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Who was Arius

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  • Who was Arius

    Arius (256 - 336 AD) was a Libyan theologian and of Berber descent. His father’s name is given as Ammonius. He was educated in the theological school of Antioch (now Antakya) under the distinguished Greek scholar, Presbyter and non-trinitarian Lucian of Antioch. He was regarded as the founder of Arianism, although its concept was by no means new, which some Christian sects regard as a heresy and was a key issue in the early Church, leading to the formation of the heretical Nicene Creed.

    At the turn of the fourth century Arius was already known to hold strong views on theology and was a close associate of Lucian and Meletius (an Egyptian schismatic against Peter I), however following reconciliation in AD 306 Arius was ordained as a Deacon by Peter I (Patriarch of Alexandria: AD 300 - 311). Further disputes led the Bishop (Peter I) to excommunicate Arius, who, however, gained the friendship of Achillas, Peter’s successor. Arius was re-instated and then ordained by Achillas (Patriarch of Alexandria 312 - 313) as the Presbyter of the district of Baucalis in Alexandria in AD 313, but when Achillas died that same year Arius was denied the Patriarchate of Alexandria (to which he aspired) by Alexander I of Alexandria (a Sebellianist heretic).

    Arius’s most important work was “Thalia” (The Banquet, 323), a work comprising both prose and poetry, in which he defended his beliefs. The document was destroyed by the trinitarians and is no longer extant, and knowledge of most of Arius’s writings comes only from the works of his critics, who, in condemning him, revealed much information.

    Arius continued to campaign against trinitarianism. He was excommunicated locally in 321 AD. He was declared orthodox in Asia Minor, where he had fled (323), but he was anathematised by the Council of Nicaea (324) and banished by the Roman Emperor Constantine I (325). But in the reaction after Nicaea, where Arius gained support from Clergy across all Europe especially in the east and at one point Arians outnumbered the trinitarians, he came into imperial favour. The emperor had ordered the Athanasians at Alexandria to receive him at communion when he suddenly died under suspicious circumstances immediately after having an audience with the Emperor at the imperial palace. Arians believed that Arius had been poisoned.

    Arius’s legacy however has lived on in spite of its condemnation by the Council of Constantinople (381). Arianism was reinstated by Constantine I who was Baptised as an Arian Christian on his deathbed, and was supported by his son Constantius II who even raised St Felix II as the Arian bishop of Rome. The Arian controversy itself lasted for over 250 years until it was driven underground. Throughout the dark and middle ages trinitarians have brutally attempted to stamp-out Arianism, even the Spanish Inquisition could not quell Arius’s beliefs. As Roman Catholicism began to decline in central Europe, Arianism rose again, even in the Church of England! Today Arianism has returned to the fore with the Arian-Catholic Church lead by the Primus Inter Pares (First Among Equals): Rev Dr Brian B. Michael-John Mackenzie-Hanson.

    Arius was recognised as a Saint and Martyr by the Arian Catholic Church on 16th June 2006, which has become his memorial day.

    St Arius - Founder of Arianism

    Presbyter Saint Arius - remembered for his views
    concerning the trinity and
    the divinity of

    Arius Officially NOT a Heretic! An interesting point to note is that because Arius was officially re-instated into the Full Communion of the church before he died in 336 AD, by the Emperor of Rome, Constantine I, he officially is NOT excommunicated and therefore NOT a heretic according to the Roman Catholic church!

    Arianism remained strong in Europe in spite of Roman aggression for a further 250 years and has continued to survive in the sidelines waiting for the time when Arianism can become strong again.

    Berber descent: A member of the indigenous Caucasian peoples of North Africa such as Libya, Morocco and Algeria, speaking related languages.

    The "Chi Rho" symbol of the early church representing the first two Greek letters of "Christ" - Alpha and Omega pertain to Revelation 22:13 - "I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."

    St. Arius of Alexandria (256-336 A.D.)

    born: 256 AD, Libya.
    died: 336 AD, Constantinople.
    canonized: 2006 AD, England.

    Arius was a presbyter (priest) at Alexandria who taught the created nature of Christ, which was denounced as a heresy. The Arian Controversy led to the Council of Nicaea (325 AD) and the development of the Nicene Creed.

    St. Arius was Beatificized by the Arian Catholic Church on 1st July 2005, then Canonized on 16th June 2006 as Saint Arius of Alexandria, Presbyter and Martyr. Top Of Page

    The "Chi Rho" symbol of the early church representing the first two Greek letters of "Christ" - Alpha and Omega pertain to Revelation 22:13 - "I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."

    Arianism has been called the “archetypal Christian heresy”: it denies the divinity of Christ. This study of Arius by Rowan Williams, made available again and augmented with a new introduction and a fresh conclusion, provides the most detailed examination of Arianism ever published.
    In exploring the background and mind of Arius, Williams argues that this classic “heretic” (according to trinitarians and Niceans) was in fact a dedicated theological conservative whose concern was to defend the free and personal character of the Christian God. According to Williams, Arius’s heresy grew out of his attempt to unite traditional biblical language with radical philosophical ideas and techniques and involved, from the start, issues of authority in the church. Thus, the crisis of the early fourth century was not only about the doctrine of God but also about the relations between emperors, bishops, and ascetical “charismatic” teachers in the church’s decision-making. Williams raises the vital wider questions of how heresy is defined and how certain kinds of traditionalism transform themselves into heresy.
    Arius is widely considered to be Williams’s magnum opus. Long out of print and never before available in paperback, the reissue of this extremely important book -- in a form and at a price which will be attractive to non-specialists as well as to scholars -- is a major publishing event.

    Early Life of St. Arius

    Image of an unnamed deacon used on the cover of the book "Arius, Heresy & Tradition" by Rowan Williams Arius was a pupil of Lucian of Antioch, who was both a celebrated Christian teacher and a martyr for the faith. In a letter to bishop Alexander of Constantinople, Alexander of Alexandria wrote that Arius derived his heresy from Lucian. The object of the letter is to complain of the errors Arius was then accused of diffusing but the charge is vague in itself, and is unsupported by other authorities, and Alexander’s language, like that of most controversialists in those days, is not a little violent. Moreover, Lucian is not stated, even by Alexander himself, to have fallen into the heresy afterwards promulgated by Arius, but is accused ad invidiam of heretical tendencies.

    Although the character of Arius has been severely assailed by his opponents, Arius appears to have been a man of ascetic character, pure morals, and decided convictions.

    The historian Socrates Scholasticus reports that Arian first became controversial under the bishop Achillas of Alexandria, when he made the following syllogism, quoted by Socrates: “‘If,’ said he, ‘the Father begat the Son, he that was begotten had a beginning of existence: and from this it is evident, that there was a time when the Son was not. It therefore necessarily follows, that he had his substance from nothing.’” (Thus his actions were not the result of any jealousy on account of his unsuccessful candidacy for the patriarchate of Alexandria in rivalry with Alexander.) He no doubt had a disproportionate number of female supporters, but there are no grounds for Alexander’s insinuation in the letter, that these women were of loose morals. There appears, however, more foundation for the charge that Arius allowed the songs or odes contained in the book called Thaleia - which he wrote after his first condemnation, in order to popularise his doctrine - to be set to melodies with infamous associations. The furious debates among Christians in Egypt “became a subject of popular ridicule, even in the very theatres.” (Socrates)

    The patriarch of Alexandria has also been the subject of adverse criticism for his action against his subordinate. He too, like his predecessor Dionysius, has been charged with vacillation in his treatment of Arius. Yet it is difficult to see how he could have acted otherwise than he did. The question, as we have seen, had been left unsettled two generations previously, or, if in any sense it could be said to have been settled, it had been settled in favour of the opponents of the homoousion (from the Greek ομού meaning common and ουσία meaning essence or being). Therefore Alexander allowed the controversy to go on until he felt that it had become dangerous to the peace of the church. Then he called a council of bishops (about 100 in number), and sought their advice. Once they decided against Arius, Alexander delayed no longer. He deposed Arius from his office, and excommunicated both him and his supporters. Then he wrote a letter to Alexander of Constantinople and Eusebius of Nicomedia (where the emperor was then residing), detailing the errors into which Arius had fallen, and complaining of the danger he presented to the Christian church. It is clear, from Arius’ own letter (also extant) to Eusebius of Nicomedia, that Alexander’s main charges against Arius were in no way unfair:

    “That God was not always the Father, but that there was a period when he was not the Father; that the Word of God was not from eternity, but was made out of nothing; for that the ever-existing God (‘the I AM’—the eternal One) made him who did not previously exist, out of nothing; wherefore there was a time when he did not exist, inasmuch as the Son is a creature and a work. That he is neither like the Father as it regards his essence, nor is by nature either the Father’s true Word, or true Wisdom, but indeed one of his works and creatures, being erroneously called Word and Wisdom, since he was himself made of God’s own Word and the Wisdom which is in God, whereby God both made all things and him also. Wherefore he is as to his nature mutable and susceptible of change, as all other rational creatures are: hence the Word is alien to and other than the essence of God; and the Father is inexplicable by the Son, and invisible to him, for neither does the Word perfectly and accurately know the Father, neither can he distinctly see him. The Son knows not the nature of his own essence: for he was made on our account, in order that God might create us by him, as by an instrument; nor would he ever have existed, unless God had wished to create us.” Top Of Page

    The "Chi Rho" symbol of the early church representing the first two Greek letters of "Christ" - Alpha and Omega pertain to Revelation 22:13 - "I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."

    St. Arius’ Concept of Christ

    Arius AlexandrinusThis question of the exact relationship between the Father and the Son, a part of Christology, had been raised some 50 years before Arius, when Paul of Samosata was deposed in AD 269 for his agreement with those who had used the word omoousios to express the relation of the Father and the Son. The expression was at that time thought to have a Sabellian tendency, though, as events showed, this was on account of its scope not having been satisfactorily defined. In the discussion which followed, Dionysius, Patriarch of Alexandria, had used much the same language as Arius did later, and correspondence survives in which Pope Dionysius blames his brother of Alexandria for using such language. Dionysius of Alexandria responded with an explanation, which posterity has been inclined to interpret as vacillating. So far as the earlier controversy could be said to have been decided, it was decided in favour of the opinions later championed by Arius. But this settlement was so unsatisfactory that the question would have been reopened sooner or later, especially in an atmosphere so intellectual as that of Alexandria. For the synod of Antioch which condemned Paul of Samosata had expressed its disapproval of the word omoousios in one sense, and Patriarch Alexander undertook its defence in another.

    Arius formulated the following doctrines about Jesus:

    That the Logos and the Father were not of the same essence (ousia);

    That the Son was a created being (ktisma or poiema); and

    That though He was the creator of the worlds, and must therefore have existed before them and before all time, there was (Arius refused to use such terms as cronos or aion) a time when Christ did not exist.

    The subsequent controversy reports that the absence of the words chronos or aion were mere evasion, and that when defending himself he argued in just the same manner as though he had used those words. Moreover, it is said that he asserted that the Logos had a beginning; yet not only Athanasius, but Origen before him, had taught that the relation of the Son to the Father had no beginning, and that, to use Dorner’s words (Person of Christ, ii. 115), “the generation of the Son is an eternally completed, and yet an eternally continued, act” - or in other words, the Father has, from all eternity, been communicating His Being to the Son, and is doing so still. However this theory struggles to find any biblical foundation, yet Arius was able to refer to biblical texts to support each of his arguments.

    Arius was obviously perplexed by this new trinitarian doctrine, for he complains of it in his letter to the Nicomedian Eusebius, who, like himself, had studied under Lucian. It is to be regretted that so much stress should have been laid in the controversy on words which, when used in metaphysical discussions, had a tendency to confuse the eternal generation of the Son with the purely physical process of the generation of men and animals. Had the defenders of the Nicene doctrine made more general use of the term “communication of Being”, or “of Essence”, they would have made it clearer that they were referring to a continual and unchangeable relation between the First and Second Persons in the Trinity, which bore a very slight analogy to the process which engenders physical creatures into existence.

    Moreover, Arius contended that the Son was unchangeable (atreptos). But what he thus gave with the one hand he appears to have taken away with the other. For so far as we can understand his language on a subject which even Athanasius seems to have admitted to have been beyond his power thoroughly to comprehend - he taught that the Logos was changeable in Essence, but not in Will.

    A popular biblical text called upon by Saint Arius is in the Book of Proverbs 8:22-31:

    22 The Lord created me as the beginning of his way, before his works of old.
    23 From eternity I was appointed, from the beginning, from before the world existed.
    24 When there were no deep oceans I was given birth, when there were no springs abounding with water;
    25 before the mountains were settled, before the hills, I was brought forth,
    26 before he made the earth and its fields, or the beginning of the dust of the world.
    27 When he established the heavens, I was there; when he marked out the horizon over the face of the deep,
    28 when he established the clouds above, when the fountains of the deep grew strong,
    29 when he gave the sea his decree that the waters should not pass over his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
    30 then I was beside him as a master craftsman, and I was his delight day by day, rejoicing before him at all times,
    31 rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth, and delighting in the human beings.

    The best authorities consider that he was driven to this concession by the force of circumstances. He was doubtless confirmed in his attitude by his fear of falling into Sabellianism. Arius, while opposing the Sabellian view, was unable to see that his own view had a dangerous tendency to bring back Gnosticism, with its long catalogue of aeons. Macedonius, who had to a certain extent imbibed the opinions of Arius, certainly regarded the Son and the Spirit in much the same way that the Gnostic teachers regarded their aeons. Arius undoubtedly drew some support from the writings of Origen, who had made use of expressions which favoured Arius’s statement that the Logos was of a different substance to the Father, and that He owed His existence to the Father’s will. But the speculations of Origen were then, as well as currently, considered as pioneer work in theology, often hazarded to stimulate further inquiry rather than to enable men to dispense with it. This explains why in this, as well as other controversies, the authority of Origen is so frequently invoked by both sides. Top Of Page

    The "Chi Rho" symbol of the early church representing the first two Greek letters of "Christ" - Alpha and Omega pertain to Revelation 22:13 - "I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."

    St. Arius and the Council of Nicaea

    St. Arius of AlexandriaThe Christian church had by this time become so powerful a force in the Roman world that Constantine found himself unable to keep aloof from the controversy. He therefore sent Hosius, bishop of Córdoba to put an end, if possible, to the controversy, armed with an open letter from the Emperor: “Wherefore let each one of you, showing consideration for the other, listen to the impartial exhortation of your fellow-servant.” But as it continued to rage, Constantine took an unprecedented step: he called a council of delegates, summoned from all parts of the empire, to resolve this issue. All of the secular dioceses into which the empire had been divided, Roman Britain only excepted, sent one or more representatives to the council, the majority of the bishops coming from the East. Pope Sylvester I, himself too aged to be present, sent two presbyters as his delegates.

    The object of the council, it must be remembered, was not to pronounce what the church ought to believe, but to ascertain as far as possible what had been taught from the beginning. It was indeed a remarkable gathering: there was not only as good a representation of race and nationality as was possible under the circumstances, but the ability and intellect of the church were also well represented. There was the already mentioned Eusebius of Nicomedia, and Alexander, patriarch of Alexandria. There was also the renowned Eusebius of Caesarea, a sound theologian, perhaps the most well-informed, careful, impartial, and trustworthy ecclesiastical historian the church has ever possessed. And, young as he was, the great Athanasius was already a host in himself, from his clearness of insight into the deepest mysteries of the religion. And beside these there were men present who manifested the power of faith - the brave “confessors,” as they were called, whose faces and limbs bore evident traces of the sufferings they had undergone for their faith. The emperor did his best to secure an honest selection and an honest decision.

    This was the First Council of Nicaea, which met in 325, near Constantinople. Under the influence of the emperor Constantine, the assembled bishops agreed upon a creed to be used at baptisms and in catechetical instruction expressed in words that made Arius’ language heretical. Both council and emperor issued a circular letter to the churches in and around Alexandria. Arius, Theonas, and Secundus were deposed and banished, while three other bishops, who had been supportive of Arius, namely Eusebius of Nicomedia, Theognis of Nicaea, and Maris of Chalcedon, were unwilling signatories of the document, but affixed their signatures in deference to the emperor. However, Constantine found some reason to suspect the sincerity of Eusebius of Nicomedia, as well as that of Theognis and Maris, for he soon after included them in the sentence pronounced on Arius. Eusebius of Caesarea defended himself in a letter as having objected to the changes in the creed which he had originally presented, but finally accepted them in the interests of peace (Theod. H. E. i. 12). Top Of Page

    The "Chi Rho" symbol of the early church representing the first two Greek letters of "Christ" - Alpha and Omega pertain to Revelation 22:13 - "I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."

    St. Arius After the Council of Nicaea

    That the public unanimity of the council (Secundus and Theonas of Lower Egypt being the only dissidents) masked a considerable amount of divergent opinion is indisputable. Doubts over the use of a term which had been rejected at an important council as savouring of Sabellianism weighed on the minds of many. Eusebius of Caesarea has been charged by many later writers as having embraced Arianism.St. Arius of Alexandria

    But his moderate attitude throughout the following period suggests that his objections to the decision, which he allowed his of peace to overrule, owed more to the dread of possible consequences than to the decision in itself. And his allusion to the proceedings at Nicaea in the letter just mentioned shows that his apprehensions were not altogether unreasonable. For he remarks how the final consensus emerged after considerable discussion that the term omoousion was not intended to indicate that the Son formed an actual portion of the Father - which would have been Sabellianism pure and simple, a fear which fed much of the dissension to the adoption of the creed.

    On the other hand, Athanasius was convinced - and the event proves that he was right - that unless the Essence of the Son was definitely understood to be the same as that of the Father, it would inevitably follow that the Son would at best be no more than the highest of a series of Gnostic aeons.

    While the Nicene settlement, though necessary in itself and satisfactory in the end, was at least premature. The controversy recommenced as soon as the decrees were promulgated. When Alexander died at Alexandria in 327, the election of Athanasius in his place was only secured in the face of violent opposition from the Arianizing faction. Soon after, Eusebius of Nicomedia was reinstated in his see, after having written a diplomatic letter to the emperor. Arius, who had taken refuge in Palestine, was also soon permitted to return, after having made a somewhat disingenuous recantation.

    It was not long before the Nicomedian Eusebius regained his influence with the emperor, then began a series of intrigues which led to a complete reversal of the position of the contending parties. Eustathius of Antioch, one of the staunchest supporters of Athanasius, was deposed on a number of false and personal charges. If Theodoret is to be trusted, one of his acusers, when seized by a serious illness, retracted her accusation in a sensational manner. But Socrates Scholasticus and Sozomen are reticent about the nature of the charges, and only tell us that Eustathius had been unfortunate enough to get involved in a controversy with Eusebius of Caesarea. Marcellus of Ancyra was the next victim, a friend and champion of Athanasius, but unfortunately not fluent in Christology, and found it impossible to defend the Nicene decisions without falling into Sabellianism. There was no need, therefore, to levy charges against his morals. He was charged with Sabellianism but not actually deposed until 336.

    In the meantime Eusebius of Nicomedia turned against the only rival he really dreaded, Athanasius himself. Following Arius’ restoration to the emperor’s favour by his recantation, the emperor commanded Athanasius to readmit Arius to communion. Athanasius, naturally, pleaded reasons of conscience against doing so - leading to accusations of treason against the emperor and the insinuations that the patriarch wished to set up an empire of his own against or above the supreme authority of the Augustus. Charges were made of sacrilege, tyranny, magic, mutilation, murder, of immorality, and (worst of all in the emperor’s eyes) of raising funds for treasonable purposes. These charges were investigated at a synod of 150 bishops at Tyre in 335. Top Of Page

    Revelation 22:13 - "I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."

    The Mysterious Sudden Death of St. Arius

    The triumphant vindication of Athanasius at that council belong rather to the history of Athanasius than of Arius. However, Eusebius proved ultimately to be master of the situation. With consummate dexterity the wily tactician contrived fresh charges of interference with the secular affairs of the empire. By now, Constantine was weary of the strife. His only object had been the settlement of the question; the shape that settlement took was to him a secondary matter. He now turned fiercely upon those he believed were responsible for the continuing unrest. Athanasius was exiled to Trier, and Alexander of Constantinople was ordered to receive Arius back into church communion.

    Alexander was in dire perplexity. He dared not disobey the command, neither dare he obey it. In his extremity he asked the prayers of the Orthodox that either he or Arius might be removed from the world before the latter was admitted to communion. The prayer was, the very reverend Henry Wace notes, a strange one. Meanwhile Arius was ordered to appear before the Emperor, and asked whether he was willing to sign the Nicaene decrees. He replied, without hesitation, that he was ready to do so. And yet, the very day before he was to be readmitted to communion, Arius died suddenly, and in a most remarkable manner, as Socrates Scholasticus (c380 - c450 A.D.), whose account was written nearly a century after Arius’ death, describes:

    It was then Saturday, and . . . going out of the imperial palace, attended by a crowd of Eusebian [Eusebius of Nicomedia is meant] partisans like guards, he [Arius] paraded proudly through the midst of the city, attracting the notice of all the people. As he approached the place called Constantine’s Forum, where the column of porphyry is erected, a terror arising from the remorse of conscience seized Arius, and with the terror a violent relaxation of the bowels: he therefore enquired whether there was a convenient place near, and being directed to the back of Constantine’s Forum, he hastened thither. Soon after a faintness came over him, and together with the evacuations his bowels protruded, followed by a copious haemorrhage, and the descent of the smaller intestines: moreover portions of his spleen and liver were brought off in the effusion of blood, so that he almost immediately died. The scene of this catastrophe still is shown at Constantinople, as I have said, behind the shambles in the colonnade: and by persons going by pointing the finger at the place, there is a perpetual remembrance preserved of this extraordinary kind of death.

    The nature of Arius’ death was so violent that it begs the questions: Was Arius murdered? After struggling against the Orthodox church for sixteen years, did Arius really acknowledge the Nicene (Nicaean) decrees so readily? The description of his death would suggest that he had probably been given a powerful poison in a slow dissolving form with some food and drink while being in audience with the Emperor, this would produce the delayed and most devastating end (a method of poisoning perfected by the Romans), and would have given the impression of Divine retribution while at the same time destroying any chances of Arius becoming a Martyr. If God was going to punish Arius for heresy, then on the one hand surely he would have struck him down sooner before Arianism had drawn more followers throughout Europe than the Orthodox church! And on the other hand, why strike him down at all? God’s judgement and punishment is meted out on Judgement Day, which calls into question such an extraordinary death. Had he been suffering from a severe cancer then he would have been gravely ill and incapacitated in the months before his death, however all reports suggest that Arius was in good health earlier that day before suddenly being taken ill on his departure from the Imperial Palace. History is written by its victors!

    After fighting the trinitarians for over 15 years with such conviction, great success and popularity, and winning the argument against the attempt to compromise through Semi-Arianism, and had stood up to the Nicaeans as well as the Emperor of Rome; it is wholly out of character and illogical that Arius would simply turn into a coward and betrayer on a whim! It is a fact that Arius was lured to the Imperial Palace having received assurances of being back in Emperor Constantine’s favour. The account that then followed is simply propaganda by the Roman Catholics purely to attempt to embarrass Arius’ reputation and infer divine retribution. The fact was that Arius was an 80 year old man who was tricked by Constantine I (who knows what Arius was subjected to behind the closed doors of the Imperial Palace?), by his extremely violent death he was certainly the victim of poisoning, a very common and well practiced method used by the murderous Pagan Romans. Arius died a martyr and was venerated in central and eastern Europe for over 250 years, his legacy has been ever profound in Christianity.

    The extraordinary death of Arius, at the age of 80 years, followed as it was a year later by that of Constantine himself, led to a temporary lull in the controversy. However although Arians were driven from the Empire and executed for heresy, Arianism continued to retain a foothold among the Teutons for another 160 years and other peoples for another 250 years until the annihilation or conversion to Roman Catholicism of peoples such as the Franks in 496 AD and the Visigoths in 586 AD. Arianism has continued to exist to the present day in the forms of Arianism, Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, Monophysitism, Eutychianism, and Monothelitism. Top Of Page