The Trinitarian Theology of Hilary of Poitiers


When Hilary of Poitiers was exiled from his native Poitiers in Gaul to Cappadocia, his entire theological sensibility changed. The Latin bishop, schooled in the tradition of Tertullian and Novatian, became a full-throated participant in the Trinitarian controversies of his time.
This book offers a new reading of Hilary’s Trinitarian theology that takes into account the historical context of Hilary’s thought. It first examines this context and the course of Hilary’s engagement with his Homoian opponents. It then turns to the key themes of Hilary’s theology as he worked them out in that context. The result is a work that not only helps clarify Hilary’s theology, but that offers new insight into the Trinitarian controversies as a whole.
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Biographical Note

Mark Weedman, Ph.D. (2004) in Religious Studies, Marquette University, is Associate Professor of Biblical and Historical Theology at Crossroads College. He has published several articles on the fourth century Trinitarian controversies and is working on a history of Latin Trinitarian theology.

Table of contents

The introduction includes a biography of Hilary and an examination of the circumstances of his exile.

Part 1: The Development and Context of Hilary’s Trinitarian Theology

CHAPTER 1 – Latin Anti – Modalism in In Matthaeum
This chapter places Hilary’s earliest writing in the context of early Latin Trinitarian polemic by showing how it derives from the anti – modalist polemic of Tertullian and Novatian. It sets the standard by which we can judge development in Hilary’s later Trinitarian writings.

CHAPTER 2 – The Latin West and the Beginning of the Homoian Crisis
Chapter Two examines the initial Latin response to the Homoian crisis, especially as revealed by the writings of Phoebadius of Agen and Marius Victorinus. The witness of these two theologians is important because they reveal the extent to which Latin theologians struggled to make their traditional categories answer the Homoian threat.

CHAPTER 3 – Hilary’s First Attempts to Engage the Homoians
In Chapter Three, I turn to Hilary’s first attempts to engage in the controversy in two works written immediately after his exile, Liber adversus Valentem et Ursacium, and De Fide. These works provide evidence that while Hilary had engaged in the controversy, he did so naively, without a complete awareness of all its particularities.

CHAPTER 4 – Hilary, Basil of Ancyra and Sirmium 357
Chapter Four considers Hilary’s first attempt to restate his doctrine of God in De Synodis. The work is important because it is the first time Hilary begins to use perspectives and tools he took from his association with Basil of Ancyra.

Part 2: The Shape of Hilary’s Trinitarian Theology

CHAPTER 5 – Exegeting Scripture
I conclude the book with four chapters that examine Hilary’s “mature” thought in his magnum opus, De Trinitate. I begin this section by considering Hilary’s use of Scripture in the formulation of his Trinitarian thought. Exegesis and theology closely intertwined for Hilary, and in this chapter I show how Hilary uses his interpretation of key passages, especially Philippians 2.6 – 11, as a “hermeneutical guide” to govern his exegesis of other controversial passages.

CHAPTER 6 – The Name and Birth of God
In Chapter Six I explore his doctrine of God from De Trinitate 7 by focusing on his use of the concepts “name” and “birth” to explain the relationship between the Father and the Son. This is the crucial category that Hilary adapted from Basil of Ancyra, and it has deep roots in both traditional Greek Trinitarian theology and the Homoian controversy.

CHAPTER 7 – The Incarnation and Passion of the Son
This chapter considers how Hilary’s “mature” Christology employs the Philippians 2 hermeneutic. Through this hermeneutic, Hilary is able to offer an anti – Homoian account of the Passion of the Son by utilizing the categories forma servi – forma dei. This doctrine marks a final departure from the logo – sarx Christology he had established in In Matthaeum.

CHAPTER 8: The Generation of the Son
Hilary concludes De Trinitate with a lengthy treatment of the Son’s generation. I show how he applies his Philippians 2 hermeneutic to Proverbs 8 to develop his doctrine of the Son’s generation. As in De Trinitate10, Hilary’s thought in De Trinitate 12 represents a fundamental departure from his Latin heritage.




All those interested in the development of Trinitarian theology in both the East and the West, new historical approaches to understanding the fourth century controversies, the thought and develpoment of Hilary of Poitiers, the influence of Basil of Ancrya and their opposition to the Homoians.


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