Ousia and Hypostasis: The Cappadocian Settlement and the Theology of ‘One Hypostasis’

Joseph T. Lienhard

in The Trinity

Published in print February 2002 | ISBN: 9780199246120
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600531 | DOI:
                      Ousia and Hypostasis: The Cappadocian Settlement and the Theology of ‘One Hypostasis’

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Joseph Lienhard points out how the ‘Cappadocian solution’ to the fourth‐century Trinitarian controversy, summarized in the phrase ‘one ousia, three hypostaseis — (one essence and three persons)’, is often presented as widely employed, and greeted with relief and enthusiasm. But the phrase, as such, is rare in the writings of the Cappadocian Fathers, and may not be the best short expression of their teaching on the Trinity. The distinction in meaning between ousia and hypostasis (both of which mean ‘something that subsists’) was worked out only in the late fourth century, and was — to some writers — less than convincing. Another tradition, called ‘miahypostatic theology’, was more widely and forcefully represented than is usually assumed. Its most visible proponent was Marcellus of Ancyra, but it is found to some extent in Athanasius, in many other Egyptian bishops, and in much of the West. In the course of the fourth century, the miahypostatic tradition, which first appears as a late form of monarchianism, gave up all of its distinctive contours except one: it would not accept the phrase ‘three hypostaseis’ as orthodox. The chapter suggests, at the end, that perhaps some elements of this miahypostatic theology are worth retrieving.

Keywords: Athanasius; Cappadocian solution; Egyptian bishops; essence; hypostaseis; Lienhard; Marcellus of Ancyra; miahypostatic; monarchianism; ousia; persons

Chapter.  9510 words. 

Subjects: Christian Theology

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