Date of Award

Spring 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Barnes, Michel R.

Second Advisor

Van Riel, Gerd

Third Advisor

Ayres, Lewis


This dissertation reconstructs Didymus the Blind’s theology in On the Holy Spirit as a pro-Nicene response to Origen’s theology of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The study begins by setting Origen’s speculation into a broad framework of schemes of emanation in Christianity and Platonism. I provide an account of Origen’s grammar of participation, which orders the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in a hierarchical series of causes. I show how Origen’s grammar of participation draws on the philosophy of Numenius of Apamea, and I argue that Origen uses his grammar of participation to oppose monarchian theologies that identify the three as a single, undifferentiated substance. “Participation” provides Origen the grammar he needs to establish continuity from the supreme God the Father to all other entities God produces, without teaching two supreme first principles. Origen’s hierarchical scheme yields a “low” pneumatology. With Origen’s theology in view, I turn to Didymus the Blind’s On the Holy Spirit. I contextualize Didymus’s response to angelomorphic pneumatology in terms of pro-Nicene theology. I begin by showing how Didymus transforms exegesis of a key verse in anti-monarchian polemic (John 16:14). I argue that Didymus opposed Eunomius’ reading of John 16:14, as well as Eunomius’ claim that the Holy Spirit is subordinated to the Son. I then show how Didymus’ doctrine of inseparable operation helps him oppose an anti-Nicene reading of John 5:19 and John 14:16. Finally, I argue that Didymus retains certain features of earlier Alexandrian tradition while transforming others in light of Nicaea. He retains a “spiritual” participation in the Holy Spirit and a theology of the “image” of God. He replaces Origen’s tiered trinity with a “high” pneumatology and pro-Nicene theology. The Holy Spirit is the transcendent, “paradigmatic cause” of the impression of holiness in the soul. Didymus argues this point in pro-Nicene terms in order to ground an anti-Manichaean asceticism: the monk can neither purify himself nor become irredeemably evil.