An Alternative Theory of
Fragments of the Heresey of Marcellus of Ancyra
Web Publication by Mountain Man Graphics, Australia
Since we are here interested in a review of the heretical material itself, we have transposed the text such that it becomes the statement of the heresy. The numbered references below from (1) through to (14) are correspondent to the numbering in the source material (offsite). The ancient source is Eusebius, Against Marcellus, Modern edition M. Vinzent, Markell von Ankyra: Die Fragmente (Leiden, 1997).
1) “The Father must truly be considered a father, and the Son a son, and the Holy Spirit likewise.” 2) TRANSLATOR: According to Asterius, those who are “fleshly” (swmatikhn) and “sensual” (paqhtikhn) claim that he fathered the Son in the normal, human way. Quoting the things Asterius has written "certain fleshly and sensual people speak falsely about God as bearing a child, making their proposals into fact." 3) TRANSLATOR: The Greek word “Jesus” is used in the Old Testament to translate the name Joshua, and in the New Testament for Jesus of Nazareth. Marcellus declares the name Jesus to be the greatest name upon the earth. To prove this, he quotes the angel’s statement to Mary in Luke as well as a passage in Zechariah. The Old Testament hero Joshua was given the same name as the Savior because he was a type, i.e. one foreshadowing a future person, in this case Jesus who leads true believers into the heavenly Jerusalem. 4) 5) Surely then, before he came down and was born of the virgin, he was only the Word. For before he assumed human flesh what else was there that “came down in the last days and was born of the virgin,” as Asterius himself wrote. Nothing existed other than the Word. 6) 7) Translator: Marcellus argues for the preexistence of the Word, but against (in a qualified way) the preexistence of Jesus Christ. The Word has existed from the beginning; at a certain point in history, the Word took on flesh and became a man known as Jesus Christ. This human element, as well as titles such as “Jesus” or “Christ,” is not eternal. Marcellus anticipates the counterargument of his critics and opponents: Since many Old Testament passages refer to the Word as the Anointed One (Christ) and the Son, does that not mean that the Word existed as Christ even before he became human? Marcellus argues that these passages do not speak about the Word’s preexistent form, but rather about prophetic events which occur after the Word has taken on flesh. The Word was “in the beginning” (John 1.1), being nothing other than the Word. But when the man, which had no prior existence, was united with the Word, he became a man, as John teaches us, saying, “And the Word became flesh” (1.14). Therefore, it is evidently for this reason that he mentions the Word only. Whether the Divine Scripture makes mention of the name “Jesus” or “Christ,” it is evident that it is using these names of the Word of God after he took on humanity and became flesh. But if anyone might claim to be able to show that before the New Testament the name of Christ the Son was applied to the Word alone, he will find that this was spoken as a prophecy. A clear example is the following passage, which says, “The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers are gathered together in one place, against the Lord and against his Christ” (Ps. 2.2). 9) And so Asterius, while desiring to defend the incorrect position which Eusebius took in his writing, has created accusations against himself by bringing up once again “the nature of the Father and the nature of the created* Son.” It would have been much better to leave unexplored “the depth of Eusebius’ thought,” as Asterius wrote, “which is expressed in few words,” than to reveal the craftiness of the expression by such speculation. * NB: The Greek text has “uncreated Son.” However, because Asterius was an Arian, “created Son” makes more sense. This is how editors such as Klostermann, Rettberg, and Vinzent prefer to read the text. 10) Now let us examine a specific statement from Asterius’ writings: “The Father, who produced from himself the only-begotten Word, the firstborn of all creation, is different from the Word.” He wrote, “only-begotten and firstborn,” joining these names together, although they very much contradict each other, as even those who have difficulty learning can understand. It is clear that the only-begotten Son, if he really is the only-begotten, can no longer be the firstborn, and the firstborn, as a firstborn, cannot be only-begotten." 11) Asterius should not think this implausible, that his body, if it was younger than him, would be able to have such a beginning. Rather, let him consider above all that if the human flesh happens to be younger, nevertheless the Word, who thought it best to assume this flesh through the Holy Virgin, uniting his own body to it, not only completed the “firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1.15) — that is, the humanity created by him — but he also desires himself to be the beginning of all things, not only of those on earth, but also of those in heaven (cf. Col. 1.20). 12) Notes Marcellus focuses his attention on the phrase “firstborn from the dead,” which Paul applied to Christ in Colossians. The question that naturally arises is: Why is Christ called the firstborn from the dead if others were raised from the dead before him? As Marcellus correctly points out, there are at least three other instances in the Bible where people came back to life before Christ’s resurrection (2 Kgs. 4.32-35; John 11.43f; Matt. 27.52f). It is important to note that, unlike Christ, these people died a second time after their resurrection, so that Christ’s resurrection is unique. Nevertheless, the question remains as to why he is called “firstborn from the dead.” Marcellus’s answer, found in this fragment, is that “firstborn from the dead” actually means “firstborn of all creation.” [Rather, the one who rose through Elisha the prophet (2 Kgs. 4.32-35) rose before him. Lazarus also rose before Jesus’ resurrection (John 11:43f.), and in the time of the Passion “many bodies of those who had fallen asleep” were raised (Matt. 27.52f.).] 13) So then, if the Word himself is “the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1.15) and “by him all things were created” (Col. 1.16), we ought to understand that the apostle had in mind the Word’s human dispensation. 14) Notes An early heresy called Arianism taught that Jesus was merely a man, not divine, and that the Father created him first before anything else. Those who hold this position are referred to as Arians. Asterius and Eusebius of Caesarea, whom Marcellus mentions elsewhere in his writing, were Arians. Thus, when Marcellus talks of some who say the Word “was the first created being” (see the text above), he may be referring to Asterius and Eusebius, or to the Arians in general. Therefore, the Word was called “the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1.15) because of his birth in human flesh, not because he was the first created being, as they* suppose. * This probably refers to Arians, specifically Asterius and Eusebius of Caesarea. See the notes for more information.
At least two other clergymen were also named Asterius:
 R.P.C. Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God (1988), pp. 32-41. has a long discussion and a translation of all his fragments  His works are listed in Mauritius Geerard, Clavis Patrum Graecorum. Volumen II: Ab Athanasio ad Chrysostomum, (Turnhout: Brepolis 1974) pp. 137-39.  Socrates Scholasticus, Church History, book 2, chapter 40.  Philostorgius, in Photius, Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, book 10, chapter 1.