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History of the Christian Church, Volume III: Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity. A.D. 311-600.
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§ 126. Revived Sabellianism. Marcellus and Photinus.


I. Eusebius Caesar.: Two books contra Marcellum (κατὰ Μαρκέλλου), and three books De ecclesiastica theologia (after his Demonstratio evang.). Hilary: Fragmenta, 1–3. Basil the Great: Epist. 52. Epiphanius: Haeres. 72. Retberg: Marcelliana. Gött. 1794 (a collection of the Fragments of Marcellus).

II. Montfaucon: Diatribe de causa Marcelli Ancyr. (in Collect. nova Patr. tom. ii. Par. 1707). Klose: Geschichte u. Lehre des Marcellus u. Photinus. Hamb. 1837. Möhler: Athanasius der Gr. Buch iv. p. 318 sqq. (aiming to vindicate Marcellus, as Neander also does). Baur: l.c. vol. i. pp. 525–558. Dorner: l.c. i. pp. 864–882. (Both against the orthodoxy of Marcellus.) Hefele: Conciliengesch. i. 456 sq. et passim. Willenborg: Ueber die Orthodoxie des Marc. Münster, 1859


Before we pass to the exhibition of the orthodox doctrine, we must notice a trinitarian error which arose in the course of the controversy from an excess of zeal against the Arian subordination, and forms the opposite extreme.

Marcellus, bishop of Ancyra in Galatia, a friend of Athanasius, and one of the leaders of the Nicene party, in a large controversial work written soon after the council of Nicaea against Arianism and Semi-Arianism, so pushed the doctrine of the consubstantiality of Christ that he impaired the personal distinction of Father and Son, and, at least in phraseology, fell into a refined form of Sabellianism.13731373   In his work περὶ ὑποταγῆς, De subjectione Domini Christi, founded on 1 Cor. xv. 28. To save the full divinity of Christ and his equality with the Father, he denied his hypostatical pre-existence. As to the orthodoxy of Marcellus, however, the East and the West were divided, and the diversity continues even among modem scholars. A Semi-Arian council in Constantinople, a.d. 335, deposed him, and intrusted Eusebius of Caesarea with the refutation of his work; while, on the contrary, pope Julius of Rome and the orthodox council of Sardica (343), blinded by his equivocal declarations, his former services, and his close connection with Athanasius, protected his orthodoxy and restored him to his bishopric. The counter-synod of Philippopolis, however, confirmed the condemnation. Finally even Athanasius, who elsewhere always speaks of him with great respect, is said to have declared against him.13741374   Hilary, Fragm. ii. n. 21 (p. 1299, ed. Bened.), states that Athanasius as early as 349 renounced church fellowship with Marcellus. The council of Constantinople, a.d. 381, declared even the baptism of the Marcellians and Photinians invalid.13751375   These are meant by the οἱ ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλατῶν χώρας ἐρχόμενοιin the 7th canon of the second ecumenical council. Marcellus and Photinus were both of Ancyra in Galatia. Comp. Hefele, Conciliengeschichte, vol. ii. p. 26.

Marcellus wished to hold fast the true deity of Christ without falling under the charge of subordinatianism. He granted the Arians right in their assertion that the Nicene doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son involves the subordination of the Son, and is incompatible with his own eternity. For this reason he entirely gave up this doctrine, and referred the expressions: Son, image, firstborn, begotten, not to the eternal metaphysical relation, but to the incarnation. He thus made a rigid separation between Logos and Son, and this is the πρῶτον ψεῦδοςof this system. Before the incarnation there was, he taught, no Son of God, but only a Logos, and by that he understood,—at least so he is represented by Eusebius,—an impersonal power, a reason inherent in God, inseparable from him, eternal, unbegotten, after the analogy of reason in man. This Logos was silent (therefore without word) in God before the creation of the world, but then went forth out of God as the creative word and power, the δραστικὴ ἐνέργεια πράξεως of God (not as a hypostasis). This power is the principle of creation, and culminates in the incarnation, but after finishing the work of redemption returns again into the repose of God. The Son, after completing the work of redemption, resigns his kingdom to the Father, and rests again in God as in the beginning. The sonship, therefore, is only a temporary state, which begins with the human advent of Christ, and is at last promoted or glorified into Godhead. Marcellus reaches not a real God-Man, but only an extraordinary dynamical indwelling of the divine power in the man Jesus. In this respect the charge of Samosatenism, which the council of Constantinople in 335 brought against him, has a certain justice, though he started from premises entirely different from those of Paul of Samosata.13761376   Dorner (l.c. 880 sq.) asserts of Marcellus, that his Sabellianism ran out to a sort of Ebionitism. His doctrine of the Holy Spirit and of the Trinity is to a corresponding degree unsatisfactory. He speaks, indeed, of an extension of the indivisible divine monad into a triad, but in the Sabellian sense, and denies the three hypostases or persons.

Photinus, first a deacon at Ancyra, then bishop of Sirmium in Pannonia, went still further than his preceptor Marcellus. He likewise started with a strict distinction between the notion of Logos and Son,13771377   He called God λογοπάτηρ, because, in his view, God is both Father and Logos. Sabellius had used the expression υἱοπάτηρ, to deny the personal distinction between the Father and the Son. Photinus had to say instead of this, λογοπάτηρ, because, in his view, the λόγος, not the υἱός, is eternally in God. rejected the idea of eternal generation, and made the divine in Christ an impersonal power of God. But while Marcellus, from the Sabellian point of view, identified the Son with the Logos as to essence, and transferred to him the divine predicates attaching to the Logos, Photinus, on the contrary, quite like Paul of Samosata, made Jesus rise on the basis of his human nature, by a course of moral improvement and moral merit, to the divine dignity, so that the divine in him is a thing of growth.

Hence Photinus was condemned as a heretic by several councils in the East and in the West, beginning with the Semi-Arian council at Antioch in 344. He died in exile in 366.13781378   Comp. on Photinus, Athanas., De syn. 26; Epiph., Haer. 71; Hilary, De trinit. vii. 3-7, etc.; Baur, l.c. vol. i. p. 542 sqq.; Dorner, l.c. i. p. 881 sq.; and Hefele, l.c, i. p. 610 sqq.



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