Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The 345 Council at Antioch and the Macrostitch Creed (Creed of the Long Lines)

In 344 or 345 a further council met in Antioch, and produced yet another credal formation, this one based on the 4th Antiochene Creed, with additions: 5 new anathemas and several explanatory paragraphs. This text became known as the ‘Macrostichos’, due to its ‘Long Lines’. Athanasius gives it in De Synodis 26, and we have it also in Socrates HE[1]. The date of 345 refers to the fact that this is the Creed that was sent to Italy, specifically being presented at Milan in 345, but the Antioch council may have been held as early as the summer of 344.

As if they changed their mind on this, they gathered together their council after three years, and sent Eudoxios, Marturios, and Makedonios of Cilica, and with them some others, into the regions of Italy, carrying a faith written at length, with significant additions to the former ones; so they went abroad with these as if they had invented something new.

I.                 We believe in one God, Father Almighty
Creator and Maker of all things
from whom all fatherhood in heaven[2] and earth is named[3]

And in his only–begotten Son the Lord Jesus Christ
begotten, before all the ages, of the Father: God from God, light from Light;
through whom all things in heaven and on earth[4] came to be, things visible and invisible:
being Word, and Wisdom, and Power, and Life, and true light;
him being made man in the last of days for us,
and born of the holy Virgin, crucified[5], and died, and buried;
and raised from the dead on the third day, and taken up into heaven
and seated at the right hand[6] of the Father;
and is coming at the consummation of the ages to judge the living and dead,
and to give to each according to his deeds;
whose kingdom being unceasingly[7] remains into the infinite ages.
For he sits[8] at the right hand of the Father, not only in this age, but also in the one to come;

We believe[9] also in the Holy Spirit, that is, the Paraclete; which being promised to the apostles, after his ascension into heaven he sent, to teach them and remind them of all; through whom also the souls of those purely believing in him will be sanctified.

II.               But those saying that the Son is of nothing, or from a different hypostasis, and not from God, and that there was once a time, or age, when he was not, the Catholic and Holy church knows as aliens. Likewise also those saying that there are three Gods, or that Christ is not God, or that before the ages he was neither Christ nor Son of God, or that the same is Father and Son, or Holy Spirit, or that the Son is ingenerate, or that not by decision nor volition did the Father beget the Son, the Holy and Catholic church anathematises.

III.              For to say that the Son is of Nothing is not secure, since nowhere is this reported concerning him in the God-inspired Scriptures, nor or a different hypostasis pre-existing besides the Father; but genuinely from God alone we define him. For the divine word teaches that the Father of Christ, Ingenerate and without-beginning, is One. But neither saying precariously “there was once, when he was not” from non-scriptures, is some temporal interval before him to be imagined, but rather only the God that generated him atemporally; for both time and ages came into being through him. Yet neither is the Son to be conceived as co-without-beginning and co-ingenerate with the Father: for no one is to be termed Father or Son validly, of one co-without-beginning and co-ingenerate. But we know the Father alone, being without-beginning and ingenerate has generated, unattainably and unreachably[10] to all; and that the Son has been generated before ages, and in no way to be himself ingenerate like the Father, but having the Father that generated as [his] beginning; for ‘the Head of Christ is God’.[11]

IV.              Nor, confessing three pragmata and three  prosōpa, of Father, and of Son, and of Holy Spirit according to the Scriptures, do we, on account of this, make three gods; since we know the self-complete and Ingenerate, without-beginning and invisible God to be one, sole, the God and Father of the Only-Begotten, solely having existence from himself, and solely ungrudgingly bestowing this to all others. Nor, saying that the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is one sole God, the only Ingenerate, on account of this do we deny that the Christ is also God before ages; for such are as those of Paul of Samosata, saying that the latter was made God after the Incarnation, by advancement, being made mere man in respect of nature. For we know him, although subordinate to Father and God, but nevertheless begotten before ages from God, perfect and true God according to nature, and not from men after this God[12], but of God made man for us, and never deprived of existence.

V.               We abhor and anthematise those feignedly calling him mere word of God and un-existent, having being in another [subsistence], now as if pronounced, as said by some, now as conceptual; but he is Christ and Son of God and mediator and image of God before the ages – this they do not posit; but that he then became Christ and Son of God, whom when he took our flesh from the Virgin, not exactly four hundred years ago. For they will that from that time Christ had the beginning of his kingdom; and that it will have an end after the Consummation and the Judgment.

VI.              Such are those [disciples] of Marcellus and of Scotinus[13] of Galatian-Ancyra, who deny, as the Jews do, the pre-existence of Christ, and his Godhead, and his unending Kingdom, on the basis of affirming the Monarchia. For we know[14] him, not simply as pronounced or conceptual word of God, but as Living God and Word self-existent, and Son of God and Christ, and co-being and co-abiding with his own Father before the ages, not [merely] by way of foreknowledge, and as demiurge ministering to him for all things, whether visible or invisible. For this is He, to whom the Father said “Let us make man according to our image and our likeness[15]”; who also was seen, in his own person[16], by the Patriarchs, gave the Law, and spoke through the Prophets, and finally was made man, and made manifest his own Father to all men, and reigns into the endless ages. For Christ has taken no recent dignity, but that from the beginning his is perfect, and is like to the Father in respect to all things – this we have believed.

VII.            And those saying that the same is Father and Son and Holy Spirit, and impiously taking the three names of one and the same pragma and prosōpon, we fittingly proscribe from the church; because they suppose the illimitable and impassible Father to be at once limitable and passible on account of the incarnation; for such are they as those termed Patripassians by the Romans, and Sabellians by us. For we know the Father who sent remained in the proper state of his inalterable Godhead, and that Christ who was sent fulfilled the economy of the Incarnation.

VIII.          And yet still those saying impiously that the Son was begotten not by decision nor volition, prescribing a manifest involuntary and non-deliberate necessity to God, so that he begat the Son unwillingly, we adjudicate as most dis-reverent and alien from the Church; because both apart from the shared understandings[17] of God, and moreover the purpose of God-inspired Scripture, they have dared to define such things concerning him. For we, knowing God as Self-Master and Lord of himself[18], we receive that he begot the Son willingly and voluntarily. We believe reverently him saying about himself: “The Lord created me as the beginning of his ways for his works”[19], we do not think him to be like to those created or made things that came into being through him. For it is impious and alien to the ecclesiastical faith, to compare the Creator to the formed things that have been created through him, and to think him also to have the same manner of generation as the others. For the divine scriptures teach us that genuinely and truly the Only-Begotten Son was generated sole and solely.

IX.              But, saying that the Son is self-existent, and both lives and exists like the Father, we do not on this account separate him from the Father, conceiving certain spaces and intervals between their union in a bodily manner. For we have believed that they are united to one another without-mediation, and without-interval[20], and inseparably exist; with the whole Father embosoming[21] the Son, the whole Son hanging upon and being attached to the Father, and alone continually resting upon the paternal breast. Therefore believing in the all-perfect most holy Triad, that is, in the Father and in the Son, and in the Holy Spirit, and calling the Father God, and the Son God, and these not two gods, but confessing one dignity of Godhead, and one exact harmony of Kingdom: with the Father alone completely ruling over all things universally, and the Son himself; and the Son subordinated to the Father; excepting him, ruling all things after him that came into being through him, and bestowing the grace of the Holy Spirit generously to the saints by the Father’s will; For thus the Sacred Words handed down to us the account that is framed concerning the monarchia with regards to the Son.

X.                [comments by Athanasius]


When we compare the Macrostich with the 4th Antiochene Creed we find the Creed itself identical in form. However significant expansions are made in the anathemas and explanations. After the anathemas directed against “that the Son is of nothing, or from a different substance and not from God, and that there was once a time, or age, when he was not”, we have a series of new anathemas. These include Tritheism, denying Christ’s divinity, forms of adoptionism, monarchial modalism, the Son as ingenerate, and that the generation is involuntary.

It is a comprehensive list of anathemas, that rejects not only the old-style Arian subordinationism, but also the monarchial modalist heresies associated with the West, and specifically directed at Marcellan-type theology. The anathemas are expanded in a series of explanatory paragraphs, beginning with the question of what subsistence the Son is generated.

Section III then rejects the idea that the Son has his being out of ‘nothing’, along with ‘a different hypostasis’. Such positions are considered a-scriptural. Likewise no temporal gap is to be admitted between the Son’s generation and eternity-past. However this language is guarded on the other hand by reserving without-beginning and ingenerateness for the Father alone.

Section IV consists in confessing 3 pragmata and persons. While the terminology of πρόσωπα is reasonably understood, this use of πρᾶγμα at least in the most recent creedal contexts, is novel. It might best be translated as “reality” or simply “thing”, so that we are talking about 3 ‘realities’ or ‘things’, and 3 persons. This is immediately followed by a denial that this position amounts to tritheism, a defensive denial of the construal of their position. Instead, the oneness of God the Father is stressed, along with his self-existence. The deity of the Son is affirmed, and affirmed in a way that is polemical to adoptionist positions as typified by Paul of Samosata, the usual name invoked for that kind of theology.

Section V is directly anti-Marcellan in its thrust. The depiction of Marcellus’ theology is that the Word as ‘word’ is analogous to a thought or word that is merely a mental construct of God, who truly comes into existence when ‘pronounced’, and that his existence as Christ and Son of God refers to the Economy, and that it will also cease, at the Consummation. Section VI follows on and directly aligns this teaching with Marcellus, and with Photinus. The Easterns refer the motivation as one of affirming or supporting the divine Monarchia[22]. In place of this they affirm the existece of Christ “before the ages”, “self-existed”, and make use of both Genesis 1 and Old Testament Christophany-theology as a defence of the idea that Christ was indeed God pre-Incarnation.

The positioning of VII completes the attack on modalist varieties, in a more general vein than the very specific hostility towards Marcellus et al. above. They dual naming of ‘Patripassians’ and ‘Sabellians’ acknowledges that the Westerns also reject modalism, and may be read as part of a broader strategy to win cohesion for this moderate homoiousian theology.

Section VIII is interesting, because it shows the direction that the Easterns are heading. The issue is the manner of the generation, and the Eastern position here is that the generation must be considered to be an act of will by God the Father. Their reasoning is both positive and negative. Positively, they are arguing that the Absolute Sovereignty of God the Father means that to conceive of the generation as in-voluntary, un-willing, is to set an externalised limit of necessity on the Father that is inconsistent with that Absolute Sovereignty. Negatively, they portray their purported opponents as having set such a delimitation upon God as a departure from Scripture and received notions of God.

In terms of the broader theological picture, we should consider the flip-side of this particular position. It is those who are broadly Nicene, and even Athanasian, in their conception of the nature of the generation. That Father and Son are corrolary terms that necessitates the generation of the Son. Despite the best attempts of the Homoiousians to maintain pre-creation existence of Christ as God, their language fails to grasp the position of their opponents, because the necessity envisaged is not external, but internal, and for that reason their opponents are not seeking to pit this necessity against volition. And so long as the pro-Nicene position does not pit necessity against volition, attempts to attack the position on this basis will continue to miss the mark.We should note here also the use of Pv 8:22, that key verse in so much of the non-Nicene arguments.

IX is another attempt to balance their position, to situate it between two extremes. Having strongly affirmed that the Son’s existence and generation is not like that of the creatures, it is emphasised that this self-existence is “like the Father”, but not separate from the Father. A non-mediated, non-intervalled union of Father and Son is depicted, but the nature of that union is not defined, either as one of will or as one of nature. It is this vagueness that allows the debate to continue, since ‘one dignity of Godhead, and one exact harmony of Kingdom’ is not definitive enough. However, the final sentence of IX considers this a Scripture-derived, ecclesiasial-tradition account of the ‘monarchia’. It is clear that the framers of this document do consider this sufficient, and the use of τῆς βασιλείας τὴν συμφωνίαν is at least a hint towards the construal that συμφωνία plays a large role in how they see that unity of the Godhead functioning.
I have left off section X, which consists of some closing remarks about this creed by Athanasius, and gives a reason why he has included these texts at some length.

[1] ref needed
[2] singular for 4th Antiochene plural
[3] Eph 3:15
[4] articular variation from the 4th Antiochene, no significant difference in meaning
[5] lacking an article from 4th Antiochene, no significant difference in meaning
[6] ἐκ δεξιῶν for 4th Antiochene ἐν δεξιᾷ
[7] ἀκατάπαυστος for 4th Antiochene ἀκατάλυτος
[8] καθέζεται γὰρ for 4th Antiochene ἕσται γὰρ  καθεζόμενος
[9] πιστεύομεν added where 4th Antiochene lacks.
[10] i.e., the Father has generated the Son in a manner that is incomprehensible to us.
[11] 1 Cor 11:3
[12] i.e. not being first made among men and after this made to be God
[13] = Photinus
[14] unusually ἴσμεν in place of οἴδαμεν.
[15] Gen 1:26
[16] αὐτοπροσώπως
[17] ἐννοίας
[18] Absolute and Sovereign over himself – NPNF translation.
[19] Pv 8:22
[20] i.e., inseparable or continuously
[21] ἐνστρενισμένου
[22] I prefer to maintain monarchia instead of monarchy because the connotations of the latter are bound strongly up with our contemporary ideas of temporal royal political realities.

No comments: