Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries


Memorandum to the Perpetual Holy Synod regarding the "Filioque"

(A contribution for the withdrawal of the Filioque obstacle)

By Panagiotis Boumis, Professor Emeritus of the Athens University

 Source:   oodegr.com




Your Beatitude,

Venerable fathers,

Some time ago the official ecclesiastic periodical ECCLESIA (2014, 561-568) had published a very interesting article by Professor Emeritus Panagiotis Boumis on the problem of the Filioque.    

...Et in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum et vivificantem, qui ex Patre Filioque procedit...

Pursuant to that publication and in abridged form, the same article was also published by the other ecclesiastic periodical EFIMERIOS, as well as by other magazines, newspapers and websites (in Greek, German and French).

We believe this article has made evident the beginning of the problem which is the first, serious obstacle towards a closer and more sincere communion and communication between East and West, and we are of the opinion that it will not be difficult to understand and to hurdle this obstacle, when those concerned discern the decisive role that the two prepositions:  (ex) and (a) play, in the matter of the direct or indirect procession of the Holy Spirit.

26 Cum autem venerit Paraclitus, quem ego mittam vobis a Patre, Spiritum veritatis, qui a Patre procedit, ille testimonium perhibebit de me;

A simple replacement in the Vulgate translation (above) of John 15:26 (of the preposition a with the preposition ex) is enough to put matters into their proper place and consideration.  And this proposal is of course feasible or, more precisely, compulsory because it is indicated and imposed by the very rules of Grammar and Syntax between the prepositions and ex, and between and a (ab).

We think that everyone should observe the rules of these two, basic languages.  If we disregard them and do not observe them, then matters become complicated, without the possibility of solving any problem.  However, we believe that this possibility now exists, as does the positive predisposition by all parties concerned; which is why we are of the opinion that the aforementioned should be utilized by the pertinent inter-Christian committees.

We have attached hereto the relative article, as published by the periodical EFIMERIOS.

Respectfully yours,

Panag. Boumis, Prof. Emeritus of Athens University

Demetrios Gonis, Prof. Emeritus of Athens University

Thomas Ioannides, Reserve Prof., Chairman Theology Dept. of Athens University

Constantine Vlahos, Prof. Emeritus of Athens University

Har. G.Sotiropoulos, Prof. Emeritus of Athens University

Nikol. E. Tzirakis, Prof. Emeritus of Athens University


The obstacle of the Filioque and its withdrawal

Until now, the disagreement and the conflict in the matter of the Filioque (=and from the Son) between East and West had focused on the meaning and the use of the verb to proceed forth.  However, we believe that this scrutiny was imperfect and deficient the reason being that the verb to proceed forth takes on various meanings and interpretations, depending of course on the prepositions that accompany it. 

Thus, when the verb to proceed forth is accompanied by the preposition (Gk=by) or (Gk=from), then it will mean to originate from, to have as its source, to have as its starting point, to have as its beginning.  This is because the preposition denotes the direct origin, the direct descent, the source, the beginning of a subject or an object from another. (Of course we are talking about the time that the New Testament was composed, when the Greek language was rich in subtle distinctions).

Oppositely, when the verb to proceed forth is accompanied by the preposition , then it signifies comes out from, comes from, sent by.  The reason is that the preposition denotes an indirect origin or descent of a person or a thing from another.  We could say that it merely passes through the other, without the other being its actual source or beginning or starting point.   In that manner, it reaches us it makes its appearance NOT directly from its source, but through something else through a mediator inasmuch as it has come through another person or thing.

Something analogous occurs in the Latin of their time (not contemporary Italian).  Thus, when the equivalent of the Greek verb (procedere) is accompanied by the Latin preposition ex, it signifies originates from, springs from, has its starting point that is, it signifies the direct, the immediate descent and origin.

On the contrary, when it is accompanied by the preposition a (ab), then it signifies comes out of, comes through, is sent by.  This happens, because the preposition ex (like the Greek ) may signify the immediate, the direct descent and origin; however, the a (ab) on the contrary signifies an indirect origin or descent, as does the Greek preposition .

These must be kept in mind by every Christian, if he honestly desires to understand how the Filioque problem was created as we shall see further along and how we can arrive at its solution with a modicum of good will.

First of all, it should be noted that matters went askew from the very beginning.  In other words, in the first translations of the New Testament from the Greek original into the Latin language the preposition in John 15:26 was rendered with the preposition a (=through), which signifies an indirect origin, instead of being rendered with the preposition ex, which signifies a direct origin.

( , , )

(But when the Helper comes, Whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.)

26 Cum autem venerit Paraclitus, quem ego mittam vobis a Patre, Spiritum veritatis, qui a Patre procedit, ille testimonium perhibebit de me;

It appears that the Latins had remained with this impression even later on, when the second Ecumenical Council (381 A.D.) formulated the Symbol of Faith and had correctly used the preposition and ex ( in the Greek text:  , and respectively in the Latin text qui  ex Patre procedit).  But it seems that even then, they had not perceived the difference in the meaning and significance of the relative prepositions and or ex and a, by continuing to have in mind the indirect energy of the a (=through) that was in the translation of the New Testament.   Thus, without much thought, they added the term Filioque (=and the Son), even though the Latin Credo had the ex.  They did this and were ultimately misled, because the indirect sending forth-origin-descent indeed takes place (=is) - by the Son.

This carelessness, oversight and aberration was easily repeated; among other reasons being the neo-Europeans lack of a profound knowledge of Latin, and also because their own subsidiary languages lack the subtle distinctions when using the prepositions.

Of course we cannot deny that various geo-political reasons on the part of the Franks had also contributed to this erroneous addition, as many historians have pointed out. But we need to stress that the linguistic problem was that which had confused matters, as it was an erroneous theoretical base.   It eventually also embroiled Westerners in this unpleasant for all Christians development, outcome and situation.

Following the above, the solution (the withdrawal of the obstacle) and the exit are rendered facile, but also imperative. We should leave the Latin Symbol of the Faith as it was in the beginning, by only removing the Filioque addition and replacing the preposition a with the preposition ex in the Latin text of the Gospel (John 15:26):

26 Cum autem venerit Paraclitus, quem ego mittam vobis a Patre, Spiritum veritatis, qui a Patre procedit, ille testimonium perhibebit de me;

Analogous corrections should follow, in the other linguistic forms of translations either verbatim or according to the meaning as well as in the preexisting and currently existing causes and results of the deviation.



Regarding these distinctions, one can refer to the Syntax works by Ach. Tzartzanos (pp. 78,80, 83), Const. Katevenis (pp.55-56,66) and J.Humbert-G.Kourmoulis, p.302).

See also J.Humbert-G.Kourmoulis, as above, pp.290 and 25. Cmp. also Th. A. Kakrides Grammar of the Latin Tongue, pp.99 and 163-165, as well as Ant. Vrakas The Grammar of the Latin word, pp.178 and 185, also 179 and 187.




                                                  Translation:  K.N.

Article published in English on: 14-10-2018.

Last update: 14-10-2018.