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Durham e-Theses
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The biblical foundation of Athanasius' understanding of the nicene homoousion

Paparnakis, Anthanasius G. (1993) The biblical foundation of Athanasius' understanding of the nicene homoousion. Masters thesis, Durham University.



In this thesis we attempt to investigate St. Athanasius' defence of the biblical character of the crucial Nicene term "homoousios" which has been called mto question from the very first moment of its emergence in the official ecclesiastical documents until today. In the Introduction we explore two themes: first, the position of the "homoousios" in modem Athanasian scholarship in which we identify three main problems: a) that very little attention has been paid to the relations of the term with the Bible, b) that it is still regarded as a doctrinal development which marked the beginning of importation into the Christian doctrine of ideas alien to the genuine biblical message and c) that the twofold option between "generic" and "numerical" identity is the prevailing view of understanding the meaning of the term. Second, we briefly explore the data provided by the Athanasian pro-homoousion texts which show that he dealt with two problems: a) that the term was not biblical and b) that it implied division of God. As a result, he relates the term with two fundamental biblical doctrines: the natural generation of the Son from the Father and the unity of essence of the Son / with the Father. His main argument is that the objections raised against the "homoousion" spring out of objection to these biblical doctrines and although the term is not included in the Scriptures it fully preserves their message. In view of this, we divided our thesis into two corresponding parts. In the first part we look into the biblical evidence which Athanasius recalls as the source of the doctrine of the Generation of the Son from the Father. We follow his attempt to establish it starting from the conception of the Father as Begetter, going to the act of begetting and finally to the Son as the Offspring of the Father. In the first chapter we investigate his interpretation of the biblical texts to which he refers with regard to the first two points: the Son has the beginning of his existence in the being (=essence) of the Father and therefore the biblical verb which describes his generation is "to beget" and not "to create". We investigate the understanding of the Son as Offspring in the second chapter together with the other Christological titles 'Word' and 'Wisdom' with which he establishes the indivisible nature of the divine generation. In the third chapter we look into the Biblical Paradigms 'light- effulgence', 'fountain-river' and 'image' which illustrate his understanding emphasizing the spiritual dimension of divine generation. In the second part we look into the biblical doctrine of the Unity of the Son with the Father which Athanasius mainly bases on the Gospel of St. John. He identifies absolute community of attributes between Father and Son in the biblical descriptions of them except the designations 'Father' and 'Son' which are uniquely attributed to them individually. Thus Athanasius concludes in explaining his understanding as unity of being, essence or divinity and duality of names or persons. Both are equally real and true without subordination of the one to the other. The 'homoousion' is understood to maintain both the distinction and the unity of the Father and the Son. Finally in the Conclusions we summarize the results of our discussion focusing on the meaning of the 'homoousion' and the hermeneutical principles that arise out of Athanasius exegesis.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:1993
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:16 Nov 2012 10:51

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