The Nicene Doctrine Of The Homoousion -- By: E. R. Craven

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 041:164 (Oct 1884)
Article: The Nicene Doctrine Of The Homoousion
Author: E. R. Craven


The Nicene Doctrine Of The Homoousion

Rev. E. R. Craven

The now prevalent doctrine of the great churches of Christendom is that the substance of the persons of the Trinity is numerically one. It is also generally believed that this was the doctrine held by the Council of Nice, and that the term “homoousion” was introduced into the creed framed by that Council for the express purpose of unmistakably setting it forth. Unquestionably, the general opinion of the modern church on both these points is enunciated in the following extract from Dr. Shedd’s History of Christian Doctrine:

Ҥ 2. Problem Before The Nicene Council

“The problem to be solved by the Nicene Council was to exhibit the doctrine of the Trinity in its completeness; to bring into the creed statement the total data of Scripture upon the side of both unity and trinity. Heresy had arisen, partly from incomplete exegesis. Monarchianism, or Patripassianism, had seized only upon that class of texts which teach the unity of God, and neglected that other class which imply his real, and not modal, trinality. This led to an assertion of the consubstantiality of the Son, at the expense of his distinct personality. Origenism and Arianism, at the other extreme, following the same one-sided exegesis, had asserted the distinct personality of the Son, at the expense of his unity of essence and equal deity with the Father. It now remained for the catholic scientific mind to employ an all-comprehending exegesis of the Biblical data, and assert both consubstantiality and hypostatical distinction, both unity and trinity. In doing this the Nicene Council made use of conceptions and terms that had been employed by both those forms of error against which it was their object to guard. Sabellianism had employed the term ὁμοούσιος to denote the conception of consubstantiality.1 The Monarchians were strong in their assertion that God is one Essence or Being. On the side of the Divine Unity they were scriptural and

orthodox. The Nicene Trinitarians recognized this fact, and hence adopted their term. Athanasius insisted as earnestly as ever Sabellius did that there is but one Essence in the Godhead; that there is but one Divine Substance, or Nature, or Being. Hence the Nicene Council adopted that very term, ὁμοούσιος, which the orthodox mind one hundred years before, in the controversy with Paul of Samosata and the Anti-trinitarianism he represented, had rejected as a distinctively heretical term.2 The...

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