Devil in Athanasius of Alexandria, part 4

Herein we continued, from part 1, part 2, part 3, considering info on the Devil in Athanasius of Alexandria (296-373 AD). The fuller complete result consists of quotations of those sections within the text that refer to Angels, Cherubim, Seraphim, Devil, Satan, demons, serpent and dragon.

Herein we continued, from part 1, part 2, part 3, considering info on the Devil in Athanasius of Alexandria (296-373 AD). The fuller complete result consists of quotations of those sections within the text that refer to Angels, Cherubim, Seraphim, Devil, Satan, demons, serpent and dragon. The point is not to elucidate these references but to provide relevant partial quotations and citations. See my section on Angels here, Cherubim and Seraphim here, Satan here and Demons here.

Devil in Athanasius of Alexandria’s Ad Episcopus Aegypti et Libyae / To the Bishops of Egypt and Libya.

1 But the mind of man is prone to evil exceedingly; moreover, our adversary the devil, envying us the possession of such great blessings, goes about seeking to snatch away the seed of the word which is sown within us…This is a great gift which the Word has bestowed upon us, that we should not be deceived by appearances, but that, howsoever these things are concealed, we should all the more distinguish them by the grace of the Spirit.
For whereas the inventor of wickedness and great spirit of evil, the devil, is utterly hateful, and as soon as he shows himself is rejected of all men—as a serpent, as a dragon, as a lion seeking whom he may seize upon and devour—therefore he conceals and covers what he really is, and craftily personates that Name which all men desire, so that deceiving by a false appearance, he may thenceforth fix fast in his own chains those whom he has led astray. And as if one that desired to kidnap the children of others during the absence of their parents, should personate their appearance, and so putting a cheat on the affections of the offspring, should carry them far away and destroy them; in like manner this evil and wily spirit the devil, having no confidence in himself, and knowing the love which men bear to the truth, personates its appearance, and so spreads his own poison among those that follow after him.

3 Therefore He suffered them not to speak such words, neither would He have us to suffer such, but has charged us by His own mouth, saying, ‘Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheeps’ clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves;’ and by the mouth of His Holy Apostles, ‘Believe not every spirit.’ Such is the method of our adversary’s operations; and of the like nature are all these inventions of heresies, each of which has for the father of its own device the devil, who changed and became a murderer and a liar from the beginning. But being ashamed to profess his hateful name, they usurp the glorious Name of our Saviour ‘which is above every name,’ and deck themselves out in the language of Scripture, speaking indeed the words, but stealing away the true meaning thereof; and so disguising by some artifice their false inventions, they also become the murderers of those whom they have led astray.

4 And their advocates are aware of this, that the Scriptures are very much, or rather altogether, opposed to the doctrines of every one of them; but for the sake of deceiving the more simple sort (such as are those of whom it is written in the Proverbs, ‘The simple believes every word),’ they pretend like their ‘father the devil’ to study and to quote the language of Scripture, in order that they may appear by their words to have a right belief, and so may persuade their wretched followers to believe what is contrary to the Scriptures. Assuredly in every one of these heresies the devil has thus disguised himself, and has suggested to them words full of craftiness. The Lord spoke concerning them, that ‘there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, so that they shall deceive many.’ Accordingly the devil has come, speaking by each and saying, ‘I am Christ, and the truth is with me;’ and he has made them, one and all, to be liars like himself.

5 I heard during my sojourn in these parts (and they were true and orthodox brethren that informed me), that certain professors of Arian opinions had met together, and drawn a confession of faith to their own liking, and that they intend to send word to you, that you must either subscribe to what pleases them, or rather to what the devil has inspired them with, or in case of refusal must suffer banishment. They are indeed already beginning to molest the Bishops of these parts; and thereby are plainly manifesting their disposition. For inasmuch as they frame this document only for the purpose of inflicting banishment or other punishments, what does such conduct prove them to be, but enemies of the Christians, and friends of the devil and his Angels?

8 And however they may write phrases out of the Scripture, endure not their writings; however they may speak the language of the orthodox, yet attend not to what they say; for they speak not with an upright mind, but putting on such language like sheeps’ clothing, in their hearts they think with Arius, after the manner of the devil, who is the author of all heresies.

14 The faithful are able to conclude this truth both from the voice of the Father Himself, and from the Angels that worshipped Him, and from the Saints that have written concerning Him; but these men, as they have not a pure mind, and cannot bear to hear the words of divine men who teach of God, may be able to learn something even from the devils who resemble them, for they spoke of Him, not as if there were many besides, but, as knowing Him alone, they said, ‘You are the Holy One of God,’ and ‘the Son of God.’

18 Thus when Arius himself, the author of the heresy, and the associate of Eusebius, was summoned through the interest of Eusebius and his fellows to appear before Constantine Augustus of blessed memory, and was required to present a written declaration of his faith, the wily man wrote one, but kept out of sight the peculiar expressions of his impiety, and pretended, as the Devil did, to quote the simple words of Scripture, just as they are written.

20 For we know that, as it is written, ‘in the latter times some shall depart from the sound faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils, that turn from the truth ;’ and, ‘as many as will live godly in Christ shall suffer persecution

In the next segment, we will consider more on the Devil in Athanasius.


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