Origen of Alexandria 184-253 taught that the relationship between the Father and the Son was one of an ‘eternal begetting’ but Arius 256-336 argued that ‘the Logos had a beginning and that the Son, therefore, was not eternal, the Logos being the highest of the Created Order‘ (quoted from Wikipedia).

There is contention about the position of Lucian of Antioch 240-312 but little doubt that his pupil Eusebius of Nicomedia UNK - 337 followed Arius’ theology.

An answer to a question posed by Peter Turner lists current denominations who appear to follow this teaching or have views that appear to be similar, but it is the original response of Arius, or Eusebius, which interests me, regarding what, to me, is an insurmountable obstacle to their claims.

In Hebrews 7:3, the writer states that Melchisedec is portrayed as having no ‘beginning of days’.

The translation ‘made like unto the Son of God’ is incorrect, the word ἀφομοιόω, aphomoiow, being used (not ποιέω, poieo, the word meaning ‘make’ or ‘do) which denotes (see Thayer) the ‘rendering of a likeness‘, or (BDAG) ‘becoming like‘, or (Liddel&Scott) ‘likened or portrayed like’. The only time the word is used in scripture, it cannot be suggested that this is an act of creation and cannot be suggested that ‘Melchisedec is made in the way the Son of God is made’. The words simply do not convey that meaning.

Rather, the opposite, for Melchisedec is a ‘likeness’ a ‘representation’ and one of the features of that representative likeness is this : that the Genesis narrative states no past history. He has no genealogy in scripture. He appears to have no origin, no parentage, no . . . . beginning of days.

And the writer applies this feature of Melchisedec to Jesus Christ. Clearly the likeness is not a likeness of his earthly path, the ‘days of his flesh’, for we know that Gabriel announced, to the virgin, the event of her becoming great with child. And we know the angelic host appeared and glorified God when the babe was born and placed in swaddling clothes in a manger.

Did we have accurate historical records we could exactly place the time of his birth to the very hour, so this cannot be the meaning of the writer to the Hebrews. The representative likeness of a feature of having ‘no beginning of days’ must relate to the Son of God’s existence before coming into the world ; before being ‘manifest in flesh’, 1 Timothy 3:16 (TR/KJV).

If no ‘beginning of days’ then no possibility of calling this one ‘created’. For if there be anything other than God himself in existence, time must have begun and days (of whatever shape or form) can be counted. He was - before there was such a thing as 'a day'.

In the beginning . . . was the Logos. He was there, when it all began, John 1:1.

This same truth is expressed by John the apostle who writes (I John 1:2) of ‘the life, the eternal’ (see the literal Greek, for example Young’s Literal Translation) which was ‘with the Father‘ and was - then - ‘manifested'. Again, whether one suggests ‘everlasting’ as a translation of αἰών, aion Strong 165 or the more usual rendering ‘eternal’, makes no difference. Looking backward in time, ‘everlasting’ sees no beginning.

Thus ‘the life the eternal’ being ‘with the Father’ (and there being nothing else in view) then that life must be the life of the Son : prior to manifestation. And this life had no beginning, whether one understands that ‘eternity’ is another thing altogether than ‘time’ or whether one views the past as ‘everlasting’.

How did Arius and Eusebius counter this argument (having no beginning of days) and how did they attempt to translate Hebrews 7:3 ? Is there any reliable record ?


3 Answers 3


It would be helpful to understand how much in agreement Arius and Eusebius of Nicomedia were, because it appears that only Eusebius has any record of his views about Melchizedec. Here’s a bit of background:

“Lucian of Antioch (d. 312) had been influenced by the heretic bishop Paul of Samosata …he tended to emphasize the humanity of Jesus Christ rather than his deity and tried to find a way to explain the incarnation of God in Christ without making Jesus himself God or falling back into Paul of Samosa’s adoptionist heresy. While Arius was studying under Lucian in Antioch, he became a close friend with another of Lucian’s theological students, Eusebius of Nicomedia, who later became an important and influential bishop. The two remained friends and colleagues throughout their lives and thought alike about the person of Jesus Christ, salvation, and the nature of God. …Like [Lucian] they both hated and feared the heresy of Sabellianism (modalism) more than the heresy of adoptionism…

Of course, neither Lucian nor Arius nor Eusebius could openly embrace and teach adoptionism. That had been declared heresy by the Synod of Antioch in 268. …anyone who dared to claim that Jesus Christ was not in any sense God but only a human prophet adopted by God into a special relationship would be in danger of losing his position in the church and possibly even being exiled by the emperor… It is likely that Lucian and his students even secretly believed in the adoptionist heresy, but it is likely that many of them had come to think of Jesus Christ as the incarnation not of God but of a great creature of God – the Logos, who had a beginning in time and remained forever subordinate to the Father not only in terms of his role but also in terms of his very being.” The Story of Christian Theology by Roger E. Olson, p142, Apollo, 1999)

In those days, stating doctrine about the person of Christ would be like tip-toeing through a theological minefield; the slightest move towards known heresies – explosions all round!

So, when in one answer Eusebius is quoted as saying (in his book entitled The Church History of Eusebius NPNF, I suppose) that Jesus “came into existence from God himself ...before the organization of the world”, that is something Arius could also have said, for the two were in agreement about him being a creature created by God, having a starting point in time. Indeed, out of the very few known surviving fragments of documents of Arius, here is just one such quote:

“And Christ is not true God, but by participation… even he was made God… The Son does not know the Father exactly, nor does the Logos see the Father perfectly, and neither does he perceive nor the Logos understand the Father exactly; for he is not the true and only Logos of the Father, but by a name alone he is called Logos and Sophia and by grace is called Son and Power.” (Robert C. Gregg and Dennis E. Groh, Early Arianism: A View of Salvation Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981, p.8)

So little of Arius remains that no ‘answer’ he might have given about the dilemma of Melchizedec with regard to Christ is likely to surface, and it could be a monumental waste of anyone’s time searching.

The helpful quotes in another answer do show Eusebius dealing with the matter of Melchizedec and Christ, but the problem there is that nothing he actually states denies or even throws doubt on his belief that Christ DID have a starting point in time, being created by God. He and Arius remained ‘Arian’ in doctrine.

The Arians of that era (and I quote from Olson again, p147):

“affirmed a kind of Trinity made up of three ‘divine’ beings (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), only one of whom is truly God. He [Arius] continued in his profession of faith to affirm unequivocally that only the Father is ‘without beginning’ and that the Son, though a great creature who shares many of God’s attributes, did not exist before he was begotten by the Father.”

As Olson points out, doctrines taught by Arius, and those who supported him, like Eusebius, mattered (Ibid p149):

“What one believed mattered very much. Heresy was belief and teaching about God, Jesus Christ and salvation that threatened to distort the gospel message and the Christian life so severely that it could become ‘another gospel’ and another religion, not the one taught by the apostles.”

So, the question being asked is important because it deals with a biblical objection to a heresy of Arius and Eusebius, but it appears that the nine paragraphs from Eusbeius already quoted are the sum total of all that they said, which is available to us today. From what those nine paragraphs state, it appears that extreme caution was being used with the wording so as not to appear to deny scripture about Melchizedek whilst simultaneously not denying clear Arianism. As I said earlier, tip-toeing through a theological minefield!

  • Much appreciated. The point about writers of that era having to be careful about making admissions is very relevant. (Up-voted +1) and if no better answer is forthcoming shortly, I shall accept this one. But it has only been a few days so I shall hold confirming it for time being. Very relevant - thank you.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 27, 2021 at 18:01
  • As far as Arian bible versions are concerned, Ulfilas' Gothic translation lacks Hebrews, along with half of the New Testament scriptures.

  • As far as Eusebius' explicit statements on Christ's relation to Melchizedek are concerned, there are two such relevant passages in his Church History:

First Book, Third Chapter :

  1. And elsewhere the same writer speaks of him as follows: The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool; and, Out of the womb, before the morning star, have I begotten you. The Lord has sworn and he will not repent. You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
  2. But this Melchizedek is introduced in the Holy Scriptures as a priest of the most high God, not consecrated by any anointing oil, especially prepared, and not even belonging by descent to the priesthood of the Jews. Wherefore after his order, but not after the order of the others, who received symbols and types, was our Saviour proclaimed, with an appeal to an oath, Christ and priest.
  3. History, therefore, does not relate that he was anointed corporeally by the Jews, nor that he belonged to the lineage of priests, but that he came into existence from God himself before the morning star, that is before the organization of the world, and that he obtained an immortal and undecaying priesthood for eternal ages.
  4. But it is a great and convincing proof of his incorporeal and divine unction that he alone of all those who have ever existed is even to the present day called Christ by all men throughout the world, and is confessed and witnessed to under this name, and is commemorated both by Greeks and Barbarians and even to this day is honored as a King by his followers throughout the world, and is admired as more than a prophet, and is glorified as the true and only high priest of God. And besides all this, as the pre-existent Word of God, called into being before all ages, he has received august honor from the Father, and is worshipped as God.

Tenth Book, Fourth Chapter :

  1. Who that beholds this living temple of the living God formed of ourselves — this greatest and truly divine sanctuary, I say, whose inmost shrines are invisible to the multitude and are truly holy and a holy of holies — would venture to declare it? Who is able even to look within the sacred enclosure, except the great High Priest of all, to whom alone it is permitted to fathom the mysteries of every rational soul?
  2. But perhaps it is granted to another, to one only, to be second after him in the same work, namely, to the commander of this army whom the first and great High Priest himself has honored with the second place in this sanctuary, the shepherd of your divine flock who has obtained your people by the allotment and the judgment of the Father, as if he had appointed him his own servant and interpreter, a new Aaron or Melchizedek, made like the Son of God, remaining and continually preserved by him in accordance with the united prayers of all of you.
  3. To him therefore alone let it be granted, if not in the first place, at least in the second after the first and greatest High Priest, to observe and supervise the inmost state of your souls — to him who by experience and length of time has accurately proved each one, and who by his zeal and care has disposed you all in pious conduct and doctrine, and is better able than any one else to give an account, adequate to the facts, of those things which he himself has accomplished with the Divine assistance.
  4. As to our first and great High Priest, it is said, 'Whatsoever he sees the Father doing those things likewise the Son also does.' John 5:19 So also this one, looking up to him as to the first teacher, with pure eyes of the mind, using as archetypes whatsoever things he sees him doing, produces images of them, making them so far as is possible in the same likeness, in nothing inferior to that Beseleel, whom God himself 'filled with the spirit of wisdom and understanding' Exodus 35:31 and with other technical and scientific knowledge, and called to be the maker of the temple constructed after heavenly types given in symbols.
  5. Thus this one also bearing in his own soul the image of the whole Christ, the Word, the Wisdom, the Light, has formed this magnificent temple of the highest God, corresponding to the pattern of the greater as a visible to an invisible, it is impossible to say with what greatness of soul, with what wealth and liberality of mind, and with what emulation on the part of all of you, shown in the magnanimity of the contributors who have ambitiously striven in no way to be left behind by him in the execution of the same purpose. And this place — for this deserves to be mentioned first of all — which had been covered with all sorts of rubbish by the artifices of our enemies he did not overlook, nor did he yield to the wickedness of those who had brought about that condition of things, although he might have chosen some other place, for many other sites were available in the city, where he would have had less labor, and been free from trouble.

Despite superficial appearances to modern trinitarian Christians, there is nothing distinctly non-Arian about any of these paragraphs.


Origen and Eternal Generation

I think it is false to say that Origen ‘taught that the relationship between the Father and the Son was one of an ‘eternal begetting’ as if this begetting is a continuous process. You refer to more than 60 pages to substantiate this claim. I would like to see more specific references. In my view, Origen described the begetting of the Son as an event in the eternal past. This must not be confused with the later-developed theory of eternal generation according to which the begetting of the Son is an eternal process in which the Son is still being generated and always will be generated.


Yes, Arius did teach that the Son had a beginning but he also taught that he was “begotten timelessly” (RPC Hanson - The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God - The Arian Controversy 318-381, page 8).

“He (Arius) and his followers insist again and again that the Son was produced before times and ages yet they hold onto the conviction that there was a time when the Son did not exist. … Perhaps they took the Platonic view that time only existed when the heavenly bodies, by which time is measured, were created, so that the Son, who was at some point brought into existence, but before the heavenly bodies, could be said in a sense to be 'before times'” (RH, 22).

“Faced with the notion that there was no 'interval’ between Father and Son, Eusebius (of Caesarea) is not necessarily being inconsistent in stressing the Father's pre-existence. From our point of view, in the world's time, Father and Son co-exist; from the Father's point of view, so to speak, they do not and cannot.” (Rowan Williams, Arius: Heresy and Tradition, page 172)

In other words, Arius taught that the Son was generated before time began. For Arius, He was begotten in the incomprehensible infinity or eternity that exists beyond the time, space, and matter of this universe. Is that so much different from what Origen taught?

In the beginning … was the Logos.

You quote this from John 1:1. I assume the beginning here is the beginning of creation – which is the beginning of time. Arius would agree that the Logos already existed at that time.

Beginning and Created

You wrote: If no ‘beginning of days’ then no possibility of calling this one ‘created’. I do not agree: In the Logos Theology of the ancient Apologists, “the Logos” was created (not begotten as a separate reality) because it is God’s Word or Thought or Wisdom, but it had no beginning because God exists timelessly and, therefore, never had a first thought. Therefore, Melchizedek, as likeness of Christ, also has no beginning of days but is created.

At the end of the question, you do mention the distinction that can be drawn between time and eternity; the eternity existing outside time. To understand the ancients, we need to understand how they applied this distinction.

  • There is no such thing as 'the eternal past'. Time is time and time has passed. But eternity is a state. (Not a duration.) You are misinformed to say 'the eternal past'. And on this statement hangs all that you have said. Down-voted -1 for inaccuracy.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 22, 2023 at 14:33
  • @NigelJ I think we must agree on terminology. We seem to agree that, when we think about the Son of God, we have to think about two realities. Can I call them our reality of space-time-matter and God’s reality which exists beyond our reality, but which is the source of our reality. You seem to refer to God’s reality as “eternity.” However, in my view, “eternity” is part of our reality. For example, the saved will live in eternity but they will remain part of our reality. Therefore, it is valid to talk about “the eternal past,” namely, as part of our reality.
    – Andries
    Feb 23, 2023 at 15:15

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