The Use of the Term Hypostasis (No. 230)
(Edition 1.0 19971214-19971214)
Hypostasis is a term fundamental to Trinitarianism. God is held to be three hypostases in one ousia. These terms are Greek philosophical terms. They are used in the New Testament and Septuagint (LXX). What do they mean?
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(Copyright ã 1997 Wade Cox)
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The Use of the Term Hypostasis
Hypostasis is in origin a Stoic term which corresponds to the Platonic term ousia. They both mean in effect essence of being. They have derived a religious use from the trinitarian arguments, which sought to define the Godhead by resort to use of the terms in distinction. The Stoic hypostasis was used to represent a manifestation of the Deity. The Platonic term ousia was used to represent the Godhead complete. The Godhead was then confined to three manifestations as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each of these manifestations were considered to be merely ways in which the one entity chose to represent itself. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit were then considered co-equal and co-eternal manifestations of the one being. The distinction was advanced that when one acted all acted thus there was no possibility of separate behaviour. Thus, the absurd notion is advanced that the hypostases are distinct but not separate.
This notion, in effect, then sought to deny the capacity for the elect to become elohim or theoi as had been taught by the early Church and was certainly understood by Irenaeus (see the paper The Elect as Elohim (No. 1) for notations). Christ was held not to be a son in the same sense as the other Sons of God were in the Host and as the elect would become (see also the paper Socinianism, Arianism and Unitarianism (No. 185)).
There are a number of instances of the term hypostasis occurring in the New Testament and also from the Septuagint (LXX). The term appears in Psalm 68 (69):3 (LXX).
It also appears in Ezekiel 43:11. The concept of the term is as:
a setting or placing under; thing put under, substructure or a foundation: Ps. lxviii (lxix) 3; [tou oikou], Ezek. xliii,11... (Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon, pp. 644-645).
The second meaning is that of:
that which has foundation, is firm; hence, a. that which has actual existence; a substance, real being: ... b. the substantial quality, nature, of any pers. or thing
Thus it is used in Hebrew 1:3 where the Son represents the reality of God.
The text reads [in Romanised Greek]
os oon apaugasma tes dozes
who being [the] radiance of the [His] glory
kai charakter tes hupostaseoos autou,
and [the] representation of the reality of Him
pheroon te ta panta too remati tes dunameoos
and bearing all things by the word of the power
autou, katharismon toon amartioon poiesameos
of him cleansing of sins having made
ekathisen en dezia tes megaloosunes
sat on [the] right [hand] of the greatness
in high places
Thus the word here is in fact reality. Christ is thus a representation of God's reality. It is like saying that you are a representation of the reality of the Church and saying that both you and the Church are God because you are both representations, or hypostases, of the structure.
Trinitarians attempt to deny distinction and subordination by using a word which conveys a reality of being. It is a word game.
There is a significant truth in the fact that you the individual and the Church generally are all hypostases of God. But Trinitarians deny this extension. They seek to confine the usage of the term to three entities. Thus the Holy Spirit is not a mechanism but a separate hypostasis. Therein lies the heresy and the reason why co-existence and union between the elect and Trinitarians is impossible.
The term is used in Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 18:1,6; it means confidence or firm trust in 2Corinthians 9:4 (confidence) and also 11:17. Hebrews 3:14 uses it as confidence or assurance (Marshall) as does Hebrews 11:1 render it reality (Marshall) or assurance (RSV), where faith is the reality or assurance of things to come. Thus faith is a hypostasis of things to come. From this text it is evident that all manifestations of the divinity, whether of faith, or of Christ, or of the Holy Spirit, or of the calm assurance of the elect, are hypostases of God thus God manifests Himself in more than one hypostasis and more than three hypostases. The Trinity is thus a selective farce.
The use of the term here is also found in Ruth 1:12 (LXX) (for SHD 8615; tiqvah) where she says suppose I were married meaning take it as a basis of fact. The supposition forms the basis of being as it were. Ezekiel 19:5 (LXX) uses hypostasis for this text as hope or expectation. Psalm 38:8 uses it (for SHD 8431; towcheleth) where it means a basis or ground of hope which is with God. In Ezekiel 19:5 (LXX) the hope of the lioness of Israel was based on the young lion who failed (apooleto e hupostasis).
Thus faith is itself an hypostasis as an essence of the reality that is God.
The elect from this hope in faith through the Holy Spirit are all hypostases of the One True God (Jn. 17:3) being co-heirs with His Son Jesus Christ as Sons of God (Rom. 8:17; Gal. 3:29; Titus 3:7; Heb. 1:14; 6:17; 11:9; Jas. 2:5; 1Pet. 3:7).