Origen and the Emergence of Divine Simplicity before Nicaea
This book establishes how the doctrine of divine simplicity was interwoven with the formation of a Christian Trinitarian understanding of God before Nicaea.
For centuries, Christian theology affirmed God as simple (haplous) and Triune. But the doctrine of the simple Trinity has been challenged by modern critics of classical theism. How can God, conceived as purely one without multiplicity, be a Trinity? This book sets a new historical foundation for addressing this question by tracing how divine simplicity emerged as a key notion in early Christianity. Pui Him Ip argues that only in light of the Platonic synthesis between the Good and the First Principle (archē) can we make sense of divine simplicity as a refusal to associate any kind of plurality that brings about contraries in the divine life. This philosophical doctrine, according to Ip, was integral to how early Christians began to speak of the divine life in terms of a relationship between Father and Son.
Through detailed historical exploration of Irenaeus, sources from the Monarchian controversy, and especially Origen’s oeuvre, Ip contends that the key contribution from ante-Nicene theology is the realization that it is nontrivial to speak of the begetting of a distinct person (Son) from a simple source (Father). This question became the central problematic in Trinitarian theology before Nicaea and remained crucial for understanding the emergence of rival accounts of the Trinity (“pro-Nicene” and “anti-Nicene” theologies) in the fourth century. Origen and the Emergence of Divine Simplicity before Nicaea suggests a new revisional historiography of theological developments after Origen and will be necessary reading for serious students both of patristics and of the wider history of Christian thought.
Introduction: In Search of Doctrinal History
1. The Locus Classicus of Divine Simplicity
2. From the Simple God to the Simple First Principle
3. Irenaeus’ Critique of Valentinian probolē and the Proto-Trinitarian Problematic
4. Monarchianism and the Fully Trinitarian Problematic
5. Divine Simplicity as a Metaphysical-Ethical Synthesis in Origen
6. Divine Simplicity as an Anti-Monarchian Principle of Differentiation between the Father and Son
7. Divine Simplicity as an anti-Valentinian Principle of Unity between the Father and Son
Epilogue: Towards a Prospective Historiography
“This impressive study offers what I think is the very first genealogy of Christian usage of the idea of divine simplicity up through Origen of Alexandria.” —Andrew Radde-Gallwitz, author of Gregory of Nyssa’s Doctrinal Works
"Readers will find the discussion of Origen's relation to the Platonists of his time especially valuable in its erudition and its conceptual sophistication. This book is a contribution, not only to patristics, but to the history of philosophy." —Mark Edwards, author of Christians, Gnostics and Philosophers in Late Antiquity
"Ip’s elegant discussion of divine simplicity in pre-Nicene theology helps us to see with new clarity the diversity of ways this doctrine was articulated, and the functions it performed. By showing us this rich diversity, Ip also offers further arguments for taking the doctrine seriously as an integral and important part of the Patristic heritage. Students of Trinitarian theology, of Irenaeus, and of Origen will all need to come to terms with Ip’s work." —Lewis Ayres, author of Augustine and the Trinity
"Ip's lucid and surefooted book provides an historical and conceptual anchorage for any future discourse on divine simplicity, giving the doctrine a more human and concrete face, and enabling a new flexibility in addressing the formidable conundrums it poses." —Reviews in Religion & Theology
"The attentive reader will find in these pages persuasive, careful arguments based on detailed analyses of the relevant texts. This study... is as useful as an introduction to ancient philosophical theology and methods of its study as it is as a contribution to scholarly understandings of the numerous individual passages, figures and broader narratives it engages." —Scottish Journal of Theology