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   Chapter 7 The Period Of Peace For The Church A. D. 260 To A. D. 303

A Source Book for Ancient Church History By Joseph Cullen Ayer, Jr., Ph.D. Characters: 78615

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


After the Decian-Valerian persecution (250-260) the Church enjoyed a long peace, rarely interrupted anywhere by hostile measures, until the outbreak of the second great general persecution, under Diocletian (303-313), a space of over forty years. In this period the Church cast off the chiliasm which had lingered as a part of a primitive Jewish conception of Christianity (§ 47), and adapted itself to the actual condition of this present world. Under the influence of scientific theology, especially that of the Alexandrian school, the earlier forms of Monarchianism disappeared from the Church, and the discussion began to narrow down to the position which it eventually assumed in the Arian controversy (§ 48). Corresponding to the development of the theology went that of the cultus of the Church, and already in the West abiding characteristics appeared (§ 49). The cultus and the disciplinary work of the bishops advanced in turn the hierarchical organization of the Church and the place of the bishops (§ 50), but the theory of local episcopal autonomy and the universalistic tendencies of the see of Rome soon came into sharp conflict (§ 51), especially over the validity of baptism administered by heretics (§ 52). In this discussion the North African Church assumed a position which subsequently became the occasion of the most serious schism of the ancient Church, or Donatism. In this period, also, is to be set the rise of Christian Monasticism as distinguished from ordinary Christian asceticism (§ 53). At the same time, a dangerous rival of Christianity appeared in the East, in the form of Manich?anism, in which were absorbed nearly all the remnants of earlier Gnosticism (§ 54).

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§ 47. The Chiliastic Controversy

During the third century the belief in chiliasm as a part of the Church's faith died out in nearly all parts of the Church. It did not seem called for by the condition of the Church, which was rapidly adjusting itself to the world in which it found itself. The scientific theology, especially that of Alexandria, found no place in its system for such an article as chiliasm. The belief lingered, however, in country places, and with it went no little opposition to the "scientific" exegesis which by means of allegory explained away the promises of a millennial kingdom. The only account we have of this so-called "Chiliastic Controversy" is found in connection with the history of the schism of Nepos in Egypt given by Eusebius, But it may be safely assumed that the condition of things here described was not peculiar to any one part of the Church, though an open schism resulting from the conflict of the old and new ideas is not found elsewhere.

Additional source material: Origen, De Principiis, II, 11 (ANF, IV); Lactantius, Divini Institutiones, VII, 14-26 (ANF, VII); Methodius, Symposium, IX, 5 (ANF, VI); v. infra, § 48.

Eusebius, Hist. Ec., VII, 24. (MSG, 20:693.)

Dionysius was bishop of Alexandria 248-265, after serving as the head of the Catechetical School, a position which he does not seem to have resigned on being advanced to the episcopate. His work On the Promises has, with the exception of fragments preserved by Eusebius, perished, as has also the work of Nepos, Against the Allegorists. The date of the work of Nepos is not known. That of the work of Dionysius is placed conjecturally at 255. The "Allegorists," against whom Nepos wrote, were probably Origen and his school, who developed more consistently and scientifically the allegorical method of exegesis; see above, § 43, k.

[pg 220] Besides all these, the two books On the Promises were prepared by him [Dionysius]. The occasion of these was Nepos, a bishop in Egypt, who taught that the promises made to the holy men in the divine Scriptures should be understood in a more Jewish manner, and that there would be a certain millennium of bodily luxury upon this earth. As he thought that he could establish his private opinion by the Revelation of John, he wrote a book on this subject, entitled Refutation of Allegorists. Dionysius opposes this in his books On the Promises. In the first he gives his own opinion of the dogma; and in the second he treats of the Revelation of John,73 and, mentioning Nepos at the beginning, writes of him as follows:

"But since they bring forward a certain work of Nepos, on which they rely confidently, as if it proved beyond dispute that there will be a reign of Christ upon earth, I confess that in many other respects I approve and love Nepos for his faith and industry and his diligence in the Scriptures, and for his extensive psalmody with which many of the brethren are still delighted; and I hold the man in the more reverence because he has gone before us to rest.… But as some think his work very plausible, and as certain teachers regard the law and the prophets as of no consequence, and do not follow the Gospels, and treat lightly the apostolic epistles, while they make promises as to the teaching of this work as if it were some great hidden mystery, and do not permit our simpler brethren to have any sublime and lofty thoughts concerning the glorious and truly divine appearing of our Lord and our resurrection from the dead, and our being gathered together unto Him, and made like Him, but, on the contrary, lead them to a hope for small things and mortal things in the kingdom of God, and for things such as exist now-since this is the case, it is necessary that we should [pg 221] dispute with our brother Nepos as if he were present." Farther on he says:

"When I was in the district of Arsinoe, where, as you know, this doctrine has prevailed for a long time, so that schisms and apostasies of entire churches have resulted, I called together the presbyters and teachers of the brethren in the villages-such brethren as wished being present-and I exhorted them to make a public examination of this question. Accordingly when they brought me this book, as if it were a weapon and fortress impregnable, sitting with them from morning till evening for three successive days, I endeavored to correct what was written in it.… And finally the author and mover of this teaching, who was called Coracion, in the hearing of all the brethren present acknowledged and testified to us that he would no longer hold this opinion, nor discuss it, nor mention it, nor teach it, as he was fully convinced by the arguments against it."

§ 48. Theology of the Second Half of the Third Century under the Influence of Origen

By the second half of the third century theology had become a speculative and highly technical science (a), and under the influence of Origen, the Logos theology, as opposed to various forms of Monarchianism (b), had become universal. Under this influence, Paul of Samosata, reviving Dynamistic Monarchianism, modified it by combining with it elements of the Logos theology (c-e). At the same time there was in various parts of the Church a continuation of the Asia Minor theological tradition, such as had found expression in Iren?us. A representative of this theology was Methodius of Olympus (f).

Additional source material: Athanasius, De Sent. Dionysii (PNF, ser. II, vol. IV).

(a) Gregory Thaumaturgus, Confession of Faith. (MSG, 46:912)

[pg 222] Gregory Thaumaturgus, or the Wonder-worker, was born about 213 in Neo-C?sarea in Pontus. He studied under Origen at C?sarea in Palestine from 233 to 235, and became one of the leading representatives of the Origenistic theology, representing the orthodox development of that school, as distinguished from Paul of Samosata and Lucian.

The following Confession of Faith is found only in the Life of Gregory Thaumaturgus, by Gregory of Nyssa. (MSG, 46: 909 f.) Its genuineness is now generally admitted; see Hahn, op. cit., § 185. According to a legend, it was communicated to Gregory in a vision by St. John on the request of the Blessed Virgin. It represents the speculative tendency of Origenism and current theology after the rise of the Alexandrian school. It should be noted that it differs markedly from other confessions of faith in not employing biblical language.

There is one God, the Father of the living Word, His substantive Wisdom, Power, and Eternal Image, the perfect Begetter of the perfect One, the Father of the Only begotten Son.

There is one Lord, only One from only One, God from God, the image and likeness of the Godhead, the active Word, The Wisdom which comprehends the constitution of all things, and the Power which produced all creation; the true Son of the true Father, Invisible of Invisible, and Incorruptible of Incorruptible, and Immortal of Immortal, and Everlasting of Everlasting.

And there is one Holy Spirit having His existence from God, and manifested by the Son [namely, to men],74 the perfect likeness of the perfect Son, Life and Cause of the living [the sacred Fount], Sanctity, Leader of sanctification, in whom is revealed God the Father, who is over all and in all, and God the Son, who is through all; a perfect Trinity75 not divided nor differing in glory and eternity and sovereignty.

There is, therefore, nothing created or subservient in the Trinity, nor introduced as if not there before, but coming afterward; for there never was a time when the Son was lacking to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son, but the same Trinity is ever unvarying and unchangeable.

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(b) Athanasius, De Sent. Dionysii, 4, 5, 6, 13-15. (MSG, 25:484 f., 497 f.)

What has been called the "Controversy of the two Dionysii" was in reality no controversy. Dionysius of Alexandria [v. supra, § 48] wrote a letter to the Sabellians near Cyrene, pointing out the distinction of the Father and the Son. In it he used language which was, to say the least, indiscreet. Complaint was made to Dionysius, bishop of Rome, that the bishop of Alexandria did not hold the right view of the relation of the Son to the Father and of the divinity of the Son. Thereupon, Dionysius of Rome wrote to Dionysius of Alexandria. In reply, Dionysius of Alexandria pointed out at length, in a Refutation and Defence, his actual opinion on the matter as a whole, rather than as merely opposed to Modalistic Monarchianism or Sabellianism. The course of the discussion is sufficiently clear from the extracts. Athanasius is writing in answer to the Arians, who had appealed to the letter of Dionysius in support of their opinion that the Son was a creature, and that there was when He was not [v. infra, § 63]. His work, from which the following extracts are taken, was written between 350 and 354.

Ch. 4. They (the Arians) say, then, that in a letter the blessed Dionysius has said: "The Son of God is a creature and made, and not His own by nature, but in essence alien from the Father, just as the husbandman is from the vine, or the shipbuilder is from the boat; for that, being a creature, He was not before He came to be." Yes. He wrote it, and we, too, admit that such was his letter. But as he wrote this, so also he wrote very many other epistles, which ought to be read by them, so that from all and not from one merely the faith of the man might be discovered.

Ch. 5. At that time [i.e., when Dionysius wrote against the Sabellians] certain of the bishops of Pentapolis in Upper Libya were of the opinion of Sabellius. And they were so successful with their opinion that the Son of God was scarcely preached any longer in the churches. Dionysius heard of this, as he had charge of those churches (cf. Canon 6, Nic?a, 325; see below, § 72), and sent men to counsel the guilty ones to cease from their false doctrine. As they did not cease but waxed more shameless in their impiety, he was compelled to meet their shameless conduct by writing the said letter and [pg 224] to define from the Gospels the human nature of the Saviour, in order that, since those men waxed bolder in denying the Son and in ascribing His human actions to the Father, he accordingly, by demonstrating that it was not the Father but the Son that was made man for us, might persuade the ignorant persons that the Father is not the Son, and so by degrees lead them to the true godhead of the Son and the knowledge of the Father.

Ch. 6. … If in his writings he is inconsistent, let them [i.e., the Arians] not draw him to their side, for on this assumption he is not worthy of credit. But if, when he had written his letter to Ammonius, and fallen under suspicion, he made his defence, bettering what he had said previously, defending himself, but not changing, it must be evident that he wrote what fell under suspicion by way of "accommodation."

Ch. 13. The following is the occasion of his writing the other letters. When Bishop Dionysius had heard of the affairs in Pentapolis and had written in zeal for religion, as I have said, his letter to Euphranor and Ammonius against the heresy of Sabellius, some of the brethren belonging to the Church, who held a right opinion, but did not ask him so as to learn from himself what he had written, went up to Rome and spake against him in the presence of his namesake, Dionysius, bishop of Rome. And the latter, upon hearing it, wrote simultaneously against the adherents of Sabellius and against those who held the same opinions for uttering which Arius was cast out of the Church; and he called it an equal and opposite impiety to hold with Sabellius or with those who say that the Word of God is a creature, framed and originated. And he wrote also to Dionysius [i.e., of Alexandria] to inform him of what they had said about him. And the latter straightway wrote back and inscribed a book entitled A Refutation and a Defence.

Ch. 14. … In answer to these charges he writes, after certain prefatory matter in the first book of the work entitled A Refutation and a Defence, in the following terms:

[pg 225] Ch. 15. "For never was there a time when God was not a Father." And this he acknowledges in what follows, "that Christ is forever, being Word and Wisdom and Power. For it is not to be supposed that God, having at first no issue, afterward begat a Son. But the Son has his being not of Himself, but of the Father."

(c) Eusebius, Hist. Ec., VII, 27, 29, 30. (MSG, 25:705.)

The deposition of Paul of Samosata.

The controversy concerning Paul's doctrinal views is sufficiently set forth in the extract from Eusebius given below. Paul was bishop of Antioch from about 260 to 268. His works have perished, with the exception of a few fragments. The importance of Paul is that in his teaching is to be found an attempt to combine the Logos theology of Origen with Dynamistic Monarchianism, with results that appeared later in Arianism, on the one hand, and Nestorianism, it is thought, on the other.

Ch. 27. After Sixtus had presided over the church of Rome eleven years, Dionysius, namesake of him of Alexandria, succeeded him. About that time Demetrianus died in Antioch, and Paul of Samosata received that episcopate. As he held low and degraded views of Christ, contrary to the teaching of the Church, namely, that in his nature He was a common man, Dionysius of Alexandria was entreated to come to the synod. But being unable to come on account of age and physical weakness, he gave his opinion on the subject under consideration by a letter. But the other pastors of the churches assembled from all directions, as against a despoiler of the flock of Christ, all making haste to reach Antioch.

Ch. 29. During his [Aurelian's, 270-275] reign a final synod composed of a great many bishops was held, and the leader of heresy in Antioch was detected and his false doctrine clearly shown before all, and he was excommunicated from the Catholic Church under heaven. Malchion especially drew him out from his hiding-place and refuted him. He was a man learned also in other matters, and principal of the sophist school of Grecian learning in Antioch; yet on account of the superior nobility of his faith in Christ he had been made [pg 226] a presbyter of that parish [i.e., diocese]. This man, having conducted a discussion with him, which was taken down by stenographers, and which we know is still extant, was alone able to detect the man who dissembled and deceived others.

Ch. 30. The pastors who had assembled about this matter prepared by common consent an epistle addressed to Dionysius, bishop of Rome, and Maximus of Alexandria, and sent it to all the provinces.…

After other things they describe as follows the manner of life which he led: "Whereas he has departed from the rule [i.e., of faith], and has turned aside after base and spurious teachings, it is not necessary-since he is without-that we should pass judgment upon his practices: as for instance … in that he is haughty and is puffed up, and assumes worldly dignities, preferring to be called ducenarius rather than bishop; and struts in the market-places, reading letters and reciting them as he walks in public, attended by a bodyguard, with a multitude preceding and following him, so that the faith is envied and hated on account of his pride and haughtiness of heart, … or that he violently and coarsely assails in public the expounders of the Word that have departed this life, and magnifies himself, not as bishop, but as a sophist and juggler, and stops the psalms to our Lord Jesus Christ as being novelties and the productions of modern men, and trains women to sing psalms to himself in the midst of the church on the great day of the passover.… He is unwilling to acknowledge that the Son of God came down from heaven. (And this is no mere assertion, but is abundantly proved from the records which we have sent you; and not least where he says, 'Jesus Christ is from below.')… And there are the women, the 'subintroduct?,' as the people of Antioch call them, belonging to him and to the presbyters and deacons with him. Although he knows and has convicted these men, yet he connives at this and their incurable sins, in order that they may be bound to him, and [pg 227] through fear for themselves may not dare to accuse him for his wicked words and deeds.…"

As Paul had fallen from the episcopate, as well as from the orthodox faith, Domnus, as has been said, succeeded to the service of the church at Antioch [i.e., became bishop]. But as Paul refused to surrender the church building, the Emperor Aurelian was petitioned; and he decided the matter most equitably, ordering the building to be given to those to whom the bishops of Italy and of the city of Rome should adjudge it. Thus this man was driven out of the Church, with extreme disgrace, by the worldly power.

Such was Aurelian's attitude toward us at that time; but in the course of time he changed his mind in regard to us, and was moved by certain advisers to institute a persecution against us. And there was great talk about it everywhere. But as he was about to do it, and was, so to speak, in the very act of signing the decrees against us, the divine judgment came upon him and restrained him at the very verge of his undertaking.

(d) Malchion of Antioch, Disputation with Paul. (MSG, 10:247-260.)

The doctrine of Paul of Samosata.

The following fragments are from the disputation of Malchion with Paul at the Council of Antioch, 268 [see extract from Eusebius, Hist. Ec., VII, 27, 29, 30; see above (c)], which Malchion is said to have revised and published. The passages may be found also in Routh, Reliqui? Sacr?, second ed., III, 300 ff. Fragments I-III are from the work of the Emperor Justinian, Contra Monophysitas; fragment IV is from the work of Leontius of Byzantium, Adversus Nestorianos et Eutychianos.

I. The Logos became united with Him who was born of David, who is Jesus, who was begotten of the Holy Ghost. And Him the Virgin bore by the Holy Spirit; but God generated that Logos without the Virgin or any one else than God, and thus the Logos exists.

II. The Logos was greater than Christ. Christ became [pg 228] greater through Wisdom, that we might not overthrow the dignity of Wisdom.

III. In order that the Anointed, who was from David, might not be a stranger to Wisdom, and that Wisdom might not dwell so largely in another. For it was in the prophets, and more in Moses, and in many the Lord was, but more also in Christ as in a temple. For Jesus Christ was one and the Logos was another.

IV. He who appeared was not Wisdom, for He could not be found in an outward form, neither in the appearance of a man; for He is greater than all things visible.

(e) Paul of Samosata, Orationes ad Sabinum, Routh, op. cit., III, 329.

The doctrine of Paul.

Paul's work addressed to Sabinus has perished with the exception of a few fragments. See Routh, op. cit.

I. Thou shouldest not wonder that the Saviour had one will with God; for just as nature shows us a substance becoming one and the same out of many things, so the nature of love makes one and the same will out of many through a manifest preference.

II. He who was born holy and righteous, having by His struggle and sufferings overcome the sin of our progenitors, and having succeeded in all things, was united in character to God, since He had preserved one and the same effort and aim as He for the promotion of things that are good; and since He has preserved this inviolate, His name is called that above every name, the prize of love having been freely bestowed upon Him.

(f) Epiphanius, Panarion, H?r. LXV. (MSG, 42:12.)

The doctrine of Paul of Samosata.

Epiphanius was bishop of Salamis, 367-403. His works are chiefly polemical and devoted to the refutation of all heresies, of which he gives accounts at some length. He is a valuable, though not always [pg 229] reliable, source for many otherwise unknown heresies. In the present case we have passages from Paul's own writings that confirm and supplement the statements of the hereseologist.

He [Paul of Samosata] says that God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are one God, that in God is always His Word and His Spirit, as in a man's heart is his own reason; that the Son of God does not exist in a hypostasis, but in God himself.… That the Logos came and dwelt in Jesus, who was a man. And thus he says God is one, neither is the Father the Father, nor the Son the Son, nor the Holy Spirit the Holy Spirit, but rather the one God is Father and in Him is his Son, as the reason is in a man.… But he did not say with Noetus that the Father suffered, but only, said he, the Logos came and energized and went back to the Father.

(g) Methodius of Olympus, Symposium, III, 4, 8. (MSG, 18:65, 73.)

The theology of Origen was not suffered to go without being challenged by those who could not accept some of his extreme statements. Among those opposed to him were Peter, bishop of Alexandria, and Methodius, bishop of Olympus. Both were strongly influenced by Origen, but the denial of a bodily resurrection and the eternity of the creation were too offensive. The more important of the two is Methodius, who combined a strong anti-Origenistic position on these two points with that "recapitulation" theory of redemption which has been called the Asia Minor type of theology and is represented also by Iren?us; see above, § 27. He has been called the author of the "theology of the future," with reference to his relation to Athanasius, in that he laid the foundation for a doctrine of redemption which superseded that of the old Alexandrian school, and became established in the East under the lead of Athanasius and the Nicene divines generally.

Methodius was bishop of Olympus, in Lycia. The statements that he also held other sees are unreliable. He died in 311 as a martyr. Nothing else is known with certainty as to his life. Of his numerous and well-written works, only one, The Banquet, or Symposium, has been preserved entire. His work On the Resurrection is most strongly opposed to Origen and his denial of the bodily resurrection.

Ch. 4. For let us consider how rightly he [Paul] compared Adam to Christ, not only considering him to be the type and [pg 230] image, but also that Christ Himself became the very same thing, because the Eternal Word fell upon Him. For it was fitting that the first-born of God, the first shoot, the Only begotten, even the Wisdom [of God], should be joined to the first-formed man, and first and first-born of men, and should become incarnate. And this was Christ, a man filled with the pure and perfect Godhead, and God received into man. For it was most suitable that the oldest of the ?ons and the first of the archangels, when about to hold communion with men, should dwell in the oldest and first of men, even Adam. And thus, renovating those things which were from the beginning, and forming them again of the Virgin by the Spirit, He frames the same just as at the beginning.

Ch. 8. The Church could not conceive believers and give them new birth by the laver of regeneration unless Christ, emptying Himself for their sakes, that He might be contained by them, as I said, through the recapitulation of His passion, should die again, coming down from heaven, and, being "joined to His wife," the Church, should provide that a certain power be taken from His side, so that all who are built up in Him should grow up, even those who are born again by the laver, receiving of His bones and of His flesh; that is, of His holiness and of His glory. For he who says that the bones and flesh of Wisdom are understanding and virtue, says most rightly; and that the side [rib] is the Spirit of truth, the Paraclete, of whom the illuminated [i.e., baptized], receiving, are fitly born again to incorruption.

(h) Methodius of Olympus, De Resurrect., I, 13. (MSG, 18:284.)

De Resur., I, 13.76 If any one were to think that the earthly image is the flesh itself, but the heavenly image is some other spiritual body besides the flesh, let him first consider that Christ, the heavenly man, when He appeared, bore the same form of limbs and the same image of flesh as ours, through [pg 231] which, also, He, who was not man, became man, that, "as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." For if it was not that he might set the flesh free and raise it up that He bore flesh, why did He bear flesh superfluously, as He purposed neither to save it nor to raise it up? But the Son of God does nothing superfluous. He did not take, then, the form of a servant uselessly, but to raise it up and save it. For He was truly made man, and died, and not in appearance, but that He might truly be shown to be the first begotten from the dead, changing the earthly into the heavenly, and the mortal into the immortal.

§ 49. The Development of the Cultus

The Church's cultus and sacramental system developed rapidly in the third century. The beginnings of the administration of the sacraments according to prescribed forms are to be traced to the Didache and Justin Martyr (see above, §§ 13, 14). At the beginning of the third century baptism was already accompanied by a series of subsidiary rites, and the eucharist was regarded as a sacrifice, the benefit of which might be directed toward specific ends. The further development was chiefly in connection with the eucharist, which effected in turn the conception of the hierarchy (see below, § 50). Baptism was regarded as conferring complete remission of previous sins; subsequent sins were atoned for in the penitential discipline (see above, § 42). As for the eucharist, the conception of the sacrifice which appears in the Didache, an offering of praise and thanksgiving, gradually gives place to a sacrifice which in some way partakes of the nature of Christ's sacrificial death upon the cross. At the same time, the elements are more and more completely identified with the body and blood of Christ, and the nature of the presence of Christ is conceived under quasi-physical categories. As representatives of the lines of development, Tertullian, at the beginning of the century, and Cyprian, at the middle, may [pg 232] be taken. That a similar development took place in the East is evident, not only from the references to the same in the writings of Origen and others, but also from the appearance in the next century of elaborate services, or liturgies, as well as the doctrinal statements of writers generally.

(a) Tertullian, De Corona, 3. (MSL, 2:98.)

The ceremonies connected with baptism.

And how long shall we draw the saw to and fro through this line when we have an ancient practice which by anticipation has settled the state of the question? If no passage of Scripture has prescribed it, assuredly custom, which without doubt flowed from tradition, has confirmed it. For how can anything come into use if it has not first been handed down? Even in pleading tradition written authority, you say, must be demanded. Let us inquire, therefore, whether tradition, unless it be written, should not be admitted. Certainly we shall say that it ought not to be admitted if no cases of other practices which, without any written instrument, we maintain on the ground of tradition alone, and the countenance thereafter of custom, affords us any precedent. To deal with this matter briefly, I shall begin with baptism. When we are going to enter the water, but a little before, in the church and under the hand of the president, we solemnly profess that we renounce the devil, and his pomp, and his angels. Hereupon we are thrice immersed, making a somewhat ampler pledge than the Lord has appointed in the Gospel. Then, when we are taken up (as new-born children), we taste first of all a mixture of milk and honey; and from that day we refrain from the daily bath for a whole week. We take also in congregations, before daybreak, and from the hands of none but the presidents, the sacrament of the eucharist, which the Lord both commanded to be eaten at meal-times, and by all. On the anniversary day we make offerings for the dead as birthday honors. We consider fasting on the Lord's Day to be unlawful, as also to worship [pg 233] kneeling. We rejoice in the same privilege from Easter to Pentecost. We feel pained should any wine or bread, even though our own, be cast upon the ground. At every forward step and movement, at every going in and going out, when we put on our shoes, at the bath, at table, on lighting the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign [i.e., of the cross].

(b) Tertullian, De Baptismo, 5-8. (MSL, 1:1314.)

The whole passage should be read as showing clearly that Tertullian recognized the similarity between Christian baptism and heathen purifying washings, but referred the effects of the heathen rites to evil powers, quite in harmony with the Christian admission of the reality of heathen divinities as evil powers and heathen exorcisms as wrought by the aid of evil spirits.

Ch. 5. … Thus man will be restored by God to His likeness, for he formerly had been after the image of God; the image is counted being in His form [in effigie], the likeness in His eternity [in ?ternitate]. For he receives that Spirit of God which he had then received from His afflatus, but afterward lost through sin.

Ch. 6. Not that in the waters we obtain the Holy Spirit, but in the water, under (the witness of angels) we are cleansed and prepared for the Holy Spirit.…

Ch. 7. After this, when we have issued from the font, we are thoroughly anointed with a blessed unction according to the ancient discipline, wherein on entering the priesthood men were accustomed to be anointed with oil from a horn, wherefore Aaron was anointed by Moses.… Thus, too, in our case the unction runs carnally, but profits spiritually; in the same way as the act of baptism itself is carnal, in that we are plunged in the water, but the effect spiritual, in that we are freed from sins.

Ch. 8. In the next place, the hand is laid upon us, invoking and inviting the Holy Spirit through benediction.… But this, as well as the former, is derived from the old sacramental rite in which Jacob blessed his grandsons born of Joseph, [pg 234] Ephraim, and Manasses; with his hands laid on them and interchanged, and indeed so transversely slanted the one over the other that, by delineating Christ, they even portended the future benediction in Christ. [Cf. Gen. 48:13 f.]

(c) Cyprian, Ep. ad C?cilium, Ep. 63, 13-17. (MSL, 4:395.)

The eucharist.

Thascius C?cilius Cyprianus, bishop of Carthage, was born about 200, and became bishop in 248 or 249. His doctrinal position is a development of that of Tertullian, beside whom he may be placed as one of the founders of the characteristic theology of North Africa. His discussion of the place and authority of the bishop in the ecclesiastical system was of fundamental importance in the development of the theory of the hierarchy, though it may be questioned whether his particular theory of the relation of the bishops to each other ever was realized in the Church. For his course during the Decian persecution see §§ 45, 46. He died about 258, in the persecution under Valerian.

In the epistle from which the following extract is taken Cyprian writes to C?cilius to point out that it is wrong to use merely water in the eucharist, and that wine mixed with water should be used, for in all respects we do exactly what Christ did at the Last Supper when he instituted the eucharist. In the course of the letter, which is of some length, Cyprian takes occasion to set forth his conception of the eucharistic sacrifice, which is a distinct advance upon Tertullian. The date of the letter is about 253.

Ch. 13. Because Christ bore us all, in that He also bore our sins, we see that in the water is understood the people, but in the wine is showed the blood of Christ. But when in the cup the water is mingled with the wine the people is made one with Christ, and the assembly of believers is associated and conjoined with Him on whom it believes; which association and conjunction of water and wine is so mingled in the Lord's cup that that mixture cannot be separated any more. Whence, moreover, nothing can separate the Church-that is, the people established in the Church, faithfully and firmly continuing in that in which they have believed-from Christ in such a way as to prevent their undivided love from always abiding and adhering. Thus, [pg 235] therefore, in consecrating the cup water alone should not be offered to the Lord, even as wine alone should not be offered. For if wine only is offered, the blood of Christ begins to be without us.77 But if the water alone be offered, the people begin to be without Christ, but when both are mingled and are joined to each other by an intermixed union, then the spiritual and heavenly sacrament is completed. Thus the cup of the Lord is not, indeed, water alone, nor wine alone, nor unless each be mingled with the other; just as, on the other hand, the body of the Lord cannot be flour alone or water alone, nor unless both should be united and joined together and compacted into the mass of one bread: in which sacrament our people are shown to be one; so that in like manner as many grains are collected and ground and mixed together into one mass and made one bread, so in Christ, who is the heavenly bread, we may know that there is one body with which our number is joined and united.

Ch. 14. There is, then, no reason, dearest brother, for any one to think that the custom of certain persons is to be followed, who in times past have thought that water alone should be offered in the cup of the Lord. For we must inquire whom they themselves have followed. For if in the sacrifice which Christ offered none is to be followed but Christ, we ought certainly to obey and do what Christ did, and what He commanded to be done, since He himself says in the Gospel: "If ye do whatsoever I command you, henceforth I call you not servants, but friends" [John 15:14 f.].… If Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, is Himself the chief priest of God the Father, and has first offered Himself a sacrifice to the Father, and has commanded this to be done in commemoration of Himself, certainly that priest truly acts in the place of Christ who imitates what Christ did; and he then offers a true and full sacrifice in the Church of God to God the Father [pg 236] when he proceeds to offer it according to what he sees Christ himself to have offered.

Ch. 15. But the discipline of all religion and truth is overturned unless what is spiritually prescribed be faithfully observed; unless, indeed, any one should fear in the morning sacrifices lest the taste of wine should be redolent of the blood of Christ.78 Therefore, thus the brotherhood is beginning to be kept back from the passion of Christ in persecutions by learning in the offerings to be disturbed concerning His blood and His blood-shedding.… But how can we shed our blood for Christ who blush to drink the blood of Christ?

Ch. 16. Does any one perchance flatter himself with this reflection-that, although in the morning water alone is seen to be offered, yet when we come to supper we offer the mingled cup? But when we sup, we cannot call the people together for our banquet that we may celebrate the truth of the sacrament in the presence of the entire brotherhood. But still it was not in the morning, but after supper that the Lord offered the mingled cup. Ought we, then, to celebrate the Lord's cup after supper, that so by continual repetition of the Lord's Supper we may offer the mingled cup? It was necessary that Christ should offer about the evening of the day, that the very hour of sacrifice might show the setting and the evening of the world as it is written in Exodus: "And all the people of the synagogue of the children of Israel shall kill it in the evening."79 And again in the Psalms: "Let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice."80 But we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord in the morning.

Ch. 17. And because we make mention of His passion in all sacrifices (for the Lord's passion is the sacrifice which we offer), we ought to do nothing else than what He did. For the Scripture says: "For as often as ye eat this bread and [pg 237] drink this cup, ye do show forth the Lord's death till He come."81 As often, therefore, as we offer the cup in commemoration of the Lord and His passion, let us do what it is known the Lord did.

§ 50. The Episcopate in the Church

The greatest name connected with the development of the hierarchical conception of the Church in the third century is without question Cyprian (see § 49). He developed the conception of the episcopate beyond the point it had reached in the hands of Tertullian, to whom the institution was important primarily as a guardian of the deposit of faith and a pledge of the continuity of the Church. In the hands of Cyprian the episcopate became the essential foundation of the Church. According to his theory of the office, every bishop was the peer of every other bishop and had the same duties to his diocese and to the Church as a whole as every other bishop. No bishop had any more than a moral authority over any other. Only the whole body of bishops, or the council, could bring anything mo

re than moral authority to bear upon an offending prelate. The constitution of the council was not as yet defined. In several points the ecclesiastical theories of Cyprian were not followed by the Church as a whole, notably his opinion regarding heretical baptism (see § 47), but his main contention as to the importance of the episcopate for the very existence (esse), and not the mere welfare (bene esse), of the Church was universally accepted. His theory of the equality of all bishops was a survival of an earlier period, and represented little more than his personal ideal. The following sections should also be consulted in this connection.

Additional source material: Cyprian deals with the hierarchical constitution in almost every epistle; see, however, especially the following: 26:1 [33:1], 51:24 [55:24], 54:5 [59:5], 64:3 [3:3], [pg 238] 72:21 [73:21], 74:16 [75:16] (important for the testimony of Firmilian as to the hierarchical ideas in the East). Serapion's Prayer Book, trans. by J. Wordsworth, 1899.

(a) Cyprian, Epistula 68, 8 [=66]. (MSL, 4:418.)

Although a rebellious and arrogant multitude of those who will not obey depart, yet the Church does not depart from Christ; and they are the Church who are a people united to the priest, and the flock which adheres to its pastor. Whence you ought to know that the bishop is in the Church and the Church in the bishop; and that if any one be not with the bishop, he is not in the Church, and that those flatter themselves in vain who creep in, not having peace with God's priests, and think that they communicate secretly with some; while the Church, which is Catholic and one, is not cut nor divided, but is indeed connected and bound together by the cement of the priests who cohere with one another.

(b) Council of Carthage, A. D. 256. (MSL, 3:1092.)

The council of Carthage, in 256, was held, under the presidency of Cyprian, to act on the question of baptism by heretics. See § 52. Eighty-seven bishops were present. The full report of proceedings is to be found in the works of Cyprian. See ANF, V, 565, and Hefele, § 6. The theory of Cyprian which is here expressed is that all bishops are equal and independent, as opposed to the Roman position taken by Stephen, and that the individual bishop is responsible only to God.

Cyprian said: … It remains that upon this matter each of us should bring forward what he thinks, judging no man, nor rejecting from the right of communion, if he should think differently. For neither does any one of us set himself up as a bishop of bishops, nor by tyrannical terrors does any one compel his colleagues to the necessity of obedience; since every bishop, according to the allowance of his liberty and power, has his own proper right of judgment, and can no more be judged by another than he himself can judge another. But let us all wait for the judgment of our Lord Jesus Christ, [pg 239] who alone has the power of advancing us in the government of His Church, and of judging us in our conduct here.

(c) Cyprian, Epistula 67:5. (MSL, 3:1064.)

The following epistle was written to clergy and people in Spain, i.e., at Leon, Astorga, and Merida, in regard to the ordination of two bishops, Sabinus and Felix, in place of Basilides and Martial, who had lapsed in the persecution and had been deprived of their sees. The passage illustrates the methods of election and ordination of bishops, and the failure of Cyprian, with his theory of the episcopate, to recognize in the see of Rome any jurisdiction over other bishops. Its date appears to be about 257.

You must diligently observe and keep the practice delivered from divine tradition and apostolic observance, which is also maintained among us, and throughout almost all the provinces: that for the proper celebration of ordinations all the neighboring bishops of the same province should assemble with that people for which a prelate is ordained. And the bishops should be chosen in the presence of the people, who have most fully known the life of each one, and have looked into the doings of each one as respects his manner of life. And this also, we see, was done by you in the ordination of our colleague Sabinus; so that, by the suffrage of the whole brotherhood, and by the sentence of the bishops who had assembled in their presence, and who had written letters to you concerning him, the episcopate was conferred upon him, and hands were imposed on him in the place of Basilides. Neither can an ordination properly completed be annulled, so that Basilides, after his crimes had been discovered and his conscience made bare, even by his own confession, might go to Rome and deceive Stephen, our colleague, who was placed at a distance and was ignorant of what had been done, so as to bring it about that he might be replaced unjustly in the episcopate from which he had been justly deposed.

[pg 240]

§ 51. The Unity of the Church and the See of Rome

In the middle of the third century there were in sharp conflict two distinct and opposed theories of Church unity: the theory that the unity was based upon adherence to and conformity with the see of Peter; and the theory that the episcopate was itself one, and that each bishop shared equally in it. The unity was either in one see or in the less tangible unity of an order of the hierarchy. The former was the theory of the Roman bishops; the latter, the theory of Cyprian of Carthage, and possibly of a number of other ecclesiastics in North Africa and Asia Minor. Formerly polemical theology made the study of this point difficult, at least with anything like impartiality. In the passage given below from Cyprian's treatise On the Unity of the Catholic Church the text of the Jesuit Father Kirch is followed in the most difficult and interpolated chapter 4. As Father Kirch gives the text it is perfectly consistent with the theory of Cyprian as he has elsewhere stated it, and that the interpolated text is not. See, however, P. Battifol, Primitive Catholicism, Lond., 1911, Excursus E.

Additional source material: V. supra, § 27; also Mirbt, §§ 56-69. The little treatise De Aleatoribus (MSL, 4: 827), from which Mirbt gives an extract (n. 71), might be cited in this connection, but its force depends upon its origin. It is wholly uncertain that it was written either by a bishop of Rome or in Italy. Cf. Bardenhewer. Kirch also gives the text in part, n. 276; for other references, see Kirch.

(a) Cyprian, De Catholic? Ecclesi? Unitate, 4, 5. (MSL, 4:513.)

The tract entitled On the Unity of the Catholic Church is the most famous of Cyprian's works. As the theory there developed is opposed to that which became dominant, and as Cyprian was regarded as the great upholder of the Church's constitution, interpolations were early made in the text which seriously distort the sense. These interpolations are to-day abandoned by all scholars. The best critical edition of the works of Cyprian is by W. von Hartel in the CSEL, but critical texts of the following passage with references to literature and indication of interpolations may be found in Mirbt (Prot.), n. 52, and in Kirch (R. C.), n. 234 (chapter 4 only).

[pg 241] Ch. 4. The Lord speaks to Peter, saying: "I say unto thee, that thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven" (Matt. 16:18, 19). [To the same He says after His resurrection: "Feed my sheep" (John 21:15). Upon him He builds His Church, and to him He commits His sheep to be fed, and although. Interpolation.] Upon one he builds the Church, although also to all the Apostles after His resurrection He gives an equal power and says, "As the Father has sent me, I also send you: receive ye the Holy Ghost: whosesoever sins ye retain, they shall be retained" (John 20:21); yet, that He might show the unity, [He founded one see. Interpolation.] He arranged by His authority the origin of that unity as beginning from one. Assuredly the rest of the Apostles were also what Peter was, with a like partnership both of honor and power; but the beginning proceeds from unity [and the primacy is given to Peter. Interpolation.], that there might be shown to be one Church of Christ [and one see. And they are all shepherds, but the flock is shown to be one which is fed by the Apostles with unanimous consent. Interpolation.]. Which one Church the Holy Spirit also in the Song of Songs designates in the person of the Lord and says: "My dove, my spotless one, is but one. She is the only one of her mother, chosen of her that bare her" (Cant. 6:9). Does he who does not hold this unity of the Church [unity of Peter. Corrupt reading.] think that he holds the faith? Does he who strives against and resists the Church [who deserts the chair of Peter. Interpolation.] trust that he is in the Church, when, moreover, the blessed Apostle Paul teaches the same things and sets forth the sacrament of unity, saying, "There is one body and one spirit, one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God"? (Eph. 4:4.)

[pg 242] Ch. 5. And this unity we ought to hold firmly and assert, especially we bishops who preside in the Church, that we may prove the episcopate itself to be one and undivided. Let no one deceive the brotherhood by a falsehood; let no one corrupt the truth by a perfidious prevarication. The episcopate is one, each part of which is held by each one in its entirety. The Church, also, is one which is spread abroad far and wide into a multitude by an increase of fruitfulness. As there are many rays of the sun, but one light, and many branches of a tree, but one strength based upon its tenacious root, and since from one spring flow many streams, although the multiplicity seems diffused in the liberality of an overflowing abundance, yet the unity is still preserved in its source.

(b) Firmilian of C?esarea, Ep. ad Cyprianum, in Cyprian, Ep. 74 [=75]. (MSL, 3:1024.)

The matter in dispute was the rebaptism of those heretics who had received baptism before they conformed to the Church. See § 52. It was the burning question after the rise of the Novatian sect. Stephen, bishop of Rome (254-257), had excommunicated a number of churches and bishops, among them probably Cyprian himself. See the epistle of Dionysius to Sixtus of Rome, the successor of Stephen, in Eusebius, Hist. Ec., VII, 5. "He" (Stephen) therefore had written previously concerning Helenus and Firmilianus and all those in Cilicia, Cappadocia, Galatia, and the neighboring countries, saying that he would not communicate with them for this same cause: namely, that they rebaptized heretics. This attitude of Stephen roused no little resentment in the East, as is shown by the indignant tone of Firmilian, who recognizes no authority in Rome. The text may be found in Mirbt, n. 74, and in part in Kirch, n. 274. The epistle of Firmilian is to be found among the epistles of Cyprian, to whom it was written.

Ch. 2. We may in this matter give thanks to Stephen that it has now happened through his unkindness [inhumanity] that we receive proof of your faith and wisdom.

Ch. 3. But let these things which were done by Stephen be passed by for the present, lest, while we remember his audacity and pride, we bring a more lasting sadness on ourselves from the things he has wickedly done.

[pg 243] Ch. 6. That they who are at Rome do not observe those things in all cases which have been handed down from the beginning, and vainly pretend the authority of the Apostles, any one may know; also, from the fact that concerning the celebration of the day of Easter, and concerning many other sacraments of divine matters, one may see that there are some diversities among them, and that all things are not observed there alike which are observed at Jerusalem; just as in very many other provinces also many things are varied because of the difference of places and names, yet on this account there is no departure at all from the peace and unity of the Catholic Church. And this departure Stephen has now dared to make; breaking the peace against you, which his predecessors have always kept with you in mutual love and honor, even herein defaming Peter and Paul, the blessed Apostles, as if the very men delivered this who in their epistles execrated heretics and warned us to avoid them. Whence it appears that this tradition is human which maintains heretics, and asserts that they have baptism, which belongs to the Church alone.

Ch. 17. And in this respect I am justly indignant at this so open and manifest folly of Stephen, that he who so boasts of the place of his episcopate and contends that he holds the succession of Peter, on whom the foundation of the Church was laid, should introduce many other rocks and establish new buildings of many churches, maintaining that there is a baptism in them by his authority; for those who are baptized, without doubt, make up the number of the Church.… Stephen, who announces that he holds by succession the throne of Peter, is stirred with no zeal against heretics, when he concedes to them, not a moderate, but the very greatest power of grace.

Ch. 19. This, indeed, you Africans are able to say against Stephen, that when you knew the truth you forsook the error of custom. But we join custom to truth, and to the Romans' custom we oppose custom, but the custom of [pg 244] truth, holding from the beginning that which was delivered by Christ and the Apostles. Nor do we remember that this at any time began among us, since it has always been observed here, that we have known none but one Church of God, and have accounted no baptism holy except that of the holy Church.

Ch. 24. Consider with what want of judgment you dare to blame those who strive for the truth against falsehood.82 … For how many strifes and dissensions have you stirred up throughout the churches of the whole world! Moreover, how great sin have you heaped up for yourself, when you cut yourself off from so many flocks! For it is yourself that you have cut off. Do not deceive yourself, since he is really the schismatic who has made himself an apostate from the communion of ecclesiastical unity. For while you think that all may be excommunicated by you, you have alone excommunicated yourself from all; and not even the precepts of an Apostle have been able to mould you to the rule of truth and peace.83

Ch. 25. How carefully has Stephen fulfilled these salutary commands and warnings of the Apostle, keeping in the first place lowliness of mind and meekness! For what is more lowly or meek than to have disagreed with so many bishops throughout the whole world, breaking peace with each one of them in various kinds of discord: at one time with the Easterns, as we are sure is not unknown to you; at another time with you who are in the south, from whom he received bishops as messengers sufficiently patiently and meekly as not to receive them even to the speech of common conference; and, even more, so unmindful of love and charity as to command the whole brotherhood that no one should receive them into his house, so that not only peace and communion, but also a shelter and entertainment were denied to them when they came. This is to have kept the unity of the Spirit [pg 245] in the bond of peace, to cut himself off from the unity of love, and to make himself a stranger in all things to his brethren, and to rebel against the sacrament and the faith with the madness of contumacious discord.… Stephen is not ashamed to afford patronage to such a position in the Church, and for the sake of maintaining heretics to divide the brotherhood; and, in addition, to call Cyprian a false Christ, and a false Apostle, and a deceitful worker, and he, conscious that all these characters are for himself, has been in advance of you by falsely objecting to another those things which he himself ought to bear.

§ 52. Controversy over Baptism by Heretics

In the great persecutions schisms arose in connection with the administration of discipline (cf. § 46). The schismatics held in general the same faith as the main body of Christians. Were the sacraments they administered to be regarded, then, as valid in such a sense that when they conformed to the Catholic Church, which they frequently did, they need not be baptized, having once been validly baptized; or should their schismatic baptism be regarded as invalid and they be required to receive baptism on conforming if they had not previously been baptized within the Church? Was baptism outside the unity of the Church valid? Rome answered in the affirmative, admitting conforming schismatics without distinguishing as to where they had been baptized; North Africa answered in the negative and required not, indeed, a second baptism, but claimed that the Church's baptism was alone valid, and that if the person conforming had been baptized in schism he had not been baptized at all. This view was shared by at least some churches in Asia Minor (cf. § 51, b), and possibly elsewhere. It became the basis of the Donatist position (cf. § 62), which schism shared with the Novatian schism the opinion, generally rejected by the Church, that the validity of a sacrament depended upon the [pg 246] spiritual condition of the minister of the sacrament, e.g., whether he was in schism or not.

Additional source material: Seventh Council of Carthage (ANF, vol. V); Eusebius, Hist. Ec., VII, 7:4-6; Augustine, De Baptismo contra Donatistas, Bk. III (PNF, ser. I, vol. IV).

(a) Cyprian, Ep. ad Jubianum, Ep. 73, 7 [=72]. (MSL, 3:1159, 168.)

A portion of this epistle may be found in Mirbt, n. 70.

Ch. 7. It is manifest where and by whom the remission of sins can be given, i.e., that remission which is given by baptism. For first of all the Lord gave the power to Peter, upon whom He built the Church, and whence he appointed and showed the source of unity, the power, namely, that that should be loosed in heaven which he loosed on earth [John 20:21 quoted]. When we perceive that only they who are set over the Church and established in the Gospel law and in the ordinance of the Lord are allowed to baptize and to give remission of sins, we see that outside of the Church nothing can be bound or loosed, for there there is no one who can either bind or loose anything.

Ch. 21. Can the power of baptism be greater or of more avail than confession, than suffering when one confesses Christ before men, and is baptized in his own blood? And yet, even this baptism does not benefit a heretic, although he has confessed Christ and been put to death outside the Church, unless the patrons and advocates of heretics [i.e., those whom Cyprian is opposing] declare that the heretics who are slain in a false confession of Christ are martyrs, and assign to them the glory and the crown of martyrdom contrary to the testimony of the Apostle, who says that it will profit them nothing although they are burned and slain. But if not even the baptism of a public confession and blood can profit a heretic to salvation, because there is no salvation outside of the Church, how much less shall it benefit him if, in a hiding-place and a cave of robbers stained with the contagion of [pg 247] adulterous waters, he has not only not put off his old sins, but rather heaped up still newer and greater ones! Wherefore baptism cannot be common to us and to heretics, to whom neither God the Father nor Christ the Son, nor the Holy Ghost, nor the faith, nor the Church itself is common. And wherefore they ought to be baptized who come from heresy to the Church, so that they who are prepared and receive the lawful and true and only baptism of the holy Church, by divine regeneration for the kingdom of God may be born of both sacraments, because it is written: "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" [John 3:5].

Ch. 26. These things, dearest brother, we have briefly written to you according to our modest abilities, prescribing to none and prejudging none, so as to prevent any one of the bishops doing what he thinks well, and having the free exercise of his judgment.

(b) Cyprian, Ep. ad Magnum, Ep. 75 [=69]. (MSL, 3:1183.) Cf. Mirbt, n. 67.

With your usual diligence you have consulted my poor intelligence, dearest son, as to whether, among other heretics, they also who come from Novatian ought, after his profane washing, to be baptized and sanctified in the Catholic Church, with the lawful, true, and only baptism of the Church. In answer to this question, as much as the capacity of my faith and the sanctity and truth of the divine Scriptures suggest, I say that no heretics and schismatics at all have any right to power. For which reason Novatian, since he is without the Church and is acting in opposition to the peace and love of Christ, neither ought to be, nor can be, omitted from being counted among the adversaries and antichrists. For our Lord Jesus Christ, when He declared in His Gospel that those who were not with Him were His adversaries, did not point out any species of heresy, but showed that all who were not with Him, and who were not gathering with Him, were [pg 248] scattering His flock, and were His adversaries, saying: "He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me scattereth" [Luke 11:23]. Moreover, the blessed Apostle John distinguished no heresy or schism, neither did he set down any specially separated, but he called all who had gone out from the Church, and who acted in opposition to the Church, antichrists, saying, "Ye have heard that Antichrist cometh, and even now are come many antichrists; wherefore we know that this is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us, for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us" [I John 2:18 f.]. Whence it appears that all are adversaries of the Lord and are antichrists who are known to have departed from the charity and from the unity of the Catholic Church.

§ 53. The Beginnings of Monasticism

Asceticism in some form is common to almost all religions. It was practised extensively in early Christianity and ascetics of both sexes were numerous. This asceticism, in addition to a life largely devoted to prayer and fasting, was marked by refraining from marriage. But these ascetics lived in close relations with those who were non-ascetics. Monasticism is an advance upon this earlier asceticism in that it attempts to create, apart from non-ascetics, a social order composed only of ascetics in which the ascetic ideals may be more successfully realized. The transition was made by the hermit life in which the ascetic lived alone in deserts and other solitudes. This became monasticism by the union of ascetics for mutual spiritual aid. This advance is associated with St. Anthony. See also Pachomius, in § 77.

Additional source material: Pseudo-Clement. De Virginitate (ANF, VIII, 53); Methodius, Symposium (ANF, VI, 309); the Lausiac History of Palladius, E. C. Butler, Texts and Studies, Cambridge, 1898; Paradise, or Garden of the Holy Fathers, trans. by E. A. W. Budge, London, 1907.

Athanasius, Vita S. Antonii, 2-4, 44. (MSG, 26:844, 908.)

[pg 249] Anthony, although not the first hermit, gave such an impetus to the ascetic life and did so much to bring about some union of ascetics that he has been popularly regarded as the founder of monasticism. He died 356, at the age of one hundred and five. His Life, by St. Athanasius, although formerly attacked, is a genuine, and, on the whole, trustworthy account of this remarkable man. It was written either 357 or 365, and was translated into Latin by Evagrius of Antioch (died 393). Everywhere it roused the greatest enthusiasm for monasticism. The Life of St. Paul of Thebes, by St. Jerome, is of very different character, and of no historical value.

Ch. 2. After the death of his parents, Anthony was left alone with one little sister. He was about eighteen or twenty years old, and on him rested the care of both the home and his sister. Now it happened not six months after the death of his parents, and when he was going, according to custom, into the Lord's house, and was communing with himself, that he reflected as he walked how the Apostles left all and followed the Saviour, and how, in the Acts, men sold their possessions and brought and laid them at the Apostles' feet for distribution to the needy, and what and how great a hope was laid up for them in heaven. While he was reflecting on these things he entered the church, and it happened that at that time the Gospel was being read, and he heard the Lord say to the rich man: "If thou wouldest be perfect, go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor; and come and follow me and thou shalt have treasure in heaven." Anthony, as though God had put him in mind of the saints and the passage had been read on his account, went out straightway from the Lord's house, and gave the possessions which he had from his forefathers to the villagers-they were three hundred acres, productive and very fair-that they should be no more a clog upon himself and his sister. And all the rest that was movable he sold, and, having got together much money, he gave it to the poor, reserving a little, however, for his sister's sake.

Ch. 3. And again as he went into the Lord's house, and hearing the Lord say in the Gospel, "Be not anxious for the [pg 250] morrow," he could stay no longer, but went and gave also those things to the poor. He then committed his sister to known and faithful virgins, putting her in a convent [parthenon], to be brought up, and henceforth he devoted himself outside his house to ascetic discipline, taking heed to himself and training himself patiently. For there were not yet many monasteries in Egypt, and no monk at all knew of the distant desert; but every one of those who wished to give heed to themselves practised the ascetic discipline in solitude near his own village. Now there was in the next village an old man who had lived from his youth the life of a hermit. Anthony, after he had seen this man, imitated him in piety. And at first he began to abide in places outside the village. Then, if he heard of any good man anywhere, like the prudent bee, he went forth and sought him, nor did he turn back to his own place until he had seen him; and he returned, having got from the good man supplies, as it were, for his journey in the way of virtue. So dwelling there at first, he steadfastly held to his purpose not to return to the abode of his parents or to the remembrance of his kinsfolk; but to keep all his desire and energy for the perfecting of his discipline. He worked, however, with his hands, having heard that "he who is idle, let him not eat," and part he spent on bread and part he gave to the needy. And he prayed constantly, because he had learned that a man ought to pray in secret unceasingly. For he had given such heed to what was read that none of those things that were written fell from him to the ground; for he remembered all, and afterward his memory served him for books.

Ch. 4. Thus conducting himself, Anthony was beloved by all. He subjected himself in sincerity to the good men he visited, and learned thoroughly wherein each surpassed him in zeal and discipline. He observed the graciousness of one, the unceasing prayer of another; he took knowledge of one's freedom from anger, and another's kindliness; he gave heed to one as he watched, to another as he studied; one he admired [pg 251] for his endurance, another for his fasting and sleeping on the ground; he watched the meekness of one, and the long-suffering of another; and at the same time he noted the piety toward Christ and the mutual love which animated all.

Athanasius describes Anthony's removal to the desert and the coming of disciples to him, and weaves into his narrative, in the form of a speech, a long account of the discipline laid down, probably by Anthony himself, chs. 16-43. It is to this long speech that the opening words of the following section refers.

Ch. 44. While Anthony was thus speaking all rejoiced; in some the love of virtue increased, in others carelessness was thrown aside, the self-conceit of others was stopped; and all were persuaded to despise the assaults of the Evil One, and marvelled at the grace given Anthony from the Lord for the discerning of spirits. So their cells were in the mountains, like tabernacles filled with holy bands of men who sang psalms, loved reading, fasted, prayed, rejoiced in the hope of things to come, labored in almsgiving, and maintained love and harmony with one another. And truly it was possible to behold a land, as it were, set by itself, filled with piety and justice. For then there was neither the evil-doer nor the injured, nor the reproaches of the tax-gatherer; but instead a multitude of ascetics, and the one purpose of all was to aim at virtue. So that one beholding the cells again and seeing such good order among the monks would lift up his voice and say: "How goodly are thy dwellings, O Jacob, and thy tents, O Israel; as shady glens and as a garden by a river; as tents which the Lord has pitched, and like cedars near the waters" [Num. 24:5, 6].

Ch. 45. Anthony, however, returned, according to his custom, alone to his cell, increased his discipline, and sighed daily as he thought of the mansions of heaven, having his desire fixed on them and pondering over the shortness of man's life.

[pg 252]

§ 54. Manich?anism

The last great rival religion to Christianity was Manich?anism, the last of the important syncretistic religions which drew from Persian and allied sources. Its connection with Christianity was at first slight and its affinities were with Eastern Gnosticism. After 280 it began to spread within the Empire, and was soon opposed by the Roman authorities. Yet it flourished, and, like other Gnostic religions, with which it is to be classed, it assimilated more and more of Christianity, until in the time of Augustine it seemed to many as merely a form of Christianity. On account of its general character, it absorbed for the most part what remained of the earlier Gnostic systems and schools.

Additional source material: The most important accessible works are the so-called Acta Archelai (ANF, V, 175-235), the anti-Manich?an writings of Augustine (PNF, ser. I, vol. IV), and Alexander of Lycopolis, On the Manich?ans (ANF, VI, 239). On Alexander of Lycopolis, see DCB. In the opinion of Bardenhewer, Alexander was probably neither a bishop nor a Christian at all, but a heathen and a Platonist. Roman edict against Manich?anism in Kirch, n. 294.

An Nadim, Fihrist. (Translation after Kessler, Mani, 1889.)

The Fihrist, i.e., Catalogue, is a sort of history of literature made in the eleventh century by the Moslem historian An Nadim. In spite of its late date, it is the most important authority for the original doctrines of Mani and the facts of his life, as it is largely made up from citations from ancient authors and writings of Mani and his original disciples.

(a) The Life of Mani.

Mohammed ibn Isak says: Mani was the son of Fatak,84 of the family of the Chaskanier. Ecbatana is said to have been the original home of his father, from which he emigrated to the province of Babylon. He took up his residence in Al Madain, in a portion of the city known as Ctesiphon. In that place was an idol's temple, and Fatak was accustomed to go into it, as did also the other people of the place. It happened one [pg 253] day that a voice sounded forth from the sacred interior of the temple, saying to him: "Fatak, eat no flesh, drink no wine and refrain from carnal intercourse." This was repeated to him several times on three days. When Fatak perceived this, he joined a society of people in the neighborhood of Dastumaisan which were known under the name of Al-Mogtasilah, i.e., those who wash themselves, baptists, and of whom remnants are to be found in these parts and in the marshy districts at the present time. These belonged to that mode of life which Fatak had been commanded to follow. His wife was at that time pregnant with Mani, and when she had given him birth she had, as they say, glorious visions regarding him, and even when she was awake she saw him taken by some one unseen, who bore him aloft into the air, and then brought him down again; sometimes he remained even a day or two before he came down again. Thereupon his father sent for him and had him brought to the place where he was, and so he was brought up with him in his religion. Mani, in spite of his youthful age, spake words of wisdom. After he had completed his twelfth year there came to him, according to his statement, a revelation from the King of the Paradise of Light, who is God the Exalted, as he said. The angel which brought him the revelation was called Eltawan; this name means "the Companion." He spoke to Mani, and said: "Separate thyself from this sort of faith, for thou belongest not among its adherents, and it is obligatory upon you to practise continence and to forsake the fleshly desires, yet on account of thy youth the time has not come for thee to take up thy public work." But when he was twenty-four years old, Eltawan appeared to him and said: "Hail, Mani, from me and from the Lord who has sent me to thee and has chosen thee to be his prophet. He commands thee now to proclaim thy truth and on my announcement to proclaim the truth which is from him and to throw thyself into this calling with all thy zeal."

The Manich?ans say: He first openly entered upon his [pg 254] work on the day when Sapor, the son of Ardaschir, entered upon his reign, and placed the crown upon his head; and this was Sunday, the first day of Nisan (March 20, 241), when the sun stood in the sign Aries. He was accompanied by two men, who had already attached themselves to his religion; one was called Simeon, the other Zakwa; besides these, his father accompanied him, to see how his affairs would turn out.

Mani said he was the Paraclete, whom Jesus, of blessed memory,85 had previously announced. Mani took the elements of his doctrine from the religion of the Magi and Christianity.… Before he met Sapor Mani had spent about forty years in foreign lands.86 Afterward he converted Peroz, the brother of Sapor, and Peroz procured him an audience with his brother Sapor. The Manich?ans relate: He thereupon entered where he was and on his shoulders were shining, as it were, two candles. When Sapor perceived him, he was filled with reverence for him, and he appeared great in his eyes; although he previously had determined to seize him and put him to death. After he had met him, therefore, the fear of him filled him, he rejoiced over him and asked him why he had come and promised to become his disciple. Mani requested of him a number of things, among them that his followers might be unmolested in the capital and in the other territories of the Persian Empire, and that they might extend themselves whither they wished in the provinces. Sapor granted him all he asked.

Mani had already preached in India, China, and among the inhabitants of Turkestan, and in every land he left behind him disciples.87

[pg 255]

(b) The Teaching of Mani.

The following extract from the same work gives but the beginning of an extended statement of Mani's teaching. But it is hoped that enough is given to show the mythological character of his speculation. The bulk of his doctrine was Persian and late Babylonian, and the Christian element was very slight. It is clear from the writings of St. Augustine that the doctrine changed much in later years in the West.

The doctrine of Mani, especially his dogmas of the Eternal, to whom be praise and glory, of the creation of the world and the contest between Light and Darkness: Mani put at the beginning of the world two eternal principles. Of these one is Light, the other Darkness. They are separated from each other. As to the Light, this is the First, the Mighty One, and the Infinite. He is the Deity, the King of the Paradise of Light. He has five members or attributes, namely, gentleness, wisdom, understanding, discretion, and insight; and further five members or attributes, namely, love, faith, truth, bravery, and wisdom. He asserts that God was from all eternity with these attributes. Together with the Light-God there are two other things from eternity, the air and the earth.

Mani teaches further: The members of the air, or the Light-Ether, are five: gentleness, wisdom, understanding, discretion, and insight. The members of the Light-Earth are the soft gentle breath, the wind, the light, the water, and the fire. As to the other Original Being, the Darkness, its members are also five: the vapor, the burning heat, the fiery wind, the poison, and the darkness.

This bright shining Primal Being was in immediate proximity with the dark Primal Being, so that no wall of partition was between them and the Light touched the Darkness on its broad side. The Light is unlimited in its height, and also to the right hand and to the left; the Darkness, however, is unlimited in its depth, and also to the right hand and to the left.

From this Dark-Earth rose Satan, not so that he himself was without beginning, although his parts were in their elements [pg 256] without beginning. These parts joined themselves together from the elements and formed themselves into Satan. His head was like that of a lion, his trunk like that of a dragon, his wings as those of a bird, his tail like that of a great fish, and his four feet like the feet of creeping things. When this Satan had been formed from the Darkness-his name is the First Devil-then he began to devour and to swallow up and to ruin, to move about to the right and to the left, and to get down into the deep, so that he continually brought ruin and destruction to every one who attempted to overmaster him. Next he hastened up on high and perceived the rays of light, but felt an aversion to them. Then when he saw how these rays by reciprocal influence and contact were increased in brilliancy, he became afraid and crept together into himself, member by member, and withdrew for union and strengthening back to his original constituent parts. Now once more he hastened back into the height, and the Light-Earth noticed the action of Satan and his purpose to seize and to attack and to destroy. But when she perceived this thereupon the world ?on of Insight perceived it, then the ?on of Wisdom, the ?on of Discretion, the ?on of the Understanding, and then the ?on of Gentleness. Thereupon the King of the Paradise of Light perceived it and reflected on means to gain the mastery over him. His armies were indeed mighty enough to overcome him; he had the wish, however, to accomplish this himself. Therefore he begat with the spirit of his right hand, with the five ?ons, and with his twelve elements a creature, and that was the Primal Man, and him he sent to the conquest of Darkness.88

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