The Filioque as Nicene Theology for Arian Goths and the Creed of Ulfilas

A New Theory on the Filioque and the Holy Spirit

I’ve been listening to The Story of the Goths by Henry Bradley (get the audible version for free by using this link) and it’s fantastic. A recurrent theme is the fact that the Goths were Arians going back to their evangelization by the Arian missionary Ulfilas or Wulfila (“Little Wolf”).

Depiction of Ulfilas or “Wulfila” preaching to Gothic Warriors

Ulfilas was ordained by that conniving villain of a bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia – the same Arian bishop who baptized Constantine and sought to exonerate Arius. Ulfilas carried the Semi-Arian version of Christianity to the Goths and they adopted it contrary to the Faith of Rome.

The Arian Goths divided into Ostrogoths (Western/German and Italian Goths) and Visigoths (Eastern/Spanish Goths).

In AD 587, King Reccared I (Visigothic King of Spain) renounced the Arian heresy and embraced Catholicism. This marks the transition of Spain from Arian to Catholic.

I record how the old statue of Saint Luke known as Our Lady of Guadalupe was then given to Catholic Spain by Saint Gregory the Great to celebrate the conversion of Reccared and his kingdom. Learn the full story of “old and new Guadalupe” in full video “Our Lady of Guadalupe” lesson at New Saint Thomas Institute.

This conversion meant that King Reccared rejected the Arian Creed of Ulfilas and instead adopted the Orthodox Creed of Nicea and Constantinople – the same one we recite every Sunday at Mass. Two years later, historians observe the insertion of the Latin term Filioque (Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father “and from the Son”) into the Nicene Creed at the Third Synod of Toledo in AD 589.

The Usual Theological Consensus on “Why Filioque?”

If you take any theological class (including my own) on the topic of Filioque, you will hear something like this typical explanation:

The Goths had been Arian since the days of Ulfilas, and thus they believed that the Son of God was created, less than the Father, and was not co-eternal or consubstantial with the Father. So when the Goths became Catholic and rejected the heresy of Arianism, they felt the need to beef up the Nicene Creed. These Gothic Catholic converts added that the “Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son” so as to establish the Son as fully God and the Holy Spirit as fully God. And this addition eventually became standard in the Latin version of the Creed – even though the Greeks protest to this day.

This is the standard historical theology narrative, and I have taught it to my students dozens of times. However, I have recently come to reject this explanation after studying Gothic Arianism and the Creed of Ulfilas. Here’s why:

New Theory on the Filioque

My new theory is that the Filioque was added so as to make the Nicene Creed o fAD 381 sound more like the Arian Creed of Ulfilas while remaining 100% orthodox. Let me explain:

1. The Nicene Creed is enough against the Arians

The Nicene Creed in its Greek (and Latin) text thoroughly demolishes the heresy of Arius. There is no room for the position of Arius within the text:

“I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father,
through him all things were made.”

Arians (beginning with Arius himself in the early 300s) hated this language from Nicea. Adding “proceeds from the Son” later into the Creed really does not add anything against the Arian case. Arians, as far as we know, did not regard the text about the procession of the Holy Spirit as a battleground text in the Nicene Creed. So something else seems to be happening with “and from the Son” or Filioque.

2. The Arian Creed of Ulfilas has a lot to say about the relationship between the Son and the Spirit:

So if “and from the Son” was not an extra prop up for the divinity of Christ, what was it? After reading a translation of the Gothic “Creed of Ulfilas,” it jumped off the page to me. I reproduce  the full known text of the Arian Creed of Ulfilas here with my comments in red:

I, Ulfilas, bishop and confessor, have always so believed, and in this, the one true faith, I make the journey to my Lord:

I believe in one God the Father, the only unbegotten and invisible.

And in his only-begotten Son [Arians used “only begotten” but in the sense of being a singular creature.], our Lord and God, [Arians said the Son of God was “a God” by divine privilege, but not “the one and only God.” For Arians this distinction of “the God” was for the Father alone.] the designer and maker of all creation [Arians grant that the creation came through the Son], having none other like him [radical Arian claim that the Son is unlike the Father], so that one alone among all beings is God the Father, who is also the God of our God). [Here again is the Arian distinction that the Father is “the God” and that the Son is “a god” by privilege our “our god” in relation to fallen humans.]

And in one Holy Spirit, the illuminating and sanctifying power, as Christ said after his resurrection to his apostles: [here Ulfilas cites two Scripture passages having the Spirit proceed from the Son or Filioque:]

“And behold, I send [Jesus does the sending of the Spirit] the promise of my Father upon you; but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49) and again,
“But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Ghost is come upon you [in the context of Jesus ascending and sending an advocate]” (Acts 1:8);

being neither God (the Father) nor our God (Christ), but the minister of Christ [Holy Spirit is a minister of Christ and related to Christ rather than to the Father]…subject and obedient in all things to the Son [Spirit subordinated to the Son]; and the Son, subject and obedient in all things to God who is his Father… (whom) he ordained in the Holy Spirit through his Christ.

So in the Gothic Arian Creed, the understanding of their “Trinity” looks like this:

In the Gothic Arian mock up, I placed a dashed line between the Father and the Son do show that this generation is not consubstantial but signals a new created substance for the Son.

Whereas the original Nicene Creed of AD 381, read strictly, looks more like this:

So what I’m suggesting is that the Filioque was added so as to make the Nicene Creed conform intellectually with the way Ulfilas’s Gothic Arians spoke of the Holy Spirit. So this Option 1:

Which can be moved around to be envisioned like this Option 2:

Option 2 has the same arrows and same processions, but different arrangement. It should become obvious that the theological jump from the Gothic Arian Creed of Ulfilas (left) to that of the Nicene Filioque Creed (center) is less of theological jump than to the Strict Nicene chart (right)

Conclusion:

To summarize then, the Filioque was introduced into Spain in AD 589 not to “prop up” God the Son’s divinity (that was already accomplished in the Christology section of the Nicene Creed), but rather to illustrate an Orthodox read to the way that the Gothic Arian Creed spoke of the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son. Moreover, orthodox Catholic saints had often and approvingly spoke of the Spirit’s procession from the Son:

  • St Basil the Great
  • St Gregory Nazianzus
  • St Gregory Nyssa
  • St Hilary of Poitiers
  • St Ambrose
  • St Augustine

So the Filioque was an orthodox addition that helped the Visigoths embrace Nicene Orthodoxy. Visigoths knew that they were abandoning Arianism with regard to the Son of God, but what may have been more difficult to understand for them was how the original Nicene Creed does not explicitly express any relation between the Son and Spirit since the Gothic Arian Creed speaks only of a relation between the Son and Spirit.

All that being said, I’m fully supportive of the Filioque in the Creed because: A) it’s in Scripture, B) it’s in the great Greek and Latin Fathers, and C) the Pope has power to bind and loose dogmas, councils, patriarchs, and even Creeds.

I’m certainly open to rebuttal, objections, and criticisms. So let them roll.

Question: Is the Filioque a response to the Gothic Arian understanding of the Holy Spirit’s procession from the Son? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

127: Is the Eucharist Symbolic: 4 Medieval Heretics on the Eucharist before the Reformation [Podcast]

Join Dr. Taylor Marshall as he explores 4 “pro-Protestants” going back to the AD 800s who denied the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, along with affirming many doctrines that will later be identified with the Protestant Reformation. Discover that Luther was not the first to the heresies of the Reformation in this concise audio lesson.

127: Is the Eucharist Symbolic: 4 Medieval Heretics on the Eucharist before the Reformation [Podcast]

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126: Why do Catholics “Worship” Statues and Icons: The Iconoclastic Heresy and the Council of Nicea II in AD 787 [Podcast]

Join Dr Marshall as he explores the mystical theology of Saint John of Damascus showing that there is a biblical difference between worship (Greek: latria) reserved for God alone and respect/veneration (Greek: dulia) given to saints, humans and revered objects. We discover how the Catholic Church made this distinction clear and affirmed the veneration of saints and image in AD 787 at the Second Council of Nicea.

126: Why do Catholics “Worship” Statues and Icons: The Iconoclastic Heresy and the Council of Nicea II in AD 787 [Podcast]

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  • POPULARITY: 1,068,658 downloads on iTunes as of today.
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125: Does Christ have 1 or 2 Natures? Heretic Eutyches and the Monophysite Heresy? [Podcast]

Join Dr Taylor Marshall and he succinctly and briefly explains the Monophysite heresy and how the Catholic Council of Chalcedon refuted this heresy by defending the teaching that Christ has two, not one, nature (fully divine and fully human). Please leave a comment below.

Diagram of False Heresy of Eutyches showing a “New Nature”

 

124: Heretic Nestorius: Is Mary Mother of God? Are there 2 Christs? [Podcast]

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In which year did Mary receive her Assumption into Heaven?

For Catholics, the bodily assumption of Mary is a historical event. The falling asleep of Blessed Mary and her assumption are just as historical as, say, the fact that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated or the fact that the St. Louis Cardinals won the 2006 World Series. One day Mary’s body lay in a tomb. The next day it did not. When did this happen? Which year?

Please join us in this short Catholic online lesson on the historical date of Mary’s Assumption, a free sample course from the New Saint Thomas Institute:

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This lesson is part of our Curriculum in Church History and the Church Fathers:

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ad Jesum per Mariam cum Petro,
Dr. Taylor Marshall

What if you have it all – And you are still unhappy?

We have so much and yet we say we are unhaaaaapy.

We live in a time with:

  • automated dish washing
  • clothes washing
  • air conditioning
  • refrigeration
  • central heat
  • mini-computers, TVs, and libraries in our pockets
  • automobiles
  • intercontinental travel
  • cheap clothing and shoes
  • cosmetics
  • fresh food and cuisine variety
  • health care
  • endless entertainment options

Most of us are very wealthy. A person making $30,000 in the United States has a higher quality of living than a European monarch in the 1800s. And King Nebuchanezer would have sold half of his Babylonian kingdom just to purchase your magical iPhone 5 with a cracked screen.

And yet we are often so unhaaaapy. Why?

I’ve been re-reading the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes (attributed to King Solomon as a testimony of his repentance), and I was struck with one of the most powerful passages in the entire Bible. It’s the last three verses of Ecclesiastes chapter 5.

Behold, what I have seen to be good and to be fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life which God has given him, for this is his lot. 19 Every man also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and find enjoyment in his toil—this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

He grants in verse 19 that God has given some people wealth and possessions. But that’s not enough. He adds “and the power to enjoy them and accept his lot.”

That’s it folks. Getting the best or next [iPhone, spouse, house, retirement account, car, jet, diamond, child, etc.] is never enough. It takes a supernatural superadded gift of being able to enjoy it. Solomon says, “this is the gift of God.”

Ultimately salvation and access to the Beatific Vision of the Holy Trinity (that is, Heaven) is our final goal and purpose for this life. But along the way in this life, we should also pray for the “the gift of God” which is the “power to enjoy them and to accept [your] lot and find enjoyment in this life.”

So add this to you prayers daily: “God give me the Ecclesiastes gift to enjoy whatever you have given and me and whatever you will give me.”

Godspeed,
Dr. Taylor Marshall

Novitiate Movie: Were 1950s Teaching Nuns a Bad Idea?

Your grandparents have memories of getting their knuckles rapped by nuns such as Sister Theodora and Sister Dolores. We tradition-minded (younger) Catholics look back with reverent nostalgia. So many beautiful nuns in glorious habits that bordered on the glamorous:

Nuns in habits are like visible leaven for society. They lift it up.

But, as we know, it came crashing down in the 1960s. The world began to see this instead:

A new film titled Novitiate seeks to explore (in an insidiously Hollywood way) this shift from the 1950s self-flagellating wimple nuns to the 1960s hippie V2 nuns. Here’s the trailer:

I’m sure the film will be a theological disaster, but it touches on something questionable. If the 1950s convent was a spiritual Shangri-La, why did half the nuns leave and why did the remaining majority pick up acoustic guitars and cheer on the white-washing of their convents and churches?

Here’s my theory: The 1950s nuns were being asked to transform their monastic vocation into “outside the convent Activism” and it obscured their vocation. And yes, I’m especially (and controversially) referring to their ubiquitous role as school teachers.

As a father of 8 children, I would love to have free private Catholic school education for my children. Today’s private Catholic tuition rates are between $4,000 and $18,000 per child per year. Using the lower number, it could cost $416,000 to educate all of them. Using the upper number, it would cost almost $1.9 million dollars.

So yes, habited nuns staffing Catholic private schools (for free) would be awesome. I’m sure every layman (especially wage-earning fathers) and every bishop in the 1940s thought this was a brilliant idea.

Yet as a student of Catholic Church History, I have to admit that “nuns teaching children” just isn’t a traditional model of female religious life. Historically, nuns prayed the Liturgy of the Hours, fasted, prayed, and labored: crops, beehives, baskets, weaving lace and fabric, etc. One can hardly imagine the Desert Mothers teaching school. Similarly, in the Eastern Christian tradition, you do not observe consecrated nuns leaving their cells to open up grammar schools.

And speaking of children and education, consider your Catholic mother today. These mothers have anywhere from 12 to 1 children at home. Some homeschool their children, because the public school situation is not consonant with their values and educational goals. These mothers are exhausted.

Now consider the nuns of 1950. They were overseeing and teaching and feeding and cleaning up after 30+ kids per day. These were not their own children. I’m sure these kids were cute, but that wears off after awhile.

At 6pm, a husband doesn’t open the garage door and give her a hug and kiss and say, “Wow, dinner smells great.” She doesn’t have the comfort of sexual intimacy or the hope of seeing her children bear grandchildren and attend to her in old age. Almost all the kids in the convent schools will move on and go away.

It’s a very difficult vocation. I have no doubt that God has this vocation for special women. Teaching orders have been, are, and will be part of the Catholic Church.

But a gargantuan problem had already entered the female orders. Some have said that young women entered orders in order to pursue studies and work that society would not yet allow them to do. Once that began to change in the 1960s and 1970s, they left.

A further problem is that the nunneries were no longer centers of monasticism. Teaching kids for no pay isn’t too fun, I imagine. The only thing to keep you on task would be monastic commitment. And monasticism was already slipping away.

These convents very rapidly exchanged the outward norms of Catholic devotion for Freudian psychology and new age spirituality. Why? The monastic element was not there. Teaching was had become a form of activism.

“I want to join a convent and teach mathematics and the catechism to cute children.”

Is that a vocation to the religious life? Which is prior? This is who I want to be? This is what I want to do?

I imagine that I may get flamed in the comments section for even suggesting that pre-Vatican II religious life was not healthy. Perhaps I’m wrong, but if you think so, provide evidence. And to all the faithful sisters who have persevered through things that we could never comprehend, thank you and may Christ reward you.

I recall meeting an 80 year old nun in a convent full of nuns that wore street cloths and went by their civilian names. I remember her name as Sister Dolores. She spoke clearly and devoutly about Christ her Spouse. She was full of faith – and I could tell that she had endured suffering. There are jewels out there. I’m not question that obvious fact. I’m questioning the “out of the convent” activism that obscured the identity of women religious in the 20th century.

Question: I look forward to your thoughts and comments. I’d especially like to hear about the experience of those who were children in these schools. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Christology in the Book of Revelation (and in Saint Irenaeus)

Father Al Kimel has a post up on the Christology of Saint Irenaeus. Irenaeus, he notes, does not see God the Son as something needed to “protect” the transcendence of God from creation. That is, Christ is not a demiurge insulating God from the muddiness of creation.

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are co-eternal.

So where is Irenaeus getting his Christology?

Irenaeus heard the teaching of Saint Polycarp of Smyrna. Perhaps Irenaeus was originally from Smyrna. Regardless, it’s universally agreed that Irenaeus was from Asia Minor.

The Christology of Smyrna (and Asia Minor) is that the canonical Apocalypse which repeatedly depicts Jesus Christ as “Yahweh” who repeats the words and actions of “Yahweh” from the books of Daniel and Ezekiel. This is why there is no subordinationism of the Son below the Father and the Spirit below the Son in Irenaeus.

The historical Jesus is Yahweh for the seven churches and seven angels/bishops of the Apocalypse.

If you’d like to learn more about the Christology of the Book of Revelation, check out my free audio commentary on the Book of Revelation: Catholic Perspective on the Book of Revelation Podcast. which begins with the “fiery apparition of Christ in chapter 1.

Bad Popes and the Saeculum Obscurum

We have heard of the Dark Ages and most people wrongly label the Medieval Era (ca. AD 600-1500) as the Dark Ages.

There is, however, an age that is unanimously classified as the Saeculum Obscurum or “Dark Age.” It’s the 60 years from election of Pope Sergius III in 904 until the death of Pope John XII in 964.

This dark age is also called the Pornocracy because the Popes were intertwined with the powerful Theophylact I, who was Count of Tusculum and de facto ruler of Rome.

Theophylact and his wife Theodora effectively whored out their 15 year old daughter Marozia to be the concubine of Pope Sergius III (904–911). Popes cannot enter into valid marriage alliances, but they can share a bed. By doing so Theophylact united his own political power to the pillow of the Pope of Rome.

As if that were not enough, Theophylact was cuckolded by his own wife Theodora when she became the lover of Pope John X (914–928). Moreover, Pope John X is said to have been a lover both of Theodora (mother) and her daughter Marozia. And Pope John XI (931–935) was the illegitimate son of their daughter Marozia (perhaps the son of Sergius III). Marozia managed for her son Pope John XI to be elected at age 21.

Altogether, a bastard son, two grandsons, two great grandsons, and one great great grandson of Marozia became Popes!!! She even had a descendent who became an anti-Pope. Oh, and Pope John XIII was her nephew, the son of her sister Theodora.

It’s no wonder that this era is called the Reign of the Harlots. Theodora and Marozia (mother and daughter) used their sexual skills to control the Popes while Theophylact benefited politically from his wife and daughter’s pursuits. This papal corruption endured for six decades.

If you get discouraged by sexual scandals in the Church or by politics in Rome, we can be reminded that Christ allows it for some good reason that we do not yet understand. 

Several valid high priests of the Old Testament and several valid Popes of the New Testament have operated in ways that are selfish, dishonest, immoral, and abusive. The high priests after the Maccabees were especially cruel, lustful, and murderous. And Catholic Popes have been equally cruel, lustful, and murderous.

Christ Himself indicated this possibility in His teaching to us:

Matthew 24:
45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant [Pope], whom his master [Jesus Christ] has set over his household [Catholic Church], to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant [Pope] whom his master [Christ] when he comes will find so doing. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eats and drinks with the drunken, 50 the master [Christ] of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, 51 and will punish him, and put him with the hypocrites; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.

As Saint Gregory the Great taught, Popes are “servants of the servants of God” set over the household while the Master Christ is away. We are required by filial charity to pray for our Pope’s protection and intentions daily. Salvation is through the Master, not through the Servant. And yet, Christ has appointed a Servant so we have teachings built on the Rock.

Even during the Dark Age of 904-964, Christ saved souls, worked in the local parishes, effected the sacraments, and lifted up great saints. Poland, Hungary, and Russia were being effectively evangelized. While Popes were whoring it up in Rome, Good King Wenceslaus (d. 935) was bringing holiness to Bohemia. And Saint Odo was carrying out the Cluniac Reforms.

Our Lord Jesus Christ may be “away,” but He is still present and working among us in every age, even in the darkest age.

Godspeed,
Dr Taylor Marshall

PS: If you’d like to study Medieval Catholic History, please join us online. The New Saint Thomas Institute is now offering three Certificates in Church History: Patristics, Medieval, and Reformation and Modern. Click here to enroll and begin learning about Christian History from the Fathers, Saints, and Popes: New Saint Thomas Institute.

Popes during the Saeculum Obscurum (AD 904-964)
Pope Sergius III (904–911) lover of Marozia
Pope Anastasius III (911–913)
Pope Lando (913–914)
Pope John X (914–928) lover of Theodora (the mother) and Marozia (daughter).
Pope Leo VI (928–928)
Pope Stephen VII (928–931)
Pope John XI (931–935) son of Marozia, son of Pope Sergius III.
Pope Leo VII (936–939)
Pope Stephen VIII (939–942)
Pope Marinus II (942–946)
Pope Agapetus II (946–955)
Pope John XII (955–964) grandson of Marozia, by her son Alberic II of Spoleto. He is often rated as “Worst Pope Ever.”

Will you know everything in Heaven? Thomas Aquinas answers

Will you know everything in Heaven? This question is best answered by exploring the spiritual gift of “counsel.”

One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is “counsel.”

What is counsel? Thomas Aquinas defines counsel in this way:

Again, it is proper to the rational creature to be moved through the research of reason to perform any particular action, and this research is called counsel. (STh II-II, q. 52, a. 1).

So counsel is research led by the influence of the Holy Spirit. Thomas also explains how it relates to the virtue of prudence – making right decisions.

It might be asked whether this gift of counsel remains in Heaven. Do the saints in Heaven need counsel? Do the angels need counsel?

Thomas says that counsel remains in the blessed and in the angels. Why?

Because the human saints and the angels in Heaven do not know everything. Contrary to what you may have learned in Sunday school, God doesn’t reveal everything to us in Heaven. There will remain mysteries.

The Blessed Virgin Mary knows more than the angels and saints, but she is still limited in our celestial knowledge. Only the Persons of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) know all things. Only the three person of the Holy Trinity are omniscient.

Because humans and angels in Heaven are not omniscient, we will continue to seek spiritual counsel. Angels are guided into helping those on earth. Even humans are guided by counsel from the Holy Spirit in aiding those on earth. Yes, Holy Mary, Saint Joseph, Saint Peter, Saint Therese of Lisieux, and your guardian angel continue to exercise that spiritual gift of “counsel.”

And we on earth especially need spiritual counsel. How do we gain it:

  1. by not clouding our minds with venial or mortal sin.
  2. by checking in with the Holy Spirit frequently throughout the day “Am I living your will for my life?”
  3. by reading the documents written by the Holy Spirit – Sacred Scripture. Here we find explicit teaching and advice for our lives.
  4. by explicitly asking the Holy Spirit to give us counsel on difficult problems in our lives.

Godspeed,
Dr Taylor Marshall

PS: You might also enjoy my Podcast: Did the Holy Spirit really appear as a Real Dove?