as other bishops and theologians predominantly from the Eastern part of the empire. This council rejected Arius' slogan that 'there was once when the Son was not', asserting that the Son's generation from the Father was of a different order than that of creation: 'God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten not made'. It used the term homoousios ('of one substance') to describe the relation between the Son and the Father, less as a positive attempt to represent a description of divine being than as an apophatic pronouncement that sought to rule out any suggestion that the Son was created from nothing.

The Christian imagination has tended to portray the Nicene council as ushering in the victory of Athanasian 'orthodoxy' over 'the Arian heresy' with the inspired confession of the homoousios. However, the reception of Nicaea was a far more convoluted process than that account suggests. In point of fact, the Council of Nicaea resulted in more confusion than resolution, at least in the short term, and neither Arius nor Athanasius was a primary figure in the immediate aftermath of the council. Arius' slogan that 'there was once when the Son was not' was a cause of embarrassment even to those who were uncomfortable with the teaching of Nicaea. The project of articulating an alternative theology to that propounded by Nicaea passed to the leadership ofEusebius ofNicomedia, Eusebius of Caesarea, and Asterius.

Eusebius ofNicomedia was an early supporter of Arius but shunned references to the Son's origination from nothing. His own theology emphasised that the divine title of'unbegotten' (agenneton) is applicable only to one. Eusebius is wary of any language of communication of substance as suggesting 'two unbegottens' or a materialistic fragmentation of the divine substance. The Son who is produced by the Father's will differs from the Father in substance and power but is united to him through a 'likeness of disposition'.5 Eusebius of Caesarea, the illustrious church historian and theological disciple of Origen, also disowned Arius' doctrine of the Son's origination from nothing. But he also rejected Origen's teaching on the eternal generation of the Son. Whereas Origen used the framework of 'participation' to articulate the unity of the Trinity, Eusebius follows a Middle Platonic emphasis on the inaccessible transcendence of the first principle by identifying it as 'unparticipated'.6 Eusebius of Caesarea had reluctantly agreed to the Nicene homoousios but his own doctrine, often articulated in terms of the Son's being the 'image of the Father's substance', is centrally concerned with maintaining the clear priority of the Father over the Son.

5 Eusebius ofNicomedia, Letter to Paulinus 3.

6 Eusebius of Caesarea, Prep. ev. 7.12.2.

0 0

Post a comment