Early Roman and Eastern Orthodox Catholic leaders did NOT hold to what their churches now teach about the Holy Spirit

Pope Liberius, Bishop of Rome
Liberius, Bishop of Rome from 352-366 A.D.


While the Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants like to act like every “Christian” long believed in the trinity, (even though that doctrine was not finalized for them until a council in 381 A.D.), the truth is that even the primary leaders of the Romans and Greeks denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit as late as the mid-4th century.

The Cathecism of the Catholic Church admits the doctrine was not finalized until 381:

245 The apostolic faith concerning the Spirit was announced by the second ecumenical council at Constantinople (381) (Catechism of the Catholic Church. Imprimatur Potest +Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Doubleday, NY 1995, p. 72).

At least one Protestant trinitarian scholar has admitted some facts about the Holy Spirit as well as the 381 date:

The language of the New Testament permits the Holy Spirit to be understood as an impersonal force or influence more readily than it does the Son…The attempt to develop an understanding of the Holy Spirit consistent with the trinitarian passages…came to fruition at Constantinople in 381. (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, p. 140).

And an Orthodox scholar teaches that its church from 381 onwards accepted the personhood/divinity of the Holy Spirit:

Since the Council of Constantinople (381), which condemned the Pneumatomachians (“fighters against the Spirit”), no one in the Orthodox East has ever denied that the Spirit is not only a “gift” but also the giver–i.e., that he is the third Person of the holy Trinity” (Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren. Basic Doctrines: Holy Spirit. http://www.kosovo.com/doctrine1.html#Holy%20Spirit 8/20/05).

But what is also interesting is that many, if not most, in the mid-4th century (including the Patriarch of the Orthodox and the “Pope” of the Roman Catholics”) considered denying the divinity of the Holy Spirit to be sound doctrinally!

Did you know that?

Notice what The Catholic Encyclopedia states,

Semiarians and Semiarianism
A name frequently given to the conservative majority in the East in the fourth century…showing that the very name of father implies a son of like substance…rejected the Divinity of the Holy Ghost (Chapman J. Transcribed by Douglas J. Potter. Semiarians and Semiarianism. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIII. Published 1912. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Towards the middle of the fourth century, Macedonius, Bishop of Constantinople, and, after him a number of Semi-Arians, while apparently admitting the Divinity of the Word, denied that of the Holy Ghost (Forget J. Transcribed by W.S. French, Jr. Holy Ghost. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

The expression “the East” refers to the area also known as Asia Minor. It was always at least as important as Rome among those that professed Christ for the previous centuries (as well as for many later centuries)–and notice that MOST of those living there WERE Semi-Arian–including Macedonius, who is in the list of successors of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (the primary “see”, if you will, within the Eastern Orthodox faith). But the Orthodox (who like to claim that theirs is the original church and that it did not change) do not seem to realize that their leaders and members WERE NOT trinitarian until the late 4th century.

Although later Roman Catholic writers have had many definitions of those that they called Pneumatomachi or “Semi-Arians” (most of which disagree with the Church of God position), one that somewhat defines the view held in the early church would possibly be this one written by Epiphanius in the mid-4th Century,

Semi-Arians…hold the truly orthodox view of the Son, that he was forever with the Father…but has been begotten without beginning and not in time…But all of these blaspheme the Holy Spirit, and do not count him in the Godhead with the Father and the Son (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section VI, Verses 1,1 and 1,3. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, pp.471-472).

According to The Catholic Encylopedia, at least one 4th century Pope acknowledged soundness of the faith of the Pneumatomachi:

Pneumatomachi…The majority of this sect were clearly orthodox on the Consubstantiality of the Son; they had sent a deputation from the Semi-Arian council of Lampsacus (364 A.D.) to Pope Liberius, who after some hesitation acknowledged the soundness of their faith; but with regard to the Third Person, both pope and bishops were satisfied with the phrase: “We believe in the Holy Ghost” (Arendzen, John. “Pneumatomachi.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 11 Jul. 2008 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12174a.htm>)

The Council of Rimini was also called the Council of Ariminum.  Notice what Sozomen reported about it:

The partisans of Acacius remained some time at Constantinople, and invited thither several bishops of Bithynia, among whom were Maris, bishop of Chalcedon, and Ulfilas, bishop of the Goths. These prelates having assembled together, in number about fifty, they confirmed the formulary read at the council of Ariminum, adding this provision, that the terms “substance” and “hypostasis” should never again be used in reference to God. They also declared that all other formularies set forth in times past, as likewise those that might be compiled at any future period, should be condemned (Sozomen, Book IV, Chapter 24 ).

Socrates Scholasticus reported the following as part of the declaration of that Council:

We believe in one God the Father Almighty…And in…Christ our Lord and God…

But since the term ούσία, substance or essence which was used by the fathers in a very simple and intelligible sense, but not being understood by the people, has been a cause of offense, we have thought proper to reject it, as it is not contained even in the sacred writings; and that no mention of it should be made in future, inasmuch as the holy Scriptures have nowhere mentioned the substance of the Father and of the Son. Nor ought the “subsistence” of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit to be even named. But we affirm that the Son is like the Father, in such a manner as the sacred Scriptures declare and teach (Socrates Scholasticus, Book II, Chapter 41, pp. 221,222).

The same Council also taught this about the Holy Spirit:

We believe also in the Holy Spirit…as the Comforter; according to how it is written, the Spirit of truth (Ibid, p. 221).

So while Semi-Arians believe that there is a Holy Spirit, they tend to limit their beliefs to what the Bible says about it—they do not declare it to be the third co-equal person of a non-existent Greco-Roman trinity.

In 359, there was also a semi-Arian council of Seleucia (359) attended by Greco-Roman church leaders (Bagatti, The Church from the Gentiles in Palestine, p.56). And “in 335, the semi-Arian bishops, returning from the council of Tyre” consecrated a basilica (Bagatti, The Church from the Gentiles in Palestine, p.59). In other words, even among the Greco-Roman bishops, many were “Semi-Arians.”

Here is another important semi-Arian bishop according to The Catholic Encyclopedia:

St. Cyril of Jerusalem Bishop of Jerusalem and Doctor of the Church, born about 315; died probably 18 March, 386… He appeared at the Council of Seleucia in 359, in which the Semi-Arian party was triumphant… He belonged to the Semi-Arian, or Homoean party, and is content to declare that the Son is “in all things like the Father” (Chapman, John. St. Cyril of Jerusalem. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 3 Feb. 2010 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04595b.htm>

While some have questioned if Cyril was semi-Arian, it is also known that Maximus II (who preceded him as bishop of Jerusalem) had semi-Arian views.

So, it should be abundantly clear that until the latter part of the 4th century, many (if not most) who professed Christ in Asia Minor and even Rome held to some type of a binitarian view and at least one Pope (Liberius) and one Patriarch (Macedonius) accepted that as sound. Have you been taught this before?

Here is more on “Pope” Liberius (the bishops of Rome did not actually take the title “Pope” until about 30 years after Liberius). It is also recorded:

Liberius (352-366)…the signing of a document that contained a formulation very close to the Arian thesis…he was criticized by many (Athanasius, Hilary of Poiters, Jerome) who saw this submission as a weakness due to fear of death (Lopes A. Translation by Charles Nopar. The Popes. Pontifical Administration, Rome, 1997, p. 12).

The Catholic Saint Jerome, while discussing Arian and anti-Arian writings wrote:

Fortunatianus, an African by birth, bishop of Aquilia during the reign of Constantius, composed brief Commentaries on the gospels arranged by chapters, written in a rustic style, and is held in detestation because, when Liberius bishop of Rome was driven into exile for the faith, he was induced by the urgency of Fortunatianus to subscribe to heresy. (Jerome. De Viris Illustribus (On Illustrious Men), Chapter 97).

So, it seems that while later Catholics believe that Liberius was pressured to appear to be Semi-Arian from imperial forces, that perhaps he was simply persuaded (or perhaps even was always Semi-Arian). Would a true “apostolic successor” hold a position that is now condemned by his own church as heresy?

If not, then Liberius (as only one such example) disproves the notion of an unbroken succession of bishops from Peter–hence Liberius is one more example of why the Catholics truly do not have apostolic succession (Macedonius, Bishop of Constantinople, also is another that disproves the Orthodox claim to succession–there were other Orthodox “Patriarchs’ who held similar views).

But the fact is that at least one bishop of Rome (Liberius), one bishop of Constantinople (Macedonius), and many other 4th century Greco-Roman bishops were still, at least partially, Semi-Arian–that is, they denied that the Holy Spirit was the third divine person in a trinity.

While those in the actual Church of God do believe in the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19), we do not believe that the Holy Spirit is the third divine person in a trinity as a council in 381 declared.

Even trinitarian scholars understand that the Holy Spirit is not biblically shown to be clearly a person. Notice the following written by a modern Orthodox scholar:

Roman Catholic and Orthodox theologians agree in recognizing a certain anonymity characterizes the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. While the names Father and Son denote very clear personal distinctions, are in no sense interchangeable, and cannot in any case refer to the common nature of the two hypostases, the name Holy Spirit does not have that advantage. Indeed, we say that God is Spirit, meaning by that the common nature as much as any one of the persons. We say that he is holy…Taken in itself, the term Holy Spirit thus might be applied, not to a personal distinction…In that sense, Thomas Aquinas was right in saying that…the name Holy Spirit has been given to him…we find an image of the economy of the Third Person rather than an image of his hypostatic character: we find the procession of a divine force or spirit which accomplishes sanctification. We reach a paradoxical conclusions: all that we know about the Holy Spirit refers to his economy; all that we do not know makes us venerate him as a person (Clendenin D.B. ed. Eastern Orthodox Theology, 2nd ed. Baker Academic, 2003, pp. 165-166).

The above is quite an astounding admission! The main trinitarian groups admit that the Holy Spirit is simply a procession of a divine force and that it is venerated as a person based upon what scripture does not say.

Did you know all of this? If not, perhaps you had better look into this further.

Items of related interest may include:

Did Early Christians Think the Holy Spirit Was A Separate Person in a Trinity? Or did they have a different view?
Binitarian View: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning Is binitarianism the correct position? What about unitarianism or trinitarianism?
Is The Father God? What is the view of the Bible? What was the view of the early church?
Jesus is God, But Was Made Man Was Jesus fully human and fully God or what?
Virgin Birth: Does the Bible Teach It? What does the Bible teach? What is claimed in The Da Vinci Code?
Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity? Most act like this is so, but is it?
Was Unitarianism the Teaching of the Bible or Early Church? Many, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, claim it was, but was it?
Binitarianism: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning This is a longer article than the Binitarian View article, and has a little more information on binitarianism, and less about unitarianism. A related sermon is also available: Binitarian view of the Godhead.
Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Continuing Church of God? Do you know that both groups shared a lot of the earliest teachings? Do you know which church changed? Do you know which group is most faithful to the teachings of the apostolic church? Which group best represents true Christianity? This documented article answers those questions.
Some Similarities and Differences Between the Orthodox Church and the Continuing Church of God Both groups claim to be the original church, but both groups have differing ways to claim it. Both groups have some amazing similarities and some major differences. Do you know what they are?
Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from Acts 2 to the 21st century. Related sermon links include Continuing History of the Church of God: c. 31 to c. 300 A.D. and Continuing History of the Church of God: 4th-16th Centuries and Continuing History of the Church of God: 17th-20th Centuries. The booklet is available in Spanish: Continuación de la Historia de la Iglesia de Dios, German: Kontinuierliche Geschichte der Kirche Gottes, French: L’Histoire Continue de l’Église de Dieu and Ekegusii Omogano Bw’ekanisa Ya Nyasae Egendererete.
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?

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