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The Filioque is a Latin addition to the explanation of the Nicene-Constantinople Creed about the coming of the Holy Spirit , which is not included in the original version of 381. In the Western Church , however, it has been used in trinity theological formulations since the 5th century , has even enjoyed dogmatic status since the 13th century and is known today by Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians; the old Catholic churches reject the Filioque addition. The filioque is, next to the papal primacy, the most important theological point of contention that prevents the reunification of the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches after their almost thousand-year schism .


Breath of the Holy Spirit in a representation of the Latin church Saint-Marcellin , Boulbon (Provence, around 1450; now in the Louvre )

Filioque means "and (from) the son ". Specifically, it concerns the following position:

"[...] et in Spiritum Sanctum,
Dominum et vivificantem,
qui ex Patre Filioque procedit [...]"

"[...] and [we believe] in the Holy Spirit,
who is Lord and gives life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son [...]"

In the original Greek text, which the council had established as dogma , it only says:

"[...] καὶ εἰς τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον,
τὸ κύριον, τὸ ζωοποιόν,
τὸ ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον [...]"

"[...] and to the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the quickener
who comes out of the Father [...]"

Development of the history of dogma

Already with the church writer Tertullian (Adv. Prax. 4), the church fathers Athanasius (Ep. Ad Serap. 3,1), Basilius ( De Spiritu Sancto 18,47), Ambrosius ( De Spiritu Sancto I 120), Augustine (In Ioan . Tr. 99,6; De Trin . XV 27, 48) and other Church Fathers there are formulations on which the later theology of the Trinity and the use of Filioque formulas could be based. The Western Fathers prefer a coordinating formula (the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son), while the Eastern Fathers prefer a subordinating formula (from the Father through the Son).

In 447 the Synod of Toledo approved a modified creed of a previous synod (Toledo 400) with the following formulation:

"[...] spiritum quoque Paracletum esse, qui nec Pater sit ipse, nec Filius, sed a Patre Filioque procedens.
Est ergo ingenitus Pater, genitus Filius, non genitus Paracletus, sed a Patre Filioque procedens. "

"[...] that the spirit and the assistance was not itself, nor the Son, but from the father of the father and son out walking.
So the father is ungenerated, the son begotten, the supporter not begotten, but rather arising from the father and the son . "

The Third Council of Toledo in 589 used the Filioque formulation to take a stand against Arianism , which viewed Jesus Christ as less than God the Father. This addition should make clear the equality of Jesus Christ with the Father. As a result, it was necessary to work out a systematic theology of the Trinity , which then received and developed this formula in the West.

Charlemagne , who considered himself the “ruler and supreme priest” of all Christian peoples under his leadership, left the filioque at the Synod of Aachen convened for this purpose in the year 809 by Frankish theologians following the tradition of Alcuins , especially Theodulf von Orléans , theologically underpin, who regarded the belief expressed by the Filioque as belonging to the integral belief . The Orthodox Church, and with it the Emperor in Constantinople , accused Karl of deliberately removing the addition. So the Franks stayed with the addition in the Credo . The anti-Byzantine attitude of the Carolingians may be seen in the context of their striving for imperial dignity ( two emperors problem ).

The then Pope Leo III. Although shared the Frankish doctrine and regarded it as compatible with the faith, did not accept a change in the creed and had the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed engraved in St. Peter's Church without the Filioque addition in Greek and Latin .

Accordingly, the Fourth Council of Constantinople 879-880 confirmed the unchanged Creed of 381 ( First Council of Constantinople ) and declared all additions to be invalid. This decision of the council was confirmed by all five patriarchs of the church, in Rome by Pope John VIII , in Constantinople by Photius , also in Antioch , Jerusalem and Alexandria , as well as by the Byzantine Emperor Basil I.

To 1013, Pope was Benedict VIII. By the later Emperor Henry II. Persuade the addition Filioque magisterial the Creed of the Latin Church insert, as is already the rezipierte only in the West Athanasian creed known. The Roman Catholic Church added the addition of 1215 to the dogma at the 4th Lateran Council , long after the mutual excommunication of the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople (1054).

The filioque does not appear to be acceptable to the Orthodox churches because it is a unilateral amendment of the decision of a generally recognized ecumenical council and because it contradicts the old interpretation of the Trinity .

Theological background

The Rublev icon is an expression of the old Eastern Orthodox way of thinking: Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three almost identical persons, the spirit sits at eye level and at a common table, opposite the father and son.

In the Filioque dispute, different interpretations of the Trinity clash. The ancient Greek tradition emphasized the three different entities of the Trinity, while the Frankish theologians placed greater emphasis on the unity of the three hypostases .

According to the teaching of the Orthodox Churches, the Father is the only origin within the Trinity. In a sense, the Son and the Holy Spirit should be thought of as the right and left arms of the Father. It is stated of the son that he was “begotten”, and of the spirit that he was “ breathed ”. Franconian theology, on the other hand, follows the Augustinian model: father and son are linked in mutual love, the Holy Spirit is now to be thought of as this "bond of love" ( Vinculum amoris ). In this respect, the son is also involved in the emergence of the spirit, but only actively, not primarily.

Mutual difficulties in understanding also result from a different line of sight that is not always reflected on. Orthodox theology is fundamentally more interested in statements about the original relationships of the divine persons, while western theology focuses primarily on the life relationships of the three divine persons.

Against the background of the Filioque discussion, the biblical testimony could be cited that Jesus Christ announced that he would send the Holy Spirit to people ( Jn 14.16f.  EU ). The impression could easily be given that the Holy Spirit was first brought into being through Jesus. There is a danger here of confusing the “ salvation economic ” role of Jesus with the immanent relationship of Christ to the Father and the Holy Spirit, all three of whom are known as equally divine and equally eternal.

For a long time, however, all these different interpretations were only locally differently weighted, different doctrines that did not call into question the fundamental unity of the church even for a few centuries beyond the Eastern Schism . Only after a phase of prolonged hardening was - in retrospect - the Filioque addition to the creed identified as the starting point and core point of the split in the church.

Linguistic difficulties

Some difficulties in dealing with the content can also be traced back to linguistic differences, which are often not sufficiently reflected upon. The Greek Church thinks of the word “origin” ( ἀρχή ), not without thinking “rule” (also ἀρχή ) at the same time : a statement that is more meaningful to the father than the son. Conversely, the Latin Church thinks of the expression “proceeding” (processio) at the same time as “going on” (also processio ), so that the filioque does not necessarily make a statement about the origin (principium) of the son, even if there is understanding has come to a head in the course of the discussion.

Spiritual historical interpretation

It is often said that the filioque led to the subordination of the spirit to the father and the son, with far-reaching consequences in the history of the spirit. In fact, there is agreement that the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is hardly developed in the Western tradition, while the doctrine of salvation sharpened strongly on the person of Christ, up to the solus Christ of the Reformation, Jesus- centered in Pietism and the veneration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Modern times, so that Catholic and Protestant piety hardly differ from one another on this point.

In addition, the inclusion of the filioque in the creed of the West also led to a fundamentally different relationship to the spirit than in the East, which is referred to in the theological terms with the term "spiritual oblivion" and is also made responsible for a stronger expression of more rational intellectuality in the West .

Ecumenical relevance

Representation of the Pentecost event from the Ingeborg Psalter (around 1200): The exalted Christ sends the Holy Spirit down on Mary and the disciples in the form of a dove.

To this day, besides the primacy of the Pope , the filioque is the most important theological point on which the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches cannot agree.

The churches of the Reformation , insofar as they use the classical creeds, have retained the western church version with the filioque, since they stand in the western and not in the eastern tradition with regard to the interpretation of the Trinity, but generally do not see this as a fundamental problem.

In November 2007 a statement by the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (VELKD) was published. According to this statement, the possibility is provided "that in ecumenical church services with churches in which the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitanum (NC) is in use without Filioque , Lutheran Christians can also speak the NC without Filioque ."

The Old Catholic Church has returned to the version of the creed without filioque , on the one hand out of theological conviction, on the other hand in a conscious approach to the Orthodox churches.

In the papal declaration Dominus Iesus on the uniqueness and the universality of salvation of Jesus Christ and the Church of August 6, 2000, the Nicano-Constantinopolitanum is received without the Filioque. The question of the theological relevance of the filioque for the desired church unity is currently the subject of ecumenical discussions .

According to Jürgen Moltmann , the overcoming of the church division "cannot be achieved by returning to the original text of the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitanum, but only through a common answer to the question of the relationship of the son to the Holy Spirit and of the Holy Spirit to the Son."

See also


  • Peter Gemeinhardt : The Filioque Controversy between Eastern and Western Churches in the Early Middle Ages; Berlin and New York 2002
  • Bernd Oberdorfer : Filioque. History and Theology of an Ecumenical Problem . Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, Göttingen 2001
  • A. Edward Siecienski: The Filioque. History of a Doctrinal Controversy; Oxford 2010
  • Michael Böhnke / Assaad Elias Kattan / Bernd Oberdorfer (ed.): The Filioque Controversy. Historical, ecumenical and dogmatic perspectives 1200 years after the Aachen Synod (Quaestiones Disputatae 245); Freiburg 2011

Web links

Wiktionary: filioque  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ II. Union Conference. II Union Conference in Bonn . August 12 to 16, 1875. Accepted theses: “1. We agree in accepting the ecumenical symbols and beliefs of the ancient undivided Church. 2. We agree that the addition of the Filioque to the Symbolum was not done in a church-lawful manner. " Retrieved on April 3, 2014 .
  2. According to Oberndorfer 2001 (134; on the relevant Augustinian texts cf. 129ff. Above), neither with this nor with Augustine should a binding creed be formulated or the emergence of the Spirit from the Son should be theologically central.
  3. See Oberndorfer 2001, 133f.
  4. See Oberndorfer 2001, 135
  5. a b Jürgen Moltmann: Trinity and Kingdom of God. To the doctrine of God ; Munich: Chr. Kaiser, 1980; P. 186
  6. see, for example, the essay by Klaus-Peter Lehmann in the material service of the Evangelical Working Group on Church and Israel
  7. ↑ Confess your faith ecumenically. The Nicaeno-Constantinopolitanum of 381 as a unifying creed (PDF; 296 kB)
  8. Jürgen Moltmann: Trinity and Kingdom of God. To the doctrine of God. Christian Kaiser, Munich 1980, p. 198