« Philostorgius, a Cappadocian author Philoxenus, a Monophysite leader Phocas, of Sinope »

Philoxenus, a Monophysite leader

Philoxenus (4) (Xenaias), a conspicuous leader of the Monophysites at the beginning of 6th cent. He shares with Severus of Antioch, the true scientific head of the previously leaderless party of the Acephali, the reputation of having originated the Jacobite form of Monophysitism, which was long supreme in Egypt and is still adopted by the Copts. Our knowledge of Philoxenus comes almost exclusively from his theological opponents, against whom he was engaged in a determined and not very scrupulous warfare. Much that is stated to his discredit admits of reasonable doubt. Some stories we may absolutely reject. We know him as an acute dialectician, a subtle theologian, and a zealous and uncompromising champion of the unity of the nature of Christ against what he regarded as the heresy of the two natures, and as one to whose desire for a faithful rendering of N.T. the church is indebted for what is known as the "Philoxenian Syriac Version." We soon find him in Syria, where, having accepted the Henoticon and the Twelve Chapters of Cyril, he proved an active opponent of all Nestorianizers and a zealous propagator of Monophysite views in the country villages round Antioch. Calandio, the patriarch of Antioch, expelled him from his diocese. He was recalled by Peter the Fuller, who ordained him bp. of Hierapolis (Mabug) in place of the more orthodox Cyrus, c. 485. During Peter's turbulent rule Philoxenus actively supported his measures for suppressing the Nestorianizing section of the church and establishing Eutychian or Monophysite doctrines in his patriarchate and generally in the East. The accession in 498 of the vacillating Flavian to the throne of Antioch, and his change of front from opposition to support of Chalcedon, led Philoxenus to adopt a more active line of conduct (Evagr. H. E. iii. 31), pursuing Flavian with untiring animosity, endeavouring to force him to accept the Henoticon, on his refusal denouncing him as a concealed Nestorian, demanding that he should repudiate not only Nestorius but all who were regarded as sympathizing with him, Diodorus, Theodorus, Theodoret, and many others, repeatedly denouncing him to the emperor Anastasius, and at last accomplishing his deprivation and expulsion. [FLAVIANUS OF ANTIOCH.] In pursuance of his object Philoxenus more than once visited Constantinople. The first time was at the summons of Anastasius, a.d. 507. His arrival caused a great disturbance among the clergy, laity, and monastic bodies. To consult the peace of the city, the emperor was compelled to remove him secretly (Theophan. p. 128; Victor. Tunun. sub. ann. 499). Unable in any other way to secure the deposition of Flavian and his supporter Elias of Jerusalem, Philoxenus obtained from Anastasius an order for convening a synod ostensibly to define more exactly the points of faith, but really to remove the two obnoxious prelates. This synod of about 80 bishops met at Sidon early in 512, under the joint presidency of Philoxenus and Soterichus of the Cappadocian 843Caesarea. Feeling ran so high and so much endangered the public peace that the synod was broken up by the emperor's command without pronouncing any sentence (Labbe, iv. 1413; Theophan. p. iii; Vit. S. Sab. ap. Coteler, Mon. Eccl. Graec. iii. 297 ff.). In the subsequent proceedings, when rival bodies of monks poured down from the mountain ranges into the streets of Antioch, and were joined by different parties among the citizens, converting the city into a scene of uproar and bloodshed (Evagr. H. E. iii. 32), Philoxenus was left practically master of the field. Flavian was banished, and the Monophysite Severus, the friend and associate of Philoxenus, was put in his place towards the close of 512 (ib. iii. 33). The triumph of Philoxenus, however, was but short. In 518 Anastasius was succeeded by the more orthodox Justin, who immediately on his accession, declaring himself an adherent of Chalcedon, restored the expelled orthodox bishops and banished the heterodox. Philoxenus is said to have been banished to Philippopolis in Thrace (Asseman. Bibl. Orient. ii. 19; Theophan. p. 141; Chron. Edess. 87), and thence to Gangra in Paphlagonia, where he died of suffocation by smoke (Bar-heb. ii. 56). He is commemorated by the Jacobites in their liturgy as a doctor and confessor.

The Syriac translation of N.T. known as the "Philoxenian Version," subsequently revised by Thomas of Harkel, in which form alone we possess it, was executed in 508 at his desire by his chorepiscopus Polycarp (Moses Agnellus, ap. Asseman. Bibl. Orient. ii. 83; ib. i. 408). It is extremely literal; "the Syriac idiom is constantly bent to suit the Greek, and everything is in some manner expressed in the Greek phrase and order" (Westcott in Smith's D. B. vol. iii. p. 1635 B).

Philoxenus and Severus were the authors of the dominant form of Monophysite doctrines which, while maintaining the unity of the natures of Christ, endeavoured to preserve a distinction between the divine and the human. This doctrine is laid down in eight propositions at variance with the tenets of the early Christians, whom he stigmatized as Phantasiasts. Christ was the Son of Man, i.e. Son of the yet unfallen man, and the Logos took the body and soul of man as they were before Adam's fall. The very personality of God the Word descended from heaven and became man in the womb of the Virgin, personally without conversion. Thus He became a man Who could be seen, felt, handled, and yet as God He continued to possess the spiritual, invisible, impalpable character essential to Deity. Neither the deity nor the humanity was absorbed one by the other, nor converted one into the other. Nor again was a third evolved by a combination of the two natures as by chemical transformation. They taught one nature constituted out of two, not simple but twofold, μία φύσις σύνθετος, or μία φύσις διττή. The one Person of the Incarnate Word was not a duality but a unity. The same Son Who was one before the Incarnation was equally one when united to the body. In all said, done, or suffered by Christ, there was only one and the same God the Word, Who became man, and took on Himself the condition of want and suffering, not naturally but voluntarily, for the accomplishment of man's redemption. It followed that God the Word suffered and died, and not merely a body distinct from or obedient to Him, or in which He dwelt, but with which He was not one. Their view as to the personal work of Christ is briefly summed up in the Theopaschite formula, "unus a Trinitate descendit de coelo, incarnatus est, crucifixus, mortuus, resurrexit, ascendit in caelum." Philoxenus held that "potuit non mori," not that "non potuit mori." It followed that he affirmed a single will in Christ. In the Eucharist he held that the living body of the living God was received, not anything belonging to a corruptible man like ourselves. He was decidedly opposed to all pictorial representations of Christ, as well as of all spiritual beings. No true honour, he said, was done to Christ by making pictures of Him, since His only acceptable worship was that in spirit and in truth. To depict the Holy Spirit as a dove was puerile, for it is said economically that He was seen in the likeness, not in the body, of a dove. It was contrary to reason to represent angels, purely spiritual beings, by human bodies. He acted up to these opinions and blotted out pictures of angels, removing out of sight those of Christ (Joann. Diaconus, de Eccl. Hist. ap. Labbe, vii. 369).

He was a very copious writer, and described by Assemani as one of the best and most elegant in the Syrian tongue (Bibl. Orient. i. 475; ii. 20). Assemani gives a catalogue of 23 of his works. To these may be added 13 homilies on Christian life and character (Wright, 764); 12 chapters against the holders of the Two Wills (ib. 730, 749); 10 against those who divided Christ (ib. 730). Evagr. H. E. iii. 31, 32; Theod. Lect. fragm. p. 569; Theophan. Chronogr. pp. 115, 128, 129, 131, 141; Labbe, iv. 1153, vii. 88, 368; Tillem. Mém. eccl. xvi. 677–681, 701–706; Neander, H. E. iv. 255, Clark's trans.; Gieseler, H. E. ii. 94; Schröckh, Kirch. Geschich. xviii. 526–538; Dorner, Person of Christ, div. ii. vol. i. pp. 133–135, Clark's trans.


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