Filioque clause

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"Filioque" is two Latin words run together. "Filio" is the ablative case of "filius," which means "son." "Que" tacked onto the end of a word is one of the ways Latin has for saying "and." So the literal translation of the word is "and the Son."

The phrase appears in the version of the Nicene Creed used in the Roman Catholic Church and many other western Christian denominations. The full Latin sentence in which it appears is:

"Et in Spíritum Sanctum, Dóminum et vivificántem: Qui ex Patre Filióque procédit."

"... and in the Holy Spirit, Lord and Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father and the Son." Both "Father" (Patre) and "Son" (Filióque) are in the ablative case because they are both governed by ex, the preposition meaning "from."

This phrase does not appear in the original version of the Nicene Creed, which was composed in Greek by the Council of Nicea in 325 AD (Nicea is in Greek territory, near Constantinople) and revised by the Council of Constantinople (381 AD; also a Greek council--the first eight Councils of the Church were in Greece or Turkey). Constantinople added the following sentence to the Nicene Creed; note the absence of the Filioque clause: "... and in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father, with the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified."

Catechism of the Catholic Church

CCC #246
The Latin tradition of the Creed confesses that the Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son (filioque)". The Council of Florence in 1438 explains: "The Holy Spirit is eternally from Father and Son; He has his nature and subsistence at once (simul) from the Father and the Son. He proceeds eternally from both as from one principle and through one spiration. . . . And, since the Father has through generation given to the only-begotten Son everything that belongs to the Father, except being Father, the Son has also eternally from the Father, from whom he is eternally born, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son."
CCC #247
The affirmation of the filioque does not appear in the Creed confessed in 381 at Constantinople. But Pope St. Leo I, following an ancient Latin and Alexandrian tradition, had already confessed it dogmatically in 447, even before Rome, in 451 at the Council of Chalcedon, came to recognize and receive the Symbol of 381. The use of this formula in the Creed was gradually admitted into the Latin liturgy (between the eighth and eleventh centuries). The introduction of the filioque into the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed by the Latin liturgy constitutes moreover, even today, a point of disagreement with the Orthodox Churches.
CCC #248
At the outset the Eastern tradition expresses the Father's character as first origin of the Spirit. By confessing the Spirit as he "who proceeds from the Father", it affirms that he comes from the Father through the Son. The Western tradition expresses first the consubstantial communion between Father and Son, by saying that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (filioque). It says this, "legitimately and with good reason", for the eternal order of the divine persons in their consubstantial communion implies that the Father, as "the principle without principle", is the first origin of the Spirit, but also that as Father of the only Son, he is, with the Son, the single principle from which the Holy Spirit proceeds. This legitimate complementarity, provided it does not become rigid, does not affect the identity of faith in the reality of the same mystery confessed.

Scriptural Evidence

Jesus sometimes talks about the Father sending the Spirit and at other times says He Himself will send the Spirit.

Matthew 10:19-20

But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him (Romans 8:9).

The prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired about this salvation; they inquired what person or time was indicated by the Spirit of Christ within them when predicting the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glory (1 Peter 1:10-11).

John 4:10-14
John 7:37-39
John 14:26
John 15:26
John 16:7
Revelation 22:1
Revelation 21:6

Development of Dogma

(To be developed ...)

The Orthodox are oddly fundamentalistic about the Nicene Creed. Their attitude seems to be that if something was not included in the original version, then it cannot be added later. The fact that a later council (Constantinople, 381 AD) modified and interpreted the work of Nicea (325 AD) suggests that we ought not to suppose in advance of investigation that nothing more needs to be said after a council has defined an article of the faith.

There is the same kind of progression in understanding and definition of dogma of the Incarnation in the third and fourth councils of the Church (Ephesus and Chalcedon). Without Constantinople (381 AD), Nicea (325 AD) would be incomplete; without Chalcedon (451 AD), Ephesus (431 AD) would be incomplete.

The development of the understanding of the importance of the "filioque" seems to have taken time. Of course, if Nicea or Constantinople had said, "The Spirit proceeds solely from the Father and not from the Son," then there would have been no room for the doctrine of the Trinity to be developed as it has been in the West. The view that we should draw that doctrine from the absence of the filioque clause in those councils goes beyond the evidence. The fathers at those councils apparently didn't raise the question; the creed that they produced, therefore, does not include or exclude the filioque.

Appreciating the Dogma

If the dogma is false, then, of course, none of the following reflections can establish its truth or remedy the errors of Roman Catholicism.

If the doctrine taught in the Filioque clause is true, then it opens some interesting perspectives on the Trinity.

If we use arrows to indicate Who is from Whom in the creed, we get the following diagram of the relations between the Persons of the Trinity:

Father, son, and spirit.svg

We may focus on each Person individually and see something about the character of that Person.

Making comparisons

In comparing human relationships to the divine relationships, the rule that must be borne in mind is that we are like God but God is not like us (a paraphrase of a teaching of the Fourth Lateran Council, 1215 AD). The analogies from God to us work in one direction only. So, for example, in saying that "all males bear a natural resemblance to the Father's masculinity," I am not attributing physical sexual characteristics to the Father associated with human masculinity (beards, deep voices, size, weight, genitals, testosterone, etc.). I am saying that the masculine characteristic of giving resembles the role that God the Father plays in bringing forth the Son and, with the Son, the Holy Spirit.

The Father alone has no father

The Father is the fatherless origin of all other persons, whether uncreated (the Son and the Spirit) or created (angels, humans, and any other extra-terrestrials, if they exist). He is from no other person; all other persons are from Him. If we associate masculinity with giving and femininity with receiving, then the Father has a purely masculine character.


  • All males bear a natural resemblance to the Father's masculinity.
  • All fathers bear a natural resemblance to the Father as the progenitor of the Son and the Spirit.

The Son receives from the Father and gives to the Spirit

The Son has both masculine and feminine qualities. He receives Himself from the Father and gives Himself to the Spirit.


  • All human beings bear a natural resemblance to the Person of the Son. We receive from our parents and give to our children.
  • All males have a feminine (receptive) dimension.
  • All females have a masculine (genitive) dimension.
  • All mothers bear a natural resemblance to the Son: just as the Son brings forth the Spirit by receiving from and responding to the Father, so the mother brings forth the child by being receptive to and receiving from the father of the child.

The Spirit is pure receptivity

The Spirit receives Himself from the Father and from the Son. In this sense, the Spirit has a purely feminine character.

Why do we call the Spirit 'He' if He apparently has a purely feminine character?
Masculinity and femininity do not cancel each other out.
As the Spirit of the Father and the Son, the Spirit is properly called "He" even though what distinguishes Him from the Father and the Son is receiving Himself from them.


  • All women bear a natural resemblance to the femininity (receptivity) of the Spirit.

Note well that the Spirit is equal in divinity, glory, majesty, eternity, power, knowledge, beauty, goodness, and every other perfection that the Persons possess in common. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God. The Person to whom I am comparing women is equal in every attribute to the Father and Son, save that of identity and therefore "personality." The Spirit is always Himself; He is not the Son or the Father; but He is "one in being" with the Father and the Son and therefore equal in every excellence that we can think of.

  • All human beings bear a natural resemblance to the Spirit because we, too, are persons-from-two-persons.

The Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son

The Spirit is a Person-between-Persons. He is the Spirit of the Father as well as the Spirit of the Son. We may think of Him as the love between the Father and the Son.


The Filioque makes a difference

Without the Filioque clause, the Father would have twins and there would be no way for us to appreciate the difference in the Father's relationship to the Son and to the Spirit. Both the Son and the Spirit would be from the Father; their relationship to each other would be unspecified and there really would be no way to tell them apart from each other--they would differ in name only.

Without filioque.svg

Timeline of the dispute

AD event
325 Council of Nicea defines that the Son is "homoousion" with the Father. Latin: "consubstantial."
381 Constantinople added to the Nicene Creed: "Et in Spíritum Sanctum, Dóminum et vivificántem: Qui ex Patre procédit." There is no Filioque in the original version of the revised creed.
447 "Pope St. Leo I, following an ancient Latin and Alexandrian tradition, had already confessed it dogmatically in 447" (CCC #247).
589 Third Council of Toledo added "filioque" to the creed in Spain.
1014 "Inclusion of Filioque in the Creed was adopted in Rome."[1]
1054 East-West Schism
1274 Lyons II attempts reunion with Eastern Orthodox.
1431-1445 Florence attempts reunion with Eastern Orthodox. Full explanation and affirmation of the Filioque clause.

"Attempts were made to reunite these Orthodox Churches with the Roman Catholic Church. At the Council of Florence (1438-45) which both Emperor John VIII and Patriarch Joseph II of Constantinople attended, the theological questions were debated. The Eastern Orthodox Churches agreed to accept the teaching that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, even though they were not required to add this phrase to the Creed. While the agreement was signed and the Churches officially reunited, a large segment of the regular clergy disdained this action. Moreover, when the Moslems conquered Constantinople in 1453, Sultan Mohammed II appointed Gennadios II as patriarch of Constantinople, who in turn repudiated the decrees of the Council of Florence. Once again, the two Churches were officially in schism. The domination of Islam over the territory of the East made future reunification virtually impossible."[2]

Some Eastern Orthodox are reconciled to Rome and become members of the Eastern Rites within Roman Catholicism. Each rite has its own history of union or reunion with the papacy.
2000 John Paul II fails to reunite Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox



Eastern Churches and the Filioque

Jason from Ohio living in Orlando
"I'm kicking myself right now, because I totally meant to submit this comment to contribute to the show, but I didn't get a chance. Since I could not listen live, I don't know how Father answered Mario. For all I know, he said everything I will say, but, I figured I'd paste it in here now, in case somebody might actually find it interesting or informative. Mario, hope it's helpful:
"Also, a comment about last week's discussion on the Filioque. At the Byzantine Catholic church that I attend, when we chant the Symbol of Faith (i.e. the Creed), we exclude the Filioque clause. I believe this is common in Eastern Catholic Churches. In fact, when the Pope celebrates with the Eastern Churches, he omits the Filioque. I am in no way an expert on the subject, but here is my understanding, based on my research of Eastern Catholicism, Eastern Christianity, and the Schism. The Eastern Churches do not view the omission of the Filioque as a rejection of the concept. It just isn't expressed explicitly when you omit the Filioque. The problem the Eastern Churches had with the Filioque is that it was proclaimed at the Council of Toledo (I believe Father said the 3rd one), a council at which no Eastern leaders were present, at a time before the Schism occurred. They believe that it is wrong to include the Filioque because it was not truly an Ecumenical Council, since the entire Church was not represented. The Western Church responded by saying that although the Eastern Churches were not represented, it is still binding over the whole Church, because it carried the authority of the Pope of Rome. The Eastern Churches disagreed with this, believing that the Pope of Rome, like Peter, was first among equals, but did not have authority over the other Patriarchs (or Peter over the other Apostles) and the Eastern Churches - that Peter had most seniority, but was not boss over the Apostles, as the Orthodox Churches still believe today. Although the Eastern Catholic Churches, in reuniting in Communion with Rome have accepted the authority of Rome. It was the idea that the Filioque was inserted without their consent that caused them to reject it, and along with other issues, eventually led to the mutual excommunications, separating the Eastern Churches and the Western Church from one another."
Also, on a mostly unrelated note, I'd like to point out that one of my biggest pet peeves is when people say "Orthodox" when they really mean Eastern Christian, including the Eastern Catholic Churches, or when people associate East with Orthodox and West with Catholic, completely ignoring the Eastern Catholic Churches (or for that matter, the Western Orthodox Churches). Mario, I'm not saying that's where you're coming from. I really don't know. But I do try to make people more aware that their are Catholics who are Latin Catholics who worship according to the Roman Rite, and there are Eastern Christians who are Catholic and part of various Eastern Catholic Churches, and worship according to the Byzantine or Syriac or a few other Rites."