I realize that it may not be completely possible to answer this question given that so much of what Arius wrote has been lost and/or misrepresented by his opponents. However, I have read his few letters that remain and his post-exile letter to Constantine doesn't seem much different than his others. I don't have access to the R.P.C. Hanson's 1998 book The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy, 318-381 (reissued, 2006) so I'm hoping someone here who does can provide further insight.

Here's the quote that leads me to the question:

Though he never repudiated the council or its decrees, the emperor ultimately permitted Arius (who had taken refuge in Palestine) and many of his adherents to return to their homes, once Arius had reformulated his Christology to mute the ideas found most objectionable by his critics. (Source: Wikipedia article on Arius)


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There were many political as well as theological intrigues going on from 340 to 380 and, as this history book puts it:

"Emperor after emperor switched back and forth from Arianism to orthodoxy to semi-Arianism and back to orthodoxy; [some] waffled on the doctrine of the Trinity and sought compromises with the Arians...

Sometime between 325 and 332 - just as Athanasius was taking over his duties as bishop of Alexandria - Emperor Constantine began to switch sides under pressure from bishops and advisers who were secret sympathizers with Arius and the two bishops who sided with him and suffered deposition and exile. The fallout from the Council had been intense. Argument and turmoil had not ceased. Some who had signed the creed and the anathemas against the Arians were appalled at the Sabellian spin being put on the creed by Marcellus and others. They managed to worm their way into the emperor's confidence, and he gradually began to consider changing the creed and even restoring Arius and the bishops of Nicomedia and Nicaea.

In 332 Constantine declared Arius restored as presbyter in Alexandria and ordered the new bishop to accept him back into communion there. Athanasius refused unless Arius would affirm homoousios as describing the relation between Father and Son. Arius would not. Athanasius rejected him and ignored the emperor's pleas and threats. As a result Athanasius was exiled by Constantine to the farthest outpost of the Roman Empire in the West - the German city of Trier. His exile began in November 335 and lasted until Constantine's death in 337...

On his travels to and from Trier, Athanasius made many contacts with Christian leaders in the West who came to sympathize with him. After all, Constantine was not universally considered a hero in the Latin West for moving the imperial seat eastward to Constantinople. Just because Athanasius was being exiled by the emperor was no reason for them to shun him. He was received by many Western bishops with open arms, and his influence among them for trinitarian orthodoxy (the Nicene formula) was profound.

...Arius died - one day before he was to be restored as a Christian presbyter in a special ceremony in Constantinople... in 336, only months before Constantine's own death on May 22, 337. Constantine lived as a pagan and died as an Arian." The Story of Christian Theology, pp. 162-164, Roger E. Olson, Apollos, 1999.

Arius had very many of his writings destroyed, so it is largely the writings of his detractors that have come down to us. However, given the way the emperor chopped and changed (forever with political goals in mind), Arius did not need to "reformulate" his views on Christ. Spoken words were the main influences in those days; debating and oratory secured most decisions. And, as seen by the refusal of Arius to agree to a critically important point in the Nicene creed, whatever words he used to imply that he was not a heretic, when push came to shove, he would not move from his stance. Anyway, the emperor came over to his side via arguments of supporters of Arius, so the end result is clear enough. Note, also, that Constantine did not get baptized by Eusebius of Nicomedia until approaching his death. Olson sums it up with, "Constantine lived as a pagan and died as an Arian."

Unfortunately, I do not have the book you wish to find quotes from. I have read other books that say Arius was very clever with his use of words, and was adept at sounding as if he agreed with orthodox statements but that was due to his attributing different meanings to certain words, enabling him to do that while holding on to his anti-trinitarian beliefs. He played the semantics game, in other words. I hope others can provide more of the information you seek from your preferred source.

  • thank you for that - appreciated. So when you say, "Arius did not need to "reformulate" his views on Christ", are you saying that you don't agree with the wiki article I linked to? I actually found that Google books has a preview available of the RPC Hanson book so I'm reading what I can at the moment. Jun 21 at 1:48
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    @Aleph-Gimel I'm only saying that with hindsight. We know now how it all worked out, so that even if he had not "reformulated" in writing, the spoken arguments and persuasions would have 'worked', getting him restored to favour (had he but lived another day - literally.) The Wiki article may well be right, I'm just saying that even if Arius had not repented in writing, the result would have been as it was.
    – Anne
    Jun 21 at 14:28

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