Letter from Alexander of Alexandria to his Clergy

The Fourth Century is the most interesting time in the development of Christian doctrines. For me, we can find heroes of the Faith, Athanasius, Marcellus, Julius, and evil scoundrels – Arius, the various Eusebius’, the Roman Emperors. Here is a short letter from the great Bishop of the city of Alexander to his clergy. By this time, the local church had evolved from the house church in Acts, to actual church buildings, to a central building with satellites throughout the city or area. What had evolved from a few in leadership, with one surrounded by a council gave away to the council having their own independent parishes.

Arius had been one of these priests with a parish in the city of Alexandria, and had friends/supporters among the clergy under Alexandria.

Alexander, to his assembled and beloved brethren, the priests and deacons of Alexandria, and the Mareotis.  Greetings in the Lord.

(1.) Indeed, you have already subscribed to the letter I addressed previously to Arius’s supporters, in which I encouraged them to renounce his impiety, and to submit themselves to the sound catholic faith.  You have shown your right commitment to and agreement with the doctrines of the catholic church.  Yet, since I have written also to our fellow-ministers in every place concerning those supporting Arius, I decided that I needed to assemble you, the clergy of the city, and to send for you the clergy of the Mareotis.

(2.) This was especially needed since some in your own ranks – the priests Chares and Pistus and the deacons Serapion, Parammon, Zosimus, and Irenæus – have joined themselves with the Arian faction, and devoted themselves to undergo destruction with them.  You need to learn what I am now writing, and to testify your agreement to it and to vote together for the deposition of those supporting Arius and Pistus.

(3.) For it is desirable that you understand what I write, and that each of you have a heart-felt adherence to it, as though each had written it himself.

Ancient source:Athanasius, Defense of the Nicene Definition 34
Modern edition usedH-G. Opitz, Athanasius Werke, vol. 2.1 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1940).

Looks like the Bishop is calling for a local synod to handle the problem, but noting that some had already gone the way of Balaam.

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