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Because of this unwavering position that Anthanasius took on this matter he was labeled as an agitator, and was, over time, banished from Alexandria no less than five times by various emperors, only to be restored and banished again.
Eventually, Christians who believed in the Deity of Christ came to see that once they were prepared to abandon the Nicene formulation, they were on a slippery slope that led to regarding the Logos as simply a high-ranking angel. The more they experimented with other formulations, the clearer it became that only the Nicene formulation would preserve the Christian faith in any meaningful sense, and so they re-affirmed the Nicene Creed at the Council of Constantinople in 381, a final triumph that Athanasius did not live to see. (Behr)
As far as the council of bishops were concerned this was a major, and final triumph for the Orthodox faith. Of course the succession of Roman emperors caused further complications for the situation since after Constantine several emperors took the thrown as Arian leaders. Even the pagan Emperor Julian saw that joining forces with the Arians would be a highly effective way to battle the growth of Christianity.
Under one of them Arian missionaries were sent to convert the Goths, who became the backbone of the Roman Army (then composed chiefly of foreign mercenaries) with the result that for many years Arianism was considered the mark of a good Army man. The conversion of Clovis, King of the Franks, in 496, to orthodox Christianity either gave the Athanasian party the military power to crush Arianism or denied the Arian Goths the military supremacy that would have enabled them to crush Athanasian Christianity, depending on your point-of-view (Behr).
Beyond his involvement with the Nicene Creed, Anthanasius served his time as bishop in many other constructive and influential ways. Known around the world for the high quality of their astronomers, the bishop of Alexandria had a duty to write to all the other bishops every year to inform them what the correct date for Easter would be. These letters were called Easter, or Paschal Letters. Anthanasius took this duty very seriously and his letters contained other information as well. One letter, for example, Since Alexandria had the best astronomers, it was the duty of the Bishop of Alexandria to write to the other bishops every year and tell them the correct date for Easter. Naturally, his annual letter on this topic contained other material as well. On such Paschal Letter that Anthanasius is well-known for, often referred to as his 39th Festal Letter gives a list of the books that should be considered part of the canonical Scriptures. He also listed several books suitable for devotional reading (Forbes & Washbourne).
For the New Testament, he lists the 27 books that are recognized today. As the New Testament stands today, Matthew through 2 Thessalonians were never in dispute to be included, though the next four saw some problems. The last books were the focus of the most controversy. Of course there were some books that were suggested for inclusion, such as the Epistle of Barnabas, the Epistle of Clement and the Shepherd of Hermas, but these eventually were left out.
For the Old Testament, Anthanasius omits Esther from the list that is used by the majority of the Protestants. With this omission he included Baruch with the letter of Jeremiah. His supplemental list, though he does not mention Maccabees, includes Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach or the Ecclesiasticus, Tobias, Judith, and Esther.
Anthanasius died on the 2nd of May 373, just five years after Pope St. Damasus decreed that no bishop would be consecrated unless he upheld the creed held forth in the Creed of Nicea. Though his body would later be transferred to Italy, he was originally buried in Alexandria and his remains were returned to Egypt in 1973 by Pope Shenouda III. His relics are currently preserved under the new St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Deir El-Anba Rowais, Abbassiya, Cairo, Egypt (Forbes & Washbourne).
Williams, Rowan. Arius: Heresy and Tradition. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans,
Forbes & Washbourne. Standard Bearers of the Faith: Saint Athanasius. Paternoster Row, London, 1919.
Behr, John. The Nicene Faith, Vol. 2 of Formation of Christian Theology. Crestwood,
NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2004.
Homoousios." Basictheology.com. http://www.basictheology.com/definitions/Homoousios/15 Sept.…[continue]
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