The Father as “the Source of the Godhead”
and the Eternal Procession of the Holy Spirit


The Father is my God and Creator and yours, who created you and me. This same work, your creation and mine, was also performed by the Son, who is also my God and Creator and yours, just as the Father is. Likewise, the Holy Spirit created the selfsame work, that is, you and me, and He is my God and Creator and yours as well as the Father and the Son. This notwithstanding, there are not three gods and creators, but one God and Creator of us both. With this creed I guard against the heresy of Arius and his ilk, to keep me from dividing the one divine essence into three gods or creators and to help me retain in the true Christian faith no more than the one God and Creator of all creatures. On the other hand, when I go beyond and outside of creation or the creature and move into the internal, incomprehensible essence of divine nature, I find that Holy Scripture teaches me – for reason counts for nought in this sphere – that the Father is a different and distinct Person from the Son in the one indivisible and eternal Godhead. The difference is that He is the Father and does not derive His Godhead from the Son or anyone else. The Son is a Person distinct from the Father in the same, one eternal Godhead. The difference is that He is the Son and that He does not have the Godhead from Himself, nor from anyone else but the Father, since He was born of the Father from eternity. The Holy Spirit is a Person distinct from the Father and the Son in the same, one Godhead. The difference is that He is the Holy Spirit, who eternally proceeds both from the Father and from the Son, and who does not have the Godhead from Himself nor from anyone else but from both the Father and the Son, and all of this from eternity to eternity. ... When we confess in the children’s [Apostles’] Creed: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth,” we do not mean to imply that only the Person of the Father is the almighty Creator and Father. No, the Son is likewise almighty, Creator, and Father. And the Holy Spirit is likewise almighty, Creator, and Father. And yet there are not three almighty creators and fathers but only one almighty Creator and Father of heaven and earth and of us all. Similarly, the Father is our Savior and Redeemer, the Son is our Savior and Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit is our Savior and Redeemer, and yet there are not three saviors and redeemers, but only one Savior and Redeemer. Likewise, the Father is our God, the Son is our God, and the Holy Spirit is our God, and yet there are not three gods, but only one God. Likewise, the Holy Ghost sanctifies Christendom, so does the Father, so does the Son, and still there are not three sanctifiers, but only one Sanctifier, etc. “The works of the Trinity to the outside are not divisible.” All of this has been said so that we may recognize and believe in three distinct Persons in the one Godhead and not jumble the Persons together nor divide the essence. The distinction of the Father, as we have heard, is this, that He derived His deity from no one, but gave it from eternity, through the eternal birth, to the Son. Therefore the Son is God and Creator, just like the Father, but the Son derived all of this from the Father, and not, in turn, the Father from the Son. The Father does not owe the fact that He is God and Creator to the Son, but the Son owes the fact that He is God and Creator to the Father. And the fact that Father and Son are God and Creator they do not owe to the Holy Spirit; but the Holy Spirit owes the fact that He is God and Creator to the Father and the Son. Thus the words “God Almighty, Creator” are found [in the Creed] as attributes of the Father and not of the Son and of the Holy Spirit to mark the distinction of the Father from the Son and the Holy Spirit in the Godhead, again, the distinction of the Son from the Father and the Holy Spirit, and the distinction of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son; namely, that the Father is the source, or the fountainhead (if we may use that term as the fathers do) of the Godhead, that the Son derives it from Him and that the Holy Spirit derives it from Him and the Son, and not vice versa. (Martin Luther, “Treatise on the Last Words of David,” Luther’s Works, Vol. 15 [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1972], pp. 302-03, 309-10)

But this article of faith can be proved clearly and forcibly enough from our text [John 15:26], where it is stated: “The Holy Spirit, whom I shall send to you from the Father.” Likewise “who proceeds from the Father.” These words testify and prove that the Holy Spirit is not a mere spirit – a creature, for example, or something apart from God and yet given to man by Him, or merely the work of God which He performs in our hearts – but that He is a Spirit who Himself is God in essence, who has His essence from the Father, and who was not created or made but proceeds from the Father and is sent by Christ. And Christ gives Him names which are personal names or indicate and name a distinct Person. He calls Him the Comforter, for example. He also mentions personal works, as, for example, when He declares that He will bear witness of Christ. Then He says: “He will teach you all things” (14:26). Here there is evidence enough that the Holy Spirit is a distinct Person, a Person separate from the Father and the Son. Christ says: “The Comforter, whom I shall send to you” and “who proceeds from the Father.” And yet He is the same true and only God, since He is to perform works that God alone performs, such as illumining the hearts inwardly and bringing them to the true knowledge of God; kindling, creating, and strengthening faith in them; and comforting consciences and keeping them undismayed in the face of the terrors of devil and all creatures, etc. Apart from other passages, these words are strong and convincing enough to prove this article regarding the divine essence of the Holy Spirit. (Martin Luther, “Sermons on the Gospel of St. John,” Luther’s Works, Vol. 24 [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1961], pp. 297-98)

For in the first place, when Christ refers to the Holy Spirit and says: “When the Comforter comes” (John 15:26), and “Whatever He hears He will speak” (John 16:13), and “He will glorify Me, for He will take what is Mine” (John 16:14), etc., He proves conclusively that the Holy Spirit is a true Being in the Godhead, that He is Himself a distinct Person who is neither the Father nor the Son. For all the following words indicate a special Person: “the Comforter, who will come”; “Whatever He hears He will speak.” If He is to come or, as Christ said earlier, if He is to be sent or to proceed, also to hear and to speak, He must, of course, be something. Now He surely is not the Father, since the Father does not come and is not sent. Nor is He the Son, who has already come and now returns to the Father, and of whom the Holy Spirit will preach and whom He will glorify. But Christ points in particular to the distinctive Person of the Holy Spirit or His attribute, also to His divine essence together with the Father and the Son, when He says: “Whatever He hears He will speak.” For here Christ refers to a conversation carried on in the Godhead, a conversation in which no creatures participate. He sets up a pulpit both for the speaker and for the listener. He makes the Father the Preacher and the Holy Spirit the Listener. It is really beyond human intelligence to grasp how this takes place; but since we cannot explain it with human words or intelligence, we must believe it. Here faith must disregard all creatures and must not concentrate on physical preaching and listening; it must conceive of this as preaching, speaking, and listening inherent in the essence of the Godhead. Here it is relevant to state that Scripture calls our Lord Christ – according to His divine nature – a “Word” (John 1:1) which the Father speaks with and in Himself. Thus this Word has a true, divine nature from the Father. It is not a word spoken by the Father, as a physical, natural word spoken by a human being is a voice or a breath that does not remain in him but comes out of him and remains outside him. No, this Word remains in the Father forever. Thus these are two distinct Persons: He who speaks and the Word that is spoken, that is, the Father and the Son. Here, however, we find the third Person following these two, namely, the One who hears both the Speaker and the spoken Word. For it stands to reason that there must also be a listener where a speaker and a word are found. But all this speaking, being spoken, and listening takes place within the divine nature and also remains there, where no creature is or can be. All three – Speaker, Word, and Listener – must be God Himself; all three must be coeternal and in a single undivided majesty. For there is no difference or inequality in the divine essence, neither a beginning nor an end. Therefore one cannot say that the Listener is something outside God, or that there was a time when He began to be a Listener; but just as the Father is a Speaker from eternity, and just as the Son is spoken from eternity, so the Holy Spirit is the Listener from eternity. Earlier we heard (John 14:26; 15:26) that the Holy Spirit is sent not only by the Father but that He is also sent by, and proceeds from, the Son. Therefore this Listener must be called the Listener of both the Father and the Son, not of the Father alone or of the Son alone. Christ has stated plainly: “The Comforter, whom I shall send to you from the Father.” The expression “to send” has the very same connotation that the expression “to proceed from” has. For he who proceeds from someone is sent. Conversely, he who is sent proceeds from him who sends him. Consequently, the Holy Spirit has His divine essence not only from the Father but also from the Son... Thus these words confirm and teach exactly what we confess in our Creed, namely, that in one divine essence there are three distinct Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is illustrated by means of a metaphor, or a picture of natural things, in order that we in our weakness may be able to know what is meant and to talk about it. But we cannot search it out or understand it. We must believe, and cling to, these words which we hear from Christ Himself, just as Christendom and especially the holy fathers and bishops did. They had disputations about this article, and they fought for and preserved it against the heretics and lying spirits who made bold to meditate on and to affect wisdom concerning these sublime, inscrutable matters beyond and apart from Scripture. (Martin Luther, “Sermons on the Gospel of St. John,” pp. 364-65)

...it is appropriate to state why Christ calls the Holy Spirit the Comforter and the Spirit of truth [John 15, 26]; also, how he distinguishes him from the Father and the Son, namely: He is the person who proceeds from, or is sent by, the Father and the Son; therefore, the Holy Spirit is called, at the same time, the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, that is, of Christ, as St. Paul and St. Peter respectively call him in Gal 4, 6, and 1 Peter 1, 11. It is here also testified that Christ is truly eternal God with the Father when he states that he and the Father send forth the Holy Spirit and bestow the same upon the Christian Church. (Martin Luther, “Sermon for the Sunday after Ascension Day,” Complete Sermons of Martin Luther [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000], Vol. 2.1, pp. 254-55)

...the Comforter whom the Christians have, is the Spirit of truth who gives unfailing comfort to our hearts [John 15:26]. ... From where does the Holy Spirit obtain such comfort? From the Father, says Christ here. For he, the Holy Spirit, proceeds from the Father. This is an excellent reference, one by which we can prove the article of our Creed on the Holy Trinity against the Arians and heretics. If the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, it must follow that such a Spirit must be eternal. For from the Father nothing can proceed which does not incorporate his essence and nature. Therefore, just as God the Son is eternal because he is born of the eternal Father – for nothing can be born of him which is not like unto him – so it must follow that the Holy Spirit who proceeds from God must also be eternal. (Martin Luther, “Sermon for the Sunday after Ascension Day” [1532], Complete Sermons of Martin Luther, Vol. 6, pp. 146-47)

The prophet stated, “I will pour out my Spirit,” says God [Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17]. The apostle says, Jesus, exalted to the right hand of God, is the one who pours out the Spirit [Acts 2:33]. The prophet Joel states that the true and eternal God purposed it. The apostle Peter says that the crucified Jesus has done it, having received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father; he poured out the Spirit, for all to see and hear. Thereby he bore witness that Jesus, crucified by the Jews, is the person of whom the prophet says that God in the latter days will pour out his Spirit. We must carefully note this, for otherwise, if malicious people, cocky intellectuals, heretics, and fanatics have their way, they will use this text to pervert the deity of Christ by saying, If Christ had received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, it follows that he cannot give the Holy Spirit. Because he has received it from the Father, he does not have the power in himself to give it to others. That’s the way the argumentation runs. But let’s interpret the text correctly. We must not only concentrate on these words of the apostle as he says that Jesus has received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, but also note what follows, “He hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear” [Acts 2:33]. With these words St. Peter ascribes to that person who is called Jesus of Nazareth the work which is a property of God, to bestow the Holy Spirit. Now to bestow the Holy Spirit is not the prerogative of a creature, nor even an angel from heaven, but only of God alone. So, what St. Peter says is this, Jesus of Nazareth is the man who bestows the Holy Spirit; or to put it another way, Jesus, elevated to the right hand of God, is God, of whom the prophet Joel foretold that he would bestow the Holy Spirit. By so saying, Peter testifies that Jesus of Nazareth is true God. We must, therefore, not confound the text, like heretics and fanatics do, but keep the words together in their proper sequence as the apostle Peter says, “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear” [Acts 2:33]. In other words, Jesus of Nazareth, risen from the dead, is now revealed to be true God and man, who as the true eternal God is the one who bestows the Holy Spirit. The prophet Joel had summed it up very compactly, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh” [Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17], and so on. The bestowing of the Holy Spirit, the forgiving of sins, the enlightening and renewing of human hearts belongs alone to God. The apostle Peter has expanded more fully on this because he wanted to point out that the same God who said, “I will pour out my Spirit,” is Jesus of Nazareth. Here, then, the apostle is declaring that Jesus Christ, crucified by the Jews, is the second person of the Trinity. Just as the Father sends and pours out the Holy Spirit, so also the Son sends and pours out the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the fact that the Holy Spirit is sent and poured out by the Son is tantamount to the Father’s doing it, except that while the Son receives everything from the Father, the Father does not from the Son. For the Father is the source or fountain (as the fathers call it) of the Trinity. Yet what the Son has from the Father, he has essentially and fully from eternity. For the Father has given the Son eternal power and deity as he himself possesses from all eternity, so that with the Father the Son is one true, eternal God. (Martin Luther, “Sermon for Holy Pentecost,” Complete Sermons of Martin Luther, Vol. 6, pp. 168-69)

... St. Athanasius [i.e. the Athanasian Creed] distinguishes the three Persons thus: “The Father is of no one, neither born nor made nor created. The Son is of the Father, not made or created, but born. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and the Son, not born or created, but proceeding.” For thus the Scriptures describe the Son, that he is born of the Father, Psalm 2[:7], “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten or borne you.’” And Christ describes the Holy Spirit thus in John 15[:26], “When the Comforter comes, whom I shall send to you, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will testify of me.” There we hear that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and is sent by the Son. One who is sent, however, is also said to “proceed from.” Just as the Son is born of the Father and yet does not depart from the Godhead, but on the contrary remains in the same Godhead with the Father and is one God with him, so also the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and is sent by the Son, and does not depart from the Godhead either, but remains with the Father and the Son in the same Godhead, and is one God with both. Accordingly this birth is much different from the birth of men; and this proceeding is much different from the proceeding of men. For a human being born of another is not only a separate individual person from his father, but also a separate individual substance, and he does not remain within his father’s substance, nor does the father remain in the son’s substance. But here the Son is born as another Person and nevertheless remains within his Father’s substance, and the Father within the Son’s substance. They are accordingly distinct as to Person, but remain in one single, undivided, and unseparated substance. Thus, when a human being proceeds from another and is sent by him, then not only do the persons separate from each other, but also their substances, and the one gets far away from the other. But here the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (as he is also sent by the Father and the Son), and is indeed separated into another Person, but remains nevertheless within the Father’s and the Son’s substance, and the Father and the Son within the Holy Spirit’s substance, that is, all three Persons in one single Godhead. Consequently the theologians call this birth of the Son an immanent birth, which does not depart from the Godhead, but comes from the Father alone and remains within the Godhead. Consequently they call the Holy Spirit’s proceeding an immanent proceeding, which does not depart from the Godhead, but from the Father and the Son alone, and remains within the Godhead. How that happens, we are to believe. It is not even comprehensible to the angels, who nevertheless constantly behold it joyously. And all those who have tried to grasp it have broken their necks over it. It is enough that we can, by faith, catch a glimpse of a certain distinction of the Persons, namely, that the Father is of no one; the Son is of the Father, but born; the Holy Spirit is of the Father and the Son, but proceeding. For this proceeding is spoken of in terms of an envoy or message proceeding, just as the birth of the Son sounds the same as when a human being is begotten by his father. The Son and the Holy Spirit have and keep the very same terms of differentiation when they reveal themselves to us, outside of the Godhead, in the creatures; for the Son is physically born of his mother and here also is called “son” and “born.” Nevertheless he is the same Son of God in both births. And the Holy Spirit proceeds physically when in the form of a dove [Matt. 3:16], in fiery tongues, in the strong wind [Acts 2:1-13], etc. Here he is also called a “proceeder” or “envoy,” although he is the same Holy Spirit in both kinds of proceeding, and is not the Father or the Son. Therefore it was indeed fitting that the middle Person was physically born and became a son, the same who was born beforehand in eternity and is Son, and that it was not the Father or the Holy Spirit who was thus physically born and became a son. In the very same way it is fine and proper that the Holy Spirit proceeded physically, the same who proceeds in eternity and is neither born nor Son. And thus the Father remains of himself, so that all three Persons are in majesty, and yet in such a manner that the Son has his Godhead from the Father through his eternal immanent birth (and not the other way around), and that the Holy Spirit has his Godhead from the Father and the Son through his eternal immanent proceeding. The Son shows his eternal birth through his physical birth, and the Holy Spirit shows his eternal proceeding through his physical proceeding. Each of them has an external likeness or image of his internal essence. (Martin Luther, “The Three Symbols or Creeds of the Christian Faith,” Luther’s Works, Vol. 34 [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1960], pp. 216-18)

...we know that what is taught in the Latin churches is correct: that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son. And besides, Saint Cyril [of Alexandria] agrees with us, when in regard to the passage, “and [God] breathed into his nostrils” [Gen. 2:7], he comments in this manner: “... The Spirit...is in no way mutable [subject to change]. Or if, indeed, He could suffer change, would the disgrace [of mutability] retroactively revert to the divine nature, which is of God the Father and certainly also the Son? In other words [it would revert] to that which is the essence of both, that is, that the Spirit comes forth from the Father through the Son. ...” Thus has Cyril spoken! Concerning the words “through” (dia) and “from” (ek), they are here to be understood in the same way as in the statement: “yet we know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not from works of the law” [Gal 2:16]. ... Furthermore, Saint Epiphanios says in his treatise titled the Ancoratos: “The Holy Spirit has no brother, neither is he a brother of the Father, but He is from the same essence of the Father and the Son.” (Tübingen Theologians [including Jacob Andreae], Correspondence with Jeremias II, Patriarch of Constantinople, Augsburg and Constantinople [Brookline, Massachusetts: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1982], p. 120)

The Father, indeed, is the first hypostasis of the All-Holy Trinity, for He is the origin, source, and cause of the others [Son and Holy Spirit]. And the Son is the second [hypostasis], by reason of origin but not of time, being posterior to the Father and anterior to the Holy Spirit. Also, the Holy Spirit is the third [hypostasis], being posterior to both [Father and Son] by reason of origin. If this is not taken as a premise, no order will exist between the Son and the Holy Spirit by reason of origin, nor would the reason be apparent by which the Son is placed as the second, or the Spirit as the third person of the Holy Trinity. And yet order, and not disorder, exists amid the hypostases of the Holy Trinity. This also has been clearly testified by the Holy Scriptures and the God-Bearing Fathers. (Tübingen Theologians [including Jacob Andreae], Correspondence with Jeremias II, Patriarch of Constantinople, p. 225)

Indeed, it is a matter of perfection that the Father with the Son, but not without Him, is to emit the Holy Spirit. And even though the two, the Father and the Son, emit the one, the Holy Spirit, yet they do not emit Him [the Spirit] as two, separately and distinctly, but they emit Him as one conjoined together; and the primacy of the emission returns to the Father, who indeed has given this perfect power of breathing to the Son through the begetting, as Augustine in book fifteen in The Holy Trinity says: from whom the Son has [power] to be God; certainly, from the same He has the [power] so that the Holy Spirit proceeds from Him [the Son] also. ...the persons of the Trinity are believed to be distinguished from each other not in essence, but in person, that is, in being. Therefore, the entire Father is in the entire Son and in the entire Holy Spirit; and the entire Holy Spirit is in the entire Father and in the entire Son. They cannot accept any separation, for there is no order that exists in them because of essence. ... Consequently, we do not simply declare that the Son is the cause of the Holy Spirit because He [the Son] is of the same essence of the Father. ... But we unite together these two [the Father and the Son] in an inseparable bond; and because the Son is by origin prior to the Spirit and of the same essence of the Father, we conclude and say that it is not possible for the Father to emit the Holy Spirit from His own essence without the Son... ...the Spirit, being second to the Son by virtue of origin, cannot concur with the Father in the begetting of the Son, and much less be, with the Son, also the cause of the Father, where indeed the Father precedes both. The Father is the origin and cause of both [the Son and the Spirit], bringing each forth from His own essence. ... In view of this, then, we are not denying at all that the Father is the prime origin and source from which all things flow, while the Son and the Spirit, as the cause, are caused from it [the source which is the Father], according to Gregory the Theologian. But we add that this power [of emitting the Spirit] is granted to the Son necessarily through the begetting, so that the Holy Spirit...would breathe from the Father and the Son, according to Epiphanios in his Discourse on the Ancoratos. ...the Father is the origin and the cause of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and [the Father] is the emitter of the Spirit, not, however, without the Son who preceded the Spirit by origin. And to all this we further set forth that the Holy Spirit proceeds directly from both together, as from one essential source, however the two differ as to [hypostatic] being but not [as] to the substance in essence, so that the Father and the Son do not risk becoming one hypostasis in number by virtue of the one activity of emission... Again, there should not be two prime origins. (Tübingen Theologians [including Jacob Andreae], Correspondence with Jeremias II, Patriarch of Constantinople, pp. 232-34)

...we now are in theory familiar with the mystery of the All-Holy Trinity. Meanwhile, we are...examining (insofar as it is possible and to the degree that the Holy Scriptures bring to light) which are the differences between the hypostases as they are studied each in themselves. In this case we grant to the Father this: to be the source of the Godhead, but outside of time so that we will not place the Son after the Father [in time]. ...in the meantime we hold forth that the Holy Spirit proceeds not only from the Father, but also from the Son. ...all the greatest Latin Fathers are entirely [in agreement] with our opinion. Moreover, the Fathers of your [Greek] Church hold the same opinion with us, even though they might differ somewhat in expression. ... Cyril, in his first writings to Palladios, [says], “if indeed the Spirit is from God the Father, in truth (and, indeed) also from the Son, the Spirit is poured out from both, that is, from the Father through the Son.” Epiphanios, in his writings in Ancoratos, [states], “the Father truly begot the Son, and the Son was truly begotten of the Father, existing in a hypostasis which is His own, without beginning and timelessly, and the Holy Spirit truly being of the Father and the Son, of the same Godhead...ever proceeding from the Father and receiving from the Son.” (Tübingen Theologians [including Jacob Andreae], Correspondence with Jeremias II, Patriarch of Constantinople, pp. 238-41)

Long and acrimonious was the controversy between the later Greek theologians and the Latin church regarding the procession of the Holy Spirit. The older Greeks often said that the Holy Spirit was from the Father through the Son, as we have it in that most notable confession of Gregory of Neocaesarea. And Hilary, De Trinitate, at the same time clearly and with express words writes, “The Holy Spirit is, proceeds, and emanates from the Father and the Son, and just as He proceeds from the Father, so He proceeds from the Son.” There are also extant testimonies in Lombard, Bk. 1, dist. 11. Epiphanius says the same thing in his Ancoratus, 9, and Augustine in his Contra Maximinum, 2.5. Therefore, when contentions arose between the Greeks and the Latins over the matter of preeminence, they were unwilling to use the same mode of speaking. Both parties confessed that the Spirit is of the Son as well as of the Father; but the Greeks said He is “from the Father through the Son,” and the Latins said “from the Father and the Son.” They each had reasons for speaking the way they did. Gregory of Nazianzus, on the basis of Romans 11, says that the prepositions ek, dia, and eis express the properties of [the three persons in] one unconfused essence. Therefore, the Greeks said that the Holy Spirit proceeds from (ek, ex) the Father through (dia) the Son, so that the property of each nature [or person] is preserved. Nor did the Latins take offense at this formula for describing the matter. For Jerome and Augustine both say that the Holy Spirit properly and principally proceeds from the Father, and they explain this by saying that the Son in being begotten of the Father receives that which proceeds from the Father, namely, the Holy Spirit; but the Father receives from none, but has everything from Himself, as Lombard says, Bk. 1, dist. 12. ... This division was healed at the Council of Florence... The proceedings are extant showing what each side said. When the Greeks saw the explanation of the Latins and how they believed that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son and on the basis of what evidence they established their case, they agreed with the statement. There was present in the discussion a very learned man of the Greeks by the name of Bessarion. It is worthy of note that the Greeks said and proved on the basis of authentic manuscripts of the Nicene Canon, not only in the Greek manuscripts but also in the Latin ones which had been preserved at Rome, that the wording was, “The Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father.” They were vehement in their contentions that the Latin manuscripts had been falsified because they had added the words “who proceeds from the Father and the Son.” But when the explanation of the Latins was heard, they approved with general consensus that this had been done because when the controversy had arisen [in the west], this expression, “proceeds from the Father,” had been taken in a sinister sense as if the Son were not in all respects equal and consubstantial with the Father. Therefore the Latins had not added the words “who proceeds from the Father and the Son,” but had taken them over from the Athanasian Creed because the statement there is more explicit. ... Moreover, it is useful to have at hand some strong testimonies from Scripture concerning the meaning of the statement which is explained in the Athanasian Creed: “The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son, neither made, nor created nor begotten, but proceeding.” Thus He is called the Spirit of the Father, Matt. 10:20; Rom. 8:11: (1) Because He is sent from the Father, John 14:26, “whom the Father will send to you in My name.” (2) However, He is not called the Spirit of the Father only in the sense that He is sent by Him, but as Christ explains in John 15:26, because “He proceeds from the Father.” For the same reason He is called the Spirit of the Son and the Spirit of Christ, and again not only for the reason that He says in the same verse, “whom I shall send you from the Father.” For even then when He is sent by the Father, He is called the Spirit of the Son, Gal. 4:6, “God sent the Spirit of His Son.” But because He has His essence from the Son, that which is described by the word “proceed” means, as Augustine says, “He gave the Holy Spirit by breathing on them, so that He might thereby demonstrate also that the Holy Spirit proceeds from Him.” In Ps. 33:6 it is said of the Father, “By the breath of His mouth He made all their power.” But in 2 Thess. 2:8, it is said of the Son, “whom the Lord Jesus Christ will destroy with the breath of His mouth.” Therefore, He proceeds from the Father and from the Son. But a particularly clear passage is John 16. For when He [Jesus] has said in [John] 15:26 that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father,” this is not to be understood as if something is being taken away from the equality of the Son, for Christ Himself adds in the following chapter, v. 15, His explanation, “All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore He [the Spirit] shall take of Mine,” when He proceeds from the Father. For from the essence which is common with the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit receives His own, so that He is consubstantial [with the Father and the Son]. Therefore, when in John 15:26 Christ says, “The Spirit proceeds from the Father,” He is not denying that the Spirit proceeds from Christ Himself also, but as He says of Himself in John 5:19, “I can do nothing of Myself.” And in John 7:16, “The doctrine is not My own,” not that He may deny that He is consubstantial with the Father, since He manifestly affirms that the Son is to be honored as the Father is honored, John 5:23. But as Luther says, “It is customary to place the name of the Son behind the name of the Father and to refer all His activities to the Father, from whom He possesses co-equality with the Father.” For He speaks of proceeding from the Father because the Son possesses from the Father that He is God and that the Holy Spirit proceeds from Him, thus making the Father the source of the proceeding. Yet He quickly adds, “All things which the Father has are Mine. Therefore He shall take of Mine,” when He [the Spirit] proceeds from the Father, John 16:15. ... The giving or the sending of the Holy Spirit which takes place either with visible signs or invisibly in the hearts of the believers is one thing. The proceeding is something else. For the Holy Spirit is said to proceed from the Father and the Son, not when He is sent or poured out upon the house of David, Zech. 12:10, but with respect to His essence which He has received from eternity as it was communicated to Him by the Father and the Son. For with reference to the Son, because He has His essence from the Father, Scripture predicates that He is begotten. But in regard to the Holy Spirit, because He does not have His essence from Himself but from the Father and the Son, Scripture uses the word “proceeds.” These methods of speaking the church must repeat meticulously so that it does not say that the Holy Spirit is begotten, but proceeds (ekporeuesthai). And just as it is said of the Son in John 1:14 that He is “begotten of the Father,” so in John 15:26 the Holy Spirit is said to “proceed from the Father.” So that this passage is not understood to refer only to the sending or the delegation but to His emanation from the divine essence, Scripture in other places (e.g., 1 Cor. 2:12) speaks of “the Spirit who is from God.” The word ekporeuesthai means more than merely a simple motion or something which can be nicely accommodated to the image of the power of the will. In Matt. 15:18 it is used in reference to something proceeding (ekporeuomena) from the mouth, and in Mark 7:21 the “evil thoughts which proceed (ekporeuontai) from the heart.” ... Augustine says, “Whatever is begotten also proceeds, but the contrary is not true that whatever proceeds is also begotten.” For in John 8:42 in the Latin it says concerning the Son, “I have come from (processi) God.” And John 13:3 and 16:28 in the German reads Ich bin vom Vater ausgegangen (I have come forth from the Father). But in the Greek the word ekporeuesthai is not used, but only the simple exēlthon. For the Son is speaking of the assignment with which He was sent forth by His Father. Thus the word “proceed” is one which is properly applied to the Holy Spirit. Just as the Son is said to be begotten of the Father, so the Spirit is said to proceed from the Father and the Son. ... [Some say:] If the Holy Spirit is not begotten, but only the Son, then He cannot be consubstantial. Gregory replies, “Where can I find for you a parallel as to how there is one essence and three distinct persons? Scripture says that the Son is begotten and consubstantial (homoousios) with the Father; it also says that the Holy Spirit is consubstantial and yet not begotten but proceeding. Who can penetrate this mystery? There is a somewhat parallel analogy in the relationships between Adam and Eve and Seth. Seth is begotten; Eve is not begotten but is taken out of Adam. But Adam himself is not begotten nor taken out of any other flesh; but yet these three have a common human nature.” See the statement by Gregory of Nazianzus in 5.11. (Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1989], Vol. I, pp. 142-45)


ADDENDA:

The Eastern theologians, beginning with Athanasius, spoke of the Father as the “source” (Greek arch; Latin principium) of the Son and the Holy Spirit. ... Thus when they [the Eastern theologians] spoke of the “monarchy” of the Father, they did not refer to his rule as King, but to their [the Son’s and the Holy Spirit’s] “origin” (arch) from him and orientation toward him. Because this was so important for the theologians of the Eastern churches, they rejected the Western addition of the phrase “and the Son” (filioque) to “who proceeds from the Father” in the Nicene Creed. This addition was meant to safeguard the Scriptural teaching that we do not receive the Holy Spirit directly from the Father but only through Christ. In my [seminary] class on the history of dogma Dr. [Hermann] Sasse suggested that both these teachings about different aspects of the Trinitarian order would be best preserved by the confession “who proceeds from the Father through the Son.” (John W. Kleinig, “The Subordination of the Exalted Son to the Father,” Lutheran Theological Review, Vol. 18 [2005-2006])

What mattered was the doctrine that God is One and that there are three Persons, whether the mystery of the Trinity was understood in the sense that the one God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or in the sense that the three Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – are one God. Still today the mystery of the Trinity is confessed in the East as three in one (Dreieinigkeit) and in the West as one in three (Dreifaltigkeit). East and West complement each other in confessing that mystery which lies beyond the reach of comprehension. They belong together. In this way some echo of Origen was acceptable in the church of the East, and also in the West. The East made no further advance, while the West went deeper with Augustine’s probing of the doctrine of the Trinity. The church in the West gave the doctrine of the Trinity full confession in the Symbolum Quicunque, which came to be wrongly ascribed to Athanasius and was then called the Athanasian Creed, as it is in the Book of Concord. Here we have the confession of the doctrine which found its way into the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed with the filioque, which confesses that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The Eastern Church subsequently pronounced this to be a falsification of the creed, and regarded this “falsification” of its most sacrosanct church text as a grievous sin of Rome. The papacy has always acknowledged that this creed can be used in the form employed by the Eastern Church because the addition does not contradict the original text. In the efforts toward reconciliation Rome has always required only that what is confessed with filioque should not be denied. This question of the filioque is the only creedal question between East and West, and therefore it has played a great, and often excessive, role in the polemics of the two confessions. Since Photius [ca. 820–891] Eastern theology has attempted to discover a great heresy in the filioque. Yet this question is not one to hinder an eventual union of Rome with the Eastern Church. The difference in the way the doctrine is confessed lies along the lines of how the Trinity is understood, as indicated above. When the Eastern Church denies that the Spirit proceeds from the Son, there is a sense in which it continues to make room for the subordination of the Son to the Father which has its basis in Origen. But it is no more than a hint of Subordinationism, for Subordinationism itself is rejected by the homoousios of the Nicene Creed. And yet what was inherited from the great Origen has not quite disappeared. The situation might be put this way: As in many aspects of doctrine, cultus, and polity, the church of the East represents an older tradition. The church of the East did not participate in the development that took place in the West. (Hermann Sasse, “On the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit,” We Confess the Church [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1986], pp. 30-31)




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