5

Colossians 2:9

HCSB For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ,

NASB: For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,

How did Arius interpret Colossians 2:9?

How did Arius view the Greek word Θεότητος ?

2
  • Since the writings of Arius were mostly destroyed there is not likely to be found a sourced answer to this question. I suggest editing to ask for a non trinitarian denomination to explain how they interpret this verse and this unique word
    – 007
    Commented Apr 15, 2021 at 11:27
  • I'd suggest changing "Arius" to "Arians" (though that would mean that @Andries would need to make significant updates to match the new wording). Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 13:55

1 Answer 1

1

Forget about Arius. He was and is not important. Arius was not a great theologian and not even his fellow ‘Arians’ regarded his writings as worth preserving. He did not leave a school of disciples. For example:

“Arius’ own theology is of little importance in understanding the major debates of the rest of the century” (after Nicaea). (LA, 56-57)

“We are not to think of Arius as dominating and directing a single school of thought to which all his allies belonged.” (RW, 171)

“Those who suspected or openly repudiated the decisions of Nicaea had little in common but this hostility … certainly not a loyalty to the teaching of Arius as an individual theologian.” (RW, 233)

The only reason that we refer to the fourth-century controversy as the 'Arian' Controversy is that Athanasius, who was exiled for violence against the Egyptian Melitians and related non-theological charges, developed what Lewis Ayres calls “a masterpiece of the rhetorical art,” “the full flowering of a polemical strategy that was to shape accounts of the fourth century for over 1,500 years” (LA, 106-7).

One key technique in his polemic was to offer an account of Arius' theology and then present later credal decisions and the writings of his enemies as those of ‘Arians’.” (LA, 431) In other words, he used a straw man tactic. He said that his opponents were followers of Arius - which they were not - and then he attacked Arius, pretending that he was attacking his opponents.

Unfortunately, the church has accepted Athanasius' polemical strategy for 1500 years. It was only during the last approximately 60 years that scholars have better access to the ancient documents and can better see what really happened. For example, around the year 2000 Lewis Ayres wrote:

“A vast amount of scholarship over the past thirty years has offered revisionist accounts of themes and figures from the fourth century” (LA, 2).

“The four decades since 1960 have produced much revisionary scholarship on the Trinitarian and Christological disputes of the fourth century. It is now commonplace that these disputes cannot simply be understood as … the Church's struggle against a heretic and his followers grounded in a clear Nicene doctrine established in the controversy's earliest stages. Rather, this controversy is a complex affair in which tensions between pre-existing theological traditions intensified as a result of dispute over Arius, and over events following the Council of Nicaea.” (LA, 11-12)

Since Arius was really unimportant, Ayres refers to the anti-Nicenes as 'Eusebians'. Eusebius of Caesarea is a famous historian and was the leader of the theological mainstream. For a proper anti-Nicene answer to your question, we must ask how the Eusebians understood Colossians 2:9. In this regard I quote as follows:

“It is perhaps possible to speak of a broad insistence on the part of many eastern theologians during these years that there is a basic distinction between Father and Son that must be protected in theological formulation. However, at the same time, we consistently see an insistence that there is an ineffable closeness between Father and Son such that the Son's being can be said to be from the Father in some indescribable sense, and that the Son is (to use one prominent phrase cf. Wisd 7:25; Heb 1:3) ‘the exact image of the Father's substance’.” (LA, 432) Ayres refers to this as “the broad eastern tradition.” (LA, 432, 5)

“Many of those who, for instance, were able to sign up to the ‘Dedication’ creed of 341 at Antioch were happy with such language but probably found both Arius' language and the Athanasian/Marcellan theology unacceptable. Nicaea appears to have seemed dangerously modalist to many of them.” (LA, 432)

The Dedication Creed of 431 said that the Son is "exact image of the Godhead and the ousia and will and power and glory of the Father." See Dedication Creed. Note the word "ousia." In other words, the Son is even the image of the substance of the Father. Nevertheless, as Image, He is distinct from and subordinate to the Father. Further quotes:

“Eusebius' (of Caesarea) theology is … the Son is theos because he is image, because the Father has given to him an unparalleled share in his own godhead.” (RW, 171).

“What clearly distinguishes Eusebius’ version of this theology … is the reiterated stress on the Father's gift of divine honour to the Son. The Son enjoys the most perfect participation imaginable in the life of the Father, and so too the fullest degree of access to the unknowable Father, but this results from the Father's decision” (RW, 172).

So, to summarize the above, and to explain how the Eusebians understood Colossians 2:9 (In Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form), they said:

  • There is an ineffable closeness between Father and Son.
  • The Son's being can be said to be from the Father in some indescribable sense.
  • The Son is the exact image of the Godhead and the ousia and will and power and glory of the Father.
  • The Father has given to him an unparalleled share in his own godhead.”
  • The Son enjoys the most perfect participation imaginable in the life of the Father ... but this results from the Father's decision." In this regard, we may refer to Colossians 1:19: "It was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him.".

In conclusion, forget about Arius. That approach simply perpetuates Athanasius’ straw man tactic.

Above I quote:

RW = Archbishop Rowan Williams Arius: Heresy and Tradition, 2002/1987

LA = Lewis Ayres Nicaea and its legacy, 2004 Ayres is a Professor of Catholic and Historical Theology

For more information, see - Athanasius invented Arianism

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .