Theology Of The Second Half Of T
By the second half of the third century theology had become a speculative
and highly technical science (a), and under the influence of Origen, the
Logos theology, as opposed to various forms of Monarchianism (b), had
become universal. Under this influence, Paul of Samosata, reviving
Dynamistic Monarchianism, modified it by combining with it elements of the
Logos theology (c-e). At the same time there was in various parts of the
Church a continuation of the Asia Minor theological tradition, such as had
found expression in Irenaeus. A representative of this theology was
Methodius of Olympus (f).
Additional source material: Athanasius, De Sent. Dionysii (PNF,
ser. II, vol. IV).
(a) Gregory Thaumaturgus, Confession of Faith. (MSG, 46:912)
Gregory Thaumaturgus, or the Wonder-worker, was born about 213 in
Neo-Caesarea in Pontus. He studied under Origen at Caesarea in
Palestine from 233 to 235, and became one of the leading
representatives of the Origenistic theology, representing the
orthodox development of that school, as distinguished from Paul of
Samosata and Lucian.
The following Confession of Faith is found only in the Life of
Gregory Thaumaturgus, by Gregory of Nyssa. (MSG, 46: 909 f.)
Its genuineness is now generally admitted; see Hahn, op. cit., §
185. According to a legend, it was communicated to Gregory in a
vision by St. John on the request of the Blessed Virgin. It
represents the speculative tendency of Origenism and current
theology after the rise of the Alexandrian school. It should be
noted that it differs markedly from other confessions of faith in
not employing biblical language.
There is one God, the Father of the living Word, His substantive Wisdom,
Power, and Eternal Image, the perfect Begetter of the perfect One, the
Father of the Only begotten Son.
There is one Lord, only One from only One, God from God, the image and
likeness of the Godhead, the active Word, The Wisdom which comprehends the
constitution of all things, and the Power which produced all creation; the
true Son of the true Father, Invisible of Invisible, and Incorruptible of
Incorruptible, and Immortal of Immortal, and Everlasting of Everlasting.
And there is one Holy Spirit having His existence from God, and manifested
by the Son [namely, to men],(74) the perfect likeness of the perfect Son,
Life and Cause of the living [the sacred Fount], Sanctity, Leader of
sanctification, in whom is revealed God the Father, who is over all and in
all, and God the Son, who is through all; a perfect Trinity(75) not
divided nor differing in glory and eternity and sovereignty.
There is, therefore, nothing created or subservient in the Trinity, nor
introduced as if not there before, but coming afterward; for there never
was a time when the Son was lacking to the Father, nor the Spirit to the
Son, but the same Trinity is ever unvarying and unchangeable.
(b) Athanasius, De Sent. Dionysii, 4, 5, 6, 13-15. (MSG, 25:484 f.,
What has been called the "Controversy of the two Dionysii" was in
reality no controversy. Dionysius of Alexandria [v. supra, § 48]
wrote a letter to the Sabellians near Cyrene, pointing out the
distinction of the Father and the Son. In it he used language
which was, to say the least, indiscreet. Complaint was made to
Dionysius, bishop of Rome, that the bishop of Alexandria did not
hold the right view of the relation of the Son to the Father and
of the divinity of the Son. Thereupon, Dionysius of Rome wrote to
Dionysius of Alexandria. In reply, Dionysius of Alexandria pointed
out at length, in a Refutation and Defence, his actual opinion
on the matter as a whole, rather than as merely opposed to
Modalistic Monarchianism or Sabellianism. The course of the
discussion is sufficiently clear from the extracts. Athanasius is
writing in answer to the Arians, who had appealed to the letter of
Dionysius in support of their opinion that the Son was a creature,
and that there was when He was not [v. infra, § 63]. His work,
from which the following extracts are taken, was written between
350 and 354.
Ch. 4. They (the Arians) say, then, that in a letter the blessed Dionysius
has said: "The Son of God is a creature and made, and not His own by
nature, but in essence alien from the Father, just as the husbandman is
from the vine, or the shipbuilder is from the boat; for that, being a
creature, He was not before He came to be." Yes. He wrote it, and we, too,
admit that such was his letter. But as he wrote this, so also he wrote
very many other epistles, which ought to be read by them, so that from all
and not from one merely the faith of the man might be discovered.
Ch. 5. At that time [i.e., when Dionysius wrote against the Sabellians]
certain of the bishops of Pentapolis in Upper Libya were of the opinion of
Sabellius. And they were so successful with their opinion that the Son of
God was scarcely preached any longer in the churches. Dionysius heard of
this, as he had charge of those churches (cf. Canon 6, Nicaea, 325; see
below, § 72), and sent men to counsel the guilty ones to cease from their
false doctrine. As they did not cease but waxed more shameless in their
impiety, he was compelled to meet their shameless conduct by writing the
said letter and to define from the Gospels the human nature of the
Saviour, in order that, since those men waxed bolder in denying the Son
and in ascribing His human actions to the Father, he accordingly, by
demonstrating that it was not the Father but the Son that was made man for
us, might persuade the ignorant persons that the Father is not the Son,
and so by degrees lead them to the true godhead of the Son and the
knowledge of the Father.
Ch. 6. If in his writings he is inconsistent, let them [i.e., the
Arians] not draw him to their side, for on this assumption he is not
worthy of credit. But if, when he had written his letter to Ammonius, and
fallen under suspicion, he made his defence, bettering what he had said
previously, defending himself, but not changing, it must be evident that
he wrote what fell under suspicion by way of "accommodation."
Ch. 13. The following is the occasion of his writing the other letters.
When Bishop Dionysius had heard of the affairs in Pentapolis and had
written in zeal for religion, as I have said, his letter to Euphranor and
Ammonius against the heresy of Sabellius, some of the brethren belonging
to the Church, who held a right opinion, but did not ask him so as to
learn from himself what he had written, went up to Rome and spake against
him in the presence of his namesake, Dionysius, bishop of Rome. And the
latter, upon hearing it, wrote simultaneously against the adherents of
Sabellius and against those who held the same opinions for uttering which
Arius was cast out of the Church; and he called it an equal and opposite
impiety to hold with Sabellius or with those who say that the Word of God
is a creature, framed and originated. And he wrote also to Dionysius
[i.e., of Alexandria] to inform him of what they had said about him. And
the latter straightway wrote back and inscribed a book entitled A
Refutation and a Defence.
Ch. 14. In answer to these charges he writes, after certain prefatory
matter in the first book of the work entitled A Refutation and a
Defence, in the following terms:
Ch. 15. "For never was there a time when God was not a Father." And this
he acknowledges in what follows, "that Christ is forever, being Word and
Wisdom and Power. For it is not to be supposed that God, having at first
no issue, afterward begat a Son. But the Son has his being not of Himself,
but of the Father."
(c) Eusebius, Hist. Ec., VII, 27, 29, 30. (MSG, 25:705.)
The deposition of Paul of Samosata.
The controversy concerning Paul's doctrinal views is sufficiently
set forth in the extract from Eusebius given below. Paul was
bishop of Antioch from about 260 to 268. His works have perished,
with the exception of a few fragments. The importance of Paul is
that in his teaching is to be found an attempt to combine the
Logos theology of Origen with Dynamistic Monarchianism, with
results that appeared later in Arianism, on the one hand, and
Nestorianism, it is thought, on the other.
Ch. 27. After Sixtus had presided over the church of Rome eleven years,
Dionysius, namesake of him of Alexandria, succeeded him. About that time
Demetrianus died in Antioch, and Paul of Samosata received that
episcopate. As he held low and degraded views of Christ, contrary to the
teaching of the Church, namely, that in his nature He was a common man,
Dionysius of Alexandria was entreated to come to the synod. But being
unable to come on account of age and physical weakness, he gave his
opinion on the subject under consideration by a letter. But the other
pastors of the churches assembled from all directions, as against a
despoiler of the flock of Christ, all making haste to reach Antioch.
Ch. 29. During his [Aurelian's, 270-275] reign a final synod composed of a
great many bishops was held, and the leader of heresy in Antioch was
detected and his false doctrine clearly shown before all, and he was
excommunicated from the Catholic Church under heaven. Malchion especially
drew him out from his hiding-place and refuted him. He was a man learned
also in other matters, and principal of the sophist school of Grecian
learning in Antioch; yet on account of the superior nobility of his faith
in Christ he had been made a presbyter of that parish [i.e., diocese].
This man, having conducted a discussion with him, which was taken down by
stenographers, and which we know is still extant, was alone able to detect
the man who dissembled and deceived others.
Ch. 30. The pastors who had assembled about this matter prepared by common
consent an epistle addressed to Dionysius, bishop of Rome, and Maximus of
Alexandria, and sent it to all the provinces.
After other things they describe as follows the manner of life which he
led: "Whereas he has departed from the rule [i.e., of faith], and has
turned aside after base and spurious teachings, it is not necessary--since
he is without--that we should pass judgment upon his practices: as for
instance in that he is haughty and is puffed up, and assumes worldly
dignities, preferring to be called ducenarius rather than bishop; and
struts in the market-places, reading letters and reciting them as he walks
in public, attended by a bodyguard, with a multitude preceding and
following him, so that the faith is envied and hated on account of his
pride and haughtiness of heart, or that he violently and coarsely
assails in public the expounders of the Word that have departed this life,
and magnifies himself, not as bishop, but as a sophist and juggler, and
stops the psalms to our Lord Jesus Christ as being novelties and the
productions of modern men, and trains women to sing psalms to himself in
the midst of the church on the great day of the passover. He is unwilling
to acknowledge that the Son of God came down from heaven. (And this is no
mere assertion, but is abundantly proved from the records which we have
sent you; and not least where he says, 'Jesus Christ is from below.') And
there are the women, the 'subintroductae,' as the people of Antioch call
them, belonging to him and to the presbyters and deacons with him.
Although he knows and has convicted these men, yet he connives at this and
their incurable sins, in order that they may be bound to him, and through
fear for themselves may not dare to accuse him for his wicked words and
As Paul had fallen from the episcopate, as well as from the orthodox
faith, Domnus, as has been said, succeeded to the service of the church at
Antioch [i.e., became bishop]. But as Paul refused to surrender the
church building, the Emperor Aurelian was petitioned; and he decided the
matter most equitably, ordering the building to be given to those to whom
the bishops of Italy and of the city of Rome should adjudge it. Thus this
man was driven out of the Church, with extreme disgrace, by the worldly
Such was Aurelian's attitude toward us at that time; but in the course of
time he changed his mind in regard to us, and was moved by certain
advisers to institute a persecution against us. And there was great talk
about it everywhere. But as he was about to do it, and was, so to speak,
in the very act of signing the decrees against us, the divine judgment
came upon him and restrained him at the very verge of his undertaking.
(d) Malchion of Antioch, Disputation with Paul. (MSG, 10:247-260.)
The doctrine of Paul of Samosata.
The following fragments are from the disputation of Malchion with
Paul at the Council of Antioch, 268 [see extract from Eusebius,
Hist. Ec., VII, 27, 29, 30; see above (c)], which Malchion is
said to have revised and published. The passages may be found also
in Routh, Reliquiae Sacrae, second ed., III, 300 ff. Fragments
I-III are from the work of the Emperor Justinian, Contra
Monophysitas; fragment IV is from the work of Leontius of
Byzantium, Adversus Nestorianos et Eutychianos.
I. The Logos became united with Him who was born of David, who is Jesus,
who was begotten of the Holy Ghost. And Him the Virgin bore by the Holy
Spirit; but God generated that Logos without the Virgin or any one else
than God, and thus the Logos exists.
II. The Logos was greater than Christ. Christ became greater through
Wisdom, that we might not overthrow the dignity of Wisdom.
III. In order that the Anointed, who was from David, might not be a
stranger to Wisdom, and that Wisdom might not dwell so largely in another.
For it was in the prophets, and more in Moses, and in many the Lord was,
but more also in Christ as in a temple. For Jesus Christ was one and the
Logos was another.
IV. He who appeared was not Wisdom, for He could not be found in an
outward form, neither in the appearance of a man; for He is greater than
all things visible.
(e) Paul of Samosata, Orationes ad Sabinum, Routh, op. cit., III,
The doctrine of Paul.
Paul's work addressed to Sabinus has perished with the exception
of a few fragments. See Routh, op. cit.
I. Thou shouldest not wonder that the Saviour had one will with God; for
just as nature shows us a substance becoming one and the same out of many
things, so the nature of love makes one and the same will out of many
through a manifest preference.
II. He who was born holy and righteous, having by His struggle and
sufferings overcome the sin of our progenitors, and having succeeded in
all things, was united in character to God, since He had preserved one and
the same effort and aim as He for the promotion of things that are good;
and since He has preserved this inviolate, His name is called that above
every name, the prize of love having been freely bestowed upon Him.
(f) Epiphanius, Panarion, Haer. LXV. (MSG, 42:12.)
The doctrine of Paul of Samosata.
Epiphanius was bishop of Salamis, 367-403. His works are chiefly
polemical and devoted to the refutation of all heresies, of which
he gives accounts at some length. He is a valuable, though not
always reliable, source for many otherwise unknown heresies. In
the present case we have passages from Paul's own writings that
confirm and supplement the statements of the hereseologist.
He [Paul of Samosata] says that God the Father and the Son and the Holy
Spirit are one God, that in God is always His Word and His Spirit, as in a
man's heart is his own reason; that the Son of God does not exist in a
hypostasis, but in God himself. That the Logos came and dwelt in Jesus,
who was a man. And thus he says God is one, neither is the Father the
Father, nor the Son the Son, nor the Holy Spirit the Holy Spirit, but
rather the one God is Father and in Him is his Son, as the reason is in a
man. But he did not say with Noetus that the Father suffered, but only,
said he, the Logos came and energized and went back to the Father.
(g) Methodius of Olympus, Symposium, III, 4, 8. (MSG, 18:65, 73.)
The theology of Origen was not suffered to go without being
challenged by those who could not accept some of his extreme
statements. Among those opposed to him were Peter, bishop of
Alexandria, and Methodius, bishop of Olympus. Both were strongly
influenced by Origen, but the denial of a bodily resurrection and
the eternity of the creation were too offensive. The more
important of the two is Methodius, who combined a strong
anti-Origenistic position on these two points with that
"recapitulation" theory of redemption which has been called the
Asia Minor type of theology and is represented also by Irenaeus;
see above, § 27. He has been called the author of the "theology of
the future," with reference to his relation to Athanasius, in that
he laid the foundation for a doctrine of redemption which
superseded that of the old Alexandrian school, and became
established in the East under the lead of Athanasius and the
Nicene divines generally.
Methodius was bishop of Olympus, in Lycia. The statements that he
also held other sees are unreliable. He died in 311 as a martyr.
Nothing else is known with certainty as to his life. Of his
numerous and well-written works, only one, The Banquet, or
Symposium, has been preserved entire. His work On the
Resurrection is most strongly opposed to Origen and his denial of
the bodily resurrection.
Ch. 4. For let us consider how rightly he [Paul] compared Adam to Christ,
not only considering him to be the type and image, but also that Christ
Himself became the very same thing, because the Eternal Word fell upon
Him. For it was fitting that the first-born of God, the first shoot, the
Only begotten, even the Wisdom [of God], should be joined to the
first-formed man, and first and first-born of men, and should become
incarnate. And this was Christ, a man filled with the pure and perfect
Godhead, and God received into man. For it was most suitable that the
oldest of the AEons and the first of the archangels, when about to hold
communion with men, should dwell in the oldest and first of men, even
Adam. And thus, renovating those things which were from the beginning, and
forming them again of the Virgin by the Spirit, He frames the same just as
at the beginning.
Ch. 8. The Church could not conceive believers and give them new birth by
the laver of regeneration unless Christ, emptying Himself for their sakes,
that He might be contained by them, as I said, through the recapitulation
of His passion, should die again, coming down from heaven, and, being
"joined to His wife," the Church, should provide that a certain power be
taken from His side, so that all who are built up in Him should grow up,
even those who are born again by the laver, receiving of His bones and of
His flesh; that is, of His holiness and of His glory. For he who says that
the bones and flesh of Wisdom are understanding and virtue, says most
rightly; and that the side [rib] is the Spirit of truth, the Paraclete, of
whom the illuminated [i.e., baptized], receiving, are fitly born again
(h) Methodius of Olympus, De Resurrect., I, 13. (MSG, 18:284.)
De Resur., I, 13.(76) If any one were to think that the earthly image is
the flesh itself, but the heavenly image is some other spiritual body
besides the flesh, let him first consider that Christ, the heavenly man,
when He appeared, bore the same form of limbs and the same image of flesh
as ours, through which, also, He, who was not man, became man, that, "as
in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." For if it was
not that he might set the flesh free and raise it up that He bore flesh,
why did He bear flesh superfluously, as He purposed neither to save it nor
to raise it up? But the Son of God does nothing superfluous. He did not
take, then, the form of a servant uselessly, but to raise it up and save
it. For He was truly made man, and died, and not in appearance, but that
He might truly be shown to be the first begotten from the dead, changing
the earthly into the heavenly, and the mortal into the immortal.
Next: The Development Of The Cultus
Previous: The Chiliastic Controversy