Arianism – A Historical Examination of a Heresy [Greek Accents Removed]

Jesus Christ is the centre of the Christian faith: fully God and fully man, eternal and infinite in power, the Word of God. We understand today that this is the Bible’s teaching on the nature of Christ; this is the heart of our Christology.[1] It may be surprising for some to hear that this understanding was once in perilous danger; there was a time in history where the Church was divided over the very nature of Christ—was He God or a created being? On one side of this conflict was what we today would call orthodox faith. In opposition to this was a movement led by a presbyter from the city of Alexandria named Arius.[2] Some would suggest that what we call orthodox faith—Nicene Christianity—was actually a heresy that won its battle against the orthodox faith of the apostles, as championed by Arius. But is this what history teaches us? This movement led by Arius, which we call Arianism, was a heterodox movement that was born in the early days of the church. It has cropped up throughout history, but today its most significant representative is the Jehovah’s Witnesses[3] cult. Arianism was defeated in the days when it first appeared, and a strong argument can still be raised against it today. Historical Arianism emerged in the early 4th century AD and was a powerful force which, at times, became the majority position until its final defeat in 381 AD at an ecumenical council in Constantinople.[4] It is in this time period that we can examine historical Arianism and come to an understanding of the views held by its adherents.

In the Prolegomena for Eusebius’ The Church History of Eusebius the editor recorded that Arius was not the originator of the ideas that became known as Arianism. Arius learned the essentials of his Christology from his instructor Lucian, who is described as “one of the most learned men of his age in the Oriental Church”[5] and was the founder of a school in Antioch that was only accepted by the Church at the end of Lucian’s life.[6] Nevertheless, Arius was the one who spread the teachings of Arianism and as such is its name sake. He would find his most ardent opposition in the form of his fellow presbyter (the Arch Deacon) Athanasius and Alexander, the Bishop of Alexandria.[7] The rise of Arianism, identified in this same Prolegomena as starting around 318 AD,[8] was triggered by Arius’s fears of the earlier heresy Sabellianism.[9] Alexander attempted one day to explain to his clergy and presbytery the mystery of the unity of the Holy Trinity. Arius feared that his teaching was a subtle form of the heresy taught by Sabellius of Libyan. The ecclesiastical historian Socrates reports that out of his love for controversy Arius adopted the far opposite view from Sabellius, the opposite view to what he feared Alexander was teaching, and started spreading his teachings. Arianism grew in popularity, eventually being adopted by bishops, including the prominent bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia.[10] The conflict quickly grew to a point where the unity of the Church, and therefore the Empire, was in danger. Upon hearing the news of Arius’s teachings Alexander anathematized him and wrote a letter to churches across the Christian world warning against the heresy of Arius and against his supporters, especially Eusebius.[11] The controversy was not just a private matter between Bishops; it also found its way into the populace and Christianity became a target of public ridicule.[12] Fearing that the conflict would cause a schism in the Church—which would divide the Empire—and already having failed to resolve the conflict with an emissary, Constantine called for an Ecumenical Council to meet in Nicaea in an attempt to come to a resolution on the issue.[13]

The council of Nicaea was the first ecumenical council of the Church. It was the first time that a vast multitude of bishops from across the Roman Empire were called together in order to achieve a theological consensus. Between 250[14] and 318[15] bishops came to the council, along with a large number of deacons, presbyters, and attendants.[16] Constantine also attended the council, presiding over it and offering the opening statement for the proceedings.[17] The bishops at the council were split three ways; the largest party was the undecided middle ground led by Eusebius of Caesarea, Alexander of Alexandria and his presbyter Athanasius led the orthodox party, and Eusebius of Nicomedia led the Arian party.[18] At the end of the deliberations;

it was unanimously decided that [Arius’s] impious opinion should be anathematized, with all the blasphemous expressions he has uttered, in affirming that ‘the Son of God sprang from nothing,’ and that ‘there was a time when he was not’; saying moreover that ‘the Son of God, because possessed of free will, was capable either of vice or virtue; and calling him a creature and a work.[19]

Socrates, in his Ecclesiastical History, records that only five of the bishops at the council refused to subscribe it; Eusebius of Nicomedia being the most prominent of the five.[20] As a result of the conclusion Arius and his adherents were anathematized, though Eusebius and another bishop eventually bowed to the orthodox understanding and conceded to the creed established at Nicaea.[21] As well as declaring Arius’ views to be heresy the council drafted a creed stating what the orthodox view was. According to Socrates this was the result;

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible:—and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of the Father, that is of the substance of the Father; God of God and Light of light; true God of true God; begotten, not made, consubstantial[or “one in essence”, translation of ομοοσιος] with the Father: by whom all things were made, both which are in heaven and on earth: who for the sake of us men, and on account of our salvation, descended, became incarnate, and was made man; suffered, arose again the third day, and ascended into the heavens, and will come again to judge the living and the dead. [We] also [believe] in the Holy Spirit.[22]

Though the Arian’s could have stumbled over the phrase “begotten, not made” their main point of contention with this orthodox creed was the word “ομουσιος” (homousios); they believed that this word did not represent Christ’s relationship with Father because, according to them, it meant that something is “from another either by partition, derivation or germination”.[23] With the drafting of this creed and the excommunication of Arius and the dissenting bishops, it seemed orthodoxy had won a decisive and final victory over the heresy of Arianism, but as Schaff writes; “The victory of the council of Nicaea over the views of the majority of the bishops was a victory only in appearance.”[24] It had “erected a mighty fortress” in which the champions of orthodoxy could “take refuge from the assaults of heresy”. Unfortunately many of the bishop’s had signed on reluctantly, many for shallow reasons, and would turn against the decree if the right circumstances arose.[25]

Soon enough these circumstances did arise and once again the empire was embroiled in conflict; this time on a much larger scale. Arius was eventually called back from exile by the Emperor after he offered a vague confession and the Emperor himself became converted to Arianism by the influence of Eusebius of Caesarea and his sister Constantia.[26] Arianism quickly rose to prominence and Athanasius himself was exiled to Gaul.[27] Arius died in 336 before he could witness the full rise of the movement he had started.[28] Arianism had a stronghold in the east and soon rose to become the primary position of the west, but in a slightly lesser form known as homoi-ousianism (or Semi-Arianism).[29] Orthodoxy did eventually have its victory over Arianism. In 379 Theodosius I became Emperor and required every citizen to confess the orthodox faith.[30] This proved to be the end of the Arian heresy and led to a second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople. Arianism was condemned at first, but then was received and rose to prominence, only to be finally defeated. What did the Arian’s believe that earned them the brand of a heretic?

Arius’ views were a complete rejection of the central truths of the Scripture’s teaching on Christ’s nature. Arius, and his followers, believed that Jesus was a created being; he was the first of all created beings, but was still created by God. In a letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia Arius wrote that; “we say and believe, and have taught, and do teach, that the Son is not unbegotten, nor in any way part of the unbegotten; and that He does not derive His subsistence from any matter;… We are persecuted, because we say that the Son has a beginning, but that God is without beginning.”[31] This is the heart of Arianism, this is why it was condemned so strongly by Athanasius and Alexander. In another letter, recorded by Athanasius, Arius writes that Jesus is a son to God through adoption and that he does not share in substance with the Father, and is also of an entirely different substance.[32] In order to avoid the Sabellian heresy Arius went to the opposite side of the spectrum; to guard against the belief that the Father and Son were one being he differentiated them to the point where only the Father was truly God. Alexander of Alexandria reported that the Arians also taught that Christ was Himself changing, that He did not know the Father completely, and that He could not fully see Him.[33] Even though the Arians believed that Jesus was a created being, they still believed that all things were created by Him;[34] Schaff explains that the Arians believed God was separated from the world by an “infinite chasm” and could not have directly created the world, but needed an instrument, an agent, through which to do His creating work.[35]

How could the Arians arrive at such a contrary understanding of Scripture to that of the traditional Church? One thing that the Arians were intent on was rationalistic thinking; on determining truth from General Revelation. They seemingly went so far as putting their reason above Scripture; putting General Revelation, or at least reason, on a higher level than God’s Special Revelation.[36] What they would often do was take something Scripture said and stretch it to what they thought was a logical conclusion, often a conclusion foreign to the author’s intent. In 1 Colossians 1:15 Paul writes; “15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”[37] From this passage the Arian’s argued that Christ must have been a created being because to be the “firstborn” indicates the first in a temporal sense. For the Arians this passage says that Christ was the first created being of all created beings.[38] They also tried to show that Jesus was a created being by using John 14:28b; “If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” Their reasoning here was that since the Father was greater than Christ, Christ must have been a separate and created being.[39] The idea that Christ was a created being was preeminent in Arian theology, and as such this is what most of their arguments dealt with. They argued with Athanasius and the rest of the orthodox thinkers that their understanding precludes Christ being called the “Son of God,” instead it leads to the conclusion that He could only be the “Brother of God.” They drew this conclusion from their understanding of the nature of a human son; for them it was an issue of temporal succession. A son comes after his father; it would seem to be ridiculous for a son to co-exist eternally with his father. For them this would negate the idea of him being a son. They suggested from this reasoning that the only family analogy that makes logical sense would be brothers; twins can be born at the same time and, if eternal, could co-exist eternally.[40] They would describe this aspect of their theology, that Christ came into being when God created Him, with the phrase; “He was not before His generation.”[41] While the Arians used this argument with opposing bishops they would also spring it on people in the market places, especially those that Athanasius referred to as “silly women.” The Arians would ask them; “Hadst thou a son before bearing? now [sic], as thou hadst not, so neither was the Son of God before His generation.”[42] The appeal to human procreation, to the temporal sequence of generations, seemed like a rock solid logical argument for Christ’s created nature.

Eusebius of Nicomedia drew another argument for this same point from Proverbs 8:22-36, specifically the Septuagint’s translation of vv. 22. In the LXX it reads; “The Lord made me [εκτισέ με] the beginning of his ways for his works.”[43] Many patristic interprets believed that this passage, in which the speaker is Wisdom personified, was about Jesus Christ. They associated Wisdom in this passage with John’s use of the designation The Word (ο λογος) for Jesus.[44] Eusebius contended that because this passage was talking about The Word and it clearly says that “the Lord made me”, The Word must have been made.[45] One last argument that was made by the Arians was based off of Philippians 2:9-10. In this Passage Paul wrote; “9For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth”. The Arians believed these passages taught that Christ was rewarded for His saving work during the incarnation and received a higher post, was exalted above every name, then He had ever before possessed. Since, according to their interpretation, Jesus gained something that He previously did not possess, He is alterable and therefore not equal to the immutable God.[46] It is these views that caused an uproar in the early Church; by diminishing the nature of Christ the Arians eviscerated the Gospel message and would have, if they had prevailed in their views, left the Christian faith as a hollow shell. They were defeated in this century, but sadly their views continued to crop up throughout history, and today are defended vigorously under the banner of a cult called the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses is a cult that has arisen since the late 19th century, and in 2009, according to the church, had 7.3 million members (witnesses).[47] The seed for what it is today was planted in 1870; Charles Taze Russell, who would become its founder, started a Bible class in Pittsburgh. Russell eventually started a magazine and wrote several books of his take on the Bible. The organization he started took the name “the Jehovah’s Witnesses,” and become the organization we see today, under his successor J.F. (Judge) Rutherford after Russell’s death on October 31, 1916.[48] Today the JWs’ influence can be seen in the plethora of tracts, articles, and other literature published each year defending a deeply anti-Biblical, and strongly Arian, faith. Like the Arians, the JWs believe that Christ was a created being, the most powerful of all created beings, through whom God did all of His creating work.[49] When Jesus became incarnated it is believed that He was no longer a spirit being in any way; instead He became fully man, perfect but not anything more than human.[50] The JWs believe that He is a “mighty God” (Elohim), but not “Jehovah.” They also believe Him to be the chief of angels, the one that the Bible sometimes calls “Michael.”[51] If Arius’ confession is to be believed as a true representation of Arius’ views in as much as it affirms, then the JW and the Arians disagree on one point; the JWs claim that the resurrection of Jesus was a spiritual one[52] and Arius apparently believed that it was a “resurrection of the flesh.”[53] Even with their apparent disagreement over the nature of the resurrection, the JWs agree with the Arian belief that a reward was given to Christ for His completed work. The JWs believe that Jehovah bestowed upon Christ a higher honor than He had before the incarnation, they believe that as a reward for His completed work Christ was made a “partaker of the divine nature–the very highest of the spirit natures, possessed of immortality.”[54] Because of the parallels found in Arian and the JWs’ theology the arguments they use are very similar, but Russell and his subsequent followers developed a few arguments for their views that are seemingly unique to the JWs’ writings.

An argument that has an outstanding prevalence in the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ literature, and is often parroted by their proselytizers, is Russell’s interpretation of John 1:1. In most protestant Christian translations this verse reads “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In the JWs’ New World Translation this verse reads; “In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.”[55] This translation declares that Jesus was only a god and the wording “in [the] beginning the Word was” lends itself to understanding Jesus as having come into being in the beginning. Russell himself translated the passage, “The Logos was in the beginning with the God, and the Logos was a God” and declared about this early translation that it “is the literal translation of the Greek, as can be readily confirmed by any one, whether a Greek scholar or not.” He justifies this translation by explaining that the absence of the Greek definite article[56] “ο” (ho) before the second instance of θεος (Theos; God) was a purposeful omission by John, contrasting with the first instance of θεὸς with the article, to indicate that Jesus was only “a god” and not “God” or “The God.”[57] He also writes that the word “beginning” indicates the beginning of God’s creative work and confirms that Jesus was the first divine creative act.[58] In a more modern attempt to justify this translation the anonymous writer(s) of The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures appeals to different grammars to justify a belief that the anarthrous construction of the noun θεος indicates a quality of ὁ λόγος (ho logos; the Word)[59] and writes, like Russell, that the apostle intentionally “refers to God as the God and to the Word or logos as a god, to show the difference between the two.”[60] This is an argument that seems, at least in their writings, to be authentic and powerful. They claim to have the support of numerous grammars and write with an authoritative feel that delivers the impression that they know what they are talking about. Like the Arians, the JWs also appeal to a slew of Scriptures that talk about Jesus being the “firstborn”(Psalm 89:27) and “only-begotten” (1 John 4:9) to argue that Jesus was both a created being, the first of God’s creation, and the only creation made directly by God.[61] The Arians and the JWs used, and use today, a seemingly impressive arsenal of arguments from all over Scripture to justify their Christology, but—just as Athanasius and Alexander where able to do in the 4th­ century—these contentions are able to be parried and a strong argument can be raised against their position today.

In today’s society many people have heard the JWs’ argument from John 1:1, so this will be a good place to start. It is important to note that Charles Taze Russell had no education in the biblical languages,[62] and the translation team for The New World Translation has never been officially revealed so their credentials are unverifiable.[63] Russell claims that his translation of the Greek is “the literal translation”, and that anybody could verify this; this is transparently false. If someone approached this passage with a simple dictionary and very basic knowledge of translating a Greek verb they would come up with a very different translation. In the original Greek John 1:1 reads; “Εν αρχη ην ο λόγος, και ο λογος ην προς τον θεόν, και θεος ην ο λόγος.”[64] A word for word translation made by someone with no knowledge of Greek grammar would probably read like this; “In beginning was the Word, and the Word was with the God, and God was the Word.” Someone who knew just enough Greek to be dangerous may translate “θεὸς” in the last part of this verse as “a god,” because they would know that biblical Greek does not have an indefinite article and that a noun that does not have the definite article may legitimately be translated with the indefinite article “a/an.”[65] This may very well be how Russell came to his translation. However further study of Greek reveals that the grammatical construction within which θεὸς is found does not support his conclusion and, with the surrounding context, rules his translation out. E.C. Colwell has shown that in New Testament Greek the predicate nominative[66] acting as the object of a “to be” verb will regularly be anarthrous, but still retain a definite meaning; it is only translated as indefinite if the context demands this.[67] Millard J. Erickson argues that if θεὸς was marked with a definite article in this passage it would lead to a modalistic translation. If the passage read, “και ο θεος ην ο λόγος” this would prove too much; it would indicate absolute equation between God and the Word which would lead to Sabellianism.[68] The only way for John to have indicated a Trinitarian understanding of this passage would be to write it as he did.

The appeals that the Kingdom Interlinear Translation made to different grammars were shown to be taken out of context when the authors of the grammars wrote to the Watchtower Organization challenging them on their bad scholarship.[69] As to Russell’s statement that “in the beginning the word was” indicates that Christ was created, commentator Leon Morris contends that the word beginning (ἀρχῇ, archē) indicates that there never was a time when Jesus did not exist and never was there a time were something existed that did not depend on Him. Morris also contends that ἦν (ēn) indicates that the Word has an eternal existence, “the Word continually was.” There is no reason grammatically, and definitely not contextually, to accept Russell’s, and the later New World Translation’s, translation of John 1:1.[70]

The next argument to look at is the Arian argument from Proverbs 8:22-36. Many of the early Church Fathers understood this passage to refer to Jesus and as a result struggled with verse 22. In the LXX the key phrase for the Arians is translated “The Lord made me,” “made me” being a translation of the phrase “ἔκτισέ με,” but this is contextually probably an inaccurate translation of the Hebrew with which Proverbs was originally written. The Hebrew word that the LXX translates with “εκτισέ με” is the word קָנָנִי (qānānî) from the wordקָנָה (qānāh)[71] which is a verb that means “to get, acquire.”[72] Modern English translations are mixed on how this is to be translated. The NIV (1984 and 2011), NRSV, and the NET translate it with the sense of a creating action.[73] The NASB, NKJV, ESV, and KJV translate it with the word “possessed.” It is used 84 times throughout the OT and only seven of these times allow for the sense “create,” though they do not require this translation. Every other use has the sense of “get” (come to possess, acquire).[74] It is because of recent studies of Ugaritic literature that scholarly opinion has swayed toward the meaning “create,” especially for its use in Proverbs 8:22. One of the editors of The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament writes that; “The Ug [Ugaritic] evidence seems to prove the possible meaning of “create” although several of the usages are found in broken and difficult texts. The main usage in UG is the title of Asherah as “creatress of the gods.” But the title of El the chief deity is “creator” (bny). It is probable that the word qny in Ug should be interpreted as “one who brings forth” rather than “creator.””[75] W.A. Irwin has pointed out that the title “creatress of the gods” and an expression made by Eve using קָנָה in Genesis 4:1, imply parenthood; bringing forth, rather than creating.[76] Derek Kinder in his commentary on Proverbs writes that, “[T]his word expresses getting and possessing, in ways that vary with the context. Goods are possessed by purchase, children by birth (cf. our idiom, to ‘have’ a baby), wisdom—for mortals—by learning. And Wisdom for God? To say that at first He lacked it and had to create or learn it, is both alien to this passage and absurd… possessed is perhaps (as Irwin concludes) the most serviceable word for the translator here.”[77] It is this translation, found in the NASB et al., that is the best fit contextually and grammatically. This fits well with the following verse where Wisdom declares “From everlasting I was established” (v. 23) and with the overarching context of this passage in which Wisdom is claiming to have been with God at creation. This shows that even if the passage could be shown to have christological implications it is not teaching that Wisdom was created like the Arians suggested. That this could be shown is doubtful; the writers of the NT do not regard this passage as a prophecy that could be pushed to produce christological details.[78] On the use of Wisdom in relation to Christ F.F. Bruce writes; “What Paul and his contemporaries imply is not so much that the personified Wisdom of the OT books is really Christ, as that Christ—the Christ who lived on earth as man, who died and rose again, “whom God made our wisdom” (1 Cor. 1:30)—is the one who was before all creation, the preexistent, cosmic Christ.”[79] To pull christological conclusions out of this passage is a stretch, especially when these conclusions contradict the rest of the testimony of Scripture, and the conclusion of an Arian Christology from this passage requires the translation of a Hebrew word that is not supported by context or grammar.

The last argument to look at is the Arian and Jehovah’s Witnesses’ argument from passages that speak of Christ as the “firstborn” of creation, as seemingly “the only-begotten” Son, and the Arian argument from the nature of “a son.” Throughout the NT Jesus is referred to as the Son of God, or the Son of man, and as such His identity as a son is well established.[80] The Arian’s, as we have already seen, argued that because Jesus was the Son of God He must have been created. Athanasius thought that this was ridiculous; he saw no reason why a son could not be co-existent—eternally co-existent in the case of the Godhead—with his father. Athanasius gets at the heart of the issue when he writes, “For never was the essence of the Father imperfect, that what is proper to it should be added afterwards; nor, as man from man, has the Son been begotten, so as to be later than His Father’s existence, but He is God’s offspring, and as being proper Son of God, who is ever, God’s offspring is eternal, for His nature is ever perfect.”[81] The Arians were mired in their perception of what it meant to be a son; for them it was an issue of temporal succession. A son comes after his father. It would seem to be ridiculous for a son to co-exist eternally with his father, for them this would negate the idea of him being a son. The Arians were so stuck in their analogy of a human father-son relationship that they missed the purpose of what Scripture is teaching. Athanasius spent his time writing that Christ is a son to the father in a different sense, in almost everything but the temporal sense.[82] He goes on to explain how his view makes logical sense. Athanasius writes that kids are not possessions; they are not created or purchased from the external but instead come from inside. To suggest, within the Arian analogy, that Jesus had to be God’s son temporally leads to the conclusion that He could not have been created from nothing because kids proceed from their parents. Athanasius argues that for man a child is within his body until he is physically able, and an opportunity arises, to procreate and then he becomes a father. Because of the limitations of a physical human body, and the necessity of human relationships, this event takes time. But his child, in the sense of being potentially inside of him, co-existed with him. He says that “Levi too was already in the loins of his great-grandfather, before his own actual generation, or that of his grandfather.”[83] Since God is not restrained by the need to have a partner for begetting a son, and in His immutable and eternal being would ever be capable, a Son would co-exist eternally with Him. He concludes that the silly women who the Arians were challenging in the market places should respond to their challengers by telling them that, “He[the Son] is simply from the Father” and since nothing restrains the Father from having a Son, His Son will co-exist eternally with Him.[84]

As to the challenge from Colossians 1:15, that “the firstborn” means Christ was created, this is a little easier to address. The Arians mistakenly assumed that “firstborn” (πρωτότοκος – prōtotokos), in this context, had a temporal sense of “the one who was birthed before the rest.” This is not required by the context, nor is it the preferred understanding. This term is better understood within the customs of biblical times; “Christ has the rights or privileges of the “first-born”–that is, according to biblical usage and custom, the right of leadership or authority in the family for one’s generation.”[85][86] Colossians 1:15 is not saying that Christ was the first of all created beings, but that He is preeminent over all creation; He has the rights of the firstborn, the privilege of rule and of all authority over creation.[87] The last verse that is used to argue along these lines is 1 John 4:9, where Jesus is called God’s “only-begotten Son.” JWs argue that “only-begotten” indicates that Jesus was God’s first, and only direct, creation. After God created Jesus, all the rest of God’s creating work was done through Him. When the Nicene Creed was drafted the early Church Fathers did not explain what “begotten” meant, but they were careful to show what it did not mean. Against this sort of argument they affirmed that Jesus was “begotten, not made.” For them, whatever begotten meant it did not mean created or birthed.[88] This is what they believed Scripture taught, but some scholars don’t even think we need to leave “begotten” hanging without a definition; they think that this translation is wrong. The word translated “only-begotten” is “τον μονογενη” (tov monogenē) from the word “μονογενής” (monogenēs). Traditionally this word has been seen as coming from two Greek terms; μονο (mono), meaning “only,” and the verb γενναω (gennaō), meaning “to bear, beget.” This etymological argument leads to the conclusion that the word means “only-begotten,” and this meaning has been thought to work in this context. Wayne Grudem suggests that this understanding is wrong; if this word came from μονο and γενναω it would be “μονογεννητος” (monogennētos). Instead he suggests that it comes from μονο and the term γενος (genos), meaning “kind, class.” The word μονογενη from this understanding means “one-of-a-kind” or “unique.” Contextually this makes more sense, and this use for μονογενη can be seen in Hebrews 11:17. In this passage Isaac is said to be Abraham’s μονογενη, but if this word meant “only-begotten” this is not true. Abraham already had a son named Ishmael through Hagar. The meaning “unique” fits well in this context; even though Isaac was not the only son of Abraham, he was the one-of-a-kind son in that he was the son of promise.[89] It can be seen that the Arian arguments in history, and those used today, do not hold up; they are not strong enough to support the erroneous beliefs of those who espouse them.

In the light of clear Biblical evidence for Christ’s deity Arianism cannot stand. The proper translation of John 1:1 gives profound evidence for Christ deity, but the most powerful passage in support of this understanding is John 8:58. Jesus proclaimed to the Jews to whom He was speaking that; “before Abraham was born, I am.” This seems like an odd statement, but in light of God’s revelation of Himself in the Old Testament it is profound. Jesus is claiming to have existed before Abraham, but even more so He is claiming to be God who revealed himself to Moses on Mount Sinai.[90] The statement “I am” is using the same word that the LXX used to translate God’s proclamation of “I AM WHO I AM,” revealing His divine name. The Jews immediately recognized that Jesus was claiming to be God, and as such they picked up stones to stone Him for blasphemy (John 8:59).

Without any sound arguments in support of it, and with an overwhelming amount of biblical evidence for Christ’s deity; Arian Christology falls flat. Just as it was defeated in the 4th century, today we can still raise a strong argument against Arianism and refute its heterodox claims. Jehovah’s Witnesses, as modern day Arians, are just as susceptible to these arguments. Like Nicene fathers over 1600 years ago, the Church needs to be prepared to defend our doctrine of the nature of Christ and be ready to make our stand on this truth. In our postmodern culture the truth of the Gospel is being whittled away in the name of tolerance: it has become taboo to say that a cult like the JWs are wrong; they are just another Christian denomination that is different. Within mainstream Evangelical movements today like the Emerging Church, the doctrines we hold as of the utmost importance are loosely held. As the liberal church in the late 19th century and the 20th century gave up on a supernatural Christ and attempted to paint him as a mere man, the evangelical Church could slide down the same slippery slope today. The Church needs to have an understanding of our foundational doctrines, Christology being one of them, and need to be aware of the heresies in the past so that we can recognize them today. If not, we may be led astray by their subtle twisting of vital truth.


[1] Christology can be defined as; “[T]he study of what is to be believed about the person of Jesus Christ”. Millard J Erickson, The Word Became Flesh, 2nd ed 2000. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1991), 9.

[2] Socrates Scholacticus, The Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholacticus, in Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers Series 2: Socrates and Sozomenus Ecclesiastical Histories, vol. II (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, n.d.), ii.iv.v., http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf202.

[3] Abbreviated JWs.

[4] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church: Nicene and post-Nicene Christianity, A.D. 311-600, vol. III, Revised 5th Edition, History of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1981), 639–640.

[5] Eusebius Pamphilus, The Church History of Eusebius, in Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers Series 2: Eusebius Pamphilus: Church History, Life of Constantine, Oration in Praise of Constantine, vol. I (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, n.d.), iii.iii.i.v., http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf201.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 627.

[8] Eusebius, Church, in Schaff and Wace, NPNF2-I, iii.iii.i.v.

[9] This heresy is now-a-days called Modalism; this is the belief that God is one being who manifests himself in three different ways, at different times.

[10]Socrates in Schaff and Wace, NPNF2-II, ii.iv.v.

[11] The letter recorded by Socrates, Ibid., ii.iv.vi.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Sozomenus, The Ecclesiastical History of Sozomenus, in Ibid., iii.vi.xvii.

[14] Eusebius, The Life of Constantine, in Schaff and Wace, NPNF2-I, iv.vi.iii.viii.

[15] Athanasius, Synodal Letter to the Bishops of Africa, in Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers Series 2: Athanasius: Selected Works and Letters, vol. IV (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, n.d.), xxiv.ii., http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf204.

[16] Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 624.

[17] Eusebius of Caesarea, Council of Nicaea, in Schaff and Wace, NPNF2-IV, ix.ii.

[18] Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 627.

[19] Socrates in Schaff and Wace, NPNF2-II, ii.iv.ix.

[20] Socrates in Ibid., ii.iv.viii.

[21] Ibid.

[22] [We] and [Believe] is from the book, the other note was added. Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 632.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid., 632–633.

[27] Ibid., 633.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Homoi-ousianism believed that the Father and the Son were of similar essence; not one in essence (Nicene Christianity) nor totally different in essence (Arianism). Ibid., 636.

[30]Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 639–640.

[31] Theodoret, The Ecclesiastical History of Theodoret, in Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers Series 2: Theodoret, Jerome, Gennadius, and Rufinus: Historical Writings, vol. III (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, n.d.), iv.viii.i.v., http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf203.

[32] Athanasius, On the Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia, in Schaff and Wace, NPNF2-IV, xxii.ii.ii.

[33] In his letter preserved by; Socrates in Schaff and Wace, NPNF2-II, ii.iv.vi.

[34] Ibid., ii.iv.xxvi.

[35] Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 645.

[36] Ibid., 643.

[37] All scriptures, only otherwise stated, are taken from the; New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).

[38] Gregg R Allison and Wayne A Grudem, Historical Theology : an introduction to Christian doctrine : a companion to Wayne Grudem’s Systematic theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2011), 369.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Athanasius, Against the Arians, in Schaff and Wace, NPNF2-IV, xxi.ii.i.v.

[41] Ibid., xxi.ii.i.vii.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Lancelot Charles Lee Brenton, The Septuagint with Apocrypha : Greek and English (Peabody, Ma.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1986).

[44] F. F Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1984), 60.

[45] Athanasius, Defence of the Nicene Definition, in Schaff and Wace, NPNF2-IV, npnf204.xiv.ii.iii.html#fnf_xiv.ii.iii–p2.2.

[46] Athanasius, Against, in Ibid., xxi.ii.i.xi.

[47] “2009 Report of Jehovah’s Witnesses Worldwide,” accessed December 10, 2012, http://www.watchtower.org/statistics/worldwide_report.htm.

[48] Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults (Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany House Publishers, 1985), 38–39.

[49] Socrates in Schaff and Wace, NPNF2-II, ii.iv.xxvi.html#fnf_ii.iv.xxvi–p5.1.

[50] Kingdom is at Hand 46, 47, 49; quoted in W.R. Martin and N. Klann, Jehovah of the Watchtower: a Thorough Exposé of the Important anti-Biblical Teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Biblical Truth Pub. Society, 1953), 38–39.

[51] Pastor Russell, Studies in Scripture, Series V: The At-one-ment Between God and Man (Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A.: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., 1926), 84–85.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Socrates in Schaff and Wace, NPNF2-II, ii.iv.xxvi.html#fnf_ii.iv.xxvi–p5.1.

[54] Pastor Russell, Studies in Scirpture, 85.

[55] Emphasis added. The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures (Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A.: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., 1969).“Online Bible – New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures,” accessed December 10, 2012, http://www.jw.org/en/publications/bible/john/1#v-1.

[56] In Greek there is only a definite article, unlike English which has the definite article “the” and the indefinite article “a/an.”

[57] Pastor Russell, Studies in Scirpture, 86.

[58] Ibid.

[59] The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, 1158.

[60] Ibid., 1159.

[61] Pastor Russell, Studies in Scirpture, 88.

[62] Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, 42–43.

[63] That being said, a defector from the Jehovah’s Witnesses revealed those who translated the text and out of these 5 men only one claimed to know the Biblical languages, but even he failed a simple Hebrew test in Scottish court of law. Ron Rhodes, The Challenge of the Cults and New Religions: The Essential Guide to Their History, Their Doctrine, and Our Response (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2001), 94.

[64] This is the text underlying the NASB translation, and is also in the The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition; neither of these Bibles offer an alternate Greek reading. Michael W. Holmes, The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition (Logos Bible Software, 2010).

[65] Though the context and the construction within which it is found would have to indicate this translation.

[66] The subject and the object of a “to be” verb in Greek will both be in the Greek nominative case.

[67] Leon Lamb Morris, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1996), 68.

[68] Millard J Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1998), 705.

[69] Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, 87.

[70] Morris, The Gospel According to John, 68.

[71] TWOT #2039; Strong’s Hebrew #7069.

[72] Francis Brown et al., The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English lexicon : with an appendix containing the Biblical Aramaic : coded with the numbering system from Strong’s Exhaustive concordance of the Bible (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996), 888–889.

[73] Brought forth, created

[74] Derek Kidner, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries : the Proverbs (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1983), 79.

[75] R. Laird Harris, Gleason L Archer, and Bruce K Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 804.

[76] Kidner, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 79–80.

[77] Ibid., 80.

[78] Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, 60.

[79] Ibid.

[80] Son of God: Mark 1:1, Luke 22:68-70, John 1:49, John 20:31, etc. Son of Man: Matt 10:23, Matt 12:8

[81] Athanasius, Against in Schaff and Wace, NPNF2-IV, xxi.ii.i.v.

[82] Ibid.

[83] Athanasius, Against, in Schaff and Wace, NPNF2-IV, xxi.ii.i.viii.

[84] Ibid.

[85] Wayne Grudem, Systematic theology : an introduction to biblical doctrine (Leicester; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press ; Zondervan, 1994), 243.

[86] An example of this meaning is found in Heb. 12:15 where Esau is said to have sold his birthright, or first-born status. The word here πρωτοτόκια is a cognate of πρωτότοκος in Colossians 1:15, meaning the right of a first-born. Ibid.

[87] Ibid.

[88] Socrates in Schaff and Wace, NPNF2-II, ii.iv.viii.

[89] Grudem, Systematic theology, 1233.

[90] Roy B.; Dallas Theological Seminary Walvoord, John F.; Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), John 8:58.


 

Bibliography

Allison, Gregg R, and Wayne A Grudem. Historical Theology : an introduction to Christian doctrine : a companion to Wayne Grudem’s Systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2011.

Athanasius, Against the Arians, in Schaff, Philip, and Henry Wace, eds. Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers Series 2: Athanasius: Selected Works and Letters. Vol. IV. XIV vols. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, n.d. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf204.

———, Defence of the Nicene Definition, in Schaff, Philip, and Henry Wace, eds. Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers Series 2: Athanasius: Selected Works and Letters. Vol. IV. XIV vols. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, n.d. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf204.

———, On the Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia, in Schaff, Philip, and Henry Wace, eds. Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers Series 2: Athanasius: Selected Works and Letters. Vol. IV. XIV vols. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, n.d. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf204.

———, Synodal Letter to the Bishops in Africa, in Schaff, Philip, and Henry Wace, eds. Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers Series 2: Athanasius: Selected Works and Letters. Vol. IV. XIV vols. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, n.d. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf204.

Brenton, Lancelot Charles Lee. The Septuagint with Apocrypha : Greek and English. Peabody, Ma.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1986.

Brown, Francis, S. R Driver, Charles A Briggs, James Strong, and Wilhelm Gesenius. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English lexicon : with an appendix containing the Biblical Aramaic : coded with the numbering system from Strong’s Exhaustive concordance of the Bible. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996.

Bruce, F. F. The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1984.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1998.

———. The Word Became Flesh. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1991.

Eusebius of Caesarea, Council of Nicaea, in Schaff, Philip, and Henry Wace, eds. Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers Series 2: Athanasius: Selected Works and Letters. Vol. IV. XIV vols. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, n.d. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf204.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic theology : an introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press ; Zondervan, 1994.

Harris, R. Laird, Gleason L Archer, and Bruce K Waltke. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Chicago: Moody Press, 1980.

Holmes, Michael W. The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition. Logos Bible Software, 2010.

Kidner, Derek. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries : the Proverbs. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1983.

Martin, W.R., and N. Klann. Jehovah of the Watchtower: a Thorough Exposé of the Important anti-Biblical Teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Biblical Truth Pub. Society, 1953.

Martin, Walter. The Kingdom of the Cults. Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany House Publishers, 1985.

Morris, Leon Lamb. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1996.

Pamphilus, Eusebius, The Church History of Eusebius, in Schaff, Philip, and Henry Wace, eds. Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers Series 2: Eusebius Pamphilus: Church History, Life of Constantine, Oration in Praise of Constantine. Vol. I. XIV vols. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, n.d. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf201.

———, Life of Constantine, in Schaff, Philip, and Henry Wace, eds. Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers Series 2: Eusebius Pamphilus: Church History, Life of Constantine, Oration in Praise of Constantine. Vol. I. XIV vols. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, n.d. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf201.

Pastor Russell. Studies in Scripture, Series V: The At-one-ment Between God and Man. Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A.: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., 1926.

Rhodes, Ron. The Challenge of the Cults and New Religions: The Essential Guide to Their History, Their Doctrine, and Our Response. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2001.

Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church: Nicene and post-Nicene Christianity, A.D. 311-600. Vol. III. VIII vols. Revised 5th Edition. History of the Christian Church. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1981.

Scholacticus, Socrates, The Ecclesiastical History of Socrates, in Schaff, Philip, and Henry Wace, eds. Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers Series 2: Eusebius Pamphilus: Church History, Life of Constantine, Oration in Praise of Constantine. Vol. I. XIV vols. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, n.d. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf201.

Sozomenus, The Ecclesiastical History of Sozomenus, in Schaff, Philip, and Henry Wace, eds. Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers Series 2: Socrates and Sozomenus Ecclesiastical Histories. Vol. II. XIV vols. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, n.d. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf202.

Theodoret, The Ecclesiastical History of Theodoret, in Schaff, Philip, and Henry Wace, eds. Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers Series 2: Theodoret, Jerome, Gennadius, and Rufinus: Historical Writings. Vol. III. XIV vols. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, n.d. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf203.

Walvoord, John F.; Zuck, Roy B.; Dallas Theological Seminary. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985.

“2009 Report of Jehovah’s Witnesses Worldwide.” Accessed December 10, 2012. http://www.watchtower.org/statistics/worldwide_report.htm.

New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.

“Online Bible – New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.” Accessed December 10, 2012. http://www.jw.org/en/publications/bible/john/1#v-1.

The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures. Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A.: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., 1969.

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