Monday, July 18, 2005

Arnobius of Sicca

Arnobius (fl. 284-305 CE) probably taught Lactantius the art of rhetoric.[1] He was born in the large rustic Sicca Veneria (Proconsular Africa in Numidia) near Carthage and in due course converted to Christianity. His writing style resembles that of a neophyte layman expressing himself sincerely, but simultaneously lacking the necessary epistemic wherewithal to formulate theological concepts methodically, though he does appear skillful when it comes to subverting pagan arguments reared against the Christian faith.[2] Conversely, in some respects, his thought is evidently “unorthodox.”[3] For instance, Cruttwell writes that while Arnobius speaks of Christ in glowing terms and confesses him as truly God, “he yet regards Him rather as the Divine Revealer of the One God than as Himself the object of worship.”[4] Cruttwell’s claim is not technically correct since Arnobius does confess that he and other contemporary Christians worship Christ as God (Adversus Nationes 1.36). However, Arnobius apparently vacillates between a ditheist and subordinationist outlook.[5] He views Christ as more of an exalted sage, who is to some degree less majestic or divine than the Father is (Adversus Nationes 1.53). Concisely speaking, the Son is a demiurgic type being for the Christian rhetorician. Nevertheless, he is (in some sense) God.[6]

[1] Tixeront, Handbook of Patrology, 125.

[2] Simmons, Arnobius of Sicca, 16-18; Micka, Problem of Divine Anger, 158; McGiffert, History of Christian Thought, 43.

[3] See Hagenbach, Textbook, 234-235. Simmons 16; McGiffert, History of Christian Thought, 43. See De viris illustribus 79; Adversus Nationes 3.8-15.

[4] A Literary History, 638-639.

[5] See A.C. McGiffert. A History of Christian Thought. 2 vols. New York, 1933. See 2:43-44 about Arnobius’ ditheism and modalism. In this, I am heavily indebted to McCracken 1:27.

[6] See Adversus Nationes 1.38; 1.56; 2.65.

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