Athanasius (A.D. 298–373) was born in Alexandria, Egypt, and would eventually become bishop of that city. In 313, Christianity was declared fully legal by the emperor Constantine. Nevertheless, Athanasius still faced persecution for his defense of the full deity of Christ. At the Council of Nicaea (in modern-day Turkey) in 325, Athanasius was instrumental in bringing about condemnation of the heresy of Arianism. Arius taught that the Father created the Son, who thus was only of similar substance (homoiousios) with the Father. Athanasius led the way in rejecting this unbiblical notion by stressing the Son’s being of the same essence (homoousious) as the Father. Leaving out the i in this important word meant all the difference, as Athanasius insisted that the Son had no beginning but rather was fully divine. Even though he was exiled five times for his courageous stance, Athanasius faithfully defended the biblical teaching of Christ. Hence, at his death, friends provided this epitaph: “Athanasius against the World.”
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