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|Map 4. The empire under Diocletian, showing centres of imperial administration (in capital letters) and other cities of importance in Christian history. (Constantinople was built on the site of Byzantium.)|
We have now reached the terminal point of our history, which is the year 230, having completed the fifth generation of forty years each since the Crucifixion, two hundred years in all. It has not been treated in as great detail as the preceding four, but an attempt has been made to indicate the connexions and inter-relations of persons and events. The present chapter will cover a hundred years of history, necessarily omitting many important new developments, but continuing some of |461 the principal topics, and so forming an epilogue without which our narrative would not be complete or self-explanatory.
The year 231 was marked by the emergence of the Persian power, a sign of ill omen for the Roman empire. Artaxerxes (Ardashir I) of Persia was successful in wresting the province of Mesopotamia from the Roman garrisons. The Emperor Alexander and his mother Mamaea spent the winter in Antioch in preparation for an eastern campaign which was far from successful.
Origen was now the rising intellectual luminary of the Christian church, and indeed of the philosophical and religious world. He was much in demand outside of Alexandria. He travelled and lectured constantly; and in this year he paid a second visit to Caesarea, where he was again asked to lecture in the church. He was still a layman, but he was now forty-five years of age, and his episcopal friends ordained him presbyter. It was a provocative act, and the news was not well received in Alexandria, where Demetrius had now been bishop for forty years and the presbytery was a highly privileged and exclusive corporation. He was the last remaining figure of importance from the days of the Paschal controversy, when Irenaeus and Victor and Polycrates and Narcissus were maintaining the traditions which they had received from disciples of the apostles. He was a strong man, and not to be trifled with.
Origen went on to Greece and spent some time in Athens. On his way back to Caesarea he stayed at Nicomedea in Pontus, which was one of the new centres of imperial and military administration and a city of growing importance. He went on to Ephesus and Antioch. It is quite possible that he never returned to Alexandria at all; for the patience of Demetrius was exhausted. It was not a question of Origen's philosophy, it seems, that was charged against him; it was his uncanonical ordination and the old question of his mutilation. At a later date, canons of the church strictly forbade the ordination of a eunuch, though this had happened in Rome, it would appear, in the case of the eunuch Hyacinthus who had attended Marcia;they also directed that a man could only be ordained presbyter by his own bishop. These rules or customs may already have been observed in Egypt, but in any case Demetrius was prepared to take action. He called a council of |462 presbyters, and Origen was dismissed from his position as head of the catechetical school; he was 'ordered to remove', says Photius, who had read the correspondence. Demetrius followed this by calling a council of bishops, who deposed him from the presbyterate. Whatever may have been the case in earlier days, there was nothing defective about the episcopal order in Alexandria now. Demetrius communicated this decision to the other bishops of the catholic church, and all concurred in it, Jerome says, except the bishops of Palestine, Arabia, Phoenicia and Achaea. Rome and Antioch, therefore, must have decided against Origen, if Jerome is accurate; but in the case of Rome, this would mean Pontian rather than Hippolytus; for Rome was still divided.
Heraclas became the head of the catechetical school in Alexandria, but its glory had departed. The great Alexandrian tradition was now removed to Caesarea, where Origen worked in harmony with Theoctistus and Alexander and Africanus. Ambrose followed him, and reestablished the library and the scriptorium. Origen revelled in his new-found freedom. He referred to the providence of God, which had delivered him from the Egyptian bondage; and it was at this time most likely (231-3) that he was summoned to Antioch to meet the empress, Julia Mamaea.
In 233 Demetrius died. He was now a very old man, and the diocese of Alexandria owed much to his resolute administration. He was succeeded by Heraclas; and Dionysius, another pupil of Origen, became head of the catechetical school. Dionysius succeeded Heraclas as bishop in 247. The theological tradition of Pantaenus, Clement and Origen continued without a break; but it was not apparently in perfect harmony with the Origenists in Palestine.
In the year 235 the young Emperor Alexander and his mother Mamaea were assassinated in the course of a campaign on the Danube, where barbarian invaders had crossed the river, and swarmed into the Balkan provinces. The new emperor, Maximin, was a native of the Balkans who had risen from the ranks, the first of a number of emperors of this sort. There seems to be no good reason for enrolling him among the persecutors; but persecutions did break out in his reign. The Christians were no longer favoured. It was in this year that Pontian and Hippolytus |463 of Rome were condemned to the mines in Sardinia and died there as martyrs. There may have been persecution in Palestine too, but not apparently in Cappadocia, where Origen was visiting Firmilian, the bishop of the Cappadocian Caesarea, which was now one of the most important military centres of the empire and a rival of Antioch itself. Firmilian had visited Origen in the Palestinian Caesarea and had invited him to his diocese to work there, much as Clement had worked for Alexander. The Cappadocian Caesarea became the centre of a leading church which maintained the theology of Origen in the following century when his memory was reviled. It formed a base for the evangelization of Armenia.
Origen seems to have remained there as long as two years. He resided with a lady named Juliana, who presented him with the autograph copy of the translation of the Old Testament made by the Jewish-Christian Symmachus, and also a copy of his book against St Matthew's Gospel. Clement, too, had had to deal with Judaizers in Cappadocia. Jewish Christianity was weakening now, but it was not dead; for it flourished in the Syrian cities of Beroea and Apamea. In Samosata, a young man named Paul was growing to manhood; he became a student of theology, and combined an adoptionist theology of a semi-Ebionite kind with a measure of Origenian philosophy.
Origen returned to Caesarea in Palestine about 237. His literary labours continued, and so did his travels. He visited Jerusalem, Jericho, the Jordan Valley, Galilee and Sidon, to investigate the footsteps of Jesus and his disciples and the prophets. Allusions to these investigations occur in his Gospel-commentaries. He paid at least one more vis:t to Bostra in Arabia, and it may have been at this time that he conferred with the bishop, Beryllus, and convinced him of the error of his (apparently) adoptionist theology. His sphere of influence is clearly indicated. He never returned to Alexandria, where his old colleague Heraclas, the 'blessed pope' as Dionysius called him, seems not to have been sympathetic. He wrote to Fabian, the new bishop of Rome; for the war of Epistles was always going on. It is unfortunate that the letters of Origen are lost; but it would seem that he was defending his views against criticism. Rome was not sympathetic with the Logos theology.
About this time he was engaged in an enormous labour, the determination of the true text of the Old Testament; and many years were |464 spent on the making of the Hexapla, a six-column codex. The first column contained the text in Hebrew; the second contained the Hebrew text transliterated into Greek letters; the remaining four were devoted to the Greek translations of Aquila, Symmachus, the Septuagint and Theodotion. In appearance it must have resembled the Vatican manuscript of the Bible, Codex B, which has three columns to the page; and it is interesting to know that magnificent and expensive books of this type were being produced in Christian workshops at this time; the original volumes from which Vaticanus (B) was copied may quite possibly have been in existence at this time.
A similar book was made in Alexandria at this time by the 'blessed Ammonius'. It was a harmony of the four Gospels made in a more modern way than that of Tatian. There were four columns to the page; the Gospel of Matthew was placed in the first column, divided into numbered sections or paragraphs; opposite each section of Matthew he placed the corresponding section from the other Gospels, each in its appropriate column. This book must have resembled the Sinaitic manuscript (Aleph), which is written in four columns and has a set of section-numbers based on those of Ammonius.
These scientific studies indicate the thorough methods of the Alexandrian school. The Hexapla also had a critical apparatus, which consisted of a number of asterisks, obeli etc., which drew attention to agreements and disagreements. In the long run, the influence on the textual tradition was not good, for the importance of these marks was forgotten, and subsequent copyists based their work on a confusion of the evidence. It is doubtful, in consequence, whether we possess a pure copy of the Septuagint. The best text is thought to be that contained in Codex B, which may be closely related to the Hexapla text. The Hexapla itself was seen by Eusebius and Jerome, but does not survive any longer. It was presumably a parchment book.
Origen was aware that there was a New Testament textual problem, though it was not so complicated or serious as the problem of the Old Testament. The earlier work of Origen is based on the so-called Neutral text which is represented by Aleph and B; but shortly before he left Alexandria he began to use the so-called Caesarean text, represented by the Chester Beatty papyrus and the manuscript Theta (Θ). He used this increasingly in later life during his residence at Caesarea; and that is why it has been called Caesarean.
|465 During this period he enrolled among his pupils two brothers of noble birth who came to him from Pontus; their names were Theodore and Athenodore. The former took the name of Gregory, and was known in after generations as Thaumaturgus, the wonder-worker. He became the apostle of Armenia, which soon became a Christian state, and at a later time boasted a distinguished theological school which inclined to the theology of Nestorius. When Gregory left Caesarea, he delivered a valedictory, or Farewell Address, which has been preserved and gives an attractive picture of Origen as a teacher. The power of Origen over his pupils was due even more to his personality than to his intellectual genius. His literary style has little art or beauty about it, but he had the gift of awakening interest and inspiring love and devotion. He was selfless and sincere, and wore his halo of learning, asceticism and sanctity with modesty and restraint. His deeply emotional nature was kept under control by prayer and intellectual discipline. He was completely absorbed in his vocation, and always at the service of others. His pupils were led to express themselves freely in discussion, but soon found their ideas analysed by a master of the Socratic dialectic. Then he would lead them on with irresistible charm to new light and new truth, through the pathways of divine philosophy.
Maximin, who was something of a dictator, was overthrown as early as 238 by the Gordianus family of Africa, with the co-operation of the senate, which now makes its last bid for power. The Persians were driven out of Mesopotamia, but Gordian III was murdered in 244, and the Syrian legions put in as emperor a competent soldier named Philip the Arabian. Philip was the last emperor to represent the east and to carry on the Syrian policy. He was believed by many to be a Christian, and there is a story of his appearing at the Easter rites and being repelled by the bishop until he had joined the ranks of the penitents, on account of certain sins; in the fourth century Antioch claimed to be the scene of this event. The story is not accepted by modern historians, but it serves to mark the fact that Christians were in favour again.
Origen was now sixty years old, and was persuaded to allow his sermons to be taken down by stenographers. Many of these reports are included among his Homilies. He was working hard on his |466 commentaries, which included the twenty-five 'tomes' on Matthew, some of which still survive. In spite of his fantastic allegorism, Origen was a great biblical scholar, often displaying keen critical insight. He fully accepted the literal, moral and spiritual implications of the text, and it was his constant labours on the scriptures that kept him within the current of legitimate Christian thinking. It was in this period that Ambrose came upon the True Word, in which Celsus, the philosopher of the Antonine period, had so strongly attacked the Christians of his day. He insisted that Origen should compose a rejoinder; and the result was his long laborious learned book Against Celsus, which is now such a valuable source-book for the story of second-century Christianity.
In 248 the city of Rome celebrated its one thousandth anniversary, which was a sign that the old Roman and Latin spirit was asserting itself, though its actual power and importance was diminishing. It had ceased, or was ceasing, to govern the empire. The government was administered from the army headquarters, and that would usually be on the boundaries rather than in the centre. Nor was the city of Rome the political centre. The strength of the empire was definitely in the east, a feature which was reflected in the ecclesiastical situation. In the east, too, was its greatest military danger, the strong and aggressive Persian empire; but hordes of'barbarians' were constantly pressing down from the north, the Franks in Gaul, the Alamanni in northern Italy, and the Goths in the Balkans.
In 249 Philip the Arabian was assassinated in Moesia while fighting against the Goths, and Decius became Emperor. In view of the dangerous situation, he endeavoured to bring back the empire to the old religious and patriotic traditions which had been the source of Rome's greatness, as he believed, during its thousand years of history. He determined to make everyone conform to the state religion. All the inhabitants of the empire had been given the Roman citizenship by Caracalla, and they were now called upon to appear personally and sacrifice to the gods, and obtain a libellus or certificate that they had done so. He was advised and assisted in this programme of compulsory return to religion by his 'censor', Valerian, who had been engaged |467 in purging the membership of the senate. Persecution of Christians had already broken out in Egypt under the prefect Sabinus, accounts of which are given by Eusebius from the interesting letters of the bishop, Dionysius. Fabian of Rome, Babylas of Antioch and Alexander of Jerusalem suffered martyrdom; Cyprian of Carthage and Dionysius of Alexandria were persuaded to retire into the country. Origen was imprisoned and subjected to torture.
Dionysius, a pupil of Origen, had become bishop in 247. He was a distinguished theologian and wrote on many subjects. Some of his Epistles are extant, including a correspondence with Dionysius, bishop of Rome, in which he defended his views against the criticism of his namesake. The Alexandrian Dionysius, who had ventured to attack the Sabellian theology which was current in Libya, was a little tinctured with Origenism, and his conception of the Logos was far from satisfactory; the Roman Dionysius was the exponent of a fortified and reasonably orthodox Sabellianism, a kind of theology which the easterns did not, as yet, either understand or like. They were more in line with Hippolytus, it would seem, than with the legitimate Roman succession.
Egypt was troubled with teachers who took the apocalyptic expectations rather literally, and expressed them in rather wild forms. There was a bishop named Nepos, who had written a book Against the Allegorizers ; and it was in connexion with this dispute that Dionysius wrote his critical analysis of the grammar and style of the Gospel and Revelation of John, assigning them to two different authors, a conclusion which he supported by saying that there were two tombs of John which were shown to visitors at Ephesus. The Gospel, he thought, was written by the apostle, and the Revelation, which he treated with great respect, by some other man of the same name. He did not know the work of Papias apparently, but he may have read the work of Gaius.
The empire was now entering a phase of great weakness, not to say disaster. The grave emotional tension expressed itself in the form of savage persecution on the pagan side, and savage apocalyptic on the Christian side. The Christian poet, Commodian, who seems to have written his Latin verses at this time, promised the world that it would suffer the ravages of two 'anti-christs', one of them coming from the north across the Danube, the other from the east across the Euphrates. The political animus, which is often not far away in apocalyptic writing, is painfully apparent here. The wiser bishops, who were scholars and |468 men of the world, tried to keep their more fanatical followers in check. At the moment, however, the Persians had been driven back and Mesopotamia reoccupied; but the Goths were crossing the Danube again in force, and in 251 the Emperor Decius was killed in battle in Moesia, after a short reign of three years. His successor, Callus, was forced to make a bargain with the barbarians and allowed them to settle south of the Danube; an important date in European history.
Origen was released from his imprisonment, but did not live much longer; he died in 253. Cyprian and Dionysius returned to their dioceses. There was a short cessation of religious conflict.
Great numbers of Christians had failed to stand firm in the persecutions. They had sacrificed to the gods or purchased immunity from a corrupt (or Christian?) official. It was no longer possible to refuse restoration to this great multitude. On the other hand the surviving confessors, who had endured imprisonment, were exalted to great spiritual heights and assumed the authority to restore to communion those who had lapsed. A curious bond was thus formed between two very different classes. Cyprian had a situation of this kind to cope with in Africa; but he felt that he could not grant indiscriminate restoration to all who had lapsed, nor could he allow the confessors to decide the matter. His own position was weak, since he had retired from the persecution, and the extreme party regarded him as an apostate himself. A number of older presbyters, who had objected to his election in the first place, made common cause with the confessors and set up a rival bishop; their leader was a presbyter named Novatus. Cyprian endeavoured to restore some sort of order by calling regional councils of bishops. But there was a weakness in that too; the extremists thought that any bishop who had failed to come up to the highest standards of the martyr's code had ceased to be a bishop.
There had been more than a year in Rome with no bishop at all, but Cornelius was elected in 251. He did not satisfy everybody and, needless to say, there was a rival bishop. He was the theologian Novatian, the leader of a party of confessors who refused to assent to the restoration of any who had lapsed or shown weakness in persecution. They were known as the cathari or puritans. Strange to say, they made |469 common cause with the dissident party of Novatus in Africa, though their church policy was by no means the same. It would seem that Novatian found similar groups who would communicate with him in most parts of the world; a new schism came into existence which was highly orthodox, highly spiritual and highly moral; it had no room in it for forgiveness and restoration.
Cornelius of Rome wrote an interesting letter to Fabius of Antioch, in which he gives a short biography of Novatian, and remarks that he had in his own organization in Rome, 46 presbyters, 7 deacons, 7 sub-deacons, 52 exorcists, lectors and door-keepers, and over 1500 widows and orphans to support. This count supports the Roman tradition that his predecessor, Fabian, had divided the city into seven regions for purposes of administration, an arrangement which persisted into the middle ages; it is likely that each region was administered from one of the old city churches. It was a considerable organization, and we do not wonder that the Emperor Decius said that he would rather see a rival emperor in Rome than another Christian bishop. All the correspondence which passed between Rome and Africa was in Latin; and on the Roman side it was sometimes in very poor Latin. Cyprian and Novatian wrote their theological books in Latin, and in very good Latin. Novatian was a good theologian, rather in the tradition of Hippolytus; but his grim denial of forgiveness to penitent Christians went far beyond the legalistic position of Hippolytus.
Callus revived the persecution after a while, and Cornelius was sent into exile, where he died; his successor Lucius suffered a similar fate. But Callus soon perished, and was succeeded in 253 by Valerian (the censor of Decius) and his son Gallienus. In 254 Stephen became bishop of Rome. His controversy with Cyprian over the rebaptism of heretics disturbed the never too peaceful relations between the two churches, and raised the question of the powers of the bishops in their churches and the position of the Roman church in relation to the other churches. Cyprian's letters and treatises are very important theological documents. His views on the rebaptism of heretics, though they had been widely held in the church, were eventually abandoned and heretical baptism was accepted as valid. His views on the equality of bishops were not |470 incompatible with the recognition of some precedence or pre-eminence for the Roman see as an apostolic foundation; but it is not possible to go into these questions here.
In 255 the Goths invaded Illyricum and Macedonia, the Scythians were in Asia Minor, and the Alamanni in Italy. Shapur (or Sapor as the Romans called him), the Persian monarch, had taken Armenia and was threatening Antioch. Matters were worse than ever, and Valerian resorted once again to the persecution of Christians, but in a quite new form. He had grasped the importance for the church, of the episcopal order, and in 257 he issued a decree which required all the Christian clergy to sacrifice to the gods. He also forbade Christian assemblies. Other decrees followed. Dionysius of Alexandria went into retirement again, but Cyprian stood his trial, suffering martyrdom on 14 September 258, as Xystus II had done in Rome on 6 August, and his deacon Laurence a few days later. Laurence was buried near the cemetery of Hippolytus, and the church of San Lorenzo marks the place. He soon eclipsed Hippolytus and all the other Roman martyrs and became the most famous of them all. This year, according to the Liberian Catalogue, marked the 'deposition' of the bodies of St Peter and St Paul 'at the catacombs' and 'on the Ostian Way' respectively.The meaning of the entry is not known, but the word 'deposition' in this document is used for the burial of a bishop. The day of this 'deposition', 29 June, has been chosen as their annual festival in the west. St Laurence is commemorated on 10 August, and these two days became the most important fixed points in the Roman calendar between Pentecost and Advent. The shape of Latin Christianity was beginning to appear.
Gallienus, meanwhile, had been winning victories over the Alamanni who had invaded Italy; but his father Valerian, who had checked the Goths in the Balkans, was defeated by the Persian king Shapur in 260 and taken prisoner. This calamity caused great dismay, though Gallienus does not seem to have been seriously perturbed; it was worse than the defeat and death of Decius in 251. It may even have suggested that the persecutors of Christians came to no good end, an idea which had
|471 been mooted by Tertullian and would be developed by Lactantius. Shapur's armies advanced into Syria, Cilicia and Cappadocia; but the generals of Valerian were not inactive, and Shapur had left in his rear the strong city of Palmyra. Odenatus, the king of Palmyra, attacked him vigorously and he was forced to retire into Mesopotamia in the following year. Odenatus now saw his way to set up what was virtually an independent Syrian empire, and Gallienus was forced to recognize him. It suited him to do so.
In 260 Gallienus issued an edict of toleration for the Christians and restored to them the use of their churches, a very important act of imperial recognition. What more could they require? They were undisturbed by persecution for over forty years.
In 262, an incursion of Goths from southern Russia came down by sea through the Bosphorus, ravaged Asia Minor, and burned the great temple of Artemis in Ephesus. Gallienus failed to check this raid, which encouraged the Goths to repeat it. He was obliged to recognize Odenatus as an independent sovereign and the virtual ruler of the eastern empire. Meanwhile he cultivated the intellectual life, after the manner of his Syrian predecessors, and patronized the distinguished philosopher Plotinus, who was now lecturing at Rome. One of his pupils was Porphyry, who had once met Origen at Tyre, and was becoming the leading intellectual opponent of the Christians; for the cessation of persecution was succeeded by intellectual warfare. Porphyry wrote his books against Christianity towards the end of the century, and was answered by Methodius and Eusebius. Plotinus himself never mentions Christianity. These must surely be the last Hellenic schools of any kind in Rome, where Latin was now the dominant language.
A Christian intellectual of very strange proportions now appears in the east; Paul of Samosata, bishop of Antioch, an ambitious and powerful prelate. He was the author of a brilliant theology which managed to blend the Logos theology of Origen in a weakened form with some kind of adoptionism; the Logos dwelt in Jesus 'as a quality', Paul said. Paul was condemned by two councils during the two-hundred-and-sixties, but without effect. The first of these, perhaps about 263, was dominated by the old Origenists; Firmilian of Cappadocia was there; |472 and so were Gregory and Athenodore; Dionysius of Alexandria excused himself on the grounds of age. They condemned Paul, but there was no more that they could do. He remained in possession of the church property and continued to administer the diocese. Time passed.
The empire was at its lowest ebb. Gallienus had to deal with a rival emperor in Gaul who had some victories over the Franks to his credit. In 267 the Goths made further spectacular raids by sea and by land. They ravaged Illyricum and Thessalonia, and looted Athens. The old civilized countries took long to recover from these raids, and perhaps it may be said that they never did. The eastern empire was virtually independent. Odenatus was assassinated in the same year, but he was succeeded by his widow Zenobia, a Syrian queen of great charm, marked executive ability and no little learning. Longinus, the disciple of Ammonius Saccas, was her philosopher. Paul, the heretical bishop of Antioch, was her minister of finance. This was the last phase of the Syrian Hellenism, which had first appeared under the patronage of Julia Domna; but the 'Syrian culture', having absorbed a measure of Hellenism, was still vigorous and had a further part to play in later history.
A second council of bishops was held, about 268, which deposed Paul from his office, and appointed Domnus, who was the son of his predecessor, to be bishop in his place; but no progress was made in ejecting Zenobia's favourite from the church property and the episcopal dignity. He continued in his grand state, and choirs of ladies sang his praises as he entered his church; or so his enemies asserted. It is rather curious that the Didascalia, a church order which emanated from Antioch about this time, is our first evidence, apart from the Montanist and other sects, for a female order of ministers in the church, though Pliny mentioned something of the sort; they were known as deaconesses. It is not incredible that Paul may have been saluted with honorific chants, when he came into church, since existing liturgies make a similar provision. But neither the personality nor the theology of Paul can be clearly discerned, since they are delineated by his enemies. It would appear that he could play the politician, the business-man, the stump-orator and the bon viveur as successfully as he could play the philosopher or theologian.
It may be suggested that there were a number of non-theological factors in this notorious case. Paul's appointment, in the first place,
|473 may have been due to a party in the church with native Syrian or Palmyrene sympathies, or even to political pressure. Quite a different party, with Roman or anti-Palmyrene sympathies may from the first have favoured a successor from the old episcopal family. Paul was not a native Antiochene.
And now the resolute Aurelian became emperor. He made a bargain with the Goths, abandoning the provinces north of the Danube, which were now hard to defend. He built a defensive wall round the city of Rome, which stands to this day as a monument of his enterprise and a proof of the alarm which was felt at the time. He succeeded in conquering the Alamanni, however, who had once again invaded Italy. One of his generals recovered Egypt, which had been taken by Zenobia; and in 272 he marched into Syria and defeated the warlike queen in a battle near Antioch. In 273 he defeated her again near Emesa, and destroyed Palmyra itself. Rival emperors in Spain and Gaul were suppressed by his generals. He had restored the empire, and celebrated a triumph at Rome in 274.
Now when he was in Antioch in 272, the bishops submitted to his consideration the case of Paul and Domnus. They wanted Paul evicted and Domnus installed. The emperor made a decision of great importance. The property was to be awarded to whichever party the bishop of Rome agreed with. The bishops were exultant; 'Let him communicate with Artemas', they said; an interesting link with the past, for Artemas must be the same adoptionist leader who was mentioned by Hippolytus forty years before in the Little Labyrinth, if that is his work. A sixth generation had now passed. It is forty years since the migration of Origen to Caesarea, and nearly forty since the death of Hippolytus.
Paul was deposed. Longinus was executed. Zenobia was taken to Rome, to appear in the triumph of Aurelian, after which she was permitted to reside comfortably in Italy. The period of Syrian ascendancy in government, theology and philosophy had passed its peak, though its influence was by no means at an end. On the other hand Persian ideas were making themselves felt.
It was between 272 and 277 that Mani was crucified. He was born
|474 about 215 in the village of Mardiu, south of the old Babylon. His family belonged to the sect of Mugthasila, or 'baptizers'. His religious background would appear to owe much to the Transjordanian syncretism. He created a new religion, a semi-christian gnosis which was intended to supplement and supersede all existing religions. It was based on the old Iranian ideas and inculcated an extravagant antipathy to everything of a material character, far exceeding the encratite or gnostic asceticisms. Marriage and property were both forbidden to the perfect, and vegetarianism was hardly less sinful than the eating of flesh or the drinking of wine. He proclaimed his new religion in the year of the coronation of King Shapur in 242, and preached it for thirty years. He is said to have gone as far afield as India and China. He aroused the hostility of the Magian priests in his own country and was crucified under a new king, Vahram I, the grandson of his patron Shapur.
Eusebius was a child when the deposition of Paul took place. Nothing is known about his parentage and childhood, but at some point in the last quarter of the century, he attached himself to Pamphilus, who was the guardian of Origen's library at Caesarea. Pamphilus himself was a wealthy man of south Syrian origin. He devoted all his property to the poor and lived a life of self-denial. After studying at Alexandria he settled at Caesarea, where he was ordained presbyter and organized an extensive library into which the library of Origen was incorporated. It is not certain that he had been a pupil of Origen himself; but he was devoted to his memory and spent his days in arranging his manuscripts, making new copies of them and studying them intensively. Thus the spell of Origen's personality lingered on.
Eusebius was the devoted pupil of Pamphilus, and in consequence a devotee of Origen. He studied his books and papers, and also the second-century literature which told the stories of martyrdom and church-controversy in which his soul delighted. He visited Aelia, too, and saw the library of Alexander, with its archives and chronicles, |475 which took him back to the days of Narcissus, who was still being talked about. He was shown the chair of James the Just and the miraculous oil of Narcissus. Fortunately he possessed great industry and a remarkable respect for ancient documents. He became the greatest chronicler of them all. He read very widely in the ancient literature which was available to him. He had access to the old Jewish Hellenistic literature, which preceded the Christian era. But for him, we would know little about all this.
The day was evil for the empire, but there was no persecution now for the church. It was rich and prosperous, with imposing buildings, dignified services and worldly prelates. Eusebius describes this state of affairs in his stilted conventional manner, and yet imparts to his denunciation a prophetic sincerity. He never acquired a graceful or readable style; he was apt to be impressed by the drama of pomp and circumstance; and yet he was always sincere. He was sincere, above all, in his reverence for the martyrs.
Aurelian celebrated his triumph in 274, but his glory was short-lived. He is said to have issued a decree against the Christians, but he was murdered in Thrace in the following year as he was marching eastward to resist a new invasion by the Persian king, who had actually reached the Bosphorus; few emperors in this wretched period of history died in peace. A chaotic ten years followed his death. A series of generals followed one another as emperors in rapid succession; they clashed with one another, or were assassinated after a brief period of power. They were not unsuccessful, however, in their efforts. Carus, who was the last of them, drove back the Persians and recovered Armenia and Mesopotamia. He was succeeded by Diocletian, an old officer of Aurelian, who assumed the purple in 284. These emperors were the creation of the Danubian legions, and Diocletian and his successors were natives of the Balkans.
|477 It fell to the lot of Diocletian to reorganize the whole empire on new lines. Its duality was frankly recognized, and the city of Rome was quietly ignored; emperors were needed on the frontiers where the work of defence was carried on. Diocletian knew that the strength of the empire was in the east, and chose Nicomedia in Pontus for his capital city; but he appointed a second emperor, subsidiary to himself, whose capital city would be at Milan in northern Italy. Each would have the venerable title of Augustus, and be given an assistant with the lesser title of Caesar, who was allotted his own territory to administer and defend. After twenty years, the August! were to resign, and the Caesars would automatically move up into their places, thus ending the old dynastic tradition and the ambitions of popular generals. Each was to |478 be surrounded by religious pomp and circumstance like the Persian monarch, who was an earthly replica of the sun-god and was adorned with the holy diadem or halo. He was to be approached with reverence and awe. This unhellenic and unroman glorification did at least protect their lives.
The Christians were tolerated; indeed, it is said that the wife of Diocletian was a Christian; but not long before his retirement became due he was prevailed upon by his Caesar, Galerius, to launch an attack upon the church, which began in 302. It came as a judgement on the church for its laxity, Eusebius thought. It was a long drawn out, vindictive and competently-organized affair, wherever the local Augustus or Caesar was in favour of it. The churches were looted and sometimes destroyed; the sacred books were burned, a loss which the historian still regrets; and the worship of the gods was enforced with savage penalties. Eusebius catalogued the martyrs of Palestine and told their stories. It is the climax to which his Church History moves.
When Diocletian and his western colleague Maximian retired from their supreme positions in 305, the plans for an automatic succession very soon broke down, and a complicated story of rivalry, intrigue and inter-imperial war was the sequel. Galerius, who succeeded Diocletian in the east was a persecutor; Constantius, who succeeded Maximian in the west, was not. The capital city of Constantius was at York in Britain. He was a veteran officer of the Danubian armies, and his wife Helena was a Christian. The edicts of persecution were not put into effect in his territories. It is true that the tradition preserved by St Bede places the martyrdom of St Alban, the first known martyr of Britain, in this persecution; but it has been suggested that it really took place fifty years earlier under Decius. There were at least three dioceses in Britain at this time, including York and London, and possibly Lincoln; for bishops from these dioceses attended the Council of Aries in 314.
Constantius died in 306 and Maxentius, his Caesar, the son of old Maximian, should have succeeded him as Augustus; but the legions in York would have none of that; they proclaimed his son Constantine as Augustus, presumably in the praetorium, the remains of which are to be |479 seen underneath York Minster. Galerius was obliged to recognize both men as Augusti, one in Britain and one in Italy. To balance matters, he elevated his own Caesar, Maximin Daia, whose capital was in Antioch, to the rank of Augustus, and appointed another general named Licinius, who was in command of the Balkans, to the same rank. He died in 311. In the intense rivalry which followed, Constantine came to an understanding with Licinius, but Maximin Daia, now at Nicomedia, was, of course, the senior man, the real Roman emperor.
We have now come to the end of the second period of forty years since 230, completing the seventh generation since the Crucifixion.
In 312, the year after the death of Galerius, Constantine marched on Rome with his legions, to do battle with his rival Augustus, Maxentius, who was a persecutor, and also his brother-in-law. As he crossed the Alps, he saw in the sky a strange sign compounded of a circle and a cross; and in a dream by night he saw it again, and heard a voice which said
ΤΟΥΤΩ ΝΙΚΑ or ΕΝ ΤΟΥΤΩ ΝΙΚΑ
'Conquer by this'.
It would do for Christ and his cross, or for Mithras and the unconquerable sun. He adopted the sign, which came to be called the 'labarum', for the standard of his legions, and won the battle of the Milvian Bridge on October 27, Maxentius being drowned in the river. He met Licinius at Milan, where they settled on a policy of toleration for all religions, and doubtless issued some sort of edict to that effect; but Licinius still had to defeat Maximin Daia before the pair were in control of the empire. He did this in 313, and then issued a decree from Nicomedia, in the name of both emperors, granting toleration to all religions, restoring their property to the Christians, and authorizing grants for the rebuilding of churches. Neither of them came out entirely on the Christian side.
Everywhere church life began again. It is a tangled story, and the stages in the rise to power of the Christian church cannot be clearly made out. Among the Christian writers of the time whose books shed light on the history were Lactantius and Eusebius. Lactantius wrote in Latin; he had been professor of literature in his pagan days, and had received a professional literary training; his grim book Concerning the Deaths of the Persecutors attempts to establish the thesis that persecutors |480 come to a bad end. Eusebius had already made considerable progress with his Ecclesiastical History ; for he hails with joy and thanksgiving the policy of toleration which was promised in the east by Licinius; but once he had defeated his persecuting opponent Maximin Daia, Licinius relapsed into a policy of persecution, and it was not until he was defeated by Constantine at Chrysopolis in 323-4 that real toleration came. So Eusebius had to re-edit his History, and compose an additional volume.
Constantine was now the master of the whole empire, as Aurelian and Diocletian had been in their prime. He was able to declare himself a Christian, though indeed he was not baptized, to extend his favour to the church, to declare Sunday, 'the venerable day of the sun', to be a holiday, and to confer on Christian bishops an official status. In 325 he presided over the famous council of three hundred and eighteen bishops (a symbolic, not an actual number: see Genesis xiv. 14) which was held at Nicaea, not far from Nicomedia; with Hosius, the bishop of Cordova in Spain, as his principal adviser, and Eustathius, bishop of Antioch, as the principal spokesman for the east. In 326 he visited Rome for the last time, and it was on this occasion that he put to death his wife Fausta and his son Crispus, the full truth about which is quite unknown. He gave her residence which was known as the Lateran Palace to the bishop of Rome, Sylvester; it was dedicated to St John, and became the cathedral and parish church of the city, a dignity which it still holds. It is not far from the church of St Clement.
But he was making new plans altogether, which would provide a Christian Rome as the capital city of a Christian empire. He founded it in 330 not far from Diocletian's capital of Nicomedia, on the site of Byzantium, the military strength of which he had learned from hard experience in his war against Licinius. It has come to be known by his own name as the city of Constantine, or 'Constantinople'; but the orientals still call it Rome. Its official name today is Istanbul. In 335 he divided the empire between his three sons and two nephews, thus reinstating the dynastic principle, and the partition of the imperial power. At Easter in 337 he dedicated the church of the Holy Apostles at Constantinople; he was baptized on his death-bed a few days later, and passed away on the Feast of Pentecost, being 22 May.
Eusebius died two years later. He is remembered as the state bishop and fervent admirer of Constantine, whose biography he wrote in much too flattering terms. His admiration was perfectly genuine, however, for, with all his defects of character, Constantine had greatness and sincerity and a simple belief in Christianity as a source of power and a possible bond of union for the empire; indeed, the only possible bond of union. Eusebius hailed him as the heaven-sent deliverer of the church from the long terror of persecution begun by Galerius and Diocletian and carried on by Maximin Daia and Licinius. The Council of Nicaea was beyond all belief. It was the first attempt ever made at a representative world-conference; and it was Christian. Among the great scholars, and worldly prelates, and political adventurers, were grand old stalwarts, ascetics and martyrs, wearing their scars and deformities, and wondering whether this was the kingdom of heaven on earth.
The true Eusebius, however, was not the court bishop. The true Eusebius was the young student who had worked with Pamphilus in the library of Origen. Pamphilus was thrown into prison in 307, and Eusebius attended him there. They collaborated on the first five volumes of the Apology for Origen, which was an answer to the many attacks which had been made on his character and theology. They made use of his letters for this purpose and published a selection of a hundred of them. It is very unfortunate that neither the Apology nor the letters have come down to us. Pamphilus was kept in prison for two years, and then suffered as a martyr. Eusebius, who proudly called himself' the son of Pamphilus', had to produce the sixth volume of the Apology alone.
He seems to have begun work on the Ecclesiastical History as early as 305; and in the preliminary stages, he could avail himself of the help and advice of Pamphilus, whose martyrdom occurred in 309. The first eight volumes seem to have been completed in 311, the year when Galerius died. In 313 he became bishop of Caesarea. A ninth book was added, the text was revised, and the history completed in 314; a tenth book was added later, and it appeared in its final form in 324.
It does not stand alone, for his other works combine with it to create a complete historical survey, such as the oriental mind loves. The parallel work called the Chronicle arranged the historical events in order, year by year; and this preliminary labour enabled him to write his |482 History in its setting of imperial reigns and episcopal successions. His Prophetic Selections (or 'Eclogues') were a new version of the old Book of Testimonies, showing how Hebrew prophecy foretold and illuminated the gospel revelation. This kind of work was still very popular; Lactantius devoted part of his Divine Institutions to it. The Preparation of the Gospel of Eusebius, and the Demonstration of the Gospel were massive works of learning which give an enormous amount of information about the pre-Christian Hellenistic thought and literature.
This was by no means all. He perfected the work of the 'blessed Ammonius', who had promoted the synoptic study of the Gospels by arranging them side by side in a four-column codex, using the order of Matthew as the base, and numbering the sections to correspond. Eusebius worked out an ingenious system of figures which could be entered in the margin of an ordinary copy of the four Gospels and enable the reader to refer rapidly to the corresponding section in any other Gospel. They are found in the margin of Aleph (Codex Sinaiticus), a manuscript which was made not long after the death of Eusebius, or even perhaps before his death. The 'Ammonian sections' and the 'Eusebian canons' were universally adopted and are to be found in Bibles of all kinds right down to recent times.
It is still fairly widely believed that the Council of Nicaea made a decision on the question of the New Testament canon. Actually no General Council has ever considered the matter. The oecumenical church came to a unanimous agreement on the subject slowly and by general consent. The canon of the New Testament was the last of the great catholic institutions to unify and mature. Eusebius has some valuable things to say about it.
His own attitude was critical and conservative. He divided the possible literature into four classes. First came the ancient books, of whose apostolic and canonical quality there has never been any doubt. These were
The Four Gospels.
The Pauline Epistles, including Hebrews.
1 Peter and 1 John.
He admits that many would add the Revelation to this basic New Testament; the Roman church would omit Hebrews.
|483 The second class consisted of books which were widely used and familiar to the majority, but nevertheless were disputed in some quarters; such were James, Jude, 2 Peter, and 2 and 3 John, the five lesser catholic Epistles. The third class consists of the pseudonymous writings: the Acts of Paul, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Revelation of Peter, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Teachings of the Apostles, and the Revelation of John, unless indeed this is placed in the first class; and some would include the Hebrew Gospel in the third class. The fourth class consists of the heretical apocrypha, such Gospels as Peter and Thomas and Matthias, and such Acts as Andrew and John, which no reputable Christian writer had even mentioned. He did not regard his third class, therefore, as heretical; what he thought was that they were not written by the apostolic persons whose names they bore. For Hermas was regarded as an apostolic name by Origen, who identifies him with the Hermas mentioned by St Paul in Romans.
This classification of the literature shows a very strong critical and historical sense. It also shows that the fully canonical New Testament had not quite arrived. The basic New Testament, with or without Revelation (or Hebrews) was canonically secure; the books of the second class were widely read, but their reception was not unanimous; the books of the third class were also widely read, but not open to inclusion since they were not apostolic; the books of the fourth class were not open to consideration at all. It appears that his classification of Revelation and Hebrews is not perfectly logical; nevertheless it reflects his view of the situation with great accuracy.
Further progress was being made in Alexandria, as we learn from a list put out a little later by the great bishop Athanasius. It consists of
The Four Gospels.
The seven Catholic Epistles.
The Pauline Epistles, including Hebrews.
This is identical with our present New Testament; but Athanasius adds to it a secondary group of books, which were sanctioned by the fathers for reading; they were especially useful for converts who desired to be instructed in the word of piety. They were the Wisdom of Solomon, the Wisdom of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Esther, Judith, Tobiah, the so-called Teaching of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. He agrees with Melito in excluding Esther from the Old Testament.
|484 The different churches continued to differ from one another on the question of the literature of the third class. Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph) contains Barnabas and Hermas in addition to the canonical New Testament; Codex Alexandrinus (A) adds 1 and 2 Clement, and the Psalms of Solomon. It was long before the Syriac New Testament contained all the catholic Epistles, though James was adopted fairly early. It is interesting that the Sunday Epistles for the Roman Mass are never taken from the Pastorals and only once from Hebrews. They were first appointed in a period when these books were still on a different level.
The agreement of all Christians on the subject of the New Testament canon is a remarkable example of the growth of a catholic institution and the power of a diffused authority to reach agreement. Nevertheless it was thought necessary to provide machinery by which the diffused authority could make itself heard on some points; and it was a momentous departure from precedent when this was done under imperial patronage.
The Council of Nicaea was called by the emperor to deal with the Arian controversy, to settle certain other vexatious questions, and to foster the unity of the church and empire.
Between the years 260 and 300 a Christian school of some importance had grown up at Antioch, the principal teachers in which were Dorotheus and Lucian. Lucian had been the head of the Antiochene school under Paul of Samosata, and died as a martyr in 308. He did valuable work on the text of the Old Testament, and probably also of the New. It is even possible that he created, or rather took the first steps in the direction of creating, the 'Antiochian Text' of the New Testament, which is a judicious blend of the older texts, expressed in an improved literary style, or what was intended to be an improved literary style. Such a text was accepted at the end of the century in Antioch and Constantinople. It gradually became the official text of the Greek church, passing of course through further stages of revision. The mass of Greek manuscripts belong to this family, the oldest of this type being Alexandrinus (A) at the British Museum. The great vernacular Bibles of the Reformation, including the English Authorized Version, were made from manuscripts of this type.
|485 The church of Antioch is said to have paid particular attention to literary and historical studies, a point which became apparent as early as the time of Bishop Theophilus. Through all its phases, from Ignatius onward, it was always anti-docetic; it aimed to preserve at all costs the humanity of the Christ; and there were times, apparently, when it may have drifted in the Ebionite or adoptionist direction. In this kind of theology the divine power which is recognized as existing in Christ is rather sharply distinguished from the man Jesus; in the time of Zenobia, Paul had attempted to combine a christology of this sort with a Logos theology; the Logos dwelt in the man Jesus 'as a quality'. Lucian seems to have originated the thought that the disjunction might be placed at a higher stage. The Logos might be less closely identified with the eternal deity; he might be a created being. The Logos theology, from Justin to Dionysius, had always tended to suggest that the Word had not existed absolutely from all eternity.
He was an angel or a spirit, though such words were not used, or at any rate not in serious theological debate; he was an emanation like the Persian primal man; he was the Son of God, and might be worshipped as God; but he was not God; not God identically. It had a certain resemblance to older modes of thought; for nobody had analysed at the beginning of Christian history the exact philosophical implications of such terms as Holy Spirit or Son of God.
The new philosophy of the Logos was taken up by Arius, a presbyter of Alexandria, and provided the principal bone of contention at the Council of Nicaea in 325. Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria, had excommunicated Arius; but his cause had been championed by certain bishops of the Antiochene school, such as Eusebius of Nicomedia. Eusebius the historian, who was now bishop of Caesarea, seems to have been reluctant to join the opposition. He was no philosopher, and occupied a conservative or moderating position. It was the first round in the great theological rivalry between the school of Alexandria and the school of Antioch. Arius argued with great intellectual dexterity in favour of the new theology; Athanasius, the deacon of Alexander, argued against him, explaining his bishop's point of view. Eusebius of Caesarea produced the old baptismal creed of his own church as a traditional formula on which all might agree. It was adopted, but was supplemented with stronger words which he only accepted with great reluctance.
|486 One of these words had been coined by Sabellius in Rome, and appears to have been criticized, and possibly even condemned, at the councils at Antioch which condemned Paul of Samosata. It was the word homo-ousios or 'consubstantiaP, which had seemed at one time to stress unduly the identity of the Father and the Son, but now seemed the very word which was required in order to resist too great a degree of disjunction. It was suggested by Constantine himself, on the advice of Hosius of Cordova, a western and Latin-speaking prelate. It was adopted, and the famous Nicene Creed came into existence.
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, only-begotten, that is to say from the essence (ousia) of the Father; God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of-the-same-essence (homo-ousios) as the Father; by whom all things were made, both in heaven and in earth; who, for us men and for our salvation, came down, and was incarnate; was made man; suffered and rose again the third day; ascended into heaven; and is coming to judge the living and the dead; and in the Holy Spirit.
And those who say that once he was not, and before his generation he was not, and that he came into being out of nothing, or those who claim that the Son of God is of other substance or essence, or created, or alterable, or mutable; the catholic church anathematizes.
This creed was not, of course, a baptismal or liturgical creed; it was a 'conciliar' creed, which dealt strictly with the points which were being debated by the council. It was amended and enlarged at later Councils, and received its final form at the fourth General Council, which was held at Chalcedon in 451; and the form which it then received has been accepted throughout Christendom as the 'Nicene Creed'. It was not, on the other hand, a theological exposition, but an attempt, with some help from the theologians, to define the faith which had been proclaimed in the churches from apostolic times, and for which seven generations of martyrs had given their lives.
Other questions came up, and among them the old Paschal controversy, which was settled, of course, in accordance with the custom of the majority; Easter was to be the first Sunday after the full moon which came next after the spring equinox. And there it is to this day.
As a theologian, Eusebius has been accused of an undue sympathy with Arius, whereas he seems to have been an old-fashioned churchman who eyed the precise terminology of the new creed with displeasure. As a historian, he has been accused of undue credulity; but in view of the standards of the age he must be regarded as reasonably critical. He accepted the apocryphal correspondence between Jesus and Abgar of Edessa, and recorded without criticism some of the legends of the Holy Land, though not the discovery of the sacred sites in Jerusalem by Helena, the emperor's mother. He rashly identified the ascetic Jews of a treatise by Philo, On the Therapeutai, with the early Christians, and he made one or two errors in identification or chronology, which are not hard to detect, since his work on the whole is so reliable. But he rejected the great mass of apocryphal literature, even when it exalted his own see-city of Caesarea. He expressed some doubt about the lesser catholic Epistles, or admitted that doubt existed. He rejected the Revelation of John, in common with the eastern church generally.
His mind moved along well-defined lines. His detestation of heresy was balanced by his glorification of martyrdom. His admiration for Constantine was excessive but sincere. His style is wretched. But he is faithful. He never invents. There are no imaginary narratives or speeches. He uses sources which he generally identifies, and in so doing he is the forerunner of the modern historian; nobody before him seems to have done it. His methods of quotation are not always as exact as we might wish. Sometimes his extracts seem to have been reproduced in part only or to be imperfect in some way; and in these cases, he may have relied on notes that he made, or trusted in some assistant who had not quite grasped his instructions. Nevertheless, we are able to a very considerable extent to make use, through him, of original documents which no longer exist; and, as we can check the accuracy of his quotations in those instances where the originals do exist, we are able to get a good idea of his standards of fidelity, which must be regarded as high.
It is evident that, without Eusebius, we would not be able to construct a history of early Christianity at all.
He saw everything, of course, from his Palestinian point of view, though he travelled widely in the eastern empire, which was now the centre of the imperial administration and the area of maximum culture in the'world'. He visited Alexandria. He became bishop of Caesarea in 313. He preached at the dedication of the new church at Tyre in 315, where the tomb of Origen was pointed out in succeeding centuries. He attended Constantine at Nicomedia and Nicaea. He was present at the dedication of the church of the Resurrection at Jerusalem in 335. He knew nothing to speak of about Rome, except what he learned through old documents which were preserved in the libraries at Caesarea and Jerusalem; and these closed with the writings of Hip-polytus, of whose Roman character he was ignorant.
Rome had declined in importance so far as the east was concerned. It no longer had very much to do with the government of the empire. The means of communication were less reliable. The barrier of language was hard to penetrate. From the Greek point of view Rome was relapsing into barbarism. Not many delegates came to Nicaea from the west; but Hosius of Cordova was there to advise the emperor, who was a westerner himself and did not know much Greek.
The Sixth Canon of the Council deals with metropolitical rights, and reads as follows,
The old custom in use in Egypt and Libya and the Pentapolis should continue to exist, that is to say the bishop of Alexandria should have jurisdiction over all these places, since there is a similar relation in the case of the bishop of Rome. In the same way in the case of Antioch, and in the other civil provinces, the ancient customs are to be preserved in the churches. And this is perfectly plain, that if any one becomes a bishop without the consent of the metropolitan, the great synod decides that he ought not to be a bishop.
The ancient traditions are to be respected and continued; but Alexandria, Rome and Antioch are now the big three. Ephesus has lost its pre-eminence; perhaps it never recovered from the destruction done to it by the Goths. It is included, no doubt, as a metropolitical centre, among the 'other provinces', but it will never regain its glory. Many changes have taken place in church and state during a century of witness and conflict; but none is more important than the disappearance |489 of the old apostolic high-road through Ephesus to Rome, and the appearance of the new catholic pattern in which Rome, Alexandria and Antioch are the leading patriarchal sees.
Among these apostolic foundations, Rome possessed a primacy of honour, which was formally recognized at the later oecumenical councils, Constantinople rising by slow degrees to a similar preeminence in the east.