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Chapter XXXVI.—Of Marcellus Bishop of Ancyra, and Asterius the Sophist.

The bishops assembled at Constantinople deposed also Marcellus bishop of Ancyra, a city of Galatia Minor, on this account. A certain rhetorician of Cappadocia named Asterius having abandoned his art, and professed himself a convert to Christianity, undertook the composition of some treatises, which are still extant, in which he commended the dogmas of Arius; asserting that Christ is the power of God, in the same sense as the locust and the palmer-worm are said by Moses to be the power of God,253253    Joel ii. 25. with other similar utterances. Now Asterius was in constant association with the bishops, and especially with those of their number who did not discountenance the Arian doctrine: he also attended their Synods, in the hope of insinuating himself into the bishopric of some city: but he failed to obtain ordination, in consequence of having sacrificed during the persecution.254254    In the persecution under Decius (249 a.d.), those who yielded so far as to perform the heathen rites were branded with the title of ‘the lapsed’; and a controversy arose later on the manner in which they should be treated. One of the consequences of lapsing was disqualification for high office in the church. See Neander, Hist. of Christ. Ch. Vol. I. p. 226 seq. Going therefore throughout the cities of Syria, he read in public the books which he had composed. Marcellus being informed of this, and wishing to counteract his influence, in his over-anxiety to confute him, fell into the diametrically opposite error; for he dared to say, as the Samosatene255255    Paul of Samosata, who has been surnamed in modern times the Socinus of the third century, was deposed in 269 a.d. by a council held at Antioch for unchristian character and unsound views. His peculiarity in the latter respect was his denial of the divinity of Jesus Christ. For fuller information, see Eus. H. E. VII. 30; Epiphan. Hær. LXVII.; Neander, Hist. of the Christ. Ch. Vol. I, 602 seq.; Gieselee, Hist. of the Ch. Vol. I. 201; Smith and Wace Dict. of Christ. Biog. had done, that Christ was a mere man. When the bishops then convened at Jerusalem had intelligence of these things, they took no notice of Asterius, because he was not enrolled even in the catalogue of ordained priests; but they insisted that Marcellus, as a priest, should give an account of the book which he had written. Finding that he entertained Paul of Samosata’s sentiments, they required him to retract his 34opinion; and he being thoroughly ashamed of himself, promised to burn his book. But the convention of bishops being hastily dissolved by the emperor’s summoning them to Constantinople, the Eusebians on their arrival at that city, again took the case of Marcellus into consideration; and as Marcellus refused to fulfil his promise of burning his untimely book, those present deposed him, and sent Basil into Ancyra in his stead. Moreover Eusebius wrote a refutation of this work in three books, in which he exposed its erroneous doctrine. Marcellus however was afterwards reinstated256256    See II. 20. in his bishopric by the Synod at Sardica, on his assurance that his book had been misunderstood, and that on that account he was supposed to favor the Samosatene’s views. But of this we shall speak more fully in its proper place.


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