Semi-Arianism is a name frequently given to the Trinitarian position of the conservative majority of the Eastern Christian Church in the 4th century, to distinguish it from strict Arianism.

Such as by Epiphanius of Salamis[1] for the party of reaction headed by Basil of Ancyra in 358.



Arianism was the view of Arius and his followers, the Arians, that Jesus was subordinate to, and of a different being (ousia) to God the Father. Arians opposed the catholic and orthodox view that the three parts of the Trinity were of one being or substance. Arianism spread among the Church of Alexandria and the Eastern Mediterranean. After the First Council of Nicaea condemned Arianism as heresy, many Christians adopted compromise views in which they remained in communion with Arians without adopting Arianism itself. Various formulae were proposed to compromise between Arian teachings (heteroousios) and the doctrine of one substance (homoousios) asserted in the Nicene Creed.[citation needed]

After the 325 Council of Nicea defeated Arianism, the greater number of the Eastern bishops, who agreed to the deposition of St. Athanasius at Tyre in 335 and received the Arians to communion at Jerusalem on their repentance, were not Arians. The dedication Council of Antioch in 341 put forth a creed which was unexceptionable but for its omission of the Nicene formula "of One Substance." Even disciples of Arius,[dubious ] such as George, Bishop of Laodicea[disambiguation needed ] (335-47) and Eustathius of Sebaste (c. 356-80), joined the moderate party, and after the death of Eusebius of Nicomedia, the leaders of the count faction, Ursacius, Valens and Germinius, were not tied to any formula, for Emperor Constantius II himself hated Arianism, though he disliked Athanasius yet more. When Marcellus of Ancyra was deposed in 336, he was succeeded by Basil. Marcellus was reinstated by the Council of Sardica and Pope Julius I in 343, but Basil was restored in 350 by Constantius, over whom he gained considerable influence. He was the leader of a council at Sirmium in 351, held against Photinus who had been a deacon at Ancyra, and the canons of this synod begin by condemning Arianism, though they do not quite come up to the Nicene standard. Basil had afterwards a disputation with the Anomoean Aëtius.

After the defeat of Magnentius at Mursa in 351, Valens, bishop of that city, became the spiritual director of Constantius. In 355 Valens and Ursacius obtained the exile of the Western confessors Eusebius, Lucifer, Liberius, and that of Hilary followed. In 357 they issued the second Creed of Sirmium, or "formula of Hosius", in which homoousios and homoiousios were both rejected. Eudoxius, a violent[citation needed] Arian, seized the See of Antioch, and supported Aëtius and his disciple Eunomius.

Basil of Ancyra In the Lent of 358, Basil with many bishops was holding the dedicatory feast of a new church he had built at Ancyra, when he received a letter from George of Laodicea, relating how Eudoxius had approved of Aëtius, and begging Macedonius of Constantinople, Basil and the rest of the assembled bishops to decree the expulsion of Eudoxius and his followers from Antioch, else that great see were lost. In consequence, the Synod of Ancyra published a long reply addressed to George and the other bishops of Phoenicia, in which they recite the Creed of Antioch (341), adding explanations against the "unlikeness" of the Son to the Father taught by the Arians and Anomoeans, (from anomoios), and showing that the very name of father implies a son of like substance (homoiousios, or homoios kat ousian) Anathematisms are appended in which Anomoeanism is explicitly condemned and the teaching of "likeness of substance" enforced. The nineteenth of these canons forbids the use also of homoousios and tautoousios; this may be an afterthought due to the instance of Macedonius, as Basil does not seem to have insisted on it later. Legates were dispatched to the Council at Sirmium: Basil, Eustathius of Sebaste, an ascetic of no dogmatic principles, Eleusius of Cyzicus, a follower of Macedonius, and the priest Leontius, one of the emperor's chaplains. They arrived just in time, for the emperor had been lending his ear to an Eudoxian, but he now veered round, issuing a letter (Sozomen, IV, xiv) declaring the Son to be "like in substance" to the Father, and condemning the Arians of Antioch.

Epiphanius of Salamis In the mid-4th century Epiphanius stated, "Semi-Arians... hold the truly orthodox view of the Son, that he was forever with the Father... but has been begotten without beginning and not in time... But all of these blaspheme the Holy Spirit, and do not count him in the Godhead with the Father and the Son."[2]

According to Sozomen, at this point pope Liberius was released from exile upon signing three formulæ combined by Basil; against this story see LIBERIUS, POPE. Basil persuaded Constantius to summon a general council, Ancyra being proposed, then Nicomedia (both in Asia Minor), but as the latter city was destroyed by an earthquake, Basil was again at Sirmium in 359 where the Arianizers had meanwhile regained their footing; with Germinius of Sirmium, George of Alexandria, Ursacius and Valens, and bishop (later saint) Marcus of Arethusa, he held a conference which lasted until night. A confession of faith, ridiculed under the name of the "dated creed", was drawn up by Marcus on 22 May (Hilary, "Fragment. xv"). Arianism was of course rejected, but the homoios kata ten ousian was not admitted, and the expression kata panta homoios, "like in all things", was substituted. Basil was disappointed, and added to his signature the explanation that the words "in all things" mean not only in will, but in existence and being (kata ten hyparxin kai kata to einai). Not content with this, Basil, George of Laodicea and others published a joint explanation (Epiph., lxxiii, 12-22) that "in all things" must include "substance";

At Seleucia, 359 The court party arranged that two councils should be held, at Rimini (Italy) and Seleucia respectively. At Seleucia, in 359, the Semiarians were in a majority, being supported by such men as St. Cyril of Jerusalem, his friend Silvanus of Tarsus and even Hilary of Poitiers, but they were unable to obtain their ends. Basil, Silvanus and Eleusius, therefore, went as envoys to Constantinople, where a council was held in 360, which followed Rimini in condemning homoiousios together with homoousios, and allowed homoios alone, without addition. This new phrase was the invention of Acacius of Cæsarea, who now deserted the extremer Arians and became leader of the new "Homoean" party. He procured the exile of Macedonius, Eleusius, Basil, Eustathius, Silvanus, Cyril and others.

Constantius II died in 361. Under Julian the Apostate the exiles returned. Basil was probably dead. Macedonius organized a party which confessed the Son to be kata panta homoios, while it declared the Holy Ghost to be the minister and servant of the Father and a creature. Eleusius joined him, and so did Eustathius for a time. This remnant of the Semiarian party held synods at Zele and elsewhere. The accession of Jovian, who was orthodox, induced the versatile Acacius, with Meletius of Antioch and twenty-five bishops, to accept the Nicene formula, adding an explanation that the Nicene Fathers meant by homoousios merely homoios kat ousian- thus Acacius had taken up the original formula of the Semiarians. In 365 the Macedonians assembled at Lampsacus under the presidency of Eleusius, and condemned the Councils of Ariminum and Antioch (in 360), asserting again the likeness in substance. But the threats of the Arian emperor Valens caused Eleusius to sign an Arian creed at Nicomedia in 366. He returned to his diocese full of remorse, and begged for the election of another bishop, but his diocesans refused to let him resign.

The West was at peace under Valentinian I, so the Semi-Arians sent envoys to that emperor and to the pope to get help. Pope Liberius refused to see them until they presented him with a confession of faith which included the Nicene formula. He seems to have been unaware that the party now rejected the Divinity of the Holy Ghost; but this was perhaps not true of the envoys Eustathius and Silvanus. On the return of the legates, the documents they brought were received with great joy by a synod at Tyana, which embraced the Nicene faith. But another synod in Caria still refused the homoousion.

In 381 the First Council of Constantinople was called in order to attempt to deal with the 'binitarians', who were called Semi-Arians then.[citation needed] However, as the trinity was officially finalized at this time, the offended Semi-Arians walked out.

For the rest of the history of the Semi-Arianists, since also called Macedonians, see Pneumatomachi.[3]

See also


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed (1913). "Semiarians and Semiarianism". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. 

  1. ^ Haeresies lxxiii
  2. ^ Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section VI, Verses 1,1 and 1,3. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, pp.471-472.
  3. ^ John McClintock, James Strong Cyclopædia of Biblical, theological, and ecclesiastical literature: Vol 8 - 1894 - "The first canon anathematizes the "Semi- Arians or Pneumatomachi ;" the seventh canon uses the name "Macedonians," and orders the admission of converts from this heresy to be by unction"
This article includes substantial content based on the article by Dom John Chapman, OSB, prior of St. Thomas' Abbey, Erdington, Birmingham, "Semiarians and Semiarianism." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912.


  • Basilius of Ancyra, Eleusius, Eustathius of Sebaste by VENABLES in Diction. Christ. Biog.
  • LICHTENSTEIN, Eusebius von Nikomedien (Halle, 1903)
  • LOOFS, Eustathius von Sebaste und die Chronologie der Basilius-Briefe (Halle, 1898).

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