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The Arian controversy was a series of Christian theological disputes that arose between Arius and Athanasius of Alexandria, two Christian theologians from Alexandria, Egypt. The most important of these controversies concerned the substantial relationship between God the Father and God the Son.
The deep divisions created by the disputes were an ironic consequence of Emperor Constantine's efforts to unite Christianity and establish a single, imperially approved version of the faith during his reign.These disagreements divided the Church into two opposing theological factions for over 55 years, from the time before the First Council of Nicaea in 325 until after the First Council of Constantinople in 381. There was no formal resolution or formal schism, though the Trinitarian faction ultimately gained the upper hand in the imperial Church; outside the Roman Empire this faction was not immediately so influential. Arianism continued to be preached inside and outside the Empire for some time (without the blessing of the Empire), but it was eventually killed off. The modern Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, as well as most other modern Christian sects, have generally followed the Trinitarian formulation, though each has its own specific theology on the matter.
The early history of the controversy must be pieced together from about 35 documents found in various sources. The Trinitarian historian Socrates of Constantinople reports that Arius first became controversial under the bishop Alexander of Alexandria, when Arius formulated the following syllogism: "If the Father begat the Son, he that was begotten had a beginning of existence: and from this it is evident, that there was a time when the Son was not. It therefore necessarily follows, that he had his substance from nothing".
Bishop Alexander of Alexandria was criticised for his slow reaction against Arius. Like his predecessor, Dionysius, he has been charged with vacillation. According to Eusebius's work, The Life of Constantine, the controversy had spread from Alexandria into almost all the African regions, and was considered a disturbance of the public order by the Roman Empire. Constantine the Great (Constantine I) sent two letters to Arius and Bishop Alexander, asking the religious leaders to stop the controversy.
Because the controversy continued to spread, in 325 Emperor Constantine held the first Council of Nicaea with an agenda to prosecute Arius.
Arianism would not be contained within the Alexandrian diocese. By the time Bishop Alexander finally acted against his recalcitrant presbyter, Arius's doctrine had spread far beyond his own see; it had become a topic of discussion—and disturbance—for the entire Church. The Church was now a powerful force in the Roman world, with Constantine I having legalized it in 313 through the Edict of Milan. The emperor had taken a personal interest in several ecumenical issues, including the Donatist controversy in 316, and he wanted to bring an end to the Arian dispute. To this end, the emperor sent bishop Hosius of Corduba to investigate and, if possible, resolve the controversy. Hosius was armed with an open letter from the Emperor: "Wherefore let each one of you, showing consideration for the other, listen to the impartial exhortation of your fellow-servant." As the debate continued to rage despite Hosius' efforts, Constantine in AD 325 took an unprecedented step: he called an ecumenical council composed of church prelates from all parts of the empire to resolve this issue, possibly at Hosius' recommendation.
All secular dioceses of the empire sent one or more representatives to the council, save for Roman Britain;[ citation needed ] the majority of the bishops came from the East. Pope Sylvester I, himself too aged to attend, sent two priests as his delegates. Arius himself attended the council, but his bishop, Alexander, did not, but sent instead his young deacon Athanasius. Athanasius would become the champion of the Trinitarian viewpoint ultimately adopted by the council and spend most of his life battling Arianism. Also there were Eusebius of Caesarea and Eusebius of Nicomedia. Before the main conclave convened, Hosius initially met with Alexander and his supporters at Nicomedia. The council would be presided over by the emperor himself, who participated in and even led some of its discussions.
Those who upheld the notion that Christ was co-eternal and con-substantial with the Father were led by the young archdeacon Athanasius. Those who instead insisted that God the Son came after God the Father in time and substance, were led by Arius the presbyter. For about two months, the two sides argued and debated,with each appealing to Scripture to justify their respective positions. Arius maintained that the Son of God was a Creature, made from nothing; and that he was God's First Production, before all ages. And he argued that everything else was created through the Son. Thus, said Arius, only the Son was directly created and begotten of God; furthermore, there was a time that He had no existence. He was capable of His own free will, said Arius, and thus "were He in the truest sense a son, He must have come after the Father, therefore the time obviously was when He was not, and hence He was a finite being."
According to some accounts in the hagiography of Saint Nicholas, debate at the council became so heated that at one point, he slapped Arius in the face. [ citation needed ]The majority of the bishops at the council ultimately agreed upon a creed, known thereafter as the Nicene Creed formulated at the first council of Nicaea. It included the word homoousios, meaning "consubstantial", or "one in essence", which was incompatible with Arius' beliefs. On June 19, 325, council and emperor issued a circular to the churches in and around Alexandria: Arius and two of his unyielding partisans (Theonas and Secundus) were deposed and exiled to Illyricum, while three other supporters—Theognis of Nicaea, Eusebius of Nicomedia and Maris of Chalcedon—affixed their signatures solely out of deference to the emperor. However, Constantine soon found reason to suspect the sincerity of these three, for he later included them in the sentence pronounced on Arius.
In 358, the emperor Constantius II requested two councils, one of the western bishops at Ariminum (now Rimini in Northern Italy) and one of the eastern bishops at Nicomedia.
In 359, the western council met at Ariminum. Ursacius of Singidunum and Valens of Mursa declared that the Son was like the father "according to the scriptures," following a new (Homoian) creed drafted at Sirmium (359). Many of the most outspoken supporters of the Creed of Nicaea walked out. The council, including some supporters of the older creed, adopted the newer creed.After the council, Pope Liberius condemned the creed of Ariminum, while his rival, Pope Felix II, supported it.
An earthquake struck Nicomedia, killing the bishop Cecropius of Nicomedia, and in 359 the eastern council met at Seleucia Isauria instead. The council was bitterly divided and procedurally irregular, and the two parties met separately and reached opposing decisions. Basil of Ancyra and his party declared that the Son was of similar substance to the Father, following a (Homoiousian) Creed of Antioch from 341, and deposed the opposing party. Acacius of Caesarea declared that the Son was like the Father, introducing a new (Homoian) creed.The Son was begotten – generated from God's own substance.
Constantius requested a third council, at Constantinople (359), of both the eastern and western bishops, to resolve the split at Seleucia. Acacius now declared that the Son was like the Father "according to the scriptures." Basil of Ancyra, Eustathius of Sebaste, and their party again declared that the Son was of similar substance to the Father, as in the majority decision at Seleucia. Maris of Chalcedon, Eudoxius of Antioch, and the deacons Aëtius of Antioch and Eunomius of Cyzicus declared that the Son was of a dissimilar substance from the Father.The Heteroousians defeated the Homoiousians in an initial debate, but Constantius banished Aëtius, after which the council, including Maris and Eudoxius, agreed to the homoian creed of Ariminum with minor modifications.
After the Council of Constantinople, the homoian bishop Acacius deposed and banished several homoiousian bishops, including Macedonius I of Constantinople, Basil, Eustathius, Eleusius of Cyzicus, Dracontius of Pergamum, Neonas of Seleucia, Sophronius of Pompeiopolis, Elpidius of Satala and Cyril of Jerusalem.At the same time, Acacius also deposed and banished the Anomoean deacon Aëtius.
In 360, Acacius appointed Eudoxius of Antioch to replace Macedonius and Athanasius of Ancyra to replace Basil, as well as Onesimus of Nicomedia to replace Cecropius, who had died in the earthquake at Nicomedia.
In 361, Constantius died and Julian became sole Roman emperor. Julian demanded the restoration of several pagan temples which Christians had seized or destroyed.According to Philostorgius, pagans killed George of Laodicea, bishop of Alexandria, allowing Athanasius to reclaim the 'see', or ecclesiastical jurisdiction.
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The Homoousians taught that the Son is of the same substance as the Father, i.e. both uncreated. The Sabellian form had been condemned as heresy in the 3rd century by Pope Calixtus. The Athanasian form would be declared orthodox at the Council of Constantinople in 383, and has become the basis of most of modern trinitarianism.
According to the historian Socrates of Constantinople, Marcellus of Ancyra and Photinus taught "that Christ was a mere man."Their opponents associated the teachings of Marcellus of Ancyra and Photinus of Sirmium with those of Sabellius and Paul of Samosata, which had been widely rejected before the controversy.
The Homoiousian school taught that the Son is of a similar substance to the Father but not the same.
The Homoians taught that the Son is similar to the Father, either "in all things" or "according to the scriptures," without speaking of substance.Several members of the other schools, such as Hosius of Cordoba and Aëtius, also accepted certain Homoian formulae.
The Heteroousians taught that the Son is of a different substance from the Father, i.e. created. Arius had taught this early in the controversy, and Aëtius would teach the later Anomoean form.
Many critics of the "Nicene" Creed cannot be clearly associated with one school, often due to lack of sources, or due to contradictions between sources.
Arianism is a nontrinitarian Christological doctrine which asserts the belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who was begotten by God the Father at a point in time, a creature distinct from the Father and is therefore subordinate to him, but the Son is also God. Arian teachings were first attributed to Arius, a Christian presbyter in Alexandria of Egypt. The term "Arian" is derived from the name Arius; and like "Christian", it was not a self-chosen designation but bestowed by hostile opponents—and never accepted by those on whom it had been imposed. The nature of Arius's teaching and his supporters were opposed to the theological views held by Homoousian Christians, regarding the nature of the Trinity and the nature of Christ. The Arian concept of Christ is based on the belief that the Son of God did not always exist but was begotten within time by God the Father.
Eusebius of Nicomedia was an Arian priest, the man who baptised Constantine the Great. He was a bishop of Berytus in Phoenicia. He was later made the bishop of Nicomedia, where the Imperial court resided. He lived finally in Constantinople from 338 up to his death.
The First Council of Nicaea was a council of Christian bishops convened in the Bithynian city of Nicaea by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 325.
Eunomius, one of the leaders of the extreme or "anomoean" Arians, who are sometimes accordingly called Eunomians, was born at Dacora in Cappadocia or at Corniaspa in Pontus. early in the 4th century.
Eustathius of Antioch, sometimes surnamed the Great, was a Christian bishop and archbishop of Antioch in the 4th century. His feast day in the Orthodox Church is February 21.
Hosius of Corduba, also known as Osius or Ossius, was a bishop of Corduba and an important and prominent advocate for Homoousion Christianity in the Arian controversy that divided the early Christianity.
In 4th century Christianity, the Anomoeans, and known also as Heterousians, Aetians, or Eunomians, were a sect that upheld an extreme form of Arianism, that Jesus Christ was not of the same nature (consubstantial) as God the Father nor was of like nature (homoiousian), as maintained by the semi-Arians.
Semi-Arianism was a position regarding the relationship between God the Father and the Son of God, adopted by some 4th century Christians. Though the doctrine modified the teachings of Arianism, it still rejected the doctrine that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are co-eternal, and of the same substance, or consubstantial, and was therefore considered to be heretical by many contemporary Christians. Semi-Arianism is a name frequently given to the Trinitarian position of the conservative majority of the Eastern Orthodox Church in the 4th century, to distinguish it from strict Arianism.
The Council of Ariminum, also known after the city's modern name as the Council of Rimini, was an early Christian church synod.
Aëtius of Antioch, surnamed "the Atheist" by his trinitarian enemies, founder of Anomoeanism, was a native of Coele-Syria.
Philostorgius was an Anomoean Church historian of the 4th and 5th centuries. Anomoeanism questioned the Trinitarian account of the relationship between God the Father and Christ and was considered heretical by the Church, which adopted the term "homoousion", or "consubstantial", to describe the relation between Father and Son in the Nicene Creed.
The Council of Seleucia was an early Christian church synod at Seleucia Isauria.
Homoiousios is a Christian theological term, coined in the 4th-century by a distinctive group of Christian theologians who held the belief that God the Son was of a similar, but not identical, essence with God the Father. Homoiousianism arose as an attempt to reconcile two opposite teachings, homoousianism and homoianism. Following Trinitarian doctrines of the First Council of Nicaea (325), homoousians believed that God the Son was of the same essence with God the Father. On the other hand, homoians refused to use the term οὐσία, believing that God the Father is "incomparable" and therefore the Son of God can not be described in any sense as "equal" or "same" but only as "like" or "similar" to the Father, in some subordinate sense of the term. In order to find a theological solution that would reconcile those opposite teachings, homoiousians tried to compromise between the essence-language of homoousians and the notion of similarity, held by homoians. Their attempt failed, and by the First Council of Constantinople (381) homoiousianism was already marginalized.
The Pneumatomachi, also known as Macedonians or Semi-Arians in Constantinople and the Tropici in Alexandria, were an anti-Nicene Creed sect which flourished in the countries adjacent to the Hellespont during the latter half of the fourth, and the beginning of the fifth centuries. They denied the Godhood of the Holy Ghost, hence the Greek name Pneumatomachi or 'Combators against the Spirit'.
In 359, the Roman Emperor Constantius II requested a church council, at Constantinople, of both the eastern and western bishops, to resolve the split at the Council of Seleucia. According to Socrates Scholasticus, only about 50 of the Eastern bishops, and an unspecified number of the western ones, actually attended.
Cecropius of Nicomedia was a bishop of Nicomedia and a key player in the Arian controversy.
Valens of Mursa was bishop of Mursa and a supporter of Homoian theology, which is often labelled as a form of Arianism, although semi-Arianism is probably more accurate.
Heortasius was a 4th-century bishop of Sardis and attendee at the Councils of Seleucia and Constantinople. He was a proto-Catholic who was sent into exile by the Semi-Arian faction following their victory at the afore-mentioned Councils.
Arian Creeds are the creeds of Arian Christians, developed mostly in the fourth century when Arianism was one of the main varieties of Christianity. A creed is a brief summary of the beliefs of a group of religious practitioners, expressed in a more or less standardized format. Arian creeds are a subset of Christian Creeds.
Florentius of Constantinople was the rival Anomoean archbishop of Constantinople, holding the office at the same time as and in opposition to Eudoxius of Antioch.