Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. II: The Ecclesiastical History of Sozomen.: Council of Seleucia.Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Chapter XXII.—Council of Seleucia.
About the same period the Eastern bishops assembled, 1335 to the number of about one hundred and sixty, in Seleucia, a city of Isauria. This was during the consulate of Eusebius and Hypatius. Leonas, who held a brilliant military office at the palace, repaired to this council at the command of Constantius, so that the doctrinal confession might be conducted in his presence. Lauricius, the military governor of the province, was present to prepare whatever might be necessary; for the letter of the emperor had commanded him to render this service. At the p. 317 first session of this council, several of the bishops were absent, and among others, Patrophilus, bishop of Scythopolis; Macedonius, bishop of Constantinople; and Basil, bishop of Ancyra. They resorted to divers pretexts in justification of their non-attendance. Patrophilus alleged in excuse a complaint in the eyes, and Macedonius pleaded indisposition; but it was suspected they had absented themselves from the fear that various accusations would be brought against them. As the other bishops refused to enter upon the investigation of disputed points during their absence, Leonas commanded them to proceed at once to the examination of the questions that had been agitated. Thus some were of the opinion that it was necessary to commence with the discussion of doctrinal topics, while others maintained that inquiries ought first to be instituted into the conduct of those among them against whom accusations had been laid, as had been the case with Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem, Eustathius, bishop of Sebaste, and others. The ambiguity of the emperors letters, which sometimes prescribed one course and sometimes another, gave rise to this dispute. The contention arising from this source became so fierce, that all union was destroyed between them, and they became divided into two parties. However, the advice of those who wished to commence with the examination of doctrine, prevailed. When they proceeded to the investigation of terms, some desired to reject the use of the term “substance,” and appealed to the authority of the formulary of faith which had not long previously been compiled by Mark 1336 at Sirmium, and had been received by the bishops who were at the court, among whom was Basil, 1337 bishop of Ancyra. Many others were anxious for the adoption of the formulary of faith drawn up at the dedication of the church of Antioch. To the first of these parties belonged Eudoxius, Acacius, Patrophilus, George, bishop of Alexandria, Uranius, bishop of Tyre, and thirty-two other bishops. The latter party was supported by George, bishop of Laodicea, in Syria; by Eleusius, bishop of Cyzicus; by Sophronius, bishop of Pompeiopolis, in Paphlagonia; with these the majority agreed. It was suspected, and with reason, that Acacius and his partisans absented themselves on account of the difference between their sentiments and those of the aforesaid bishops, and also because they desired to evade the investigation of certain accusations which had been brought against them; for, although they had previously acknowledged in writing to Macedonius, bishop of Constantinople, that the Son is in all respects like unto the Father, and of the same substance, now they fought entirely shy of their former professions. After prolonged disputations and contention, Silvanus, bishop of Tarsus, declared, in a loud and peremptory tone, that no new formulary of faith ought to be introduced but that which had been approved at Antioch, and this alone ought to prevail. As this proposition was repugnant to the followers of Acacius, they withdrew, and the other bishops read the formulary of Antioch. The following day these bishops assembled in the church, closed the doors, and privately confirmed this formulary. Acacius condemned this proceeding, and laid the formulary which he advocated before Leonas and Lauricius privately. Three days afterwards the same bishops reassembled, and were joined by Macedonius and Basil, who had been previously absent. Acacius and his partisans declared that they would take no part in the proceedings of the council until those who had been deposed and accused had quitted the assembly. His demand was complied with; for the bishops of the opposite party were determined that he should have no pretext for dissolving the council, which was evidently his object, in order to prevent the impending examination of the heresy of Aëtius, and of the accusations which had been brought against himself and his partisans. When all the members were assembled, Leonas stated that he held a document which had been handed to him by the partisans of Acacius; it was their formulary of faith, with introductory remarks. None of the other bishops knew anything about it; for Leonas, who was of the same sentiment as Acacius, had willingly kept the whole matter a secret. When this document 1338 was read, the whole assembly was filled with tumult; for some of the statements it contained were to the effect that, though the emperor had prohibited the introduction of any term into the formularies of faith which was not found in the Sacred Scriptures, yet that bishops who had been deposed, having been brought from various provinces to the assembly, with others who had been illegally ordained, the council had been thrown into confusion, and that some of the members had been insulted, and others prevented from speaking. It was added that Acacius and his partisans did not reject the formulary which had been compiled at Antioch, although those who had assembled in that city had drawn it up for the express purpose of meeting the difficulty which had just then arisen; but that, as the terms “consubstantial” and “of similar substance” had grieved some individuals, and that, as it had been recently asserted that the Son is dissimilar from the Father, it was necessary, on this account, to reject the terms “consubstanp. 318 tial” and a “similar substance,” which do not occur in Scripture, to condemn the term “dissimilar,” and to confess clearly that the Son is like unto the Father; for He is, as the Apostle Paul somewhere says, “the image of the invisible God.” These prefatory observations were followed by a formulary, which was neither conformable with that of Nicæa, nor with that of Antioch, and which was so artfully worded that the followers of Arius and of Aëtius would not appear to be in error if they should thus state their faith. In this formulary, the words used by those who had convened at Nicæa, in condemnation of the Arian doctrine, were omitted, and the declarations of the council of Antioch, concerning the immutability of the Deity of the Son, and concerning His being the unchangeable image of the substance, the counsel, and the power, and the glory of the Father, were passed over in silence, and belief was simply expressed in the Father, in the Son, and in the Holy Ghost; and after bestowing some vulgar epithets on a few individuals who had never entered into any doctrinal contention on one side or the other, all those who entertained any other opinions than those set forth in this formulary were declared to be aliens to the Catholic Church. Such were the contents of the document presented by Leonas, and which had been signed by Acacius, and by those who had adopted his sentiments. After it had been read, Sophronius, a bishop of Paphlagonia, exclaimed, “If we daily receive the opinions of individuals as a statement of the faith, we shall fail in attaining precision of the truth.” Acacius having retorted that it was not forbidden to compile new formularies, as that of Nicæa had been once and frequently altered, Eleusius replied as follows: “But the council has not now met for the purpose of learning what is already known, or of accepting any other formulary than that which has been already approved by those who assembled at Antioch; and, moreover, living and dying, we will adhere to this formulary.” The dispute having taken this turn, they entered upon another inquiry, and asked the partisans of Acacius, in what they considered the Son to be like unto the Father. They replied that the Son is similar in will only, but not in substance, and the others thereupon insisted that He is similar in substance, and convicted Acacius, by a work which he had formerly written, that he had once been of their opinion. Acacius replied that he ought not to be judged from his own writings; and the dispute had continued with heat for some time, when Eleusius, bishop of Cyzicus, spoke as follows: “It matters little to the council whether Mark or Basil has transgressed in any way, whether they or the adherents of Acacius have any accusation to bring against each other; neither does the trouble devolve upon the council of examining whether their formulary be commendable or otherwise; it is enough to maintain the formulary which has been already confirmed at Antioch by ninety-seven priests; and if any one desire to introduce any doctrine which is not contained therein, he ought to be held as an alien to religion and the Church.” Those who were of his sentiments applauded his speech; and the assembly then arose and separated. The following day, the partisans of Acacius and of George refused to attend the council; and Leonas, who had now openly declared himself to be of their sentiments, likewise refused, in spite of all entreaties, to repair thither. Those who were deputed to request his attendance found the partisans of Acacius in his house; and he declined their invitation, under the plea that too much discord prevailed in the council, and that he had only been commanded by the emperor to attend the council in case of unanimity among the members. Much time was consumed in this way; and the partisans of Acacius were frequently solicited by the other bishops to attend the assemblies; but they sometimes demanded a special conference in the house of Leonas, and sometimes alleged that they had been commissioned by the emperor to judge those who had been accused; for they would not receive the creed adopted by the other bishops, nor clear themselves of the crimes of which they had been accused; neither would they examine the case of Cyril, whom they had deposed; and there was no one to compel them to do so. The council, however, eventually deposed George, bishop of Alexandria; Acacius, bishop of Cæsarea; Uranius, bishop of Tyre; Patrophilus, bishop of Scythopolis; and Eudoxius, bishop of Antioch; and several other prelates. Many persons were likewise put out of communion until they could purge themselves of the crimes imputed to them. The transactions were conveyed in writing to the parish of each of the clergy. Adrian, 1339 a presbyter of Antioch, was ordained bishop over that church, in room of Eudoxius; but the partisans of Acacius arrested him and delivered him over to Leonas and Lauricius. They committed him into the custody of the soldiers, but afterwards sent him into exile.
We have now given a brief account of the termination of the council of Seleucia. Those who desire more detailed information must seek it in the acts of the council, 1340 which have been transcribed by attendant shorthand writers.
Soz. alludes to the original acts of the Synod at the end, and Soc. ii. 39, to Sabinus collection. Sabinus probably reported the exact originals. Athan. de Synodis, 12, 13; Hil. contra Constantium, 12; Philost. iv. 11; Sulp. Sev. H. S. ii. 42. Cf. Theodoret, H. E. ii. 26; Athan. de Synodis, 29.317:1336
The author of the first formulary of Sirmium is here given by Soz. Soc. stated it, ii. 30.317:1337
See above, 16.317:1338
Given by Soc. ii. 40.318:1339
Mistake for Annianus, as given in 24.318:1340
Soc. refers anxious readers to the collection by Sabinus, ii. 39.
Next: Acacius and Aëtius; and how the Deputies of the Two Councils of Ariminum and of Seleucia were led by the Emperor to accept the Same Doctrines.
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