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Fathers of the Church

Apologia Contra Arianos


Because the Apology against the Arians contains the proceedings and decisions of previous synods and important letters of high ranking persons dealing with Athanasius, it represents an historical source of primary value for the history of the Arian controversy. For his own vindication Athanasius gives first a series of documents from the eve of his departure to Rome down to his return to Alexandria (339-347). Thus chapters 3-19 offer the Encyclical Letter of the council of Egypt held at the end of 338, in which the Egyptian prelates relate the election of Athanasius, the calumnies against him, the testimony available for his defense and call upon all bishops to be the avengers of such injustice. In chapters 20-35 follows the letter which Pope Julius wrote at the request of a roman synod (341) to the bishops of the Eusebian party at Antioch, defending Athanasius and reproaching them for their disrespect to the Council of Nicaea and to the See of Rome. Chapters 36-50 contain three letters of the Council of Serdica (343/4), one encouraging the Church of Alexandria to patience and confirming Pope Julius’ decision, another, almost identical with the first, to the bishops of Egypt and Libya, and a third, an Encyclical Letter of the Council announcing its decisions, the rehabilitation of Athanasius, Marcellus and Asclepas, and the deposition and excommunication of the Arian leaders. Chapters 51-58 produce letters of the Emperor Constantius, pope Julius, of the bishops of Palestine, of Valens and Ursacius, all of which form a sequel to the Council of Serdica. In the second part of the Apology, Athanasius deals with documents earlier than those of the first, because he wants to show the evidence upon which his acquittal was based. Thus he goes back to the year 331 and quotes the letters of Constantine previous to the Synod of Tyre (335) (ch. 59-63), the proceedings of this synod (ch. 71-83) and documents subsequent to it (ch. 84-88). In the two concluding chapters (89-90), Athanasius points to the sufferings of the bishops of Italy, Gaul and Spain—he singles out for mention especially Pope Liberius and the great bishop Ossius—as proof that they believed in his innocence, since they endured exile rather than desert his cause. (Quasten)


After Athanasius returned to Alexandria from his second exile in 346, the Arian party led by Eusebius of Nicomedia immediately renewed the old calumnies against him. He prepared this collection of documents for his own defense; it appears to have been completed around 357.

by Athanasius in 357 | translated by M. Atkinson, Rev. Archibald Robertson

True friendship is strengthened by intercourse, but separation cannot sunder it, for its bonds are strong. This truth might easily be shewn by many other examples, but it is enough for us to verify what I say by our own case. Between me and you are indeed many things, mountains, cities, and the sea yet nothing has destroyed my recollection of your excellency. No sooner do we behold any one arriving from those towns which lie on the coast, than the conversation is turned on Cyprus and on its right worthy governor, and we are delighted to have tidings of your high repute. And lately we have been gratified to an unusual degree at learning the most delightful news of all: for what, most excellent sir, can be more pleasing to us than to see your noble soul illuminated by the light of knowledge? For we think it right that he who is adorned with many kinds of virtue should add to them also its colophon, and we believe that we shall behold what we desire. For your nobility will doubtless eagerly seize the God- given boon, moved thereto by true friends who clearly understand its value, and guided to the bountiful God "Who wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth," netting men by men's means to salvation, and bringing them that He captures to the ageless life. The fisherman indeed deprives his prey of life, but our Fisher frees all that He takes alive from death's painful bonds, and therefore "did he shew himself upon earth, and conversed with men," bringing men His life, conveying teaching by means of the visible manhood, and giving to reasonable beings the law of a suitable life and conversation. This law He has confirmed by miracles, and by the death of the flesh has destroyed death. By raising the flesh He has given the promise of resurrection to us all, after giving the resurrection of His own precious body as a worthy pledge of ours. So loved He men even when they hated Him that the mystery of the oeconomy fails to obtain credence with some on account of the very bitterness of His sufferings, and it is enough to show the depths of His loving kindness that He is even yet day by day calling to men who do not believe. And He does so not as though He were in need of the service of men,—for of what is the Creator of the universe in want?—but because He thirsts for the salvation of every man. Grasp then, my excellent friend, His gift; sing praises to the Giver, and procure for us a very great and right goodly feast.

Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (NP004EF II/IV, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.

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