Hilary of Poitiers, (300AD – 367AD) is one of the more obscure fathers as he gets very little mention from the other fathers of this period. He was primarily of the Western church but was very much in the framework of thought of the Alexandrian School. Because he was so aligned to the Eastern school and did little to develop the theology of the West both sides were suspicious of him. He was stuck between the two as his Latin tongue was not favoured in the East and his affiliation with the East was not favoured in the West.
in some ways Hilary was on his own. He had very little resources or company to refine his thinking. Yet, he endeavoured to approach the task of exploring the truth in a highly disciplined way that is so characteristic of the Eastern church. He tried to reach the uneducated mind making some of his explanations appear as though they were insulting the intelligence of the reader. As a result, his explanations might appear long winded and convoluted. We have to take into account these criticisms are by those who were perhaps questioning his allegiances.
When Athanasius was condemned at the Council of Milan and was sent into exile, Hilary was one of those who refused to sanction the Emperor’s decision. He played a part in gathering support to have this decision overturned and gave a strong letter of protest to the Emperor. This resulted in him being sent into exile in 356AD. During this time, he wrote his work On the Trinity. He was exiled into an area that brought him within earshot of the Cappadocians. There is much conjecture as to whether or not he was familiar with the work of Athanasius. He was however distinctly anti-Arian and expressed similar language to that of the Nicene era. Hilary tried to bring unity between the East and the West by making a clear distinction of the Persons and the meaning of the relationship between the Father and the Son. He never fully succeeded in bringing about an orthodox church and state.
Each of the lectures/letters can be viewed internally or can be downloaded as a PDF.
Translated by Philip Schaff
Hilary’s Commentary on Psalms