Monarchianism and Origen's Early Trinitarian Theology - Genesis 1:26 and Tertullian

Steven Avery

Monarchianism and Origen's Early Trinitarian Theology (2016)
Stephen Edward Waers

Stephen Edward Waers


Tertullian suggests that the monarchians were offended by the Trinity because “it is not combined in a simple unity (unitate simplici).”156 It is in the context of his discussion of this “simple unity” that Tertullian mockingly asks if God speaks in the plural in the Genesis 1:26 because God is “father-son-spirit” (pater filius spiritus). The occurrence of this pater filius spiritus language here calls to mind the teachings about the υἱοπάτωρ often attributed to Sabellius.157 If this pater filius spiritus language is fulfilling the same function as the allegedly Sabellian υἱοπάτωρ, it is quite possible that Sabellius himself was pulling on an earlier tradition, perhaps that of Praxeas and his followers. Although he gives few details about the exegetical underpinnings of the Praxean claim that there is only one God, Tertullian’s responses to this claim are littered throughout the work. Tertullian repeatedly asserts that he too believes in one God, but he always qualifies his assertion to make it clear that his understanding of the unity of God is different from that of his opponents.

156 Tertullian, Adversus Praxean 12.1 (trans. Evans, 145).
157 See, for example, Eusebius’ attribution of this teaching to Sabellius at De ecclesiastica theologia 1.1.2.


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