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   Chapter 4 The Political And Religious Conditions Of The Empire

A Source Book for Ancient Church History By Joseph Cullen Ayer, Jr., Ph.D. Characters: 36151

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


The accession of Septimius Severus, A. D. 193, marks a change in the condition of the Empire. It was becoming more harassed by frontier wars, not always waged successfully. Barbarians were gradually settling within the Empire. The emperors themselves were no longer Romans or Italians. Provincials, some not even of the Latin race, assumed the imperial dignity. But it was a period in which the Roman law was in its most flourishing and brilliant stage, under such men as Papinian, Ulpian, and others second only to these masters. Stoic cosmopolitanism made for wider conceptions of law and a deeper sense of human solidarity. The Christian Church, however, profited little by this (§ 34) until, in the religious syncretism which became fashionable in the highest circles, it was favored by even the imperial family along with other Oriental religions (§ 35). The varying fortunes of the emperors necessarily affected the Church (§ 36), though, on the whole, there was little suffering, and the Church spread rapidly, and in many parts of the Empire became a powerful organization (§ 37), with which the State would soon have to reckon.

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§ 34. State and Church under Septimius Severus and Caracalla

Although Christians were at first favored by Septimius Severus, they were still liable to the severe laws against secret societies, and the policy of Septimius was later to enforce these laws. The Christians tried to escape the penalties prescribed against such societies by taking the form of friendly societies which were expressly tolerated by the law. Nevertheless, numerous cases are to be found in various parts of the Empire in which Christians were put to death under the law. Yet the number of martyrs before the general persecution of Decius in the middle of the century was relatively small. The position of Christians was not materially affected by the constitution of Caracalla conferring Roman citizenship on all free inhabitants of the Empire, and the constitution seems to have been merely a fiscal measure which laid additional burdens upon the provincials.

Additional source material: Eusebius, Hist. Ec., VI, 1-12.

(a) Tertullian, Ad Scapulam, 4. (MSL, 1:781.)

The account of Tertullian is generally accepted as substantially correct. Scapula was chief magistrate of Carthage and, under the circumstances, the author would not have indulged his tendency to rhetorical embellishment. Furthermore, the book is written with what was for Tertullian great moderation.

How many rulers, men more resolute and more cruel than you, have contrived to get quit of such causes-as Cincius Severus, who himself suggested the remedy at Thysdris, pointing out how Christians should answer that they might be acquitted; as Vespronius Candidus, who acquitted a Christian on the ground that to satisfy his fellow-citizens would create a riot; as Asper, who, in the case of a man who under slight torture had fallen, did not compel him to [pg 143] offer sacrifice, having owned among the advocates and assessors of the court that he was annoyed at having to meddle with such a case! Prudens, too, at once dismissed a Christian brought before him, perceiving from the indictment that it was a case of vexatious accusation; tearing the document in pieces, he refused, according to the imperial command, to hear him without the presence of his accuser. All this might be officially brought under your notice, and by the very advocates, who themselves are under obligations to Christians, although they cry out against us as it suits them. The clerk of one who was liable to be thrown down by an evil spirit was set free; as was also a relative of another, and the little boy of a third. How many men of rank (not to mention common people) have been cured of devils and of diseases! Even Severus himself, the father of Antonine, was mindful of the Christians; for he sought out the Christian Proclus, surnamed Torpacion, the steward of Euhodias, who once had cured him by means of oil, and whom he kept in his palace till his death. Antonine [Caracalla], too, was brought up on Christian milk,55 was intimately acquainted with this man. But Severus, knowing both men and women of the highest rank to be of this sect, not only did not injure them, but distinguished them with his testimony and restored them to us openly from the raging populace.56

(b) Laws Relating to Forbidden Societies.

1. Justinian, Digest, XLVII. 23:1.

The following is a passage taken from the Institutes of Marcian, Bk. III.

By princely commands it was prescribed to the governors of provinces that they should not permit social clubs and that soldiers should not have societies in the camp. But it is permitted to the poor to collect a monthly contribution, so long as they gather together only once in a month, lest under [pg 144] a pretext of this sort an unlawful society meet. And that this should be allowed not only in the city, but also in Italy and the provinces, the divine Severus ordered. But for the sake of religion they are not forbidden to come together so long as they do nothing contrary to the Senatus-consultum, by which unlawful societies are restrained. It is furthermore not lawful to belong to more than one lawful society, as this was determined by the divine brothers [Caracalla and Geta]; and if any one is in two, it is ordered that it be necessary for him to choose in which he prefers to be, and he shall receive from the society from which he resigns that which belongs to him proportionately of what there is of a common fund.

2. Justinian, Digest, I, 12:14.

From Ulpian's treatise, De officio Pr?fecti Urbi.

The divine Severus ordered that those who were accused of meeting in forbidden societies should be accused before the prefect of the city.

(c) Persecutions under Severus.

1. Eusebius, Hist. Ec., VI, 1. (MSG, 20:522.)

The following extract is important not only as a witness to the fact of the execution of the laws against Christians in Alexandria, but also to the extension of Christianity in the more southern provinces of Egypt.

When Severus began to persecute the churches, glorious testimonies were given everywhere by the athletes of religion. Especially numerous were they in Alexandria, for thither, as to a more prominent theatre, athletes of God were sent from Egypt and all Thebais, according to their merit, and they won crowns from God through their great patience under many tortures and every mode of death. Among these was Leonidas, said to be the father of Origen, who was beheaded while his son was still young.

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2. Spartianus, Vita Severi, XVII. 1. (Scriptores Histori? August?. Ed. Peter, 1884; Preuschen, Analecta, I, 32.)

The date of the following is A. D. 202.

He forbade, under heavy penalties, any to become Jews. He made the same regulation in regard to Christians.

(d) Tertullian. Apol., 39. (MSL, 1:534.)

In the following, Christian assemblies, or churches, are represented as being a sort of friendly society, similar but superior to those existing all over the Empire, common and tolerated among the poorer members of society. The date of the Apology is 197.

Though we have our treasure-chest, it is not made up of purchase money, as if our religion had its price. On the regular day in the month, or when one prefers, each one makes a small donation; but only if it be his pleasure, and only if he be able; for no one is compelled, but gives voluntarily. These gifts are, as it were, piety's deposit fund. For they are taken thence and spent, not on feasts and drinking-bouts, and thankless eating-houses, but to support and bury poor people, to supply the wants of boys and girls destitute of means and parents, and of old persons confined to the house, likewise the shipwrecked, and if there happen to be any in the mines, or banished to the islands, or shut up in the prisons for nothing but their fidelity to the cause of God's Church, they become the nurslings of their confession. But it is mainly for such work of love that many place a brand upon us. See, they say, how they love one another!

(e) The Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas. (MSL, 3:51.) (Cf. Knopf, pp. 44-57.)

The date of this martyrdom is A. D. 203. The Passio SS. Perpetu? et Felicitatis has been attributed to Tertullian. It betrays clear evidence of Montanist sympathies. It has even been thought by some that the martyrs themselves were Montanists. At that date probably not a few who sympathized with Montanism were still in good standing in certain parts of the Church. At any rate, the day of their commemoration has been from the middle of the fourth century at Rome March 7. See Kirch, p. 323.

[pg 146] The day of their victory dawned, and they proceeded from the prison into the amphitheatre, as if to happiness, joyous and of brilliant countenances; if, perchance, shrinking, it was with joy and not with fear. Perpetua followed with placid look, and with step and gait as a matron of Christ, beloved of God, casting down the lustre of her eyes from the gaze of all. Likewise Felicitas came, rejoicing that she had safely brought forth, so that she might fight with the beasts.… And when they were brought to the gate, and were constrained to put on the clothing-the men that of the priests of Saturn, and the women that of those who were consecrated to Ceres-that noble-minded woman resisted even to the end with constancy. For she said: "We have come thus far of our own accord, that our liberty might not be restrained. For this reason we have yielded our minds, that we might not do any such thing as this; we have agreed on this with you." Injustice acknowledged the justice; the tribune permitted that they be brought in simply as they were. Perpetua sang psalms, already treading under foot the head of the Egyptian [seen in a vision; see preceding chapters]; Revocatus and Saturninus and Saturus uttered threatenings against the gazing people about this martyrdom. When they came within sight of Hilarianus, by gesture and nod they began to say to Hilarianus: "Thou judgest us, but God will judge thee." At this the exasperated people demanded that they should be tormented with scourges as they passed along the rank of the venatores. And they, indeed, rejoiced that they should have incurred any one of their Lord's passions.

But He who had said, "Ask and ye shall receive," gave to them, when they asked, that death which each one had desired. For when they had been discoursing among themselves about their wish as to their martyrdom, Saturninus, indeed, had professed that he wished that he might be thrown to all the beasts; doubtless that he might wear a more glorious crown. Therefore, in the beginning of the exhibition he [pg 147] and Revocatus made trial of the leopard, and, moreover, upon the scaffold they were harassed by the bear. Saturus, however, held nothing in greater horror than a bear; but he thought he would be finished by one bite of a leopard. Therefore, when a wild boar was supplied, it was the huntsman who had supplied that boar, and not Saturus, who was gored by that same beast and who died the day after the shows. Saturus only was drawn out; and when he had been bound on the floor near to a bear, the bear would not come forth from his den. And so Saturus for the second time was recalled, unhurt.

Moreover, for the young women the devil, rivalling their sex also in that of the beasts, prepared a very fierce cow, provided especially for that purpose contrary to custom. And so, stripped and clothed with nets, they were led forth. The populace shuddered as they saw one young woman of delicate frame, and another with breasts still dropping from her recent childbirth. So, being recalled, they were unbound. Perpetua was first led in. She was tossed and fell on her loins; and when she saw her tunic torn from her side, she drew it over her as a veil for her thighs, mindful of her modesty rather than of her suffering. Then she was called for again, and bound up her dishevelled hair; for it was not becoming for a martyr to suffer with dishevelled hair, lest she should appear to be mourning in her glory. She rose up, and when she saw Felicitas crushed she approached and gave her her hand and lifted her up. And both of them stood together; and the brutality of the populace being appeased, they were recalled to the Sanavivarian gate. Then Perpetua was received by a certain one who was still a catechumen, Rusticus by name, who kept close to her; and she, as if roused from sleep, so deeply had she been in the Spirit and in an ecstasy, began to look around her and to say to the amazement of all: "I do not know when we are to be led out to that cow." Thus she said, and when she had heard what had already happened, she did not believe [pg 148] it until she had perceived certain signs of injury in her own body and in her dress, and had recognized the catechumen. Afterward, causing that catechumen and the brother to approach, she addressed them, saying: "Stand fast in the faith, and love one another, all of you, and be not offended at our sufferings."

The same Saturus at the other entrance exhorted the soldier Prudens, saying: "Assuredly here I am, as I have promised and foretold, for up to this moment I have felt no beast. And now believe with your whole heart. Lo, I am going forth to the leopard, and I shall be destroyed with one bite." And immediately on the conclusion of the exhibition he was thrown to the leopard; and with one bite by it he was bathed with such a quantity of blood that the people shouted out to him, as he was returning, the testimony of his second baptism: "Saved and washed, saved and washed." Manifestly he was assuredly saved who had been glorified in such a spectacle. Then to the soldier Prudens he said: "Farewell, and be mindful of my faith; and let not these things disturb, but confirm you." And at the same time he asked for a little ring from his finger, and returned it to him bathed in his wound, leaving to him an inherited token and memory of his blood. And then lifeless he was cast down with the rest, to be slaughtered in the usual place. And when the populace called for them into the midst, that as the sword penetrated into their body they might make their eyes partners in the murder, they rose up of their own accord, and transferred themselves whither the people wished; but they first kissed one another, that they might consummate their martyrdom with the rites of peace. The rest, indeed, immovable and in silence, received the sword; and so did Saturus, who had also first ascended the ladder, and first gave up his spirit, for he was waiting for Perpetua. But Perpetua, that she might taste some pain, being pierced between the ribs, cried out loudly and she herself placed the wavering right hand of the youthful gladiator to her throat. Possibly such a [pg 149] woman could not have been slain unless she herself had willed it, because she was feared by the impure spirit.

O most brave and blessed martyrs! O truly called and chosen unto the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ! Whoever magnifies, and honors, and adores Him, assuredly ought to read these examples for the edification of the Church, not less than the ancient ones, so that new virtues also may testify that one and the same Holy Spirit is always operating even until now, and God the Father Omnipotent, and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, whose is glory and infinite power forever and ever. Amen.

(f) Origen, Contra Celsum, III, 8. (MSG, 11:930.)

Origen is writing just before the first general persecution under Decius about the middle of the century. He points out the relatively small number of those suffering persecution.

With regard to Christians, because they were taught not to avenge themselves upon their enemies, and have thus observed laws of a mild and philanthropic character; and because, although they were able, yet they would not have made war even if they had received authority to do so; for this cause they have obtained this from God: that He has always warred on their behalf, and at times has restrained those who rose up against them and who wished to destroy them. For in order to remind others, that seeing a few engaged in a struggle in behalf of religion, they might also be better fitted to despise death, a few, at various times, and these easily numbered, have endured death for the sake of the Christian religion; God not permitting the whole nation [i.e., the Christians] to be exterminated, but desiring that it should continue, and that the whole world should be filled with this salvation and the doctrines of religion.

(g) Justinian, Digest, I, 5:17.

The edict of Caracalla (Marcus Aurelius Antoninus) conferring Roman citizenship upon all free inhabitants of the Empire has not been preserved. It is known only from a brief extract from the twenty-second book of Ulpian's work on the Pr?torian Edict, contained in the Digest of Justinian.

[pg 150] Those who were in the Roman world were made Roman citizens by the constitution of the Emperor Antoninus.

§ 35. Religious Syncretism in the Third Century

In the third century religious syncretism took two leading forms-the Mithraic worship, which spread rapidly throughout the Empire, and the fashionable interest in novel religions fostered by the imperial court. Mithraism was especially prevalent in the army, and at army posts have been found numerous remains of sanctuaries, inscriptions, etc. It was by far the purest of the religions that invaded the Roman Empire, and drew its leading ideas from Persian sources. The fashionable court interest in novel religions seems not to have amounted to much as a positive religious force, which Mithraism certainly was, though on account of it Christianity was protected and even patronized by the ladies of the imperial household. Among the works produced by this interest was the Life of Apollonius of Tyana, written by Philostratus at the command of the Empress Julia Domna. Apollonius was a preac

her or teacher of ethics and the Neo-Pythagorean philosophy in the first century, ob. A. D. 97.

Additional source material: Philostratus, Life of Apollonius (the latest English translation, by F. C. Conybeare, with Greek text in the Loeb Classical Library, 1912).

Mithraic Prayer, Albrecht Dietrich, Eine Mithrasliturgie, Leipsic, 1903.

The following prayer is the opening invocation of what appears to be a Mithraic liturgy, and may date from a period earlier than the fourth century. It gives, as is natural, no elaborated statement of Mithraic doctrine, but, as in all prayer, much is implied in the forms used and the spirit of the religion breathed through it. The combination has already begun as is shown by the doctrine of the four elements. It should be added that Professor Cumont does not regard it as a Mithraic liturgy at all, but accounts for the distinct mention of the name Mithras, which is to be found in some parts, to a common tendency of semi-magical incantations to employ as many deities as possible.

[pg 151] First Origin of my origin, first Beginning of my beginning, Spirit of Spirit, first of the spirit in me. Fire which to compose me has been given of God, first of the fire in me. Water of water, first of the water in me. Earthy Substance of earthy substance, first of the earthy substance, the entire body of me, N. N. son of N. N., completely formed by an honorable arm and an immortal right hand in the lightless and illuminated world, in the inanimated and the animated. If it seem good to you to restore me to an immortal generation, who am held by my underlying nature, that after this present need which presses sorely upon me I may behold the immortal Beginning with the immortal Spirit, the immortal Water, the Solid and the Air, that I may be born again, by the thought, that I may be consecrated and the holy Spirit may breathe in me, that I may gaze with astonishment at the holy Fire, that I may look upon abysmal and frightful Water of the sun-rising, and the generative Ether poured around may listen to me. For I will to-day look with immortal eyes, I who was begotten a mortal from a mortal womb, exalted by a mighty working power and incorruptible right hand, I may look with an immortal spirit upon the immortal Eon and the Lord of the fiery crowns, purified by holy consecrations, since a little under me stands the human power of mind, which I shall regain after the present bitter, oppressive, and debt-laden need, I, N. N. the son of N. N., according to God's unchangeable decree, for it is not within my power, born mortal, to mount up with the golden light flashes of the immortal illuminator. Stand still, corruptible human nature, and leave me free after the pitiless and crushing necessity.

§ 36. The Religious Policy of the Emperors from Heliogabalus to Philip the Arabian, 217-249

With the brief exception of the reign of Maximinus Thrax (235-238), Christians enjoyed peace from the death of Caracalla to the death of Philip the Arabian. This was not due [pg 152] to disregard of the laws against Christians nor to indifference to suspected dangers to the Empire arising from the new religion, but to the policy of religious syncretism which had come in with the family of Severus. The wife of Septimius Severus was the daughter of Julius Bassianus, priest of the Sun-god of Emesa, and of the rulers of the dynasty of Severus one, Heliogabalus, was himself a priest of the same syncretistic cult, and another, Alexander, was under the influence of the women of the same priestly family.

(a) Lampridius, Vita Heliogabali, 3, 6, 7. Preuschen, Analecta, I, § 12.

Lampridius is one of the Scriptores Histori? August?, by whom is a series of lives of the Roman emperors. The series dates from the fourth century, and is of importance as containing much information which is not otherwise accessible. The dates of the various lives are difficult to determine. Avitus Bassianus, known as Heliogabalus, a name he assumed, reigned 218-222.

Ch. 3. But when he had once entered the city, he enrolled Heliogabalus among the gods and built a temple to him on the Palatine Hill next the imperial palace, desiring to transfer to that temple the image of Cybele, the fire of Vesta, the Palladium, the sacred shields, and all things venerated by the Romans; and he did this so that no other god than Heliogabalus should be worshipped at Rome. He said, besides, that the religions of the Jews and the Samaritans and the Christian worship should be brought thither, that the priesthood of Heliogabalus should possess the secrets of all religions.

Ch. 6. Not only did he wish to extinguish the Roman religions, but he was eager for one thing throughout the entire world-that Heliogabalus should everywhere be worshipped as god.

Ch. 7. He asserted, in fact, that all the gods were servants of his god, since some he called his chamber-servants, others slaves, and others servants in various capacities.

(b) Lampridius, Vita Alexandri Severi, 29, 43, 49. Preuschen, Analecta, I, § 13.

[pg 153] Alexander Severus (222-235) succeeded his cousin Heliogabalus. The mother of Alexander, Julia Mamm?a, sister of Julia So?mias, mother of Heliogabalus, was a granddaughter of Julius Bassianus, whose daughter, Julia Domna, had married Septimius Severus. It was through marriages with the female descendants of Julius, who was priest of the Sun-god at Emesa, that the members of the dynasty of Severus were connected and their attitude toward religion determined. It was in the reign of Alexander that syncretism favorable to Christianity was at its height.

Ch. 29. This was his manner of life: as soon as there was opportunity-that is, if he had not spent the night with his wife-he performed his devotions in the early morning hours in his lararium, in which he had statues of the divine princes and also a select number of the best men and the more holy spirits, among whom he had Apollonius of Tyana, and as a writer of his times says, Christ, Abraham, and Orpheus, and others similar, as well as statues of his ancestors.

Ch. 43. He wished to erect a temple to Christ and to number Him among the gods. Hadrian, also, is said to have thought of doing this, and commanded temples without any images to be erected in all cities, and therefore these temples, because they have no image of the Divinity, are to-day called Hadriani, which he is said to have prepared for this end. But Alexander was prevented from doing this by those who, consulting the auspices, learned that if ever this were done all would be Christians, and the other temples would have to be deserted.

Ch. 49. When the Christians took possession of a piece of land which belonged to the public domain and in opposition to them the guild of cooks claimed that it belonged to them, he decreed that it was better that in that place God should be worshipped in some fashion rather than that it be given to the cooks.

(c) Eusebius, Hist. Ec., VI, 21. (MSG, 20:574.)

The mother of the Emperor, whose name was Julia Mamm?a, was a most pious woman, if ever one was. When the fame of Origen had extended everywhere and had come [pg 154] even to her ears, she desired greatly to see the man, and to make trial of his understanding of divine things, which was admired by all. When she was staying for a time in Antioch, she sent for him with a military escort. Having remained with her for a while and shown her many things which were for the glory of the Lord and of the excellency of divine teaching, he hastened back to his accustomed labors.

(d) Firmilianus, Ep. ad Cyprianum, in Cyprian, Ep. 75. (MSL, 3:1211.) Preuschen, Analecta, I, § 14:2.

The following epistle is found among the Epistles of Cyprian, to whom it is addressed. It is of importance in connection with the persecution of Maximinus, throwing light on the occasion and extent of the persecution and relating instances of strange fanaticism and exorcism.

But I wish to tell you about an affair connected with this very matter [baptism by heretics, the main subject of the epistle, v. infra, § 52] which occurred among us. About twenty years ago, in the time after Emperor Alexander, there happened in these parts many struggles and difficulties, either in common to all men or privately to Christians. There were, furthermore, many and frequent earthquakes, so that many cities throughout Cappadocia and Pontus were thrown down; and some even were dragged down into the abyss and swallowed by the gaping earth. From this, also, there arose a severe persecution against the Christian name. This arose suddenly after the long peace of the previous age. Because of the unexpected and unaccustomed evil, it was rendered more terrible for the disturbance of our people.

Serenianus was at that time governor of our province, a bitter and cruel persecutor. But when the faithful had been thus disturbed and were fleeing hither and thither from fear of persecution and were leaving their native country and crossing over to other regions-for there was opportunity of crossing over, because this persecution was not over the whole world, but was local-there suddenly arose among us a certain woman who in a state of ecstasy announced herself [pg 155] as a prophetess and acted as if filled with the Holy Ghost. And she was so moved by the power of the chief demons that for a long time she disturbed the brethren and deceived them; for she accomplished certain wonderful and portentous things: thus, she promised that she would cause the earth to be shaken, not that the power of the demon was so great that he could shake the earth and disturb the elements, but that sometimes a wicked spirit, foreseeing and understanding that there will be an earthquake, pretends that he will do what he foresees will take place. By these lies and boastings he had so subdued the minds of several that they obeyed him and followed whithersoever he commanded and led. He would also make that woman walk in the bitter cold of winter with bare feet over the frozen snow, and not to be troubled or hurt in any respect by walking in this fashion. Moreover, she said she was hurrying to Judea and Jerusalem, pretending that she had come thence. Here, also, she deceived Rusticus, one of the presbyters, and another one who was a deacon, so that they had intercourse with the same woman. This was shortly after detected. For there suddenly appeared before her one of the exorcists, a man approved and always well versed in matters of religious discipline; he, moved by the exhortation of many of the brethren, also, who were themselves strong in the faith, and praiseworthy, raised himself up against that wicked spirit to overcome it; for the spirit a little while before, by its subtle deceitfulness, had predicted, furthermore, that a certain adverse and unbelieving tempter would come. Yet that exorcist, inspired by God's grace, bravely resisted and showed that he who before was regarded as holy was a most wicked spirit. But that woman, who previously, by the wiles and deceits of the demon, was attempting many things for the deception of the faithful, had among other things by which she deceived many also frequently dared this-to pretend that with an invocation, not to be contemned, she sanctified bread and consecrated the eucharist and offered sacrifice to the Lord [pg 156] without the sacrament as customarily uttered; and to have baptized many, making use of the usual and lawful words of interrogation, that nothing might seem to be different from the ecclesiastical and lawful mode.

(e) Eusebius, Hist. Ec., VI, 34. (MSG, 20:595.) Preuschen, Analecta, I, § 15, and Kirch, n. 397.

The following tradition that Philip the Arabian was a Christian is commonly regarded as doubtful. That he favored the Christians, and even protected them, may be the basis for such a report.

When Gordianus (238-244) had been Roman Emperor for six years, Philip (244-249) succeeded him. It is reported that he, being a Christian, desired on the day of the last paschal vigil to share with the multitude in the prayers of the Church, but was not permitted by him who then presided to enter until he had made confession and numbered himself among those who were reckoned as transgressors and who occupied the place of penitence. For if he had not done this, he would never have been received by him, on account of the many crimes he had committed, and it is said that he obeyed readily, manifesting in his conduct a genuine and pious fear of God.

§ 37. The Extension of the Church at the Middle of the Third Century

Some approximately correct idea of the extension of the Church by the middle of the third century may be gathered from a precise statement of the organization of the largest church, that at Rome, about the year 250 (a), from the size of provincial synods, of which we have detailed statements for North Africa (b), from references to organized and apparently numerous churches in various places not mentioned in earlier documents (c). That the Church, at least in Egypt and parts adjacent, had ceased to be confined chiefly to the cities and that it was composed of persons of all social ranks is attested by Origen (d).

[pg 157]

(a) Cornelius, Ep. ad Fabium, in Eusebius, Hist. Ec., VI, 43. (MSG, 20:622.) Cf. Kirch, n. 222 ff.

Cornelius was bishop of Rome 251-253.

This avenger of the Gospel [Novatus] did not then know that there should be one bishop in a Catholic church; yet he was not ignorant (for how could he be) that in it [i.e., the Roman church] there were forty-six presbyters, seven deacons, seven subdeacons, forty-two acolytes, fifty-two exorcists, readers, and janitors, and over fifteen hundred widows and persons in distress, all of whom the grace and kindness of the Master nourished. But not even this great multitude, so necessary in the Church, nor those who through God's providence were rich and full, together with very many, even innumerable, people, could turn him from such desperation and recall him to the Church.

(b) Cyprian, Epistul? 71 [=70] (MSL, 4:424) and 59:10 [=54] (MSL, 3:877)

The church in North Africa had grown very rapidly before Cyprian was elevated to the see of Carthage. An evidence of this is the number of councils held in North Africa. That held under Agrippinus, between 218 and 222, was the first known in that part of the Church. Under Cyprian a council was held at Carthage in 258 at which no less than seventy bishops, whose names and opinions have been preserved, are given. See ANF, V, 565 ff.

Ep. 71 [=70]. Ad Quintum.

Which thing, indeed, Agrippinus [A. D. 218-222], also a man of worthy memory, with his fellow-bishops, who at that time governed the Lord's Church in the province of Africa and Numidia, decreed, and by the well-weighed examination of the common council established.

Ep. 59 [=54]:10. Ad Cornelium.

I have also intimated to you, my brother, by Felicianus, that there had come to Carthage Privatus, an old heretic in the colony of Lambesa, many years ago condemned for many and grave crimes by the judgment of ninety bishops, and [pg 158] severely remarked upon in the letters of Fabian and Donatus, also our predecessors, as is not hidden from your knowledge.

(c) Cyprian, Epistula 67 [=68]. (MSL, 3:1057, 1065.)

The following extracts from Cyprian's Epistle "To the Clergy and People abiding in Spain, concerning Basilides and Martial," is of importance as bearing upon the development of the appellate jurisdiction of the Roman see, for which see the epistle in its entirety as given in Cyprian's works, ANF, vol. V, for the treatment of the vexed question of discipline in the case of those receiving certificates that they had sacrificed, (see below, §§ 45 f.), and as the first definite statements as to localities in Spain where there were Christians and bishops placed over the Church. The mass of martyrdoms that have been preserved refer to still others.

Cyprian … to Felix, the presbyter, and to the peoples abiding in Legio [Leon] and Asturica [Astorga], also to L?lius, the deacon, and the people abiding in Emerita [Merida], brethren in the Lord, greeting. When we had come together, dearly beloved brethren, we read your letters, which, according to the integrity of your faith and your fear of God, you wrote to us by Felix and Sabinus, our fellow-bishops, signifying that Basilides and Martial, who had been stained with the certificates of idolatry and bound with the consciousness of wicked crimes, ought not to exercise the episcopal office and administer the priesthood of God. Wherefore, since we have written, dearly beloved brethren, and as Felix and Sabinus, our colleagues, affirm, and as another Felix, of C?sar-Augusta [Saragossa], a maintainer of the faith and a defender of the truth, signifies in his letter, Basilides and Martial have been contaminated by the abominable certificate of idolatry.

(d) Origen, Contra Celsum, III, 9. (MSG, 11:951.)

With the following should be compared the statements of Pliny, more than a hundred years earlier, relative to Bithynia. See above, § 7.

Celsus says that "if all men wished to become Christians, the latter would not desire it." That this is false, is evident from this, that Christians do not neglect, as far as they are able, to take care to spread their doctrines throughout the [pg 159] whole world. Some, accordingly, have made it their business to go round about not only through cities, but even villages and country houses, that they may persuade others to become pious worshippers of God.… At present, indeed, when because of the multitude of those who have embraced the teaching, not only rich men, but also some persons of rank and delicate and high-born ladies, receive the teachers of the Word, there will be some who dare to say that it is for the sake of a little glory that certain assume the office of Christian teachers. In the beginning, when there was much danger, especially to its teachers, this suspicion could have had no place.

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