Before reaching the age of 20, Athanasius wrote a treatise entitled On the Incarnation, affirming and explaining that Jesus was both God and Man. In about 319, when Athanasius was a deacon, a presbyter named Arius began teaching that there was a time before God the Father begat Jesus when the latter did not exist. Athanasius responded that the Father's begetting of the Son, or uttering of the Word, was an eternal relationship between them, not an event that took place within time. Thus began Catholic Christianity's fight against the heresy of Arianism. Athanasius fought consistently against Arianism all his life. He accompanied Alexander to the First Council of Nicaea in 325, which council produced the Nicene Creed and anathematized Arius and his followers. On May 9, 328, he succeeded Alexander as bishop of Alexandria. As a result of rises and falls in Arianism's influence, he was banished from Alexandria only to be later restored on at least five separate occasions, perhaps as many as seven. This gave rise to the expression "Athanasius contra mundum" or "Athanasius against the world". During some of his exiles, he spent time with the Desert Fathers, monks and hermits who lived in remote areas of Egypt.
Athanasius is also the first person to identify the same 27 books of the New Testament that are in use today; up until his Easter letter, various similar lists were in use. However, his list was the one that was eventually ratified by a series of synods and came to be universally recognized as the New Testament canon.
There is no distinct evidence of the connection of Athanasius with the first contentions of Arius and his bishop, which ended in the exile of the former, and his entrance into Palestine under the protection of Eusebius the historian, who was bishop of Caesarea and subsequently of his namesake the bishop of Nicomedia.
Athanasius stood firm, and refused to have any communion with the advocates of a "heresy that was fighting against Christ." Constantine was baffled for the moment; but many accusers soon rose up against one who was known to be under the frown of imperial displeasure.
Whether or not Athanasius first suggested the use of this expression, he was its greatest defender; and the catholic doctrine of the Trinity has ever since been more identified with his "immortal" name than with any other in the history of the church and of Christian theology.
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