Click to View

Early Church Fathers
Click to ViewMaster Index
Click to ViewPower Search

 Click to View

141 That James was appointed bishop of Jerusalem by Christ himself was an old and wide-spread tradition. Compare, e.g., the Clementine Recognitions, Bk. I. chap. 43, the Apostolic Constitutions, Bk. VIII. chap. 35, and Chrysostom's Homily XXXVII. on First Corinthians. See Valesius' note ad locum; and on the universal tradition that James was bishop of Jerusalem, see above, Bk. II. chap. 1, note 11.

142 See Gal. i. 19. On the actual relationship of "James, the Brother of the Lord" to Christ, see Bk. I. chap. 12, note 14.

143 There can be no doubt that a chair (qronoj), said to be the episcopal seat of James, the first bishop of Jerusalem, was shown in that church in the time of Eusebius, but there can be no less doubt that it was not genuine. Even had James been bishop of Jerusalem, and possessed a regular episcopal chair, or throne (a very violent supposition, which involves a most glaring anachronism), it was quite out of the question that it should have been preserved from destruction at the fall of the city in 70 a.d. As Stroth drily remarks: "Man hatte auch wohl nichts wichtigeres zu retten, als einen Stuhl!" The beginning of that veneration of relics which later took such strong hold on the Church, and which still flourishes within the Greek and Roman communions is clearly seen in this case recorded by Eusebius. At the same time, we can hardly say that that superstitious veneration with which we are acquainted appeared in this case. There seems to be nothing more than the customary respect for an article of old and time-honored associations which is seen everywhere and in all ages (cf. Heinichen's Excursus on this passage, Vol. III. p. 208 sq.). Crusè has unaccountably rendered qronoj in this passage as if it referred to the see of Jerusalem, not to the chair of the bishop. It is plain enough that such an interpretation is quite unwarranted.

144 Upon Dionysius of Alexandria, see Bk. VI. chap. 40, note 1, and see that note for references to the various passages in which Eusebius mentions or quotes from his epistles.

145 Eusebius supposes all of these epistles to have been written in the time of Valerian or Gallienus; but he is mistaken, at least so far as the epistle to Domitius and Didymus is concerned (see above, chap. 11, note 25), and possibly in regard to some of the others also.

146 taj feromenaj eortastikaj. It was the custom for the bishops of Alexandria to write every year before Easter a sort of epistle, or homily, and in it to announce the time of the festival. These writings thus received the name Festal or Festival Epistles or Homilies (see Suicer's Thesaurus s.v. eortastikoj, and Valesius' note ad locum). This is apparently the earliest mention of such epistles. Others are referred to by Eusebius in chaps. 21 and 22, as written by Dionysius to various persons. Undoubtedly all the Alexandrian bishops during these centuries wrote such epistles, but none are extant, so far as I am aware, except a number by Athanasius (extant only in a Syriac version, published in Syriac and English by Cureton in 1846 and 1848), a few by Theophilus (extant only in Latin), and thirty by Cyril (published in Migne's Patr. Gr. LXXVII. 391 sq.).

147 Of this Flavius we know nothing. The epistle addressed to him is no longer extant.

148 On Domitius and Didymus, and the epistle addressed to them, see above, chap. 11, note 25. Eusebius quotes from the epistle in that chapter.

149 That is, an eight-year cycle for the purpose of determining the time of the full moon. Hippolytus had employed the old eight-year cycle, but had, as he thought, improved it by combining two in a single sixteen-year cycle (see above, Bk. VI. chap. 22), as was done also by the author of the so-called Cyprianic Chronicle at the middle of the third century. The more accurate nineteen-year Metonic cycle (already in use among the Greeks in the fifth century b.c.) had not come into general use in the Church until later than this time. The Nicene Council sanctioned it and gave it wide currency, but it had apparently not yet come into use in the Church. In fact, the first Christian to make use of it for the computation of Easter, so far as we know, was Anatolius of Alexandria, later bishop of Laodicea (see below, chap. 32, §14). It was soon adopted in the Alexandrian church, and already in the time of Athanasius had become the basis of all Easter calculations, as we can gather from Athanasius' Festal Epistles. From about the time of the Nicene Council on, Alexandria was commonly looked to for the reckoning of the date of Easter, and although an older and less accurate cycle remained in use in the West for a long time, the nineteen-year cycle gradually won its way everywhere. See Ideler's great work on chronology, and cf. Hefele's Conciliengesch. 2d ed. 1. p. 332, and Lightfoot in the Dict. of Christ. Biog. 11. p. 313 sq.

150 These various epistles are no longer extant, nor do we know the names of the persons to whom they were addressed. At least a part of them, if not all, were very likely written during the Valerian persecution, as Eusebius states, for the fact that he made a mistake in connection with the epistle to Domitius and Didymus does not prove that he was in error in regard to all the others as well.

151 This was after the fall of the usurper Macrianus, probably late in the year 261 or early in 262 (see above, chap. 13, note 3).

152 This epistle written by Dionysius during the civil war to his scattered flock is no longer extant.

153 Of this Hierax we know no more than is told us here.

154 cf. Philemon. vers. 12.

155 ek petraj akrotomou. The adjective is an addition of Dionysius' own. The LXX of Ex. xvii. 6 has only petra, "rock."

156 epozesaj; the same word which is used in the LXX of Ex. vii. 21.

157 Ghwn; LXX (Gen. ii. 13), Gewn; Heb. Nw$xyg%

158 This letter seems to have been written shortly before Easter of the year 263; for the festal epistle to Hierax, quoted in the last chapter, was written while the war was still in progress (i.e. in 262), this one after its close. It does not seem to have been a regular festal epistle so-called, for in §11, below, we are told that Dionysius wrote a regular festal letter (eortastikhn grafhn) to the brethren in Egypt, and that apparently in connection with this same Easter of the year 263.

159 i.e. to the heathen.

160 i.e. there is no time when heathen can fitly rejoice.

161 Ex. xii. 30.

162 kai ofelon ge, with the majority of the mss., followed by Valesius, Schwegler, and Heinichen. Stroth, Burton, and Zimmermann, upon the authority of two mss., read kai ofelon ge eij ("and would that there were but one !"), a reading which Valesius approves in his notes. The weight of ms. authority, however, is with the former, and it alone justifies the gar of the following sentence.

163 periyhma; cf. 1 Cor. iv. 13. Valesius suggests that this may have been a humble and complimentary form of salutation among the Alexandrians: egw eimi periyhma sou (cf. our words, "Your humble servant"); or, as he thinks more probable, that the expression had come to be habitually applied to the Christians by the heathen. The former interpretation seems to me the only possible one in view of the words immediately preceding: "which always seems a mere expression of courtesy." Certainly these words rule out the second interpretation suggested by Valesius.

164 The connection into which this festal epistle is brought with the letter just quoted would seem to indicate that it was written not a whole year, but very soon after that one. We may, therefore, look upon it as Dionysius' festal epistle of the year 263 (see above, note 1). Neither this nor the "several others" spoken of just below is now extant.

165 This and the next epistle are no longer extant, and we know neither the time of their composition nor the persons to whom they were addressed.

166 On Hermammon and the epistle addressed to him, see above, chap. 1, note 3. An extract from this same epistle is given in that chapter and also in chap. 10.

167 i.e. Macrianus; see above, chap. 10, note 5.

168 He is supposed to have betrayed Valerian into the hands of the Persians, or at least, by his treachery, to have brought about the result which took place, and after Valerian's capture he made war upon Gallienus, the latter's son and successor. See the note referred to just above.

169 Isa. xlii. 9.

170 Dionysius is evidently somewhat dazzled and blinded by the favor shown by Gallienus to the Christians. For we know from the profane historians of this period that the reign of Gallienus was one of the darkest in all the history of the Roman Empire, on account of the numerous disasters which came upon the empire, and the internal disturbances and calamities it was called upon to endure.

171 Gallienus is known to us as one of the most abandoned and profligate of emperors, though he was not without ability and courage which he displayed occasionally. Dionysius' words at this point are not surprising, for the public benefits conferred by Gallienus upon the Christians would far outweigh his private vices in the minds of those who had suffered from the persecutions of his predecessors.

172 The peculiar form of reckoning employed here (the mention of the seventh and then the ninth year) has caused considerable perplexity. Stroth thinks that "Dionysius speaks here of the time when Gallienus actually ruled in Egypt. For Macrianus had ruled there for a year, and during that time the authority of Gallienus in that country had been interrupted." The view of Pearson, however, seems to me better. He remarks: "Whoever expressed himself thus, that one after his seven years was passing his ninth year? This septennium (eptaethrij) must designate something peculiar and different from the time following. It is therefore the septennium of imperial power which he had held along with his father. In the eighth year of that empire [the father, Valerian being in captivity in Persia], Macrianus possessed himself of the imperial honor especially in Egypt. After his assumption of the purple, however, Gallienus had still much authority in Egypt. At length in the ninth year of Gallienus, i.e. in 261, Macrianus, the father and the two sons being slain, the sovereignty of Gallienus was recognized also among the Egyptians." "The ninth year of Gallienus, moreover, began about midsummer of this year; and the time at which this letter was written by Dionysius, as Eusebius observes, may be gathered from that, and fails consequently before the Paschal season of 262 a.d." See also chap. 1, note 3, above.

173 Of this Egyptian bishop Nepos, we know only what is told us in this chapter. Upon chiliasm in the early Church, see above, Bk. III. chap. 39, note 19. It is interesting to note, that although chiliasm had long lost its hold wherever the philosophical theology of the third century had made itself felt, it still continued to maintain its sway in other parts of the Church, especially in outlying districts in the East, which were largely isolated from the great centers of thought, and in the greater part of the West. By such Christians it was looked upon, in fact, as the very kernel of Christianity,-they lived as most Christians of the second century had, in the constant hope of a speedy return of Christ to reign in power upon the earth. The gradual exclusion of this remnant of early Christian belief involved the same kind of consequences as the disappearance of the belief in the continued possession by the Church of the spirit of prophecy (see Bk. V. chap. 16, note 1), and marks another step in the progress of the Church from the peculiarly enthusiastic spirit of the first and second, to the more formal spirit of the third and following centuries. Compare the remarks of Harnack in his Dogmengeschichte, I. p. 482 sq. It seems, from §6, below, that Dionysius had engaged in an oral discussion of the doctrines taught in the book of Nepos, which had prevailed for a long time in Arsinoë, where the disputation was held. The best spirit was exhibited by both parties in the discussion, and the result was a decided victory for Dionysius. He was evidently afraid, however, that the book of Nepos, which was widely circulated, would still continue to do damage, and therefore he undertook to refute it in a work of his own, entitled On the Promises (see the next note). His work, like his disputation, undoubtedly had considerable effect, but chiliasm still prevailed in some of the outlying districts of Egypt for a number of generations.

174 peri epaggeliwn. This work, as we learn from §3, below, contained in the first book Dionysius' own views on the subject under dispute, in the second a detailed discussion of the Apocalypse upon which Nepos based his chiliastic opinions. The work is no longer extant, though Eusebius gives extracts from the second book in this and in the next chapter; and three brief fragments have been preserved in a Vatican ms., and are published in the various editions of Dionysius' works. The Eusebian extracts are translated in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VI. p. 81-84. We have no means of ascertaining the date of Dionysius work. Hefele (Conciliengesch. I. p. 134), Dittrich (p. 69), and others, put the disputation at Arsinoë, in 254 or 255, and the composition of the work of Dionysius of course soon thereafter; but we have no authority for fixing the date of the disputation with such exactness, and must be content to leave it quite undetermined, though it is not improbable that it took place, as Dittrich maintains, between the persecutions of Decius and Valerian. In the preface to the eighteenth book of his commentary on Isaiah, Jerome speaks of a work of Dionysius, On the Promises (evidently referring to this same work), directed against Irenaeus. In his de vir ill. 69, however, he follows Eusebius in stating that the work was written against Nepos. There can be no doubt on this score, and Jerome's statement in his commentary seems to be a direct error. It is possible, however, that Irenaeus, as the most illustrious representative of chiliastic views, may have been mentioned, and his positions refuted in the work, and thus Jerome have had some justification for his report.

175 Evidently directed against Origen and other allegorical interpreters like him, who avoided the materialistic conceptions deduced by so many from the Apocalypse, by spiritualizing and allegorizing its language. This work of Nepos has entirely perished.

176 The words "I confess that" are not in the original, but the insertion of some clause of the kind is necessary to complete the sentence.

177 On early Christian hymnody, see above, Bk. V. chap. 28, note 14.

178 "i.e. dire ante promiitunt quam tradunt. The metaphor is taken from the mysteries of the Greeks, who were wont to promise great and marvelous discoveries to the initiated, and then kept them on the rack by daily expectation in order to confirm their judgment and reverence by suspense of knowledge, as Tertullian says in his book Against the Valentinians [chap. 1]." Valesius.

179 en tw 'Arsinoeith. The Arsinoite nome or district (on the nomes of Egypt, see above, Bk. II. chap. 17, note 10) was situated on the western bank of the Nile, between the river and Lake Moeris, southwest of Memphis.

180 Of this Coracion, we know only what is told us here.

181 Upon the Apocalypse in the early Church, and especially upon Dionysius' treatment of it, see above, Bk. III. chap. 24, note 20.

182 A portion of this extract (§§2 and 3) has been already quoted by Eusebius in Bk. III. chap. 28.

Click Your Choice