Athanasius is counted as one of the four great doctors of the church in the Roman Catholic church as well as one of the great doctors of the church in Eastern Orthodoxy where he is also labeled the Father of Orthodoxy. He is also celebrated by many Protestant who label him as Father of the Canon, Athanasius is venerated as Christian saint whose feast day is May 2 in western community. May 5 is the Coptic orthodox church and January 18 is the other Eastern orthodox churches.
St. Athanasius was born in the city of Alexandria or possibly the nearby Nile delta town of Damanhur, California 296-298. It is speculated that his parents were wealthy enough to afford giving him an esteemed secular learning. He came from a Christian family despite accounts to the contrary as in his writings, he tells more than once of an aunt. who taught him some principles of the Christian faith, and a father who did the same as well as mentioning (once), his mother doing the same.
He has a Christian brother and later in his life is one of his exiles, he hid in his father’s tomb in what appears to be describe as a Christian cemetery.He knew Greeks and he admits to not knowing Hebrew. The old testament he quotes frequently came from the Septuagint Greek translation his knowledge of the old testament is limited to the Septuagint. He was able to write a letter in exile with no access to a copy of the scriptures and quote from a memory verse in the old testament. The combination of scriptural study and a Greek learning was characteristic of the famous Alexandrian school of element, origin Dionysius and Theognostus. It was from St. Alexander of Alexandria.Bishop of Alexandria 312-328 himself an Origenist that St. Athanasius received his main instruction. His earliest work against heathens – on the Incarnation, bears traces of origenist, Alexandrian thought but in an orthodox way.
The Alexandria of his boyhood was an epitome, intellectually, morally and politically of the ethnically diverse Greco Roman World. St. Athanasius seems to have been brought early in life under the immediate supervision of the ecclesiastical authorities of his native city.He was ordained deacon by the contemporary patriarch Alexandria. In 319-325, he served as a Alexander’s secretary at the first council of Nicaea, already recognized theologian and ascetic. He was the devious choice to replace alexander as the Patriarch of Alexandria on the latter’s dealth in 328. Despite the opposition of the followers of the Arius and Meletius of Lycopolis. Athanasius spent the first five years of his patriarchate visiting the churches of his territory which at that time included all of Egypt and Libya.
During this period he established contacts with the hermits and monks of the dessert including Pachomius. Athanasius became occupied with the disputes with Byzantine Empire and Arians which occupy much of his life. Athanasius first problem lay with the meletians who had failed to abide by the terms of the decision made at the first council of Nicaea which had hoped to reunite them with the church. Athanasius himself was accused of mistreating Arians and the followers of Meletius of Lycopolis. On the death of Emperor Constantine I, Athanasius was allowed to return to his see of Alexandria shortly after Constantine son. The new Roman Emperor Constantius II renewed the order for Athanasius banishment in 338. Athanasius went to Rome where he was under the protection of constans, the Emperor of the West.
Pope Julius wrote the supporters of Arius strongly urging the rein-statement of Athanasius but the effort proved to be in vain.He called a synod in Rome in the year 341 to address the matter and at that meeting, Athanasius found to be innocent of all the charges raised against him. Julius also called the council of sardica in 343. This council confirmed the decision of the earlier Roman synod and clearly indicated that the participants saw St. Athanasius as the lawful patriarch of Alexandria.Athanasius to return to Alexandria, Athanasius return was welcomed by majority of the people of Egypt who had come to view him as a National Hero. During the time Athanasius assembled several documents relating to his exiles and returns from Exile in the Apology against the Arians, however upon constans dealth a civil was broke which left constantius as sole Emperor, renewing his previous policies favoring the Arians that banished Athanasius from Alexandria again.
Athanasius left for upper Egypt, where he stayed in several monasteries and other houses. He computed his work Four Orations against the Arians and depended his recent conduct in the apology to Constantius and Apology for his flight. Athanasius received about the persecution of Non Arians by the New Arians, Bishop George of Laodicea prompted Athanasius to write his more Emotional History of the Arians in which he describe Constantius as precursor of the anti-Christ. Athanasius work include his two part against the Heathen. The Incarnation of the word of God. They contribute the first classic work of developed orthodox Theology. In the first part, Athanasius attacks several pagan practices and beliefs. The second part presents teaching on the redemption, Also in these books put forward the belief that the Son of God, the eternal word through whom God created the world entered that world in human form to lead men back into the harmony from which they had earlier fall men.
His other important works include his letters to Serapion which dealth with the divinity of the Holy Spirit and his classic life of Saint Anthony which was translated into several languages and played an important role in the spreading of the ascetic ideal in Eastern and Western Christianity. He also wrote several works of Biblical Exegesis primarily of volumes in the old testament which are preserved in excerpts regarding the Book of Genesis, The Song of Solomon and Psalms. His works as ascetic include the aforementioned life of Saint Anthony as well as a discourse on virginity, a short work on love and self –control and a treatise on sickness and health which is only preserved in fragments.
Athanasius letters include one letter concerning the decrees of the council of Nicaea (De Decretis) which is an account of the preceding’s of that council and another letter in year 367 which was the first known listings of the New Testament. Athanaius anticipates future controversies in defense of the humanity of Christ. Athanasius was not a speculative Theologian as he stated in his first letters to Serapion he held unto the tradition teaching and faith proclaimed by the apostles and guarded by the Father’s. He held that not only was the Son of God consubstantial with the father but so was the Holy Spirit which had a great deal of influenced in the development of latter doctrines regarding the trinity Veneration.
In about 319 when Athanasius was a deacon a presbyter named Arius came into direct conflict with Alexander of Alexandria. It appears that Arius reproached Alexander for what he felt misguided or heretical teachings being taught by the bishop. Arius Theological views appear to have been firmly rooted in Alexandrian Christianity and his Christological views were certainly not radical at all. He embraced a sub ordinationist Christology that God did not have a beginning but the logos did heavily influenced by Alexandrian thinkers like origen which was a common Christological view in Alexandria at that time. Support for Arius from powerful bishops like Elisebios of Caesaria and Eusebio’s of Nicomedia, further illustrates how Arius sub ordinationist Christology was shared by other Christians in the Empire.
Arius was subsequent by excommunicated by alexander and he would begin to visit the support of many bishops who agreed with his position. Athanasius succeeded Alexander as bishop of Alexandria as a result rises and falls of Arianism ‘s influence after the first council of nicae, emperor Constantine banished from alexandrea, but he was restored after the death of Constantine I. Athanasius was restored on at least five separate occasions, perhaps as many as seven, this gave rise to the expression Athanasius contramundun or Athanasius against the world. he spent his final years repairing all the damage done during the earlier years of violence, dissent and exile and returning to his writing and preaching undisturbed on May 373 having consecrated peter II . one of his presbyters as his successor . Athanasius died quietly in his home.
Quotes from St. Athanasius
“Jesus that I know as my redeemer cannot be less than God. at the council of nicae
Both from the confession of the evil spirits and from the daily witnesses of his works. It is manifest them and let none presume to doubt it that its savior has raised his own body and that he is very Son of God having his being God as from a Father, whose word and wisdom and whose power He is. He it is who in these latter days assumed a body for the salvation of us all. and thought the world concerning the Father, He it is who destroyed death and freely graced us all with incorruption through the promise of the resurrection, having raised His own body as its first fruits and displayed it by the sign of the cross as the monument to his victory over death and its corruption.
New Testament canon
St. Athanasius is also the first person to identify the same 27 books of the new testament that are in use today , up until then various similar list of works to be read in churches were in use A canon of New testament book is his Easter letter from Alexandria written in 367 usually referred to as his 39th Festal letter, A Synod in hippo in 393 repeated Athanasius and Damascus New testament list( without the Epistles to the Hebrews and a synod in cartage in 397 repeated Athanasius and Damascus complete new testament list.