Socrates spoke of a labyrinth of creeds in the reign of Constantius (HE 2.41.17), and J. N. D. Kelly entitled the relevant chapter of his study of early Christian creeds 'The Age of Synodal Creeds." The list below states the date and place of the councils at which the surviving creeds were promulgated. Each entry states or discusses the following:
(1)thc number of the document in A. Hahn and G. L. Hahn, Bibliothek der Symbole und Glaubensregeln der alten Kird)e3 (Breslau, 1897), 183-209, followed by its number in M. Geerard, Clavis Patrum Graecorum 4 (Turnhout, 1980);
(2) the source or best edition of the text which is printed by the Hahns;
(3) where relevant, the conventional name or designation of the creed;
(4) the nature of the document and the date and place of the council at which it was promulgated or adopted.
Hahn and Hahn 153 (CPG 8556)
Athanasius, Syn. 22.3-7, whence Socrates, HE 2.10.4-8
The 'first creed' of the 'Dedication Council' (Antioch, January 341): not in fact a formal creed at all, but a quotation from the letter which the council sent to Julius, bishop of Rome.2
Hahn and Hahn 154 (CPG 8557)
Athanasius, Syn. 23.2-10, whence Socrates, HE 2.10.10-18 (Latin version in Hilary, Syn. 31-33)
The 'second creed' of the 'Dedication Council': a credal statement which formed part of the council's synodical letter to eastern bishops.
Hahn and Hahn 155 (CPG 8558) Athanasius, Syn. 24.2-5
The 'third creed' of the 'Dedication Council.' Athanasius states specifically that Theophronius, the bishop of Tyana, 'put forward this creed in the presence of all, to which all also subscribed, receiving the fellow's creed' (Syn. 24.1). It seems unlikely that the council itself in any sense adopted Theophronius' creed: it merely accepted it as proof of his personal orthodoxy.3
Hahn and Hahn 156 (CPG 8559)
Athanasius, Syw. 25.2-5, whence Socrates, HE 2.18.3-6
Conventionally, but misieadingly, styled the 'fourth creed' of the 'Dedication Council,' this creed was adopted by a different and later Council of Antioch in the summer of 342.
Hahn and Hahn 157 (CPG 8561; Theodoretus, HE 2.8.39-52
The so-called homoousian creed of Serdica, which is omitted from the version of the synodical letter of the western bishops at Serdica quoted by Athanasius (Apol. c. Ar. 44-48) and Hilary (CSEL 65.103-128), but included in the Latin retroversion of the letter in Cod. Vcr. LX (58), fols. 81f-88' (EOMIA 1.645-653).4
Hahn and Hahn 158 (CPG 8573) CSEL 65.69-73*
The creed which the eastern bishops at Serdica in late 343 appended to the synodical letter they wrote before their departure (CSEL 65.48-67).
Hahn and Hahn 159 (CPG 8575)
Athanasius, Syn. 26.I-X, whence Socrates, HE 2.30.5-30
The 'long creed,' or 'ecthesis macrostichos,' adopted by the so-called third Council of Antioch in 344.
Hahn and Hahn 160 (CPG 8577;
Athanasius, Syn. 27.2-3, whence Socrates, HE 2.30.5-30 (Latin version in Hilary, Syn. 37)
The creed, with anathemas, of the Council of Sirmium in 351. Hahn and Hahn 161 (CPG 8578)
Hilary, Syn. 11 (Greek version in Athanasius, Syn. 28.2-12, whence Socrates, HE 2.30.31-41)
The theological manifesto drawn up at Sirmium in 357 and denounced by Hilary as 'the blasphemy of Sirmium.'
Hahn and Hahn 162 (CPG 8579) Epiphanius, Pan. 73.10.1-11.10
The anathemas from the letter written to the bishops of Phoenice and elsewhere by a council which met at Ancyra shortly before Easter 358.
Hahn and Hahn 163 (CPG 8581)
Athanasius, Syn. 8.4-7, whence Socrates, HE 2.37.19-24
A creed drawn up by a small gathering of bishops in the presence of Constantius at Sirmium on 22 May 359, often styled the 'dated creed.'
Hahn and Hahn 164 (CPG 8588) Theodoretus, HE 2.21.3-7'
The creed signed by a delegation of western bishops from the Council of Ariminum at Nike in Thrace on 10 October 359.
Creeds and Councils
Hahn and Hahn 165 (CPG 8589)
Athanasius, Syn. 29.2-9. (There is a fuller text with minor variants in Epiphanius, Pan. 73.25, and Socrates, HE 2.40.8-17.)
A statement including a creed which Acacius presented to the Council of Seleucia on 28 September 359.
Hahn and Hahn 166
Jerome, Dialogus contra Luciferianos 17 (PL 23.179)
Jerome makes his orthodox protagonist quote an infidelitas written in the name of unity in the consular year 359: this is a deliberately selective quotation in a literary work, not a document quoted entire in the manner of Hilary or Athanasius.7 Since the quotation contains the assertion that the Son is similem genitori suo patri secundum scripturas, Jerome presumably refers to the version of the creed adopted at Nike on 10 October 359.
Hahn and Hahn 167 (CPG 8591)
Athanasius, Syn. 30.2-10, whence Socrates, HE 2.41.8-16
The 'homoean creed' proclaimed as the official creed of the Roman Empire by the Council of Constantinople in January 360.
The Councils of Sirmium already caused trouble to the ecclesiastical historians of the fifth century, who sometimes confused them most horribly: Socrates, for example, attributes the 'blasphemy of Sirmium,' which belongs to 357 (Hahn and Hahn 161), to the council of 351 (HE 2.30.3, 31-41). Three Councils of Sirmium are in fact extremely problematical in different ways: one probably needs to be eliminated from the historical record altogether, while two others were small or informal gatherings rather than properly convened councils of bishops.
First, the 'first Council of Sirmium' in 347 or 348.8 The only evidence for this council is a narrative fragment deriving from Hilary of Poitiers which notes the reconciliation of Ursacius and Valcns with the western bishops as a result of their petition to Julius in 347 (CSEL 65.145), then continues:
verum inter haec Sirmium convenitur. Fotinus haereticus deprehensus, olim reus pronuntiatus et a communione iam pridem unitatis abscisus, ne turn quidem per factionem populi potuit ammoveri. * * * (CSEL 65.146.5—8)9
The date and place of three condemnations of Photinus are well attested—those at Antioch in 344, at Milan in early 345, and at Sirmium in 351.10 Photinus was also condemned in 347, by a council which met in Rome (CSEL 65.142.17-25). The alleged Council of Sirmium in 347 or 348 is problematical on general historical grounds: at that date, when Constans was still alive and hence ruler of Pannonia, a council held at Sirmium cannot be a council of eastern bishops (as has often been assumed)," and it is hard to see why western bishops determined to depose Photinus would gather in Sirmium itself, where he had strong local support. It seems safest, therefore, to assume that Hilary in fact refers to the Council of Sirmium in 351—and perhaps to posit a lacuna before the passage quoted as well as after, so that inter haec need not refer back to events of the mid-340s.
Second, the so-called third Council of Sirmium in 357. It has often been assumed that this was a large council attended by the emperor which promulgated a creed to which bishops were expected to subscribe.12 But the 'blasphemy/ according to Hilary, was written by Ossius and Potamius, and the text as he quotes it states that it was drawn up in the presence of the bishops Ursacius, Valens, and Germinius—and no others (Syn. 3, 11 [PL 10.482/3, 487]). Although Athanasius sneers that the 'blasphemy* was written by the same men who had drawn up the creed of 351 (Syrt. 28.1), his manuscripts and Socrates must be in error when they add the words 'and the rest' after the names of Valens, Ursacius, and Germinius (Syn. 28.2; HE 2.30.31). Socrates, dutifully followed in error by Sozomenus (HE 4.6.11/2,12.6/7), confuses the Council of Sirmium in 351 with the small gathering of 357.
It is possible that other bishops were in Sirmium at the time and that they constituted themselves as a small council, but the reaction which the 'blasphemy' provoked makes it clear that few (if any) bishops from Asia Minor or the East were present. Moreover, it is hard to see either why most western bishops would wish to attend or what the advertised agenda can have been. Neither Hilary nor the bishops who met at Ancyra in the spring of 358 refer to the gathering at Sirmium in 357 as a council. On the contrary, when the bishops at Ancyra speak of 'the Council at Sirmium' (Epiphanius, Pan. 73.2.10), they mean the council of 351: their reference would be ambiguous if the meeting of 357 had been another formally constituted 'Council of Sirmium.' Furthermore, the 'blasphemy' itself 'does not conform to any of the usual creed patterns.'1, It was not a creed at all in the usual sense, but a theological manifesto or 'position paper.'
Third, the 'fourth Council of Sirmium' in 358, which is sometimes alleged to have renewed earlier scmi-Arian creeds including that of the 'Dedication Council' of 341 or to have adopted a moderate creed.14 Only two items of explicit evidence have ever been adduced. A letter of George of Laodicea written in the summer of 359 states that in the preceding year bishops went from the East to Sirmium and refuted the evil of the 'blasphemy' of 357 (Epiphanius, Pan. 73.14.8). According to the traditional view, George refers to 'the council of the homoiousians at Sirmium in 358' described by Sozomenus (HE 4.15).15 In this passage, however, Sozomenus seems to be describing not a formal council, but rather the political activities of a small number of eastern bishops at court (he names Basil, Eustathius, and Eleusius). Moreover, the fact that he connects these activities (HE 4.15.2/3) closely with the presence at court of Liberius, who had recently, he alleges, been summoned from Beroca (15.1) and who was subsequently allowed to return to Rome (15.4-6), suggests that he is indulging in imaginative reconstruction rather than drawing on documents which he found in Sabinus of Heraclea.16 For there can be little doubt that Liberius returned to Rome in the summer of 357—a full year before the events Sozomenus is describing.17
In sum, the only formal and well-attested Council of Sirmium during the reign of Constantius is the council of 351 which condemned Athanasius, Marcellus, and Photinus and promulgated the creed (Hahn and Hahn 160) which was subsequently presented to the Councils of Aries and Milan.18
Was this article helpful?