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§ 148. The Holy Spirit.


Ed. Burton: Testimonies of the Ante-Nicene Fathers to the Divinity of the Holy Ghost. Oxf. 1831 (Works, vol. II).

K. F. A. Kahnis. Die Lehre vom heil. Geiste. Halle, 1847. (Pt. I. p. 149–356. Incomplete).

Neander: Dogmengeschichte, ed. by Jacobi, I. 181–186.

The doctrine of Justin Mart. is treated with exhaustive thoroughness by Semisch in his monograph (Breslau, 1840), II. 305–332. Comp. also Al. v. Engelhardt: Das Christenthum Justins (Erlangen, 1878), P. 143–147.


The doctrine of the Holy Spirit was far less developed, and until the middle of the fourth century was never a subject of special controversy. So in the Apostles; Creed, only one article10251025    Credo in Spiritum Sanctum.025 is devoted to the third person of the holy Trinity, while the confession of the Son of God, in six or seven articles, forms the body of the symbol. Even the original Nicene Creed breaks off abruptly with the words: "And in the Holy Spirit;" the other clauses being later additions. Logical knowledge appears to be here still further removed than in Christology from the living substance of faith. This period was still in immediate contact with the fresh spiritual life of the apostolic, still witnessed the lingering operations of the extraordinary gifts, and experienced in full measure the regenerating, sanctifying, and comforting influences of the divine Spirit in life, suffering, and death; but, as to the theological definition of the nature and work of the Spirit, it remained in many respects confused and wavering down to the Nicene age.

Yet rationalistic historians go quite too far when, among other accusations, they charge the early church with making the Holy Spirit identical with the Logos. To confound the functions, as in attributing the inspiration of the prophets, for example, now to the Holy Spirit, now to the Logos, is by no means to confound the persons. On the contrary, the thorough investigations of recent times show plainly that the ante-Nicene fathers, with the exception of the Monarchians and perhaps Lactantius, agreed in the two fundamental points, that the Holy Spirit, the sole agent in the application of redemption, is a supernatural divine being, and that he is an independent person; thus closely allied to the Father and the Son yet hypostatically different from them both. This was the practical conception, as demanded even by the formula of baptism. But instead of making the Holy Spirit strictly coordinate with the other divine persons, as the Nicene doctrine does, it commonly left him subordinate to the Father and the Son.

So in Justin, the pioneer of scientific discovery in Pneumatology as well as in Christology. He refutes the heathen charge of atheism with the explanation, that the Christians worship the Creator of the universe, in the second place the Son,10261026    ἐν δευτέρᾳ χώρᾳ.026 in the third rank10271027    ἐν τρίτῃ τάξει, Apol. I. 13.027 the prophetic Spirit; placing the three divine hypostases in a descending gradation as objects of worship. In another passage, quite similar, he interposes the host of good angels between the Son and the Spirit, and thus favors the inference that he regarded the Holy Ghost himself as akin to the angels and therefore a created being.10281028    Apol. I. 6: Εκεῖνόν τε(i.e. θεὸν), καὶ τὸν παρ’ αὐτοῦ Υἱὸν ἐλθόντα καὶ διδάξαντα ἡμᾶς ταῦτα καὶ τὸν τῶν ἄλλων ἑπομένων καὶ ἐξομοιουμένων ἀγαθῶν ἀγγέλων στρατὸν, Πνεῦμά τε τὸ προφητικὸν σεβόμεθα καὶ προσκυνοῦμεν. This passage has been variously explained. The questions arise, whether ἄγγελος here is not to be taken in the wider sense, in which Justin often uses it, and even applies it to Christ; whether στρατόνdepends on σεβόμεθα, and not rather on διδάξαντα, so as to be co-ordinate with ἡμᾶς, or with ταῦτα, and not with Ψἱόν and Πνεῦμα. Still others suspect that στρατόν is a false reading for στρατηγόν, which would characterize Christ as the leader of the angelic host. It is impossible to co-ordinate the host of angels with the Father, Son, and Spirit, as objects of worship, without involving Justin in gross self-contradiction (Apol I. 17: θεὸν μόνον προσκυνοῦμεν, etc.). We must either join στρατόν with ἡμᾶς , in the sense that Christ is the teacher, not of men only, but also of the host of angels; or with ταῦτα in the sense that the Son of God taught us (διδάξαντα ἡμᾶς) about these things (ταῦτα, i.e. evil spirits, compare the preceding chapter I. 5), but also concerning the good angels—τὸν ἀγγέλων στρατὸν being in this case elliptically put for τὰ περὶ τοῦ... ἀγγέλων στρατοῦ. The former is more natural, although a more careful writer than Justin would in this case have said ταῦτα ἡμᾶς instead of ἡμᾶς ταῦτα. For a summary of the different interpretations see Otto’s notes in the third ed. of Justin’s Opera, I. 20-23.028 But aside from the obscurity and ambiguity of the words relating to the angelic host, the coordination of the Holy Ghost with the angels is utterly precluded by many other expressions of Justin, in which he exalts the Spirit far above the sphere of all created being, and challenges for the members of the divine trinity a worship forbidden to angels. The leading function of the Holy Spirit, with him, as with other apologists, is the inspiration of the Old Testament prophets.10291029    Hence the frequent designation, τὸ Πνεῦμα προφητικόν, together with the other, Πνευˡμα ἀγιον; and hence also even in the Symb. Nic. Constantin. the definition: Πνεῦμα ... τὸ λαλῆσαν διὰ τῶν προφητῶν, "who spoke through the prophets."029 In general the Spirit conducted the Jewish theocracy, and qualified the theocratic officers. All his gifts concentrated themselves finally in Christ; and thence they pass to the faithful in the church. It is a striking fact, however, that Justin in only two passages refers the new moral life of the Christian to the Spirit, he commonly represents the Logos as its fountain. He lacks all insight into the distinction of the Old Testament Spirit and the New, and urges their identity in opposition to the Gnostics.

In Clement of Alexandria we find very little progress beyond this point. Yet he calls the Holy Spirit the third member of the sacred triad, and requires thanksgiving to be addressed to him as to the Son and the Father.10301030    Paed. III. p. 311: Ἐυχαριστοῦντας αἰνεῖν τῷ μόνῳ Πατρὶ καὶ Υἱῷσὺν καὶ τῷ ἁγίῳ Πνεῦματι.030

Origen vacillates in his Pneumatology still more than in his Christology between orthodox and heterodox views. He ascribes to the Holy Spirit eternal existence, exalts him, as he does the Son, far above all creatures and considers him the source of all charisms,10311031    Not as ὕλη τῶν χαρισμάτων, as Neander and others represent it, but as τὴν ὕλην τῶν χαρισμ. παρέχον, as offering the substance and fairness of the spiritual gifts; therefore as the ἀρχή and πηγή of them. In Joh. II. § 6.031 especially as the principle of all the illumination and holiness of believers under the Old Covenant and the New. But he places the Spirit in essence, dignity, and efficiency below the Son, as far as he places the Son below the Father; and though he grants in one passage10321032    De Princip. I. 3, 3.032 that the Bible nowhere calls the Holy Spirit a creature, yet, according to another somewhat obscure sentence, he himself inclines towards the view, which, however he does not avow that the Holy Spirit had a beginning (though, according to his system, not in time but from eternity), and is the first and most excellent of all the beings produced by the Logos.10331033    In Joh. tom. II. § 6: τιμιώτερον—this comparative, by the way, should be noticed as possibly saying more than the superlative, and perhaps designed to distinguish the Spirit from all creatures—πάντων τῶν ὑπὸ τοῦ Πατρὸς διὰ Χριστοῦ γεγεννημένων.033 In the same connection he adduces three opinions concerning the Holy Spirit; one regarding him as not having an origin; another, ascribing to him no separate personality; and a third, making him a being originated by the Logos. The first of these opinions he rejects because the Father alone is without origin (ἀγέννητος); the second he rejects because in Matt. 12:32 the Spirit is plainly distinguished from the Father and the Son; the third he takes for the true and scriptural view, because everything was made by the Logos.10341034    According to John 1:3034 Indeed, according to Matt. 12:32, the Holy Spirit would seem to stand above the Son; but the sin against the Holy Ghost is more heinous than that against the Son of Man, only because he who has received the Holy Spirit stands higher than he who has merely the reason from the Logos.

Here again Irenaeus comes nearer than the Alexandrians to the dogma of the perfect substantial identity of the Spirit with the Father and the Son; though his repeated figurative (but for this reason not so definite) designation of the Son and Spirit as the "hands" of the Father, by which he made all things, implies a certain subordination. He differs from most of the Fathers in referring the Wisdom of the book of Proverbs not to the Logos but to the Spirit; and hence must regard him as eternal. Yet he was far from conceiving the Spirit a mere power or attribute; he considered him an independent personality, like the Logos. "With God" says he,10351035    Adv. Haer. IV. 20, §1.035 "are ever the Word and the Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, through whom and in whom he freely made all things, to whom he said, ’Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’ " But he speaks more of the operations than of the nature of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit predicted in the prophets the coming of Christ; has been near to man in all divine ordinances; communicates the knowledge of the Father and the Son; gives believers the consciousness of sonship; is fellowship with Christ, the pledge of imperishable life, and the ladder on which we ascend to God.

In the Montanistic system the Paraclete occupies a peculiarly important place. He appears there as the principle of the highest stage of revelation, or of the church of the consummation. Tertullian made the Holy Spirit the proper essence of the church, but subordinated him to the Son, as he did the Son to the Father, though elsewhere he asserts the "unitas substantiae." In his view the Spirit proceeds "a Patre per Filium," as the fruit from the root through the stem. The view of the Trinity presented by Sabellius contributed to the suppression of these subordinatian ideas.



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