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“Socrates - The Letter of Alexander and his Clergy (c. 319) on the controversy surrounding Arius  - original Greek Text with English translation”

Historia Ecclesiastica, 1. 6. 4 ff.

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The Epistle of Alexander Bishop of Alexandria.


To our beloved and most honored fellow-Ministers of the Catholic Church everywhere, Alexander sends greeting in the Lord.
Inasmuch as the Catholic Church is one body, and we are commanded in the holy Scriptures to maintain ‘the bond of unity and peace,’ it becomes us to write, and mutually acquaint one another with the condition of things among each of us, in order that ‘if one member suffers or rejoices, we may either sympathize with each other, or rejoice together.’ Know therefore that there have recently arisen in our diocese lawless and anti-christian men, teaching apostasy such as one may justly consider and denominate the forerunner of Antichrist. I wished indeed to consign this disorder to silence, that if possible the evil might be confined to the apostates alone, and not go forth into other districts and contaminate the ears of some of the simple. But since Eusebius, now in Nicomedia, thinks that the affairs of the Church are under his control because, forsooth, he deserted his charge at Berytus and assumed authority over the Church at Nicomedia with impunity, and has put himself at the head of these apostates, daring even to send commendatory letters in all directions concerning them, if by any means he might inveigle some of the ignorant into this most impious and anti-christian heresy, I felt imperatively called on to be silent no longer, knowing what is written in the law, but to inform you of all of these things, that ye might understand both who the apostates are, and also the contemptible character of their heresy, and pay no attention to anything that Eusebius should write to you. For now wishing to renew his former malevolence, which seemed to have been buried in oblivion by time, he affects to write in their behalf; while the fact itself plainly shows that he does this for the promotion of his own purposes. These then are those who have become apostates: Arius, Achillas, Aithales, and Carpones, another Arius, Sarmates, Euzoïus, Lucius, Julian, Menas, Helladis, and Gaius; with these also must be reckoned Secundus and Theonas, who once were called bishops. The dogmas they have invented and assert, contrary to the Scriptures, are these: That God was not always the Father, but that there was a period when he was not the Father; that the Word of God was not from eternity, but was made out of nothing; for that the ever-existing God (‘the I AM’—the eternal One) made him who did not previously exist, out of nothing; wherefore there was a time when he did not exist, inasmuch as the Son is a creature and a work. That he is neither like the Father as it regards his essence, nor is by nature either the Father’s true Word, or true Wisdom, but indeed one of his works and creatures, being erroneously called Word and Wisdom, since he was himself made of God’s own Word and the Wisdom which is in God, whereby God both made all things and him also. Wherefore he is as to his nature mutable and susceptible of change, as all other rational creatures are: hence the Word is alien to and other than the essence of God; and the Father is inexplicable by the Son, and invisible to him, for neither does the Word perfectly and accurately know the Father, neither can he distinctly see him. The Son knows not the nature of his own essence: for he was made on our account, in order that God might create us by him, as by an instrument; nor would he ever have existed, unless God had wished to create us. Some one accordingly asked them whether the Word of God could be changed, as the devil has been? and they feared not to say, ‘Yes, he could; for being begotten, he is susceptible of change.’ We then, with the bishops of Egypt and Libya, being assembled together to the number of nearly a hundred, have anathematized Arius for his shameless avowal of these heresies, together with all such as have countenanced them. Yet the partisans of Eusebius have received them; endeavoring to blend falsehood with truth, and that which is impious with what is sacred. But they shall not prevail, for the truth must triumph; and ‘light has no fellowship with darkness, nor has Christ any concord with Belial.’ Who ever heard such blasphemies? or what man of any piety is there now hearing them that is not horror-struck, and stops his ears, lest the filth of these expressions should pollute his sense of hearing? Who that hears John saying, ‘In the beginning was the Word,’ does not condemn those that say, ‘There was a period when the Word was not’? or who, hearing in the Gospel of ‘the only-begotten Son,’ and that ‘all things were made by him,’ will not abhor those that pronounce the Son to be one of the things made? How can he be one of the things which were made by himself? Or how can he be the only-begotten, if he is reckoned among created things? And how could he have had his existence from nonentities, since the Father has said, ‘My heart has indited a good matter’; and ‘I begat thee out of my bosom before the dawn’? Or how is he unlike the Father’s essence, who is ‘his perfect image,’ and ‘the brightness of his glory’ and says: ‘He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father’? Again how if the Son is the Word and Wisdom of God, was there a period when he did not exist? for that is equivalent to their saying that God was once destitute both of Word and Wisdom. How can he be mutable and susceptible of change, who says of himself, ‘I am in the Father, and the Father in me’; and ‘I and the Father are one’; and again by the Prophet, ‘Behold me because I am, and have not changed’? But if any one may also apply the expression to the Father himself, yet would it now be even more fitly said of the Word; because he was not changed by having become man, but as the Apostle says, ‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.’ But what could persuade them to say that he was made on our account, when Paul has expressly declared that ‘all things are for him, and by him’? One need not wonder indeed at their blasphemous assertion that the Son does not perfectly know the Father; for having once determined to fight against Christ, they reject even the words of the Lord himself, when he says, ‘As the Father knows me, even so know I the Father.’ If therefore the Father but partially knows the Son, it is manifest that the Son also knows the Father but in part. But if it would be improper to affirm this, and it be admitted that the Father perfectly knows the Son, it is evident that as the Father knows his own Word, so also does the Word know his own Father, whose Word he is. And we, by stating these things, and unfolding the divine Scriptures, have often confuted them: but again as chameleons they were changed, striving to apply to themselves that which is written, ‘When the ungodly has reached the depths of iniquity, he becomes contemptuous.’ Many heresies have arisen before these, which exceeding all bounds in daring, have lapsed into complete infatuation: but these persons, by attempting in all their discourses to subvert the Divinity of THE WORD, as having made a nearer approach to Antichrist, have comparatively lessened the odium of former ones. Wherefore they have been publicly repudiated by the Church, and anathematized. We are indeed grieved on account of the perdition of these persons, and especially so because, after having been previously instructed in the doctrines of the Church, they have now apostatized from them. Nevertheless we are not greatly surprised at this, for Hymenæus and Philetus fell in like manner; and before them Judas, who had been a follower of the Saviour, but afterwards deserted him and became his betrayer. Nor were we without forewarning respecting these very persons: for the Lord himself said: ‘Take heed that no man deceive you: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ: and shall many deceive many’; and ‘the time is at hand; Go ye not therefore after them.’ And Paul, having learned these things from the Saviour, wrote, ‘That in the latter times some should apostatize from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits, and doctrines of devils,’ who pervert the truth. Seeing then that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ has himself enjoined this, and has also by the apostle given us intimation respecting such men, we having ourselves heard their impiety have in consequence anathematized them, as we before said, and declared them to be alienated from the Catholic Church and faith. Moreover we have intimated this to your piety, beloved and most honored fellow-ministers, in order that ye might neither receive any of them, if they should presume to come to you, nor be induced to put confidence in Eusebius, or any other who may write to you about them. For it is incumbent on us who are Christians, to turn away from all those who speak or entertain a thought against Christ, as from those who are resisting God, and are destroyers of the souls of men: neither does it become us even ‘to salute such men,’ as the blessed John has prohibited, ‘lest we should at any time be made partakers of their sins.’ Greet the brethren which are with you; those who are with me salute you.

 



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Socrates
Alexander, bishop of Alexandria
Epistle of Alexander
Arius
Arian Controversy
Eusebius of Nicomedia
Church History
Migne Greek Text
Patrologiae Graecae Cursus Completus
Patrologia Graeca
 

 

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