Rufinus of Aquileia :
Historia Ecclesiastica, Book 10, ch.1-6.
(Excerpt on the First Council of Nicaea)
Rufinus translated the 10-book History of Eusebius into Latin, bundling the limited historical matter in the last book in with book 9 to make 9 books. He then wrote a continuation as Books 10 and 11, taking the story down to the death of Theodosius. The volume was a standard history in the middle ages. The text has only recently been put into English for the first time:
The Church History of Rufinus of Aquileia by Rufinus, Philip R., S.J. Amidon (Translator), September 1997, Oxford Univ Press; ISBN: 0195110315. Reviewed in Journal of Early Christian Studies 7.1 (1999) by C.H.Gowans.
The volume is very useful, and would be nice to have in paperback. (The hardback is available from amazon). There is a full bibliography, notes, and discussion of contemporary sources. If only it were a little cheaper ...
A comparison with Eusebius swiftly shows that Eusebius was much the better historian. Rufinus, by contrast, says little of his sources. It has been conjectured that his continuation is based mainly on the lost Greek History of Gelasius of Caesarea; or that Gelasius based his on Rufinus.
The portion containing the account of the First council of Nicaea is Book 10, chapters 1-6 (pp. 9-16 of Amidon's translation). Here it is:
10.1. Alexander received the episcopal office after Achillas, who had succeeded the martyr Peter in Alexandria, and it was then that since our people were enjoying peace and a respite from persecution, and the glory of the churches was crowned by the merits of the confessors, the favorable state of our affairs was disturbed by strife within. A presbyter of Alexandria named Arius, a man religious in appearance and aspect rather than in virtue, but shamefully desirous of glory, praise, and novelties, began to propose certain impious doctrines regarding the faith of Christ, things which had never before been talked about. He tried to sever and divide the Son from the eternal and ineffable substance or nature of God the Father, something which upset very many in the church. Bishop Alexander, by nature gentle and reserved, desired to recall Arius from his impious enterprise and teaching by unceasing admonitions, but did not succeed, because by then the contagion of his pestilential doctrine had infected so many not only in Alexandria, but also in the other cities and provinces to which it had spread. He therefore, thinking it would be disastrous to ignore the situation, brought it to the notice of very many of his fellow priests. The dispute became widely known. Word of it reached the ears of the religious sovereign, since he was making every effort to look after our affairs. He then, in accordance with the mind of the priests, summoned a council of bishops to the city of Nicaea, and ordered Arius to present himself there to the 318 bishops in attendance and to be judged on the teachings and questions he had brought forward.
10.2. Now I do not think it right to omit the marvelous thing which the sovereign did in the council. For when the bishops had come together from almost everywhere and, as usually happens, were submitting complaints against each other arising from various causes, he was constantly being importuned by each of them, petitions were being offered, wrongdoings were being brought up, and they were giving their attention to these matters rather than to the purpose of their gathering. But he, seeing that these quarrels were hindering the most important business at hand, set a certain day on which any bishop who thought he had a complaint to make might submit it. And when he had taken his seat, he accepted the petitions of each. Holding all the petitions together in his lap, and not opening them to see what they contained, he said to the bishops, "God has appointed you priests and given you power to judge even concerning us, and therefore we are rightly judged by you, while you cannot be judged by men. For this reason, wait for God alone to judge among you, and whatever your quarrels may be, let them be saved for that divine scrutiny. For you have been given to us by God as gods, and it is not fitting that a man should judge gods, but only he of whom it is written: God has stood in the assembly of the gods, in the midst he has judged between gods. And therefore put aside these matters and without contention examine those things which belong to the faith of God." Having spoken thus, he ordered all the petitions containing complaints to be burned together, lest the dissension between priests become known to anyone. Now when the issue concerning faith had been discussed in the bishops' council for many days, and quite a few there put forward different views and vigorously supported Arius's initiative, there were still more who abhorred the impious enterprise. And since there were at the council a large number of priest-confessors, they were all opposed to Arius's novelties. But those who supported him were men clever in disputation and therefore opposed to the simplicity of faith.
10.3. Now we may learn how much power there is in simplicity of faith from what is reported to have happened there. For when the zeal of the religious emperor had brought together priests of God from all over the earth, rumor of the event gathered as well philosophers and dialecticians of great renown and fame. One of them who was celebrated for his ability in dialectic used to hold ardent debates each day with our bishops, men likewise by no means unskilled in the art of disputation, and there resulted a magnificent display for the learned and educated men who gathered to listen. Nor could the philosopher be cornered or trapped in any way by anyone, for he met the questions proposed with such rhetorical skill that whenever he seemed most firmly trapped, he escaped like a slippery snake. But that God might show that the kingdom of God is based upon power rather than speech, one of the confessors, a man of the simplest character who knew only Christ Jesus and him crucified, was present with the other bishops in attendance. When he saw the philosopher insulting our people and proudly displaying his skill in dialectic, he asked everyone for a chance to exchange a few words with the philosopher. But our people, who knew only the man's simplicity and lack of skill in speech, feared that they might be put to shame in case his holy simplicity became a source of laughter to the clever But the elder insisted and he began his discourse in this way: "In the name of Jesus Christ, O philosopher," he said, "listen to the truth. There is one God who made heaven and earth, who gave breath to man whom he had formed from the mud of the earth and who created everything what is seen and what is not seen with the power of his word and established it with the sanctification of his spirit This word and wisdom whom we call Son took pity on the errors of humankind was born of a virgin by suffering death freed us from everlasting death and by his resurrection conferred on us eternal life Him we await as the judge to come of all that we do. Do you believe that this is so, O philosopher?" But he as though he had nothing whatever that he could say in opposition to this so astonished was he at the power of what had been said could only reply to it all that he thought that it was so and that what had been said was the only truth. Then the elder said "If you believe that this is so arise follow me to the church and receive the seal of this faith." The philosopher turning to his disciples and to those who had gathered to listen said "Listen, O learned men: so long as it was words with which I had to deal, I set words against words and what was said I refuted with my rhetoric. But when power rather than words came out of the mouth of the speaker words could not withstand power nor could man oppose God. And therefore if any one of you was able to feel in what was said what I felt, let him believe in Christ and follow this old man in whom God has spoken." And thus the philosopher became a Christian and rejoiced at last to have been vanquished.
10.4. There was also at the council the man of God Bishop Paphnutius from Egypt, one of the confessors whom Maximian, after gouging out their right eyes and severing their left hams, had condemned to the mines. But there was in him such a grace of miracles that signs were worked through him no less than through the apostles of old. For he put demons to flight with a mere word and cured the sick by prayer alone. He is also said to have returned sight to the blind and given back soundness of body to the crippled. Constantine regarded him with such veneration and love that many times he called him into the palace, embraced him, and bestowed fervent kisses on the eye which had been gouged out in his confession of faith.
10.5. If any of their number would have been even more outstanding, it is said to have been Spyridon, a bishop from Cyprus, a man belonging to the order of prophets, so much have we learned from what was said by those who saw him. He remained a shepherd even after he was appointed bishop. Now one night when thieves approached the fence and stretched forth their wicked hands to make an opening to bring out the sheep, they were held fast by invisible bonds and remained so until daybreak as though they had been handed over to torturers. But when the elder got ready to lead the sheep out to pasture in the morning, he saw the youths hanging stretched upon the fence without human bonds. When he had learned the reason for their punishment, he loosed with a word those whom he had deservedly bound, and lest they should have nothing to show for their nocturnal labors, he said, "Take one of the rams for yourselves, lads, so that you will not have come for nothing; but you would have done better to get it by request than by theft."
They also relate of him the following miracle. He had a daughter named Irene who after she had faithfully served him died a virgin. After her death someone came who said he had entrusted to her a deposit. The father did not know of the affair. A search of the whole house failed to reveal anywhere what was sought. But the one who had left the deposit pressed his claim with weeping and tears, even avowing that he would take his own life if he could not recover what he had deposited. Moved by his tears, the old man hurried to his daughter's grave and called her by name. She said from the grave, "What do you want, father?" He replied, "Where did you put this man's deposit?" She explained where it was, saying, "You will find it buried there." Returning to the house, he found the thing where his daughter, from the grave, had said it was, and returned it to the one who had asked for it. There are many other miracles of his mentioned which are still talked about by all.
There were, then, in those times as well very many shining examples of such men in the Lord's churches, of whom quite a few were present at the council. Athanasius, at that time a deacon of Alexander of Alexandria, was there too, aiding the old man with his assiduous advice. During that time the council met each day, and it did not dare to proceed carelessly or recklessly to a decision about such a serious matter. Arius was often summoned to the council, his propositions were discussed in painstaking detail, and the most careful consideration was given to the question of what position or decision to take against them. Finally after long and detailed discussion it was decided by all, and decreed as though by the mouth and heart of all, that the word homoousios should be written, that is that the Son should be acknowledged to be of the same substance as the Father, and this was most firmly declared by the vote of them all. There were then only seventeen, it is said, who preferred Arius's creed and who affirmed that God's Son had been created externally from nothing existing and had not been begotten from the Father s very divinity. The decision of the council of priests was conveyed to Constantine who revered it as though it had been pronounced by God and declared that anyone who should try to oppose it he would banish as transgressing divine decrees. Six only there were who suffered themselves to be expelled with Arius, while the other eleven, after taking counsel together, agreed to subscribe with hand only, not heart. The chief designer of this pretence was Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia. During that time, then, the subscriptions were written in whatever way, some sincerely and some not, as later events proved, particular regulations were made concerning each of several church customs, and so the council dissolved. There is here inserted a copy of the exposition of faith of those who had assembled.
10.6. Creed of Nicaea
"We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God born as only-begotten of the Father, that is of the Father's substance, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, born not made, homoousios with the Father, that is of the same substance as the Father, through whom all things were made, those in heaven and those on earth. Who for the sake of us human beings and our salvation came down and was incarnate, and becoming a human being suffered and rose on the third day, and ascended to heaven, from where he is to come to judge the living and the dead. And in the Holy Spirit. But those who say that there was a time when he was not, and before he was born he was not, and that he was made out of nothing existing or who say that God's Son is from another subsistence or substance or is subject to alteration or change, the catholic and apostolic church anathematizes.
I. They decree in addition that it is to be observed in the churches that no one who castrates himself because of unwillingness to endure sexual desire is to be admitted to the clergy.
II. No one recently admitted to baptism from paganism and its way of life is to be made a cleric before being carefully examined.
III. No bishop or other cleric is to live with women who are not relatives, but only with his mother, sister, aunt, or persons related in this way.
IV. A bishop is if possible to be ordained by the bishops of the whole province. If this is difficult, then certainly by not fewer than three, but in such a way that either the presence or the authority of the metropolitan bishop in particular is involved. Without him they consider the ordination invalid.
V. A bishop is not to receive anyone, whether a cleric or a layman, whom another bishop has expelled from the church. Lest however there be no remedy for something which has been unjustly done because of some quarrel or bad temper, as sometimes happens, they decree that twice each year councils are to be held in each province by all the provincial bishops and judgment passed on such matters, so that if by chance something was done unjustly by one of them, it may be put right by the others, or if rightly, it may be confirmed by all.
VI. The ancient custom in Alexandria and the city of Rome is to be maintained whereby [the bishop of the former] has charge of Egypt, while [the bishop of the latter] has charge of the suburbicarian churches.
VII. If by chance in ordaining a bishop two or three should disagree for some reason, the authority of the rest of them, and especially that of the metropolitan with the rest, is to be considered more valid.
VIII. The prerogative of honor given of old to the bishop ofJerusalem is to be preserved, the dignity of the metropolitan of that province being maintained nonetheless.
IX. As for the Cathari, whom we know as Novatianists, if they should repent and return to the church, having confessed the doctrines of the church: the clerics should be received into the clergy, but only after receiving ordination. Of course if one of their bishops comes to one of our bishops, he should sit in the place of the presbyters, but the title of bishop should remain with him alone who has ever held the Catholic faith, unless he has freely decided to honor him with that title, or if he has decided to look for a vacant bishopric for him. That is up to him.
X. There are not to be two bishops in one city.
XI. Those who are incautiously advanced to the priesthood and afterward confess some misdeed they have done, or are convicted by others, are to be deposed. Those also who are among the lapsed and who by chance have been ordained through ignorance are to be deposed when recognized.
XII. Those who although not tortured have lapsed during the persecutions and do penance sincerely are to spend five years among the catechumens and for two years after that are to be joined to the faithful in prayer alone, and in that way are afterward to be taken back.
XIII. Those who in order to confess the faith have left military service and then have once again sought to enter it are to do penance for thirteen years and afterward to be taken back, provided they do penance sincerely. It is also however in the bishop's power to adjust the term if he sees that they are giving careful and fruitful attention to their penance.
XIV. But as for those penitents who are dying, they decree that no time must be spent [doing penance]. If someone who has received communion recovers, however, he is to complete the times set or at least do as the bishop determines.
XV. As for catechumens who have lapsed, they have decreed that for three years they are to be separated from the prayer of the catechumens, and afterward to be taken back.
XVI. No one, whether a bishop or even another cleric, is to attempt to move from a lesser city to a greater church.
XVII. No cleric who for no good reason has left his church and roams about among the other churches is to be received into communion.
XVIII. No one is to steal away someone who belongs to someone else and ordain him a cleric in his own church without the consent of the one to whom he belongs.
XIX. No cleric is to charge interest, or an augmentation on grain or wine, the original amount of which when let out customarily yields a return of half again or even twice as much; if he does so, he is to be deposed as guilty of filthy lucre.
XX. Deacons are not to be given precedence over presbyters, nor are they to sit where the presbyters do or distribute the Eucharist when they are present; they are simply to assist while the others do that. But if there is no presbyter present, then only may they distribute as well; those that do otherwise are ordered to be deposed.
XXI. The Paulianists, also called Photinians, are to be rebaptized.
XXII. Deaconesses likewise, because they do not in fact receive the imposition of hands, should also be placed among the laity."
So then once they had formulated decrees concerning these matters in a way consonant with respect for the divine laws, and also had handed down to the churches the ancient canon regarding the observance of Easter, so that no further inconsistency should arise, then everything was duly settled and the peace and faith of the churches was preserved, one and the same, in the East and the West.
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Written 21st June 2001.
This page has been online since 15th June 2001.
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