Georges Florovsky

Alexander of Alexandria

During the period of the Arian controversies the Church was faced with problems of a philosophical nature and, in answering the heretics, theologians developed systems of philosophical conceptions and terminology. In the words of the Church historian Socrates, Alexander of Alex-andria “theologized like a philosopher” in his refutation of Arianism. Alexander’s theology is mainly concerned with the problem of time. His basic doctrine is also that the Divine is immutable and unchanging, and for this reason he stresses the complete indivisibility of the Father and the Son. “God has always existed and the Son has always existed; the Son and the Father are together; the Son coexists with God.” αμα and αει: this definition excludes the idea of gradation within the Trinity. “The Father does not precede the Son by the slightest instant.” He has always and unchangingly been the Father of His Son. The Son is generated “absolutely from the Father” and is His “indistinguishable Image.” He is completely and exactly the Image of the Father and is perfectly similar to Him in everything. It is only “unoriginateness” which is the attribute and “personal property” of the Father alone and which does not extend to the Son. But since the Son’s generation is eternal, this does not abrogate the complete inherence of the Son in the Fa-ther.
Alexander was also an Origenist, but he developed different aspects of Origen’s system. He ignored cosmological problems and tried to understand and explain the being of the Son as an internal event within the Divinity, and not as a moment or act of “generation.” From his theological creed it is clear that the problem of time and eternity was connected with his doctrine on the being and essence of God. This was tremendously significant at the beginning of the Church’s struggle against Arianism. The anathemas appended to the Nicene Creed reject all definitions of the Divinity which suggest any limitation in relation to time, such as “there was a then, when He did not exist,” or “(He has being) out of things which do not exist,” or which involve the concepts of mutability or a created nature. The Nicene Creed also rejects the idea of origina-tion “from another essence or hypostasis.” Socrates reports that Ossius (Hosius) of Cordova, who was sent by the emperor to Egypt to settle the Arian conflict, was the first to raise the question of essence and hypostasis, making these the subject of a new controversy.

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