The Beginnings Of The Eusebian R
Shortly after the Council of Nicaea, Constantine seems to have become aware
of the fact that the decision at that council was not acceptable in the
East as a whole, representing, as it did, what was generally felt to be an
extreme position. In coming to this opinion he was much influenced by
Eusebius of Nicomedia who, by powerful court interest, was soon recalled
from exile and even became the leading ecclesiastical adviser of
Constantine. The policy of this bishop was to prepare the way for the
revocation of the decree of Nicaea by a preliminary rehabilitation of Arius
(a), and by attacking the leaders of the opposite party (b).
Constantine, however, never consented to the abrogation of the creed of
Additional source material: Socrates, Hist. Ec., I, 8 (letter of
Eusebius to his diocese), 14, 28 ff. Eusebius, Vita Constantini,
III, 23; Athanasius, Historia Arianorum, §§ 4-7.
(a) Arius, Confession of Faith, in Socrates, Hist. Ec., I, 26. (MSG,
As a part of the process whereby Arius should be rehabilitated by
being received back into the Church he was invited by Constantine
to appear at the court. He was there presented to the Emperor and
produced a confession of faith purposely vague and general in
statement, but intended to give the impression that he held the
essentials of the received orthodoxy. The text is that given by
Hahn, § 187.
Arius and Euzoius to our most religious and pious Lord, the Emperor
In accordance with the command of your devout piety, sovereign lord, we
declare our faith, and before God we profess in writing that we and our
adherents believe as follows:
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty; and in the Lord Jesus Christ
His Son, who was made by Him before all ages, God the Word, through whom
all things were made, both those which are in heaven and those upon earth;
who descended, and became incarnate, and suffered, and rose again,
ascended into the heavens, and will again come to judge the living and the
dead. Also in the Holy Spirit, and in the resurrection of the flesh, and
in the life of the coming age, and in the kingdom of the heavens, and in
one Catholic Church of God, extending from one end of the earth to the
This faith we have received from the holy gospels, the Lord therein saying
to His disciples: "Go teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." If we do not so believe
and truly receive the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as the whole Catholic
Church and the Holy Scriptures teach (in which we believe in every
respect) God is our judge both now and in the coming judgment. Wherefore
we beseech your piety, most devout Emperor, that we who are persons
consecrated to the ministry, and holding the faith and sentiments of the
Church and of the Holy Scriptures, may by your pacific and devoted piety
be reunited to our mother, the Church, all superfluous questions and
disputings being avoided; that so both we and the whole Church may be at
peace and in common offer our accustomed prayers for your tranquil reign
and on behalf of your whole family.
(b) Socrates, Hist. Ec., I, 23. (MSG, 67:140.)
The attack of the Arians upon Athanasius and his party.
The partisans of Eusebius and Theognis having returned from their exile,
they received again their churches, having expelled, as we observed, those
who had been ordained in their stead. Moreover they came into great
consideration with the Emperor, who honored them exceedingly, as those who
had returned from error to the orthodox faith. They, however, abused the
license granted them by exciting commotions in the world greater than
before; being instigated to this by two causes--on the one hand, the Arian
heresy with which they had been previously infected, and on the other
hand, by animosity against Athanasius because in the synod he had so
vigorously withstood them in the discussion of the articles of the faith.
And in the first place they objected to the ordination of Athanasius, not
only as of one unworthy of the episcopate, but also as of one not elected
by qualified persons. But when he had shown himself superior to this
calumny (for having assumed direction of the Church of the Alexandrians,
he ardently contended for the Nicene creed), then the adherents of
Eusebius exerted themselves to cause the removal of Athanasius and to
bring Arius back to Alexandria; for thus only did they think they should
be able to cast out the doctrine of consubstantiality and introduce
Arianism. Eusebius therefore wrote to Athanasius to receive Arius and his
adherents; and when he wrote he not only entreated him, but he openly
threatened him. When Athanasius would by no means accede to this he
endeavored to persuade the Emperor to receive Arius in audience and then
permit him to return to Alexandria; and how he accomplished these things I
shall tell in its proper place.
Meanwhile, before this, another commotion was raised in the Church. In
fact those of the household of the Church again disturbed her peace.
Eusebius Pamphilius says that immediately after the synod Egypt became
agitated by intestine divisions; but he does not give the reason for this.
From this he has gained the reputation of being disingenuous and of
avoiding the specification of the causes of these dissensions from a
determination on his part not to give his sanction to the proceedings at
Nicaea. 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. So that while they occupied themselves about it,
investigating it very minutely, they roused the strife against each other.
It seemed not unlike a contest in the dark; for neither party appeared to
understand distinctly the grounds on which they calumniated one another.
Those who objected to the word homoousios conceived that those who
approved it favored the opinion of Sabellius and Montanus; they therefore
called them blasphemers, as subverting the existence of the Son of God.
And again those who defended the term, charging their opponents with
polytheism, inveighed against them as introducers of heathen
superstitions. Eustathius, bishop of Antioch, accuses Eusebius Pamphilius
of perverting the Nicene creed; Eusebius again denies that he violates
that exposition of the faith, and accuses Eustathius of introducing the
opinion of Sabellius. Therefore each of them wrote as if contending
against adversaries; but both sides admitted that the Son of God has a
distinct person and existence, confessing that there is one God in three
persons (hypostases) yet they were unable to agree, for what cause I do
not know, and could in no way be at peace.
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