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   Chapter 5 The Internal Development Of The Church In Doctrine, Custom, And Constitution

A Source Book for Ancient Church History By Joseph Cullen Ayer, Jr., Ph.D. Characters: 90328

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

The characteristic Eastern and Western conceptions of Christianity began to be clearly differentiated in the early years of the third century. A juristic conception of the Church as a body at the head of which, and clothed with authority, appeared the bishop of Rome, had, indeed, become current at Rome in the last decade of the second century on the occasion of the Easter controversy, which had ended in an estrangement between the previously closely affiliated churches of Asia Minor and the West, especially Rome (§ 38). Western theology soon became centred in North Africa under the legally trained Tertullian, by whom its leading principles were laid down in harmony with the bent of the Latin genius (§ 39). In this period numerous attempts were made to solve the problem arising from the unity of God and the divinity of Christ, without recourse to a Logos christology. Some of the more unsuccessful of these attempts have since been grouped under the heads of Dynamistic and of Modalistic Monarchianism (§ 40). At the same time Montanism was excluded from the Church (§ 41), as subversive of the distinction between the clergy and laity [pg 160] and the established organs of the Church's government, which in the recent rise of a theory of the necessity of the episcopate (see above, § 27) had become important. In the administration of the penitential discipline (§ 42) the position of the clergy and the realization of a hierarchically organized Church was still further advanced, preparatory for the position of Cyprian. At the same time as these constitutional developments were taking place in the West, and especially in North Africa, there occurred in Egypt and Palestine a remarkable advance in doctrinal discussion, whereby the theology of the apologists was developed in the Catechetical School of Alexandria, especially under the leadership of Clement of Alexandria and Origen (§ 43). In this new speculation a vast mass of most fruitful theological ideas was built up, from which subsequent ages drew for the defence of the traditional faith, but some of which served as the basis of new and startling heresies. Corresponding to the intellectual development within the Church was the last phase of Hellenic philosophy, known as Neo-Platonism (§ 44), which subsequently came into bitter conflict with the Church.

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§ 38. The Easter Controversy and the Separation of the Churches of Asia Minor from the Western Churches

The Church grew up with only a loose form of organization. Each local congregation was for a while autonomous, and it was the local constitution that first took a definite and fixed form. In the first centuries local customs naturally varied, and conflicts were sure to arise when various hitherto isolated churches came into closer contact and the sense of solidarity deepened. The first clash of opposing customs occurred over the date of Easter, as to which marked differences existed between the churches of Asia Minor, at that time the most flourishing part of the Church, and the churches of the West, especially with the church of Rome, the strongest local church of all. The course of the controversy is sufficiently stated in the following selection from Eusebius. The outcome was the practical isolation of the churches of Asia Minor for many years. The controversy was not settled, and the churches of Asia Minor did not again play a prominent part in the Church until the time of Constantine and the Council of Nic?a, 325 (see § 62, b), although a provisional adjustment of the difficulty, so far as the West was concerned, took place shortly before, at the Council of Arles (see § 62, a, 2).

Eusebius, Hist. Ec., V, 23, 24. (MSG, 20:489.) Mirbt, n. 22, and in Kirch, n. 78 ff.

A brief extract from the following may be found above in § 3 in a somewhat different connection.

Ch. 23. At this time a question of no small importance arose. For the parishes [i.e., dioceses in the later sense of that word] of all Asia, as from an older tradition, held that the fourteenth day of the moon, being the day on which the Jews were commanded to sacrifice the lamb, should be observed as the feast of the Saviour's passover, and that it was necessary, [pg 162] therefore, to end their fast on that day, on whatever day of the week it might happen to fall. It was not, however, the custom of the churches elsewhere to end it at this time, but they observed the practice, which from apostolic tradition has prevailed to the present time, of ending the fast on no other day than that of the resurrection of the Saviour. Synods and assemblies of bishops were held on this account, and all with one consent, by means of letters addressed to all, drew up an ecclesiastical decree that the mystery of the resurrection of the Lord from the dead should be celebrated on no other day than on the Lord's Day, and that we should observe the close of the paschal fast on that day only. There is still extant a writing of those who were then assembled in Palestine, over whom Theophilus, bishop of the parish of C?sarea, and Narcissus, Bishop of Jerusalem, presided; also another of those who were likewise assembled at Rome, on account of the same question, which bears the name of Victor; also of the bishops in Pontus, over whom Palmas, as the oldest, presided; and of the parishes in Gaul, of which Iren?us was bishop; and of those in Osrhoene and the cities there; and a personal letter of Bacchylus, bishop of the church in Corinth, and of a great many others who uttered one and the same opinion and judgment and cast the same vote. Of these, there was one determination of the question which has been stated.

Ch. 24. But the bishops of Asia, led by Polycrates, decided to hold fast to the customs handed down to them. He himself, in a letter addressed to Victor and the church of Rome, set forth the tradition which had come down to him as follows: "We observe the exact day, neither adding nor taking anything away. For in Asia, also, great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord's coming, when He shall come with glory from heaven and shall seek out all the saints. Of these were Philip, one of the twelve Apostles, who fell asleep at Hierapolis, and his two aged virgin daughters and his other daughter, who, having lived in the Holy [pg 163] Spirit, rest at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who reclined on the Lord's bosom, and being a priest wore the sacerdotal mitre, who was both a witness and a teacher; he fell asleep at Ephesus; and, further, Polycarp in Smyrna, both a bishop and a martyr.… All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover, according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I, Polycrates, do the same, the least of you all, according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops, and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven; I, therefore, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said, We ought to obey God rather than men."… Thereupon57 Victor, who was over the church of Rome, immediately attempted to cut off from the common unity the parishes of all Asia, with the churches that agreed with them, as being heterodox. And he published letters declaring that all the brethren there were wholly excommunicated. But this did not please all the bishops, and they besought him to consider the things of peace, of neighborly unity and love. Words of theirs are still extant, rather sharply rebuking Victor. Among these were Iren?us, who sent letters in the name of the brethren in Gaul, over whom he presided, and maintained that the mystery of the resurrection of the Lord should be observed only on the Lord's Day, yet he fittingly admonishes Victor that he should not cut off whole churches of God which observed the tradition of an ancient custom, and after many other words he proceeds as follows: "For the controversy is not merely concerning the day, but also concerning the very manner of the fast. For some think that they should fast one day, others two, yet others more; some, moreover, count their days as consisting of forty hours day and night. And this variety of observance has not originated in our times, but long before, in the days of our ancestors. It is likely that they did not [pg 164] hold to strict accuracy, and thus was formed a custom for their posterity, according to their own simplicity and their peculiar method. Yet all these lived more or less in peace, and we also live in peace with one another; and the disagreement in regard to the fast confirms the agreement in the faith.… Among these were the elders [i.e., bishops of earlier date] before Soter, who presided over the church which thou [Victor] now rulest. We mean Anicetus, and Pius, and Hyginus, and Telesphorus, and Sixtus. They neither observed it themselves nor did they permit others after them to do so. And yet, though they did not observe it, they were none the less at peace with those who came to them from the parishes in which it was observed, although this observance was more opposed to those who did not observe it. But none were ever cast out on account of this form, but the elders before thee, who did not observe it, sent the eucharist to those of the other parishes observing it. And when the blessed Polycarp was at Rome in the time of Anicetus, and they disagreed a little about certain other things, they immediately made peace with one another, not caring to quarrel over this point. For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp not to observe what he had always observed with John, the disciple of the Lord, and the other Apostles with whom he had associated; neither could Polycarp persuade Anicetus to observe it, as he said that he ought to follow the customs of the elders who had preceded him. But though matters were thus, they nevertheless communed together and Anicetus granted the eucharist in the church to Polycarp, manifestly as a mark of respect.58 And they parted from each other in peace, maintaining the peace of the whole Church, both of those who observed and those who did not." Thus Iren?us, who was truly well named, became a peace-maker in this matter, exhorting and negotiating in this way for the peace of the churches. And he conferred by letter about this [pg 165] disputed question, not only with Victor, but also with most of the other rulers of the churches.

§ 39. The Religion of the West: Its Moral and Juristic Character

In the writings of Tertullian a conception of Christianity is quite fully developed according to which the Gospel was a new law of life, with its prescribed holy seasons and hours for prayer; its sacrifices, though as yet only sacrifices of prayer; its fasts and almsgiving, which had propitiatory effect, atoning for sins committed and winning merit with God; its sacred rites, solemnly administered by an established hierarchy; and all observed for the sake of a reward which God in justice owed those who kept His commandments. It is noticeable that already there is the same divided opinion as to marriage, whereby, on the one hand, it was regarded as a concession to weakness, a necessary evil, and, on the other, a high and holy relation, strictly monogamous, and of abiding worth. The propitiatory and meritorious character of fasts and almsgiving as laid down by Tertullian was developed even further by Cyprian and became a permanent element in the penitential system of the Church, ultimately affecting its conception of redemption.

(a) Tertullian, De Oratione, 23, 25, 28. (MSL, 1:1298.)

Ch. 23. As to kneeling, also, prayer is subject to diversity of observance on account of a few who abstain from kneeling on the Sabbath. Since this dissension is particularly on its trial before the churches, the Lord will give His grace that the dissentients may either yield or else follow their own opinion without offence to the others. We, however, as we have received, only on the Sunday of the resurrection ought to guard not only against this kneeling, but every posture and office of anxiety; deferring even our businesses, lest we give any place to the devil. Similarly, too, the period of Pentecost, [pg 166] is a time which we distinguish by the same solemnity of exultation. But who would hesitate every day to prostrate himself before God, at least in the first prayer with which we enter on the daylight? At fasts, moreover, and stations, no prayer should be made without kneeling and the remaining customary marks of humility. For then we are not only praying, but making supplication, and making satisfaction to our Lord God.

Ch. 25. Touching the time, however, the extrinsic observance of certain hours will not be unprofitable; those common hours, I mean, which mark the intervals of the day-the third, the sixth, the ninth-which we may find in Scripture to have been more solemn than the rest.

Ch. 28. This is the spiritual victim which has abolished the pristine sacrifices.… We are the true adorers and true priests, who, praying in the spirit, in the spirit sacrifice prayer, proper and acceptable to God, which, assuredly, He has required, which He has looked forward to for Himself. This victim, devoted from the whole heart, fed on faith, tended by truth, entire in innocence, pure in chastity, garlanded with love [agape], we ought to escort with the pomp of good works, amid psalms and hymns, unto God's altar, to obtain all things from God for us.

(b) Tertullian, De Jejun., 3. (MSL, 2:100.)

The following is a characteristic statement of the meritorious and propitiatory character of fasting. See below, h, Cyprian.

Since He himself both commands fasting and calls a soul wholly shattered-properly, of course, by straits of diet-a sacrifice (Psalm 51:18), who will any longer doubt that of all macerations as to food the rationale has been this: that by a renewed interdiction of food and observance of the precept the primordial sin might now be expiated, so that man may make God satisfaction through the same causative material by which he offended, that is, by interdiction of food; and so, by way of emulation, hunger might rekindle, just as [pg 167] satiety had extinguished, salvation, contemning for the sake of one thing unlawful many things that are lawful?

(c) Tertullian, De Baptismo, 17. (MSL, 1:1326.)

It remains to put you in mind, also, of the due observance of giving and receiving baptism. The chief priest (summus sacerdos), who is the bishop, has the right of giving it; in the second place, the presbyters and deacons, yet not without the bishop's authority, on account of the honor of the Church. When this has been preserved, peace is preserved. Besides these, even laymen have the right; for what is equally received can be equally given. If there are no bishops, priests, or deacons, other disciples are called. The word of the Lord ought not to be hidden away by any. In like manner, also, baptism, which is equally God's property, can be administered by all; but how much more is the rule of reverence and modesty incumbent on laymen, since these things belong to their superiors, lest they assume to themselves the specific functions of the episcopate! Emulation of the episcopal office is the mother of schism.

(d) Tertullian, De P?nitentia, 2. (MSL, 1:1340.)

How small is the gain if you do good to a grateful man, or the loss if to an ungrateful man! A good deed has God as its debtor, just as an evil deed has Him also; for the judge is a rewarder of every cause. Now, since God as judge presides over the exacting and maintaining of justice, which is most dear to Him, and since it is for the sake of justice that He appoints the whole sum of His discipline, ought one to doubt that, as in all our acts universally, so, also, in the case of repentance, justice must be rendered to God?

(e) Tertullian, Scorpiace, 6. (MSL, 2:157.)

If he had put forth faith to suffer martyrdoms, not for the contest's sake, but for its own benefit, ought it not to have had some store of hope, for which it might restrain its own desire [pg 168] and suspend its wish, that it might strive to mount up, seeing that they, also, who strive to discharge earthly functions are eager for promotion? Or how will there be many mansions in the Father's house, if not for a diversity of deserts? How, also, will one star differ from another star in glory, unless in virtue of a disparity of their rays?

(f) Tertullian, Ad Uxorem, I, 3; II, 8-10. (MSL, 1:1390, 1415.) Cf. Kirch, n. 181.

I, 3. There is no place at all where we read that marriages are prohibited; of course as a "good thing." What, however, is better than this "good," we learn from the Apostle in that he permits marriage, indeed, but prefers abstinence; the former on account of the insidiousness of temptations, the latter on account of the straits of the times (I Cor. 7:26). Now by examining the reason for each statement it is easily seen that the permission to marry is conceded us as a necessity; but whatever necessity grants, she herself deprecates. In fact, inasmuch as it is written, "It is better to marry than to burn" (I Cor. 7:9), what sort of "good" is this which is only commended by comparison with "evil," so that the reason why "marrying" is better is merely that "burning" is worse? Nay; but how much better is it neither to marry nor to burn?

II, 8. Whence are we to find adequate words to tell fully of the happiness of that marriage which the Church cements and the oblation59 confirms, and the benediction seals; which the angels announce, and the Father holds for ratified? For even on earth children do not rightly and lawfully wed without their father's consent. What kind of yoke is that of two believers of one hope, one discipline, and the same service? The two are brethren, the two are fellow-servants; no difference of spirit or flesh; nay, truly, two in one flesh; where there is one flesh the spirit is one.

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(g) Tertullian, De Monogamia, 9, 10. (MSL, 2:991 f.)

This work was written after Tertullian became a Montanist, and with other Montanists repudiated second marriage, to which reference is made in both passages. But the teaching of the Church regarding remarriage after divorce was as Tertullian here speaks. The reference to offering at the end of ch. 10 does not refer to the eucharist, but to prayers. See above, Ad Uxorem, ch. II, 8.

Ch. 9. So far is it true that divorce "was not from the beginning" [cf. Matt. 19:8] that among the Romans it is not till after the six hundredth year after the foundation of the city that this kind of hardness of heart is recorded to have been committed. But they not only repudiate, but commit promiscuous adultery; to us, even if we do divorce, it will not be lawful to marry.

Ch. 10. I ask the woman herself, "Tell me, sister, have you sent your husband before in peace?" What will she answer? In discord? In that case she is bound the more to him with whom she has a cause to plead at the bar of God. She is bound to another, she who has not departed from him. But if she say, "In peace," then she must necessarily persevere in that peace with him whom she will be no longer able to divorce; not that she would marry, even if she had been able to divorce him. Indeed, she prays for his soul, and requests refreshment for him meanwhile, and fellowship in the first resurrection; and she offers on the anniversary of his falling asleep.

(h) Cyprian, De Opere et Eleemosynis, 1, 2, 5. (MSL, 4:625.)

Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage (249-258), was the most important theologian and ecclesiastic between Tertullian and Augustine. He developed the theology of the former especially in its ecclesiastical lines, and his idea of the Church was accepted by the latter as a matter beyond dispute. His most important contributions to the development of the Church were his hierarchical conceptions, which became generally accepted as the basis of the episcopal organization of the Church (see below, §§ 46, 50, 51). His writings, which are of great importance in the history of the Church, consist only of epistles and brief tracts. His influence did much to determine the lines of development of the Western Church, and especially the church of North Africa. With the following cf. supra, § 16.

[pg 170] Ch. 1. Many and great, beloved brethren, are the divine benefits wherewith the large and abundant mercy of God the Father and of Christ both has labored and is always laboring for our salvation: because the Father sent the Son to preserve us and give us life, that He might restore us; and the Son was willing to be sent and to become the son of man, that He might make us the sons of God. He humbled Himself that He might raise up the people who before were prostrate; He was wounded that He might heal our wounds; He served that He might draw to liberty those who were in bondage; He underwent death, that He might set forth immortality to mortals. These are many and great boons of compassion. But, moreover, what a providence, and how great the clemency, that by a plan of salvation it is provided for us that more abundant care should be taken for preserving man who has been redeemed! For when the Lord, coming to us, had cured those wounds which Adam had borne, and had healed the old poisons of the serpent, He gave a law to the sound man, and bade him sin no more lest a worse thing should befall the sinner. We had been limited and shut up in a narrow space by the commandment of innocence. Nor should the infirmity and weakness of human frailty have anything it might do, unless the divine mercy, coming again in aid, should open some way of securing salvation by pointing out works of justice and mercy, so that by almsgiving we may wash away whatever foulness we subsequently contract.

Ch. 2. The Holy Spirit speaks in the sacred Scriptures saying, "By almsgiving and faith sins are purged" [Prov. 16:6]. Not, of course, those sins which had been previously contracted, for these are purged by the blood and sanctification of Christ. Moreover, He says again, "As water extinguishes fire, so almsgiving quencheth sin" [Eccles. 3:30]. Here, also, is shown and proved that as by the laver of the saving water the fire of Gehenna is extinguished, so, also, by almsgiving and works of righteousness the flame of sin is subdued. And because in baptism remission of sins is granted [pg 171] once and for all, constant and ceaseless labor, following the likeness of baptism, once again bestows the mercy of God.… The Lord also teaches this in the Gospel.… The Merciful One teaches and warns that works of mercy be performed; because He seeks to save those who at great cost He has redeemed, it is proper that those who after the grace of baptism have become foul can once more be cleansed.

Ch. 5. The remedies for propitiating God are given in the words of God himself. The divine instructions have taught sinners what they ought to do; that by works of righteousness God is satisfied, and with the merits of mercy sins are cleansed.… He [the angel Raphael, cf. Tobit. 12:8, 9] shows that our prayers and fastings are of little avail unless they are aided by almsgiving; that entreaties alone are of little force to obtain what they seek, unless they be made sufficient by the addition of deeds and good works. The angel reveals and manifests and certifies that our petitions become efficacious by almsgiving, that life is redeemed from dangers by almsgiving, that souls are delivered from death by almsgiving.

§ 40. The Monarchian Controversies

Monarchianism is a general term used to include all the unsuccessful attempts of teachers within the Church to explain the divine element in Christ without doing violence to the doctrine of the unity of God, and yet without employing the Logos christology. These attempts were made chiefly between the latter part of the second century and the end of the third. They fall into classes accordingly as they regard the divine element in Christ as personal or impersonal. One class makes the divine element to be an impersonal power (Greek, dynamis) sent from God into the man Jesus; hence the term "Dynamistic Monarchians." The other class makes the divine element a person, without, however, making any personal distinction between Father and Son, only a difference in the mode in which the one [pg 172] divine person manifests Himself; hence the term "Modalistic Monarchians." By some the Dynamistic Monarchians have been called Adoptionists, because they generally taught that the man Jesus ultimately became the Son of God, not being such by nature but by "adoption." The name Adoptionist has been so long applied to a heresy of the eighth century, chiefly in Spain, that it leads to confusion to use the term in connection with Monarchianism. Furthermore, to speak of them as Dynamistic Monarchians groups them with other Monarchians, which is desirable. The most important school of Modalistic Monarchians was that of Sabellius, in which the Modalistic principle was developed so as to include the three persons of the Trinity.

The sources may be found collected and annotated in Hilgenfeld, Ketsergeschichte.

(A) Dynamistic Monarchianism

(a) Hippolytus, Refut., VII, 35, 36. (MSG, 16:3342.)

Ch. 35. A certain Theodotus, a native of Byzantium, introduced a novel heresy, saying some things concerning the origin of the universe partly in keeping with the doctrines of the true Church, in so far as he admits that all things were created by God. Forcibly appropriating, however, his idea of Christ from the Gnostics and from Cerinthus and Ebion, he alleges that He appeared somewhat as follows: that Jesus was a man, born of a virgin, according to the counsel of the Father, and that after He had lived in a way common to all men, and had become pre-eminently religious, He afterward at His baptism in Jordan received Christ, who came from above and descended upon Him. Therefore miraculous powers did not operate within Him prior to the manifestation of that Spirit which descended and proclaimed Him as the Christ. But some [i.e., among the followers of Theodotus] are disposed to think that this man never was God, even at the descent of the Spirit; whereas others maintain that He was made God after the resurrection from the dead.

[pg 173] Ch. 36. While, however, different questions have arisen among them, a certain one named Theodotus, by trade a money-changer [to be distinguished from the other Theodotus, who is commonly spoken of as Theodotus, the leather-worker], attempted to establish the doctrine that a certain Melchizedek is the greatest power, and that this one is greater than Christ. And they allege that Christ happens to be according to the likeness of this one. And they themselves, similarly with those who have been previously spoken of as adherents of Theodotus, assert that Jesus is a mere man, and that in conformity with the same account, Christ descended upon Him.

(b) The Little Labyrinth, in Eusebius, Hist. Ec., V, 28. (MSG, 20:511.)

The author of The Little Labyrinth, a work from which Eusebius quotes at considerable length, is uncertain. It has been attributed to Hippolytus.

The Artemonites say that all early teachers and the Apostles themselves received and taught what they now declare, and that the truth of the preaching [i.e., the Gospel] was preserved until the time of Victor, who was the thirteenth bishop in Rome after Peter, and that since his successor, Zephyrinus, the truth has been corrupted. What they say might be credible if first of all the divine Scriptures did not contradict them. And there are writings of certain brethren which are older than the times of Victor, and which they wrote in behalf of the truth against the heathen and against heresies of their time. I refer to Justin, Miltiades, Tatian, Clement, and others. In all of their works Christ is spoken of as God. For who does not know the works of Iren?us and of Melito and of others, which teach that Christ is God and man? And how many psalms and hymns, written by the faithful brethren from the beginning, celebrate Christ as the Word of God, speaking of Him as divine? How, then, since the Church's present opinion has been preached for so many [pg 174] years, can its preaching have been delayed, as they affirm, until the times of Victor? And how is it that they are not ashamed to speak thus falsely of Victor, knowing well that he cut off from communion Theodotus, the leather-worker, the leader and father of this God-denying apostasy, and the first to declare that Christ is mere man.

There was a certain confessor, Natalius, not long ago, but in our day. This man was deceived at one time by Asclepiodotus and another Theodotus, a certain money-changer. Both of them were disciples of Theodotus, the leather-worker, who, as I said, was the first person excommunicated by Victor, bishop at that time, on account of this senseless sentiment or, rather, senselessness. Natalius was persuaded by them to allow himself to be chosen bishop of this heresy with a salary, so that he was to receive from them one hundred and fifty denarii a month.

They have treated the divine Scriptures recklessly and without fear; they have set aside the rule of ancient faith; and Christ they have not known, not endeavoring to learn what the divine Scriptures declare, but striving laboriously after any form of syllogism which may be found to suit their impiety. And if any one brings before them a passage of divine Scripture, they see whether a conjunctive or a disjunctive form of syllogism can be made from it. And as being of the earth and speaking of the earth and as ignorant of Him that cometh from above, they devote themselves to geometry and forsake the holy writings of God. Euclid is at least laboriously measured by some of them; Aristotle and Theophrastus admired; and Galen, perhaps, by some is even worshipped. But that those who use the arts of unbelievers for their heretical opinion and adulterate the simple faith of the divine Scriptures by the craft of the godless are not near the faith, what need is there to say? Therefore, they have laid their hands boldly upon the divine Scriptures, alleging that they have corrected them. That I am not speaking falsely of them in this matter, whoever wishes can [pg 175] learn. For if any one will collect their respective copies and compare them with one another, he will find that they differ greatly.

(B) Modalistic Monarchianism

Additional source material: Hippolytus, Adversus Noetum, Refutatio, IX, 7 ff., X, 27; Tertullian, Adversus Praxean; Basil, Ep. 207, 210. (PNF, ser. II, vol. VIII.)

(a) Hippolytus, Refut., X, 27. (MSG, 16:3440.)

The following passages from the great work of Hippolytus give the earlier form of Modalistic Monarchianism. They are also of importance as being a part of the foundation for the statement of Harnack and others, that this heresy was the official Roman doctrine for some years. See also IX, 12, of which the text may be found in Kirch, nn. 201-206. The whole question as to the position of Callistus, or Calixtus, as bishop of Rome and his relations to the Church as a whole is difficult and full of obscurity, due to a large extent to the fact that the principal source for his history is the work of Hippolytus, who, as may easily be seen, was bitterly opposed to him.

Noetus, a Smyrn?an by birth, a reckless babbler and trickster, introduced this heresy, which originated with Epigonus, and was adopted by Cleomenes, and has thus continued to this day among his successors. Noetus asserts that there is one Father and God of the universe, and that He who had made all things was, when He wished, invisible to those who existed, and when He wished He became visible; that He is invisible when He is not seen and visible when He is seen; that the Father is unbegotten when He is not generated, but begotten when He is born of a virgin; that He is not subject to suffering and is immortal when He does not suffer and die, but when His passion came upon Him Noetus admits that the Father suffers and dies. The Noetians think that the Father is called the Son according to events at different times.

Callistus supported the heresy of these Noetians, but we have carefully described his life [see above, § 19, c]. And Callistus himself likewise produced a heresy, taking his [pg 176] starting-point from these Noetians. And he acknowledges that there is one Father and God, and that He is the Creator of the universe, and that He is called and regarded as Son by name, yet that in substance He is one.60 For the Spirit as Deity is not, he says, any being different from the Logos, or the Logos from Deity; therefore, this one person is divided by name, but not according to substance. He supposes this one Logos to be God and he says that He became flesh. He is disposed to maintain that He who was seen in the flesh and crucified is Son, but it is the Father who dwells in Him.

(b) Hippolytus, Refut., IX, 7, 11 f. (MSG, 16:3369.)

Ch. 7. There has appeared a certain one, Noetus by name, by birth a Smyrn?an. This person introduced from the tenets of Heraclitus a heresy. Now a certain Epigonus became his minister and pupil, and this person during his sojourn in Rome spread his godless opinion.… But Zephyrinus himself was in course of time enticed away and hurried headlong into the same opinion; and he had Callistus as his adviser and fellow-champion of these wicked tenets.… The school of these heretics continued in a succession of teachers to acquire strength and to grow because Zephyrinus and Callistus helped them to prevail.

Ch. 11. Now that Noetus affirms that the Son and the Father are the same, no one is ignorant. But he makes a statement as follows: "When, indeed, at the time the Father was not yet born, He was justly styled the Father; and when it pleased Him to undergo generation and to be begotten, He himself became His own Son, not another's." For in this manner he thinks he establishes the Monarchy, alleging that the Father and the Son, so called, are not from one another, but are one and the same, Himself from Himself, and that He is styled by the names Father and Son, according to the changes of times.

[pg 177] Ch. 12. Now Callistus brought forward Zephyrinus himself and induced him to avow publicly the following opinions: "I know that there is one God, Jesus Christ; and that excepting Him I do not know another begotten and capable of suffering." When he said, "The Father did not die but the Son," he would in this way continue to keep up ceaseless disturbance among the people. And we [i.e., Hippolytus], becoming aware of his opinions, did not give place to him, but reproved him and withstood him for the truth's sake. He rushed into folly because all consented to his hypocrisy; we, however, did not do so, and he called us worshippers of two gods, disgorging freely the venom lurking within him.

(c) Hippolytus, Adversus Noetum. (MSG, 10:804.)

The following is from a fragment which seems to be the conclusion of an extended work against various heresies.

Some others are secretly introducing another doctrine who have become the disciples of a certain Noetus, who was a native of Smyrna, and lived not very long ago. This man was greatly puffed up with pride, being inspired by the conceit of a strange spirit. He alleged that Christ was the Father himself, and that the Father himself was born and suffered and died.… When the blessed presbyters heard these things they summoned him before the Church and examined him. But he denied at first that he held such opinions. Afterward, taking shelter among some and gathering round him some others who had been deceived in the same way, he wished to maintain his doctrine openly. And the blessed presbyters summoned him and examined him. But he resisted, saying, "What evil, then, do I commit when I glorify Christ?" And the presbyters replied to him, "We, too, know in truth one God; we know Christ; we know that the Son suffered even as He suffered, and died even as He died, and rose again on the third day, and is at the right hand of the Father, and cometh to judge the living and the [pg 178] dead. And these things which we have learned we assert." Then, after refuting him, they expelled him from the Church. And he was carried to such a pitch of pride that he established a school.

Now they seek to exhibit the foundation of their dogma, alleging that it is said in the Law, "I am the God of your fathers; ye shall have no other gods beside me" [i.e., of Moses, cf. Ex. 3:6, 13; 20:3]; and again in another passage, "I am the first and the last and besides me there is none other" [cf. Is. 44:6]. Thus they assert that God is one. And then they answer in this manner: "If therefore I acknowledge Christ to be God, He is the Father himself, if He is indeed God; and Christ suffered, being Himself God, and consequently the Father suffered, for He was the Father himself."

(d) Tertullian, Adv. Praxean, 1, 2, 27, 29. (MSL, 2:177 f., 214.)

Tertullian is especially bitter against Praxeas, because he prevented the recognition of the Montanists at Rome when it seemed likely that they would be treated favorably. The work Adversus Praxean is the most important work of Western theology on the Trinity before the time of Augustine. It was corrected in some important points by Novatian, but its clear formul? remained in Western theology permanently. The work belongs to the late Montanistic period of Tertullian.

Ch. 1. In various ways has the devil rivalled the truth. Sometimes his aim has been to destroy it by defending it. He maintains that there is one only Lord, the Almighty Creator of the world, that of this doctrine of the unity he may fabricate a heresy. He says that the Father himself came down into the Virgin, was Himself born of her, Himself suffered, indeed, was Himself Jesus Christ.… He [Praxeas] was the first to import into Rome this sort of perversity, a man of restless disposition in other respects, and above all inflated with the pride of martyrdom [confessorship] simply and solely because of a short annoyance in prison; when, even if he had given his body to be burned, it would have [pg 179] profited him nothing, not having the love of God, whose very gifts he resisted and destroyed. For after the Bishop of Rome had acknowledged the prophetic gifts of Montanus, Priscilla, and Maximilla, and in consequence of the acknowledgment had bestowed his peace on the churches of Asia and Phrygia, Praxeas, by importunately urging false accusations against the prophets themselves and their churches, and insisting on the authority of the bishop's predecessors in the see, compelled him to recall the letter of peace which he had issued, as well as to desist from his purpose of acknowledging the said gifts. Thus Praxeas did two pieces of the devil's work in Rome: he drove out prophecy and he brought in heresy; he put to flight the Paraclete and he crucified the Father.

Ch. 2. After a time, then, the Father was born, and the Father suffered-God himself, the Almighty, is preached as Jesus Christ.

Ch. 27. For, confuted on all sides by the distinction between the Father and the Son, which we make while their inseparable union remains as [by the examples] of the sun and the ray, and the fountain and the river-yet by help of their conceit of an indivisible number [with issues] of two and three, they endeavor to interpret this distinction in a way which shall nevertheless agree with their own opinions; so that, all in one person, they distinguish two-Father and Son-understanding the Son to be the flesh, that is the man, that is Jesus; and the Father to be the Spirit, that is God, that is Christ.

Ch. 29. Since we61 teach in precisely the same terms that the Father died as you say the Son died, we are not guilty of blasphemy against the Lord God, for we do not say that He died after the divine nature, but only after the human.… They [the heretics], indeed, fearing to incur blasphemy against the Father, hope to diminish it in this way, admitting that the Father and the Son are two; but if the Son, indeed, suffers, the Father is His fellow-sufferer.

[pg 180]

(e) Formula Macrostichos, in Socrates. Hist. Ec., II, 19. (MSG, 67:229.)

In the Arian controversy several councils were held at Antioch in the endeavor to bring about a reconciliation of the parties. At the third council of Antioch, A. D. 345, the elaborate Formula Macrostichos was put forth, in which the council attempted to steer a middle course between the Sabellians, who identified the Father and the Son, and the extreme Arians, who made the Son a creature. Text may also be found in Hahn, op. cit., § 159.

Those who say that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the same person, impiously understanding the three names to refer to one and the same person, we expel with good reason from the Church, because by the incarnation they subject the Father, who is infinite and incapable of suffering, to finitude and suffering in the incarnation. Such are those called Patripassianists by the Romans and Sabellians by us.

(f) Athanasius, Orationes contra Arianos, IV, 9, 25. (MSG, 26:480, 505.)

For Athanasius, v. infra, § 65, c. Of the four Orations against the Arians, attributed to Athanasius and placed between the years 356 and 362, doubts have been raised against the genuineness of the fourth. The following quotations are, in any case, valuable as setting forth the Sabellian position. But the case against the fourth oration has not been conclusively proved. In the passage from ch. 25 the statement is that of the Sabellians, not of Athanasius.

Ch. 9. If, again, the One have two names, this is the expedient of Sabellius, who said that Son and Father were the same and did away with both, the Father when there is a Son, and the Son when there is a Father.…

Ch. 25. "As there are diversities of gifts but the same Spirit, so also the Father is the same, but is dilated into Son and Spirit."

(g) Athanasius, Expositio fidei. (MSG, 25:204.)

For the critical questions regarding this little work of uncertain date see PNF, ser. II, vol. VI, p. 83.

[pg 181] For neither do we hold a Son-father, as do the Sabellians, calling Him of one but not of the same essence, and thus destroying the existence of the Son.

(h) Basil the Great, Epistula, 210:3. (MSG, 32:772, 776.)

Basil the Great, Bishop of C?sarea in Cappadocia, was one of the more important ecclesiastics of the fourth century, and the leader of the New-Nicene party in the Arian controversy. V. infra, § 66, c.

Sabellianism is Judaism imported into the preaching of the Gospel under the guise of Christianity. For if a man calls Father, Son, and Holy Spirit one, but manifold as to person [prosopon], and makes one hypostasis of the three, what else does he do than deny the everlasting pre-existence of the Only begotten?…

Now Sabellius did not even deprecate the formation of the persons without the hypostasis, saying, as he did, that the same God, being one in substance,62 was metamorphosed as the need of the moment required and spoken of now as Father, now as the Son, and now as Holy Spirit.

§ 41. Later Montanism and the Consequences of its Exclusion from the Church

In the West Montanism rapidly discarded the extravagant chiliasm of Montanus and his immediate followers; it laid nearly all the stress upon the continued work of the Holy Spirit in the Church and the need of a stricter moral discipline among Christians. This rigoristic discipline or morality was not acceptable to the bulk of Christians, and along with the Montanists was driven out of the Church, except in the case of the clergy, to whom a stricter morality was regarded as applicable. In this way a distinctive morality and mode of life came to be assigned to the clergy, and the separation between clergy and laity, or ordo and plebs, which was becoming [pg 182] established about the time of Tertullian, at least in the West, was permanently fixed. (See § 42, d.)

Tertullian, De Exhortatione Castitatis, 7. (MSL, 2:971.)

As a Montanist, Tertullian rejected second marriage, and in this treatise, addressed to a friend who had recently lost his wife, he treated it as the foulest adultery. This work belongs to the later years of Tertullian's life and incidentally reveals that a sharp distinction between clergy and laity was becoming fixed in the main body of the Church.

We should be foolish if we thought that what is unlawful for priests63 is lawful for laics. Are not even we laics priests? It is written: "He has made us kings also, and priests to God and his Father." The authority of the Church has made the difference between order [ordinem] and the laity [plebem], and the honor has been sanctified by the bestowal of the order. Therefore, where there has been no bestowal of ecclesiastical order, you both offer and baptize an

d are a priest to yourself alone. But where there are three, there is the Church, though they are laics.… Therefore, if, when there is necessity, you have the right of a priest in yourself, you ought also to have the discipline of a priest where there is necessity that you have the right of a priest. As a digamist,64 do you baptize? As a digamist, do you offer? How much more capital a crime it is for a digamist laic to act as a priest, when the priest, if he turn digamist, is deprived of the power of acting as a priest?… God wills that at all times we be so conditioned as to be fitted at all times and in all places to undertake His sacraments. There is one God, one faith, one discipline as well. So truly is this the case that unless the laics well observe the rules which are to guide the choice of presbyters, how will there be presbyters at all who are chosen from among the laics?

[pg 183]

§ 42. The Penitential Discipline

In baptism the convert received remission of all former sins, and, what was equivalent, admission to the Church. If he sinned gravely after baptism, could he again obtain remission? In the first age of the Church the practice as to this question inclined toward rigorism, and the man who sinned after baptism was in many places permanently excluded from the Church (cf. Heb. 10:26, 27), or the community of those whose sins had been forgiven and were certain of heaven. By the middle of the second century the practice at Rome tended toward permitting one readmission after suitable penance (a). After this the penitential discipline developed rapidly and became an important part of the business of the local congregation (b). The sinner, by a long course of self-mortification and prayer, obtained the desired readmission (c). The Montanists, however, in accord with their general rigorism, would make it extremely hard, if not impossible, to obtain readmission or forgiveness. The body of the Church, and certainly the Roman church under the lead of its bishop, who relied upon Matt. 16:18, adopted a more liberal policy and granted forgiveness on relatively easy terms to even the worst offenders (d). The discipline grew less severe, because martyrs or confessors, according to Matt. 10:20, were regarded as having the Spirit, and therefore competent to speak for God and announce the divine forgiveness. These were accustomed to give "letters of peace," which were commonly regarded as sufficient to procure the immediate readmission of the offender (e), a practice which led to great abuse. One of the effects of the development of the penitential discipline was the establishment of a distinction between mortal and venial sins (f), the former of which were, in general, acts involving unchastity, shedding of blood, and apostasy, according to the current interpretation of Acts 15:29.

[pg 184]

(a) Hermas, Pastor, Man. IV, 3:1.

For Hermas and the Pastor, v. supra, § 15.

I heard some teachers maintain, sir, that there is no other repentance than that which takes place when we descend into the waters and receive remission of our former sins. He said to me, That was sound doctrine which you heard; for that is really the case. For he who has received remission of his sins ought not to sin any more, but to live in purity.… The Lord, therefore, being merciful, has had mercy on the work of His hands, and has set repentance for them; and He has intrusted to me the power over this repentance. And therefore I say unto you that if any one is tempted by the devil, and sins after that great and holy calling in which the Lord has called His people to everlasting life, he has opportunity to repent but once. But if he should sin frequently after this, and then repent, to such a man his repentance will be of no avail, for with difficulty will he live.

(b) Tertullian. Apology, 39. (MSL, 1:532.)

We meet together as an assembly and congregation that, offering up prayer to God, with united force we may wrestle with Him in our prayers.… In the same place, also, exhortations are made, rebukes and sacred censures are administered. For with a great gravity is the work of judging carried on among us, as befits those who feel assured that they are in the sight of God; and you have the most notable example of judgment to come when any one has so sinned as to be severed from common union with us in prayer, in the congregation, and in all sacred intercourse.

(c) Tertullian, De P?nitentia, 4, 9. (MSL, 2:1343, 1354.)

According to Bardenhewer, § 50:5, this work belongs to the Catholic period of Tertullian's literary activity. Text in part in Kirch, nn. 175 ff.

Ch. 4. As I live, saith the Lord, I prefer penance rather than death [cf. Ezek. 33:11]. Repentance, then, is life, [pg 185] since it is preferred to death. That repentance, O sinner like myself (nay, rather, less a sinner than myself, for I acknowledge my pre-eminence in sins), do you hasten to embrace as a shipwrecked man embraces the protection of some plank. This will draw you forth when sunk in the waves of sin, and it will bear you forward into the port of divine clemency.

Ch. 9. The narrower the sphere of action of this, the second and only remaining repentance, the more laborious is its probation; that it may not be exhibited in the conscience alone, but may likewise be performed in some act. This act, which is more usually expressed and commonly spoken of under the Greek name, exomologesis, whereby we confess our sins to the Lord, not indeed to Him as ignorant of them, but inasmuch as by confession a satisfaction is made; of confession repentance is born; by repentance God is appeased. And thus exomologesis is a discipline for man's prostration and humiliation, enjoining a demeanor calculated to move mercy. With regard, also, to the very dress and food, it commands one to lie in sackcloth and ashes, to cover the body as in mourning, to lay the spirit low in sorrow, to exchange for severe treatment the sins which he has committed; furthermore, to permit as food and drink only what is plain-not for the stomach's sake, but for the soul's; for the most part, however, to feed prayers on fastings, to groan, to weep, and make outcries unto the Lord our God; to fall prostrate before the presbyters and to kneel to God's dear ones; to enjoin on all the brethren to be ambassadors to bear his deprecatory supplication before God. All this exomologesis does, that it may enhance repentance, that it may honor the Lord by fear of danger, may, by itself, in pronouncing against the sinner stand in place of God's indignation, and by temporal mortification (I will not say frustrate, but rather) expunge eternal punishments.

(d) Tertullian, De Pudicitia, 1, 21, 22. (MSL, 2:1032, 1078.)

[pg 186] Callistus, to whom reference is made in the first chapter, was bishop of Rome 217 to 222. The work, therefore, belongs to the latest period of Tertullian's life.

Ch. 1. I hear that there has been an edict set forth, and, indeed, a peremptory one; namely, that the Pontifex Maximus, the bishop of bishops, issues an edict: "I remit to such as have performed penance, the sins both of adultery and fornication."

Ch. 21. "But," you say, "the Church has the power of forgiving sins." This I acknowledge and adjudge more, I, who have the Paraclete himself in the person of the new prophets, saying: "The Church has the power to forgive sins, but I will not do it, lest they commit still others."… I now inquire into your opinion, to discover from what source you usurp this power to the Church.

If, because the Lord said to Peter, "Upon this rock I will build My Church [Matt. 16:18].… To Thee I have given the keys of the kingdom of heaven," or "Whatsoever thou shalt bind or loose on earth, shall be bound or loosed in heaven," you therefore presume that the power of binding and loosing has descended to you, that is, to every church akin to Peter; what sort of man, then, are you, subverting and wholly changing the manifest intention of the Lord, who conferred the gift personally upon Peter? "On Thee," He says, "I will build my Church," and "I will give thee the keys," not to the Church; and "whatsoever thou shalt have loosed or bound," not what they shall have loosed or bound. For so the result actually teaches. In him (Peter) the Church was reared, that is, through him (Peter) himself; he himself tried the key; you see what key: "Men of Israel, let what I say sink into your ears; Jesus, the Nazarene, a man appointed of God for you,"65 and so forth. Peter himself, therefore, was the first to unbar, in Christ's baptism, the entrance to the kingdom of heaven, in which are loosed the sins that aforetime were bound.…

[pg 187] What, now, has this to do with the Church and your Church, indeed, O Psychic? For in accordance with the person of Peter, it is to spiritual men that this power will correspondingly belong, either to an Apostle or else to a prophet.… And accordingly the "Church," it is true, will forgive sins; but it will be the Church of the Spirit, by a spiritual man; not the Church which consists of a number of bishops.

Ch. 22. But you go so far as to lavish this power upon martyrs indeed; so that no sooner has any one, acting on a preconceived arrangement, put on soft bonds in the nominal custody now in vogue, than adulterers beset him, fornicators gain access to him; instantly prayers resound about him; instantly pools of tears of the polluted surround him; nor are there any who are more diligent in purchasing entrance to the prison than they who have lost the fellowship of the Church.… Whatever authority, whatever reason, restores ecclesiastical peace to the adulterer and the fornicator, the same will be bound to come to the aid of the murderer and the idolater in their repentance.

(e) Tertullian, Ad Martyres, 1. (MSL, 1:693.)

The following extract from Tertullian's little work addressed to martyrs in prison, written about 197, shows that in his earlier life as a Catholic Christian he did not disapprove of the practice of giving libelli pacis by the confessors, a custom which in his more rigoristic period under the influence of Montanism he denounced most vehemently; see preceding extract from De Pudicitia, ch. 22. The reference to some discord among the martyrs is not elsewhere explained. For libelli pacis, see Cyprian, Ep. 10 (=Ep. 15), 22 (=21).

O blessed ones, grieve not the Holy Spirit, who has entered with you into the prison; for if He had not gone with you there, you would not be there to-day. Therefore endeavor to cause Him to remain with you there; so that He may lead you thence to the Lord. The prison, truly, is the devil's house as well, wherein he keeps his family.… Let him not be successful in his own kingdom by setting you at variance with one another, but let him find you armed and [pg 188] fortified with concord; for your peace is war with him. Some, not able to find peace in the Church, have been accustomed to seek it from the imprisoned martyrs. Therefore you ought to have it dwelling with you, and to cherish it and guard it, that you may be able, perchance, to bestow it upon others.

(f) Tertullian, De Pudicitia, 19. (MSL, 2:1073.)

The distinction between mortal and venial sins became of great importance in the administration of penance and remained as a feature of ecclesiastical discipline from the time of Tertullian. The origin of the distinction was still earlier. See above, an extract from the same work.

We ourselves do not forget the distinction between sins, which was the starting-point of our discussion. And this, too, for John has sanctioned it [cf. I John 5:16], because there are some sins of daily committal to which we are all liable; for who is free from the accident of being angry unjustly and after sunset; or even of using bodily violence; or easily speaking evil; or rashly swearing; or forfeiting his plighted word; or lying from bashfulness or necessity? In business, in official duties, in trade, in food, in sight, in hearing, by how great temptations are we assailed! So that if there were no pardon for such simple sins as these, salvation would be unattainable by any. Of these, then, there will be pardon through the successful Intercessor with the Father, Christ. But there are other sins wholly different from these, graver and more destructive, such as are incapable of pardon-murder, idolatry, fraud, apostasy, blasphemy, and, of course, adultery and fornication and whatever other violation of the temple of God there may be. For these Christ will no more be the successful Intercessor; these will not at all be committed by any one who has been born of God, for he will cease to be the son of God if he commit them.

[pg 189]

§ 43. The Catechetical School of Alexandria: Clement and Origen

Three types of theology developed in the ante-Nicene Church: the Asia Minor school, best represented by Iren?us (v. § 33); the North African, represented by Tertullian and Cyprian (v. § 39); and the Alexandrian, in the Catechetical School of which Clement and Origen were the most distinguished members. In the Alexandrian theology the tradition of the apologists (v. § 32) that Christianity was a revealed philosophy was continued, especially by Clement. Origen, following the bent of his genius, developed other sides of Christian thought as well, bringing it all into a more systematic form than had ever before been attempted. The Catechetical School of Alexandria was the most celebrated of all the educational institutions of Christian antiquity. It aimed to give a general secular and religious training. It appears to have been in existence well before the end of the second century, having been founded, it is thought, by Pant?nus. Clement assisted in the instruction from 190, and from about 200 was head of the school for a few years. In 202 or 203 he was forced by persecution under Septimius Severus to flee from the city. He died before 215. Of his works, the most important is his three-part treatise composed of his Protrepticus, an apologetic work addressed to the Greeks; his P?degogus, a treatise on Christian morality; and his Stromata, or miscellanies. Origen became head of the Catechetical School in 203, when but eighteen years old, and remained in that position until 232, when, having been irregularly ordained priest outside his own diocese and being suspected of heresy, he was deposed. But he removed to C?sarea in Palestine, where he continued his work with the greatest success and was held in the highest honor by the Church in Palestine and parts other than Egypt. He died 254 or 255 at Tyre, having previously suffered severely in the Decian persecution. [pg 190] His works are of the highest importance in various fields of theology. De Principiis is the first attempt to present in connected form the whole range of Christian theology. His commentaries cover nearly the entire Bible. His Contra Celsum is the greatest of all early apologies. The Hexapla was the most elaborate piece of text-criticism of antiquity.

Additional source material: Eusebius. Hist. Ec., VI, deals at length with Origen; Gregory Thaumaturgus, Panegyric on Origen, in ANF. VI.

(a) Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, I, 5. (MSG, 8:717.)

Clement's view of the relation of Greek philosophy to Christian revelation is almost identical with that of the apologists, as are also many of his fundamental concepts.

Before the advent of the Lord philosophy was necessary to the Greeks for righteousness. And now it becomes useful to piety, being a kind of preparatory training to those who attain to faith through demonstration. "For thy foot," it is said, "will not stumble" if thou refer what is good, whether belonging to the Greeks or to us, to Providence. For God is the cause of all good things; but of some primarily, as of the Old and the New Testament, and of others by consequence, as philosophy. Perchance, too, philosophy was given to the Greeks directly till the Lord should call the Greeks also. For this was a schoolmaster to bring the Hellenic mind to Christ, as was the law to bring the Hebrews. Philosophy, therefore, was a preparation, paving the way for him who is perfected in Christ.

"Now," says Solomon, "defend wisdom, and it will exalt thee, and it will shield thee with a crown of pleasure."66 For when thou hast strengthened wisdom with a breastwork by philosophy, and with expenditure, thou wilt preserve her unassailable by sophists. The way of truth is therefore one. But into it, as into a perennial river, streams flow from every side.

[pg 191]

(b) Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, VII, 10. (MSG, 9:47.)

See Clement of Alexandria, VIIth Book of the Stromateis, ed. by Hort and Mayor, London, 1902. In making faith suffice for salvation, Clement clearly distinguishes his position from that of the Gnostics, though he uses the term "gnostic" as applicable to Christians. See next passage.

Knowledge [gnosis], so to speak, is a perfecting of man as man, which is brought about by acquaintance with divine things; in character, life, and word harmonious and consistent with itself and the divine Word. For by it faith is made perfect, inasmuch as it is solely by it that the man of faith becomes perfect. Faith is an internal good, and without searching for God confesses His existence and glorifies Him as existent. Hence by starting with this faith, and being developed by it, through the grace of God, the knowledge respecting Him is to be acquired as far as possible.…

But it is not doubting, in reference to God, but believing, that is the foundation of knowledge. But Christ is both the foundation and the superstructure, by whom are both the beginning and the end. And the extreme points, the beginning and the end, I mean faith and love, are not taught. But knowledge, which is conveyed from communication through the grace of God as a deposit, is intrusted to those who show themselves worthy of it; and from it the worth of love beams forth from light to light. For it is said, "To him that hath shall be given" [cf. Matt. 13:12]-to faith, knowledge; and to knowledge, love; and to love, the inheritance.…

Faith then is, so to speak, a compendious knowledge of the essentials; but knowledge is the sure and firm demonstration of what is received by faith, built upon faith by the Lord's teaching, conveying us on to unshaken conviction and certainty. And, as it seems to me, the first saving change is that from heathenism to faith, as I said before; and the second, that from faith to knowledge. And this latter passing on to [pg 192] love, thereafter gives a mutual friendship between that which knows and that which is known. And perhaps he who has already arrived at this stage has attained equality with the angels. At any rate, after he has reached the final ascent in the flesh, he still continues to advance, as is fit, and presses on through the holy Hebdomad into the Father's house, to that which is indeed the Lord's abode.

(c) Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, V, 11. (MSG, 9:102, 106.)

The piety of the Christian Gnostic.

The sacrifice acceptable with God is unchanging alienation from the body and its passions. This is the really true piety. And is not philosophy, therefore, rightly called by Socrates the meditation on death? For he who neither employs his eyes in the exercise of thought nor draws from his other senses, but with pure mind applies himself to objects, practises the true philosophy.…

It is not without reason, therefore, that in the mysteries which are to be found among the Greeks lustrations hold the first place; as also the laver among the barbarians. After these are the minor mysteries, which have some foundation for instruction and preparation for what is to follow. In the great mysteries concerning the universe nothing remains to be learned, but only to contemplate and comprehend with the mind nature and things. We shall understand the more of purification by confession, and of contemplation by analysis, advancing by analysis to the first notion, beginning with the properties underlying it; abstracting from the body its physical properties, taking away the dimension of depth, then of breadth, and then of length. For the point which remains is a unit, so to speak, having position; from which, if we abstract position, there is the conception of unity.

If, then, we abstract all that belongs to bodies and things called incorporeal, we cast ourselves into the greatness of Christ, and thence advancing into immensity by holiness, we [pg 193] may reach somehow to the conception of the Almighty, knowing not what He is, but knowing what He is not. And form and motion, or standing, or a throne or place, or right hand or left, are not at all to be conceived as belonging to the Father of the universe, although it is so written. For what each of these signifies will be shown in the proper place. The First Cause is not then in space, but above time and space and name and conception.

(d) Origen, De Principiis, I, 2:2. (MSG, 11:130.)

Origen's doctrine of the "eternal generation of the Son" was of primary importance in all subsequent discussions on the Trinity.

Let no one imagine that we mean anything unsubstantial when we call Him the Wisdom of God; or suppose, for example, that we understand Him to be, not a living being endowed with wisdom, but something which makes men wise, giving itself to, and implanting itself in, the minds of those who are made capable of receiving its virtues and intelligence. If, then, it is once rightly understood that the only begotten Son of God is His Wisdom hypostatically [substantialiter] existing, I know not whether our mind ought to advance beyond this or entertain any suspicion that the hypostasis or substantia contains anything of a bodily nature, since everything corporeal is distinguished either by form, or color, or magnitude. And who in his sound senses ever sought for form, or color, or size, in wisdom, in respect of its being wisdom? And who that is capable of entertaining reverential thoughts or feelings regarding God can suppose or believe that God the Father ever existed, even for a moment of time, without having generated this Wisdom? For in that case he must say either that God was unable to generate Wisdom before He produced her, so that He afterward called into being that which formerly did not exist, or that He could, but-what is impious to say of God-was unwilling to generate; both of which suppositions, it is patent to all, are alike absurd and impious: for they amount to this, [pg 194] either that God advanced from a condition of inability to one of ability, or that, although possessed of the power, He concealed it, and delayed the generation of Wisdom. Therefore we have always held that God is the Father of His only begotten Son, who was born indeed of Him, and derives from Him, what He is, but without any beginning, not only such as may be measured by any divisions of time, but even that which the mind alone contemplates within itself, or beholds, so to speak, with the naked soul and understanding. And therefore we must believe that Wisdom was generated before any beginning that can be either comprehended or expressed.

(e) Origen, De Principiis, I, 2:10. (MSG, 11:138.)

Origen's doctrine of "eternal creation" was based upon reasoning similar to that employed to show the eternal generation of the Son, but it was rejected by the Church, and figures among the heresies known as Origenism. See below, §§ 87, 93.

As no one can be a father without having a son, nor a master without possessing a servant, so even God cannot be called omnipotent67 unless there exists those over whom He may exercise His power; and therefore, that God may be shown to be almighty it is necessary that all things should exist. For if any one assumes that some ages or portions of time, or whatever else he likes to call them, have passed away, while those things which have been made did not yet exist, he would undoubtedly show that during those ages or periods God was not omnipotent but became omnipotent afterward: viz., from the time that He began to have those over whom He exercised power; and in this way He will appear to have received a certain increase, and to have risen from a lower to a higher condition; since there can be no doubt that it is better for Him to be omnipotent than not to be so. And, now, how can it appear otherwise than absurd, that when God possessed none of those things which it was befitting for Him to possess, He should afterward, by a kind [pg 195] of progress, come to have them? But if there never was a time when He was not omnipotent,68 of necessity those things by which He receives that title must also exist; and He must always have had those over whom He exercised power, and which were governed by Him either as king or prince, of which we shall speak more fully when we come to discuss the subject of creatures.

(f) Origen, De Principiis, II, 9:6. (MSG, 11:230.)

The theory of pre-existence and the pretemporal fall of each soul was the basis of Origen's theodicy. It caused great offence in after years when theology became more stereotyped, and it has retained no place in the Church's thought, for the idea ran too clearly counter to the biblical account of the Fall of Adam.

We have frequently shown by those statements which we are able to adduce from the divine Scriptures that God, the Creator of all things, is good, and just, and all-powerful. When in the beginning He created all those beings whom He desired to create, i.e., rational natures, He had no other reason for creating them than on account of Himself, i.e., His goodness. As He himself, then, was the cause of the existence of those things which were to be created, in whom there was neither any variation nor change nor want of power, He created all whom He made equal and alike, because there was no reason for Him to produce variety and diversity. But since those rational creatures themselves, as we have frequently shown and will yet show in the proper place, were endowed with the power of free choice, this freedom of his will incited each one either to progress by imitation of God or induced him to failure through negligence. And this, as we have already stated, is the cause of the diversity among rational creatures, deriving its origin not from the will or judgment of the Creator, but from the freedom of the individual will. God, however, who deemed it just to arrange His creatures according to merit, brought down these differences [pg 196] of understanding into the harmony of one world, that He might adorn, as it were, one dwelling, in which there ought to be not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay and some, indeed, to honor and others to dishonor, with those different vessels, or souls, or understandings. And these are the causes, in my opinion, why that world presents the aspect of diversity, while Divine Providence continues to regulate each individual according to the variety of his movements or of his feelings and purpose. On which account the Creator will neither appear to be unjust in distributing (for the causes already mentioned) to every one according to his merits; nor will the happiness or unhappiness of each one's birth, or whatever be the condition that falls to his lot, be deemed accidental; nor will different creators, or souls of different natures, be believed to exist.

(g) Origen, Homil. in Exod., VI, 9. (MSG, 12:338.)

In the following passage from Origen's Commentary on Exodus and the four following passages are stated the essential points of Origen's theory of redemption. In this theory there are two elements which have been famous in the history of Christian thought: the relation of the death of Christ to the devil, and the ultimate salvation of every soul. The theory that Christ's death was a ransom paid to the devil was developed by Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory the Great, and reappeared constantly in theology down to the scholastic period, when it was overthrown by Anselm and the greater scholastics. Universal redemption or salvation, especially when it included Satan himself, was never taken up by Church theologians to any extent, and was one of the positions condemned as Origenism. See § 93.

It is certain, they say, that one does not buy that which is his own. But the Apostle says: "Ye are bought with a price." But hear what the prophet says: "You have been sold as slaves to your sins, and for your iniquities I have put away your mother." Thou seest, therefore, that we are the creatures of God, but each one has been sold to his sins, and has fallen from his Creator. Therefore we belong to God, inasmuch as we have been created by Him, but we have become the servants of the devil, inasmuch as we have been [pg 197] sold to our sins. But Christ came to redeem us when we were servants to that master to whom we had sold ourselves by sinning.

(h) Origen, Contra Celsum, VII, 17. (MSG, 11:1445.)

If we consider Jesus in relation to the divinity that was in Him, the things which He did in this capacity are holy and do not offend our idea of God; and if we consider Him as a man, distinguished beyond all others by an intimate communion with the very Word, with Absolute Wisdom, He suffered as one who was wise and perfect whatever it behooved Him to suffer, who did all for the good of the human race, yea, even for the good of all intelligent beings. And there is nothing absurd in the fact that a man died, and that his death was not only an example of death endured for the sake of piety, but also the first blow in the conflict which is to overthrow the power of the evil spirit of the devil, who had obtained dominion over the whole world. For there are signs of the destruction of his empire; namely, those who through the coming of Christ are everywhere escaping from the power of demons, and who after their deliverance from this bondage in which they were held consecrate themselves to God, and according to their ability devote themselves day by day to advancement in a life of piety.

(i) Origen, Homil. in Matt., XVI, 8. (MSG, 13:1398.)

He did this in service of our salvation so far that He gave His soul a ransom for many who believed on Him. If all had believed on Him, He would have given His soul as a ransom for all. To whom did He give His soul as a ransom for many? Certainly not to God. Then was it not to the Evil One? For that one reigned over us until the soul of Jesus was given as a ransom for us. This he had especially demanded, deceived by the imagination that he could rule over it, and he was not mindful of the fact that he could not endure the torment connected with holding it fast. Therefore [pg 198] death, which appeared to reign over Him, did not reign over Him, since He was "free among the dead" and stronger than the power of death. He is, indeed, so far superior to it that all who from among those overcome by death will follow Him can follow Him, as death is unable to do anything against them.… We are therefore redeemed with the precious blood of Jesus. As a ransom for us the soul of the Son of God has been given (not His spirit, for this, according to Luke [cf. Luke 23:46] He had previously given to His Father, saying: "Father, into Thy hands I commit my spirit"); also, not His body, for concerning this we find nothing mentioned. And when He had given His soul as a ransom for many, He did not remain in the power of him to whom the ransom was given for many, because it says in the sixteenth psalm [Psalm 16:10]: "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell."

(j) Origen, De Principiis, I, 6:3. (MSG, 11:168.)

The following states in brief the theory of universal salvation.

It is to be borne in mind, however, that certain beings who fell away from that one beginning of which we have spoken, have given themselves to such wickedness and malice as to be deemed altogether undeserving of that training and instruction by which the human race while in the flesh are trained and instructed with the assistance of the heavenly powers: they continue, on the contrary, in a state of enmity and opposition to those who are receiving this instruction and teaching. And hence it is that the whole life of mortals is full of certain struggles and trials, caused by the opposition and enmity against us of those who fell from a better condition without at all looking back, and who are called the devil and his angels, and other orders of evil, which the Apostle classed among the opposing powers. But whether any of these orders, who act under the government of the devil and obey his wicked commands, will be able in a future world to be converted to righteousness because of their possessing the faculty of freedom of will, or whether persistent and [pg 199] inveterate wickedness may be changed by habit into a kind of nature, you, reader, may decide; yet so that neither in those things which are seen and temporal nor in those which are unseen and eternal one portion is to differ wholly from the final unity and fitness of things. But in the meantime, both in those temporal worlds which are seen, and in those eternal worlds which are invisible, all those beings are arranged according to a regular plan, in the order and degree of merit; so that some of them in the first, others in the second, some even in the last times, after having undergone heavier and severer punishments, endured for a lengthened period and for many ages, so to speak, improved by this stern method of training, and restored at first by the instruction of angels and subsequently advanced by powers of a higher grade, and thus advancing through each stage to a better condition, reach even to that which is invisible and eternal, having travelled by a kind of training through every single office of the heavenly powers. From which, I think, this will follow as an inference-that every rational nature can, in passing from one order to another, go through each to all, and advance from all to each, while made the subject of various degrees of proficiency and failure, according to its own actions and endeavors, put forth in the enjoyment of its power of freedom of will.

(k) Origen, De Principiis, IV, 9-15. (MSG, 11:360, 363, 373.)


The method of exegesis known as allegorism, whereby the speculations of the Christian theologians were provided with an apparently scriptural basis, was taken over from the Jewish and Greek philosophers and theologians who employed it in the study of their sacred books. Origen, it should be added, contributed not a little to a sound grammatical interpretation as well. For Porphyry's criticism of Origen's methods of exegesis see Eusebius, Hist. Ec., VI, 19.

Ch. 9. Now the cause, in all the points previously enumerated, of the false opinions and of the impious statements [pg 200] or ignorant assertions about God appears to be nothing else than that the Scriptures are not understood according to their spiritual meaning, but are interpreted according to the mere letter. And therefore to those who believe that the sacred books are not the compositions of men, but were composed by the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, according to the will of the Father of all things through Jesus Christ, and that they have come down to us, we must point out the modes of interpretation which appear correct to us, who cling to the standard of the heavenly Church according to the succession of the Apostles of Jesus Christ. Now that there are certain mystical economies made known in the Holy Scriptures, all, even the most simple of those who adhere to the word, have believed; but what these are, the candid and modest confess they know not. If, then, one were to be perplexed about the incest of Lot with his daughters, and about the two wives of Abraham, and the two sisters married to Jacob, and the two handmaids who bore him children, they can return no other answer than this-that these are mysteries not understood by us.…

Ch. 11. The way, then, as it seems to me, in which we ought to deal with the Scriptures and extract from them their meaning is the following, which has been ascertained from the sayings [of the Scriptures] themselves. By Solomon in the Proverbs we find some rule as this enjoined respecting the teaching of the divine writings, "And do thou portray them in a threefold manner, in counsel and knowledge, to answer words of truth to them who propose them to thee" [cf. Prov. 22:20 f., LXX]. One ought, then, to portray the ideas of Holy Scripture in a threefold manner upon his soul, in order that the simple man may be edified by the "flesh," as it were, of Scripture, for so we name the obvious sense; while he who has ascended a certain way may be edified by the "soul," as it were. The perfect man, and he who resembles those spoken of by the Apostle, when he says, "We speak wisdom among them that are perfect, but not [pg 201] the wisdom of the world, nor of the rulers of this world, who come to nought; but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God hath ordained before the ages unto our glory" [I Cor. 2:6, 7], may receive edification from the spiritual law, which was a shadow of things to come. For as man consists of body and soul and spirit, so in the same way does the Scripture consist, which has been arranged by God for the salvation of men.

Ch. 12. But as there are certain passages which do not contain at all the "corporeal" sense, as we shall show in the following, there are also places where we must seek only for the "soul," as it were, and "spirit" of Scripture.

Ch. 15. But since, if the usefulness of the legislation and the sequence and beauty of the history were universally evident, we should not believe that any other thing could be understood in the Scriptures save what was obvious, the Word of God has arranged that certain stumbling-blocks, and offences, and impossibilities, should be introduced into the midst of the law and the history, in order that we may not, through being drawn away in all directions by the merely attractive nature of the language, either altogether fall away from the true doctrines, as learning nothing worthy of God, or, by not departing from the letter, come to the knowledge of nothing more divine. And this, also, we must know: that, since the principal aim is to announce the "spiritual" connection in those things that are done and that ought to be done where the Word found that things done according to the history could be adapted to these mystic senses, He made use of them, concealing from the multitude the deeper meaning; but where in the narrative of the development of super-sensual things there did not follow the performance of those certain events which was already indicated by the mystical meaning the Scripture interwove in the history the account of some event that did not take place, sometimes what could not have happened; sometimes what could, but did not happen.… And at other times impossibilities are [pg 202] recorded for the sake of the more skilful and inquisitive, in order that they may give themselves to the toil of investigation of what is written, and thus attain to a becoming conviction of the manner in which a meaning worthy of God must be sought out in such subjects.

§ 44. Neo-Platonism

The last phase of Hellenic philosophy was religious. It aimed to combine the principles of many schools of the earlier period and to present a metaphysical system that would at once give a theory of being and also furnish a philosophical basis for the new religious life. This final philosophy of the antique world was Neo-Platonism. It was thoroughly eclectic in its treatment of earlier systems, but under Plotinus attained no small degree of consistency. The emphasis was laid especially upon the religious problems, and in the system it may be fairly said that the religious aspirations of heathenism found their highest and purest expression. Because it was in close touch with current culture and in its metaphysical principles was closely akin to the philosophy of the Church teachers, we find Neo-Platonism sometimes a bitter rival of Christianity, at other times a preparation for the Christian faith, as in the case of Augustine and Victorinus.

Additional source material: Select Works of Plotinus, translated by Thomas Taylor, ed. G. R. S. Mead, London, 1909 (contains bibliography of other translations of Plotinus, including those in French and German together with a select list of works bearing on Neo-Platonism); Select Works of Porphyry, trans. by Thomas Taylor, London, 1823; Taylor translated much from all the Neo-Platonists, but his other books are very scarce. Porphyry's Epistula ad Marcellam, trans. by Alice Zimmern, London, 1896.

Porphyry, Ep. ad Marcellam, 16-19. Porphyrii philosophi Platonici opuscula tria, rec. A. Nauck, Leipsic, 1860.

The letter is addressed to Marcella by her husband, the philosopher Porphyry. It gives a good idea of the religious and ethical character of Neo-Platonism. For the metaphysical aspects see Plotinus, translated by T. Taylor. Porphyry was, after Plotinus, the greatest of [pg 203] the Neo-Platonists, and brought out most clearly those religious elements which were rivals to Christianity. His attack upon Christianity was keen and bitter, and he was consequently especially hated by the Christians. He died at Rome 304.

Ch. 16. You will honor God best when you form your soul to resemble him. This likeness is only by virtue; for only virtue draws the soul upward toward its own kind. There is nothing greater with God than virtue; but God is greater than virtue. But God strengthens him who does what is good; but of evil deeds a wicked demon is the instigator. Therefore the wicked soul flees from God and wishes that the foreknowledge of God did not exist; and from the divine law which punishes all wickedness it shrinks away completely. But a wise man's soul is in harmony with God, ever sees Him, ever is with Him. But if that which rules takes pleasure in that which is ruled, then God cares for the wise and provides for him; and therefore is the wise man blessed, because he is under the protection of God. It is not the discourses of the wise man which are honorable before God, but his works; for the wise man, even when he keeps silence, honors God, but the ignorant man, even in praying and sacrificing, dishonors the Divinity. So the wise man alone is a priest, alone is dear to God, alone knows how to pray.

Ch. 17. He who practises wisdom practises the knowledge of God; though not always in prayer and sacrifice, practising piety toward God by his works. For a man is not rendered agreeable to God by ruling himself according to the prejudices of men and the vain declamations of the sophists. It is the man himself who, by his own works, renders himself agreeable to God, and is deified by the conforming of his own soul to the incorruptible blessed One. And it is he himself who makes himself impious and displeasing to God, not suffering evil from God, for the Divinity does only what is good. It is the man himself who causes his evils by his false beliefs in regard to God. The impious is not so much he who does not honor the statues of the gods as he who mixes [pg 204] up with the idea of God the superstitions of the vulgar. As for thyself, do not hold any unworthy idea of God, of his blessedness or of his incorruptibility.

Ch. 18. The greatest fruit of piety is this-to honor the Deity according to our fatherland; not that He has need of anything, but His holy and happy Majesty invites us to offer Him our homage. Altars consecrated to God do no harm, and when neglected they render no help. But he who honors God as needing anything declares, without knowing it, that he is superior to God. Therefore it is not angering God that harms us, but not knowing God, for wrath is alien to God, because it is the product of the involuntary, and there is nothing involuntary in God. Do not then dishonor the Divinity by human false opinions, for thou wilt not thereby injure the Being enjoying eternal blessedness, from whose incorruptible nature every injury is repelled.

Ch. 19. But thou shouldest not think that I say these things when I exhort to the worship of God; for he who exhorts to this would be ridiculous; as if it were possible to doubt concerning this; and we do not worship Him aright doing this thing or thinking that about God.69 Neither tears nor supplications turn God from His purpose; nor do sacrifices honor God, nor the multitude of offerings glorify God, but the godlike mind well governed enters into union with God. For like is of necessity joined to like. But the victims of the senseless crowd are food for the flames, and their offerings are the supplies for a licentious life to the plunderers of temples. But, as I have said to thee, let the mind within thee be the temple of God. This must be tended and adorned to become a fit dwelling for God.

[pg 205]

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