Thursday, May 18, 2006

Homoousios or homoiousios?

Boris Johnson says that Dan Brown has resurrected the oldest controversy in Christianity, the nature of Jesus (homoousios or homoiousios? - see below), and that's why the Catholic Church is so touchy.

If he was a god, how come he died? And if he was a man, how did he rise from the dead? From the very beginning of Christianity, there were Gnostics, who contested the full divinity of Christ, and by the third century AD the chief exponent of this type of view was a Libyan Christian bishop called Arius.

The Catholic Church said Christ was of the same substance as the father, coeternal. No, no, said Arius, he couldn't be of the same substance; he was just similar; he was just a chap really; not homoousios, but homoiousios.

Arius spoke for everyone who has ever said that "Jesus was a really great guy and a great teacher, but I don't think he was really the biological son of God". He had many supporters, and the wrangle engulfed the Christian world until Constantine settled it rather incompetently at the Council of Nicaea in 325, and the doctrine of the Trinity was pronounced.
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