A group forming the middle ground of the anti-Nicene and anti-Athanasian party in the last decade of the reign of Emperor Constantius II (337-361); their views came closest to those of the emperor. Under their leader, ACACIUS OF CAESAREA, they held that Christ was “like God.” They repudiated all reference to ousia (“substance”) in the creed as being unscriptural but attracted a large proportion of clergy in both East and West, who by 355 were wearying of the seemingly perpetual controversy over the meaning of ousia. This had been enshrined as the surest way of proclaiming the Son as Homoousion to Patri (of the same substance as the Father) in the Nicene Creed.
The term homoios first occurs in 345 in the Creed of the Long Lines (the Macrostichos). It is not mentioned specifically in the Second Creed of Sirmium in 357 (the “Blasphemy” of Sirmium), which left the Son subordinate to the Father and banned the use of ousia with reference to Him. Two years later, however, in the Dated Creed or Fourth Creed of Sirmium (22 May 359), it had become a test word (thus, Socrates Scholasticus, Historia ecclesiastica II.37.18-24; Athanasius, Epistula de synodis 8). By this time Constantius had come around to the view that the best hope of securing universal agreement on the faith was through a formula that was less vague than “the Blasphemy of Sirmium” but did not contain the term ousia. To say that the Son was “like the Father” would enable the largest measure of agreement possible.
Accordingly, in the summer of 359 councils were held at Ariminum (Rimini) in Italy and Seleucia in Isauria almost simultaneously, to represent the western and eastern halves of the empire. After a mixture of persuasion and coercion, and being plagued by the hot Italian summer, the 400 or so Western bishops accepted a formula that declared the “Son was like the Father.” The Council of Seleucia met for a much shorter time (27 September-1 October 359) with 160 bishops present. The conclusion was indecisive, with arguments raging over a definition that would include the words “like in all things,” referring to the Son’s relationship to the Father. In January 360, the Homoean formula was adopted by the East at a council held in Constantinople. It was these councils that elicited Jerome’s verdict, that “The whole world groaned to find itself Arian” (Dialogus adversus Luciferianos 19). In the spring of 360 a Western delegation accepted the Homoean formula at a council held at Nike in Thrace, presided over by Constantius himself (Sozomen Historia ecclesiastica IV.23.5-7).
The death of Constantius on 3 November 361 ended the triumph of the Homoeans. After the reign of Julian the Apostate (361-363), Emperor Valens (364-378) attempted to maintain the orthodoxy of the Creed of Ariminum, containing the Homoean formula, against increasingly successful pressure, first by Athanasius and then by Basil of Caesarea and his friends. It was also unacceptable to more extreme opponents of the Nicene Creed, whose views were represented by the opposition of Eunomius of Cyzicus (bishop c. 360; deposed 364; d. c. 390). The Homoean position lost ground and was rejected finally in the Creed of Constantinople (381), when the homoousion was reinstated as the belief of Christendom. In Alexandria and Egypt, the Homoeans never won popular support. Their position appears to have been the belief, however, of the unlucky supplanter of Athanasius, George of Cappadocia, who was lynched by a mob on 24 December 361.
- Kelly, J. N. D. Early Christian Creeds, pp. 285-95. London, 1952.
- . Early Christian Doctrines, 5th ed., pp. 247-51. London, 1978.
- Kidd, B. J. History of the Church to A.D. 461, Vol. 2, chap. 6. Oxford, 1922.
- Prestige, G. L. God in Patristic Thought, 2nd ed. London, 1952.
H. C. FREND