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Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V14, Page 208 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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HYPOSTASIS, in theology, a term frequently occurring in the Trinitarian controversies of the 4th and 5th centuries. According to Irenaeus (i. 5, 4) it was introduced into theology by Gnostic writers, and in earliest ecclesiastical usage appears, as among the Stoics, to have been synonymous with do-la. Thus Dionysius of Rome (cf. Routh, Rel. Sacr. iii. 373) condemns the attempt to sever the Godhead into three separate hypostases and three deities, and the Nicene Creed in the anathemas speaks of iripac itroo'ractetos i oiuLas. Alongside, however, of this persistent interchange there was a desire to distinguish between the terms, and to confine inroorao-as to the Divine persons. This tendency arose in Alexandria, and its progress may be seen in comparing the early and later writings of Athanasius. That writer, in view of the Arian trouble, felt that it was better to speak of ovvia as " the common undifferentiated substance of Deity," and vaouracts as " Deity existing in a personal mode, the substance of Deity with certain special properties " (ovvia writ TWwv i&coyirwv). At the council of Alexandria in 362 the phrase rpas inroo-rheas was permitted, and the work of this council was supplemented by Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa in the formula ┬Áia auk, pas UrOO'TaCIELS Or pia ovvia iv rpiaw vrovravecay. The results arrived at by these Cappadocian fathers were stated in a later age by John of Damascus (De orlh. /iid. iii. 6), quoted in R. L. Ottley, The Doctrine of the Incarnation, ii. 257.
End of Article: HYPOSTASIS

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