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Alexander of Alexandria and the Homoousion

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image of Vigiliae Christianae

AbstractThis paper responds to recent publications which play down the role of Bishop Alexander of Alexandria in securing the adoption of the term homoousion at the Nicene Council of 325. It argues that, while the term is not employed in any surviving work from his hand, there is some reason to believe that he sanctioned the use of it by his colleagues. There is no doubt that before the Council he had already declared the Son to be “from the Father’s essence”, and it is all but certain that when this phrase was challenged, together with the homoousion at Nicaea, it was he who produced a conciliatory exegesis of both innovations, relying on the theology that had already been expounded in his letters Philostorgius’ story that he and Hosius of Cordoba had concerted a plan to introduce the homoousion is not implausible, and it should not be assumed that the author of an anonymous life of Constantine, which corroborates this narrative, is merely paraphrasing Philostorgius. Their testimony is consistent with that of Ambrose of Milan, who can be shown to have been acquainted both with documents and with witnesses of the proceedings at the Council.

Affiliations: 1: Christ ChurchOxford, OX1 1DPUnited


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