The Nicene Creed - Ecclesiastical History - Socrates Scholasticus

The Trinity in History

it was agreed that this
must not be understood in a corporeal sense, or in any way analogous to mortal creatures; inasmuch as it is neither by division of substance,

The Originators of the word "trias"
Theophilus of Antioch
to Autolycus - Trinity: God, His Word and His Wisdom
Tertullian -
The Trinity of God, His Wisdom and His Word

Book I, Chapter VI.

Division begins in the Church firm this Controversy; and Alexander Bishop of Alexandria excommunicates Arius and his Adherents.

These then are those who have become apostates: Arius, Achillas Aithales, and Carpones, another Arius, Sarmates, Euzoļus, Lucius Julian, Menas, Helladis, and Gaius; with these also must be reckoned Secundus and Theonas, who once were called bishops.

The dogmas they have invented and assert, contrary to the Scriptures, are these:

That God was not always the Father,
but that there was a period when he was not the Father;

that the Word of God was not from eternity but was made
out of nothing;

for that the ever-existing God ("the I AM'-the eternal One) made him who did not previously exist, out of nothing; wherefore there was a time when he did not exist, inasmuch as the Son is a creature and a work.
That he is neither like the Father as it regards his essence, nor is by nature either the Fathers true Word, or true Wisdom,
..........but indeed one of his works and creatures, being erroneously called Word and Wisdom,
..........since he was himself made of God's own Word and the Wisdom which is in God, whereby God both made all things and him also.

Wherefore he is as to his nature
mutable and susceptible of change, as all other rational creatures are:
..........hence the Word is alien to and other than the essence of God;
.......... and the Father is inexplicable by the Son,
.......... and invisible to him, for neither does the Word perfectly and accurately know the Father,
            neither can he distinctly see him.

The Son knows not the nature of his own essence: for he was made on our account, in order that God might create us by him, by an instrument; nor would he ever have existed,
..........unless God had wished to create us.

Chapter VIII.

Of the Synod which was held at Nicaea in Bithynia, and the Creed there put forth.

Such admirable and wise counsel did the emperor's letter contain. But the evil had become too strong both for the exhortations of the emperor, and the authority of him who was the bearer of his letter: for neither was Alexander nor Arius softened by this appeal;

and moreover there was incessant strife and tumult among the people.
Moreover another local source of diquietude had pre-existed there, which served to trouble the churches,-

the dispute namely in regard to the
Passover, which was carried on in the regions of the East only.
..........This arose from some desiring to keep the Feast more in accordance with the custom of the Jews;
..........while others preferred its mode of celebration by Christians in general throughout the world.
..........This difference, however, did not interfere with their communion, although their mutual joy was necessarily hindered.

When, therfore, the emperor beheld the Church agitated on account of both of these causes, he convoked a General Council, summoning all the bishops by letter to meet him at Nicaea in Bithynia. Accordingly the bishops assembled out of the various provinces and cities; respecting whom Eusebius Pamphilus thus writes, word for word, in his third book of the life of Constantine:

"Wherefore the most eminent of the ministers of God in all the churches which have filled Europe, Africa, and Asia, were convened. And one sacred edifice, dilated as it were by God, contained within it on the same occasion both Syrians and Cilicians, Phoenicians, Arabs and Palestinians, and in addition to these, Egyptians, Thebans, Libyans, and those who came from Mesopotamia. At this synod a Persian bishop was also present, neither was the Scythian absent from this assemblage. Pontus also and Galatia, Pamphylia, Cappadocia, Asia and Phrygia, supplied those who were most distinguished among them. Besides, there met there Thracians and Macedonians, Achaians and Epirots, and even those who dwelt still further away than these, and the most celebrated of the Spaniards himself took his seat among the rest. The prelate of the imperial city was absent on account of age; but some of his presbyters were present and filled his place. Such a crown, composed as a bond of peace, the emperor Constantine alone has ever dedicated to Christ his Saviour, as a thank-offering worthy of God for victory over his enemies,

having appointed this convocation among us in imitation of the Apostolic Assembly.

For among them it is said were convened "devout men of every nation under heaven; Parthains, Medes and Elamites, and those who dwelt in Mesopotamia, Judaea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the part of Libya which is toward Cyrene, strangers from Rome also, both Jews and proselytes with Cretans and Arabs."

That congregation, however, was inferior in this respect, that all present were not ministers of God: whereas in this assembly the number of bishops exceeded three hundred; while the number of the presbyters, deacons, and acolyths and others who attended them was almost incalculable. Some of these ministers of God were eminent for their wisdom, some for the strictness of their life, and patient endurance [of persecution], and others united in themselves all these distinguished characteristics: some were venerable from their advanced age, others were conspicuous for their youth and vigor of mind, and others had but recently entered on their ministerial career.

For all these the emperor appointed an abundant supply of daily food to be provided.'

Such is Eusebius' account of those who met on this occasion. The emperor having completed the festal solemnization of this triumph over Licinius, come also in person to Nice.

There were among the bishops two of extraordinary celebrity Paphnutius, bishop of Upper Thebes, and Spyridon, bishop of Cyprus: why I have so particular referred to these two individuals, I shall state hereafter. Many of the laity were also present, who were practiced in the art of reasoning, and each eager to advocate the cause of his own party.

Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, as was before said, supported the opinion of Arius, together with Theognis and Maris;
of these the former was bishop of Nicaea, and Maris of Chalcedon in Bithynia.

These were powerfully opposed by Athnasius, a deacon of the Alexandrian church, who was highly esteemed by Alexander his bishop, and on that account was much envied, as will be seen hereafter.

Now a short time previous to the general assembling of the bishops, the disputants engaged in preparatory logical contests before the multitudes; and when many were attracted by the interest of their discourse, one of the laity, a confessor, who was a man of unsophisticated understanding reproved these reasoners,

telling them that Christ and his apostles did not teach us dialectics, art, nor vain subtilties, but simple-mindedness, which is preserved by faith and good works.

As he said this, all present admired the speaker and assented to the justice of his remarks; and the disputants themselves, after hearing his plain statement of the truth, exercised a greater degree of moderation: thus then was the disturbance caused by these logical debates suppressed at this time.

On the following day all the bishops were assembled together in one place; the emperor arrived soon after and on his entrance stood in their midst, and would not take his place, until the bishops by bowing intimated their desire that he should be seated: such was the respect and reverence which the emperor entertained for these men.

When a silence suitable to the occasion had been observed, the emperor from his seat began to address them words of exhortation to harmony and unity, and entreated each to lay aside all private pique. For several of them had brought accusations against one another and many had even presented petitions to the emperor the day before. But he, directing their attention to the matter before them, and on account of which they were assembled, ordered these petitions to be burnt; merely observing that "Christ enjoins him who is anxious to obtain forgiveness, to forgive his brother.' When therefore he had strongly insisted on the maintenance of harmony and peace, he sanctioned again their purpose of more closely investigating the questions at issue. But it may be well to hear what Eusenius says on this subject, in his third book of the Life of Constantine. His words are these:

"A variety of topics having been introduced by each party and much controversy being excited from the very commencement, the emperor listened to all with patient attention, deliberately and impartially considering whatever was advanced. He in part supported the statements which were made on either side, and gradually softened the asperity of those who contentiously opposed each other conciliating each by his mildness and affability. And as he addressed them in the Greek language, for he was not unacquainted with it, he was at once interesting and persuasive, and wrought conviction on the minds of some, and prevailed on others by entreaty, those who spoke well he applauded. And inciting all to unanimity at length he succeeded in bringing them into similarity of judgment, and conformity of opinion on all the controverted points: so that there was not only unity in the confession of faith, but also a general agreement as to the time for the celebration of the feast of Salvation. Moreover the doctrines which had thus the common consent, were confirmed by the signature of each individual.'

Such in his own words is the testimony respecting these things which Eusebius has left us in writing; and we not unfitly have used it, but treating what he has said as an authority, have introduced it here for the fidelity of this history. With this end also in view, that if any one should condemn as erroneous the faith professed at this council of Nicaea, we might be unaffected by it, and put no confidence in Sabinus the Macedonian,

who calls all those who were convened there ignoramuses and simpletons.

For this Sabinus, who was bishop of the Macedonians at Heraclea in Thrace, having made a collection of the decrees published by various Synods of bishops, has treated those who composed the Nicene Council in particular with contempt and derision; not perceiving that he thereby charges Eusebius himself with ignorance, who made a like confession after the closest scrutiny. And in fact some things he has willfully passed over, others he has perverted, and on all he has put a construction favorable to his own views. Yet he commends Eusebius Pamphilus as a trustworthy witness, and praises the emperor as capable in stating Christian doctrines: but he still brands the faith which was declared at Nicaea, as having been set forth by ignorant persons, and such as had no intelligence in the matter. And thus he voluntarily contemns the words of a man whom he himself pronounces a wise and true witness: for Eusebius declares, that of the ministers of God who were present at the Nicene Synod, some were eminent for the word of wisdom, others for the strictness of their life; and that the emperor himself being present, leading all into unanimity, established unity of judgment, and agreement of opinion among them. Of Sabinus, however, we shall make further mention as occasion may require.

But the agreement of faith, assented to with loud acclamation at the great council of Nicaea is this:

"We beleive in
one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible:-and in.
one Lord
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of the Father, that is of the substance of the Father;
..........God of God and Light of light;
..........true God of true God;

begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father: by whom all things were made, both which are in heaven and on earth: who for the sake of us men, and on account of our salvation, descended became incarnate, and was made man; suffered, arose again the third day, and ascended into the heavens and will come again to judge the living and the dead.

[We] also [believe] in the Holy Spirit.

But the holy Catholic and Apostolic church anathematizes those who say

"There was a time when he was not," and
"He was not before he was begotten" and
"He was made from that which did not exist,"
and those who assert that he is of
other substance or essence than the Father, or that he was created, or is susceptible of change.' 62

Substantia I. that of which a thing consists, the being, essence, contents, material, substance
Ousi-a that which is one's own, one's substance, property, 5. in the concrete, the primary real, the substratum underlying all change and process in nature, 

This creed was recognized and acquiesced in by three hundred and eighteen [bishops]; and being, as Eusebius says, unanimous is expression and sentiment, they subscribed it.

Five only would not receive it, objecting to the term homoousios, "of the same essence,' or consubstantial:

these were Eusebius bishop of Nicomedia, Theognis of Nice, Maris of Chalcedon, Theonas of Marmarica, and Secundus of Ptolemaļs.

"For,' said they "since that is consubstantial which is from another either by partition, derivation or germination;
germination, as a shoot from the roots;
derivation as children from their parents;
division, as two or three vessels of gold from a mass,

and the Son is from the Father by none of these modes: therefore they declared themselves unable to assent to this creed.'

Thus having scoffed at the word consubstantial, they would not subscribe to the deposition of Arius. Upon this the Synod anathematized Arius, and all who adhered to his opinions prohibiting him at the same time from entering into Alexandria. At the same time an edict of the emperor sent Arius himself into exile, together with Eusebius and Theognis and their followers; Eusebius and Theognis, however, a short time after their banishment, tendered a written declaration of their change of sentiment, and concurrence in the faith of the consubstantiality of the Son with the Father, as we shall show as we proceed.

At this time during the session of the Synod, Eusebius, surnamed Pamphilus, bihop of Caesarea in Palestine, who had held aloof for a short time, after mature consideration whether he ought to receive this definition of the faith, at length acquiesced in it, and subscribed it with all the rest: he also sent to the people under his charge a copy of the Creed, with an explanation of the word homoousios, that no one might impugn his motives on account of his previous hesitation. Now what was written by Eusebius was as follows in his own words:

'You have probably had some intimation, beloved, of the transactions of the great council convened at Nicaea, in relation to the faith of the Church, inasmuch as rumor generally outruns true account of that which has really taken might form an incorrect estimate of the matter, we have deemed it necessary to submit to you, in the first place, an exposition of the faith proposed by us in written form; and then a second which has been promulgated, consisting of ours with certain additions to its expression. The declaration of faith set forth by us, which when read in the presence of our most pious emperor, seemed to meet with universal approbation, was thus expressed:

"According as we received from the bishops who preceded us, both in our instruction [in the knowledge of the truth], and when we were baptized; as also we have ourselves learned from the sacred Scriptures: and in accordance with what we have both believed and taught while discharging the duties of presbyter and the episcopal office itself, so now we believe and present to you the distinct avowal of our faith. It is this:

'"We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible:-and in one Lord, Jesus Christ. the Word of God, God of God, Light of light, Life of life, the only-begotten Son, born before all creation, begotten of God the Father, before all ages, by whom also all things were made; who on account of our salvation became incarnate, and lived among men; and who suffered and rose again on the third day, and ascended to the Father, and shall come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. We believe also in one Holy Spirit. We believe in the existence and subsistence of each of these [persons]: that the Father is truly Father, the Son truly Son, and the Holy Spirit truly Holy Spirit; even as our Lord also, when he sent forth his disciples to preach the Gospel, said, "Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.' Concerning these doctrines we steadfastly maintain their truth, and avow our full confidence in them; such also have been our sentiments hitherto, and such we shall continue to hold until death and in an unshaken adherence to this faith, we anathematize every impious heresy. In the presence of God Almighty, and of our Lord Jesus Christ we testify, that thus we have believed and thought from our heart and soul, since we have possessed a right estimate of ourselves; and that we now think and speak what is perfectly in accordance with the truth. We are moreover prepared to prove to you by undeniable evidences, and to convince you that in time past we have thus believed, and so preached."

'When these articles of faith were proposed, there seemed to be no ground of opposition: nay, our most pious emperor himself was the first to admit that they were perfectly correct, and that he himself had entertained the sentiments contained in them; exhorting all present to give them their assent, and subscribe to these very articles, thus agreeing in a unanimous profession of them,

with the insertion, however, of that single word "homoousios" (consubstantial), an expression which the emperor himself explained,

as not indicating corporeal affections or properties;
and consequently that the
Son did not subsist from the Father either by division or abscission: for said he,
    a nature which is
immaterial and incorporeal cannot possibly be subject to any corporeal affection;
    hence our conception of such things can only be in
divine and mysterious terms. Such was the philosophical view of the subject taken by our most wise and pious sovereign; and the bishops on account of the word homoousious, drew up this formula of faith.

The Creed.

'"We believe in one God,
..........the Father Almighty,
..........Maker of all things visible and invisible:-
and in one Lord Jesus Christ,
..........the Son of God,
..........the only-begotten of the Father,
..........that is of the substance of the Father;
....................God of God,
....................Light of light,
....................true God of true God;
....................begotten not made,
....................consubstantial with the Father; whom all things were made both which are in heaven and on earth;
....................who for the sake of us men,
....................and on account of our salvation,
....................descended, became incarnate, was made man,
....................suffered and rose again on the third day;
....................he ascended into the heavens,
....................and will come to judge the living and the dead.
[We believe] also in the Holy Spirit.

"But those who say "There was a time when he was not,' or "He did not exist before he was begotten,' or "He was made of nothing' or assert that "He is of other substance or essence than the Father,' or that the Son of God is created, or mutable, or susceptible of change, the Catholic and apostolic Church of God anathematizes."

"After the council, the bishops went on teaching as they had before, and the Arian crisis continued for another sixty years. Arius and his followers fought back and managed to regain imperial favor. Athanasius was exiled no fewer than five times.0

It was very difficult to make his creed stick.

In particular the term homoousion (literally, 'made of the same stuff') was highly controversial because it was unscriptural and had materialistic association.

Two copper coins could be said to be homoousion, because both derived from the same substance." (Karen Armstrong, A History of God, p. 110)

"Now this declaration of faith being propounded by them, we did not neglect to investigate the distinct sense of the expressions "of the substance of the Father, and consubstantial with the Father" Whereupon questions were put forth and answers, and the meaning of these terms was clearly defined; when it was generally admitted that ousias (of the essence or substance) simply implied

that the Son is of the Father indeed, but does not subsist as a part of the Father.
To this interpretation of the sacred doctrine which declares that the Son is of the Father, but is not a part of his substance, it seemed right to us to assent.

We ourselves therefore concurred in this exposition; nor do we cavil at the word "homoousios" hating regard to peace, and fearing to lose a right understanding of the matter. On the same grounds we admitted also the expression "begotten, not made": "for made," said they, "is a term applicable in common to all the creatures which were made by the Son, to whom the Son has no resemblance.

Consequently he is no creature like those which were made by him, but is of a substance far excelling any creature; which substance the Divine Oracles teach

was begotten of the Father by such a mode of generation
as cannot be explained nor even conceived by any creature."

Thus also the declaration that "the Son is consubstantial with the Father" having been discussed,

it was agreed that this must not be understood in a corporeal sense,
..........or in any way analogous to mortal creatures;
..........inasmuch as it is neither by division of substance,
..........nor by abscission nor by any change of the Father's substance and power,
..........since the underived nature of the Father is inconsistent with all these things.
That he is consubstantial with the Father then simply implies,
..........that the Son of God has no resemblance to created things, but is in every repect like the Father only who begat him;
..........and that he is of no other substance or essence but of the Father.

To which doctrine, explained in this way, it appeared right to assent, especially since we knew that some eminent bishops and learned writers among the ancients have used the term "homoousios "in their theological discourses concerning the nature of the Father and the Son. Such is what I have to state to you in reference to the articles of faith which have been promulgated; and in which we have all concurred, not without due examination, but according to the senses assigned, which were investigated in the presence of our most highly favored emperor, and for the reasons mentioned approved.

We have also considered the anathema pronounced by them after the declaration of faith inoffensive;
..........because it prohibits the use of illegitimate terms,
..........from which almost all the distraction and commotion of the churches have arisen.

Accordingly, since no divinely inspired Scripture contains the expressions, "of things which do not exist," and "there was a time when he was not," and such other phrases as are therein subjoined, it seemed unwarrantable to utter and teach them: and moreover this decision received our sanction the rather from the consideration that we have never heretofore been accustomed to employ these terms. We deemed it incumbent on us, beloved, to acquaint you with the caution which has characterized both our examination of and concurrence in these things: and that on justifiable grounds we resisted to the last moment the introduction of certain objectionable expressions as long as these were not acceptable; and received them without dispute, when on mature deliberation as we examined the sense of the words, they appeared to agree with what we had originally proposed as a sound confession of faith.'

Such was the letter addressed by Eusebius Pamphilus to the Christians at Caesarea in Palestine. At the same time the Synod itself also, with one accord, wrote the following epistle to the church of the Alexandrians, and to believers in Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis.

Chapter IX.

The Letter of the Synod, relative to its Decisions: and the Condemnation of Arius and those who agreed with him.

To the holy, by the grace of God, and great church of the Alexandrians, and to our beloved; brethren throughout Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis, the bishops assembled at Nicaea, constituting the great and holy Synod, send greeting in the Lord.

Since, by the grace of God, a great and holy Synod has been convened at Nicaea, our most pious sovereign Constantine having summoned us out of various cities and provinces for that purpose, it appeared to us indispensably necessary that a letter should be written to you on the part of the sacred Synod; in order that ye may know what subjects were brought under consideration and examined, and what was eventually determined on and decreed.

In the first place, then, the impiety and guilt of Arius and his adherents were examined into, in the presence of our most religions emperor Constantine: and it was unanimously derided that his impious opinion should be anathematized, with all the blasphemous expressions he has uttered, in affirming that "the Son of God sprang from noting,' and that "there was a time when he was not'; saying moreover that 'the Son of God, because possessed of free will, was capable either of vice or virtue; and calling him a creature and a work. All these sentiments the holy Synod has anathematized, having scarcely patience to endure the hearing of such an impious opinion, or, rather, madness, and such blasphemous words. But the conclusion of our proceedings against him you must either have been informed of already or will soon learn; for we would not seem to trample on a man who has received the chastisement which his crime deserved.

Yet so contagious has his pestilential error proved, as to drag into perdition Theonas, bishop of Marmarica, and Secundus of Ptolemaļis; for they have suffered the same condemnation as himself. But when the grace of God delivered us from those execrable dogmas, with all their impiety and blasphemy, and from those persons, who had dared to cause discord and division among a people previously at peace, there still remained the contumacy of Melitius [to be dealt with] and those who had been ordained by him; and we now state to you, beloved brethren, what resolution the Synod came to on this point. It was decreed, the Synod being moved to great clemency towards Melitius, although strictly speaking he was wholly undeserving of favor, that he remain in his own city but exercise no authority either to ordain or nominate for ordination; and that he appear in no other district or city on this pretense, but simply retain a nominal dignity. That those who had received appointments from him, after having been confirmed by a more legitimate ordination, should be admitted to communion on these conditions: that they should continue to hold their rank and ministry, but regard themselves as inferior in every respect to all those who have been ordained and established in each place and church by our most-honored fellow-minister, Alexander, so that they shall have no authority to propose or nominate whom they please, or to do anything at all without the concurrence of some bishop of the Catholic Church who is one of Alexander's suffragans. On the other hand, such as by the grace of God and your prayers have been found in no schism, but have continued in the Catholic Church blameless, shall have authority to nominate and ordain those who are worthy of the sacred office,69 and to act in all things according to ecclesiastical law and usage. When it may happen that any of those holding preferments in the church die, then let these who have been thus recently admitted be advanced to the dignity of the deceased, provided that they should appear worthy, and that the people should elect them, the bishop of Alexandria also ratifying their choice. This privilege is conceded to all the others indeed, but to Melitius personally we by no means grant the same license, on account of his former disorderly conduct, and because of the rashness and levity of his character, in order that no authority or jurisdiction should be given him as a man liable again to create similar disturbances. These are the things which specially affect Egypt, and the most holy church of the Alexandrians: and if any other canon or ordinance has been established, our Lord and most-honored fellow-minister and brother Alexander being present with us, will on his return to you enter into more minute details, inasmuch as he has been a participator in whatever is transacted, and has had the principal direction of it. We have also gratifying intelligence to communicate to you relative to unity of judgment on the subject of the most holy feast of Easter: for this point also has been happily settled through your prayers; so that all the brethren in the East who have heretofore kept this festival when the Jews did, will henceforth conform to the Romans and to us, and to all who from the earliest time have observed our period of celebrating Easter. Rejoicing therefore in these conclusions and in the general unanimity and peace, as well as in the extirpation of all heresy, receive with the greater honor and more abundant love our fellow-minister and your bishop Alexander, who has greatly delighted us by his presence, and even at his advanced age has undergone extraordinary exertions in order that peace might be re-established among you. Pray on behalf of us all, that the things decided as just may be inviolably maintained through Almighty God, and our Lord Jesus Christ, together with the Holy Spirit; to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

This epistle of the Synod makes it plain that they not only anathematized Arius and his adherents, but the very expressions of his tenets; and that having agreed

among themselves respecting the celebration of Easter, they readmitted the heresiarch Melitius into communion, suffering him to retain his episcopal rank, but divesting him of all authority to act as a bishop. It is for this reason I suppose that even at the present time the Melitians in Egypt are separated from the church, because the Synod deprived Melitius of all power. It should be observed moreover that Arius had written a treatise on his own opinion which he entitled Thalia; but the character of the book is loose and dissolute, similar in its style and metres to the songs of Sotades.70 This production also the Synod condemned at the same time. Nor was it the Synod alone that took the trouble to write letters to the churches announcing the restoration of peace, but the emperor Constantine himself also wrote personally and sent the following address to the church of the Alexandrians.

The Emperor's Letter.

Constantine Augustus, to the Catholic church of the Alexandrians.

Beloved brethren, hail! We have received from Divine Providence the inestimable blessing of being relieved from all error, and united in the acknowledgment of one and the same faith. The devil will no longer have any power against us, since all that which he had malignantly devised for our destruction has been entirely overthrown from the foundations. The splendor of truth has dissipated at the command of God those dissensions, schisms, tumults, and so to speak, deadly poisons of discord. Wherefore we all worship one true God, and believe that he is. But in order that this might be done, by divine admonition I assembled at the city of Nicaea most of the bishops; with whom I myself also, who am but one of you, and who rejoice exceedingly in being your fellow-servant, undertook the investigation of the truth. Accordingly, all points which seemed in consequence of ambiguity to furnish any pretext for dissension, have been discussed and accurately examined. And may the Divine Majesty pardon the fearful enormity of the blasphemies which some were shamelessly uttering concerning the mighty Saviour, our life and hope; declaring and confessing that they believe things contrary to the divinely inspired Scriptures. While more than three hundred bishops remarkable for their moderation and intellectual keenness, were unanimous in their confirmation of one and the same faith, which according to the truth and legitimate construction of the law of God can only be the faith; Arius alone beguiled by the subtlety of the devil, was discovered to be the sole disseminator of this mischief, first among you, and afterwards with unhallowed purposes among others also. Let us therefore embrace that doctrine which the Almighty has presented to us: let us return to our beloved brethren from whom an irreverent servant of the devil has separated us: let us go with all speed to the common body and our own natural members. For this is becoming your penetration, faith and sanctity; that since the error has been proved to be due to him who is an enemy to the truth, ye should return to the divine favor.

For that which has commended itself to the judgment of three hundred bishops cannot be other than the doctrine of God;

seeing that the Holy Spirit dwelling in the minds of so many dignified persons has effectually enlightened them respecting the Divine will.

Wherefore let no one vacillate or linger, but let all with alacrity return to the undoubted path of duty;

that when I shall arrive among you, which will be as soon as possible, I may with you return due thanks to God, the inspector of all things, for having revealed the pure faith, and restored to you that love for which ye have prayed. May God protect you, beloved brethren.

Thus wrote the emperor to the Christians of Alexandria, assuring them that the exposition of the faith was neither made rashly nor at random, but that it was dictated with much research, and after strict investigation: and not that some things were spoken of, while others were suppressed in silence; but that whatever could be fittingly advanced in support of any opinion was fully stated. That nothing indeed was precipitately determined, but all was previously discussed with minute accuracy; so that every point which seemed to furnish a pretext for ambiguity of meaning, or difference of opinion, was thoroughly sifted, and its difficulties removed. In short he terms the thought of all those who were assembled there the thought of God, and does not doubt that the unanimity of so many eminent bishops was effected by the Holy Spirit. Sabinus, however, the chief of the heresy of the Macedonians, willfully rejects these authorities, and calls those who were convened there ignorant and illiterate persons; nay, he almost accuses Eusebius of Caesarea himself of ignorance: nor does he reflect, that even if those who constituted that synod had been laymen, yet as being illuminated by God, and the grace of the Holy Spirit, they were utterly unable to err from the truth.71 Nevertheless, hear farther what the emperor decreed in another circular both against Arius and those who held his opinions, sending it in all directions to the bishops and people.

"Cappadocia: ancient region of Asia Minor, in present E central Turkey. The name was applied at different times to territories of varying size. Before 1800 B.C., Cappadocia was the heart of an old HITTITE state; later, it was controlled by the Persians. During the 3d cent. B.C. it developed as an independent kingdom. In A.D. 17 Rome annexed the region.

St. Basil the Great Nicea

"Bishop of Caesarea, and one of the most distinguished Doctors of the Church. Born probably 329; died 1 January, 379. He ranks after Athanasius as a defender of the Oriental Church against the heresies of the fourth century. With his friend Gregory of Nazianzus and his brother Gregory of Nyssa, he makes up the trio known as "The Three Cappadocians", far outclassing the other two in practical genius and actual achievement.

"Instead of beginning their consideration fo God with his unknowable ousia, the Cappadocians began with mankind's experience of his hypostases. Because God's ousia is unfathomable, we can only know him through those manifestations which have been revealed to us as Father, Son and Spirit.

This did not mean that the Cappadocians believed in three divine beings, however, as some Western theologians imagined.
The word
hypostasis was confusing to people who weere not familiar with Greek, because it had a variety of senses:

some Latin scholars like St. Jerome believed that the word hypostasis meant the same as ousia and thought that the Greeks believed in three divine essences.

But the Cappadocians insisted that there was an important difference between ousia and hypostasis, which it was essential to bear in mind.

Thus the ousia of an object was that which made something what it was; it was usually applied to an object as it was within itself.

Hypostasis, on the other hand, was used to denote an objected viewed from without.

"So when the Cappadocians said that God was one ousia in three hypostases, they meant that God as he is in himself was One:

there was only a single, divine self-consciousnesses.
But when he allows something of himself to be glimpsed by his creatures, he is three prospoi. (exterior expression on the face of what was on His mind.) (Armstrong, p. 116)

One should not think of God splitting himself up into three parts; that was a grotesque and indeed blasphemous idea. (Karen Armstrong, p. 116)

Gregory of Nyssa On "Not Three Gods"

In truth, the question you propound to us is no small one, nor such that but small harm will follow if it meets with insufficient treatment. For by the force of the question, we are at first sight compelled to accept one or other of two erroneous opinions,
..........and either to say "there are three Gods," which is unlawful,
..........or not to acknowledge the Godhead of the Son and the Holy Spirit, which is impious and absurd.
The argument which you state
is something like this:-
..........Peter, James, and John, being in one human nature,
..........are called three men: and there is no absurdity in describing those who are united in nature,
..........if they are more than one, by the plural number of the name derived from their nature.

If, then, in the above case, custom admits this, and no one forbids us to speak of those who are two as two, or those who are more than two as three, how is it that in the case of our statements of the mysteries of the Faith,

though confessing the Three Persons, and acknowledging no difference of nature between them, we are in some sense at variance with our confession,
when we say that the Godhead of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is

and yet forbid men to say "there are three Gods"?



Holy Spirit Index

Church Fathers Index

Home Page

E-Mail Comments Welcome

 Counter 4.21.07   11.04.08. 2.28.19. 1731