...talisman of lead...

Four discourses against the arians

Chapters I-V

By Athanasius
Written between 356 amd 360.



Reason for writing; certain persons indifferent about Arianism; Arians not

Christians, because sectaries always take the name of their founder.

1. OF all other heresies which have departed from the truth it is

acknowledged that they have but devised(1) a madness, and their

irreligiousness has long since become notorious to all men. For that(2) their

authors went out from us, it plainly follows, as the blessed John has written,

that they never thought nor now think with us. Wherefore, as saith the

Saviour, in that they gather not with us, they scatter with the devil, and

keep an eye on those who slumber, that, by this second sowing of their own

mortal poison, they may have companions in death. But, whereas one heresy, and

that the last, which has now risen as harbinger(3) of Antichrist, the Arian,

as it is called, considering that other heresies, her elder sisters, have been

openly proscribed, in her craft and cunning, affects to array herself in

Scripture language(4), like her father the devil, and is forcing her way back

into the Church's paradise,--that with the pretence of Christianity, her

smooth sophistry(for reason she has none) may deceive men into wrong thoughts

of Christ,--nay, since she has already seduced certain of the foolish, not

only to corrupt their ears, but even to take and eat with Eve, till in their

ignorance which ensues they think bitter sweet, and admire this loathsome

heresy, on this account I have thought it necessary, at your request, to unrip

'the folds of its breast-plate(5),' and to shew the ill savour of its folly.

So while those who are far from it may continue to shun it, those whom it has

deceived may repent; and, opening the eyes of their heart, may understand that

darkness is not light, nor falsehood truth, nor Arianism good; nay, that

those(6) who call these men Christians are in great and grievous error, as

neither having studied Scripture, nor understanding Christianity at all, and

the faith which it contains.

2. For what have they discovered in this heresy like to the religious

Faith, that they vainly talk as if its supporters said no evil? This in truth

is to call even Caiaphas(7) a Christian, and to reckon the traitor Judas still


among the Apostles, and to say that they who asked Barabbas instead of the

Saviour did no evil, and to recommend Hymenaeus and Alexander as right-minded

men, and as if the Apostle slandered them. But neither can a Christian bear to

hear this, nor can he consider the man who dared to say it sane in his

understanding. For with them for Christ is Arius, as with the Manichees

Manichaeus; and for Moses and the other saints they have made the discovery of

one Sotades(8), a man whom even Gentiles laugh at, and of the daughter of

Herodias. For of the one has Arius imitated the dissolute and effeminate tone,

in writing Thaliae on his model; and the other he has rivalled in her dance,

reeling and frolicking in his blasphemies against the Saviour; till the

victims of his heresy lose their wits and go foolish, and change the Name of

the Lord of glory into the likeness of the 'image of corruptible man(9),' and

for Christians come to be called Arians, bearing this badge of their

irreligion. For let them not excuse themselves; nor retort their disgrace on

those who are not as they, calling Christians after the names of their

teachers(10), that they themselves may appear to have that Name in the same

way. Nor let them make a jest of it, when they feel shame at their disgraceful

appellation; rather, if they be ashamed, let them hide their faces, or let

them recoil from their own irreligion. For never at any time did Christian

people take their title from the Bishops among them, but from the Lord, on

whom we rest our faith. Thus, though the blessed Apostles have become our

teachers, and have ministered the Saviour's Gospel, yet not from them have we

our title, but from Christ we are and are named Christians. But for those who

derive the faith which they profess from others, good reason is it they should

bear their name, whose property they hare become(1).

3. Yes surely; while all of us are and are called Christians after Christ,

Marcion broached a heresy a long time since and was cast out; and those who

continued with him who ejected him remained Christians; but those who followed

Marcion were called Christians no more, but henceforth Marcionites. Thus

Valentinus also, and Basilides, and Manichaeus, and Simon Magus, have imparted

their own name to their followers; and some are accosted as Valentinians, or

as Basilidians, or as Manichees, or as Simonians; and other, Cataphrygians

from Phrygia, and from Novatus Novatians. So too Meletius, when ejected by

Peter the Bishop and Martyr, called his party no longer Christians, but

Meletians(2), and so in consequence when Alexander of blessed memory had cast

out Arius, those who remained with Alexander, remained Christians; but those

who went out with Arius, left the Saviour's Name to us who were with

Alexander, and as to them they were hence-forward denominated Arians. Behold

then, after Alexander's death too, those who communicate with his successor

Athanasius, and those with whom the said Athanasius communicates, are

instances of the same rule; none of them bear his name, nor is he named from

them, but all in like manner, and as is usual, are called Christians. For

though we have a succession of teachers and become their disciples, yet,

because we are taught by them the things of Christ, we both are, and are

called, Christians all the same. But those who follow the heretics, though

they have innumerable successors in their heresy, yet anyhow bear the name of

him who devised it. Thus, though Arius be dead, and many of his party have

succeeded him, yet those who think with him, as being known from Arius, are

called Arians. And, what is a remarkable


evidence of this, those of the Greeks who even at this time come into the

Church, on giving up the superstition of idols, take the name, not of their

catechists, but of the Saviour, and begin to be called Christians instead of

Greeks: while those of them who go off to the heretics, and again all who from

the Church change to this heresy, abandon Christ's name, and henceforth are

called Arians, as no longer holding Christ's faith, but having inherited

Arius's madness.

4. How then can they be Christians, who for Christians are

Ario-maniacs(3)? or how are they of the Catholic Church, who have shaken off

the Apostolical faith, and become authors of fresh evils? who, after

abandoning the oracles of divine Scripture, call Arius's Thaliae a new wisdom?

and with reason too, for they are announcing a new heresy. And hence a man may

marvel, that, whereas many have written many treatises and abundant homilies

upon the Old Testament and the New, yet in none of them is a Thalia found nay

nor among the more respectable of the Gentiles, but among those only who sing

such strains over their cups, amid cheers and jokes, when men are merry, that

the rest may laugh; till this marvellous Arius, taking no grave pattern, and

ignorant even of what is respectable, while he stole largely from other

heresies, would be original in the ludicrous, with none but Sotades for his

rival. For what beseemed him more, when he would dance forth against the

Saviour, than to throw his wretched words of irreligion into dissolute and

loose metres? that, while 'a man,' as Wisdom says, 'is known from the

utterance of his word(4),' so from those numbers should be seen the writer's

effeminate soul and corruption of thought(5). In truth, that crafty one did

not escape detection; but, for all his many writhings to and fro, like the

serpent, he did but fall into the error of the Pharisees. They, that they

might transgress the Law, pretended to be anxious for the words of the Law,

and that they might deny the expected and then present Lord, were hypocritical

with God's name, and were convicted of blaspheming when they said, 'Why dost

Thou, being a man, make Thyself God,' and sayest, 'I and the Father are

one(6)?' And so too, this counterfeit and Sotadean Arius, feigns to speak of

God, introducing Scripture language(7), but is on all sides recognised as

godless(8) Arius, denying the Son, and reckoning Him among the creatures.

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