ARIUS (Areios)—a Christian writer who worked in the vicinity of Alexandria, the founder of Arianism. A Libyan from Cyrene, b. around 256, d. 336.
Arius was educated in Alexandria and then in Antioch under the direction of Lucian of Samosata (B. Altaner and A. Stüber think that Lucian’s doctrine of the Logos which was a form of subordinationism had an important influence on Arius). In 306 Arius supported the schism of Bishop Meletius of Lycopolis but he split off from him; in 313 he was ordained a priest and in 318 he began to proclaim his own doctrine. That doctrine was condemned at synods in Alexandria (around 320), in Antioch (324), and at the First Nicene Council (325). The Nicene council further exiled Arius to Illyricum whence he returned in 328 by the intervention of Eusebius of Nicomedia (a student of Lucian); Arius also was supported by other Lucianites and by Eusebius of Caesarea. At synods in Tyre and Jerusalem (335), the bishops cleared Arius of the charges and resolved to reconcile him with the unity of the Church, but Arius died in Constantinople the day before he was officially to be received back.
Only three letters from among the writings of Arius have been preserved. There is a letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia (in which Arius asks for help and presents his doctrine, cited by Epiphanius in Panarion, 69, 6 and Theodoretus in HE I 4). There is a letter to Alexander of Alexandria (in which he professes the faith as presented by Athanasius in De synodis, 16, Epiphanius w Panarion, 69, 7–8 and Hilary in De Trinitate, IV 12 n.; VI 5 n.). There is a letter to Constantine (where he argues for his own orthodoxy, cited by Socrates Scholastic in HE I 26). There are also fragments of his work Thalia preserved in the writings of Athanasius (Adversus Arianos and De synodis, PG 26). These fragments have been collected and published in a critical edition by G. Bardy (Recherches sur Lucien d’Antioche, P 1936).
Arius taught that there is absolutely one source of all things (’αγεννετος ’αρχη [agennetos arche]). This is God the Father, the First Divine Person. He thought, under the influence of neo-Platonism, especially Philo and Origen (he presented himself as the continuator of Origen), that between God and creation (the cosmos) there is an intermediate divinity, the Son of God, the Second Divine Person, the Logos-Christ, in which the Holy Spirit plays the soul of the soul. God uses Him as his instrument in creation and to act in the world, since contingent being cannot bear the action of the transcendent being. When Arius depicts the relation between the First and Second Divine Persons, he refers to the concept of the One God, which (according to Arius) means that God is indivisible and cannot impart either his being or the essence (’ουσια [ousia]) of his Godhead to anyone else. The Son of God therefore cannot share in the substance of the Father, but only in his will from which he was called; as such he thus belongs to another order of existence. He is a creature (κτισμα [ktisma], ποιεμα [poiema]). He has a beginning and is contingent. Arius was also opposed to belief in the full humanity of Christ. He taught that Christ as God can be created, but he cannot be born. The reaction of the Church to Arius’ doctrine (after it was condemned) was the proclamation by the First Nicene Council of the doctrine of the consubstantiality (‘ομοουσιος [homoousios] of the First and Second Divine Person.
Arius’ doctrine marked the beginning of the Arian heresy and other heresies that arose from Arianism (Akatians, Eudoxians, Ursatians), and can also lead to tritheism (the belief in three Gods)>
S. Longosz, Problem literackiej spuścizny Ariusza (wstęp, przekład i komentarz zachowanych fragmentów) [The problem of the literature heritage of Arius (introduction, lecture and commentary on preserved fragments)], Lb 1971 (mps BKUL); M. Simonetti, La crisi ariana nel IV secolo, R 1975; idem, DPAC I 337–345; W. Rowan, Arius: Heresy and Tradition, L 1987; C. Vidal Manzanares, Diccionario de patristica, Estella-Navarra 1992 (Pisarze wczesnochrześcijańcy I–VII w. [Early Christian writers I–VII century, Wwa 1996, 20–21).
Anna Z. Zmorzanka