The recommendations on this page are divided into two sections. The first is a list of textbooks on the topic, whilst the "Primary Sources" is a list of some of the key texts written during this period (man cannot live by textbook alone...).
Books About the Trinitarian Debate
R.P.C Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy, 318-381 AD (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988) ISBN: 0567094855
The one book on the topic - over 900
pages in total. Although it looks dauntingly large, it is superbly
written and exceptionally clear and easy to follow. You don't have to be an expert in the field already to get a lot out of this book. The hardback is a touch expensive at £55, but worth every penny. A paperback version at about half this price was (finally) published in 2006, to the relief of students everywhere, and is also available from Amazon.
J. Behr, The Formation of Christian Theology Volume 2: The Nicene Faith (New York: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2004) ISBN: 088141266X
The paperback version of "Volume 2" actually comes as two separate books. Part 1 presents an overview of the 4th century background and then outlines the progress of the controversy between Nicaea and Constantinople. Particular attention is paid to the contribution of Athanasius. Part 2 examines the contribution of the three Cappadocian Fathers (Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa). Highly recommended.
A review from the back cover: This is a masterpiece, comprehensive and lucid and always going into the depth and heart of the argument of the Fathers. It would be hard to find a better guide to the fourth century. It avoids clichés and “textbook” distortions of the theologies of the period, and succeeds in presenting the faith of Nicaea in all its evangelistic and transforming vigour.
(Archbishop Rowan Williams)
J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds (Harlow: Longman, 1972 – Third Edition) ISBN: 058249219X
This volume focuses purely on the background and origins of Early Church creeds such as the Apostles’ Creed and the creeds of Nicaea (325) and Constantinople (381). Helps to place the Nicene Creed in the context of the formation and use of creeds in the Early Church period in general.
J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (London: Continuum, 1977 – Fifth Edition) ISBN: 0826452523
The classic one volume textbook on the whole of the Early Church period, containing a good overview of the formation of all of the major Christian Doctrines. Chapters 9 & 10 cover the fourth century Trinitarian debate.
Recommended Primary Sources
K. Anatolios, Athanasius (London: Routledge, 2004) ISBN: 0415202035
Athanasius is seen as the classic defender and champion of the Nicene faith, so you really have to read a couple of his works to get a flavour for the arguments. This book contains a selection of new translations of excerpts taken from various important texts, including his “Orations against the Arians”, “On the Council of Nicaea” (De Decretis) and “Letters to Serapion”. This volume also has a very good introduction to the life and times of St Athanasius. If you’re after just one book on St Athanasius for your bookshelf, this is it.
St Gregory of Nazianzus, F. Williams and L. Wickham (translators), On God and Christ: The Five Theological Orations and Two Letters to Cledonius (New York: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2002) ISBN: 0881412406
Contains Gregory of Nazianzus’ classic exposition and defence of the Trinity, as set out in his five sermons preached just before the council of Constantinople (381 AD). This little paperback collects the five orations together in an excellent modern translation.
St Basil the Great, D. Anderson (translator), On the Holy Spirit (New York: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1980) ISBN: 0913836745
An important work in the closing stages of the Trinitarian debate. St Basil displays a more cautious approach than St Gregory of Nazianzus, and does not directly call the Holy Spirit “God” in this work. Instead, he argues that the Spirit is worthy of the same honour and worship which are due to the Father and Son (which amounts to the same thing).
It can be difficult and/or expensive to obtain a representative collection of source documents on the topic of the Trinitarian debate. This book does a good job of gathering together a selection of translations of important documents, including:
A number of important letters (especially those from and about Arius)