The Existence of God
Help support New Advent and get the full contents of this website as an instant download or CD-ROM. Includes the Catholic Encyclopedia, Church Fathers, Summa, Bible and more — all for only $19.99…
The topic will be treated as follows:
I. As Known Through Natural Reason
A. The Problem Stated
1. Formal Anti-Theism
2. Types of Theism
B. Theistic Proofs
1. A Posteriori Argument
(a) The general causality argument
(b) The argument from design
(c) The argument from conscience
(d) The argument from universal consent
2. A Priori, or Ontological, Argument
II. As Known Through Faith
A. Sacred Scriptures
B. Church Councils
C. The Knowability of God
As known through natural reason — (“the God of the philosophers”)
The problem stated
Had the Theist merely to face a blank Atheistic denial of God’s existence, his task would he comparatively a light one. Formal dogmatic Atheism is self-refuting, and has never de facto won the reasoned assent of any considerable number of men. Nor can Polytheism, however easily it may take hold of the popular imagination, ever satisfy the mind of a philosopher. But there are several varieties of what may be described as virtual Atheism which cannot be dismissed so summarily.
There is the Agnosticism, for instance, of Herbert Spencer, which, while admitting the rational necessity of postulating the Absolute or Unconditioned behind the relative and conditioned objects of our knowledge declares that Absolute to be altogether unknowable, to be in fact the Unknowable, about which without being guilty of contradiction we can predicate nothing at all, except perhaps that It exists; and there are other types of Agnosticism.
Then again there is Pantheism in an almost endless variety of forms, all of which, however, may be logically reduced to the three following types:
the purely materialistic, which, making matter the only reality, would explain life by mechanics and chemistry, reduce abstract thought to the level of an organic process deny any higher ultimate moral value to the Ten Commandments than to Newton’s law of gravitation, and, finally, identify God Himself with the universe thus interpreted (see MATERIALISM; MONISM);
the purely idealistic, which, choosing the contrary alternative, would make mind the only reality, convert the material universe into an idea, and identify God with this all-embracing mind or idea, conceived as eternally evolving itself into passing phases or expressions of being and attaining self-consciousness in the souls of men; and
the combined materialistic-idealistic, which tries to steer a middle course and without sacrificing mind to matter or matter to mind, would conceive the existing universe, with which God is identified, as some sort of “double-faced” single entity.
Thus to accomplish even the beginning of his task the Theist has to show, against Agnostics, that the knowledge of God attainable by rational inference — however inadequate and imperfect it may be — is as true and valid, as far as it goes, as any other piece of knowledge we possess; and against Pantheists that the God of reason is a supra-mundane personal God distinct both from matter and from the finite human mind — that neither we ourselves nor the earth we tread upon enter into the constitution of His being.
Types of theism
But passing from views that are formally anti-theistic, it is found that among Theists themselves certain differences exist which tend to complicate the problem, and increase the difficulty of stating it briefly and clearly. Some of these differences are brief and clear.
Some of these differences are merely formal and accidental and do not affect the substance of the theistic thesis, but others are of substantial importance, as, for instance, whether we can validly establish the truth of God’s existence by the same kind of rational inference (e.g. from effect to cause) as we employ in other departments of knowledge, or whether, in order to justify our belief in this truth, we must not rather rely on some transcendental principle or axiom, superior and antecedent to dialectical reasoning; or on immediate intuition; or on some moral, sentimental, emotional, or æsthetic instinct or perception, which is voluntary rather than intellectual.
Kant denied in the name of “pure reason” the inferential validity of the classical theistic proofs, while in the name of “practical reason” he postulated God’s existence as an implicate of the moral law, and Kant’s method has been followed or imitated by many Theists — by some who fully agree with him in rejecting the classical arguments; by others, who, without going so far, believe in the apologetical expediency of trying to persuade rather than convince men to be Theists. A moderate reaction against the too rigidly mathematical intellectualism of Descartes was to be welcomed, but the Kantian reaction by its excesses has injured the cause of Theism and helped forward the cause of anti-theistic philosophy. Herbert Spencer, as is well known, borrowed most of his arguments for Agnosticism from Hamilton and Mansel, who had popularized Kantian criticism in England, while in trying to improve on Kant’s reconstructive transcendentalism, his German disciples (Fichte, Schelling, Hegel) drifted into Pantheism. Kant also helped to prepare the way for the total disparagement of human reason in relation to religious truth, which constitutes the negative side of Traditionalism, while the appeal of that system on the positive side to the common consent and tradition of mankind as the chief or sole criterion of truth and more especially of religious truth — its authority as a criterion being traced ultimately to a positive Divine revelation — is, like Kant’s refuge in practical reason, merely an illogical attempt to escape from Agnosticism.
Again, though Ontologism — like that of Malebranche (d. 1715) — is older than Kant, its revival in the nineteenth century (by Gioberti, Rosmini, and others) has been inspired to some extent by Kantian influences. This system maintains that we have naturally some immediate consciousness, however dim at first, or some intuitive knowledge of God — not indeed that we see Him in His essence face to face but that we know Him in His relation to creatures by the same act of cognition — according to Rosmini, as we become conscious of being in general — and therefore that the truth of His existence is as much a datum of philosophy as is the abstract idea of being.
Finally, the philosophy of Modernism — about which there has recently been such a stir — is a somewhat complex medley of these various systems and tendencies; its main features as a system are:
negatively, a thoroughgoing intellectual Agnosticism, and
positively, the assertion of an immediate sense or experience of God as immanent in the life of the soul — an experience which is at first only subconscious, but which, when the requisite moral dispositions are present, becomes an object of conscious certainty.
Now all these varying types of Theism, in so far as they are opposed to the classical and traditional type, may be reduced to one or other of the two following propositions:
that we have naturally an immediate consciousness or intuition of God’s existence and may therefore dispense with any attempt to prove this truth inferentially;
that, though we do not know this truth intuitively and cannot prove it inferentially in such a way as to satisfy the speculative reason, we can, nevertheless, and must conscientiously believe it on other than strictly intellectual grounds.
But an appeal to experience, not to mention other objections, is sufficient to negative the first proposition — and the second, which, as history has already made clear, is an illogical compromise with Agnosticism, is best refuted by a simple statement of the theistic Proofs. It is not the proofs that are found to be fallacious but the criticism which rejects them. It is true of course — and no Theist denies it — that for the proper intellectual appreciation of theistic proofs moral dispositions are required, and that moral consciousness, the æsthetic faculty, and whatever other powers or capacities belong to man’s spiritual nature, constitute or supply so many data on which to base inferential proofs. But this is very different from holding that we possess any faculty or power which assures us of God’s existence and which is independent of, and superior to, the intellectual laws that regulate our assent to truth in general — that in the religious sphere we can transcend those laws without confessing our belief in God to be irrational. It is also true that a mere barren intellectual assent to the truth of God’s existence — and such an assent is conceivable — falls very far short of what religious assent ought to be; that what is taught in revealed religion about the worthlessness of faith uninformed by charity has its counterpart in natural religion; and that practical Theism, if it pretends to be adequate, must appeal not merely to the intellect but to the heart and conscience of mankind and be capable of winning the total allegiance of rational creatures. But here again we meet with exaggeration and confusion on the part of those Theists who would substitute for intellectual assent something that does not exclude but presupposes it and is only required to complement it. The truth and pertinency of these observations will be made clear by the following summary of the classical arguments for God’s existence.
The arguments for God’s existence are variously classified and entitled by different writers, but all agree in recognizing the distinction between a priori, or deductive, and a posteriori, or inductive reasoning in this connection. And while all admit the validity and sufficiency of the latter method, opinion is divided in regard to the former. Some maintain that a valid a priori proof (usually called the ontological) is available; others deny this completely; while some others maintain an attitude of compromise or neutrality. This difference, it should be observed, applies only to the question of proving God’s actual existence; for, His self-existence being admitted, it is necessary to employ a priori or deductive inference in order to arrive at a knowledge of His nature and attributes, and as it is impossible to develop the arguments for His existence without some working notion of His nature, it is necessary to some extent to anticipate the deductive stage and combine the a priori with the a posteriori method. But no strictly a priori conclusion need be more than hypothetically assumed at this stage.
A posteriori argument
St. Thomas (Summa Theologica I:2:3; Cont. Gent., I, xiii) and after him many scholastic writers advance the five following arguments to prove the existence of God:
Motion, i.e. the passing from power to act, as it takes place in the universe implies a first unmoved Mover (primum movens immobile), who is God; else we should postulate an infinite series of movers, which is inconceivable.
For the same reason efficient causes, as we see them operating in this world, imply the existence of a First Cause that is uncaused, i.e. that possesses in itself the sufficient reason for its existence; and this is God.
The fact that contingent beings exist, i.e. beings whose non-existence is recognized as possible, implies the existence of a necessary being, who is God.
The graduated perfections of being actually existing in the universe can be understood only by comparison with an absolute standard that is also actual, i.e., an infinitely perfect Being such as God.
The wonderful order or evidence of intelligent design which the universe exhibits implies the existence of a supramundane Designer, who is no other than God Himself.
To these many Theists add other arguments:
the common consent of mankind (usually described by Catholic writers as the moral argument),
from the internal witness of conscience to the supremacy of the moral law, and, therefore, to the existence of a supreme Lawgiver (this may be called the ethical argument, or
from the existence and perception of beauty in the universe (the aesthetical argument).
One might go on, indeed, almost indefinitely multiplying and distinguishing arguments; but to do so would only lead to confusion.
The various arguments mentioned — and the same is true of others that might be added — are not in reality distinct and independent arguments, but only so many partial statements of one and the same general argument, which is perhaps best described as the cosmological. This argument assumes the validity of the principle of causality or sufficient reason and, stated in its most comprehensive form, amounts to this: that it is impossible according to the laws of human thought to give any ultimate rational explanation of the phenomena of external experience and of internal consciousness — in other words to synthesize the data which the actual universe as a whole supplies (and this is the recognized aim of philosophy) — unless by admitting the existence of a self-sufficient and self-explanatory cause or ground of being and activity, to which all these phenomena may be ultimately referred.
It is, therefore, mainly a question of method and expediency what particular points one may select from the multitude available to illustrate and enforce the general a posteriori argument. For our purpose it will suffice to state as briefly as possible
the general argument proving the self-existence of a First Cause,
the special arguments proving the existence of an intelligent Designer and
of a Supreme Moral Ruler, and
the confirmatory argument from the general Consent of mankind.
The dogma of the Trinity
The Trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the Christian religion — the truth that in the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these Three Persons being truly distinct one from another.
Thus, in the words of the Athanasian Creed: “the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God.” In this Trinity of Persons the Son is begotten of the Father by an eternal generation, and the Holy Spirit proceeds by an eternal procession from the Father and the Son. Yet, notwithstanding this difference as to origin, the Persons are co-eternal and co-equal: all alike are uncreated and omnipotent. This, the Church teaches, is the revelation regarding God’s nature which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came upon earth to deliver to the world: and which she proposes to man as the foundation of her whole dogmatic system.
In Scripture there is as yet no single term by which the Three Divine Persons are denoted together. The word trias (of which the Latin trinitas is a translation) is first found in Theophilus of Antioch about A.D. 180. He speaks of “the Trinity of God [the Father], His Word and His Wisdom (To Autolycus II.15). The term may, of course, have been in use before his time. Afterwards it appears in its Latin form of trinitas in Tertullian (On Pudicity 21). In the next century the word is in general use. It is found in many passages of Origen (“In Ps. xvii”, 15). The first creed in which it appears is that of Origen’s pupil, Gregory Thaumaturgus. In his Ekthesis tes pisteos composed between 260 and 270, he writes:
There is therefore nothing created, nothing subject to another in the Trinity: nor is there anything that has been added as though it once had not existed, but had entered afterwards: therefore the Father has never been without the Son, nor the Son without the Spirit: and this same Trinity is immutable and unalterable forever (P.G., X, 986).
It is manifest that a dogma so mysterious presupposes a Divine revelation. When the fact of revelation, understood in its full sense as the speech of God to man, is no longer admitted, the rejection of the doctrine follows as a necessary consequence. For this reason it has no place in the Liberal Protestantism of today. The writers of this school contend that the doctrine of the Trinity, as professed by the Church, is not contained in the New Testament, but that it was first formulated in the second century and received final approbation in the fourth, as the result of the Arian and Macedonian controversies. In view of this assertion it is necessary to consider in some detail the evidence afforded by Holy Scripture. Attempts have been made recently to apply the more extreme theories of comparative religion to the doctrine of the Trinity, and to account for it by an imaginary law of nature compelling men to group the objects of their worship in threes. It seems needless to give more than a reference to these extravagant views, which serious thinkers of every school reject as destitute of foundation.
Proof of doctrine from Scripture
The evidence from the Gospels culminates in the baptismal commission of Matthew 28:20. It is manifest from the narratives of the Evangelists that Christ only made the great truth known to the Twelve step by step.
First He taught them to recognize in Himself the Eternal Son of God. When His ministry was drawing to a close, He promised that the Father would send another Divine Person, the Holy Spirit, in His place. Finally after His resurrection, He revealed the doctrine in explicit terms, bidding them “go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:18). The force of this passage is decisive. That “the Father” and “the Son” are distinct Persons follows from the terms themselves, which are mutually exclusive. The mention of the Holy Spirit in the same series, the names being connected one with the other by the conjunctions “and . . . and” is evidence that we have here a Third Person co-ordinate with the Father and the Son, and excludes altogether the supposition that the Apostles understood the Holy Spirit not as a distinct Person, but as God viewed in His action on creatures.
The phrase “in the name” (eis to onoma) affirms alike the Godhead of the Persons and their unity of nature. Among the Jews and in the Apostolic Church the Divine name was representative of God. He who had a right to use it was invested with vast authority: for he wielded the supernatural powers of Him whose name he employed. It is incredible that the phrase “in the name” should be here employed, were not all the Persons mentioned equally Divine. Moreover, the use of the singular, “name,” and not the plural, shows that these Three Persons are that One Omnipotent God in whom the Apostles believed. Indeed the unity of God is so fundamental a tenet alike of the Hebrew and of the Christian religion, and is affirmed in such countless passages of the Old and New Testaments, that any explanation inconsistent with this doctrine would be altogether inadmissible.
The supernatural appearance at the baptism of Christ is often cited as an explicit revelation of Trinitarian doctrine, given at the very commencement of the Ministry. This, it seems to us, is a mistake. The Evangelists, it is true, see in it a manifestation of the Three Divine Persons. Yet, apart from Christ’s subsequent teaching, the dogmatic meaning of the scene would hardly have been understood. Moreover, the Gospel narratives appear to signify that none but Christ and the Baptist were privileged to see the Mystic Dove, and hear the words attesting the Divine sonship of the Messias.
Besides these passages there are many others in the Gospels which refer to one or other of the Three Persons in particular and clearly express the separate personality and Divinity of each. In regard to the First Person it will not be necessary to give special citations: those which declare that Jesus Christ is God the Son, affirm thereby also the separate personality of the Father. The Divinity of Christ is amply attested not merely by St. John, but by the Synoptists. As this point is treated elsewhere (see JESUS CHRIST), it will be sufficient here to enumerate a few of the more important messages from the Synoptists, in which Christ bears witness to His Divine Nature.
He declares that He will come to be the judge of all men (Matthew 25:31). In Jewish theology the judgment of the world was a distinctively Divine, and not a Messianic, prerogative.
In the parable of the wicked husbandmen, He describes Himself as the son of the householder, while the Prophets, one and all, are represented as the servants (Matthew 21:33 sqq.).
He is the Lord of Angels, who execute His command (Matthew 24:31).
He approves the confession of Peter when he recognizes Him, not as Messias — a step long since taken by all the Apostles — but explicitly as the Son of God: and He declares the knowledge due to a special revelation from the Father (Matthew 16:16-17).
Finally, before Caiphas He not merely declares Himself to be the Messias, but in reply to a second and distinct question affirms His claim to be the Son of God. He is instantly declared by the high priest to be guilty of blasphemy, an offense which could not have been attached to the claim to be simply the Messias (Luke 22:66-71).
St. John’s testimony is yet more explicit than that of the Synoptists. He expressly asserts that the very purpose of his Gospel is to establish the Divinity of Jesus Christ (John 20:31). In the prologue he identifies Him with the Word, the only-begotten of the Father, Who from all eternity exists with God, Who is God (John 1:1-18). The immanence of the Son in the Father and of the Father in the Son is declared in Christ’s words to St. Philip: “Do you not believe, that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?” (14:10), and in other passages no less explicit (14:7; 16:15; 17:21). The oneness of Their power and Their action is affirmed: “Whatever he [the Father] does, the Son also does in like manner” (5:19, cf. 10:38); and to the Son no less than to the Father belongs the Divine attribute of conferring life on whom He will (5:21). In 10:29, Christ expressly teaches His unity of essence with the Father: “That which my Father hath given me, is greater than all . . . I and the Father are one.” The words, “That which my Father hath given me,” can, having regard to the context, have no other meaning than the Divine Name, possessed in its fullness by the Son as by the Father.
Rationalist critics lay great stress upon the text: “The Father is greater than I” (14:28). They argue that this suffices to establish that the author of the Gospel held subordinationist views, and they expound in this sense certain texts in which the Son declares His dependence on the Father (5:19; 8:28). In point of fact the doctrine of the Incarnation involves that, in regard of His Human Nature, the Son should be less than the Father. No argument against Catholic doctrine can, therefore, be drawn from this text. So too, the passages referring to the dependence of the Son upon the Father do but express what is essential to Trinitarian dogma, namely, that the Father is the supreme source from Whom the Divine Nature and perfections flow to the Son. (On the essential difference between St. John’s doctrine as to the Person of Christ and the Logos doctrine of the Alexandrine Philo, to which many Rationalists have attempted to trace it, see LOGOS.)
In regard to the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the passages which can be cited from the Synoptists as attesting His distinct personality are few. The words of Gabriel (Luke 1:35), having regard to the use of the term, “the Spirit,” in the Old Testament, to signify God as operative in His creatures, can hardly be said to contain a definite revelation of the doctrine. For the same reason it is dubious whether Christ’s warning to the Pharisees as regards blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31) can be brought forward as proof. But in Luke 12:12, “The Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what you must say” (Matthew 10:20, and Luke 24:49), His personality is clearly implied. These passages, taken in connection with Matthew 28:19, postulate the existence of such teaching as we find in the discourses in the Cenacle reported by St. John (14, 15, 16). We have in these chapters the necessary preparation for the baptismal commission. In them the Apostles are instructed not only as the personality of the Spirit, but as to His office towards the Church. His work is to teach whatsoever He shall hear (16:13) to bring back their minds the teaching of Christ (14:26), to convince the world of sin (16:8). It is evident that, were the Spirit not a Person, Christ could not have spoken of His presence with the Apostles as comparable to His own presence with them (14:16). Again, were He not a Divine Person it could not have been expedient for the Apostles that Christ should leave them, and the Paraclete take His place (16:7). Moreover, notwithstanding the neuter form of the word (pneuma), the pronoun used in His regard is the masculine ekeinos. The distinction of the Holy Spirit from the Father and from the Son is involved in the express statements that He proceeds from the Father and is sent by the Son (15:26; cf. 14:16, 14:26). Nevertheless, He is one with Them: His presence with the Disciples is at the same time the presence of the Son (14:17-18), while the presence of the Son is the presence of the Father (14:23).
In the remaining New Testament writings numerous passages attest how clear and definite was the belief of the Apostolic Church in the three Divine Persons. In certain texts the coordination of Father, Son, and Spirit leaves no possible doubt as to the meaning of the writer. Thus in 2 Corinthians 13:13, St. Paul writes: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the charity of God, and the communication of the Holy Ghost be with you all.” Here the construction shows that the Apostle is speaking of three distinct Persons. Moreover, since the names God and Holy Ghost are alike Divine names, it follows that Jesus Christ is also regarded as a Divine Person. So also, in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11: “There are diversities of graces, but the same Spirit; and there are diversities of ministries, but the same Lord: and there are diversities of operations, but the same God, who worketh all [of them] in all [persons].” (Cf. also Ephesians 4:4-6; 1 Peter 1:2-3)
But apart from passages such as these, where there is express mention of the Three Persons, the teaching of the New Testament regarding Christ and the Holy Spirit is free from all ambiguity. In regard to Christ, the Apostles employ modes of speech which, to men brought up in the Hebrew faith, necessarily signified belief in His Divinity. Such, for instance, is the use of the Doxology in reference to Him. The Doxology, “To Him be glory for ever and ever” (cf. 1 Chronicles 16:38; 29:11; Psalm 103:31; 28:2), is an expression of praise offered to God alone. In the New Testament we find it addressed not alone to God the Father, but to Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 4:18; 2 Peter 3:18; Revelation 1:6; Hebrews 13:20-21), and to God the Father and Christ in conjunction (Revelations 5:13, 7:10).
Not less convincing is the use of the title Lord (Kyrios). This term represents the Hebrew Adonai, just as God (Theos) represents Elohim. The two are equally Divine names (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:4). In the Apostolic writings Theos may almost be said to be treated as a proper name of God the Father, and Kyrios of the Son (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 12:5-6); in only a few passages do we find Kyrios used of the Father (1 Corinthians 3:5; 7:17) or Theos of Christ. The Apostles from time to time apply to Christ passages of the Old Testament in which Kyrios is used, for example, 1 Corinthians 10:9 (Numbers 21:7), Hebrews 1:10-12 (Psalm 101:26-28); and they use such expressions as “the fear of the Lord” (Acts 9:31; 2 Corinthians 5:11; Ephesians 5:21), “call upon the name of the Lord,” indifferently of God the Father and of Christ (Acts 2:21; 9:14; Romans 10:13). The profession that “Jesus is the Lord” (Kyrion Iesoun, Romans 10:9; Kyrios Iesous, 1 Corinthians 12:3) is the acknowledgment of Jesus as Jahweh. The texts in which St. Paul affirms that in Christ dwells the plenitude of the Godhead (Colossians 2:9), that before His Incarnation He possessed the essential nature of God (Philippians 2:6), that He “is over all things, God blessed for ever” (Romans 9:5) tell us nothing that is not implied in many other passages of his Epistles.
The doctrine as to the Holy Spirit is equally clear. That His distinct personality was fully recognized is shown by many passages. Thus He reveals His commands to the Church’s ministers: “As they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Ghost said to them: Separate me Saul and Barnabas . . .” (Acts 13:2). He directs the missionary journey of the Apostles: “They attempted to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not” (Acts 16:7; cf. Acts 5:3; 15:28; Romans 15:30). Divine attributes are affirmed of Him.
He possesses omniscience and reveals to the Church mysteries known only to God (1 Corinthians 2:10);
it is He who distributes charismata (1 Corinthians 12:11);
He is the giver of supernatural life (2 Corinthians 3:8);
He dwells in the Church and in the souls of individual men, as in His temple (Romans 8:9-11; 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19).
The work of justification and sanctification is attributed to Him (1 Corinthians 6:11; Romans 15:16), just as in other passages the same operations are attributed to Christ (1 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 2:17).
To sum up: the various elements of the Trinitarian doctrine are all expressly taught in the New Testament. The Divinity of the Three Persons is asserted or implied in passages too numerous to count. The unity of essence is not merely postulated by the strict monotheism of men nurtured in the religion of Israel, to whom “subordinate deities” would have been unthinkable; but it is, as we have seen, involved in the baptismal commission of Matthew 28:19, and, in regard to the Father and the Son, expressly asserted in John 10:38. That the Persons are co-eternal and coequal is a mere corollary from this. In regard to the Divine processions, the doctrine of the first procession is contained in the very terms Father and Son: the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and Son is taught in the discourse of the Lord reported by St. John (14-17) (see HOLY GHOST).
The early Fathers were persuaded that indications of the doctrine of the Trinity must exist in the Old Testament and they found such indications in not a few passages. Many of them not merely believed that the Prophets had testified of it, they held that it had been made known even to the Patriarchs. They regarded it as certain that the Divine messenger of Genesis 16:7, 16:18, 21:17, 31:11; Exodus 3:2, was God the Son; for reasons to be mentioned below (III. B.) they considered it evident that God the Father could not have thus manifested Himself (cf. Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 60; Irenaeus, Against Heresies IV.20.7-11; Tertullian, Against Praxeas 15-16; Theophilus, To Autolycus II.22; Novatian, On the Trinity 18, 25, etc.). They held that, when the inspired writers speak of “the Spirit of the Lord”, the reference was to the Third Person of the Trinity; and one or two (Irenaeus, Against Heresies II.30.9; Theophilus, To Autolycus II.15; Hippolytus, Against Noetus 10) interpret the hypostatic Wisdom of the Sapiential books, not, with St. Paul, of the Son (Hebrews 1:3; cf. Wisdom 7:25-26), but of the Holy Spirit. But in others of the Fathers is found what would appear to be the sounder view, that no distinct intimation of the doctrine was given under the Old Covenant. (Cf. Gregory Nazianzen, Fifth Theological Oration 31; Epiphanius, “Ancor.” 73, “Haer.”, 74; Basil, Against Eunomius II.22; Cyril of Alexandria, “In Joan.”, xii, 20.)
Some of these, however, admitted that a knowledge of the mystery was granted to the Prophets and saints of the Old Dispensation (Epiphanius, “Haer.”, viii, 5; Cyril of Alexandria, “Con. Julian., ” I). It may be readily conceded that the way is prepared for the revelation in some of the prophecies. The names Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14) and God the Mighty (Isaiah 9:6) affirmed of the Messias make mention of the Divine Nature of the promised deliverer. Yet it seems that the Gospel revelation was needed to render the full meaning of the passages clear. Even these exalted titles did not lead the Jews to recognize that the Saviour to come was to be none other than God Himself. The Septuagint translators do not even venture to render the words God the Mighty literally, but give us, in their place, “the angel of great counsel.”
A still higher stage of preparation is found in the doctrine of the Sapiential books regarding the Divine Wisdom. In Proverbs 8, Wisdom appears personified, and in a manner which suggests that the sacred author was not employing a mere metaphor, but had before his mind a real person (cf. verses 22, 23). Similar teaching occurs in Ecclesiasticus 24, in a discourse which Wisdom is declared to utter in “the assembly of the Most High”, i.e. in the presence of the angels. This phrase certainly supposes Wisdom to be conceived as person. The nature of the personality is left obscure; but we are told that the whole earth is Wisdom’s Kingdom, that she finds her delight in all the works of God, but that Israel is in a special manner her portion and her inheritance (Ecclesiasticus 24:8-13).
In the Book of the Wisdom of Solomon we find a still further advance. Here Wisdom is clearly distinguished from Jehovah: “She is . . . a certain pure emanation of the glory of the almighty God. . .the brightness of eternal light, and the unspotted mirror of God’s majesty, and the image of his goodness” (Wisdom 7:25-26. Cf. Hebrews 1:3). She is, moreover, described as “the worker of all things” (panton technitis, 7:21), an expression indicating that the creation is in some manner attributable to her. Yet in later Judaism this exalted doctrine suffered eclipse, and seems to have passed into oblivion. Nor indeed can it be said that the passage, even though it manifests some knowledge of a second personality in the Godhead, constitutes a revelation of the Trinity. For nowhere in the Old Testament do we find any clear indication of a Third Person. Mention is often made of the Spirit of the Lord, but there is nothing to show that the Spirit was viewed as distinct from Jahweh Himself. The term is always employed to signify God considered in His working, whether in the universe or in the soul of man. The matter seems to be correctly summed up by Epiphanius, when he says: “The One Godhead is above all declared by Moses, and the twofold personality (of Father and Son) is strenuously asserted by the Prophets. The Trinity is made known by the Gospel” (“Haer.”, lxxiv).
– See more at: http://auroraspirituality.blogspot.com/#sthash.EBdL5GJP.dpuf