The Original Heresy, pt II: The Gnostic Gospels

Discovered near the Upper-Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi, the Gnostic Gospels (also known as the Nag Hammadi library, or the Nag Hammadi Codicies) have managed to capture imaginations, and generate heated debate over what biblical canon ought to be, what it is, and why it exists in its current form. This collection is made up of 13 leather-bound Codicies, and contains 52 separate works, most of which are Gnostic treatises. Of the parts that are not, there are three works that are part of the Corpus Hermeticus, and a partially rewritten version of Plato’s “Republic”, complete with Gnostic themes that had not existed prior.

Since their discovery, much of the debate that has surrounded them has focused on whether or not they are to be considered biblical canon. For the majority of Christians, they simply are not considered Scripture for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that they are inconsistent with the actual biblical canon. In this post, we will explore why they are inconsistent, and hopefully dispel a few of the more interesting conspiracy theories.

Background

In 1945, a man named Muhammad Ali and his brother were digging for fertilizer near the town of Nag Hammadi, when they unearthed a sealed clay jar. Though they were initially hesitant to open it, fearing that it might contain a Jinn (a type of Arabic demon, and where we get the English word “genie”), they were amazed to find the library carefully hidden within.

Rather than turn it over to local authorities, they chose to hang on to the library, in the hope that they would be able to get a really good price for each piece. The brothers took it home, and kept it there.

Through a series of events, virtually all of the library was eventually acquired by the Egyptian government, and is presently housed in a museum in Cairo. Of the parts that did not make it there, an unknown number were burned by Muhammad Ali’s mother, who feared that the codicies might cause too much trouble, and another part was eventually sold to an organization in the Netherlands, after it had been unsuccessfully offered for sale in the U.S.

The Languages

Though the Nag Hammadi library was written in Coptic, some linguists have suggested that it had been translated to Coptic from Syriac, based on the wording of certain works, like the Gospel of Thomas. The prevailing scholarly opinion is that it was originally written in Greek, but there is a strong case to be made for a Syriac origin.

In his essay, “The Fifth Gospel?”, for example, Nicholas Perrin points to linguistic analysis to suggest that the Gnostic Gospels were in fact Second Century Syriac documents, rather than First Century Judean. He says, “As I have argued more fully elsewhere, the evidence seems to show that the Coptic
gospel is not so much a witness to the historical Jesus, but instead a witness
to early Syriac Christianity. Following a linguistic analysis of the Coptic collection, with particular attention to the use of catchwords, it appears that
Thomas was not written—per the standard and prevailing assumption—in Greek, as an evolving sayings collection, dating back to the first or early second century. Instead, it seems that our sayings gospel was written in Syriac, as a piece, showing dependence on the first Syriac gospel record,
Tatian’s Diatessaron (c. ad 173).”

Perrin’s Findings

A page from Perrin’s “The Fifth Gospel?” showing the comparison between the Gospel of Thomas, the Diatessaron (a Second Century Syriac harmonization of the Synoptic Gospels) , and Scripture.

According to Perrin, the wording in the Gospel of Thomas is more reminiscent of the Diatessaron than the actual Gospel accounts, suggesting that the Gospel of Thomas was derived from the Diatessaron, not from the Synoptic Gospels. What this means for the Gnostic Gospels is that they may well have been written in the wrong time and place, with the wrong content, to be Scripture.

While the Gnostic Gospels themselves were physically dated to the Fifth Century, it is the materials contained within that were dated to the Second Century. This would imply that the Gospel of Thomas was written in the Second Century, never mind the fact that he is not believed to have survived to the turn of the century. Historians place him in India in the late 70’s when he died, yet, the Gospel of Thomas is dated to somewhere between 120-150 AD. That disparity is rather difficult to ignore.

Do bear in mind that I’ve only chosen to focus my attention on one small portion of the overall library because it is so big a detailed analysis would end up becoming a series of its own. The idea is not out of the question, but for now, I plan on sticking with the more skin-deep approach. I trust that the person reading this is more than capable of doing their own research.

The Contents

Going beyond the age of the documents, there are also the contents to be considered. What the Gospel of Thomas contains is a list of sayings attributed to Jesus throughout His ministry. Some are correct, others only partially so, and most find absolutely no correlation with what is found in the Synoptic Gospels. It runs the full gamut of credibility, however, it also completely lacks a narrative.

While some have suggested that the Gospel of Thomas is as old as the document commonly referred to as “Q”, the fact of the matter is that one would be hard pressed to make the case given the similarities between it and the Diatessaron.

Here are a few examples of what is found in the Gospel of Thomas:

#3. Jesus said, “If your leaders say to you, ‘Look, the (Father’s) kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the (Father’s) kingdom is within you and it is outside you.

When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty.”

#7. Jesus said, “Lucky is the lion that the human will eat, so that the lion becomes human. And foul is the human that the lion will eat, and the lion still will become human.”

#9. Jesus said, “Look, the sower went out, took a handful (of seeds), and scattered (them). Some fell on the road, and the birds came and gathered them. Others fell on rock, and they didn’t take root in the soil and didn’t produce heads of grain. Others fell on thorns, and they choked the seeds and worms ate them. And others fell on good soil, and it produced a good crop: it yielded sixty per measure and one hundred twenty per measure.” (Similar to the Parable of the Sower)

Finally, #14. Jesus said to them, “If you fast, you will bring sin upon yourselves, and if you pray, you will be condemned, and if you give to charity, you will harm your spirits.

When you go into any region and walk about in the countryside, when people take you in, eat what they serve you and heal the sick among them.

After all, what goes into your mouth will not defile you; rather, it’s what comes out of your mouth that will defile you.”

Note that much of 14 appears to be the very characterization of Gnosticism, while one small portion actually pertains to something Jesus said. This is an example of what I was saying. It is not difficult to insert an outside influence into Scripture and make it sound good. What simply does not help is that people today seem to be unwilling to sit down and engage with Scripture. People do not want to learn, and will be easily duped when someone comes along with heretical teaching that sounds similar to some half-remembered verse they heard in Sunday school.

How They Fail the Test

In my post on what constitutes heresy, I made the point that biblical teaching must be consistent with what is found in the Bible. The Bible is, in and of itself, the final judge of what is Scripture and what is not. Each of the books in Scripture find corroboration with the other books. Both Testaments support each other, with high degrees of agreement. Anything that does not mesh with this system is not to be considered Scripture. This is why the Gnostic Gospels fail as Scripture. Gnosticism is not biblically supported, it is actually proved false by it.

In Part 3, we will take a look at the Corpus Hermeticus.

Advertisements

Allow me to Introduce Myself…

I am a married carpenter, parent of ten children (six sons, four daughters) and a currently serving Medic in the National Guard. I currently reside in a metropolitan city in the Midwest, though I’m a native Texan.

In case any are wondering, EngMed is short for Engineer Medic. I’m currently serving as a Platoon Medic in a Combat Engineer Company, so that seemed a fitting name, wouldn’t y’all think?

My interests vary between religion, politics, art, literature, hunting, camping, fishing, hiking, music, writing and serving the Lord. Yes, I am an evangelical Christian and I won’t ever shy away from the subject. I invite any to ask questions, debate and will gladly pray for any who ask.

In terms of politics, I’m a Conservative Constitutionalist. No, I’m not a Republican. I’m actually very disaffected with them, given that their commitment to conservative values tend to disappear faster than water on the surface of the sun.

I’m pro-gun, pro-life, pro-death penalty, and pro-limited government. I believe that the Constitution is the law of the land, not social whim.

I’m anti-Islam (a topic I will expand upon in the future), against virtually all forms of gun control, and I’m totally OK with the idea of legalizing marijuana, though I personally detest the stuff.

Well, I think that’s about all I have at this time. If y’all wanna know more, feel free to ask. I’ll just end with this quote:

“Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori.” “It is sweet and fitting to die for your country.”

Just a brief update

It occurs to me that I just sort of vanished without a word. The reality is that life has become rather a bit busy. Right now my family is deeply involved in relocating from one town in our metro area to another. As of 1 July, we will have a new address. I am also in the process of finding a new job. While I do (somewhat) enjoy the clinic I’m presently working in, I need better pay.

In case any have noted, the last I said about my profession was that I was a carpenter. Unfortunately, it did not work out. When the steel shortage hit last year, I was working as a framer, and the framing material I was working with was steel. Given that I was a first year Apprentice, this meant that I was the low man on the totem pole. I was laid off to make room for a Journeyman that was out of work due to the same steel shortage. I’m not mad about it, either.

I had my first career to fall back on, and the shortage of Chinese steel means that my union brothers and sisters in the steel industry suddenly found themselves with a whole lot more work. (Buy American!) The downside is that I took a huge $5/hr pay cut when I accepted the job at the clinic I’m presently working at. In the 11 months I that I have been there, I have built up quite the rapport with coworkers and the sole physician in the office. This translates into good references, and more pay, which I am busily seeking out.

At this time, I really have a lot of difficulty finding enough time to write, so I simply write what I can when I can. The really good news is that I am building quite a treasure trove of new material for future blog posts, as well as creating new opportunities for myself. For example, I am in the process of designing an Apologetics course for my church. This course is being designed from the ground up, and will include much of what I have written about on this blog. I finally get to take all of this stuff and distill it into something I can use to prepare my family for the pitfalls that await us all in the big, bad world.

As time goes on, I will be taking that course and inserting it into the list of working titles I have already developed. If all goes well, I will have much to write about for quite some time to come. My original mission, to sound the alarm, continues. I hope all y’all can join me on the ride, and learn just much as I have. Y’all have a blessed day, and I will be back on once the dust settles and life stops sounding like my kids screaming at each other while being in a room they are not supposed to be in. May the Lord bless and keep all y’all.

A Moment of Humor

I thought I would take a moment and just post some material I have found and thought was pretty funny. Y’all get to enjoy.

This one reminds me so much of my kids. 😂

After nearly 14 years of service, I can attest to the truth of this very confusing picture.

There are a few too many stereotypes to be found in this picture I took in Western Kansas…let me know if you spot them.

Parents know the truth…

No words…

Because you didn’t wait for her to stack up on you before clearing the room.

How I feel after listening to my coworkers discuss politics, dating, life in general…

The amount of truth in this is too darn high…

If this isn’t familiar, you are in the wrong church…

Well, time to adult, people. Y’all enjoy, and have a blessed day.

Thank the Lord for any victory we can get!

I found this in my notifications. It would appear that the sole remaining abortion clinic in Missouri will be shutting its doors due to state regulations. Thank the Lord, one less clinic murdering children! May this be the first, and may they all shut down in short order!

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/planned-parenthood-missouri-last-abortion-clinic-says-it-may-lose-its-license-this-week-exclusive-2019-05-28/

This Memorial Day

Today was a bit of a busy day, and this really is the first chance I have had to stop and take a moment. This is the day when we celebrate the lives of the men and women who died in service to this great nation. We cannot ever forget them, or why we observe this day.

For those of us who made it home, there is a way we can both honor them, and keep our own stories alive. A few years back, the Library of Congress launched the Veteran’s History Project. It is set up so that veterans can share the stories of their service, which is then stored in digital form so that others may view it.

To my brothers and sisters in arms, both currently serving, and prior, I urge you to do this. Contact the VHP, set up an interview, and tell your story. It makes no difference how insignificant you think it is, it still matters.

I recorded mine a few years back. A few weeks after, they sent me a DVD with the interview on it. While I have not opened the case, let alone watched it, I do know that my kids and grandkids might one day decide they want to see what the cranky old man did during his service. I have no intention of watching it, but I didn’t record it for me. I recorded it for the ones coming after me.

If you’re interested in making your own contribution, here is the link:

http://www.loc.gov/vets/

Are we truly pro-life?

Stop me if this sounds a little too familiar. You are debating someone on the topic of abortion, and they accuse you of not being truly pro-life because you do not care what happens to the baby once they are born. They try to call you something like “pro-birth”, rather than “pro-life”, in an effort to make you sound like you are heartless and cruel for opposing the slaughter of children. This is an attempt at minimizing you in such a way as to render your argument null and void.

Where this argument fails, though, is that the assertion is 100% false. We genuinely do care what happens to the babies once they are born, not only because it is the humane thing, but also because it deeply benefits us as a society. It is not enough to simply be born, but one must also make it to adulthood, and become a responsible citizen of our great nation. As Lord Jesus said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matt. 22:39, KJV)

In order to bring to light the lie that is the “pro-birth” argument, I am going to point to a series of factors that highlight what it is that we, as a movement, are doing for the babies that make it to birth.

Before I do that, I want to distill our position down to a simple statement:

We oppose murder in all forms, not just the ones that society actually cares about. To that end, we speak out against abortion, as we know and understand that abortion is murder. We want women in crisis to know that their options should not include the mass slaughter of innocents, and that their lives will not end simply because they had a baby. While we do acknowledge the idea of bodily autonomy for the mother, we extend the same to the unborn as well, as this is the position that is the most consistent with our beliefs. Under that concept, the mother’s right to bodily autonomy ends where her child’s right begins. She has no right to end the life of her child.

To the end of making legalized abortion go the way of the dinosaur, various groups and organizations have undertaken various tasks involved in attaining that goal.

Crisis Pregnancy Centers

These centers are run by not-for-profit organizations that counsel women away from abortion, while offering them various types of assistance and resources. Depending on the type, they may be able to offer medical services, but typically they offer local resources such as financial assistance, child care resources, as well as assistance with adoptions should the mother so desire.

These centers, which happen to outnumber abortion clinics by a wide margin in the U.S., work tirelessly day and night to save the lives of unborn children. Their entire purpose is the prevention of mass murder, and they are doing the best they can. Sadly, the people running some of these centers have been caught using deceptive tactics, something that ought to be categorically rejected, but you should not allow that to subvert the good that those centers have done. Where misdeeds have been caught, they have been dealt with, as they should. Why lie when the truth is so much more compelling?

What these centers do, in effect, is address the economic argument that the pro-choice side keeps using as an excuse to justify their position. The idea that many women seek abortions because they could not financially hold up under the burden of raising a child on their own. Among the options offered by these centers, adoption and access to higher education are best suited to handling that issue. These are handled at little to no cost to the mother; certainly at less cost than an abortion.

The center near my house, for example, houses young women in crisis. While there, they have access to a variety of services, including a safe space for those women fleeing domestic violence. All of their needs are seen to, and they are helped with whichever services they desire. In so doing, they are saving the lives of countless children, improving the lives of mothers, and helping to reduce many of the social ills that lead to these crisis pregnancies. In all, this is the most humane option. Yet, there are those who will decry these people’s efforts because they choose not to offer or assist in abortion services. Given that, one must question which side truly has women’s best interests at heart.

Churches

At present, there are numerous church organizations that are actively involved in the pro-life movement. They participate in a variety of activities and programs geared towards preventing abortions from occurring. They go out of their way to change hearts and minds about what abortion is, and the damage it causes.

While many are involved, few are more involved than Apologia Church in Tempe, AZ. Their pastor, Jeff Durbin, is a man who knows how to put his money where his mouth is, and it shows in his congregation’s approach to curbside apologetics and the abortion issue. As this video shows, they are not afraid to make contact with young women in crisis, and offer them the help they need.

Not only do they record and upload videos such as this on YouTube, but they also run a website called endabortionnow.com. On this site, not only will you find resources necessary to equip your own ministry for the fight to save those babies, but also testimonies of women who chose life, the babies that were saved, an opportunity to partner with them, and the chance to contribute to them. All of this, so that they can ensure that those babies not only survive, but also thrive.

Women who accept their help find themselves lacking for nothing. One woman they helped had twin girls, and said she didn’t have to buy a single box of diapers for them for the first year. She said that they had been given such a tremendous amount of supplies that her babies needed nothing! Even at the age of two, they were still set. Again, does that sound like we uncaring of the babies we save?

Lobbying

Another way that we express our caring for women and their babies is by seeking to influence law makers, ensuring that they pass laws which ensure the best outcome for all people, not just a select few. For example, studies have shown that children who come from traditional families enjoy the most success, and that is what we champion: the traditional family.

According to the Brookings Institute, the three main things one must do to avoid poverty is:

  1. At least finish high school
  2. Get a full time job
  3. Wait until at least the age of 21 before getting married and having children

This study also suggests that approximately 98% of all people who follow these three main steps will move from poverty into the Middle Class. Granted, they also admit that there are other things one can do to make this move happen, but these are the three main ones. The more you do beyond those three things, the better your chances of success, so why stop there?

While researching for this blog post, I came across a study entitled, “The impact of family structure on the health of children” by Jane Anderson. While the main thrust of the study centered around the long-term effects of divorce on children, she made a couple of statements in the abstract that caught my attention.

“Nearly three decades of research evaluating the impact of family structure on the health and well-being of children demonstrates that children living with their married, biological parents consistently have better physical, emotional, and academic well-being…The best scientific literature to date suggests that, with the exception of parents faced with unresolvable marital violence, children fare better when parents work at maintaining the marriage. Consequently, society should make every effort to support healthy marriages and to discourage married couples from divorcing.”

Conclusion

When you look at the Left vs. Right paradigm, what you find is a study in contrasts. While the Right is actively fighting for the things that science and the Bible both say is actually good for our society, the Left is standing in open opposition to it.

Abortion is unquestionably murder, with the abortion industry actively, and unashamedly, engaged in the wanton slaughter of thousands of innocent babies every day. The pro-life movement has taken the position of consistancy by opposing murder in all forms, and seeking to reverse the socioeconomic conditions which make abortion seem favorable to women in crisis. In other words, we are seeking to solve or minimize the problem.

Contrast that with the pro-choice movement, who actively encourage women to make the unilateral decision to allow someone (a doctor) to slaughter their baby within their own womb. They also disparage, minimize, and seeks to remove the father from the equation, thereby rendering him moot and powerless. This takes the assertion that the pro-life movement is somehow uncaring, and turns on its head. We need to ask the ourselves, which is truly the uncaring side?

Reference:

Three Simple Rules Poor Teens Should Follow to Join the Middle Class

Anderson J. (2014). The impact of family structure on the health of children: Effects of divorce. The Linacre quarterly, 81(4), 378–387. doi:10.1179/0024363914Z.00000000087

When Ugliness Prevails

https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/05/pennsylvania-state-representative-harasses-a-peaceful-pro-life-activist/

I will begin by saying that I abhor ugliness, no matter which cause you stand for. In every movement, there are followers who help and followers who hinder. This article clearly shows what happens when a hindrance is allowed free reign and some authority. In all honesty, I find myself torn by this story for a variety of reasons.

On one hand, as these are our opponents, a hindrance for them is a help for us. On the other, it angers me to see good people verbally harassed and harangued for living as their beliefs dictate. While I am aware that Jesus said we would be hated for following Him, it still offends me on a very visceral level to hear of an elderly woman being verbally abused. My Southern roots chafe at any disrespect directed towards an elder, especially when it comes in the form of bullying.

As if that was not enough, the man committing this horrendously disrespectful act chose to do so while livestreaming the entire thing. Why does the Left feel the need to have witnesses their acts of unbridled stupidity? One can only hope that his constituents remember this come next election, and choose to fire him. When last I checked, bullying the elderly does not count as overly virtuous behavior. Then again, the Left does seem to have abandoned their own manners as of late, so this might actually get him reelected. One can hope that this will not be the case.

The fact of the matter is that we are locked in a struggle for lives and souls. We want to prevent the shedding of innocent blood, no matter the circumstances. It is for this reason that we are unable to compromise on this issue, as compromise leads to what we have been fighting against, namely the shedding of innocent blood.

Unfortunately, too many in this debate seem to think that we ought to compromise, and quickly become frustrated and angry when we refuse. I mean, not to put too fine a point on it, but we do not have a national debate on the legality of rape, domestic violence, slavery, and all but this form of murder. These are all a given, so why is it that this one form of murder is to be tolerated? Because the baby’s existence might be rough, or causes an inconvenience to someone?

Sadly, this story is indicative of the lack of civility that has become all too endemic in this country. When I was a child, disagreement meant screaming, yelling, throwing things, and violence. Since when are we supposed to do that as grown adults? At what point did it become acceptable for people to express disagreement through verbal assaults in public?

Truth be told, the entire Left has an image problem. They claim to be tolerant, then continue to demonstrate the worst forms of intolerance since Hitler’s Brown Shirts in 1930’s Germany. Sadly, they will always seek to justify their childish behavior through emotional smoke and mirrors, attempting to shift blame for their behavior onto anyone who dares to disagree with them.

I was treated to an example the other day, in quite the most amusing fashion. I stumbled upon a Relativist who had a rather interesting response to my disagreement.

Now, I will admit that my responses were less than diplomatic, but I also confess to having a low tolerance for intentional ignorance or stupidity. It is a failing of mine, one I have been working on for some time. (I am having a bit more success with limiting my use of foul language, but that is a topic for another time) In the meantime, I was honest and direct with the guy and he fell apart at the first hint of criticism, which is lamentable given that there is a fine art to disagreement, and it seems to be dying off.

Anyway, folks, I just felt the need to share this story. It truly grieves me to hear of people who feel the need to be abusive of those they oppose.

Arianism: past and present, pt. I

In preparing for this post, I came to the realization that I am not often presented with the chance to address the same heresy in two different time periods. At least, not in this manner, and not so clearly. Yet, this particular heresy is alive and well in our modern age, and most of us simply are not aware. I am referring, of course, to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and their particular brand of heresy. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, this will be a two-part series. First, I will address the teachings of Arius of Alexandria, his role in the Council of Nicea, and the aftermath of the Council. In the second post, I will directly address the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and highlight the various ways that their doctrinal positions conflict with sound doctrine.

Definition of terms:

Presbyter: a member of the governing body of an early Christian church.

Orthodox: conforming to established doctrine especially in religion.

Heterodox: contrary to or different from an acknowledged standard, a traditional form, or an established religion.

Hypostatic Union: the combination of divine and human natures in the single person of Christ.

Eructation: an act or instance of belching.

Ecumenical Council: An ecumenical council is a conference of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts convened to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice in which those entitled to vote are convoked from the whole world and which secures the approbation of the whole Church.

Catechumen: a person who receives instruction in the Christian religion in order to be baptized.

Homoousios: of one substance.

The Beginning

Arius of Alexandria (256 AD-336 AD) was a Presbyter in the Alexandrian Church whose teachings were controversial. He taught that doctrine must be reasonable to the human mind, or it simply was not biblical. This naturally caused issues with others around him because human reason was never meant to be the standard by which we determine biblical doctrine. (Isa. 55:9; Proverbs 3:5) According to his teachings, if it is unreasonable, it is unscriptural. Naturally, this does not bode well for various Christian doctrinal stances, not the least of which deals with the matter of miracles. If we have trouble following the will and commands of a God we do not fully understand, then what do you think would happen if He was easily understood?

It was this stance that brought him into direct conflict with figures in Church history such as Athanasius of Alexandria, who used Arius and his teaching as an epithet to describe anyone who disagreed with the Doctrine of the Trinity. This teaching was so pervasive that, by the end of the entire episode, Arianism had spread throughout Europe, the Middle East, and into Northern Africa. The impact of this particular heresy simply cannot be measured, as it is still ongoing.

The Teaching & its Refutation

Prior to the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, there had been some internal debate within the Church body about the nature of the relationship between God and Jesus. The Orthodox position had always adhered to the Doctrine of the Trinity, which stipulates:

God is one in essence and three in person:

The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct Persons

Each Person is fully God

There is only one God.

Meanwhile, there were those who held to a variety of other positions on this unique relationship, including Lucian of Antioch, Arius’ mentor. Much is unknown about Lucian’s theology, but many extant sources make the claim that Lucian was the source of Arius’ heretical teachings. In either case, Arius is the one whose name rests on this particular heresy, which is why we are discussing Arianism and not Lucianism.

As regards Jesus, Arianism teaches:

1. The son was created out of nothing; hence, he is different in essence from the Father; that he is Logos, Wisdom, Son of God, is only of grace. He is not so in himself.

2. There was a point when he did not exist; i.e., he is a finite being.

3. He was created before everything else, and through him the universe was created and is administered.

4. In the historical Christ the human element is merely the material; the soul is the Logos. The historical Christ, therefore, had no human soul.

5. Although the incarnate Logos is finite, and hence not God, he is to be worshiped, as being unspeakably exalted above all other Creatures, the immediate Creator and Governor of the universe, and the Redeemer of man.

6. The Arians adhered to the Scriptures, and were willing to employ as their own any scriptural statements of doctrine. (A Manual for Church History, p. 327).

In his own words, Arius had this to say,

Some of them say that the Son is an eructation, others that he is a production, others that he is also unbegotten. These are impieties to which we cannot listen, even though the heretics threaten us with a thousand deaths. But we say and believe and have taught, and do teach, that the Son is not unbegotten, nor in any way part of the unbegotten; and that he does not derive his subsistence from any matter; but that by his own will and counsel he has subsisted before time and before ages as perfect as God, only begotten and unchangeable, and that before he was begotten, or created, or purposed, or established, he was not. For he was not unbegotten. We are persecuted because we say that the Son has a beginning but that God is without beginning.

— Theodoret: Arius’s Letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia, translated in Peters’ Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe, p. 41

They said that Jesus had a beginning, but God did not. This is in opposition to the Bible, which states that Jesus is God, and therefore has neither beginning nor end. Take Isaiah 9:6, for example:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

This verse perfectly defines Jesus’ nature. The government will be on His shoulders (Matt. 28; Dan. 7). Going beyond this, there is a term in this verse that is inescapable. In the original Hebrew, The mighty God (El Gibbor) is a title that one simply cannot miss. What is more telling is that El Gibbor is used again, just one chapter later, and this time not in reference to the Messiah, but to YHWH. Isaiah 10:21,

The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God.

Two verses, one dealing with the Messiah, the other YHWH, and both being given the same divine title. That is not an accident, that is a clue. There is more, though. Consider Zechariah 12:10,

And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.

Pay close attention to a portion of the verse, specifically, “and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced”. Now, this is the Lord speaking through the prophet Zechariah, and He is saying that He is the one who is pierced. How can the Lord be pierced, unless He takes human form and submits Himself to our physical reality? It is simply impossible!

Next, we have Isaiah 48:12-17, in which the Lord announces rather clearly that He is the expected Messiah,

Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last.

13 Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together.

14 All ye, assemble yourselves, and hear; which among them hath declared these things? The LORD hath loved him: he will do his pleasure on Babylon, and his arm shall be on the Chaldeans.

15 I, even I, have spoken; yea, I have called him: I have brought him, and he shall make his way prosperous.

16 Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me.

17 Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.

In verse 12, the person speaking identifies Himself rather clearly. I AM he; I AM the first, I also am the last. To further cement it in your minds, though I am sure most of y’all caught it, we have two of the names attributed to both YHWH and Jesus. As if that was not enough, Jesus calls Himself I AM (John 8:58), and the First and the Last (Rev. 22:13), directly.

In verse 13, the Lord says, “Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth”. Well, when you take a look at John 1, it states that Jesus is the One who created the earth, so it becomes clear, again, that Jesus is God.

Then, there is verse 16. Thus far, the passage has been the Lord speaking. Yet, verse 16 is clearly the Messiah speaking, and what He says is that the Lord and His Spirit sent Him. This brings up a question. At which point in the passage did the perspective change from God to the Messiah? I keep looking at the passage, and seeing no difference. Clearly, it was the Lord speaking from beginning to end.

It is also worth noting that the Messiah in this verse is stating that He is eternal, given that He says He has been around since the beginning.

Finally, there is the point of worship. According to Arius, we worship Jesus, not as God, but as a super-exalted, perfect creation of God. Again, we must turn to Scripture to see why that is wrong.

Exodus 20:3-6,

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

As you can see in verse five, the Lord plainly states that worship is reserved strictly for Him. According to both Arian and Orthodox theologies, Jesus existed by this point, and had certainly made multiple appearances, as evidenced by multiple chapters in the Book of Genesis. If He existed, and Arius was right, then why was the Lord so very explicit in reserving worship strictly for Himself? Why did He not create an exception for His first created being? This particular verse only makes sense from the Orthodox position that Jesus is God.

The Council of Nicea

In 325 AD, the Emperor Constantine I (280 AD-337 AD) called for an ecumenical council because he desired to create unity within the Church that he had recently legalized. When he heard of the conflict between Arius and the others, he saw a division forming that he sincerely did not want to take place. It was his desire to bring an end to the conflict, and find some kind of compromise between the two sides. In this, he was somewhat destined to be disappointed. While he did achieve his goal, he was very disappointed at how he arrived at it. In his opening remarks, he urged all to work toward unity and peace, saying,

“Let, then, all contentious disputation be discarded; and let us seek in the divinely-inspired word the solution of the questions at issue.”

Constantine I, an unbaptized Catechumen, was the one who presided over the opening of the Council, and did participate in some of the discussion, ultimately had very little impact on it. About all he could do was abide by the ultimate findings of the Council. From the beginning, Arius and his supporters, Eusebius of Nicomedia and Secundus of Ptolemais, were forced into the defensive. They were required to defend their teachings, and were ultimately unable to do so convincingly. This led to Arius’ teachings being declared anathema.

When all was said and done, the Council had formulated the Nicene Creed, which Arius and two of his followers refused to sign. As a result, they were excommunicated. Taking things a step further, Emperor Constantine exiled them, and ordered all copies of Arius’ book, Thalia, burned.

Aftermath

While Constantine I had initially held to the findings of the Council, he did ultimately change his mind. At the urging of his sister, he threw his support behind the Arians. For a time, Arians enjoyed tremendous political power in the Empire, and the Orthodox view was declared anathema. Eusebius of Caesarea, long known to be the first Church historian, spent a time in exile due to this incident.

Constantine attempted to mend the breach between the two sides, but Arius died before he could be readmitted to the Church. To the day he died, he absolutely refused to renounce his heretical teachings.

Conclusion

In the end, this ecumenical council did much for us today. Were it not for Arius and his teachings, many of the doctrines we know as Truth today would not have been defined. It has also given us the tools we need to fight against a similar heresy, the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

No words needed

Folks, I am going to take a moment from my busy day to bring this to your attention. As I speak on this, understand that I am deeply humbled, almost to the point of tears by this story.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/nation/2019/04/16/this-is-guts-personified-marine-running-fallen-comrades-crawls-across-boston-marathon-finish-line/

A Marine chose to honor his fallen comrades by running the Boston Marathon in their honor. By the time he reached the finish line, though his legs were utterly done, he would not give up, and finished by crawling across the finish line.

He lost three friends, two Marines and a British journalist, to an IED in Afghanistan. In order to find a way to deal with their deaths, and his own survivor’s guilt, he took to running. This led him to run the Marathon in their honor.

Folks, allow me to take a moment and offer up a hearty Semper Fi to a brother warrior, and wish him luck in his continued efforts to bring veteran’s issues to the forefront here in America. To his fallen friends, until we regroup, brothers.