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Baus, Karl. From the Apostolic Community to Constantine // History of the Church. Ed.H.Jedin, J.Dolan. Vol. I.


PART TWO The Great Church of Early Christian Times

(c.A.D. 180-324)


THE transition to the third century introduces the period of the early Christian Church in which it finally became the "great Church" through a combination of external expansion and inner development. In a space of some one hundred and thirty years an interior stability was attained in organization, ritual, day-to-day parish life and clarity of aim in theological studies. Upon attainment of external freedom, it was immediately possible for the Church to assume the tasks inherent in the promising new situation.

In the first place the decisive missionary advance within the Roman Empire was successfully continued through the third century. This gave both previously existing and new communities of Christians a numerical strength which provided a large degree of immunity to deliberate attack. The organization necessary to cope with this growth was supplied by the formation of larger associations of churches. These developed around certain centres: Antioch in Syria, Alexandria in Egypt, Ephesus in Asia Minor, Caesaria in Pontus, Carthage in North Africa, and Rome, which served the rest of the Latin West. Rome, under such bishops as Callistus, Stephen, and Dionysius, developed a remarkable initiative in the domain of dogmatic teaching, revealing an increasingly distinct awareness of a duty, and a corresponding claim, to leadership within the one great Church.

Everywhere within the Church new forms in liturgy and parish life were created and testify to an intense determination to lead the Christian life. Systematic organization of the catechumenate shows a clear pastoral awareness of the importance of serious introduction to the sacramental world of Christianity. The differentiation of the lower grades of the sacramental order illustrates the clergy's ability to adapt itself to growing pastoral demands. The shock resulting from the large number of Christian defections during the Decian persecution led to thorough reflection, and the regulation of the practice of penance. The rise of the order of ascetics and of the early eremitical movement demonstrated a serious striving after Christian perfection, and laid the foundations for the full growth of monasticism in the fourth century. Various ecclesiastical ordinances served to stabilize liturgical forms in the life of the parish communities; and, in addition, there were at least the beginnings of the separate rites and liturgies which were to characterize the greater groupings within the Church. Christianart developed, and testifies to the growing sureness and confidence of Christian feeling and attitude towards life.

The most enduring effect resulted from the further elaboration of Christian theology in the third century. This development received new impulses from pagan opponents and writers, and from controversies within the Church. The encounter with Middle Platonism proved especially valuable, for it contributed to the rise of the theological school of Alexandria, which had Origen as its outstanding creative figure. Through the work of scholars from Alexandria and Antioch the central position of the Bible in the work of theology was recognized, and great commentaries expounded its significance for faith and religious life. The Trinitarian question formed the centre of an important theological discussion. The monarchical attempt at a solution to this problem was rejected, but a subordinationism was advanced which held the seeds of the fourth century's great dogmatic controversy.

The Inner Consolidation of the Church in the Third Century


The Attack of the Pagan State on the Church The Persecutions under Septimius Severus

WITH the accession of the Syrian dynasty's founder Septimius Severus (193-211), a tranquil phase of potential development, both internally and externally, seemed to begin for Christianity. This emperor soon publicly demonstrated his goodwill towards individual Christians. His contemporary, and fellow-African, Tertullian gives definite and impressive proofs of this attitude. Christians held influential positions at court, as they had under Commodus. For example, Proculus, who had once succeeded in curing the emperor of an illness, lived until the end of his life in the imperial palace; and Prince Caracalla's nurse was a Christian woman. Men and women of Roman senatorial families, whose adherence to the Christian faith was known to the emperor, were openly protected against the mob, while he vouched for their loyalty. It is possible that the emperor's tolerance was encouraged by the Syrian princesses who accompanied his wife Julia Domna to court, for they looked sympathetically on all religious trends, especially those of oriental origin. It is a further indication of the freedom of Christianity in the first years of his reign that, about the year 196, the bishops were able to meet in synods at which the date of Easter was discussed. It is true that proceedings against individual Christians were not unknown, for the legal situation created by the rescript of Trajan was still unaltered. Tertul- lian's Liber apologeticus (c. 197) was provoked by the occurrence of such cases. It was not until the tenth year of his reign that Septimius's attitude altered drastically and created a completely new situation for Christianity.

In the year 202 an imperial edict was issued forbidding conversion to Judaism or Christianity under pain of heavy penalties. In practice this meant the abandonment of Trajan's principle conquirendi non sunt (they are not to be searched out), for the new ordinance could only be implemented by police supervision of the Church's activities. It was not only the individual Christian who was at the mercy of a denunciation; the Church as an organization was affected. Every activity which aimed at winning new members could be punished; therefore all missionary work would be made impossible and Christianity would slowly die out within the empire. This change in the emperor's attitude is intelligible only if we believe that he had come to recognize that Christians had not attained new religious convictions merely as isolated individuals. He must have realized that their faith bound them together in a universal organized community of belief possessing a strong cohesive power of resistance. For practical reasons of State this development may have seemed undesirable to him, so he hoped to avert it by cutting the Church's artery and making her further growth impossible. The voices of a few Christians who refused military service may have strengthened Septimius in the conviction that the Christian religion was just as dangerous to the maintenance of the order of the State as was the radical opposition of the Montanists to everything connected with it. It was this anxiety which was expressed by Dio Cassius, when he made Maecenas warn Augustus to abhor and punish those who wished to introduce foreign customs into the native Roman religion. They could only give rise to conspiracies and revolutionary machinations against the monarchy, counselled Maecenas, and for the same reason no atheism or black magic should be tolerated. The immediate consequences of the imperial edict showed its purpose even more clearly. In Alexandria and Carthage two places within the empire possessing large Christian communities, the persecution now affected catechumens and newly baptized persons, for they particularly transgressed the new edict. The Christian school of Alexandria, which had led many a pagan religious inquirer to the new faith, was now subjected to such supervision that its teachers were compelled to leave the town in A.D. 202. Six pupils of Origen, who was working at that time as a Christian teacher, were executed. Two of them were still catechumens, and another had only just been baptized.® At the beginning of the year 203, a group of catechumens were arrested, and their heroic bearing at their execution forms the theme of one of the most precious accounts of a martyrdom surviving from the third century. The noble Perpetua and her


slave Felicitas, together with her teacher Saturus and fellow catechumens Revocatus, Saturninus and Secundulus, were never forgotten in the African Church. The account of their act of testimony to the faith, which may well have been composed by Tertullian, was read and re-read during divine service down to the days of Augustine.8

Proceedings against Christians as individuals were also continued. In one instance three Christians of Carthage were condemned to death at the stake; another died in prison.® Augustine himself was acquainted with the record of a woman martyr of Carthage, Gudentis, beheaded in 203.10 From occasional references by Tertullian we can infer that the anti-Christian attitude of various individual Roman officials or the hostility of the pagan populace prompted renewed recourse to the rescript of Trajan. Tertullian's early work To the Martyrs (A.D. 197)11 was addressed to Christians in prison awaiting trial. His later work concerning flight in time of persecution, indicates that under Septimius Severus many African Christians including clerics, escaped arrest through timely flight, or obtained their safety by bribing the police. One such persecution, which took place in Egypt in 202, is expressly attributed by Eusebius to the edict of Septimius against the catechumens. The prefects Laetus and Aquila secured the arrest of Christians from as far away as the Thebaid and had them brought to Alexandria, where they were executed, in many instances after repeated torture.12 The most outstanding figures among these were Origen's father Leonides, the virgin Potamiaina (who was later held in high honour), her mother Marcella, and the soldier Basilides, who had been prompted by the example of Potamiaina to adopt the Christian faith.13 One Christian writer was so impressed by the harshness of this wave of persecution that he saw in it the coming approach of Antichrist.14 For other provinces of the empire the available sources are scanty. In Cappadocia the governor Claudius Herminianus persecuted the Christians because he could not forgive the conversion of his wife to the new faith.15 It is possible that Alexander, later Bishop of Jerusalem, confessed the faith at this time with other Christians of Cappadocia, just as Bishop Asclepiades of Antioch stood firm under persecution.10 No reliable information is available on the course of the persecutions in Rome. They either abruptly ceased or died away gradually in the last years of Septimius's reign.

8 Cf. J. Moreau, La persecution du christianisme (Paris 1956), 82. 8 Passio ss. Perpetuae et Felicitatis 11, 9.

10 Augustine, Sermon 294: "in natale martyris Gudentis"; see also 284 and 394.
12 New critical edition by A. Quacquarelli (Rome 1963).
14 Euseb. HE 6, 1; 6, 2, 2. 15 Ibid. 6, 5, 1-7.
14 Ibid. 6, 7.
16 Tertullian, Ad Scap. 3.
'« Euseb. HE 6, 8, 7; 6, 11, 4-5.

Certainly Caracalla (211-17) inaugurated a period of religious toleration which was of considerable advantage to Christianity, as was recognized by the early Christian writers themselves. It has indeed been thought that an anti-Christian motive lay behind the so-called Constitutio Antoniniana (by which Caracalla in 212 granted Roman citizenship to all free men in the empire), because it made it easier to bring a charge of laesa maiestas. But this contention is refuted both by the unrestricted praise that Augustine accords this act17 and by Caracalla's whole attitude to Christians whom he knew personally. We find them once again in influential positions at court: the freedman Prosenes was private chamberlain under Caracalla,18 and when, on the emperor's accession to the throne, an amnesty was granted to deportees, Christians were not excepted from it. The proceedings of the proconsul Scapula (211-12) against the Church in the three North African provinces are, therefore, not to be ascribed to an order of Caracalla, but were rather provoked by rigorist tendencies among African Christians. Tertullian was their constant spokesman, advocating rigid principle in such works as On the Soldier's Crown, a rejection of military service for Christians.10 Scapula may have been led to take the steps he did by the jurist Ulpian's publication of the various existing imperial rescripts concerning Christians, in his De officio proconsulis.2" Tertullian leaves no doubt that the methods of execution employed were particularly cruel, though he names only one of the victims: the Christian Mavilus from Hadrumet, who was thrown to the wild beasts.21

The short reign of Heliogabalus (218-22)22 records no event by which his attitude to Christianity can be judged, unless it be his plan to make the cult of the sun-god of Emesa obligatory in the empire. This favourable situation for Christianity improved still further under his successor, Severus Alexander (222-35). The intellectual and religious atmosphere of the court was determined by the emperor's gifted mother, Julia Mamaea. She may be judged to have had definite leanings towards Christianity; a hagio- grapher of the fifth century actually considered her a Christian. During a stay in Antioch she sent for Origen requesting his presence to discuss religious questions;23 and Hippolytus of Rome dedicated one of his treatises to her.24 Her tolerance is reflected in the attitude of the young emperor,

" Augustine, De civitate dei, 5, 17.

18 Cf. L. Hertling-E. Kirschbaum, Die romischen Katakomben und ihre Martyrer (Vienna, 2nd ed. 1955), 213. M De cor. passim; De idol. 17.

10 Lactantius, De inst. div. 5, 11, 18.
12 Cf. Ad. Scap. as a whole; and on Mavilus, ibid. c. 3. 22 K. Gross, "Elagabal" in RAC IV, 998 ff.
13 Euseb. HE 6, 21, 3-4. " Quasten P, II, 197.

who accepted numerous Christians among his closer associates and entrusted the building of the library near the Pantheon to the Christian Julius Africanus.23 His policy of religious toleration is accurately characterized by a phrase of his biographer in the Historia Augusta, which states that he left the Jews their privileges and allowed the Christians to exist. This latter assertion is borne out by the unhampered development of Christian life in the East. Christian inscriptions of this period are found in great numbers in Asia Minor, and it was possible to erect a Christian place of worship in Dura-Europos before 234. In the West Christian burial was now organized quite freely at Rome. It is characteristic that no legal proceedings against a Christian and no Christian martyrdom can with certainty be assigned to Alexander's time.

A reaction did not occur until the reign of the former guards officer Maximinus (235-8). The change of policy first affected the numerous Christians at court; but, as Eubesius emphasizes, it was directed principally against the Church's leaders. To that extent it introduced a new note into the anti-Christian actions of an emperor. Had this reign lasted longer, it could have been of grave consequence for the Church. In Rome itself, it can be established that the two Christian leaders there, namely Bishop Pontianus and the priest Hippolytus, were deported to Sardinia, where both died. Origen reports the danger to some Christians; it was at this time that he dedicated his Exhortation to Martyrdom to his friend Ambrose and the priest Protoctetus. A typical reaction of the pagan masses produced an attack on the Christians in Cappadocia following an earthquake, for which they regarded the Christians as responsible.

The struggle for power by the soldier emperors who followed left them no leisure to occupy themselves with the question of the Christians. But in Philippus Arabs (244-9) a ruler came to power who showed such sympathy for the Christians that a complete reconciliation seemed possible between Christianity and the government of the Roman State. Indeed Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria tells us that about twelve years after Philippus' death many people were saying that the emperor had been in fact a Christian; Eusebius mentions the claim as merely talk. On the basis of another unconfirmed rumour that the emperor once joined the crowd of penitents in a Christian congregation before Easter, hagiography wove the assertion that Philippus was the first Roman emperor to have accepted Christianity. But on 21 April 248 the emperor still took an active part in a celebration of the official worship on the thousandth anniversary of the foundation of Rome. And the idea that he was secretly a Christian, but publicly an adherent of the State religion, is not in accord with the attitude of the men of antiquity, to whom a sophistical distinction of that sort was alien. Nevertheless, the rumours indubitably had their root in the high degree of goodwill towards Christianity exhibited by Philippus' government. The consul in office in the year 249 was certainly a Christian.38 And the emperor's personal inclination and that of his wife Severa are mirrored in the correspondence between the imperial pair and Origen, which Eusebius had, at least in part, available to him. But not even so much sympathy could protect the Christians of Alexandria from an outburst of popular rage in the year 249. A refusal to revile their religion cost many of them their lives.

A retrospective survey of the relations between the Roman State and Christianity in the first half of the third century makes it clear that the phases of really peaceful co-existence, and sometimes of positive toleration, predominate over the waves of harsh persecution. Only twice can the features of a systematic policy against Christianity be observed: first when Septimius Severus made adherence to Christianity an indictable offence; and secondly when Maximinus Thrax took action against the leaders of the Christian communities. For the rest, the haphazard, unsystematic proceedings against individual Christians reveal the vacillating religious policy of the holders of power in the State and of their subordinate authorities in the provinces. The unsettled course adopted by these officials was partly a result of the political decline of the empire under the soldier emperors. At the beginning of the second half of the century the possibility of a definitive reconciliation between State and Church which had emerged under Philippus Arabs, was brusquely reduced to a Utopian dream. The emperor Decius came to power and determined to re-establish the old brilliant reputation of the Roman State by restoring its ancient religion.

The Persecution under Decius

The first measures of the new emperor might appear as a typical or common reaction against the rule of a predecessor. Christians were arrested as early as December 249, and in January 250 the head of the Roman community,

Bishop Fabian, was put to death. A general edict in 250, however, soon proved that Decius was pursuing aims concerning the Christians which far exceeded those of his predecessors. The text of his edict has not been preserved, but its contents can be largely reconstructed from contemporary sources. All the inhabitants of the empire were summoned to take part in a general sacrifice to the gods, a supplicatio. This appeared to be a summons to the people for the purpose of invoking the protection of the gods. They were to entreat for the well-being of the empire by an impressive and unanimous demonstration. But it was significant that, at the same time, exact supervision of the edict's implementation was ordered throughout the empire. Commissions were set up to see that the sacrifice was performed, and to issue everyone with a certificate, or libellus. Before a certain date the libelli were to be exhibited to the authorities; and anyone refusing to sacrifice was thrown into prison, where attempts were often made to break his resistance by torture. Although the decree did not explicitly condemn the Christians, their leading representatives and writers rightly considered it to be the most serious attack that their Church had yet sustained. It is impossible to state with precision what motive exercised greater influence upon the emperor: the opportunity to determine the exact number of adherents to Christianity, or the expectation of a mass return to the old State religion. The undoubted initial success of the measures favours the latter motive. The bitter laments of the bishops Dionysius of Alexandria and Cyprian of Carthage leave no doubt that the number of those who in one way or another met the demand of the edict especially in Egypt and North Africa, far exceeded the number of those who refused it. What Origen had recently remarked was verified to a terrifying extent: the heroic days of his youth were past. That former spirit had yielded to the laxity and barrenness of the present. Some of the Christians of Alexandria appeared before the commission trembling with fear, and performed the sacrificial rite as required; others denied that they had ever been Christians, and still others fled. Many offered sacrifice when on the point of arrest; others endured a few days in prison refusing to sacrifice until they were due to appear in court; and some submitted only after torture. In North Africa many Christians thought they could avoid a decision by not actually offering sacrifice. They secured for themselves from a member of the verification commission, through bribery or other means, a certificate of having done so. These were the so-called libellatici, whose fault was not considered as grave as that of the thurificati who offered incense or of the sacrificati who offered a full sacrifice before the image of the gods.39 In Rome, some Christians resorted to the device of having their libelli taken and attested by intermediaries.40 The large number of the lapsi in North Africa is proved by Cyprian's statement that, when the danger slackened, they flocked to those who had confessed the faith, in order to obtain "letters of peace" from them and facilitate their readmission into the Christian community.41 The Bishop of Carthage felt it particularly disturbing that two of his own fellow- bishops in North Africa were among those who fell away. One of them had even persuaded the majority of his flock to offer sacrifice, and the other subsequently wished to remain in office without making atonement. He had also to number two Spanish bishops among the libellatici .4i In the East, the martyr Pionius saw his own bishop zealously arranging the precise accomplishment of the ritual of sacrifice.43

In contrast to these, however, there was in every province of the empire an elite ready to answer for their belief with their lives. Here, too, Cyprian's letters provide the most informative account of the situation in North Africa. He had sought out a place of refuge in the neighbourhood of Carthage, but was able to keep in touch with his flock by correspondence and convey words of encouragement and consolation to the Christians who were already under arrest. Those in prison, including many women and children, showed an intense and genuine longing for martyrdom that was not always fulfilled, for many were released even before the end of the persecution. Cyprian deplored the pride and moral lapses by which some of these latter detracted from the worth of their true confession of faith, but he was able to enroll others among his clergy, so exemplary was their behaviour. Cyprian does not give exact figures regarding those who offered the sacrifices, and names only a few of the confessores.44 Naturally, the number of those put to death, the martyres coronati or consummati, was smaller by comparison. Cyprian mentions two by name, but presupposes a larger number. The confessor Lucianus once mentions sixteen by name, most of whom were left to die of hunger in prison.45 In Rome, too, Christians were released from gaol after resolutely confessing their faith, among them a certain Celerinus whose brave bearing so impressed the emperor Decius that he gave him his freedom; Cyprian later ordained him lector.46 The case of the two Spanish bishops mentioned above reveals that the commission

59 Cyprian, De laps, passim, and Ep. 55, 2.

40 Ibid. Ep. 30, 3.
42 Ep. 20, 2.
44 Ep. 65, 1; 59, 10; 67,6.

43 Mart. Pionii 15, 2; 16, 1; 18, 12.
45 Cyprian, Ep. 6, 10, 13, 38, 40.
47 Ep. 10 and 22. 48 Ep. 37 and 39.

was effective in Spain, but we have no certain information about Gaul. For Egypt, Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria mentions the kind of death suffered by fourteen martyrs: ten of them died at the stake and four by the sword. But he knew of numerous other martyrs in the towns and villages of that country, just as he knew that many Christians died of hunger and cold while fleeing from persecution. Finally, he mentions also a group of five Christian soldiers who voluntarily confessed their faith when they encouraged a waverer to stand fast; because of their outspoken courage the court left them unmolested. In neighbouring Palestine Bishop Alexander of Jerusalem died a martyr's death at that time, as did Bishop Babylas, the leader of the Antioch community. The aged Origen's longing for martyrdom was at least partly satisfied in Caesaria where he was subjected to cruel torture. The fundamentally trustworthy account of the five Christians of Smyrna who were imprisoned, and of whom Pionius was burnt to death, is the only echo of the effects of the Decian persecution in Asia proconsularis. Gregory of Nyssa provides late and vague reports about events in Pontus: he tells us that numerous Christians were arrested under Decius, while their bishop, Gregory Thaumaturgus, fled with many others. A host of further accounts of early Christian martyrs places the death of their heroes in Decius's reign. As sources they are worthless, for the cult of these alleged martyrs cannot in any way be substantiated and perhaps their martyrdom was attributed to Decius's persecution only because he had acquired the reputation in later times of being one of the cruellest persecutors of the Christians.

The rapid cessation of the Decian persecution is in a sense surprising. One would have expected that the considerable initial success attained by such shock tactics would have been exploited and deepened by further systematic measures. The impression gained is that the administrative apparatus was overtaxed by so extensive an undertaking. The departure of the emperor for the Danubian provinces, occasioned by a new invasion of the Goths, halted it completely; and his death on the battle-field prevented its rapid resumption. From the point of view of Roman government, no tangible and lasting success was gained by this calculated and systematic attack on the Catholic Church. The great mass of those who had fallen away soon clamoured to be received into the Church again, while many libellatici atoned for their fault by a new confession of faith shortly after their lapse. The number of former Christians won over to the State religion does not


seem to have been particularly high. The Christian community, for its part, recognized that much within it was decayed and ready to crumble. Conscious leaders of communities, like Cyprian, were spurred by this condition to serious reflection, which after long controversies about the question of penance, was to lead to a regeneration of the Church.

Valerian and Gallienus

The ensuing seven years of tranquillity for the Church (250-7) were disturbed only by a short wave of persecution in Rome. The emperor Trebonius Gallus had Cornelius, the head of the Christian community in Rome, arrested and exiled to Centum Cellae (Civita Vecchia), where he died in 253. The latter's successor, Lucius (253—4),63 was likewise banished, but the death of the emperor soon permitted his return to Rome. Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria, reports arrests in Egypt also occurring at that time.64 Gallus's repressive action was probably aimed at indulging popular sentiment, which blamed the Christians for the plague then devastating the empire. The first years of the reign of his successor, Valerian (253-60) produced for the Church a situation which Dionysius of Alexandria celebrates in enthusiastic tones. No predecessor of Valerian had been so well-disposed towards the Christians. Indeed so friendly was Valerian's attitude that his household was, so to speak, one of God's communities. But the fourth year of the emperor's reign brought a surprising change, introducing a short but extremely harsh and violent persecution. Like that of Decius, this policy could have proved a severe threat to the Church, because it too was based on a well-considered plan. Dionysius blames the emperor's minister and later usurper, Macrianus, for this reaction. Macrianus certainly may have suggested the idea of remedying the precarious financial state of the empire by confiscating the property of wealthy Christians. Valerian was probably also impelled by the threatening situation of the empire in general. He sought to counter a possible threat from within by a radical move against the Christians. The plan is clear even in the edict of 257: the blow was to strike the clergy; bishops, priests, and deacons were to be obliged to offer sacrifice to the gods and any of them celebrating divine worship or holding assemblies in the cemeteries were to be punished with death. In North Africa and Egypt,

the leaders of the churches, Cyprian and Dionysius, were at once arrested; and, in addition, many Christians of the African provinces were condemned to forced labour in the mines. The edict of 258 took a further decisive step: clerics who refused the sacrifice were to be immediately put to death. But this time the leading laity in the Christian communities were also included. Senators and members of the order of knights were to lose their rank and possessions, as were their wives; the latter could be punished with banishment and their husbands with execution, if they refused to offer sacrifice to the gods. Imperial officials in Rome and the provinces, the caesariani, were also threatened with forced labour and the confiscation of their possessions for similar offence." The aim of this policy was clear: the clergy and prominent members of the Christian communities, who enjoyed wealth and position, were to be eliminated; and the Christians, thus deprived of leaders and influence, were to be condemned to insignificance. The victims were numerous, especially among the clergy. North Africa lost its outstanding bishop in Cyprian, who met his death with unforgettable dignity. His flock showed their love and respect once again when he was beheaded, soaking cloths in his blood and interring his remains with reverent joy.58 Rome had its most distinguished martyr in Pope Sixtus II, who was joined in death by his deacons. There is an authentic account of the death of the Spanish bishop, Fructuosus of Tarragona, and two of his deacons.80 The head of the Egyptian church, Dionysius of Alexandria, was condemned only to an exile which he survived. The victims were also numerous among the lower clergy: in May 259, the deacon James and the lector Marianus died in Lambaesis, North Africa; there were clerics also in the group with Lucius and Montanus. The deacon Laurence, later transfigured by legend, achieved the greatest posthumous fame among the Roman victims of this persecution. The report of the historian Socrates that Novatian also died for his Christian convictions in the reign of Valerian was formerly treated with some reserve. It has recently received considerable support from the discovery of an epitaph which a certain deacon Gaudentius dedicated "to the blessed martyr Novatian". The proportion of laity among the victims of the persecution was not inconsiderable: it was probably quite large in Egypt60 and highest in North Africa.

The persecution ceased with the tragic end of the emperor who was taken prisoner by the Persians in 259 and soon died. The general impression left by the attitude of the Christians on this occasion is far more favourable than in their previous tribulation. Only in one African record of martyrdom is there a mention of lapsed Christians. The shock of the Decian persecution had produced its salutary effect; the Christians met this trial with far more calm determination than they had displayed eight years previously, and withstood it extremely well. The political situation both at home and abroad would have prevented Valerian's son and successor, Gallienus (260-8), from continuing the fight against the Christians. But he was not content, with a merely tacit cessation of the persecution and issued an edict of his own in the Christians' favour. This is referred to in a further rescript of 262 to Dionysius of Alexandria. In this the emperor says that he had restored their places of worship to the Christians some time previously, and that nobody was to molest them in these places. This recognition of ecclesiastical property by the highest civil authority represented a far- reaching act of toleration, and had a favourable effect on the future of the Church. Although Christianity was not yet officially recognized thereby as a religio licita, nevertheless there began with Gallienus' edict a period of peace which lasted more than forty years, and which could not but further its development both within and without. It was with good cause that Eusebius celebrated this time as a period of glory and freedom for Christianity. It was possible to build churches without hindrance, and preach to the barbarians and Greeks, while Christians occupied high offices of State, and enjoyed warm sympathy every where.

Further Development of Christian Literature in the East in the Third Century

The Beginnings of the Theological School of Alexandria

THE inner consolidation of Christianity in the third century is particularly evident and impressive in the domain of early patristic literature. More and more frequently, members of the ruling classes joined the new faith and felt impelled to serve it by word and writing in ways which corresponded with their level of culture. This created an essential condition for the development of a learned theology. The earliest attempts of this kind are found of course as early as the second century, when educated converts such as Justin and his pupil Tatian presented themselves publicly in Rome as teachers of the "new philosophy", and gave a well-grounded introduction to the understanding of the Christian faith to a relatively small circle of pupils.

The "schools" of these teachers were not, however, institutions of the Roman Christian community itself, but private undertakings by learned Christians. Out of a sense of missionary obligation, and in the manner of philosophical teachers of the time, these men expounded their religious beliefs to a circle of those who might be interested, and substantiated them by constant comparison with other religious trends. In a similar manner Gnostics like Apelles, Synerus, and Ptolemy, appeared in Rome as private teachers; and men like Theodotus from Byzantium and perhaps Praxeas, too, tried within the framework of such private schools to win support for their particular Monarchian views. While no objection was raised against the teaching activities of orthodox laymen like Justin, the authorities of the Roman community took exception to the activities of Gnostic or Monarchian teachers, and finally excluded them from the community of the Church. These problems induced the Roman bishops of the third century to seek to bring private Christian schools under their control and to transform them into a purely ecclesiastical institution which would administer the instruction of the catechumens. No theological school within the proper sense of the word developed either in Rome or elsewhere in the Latin West, because certain conditions of an intellectual kind were just not present. Neither were the personalities to whom they might have been of use. But both prerequisites were existent in great quantity in the East.

Christian Schools in the East

In the Greek East the Egyptian capital, Alexandria, with its scientific tradition and the interest generally shown by its educated upper classes in religious and philosophical questions, was to prove the most favourable soil for the development of a Christian theology on a learned intellectual basis. By establishing the two great libraries of the Sarapeion and the Museion, the first Ptolemies had laid the foundation of that lively interest in the most varied branches of learning which had developed in Alexander's city during the Hellenistic period. This cultural development, especially in the areas of Hellenistic literature and neo-Platonic philosophy, helped to create a general atmosphere which was to prove particularly fruitful when it encountered Christianity. Educated Alexandrians who had adopted the Christian religion were inevitably moved to confront it with the intense cultural life around them; and those of them who felt impelled publicly to account for their faith became the first Christian teachers in the Egyptian capital. The available sources of information about the beginnings of Christian teaching in Alexandria are not very rich; only Eusebius speaks of them in any detail, and his treatment is relatively late and rather uncritical. Nevertheless, the intensive research of recent years has produced some reliable results. According to these sources it is impossible to speak of a "school of catechists in Alexandria" as early as the end of the second century.

The first Christian teacher whose name is known is Pantainus, of Sicilian origin, who was giving lessons about the year 180, expounding and defending his Christian view of the world; but he was teaching without ecclesiastical appointment, just as Justin or Tatian had earlier done in Rome. Any interested person, pagan or Christian, could frequent this private school, and the syllabus was entirely a matter for the teacher's judgment. Clement of Alexandria must be considered to have been the second teacher of this kind, but he cannot be regarded as the successor of Pantainus at the head of any school. He publicly taught the "true gnosis" independently of, and perhaps even simultaneously with Pantainus. The first phase of Origen's teaching activity still had this private character. At the request of some friends who were interested in the Christian religion, he gave up his position in a grammar school and devoted himself as an independent teacher to instruction in the Christian religion, which was clearly open to Christians and pagans alike. It was only later,8 perhaps about 215, that he undertook the instruction of catechumens at the request of Bishop

* There are contradictions in Eusebius's account. It seems extremely unlikely that a young man of seventeen would be placed in charge of a school for catechumens; cf. M. Hornschuh, in 2 KG 71 (1960), 203-7.

Demetrius,3 and so became the ecclesiastically-appointed head of a catechetical school. He soon further expanded this role assigning the actual teaching of the catechumens to his friend Heraclas, certainly with the consent of the bishop. He provided a circle of educated persons and advanced students with a systematic exposition of the philosophic knowledge of the age, crowned by instruction in the Christian religion.4 In this respect, Origen had taken a decisive step; the work which Clement before him had undertaken as a private teacher was now placed directly at the service of the church of Alexandria, which thereby received a school of its own in which instruction in the Christian religion was given in no way inferior in quality to the contemporary pagan course of education. This institution alone has a claim to the title of a theological school. It is true that its real importance was due to the intellectual quality of the man who was its leader and soul until the year 230. And it is not surprising that Origen's bold step was received with some reserve: he soon had to defend himself against the accusation of attributing too much importance to profane philosophy,6 but the success and enthusiastic support of his students made him keep to the path he had taken. When the rift between Origen and Bishop Demetrius led to his quitting the country, the Alexandrian school of theologians quickly reverted to a simple school for catechumens, giving to those seeking baptism their first introduction to the Christian religion. Origen took the nature and spirit of his foundation with him to Caesarea and Palestine. Here he tried until his death to realize his ideal of a Christian institute for advanced teaching, this time with the full approval of the Palestinian episcopate.

After Origen's death, it is only possible to speak of an Alexandrian theological school in a wider sense; we can only denote a theology bearing the characteristic marks which the two first great Alexandrians, Clement and Origen, gave it: namely, the drawing of philosophy into the service of theology, a predilection for the allegorical method of scriptural exegesis, and a strong tendency to penetrate by speculation on an idealistic basis the supernatural content of the truths of revelation.

Clement of Alexandria

While none of the writings of the first Alexandrian teacher, has come down to us,6 three longer works and a small treatise survive from the pen of

s Euseb. HE 6, 14, 11.

4 Ibid. 6, 18, 3-4. Origen expounds his educational ideal in a letter to his pupil Gregory of Neo-Caesarea: Ep. ad Greg. 1.
6 Euseb. HE 6, 19, 13-14.
8 H.-I. Marrou considers he may well be the author of the Letter to Diognetus; cf. Marrou's ed., SourcesChr 33 (1951), 266 ff.
Clement. Though they are merely the remnants of a more extensive production, they permit us to form an impression of his characteristics as a writer, his theological interests, and the aim of his teaching. Clement was the son of a pagan family of Athens, became a Christian in adult life and, after extensive travels, reached Alexandria towards the end of the second century. There he was active as a Christian teacher until the persecution under Septimius Severus forced him to emigrate to Asia Minor about the year 202, and he died still in this area, about 215.

Clement's secular learning is shown by the very title of the first of the three main works mentioned above. On the model of Aristotle, Epicurus, and Chrysippus, he too wrote a Protrepticus, a discourse of admonition and propaganda, which presupposes educated pagan readers who are to be won over to his "philosophy". His aim is, therefore, in fact the same as that of previous apologists, but his work is far superior to their writings in form and tone. Naturally, in a Christian apologia, polemic against pagan polytheism could not be lacking, but it is conducted by Clement in a calm and thoughtful manner. He concedes that many of the pagan philosophers, Plato above all, were on the way to a knowledge of the true God; but full knowledge, and with it eternal salvation and the satisfaction of all human aspiration, was only brought by the Logos, Jesus Christ, who summons all men, Hellenes and barbarians, to follow him. A level of discourse on the Christian faith was here attained that had not been known before, and one which could appeal to a cultivated pagan. Many a discerning reader must have had the impression that inquiry into this religion and discussion with its enthusiastic spokesman might be worthwhile.

Anyone who allows himself to be won over as a follower of the Logos must entrust himself absolutely to the latter's educative power. Clement's second main work, the Paidagogus, is therefore intended as a guide in this respect, and at the same time as an aid to training in Christian things. The fundamental attitude required is first developed: the Logos-Paidagogos has provided by his life and commands in Holy Scripture the standards by which the life of a Christian should be directed; the Christian who acts in accordance with them fulfills to a higher degree the "duties" to which, for example, an adherent of the Stoic philosophy knows he is obliged, since the demands of the Logos are in the fullest sense "in conformity with reason". Clement illustrates the application of this basic principle with many examples from daily life, and displays a gift of discernment and a balanced and fundamentally affirmative attitude to cultural values. Both Christian ascesis and Christian love of one's neighbour must prove themselves in the actual circumstances of civilization. The magnificent hymn to the Paidagogus Christ, which ends this work, effectively


emphasizes the position occupied by the person of Christ in Clement's personal piety.

Their formal treatment and intellectual structure show that the Pro- trepticus and the Paidagogus are essentially related works. The second further suggests8 that Clement intended to complete a literary trilogy with another work, the Didascalos, which was to follow the others and offer a systematic exposition of the chief doctrines of Christianity. But the third surviving work, the Stromata, cannot be considered as the conclusion of this trilogy, for its themes are quite different from those announced, and in style and form it in no way corresponds to the first and second studies. The title itself indicates its literary category: a number and variety of questions are treated in an informal manner, as in the Deipnosophistae of Athenaeus, or the Attic Nights of Aulus Gellius, and are intended in the first place to appeal to pagans interested in religious and philosophical matters. There is good reason to think that these questions relate to the themes which Clement treated in his oral teaching, and that consequently their very form reveals the marks of their origin.9 One purpose certainly pervades the whole work: to prove by reasoned confrontation with contemporary Gnosticism that the Christian religion is the only true gnosis, and to represent the faithful Christian as the true Gnostic.

At baptism every Christian receives the Holy Spirit and thereby the capacity to rise from simple belief to an ever more perfect knowledge; but only those rise to attain it in fact who perpetually strive to do so, and who struggle for ever greater perfection in their manner of life. Only by an increasing effort of self-education and by penetrating more and more deeply into the gospel, and that solely within the Church, which is the "only virgin Mother",10 does a man become a true Gnostic and so surpass the cultural ideal of the "wise man" of pagan philosophy. That pagan ideal certainly represents a value which must be acknowledged, but it is only a preliminary stage. The model of the Christian Gnostic is the figure of Christ, whom he must come to resemble, and by following whom he becomes an image of God.11 Linked with this is a perpetual growth in the love of God, which makes possible for the Gnostic a life of unceasing prayer, makes him see God and imparts to him a resemblance to God. This ascent from step to step, does not, however, remove the true Gnostic from the company of his brethren to whom such an ascent has not been granted; rather does he serve them, ever ready to help, and summons them

6 Ibid. 1, 1, 3.

» Cf. A. Knauber in TThZ 60 (1951), 249 ff.

10 Paidag. 1, 6, 42.
12 Strom. 7, 13, 2.
to follow his path by the example of the purity of his life. Such practical questions of actual living stand in the centre of Clement's thought and teaching. Speculative theological problems occupy only the fringe of his interests. He takes over the idea of the Logos from St John, but does not penetrate more deeply into it. The Logos is united with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the divine Trias; the world was created by him, and he revealed God with increasing clarity, first in the Jewish Law, then in Greek philosophy, and finally in becoming man. By his blood mankind was redeemed, and men still drink his blood in order to share in his immortality.12 The Redeemer Christ recedes, for Clement, behind the Logos as teacher and lawgiver. He did not further speculative theology properly so-called, but he is the first comprehensive theorist of Christian striving after perfection, and posterity allowed him to be forgotten far too readily.


Fortune did not favour the life-work of Origen, the greatest of the Alexandrian teachers and the most important theologian of Eastern Christianity. The greater part of his writings has perished because the violent quarrels which broke out concerning his orthodoxy led to his condemnation by the Synod of Constantinople in 553. As a consequence, his theological reputation suffered for a long time, and the reading of his works was proscribed. Few of these works remain in his Greek mother- tongue, and the greater part of his biblical homilies has survived only in Latin translations, notably those by Jerome and Rufinus. Friends and admirers in the third and fourth centuries preserved a little of his canon and this helps to throw light on the aim and purpose of his life's work, the most useful of this evidence being preserved in the sixth book of Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History. Though this sketch is transfigured by retrospect vision, Eusebius had at his disposal a collection of Origen's letters, and obtained many details from men who had known him personally in Caesarea.

The first decisive influence on Origen was that of the Christian atmosphere of his parents' home.13 There he inherited and never lost the high courage to confess his faith, and the constant readiness to be active in the ecclesiastical community. An excellent education in secular studies made it possible for him, after the martyr's death of his father, Leonides, to support the family by teaching in a grammar school. Quite soon, while

" Paidag. 2, 19, 4.

18 Eusebius's precise details are to be preferred in this to Porphyry's vague allusions to a pagan period in Origen's life. It is certainly correct that Origen was familiar with Greek culture.

instructing interested pagans in the Christian faith on his own initiative, he felt the need of a deeper philosophical training; and this he found in the lectures of the neo-Platonist Ammonius Saccas, whose influence on him was strong and lasting. Journeys in his early manhood took him to Caesarea in Palestine, where he became a friend of the bishop, Theoctistus, and of Alexander, the head of the Jerusalem community, to Arabia at the invitation of the imperial governor; and also to the West, where he travelled to Rome. These journeys gave him a vivid idea of the life of the Church as a whole, and strengthened his inclination to work everywhere through his lectures for a deeper understanding of Scripture and belief.

His appointment as teacher of the catechumens and his duties as head of the theological school in Alexandria brought his rich intellectual and spiritual powers to full development, and initiated the creative period of his life. This was not fundamentally disturbed when, in the years 230-1, conflict with Bishop Demetrius forced him to transfer his activities to Caesarea in Palestine. The ostensible cause of his estrangement from the local bishop was his ordination to the priesthood without the former's knowledge. It was conferred on him by Palestinian bishops, although Origen, being a eunuch (he had castrated himself in a youthful excess of asceticism), was not, according to the views of the time, a suitable candidate. The deeper reason, however, was the bishop's inability to have a man of such high reputation and intellectual quality by his side. The understanding which was shown to Origen in his second sphere of activity, namely in Palestine, was munificently repaid by him; for, in addition to his actual teaching, he served the life of the Church directly, both by his tireless preaching and by public theological discussions about problems of the day, which repeatedly took him as far as Arabia. He had occasion to crown his fidelity to faith and Church by manfully confessing the faith during the Decian persecution, when he was imprisoned and subjected to cruel torture. About the year 253 or 254 he died in Tyre as a result of this treatment, when nearly seventy years of age.

The kernel of Origen's theological achievement was his work on the Bible, his efforts for its better understanding and the use made of it to create a right attitude in belief and true piety. The bulk of his literary production derived from this concern. It took the form of critical and philological work on the text of Scripture, scientific commentaries on individual books, and finally in his abundant discourses on the Bible, which were recorded by stenographers and later published. These are works of edification; not merely intellectually stimulating, they delve into the ultimate depths of Christian life. The impressive undertaking of the Hexapla14 served to establish a trustworthy text of the Bible. It presented in six parallel columns the original Hebrew in Hebrew characters, a Greek transcription, the translations by Aquila and Symmachus, the Septuagint and the Theodotion translation. What was probably the only copy of this work was placed in the library of Caesarea, where it could still be consulted in the time of Jerome and even later. A particularly hard fate overtook the great scriptural commentaries; many of which perished completely, or did so with the exception of a few fragments, such as the commentaries on Genesis, the Psalms, Proverbs, Isaias, Ezechiel, the Minor Prophets, Luke, and most of the Epistles of St Paul. Larger portions of the commentaries on the Canticle of Canticles, the Gospels of St Matthew and St John were preserved, partly in Greek and partly in Latin translations. The works which most frequently survived were homilies, particularly esteemed for their pastoral use of the Old Testament. About six hundred of them have come down to us, but only twenty-one in the original Greek.

It was with an attitude of deepest reverence that Origen undertook this service of Holy Scripture; for in it he encountered the living word of God which it embodies. Consequently, the understanding of Holy Scripture is for him "the art of arts" and "the science of sciences". And just as all events take place in mysteries, so Scripture also is full of mysteries which unveil themselves only to one who implores this revelation in insistent prayer. From this consideration sprang Origen's spontaneous appeals to "his Lord Jesus" to show him the way to a right interpretation of a difficult passage of Scripture. He knew that this is only found when the deeper spiritual and divine sense is recognized, that which is hidden behind the letter is the treasure hidden in a field. That is why the allegorical interpretation of Scripture was not for Origen merely a traditional and easily applied method, taken over from the exposition of secular texts. It was often a compelling necessity for him, absolutely essential if what is sometimes offensive in the purely literal sense of Scripture is to be transcended. Origen was fully aware that allegory has its limits. Nevertheless, in the hand of the master and despite all errors in detail, this method remains the path that leads him to the very heart of Scripture, affording ultimate religious insight and knowledge.

The daily reading of Scripture, to which Origen exhorts us, became for him the well-spring of his personal religious life; and it also made him a teacher of the Christian ideal of striving after perfection, whose subsequent influence was immeasurable: first on Eastern monasticism, and then in the Latin West, by way of St Ambrose. The ultimate goal of the ascent to perfection is the resemblance to God, to which man was called when God created him in his own image and likeness. The surest way to this goal is the imitation of Christ; and to be so centred on Christ is the characteristic attitude of Origen's piety, just as later the principle "Christus" was the basic concept of his pupil, Ambrose of Milan. A man who imitates Christ chooses life and chooses light. A presupposition for the success of this imitation is correct self-knowledge, which brings awareness of one's own sinfulness; and this, in turn, imposes a stubborn fight against the perils which threaten from world and from one's own passions. Only a person who has reached apatbeia is capable of further mystical ascent, but this cannot be attained without a serious ascetic effort, in which fasting and vigils have their place just as much as the reading of Scripture and the exercise of humility. Those who, following Christ's example, freely choose a celibate life and virginity will more easily reach the goal. The ascent to mystical union with the Logos takes place by degrees, a progress which Origen sees prefigured in the journey of the people of Israel through the desert to the promised land. The profound yearning for Christ is fulfilled in a union with him which is accomplished in the form of a mystical marriage; Christ becomes the bridegroom of the soul, which in a mystical embrace receives the vulnus amoris.28 Origen here is not only the first representative of a profound devotion to Jesus, but also the founder of an already richly developed Christocentric and bridal mysticism, from which the medieval Christocentric spirituality of William of St Thierry and Bernard of Clairvaux derived, and from which it drew considerable substance. In this way the personality of the great Alexandrian had its deepest ultimate influence precisely where it is most authentically evident: in its calm, limpid, and yet ardent love for Christ.

While in Alexandria, Origen wrote a systematic exposition of the chief doctrines of Christianity. He gave this first dogmatic handbook in the history of Christian theology the title Ilepi ap^wv (Concerning Principles), and dealt in four books with the central questions concerning God, the creation of the world, the fall of man, redemption through Jesus Christ, sin, freedom of the will, and Holy Scripture as a source of belief. The Greek original has perished, as has also the literal Latin translation made by Jerome. This surviving version by Rufinus, has smoothed down or eliminated entirely many things to which


objection might be raised. There is, consequently, some uncertainty about the precise view which Origen held on certain questions.27

In his introduction, Origen speaks with great clarity about the principles of method which guided him in his work; Scripture and tradition are the two primary sources for his exposition of Christian doctrine. He knows that they cannot be approached with a philosopher's inquiry, but only with the attitude of a believer. The Old and New Testaments, the books of Law, the Prophets and the Epistles of St Paul: all contain the words of Christ and are a rule of life for the Christian, because they are inspired.28 The authority of the Church guarantees that no spurious writings intrude; only what is accepted in all the communities as indubitably Holy Scripture is free from the suspicion of being apocryphal.29 Only that truth can be received in faith which does not contradict ecclesiastical and apostolic tradition, and this is found in the teaching of the Church which per successionis ordinem was handed down from the apostles.30 Consequently, the Church is not only intended to be the guardian of Holy Scripture, but is also its authentic interpreter, for she alone has received from Christ the light which enlightens those who dwell in darkness.31 She is the true Ark in which alone men can find salvation: the house which is marked with the blood of Christ and outside which there is no redemption.82 She is like a fortified city, and anyone who remains outside her walls is captured and killed by the enemy.33 Men enter Jesus' house by thinking like the Church and living according to her spirit.34

As the rule of faith contains only the necessary fundamental doctrines preached by the apostles, without giving further reasons for them or showing in any detail their inner connexions, a wide field of activity remains open to theology. According to Origen, this is where the task lies for those who are called to it by the Holy Spirit through the special gifts of wisdom and knowledge. Theirs is the vocation of penetrating deeper into the truths of revelation and of framing by an appropriate method a theological system from Scripture and tradition.85 The execution of his own project makes it plain that Origen was not a born systematizer; he had not the power to carry through his conception on a strictly logical plan. But of much greater

" Cf. M. Harl, "Recherches sur le Ilepl ap/uv d'Origene en vue d'une nouvelle edition"

in Stadia Patristica 3 (Berlin 1961), 57-67.

28 Origen, De princ. praej. 1; In Matth. comm. 46.

" De princ. praef. 8; In Matth. comm. 61.

30 De princ. praef. 2.

51 In Gen. hom. 1, 5.

32 Ibid. 2, 3 -, In Jesu Nave hom. 3, 5.

53 In Ierem. hom. 5, 16.

34 Disput. cum Heracl. 15.
36 De princ. praef. 3 and 10.

weight than this imperfection of form, are the particular theological views which gave rise to the later controversies about their author's orthodoxy. In his doctrine of the Trinity, Origen still thinks in Subordinationist terms: only the Father is o 0eo<; or auTo0so?: the Logos, of course, likewise possesses the divine nature, but in regard to the Father he can only be called Seurepoi; Qeo?.38 Yet Origen clearly expresses the eternity of the Logos and characterizes him as ?[JLOOUCTIO?;37 and so an advance is made here as compared with early Subordinationism. Origen, one might say, is on the path that led to Nicaea. In Christology, too, he devises modes of expression which point to the future: the union of the two natures in Christ is so close in his doctrine that the communication of idioms follows from it;38 as far as can now be traced the term God-man, ©eavOpwiro?, first occurs with Origen, and probably he prepared the way for the term 0SOT6XO<;.80 Origen also followed paths of his own in the doctrine of Creation; before the present world, a world of perfect spirits existed to which the souls of men then belonged; these were, therefore, pre-existent. Only a fall from God brought upon them banishment into matter which God then created. The measure of their pre-mundane guilt actually determines the measure of grace which God grants each human being on earth.40

All creation strives back towards its origin in God, and so is subjected to a process of purification which can extend over many aeons and in which all souls, even the evil spirits of the demons and Satan himself, are cleansed with increasing effect until they are worthy of resurrection and reunion with God. Then God is once more all-in-all, and the restoration of all things («7TOXAT<*FFTA<N? TOV TOXVTMV) is attained.41 The eternity of hell was practically abandoned as a result of this conception. That a new Fall would be possible after this process and consequently a new creation of the world and a further series of purifications necessary, was presented by Origen merely as an arguable possibility and not as certain Christian teaching. Critics have reproached Origen with further errors in his theology, which might be described as spiritualism and esotericism. By this is meant his tendency to undervalue the material creation and to except the spirit from the need for redemption, and also his tendency to reserve the innermost kernel and meaning of the truths of revelation for the circle of the perfect, the pneumatikoi, or the spiritual ones. Both accusations have a certain justification but have often been very much exaggerated. Origen recognized perfectly the proper value of what pertains to the senses and the body, and

56 De princ. 1, 2, 13; Contra Cels. 5, 39. 37 In ep. ad Hebr. fragm. M De princ. 2, 6, 3.

" In Ezech. hom. 3,3; In Luc. hom. 6, 7.

40 De princ. 2, 8 ff.; Contra Cels. 1, 32-3.
42 De princ. 1, 6, 1 and 3; 3, 6, 6; Contra Cels. 8, 72.

in fact, saw its importance precisely in its function as an image of a spiritual world that lies behind it. Consequently, he did not call for its annihilation, but for its spiritualization and transfiguration. He was likewise convinced that every baptized person is called on principle to perfection, but that there are many stages on the way to it, and that every stage can assimilate only an appropriate part of the truth of revelation. He believed in consequence that the full grasp of Christian truth is only possible at the final stage.

Like every theological achievement, that of Origen must be judged according to the possibilities and conditions which the age provided. He approached theological problems with the equipment and questions of a third-century man trained in philosophy; and most of the defects of his theology can be seen to derive from the limits and conditioning circumstances of this philosophy. But, viewed as a whole, his theological work, and especially his systematic treatise Concerning Principles, represents a creative personal achievement and consequently an enormous advance in Christian theology. For a judgment of the whole, the fact is important that the work was inspired by the purest ecclesiastical spirit. For all the independence and freedom of his theological questioning and inquiry, Origen wanted only to serve the Church, and was always ready to submit to her judgment. "If I", he once addressed the Church, "I, who bear the name of priest, and have to preach the word of God, offend against the doctrine of the Church, and the rule of the gospel and were to become a scandal to the Church, then, may the whole Church with unanimous decision cut off me, her right hand, and cast me out."42 Such an attitude should have prevented posterity from proscribing Origen's work as a whole merely because of particular errors and mistakes, in the way that happened later.

Dionysius of Alexandria; Methodius; Lucian of Antioch and his School

Subsequent teachers in the school of Alexandria, which after Origen's departure, as has been said, assumed once more the character of a school for catechumens, are overshadowed by their great predecessors. The title of " "great" was given to Dionysius, later bishop of the Egyptian capital (247-8 to 264-5), more on account of his personal bravery in the Decian persecution and his zealous activity in ecclesiastical affairs than because of any theological achievement. The orthodoxy of his teaching on the Trinity was doubted in Rome, and he attempted to demonstrate it in an apologia composed in four books against Dionysius, Bishop of Rome. He opposed the chiliastic ideas of Bishop Nepos of Arsinoe in his work On the Promises, in which he rejected John the apostle's authorship of the Apocalypse.43

" In Ios. hom. 7, 6. " Euseb. HE 7, 24 S.

UL. V n^Wl'IVlLlN i Uf l,nRlSllAn UlCKAIUKt 1[N lilt t AS 1

Dionysius is the first Bishop of Alexandria for whom we have evidence of the custom of announcing the date of the day of the Resurrection each year to Egyptian Christendom in the so-called "Easter letters". With the exception of two letters, his extensive correspondence has been lost. The written works of Theognostus and Pierius, Dionysius's successors at the head of the school for catechumens, drew on Origen's achievement. The Hypotyposes of Theognostus was a dogmatic work, while Pierius occupied himself more with exegesis and homiletics. Whether Peter, who was Bishop of Alexandria from about 300, also worked in the catechetical school is uncertain: the fragments of his treatises indicate particularly pastoral interest, as do those on penitential regulations and on the Pasch, though some opposed the alleged errors of Origen.

Other Eastern writers are also found within the range of Origen's influence, and their inferior performances make the greatness of the master stand out in sharper relief. We owe a panegyric on Origen to his pupil Gregory Thaumaturgus (f c. 270), a miracle-working bishop in central Asia Minor who was soon transfigured by legend and became a highly honoured figure in the Byzantine church. Gregory's panegyric gives an instructive glimpse at the teaching method of the revered master. The laity, too, took an interest in theology and exegetical questions. This is proved by Julius Africanus of Palestine (t post 240), a friend of Origen, who in a letter to the latter raised doubts about the authenticity of the story of Susanna, and in another inquired into the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke. The learned priest Pamphilus of Caesarea in Palestine sought to serve Origen's aims by continuing the tradition of the master in his teaching and learned inquiries. His interests lay particularly in the text of Scripture, as well as in collecting Origen's writings and in taking care of the library founded by Origen in Caesarea. The Diocletian persecution brought him martyrdom after long imprisonment (310), during which he wrote an 'AiroXoyia onep 'Qpty^vouq, or Defence of Origen, in six books, of which only the first survives in the Latin translation by Rufinus. The writer Methodius is included in the opposition that formed against Origen. According to Jerome and Socrates, he was Bishop of Olympus in Lycia, but more probably he lived as an ascetic and as a private Christian teacher. In his discussion of Origen he rejected the latter's doctrine of the pre-existence of souls and the theory of a cycle of several creations of the world, but could not free himself from Origen's allegorical interpretation of Scripture. For his literary works he preferred the dialogue form, and he displays a good knowledge of Plato. His Symposium was in fact an important work, especially in its influence on the history of spirituality. It praises the Christian ideal of virginity and ends with a famous hymn to Christ the bridegroom and his bride the Church.

The beginnings of the second theological school in the East are no less obscure than those of the Alexandrian school. It sprang up in the Syrian capital of Antioch, an important centre of the Hellenic world where conditions were similar to those in Alexandria. Tradition unanimously names the Antiochan priest Lucian as founder of the school, which may have been preceded by undertakings on a smaller scale and more private in character. In the time of Bishop Paul of Samosata, a priest named Malchion enjoyed a considerable reputation in Antioch for wide learning, but was a teacher in a secular Greek school. He demonstrated his superior theological training in the controversy with Paul of Samosata at the Synod of Antioch (268) which led to the latter's condemnation. Another priest of Antioch whose biblical interests and knowledge of Hebrew were praised, was Dorotheus, a contemporary of Lucian, but he is not expressly said to have been a Christian teacher. It is only with Lucian that the records in the sources become more precise. The fact that Lucian was one of the clergy of Antioch permits the assumption that his activity as a Christian teacher was authorized by his bishop. His theological learning, which is praised by Eusebius, did not find expression in extensive publications. His real interest was in biblical work and more particularly in a new recension of the Septuagint, for which he consulted the Hebrew original. It enjoyed high repute and was widely used in the dioceses of Syria and Asia Minor. Lucian's exegetical method must be gathered from the biblical works of his pupils; it takes principally into account the literal sense and only employs typological interpretation where the text itself demands it. Similarly, it is only from the works of his pupils that it is possible to form an idea of Lucian's other theological characteristics. He always starts from biblical data, not from theological presuppositions, and attains, among other things, a strict Subordinationism in the doctrine of the Logos. This was represented soon after by Arius and some of his fellow-pupils, the so-called Syllucianists, and they expressly referred to their teacher for it. The characteristics of the Antioch school became fully clear only in the great age of the Fathers, in connexion with the Trinitarian and Christological controversies.


The Development of Christian Literature in the West in the Third Century

The Rise of Early Christian Latin and the Beginning of a Christian Literature in Latin. Minucius Felix

THE essentially different course taken by the development of Christian literature in the West in the third century, particularly in Rome, was determined by the linguistic tradition of the Roman Christian community, which at first was composed for the most part of Greek-speaking members and consequently used Greek for preaching and the liturgy. Only with the disappearance of the Greek majority did the necessity arise for translating the Holy Scriptures of the new faith into Latin, of preaching in Latin, and finally of using Latin as a liturgical language too. The first traces of the existence of a Latin Bible extend back, as far as Rome is concerned, into the latter half of the second century, for the Latin translation of the First Letter of Clement must have been made at that time.

In Africa, at the turn of the century, Tertullian also quoted from a Latin Bible which he had at hand. The unknown translators thereby initiated the development of early Christian Latin, and with this achievement created the conditions for the rise of an independent Christian literature in the Latin tongue. Old Christian Latin was firmly based in one respect on the colloquial language of the common people, to whom the missionaries at first addressed themselves. On the other hand, it borrowed certain words from the Greek, for many Latin words were impossible to employ because of their previous use in pagan worship. And, finally, for many central concepts of Christian revelation and preaching, existing Latin terms had to be given a new content. In this way there arose, by a lengthy and extremely important process, a sector of early Christian Latin within the wider field of later Latin. It is clearly distinct from the language of secular literature, possessing its own unmistakable style. No single person, therefore, created early Christian Latin: not even Tertullian, the first writer to attest its existence through his writings. Naturally, it took a certain time for this Christian Latin to acquire such flexibility and clarity that it could be used for more important literary works. It is characteristic that the theological discussions in Rome at the end of the second and in the third centuries were still conducted to a large extent in Greek. Justin wrote his Apologia in Greek; Marcion and the early disputants in the Trinitarian controversies were from Asia Minor; and even Hippolytus, the first theologian of rank to live and write in Rome, was of Eastern origin, and published his works in the Greek language.

A further characteristic of Latin Christian theology in the third century was that it was not developed in theological schools as was its Eastern counterpart. There was no lack of institutions for the instruction of catechumens at key points of christianization such as Rome and Carthage; but schools where important theological teachers of Origen's kind provided an introduction to the Christian religion for cultivated pagans were unknown in the West. Tertullian, it is true, exercised a strong influence, and Novatian was certainly a theologian of importance; but neither of them was head of a school in its proper sense.

The Octavius Dialogue of Minucius Felix presents a defence of Christianity written in a distinguished and polished style by a lawyer trained in philosophy who was particularly influenced by Stoic thought. Caecilius, the pagan speaker in this dialogue, views pagan polytheism with marked scepticism, but, because Rome owed its greatness to it, would give it preference over the Christian religion, whose invisible God seemed to him a figment of the imagination, whose adherents were without culture and gave themselves up to shameless orgies. The Christian Octavius proves by purely philosophical arguments, without any appeal to Holy Scripture, that a sceptical standpoint on religious questions is untenable, and he rejects as calumnies the accusations made against the Christians. The dialogue does not go deeper into the content of the Christian faith. Its diction is still free from the typical features of early Christian Latin, and its style still strongly recalls the artistically cultivated prose of the later Antonines. One may for these reasons be inclined to date this elegant apologia before Tertullian's Apologeticum in the much-disputed and still open question of priority.


Hippolytus can be regarded as a link between East and West. His person and work even today present many unsolved problems for research. It can be said with certainty that he was not a Roman by birth but a man from the East, thinking Greek and writing Greek, whose home was possibly Egypt and very likely Alexandria: a true Roman would scarcely have expressed as low an opinion of Rome's historical past as Hippolytus does. He came to Rome probably as early as Pope Zephyrinus's time and belonged as a priest to the Christian community there, in which his culture and intellectual activity assured him considerable prestige. His influence is evident in all the theological and disciplinary controversies which stirred Roman Christianity in the opening decades of the third century. His high conception of the functions of a priest, among which he emphatically reckoned the preservation of apostolic traditions, did not permit him to shrink from bold criticism of the Roman bishops when he thought those traditions threatened by their attitude and measures. The position he assumed in the controversy over Modalism must be mentioned later. His rigoristic attitude on the question of penance made him an irreconcilable opponent of Bishop Callistus (217-22), and the leader of a numerically small but intellectually important opposition group. Nevertheless, the conjecture that he had himself consecrated bishop at that time, and so became the first anti-pope in the history of the Church, finds no adequate support in the sources. And there is just as little reliable evidence that it was the writer Hippolytus whom the emperor Maximinus Thrax banished to Sardinia with Pope Pontian, that it was he who was there reconciled to the latter and died in exile.2 But it is possible that Hippolytus lived on through the period of the Novatian schism, belonged to this movement for a while and after being received once more into the Christian community survived until later than 253.3 Both Eusebius and Jerome give a list of his writings;4 and their titles reveal him as a writer having such notable breadth of interest as to suggest comparison with Origen, though certainly he never achieved the latter's originality and depth. If the statue of a teacher which was discovered in 1551 actually represents Hippolytus — an incomplete catalogue of his works and an Easter calendar are carved on the side of the teacher's chair — it is tangible evidence of his reputation.

Hippolytus most clearly shares with Origen an inclination to the study of Scripture, which he expounds in the same allegorical way, though a more sober use of this method is unmistakable in his case. It is true that only a small remnant of his biblical writings has survived, but among them is a significant commentary on Daniel in the Greek original, and an exposition of the Canticle of Canticles, complete but in translation. In the Susanna of the Book of Daniel he considers that the Church, the virgin bride of Christ, is prefigured, persecuted by Jews and pagans. Likewise the bride and bridegroom of the Canticle of Canticles are understood as Christ and his Church, and sometimes the bride is considered to be the soul that loves God, an interpretation that was taken up particularly by St Ambrose in his exposition of Psalm 118, and so transmitted to the Middle Ages.

! There are sound reasons for supposing that confusion later occurred with another Hippolytus, who was also a priest and who was honoured as a martyr: cf. Hanssens, op. cit. 317-40. It would then be the latter Hippolytus who was referred to in the Depositio martyrum of 354.

s The supposition is based chiefly on a letter written to Rome in 253 by Dionysius of Alexandria, which presupposed that Hippolytus was still alive; cf. Euseb. HE 6, 46, 5, and Hanssens, op. cit. 299 f. 4 Euseb. HE 6, 12, and Jerome, De vir. ill. 61.

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Anxiety for the preservation of apostolic traditions was the second motive determining Hippolytus's work as a writer. They seemed to him threatened in doctrine and in the performance of divine worship. Consequently, he wrote a Church Order designed to ensure the maintenance of traditional forms in the most important rules and formulas for conferring Orders, the various functions of ecclesiastical offices, the conferring of baptism, and the celebration of the eucharist. This Traditio Apostolica no longer survives in its original language, but it forms the kernel of a series of further Church Orders such as the Apostolic Order, the Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Canons of Hippolytus and the eight books of the Apostolic Constitutions. Its principle impact was felt in the East, especially in Egypt, as the many translations into Coptic, Ethiopic, and Arabic show, while the Latin version (c. 500) is incomplete. For Hippolytus, his Church Order probably represented an ideal form which was not designed for the needs of a particular community, but intended to provide a norm by which the Church leaders could test the conformity of their liturgical prescriptions with apostolic tradition.5 It drew its material chiefly from Eastern sources, and consequently cannot be regarded as a Ritual which Hippolytus based on the liturgical forms customary in Rome at the beginning of the third century.

The anti-heretical dogmatic writings of Hippolytus served to safeguard apostolic tradition in doctrine. An early work was his Syntagma against thirty-two heresies, treating of the erroneous doctrines which had appeared in the course of history down to his own day. Unfortunately only its concluding part, which refutes the teaching of Noetus, is extant. Another anti-heretical work is attributed to Hippolytus: The Refutation of All Heresies, also called the Philosophoumena, which indicated in its first part the errors of pagan philosophers and the aberrations of pagan religions (Book 1-4), and then proceeded to oppose the Gnostic systems in particular (Books 5-9). The argument in this work owes a great deal to Irenaeus. The Tenth Book provides a recapitulation of the whole work, and adds a brief account of the content of Christian belief. The chief purpose of the author is to demonstrate his thesis that the root of all heresies is that they did not follow Christ, Holy Scripture, and tradition, but reverted instead to pagan doctrines.8 The historical transmission of this work is extremely confused. The First Book was ascribed to Origen, but the manuscript containing Books 4-10 was not discovered until 1842 and names no author. Only the fact that the writer refers to other works of Hippolytus as his own writings7 — his Chronicle and his study On the Universe — makes the


attribution to Hippolytus at all possible. The Philosophoumena have very much the character of a compilation, and give the impression of being a first draft which did not receive further revision. The polemic is caustic and oversteps all bounds when a personal opponent is attacked, so that an Hippolytus different from the author of his other works seems to be speaking here. The concept of the Church, which the Philosophoumena express, is particularly striking. In the commentary on Daniel and the exposition of the Canticle of Canticles the Church appears as the spotless bride of Christ, permitting no place for a person who has incurred grievous moral guilt, but here in the controversy with Callistus the Church is addressed as the bearer and safeguard of truth, whose purity and authenticity have to be watched over by bishops in legitimate apostolic succession. The author turns passionately against those who forget their task and who, though appointed members of the hierarchy, open too wide to sinners the gate of the Church of the saints.


Novatian may be considered as the first Roman theologian of importance, but his culture and gifts had to overcome manifold contradictions within the Roman community. Although he had received only the baptism of the sick, and so, according to the conception of the time, displayed a lack of courage to confess the Faith, Pope Fabian had nevertheless ordained him priest; and about the year 250 he played a decisive role in the Pope's collegium. When the papal see was vacant, he continued the correspondence of the Roman Church with other communities abroad, and in two or three letters to Cyprian expounded the Roman position concerning the treatment of those who had lapsed during persecution, a position identical with Cyprian's prudent practice. About 250 Novatian wrote his chief theological treatise on the Trinity. Here he made use of the work of earlier theologians, especially Hippolytus and Tertullian, and carefully formulated the state of the question in clear language of much formal distinction. The theology of Marcion is rejected in his treatise, as well as the Modalist conception of the Monarchians; Novatian propounds a very definite Subordinationism, which however much it emphasizes Christ's Godhead subordinates him to the Father almost more strictly than in earlier theology. He expresses himself very briefly on the relation of the Holy Spirit to the Son and the Father, but here too emphasizes the subordination of the Spirit to the Son. He lays great stress on the role of the Holy Spirit within the Church, which is preserved by his gifts inviolate in holiness and truth. This work of Novatian brought the theology of the Trinity in the West before Con- stantine's time provisionally to an end, until Augustine later revived discussion on the subject.

Novatian's other writings are pastoral in character and belong to the later phase of his life when, after leaving the Roman community, he led his own rigoristic, strictly organized society, as its bishop. His separation from the Roman community was due in the first place to personal motives especially aroused when Cornelius was preferred to him in the election of bishop in 251. The rift became irreparable when Novatian tried to justify his own secession by a concept according to which there could be no place for a mortal sinner in the Church of the saints, however ready he might be to atone by penance. While African circles, contrary to Novatian's expectation, ultimately refused him a following, he found numerous adherents in the East, who regarded themselves as the Church of the "pure" (x«9«poi).n Dionysius of Alexandria had difficulty in preventing a greater defection than occurred, and in the West a synod of sixty bishops under the leadership of Pope Cornelius clarified the situation by excommunicating Novatian and his followers. The first of Novatian's three pastoral letters to his communities deals with the question of the obligation of Jewish food laws, which he rejected; the second adopts a negative position on visits to the pagan theatre and circus; the third, De bono pudicitiae, presents a lofty exposition of the early Christian ideal of chastity in which marital fidelity and high esteem of virginity are forcefully proclaimed. Regarding Novatian's end, we have only the report of Socrates that he died as a martyr in the persecution by Valerian. An epitaph found in a catacomb in Rome in 1932, which reads: "Novatiano beatissimo martyri Gaudentius diaconus fecit", appears to confirm this report.18


The contribution made by the young African Church to early Christian literature in the third century was of greater weight and consequence. All evidence seems to indicate that Christianity found its way from Rome to these provinces beyond the sea, and that the first missionaries still used

Greek in their preaching. Towns provided the earliest points of contact for Christian teaching, especially and above all Carthage, which had flourished again under Roman rule and where the upper classes were quite familiar with Greek. But the transition to Latin for preaching and liturgy took place earlier in Africa than in Rome. The Acts of the Martyrs of Scili, the first dated Latin document of Christian origin (A.D. 180), probably already presupposes a translation of the Pauline epistles into Latin; a few years later Tertullian used a Latin translation of the Bible, which was not to his taste; and, about the middle of the third century, Cyprian quoted it so habitually that it must have been generally known by that time.

The Christian literature which begins with Tertullian vividly reflects the special features of the world of African Christianity in the third century. This area was exposed to most grievous tribulations in the persecutions of the time and had to pay a very heavy toll in blood for its steadfastness in the faith, which was rewarded by a proportionately rapid growth of the Church. The African church was characterized to an almost equal extent by the internal controversies which it suffered with the Gnostic sects and Montanism, by the struggles for its unity which it waged against the schismatical movement of Novatian and Felicissimus and, after the middle of the third century, by the quarrel concerning baptism conferred by heretics. All this left its mark on the early Christian literature of North Africa, and gives it its lively and sometimes pugnacious quality. At the same time the first differences which were to divide the Greek and Latin literature more and more sharply from each other are already apparent within it. The latter was not as much concerned as was the East, in grasping the metaphysical content of revelation and demonstrating its superiority over Hellenistic religious trends. Its prime interest lay, rather, in directly practical questions of actual living in pagan surroundings, such as logically follow from the Christian doctrine of redemption; and it was concerned, furthermore, with the translation of belief into action, which demands a fight against sin, and with the positive practice of virtue as a contribution of the individual Christian to ensuring salvation.

In Tertullian we meet the first and at the same time the most productive and distinctive writer of pre-Constantinian literature in North Africa. Born about 160 in Carthage, he was the son of a pagan captain, received a solid general education in the humanities, and pursued special studies in law and

Greek. He entered the Church as an adult, as a result of the impression made on him by Christians' fidelity to their beliefs under persecution, and immediately placed his wealth of gifts at her service. The sources do not make it clear whether he became a priest or remained a layman. The period of his activity as a writer covers approximately a quarter of a century (c. 195-220), and comprises two parts of roughly equal length but of quite contrasting nature. Until c. 207 he was a convinced and declared member of the Catholic Church, but then he joined the Montanist movement and rejected wholesale what he had previously revered. This change accounts for a double feature in Tertullian's nature which is apparent to every reader of his works. He is a man who gives himself utterly and uncompromisingly to whatever he professes at any given moment: anyone who thinks differently than he is not only an opponent of his views but is morally suspect. His temperament, which inclined him to extremes, led him almost inevitably out of the Church when he encountered in Montanism a form of Christian belief in which the utmost rigorism was the law. For the defence of his conviction of the moment, he had at his command a mastery of contemporary Latin such as no other writer of those years possessed. In expounding his own position, he employed an impressive eloquence supported by comprehensive learning in every field, which he drew upon with brilliant effect. He had also the gift of that brief incisive turn of phrase which holds the reader's interest. His acute intellect relentlessly uncovered the weakness of an opponent's argument, and helds up to ridicule those who differed from him. There can be no doubt that Tertullian's work was read, but its power of conviction is open to suspicion. It seems that even Montanism was not in the end sufficient for his excessive and immoderate nature; and Augustine credibly reports that before his death he became the founder of a sect named, after himself, the Tertullianists.16

In a series of writings Tertullian tried to place before the pagans a true picture of the Christian religion. After a first attempt in Ad nationes, he found in the Apologeticum a form that suited his ideas. The work is directly addressed to the praesides of the Roman provinces, but indirectly to paganism as a whole. Tertullian takes in each case ideas familiar to the pagans as the starting point of his argument, and contrasts them with Christian doctrine and Christian life. He effectively makes it clear that the most grievous injustice is done to the Christians by condemning them without knowing the truth about them. Tertullian therefore asks not for acquittal but for justice based on impartial investigation of the truth. In this way his apologetics advances in content beyond that of the Greeks of

" De haeres. 86. G. Saflund, De pallio und die stilistische Entwicklung Tertullians (Lund 1955), would like to consider Tertullian's De pallio as his last work, and as giving the defence of that step; but Saflund's arguments are not convincing.

the second century, and at the same time achieves an artistic form superior to any coming before.

Tertullian also defended the claim of the Church to truth and her possession of truth against the heresies of the age and especially against Gnostic trends. This he accomplished in a treatise on principles which makes brilliant use of his legal knowledge: the De praescriptione haere- ticorum demonstrates that Christianity, as opposed to heresy, can substantiate a clear legal claim to the possession of truth. Long before heresies appeared, Christian teachers were preaching that message which they had received from the apostles and which had been entrusted to the latter by Christ. Consequently, Holy Scripture is in the possession of the Church alone; only she can determine its true sense and so establish the content of belief. A series of monographs was also directed by Tertullian against individual Gnostics or their particular tenets; such a work was that against Marcion, mentioned above, which refutes his dualism and defends the harmony between Old and New Testaments. He seeks to safeguard the Christian doctrine of Creation, the resurrection of the body and the status of martyrdom against volatilization by the Gnostics; and against Praxeas he expounds the Church's conception of the Trinity with a clarity hitherto unknown. He deals with practical questions of Christian daily life in his short works on the meaning and effects of baptism, prayer, theatrical shows, patience, and the spirit and practice of penance. A rigoristic strain is often perceptible even here, and it becomes predominant in the works of the Montanist period. In this latter phase he made demands in utter contradiction of his earlier views, as for instance when he opposes second marriages in his De monogamia, military service and all trades in any way connected with idolatry in the De corona and De idolatria, and proclaims the most rigorous practice of fasting in De ieiunio. His fight against the Church took particularly harsh forms; he disputed her right to remit sins, which he reserved in the De pudicitia to the Montanist prophets alone.

Viewed as a whole, Tertullian's interests as a writer were not of a speculative kind, and he gives no systematic exposition of Christian doctrine. His importance in the history of dogma rests on the value of his writings as evidence of the stage of development which various particular doctrines had reached in his time; but it must also be borne in mind that his adherence to Montanism essentially modified his views. He was speaking as a Montanist essentially about the nature of the Church when he rejected an official priesthood and affirmed: ubi tres, ecclesia est, licet laid.11 A pre-eminent position with the power of binding and loosing belonged only to Peter, and was not therefore conferred on later bishops. The


conception of original sin as a vitium originis was familiar to him, in the sense that through Adam's sin evil concupiscence has poisoned human nature, but he does not infer the necessity of infant baptism from this. Tertullian thinks in very concrete terms about the Eucharist; those who take part in the orationes sacrificiorum receive the body of the Lord which is just as truly the real body of Christ as was the body on the cross; and the soul is nourished on the body and blood of Christ. In Christology and the theology of the Trinity, he employs a terminology which influenced subsequent developments in the Latin West: according to him, Jesus Christ is true God and true man, both natures are united in one person but not confused. The expression "Trinitas" as well as the term "persona", is found for the first time in Latin literature in Tertullian: in this Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are "unius substantiae et unius status et unius potestatis". The Logos existed already before the creation of the world, but only became Son at the creation, and consequently as such is not eternal. The more precise relation of Father and Son is viewed in a Subordinationist manner: the Father alone has the fullness of the Godhead; the Son has only a derivative part. The Holy Spirit too is thought of as a person: he is the real teacher in the Church, who first of all led the apostles into all truth, but who is also operative as the representative of God and Christ in every Christian community,20 especially through Holy Scripture which is his work and in which his voice is audible.


A notable influence on posterity was also exercised by Bishop Cyprian of Carthage as a writer of the African Church. The authenticity of his personality and the example of his pastoral care stamped characteristic features on the Christianity of his native land.28 The interest taken in his writings was likewise due to the deep impression produced by these qualities. In theology he owed much to Tertullian, whom he called his master and

whose works he constantly read.29 His treatises and letters deal mostly with the solution of questions of the day, as they arose through persecution and the threat to ecclesiastical unity from sectarian divisions. A personal note is struck in the little work.^ Donatum, in which the religious certainty attained in baptism after long search finds attractive expression. Cyprian as a pastor turned with a word of consolation to the Christians of North Africa in time of plague, and summoned them to be ready to make sacrifices in order to perform works of mercy. This he did in his De mortalitate and De opere et eleemosynis. He extols the Christian ideal of virginity and utters warnings against the destructive consequences of dissension in the De habitu virginum and De zelo et livore and here too he takes up the ideas of Tertullian in his writings on the Our Father and on patience. His treatise On the Unity of the Church shows greater independence both in content and in the personal position it reveals; and it has greater value as evidence of the concept of the Church held in the mid-third century. The representative and guarantor of ecclesiastical unity is the bishop, who is united with his fellow bishops through the common basis of the episcopate in the apostolic office.80 Among the holders of the latter, Peter had objectively and legitimately a special position which rested on the power of binding and loosing imparted to him alone.31 As this was committed by Christ to only one apostle, the unity that Christ willed for the Church was established for ever.32 Cyprian does not yet infer from this an effective jurisdiction of Peter over his fellow apostles, nor a transmission of his personal prerogatives to his successor as Bishop of Rome. Rather does there belong to the Roman church a position of honour, founded on the fact of Peter's work and death in Rome.33 Cyprian unambiguously rejects a Roman right of direction, for instance in the question of the validity of baptism for heretics. The individual bishop is responsible to God alone for the guidance of his community even in such matters.34 Cyprian sets a very high value on membership in the Church of Christ: nobody has a claim to the name of Christian who has not his own name in this Church; only in her is his salvation assured, according to the pregnant formula: "salus extra ecclesiam non est."35 Children, too, should share in the membership of the Church as early as possible, and so infant baptism is a practice which Cyprian takes for granted.36 Fidelity to the Church in persecution merits the highest


recognition; those who in martyrdom have sealed their testimony to Christ and his Church with the sacrifice of their lives obtain immediately the vision of God.37 In this belief, Bishop Cyprian himself accepted a martyr's death in a manner which kept his name in undying remembrance in the African Church.


The First Christological and Trinitarian Controversies

THE apologists of the second century in their discussions of pagan polytheism emphasized above all strict monotheism which they did not consider imperilled by their conception of Logos-Christology. In the Church's defensive action against Gnosticism, the emphatic stress on the unity of the divine nature was similarly prominent, and so theology in the second century did not concern itself in great detail with the problem of the relation between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It was obscurely felt that, in the one indivisible God, certain distinctions were present which were manifested particularly in the Creation and the Redemption. The apologist Theophilus had even employed the term "Trias" for this reality,1 but a deeper conceptual penetration of this truth of revelation and a corresponding linguistic formulation of it had not been attained. Theological reflection was now, at the end of the second century, to concern itself precisely with the question of the Trinity. The Logos-Christology presented by the apologists, and further developed by the second-century writers, was defective to the extent that it subordinated the Son to the Father. According to this concept, the Logos, existing from all eternity within God (Xoyo? ?vSiaOeToi;), came forth from the Father only as Creator and ruler of the world (Xoyo^TCpocpopixoi), only then was begotten and only then became the personality distinguishing him from the Father; and, therefore, he was not eternal in the same sense as the Father. But this Subordinationism at first less disturbed people's awareness of the faith, because they saw in it no direct threat to the divinity of Christ. Emphasis on the difference between the Father and the Son must, however, have given cause for hesitation when the unity of God was brought into greater prominence. In fact this Christological Subordinationism led at the end of the second century and the beginning of the third to a vigorous reaction by Christian

" De eccles. unit. 14; Ep. 55, 20.

1 Ad Autol. 2, 15.
3 Already in Justin, Apol. app. 6; Theophil., Ad Autol. 2, 10-22; further in Hippol., Rejut. 10, 33, 1; Orig., De princ. 1, 3, 5; In J oh. 2, 21.
circles who were anxious at all costs to safeguard the divine unity. The movement owed its origin to men of the Greek East; but the controversies about their theories took place chiefly in the West and especially in Rome. We owe the very name Monarchianism, by which we try to characterize this theology, to a Latin theologian: the African Tertullian renders by the formula "monarchiam tenemus" the slogan3 by which its adherents tried to express their holding fast to the one God and to a single divine principle.

Emphasis on the unity of God, however, necessitated a decision on the Christological problem, and in this process the Logos-Christology was contested in two ways. Some regarded Christ as merely a man, but one born of the virgin Mary and of the Holy Spirit, and in whom God's power (Suva[i.i<;) was operative in quite a special way. This so-called Dynamist Monarchianism safeguarded the one divine principle but virtually abandoned the divinity of Christ. Another solution of the problem was proposed by those who declared that the one God revealed himself in different ways or modi, now as Father, now as Son. This theory so effaced the distinction between Father and Son that it was said that the Father had also suffered on the Cross; and the supporters of this attempted solution are therefore called Modalist or Patripassian Monarchians. Dynamist Monarchianism, which is also not inappropriately called Adoptionism, betrays a rationalist attitude which found the idea of God's becoming man difficult to accept. Consequently, it seems to have gained a wider hearing in intellectual circles, but small support among the common people. The sources name as its first exponent an educated leather-merchant called Theodotus of Byzantium, who came to Rome about 190 and there sought support for his theological ideas. He and his followers tried to prove from Scripture, by means of philological textual criticism, their fundamental thesis that Jesus, until his baptism in the Jordan, led the life of a simple but very upright man on whom the Spirit of Christ then descended.4 Their interest in logic and geometry, their esteem for Aristotle and their relations with the doctor Galen and his philosophical interests gave offence to the faithful.8 Theodotus's expulsion from the ecclesiastical community by the Roman Bishop Victor (186-98) did not mean the end of the Adoptionist movement; and a series of disciples — including Asclepiodotos, Theodotus the younger, and later Artemon — transmitted the ideas of its founder. The first two attempted to organize the Adoptionists in a church of their own, and won over even the Roman confessor Natalis as its leader, though he shortly left their movement.8 Theodotus the younger added a new element to

* Adv. Prax. 3.
* Hippol., Refut. 7, 35.
5 Eiueb. HE 5, 28, 13-14.

* Ibid. 5, 28, 1-3 and 9.

previous theories by designating Melchizedech as the highest power, standing higher than Christ, as the actual mediator between God and man.7 About the mid-third century a double argument inspired the Adoptionists' doctrine: on the one hand, they attacked the orthodox view as ditheistic;8 and on the other, they also claimed that as true guardians of apostolic tradition they would teach regarding Christ only what had always been believed at all times.8 An exponent of a particularly crude Adoptionism in the East, in the second half of the third century, was Paul of Samosata, a bishop of Antioch in Syria, whose teaching and life preoccupied several synods.10 It is true that he employed in his theology the Trinitarian formulas of his age, but he divested them of their orthodox meaning by teaching that "the Son" designated only the man Jesus, in whom the wisdom of God had taken up abode; that, furthermore, "the Spirit" is nothing other than the grace which God gave the apostles. And by "wisdom of God", or Logos, Paul did not understand a person distinct from the Father, but an impersonal power. Although at a first synod in the year 264 he skilfully evaded being pinned down to definite views, the learned priest Malchion demonstrated his errors to him at a second assembly of bishops, which removed him from office and expelled him from the Church's community. At the same time, the synod rejected the statement that the Logos is of the same nature as the Father (??xooucnoi;), because Paul of Samosata meant by this term to deny the Logos a personal subsistence of his own. The Catholic community of Antioch, under the new bishop Domnus, was obliged even to call in the help of the civil authorities against Paul following his deposition, to make him vacate the episcopal residence. Yet, even after his condemnation, Paul had a considerable following in the so-called Paulicians, who were condemned by the nineteenth canon of the General Council of Nicaea. After his death the leadership of the group passed to a certain Lucian who later joined the orthodox community. It is unlikely that the latter is the same man as the martyr, Lucian of Antioch (f 312), the founder of the school of Antioch, though this Lucian also held a Subordinationist Logos-Christology.

Modalist Monarchianism

The Modalist attempt at a solution of the Logos-Christological problem spread relatively widely because it obviously appealed more strongly to simple religious minds, for whom the biblical statements about the unity of God and the full divinity of Christ were deep convictions. Any

7 Hippol., Refut. 7, 36.
9 Novat., De Trin. 30.
* In Euseb. HE 5, 28, 3 f. " Ibid. 7, 27-30.

conception which separated the Son or the Word too sharply from the Father seemed suspect here, because it could lead to the existence of two Gods being deduced from it. Once again, the first representative of Modalist teaching whose name is now known was a Greek, by name Noetus, who according to Hippolytus came from Smyrna in Asia Minor. He vigorously emphasized the dogma of the one God, the Father, asserted also that Christ is identical with the Father, and affirmed the inference that the Father became man and suffered on the Cross.11 Following two discussions with the priests of Smyrna, Noetus was expelled from the Church, yet nevertheless found supporters for his ideas. His disciples appealed to passages in the Old and New Testaments (such as Exod 3:6; Isa44:6; 45:14—15; Jn 10:30; 14:8fT.; Rom 9:5), which they construed in the sense of implying an identity of Father and Son. They countered the difficulty which the Prologue of St John's Gospel presented in this respect by allegorical interpretation. Epigonus, a pupil of Noetus, brought the doctrine to Rome, where it was taken up by Cleomenes. Praxeas, whose character and origin remains obscure, also perhaps came from the East to Rome, where he was still pursuing Modalist lines of thought in the time of Pope Victor. According to Tertul- lian's polemic against Praxeas, written about 213, the latter taught the complete identity of Father and Son, and denied that the Logos had any subsistence peculiar to himself, so that in reality it was the Father who suffered, died, and rose from the dead. Praexas seems to have modified his view to the extent that he distinguished the man Jesus from the God Christ, who was identical with the Father, so that the Father is said to have suffered together with the Son. Despite their different starting-points, the Dynamist and Modalist conceptions resemble each other here in a striking way.

Another member of the Patripassianists, as the adherents of this doctrine were later called by Cyprian, was Sabellius, who is said to have come to Rome fromLibya when Zephyrinus was bishop (199-217). It was probably he who gave Modalist doctrine a more systematic character, when he attributed to the one Godhead three modes of operation, so that the Father was its actual essence which, nevertheless, expressed itself also as Son and Spirit: as Father, God was the creator and law-giver; as Son, he was operative in the redemption; as Spirit, he conferred grace and sanctification.18 It is impossible to obtain a completely clear and incontestable picture of Modalist ideas, since only their opponents — Hippolytus, Tertullian, and Epiphanius — report them. In Rome, the centre of Modalist propaganda, there was at first no clash with the authorities of the community there. But there was a reaction by the leading theologian, the learned Hippolytus, who sharply attacked the Roman bishops Zephyrinus (199-217) and Callistus (217-22), because of their favouring, as he alleged, and even recognizing this false doctrine. He accused the former, an "ignorant and uneducated man", of maintaining two conflicting theses simultaneously: firstly, "I know only one God, Christ Jesus and no other, who was born and suffered"; and, secondly, "It was not the Father who died, but the Son." But what is apparent from these two formulas is rather the concern of the Roman bishop to emphasize the divinity of Christ on the one hand, and to insist on the distinction between Father and Son on the other hand, though he lacked an unobjectionable terminology for his purpose. Hippolytus's criticism that Zephyrinus entertained Modalist views was probably provoked by the mistrust that the latter felt for Hippolytus's manner of expression, which sounded to him suspiciously ditheistic. That Hippolytus's judgment was far too harsh is plain from his verdict that Callistus had let himself be misled by Sabellius, though it was Callistus himself who expelled the latter from the Church. It is clear that Callistus was also trying to pursue a middle course between the downright Modalism of Sabellius and, in his judgment, the ditheistic tendency of the learned Hippolytus. In opposition to the latter, he laid all emphasis on the unity of God, when he said that Father and Son are not separate beings; in opposition to Sabellius, he held fast to the distinction between the Father and the Logos, who existed before all time and who became man. He was conscious, therefore, of the dubiousness of Modalist doctrine, but he likewise regarded the doctrine of two or three distinct divine "persons" as an even greater danger to the content of faith concerning the one God. Yet neither did he, in his search for the right balance between the two tendencies, have yet the appropriate terminology at his disposal.

Nevertheless, the struggle of Hippolytus and Tertullian against Modalism bore fruit, as can be seen from the advance in Trinitarian theology in the work of Novatian about the mid-third century. The latter turned Tertullian's thought and preparatory work to account, and clearly moved away from Modalism in saying that the Son begotten of the Father, that is the Word, is not a mere sound but has subsistence proper to him, and thus is a "second person"; that the Son was not begotten in view only of Creation, but existed before all time, .since it is in the nature of the Father as such ever to have a Son. Novatian seeks with even greater emphasis to reject ditheistic lines of thought by stressing that the Son is God only in being the Son, who received his Godhead from the Father, and only as Son is distinct from the

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Father, so that there is no division of the divine nature. But Novatian does not express himself so plainly regarding the "person" of the Spirit, whom he regards as a divine power operative in the prophets, the apostles, and the Church.19 According to him, the Son is subject to the Father, is less than the Father, and is obedient to the Father.20 Novatian's manner of expression is, therefore, strongly Subordinationist; and his progress beyond Tertullian and earlier theology consists in his recognizing that the personal distinction between Father and Son does not have its ground in the economy of salvation, that the Son was begotten before all time, and that he subsisted, that is as a person, before the creation of the world.21 This much was achieved, even if Novatian did not yet clearly grasp the doctrine of an eternal generation of the Son.

The discussion about Monarchianism extended beyond the West to other territories where Christianity had penetrated. In Arabia in the time of the emperor Gordianus (238-44), according to a rather obscure report by Eusebius,22 a Bishop Beryllus of Bostra held the view that Christ had not existed in a way proper to himself before his incarnation, and that he possessed no divinity of his own but only that of the Father dwelling within him. This teaching suggests an Adoptionist Christology; and Beryllus's doctrine encountered contradiction from his fellow bishops, who devoted various synods to it and finally summoned Origen to debate the issue. The latter succeeded in refuting Beryllus and winning him back to the true faith.

Attention was further aroused by the controversy in which Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria engaged about the year 260 with Patripassianists of the Libyan Pentapolis. In several letters,23 of which one was addressed to bishops Ammonius and Euphranor, Dionysius attacked the Modalist theories with an incisive yet reckless manner of expression; and he gave such imprecise formulation to the distinction between Father and Son, whom he termed a creature (7ro[7]^a), that the unity of essence of both seemd blurred.24 A denunciation of this doctrine in Rome caused the bishop there, also called Dionysius (259-68), to make a pronouncement which in several respects is important. He requested the Alexandrian bishop to make his views more precise, and at the same time adressed a letter to the community of Alexandria expounding the Roman conception of the Trinity. Without identifying Bishop Dionysius, but with an unmistakably sharp reference to the school of theologians from which he sprang, he said he had heard that there were catechists and teachers of theology in Alexandria who split up the most venerable kerygma of the Church, the monarchy or the unity of God, into three separate hypostases and three divinities, and taught a doctrine diametrically opposed to that of Sabellius. Whereas the latter maintained that the Son was the Father, and vice versa, these men in a certain way preached three Gods. In contrast with this view, the unity of God should be held just as firmly as the divine Trinity; yet, on the other hand, to speak of Christ as a creature, or to assert that there had been a time when he did not exist, was just as blasphemous as it was to call "his divine and inexpressible generation" a creation (TroiY]<Ti<;).i5 Dionysius of Alexandria thereupon replied with a detailed apologia, in which he admitted that certain of his formulas were liable to misinterpretation, but pointed out also that justice had not been done to his view as a whole. He likewise rejected a separation of Father, Son, and Spirit, but maintained firmly that they are three "hypostases", for otherwise the Trinity would be dissolved. He stressed equally definitely the eternity of the Son. He said he had avoided the expression 6[i.oo6<no<; (of the same nature) as not biblical, though rightly understood, it was nevertheless acceptable. His resume of his position, that the unity of God must be maintained but the three persons must also be acknowledged, clearly satisfied Rome, since the discussion was not pursued further. These issues, it is true, involved the problem of correct terminology, of which the differing senses of "hypostasis" afford a typical example, since it could be easily identified in Rome with Tertullian's "substantia". But behind these linguistic problems were the different aspects through which the theology of the Trinity was approached from East and West. In the West, the "dogma" of God's unity was sacrosanct, and it was difficult for people to recognize and acknowledge as "persons" the distinctions in the Trinity, of which they were convinced. The East was more sensitive to the mystery in the Trinity, as a consequence of its familiarity with the world of neo-Platonic thought concerning the hierarchy of being. This difference in mode of theological thought, together with the imperfection of the terminology worked out so far, found clear expression in the following century and gave rise then to a comprehensive discussion of the dogma of the Trinity.

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