The Arian Controversy
Epochs of Church History
EDITED BY THE
Right Hon. and Right Rev. MANDELL CREIGHTON, D.D.
LATE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
H.M. GWATKIN, M.A.
DIXIE PROFESSOR OF ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY IN THEUNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE
LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.39 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDONNEW YORK, BOMBAY, AND CALCUTTA1908
All rights reserved
CHAPTER I. THE BEGINNINGS OF ARIANISM
CHAPTER II. THE COUNCIL OF NICÆA
CHAPTER III. THE EUSEBIAN REACTION
CHAPTER IV. THE COUNCIL OF SARDICA
CHAPTER V. THE VICTORY OF ARIANISM
CHAPTER VI. THE REIGN OF JULIAN
CHAPTER VII. THE RESTORED HOMŒAN SUPREMACY
CHAPTER VIII. THE FALL OF ARIANISM
The following works will be found useful by students whoare willing to pursue the subject further. Some of specialinterest or importance are marked with an asterisk.
(A.) Original Authorities and Translations.
The Church Histories of *Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret,and (for the Arian side) the fragments of Philostorgius[translations in Bohn's Ecclesiastical Library].
*Eusebius, Vita Constantini and Contra Marcellum Ancyranum.
*Athanasius, especially De Incarnatione Verbi Dei, DeDecretis Synodi Nicænæ, Orationes contra Arianos, De Synodis,Ad Antiochenos, Ad Afros. Convenient editions of most ofthese by Professor Bright of Oxford. [Translations of *DeIncarnatione (Bindley in Christian Classics Series) and of theOrationes and most of the historical works, Newman inOxford Library of the Fathers.]
Hilary, especially De Synodis. Cyril's Catecheses [translationin Oxford Library of the Fathers]. Basil, especiallyLetters. Gregory of Nazianzus, especially Orationes iv. andv. (against Julian). Of minor writers, Phœbadius andSulpicius Severus (for Council of Ariminum). Fragmentsof Marcellus, collected by Rettberg (Göttingen, 1794).[German translations of most of these in Thalhofer'sBibliothek der Kirchenväter. English may be hoped for inSchaff's Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers(vol. i. Buffalo, 1886) in 25 vols.]
Heathen writers:—Zosimus (bitterly prejudiced); AmmianusMarcellinus for 353-378 (cool and impartial); Julian,especially Cæsares, Fragmentum Epistolæ, and Epp. 7, 25,26, 42, 43, 49, 52.
(B.) Modern Writers.
1. For general reference:—
Gibbon's Decline and Fall (prejudiced against the ChristianEmpire, but narrative still unrivalled); Schiller Geschichteder römischen Kaiserzeit, Bd. ii. (church matters a weakpoint); Ranke, Weltgeschichte, Bd. iii. iv.
General Church Histories of Neander [translation inBohn's Standard Library]; Kurtz (zehnte Aufl., 1887);Fisher (New York, 1887); also Hefele, History of theChurch Councils [translation published by T. & T. Clark].
Articles in Dictionary of Christian Biography (especiallythose by Lightfoot, Reynolds, and Wordsworth), and inHerzog's Realencyclopädie (especially Mönchtum by Weingarten).
Weingarten's Zeittafeln z. Kirchengeschichte (3 Aufl. 1888).
(2.) For special use:—
The whole period is more or less covered by Kaye, SomeAccount of the Nicene Council, 1853; *Stanley, Eastern Church(best account of the outside of the council); Broglie, L'Égliseet l'Empire romain; Gwatkin, Studies of Arianism, 1882.
On Constantine, Burckhardt, Die Zeit Constantins, 1853;Keim, Der Uebertritt Constantins, 1862; Brieger, Constantinder Grosse als Religionspolitiker, 1880.
On Julian, English account by *Rendall, 1879; Germanlives by Neander, 1813 [translated 1850]; Mücke, 1867-69,and Rode, 1877. The French books are mostly bad. Forthe decline of heathenism generally, Merivale, Boyle Lecturesfor 1864-65; Chastel, Destruction du Paganisme, 1850;Lasaulx, Untergang des Hellenismus, 1854; Schultze,Geschichte des Untergangs des griechisch-römischen Heidentums,1887; also Capes, University Life in Ancient Athens,1877; Sievers, Leben des Libanius, 1868.
Biographies:—Fialon, Saint Athanase, 1877 (slight, butsuggestive); Zahn, Marcellus von Ancyra, 1867; Reinkens,Hilarius von Poitiers, 1864; Fialon, Saint Basile, 1868;Ullmann, Gregorius von Nazianz, 2 Aufl. 1867 [translated1851]; Krüger, Lucifer von Calaris, 1886; Eichhorn, Athanasiide vita ascetica Testimonia, 1886 (in opposition toWeingarten and others); Guldenpenning u. Island, Theodosiusder Grosse, 1878; various of unequal merit in TheFathers for English Readers.
On Teutonic Arianism:—Scott, Ulfilas, Apostle of theGoths, 1885; Hodgkin, Italy and her Invaders, 1880-85;Revillout, De l'Arianisme des Peuples germaniques, 1850.
For doctrine, the general histories in German of Baur,Nitzsch, 1870; Hagenbach [translated in Clark's ForeignTheological Library], and *Harnack, Bd. ii., 1887; Dorner'sDoctrine of the Person of Christ [translated in Clark's ForeignTheological Library]; *Hort, Two Dissertations, 1876 (onNicene and Constantinopolitan Creeds); Caspari, Quellen,Bd. iii. (on Apostles' Creed).
On Athanasius, also Voigt, Die Lehre von Athanasius,1861; Atzberger, Die Logoslehre des hl. Athanasius, 1880;Wilde, Athanasius als Bestrijder der Arianen, 1868 (Dutch).
For the Roman Catholic version of the history, Möhler,Athanasius der Grosse, 1844; Newman, Arians of theFourth Century.
For short sketches giving the relation of Arianism toChurch history in general, *Allen, Continuity of ChristianThought, 1884 (contrast of Greek and Latin Churches);*Sohm, Kirchengeschichte im Abriss, 1888.
The present work is largely, though not entirely, an abridgement ofmy Studies of Arianism.
The Conversion of the Goths, which gives the best side of Arianism,has been omitted as belonging more properly to another volume ofthe series.[Pg 1]
THE BEGINNINGS OF ARIANISM.
Arianism is extinct only in the sense that it has longceased to furnish party names. It sprang from permanenttendencies of human nature, and raised questionswhose interest can never perish. As long as theAgnostic and the Evolutionist are with us, the oldbattlefields of Athanasius will not be left to silence.Moreover, no writer more directly joins the new worldof Teutonic Christianity with the old of Greek andRoman heathenism. Arianism began its career partlyas a theory of Christianity, partly as an Easternreaction of philosophy against a gospel of the Son ofGod. Through sixty years of ups and downs andstormy controversy it fought, and not without success,for the dominion of the world. When it was at lastrejected by the Empire, it fell back upon its convertsamong the Northern nations, and renewed the contestas a Western reaction of Teutonic pride against aRoman gospel. The struggle went on for full threehundred years in all, and on a scale of vastness never[Pg 2]seen again in history. Even the Reformation waslimited to the West, whereas Arianism ranged at onetime or another through the whole of Christendom.Nor was the battle merely for the wording of antiquatedcreeds or for the outworks of the faith, butfor the very life of revelation. If the Reformationdecided the supremacy of revelation over churchauthority, it was the contest with Arianism whichcleared the way, by settling for ages the deeper andstill more momentous question, which is once morecoming to the surface as the gravest doubt of ourtime, whether a revelation is possible at all.
Unlike the founders of religions, Jesus of Nazarethmade his own person the centre of his message.Through every act and utterance recordedof him there runs a clear undoubting self-assertion,utterly unknown to Moses orMahomet. He never spoke but with authority. Hisfirst disciples told how he began his ministry byaltering the word which was said to them of old time,and ended it by calmly claiming to be the futureJudge of all men. And they told the story of their ownlife also; how they had seen his glory while he dweltamong them, and how their risen Lord had sent themforth to be his witnesses to all the nations. Whatevermight be doubtful, their personal knowledge of theLord was sure and certain, and of necessity becamethe base and starting-point of their teaching. InChrist all things were new. From him they learnedthe meaning of their ancient scriptures; through himthey knew their heavenly Father; in him they sawtheir Saviour from this present world, and to him[Pg 3]they looked for the crown of life in that to come.His word was law, his love was life, and in his namethe world was overcome already. What mattered itto analyse the power of life they felt within them?It was enough to live and to rejoice; and their worksare one long hymn of triumphant hope and overflowingthankfulness.
It was easier for the first disciples to declare whattheir own eyes had seen and their own hands hadhandled of the Word of Life, than foranother generation to take up a recordwhich to themselves was only history, andto pass from the traditional assertion of the Lord'sdivinity to its deliberate enunciation in clear consciousnessof the difficulties which gathered round it whenthe gospel came under the keen scrutiny of thoughtfulheathens. Whatever vice might be in heathenism,there was no want of interest in religion. If thedoubts of some were real, the scoffs of many wereonly surface-deep. If the old legends of Olympuswere outworn, philosophy was still a living faith, andevery sort of superstition flourished luxuriantly. Oldworships were revived, the ends of the earth weresearched for new ones. Isis or Mithras might helpwhere Jupiter was powerless, and uncouth lustrationsof the blood of bulls and goats might peradventurecast a spell upon eternity. The age was too sad tobe an irreligious one. Thus from whatever quartera convert might approach the gospel, he broughtearlier ideas to bear upon its central question of theperson of the Lord. Who then was this man whowas dead, whom all the churches affirmed to be alive[Pg 4]and worshipped as the Son of God? If he wasdivine, there must be two Gods; if not, his worshipwas no better than the vulgar worships of the dead.In either case, there seemed to be no escape fromthe charge of polytheism.
The key of the difficulty is on its other side, inthe doctrine of the unity of God, which was notonly taught by Jews and Christians, butgenerally admitted by serious heathens.The philosophers spoke of a dim Supreme far offfrom men, and even the polytheists were not unwillingto subordinate their motley crew of gods tosome mysterious divinity beyond them all. So farthere was a general agreement. But underneath thisseeming harmony there was a deep divergence.Resting on a firm basis of historic revelation,Christianity could bear record of a God who lovedthe world and of a Redeemer who had come in humanflesh. As this coming is enough to show that Godis something more than abstract perfection and infinity,there is nothing incredible in a real incarnation,or in a real trinity inside the unity of God.But the heathen had no historic revelation of a livinghope to sustain him in that age of failure andexhaustion. Nature was just as mighty, just asruthless then as now, and the gospel was not yetthe spring of hope it is in modern life. In our timethe very enemies of the cross are living in its light,and drawing at their pleasure from the well ofChristian hope. It was not yet so in that age.Brave men like Marcus Aurelius could only do theirduty with hopeless courage, and worship as they[Pg 5]might a God who seemed to refuse all answer tothe great and bitter cry of mankind. If he cares formen, why does he let them perish? The less hehas to do with us, the better we can understand ourevil plight. Thus their Supreme was far beyond theweakness of human sympathy. They made him lessa person than a thing or an idea, enveloped in cloudsof mysticism and abolished from the world by hisvery exaltation over it. He must not touch it lestit perish. The Redeemer whom the Christians worshipmay be a hero or a prophet, an angel or a demi-god—anythingexcept a Son of God in human form.We shall have to find some explanation for the scandalof the incarnation.
Arianism is Christianity shaped by thoughts likethese. Its author was no mere bustling schemer,but a grave and blameless presbyter ofAlexandria. Arius was a disciple of thegreatest critic of his time, the venerated martyr Lucianof Antioch. He had a name for learning, and hisletters bear witness to his dialectical skill and masteryof subtle irony. At the outbreak of the controversy,about the year 318, we find him in charge of thechurch of Baucalis at Alexandria, and in high favourwith his bishop, Alexander. It was no love ofheathenism, but a real difficulty of the gospel whichled him to form a new theory. His aim was not tolower the person of the Lord or to refuse himworship, but to defend that worship from the chargeof polytheism. Starting from the Lord's humanity, hewas ready to add to it everything short of the fullestdeity. He could not get over the philosophical difficulty[Pg 6]that one who is man cannot be also God, andtherefore a second God. Let us see how high a creaturecan be raised without making hint essentially divine.
The Arian Christ is indeed a lofty creature. Heclaims our worship as the image of