Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Michel R. Barnes
Ralph Del Colle
This dissertation evaluates Novatian of Rome's theology of the Son in his De Trinitate. It argues that Novatian presents the Son as ontologically subordinate to the Father, which is not a conclusion shared by a majority of recent scholars. This conclusion is reached by comparing Novatian's presentation of the Father's divinity with that of the Son. The first half of this work, therefore, demonstrates the manner by which Novatian affirms that the Father is transcendent, supreme, and unique in His attributes. Novatian employs a range of concepts and terms found in Christian and non-Christian sources. Specifically, I present and analyze Novatian's indebtedness to technical terminology of divine ontology and divine attributes which were common to his intellectual environment, especially in Middle Platonism. I show that Novatian expresses the Father's transcendence through negative theology, but also acknowledges an array of necessary attributes such as oneness and simplicity.
Novatian's understanding of the Son's nature depends on his conviction that the Father alone is supreme in all of His divine attributes. The arguments Novatain assembles to identify the Son as God do not suggest that the Son's divinity is based on the idea of equality with the Father. In some respects, Novatian takes over subordinationist themes in the Word Christology tradition, which was highly influential to his perspective. This study shows that when Novatian turns his attention to a comparison of the Son's divine nature with that of the Father, his emphasis on the Father's uniqueness and supremacy act as the lens by which he speaks of the Son's attributes. Although Novatian embraces the Son's derivation from the Father in terms of a shared substance (what I identify as an ontological connection/relationship), he consistently speaks of the Son's attributes as diminished and less than the Father's. This dissertation attempts to correct the false impression that theological philosophy played a minor role, or no role at all, on Novatian's thought. Novatian's theology of the Son is both consistent and sophisticated because of his articulation of the Son's ontological subordination to the Father.
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