12. The Question of the Holy Spirit

Cover ImageDünzl, Franz.

A Brief History of the Doctrine of the Trinity in the Early Church

Translated by John Bowden.

New York: T&T Clark, 2007. Pp. xi + 148. Paper. $26.95.

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In the shortest chapter of the book (next to the introduction), Dünzl sketches a brief picture of pneumatology in the development of the doctrine of the Trinity.  Noting that the Spirit didn’t immediately play a role in the debates he says:

The fact that the equivalent for ‘spirit’ in Greek is neuter (to pneuma)  and thus evokes more the idea of a gift than that of a subject, and that talk of the Pneuma — unlike talk of the Son of God — did not immediately and automatically pose a question to monotheism must also have played a role in bracketing off the Spirit from the discussion. [p. 117]

According to Dünzl ‘Origen had developed the beginnings of an explicit pneumatology’ [p. 118] while he credits Athanasius as ‘one of the first to develop orthodox pneumatology’ [p. 119] noting that:

Athanasius argues first with formal logic: the Holy Trinity (Greek trias — a term long current and recognized in early Christian theology) would not be a true triad if in it Creator (namely Father and Son) and creature (viz. the Spirit) were bundled together. [p. 119]

Of Basil of Caesarea Dünzl says:

Basil emphasizes the the equality of rank within the Trinity, as it is clearly expressed in he command of the risen Christ to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (cf. Matt. 28.19, Holy Spirit 10.24-26). Unlike the Eastern subordinationists, Basil thus sees Matt. 28.19 as documenting, not a gradated order of ranks, but the equality of Father, Son, and Spirit. [p. 121]

For Basil the ‘…Spirit is to be glorified with the Father and the Son — in worship the Spirit is not the be separated from the Father and the Son…’ [p. 121]

Much like his role in Scripture, the Holy Spirit is not emphasized much in this book — Dünzl takes much the same approach as the framers of the doctrine that he has chosen to write about.


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