Didymus the Blind on Filioque [A.D. 313 – 398]

Didymus the Blind, being Head of the catechetical school in Alexnadria, Egypt, while under the Metropolitan St. Athanasius, had taught the eminent St. Jerome in Trinitarian theology. Though Didymus held to certain errors such as Origen’s belief in the pre-existence of souls and the eventual salvation of all (apokatastasis), his works on the Spirit were cited by St. Ambrose of Milan when he wrote his own De Spiritu Sancto. This particular work of Didymus is entitled in Latin “De Spiritu Sancto” as well. It was actually written in Greek, but translated by St. Jerome at the request of Pope St. Damasus. It is found twice in Migne – PL 23, 101-154 and PG 39, 1031-1086. The Greek text no longer exists, however, and all we have are Latin copies from St. Jerome. Scholar Henry Swete has said that there is reason to believe there have been interpolations, and that the Greek text may not be the same as the Latin copies we have. I can think of some reasons why, perhaps. He is not widely quoted in the Greek fathers who come afterward, and his former work on the Trinity only speaks of a procession from the Father. In any case, here is a portion of the Latin translation:

In this Pneumatological work of the 4th century, Didymus writes the following commentary on that part of St. John’s gospel where he records Jesus’ words: “ He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.  All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14-15):

“Here again, to ‘take’ is to be understood, so as to be in harmony with the Divine Nature. For as the Son, when He gives, is not deprived of those things which He gives, nor, with loss to Himself, imparts to others, so also the Spirit does not receive what what He had not before. For if He receive what before He had not, when the gift is transferred to another, the Giver is emptied, ceasing to have what He gives. As then above, when disputing of incorporeal natures, we understood, so now too we must know, that the Holy Spirit receives from the Son that which had been of His own nature, and that this signifies, not a giver and a receiver, but one substance. Inasmuch as the Son is said to receive of the Father that, wherein He himself subsists. For neither is the Son ought besides what is given to Him from the Father, nor is the substance of the Holy Spirit other, besides what is given Him by the Son” (De Spiritu Sancto, n. 34 – Translated by St Jerome Opp. ii. 142. Vall. Pet. De Trin. VII. 3, 5 ; On the Filioque: In Regard to the Eastern Church, by Edward Bouverie Pusey, page 118)

2 thoughts on “Didymus the Blind on Filioque [A.D. 313 – 398]

  1. You don’t get the point here. This text coments on a passage from Scripture that has a clear economic meaning.
    The key to understand it is the expression that Didymus uses: “the Spirit does not receive what He had not before”.
    The same expression is found in St John Chrysostom:
    When the Savior says, He shall take of mine …, He does not mean, “The Spirit shall take of mine what He previously did not have and did not know” but he means, “He will continue after me my teaching, He and no one else, for He, as God, knows everything and has everything from ever” (Hom on John 78, 2).

  2. “…so also the Spirit does not receive what what He had not before.”

    The passage makes it clear this can’t be anything to do with the Catholic doctrine of the filioque as if it were it would say the opposite i.e. the Spirit DOES RECEIVE what he HAD NOT BEFORE (in terms of hypostasis and existence).

    It also makes it very clear that Catholics like Erik don’t really grasp what the Early Church Fathers were actually trying to say on the subject.

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