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A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography
Eunomius, Bishop of Cyzicus
Eunomius (3) of Cappadocia, bp. of Cyzicus (360-364) after the expulsion of Eleusius. As the pupil and secretary of Aetius, he formulated his master's system with a preciseness which stamped the name of Eunomians instead of that of Aetians on the Anomoean heretics. He was distinguished by "a faculty of subtle disputation and hard mechanical reasoning" (Newman, Arians , c. iv. Â§ 4), which subjected the Christian verities to strict logical processes, and rejected every doctrine that could not be shewn to be consistent with human reason. Neander further describes him as the decided enemy of asceticism, and of the growing disposition to worship saints and relicsâ€”in fact, the "Rationalist" of the 4th cent. (Ch. Hist. iv. p. 78, Clark's trans.).
The name of his birthplace is given as Dacora by Sozomen and Philostorgius, and as Oltiseris by Gregory Nyssen, who correctly places it on the confines of Cappadocia and Galatia (Soz. H. E. vii. 17; Philost. H. E. x. 6, xi. 5). Eunomius came of an honest, industrious stock. His father, an unpretending, hard-working man, supported his family by the produce of his land and by teaching a few neighbours' children in the winter evenings (Greg. Nys. in Eunom. i. p. 291). Eunomius inherited his father's independent spirit. He learnt shorthand, and became amanuensis to a kinsman and tutor to his children. The country becoming distasteful to him, he went to Constantinople, hoping to study rhetoric. Gregory Nyssen, who endeavours to blacken his character as much as possible, hints that his life there was not very reputable, but specifies no charges. It was reported that he worked as a tailor, making clothes and girdles. Before very long he returned to Cappadocia.
The fame of Aetius, then teaching at Alexandria, reaching Eunomius, he proceeded thither c. 356, and placed himself under his instruction, acting also as his amanuensis (Socr. H. E. ii. 35, iv. 7; Soz. H. E. vi. 27; Philost. H. E. iii. 20; Greg. Nys. in Eunom. i. p. 290). He accompanied Aetius to Antioch at the beginning of 358, to attend the Arian council summoned by Eudoxius, who had through court favour succeeded to the see of Antioch.
The bold front displayed by the Arians at this council, and the favour shewn to the flagrant blasphemies of Aetius and Eunomius, who did not scruple to assert the absolute unlikeness (ἀνόμοιον ) of the Son to the Father, excited the strong opposition of the semi-Arian party, of which George of Laodicea, Basil of Ancyra, and Macedonius of Constantinople, were the highly respectable leaders. Under colour of the dedication of a church, a council was speedily held by them at Ancyra at which the Anomoean doctrines and their authors were condemned. A synodical letter was sent to the emperor denouncing the teaching of Eunomius and his master and charging the latter with being privy to the conspiracy of Gallus (Philost. H. E. iv. 8). These proceedings struck dismay into the Arian clique at Antioch, and Eunomius, now a deacon, was sent to Constantinople as their advocate. But, apprehended in Asia Minor by some imperial officers, he was banished by the emperor's orders to Midaeus or Migde in Phrygia; Aetius to Pepuza. Eudoxius found it prudent to retire to his native Armenia till the storm had blown over (Greg. Nys. ib. p. 291), but found means to reinstate himself in the emperor's favour, and at the close of 359 was chosen successor of Macedonius in the imperial see. Constantius had the utmost abhorrence of the Anomoeans and their teaching. Aetius was therefore sacrificed by the Arians as a scapegoat, while Eunomius was persuaded to separate himself reluctantly from his old teacher and conceal his heterodoxy, that he might secure a position of influence from which to secretly disseminate his views. Eudoxius procured for him from the emperor the bishopric of Cyzicus, vacant by the deposition of the semi-Arian Eleusius; but after a while, weary of dissimulation, he began to propound his doctrines, at first privately, and then in public assemblies. Complaints of his heterodoxy were laid before Eudoxius, who, forced by Constantius, summoned Eunomius before a council of bishops at Constantinople, but sent him a secret message counselling flight. Eunomius, not appearing, was condemned in his absence, deposed, and banished (Theod. Haer. Fab. iv. 3; H. E. ii. 29; Philost. H. E. vi. 1). On this he broke altogether with his former associates, and headed a party of his own, called after him Eunomians, professing the extreme Anomoean doctrines of the general comprehensibleness of the Divine Essence, and the absolute unlikeness of the Son to the Father. The accession of Julian in 361 recalled Eunomius and Aetius among the other bishops banished by Constantius. They both settled in Constantinople during the reigns of Julian and his successor Jovian (Philost. H. E. vi. 7, vii. 6). The growing popularity of Eunomianism at Constantinople caused jealousy in Eudoxius, who took advantage of the commotions caused by the rebellion of Procopius on the accession of Valens in 364 to expel Eunomius and Aetius from the city. Eunomius retired to his country house near Chalcedon. Procopius having also taken refuge there in Eunomius's absence, Eunomius was accused of favouring his designs, and was in danger of being capitally condemned. Sentence of banishment to Mauritania was actually passed upon him, a.d. 367. But on his way thither, passing through Mursa, the Arian bishop Valens, by personal application to the emperor Valens, obtained the repeal of his sentence ( ib. iv. 4-8). He was, the same year, again sentenced to banishment by Modestus, the prefect of the Praetorian guards, as a disturber of the public peace (ib. ix. 11). But he was again at Constantinople, or at least at Chalcedon, early in the reign of Theodosius, a.d. 379, to whom in 383 he, with other bishops, presented a confession of faith which is still extant. The next year Theodosius, finding some officers of the court infected with Eunomian views, expelled them from the palace, and having seized Eunomius at Chalcedon, banished him to Halmyris in Moesia, on the Danube. Halmyris being captured by the Goths, who had crossed the frozen river, Eunomius was transported to Caesarea in Cappadocia. The fact that he had attacked their late venerated bishop, Basil the Great, in his writings, made him so unpopular there that his life was hardly safe. He was therefore permitted to retire to his paternal estate at Dacora, where he died in extreme old age soon after a.d.. 392, when, according to Jerome ( Vir. Illust. c. 120), he was still living, and writing much against the church. His body was buried there, but transferred to Tyana, by order of Eutropius, c. 396, and there carefully guarded by the monksâ€”to prevent its being carried by his adherents to Constantinople and buried beside his master Aetius, to whom he had himself given a splendid funeral (Soz. H. E. vii. 17; Philost. H. E. ix. 6, xi. 5).
Eunomianism, a cold, logical system, lacked elements of vitality, and notwithstanding its popularity at first, did not long survive its authors. In the following century, when Theodoret wrote, the body had dwindled to a scanty remnant, compelled to conceal themselves and hold their meetings in such obscure corners that they had gained the name of "Troglodytes" (Theod. Haer. Fab. iv. 3). St. Augustine remarked that in his time the few Anomoeans existing were all in the East and that there were none in Africa (Aug. de Past. Cur. c. 8, p. 278).
Eunomius endeavoured to develop Arianism as a formal doctrinal system; starting with the conception of God as the absolute simple Being, of Whom neither self-communication nor generation can be predicated. His essence is in this, that He is what He is of Himself alone, underived, unbegottenâ€”and as being the only unbegotten One, the Father, in the strict sense of Deity, is alone God; and as He is unbegotten, inasmuch as begetting necessarily involves the division and impartation of being, so it is impossible for Him to beget. If that which was begotten shared in the Θεότης of the Deity, God would not be the absolute unbegotten One, but would be divided into a begotten and an unbegotten God. A communication of the essence of God, such as that involved in the idea of generation, would transfer to the Absolute Deity the notions of time and sense. An eternal generation was to Eunomius a thing absolutely inconceivable. A begetting, a bringing forth, could not be imagined as without beginning and end. The generation of the Son of God must therefore have had its beginning, as it must have had its termination, at a definite point of time. It is, therefore, incompatible with the predicate of eternity. If that can be rightly asserted of the Son, He must equally, with the Father, be unbegotten. This denial of the eternal generation of the Son involved also the denial of the likeness of His essence to that of the Father, from which the designation of the party, "Anomoean," was derived. That which is begotten, he asserted, cannot possibly resemble the essence of that which is unbegotten; hence, equality of essence, "Homoousian," or even similarity of essence, "Homoiousian," is untenable. Were the begotten to resemble the unbegotten in its essence, it must cease to be unbegotten. Were the Father and the Son equal, the Son must also be unbegotten, a consequence utterly destructive of the fundamental doctrine of generation and subordination. Such generation, moreover, Eunomius held to be essentially impossible. If then, according to the teaching of the church, the Son, Who is begotten, were of the same essence as the Father Who begets, there must be both an unbegotten and a begotten element in God. The essence of the Father and of the Son must therefore be absolutely dissimilar. And as Their essence, so also is Their knowledge of Themselves different. Each knows Himself as He is, and not as the other. The one knows Himself as unbegotten, the other as begotten. Since, therefore, the Son did not share in any way the essence of the Father, what is His relation to God, and to what does He owe His origin? Eunomius's answer lay in a distinction between the essence ( οὐσία ) and the energy (ἐνεργεία ) of God. Neither movement nor self-communication being predicable of the Divine Essence, it is to the Divine Energy, conceived as separable from the Θεότης , that we must ascribe the calling into existence out of nothing of all that is. In virtue of this ἐνεργεία only can God be called Father, as it is by this that all that is, besides Himself, has come into being. Of these creations of the Divine Energy the Son or Logos holds the first place, as the instrumental creator of the world. In this relation likeness to the Father is predicable of the Son. The Son may in this sense be regarded as the express image and likeness of the ἐνεργεία of the Father, as He conferred on Him divine dignity in the power of creation. This made the immeasurable difference between the Son and all other created beings. He was produced by the Father, as an alone Being, the first or most perfect of all Beings, to be, by His will, His instrument in the creation of all other existences. God called Him into being immediately, but all other creatures mediately through Him. This teaching introduced a dualism into the essence of God Himself, when it drew a distinction between His essence and His willâ€”the one being infinite and absolute, and the other relative and limited to finite objects. On the ground of this dualism Eunomius is charged by Gregory Nyssen with Manicheism. Eunomius regarded the Paraclete as sharing in the Divine nature in a still more secondary and derived sense, as no more than the highest and noblest production of the Only-begotten Son, given to be the source of all light and sanctification.
The entire want of spiritual depth and life in Eunomius is shewn by his maintaining that the Divine nature is perfectly comprehensible by the human intellect, and charging those who denied this with an utter ignorance of the first principles of Christianity. He accused them of preaching an unknown God, and even denied their right to be called Christians at all, since without knowledge of God there could be no Christianity; while he denied to those who did not hold his views as to the nature of God and the generation of the Son the possession of any true knowledge of the Divine Being. He held that Christ had been sent to lead other creatures up to God, the primal source of all existence, as a Being external to Himself, and that believers should not stop at the generation of the Son, but having followed Him as far as He was able to lead them, should soar above Him, as above all created beings, whether material or spiritual, to God Himself, the One Absolute Being, as their final aim, that in the knowledge of Him they might obtain eternal life. Eunomius's poor and low idea of the knowledge of God placed it merely in a formal illumination of the understanding and a theoretical knowledge of God and spiritual truth, instead of in that fellowship with God as made known to us in Christ and that knowledge which comes from love, which the church has ever held to be the true life of the soul. In harmony with this formal, intellectual idea of knowledge, as the source of Christian life, Eunomius assigned a lower place to the sacraments than to the teaching of the word, depreciating the liturgical, as compared with the doctrinal, element of Christianity. As quoted by Gregory Nyssen, he asserted that "the essence of Christianity did not depend for its ratification on sacred terms, on the special virtue of customs and mystic symbols, but on accuracy of doctrine" (Greg. Nys. in Eunom. p. 704). For fuller statements of the doctrinal system of Eunomius, see Dorner, Doctrine of the Person of Christ , div. i. vol. ii. pp. 264 ff., Clark's trans.; Neander, Ch. Hist. vol. iv. pp. 77 ff., Clark's trans.; Herzog, Real-Encycl. "Eunomius und Eunomianer" (from which works the foregoing account has been derived); Klose, Geschichte und Lehre des Eunomius (1833); Bauer, Dreieinigkeit , i. pp. 365-387; Meyer, TrinitÃ¤tslehre , pp. 175 ff.; Lange, Arianismus in seiner weiteren Entwickelung.
Eunomius, as a writer, was more copious than elegant. Photius speaks very depreciatingly of his studied obscurity, the weakness of his arguments, and his logical power. Socrates estimates his style no less unfavourably (H. E. iv. 7). Notwithstanding these alleged defects, his writings, which Rufinus states were very numerous and directed against the Christian faith ( H. E. i. 25), were much esteemed by his followers, who, according to Jerome, valued their authority more highly than that of the Gospels (Hieron. adv. Vigil. t. ii. p. 123). The bold blasphemies in these books caused their destruction. Successive imperial edicts, one of Arcadius, dated not more than four years after his death a.d. 398 ( Cod. Theod. t. vi. p. 152; lib. xvi. 34), commanded that his books should be burnt, and made the possession of any of his writings a capital crime. Little of his writing remains, save some few fragments preserved in the works of his theological adversaries. His Exposition of Faith and his Apologeticus are the only pieces extant of any length.
(1) ἔκθεσις πίστεως , Fidei libellus . A confession of faith presented to Theodosius, a.d. 383 (Socr. H. E. vii. 12), first printed by Valesius in his notes to Socrates, afterwards by Baluze in Conciliorum Nov. Collect. i. 89, and in Fabricius, Biblioth. Graeca , v. 23.
(2) Apologeticus , in 28 sections. This is his most famous work, in which, with much subtlety, he seeks to refute the Nicene doctrine of the Trinity, especially the co-eternal and consubstantial divinity of Christ. Basil the Great thought the book worth an elaborate refutation, in five books, adversus Eunomium (Migne, Patr. Gk. xxx. 835). An English trans. was pub. by Whiston in his Eunomianismus Redivivus (Lond. 1711, 8vo).
Cave, Hist. Lit. i. p. 219; Fab. Bibl. Graeca , viii. p. 261; Phot. Cod. 137, 138; Tillem. MÃ©m. Eccl. vi. 501 ff.
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Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Eunomius, Bishop of Cyzicus'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hwd/e/eunomius-bishop-of-cyzicus.html. 1911.