14. How Binitarian/Trinitarian was Eusebius?

Volker Henning Drecoll
The Trinitarian theology of Eusebius is one of the crucial problems of the history of theology of the fourth century. It is often assumed that Eusebius’ theology is a kind of standard theology, which was shared by many Eastern bishops in the fourth century. The Creeds of Antioch (especially the so-called second Formula of Antioch) seem to be a kind of summary of Eusebian theology that is remarkably different from Athanasius. [1] Furthermore, the antipathy of many Eastern bishops toward Marcellus and Photinus [2] and the appearance of the Pneumatomachians seem to have been caused by the specific profile of Eusebius’s theology. [3] One important aspect of this profile is thought to be the neglect of the Holy Spirit in the Trinitarian debate, so Eusebius is known as a “Binitarian.”
At the same time, Eusebius is known as an Origenistic thinker. Origen, however, has a Trinitarian theology. [4] Additionally, Eusebius did write a couple of chapters about pneumatology in book 3 of his De ecclesiastica theologia (hereafter Eccl. Theol.) and mentions the Holy Spirit in his Praeparatio Evangelica (hereafter PE). I would like to raise the question of how Binitarian/Trinitarian Eusebius in fact was. I will proceed in two steps:
  1. The Binitarian structure of Eusebius’ theology was asserted by some German scholars, especially by Kretschmar and Hauschild. The new approach of Holger Strutwolf aims to reconsider this “standard view,” but needs further consideration itself.
  2. The pneumatology of Eusebius in his fight against Marcellus, especially in his Eccl. Theol. must be analyzed once again. My aim is to show that Marcellus was the first theologian of the fourth century who seriously raised the Trinitarian question. Thus, the impact of Marcellus (or the fight against him) produces the specific Trinitarian accent of the debate.

The German Discussion about Eusebius’ “Binitarism”

In his Habilitationsschrift, Georg Kretschmar [5] distinguishes three types of theology in the fourth century:
  1. An economical approach: the Trinity can only be understood in its close connection with the history of salvation;
  2. The large Origenistic group for whom it was familiar to speak of three hypostases;
  3. Binitarians. [6]
There is nearly no witness for the last group—except Eusebius. More precisely, we should say: the early Eusebius (who quoted Mt 28:19 without mentioning the Spirit), because Kretschmar observes that after the council of Nicaea in 325 Eusebius was well aware of the fact that he had to mention the Holy Spirit. He did so, e.g. in quoting Mt 28:19 in full, but his pneumatology is defective nonetheless. [7] In this respect his theology shifted away from Origen. Kretschmar suggests that this shift was caused by a modification of theological principles: While to Origen, cosmology and soteriology were deeply connected to each other, to Eusebius theology became mainly cosmology or a kind of metaphysical thinking. [8] To Origen salvation was accessible through the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Son had a double function for cosmology and soteriology, but the Spirit was mainly thought of as the way to salvation, i.e. pneumatology was just a part of soteriology. The shift from Origen to Eusebius, from cosmology and soteriology to cosmology alone, left no place for the Holy Spirit, while the cosmological significance of the Son was maintained and developed (especially in the apologetic discourse of the PE). This focus had a twofold effect: first, theology concentrated on the relation between Father and Son—with emphasis on the μονογενής the Holy Spirit having no place; second, the Holy Spirit was understood as the gift of God, not as God himself. Thus, Pneumatomachian theology was caused by Eusebius’ theology, but cannot be traced back to an earlier stage of theology (e.g. an old Binitarian tradition from former centuries). [9]
Kretschmar’s pupil (and, I have to add, my teacher) Wolf-Dieter Hauschild pursued this strategy, modifying Kretschmar’s view considerably. [10] Above all, he was not convinced that Origen had a really Trinitarian theology. From his point of view, Origen’s theology was always Binitarian. He concedes that Origen mentioned the Holy Spirit in various passages, but insisted on the fact that these passages were either not really concerned with Trinitarian theology or mentioned the Holy Spirit only because tradition forced him to do so. [11] The main argument of Hauschild is the double function of Christology: Christ is not only the creator whose wisdom and power can be recognized in the world, but he is the savior, too. He is the image of God, thus leading the believers to communion with God. [12] Even if he was able to describe this communion by pneumatological sentences, these sentences were merely traditional ones. In fact, he had no interest in and no place for an integration of the Holy Spirit into the Holy Trinity. [13] In this respect, Eusebius is directly dependent on Origen. Eusebius stressed the Father-Son relation, so the Holy Spirit was “after the Son,” i.e. one of the created beings that cannot be distinguished from the angels in principle. Thus, Origenism is Binitarism, especially in the reception of Eusebius. [14] That is why the Pneumatomachians are not merely a short episode in the history of theology of the fourth century, as Kretschmar thought, but show the older tradition of the third century.
The perspective of Kretschmar and Hauschild is one of the points Holger Strutwolf aimed to reconsider in his Habilitationsschrift. [15] He wanted to demonstrate the theological significance of Eusebius, especially in his apologetic work PE. He opposes a view of Eusebius that reckoned him as a superficial theologian and opportunistic supporter of imperial power. [16] For his purpose, Strutwolf analyzes PE 11. According to Strutwolf, the structure of this book is Trinitarian: Eusebius starts with the Father; then he concentrates on the Son as second cause of the universe; and then only briefly adds the Holy Spirit. After that, however, he restarts with the Father who is the idea of the Good, the Son who is the realm of the ideas (Ideenwelt), and the Holy Spirit who is present in the passage about the demons. [17] Eusebius integrates the Platonic views about the Mind and the World-Soul into his description of the Son. For the relation between Father and Son, the Platonic structure of archetype and image is used predominantly. [18] That Eusebius mentions the pneumatology only briefly, shows according to Strutwolf that the Holy Spirit is only worthy of further consideration within the context of Trinitarian theology. [19] The parallelization with the World-Soul is intentional; the functions of the World-Soul, however, are already integrated in the functions of the second cause, the Son. That is why Eusebius purportedly considers the Holy Spirit mainly as a counterpart of the demons. This explains, according to Strutwolf, the structure of PE 11:
  1. Chapters 9–13: God as being and unique (Father)
  2. Chapters 14–19: The second cause (Son)
  3. Chapter 20: About the Three principal Hypostases (Holy Spirit as part of Trinitarian Theology)
  4. Chapters 21–22: The idea of the Good (≈ Father)
  5. Chapters 23–25: The ideas (≈ Son)
  6. Chapter 26: The demons (=> Holy Spirit)
In chapter 26, the Platonic idea of two “World-Souls” appears. To the good World-Soul (apparently identified with the Holy Spirit) is opposed the bad World-Soul, that is, the demons. Thus, Eusebius was able to describe the Holy Spirit as God (exactly because of his role as counterpart to the demons) and to integrate the Holy Spirit into his apologetic Trinitarian thought. [20] Compared with this, the pneumatological passage of the third book of Eccl. Theol. where Eusebius denies the divinity of the Holy Spirit is an exception for Strutwolf and can be explained by the polemical target of the book. Against Marcellus, he felt obliged to stress the Father-Son relation, thus denying the divinity of the Holy Spirit, but in all other contexts he distinguishes the Holy Spirit from the creatures, especially the angels. [21]
The result of Strutwolf’s reading is twofold: Yes, Eusebius has a pneumatology; pneumatology is important to him, especially in the apologetic context. But in spite of this, his pneumatology is defective. In the apologetic context, it appears only within the Trinitarian discussion, not as an independent field of theological thinking. In the fight against Marcellus, it disappears behind the Father-Son relation. [22]
I have not found any traces of this German discussion about the pneumatology of Eusebius in Anglo-American literature. The questions raised by this are, for example, not present in Lewis Ayres’ Nicea and its Legacy, though he knows Hauschild and Strutwolf. [23] The significance of these questions is considerable nonetheless. Not only does the emergence of Pneumatomachian theology deserve an explanation, but also the description of the Origenistic profile of Eastern theology as a whole cannot be done without the question of how Binitarian or Trinitarian it was. Therefore, I would like to reconsider a couple of texts mentioned in the contributions of Kretschmar, Hauschild, and Strutwolf, especially PE 11 and 7 and Eccl. Theol. 3.5–6.

The Impact of Marcellus for the Trinitarian Theology of Eusebius

The structure of PE 11 [24] is important for Strutwolf’s argument as noted above. I doubt, however, that his analysis of the Trinitarian structure of Book 11, chapters 9–26 can be maintained. Not even the explicit divinity of the Holy Spirit as a part of Eusebius’s theology can be proven by book 11. There are three arguments against Strutwolf’s interpretation of that book:
  1. The aim of Book 11 is to show how Plato’s φυσιολογία fits the theology of the Old Testament, i.e. the philosophy of the Hebrews and especially Moses. [25] Thus, the structure of the following chapters is dominated by what we would expect from a handbook of Platonic philosophy. Accordingly, Eusebius starts with the Divine, then explains the second cause, the ideas, the demons, and the immortal souls. Finally, he arrives at the cosmology, the stars, the change of the world and its end (which for Eusebius is the resurrection and the last judgment). Thus, the structure of Book 11 is not the sequence of Trinitarian thought and anthropology, but an ontological hierarchy of beings. Of course, Eusebius compares the Platonic thoughts with the theology of the Hebrews, thus stating that according to the Hebrews only God is the truly Good and that the Hebrews refer wisdom, justice, etc., directly to the Logos instead of to the ideas. But this does not lead to a Trinitarian structure of the argument. The next chapter simply proceeds on to the next level of the Platonic hierarchy. Therefore, I doubt that the demonology in chapter 26 is caused by the intention to integrate the Holy Spirit into divinity.
  2. The Holy Spirit is only briefly mentioned in the context of Trinitarian theology. Eusebius, however, does not assert the divinity of the Holy Spirit in this short text. He explains that according to the Hebrews after Father and Son there is the Holy Spirit, the third in order that belongs to the Trinity. [26] That the Holy Spirit belongs to the Trinity is shown by the fact that the Holy Spirit is superior to all beings and creatures, established before all noetic beings by the Son, being the third one in comparison with the first cause, the Father. [27] Eusebius does not explain how divine or not divine this third component is. It belongs to the Trinity, but also to the noetic beings, it is superior, but at the same time, “the third.”

    Eusebius quotes the famous passage of the Pseudo-Platonic letter 2 (ep. 2.312de) [28] which Clement used already in order to show that even Plato knew about the Trinity. [29] Then he adds that in addition to the first God there is the second cause and that the World-Soul is third, since the Platonists define the World-Soul as a third God. [30] He does not comment on this, but simply concludes his passage by saying that the divine scriptures describe the Trinity as a principle (ἐν ἀρχῆς λόγῳ). Then he gives a short note leading to the following section, in which the substance of the Good will be explained. [31]

    Eusebius is very prudent in his statement about the Holy Spirit. He neither identifies it with the World-Soul nor does he reckon it as divine. He shows that what Plato described as a World-Soul and a third God can be compared with the Holy Spirit of Hebrew theology.

  3. The subject of chapter 26 is not the Holy Spirit, but demonology. The Holy Spirit is not at all present in this section. Eusebius starts with the statement that there are not only good powers but also bad ones, too. Exactly on this point, Plato follows the words of the Hebrews. Then he quotes a section of Nomoi (896de) where two World-Souls are mentioned, a good one and a bad one. There is no identification of the World-Soul with the Holy Spirit in this text, but the quotation is given in order to show that Plato knew about bad spirits. That is why Eusebius quotes Job 1:6–7: Even Scripture speaks about the devil and the angels. In his description of the angels, the Holy Spirit is not present. Thus, I doubt that we can take this passage as a pneumatological one. It is just a passage about angels and demons.
From my point of view, PE 11 is of little or nearly no help for the pneumatology of Eusebius. This passage, however, is not the unique pneumatological one in the whole work. More important is perhaps PE 7.15.
This passage belongs to a context that is similar to the structure of book 11, because it wants to demonstrate that the Hebrews had a theology that is quite close to that of the Christians. [32] That is why, in PE 7.9, Eusebius starts with the δογματικὰ θεωρήματα, then he deals with the πρόνοια and the δημιουργία of the universe (7.10). The creating activity is explained by a description of the first (7.11) and the second cause (7.12–14). Two further passages describe ἡ τῶν λογικῶν σύστασις (7.15) and αἱ ἀντικειμέναι δυνάμεις (7.16); then follows the nature of human beings (7.17) and matter (7.18–22). This structure corroborates the analysis of book 11 given above. In both cases, Eusebius goes through the hierarchy of being, beginning with the highest nature, God-Father, and then proceeding step by step to matter. It becomes clear that pneumatology has no distinct and independent place in this structure, but is integrated into the passage about the heavenly powers. That is why at the beginning of PE 7.15, Eusebius asserts that after the substance of the ἄναρχος καὶ ἀγένητος θεός, there is the Logos who is also μεγάλης βουλῆς ἄγγελος (Isa 9:5). [33] The heavenly spirits after the Logos cannot be numbered by human beings—they are too many and too different: we may compare them to the sun, the moon, and all other stars (cf. 1 Cor 15:41). [34] Describing this heavenly world (ὁ ἐν ἀσωμάτοις καὶ νοεραῖς οὐσίαις κόσμος), Eusebius says that after the Father there is the second power of the creating Logos (the sun of justice, cf. Mal 1:6)—while the third being in the place of the moon is the Holy Spirit. He has, according to the Hebrews, on the one side the same πρώτη καὶ βασιλικὴ τῆς τῶν ὅλων ἀρχῆς ἀξία καὶ τιμή, while on the other side he is εἰς ἀρχὴν τῶν μετὰ ταῦτα γενητῶν. [35] The term ἀρχή has a twofold meaning here: on the one side it means the creating principle, on the other side it means simply the beginning. [36] In this last respect the Holy Spirit passes what he receives to the beings below (especially the verb ἐπιχορηγέω carries this sense). The Holy Spirit receives his power from the second cause, the Logos, who receives everything from the highest nature, the πηγὴ θεότητος. [37] The difference between the Logos and the Holy Spirit becomes clear from the following explanation: the Logos receives everything that belongs to the highest nature; the individual and specific holy things, however, are transmitted to the Holy Spirit who passes these specific holy gifts to the beings below. [38] That is why the Hebrews, Eusebius continues, call the third and holy power ἅγιον πνεῦμα and ἀποθειάζουσιν, ὑφ’οὗ καὶ ἐφωτίζοντο θεοφορούμενοι. [39] The divine character of the Holy Spirit is directly linked to its sanctifying and illuminating power. After that, Eusebius pursues his overall strategy and explains (after the sun and the moon) the stars (that is, the angels).
In this concept, the Holy Spirit is integrated into the description of the heavenly world. His place is exactly in a kind of gray area between the θεοῦ λόγος and the angels. He is the τρίτη δύναμις and stands at the first place in the row of the spiritual beings. He leads the spiritual and sanctifying gifts to all angels and saints (ἐπιχορηγέω), but doing so, he passes on what he receives. His main function is the distributing function. Thus, he is considered to be divine by the Hebrews, but Eusebius himself is very prudent in his own expressions. While the Father is called ὁ μετὰ πάντων θεός and the Logos is called ὁ θεὸς λόγος, the Holy Spirit is “reckoned divine” (ἀποθειάζουσι) and placed on the highest ἀξία καὶ τιμή by the Hebrews. Eusebius does not express his own opinion in this respect. For Eusebius’ Trinitarian theology, the passage is certainly a key one, but the context makes clear that, first, Eusebius’ thinking concentrates upon the first and the second cause (Father and Logos); and that, second, he integrates the Holy Spirit into the heavenly hierarchy. There the Holy Spirit is certainly more than an angel: he has a special dignity and a special, distributing and sanctifying function; he can be called divine because of his close relation to the Logos. But he is not called θεός, nor is there an ontological explanation; the existence of the Holy Spirit is just explained by his function in the economy of salvation. It will become clear from the analysis of Eccl. Theol. 3.5–6 that it is exactly this concept Eusebius pursues and develops against Marcellus.
The most important passage for Eusebius’ pneumatology is certainly Eccl. Theol. 3.5–6. Strutwolf is right in asserting that Eccl. Theol. 3.5–6 is caused by the fight against Marcellus. [40] This, however, does not mean that the passage is of less significance. From my point of view, it was particularly the struggle with Marcellus that caused Eusebius to incorporate pneumatology into his Trinitarian thought—very early in the fourth century and with important effects on the history of theology in the later fourth century. He could do so because he had developed some pneumatological ideas in PE 7. He picked up this passage and extended it in the Trinitarian controversy. Thus, Marcellus seems to be the reason for a really Trinitarian passage in Eusebius that became important for the history of theological thinking during the fourth century.
Before we analyze the text of Eusebius, we should consider the argument of Marcellus (consisting of four fragments) that Eusebius wants to refute. [41] Marcellus’ argument is nearly a kind of syllogism, based on biblical quotations:
  1. Hypothesis A: The Logos went out from the Father and came to us (Jn 16:28—this biblical reference is missing in the apparatus of Klostermann and Hansen).
  2. Hypothesis B: The Holy Spirit went out from the Father (Jn 15:26) and he just preaches what he hears from the Logos (Jn 16:13–14).
  3. Conclusion: What proceeds (ἐκπορευόμενον) from the Father is some­- times called the Logos, at other times it is called the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Son and the Holy Spirit belong to the μονάς both in the same sense. This proves the mystery, i.e. that the μονάς was extended (πλατύνεσθαι) to a Triad, remaining identical to itself. Thus, God (as a Monad extended to a Triad) is indivisible. [42]
Marcellus adds two further arguments: first, if the Son says “Take the Holy Spirit” (Jn 20:22) and the Holy Spirit receives everything from the Son (Jn 16:13–14), it is clear that what the disciples have is this Monad-Triad (the Holy Spirit being the Logos); [43] second, if the Son and the Holy Spirit are two different persons (as Asterius said), either the Holy Spirit went out from the Father, thus having no need of any help from the Son, or he receives everything from the Son, thus having no need of any direct relationship to the Father. [44] Conclusion: Asterius mentions the three hypostases several times, but this is apparently wrong (i.e. against the biblical witness). [45]
Since Marcellus’ theology is based on the identification of the Triad with the Monad (by the verb πλατύνεσθαι), he takes into consideration not only the Son, but also the Holy Spirit. Thus, Marcellus is a truly Trinitarian theologian due to his understanding of God.
Marcellus develops his argument by using biblical quotations; it is an exegetical argument. [46] Therefore, Eusebius deals with exegesis in his refutation, too. He proceeds in five steps: [47]
  1. First, he concentrates on the verb ἐξεληλυθέναι: [48] Of course, going out does not show identity. The Son was eternally with the Father, then he was sent into the world; for this purpose he went out from the Father. The Holy Spirit was always standing around God’s throne (as the angels did), then he went out from the Father. Also others went out from God, e.g. the devil or an evil spirit. Thus, going out can be said about the Son and the Holy Spirit in a similar manner, but this does not mean identity.
  2. The difference between the Holy Spirit and the Son is shown by the Spirit’s operations: [49] various quotations, especially from the Gospel according to John, show that Christ spoke about the Holy Spirit as a different person. In particular, the announcement of the operation of the Holy Spirit as the “other paraclete” shows this difference. Jn 20:22 is not already the fulfillment of this announcement, but only the preparation, a kind of purification. [50]
  3. Both the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit; [51] this is not contradictory, but shows only that Father and Son agree in their will, i.e. the Son does the will of the Father. The Holy Spirit is sent in order to teach the Christians more than was possible in the lifetime of Jesus (because of the audience that followed “the Jewish lifestyle”). Even regarding the forgiveness of sins, the disciples received higher and “fuller” charisms after the Ascension of Christ. Just this surpassing of the Holy Spirit, announced by Christ, shows that the Holy Spirit is different from the Son. In all the announcements, the Son speaks of the Holy Spirit as of a different person.

    It is in this context that Eusebius adds the famous sentence according to which the Holy Spirit is better and “higher” than all other noetic and rational substance, surpassing them in honor and glory (and that is why he is “bunched together” [συμπαρείληπται] with the Triad), but that at the same time he is less (ὑποβεβηκός) than the Son. This last sentence is not proven by the arguments given before, but leads to the following section:

  4. The Holy Spirit receives everything that he reveals from the Father and the Son. [52] He is dependent on both. Both, the Father and the Son, are a) spirit and b) holy, but this is no proof of their identity with the Holy Spirit, e.g. the angels are called “spirits,” too, but of course they are not equal to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has, however, a specific character, because he is the Paraclete. So we should preserve Mt 28:19 where all three (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are mentioned. Eusebius explains this by using 1 Cor 12:6–9. The Father is the origin and the donor of grace, the Son procures this by leading the Holy Spirit who distributes the charisms. This interpretation of 1 Cor 12:6–9 is directly dependent on Origen’s explanation of Jn 1:3 in the Commentary on John. [53] There Origen explains how the Spirit is a) caused by the Son, and b) is distributing the charisms to the saints. In order to explain how these two points fit each other, Origen developed the idea that Christ is characterized by many aspects of his divinity (ἐπίνοια) and that the Holy Spirit is exactly these aspects. In establishing (Origen uses ὑφίστημι here) the Holy Spirit, Christ gives just these aspects to him, so the latter is as it were the hypostasis of these aspects. Thus, the Holy Spirit is caused by Christ’s procuring his aspects as charisms for the saints. This puts both aspects (dependence and superiority) into one sentence. If we accept this Origenistic background of Eusebius’s interpretation of Mt 28:19 by 1 Cor 12:6–9, it is absolutely not surprising that Eusebius in the last step deals especially with Jn 1:3 and the subordination of the Holy Spirit.
  5. The Holy Spirit is not only led by the Son, but also caused by him according to Jn 1:3. [54] The Father decides who will receive grace, the Son leads the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit distributes the charisms. The Son is not only the creator of the universe, but he also causes to subsist the Holy Spirit (of course in the sense of Origen’s explanation of Jn 1:3). So there is a clear order: above all, there is God the Father who is over all and through all and in all (Eph 4:6); the Son is the only begotten God (cf. Jn 1:18). The Holy Spirit, however, is neither God nor Son, but has his origin from the Father in a manner comparable to the Son, while being at the same time one of those things that is brought into subsistence by the Son (Jn 1:3). The real problem of this sentence is the word “God” that is used in it. It means either God the Father or it means God in general (as a category). Thus, either the Holy Spirit is not identical with the Father or he is not God or divine at all. Because of the juxtaposition of “nor Son” it seems more probable to me (pace Strutwolf [55] ) that this refers to God the Father (the article is missing only because so-called “predicate nouns” regularly have no article, cf. Jn 1:1). From my perspective it is far from being certain that Eusebius here denies the divinity of the Spirit. He is just stressing the dependence and the specific operation of the Holy Spirit in order to refute Marcellus who is accused of the heresy of Paul of Samosata and others in the following sentence (the conclusion mentioned above).
The result of this analysis is that Eusebius is forced by Marcellus to explain why and in what respect the Holy Spirit is different from the Son. This leads Eusebius to a seven-page pneumatological passage. In his pneumatology, he clearly follows Origen. Thus, exactly the same problem that Origen was dealing with reappears in Eusebius: the Holy Spirit is dependent on the Son, but in his operation he is dealing with a higher degree than just creation or rational beings (that is the area of the Son’s operation). Since the effect (in our case, the Holy Spirit) should not be higher than the cause (in our case, the Son), the higher value of the Spirit’s operation seems to be contradictory to his being caused by the Son. But just like Origen, Eusebius refers to the fact that exactly the soteriological function of the Holy Spirit is closely linked to his being brought into subsistence by the Son. The Holy Spirit is what Christ gives to the saints; he establishes the body of Christ by the charisms that are the aspects of Christ’s divinity.
Both Marcellus and Eusebius agree that the soteriological functions (as told by Scripture) allow statements about the ontological relationships between Son and Spirit. While to Marcellus these soteriological functions show the hidden and mysterious identity of Son and Holy Spirit (so we cannot speak of two different persons—against Asterius), to Eusebius the soteriological functions of the Holy Spirit and the Son show the ontological difference between them (so we should speak of different hypostases). But exactly this difference causes a problem: while the soteriological level leads to the assumption that the Holy Spirit is higher than the Son, it should be just the other way around regarding the ontological level. Nonetheless, Eusebius tried to follow Origen’s interpretation of Jn 1:3, a strategy that tends to stress the identity of the Holy Spirit with Christ. Of course, this is not a valid argument against Marcellus, and so this tendency is “reduced.” Therefore, the internal identity of the Holy Spirit with the Son is not stressed in Eccl. Theol. 3.5–6.
The polemical target of this pneumatology became important in the struggle of the Origenist theology against Marcellus and Photinus (in the forties and fifties—visible in the various Creeds of this time). Thus, the degree of divinity of the Holy Spirit became unclear. This was neither caused by “too much cosmology” in Eusebius (Kretschmar), nor by a continuity to a kind of proto-Pneumatomachian theology of Origen (Hauschild), nor by the defective attempt to consider the Holy Spirit as World-Soul and to integrate this thought into his apologetic work (Strutwolf). It was, however, caused by the controversy with Marcellus that revealed an internal problem of the Origenistic tradition. The attempt to bring together dependence and superiority of operation was based upon the close link between soteriological functions and ontological relations (as Origen preferred them). It was exactly this close link that seemed to be problematic in the struggle against Marcellus. Thus, stressing the difference between Son and Holy Spirit led to an overestimation of the dependence of the Holy Spirit on the Son. This raised the question whether the Holy Spirit was God at all. The Pneumatomachians drew their conclusions from this, clearly stating that the Holy Spirit was a creature (though different from all other creatures). The majority of the bishops, however, avoided being clear about this point. Thus, they preferred to speak about the Spirit’s soteriological functions (that were considerably high and seemed to be “divine”) and to say nothing about the divinity of the Spirit. The result of this we can see in Basil of Caesarea who struggled for more than fifteen years with this tradition. [56] Even the distinction between οὐσία and ὑπόστασις and the specific pneumatological profile of Basil can be understood in a better way, if we keep in mind the internal problems of the Origenistic pneumatology. Basil’s strategy consisted of two steps:ul>
  • I. While he could use the ὁμοούσιος for the Son, he did not use it for the Spirit. For the Trinity as a whole, however, he could speak of μία οὐσία.
  • II. Regarding pneumatology he applied Eusebius’s mention of the Spirit’s sanctifying function (of the angels, etc.) to the argument that exactly this high level guarantees that the Spirit is not a creature (though he did not use the word God in this respect). [57]
In this strategy, a certain measure of prudence is as present as the attempt to express definitely the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Exactly this strategy was widely accepted in 381. [58]
So, how Binitarian/Trinitarian was Eusebius? To my mind, pneumatology as a part of Trinitarian thought in general was not extremely important to Eusebius; we have only a couple of pages about it in his work. So we may say: no, he was not really a Trinitarian theologian, but integrated the Holy Spirit in hierarchies between God, the Logos, and the angels. In the controversy with Marcellus, however, he felt obliged to say something about pneumatology. In so doing, he developed a considerably important pneumatology that was dependent on Origen. Regarding the impact of this pneumatology on the development of Trinitarian thought in the fourth century, we may say: yes, he became a Trinitarian theologian due to Marcellus. So, he was in fact a theologian whose position shaped the properly Trinitarian aspect of the theological discussion for approximately fifty years. The Trinitarian debate cannot be understood without the Trinitarian theology of Eusebius. I suppose there are not very many pneumatological passages for which we could claim a similar significance.

Works Cited

Ayres, L. 2004. Nicaea and its Legacy. An Approach to Fourth-Century Trinitarian Theology. Oxford.
Drecoll, V. H. 1996. Die Entwicklung der Trinitätslehre des Basilius von Cäsarea. Sein Weg vom Homöusianer zum Neonizäner. Forschungen zur Kirchen und Dogmengeschichte 66. Göttingen.
———. 2003. “Der Begriff Hypostasis bei Origenes. Bemerkungen zum Johanneskommentar II,10.” In Origeniana Octava. Origen and the Alexandrian Tradition/Origene e la tradizione alessandrina. Papers of the 8th International Origen Congress, Pisa, 27–31 August 2001, vol. II, ed. Lorenzo Perrone, 479–487. Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium 164B. Leuven.
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[ back ] 1. Cf. Hanson 1988; reprinted 1997:290–291; Simonetti 1975:151–154; Gwynn 2007:220–226. I doubt that there was any intention of the council of Antioch to replace the Creed of Nicaea, as Ayres 2004:120 suggests.
[ back ] 2. Cf. Ayres 2004:101–103, 134–135.
[ back ] 3. Cf. Drecoll 1996:140.
[ back ] 4. Cf. the instructive analysis of Origenes, De principiis 1:3, 5–8 by Ziebritzki 1994:203–225.
[ back ] 5. Georg Kretschmar 1956.
[ back ] 6. Cf. Kretschmar 1956:2.
[ back ] 7. Cf. Kretschmar 1956:3–4.
[ back ] 8. Cf. Kretschmar 1956:7–8.
[ back ] 9. Cf. Kretschmar 1956:12–14.
[ back ] 10. Cf. Hauschild 1967.
[ back ] 11. Cf. Hauschild 1967:131–136.
[ back ] 12. Cf. Hauschild 1967:133–134.
[ back ] 13. Cf. Hauschild 1967:135–140.
[ back ] 14. Cf. Hauschild 1967:151–152.
[ back ] 15. Holger Strutwolf 1999.
[ back ] 16. Cf. Strutwolf 1999:16.
[ back ] 17. Cf. Strutwolf 1999:103–104.
[ back ] 18. Cf. Strutwolf 1999:161–165.
[ back ] 19. Cf. Strutwolf 1999:194–197, 208–212.
[ back ] 20. Cf. Strutwolf 1999:198–201, 213–217 with the result (Strutwolf 1999:223): “Es kann also festgehalten werden, daß Euseb in seinem apologetischen Doppelwerk nicht nur deutlich bemüht ist, den Heiligen Geist in die göttliche Trias einzubeziehen und von den Geschöpfen abzugrenzen, sondern auch in der Lage war, den Heiligen Geist in seinem Eingebundensein in die Trias als Gott zu bezeichnen. Diese Beobachtung steht allerdings in deutlichem Gegensatz zum in der Forschung verbreiteten Bild des Euseb als eines ‘binitarischen Subordinatianers.’”
[ back ] 21. Cf. Strutwolf 1999:224–230.
[ back ] 22. Cf. Strutwolf 1999:237: In Eusebius‘ theology, there are “zwei Perspektiven der eusebianischen Pneumatologie ... Wenn Euseb die Eigenständigkeit und damit das Proprium der drei Hypostasen betonen will, entfaltet er die Unterscheidung von väterlicher Hypostase und der des Sohnes in der Unterscheidung von urbildlicher und abbildlicher Gottheit und sieht dabei offenbar keine andere Möglichkeit, die innertrinitarische Eigenständigkeit des Geistes zu wahren, als dem Heiligen Geist den Titel θεός abzusprechen. Wenn er dagegen von der ursprünglichen Trias auf die Geschöpfe blickt, so kann er den Heiligen Geist als Gegenüber zu aller Kreatur mit dem Gottestitel bezeichnen und in die eine Vater und Sohn gemeinsame Gottheit miteinbeziehen.”
[ back ] 23. Cf. Ayres 2004:211–213, 451, 460. Cf. Haykin 1994.
[ back ] 24. Cf. for the problem of dating the PE (and the DE) now Morlet 2009:80–93.
[ back ] 25. For the concept of “Hebrews,” cf. Ulrich 1999:59–68, 121–125; Johnson 2006:100–125.
[ back ] 26. Eusebius, PE 11.20.1 (GCS Eusebius 8/2, 46,5–6 Mras).
[ back ] 27. Eusebius, PE 11.20.1 (GCS Eusebius 8/2, 46,6–9 Mras).
[ back ] 28. Eusebius, PE 11.20.1–2 (GCS Eusebius 8/2, 46,9–15 Mras).
[ back ] 29. Clemens Alexandrinus, Stromateis 5,103,1 (GCS Clemens 2, 395,12–17 Stählin), cf. Eusebius, PE 13.13.29 (GCS Eusebius 8/2, 207,16–208,4 Mras).
[ back ] 30. Eusebius, PE 11.20.3 (GCS Eusebius 8/2, 46,16–18 Mras). That the world soul is the third God according to the Platonists, is not precisely correct, e.g. Numenius seems to identify the third God with the cosmos in general, cf. Numenius, Fragmenta 11 (Collection des Universités de France, 53,11–16 des Places = Eusebius, PE 11.18.3 [GCS Eusebius 8/2, 40,19–41,2 Mras]) and 21 (Collection des Universités de France, 60,1–10 des Places = Proclus, In Timaeum commentarius 1 [303,27–304,7 Diehl]).
[ back ] 31. Eusebius, PE 11.20.3 (GCS Eusebius 8/2, 46,18–21 Mras).
[ back ] 32. This aim seems to be neglected in the analysis of Strutwolf 1999:201–208, cf. Inowlocki 2006:113–114, and Kofsky 2000:105: “Eusebius actually expounds his own Christian theology as if it were the theology of the ancient Hebrews.” What he reports about the theology of the Hebrews, should, however, carefully be distinguished from his own expressions and his own terminology.
[ back ] 33. Eusebius, PE 7.15.1–2 (GCS Eusebius 8/1, 391,7–13 Mras).
[ back ] 34. Eusebius, PE 7.15.3–4 (GCS Eusebius 8/1, 391,13–19 Mras). The interpretation of 1 Cor 15:41 is caused by the aim of the passage to elucidate the Hebrew’s understanding of the heavenly world. While Logos and Holy Spirit are subordinated, they belong to the immense heavenly world that can be compared with the stars according to 1 Corr 15:41. I doubt that a specific Neoplatonic approach to consider the world soul as moon (cf. Strutwolf 1999:206–207) is present in the background of this passage. The functions of the world soul in Plotinus (and also in Plutarch) are very different from the function of the Holy Spirit described here by Eusebius.
[ back ] 35. Eusebius, PE 7.15.5–6 (GCS Eusebius 8/1, 391,19–392,7 Mras).
[ back ] 36. I doubt that the Holy Spirit is considered as ἀρχή in the same sense as the Father is ἡ ἀρχή (cf. Strutwolf 1999:202): He is not ἀρχή, but he has the same dignity (because of his sanctifying function). The Holy Spirit is called neither ἀρχή nor αἴτιον by Eusebius in this passage.
[ back ] 37. Eusebius, PE 7.15.7 (GCS Eusebius 8/1, 392,7–16 Mras).
[ back ] 38. Eusebius, PE 7.15.8–9 (GCS Eusebius 8/1, 392,16–27 Mras). Strutwolf is right in his observation of the relation between τὰ μὲν πάντα ... τὰ δ’ ἐν μέρει (392,20–23). I agree with his description of the Holy Spirit as “das Prinzip der Verteilung der Tugenden unter die Vernunftwesen” (Strutwolf 1999:203), though I would prefer not to introduce the term “Tugenden” here.
[ back ] 39. Eusebius, PE 7.15.10 (GCS Eusebius 8/1, 392,27–393,2 Mras).
[ back ] 40. Cf. Strutwolf 1999:224.
[ back ] 41. Cf. the commentary on the fragments (numbered as fragments 47–50) by Seibt 1994:323–333.
[ back ] 42. Eusebius, Eccl. Theol. 3.4 (GCS Eusebius 4, 158,2–15 Klostermann and Hansen, hereafter Kl/H).
[ back ] 43. Eusebius, Eccl. Theol. 3.4 (GCS Eusebius 4, 158,14–18 Kl/H).
[ back ] 44. Eusebius, Eccl. Theol. 3.4 (GCS Eusebius 4, 158,19–26 Kl/H), cf. Eusebius, Eccl. Theol. 3.4 (GCS Eusebius 4, 158,28–31 Kl/H).
[ back ] 45. Eusebius, Eccl. Theol. 3.4 (GCS Eusebius 4, 158,33f. Kl/H).The hypothetical argument of Markell, fragment 47, in Eusebius, Eccl. Theol. 3.4 (GCS Eusebius 4; 157,32–36 Kl/H) may be skipped here, cf. on that Seibt 1994:326.
[ back ] 46. His argument relies on an exegetical method, a kind of “trial of replacement” (“Austauschprobe”): If the same thing is said about two things, it is plausible that they are synonymous—at least if the things said about them are specific enough. This is the case with the Son and the Spirit. Therefore from my perspective it is not the unity of perfection that is the backbone of the fragment (this is the opinion, however, of Seibt 1994:328).
[ back ] 47. The five steps are introduced by a short passage (Eusebius, Eccl. Theol. 3.5 [GCS Eusebius 4, 159,1–8 Kl/H]) and summed up in a conclusion (Eusebius, Eccl. Theol. 3.6 [GCS Eusebius 4, 156,22–36 Kl/H]). Cf. on this passage Strutwolf 1999:224–230.
[ back ] 48. Eusebius, Eccl. Theol. 3.5 (GCS Eusebius 4, 159,8–29 Kl/H).
[ back ] 49. Eusebius, Eccl. Theol. 3.5 (GCS Eusebius 4, 159,29–161,20 Kl/H).
[ back ] 50. Cf. Strutwolf 1999:226.
[ back ] 51. Eusebius, Eccl. Theol. 3.5 (GCS Eusebius 4, 161,20–162,31 Kl/H).
[ back ] 52. Eusebius, Eccl. Theol. 3.5 (GCS Eusebius 4, 162,31–163,29 Kl/H).
[ back ] 53. Origen, Commentary on John 2.10 (GCS Origenes 4, 64,11–65,35 Preuschen). Cf. Strutwolf 1999:229. Cf. the new translation with commentary by Thümmel 2011: especially 126–131, 248–251; cf. on this passage Drecoll 2003:479–487.
[ back ] 54. Eusebius, Eccl. Theol. 3.5 (GCS Eusebius 4, 163,30–164,21 Kl/H).
[ back ] 55. Cf. Strutwolf 1999:229–230.
[ back ] 56. This is one of the results of Drecoll 1996:130–182.
[ back ] 57. Cf. Drecoll 1996:244–253.
[ back ] 58. Cf. Hauschild 1982:13–48.