Arian controversy

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The Arian controversy was a series of Christian theological disputes that arose between Arius and Athanasius of Alexandria, two Christian theologians from Alexandria, Egypt. The most important of these controversies concerned the substantial relationship between God the Father and God the Son.

The deep divisions created by the disputes were an unfortunate and ironic consequence of Emperor Constantine's efforts to unite Christianity and establish a single, imperially approved version of the faith during his reign.[1][2] These disagreements divided the Roman Church into two opposing theological factions for over 55 years, from the time before the First Council of Nicaea in 325 until after the First Council of Constantinople in 381. There was no formal resolution or formal schism, though the Trinitarian faction ultimately gained the upper hand in the imperial Church; outside the Roman Empire this faction was not immediately so influential. Arianism continued to be preached inside and outside the Empire for some time (without the blessing of the Empire) but eventually it mostly died out. The modern Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, as well as most other modern Christian sects have generally followed the Trinitarian formulation, though each has its own specific theology on the matter.[3][4]

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 Alexander of Alexandria, when Arius 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

First Council of Nicea (325)[edit]

The First Council of Nicaea, with Arius depicted beneath the feet of emperor Constantine the Great and the bishops

Arianism would not 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 bishop Hosius of Corduba 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." As the debate continued to rage despite Hosius' efforts, Constantine in AD 325 took an unprecedented step: he called an ecumenical council composed of church prelates from all parts of the empire to resolve this issue, possibly at Hosius' recommendation.[5]

All secular dioceses of the empire sent one or more representatives to the council, save for Roman Britain;[citation needed] 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, but his bishop, Alexander, did not, but instead, he sent his young deacon, Athanasius in place of him. Athanasius would become the champion of the Trinitarian dogma ultimately adopted by the council and spend most of his life battling Arianism. Also there were Eusebius of Caesarea and Eusebius of Nicomedia. Before the main conclave convened, Hosius initially met with Alexander and his supporters at Nicomedia.[6] The council would be presided over by the emperor himself, who participated in and even led some of its discussions.[5]

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,[7] 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."[8]

According to some accounts[who?] in the hagiography of Saint Nicholas, debate at the council became so heated that at one point, he slapped Arius in the face. The majority of the bishops at the council ultimately agreed upon a creed, known thereafter as the Nicene Creed formulated at the first council of Nicaea. It included the word homoousios, meaning "consubstantial", or "one in essence", which was incompatible with Arius' beliefs.[9] 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)[9] 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 (now Rimini in Northern Italy) and one of the eastern bishops at Nicomedia.[10][11]

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.[10][11] After the council, Pope Liberius condemned the creed of Ariminum, while his rival, Pope Felix II, supported it.[12]

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.[12][13] 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 of Antioch and Eunomius of Cyzicus declared that the Son was of a dissimilar substance from the Father.[14][15] The Heteroousians defeated the Homoiousians in an initial debate, but Constantius banished Aëtius,[14] after which the council, including Maris and Eudoxius,[15] agreed to the homoian creed of Ariminum with minor modifications.[14][15]

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.[16][17] At the same time, Acacius also deposed and banished the Anomoean deacon Aëtius.[16]

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.[16]

The controversy in the 360s[edit]

In 361, Constantius died and Julian became sole Roman emperor. Julian demanded the restoration of several pagan temples which Christians had seized or destroyed.[18] According to Philostorgius, pagans killed George of Laodicea, bishop of Alexandria, allowing Athanasius to reclaim the see.[19]

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[by whom?]. The Athanasian form would be declared orthodox at the Council of Constantinople in 383, and has become the basis of most of modern trinitarianism.[20]

Marcellus of Ancyra and Photinus of Sirmium[edit]

According to the historian Socrates of Constantinople, Marcellus of Ancyra and Photinus taught "that Christ was a mere man."[33] 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.[34]

  • Marcellus, bishop of Ancyra (?-336 and c. 343-c. 374) and critic of Asterius.[35]
  • Photinus, bishop of Sirmium (?-351) and in exile (351-376); according to Socrates of Constantinople and Sozomen, Photinus was a follower of Marcellus.[36]
  • In 336, a church trial at Constantinople deposed Marcellus and condemned his doctrines.[37]
  • Pope Julius I supported Marcellus and called for his restoration.[27]
  • In 342 or 343, the mostly Western Council of Sardica restored Marcellus, while the mostly Eastern Council of Philippopolis sustained his removal.[38]
  • Under pressure from his co-Emperor Constans, Constantius II initially backed the decision of Sardica, but after Constans' death, reversed course.[39]
  • In 351,[citation needed] a church trial at the Council of Sirmium deposed Photinus and condemned his teachings.[40]
  • The Macrostich condemned the teachings of Marcellus and Photinus.[41]

Homoiousian[edit]

The Homoiousian school taught that the Son is of a similar substance to the Father but not the same.[42][43]

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.[43] Several members of the other schools, such as Hosius of Cordoba and Aëtius, also accepted certain Homoian formulae.[58]

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.[63][64]

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. ^ Papandrea, James Leonard. Reading the Early Church Fathers: From the Didache to Nicaea. p. 177. 
  2. ^ Smither, Edward L. (ed.). Rethinking Constantine: History, Theology, and Legacy. p. 65-66. 
  3. ^ Dunner, Joseph (1967). Handbook of world history: concepts and issues. p. 70. 
  4. ^ Campbell, Ted (1996). Christian Confessions: A Historical Introduction. p. 41. 
  5. ^ a b Vasiliev, Al (1928). "The empire from Constantine the Great to Justinian". History of the Byzantine Empire. Retrieved 2 May 2012. 
  6. ^ Photius. "Epitome of Chapter VII". Epitome of Book I. Retrieved 2 May 2012. 
  7. ^ "Babylon the Great Has Fallen". God's Kingdom Rules!. Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.: 447 1963. 
  8. ^ M'Clintock, John; James Strong. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. 7. p. 45. 
  9. ^ a b Carroll, A. History of Christendom, Volume II. p. 12. 
  10. ^ a b Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 4, chapter 10.
  11. ^ a b c d e Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 37.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 40.
  13. ^ a b Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 4, chapter 11.
  14. ^ a b c Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 4, chapter 12 and book 5, chapter 1.
  15. ^ a b c d Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 41.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 5, chapter 1.
  17. ^ a b c d Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 42.
  18. ^ Henry Chadwick, History of the Early Church, chapter 9
  19. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 7, chapter 2.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapters 5 & 6.
  22. ^ Socrates of Constantintinople, Church History, book 1, chapter 7 and book 2, chapter 31.
  23. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 21.
  24. ^ a b Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapter 25.
  25. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapters 23, 27-32 & 34-35.
  26. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 6-7, 12 & 16.
  27. ^ a b Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 15.
  28. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 23.
  29. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 23 & 26.
  30. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 24 & 38.
  31. ^ a b c Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 36.
  32. ^ a b Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 38.
  33. ^ 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."
  34. ^ 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.'
  35. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapter 36 and book 2, chapter 20.
  36. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 18 & 29.
    Sozomen, Church History, book 4, chapter 6.
  37. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapter 36.
    Sozomen, Church History, book 2, chapter 33.
  38. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 20.
    Sozomen, Church History, book 3, chapters 11-12.
  39. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 23 & 26.
    Sozomen, Church Hustory, book 4, chapter 2.
  40. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 29-30.
    Sozomen, Church History, book 4, chapter 6.
  41. ^ a b c Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 19.
  42. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 4, chapter 9.
  43. ^ a b Peter Heather & John Matthews, Goths in the Fourth Century, p. 128. This mainly discusses the later controversy.
  44. ^ a b c d Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 8, chapter 17.
  45. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapter 36 & book 2, chapter 42.
  46. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 4, chapter 9 & book 8, chapter 17.
  47. ^ Socrates if Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 16, 27, 38 & 42.
  48. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapters 24 & 40.
  49. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 4, chapters 4 & 12.
  50. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 19, 37 & 40.
  51. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 30.
  52. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 38 & 42.
  53. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 38 & 45.
  54. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 38, 42 & 45.
  55. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 39, 40, 42 & 45.
  56. ^ Socrates of Connstantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 45.
  57. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapter 8 and book 2, chapter 15.
  58. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 4, chapter 3 for Hosius and chapter 8 for Aëtius.
  59. ^ a b Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapter 27 and book 2, chapters 12 & 37.
  60. ^ a b Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 9, chapter 19.
  61. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 37.
  62. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 4, 39 & 40.
  63. ^ 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."
  64. ^ 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.
  65. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapters 5-6.
  66. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 3, chapter 5 and book 8, chapter 2.
  67. ^ a b Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 7, chapter 6.
  68. ^ a b Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 35.
  69. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 8, chapter 2 and book 9, chapter 18.
  70. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 5, chapter 3 and book 6, chapters 1-3.
  71. ^ a b c d e f g h Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 8, chapter 2.
  72. ^ a b c Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapter 8.
  73. ^ a b c d Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 1, chapter 9.
  74. ^ a b c Condemned by Alexander of Alexandria, see Socrates, Church History, book 1, chapter 6.
  75. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapters 6, 8 & 14, and book 2, chapter 7.
  76. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapters 6, 8 & 14.
  77. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 1, chapter 9 and book 4, chapter 12.
  78. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 9.
  79. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 10-11.
  80. ^ a b Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 26.
  81. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 3, chapter 17.
  82. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 26 & 35.
  83. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 1, chapter 36.
  84. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 4, chapter 4.
  85. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 3, chapter 15.
  86. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 2, chapter 5.
  87. ^ a b c Heather and Matthews, Goths in the Fourth Century, pp. 135-136.
  88. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 5, chapter 5, book 8, chapter 2 and book 9, chapter 4.
  89. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 8, chapter 17 and book 9, chapter 14.
  90. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 12.
  91. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapters 39 & 40.
  92. ^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 2, chapter 39.
  93. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 8, chapter 3.
  94. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 9, chapter 18.
  95. ^ Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 10, chapter 1.

External links[edit]

  1. The Arians Of The Fourth Century by John Henry “Cardinal” Newman
    1. As provided by the Third Millenium Library — this is the version originally referenced in this article. Its pages do not identify bibliographic data. As of December 2016 the third-millennium-library.com site was unavailable, and the domain was offered for sale.
    2. As provided by The National Institute for Newman Studies - The author's notes for this 3rd edition identify the following differences, among others:
      • "Some additions have been made to the footnotes."
      • "A few longer Notes, for the most part extracted from other publications of [the author], form an Appendix."
      • "The Table of Contents, and the Chronological Table have both been enlarged."
  2. A Chronology of the Arian Controversy
  3. Documents of the Early Arian Controversy