Arian controversy

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The Arian controversy describes several controversies between a Catholic priest and theologian Arius and a Coptic Orthodox bishop and Church Father Athanasius related to Christology which divided the Catholic church from before the Council of Nicaea in 325 to after the Council of Constantinople in 381. The most important of these controversies concerned the relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ.

History[edit]

Beginnings[edit]

The early history of the controversy must be pieced together from about 35 documents found in various sources. The Trinitarian historian Socrates of Constantinople reports that Arius first became controversial under the bishop Athanasius of Alexandria, when Arian made the following syllogism: he said, "If the Father begat the Son, he that was begotten had a beginning of existence: and from this it is evident, that there was a time when the Son was not. It therefore necessarily follows, that he had his substance from nothing".

Bishop Alexander of Alexandria was criticised for his slow reaction against Arius. Like his predecessor Dionysius, he has been charged with vacillation. The question that Arius raised had been left unsettled two generations previously. Therefore Alexander allowed the controversy to continue until he felt that it had become dangerous to the peace of the Church. Then he called a council of bishops and sought their advice. Once they decided against Arius, Alexander delayed no longer. He deposed Arius from his office, and excommunicated both him and his supporters.

Further information: Synods of Antioch

The Council of Nicaea (325)[edit]

The Council of Nicaea, with Arius depicted beneath the feet of the Emperor Constantine and the bishops

But "Arianism" could no longer be contained within the Alexandrian diocese. By the time Bishop Alexander finally acted against his recalcitrant presbyter, Arius's doctrine had spread far beyond his own see; it had become a topic of discussion—and disturbance—for the entire Church. The Church was now a powerful force in the Roman world, with Constantine I having legalized it in 313 through the Edict of Milan. The emperor had taken a personal interest in several ecumenical issues, including the Donatist controversy in 316, and he wanted to bring an end to the Arian dispute. To this end, the emperor sent Hosius, bishop of Córdoba to investigate and, if possible, resolve the controversy. Hosius was armed with an open letter from the Emperor: "Wherefore let each one of you, showing consideration for the other, listen to the impartial exhortation of your fellow-servant." But as the debate continued to rage despite Hosius' efforts, Constantine in AD 325 took an unprecedented step: he called a council to be composed of church prelates from all parts of the empire to resolve this issue, possibly at Hosius' recommendation.[1]

All secular dioceses of the empire sent one or more representatives to the council, save for Roman Britain; the majority of the bishops came from the East. Pope Sylvester I, himself too aged to attend, sent two priests as his delegates. Arius himself attended the council, as did his bishop, Alexander. Also there were Eusebius of Caesarea, Eusebius of Nicomedia and the young deacon Athanasius, who would become the champion of the Trinitarian dogma ultimately adopted by the council and spend most of his life battling Arianism. Before the main conclave convened, Hosius initially met with Alexander and his supporters at Nicomedia.[2] The council would be presided over by the emperor himself, who participated in and even led some of its discussions.[1]

At this First Council of Nicaea twenty-two bishops, led by Eusebius of Nicomedia, came as supporters of Arius. But when some of Arius's writings were read aloud, they are reported to have been denounced as blasphemous by most participants.[1] Those who upheld the notion that Christ was co-eternal and con-substantial with the Father were led by the young archdeacon Athanasius. Those who instead insisted that God the Son came after God the Father in time and substance, were led by Arius the presbyter. For about two months, the two sides argued and debated,[3] with each appealing to Scripture to justify their respective positions. Arius maintained that the Son of God was a Creature, made from nothing; and that he was God's First Production, before all ages. And he argued that everything else was created through the Son. Thus, said Arius, only the Son was directly created and begotten of God; furthermore, there was a time that He had no existence. He was capable of His own free will, said Arius, and thus "were He in the truest sense a son, He must have come after the Father, therefore the time obviously was when He was not, and hence He was a finite being."[4] Arius appealed to Scripture, quoting verses such as John 14:28: "the Father is greater than I". And also Colossians 1:15: "the firstborn of all creation." Thus, Arius insisted that the Father's Divinity was greater than the Son's, and that the Son was under God the Father, and not co-equal or co-eternal with Him.

According to some accounts[who?] in the hagiography of Nicholas of Myra, debate at the council became so heated that at one point, he slapped Arius in the face. Under Constantine's influence, the majority of the bishops ultimately agreed upon a creed, known thereafter as the Nicene creed. It included the word homoousios, meaning "consubstantial", or "one in essence", which was incompatible with Arius' beliefs.[5] On June 19, 325, council and emperor issued a circular to the churches in and around Alexandria: Arius and two of his unyielding partisans (Theonas and Secundus)[5] were deposed and exiled to Illyricum, while three other supporters—Theognis of Nicaea, Eusebius of Nicomedia and Maris of Chalcedon—affixed their signatures solely out of deference to the emperor. However, Constantine soon found reason to suspect the sincerity of these three, for he later included them in the sentence pronounced on Arius.[citation needed]

Ariminum, Seleucia, and Constantinople (358-360)[edit]

In 358, the emperor Constantius II requested two councils, one of the western bishops at Ariminum and one of the eastern bishops at Nicomedia.[6][7]

In 359, the western council met at Ariminum. Ursacius of Singidunum and Valens of Mursa declared that the Son was like the father "according to the scriptures," following a new (Homoian) creed drafted at Sirmium (359). Many of the most outspoken supporters of the Creed of Nicaea walked out. The council, including some supporters of the older creed, adopted the newer creed.[6][7] After the council, Pope Liberius condemned the creed of Ariminum, while his rival, Felix, supported it.[8]

An earthquake struck Nicomedia, killing the bishop Cecropius of Nicomedia, and in 359 the eastern council met at Seleucia Isauria instead. The council was bitterly divided, and procedurally irregular, and the two parties met separately and reached opposing decisions. Basil of Ancyra and his party declared that the Son was of similar substance to the Father, following a (Homoiousian) Creed of Antioch from 341, and deposed the opposing party. Acacius of Caesarea declared that the Son was like the Father, introducing a new (Homoian) creed.[8][9] The Son was begotten - generated from God's own substance.

Constantius requested a third council, at Constantinople (359), of both the eastern and western bishops, to resolve the split at Seleucia. Acacius now declared that the Son was like the Father "according to the scriptures." Basil of Ancyra, Eustathius of Sebaste, and their party again declared that the Son was of similar substance to the Father, as in the majority decision at Seleucia. Maris of Chalcedon, Eudoxius of Antioch, and the deacons Aëtius and Eunomius declared that the Son was of a dissimilar substance from the Father.[10][11] The Heteroousians defeated the Homoiousians in an initial debate, but Constantius banished Aëtius,[10] after which the council, including Maris and Eudoxius,[11] agreed to the homoian creed of Ariminum with minor modifications.[10][11]

After the Council of Constantinople, the homoian bishop Acacius deposed and banished several homoiousian bishops, including Macedonius I of Constantinople, Basil, Eustathius, Eleusius of Cyzicus, Dracontius of Pergamum, Neonas of Seleucia, Sophronius of Pompeiopolis, Elpidius of Satala and Cyril of Jerusalem.[12][13] At the same time, Acacius also deposed and banished the Anomoean deacon Aëtius.[12]

In 360, Acacius appointed Eudoxius of Antioch to replace Macedonius and Athanasius of Ancyra to replace Basil, as well as Onesimus of Nicomedia to replace Cecropius, who had died in the earthquake at Nicomedia.[12]

The controversy in the 360s[edit]

In 361, Constantius died and Julian the Apostate became sole Roman emperor. Julian demanded the restoration of several pagan temples which Christians had seized or destroyed.[14] According to Philostorgius, pagans killed George of Laodicea, bishop of Alexandria, allowing Athanasius of Alexandria to reclaim the see.[15]

Issues[edit]

The Greek word Logos (λόγος) is traditionally translated as “Word.” French translations of the Bible or other Christian texts often use “Verbe” which word may be read as both 'word', 'utterance' and 'verb', and so has a dynamic quality. The English “Message” or “Expression of the Mind” may also be appropriate attempts to convey the nuance of the Greek concept. The Jewish-Alexandrian theologian and philosopher Philo wrote extensively about the Logos in ways that are reminiscent of New Testament theology.[citation needed] For instance, his teaching that “For the Logos of the living God being the bond of every thing, as has been said before, holds all things together, and binds all the parts, and prevents them from being loosened or separated” echoes Colossians 1:17.[citation needed]

Personhood of the Holy Spirit[edit]

Dominating the secular intellectual milieu in which the Cappadocians lived was Platonism, which, when mixed with Christian theology, bred Arianism, the most prominent heresy at the dawn of the 4th century. According to Platonism, the One or “first cause” radiated immaterial and material entities in a hierarchical, categorized way. If this conceptualization had remained unchecked, the Christian God could have been given a Platonic veneer: the Father as the “first cause,” the Son or Logos as the primary emanation from the One, and the Spirit as a further emanation of the Logos. Arianism held that the Son of God was a being created by the First Person and could not be considered divine, an attractive option incorporating both classical Greek thought and the historical event of the person of Jesus. The Cappadocians vehemently argued against Arianism for its inequality among the divine Persons: “This was the disease of Arius, who gave his name to the madness, and who threw into confusion and brought to ruin a great part of the Church. Without honoring the Father, he dishonored what proceeded from Him by maintaining unequal degrees in the Godhead. But we recognize one glory of the Father, the equality of the Only-begotten, and one glory of the Son, the equality of the Holy Spirit. And we believe that to subordinate anything of the Three is to destroy the whole” (Gregory of Nazianzus, On St. Basil, par. 30.). The Cappadocian insistence on equality among the divine Persons was also a solid refutation of the hierarchical ordering of the cosmos found in Platonism.

According to a belief related to Arianism, Anomoianism, the Spirit was subjugated to the Father and the Son. As time went on, arguing for the divinity of the Spirit became increasingly more important to the Cappadocians. Nicaea left rather open the question of the divinity of the Spirit; belief “in the Holy Spirit” was all the bishops had stated. Advocating for the divinity of the Holy Spirit was crucial for the Cappadocians exactly because of their insistence on the unity and equality of the Three: “The central thrust of Basil’s positive argument in favor of the Spirit’s deity is the non-separability of the three persons and the inference from this that they are all three worthy of this same honor” Anthony Meredith, The Cappadocians (Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1995), 32).

The Cappadocians’ insistence on three co-equal divine Persons, however, subjected them to accusations of tritheism. The extreme opposite, Sabellianism, also widespread at that time, conflated the three Persons into one and saw no distinctions among them whatsoever. The theologians, therefore, had to articulate the unity of the divine essence as well as the distinctness of Persons in the Godhead.

As time went on and in response to continual controversy, the Cappadocians’ theological writings increased in nuance and also in clarity. What emerged from them was the orthodox Christian belief that God is a unity of Three distinct yet inseparable and equal Persons. The Cappadocian theologians worked out this theology by establishing the distinctness of the divine Persons, the communitarian relationships of the Three, and the unity of their divine essence.

Other issues[edit]

Several other issues arose at the same time as the Arian controversy proper.

Dates of Passover and Easter[edit]

Main article: Quartodecimanism

In Christianity, Easter is the Sunday after Passover. However, it was debated whether to follow Jewish practice for the calculation of the date of Passover. By the 4th century, the most common Christian methods had diverged from the most common Jewish ones.[16]

Marriage[edit]

Many held that presbyters and bishops should not marry, and some held that presbyters and bishops who had already married, and their wives, should refrain from sex.[17]

Eustathius of Sebaste condemned marriage entirely; he also excluded married presbyters from communion, forbade married Christians from praying at home while encouraging unmarried ones to hold services at home; he was deposed for this and his doctrines were condemned.[18]

Sides[edit]

Homoousian[edit]

See also: Homoousion

The Homoousians taught that the Son is of the same substance as the Father, i.e. both uncreated. The Sabellian form had been condemned as heresy in the 3rd century. The Athanasian form would be declared orthodox at the Council of Constantinople in 383, and has become the basis of most of modern trinitarianism.[19]

Marcellus of Ancyra and Photinus of Sirmium[edit]

According to the historian Socrates of Constantinople, Marcellus of Ancyra and Photinus of Sirmium taught "that Christ was a mere man."[32] Their opponents associated the teachings of Marcellus of Ancyra and Photinus of Sirmium with those of Sabellius and Paul of Samosata, which had been widely rejected before the controversy.[33]

  • Marcellus, bishop of Ancyra (?-336 and c. 343-c. 374) and critic of Asterius.[34]
  • Photinus, bishop of Sirmium (?-351) and in exile (351-376); according to Socrates of Constantinople and Sozomen, Photinus was a follower of Marcellus.[35]

Homoiousian[edit]

The Homoiousian school taught that the Son is of a similar substance to the Father.[41][42]

Homoian[edit]

See also: Acacians

The Homoians taught that the Son is similar to the Father, either "in all things" or "according to the scriptures," without speaking of substance.[42] Several members of the other schools, such as Hosius of Cordoba and Aëtius, also accepted certain Homoian formulae.[57]

Heteroousian[edit]

See also: Anomoeanism

The Heteroousians taught that the Son is of a different substance from the Father, i.e. created. Arius had taught this early in the controversy, and Aëtius would teach the later Anomoean form.[62][63]

Other critics of the Creed of Nicaea[edit]

Many critics of the "Nicene" Creed cannot be clearly associated with one school, often due to lack of sources, or due to contradictions between sources.

Unclassified[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Vasiliev, Al (1928). "The empire from Constantine the Great to Justinian". History of the Byzantine Empire. Retrieved 2 May 2012. 
  2. ^ Photius. "Epitome of Chapter VII". Epitome of Book I. Retrieved 2 May 2012. 
  3. ^ "Babylon the Great Has Fallen". God's Kingdom Rules! (Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.): 447. 1963. 
  4. ^ M'Clintock, John; James Strong. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature 7. p. 45. 
  5. ^ a b Carroll, A. History of Christendom, Volume II. p. 12. 
  6. ^ a b Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 4, chapter 10.
  7. ^ a b c d e Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 37.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 40.
  9. ^ a b Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 4, chapter 11.
  10. ^ a b c Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 4, chapter 12 and book 5, chapter 1.
  11. ^ a b c d Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 41.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 5, chapter 1.
  13. ^ a b c d Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 42.
  14. ^ Henry Chadwick, History of the Early Church, chapter 9
  15. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 7, chapter 2.
  16. ^ a b c d Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapter 8.
  17. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapter 11.
  18. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 43.
  19. ^ Bernhard Lohse, A Short History of Christian Doctrine, pp. 56-59 & 63.
    Peter Heather & John Matthews, Goths in the Fourth Century, pp. 127-128. This mainly discusses the later controversy and only mentions Athanasius' form.
  20. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapters 5 & 6.
  21. ^ Socrates of Constantintinople, Church History, book 1, chapter 7 and book 2, chapter 31.
  22. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 21.
  23. ^ a b Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapter 25.
  24. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapters 23, 27-32 & 34-35.
  25. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 6-7, 12 & 16.
  26. ^ a b Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 15.
  27. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 23.
  28. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 23 & 26.
  29. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 24 & 38.
  30. ^ a b c Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 36.
  31. ^ a b Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 38.
  32. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapter 36 and book 2, chapter 20
    Socrates, book 1, chapter 36, states that Marcellus "dared to say, as the Samosatene had done, that Christ was a mere man" and book 2, chapter 18, states that Photinus "asserted that the Son of God was a mere man."
  33. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapter 36 and book 2, chapter 29.
    Sozomen, Church History, book 4, chapter 6.
    Besides these histories, Eunomius' First Apology associates Marcellus' and Photinus' doctrines with Sabellius, and condemns these doctrines.'
  34. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapter 36 and book 2, chapter 20.
  35. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 18 & 29.
    Sozomen, Church History, book 4, chapter 6.
  36. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapter 36.
    Sozomen, Church History, book 2, chapter 33.
  37. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 20.
    Sozomen, Church History, book 3, chapters 11-12.
  38. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 23 & 26.
    Sozomen, Church Hustory, book 4, chapter 2.
  39. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 29-30.
    Sozomen, Church History, book 4, chapter 6.
  40. ^ a b c Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 19.
  41. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 4, chapter 9.
  42. ^ a b Peter Heather & John Matthews, Goths in the Fourth Century, p. 128. This mainly discusses the later controversy.
  43. ^ a b c d Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 8, chapter 17.
  44. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapter 36 & book 2, chapter 42.
  45. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 4, chapter 9 & book 8, chapter 17.
  46. ^ Socrates if Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 16, 27, 38 & 42.
  47. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapters 24 & 40.
  48. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 4, chapters 4 & 12.
  49. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 19, 37 & 40.
  50. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 30.
  51. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 38 & 42.
  52. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 38 & 45.
  53. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 38, 42 & 45.
  54. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 39, 40, 42 & 45.
  55. ^ Socrates of Connstantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 45.
  56. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapter 8 and book 2, chapter 15.
  57. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 4, chapter 3 for Hosius and chapter 8 for Aëtius.
  58. ^ a b Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapter 27 and book 2, chapters 12 & 37.
  59. ^ a b Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 9, chapter 19.
  60. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 37.
  61. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 4, 39 & 40.
  62. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 3, chapter 5, book 4, chapter 12 and book 6, chapter 5 refer to "different substance," book 4, chapter 12 refers to "dissimilarity of substance," and book 4, chapters 4 & 12 and book 5, chapter 1 refer to "unlike in substance" or "unlikeness in substance."
  63. ^ Peter Heather & John Matthews, Goths in the Fourth Century, pp. 127-128. This mainly discusses the later controversy and only mentions Anomoeanism, without using the term Heteroousian.
  64. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapters 5-6.
  65. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 3, chapter 5 and book 8, chapter 2.
  66. ^ a b Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 7, chapter 6.
  67. ^ a b Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 35.
  68. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 8, chapter 2 and book 9, chapter 18.
  69. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 5, chapter 3 and book 6, chapters 1-3.
  70. ^ a b c d e f g h Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 8, chapter 2.
  71. ^ a b c d Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 1, chapter 9.
  72. ^ a b c Condemned by Alexander of Alexandria, see Socrates, Church History, book 1, chapter 6.
  73. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapters 6, 8 & 14, and book 2, chapter 7.
  74. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapters 6, 8 & 14.
  75. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 1, chapter 9 and book 4, chapter 12.
  76. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 9.
  77. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 10-11.
  78. ^ a b Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 26.
  79. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 3, chapter 17.
  80. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 26 & 35.
  81. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapter 36.
  82. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 4, chapter 4.
  83. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 3, chapter 15.
  84. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 2, chapter 5.
  85. ^ a b c Heather and Matthews, Goths in the Fourth Century, pp. 135-136.
  86. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 5, chapter 5, book 8, chapter 2 and book 9, chapter 4.
  87. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 8, chapter 17 and book 9, chapter 14.
  88. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 12.
  89. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 39 & 40.
  90. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 39.
  91. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 8, chapter 3.
  92. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 9, chapter 18.
  93. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 10, chapter 1.

External links[edit]