Dr. Bruce Ware – Lecture 2 – Christology – Beholding the glory of the Christ – The Trinitarian Context (Pt 2)

photo from SBTS
Dr. Ware deals with the person of Christ (not the work of Christ) in the Trinitarian context. Dr. Ware says, „Even trained, educated Bible believers have not been taught to think of Jesus, in relation to the Father and the Spirit, and what that means in terms of how He lived His life. We’re going to be looking at it in this perspective, because I really think this was the perspective of the New Testament. You will see as we take a look at passages form the Bible, the Bible presents Jesus to us very clearly in relationship to the Father and in relationship to the Spirit. In seeing that, it gives us a richness as an understanding of who he is.”

  1. Trinitarian context: This first session is on the larger trinitarian theology and is a framework session about the doctrine of the trinity, for the basis of thinking about Christ in trinitarian terms, in relation to Father and Son. In the other three sessions (there are a total of 4) Dr. Ware takes a look at sort of chronological (order)
  2. Eternal Word – Who was the eternal Son of the Father in eternity past, who is this Son in relation to the Father and what did He do.
  3. Incarnate Son – The Son as He had come into the world and the life that He lived, the obedience that He rendered, the temptations that He resisted and the life of Christ, lived out among us as the incarnate Son of the Father, who lived out His life with the power of the Spirit.
  4. Reigning King – the One who has ascended, who is at the right hand of the Father, who is coming again as judge and King, and reigning over the church, and will bring consummation to all things.

See LECTURE  1  – The Trinitarian Concept  Part  1 here  

Some notes from the current Lecture 2:

C. THE HOLY SPIRIT

We’re putting together a composite picture here. There’s one God, the Father is God, the Son is God. In time, the early church also developed a conviction that the Holy Spirit is God. Now, this took a while, just in terms of the early church councils that met, because, really, the front burner issue for them was: Who was Jesus? You can see why that is the case. We are Christians, we are not Father-ians or Pneuma-something or other. We are Christians. We announce the Gospel of Christ. We believe in the Lordship of Christ. We worship Christ who is Jesus. So that was clearly the dominant question that had to get settled in the early church. And, only after that was settled, were they able to focus attention on the Holy Spirit. But, in time, they came also to a clear conviction that the Holy Spirit also is God.

Here are some of the passages that came into consideration as they thought about this:

  • Acts 5:3-4 Ananias before Peter, and Peter says to him, „You have lied to the Holy Spirit. You’ve not lied to man, but to God”. So it’s a very clear connection between ‘the Holy Spirit is God’ and when you lie to the Holy Spirit, you lie to God. So He is God.
  • 1 Corinthians 2:10-11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except thespirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. So, the Spirit of God knows the thoughts of God. Wow! One thing that it indicates is He is personal, but, it also indicates He is deity, because no one can know the thoughts of God except God. He is omniscient. So this attributing of the knowledge of God to the Holy Spirit indicates He is personal and He is God.
  • 1 Corinthians 3:16 where Paul says, „You are a temple of God, as the Spirit dwells within you”. So, obviously, that image of temple from the Old Testament background, where the shekinah glory of  God was, and „I will dwell with My people in the Temple”. I mean, this is a vivid image of the presence of God with His people. Well, now we are the temple collectively and individually. Here in chapter 3 it’s collectively- „You”, plural. In chapter 6: „Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit? But that’s in chapter 6, though. Here, it’s collectively. You, together as a corporate whole are the temple of God. The Spirit of God dwells in you. So, Spirit is connected with „God dwelling with His people” thorough His Spirit, who is there. So the Spirit is God.
  • Hebrews 9:14 He was able to go to the cross. He was delivered by the eternal Spirit. Eternal is a kind of attribute. Remember 2 different categories of attributes (in Theology I class) One category is a kind of attribute that God has that  we too can possess in finite measure. Those are called communicable attributes. (Ex) Be holy, as I am holy. Love one another as I have loved you. So we are called to do those things that God does. Those are communicable. But, God also has attributes that only He possesses. Those are incommunicable attributes and eternality is one of those. Only God is eternal. The Holy Spirit is eternal, therefore the Holy Spirit is God. So, some indications of the deity of the Spirit.

The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God. And then you add to that the early church, these actually were very important passages that were sometimes called triadic passages that put Father, Son, and Spirit in the same context, indicating deity. There are many in the New Testament, but these two are the most important:

  • Matthew 28:19-2o Jesus says, „Go into all the world, make disciples in all the nations, baptizing them in the name (notice it is singular). Name indicates nature: One God. But what is that One God’s name? Father, Son and Spirit. Baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. So that one God, that one name of God is Father, Son and Spirit. The three together comprise, or constitute that one God.
  • 2 Corinthians 13:14 The very last verse, the benediction of Paul, where basically, he is saying, „May God go with you”. But, here is how he says that. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God (shorthand for God, the Father), and the fellowship of the Spirit be with you. So, how does Paul say, „May God be with you?” May Father, Son and Spirit be with you. So, all three understood as one God.

When you put all those together you realize that the early church has its hands full because- do the math. There is one God. The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God. How do you put this together? One God. But, each of these is fully God. So, unitarianism is out because it is three. But, tritheism is out because it’s one. So, how do you put together one God- Father, Son and Holy Spirit- where each is fully GodThat’s the challenge the early church faced in trying to put together this synthetic understanding from Scripture of who God is.

Lecture 2: Beholding the Glory of Christ: The Trinitarian Context, Part 2 from Southern Seminary on Vimeo.

IV – The first four councils of the early church

These are the most important councils that there were. There were 7 ecumenical councils altogether. At least, that is the way, we in the western church count them. But, the first four were the most formative of those councils. Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon (in that order). Here is just a summary of what happened at each of those councils as they met.

The Council at Nicaea 325

The first one  is the singularly most important council. The Council at Nicaea was convened by Constantine, who was emperor in Roma at the time. He was a Christian and he wanted to bring unity to the empire and part of that was to bring together theologians who come to an agreement on theological issues that were much disputed. And they focused on the Trinity. And, within Trinity, they focused on the Son. Who is the Son, in relation to the Father.

In the background at Nicaea are 2 heresies that were very prominent at the time. The first one was Sabellianism. Sebelius argued that there is one God, and the Father is God, and the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. Each of them is God successively, not simultaneously. That’s the problem. So for Sabellius, he was a monarchian. Modalistic monarchianism is sometimes the name given to Sabellianism. The monarchian view is that there is one God is monarch over all, the King over all. That’s the Father, the one God who is over all. And according to Sabellius, the Father chose to take on the form of the Son. And so, He came to earth as the Son. But, when the Son is here, then He’s no longer, as it were, Father who relates to Son. He is now the Son. And then, He ascends back to heaven when He is done with His work, and then He comes in the form of the Holy Spirit. So, it’s Father, then Son, then Holy Spirit. But, what you don’t have is Father, Son and Holy Spirit simultaneously existing as three distinct persons together. That’s rejected in Sabellianism.

The Sabellian heresy was not the focal point at Nicaea. For the most part, Christian people who read their Bible understood this is not going to work (Jesus’s baptism, praying to the Father, Jesus right now at the Father’s right hand). The other more prominent alternative was the Arian model. Arius was a bishop, although he was not during Nicaea, at 325 when that council met. He was not at that time seated as a bishop, so he couldn’t be seated formally at the council, but he exerted an enormous influence from behind the scenes and Arius held the views, again, he wants to uphold monotheism. What’s not to commend about that? We know, from the Old testament, there’s one God. And we know Jesus prayed to the Father. We know that the Father send Jesus into the world. We know that he did the will of the Father, so clearly the Father is God. There is one God, the Father is God, pretty simple. So, who is Jesus? Oh, the Son was the first and greatest of all of the creations of the Father. But He was a created being. A famous phrase went around at this time, that Arius would say about the Son: „There was a time when He was not”. Which you cannot say of the Father. There was never a time when He was not. He’s eternal. But, of the Son: There was a time when He was not. So, the Son is a created being, brought into existence at a point in time. But, given such great power, and splendor, and glory, that any of us, looking upon Him would think He’s God. But, He is not. He’s very much like God, but He’s a created being. So He’s not God. This was the position of Arius, that is sometimes called subordinationism or dynamistic monarchianism. Those are both terms used of Arius’s view. Dunamis- the power of God the Father given to the Son. Or subordinationism- the nature of the Son is inferior to, insubordinate to the nature of the father. The nature of the Father is eternal and infinite, the nature of the Son is temporal and finite, even though it has great power and splendor.

That was the dominant view at Nicaea, that was argued against by Athanasius, who was the hero at Nicaea. Now, Athanasius was not seated as a bishop either. He was young. I think he was about 25 years old at the time, with a fine mind and great exegetical ability, great rhetorical abilities, that God raised up to be the hero. The church was very pressed by Arius. The Arian model was widely held in churches across Asia minor and the like of the church in that day. So, it took a forceful person to be able to render arguments against Arius, and Athanasius was that man. If you never heard John Piper’s address that he gave on Athanasius (2005) at Desiring God, go to the website and download it.

Athanasius proposed that we have to understand the eternal Son not as a created being, but Himself fully God. But not 2 Gods. So, how do you have Him fully God, and the Father’s fully God, and yet, not 2 Gods. Well, it must be then, that each of them, that is, the Father and Son each possess the same nature. If they have 2 distinct natures, even if they’re equally deity, equally divine, then you’ve got bi-theism or (if) you add the Holy Spirit- tritheism. But we don’t hold to that. We hold to monotheism. So, what constitutes the oneness of God? One divine nature that is the full possession of the Father and that same nature is the full possession of the Son. So he proposed a word- homoousios. Homoousios- homo: one kind, on thing, like homogenized milk all mixed together.  Oousios- nature. Homoousios- same nature. This was an important term because at the very same council, there was kind of a middle position. At Nicaea, you had these moderates who were trying to propose a middle ground  between Arius and Athanasius. And they said, „How about if we adopt the term homoiousias? Similar nature. Athanasius was not okay with it. Similar is not good enough. He pressed the point and it won the day at Nicaea. There were only a few votes contrary, it passed overwhelmingly and from that time on that has been orthodoxy- the claim that the Son possesses the identically same nature.

By the way, nature- what is the nature that is the full possession of the Father and the Son? The easiest way to think of that is- the nature of God is the collection of all of the essential attributes of God comprise the nature of God. So, His holiness and righteousness, and justice. His knowledge and wisdom, His power, His love and His mercy. These attributes of God that constitute God is God. That without those attributes He wouldn’t be God. Can God be God if He doesn’t know everything? No. Can God be God if He isn’t holy? No. So these attributes that are essential for God to be God, comprise then the nature of God.

So, the Father possesses the one undivided nature fully. The Son possesses the one undivided nature fully.The Holy Spirit possesses the one undivided nature fully. So, Father and Son are homoousios, as declared here at Nicaea.

The Council of Contsantinople 381

Arius died in 336, just 11 years after Nicaea. He is off the scene, but Arius’s disciplesare still alive and well, and they’ve kind of shifted the battle now away from the Son. They lost the battle of the Son at Nicaea, but now they shifted the battle to the Holy Spirit. These followers of Arius, who deny the deity of the Holy Spirit have been called the pneumatomachians- spirit fighters. These are people who are fighting against the deity of the Holy Spirit. Arius’s followers, they view the Spirit as the presence of God, the power of God, but, not a distinct person of God. This is a tough argument because the OT and NT word for Spirit can also be translated ‘breath’, ‘wind’. Well, you wouldn’t interpret the breath of God any differently in terms of the kind of language that is from the hand of the Lord. You don’t turn the hand of the Lord into a person of the godhead. Or the strong right arm of the Lord, or the eyes of the Lord. So, the followers of Arius argued (that) this is not a distinct personof the godhead. This is rather just the presence of God, and His power, and His comfort, or His instruction. So, it’s just God manifest in one of His ways as the Spirit of the Lord, the breath of the Lord.

So, this had to be addressed. The people who took this on and won the day at Constantinople are called the Cappadocian Fathers. These three are highly esteemed by all christians for their role in the early church, but particularly in eastern orthodoxy. These three are Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa,  and Basel of Caesarea, also called Basel the Great. He was called that by contemporaries, not for his theological expertise,  although he had great theological acumen. He was rather called Basel the Great by his parishioners, who viewed his pastoral work in their lives, taking care of their needs, they viewed him a great bishop. Basel and Gregory of Nyssa were brothers. Gregory of Nazianzus was a friend of the two of them. They realized they had their hands full, trying to defend the deity of the Spirit, in light of the fact that so many arguments could be put forward by the followers of Arius, that the Spirit was the presence of God, rather than a separate person of the godhead.

So they argued that the Spirit of the Lors is not like the hand of the Lord. It’s not like the presence of God because we’re talking about something that is personal. They went to passages in the Bible that talked about, for example, grieving the Holy Spirit. Or, by the Spirit’s will we are given the gifts that we are given. (1 Corinthians 12) So the Spirit wills things, the Spirit knows things, the Spirit can be grieved about things. The Spirit has character qualities- the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and so on. So the Spirit is a person, and furthermore, the Spirit is God. So they argued the case for the deity of the Spirit strongly at Constantinople. But they were fearful (Basel and Gregory of Nyssa) that they might lose the vote and they knew a lot was at stake at this. So they insisted on using only biblical terms in their statement that they developed on the Holy Spirit, that would be voted on. Gregory of Nazianzus on the other hand, he was bold and brash, and forthright. He wanted badly to invoke the term homoousias- of the Spirit. That one nature is the nature of the Father and the Son and the Spirit. So why not invoke the term homoousias for the Spirit also? Well, Basel and Gregory of Nyssa said it’s not a biblical term, and because of that we might lose the vote. And so, they would not go that way. It angered Gregory of Nazianzus so much that he pulled out and left and he wasn’t there for the end of the council when the vote was finally taken.

So they put forth this addition to the third article of the Nicaean creed. The Nicaean creed has 3 articles for Father, Son and Holy Spirit- We believe in God the Father, Creator of all things, visible, invisible and so on… and one Lord Jesus Christ, who is begotten of the Father, who is God of God, light of light, who is one nature with the Father- homoousias.. and then you have the third article at Nicaea 325 on the Holy Spirit. You know what it says? We believe in the Holy Spirit. That’s all it said. So now, at 381, that third article is amplified. And here’s what’s added to it. Five articles, using biblical terms only. So homoousias, though they agreed it was true, they were not going to use it.

So five amplifications:

We believe in the Holy Spirit-

  1. the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18) But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are beingtransformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. Using the words  ‘Lord the Spirit’ indicates deity.
  2. the giver of life (John 3) you must be born again Titus 3:5- regeneration by the Spirit
  3. who proceeds from the Father (John 15:26) When the Holy Spirit comes, whom I will send to you form the Father, He will bear witness of me. By the way, they put that procession of the Spirit in to be equivalent to ‘the Son is the only begotten Son of the Father’, which is in the second article of the Nicaean creed. Well, if the Son is the only begotten Son you cannot say that the Spirit is begotten. But you want a relationship of Son to Father that is parallel to Spirit to Father. That is, they both have the same nature as the Father. The Son, because He is begotten of the Father, the Spirit because He proceeds. That word was actually Gregory Nazianzus’s before he left. He provided that word ‘who proceeds’ and that text- John 15:26.
  4. who with the Father and Son is worshipped and glorified. Matthew 28:19 „Baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit”. So this act of worship, worshipping God, you bow to Him, you identify with this one God. And so, that act of worship in baptism is in the name of Father, Son and Spirit. So, who with the Father and Son are worshipped and glorified.
  5. who spoke by the prophets (all over the place, but 2 Peter 1:20-21) „Men, moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God„.

Unlike at Nicaea, where they purposefully used an extra biblical term,  Athanasius’s conviction was „if we don’t use this, Arius will probably win the day”, because there are texts Arius can go to, which clearly say who Jesus is. For example: The Father who sent Me is greater than Me. And Mark pointed to Mark 13:32- No one knoew the hour of the Second coming, not even the Son. Well, the Father is omniscient, but the Son is not omnscient. Therefore the Son is not God. So, it was Athanasius’s conviction that they had to use an extra biblical term to wrap up all of the indicators  in the Bible that the Son was equal to the Father and put those under the category of homoousias.But when it came time for Constantinople, they thought: If we try and do that we can’t win the day. We’ve got to have strictly biblical terms. So that’s what they did, arguing for the deity of the Spirit in that fashion.

One other thing happened at Constantinople  and that was a further decision in relation to Christology. And that was a decision in regard to the full humanity of Christ, as well as the full deity of Christ. The background here is apollinarianism. Apollinaris, who was committed to Nicaea, believed that the Son was one nature with the Father, committed to the deity of the Son, could not understand how, if He’s fully God, He could also be fully man. That sounds contradictory. So, Apollinaris argued that He was fully God, but, the incarnation was taken on merely the human body of a man. The soul, as it were, was the divine Logos. And so, the inner reality of Jesus Christ of Nazareth was fully God, who lived His life in a human body.

This is where the term docetism comes from. The Greek word ‘to seem’. Docetism- He seemed to be a man. He appeared to be a man. But He wasn’t really a man. That was Apollinaris’s view. And that was rejected at the Council of Constantinople. Instead, it was affirmed that Christ was fully God and fully man. He was two natures in one person. This was a huge development for Christology. You do realize that issues of Trinity and issues of Christology are really closely interrelated. Here we have Trinity: Father, Son, Spirit. But when you talk about Son, now you’re talking about two natures of the Son- so, He’s fully God and and fully man in one person. With the trinity then, we have singular nature and multiple persons. But, in Christology we have singular person and multiple natures.

Next, Council of Ephesus and Council of Chalcedon follows at the 36 minute mark. Length of lecture (video) is 74 minutes.

 

The bestselling book of all time…Part 2

From Biblica- The Bible Atlas

(You can read Part 1 on the Old Testament here.

The Christian Scriptures emerge.

Like the Jewish books of the Bible, Christian tradition developed first by word

Jesus Christ

of mouth and then was written down. Even though Jesus’ disciples had the means to put things in writing from the start, they delayed doing so, because they expected Jesus to momentarily return in his full manifestation as Messiah. And so, after Jesus’ time on earth, his followers spread the good news of his coming by telling stories about him.

The Gospel of Luke gives us a hint of how such storytelling may have taken place. On the Sunday after Jesus’ crucifixion, two disillusioned disciples are walking from Jerusalem to the nearby town of Emmaus. When they meet a stranger they tell him all about Jesus, but add that Jesus has been put to death and cannot be the Messiah as they hoped.Though they had heard that Jesus had risen from the dead, they did not believe it. The stranger scolds them for their disbelief and explains how the Messiah’s death was predicted in the Scriptures. Then at supper, the stranger reveals who he is: it is Jesus himself. Overjoyed the two disciples hurry back to Jerusalem to share their experience with the others (Luke 24:13-35). This pattern of passing on stories was repeated over and over, incorporating even more of Jesus’ words and deeds. All Jesus’ followers repeated them, but greater credence was given to those who had known Jesus personally.

As time went on, it became obvious that Jesus’ return was not imminent and that the people who had known him personally were dying off. In order to preserve what was known about Jesus, some Christians began to write down accounts of his ministry, death, and resurrection. Consequently, during the second half of the first century the four Gospels were written, as was the Acts of the Apostles, an extension of Luke’s Gospel, about the early spread of the Church. But even before the Gospels were written, the Apostle Paul traveled throughout Greece and Asia Minor (now Turkey), founding communities of believers. During his travels, Paul kept in touch with these communities, or churches by writing letters. These are the earliest Christian writings to survive. Letters from other Christians followed, and toward the  end of the century Revelation, a book of visions about the end of time, appeared. Other Christian works were written as well, including allegories, books of prophecy, and stories about the child Jesus, his mother, and Mary Magdalene. However, none of these was to be accepted as Scripture.

In fact, Christians were slow to characterize any of their writings as Scripture. The Hebrew Scripture was their only Bible, though worshippers did read from Christian writings. In describing services at Rome in the mid-second century, the theologian Justin Martyr reports that ‘the memoirs of the Apostles’ were read to the assembly.

Still, no authorized collection of sacred writings was adopted. Finally in 367 A.D. , Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, named 27 books (which do not include the Apocrypha) that he believed to be inspired by God and rooted in the teachings of the Apostles. Later Church councils confirmed the books as Sacred Scripture, and they came to be known as the New Testament, complementing the Hebrew Scriptures, or the Old Testament.

In establishing the canon Athanasius wrote: „In these [books] alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no one add to or take anything from them.”

(via)

…some Church history – Athanasius (defending orthodoxy)

From 131 Christians Everyone Should Know (P. 17-19):

Athanasius was a theologian (296 A.D.-373 A.D.) who was exiled five times

for fighting „Orthodoxy”. He once said „Those who maintain ‘There was a time when the Son was not’ rob God of his word, like plunderers”.

„Black Dwarf” was the name his enemies gave him. And the short, dark-skinned Egyptian bishop had plenty of enemies. He was exiled five times by four Roman emperors, spending 17 of the 45 years he served as bishop of Alexandria in exile. Yet in the end, his theological enemies were „exiled” from the churches teaching, and it is Athanasius’ writings that shaped the future of the church.

Most often the problem was his stubborn insistence that Arianism, the reigning „orthodoxy” of the day, was in fact a heresy.

The dispute began when Athanasius was the chief deacon assistant to Bishop Alexander of Alexandria. While Alexander preached „with perhaps too philosophical minuteness” on the Trinity; Arius a presbyter (priest) from  Libya announced, ‘If the Father begat the Son, then he who was begotten had a beginning in existence, and from this it follows that there was a time that the Son was not.” The argument caught on, but Alexander and Athanasius fought against Arius, arguing that it denied the trinity. Christ is not of a like substance of God, they argued, but the same substance.

To Athanasius this was no splitting of theological hairs. Salvation was at issue: only one who was fully human could atone for human sin; only one who was fully divine could have the power to save us. To Athanasius, the logic of New testament doctrine of salvation assumed the dual nature of Christ. He said:”Those who maintain ‘There was a time when the Son was not’ rob God of his word, like plunderers”.

Alexander’s encyclical letter, signed by Athanasius (and probably written by him), attacked the consequences of Arians’ heresy: The Son [then] is a creature and a work; neither is he like in essence to the Father;neither is he the true and natural Word of the Father; neither is he his true wisdom; but he is one of the things made and created and is called the Word and Wisdom by an abuse of terms…Wherefore he is by nature subject to change and variation, as are all rational creatures.”

The controversy spread, and all over the empire, Christians could be heard singing a catchy tune that championed the Arian view: „There was a time when the Son was not.” In every city, wrote a historian, „bishop was contending against bishop, and the people were contending against one another, like swarms of gnats, fighting in the air.”

Statue of Constantine - the first Christian Emperor of Rome (285-337 A.D.)

Word of the dispute made it to the newly converted Emperor Constantine the Great, who was more concerned with seeing church unity than theological truth. „Divisions in the church,” he told the bishops,”is worse than war.” To settle the matter, he called a council of bishops.

Of the 1,800 bishops invited to Nicea, about 300 came–and argued, fought, and eventually fleshed out an early version of the Nicene Creed. The council, led by Alexander, condemned Arius as a heretic, exiled him, and made it a capital offense to possess his writings. Constantine was pleased that peace had been restored to the church. Athanasius, whose treatise On the Incarnation laid the foundation of the orthodox party at Nicea, was hailed as „the noble champion of Christ.” The diminutive bishop was simply pleased that Arianism had been defeated. But it hadn’t.

Within a few months, supporters of Arius talked Constantine into ending Arius’ exile. With a few private additions, Arius even signed the Nicene Creed, and the emperor ordered Athanasius, who had recently succeeded Alexander as bishop, to restore the heretic to fellowship.

When Athanasius refused, his enemies spread false charges against him. He was accused of murder, illegal taxation, sorcery and treason–the last of which led Constantine to exile him to Trier, now a German city near Luxembourg.

Constantine dies two years later, and Athanasius returned to Alexandria. But in his absence, Ariansim had gained the upper hand. Now church leaders were against him, and they banished him again. Athansius fled to Pope Julius I in Rome. He returned in 346, but in the mercurial politics of the day, was banished three more times before he came home to stay in 366. By then he was about 70 years old.

While in exile, Athanasius spent most of his time writing, mostly to defend orthodoxy, but he took on pagan and Jewish opposition as well. One of his most lasting contributions is his Life of St. Antony, which helped to shape the Christian ideal of monasticism. It became a „best seller” and made a deep impression on many people, even help lead pagans to conversion: Augustine is the most famous example.

During Athanasius’ first year permanently back in Alexandria, he sent his annual letter to the churches in his diocese, called a festal letter, Athanasius listed what he believed were the books that should constitute the New Testament.

„In these [27 writings] alone the teaching of godliness is proclaimed,” he wrote. „No one may add to them, and nothing may be taken away from them.”

Though other lists had been and would still be proposed, it is Athanasius’s list that the church eventually adopted, and it is the one we use to this day.

Click below to read more on :

Athanasius’ Doctrine of the Trinity and Doctrine of Incarnation.

The Nicene creed

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