Thursday, June 04, 2009

Ayres, Nicaea and its Legacy, III

In chapters 4-5 of his book, Ayres resumes the narrative that he had left at Nicaea, 325. He firmly notes that probably no-one at Nicaea thought of it as a definitive statement of faith to be subscribed to; that Eusebius of Caesarea's letter home shows that Nicaea was open to various interpretations: it was decisively anti-Arian, but little else; that it was the most that could be achieved out of a compromise. Ayres then investigates the background for ousia and hypostasis language, noting the often materialistic and even gnostic associations it held. He then delves into some early Athanasius to show how Athanasius was beginning to articulate a polemical rhetoric that depicted his opponents as 'Arians', at the same time that he was trying to assert his hold as new bishop of Alexandria, and was eventually deposed and exiled on allegations of violent force.

The fifth chapter picks up the narrative with both Marcellus of Ancyra and Athanasius in exile at Rome, where they begin to make some common cause. It is in this period that Athanasius develops a full-blow account of events that depicts the 'Arians' and 'Ariomaniacs' as against him, an account that gains increasing acceptance in the West. Ayres spends some time considering Athanasius' arguments in Orations against the Arians, I-III, in which Asterius is actually the main target. He then resumes a narrative account, looking with some detail at Antioch (341), Serdica (343), and the Macrostitch creed brought west to Milan (345).At this point Ayres leaves of the narrative at the end of the 340s, and moves into Part II of his work.

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