Pattern Recognition

“Alexander was quite right in emphasizing that Arius taught the mutability of the Son, for Arius wrote in the Thalia, ‘[The Son] is not unchangeable like the Father, but he is by nature changeable like created things.’  This is so because he is by nature a created thing. Furthermore, since the Son is not  a created thing like a stone or wood but rather a reaosnable being who possesses free will, he can change his own choice. But, Arius asserted, though the Son is capable of either virtue or vice, he always in actuality has remained virtuous, felt justified in rewarding with the gift of glory even before any virtuous deeds were done :

‘Like all others, the Logos himself by nature is changeable, but by his own free will, while he wishes, he remains good. But when, however, he wills, he himself, like us, is able to change, since he is of changeable nature. For on account of this, having foreknown that he will be good, having anticipated it, he gave this glory to him which as man he later came to have from his virtue, so that by his deeds, whih God foreknew, he has made him come to be now such a one [that is, a glorious being]. ‘

“The gift of glory must surely be identified with adoption as God’s Son, an adoption which was unforuntately only mentioned in passing in the extant fragments of Arius’ Thalia, ‘The Father advanced him as Son to himself by adoption.’ Presumably Arius could claim the Son to be unchangeable, as he stated in his latter to Eusebius of Nicomedia, yet still to be changeable, because he maintained that the Son has the capability of virtue and vice. Arius appears to have been most concerned to preserve the Son as an ethical model for manwhich certainly means that his soteriology was based on the notion of reward for ethical activity, as Professors Groh and Gregg have argued. Such a soteriology was nowhere developed in Arius extant writings, but it seems implied by his adoptionist Christology. That man was at the center of Arius’ thought is substantiated by his subserving even the Son to him. He wrote, ‘For [the Son] has been made for our sake, in order that God might create us through him as through an instrument; and he would not subsist unless God willed to make us.”

Kopececk, A History of Neo-Arianism, Vol. 1, 23-24

“Whereas adoptionist Christology and its accompanying soteriology of reward for right ethical choice were at the heart of Arius’ thought, they are simply not to be found in Neo-Arianism.  In fact, Aetius took a position diametrically opposed to Arius’.  in his Thalia Arius wrote,

‘Like all others, the Logos himself by nature is changeable, but by his own free will, while he wishes, he remains good.’

“Aetius, on the other hand wrote in his syntagmationof A.D. 359,

‘If the generate[i.e. the Son] is by nature immutable because of the one who generated it, then the ungenerated essence is immutable, not because of will but because of its essential rank.”

Kopecek, A History of Neo-Arianism, vol. 1, 124

So Aetius, father of Neo-Arianism wrote

The Son of Mary was certainly not dual willed, in order that the will of God not war against the fleshly will, according to the laws of the Manichaeans.” Letter to Mazon

“The Neo-Arians would have nothing to do with notions of change or development in the Son’s essence. Thus, while the Neo-Arians rejected the essentialist concepts of their opponents (both homoiousion and homoousion) in favor of voluntarist concepts, we find in them no hint of early Arian ethical voluntarism. They rejected essentialist concepts implied by begetting in favor of voluntarist concepts implied by creation. The voluntarism of the Neo-Arians was a creationist voluntarism of God, not an early Arian ethical voluntarism of the Son…The Neo-Arians had argued all along that the Son is unlike God in essence but like him in will. Now they added that the term Father refers to God’s will ‘pure in his own hypostasis,’ and, for the Neo-Arians hypostasis and essence are interchangeable, the Son’s essence must be like the Father, that is, like God’s will. The implication was evident: whereas the term Father denotes God’s will, not his essence, the term Son denotes the Monogenes’ essence, and not his will referred to as his ‘power’ in fragment 5.) Precisely this same position would be argued in A.D. 360 by the Neo-Arian Eunomius (in his Apologia 21-24) After reiterating the Neo-Arian assumption that God’s will is his activity (Apol. 23), Eunomius said, ‘The appelation Son reveals essence, but the appelation Father reveals the activity of the generating one (Apol. 24) Thus, the term ungenerated refers to God’s essence and the term Fathert to his will or activity, while the term Son refers to God the Word’s essence and, since it denotes something that has come into being, is interchangeable with the term generated.”

Kopecek, A History of Neo-Arianism, vol. 1, 190-191


  1. Stephen,

    I am not clear on how calling my comments silly amounts to an argument. Perhaps next time you could make an argument rather than insult the source of it.

    I am also not sure how the claim of corruption amounts to proof of it in the case of the Nicene doctrine. Moreover, Alexander seems no more corrupt in the way you suggest than say Eusebius of Nicomedia or any of the other Arians. In any caseyou are mistaking comparisons with modern events with an actual argument and proof.

    The question if I recall was who would have access to the genuine tradition. It seems to me that Alexander is a sufficiently good candidate. This is supported by his correspondence which is indebted to earlier writers like Origen for example in the co-relativity arguments he employs.

    I don’t think Origen was an anomaly, but I don’t think he got everything correct either. But I don’t think I made the claim that his self castration was random and inexplicable.

    And no, it doesn’t follow that if Alexandrian Christianity had a feature of self castration that it necessarily goes back to Mark. This assumes that the tradition has only one source, which is demonstrateably false.

    If you could elaborate on the source regarding Mark that might prove helpful. The same is true with your reference to Ambrose the Marcionite.

    For the rest, I am not clear on what claim you think you are supporting.

  2. Really? You’ve actually read Philostorgius and you can say something that silly?

    Surely if we have modern politicians who get to where they are by greasing palms and knowing whose coat tails to ride, these ‘types’ existed in antiquity. Alexander has this characteristic.

    I do think that he still couldn’t ignore his constituents. But to argue that because he ended up as Papa in Alexandria that this settled the issue of his legitimacy is like telling all these birthers that Obama won the last election fair and square, or the liberals to accept Bush’s election victory in 2000 or best still Republicans that Kennedy’s victory in 1960 was legitimate.

    As a lover truth, I can’t believe that Origen was just some anomaly in history. That one day he happened to be thinking about castrating himself after reading Matthew chapter 19. This is all so stupid.

    If you look Justin Alexandrian Christianity always had this morbid feature of self-castration. This means that Origen’s bizarre seeming behavior AND HIS INHERITED BELIEF SYSTEM went back to something inherent in ‘Markan Christianity.’

    The fact that Mark is identified as kolobodaktulos = ‘mutilated finger’; finger = male member in all languages (“Philosophumena”, VII, xxx)I think serves as the original (unspoken) paradigm here. The realization that Origen’s patron Ambrose was a Marcionite further cements this underlying ‘tradition.’

    In any event, to simply argue that Origen’s influence over EVERY Papa that followed – Heraclas through Peter I (see Vivian’s discussion of this) makes Alexander and Athanasius, coupled with the statements of Philostorgius seem like the anomalies.

    And don’t cite Demetrius for me. Just look at how out of step he seems with the Alexandrian Church around him in the legends that survive from the period. What’s a married, illiterate doing running an highly educated ascetic tradition?

    The fact that he managed to stay in the throne for forty three years without suffering as much as a paper cut while everyone else around him was either dying, being tortured or running for their lives speaks volumes …

  3. Stephan,

    I don’t think that is the question at all. I don’t findmyself hard pressed to argue against Arius. Dionysius’ citation only exemplifies the terminological ambiguities which enabled the Arian heresy to get off the ground jsut as it did for the Sabellians. Alexander was patriarch of the See of St Mark so I think that trumps Arius’ Platonism.

  4. Yes but the real question is always which tradition represented authentic ‘Alexandrian Christianity.’ I think one would be hard pressed to argue against Arius. The Arian citation of Dionysius as a witness for their site and the parallel Orthodox argument that they were ‘Origenists’ in my mind settles the issue as well as the fact that Arius was presbyter at the martyrium of St. Mark.

    Anyway enjoyed your site.

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