« Prev Minor Divines of the Greek Church Next »

§ 192. Minor Divines of the Greek Church.

A number of divines of the third century, of great reputation in their day, mostly of Egypt and of the school of Origen, deserve a brief mention, although only few fragments of their works have survived the ravages of time.

I. Heraclas and his brother Plutarch (who afterwards died a martyr) were the oldest distinguished converts and pupils of Origen, and older than their teacher. Heraclas had even before him studied the New-platonic philosophy under Ammonius Saccas. He was appointed assistant of Origen, and afterwards his successor in the Catechetical School. After the death of Demetrius, the jealous enemy of Origen, Heraclas was elected bishop of Alexandria and continued in that high office sixteen years (A. D. 233–248). We know nothing of his administration, nor of his writings. He either did not adopt the speculative opinions of Origen, or prudently concealed them, at least he did nothing to recall his teacher from exile. He was succeeded by Dionysius the Great. Eusebius says that he was "devoted to the study of the Scriptures and a most learned man, not unacquainted with philosophy," but is silent about his conduct to Origen during and after his trial for heresy.14931493    Hist. Eccl. VI. 15, 26, 35; Chron. ad arm. Abr. 2250, 2265.494

II. Among the successors of Heraclas and Dionysius in the Catechetical School was Theognostus, not mentioned by Eusebius, but by Athanasius and Photius. We have from him a brief fragment on the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, and a few extracts from his Hypotyposeis (Adumbrations).14941494    In Routh, Reliquiae Sacre III. 407-422. Cave puts Theognostus after Pierius, about a.d. 228, but Routh corrects him, (p. 408).495

III. Pierius probably, succeeded Theognostus while Theonas was bishop of Alexandria (d. 300), and seems to have outlived the Diocletian persecution. He was the teacher of Pamphilus, and called "the younger Origen."14951495    Euseb. VII. 32 towards the close; Hieron. D, Vir. ill. 76; Praef. in Hos. Photius, Cod. 118, 119. Eusebius knew Pierius personally, and says that he was greatly celebrated for his voluntary poverty, his philosophical knowledge, and his skill in expounding the Scriptures in public assemblies. Jerome calls him "Origenes junior." He mentions a long treatise of his on the prophecies of Hosea. Photius calls him Παμφίλου τοῦ μάρτυρος ὑφηγητής See Routh, Rel. S. III. 425-431.496

IV. Pamphilus, a great admirer of Origen, a presbyter and theological teacher at Caesarea in Palestine, and a martyr of the persecution of Maximinus (309), was not an author himself, but one of the most liberal and efficient promoters of Christian learning. He did invaluable service to future generations by founding a theological school and collecting a large library, from which his pupil and friend Eusebius (hence called "Eusebius Pampili "), Jerome, and many others, drew or increased their useful information. Without that library the church history of Eusebius would be far less instructive than it is now. Pamphilus transcribed with his own hand useful books, among others the Septuagint from the Hexapla of Origen.14961496    "Jerome says (De Vir. ill. 75): Pamphilus ... tanto bibliothecae divinae amore flagravit, ut maximam partem Origenis voluminum sua manu descrpserit, quae usque hodie in Caesriensi bibliotheca habentur. Sed et in duodecim prophetas viginti quinque ἐξηγήσεων Origenis volumina manu ejus exarata reperi, quae tanto amplector et servo gaudio, ut Craesi opes habere me credam. Si enim laetitia est, unam epistolam habere martyris, quanto magis tot millia versuum quae mihi videtur sui sanguinis signasse vestigiis."497 He aided poor students, and distributed the Scriptures. While in prison, he wrote a defense of Origen, which was completed by Eusebius in six books, but only the first remains in the Latin version of Rufinus, whom Jerome charges with wilful alterations. It is addressed to the confessors who were condemned to the mines of Palestine, to assure them of the orthodoxy of Origen from his own writings, especially on the trinity and the person of Christ.14971497    See Routh’s Rel. S. vol. III. 491-512, and vol. IV. 339-392; also in Delarue’s Opera Orig. vol. IV., and in the editions of Lommatsch and Migne. Eusebius wrote a separate work on the life and martyrdom of his friend and the school which he founded, but it is lost. See H. E. VII. 32; comp. VI. 32; VIII. 13, and especially De Mart. Pal. c. 11, where he gives an account of his martyrdom and the twelve who suffered with him. The Acta Passionis Pamph. in the Act SS. Bolland. Junii I. 64.498

V. Peter, pupil and successor of Theonas, was bishop of Alexandria since A.D. 300, lived during the terrible times of the Diocletian persecution, and was beheaded by order of Maximinus in 311. He held moderate views on the restoration of the lapsed, and got involved in the Meletian schism which engaged much of the attention of the Council of Nicaea. Meletius, bishop of Lycopolis, taking advantage of Peter’s flight from persecution, introduced himself into his diocese, and assumed the character of primate of Egypt, but was deposed by Peter in 306 for insubordination. We have from Peter fifteen canons on discipline, and a few homiletical fragments in which he rejects Origen’s views of the pre-existence and ante-mundane fall of the soul as heathenish, and contrary to the Scripture account of creation. This dissent would place him among the enemies of Origen, but Eusebius makes no allusion to it, and praises him for piety, knowledge of the Scriptures, and wise administration.14981498    H. E. VIII. 13; IX. 6. The fragments in Routh, IV. 23-82. Peter taught in a sermon on the soul, that soul and body were created together on the same day, and that the theory of pre-existence is derived from "the Hellenic philosophy, and is foreign to those who would lead a godly life in Christ" (Routh, p. 49 sq.).499

VI. Hieracas (Hierax), from Leontopolis in Egypt, towards the end of the third century, belongs only in a wider sense to the Alexandrian school, and perhaps had no connexion with it at all. Epiphanius reckons him among the Manichaean heretics. He was, at all events, a perfectly original phenomenon, distinguished for his varied learning, allegorical exegesis, poetical talent, and still more for his eccentric asceticism. Nothing is left of the works which he wrote in the Greek and Egyptian languages. He is said to have denied the historical reality of the fall and the resurrection of the body, and to have declared celibacy the only sure way to salvation, or at least to the highest degree of blessedness. His followers were called Hieracitae.14991499    0ur information about Hierax is almost wholly derived from Epiphanius, Haer. 67, who says that he lived during the Diocletian persecution. Eusebius knows nothing about him; for the Egyptian bishop Hierax whom he mentions in two places (VII. 21 and 30), was a contemporary of Dionysius of Alexandria, to whom he wrote a paschal letter about 262.500

« Prev Minor Divines of the Greek Church Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection