Those Alexandrian Bishops

Despite his protestations of innocence, Athanasius exercised power and protected his position in Alexandria by the systematic use of violence and intimidation. The papyrus of 335 documents in detail one small episode in which he coerced his opponents and used violence in an attempt to prevent them from attending a church council. That was not an isolated misdemeanor, but a typical example of the means by which bishops of Alexandria maintained their power in the Christian Roman Empire. If the violence of Athanasius leaves fewer traces in the surviving sources than similar behavior by later bishops of Alexandria like Theophilus, Cyril, and Dioscorus, the reason is not that he exercised power in a different way, but that he exercised it more efficiently and that he was successful in presenting himself to posterity as an innocent in power, as an honest, sincere, and straightforward ‘man of God.’

~Timothy D. Barnes Athanasius and Constantius pg. 32-33

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About Steven Wedgeworth

Steven Wedgeworth is the associate pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Vancouver, British Columbia. He writes about theology, history, and political theory, and he has taught Jr. High and High School. He is the founder and general editor of The Calvinist International, an online journal of Christian Humanism and political theology, and a Director for the Davenant Institute.

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