Emperor Theodosius eliminated Arianism from the Roman Empire.

The Arian Controversy

The emperor Theodosius put an end to the Arian Controversy. However, the traditional account of that Controversy has been described as a complete travesty:

The Traditional Account is Wrong.

For example:

There were not just two sides.

In the traditional account, there were just two sides in the Arian Controversy; the Trinity doctrine and Arianism. In reality, there were several ‘sides’, including:

One SubstanceThe Council of Nicene in 325 agreed that Christ is homoousios (of the same substance) as the Father. Athanasius and the Sabellians understood this to say one single substance (Being) with one single Mind. (See Athanasius)

Two Substances – Basil and the Cappadocians, on the other hand, understood homoousios as saying that Father and Son are two distinct substances (two Beings with two distinct Minds) that are the same in all respects. (See – Basil) See also the discussion of the meaning of the term homoousios.

No mention of God’s Substance – The Council of Ariminum in July 359 concluded that the Son was “like the Father,” without reference to substance. In this view, the Bible does not reveal whether the Son is of the same substance as the Father, and we, therefore, should not speculate about such things. This is the Homoian view.

Similar Substance – The council of Seleucia agreed in 359 that the Son was “similar in substance” to the Father but not necessarily of the “same substance,” as per the Nicene Creed. This is called Homoi-ousian view.

Different Substance – The council of Constantinople in 359 at first accepted that the substance of the Son was different from the Father’s. See Heter-ousian or Arian controversy. This is similar to what Arius taught.

The Trinity doctrine was not Orthodox.

In the traditional account, the Trinity doctrine was established as orthodoxy when the Controversy began. However, while the Trinity doctrine presents Christ as co-equal with the Father, the article on the Nicene Creed lists several indications that Christ is subordinate to the Father. For example, it describes the Father as the “one God” who alone is Almighty. 

This should not be surprising. ‘Orthodoxy’ as we know it today, did not exist when that Controversy began. It was worked out through that Controversy. (See – Revised Scholarly View) If anything was orthodox when the Controversy began, it was that the Son is subordinate to the Father. For example, RPC Hanson, one of the top modern scholars on the Fourth Century Controversy, wrote:

“Indeed, until Athanasius began writing, every single theologian, East and West, had postulated some form of Subordinationism. It could, about the year 300, have been described as a fixed part of catholic theology.” 1RPC Hanson, “The Achievement of Orthodoxy in the Fourth Century AD” in Rowan Williams, ed., The Making of Orthodoxy (New York, NY: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1989) p. 153. 

The term ‘Arian’ is a serious Misnomer.

The term ‘Arianism’ comes from the name of Arius, a priest from Alexandria in the fourth century, whose dispute with his bishop Alexander sparked the Arian Controversy. This term implies that Arius developed a new theology and that he had many followers. In reality, Arius was insignificant. He did not leave behind a school of followers. He was only the spark that ignited the fire, but the fuel for that fire had been gathering for centuries before him. It was the legalization of Christianity that allowed that Controversy to burst open.

Arius was not a Radical.

Contrary to what we are often told, Arius did not develop anything new. Everything he said was said by people before him. He might have packaged it differently, but, in reality, Arius was a conservative.

Alexander was a Sabellian.

Neither did Arius’ opponent (Alexander) develop anything new. he just rehashed the theology of the previous century. But what people do not realize is that Alexander was a Sabellian, meaning that he said that Father, Son, and Spirit are one single Being with one single Rational Faculty. Sabellianism was rejected in the third century but remained strong.

The term hypostasis is confusing.

The ancients used the term hypostasis (distinct reality) and the core of the Arian Controversy was whether Father, Son, and Spirit are one or three hypostases. However, the traditional Trinity doctrine uses hypostasis in a different sense:

      • In the fourth century, each hypostasis was a distinct Rational Faculty.
      • In the traditional Trinity doctrine, the three hypostases (Persons) share one single Rational Capacity. It says that the Father, Son, and Spirit are one single Being with one single Rational Faculty but three hypostases (or Persons).

Given this confusion, this website avoids the terms hypostasis and Person.

Conclusion

The point is this: This article shows that Emperor Theodosius I, when he came to power, crushed Arianism. However, what he really crushed was all resistance to the teaching of the Nicene Creed that the Father and Son have the same ousia.

Summary

Constantine had a decisive influence on the formulation of the Nicene Creed but later rejected the Homoousion Christology of the Nicene Creed. The emperors who succeeded Constantine crushed the church leaders who taught the homoousion principle in the Nicene Creed. When emperor Valens died in 378, the imperial capital was solidly Arian.

Theodosius I succeeded Valens. He was a passionate supporter of Homoousion Christology. Commentators often refer to the Council of Constantinople of 381 as the turning point where Arianism was replaced by Nicene Christology, but that council was a mere formality. Already prior to the council, Theodosius outlawed all other forms of Christianity and exiled Arian bishops.2Theodosian Code 16:2, 1 Friell, G., Williams, S., Theodosius: The Empire at Bay, London, 1994 – See, Homoousion – Wikipedia Furthermore, ‘Arians’ were not allowed to attend the Council of 381.

Since the 381 Council was simply a formality, the real decisions were taken by the Roman Emperor. Theodosius, with the strong arm of the empire, effectively wiped out ‘Arianism’ among the ruling class and elite of the Eastern Empire. This supports again the main thesis of this article series, namely that the emperors had a decisive influence on the Christology of the church.

The 381 Creed does not contain the Trinity concept, namely that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three Persons with three minds or wills in one Being. But Theodosius’ Edict of Thessalonica of 380 does prescribe Trinitarian theology. In other words, the State laws were Trinitarian while the church decreed lagged behind. This also supports the thesis that the Christology of the church was determined by the emperors.

In the centuries after Theodosius, the church formulated the doctrines that Christ had two separate natures, namely that He had both a divine and a human nature, and that Mary is the Mother of God.

– END OF SUMMARY –


OVERVIEW OF HISTORY

After the church became Gentile-dominated, all sorts of abominations entered. Concerning Christology, in the second century, the church began to explain the Son of God as the Logos of Greek philosophy. Monarchainism also developed in the second century and explained that the Father and Son are one single Being. This was refined by the Sabellianism of the third century, which explained Father and Son as two faces of one single Being. However, the church formally rejected Sabellianism and entered the fourth century with the traditional Logos-theology, but as refined by Origen, with the Son as the subordinated agent of the Father.

In the second and third centuries, the church, as a persecuted entity, had no way of making and enforcing empire-wide decisions. But after Christianity was legalized in 313, the controversy that had been seething underground burst into the open. The spark that ignited the fire was the dispute between Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, and Arius, one of his presbyters (priests).

Alexander, similar to the Sabellians before him, taught that Father and Son are one single Person with one single Rational Faculty. Arius, similar to most bishops before him, taught that they are two distinct Beings with two distinct Rational Faculties.

But Arius also has some extreme views. While the tradition said that the Son was born from the Being of the Father, Arius said that He was made out of nothing. And while Origen said that the Son always existed, Arius said that ‘there was’ when the Son ‘was not’.

This dispute spread to most of Egypt. Many bishops supported Arius; not because they supported his views but because they regarded Alexander’s as destructive.

Emperor Constantine, seeking unity in the church to support the unity of the empire, wrote to Arius and Alexander to end their quarrel, but to no avail. His religious advisor (Ossius) advised him to take Alexander’s side in the dispute. Ossius then chaired a meeting in Antioch early in 325 where Eusebius of Caesarea, the historian and the most respected theologian of the time, and Arius’ most famous supporter, was provisionally excommunicated.

Constantine then called the Nicene Council and installed his religious advisor as presiding officer. Alexander allied with the Sabellians Eustathius and Marcellus and, through his intimidating presence, forced that meeting to accept the word homoousios which, in the previous century, was only preferred by Sabellians.

However, in the years after Nicaea, Constantine allowed the church to remove the main drivers of the Nicene Creed, the Sabellians Eustathius and Marcellus, from their positions. After this, the Nicene Creed and the term homoousios were not mentioned for about 20-30 years.

Alexander died a few years after Nicaea and was replaced by Athanasius as bishop of Alexandria, but he was also exiled; not for theology but for “tyrannical behaviour.” (LA, 124) Constantine also allowed the exiled ‘Arian’ bishops to return. And, shortly before his death, he was baptized by an ‘Arian’ bishop. So, it seemed as if all decisions at Nicaea were made null and void.

But trouble was brewing in the West. At first, the West was not part of the Controversy. “The Eastern Church was always the pioneer and leader in theological movements in the early Church. … The Westerners at the Council (of Nicaea) represented a tiny minority.” (RH, 170) However, both Athanasius and Marcellus were exiled to Rome, where they joined forces against the Eastern Church.

At that time, Athanasius developed his polemical strategy, in which he claimed himself to be innocent of tyranny, put the blame for his exile on an ‘Arian Conspiracy’, claimed that he was really exiled for his theology (just like Marcellus), and labeled the Eastern Church followers of Arius (from which we got the term ‘Arian’). Athanasius was able to convince the pope (the bishop of Rome) of his version of reality, causing friction and division between the Eastern and Western Churches.

This happened in the period after Constantine died in 337 when his three sons divided the empire between themselves. While Emperor Constants in the West supported the views of the Western Church, Emperor Constantius in the East supported the Eastern Church

However, by the year 353, after his brothers had both been killed, Constantius ruled the entire empire. In the traditional account of the Arian Controversy, “Constantius has frequently been seen as a ruthless and brutal ruler and was painted by later pro-Nicene writers as a persecuter of supporters of Nicaea. The true picture is more complex: within the fourth-century context Constantius was a fairly mild ruler.” (LA, 133) “As his control over the west grew Constantius increased his attempts to get bishops to agree to the key eastern decisions of the previous few years.” (LA, 135) “He was not beyond subterfuge and force to achieve public agreement between factions.” (LA, 134)

“When Constantius died in 361 his immediate successor was his cousin Julian.” (LA, 168) “As Emperor, Julian soon became an active non-Christian, repudiating the Christianity that he had earlier professed. In his attempt to undermine the Church Julian tried to foment dissension between groups in the Church—initially by recalling all bishops who had been banished under Constantius.” (LA, 168-9)

The next emperor (Julian) did not choose sides, but he ruled only for three years.

Valens (364–378) succeeded Julian and revived Constantius’ anti-Nicene policy. He also exiled Nicene bishops to the other ends of the empire and often used force against them. Consequently, when Valens died in the year 378, the imperial capital of the empire (Constantinople), which by then has existed for 50 years, was solidly ‘Arian’.

Theodosius wiped Arianism out.

Theodosius I succeeded Valens. He and his wife Flacilla were passionate supporters of the Nicene Creed. Flacilla was instrumental in Theodosius’ campaign to end Arianism. Sozomen reports an incident where she prevented a meeting between Theodosius and Eunomius of Cyzicus, who served as figurehead of the most radical sect of Arians. Ambrose and Gregory of Nyssa praised her Christian virtues (Roman Catholic Encyclopedia (1909), article “Ælia Flaccilla” by J.P. Kirsch).

Commentators often refer to the First Council of Constantinople, which Theodosius convened in the spring of 381, as the turning point where Arianism was replaced by Nicene Christology, but that council was a mere formality:

Firstly, Theodosius already on 27 February 380, with the Edict of Thessalonica decreed that Trinitarian Christianity would be the only legal religion of the Roman Empire and that Christians teaching contrary views would be punished. Through this edict, Theodosius outlawed all other versions of Christianity.

Secondly, the incumbent bishop of Constantinople was an Arian (a Homoian). Two days after Theodosius arrived in Constantinople, on 24 November 380, and therefore also before the First Council of Constantinople in the spring of 381, he exiled this bishop and appointed Gregory of Nazianzus, the leader of the rather small Nicene community in the city, as bishop over the churches of that city.

Thirdly, only supporters of the Nicene Creed were allowed into the Council of 381. The previous Arian bishop and leaders were already banished and Arians arriving to attend the council were denied admission.

The 381 Council, therefore, was simply a formality. Theodosius, with the strong arm of the empire, effectively wiped out Arianism from the Roman Empire.

Edict of Thessalonica

This edict states:

According to the apostolic teaching
and the doctrine of the Gospel, let us believe in
the one deity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity.

We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title of Catholic Christians; but as for the others, since, in our judgment, they are foolish madmen, we decree that they shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give to their conventicles (places of worship) the name of churches. They will suffer in the first place the chastisement of the divine condemnation and in the second the punishment of our authority which in accordance with the will of Heaven we shall decide to inflict. — Edict of Thessalonica (Documents of the Christian Church, Henry Bettenson, editor, 1967, p. 22)

The term “Catholic” in this quote means ‘universal’. The word “Catholic” only became part of the name of the Catholic Church in 1054, at the East-West schism.

Summarized, Church historian Sozomen reports as follows on the Edict of Thessalonica:

Gratian bestowed the government of Illyria and of the Eastern provinces upon Theodosius. The parents of Theodosius were Christians and were attached to the Nicene doctrines. Theodosius made known by law his intention of leading all his subjects to the reception of that faith which was professed by Damasus, bishop of ROME, and by Peter, bishop of ALEXANDRIA. He enacted that the title of “Catholic Church” should be exclusively confined to those who rendered EQUAL HOMAGE to the Three Persons of the Trinity and that those individuals who entertained opposite opinions should be treated as heretics, regarded with contempt, and delivered over to PUNISHMENT. (Sozomen’s Church History VII.4)

The First Council of Constantinople was a mere formality.

It was customary, in the fourth century, for emperors, as the real heads of the church, to appoint church leaders and convene church councils. Similarly, Theodosius convened the First Council of Constantinople in the spring of 381. It is also known as the Second Ecumenical Council. ‘Ecumenical’ means it represents all Christian Churches and perspectives, but that was certainly not the case in this instance:

Theodosius already outlawed Arianism in the previous year, with the threat of punishment for people that teach anything different.

Gregory of Nazianzus—the leader of the Nicene party in the city—presided over part of the Council and vehemently opposed any compromise with the Homoiousians (those who believed that the Son’s substance is “similar” to the Father’s). 3Lewis Ayres – Nicaea and its legacy – Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-875505-0. Retrieved 21 October 2011

Arians were not admitted into the council. Theodosius already banished the previous Homoian bishop and leaders. And 36 Pneumatomachians arrived to attend the council but were denied admission when they refused to accept the Nicene Creed.

Gregory resigned from his office and Nectarius, an unbaptized civil official, was chosen to succeed Gregory as president of the council. Nectarius, as a civil servant, was fully under Theodosius’ control.

The Council, not surprisingly, confirmed Theodosius’ installation of Gregory Nazianzus as Bishop of Constantinople, accepted the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381 and dogmatically condemned of all shades of Arianism as heresy. 

Contents of the Creed of 381

The Holy Spirit

The 325 Creed merely mentions the Holy Spirit in connection with the Father and Son. It does not refer to the Holy Spirit as theos (“god” or “God”) or that the Spirit is of the same substance as the Father. 

The 381 Creed goes much further. The 5 words about the Holy Spirit in the Nicene Creed of 325 became 33 words in the Creed of Constantinople, saying that:

      • The Holy Ghost is “the Lord and Giver of life,”
      • He proceeds from the Father and
      • He is worshiped together with the Father and the Son.

The 381 Creed, therefore, describes the Holy Spirit much clearer as a separate Person and as God.

The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism, “God,” p. 568, states that the teaching of the three Cappadocian Fathers “made it possible for the Council of Constantinople (381) to affirm the divinity of the Holy Spirit, which up to that point had nowhere been clearly stated, not even in Scripture.

Note: Catholics are not concerned if their doctrines are not found in the Bible because they believe in continued revelation through the church.

The Trinity

As discussed in the article on the Nicene Creed, the present writer does not find the Trinity concept, namely that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one Being with one single Mind, in the Nicene Creed. It is also absent from the creed of 381.

However, the Edict of Thessalonica of 380, quoted above, which was an act of law by the emperor, made Trinitarian theology law. Compare the opening phrases of the Edict of Thessalonica of 380:

“Let us believe in
the one deity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

With the opening phrase of the Creed of 381:

“We believe in
one God, the Father Almighty …
And in one Lord Jesus Christ …
And in the Holy Ghost”

An edict which Theodosius issued after the Council of 381 is also clearly Trinitarian:

“We now order that all churches are to be handed over to the bishops who profess Father, Son and Holy Spirit of a single majesty, of the same glory, of one splendour” (quoted by Richard Rubenstein, When Jesus Became God, 1999, p. 223).

In other words, the State laws were Trinitarian while the church creeds lagged behind. The first clear Trinitarian church statement is the Athanasian Creed which was not formulated by a Church Council and originated perhaps 100 years later. The contents of Theodosius’s decrees, when compared to the church decrees, support the main thesis of these articles, namely that the decisions, with respect to which Christology the church will adopt, was made by the emperors; not by ecumenical councils.

FOOTNOTES

  • 1
    RPC Hanson, “The Achievement of Orthodoxy in the Fourth Century AD” in Rowan Williams, ed., The Making of Orthodoxy (New York, NY: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1989) p. 153.
  • 2
    Theodosian Code 16:2, 1 Friell, G., Williams, S., Theodosius: The Empire at Bay, London, 1994 – See, Homoousion – Wikipedia
  • 3
    Lewis Ayres – Nicaea and its legacy – Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-875505-0. Retrieved 21 October 2011

After Nicaea, the church was dominated by Arian emperors.

Trinity
Trinity

This is an article on a series on the historical development of the Trinity doctrine. The main purpose of this series is to show the decisive influence that Roman Emperors had on the church’s acceptance of the Trinity doctrine. A previous article showed that Constantine determined the Outcome of the Council of Nicaea. He called the council, took part in the discussions, personally proposed and insisted on the key term homoousios, and exiled all bishops who refused to sign the creed.

The current article shows that the emperors after Constantine but before Theodosius were ‘Arians’ and crushed the Nicene party.

SUMMARY

Nicene Council

The Council of Nicaea discussed and soon rejected Arius’ theology. But then the Council, by including new terms, created a new problem and a new controversy. Constantine’s influence allowed a minority at the council to make the final edits to the Creed and to include the word homoousios. After Nicaea, however, the term homoousios soon disappeared from the debate. But, in the 350s, Athanasius re-introduced the Nicene Creed and homoousios became the focus of the Controversy.

After Nicaea

After Nicaea, Arius and two bishops, who were exiled at Nicaea, regained imperial favor, were readmitted to communion, and were allowed to return. Constantine himself seems to have accepted Arianism, because he was baptized, shortly before his death, by the Arian bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia.

Constantine also convened a gathering of Church leaders in AD 335 to discuss various charges against Athanasius; now bishop of Alexandria. In consequence, Constantine exiled Athanasius. Over his career, Athanasius was exiled no fewer than five times.

Constantius was a Homoian

By the year 353. Constantine’s son Constantius II became the sole ruler of the empire. He actively encouraged the church to reverse the Nicene Creed, attempted to force the Western bishops to abandon Athanasius, and exiled bishops adhering to the Nicene Creed.

Third Council of Sirmium

The Third Council of Sirmium in 357 is regarded as the high point of Arianism. It held that homoousios (of one substance) does not appear in the Bible, that it is “above men’s understanding” and that “there ought to be no mention of any of these at all.” 

Julian was a Pagan.

Constantius’ successor was Julian. He was a devotee of Rome’s pagan gods and did not favor one church faction above another. But he reigned only for three years.

Valens (364–378) was a Homoian.

Emperor Valens succeeded Julian and revived Constantius’ policy. Similar to Constantine and Constantius before him, he exiled Nicene bishops to the other ends of the empire and often used force. 

Note in these examples the decisive influence that the emperors had on the church’s Christology:

“If we ask the question, what was considered to constitute the ultimate authority in doctrine during the period reviewed in these pages, there can be only one answer. The will of the Emperor was the final authority” (RH, 849).1Hanson RPC, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy, 318-381. 1988

– END OF SUMMARY –


NICAEA

Did not end the Controversy.

The Council of Nicaea did not end the Arian controversy:

“There was no unanimity at Nicaea. After the council, the bishops went on teaching as they had before, and the Arian crisis continued for another sixty years. Arius and his followers fought back and managed to regain imperial favor. Athanasius was exiled no fewer than five times.”2Karen Armstrong, A History of God – pp. 110-111

Objections to Homoousios

Homoousios is the most controversial term in the Nicene Creed. Many bishops objected to this term because it does not appear in the Bible but was borrowed from Pagan philosophy. It was not part of the standard Christian language but had already been condemned at a Synod in Antioch in 268. (Objections to Homoousios)

Polytheism or Sabelianism?

Furthermore, the Bible is clear that only one Being exists without cause, and that is the Father. Like all the ancient creeds, even the Nicene Creed begins with a standard unitarian statement:

“We believe in one God, the Father Almighty,
Maker of all things visible and invisible.”

But this seems to be contradicted by the statement in the Creed that Jesus is “very God of very God … being of one substance with the Father.” If this is understood as presenting two Beings with two rational faculties, it is polytheism. If Father and Son are understood as one ‘Person’ with one single rational faculty, that is Sabellianism. 

AFTER NICAEA

Constantine accepted ‘Arianism’.

Soon after Nicaea, while Constantine was still the head of the empire, the imperial preference shifted to Arianism, as indicated by the following: 

Ten years after Nicaea, Constantine convened another gathering of Church leaders at the regional First Synod of Tyre in 335 (attended by 310 bishops) to address various charges against Athanasius. He now was the bishop of Alexandria. These charges include “murder, illegal taxation, sorcery, and treason.” He was convicted of conspiracy and exiled by Constantine. 

In 336 the Synod of Jerusalem, under Constantine’s direction, readmitted Arius to communion. Arius died on the way to Constantinople.

Eusebius of Nicomedia and Theognis were condemned and exiled at the Council of Nicaea. But Constantine allowed them to return once they had signed an ambiguous statement of faith.

When Constantine accepted baptism on his deathbed, it was from the same Eusebius of Nicomedia. 3Gonzalez, Justo (1984). The Story of Christianity Vol.1. Harper Collins. p. 176 This implies that Constantine accepted ‘Arianism’.

(Constantine’s deathbed baptism does not mean that he was not a Christian before. It was common for rulers to put off baptism to avoid accountability for things like torture and executing criminals. 4The Early Church, 1993, p. 127 Constantine himself had his wife and son killed in the year after Nicaea.)

DIVIDED EMPIRE

Constantius II

Constantine died in 337. His three sons inherited the empire:

Constantine II received the far western part.

Constantius received the far eastern part: Macedonia, Greece, Thrace, Asia Minor, Palestine, Syria, and Egypt.

Constans received the area lying in between, namely Italy, North Africa, and Illyricum.

Both Constantine II and Constans took the western position with respect to the Arian controversy and supported Athanasius. 

In 340, Constantine II was killed in battle with the forces of Constans. This left the empire divided between Constans in the West and Constantius in the East. In 350, Constans was assassinated by the rebel German emperor Magnentius. Three years later, Constantius defeated and killed the latter. Thus, by 353, Constantius was the sole ruler of the entire empire. 

CONSTANTIUS

Constantius crushed the Nicene party.

He actively encouraged the ‘Arians’ to reverse the Nicene Creed. His advisor in these affairs was Eusebius, previously of Nicomedia, who at Nicaea was the head of the Arian party. But he was now made the bishop of Constantinople; the capital city of the Roman Empire. Constantius exiled Nicene bishops, especially Athanasius of Alexandria. Athanasius fled to Rome, where Constantius did not rule. 

After Constantius became emperor of the entire empire, he extended his pro-Arian policy toward the western provinces. In councils held in the West at Arles and Milan, he forced the western bishops to abandon Athanasius, and he exiled some of the leaders of the Nicene party. For example, he exiled Pope Liberius and installed Antipope Felix II. Athanasius was exiled several times:

Although Nicaea spoke against Arianism, Constantine in later life leaned toward it, and his successor, Constantius II, was openly Arian (Britannica).

Under Constantius’ leadership the Nicene party was largely crushed. (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1979, Arianism, Vol. I, p.509)

In 357 a council held in Sirmium forbade the use of ousia (nature or substance) when speaking of the relationship between the Father and the Son. This was a complete victory [for the Arians]. (A Short History of the Early Church, Harry R. Boer, p117)

The Third Council of Sirmium in 357 was the high point of Arianism. It resulted in the Second Creed of Sirmium which held that both homoousios (of same substance) and homoiousios (of similar substance) do not appear in the Bible, “are above … men’s understanding,” and “there ought to be no mention of any of these at all.” It concluded that the Father is greater than the Son. After the Trinity doctrine became generally accepted in the church—in later centuries—this confession became known as the Blasphemy of Sirmium.

Jerome (c. 347–420) is best known for his translation of most of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate). He remarked that “the term Usia was abolished: the Nicene Faith stood condemned. The whole world groaned, and was astonished to find itself Arian” (The Dialogue Against the Luciferians).

VALENS

He was a Homo-ian ‘Arian’.

Constantius died 361. His successor was Julian. He was a devotee of Rome’s pagan gods. He no longer favored one church faction over another but allowed all exiled bishops to return. However, he reigned only for three years.

Emperor Valens (364378) succeeded Julian, revived Constantius’ policy and supported the “Homoian” party (the Son is like the Father, without reference to His ‘substance’). Similar to Constantine and Constantius, he exiled Nicene bishops to the other ends of the empire and often used force. The main purpose of this article is to show the decisive influence which the emperors had on whether the church was Arian or Nicene.

What did the church believe?

The article Arianism explains what the church believed in this period. The Nicene Creed of 325 makes the Son equal to the Father. The word “God” is a modern invention. We use it as the proper name of the One who exists without a cause. In Arianism, theos, when it describes Jesus, or to any being other than the Father, should be translated as “god.” The Father is the only God, the Son is our god, but the Father is His god and the Holy Spirit is not a person, but as a power; subject to the Son.

Other Articles

FOOTNOTES