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A Hstory Of The Councils Of The Church Volumes 1 to 5 by Charles Joseph Hefele D.D.

SEC. 18. The Doctrine of the Logos prior to Arianism

FROM the beginning, two points concerning the Logos and His relation to the Father have stood as divinely revealed in the consciousness of the Church. On the one hand, His real divinity and equality with the Father; on the other, His personal distinction from the Father. But before the Council of Nicæa this sure doctrine of the faith had not been set forth in a sufficiently definite or positive manner; whilst some of the ancient Fathers, in expounding the faith of the Church, had, without thoroughly mastering the formula of Nicæa, perfectly understood and taught its meaning. Others selected less happy expressions, and sometimes erroneous ones—such as would, in their consequences, even lead to heresy. These same Fathers have, in different portions of their writings, expressed themselves sometimes with theological accuracy, sometimes with less accuracy. Thus, for example, S. Irenæus, Clement of Alexandria, S. Gregory Thaumaturgus of Neocæsarea, and Methodius, did not always choose their expressions carefully, but in substance they incontestably maintained the true doctrine. It is the same with Justin, Athenagoras, and Theophilus, who expressed themselves irreproachably on the chief dogmatic points, but differ in some of their inferences from the rule of the Church. The Apologists, above all others, to make themselves more acceptable and intelligible to the heathen who were accustomed to the Platonic philosophy, made a less clear and exact declaration of the doctrine of the Logos. In this endeavour they have too often brought the Christian idea of the Logos near to that of Plato and Philo, and so have too often degraded the Son in His dignity and power, attributed a beginning to His existence, and consequently have not recognised His equality with the Father (thus, among the orthodox Fathers, Athenagoras and Theophilus; among the more heterodox, Tatian, Tertullian, and especially Origen), and have emphasized too much the personal distinction between the Father and the Son.

On the other hand, they also tried to establish the second point of the traditional doctrine, the true divinity of the Son, and His equality with the Father, by declaring that the Logos was not a creature, and by saying that He came from the substance of the Father, and not from nothing, as the creatures do. They sometimes deny that the Logos was subsequent to the Father in His existence, which they affirm in other places. Attaching themselves to the distinction established by Philo between the λόγος ἐνδιάθετος and προφορικός, several of the ancient Fathers, philosophizing on the Son of God in the sense of the Logos προφορικὸς (that is, as He is personally distinct from the Father), speak of this Logos as of a being subordinate, and having an existence subsequent in time to that of the Father. In other places, on the contrary, they seem to suppress the distinction, purely nominal, between ἐνδιάθετος and προφορικὸς, and include the Logos completely in the divine substance. These last passages correct all that is exaggerated in the others, and positively support the ancient Fathers on the solid basis of the Church.

In certain cases, the two principal points of the doctrine of the Logos—the unity of the Son with the Father, and the distinction between the Father and the Son—have been regarded as contradictory propositions; and instead of preserving each in its theological entirety and relation to the other, they have thought to annihilate the one by the other. Out of this arose Sabellianism. This heresy, while maintaining the proper Godhead of the Son, in order the better to establish His equality with the Father, destroyed the personal distinction between the Father and the Son. But as one extreme leads to another, Sabellianism necessarily produced Subordinationism as its natural reaction; i.e. the theory which, in endeavouring to preserve the personal distinction between the Father and the Son, like Emanationism, subordinates in glory and in dignity Him who is begotten—that is to say, the Son—to Him who is unbegotten, and thus approximates Him more or less to the creatures. The celebrated Dionysius the Great, Bishop of Alexandria, is the most remarkable in this contest. About the year 260, in his dogmatic letter to Ammonius and Euphranor, as is well known, he expressed himself very indefinitely; and in order to mark more forcibly the distinction between the Father and the Son, he spoke of the latter as a ποίημα τοῦ Θεοῦ. He added, “that the Son in substance is alien from the Father (ξένον κατʼ οὐσίαν), as the vine plant and the vinedresser are distinct one from the other in substance;” and “as He is a ποίημα, He could not have been before He was made (οὐκ ἦν, πρὶν γένηται).” Thus in words, though not by intention, Dionysius had placed the Son on a par with the creatures. His excuse is found in the uncertain and vacillating language of his time, even apart from his well-intended opposition to Sabellianism, since other orthodox writers also describe the derivation of the Son from the Father promiscuously by such expressions as ποιεῖν, γεννᾶν, γένεσθαι, condere, and generare.

Pope Dionysius and his Synod were more clearsighted than these theologians. When several African bishops complained to him of the errors of Dionysius of Alexandria, the Pope held a Synod about the year 260; and after having deliberated with the members of the Synod on the dogma in question, he addressed to his colleague in Alexandria, and probably at the same time to other bishops of Egypt and Libya, a letter very remarkable in the history of the true faith, the greater part of which has been preserved for us by S. Athanasius. In it he protests against three errors: first, against the tritheistic, “which, diametrically opposed to Sabellius, divides the divine monarchy into three separate powers or hypostases, and plainly teaches that there are three Gods.” Baur supposed that the accusers of Dionysius of Alexandria had supported the doctrine of tritheism. Dorner, on the other hand, believes that tritheism was the result of a mixture of Sabellianism and Marcionitism; but he has not proved that this amalgamation existed during that period. Secondly, the Pope condemned, briefly and casually, Sabellianism; and, thirdly and lastly, he spoke at some length against those who called the Son a creature, when Holy Scripture declares that He was begotten. “Had He been created,” said he, “there would have been a period when He did not exist. Now the Son has always existed (ἀεὶ ἦν).” The Pope then explains critically those passages in the Bible which seemingly speak of a creation of the Son; and against these he brings forward those which speak of His generation and of His eternity. He closes with these words: “The admirable and holy unity (of God) cannot in consequence be divided into three Godheads; and the dignity and incomparable greatness of the Lord ought not to be lowered by the expression creature being applied to Him. It is necessary to believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ His Son, and in the Holy Ghost, and that the Logos is united to the God of the universe.” The Bishop of Rome here clearly professes the doctrine of Nicæa; and that Dionysius the Great of Alexandria also professed it, is proved by two letters which he then sent to Rome to justify himself, and which S. Athanasius quoted in order to prove that the Arians had done wrong in numbering Dionysius as one of their party. Dionysius says, in his letters, that his accusers had falsely charged him with denying the equality of the substance of the Father and the Son; and if he had said that nowhere in the Bible the word ὁμοούσιος could be found, the argument of which he made use, and which his adversaries had passed over in silence, was in complete agreement with that expression. He had, indeed, compared the relation between God the Father and God the Son with those between parents and children, as children are of the same substance as their parents. He had also employed other analogous arguments, e.g. the example of the plant and its root or its seed, between which there was an evident identity of substance. To the same effect was his comparison of the river and its source. He says, in another part of his letter of justification: “There has never been a moment when God was not the Father, and the Son is eternal; but He has His being, not of Himself, but of the Father.” Also in a third place he declares “he does not believe the Logos is a creature, and that he has not called God Creator (ποιητής), but Father, to express the relation that He has to the Son. If, however, in the course of his speech (and without intending it) he has once called the Father ποιητὴς to express His relation to the Son, he may be excused, seeing that the learned Greeks call themselves also ποιηταὶ, as being fathers of their works, and that the Bible itself does not always employ the word in the sense of creator, but sometimes also in the sense of originator: for instance, when it says we are the ποιηταὶ of the movements of our hearts.”

After Dionysius the Great, the most illustrious doctors of the Church of Alexandria, Theognostus, Pierius, and Bishop Peter, professed also the orthodox doctrine of the Logos. The first of these, who was chief of the catechetical school of this town from 270 to about 280, states explicitly, in a fragment preserved by S. Athanasius: “The substance of the Son came not from without, neither was it produced from nothing: it proceeds from the substance of the Father, as brilliancy proceeds from light, vapour from water.” If in a fragment of Theognostus, preserved by Photius, the Son is called a κτίσμα, Photius presumes this expression comes from a questioner; as the work from which it is taken is a dialogue: anyhow, the formal declaration quoted above proves that he could not have used the word κτίσμα in an Arian sense. His successor, the priest Pierius, professes the same doctrine of the Logos. Photius says of him: “It is true he called the Father and the Son two substances (οὐσίας) instead of persons or hypostases; but, however, he spoke of the two εὐσεβῶς, that is, in an orthodox manner.” And this testimony of Photius is the more convincing to us, from the decided manner in which he blames Pierius in another passage on account of his doctrine of the Holy Ghost: if his teaching on the Logos had not been orthodox, Photius would have blamed him for this too.

The third great Alexandrian of that time was Bishop Peter; and although the fragment attributed to him in the Chronicon Paschale is probably not genuine, two other fragments prove that he attributed to the Son the same nature and Godhead as to the Father.

It was different at Antioch, where the efforts to uphold the unity of God degenerated into the doctrine of Paul of Samosata, who considered the Logos as impersonal, and not distinct from the Father, and saw in Christ only a man in whom the divine Logos had dwelt and operated. A fellow-countryman of Paul’s, who shared his sentiments, Lucian, priest of Antioch, defended for some time this heretical doctrine of the Trinity, and for that reason was excommunicated for a time. Later, however, he acquired great distinction, by the publication of a corrected copy of the Septuagint, and by the firmness with which he suffered martyrdom under Maximin. The restoration of Lucian to the Church proves that eventually he renounced the doctrine of Paul of Samosata; but being still convinced that the Church did not maintain with sufficient firmness the dogma of the unity of God, he imagined another hypothesis of the Trinity, which is not perfectly known to us for lack of sufficient information, but which, according to Alexander Bishop of Alexandria, came out in the heresy of the Exucontians, and more particularly in that of his disciple Arius. Arius himself traced his doctrine to the school of Lucian, in greeting his friend Eusebius of Nicomedia, who shared his opinion, with the name of Συλλουκιανιστής (fellow-Lucianist). This being the case, it is of little importance to decide whether Arius was personally a disciple of Lucian at Antioch, or whether his opinion was formed from his writings only. In the letter from Arius to Eusebius of Nicomedia, just quoted, one sees that the principles of Lucian were widely spread in Asia; for Arius not only speaks of Eusebius as sharing his opinions, but also of a great many other bishops of Asia, who had all proclaimed that the Son was not eternal equally with the Father. The denial of the co-eternity of the Father and the Son seems therefore to have been a fundamental point in the doctrine of Lucian.

Besides, S. Epiphanius says: “Lucian and his followers all denied that the Son of God had taken a human soul, attributing to Him only a human body, for the sake of endowing the Logos with human feelings, such as sorrow, joy, and the like; and they also declared Him a being inferior to God—a creature, in fact.” Arius and his partisans made great use of the σῶμα Χριστοῦ ἄψυχον, and thereby again revealed their affinity with the school of Lucian. We know also that Lucian was looked upon as the author of the creed that the Eusebians (that is, the friends of Arius) submitted to the Synod of Antioch in 341, in which, as we shall see, the teaching was not positively heretical, but in which all sharp precision of dogma is intentionally avoided.

SEC. 19. Arius

The Subordinationist theology of Antioch was transplanted to Alexandria by Arius, the oft-named disciple of the school of Lucian; and on this new ground it gained strength and importance. The mind of Arius was disposed to this purely rationalistic theology; and from his point of view of mere natural intelligence, it became impossible for him to reconcile theoretically these two apparently contradictory dogmas of the equality of the Logos with the Father, and of His distinction from Him. “Arius,” says Dorner with justice, “takes part with pleasure and skill in the relative sphere: he handles the lower categories of logic with dialectic skill; but he never rises above it: he applies it to everything. He is quite incapable of rising to speculative science, properly so called.” But he would certainly not have created so much disturbance in the minds of the people, had he not found in Alexandria a field well prepared to receive this theory of subordination, even so far back as the time of Origen. A certain hostility had been created against the theology of equality (the doctrine of the equality of the Son with the Father), which was taught by Theognostus, Pierius, and Bishop Peter, and now anew by Bishop Alexander. The representatives of the old Alexandrian tendency naturally linked themselves with pleasure to Arius; and thus it was that in later times the Arians earnestly appealed to the authority of Origen, and protected themselves under his name, and pretended to proceed directly from him. Athanasius carefully refuted this. Besides, the Church of Alexandria was a specially prepared soil for this new growth: she had been for more than a century the philosophizing Church of Christianity (ἐκκλησία φιλοσοφικωτάτη). She readily threw herself into all philosophical and theological controversies. Being in close proximity to the native country of Sabellianism, she felt constantly called upon to combat it, and so was led imperceptibly into the other extreme. Arius himself was Libyan by birth, consequently a compatriot of Sabellius; thus he might have considered himself specially called on to combat the Sabellian theory, which annihilated all distinction between the Father and the Son. Philonism, of which Alexandria was the hotbed, seems also to have exercised some influence over the development of Arianism; and as the following details will prove, Arius built on the base of this philosophy. Thus,

(α.) Like Philo, he exaggerated the distinction between the world and God, and considered the supreme God much too sublime to enter into direct relation with the world, and the world much too low to bear any direct action of God. Now Athanasius proves that Arius, and his friends Eusebius and Asterius, had appropriated to themselves this fundamental proposition of Philo’s philosophy.

(β.) Like Philo, Arius admitted an intermediate being, who, being less than God, was the divine organ of the creation of the world (like the created gods of Plato): this intermediate being was the Logos. Thus the Arian Logos resembled that of Philo: they are each declared inferior to the Father; and Philo, who in general considered him as personal, gives to him the name of ὑπηρέτης Θεοῦ.

(γ.) Now the intermediate and inferior being could not be equal in substance and equal in eternity (consubstantial and co-eternal) with the supreme and only true God. It may thus be seen how all the other Subordinationist predicates of the Logos arise of themselves from the fundamental propositions of Philo.

Arius completely failed to perceive the contradiction which springs from the adoption of an intermediate being. According to his view, the supreme God could not create anything imperfect; yet He makes the Son imperfect. If God can create only perfect beings, it becomes necessary that the plenitude of perfection, and consequently of divinity, be found in the Son; if not, the supreme God could create imperfect beings: thus He could equally have created the world.

The analogy between the intermediate being of the Arians and the Gnostic Demiurge is evident, but the difference which existed between the two must not be overlooked. They resemble each other, inasmuch as neither can produce perfect beings. But whilst the Gnostic Demiurge only presides over a period of the world’s existence, the Arian Logos does not cease to act as long as the world exists. The age of the Emperor Constantine was undeniably very favourable for the rise and rapid propagation of the doctrine of Subordination; for after the conversion of the Emperor, many learned heathens entered the Church without a real vocation, and there spread on all sides religious theories much more favourable to half-pagan Subordinationism than to the profoundly Christian doctrine of the equality of the Father and of the Son.

We know but little of the life of Arius before he set forth his errors, and what is known of him is not very certain. He embraced at Alexandria the side of the Meletians at first, but afterwards abandoned it, and was ordained deacon by Peter Bishop of Alexandria. At a later period, having taken the side of the Meletians, he was excommunicated by Bishop Peter; but his successor Achillas (A.D. 312) reconciled him to the Church, and ordained him priest. Soon after, Arius was. put at the head of a Church called Baucalis, as the large number of Christians in Alexandria had rendered necessary the division of the town into districts, corresponding with what are now called parishes.

Arius was tall and thin; a learned man and a clever logician; of austere appearance and serious bearing, and yet of very fascinating manners; at the same time proud, ambitious, insincere, and cunning. Epiphanius calls him a perfidious serpent. Bishop Alexander reproaches him with his avarice, and speaks of his following composed of women, in such a way that later historians believed—wrongfully, no doubt—that disgraceful inferences might be drawn against his private life. Two statements by Theodoret, on the ambition and arrogance of Arius, have led to the belief that, after the death of Achillas (towards the end of 312), Arius strove for the Episcopal dignity; but seeing his old colleague Alexander preferred to him, he conceived a deep hatred against him. The Arian historian Philostorgius, on the contrary, asserts that Arius himself made over to Alexander the votes which were offered to himself. Neither of these assertions seems to have been true. Theodoret is nearer the truth when he says, that in the beginning Alexander highly esteemed Arius. Chronology confirms this statement; for the discussion between Arius and his bishop did not, as it would seem, take place until 318 or 320, when Alexander had been Bishop of Alexandria for more than six years, and until then apparently the most profound good feeling had existed between Arius and him. But whilst admitting that a certain antipathy existed between them, it must not therefore be concluded that it gave rise to the doctrinal controversy: this was simply the result of different theological convictions. Socrates thus relates the manner in which this difference first arose: “Bishop Alexander of Alexandria one day spoke, in presence of his priests and clergy, of the mystery of the Trinity, and insisted especially on the Unity in the Trinity, philosophizing on this grave subject, and thinking he was gaining honour by his argument. But Arius, who was eager for dispute, professed to discover Sabellianism in the bishop’s doctrine. He opposed it vehemently, and asserted that if the Father had begotten the Son, he who was begotten had a beginning of his being (ἀρχὴν ὑπάρξεως), and consequently there was a time when he could not have been (ἦν, ὅτε οὐκ ἦν); that it also followed that the Son had his beginning from nothing (ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων ἔχει τὴν ὑπόστασιν).”

All history posterior to Arianism proves that Arius was unjust in accusing his bishop of Sabellianism; but that which chiefly proves it is the conduct of Alexander at the Council of Nicæa, and likewise his letters and those of Arius, which we shall soon have occasion to examine.

Arius admitted, with the orthodox Fathers, that the term “begotten” was the palladium which could alone save the doctrine of the personal existence of the Son against Sabellianism. He therefore took the idea of “begotten” as the groundwork of his argument; but he transferred the idea of time, which rules every human generation, to the divine generation, and drew from that, as he thought, with logical necessity, the proposition that the Son could not be co-eternal with the Father. He did not, however, wish to speak of a priority in time, properly so called, but only of priority similar to a priority in time, of the Father to the Son; for, according to Arius, time began with the creation, and thus the Son, by whom all things were created, and who, consequently, was before the creation, was born also before all time. Other theologians had, before Arius, already developed this argument; but he afterwards went beyond it, and thought that the distinction he had established between the Father and the Son would fade away if he admitted that the Son is begotten of the substance of the Father. This fear has apparently been justified by the history of the word “consubstantial” (ὁμοούσιος); for this word, as we have already seen, was rejected by the Synod of Antioch, held in 269. But Arius not only avoided this definite expression, but all others similar to it used by the holy Fathers to show that the Son emanated from the substance of the Father. He not only rejected the expression, but the thing expressed, by positively declaring that he was made ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων, which was diametrically opposed to the ὁμοούσιος, and thus went further than any one else among the ancients. He positively made the Logos a “creature” in the special sense of the word.

Arius had another motive for not admitting that the Son was begotten of the substance of the Father. He believed that by so doing the divine substance would be divided, whilst God is essentially indivisible; and, in point of fact, the Arians constantly reproached their adversaries with considering the divine substance as something corporeal, and dividing it. They believed that their doctrine of the Logos alone maintained, not only the indivisibility and immateriality of God, but likewise His immutability. The creation of temporal things would, according to them, have wrought a change in the Creator; for if the supreme God had made the world, He would have lost His immutability, which is contrary to the idea we have of God. On the contrary, there was no danger in denying the immutability of the Son, as being declared to be a creature who took part in the creation of the world. They said, then, “By nature the Son is not unchangeable, but only by His own will.”

Arius first appeared on the scene with these opinions between 318 and 320. This date, though uncertain, has every appearance of probability. Sozomen, Theodoret, and Epiphanius relate, as did Socrates, with slight differences of detail only, the beginning of the Arian controversy. Socrates does not say that Bishop Alexander gave rise to the discussion by a sermon; according to him, it was Arius who began of himself to spread his errors. The bishop was blamed for tolerating the beginning of it. He did not, however, wish to use his authority against Arius: he preferred to call together his clergy, and made them argue in his presence with Arius; and they proclaimed the Son ὁμοούσιος and συναίδιος (consubstantial and co-eternal with the Father). In the beginning of the discussion Alexander did not take either side; but towards the end he approved of those who had defended the consubstantiality and co-eternity of the Son, and commanded Arius to retract his error. Epiphanius maintains, but it is difficult to admit the assertion, that the chief adversary and opposer of Arius was Bishop Meletius, the chief of the schismatics, of whom we have already spoken. Arius was little disposed to submit to the orders of his bishop; on the contrary, he sent to several bishops a written confession of faith, and begged them, if they approved of it, to send him their adhesion, and to intercede with Bishop Alexander in his favour. In a short time he made many friends, especially the celebrated Eusebius of Nicomedia, who, being then bishop in the household of Constantine and his sister Constantia, exercised great influence over them, and over many of the other bishops. He interested himself actively with them on behalf of Arius, and sent him his adhesion in writing. He, like Arius, was a disciple of Lucian, and accepted in general the propositions of Arianism.

“One only,” he thought, “the Father, is unbegotten; the other (the Son) is truly (that is to say, in the full sense of the word) created, and not of the substance of the Father (οὐκ ἐκ τῆς οὐσίας αὐτοῦ γεγονώς). The Son does not participate in the substance (οὐσία) of the unbegotten; He differs from Him in nature and in power, although He was created in perfect resemblance to the nature and power of His Creator. No one can express in words His beginning, or even understand it in thought.” The letter to Bishop Paulinus of Tyre, in which Eusebius expresses these opinions, is at the same time a proof of the zeal he displayed in favour of Arius and his cause; for he reproaches this bishop with not having declared in favour of Arius, although at heart he shared his opinions. He exhorts him to repair his fault, and above all to write (as he no doubt had already done himself) to Bishop Alexander, and set forth the true doctrine, namely, that of Subordination. He proposed Eusebius of Cæsarea to him as a model, the celebrated church historian, who, without being a decided Arian, was visibly in favour of this party. Besides these two, Eusebius and Paulinus of Tyre, there were the bishops, Theodotus of Laodicea, Athanasius of Anazarbus, Gregory of Berytus, and Ætius of Lydda (or Diospolis), who interested themselves in favour of Arius. Very shortly others showed themselves on the same side: among the most remarkable were the two Africans, Secundus Bishop of Ptolemais in Libya, and Theonas of Marmarica, both of whom belonged to the province of Alexandria, and openly took part with Arius. Besides, from the Alexandrian and Mareotic clergy, there were added to the heretical party the two priests Chares and Pistus, and the thirteen following deacons,—Achillas, Euzoius, Aithalas, Lucius, Sarmates, Julius, Menas, Helladius, Serapion, Paramnon, Zosimus, Irenæus, and a second Arius. Among them also are named Carponas and Eusebius, without mention of the order to which they belonged. These names are given by Bishop Alexander himself in three lists, made at different times, for which reason they do not all agree. Epiphanius, on the contrary, speaks of seven priests, twelve deacons, and seven hundred virgins consecrated to God (Egypt had a great many such) who took part with Arius. It is probable that, in so grave a matter, Alexander early consulted with other bishops; at least this may be concluded from some passages contained in a letter which he wrote later, and which is found in Theodoret. But it is also certain that at the beginning Alexander endeavoured to keep the matter as quiet and peaceable as possible; and that, in connection with his clergy, he addressed remonstrances not only by word, but in writing, to Arius and his partisans.

SEC. 20. The Synod of Alexandria in 320, and its Consequences

Bishop Alexander, seeing the uselessness of his efforts, in 320 or 321 convoked a large ecclesiastical assembly in Alexandria, at which were present nearly a hundred Egyptian and Libyan bishops. The matter of their deliberations has not reached us; we only know that Arius and his partisans were anathematized. His partisans, said Alexander in two letters, were the two bishops Theonas and Secundus, and the majority of the deacons recently named. Arius wished to prove that Eusebius of Cæsarea, Theodotus of Laodicea, Paulinus of Tyre, and, in one word, the greater number of the bishops in Asia, were condemned with him by the Synod of Alexandria; but that was a false inference. It is likely that the Synod, after having excommunicated by name the African Arians, and especially those of Alexandria, pronounced a general anathema against the partisans of this heresy; and from this Arius drew the conclusions which suited him.

Although excommunicated, Arius continued to hold congregations for divine service; and Bishop Alexander speaks of several churches (which he designates as dens of thieves) where the Arians habitually met, and offered night and day outrages against Christ, and against the bishop. He mentions, in the same letter, how they sought in different towns to attract adherents by their lectures and writings, and especially sought to deceive women by their flatteries and falsehoods. They went so far, says he, that they stirred up against the orthodox the populace and the civil authorities (still principally heathen, for Egypt depended on Licinius), and endeavoured, when all was peace, to excite a new persecution. Alexander saw himself obliged, by the insolence and constant machinations of the Arians, as well as by the open partisanship of Eusebius of Nicomedia, to inform all the bishops of the position of affairs in elaborate letters. For the same purpose he convoked a new assembly of the Alexandrian and Mareotic clergy, and asked all the united clergy (among them Athanasius, then a deacon) to sign his Epistola encyclica. After a very fine introduction on the unity of the Church, Alexander especially complained of Eusebius of Nicomedia, who had undertaken to protect the heresy, and who recommended Arius and his partisans everywhere by his writings and letters. This conduct obliged him to speak openly. He afterwards enumerated the names of the apostates, and exposed their chief errors, which were the following:—

1. “God was not always Father; there was a time when He was not Father (ἠν, ὅτε ὁ Θεὸς πατὴρ οὐκ ἦν).

2. “The Logos of God has not always been (οὐκ ἀεὶ ἦν); He was created from nothing; God, the self-existent, created from nothing Him who is not self-existent (the ὢν Θεὸς—the μὴ ὄντα).

3. “Consequently there was a time when He was not; for

4. “The Son is a creature, a κτίσμα and a ποὶημα.

5. “He is not of the same substance as the Father (οὔτε ὅμοιος κατ ̓ οὐσίαν); He is not truly and according to His nature the Word and the Wisdom of God (οὔτε ἀληθινὸς κατʼ οὐσίαν τοῦ πατρὸς λόγος ἐστὶν, οὔτε ἀληθινὴ σοφία αὐτοῦ ἐστιν); but one of the works, and of the creatures of God (εἶς τῶν ποιημά των καὶ γενητῶν). He is only by an abuse (καταχρηστικῶς) called the Logos; He was created by the true Logos (ἰδίῳ τοῦ Θεοῦ λόγῳ), and by the inner (ἐν τῷ Θεῷ) Wisdom of God (the λόγος ἐνδιάθετος of Philo).

“It is by this inner Wisdom (λόγος ἐνδιάθετος) that God created Him (the λόγος προφορικὸς) and all things.

6. “Thus it is that by nature He is subject to change (τρεπτὸς, that is to say, by nature liable to sin).

7. “He is a stranger to the divine οὐσία, and differs from it (ξένος τε καὶ ἀλλότριος). He does not know God perfectly; He does not even know His own nature perfectly.

8. “He was created for us, so that God might create us by Him as His instrument; and He would not have existed (οὐκ ἂν ὑπέστη), had He not been called into existence by God through love for us.”

Bishop Alexander afterwards refutes these Arian doctrines by texts from the Holy Scriptures; and at the end he implores the bishops not to admit the Arians into the communion of the Church, and to have no confidence in Eusebius and others like him.

Theodoret has preserved a second letter of Alexander’s (and of his Synod), addressed, according to the title given by Theodoret, to Alexander Bishop of Constantinople. But not only is this title wanting in three ancient manuscripts; but besides, at the time the letter was written, the name Constantinople did not exist. Moreover, this letter was not addressed to one, but to several bishops, as the contents prove. It is said in the letter, that Arius and his friend Achillas went further than Colluthus had done, who had previously founded a sect in Alexandria. Even Colluthus at this time blamed the conduct of the Arians, who did not submit to the Church, who held meetings in their dens of robbers, denied the Godhead of our Saviour, misinterpreted those texts of Scripture for their own purpose which speak of the humiliation of Christ, which was for our salvation, and endeavoured to stir the people up against the orthodox, and to excite persecutions against them by calumnious pamphlets written by disorderly women. After having been for these several causes excluded from the Church, the Arians endeavoured by falsehoods, and by concealing their errors, to bring other bishops over to their side, and many of them had succeeded in being admitted into the communion of the Church. Consequently it became necessary to unveil without delay their errors, which consisted in maintaining:

“That there was a period when the Son of God did not exist;

“That, not existing at first, He was later called into existence;

“That He was created out of nothing, like everything else, reasonable or unreasonable, and consequently was by nature liable to change, capable of goodness and of sin;

“But that God, knowing that He (the Son) would not deny Him, chose Him above all created beings, although by nature He had no higher claim than the other sons of God, that is, than other virtuous men. If Peter and Paul had sought to reach the same perfection as Christ, their relation to God would have been absolutely the same as that in which Christ stood.”

Then Bishop Alexander again refuted the Arians by texts of Scripture: he compared them to the Ebionites, to Artemas and Paul of Samosata; he called them Exucontians (οἱ ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων), a title which in later times was frequently employed; he complained that three Syrian bishops urged the Arians to still graver excesses; then returned afresh to biblical proof against the Arians, and developed the orthodox faith, saying that the Son was not subject to any change, and is in all things like the Father, perfect as He is perfect, and in one point only subordinate to the Father—in not being unbegotten. In other respects the Son is the exact image of the Father. He is from all eternity; but from this it must not be concluded, as the Arians have wrongfully done, and as they falsely accuse those who are orthodox of doing, that the Son was not begotten: for those two terms, “Being from all eternity,” and “not begotten,” are not identical; there is a difference between them. The Son, being in all things the image of the Father, should be worshipped as God. The Christian recognises also, with the Father and the Son, the Holy Ghost, who worked in the holy men of the Old Testament, and on the holy teachers of the New.

Bishop Alexander continued to set forth the other articles of the faith, and employed the term which became celebrated later in Christian controversy, the “Mother of God” (θεοτόκος). In conclusion, he exhorted the bishops to admit no Arian into the communion of the Church, and to act as did the bishops of Egypt, Libya, Asia, Syria, etc., who had sent him written declarations against Arianism, and signed his τόμος, that is to say, his treatise (perhaps the encyclical letter of which we have already spoken). He hopes they will send him similar declarations, as perhaps the number of the bishops might convert the Arians. He adds in the appendix the names of the ecclesiastics of Alexandria who were excommunicated along with Arius.

SEC. 21. Arius obliged to leave Alexandria; his Letters and his Thalia

Driven from Alexandria by his bishop, Arius went first to Palestine, and from thence addressed a letter to his powerful protector, Eusebius of Nicomedia. In it he complains of the persecution which he had to suffer at the hands of Alexander, particularly of being driven from the town; and accuses Alexander of maintaining “that the Father and the Son co-existed always together, that the Son was not begotten, that He was begotten from all eternity, that He was unbegotten Begotten, that the Father was not one moment anterior to the Son, and that He is of God Himself.” (It may be seen how Arius misrepresents some of the doctrinal propositions of Alexander, as we have already found, because he could not reconcile the eternity of the Son with His divine generation.) Further, Arius asserts that Eusebius of Cæsarea, Theodotus of Laodicea, Paulinus of Tyre, etc., and all the Eastern bishops, were anathematized by Alexander because they taught that the Father existed before the Son. Only three Eastern bishops were not excommunicated, he adds: these are Philogonius, Hellanicus, and Macarius, because they have in an impious manner called the Son, the one an eructation of the Father (ἐρυγή, according to the forty-fourth Psalm, ver. 2), the other a projection (προβολή), the third co-begotten (συναγέννητον). Arius could not, he said, admit such impiety, even if the heretics threatened him a thousand times with death. As to the Arians, he says, they teach “that the Son is not begotten, and that He is not a part of the Unbegotten (with reference to the sense in which ὁμοούσιος was rejected at Antioch); that He was not created of anything which existed before Him; but that He was called into being by the will and according to the plan (of God), before time and before the world (that is to say, He was before the world was made, but that He was not eternal), and as full God (πλήρης Θεός), only-begotten (μονογενής), and unchangeable (ἀναλλοίωτος). Before being begotten, or created, or determined, or founded, He was not; for He is not unbegotten.” He concludes by being remembered to Eusebius, who, like himself, belonged to the school of Lucian.

The exposition Arius here makes of his doctrine agrees perfectly, one point excepted, with that which was given a little further back by the Bishop of Alexandria. Alexander, in fact, says in his two letters, that Arius made of the Son “a being who, according to His nature, was capable of virtue or of sin.” Arius seems to say the contrary in that which precedes this; but this difference is only in appearance. Arius, to be consistent, should have said: “The Son being a κτίσμα, and not of the substance of the Father, is by nature subject to change, as are all the κτίσματα.” But he might also, and he did actually, affirm that “de facto the Son was immutable, but that His immutability was the effect of volition, and not by nature.” Arius, in like manner, takes the expression πλήρης Θεός in a double sense. He cannot and will not say that the Son is by nature equal in glory to the Father; he says that He is perfect God only by the will of the Father, that is to say, that the Father has made Him partaker of His divine glory. A careful analysis of the principal work of Arius, called the Thalia, will show, besides, how well-founded was the accusation made by Bishop Alexander, that Arius had here concealed his real sentiments.

Invited, in consequence of this letter, by Eusebius, Arius went a short time after to Nicomedia, and wrote from thence, perhaps at the instigation of Eusebius, a polite letter to his former bishop Alexander, in order to be on as good terms as possible with him. First, he sets forth in his letter a kind of creed which should explain the faith, as Arius and his friends had received it from their predecessors, and even from the Bishop Alexander himself, as follows:—

1. “There is only one true God, alone uncreate, alone eternal, alone without beginning, alone wise, good, and powerful; one only Judge and King, and alone unchangeable.

2. “Before all time He begot His only Son, and by Him created the world and all things.

3. “He did not only beget Him in appearance” (Arius believed in the eternal generation as being only in appearance, and imputed all real generation to time), “but He actually called Him into existence by His own will, as an unchangeable and immutable being.

4. “The Son is a perfect creature of God (κτίσμα τοῦ Θεοῦ τέλειον), but yet distinct from all other creatures; He is begotten, yet again He differs from all that is begotten.

5. “He is not, as is asserted by Valentinus, a projection (προβολή), nor yet, as the Manichæans assert, a substantial part of the Father (μέρος ὁμοούσιον τοῦ πατρός); nor, as the Sabellians wish, the Son-Father; nor, as is said by Hieracas, light of light, or one torch emanating from another; nor had He a previous existence, and was afterwards begotten and made the Son,—a thing which Bishop Alexander himself” (whom Arius still addresses as μακάριε πάπα) “had often publicly controverted, and with reason.

6. “He was created by the will of God before time, and before all worlds. He has received His life and His being from the Father, who also has communicated His glory to Him; and without taking from Himself, has given Him the heritage of all things.

7. “There are three persons: God, who is the cause of all things, who is unique, and without beginning; the Son, who is begotten of the Father before all things, created and established before the worlds. He was not until He was begotten; but He was begotten before all time, before all things, and He alone was called by the Father (immediately) into being. He is not, however, eternal or unbegotten, like the Father. He had not His being at the same time as the Father, as some say, who thus introduce two unbegotten principles; but as God is the monad and the beginning, or the principle of all things, He is therefore before all things, and consequently also before the Son, as Bishop Alexander himself has declared in the Church.

8. “The Son having received His being from God, who gave Him glory, life, and all things, so God must be His principle (ἀρχή), and must rule Him (ἄρχει αὐτοῦ) as His God, and as being before Him.

9. “In conclusion, it is attempted to show that the biblical expressions, the Son is of the Father, ex utero, etc., do not refer to similarity of substance.”

During his stay in Nicomedia, Arius wrote his principal work, called Θάλεια, that is, “The Banquet.” Only fragments of it remain. They are preserved in the works of S. Athanasius. The book, it appears, was partly in prose and partly in verse. The ancients compared it to the songs of the Egyptian poet Sotades, and pronounced it highly effeminate and overwrought. According to Athanasius, there were some of these “Thalias” already among the heathen, which were read at their banquets for the promotion of gaiety. Arius selected this light form, it seems, to familiarize the masses with the doctrine taught in his book. With the same intention he afterwards wrote songs for sailors, carpenters, and travellers. Athanasius says the Thalia was held in great honour by the friends of Arius, and that they venerated it as a second Bible. In reality, it contains Arianism in its strongest form, and at the same time shows clearly its Philonian foundation. In one of these fragments Arius boasts of being very celebrated (περικλυτὸς), having had much to suffer for the glory of God (that is, because he gave the Father the glory due to Him, as opposed to the Son); and he goes on: “God has not always been Father; there was a moment when He was alone, and was not yet Father: later He became so. The Son is not from eternity; He came from nothing, etc. When God wished to create us, He first created a being which He called the Logos, Sophia, and Son, who should create us as an instrument. There are two Sophias: one is in God (i.e. ἐνδιάθετος), by which even the Son was made. It is only by sharing (μετέχει) the nature of this inner Sophia of God that the Son was also called Wisdom (σοφία προφορικός). So also, besides the Son, there is another Logos—he who is in God; and as the Son participates in this Logos, He also is by grace (κατὰ χάριν) called Logos and Son.”

In the second fragment, the Thalia sets forth that with which, as we have seen, Bishop Alexander had reproached Arius,—namely, “that the Logos did not perfectly know the Father; that he could not even entirely understand his own nature; that the substance (οὐσίαι) of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are entirely different the one from the other. These three persons are, in their essence and glory (δόξα), thoroughly and infinitely dissimilar (ἀνόμοιοι πάμπαν … ἐπʼ ἄπειρον).”

In the third fragment Arius says, after the Philonian manner, from the beginning: “God is ἄῤῥητος (ineffable), and nothing (therefore not even the Son) is equal to or like Him, or of the same glory. This eternal God made the Son before all creatures, and adopted Him for His Son (ἤνεγκεν εἰς υἱόν).… The Son has nothing in his own nature akin to God, and is not like to Him in essence. The invisible God is also invisible to the Son, and the Son can see Him only so far as is permitted by the will of the Father. The Three Persons of the Trinity are not equal in glory, the Hypostases (Persons) are not confounded, and one is infinitely more glorious than the other. God could create a being like unto the Son, but He cannot create a being more glorious or more great. That which the Son is, He is through the Father and the mighty God (ἰσχυρὸς Θεὸς). He (the Son) adores Him who is more glorious than Himself.”

SEC. 22. Synod in Bithynia—Intervention of the Emperor Constantine

Sozomen speaks of a Synod in Bithynia which supported the Arians by an encyclical addressed to all the bishops, asking them to receive the Arians into the communion of the Church. This Synod was held by the partisans of Arius, probably during his stay in Nicomedia, and perhaps even in that town. The part espoused by so many bishops did not bring about peace in the Church: the struggle, on the contrary, became more intense; and there arose so much division among Christians, and such grievous schisms in all towns, and even in the villages, that the heathens everywhere turned it into ridicule on the stage. S. Athanasius shows us how much occasion the Arians gave to the heathens for such derision, by describing their proselytism, which was as improper as it was ridiculous: for example, how they gained women to their side by asking sophistical questions, such as, “Hast thou had a son before thou didst bear?” in order to win them over to their opinion of the later origin of the Son.

The political events which then arose undoubtedly increased the trouble in Egypt and in the East, the seat of Arianism. The Emperor Licinius, to whom Egypt and Asia belonged, after being vanquished by Constantine in 315, had concluded a definite peace with him; and in consequence of this treaty he lived several years on the best terms with his father-in-law and the Christians. But towards the end of 322 Licinius took advantage of Constantine’s crossing the frontiers of his empire, in pursuit of the Sarmatians, to break with him; and in 323 entered into a war, which towards the autumn of the year ended in the total defeat of Licinius by sea and land. This war accounts for the increase of the confusion and divisions in the Church, as well as for the lack of all authentic history of Arianism during this period (322–323). Another circumstance which may thus be explained is the boldness of Arius in returning to Alexandria. In his struggle against Constantine, Licinius became the champion of heathenism, and oppressed the Church, particularly the bishops. Arius had no further cause to fear Alexander, and the principal obstacle to his return was thus removed. The actual return of Arius to Alexandria is proved by Sozomen, and still better by a letter from the Emperor Constantine, of which we shall shortly speak. Sozomen says that “Arius sent messages to the Bishops Paulinus of Tyre, Eusebius of Cæsarea, and Patrophilus of Scythopolis, asking permission to officiate as formerly, and to do so even in Alexandria. As is understood from the tenor of the letter, these bishops summoned their colleagues to a council, and allowed Arius and his adherents to hold, as formerly, private religious assemblies, without, however, withdrawing themselves from the submission due to Bishop Alexander, and on the condition of asking for peace and communion.”

Constantine, now master of the whole empire, consequently also of Egypt and the other provinces disturbed by Arianism, considered it his duty to re-establish religious as well as civil peace, and took the necessary measures as soon as he had returned to Nicomedia. He sent first a long letter to Arius and Bishop Alexander, the purport of which Eusebius has preserved entire, but which Socrates only gives in fragments. He says in this letter, that “he has learnt with great sorrow that sharper controversies than those of Africa (the Donatist disputes) have arisen at Alexandria, although it appears to him that they are questions respecting things of no importance and of no use, which Alexander ought not to have excited, and about which Arius ought to have kept his different views to himself. They were questions which the human mind was too weak to solve correctly; and therefore both Arius and Alexander should forgive each other, and do that which he, their fellow-servant, advised them. He thought that they could easily be reconciled, as they did not disagree on any main point of the law, nor on any innovation in divine service, and were therefore substantially at one; that philosophers of the same school had often differed in accessories: we should be able to bear such differences, but bring them as little as possible before the people. That was vulgar, puerile, and unworthy of priests. That, therefore, they ought to agree, and free him from so great a cause of anxiety.”

It is evident that the Emperor was not at that time aware of the importance of the Arian controversy, and that his letter does not merit the great praise it received from Eusebius and others. Constantine sent this letter, in the contents of which Eusebius of Nicomedia perhaps had a hand, to Alexandria by the celebrated Bishop Hosius of Cordova. This venerable man, whom the Emperor usually consulted, was sixty-seven years of age. He had been a confessor during the persecution of Diocletian; and the Emperor hoped that his presence would bring about a reconciliation. It is uncertain what Hosius did at Alexandria: it is only known that he opposed Sabellianism there, proving the Christian doctrine of the nature and persons of the Holy Trinity, probably to make clear the difference between the Sabellian and the orthodox doctrine. It is not known if he was present at the Synod of Alexandria, which deposed Colluthus. Perhaps this Council was held later. Unhappily Hosius did not succeed in his mission to Alexandria. Philostorgius relates that later he met the Bishop of Alexandria at a synod at Nicomedia, where he approved of the term ὁμοούσιος, and excommunicated Arius. The statement is not probable.

However, the Emperor’s letter and Hosius’ mission remaining alike without result, and the Paschal controversy continuing to disturb many eastern provinces (the custom of the Quartodecimans existed still in Syria, Cilicia, and Mesopotamia), the Emperor, perhaps advised by Hosius, thought there could be no better means to re-establish the peace of the Church than the calling of an œcumenical council.








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