Was Hippolytus a trinitarian or a unitarian? In the last two posts, I’ve argued that he was the latter.
In the most recent translation of his Against Noetus, though, the translator thinks he is a trinitarian. He entitles this section, “The three Persons of the Trinity are One God”. (p. 74) Is he right? Here’s the passage, pretty much the whole chapter:
Well then, brethren, all this is what the Scriptures point out to us. This economy that blessed John, too, passes on to us through the witness of his Gospel, and he maintains that this Word is God… [John 1:1]
But then, if the Word, who is God, is with God, someone might well say: “What about this statement that there are two gods?” While I will not say that there are two gods – but rather one – I will say there are two persons; and that a third economy is the grace of the Holy Spirit. For though the Father is one, there are two persons – because there is the Son as well: and the third too, – the Holy Spirit. The Father gives orders, the Word performs the work, and is revealed as Son, through whom belief is accorded to the Father. By a harmonious economy the result is a single God. This is because there is one God. [Another translator here has: "The economy of harmony is led back to the one God; for God is One." (Vol 5, p. 228)] For the one who commands is the Father, the one who obeys is the Son, and the one who promotes mutual understanding is the Holy Spirit. He who is Father is over all things, and the Son is through all things, and the Holy Spirit is in all things. (cf. Eph 4,6) We can get no idea of the one God other than by really believing in Father and Son and Holy Spirit. Of course the Jews glorified the Father, but they offered no thanksgiving (cf. Rom 1,21), since they had no knowledge of the Son. The disciples did have knowledge of the Son, but not in the Holy Spirit, so they even denied [him].
Now the Father’s own Word was aware of the economy and the will of the Father – that the Father is determined to be glorified in no other way than this. So after the resurrection he passed this on to his disciples with the words: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28,19) – showing that all those who miss out any one of these did not glorify God perfectly. For it is by means of this Triad that the Father is glorified. For the Father willed, the Son brought it about, the Spirit made it clear. Now the whole of the Scriptures are a proclamation about this. (Contra Noetum 14, pp. 74-6, trans. Robert Butterworth, bold added, parenthentic references added by translator)
The translator strains here to find trinitarianism – to find three equally divine persons within the one God. He wants the one God here which is mentioned several times to be the Trinity. But it’s the Father, throughout, as his translation makes clear. (The one sentence excepted – the one in the middle I give another, surely trinitarian, translator’s rendering of.)
Correctly, I think, he translates the Greek word triados as Triad – meaning a plurality of three entities – as “Triad” and not “Trinity,” which would tend to suggest the anachronism of a tripersonal deity here. I’ve always thought the idea of “economy” was obscure; but the basic idea is that God, the Father, has a plan for his working in history, and that is through these lesser deities of Son and Spirit. The coordination of the actions of these three beings shows that it is all the plan of one being, the one God, the Father. As Paul has it in Ephesians 4:6, which the translator sees Hippolytus referencing above:
There is one Lord [Jesus], one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, over all, through all and within all. (Eph 4:6, New Jerusalem)
If Hippolytus does have this in mind, note that he’s assigned the “through” and “within/in” to the Son and Spirit. But his idea is that it is God, the Father, working through them, as to his economy. This leaves him as “the one God and Father of all, over all.”
Trinitarian or unitarian?