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Thank you in advance for helping me with a couple of questions I have relating to the words ek and para.

I eventually want to ask why ek is used instead of para in the Nicene Creed relating to the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father. But before I do that, I want to ask about John 15:26 because it will relate to my initial question, though it will require a lot of explaining.

John 15:26 in English reads “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” (NASB 1995).

Ὅταν ἔλθῃ ὁ παράκλητος ὃν ἐγὼ πέμψω ὑμῖν παρὰ τοῦ πατρός, τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας ὃ παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται, ἐκεῖνος μαρτυρήσει περὶ ἐμοῦ·”

Do the phrases “παρὰ τοῦ πατρός” and “ὃ παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται” in John 15:26 necessarily mean that the Father is the ultimate source of the Holy Spirit if the assumptions I list below are true?

Below are reasons that I think these two phrases must necessarily mean that the Father is the ultimate source of the Holy Spirit on the condition that certain assumptions that I make are true.

My argument is based on the assumption that the Father is the ultimate source of all things, which is the belief not only of the Early Church Fathers as Edward Siensienski’s “The Filioque: History of a Doctrinal Controversy” (Oxford University Press) outlines, but is also the belief of much of educated Christendom today. If this is true and accurately reflects the view of Jesus and the Apostles, is it safe to assume that “παρὰ τοῦ πατρός” and “ὃ παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται” must necessarily mean that the Father is the ultimate source of the Holy Spirit?

My reasoning is that, if the NASB 1995 translation of John 15:26 is correct, the Holy Spirit coming “from the Father” and proceeding “from the Father” must mean that the Holy Spirit comes from the Father as the ultimate source because everything that comes from the Father comes from the Father in a way that the Father is the ultimate source (please keep in mind that I am assuming that the Father is the ultimate source of all things and that I am more concerned about whether the two phrases mentioned above must contain this meaning if this assumption about the Father is true[I also assume that Jesus and the Apostles knows that this is true]).

And if Jesus knows that everything comes from the Father in a way that the Father is the ultimate source, then when he says that the Holy Spirit comes from the Father, he is also indicating that the Holy Spirit comes from the Father in a way that the Father is the ultimate source.

An analogy would be, if I know that a letter is created by Steve and I say that “this letter is from Steve,” I am not only saying that this letter came from Steve to me, but that this letter was created by Steve.

I believe this to be true because a certain generic phrase like “from Steve” can mean profoundly different things depending on the intention of the speaker, the context, and reality. If the speaker has a certain belief of what “from Steve” means and this corresponds to reality that is within the bounds of what the phrase “from Steve” can convey, then we can assume that the phrase “from Steve” carries that meaning.

My question then is, is there anything about the meaning of “παρὰ” or about the Koine Greek in John 15:26 that would prove that my argument above is wrong?

Also, if my argument above is correct when we assume that my assumptions are correct, and if we assume that those who approved of the Nicene-Constantinople Creed wanted to convey in the words “τὸ ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον” that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father in a way that the Father is the ultimate source of the Holy Spirit (Edward Siensienski’s “The Filioque: History of a Doctrinal Controversy” [Oxford University Press] seems to strongly suggest that this is true), then why did those who wrote the Nicene-Constantinople Creed use the word “ἐκ” instead of “παρὰ?”

From someone who is ignorant of Greek, if the two Greek words mean the same thing, would it not have been better to use the word “παρὰ” in the Creed because it already was used in the Bible with the word “ἐκπορεύεται” in order to describe the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father in a way where the Father is the eternal source of the Holy Spirit?

Thank you in advance for your time in answering my questions.

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    We can answer questions about the meanings of Greek words here, but once this starts getting into theology, I think you'll get better answers on Christianity.SE instead.
    – Draconis
    Jun 18, 2023 at 22:26
  • Or Hermeneutics.SE, though I think if you get the Greek you'll have half your answer at least.
    – cmw
    Jun 19, 2023 at 1:08
  • ἐκ and παρά are not equivalent, as the latter denotes motion from the side of, from beside . The Nicene creed indicates true emanation "out of" and alliterates with ἐκπορευόμενον... But people went to prison for arguing on the wrong side of such hair-splits, and, as you are evidently studying, thousands lost their lives for parsing the words the wrong way, so... the wise in this SE desist... Jun 20, 2023 at 19:31
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    @Epimanes ...but this SE has a Greek tag in the penumbra of Greco-Roman culture.... The problem is the OP is trying to base theology on a subtle point of Greek usage, predicated on missing the difference between παρά and ἐξ... Beware 1182... Jun 21, 2023 at 14:10
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    @Epimanes Small niggle: StackExchange (and StackOverflow) really shy away from the label "forum." It's really meant as a pure Q&A site. General discussions e.g. are not really allowed here. It might seem like an odd distinction, but it does explain some peculiar rules (such as removing "Thank you" type posts).
    – cmw
    Jun 21, 2023 at 16:58

1 Answer 1

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You have asked a lengthy question. I hope that you won't mind a lengthy answer. But, before I get to my long answer, let me give you a short answer. If the question is, "Do the phrases “παρὰ τοῦ πατρός” and “ὃ παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται” in John 15:26 necessarily mean that the Father is the ultimate source of the Holy Spirit if the assumptions I list below are true?" Then, from the Greek syntax and usage, the answer is: this cannot be proven.

Let's talk about the Greek NT. The Blass Debrunner & Funk grammar has this entry when comparing ⲡⲁⲣⲁ and ⲉⲕ/ⲁⲡⲟ:

  1. Hebraistic circumlocutions of prepositional concepts (cf. μέσος §215(3)) by means of certain substantives with the gen.:

(1) Πρόσωπον: ἀπὸ προςώπου τινός = ἀπό or παρά with gen. = מִפְּנֵי, πρὸ προσώπου = πρό. Κατὰ πρόσωπον = coram is also known in secular language and thus in A 25:16, 2 C 10:1, Barn 15.1 (

<F. Blass, A. Debrunner, and Robert W. Funk, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Accordance electronic ed. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1961), 117.>

So also, here's another useful citation:

  1. Παρά with genitive.

(1) ‘From the side of’ only with persons (classical), with ‘to come, hear, receive’ etc. (for which ἀπό is occasionally used, §210(3)).

(2) Without verb: Mk 5:26 δαπανήσασα τὰ παῤ ἑαυτῆς (παῤ om. DW) is also correct in classical; cf. Lk 10:7, Ph 4:18 etc.—Mayser ii 2, 483ff.

Additional Notes

(1) Also correct τοῖς λελαλημένοις παρὰ κυρίου Lk 1:45, since it is not God himself who had spoken, but an angel by his command. But A 22:30 παρά with κατηγορεῖσθαι only HLP (al. ὑπό).

<F. Blass, A. Debrunner, and Robert W. Funk, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Accordance electronic ed. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1961), 124.>

It's not difficult to find other citations such as this. The main point the grammarians make is this: It's difficult to be too specific and fussy about some of the prepositions because of...

  1. The Hebraisms handed down to the NT Greek
  2. As Hellenic Greek changed over to Hellenistic Greek (Koine) some of the specificities and pristine clarity of the prepositions was lost.

We arrive at meaning then by looking at the word (etymology). But far more often we have to look at how it's actually used in context.

For that reason, then, what you are proposing cannot be proven.

But, if you'll permit, there's also a theological issue to take up. I'm wondering what you mean when you speak of the Father being the "ultimate source."

Here the ancient fathers (especially in the Nicene and post-nicene era) help us out. They distinguish between internal and external works of the Trinity. And they hand down to us the statement: "Opera ad extra sunt indivisa aut communia." The works [the Triune God does] towards the outside (i.e. to/for us) are indivisible and shared." But the converse is also true. Inside and within the Trinity there are divisions of activity. But these divisions are only having to do with activity, not status or authority. For all three persons within the Godhead are equal.

For a longer explanation of this, I'll cite a chunk from my Dogmatics notes from way back when I was at the Seminary:

  1. The three Persons are clearly distinguished as being really distinct and subsisting individually (distinctio, pluralitas).

a) This is a plurality of Persons (pluralitas hypostatica, personalis, personarum). 1) In general cf Jn 14:16,17,23,26,28. 2) In particular—on the relation between -a) Father and Son. cf Jn 5:23,32,37; 8:49,54; 12:26; 14:13; 16:15; He 1:5,6. -b) Father and Spirit. cf Jn 14:16,26. -c) Son and Spirit. cf Lk 24:49; Jn 14:26; 16:7,14; Ac 2:33. 3) Hence this plurality must not be conceived as -a) Pluralitas accidentalis (three Persons: mere names for divine attributes). cf Hafenreffer: Pluralitas in divinitatis unitate est hypostatica seu personarum, nam essentia quidem divinitatis est una, sed personae sunt plures: adeoque in mysterio divinitatis est quidem alius et alius, sed non aliud et aliud. Alia namque persona est Patris, alia Filii, alia Spiritus Sancti, sed non alia et alia, verum una est omnium personarum essentia.134 -b) Pluralitas modalis (three Persons: names for modes of divine operation). cf Quenstedt: Persona aliter ab essentia, aliter ab alia persona distinguitur: ab illa non re, sed ratione, cum fundamento in re, ab hac vero re ipsa, omni operatione intellectus humani cessante.135 -c) Pluralitas multiplicativa (three Persons: parts of the divine Essence).

b) Each Person has its own mode of subsistence, its personal characteristics (notae internae). 1) These are represented in Scripture as acts (actus personales, opera ad intra). -a) Regarding the Father we find two. -1) Generare. cf Ps 2:7; Ac 13:33; He 1:5. cf Quenstedt: Haec generatio Filii non fit derivatione aut transfusione, nec actione quae incipiat aut desinat, sed fit indesinente emanatione, cui simile nihil habetur in rerum natura. Deus Pater enim Filium suum ab aeterno genuit et semper gignit nec umquam desinet gignere. Si enim generatio Filii finem haberet, haberet etiam initium, et sic aeterna non esset. Nec tamen propterea generatio haec dici potest imperfecta aut successiva, actus namque generationis in Patre et Filio consideratur in opere perfectus, in operatione perpetuus.138 -2) Spirare. cf Jn 15:26 coll jn 20:22; Mt 10:20. cf Hollaz: Intelligitur spiratio non externa, qualis erat insufflatio Christi ad discipulos, sed interna et immanens, cum fiat intra deitatis sinum; non transitoria et evanescens, qualis est hominum spirantium, sed aeterna et permanens, quia Spiritus Sanctus ab aeterno procedit … ; non spiratio accidentalis sed substantialis.139 Note. The “sending” in Jn 14:16,26, does not indicate an “ opus ad intra ” but refers to an act of the Father in His dispensation of grace. -b) Regarding the Son we find one. Spirare. cf Ro 8:9; Ga 4:6; Philip 1:19. cf Lk 24:49; Jn 15:26; 16:7; Ac 2:33;—coll Jn 20:22. Note. This act is ascribed to the Son in conjunction with theFather: they are “ unum agens ”. cf Nicaenum 7: “ Filioque ”. -c) Regarding the Spirit we find one. Procedere. cf Jn 15:26. cf genitive Mt 3:16; 12:28; Ro 8:11,14; 1 Cor 2:11,12; 3:16; etc. 2) The “ actus personales ” may be expressed as attributes (participles). -a) The Father is -1) ἀγέννητος, non-genitus, non-generatur; non-spiratus. -2) Generans; spirans. -b) The Son is -1) γέννητος; spirans; μονογενγής, πρωτότοκος. cf Jn 1:14,18; 3:16,18; 1 Jn 4:9;—Col 1:15. -2) Non-spiratus. -c) The Spirit is -1) Non-generans; non-generatus. -2) Spiratus, πνευστός; procedens. 3) The “ opera ad intra ” are also expressed as abstract nouns. -a) ἀγεννησία paternitas, generatio activa spiratio activa. -b) γεννησία, generatio passiva, filiatio. spiratio activa. -c) ἐκπόρευσις, processio, spiratio passiva, emissio. -d) DD Quid est nasci, quid processus, me nescire sum professus.142

c) The peculiarity (character hypostaticus) of each Person appears in its particular relation to the world (notae externae, opera ad extra). 1) There is ascribed especially -a) To the Father the work of creation. -b) To the Son the work of redemption. -c) To the Spirit the work of sanctification. 2) There is to be observed a certain order of the Persons. -a) Though -1) Opera ad intra sunt divisa. -2) Opera ad extra sunt indivisa aut communia.144 cf Jn 1:3,10; Col.1:17; He 1:3;— Job 33:4; Ps 33:6;104:30. cf Jn 17:17;—Eph.5:26; He 2:11 -b) Yet such is the case: servato ordine et discrimine personarum. -1) The order is: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. cf Mt 28:19 cf Jn 5:19; 16:13–15. (Ro 11:36?) Note. In 2 Cor 13:14, Jesus is named in first place as the Mediator. -2) This is not an order of rank, but of relation.

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