Pope Francis speaks about the Holy Spirit and trinity, but this differs from the beliefs of early Christians

Pope Francis (by Aibdescalzo)


Pope Francis spoke in Vatican City today.  Here is a Catholic supplied translation into English of what he said:

May 8, 2013

Dear brothers and sisters,

Good morning! The Easter season that we are living with joy, guided by the Church’s liturgy, is par excellence the time of the Holy Spirit, given “without measure” (cf. Jn 3:34) by Jesus, crucified and risen. This time of grace ends with the feast of Pentecost, in which the Church relives the outpouring of the Spirit upon Mary and the Apostles gathered in prayer in the Cenacle.

But who is the Holy Spirit? In the Creed we profess with faith: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life”. The first truth to which we adhere in the Creed is that the Holy Spirit is Kýrios, Lord. This means that he is truly God, as the Father and Son are, the object, for our part, of the same act of adoration and glorification that we address to the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Blessed Trinity; he is the great gift of the risen Christ that opens our minds and our hearts to faith in Jesus as the Son sent by the Father and that leads us to friendship, to communion with God.  http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/on-the-blessed-trinity

It is interesting to me, at least, that he again mentions Mary in a similar fashion to the original apostles (Francis mentions Mary a lot and has entrusted his pontificate to his version of her).  He also mentioned the Cenacle.

The Cenacle reference is to the upper room where the apostles gathered for Pentecost in Acts 2.   Although the building that is now called the Cenacle is not likely that location, it is at/near the location of the first known Christian building–it is possible that the Apostle John may have been there on one or more occasions.  But the Christians that met there did not teach that the Holy Spirit was the third person in the Greco-Roman trinity that Pope Francis is teaching about.

In the New Testament, John begins by making the duality of God clear when he wrote,

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made (John 1:1-3).

Thus the Apostle John was inspired to write that the Word was God and was with God. And the Word, Jesus, is a lot like God the Father, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). John never refers to the Holy Spirit as God.

Furthermore, the Apostle Paul mentions the Father and Jesus in every introduction of every book he wrote (Rom 1:7;I Cor 1:3;II Cor 1:2;Gal 1:3;Eph 1:2; Phil 1:2;Col 1:2;I The 1:1;II Thes 1:2;I Tim 1:2;II Tim 1:2;Ti 1:1;Phi 1:3;Heb 1:1-2;), but he never mentions the Holy Spirit–this is known as a binitarian position. If the Holy Spirit was a co-equal member of the trinity, could this possibly be blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:28-29) (see also What is the Unpardonable Sin?)?

Many considers saints/Christians by the Greco-Roman churches also held binitarian positions.

The Greco-Roman saint Irenaeus taught:

there is none other called God by the Scriptures except the Father of all, and the Son, and those who possess the adoption (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book IV, Preface, Verse 4. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

The above is clearly a binitarian, not trinitarian view.

Notice, also in the late second century, an apologist named Athenagoras wrote the following:

And, the Son being in the Father and the Father in the Son, in oneness and power of spirit, the understanding and reason (nous kai logos) of the Father is the Son of God…The Holy Spirit…which operates in the prophets, we assert to be an effluence of God, flowing from Him, and returning back again like a beam of the sun…Who, then, would not be astonished to hear men who speak of God the Father, and of God the Son, and of the Holy Spirit and who declare both their power in union and their distinction in order, called atheists?

…the Spirit an effluence, as light from fire. (Athenagoras. A Plea for the Christians, Chapter X. Translated by B.P. Pratten. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Thus Athenagoras explained that the Father and the Son are God, have a onesness of power and spirit, and that the Holy Spirit is the effluence of God. He never called the Holy Spirit God. And he stated that both, the Father and the Son (the term in English refers to two), are both God and distinct–this is a binitarian view. As are his two assertions that the Holy Spirit is an effluence.

Around 108 A.D., Ignatius of Antioch referred to the Father as God and Jesus as God (see Binitarian article) , but not the Holy Spirit. Actually, here is what he taught about the Holy Spirit:

…using as a rope the Holy Spirit (Ignatius. Letter to the Ephesians, 9:1. In Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers, Greek Texts and English Translations. Baker Books, Grand Rapids (MI), 2004, p.143).

For our God, Jesus Christ, was conceived by Mary according to God’s plan, both from the seed of David and of the Holy Spirit (Ignatius. Letter to the Ephesians, 18:2, p.149).

appointed by the mind of Jesus Christ, whom he, in accordance with his own will securely established by his Holy Spirit…the Spirit is not deceived as it is from God (Ignatius. Letter to the Philadelphians. 0:1,7:1, pp.177,181).

Referring to the Holy Spirit as it and a rope suggests that it is the power of God and not a person.

Also, Polycarp (famous bishop of Smyrna and disciple of the Apostle John) specifically called the Father God and Jesus God (see Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians), he never referred to the Holy Spirit that way. Here is the only extant direct quote from Polycarp that clearly mentions the Holy Spirit:

I bless you because you have considered me worthy of this day and hour, that I might receive a place among the number of martyrs in the cup of your Christ, to the resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and of body, in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. May I be received among them in your presence today, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as you have prepared and revealed beforehand, and have now accomplished, you who are the faithful and true God. For this reason, indeed for all things, I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you, through the eternal and heavenly High-priest, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, through whom to you with him and the Holy Spirit be glory both now and for the ages to come. Amen (The Martyrdom of Polycarp, 14:2-3. In Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers, Greek Texts and English Translations. Baker Books, Grand Rapids (MI), 2004, p.143).

Furthermore, Melito of Sardis was a leader who Polycrates claimed to be faithful to the teachings he learned from the Apostle John and Polycarp. And here is what Melito (whom Catholics and others consider to be a saint) wrote:

No eye can see Him, nor thought apprehend Him, nor language describe Him; and those who love Him speak of Him thus: `Father, and God of Truth” (Melito. A Discourse Which Was in the Presence of Antoninus Caesar).

Melito also wrote, “For the deeds done by Christ after His baptism, and especially His miracles, gave indication and assurance to the world of the Deity hidden in His flesh. For, being at once both God and perfect man likewise…He concealed the signs of His Deity, although He was the true God existing before all ages” (Melito. On the Nature of Christ. From Roberts and Donaldson).

This clearly shows that Melito considered Christ to be God, as well as the Father. There is no indication in any of the surviving writings of Melito that he considered that the Holy Spirit was also God. His writings, like those of Ignatius and Polycarp, suggest that the Holy Spirit was simply the power of God as he wrote:

The tongue of the LordHis Holy Spirit. In the Psalm: “My tongue is a pen.” (Melito. From the Oration on Our Lord’s Passion, IX. Online version copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/melito.html 7/26/06).

The finger of the Lord-the Holy Spirit, by whose operation the tables of the law in Exodus are said to have been written (Melito. From the Oration on Our Lord’s Passion. Online version copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/melito.html 7/26/06).

Since God had the written the ten commandments Himself (Exodus 31:18), this shows that Melito only considered the Holy Spirit to be the power of God, not a separate person.

An other view, seems to be that the Holy Spirit was either the Father or the Son, but not a separate person. Although the following makes trinitarian claims, it is consistent with that view:

In the second and third centuries, the dynamic or modalistic Monarchians (certain Ebionites, it is said, Theodotus of Byzantium, Paul of Samosata, Praxeas, Noëtus, Sabellius, and the Patripassians generally) held that the same Divine Person, according to His different operations or manifestations, is in turn called the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; so they recognized a purely nominal Trinity…

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. They placed Him among the spirits, inferior ministers of God, but higher than the angels (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).

Two points about that quote:

First, the Ebionites, according to the research I have done generally did not believe in the trinity (they held either an Arian or Semi-Arian position–there were different beliefs amongst those labeled Ebionites).

And second, the idea that the Holy Spirit was not considered to be a separate person did not originate in the fourth century. The fact that many 4th century Catholic/Orthodox bishops did not believe that the Holy Spirit was a separate person clearly demonstrates that the idea of the trinity as now understood clearly was not understood by the early church. The early church has a binitarian (sometimes called semi-arian) view of the Godhead.

Notice that the Cathecism of the Catholic Church admits:

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).

Perhaps it should be pointed out that the apostles had all been dead for hundreds of years before the position was agreed upon in 381 A.D.

Dr. Ray Pritz correctly observed:

The doctrine of the Holy Spirit was the slowest to develop in the doctrine of the trinity by the Church catholic (Pritz R.  Nazarene Jewish Christianity.  Magnas, Jerusalem, 1988, p.90).

Which, of course, shows that the Catholic “sacred tradition” on that did not come from the Bible nor the original apostles.

Some will accept late tradition over the Bible.  What about you?

Some 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?
What is the Holy Spirit? This is an article by Rod Reynolds.
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?
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 shorter article than the Binitarian View article, but has a little more information on binitarianism.
Valentinus: The Gnostic Trinitarian Heretic He apparently was the first Christ-professing heretic to come up with the idea of three hypostases.
Tradition and Scripture: From the Bible and Church Writings Are traditions on equal par with scripture? Many believe that is what Peter, John, and Paul taught. But did they?
The Last Pope: Do Biblical and Catholic Prophecies Point to Pope Francis I? What does the Bible say about a pope near this time? Is the final pope to be an antipope and antichrist? Does Catholic prophecy point to Pope Francis as being the dreaded “Peter the Roma”? This 186 page book provides information and answers.
The Last Pope: Do Biblical and Catholic Prophecies Point to Pope Francis I? Kindle This electronic version of the printed book which is available for only US$2.99. And you do not need an actual Kindle device to read it. Why? Amazon will allow you to download it to almost any device: Please click HERE to download one of Amazon s Free Reader Apps. After you go to for your free Kindle reader and then go to The Last Pope: Do Biblical and Catholic Prophecies Point to Pope Francis I? Kindle.
The Malachy Prophecies and “Peter the Roman” An Irish bishop allegedly predicted something about 112 popes in the 12th century. Pope Benedict XVI was number 111. Francis I would be number 112–if he is that one–and if so, he is to reign until Rome is destroyed. May he be an antipope/final Antichrist?
Could Pope Francis be the Last Pope and Antichrist? According to some interpretations of the prophecies of the popes by the Catholic saint and Bishop Malachy, Pope Francis I is in the position of “Peter the Roman,” the pontiff who reigns during tribulations until around the time of the destruction of Rome. Do biblical prophecies warn of someone that sounds like Peter the Roman? Could Francis I be the heretical antipope of Catholic private prophecies and the final Antichrist of Bible prophecy? This is a YouTube video.
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.

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