Still under construction, but this page will be devoted to Marcellus of Ancrya and 4th Century Christianity.

I am currently translating the Marcellian document, The Exposition of Faith. I will update and repost periodically.

Here are the Categories that pertain specifically to this period:

Notes to Slide 4:

While Arius was listed as an ‘Elder’ it is more likely that he had his own congregation within the city, instead of serving as an advisor to the Bishop of the city.

The Arian Question started in 318, as is preserved in a letter from the Emperor Constantine to both Alexander and Arius. Alexander presented a passage of Scripture for interpretation, supposedly Proverbs 8, LXX, with Wisdom personified. The early Christian writers associated Wisdom with the Son. Arius used this language as a literal approach to say that Christ, the Son, was Wisdom and Wisdom had a beginning, and thus a creature. This allowed Arius to reconcile monotheism and Origenist thought. Arius began to separate the Logos as a creature from the one True God.

The Son is no longer begotten, but made through the will of God. Further, the Son-Logos is not God’s ‘inner’ Logos. Thus, God the Father and the Son were two beings on different levels.

Alexander argued that God was always Father because the Son was always, in that God always had logos and sophia (wisdom). God was always Father, and alone unbegotten, was not changed by the begetting of the Son. The Son was always with the Father as Logos

Arius was disposed around 318-319 and fled to Palestine, where he allied with the Eusebian Party.
Both were trying to prevent the Monarchian Doctrine which had the Father beget Himself as the Son, but Arius considered the idea of a consubstantial Father-Son as a Persia heresy. (Mani) For Arius, the Son cannot be a ‘part’ of the Father.

Notes to Slide 5

In 324, Constantine united the Empire and attempted to unite the Church. He sought to use Christianity as the new ‘cult’ religion, in gaining favors from the local deity. He sent a letter to both Alexander and Arius asking them to ignore the issue. He wanted the Church united on the ‘essentials and right worship of God.’ He wanted them to immediately bury the issue.

Constantine was as yet unbaptized, but was committed to Christianity. He had tried to settle, upon request, the Donatist Schism in North Africa, the Melitian Schism in Egypt, and the remnants of the Novatian Schism in Rome and the East. Further, he wanted to reconcile the Easter celebrations according to the Roman Tradition.

His letter to both men were delivered by a Spanish bishop, Ossius of Cordoba, who had Arianist sympathies. Neither men budged, and the question evolved. Arius began to question the legitimacy of Alexander’s episcopal rule. The question of over the Godhead became enjoined to a question over church discipline. Who would decided theology?

Ossius returned to Rome, but attended a synod at Antioch which chose a friend of Alexander over that of Eusebius of Caesarea as Bishop. Because of creed developed by this synod, a creed which opposed the Arians, three Bishops of the Eusebian Party, were denied communion when they refused to agree to the Creed.

As a matter of unusual business, the three Bishops would be given a chance to explain themselves at a future, to be held at Ancyra. This was later changed to Nicaea, the imperial summer palace.

The Emperor finances the logistics, deeming it an ecumenical council; however, the Bishop of Rome failed to attend, but sent to representatives. While it was deemed Ecumenical, most of the participants were from the East.

The Council was convened in June, and held in Greek. Although this was incidental at the time, the West used Latin, and had since Tertullian. The Emperor presided and even entered into the negotiations.

During the deliberations, Nicholas of Myra walked up to Arius and slapped him for calling Christ a creature and denying His deity (Arius could only call Christ ‘God’ in an honorary way). Nicholas was stripped of his office and thrown into chains, only later to be restored because of a dream by other Bishops.

Marcellus of Ancyra, a leading proponent of the miahypostatics, presented the Emperor, breaking protocol, a book ‘proclaiming the one God.’

Eusebius of Caesarea presented his case and creed, alleging that the Father, Son and Spirit really existed, as according to the realities presented in Matthew 28.19. For Eusebius, each had their own existence, and were not divided in number. The Emperor agreed with the Eusebian Party. The Creed was ambiguous enough for the Emperor, leaving for interpretation that Christ was God’s Logos, but not really and that while Christ is likewise God from God, He was not the one True God.

The Final Creed, the Nicene Creed, outlined that the Father and Son were One Ousia that Christ was True God – both anti-Arian.

However, the ‘one essence’ of the Creed could be translated in two ways –

The Monarchians translated it as that the Father and the Son are identical

The Eusibians translated it as the Father and Son were equal, but individual and numerically distinct

The final creed was put to a vote – 20 bishops objected. Constantine threatened those Bishops with immediate banishment. Only Arius and two other Libyan bishops refused to sign the document. They were banished from their Egyptian homeland. Eusebius of Nicomedia signed the Creed, but refused to sign the conditions which cursed the Arians. He, as member of royalty himself, was given time for reflection. He was exiled with Arius to Gaul. It was the Arian Visigoths from Gaul which sacked Rome in 410, essentially ending the western Roman Empire.

Constantine is often attributed with ‘unifying’ Christianity and many other conspiratorial deeds, including creating the bible. Many point to this moment and time and say that this was when Constantine literally rewrote the text; however, the many Greek texts which survive predate anything that Constantine could have done.

Overview of The New Testament Manuscripts

An overview of the most important New Testament manuscripts, sorted by age:

125 AD – Oldest Fragment (P52): Perhaps the earliest section of Scripture to survive is a fragment of a papyrus codex containing John 18:31-33 and 37 of about 2 ½ x 3 ½ inches. Known as the Rylands Papyrus (P52), it dates from the first half of the second century, as early as 117-138 AD.  Found in Egypt (some distance from the probable place of composition in Asia Minor), this little piece of papyrus has forced the critics to place the fourth gospel in the first century, abandoning previous assertions that it could not have been written by the apostle John.

250 AD – Chester Beatty Papyri (P45,P46,P47): This collection of three codices contains most of the New Testament. P45 consists of pieces of 30 leaves of a papyrus codex: two from Matthew, two from John, six from Mark, seven from Luke, and thirteen from Acts. P46 contains 86 slightly mutilated leaves (11 by 6 1/2 inches), stemming from an original that contained 104 pages of Paul’s epistles, including Romans, Hebrews, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, and 2 Thessalonians. P47 is made up of 10 slightly mutilated leaves of the book of Revelation.

Second-third century AD – Bodmer Papyri (P66,P72,P75): P66, dating from about 200 AD or earlier, contains 104 leaves of John. P72 is the earliest known copy of Jude, 1 Peter, and 2 Peter. It dates from the third century and also contains several apocryphal books. P75 is a codex of 102 pages (originally 144); it contains most of Luke and John, and dates between 175 and 225 AD. This is the earliest known copy of Luke. Actually, in this collection are some 88 papyri manuscripts of portions of the New Testament, of which the foregoing are merely the most important representatives. The papyri witness to the text is invaluable, dating as far back as the threshold of the second century – within a generation of the autographs (original copies penned by the author) and including most of the New Testament. All are extant (that is, available as manuscript) from within the first 200 years after the New Testament itself was written.

325-350 AD – Codex Vaticanus (B): The Codex Vaticanus is perhaps the oldest codex on parchment or vellum (ca. 325-350).  It is one of the most important witnesses to the text of the New Testament. This manuscript of the whole Bible was likely written by the middle of the fourth century; however, it was not known to textual scholars until after 1475, when catalogued in the Vatican Library. It includes most of the LXX version of the Old Testament and most of the New Testament in Greek. Missing are Timothy through Philemon, Hebrews 9:14 through Revelation, and the general epistles.

340 AD – Codex Sinaiticus (א): This fourth century Greek manuscript is generally considered the most important witness to the text because of its antiquity, accuracy, and lack of omissions. It contains over half the Old Testament (LXX), and all of the New Testament, with the exception of Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11.

From five of the early manuscripts alone (P45,P46,P47, P66,P75), it is possible to construct all of Luke, John, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Hebrews, and portions of Matthew, Mark, Acts, and Revelation. Only the “pastoral epistles” (Titus, 1 and 2 Timothy), the general epistles (James, 1 and 2 Peter, and 1, 2, and 3 John), and Philemon are excluded.

Integrity of the Manuscript Texts

The texts of New Testament manuscripts were not copied and maintained as meticulously as those of the Old Testament. As strange as it may appear, the texts for the Old Testament –especially the oldest books in the Torah – are the very texts likely to be the most accurate when compared to the original. This is because they were recognized as the sacred Word right from the beginning; as a result they were carefully protected and copied by scribes. The New Testament manuscripts, however, were copied by the early Christians. Not all text was immediately acknowledged as Scripture, but also the early Christians were not well-trained scribes. They did not do the extensive error checking like the Masoretes and other Jewish scribes and were under much more time pressure to get the texts reproduced and distributed among the fast growing number of eager disciples of Christ.

Errors in copying, mistranslations and some scribal editing and additions to many manuscripts has resulted in numerous variant readings.

Norman Geisler cites widespread misunderstanding among critics as to “errors” in the Biblical manuscripts. Some estimated as many as 200,000 variant readings. First, these are not “errors” but only variations, the vast majority of which are strictly grammatical. Second, these readings are spread over more than 5,300 manuscripts, so that a variant spelling of one letter of one word in one verse in 2,000 manuscripts is counted as 2,000 “errors.” Textual scholars Westcott and Hort estimated only one in 60 of these variants has significance. This would leave the text 98.33% pure. Philip Schaff calculated that, of the 150,000 variants known in his day, only 400 altered the meaning of the passage, only 50 were of real significance, and not even one affected “an article of faith or a precept of duty which is not abundantly sustained by other and undoubted passages, or by the whole tenor of Scripture teaching.”

Most other ancient books are not so well authenticated. New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger estimated that the Mahabharata of Hinduism has been copied with only about 90% accuracy and Homer’s Iliad with about 95%. By comparison, he estimated the New Testament is about 99.5% accurate.

It is safe to summarize that less than one percent of the New Testament text as we know it today is under competent dispute. No doctrine taught in the Bible depends on the turn of any of these disputes.

In the words of Dockery, Mathews and Sloan: “For most of the Biblical text a single reading has been transmitted. Elimination of scribal errors and intentional changes leaves only a small percentage of text about which any questions occur.” They conclude: “It must be said that the amount of time between the original composition and the next surviving manuscript is far less for the New Testament than for any other work in Greek literature…..Although there are certain differences in many of the New Testament manuscripts, not one fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith rests on a disputed reading.

And finally, the conclusion of the renowned Bible scholar F.F. Bruce:

“The variant readings about which any doubt remains among textual critics of the New Testament affect no material question of historic fact or of Christian faith or practice.”

Read on about: (2)  Exhibit #8: Early Church Leaders’ letter

Josh McDowell , The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (1999), page 35.

Data from different sources, most are mentioned throughout this chapter.

New Testament manuscripts are fragmentary. Earliest complete manuscript is ca. 350; lapse of event to complete manuscript is about 325 years.

Norman L. Geisler , Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. (1999), page 532.

Philip Schaff , Companion to the Greek Testament and English Version, page 177.

Norman L. Geisler , Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. (1999), page 532.

Chuck Missler .

David Dockery, Kenneth Mathews and Robert Sloan: Foundations for Biblical Interpretation, (1994), page 176.

Ibid page 182.

Notes to Slide 6

In 326, Constantine begin to rehabilitate the Arians by restoring them to their offices and stripping the offices of Nicene Bishops. During private conversation with Arius, the Emperor became convinced of Arius’ orthodoxy and sought to reinstate him in Alexandria.

In 328, Athanasius has succeeded Alexander as Bishop. Athanasius rebuffed the imperial overtures on behalf of Arius. The emperor threatened Athanasius with exile. In 335, Athanasius was deposed, and Arius rehabilitated. Arius died soon after.

As the Eusebians took over, they use the royal connections of Eusebius of Nicomedia (baptized Constantine on his deathbed) and the friendship of Eusebius of Caesarea (He wrote Emperor’s biography) to depose Nicene bishops.

Athanasius was deposed in 335 by a synod in Tyre for ‘sacrilege’ and banished to Trier.

Marcellus of Ancyra began his attack preemptively. It is thought that he was one of the masterminds of the Creed.

Notes to Slide 12

Marcellus approached Constantine in 336 with his work defending biblical doctrine, thinking that the Emperor could be made to see the theological wars being waged by the Eusebians. The Emperor saw Marcellus as destroying the peace, allowing a synod to take place in Constantinople which deposed Marcellus, on the orders of the Emperor. Like Athanasius, Marcellus was banished to the West.

Marcellus became arch nemesis of the Eusebian Party. He spoke in only biblical terms, with one hypostasis. He accused the Origenists of being Platonic. He said that it was impossible to have three natures (hypostaseis).

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. (Fragment 47)

He later said, ‘The Monad spreads into a triad, but without ever suffering separation.’ (Fragment 48). He believed that the Monad may appear as a triad through interaction with humanity in salvation history – only through visible (temporal activity) does the triad appear. There is no division or separation of the one, nor three independent entities.

For Marcellus, the Logos was God’s own personal – inner – Logos and appears in creation. This emergences is the ‘begetting’, but not in the ontological sense, only in that the Logos is active externally. His separation from the Father is only due to human perception. The same is said of the Spirit who when externally active, appears not as Father or Son, by as Spirit through activity.

Marcellus is often times seen as the one great resistance to the ‘unanimous solution to the problem of the Trinity.’ He was hated in the East and found support only in the West, leading to the first schism between East and West which may be well be the cause of all schisms since.

Upon the death on Constantine, all the Bishops were recalled who had been banished, including Athanasius and Marcellus. They were soon banished again, in 339, and arrived in Rome independent of each other. Bishop Julius received both men, but demanded Marcellus demonstrate his orthodoxy.

In the Letter to Julius, Marcellus shows that the Eusebians did not believe that Jesus Christ was the one true Logos of God, but that the Party believed in another Logos. That meant that they believed in two natures, two Gods. The Son did not always exist but was a creature. Marcellus used Tertullian’s formula to display the miahypostatic Godhead.

Marcellus, when in Rome, focused only on God the Almighty, refusing to label the Father as Almighty as the Eusebians did. Almighty, for Marcellus, identified the One God who in himself is already Father, Logos, and Spirit. He accuses anyone who separates the divinity of the Father and Son as believing in multiple Gods. He was supported in the believe that his doctrine was authentic Nicene orthodoxy by the legates of the previous Bishop, Sylvester, who had refused to attended Nicaea.

Julius attempted to call a Synod to reinstate both men, but the East refused to attended, seeing that Julius had no power to do so. In 341, the Synod took place with both men rehabilitated. The same synod accused the theologians of the East as being Arians. The East responded in the same year by having a Synod in Antioch which muted Nicaea and added Arian tendencies. The Antiochenes pushed through a creed which declared the Father one and the Son one, two distinct entities. They used Matthew 28.19 as the basis for the creeds as well as Arius’ personal confession to Constantine. The East became dyohypstatic with mild subordinationism.

Serdica was called by Emperor Constans and his brother the Emperor Constantius. It was held in 342. Both Marcellus and Athanasius appeared, but Julius refused to attend, sending only legates. The Eastern Bishops refused to attend in the presence of Marcellus and Athanasius and held a separate council in the neighboring Philipppopolis. Due to a military victory against Persian, the Council was no longer seen as needed. It broke up with a set of anathemas given by the East, rejecting Marcellus, but refusing to take extreme positions on Tritheism or the godhead of Christ. The Western Bishops stayed to safeguard the rehabilitation of Athanasius and other bishops. The third Canon, or agreement, was that the Bishop of Rome was given the authority to hold appeals on disputes in the Church.

The document produced at Serdica attacked those that refused to recognized Christ as the true God. The creed formulated at Serdica stated that there is only one hypostasis of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit labeling ousia as a word of the heretics. Further, the Western Bishops began to list the violent crimes committed by Eastern Bishops against the miahypostatics. The Western Bishops further listed by name several Bishops that were to be excommunicated.

It was at this Council which Marcellus read and defended his book proclaiming the One God, to which the West proclaimed it as Orthodox.

The Council represented the West’s inclusion, and thus understanding of what Nicaea actually meant.

The East began to redraw from their extreme position of three hypostaseis by attempting to find different words while the West started to move away from what the East accused them of – Monarchianism.

Due to threats of civil war, the Eastern Emperor recalled Athanasius in 346 but refused to completely rehabilitated him. It was during this time which Athanasius politically broke with Marcelus. In order for Athanasius to regain his See, the Emperor demanded that he break condemn Photinus, Marcellus’ disciple, and to make a complete brake from Marcellus. Athanasius complied. The Emperor deposed Marcellus in 347.

Upon the Death of The Western Emperor, the Eastern Emperor became sole rule in 350. In 351, the synod of Sirmium condemned Marcellus through his disciple, Photinus. Athanasius broke with Marcellus, blaming the brake on Photinus. In synods in 353 and 355, the East urged the Western bishops to condemn Athanasius. Anyone who did not condemn the Bishop was exiled to the East by the Imperial Court in Milan, including the Bishop of Rome. The Emperor sent the military after Athanasius, but the Bishop escaped with the Egyptian monks.

Hilary of Poitiers of Gaul was condemned and exiled to the East, where he soon constructed a common dialogue between the East and West.

During this time, as support of Athanasius and Marcellus led to condemnation, Arianism erupted again. It was this time led by Aetius a deacon of Antioch. It said that the Father and the Son were heteroousios, of different essence. Basil of Ancyra, who had replaced Marcellus in 336, led the charge against this new Arianism. They still supported the Eastern theology of three hypostasis and the homoousios.

During this time, the German semi-Arians became advisors to the Emperor, urging him to call a synod again in Sirmium. He did so in 357. The synod attempted to limit all discussion on the ousia to biblical examples, acknowledging that ousia was unbiblical. All theology must come through Matthew 28.19. The agreement was reached and signed by Bishops Ossius of Cordoba and Liberius of Rome – who had been exiled for nearly 2 years. The new agreement solidified the Eastern theology by disallowing any new discussions.

Little is know of Marcellus between the brake with Athanasius in 345 and the Tome in 362. Marcellus remained in Communion with the party by Paulinus of Antioch and the Meletians. When Basil of Caesarea was elected to office in 370, he suspected that Marcellus was still in communion with the Western, Egyptian, and some Asia Minor Churches. Basil labored to get Athanasius to condemn Marcellus, but Athanasius never would, leaving Basil’s request unanswered.

As Basil grew in power, he attempted again to use the condemnation of Marcellus as the single unifier of the East and West, but a deacon under Marcellus composed a document, Expositio, showing that an active communion still existed between Marcellus and churches in Greece and Macedonia. It was a profession of faith as well. Upon receiving it, a synod in Alexandria led by Athanasius signed the document, allowing full communion between Marcellus and Athanasius.

Epiphanius of Salamis reported a conversation with Athanasius in his Panarion 72.4:

I myself once asked the blessed pope Athanasius about this Marcellus, what his opinion of him was. He neither defended him nor expressed hostility towards him. He only smiled, and indicated that he was not far from error, but he considered him excused.

Epiphanius listed him as a heretic but never defined his heresy.

Marcellus of Ancyra died in 374.

Notes to Slide 13

Constantius called the council of Sirmium. It was held by the Court Bishops (Heteroousios) and the Homoeousians. The results were a compromise in which the subordinatist tendencies were toned down. It attempt to forbid the use of the word ‘ousia.’ This synod was unofficial, and only as a preparation to a desired Ecumenical Council.

Two Councils were called, East and West, to work on a harmonization. The Emperor worked behind the scenes in securing the compromise. The Western Council denied the doctrine of the one Hypostasis but a passing reference was given to the ‘likeness’ of the Father and the Son. Both councils were adjourned to meet in Constantinople. The final creed still forbade the use of ousia as well as the Western Monarchian language by forbidding the use of the word hypostasis. This created a new group, the Homoeans (Father and Son similar)

All Bishops who did not recognize it were removed from the Sees by the Imperial Court.

On the way to stop a rebellion by his cousin, Julian, Constantius died, leaving Julian as the Emperor.

Julian adopted Paganism and refused to be involved in the Church’s disputes. He sought to restore religious plurality. He did, however, seek to destroy Christianity by allowed all the bishops that had been banished to return to their Sees, even where other bishops already occupied the offices. He thought that the civil war that would ensue would hasten the downfall of Christianity. In 362, he recalled all Bishops, including Athanasius; however, Athanasius Homoean opponent, George, had been lynched the previous year.

To prevent Julian’s hoped for war, Athanasius as well as Liberius in Rome, allowed full communion to all who accepted Nicaea and rejected Arianism. In the same year, Athanasus called a Synod which affirmed his theology but called for the inclusion of other theologies. He attempted a compromise with the Homoeans, led by Euzious (Arius’ former Deacon) and the Old Nicene community lead by Paulinus. A group that advocated the Easter doctrine of three hypostaseis formed around Meletius of Antioch. Both Paulinus and Meletius sent delegates to Alexandra.

Athanasius conditioned communion on rejection of Arius, recognition of Nicaea, and the condemnation of the rising view that the Spirit was of a different ousia than of Christ.

Athanasius, who had supported Serdica in 342 and who, along with Marcellus of Ancrya, helped to draft the miahypostatic language of that council, called the formula and doctrine as pronounced there, as superfluous and non-binding, to curry favor with the Meletians. He distanced himself from Marcellus.

In a compromise to the Meletians, Athanasius abandoned the maihypostatic doctrine of his youth in favor of a new understanding of hypostasis. He persuaded the miahypostatics of the Old Nicenes to abandon their ‘modalistic’ tendencies in favor of the new understanding of Nicaea. These negioations were set down in the ‘Tome to the Antiochenes’ (362). The Tome allowed that the Ousia and Hypostasis held the same meaning. Further, the issue of three or one was not to be pressed because the terms were now equated.

The compromise was held up by the personal battle between Athanasius and Meletius. Lucifer of Calaris a deposed bishop under Constantius ordained Paulinus as Bishop of Antioch, displacing Meletius. Because Paulinus signed the letter, Meletius and his faction refused to follow it.

Later in 362, Julian banished Athanasius, causing the bishop to feel. The emperor would soon loose his life the following year. Jovian, a Christian General, assumed the imperial throne.

Jovian refused to bow to pressure and did not banish bishops.

Meletius assembled a synod to proclaim the Nicene Faith. The Eastern Bishops, because of the flair ups of Arianism, was pushed to accepting, politely, the Nicene Creed, and building their theology around it. Before anything substantial could be developed, Jovian died, leaving the Empire divided between Valentinian (West) and Valens (East). Valens restored the dogma of the Homoeans, returning the East to pre-361. He did not have the power of Constantius and had to allowed Athanasius to return to Alexandra in 366, where he retained power until his death in 373.

In the early 370’s Valens banished Meletius, but his community survived by adopting more pro-Nicene theology, due to the leadership of the Cappadocian Fathers.

Notes to Slide 14

In 366, three bishops were sent to Liberius of Rome. Upon arrival, the Bishop refused to see them unless they confessed the homoousios of Nicaea. They did. The Bishop and the Delegation condemned Arianism and Marcellus. After the delegation returned to the East, Liberius died, leaving Damasus as Bishop of Rome.

Damasus allied with Athanasius and returned to confessing the una substantia. The Roman Text, after agreed upon by Athanasius was sent to the East. The East was hesitant as they saw the una substantia as presenting a modalistic una figura. Meletius of Antioch supported, in general terms, the Western dialogue. Only Paulinus of Antioch affirmed Damasus’ text. Paulinus and his community was accepted into Roman communion in 375.

Damasus in a letter entitled ‘En Gratia’ speaks of one force, one majesty, one Godhead, and one indivisible power, but no longer spoke of one substantia and one figura. He begins to use the Greek ousia in place of the Latin substantia. It is during this time which he reinterprets Tertullian’s formula as mia ousia, tries hypostaseis. In a further letter to the East, Damasus replaces ousia (Greek) with the Latin una essentia. It was a mediation between the Old Nicenes and the Neo-Nicenes, between East and West, and hypostasis and ousia. Extreme Arianism and the doctrine of Marcellus is again attacked and refuted.

In 378, the Emperor Valen was killed in a war against the Goths. Gratian appointed Theodosius, a Spanish general, as successor.

Notes to Slide 15

Basil began to divide the ousia and the hypostasis. Ousia came to mean the essence which the hypostasis was. It allowed for the idea that the essence of God was completely inaccessible and incomprehensible. It is knowable only to the Father, Son and holy Spirit. Further, this concept allowed for each hypostasis to have different characterists, such as unbegotten (Father) and begotten (Son). Any statements made about the individual hypostases could not then be applied to the essence.

Basil did not undue what Athanasius had done, but used the Tome to say that the East and the West were in agreement but simply used different words to describe the same thing. Basil now aligned words to what we now know as the Trinitarian Formula. There is one incomprehensible ousia (mia ousia) realized in three hypostases (tries hypostaseis).

For Basil, because of the Unbegotten, the Begotten, and the Procession, there is an eternal bond, and thus no separation. The Trinity is now seen as completely ontological.

Notes to Slide 17

XXVI.  To this I may compare the case of Theology except that it proceeds the reverse way.  For in the case by which I have illustrated it the change is made by successive subtractions; whereas here perfection is reached by additions.  For the matter stands thus.  The Old Testament proclaimed the Father openly, and the Son more obscurely.  The New manifested the Son, and suggested the Deity of the Spirit.  Now the Spirit Himself dwells among us, and supplies us with a clearer demonstration of Himself.  For it was not safe, when the Godhead of the Father was not yet acknowledged, plainly to proclaim the Son; nor when that of the Son was not yet received to burden us further (if I may use so bold an expression) with the Holy Ghost; lest perhaps people might, like men loaded with food beyond their strength, and presenting eyes as yet too weak to bear it to the sun’s light, risk the loss even of that which was within the reach of their powers; but that by gradual additions, and, as David says, Goings up, and advances and progress from glory to glory, the Light of the Trinity might shine upon the more illuminated.  For this reason it was, I think, that He gradually came to dwell in the Disciples, measuring Himself out to them according to their capacity to receive Him, at the beginning of the Gospel, after the Passion, after the Ascension, making perfect their powers, being breathed upon them, and appearing in fiery tongues.  And indeed it is by little and little that He is declared by Jesus, as you will learn for yourself if you will read more carefully.  I will ask the Father, He says, and He will send you another Comforter, even the spirit of Truth. This He said that He might not seem to be a rival God, or to make His discourses to them by another authority.  Again, He shall send Him, but it is in My Name.  He leaves out the I will ask, but He keeps the Shall send, then again, I will send,—His own dignity.  Then shall come, the authority of the Spirit. (

Even as late as 380, Gregory Nazianzus said, “Of the wise among us, some consider the Holy Ghost an influence, others a creature, others God himself, 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 Ghost, and strike a middle course, which is in fact, however, a bad one”

Notes to Slide 18

Theodosius was baptized in 380 and immediately refuted the Homoean dogma of the Imperial Court. He issued an edict, the Cunctos populos, ordering all subjects of the emperor to all the religion of Peter as handed down to the Romans. Both Damasus and Peter, the successor of Athanasius, confessed the same. The doctrine was to be one Godhead of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The edict referes to the bishoped as the guarantors of the norm of faith and to provide the orientation. The Western Bishops were named, but the East had suffered a power vacuum.

In 378, Meletius of Antioch had returned to the city and endorsed, along with 150 other bishops, the letters of Damasus; however, Paulinus was still considered the legitimate Bishop of the city. The Emperor throw his support behind Meletius, and appointed him as head of the new Council to be called in 381.

The 2nd Ecumenical Council was primarily compromised of Eastern bishops. The Roman Bishop was not invited nor did he send legates. The only Western participant was Acholius of Thessalonica, who had recently baptized the Emperor. (He was representing Macedonia, which had been seceded to the West in 380). Unlike the Council in 325, the Emperor stayed in the background, never personally taking part. The Creed developed at this Council survived because it was affirmed at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

The Creed removed the Nicene phrase ‘from the substance of the Father’. They further added a canon on the holy Spirit, assigning to it the third part of the Trinity., although it never fully answered many of the questions that had been raised about the Spirit. The Creed formally condemned Marcellus, by name.

The Council asked the Bishop to nominate ‘norm Bishops.’ All bishops had to be in communion with these certain bishops or be driven from their Sees.

The major questions had been settled. The West called a council in Rome the following year which affirmed the new statement of faith, as well attempted to settle lingering political disputes including the primacy of the Roman Bishop.

29 Replies to “4th Century”

  1. Hi Polycarp.  It’s me Marcion again.
    I really think we are after the same thing – the truth.  Maybe one day our parallel lines will meet who knows.  I happen to be checking out your superior blog.  It is awe-inspiring. You must be doing something right!
    Just one thing I should mention (I always mention it when P52 is cited).  Yes, you can say that P52 testifies to the early existence of  the narrative found in our canonical texts (if you only think in terms of the four canonical gospels introduced by Irenaeus).  However the very same narratives are found in the so-called Diatessaron.  There are a handful of scholars (Bill Petersen for one albeit a deceased representative) who have thoughtfully pursued the claim of Epiphanius that the Diatessaron goes back somehow to the Gospel of the Hebrews (and thus the text behind the earliest gospel of the canon according to Irenaeus etc.).  At the very least you should put an asterix beside your claim that it ‘proves’ the early existence of John.  This is only true if you ignore the Diatessaron (I have an unpublished paper which demonstrates that your name sake – Polycarp of Smyrna – employed a Diatessaron rather than the Catholic quaternion; I know you are perceptive enough to see what difficulties that raises for Irenaeus’ claim to be completely devoted to your namesake).
    The point is that Tatian certainly identified his ‘Diatessaron’ (the Syrian church undoubtedly called it ‘the Gospel’ or the ‘Gospel of Jesus’) as being the very same gospel as his teacher Justin.
    Justin’s gospel certainly shares what we would call a ‘harmonized’ appearance.
    Again because we are brainwashed into Irenaeus introduction (an introduction which interestingly does not mention any authorities before him who thought four was the right number) of the quaternion many of us simply say P52 ‘proves’ an early date for John.  The reality is that the parallel Diatessaron tradition casts a deep shadow over these claims for all but the pious.

    … said to him the Jews, “To us it is lawful to kill no one,” so that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he said signifying by what sort of death he was about to die. He entered again into the Praetorium Pilate and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you king of the Jews?
    Diatessaron XLIX (translated from a number of languages ultimately to Arabic)
    The Jews said unto him, We have no authority to put a man to death: that the word might be fulfilled, which Jesus spake, when he made known by what manner of death he was to die. And Pilate entered into the praetorium, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews?
    … a King I am. I for this have been born and (for this) I have come into the world so that I should testify to the truth. Everyone being of the truthhears my voice. Says to him Pilate, “What is truth?” and this saying, again he went out to the Jews and says to them, “I nothing find in him a case.”
    Diatessaron ibid:50 – L:1 Jesus said unto him, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: now my kingdom is not from hence. Pilate said unto him, Then thou art a king? Jesus said unto him, Thou hast said that I am a king. And for this was I born, and for this came I into the world, that I should bear witness of the truth. And every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. Pilate said unto him, And what is the truth? And when he said that, he went out again unto the Jews. And Pilate said unto the chief priests and the multitude, I have not found against this man anything
    It is simply impossible to argue that P52 is not a witness to the Diatessaron.  We say it witnesses John only because we accept the claim that Tatian ‘invented’ the Diatessaron.
    I can do the same with regards to the citations in your namesake’s Letter to the Philippians.  There are two citations of gospel material.  They both matches the Diatessaron BUT DO NOT WITNESS the order of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  The argument is solid. David Trobisch wrote the forward to the unpublished book (unpublished because I was certain it would sell even worse than the Real Messiah) and was thoroughly convinced.
    Irenaeus DID NOT use Polycarp’s gospel.  I personally suspect that Florinus was a more accurate witness of Polycarp’s beliefs, but that’s just me being me …
    Here’s to a long lasting friendship between us

  3. Hi.  Thanks for continuing this discussion.  I am sorry I have to write this on my Blackberry (sloppiness might show up in the text).

    There can be no doubt that later Church Fathers claimed that Tatian WROTE the Diatessaron.  Yet it is particularly interesting that Irenaeus never mentions this.  His statement about Tatian’s ‘heresy’ is limited to the following:

    “A certain man named Tatian first introduced the blasphemy (viz. a ‘heretical view of salvation). He was a hearer of Justin’s, and as long as he continued with him he expressed no such views; but after his martyrdom he separated from the Church, and, excited and puffed up by the thought of being a teacher, as if he were superior to others, he composed his own peculiar type of doctrine. He invented a system of certain invisible AEons, like the followers of Valentinus; while, like Marcion and Saturninus, he declared that marriage was nothing else than corruption and fornication. But his denial of Adam’s salvation was an opinion due entirely to himself.”

    The question of course is why if Irenaeus introduced four as the right number of gospels (established a NT ‘edition’ to cite Trobisch’s use of the term) why ISN’T his supposed authorship of the Diatessaron mentioned as part of his heresy?

    There are only a few possibilities here but given the fact that his master Polycarp can be demonstrated to have used the Diatessaron the idea that Tatian actually wrote the text becomes highly unlikely.  The sentence begins with the idea of how Tatian distinguished himself from Justin.  If Tatian wrote the Diatessaron then it would only have been appropriate to mention it at least in passing.

    The problem of course (one which traditional NT scholars don’t like to acknowledge) is that EVERYONE was using a single long gospel.  I don’t even think that Irenaeus knew the term ‘Diatessaron.’  This only came about after his four fold gospel became the official canon.  The list of Fathers who used what NT scholars call ‘harmonized’ (harmonized because they aren’t our seperated texts) include Justin, Polycarp, Theophilus, Origen (see the references in his Commentary on Matthew they line up perfectly with the Diatessaron especially when he goes through ‘what happened’ in a particular narrative etc.).
    If as I suggest Irenaeus NEEDED to establish himself as part of a particular tradition Polycarp’s was the least organized (he just died a generation before the establishment of his NT edition).  I view Polycarp as a kind of renegade railing against the ‘excesses’ of the Marcionite tradition and establishing a tradition in the name of John (this especially shines through the Harris Fragments where because John didn’t die as a martyr Polycarp has to die as a martyr).
    The point is that if Polycarp used a Diatessaron (as the Letter to the Philippians suggests) then Irenaeus couldn’t trash the text.  He also couldn’t claim that Tatian wrote it as any such an attack would raise questions about his continuing the beliefs which John passed on to Polycarp and Polycarp supposedly passed on to him (it would be like the dog biting its own tail).

    The second point you make is just an assumption – i.e. that Valens was a ‘gnostic.’  The context in Philippians is a question of ‘covetousness’:
    Polycarp 10:3 But woe to him through whom the name of the Lord be blasphemed. Therefore teach all men soberness, in which ye yourselves also walk was exceedingly grieved for Valens, who aforetime was a presbyter among you, because he is so ignorant of the office which was given unto him. I warn you therefore that ye refrain from covetousness, and that ye be pure and truthful. Refrain from all evil.   But he who cannot govern himself in these things, how doth he enjoin this upon another? If a man refrain not from covetousness, he shall be defiled by idolatry, and shall be judged as one of the Gentiles who know not the judgment of the Lord, Nay, know we not, that the saints shall judge the world, as Paul teacheth?””
    All that we can say about Valens is that at some point he left Polycarp’s fold and as a result Polycarp condemned him.  What the exact dispute was is up for debate.  Scholarship tends to view the Valen’s ‘avarice’ as separate from any question about him being a ‘gnostic.’

    Indeed as to the question of whether Polycarp was a ‘gnostic’ all that we can say is that Irenaeus certainly says he wasn’t but clearly at least some gnostics in Rome – Florinus being the most notable – idenitified Polycarp as being the ultimate source of their teachings.  Do we HAVE TO believe Irenaeus’ version of Polycarp?  No.  We can simply CHOOSE TO believe Irenaeus and thereby develop a rather simplified version of history which is USEFUL for the faith but has a number of holes in its logic.

    The same is true about P52 (which is the original subject of our discussion).  We can as a collective body of scholars say that it PROVES the early existence of the Gospel of John.  However by doing this we ignore the possibility that it also COULD REPRESENT a preservation of the parallel section of the Diatessaron.  Scholars as a collective body turn up their nose at the Diatessaron and praise the quaternion.  Okay that’s fine but really with Polycarp’s use of the Diatessaron and Irenaeus’ citation of the quaternion WITHOUT the witnesses of authorities before him this argument that P52 HAS TO BE the canonical Gospel of John is rather weak.
    Of course as most scholars are believers and all believers venerate the fourfold gospel it’s not going to be anytime soon that the walls are going to come crashing down around the faith.  Enough soldiers on behalf of the faith are going to conspire to keep this and other dubious arguments wholly based on faith rather than reason standing up for long after you and I are dead and gone.

    However the bottom line is that P52 really can’t be proved to be the gospel of John.  It can’t be proved to be the Diatessaron either.  It’s just a testimony to the early existence of a story common to both textual traditions.

    Even though I am sure that you can find one hundred – even a thousand scholars – who will agree that the Diatessaron HAD TO HAVE BEEN made up as a synthesis of the four canonical texts I have just given you a number of reasons to doubt that story.  It just doesn’t make sense that Irenaeus wouldn’t have said that Tatian had written something that proved that he innovated from Justin especially as it was the theme of the passage in AH Book 1.
    In my opinion there is an effective stalemate.  You can say ‘I believe that P52 is the Gospel of John’ but it is not proved just as I can say ‘I believe P52 is the Diatessaron.’

    To say any more than this is just testimony to the inherent bias built into NT scholarship.  It’s not a knock against you but the study as a whole (see Hector Avalos on that).

    Thanks again

  4. The truth is that we were originally discussing whether P52 COULD BE the Diatessaron instead of the Gospel of John.  I have yet to hear a reasonable statement why this is an impossibility.  I suspect that you threw in all this stuff about Polycarp’s relationship to Valens and what the Church Fathers thought of Tatian as distractions from that point.
    With regards to your seeming hatred of ‘conspiracy theories’ let me remind you of the ORIGINAL CONSPIRACY THEORY to help explain away all the other forms of Christianity in the late second century when the Church of Jesus Christ TM was getting off the ground.  Satan apparently entered into the hearts of a number of members of the GREAT CHURCH and caused them to think stupid things.
    Yes, YOU may not think that you subscribe to conspiracy theories but YOUR CHURCH is based on a SUPERNATURAL CONSPIRACY THEORY involving ‘the Devil’ and a number of agents (the Jews being frequently linked to this group of these ‘Satanic disbelievers’ depending on which way the historical winds are blowing).
    Now that I have established that YOU ARE dependant on conspiracy theories to uphold your inherited beliefs (whether or not you recognize Marcion’s ‘seduction of a virgin,’ his being recognized as the firstborn of Satan i.e. that this boogeyman impregnated his mother, his soul whatever and CAUSED him, Valentinus, ‘Ebion,’ ‘Elxai,’ Simon and all these other alleged members of this silly supernatural conspiracy not to understand that when Jesus said he wasn’t the Christ he didn’t mean it) let’s go back to the original argument:
    I like chocolate ice cream better than vanilla ice cream but that doesn’t mean that chocolate ice cream was invented first.
    And BTW I did not advance a theory about ‘gnosticism’ being older than Christianity in this discussion.  I happen to believe that it true owing to the fact that I think that kabala is as old as the Torah.  But it has nothing to do with the present discussion which is again whether P52 PROVES an early date for Irenaeus’ citation of a ‘Gospel of John’ which features these same stories.

  5. Why don’t you stop arguing with this heretic Polycarp?  He doesn’t see the light and never will.  It isn’t the scrap of paper that matters.  Even if we acknowledge that it belongs to a gospel harmony or the Diatessaron or whatever else he is saying this chap will never have what really matters and that is the power of faith.  We can have all the cleverness in the world but if we fall short in that regard we have lost everything.

  6. The sentiments expressed here exactly sum up the reason why we need to set dynamite at the foundation of the last two centuries of American and British New Testament scholarship.

  7. Sorry for being overly dramatic with that last comment but I should mention one more – and indeed the most persuassive reason yet to see P52 as a Diatessaron fragment – Bart Ehrman (The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research p. 77) “[i]n raw chronological terms, the Diatessaron antedates all MSS of the NT, save that tiny fragment of the Gospel of John known as P52.”  Sure Ehrman didn’t see the Diatessaronic parallel in the material (he was still too brainwashed like the rest of them to see P52 as something other than the canonical Gospel of John).   Yet given that all the other earliest surviving witnesses are Diatessaronic the scales tip SLIGHTLY in favor of P52 following the trend.

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