of being or modes of existing as God.” The challenge would be to show how the traditional Trinity doctrine differs from Modalism, which is the name Von Harnack gave to second-century Monarchianism. 

OVERVIEW OF EARLIER HISTORY

Arius and Alexander

In 318, only five years after Christianity was legalized, a dispute broke out between bishop Alexander of Alexandria and one of his presbyters, Arius, about the nature of the Son of God:

Alexander believed that the Son is part of the Father. Consequently, they are a single hypostasis (Person). It follows that the Son is as immutable and eternal as the Father.

In contrast, Arius followed the traditional teaching in which Father and Son are two distinct Persons. However, he had some extreme teachings. For example, he said that the Son was begotten out of nothing.

Arius has several important supporters, not because they supported everything that he taught, but because they viewed Alexander’s one-hypostasis theology as a greater evil.

The Nicene Council

Nicene Creed
The emperor standing behind the church fathers

Emperor Constantine attempted to reconcile the quarreling parties by a letter and by sending Ossius, his religious advisor, to Alexandria. But his efforts failed. Probably based on Ossius’ recommendation, he took Alexander’s part in the dispute. Early in 325, Ossius chaired an “anti-Arian Council” in Antioch (Hanson, p. 131). That meeting provisionally excommunicated Eusebius of Caesarea, a supporter of Arius and perhaps the most respected theologian at the time.

This was followed by the Nicene Council later that same year. At that council, Alexander allied with the Sabellians because they all taught that Father and Son are one single hypostasis. And since Constantine had taken Alexander’s part in the dispute, this alliance dominated and managed to include in the Creed at least a hint of one-hypostasis theology.

After Nicaea, Sabellians claimed that the Nicene Creed identifies Sabellianism as the formally approved religion of the church. This resulted in a decade of conflict in which the main Sabellians were removed from their positions. (See – Post-Nicaea Correction.) Thereafter, Nicaea and the term homoousios were not mentioned by anybody for about 20 years. (See – Homoousios)

Athanasius

While the first crisis (the dispute between Arius and Alexander) seems to be put to rest, a second crisis was brewing, namely, Athanasius:

Alexander died in 328 and Athanasius was elected in his place as bishop of Alexandria. Seven years later, in 335, he was also exiled; not for his theology but for violence against the Melitians in his see. (See – Council of Tyre.) In 337, when Constantine died, all exiled bishops were allowed to return, including Athanasius.

However, the church soon again accused him before the emperor. Consequently, Athanasius then developed his polemical strategy, claiming that he was, in fact, exiled for his opposition to Arianism and that all his enemies were Arians, meaning followers of Arius. Using these arguments, he appealed to the bishop of Rome and was successful because the West, which was not initially part of the Controversy and not represented at the Council of Nicaea, traditionally had a one-hypostasis theology; just like Athanasius. (See – Vindicated.) At the Council of Rome in 340, the West vindicated both Marcellus and Athanasius. Marcellus was the best-known Sabellian at the time and was, for that reason, previously condemned and exiled by the Eastern Church. In 341, the bishop of Rome attacked the East by writing a letter, claiming that Marcellus and Athanasius are orthodox in their teachings and that the East follows Arius, who was condemned at Nicaea.

Dedication and Serdica Councils

Later in that same year (341), the East met to discuss the letter from the bishop of Rome and formulated the Dedication Creed, which condemned some of Arius’ teachings but particularly condemned the West’s one-hypostasis theology.

This was followed in 343 by the Council of Serdica. This council was supposed to reconcile the West and the East but the two parties never met as one because of their dispute over Athanasius and Marcellus. The West brought these two men with as part of its delegation and demanded that they be allowed to participate in the Council. But the Eastern Church refused because it had already condemned both men. The Western delegation then formulated a creed that explicitly presents a one-hypostasis theology:

“We have received and have been taught this … tradition: that there is one hypostasis, which the heretics (also) call ousia, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Hanson, p. 301)1Hanson refer to “`the suspicion of Sabellianism which hung around the one Western theological statement which had appeared since the controversy began, the Formula accompanying the Encyclical of the Western bishops at Serdica.” (Hanson, p. 311)

End of the Controversy

Various other articles describe the events of the 350s, 360s, and 370s. The Controversy ended when emperor Theodosius, in 380, put the Trinity doctrine into law and made the Trinitarian version of Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire. (See – Emperor Theodosius). The next year, in 381, he called the Council of Constantinople, which ratified his decisions. (See – Constantinople,)

The most important conclusion of this series of articles is that the emperor was the final judge in the church’s doctrinal disputes. Furthermore, the Roman Empire selected the Trinitarian version of Christianity as the state religion of the Empire and exterminated other forms of Christianity. It is often said that the Empire made Christianity its state religion. No. It made the majority view in the West the state religion and persecuted all other views, including the majority view in the East. The Controversy began soon after persecution ended and ended when persecution was resumed.

Consequently, the church that entered the Middle Ages was a remnant of the Roman Empire; the ‘Roman Church’, meaning, the Church of the Roman Empire. The Trinity doctrine was its identifying mark.

RECONCILIATION ATTEMPTS

Serdica in 343 was perhaps intended to bring reconciliation but failed. In the 340s, the Empire remained divided between Emperor Constans in the West and his brother Constantius in the East. This allowed the church in the two halves of the Empire to revert to their traditional positions: While the Latin-speaking West depended on Tertullian, the Greek-speaking East relied heavily on Origen. After the failure of Serdica, little happened during the remainder of the 340s, except some attempts at rapprochement.2“The remainder of the 340s requires much less discussion. Richard Hanson rightly characterizes this period as one in which the failure of Serdica eventually prompted attempts at rapprochement.” (Ayres, p. 126)

Western Attempt

“After Serdica … both sides were ready for peace feelers. (Hanson, p. 306-7)

The three main Christian centers in the Fourth Century

In 344, “a Western delegation consisting of two bishops” arrived in Antioch. “This visit unfortunately proved abortive owing to the mischiefmaking proclivity of Stephen bishop of Antioch. He attempted to ensnare Euphrates (one of the two Western bishops) in a false charge of fornication by planting a prostitute in his bedroom. The plot miscarried and the instigator of it was exposed. Stephen was deposed from his see. … The two Western bishops returned home in understandable umbrage.” (Hanson, p. 307)

Athanasius Recalled

“Constans was at this point pressing his brother strongly to recall Athanasius to his see of Alexandria.” (Hanson, p. 307) “Constans was keen to assert his own ecclesiastical policy.” (Ayres, p. 127)

“In the summer of 345 Constantius permitted Athanasius back to Alexandria. … Athanasius made his way back cautiously, visiting Constantius, and did not arrive until 346.” (Ayres, p. 127)

“Meanwhile the opponents of Athanasius had gathered at Antioch and protested against his readmission to his see. … Constantius was pursuing a policy of reconciliation, when he had time to turn his attention to ecclesiastical affairs, and the enemies of Athanasius were powerless.” (Hanson, p. 312) “The watchword at this period was Reconciliation.” (Hanson, p. 313)

Eastern Attempt

“In other parts of the church, the prevailing temper was also one of reconciliation. The Council of Antioch … in 344 also produced a creed, which was conveyed [in 345] to the Western church by a delegation of Eastern bishops.” (Hanson, p. 308)3The Christian church originated in Jerusalem but, in the first century, Antioch soon became the leading gentile church.

This creed was “universally known as the Macrostich (‘Long-Liner’ Manifesto’). … The first part is much the same as, if not identical with, the IVth Antiochene Creed of 341,” (Hanson, p. 308) which leaves out, as far as possible, all contentious issues. It attempted to explain Christ simply from the Bible, without referring to the recent contentious views. However, the Macrostich added “a long explanation.” (Ayres, p. 127) “The conciliatory tone of this text is clear.” (Ayres, p. 129)

The closing section of the creed states the purpose as “to clear away all unjust suspicion concerning our opinions, … and that all in the West may know, … the audacity of the slanders.” The “slanders” refer, most probably, to the letter written by the bishop of Rome in 431 which, following Athanasius, accused the East of being followers of Arius. Through the creed, the bishops in Antioch attempted to clarify their position.

In 345, the Eastern delegation presented their manifesto to the Latin-speaking bishops in the western part of the empire. “The Council of Milan … gave audience to the Antiochenes with their creed. Before the Council would consider the Macrostich, however, they demanded that the Eastern bishops should condemn Arius. The Eastern delegation refused to do this, not assuredly because they were unwilling to condemn Arius, but because they thought it insulting to be suspected and arraigned in this way. They returned to Antioch, their purpose unaccomplished.” (Hanson, p. 312)

While Arius had some extreme views, he was, like the Eastern delegation, a ‘three hypostasis’ theologian. Therefore, his views were much closer to the Easterners’ than to the Western one-hypostasis theology.

The Controversy was deeply political.

“Political tensions between Constans and Constantius have shaped a controversy between a key group of eastern bishops and their … ‘western’ counterparts. That controversy is indeed partly theological … (but) also deeply political, both” politics inside and outside the church.” (Ayres, p. 129-130) 4“In ecclesial terms (what form of appeal is possible following conciliar condemnation? can eastern and western councils interfere in each other’s business? can one appeal to Rome?) and in extra-ecclesial terms.”

“But this period of rapprochement resolved nothing: the tensions remained.” (Ayres, p. 130)

THE MACROSTICH

The East answered the next year (344) with another creed, the Macrostich or Long-Lined Creed, confessing three hypostases. The term homoousios was only brought back into the Controversy in the 350s (see here). After that, the three-hypostases view subdivided into the Heterousian, Homoiousian, and Homoian views. The Macrostich explains the three-hypostases view before homoousios became an issue again. 

This section discusses this manifesto as an opportunity to understand the three-hypostases view in the middle of the fourth century. The term homoousios was only brought back into the Controversy in the 350s (see here) and, only after that, did the three-hypostases view subdivide into the heterousian, homoiousian, and Homoian views.

Hoping their creed would be acceptable to all, the Eastern bishops avoided controversial and non-biblical language as far as possible.

Believes in three hypostases.

The Macrostich describes the Father, Son, and Spirit as three distinct Persons. Attempting to avoid all the new terms borrowed from Greek philosophy, it does not mention “three hypostases” explicitly (Hanson, p. 311) but uses the terms ‘realities’ and ‘persons’:

      • “There are three realities (πράγματα) or persons (πρόσωπα),” (Ayres, p. 128)
      • It condemns “those who treat Father, Son, and Spirit as three names of one reality (πράγμα) or person (πρόσωπον),” (Ayres, p. 128) and

In one-hypostasis theology, the Son or Word does not have a true distinct existence. Therefore it “argues against Marcellan doctrines which … treat the Word as ‘mere word of God and unexisting, having his being in another’.” (Ayres, p. 127) “Against this theology the Macrostich confesses the Son as ‘living God and Word, existing in himself’.” (Ayres, p. 128)

These are aimed against one-hypostasis theology, specifically against Sabellianism, as the West held according to the manifesto of the Western delegates at Serdica in 343. The Macrostich says that, if the three were the same, then, when the Son became a man, the Unlimited has become limited, the Impassible5incapable of suffering or feeling pain had become passible and the Immutable6not subject to change had become mutable.

Only the Father exists without beginning.

The manifesto begins by saying:

“We believe in one God the Father Almighty,
the Creator and Maker of all things.”

This is the standard opening of all creeds, including the Nicene Creed, identifying the Father as the “one God.” The Macrostich adds: “We do assert ‘three Objects and three Persons’, but not three gods.” (Hanson, p. 310) It does not confess three Gods because the Father alone exists without cause or beginning, and has generated the Son. 7“This does not … mean three Gods because there is only one ingenerate, unbegun and because the Father ‘who alone has existence from himself, and alone gives this abundantly to all others’.” (Ayres, p. 128)8“Since we acknowledge the Self-complete and Ingenerate and Unbegun and Invisible God to be one only, the God and Father of the Only-begotten, who alone has being from Himself, and alone gives this to all others generously.”9“Only the Father of Christ is unbegotten and unbeginning.” (Hanson, p. 310) “We must not consider the Son to be co-unbegun.” “The Father is the Son’s origin.” (Hanson, p. 310) Only the Father is selfsufficient and invisible. (Hanson, p. 310)

Origin of the Son

The Son was begotten from the being of God.

The creed condemns “those who say, that the Son was from nothing, or from other subsistence and not from God.” Note that this sentence uses the word “from” three times, indicating three possible sources of the Son:

“It is not safe … to say that the Son is from non-existence,” as Arius said. Nor can we say that He is from some other “underlying hypostasis.” He is “genuinely begotten from God alone.” (Hanson, p. 310)

He exists by the Father’s will.

In the one-hypostasis view, since the Father and Son are one single ‘Person’, the Son has existed for as long as the Father has. Consequently, the Father had never decided to beget the Son; the Father ‘always’ was Father, and the Son ‘always’ was Son.

In contrast, the Macrostich anathematizes those who say that the Father had no choice but to beget the Son so that He begat the Son unwillingly. It says that the Father begat the Son by his counsel and his will. (Hanson, p. 309-10) 10“The Son is generated from the Father’s will as the only alternative to being generated by necessity.” (Ayres, p. 129)

In this way, the Macrostich avoids Origen’s doctrine of “eternal generation of the Son.” (Hanson, p. 311) Origen argued that God created all things through His Son, that God has always created, therefore the Son has always existed. Therefore, in Origen’s theory, the creation has also always existed.

There was no time before the Son.

Arius said, “there was when He (the Son) was not.” Although Arius explicitly taught that the Son was begotten “timelessly,” his enemies accused him of saying there was “time” when the Son was not. The Macrostich states:

It is dangerous to say that “there was a time when he did not exist.” We do not envisage “an interval of time preceding him.” Only God who begot him timelessly, preceded Him. (Hanson, p. 310) “The Son of God existed before the ages.” (Hanson, p. 309) He was begotten “before all ages.” There was no “time or age when He was not.”

In other words, the Son had a beginning, but that beginning was before time existed. Therefore, there never was “a time or age when He was not.”

He is not a Created Being.

Arius said that the Son is the only Being ever produced by the Father directly, that He is the only Being who can come directly into God’s presence, and that He is the Creator of all else. But Arius’ enemies accused him of saying that the Son is a mere created being. For a further discussion, see here.

The Macrostich similarly says that “the Son was not created as other creatures and products are produced; he cannot be compared with them.” He is the only being ever begotten by God. (Hanson, p. 310) All other creatures came into existence through the Son. “It is irreligious … to compare the Creator with handiworks created by Him.”

The opening phrase of the creed identifies the Father as “the Creator and Maker of all things.” The Bible says that God created all things through the Son (John 1:3; Heb 1:2-3; Col 1:15-16). The Father is the Force and Cause of creation. The Son is the Means or Hand through which God created.

The Son is both subordinate and God.

The Macrostich strongly affirms the subordination of the Son. (Hanson, p. 311)11The Son is “subordinate to his Father and God.” (Ayres, p. 127) It describes the Son as subordinate to the Father because the Father alone exists without cause.12“Three realities or persons … does not … mean three Gods because there is only one ingenerate, unbegun and because the Father … ‘alone has existence from himself’.” (Ayres, p. 128) It says that the Father alone is “Head over the whole universe wholly.” However:

“In saying that the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is one only God, the only Ingenerate, do we (not) therefore deny that Christ also is God before ages …”

“Though he be subordinate to his Father and God, yet, being before ages begotten of God, he is God according to his perfect and true nature.” (Ayres, p. 127)

While the Nicene Creed describes the Son as “true God (the Son) from true God (the Father),” the Macrostich omits the word “true” in both instances and refers to Jesus as “God from God.”

That the Macrostich also describes the Son as subordinate to the Father may sound confusing to the modern ear. However, that confusion is caused by the translations. Ancient Greek did not have a word exactly equivalent to the modern word ‘God’. It only had the word theos, which means ‘divine’ or ‘god’. Even an exalted person may be called theos. We must read the context to determine whether “God” or “god” or “divine” is intended. Translators tend to translate theos, when it refers to Jesus, as “God,” but that is an application of the Trinity doctrine, not proof thereof. For a further discussion, see – The Meanings of the Word theos.

The incarnated Son is the preexistent Son.

The Macrostich refers to “His Only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words, the pre-existent “Only-begotten Son” and the incarnated “Lord Jesus Christ” are one and the same.

In contrast, in one-hypostasis theology, the incarnated Son is a different person – often a mere human with a human soul or mind who is divinely inspired, because the Son cannot suffer or die because he is the same as or part of the Father.

The Trinity

He is One with the Father.

One-hypostasis theology has a strong unity of Father and Son because they are but one hypostasis (Person). In contrast, the Macrostich explains the unity of Father and Son as “’harmony’ and ‘conjunction’:” (Hanson, p. 311)

“Father and Son ‘are united with each other without mediation or distance’ and … they ‘exist inseparably’, all the Father embosoming the Son, and all the Son hanging and adhering to the Father.” (Ayres, p. 128-9)

These words are probably an interpretation of passages such as:

“I and the Father are one” (John 10:29), and
“No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:18).

Confesses a Triad.

“Believing then in the All-perfect Triad, the Most Holy, that is, in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”

In this context, the translation “Triad” is better than “Trinity” because ‘Trinity’, with a capital T, implies the Trinity doctrine in which Father, Son, and Spirit are one Being, while the Macrostich presents them as three distinct Beings; a hierarchical group of “three realities and three Persons,” where the Father is the uncaused Cause of all else, and also generated the Son.

Says very little about the Holy Spirit.

The Macristich has a very scanty treatment of the Holy Spirit. It says:

“We believe in the Holy Ghost, that is, the Paraclete, which, having promised to the Apostles, He sent forth after the ascension into heaven, to teach them and to remind of all things.”

The Son is “granting the grace of the Holy Ghost unsparingly to the saints at the Father’s will.”

Similar to the Bible, it does not refer to the Holy Spirit as God, or as God from God. On the contrary, the phrase “two Gods” in the following implies that the Holy Spirit is not God:

“The Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and calling the Father God, and the Son God, yet we confess in them, not two Gods.”

We see Jesus in the Old Testament.

The LMM finds Jesus in the OT. It says:

“He it is, to whom the Father said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness’ (Gen 1:26), who also was seen in His own Person by the patriarchs, gave the law, spoke by the prophets, and at last, became man …”

Some dispute that God was talking to His Son in Genesis 1:26, saying that God spoke to His angels, but man was not created in the image of angels, but in the image of God. Furthermore, the Son Himself “existed in the form of God.” (Phil. 2:6)

No ousia language

The Nicene Creed says that the Son was begotten from the ousios (substance or essence) of the Father and claims that the Son is homoousios (of the same substance as) the Father. It follows that the Son is equal to the Father.

The Dedication Creed of 431, which is, like the Macrostich, an Eastern creed, also uses the term ousia: “Exact image of the Godhead and the substance (ousia) and will and power and glory of the Father.”

In contrast, although the Macrostich says that He is “from God,” and “begotten,” it does not use the terms ousia (substance) and homoousios (same substance). It “appears to have been composed by theologians unhappy with the ousia language deployed in the Dedication creed.” (Ayres, p. 127) 13The Macrostich describes “the Father’s generation of the Son as a sharing of the divine existence, but … without materialist connotation. … The hierarchical scheme within which this occurs remains unaltered.” (Ayres, p. 129)


OTHER ARTICLES

FOOTNOTES

  • 1
    Hanson refer to “`the suspicion of Sabellianism which hung around the one Western theological statement which had appeared since the controversy began, the Formula accompanying the Encyclical of the Western bishops at Serdica.” (Hanson, p. 311)
  • 2
    “The remainder of the 340s requires much less discussion. Richard Hanson rightly characterizes this period as one in which the failure of Serdica eventually prompted attempts at rapprochement.” (Ayres, p. 126)
  • 3
    The Christian church originated in Jerusalem but, in the first century, Antioch soon became the leading gentile church.
  • 4
    “In ecclesial terms (what form of appeal is possible following conciliar condemnation? can eastern and western councils interfere in each other’s business? can one appeal to Rome?) and in extra-ecclesial terms.”
  • 5
    incapable of suffering or feeling pain
  • 6
    not subject to change
  • 7
    “This does not … mean three Gods because there is only one ingenerate, unbegun and because the Father ‘who alone has existence from himself, and alone gives this abundantly to all others’.” (Ayres, p. 128)
  • 8
    “Since we acknowledge the Self-complete and Ingenerate and Unbegun and Invisible God to be one only, the God and Father of the Only-begotten, who alone has being from Himself, and alone gives this to all others generously.”
  • 9
    “Only the Father of Christ is unbegotten and unbeginning.” (Hanson, p. 310) “We must not consider the Son to be co-unbegun.” “The Father is the Son’s origin.” (Hanson, p. 310) Only the Father is selfsufficient and invisible. (Hanson, p. 310)
  • 10
    “The Son is generated from the Father’s will as the only alternative to being generated by necessity.” (Ayres, p. 129)
  • 11
    The Son is “subordinate to his Father and God.” (Ayres, p. 127)
  • 12
    “Three realities or persons … does not … mean three Gods because there is only one ingenerate, unbegun and because the Father … ‘alone has existence from himself’.” (Ayres, p. 128)
  • 13
    The Macrostich describes “the Father’s generation of the Son as a sharing of the divine existence, but … without materialist connotation. … The hierarchical scheme within which this occurs remains unaltered.” (Ayres, p. 129)
  • 14
    Overview of the history, from the pre-Nicene Church Fathers, through the fourth-century Arian Controversy