Is the Holy Spirit begotten?

I was looking at De Trinitate by St. Hilary of Poitiers, and came across this passage (Book XII, par. 55):

But, for my part, I cannot be content by the service of my faith and voice, to deny that my Lord and my God, Thy Only-begotten, Jesus Christ, is a creature; I must also deny that this name of ‘creature’ belongs to Thy Holy Spirit, seeing that He proceeds from Thee and is sent through Him, so great is my reverence for everything that is Thine. Nor, because I know that Thou alone art unborn and that the Only-begotten is born of Thee, will I refuse to say that the Holy Spirit was begotten, or assert that He was ever created.

It was my understanding that we certainly should “refuse to say that the Holy Spirit was begotten”, as the Athanasian Creed states:

The Father is made of none : neither created, nor begotten.
The Son is of the Father alone : not made, nor created, but begotten.
The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son : neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

So, what’s going on here? Is this just a bad translation? Or did Hilary mess up?

I puzzled over your question before arriving at (what I think) is the root of your question:

You ask how St. Hilary of Poitiers can refuse to refute something that is refuted in the Athanasian Creed (because you feel that the Saint ought to categorically refute this, because it is refuted in the Athanasian Creed).

You may not realize that the Catholic Church doctrinally recognizes only one Creed (the Niceo-Constantinoplian Creed, often called the Nicene Creed). The Apostles’ Creed and the Athanasian Creed are respected (and sometimes recited) historic professions of the Faith, but neither are recognized (by the Catholic Church) as infallible statements of Doctrine.

We should perhaps explore the semantics of the word “begotten”

The last sentence of the quoted text I thinks that you would agree is correct. The Holy Spirit was never “created”

The Athanasian creed is correct in asserting that the Holy Spirit "Proceeds from the Father AND the Son. This has bases in the Gospels where Jesus speaks of the Father sending the Holy Spirit, and also in other passages it states HE gives the Holy Spirit.

So the question is if the Holy Spirit is NOT created and at the same time is ONE with the Father in the same way as Jesus is ONE with the father in which manner was HE brought forth?
Here comes the word “begotten” comes into play, GOD the Father must have used the same process that was used with Jesus. Remember Jesus was with the Father before time began, He entered the human scene at the incarnation, but He always existed prior to this.
The Holy Spirit as a part of the Trinity had to be generated in the same manner, and here we go full circle to the meaning of the word “begotten”

It means to “Generate” from one’s own substance. We humans procreate, have children by giving our own genes from each mother and father and the resultant DNA defines the makeup of the children.
GOD generated from HIS own substance both Jesus and the Holy Spirit. But being GOD you cannot divide HIM like a pie so they remain consubstantial with the Father.
This is the mistery of the Trinity. Our minds cannot fully grasp this or it would not be called a “mistery” :smiley:


The Holy Spirit was not begotten as St Hilary of Poitiers states.

I should clarify that before English becomes the problem

will I refuse to say that the Holy Spirit was begotten, or assert that He was ever created.

Change the words will and I around and it becomes

I will refuse to say that the Holy Spirit was begotten, or assert that He was ever created.

They both say the same thing, but one way can be misunderstood.

I think if you read just the parts in blue and red, it will make much more sense. Sometimes the way literal translations work out, it can add a lot of confusion that probably wasn’t there at all in the original language. I hope this helps clear that up for you. :wink:

So you’re saying that the Athanasian Creed contains doctrinal falsehood? One must wonder why the Catholic Church commanded it to be said every Sunday morning at Prime for so many hundreds of years.

He did not say that they contained falsehoods. Those are your words, not his. That’s not what he said.

***neither are recognized (by the Catholic Church) as infallible statements of Doctrine. ***

Those are his exact words. Something which is not fallible is not necessarily false.

-Tim-

Indeed, but if it’s true I don’t see why one should bother to bring up its fallibility.

It may be that “nor” and “refuse to say” are repetition rather than negation. Sort of like a double negative in some languages being a more intense negative.

peace
steve

I was just pointing out that St. Hilary is not bound by the Athanasian Creed and is not required to assent to everything it teaches. The question seemed to presume otherwise.

I didn’t even read the quotes. If I had, I would have seen that St. Hilary does agree completely with the Athanasian Creed, as Darryl pointed out. I agree that the wording is awkward, but I can’t see how it could be construed to make it seem like St. Hilary is in disagreement.

hello david,
I would have to disagree that the Apostles Creed is not doctrinally recognized by the Catholic Church. For one thing, it is listed in the Order of the Mass as an alternate creed that can be said at Mass on Sundays. Two, the Apostles Creed is what is professed by every believer at baptism. Three, it is the creed we recite in the rosary.
As far as the Athanasian Creed, this creed is approved by the Church and it was traditionally used at Sunday Mass for many centuries. Consequently, either the Church was in error concerning the faith it professed or it was not and we can’t hold that it was in error.

You must understand the context of the statement and not take it out of context.

  1. His birth is before times eternal. If anything exist which precedes eternity, it will be something which, when eternity is comprehended, still eludes comprehension. And this something is Thine, and is Thy Only-begotten; no portion, nor extension, nor any empty name devised to suit some theory of Thy mode of action. He is the Son, a Son born of Thee, God the Father, Himself true God, begotten by Thee in the unity of Thy nature, and meet to be acknowledged after Thee, and yet with Thee, since Thou art the eternal Author of His eternal origin. For since He is from Thee, He is second to Thee; yet since He is Thine, Thou art not to be separated from Him. For we must never assert that Thou didst once exist without Thy Son, lest we should be reproaching Thee either with imperfection, as then unable to generate, or with superfluousness after the generation. And so the exact meaning for us of the eternal generation is that we know Thee to be the eternal Father of Thy Only-begotten Son, Who was born of Thee before times eternal.
  1. But, for my part, I cannot be content by the service of my faith and voice, to deny that my Lord and my God, Thy Only-begotten, Jesus Christ, is a creature; I must also deny that this name of ‘creature’ belongs to Thy Holy Spirit, seeing that He proceeds from Thee and is sent through Him, so great is my reverence for everything that is Thine. Nor, because I know that Thou alone art unborn and that the Only-begotten is born of Thee, will I refuse to say that the Holy Spirit was begotten, or assert that He was ever created. I fear the blasphemies which would be insinuated against Thee by such use of this title ‘creature,’ which I share with the other beings brought into being by Thee. Thy Holy Spirit, as the Apostle says, searches and knows Thy deep things, and as Intercessor for me speaks to Thee words I could not utter; and shall I express or rather dishonour, by the title ‘creature,’ the power of His nature, which subsists eternally, derived from Thee through Thine Only-begotten? Nothing, except what belongs to Thee, penetrates into Thee; nor can the agency of a power foreign and strange to Thee measure the depth of Thy boundless majesty. To Thee belongs whatever enters into Thee; nor is anything strange to Thee, which dwells in Thee through its searching power.
  1. But I cannot describe Him, Whose pleas for me I cannot describe. As in the revelation that Thy Only-begotten was born of Thee before times eternal, when we cease to struggle with ambiguities of language and difficulties of thought, the one certainty of His birth remains; so I hold fast in my consciousness the truth that Thy Holy Spirit is from Thee and through Him, although I cannot by my intellect comprehend it. For in Thy spiritual things I am dull, as Thy Only-begotten says, Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born anew. The Spirit breathes where it will, and thou hearest the voice of it; but dost not know whence it comes or whither it goes. So is every one who is born of water and of the Holy Spirit. Though I hold a belief in my regeneration, I hold it in ignorance; I possess the reality, though I comprehend it not. For my own consciousness had no part in causing this new birth, which is manifest in its effects. Moreover the Spirit has no limits; He speaks when He will, and what He will, and where He will. Since, then, the cause of His coming and going is unknown, though the watcher is conscious of the fact, shall I count the nature of the Spirit among created things, and limit Him by fixing the time of His origin? Thy servant John says, indeed, that all things were made through the Son, Who as God the Word was in the beginning, O God, with Thee. Again, Paul recounts all things as created in Him, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible. And, while he declared that everything was created in Christ and through Christ, he thought, with respect to the Holy Spirit, that the description was sufficient, when he called Him Thy Spirit. With these men, peculiarly Thine elect, I will think in these matters; just as, after their example, I will say nothing beyond my comprehension about Thy Only-begotten, but simply declare that He was born, so also after their example I will not trespass beyond that which human intellect can know about Thy Holy Spirit, but simply declare that He is Thy Spirit. May my lot be no useless strife of words, but the unwavering confession of an unhesitating faith!

By his use of ‘begotten’, he contrasts the Father as principle of origin with ‘created’ by the Father. He is not saying that the Holy Spirit is begotten, as I show in the bolded part of 56.

Page 88 of this PDF, titled “THE GREEK AND LATIN TRADITIONS REGARDING THE PROCESSION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”, may help.

vatican.va/roman_curia//pontifical_councils/chrstuni/information_service/pdf/information_service_89_en.pdf

The Father is the fountainhead of the Trinity. The Father is the cause of the Godhead, the Son through begetting and the Spirit through procession. So to say the Spirit is begotten would be incorrect.

And you would have to recognize that the ROSARY is not doctrinally recognized by the Catholic Church (it is private revelation, and NO post-Apostolic private revelation can be construed as Catholic Doctrine).

Just because some Catholic jurisdictions proscribe some particular prayer or creed does not make that Catholic Doctrine.

You are right on this. English is a language where two wrongs make a right (which probably defines the current society construct). In other languages a double negative means -2, not the equivalent English +1.

I finally found the Latin sentence in question at
Sancti Hilarii Pictaviensis Episcopi: De Fide pg 49.

In Latin, the sentence is, according to the book:

Neque, quia te solum innascibilem, et unigenitum ex te natum sciens, genitum tamen Spiritum sanctum non dicturus sim, dicam umquam creatum.

But I think the comma should come before the “sim”, which seems to be short for “simul”, meaning, “at the same time”, or “likewise”. So, picking it apart, we have:

Neque,
Nor,

quia te solum innascibilem, et unigenitum ex te natum sciens,
because of knowing
(that) you alone are unborn, and the only-begotten is born of you,

genitum tamen Spiritum sanctum non dicturus sim, dicam umquam creatum.
it will not be asserted
(that) born nevertheless is the Holy Spirit, likewise i will never say (He is) created.

If we look closely, one can see that “neque”, nor, is intensive to “non dicturus”, it wiill not be asserted, and not negating.

peace
steve

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