Novak (novak) wrote,

Theological Notebook: Barnes on Latin Nicene Trinitarian Theology

Barnes writes concerning his upcoming Oxford paper:

I said soon after my first mailing asking each of you for some help with research for my Oxford paper that I hoped I could lay out for you the whole that the diffrent pieces were building up. That's not going to happen soon, but I do have for you a kind of summary of conclusions. (The Irenaeus thing isn't a "conclusion" in the paper, it is something I've just discovered en route that I thought many of you would be interested in.) So, see attached.

The title of the paper is "Other Latin Nicenes of the Late Fourth Century." In it I cover Serdica, the Hilary of his commentary on Matthew (ie, pre-exile), Phoebadius of Agenn, Gregory of Elvira, Zeno of Verona, Potamius of Lisbon, Isaac the Jew, Damasus of Rome, Faustinus, Niceta of Remesciana, and Rufinus "the Syrian." (Seems like there's one other...) Please don't go recalling the CCL volumes for these guys, because I have them here -- except for the Phoebadius/Gregory volume. Omissions are intentional.

A new way of looking at Latin Nicene theologies.


Latin trinitarian theology is functionally binitarian from Tertullian until sometime in the late 360’s or early 370’s: stated more directly, one can say that there is, during this time, a weak or “low” pneumatology. The same fact is true in Greek theology beginning with Origen.

From the time of Tertullian until sometime in the late 360’s or early 370’s a “spirit-Christology” is the normal anthropological model in the West for the Incarnation. As a corollary, one can say that scriptural passages that had previously supported a strong or “high” pneumatology were, during this time, understood as referring to the pre-existent divine Spirit of the Son. E.G., Luke 1.35-36, Ps. 33.6.

There is absolutely no sign of any presence of Irenaeus’ theology in Gaul or Rome during the third and fourth centuries.

There are a variety of “Nicene” trinitarian logics used by Latins between 358 and the beginning of the fifth century. The most important of these is a trinitarian theology conceptualized and articulated following the logic of power ontology or physics. This power-logic trinitarian theology comes in two forms: the first identifies the Son as the very Power of God; the second finds divine unity in the fact that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have the same one power amongst them. The second Latin “Nicene” trinitarian theology is based upon a logic of substance ontology or physics. Substance-logic trinitarian theology is nowhere near as important as trinitarian theology based upon power-logic, and is surprizingly localized. The third Latin “Nicene” trinitarian theology is based upon a logic of image, resemblance and sight.

The most in-depth and elaborate use of substance-logic trinitarian theology is by Potamius of Lisbon. Although his book on the one divine substance of the Trinity is written in support of a Nicene theology, Potamius spent some time as an anti-Nicene: he was at Sirmium, 357 and signed “the Blasphemy.” (His book on the one substance was written after Sirmium, 357, and consists in part of his rejecting the language and logic of the creed he was previously associated with.) Hosius is the more famous and distinguished Iberian bishop associated with “substance” language for God; he attended each of the three councils that expressed a strong interest in substance language: Nicaea, 325, Serdica, 342, and Sirmium, 357. (Hosius, like Potamius, accepted the logic of the Sirmium creed and thus turned away from Nicaea.) A fact not often noted is that Hosius’ archpriest in Cordova was none other than the famous Latin neoplatonist, Calcidius (best known for his very influential translation of Plato’s Timaeus.) I make this proposal, then: there is an Iberian school of substance-logic trinitarianism, probably drawing upon philosophical sources for its understanding of “substance,” and willing to follow the logic of a substance-centered ontology even when it can be regarded by some as rejecting the creed of Nicaea. (If this last point is true then it would explain the otherwise puzzling identification of “ousia’ with heretics in the western Serdican creed, and indeed draws a line of thought connecting that clause in Serdica with the condemnation at Sirmium, 357, of ousia-talk about God.)

Latin Nicene theologies of the fourth century fall roughly into two groups: in one we see an association of doctrines of a Spirit-Christology, a low pneumatology, and a power theology of the sort in which the Son is identified with the very Power of God. I call this Latin tradition of Nicene theology, “Latin Neo-Nicene” trinitarian theology. In the second grouping of doctrines we see an association of doctrines of in which there is no Spirit-Christology, there is a high Pneumatology, and a power theology of the sort in which the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have the same one power amongst them. I call this Latin tradition of Nicene theology, “Latin Pro-Nicene” trinitarian theology.

The advantage Latin theology had from its ignorance of Greek theology as exemplified by Athanasius is that it was free to make statements about a one or common substance that would not have been possible with an Athanasian understanding of homoousios. For Athanasius and the Greeks he influenced, homoousious was a unique and one way predicate statement: one could and should say “the Son is homousios with the Father” but one could not meaningfully or piously say “the Father is homousios with the Son.” Ignorant of this technicality, Latins were free to speak of the Father and Son being of one substance.

One result of excluding Hilary and Ambrose from my treatment of Latin Nicenes is the clear appearance of a methodological and historical question: why exactly are the theologies of Hilary and Ambrose privledged in accounts of fourth century Latin Nicene trinitarian theologies? Because they wrote so much? Because they so neatly fit the dominant narrative of Latin trinitarian theology develops when Greek trinitarian theology pushes it?


From: Anthony Briggman []
Sent: Sat 7/14/2007 7:21 PM
To: Barnes, Michel
Cc: Lloyd, Daniel; Novak, Michael; Harris, Michael D.; Lashier, Jackson; Huggard, Alexander; Concannon, Ellen; Lasnoski, Kent;;
Subject: Re: IT - The Latin THING

I have a question with regard to two of the statements in your summary:

Statement #1: 'There is absolutely no sign of any presence of Irenaeus' theology in Gaul or Rome during the third and fourth centuries.'

Statement #2: 'The third Latin "Nicene" trinitarian theology is based upon a logic of image, resemblance and sight.'

I have yet to find a really comprehensive treatment of Irenaeus' discussion of sight, and particularly how the Son becomes visible in the incarnation, which enables him to reveal (and enables humanity to gain knowledge of) the Father who remains at all times invisible. I believe that I can show that this is not simply an epistemological/revelational comment for Irenaeus, but in fact characterizes the members of the Trinity - that is, to use a later term, visibility is/becomes proper to the Son and invisibility is proper to the Father.

Since you did not discuss which theologians you examined with regard to statement #2, I am wondering if you found the ideas I've mentioned in any other 3rd or 4th century works?



In a message dated 7/14/07 9:37:11 PM, writes:

It is Faustinus, a priest in Rome, writing about 380. I have attached my summary of his trinitarian theology. I can send you the Latin for more (I think), or you can go to the Migne online or the CETEDOC. He is the only representative of the vision/form trinitarian logic I have found. (I take it you see statements #1 and #2 as related in your question about statement #2.)

The idea that the Son is the "visible to the Father's invisible" is a commonplace in Latin theology: Tertullian, Novation, etc. (It has a useful anti-modalist application.) See my article on Mt. 5.8, "The Visible Christ and the Invisible Trinity [in Augie's trinitarian theology]" for the Latin background to the Son's visibility and how that doctrine plays out in the late 4th century. Among Greeks Irenaeus' idea hits the brickwall of Origen saying, "The Son is the invisible image of the invisible Father" - which becomes normal Greek theology thereafter.
Tags: barnes, patristics, theological notebook, trinity

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