Date of Award

Spring 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Religious Studies

First Advisor

Barnes, Michel R.

Second Advisor

Mueller, Joseph G.

Third Advisor

Plested, Marcus


This dissertation unfolds in two parts. In the first, I offer a reconstruction of the core of Monarchian theology using four main primary texts: Hippolytus’ Contra Noetum, Tertullian’s Adversus Praxean, the Refutatio omnium haeresium (often attributed to Hippolytus), and Novatian’s De Trinitate. The Monarchian controversy enters the historical record at the beginning of the third century, but we know little of its origins or motivations. The first part begins with a hypothesis about what might have prompted the rise of Monarchianism. Following that, I give an account of the core of Monarchian teaching using the sources listed above. My account gives specific attention to both major theological themes and exegetical trends in Monarchian theology. Not only is such an account lacking in English-language scholarship, but I also use a different method than the methods used in those few non-English accounts that exist. The result of part one of the dissertation is a portrait of the Monarchians who sought to preserve the unity and uniqueness of God by claiming things such as “the Father and the Son are one and the same.” Such an overtly anti-Trinitarian theology, I argue, catalyzed the development of Trinitarian theology by creating a need to better articulate the unity and distinction of the Father and Son. In part two of the dissertation, I offer a limited rereading of Origen’s early Trinitarian theology in light of the Monarchian controversy. I focus on books 1-2 of his Commentary on John. Against the trend of many contemporary scholars who use anachronistic categories to interpret Origen’s Trinitarian theology, I seek to read him within his own context in the early third century. I argue that Origen’s anti-Monarchian polemics caused him to develop and utilize a rich Wisdom Christology. Finally, I approach the question of whether Origen was a “subordinationist” by reframing the question within the horizon of anti-Monarchian polemics in the early third century. I conclude that Origen can be considered a “subordinationist” and that subordinationism was a commonly employed anti-Monarchian polemical strategy. Origen used subordinationism to articulate and defend the distinction of the Father and Son.