Origination of the trinity (short version) yes this really is the short version……Part 2
In part 1 we were left with the question How could Jesus, the son, be God while the father was God without this being 2 Gods? There was only one God after all.
The overwhelming “answer” to this during much of the 2nd and 3rd century for those that attested to Jesus being God, was modalism. God acted as the father, son and Holy spirit. God took on 3 roles but only one at a time. While he was the father he was not the son or the holy spirit. While he was the son he was not the father or the holy spirit and while he was the holy spirit he was not the father or the son. He operated in modes hence the term modalism. Jesus was God because he was THE God.
Modalism was recognised, even by its many opponents as the most common belief of the time.
Tertullian was probably the most outspoken critic against Modalism.
He wrote much against this obviously incorrect belief. He labelled it patripassianism meaning the father suffers.
He made it clear that it was “their” preaching that the father suffered.
In the course of time, then, the Father forsooth was born, and the Father suffered, God Himself, the Lord Almighty, whom in their preaching they declare to be Jesus Christ. We, however, as we indeed always have done (and more especially since we have been better instructed by the Paraclete, who leads men indeed into all truth), believe that there is one only God, but under the following dispensation, or οἰκονομία , as it is called, that this one only God has also a Son, His Word, who proceeded from Himself, by whom all things were made, and without whom nothing was made
Against Praxeas Chapter II
Notice the language that Tertullian used here in his argument.
“the Father suffered, God Himself, the Lord Almighty, whom in their preaching they declare to be Jesus Christ”.
Tertullian very clearly states that the FATHER was GOD himself, the Lord Almighty.
in his argument he was stating that it was WRONG to believe that GOD himself had died.
He stated that it was impossible to have and to be at the same time. If you have a son you cannot also be that son. **
He referred to scriptures such as Jesus praying to the father and that the father speaking at the baptism of the son. Clearly indicating that both were present at the same time and meaning there was more than one. It was Tertullian that gave us the latin that eventually became the English trinity.
Now, from this one passage of the epistle of the inspired apostle, we have been already able to show that the Father and the Son are two separate Persons, not only by the mention of their separate names as Father and the Son, but also by the fact that He who delivered up the kingdom, and He to whom it is delivered up — and in like manner, He who subjected (all things), and He to whom they were subjected — must necessarily be two different Beings. But since they will have the Two to be but One, so that the Father shall be deemed to be the same as the Son…For the Father is the entire substance, but the Son is a derivation and portion of the whole, as He Himself acknowledges: “My Father is greater than I.” In the Psalm His inferiority is described as being “a little lower than the angels.” Thus the Father is distinct from the Son, being greater than the Son (Tertullian. Against Praxeas, Chapters 3,4-5,9
1. Some others are secretly introducing another doctrine, who have become disciples of one Noetus, who was a native of Smyrna, (and) lived not very long ago. This person was greatly puffed up and inflated with pride, being inspired by the conceit of a strange spirit. He alleged that Christ was the Father Himself, and that the Father Himself was born, and suffered, and died. You see what pride of heart and what a strange inflated spirit had insinuated themselves into him. From his other actions, then, the proof is already given us that he spoke not with a pure spirit; for he who blasphemes against the Holy Ghost is cast out from the holy inheritance. He alleged that he was himself Moses, and that Aaron was his brother. When the blessed presbyters heard this, they summoned him before the Church, and examined him. But he denied at first that he held such opinions. Afterwards, however, taking shelter among some, and having gathered round him some others who had embraced the same error, he wished thereafter to uphold his dogma openly as correct. And the blessed presbyters called him again before them, and examined him. But he stood out against them, saying, “What evil, then, am I doing in glorifying Christ? “And the presbyters replied to him, “We too know in truth one God; we know Christ; we know that the Son suffered even as He suffered, and died even as He died, and rose again on the third day, and is at the right hand of the Father, and comes to judge the living and the dead. And these things which we have learned we allege.” Then, after examining him, they expelled him from the Church. And he was carried to such a pitch of pride, that he established a school. (Hippolytus. Against Noetus.
He wasn’t however, unlike many incorrectly believe, the first man to refer to a “trinity” or 3. This was actually Theophilus.
In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the Trinity [Τριάδος], of God, and His Word, and His wisdom. And the fourth is the type of man, who needs light, that so there may be God, the Word, wisdom, man.
However when we look at this statement by Theophilus, when we actually look at the “trinity” that he refers to, we see that it is not the father son and spirit rather God (no distinction between any members) his word and his wisdom. Neither the word or his wisdom are referred to as God or a member of the Godhead but the word and wisdom of God.
If we look at the early church fathers writings, that are very often used as support for the trinity, being it often claimed that the early church fathers did believe that Jesus was God and that they believed in a trinity, we will see that they did NOT in fact believe in a trinity after all and certainly not as it is known of today. The trinity that is attested to today is not something that ANY early church father of the 2nd and 3rd centuries attested to.
Lets have a look at some of the statements of the Early church fathers that are often cited.
Statements of the ECF
Polycarp 69-155 AD
“I praise you for all things, I bless you, I glorify you, along with the everlasting and heavenly Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, with whom, to you and the Holy Spirit, be glory both now and to all coming ages. Amen” (Martyrdom of Polycarp 14).
Polycarp doesn’t actually refer to Jesus as God but he does refer to him as everlasting. Interestingly though if we go back just a bit further we will see that Polycarp refers to the FATHER as the Lord God Almighty and states that we have received knowledge of him (God) and then calls him the faithful and true God.
So they did not nail him, but tied him. Then he, placing his hands behind him and being bound to the stake, like a noble ram out of a great flock for an offering, a burnt sacrifice made ready and acceptable to God, looking up to heaven said; ‘O Lord God Almighty, the Father of Thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received the knowledge of Thee, the God of angels and powers and of all creation and of the whole race of the righteous, who live in Thy presence;
I bless Thee for that Thou hast granted me this day and hour, that I might receive a portion amongst the number of martyrs in the cup of [Thy] Christ unto resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and of body, in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. May I be received among these in Thy presence this day, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as Thou didst prepare and reveal it beforehand, and hast accomplished it, Thou that art the faithful and true God.
Polycarp makes no mention whatsoever of a trinity however he did call Jesus God
Now may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal high priest himself, the Son of God Jesus Christ, build you up in faith and truth…and to us with you, and to all those under heaven who will yet believe in our Lord and God Jesus Christ and in his Father who raised him from the dead
Polycarp, Philippians, 12:2.
Tatian 120-180 AD
In about 170 AD Tatian wrote
“We are not playing the fool, you Greeks, nor do we talk nonsense, when we report that God was born in the form of a man” (Address to the Greeks 21).
Tatian makes no reference to a trinity. His statement would seem to indicate an incarnation but makes no reference to God the son was born as a man or that the man was fully God while also being fully man.
Justin Martyr 100-165 AD
“For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water” (First Apol., LXI).
While Justin mentions all 3 members of the trinity, Justin very clearly distinguishes between Jesus, the holy spirit and God who is referred to by Justin as the father.
There is only one referent who is called God.
“We will prove that we worship him reasonably; for we have learned that he is the Son of the true God himself, that he holds a second place, and the Spirit of prophecy a third. For this they accuse us of madness, saying that we attribute to a crucified man a place second to the unchangeable and eternal God, the Creator of all things; but they are ignorant of the mystery which lies therein” (First Apology 13:5–6 [A.D. 151]).
Here we see that Jesus is referred to as second place to the TRUE God. He is not referred to by Justin as the true God. The spirit (not referred to as the holy spirit but spirit of Prophecy) is stated as being third. Not as the trinity would state all equal.
Ignatius of Antioch 35-108 AD
“In Christ Jesus our Lord, by whom and with whom be glory and power to the Father with the Holy Spirit for ever” (n. 7; PG 5.988).
The 3 members mentioned but no mention of Jesus or the holy spirit being called God.
Since, also, there is but one unbegotten Being, God, even the Father; and one only-begotten Son, God, the Word and man; and one Comforter, the Spirit of truth; and also one preaching, and one faith, and one baptism;
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians Chapter IV
Ignatius very clearly calls the Father God and the ONLY unbegotten being. The son distinguished from the unbegotten being, God the father.
Irenaeus 130-202 AD
“The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: . . . one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and His manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father ‘to gather all things in one,’ and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Savior, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, ‘every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess; to him, and that He should execute just judgment towards all . . . ‘” (Against Heresies X.l)
Here Irenaeus, although saying that Jesus was incarnate very clearly calls the one God the father almighty and then distinguishes between Jesus and the father.
“For the Church, although dispersed throughout the whole world even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and from their disciples the faith in one God, the Father Almighty . . . and in one Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became flesh for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit” (Against Heresies 1:10:1 [A.D. 189]).
Again the one God, the father distinguished from Jesus who became flesh.
Tertullian 160-220 AD
“We define that there are two, the Father and the Son, and three with the Holy Spirit, and this number is made by the pattern of salvation . . . [which] brings about unity in trinity, interrelating the three, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are three, not in dignity, but in degree, not in substance but in form, not in power but in kind. They are of one substance and power, because there is one God from whom these degrees, forms and kinds devolve in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” (Adv. Prax. 23; PL 2.156-7).
Tertullian believed in a “trinity” but not THE trinity as Tertullian believed that the father was superior to the son.
For the Father is the entire substance, but the Son is a derivation and portion of the whole, as He Himself acknowledges: “My Father is greater than I.” In the Psalm His inferiority is described as being “a little lower than the angels.” Thus the Father is distinct from the Son, being greater than the Son
Tertullian, Against Praxeas, chapter 9
Origen 184-253 AD
“If anyone would say that the Word of God or the Wisdom of God had a beginning, let him beware lest he direct his impiety rather against the unbegotten Father, since he denies that he was always Father, and that he has always begotten the Word, and that he always had wisdom in all previous times or ages or whatever can be imagined in priority . . . There can be no more ancient title of almighty God than that of Father, and it is through the Son that he is Father” (De Princ. 1.2.; PG 11.132).
“For if [the Holy Spirit were not eternally as He is, and had received knowledge at some time and then became the Holy Spirit] this were the case, the Holy Spirit would never be reckoned in the unity of the Trinity, i.e., along with the unchangeable Father and His Son, unless He had always been the Holy Spirit.” (Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975 rpt., Vol. 4, p. 253, de Principiis, 1.111.4)
“Moreover, nothing in the Trinity can be called greater or less, since the fountain of divinity alone contains all things by His word and reason, and by the Spirit of His mouth sanctifies all things which are worthy of sanctification . . . ” (Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4, p. 255, de Principii., I. iii. 7).
However Origin also stated
For we who say that the visible world is under the government to Him who created all things, do thereby declare that the Son is not mightier than the Father, but inferior to Him. And this belief we ground on the saying of Jesus Himself, “The Father who sent Me is greater than I.” And none of us is so insane as to affirm that the Son of man is Lord over God. But when we regard the Savior as God the Word, and Wisdom, and Righteousness, and Truth, we certainly do say that He has dominion over all things which have been subjected to Him in this capacity, but not that His dominion extends over the God and Father who is Ruler over all. 
Origin who believed in the deity of Jesus believed he was a subordinate God to God the father.
NOW IF WE observe the proper nature of prayer we should not pray to any begotten being, not even to Christ Himself, but only to God the Father of all, to whom even our Savior Himself prayed, as we have already recorded, and to whom He teaches us to pray
Origin on prayer
Origin stated that we should not pray to Jesus. He called God the father of all. God singular being called the father of all, not distinguished from God the father.
Origin later stated that we could pray to Jesus as an intermediary between us and God who Origin called his (Jesus) God and our God and his (Jesus) father and our father. Echoing the same statement that Jesus himself made to Mary Magdalene.
bear our prayer, when it has reached him, up to his God and our God and to his Father and the Father of people who live according to the word of God.
Against Celsus, 471, Book VIII, Chapter 26.
Now while it can be claimed that many of the early church fathers did believe in the deity of Jesus to claim that they also believed in the trinity as is known today is disingenuous at best.
There simply were many different beliefs and postulations being put forth by the early church as they battled with trying to make sense of who exactly Jesus was. Once the pagan influences had taken charge and Jesus had been “exalted” to divine status there really was only a few ways that it could go.
There was however a sect, in the first centuries after the death of Christ, a Jewish-Christian movement, a sect known as the Ebonites.
The Ebionites were so called after the Hebrew word ebyonim meaning the poor or poor ones. The Ebionites were considered the poor ones for their doctrine. The Ebionites accepted Jesus as the Messiah but they rejected his divinity.They also believed that he was just a man. That he was born of a physical union between a man and a woman. He was justified because of his superior virtue. They further believed that a person was not saved by faith alone but rather also by keeping the ceremonial law. There were some though who while going by the same name did accept the virgin birth. They kept the Sabbath but they also celebrated the Lord’s day (sunday) as reverence to the resurrection.
There simply was no uniformed belief in the first few centuries after Jesus had been crucified and risen. Pagan beliefs were rife and had incorporated deep into the heart of true Christianity. The faith that Jesus had come to proclaim had been corrupted. What happened next would change Christianity forever.
Early in the 4th century, into the fray came a man named Arius.
Arius was born in 256 AD in Ptolemais, Cyrenaica, Libya
It is believed that he was a student at the exegetical school in Antioch where he studied under St. Lucian.
In 313 AD he became a priest in Baucalis, Alexandria and it would be not long after this that he would cause a great schism in the history of the church, the like of which had not been seen before.
Arius was staunchly opposed to the belief that Jesus was God as he affirmed that this created 2 Gods. Arius was firm in his belief that there was only one God. He believed that to make anyone other than the father, God, equated to more than one God and therefore polytheism. He did however believe that Jesus was divine but not God and certainly not equal to God the father.
He taught the belief that Jesus was the first creation of God the father. Before God created the universe and everything in it, God the father “begat”, created, Jesus and then through Jesus he created everything else.
He said that there was a time when Jesus did not exist. God had always existed but that he wasn’t the father yet. God begat a son and so became the father. Arius believed that the son was inferior to God the father.
‘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.’
Socrates_Scholasticus,_Historia_ecclesiastica chapter 5
This belief certainly was not unique to Arius or indeed a new teaching at all. However Arius championed the belief and it really became a popular view under Arius, who gained much support for this belief. It would be Arius whose name that would become associated with the belief. It would be this belief and this mans championing of it that would eventually lead to the calling of the council of Nicaea.
In approx 318 AD The Bishop of Alexandria, Alexander, had asked the priests that were serving under his authority to provide a written interpretation of a verse in the OT (the verse is not stated but is postulated by scholars as being Proverbs 8 regarding wisdom.)
The letter Constantine sent to Arius and Alexander proclaims this.
“I understand then that the first stages of the present dispute
were as follows. When you, Alexander, demanded of the presbyters what
view each of them took about a certain passage from what is written in the
Law” Letter of constantine to Alexander and Arius (Eusebius life of Constantine book 2 pg 117)
The interpretation that Arius provided was not met with approval from Alexander.
Again as stated by Constantine in the same letter.
“Arius, thoughtlessly replied with that opinion which either ought not to have
been even conceived in the first place, or once conceived ought to have been
consigned to silence”
This disagreement sparked a great theological conflict regarding the nature of Jesus and his relationship to the father. There were some extensive and fierce debates that arose because of these 2 beliefs which eventually would incorporate much of the church. This became known as the Arian controversy. This controversy would have a major part to play in the eventual formation of the official Catholic church trinity doctrine.
Constantine stated further in the letter to Alexander and Arius.
“It was neither right to ask about such things in the first place, nor to answer when asked.”
Due to his public statements regarding his views Arius was exiled by Alexander (and around 100 other bishops) in around 319 and excommunicated from the church after a council of bishops from Egypt and Libya. It is understood that about 20 other church leaders who supported Arius were also excommunicated at the same time. Alexander sent a letter which he started it
“To our beloved and most honored fellow-Ministers of the Catholic Church everywhere” , (emphasis mine) condemning Eusebius and his support of the Arian belief.
But numerous bishops supported the “Arian” cause and called for his excommunication to be rescinded.
Arius continued to preach his beliefs and was gaining more and more support for his position. The debate had now gone much wider afield than Alexandria and was spreading throughout the Christian world. Both sides gained their supporters. There was at this time great division in the christian church and so disgraceful had the situation become that Christianity itself had become the subject of ridicule.
In 323 Emperor Constantine sent Hosius the Spaniard, bishop of Córdoba to try and resolve the situation. This was done after the Emperor had become aware of the situation.
Hosius arrived with a letter from the Emperor which has already been quoted from. It stated
“Wherefore let each one of you, showing consideration for the other, listen to the impartial exhortation of your fellow-servant.”
However the debate did not stop. In fact it only intensified. It spread to every province in the east. Fights were literally breaking out in the cities.
In 324 Alexander of Alexandria wrote a letter to Alexander of Byzantium (Constantinople) denouncing Arius as a heretic.
So in 325 AD Constantine called the council of Nicaea to try and resolve the now intensifying debates.
It was the belief of the Romans that the emperor was also head of the religion(s) of the empire, the emperor being the pontifex maximus . Constantine the great, whose Latin name is Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus was the not so long ago new Emperor of the unified Roman empire. He believed that in order to better integrate the religion of Christianity into the recently unified Empire of both west and east, which Constantine himself had overseen when he conquered the Eastern side of the empire just 1 year earlier in 324 AD , christianity would itself need to be unified. Constantine was not a theologian and really had no preference as to which group, which belief would prevail. He did not understand why there was so much debate regarding the topic.
He stated in his letter
“I considered the origin and occasion for these things, the cause was exposed as extremely trivial quite unworthy of so much controversy” Eusebius life of constantine.
Constantine simply wanted the unity of the church, as this unity would better serve his own position as emperor.
The Nicene council was the first of what would eventually be 7 recognised ecumenical councils of early christianity,
There were between 250- 318 (depending on the source) Bishops that were in attendance at the council, mainly from the eastern side of the empire. The western side of the empire was almost devoid of representation at this council. Even though it is claimed that Bishops from all over the world were invited. After all that is what ecumenical means. Even the bishop of Rome at the time, Sylvester, did not attend, being too ill to travel, instead sending 2 representatives in his stead. It is claimed that over 1000 (some sources say 1800) bishops that were invited to attend. The actual number of attendees varies depending on the source.
3 men who were actually at the council gave 3 different numbers. Eusebius of Caesarea 250, Athanasius of Alexandria 318, Eustathius of Antioch 270 . Socrates said there were over 250 bishops. Evagrius, Hilarius, Jerome and Rufinus all stated there were 318 in attendance, likely taking this number from the writings of Athanasius. Sozomen says “about 320 bishops were present”
Socrates did however state that a great number of presbyters and deacons also accompanied the attending bishops.
In the present band the number of bishops exceeded 250 and the
number of presbyters and deacons and of the many other
attendants who accompanied them was beyond calculation
while the number of the presbyters, deacons, and acolyths and others
who attended them was almost incalculable
It is very important at this point to reiterate my earlier statement regarding the deity of Jesus and the trinity. Contrary to some claims, that those who are opposed to the trinity make, EVERYONE at the council of Nicaea believed Jesus was divine. This was simply NOT the debate. There was no debate regarding IF Jesus was divine only what Jesus being divine actually meant. Did Jesus being divine make Jesus God? It should also be stated, they also did NOT introduce the belief that Jesus was God at the council of Nicaea. The belief that Jesus was God was already well established by this point in time.
This was a debate that included those who already believed that his divinity meant Jesus was God and those that believed he was created by God, divine but not God and that through him God created everything else. Alexander and his supporters ALREADY believed Jesus was God.
It was NOT Constantine who deified Jesus. This had been a process over time.
It has to also be noted that the once popular belief of Modalism was not represented at the council and neither were any other belief apart from the 2 beliefs that were causing such division.
The council of Nicaea
Constantine himself took charge of the council not only participating in the discussions but even leading some.
Each side reasoned using the scriptures in support of their own position.
The council itself lasted basically a full month, from May 20th- June 19th 325 AD
It was understood that many (likely 22 bishops) came in support of Arius but after some of his own writings were read aloud most of those that supported him labelled his writings as blasphemous and rejected his position*(Eusebius of Caesarea) . According to some stories, St Nicholas, at one point during the debate when it got so heated slapped Arius around the face. Yes that same St Nicholas that formed the basis of Santa claus. It must be noted that his name is not included in any of the writings of those who attended the council. It may well be that this story is exactly that….a story.
A vote was cast at the end of the council. Unlike what is stated in the very historically inaccurate Di vinci Code by Dan Brown where it is claimed that the vote (regarding the divinity of Jesus, it was never about the divinity of Jesus…) was close, It was actually an absolute landslide. Arius had lost the debate and Alexander had prevailed victorious. It is understood that 20 Bishops disagreed with the findings of the council and would not sign the Nicene creed but after “gentle” persuasion by Constantine only a few bishops refused to agree to accept and sign the Nicene creed which would be binding on all Christians everywhere. Those that refused to sign were namely “Eusebius bishop of Nicomedia, Theognis of Nice, Maris of Chalcedon, Theonas of Marmarica,
and Secundus of Ptolemaïs.”
They refused to accept the term homoousios, ‘of the same essence,’ or consubstantial: A term that was devised at the council, a term that we must understand exists nowhere in the scriptures. As we have already seen the Catholic church states that the terminology for the trinity cannot be found in the Bible and had to be created by the church itself.
The term homoousios was applied to Jesus to explain the relationship between the son and the father. A further more detailed study into this term is recommended.
After the council Arius and all who followed him and which refused to sign the creed were exiled, (anathematized) by the the church to Illyricum.
Shortly after the council the earlier disagreement regarding Arius and Alexander was downplayed in order to make it seem like Arianism was actually a divergent from what was always considered the orthodox view, Jesus was God and equal to the father, which simply is not the case.
However it was now considered the “orthodox” belief that Jesus was not only divine but he was indeed God the son and equal to God the father.
It must be further stated however that the trinity was NOT declared at the council of Nicaea. The council did not even discuss the holy spirit or its deity. The trinity that is known of today was started but not finalised at this council.
A creed was drawn up at the conclusion of the council. It is known as the Nicene creed.
One of the most important facts regarding the creed that many, rather I would guess most people do not realise is that the creed that is often cited as being the Nicene Creed today is NOT in fact the Nicene creed at all.
Rather the creed that is cited today is actually the Nicene-constantinople Creed that wasn’t formulated until the 2nd ecumenical council of the church, the 1st council of Constantinople in 381 AD
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible;
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, Begotten of the Father before all ages, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made:
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man;
And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried;
And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures;
And ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father;
And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, Whose kingdom shall have no end.
And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke by the Prophets;
And we believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.
We look for the Resurrection of the dead,
And the Life of the age to come. Amen.
This creed which includes the wording
“And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke by the Prophets;”
was an updated and amended Creed. We shall look further into the Council of 381 AD later in this writing.
The creed that was constructed at Nicaea, the actual Nicene creed, the one formed in 325 AD makes just one simple reference to the holy spirit, only to the fact that it is believed in.
We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of all things, visible and invisible;
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten from the Father, only-begotten, that is, from the essence of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one essence with the Father, through Whom all things came into being, things in heaven and things on earth, Who because of us men and because of our salvation came down and became incarnate, becoming man, suffered and rose again on the third day, ascended to the heavens, and will come again to judge the living and the dead;
And in the Holy Spirit.
The Nicene creed focused almost entirely on the nature of Jesus. It did not expound further upon the belief in the holy spirit.
Although people did believe that the Holy spirit was God at this time, the holy spirit was not decreed to be God in 325 AD. The trinity as is known today simply was not proclaimed at the council of Nicaea.
After the council had concluded, and Arius had lost the debate, the writings of Arius were ordered to be destroyed under penalty of death by Constantine in an edict against the Arians.
In addition, if any writing composed by Arius should be found, it should be handed over to the flames, so that not only will the wickedness of his teaching be obliterated, but nothing will be left even to remind anyone of him. And I hereby make a public order, that if someone should be discovered to have hidden a writing composed by Arius, and not to have immediately brought it forward and destroyed it by fire, his penalty shall be death. As soon as he is discovered in this offense, he shall be submitted for capital punishment
Edict by Emperor Constantine against the Arians
Constantine who declared himself a christian, even though he wouldn’t be baptised until his death bed in 337 AD, was NOT the one who made Christianity the official state religion of the Empire either. This wouldn’t happen until the rule of emperor Theodosius. To say that Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the empire is again simply incorrect. Constantine did however help to make Christianity legal and made the tolerance of Christians and their ability to practice christianity official. This started with the Edict of Milan in 313 AD. Previous to this christianity had suffered from much persecution throughout its brief history. From 303 AD had seen the immense persecution of Christians under emperor Diocletian.
What should be noted is that at this point in time the Roman empire remained largely polytheistic and NON Christian, even if the Christians in the empire and the emperor himself were proclaiming only one God.
Christianity, that until this time, was a relatively small but rapidly growing underground sect had now managed to integrate itself into the most powerful empire in the world.
It is stated that 3 months after the council, due to his refusal to agree to the anathemas and his continued support of Arius that Eusebius of Nicomedia was also sent into exile, however after he, and Theognis, yielded and proclaimed in a document they had presented that they held the same faith as was decreed at Nicaea they were allowed to return and they were reinstated in their sees. They did however state that they objected to the condemnation of Arius and would not be parties to it.
Persecution of pagans did however start under Constantine’s rule. He brought in a law that banned gatherings that were not Christian. Christians who did not follow the Nicene creed were also persecuted and treated like pagans in an attempt to rid the church of any heresies.
BUT, the council of Nicaea was not the end of Arianism. It did not simply go away after the council. In fact quite the opposite. Despite the church now affirming that Jesus was God, Jesus being God being the Official belief of the Church, the debates remained. History would show that in fact Arianism for the next near on 50 years, until the time of emperor Theodosius, would continued to grow.
The term homoousios continued to trouble some of the bishops. Those that objected to the term accused the proponents of Sabellianism and in turn those that affirmed the term accused the objectors of polytheism.
In the year 330 AD a council at Antioch was called to settle a dispute between Eusebius of Caesarea and Eustathius after the latter had accused the former of perverting the Nicene Creed. Eusebius in turn accused Eustathius of Sabellianism.
The result of the council saw Eustathius labelled a supporter of Sabellianism and consequently deposed of his bishopric and ultimately exiled by the Emperor to Illyri where he would later die.
This itself caused a division in the city of Antioch that almost saw its own destruction.
One fraction sought the appointment of Eusebius as the replacement for Eustathius, the other seeking the reinstatement of Eustathius himself. It was only through the letters of the emperor and the refusal of Eusebius to take the bishopric that bloodshed was averted.
The chair of bishop of Antioch would remain unfilled for 8 years.
In 326 AD just 1 year after the council of Nicaea, Alexander of Alexandria died. His successor and the 20th Bishop of Alexandria would be Athanasius. Athanasius was a deacon under Alexander and was at the council of Nicaea although he was simply an adviser to Alexander being too young at the time. It was Athanasius who would further champion the cause against Arianism until his death in 373 AD. This would lead to him be exiled from the church on no less than 5 occasions during his 45 year long episcopate.
Arius was allowed to return to Alexandria in 335. Constantine’s sister, Constantia, had in her household a confidant of an arian persuasion. He appealed to Constantia that Arius had been on the receiving end of a major injustice. When she became ill Constantine would visit her and it is then that she commended her confidant to the emperor. As he gained confidence with the emperor he would appeal to the emperor himself of the injustice applied to Arius. He stated that Arius had no other beliefs than that of what was affirmed at the council of Nicaea.
The emperor wrote to Arius. Arius after receiving the letter went to Constantinople accompanied by Euzoïus
The emperor ordered the 2 men to give him a written declaration of their faith. Arius and Euzoïus both did as requested and having satisfied the emperor of their faith, were allowed to return to Alexandria. Socrates records his belief that Arius only pretended to affirm the belief in order to regain his position in the church.
On his arrival Athanasius refused to receive Arius back into communion. Eusebius then wrote to the emperor appealing to him to write to Athanasius that he should now receive Arius.
Athanasius himself wrote to the emperor saying it was impossible for those who once rejected the faith to be allowed to return.
The emperor duly wrote a reply to Athanasius threatening his own exile should he not receive Arius.
‘Since you have been apprised of my will, afford unhindered access into the church to all those
who are desirous of entering it. For if it shall be intimated to me that you have prohibited any of
those claiming to be reunited to the church, or have hindered their admission, I will forthwith send
some one who at my command shall depose you, and drive you into exile.’
In an attempt to belittle the name of Athanasius and sensing that they had opportunity, those of an Arian predisposition sought to have him removed from his position. Stories about Athanasius were spread.
“The chief conspirators against him were Eusebius bishop of Nicomedia, Theognis of
Nicæa, Maris of Chalcedon, Ursacius of Singidnum in Upper Mœsia, and Valens of Mursa in Upper
The emperor found Athanasius innocent of the claims made against him but summoned Athanasius to appear before him.
However before he did so, a charge of much more severity was labelled against Athanasius. One of plotting against his sovereignty.
Again the emperor, who personally investigated the matter, found Athanasius innocent of his accusation and sent him away with honor. Constantine wrote with his own hand to the church at Alexandria assuring them that Athanasius had been falsely accused.
But this was not the end of the accusations against Athanasius.
Socrates records a rather strange story regarding the “murder” of Arsenius and the following events.
Athanasius was accused of using the severed hand of the “murdered” Arsenius in performing magical arts.
“Having by some means, I know not what, obtained a man’s hand; whether they themselves had
murdered any one, and cut off his hand, or had severed it from some dead body, God knows and
the authors of the deed: but be that as it may, they publicly exposed it as the hand of Arsenius”
“This hand, they asserted, had been made use of by Athanasius in the performance of certain magic arts”
Sozomen states that they accused Athanasius of the murder.
Soon the Emperor summoned Athanasius to a council at Tyre to defend himself against the claims. There were 60 bishops in attendance although the emperor himself did not attend the council.
However having found Arsenius alive and well Athanasius presented him at his trial, even making the quip
” ‘Arsenius, as you see, is found to have two hands: let my accusers show the place whence the third was cut off.”
Athanasius was subsequently found innocent yet again.
This should have been the end but not so.
Athanasius still being accused of other accusations he withdrew himself and departed to go to the emperor himself.
In his absence he was voted out of his office and was deposed.
Those who were at the council of Tyre were then called by the emperor to Jerusalem. It was here that Arius was reinstated.
In the meantime Athanasius had had council with the emperor himself. The emperor having now heard Athanasius called those at the council in Jerusalem to come before him that the charges against Athanasius may be heard in his presence.
Most returned to their respectful cities being too in fear to appear before the emperor.
However Socrates records
“But Eusebius, Theognis, Maris, Patrophilus, Ursacius, and Valens,
having gone to Constantinople, would not permit any further enquiry to be instituted concerning
the broken cup, the overturned communion table, and the murder of Arsenius; but they had recourse
to another calumny, informing the emperor that Athanasius had threatened to prohibit the sending
of corn which was usually conveyed from Alexandria to Constantinople.”
Athanasius was consequently banished to Gaul by the emperor. Just one of his numerous banishments.
Arius having then returned to Alexandria caused a major uproar.
“for the people of Alexandria were exceedingly indignant both at the restoration of this incorrigible heretic
with his partisans, and also because their bishop Athanasius had been sent to exile.”
It was the turn of Arius now to be summoned to appear before the emperor to give account of himself.
Arius was asked if he subscribed to the findings of the council of Nicaea to which Arius affirmed. Arius was requested to sign an oath to this effect which he willingly did.
The emperor thus ordered that Arius should be received into communion with Alexander bishop of Constantinople.
However before this communion could take place Arius died in Constantinople. Some would claim that he died under rather suspicious circumstances.
It was then Saturday, and Arius was expecting to assemble with the church on the day following: but divine retribution overtook his daring criminalities. For going out of the imperial palace, attended by a crowd of Eusebian partisans like guards, he 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 hemorrhage, 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.
About a year or so later after the death of Arius, Constantine was baptised just before his own death by Eusebius of Nicomedia, who we know was a resolute supporter of Arius. The same man who had been exiled by the emperor not long after the council of Nicaea.
continued in part 3.