13. Eusebius of Caesarea on Asterius of Cappadocia in the Anti-Marcellan Writings: A Case Study of Mutual Defense within the Eusebian Alliance

Mark DelCogliano
The theological contributions of Eusebius of Caesarea have long been overshadowed by his achievements as a historian, apologist, and biblical scholar. But in recent scholarship on the fourth-century Trinitarian controversies, he has been identified as one of the leading lights in the articulation of the theology of the “Eusebian alliance.” One of the features of an ecclesiastical alliance is mutual defense. This essay explores this activity within the Eusebian alliance, particularly by examining to what extent Eusebius defended the views of another leading member of the Eusebian alliance, Asterius of Cappadocia, in his anti-Marcellan works (Contra Marcellum and De ecclesiastica theologia). [1] Asterius was one of the principle targets of Marcellus, and so the question investigated here is whether Eusebius’ anti-Marcellan works can in some sense be construed as writings pro Asterio. By determining the contours of the theological relationship between Asterius and Eusebius, not only do we see evidence for development within the theological tradition of the Eusebian alliance, but also we come away with a new appreciation for the crucial role played by Eusebius himself in the transmission of an influential theological culture.

The Eusebian Alliance

In a series of articles I have explored conceptualizing ecclesio-political and theological divisions in the fourth century in terms of “alliances” instead of “church parties” as traditionally understood. [2] It is notoriously difficult to account for the cohesiveness of discrete “church parties” since any traditional typology of parties that relies principally upon simplistic or monolithic doctrinal criteria breaks down when one examines the theologies of individuals placed within a single category. In recent scholarship, the notion of an “alliance” or “ecclesial alliance” has been used instead of “church party” to name groups or networks that arise because of some common value or are formed for the promotion of a specific agenda in the ecclesiastical sphere. [3] These values or agendas may or may not be theological. Such groups are characterized by features such as the performance of ecclesiastical communion, sufficient doctrinal agreement with respect to both principles and terminologies, the struggle with common enemies, mutual defense (and perhaps critique), the exercise of public ecclesio-political support, loyalty to revered figures, local ecclesiastical traditions, and personal friendship. No single feature, value, or agenda is necessary to constitute an ecclesial alliance, and individuals or individual churches may be part of a larger ecclesial alliance for different reasons.
Calling the alliance to which Eusebius and Asterius belonged “Eusebian” is admittedly problematic since this label was first coined by Athanasius in the heat of his anti-“Arian” polemics to discredit his opponents, as recently discussed by David M. Gwynn. [4] Gwynn ably deconstructs Athanasius’ description of his opponents as a collective heretical party, whom the Alexandrian bishop branded the “Eusebians,” because he saw Eusebius of Nicomedia as the fountainhead of the ecclesio-political movement, and accused them of “Arianism” because Eusebius and his allies defended Arius. Gwynn concludes that the “Eusebians”—as depicted by Athanasius—were neither a “party” nor “Arian,” and that Athanasius’ depiction of the fourth-century church as polarized between his own “orthodoxy” and the “Arianism” of the “Eusebians” is a polemical construct. Gwynn does not deny that those whom Athanasius called “Eusebians” shared political and theological concerns, but proves that Athanasius’ polemical construction of the group distorts the reality.
I use “Eusebian” in contrast to the Athanasian usage deconstructed by Gwynn and in line with other recent usage to name the ad hoc alliance of eastern bishops and theologians initially formed around the figures of Eusebius of Nicomedia and Eusebius of Caesarea that lasted from ca. 320 to ca. 355. [5] The alliance emerged when several eastern bishops rallied around Arius in common cause against what they deemed to be Alexander of Alexandria’s doctrinal innovations and his mistreatment of Arius. But they did not agree with Arius’ theology in every detail, and there were theological differences among them. In the ensuing years, the Eusebian alliance was animated by a common set of values and a shared agenda in the ecclesiastical sphere, but displayed considerable diversity in theology. [6] The chief architects of Eusebian theology are recognized to have been Asterius of Cappadocia [7] and Eusebius of Caesarea. [8] The theology of the Eusebian alliance came to be decisively shaped by its emerging debate with Marcellus of Ancyra. [9] The Eusebians positioned themselves as advocates of a middle way between the extremes of Arius’ theology and the purported neo-Sabellianism of Marcellus of Ancyra. From the early 340s through the late 350s, the Eusebians orchestrated various councils that sought to achieve theological consensus by eliminating what they considered extreme views, those of Arius, Athanasius, Marcellus, and Photinus. Tensions inherent to Eusebian theology caused the alliance to splinter in the late 350s, giving rise to new alliances, the Homoiousians, the Homoians, and the Heteroousians.

A Eusebian Tradition of Mutual Defense: The Two Eusebii and Asterius

The members of the Eusebian alliance engaged in mutual defense from the beginning. Indeed, the alliance emerged when several eastern bishops rose to the defense of Arius when he sought refuge with them after being expelled from Alexandria. There is, however, no evidence for personal interaction between Eusebius and Asterius. Yet, as they moved in the same ecclesiastical circles, it is hard to imagine that they did not know each other. But this is unimportant for our purposes since this study focuses on their literary relationship, even if it is somewhat complicated to delineate. In the early 320s, Eusebius of Nicomedia wrote to Paulinus of Tyre urging him to write to Alexander of Alexandria to protest his excommunication of Arius. [10] Paulinus did so. [11] These letters are instances of how members of the Eusebian alliance struggled with a common enemy. The theological language used by Eusebius in his widely circulated letter became in the years following the Council of Nicaea so outdated that it was a cause of embarrassment among his Eusebian associates. [12] Presumably sharing this embarrassment, Asterius wrote in defense of it. [13] I shall refer to this writing as the Apologia. [14] It is an excellent example of mutual defense among the Eusebian alliance, and it will be examined below. Opinions vary on its exact date. [15] It was probably written around the time Eusebius of Nicomedia returned from exile (he was deposed and exiled at the Council of Nicaea in 325), either just before or just after, that is, around 327 or 328. [16]
Whenever the Apologia was written, Marcellus of Ancyra soon attacked Asterius because of it. [17] It is likely that after writing it Asterius traveled around the East, visiting churches, publically reading his books, and winning the support of influential churchmen. [18] This self-promotion undoubtedly attracted the attention of Marcellus. But in writing against Asterius, Marcellus sought to refute not only Asterius, but also Eusebius of Caesarea, Eusebius of Nicomedia, Paulinus of Tyre, and Narcissus of Neronias—in other words, he sought to discredit the theology of the Eusebian alliance as a whole, even if Asterius was his main target. [19] It is difficult to date the anti-Asterian writing of Marcellus with precision. [20] It seems most likely that it began to be circulated at some point in the early 330s. [21]
Marcellus’s polemical writing prompted the Eusebians to adopt a strong anti-Marcellan position that would characterize the alliance for the remainder of its existence. [22] His anti-Asterian writing was first condemned at the Eusebian-controlled Council of Tyre in 335. And then Marcellus was deposed and exiled at a synod in Constantinople in 336, specifically for his theological opinions, on the basis of a dossier of Marcellan texts collected by Eusebius of Caesarea. [23] Asterius may have been in attendance at the Council of Tyre, or at least may have been present when the synod traveled to Jerusalem to dedicate the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. [24] If so, this would have been a prime opportunity for Asterius and Eusebius to meet, if they had not earlier. In 337–338 Eusebius of Caesarea published two anti-Marcellan works, one based on his earlier dossier and another with more elaborate argumentation to demonstrate the heresy of Marcellus, namely, Contra Marcellum and De ecclesiastica theologia.
Thus, we see here a tradition of mutual defense among the Eusebians spanning about fifteen years. Eusebius of Caesarea defended Asterius, who had earlier defended Eusebius of Nicomedia. While the letter of the Nicomedian bishop has been preserved in its entirety, unfortunately neither Asterius’ Apologia nor Marcellus’ anti-Asterian writing is intact. The only extant fragments of Asterius’ Apologia are preserved in the anti-Asterian work of Marcellus, and the only extant fragments of Marcellus’ anti-Asterian writing are preserved in the two anti-Marcellan writings of Eusebius. Thus, the extant fragments of Asterius’ Apologia are indirectly preserved in the quotations of Marcellus preserved in Eusebius of Caesarea. [25]
While Eusebius is recognized to have accurately quoted the very words of others, [26] there is no way to evaluate Marcellus’ habits of citation. [27] In line with ancient citation practices in polemical contexts, we cannot always be certain that what he presents as Asterius’ words were in fact written by Asterius or if they report his thought with bias. [28] There is no evidence in the anti-Marcellan works that Eusebius attempted to confirm the accuracy of Marcellus’ citations of Asterius by comparing them with the Apologia. [29] Perhaps Eusebius did not have the Apologia available to him, though this seems unlikely given Asterius’ promotion of the text and Eusebius’ book-collecting proclivities. It is more likely that Eusebius did not undertake such a comparison as a matter of methodological principle, in that his chief concern was to refute Marcellus, not to defend Asterius. Of course, even if this was his principle goal, it does not mean that he did not also engage in a defense of Asterius. In fact, in the first book of Contra Marcellum, Eusebius not only defends Asterius but also the other members of the Eusebian alliance whom Marcellus had attacked: Eusebius of Nicomedia, Paulinus, Narcissus, and himself. However, as we shall see, just as Marcellus targeted Asterius far more than the others, so too Eusebius expends far more energy on defending Asterius than the others.

Asterius’ Apologia for Eusebius of Nicomedia

Before investigating Eusebius’ defense of Asterius, it will be helpful to examine the Apologia for comparative purposes. Unfortunately the fragmentary state of the Apologia makes the project of reconstructing Asterius’ defense of Eusebius difficult. Simply put, no extant fragment of the Apologia contains Asterius’ explicit defense of specific doctrines of Eusebius. But other fragments reveal some of the tactics used by Asterius to defend Eusebius. Furthermore, Asterius agrees with some of the teachings of Eusebius, but modifies, rejects, and improves upon others. These doctrinal relationships between the two theologians provide further evidence for Asterius’ defense of Eusebius in the Apologia.
Some fragments preserved by Marcellus indicate that Asterius attempted to stem criticism of Eusebius’ letter by articulating a framework in which the letter should be interpreted. First, Asterius formulated the “main point of the letter” as “ascribing the generation of the Son to the will of the Father and denying that this birth involves change on the part of God. This is the very thing,” continues Asterius, “that the wisest of the fathers declared in their own treatises, guarding against the impiety of heretics, who falsely alleged that God’s childbearing was in some way corporeal and involved change by teaching the issuings (probolas).” [30] While ascribing the generation of the Son to the Father’s will was controversial, denying that the divine birth involved suffering and change on the part of God was not. This statement thus defends Eusebius by connecting his main ideas (or at least his second idea) with long-standing anti-heretical traditions. [31] Another intention of this statement was presumably to draw attention away from other more problematic and controversial aspects of the letter, as well as to enable Asterius to interpret its unclear or poorly expressed portions in the light of these main points. Second, he claimed that Eusebius did not intend to offer authoritative, “official” teaching in his episcopal capacity; rather, it was a private letter to Paulinus. [32] Thus, Asterius is suggesting that the theology of the letter was provisional and subject to revision. Indeed, there are good grounds for this perspective, since at the conclusion of his letter Eusebius asked Paulinus to revise it (ἐξερασάμενος), that is, work out its contents in greater detail and bring it to completion, before writing to Alexander. [33] Third, Asterius spoke of “the depth of the thought of Eusebius that lies hidden in his brief words.” [34] Presumably, in his Apologia, Asterius attempted to extract and enunciate the deep thoughts of Eusebius in a way that corresponded to current theological sensibilities. Hence the revision of Eusebius’ theology is rhetorically constructed as an expansion of obfuscating terseness. And so, these texts demonstrate that Asterius undertook an explicit defense of Eusebius. This is corroborated by certain comments of Marcellus, who speaks of Asterius as “recommending (συνιστάμενος) the evil writings of Eusebius,” [35] and “intending to advocate (συνηγορῆσαι βουλόμενος) for Eusebius.” [36]
In enunciating “the depth of the thought of Eusebius,” Asterius engaged in a good deal of updating and revision. A comparison of the doctrines of Eusebius and Asterius reveals the latter’s agreements and disagreements with the former. Eusebius almost completely avoids “Father-Son” language, preferring to speak of “the unbegotten” and “the one generated by him.” [37] He seems to have been reluctant to use such language because of his understanding of “begetting.” He rejected the idea that the Father begets the Son “from his substance” (ἐκ τῆς οὐσίας αὐτοῦ) as materialistic and as resulting in an “identity of nature” (ταυτότητα τῆς φύσεως) between two unbegotten beings (and thus destructive of monotheism). [38] As a result, for Eusebius “begetting” signified something quite different than the production of an ontologically identical offspring. Eusebius grounds this viewpoint in scripture, noting that it describes as “begotten” (γεννητόν) by the Father not only the Son, but also many other creatures who are unlike God in nature. Hence “begotten” is not a unique designation for the Son but refers to all beings generated “from the will” of God.
In contrast, for Asterius, “Father-Son” language is primary. [39] He repeatedly speaks of the Father begetting the Son and even affirms that the Father begot the Son “from himself” (ἐξ αὐτοῦ). [40] Joseph Lienhard claims that “from him” is tantamount to “from his substance,” and so concludes that Asterius is more or less rejecting Eusebius’ teaching on this point. [41] While no extant fragment of Asterius preserved by Marcellus contains explicit comments on the phrase “from his substance,” either for or against it, I submit that by using the phrase “from him” Asterius is purposely backing away from the controversial “from his substance” in favor of a less controversial, yet more ambiguous, scriptural expression. The idea that the Son was begotten from the Father, that is, from his substance, was central to Alexander of Alexandria’s theology (and a line to this effect was included in the Nicene Creed), but was suspicious to the Eusebians for the reasons articulated by Eusebius of Nicomedia. [42] Other Eusebians before Asterius such as George of Laodicea had attempted to find common ground between the disputing parties on this very point by using scriptural language that was similarly less controversial but more ambiguous. [43] Hence Asterius backs away from the more precise and radical language of Eusebius in order to defend him against his detractors and make his theology more acceptable. Finally, nowhere in the extant fragments preserved by Marcellus does Asterius deal with the issue of whether “begotten” is unique to the Son. He does, however, describe the main point of Eusebius’ letter as “ascribing the generation of the Son to the will of the Father,” but this topic does not appear in any other of the Marcellan fragments. Thus, it remains unclear if Asterius endorsed this idea in the Apologia. [44]
In other areas, Eusebius and Asterius more or less agree, with differences of emphasis. Eusebius taught that the Father and Son were completely different in nature (φύσις) and substance (οὐσία), the one unbegotten, the other begotten. Yet the Son has perfect likeness (τελείαν ὁμοιότητα) to the Father in other ways such as in disposition (διάθεσις) and power (δύναμις). [45] Like Eusebius, Asterius speaks of the Father and Son as having two distinct natures and otherwise stresses their ontological distinctiveness. [46] But no text of his preserved by Marcellus speaks of the Father and Son as two substances. For Asterius too the Son is like the Father, particularly in terms of substance, will, power, and glory, so much so that the one is indistinguishable from the other and they agree in everything. [47] While Eusebius emphasized the difference between the substances of the Father and Son, Asterius stressed the likeness of their substances. Nonetheless, both Eusebius and Asterius subscribe to the idea that the Father and Son are different at the level of nature and substance, but very similar at other levels. One departure between the two in this regard is that Asterius speaks of the Father and Son as different hypostases and persons (πρόσωπα), terms which never appear in Eusebius’ letter. In the same vein, the Son’s status as image of God has no place in the theology of Eusebius, whereas it is a major component of Asterius’, supporting his doctrine of the Father and Son’s simultaneous difference and likeness. [48]
In sum, Asterius clearly defends Eusebius and agrees with much of his theology. Yet at the same time, Asterius does not shy away from distancing himself from some of Eusebius’ more controversial and archaic formulations, affirming them in more ambiguous terms, or simply passing over them in silence, in order to focus on the main points of the Nicomedian’s teaching. Note that Asterius’ disagreement with Eusebius is never explicitly expressed. His critiques are always implicit as he interprets the bishop’s theology in the light of his own, putting his own stamp upon it and placing the emphases elsewhere. And so, Asterius’ Apologia is an example of Eusebian mutual defense in which the defense is coupled with revisionist critiques.

Eusebius’ Defense and Critique of the Other Eusebians

In order to further contextualize Eusebius of Caesarea’s defense of Asterius, it will also be helpful to examine his defense of the other Eusebians attacked by Marcellus. In fact, only in the first book of Contra Marcellum does Eusebius present fragments of Marcellus that criticized the theologies of Paulinus, Eusebius of Nicomedia, Narcissus, and himself. [49] While on two occasions he defends his own views against Marcellus’ misinterpretation, [50] he never defends specific opinions of Paulinus and Narcissus. [51] In fact, when one examines the views of Paulinus and Narcissus censured by Marcellus, it becomes clear that Eusebius does not endorse any of them. Marcellus accuses Paulinus of teaching that “Christ is a second God and became a more human God,” that “Christ is a creature,” that “there are many Gods,” and that “there are newer Gods.” [52] As for Narcissus, Marcellus records that he taught that there were “three substances” and that “there is a first and second God.” [53] None of the views imputed to Paulinus or Narcissus is defended by Eusebius, who rejected any polytheistic language of “two gods” [54] and explicitly denied that the Son was a creature. [55] In addition, Eusebius denies that there are two substances, preferring to call the Father and Son two hypostases. [56]
Nonetheless, despite Eusebius’ implicit rejection of the theological language of Paulinus and Narcissus, the first book of the Contra Marcellum concludes with a general defense of the ecclesiastical writers impugned by Marcellus:
Having set forth such awful teachings and ones even far worse than these, not only against the bishops, but also against the sound and ecclesiastical faith, it will be clear that Marcellus stands guilty of great heresy. You will learn that the truth is of no concern to this man if you read the letters of the bishops, in which you will find him mutilating the overall sense of their statements and hiding all the connections between them, seizing upon short phrases and wickedly using them to come up with slanderous accusations. [57]
It is clear that Eusebius is defending his fellow Eusebians from what he thinks are unfair attacks by Marcellus, even though he has declined to defend their specific formulations. And so, this example of mutual defense among the Eusebians is a kind of critique rhetorically presented as defense. [58]

Eusebius’ Defense and Critique of Asterius

The case is different for Asterius, to whom Eusebius gives far more attention than he does to Eusebius of Nicomedia, Paulinus, and Narcissus. And he really defends Asterius, with very little criticism, if any, even implicit. Note that in the passage quoted above, Asterius, who was not a bishop, is apparently omitted from Eusebius’ defense, perhaps on purpose, but more likely the Caesarean bishop meant to include him and spoke imprecisely. But in fact several scholars have claimed that Eusebius did not defend Asterius in the anti-Marcellan writings. Eduard Schwartz suggests this was because Eusebius wanted to distance himself from the too “Arian” Asterius. [59] Both Gustave Bardy and Joseph Lienhard rightly doubt Schwartz’s explanation, but still affirm that Eusebius never attempted to defend Asterius. [60] Both are struck by the praise that Eusebius lavished upon Paulinus of Tyre and the absence of anything comparable for Asterius. [61] Yet Eusebius’ esteem for Paulinus should not be taken as disparagement of Asterius. Eusebius had known Paulinus since at least 315, a good twenty years before writing his anti-Marcellan works, when Eusebius delivered an oration for the dedication of the basilica at Tyre, in which he also acclaimed Paulinus. [62] Furthermore, Paulinus had died around 326, [63] so Eusebius is also probably honoring the memory of his dead friend. If the “omission” of praise of Asterius needs to be explained, it could be due to the fact that Asterius was still alive. Also still alive were Eusebius of Nicomedia and Narcissus of Neronias, whom Eusebius of Caesarea similarly did not extol. [64] Thus the praise accorded to Paulinus does not preclude Eusebius defending Asterius. In contrast to these scholars, Markus Vinzent claims that Eusebius both defended and critiqued Asterius. [65] However, Vinzent offers no specific evidence to substantiate Eusebius’ defense of Asterius and only points to Eusebius’ rejection of Asterius’ opinion on the question of the creatureliness of Christ. But as I will argue below, there is no evidence in the fragments of the Apologia that Asterius held that the Son was a creature. Accordingly, Eusebius did not “reject” this opinion of Asterius.
In what follows I proceed more or less sequentially through the anti-Marcellan works of Eusebius examining his engagement with Asterius. No fragment of Asterius is omitted from investigation in what is intended to be an exhaustive analysis. Two distinct kinds of defense emerge, both of which we have already encountered in Asterius’ Apologia: first, an explicit defense where Eusebius specifically rejects Marcellus’ view of Asterius and voices his support for Asterius; and second, an implicit defense where Eusebius does not specifically mention the views of Asterius reported by Marcellus, but in the course of his discussion reveals his tacit agreement with Asterius. In this latter case, usually Eusebius agrees with the doctrinal principles and terminology of Asterius, but sometimes explains these with a somewhat different theology, either expanding upon Asterius’ views or taking them in another direction. Never in the anti-Marcellan writings does Eusebius explicitly reject Asterius or his theology.
In one of the first fragments preserved by Eusebius, Marcellus accuses Asterius of altering the main verb of Psalm 109:3 to support his opinion that it refers to the Word’s pre-cosmic birth from the Father, not the birth of the incarnate Word as he himself thought. [66] Marcellus’ reading is ἐξεγέννησα, but Asterius used ἐγέννησα. On this issue Eusebius sides with Asterius, noting that it is Marcellus who has misquoted the verse. Thus, concludes Eusebius, there is no basis for Marcellus’ accusation of Asterius in this case. [67] Furthermore, like Asterius, Eusebius applies Psalm 109:3 to the pre-cosmic birth of the Son, not the incarnation. [68]
In a similar vein, Marcellus sought to undermine Asterius’ teaching that one can say that the Son was begotten from the Father in eternity by claiming that his words, “before the ages the Word was begotten,” contradicted Proverbs 8:23, “before the age he established me.” [69] Eusebius does not explicitly contest Marcellus’ accusation of misquotation. It is, however, unclear whether Asterius intended his words to be a scriptural citation; they are more likely a shorthand phrase for Proverbs 8:23–25. [70] Elsewhere in the anti-Marcellan writings Eusebius affirms that the Son was begotten from the Father before all ages [71] and appeals to Proverbs 8:25 (interpreted in the context of Proverbs 8:22–24) to make the same point. [72] Thus, he supports Asterius’ interpretation of the Proverb passages as referring to the Son’s pre-cosmic birth from the Father over Marcellus’ view that they spoke of the incarnation.
In another fragment, Marcellus quotes a few lines from what seems to be a rather innocuous statement of faith found in Asterius’ Apologia. [73] Most of it Marcellus accepts without reservation. But he finds one line problematic because it advances what he considers a newly concocted heresy that conceives of the Father and Son in all too human terms: “it is necessary to think that the Father is truly a father, and the Son truly a son, and likewise the Holy Spirit.” [74] In his comment on this fragment, Eusebius notes that the new idea that Marcellus attributes to Asterius has actually been part of the church’s faith since even before Origen. [75] So, according to Eusebius, the charge of heretical innovation that Marcellus leveled against Asterius has no basis.
One of the fragments of Asterius preserved by Marcellus reads: “For another is the Father, who begot from himself the only-begotten Word and the firstborn of all creation.” [76] Marcellus censures Asterius for connecting “only-begotten” and “firstborn” since each means something quite different. “For it is clear,” writes Marcellus, “that the only-begotten, if he really is only-begotten, can no longer be firstborn, and if the firstborn is firstborn, he cannot be only-begotten.” [77] In reply, Eusebius writes: “Now in these remarks, [Marcellus] finds fault with Asterius in vain. For it is not him but the holy scripture that speaks of the Son of God at one time as the only-begotten Son and at another time as the firstborn of all creation.” [78] Here Eusebius refers to John 1:18 and Colossians 1:15. So Asterius is not guilty of confused and heretical thinking as Marcellus claims, but merely citing scripture.
Marcellus faults Asterius for claiming that his theology was both “from the divine scriptures” [79] and “the very thing that the wisest of the fathers declared in their own treatises.” [80] The latter is the problem for Marcellus since the opinions and dogmas declared by the fathers, he believes, were arrived at through their own deliberation. For Marcellus, “the word ‘dogma’ implies human will and judgment.” [81] Hence Marcellus suggests that a theology based on both scripture and ecclesiastical tradition, as Asterius claimed about his own, is necessarily corrupted by mere human opinions. Thus, he advocates a sola scriptura position avant la lettre. Eusebius admits that Marcellus’ denigration of dogma has apostolic approbation (see Ephesians 2:15), but rejects the notion that tradition plays no role in theology. In this connection he cites Deuteronomy 32:7 and Proverbs 22:28 as proof-texts about the necessity of following the fathers. [82] And so, Eusebius defends Asterius’ appeal to the tradition of the fathers for his theology.
On numerous occasions, Marcellus attacks Asterius’ doctrine of the image of God. Perhaps Asterius’ most famous statement on this subject is his identification of the only-begotten Word (Jn 1:18) and the firstborn of all creation (Col 1:15) as the indistinguishable (ἀπαράλλακτος) image of the Father’s substance, will, power, and glory. [83] Elsewhere Asterius calls the Word the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15). [84] Marcellus critiques Asterius’ doctrine of the image of God in several ways. First, he claims that Asterius uses it “to teach that God is as different from the Word as a man seems to differ from his image,” that is, that there is an ontological gulf between God and his Word. [85] Second, by definition, according to Marcellus, an image manifests what is absent, makes visible what is invisible. Thus, Marcellus identifies the image of God as Christ the incarnate Word, who is visible. [86] Accordingly, Marcellus accuses Asterius of faulty logic when he teaches that the pre-incarnate Word is an invisible image of the invisible God. It simply makes no sense given his belief in the essential visibility of images. [87] A third critique also suggests that Asterius’ logic is flawed. Since Asterius identifies the Word as God, how can he also be the image of God? “For an image of God,” writes Marcellus, “is one thing and God is another. Hence if he is an image, he is neither Lord nor God, but rather the image of the Lord and God. But if he really is Lord and God, the Lord and God can no longer be the image of the Lord and God.” [88]
In response to these critiques, Eusebius rejects his opponent’s understanding of the image of God and defends Asterius’ doctrine. [89] For Eusebius, as for Asterius, the Word’s status as the image of God denotes his likeness to God the Father. According to Eusebius, “the Son can be called the living image of his own Father at any time since he is as similar to the Father as possible (ὁμοιότατος).” [90] In support of this claim Eusebius cites Genesis 5:3, which speaks of Seth’s being begotten according to the likeness and image of Adam. Thus, scripture shows that sons are so like their fathers that they can be called their images. Then Eusebius cites a number of scripture passages to show that the Word is the image of God: Philippians 2:6 (“form of God”), Hebrews 1:3 (“radiance of the glory and the character of the hypostasis of God”), and Wisdom 7:26 (“reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the activity of God, and an image of his goodness”). [91] Finally, Eusebius cites Colossians 3:9–10 to disprove Marcellus’ belief that the incarnate Word is the image of God. [92]
It is in De ecclesiastica theologia, however, that Eusebius develops his theology of the image of God in detail. According to Eusebius, the various “image” titles given to the Son (in Col 1:15; Phil 2:6; Heb 1:3) reveal his “relationship (σχέσις) to the Father’s divinity, a relationship which is proper to him alone, as if to an only-begotten Son.” [93] Furthermore, though being the image of God means that the Son has independent existence, [94] this does not result in there being two gods, because the Son’s existence as the image of God insures the unity of God. [95] According to John 1:1, the Word is not the God (which to Eusebius would indicate a Sabellian identity of the Father and the Son), but rather the Word is with the God who is over all, being himself God “as an image of God, and an image not as in lifeless matter but as in a living son, who has also, with the greatest degree of exactness possible (ἀκριβέστατα), been constituted like (ἀφωμοιωμένῳ) the archetypal Godhead of the Father.” [96] The Father is the only true God, but the Son is also true God, in the sense that he “possesses this as in an image.” [97] While the Father is properly the only true God because he is the archetype of the image, the Son is true God because he is the image of God. And so, the Son’s existence as the image of God secures both his independent existence and the unity of God. Furthermore, the one God is “made known through the Son as through an image. For that reason, the Son is also God, because, in him, as in an image, there is an expression (μόρφωσιν) of the Father.” [98] Thus, the Son as image mediates knowledge of the Father. Eusebius explains how this invisible, interior mediation of the knowledge of God through the image of God operates (in contrast to Marcellus’ notion of the visible incarnate Word’s mediation as image of God):
So then he who has seen him has seen the Father [John 14:9], because he and no one else is the image of the invisible God [Col 1:15] and the radiance of the glory of God and the character of his subsistence [Heb 1:3], and exists in the form of God [Phil 2:6] according to the apostolic teachings. For just as the one who has seen the king’s image which is constituted exactly like him (τὴν ἐπ’ ἀκριβὲς ἀφωμοιωμένην), receiving impressions from the lines of the form through the drawing, imagines the king, in the same way, or rather in a way surpassing all reason and beyond any example, the one who with a clear mind and the eyes of the soul purified and illuminated by the Holy Spirit, and having gazed intently upon the greatness of the power of the only-begotten Son and Lord, and having reflected on how in him dwells the whole fullness of the Father’s divinity [Col 2:9] and how all things were made through him [John 1:3] and how in him all things were created, those in heaven and those on earth, those visible and invisible [Col 1:16], and having considered how the Father begot him alone as only-begotten Son, who is constituted like him in all respects (κατὰ πάντα ἀφωμοιωμένον), by that power he shall also see the Father himself through the Son, seen as he is by those purified in their mind, concerning whom it was said, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God [Mt 5:8]. [99]
Surely it is not by accident this is the final paragraph of De ecclesiastica theologia, save Eusebius’ concluding admonition to his readers, and it serves as a fitting summary of Eusebius’ theology of the image of God.
While Eusebius agrees with Asterius that the pre-incarnate Son is the image of God and sees this doctrine as central to a viable Trinitarian theology, Eusebius diverges from Asterius in his theological account of the image. Elsewhere I have argued that Asterius has a “participative” understanding of the Son as the image of God, whereas Eusebius’ understanding is “constitutive.” [100] In a “participative” understanding, the Son participates in the divine attributes of the Father by grace, but in a “constitutive” understanding, the Son’s being itself was constituted to be as like the Father as possible without participating in the divine attributes. Furthermore, Eusebius nowhere defends or uses the key Asterian term “indistinguishable” (ἀπαράλλακτος) when describing the image of God. [101] It is not clear why Eusebius avoided this term, as it seems that it would have been conducive to his theology of the image of God, which is often said to be as similar to the Father as possible. At the same time, Eusebius places an emphasis on the fact that the Son is the living image of God that is not found in Asterius. Therefore, Eusebius takes his theology of the image of God in a different direction despite his basic agreement with Asterius.
A number of fragments of Marcellus refer to Asterius’ doctrine that the Father and Son (or God and his Word) are two distinct hypostases. [102] Marcellus utterly rejects this idea, repeatedly affirming that God and his Word are inseparable and undivided, stressing that the divine unity is a matter of a unity of personal subject. [103] Eusebius sees Marcellus’ theology as blending the Father and Son into a single hypostasis and thus tantamount to denying the separate hypostasis—that is, the independent existence—of the Son (or Word). [104] Therefore, he repeatedly affirms the distinct hypostasis of the Son. [105] In addition, Eusebius explicitly refers to the Father and Son as two hypostases. [106] Nowhere, however, does Eusebius present his two-hypostases doctrine as a defense of Asterius’. Rather, this is a point of agreement between them.
Asterius’ belief in two hypostases required him to account for the unity of God, for this belief was susceptible to a ditheistic interpretation, which Marcellus exploited. [107] A number of fragments of Marcellus preserve Asterius’ view of divine unity in the Cappadocian’s interpretation of John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” [108] The unity of the Father and Son is, according to Asterius, because of their exact agreement in everything, both words and deeds. Eusebius never explicitly defends Asterius’ interpretation of John 10:30, but his own interpretation of the same verse is in harmony with his ally’s. Eusebius denies that the unity of the Father and Son is a matter of their being one hypostasis and instead suggests, since he interprets John 10:30 in connection with John 17:21–23, that they are one by virtue of their “community of glory.” [109] Like Asterius, and in contrast to Marcellus, Eusebius does not view the divine unity as a question of a unity of personal subject or a single divine hypostasis. Unlike Asterius, however, Eusebius does not locate their unity in their activities but in their shared glory. Elsewhere, Eusebius also stresses that the Father and Son are one because the Father is the unbegotten source and cause of the only-begotten Son—what is called derivational unity. [110] Therefore, while both Asterius and Eusebius think that the Father and Son are hypostases in a unity, they conceptualize this unity in different ways.
On two occasions, Marcellus quotes two snippets from Asterius on the incarnation (“that which came down in the last days” and “that which was born from the Virgin”) in the context of affirming that it is only the Word who takes on flesh. [111] Unfortunately, he does not record who Asterius said was incarnated or his precise teaching on the matter. But, as we have seen, Asterius did not limit the title of the pre-incarnate Word to only “Word” as Marcellus did, but used titles such as “Son,” “Only-Begotten,” “image,” and so forth. So it is most likely that Asterius spoke of the Son or even Jesus Christ as being incarnated. [112] This interpretation is corroborated when it is realized that the first phrase alludes to Hebrews 1:2: “but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son . . .” [113] The fact that Asterius is citing Hebrews 1:2 may suggest that he said it was the Son who was incarnated. Eusebius’ own doctrine of the incarnation in this regard agrees with Asterius. In fact, the second half of the second book of De ecclesiastica theologia is devoted to discussing the countless names by which scripture refers to the pre-incarnate Word. After running through the Johannine evidence, Eusebius quotes three Marcellan fragments on the topic, in one of which Marcellus quotes both Asterian snippets. [114] After this, Eusebius ransacks the Pauline epistles and other parts of scripture in his continuing quest to demonstrate the myriad names that scripture used for pre-incarnate Word. [115] Though he never alludes to Asterius himself or his expressions, Eusebius does affirm that scripture calls the pre-incarnate Word both “Son” and “Jesus Christ.” [116] And so, while Eusebius does not explicitly defend Asterius in this matter, he agrees with his theology.
There are a number of other (mainly non-controversial) teachings of Asterius preserved by Marcellus which Eusebius never explicitly comments on or defends, but his own theology is in agreement with them. According to Marcellus, Asterius maintained that “God is the maker of all things.” [117] Marcellus of course agrees with this, as does Eusebius. [118] Marcellus wrote that “the Father seems to be in the Word, even if it does not seem so to Asterius and to those who think the same things as he does.” [119] Eusebius characterizes Marcellus’ teaching here as nothing more than Sabellianism. [120] Thus he again agrees with Asterius, in that the Father and Son are distinct in number. When explaining his understanding of how the divine monad expands into a triad, Marcellus incorporates Asterius’ own language in support of his theology, namely, “the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father,” which is a citation of John 15:26. [121] Asterius seems to have seen this verse as evidence for the Spirit’s separate hypostasis, an interpretation Marcellus rejected. [122] Eusebius interprets the same verse in a way that agrees with Asterius’, that the Father and Spirit are distinct, not conflated as Marcellus thinks. [123]
So far, we have only seen very little, if any, critique of Asterius on the part of Eusebius. All of it has been mild and implicit, in that Eusebius sometimes agrees with Asterius on basic doctrines, but articulates the detailed theology behind these doctrines in different ways. Yet, as mentioned above, Markus Vinzent claimed that in his anti-Marcellan writings Eusebius rejected Asterius’ belief that the Son was a creature. [124] First of all, there is no text in which Eusebius explicitly faults Asterius for considering the Son a creature. Vinzent’s claim of rejection must be based on his belief that this was Asterius’ teaching and the fact that Eusebius in his anti-Marcellan writings is clear that the Son is not a creature. [125] But as far as I can tell, in the fragments of the Apologia, Asterius never claims that the Son is a creature.
Joseph Lienhard said that he did make such a claim based on a report of Marcellus preserved by Eusebius: “So then, how do those men full of deceit and villainy [see Acts 13:10], to speak as the Apostle does, transfer the passage [i.e. Ps 109:3] to what they think is his first creation, even though David clearly said this about his fleshly generation?” [126] It is true, as we saw, that Asterius interpreted Psalm 109:3 as a reference to the Father’s eternal begetting of the Son, not the incarnation. But in this fragment, Marcellus speaks of unspecified Eusebian opponents in the plural. He could be including Asterius in the number of those who held this opinion, but this is not necessarily the correct interpretation. It seems more likely that this is a position that Marcellus believed to be held also by the other Eusebians whom he attacked, perhaps Eusebius of Nicomedia and Narcissus. Finally, the phrase “his first creation” may not even be the words used by the Eusebians. When Marcellus says that the Eusebians apply the verse to “what they think is his first creation” (τὴν πρώτην αὐτοῦ, ὡς οἴονται, κτίσιν), he seems to be giving his own polemical interpretation of their views, not their exact language. [127] For all these reasons, this fragment of Marcellus should not be considered to report a viewpoint of Asterius. Indeed, it is not considered as such in the two editions of Asterius fragments by Gustave Bardy and Markus Vinzent. [128]
Accordingly, Vinzent bases his claim of Eusebius “rejecting” Asterius on the issue of the Son’s creatureliness mainly on Asterian fragments of the Syntagmation preserved by Athanasius. It is undeniable that some of these fragments speak of the Son as a creature. [129] But these are not texts that were attacked by Marcellus and thus were not subject either to the defense or the rejection of Eusebius in his anti-Marcellan writings. Yet Vinzent does see one Marcellan text preserved by Eusebius supporting the claim that Asterius held that the Son was a creature: “Where in the divine sayings will they be able to show us that there is ‘one unbegotten and one begotten’ in the way that they themselves believe he was begotten, when neither prophets nor evangelists, nor apostles have said this?” [130] The authenticity of the Asterian text purportedly quoted here by Marcellus is questionable for the same reason as for the rejected Asterian fragment discussed in the previous paragraph. Marcellus similarly attributes the idea to unspecified Eusebians in the plural, not specifically Asterius. Thus, there is nothing in the fragment itself to suggest that it reports of the view of Asterius. In fact, Bardy did not include this fragment in his collection. [131] Yet, even if one should accept the Marcellan fragment as reporting a view of Asterius, calling the Son the “one begotten” is not the same as calling the Son a “creature.” [132]
Therefore, if there is no evidence for the Asterius of the Apologia holding that the Son was a creature, then there is no basis for claiming that Eusebius rejected the teaching of Asterius on this point. Then how do we reconcile the teaching of the Syntagmation with the Apologia? The former was written in the early 320s, before the Council of Nicaea, whereas the latter appeared afterward. One possibility, I suggest, is that in this period Asterius, like Eusebius, came to realize the inadequacy of applying the term “creature” to the Son. [133] Or it may simply be the case that the fragmentary remains of the Apologia do not preserve the passages that spoke of the Son as a creature. However, since Marcellus was vehemently opposed to such a theology, it seems unlikely that he would have neglected to cite such passages. Even if this second possibility is closer to the truth of the matter, it still cannot be said that Eusebius has rejected Asterius’ doctrine on the creatureliness of the Son, since there is no text of the extant fragments of the Apologia that teaches this.


Of the three instances of mutual defense within the Eusebian alliance examined in this study, Eusebius’ defense of Asterius is not only the most extensive but also the most genuinely a defense. Asterius’ defense of the Nicomedian Eusebius engaged in a good deal of updating and revision, even as he defended him. The Caesarean Eusebius essentially rejected the theology of Paulinus and Narcissus while still claiming to defend them. In contrast, the same Eusebius defended or at least agreed with everything Asterius taught (at least as reported by Marcellus). In no case can we detect an explicit or even an implicit critique. It is true that at times Eusebius developed his theology in different directions than Asterius, but this fact should not obscure their fundamental agreement in doctrinal matters. And so, it may be concluded that, even if the main purpose of Eusebius in his anti-Marcellan writings was to refute the theology of Marcellus, they can also be construed as writings in favor of Asterius. If Contra Marcellum were the title of both works, then the subtitle could certainly be Pro Asterio.
The anti-Marcellan writings of Eusebius played a key role in the development and transmission of Eusebian theology. He is first of all responsible for preserving precious fragments of the writings of Paulinus, Narcissus, and Asterius, much as he saved many texts, Christian, Jewish, and Greco-Roman alike, in his Historia Ecclesiastica, Praeparatio Evangelica, and Demonstratio Evangelica. But, just as in those works, so in the anti-Marcellan treatises, he is not merely a conserver. He engages with the theology of his fellow Eusebians, sometimes jettisoning it (as with Paulinus and Narcissus), sometimes developing it in new directions (as with Asterius), but in every case drawing upon his previous theological work and updating it to respond to contemporary concerns and challenges. And thus he achieved a classic expression of Eusebian theology that incorporated and expanded upon the views of Asterius, a theology that was enormously influential in the following decades.

Works Cited

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[ back ] 1. Edition: Klostermann and Hansen 1991 (hereafter Kl/H).
[ back ] 2. See my research on the theological and ecclesio-political cohesiveness of the Eusebians: DelCogliano 2006; 2008; 2011b.
[ back ] 3. See Ayres 2004:13; DelCogliano 2006:480–483.
[ back ] 4. Gwynn 2007.
[ back ] 5. For a definition of the category, see Ayres 2004:52, and Lienhard 1999:34–35.
[ back ] 6. E.g. DelCogliano 2006.
[ back ] 7. For accounts of Asterius’ theology, see: Kopecek 1979:28–34 and 55–57; Hanson 1988:32–38; Kinzig 1990:125–132; Vinzent 1993:38–71; Lienhard 1999:92–101; Ayres 2004:53–54; Gwynn 2007:205–211; and Anatolios 2011:53–59.
[ back ] 8. For accounts of Eusebius’ theology, see Ayres 2004:58–60; Hanson 1988:46–59; Lienhard 1999:104–135; Strutwolf 1999; and Anatolios 2011:59–69.
[ back ] 9. On Marcellus’ theology, see Ayres 2004:62–69; Hanson 1988:217–235; Lienhard 1999:49–68; Vinzent 1997; and Anatolios 2011:86–92. On Marcellus’ career, see Parvis 2006.
[ back ] 10. The whole letter is extant; see Urk. 8 (Urk. = Opitz 1934–1935, cited by document number). Opitz dates the letter to 320–321; ca. 323 is the proposal of Williams 2001:58. For analyses of this letter, see Stead 1973; Luibhéid 1976; Lienhard 1999:78–82; and DelCogliano 2010:111–119. Stead argues that the letter was condemned at the Council of Nicaea.
[ back ] 11. Only fragments of the letter are extant; see Urk. 9. For an analysis of this letter, see Lienhard 1999:84–87.
[ back ] 12. Lienhard 1999:92.
[ back ] 13. Kopecek 1979:55, suggests that Asterius was also protesting the letter’s condemnation at Nicaea (see note 10 above).
[ back ] 14. On the Apologia, see Bardy 1936:336–338; Kopecek 1979:55–57; Lienhard 1999:95–98. The only other extant work of Asterius is his Syntagmation, fragments of which are preserved by Athanasius.
[ back ] 15. The various opinions are discussed by Bardy 1936:323–324; Vinzent 1993:34; and Parvis 2006:100–101 and 111–116.
[ back ] 16. Lienhard 1999:92.
[ back ] 17. On this writing, see Lienhard 1999:47–68.
[ back ] 18. Eusebius, C. Marc. 1.4.48 (GCS 14:28,3–4 Kl/H); Socrates, Historia ecclesiastica 1.36.3.
[ back ] 19. See Eusebius, C. Marc. 1.4.1–3 (17,30–18,12 Kl/H): “I will first present the passages in which he [Marcellus] tries to contradict the things that were written correctly and in accordance with ecclesiastical teaching, attacking their authors and engaging in a battle that all but demanded everything he had. For now he directs the refutation against Asterius, now against Eusebius the Great [Eusebius of Nicomedia]. And then he turns to the man of God, the so truly thrice-blessed Paulinus, a man who was honored with the sovereignty of the Antiochene Church, but who served as bishop of the Tyrians and shined so brightly in the episcopacy there that the Antiochene Church shared in its goodness as their own. But even this man, who lived blessedly and died blessedly, who not long ago fell asleep and is now disturbed by nothing, this astonishing author mocks. And passing on from this man he makes war on Origen, who passed from this life very long ago. Then he marches against Narcissus and persecutes the other Eusebius [Eusebius of Caesarea], and at the same time rejects all the church fathers, satisfied with none whatsoever except only himself.” Origen of course is not associated with the Eusebian alliance. In this anti-Asterian writing Marcellus polemically depicts the Eusebians as nothing more than slavish adherents of Origen.
[ back ] 20. The title of the work is not preserved and scholars have referred to it by many names, most commonly Contra Asterium.
[ back ] 21. Parvis 2006:118–123, lays out the evidence and the various scholarly opinions for dating the work. I find the case for a composition before rather than after the Council of Jerusalem in 335 more compelling. Parvis argues for an early date of 329–330, which is not outside the realm of possibility, but also contributes to her “heroic” narrative of Marcellus, in that it makes the Eusebians “unable to depose Marcellus on the basis of it for a further six years” (2006:123).
[ back ] 22. Lienhard 1999:104–209.
[ back ] 23. Parvis 2006:123–132.
[ back ] 24. Socrates, Historia ecclesiastica 1.36.5. See Bardy 1936:325–326; and Kinzig 1990:18.
[ back ] 25. Two editions of the fragments of Asterius have been published, each with their limitations. See Bardy 1936:341–353; and Vinzent 1993:82–141. In this study I have for the most part elected not to refer to the fragments according to the enumeration of these editions to avoid complicating the references.
[ back ] 26. Inowlocki 2006.
[ back ] 27. Bardy 1936:340 asserts that Marcellus cited his sources more precisely than Athanasius, but does not give reasons for this judgment.
[ back ] 28. On ancient citation practices, see Inowlocki 2006:35–47; Most 1997:vii; and Kidd 1997:226.
[ back ] 29. Bardy 1936:341 commenting on Marcellus’ habit of citing only a few words of Asterius out of context: “Il est assez curieux qu’Eusèbe n’ait pas cherché, sur ce point, à compléter ou à préciser sa documentation.
[ back ] 30. C. Marc. 1.4.9–10 (19,11–20 Kl/H).
[ back ] 31. Lienhard 1999:98n148 claims that the “wisest fathers” to whom Asterius refers are Paulinus and the two Eusebii, but it seems rather that Asterius intends more remote figures like Origen. On this point, see also DelCogliano 2011a:49n19.
[ back ] 32. C. Marc. 1.4.17–18 (20,32–21,6 Kl/H).
[ back ] 33. See Urk. 8.8 (17,8–9 Opitz).
[ back ] 34. C. Marc. 1.4.11 (19,26–27 Kl/H).
[ back ] 35. C. Marc. 1.4.9 (19,11–12 Kl/H).
[ back ] 36. C. Marc. 1.4.11 (19,23–24 Kl/H); 1.4.17 (20,32–33 Kl/H).
[ back ] 37. Urk. 8.3 (16,2–3 Opitz).
[ back ] 38. Urk. 8.6–7 (16,15–17,5 Kl/H).
[ back ] 39. E.g. C. Marc. 1.4.4–7 (18,12–32 Kl/H).
[ back ] 40. C. Marc. 1.4.12 (19,31–20,1 Kl/H); 1.4.30 (24,12 Kl/H); 1.4.33 (25,4 Kl/H).
[ back ] 41. Lienhard 1999:97.
[ back ] 42. For more details, see DelCogliano 2010:115–119.
[ back ] 43. Urk. 13 (19 Opitz): “Why do you find fault with Alexander the Pope when he says that the Son is from the Father? For you should not fear to say that the Son is from God. For if the Apostle wrote: ‘All things are from God’ [1 Cor 11:12], and it is clear that all things are made from nothing, and the Son too is a created thing and one of things that have been made, then it can be said that the Son is from God just as all things are said to be from God.” See also DelCogliano 2011b:671–672.
[ back ] 44. In the fragments of the Syntagmation preserved by Athanasius, however, Asterius does seem to subscribe to the idea; see Orationes contra Arianos 3.60.
[ back ] 45. Urk. 8.3.
[ back ] 46. C. Marc. 1.4.11 (19,24 Kl/H).
[ back ] 47. C. Marc. 1.4.33–34 (24,35–25,17 Kl/H); C. Marc. 1.4.55 (29,7–12 Kl/H); C. Marc. 2.2.15–19 (37,29–38 Kl/H); C. Marc. 2.2.20–22 (38,25–39,10 Kl/H); Eccl. Theol. 2.4.2 (102,27–30 Kl/H).
[ back ] 48. On this, see below p. 277.
[ back ] 49. On these texts, see Lienhard 1999:70–89.
[ back ] 50. C. Marc. 1.4.51–52 and 1.4.63–66.
[ back ] 51. Marcellus does not accuse Eusebius of Nicomedia of specific teachings; he only refers to him in the context of responding to Asterius’ comments on his letter to Paulinus. But he does repeatedly say that Eusebius wrote badly (κακῶς); see C. Marc. 1.4.9 (19,11–12 Kl/H); 1.4.11 (19,23 Kl/H); 1.4.17 (20,32–33 Kl/H). On this expression, see Lienhard 1999:82.
[ back ] 52. C. Marc. 1.4.49 (28,8–12; 28,14; 28,20 Kl/H) = Urk. 9.2–4.
[ back ] 53. C. Marc. 1.4.39 (26,10 Kl/H); 1.4.53 (28,33–34 Kl/H).
[ back ] 54. Marcellus also accused Eusebius himself of this; see C. Marc. 1.4.46 (27,24–25 Kl/H) and 1.4.46 (27,28 Kl/H). Marcellus tended to see no difference between a theology of two divine realities, hypostases, powers, or even substances and a theology of two gods. On Eusebius’ belief in the unity of God, see Eccl. Theol. 2.23.1 (133,11–17 Kl/H) and below p. 280. He does, however, refer to the Son as a “second God” throughout Praeparatio Evangelica. But this usage seems to arise only in cases where he is seeking to find references to the Son in non-Christian literature, where the phrase originally occurs.
[ back ] 55. Eccl. Theol. 1.9.
[ back ] 56. On the denial of two substances, see Eccl. Theol. 2.23.1 (133,9–17 Kl/H). On hypostases, see below pp. 279–280.
[ back ] 57. C. Marc. 1.4.63 (30,25–32 Kl/H).
[ back ] 58. Thus, the judgment of Wallace-Hadrill 1960:37 seems correct. He describes the anti-Marcellan works of Eusebius as “repeating considerable portions of the work of Marcellus without providing much defense of Paulinus, Narcissus, Eusebius of Nicomedia, Origen and the others whom Marcellus had attacked.” But if he meant to include Asterius in this judgment, as he seems to have done, below I argue the opposite.
[ back ] 59. Schwartz 1911:367–368.
[ back ] 60. Bardy 1936:341; Lienhard 1999:100.
[ back ] 61. See Eusebius, C. Marc. 1.4.1–3 (cited above at note 19). See also C. Marc. 1.4.48 where Eusebius again calls Paulinus “the man of God” (28,5–6 Kl/H).
[ back ] 62. Historia ecclesiastica 10.4. See also Schott 2011:189–96.
[ back ] 63. Lienhard 1999:83–84.
[ back ] 64. Eusebius of Caesarea, however, does refer to his namesake of Nicomedia as “Eusebius the Great” (C. Marc. 1.4.1 (17,33–18,1 Kl/H); 1.4.9 (19,8–9 Kl/H)).
[ back ] 65. Vinzent 1993:23 and 26.
[ back ] 66. C. Marc. 1.2.20–22 (12,8–21 Kl/H). See C. Marc. 1.4.55 (24,31–34 Kl/H) for Marcellus’ interpretation of this verse.
[ back ] 67. Textual criticism has vindicated Marcellus. The majority of manuscripts read ἐξεγέννησα instead of ἐγέννησα. Lienhard 1999:98 mistakenly ascribes the Marcellan reading to Asterius and vice versa.
[ back ] 68. C. Marc. 2.3.30 (50,5–6 Kl/H). See also DE 5.1.19, as well as PE 7.12 and DE 4.15; 4.16; 5.3. The local “Caesarean” creed that Eusebius quotes in his letter to his church after the Council of Nicaea contains the line: “begotten from the Father before all ages” (Urk. 22.4 (43,11–12 Opitz)).
[ back ] 69. C. Marc. 1.4.27–29 (23,25–21 Kl/H); see also C. Marc. 2.2.7–8 (36,2–8 Kl/H).
[ back ] 70. “Before the age he established me in the beginning; before he made the earth and before he made the depths, before he brought forth the springs of the waters, before the mountains were set in place, before all the hills, he begets me.” Eusebius of Nicomedia had cited an abbreviated version of Prov 8:22–25, which excludes “in the beginning . . . set in place” (see Urk. 8.4). Perhaps Asterius’ words were inspired by Eusebius’.
[ back ] 71. Eccl. Theol. 1.2.1 (63,20–21 Kl/H).
[ back ] 72. Eccl. Theol. 1.11.6 (70,22–25 Kl/H); 3.3.27–42 (150,18–153,7 Kl/H).
[ back ] 73. C. Marc. 1.4.4–6 (18,14–29 Kl/H).
[ back ] 74. C. Marc. 1.4.6 (18,28–29 Kl/H).
[ back ] 75. C. Marc. 1.4.7–9 (18,30–19,10 Kl/H).
[ back ] 76. C. Marc. 1.4.12 (19,31–20,2 Kl/H).
[ back ] 77. C. Marc. 1.4.13 (20,4–7 Kl/H).
[ back ] 78. C. Marc. 1.4.13 (20,8–10 Kl/H).
[ back ] 79. C. Marc. 1.4.14 (20,13 Kl/H), referring to C. Marc. 1.4.4 (18,18–20 Kl/H). See also C. Marc. 2.2.34 (41,6–10 Kl/H) and Eccl. Theol. 2.19.2 (125,12–17 Kl/H), where Marcellus sarcastically comments that Asterius claims “to follow the scriptures simply and scrupulously,” before suggesting that he is ignorant of a certain biblical passage.
[ back ] 80. C. Marc. 1.4.14 (20,15–16 Kl/H) referring to C. Marc. 1.4.10 (19,16–18 Kl/H). More precisely, Asterius maintained that ascribing the generation of the Son to the will of the Father and denying that this birth involved suffering on the part of God was the very teaching declared by the wisest fathers in their own treatises. But Marcellus seems to have taken this passage as a general statement of the sources of his thought.
[ back ] 81. C. Marc. 1.4.15–16 (20,16–24 Kl/H).
[ back ] 82. C. Marc. 1.4.16–17 (20,24–29 Kl/H).
[ back ] 83. C. Marc. 1.4.33–34 (24,35–25,17 Kl/H). The same fragment is preserved by Acacius of Caesarea apud Epiphanius, Panarion 72.6.2–3.
[ back ] 84. C. Marc. 1.4.30 (24,11–16 Kl/H); 1.4.31–32 (24,23–29 Kl/H); 2.3.24 (48,33–49,5 Kl/H).
[ back ] 85. C. Marc. 1.4.30 (24,13–16 Kl/H).
[ back ] 86. C. Marc. 1.4.31 (24,18–21 Kl/H).
[ back ] 87. C. Marc. 1.4.31–32 (24,24–29 Kl/H); 2.3.24 (48,34–49,5 Kl/H).
[ back ] 88. C. Marc. 1.4.33–34 (25,8–14 Kl/H).
[ back ] 89. C. Marc. 1.4.35–37 (25,15–29 Kl/H).
[ back ] 90. C. Marc. 1.4.35 (25,15–17 Kl/H).
[ back ] 91. C. Marc. 1.4.36 (25,21–26 Kl/H). These were among the favorite passages of Eusebius when reflecting on the Word as the image of God; see also Eccl. Theol. 1.20.67–71 and 1.20.94. Incidentally, in Eccl. Theol. 1.20.71 Eusebius comments that Marcellus’ interpretation of such titles as those in Heb 1:3 and Col 1:15–17 as referring to the flesh “is silly and incomprehensible in addition to being an incoherent interpretation” (93,3–4 Kl/H).
[ back ] 92. C. Marc. 1.4.37 (25,26–29 Kl/H).
[ back ] 93. Eccl. Theol. 1.9.3 (67,23–25 Kl/H). Examples of this are found elsewhere when Eusebius states that, because the Son is the image of God, he possesses immortality (Eccl. Theol. 1.20.33) and the first-person passages in the Old Testament, such as Ex 3:14, “I am who am,” are valid of him as well as the Father (Eccl. Theol. 2.20.15).
[ back ] 94. Eccl. Theol. 3.3.57 and 3.6.5.
[ back ] 95. Eccl. Theol. 1.20.72–74.
[ back ] 96. Eccl. Theol. 2.17.3 (120,30–33 Kl/H).
[ back ] 97. Eccl. Theol. 2.23.2 (133,28 Kl/H).
[ back ] 98. Eccl. Theol. 1.20.73–74 (93,16–18 Kl/H).
[ back ] 99. Eccl. Theol. 3.21.1 (181,13–30 Kl/H).
[ back ] 100. DelCogliano 2006:463–465 and 471–476.
[ back ] 101. On the significance of this adjective, see DelCogliano 2006:465–471.
[ back ] 102. Eccl. Theol. 2.19.1 (123,7–12 Kl/H); Eccl. Theol. 2.19.15–21 (126,1–127,6 Kl/H); Eccl. Theol. 2.21.5 (130,30–31 Kl/H); Eccl. Theol. 3.4.5 (158,33–34 Kl/H).
[ back ] 103. See Lienhard 1999:53–54.
[ back ] 104. E.g. Eccl. Theol. 1.1.2 (62,34–63,4 Kl/H); 1.17.2 (77,22–24 Kl/H).
[ back ] 105. E.g. Eccl. Theol. 1.20.77 (94,16–18 Kl/H).
[ back ] 106. Eccl. Theol. 1.10.4 (69,6 Kl/H); 1.20.40–41 (87,25-29 Kl/H); 2.7.1–3 (104,3–14 Kl/H). Eccl. Theol. 2.7 is Eusebius’ most detailed account of the two hypostases.
[ back ] 107. Eccl. Theol. 2.19.15–21 (126,1–127,6 Kl/H).
[ back ] 108. C. Marc. 1.4.55 (29,7–12 Kl/H); C. Marc. 2.2.15–19 (37,29–38 Kl/H); C. Marc. 2.2.20–22 (38,25–39,10 Kl/H); Eccl. Theol. 2.4.2 (102,27–30 Kl/H).
[ back ] 109. Eccl. Theol. 3.19 (180 Kl/H). Marcellus records that Asterius called the authority given to the Word “glory” and “pre-cosmic glory” (C. Marc. 2.2.28 (40,5–7 Kl/H); Eccl. Theol. 2.1.5 (100,11–14 Kl/H)).
[ back ] 110. Eccl. Theol. 2.6.
[ back ] 111. The first fragment of Marcellus is found at C. Marc. 2.2.1 (35,1–5 Kl/H); Eccl. Theol. 1.18.2 (79,16–20 Kl/H); Eccl. Theol. 1.20.50 (89,13–17 Kl/H); Eccl. Theol. 2.10.3 (111,11–15 Kl/H); the second at C. Marc. 2.2.4 (35,21–25 Kl/H); Eccl. Theol. 2.1.1 (99,17–21 Kl/H). For Marcellus’ teaching on the incarnation of the Word, see Lienhard 1999:59–61.
[ back ] 112. Lienhard 1999:97 writes: “In Asterius’ letter [i.e. the Apologia], as in the writings of many of his allies, the distinction between the preincarnate Son and the incarnate Christ is not crucial.” In the next sentence Lienhard claims that Asterius said that the Son was “Spirit” before he came down. But this is a misinterpretation of the fragment of Marcellus on which this claim is based (C. Marc. 2.2.4 [35,21–25 Kl/H]; Eccl. Theol. 2.1.1 [99,17–21 Kl/H]): “So, what was ‘that which came down’ before the incarnation? Surely he [i.e. Asterius] would say, ‘Spirit.’ For if he should wish to say anything contrary to this, the angel who said to the Virgin, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you,’ [Luke 1:35] would not agree with him. But if he says that he is Spirit, listen to the Savior who says ‘God is Spirit’ [John 4:24].” In Greek the relevant portion is: τί τοίνυν ἦν τὸ κατελθὸν πρὸ τοῦ ἐνανθρωπῆσαι; πάντως πού φησιν· πνευμα. εἰ γάρ τι παρὰ τοῦτο λέγειν ἐθέλοι, οὐ συγχωρήσει αὐτῷ ὁ πρὸς τὴν παρθένον εἰρηκὼς ἄγγελος . . . Here Marcellus is trying to back Asterius into his own position. If he can get Asterius to admit, based on Luke 1:35, that it was the Spirit who came down in the incarnation, then based on John 4:24 he can convince Asterius that it was God, who is one with and the same as the Word, who was incarnated. So it seems unlikely that Asterius ever considered that it was the Spirit who came down in the last days and was born of the Virgin.
[ back ] 113. The verse is of course followed by Heb 1:3, which had been central in explaining the doctrine of the image of God since Origen. In the Marcellan fragments, however, Asterius does not cite or appeal to this verse.
[ back ] 114. Eccl. Theol. 1.20.50.
[ back ] 115. Eccl. Theol. 1.20.51–87.
[ back ] 116. E.g. Eccl. Theol. 1.20.58 (90,21–22 Kl/H); 1.20.60 (90,34–91,3 Kl/H).
[ back ] 117. C. Marc. 2.2.26 (39,30–34 Kl/H); Eccl. Theol. 2.3.1 (101,28–32 Kl/H).
[ back ] 118. E.g. Eccl. Theol. 2.14.16 (117,11–12 Kl/H).
[ back ] 119. Eccl. Theol. 2.1.3 (99,30–31 Kl/H); Eccl. Theol. 2.19.14 (125,27–28 Kl/H).
[ back ] 120. Eccl. Theol. 2.1.2–3 (99,21–29 Kl/H). It seems that Marcellus appealed to John 10:38 for this teaching; see Eccl. Theol. 2.11.4–5 (113,11–18 Kl/H).
[ back ] 121. Eccl. Theol. 3.4.2–4 (158,2–26 Kl/H).
[ back ] 122. Marcellus reports that Asterius said that there was three hypostases (of Father, Son, and Spirit) not once, but twice; see Eccl. Theol. 3.4.5 (158,33–34 Kl/H).
[ back ] 123. Eccl. Theol. 3.5.6–8 (160,31–161,11 Kl/H).
[ back ] 124. Vinzent 1993:26.
[ back ] 125. See note 55 above.
[ back ] 126. C. Marc. 1.4.32 (24,31–34 Kl/H). See Lienhard 1999:97.
[ back ] 127. See the comments above on ancient citation techniques at p. 268. When quoting what are most likely the exact words of Asterius, Marcellus uses phrases such as “he wrote” (γέγραφεν) or “he said” (ἔφη, εἰρηκότος).
[ back ] 128. Bardy 1936:351 does include it as text to be compared with C. Marc. 1.2.21, in which Marcellus faults Asterius for misquoting Ps 109:3. But it is not considered as a fragment.
[ back ] 129. See particularly fragments 27 and 34 in Vinzent’s collection (the latter is 9 in Bardy’s).
[ back ] 130. C. Marc. 1.4.52–53 (28,27–29 Kl/H). This is fragment 12 in Vinzent’s collection.
[ back ] 131. Vinzent’s arguments for authenticity are based on parallels with genuine Asterian texts; see Vinzent 1993:175–176. I do not contest that the thought here is Asterian. But since it is not exclusive to Asterius and there are no indications that Marcellus intended to report a view of Asterius here, it seems best to agree with Bardy and not consider it a fragment of Asterius.
[ back ] 132. On Asterius’ use of begetting language, see p. 270 above.
[ back ] 133. See note 55 above. Note that Eusebian conciliar documents of the 340s still affirmed that the Son was a creature, though in highly qualified language. The fact that such language is found in the Second Dedication Creed of 341, which otherwise strongly reflected Asterian theology, problematizes the suggestion that Asterius distanced himself from belief in the creatureliness of the Son.