views updated May 23 2018


A word, meaning "and from the Son," added to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed in the Latin Church after the phrase, "the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father." The Filioque has been the center of controversy almost from the time the Western church first inserted it into the Ecumenical Creed of Nicea-Constantinople in the sixth century. First a bone of contention between Rome (which did not add it to the Creed until the 11th century) and Charlemagne, and from the eighth century onwards the occasion for often bitter controversy and misunderstanding between the churches of the Eastern Orthodoxy and the Latin West.

History of the Doctrine. The doctrine of the double Procession of the Holy Spirit came into discussion early (see processions, trinitarian). theodore of mopsuestia denied it and theodoret of cyr accused cyril of alexandria of error in holding it. The controversy reflected the tendency of the school of Antioch to interpret the Scriptures literally and to stress the distinction of Persons in the Trinity, in opposition to the school of Alexandria with its more analogical approach to Scriptures and its insistence on the unicity of deity. Later the Western Church, notably Saint augustine, developed the Alexandrine thought; the Eastern Church that of Antioch and of Theodoret. Pope martin i included the phrase "and from the Son" in his synodical letter to Constantinople (649), thereby causing irritation that was allayed by an explanation of maximus the confessor: "[The Latins wished] to show that He comes forth through Him and to expose the connection and immutability of the substance" (Patrologia Graeca 91:136). In the 7th century the doctrine and the formula became common in Spain and were discussed in the Synod of Gentilly (767). Meanwhile the confession of faith of tarasius, patriarch of constantinople, recited in the second Council of nicaea, spoke of Procession "from the Father through the Son." As doctrine this was attacked vehemently in the libri carolini, written reputedly by alcuin, Charlemagne's adviser, as imprecise and open to erroneous interpretation. The Synod of Frankfurt supported the condemnation, but adrian i defended both the formula of Tarasius and its doctrine (Patrologia Latina, ed. J. P. Migne, 98:124952). charlemagne, who had introduced the filioque into the Creed in his chapel, was unconvinced and bade Alcuin and others write against the phrase, "through the Son." At the same time there was controversy in Palestine (807) which reached Rome and Aachen.

The filioque doctrine became a major cause of dissension between East and West when photius, attacking the Western Church in general, made it the chief theological gravamen in his quarrel with nicholas i. The controversy was revived at the Great Schism of 1054, when Constantinople employed the filioque as an argument against Rome, the Holy See having, in the meantime, inserted it into the Creed. It became the chief Greek accusation against the Latin Church and was based more and more on patristic grounds. Under the influence of Saint anselm, the Council of Bari (1098), where Greeks of Sicily were represented, formally affirmed both the addition and the doctrine. The Council of lyons (1274), with the consent of the three Greek representatives of the Emperor michael viii palaeologus and (theoretically) of the Greek Church, defined the doctrine. The clergy and people of Constantinople, however, vehemently rejected it, in spite of the severe persecution employed by their emperor to impose acceptance. Beccus, first imprisoned for his opposition, then converted on reading the patristic evidence adduced by Nicephorus Blemmydes and made Patriarch by Michael, was later accused of heresy and exiled. Denial of the filioque in the East continued, and by the end of the 14th century its abjuration was required from converts. The Council of florence re-echoed the voice of Beccus. Its decree signed by Latins and Greeks defined that the Holy Spirit proceeds from Father and Son as from one principle and one spiration, "from" and "through" being equivalent and casual. But the union did not endure, and the old state of controversy returned.

The theological arguments for and against the filioque are well summarized in the speeches at Florencein the sessions of March 17, 21, and 24, 1439. In John 15.26 it is stated: "The spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father," saying nothing of the Son; hence, asserted the Greeks, He proceeds from the Father only. The Latins adduced other texts: The Spirit receives from the Son (being); is sent by the Son (origin); is third in the formula of baptism (origin). The Creed teaches: "proceeds from the Father but is to be adored and glorified with Father and Son." The Greek Fathers were quoted on both sides; the Latin Fathers, however, all taught the filioque. Some of the Greeks maintained that the Father is the "sole fount of Divinity" (athanasius, pseudo-dionysius); john damascene stated that "we do not say that the Spirit proceeds from the Son" (Patrologia Graeca 94:832). None used the phrase "proceeds from the Son." On the other hand, none ever wrote "from the Father only," but a great variety of expressions were employed: "springs from," "goes forth from," "Father and Son," "both," "Father through the Son." Analogies were used, such as that the Spirit is like the "steam" rising from the "water"; a "finger" of the "hand"; He is the Spirit of the Son, of truth, etc. The general Greek doctrine can be well summarized in Tarasius' words, "proceeds from the Father through the Son," and was the same as the Latin teaching, though less succinctly expressed. Beccus proved this assertionthe Greeks and Latins were really disputing over words rather than basic doctrineafter the Council of Lyons. In the Council of Florence, John of Montenero and bessarion demonstrated it and the decree confirmed it.

The Filioque as an Addition to the Creed. After the doctrine had become current through the formulas approved by the synods of Toledo [16th (693), 11th (638), 4th (633), 3d (589)], and the longer formula of the first synod, written by Palentinus Pastor (c. 445), who had been inspired by leo i's letters to Turibius, the filioque passed to nearby Gaul, where it was defended in the Synod of Gentilly (767) and in the Libri Carolini. From Gaul it came to Italy, as witnessed by the Council of Cividale (79697). The Creed with the addition was introduced in Spain into the Mozarabic Rite before the Pater Noster (c. 589). Some two centuries later Charlemagne imposed its use, after the gospel, in his royal chapel of Aachen. Certain monks took the usage to Jerusalem where it aroused bitter theological controversy with the Greeks (807). Pope leo iii, appealed to by the Latin monks, sent in answer the form of the Creed recited in Rome and informed Charlemagne of his reply. The emperor held a council on the question in Aachen (809) and tried to obtain Leo's approval. "So do I think and hold," Leo replied in regard to the doctrine. On the matter of the addition, Leo stated: "We do not presume either in reciting or in teaching to add by inserting anything into that Creed." And he advised the emperor by slow stages to drop the recital of the Creed in the Mass. To stress his attitude he had two silver shields made, one with the Latin, the other with the Greek text of the Creed, neither with the addition; these he placed in front of the confession in Saint Peter's. The filioque, however, was finally inserted into the Creed also in Rome, probably c. 1013, at the insistance of the Emperor henry ii. Even so, there were places where the filioque was omitted, e.g., Paris as late as 1240, without that implying any doubt about the doctrine. The addition was the subject of all 14 sessions in Ferrara of the Council of Ferrara-Florence. The Greeks asserted that any addition of a word or syllable to the Creed had been forbidden at ephesus (431); the Latins maintained that only change of the faith, and not of the words in the Creed, was intended. The decree of Florence defined that "the filioque was added to the Creed licitly and reasonably to expound the truth, and under the spur of necessity."

Later History. The unionistic effects of the Council of Florence soon faded and the filioque, both as addition and as doctrine, continued to be a chief subject of controversy. Old Catholics and Anglicans, Russian, Greek, Romanian, and Serbian Orthodox at Bonn in 1874 and 1875, agreed on its illegality as an addition, and tried to find a common basis of doctrine in six propositions taken from Saint John Damascene. The result was controversy among Russian theologians, and the assertion in a Council of Saint Petersburg in 1892 that "from the Father only" is part of Orthodox doctrine. In 1956 in conversations with Anglicans (who readily admit the illegitimacy of the addition but do not deny its truth or omit it from the Creed), the Russians held firm to their old positions. The Greek Churches also, though with less inflexibility, have the same views.

While the See of Rome insists that all the Eastern Churches that are in communion with it accept the doctrine of the filioque, it nevertheless does not impose its inclusion in the Creed. This is evidenced in the second Council of lyons (though nicholas iii demanded it in 1278), Florence (though callistus iii imposed it in 1457), clement viii for the union of the Ruthenians (Ukrainians, Byelorussians) at Brest-Litovsk in 1596 (though the Ruthenians at the Council of Zamosc in 1720 imposed it on themselves). benedict xiv in 1742 ruled that the Greeks were under no obligation to recite it, and such has since that time been the accepted position in the Eastern Catholic Churches.

Despite Latin efforts to minimize the doctrinal differences, the controversy over the filioque continued to divide East and West. In the 19th century Old Catholics and Anglicans, Russian, Greek, Romanian, and Serbian Orthodox meeting in Bonn (1874 and 1875), agreed that the unilateral addition of the phrase on the part of the West was illegitimate. The Old Catholics deleted the filioque from the Creed, and, at the request of the Greek and Russian delegates, the Bonn group endorsed six propositions taken from the works of Saint John Damascene as expressing "the doctrine of the ancient undivided Church." Proposition three stated, "The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son." The attempt, however, to find in the works of Saint John Damascene a formula that expressed their common belief regarding the procession of the Holy Spirit, resulted in a controversy among the Russian Orthodox. As a result the Council of Saint Petersburg (1892) declared that "from the Father only" is a tenet of Orthodox doctrine. Nonetheless, in 1931 an Anglican-Orthodox Joint Doctrinal Commission reaffirmed that "through the Son" was useful as a unifying formula.

Altering the Creed. Although Russian theologians held firm to their position as recently as 1956 in conversations with Anglicans, the climate of the discussion changed noticeably as ecumenical efforts intensified in the years after Vatican II. At a meeting of the Joint Doctrinal Commission of Anglicans and Orthodox in Moscow in 1976, the Anglican delegates repudiated the filioque because the sentence in the Ecumenical Creed about the Spirit proceeding from the Father addresses the Spirit's eternal procession, not the historical mission ; the interpolation of the filioque was made without universal agreement of the churches and the Creed constitutes the public confession of faith by the people of God in the Eucharist. The 1978 Lambeth Conference endorsed the Moscow statement and asked the churches of the Anglican communion to consider returning to the original wording of the Ecumenical Creed, that is, to drop the filioque from the text. In 1981 the Anglican Consultative Commission reported the responses of the individual provinces, but recommended that no unilateral alterations be made before the 1988 Lambeth Conference. Meanwhile in 1985 the Episcopal Church in America went on record in favor of dropping the filioque from the Creed.

Many Roman Catholic theologians, notably Yves Congar, favor deleting the filioque from the Creed "as a gesture of humility and brotherhood on the part of the Roman Catholic Church which might have wide-reaching ecumenical implications" (I Believe, III. 206). In May of 1973, the Greek Catholic hierarchy decided to follow the precedent of other Eastern churches in communion with the Roman See in suppressing the formula in the Greek text of the Creed. Pope John Paul II in several statements commemorating the 16th centenary of the Council of Constantinople quoted the third article of the Creed without the filioque.

The Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches organized consultations in 1978 and 1979 to deal with the controversy. By way of a final report, the consultations drafted a memorandum stating, "The restoration of unity is inconceivable if agreement is not reached on the formal and substantial justification for this formula." The memorandum, "one of the most important and balanced statements ever produced on this thorny issue" (Fahey, 667), asserts:

the Son is indeed not alien to the procession of the Spirit, nor the Spirit to the begetting of the Sonsomething which has also been indicated in Eastern theology when it has spoken of the Spirit as 'resting upon' or 'shining out through' the Son, and insisted that the generation of the Son and the procession of the Spirit must be distinguished but not separated.

The report further noted that the Old Catholic Church had already suppressed the filioque in the liturgy and that the Anglican Communion was seriously considering a similar move. Among its recommendations was the suggestion "that the original form of the third article of the Creed, without the filioque, should everywhere be recognized as the normative one and restored." In his preface to the report, however, Lukas Visher cautioned churches against taking separate decisions for "the way to communion among the churches can be opened up only by an agreement for which they take joint responsibility."

The International Consultation on Common Texts included a translation of filioque in the English version of the Ecumenical Creed, but put it in brackets with an indication that some churches do not use it.

Bibliography: j. n. d. kelly, Early Christian Creeds (2d ed. London 1960). j. gill, The Council of Florence (Cambridge, England 1959). k. ware and c. davey eds., Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue: The Moscow Statement Agreed by the Anglican-Orthodox Joint Doctrinal Commission 1976 (London 1977). h. kÜng and j. moltmann, "Conflicts About the Holy Spirit," Concilium 128 (New York 1979). Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ. Ecumenical Reflections on the Filioque Controversy, Faith and Order Paper 103 (Geneva 1981). y. m. j. congar, I Believe in the Holy Spirit, v. 3 (New York 1983). m. a. fahey, "Orthodox Ecumenism and Theology: 197883," Theological Studies 44 (1983) 62592.

[j. gill/

b. l. marthaler]


views updated May 23 2018

Filioque (Lat., ‘and the Son’), the formula in the W. form of the Nicene Creed which expressed the ‘double procession’ (i.e. from both Father and Son) of the Holy Spirit. Since the time of Photius, a strong opponent, the filioque has been a central point of controversy between E. and W. Churches. The Orthodox point to the original creed omitting it, and to the need for a single ‘fount of divinity’ (pēgē theotētos, viz. the Father) within the Godhead.


views updated May 21 2018

Filioque the word inserted in the Western version of the Nicene Creed to assert the doctrine of the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son as well as from the Father, which is not admitted by the Eastern Church. It was one of the central issues in the Great Schism of 1054.

Filioque is Latin, literally ‘and from the Son’.