Glossary of Trinitarian Terms, Part 3

Today, we continue our series, “Glossary of Trinitarian Terms.” This will focus on some very big topics in Christianity and Christology that the early church struggled with. The biggest terms of note are the economic Trinity, Essence, Filioque, Generation, and Homoousios. The latter three are some of the highly debated topics the church fathers argued over. It is also important for us as it provides clarity on the Holy Spirit and Christ. It helps strengthen our own beliefs about Christ, His being and origin, as well as the deity of the Holy Spirit.

Doxology: (Gk. doxa and logos, “words of praise”) An ascription of glory to God, often traced to the Greater Doxology, or Gloria in Excelsis: “Glory be to God on high” and to the 4th century Lesser Doxology, or Gloria Patri: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost: As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”

Ebionism: A primarily second century belief among peripheral groups in the Jewish diaspora that viewed Jesus Christ as an exceptional prophet (similar to John the Baptist)—human but not divine; Ebionites strictly adhered to Jewish law and rejected Paul’s writings.

Economic Trinity: Expressed as early as Hippolytus and Tertullian, it is a view of the Trinity focused on the functional acts (economies) of the Godhead in the creation and salvation of the world; this perspective is distinguished from that of the immanent Trinity (the Godhead in itself, transcendent, and outside all created reality); contemporary Trinitarianism debates the relation of the two. See Immanent Trinity.

Enhypostasis or Enhypostatic Union: The doctrine that the human nature of Christ exists in (en-) his divine nature (hypostasis); the divine Logos assumed and sustains Jesus’ human nature in the one person of Jesus Christ; or Jesus’ human nature subsists in the divine nature. See anhypostasis, negatively stating that no Jesus would have existed apart from the assumption by the Logos of a human nature.

Essence: (Gk. ousia, being; Lat. substantia, substance) The requisite fundamentals that constitute a static reality; in theology, the divine essence denotes that which constitutes the basic nature, substance, or fundamental character of the divine being, i.e., the Godness of God. See Consubstantial, Homoousios, Nature, Ousia, Substance.

Eutychianism: Contra Nestorius in the early 5th century, Eutyches promulgated the belief that Christ had “two natures before, but only one after, the Union” in the Incarnation; the divine and human natures commingled, each assuming the characteristics of the other; deemed heretical, the view continued as Monophysitism. See also Chalcedonian Definition; Nestorianism.

Filioque: The Latin word meaning “and from the Son” added by the West to the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed at the Council of Toledo (589) to express the double procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and from the Son. The term was contested from the East as diminishing the full personal deity of the Spirit and led to the schism of Orthodoxy from Roman Catholicism.

Generation: Owing to Origen, the Nicean and Christian tradition affirms the eternal generation of the Son from the Father, as expression of Ps 2:7 (“today I have begotten thee”) and its citations in the NT and, again, the Gk. monogenes (trad. “only begotten”; lit. “one and only”). Some question the exegetical bases of eternal generation; others see it as broadly expressing the ontological relations of the Son and the Father. See Logos Christology.

Gnosticism: A non-Christian religio-philosophic movement especially evident during the early centuries C.E. which claimed that matter was evil and salvation was available only through gnosis, an illumination or revealed knowledge given esoterically. See Docetism.

Homoousios: Greek word meaning “of one and the same substance or being” as contrasted to homoiousios (“of a similar substance or being”) as applied to the Son’s divine nature in relation to that of the Father. See Consubstantial, Essence, Nature, Ousia, Substance.

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