Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Church History of Eusebius.: Section 7
§7. Continuance of the Arian Controversy. Eusebius Relations to the Two Parties.
The Council of Nicæa did not bring the Arian controversy to an end. The orthodox party was victorious, it is true, but the Arians were still determined, and could not give up their enmity against the opponents of Arius, and their hope that they might in the end turn the tables on their antagonists. Meanwhile, within a few years after the Council, a quarrel broke out between our Eusebius and Eustathius, bishop of Antioch, a resolute supporter of Nicene orthodoxy. According to Socrates (H. E. I. 23) and Sozomen (H. E. II. 18) Eustathius accused Eusebius of perverting the Nicene doctrines, while Eusebius denied the charge, and in turn taxed Eustathius with Sabellianism. The quarrel finally became so serious that it was deemed necessary to summon a Council for the investigation of Eustathius orthodoxy and the settlement of the dispute. This Council met in Antioch in 330 a.d. (see Tillemont, VII. p. 651 sq., for a discussion of the date), and was made up chiefly of bishops of Arian or semi-Arian tendencies. This fact, however, brings no discredit upon Eusebius. The Council was held in another province, and he can have had nothing to do with its composition. In fact, convened, as it was, in Eustathius own city, it must have been legally organized; and indeed Eustathius himself acknowledged its jurisdiction by appearing before it to answer the charges made against him. Theodorets absurd account of the origin of the synod and of the accusations brought against Eustathius (H. E. I. 21) bears upon its face the stamp of falsehood, and is, as Hefele has shown (Conciliengeschichte, I. 451), hopelessly in error in its chronology. It is therefore to be rejected as quite worthless. The decision of the Council doubtless fairly represented the views of the majority of the bishops of that section, for we know that Arianism had a very strong hold there. To think of a packed Council and of illegal methods of procedure in procuring the verdict against Eustathius is both unnecessary and unwarrantable. The result of the Council was the deposition of Eustathius from his bishopric and his banishment by the Emperor to Illyria, where he afterward died. There is a division of opinion among our sources in regard to the immediate successor of Eustathius. All of them agree that Eusebius was asked to become bishop of Antioch, but that he refused the honor, and that Euphronius was chosen in his stead. Socrates and Sozomen, however, inform us that the election of Eusebius took place immediately after the deposition of Eustathius, while Theodoret (H. E. I. 22) names Eulalius as Eustathius immediate successor, and states that he lived but a short time, and that Eusebius was then asked to succeed him. Theodoret is supported by Jerome (Chron., year of Abr. 2345) and by Philostorgius (H. E. III. 15), both of whom insert a bishop Eulalius between Eustathius and Euphronius. It is easier to suppose that Socrates and Sozomen may have omitted so unimportant a name at this point than that the other three witnesses inserted it without warrant. Socrates indeed implies in the same chapter that his knowledge of these affairs is limited, and it is not surprising that Eusebius election, which caused a great stir, should have been connected in the mind of later writers immediately with Eustathius deposition, and the intermediate steps forgotten. It seems probable, therefore, that immediately after the condemnation of Eustathius, Eulalius was appointed in his place, perhaps by the same Council, and that after his death, a few months later, Eusebius, who had meanwhile gone back to Cæsarea, was elected in due order by another Council of neighboring bishops summoned for the purpose, and that he was supported by a large party of citizens. It is noticeable that the letter written by the Emperor to the Council, which wished to transfer Eusebius to Antioch (see Vita Const. III. 62), mentions in its salutation the names of five bishops, but among them is only one (Theodotus) who is elsewhere named as present at the Council which deposed Eustap. 22 thius, while Eusebius of Nicomedia, and Theognis of Nicæa, as well as others whom we know to have been on hand on that occasion, are not referred to by the Emperor. This fact certainly seems to point to a different council.
It is greatly to Eusebius credit that he refused the call extended to him. Had he been governed simply by selfish ambition he would certainly have accepted it, for the patriarchate of Antioch stood at that time next to Alexandria in point of honor in the Eastern Church. The Emperor commended him very highly for his decision, in his epistles to the people of Antioch and to the Council (Vita Const. III. 60, 62), and in that to Eusebius himself (ib. III. 61). He saw in it a desire on Eusebius part to observe the ancient canon of the Church, which forbade the transfer of a bishop from one see to another. But that in itself can hardly have been sufficient to deter the latter from accepting the high honor offered him, for it was broken without scruple on all sides. It is more probable that he saw that the schism of the Antiochenes would be embittered by the induction into the bishopric of that church of Eustathius chief opponent, and that he did not feel that he had a right so to divide the Church of God. Eusebius general character, as known to us, justifies us in supposing that this high motive had much to do with his decision. We may suppose also that so difficult a place can have had no very great attractions for a man of his age and of his peace-loving disposition and scholarly tastes. In Cæsarea he had spent his life; there he had the great library of Pamphilus at his disposal, and leisure to pursue his literary work. In Antioch he would have found himself compelled to plunge into the midst of quarrels and seditions of all kinds, and would have been obliged to devote his entire attention to the performance of his official duties. His own tastes therefore must have conspired with his sense of duty to lead him to reject the proffered call and to remain in the somewhat humbler station which he already occupied.
Not long after the deposition of Eustathius, the Arians and their sympathizers began to work more energetically to accomplish the ruin of Athanasius, their greatest foe. He had become Alexanders successor as bishop of Alexandria in the year 326, and was the acknowledged head of the orthodox party. If he could be brought into discredit, there might be hopes of restoring Arius to his position in Alexandria, and of securing for Arianism a recognition, and finally a dominating influence in the church at large. To the overthrow of Athanasius therefore all good Arians bent their energies. They found ready accomplices in the schismatical Meletians of Egypt, who were bitter enemies of the orthodox church of Alexandria. It was useless to accuse Athanasius of heterodoxy; he was too widely known as the pillar of the orthodox faith. Charges must be framed of another sort, and of a sort to stir up the anger of the Emperor against him. The Arians therefore and the Meletians began to spread the most vile and at the same time absurd stories about Athanasius (see especially the latters Apol. c. Arian. §59 sq.). These at last became so notorious that the Emperor summoned Athanasius to appear and make his defense before a council of bishops to be held in Cæsarea (Sozomen, H. E. II. 25; Theodoret, H. E. I. 28). Athanasius, however, fearing that the Council would be composed wholly of his enemies, and that it would therefore be impossible to secure fair play, excused himself and remained away. But in the following year (see Sozomen, H. E. II. 25) he received from the Emperor a summons to appear before a council at Tyre. The summons was too peremptory to admit of a refusal, and Athanasius therefore attended, accompanied by many of his devoted adherents (see Sozomen, ib.; Theodoret, H. E. I. 30; Socrates, H. E. I. 28; Athanasius, Apol. c. Arian. §71 sq.; Eusebius, Vita Const. IV. 41 sq., and Epiphanius, Hær. LXVIII. 8). After a time, perceiving that he had no chance of receiving fair play, he suddenly withdrew from the Council and proceeded directly to Constantinople, in order to lay his case before the Emperor himself, and to induce the latter to allow him to meet his accusers in his presence, and plead his cause before him. There was nothing for the Synod to do after his flight but to sustain the charges brought against him, some of which he had not stayed to refute, and to pass condemnation upon him. Besides various immoral and sacrilegious deeds of which he was accused, his refusal to appear before the Council of p. 23 Cæsarea the previous year was made an important item of the prosecution. It was during this Council that Potamo flung at Eusebius the taunt of cowardice, to which reference was made above, and which doubtless did much to confirm Eusebius distrust of and hostility to the Athanasian party. Whether Eusebius of Cæsarea, as is commonly supposed, or Eusebius of Nicomedia, or some other bishop, presided at this Council we are not able to determine. The account of Epiphanius seems to imply that the former was presiding at the time that Potamo made his untimely accusation. Our sources are, most of them, silent on the matter, but according to Valesius, Eusebius of Nicomedia is named by some of them, but which they are I have not been able to discover. We learn from Socrates (H. E. I. 28), as well as from other sources, that this Synod of Tyre was held in the thirtieth year of Constantines reign, that is, between July, 334, and July, 335. As the Council was closed only in time for the bishops to reach Jerusalem by July, 335, it is probable that it was convened in 335 rather than in 334. From Sozomen (H. E. II. 25) we learn also that the Synod of Cæsarea had been held the preceding year, therefore in 333 or 334 (the latter being the date commonly given by historians). While the Council of Tyre was still in session, the bishops were commanded by Constantine to proceed immediately to Jerusalem to take part in the approaching festival to be held there on the occasion of his tricennalia. The scene was one of great splendor. Bishops were present from all parts of the world, and the occasion was marked by the dedication of the new and magnificent basilica which Constantine had erected upon the site of Calvary (Theodoret, I. 31; Socrates, I. 28 and 33; Sozomen, II. 26; Eusebius, Vita Const. IV. 41 and 43). The bishops gathered in Jerusalem at this time held another synod before separating. In this they completed the work begun at Tyre, by re-admitting Arius and his adherents to the communion of the Church (see Socrates, I. 33, and Sozomen, II. 27). According to Sozomen the Emperor, having been induced to recall Arius from banishment in order to reconsider his case, was presented by the latter with a confession of faith, which was so worded as to convince Constantine of his orthodoxy. He therefore sent Arius and his companion Euzoius to the bishops assembled in Jerusalem with the request that they would examine the confession, and if they were satisfied with its orthodoxy would re-admit them to communion. The Council, which was composed largely of Arius friends and sympathizers, was only too glad to accede to the Emperors request.
Meanwhile Athanasius had induced Constantine, out of a sense of justice, to summon the bishops that had condemned him at Tyre to give an account of their proceedings before the Emperor himself at Constantinople. This unexpected, and, doubtless, not altogether welcome summons came while the bishops were at Jerusalem, and the majority of them at once returned home in alarm, while only a few answered the call and repaired to Constantinople. Among these were Eusebius of Nicomedia, Theognis of Nicæa, Patrophilus of Scythopolis, and other prominent Arians, and with them our Eusebius (Athanasius, Apol. c. Arian. §§86 and 87; Socrates, I. 33–35; Sozomen, II. 28). The accusers of Athanasius said nothing on this occasion in regard to his alleged immoralities, for which he had been condemned at Tyre, but made another equally trivial accusation against him, and the result was his banishment to Gaul. Whether Constantine banished him because he believed the charge brought against him, or because he wished to preserve him from the machinations of his enemies (as asserted by his son Constantine, and apparently believed by Athanasius himself; see his Apol. c. Arian. §87), or because he thought that Athanasius absence would allay the troubles in the Alexandrian church we do not know. The latter supposition seems most probable. In any case he was not recalled from banishment until after Constantines death. Our Eusebius has been severely condemned by many historians for the part taken by him in the Eustathian controversy and especially in the war against Athanasius. In justice to him a word or two must be spoken in his defense. So far as his relations to Eustathius are concerned, it is to be noticed that the latter commenced the controversy by accusing Eusebius of heterodoxy. Eusebius himself did not begin the quarrel, and very likely had no desire to engage in any such doctrinal strife; but he was compelled to defend himp. 24 self, and in doing so he could not do otherwise than accuse Eustathius of Sabellianism; for if the latter was not satisfied with Eusebius orthodoxy, which Eusebius himself believed to be truly Nicene, then he must be leaning too far toward the other extreme; that is, toward Sabellianism. There is no reason to doubt that Eusebius was perfectly straightforward and honorable throughout the whole controversy, and at the Council of Antioch itself. That he was not actuated by unworthy motives, or by a desire for revenge, is evinced by his rejection of the proffered call to Antioch, the acceptance of which would have given him so good an opportunity to triumph over his fallen enemy. It must be admitted, in fact, that Eusebius comes out of this controversy without a stain of any kind upon his character. He honestly believed Eustathius to be a Sabellian, and he acted accordingly.
Eusebius has been blamed still more severely for his treatment of Athanasius. But again the facts must be looked at impartially. It is necessary always to remember that Sabellianism was in the beginning and remained throughout his life the heresy which he most dreaded, and which he had perhaps most reason to dread. He must, even at the Council of Nicæa, have suspected Athanasius, who laid so much stress upon the unity of essence on the part of Father and Son, of a leaning toward Sabellianistic principles; and this suspicion must have been increased when he discovered, as he believed, that Athanasius most staunch supporter, Eustathius, was a genuine Sabellian. Moreover, on the other side, it is to be remembered that Eusebius of Nicomedia, and all the other leading Arians, had signed the Nicene creed and had proclaimed themselves thoroughly in sympathy with its teaching. Our Eusebius, knowing the change that had taken place in his own mind upon the controverted points, may well have believed that their views had undergone even a greater change, and that they were perfectly honest in their protestations of orthodoxy. And finally, when Arius himself presented a confession of faith which led the Emperor, who had had a personal interview with him, to believe that he had altered his views and was in complete harmony with the Nicene faith, it is not surprising that our Eusebius, who was naturally unsuspicious, conciliatory and peace-loving, should think the same thing, and be glad to receive Arius back into communion, while at the same time remaining perfectly loyal to the orthodoxy of the Nicene creed which he had subscribed. Meanwhile his suspicions of the Arian party being in large measure allayed, and his distrust of the orthodoxy of Athanasius and of his adherents being increased by the course of events, it was only natural that he should lend more or less credence to the calumnies which were so industriously circulated against Athanasius. To charge him with dishonesty for being influenced by these reports, which seem to us so absurd and palpably calumnious, is quite unwarranted. Constantine, who was, if not a theologian, at least a clear-headed and sharp-sighted man, believed them, and why should Eusebius not have done the same? The incident which took place at the Council of Tyre in connection with Potamo and himself was important; for whatever doubts he may have had up to that time as to the truth of the accusations made against Athanasius and his adherents, Potamos conduct convinced him that the charges of tyranny and high-handed dealing brought against the whole party were quite true. It could not be otherwise than that he should believe that the good of the Alexandrian church, and therefore of the Church at large, demanded the deposition of the seditious and tyrannous archbishop, who was at the same time quite probably Sabellianistic in his tendencies. It must in justice be noted that there is not the slightest reason to suppose that our Eusebius had anything to do with the dishonorable intrigues of the Arian party throughout this controversy. Athanasius, who cannot say enough in condemnation of the tactics of Eusebius of Nicomedia and his supporters, never mentions Eusebius of Cæsarea in a tone of bitterness. He refers to him occasionally as a member of the opposite party, but he has no complaints to utter against him, as he has against the others. This is very significant, and should put an end to all suspicions of unworthy conduct on Eusebius part. It is to be observed that the latter, though having good cause as he believed to condemn Athanasius and his adherents, never acted as a leader in the war against them. His name, if mentioned at all, occurs always toward the end of the list as one of p. 25 the minor combatants, although his position and his learning would have entitled him to take the most prominent position in the whole affair, if he had cared to. He was but true to his general character in shrinking from such a controversy, and in taking part in it only in so far as his conscience compelled him to. We may suspect indeed that he would not have made one of the small party that repaired to Constantinople in response to the Emperors imperious summons had it not been for the celebration of Constantines tricennalia, which was taking place there at the time, and at which he delivered, on the special invitation of the Emperor and in his presence, one of his greatest orations. Certain it is, from the account which he gives in his Vita Constantini, that both in Constantinople and in Jerusalem the festival of the tricennalia, with its attendant ceremonies, interested him much more than did the condemnation of Athanasius.
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