Julius And Marcellus

athanasius arrived in rome with only a few trusted support-ers from Alexandria, and his cause received no obvious advancement until the arrival of another exile lent color to his claim that Christian orthodoxy was endangered. Marcellus is attested as bishop of Ancyra as early as 314,1 and in 325 at Nicaea he showed himself an implacable and outspoken foe of Arius.2 In 335 Marcellus refused to subscribe to the decisions of the Councils of Jerusalem and Tyre, which readmitted Arius to communion and pronounced that his views fell within the limits of permissible Christian doctrine.3 Moreover, when these councils declared that Marcellus should forfeit his see unless he recanted and communicated with Arius, he hastily composed a tract of some ten thousand lines to demonstrate that not only Arius but also his most prominent supporters were patent heretics, and he presented it to Constantine.4 That step proved his undoing. Constantine convened a council of bishops in Constantinople in July 336, which declared Arius orthodox yet again, deposed Marcellus, and appointed Basil to be bishop of Ancyra.5 Marcellus departed into exile.

In 337, under the amnesty decreed by Constantinus for all exiled eastern bishops (Hist. Ar. 8.1), Marcellus returned to Ancyra amid scenes of violence. Houses were burned, there was fighting in the streets, and Marcellus repossessed his church by force: his enemies later complained that priests of the opposing faction were dragged naked to the forum, Basil was ejected from the sanctuary and thrown into the street clutching the consecrated host, and holy virgins were stripped and exposed to public gaze.6 The bishops who had condemned Marcellus in 336 reacted quickly. The aged Eusebius of Caesarea was requested to take up his pen, and he wrote two books Against Marcellus and three books of Ecclesiastical Theology to demonstrate, with copious documentation, that Marcellus was an irredeemable heretic, his views by turn Sabellian and Jewish.7 Eusebius addressed the Ecclesiastical Theology to Flacillus, the bishop of

Antioch: the same Council of Antioch that appointed Gregory bishop of Alexandria probably also deposed Marcellus and reappointed Basil bishop of Ancyra.8 Marcellus departed into exile again. But, unlike Athanasius, he did not come to Rome immediately. Indeed, it seems that the exiled bishop of Ancyra did not arrive in Rome until the spring of 340'—a coincidence of date which suggests that he first went to Illyricum, perhaps to the court of Constans, and came to Rome only after the death of Constantinus.

Julius soon took up the cause of Marcellus as well as that of Athanasius. He wrote to the eastern bishops complaining not only that Athanasius and Marcellus had been unjustly deposed, but also that the bishops of the East were causing disorder in the church by abandoning the decisions of the Council of Nicaea. Julius proposed, therefore, that they (or at least some of them) come to Rome by a stated day for a joint council of both eastern and western bishops, presumably under his own presidency.10 Julius' letter was taken to Antioch by the priests Helpidius and Philoxenus (Apol. c. Ar. 20.1). They did not receive an immediate answer: on the contrary, they were compelled to wait in Antioch until January 341 (Apol. c. Ar. 25.3), when a council of ninety-seven bishops assembled to dedicate the great octagonal church which Constantine had begun.11 Constantius was present on 6 January 341 when the council dedicated the church (Syn. 22.2, 25.1),12 and he may have attended the sessions in which the bishops considered Julius' complaints. Part of the groundwork for the council had probably been laid by Acacius, bishop of Caesarea in Palestine since the death of Eusebius in May 339: it seems likely that his lost Contra Marcellum was written in 340/1,13 and hence stands in the same relationship to Marcellus' condemnation in 341 as Eusebius' Against Marcellus and Ecclesiastical Theology to the preceding condemnation in 339.

The theological deliberations of the 'Dedication Council' cannot be reconstructed.14 No ancient narrative reports their course, and in his work On the Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia, Athanasius merely quotes three documents relevant to the council out of context to show how the Arians keep changing their theology. Nevertheless, despite its tendentiousness, something may be deduced from Athanasius' presentation of these three documents. His first quotation begins:

Neither are we followers of Arius (for how, as bishops, could we follow a priest?) nor have we recognised any creed beside that handed down from the beginning. On the contrary, after appointing ourselves examiners and assessors of his creed, we admitted him to communion rather than followed him, as you will learn from what is said. For we have learned from the outset to believe in one God, etc. (Syn. 22.3-5)

The creed which follows avoids the word ousia or any of its compounds when defining the relationship between God the Father and God the Son, and it appears to take aim at Marcellus by asserting that the Son remains king and God forever (Syw. 22.5/6).15 Moreover; the brief extract quoted by Athanasius ends in bitter sarcasm: 'and if it needs to be added, we also believe in the resurrection of the flesh and the life everlasting' (Syrt. 22.7). Athanasius specifies that his quotation comes from a letter written by the council: since the passage clearly answers the charge that the bishops are Arians, it should come from the council's letter to Julius. The fact that Julius, in his answer to it, avoided the theological issue shows that he found nothing positively offensive in this credal statement.

Athanasius' second quotation comprises a much longer and much more explicit creed, duly concluded with anathemas, which declares that the Son is the 'exact image of the godhead, essence, will, power, and glory of the Father' (Syw. 23.2-10).16 The bishops at Antioch cannot have been unaware that Marcellus had attacked the definition of the Son in terms of the 'image' of the Father as utterly incompatible with the central Nicene proposition that he is of the same ousia as the Father.17 There could be no doubt, therefore, what the reaction of Julius would be to such an affirmation. Eusebius of Nicomedia, who had guided his party within the church for many years, knew better than to send a document containing it to Julius, Athanasius, and Marcellus: this creed comes from the synodical letter which the 'Dedication Council' circulated to eastern bishops, a majority of whom were sympathetic to its theology.

Athanasius also quotes a creed submitted to the council by Theophronius of Tyana, which styles the Son 'perfect God of perfect God and existing alongside God in substance {hypostasis), and which ends with an anathema on anyone who shares the views of Marcellus, Sabellius, or Paul of Samosata (Syw. 24.2-5). It may be inferred that Theophronius had himself been suspected of sharing the views of Marcellus and that he submitted this creed in order to prove his orthodoxy in the eyes of the council.18 When Athanasius says that 'they all subscribed to it after accepting the fellow's creed' (Syw. 24.1), he is being grossly tendentious: the rest of the bishops accepted Theophronius' creed as proof of his orthodoxy without in any sense adopting it as an authoritative statement of correct doctrine.19

More is known about the council's actions relating to Athanasius and Marcellus, since Sozomenus provides a summary of the letter which the council sent to Julius,20 and Julius' reply survives entire (Apol. c. Ar. 21-35). The letter of the Council of Antioch to Julius was presumably the work of Eusebius of Nicomedia. It was stylishly written but with legalistic arguments, both ironical and threatening towards the bi$hop of Rome. The bishops at Antioch rejected Julius' suggestion of a joint council. The bishop of Rome indeed enjoyed prestige and honor as the occupant of an ancient see founded by the apostles. But Julius' proposal was presumptuous, based on the accident of Rome's political importance (25.2), not on the merits of the case or on ecclesiastical practise, according to which the western church ought to accept the verdict of the eastern church in its internal matters and vice versa, just as had happened in the past with Paul of Samosata and Novatian (25.1). Moreover; the day named was impossibly early, especially since the Persian war required eastern bishops to stay in their endangered provinces (25.3/4). Julius* harboring of Marcellus and Athanasius violated the basic principle of canon law that the divinely inspired decision of a church council could not be overturned by a subsequent council (22.1, 22.6, 29.3). Julius, therefore, was setting a council at nought and fanning the flames of discord in the church (25.1, 34.1): he must either withdraw from communion with Marcellus and Athanasius (whose crimes the letter reiterated) or himself forfeit communion with and recognition by the eastern church (34.3-5).

The priests Helpidius and Philoxenus had been compelled to remain in Antioch until January 341. They then took to Rome the letter of the council to Julius (21.2). Julius had already prepared his riposte. A council of fifty bishops from Italy and perhaps from western provinces outside Italy met on the date proposed for the joint council and endorsed a letter of rebuttal which Julius had prepared.21 The letter, duly taken to the east by the comes Gabianus (20.3), was addressed to 'Dianius, Flacillus, Narcissus, Eusebius, Maris, Macedonius, Theodorus,22 and those who with them have written to us from Antioch.' It essayed a full defense of Marcellus and Athanasius—whose viewpoint it faithfully reproduces almost throughout.23

Julius begins with a complaint about the tone of the letter which he has received (21.2-5)—a topic to which he reverts throughout his own letter. It was disputatious and unfriendly, insulting even when it purported to compliment. Julius deals first with the propriety of holding another council to reconsider the charges against Athanasius and Marcellus. Such a procedure, he fallaciously claims, was sanctioned long before by the Council of Nicaea (22.2).24 More recently, when the priest Macarius and the deacons Martyrius and Hesychius came from the Council of Antioch in 338 and were confronted by priests from Alexandria who contested their assertions, they agreed that Julius should convene a council so that a just decision might be reached in the presence of all: the eastern bishops ought to come to Rome as their trusted envoys had agreed was right and proper (22.3-5). Furthermore, the charge that Julius was dishonoring a council of bishops was one of which the eastern bishops were far more guilty than he. The Arians were condemned by three hundred bishops at Nicaea—a verdict which the eastern bishops have now dishonored and set aside (22.2, 23.1). For as bishop of Alexandria they appointed one Pistus, who was trebly disqualified: he had been excommunicated both by Alexander of Alexandria and by the Council of Nicaea, and he had been ordained to the priesthood by Secundus of Ptolemais, who had himself been excommunicated at Nicaea (24.1-4). If 'the decisions of councils must be regarded as valid,' as the recipients of the letter had stated (22.6), then it was wrong for a mere handful of bishops to overturn the decision of the great council of three hundred bishops from everywhere, wrong that those whom the whole world had proscribed and rejected as heretics should now be received back into communion (23.1-3).

Julius' complaints about the synodical letter from Antioch occupy more than a third of his own letter (21.2-26.3). The rest justifies his reception of Athanasius and Marcellus into communion. He considers their cases separately. About Athanasius, he has received discordant reports: the synodical letters from Eusebius and his allies in 338 and 341 frequently contradict each othei; while a letter of many bishops from Egypt and elsewhere (that is, the letter of the Council of Alexandria in 338) states that all the accusations against Athanasius are false (27.1/2). On the basis of the evidence at his disposa!, Julius dismisses the charges against Athanasius.

Julius has (he states) carefully examined the hypomnemata of the commission of enquiry which visited the Mareotis in 335 (brought to Rome by Martyrius and Hesychius in 338). He pronounces in favor of Athanasius* protests that the commission acted unfairly, illegally, and with patent bias. The accuser Ischyras was in the Mareotis, but not Athanasius or Macarius (27.4). Julius appeals to the letter of Alexander of Thessalonica, Athanasius' letter to the comes Dionysius, and the declaration written in Ischyras' own hand in which he unreservedly withdrew his accusations (all supplied by Athanasius), and he appeals to the priests and deacons who accompanied Athanasius to Rome (28.1-3). But the hypomnemata themselves provide Julius' central argument.25 Athanasius has shown from the documentary record that there was one catechumen 'in a small cell' with Ischyras when Macarius committed the alleged offense, that 'Ischyras was then lying ill behind the door.' Consequently Ischyras cannot possibly have been standing and celebrating the eucharist. Further, Ischyras was not a priest, since his name does not appear in the list of Melitian clergy submitted to Alexander (28.4-7).26 Julius, therefore, is justified in refusing to condemn Athanasius: he regards him as still a bishop; indeed, he invited him to come to Rome (29.1/2) and proposed that an impartial council be held to consider his case (30.1). Those who have 'acted against the canons' of the church are those who sent Gregory from Antioch to Alexandria, a distance of thirty-six mansiones on the cursus publicas,27 and installed a foreigner as bishop of Alexandria by military force (29.3). Julius waxes eloquent on the atrocities committed by Gregory in Alexandria, predictably echoing and apparently copying Athanasius' own account in the Encyclical Letter (30).

As for Marcellus, Julius explains that he had, at his request, submitted a statement of his beliefs in the form of a letter to the bishop of Rome (32.1). In this statement, which is preserved by Epiphanius,28 Marcellus declared that he was writing to clear himself of the imputation of heresy brought by some of those whom he himself had convicted of that charge at the Council of Nicaea. Since his adversaries refused to come to Rome, even though Julius had sent priests to them and Marcellus himself had waited a year and three months in Rome, he was submitting a statement of his theological beliefs to Julius, written in his own hand, in order to expose the falsity of the charges against him. Marcellus accuses his enemies of dividing the Father and the Son, as a logical consequence of which they must either suppose the existence of two Gods or else relegate God the Son to the non-divine created order. Marcellus protests that he, in contrast, respects holy scripture and believes in one God and his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, the indivisible power of God. 'I believe, therefore,' Marcellus continues—and quotes in its entirety what seems to be the traditional baptismal creed of the church of Rome.29 He concludes by asking Julius to forward a copy of his letter when he writes to the eastern bishops. When he wrote in the name of the Council of Rome, Julius duly appealed to Marcellus' submission as proof that he was as orthodox in 341 as he had shown himself to be in 325 (32.2-4). Why should he refuse to communicate with such a man?

Julius accuses the eastern bishops of creating schism (32.4). Other bishops besides Athanasius and Marcellus have been unjustly expelled from their sees and are in Rome, while many Egyptian bishops have been prevented from coming to the Roman council (33.1). In Alexandria and Ancyra, violence and oppression have followed the expulsion of Athanasius and Marcellus: bishops are being beaten and imprisoned, some have been forced to perform burdensome civic liturgies, others exiled solely for their refusal to communicate with Gregory and his Arians (33.2/3). Julius is distressed at the sufferings of his brothers in Christ, and his proposal for a joint council was designed to 'set right and heal' an unfortunate situation (33.4). He expresses the hope that the majority of the eastern bishops will disown the petty hatreds of the small cabal who have caused the present dissension, and cease from strife. Julius reiterates his proposal for a general council where the issues can be settled with everyone present.30 The cases of Marcellus and Athanasius involve a see founded by the apostle Paul and a see with which bishops of Rome have traditionally had close ties. Nor are they the only bishops who have been deposed: other bishops and priests from different places have arrived in Rome with very similar tales of woe. Julius accordingly calls upon the eastern bishops to put an end to the persecution of bishops and priests, and to allow the churches to recover their bishops so that they may rejoice in the Lord always (34/5).

Julius was writing in the summer of 341. The exiled bishops recently arrived in Rome had presumably been deposed either by the 'Dedication Council' itself in January 341 or, as seems more probable, by the earlier Council of Antioch in 338/9 which had deposed Athanasius. The exiles came (Julius specifies) from Thrace, from Syria Coele, from Phoenice and Palestine (33.1)—to be precise, Lucius of Adrianoplc (in the province of Thracia), Cyrus of Beroea and Euphration of Balaneae (in Syria Coele), Hellanicus of Tripolis (in Phoenice), Asclepas of Gaza (in Palestine), and perhaps others.31

Complete obscurity envelops the effect of Julius' letter on the fortunes of Athanasius and Marcellus. That cannot be accidental. When he came to write his Defense against the Arians and History of the Arians, Athanasius no longer had any desire or inclination to explain how Constans was persuaded to intervene on his behalf, or how his cause was associated for some years with that of the bishop of Ancyra, whom he later abandoned in order to obtain permission to return from exile.32 Marcellus simply disappears from view until the Council of Serdica in 343. In his letter to Julius, which he presumably composed in the summer of 341, Marcellus declared that he was about to leave Rome.33 He did not disclose his intended destination. It may have been the court of Constans, and Marcellus may have approached the western emperor in person with a request to intervene on his own behalf and on behalf of other exiles. However, another full year elapsed before Constans took up the cause of Athanasius, and he did so only when another exile with greater political influence arrived at his court. In 342 the fortunes of Athanasius became linked closely to those of Paul of Constantinople.

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