33331 It will be attempted to give a complete list of his writings in chronological order; those included in this volume will be marked with an asterisk and enumerated in this place without remark. The figures prefixed indicate the probable date.
(I) 318: * Two books ‘contra Gentes,’ viz. c). Gent. and De Incarn.
(2) 321–2: * Depositio Arii (on its authorship, see Introd).
(3) 328–373: * Festal Letters.
(4) 328–335? * Ecthesis or Expositio Fidel.
(5) Id.? * In Illud Omnia, etc.
(6) 339: * Encyclica ad Episcopos ecclesiae catholicae.
(7) 343: * Sardican Letters (46, 47, in this vol)..
(8) 351? * Apologia Contra Arianos.
(9) 352? * De Decretis Concilii Nicaeni, with the * Epistola Eusebii (a.d. 325) as appendix.
(10) Id.? * De Sententia Dionysii.
(11) 350–353? * Ad Amun, (Letter 48).
(12) 354: * Ad Dracontium (Letter 49 in this vol)..
(13) 356–362? Vita Antoni.
(14) 356:* Epistola ad Episc. Aegypti et Libyae.
(15) 356–7: *Apol. Ad Constantium.
(16) 357: * Apol. De Fuga.
(17) 358: * Epist. Ad Serapionem de Morte Arii (Letter 54).
(18) ID. * Two Letters To Monks (52, 53).
(19) 358? * Historia Arianorum ‘ad monachos.’
(20) Id. * Orationes Adversus Arianos IV.
(21) 359? * Ad Luciferum (Letters 50, 51).
(22) Id.? Ad Serapionem Orationes IV. (Migne 26,529,) sqq).. These logoi or dogmatic letters are the most important work omitted in the preseut volume. Serapion of Thmuis, who appears from the silence respecting him in the lists of exiles to have escaped banishment in 356–7, reported to Athanasius the growth of the doctrine that, while the Son was co-essential with the Father, the Spirit was merely a creature superior to Angels. Athanasius replied in a long dogmatic letter, upon receiving which Serapion was begged to induce the author to abridge it for the benefit of the simple. After some hesitation Athanasius sent two more letters, the second drawing out the proofs of the Godhead of the Son, the third restating more concisely the argument of the first. The objections by which these letters were met were replied to in a fourth letter which Athanasius declared to be his last word. The persons combated are not the Macedonians, who only formed a party on this question at a later date, and whose position was not quite that combated in these letters. Athanasius calls them Tropigoi, or Figurists, from the sense in which they understood passages of Scripture which seemed to deify the Holy Spirit. It is not within our compass to summarise the treatises. but it may be noted that Ath. argues that where pnxuma is absolute or anarthrous in Scripture it never refers to the Holy Spirit unless the context already supplies such reference (i. 4,) sqq).. He meets the objection that the Spirit, if God and of God, must needs be a Son, by falling back upon the language of Scripture as our guide where human analogies fail us. He also presses his opponents with the consequence that they substitute a Dyad for a Trinity. In the fourth letter, at the request of Serapion, he gives an explanation of the words of Christ about Sin Against the Spirit. Rejecting the view (Origen, Theognostus) that post-baptismal sin is meant (§§9,) sqq)., as favouring Novatianist rigour, he examines the circumstances under which our Lord uttered the warning. The Pharisees refused to regard the Lord as divine when they saw His miracles, but ascribed them to Beelzebub. They blasphemed ‘the Spirit,’ i.e. the Divine Personality of Christ (§19, cf. Lm 4,20, LXX).. So far as the words relate to the Holy Spirit, it is not because the Spirit worked through Him (as through a prophet) but because He worked through the Spirit (20). Blasphemy against the Spirit, then, is blasphemy against Christ in its worst form (see (also below, ch. iv., §6). It may be noted lastly that he refers to Origen in the same terms of somewhat measured praise (o polumaoh? kai flopono?), as in the De Decretis.
(23) 359–60. *De Synodis Arimini et Seleuciae celebratis.
(24) 362: *Tomus Ad Antiochenos.
(25) Id). Syntagma Doctrinae (?) see chapter 2,§9, above.
(26) 362: *Letter to Rufinianus (Letter 55).
(27) 363–4: *Letter to Jovian (Letter 56).
(28) 364 ? *Two small Letters to Orsisius (57, 58)*
(29) 369? *Synodal Letter Ad Afros.
(30) Id.? *Letter to Epictetus (59).
(31) Id.? *Letters to Adelphius and Maximus (60, 61).
(32) 363–372 ? *Letter to Diodorus of Tyre (fragment, Letter 64).
(33) 372: *Letters to John and Antiochus and to Palladius (62, 63).
(34) 372? Two books against Apollinarianism (Migne 26,1093, sqq. Translated with notes, &c., in Bright, Later Treatises of St. Athan).. The two books are also known under separate titles: Book I. as ‘De Incarnatione D.n.j.C. Contra Apollinarium,’ Book II. as ‘De Salutari Adventu D.N.J.C.’ The Athanasian authorship has been doubted, chiefly on the ground of certain peculiar expressions in the opening of Book I.; a searching investigation of the question has not yet been made, but on the whole the favourable verdict of Montfaucon holds the field. He lays stress on the affinity of the work to letters 59–61. I would add that the studious omission of any personal reference to Apollinarius is highly characteristic). In the first book Athanasius insists on the reality of the human nature of Christ in the Gospels, and that it cannot be co-essential with the Godhead. ‘We do not worship a creature?’ No; for we worship not the Flesh of Christ as such but the Person who wears it, viz. the Son of God. Lastly, he urges that the reality of redemption is destroyed if the Incarnation does not extend to the spirit of man, the seat of that sin which Christ came to atone for (§19), and seeks to fasten upon his opponents a renewal (§§20, 21) of the system of Paul of Samosata.
The second book is addressed to the question of the compatibility of the entire manhood with the entire sinlessness of Christ. This difficulty he meets by insisting that the Word took in our nature all that God had made, and nothing that is the work of the devil. This excludes sin, and includes the totality of our nature.
This closes the list of the dated works which can be ascribed with fair probability to Athanasius.
The remainder of the writings of Athanasius may be enumerated under groups, to which the ‘dated’ works will also be assigned by their numbers as given above. Works falling into more than one class are given under each.
a). Letters. (Numbers 3, 7, 11, 12, 17, 18, 21, 26—28, 30—33; spurious letters, see infr. p. 581).
b). Dogmatic. (2, 4, 5, 9, 10, 14. 20, 22—24, 26, 27, 29—31, 34).
(35). De Trinitate el Spiritu Sancto (Migne 26,1191). Preserved in Latin only, but evidently from the Greek. Pronounced genuine by Montfaucon, and dated (?) 365.
(36) De Incarnatione et Contra Arianos (ib 984). The Athanasian authorship of this short tract is very questionable. It is quoted as genuine by Theodoret Dial. 2,and by Gelasius de duabus naturis.In some councils it is referred to as ‘On the Trinity against Apollinarius;’ by Facundus as ‘On the Trinity.’ The tract is in no sense directed against Apollinarius. In reality it is an argument, mainly from Scripture, for the divinity of Christ, with a digression (13—19) on that of the Holy Spirit. On the whole the evidence is against the favourable verdict of Montfaucon, Ceillier, &c. That Athanasius should, at any date possible for this tract, have referred to the Trinity as ‘the three Hypostases’ is out of the question (§10): his explanation of Pr 8,22 in Orat. 2,44 sqq. is in sharp contrast with its reference to the Church in §6; at a time when the ideas of Apollinarius were in the air and were combated by Athanasius (since 362) he would not have used language savouring of that system (§§2, 3, 5, 7, &c).. It has been thought that we have here one of the Apollinarian tracts which were so industriously and successfully circulated under celebrated names (infra, on No. 40); the express insistence on two wills in Christ (§21), if not in favour of Athanasian might seem decisive against Apollinarian authorship, but the peculiar turn of the passage, which correlates the one will with sarx the other with pnevma and qeo? is not incompatible with the latter, which is, moreover, supported by the constant insistance on God having come, en sarki and en omoiwmati anqrwpou. The anqrwpo? teleio? of §8 and the wmoiwqh katanta of §11 lose their edge in the context of those passages. The first part of §7 could scarcely have been written by an earnest opponent of Apollinarianism. This evidence is not conclusive, but it is worth considering, and, at any rate, leaves it very difficult to meet the strong negative case against the genuineness of the Tract. (Best discussion of the latter in Bright, Later Treatises of St. A., p. 143; he is supported by Card. Newman in a private letter).
(37) The Sermo Maior de Fide. (Migne 26,1263 sqq., with an additional fragment p. 1292 from Mai Bibl. nov).. This is a puzzling document in many ways. It has points of contact with the earliest works of Ath. (especially pieces nearly verbatim from the de Incarn., see notes there), also with the Expos. Fid. Card. Newman calls it with some truth ‘Hardly more than a set of small fragments from Ath.’s other works.’ However this may be, it is quoted by Theodoret as Athanasian more than once. The peculiarity lies in the constant iteration of [ Anqrwpo" for the Lord’s human nature (see (note on Exp. Fid)., and in some places as though it were merely the equivalent to swma or sarx, while in others the [ Anqrwpo" might be taken as the seat of Personality (26, 32). Accordingly the tract might be taken advantage of either by Nestorians, or still more by Apollinarians. The ‘syllogistic method,’ praised in the work by Montfaucon, was not unknown to the last-mentioned school. (Pr 8,22 is explained in the Athanasian way. For a fuller discussion, result unfavourable, see Bright, ubi supr. p. 145).
(38) Fragments against Paul of Samosata, Macedonians, Novatians (Migne 26,1293, 1313—1317). The first of these may well be genuine. It repeats the (mistaken) statement of Hist. Ar. 71, that Zenobia was a Jewess. Of the second, all that can be said is that it attacks the Macedonians in language borrowed from Ep. Aeg. 11. The third, consisting of a somewhat larger group of five fragments, comprise a short sentence comparing the instrumentality of the priest in absolving to his instrumentality in baptizing.
It may be observed that fragments of this brevity rarely furnish a decisive criterion of genuineness.
(39) Interpretatio Symboli (ib 1232, Hahn, §66). Discussed fully by Caspari, Ungedruckte u.s.w. Quelleni. pp. 1—72, and proved to be an adaptation of a baptismal creed drawn up by Epiphanius (Ancor. ad fin.)in 374. It may be Alexandrian, and, if so, by Bishop Peter or Theophilus about 380. It is a Ermhneia, or rather an expansion, of the Nicene, not as Montf. says, of the Apostles’(!), Creed.
(40) De Incarnatione Verbi Dei (Migne 28,25—29). Quoted as Athanasian by Cyril of Alex., &c., and famous as containing the phrase Mian fusin. Apollinarian; one of the many forgeries from this school circulated under the names of Athanasius, Gregory Thaumaturgus, Julius, &c. See Caspari, ubi supra 151, Loofs, Leontius, p. 82, sqq. Caspari’s proof is full and conclusive. See also Hahn, §120.
(41) Verona Creed (Hahn, §41, q.v.), a Latin fragment of a Western creed; nothing Athanasian but the ms. title.
(42) ‘Damasine’ Creed (Opp. ed. Ben. 2,626, Migne P.L 62,237 in Vig. Thaps). forms the ‘eighth’ of the Libri de Trinitate ascribed now to Athan. now to Damasus, &c., &c.: see Hahn, §128 and note.
(43) ‘de Irncarnatione’ (Migne 28,89), Anti-Nestorian: fifth century.
c). Historical, or historico-polemical (6, 8—10, 13—19, 23).
(44) Fragment concerning Stephen and the Envoys at Antioch (Migne 26,1293). Closely related (relative priority not clear) to the account in Thdt). H.E., ii. 9.
d). Apologetic. To this class belong only the works under No. (1).
e). Exegetical (5). The other exegetical works attributed to Athan, are mainly in Migne, vol. xxvii.
(45) Ad Marcellinum de Interpretatione Psalmornm. Certainly genuine. A thoughtful and devout tract on the devotional use of the Psalter. He lays stress on its universality, as summing up the spirit of all the other elements of Scripture, and as applying to the spiritual needs of every soul in all conditions. He remarks that the Psalms are sung not for musical effect, but that the worshippers may have longer time to dwell upon their meaning. The whole is presented as the discourse tino? filoponou geronto?, possibly an ideal character.
(46) Expositiones in Psalmos, with an Argumentum (upoqesi>v) prefixed. The latter notices the arrangement of the Hebrew Psalter, the division into books, &c., and accounts for the absence of logical order by the supposition that during the Captivity some prophet collected as best he could the Scriptures which the carelessness of the Israelites had allowed to fall into disorder. The titles are to be followed as regards authorship. Imprecatory passages relate to our ghostly enemies. In the Expositions each Psalm is prefaced by a short statement of the general subject. He occasionally refers to the rendering of Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus.
(47) Fragmenta in Psalmos. Published by Felckmann from the Catena of Nicetas Heracleota, who has used his materials somewhat freely, often combining the comments of more than one Father into a single whole.
(48) De Titulis Psalmorum. First published by Antonelli in I746. This work, consisting of very brief notes on the Psalter verse by verse, is spoken of disparagingly by Alzog, Patrol., p. 229, and regarded as spurious, on good prima facie grounds, by Gwatkin, p. 69, note. Eichhorn, de Vit. Ascet., p. 43, note, threatens the latter (1886) with a refutation which, however, I have not seen.
(49)Fracmentum in Cantica. (Photius mentions a Commentary on Qo and Cant). From a Catena published by Meursius in 1617. Very brief (on Ct 1,6, 7, 3,1, 2, 6,1). A spurious homily is printed (pp. 1349–1361) as an appendix to it.
(50) Fragmenta in Evang. Matthaei. Also from ms. catenae. Contain a remarkable reference to the Eucharist (p. 1380, on Matt. vii. 6) and a somewhat disparaging reference to Origen (infr. p. 33) in reference to Mt 12,32, which passage is explained as in Serap. 4,(vide supra 22). The extracts purport in some cases to be taken from a homiletical or expository work of Athanasius divided into separate logoi. The passage ‘on the nine incurable diseases of Herod’ is grotesque (Migne 26,1252), but taken from Joseph., B. J. I. 23,5. Cf. Euseb). H. E. 1,8.
(51) Fragmenta in Lucam. Also from ms. catenae. At the end, a remarkable passage on the extent to which prayers can help the departed.
(52) Fragmenta in Job. From Nicetas and ms. catenae. Contains little remarkable. ‘Behemoth’ is Satan, as elsewhere in Athan.
(53) Fragmentum in L Cor. A short paragraph on 1Co 7,1, or rather on 1Co 6,18, somewhat inadequately explained.
f). Moral and Ascetic, (11—13, , 28).
(54) Sermo de Patientia. (Migne 26,1295). Of doubtful genuineness (Montf., Gwatkin).
(55) De Virginitate. (Migne 28,251). Pronounced dubious by Montf., spurious by Gwatkin, genuine by Eichhorn (ubi supr., pp. 27, sqq)., who rightly lays stress on the early stage of feminine asceticism which is implied. But I incline to agree with Mr. Gwatkin as to its claims to come from Athanasius. ‘Three hypostases’ are laid down in a way incompatible with Athanasius’ way of speaking in later life.
(56) Mlscellaneous Fragments. These are too slight and uncertain to be either classed or discussed here). De Amuletis (xxvi. 1319); de Azymis, (1327), very dubious; In Ramos palmarum (1319), also dubious; various small homiletical and controversial pieces (pp. 1224—1258) of various value and claims to genuineness. (See also Migne 25,p. 14,No. xx).
(57) Of Los Works (in addition to those of which fragments have been mentioned above) a Refutation of Arianism is referred to in Letter 52. We also hear of a treatise against heresics (a fragment above, No. 56). A ‘Synodicon,’ with the names of all Bishops present at Nicaea, is quoted by Socr. 1,13, but is referred by Revillout to his alleged Acts of the Synod of Alexandria in 362, which he supposes to have reissued the Acts of Nicaea. See above, p. 59,A consolatory address to the Virgins maltreated by George is mentioned by Theodoret, H. E. ii. 14; he quotes a few words, referring to the fact that the Arians would not even allow them peaceable burial, but ‘sit about the tombs like demons’ to prevent it. The Oratio de defunctis (infra, ch. 4,§6, fragment above, 56) is ascribed to him by Jn Damasc., but by others to Cyril of Alexandria. Many of his letters must have been lost. The Festal Letters are still very incomplete, and his letters to S. Basil would be a welcome discovery if they exist anywhere. A doctrinal letter against the Arians, not preserved to us, is mentioned de Decr. 5. (See also Montfaucon’s Proef. 2,(Migne xxv. p. xxv., sqq), and Jerome, de Vir. illustr. 87, a somewhat careless and scanty list).
The above enumeration includes all the writings attributed with any probability to S. Athanasius. The fragmentary character of many of them is no great presumption against their genuineness. The Abbat Cosmas in the sixth century advised all who met with anything by Athanasius to copy it, and if they had no paper, to use their clothes for the purpose. This will readily explain (if explanation is needed) the transmission of such numerous scraps of writing under the name of the great bishop. It will also partly explain the large body of Spurious Works which have sheltered themselves under his authority. To this class we have already assigned several writings (25, 36, 37 ? 39–43, 44 ? 48 ? 53 ? 55, 56 in part). Others whose claims are even less strong may be passed over, with only the mention of one or two of the more important. They are all printed in Migne, vol. xxviii., and parallels to some, especially the ‘dubious’ In Passionem Et Crucem Domini, are marked in Williams’ notes to the Festal Letters, partly incorporated in this volume. The epistola catholica and Synopsis Scripturae sacrae are among the better known, and are classed with a few others as ‘dubia’ by Montfaucon, the fictitious Disputerio habita in concilio Nicaeno contra Arium, among the ‘spuria.’ The silly tale de Imagine Berytensi seems to have enjoyed a wide circulation in the middle ages. Of the other undoubtedly ‘spurious’ works the most famous is the ‘Athanasian Creed’ or Quicunque Vult.It is needless to say that it is unconnected with Athanasius: its origin is still sub judice. The second part of it bears traces of the period circa 430 a.d., and the question which still awaits a last word is whether the Symbol is or is not a fusion of two originally independent documents. Messrs. Lumby, Swainson and others have ably maintained this, but the difficulties of their hypothesis that the fusion took place as late as about 800 a.d. are very great, and I incline to think will eventually prove fatal to it. But the discussion does not belong to our present subject.
332 Athanasius was not an author by choice. With the exception of the early apologetic tracts all the writings that he has left were drawn from him by the stress of theological controversy or by the necessities of his work as a Christian pastor. We have no systematic doctrinal treatise, no historical monograph from his pen, although his writings are rich in materials for history and dogmatics alike. The exception to this is in the exegetical remains, especially those on the Psalms, which (supra, No. 45, sqq). imply something more than occasional work, some intention of systematic composition. For this, a work congenial to one who was engaged in preaching, his long intervals of quiet at Alexandria (especially 328—335, 346—356, 365—373) may well have given him leisure. But on the whole, his writings are those of a man of powerful mind indeed and profound theological training, but still of a man of action The style of Athanasius is accordingly distinguished from that of many older and younger contemporaries (Eusebius, Gregory Naz., &c). by its inartificiality. This was already observed by Erasmus, who did not know many of his best works, but who notes his freedom from the harshness of Tertullian, the exaggeration of Jerome, the laboured style of Hilary, the overloaded manner of Augustine and Chrysostom, the imitation of the Attic orators so conspicuous in Gregory; ‘sed totus est in explicanda re.’ That is true. Athanasius never writes for effect, but merely to make his meaning plain and impress it on others. This leads to his principal fault, namely his constant self-repetition (see (p. 47, note 6); even in apologising for this he repeats the offence. The praise by Photius (quoted below, Introd. to Orat). of his aperitton seems to apply to his freedom not from repetition but from extravagance, or studied brilliancy. This simplicity led Philostorgius, reflecting the false taste of his age, to pronounce Athanasius a child as compared with Basil, Gregory, or Apollinarius. To a modern reader the manliness of his character is reflected in the unaffected earnestness of his style. Some will admire him most when, in addressing a carefully calculated appeal to an emperor, he models his periods on Demosthenes de Corona (see (p. 237). To others the unrestrained utterance of the real man, in such a gem of feeling and character as the Letter (p. 557) to Draeontius, will be worth more than any studied apology. With all his occasional repetition, with all the feebleness of the Greek language of that day as an instrument of expression, if we compare it with the Greek of Thucydides or Plato, Athanasius writes with nerve and keenness, even with a silent but constant underflow of humour. His style is not free from Latinisms; preda (= praeda) in the Encycl., beterano" (= veteranus), bhlon (= velum), magistro", &c., are barbarisms belonging to the later decadence of Greek, but not without analogy even in the earliest Christian Literature). xunwri" is used in an unusual sense, p. 447). AEAreiomanitai seems to be coined by himself; akaqhkwn, apoxenizein, epakouein (= answer), egkuklein, &c., are Alexandrinisms (see (Fialon, p. 289). On the whole, no man was ever less of a stylist, while at the same time making the fullest use of the resources furnished by the language at his command. When he wrote, seven centuries of decay had passed over the language of Thucydides, the tragedians, Plato and the Orators. The Latin Fathers of the day had at their disposal a language only two centuries or so past its prime. The heritage of Thucydides had passed through Tacitus to the Latin prose writers of the silver age. The Latin of Tertullian, Cyprian, Jerome, Augustin, Leo, with all its mannerisms and often false antithesis and laboured epigram, was yet a terse incisive weapon compared with the patristic Greek. But among the Greek Fathers Athanasius is the most readable, simply because his style is natural and direct, because it reflects the man rather than the age.
; §3). Personal characteristics (see (Stanley’s Eastern Church, Lect. vii)..
To write an elaborate character of Athanasius is superfluous. The full account of his life (chap. ii)., and the specimens of his writings in this volume, may be trusted to convey the right impression without the aid of analysis. But it may be well to emphasise one or two salient points89
In Athanasius we feel ourselves in contact with a commanding personality. His early rise to decisive epoch-making infiuence,—he was scarcely more than 27 at the council of Nicaea,—his election as bishop when barely of canonical age, the speedy ascendancy which he gained over all Egypt and Libya, the rapid consolidation of the distracted province under his rule, the enthusiastic personal loyalty of his clergy and monks, the extraordinary popularity enjoyed by him at Alexandria even among the heathen (excepting, perhaps, ‘the more abandoned among them,’ Hist. Ar. 58), the evident feeling of the Arians that as long as he was intact their cause could not prosper, the jealously of his influence shewn by Constantius and Julian, all this is a combined and impressive tribute to his personal greatness. In what then did this consist?
Principally, no doubt, in his moral and mental vigour; resolute ability characterises his writings and life throughout. He had the not too common gift of seeing the proportions of things. A great crisis was fully appreciated by him; he always saw at once where principles separated or united men, where the bond or the divergence was merely accidental. With Arius and Arianism no compromise was to be thought of; but he did not fail to distinguish men really at one with him on essentials, even where their conduct toward himself had been indefensible (de Syn.). So long as the cause was advanced, personal questions were insignificant. So far Athanasius was a partisan. It may be admitted that he saw little good in his opponents; but unless the evidence is singularly misleading there was little good to see. The leaders of the Arian interest were unscrupulous men, either bitter and unreasoning fanatics like Secundus and Maris, or more often political theologians, like Eusebius of Nicomedia, Valens, Acacius, who lacked religious earnestness. It may be admitted that he refused to admit error in his friends. His long alliance with Marcellus, his unvarying refusal to utter a syllable of condemnation of him by name; his refusal to name even Photinus, while yet (Orat. iv). exposing the error associated with his name; his suppression of the name of Apollinarius, even when writing directly against him; all this was inconsistent with strict impartiality, and, no doubt, placed his adversaries partly in the right. But it was the partiality of a generous and loyal spirit, and he could be generous to personal enemies if he saw in them an approximation to himself in principle. When men were dead, unlike too many theologians of his own and later times, he restrained himself in speaking of them, even if the dead man were Arius himself.
In the whole of our minute knowledge of his life there is a total lack of self-interest. The glory of God and the welfare of the Church absorbed him fully at all times. We see the immense power he exercised in Egypt; the Emperors recognised him as a political force of the first order; Magnentius bid for his support, Constantius first cajoled, then made war upon him; but on no occasion does he yield to the temptation of using the arm of flesh. Almost unconscious of his own power, he treats Serapion and the monks as equals or superiors, degging them to correct and alter anything amiss in his writings. His humility is the more real for never being conspicuously paraded.
Like most men of great power, he had a real sense of humour (Stanley, p. 231, sq.,ed. 1883). Even in his youthful works we trace it (infr.p. 2), and it is always present, though very rarely employed with purpose. But the exposure of the Arsenius calumny at Tyre, the smile with which he answered the importunate catechising of an Epiphanius about ‘old’ Marcellus, the oracular interpretation of the crow’s ‘cras’ in answer to the heathen (Sozom. iv. 10), the grave irony with which he often confronts his opponents with some surprising application of Scripture, his reply to the pursuers from the Nile boat in 362, allow us to see the twinkle of his keen, searching eye. Courage, self-sacrifice, steadiness of purpose, versatility and resourcefulness, width of ready sympathy, were all harmonised by deep reverence and the discipline of a single-minded lover of Christ. The Arian controversy was to him no battle for ecclesiastical power, nor for theological triumph. It was a religious crisis involving the reality of revelation and redemption. He felt about it as he wrote to the bishopsof Egypt, ‘we are contending for our all’ (p. 234).
‘A certain cloud of romance encircled him’ (Reynolds). His escapes from Philagrius, Syrianus, Julian, his secret presence in Alexandria, his life among the monasteries of Egypt inhis third exile, his reputed visits to distant councils, all impress the imagination and lend themselves to legend and fable Later a es even claimed that he had fled in disguise to Spainand served as cook in a monastery near Calahorra (Act. SS. 2 Maii)! But he is also surrounded by an atmosphere of truth. Not a single miracle of any kind is related of him To invest him with the halo of miracle the Bollandists have to come down to the ‘translation’ of his body, not to Constantinople (an event surrounded with no little uncertainty), but to Venice, whither a thievish sea-captain, who had stolen it from a church in Stamboul, brought a body, which decisively proved its identity by prodigies which left no room for doubt. But the Athanasius of history is not the subject of any such tales. It has been said that no saint outside the New Testament has ever claimed the gift of miracles for himself. At any rate (though he displays credulity with regard to Antony), the saintly reputation of Athanasius rested on his life and character alone, without the aid of any reputation for miraculous power.
And resting upon this firm foundation, it has won the respect and admiration even of those who do not feel that they owe to him the vindication of all that is sacred and precious. Not only a Gregory or an Epiphanius, an Augustine or a Cyril, a Luther or a Hooker, not only Montfaucon and Tillemont, Newman and Stanley pay tribute to him as a Christian hero. Secular as well as Church historians fall under the spell of his personality, and even Gibbon lays aside his ‘solemn sneer’ to do homage to Athanasius the great.
89 Of his personal appearance little is known. Gregory Naz. praises his beauty of expression, Julian sneers at his small stature. Later tradition adds a slight stoop, a hooked nose and small mouth, short beard spreading into large whiskers, and light auburn hair, (See Stanley ubi supr)).
34341 The theological training of Athanasius was in the school of Alexandria, and under the still predominant although modified influence of Origen (see (above, pp. xiv., xxvii).. The resistance which the theology of that famous man had everywhere encountered had not availed, in the Greek-speaking churches of the East, to stem its influence; at the same time it had made its way at the cost of much of its distinctive character. Its principal opponent, Methodius, who represented the ancient Asiatic tradition, was himself not uninfluenced by the theology he opposed. The legacy of his generation to the Nicene age was an Origenism tempered in various degrees by the Asiatic theology and by accommodations to the traditional canon of ecclesiastical teaching. The degrees of this modification were various, and the variety was reflected in the indeterminate body of theological conviction which we find at the time of the outbreak of Arianism, and which, as already explained, lies at the basis of the reaction against the definition of Nicaea. The theology of Alexandria remained Origenist, and the Origenist character is purest and most marked in Pierius, Theognostus, and in the non-episcopal heads of the Alexandrian School. The bishops of Alexandria after Dionysius represent a more tempered Origenism. Especially this holds good of the martyred Peter, whom we find expressly correcting distinctive parts of the system of his spiritual ancestor. In Alexander of Alexandria, the theological sponsor of the young Athanasius, the combination of a fundamentally 0rigenist theology with ideas traceable to the Asiatic tradition is conspicuous90 .
Athanasius, then, received his first theological ideas from Origenist sources, and in so far as he eventually diverged from Origen we must seek the explanation partly in his own theological or religious idiosyncrasy and in the influences which he encountered as time went on, partly in the extent to which the Origenism of his masters was already modified by different currents of theological influence.
To work out this problem satisfactorily would involve a separate treatise and a searching study, not only of Athanasius91 but on the one hand of Origen and his school, on the other of Methodius and the earlier pre-Nicene theologians. What is here attempted is the more modest task of briefly drawing attention to some of the more conspicuous evidences of the process and to some of its results in the developed theology of the saintly bishop.
It has been said by Harnack that the theology of Athanasius underwent no development, but was the same from first to last. The truth of this verdict is I think limited by the fact that the Origenism of Athanasius distinctly undergoes a change, or rather fades away, in his later works. A non-Origenist element is present from the first, and after the contest with Arianism begins, Origen’s ideas recede more and more from view. Athanasius was influenced negatively by the stress of the Arian controversy: while the vague and loose Origenism of the current Greek theology inclined the majority of bishops to dread Sabellianism rather than Arianism, and to underrate the danger of the latter (pp. xviii., xxxv)., Athanasius, deeply impressed, from personal experience, with the negation of the first principles of redemption which Arianism involved, stood apart from the first from the theology of his Asiatic contemporaries and went back to the authority of Scripture and the Rule of Faith. He was influenced positively by the Nicene formula, which represents the combination of Western with anti-Origenist Eastern traditions in opposition to the dominant Eastern theology. The Nicene formula found in Athanasius a mind predisposed to enter into its spirit, to employ in its defence the richest resources of theological and biblical training, of spiritual depth and vigour, of self-sacrificing but sober and tactful enthusiasm; its victory in the East is due under God to him alone.
Athanasius was not a systematic theologian: that is he produced no many-sided theology like that of Origen or Augustine. He had no interest in theological speculation, none of the instincts of a schoolman or philosopher. His theological greatness lies in his firm grasp of soteriological principles, in his resolute subordination of everything else, even the formula omoousio", to the central fact of Redemption, and to what that fact implied as to the Person of the Redeemer. He goes back from the Logos of the philosophers to the Logos of S. John, from the God of the philosophers to God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. His legacy to later ages has been felicitously compared (Harnack, Dg. 2,26, note) to that of the Christian spirit of his age in the realm of architecture. ‘To the many forms of architectural conception which lived in Rome and Alexandria in the fourth century, the Christian spirit added nothing fresh. Its achievement was of a different kind. Out of the many it selected and consecrated one; the multiplicity of forms it carded back to a single dominant idea, not so much by a change in the spirit of the art as by the restoration of Religion to its place as the central motive. It bequeathed to the art of the middle ages the Basilica, and rendered possible the birth of Gothic, a style, like that of the old Greek Temple, truly organic. What the Basilica was in the history of the material, the central idea of Athanasius has been in that of the spiritual fabric; an auspicious reduction, full of promise for the future, of the exuberant speculation of Greek theology to the one idea in which the power of religion then resided’ (lb. and pp. 22 sqq., freely reproduced).
90 To begin with, we have the interesting fact that Alexander studied the writings of Melito of Sardis, and even worked up his tract peri yuch" kai swmato" ei" to paqo" into a homiletical discourse of his own, omitting such passages as seemed to savour of ‘modalism,’ (see (Krüger in Zeitschr. f. wiss. Theol. 1888, p. 434, sqq.: his grounds are convincing). Secondly, the expressions attributed to him by Arius (in his letter to Euseb. Nic)., and his letter to his namesake of Byzantium, bear out the above statement.
91 The reader is requested to supplement the necessarily very slender treatment of the Athanasian theology in this chapter by referring to the General Index to this volume, as well as to the Index of Texts, for guidance to the passages of Athanasius which are needed to check, fill out, and qualify what is here presented only in broad outline).