Date of Award

Summer 8-2009

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Barnes, Michel René

Second Advisor

Del Colle, Ralph

Third Advisor

Dempsey, Deirdre


The comments H.B. Swete made early last century initiated a high regard in general for Irenaeus’ doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Yet, that regard has not been universal nor has an adequate volume of literature supported it. The disparagement of Irenaeus’ theology of the Holy Spirit occurs in the work of such scholars as Adolf von Harnack and Antonio Orbe. Although discussions pertaining to Irenaeus’ conception of the Spirit appear in numerous works, just two studies have focused on Irenaeus’ pneumatology: an article by Adhémar d’Alès and part of a monograph by Hans-Jochen Jaschke. As a result, an in-depth examination of principal aspects of Irenaeus’ account of the Holy Spirit is needed. Providing such an analysis is the first purpose of this project.

The second purpose of this study is to demonstrate that Irenaeus’ theology of the Holy Spirit consists of a combination of Jewish traditions with New Testament doctrine. By the time he finished writing, Irenaeus had articulated the most complex Jewish- Christian pneumatology of the early Church. He eschewed the Jewish traditions that often hindered the theological accounts of his contemporaries, and adopted and adapted the Jewish traditions that enabled him to strengthen and clarify his understanding of the Spirit.

This brings me to the third purpose of this work. I will show that Irenaeus was the first author, following the New Testament writings, to construct a theological account in which binitarian logic does not diminish either the identity or activity of the Holy Spirit. I will use Justin Martyr as an example of mid-second-century Christian thinkers who utilized Jewish traditions of the Spirit in a way that weakens their accounts of the Holy Spirit. His thought will serve as a basis of comparison for Irenaeus’ reasoning.

Lastly, this study will enable us to better recognize and evaluate how the loss of Jewish traditions of the Spirit affected theological accounts in the third and early fourth centuries, and how the reappearance of some of these traditional motifs affected late fourth-century theologies.



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