Richard Hanson – The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God

This is my summary of the book by R.P.C. Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy, 318-381. “RH” in the quotes below refers to this book. I sometimes also quote from:

LA – Lewis Ayres, Nicaea and its Legacy, An Approach to Fourth-Century Trinitarian Theology, 2004

I just started this project.

8 Eustathius and Marcellus

      • 8.1 Eustathius of Antioch 1Eustathius was condemned for Sabellianism.
      • 8.2 Marcellus of Ancyra 2The theology of Eustathius and Marcellus was the theology which triumphed at Nicaea.
      • 8.3 Photinus 3Everybody in the ancient world accuses Photinus of reducing Christ to a mere man adopted by God.

14 The Doctrine of Athanasius

      • 14.4 The Incarnation

23 The Council of Constantinople of 381

Arians or Eusebians

The anti-Nicenes are usually called ‘Arians’ by Hanson but other major scholars agree that that is an inappropriate title. See – Athanasius invented Arianism. Arius was a member, albeit a somewhat extreme member, of the Eusebian camp. For that reason, Ayres refers to the anti-Nicene as ‘Eusebians’. When not quoting, I will follow that practice.

8 Eustathius and Marcellus

8.1 Eustathius of Antioch

Marcellus of Ancyra and Eustathius of Antioch “enter prominently into the story of the search for the Christian doctrine of God soon after the Council of Nicaea.” (RH, 208)

Eustathius “was clearly a vigorous opponent of Arius and Arianism.” (RH, 208) He “thought that the point of view of own his party had not been given sufficient expression at the Council.” (RH, 208)


Eustathius was “deposed from the see of Antioch by a council and exiled by Constantine.  The date cannot have been later than 331.” (RH, 209)

“The real motive (for Eustathius’ deposition) was of course his championing of the Nicene formula and his opposition to those who disliked it and the theology it seemed to represent.” (RH, 210-1) “It seems most likely that Eustathius was primarily deposed for the heresy of Sabellianism.” (RH, 211)


“The man whom the Logos assumed was a complete man: ‘he consists of soul and body. … God wholly clothed himself with a complete man.” (RH, 213) “The Logos dwells in him, as in a Temple.” (RH, 215) “The human being absorbs all the human experiences attributed to Christ in the Gospels, leaving the divine element untouched.” (RH, 215) “This soul was able to endure the human experiences which it was unfitting for the divine element in Christ to endure, in opposition to the Arians who taught that the Son suffered.” (RH, 212) Eustathius does not want “to attribute human experience (pathos) to the Divine” (RH, 213)

“God hid the knowledge of the day of the Second Coming from the man, but the divine element in Jesus Christ was omniscient.” (RH, 213-4)

“He distinguishes between ‘the Logos who is God who is begotten by him’ (i.e. the Father) and ‘Christ’s man’ who was raised from the dead and is exalted and glorified.” (RH, 213) “It is the man who sits at God’s right hand.” (RH, 214)

One Hypostasis

“There is one hypostasis of the Godhead” “This ‘one hypostasis’ of the Godhead was to become the slogan and rallying-cry of the continuing Eustathians.” (RH, 213)

“His weakest point is his incapacity to distinguish between the Father and the Son in the Godhead. … ‘the Logos for Eustathius,’ says Loofs, … has or is no proper hypostasis.” (RH, 215)

“It would seem that Eustathius … holds that the Logos is but an attribute of the one Divinity, which when put forth becomes the divine energy … dwelling as an ‘energy’ in Jesus.” (RH, 215)


“His theology appears very like that of Marcellus, and only differs from his in minor respects.” (RH, 216)

“It is not surprising, however, that Eustathius was condemned for Sabellianism. His insistence that there is only one distinct reality (hypostasis) in the Godhead, and his confusion about distinguishing Father, Son and Holy Spirit laid him open to such a charge. He could have replied (and, for all we know, did reply) that the notorious anathema in N gave him every encouragement to believe that there is only one distinct reality in the Godhead. He certainly would have had no difficulty in accepting the homoousios.” (RH, 216)


This description of Eustathius sounds very much like the modern Trinity doctrine but he was a Sabellian. Hanson comments: “In this medley of opinions it is quite unrealistic to indulge in the business of labelling some as ‘heretical’ and some as ‘orthodox’.” (RH, 216)

8.2 Marcellus of Ancyra

One Hypostasis

For Marcellus, there is only one hypostasis (Person) in God. Consequently, for him, homoousios does not mean “same substance” but “one substance” (one Being):

“The point’ which was to them (Marcellus’ followers) crucial, that there was one hypostasis with one ousia only.” (RH, 223-4)

“The Logos … was one and the same thing as God, called by the distinct names of Father and Son, but one in ousia and hypostasis.’” (RH, 224)

“Eusebius declares that what Marcellus really believes is ‘that there are three Names to be found in one hypostasis.” (RH, 226)

“One point about Marcellus which is unequivocally clear is that he believed that God constituted only one hypostasis, as he had only one ousia. For him homoousios, whose presence in N he must have welcomed enthusiastically, meant not merely ‘consubstantial’ or ‘of similar substance’, but ‘of identical being’. For him the anathema of N which forbade Catholics to teach that the Son was of a different hypostasis or ousia from the Father had precisely the full Sabellian force which it appeared to have. There was for him in God only one ‘Person’ in the later Trinitarian sense of that word.” (RH, 229-230)

Activities of God

Consequently, for Marcellus, the Logos and the Holy Spirit are not separate hypostases (Beings) but mere activities of God:

“The Spirit remains inseparably in God, but goes forth as activity from the Father and the Logos.” (RH, 229)

“The Son was a mere word and testified that he was only a word … immanent [inherent] during the time that the Father was silent, but active in fashioning the creation, just as one’s speech is inactive when we are silent, but active when we speak.” (RH, 224)

“The Logos was one and the same thing with God. But if we were to examine the additional fact of the Incarnation in the case of the Saviour the Godhead would appear to be extended simply by activity so that in all likelihood the Monad is genuinely indivisible.” (RH, 228)

God’s only Logos

While the Eusebians taught that the Son is God’s Word and Wisdom and Logos, but that God also has His own Word and Wisdom, Marcellus, since he taught that the Logos is an activity of God, said that the Son is “the proper and true Logos of God.” In other words, there is not “another Logos and another Wisdom and Power.” (RH, 230) Alexander and Athanasius said the same thing.


“After reading this, we cannot be surprised that Marcellus was deposed for Sabellian leanings.” (RH, 228)

“In spite of the fact that this is almost a quotation from N, Eusebius regards this doctrine as outright Sabellianism, that is a failure to distinguish Father and Son.” (RH, 224)

“At the Council of Jerusalem (AD 335) he agreed to destroy his book, which was accused of favouring the ideas of Paul of Samosata.” (RH, 217) (This Paul was one of the prominent Sabellians of the third century.)


Marcellus was deposed in the East (Constantinople) but vindicated as orthodox in the West (Rome). In the beginning, the West was not involved in the Arian Controversy. For example, the delegates at Nicaea were almost entirely from the East. The East failed to properly understand the issues:

“About ten years after the Council of Nicaea he (Marcellus) was deposed by a council held in Constantinople.” Exactly when and “the exact reason for it (his deposition) are disputed.” (RH, 217)

“Julius (bishop of Rome), in the year 341, summoned a council to Rome, which vindicated the orthodoxy of Marcellus, as well as that of Athanasius who had reached Rome after Marcellus in the course of his second exile.” (RH, 218)

“Pope Julius and his associates who declared Marcellus’ doctrine to be orthodox can have never met the works of Origen nor known anything of the theology of the Eastern Church.” (RH, 231)

Triumphed at Nicaea

“If we are to take the creed N at its face value, the theology of Eustathius and Marcellus was the theology which triumphed at Nicaea. That creed admits the possibility of only one ousia and one hypostasis. This was the hallmark of the theology of these two men.” (RH, 235)

“Eustathius and Marcellus clearly stem from the same theological tradition. They certainly met at Nicaea. and no doubt were there able to join forces with Alexander of Alexandria and Ossius.” (RH, 234)


“At the Council of Jerusalem and the Council of Tyre in the same year he (Marcellus) had supported Athanasius.” (RH, 217)

“Athanasius … continued to defend the orthodoxy of Marcellus.” (RH, 220) “Though he (Athanasius) may temporarily at this period, when he was preparing to return from his second exile, have wished to place a distance between himself and Marcellus, he had no intention of making a final break with him. It is doubtful if he ever did this.” (RH, 220)


“His doctrine that the Logos was first ‘silent’ in God and later was put forth to become ‘articulate’ … is not really identical with the earlier (originally Stoic) doctrine of Word immanent and Word proceeding.” (RH, 227)


For Marcellus, “the only-begotten Son” was equal to “Logos + assumed flesh.” (RH, 227) We usually say that the Son was “begotten” in eternity past. But, for Marcellus, the term “begotten” refers to the event, 2000 years ago, when the Logos assumed flesh. Before that event, the “Son” did not exist; only the Logos:

“It was not the Logos that was begotten, but the Son.” (RH, 224) “The Logos was only called Son or Jesus or Christ after the Incarnation.” (RH, 225)

No Human Soul

“There is no reason to conclude that Marcellus saw the necessity of postulating a human psyche in the flesh assumed by the Logos at the Incarnation. … In the extracts quoted by Eusebius the Logos appears to be the subject of all the human experiences of Jesus Christ.” (RH, 229) “might cause us to consider again the conjecture discussed above’ 55, that Marcellus did in his middle or later period admit a human soul to Christ” (RH, 238)

Return to the Father

Marcellus seemed to have later changed his view on this, but in the beginning, he taught that “’this ‘Son’ would, in accordance with 1 Cor 15:28, eventually separate from the Logos and the Logos would return to the Father.” (RH, 225)

“Marcellus set a limit to this period of Christ’s reign. At the end of this reign the flesh of Christ was to be abandoned, the body deserted, and the Logos would return to God from whom he had (before the creation of the world) come forth.” (RH, 226-7) “he played down his more eccentric earlier ideas” (RH, 238)

8.3 Photinus

“Photinus, bishop of Sirmium, is more famous for his tenacity in holding on to his see than for his theological views. He came from Ancyra, was a devoted disciple of Marcellus of Ancyra, and was very popular as a bishop and as an orator.” (RH, 235-6)

He was “censured” and “condemned” in 344, 345, and 347, “but was only ousted and exiled finally … in 351.” (RH, 236)

Human Mind

“He certainly taught that the human body of Jesus had a human mind or soul.” (RH, 236)

One Hypostasis

“The Logos for him was simply a mode of manifestation of the Father, a power or aspect of him not in any serious sense distinct from him.” (RH, 237) “Like Marcellus, he favoured the analogy of a man and his thought for the relation of the Father to the Son.” (RH, 237)

“The Son did not come into existence until the Incarnation and was defined as the whole human being who was born of Mary; Christ had no pre-existence.” (RH, 237)

“Everybody in the ancient world accuses Photinus of reducing Christ to a mere man adopted by God, i.e. the union between Logos and man was one of inspiration and moral agreement only.” (RH, 237)

“He wanted … to avoid saying that the Logos was God as a distinct hypostasis. He may have taught that Christ was only Son of God in the sense that all Christians are.” (RH, 238)

“He was adopted a Son by the Father on account of the pre-eminence of his holy behaviour.” (RH, 238)

Photinus displayed “what could happen to those who insisted rigorously that there was only one hypostasis in the Godhead and how near they were to falling over the precipice of Sabellianism.” (RH, 238)

14 The Doctrine of Athanasius

14.4 The Incarnation

‘Space-suit Christology

In Athanasius’ view:

“The Logos determined to take to himself a human body.    He appropriated the body as an instrument … living in it. He delivered this body to death. … Just as some great monarch … live in one of its houses …. so the Logos by dwelling in this body …” (RH, 446)

“The Logos … did not suffer and remained impassible in a passible body.” (RH, 455)

“The Logos takes to himself a body (whose mind or soul, we shall see, is virtually ignored) … permitting the body to endure normal human experiences … but himself unaffected by these experiences.” (RH, 447-8)

“The Logos is by nature incapable of human experience. … He himself remains what he is; impassible by nature.” (RH, 448)

Hanson says:

“We can properly describe this doctrine as a ‘Space-suit Christology. … His relation to the body is no closer that than an astronaut to his space-suit.” (RH, 447-8)

What is inside that body?

A Human Mind

“All the weaknesses and apparent deficiencies of Christ incarnate, cowardice, ignorance, etc, are to be described to Christ’s human body.” (RH, 448)

This sounds as if that body does have a human mind.

“The limitations and weaknesses of the incarnate Christ” Athanasius explained as caused by “the human body.” “Even the ‘highly exalted’ of Phil 2:9 must refer to the flesh of Jesus, which was glorified.” (RH, 449)

That is exactly what Eustathius said: “It is the man who sits at God’s right hand.” (RH, 214)

“Logically Athanasius ought to have said that the human body was capable of making human decisions. But Athanasius will not allow this, he will not admit that Jesus Christ was ‘alterable’. … His failure to recognize the existence of a human mind in Jesus lands him in an absurd and impossible situation. … He was in effect saying that Jesus Christ was not human.” (RH, 449)

“The chief reason for Athanasius’ picture of Jesus being so completely unconvincing is of course that, at least till the year 362, it never crossed his mind that there was any point in maintaining that Jesus had a human soul or mind.” (RH, 451)

“In his Tomus ad Antiochenos 7 (PG 26:804-5) he did formally acknowledge that Christ’s human body was not soulless.” (RH, 451-2)

“But it is now widely admitted that this realization of the necessity of allowing a human soul to Jesus came to Athanasius only late and had no effect at all on his thinking before the year 362. Before that date it does not occur to him to admit such a thing.” (RH, 452)

“When his opponents cite examples of Jesus asking questions in apparent want of information, Athanasius admits that it is the property of the flesh to be ignorant, as of the Godhead to be omniscient, but he will not follow the logical consequences of his admission [namely, that Jesus had a human mind], and tries to show that Jesus was not really ignorant.” (RH, 453)

“Dealing with Mark 13:32 (‘About that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, not even the Son; only the Father) Athanasius labours to show that the text does not mean what it quite obviously does mean.” (RH, 454)

“Does Athanasius think that Christ was really afraid? Only minds can fear, not mindless bodies. It seems likely that what he really thought was that Christ could not have been afraid; his divine mind cast out all fear which his human part might be thought to experience. He only pretended to fear just as he only pretended to be ignorant.” (RH, 455)

“Even in this work, where he appears to acknowledge formally the existence of a human mind in Jesus, when it comes to the crux he will not do so.” (RH, 455)

“Stead suggests that he avoided the subject because Marcellus had allowed Jesus a human soul.” (RH, 453)

Not a Human Being

Athanasius wrote: “’He was not subject to moral law, he did not weigh two choices, preferring one, rejecting another … as one with freewill’.” (RH, 449)

“Athanasius involves hlmself in the most far-fetched explanations to explain away some of the texts which obviously represents Jesus as having faith.” (RH, 450)

“We must conclude that whatever else the Logos incarnate is in Athanasius’ account of him, he is not a human being.” (RH, 451)

M Richard wrote: “’It must therefore be frankly acknowledged that his [Athanasius’] authority as a theologian of the Incarnation has been exaggerated. As far as the human psychology of Christ is concerned, it evidently does not exist’” (RH, 452)

Other Points

“When Christ was anointed with the Spirit at his baptism, ‘he was giver and receiver, giving as God the Logos, receiving as man’.” (RH, 449)

“One of the curious results of this theology of the Incarnation is that it almost does away with a doctrine of the Atonement … rendered it unnecessary. … Of course Athanasius believes in the Atonement, in Christ’s death as saving, but he cannot really explain why Christ should have died.” (RH, 450)

“Athanasius does not actually reach the point of envisaging two natures in Jesus Christ.  A wholly divine Being inhabiting as a space-suit, or even as if dwelling in a house, a human body whose mind or soul is not brought into play cannot really be said to be subsisting in two natures.” (RH, 456)

23 The Council of Constantinople of 381

This chapter describes the conditions leading up to the Council of Constantinople in 381.

23.1 Imperial Policy before the Council

This first section discusses the views and influence of the emperors at that time:


“Valens (364-378) … was a convinced Homoian Arian. … When he thought it feasible he used his power to promote his favourite doctrine and suppress others.” For example, “he banished Gregory from Nyssa” but “did not dislodge Basil in Caesarea nor Athanasius in Alexandria.” (RH, 791) “His chosen ecclesiastical advisers … were no friends to Neo-Arianism.” (RH, 791-2) “But his efforts at persecution were sporadic and unpredictable.” (RH, 792)

“A particular target of Valens’ harassment was Meletius, that Benedict Arnold (betrayer) of the Homoian party.” (RH, 792) “In 370 or 371, under pressure from a renewed policy of enforcing theological uniformity on the part of Valens, Meletius again retired from Antioch to his estate in Armenia, where we have met him already conferring with Basil and Theodotus.” (RH, 792) Hanson refers to “Basil’s friendship with Meletius.” (RH, 792-3) “Meletius returned from his last exile in 378.” (RH, 793)


“Valentinian (364-375), the brother and co-emperor of Valens, tried not to involve himself … in quarrels among the Christians.” (RH, 793)

“If we are to trust Theodoret, Valentinian committed himself strenuously to the pro-Nicene cause when he presided over a church council somewhere in Illyricum … which produced a resoundingly pro-Homoousian statement. … But … it seems preferable … (to) dismiss the whole passage as wholly untrustworthy” (RH, 793-4)


“Gratian was formally made Augustus when he was eight years old, in 367, but he only exercised power from 375 onwards, on the death of his father Valentinian, when he was sixteen. … Until 379 he followed the policy of non-intervention in ecclesiastical affairs practised by his father. In 378, he … issued an Edict declaring toleration for all the diverse views of Christian parties except Manichees, Photinians and Eunomians.” (RH, 794)

“But next year (379) … he was perhaps influenced by the series of sermons which Ambrose was … delivering against those who deny the divinity of the Holy Spirit.” (RH, 795) “Gratian had come to regard Ambrose as his guide, philosopher and friend. … It is … likely that, despite his admiration for Ambrose, he continued broadly his policy of tolerating within wide limits differences within Christianity at this period.” (RH, 795)

So, in conclusion, the emperors before the time of Theodosius were fairly tolerant of differing views. Tis in contrast to Theodosius’ approach, discussed below.

23.2 Abortive Attempts at Agreement

This section discusses developments in the Pro-Nicene camp during the years before Theodosius. This is important because, already in the year before the Council of Constantinople in 381, emperor Theodosius made the Trinity doctrine the state religion of the Roman Empire and outlawed all other forms of Christianity. The question arises, which theologian advised Theodosius? Clearly, it was a Pro-Nicene theologian but Hanson describes two factions in the pro-Nicene camp leading up to Theodosius’ edicts. The question is, which of those two factions advised Theodosius?


Liberius, bishop of Rome (died 366), on returning to his see after his … exile, remained quiescent, as far as we know, until Constantius was dead (361) and the Homoian Arian party no longer securely in control of ecclesiastical affairs, before he made any important move.” (RH, 795-6)

In “the year 362 or 363 … he issued a Letter to the Bishops of Italy … inviting them to return to the true faith and accept N. It regarded the Council of Ariminum as a disastrous lapse into heresy.” (RH, 796)


“Liberius died in 366. He was succeeded by Damasus, an adherent of the party of Felix, not of Liberius, and he only succeeded after fierce fighting between the two factions. He reached the see of Rome by walking over the corpses of the faction-fighters.” (RH, 796)

“Damasus … was a convinced, indeed an aggressive, supporter of Nicene doctrine. He quickly began to devote his energies to suppressing Arianism and promoting the cause of the proponents of N.” (RH, 796)

“Within a few years (after Nicaea) there is a near-fifteen year absence before the creed is mentioned again.” (LA, 100) But it was brought back into the debate as part of what Ayres calls Athanasius’ “masterpiece of the rhetorical art.” (LA, 106-7) See Ayres 5.1 The Creation of ‘Arianism’. The fact that Damasus defends the Nicene Creed indicates Athanasius’ influence.

Damasus, however, was not able to eliminate all opposition to the Nicene Creed. For example, he “never succeeded in deposing these three bishops (Auxentius, Ursacius, and Valens) who continued to hold their sees serenely until their deaths.” (RH, 797)

Factions within the Pro-Nicene Camp

“Determined, but sadly ineffectual efforts were made by Basil of Caesarea to bring about reconciliation and consensus in the East and between the East and the West between the years 371 and 377.” (RH, 797)

However, that was not limited to disagreements between Pro-Nicene and Anti-Nicenes. Hanson’s focus is specifically on two factions within the Pro-Nicene camp. He spends a few pages on what he calls an “apparently fruitless interchange between these two eminent men (Damasus and Basil).” (RH, 800) Both of them were pro-Nicene.

The leaders of the one faction were mainly Damasus, bishop of Rome, and Athanasius. On the other side was mainly Basil, bishop of Caesarea.


Hanson says that the dispute between Damasus and Basil was partly due to personalities:

“We have already had occasion to remark upon at once the resemblance and the incompatibility of their temperaments.” Basil described Damasus as “a haughty man.” “Simonetti says of Damasus, ‘authoritarian and superficial.” (RH, 800)

But I will show below that the main reason for this split within the Pro-Nicene camp was that Damasus and Athanasius were one hypostasis (One Reality or Person) theologians while Basil believed in three hypostases (three Realities or Persons).

Evidence of Conflict

The following confirms that Damasus and Basil opposed one another:

Damasus stated “that Basil’s letters addressed to the West were returned as unacceptable.” (RH, 798)

“A confession of faith (was sent) from Damasus which Basil was to sign without altering a single word.” “Basil replied to this demand in a polite but biting letter.” (RH, 798)

Basil and Athanasius also opposed one another:

“Basil writes letters to Athanasius asking him to approach Damasus and assist Basil’s overtures. None of them was answered and nothing came of them.” (RH, 797)

Three Hypostases

The following shows that, while Damasus was a one hypostasis theologian, Basil and his friend Meletius believed in three hypostases:

In a letter to Basil, “Damasus sent a very cool reply … deliberately avoided making any statement about the three hypostases. It was the adhesion of Basil, Meletius and their followers to this doctrine of the hypostases which caused Damasus … to suspect them of heresy.” (RH, 798)

The Bishop of Antioch

The two factions disagreed about who the rightful bishop of Antioch was. This also reveals that the dispute was primarily about the number of hypostases in the Godhead. Damasus and Athanasius supported Paulinus because he was a ‘one hypostasis’ theologian, while Basil opposed Paulinus for that same reason.

Damasus’ support for Paulinus:

In 375, Damasus wrote a letter which “constituted also an official recognition of Paulinus, not Meletius, as bishop of Antioch.” (RH, 799) Paulinus was “Marcellan/Sabellian.” (RH, 799) He derived “his tradition in continuity from Eustathius who had been bishop about forty years before” (RH, 800-1).

“The fragments of Eustathius that survive present a doctrine that is close to Marcellus, and to Alexander and Athanasius. Eustathius insists there is only one hypostasis.“ (LA, 69)

Athanasius’ support for Paulinus:

Basil and Athanasius also disputed over who the rightful bishop of Antioch was; Meletius or Paulinus:

“Basil would not desert Meletius and Athanasius would not recognize him (Meletius) as bishop of Antioch.” (RH, 797)

Paulinus “was recognized as legitimate bishop of Antioch by Athanasius. Later, Athanasius’ successor Peter extended the same recognition to him and persuaded Damasus to do the same.” (RH, 801)

Damasus was a generation younger than Athanasius but note the link in the previous quote between them through Athanasius’ successor Peter. This is confirmed by the following quote:

“In May 373 Athanasius died, Peter his successor was driven out, fled to Rome, and proceeded to poison the mind of Damasus against Basil and Meletius.” (RH, 798)

Basil opposed Paulinus

But Basil opposed Paulinus because Paulinus taught only one hypostasis:

“Paulinus was a rival of Basil’s friend and ally Meletius. … Basil suspected that Paulinus was at heart a Sabellian, believing in only one Person (hypostasis) in the Godhead. Paulinus’ association with the remaining followers of Marcellus and his continuing to favour the expression ‘one hypostasis’ … rendered him suspect.” (RH, 801)

This quote also confirms that Basil believed in three hypostases. See also my question – Did the Cappadocians teach one or two substances?

Support for Marcellans

The theologies of Damasus, Athanasius, and Basil are also reflected in their support or opposition to the Marcellans. The ”watch-word” of “these disciples of Marcelius … had always been ‘only one hypostasis in the Godhead’.” (RH, 802)

Since they believed in only one hypostasis, Damasus and Athanasius supported the Marcellans:

Basil wrote a letter that “contained some shafts directed at Damasus because of his toleration of Eustathius and the Marcellans.” (RH, 799)

“Basil was never sure in his own mind that Athanasius had abandoned Marcellus of Ancyra and his followers.” (RH, 797)

“In a letter written to Athanasius he (Basil of Caesarea) complains that the Westerners have never brought any accusation against Marcellus.” (RH, 802)

“About the year 371 adherents of Marcellus approached Athanasius, presenting to him a statement of faith. … He accepted it and gave them a document expressing his agreement with their doctrine.” (RH, 801)

The Question

So, given these two factions within the Pro-Nicene camp; one supporting three hypostases (Basil and Meletius) and one supporting only one hypostasis (Athanasius and Damasus), on which of these two factions did Theodosius rely for his theology? Given Theodosius’ description of the Trinity doctrine in the imperial edicts, was Theodosius’ theology similar to Damasus’ one hypostasis theology or Basil’s three hypostasis theology?

Hanson closes the section by saying, finally, “he (Basil) finally accepted them (the Marcellans) as orthodox.” (RH, 802) Did Basil later accept a ‘one hypostasis’-theology?

23.3 The Beginning of a Consensus

“Damasus had held several councils in Rome in the decade 370-380 … and finally that which produced the Tomus Damasi in 377 or 378. Though he never lost an opportunity in his official utterances to make a hit at Meletius, Damasus’ doctrine in fact was far from uncongenial to the minds of pro-Nicene bishops in the East.” (RH, 802-3)

Our sources for “the council which Meletius convened at Antioch in 379 … are curiously meagre.” (RH, 803) “We do not know what statement this council promulgated, but it must have been one favouring the cause of the Council of Nicaea and indicating that the Western bishops were in agreement with this policy. It certainly was intended to indicate to the newly-created Eastern Emperor Theodosius the way in which many influential people in the East hoped that he would move.” (RH, 803-4) 

[In the previous section, Hanson described the rivalry between Damasus and Meletius. The previous paragraph implies that Theodosius learned his theology from Meletius.

Theodosius’ father, “also called Theodosius, had been a general in the imperial army who had given distinguished service in suppressing rebellions and restoring order.” (RH, 804)

Theodosius “was declared Emperor and Augustus (i.e. equal with, not subordinate to, Gratian) on January 19th 379.” (RH, 804)

“In February 380, when he was residing in Thessalonica, he issued an edict known as Cunetos Populos which declared the proNicene doctrine of the Trinity to be the official doctrine of the Roman Empire, and named Damasus of Rome and Peter of Alexandria as the two episcopal norms of doctrine. … His subjects were ordered to believe ‘the single divinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit within (sub) an equal majesty and an orthodox (pia) Trinity’. Heretics would be punished.” (RH, 804)

“On November 24th 380 he entered Constantinople and instantly … the Arian bishop of that city … Demophilus … was driven out of the city. At about the same time the Arian Lucius was chased out of Alexandria.” (RH, 804-5)

“In January 381 Meletius … entered Constantinople. It seems likely that he had already concerted a plan with Theodosius.” (RH, 805) [Again, the implication of a link between Meletius and Theodosius)

“On January 10th Theodosius issued an edict … known as Nullis haereticis. No church was to be occupied for worship by any heretics, no heretics were to gather together for worship within the walls of any town.” (RH, 805)

“The correct Nicene faith was described … as: ‘He who professes the Nicene faith … who confesses God Almighty and Christ his Son in one Name … who does not blaspheme the Holy Spirit … by denying him … the undivided substance … of the pure Trinity” (RH, 805)

Hanson does not say who prepared these statements for Theodosius. In the previous section (chapter 23.2), Hanson describes the rivalry between two groups in the Pro-Nicene camp, with Damasus of Rome and Meletius of Antioch as the leaders of the two factions. For the following reasons, I believe that Theodosius’ theology was derived from Athanasius via Damasus:

Theodosius’ theology seems ‘One Reality’ in form. It refers to “’the single divinity” and “the undivided substance.” It does not offer any language to distinguish between the Father, Son, and Spirit. So, this is not Basil’s ‘Three Reality’-theology.

Theodosius explicitly refers to “Damasus of Rome and Peter of Alexandria as the two episcopal norms of doctrine.” I assume, therefore, that Theodosius learned his theology from them and both of them were influenced by Athanasius.

Theodosius’ statement “does not require … an acceptance of a belief in the divinity of the Holy Spirit” = Basil or both?

In the next section, the meeting began with Meletius as chair but he soon ‘died’. In his place as bishop of Antioch, Gregory, who the emperor accepted as bishop of Constantinople, proposed Paulinus, who was the leader of the ‘one hypostasis’ party in Antioch

“Perhaps the most remarkable point about this statement is that it does not require, at least on the surface, an acceptance of a belief in the divinity of the Holy Spirit.” (RH, 805)

“The Emperor next summoned a council of the Eastern Church (not including Egypt) to meet in May in Constantinople.” (RH, 805)

23.4 The Council of Constantinople

Paulinus had been for years steadily supported by Damasus and Peter against Meletius, the leader of the party of the Easterners at the council.” (RH, 810)

Flavian was “a prominent presbyter of the party of Paulinus.” (RH, 810)

Considering the previous sections, it seems as if the ‘one hypostasis’ faction won the day and that Meletius chaired the meeting under duress

23.5 The Creed Of Constantinople

“What Apollinaris denied was that the incarnate Son possessed a human soul or mind.” (RH, 817)


Why is C so different from Theodosius’ law?

  • 1
    Eustathius was condemned for Sabellianism.
  • 2
    The theology of Eustathius and Marcellus was the theology which triumphed at Nicaea.
  • 3
    Everybody in the ancient world accuses Photinus of reducing Christ to a mere man adopted by God.
  • 4
    The views and influence of the emperors at that time
  • 5
    Factions in the Pro-Nicene camp
  • 6
    Emperor Theodosius made an end to the Controversy.
  • 7
    Not ecumenical