Fortress Press

Athanasius and the Holy Spirit: The Development of His Early Pneumatology

Athanasius and the Holy Spirit

The Development of His Early Pneumatology

Kevin Douglas Hill (Author)


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Athanasius of Alexandria wrote over seven dozen works, the majority of which contain at least one reference to the Holy Spirit. Yet, previous studies have primarily concentrated on Athanasius’s Letters to Serapion on the Holy Spirit (ca. 359–361), leaving a lacuna in our knowledge of Athanasius’s prior pneumatology. By exploring the period from Athanasius’s election as bishop (328) to the completion of the third Oration against the Arians (ca. 345), this book seeks to help fill this gap.

The first part argues that by the mid-330s, Athanasius had begun to establish core pneumatological perspectives that he would maintain for the rest of his career. Part 2 examines Athanasius’s three Orations, giving particular attention to Orations 1–2. To Athanasius, the Holy Spirit is eternal, uncreated, united to the Son, worthy of worship, and essential for salvation. These points laid the foundation for what was to come in Serapion. Without the pneumatological perspectives that he established in the 330s and 340s, Athanasius would not have been prepared to take the next steps of confessing the Holy Spirit’s divine nature and role in creating the world.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781506416687
  • eBook ISBN 9781506416694
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 312
  • Publication Date December 1, 2016



Part 1—Athanasius’s Pastoral Works
1. The Problem of Pneumatological Reticence in Against the Pagans—On the Incarnation
2. Pneumatology in the Early Pastoral Works
3. Pneumatology in the Later Pastoral Works

Part 2—The Orations against the Arians
4. A Foundational Pneumatology: The Holy Spirit in Athanasius’s Trinitarian Arguments
5. Essential for Salvation: Psalm 45:7 and Christ’s Reception of the Holy Spirit
6. Participation in the Holy Spirit: Principles and Pneumatological Implications
7. The Spirit of the Son: The Holy Spirit’s Union with the Son

Appendix A: The Holy Spirit in Athanasius’s Work
Appendix B: The Son’s Participation in the Father



Hill expertly establishes how Athanasius’s pneumatology integrates with his Christological and Trinitarian thought.

“Adding to the small but growing number of monographs on patristic pneumatology, Kevin Douglas Hill greatly helps us with this contribution on the Holy Spirit in Athanasius. He rightly shows the integrated nature of Athanasius’s theological and pastoral corpus, demonstrating how the Spirit does indeed play a key role throughout his career, even if not in every work. Hill does not, however, limit his discussion to the Spirit; rather, he expertly establishes how Athanasius’s pneumatology integrates with his Christological and Trinitarian thought.”

Ben C. Blackwell | Houston Baptist University