Athanasius De Syn., 5, cf 3f

5. As to the Nicene Council, it was not a common meeting, but convened upon a pressing necessity, and for a reasonable object. The Syrians, Cilicians, and Mesopotamians, were out of order in celebrating the Feast, and kept Easter with the Jews ; on the other hand, the Arianheresy had risen up against the Catholic Church, and found supporters in Eusebius and his fellows, who were both zealous for the heresy, and conducted the attack upon religious people. This gave occasion for an Ecumenical Council, that the feast might be everywhere celebrated on one day, and that the heresy which was springing up might be anathematized. It took place then; and the Syrians submitted, and the Fathers pronounced the Arian heresy to be the forerunner of Antichrist , and drew up a suitable formula against it. And yet in this, many as they are, they ventured on nothing like the proceedings of these three or four men. Without pre-fixing Consulate, month, and day, they wrote concerning Easter, ‘It seemed good as follows,’ for it did then seem good that there should be a general compliance; but about the faith they wrote not, ‘It seemed good,’ but, ‘Thus believes the Catholic Church;’ and thereupon they confessed how they believed, in order to show that their own sentiments were not novel, but Apostolical; and what they wrote down was no discovery of theirs, but is the same as was taught by the Apostles.


3. What defect of teaching was there for religious truth in the Catholic Church , that they should enquire concerning faith now, and should prefix this year’s Consulate to their profession of faith? For Ursacius and Valens and Germinius and their friends have done what never took place, never was heard of among Christians. After putting into writing what it pleased them to believe, they prefix to it the Consulate, and the month and the day of the current year ; thereby to show all sensible men, that their faith dates, not from of old, but now, from the reign of Constantius ; for whatever they write has a view to their own heresy. Moreover, though pretending to write about the Lord, they nominate another master for themselves, Constantius, who has bestowed on them this reign of irreligion ; and they who deny that the Son is everlasting, have called him Eternal Emperor; such foes of Christ are they in addition to irreligion. But perhaps the dates in the holy Prophets form their excuse for the Consulate; so bold a pretence, however, will serve but to publish more fully their ignorance of the subject. For the prophecies of the saints do indeed specify their times (for instance, Isaiah and Hosea lived in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah; Jeremiah in the days of Josiah; Ezekiel and Daniel prophesied under Cyrus and Darius; and others in other times); yet they were not laying the foundations of divine religion; it was before them, and was always, for before the foundation of the world God prepared it for us in Christ. Nor were they signifying the respective dates of their own faith; for they had been believers before these dates. But the dates did but belong to their own preaching. And this preaching spoke beforehand of the Saviour’s coming, but directly of what was to happen to Israel and the nations; and the dates denoted not the commencement of faith, as I said before, but of the prophets themselves, that is, when it was they thus prophesied. But our modern sages, not in historical narration, nor in prediction of the future, but, after writing, ‘The Catholic Faith was published,’ immediately add the Consulate and the month and the day, that, as the saints specified the dates of their histories, and of their own ministries, so these may mark the date of their own faith. And would that they had written, touching ‘their own ‘ (for it does date from today); and had not made their essay as touching ‘the Catholic,’ for they did not write, ‘Thus we believe,’ but ‘the CatholicFaith was published.’

4. The boldness then of their design shows how little they understand the subject; while the novelty of their phrase matches the Arian heresy. For thus they show, when it was they began their own faith, and that from that same time present they would have it proclaimed. And as according to the Evangelist Luke, there ‘was made a decree’ Luke 2:1 concerning the taxing, and this decree before was not, but began from those days in which it was made by its framer, they also in like manner, by writing, ‘The Faith is now published,’ showed that the sentiments of their heresy are novel, and were not before. But if they add ‘of the Catholic Faith,’ they fall before they know it into the extravagance of the Phrygians, and say with them, ‘To us first was revealed,’ and ‘from us dates the Faith of Christians.’ And as those inscribe it with the names of Maximilla and Montanus , so do these with ‘Constantius, Master,’ instead of Christ. If, however, as they would have it, the faith dates from the present Consulate, what will the Fathers do, and the blessed Martyrs? Nay, what will they themselves do with their own catechumens, who departed to rest before this Consulate? How will they wake them up, that so they may obliterate their former lessons, and may sow in turn the seeming discoveries which they have now put into writing ? So ignorant they are on the subject; with no knowledge but that of making excuses, and those unbecoming and unplausible, and carrying with them their own refutation.