Fortman, The Triune God ­ A Historical Study of the Doctrine of Trinity



That Tertullian strongly emphasizes the 'unity of substance' of the three is evident, for he says that 'I always maintain one substance in three who cohere' (Adv. Prax. 12). But what does he mean by 'substance'? He seems to mean 'body' or 'corporeity,' for he writes: 'who will deny that God is a body, although "God is a spirit"? For Spirit has a bodily substance of its own kind, in its own form' (ibid. 7). Again he says 'the Father is the whole substance, while the Son is a derivation and portion of the whole' (ibid. 9). He says that 'God, too, is a Spirit.' and yet to illustrate the generation of the Son he uses a material analogy and declares that 'even when the ray is shot from the sun, it is still part of the parent mass . . . there is no division of substance, but merely an extension. Thus Christ is Spirit of Spirit, and God of God, as light of light is kindled' (Apol. 21). And when he treats of the origin of the Spirit he again uses material analogies: 'the Spirit indeed is third from God and the Son; just as the fruit of the shoot is third from the root . . . or as the apex of the beam is third from the sun' (Adv. Prax. 8).

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To the Holy Spirit Victorinus gives less attention, but he places Him on the same level of divinity and personality as the Father and Son. Thus he writes : 'If God is spirit, and Jesus Christ is spirit, and the Holy Spirit is spirit, there are three of one substance, or who in other words are consubstantial. But the Holy Spirit is from Christ, as Christ is from God; and so the Three are One' (Adv. Arium 1.12). Though he sometimes seems to confuse Him with the Son, because of the imprecision of the word spiritus, he distinguishes Him as the intelligence distinct from life, as the voice distinct from the mouth that emits it: 'the Father is eloquent silence. Christ is His voice and the Paraclete is the Voice's Voice' (Adv. Arium 3.16); 'Christ is life, the Spirit is understanding' (Adv. Arium 1.13). The Son and the Holy Spirit are produced by the Father by a unique movement but since by this movement the Father has given the Son all He has. even the power to communicate Himself, the Son in turn gives to the Holy Spirit (Adv. Arium 3.8). The Father remains thus the first source of the whole Trinity, the unique principle of the divine life. However, His gifts are communicated to the Spirit by the Son who is, in consequence, a secondary and subordinate principle (Adv. Arium 1.8).