Thursday, 30 June 2011

Khaled Anatolios - Athansasius's Orations Against the Arians: Between Asterius and Marcellus


The last several decades of Patristic scholarship have considerably enlarged our knowledge of the cast of characters involved in the fourth century Trinitarian debates. One of the results of this development has been the reading of Athanasius’s Orations against the Arians as a thoroughgoing engagement with Asterius, an approach most extensively presented by Charles Kannengiessers’s  Athanase d’Alexandrie, évêque et écrivain : une lecture des traités Contre les Ariens (1983). On the other hand, there is still some scholarly ambivalence about the nature and extent of Athansius’s theological engagement with Marcellus of Ancyra, given the complicated history of their ecclesiastical interaction and the lack of explicit literary interaction. However, I argue that in the Orations against the Arians, Athanasius is not only preoccupied with refuting Asterius but also with discreetly but unmistakeably distancing himself from Marcellus. In the Orations, Athanasius is interacting not only with Asterius’s doctrine but with Marcellus’s refutations of Asterius and Eusebius of Caesarea’s refutations of Marcellus. As a central example, Athanasius aligns himself with Asterius and Eusebius, rather than Marcellus, in identifying the Word and Son as “Image” of the Father in his divinity, even as he argues that this Image must be eternal and “from the ousia” of the Father. By arguing for the eternal and full divinity of the Son while qualifying Marcellus’s emphasis on the radical singularity of God, Athanasius is in effect making a bid in these Orations to supplant Marcellus as Asterius’s principal critic.   

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