I’ve made a couple of Christadelphian friends. We’ve been talking a bit about unity, authority, church history, and the seven ecumenical councils. I wanted to pick up a bit of early literature on the Trinity, maybe something written by Athanasius or someone else who was very close to the issue. I’ve done a bit of digging myself- found out some details about how Constantine supported Arianism, recalled Arius from exile and sent Athanasius into exile. And then so did his son Constantinius, and then the emperor that came after him too. My basic argument has been that state power supported Arius, but the argument for the Trinity was the winner based on merit. I’ve also emphasized the locations of the seven ecumenical councils and pointed to Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy, things that these friends were not at all aware of whatsoever. But I’d also like to have something in book form to show/give them. I’m aware of On the Incarnation, and I’m thinking about getting that for them anyway. Does anyone know of something that has Trinity in the title, maybe something that outlines the actual argument between Athanasius and Arius using primary sources in a way that’s readable? Anything on the Trinity would be good, but I’m looking especially for material that’s dated pretty closely to the time and to the people directly involved.
On the Holy Spirit, Against Eunomius by Saint Basil the Great
On God and Christ By Saint Gregory of Naziansus
Also if you can, stuff by Saint Gregory of Nyssa, although his stuff is hard to find translated into English. His reply to Eunomius for instance being like $300 (NZ)
These are but few of the fathers and but a few of their works. I’ve certaintly enjoyed looking at how they tackled the heresies of their days and how different the argumentation is from what we typically hear today. For instance Saint Basil in on the Holy spirit goes through great lengths to demonstrate in the numerous places of scripture that speaking of the persons of the trinity, “With whom,” “through whom” and “by whom,” are not inappropriately applied to Christ or the holy spirit. Its a complex argument so I might have misstated it.
Particular editions I would recommend are the Popular patristic translations of ON God and Christ and ON the Holy spirit and as for Against Eunomius I recommend the excellent Catholic university press edition which has like an 80 page introduction detailing the scholarship concerning this time as well as the period itself. The CUA translation may be a bit pricey, I remember it being $40 NZ when I bought it, but it’s worth it, if not only for the introduction. Basil In particular it must be noted didn’t argue for the divinity of Christ using the term “Homoousious,” same substance and there are a number of other theological responses he makes to the heretical Eunomius which do not only deal with the divinity of the son. Basil had to explain and describe how the son is exactly begotten of the father for instance as well as insist that we cannot know God (like Eunomius claimed he knew God).
It’s in depth reading but it’s worthy investing the time and effort.
And while not an orthodox trinitarian you might also do well to read Origen, what little we have of him. His works were massively influential on these three fathers who laid the foundation for our trinitarian understanding today.
We don’t have a multitude of writings from the early years. Some of his best work on the Trinity is found in his Letters to Serapion. They can be found in this PDF.
Source. Translated by Archibald Robertson. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 4.
Especially: Four Letters to Serapion of Thmuis [359-360 A.D.]
The Letters of Saint Athanasius concerning the Holy Spirit
These books are available on Amazon:
Works on the Spirit PPS43 (Popular Patristics Series) [Paperback]
A Defense of the Nicene Definition: (De Decretis) [Paperback]
By St. Athanasius and Blessed John Henry Newman
There are also writings by St. Gregory.
Four Discourses against the Arians by St. Athanasius, courtesy New Advent
Thanks everyone- I may wind up sending some links their way as well as a book or two, this is some good material.