2007 Archive Edition - See the Archive Notice on the Project Homepage for more information.

Alexander of Alexandria's Catholic Epistle
319 CE

(ANF, 6, 296-298.)

To our beloved and most reverend fellow-ministers of the Catholic Church in every place, Alexander sends greeting in the Lord:

1. Since the body of the Catholic Church is one, and it is commanded in Holy Scripture that we should keep the bond of unanimity and peace, it follows that we should write and signify to one another the things which are done by each of us; that whether one member suffer or rejoice we may all either suffer or rejoice with one another. In our diocese, then, not so long ago, there have gone forth lawless men, and adversaries of Christ, teaching men to apostatize; which thing, with good right, one might su spect and call the precursor of Antichrist. I indeed wished to cover the matter up in silence, that so perhaps the evil might spend itself in the leaders of the heresy alone, and that it might not spread to other places and defile the ears of any of the m ore simple-minded. But since Eusebius, the present bishop of Nicomedia, imagining that with him rest all ecclesiastical matters, because, having left Berytus and cast his eyes upon the church of the Nicomedians, and no punishment has been inflicted upon h im, he is set over these apostates, and has undertaken to write everywhere, commending them, if by any means he may draw aside some who are ignorant to this most disgraceful and Ant;christian heresy; it became necessary for me, as knowing what is written in the law, no longer to remain silent, but to announce to you all, that you may know both those who have become apostates, and also the wretched words of their heresy; and if Eusebius write, not to give heed to him.

2. For he, desiring by their assistance to renew that ancient wickedness of his mind, with respect to which he has for a time been silent, pretends that he is writing in their behalf, but he proves by his deed that he is exerting himself to do this on his own account. Now the apostates from the Church are these: Arius, Achilles, Aithales, Carpones, the other Arius, Sarmates, who were formerly priests; Euzoius, Lucius, Julius, Menas, Helladius, and Gains, formerly deacons; and with them Secundus and The onas, who were once called bishops. And the words invented by them, and spoken contrary to the mind of Scripture, are as follows:--

"God was not always the Father; but there was a time when God was not the Father. The Word of God was not always, but was made 'from things that are not;' for He who is God fashioned the non-existing from the non-existing; wherefore there was a time when He was not. For the Son is a thing created, and a thing made: nor is He like to the Father in substance; nor is He the true and natural Word of the Father; nor is He His true Wisdom; but He is one of the things fashioned and made. And He is c alled, by a misapplication of the terms, the Word and Wisdom, since He is Himself made by the proper Word of God, and by that wisdom which is in God, in which, as God made all other things, so also did He make Him. Wherefore, I He is by His very nature ch angeable and mutable, equally with other rational beings. The Word, too, is alien and separate from the substance of God. The father also is ineffable to the Son; for neither does the Word perfectly and accurately know the Father, neither can He perfectly see Him. For neither does the Son indeed know His own substance as it is. Since He for our sakes was made, that by Him as by an instrument God might create us; nor would He have existed had not God wished to make us. Some one asked of them whether the So n of God could change even as the devil changed; and they feared not to answer that He can; for since He was made and created, He is of mutable nature."

3. Since those about Arius speak these things and shamelessly maintain them, we, coming together with the Bishops of Egypt and the Libyas, nearly a hundred in number, have anathematized them, together with their followers. But those about Eusebius have received them, earnestly endeavouring to mix up falsehood with truth, impiety with piety. But they will not prevail; for the truth prevails, and there is no communion betwixt light and darkness, no concord between Christ and Belial. For who ever heard su ch things? or who, now hearing them, is not astonished, and does not stop his ears that the pollution of these words should not touch them? Who that hears John saying, "In the beginning was the Word," does not condemn those who say there was a time when H e was not? Who that hears these words of the Gospel, "the only-begotten Son;" and, "by Him were all things made," will not hate those who declare He is one of the things made? For how can He be one of the things made by Him? or how shall He be the only-be gotten who, as they say, is reckoned with all the rest, if indeed He is a thing made and created? And how can He be made of things which are not, when the Father says, "My heart belched forth a good Word;" and, "From the womb, before the morning have I be gotten Thee?" Or how is He unlike to the substance of the Father, who is the perfect image and brightness of the Father, and who says, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father?" And how, if the Son is the Word or Wisdom and Reason of God, was there a ti me when He was not? It is all one as if they said, that there was a time when God was without reason and wisdom. How, also, can He be changeable and mutable, who says indeed by Himself: "I am in the Father, and the Father in Me," and, "I and My Father are one;" and by the prophet, "I am the Lord, I change not?" For even though one saying may refer to the Father Himself, yet it would now be more aptly spoken of the Word, because when He became man, He changed not; but, as says the apostle, "Jesus Christ, t he same yesterday, today, and for ever." Who hath induced them to say, that for our sakes He was made; although Paul says, "for whom are all things, and by whom are all things?"

4. Now concerning their blasphemous assertion who say that the Son does not perfectly know the Father, we need not wonder: for having once purposed in their mind to wage war against Christ, they impugn also these words of His, "As the Father knoweth Me , even so know I the Father." Wherefore, if the Father only in part knoweth the Son, then it is evident that the Son doth not perfectly know the Father. But if it be wicked thus to speak, and if the Father perfectly knows the Son, it is plain that, even a s the Father knoweth His own Word, so also the Word knoweth His own Father, of whom He is the Word.

5. By saying these things, and by unfolding the divine Scriptures, we have often refuted them. But they, chameleon-like, changing their sentiments, endeavour to claim for themselves that saying: "When the wicked cometh, then cometh contempt." Before th em, indeed, many heresies existed, which, having dared more than was right, have fallen into madness. But these by all their words have attempted to do away with the Godhead of Christ, have made those seem righteous, since they have come nearer to Antichr ist. Wherefore they have been excommunicated and anathematized by the Church. And indeed, although we grieve at the destruction of these men, especially that after having once learned the doctrine of the Church, they have now gone back; yet we do not wond er at it; for this very thing Hymenaeus and Philetus suffered, and before them Judas, who, though he followed the Saviour, afterwards became a traitor and an apostate. Moreover, concerning these very men, warnings are not wanting to us, for the Lord foret old: "Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them." Paul, too, having learnt these things from the Saviour, wrote, "In the latter times some shall depa rt from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils which turn away from the truth."

6. Since, therefore, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ has thus Himself exhorted us, and by His apostle hath signified such things to us; we, who have heard their impiety with our own ears, have consistently anathematized such men, as I have already sa id, and have declared them to be aliens from the Catholic Church and faith, and we have made known the thing, beloved and most honoured fellow-ministers, to your piety, that you should not receive any of them, should they venture rashly to come unto you, and that you should not trust Eusebius or any one else who writes concerning them. For it becomes us as Christians to turn with aversion from all who speak or think against Christ, as the adversaries of God and the destroyers of souls, and "not even to wi sh them Godspeed, lest at any time we become partakers of their evil deeds," as the blessed John enjoins. Salute the brethren who are with you. Those who are with me salute you.