So it appears that the Arian "heresy" and the 300 years after that may really have a lot to do with the "secret". There is much curiosity
surrounding the events of the suppression of the Arian teaching (a teaching that wouldn't die a quick death), and the death of Arius.
Arius's influence on the modern christian world, whether we be catholic or protestant, cannot be diminished.
The First Council of Nicea
, which resulted in the foundational doctrine of the Roman church,
was called because of Arius
. As stated in an earlier post, the teaching by Arius, which led to the following of
, was that Christ was not equivalent to God the Father, but a creation of the Father
and therefore subordinate to Him. It did NOT dispute the divine nature of Christ, but stated that the divinity of Christ was provided by the
Father, and was not equivalent to the Father. He contended:
He described the Son as a second, or inferior God, standing midway between the First Cause and creatures; as Himself made out of nothing, yet
as making all things else; as existing before the worlds of the ages; and as arrayed in all divine perfections except the one which was their stay
and foundation. God alone was without beginning, unoriginate; the Son was originated, and once had not existed. For all that has origin must begin
i.e. that Christ was a portion of God - but not ALL of God. That he eminated from God and was created by God, but was NOT God.
Arius's teachings started a great war of letters between himself and Alexander, who was the Bishop of Alexandria at the time (this taking place
around 320's). As soon as Constantine had whipped Lisinius, he turned himself to resolving the conflict between Arius and Alexander, but didn't
get anywhere. So he called the First Council of Nicea to address this issue.
And this is where we have the first instance of some pretty weird evidence, which comes in the most trivial of issues - the number of bishops who
attended this council. Eusebius records that 250 bishops were in attendance. Later Arabic manuscripts report 2000. The Catholic church views the
Arabic number as a gross exaggeration, and I tend to side with them since it's almost hard to believe there were that many bishops in existence yet.
But the most telling report on the number that attended comes from a man, who at the time was a young deacon,
Athanasius of Alexandria
. This man plays a MAJOR role in the important events surrounding
Arius. The thing we need to center on here is two-fold:
1. Athanasius states that the number in attendance at the Council of Nicea was 318
2. Athanasius is described by the Catholic church as:
the greatest champion of Catholic belief on the subject of the Incarnation that the Church has ever known and in his lifetime earned the
characteristic title of "Father of Orthodoxy", by which he has been distinguished every since.
So there is a discrepancy in the number in attendance at the first council...big deal you say. No, the big deal is not the discrepancy. In fact,
the discrepancy lends credance that there were at least 250 in attendance. No one expects an accurate number here. The thing to hold in strict
suspicion is...the number Athanasius reports. (And the fact the Catholic church goes with this number even though documents from the council
point toward Eusebius's account of 250.
) And there is very good reason for doing so.
Later, the councils in Hippo (393) and Carthage (397) established the first canons of the Old and New Testament Bible. But before that time there
were various gospels, epistles and such that the early church fathers - including Athanasius, most suredly were aware of.
One of those books that would have been read by the early church fathers, but was ultimately not canonized is the Epistle of Barnabas. I found this
apocryphal book about 15 years ago. Of all the apocryphal books I have read, this one is the one I cannot understand why it was not included in the
canonical New Testament. It is one of the most beautiful epistles I have ever read. Let me quote what is said abut the "The General Epistle of
Barnabas" from The Lost Books of the Bible
described as "Being all the gospels, epistles, and other pieces now extant attributed in the
first four centuries to Jesus Christ, his apostles and their companions, not included, by its compilers, in the authorized New Testament, and,
Syriac MSS. of Pilate's letters to Tiberius, etc.
Barnabus was a companion and fellow-preacher with Paul. This Epistle lays a greater claim to canonical authority than most others. It has
been cited by Clemens Alexandrinus, Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome, and many ancient Fathers. Cotelerius affirms that Origen and Jerome esteemed it
genuine and canonical; but Cotelerius himself did not believe it to be either one or the other; on the contrary, he supposes it was written for the
benefit of the Ebionites (the christianized Jews,) who were tenacious of rites and ceremonies. Bishop Fell feared to own expressly what he seemed to
be persuaded of, that it ought to be treated with the same respect as several of the books of the present canon. Dr. Bernard, Savilian professor at
Oxford, not only believed it to be genuine, but that it was read throughout, in the churches at Alexandria, as the canonical scriptures were.
Dodwell supposed it to have been published before the Epistle of Jude, and the writings of both the Johns. Vossius, Dupuis, Dr. Cane, Dr. Mill, Dr.
S. Clark, Whiston, and Archbishop Wake also esteemed it genuine: Menardus, Archbishop Laud, Spanheim, and others, deemed it apocryphal.
Now...to the point why I bring up the Epistle of Barnabas. The minute I read Athanasius's account of how many bishops attended the Council of Nicea
(which ultimately ruled Arianism anathema to the church, branded Arius anathema - along with several of his more ardent followers - and ordered him
exiled to Illyria) I recognized the number 318. And the minute I read that he had recorded that specific number as in attendance of the council, I
knew he was lying. And he was lying for a specific reason - to invoke a sacred number. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not into numerology, nor will
I ever be, but the minute I read this number I remembered the Epistle of Barnabas.
So first I had to find the darned book (which I have several books containing apocryphal writing). And I found myself opening a book I haven't
opened in about 7 years, to a page with a bookmark, and reading five verses I had underlined about 15 years ago. Quite a trip down memory lane. But
I underlined these words because the moment I read them I knew they were important to me:
From the General Epistle of Barnabas, Chapter 8, verses 10-14:
Understand therefore, children, these things more fully, that Abraham, who was the first that brought in circumcision, looking forward in the
Spirit to Jesus, circumcised, having received the mystery of three letters.
For the Scripture says that Abraham circumcised three hundred and eighteen men of his house. But what therefore was the mystery that was made
known unto him?
Mark, first the eighteen, and next the three hundred. For the numeral letters of ten and eight are I H. And these denote Jesus.
And because the cross was that by which we were to find grace; therefore he adds, three hundred; the note of which is T (the figure of his
cross). Wherefore by two letters he signified Jesus, and by the third his cross.
He who has put the engrafted gift of his doctrine within us, knows that I never taught to any one a more certain truth; but I trust that ye
are worthy of it.
. He envoked the sacred number of 318 to lend credence to his report of the resulting decision of the Council of Nicea. He
did it on purpose to legitimize the decisions of the council. The records from the council decision show:
The lists of the signers have reached us in a mutilated condition, disfigured by faults of the copyists. Nevertheless, these lists may be
regarded as authentic. Their study is a problem which has been repeatedly dealt with in modern times, in Germany and England, in the critical
editions of H. Gelzer, H. Hilgenfeld, and O. Contz on the one hand, and C. H. Turner on the other. The lists thus constructed give respectively 220
and 218 names. With information derived from one source or another, a list of 232 or 237 fathers known to have been present may be constructed.
The importance of this first very perceptible lie by Athanasius, and his clear reason for doing so, is important as we journey through the
significance of the fate of Arius, and his effect on the next 300 years which culminates with the edict that the follow-up movements of Eutychianism,
Monophysites, and Monothelites were anathema as well.
So the Council of Nicea deemed Arianism heretical and excommunicated Arius - deeming him anathema. He was exiled.
Meanwhile Arianism continued to exist and the Arians are reported to have committed themselves to trying to get many of the edicts issued by the
Council of Nicea dissolved. Arianism found an avid supporter in Eusebius
Bishop of Nicomedia.
According to the Catholic church (and it should be pointed out that is where all this information is coming from and it always casts the side deemed
righteous by the church in good light, and the side opposed to the Church in really, really bad light) Eusebius hooked up with the Meletians. The
Meletian schism was one of the three "important matters" addressed at the First council of Nicea. The founder of this schism was
Meletius of Lycopolis
who ended up being accused of many "violations", including an apparently
unproven charge of idol worship.
So Athanasius at this point has gone from avid participant of the Nicene Council to Bishop of Alexandria...he's done well for himself. When he
starts getting accusations railed against him. Now, according to which version you read from the church, the charges were either levied against
Athansius by Eusebius, or by the Meletians. But the Church has been gracious enough to allege they were in league, so I guess that makes the
differeing accounts sync together. According to the records, the first three charges were either deemed unfounded or compeltely disproven, but the
fourth charge stuck - unresolved for years
and eventually resulted in Constantine exiling Athanasius to Gaul "for his own protection".
Now let's stop for a second and think about this. Athanasius is Bishop of Alexandria and these charges are being launched against him by a supporter
of a teaching deemed anathema, and/or a second group deemed to be a schism. One would think that the groups wouldn't even be given audience - let
alone four. But it gets stranger when the fourth charge is revealed:
Athanasius was charged with sending a priest named Macaarius to another church to overturn the altar and break up a chalice
another Priest named Ischyras.
Now, let's look at what the Catholic Church's records state Athanasius' defense was to this:
...though in fact Ischyras had never been a priest, and at the time alleged could not have been pretending to say Mass, for he was ill in
Excuse me? So Ischyras wasn't even a priest and "could not have been pretending to say Mass" because he was home sick. This makes this whole
story doubly problematic. In fact, it makes it downright laughable. First, if Ischyras really wasn't ever a priest and had been performing "fake
Masses", a Bishop sending a priest to overturn his altar and take his communion chalice away would have needed no more than 5 minutes defense. So we
have followers of two groups that have been condemned in one shade or another bringing a rather ludicrous charge against a Bishop, and it sticking for
so many years, and causing such great contention that the Bishop ends up in exile - "for his own good".
The church records state that Eusebius continued for many years to implore Constantine to reconcile Arius back into the church. Eventually
Constantine agreed to give Arius an audience and short version is agreed to reconcile Arius to the communion on the next day. But, in the words of
the Catholic Church:
...but the designs of man were frustrated by the hand of God. Arius died suddenly under peculiarly humiliating conditions on the eve of
the day appointed for his solemn restoration to Catholic communion in the Cathedral of New Rome.
Well, that's convenient. So what are these "peculiarly humiliating conditions" under which Arius died RIGHT BEFORE he is going to be
The story goes like this...if you want to believe it, because the only account we have of his death is in a
written by none other than...Athanasius
Arius met with Constantine and is alleged to have pinned a profession of faith which did not include any of his "heretical teachings". Upon
receiving this statement, Constantine dismissed Arius. Eusebius and his followers then came to the Pope and asked him to reconcile Arius and
Constantine stated he would do so the next day. Eusebius and his followers were then dismissed. According to the account constantine then prayed to
God basically stating he hoped God wouldn't allow the reconciliation of Arius to the church because if God allowed Arius into the church the heresy
would return with him.
Conveniently - and the Church wants to claim "by the hand of God" - about that time Arius had to go the bathroom, and in the middle of his
constitution his abdomen busts open and spills his guts everywhere
. Which is a really convenient way for his enemy to say "he died because he
was full of $h!t".
Now not only is the account of Arius' death immediately held as doubtful because it comes from a man that has already been documented to lie and
invoke the number of the cross and Christ if he thinks it will make his account more "Godly", and not only is the account dubious because of the
very weird charges that Athanasius was sending hitmen priests to kick over altars and destoy chalices that he, as a Bishop, couldn't seem to get out
of, but when you find out HOW Athanasius claims to know of Arius' death, it gets freakishly weird.
Athanasius was not there. The account of Arius's death was reported to Athanasius by a presbyter who claims to have not only been allowed to attend
the profession of faith of Arius, the audience with Eusebius and his followers, but to remain in the Pope's chambers while he prayed to God to
prevent Arius's return into the church
and that presbyter's name was Macarius...and the priest sent by Athanasius to kick over the altar and destroy the chalice
I've got this sinking feeling Arius died in the latrine because his guts split open due to the knife stuck in them...and I've got this sinking
feeling it wasn't the hand of God wielding that knife - it was Macaarius.
[edit on 11-2-2005 by Valhall]