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Ousia and hypostasis from the philosophers to the councils

Discussion in 'Paterology, Christology & Pneumatology' started by Johannes.Ar, Oct 13, 2019.

  1. Johannes.Ar

    Johannes.Ar New Member

    Last year I wrote a rather long article whose abstract and table of content follow. If any forum users are interested, I will copy and paste it in this thread. Of course, googling any text string in the abstract will lead to the source.


    During the IV to VI centuries, the Christian doctrine of the Trinity was formulated using primarily three Greek terms: ousía, hypostasis and prósōpon. Of those, hypostasis is unique for two reasons: first, it is the only one present in the NT (Heb 1:3), and secondly, it was used successively in two mutually incompatible senses: in Nicaea as synonym of, and to provide precision for, ousía, and from the Cappadocian Fathers onwards as synonym of, and to provide precision for, prósōpon. In this article I will examine the introduction of the terms ousía and hypostasis in the Greek philosophical discourse and the development of their meaning, focusing on the meaning of hypostasis which was current at the time when Heb 1:3 was written, the issues at play in the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, and the use by the Church of the terms ousía, hypostasis and prósōpon to provide a precise formulation of that doctrine.

    Table of contents

    1. Plato and Aristotle: what is primary ousía?
    2. Enter hypostasis, the original cognate of substantia.
    3. Hebrews 1:3 in a Stoic and Epicurean lexical context.
    4. Trinitarian orthodoxy and the three possible ways to fall from it.
    5. The "one ousía" answer to Arianism, its modalistic and tritheistic risks, and Nicaea's "one hypostasis" as prevention of the second.
    6. The three Hypostases formula: appearance, toleration by St. Athanasius, resistance by St. Jerome, and my argument for it.
    7. The three Hypostases formula: proposal by St. Basil and St. Gregory of Nyssa and increasingly official Church adoption since 382.
    8. Post-Chalcedon problem A: ambiguity in ousía or in homoousios.
    9. Post-Chalcedon problem B: why is it that Jesus' objective, concrete, really existing human nature is not a hypostasis?
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2019
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  2. Cappadocious

    Cappadocious Well-Known Member

    Eastern Orthodox
    In Relationship
    Do you hold hypostasis to be roughly equivalent to individuation and primary substance, in its later usage?