Friday, 1 May 2015

Sara Parvis: How the Novatians won the Arian controversy: The 'Council of the Sects' of 383

The entry of Theodosius I into Constantinople in late 380 was followed by a series of church councils aimed at establishing an ecclesiastical consensus in the East, including over who should be considered the rightful bishops of Constantinople and Antioch, and what terms, if any, should be accorded to other ecclesiastical groupings.
The somewhat messy councils of 381 and 382 were followed by one which appears to have been rather more comprehensive, in which a number of those excluded by the earlier councils were invited to a debate that became a demand to sign a pre-Nicene florilegium of statements about the Trinity, and finally an exchange of professions of faith. This council was attended among others by Ulfila the Goth, Agelius the Novatian, Eunomius, Demophilus of Constantinople and Eleusius of Cyzicus. Of these, Agelius was accepted as orthodox, and the rest apparently rejected. By way of explanation, the ecclesiastical historian Socrates takes the view that one Novatian theologian in particular, Sisinnius, was largely responsible for the council's theological strategy.
In this paper, I shall consider the rival claims of Theodosius' Gothic policy, Agelius' opportunism and problems associated with the Antiochene schism as the driving forces behind this synod.

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