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The Development of Athanasius’s Early Pneumatology

HILL, KEVIN,DOUGLAS (2015) The Development of Athanasius’s Early Pneumatology. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 10 November 2018.


Athanasius of Alexandria wrote over seven dozen works, the majority of which contain at least one reference to the Holy Spirit. Yet, previous studies have primarily concentrated on Athanasius’s Letters to Serapion on the Holy Spirit (ca. 359–361), leaving a lacuna in our knowledge of Athanasius’s prior pneumatology. By exploring the period from Athanasius’s election as bishop (328) to the completion of the third Oration against the Arians (ca. 345), this thesis seeks to help fill this gap.

Part I focuses on Athanasius’s pastoral works, including his Festal Letters and Against the Pagans-On the Incarnation. Chapter 1 considers the reasons behind Athanasius’s relative silence about the Spirit in Pagans-Incarnation. Chapters 2 and 3 explore the pneumatology of Athanasius’s pastoral works written before and after 340, respectively. This first half of the thesis argues that by the mid-330s, Athanasius had begun to establish core pneumatological perspectives that he would maintain for the rest of his career, including the belief that the Spirit is necessary for salvation.

Part II examines Athanasius’s three Orations, giving particular attention to Orations 1–2 (ca. 340). This part of the thesis argues that Athanasius seems to consciously hold five main tenets about the Holy Spirit. To Athanasius, the Holy Spirit is eternal, uncreated, united to the Son, worthy of worship, and essential for salvation. These points laid the foundation for what was to come in Serapion.

Together, Parts I and II challenge the perception that Athanasius’s understanding of the Holy Spirit did not develop until Serapion. Without the pneumatological perspectives that he established in the 330s and 340s, Athanasius would not have been prepared to take the next steps of confessing the Holy Spirit’s divine nature and role in creating the world.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Athanasius; Alexandria; Holy Spirit; Pneumatology; Theology
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2015
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:25 Nov 2015 09:25

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