What did Arius teach on this subject?
Arius taught that only God the Father was eternal and that the Son and Spirit were created by Him. God created the Son and gave him the mandate to create the world. (John 1:3) Schaff writes:
The Father alone is God; He alone is unbegotten, eternal, wise, good, unchangeable. He is separated by an infinite chasm from man, and there is no real mediation between them. God cannot create the world directly, but only through an agent, the Logos, who is himself created for the purpose of creating the world. source
Arius did believe that the Son existed before all time and matter but was still brought into existence by God the Father. In other words, the Son was not eternal.
The Son of God is pre-existent before time and the world (πρὸ χρόνων καὶ αἰώνων), and before all creatures (πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως), a middle being between God and the world, the perfect image of the Father, the executor of His thoughts, yea even the creator of the world of matter, and of the spirit. In a secondary or metaphorical sense he may be called God, Logos, and Wisdom (θεὸς, λόγος, σοφία). But, on the other hand, Christ is himself a creature (κτίσμα, ποίημα), the first creature of God, through whom the Father called other creatures into existence; he is made, not of the essence of the Father (ἐκ τῆς οὐσίας), but out of nothing (ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων—hence the Arians were also called Exukontians), or of the will of the Father before all conceivable time, yet in time; he is therefore not eternal, and there was a time when he was not (ἦν ποτε ὅτε οὐκ ἦν, ἀρχὴν ἔχει, οὐκ ἦν πρὶν γεννηθῇ, ἤτοι κτισθῇ); neither is be unchangeable, but subject to the vicissitudes of a created being (τρεπτὸς φύσει ὡς τὰ κτίσματα). source
Hodge provides the following list:
- That the Son owed his existence to the will of the Father.
- That He was not eternal; but that there was a time when He was not.
- That He was created ἐξ οὐκ ὀντῶν, out of nothing, and was therefore κτίσμα καὶ ποίημα.
- That He was not immutable, but τρεπτὸς φύσει.
- That his preëminence consisted in the fact that He alone was created immediately by God, whereas all other creatures were created by the Son.
- He was not God of Himself, but was made God, ἐθεοποιήθη; that is, on account of his exalted nature, and the relation in which He stands to all other creatures, as Creator and Governor, He was entitled to divine worship. source
Did Arius and his followers support their doctrine from the Scripture?
Yes, they referenced Proverbs 8, Acts 2 and Colossians 1.
Start with Proverbs 8.
The text is this:
The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old. From everlasting I was established, From the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, When there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, Before the hills I was brought forth; (Proverbs 8:22-25)
The words here are the words of wisdom personified which many then take to be the words of the second person of the Trinity. The issue can be seen in the differing translations of v22:
|The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way, before His works of old. (Proverbs 8:22 NASB)||The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; (Proverbs 8:22-25 NIV)||The LORD created me as the beginning of his works, before his deeds of long ago; (Proverbs 8:22 NET)|
The issue here is how to translate the verb “possessed” or “brought forth” or “created” which is the verb קָנָה.
Why is it difficult to know how to translate this verb?
Because the verb קָנָה is a homonym; there are two words spelled the same way. The one word means to possess or acquire; the other means to create. The translator has to decide which word is in use here. The LXX uses the Greek word for create: κύριος ἔκτισέν με ἀρχὴν ὁδῶν αὐτοῦ εἰς ἔργα αὐτοῦ. Obviously, the Arians preferred the translation of “create” since it is consistent with their belief that the Son of God was created and is not eternal. The orthodox understood this word to mean “possessed” which was more consistent with their own doctrine.
In the christological controversy this word gained a dogmatic signification, for they proceeded generally on the identity of σοφία ὑποστατική (sapientia substantialis) with the hypostasis of the Son of God. The Arians used the ἔκτισέ με as a proof of their doctrine of the filius non genitus, sed factus, i.e., of His existence before the world began indeed, but yet not from eternity, but originating in time; while, on the contrary, the orthodox preferred the translation ἐκτήσατο, and understood it of the co-eternal existence of the Son with the Father, and agreed with the ἔκτισε of the LXX by referring it not to the actual existence, but to the position, place of the Son. source
Who were those men who refuted Arianism?
At first, the bishop of Alexandria did this, but he was succeeded by a man named Athanasius who spent his life refuting Arianism. See his thoughts in Seeberg.