I'm doing a pseudo-superficial scriptural study of the Nicene-Constantinopalitan Creed and how it differs from the Latin addition of the Filioque. The Caroligian theologians mainly used the Gospel of John's words of Jesus where he says that he will "send" the Holy Spirit from the Father.

I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around how this applies to the co-eternal relationship between the persons of the Trinity. How does the Spirit "proceed" from the Son before he is sent by Jesus, given that scripture indicates the Spirits procession from the Father before the incarnation?

Ref. Psalms 51:13, Isaiah 63:10


2 Answers 2


If I understand the question, it seems to be along the lines of "How can Jesus be the one who sends the Holy Spirit, when the Holy Spirit is sent in the Old Testament?"

There's two threads that help answer this. The first is that Jesus is there in the Old Testament. The second is that the Holy Spirit was only given to a select few in the Old Testament, not all the people.

Regarding the first thread or point, Jesus is the incarnate Word of God. He is the same Word through whom God spoke everything into existence in Genesis 1; John makes this point in the opening of his Gospel. Jesus is also the "angel of the Lord" who appears throughout the Old Testament. The "angel of the Lord" is the Lord Himself, the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ; this is seen, for instance, in Genesis 22, Exodus 3, and the visit of the three men to Abraham in Genesis 18, one of whom Abraham calls "the Lord." So, Jesus was there in the first act of creation and is with his people throughout the Old Testament.

Regarding the second thread or point, in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit is only given to certain people, mainly the prophets (although the kings such as Saul, David, and Solomon also had the Holy Spirit, see for instance 1 Samuel 16:14 when the Spirit departs from Saul). In fact, in Numbers 11:29, after the Lord takes some of the Spirit He had given Moses and gives the Spirit to the elders of Israel, Moses says, "Would that all the LORD's people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!" Then, in Joel 2:29, the Lord promises that He will one day pour out His Spirit upon "al flesh." Peter connects this promise with Pentecost in Acts 2:17-18; this is, in the New Testament Church the Lord is fulfilling His promise to pour out His Spirit upon "all flesh."

Thus, owing to Christ's ascension back into heaven to take his seat at the right hand of the Father, the Holy Spirit is poured out on all believers, not just the select few as in the Old Testament. This is visually seen in Revelation 5 when John sees Christ, the Lamb "with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth" (Rev. 5:6). These "seven spirits" symbolize the Holy Spirit who Christ sends in fulfillment of the longing of Moses, the promise of the Lord through Joel, and Christ's own promises (cf. John 14:26, 15:26).

I think the Filioque is just trying to get across the point that the Holy Spirit is sent to all believers due to Christ's ascension as well as stress the essential divine unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are "one God in three persons." The Son does the Father's will and together they send the Holy Spirit to witness to Christ and bring people to faith.


A particularly pertinent passage of scripture is found in 1 Peter 1:11 - in surrounding context:

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. - 1 Peter 1:10-12 ESV (emphasis added)

Contemplation of how the Holy Spirit could be particularly denoted as the Spirit of Christ in His operation upon the Old Testament prophets leads naturally to a "Proceeding from (or more correctly, through) the Son" perspective.

  • Proceeding "from" and proceeding " through" significantly differ when dealing with eternal theological language. The Nicean-Constantinopolitan Creed in id's original form defines the Holy Spirit as proceeding eternally from the Father while proceeding "through" the Son temporally to humanity. The addition of the filioque add the meaning that the Holy Spirit originate eternally from the Son before time began
    – user5286
    May 26, 2014 at 13:21
  • 1
    @CharlesAlsobrook My view is that is a vain effort to attempt a distinction between a temporal procession and an eternal one in terms of significance to the nature of God: My perspective on God's nature with respect to time, (which I believe is consitent with Chalcedonian-Christianity in this respect), is that He is not temporally bound in any way - our timeline is observable and every aspect of it (From an ex-Nihilo beginning right through to the ultimate future of our universe) is 'contemporaneous' with the eternal now of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Any relationships observable... Jul 17, 2014 at 16:50
  • ...(by man) in a temporal context, must necessarily be a (true) image of relationships in an eternal context - God doesn't change, nor does He lie. It is true that there are many mysteries of God's nature that are unknowable to us pre-glorification, but He has revealed Himself clearly in scripture in a way that is fully consistent with the filioque. Jul 17, 2014 at 16:56

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