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2 - TRINITY

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 August 2009

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Summary

The Christian understanding of God involved not only the integration of anthropomorphism and mystery as illustrated in our first section. There was also the need to combine belief in the unity of God with the ascription of divinity to Christ, and also to the Holy Spirit.

The first passage is part of the transcript of a discussion between Origen and a bishop, Heraclides, whose orthodoxy had been called in question. Its discussion form helps to illustrate the nature of the problem as it was experienced not only by a sophisticated theologian but also by an ordinary bishop. We cannot be certain where or when the discussion took place; it is most likely that it was in Arabia towards the end of Origen's life (c. a.d. 244–9). The account is part of a papyrus found in Egypt in 1941.

The issue came to a head in the fourth century with the outbreak of the Arian controversy. Our second extract shows Athanasius dealing with one particular Arian argument – namely that the concept of God as the one unoriginated source of all being rules out the possibility of ascribing full divinity to the Word or Son.

But more was needed than simply to show that the full divinity of the Son was not an absurd concept. The Church needed to develop a positive way of understanding that divinity in relation to her continuing conviction of the unity of God.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1975

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  • TRINITY
  • Edited by Maurice Wiles, Mark Santer
  • Book: Documents in Early Christian Thought
  • Online publication: 17 August 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511520273.003
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  • TRINITY
  • Edited by Maurice Wiles, Mark Santer
  • Book: Documents in Early Christian Thought
  • Online publication: 17 August 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511520273.003
Available formats
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To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

  • TRINITY
  • Edited by Maurice Wiles, Mark Santer
  • Book: Documents in Early Christian Thought
  • Online publication: 17 August 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511520273.003
Available formats
×