When you adopt a god who is not in you own image, when you embrace literature that teaches you to hate yourself and love your enemy, when you oppressor and savior and your god and enslaver are one in the same; you become the principal agent in your own destruction.
Serapis was an anthropomorphic god created by the Greek pharaoh Ptolemy
I. Ptolemy I chose Serapis to be the official god of Egypt and Greece.
He hoped a common religious base would unify the two peoples and ease tension
in the country. Serapis' attributes were both Egyptian and Hellenistic.
Serapis became very popular and his cult quickly spread from its center
A Roman historian insisted that the god was originally from Asia Minor.
However, Egypt probably provided the essential attributes of Serapis. Serapis'
Egyptian nature can be seen in his roots, which were drawn from the cults
of Osiris and the Apis bull. These cults had been
combined prior to the reign of Ptolemy I. At that time, a sacred bull of Memphis called
Osorapis was worshipped after its death. Osorapis was an agricultural god
whose cult emphasized the Egyptian principles of life after death. The
early Greek pharaohs seemed to have been drawn to Osorapis as a god who
seemed to fuse the myriad of Egyptian deities and possessed aspects that
were easily fusible with the gods of the Greeks.
The Hellenistic elements of Serapis dominate Serapis' "personality" and
iconogrpahy. Many greek gods contributed to his nature, including: Zeus,
Helios, Dionysos, Hades and Aesculapius. From Zeus and Helios he received
the aspects of sovereignty and sun-god. Dionysos brought to him the attribute
of presiding over nature. Hades linked him to the afterlife and Aesculapius
gave him the art of healing.
The Greek images of Serapis show him with long hair and a long beard.
He is seated on a throne with the three-headed dog of Hades, Cerberus,
at his feet. The Egyptian images of the god show him as a mummified human
with the bead of a bull. He is crowned with the crescent moon and two plumes.
Arius was a cultured and ascetic presbyter (256-336 AD), a popular
preacher from Libya. He was tall, handsome, earnestly religious, and
eloquent in his arguments. He gave the impression of being arrogant.
He lived at a time when the Eastern Church was divided because of the
Christological dispute which he was instrumental in starting. He taught
that Christ is not divine, but created.
Arius was strongly opposed by his bishop Alexander, who was bishop of
Alexandria from 313 AD. Alexander insisted that the Son was fully and
truly God, in as absolute a sense as the Father was. The problem for
Alexander was to show that this (orthodox) truth did not lead to a
belief in two Gods, as Arius maintained that it did.
Alexander assembled a council of Egyptian bishops in 320 which
deposed Arius for heresy. Arius, however, was not ready to give up
without a fight, and went to Palestine, canvassing support from other
Arius wrote letters to Lucian’s ex-students who were now presbyters
or bishops, addressing them as “Dear fellow-pupils of Lucian.”
Lucian’s views of Christ seem to have been similar to Arius’s.
All came to a head and the Emperor, to safeguard the unity of the
empire and the church, convened a general council at Nicea, which
declared the Son to be equal with the Father and issued the Creed saying
that Christ is “God from God, true God from true God, begotten not
created, of the same essence as the Father....”
All but two of Arius’s supporters - Secundus of Ptolemais and
Theonas of Marmarica - gave in and signed the Creed. Arius still
refused. These three were sent into exile by Constantine the emperor.
They were anathemized and condemned. The enforce the decisions of the
Council, Constantine demanded, with the death penalty for disobedience,
the burning of all books composed by Arius and deposed Eusebius of
Nicomedia and another bishop who had been active in their support of
The dispute, though, continued throughout the fourth and fifth
Defining the heresy named after him.
His teaching was that the Father alone is God. The Logos or Son,
Arius maintained, was a created being - formed out of nothing by the
Father before the universe was made. He therefore said that there was a
time when the Son had not existed.
According to Arius, the Son was the first and greatest of all that
God had created; He was closer to God than all others, and the rest of
creation related to God through the Son (for instance, God had created
everything else through Christ).
By developing this arch-heresy, Arius thought he was defending the
fundamental truth that there is only one God - monotheism. A belief in
the full deity of Christ, he supposed, would mean the Father and Son
were two separate Gods, which contradicted the many statements of the
Bible about God’s oneness.
Arius was also unhappy with Origen’s idea that there could be ‘degrees’
or ‘grades’ of divinity, with the Son being slightly less divine
than the Father (this became known after the Nicene Council as semi-Arianism).
Arius argued that since the Father is clearly God, it follows that
the Son could not be God - so He must be a created being.
This heresy is named after Sabellius (early third century), an
obscure Roman theologian. Sabellius taught that God is only one person,
who acts now as Father in creating the universe, now as son in redeeming
sinners, now as the Holy Spirit in sanctifying believers.
The three divine Persons he believed to be three different roles
acted out by one divine Being, much as one human person might be a
husband, a father and a clerk.
His view, of one sort or another, was quite popular in the early
church, because it offered a way of believing in the deity of Christ
while preserving the oneness of God.
The Church rejected Sabellianism because, among other things, it
failed to preserve the personal relationships between the Father, the
Son and the Holy Spirit, so prevalent in the New Testament. It makes
nonsense of the prayer-life of Jesus in the Gospels.
Sabellianism is also known as Modalism (3 different modes of the same
God), and Monarchianism (one rule of God through different roles).
We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.
And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
325 AD, the year of the Nicene Creed, the Roman Emperor Constantine
took the step that forever changed Christianity; he convened the first
universal council of the church at Nicaea in Asia Minor. The Council was
convened to resolve a theological controversy over the nature of God
and Christ. The results of the conference involving 200 to perhaps more
than 300 bishops were at least four-fold:
The adoption of a universal statement of Christian faith known today as the Nicene Creed.
transformation of Christianity from a colloquium of diverse viewpoints
to a rigorously enforced, monolithic and doctrinaire church (evidenced
by the decision that Easter would be celebrated pursuant to the Roman
rather than Jewish calendar – always to be on a Sunday.)
marriage of church and state – a situation to remain in force
throughout much of the Mediterranean and Europe for over a millennium.
practice of anathematizing and excommunicating leaders who would not
adopt the newly established doctrine of the emperor and church at Rome.
The Nicene Formulation (Nicene Creed): Reporting
on the events of the Council to his church at Caesarea was the early
church historian Eusebius (or Caesarea). He recounts this first of the
official orthodox church creeds as adopted:
believe in one God, the Father All-sovereign, maker of all things
visible and invisible. And in One Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
begotten of the Father, only begotten, that is from the substance of the Father, God
of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not made, of
one substance with the Father, through whom all things were made, things
in heaven and things on earth: who for us men and for our salvation,
came down and was made flesh, and became man, suffered, and rose on the
third day, ascended into the heavens; is coming to judge the living and
the dead. And in the Holy Spirit. And those who say, "There was when he
was not," and "Before he was begotten he was not," and that "He came
into being from what is not," or those that allege, that the son of God
is "of another substance or essence," or "created," or "changeable," or
alterable," these the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes."
source of the dispute that had precipitated the Nicene convention and
the Nicene Creed was that of presbyter Arius of Alexandria. In earlier
correspondence, Arius had stated that Jesus: "… is not equal to God, nor
yet is he of the same substance."
Despite their protests – including the
observation that the term "of the same essence" was not to be found in
any of the New Testament writings, the Arian supporters lost. The Nicene
Council (and the Nicene Creed) ended by condemning the person and views
of Arius, authorizing his excommunication and degradation from the
presbyterate. Constantine sent Arius and three others into exile.
Subsequent to the Council, the emperor
made known his views of this dissenter (with the Nicene Creed):
more than three hundred bishops remarkable for their moderation and
shrewdness were unanimous in their confirmation of one and the same
faith, which is in accurate conformity to the truth expressed in the
laws of God, Arius alone, beguiled by the subtlety of the devil,
was discovered to be the sole disseminator of this mischief, with
unhallowed purposes, first among you, and afterwards among others also.
separate correspondence, the emperor also stated his purpose for having
called the council (resulting in the Nicene Creed): "My sole desire was
to effect universal concord, and in particular to refute and dispose of
this question which began through the madness of Arius the Alexandran
In case anyone was not catching the full
imperial intent, Constantine becomes more explicit: "So I decided to
take action against these ungrateful individuals: I ordered them to be
arrested and banished to the most distant region possible."
The strength of the emperor’s disdain for those he viewed as heretics also is revealed by the following imperial edict:
"VICTOR CONSTANTINUS, MAXIMUS AUGUSTUS, to the heretics.
"Understand now, by this present
statute, ye Novatians, Valentinians, Marcionites, Paulians, ye who are
called Cataphrygians, and all ye who devise and support heresies by
means of your private assemblies, with what a tissue of falsehood and
vanity, with what destructive and venomous errors, your doctrines are
inseparably interwoven; so that through you the healthy soul is stricken
with disease, and the living becomes the prey of everlasting death. Ye
haters and enemies of truth and life, in league with destruction! All
your counsels are opposed to the truth, but familiar with deeds of
baseness; full of absurdities and fictions: and by these ye frame
falsehoods, oppress the innocent, and withhold the light from them that
months after Nicaea and creation of the Nicene Creed, Constantine found
that Eusebius of Nicomedia and Theognis, Bishop of Nicaea, still held
to Arian views. They were exiled to Gaul and a new election of bishops
was ordered. At one point, the emperor wrote to denounce Eusebius and
issue a personal warning about high treason.
In subsequent writing, Constantine went
beyond individual sanctions, placing whole congregations viewed as being
outside of the Catholic faith at risk:
And in order that this remedy may be applied with effectual power, we have commanded, as before said, that you be positively deprived
of every gathering point for your superstitious meetings, I mean all
the houses of prayer, if such be worthy of the name, which belong to
heretics, and that these be made over without delay to the catholic Church;
that any other places be confiscated to the public service, and no
facility whatever be left for any future gathering; in order that from
this day forward none of your unlawful assemblies may presume to appear
in any public or private place. Let this edict be made public.
later, the imperial punishment for lesser religious infractions became
more severe. In an edict to eight years after the Council of Nicaea,
Emperor Constantine stipulated:
therefore I decree, that if any one shall be detected in concealing a
book compiled by Arius, and shall not instantly bring it forward and
burn it, the penalty for this offence shall be death; for immediately after conviction the criminal shall suffer capital punishment. May God preserve you!
here we have it -- the Nicene Creed. The wedding of church and state.
And the silencing of dissenting voices pursuant to the apostolic,
catholic authority of a single monolithic church – emerging to rule with
full force of imperial law for over a millennium.
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