Homoousion (; Greek: , romanized: homooúsion, lit. 'same in being, same in essence', from ?, homós, "same" and , ousía, "being" or "essence") is a Christian theological term, most notably used in the Nicene Creed for describing Jesus (God the Son) as "same in being" or "same in essence" with God the Father ( ). The same term was later also applied to the Holy Spirit in order to designate him as being "same in essence" with the Father and the Son. Those notions became cornerstones of theology in Nicene Christianity, and also represent one of the most important theological concepts within the Trinitarian doctrinal understanding of God.
The term , the accusative case form of homoousios "consubstantial", was adopted at the First Council of Nicaea (325) in order to clarify the ontology of Christ. From its Greek original, the term was translated into other languages. In Latin, which is lacking a present participle of the verb 'to be', two main corresponding variants occurred. Since the Aristotelian term ousia was commonly translated in Latin as essentia (essence) or substantia (substance), the Greek term homoousios was consequently translated into Latin as coessentialis or consubstantialis. Hence the English terms coessential and consubstantial. Some modern scholars have pointed out that Greek term homoousios is properly translated as coessential, while consubstantial has a much wider spectrum of meanings.
The term had been used before its adoption by the First Council of Nicaea. The Gnostics were the first to use the word , while before the Gnostics there is no trace at all of its existence.[excessive citations] The early church theologians were probably made aware of this concept, and thus of the doctrine of emanation, taught by the Gnostics. In Gnostic texts the word is used with the following meanings:
For example, Basilides, the first known Gnostic thinker to use in the first half of the 2nd century AD, speaks of a threefold sonship consubstantial with the god who is not. The Valentinian Gnostic Ptolemy claims in his letter to Flora that it is the nature of the good God to beget and bring forth only beings similar to, and consubstantial with, himself. The term was already in current use by the 2nd-century Gnostics, and through their works it became known to the orthodox heresiologists, though this Gnostic use of the term had no reference to the specific relationship between Father and Son, as is the case in the Nicene Creed.
The Nicene Creed is the official doctrine of most Christian churches - the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox churches, Church of the East, and Anglican Communion, as well as Lutheran, Reformed, Evangelical, and most mainline Protestant churches - with regard to the ontological status of the three persons or hypostases of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Origen seems to have been the first ecclesiastical writer to use the word homoousios in a nontrinitarian context,[a] but it is evident in his writings that he considered the Son's divinity lesser than the Father's, since he even calls the Son a creature. It was by Athanasius of Alexandria and the Nicene Council that the Son was taken to have exactly the same essence with the Father, and in the Nicene Creed the Son was declared to be as immutable as his Father.
Both the Nicene and Athanasian creeds affirm the Son as both begotten of, and equal to, His Father. If so, many concepts of the Holy Trinity would appear to have already existed relatively early while the specific language used to affirm the doctrine continued to develop.
Some theologians preferred the use of the term ? (homoioúsios or alternative uncontracted form homoi?oúsios; from , hómoios, "similar", rather than ?, homós, "same, common") in order to emphasize distinctions among the three persons in the Godhead, but the term homoousion became a consistent mark of Nicene orthodoxy in both East and West. According to this doctrine, Jesus Christ is the physical manifestation of Logos (or the Word), and consequently possesses all of the inherent, ineffable perfections which religion and philosophy attribute to the Supreme Being. In the language that became universally accepted after the First Council of Constantinople in AD 381, three distinct and infinite hypostases, or divine persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, fully possess the very same divine ousia.
This doctrine was formulated in the 4th century, during the Arian controversy over Christology between Arius and Athanasius. The several distinct branches of Arianism which sometimes conflicted with each other as well as with the pro-Nicene homoousian creed can be roughly broken down into the following classifications:
All of these positions and the almost innumerable variations on them which developed in the 4th century were strongly and tenaciously opposed by Athanasius and other pro-Nicenes, who insisted on the doctrine of homoousion or consubstantiality, eventually prevailing in the struggle to define this as a dogma of the still-united Western and Eastern churches for the next two millennia when its use was confirmed by the First Council of Constantinople. The struggle over the understanding of Christ's divinity was not solely a matter for the Church. The Roman Emperor Theodosius had published an edict, prior to the Council of Constantinople, declaring that the Nicene Creed was the legitimate doctrine and that those opposed to it were heretics.
It has also been noted that this Greek term homoousios, which Athanasius favored and which was ratified in the Nicene Council and Creed, was actually a term reported to also be used and favored by the Sabellians in their Christology. It was a term with which many followers of Athanasius were actually uncomfortable. The so-called Semi-Arians in particular objected to it. Their objection to this term was that it was considered to be "un-Scriptural, suspicious, and of a Sabellian tendency." This was because Sabellius also considered the Father and the Son to be "one substance", meaning that, to Sabellius, the Father and Son were "one essential Person", though operating as different faces, roles, or modes. This notion, however, was also rejected at the Council of Nicaea, in favor of the Athanasian Creed, which holds the Father and Son to be distinct yet also coequal, coeternal, and consubstantial divine persons.
Vaporis enim nomen inducens hoc ideo de rebus corporalibus assumpsit, ut vel ex parte aliqua intelligere possimus quomodo Christus, qui est Sapientia, secundum similitudinem eius vaporis qui de substantia aliqua corporea procedit, sic etiam ipse ut quidem vapor exoritur de virtute ipsius Dei. Sic et Sapientia ex eo procedens ex ipsa substantia Dei generatur; sic nilominus, et secundum similitudinem corporalis aporrhoeae, esse dicitur aporrhoea gloriae Omnipotentis, pura et sincera. Quae utraeque similitudines manifestissime ostendunt communionem substantiae esse Filio cum Patre. Aporrhoea enim videtur, id est unius substantiae, cum illo corpore ex quo est vel aporrhoea, vel vapor.
, ? ?.