Joseph T. Lienhard, SJ
If anyone with even a basic knowledge of the history of doctrine were asked what the 'Cappadocian settlement' was, he would undoubtedly say, 'one ousia, three hypostaseis', μία οὐσία, τρɛς ὑποστάσɛις. G. L. Prestige wrote, for example: 'The Cappadocian Settlement finally fixed the statement of Trinitarian orthodoxy in the formula of one ousia and three hypostaseis.' 1 In other words: as the orthodox response to the Arian heresy, the three Cappadocian Fathers taught that God is one ousia in three hypostaseis, thus both preserving Christian monotheism and accounting fully for the biblical confession of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Cappadocian settlement is often presented as one that was widely and readily employed, and accepted with relief and enthusiasm. But the exact formula is, in fact, more a piece of modern academic shorthand than a quotation from the writings of the Cappadocians. In the short form just quoted, the formula is rarely found in their writings. It is perhaps more common in an Alexandrian milieu, in the De trinitate attributed to Didymus the Blind, 2 although the authenticity of that work is much disputed. Textbooks can also be misleading. Johannes Quasten wrote that 'this formula . . . appears for the first time in the Discourse against Arius and Sabellius'. 3 Frances Young wrote, with even more conviction,