Click to View

Early Church Fathers
Click to ViewMaster Index
Click to ViewPower Search

 Click to View

1 He was unable to speak from memory of the events of the persecution of 303 (Hist. Ar. 64), but (de Incarn. 56. 2) had been instructed in religion by persons who had suffered as martyrs. This must have been before 311, the date of the last persecution in Egypt under Maximin. Before 319 he had written his first books `against the Gentiles,' the latter of which, on the Incarnation, implies a full maturity of power in the writer, while the former is full of philosophical and mythological knowledge such as argues advanced education. But from several sources we learn that his election to the episcopate in 328 was impugned, at any rate in after years, on the ground of his not having attained the canonical age of thirty. There is no ground for supposing that this was true: but such a charge would not be made without some ground at least of plausibility. We must therefore suppose that on June 8, 328, he was not much beyond his thirtieth year. His parents, moreover, were living after the year 358 (see below, p. 562, note 6); allowing them over fourscore years at that date, we find in 298 a reasonable date for the birth of their son. We must remember that in southern climates mind and body mature somewhat more rapidly than with ourselves, and `contra Gentes' and `de Incarnatione' will scarcely appear precocious.

2 The statements of Greg. Naz. that he frequented classes of grammar and rhetoric is probable enough; that of Sulpitius Severus that he was `juris consultus' lacks corroboration.

3 The actual connection of Athanasius with Antony at this period is implied in the received text of `Vit. Anton.' Prolog., for it could scarcely fall at any later date. At the same time the youthful life of Athanasius seems fully accounted for in such a way as to leave little room for it (so Tillemont). But our ignorance of details leaves it just possible that he may for a time have visited the great hermit and ministered to him as Elisha did of old to Elijah. (Cf. p. 195, note 2.)

4 It is of interest to note the changed conditions. In 260 bishop Dionysius had to check the Monarchian tendency in Libya, and was accused by members of his own flock of separating the Son from the Being (ousia) of the Father. In 319 a Libyan, Atius, cries out upon the Sabellianism of his bishop, and formulates the very doctrine which Dionysius had been accused of maintaining.

5 The chronology cannot be determined with precision. The Memorandum is signed by Colluthus and therefore precedes his schism. The letter to Alex. Byzant. was written after the Colluthian schism had begun. But the proceedings of Eusebius described above had at least begun when the Memorandum was circulated, which must, therefore, have been some time after the Synod of 321. The letter of Alexander to his clergy prefixed to the depositio was drawn up after it. and includes the names of the Mareotic seceders. We may, therefore, tentatively adopt the following series:-321 a.d.: Egyptian Synod deposes Arius. Arius in correspondence with Eusebius, &c Leaves Alexandria for Palestine and Nicomedia. Letters sent abroad by Alexander. Eusebius holds council and writes to Alexander. 322: Memorandum drawn up; Alexandrian clergy assemble to sign it; prefatory address to them by Alexander with reference to the Mareotic defection which has just occurred; circulation of Memorandum; schism, of Colluthus. 323: Letter of Alexander to Alexander of Byzantium; (Sept.) Constantine, master of the East, and ready to intervene in the controversy.

6 So Eus. Vit. Const. iii. 8-over 270, Eustath. in Thdt. i. 8-in fact more than 300 (de Decr. 3), according to Athanasius, who again, toward the end of his life (ad Afr. 2) acquiesces in the precise figure 318 (Gen xiv. 14; the Greek numeral tih combines the Cross with the initial letters of the Sacred Name) which a later generation adopted (it first occurs in the alleged Coptic acts of the Council of Alexandria, 362, then in the Letter of Liberius 'to the bishops of Asia in 365, infr. §9), on grounds perhaps symbolical rather than historical.

7 The name of Secundus appears among the subscriptions (cf. Soz. i. 21) but this is contradicted by the primary evidence (Letter of the Council in Soc. i. 9, Thdt. i. 9); cf. Philost. i. 9, 10. But there is evidence that there were two Secundi.

8 A term first brought into currency in this connection by Mr. Gwatkin (p. 38, note), and since adopted by many writers including Harnack; in spite of the obvious objection to the importations of political terms into the grave questions of this period, the term is too useful to be surrendered, and the `conservatives' of the Post-Nicene reaction were in fact too often political in their methods and spirit. The truly conservative men, here as in other instances, failed to enlist the sympathy of the conservative rank and file.

9 The identity of name has certainly done Eusebius no good with posterity. But no one with a spark of generosity can fail to be moved by the appeal of Socrates (ii. 21) for common fairness toward the dead.

10 Or possibly Theodoret, &c., drew a wrong inference from the words of Eustathius (in Thdt. i. 8), and the gramma was not submitted by Eusebius, but produced as evidence against him; in this case it must have been, as Fleury observes, his letter to Paulinus of Tyre.

11 Hort pp. 138, 139, and 59: the changes well classified by Gwatkin, p. 41, cf. Harnack 2, vol 2, p. 227 The main alterations were (1) The elimination of the word logoj and substitution of uioj in the principal place. This struck at the theology of Eusebius even more directly than at that of Arius. (2) The addition not only of omoousion tw patri, but also of toutestin ek thj ousiaj tou patroj between monogenh and qeon as a further qualification of gennhqenta (specially against Euseb. Nicom.: see his letter in Thdt. i. 6). (3) Further explanation of gennhqenta by g. ou poihqenta, a glance at a favourite argument of Arius, as well as at Asterius. (4) enanqrwphsanta added to explain sarkwqenta, and so to exclude the Christology which characterised Arianism from the first. (5) Addition of anathematisms directed against all the leading Arian doctrines.

12 The events have been related in what seems to be their most likely order, but there is no real certainty in the matter. It is clear that there were at least two public sittings (Soz. i. 17, the language of Eus. V.C. iii. 10, is reconcileable with this) in the emperor's presence, at the first of which the libelli were burned and the bishops requested to examine the question of faith. This was probably. on June 19. The tearing up of the creed of Eus. Nic. seems from the account of Eustathius to have come immediately before the final adoption of a creed. The creed of Eusebius of Caesarea, which was the basis of that finally adopted, must therefore have been propounded after the failure of his namesake. (Montfaucon and others are clearly wrong in supposing that this was the `blasphemy' which was torn to pieces!) The difficulty is, where to put the dramatic scene of whisperings, nods, winks, and evasions which compelled the bishops to apply a drastic test. I think (with Kölling, &c.) that it must have preceded the proposal of Eusebius, upon which the omoousion was quietly insisted on by Constantine; for the latter was the only occasion (profasij) of any modification in the Caesarean Creed, which in itself does not correspond to the tests described infr. p. 163. But Montfaucon and others, followed by Gwatkin, place the scene in question after the proposal of Eus. Caes. and the resolution to modify his creed by the insertion of a stringent test,-in fact at the `pause' of the council before its final resolution, This conflicts with the clear statement of Eusebius that the omoousion was the `thin end of the wedge' which led to the entire recasting of his creed (see infr. p. 73. The idea of Kölling, p. 208, that the creed of Eusebius was drawn up by him for the occasion, and that the maqhmah of the council was ready beforehand as an alternative document, is refuted by the relation of the two documents; see Hort, pp. 138, 139). It follows, therefore, from the combined accounts of Ath., Euseb. and Eustathius (our only eye-witnesses) that (1) the fathers were practically resolved upon the omoousion before the final sitting. (2) That this resolve was clinched by the creed of Eusebius of Nicomedia. (3) That Eusebius of Caesarea made his proposal when it was too late to think of half-measures. (4) That the creed of Eusebius was modified at the Emperor's direction (which presupposes the willingness of the Council). (5) That this revision was immediately followed by the signatures and the close of the council. The work of revision, however, shews such signs of attention to detail that we are almost compelled to assume at least one adjournment of the final sitting. When the other business of the council was transacted, including the settlement of the Easter question, the Meletian schism, and the Canons, it is impossible to say. Kaelling suo jure puts them at the first public session. The question must be left open, as must that of the presidency of the council. The conduct of the proceedings was evidently in the hands of Constantine, so that the question of presidency reduces itself to that of identifying the bishop on Constantine's right who delivered the opening address to the Emperor: this was certainly not Hosius (see Vit. C. iii. 11, and vol. 1 of this series, p. 19), but may have been Eusebius of Caesarea, who probably after a few words from Eustathius (Thdt.) or Alexander (Theod. Mops. and Philost.) was entrusted with so congenial a task. The name of Hosius stands first on the extant list of signatures, and he may have signed first, although the lists are bad witnesses. The words of Athanasius sometimes quoted in this connection (p. 256), `over what synod did he not; preside?' must be read in connection with the distinction made by Theodoret in quoting the passage in question (H.E. ii. 15) that Hosius 'was very prominent at the great synod of Nicae, and presided over those who assembled at Sardica. This is the only evidence we possess to which any weight can be attached.

13 It is worth noting that the Nicene arrangement was successful in some few cases. See Index to this vol. s.v. Theon (of Nilopolis), &c.

14 While yet the distinction between the `presence' and `existence' of God in Christ (Newman, Ar. 4. p. 123) is very delicate: both ideas are covered by `Dasein'. The two forms of Monarchianism are related exactly as the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity is to the Nestorian.

15 Our authorities are Hippolytus Philosophum., TertullianAgainst Praxeas, and the early fragment `against heresies' printed in Tertullian's works. The statements of Tertullian and Hippolytus agree remarkably, though obviously independent. The first (modalist) Monarchian teacher in Rome was Praxeas (Tert.) from Asia, who was followed by the pupils of Noetus, also an Asiatic (Hippol.), Epigonus (Renan Marc-Aurèle 230, note, identifies `Praxeas' with Epigonus; I cannot undertake to pronounce upon the point, but see Harnack, Dogmg. 11. p. 608) and Cleomenes. Praxeas arrived in Rome under Victor (or earlier, Harnack, p. 610), and combined strong opposition to Montanism, with equally strong modalism in his theology. In both respects his influence told upon the heads of the Church. Montanism was expelled, Modalism tolerated, Theodotus excommunicated; `Duo negotia diaboli Praxeas Romae procuravit: prophetiam expulit et haeresin intulit: Paracletum fugavit et Patrein crucifixit'. (Tert.) `Praxeas haeresin introduxit quam Victor[inus] (perhaps a confusion with Zephyrinus) corroborate curavit' (`Tertullian' adv. Haer.)

16 This point is still in debate. Against it, see Lightfoot, S. Clement of Rome (ed. 1890), for it, Döllinger Hipp. and Call., and Neumann, Der Röm. Staat u. d. Allg. Kirche (Leipz. 1890).

17 But only at Aquileia was the rule of faith adapted by the insertion of impassibilis.

18 See Hewman's note Ar. p. 186, where the additions in brackets seriously modify his statement in the text. Also cf. infr. ch. iv. §3, and Bigg, p. 179, note 2.

Click Your Choice