Nicea (325)
(not clearly committed)

      of Ancyra


of Caesaria





    |    |¯Antioch (341)
    |    |     - 2nd Creed

    |¯¯|           Macrostich 

    |    |_           Creed (344)

    |    |           Dated Creed

   \|/      |               (359)



















    (362) <-->


       Arians”)  Ancyra (358)

     BASIL of Ancyra

     EUSTATHIUS of Sebate

   \|/ ¯¯¯|







   of Nazianzus


   of Nyssa




of Caesaria









YET as we ourselves have discovered from various letters which the bishops wrote to one another after the Synod, the term homoousios troubled some of them. ὡς δὲ ἡμεῖς ἐκ διαφόρων ἐπιστολῶν εὑρήκαμεν͵ ἃς μετὰ τὴν συνόδον οἱ ἐπίσκοποι πρὸς ἀλλήλους ἔγραφον͵ ἡ τοῦ ὁμοουσίου λέξις τινὰς διετάραττε·
So that while they occupied themselves in a too minute investigation of its import, they roused the strife against each other; περὶ ἣν κατατριβόμενοι καὶ ἀκριβολογούμενοι τὸν κατὰ ἀλλήλων
it seemed not unlike a battle in the dark; πόλεμον ἤγειραν· νυκτομαχίας τε οὐδὲν ἀπεῖχε τὰ γινόμενα·
for neither party appeared to clearly understand the grounds on which they slandered one another.  οὐδὲ γὰρ ἀλλήλους ἐφαίνοντο νοοῦντες͵ ἀφ΄ ὧν ἀλλήλους βλασφημεῖν ὑπελάμβανον.

Socrates, Ecclesiastical History, 1.23.32-37






The First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787), Their History and Theology






3.1.EUSEBIANS vs.NICENES to Death of Constans  [3.1.1.Antioch, 341];  [3.1.2.Sardica, 343];
3.1.3. Macrostich Creed, 345];  [3.1.4.Athanasius & Homoousios]

3.2. ATHANASIUS vs.CONSTANTIUS 3.2.1. Aetius, Eunomius, & Sirmium, 357];
3.2.2. Ancyra, 358];  [3.2.3.Dated Creed, 359];  [3.2.4.Rimini-Constant., 359-360]

3.3. JULIAN & Pagan Revival; [331. Alexandria, 262]

3.4. TWO New Battles;  [3.4.1.Apollinaris];  [3.4.2.Holy Spirit]

3.5. BASIL vs. Valens;  [3.5.1.Basil Caes.]

3.6. NICAEA Triumphs;  [3.6.1.Greg.Naz.]

3.7.COUNCIL of Constantinople;  [3.7.1.Creed];  [3.7.2.Canons]

3.8. Aftermath;     3.9.Chronology    3.10 Bibliography.




   Upon Constantine the Great’s death in 337, there occurred an act of violence more befitting the Turkish Seraglio than a Christian court. With at least the knowledge of Constantius, the only son in Constantinople at the time, Constantine the Great’s two half-brothers and six young princes of the blood were massacred by the Army. Only two young cousins survived: Gallus and the future emperor Julian. With this bloodletting the will of Constantine was set aside but the unity of the Constantinian dynasty secured. His three sons parceled out the Empire among themselves. Constantine I1, aged 21, received Gaul, Britain and Spain; Constantius 1I, 20, Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt; Constans, only 14, Italy, Africa and the Danubian provinces. Three years later, war broke out between Constantine 11 and Constans, who managed to defeat and execute his elder brother and occupy his provinces. As a result, Constans ruled the West; Constantius, the East from 340 on.

  With the old emperor gone and a new order dawning, Athanasius returned to Alexandria from Rhineland Trier by way of Constantinople and Palestine where he attempted to rally the bishops anew to the creed of Nicaea. In the face of opposition from the Arian-sympathizing Eusebian party who vainly protested to Pope Julius at Rome against the return of Athanasius, deposed from his see at the Council of Tyre in 335, the bishops of Egypt in council at Alexandria declared their support for their metropolitan. The Eusebians, however, consecrated a certain Gregory as bishop of Alexandria. Provided with an armed guard, Gregory so terrorized the people that he could install himself in Athanasius’ place in 339. At Pope Julius’ invitation, Athanasius fled to Rome where he joined the other Nicene exiles, including Marcellus of Ancyra. Whereupon, in 340 Julius called a synod at Rome in the Church of Vito, the former legate at Nicaea, in which he accepted a profession of faith from Marcellus and pronounced Athanasius the legitimate bishop of Alexandria. To the East Julius addressed a dignified letter which revealed the Pope’s consciousness of his authority. He asked why, contrary to custom, he had not been informed of what was occurring at Alexandria, notifying the eastern bishops that if any suspicion rested on the bishop there, notice ought to have been sent to the bishop of Rome. The easterners failed to reply. The Church historian Socrates (380-450) describes the failure of mutual understanding: “The situation was like a battle by night, for both parties seemed to be in the dark about the grounds on which they were hurling abuse at each other. Those who objected to the term homoousios imagined that its adherents were bringing in the doctrine of Sabellius and Montanists. So they called them blasphemers on the ground that they were undermining the personal subsistence of the Son of God. On the other hand, the protagonists of homoousios concluded that their opponents were introducing polytheism, and steered clear of them as importers of paganism.... Thus, while both affirmed the personality and subsistence of the Son of God, and confessed that there was one God in three hypostases, they were somehow incapable of reaching agreement, and for this reason could not bear to lay down arms.”

[3.1.1. Antioch, 341]

[ 3.1.1. Antioch, 341 ]

    In 341 the dedication of the great new Golden Church at Antioch gave the Eusebians the opportunity to consolidate their position by holding a council. At Antioch in the presence of Constantius II, ninety-seven eastern bishops proceeded to draw up a profession of faith. They announced that as bishops they were not followers of Arius, a mere priest, but that as his judges they admitted him posthumously to communion. In the so-called Second Creed of Antioch, the only one of four creeds associated with this council which was fully ratified by the assembled bishops, they relied apparently on a formulary drawn up by the long-dead Lucian of Antioch which was probably edited by the Arian sophist Asterius. In this creed, in Origenist and anti-Sabellian fashion, the bishops proclaimed their faith in a “Father who is truly Father, and a Son who is truly Son, and in the Holy Spirit who is truly Holy Spirit, the names not being given without meaning or effect, but denoting accurately the peculiar subsistence (hypostasis) rank and glory of each named, so that there are three in subsistence, and in agreement one.” They continued, “if any teaches contrary to the sound and right faith of the Scripture, that time or sea-son or age either is or has been before the generation of the Son — or if any says that the Son is a creature or one of the creatures — let him be anathema.” As is obvious, this Second Creed of the Dedication Council of Antioch is far from being Arian, yet it lays, great stress, as did Origen, on the subsistence of three united by agreement of wills and makes no mention of the Nicene homoousios. The creed exemplifies the abiding concern of the East to safeguard the distinction of the Three as opposed to the West’s insistence on the divine unity.

   At this point Constans, ruler of the West, asked his eastern brother Constantius II for information about the teaching of the East. This request resulted in a deputation of eastern bishops to Trier where Constans was in residence. To Constans they presented what is called the Fourth Creed of Antioch, which though not drawn up by the Dedication Council was destined to be reissued repeatedly by councils of eastern bishops. It will be•presented to the East at Sardica (343), as the basis of the Long-Lined Creed (345), as the first Creed of Sirmium (351), in the dated Creed (359), and at the Council of Seleucia (359. In an attempt to head off any desire of Constans to call another council, the bishops professed belief in the Father’s “only-begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, who was begotten from the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, through whom all things came into being in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, being Word and Wisdom and Power and true Light... whose reign is unceasing and abides for endless ages.” They added that “those who say that the Son is from nothing, or is from another hypostasis and is not from God, and that there was time when he was not, the Catholic Church regards as alien.” It is clear that these eastern bishops rejected outright Arianism, and they heaped epithets of divinity on the Son, all the while avoiding the term homoousios. By the clause about the reign of Christ, they registered their hostility to the views of Marcellus of Ancyra who regarded the Son as only a temporary projection of the Father for purposes of creation and redemption. Approval of Marcellus by Athanasius of Alexandria and Julius of Rome fed the suspicions of the East that the Nicene formulation was Sabellian.

[3.1.2. Sardica, 343]

[ 3.1.2. Sardica, 343 ]

  This declaration of the eastern bishops encouraged Julius and others to ask the Emperor Constans to call a council to discuss further the issues dividing East and West. The western emperor acceded and called the bishops of East and West to Sardica (modern Sophia in Bulgaria), a city lying on the easternmost province of his jurisdiction. In the autumn of 342, or more probably 343, the council opened with about ninety western bishops headed by Ossius of Cordoba and about eighty easterners, including the principal sees Antioch, Ephesus, Caesarea in Palestine, Caesarea in Cappadocia, and Heraclea, metropolitan see of the region around Constantinople. The easterners were joined by the Balkan Arian bishops, Valens of Mursa and Ursacius of Belgrade. Julius, bishop of Rome, was represented by two priests and a deacon. The easterners promptly challenged the right of Athanasius, Marcellus of Ancyra and Asclepeas of Gaza in Palestine to sit in the council since they had been deposed, and their cases would be under review by the council. When their challenge was rejected, the easterners left by night on the excuse that they had to go East to celebrate Constantius II’s victory over the Persians. From Philippopolis just over the Susa Pass from Sardica in the jurisdiction of the emperor of the East, they issued an encyclical letter to the whole Church, explaining their case against Marcellus and Athanasius and condemning among others Julius of Rome and Ossius of Cordoba. To this they affixed their profession of faith, the so-called Fourth Creed of the Dedication Council of Antioch.

  Meanwhile, the western bishops continued their deliberations at Sardica, unreservedly supporting Athanasius and Asclepeas of Gaza. The case of Marcellus of Ancyra was more difficult, but after a public reading of his book, the westerners, somewhat at sea in the complexities of Greek theology, professed to find him orthodox. Ossius then wanted to issue a new creedal statement, but when Athanasius convinced the bishops that any defection from the pronouncements of Nicaea would be fatal to their cause, they contented themselves with the re-issue of the Nicene Creed. To it they attached explanations drawn up by Ossius and Protogenes of Sardica. Opposing Ursacius and Valens, “two vipers born from the Arian asp,” who are said to maintain that the “Father, Son and Holy Spirit are of diverse and distinct hypostases,” the bishops taught that “Father, Son and Holy Spirit have one hypostasis, which is termed substance.” They continued, “If it were asked, `What is the hypostasis of the Son?’ we confess that it is the same as the sole hypostasis of the Father; the Father has never been without the Son, nor the Son without the Father, nor is it possible that what is Word is Holy Spirit. We do not say that the Father is the Son nor that Son is the Father. We confess that there is but one God, and that the Divinity of the Father and of the Son is one. No one can deny that the Father is greater than the Son; this superiority does not arise from any difference in hypostasis. ..but simply from the name of the Father being greater than that of the Son. The following words uttered by Our Lord, `I and the Father are one’ (John 10:30), are by some persons explained as referring to the concord and harmony which prevail between the Father and the Son, but this is a blasphemous and perverse interpretation. But we believe and maintain and think that these holy words, `I and the Father are one,’ point to the oneness of the hypostasis which is one both of the Father and of the Son.” J. N. D. Kelly remarks that “the doctrine which is anathematized was scarcely that of Arius himself but included any teaching which admitted three hypostases in the Godhead and ascribed to the Logos or Son of God an independent personal existence side-byside with the Father. Herein lies its great importance, for such an official declaration of war on the Origenist theology was unprecedented.” The bishops declared that the substance of Father and Son is identical, making fully explicit something only implicit in the Nicene Creed. Although stressing against the Origenists the unity of the Godhead in uncompromising fashion, their explanation failed to state the way in which Father, Son and Holy Spirit are separate in any comprehensible sense. The bishops also reinstated the deposed Marcellus of Ancyra, but they were careful to separate themselves from some aspects of his teaching. They added to their explanation of the Creed: “We also believe that the Son reigns with the Father, that His reign has neither beginning nor end, for what has always existed can never have commenced and can never terminate.” Thus the insistence of the Origenistinclined bishops of the East on three hypostases in the Second Creed of Antioch and the Nicene bishops’ avowal at Sardica of the identical substance of Father and Son put East and West on a collision course which the compromise statement of the Fourth Creed of Antioch could not alter.

  In a series of canons, the bishops at Sardica tried to bring order to the troubled Church by ruling against the transference of bishops from one see to another, interference of bishops in one another’s sees, the poaching of clerics from another’s see, and the hasty ordination of bishops without their having passed through the lower clerical orders. They also deprecated bishops’ absence from their sees and their uninvited visits to the imperial court. Most importantly, in Canon 3, they ruled that a bishop judged by his peers could appeal to the bishop of Rome, who could either refuse to review the case, thereby letting the previous judgment stand, or appoint judges to try the case afresh, sending if he wished one of his priests to sit with the bishop-judges. In Rome, Julius apparently had the canons recorded immediately after the Canons of Nicaea, a fact which created confusion later on. Unfortunately these canons would long be in abeyance, and the restatement of creeds by East and West left the Church badly divided.

[3.1.3. Macrostich Creed, 345]

[ 3.1.3. Macrostich Creed, 345 ]

   The effects of this division were soon felt. Emperor Constantius began in the East, especially in Egypt, the deposition and exile of bishops and priests who supported Nicene views. The West attempted to heal the breach in 344 by sending Vincent of Capua, the former papal legate at Nicaea, and Euphrates of Cologne to visit Constantius at Antioch. There the bishop of Antioch, Stephen, attempted to compromise Euphrates by sending a young prostitute to his room. Though the attempt failed and Stephen was promptly deposed, the incident shows the growing bitterness between the factions. However, the mission of Vincent and Euphrates at least persuaded Constantius to call off the persecution of Athanasius’ followers in Egypt. In 345 the East responded with a delegation of its own, four bishops who brought to the western emperor, Constans, at Milan a new creed, the so-called Long-lined (Macrostich) Creed based on the Fourth Creed of Antioch. The creed rejected the two principal opinions of Arius that the Son is from nothing and that there was when He was not. The bishops explained that in confessing three realities and three persons we do not therefore “make three gods since we acknowledge the self-complete and unbegotten and the unbegun and invisible God to be only one, the God and Father of the Only-begotten, who alone was being from Himself, and alone, as an act of grace, confers this on all others bountifully.” We acknowledge, continued the bishops, that Our Lord Jesus Christ, “though He be subordinate to His Father and God, yet, being before the ages begotten from God, He is God according to nature and true God.” We believe him “to be perfect from the first and like in all things to the Father.” Knowing God the Father is absolute and sovereign, the bishops added “that He generated the Son voluntarily and freely.” Father and Son “are united with each other without mediation or interval, and they exist inseparably; all the Father embosoming the Son, and all the Son hanging and adhering to the Father and alone resting on the Father’s breast continually.” In addition, the bishops rejected the opinion of Marcellus of Ancyra and his disciple Photinus (man of light), whom they called Scotinus (man of darkness), soon to be bishop of Sirmium, that Christ’s kingdom had a beginning with His incarnation and would end with the final judgment. The whole creed, though conciliatory toward western sensibilities and avoiding the confusing terms “busia” and “hypostasis,” still had a decided subordinationist and Origenist tone about it. Besides, the bishops substituted the term homoios (like) in all things for the Nicene homoousios (consubstantial). Since Photinus went even beyond Marcellus of Ancyra in diminishing the divine element in Jesus, regarding Him as only a man whose eminent virtue merited the favor of special intimacy with God, the western bishops agreed to condemn him. But they demanded that the easterners in turn sign a renunciation of the doctrine of three hypostases. Refusing, the easterners returned home. Two years later, again at Milan, the western bishops declared Photinus deposed from his see of Sirmium, but, since his people refused to part with him, the sentence remained without effect. Nevertheless, Athanasius now realized that Marcellus and Photinus were compromising the faith of Nicaea and broke off relations with them, though, loyal to an old comrade in arms, he never condemned Marcellus personally.

[3.1.4. Athanasius and the Homoousios]

[3.1.4. Athanasius and the Homoousios]

    In 345 with the death of the intruder Gregory, the see of Alexandria fell vacant, and Emperor Constantius asked Athanasius to return. In fact, he had to make the request three times before Athanasius finally agreed. Even then he traveled through Gaul to interview Emperor Constans, stopped at Rome to confer with Pope Julius and met Constantius himself at Antioch. Only in the fall of 346 did he enter Egypt to be met one hundred miles out in the desert by the civil officials of the province. Then as he neared his city, his people flowed about him like the Nile, and he entered Alexandria in triumph. Four hundred bishops from all parts of the Empire proclaimed communion with him. In the West the Balkan Arians Valens and Ursacius submitted to the bishop of Rome, signed a statement condemning Arius and declared communion with Athanasius. The breach between East and West over the faith of Nicaea seemed healed at long last. But in 350, the western emperor Constans, supporter of the Nicene party, died. A rebellion followed in which Count Magnentius was declared emperor by the legions at Autun in France.

  With Athanasius triumphant for the moment, let us consider briefly, without tracing his intellectual development, the doctrine which he will defend in season and out for the next twenty-five years. Unlike the Arians who were concerned primarily with the Son’s place in creation, Athanasius begins with the firm conviction that the Word became flesh to redeem the human race, to make men godlike. But the Word could never divinize mankind if He were merely divine by participation in the Father’s nature and not Himself the essential Godhead, the very image of the Father. God, argues Athanasius, can never be without His Word, as light can never cease to shine. Just as the Father is always good by nature, so He is by nature always generative. “The Father’s being,” he continued, “was never incomplete, needing an essential feature added to it; nor is the Son’s generation like a man’s from his parent, involving His coming into existence after the Father. Rather, He is God’s offspring, and since God is eternal and He belongs to God as Son, He exists from all eternity. ... His nature is always perfect.” Though the Son derives from and shares the Father’s nature, He is not a portion of substance separated out of the Father, for God is wholly immaterial and without parts. Nor does the Son come forth eternally from the Father by an act of the Father’s will. Certainly the generation of the Word is according to the Father’s will, but it comes about by an eternal process inherent in the Father’s very nature. As the Father’s offspring, the Word is really distinct from the Father, and distinction is eternal just as is generation. Nor did the Word come from the Father just for the sake of the economy of creation and redemption. Moreover, the Word is other in kind and nature from mere creatures. He belongs to the Father’s very substance and is of His nature: he who sees Christ sees the Father.

  At first Athanasius did not much use the Nicene homoousios, but gradually he saw its full implication and became its most resolute defender. The likeness and unity of Father and Word cannot consist in just harmony and concord of mind and will, but must be in respect of essence. The divinity of the Father is identical to the divinity of the Word. The Word is other than the Father because He came forth from the Father, but as God, the Word and the Father are one and the same. What is said of the Father is said of the Son, except the Son is not called Father. Humans can be said to be homoousioi because they share human nature, but they cannot possess one and the same identical substance. The divine nature, however, is indivisible; possessed equally by Father and Word. God is thus the unique, indivisible monad; there is only one monarchy and supreme principle. But though Father and Word are one identical substance, “two they are because Father is Father and not Son; the Son is not the Father.” G. L. Prestige brings out very clearly how Athanasius went even beyond Nicaea. “Though Father and Son are not one but two objects as seen in relation to each other — the names denote distinct presentations of the divine being —yet their `substance’ is identical; if you analyze the meaning connoted by the word God, in whatever connection, you arrive in every case at exactly the same result, whether you are thinking of the Father or of the Son or of the Spirit. That is the point at which the creed was directed: the word God connotes precisely the same truth when you speak of God the Father as it does when you speak of God the Son. It connotes the same truth. So much the Council affirmed. But Athanasius went further. It must imply, he perceived, not only the same truth about God, but the same actual God, the same being. If you contemplate the Father, who is one distinct presentation of the deity, you obtain a mental view of the one true God. If you contemplate the Son or the Spirit, you obtain a view of the same God; though the presentation is different, the reality is identical.” Still, Athanasius has no word to express the subsistence as persons of Father and Son. For him even in 369 hypostasis which designates the three is the same as ousia which designates the one, and both signify being itself. This lingering imprecision in terminology will continue to bedevil theological discourse.

 3.2. Athanasius vs. Constantius




  With the death of his brother Constans in 350 and the suicide of the defeated Magnentius in 353, Constantius embarked securely upon his reign as sole emperor without the religious constraints put upon him by Constans’ pro-Nicene sympathies. Constantius soon assured Athanasius of his respect and support. Nevertheless, toward the end of 351 at Sirmium, a group of eastern bishops, of whom the moderate Basil of Ancyra was the chief spokesman, reopened the case of Photinus, condemned him anew and with the emperor’s cooperation replaced him with Germinius of Cyzicus. Once again the bishops proclaimed the Fourth Creed of Antioch as the expression of their faith. In 352, Julius, bishop of Rome, died, to be succeeded by the far less able but much loved deacon Liberius. Immediately, the eastern bishops reopened their campaign against Athanasius by sending a delegation to the new pope, presenting him with a protest against Athanasius signed by eighty bishops. At the same time, an imperial envoy arrived at Alexandria requesting Athanasius to appear at the imperial court. This Athanasius refused to do without a direct order from Constantius himself. For twenty-six months Athanasius waited for the order which never came while  

preparing a series of speeches to be given in his defense before the court. Meanwhile, the western bishops approached Constantius naively asking him to call another council to discuss outstanding problems with the East. Readily acceding to their request, Constantius convoked a council at his imperial residence in Arles in southern France. There the emperor pressured the assembled western bishops, among whom was Vincent of Capua, papal legate at Nicaea, into signing a condemnation of Athanasius; the sole dissenting bishop was exiled. Next Pope Liberius was subjected to allegations by the emperor of pride and ambition. In defending himself the pope asked the emperor to assemble yet another coucil. To this council held at Milan in 355 Liberius sent as legate the stormy petrel of the Nicene party, Lucifer, bishop of Cagliari in Sardinia. At the council, Eusebius of Vercelli, a staunch Nicene, presented the Creed of Nicaea for the bishops’ signatures. When the unsuspecting bishop of Milan, Dionysius, prepared to sign, the Arian bishop, Valens of Mursa, struck pen and paper from his hand, shouting, “Certainly not that.” Whereupon Valens and Ursacius, at imperial orders, threatened the bishops with exile if they did not sign a condemnation of Athanasius. Episcopal resistance was cowed; all signed but Lucifer of Cagliari, Eusebius of Vercelli and Dionysius of Milan. To the see of Milan the staunch Arian Auxentius was elected to make the city a center of Arian resistance to the Nicene Creed until 373, when the senatorial aristocrat Ambrose was acclaimed bishop. From exile Lucifer assailed the emperor in fiery pamphlets like “Apostate Kings” and “Let Us Die for the Son of God.” Hilary, the newly elected bishop of Poitiers, who had only recently become aware of the existence of the Nicene Creed, now became the soul of resistance to imperial dictation at the Council of Beziers, but he was quickly exiled to the East for his pains in 356.

  When Pope Liberius wrote a letter of encouragement to the three bishops exiled at the Council of Milan of 355, his messengers were condemned to exile, and he was ordered to appear before the emperor at Milan. Supported by his congregation, Liberius refused to go and threw the offering left by the imperial envoy at St. Peter’s basilica into the street. Shortly afterward, in the secrecy of night, Liberius was forcibly taken to the emperor at Milan. Despite a dignified defense and refusal to condemn Athanasius, Liberius was exiled to Thrace where the Arian bishop Demophilus served as his jailer. The archdeacon Felix was appointed to the see of Rome in his place. Next it was the turn of the aged Ossius of Cordoba to bear the brunt of imperial disfavor at his refusal to forsake the definition of Nicaea. In 356 the old bishop told the emperor: “I was a confessor at the first, when persecution arose in the time of your grandfather Maximian (303); and if you persecute me, I am ready now too to endure anything rather than shed innocent blood and betray the truth.... Do not intrude into ecclesiastical matters, and do not give commands to us concerning them; but learn from us. God has put into your hands the kingdom; to us he has entrusted the affairs of the Church; and as he who would steal the Empire from you would resist the ordinance of God, so likewise fear on your part lest, by taking upon yourself the government of the Church, you become guilty of a great offense.” Ossius, for his resistance, was put under arrest at Sirmium.

 With the Church in both East and West cowed into submission, Constantius attacked Athanasius. The Dux Syrianus was ordered to assemble the legions of Egypt and Syria and remove the bishop from Alexandria. On the night of February 8, 356, imperial troops broke into the Church of Theonas, where Athanasius, surrounded by his clergy and consecrated virgins, was conducting a vigil service. As the arrows flew and the dead and wounded fell, his clergy hurried the reluctant bishop from his throne and Athanasius dropped completely from sight. In the next year George of Cappadocia ceremoniously entered the sullen city to be enthroned as the new bishop. He soon unleashed a reign of terror against Athanasius’ supporters while on the side organizing profitable monopolies in pork, salt, papyrus and funeral arrangements. In the desert, moving from one hiding place to another, welcomed by the monks, never once betrayed by his people, Athanasius remained the religious leader of Egypt, pouring out a steady flood of well-informed books and pamphlets defending the Nicene faith. From the security of the desert he wrote about Constantius: “who that beheld him as chorus leader of his pretended bishops, and presiding in ecclesiastical causes, would not justly exclaim that this was the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel?” But now in very truth it was Athanasius against the world.

[3.2.1. Aetius, Eunomius, & Sirmium, 357]

[ 3.2.1. Aetius, Eunomius, & Sirmium, 357 ]

   The Arian faction seemed supreme, but new developments would soon open divisions within their ranks. Instigator of these developments was Aetius, a Christian dialectian in Antioch of dubious antecedents, who owed his reputation to overwhelming skill in debate. His specialty was to reduce Arian doctrine to a chain of syllogisms. Associated with him was Eunomius, later bishop of Cyzicus in Asia Minor. Their position theologically was that God is unique and uncomposed, totally ungenerated essence. The Son, however, is generated and, therefore, must be of a different essence from the Father. The Son is unlike (anomoios) the Father. Yet the Father communicates a divine energy to the Son, confers divinity on him, with the result that the Son shares the Father’s activity and creative power. With supreme confidence in reason, they declared the Father perfectly comprehensible because perfectly simple. Since the key word in their position was that the Son was unlike (anomoios) the Father, they were called Anomeans. Aetius’ Arian and arid dialectic made him unpopular in Antioch where he had been ordained deacon, and he took refuge with George, Athanasius’ supplanter at Alexandria. In addition, he gained the support of Germinius of Sirmium and of the indefatigable Balkan Arians Valens and Ursacius.

  In the summer of 357, this group contrived a new creedal statement at the Second Council of Sirmium. Here the bishops agreed that “since some of many persons were disturbed by questions concerning substance, called in Greek ousia. .. of homoousion, or what is called homoiousion, there ought to be no mention at all.” After outlawing homoousion, the rallying cry of the Nicenes, and the homoiousion of the conservative middle, they proceeded to give their own view of the matter. “No one can doubt that the Father is greater than the Son in honor, dignity, splendor, majesty, and in the very great name of Father, the Son Himself testifying, `He that sent me is greater than I.’ And no one is ignorant that it is Catholic doctrine that there are two Persons of Father and Son; that the Father is greater, and that the Son is subordinated, together with all things which the Father has subordinated to him; that the Father has no beginning and is invisible, immortal, and impassible, but that the Son has been begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, and that the generation of this Son, as has already been said, no one knows but his Father.” In effect, the Nicene Creed toward which all had hitherto paid respect, though not full allegiance, was condemned, and vague terminology gave a free hand to the Arians. Hilary of Poitiers responded to this Creed of the Second Council of Sirmium labeling it “The Blasphemy.”

[3.2.2. Ancyra, 358]

[ 3.2.2. Ancyra, 358 ]

   As outrage mounted on all sides, the new Creed’s protagonists proceeded in 357 to force Ossius, who had sat in councils since that of Elvira in 306, to sign it. One hundred years old and befuddled by theological argument, he at last gave way, but even then refused to condemn his old comrade in arms, Athanasius. Pope Liberius in his Thracian exile was pressured by his ecclesiastical jailer, Demophilus, until he too gave way and condemned Athanasius, signing a mildly Arian creed, probably the old standby, Fourth Creed of Antioch. The Gallish and African bishops, horrified at the new creed, promptly registered their protests against it. But the new bishop of Antioch, the Arian Eudoxius, just as promptly accepted it. But the moderates of the East were now thoroughly aroused. Led by Basil of Ancyra, successor to the Nicene but Sabellian-inclined Marcellus, they met at Ancyra in 358. The moderates now began to realize that Marcellus and Sabellius were not the only dangers to the Catholic faith but that the radically Arian Aetius and his friends were equally threatening. The moderate bishops were agreed that the proper teaching about the Son was that He is like in substance (homoiousios) to the Father. They denied in the nineteenth anathema appended to their creed that the Son is consubstantial with the Father or is the same substance as the Father.

  The results of their deliberations were conveyed to the emperor by Basil of Ancyra, and Constantius was convinced that a new creed must be drawn up in order to provide a formula of imperial orthodoxy. This new formula was to avoid the ambiguity of the Nicene homoousios and the denial of the Son’s full divinity by the radical Arians now unmasked by the Blasphemy of Sirmium. With imperial orthodoxy about to be defined, Pope Liberius signified agreement with the mildly Homoeousian statement and was allowed to return to Rome where his popularity soon made it prudent for the intruder Felix to leave the city. From exile Hilary of Poitiers wrote to the bishops of Gaul and Britain exhorting them to stand loyal to homoousios yet not reject the Homoeousians who had at least broken with the radical Anomoeans. From hiding in Egypt Athanasius wrote to his followers in the same vein. The Nicenes, rid of the incubus of the Sabellian-leaning Marcellus of Ancyra, and the moderates, set against the radical Arians, were beginning at last to look to the truth of each other’s position and to pull together.

[3.2.3. The Dated Creed, 359]

[ 3.2.3. The Dated Creed, 359 ]

   Victorious, the Homoeousian Basil of Ancyra now wished to cap his triumph with a new ecumenical council. It was finally decided to call it in two sections: for the West at Rimini in eastern Italy, for the East at Seleucia in southern Asia Minor. To prepare for the double council, a committee of bishops assembled at Sirmium in 359 where Mark, bishop of Arethusa, drew up the Dated Creed, so called from the precise dating of its preamble, a peculiarity later ridiculed for its presuming to date the Word of God. The new creed registered faith in “bne only-begotten Son of God, who, before all ages, and before all beginning, and before all conceivable time and before all conceivable essence was begotten impassibly from God; through whom the ages were disposed and all things were made; and Him begotten as the only-begotten, only from the only Father, God from God, like unto the Father who begat Him ....” They added the ominous paragraph: “But whereas the term essence (ousia) has been adopted by the Fathers in simplicity, and gives offense as being unknown to the people, because it is not contained in the Scriptures, it has seemed good to remove it, that essence be never in any case used of God again, because the divine Scriptures nowhere refer to the essence of Father and Son. But we say that the Son is like (homoios) the Father in all things....” The new watchword of imperial orthodoxy was not to be homoiousios as Basil of Ancyra so confidently expected, but the far weaker homoios, like in all things. Valens of Mursa had wanted to weaken the creed still further by striking out “in all things,” but Constantius had the words restored. To keep the forthcoming double council firmly in hand it was agreed that deputations of ten bishops from each meeting would carry the results to the emperor and work out a final accord.

[3.2.4. Rimini-Constantinople, 359-360]

[ 3.2.4. Rimini-Constantinople, 359-360 ]

   The council called to Rimini opened first in the summer of 359 with some four hundred bishops in attendance. Strangely enough, the bishop of Rome was never even represented. By far the majority were orthodox Nicenes, but a group of eighty led by Ursacius, Valens and Germinius of Sirmium formed a pro-Arian faction. The majority rejected the newly drawn Dated Creed, proclaimed that of Nicaea and excommunicated Ursacius, Valens and Germinius. The bishop of Carthage was elected as leader of the delegation to carry the results to the emperor busy in the East with the war against Persia. Ursacius and Valens managed to get to the emperor first, and the delegation from Rimini was told to await the emperor’s pleasure at Nike in Thrace. There Ursacius and Valens forced the reluctant delegates to sign the Dated Creed with the words “in all things” deleted after “like” (homoios). The bishops in Rimini were held in session by a pretorian prefect, and at the return of the delegation from Nike were forced in their turn to sign the Dated Creed. Only fifteen held out, but finally, after condemning Arius, they too signed. The rout of the western bishops was complete.

  By the autumn of 359, about 150 eastern bishops gathered at Seleucia, among them the Nicene Hilary of Poitiers, dragooned by the imperial police. Basil of Ancyra and Silvanus of Tarsus led the party favorable to a creed based on homoiousios; George of Alexandria and Eudoxius of Antioch led the Anomeans; Acacius of Palestinian Caesarea, the erudite and eloquent pupil of the long-dead Eusebius and heir to his library, favored a unifying and therefore equivocal formula. Basil of Ancyra, because of his absence on the opening day of the Council and later accusations leveled against him, lost influence on the proceedings. At first 105 bishops, under the leadership of Silvanus of Tarsus, agreed to sign the old Fourth Creed of Antioch. Indignantly, the Acacians walked out of the assembly, and meeting separately, agreed on a declaration repudiating homoousios, homoiousios and anomoios and proposing simply homoios as the key to understanding the Trinity. But the majority refused to accept their position as well as the homoiousios of Basil of Ancyra and the phrase — like in all things — of the Dated Creed of Mark of Arethusa. The Council remained so divided that the imperial commissioner withdrew, telling the bishops: “Now, go quarrel with each other.” Various matters dealing with persons were dispatched and the ten delegates requested by the emperor were elected, but no decisive vote could be taken on a creedal statement. Acacius beat the delegation from Seleucia to Constantinople and gained the emperor’s ear. In the end both delegations were prevailed upon to join in with the wishes of the Homoean Acacius and support his equivocal formula — the Son is like the Father —the holdouts being browbeaten by the emperor personally far into the night of December 31, 359. The next day Constantius inaugurated his tenth consulate by proclaiming the newly-established unity of the Church. To sanction this enforced unity there were assembled at Constantinople on January 20 the twenty delegates from Rimini and Seleucia together with the neighboring bishops of Bithynia and Thrace, among them the Gothic bishop Ulfilas who would spread the doctrines of this council among the Germanic tribes beyond the borders of the Empire.

  At Constantinople in 360 the assembled bishops confessed belief in “the only begotten Son of God, who was begotten from God before all ages and before all beginning, through Whom all things came into existence, visible and invisible, begotten only-begotten, alone from the Father alone, God from God, like the Father who begot Him. ...” And they added that because the word essence or substance offends the people, neither it nor the word hypostasis should be used of Father, Son and Ho1y Spirit. “We say the Son is like the Father,” they conclude. From Bethlehem St. Jerome lamented: “Down with the faith of Nicaea was the cry. The whole world groaned, astonished to find itself Arian.” However, as Kelly remarks, “Arianism, it will be appreciated, is really a misnomer, for the creed asserts none of the articles of the old heresy and explicitly condemns Anomoeanism. lts deliberate vagueness, however, made it capable of being recited by Christians with very different sets of ideas.” So this statement was better suited to Constantius’ purpose than terms drawn from more elaborate speculative theologies.

  Now began the search for episcopal signatures to enforce compliance with the new creed. In the West so many had already accepted the creed at Rimini that not much remained to be done. In the ast, the task was more difficult. From hiding Athanasius exhorted the bishops of Egypt and Libya to refuse to sign. Egypt, except for George at Alexandria, remained firm in its opposition, and the imperial commissioners backed down. Elsewhere, many like old Dianius of Cappadocian Caesarea signed any imperial document set before them. Only a few held out. The Homoean leaders were rewarded: Eunomius, a radical Arian, got the bishopric of Cyzicus; Eudoxius was transferred from Antioch and made bishop of Constantinople. There in his first sermon he jested that the Father is impious, the Son, pious. When the crowd murmured in surprise, he added that his proposition was true because the Son reveres the Father while the Father has no one to revere. Such was the new race of imperial bishops. At Antioch, Meletius, former bishop of Sebaste in Armenia, was installed in the chair just vacated by Eudoxius. But his surprising Nicene stance resulted in his banishment a month later. Euzoius, one of Arius’ original disciples was consecrated in his place. Homoeans or outright Arians had replaced Nicenes or moderate Homoeousians in every major eastern see. The creed of Nicaea seemed to have gone down to defeat.

  Constantius, however, had little time to savor his triumph. The Persian War was going badly, and when he ordered the crack legions of Gaul to the eastern front, they revolted and proclaimed as emperor the Caesar Julian, survivor of the family massacre of 337 and the last member of the Constantinian dynasty. As Julian moved east against his cousin Constantius, the Danubian garrisons rallied to his side. I11 with fever, Constantius was baptized by the old Arian Euzoius of Antioch. As death came, he named Julian his heir. Thus in the late fall of 361 Julian entered on his reign as sole emperor.

 3.3. Time Out: Pagan Revival under Julian

3.3. TIME OUT:


  Quite unexpectedly all the squabbling Christian factions suffered a rude shock. The new emperor soon revealed himself as a pagan intent on restoring the old ways. He had no deep loyalty to the religion of a family who had killed his father, uncle, cousins and brother. As a child he was confided to a series of Christian tutors, all Arian: Eusebius of Nicomedia, George the usurper of Alexandria and the radical sophist Aetius. Yet he was duly baptized and even entered Christian orders as a lector. Increasingly, however, his real passion became not the aridities of Arianism but the glories of Hellenistic antiquity. In his active mind the myths and cults of ancient Greece mingled with the exotic magical love of the later Neoplatonists. As Caesar and able general in Gaul, he kept up the pose as a Christian. But with the death of Constantius, he threw off the Christian mask and showed himself an austere, studious prince piously devoted to all the ancient pagan lore.

  Toleration was granted to all religious sects, but imperial favor fell especially on those who restored the pagan temples and cults. With the tacit approval of the emperor, any Christians who attacked the restored idols were left to the savage treatment of the pagans. Cities which did not cultivate the old gods were denied military protection. Julian attempted as well to reform the pagan priesthoods, preaching them sermons on austerity, kindness to the unfortunate, fraternity and devotion to the instruction of the people. Pagan priests were enjoined to stay out of taverns and avoid jobs base and unworthy of their calling. Money from the imperial treasury was distributed to the pagan priests for the establishment of charitable institutions in imitation of the Christians. But as the emperor, shabbily dressed and wearing the wispy beard and long hair of the philosopher, sacrificed beasts and sprinkled incense, the masses remained indifferent or mocked his dogged seriousness.

 Exiled bishops were allowed to return to sees occupied by others, for, said the pagan historian Ammianus, the emperor knew that no wild beasts were so hostile to men as were the Christians to one another. In Alexandria a pagan mob promptly lynched the usurper George, and Athanasius returned after fifteen years in exile. But Christian bishops, priests and monks lost their immunities from civil services and taxation. Episcopal courts lost civil jurisdiction. Since Christian teachers of the classics could not practice what they taught, they were told to embrace paganism or resign their posts. At least two of the most famous teachers in the Empire promptly resigned their posts. The bishop of Palestinian Laodicea, Apollinaris, soon to be accused of heresy, and his school-teacher father set to work to give the Christian Scriptures classic form by turning the Book of Genesis into an epic, the Psalms into hexameters and the Gospels into Platonic dialogues. Churches and martyria were removed from the premises of pagan temples. Christian funeral processions were forbidden by day. When these measures failed to weaken the Church, bishops were forced into exile once again. As Athanasius boarded his barge for exile, he told his people,

“Let us retire for a brief while, my friends; but a little cloud and soon will pass.”.

   As the imperial police raced up the Nile to arrest him, Athanasius had his oarsmen reverse their course. As the police passed shouting had they seen Athanasius, he replied, yes, he is quite close. The police sailed upstream as Athanasius returned to hiding in Alexandria itself. But this state of affairs proved to be of short duration, for in a disastrous retreat from Persia, Julian was wounded and died in 363 after reigning only twenty months as emperor.

[ Alexandria, 362

[ 3.3.1. Alexandria, 362 ]

   Amid the disturbances of Julian’s rule, the doctrinal differences within the Church continued. In 361 the radical Arians met at Antioch under the leadership of Euzoius and declared their belief in a Son unlike the Father. In 362 Athanasius, before his exile, called a peace conference at Alexandria consisting of representatives from Egypt, Palestine and Italy along with delegates sent by the fanatical Nicene Lucifer of Cagliari, Apollinaris of Laodicea and the priest Paulinus, chief of the Nicene community at Antioch. Athanasius’ main concern was to reconcile the moderates and the Nicenes by getting behind party catchwords to the deeper meaning of each position. He recommended asking those who held three hypostases if they meant three in the sense of three subsistent beings, alien in nature like gold, silver and brass, as did the radical Arians. If they answered no, he asked if they meant by three hypostasis a Trinity, truly existing with truly substantial Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and if they acknowledged one Godhead. If they said yes, he allowed them into communion. Then he turned to those who spoke of one hypostasis and asked if they meant this in the sense of Sabellius, as if the Son were not substantial and the Holy Spirit impersonal. If they said no, he asked them if they meant by one hypostasis one substance or ousia because the Son is of the substance of the Father. If their answer was yes, he accepted them into communion. Finally, in a statesmanlike fashion Athanasius brought out the truth each side was fighting for and showed that between the moderates and the Nicenes there was really no ground for disagreement. The results of these deliberations were sent off to Antioch divided into three factions: the Arians led by Euzoius, the imperially recognized bishop, the Homoeousians led by the exiled Meletius and the old Nicenes led by the priest Paulinus, loyal to the long-dead Eustathius. The way seemed open for peace.

   But the way was to prove long and rough. For while Athanasius was laying the groundwork for reconciliation at Alexandria, Lucifer of Cagliari had gone to Antioch and made things worse. Instead of attempting to reconcile the moderate bishop Meletius who had already declared for the Nicene faith, Lucifer consecrated the Old Nicene Paulinus as bishop. The two parties which Athanasius had been attempting to reconcile were now separated by rival bishops, while the old Arian Euzoius held the churches of the city. This schism at Antioch would impede reconciliation between moderates and Nicenes for years to come as Athanasius and the bishops of Rome came to support Paulinus, while the rising leader of the East, Basil of Caesarea, remained loyal to Meletius.

 3.4. Two New Battles




[3.4.1. Apollinaris]

[ 3.4.1. Apollinaris ]

   As the Trinitarian controversy continued on its weary way the Church was being buffeted by two new dangers — errors in the theology of Christ and of the Holy Spirit. A new chapter in Christology was being written by Apollinaris of Laodicea (the modern Latakia) in Syria. Born about 310 the son of an Alexandrian priest and grammarian, he had been a student at Athens with the young future emperor Julian. When Julian banned Christian schoolmasters from teaching literature, it was Apollinaris and his father who attempted to rewrite Scripture in classical forms. Bishop of Laodicea from 361 to 390, he also taught at Antioch where Jerome attended his lectures. By 362 Apollinaris’ views on Christology were being noticed, and by 375 he had broken with the orthodox Church, consecrating Vitalis, a disciple, as the fourth bishop in strife-torn Antioch. Basil of Caesarea denounced him to Damasus of Rome, and in 377 a Roman council condemned him. Condemned once more at Antioch in 379, attacked by Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa, Apollinaris would be condemned yet again by the Council of Constantinople I.

  Apollinaris had firmly grasped Athanasius’ central Trinitarian insight that Father and Son are a single identical divine substance, but the problem arose when he turned to Christology. Athanasius had developed a Word-Flesh Christology in which the place of the rational mind in Christ was not brought out with sufficient clarity. Arius held that the soul of the Son replaced the soul of the man Jesus, and used this assertion as proof of the changeability and creatureliness of the Son. Eustathius, deposed as bishop of Antioch in 330 for his defense of Nicaea, and other Antiochenes like Diodorus of Tarsus (d. 390) had insisted on a Logos-Man Christology, stressing the full reality of the man Jesus but fell into difficulties in explaining the unity of the God-man. Apollinaris now addressed himself to this problem with great intellectual acumen.

  He believed firmly that only in Christ is mankind redeemed and restored. New life comes from a single source, the one mediator between God and us. Christ himself must then be a unity. If the divine were merely conjoined with man, then there would be two, one Son of God by nature, the other by adoption. The flesh of the Savior, therefore, is not something superadded to the Godhead, rather it constitutes one nature with the Godhead. “The flesh,” continued Apollinaris, “being dependent for its motions on some other principle of movement and action, is not in itself a complete living entity, but in order to become one it enters into fusion with something else. So it is united with the heavenly governing principle and is fused with it .... Thus out of the moved and the mover was compounded a single living entity.”

  From the first instant of the Incarnation a sentient material body was fused with the unchanging Logos. The Word himself has become flesh without having assumed a human mind, a mind changeable and enslaved to filthy thoughts. “The divine energy fulfills the role of animating spirit and of the human mind,” in the God-man. The Logos is thus the sole life of the God-man infusing vital energy into Him even at purely physical and biological levels. In the God-man there is one center of self-determination and will. He is a single, living being in whom the soul directs and the body is directed. There is in Him no conflict of wills, no confusion of separate identities. Rather, the one Son of God is not of two natures but is “one incarnate nature of the divine Word.” Apollinaris argued that, “the body is not of itself a nature, because it is neither vivifying in itself nor capable of being singled out from what vivifies it. Nor is the Word, on the other hand, to be distinguished as a separate nature apart from His incarnate state, since it was in the flesh, and not apart from the flesh, that the Lord dwelt on earth.” In the Incarnation there takes place an emptying on the part of the Word so as to take flesh to Himself. In us mind is corrupted by subservience to the flesh, but the mind of the Redeemer is never so corrupted. God incarnate in human flesh is Mind that cannot be overcome by the passions of soul and flesh, but rather maintains the flesh and its affections in a Godlike manner and without sin. Yet the flesh of the Savior has not come down from heaven, nor is His flesh consubstantial with God, but the flesh is God insofar as it is united with the Godhead so as to form one person.

  There is in all this a strange crossing of the positions of Arius and Apollinaris. For Arius, since the Son is the soul of Christ, the Son is not divine because open to change. But Apollinaris denied a rational soul, a human mind, in Christ precisely so that the Son would not be reduced to the state of a creature, open to change. The consequences which flow from Apollinaris’ positions are as follows. Christ’s flesh is glorified because it is the flesh of God Himself. Christ’s flesh is the proper object of worship because there is in Him one incarnate nature of the Word, to be worshipped with His flesh in one worship. The Word while remaining God shares the predicates and properties of flesh; the flesh while remaining flesh even in the union, shares the predicates and properties of God. Finally, the divine nature is communicated to the faithful when they consume the Lord’s flesh at the Eucharist. In sum, Apollinaris has saved the unity of Word and flesh in the Redeemer, the sole source of our redemption, and vindicated His divinity. But has he safeguarded the full humanity of the Redeemer?

   St. Gregory Nazianzus would single out the difficulties in Apollinaris’ position. Gregory’s central principle was: what is not assumed by the Redeemer is not redeemed. If the whole of Adam fell, then the Redeemer must be united to the whole nature of Adam in order to save it wholly. If Christ has a soul and yet is without a mind, how is he really man, for man is not a mindless animal. If the Godhead took the place of the human intellect, how does God touch the rest of mankind, for soul and flesh alone without intellect, the most essential part of man, do not constitute man. For Apollinaris it is inconceivable that the one God-man contain two natures. Gregory grants that on the purely physical level this is true; one bushel measure cannot contain two bushels. But on the mental and corporeal level “I in my one personality can contain soul and reason and mind and the Holy Spirit.” Finally, if Apollinaris denies a human mind to the God-man because it is prone to sin and subject to damnation, then he offers an excuse for those who sin with the mind alone, for it is shown impossible even for God to heal the human mind.

[3.4.2. The Holy Spirit]

[ 3.4.2. The Holy Spirit ]

   With Apollinaris, a new chapter in Christology was opened; at the same time, Trinitarian theology was extended to include the Holy Spirit in its speculations. For Arius the Spirit’s essence is utterly unlike the Son’s just as the Son’s is unlike the Father’s. For Origenist-leaning theologians like Eusebius of Caesarea the Holy Spirit is an hypostasis of third rank, one of the entities which have come into being through the Son. For the later Arians like Aetius and Eunomius, the Spirit is the noblest of creatures produced by the Son at the Father's bidding. By 359-60, Athanasius had his attention called to the teaching of some Egyptians who recognized the Son's deity but disparaged the Holy Spirit. Athanasius called them Tropici because they resorted to a figurative analysis of Scripture. For them the Holy Spirit is an angel, superior to other angels in rank, but a ministering spirit, other in substance from Father and Son. This group seems to have been local and unrelated to a larger body called Macedonians, after the Homoeousian bishop of Constantinople deposed by the Arians in 360, who apparently had little to do with their doctrine. They were also called Pneumatomachians, fighters against the Spirit, and were especially strong in Constantinople, Thrace, Bithynia and along the Hellespont. Some of these accepted the consubstantiality of Father and Son; some were more radically Homoeousian preferring to say the Son is like the Father in substance or in all things. But they agreed that the Holy Spirit is neither God nor a mere creature. They argued that the Scripture seems to indicate the inferiority of the Spirit to Father and Son and says nothing explicit of His divinity. Further, there is no other relationship possible in the Godhead but that of Father and Son. Therefore, the Spirit is not God.

   In the face of these denials of the Spirit's divinity, Athanasius was compelled to elaborate his own theology of the Spirit. He argued that in the Scripture, the Spirit is said to come from God, to bestow sanctification and life, to be unchangeable, omnipresent and unique; therefore, He is more than a creature. The Spirit makes us partakers of God; if the Spirit thus makes humans divine, His nature must be that of God. The Trinity itself is eternal, homogeneous and indivisible; if the Spirit is a member of it, He is consubstantial with the Father and the Son. The Son and the Spirit are closely related for the Son bestows the Spirit, and Son and Spirit are joined in the work of creation, sanctification and inspiration. Therefore, the Spirit belongs to the essence of the Son as the Son belongs to the essence of the Father. Yet, according to the custom of the time, Athanasius did not call the Spirit God.

   In the face of these denials of the Spirit's divinity, Athanasius was compelled to elaborate his own theology of the Spirit. He argued that in the Scripture, the Spirit is said to come from God, to bestow sanctification and life, to be unchangeable, omnipresent and unique; therefore, He is more than a creature. The Spirit makes us partakers of God; if the Spirit thus makes humans divine, His nature must be that of God. The Trinity itself is eternal, homogeneous and indivisible; if the Spirit is a member of it, He is consubstantial with the Father and the Son. The Son and the Spirit are closely related for the Son bestows the Spirit, and Son and Spirit are joined in the work of creation, sanctification and inspiration. Therefore, the Spirit belongs to the essence of the Son as the Son belongs to the essence of the Father. Yet, according to the custom of the time, Athanasius did not call the Spirit God.


 3.5. Basil Versus Valens



   With the death of Julian in the summer of 363, the empire received a new ruler, Jovian, a young military commander acclaimed by the legions on the Persian frontier. Christian and Nicene, he began his reign auspiciously, inviting Athanasius to visit him at Antioch. Meletius, leader of the Homoeousians of Antioch, assembled bishops from Syria and Asia Minor who wrote to the new emperor assuring him of their acceptance of the faith of Nicaea, even of the word homoousios. Reunion seemed at hand. But when Athanasius visited Antioch in 363, he asked Meletius to enter into communion with him; when Mele¬tius hesitated, Athanasius recognized the newly conse¬crated Paulinus as legitimate bishop of Antioch. Schism continued at Antioch to poison the relations between Nicenes and Homoeousians in the Church at large.

By February of 364, Jovian, dead of natural causes, was replaced by an officer of his guard, Valentinian 1, who promptly assumed rule of the West and associated his brother Valens with himself as emperor of the East. Valen¬tinian was himself attached to the faith of Nicaea, but, as he told the bishops, a layman should not meddle in ecclesi¬astical affairs. His official policy was to allow the bishops of Gaul, Italy, Spain and lllyria to support the Nicene faith, but he would not interfere with the leaders of the western Arians. When Hilary of Poitiers attempted to incite the people of Milan against their Arian bishop Auxentius, he was firmly ordered out of the city. Except for Milan and sections of Illyria, the battle for Nicaea was largely won in the West.

  But in the East it was a different matter. In 364 the Homoeousians gathered at Lampsacus in Asia Minor where they declared null and void the results of the Councils of Rimini-Seleucia-Constantinople which had made homoios the centerpiece of imperial orthodoxy. They embraced instead the Origenist Second Creed of Antioch (341), but insisted on the necessity of preserving the term homoiousios to guarantee the distinctions within the Trinity. Further, all Anomean bishops were to be deposed and all legitimate bishops returned to their sees. When delegates from Lampsacus carried these decisions to the new emperor Valens, he responded coldly and in the end ordered their exile. In the West. Valentinian could deal with a body of bishops almost unanimously Nicene, but in the East homoousios was not a rallying cry to union, and resistance to Athanasius was strong. Consequently, Valens determined to follow the example of Constantius and force the bishops to agree to the minimalist statement of Rimini-Seleucia-Constantinople. The emperor ordered a11 the bishops who had been deposed by Constantius but allowed to return to their sees by Julian to be expelled once again. Athanasius was saved from exile because he had been expelled by Julian, and so, after a legal battle, the old warrior was allowed to remain at Alexandria.

  Dissatisfied with Valens’ policy in the East, the Homoeousians decided to appeal to the western emperor, but were unable to contact him at the western front in Gaul. Liberius of Rome, however, received them cordially, but as the price of reunion demanded that they profess the Nicene Creed and reject that of Rimini-Seleucia-Constantinople. The eastern delegates agreed in the name of sixtyfour of their confreres, who were now reconciled with Rome. Further reconciliation with the bishops of Sicily followed on their way home. These actions were ratified by a meeting of bishops at Tyana in central Asia Minor. There preparations were laid for a larger council to be held in the spring of 365 at Tarsus where union with the western Nicenes could be discussed. But preparations came to nought, for Valens forbade the convocation of the council.

  After 365 with his religious policy in place, Valens had little time to give to the ecclesiastical troubles of the East. In 365/ 66 he had to put down an attempt on his throne by the usurper Procopius in Constantinople. From 367 to 369 he was occupied with the campaign against the Goths on the Danube frontier. During this campaign he was baptized by the Homoean bishop of Constantinople, Eudoxius, and remained firmly attached to his views. Even some of those Homoeousians reconciled with the West had a falling out with Liberius of Rome and some thirty bishops of Asia rejected homoousios expressly and returned to the Second Creed of Antioch.

   By 369 Valens was at liberty to attend to Church affairs. His first act was to support the election of the unworthy Thracian Demophilus, former jailer of Pope Liberius, to the see of Constantinople vacated by the death of Eudoxius. When eighty ecclesiastics protested to Valens against this election, he had them abandoned aboard a burning ship. Persecution of his opposition then widened. Clerics were presented with the Creed of Rimini-Seleucia-Constantinople; those who failed to adhere to it were threatened with financial exactions, prison, exile, even death. A11 over the East, the life of the Church was disrupted by the deposition and exile of recalcitrant clergy. To crown the troubles, in 373 Athanasius died after forty-five stormy years as bishop of Alexandria. The Nicenes immediately elected his brother Peter in his place, but the government refused to ratify the election. Instead, an Arian, Lucius, was ordered installed by force. The major church of Alexandria was invaded by the police and a mob from the gutters. Terrible scenes followed. A young man dressed as a woman danced obscenely on the altar; another, naked, sat in Athanasius’ episcopal throne preaching filthy homilies. Finally, the imperially appointed Lucius was enthroned in the desecrated Church, attended by the aged Euzoius of Antioch, one of Arius’ original disciples fifty years before, now wreaking vengeance on the dead Athanasius. Amid the reign of terror which now fell on the Nicenes of Egypt, with twelve bishops and over 100 priests and monks in exile, Peter fled to the protection of the bishop of Rome as his brother had done thirty years before.

[3.5.1. Basil of Caesarea]

[ 3.5.1. Basil of Caesarea ]

  Leadership of the orthodox East now passed from the dead Athanasius to the new metropolitan of Cappadocian Caesarea, Basil. The family into which Basil was born in 329 was deeply Christian. His grandmother had suffered in the persecution of Diocletian; his mother, whose uncle was a bishop, was the daughter of a martyr; his sister Macrina was a noted ascetic; two of his brothers would become bishops — Gregory of Nyssa and Peter of Sebaste. His father, a wealthy and renowned advocate, had him expensively educated in Caesarea, Constantinople and Athens where he met his later colleague, Gregory of Nazianzus. Attracted to the ascetic life by the eccentric bishop Eustathius of Sebaste, Basil traveled widely through the monasteries of the East and lived for a time as a monk in his native Cappadocia. He would later be the author of two influential rules for monks. By 364 he was ordained a priest to become the mainstay of his bishop, whom he succeeded in 370. As bishop he maintained, partly from his own large fortune, a great institution dedicated to works of charity.

  In Basil, Athanasius found a worthy successor. When an imperial commissioner threatened him with confiscation of his property or exile if he refused to conform to the decrees of Rimini-Seleucia-Constantinople, he responded with such vigor that the commissioner remarked indignantly: “No one has ever spoken to me in such a manner and with such liberty of speech.” Basil answered, “Perhaps you have never met a bishop before.” Suffering cruelly from indigestion brought on by the austerity of his life, Basil welcomed torture, he said, as a possible cure for his liver. When Valens himself came to Caesarea he was so impressed by the bishop’s dignity at the liturgy and the force of his personality that on leaving he made a contribution to Basil’s charities. While not touching Basil personally, the emperor ordered the division of the civil province, thus cutting Basil’s ecclesiastical jurisdiction in half. Whereupon Basil determined to increase the number of sees subject to him as metropolitan by installing his brother Gregory as bishop of Nyssa and his friend Gregory of Nazianzus at the remote relay station of Sasima, from which he soon fled to assist his aging father who was bishop of Nazianzus.

   An ecclesiastical statesman of first rank, Basil is more important as a theologian who helped bring the thinking of the East more into line with the faith of Nicaea. At long last he insisted upon the distinction between ousia and hypostasis. The only acceptable formula, he argued, is one ousia, three hypostases. Ousia meant for him the existence or essence or substantial entity of God; whereas hypostasis signified the essence in a particular mode, the manner of being of each of the three persons. His choice of analogies is unfortunate, for he said, ousia and hypostasis are differentiated as the universal and the particular. “Every one of us,” he wrote, “both shares in existence by the common term ousia and is such and such by his own properties.” Each of the divine hypostases is the ousia or essence of the Godhead determined by its appropriate particularizing characteristics: what is proper to the Father is paternity, to the Son sonship, to the Spirit sanctification. Basil insisted that the term homoiousios safeguarded the particularities of each divine hypostasis better than the Nicene homoousios. Yet for him each hypostasis shares in the single, simple and indivisible concrete divine nature. G. L. Prestige aptly summarizes Basil’s position: “The whole unvaried substance, being incomposite, is identical with the whole unvaried being of each person;. ..the individuality is only the manner in which the identical substance is objectively presented in each several Persons.” The one Godhead thus exists in three modes of being, three hypostases. “Everything,” said Basil, “that the Father is is seen in the Son, and everything that the Son is belongs to the Father. The Son in His entirety abides in the Father, and in return possesses the Father in entirety in Himself.Thus the hypostasis of the Son is, so to speak, the form and presentation by which the Father is known, and the Father’s hypostasis is recognized in the form of the Son.”

  Yet Basil refrained in his early days as bishop from public statements about the divinity of the Holy Spirit. But after his break with his old mentor, the Pneumatomachian Eustathius of Sebaste, he became more explicit. The Spirit, in Basil’s view, must be accorded the same glory, honor and worship as the Father and the Son. He must be reckoned with and not below them, for “the natural goodness and the inherent holiness and the royal dignity are extended from the Father through the Only-Begotten to the Spirit.” He never called the Holy Spirit God however, though he said, “we must glorify the Spirit with the Father and the Son because we believe He is not alien to the divine nature.”

  Basil’s younger brother, Gregory of Nyssa, was of even greater depth of mind though far less able an ecclesiastical statesman. As bishop of Nyssa, he was a sore trial to his masterful brother because of his poor diocesan administration, so much so that his alleged mismanagement of funds served as a pretext for his deposition by the Arians in 376. He returned to his see in 378 and would play a prominent part in the Council of Constantinople, returning to the capital in later years to preach at the funerals of members of the imperial family. To explain the Trinity, Gregory used the somewhat misleading analogy of three individuals sharing in one human nature. Yet he added that whereas individual men share in generic human nature, the three divine hypostases share in one concrete, identical divine substance. For God is one; we can never speak of three gods as we speak of three men. “If we observe,” he said, “a single activity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in no respect different in the case of any, we are obliged to infer unity of nature from the unity of activity.” While confessing the unity of nature, he insisted that the difference among the hypostases rises out of their mutual relationships. The Father is Cause, the Son is of the Cause directly, the Holy Spirit of the Cause mediately. The Father has no origin; the Son is generated from the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. Yet, he wrote,

   . .when we say that one is caused and that another is without cause, we do not divide the nature by the word cause, but only indicate the fact that the Son does not exist without generation, nor the Father by generation; but we must needs in the first place believe that something exists and then scrutinize the manner of existence of the object of belief: thus the question of existence is one and that of the mode of existence is another.” Ousia, nature, which is one should not be confounded with hypostasis, the mode of expression of that nature, which is three. Moreover, every operation extending from God to creation has its origin from the Father, proceeds through the Son and is perfected in the Holy Spirit.

   Whereas Athanasius first grasped the absolute identity of the substance shared by Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Basil and Gregory laid stress on the distinction within that unity, the former sharply distinguishing the one ousia (substance or existence) and the three hypostases (modes of existence) while firmly grasping the idea of the coinherence of the hypostasis one within the other and clearly labeling the properties of the three hypostases Fatherhood, Sonship and Sanctification. The latter explained the relations of distinction within the divine existence and the operations of the Godhead extending from the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit.

   While Gregory was content to write quietly at Nyssa, Basil was tireless in his efforts to bring unity to the Church. In Athanasius’ last years he wrote to him proposing that they appeal to the bishop of Rome for legates to help clear up the doctrinal disorder in the East. Unfortunately he mentioned communion with the Homoeousian Meletius of Antioch, who had ordained Basil deacon, as a condition for the ultimate solution. Since Athanasius was in communion with Meletius’ rival, the Nicene Paulinus, the suggestion was coolly received. Yet when Athanasius received a letter from Damasus of Rome informing him of the death of the Arian bishop of Milan, he sent the messenger on to Basil as a gesture of good will. Whereupon, Basil sent letters to Rome describing the lamentable conditions in the East. However, the death of Athanasius in 373 and the flight of his brother and successor Peter to Rome complicated negotiations. Like his brother, Peter refused communion with Meletius and turned Damasus’ mind against him. Thus Basil’s further correspondence with Rome fell on deaf ears. The Emperor Valens’ pressure on the Homoeousians left Basil increasingly isolated, and despite his pleadings for support from Rome, Damasus at last formally recognized the Nicene Paulinus as the legitimate bishop of Antioch. Peter of Alexandria, convinced that Meletius of Antioch was an Arian, thus complicated the relations between Damasus of Rome and Basil of Caesarea, though they remained on cordial personal terms.


 3.6. Nicaea Triumphs



   Developments beyond the borders of the Roman Empire now contributed to the breakdown of barriers within the Church. The fierce, horse-riding Huns, cousins to the Mongols, dashed out of the Asiatic steppes and fell on the Germanic Goths lined up against Rome’s Danubian frontier. In a panic, Fritigern, the Visigothic chieftain, asked permission from the Roman authorities to cross into the Empire for protection. With imperial authorization, his people streamed over the Danube only to be mistreated and mulcted by the Romans. Thereupon the Visigoths revolted. Without waiting for reinforcements from the West, Emperor Valens impetuously led his legions against the Germans. In 378 at Adrianople he died in the field, and his body was lost amid the defeat and carnage of his armies. With an aroused and alien people loose within the Danube line, the northeastern provinces were in greatest disorder. From Milan the Emperor Gratian, successor in the West to his father Valentinian I since 375, sent the Spanish general Theodosius as emperor to the East to restore the situation. During his successful campaign to restore order, Theodosius fell ill at Thessalonika where he was baptized, professing the faith of Nicaea, by the papal vicar Acholius. Once recovered, Theodosius ratified Valens’ permission, given as he went into battle with the Goths, for all exiled bishops to return to their sees. With a Nicene emperor in the East, the tide was once again turning. On the eve of the great change in 379, Basil of Caesarea died, worn out though not fifty years of age.

  In the West, the faith of Nicaea was already consolidated. In 373, Ambrose, a Christian catechumen and civil governor of the province of Liguria-Emilia, scion of a great senatorial family and son of a pretorian prefect, was elected bishop of Milan. At Milan and in Illyria, last strongholds of Arianism, he led the fight for the Nicene creed. At the Council of Sirmium in 378, Ambrose, supported by the young Emperor Gratian, deposed six Arian bishops. In a series of laws in 379/80, Gratian, under Ambrose’s tutelage, proscribed Arianism in the West.

  In 377 a Roman Council presided over by Damasus of Rome addressed the growing problems of Apollinarianism and Macedonianism. The Council expressed surprise to find people with a pious understanding of the Trinity erring in matters pertaining to salvation. Some ventured to say, continued the Council, “that our God and Savior Jesus Christ took from the Virgin Mary human nature incomplete, that is, without a mind. Alas, how nearly they approach the Arians with a mind like that! The latter speak of an incomplete divinity in the Son of God; the former falsely affirm an incomplete humanity in the Son of Man. Now if human nature were taken incomplete, then the gift of God is incomplete, and our salvation is incomplete, because human nature has not been saved in its entirety.” Further, the Council observed that it was through the mind that the first sin was committed; therefore, the human mind too needs redemption. The Council added: “We, who know that we have been saved whole and entire according to the profession of the Catholic Church, profess that complete God took complete man.” With regard to the Holy Spirit, the Council, holding fast to “the inviable faith of Nicaea,” affirmed that they “do not separate the Holy Spirit, but together with the Father and Son ... offer Him a joint worship as complete in everything, in power, honor, majesty and Godhead. . . . “

[3.6.1. Gregory Nazianzen]

[ 3.6.1. Gregory Nazianzen ]

  Meanwhile in the East, the Nicene Peter of Alexandria returned to his see, and the now Nicene Meletius returned to Antioch where he was forced to contend over the bishopric with the Arian Dorotheus, the Apollinarian Vitalis and the old Nicene Paulinus. Despite the schism, at a council held in Antioch, 153 bishops signed an accord with the Bishop of Rome. At Constantinople itself the old Arian Demophilus kept a firm hold on the churches of the city. Gregory of Nazianzus, episcopal colleague of Basil of Caesarea, was sent by the Nicenes to Constantinople to rally support for the faith of Nicaea. Gregory set up a temporary chapel in a private residence which he called the Anastasia, Resurrection, and in such humble quarters he set about the resurrection of the Nicene faith in the imperial capital. In a series of great sermons he explained to his people the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.

  He preached to his growing flock of one sole God, found three in unity, in every respect equal, in every respect one and the same, each distinct in His personal property, each God because of His consubstantiality. There are, he said, three individualities or hypostases or persons, but they are one in respect of substance or Godhead. There is in the Godhead a complete identity of substance among the persons, but they are distinct because each differs in relation to origin. The distinction of the Father is founded on His personal property of being unoriginate; the Son is originate from the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeds or goes forth from the Father in a manner different from that of the Son, but Gregory confessed his inability to explain this difference. He drew an analogy for this from Adam, Eve and Seth (their eldest son): Eve comes from Adam by being fashioned from his rib; Seth comes from Adam and Eve as a product of both. However, he is careful to point out that the analogy is inexact because Father, Son and Holy Spirit all share in an absolutely simple and indivisible substance.

  Gregory argued that there has been an order of development in the revelation of the truth about the Trinity: “The Old Testament proclaimed the Father clearly, but the Son more darkly; the New Testament plainly revealed the Son, but only indicated the deity of the Spirit. Now the Holy Spirit lives among us and makes the manifestation of Himself more certain to us; for it was not safe, so long as the divinity of the Father was still unrecognized, to proclaim openly that of the Son; and so long as this was still not accepted, to impose the burden of the Spirit, if so bold a phrase may be allowed.” Gregory clearly referred to the Holy Spirit as God. He asked, “Is the Spirit God? Most certainly. Well, then, is He consubstantial? Yes, if He is God.” This uncompromising statement of the Nicene faith magnificently presented with great oratorical force, drew the people to Gregory’s humble chapel.

  But the Arians rioted against him, and once almost killed him at the altar. When Gregory, a timid man, wanted to flee, his people pleaded with him to stay and not to take the Trinity way from them. He had to face other enemies as well. His congregation was joined by a longhaired philosopher, Maximus the Cynic, who so impressed Gregory that he preached a homily praising the man’s virtues. Sometime later as the people opened the chapel for the morning’s Mass, they surprised a group of Egyptian bishops busily consecrating Maximus bishop of Constantinople. In confusion the bishops retired to finish their work elsewhere, incidentally discovering that Maximus’ long locks were as false as the man himself. It turned out that he had been insinuated into Gregory’s congregation by Peter of Alexandria, anxious to ensure a sound Nicene and loyal cohort in the see of the capital. Failing to get Emperor Theodosius’ approval of his consecration, Maximus fled to Peter at Alexandria. From Rome, Damasus condemned the attempted usurpation. Peter, mightily embarrassed by the whole affair, died soon after to be replaced at Alexandria by Timothy.

  In 380 shortly before Peter’s death, Theodosius condemned the Arians and enjoined upon the East the faith which “the Apostle Peter had taught in days of old to the Romans, and which was now followed by the pope Damasus and by Peter, bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic sanctity.” All who failed to adhere to this faith were branded heretics, denied the name Catholic, and had all their assemblies forbidden. The churches of Constantinople were taken from the Arians, and their bishop Demophilus was deposed. Theodosius was himself present at the installation of Gregory Nazianzus, hailed as bishop by the people as the sun triumphantly lit the darkened basilica.


 3.7. Unecumenical Council of Constantinople



  With the Nicene faith victorious, Theodosius proceeded to convoke a regional council of eastern bishops to ratify the new order. In May, 381, 150 eastern bishops assembled in the imperial palace at Constantinople, among them, Gregory of Nazianzus, Basil’s brothers Gregory of Nyssa and Peter of Sebaste, Meletius of Antioch, and Cyril of Jerusalem. At the emperor’s wish, Meletius of Antioch presided. Thirty-six Macedonian or Pneumatomachian bishops attended the early sessions. The Council formally approved Gregory of Nazianzus as bishop of Constantinople. Then tragedy struck; the president Meletius of Antioch died. The bishops adjourned to celebrate his funeral with the emperor himself attending and Gregory of Nyssa preaching. When the Council reassembled, Gregory of Nazianzus was elected president. In statesmanlike fashion he pleaded with the bishops to elect Paulinus of the Old Nicene party to the vacant see of Antioch, finally ending the schism there. But the bishops could not overcome their aversion to Paulinus and agreed to leave the see vacant. It is probable that during Gregory’s presidency the Council discussed the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and attempted to conciliate the Macedonian faction on the basis of a creed embodying the faith of Nicaea. In this the bishops failed, and Eleusius of Cyzicus led the thirty-six Macedonian bishops out of the Council.

At this point, Timothy, the new bishop of Alexandria arrived, shortly followed by Acholius of Thessalonika. Acholius, as papal vicar, had received instructions from Damasus of Rome to put a stop to the translation of bishops from see to see. In accordance with his instructions and seconded by Timothy, Acholius challenged Gregory’s legitimacy as bishop because in contravention of the fifteenth canon of Nicaea he had accepted the see of Constantinople though he had originally been ordained bishop of Sasima by Basil of Caesarea. Gregory’s supporters pointed out that this canon had long been in abeyance in the East and that Gregory had never formally taken possession of the see at Sasima. Disheartened by all this controversy, Gregory resigned his see and the presidency of the Council. In an emotional sermon, he bade farewell to his people: “Farewell, mighty Christ-loving city. ... Farewell, O Trinity, my meditation and my glory. May you be preserved by those who are here... for you are mine even if I have my place assigned elsewhere, and may I learn that You are ever extolled and glorified in word and deed.” In his place, Theodosius recommended to the bishops Nectarius, an elderly civil official from the imperial legal department. Though only a catechumen, he was hurried through baptism and ordained a bishop in his baptismal robes, two bishops being assigned to instruct him in his episcopal duties. The new bishop of Constantinople became the third president of the Council and probably saw to the drawing up of the Council’s canons and the now lost Tome, an explanation of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and condemnation of views opposed to it. By July 9, 381, the Council ended its work, and on July 30 Theodosius ruled the orthodox faith was found in agreement with the bishops of Constantinople, Alexandria, Iconium, Antioch in Pisidia, Caesarea, Melitene, Nyssa, Sythia, Tarsus and Marcianopolis. Antioch in Syria was not mentioned because the see was still vacant after the death of Meletius. These bishops were singled out because of their undoubted orthodoxy and not because of the importance of their sees; Nyssa, for example, was only a hamlet.

  Since the official acts of the Council are no longer extant, it is difficult to determine exactly what the fathers really did. The most important missing document is the so-called Tome, a detailed dissertation on orthodox Trinitarian doctrine and condemnation of heretical opinions, said by a council held at Constantinople in 382 to have been issued by the Council of 381. Apparently, this lost Tome was distinct from the Creed and Canons which have come down under the Council’s name. Many scholars think that even the socalled Constantinopolitan Creed is not the work of this Council. Their reasons for so thinking are: (1) there is no mention of a Constantinopolitan Creed from 381 to 451, not even by the Council of Constantinople of 382 nor by the Council of Ephesus of 431; (2) the ancient historians of the period seem to indicate only ratification of the Nicene Creed at the Council of 381; (3) Epiphanius of Salamis as early as 374 used a creed almost identical in form with the Constantinopolitan Creed. However, these authors vary on the question of how an older creed came to be connected with the Council of Constantinople. Some say it was a creed presented by Cyril of Jerusalem to clear himself of charges of Arianism and they attempt to reconstruct the creed from Cyril’s writings. Others, like the editors of the recent edition of conciliar documents, say it became associated with the Council of Constantinople because it was the creed used at the baptism and consecration of Nectarius.

[3.7.1. Creed]

[ 3.7.1. Creed ]

  J. N. D. Kelly, the most recent English authority on creedal statements, does not agree. His argument is long and intricate, but his main conclusion may be summarized as follows. He maintains that silence about the Creed of Constantinople is not so absolute as supposed but that there are hints of it in the writings of Gregory of Nazianzus, Pseudo-Athanasius and Theodore of Mopsuestia. Moreover, until the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the Council was not regarded as ecumenical and, therefore, not of the stature of Nicaea. Some may have downplayed its activities to lessen the prestige of the bishops of Constantinople. As for Epiphanius’ use of an identical creed as early as 374, Kelly argues that the creed as it now stands in his writings is a later scribal interpolation for the Nicene Creed which originally stood there. He sees no reason to think that, by the time of the Council, Cyril of Jerusalem had any reason to clear himself of long-buried charges of Arianism. Besides, the Creed of Cyril is a scholarly reconstruction and differs from the Creed of Constantinople.

  The present text of the Creed of Constantinople made its first appearance as an official formulary at the second session of the Council of Chalcedon in 451. It was produced from the episcopal archives of Constantinople and read out to the assembly by the archdeacon of Constantinople. It was regarded with initial suspicion by the fathers of Chalcedon, many of whom had never heard of it before. However, it was apparently proved to be authentic to their satisfaction, and they ratified it as such. It was again ratified by the Council of Constantinople 1II, the sixth ecumenical council in 680. So, concludes Kelly, the text as we now have it in the acts of the Council of Chalcedon is the original and authentic shape of the Creed:

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible; And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father, through Whom all things were made, Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and became incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man, And was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, And rose the third day according to the Scriptures, And ascended into heaven and sits on the right hand of the Father, And is coming again with glory to judge both living and dead, Whose kingdom shall have no end; And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son is jointly worshipped and jointly glorified, Who spoke through the prophets; In one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church; We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins, We look for the resurrection of the dead, And the life of the world to come, Amen.

  At the Council of Chalcedon this Creed was regarded as merely an expansion of the original Nicene Creed. During the Monophysite crisis and down through the Council of Constantinople II in 553, it continued to be so regarded. In the Middle Ages the Creed of Constantinople came to be known simply as the Nicene Creed. F. J. A. Hart and A. Harnack, however, have shown that the two creeds are in fact two entirely different documents. Following the Hart-Harnack thesis, Kelly points out that the Creed of Constantinople obviously omits some phrases of the Nicene Creed: “from the substance of the Father,” “God from God,” “things in heaven and things on earth” and the anathemas against Arius. There are ten additions to the Constantinopolitan Creed, most of them slight. Only two— “from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary” following “was incarnate,” and “sits at the right hand of the Father” after “ascended into heaven” — have doctrinal significance, as will be shown later. Moreover, there are some five changes in word order and sentence construction. Finally, of the some 178 words in the Creed of Constantinople only thirty-three are derived from the Nicene Creed. So, concludes Kelly, the Creed of Constantinople is not just the Nicene Creed with a few additions but a wholly different document.

  Yet he admits that the Council very probably did not draw up a completely new creed but used as a framework for its labors a previously existing baptismal creed drawn up in the 370’s in Jerusalem or Antioch which embodied the faith of Nicaea. In the minds of the fathers of Constantinople, they were not thereby replacing the old sacrosanct Nicene Creed but rather ratifying the Nicene faith in the shape of the Creed of Constantinople. Kelly conjectures that the Creed, which he labels C, was drawn up under the brief presidency of Gregory of Nazianzus to explain the faith of Nicaea in a conciliatory way to the Macedonian bishops at the instigation of Emperor Theodosius who wanted to heal the schism between them and the orthodox. Says Kelly:

It seems clear that the council’s primary object was to restore and promote the Nicene faith in terms which would take account of the further development of doctrine, especially with regard to the Holy Spirit, which had taken place since Nicaea. This it did in its first canon and also, more circumstantially and without any attempt at eirenical compromise (there was no need for that now), in the dogmatic tomos which, according to the synodal letter of 382, it published. Nevertheless, at a critical juncture in its proceedings it had adopted C and used it as a negotiating instrument. In consequence C could with some justification claim to be the creed of the 150 fathers, and all the more so as they had promulgated no other.

  In large part, then, the Council of Constantinople simply restated the basic tenets of the Nicene faith, but it added new provisions to deal with problems not yet envisioned at Nicaea. It has been suggested that the phrase, “from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary” was added to refute a position of Apollinaris. According to some, comments Kelly, “the Apollinarians were thought to teach that the body born of Mary was consubstantial with the divinity of the Word, that the Word was transformed into flesh, that the Savior had a body in appearance and not by nature, that His divinity itself underwent human experiences, that Jesus did not assume a passible body from the Blessed Virgin but formed one out of His own substance, that His body was co-eternal with His divine nature....” But this was not Apollinaris’ view at all but a misunderstanding of his view, for he affirmed the birth of Christ from the Virgin. That this phrase was added to rebut Apollinaris seems to be an opinion that gained currency only in the great Christological discussions leading to the Council of Chalcedon. The phrase, “bf His kingdom there shall be no end,” was directed against the old enemy of the Anti-Nicenes, Marcellus of Ancyra (d. 374) and his even more radical disciple Photinus who taught that the Word is a transitory projection of an energy of the Father for the purpose of redemption and would be absorbed again into the Father after the final judgment.

  The main force of the Creed falls upon the Macedonians or Pneumatomachians who are called in the Council’s first canon Semi-Arians. They attempted to find a middle ground for the Holy Spirit between the divine and the creature. Basil of Caesarea’s old ascetic mentor Eustathius of Sebaste perhaps best represents their views. “For my part,” he said, “I neither choose to name the Holy Spirit God, nor should I presume to call him a creature.” The clauses of the Creed dealing with the Holy Spirit are cautious and conciliatory. They do not contain references to homoousios as applied to the Holy Spirit, nor do they in so many words call the Holy Spirit God. At the instigation of Emperor Theodosius, the Council wanted to effect a reconciliation with the Macedonians, so softer, biblical phrases were employed. There were besides many orthodox bishops who, in deference to custom, did not yet refer to the Holy Spirit as God in public teaching before their congregations. Sensitive to these parties, the Council declared its faith in the Holy Spirit in phrases drawn from the Bible. In II Cor. 3:17 the Holy Spirit is clearly called “Lord”; in Rom. 8:2 the Spirit is associated with life; in II Cor. 3:6 and Jn 6:63, the Spirit is referred to as “Life-giver.” In Jn 15:26 the Fathers found a verb, to “come forth,” to express the Spirit’s origin from the Father. In 11 Pet. 1:21 the Spirit is associated with prophetic utterance. The phrase, “together worshipped and glorified” reflects the view of Basil of Caesarea who spoke of “that sound doctrine according to which the Son is confessed as homoousios with the Father, and the Holy Spirit is numbered together with them with identical honor.” For Basil conglorification and identification of honor were the equivalent of homoousios because their applicability to the Holy Spirit was based on the identity of being of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In softening their language to win over the Macedonians, the bishops were following the example of Athanasius who deliberately exercised restraint in his language about the Spirit and of Basil who, says Kelly, “in particular, practiced a diplomatic caution which was sometimes harshly judged in more uncompromising circles.” In the end, all the Council’s efforts at reconciliation were in vain, for thirty-six Macedonian bishops led by Eleusius of Cyzicus left the Council and continued in schism. But the Council had clearly attributed to the Holy Spirit (1) a divine title, “Lord,” (2) divine functions of giving life which He possesses by nature and of inspiring the prophets, (3) an origin from the Father not by creation but by procession, (4) supreme worship equal to that rendered to Father and to Son.

[3.7.2. Canons]

[ 3.7.2. Canons ]

  At the end of its deliberations the Council issued four canons; the fifth and sixth canons sometimes attributed to Constantinople I are in fact from the local Council of Constantinople of 382, and a so-called seventh canon is a still later document describing the practice to be used in receiving converts from heretical sects. The first canon provides that “the faith of the 318 fathers who assembled at Nicaea in Bithynia is not to be made void, but shall continue to be established.” The rest of the canon lists the heresies to be anathematized beginning with the Eunomians or Anomeans. Eunomius, later bishop of Cyzicus, and the logician Aetius were the intellectual leaders of those bishops who promulgated the “Blasphemy” of Sirmium of 357; they held that Son and Holy Spirit as creatures are unlike the divine Father. Next condemned were the Arians or Eudoxians. Eudoxius, bishop of Constantinople from 360 to 370, was one of the leaders of the Arian-leaning Homoeans who supported the equivocal formula of Rimini-Seleucia in 359 and Constantinople in 360, affirming weakly that the Son is like the Father. The Semiarians or Pneumatomachians rank next in the anathemas. They, of course, refused to apply the Nicene homoousios to the Holy Spirit, yet refused to call the Spirit a mere creature. Heresies of the other extreme, Sabellianism and Marcellians, follow. Sabellius so stressed the unity of God that he denied any distinct subsistence to Son and Holy Spirit, while Marcellus of Ancyra viewed the Word and Spirit as transient projections of the Father who are ultimately drawn back into His being. Condemned too are the Photinians, followers of Photinus, bishop of Sirmium, disciple of Marcellus, but teacher of a more radical Christology, reducing Jesus to a man adopted by the Father as Son. Finally, it is the turn of the Apollinarians, followers of Apollinaris of Laodicea, who affirmed that the Word fulfilled in the sentient flesh of Jesus the function of the rational soul.

  In the second canon the fathers renewed Nicaea’s instructions that bishops were to confine their activities to their own churches and not leave the boundaries of their own local jurisdictions to ordain or exercise ecclesiastical functions unless invited. Behind the prescriptions of the fathers about the jurisdiction of the bishops of Alexandria and Antioch lies what the orthodox churches of the East will later call the principle of accommodation, that the importance of an episcopal see depends on its prominence in civil matters. The ninth canon of the Council of Antioch of 341 had already specified this principle: “It behooves the bishops in every province to acknowledge the bishop who presides in the metropolis, and who has to take thought for the whole province; because all men of business come together from every quarter to the metropolis. Wherefore, it is decreed that he have precedence in rank....” Thus, according to the bishops at Constantinople, the bishop of Alexandria had precedence in rank in Egypt but he was to confine his attentions to Egypt alone. In the minds of the conciliar fathers there should be no more attempted intrusion of bishops into another’s eparchy like that perpetrated by Peter of Alexandria in the case of Maximus the Cynic. The bishop of Antioch was granted precedence in the civil diocese of the Orient.[From now on we shall call Orientals those bishops whose sees were located in the diocese of the Orient; Easterners will refer to bishops in the Eastern half of the Empire.]* Bishops of Asia, Pontus and Thrace were warned to confine their activities to their respective regions. Though the Council did not allude to the fact, these regions were looking increasingly to metropolitans of their own: Asia (eastern Asia Minor) to the bishop of Ephesus, Pontus (central Asia Minor) to Caesarea in Cappadocia, Thrace (roughly modern Bulgaria) to Heraclea. The Council also specified that the churches of the barbarians were to be administered according to custom. In practice this meant that the Scythians north of the Black Sea depended on Heraclea, the Persians on Antioch, the Abyssinians on Alexandria.

  Continuing the principle of accommodation, the fathers proclaimed: “The Bishop of Constantinople shall have primacy of honor after the Bishop of Rome because Constantinople is the new Rome.” Nothing was said of Constantinople at the Council of Nicaea because the Emperor Constantine had not yet begun to turn the old Greek town of Byzantium into the great new eastern capital of the Empire. Now this metropolis, only fifty years old, was placed ahead of Alexandria and Antioch, just behind Old Rome. Future bishops of Alexandria would labor to keep the upstart capital in its place to the great detriment of the eastern Church. Though the canon was not directed against Rome, no notice was taken of the claim of its bishop to a primacy among bishops based on his succession from Peter, head of the Apostles. This short canon will be the cause of turmoil in the Church for centuries to come.

  In the fourth and final canon, perhaps drawn up under the presidency of Meletius when the see of Constantinople was under discussion, the Council quashed the ordination of Maximus the Cynic as bishop of Constantinople and invalidated all his ordinations and official acts. He was a remarkable man who “by sheer impudence, clever flattery, and adroit management of opportunities, contrived to gain the confidence successively of no less men than Peter of Alexandria, Gregory of Nazianzus and Ambrose [of Milan], and to intrude himself in one of the first sees of the Church, from which he was with difficulty dislodged by the decree of an ecumenical council.”

  The work of the Council of Constantinople was completed. Theologically, it had carried on the logic of the Council of Nicaea and cautiously applied that Council’s reasoning about the Son’s relation to the Father to the Holy Spirit, though confining its statement to biblical terminology. Administratively, the Council continued the eastern practice of accommodating the ecclesiastical organization to the civil organization of the Empire, sowing the seeds of discord among the four great sees of East and West by raising the ecclesiastical status of Constantinople to correspond to its civil position as New Rome. A11 in all, it proved to be a remarkable Council. It was never intended to be an ecumenical Council: the Bishop of Rome was not invited; only 150 Eastern bishops were present; only one by accident from the West. Only at the Council of Chalcedon of 451 did it begin to rank in the East with the Council of Nicaea as more than a local council. Because of the schism at Antioch, its first president, Meletius, was not in communion with Rome and Alexandria. Its second president, Gregory of Nazianzus, was not in western eyes the legitimate bishop of Constantinople. Strong doubts were later expressed about the authenticity of its creed. Its canons were rejected in the West for nine hundred years.


 3.8. Aftermath



   After the closure of the Council of Constantinople, Ambrose of Milan in September, 381, presided over a council of thirty-five western bishops at Aquileia. Here Arianism was again condemned and two more Arian bishops deposed. The council complained of the uncanonical ordination of Nectarius as bishop of Constantinople and registered its support for Maximus the Cynic as the legitimate bishop. The council also continued its communion with Paulinus at Antioch and appealed for resolution of the schism there. Only in 382 did Ambrose realize the character of Maximus and withdraw his support of that clever schemer. Despite protests from the West, Flavian was elected bishop at Antioch in 382 and entered into communion with the bishops of the East. But by 388, with the death of the embattled Paulinus, Flavian was recognized by the West, and the lamentable schism at Antioch finally ended.

  In 382 Damasus called a council at Rome from which issued a document, later called erroneously the Decretum Gelasianum. The Council declared “. .. the holy Roman church has been set before the rest by no conciliar decrees, but has obtained the primacy by the voice of our Lord and Savior in the gospel: `Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build My Church.’ There is added also the society of the most blessed apostle Paul, `a chosen vessel,’ who was crowned on one and the same day, suffering a glorious death, with Peter in the city of Rome, under Caesar Nero; and they alike consecrated the above-named Roman church to Christ the Lord, and set it above all others in the whole world by their presence and venerable triumph.” Damasus’ response to the eastern principle of accommodation was clear; the Bishop of Rome owed his primacy to succession from Peter and Paul. The hierarchy of sees was based on Peter: Rome is the first see of Peter; Alexandria is the second see because consecrated by Peter’s disciple Mark; Antioch is the third see because there Peter lived before going to Rome. Already in 376 the western Emperor Gratian had recognized in civil law the right of the bishop of Rome to hear appeals in the first instance from metropolitans in Gaul and Italy and appeals from defendants who had not received justice from their metropoltans. In 380 Emperor Theodosius had singled out Damasus of Rome and Peter of Alexandria as guardians of orthodoxy. Damasus customarily referred to his see as apostolic, adopted the imperial “we” and began to address his fellow bishops not as brothers but as sons. Clearly East and West differed on the basic principles of ecclesiastical organization.

  In the West Pope Felix II1, who died in 492, recognized only three ecumenical councils — Nicaea, Ephesus and Chalcedon. Pope Hormisdas (d. 523) finally recognized Constantinople as on a par with the other three, while Pope Gregory I(d. 604) compared the first four general councils with the Four Gospels. Gregory, though not accepting the canons of Constantinople, addressed the notification of his election first to the bishop of Constantinople. It was only at the Second Council of Lyons in 1274 that the canons of Constantinople were accepted in the West.


 3.9. Chronology




335 Condemnation of Athanasius at Tyre. Return of Arius from exile.

336 First exile of Athanasius. Death of Arius.

337 Death of Constantine the Great.
Constantine II, Constantius II, Constans co-emperors.

Julius of Rome (337-352).

340 Constans rules West; Constantius, East.

341 Council of Dedication at Antioch; Antioch Creed 2 (Eusebian).

343 Councils of Sardica (Nicene) and Philippopolis (Eusebian).

345 Synod of Milan condemned Photinus. Long-lined Creed presented to West (Eusebian).

350 Death of Constans; Constantius sole emperor.

351 First Council of Sirmium (Eusebian).

352 Liberius succeeded Julius at Rome (352-66).

353 Council of Arles (Eusebian).

355 Council of Milan (Eusebian).
Exile of Ossius and Liberius of Rome.

356 Exile to East of Hilary of Poitiers.

357 Second Council of Sirmium: “The Blasphemy.” (Anomean).

358 Council of Ancyra (Homoeousian).
Return of Liberius to Rome.

359 Dated Creed or Fourth Creed of Sirmium (Homoean).
Council of Rimini-Seleucia (Homoean).

360 Council of Constantinople (Homoean).

361 Julian succeeded Constantius as sole emperor.

362 Conference of Alexandria led by Athanasius.

363 Jovian succeeded Julian as sole emperor.

364 Death of Jovian; Valentinian I emperor in West; Valens in East.

366 Final return of Athanasius from exile. Damasus replaced Liberius at Rome (366-384).

370 Basil became bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia.

373 Ambrose elected bishop of Milan.

375 Death of Valentinian I; accession of Gratian in West.

377 Council of Rome condemned Apollinaris.

378 Battle of Adrianople: death of Valens.

379 Accession of Theodosius the Great in the East. Death of Basil of Caesarea.

380 Theodosius outlawed Arians.


382 Council of Rome refused to accept third Canon.

384 Death of Damasus of Rome.


 10. Select Bibliography



   The history of the period is worked out in great detail by L. Duchesne, Early History of the Christian Church, vol. 2 (London, 1912); more generally in H. Leitzmann, A History of the Early Church, vols. 3 and 4 (London, 1961). A mine of documentary material with useful notes is J. Stevenson, Creeds, Councils and Controversies (London, 1966). The various creedal statements are translated and carefully analyzed in J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds (London, 1973). The best book in English on the history and variations of Arianism, though now somewhat dated, is H. M. Gwatkin, Studies of Arianism (Cambridge, 1900). The most recent study is R.C. Gregg, ed., Arianism: Historical and Theological Reassessments (Philadelphia, 1985). One of the few monographs in English on Athanasius is F. L. Cross, The Study of Athanasius (Oxford, 1945). The history of Trinitarian doctrine in Athanasius and the Cappadocians is briefly but well treated in J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (New York, 1959); useful too are H. von Campenhausen, Fathers of the Greek Church (New York, 1959) and B. Otis, “Cappadocian Thought as a Coherent System,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 12(1958), 95-124. A good treatment of Apollinaris is C. E. Raven, Apollinarianism: An Essay on the Christology of the Early Church (Cambridge, 1923). A book full of deep insights into the theologies of Athanasius and Apollinaris is G. L. Prestige, Fathers and Heretics (London, 1940). For the story of two other Nicenes, see R. V. Sellars, Eustathius of Antioch (Cambridge, 1928) and J. T. Lienhard, “Marcellus of Ancyra in Modern Research,” Theological Studies, 43 (1982), 486-503. Useful short sketches of the fathers with bibliographies of publications before 1958 are in J. Quasten, Patrology, vol. 3 (Utrecht/ Antwerp, 1966). For an explanation of the principle of accommodation, see F. Dvornik, Byzantium and the Roman Primacy (New York, 1966).

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