« Coelestius, heretic of Hibernian Scots Coelicolae Colluthus, presbyter and sect founder »


Coelicolae. The death of Julian (a.d. 363) was followed by a reaction in favour of the Christians and against the Jews. The fierce bitterness of the edicts of Constantine and Constantius was never perhaps renewed, but the decrees of Theodosius the Great (379–395) and his son Honorius (395–423) were sufficiently strong and cruel to make it evident how the Roman emperors were influenced, both theologically and politically. The Christians convinced themselves that a stand must be made more earnestly than ever against any heresy which would seduce their members in the direction of either Judaism or paganism. The possible confusion of Christianity with either was by all means to be avoided. Most especially should this be the case as regarded Judaism. The scandal at Antioch which roused the holy indignation of St. Chrysostom—Christian ladies frequenting the synagogues and observing the Jewish festivals, Christian men bringing their lawsuits by preference before the judges of Israel (Grätz, Gesch. d. Juden, iv. 315)—found its reflection in many of the chief centres of the Eastern and Western empires. Hence the effort became more and more strenuous to suppress not only such open approximation of the two religious bodies, but also such sects as indicated, by their forms and doctrines, the intention of presenting a compromise with the truth. St. Augustine (Op. ii. Ep. xliv. cap. vi. § 13, ed. Migne) wrote to the "Elder" of one of these sects, the Coelicolae, inviting him to a conference. Edicts of Theodosius and Honorius denounced the "new doctrine" of the sect, which was said to be marked by "new and unwonted audacity," and to be nothing else than a "new crime of superstition" (Cod. Theod. xvi. t. v. viii. x. Cod. Justin. i. tit. ix.). Happily there is reason to believe that kinder counsels moderated the severity of such intolerance (Grätz, p. 386 seq.; Levysohn, Diss. Inauguralis de Jud. sub Caesar Conditione, pp. 4 seq.).

It is difficult to ascertain precisely the views of the Coelicolae. In one edict they are classed with the Jews and the Samaritans, in a second with the Jews only. But it would be a mistake to consider them simply Jews. The Romans, it is well known, called the Jews worshippers of idols through a mistaken notion that the Jewish use of the word "Heaven" for "God" (Buxtorf, Lex. Rabb. s.v. t) שׁמים, p. 2440; Jost, Gesch. d. Judenthums, i. 303) indicated the worship of some created embodiment of heaven (Vitringa, de Synag. i. 229). The Coelicolae proper would therefore be easily included by the Romans under the one general title " Jews." From St. Augustine's letter it would seem that the Coelicolae used a baptism which he counted sacrilege—i.e. they probably combined a Christian form of baptism with the Jewish rite of circumcision. Such a compromise would appear most objectionable and dangerous to St. Augustine. If, moreover, as their name may indicate, the Coelicolae openly professed their adhesion to the Jewish worship of the One God and rejected the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, this would be an error for which their abhorrence of pagan forms of idolatry would not compensate.

More than this it seems impossible to ascertain. The Coelicolae of Africa, like their congeners the Θεοσεβεῖς of Phoenicia and Palestine, and the Hypsistarii of Cappadocia, were soon stamped or died out. J. A. Schmid, Hist. Coelicolarum; C. G. F. Walch, Hist. Patriarcharum Jud. pp. 5–8; Bingham, Orig. Eccles. vii. 271; Niedner, K. G. p. 321 n. (1866); Hase, K. G. p. 121; Hasse-Köhler, K. G. i. 103; Herzog, R. E. s.v. "Himmelsanbeter."


« Coelestius, heretic of Hibernian Scots Coelicolae Colluthus, presbyter and sect founder »
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