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Being Christian in Vandal AfricaThe Politics of Orthodoxy in the Post-Imperial West$
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Robin Whelan

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780520295957

Published to California Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520295957.001.0001

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Ecclesiastical Histories

Ecclesiastical Histories

Reinventing the Arians

(p.109) 4 Ecclesiastical Histories
Being Christian in Vandal Africa

Robin Whelan

University of California Press

This chapter examines the fundamental Nicene response to their opponents’ claim to Christian orthodoxy: they made them into Arians. It shows the intellectual effort this (deceptively difficult) move required. Nicene controversialists drew on the history and heresiology of both the Arian Controversy and the Donatist Schism to portray contemporary Homoians as heretics. To establish the link between their opponents and the Arians of the past, Nicene authors imaginatively rewrote fourth-century ecclesiastical history, reworking what they saw as an authoritative past to match the needs of the present. In so doing, they made the contemporary controversy into a reenactment of earlier conflicts—one from which they, as the heirs of Athanasius and Augustine, would inevitably emerge triumphant. Of course, Homoian clerics were exploiting the same histories of the church to support their own ecclesiological claims. For both sides, this controversy was not new, but rather an extension of fourth-century Trinitarian debates.

Keywords:   Arian Controversy, Donatist Schism, Council of Nicaea, heresiology, narrative, typology, Vigilius of Thapsa, Athanasius of Alexandria, Arius, Ambrose of Milan

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