Filioque Controversy

General Information

Protestant Perspective

Based probably on the baptismal creed of Jerusalem, the Niceno - Constantinopolitan Creed contained a fuller statement concerning Christ and the Holy Spirit than the earlier formula. Its use in eucharistic worship is not much earlier than the 5th century.

The so - called Filioque ("and the Son") clause, expressing the double procession of the Spirit, was added at the Third Council of Toledo (589). The Nicene Creed is used by Roman Catholics, many Protestants, and the Eastern Orthodox; the last, however, reject the Filioque clause.

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General Information

Protestant Perspective

Filioque is a combination of Latin words meaning "and from the Son," added to the Nicene Creed by the Third Council of Toledo in 589: Credo in Spiritum Sanctum qui ex patre filioque procedit ("I believe in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and Son"). It refers to the doctrine of the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son. Although it was accepted by the Western church as a belief by the end of the 4th century, the formula was not authorized for general liturgical use before the early part of the 11th century. It was assailed vehemently by Photius, the patriarch of Constantinople (present-day Ýstanbul), in 867 and 879. The Eastern church did not accept the addition on two distinct grounds:

The filioque clause was probably devised in response to Arianism, which denied the full divinity of the Son. To the Byzantines, however, the clause also appeared to compromise the primacy ("monarchy") of the Father, which according to the Eastern church is the source of deity. An unsuccessful attempt to reconcile the two points of view was made at the Council of Ferrara-Florence in 1439. The Eastern and Western churches have remained separate, and the doctrine represented by the term filioque stands as one of the primary points of difference between them.


Advanced Information

The term means "and from the Son" and refers to the phrase in the Western version of the Nicene Creed which says that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Originally this was not in the confessions agreed to at Nicaea (325) and Constantinople (381). It seems to have been first inserted at the local Council of Toledo (589) and in spite of opposition gradually established itself in the West, being officially endorsed in 1017. Photius of Constantinople denounced it in the ninth century, and it formed the main doctrinal issue in the rupture between East and West in 1054. An attempted compromise at Florence in 1439 came to nothing. Among the fathers Hilary, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, Epiphanius, and Cyril of Alexandria may be cited in its favor; Theodore of Mopsuestia and Theodoret against it; with the Cappadocians occupying the middle ground of "from the Father through the Son."

On the Eastern side two points may be made. First, the relevant verse in John (15:26) speaks only of a proceeding from the Father. Second, the addition never had ecumenical approval.

Two points may also be made for the filioque. First, it safeguards the vital Nicene truth that the Son is consubstantial with the Father. Second, the Son as well as the Father sends the Spirit in John 15:26, and by analogy with this relationship to us we are justified in inferring that the Spirit proceeds from both Father and Son in the intratrinitarian relationship. Not to say this is to divorce the Spirit from the Son in contradiction of the passages that speak of him as the Spirit of Christ (cf. Rom. 8:9; Gal. 4:6).

G W Bromiley
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

K Barth, Church Dogmatics I / 1 12, 2; J N D Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines; H Thielicke, The Evangelical Faith, II,; H B Swete, History of the Doctrine of the Procession of the Holy Spirit.


General Information

Orthodox Perspective

By the 4th century a polarity developed between the Eastern and Western Christians in their respective understandings of the Trinity. In the West God was understood primarily in terms of one essence (the Trinity of Persons being conceived as an irrational truth found in revelation); in the East the tri-personality of God was understood as the primary fact of Christian experience. For most of the Greek Fathers, it was not the Trinity that needed theological proof but rather God's essential unity. The Cappadocian Fathers (Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Basil of Caesarea) were even accused of being tri-theists because of the personalistic emphasis of their conception of God as one essence in three hypostases (the Greek term hypostasis was the equivalent of the Latin substantia and designated a concrete reality). For Greek theologians, this terminology was intended to designate the concrete New Testamental revelation of the Son and the Spirit, as distinct from the Father.

Modern Orthodox theologians tend to emphasize this personalistic approach to God; they claim that they discover in it the original biblical personalism, unadulterated in its content by later philosophical speculation.

Polarization of the Eastern and the Western concepts of the Trinity is at the root of the Filioque dispute. The Latin word Filioque ("and from the Son") was added to the Nicene Creed in Spain in the 6th century. By affirming that the Holy Spirit proceeds not only "from the Father" (as the original creed proclaimed) but also "from the Son," the Spanish councils intended to condemn Arianism by reaffirming the Son's divinity. Later, however, the addition became an anti-Greek battle cry, especially after Charlemagne (9th century) made his claim to rule the revived Roman Empire. The addition was finally accepted in Rome under German pressure. It found justification in the framework of Western conceptions of the Trinity; the Father and the Son were viewed as one God in the act of "spiration" of the Spirit.

The Byzantine theologians opposed the addition, first on the ground that the Western Church had no right to change the text of an ecumenical creed unilaterally and, second, because the Filioque clause implied the reduction of the divine persons to mere relations ("the Father and the Son are two in relation to each other, but one in relation to the Spirit"). For the Greeks the Father alone is the origin of both the Son and the Spirit. Patriarch Photius (9th century) was the first Orthodox theologian to explicitly spell out the Greek opposition to the Filioque concept, but the debate continued throughout the Middle Ages.


Advanced Information

(An excerpt to our presentation regarding the Second Ecumenical Council, the First Council of Constantinople, of 381 AD, is presented here as indicating historical views on the subject.)

Historical Excursus on the Introduction into the Creed of the Words "and the Son."

The introduction into the Nicene Creed of the words "and the Son" (Filioque) has given rise to, or has been the pretext for, such bitter reviling between East and West (during which many statements unsupported by fact have become more or less commonly believed) that I think it well in this place to set forth as dispassionately as possible the real facts of the case. I shall briefly then give the proof of the following propositions:

1. That no pretence is made by the West that the words in dispute formed part of the original creed as adopted at Constantinople, or that they now form part of that Creed.

2. That so far from the insertion being made by the Pope, it was made in direct opposition to his wishes and command.

3. That it never was intended by the words to assert that there were two 'Archai in the Trinity, nor in any respect on this point to differ from the teaching of the East.

4. That it is quite possible that the words were not an intentional insertion at all.

5. And finally that the doctrine of the East as set forth by St. John Damascene is now and always has been the doctrine of the West on the procession of the Holy Spirit, however much through ecclesiastico-political contingencies this fact may have become obscured.

With the truth or falsity of the doctrine set forth by the Western addition to the creed this work has no concern, nor even am I called upon to treat the historical question as to when and where the expression "and the Son" was first used. For a temperate and eminently scholarly treatment of this point from a Western point of view, I would refer the reader to Professor Swete's On the History of the Doctrine of the Procession of the Holy Spirit. In J. M. Neale's History of the Holy Eastern Church will be found a statement from the opposite point of view. The great treatises of past years I need not mention here, but may be allowed to enter a warning to the reader, that they were often written in the period of hot controversy, and make more for strife than for peace, magnifying rather than lessening differences both of thought and expression.

Perhaps, too, I may be allowed here to remind the readers that it has been said that while "ex Patre Filioque procedens" in Latin does not necessitate a double source of the Holy Spirit, the expression ekporeuomenon ek tou patros kai ek tou Huiou does. On such a point I am not fit to give an opinion, but St. John Damascene does not use this expression.

1. That no pretence is made by the West that the words in dispute ever formed part of the creed as adopted at Constantinople is evidently proved by the patent fact that it is printed without those words in all our Concilias and in all our histories. It is true that at the Council of Florence it was asserted that the words were found in a copy of the Acts of the Seventh Ecumenical which they had, but no stress was even at that eminently Western council laid upon the point, which even if it had been the case would have shewn nothing with regard to the true reading of the Creed as adopted by the Second Synod. [210]On this point there never was nor can be any doubt.

2. The addition was not made at the will and at the bidding of the Pope. It has frequently been said that it was a proof of the insufferable arrogancy of the See of Rome that it dared to tamper with the creed set forth by the authority of an Ecumenical Synod and which had been received by the world. Now so far from the history of this addition to the creed being a ground of pride and complacency to the advocates of the Papal claims, it is a most marked instance of the weakness of the papal power even in the West.

"Baronius," says Dr. Pusey, "endeavours in vain to find any Pope, to whom the `formal addition' may be ascribed, and rests at last on a statement of a writer towards the end of the 12th century, writing against the Greeks. `If the Council of Constantinople added to the Nicene Creed, `in the Holy Ghost, the Lord, and Giver of life,' and the Council of Chalcedon to that of Constantinople, `perfect in Divinity and perfect in Humanity, consubstantial with the Father as touching his Godhead, consubstantial with us as touching his manhood,' and some other things as aforesaid, the Bishop of the elder Rome ought not to be calumniated, because for explanation, he added one word [that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son] having the consent of very many bishops and most learned Cardinals.' `For the truth of which,' says Le Quien, `be the author responsible!' It seems to me inconceivable, that all account of any such proceeding, if it ever took place, should have been lost." [211]

We may then dismiss this point and briefly review the history of the matter.

There seems little doubt that the words were first inserted in Spain. As early as the year 400 it had been found necessary at a Council of Toledo to affirm the double procession against the Priscillianists, [212] and in 589 by the authority of the Third Council of Toledo the newly converted Goths were required to sign the creed with the addition. [213]From this time it became for Spain the accepted form, and was so recited at the Eighth Council of Toledo in 653, and again in 681 at the Twelfth Council of Toledo. [214]

But this was at first only true of Spain, and at Rome nothing of the kind was known. In the Gelasian Sacramentary the Creed is found in its original form. [215]The same is the case with the old Gallican Sacramentary of the viith or viiith century. [216]

However, there can be no doubt that its introduction spread very rapidly through the West and that before long it was received practically everywhere except at Rome.

In 809 a council was held at Aix-la-Chapelle by Charlemagne, and from it three divines were sent to confer with the Pope, Leo III, upon the subject. The Pope opposed the insertion of the Filioque on the express ground that the General Councils had forbidden any addition to be made to their formulary. [217]Later on, the Frankish Emperor asked his bishops what was "the meaning of the Creed according to the Latins," [218] and Fleury gives the result of the investigations to have been, "In France they continued to chant the creed with the word Filioque, and at Rome they continued not to chant it." [219]

So firmly resolved was the Pope that the clause should not be introduced into the creed that he presented two silver shields to the Confessio in St. Peter's at Rome, on one of which was engraved the creed in Latin and on the other in Greek, without the addition. This act the Greeks never forgot during the controversy. Photius refers to it in writing to the Patriarch of Acquileia. About two centuries later St. Peter Damian [220] mentions them as still in place; and about two centuries later on, Veccur, Patriarch of Constantinople, declares they hung there still. [221]

It was not till 1014 that for the first time the interpolated creed was used at mass with the sanction of the Pope. In that year Benedict VIII. acceded to the urgent request of Henry II. of Germany and so the papal authority was forced to yield, and the silver shields have disappeared from St. Peter's.

3. Nothing could be clearer than that the theologians of the West never had any idea of teaching a double source of the Godhead. The doctrine of the Divine Monarchy was always intended to be preserved, and while in the heat of the controversy sometimes expressions highly dangerous, or at least clearly inaccurate, may have been used, yet the intention must be judged from the prevailing teaching of the approved theologians. And what this was is evident from the definition of the Council of Florence, which, while indeed it was not received by the Eastern Church, and therefore cannot be accepted as an authoritative exposition of its views, yet certainly must be regarded as a true and full expression of the teaching of the West. "The Greeks asserted that when they say the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father, they do not use it because they wish to exclude the Son; but because it seemed to them, as they say, that the Latins assert the Holy Spirit to proceed from the Father and the Son, as from two principles and by two spirations, and therefore they abstain from saying that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. But the Latins affirm that they have no intention when they say the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son to deprive the Father of his prerogative of being the fountain and principle of the entire Godhead, viz. of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; nor do they deny that the very procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son, the Son derives from the Father; nor do they teach two principles or two spirations; but they assert that there is one only principle, one only spiration, as they have always asserted up to this time."

4. It is quite possible that when these words were first used there was no knowledge on the part of those using them that there had been made any addition to the Creed. As I have already pointed out, the year 589 is the earliest date at which we find the words actually introduced into the Creed. Now there can be no doubt whatever that the Council of Toledo of that year had no suspicion that the creed as they had it was not the creed exactly as adopted at Constantinople. This is capable of the most ample proof.

In the first place they declared, "Whosoever believes that there is any other Catholic faith and communion, besides that of the Universal Church, that Church which holds and honours the decrees of the Councils of Nice, Constantinople, I. Ephesus, and Chalcedon, let him be anathema." After some further anathemas in the same sense they repeat "the creed published at the council of Nice," and next, "The holy faith which the 150 fathers of the Council of Constantinople explained, consonant with the great Council of Nice." And then lastly, "The holy faith which the translators of the council of Chalcedon explained." The creed of Constantinople as recited contained the words "and from the Son." Now the fathers at Toledo were not ignorant of the decree of Ephesus forbidding the making of "another faith" (heteran pistin) for they themselves cite it, as follows from the acts of Chalcedon; "The holy and universal Synod forbids to bring forward any other faith; or to write or believe or to teach other, or be otherwise minded. But whoso shall dare either to expound or produce or deliver any other faith to those who wish to be converted etc." Upon this Dr. Pusey well remarks, [222] "It is, of course, impossible to suppose that they can have believed any addition to the creed to have been forbidden by the clause, and, accepting it with its anathema, themselves to have added to the creed of Constantinople."

But while this is the case it might be that they understood heteran of the Ephesine decree to forbid the making of contradictory and new creeds and not explanatory additions to the existing one. Of this interpretation of the decree, which would seem without any doubt to be the only tenable one, I shall treat in its proper place.

We have however further proof that the Council of Toledo thought they were using the unaltered creed of Constantinople. In these acts we find they adopted the following; "for reverence of the most holy faith and for the strengthening of the weak minds of men, the holy Synod enacts, with the advice of our most pious and most glorious Lord, King Recarede, that through all the churches of Spain and Gallæcia, the symbol of faith of the council of Constantinople, i.e. of the 150 bishops, should be recited according to the form of the Eastern Church, etc."

This seems to make the matter clear and the next question which arises is, How the words could have got into the Spanish creed? I venture to suggest a possible explanation. Epiphanius tells us that in the year 374 "all the orthodox bishops of the whole Catholic Church together make this address to those who come to baptism, in order that they may proclaim and say as follows." [223]If this is to be understood literally of course Spain was included. Now the creed thus taught the catechumens reads as follows at the point about which our interest centres:

Kai eis to hagion pneuma pisteuomen,...ek tou patros ekporeuomenon kai ek tou Huiou lambanomenon kai pisteuomenon, eis mian katholiken k.t.l. Now it looks to me as if the text had got corrupted and that there should be a full stop after lambanomenon, and that pisteuomenon should be pisteuomen. These emendations are not necessary however for my suggestion although they would make it more perfect, for in that case by the single omission of the word lambanomenon the Western form is obtained. It will be noticed that this was some years before the Constantinopolitan Council and therefore nothing would be more natural than that a scribe accustomed to writing the old baptismal creed and now given the Constantinopolitan creed, so similar to it, to copy, should have gone on and added the kai ek tou Huiou, according to habit.

However this is a mere suggestion, I think I have shewn that there is strong reason to believe that whatever the explanation may be, the Spanish Church was unaware that it had added to or changed the Constantinopolitan creed.

5. There remains now only the last point, which is the most important of all, but which does not belong to the subject matter of this volume and which therefore I shall treat with the greatest brevity. The writings of St. John Damascene are certainly deemed entirely orthodox by the Easterns and always have been. On the other hand their entire orthodoxy has never been disputed in the West, but a citation from Damascene is considered by St. Thomas as conclusive. Under these circumstances it seems hard to resist the conclusion that the faith of the East and the West, so far as its official setting forth is concerned, is the same and always has been. And perhaps no better proof of the Western acceptance of the Eastern doctrine concerning the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit can be found than the fact that St. John Damascene has been in recent years raised by the pope for his followers to the rank of a Doctor of the Catholic Church.

Perhaps I may be allowed to close with two moderate statements of the Western position, the one by the learned and pious Dr. Pusey and the other by the none less famous Bishop Pearson.

Dr. Pusey says:

"Since, however, the clause, which found its way into the Creed, was, in the first instance, admitted, as being supposed to be part of the Constantinopolitan Creed, and, since after it had been rooted for 200 years, it was not uprooted, for fear of uprooting also or perplexing the faith of the people, there was no fault either in its first reception or in its subsequent retention."

"The Greeks would condemn forefathers of their own, if they were to pronounce the clause to be heretical. For it would be against the principles of the Church to be in communion with an heretical body. But from the deposition of Photius, a.d. 886 to at least a.d. 1009, East and West retained their own expression of faith without schism. [224] "

"a.d. 1077, Theophylact did not object to the West, retaining for itself the confession of faith contained in the words, but only excepted against the insertion of the words in the Creed. [225] "

And Bp. Pearson, explaining Article VIII. of the Creed says: "Now although the addition of words to the formal Creed without the consent, and against the protestations of the Oriental Church be not justifiable; yet that which was added is nevertheless a certain truth, and may be so used in that Creed by them who believe the same to be a truth; so long as they pretend it not to be a definition of that Council, but an addition or explication inserted, and condemn not those who, out of a greater respect to such synodical determinations, will admit of no such insertions, nor speak any other language than the Scriptures and their Fathers spoke."


[210] In fact the contention of the Latins was that the words were inserted by II. Nice! To this the Easterns answered most pertinently "Why did you not tell us this long ago?" They were not so fortunate when they insisted that St. Thomas would have quoted it, for some scholars have thought St. Thomas but ill acquainted with the proceedings at the Seventh Synod. Vide Hefele, Concil. XLVIII., § 810. [211] E. B. Pusey. On the clause "and The Son," p. 68. [212] Hefele. Hist. of the Councils, Vol. III., p. 175. [213] Hefele. Hist. Counc., Vol. IV., p. 416. [214] Hefele. Hist. Counc., Vol. IV., p. 470; Vol. V., p. 208. [215] Muratorius. Ord. Rom., Tom. I., col. 541. [216] Mabillon. Mus. Ital., Tom. I., p. 313 and p. 376. [217] Labbe and Cossart. Concilia, Tom. vii., col. 1194. [218] Capit. Reg. Franc., Tom. I., p. 483. [219] Fleury. Hist. Eccl., Liv. xlv., chap. 48. [220] Pet. Damian. Opusc., xxxviii. [221] Leo Allat. Græc. Orthod., Tom. I., p. 173. [222] E. B. Pusey. On the clause, "and the Son," p. 48. [223] Epiphanius, Ancoratus, cxx. [224] Peter of Antioch about a.d. 1054, says that he had heard the name of the Roman Pontiff recited from the Diptychs at the mass at Constantinople forty-five years before. Le Quien, p. xii. [225] E. B. Pusey. On the clause "and the Son," p. 72.


Catholic Information

Filioque is a theological formula of great dogmatic and historical importance. On the one hand, it expresses the Procession of the Holy Ghost from both Father and Son as one Principle; on the other, it was the occasion of the Greek schism. Both aspects of the expression need further explanation.


The dogma of the double Procession of the Holy Ghost from Father and Son as one Principle is directly opposed to the error that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father, not from the Son. Neither dogma nor error created much difficulty during the course of the first four centuries. Macedonius and his followers, the so-called Pneumatomachi, were condemned by the local Council of Alexandria (362) and by Pope St. Damasus (378) for teaching that the Holy Ghost derives His origin from the Son alone, by creation. If the creed used by the Nestorians, which was composed probably by Theodore of Mopsuestia, and the expressions of Theodoret directed against the ninth anathema by Cyril of Alexandria, deny that the Holy Ghost derives His existence from or through the Son, they probably intend to deny only the creation of the Holy Ghost by or through the Son, inculcating at the same time His Procession from both Father and Son. At any rate, if the double Procession of the Holy Ghost was discussed at all in those earlier times, the controversy was restricted to the East and was of short duration.

The first undoubted denial of the double Procession of the Holy Ghost we find in the seventh century among the heretics of Constantinople when St. Martin I (649-655), in his synodal writing against the Monothelites, employed the expression "Filioque". Nothing is known about the further development of this controversy; it does not seem to have assumed any serious proportions, as the question was not connected with the characteristic teaching of the Monothelites.

In the Western church the first controversy concerning the double Procession of the Holy Ghost was conducted with the envoys of the Emperor Constantine Copronymus, in the Synod of Gentilly near Paris, held in the time of Pepin (767). The synodal Acts and other information do not seem to exist. At the beginning of nineth century, John, a Greek monk of the monastery of St. Sabas, charged the monks of Mt. Olivet with heresy, they had inserted the Filioque into the Creed. In the second half the same century, Photius, the successor of the unjustly deposed Ignatius, Patriarch of Constantinople (858), denied the Procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son, and opposed the insertion of the Filioque into the Constantinopolitan creed. The same position was maintained towards the end of the tenth century by the Patriarchs Sisinnius and Sergius, and about the middle of the eleventh century by the Patriarch Michael Caerularius, who renewed and completed the Greek schism.

The rejection of the Filioque, or the double Procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father and Son, and the denial of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff constitute even today the principal errors of the Greek church. While outside the Church doubt as to the double Procession of the Holy Ghost grew into open denial, inside the Church the doctrine of the Filioque was declared to be a dogma of faith in the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), the Second council of Lyons (1274), and the Council of Florence (1438-1445). Thus the Church proposed in a clear and authoritative form the teaching of Sacred Scripture and tradition on the Procession of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.

As to the Sacred Scripture, the inspired writers call the Holy Ghost the Spirit of the Son (Galatians 4:6), the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9), the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:19), just as they call Him the Spirit of the Father (Matthew 10:20) and the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:11). Hence they attribute to the Holy Ghost the same relation to the Son as to the Father.

Again, according to Sacred Scripture, the Son sends the Holy Ghost (Luke 24:49; John 15:26; 16:7; 20:22; Acts 2:33; Titus 3:6), just as the Father sends the Son (Romans 3:3; etc.), and as the Father sends the Holy Ghost (John 14:26).

Now the "mission" or "sending" of one Divine Person by another does not mean merely that the Person said to be sent assumes a particular character, at the suggestion of Himself in the character of Sender, as the Sabellians maintained; nor does it imply any inferiority in the Person sent, as the Arians taught; but it denotes, according to the teaching of the weightier theologians and Fathers, the Procession of the Person sent from the Person Who sends. Sacred Scripture never presents the Father as being sent by the Son, nor the Son as being sent by the Holy Ghost. The very idea of the term "mission" implies that the person sent goes forth for a certain purpose by the power of the sender, a power exerted on the person sent by way of a physical impulse, or of a command, or of prayer, or finally of production; now, Procession, the analogy of production, is the only manner admissible in God. It follows that the inspired writers present the Holy Ghost as proceeding from the Son, since they present Him as sent by the Son. Finally, St. John (16:13-15) gives the words of Christ: "What things soever he [the Spirit] shall hear, he shall speak; ...he shall receive of mine, and shew it to you. All things whatsoever the Father hath, are mine." Here a double consideration is in place. First, the Son has all things that the Father hath, so that He must resemble the Father in being the Principle from which the Holy Ghost proceeds. Secondly, the Holy Ghost shall receive "of mine" according to the words of the Son; but Procession is the only conceivable way of receiving which does not imply dependence or inferiority. In other words, the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son.

The teaching of Sacred Scripture on the double Procession of the Holy Ghost was faithfully preserved in Christian tradition. Even the Greek Orthodox grant that the Latin Fathers maintain the Procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son. The great work on the Trinity by Petavius (Lib. VII, cc. iii sqq.) develops the proof of this contention at length. Here we mention only some of the later documents in which the patristic doctrine has been clearly expressed:

the dogmatic letter of St. Leo I to Turribius, Bishop of Astorga, Ep. XV, c. i (447);

the so-called Athanasian Creed;

several councils held at Toledo in the years 447, 589 (III), 675 (XI), 693 (XVI);

the letter of Pope Hormisdas to the Emperor Justius, Ep. lxxix (521);

St. Martin I's synodal utterance against the Monothelites, 649-655;

Pope Adrian I's answer to the Caroline Books, 772-795;

the Synods of MĂ©rida (666), Braga (675), and Hatfield (680);

the writing of Pope Leo III (d. 816) to the monks of Jerusalem;

the letter of Pope Stephen V (d. 891) to the Moravian King Suentopolcus (Suatopluk), Ep. xiii;

the symbol of Pope Leo IX (d. 1054);

the Fourth Lateran Council, 1215;

the Second Council of Lyons, 1274; and the

Council of Florence, 1439.

Some of the foregoing conciliar documents may be seen in Hefele, "Conciliengeschichte" (2d ed.), III, nn. 109, 117, 252, 411; cf. P.G. XXVIII, 1557 sqq. Bessarion, speaking in the Council of Florence, inferred the tradition of the Greek Church from the teaching of the Latin; since the Greek and Latin Fathers before the ninth century were the members of the same Church, it is antecedently improbable that the Eastern Fathers should have denied a dogma firmly maintained by the Western. Moreover, there are certain considerations which form a direct proof for the belief of the Greek Fathers in the double Procession of the Holy Ghost.

First, the Greek Fathers enumerate the Divine Persons in the same order as the Latin Fathers; they admit that the Son and the Holy Ghost are logically and ontologically connected in the same way as the Son and Father [St. Basil, Ep. cxxv; Ep. xxxviii (alias xliii) ad Gregor. fratrem; "Adv.Eunom.", I, xx, III, sub init.]

Second, the Greek Fathers establish the same relation between the Son and the Holy Ghost as between the Father and the Son; as the Father is the fountain of the Son, so is the Son the fountain of the Holy Ghost (Athanasius, Ep. ad Serap. I, xix, sqq.; "De Incarn.", ix; Orat. iii, adv. Arian., 24; Basil, "Adv. Eunom.", v, in P.G.., XXIX, 731; cf. Greg. Naz., Orat. xliii, 9).

Third, passages are not wanting in the writings of the Greek Fathers in which the Procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son is clearly maintained: Greg. Thaumat., "Expos. fidei sec.", vers. saec. IV, in Rufius, Hist. Eccl., VII, xxv; Epiphanius, Haer., c. lxii, 4; Greg. Nyss. Hom. iii in orat. domin.); Cyril of Alexandria, "Thes.", ass. xxxiv; the second canon of synod of forty bishops held in 410 at Seleucia in Mesopotamia; the Arabic versions of the Canons of St. Hippolytus; the Nestorian explanation of the Symbol.

The only Scriptural difficulty deserving our attention is based on the words of Christ as recorded in John 15:26, that the Spirit proceeds from the Father, without mention being made of the Son. But in the first place, it can not be shown that this omission amounts to a denial; in the second place, the omission is only apparent, as in the earlier part of the verse the Son promises to "send" the Spirit. The Procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son is not mentioned in the Creed of Constantinople, because this Creed was directed against the Macedonian error against which it sufficed to declare the Procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father. The ambiguous expressions found in some of the early writers of authority are explained by the principles which apply to the language of the early Fathers generally.


It has been seen that the Creed of Constantinople at first declared only the Procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father; it was directed against the followers of Macedonius who denied the Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father. In the East, the omission of Filioque did not lead to any misunderstanding. But conditions were different in Spain after the Goths had renounced Arianism and professed the Catholic faith in the Third Synod of Toledo, 589. It cannot be acertained who first added the Filioque to the Creed; but it appears to be certain that the Creed, with the addition of the Filioque, was first sung in the Spanish Church after the conversion of the Goths. In 796 the Patriarch of Aquileia justified and adopted the same addition at the Synod of Friaul, and in 809 the Council of Aachen appears to have approved of it. The decrees of this last council were examined by Pope Leo III, who approved of the doctrine conveyed by the Filioque, but gave the advice to omit the expression in the Creed. The practice of adding the Filioque was retained in spite of the papal advice, and in the middle of the eleventh century it had gained a firm foothold in Rome itself. Scholars do not agree as to the exact time of its introduction into Rome, but most assign it to the reign of Benedict VIII (1014-15).

The Catholic doctrine was accepted by the Greek deputies who were present at the Second Council of Florence, in 1439, when the Creed was sung both in Greek and Latin, with the addition of the word Filioque. On each occasion it was hoped that the Patriarch of Constantinople and his subjects had abandoned the state of heresy and schism in which they had been living since the time of Photius, who about 870 found in the Filioque an excuse for throwing off all dependence on Rome. But however sincere the individual Greek bishops may have been, they failed to carry their people with them, and the breach between East and West continues to this day.

It is a matter for surprise that so abstract a subject as the doctrine of the double Procession of the Holy Ghost should have appealed to the imagination of the multitude. But their national feelings had been aroused by the desire of liberation from the rule of the ancient rival of Constantinople; the occasion of lawfully obtaining their desire appeared to present itself in the addition of Filioque to the Creed of Constantinople. Had not Rome overstepped her rights by disobeying the injunction of the Third Council, of Ephesus (431), and of the Fourth, of Chalcedon (451)?

It is true that these councils had forbidden to introduce another faith or another Creed, and had imposed the penalty of deposition on bishops and clerics, and of excommunication on monks and laymen for transgressing this law; but the councils had not forbidden to explain the same faith or to propose the same Creed in a clearer way. Besides, the conciliar decrees affected individual transgressors, as is plain from the sanction added; they did not bind the Church as a body. Finally, the Councils of Lyons and Florence did not require the Greeks to insert the Filioque into the Creed, but only to accept the Catholic doctrine of the double Procession of the Holy Ghost.

Publication information Written by A.J. Maas. Transcribed by Mary and Joseph P. Thomas. In memory of Father E. C. Joseph The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VI. Published 1909. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, September 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York

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