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Perichoresis is a term in Christian theology first found within the Church Fathers but now reinvigorated among contemporary figures such as Dr. C. Baxter Kruger, Jurgen Moltmann, Miroslav Volf and John Zizioulas, amongst others. The term first appears in Gregory of Nazianzus but was explored more fully in the work of John of Damascus. It refers to the mutual inter-penetration and indwelling within the threefold nature of the Trinity, God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Although clear references to full-blown Trinitarian theology in the New Testament are rare, it can be seen between two persons of the Trinity in passages such as the following from John's Gospel:"the Father is in the Son, and the Son in the Father."[1]

The relationship of the Triune God is intensified by the relationship of perichoresis. This indwelling expresses and realizes fellowship between the Father and the Son. It is intimacy. Jesus compares the oneness of this indwelling to the oneness of the fellowship of his church from this indwelling. "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us (John 17:21)."

The theological tradition has viewed the indwelling as fellowship. John of Damascus, who was influential in developing the doctrine of the perichoresis, described it as a "cleaving together." Such is the fellowship in the Godhead that the Father and the Son not only embrace each other, but they also enter into each other, permeate each other, and dwell in each other. One in being, they are also always one in the intimacy of their friendship.

The devotion of themselves to each other in the Spirit by the Father and the Son has content. Not only does the procession of the Spirit from the Father to the Son and from the Son to the Father express their mutual love, as they breathe after each other, but also it gives each to the other. In the procession of the Spirit from the Father, the Father gives himself to the Son; in the procession of the Spirit from the Son to the Father, the Son gives himself to the Father, for the procession of the Spirit, like the begetting of the Son, is the going forth of the being of the Father to the Son and the going forth of the being of the Son to the Father as Holy Spirit.

Perichoresis should not be confused with coinherence (also written co-inherence). Author Charles Williams describes the perichoresis of the Trinitarian persons using the word "coinherence," a word which had traditionally been used to describe the full indwelling of divine and human natures (essences, ousias) in Jesus (a doctrine known as the hypostatic union). While Williams uses the word "coinherence" in a way that it could be interpreted as being synonymous with the word "perichoresis," the words are not interchangeable. The ecumenical Christian doctrine of the incarnation emphasizes that Jesus' two natures (ousias) fully "coinhere" in one person (hypostasis) in Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus, then, is said to be fully divine and fully human, and never one ousia (nature) alone. The Nicene Creed establishes that the Triune God is one ousia (essence/nature) in three hypostases (instances or persons). The nuance may appear subtle, but has important bearing upon the doctrine of the Trinity and was hotly debated in the early Church. Whereas the concept of perichoresis describes the mutual interpenetration of the hypostases (persons) of the Trinity who are individually and together of one ousia (essence), the concept of coinherence focuses on two ousia (natures/essences) being present in one hypostasis (person). To describe the Trinitarian perichoresis in terms of coinherence risks implying that the persons of the Trinity are of separate ousia (natures), when in fact the Nicene Creed explicitly denies this possibility.


  • DURAND, Emmanuel. La périchorèse des personnes divines : immanence mutuelle – réciprocité et communion, Paris: Cerf (Cogitation Fidei; 243), 2005, 409 p.
  • Lane G. Tipton, "The Function of Perichoresis and the Divine Incomprehensibility," Westminster Theological Journal, Fall 2002.
  • David J. Engelsma, Trinity and Covenant, Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2006.
  • This article incorporates content from the 1728 Cyclopaedia, a publication in the public domain.

External links

  • Institut Périchorèse - Atelier d'iconographie : Icons workshop in Montreal (Quebec, Canada) [1]
  • Dr. C. Baxter Kruger - Perichoresis - [2] "Sharing the Good News of our Adoption in Christ"


  1. ^ Jurgen Moltmann, "God in the World-the world in God" in Richard Bauckham's The Gospel of John and Christian Theology


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