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Unknown God, Known in His Activities

Incomprehensibility of God during the Trinitarian Controversy of the 4th Century


Tomasz Stępień and Karolina Kochańczyk-Bonińska

What can man know about God? This question became one of the main problems during the 4th-century Trinitarian controversy, which is the focus of this book. Especially during the second phase of the conflict, the claims of Anomean Eunomius caused an emphatic response of Orthodox writers, mainly Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa. Eunomius formulated two ways of theology to show that we can know both the substance (ousia) and activities (energeiai) of God. The Orthodox Fathers demonstrated that we can know only the external activities of God, while the essence is entirely incomprehensible. Therefore the 4th-century discussion on whether the Father and the Son are of the same substance was the turning point in the development of negative theology and shaping the Christian conception of God.

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Bibliographic Information published by the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek

The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data is available in the internet at

The authors acknowledge financial support from the National Science Centre, Poland, grant number 2013/11/B/HS1/04140.

Copyedited by Elżbieta Puławska and Anna Kazimierczak-Kucharska

Tomasz Stępień: 1, 2, 3, 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 4.6, 5.2

Karolina Kochańczyk-Bonińska: 4.5, 5.1, 5.3, 5.4

ISSN 2192-1857

ISBN 978-3-631-75736-9 (Print)

ISBN 978-3-631-75737-6 (E-PDF)

ISBN 978-3-631-75738-3 (EPUB)

ISBN 978-3-631-75739-0 (MOBI)

DOI 10.3726/ b14190


Open Access: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial No Derivatives 4.0 unported license. To view a copy of this license, visit

© Tomasz Stępień & Karolina Kochańczyk-Bonińska, 2018

Peter Lang GmbH

Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaften

Berlin 2018

Peter Lang – Berlin ∙ Bern ∙ Bruxelles ∙ New York ∙ Oxford ∙ Warszawa ∙ Wien

This publication has been peer reviewed.