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Particulars of Christianity:
301 Roman Catholicism

Roman Catholicism (Part 11)

Roman Catholicism (Part 1)
Roman Catholicism (Part 2)
Roman Catholicism (Part 3)
Roman Catholicism (Part 4)
Roman Catholicism (Part 5)
Roman Catholicism (Part 6)
Roman Catholicism (Part 7)
Roman Catholicism (Part 8)
Roman Catholicism (Part 9)
Roman Catholicism (Part 10)
Roman Catholicism (Part 11)
Roman Catholicism (Part 12)
Addendum: In Their Own Words

(Continued from previous section.)

Eusebius's Gnostic Influence on Roman Catholic Theology

Eusebius of Caesarea, who lived in the early 4th century, is recognized as one of the more influential writers of the Christianity.

"Eusebius Of Caesarea - flourished 4th century, Caesarea Palestinae, Palestine also called Eusebius Pamphili bishop, exegete, polemicist, and historian whose account of the first centuries of Christianity, in his Ecclesiastical History, is a landmark in Christian historiography." - Britannica.com

"Eusebius Of Caesarea - The work of the scholars of the Christian school at Caesarea extended into all fields of Christian writing. Eusebius himself wrote voluminously as apologist, chronographer, historian, exegete…" - Britannica.com

"Eusebius of Cæsarea - Eusebius Pamphili, Bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine, the 'Father of Church History.'" - Catholic Encyclopedia

"Eusebius of Cæsarea - (5) The Church History. It would be difficult to overestimate the obligation which posterity is under to Eusebius for this monumental work. Living during the period of transition, when the old order was changing and all connected with it was passing into oblivion, he came forward at the critical moment with his immense stores of learning and preserved priceless treasures of Christian antiquity. This is the great merit of the Church History." - Catholic Encyclopedia

Similarly, as we discussed somewhat earlier, Eusebius must be credited with the formation of the 4th century (or Roman Catholic) understanding of the papacy, the Church, and the relationship of the Church and the State.

"Christianity - Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 260-c. 340) was the court theologian of Emperor Constantine the Great, who formed the Orthodox understanding of the mutual relationship of church and state. He saw the empire and the imperial church as sharing a close bond with one another; in the centre of the Christian empire stood the figure of the Christian emperor rather than that of the spiritual head of the church." - Britannica.com

"Christianity - Eusebius made this idea the basis of his political theology, in which the Christian emperor appears as God's representative on Earth in whom God himself 'lets shine forth the image of his absolute power.'" - Britannica.com

"Christianity - This religious interpretation of the Christian emperor reinterpreted in the Christian sense the ancient Roman institution of the god-emperor. Some of Eusebius' remarks echo the cult of the Unconquered Sun, the Sol Invictus, who was represented by the emperor according to pagan understanding. The emperor-in this respect he also resembled the pagan god-emperor who played the role of the pontifex maximus (high priest) in the state cult-took the central position within the church as well… The Christian emperor entered not only the political but also the sacred succession of the Roman god-emperor. Next to such a figure, an independent leadership of the church could hardly develop." - Britannica.com

Other than his historical works, Eusebius dedicated himself to copying books including the scripture and the writings of Origen, of whom he was quite fond (just like Ambrose and Augustine). He even co-authored an apology of Origen's theology with his mentor, Pamphilus.

"Eusebius of Cæsarea - Too humble to write anything himself, he spent his time in preparing accurate copies of the Scriptures and other books, especially those of Origen…It must be remembered that Origen's own copy of the Hexapla was in the library of Pamphilus. It had probably been deposited there by Origen himself." - Catholic Encyclopedia

"Eusebius of Cæsarea - Towards the end of 307 Pamphilus was arrested, horribly tortured, and consigned to prison. Besides continuing his work of editing the Septuagint, he wrote, in collaboration with Eusebius, a Defence of Origen which was sent to the confessors in the mines - a wonderful gift from a man whose sides had been curried with iron combs, to men with their right eyes burned out and the sinews of their left legs cauterized." - Catholic Encyclopedia

"Eusebius of Cæsarea - (34) The Apology for Origen. This work has already been mentioned in connection with Pamphilus. It consisted of six books, the last of which was added by Eusebius. Only the first book is extant, in a translation by Rufinus." - Catholic Encyclopedia

In 313 A.D., Eusebius was made bishop of Caesarea. Shortly, thereafter, the Arian controversy erupted onto the scene of Church history. Arius, the founder of the heresy, found sanctuary, sympathy, and support in Caesarea from Eusebius, after being excommunicated from Alexandria.

"Eusebius Of Caesarea - Eusebius became bishop of Caesarea (in Palestine) about 313. When about 318 the theological views of Arius, a priest of Alexandria, became the subject of controversy because he taught the subordination of the Son to the Father, Eusebius was soon involved. Expelled from Alexandria for heresy, Arius sought and found sympathy at Caesarea, and, in fact, he proclaimed Eusebius as a leading supporter." - Britannica.com

"Eusebius of Caesarea - or Eusebius Pamphili, c.263-339?, Greek apologist and church historian, b. Palestine. He was bishop of Caesarea, Palestine (314?-339). In the controversy over Arianism, Eusebius favored the semi-Arian views of Eusebius of Nicomedia, and he once gave refuge to Arius." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Eusebius of Cæsarea - The Arians soon found that for all practical purposes Eusebius was on their side. He wrote to Alexander charging him with misrepresenting the teaching of the Arians and so giving them cause "to attack and misrepresent whatever they please" (see below). A portion of this letter has been preserved in the Acts of the second Council of Nicæa, where it was cited to prove that Eusebius was a heretic. He also took part in a synod of Syrian bishops who decided that Arius should be restored to his former position…" - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Eusebius of Cæsarea - A portion of this letter was read at the Second Council of Nicæa, and against it were set portions from the letters to Alexander and Euphrasion to prove that Eusebius 'was delivered up to a reprobate sense, and of one mind and opinion with those who followed the Arian superstition' (Labbe, "Conc.", VIII, 1143-1147; Mansi, "Conc.", XIII, 313-317)." - Catholic Encyclopedia

"Eusebius of Nicomedia - At the request of Arius, Eusebius of Cæsarea and others met together in Palestine, and authorized him to return to the Church which he had governed in Alexandria." - Catholic Encyclopedia

Arius' acceptance in Caesarea is not at all surprising given Eusebius' (of Caesarea) affinity for Origen, who, like Arius, had been excommunicated from Alexandria for heresy and was promptly given asylum in Caesarea.

"Eusebius of Cæsarea - Arius, like Origen before him, found an asylum at Cæsarea." - Catholic Encyclopedia

Eusebius' close relationship with emperor Constantine is also generally acknowledged.

"Christianity - Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 260-c. 340) was the court theologian of Emperor Constantine the Great…" - Britannica.com

"Eusebius of Cæsarea - Concerning Eusebius's parentage we know absolutely nothing; but the fact that he escaped with a short term of imprisonment during the terrible Diocletian persecution, when his master Pamphilus and others of his companions suffered martyrdom, suggests that he belonged to a family of some influence and importance. His relations, later on, with the Emperor Constantine point to the same conclusion." - Catholic Encyclopedia

"Eusebius of Cæsarea - At the opening of the Council of Nicæa Eusebius occupied the first seat on the right of the emperor, and delivered the inaugural address which was 'couched in a strain of thanksgiving to Almighty God on his, the emperor's behalf' (Vit. Const., III, 11; Soz., H. E., I, 19). He evidently enjoyed great prestige…" - Catholic Encyclopedia

In fact, it is Eusebius of Caesarea, who wrote the biography of Constantine's life.

"Eusebius of Cæsarea - (6) The Life of Constantine, in four books. This work has been most unjustly blamed, from the time of Socrates downwards, because it is a panegyric rather than a history. If ever there was a man under an obligation to respect the maxim, De mortuis nil nisi bonum, this man was Eusebius, writing the Life of Constantine within three years after his death (337). This Life is especially valuable because of the account it gives of the Council of Nicæa and the earlier phases of the Arian controversy. It is well to remember that one of our chief sources of information for the history of that council is a book written to magnify Constantine." - Catholic Encyclopedia

After being accused of heresy himself and excommunicated for it, Eusebius was reinstated under emperor Constantine's approval at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D.

"Eusebius Of Caesarea - Eusebius did not fully support either Arius or Alexander, bishop of Alexandria from 313 to 328, whose views appeared to tend toward Sabellianism (a heresy that taught that God was manifested in progressive modes). Eusebius wrote to Alexander, claiming that Arius had been misrepresented, and he also urged Arius to return to communion with his bishop. But events were moving fast, and at a strongly anti-Arian synod at Antioch, about January 325, Eusebius and two of his allies, Theodotus of Laodicea and Narcissus of Neronias in Cilicia, were provisionally excommunicated for Arian views. When the Council of Nicaea, called by the Roman emperor Constantine I, met later in the year, Eusebius had to explain himself and was exonerated with the explicit approval of the emperor." - Britannica.com

The Council of Nicaea had been called by Constantine in the interest of maintaining unity in the Church and the empire. Exactly which (the Church or the empire) was his priority is debated by historians. The council was specifically called to address the spread of Arianism. (We will take a look at Constantine's contributions to Roman Catholic syncretism a little later on.)

"Nicaea, Council of - (325), the first ecumenical council of the Christian church, meeting in ancient Nicaea (now Iznik, Tur.). It was called by the emperor Constantine I, an unbaptized catechumen, or neophyte, who presided over the opening session and took part in the discussions. He hoped a general council of the church would solve the problem created in the Eastern church by Arianism, a heresy first proposed by Arius of Alexandria that affirmed that Christ is not divine but a created being." - Britannica.com

At the council the views of Arius and the Arian party were represented by Eusebius of Caesarea.

"Arianism - A creed was drawn up on behalf of the Arian party by Eusebius of Caesarea in which every term of honour and dignity, except the oneness of substance, was attributed to Our Lord." - Catholic Encyclopedia

To be sure, the Creed put forth by Council of Nicaea in response to the issue of the nature of Christ was by all means concretely orthodox. Arius, the founder of Arianism, was condemned and sent into exile by Constantine.

"Nicaea, Council of - The council condemned Arius and, with reluctance on the part of some, incorporated the nonscriptural word homoousios ("of one substance") into a creed (the Nicene Creed) to signify the absolute equality of the Son with the Father. The emperor then exiled Arius, an act that, while manifesting a solidarity of church and state, underscored the importance of secular patronage in ecclesiastical affairs." - Britannica.com

"Arius - The Council of Nicaea, in May 325, declared Arius a heretic after he refused to sign the formula of faith stating that Christ was of the same divine nature as God." - Britannica.com

"Arius - c.256-336, Libyan theologian, founder of the Arian heresy. A parish priest in Alexandria, he advanced the doctrine famous as Arianism and was excommunicated locally (321). He was declared orthodox in Asia Minor, where he had fled (323), but he was anathematized by the Council of Nicaea (see Nicaea, First Council of) and banished by Roman Emperor Constantine (325)." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Arius - He must have been of great age when, after fruitless negotiations and a visit to Egypt, he appeared in 325 at Nicaea, where the confession of faith which he presented was torn in pieces. With his writings and followers he underwent the anathemas subscribed by more than 300 bishops. He was banished into Illyricum. Two prelates shared his fate, Tehonas of Marmarica and Secundus of Ptolemais. His books were burnt." - Catholic Encyclopedia

Eusebius of Caesarea reluctantly signed the Nicene Creed, but made not attempt to cover his disagreement with it.

"Eusebius of Cæsarea - After some delay Eusebius subscribed to the uncompromising creed drawn up by the council, making no secret, in the letter which he wrote to his own Church, of the non-natural sense in which he accepted it." - Catholic Encyclopedia

Of greater interest than the events of the council itself, however, are the developments that occurred in the aftermath of the council. These events paint an altogether questionable picture of Eusebius of Caesarea as an advocate of heresy and an opponent of orthodoxy. In the decade that followed the Council of Nicaea, Constantine eagerly set about a campaign to unify the Church at the expense of orthodox doctrine.

"Eusebius Of Caesarea - In the years following the Council of Nicaea, the emperor was bent on achieving unity within the church, and so the supporters of the Nicene Creed in its extreme form soon found themselves forced into the position of dissidents." - Britannica.com

Those persons who were chiefly responsible for the orthodox creed and the denunciation of Arius were relentlessly pursued by the heretic's closest allies. One of those who adamantly opposed Arius and his teaching was a man named Athanasius, who led the Council of Nicaea in its acceptance of the orthodox view of Jesus Christ and condemnation of Arianism.

"Athanasius, Saint - born c. 293, Alexandria died May 2, 373, Alexandria; feast day May 2, theologian, ecclesiastical statesman, and Egyptian national leader; he was the chief defender of Christian orthodoxy in the 4th-century battle against Arianism, the heresy that the Son of God was a creature of like, but not of the same, substance as God the Father. His important works include The Life of St. Antony and Four Orations Against the Arians." - Britannica.com

"Nicaea, First Council of - 325, 1st ecumenical council, convened by Roman Emperor Constantine the Great to solve the problems raised by Arianism. It has been said that 318 persons attended, but a more likely number is 225, including every Eastern bishop of importance, four Western bishops (among them Hosius of Córdoba, president of the council), and two papal legates. The chief figures at the council were Arius and his opponent, Athanasius." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Athanasius, Saint - c.297-373, patriarch of Alexandria (328-73), Doctor of the Church, great champion of orthodoxy during the Arian crisis of the 4th cent. (see Arianism). In his youth, as secretary to Bishop Alexander, he took part in the christological debate against Arius at the Council of Nicaea (see Nicaea, First Council of), and thereafter became chief protagonist for Nicene orthodoxy in the long struggle for its acceptance in the East. He defended the homoousion formula that states that Jesus is of the same substance as the Father, against the various Arian parties who held that Jesus was not identical in substance with the Father." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

Eusebius of Caesarea, who had formerly represented the heretic Arius at the Council of Nicaea, and sheltered him in his own bishopric, was actively involved in the removal of Athanasius from his bishopric in Alexandra.

"Eusebius Of Caesarea - Eusebius took part in the expulsion of Athanasius of Alexandria (335), Marcellus of Ancyra (c. 336), and Eustathius of Antioch (c. 337). Eusebius remained in the emperor's favour, and, after Constantine's death in 337, he wrote his Life of Constantine, a panegyric that possesses some historical value, chiefly because of its use of primary sources." - Britannica.com

"Eusebius of Cæsarea - In 334 and 335 he took part in the campaign against St. Athanasius at the synods held in Cæsarea and Tyre respectively." - Catholic Encyclopedia

The result of the Arian persecution of Athanasius, in which Eusebius took part, was Constantine's eventual exile of the bishop of Alexandria (Athanasius) to Gaul without a formal trial.

"Athanasius, Saint - Soon began the struggle with imperialist and Arian churchmen that occupied much of his life…When both parties met the emperor Constantine at Constantinople in 336, Athanasius was accused of threatening to interfere with the grain supply from Egypt, and without any formal trial Constantine exiled him to the Rhineland." - Britannica.com.

"Eusebius Of Nicomedia - His unrelenting harassment of the leaders of the Homoousians helped lead Constantine to depose and exile Bishop St. Athanasius the Great of Alexandria at a synod in Tyre in 335 and to reinstate Arius at a synod in Jerusalem in 335." - Britannica.com

"Constantine I, Roman emperor - He seems to have favored compromise with Arianism, and in 335, in defiance of the Council of Tyre, he exiled St. Athanasius." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Eusebius of Nicomedia - They carefully avoided renewing the accusations of murder and sacrilege, which Constantine had already examined; and Athanasius tells us that five Egyptian bishops reported to him that they rested their case on a new charge, that he had threatened to delay the corn ships from Alexandria which supplied Constantinople. The emperor was enraged. No opportunity of defense was given, and Athanasius was banished to Gaul." - Catholic Encyclopedia

(NOTE: Eusebius of Nicomedia is not to be confused with Eusebius of Caesarea. They are two different Arian supporters. We will take a look at Eusebius of Nicomedia a little later on in our study.)

In the mean time, Constantine commuted Arius's exile and reinstated him back into the Church due to influence from his former allies, including Eusebius of Caesarea and Constantine's daughter, Constantia.

"Arius - Influential support from colleagues in Asia Minor and from Constantia, the emperor Constantine I's daughter, succeeded in effecting Arius' return from exile and his readmission into the church after consenting to a compromise formula. Shortly before he was to be reconciled, however, Arius collapsed and died while walking through the streets of Constantinople." - Britannica.com

"Arius - He was declared orthodox in Asia Minor, where he had fled (323), but he was anathematized by the Council of Nicaea (see Nicaea, First Council of) and banished by Roman Emperor Constantine (325). But in the reaction after Nicaea, he came into imperial favor. The emperor had ordered the Athanasians at Alexandria to receive him at communion when he suddenly died." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Eusebius of Cæsarea - From Tyre the assembly of bishops were summoned to Jerusalem by Constantine, to assist at the dedication of the basilica he had erected on the site of Calvary. After the dedication they restored Arius and his followers to communion. From Jerusalem they were summoned to Constantinople (336), where Marcellus was condemned." - Catholic Encyclopedia

"Arius - The Arians, joined by their old Meletian friends, created troubles in Alexandria. Eusebius persuaded Constantine to recall the exile by indulgent letters in 328; and the emperor not only permitted his return to Alexandria in 331, but ordered Athanasius to reconcile him with the Church. On the saint's refusal more disturbance ensued. The packed and partisan Synod of Tyre deposed Athanasius on a series of futile charges in 335. Catholics were now persecuted; Arius had an interview with Constantine and submitted a creed which the emperor judged to be orthodox. By imperial rescript Arius required Alexander of Constantinople to give him Communion." - Catholic Encyclopedia

"Arianism - Her dying words affected him, and he recalled the Lybian, extracted from him a solemn adhesion to the Nicene faith, and ordered Alexander, Bishop of the Imperial City, to give him Communion in his own church (336). Arius openly triumphed…" - Catholic Encyclopedia

So, though the Council of Nicaea initially upheld orthodoxy and exiled the heretic, the final result was the expulsion of the orthodox bishop who championed the Nicene Creed, the systematic effort to undermine the Council's ruling, and the reinstatement of the heretic, Arius. And who was involved in this effort? Well, among others, emperor Constantine and Eusebius of Caesarea.

In order to fully understand Eusebius of Caesarea it is necessary to take a closer look at the men with whom he was closely associated with and on whose behalf he acted as well as the beliefs of these men, which he both represented and shared.

The first of these men is Arius himself.

The two most important facts about Arius' theology are its incorporation of the Gnostic view of Jesus Christ as a subordinate and created being not to be identified with divinity and the Gnostic fusion of Neoplatonic mysticism with Christianity. In this second aspect, Arius is really no different than Origen or Ambrose and Augustine who, like Arius, shared great affection for Origen and Neoplatonic paganism.

"Arianism - a Christian heresy first proposed early in the 4th century by the Alexandrian presbyter Arius. It affirmed that Christ is not truly divine but a created being. Arius' basic premise was the uniqueness of God, who is alone self-existent and immutable; the Son, who is not self-existent, cannot be God. Because the Godhead is unique, it cannot be shared or communicated, so the Son cannot be God. Because the Godhead is immutable, the Son, who is mutable, being represented in the Gospels as subject to growth and change, cannot be God. The Son must, therefore, be deemed a creature who has been called into existence out of nothing and has had a beginning. Moreover, the Son can have no direct knowledge of the Father since the Son is finite and of a different order of existence." - Britannica.com

"Arianism - Christian heresy founded by Arius in the 4th cent. It was one of the most widespread and divisive heresies in the history of Christianity. As a priest in Alexandria, Arius taught (c.318) that God created, before all things, a Son who was the first creature, but who was neither equal to nor coeternal with the Father. According to Arius, Jesus was a supernatural creature not quite human and not quite divine. In these ideas Arius followed the school of Lucian of Antioch." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Arius - An ascetical, moral leader of a Christian community in the area of Alexandria, Arius attracted a large following through a message integrating Neoplatonism..." - Britannica.com

"Arianism - In the New Testament and in Church teaching Jesus of Nazareth appears as the Son of God. This name He took to Himself (Matthew 11:27; John 10:36), while the Fourth Gospel declares Him to be the Word (Logos), Who in the beginning was with God and was God, by Whom all things were made. A similar doctrine is laid down by St. Paul, in his undoubtedly genuine Epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians, and Philippians. It is reiterated in the Letters of Ignatius, and accounts for Pliny's observation that Christians in their assemblies chanted a hymn to Christ as God. But the question how the Son was related to the Father (Himself acknowledged on all hands to be the one Supreme Deity), gave rise, between the years A.D. 60 and 200, to a number of Theosophic systems, called generally Gnosticism, and having for their authors Basilides, Valentinus, Tatian, and other Greek speculators. Though all of these visited Rome, they had no following in the West, which remained free from controversies of an abstract nature, and was faithful to the creed of its baptism. Intellectual centres were chiefly Alexandria and Antioch, Egyptian or Syrian, and speculation was carried on in Greek. The Roman Church held steadfastly by tradition. Under these circumstances, when Gnostic schools had passed away with their "conjugations" of Divine powers, and "emanations" from the Supreme unknowable God (the "Deep" and the "Silence") all speculation was thrown into the form of an inquiry touching the "likeness" of the Son to His Father and "sameness" of His Essence." - Catholic Encyclopedia

"Arianism - That disputes should spring up even among the orthodox who all held one faith, was inevitable. And of these wranglings the rationalist would take advantage in order to substitute for the ancient creed his own inventions. The drift of all he advanced was this: to deny that in any true sense God could have a Son; as Mohammed tersely said afterwards, "God neither begets, nor is He begotten" (Koran, 112). We have learned to call that denial Unitarianism. It was the ultimate scope of Arian opposition to what Christians had always believed. But the Arian, though he did not come straight down from the Gnostic, pursued a line of argument and taught a view which the speculations of the Gnostic had made familiar. He described the Son as a second, or inferior God, standing midway between the First Cause and creatures; as Himself made out of nothing, yet as making all things else; as existing before the worlds of the ages; and as arrayed in all divine perfections except the one which was their stay and foundation. God alone was without beginning, unoriginate; the Son was originated, and once had not existed. For all that has origin must begin to be." - Catholic Encyclopedia

So, we see that history records Eusebius of Caesarea as a man who sheltered the Neoplatonic, pagan heretic Arius, who represented Arian heresy at the Council of Nicaea, and who afterwards worked tirelessly against those who had opposed Arius and his heresy at the Council.

(Continued in next section.)