Promissam Vim Spiritus Sancti: The Holy Spirit's Activity in Early Carthaginian Pneumatology
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SubjectTertullian, approximately 160-approximately 230
Cyprian, Saint, Bishop of Carthage
Carthage (Extinct city)--Church history
In 2008, Lewis Ayres and Michel Barnes published several articles in the journal Augustinian Studies proposing a theory of early Christian pneumatology in three stages. They argue that each successive stage marked a downturn in the church’s pneumatology, progressing from a high pneumatology eventually down to the subordinationism that led to Arianism. This dissertation adds to that discussion with an examination of the Latin-speaking Carthaginian church’s (AD 180–260) view of the Holy Spirit’s activity. The first major chapter examines the social, philosophical, political, and religious contexts of Roman Carthage during this period to set the early church’s emphasis on the Spirit’s work in its historical context and recognize the cultural influences upon the church’s development of this doctrine. Next, this dissertation will give two chapters on Tertullian’s works, which are the earliest extant documents from a Latin-speaking church father. Tertullian can be placed at the very end of the first stage of Ayres and Barnes, as both his pre-Montanist and Montanist writings speak of the Spirit’s activity, including but not limited to the areas of inspiration, anointing, giving of gifts, the sacraments, and the work of salvation. An examination of his significant emphasis on the Holy Spirit’s activity throughout his works pushes back on the theory that the church was beginning to hold a diminished pneumatology at the beginning of the third-century. The final chapter of the dissertation will examine the role of the Spirit’s activity in the treatises and letters of Cyprian. Ayres and Barnes place Cyprian in the second stage as one who focused very little on the Holy Spirit. However, as the theological heir of his predecessor’s understanding of the Spirit’s work, for Cyprian, the question of the deity of the Spirit had been settled by Tertullian, which freed him to focus instead on the Spirit’s work in the lives of believers and the church. Thus, while Cyprian did not often address the ontological status of the Spirit, his works nevertheless contain a multitude of references to the Spirit’s activity in the life of the church.