2.35.1 “Dear friends, you have probably already learned from other sources what matters concerning the church’s faith were negotiated at the great council which met in Nicaea, for rumors often travel faster than accurate accounts of events. But lest you learn something other than the truth from such hearsay, we are of necessity sending you the original version of our document regarding the faith, then also the second version, which they have put out with some additions to our wording.

2.35.2 Our letter, which we read aloud in the presence of our God-loving emperor and which was shown to be correct and valid, says the following:

2.35.3 ‘The faith which we have set forth. As we received it from the bishops before us when we were first catechized and when we received baptismal washing, as we have learned it from Holy Scripture, and as we have believed and taught it as priest and bishop, thus we believe now also. Therefore we will describe our faith for you.

2.35.4 We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things, seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Word of God, God from God, light from light, life from life, the only-begotten Son, the firstborn of all creation, begotten of the Father before all ages. Through him all things were made. For our salvation he was incarnate, lived among men, suffered, rose on the third day, and ascended to the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

2.35.5 We believe in one Holy Spirit. [We believe that each of them is and exists; the Father is truly Father, the Son is truly Son, and the Holy Spirit]1 is truly Holy Spirit, as our Lord said when he sent out his disciples to preach: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” [Matthew 28:19]. We affirm that we adhere to this faith and think this way. Moreover, we have adhered to this faith and will maintain it until death, condemning every ungodly heresy.

2.35.6 We testify before God Almighty and our Lord Jesus Christ that we have always thought this with heart and soul since we have known ourselves and that we now think and speak the truth. We can show evidence to persuade you that we have believed and preached this same way in the past.’

2.35.7 When we presented this faith, no one had any reason to disagree. Our God-loving emperor himself was the first to testify that its contents were orthodox, confessed that he had the same belief, and encouraged everyone to conform to this faith and to subscribe to and agree with its doctrine, having added only one word: ‘consubstantial.’ He offered the explanation that we would not call him ‘consubstantial with the Father’ with respect to bodily properties, for he did not take substance from the Father by division nor by segmentation. His immaterial, spiritual, and bodiless nature could not give substance to a bodily property, but one must think about such things in divine and mysterious terms. Our wise pious emperor was philosophizing about such things, and the bishops wrote the following on account of the addition of the word ‘consubstantial’:

2.35.8 ‘The faith which was dictated at the council: We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things, seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father as only-begotten, that is, from the essence of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father. Through him all things were made, in heaven and on earth. For us men and for our salvation he came down, was incarnate, and became human. He suffered, was buried, and rose on the third day. He ascended into heaven. He will come to judge the living and the dead. We believe in the Holy Spirit.

The catholic apostolic church anathematizes those who say, “He did not always exist,” “Before he was begotten he did not exist,” and that he was made from things which did not exist, or who claim that the Son of God is of a different substance or essence, or is created, changeable, or mutable.’

2.35.9 When they dictated this document, we were sure to ask how they understood ‘from the essence of the Father’ and ‘consubstantial with the Father.’ Questions and answers therefore arose, and reason cross-examined the meaning of the words. They agreed that ‘from the essence of the Father’ expresses that he is from the Father, but not that he exists as part of the Father.

2.35.10 We too found it appropriate to agree to this meaning, for holy instruction tells us that the Son is of the Father but is not part of his essence. So we agreed to this meaning and did not reject the expression, especially because our goal of peace was before our eyes, and we desired not to fall from correct thinking.

2.35.11 In the same way we also accepted ‘begotten, not made.’ They said that ‘made’ is a common designation for the other creatures, which were created through the Son. They have nothing in common with the Son. He is not a product like the creatures made through him; his essence is superior to every product. The Holy Scriptures teach that his essence was begotten of the Father, but how he was begotten is inexpressible and incomprehensible to every created being.

2.35.12 The logical investigation thus established that the Son is consubstantial with the Father not as the word is used of bodies nor like mortal beings (neither by dividing nor segmenting the essence, nor yet by modifying, changing, or altering the power of the Father, for none of these apply to the Father’s unbegotten nature).

2.35.13 Rather, ‘consubstantial with the Father’ indicates that the Son of God bears no resemblance to the creatures which have been made but absolutely resembles the Father alone, who begot him. Nor is he of a different substance or essence; he is from the Father. It seemed good to agree with this term once they explained it this way because we recognized that certain learned, well-known ancient bishops and authors had used ‘consubstantial’ when discussing the doctrine of the Father and the Son.

2.35.14 This much, then, can be said of the faith which was formulated, with which we all agreed not as with something unexamined. Rather, we agreed with the cited meanings after they had been examined before the God-loving emperor himself and had been acknowledged based on the mentioned arguments.

2.35.15 We did not think that the condemnation which they formulated after the faith was objectionable, for it prohibits using unscriptural expressions which brought about nearly all the confusion and instability in the church. Since no inspired Scripture uses the expressions ‘from things which did not exist,’ ‘he did not always exist,’ and the others which were cited, it seemed impermissible to say and teach them.

2.35.16 We agreed with this because it seemed right, for it was not customary to use these expressions formerly. Nor did it seem wrong to anathematize the expression ‘before he was begotten he did not exist’ because all confessed that he was the Son of God before he was begotten in flesh.

2.35.17 Our God-loving emperor himself was then proving with reasoning that he existed before all ages according to his divine generation. Before he was begotten in actuality, he was unbegotten in the Father in potentiality. The Father is always Father as he is always King and Savior and has all potentiality; he is always exactly the same.

2.35.18 We wrote this to you of necessity, dear friends, to inform you of the decision which we examined and approved and how we objected with good reason from that time up to the last hour as long as different formulations offended us. But because we are not fond of strife, we accepted that which no longer troubled us when, upon benevolent examination of the meaning of the words, it clearly agreed with what we ourselves confessed in the faith previously cited. We greet you and the brothers who are with you. We pray that you are strong in the Lord, dear brothers.”2


Next Chapter – 2.36 The great Victor August Constantine to the bishops and people

Previous Chapter – 2.34 Concerning the unholy Melitius

Click here to read Book 1 in its entirety.


Created by RR 9-29-21

  1. One manuscript adds the text enclosed in brackets, following the parallel sources, to fill a lacuna caused by homeoteleuton.
  2. The surviving manuscripts of our work lack a transition to the following letter (CPG 2041), which is also preserved in Athanasius, De decretis 39; Socrates 1.9.30-31. Hansen notes that the letter dates from 333.

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