12

Arius probably quoted the following:

Revelation 3:14: These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.

Psalm 8:5–6: thou madest Him

Proverbs 8:22–25: the LORD possessed [H7069 strongs, get, acquire, create] me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old... when there were no depths I was brought forth.

What other scriptures did Arius use to support his teaching that Jesus was created?

  • Isaiah 43:10-11 in the KJV says ".......I am He: before me there was no God formed neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the Lord and beside me there is no savior. Further consider Colossians 3:10 ........" and have put on the new man, which is renewed after the image of him (the Father) that created him (Jesus). – Rosie Dec 3 '17 at 3:23
7

In the early fourth century, many Christians were divided over how best to understand the relationship between God and Jesus. Emperor Constantine called for an ecumenical council of bishops to settle the matter: the Council of Nicea, in 325 AD. The result was a condemnation of 'the Arian heresy'.


Letter to Emperor Constantine

A few years later, in 327 AD, Arius and his ally Euzoïus addressed a letter to Emperor Constantine to explain what their beliefs were. (Presumably, they didn't trust their trinitarian opponents to accurately represent them.) Arius wrote:

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, and in the Lord Jesus Christ his son, who was begotten of him before all ages, God the Word through whom all things were made, both things in heaven and on earth; who descended, and became human, and suffered, and rose again, ascended into heaven, and will again come to judge the living and the dead. We believe also in the holy spirit, and in the resurrection of the flesh, and in the life of the coming age, and in the kingdom of the heavens, and in one catholic church of God, extending from one end of the earth to the other.

This faith we have received from the holy gospels, in which the Lord says to his disciples, ‘Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the son, and of the holy spirit.’ If we do not so believe and do not truly receive the Father, the son, and the holy spirit, as the whole catholic church and the holy scriptures teach (in which we believe in every respect), may God judge us both now, and in the coming judgment.

In the second paragraph cited above, Arius included Matthew 28.19, a verse often used to argue for the trinity. By citing this passage, Arius was showing that he was not ignorant of its existence, and thus implicitly that he did not believe it taught a trinitarian theology.

The first paragraph above, Arius presents the beliefs of his group in the form of a creed. (The shape of this creed was possibly in direct response to the Nicene Creed that had been drafted at the council.) Notably, Arius' creed begins with an apparent allusion to 1 Corinthians 8.6 ('We believe in God the Father Almighty, and in the Lord Jesus Christ his son'). Because Paul identifies each 'God the Father' and 'the Lord Jesus Christ', Arius seems to have taken this as a hard distinction between the two. This is a starting point, but very little else is readily discernible from this letter.


Letter to Alexander

A much more accessible letter to work with would be Arius' letter to Alexander circa 320 AD. Alexander was the bishop of Alexandria, and one of Arius' opponents. In this letter, Arius wrote his group's beliefs:

We acknowledge one God, alone unbegotten, alone everlasting, alone without beginning, alone true, alone having immortality, alone wise, alone good, alone sovereign, judge, governor, and provider of all, unalterable and unchangeable, just and good, God of the Law and the Prophets and the New Covenant. Who begat an only-begotten son before time and the ages, through whom he made both the ages and all that was made; who begot him not in appearance, but in reality; and that he made him subsist at his own will, unalterable and unchangeable, the perfect creature of God, but not as one of the creatures; offspring, but not as one of the other things begotten.

Now we have something to work with. Arius provides a dense cluster of allusions to Old and New Testament scripture, giving us a much stronger sense of his approach to the Bible as a whole:

  • "We acknowledge one God" — Presumably Deuteronomy 6.4 would be the ultimate origin of his point, but the phrase 'one God' is scattered throughout both Old and New Testaments.
  • "Alone unbegotten" — Psalm 2.7 would be the ultimate origin of this, as this psalm was popularly associated with Jesus (e.g. Acts 13.33; Hebrews 1.5). Arius took this to mean that, if Jesus was 'begotten', he must have had a beginning. This would go on to become one of the chief arguments used by Arius and those in agreement with him.
  • "Alone everlasting" — Possibly Isaiah 40.28 (Isaiah 40-55 has numerous examples of monotheistic proclamations), or perhaps Romans 16.26.
  • "Alone true" — John 17.3, where in prayer Jesus identifies the Father as 'the only true God'. While the Hebrew term 'elohim and the Greek term theos may be applied in various ways to human, angelic, or even demonic entities, Arius took this verse to mean that the Father alone could truly be identified with the term 'God', and thus not Jesus.
  • "Alone having immortality" — This is an explicit reference to 1 Timothy 6.15-16, where the author of the epistle wrote that God 'alone has immortality' (cf. 1 Timothy 1.17). Since God (whom Arius had already identified one-to-one with 'the Father') is alone immortal, Arius reasoned that Jesus was not immortal in the same sense, and thus not 'God'.
  • "Alone wise" — Romans 16.27, where Paul concludes his letter with a benediction 'to the only wise God forevermore through Jesus Christ!'
  • "Alone good" — Mark 10.18. Arius read this to mean that Jesus denied being God.
  • "Alone sovereign, judge, and governor" — 1 Timothy 6.15, where the author of the epistle says God is 'the only sovereign, the king of kings, and lord of lords' (cf. 1 Timothy 1.17).

Later in the same letter, Arius wrote:

Therefore he thus has his being from God; and glories, and life, and all things have been given over to him; in this way God is his beginning. For he is over him, as his God and being before him. But if the expressions 'from him' and 'from the womb' and 'I came from the Father, and I have come', are understood by some to mean that he is part of him, one in essence or as an emanation, then the Father is, according to them, compounded and divisible and alterable and material, and as far as their belief goes, the incorporeal God endures a body.

Here Arius explicitly cites three passages to distinguish Jesus as having a beginning and origin, in contrast to 'the eternal God'. Presumably, the passages Arius is quoting from were:

  • "from him" — John 6.46.
  • "from the womb" — Psalm 110.3.
  • "I came from the Father, and I have come" — John 16.28.

Thalia

Arius also wrote a poem titled Thalia, though it is uncertain when the poem was written, or even if what we have is an authentic copy of the text. (All we have is provided by his opponents.) The existing text does allude to Proverbs 8.22-25, and possibly also combines it with Revelation 3.14:

He who is without beginning made the Son a beginning of created things

and

Wisdom came to be Wisdom by the will of the Wise God
. . .
The one who is superior is able to beget one equal to the Son


Summary

We could continue, but I think this is enough to demonstrate the key passages Arius relied on, as well as his general hermeneutic to the scriptures. Whenever Arius saw a biblical author speaking of 'one God', or that God 'alone' had an attribute, he took this as antithetical to a trinitarian theology. Whenever Arius saw a biblical author distinguishing between 'God' and 'Jesus', he took this to mean Jesus was not himself God.

2

There is no evidence that Arius was influenced by Revelation 3:14 or Psalms 8:5-6, but he appealed to Bible verses such as Jesus saying that the father is "greater than I" (John 14:28), and "The Lord created me at the beginning of his work" (Proverbs 8:22). He was also influenced by Origen.

Richard Smoley says in Forbidden Faith, page 45, Origen held an emanationist view of the relation between the Father and the Son, which is sometimes called 'subordination of the divine Persons”. According to Origen, the Father eternally generates the Son, even though the Son was not created in time. To later theologians, Origen's emanationism sounded enough like Arius' teaching to be condemned by association.

Neither side, Arian nor Trinitarian, could prove its case convincingly, but Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, declared heretical the views of Arius and had him and the clergy who supported him, excommunicated. In order to fully exclude Arius, Alexander had the wording that Christ was “of one being with God” adopted at Nicaea. (Elaine Pagels, Beyond Belief, page 174).

Edward Gibbon says in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (D. M. Low abridgement, page 320) Constantine, wishing to bring the dispute between Alexander and Arius to an end, issued an absolute command that Arius should be solemnly admitted to the communion in the cathedral of Constantinople. On the day which had been fixed for the triumph of Arius, he expired. Gibbon comments that the circumstances of his death might raise a suspicion that the orthodox saints had contributed more than their prayers to deliver the Church from their most formidable enemy, Arius.

  • Dick, If Arius didn't use the two Scriptures mentioned he probably went by the teachings of the Early Church. Seeing it was only a couple hundred years since the Apostles lived. All we can go bye to verify certain beliefs is what is written in the inspired word of God, and history. Another statement in – Rosie Jan 20 '15 at 9:18
  • Isaiah 43:10-11 says I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. This is our Lord speaking through Isaiah in prophesy to educate His church. Colossians 1:14-16 says in part ....who is the firstborn of every creature. To me it sounds as if CHRIST Had his beginning, or was created sometime period to Him creating the earth and everything in it. Isn't that what Bro. Arius taught? – Rosie Jan 20 '15 at 9:38
  • Meant to say "sometime prior" not period. Sorry, not familiar with the workings of this site yet. – Rosie Jan 20 '15 at 9:43
  • This answer seems inadequate to me: The first paragraph makes a statement on what scripture Arius did not use to support his theology, but the rest provides only a brief history of Origen, Alexander, and Constantine, without actually commenting on what scriptures Arius did use for his theology. – Mark Edward May 1 '15 at 2:29
  • @MarkEdward Did I not mention John 14:28 and Psalm 8:22 in my answer? – Dick Harfield May 1 '15 at 5:50
0

This is a difficult question to give a simple straightforward answer. Firstly, regardless on your feelings regarding his interpretations, Arius was clearly well versed in much of scripture, so anything short of "all of scripture" would be a slightly inaccurate response. Secondly, we don't have much in the way of direct sources of his own writing. Most of the primary sources that we have today for Arius' actual teaching are not really primary at all. Many of them are from second or third-party contemporary sources speaking about Arius and his teachings.

If you are really interested, I would strongly suggest that you get a copy of the book called The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God by R. P. C. Hanson. It can be difficult to find, but it will be well worth your time to find it. It's the best study, in the English language, of the primary sources surrounding the Arian controversy of which I am aware. It covers in great detail, among other things, the Biblical arguments used by Arius and others. Some of them are based on specific proof-verses, as you are requesting, whereas some are more conceptual, being based on the comparison of multiple passages.

  • 1
    Thanks, I have found the book but may hold off for a used copy less expensive. – Rosie Jan 21 '15 at 18:37

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