When did the split between East and West really happen?

Christogram (labarum) with Jesus Prayer in Rom...

Christogram (labarum) with Jesus Prayer in Romanian. Jesus Prayer in Romanian Doamne Iisuse Hristoase, Fiul lui Dumnezeu, miluieste-ma pe mine pacatosul. English translation Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner. This image appears on the cover of all editions of Romanian translation of Philokalia Français : Christogramme entouré de la Prière de Jésus en roumain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allan “I’ll be a Duke fan regardless of how awful they are until the day I die” Bevere points out another blogger’s post regarding the theological showdown in the Fourth Century. I’m just going to meme this and say it happened not just in the Fourth Century, but in 343 in the city of Sophia, Bulgaria, formerly known as Serdica. This council was called to remedy the continued war between those who were supporting a more reconciling station with Arius (the East) and those who sought to maintain the Apostolic tradition as handed down by the only begotten, but not made Son of God (the West).

Athanasius and Marcellus of Ancyra stood there, accused of blasphemy, murder, and treason. The Bishop of Rome, Julius I, defended them through his representatives. After all, he had shield them for some time now. But the Eastern bishops, being the sniveling little sots and sons of Arius that they were, refused to allow these two mighty men of God to take their place rightfully as Bishops, even though they were recognized and sponsored by the Pope. The Eastern bishops soon abandoned the council as they would abandon God the Father and the God the Son, to separate them as if one was lesser than the other. The Western Bishops attended to their duty and established a most forthright and beautiful creed, it was, to unite the one true Church. It reads:

We declare those men excommunicate from the Catholic Church who say that Christ is God, but not the true God; that He is the Son, but not the true Son; and that He is both begotten and made; for such persons acknowledge that they understand by the term ‘begotten,’ that which has been made; and because, although the Son of God existed before all ages, they attribute to Him, who exists not in time but before all time, a beginning and an end. Valens and Ursacius have, like two vipers brought forth by an asp, proceeded from the Arian heresy. For they boastingly declare themselves to be undoubted Christians, and yet affirm that the Word and the Holy Ghost were both crucified and slain, and that they died and rose again; and they pertinaciously maintain, like the heretics, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are of diverse and distinct essences. We have been taught, and we hold the catholic and apostolic tradition and faith and confession which teach, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost have one essence, which is termed substance by the heretics. If it is asked, ‘What is the essence of the Son?’ we confess, that it is that which is acknowledged to be that of the Father alone; for the Father has never been, nor could ever be, without the Son, nor the Son without the Father. It is most absurd to affirm that the Father ever existed without the Son, for that this could never be so has been testified by the Son Himself, who said, ‘I am in the Father, and the Father in Me;’ and ‘I and My Father are one.’ None of us denies that He was begotten; but we say that He was begotten before all things, whether visible or invisible; and that He is the Creator of archangels and angels, and of the world, and of the human race. It is written, ‘Wisdom which is the worker of all things taught me,’ and again, ‘All things were made by Him.’ He could not have existed always if He had had a beginning, for the everlasting Word has no beginning, and God will never have an end. We do not say that the Father is Son, nor that the Son is Father; but that the Father is Father, and the Son of the Father Son. We confess that the Son is Power of the Father. We confess that the Word is Word of God the Father, and that beside Him there is no other. We believe the Word to be the true God, and Wisdom and Power. We affirm that He is truly the Son, yet not in the way in which others are said to be sons: for they are either gods by reason of their regeneration, or are called sons of God on account of their merit, and not on account of their being of one essence, as is the case with the Father and the Son. We confess an Only-begotten and a Firstborn; but that the Word is only-begotten, who ever was and is in the Father. We use the word firstborn with respect to His human nature. But He is superior (to man) in the new creation (of the Resurrection), inasmuch as He is the Firstborn from the dead. We confess that God is; we confess the divinity of the Father and of the Son to be one. No one denies that the Father is greater than the Son: not on account of another essence, nor yet on account of their difference, but simply from the very name of the Father being greater than that of the Son. The words uttered by our Lord, ‘I and My Father are one,’ are by those men explained as referring to the concord and harmony which prevail between the Father and the Son; but this is a blasphemous and perverse interpretation. We, as Catholics, unanimously condemned this foolish and lamentable opinion: for just as mortal men on a difference having arisen between them quarrel and afterwards are reconciled, so do such interpreters say that disputes and dissension are liable to arise between God the Father Almighty and His Son; a supposition which is altogether absurd and untenable. But we believe and maintain that those holy words, ‘I and My Father are one,’ point out the oneness of essence which is one and the same in the Father and in the Son. We also believe that the Son reigns with the Father, that His reign has neither beginning nor end, and that it is not bounded by time, nor can ever cease: for that which always exists never begins to be, and can never cease. We believe in and we receive the Holy Ghost the Comforter, whom the Lord both promised and sent. We believe in It as sent. It was not the Holy Ghost who suffered, but the manhood with which He clothed Himself; which He took from the Virgin Mary, which being man was capable of suffering; for man is mortal, whereas God is immortal. We believe that on the third day He rose, the man in God, not God in the man; and that He brought as a gift to His Father the manhood which He had delivered from sin and corruption. We believe that, at a meet and fixed time, He Himself will judge all men and all their deeds. So great is the ignorance and mental darkness of those whom we have mentioned, that they are unable to see the light of truth. They cannot comprehend the meaning of the words: ‘that they may be one in us.’ It is obvious why the word ‘one’ was used; it was because the apostles received the Holy Spirit of God, and yet there were none amongst them who were the Spirit, neither was there any one of them who was Word, Wisdom, Power, or Only-begotten. ‘As Thou,’ He said, ‘and I are one, that they, may be one in us.’ These holy words, ‘that they may be one in us,’ are strictly accurate: for the Lord did not say, ‘one in the same way that I and the Father are one,’ but He said, ‘that the disciples, being knit together and united, may be one in faith and in confession, and so in the grace and piety of God the Father, and by the indulgence and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, may be able to become one.’

No doubt, Marcellus himself, the sainted man of God and loyal soldier of Christ, drafted most of this himself. Blessed be he.

If only we could replace Basil with Marcellus.

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Marcellus of Ancyra wins in the Apostle’s Creed

If you remember, from a long time ago… I have a deep admiration for Marcellus of Ancrya. He was a fighter for Western Christology, something later corrupted, as everything usually is, by the East. Plus, he believed in a type of universal reconciliation, but then again, in those days, who didn’t, right? In his defense of the proper terminology in defining the relationship between the Father and the Son, and oddly enough, he insisted only on Scriptural terminology.

Anyway… as I was praying with the Apostle’s Creed this morning, I prayed the United Methodist version, but honestly, it was missing Marcellus’ key phrase which is preserved in the Roman Missal:

I believe in God,
the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried;
he descended into hell;
on the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting. Amen

Sure, Marcellus is really the cause of the East-West split, and yes, he is eternally trashed in the Nicene-Constantinople Creed, but in the Apostle’s Creed, for many, many Christians, Marcellus wins…

God Wins Chapter 2 – Still no questions, because God is Transcendent

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In truth, I almost entitled this post ‘Mark Galli is not a Theologian, Good, Bad, or Otherwise’ but I am trying not to appear to attack Galli personally. I want to focus just on his message, but in equal truth, his theology is part Reformed, at least in quotations, and part ineptness. First, he opens the chapter up with the scene in Pilate’s hall, on the even of the Crucifixion, with Pilate asking Jesus Christ questions – which Jesus answered. In doing this, Galli tries to offer commentary, but the commentary is often of a less than academic variety but markedly more of the journalist variety, and of course, I mean no offense to my journalistic friends; however, the sentences are short, the statements less than meaningful, and often childish. At least you expected that from Bell, but not from a man in Galli’s position. Again, though, his focus in on questions, something he obviously doesn’t like or believe to be theologically palatable.

He finally turns to tackling some of the issues raised in Love Wins,  or so he leads us to believe. So far, we have had to read Alcorn’s forward, Galli’s introduction and chapter 1 without much , rather any, real issues with Love Wins raised. Galli writes, “Unfortunately, this preliminary work is not done in Love Wins. We are met with an onslaught of questions, most of which are not answered” and “It does not communicate the gravity, the thickness, the mystery of God.” Therefore I am ready to hear what Galli has to say about both things – the lack of theological preparedness found in Love Wins and how this might contribute the things of God which Galli enumerates. I have to agree with Galli at this point, that Bell has prepared somewhat of a theological treatise on universal reconciliation, but some of the early Church writers did, as George MacDonald did, as Karl Barth did, as William Willimon has done, and N.T. Wright paints, and as Von Balthasar published. But, in comparing those men to Rob Bell, the latter is lacking in comparison to the former in that the latter, Bell, didn’t set out to write a theological treatise, but in his role as Pastor, provide a pastoral letter to an issue which has raised it’s head from time to time – just who gets to tell her to go to hell.

From here, with the promise of some measure of theological interact, Galli proceeds to picture God as Creator, Lord and Lawgiver, yet continues to commit the error of placing God as so far removed from us, that we need a second God [Platonism, cough, The One and the Logos, cough, cough] to help us get to the first while positioning God as a wrathful father, just the image which Bell attempted to correct. (Here, I think that Galli takes his theology from Justin and the Greeks, but I may be wrong, and instead, Galli is just parsing theological information and trying to coherently rehearse Trinitarian dogma). He starts his introduction to God in Genesis with what we “think is the beginning.” He notes that God is first seen as Creator, with God as a “transcendent authority.” I beg to differ with Galli, especially if you read Genesis 2 and 3 which has God far removed from the idea of transcendence, certainly not a Hebrew thought, to a God who was present with humanity, in daily conversation with them, and even further, we examine the ideal government, in which God spoke directly to Israel and was indeed their king before the Fall occurred (here, I am relating the story establishment of the Royal Dynasty). This is not the only place in which Galli posits God as so far from us, and yet, he never actually seeks to resolve this fully, except by creating the same issue of the Philosophers. This transcendent God (which might explain Galli’s aversion to questioning God) is then shown to be one who “sent Jesus to the cross to die for our sins, to settle the score between us and God.” It is difficult for me to believe in this image of God as the legitimate one, or rather the more biblical one, as it puts Christ in the middle between God and His Creation, not in the matter of love, but of fear. Even Galli notes that this image doesn’t prompt us to love God. He goes on to draw an image of the relationship between God and humanity with an allegory of a boss and an employee. He notes then that this is the way we think of God when we see him as Creation, Lord, and Lawmaker and yet, his allegories are poor, his own image of God undeveloped by Scripture, and seemingly fully self-reliant.

YHWH/ Elohim the Creator-God of Israel & Judah is a relational God; being covenantal is intrinsic to this God’s very being. God in Genesis 1 spoke directly to the people of His creation. In Genesis 2, God specially crafted Creation for Humanity who in Genesis 3 is seen in daily conversation with God and this is not to mention the other times in the Old Testament in which God is seen as ‘with us.’ Further, his notion of God as Lord gets lost in this section and I suspect, combined with Lawgiver. But, this image which is presented is one of a wrathful God who obviously abandoned his creation but now is jealous, sends His Son to death and allows His Son to act an intermediary, fending off the wrath of the Father. To maintain this view of God the Father, one has to almost completely upend the entirety of the Hebrew Bible in which prophet after prophet goes to the Judeans & Israelites to beg them to return to God before it is too late, as well as the promises that after a period of punishment, or hell, if you will, they would be returned because the Love of God wins, even in Babylon, in exile, in torment.

His next two sections do not hold much theological promise either. First, he examines God as Agent. As I am not completely unfamiliar with Trinitarian Doctrine, I would rather reserve ‘Agent’ for Christ, not God the Father which Galli seems to do as a means to undermine Bell’s understanding of the Gospel. While he calls Bell’s view (p72, Love Wins), ‘good’ he notes that it is not the ‘best’ news which the bible proclaims. He writes that Bell’s Gospel pictures God only as an Agent which he defines as, “Someone who accomplishes something for us, as well as something that God does to us.” Here, Galli seems to take on the notion that a life in God means, in part, participating in the renewal of the world through service to others but doesn’t necessarily condemn this point of view, just says that it is not all. I’m not sure Bell would disagree, actually, or any preacher or theologian; therefore, I am unsure of Galli’s point, except that he is against the idea that a life with God is about “experience and doing.” Perhaps Galli hasn’t read much of the Wesleyan theologians. (I note that in this section, Galli starts to take on the Evangelical Church in the U.S., but again, never goes beyond saying what is ‘not right’.) Interesting enough, in just a short space, Galli condemns Bell’s statement of “May you experience this vast, expansive, infinite, indestructible love” (198, Love Wins), more than likely because Galli is questioning the use of experience, but praises the words of Jesus who prays to the Father in John 17 with the words, “May they experience such perfect unity…” I am led to believe that since questioning is often times a vital part of experiencing, that Galli deems both equally invalid as a Christian witness or discipline, and for that, I pity. I pity him not just for his refusal to experience God in questioning, but in seeing God as so transcendent that He is “ultimately only over there.”

As I noted earlier, Galli seems to lack the finer qualities of the usual Trinitarian theologian. I don’t want to spend too much time on this because it is only essential in noting the hypocrisy of citing Bell’s lack of theological preparedness when one’s own understanding of certain theological elements are deft. He cites ‘theologians’ in saying that the Son and the Father are two “persons” but one being. While this may be the somewhat an official stance, Galli goes on to show that he misunderstands the ‘theologians’ especially in using the language of the union between God the Father and Jesus to apply to humanity and Jesus.

Galli relies on American-Christian language of citing the ‘personal relationship with Jesus’ which is only a fairly recent phenomena and is unbiblical, if excluded from any notion of community, which it usually is in Evangelical circles. While Galli wishes to set aside corporate salvation, he might have done better to spend some time exploring what the theologians have written regarding corporation salvation in relationship to God. He goes on with saying that God was “not merely being kind to us in Christ” (which I’ve tried to locate in Love Wins, but couldn’t. As this is a book which is supposed to take on that book, I would expect more direct quotes) but that God has indeed saved us for reasons known to Him. Of course, Bell would agree with that, I think, which sort of acts like a sub-plot to Love Wins, in that God’s reasons are for the renewal of Creation. Both Bell and Galli would agree that our sin has caused a separation so the point of this conversation thus far has been rather muted.

Galli uses Scripture, but to what end? So does Bell. Interesting enough, both Galli and Bell quote Colossians 1.15-22, which reads,

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see– such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.

Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions.

Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. (Col 1:15-22 NLT)

Galli, however, only reports, “now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body.” Galli’s individualism allows him to read Colossians 1 and privatize that writer’s concept of salvation for himself, while failing to note that the Apostle’s epistle actually includes all of creation. In this passage, we read of the hope in which God has reconciled all things, the entire world as some translations put it, to himself through Christ, and not just you, which really points to me me me as the individual person.

Galli moves on with a section entitled, “Life in God” which he seemingly opens with the continued thought from Colossians 1. Galli sees that we are now in the very being of God. He notes that the meaning of this has taken the whole of Christian history to examine, but the ironic part of this is that the explanations were all started by questions brought on by the radical change made through the Spirit as experienced by the followers of Christ. He adds, “We cannot neatly separate who God is from what he does for us, for it is the very nature of God to pour out his love to others.” Here, Galli is arguing along the lines of Karl Rahner which is detrimental to his ability to deal objectively with Bell’s (among others) theology. Is God what God does? We could take this to a different conclusion, such as God is Retribution. If God is always Retribution, and such a notion of justice always requires Punishment, then God is always the Executioner which excludes Love and Mercy. I note that this is often the way we view sinners, such as homosexuals, in that we cannot separate their actions from their persons. Imagine again that this is carried further, in that we are sinners, defined by our actions, and thus unable to change. If God is defined by His actions, he is thus unable to change and the image of God becomes more human, feeble, and weak. This small bit of real theology which pokes through Galli’s writing here would destroy God’s ontological αναλλοίωτος because then God would be unable to change according the dispensation of the times. Yet, in that single word we find the issue of economy. I draw the clearest understanding of the nature of the Godhead from Marcellus of Ancyra and his notion of the Economic Trinity. In that, we find that ontologically speaking, God will not change (the Immanent Trinity, and yet, economically, God is allowed to change His methods if not nature for a space of our time. I note that even Galli truly doesn’t believe what he writes in the above quote because he notes that is Creator, Lord and Lawgiver in different roles which require an economic change. Instead, at some points, while Galli paints a picture of a God so transcendent, unchanging, and above nature & history, he simultaneously comes close to the pantheist model. It may be that if Galli where to re-examine the notion of an economic nature of God, then he may find that the paradoxes of Scripture are ironed out which allows for the hope of a universal restoration.

Bell and Galli would be agreement, however, that the nature of God involves Love, but I suspect that while Galli quotes Jonathan Edwards, Bell would again quote the Apostle Paul who spoke of the reconciliation of the entire world while I might add the doctrine of irresistible Grace. If God is doing the reconciliation of the entire world, then who can rightly resist Him? Galli has failed, thus far, to separate himself from what Bell is saying, but continues to separate himself from the way Christians the world and time over had lived, but experiencing God in Christ, by questioning theological standards and indeed each other, by doing. Galli wants to make the point about questioning, and yet, he fails to note that when he uses the doctrine of the Trinity, or the catechisms, or the whole of Christian history he is often relying upon the fruited results of someone who experienced something and who questions what it was and what it means.

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An Exposition of Faith: A New English Translation (Chapter 2 Begins)

I am starting the translation of chapter 2 for the Marcellian document, Exposition of Faith, and I am running into some problems – as to be expected from a novice. Any help would be appreciated.

2.1 Πιστεομεν μοως ες τ πνεμα τ γιον, τ πντα ρευνν “κα τ βθη το θεο,” ναθεματζοντες τ παρ τοτο φρονοντα δγματα.

2.2 οτε γρ υοπτορα φρονομεν ς ο Σαβλλιοι λγοντες μονοοσιον κα οχ μοοσιον κα ν τοτ ναιροντες τ εναι υἱόν.

2.3 οτε τ παθητν σμα φρεσε δι τν το παντς κσμου σωτηραν, νατθεμεν τ πατρ.

2.1 Credimus similiter in Spiritum sanctum, qui omnia scrutatur etiam profunda Dei. Dogmatius nutem omnibus quae his contraria fuerint, anathema dicimus.

2.2 Neque enim Filio Patrem agnoscimus qui unius sit substantiae, non vero consubstantialius, ut volont Seblliani, qui hoc pacto Filium pentius tollunt.

2.3 Neque etiam patibile corpus, quod propter totius mundi salutem gestavit, attribuimus Patri.

2.1 We believe also in the Spirit, the Holy (Hebrews 10.5), the searcher of all things, even the depths of God (1st Corinthians 2.10). Cursed is he who is against this doctrine.

2.2 Niether, for the Son-Father, of which Sabellius speaks, acknowledges the monoousian but not the homoousian, and he destroys the Son’s existence.

2.3 Neither, the suffering body, by which he saved all the world, given by the Father.

I am not happy with the beginning of verse 2 and 3. The ‘οτε γρ’ and ‘οτε τ‘ is throwing me. Please, help! I am thinking that the author intends to state that those that, like Sabellius, deny the Consubstantiality of the Father and Son, referring to think the Son is a ‘nickname’ (patripassianism) are accursed as well, as are those that destroy the notion that Christ had a body.

Marcellus’ problem for a long time had been that he was unfairly categorized a Sabellian by his opponants – unfair because Marcellus never denied the disctinction in time of the Incarnation and never professed that the Son was realy the Father, but with a different name. It is only natural that along with other heresies, the author places Sabellius.

Creed of the Council of Sardica – One Hypostasis or Three?

As many of you know, I have recently taken an interest in the study of 4th Century Christianity. In looking at the final development of the Trinity, the Council of Sardica had to be denied as valid by Athanasius:

And prohibit even the reading or publication of the paper, much talked of by some, as having been drawn up concerning the Faith at the synod of Sardica. For the synod made no definition of the kind. For whereas some demanded, on the ground that the Nicene synod was defective, the drafting of a creed, and in their haste even attempted it, the holy synod assembled in Sardica was indignant, and decreed that no statement of faith should be drafted, but that they should be content with the Faith confessed by the fathers at Nicæa, inasmuch as it lacked nothing but was full of piety, and that it was undesirable for a second creed to be promulged, lest that drafted at Nicæa should be deemed imperfect, and a pretext be given to those who were often wishing to draft and define a creed. So that if a man propound the above or any other paper, stop them, and persuade them rather to keep the peace. For in such men we perceive no motive save only contentiousness. For as to those whom some were blaming for speaking of three Subsistences (hypostasis) on the ground that the phrase is unscriptural and therefore suspicious, we thought it right indeed to require nothing beyond the confession of Nicæa, but on account of the contention we made enquiry of them, whether they meant, like the Arian madmen, subsistences foreign and strange, and alien in essence from one another, and that each Subsistence was divided apart by itself, as is the case with creatures in general and in particular with those begotten of men, or like different substances, such as gold, silver, or brass;—or whether, like other heretics, they meant three Beginnings and three Gods, by speaking of three Subsistences.

This was the same Council that had declared both Athanasius and Marcellus free from heresy. I have to wonder if those declarations were seen as equally invalid.

We have to notice that the Council was strict on it’s use of theological terms, not even allowing for ousia to be used. Marcellus would later comment that it was the gnostic Valens which had first used the plurality of natures:

Now with the heresy of the Ariomaniacs, which has corrupted the Church of God…These then teach three hypostases, just as Valentinus the heresiarch first invented in the book entitled by him ‘On the Three Natures’. For he was the first to invent three hypostases and three persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he is discovered to have filched this from Hermes and Plato. [7]

Before the Creed can be found the anathemas against the Eusebians who believed in three hypostases.

We declare that those are to be excommunicated from the Catholic Church who say that Christ is God, but not the true God; that he is the Son, but not the true Son; and that he is both begotten and unbegotten for such persons understand the term ‘begotten’ to signify, they say, that which has been made. And although the Son of God existed before all ages, they attribute to him a beginning and an end, and yet admit that he existed before all time.

The Creed can be found in Theodoret’s Ecclesiastical History, here:

“Valens and Ursacius have, like two vipers brought forth by an asp, proceeded from the Arian heresy. For they boastingly declare themselves to be most undoubted Christians, and yet they affirm that the Word and the Holy Ghost were both crucified and slain, and that they died and rose again; and they pertinaciously maintain, like the heretics, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are of diverse and distinct hypostases.

We have been taught, and we hold the catholic and apostolic tradition and faith and confession which teach, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost have one hypostasis, which is termed essence (ousia) by the heretics. If it were asked,  “What is the nature of the Son? we should confess, that it is the same as that of the Father; for the Father has never been, nor could ever be, without the Son, nor the Son without the Father. It is most absurd to affirm that the Father ever existed without the Son, for that this could never be the case has been testified by the Son himself, who said,  “I am in the Father, and the Father in me” (John xiv. 10); and “I and the Father are one”‘ (John x. 30). We cannot deny that he was begotten; but we say that he was begotten before all things, whether visible or invisible; and that he is the Creator of archangels and angels, and of the worlds, and of the human species. It is written, “The wisdom which made all things has taught me; (Wisdom 7.22)” and again, “All things were made by him” (John i.).

“As the Word is said to have always existed, it is plain that He could have had no commencement; for if he had had a beginning, he could not have always existed. God will never have an end. We do not say that the Father is the Son, nor that the Son is the Father; but that the Father is the Father, and that the Son is the Son of the Father. We confess that the Son is the Power of the Father. We confess that the Son is the Word of God the Father, and that beside him there is no other. We believe the Word to be the true God, as well as wisdom and power.

We affirm that he is truly the Son, yet not in the way in which men are said to be sons: for they are said to be the sons of God on account of their regeneration, or of their merit, and not on account of their being of one hypostasis with the Father, as is the Son. We confess that he is the only begotten Son; for he has always been and always is in the Father. He is the Firstborn with respect to human nature. He differs from those who have received the new birth, inasmuch as he is the Firstborn from the dead. We confess that there is but one God, and that the divinity of the Father and of the Son is one. No one can deny that the Father is greater than the Son: this superiority does not arise from any difference in their nature, nor indeed from any diversity existing between them, but simply from the name of the Father being greater than that of the Son.

The following words uttered by our Lord, “I and the Father are one are” by some persons explained as referring to the concord and harmony (symphonia) which prevail between the Father and the Son; but this is a blasphemous and perverse interpretation. So far as we are Catholics, we have condemned this foolish and lamentable opinion: for just as mortal men sometimes quarrel and afterwards are reconciled, so do such interpreters infer that disputes and dissension are liable to arise between God the Father Almighty and his Son; a supposition which is altogether absurd and untenable. But we believe and maintain that those holy words, “I and the Father are one point” out the oneness of the hypostasis, and the unity of the Father and of the Son. We also believe that the Son reigns with the Father, that his reign has neither beginning nor end, and that it is not bounded by time, nor subject to any contingencies: for what has always existed can never have commenced, and can never terminate.

We recognise and we receive the Holy Ghost the Comforter, whom the Lord promised to send, and whom we believe has been sent. It was not the Holy Ghost who suffered. He who suffered was the Christ, who took the nature of man, and was born of the Virgin Mary. As man, He was capable of suffering; for man is mortal, whereas God is immortal. We believe that on the third day the man rose in God, but that God did not rise in the man; and that Christ presented the human nature which he had delivered from sin and corruption as a gift to the Father. We believe that in his own appointed time, He will judge all men and all their actions. So great is the ignorance and mental darkness of those whom we have mentioned, that they are unable to see the light of truth. They cannot comprehend the meaning of the following words: ‘ that they may be one in us.’ It is obvious why the word ‘one’ was used; it was because the apostles received the Holy Spirit of God: yet there were none amongst them who were the Holy Ghost, neither was there any one of them who was the Word, the Wisdom, the Power, or the only begotten Son. “As Thou”, He said, “and I are one, so let them be one in us.” These holy words that they may be one in us are strictly accurate: for the Lord did not say, “Let them be one in the same way that I and the Father are one,” but he said, Let the disciples be united together, and be one in faith, in doctrine, in the grace of God the Father, and in the love of our Lord Christ.’ “

An Exposition of Faith: A New English Translation (Chapter 1 complete)

I have recently started to study 4th century Christianity in detail, primarily from the view point of Marcellus of Ancyra. In doing so, I have found that many of this works were attributed to others, especially Athanasius which betrays the clear connection between the Alexandrian Bishop and the arch-nemesis  of the Eastern dyohypostatics and the man credited with single handedly creating the first schism between East and West.

In the late 360’s, an active communion still existed between Athanasius and Marcellus which helped to shield Marcellus from the full brunt of Basil’s attacks against him. A deacon under Marcellus, in an effort to heal the breach, composed a short summary of faith for the aging miahypostatic warrior and his community and sent it to Alexandria where Athanasius – who refused to his dying day to condemn Marcellus – signed it. It was place among the pseudo-Athanasian literature, but has been rescued from history as Marcellian in thought. Who would want Athanasius, the grandfather of the eventual East-West theological and political compromise of the Trinity to still be associated with Marcellus who had for his entire life fought against the idea of three hypostaseis, although Athanasius rarely – perhaps once in the Tome to the Antiochenes – the plurality of the hypostaseis, holding to his Old Nicene belief.

Below is my attempt, my first public attempt, at translating a Greek document – and I have seemingly chosen one which has provided me with plenty of exercises. If you see an error, please point it out. I am learning, and wholly self-taught in the language; but I am not prideful. It will be a slow process. Instead of posting every finished section, I will continuous update this page and repost it. Please free to offer corrections. (Note, this has been translated before, but it is a personal exercise.)

Once I am satisfied with the final work, I will work to provide an annotation to it (I am composing one in small form as I go along).

Latin Title Expositio fidei*
Modern Text Migne, PG 25, 199-208.
English Translation R.P. Casey, The Armenian Version of the pseudo-Athanasian Letter to the Antiochenes (Sermo maior de fide) and of the Expositio fidei, Studies and Documents 15 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1947), pp. 7-10.

1.1 Πιστεομεν ες να γννητον θεν, πατρα παντοκρτορα, πντων ποιητν ρατν τε κα ορτων, τν χοντα φ’ αυτο τ εναι.

1.2 κα ες να μονογεν λγον, σοφαν, υἱόν, κ το πατρς νρχως κα ϊδως γεγεννημνον, λγον δ ο προφορικν, οκ νδιθετον, οκ πρροιαν το τελεου, ο τμσιν τς παθος φσεως οτε προβολν, λλ’ υἱὸν ατοτελ, ζντ τε κα νεργοντα, τν ληθινν εκνα το πατρς στιμον κα σδοξον.

1.3 “τοτο γρ στι”, φησ, “τ θλημα το πατρς,” “να καθς τιμσι τν πατρα οτω τιμσι κα τν υἱόν.” θεν ληθινν κ θεο ληθινο, ς φησιν ωννης ν καθολικας· “κα σμν ν τ ληθιν, ν τ υἱῷ ατο ησο Χριστο. οτς στιν ληθινς θες κα ζω αἰώνιος.”

1.4 παντοκρτορα κ παντοκρτορος· πντων γρ, ν ρχει πατρ κα κρατε, ρχει κα κρατε kai o υἱόjjjjjj. λος ξ λου.

1.5 μοιος τ πατρ ν ς φησιν κριος· “ μ ωρακς ἑώρακε τν πατρα.” γεννθη δ νεκφρστως κα περινοτως· “τν γρ γενεν ατο τς διηγσεται;” ντ το οδες.

1.6 ς π συντελείᾳ τν αἰώνων κατελθν κ τν κλπων το πατρς, κ τς χρντου παρθνου Μαρας τν μτερον νεληφεν νθρωπον, Χριστν ησον, ν πρ μν παθεν παρδωκεν δίᾳ προαιρσει, ς φησιν κριος· “οδες αρει τν ψυχν μου π’ μο. ξουσαν χω θεναι ατν κα ξουσαν χω πλιν λαβεν ατν.”

1.7 ν νθρπ σταυρωθες κα ποθανν πρ μν νστη κ νεκρν, νελφθη ες ορανος, ρχ δν κτισθες μν ν τ γ ν μν δειξεν κ σκτους φς, σωτηραν κ πλνης, ζων κ νεκρν, εσοδον ν τ παραδεσ, ξ ο κββλητο δμ, ες ν πλιν εσλθε δι το ληστο, ς επεν κριος· “σμερον μετ’ μο σ ν τ παραδεσ,” ες ν κα Παλος εσει· νοδν τε ες ορανος, “που πρδρομος εσλθεν πρ μν” κυριακς νθρωπος, ν μλλει κρνειν ζντας κα νεκρος.

1.1 We believe in one unbegotten God, Father Almighty, maker of all that is, both visible and the invisible, have his own being.

1.2 And in one unique Logos, Wisdom, Son – with the Father in the beginning and begotten from eternity, but not put forth, not immanent, not flowing from the perfect, not separated by passion from His nature, neither cast out, but Son without End, both living and working, the true image of the Father, equal in honor and glory.

1.3 Now, because he is in the pattern of the will of the Father, so that when we honor the Father, we honor the Son. True God from True God, the pattern of which has been universally accepted in John, “and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life”. (1st John 5.20)

1.4 Almighty from Almighty, over all things, whom the Father governs and rules, so the Son governs and rules, all in all.

1.5 Like the Father, which is what the Lord said: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father. (John 14.9b)” He was begotten but without explanation and comprehension, “And who will declare His generation? (Acts 8.33b)” For no one can.

1.6 Who, in the consummation of the Ages (Hebrews 9.26), went from the bosom of the Father, from the pure virgin, Mary, taking upon himself our humanity, Christ Jesus, he who of his own desire was delivered up and suffered for his people, as the Lord said, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. (John 10.18)”

1.7 He was crucified in his humanity, dying for us and rose again from the dead, and was taken up to the heavens, the first to create a way to show us the light from the darkness, life from death, to enter into paradise from which Adam was driven out, but for the thief, the Lord said, “I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise. (Luke 23.43)”  As Paul states about he who entered the heavens, “where the forerunner has entered for us, (Hebrews 6.2)” where the Lord’s humanity is about to judge the living and the dead.

As I start Chapter, I have found several words which I am finding difficulty in translating. I will most likely not repost this (for those of you following) until I have completed the entire Chapter, satisfying my self by exhausting my resources in making sure the translation is correct. I am not happy with the translation yet, but posting so that others may help. Also, I am posting the Latin.

2.1 Πιστεομεν μοως ες τ πνεμα τ γιον, τ πντα ρευνν “κα τ βθη το θεο,” ναθεματζοντες τ παρ τοτο φρονοντα δγματα.

2.2 οτε γρ υοπτορα φρονομεν ς ο Σαβλλιοι λγοντες μονοοσιον κα οχ μοοσιον κα ν τοτ ναιροντες τ εναι υἱόν.

2.3 οτε τ παθητν σμα φρεσε δι τν το παντς κσμου σωτηραν, νατθεμεν τ πατρ.

2.1 Credimus similiter in Spiritum sanctum, qui omnia scrutatur etiam profunda Dei. Dogmatius nutem omnibus quae his contraria fuerint, anathema dicimus.

2.2 Neque enim Filio Patrem agnoscimus qui unius sit substantiae, non vero consubstantialius, ut volont Seblliani, qui hoc pacto Filium pentius tollunt.

2.3 Neque etiam patibile corpus, quod propter totius mundi salutem gestavit, attribuimus Patri.

2.1 We believe also in the Spirit, the Holy (Hebrews 10.5), the searcher of all things, even the depths of God (1st Corinthians 2.10). Cursed is he who is against this doctrine.

2.2 Niether, for the Son-Father, of which Sabellius speaks, acknowledges the monoousian but not the homoousian, and he destroys the Son’s existence.

2.3 Neither, the suffering body, by which he saved all the world, given by the Father.

New Page: 4th Century Christianity

I have recently become interested in fourth century of Christianity, and will now devote a page to it. I have come to enjoy the interaction between Athanasius and my dear friend, Marcellus of Ancrya as well as the Eusebians, and the many councils associated with the final product of what would become the Trinitarian Doctrine.

I will focus on Marcellus of Ancrya as my primary target and allow for all the other people, places, and events to serve as a back drop as we explore his story and the events leading to the re-understanding of Tertullian’s formula, the interaction between East and West, and the final declaration of the ‘religion given to Peter.’

Much has been written about this most crucial hour in Church History, but I hope to provide a very fundamental(ist) view on the deliberations of the councils, especially Serdica, and the Tome of Damasus.

The Doctrine of Marcellus of Ancyra: His Theology (2)

We are continuing our series examining the Arian controversy from the eyes and pen of Marcellus of Ancyra. Note, I am not responding to his doctrine, or to that of the Arians, nor am I willing to back up either side with Scriptures, trying to let Marcellus speak for himself, as much as possible. I realize that not everyone like theology or Church history – (Imagine my surprise in school when I found out that 99% of my history classes hated history!) For some, this is boring, for others, it is a click through. For me, I am edified through discussions on theology, and can spend ours listening to lectures and then in turn discussing the finer points until the wee hours of the morning. As I said, I understand that I may be boring – but at least it makes you feel some compassion for my wife and children.

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In Search (Need) of Three Articles

Friends, if you could help, I would be most appreciative. I need three articles, or works:

  • Letter to Julius in Epiphanius’ Panarion (tr. Frank Williams),
  • On the Holy Church by Alastair H.B. Logan (in the Journal of Theological Studies, 2000).
  • University of Belfast thesis, ‘Marcellus of Ancyra: Problems of Christology and the Doctrine of the Trinity’ by M. J. Dowling (1987), which is available on microfiche.

Can any one help with those?

The Doctrine of Marcellus of Ancyra: His Theology

We are continuing our series examining the Arian controversy from the eyes and pen of Marcellus of Ancyra. Note, I am not responding to his doctrine, or to that of the Arians, nor am I willing to back up either side with Scriptures, trying to let Marcellus speak for himself, as much as possible. I realize that not everyone like theology or Church history – (Imagine my surprise in school when I found out that 99% of my history classes hated history!) For some, this is boring, for others, it is a click through. For me, I am edified through discussions on theology, and can spend ours listening to lectures and then in turn discussing the finer points until the wee hours of the morning. As I said, I understand that I may be boring – but at least it makes you feel some compassion for my wife and children.

B. Marcellus’ Theology

Whereas Marcellus referred to the preincarnate Christ as ‘Word’, the Arians preferred the title ‘Son’, applying it to both the Incarnation and the Preincarnation of the Logos of God. Marcellus consistently separated the Preincarnate with the Incarnation, using Word only for the Preincarnation while applying a wide range of titles to the Incarnation of the Word. This is because for Marcellus, God is a Monad, but during certain activities, such as Creation, God expands into a Dyad (although the word is never used in Marcellus’ writings), the Father and the Logos. At the Incarnation, when God spoke Himself, the Logos became the Son. Following this line of reasoning, a further expansion would create a Triad when Christ sent the Spirit. At the end of Time, when the Kingdom is handed over to the Father, when God is all in all[1], God will be a Monad.

There is a scholarly problem with this assessment of Marcellus’ dogma – there is a scarcity of evidence found in his writings. The above interpretation has been offered by the opponents to Marcellus, perhaps in hopes of making him look somewhat foolish. In reality, Marcellus holds fast to the Christian doctrine of monotheism, opposing the three Gods of the Arians, but lacks words – because he often refused to use nonbiblical words – to define and defend his doctrine. Although he uses, rarely, the term ‘triad’ he never fully applies it nor does he define what in the Godhead is a triad. For Marcellus, he had to admit that biblical terms, such as ‘Father’ and ‘Word’ had to have some meaning, but refused to go as far as the Arians in assigning to them personhood. Because of this ‘economic’ view of the Godhead, he felt that he was able to defend against the term ‘Sabellian’, the opposite end of the Arians.

1. The Rule of Faith

The Rule of Faith was essential in the early Church, before the Canon available for all to read. It helped to united the Church and set a standard for doctrine that even the laypeople could profess. The point of agreement for both the Arians and Marcellus is the Rule of Faith, but it was also the point of departure.

In fragment 65, Marcellus writes,

Now I will begin with the letter that he wrote and refute each point of false teaching. He wrote that he believes in the Father, the Almighty God, and in his Son, the only-begotten God, our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, he says that he learned this type of piety from the Divine Scriptures. And when he says this, I totally accept what he says, for this manner of piety is common among all of us, that we believe in the Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But when, although not totally dismissing his divine power, through some artful speculation he makes the Father more human when calling him Father, and the Son likewise when calling him Son, at that point I can no longer praise such speculations without running into danger. For it now happens that the heresy concocted by them has spread through such speculation, which I clearly and readily intend to show from his words. For he said, The Father must truly be considered a father, and the Son a son, and the Holy Spirit likewise[2].

Marcellus considered any non-biblical application to the words ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ as heresy. Neither the Jews, the Apostles, or many of the early Christian writers considered the term ‘Father’ when applied to God in any human manner, nor the Son when applied to Christ. It was not until a few centuries after the Apostles that ‘Father’ (and thus ‘Son’) took on, as Marcellus says, ‘human’ connotations.

The three – Father, Son, and holy Spirit – where agreed to throughout Christendom, and had been so, as a rule of faith, since the time of the Apostles. This much, Marcellus could offer a demur to his opponents.

2. God, Father, and Word

For Marcellus, the referents ‘Father’ and ‘God’ was not always addressed to the same entity. We examine two fragments, 104[3]:

Asterius names the power and authority that was given him “glory,” and not simply “glory” but “pre-universe glory.” He does not comprehend that the world had not yet been made nor was there anything else except God alone.

And 103[4]:

Indeed before the entire creation there was a certain quiet, one can reasonable assume (hos eikos), since the Logos was (still) in God. For if Asterius believes that God is the maker of all things, clearly he will also agree with us that God has always existed, that he never had a beginning of his existence, and that everything came into being from him and came into being from nothing. Indeed I do not suppose he would believe someone saying that some things are uncreated, but clearly he is persuaded that both heaven and earth and everything in heaven and earth came into being through God. If now this were his belief, necessarily he would confess with us that except for God there was nothing else. Therefore the Logos had his own kind of glory as one who was in the Father.

For Marcellus[5], God alone was in the beginning while the Logos was in dynamis. There was nothing besides the Father – no Son, no Spirit. Unlike earlier understandings of Logos, Marcellus never understood it to mean ‘Reason.’ For Marcellus, the Word was with the Father, ready to be spoken. He writes that there was silence because the ‘Word was with God.’ In fragment 121, Marcellus states, ‘Now I believe the divine Scriptures, that there is one God, and that His Word went forth.’ Thus, because of this statement and his writes, we understand that Marcellus sees only the Father (God) and His Word from the beginning, but only Son from the Incarnation.

Marcellus gave a very human perspective when he wrote[6],

Just as all things created by the Father came into being through the Logos, thus also the things spoken by the Father are made known through the Logos. And for this reason the most holy Moses in that place calls the Logos an angel, for he appeared [to Moses] for no other reason than to announce what was advantageous for the sons of Israel. He knew it was beneficial to believe that God is one. And therefore he said to him, “I am the one who is” (Exodus 3:14)[7] in order to teach that there is no other God besides himself. This is easily understood, I believe, by those whose thinking is right, with the help of a small and humble illustration. For it is not possible for a man and his logos to be separated from him as some power or essence (hypostasis), for the Logos is one and the same with the man, and is not distinct in any way as something else, except in the effectual working of a matter.

Marcellus allows for a distinction between God and His Logos for an ‘effectual working of a matter’, or simply, for an economic activity. If we take Marcellus here, we understand that he believes that there is a distinction between the Father and His Word when the Father sends the Word, but when the activity is over, the separation is over[8]. This feeds into Marcellus’ use of Word for the Preincarnate while Son is readily applied for the Incarnation.

For Marcellus, the Word in John 1.1 was nothing else but the Word, and refused to apply any title to it but Logos[9]. To him, all titles of the flesh could only be applied the Incarnation, including Jesus, Son, and Bread. In a title is found in the Old Testament, then for Marcellus it was applied through prophecy. This countered the Arian’s claim of subordination because of Marcellus, subordination applied only to the Incarnate.

Marcellus resented the used the ‘begotten’ for the Word (although readily used it for the Incarnation), accusing his opponents of lying:

For when Asterius said, “The Logos was begotten before the ages/eons,” the statement itself proves he is lying, in that he not only misses the main point but also the literal meaning.  For if the Proverb (8.23) says, “He established me before the age/eon,” how can he say, “He was begotten before the ages/eons”? For one saw he was “established before the age,” and the other that he was “begotten before the ages.[10]

3. The Holy Spirit

In the Rule of Faith, as it was later creeds, the terms ‘Spirit’ and ‘Holy Spirit’ was used, and to these terms, Marcellus agreed. In fragment 6, Marcellus writes that the Spirit testifies in Scripture, giving the Spirit the same power to awaken the minds, as Christ promised in John; however, for Marcellus, the Spirit, like the Word, proceeds from the Father but received its mission from the Son.

The Arians moved for three hypostaseis, or three ousiai, neither sharing the other’s nature; it was not until after Nicaea that the compromise was reached which allowed the East and the West to agree, that there were three substances in one essence. Marcellus, almost prophetically, wrote,

For it is impossible for three natures (hypostaseis) (if they do exist) to be united into a single being (monad), unless the three had previously originated from that single being (monad).  For Saint Paul said that those things which did not belong to the unity of God are “gathered up” (Eph. 1.10) in the single being (monad).  For the Logos and the Spirit alone belong to his unity[11].

This was not Marcellus’ view (note the impossibility that Marcellus sees in the view) but an hypothesis of what needed to be in order make the doctrine of the Arians work; however, this idea is well within the perimeters the eventual compromise. The one thing that Marcellus failed to mention is that if the Father, the Son, and the Spirit were of different hypostaseis, then the single essence was not the Father, meaning that the essence was the first principle, not the Father, as was long held by the Church.

Like the Arians, and as the Cappadocians[12], later admitted that they themselves lacked, Marcellus did not have a fully developed doctrine of the holy Spirit.


[1] 1st Corinthians 15.28

[2] M. Vinzent, Markell von Ankyra: Die Fragmente (Leiden, 1997).

[3] ibid

[4] ibid

[5] We have to remember that Marcellus was not alone in his thinking – he was supported by Rome (The West) and Athanasius.

[6] Frag. 61, M. Vinzent, Markell von Ankyra: Die Fragmente (Leiden, 1997).

[7] This is a favorite passage for Marcellus

[8] It would be difficult to not understand Isaiah 55.11 has playing a key role here in Marcellus’ thought.

[9] Frag 42, The Logos was “in the beginning” (John 1.1), being nothing other than the Logos.” Frag. 48, Surely then, before he came down and was born of the virgin, he was only the Logos.

[10] Fragment 36, M. Vinzent, Markell von Ankyra: Die Fragmente (Leiden, 1997).

[11] Fragment 47, M. Vinzent, Markell von Ankyra: Die Fragmente (Leiden, 1997).

[12] Of the wise among us, some consider the Holy Spirit an influence, others a creature, others God [H]imself (oi de theon) and again others know not which way to decide, from reverence, as they say, for the Holy Scripture, which declares nothing exact in the case. For this reason they waver between worshipping and not worshipping the Holy Spirit, and strike a middle course which is in fact, however, a bad one (see also Schaff, fnn 5,6, p. 664).

Basil in 370, still carefully avoided calling the Holy [Spirit] God, though with the view of gaining the weak. Hilary of Poietiers (sic) believed that the Spirit, who searches the deep things of God, must be divine, but could find no Scripture passage in which he is called God, and thought that he must be content with the existence of the Holy [Spirit] which the Scripture teaches and the heart attests (De Trinitate, ii, 29; and xii, 55; cf. Schaff, ibid.).

The Doctrine of Marcellus of Ancyra: The Position that He Opposed

I enjoy good theology, and as of late, I have become a ‘fan’ of Marcellus of Ancyra, so for a time, I will post from time to tome concerning his doctrine and an exegesis of some of his writings, surviving in fragments. For those of you who do not want to participate, I will try to alert you to this study in the title. I understood fully that some do not like talking about dead men and perhaps dead ideas, and frankly, that is fine – however, I do, so please allow me this chance to study a forgotten dead man who withstood the Arians and lost many friends during his lifetime. Remember, his miahypostatic theology was considered orthodox at the beginning of the fourth century, but by the end, even his long time friend and ally, Athanasius, had abandoned it and him in favor of a compromise with the dyohypostatic theology of the Arians.
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