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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:
The Church History of Eusebius.: Chapter XXII

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XXII.—Hegesippus and the Events which he mentions.

1. Hegesippus in the five books of Memoirs 1227 which have come down to us has left a most complete record of his own views. In them he states that on a journey to Rome he met a great many bishops, and that he received the same doctrine from all. It is fitting to hear what he says after making some remarks about the epistle of Clement to the Corinthians.

2. His words are as follows: “And the church of Corinth continued in the true faith until Primus 1228 was bishop in Corinth. I conversed with them on my way to Rome, and abode with the Corinthians many days, during which we were mutually refreshed in the true doctrine.

3. And when I had come to Rome I remained there until Anicetus, 1229 whose deacon was p. 199 Eleutherus. And Anicetus was succeeded by Soter, and he by Eleutherus. In every succession, and in every city that is held which is preached by the law and the prophets and the Lord.”

4. The same author also describes the beginnings of the heresies which arose in his time, in the following words: “And after James the Just had suffered martyrdom, as the Lord had also on the same account, Symeon, the son of the Lord’s uncle, Clopas, 1230 was appointed the next bishop. All proposed him as second bishop because he was a cousin of the Lord.

“Therefore, 1231 they called the Church a virgin, for it was not yet corrupted by vain discourses.

5. But Thebuthis, 1232 because he was not made bishop, began to corrupt it. He also was sprung from the seven sects 1233 among the people, like Simon, 1234 from whom came the Simonians, and Cleobius, 1235 from whom came the Cleobians, and Dositheus, 1236 from whom came the Dositheans, and Gorthæus, 1237 from whom came the Goratheni, and Masbotheus, 1238 from whom came the Masbothæans. From them sprang the Menandrianists, 1239 and Marcionists, 1240 and Carpocratians, and Valentinians, and Basilidians, and Saturnilians. Each introduced privately and separately his own peculiar opinion. From them came false Christs, false prophets, false apostles, who divided the unity of the Church by corrupt doctrines uttered against God and against his Christ.”

6. The same writer also records the ancient heresies which arose among the Jews, in the following words: “There were, moreover, various opinions in the circumcision, among the children of Israel. The following were those that were opposed to the tribe of Judah and the Christ: Essenes, Galileans, Hemerobapp. 200 tists, Masbothæans, Samaritans, Sadducees, Pharisees.” 1241

7. And he wrote of many other matters, which we have in part already mentioned, introducing the accounts in their appropriate places. And from the Syriac Gospel according to the Hebrews he quotes some passages in the Hebrew tongue, 1242 showing that he was a convert from the Hebrews, 1243 and he mentions other matters as taken from the unwritten tradition of the Jews.

8. And not only he, but also Irenæus and the whole company of the ancients, called the Proverbs of Solomon All-virtuous Wisdom. 1244 And when speaking of the books called Apocrypha, he records that some of them were composed in his day by certain heretics. But let us now pass on to another.



The five books of Hegesippus, πομνήματα or Memoirs, are unfortunately lost; but a few fragments are preserved by Eusebius, and one by Photius, which have been collected by Routh, Rel. Sac. I. 205–219, and by Grabe, Spicilegium, II. 203–214. This work has procured for him from some sources the title of the “Father of Church History,” but the title is misplaced, for the work appears to have been nothing more than a collection of reminiscences covering the apostolic and post-apostolic ages, and drawn partly from written, partly from oral sources, and in part from his own observation, and quite without chronological order and historical completeness. We know of no other works of his. Of Hegesippus himself we know very little. He apparently wrote his work during the episcopate of Eleutherus (175–189 a.d.), for he does not name his successor. How old he was at that time we do not know, but he was very likely a man past middle life, and hence was probably born early in the second century. With this, his own statement in the passage quoted by Eusebius, in chap. 8, that the deification of Antinoüs took place in his own day is quite consistent. The words of Jerome (de vir. ill. 22), who calls him a vicinus apostolicorum temporum, are too indefinite to give us any light, even if they rest upon any authority, as they probably do not. The journey which is mentioned in this chapter shows that his home must have been somewhere in the East, and there is no reason to doubt that he was a Hebrew Christian (see below, note 16).


Of this Primus we know only what Hegesippus tells us here. We do not know the exact date of his episcopate, but it must have been at least in part synchronous with the episcopate of Pius of Rome (see chap. 11, note 14), for it was while Hegesippus was on his way to Rome that he saw Primus; and since he remained in Rome until the accession of Anicetus he must have arrived there while Pius, Anicetus’ predecessor, was bishop, for having gone to Rome on a visit, he can hardly have remained there a number of years.


The interpretation of this sentence is greatly disputed. The Greek reads in all the mss. γενόμενος δὲ ἐν ῾Ρώμῃ διαδοχὴν ἐποιησ€μν μέχρις ᾽Ανικήτου, and this reading is confirmed by the Syriac version (according to Lightfoot). If these words be accepted as authentic, the only possible rendering seems to be the one which has been adopted by many scholars: “Being in Rome, I composed a catalogue of bishops down to Anicetus.” This rendering is adopted also by Lightfoot, who holds that the list of Hegesippus is reproduced by Epiphanius in his Panarium XXVII. 6 (see his essay in The Academy, May 27, 1887, where this theory is broached, and compare the writer’s notice of it in Harnack’s Theol. Lit. Zeitung 1887, No. 18). But against this rendering it must be said, first, that it is very difficult to translate the words διαδοχὴν ἐποιησ€μην, “I composed a catalogue of bishops,” for διαδοχή nowhere else, so far as I am aware, means “catalogue,” and nowhere else does the expression διαδοχὴν ποιεῖσθαι occur. Just below, the same word signifies “succession,” and this is its common meaning. Certainly, if Hegesippus wished to say that he had composed a catalogue of bishops, he could not have expressed himself more obscurely. In the second place, if Hegesippus had really composed a catalogue of bishops and referred to it here, how does it happen that Eusebius, who is so concerned to ascertain the succession of bishops in all the leading sees nowhere gives that catalogue, and nowhere even refers to it. He does give Irenæus’ catalogue of the Roman bishops in Bk. V. chap. 6, but gives no hint there that he knows anything of a similar list composed by Hegesippus. In fact, it is very difficult to think that Hegesippus, in this passage, can have meant to say that he had composed a catalogue of bishops, and it is practically impossible to believe that Eusebius can have understood him to mean that. But the words διαδοχήν ἐποιησ€μην, if they can be made to mean anything at all, can certainly be made to mean nothing else than the composition of a catalogue, and hence it seems necessary to make some correction in the text. It is significant that Rufinus at this point reads permansi ibi, which shows that he at least did not understand Hegesippus to be speaking of a list of bishops. Rufinus’ rendering gives us a hint of what must have stood in the original from which he drew, and so Savilius, upon the margin of his ms., substituted for διαδοχὴν the word διατριβήν, probably simply as a conjecture, but possibly upon the authority of some other ms. now lost. He has been followed by some editors, including Heinichen, who prints the word διατριβήν in the text. Val. retains διαδοχὴν in his text, but accepts διατριβήν as the true reading, and so translates. This reading is now very widely adopted; and it, or some other word with the same meaning, in all probability stood in the original text. In my notice of Lightfoot’s article, I suggested the word διαγωγήν, which, while not so common as διατριβήν, is yet used with ποιεῖσθαι in the same sense, and its very uncommonness would account more easily for the change to the much commoner διαδοχὴν, which is epigraphically so like it.

The word μέχρι is incorrectly translated apud by Valesius, who reads, mansi apud Anicetum. He is followed by Crusè, who translates “I made my stay with Anicetus”; but μέχρι can mean only “until.” Hegesippus therefore, according to his own statement, came to Rome before the accession of Anicetus and remained there until the latter became bishop. See chap. 11, note 19, for the relation of this statement to that of Eusebius.

For particulars in regard to Anicetus, see chap. 11, note 18; on Soter, see chap. 19, note 2, and on Eleutherus, Bk. V. Preface, note 2.


See Bk. III. chap. 11, note 4.


Διὰ τοῦτο. Valesius proposes to read μέχρι τούτου, which certainly makes better sense and which finds some support in the statement made by Eusebius in Bk. III. chap. 32, §7. But all the mss. have διὰ τοῦτο, and, as Stroth remarks, the illogical use of “therefore” at this point need not greatly surprise us in view of the general looseness of Hegesippus’ style. The phrase is perhaps used proleptically, with a reference to what follows.


Of Thebuthis we know only what is told us here. The statement that he became a heretic because he was not chosen bishop has about as much foundation as most reports of the kind. It was quite common for the Fathers to trace back the origin of schisms to this cause (compare e.g. Tertullian’s Adv. Val. 4, and De Bapt. 17).


The seven sects are mentioned by Hegesippus just below. Harnack maintains that Hegesippus in his treatment of heresies used two sources, one of them being the lost Syntagma of Justin (see his Quellenkritik des Gnosticismus, p. 37 sqq.). Lipsius, who in his Quellen der Ketzergesch. combats many of Harnack’s positions, thinks it possible that Hegesippus may have had Justin’s Syntagma before him.


Simon Magus (see Bk. II. chap. 13, note 3).


Cleobius is occasionally mentioned as a heretic by ecclesiastical writers, but none of them seems to know anything more about him than is told here by Hegesippus (see the article Cleobius in the Dict. of Christ. Biog.).


Trustworthy information in regard to Dositheus is very scanty, but it is probable that he was one of the numerous Samaritan false messiahs, and lived at about the time of, or possibly before, Christ. “It seems likely that the Dositheans were a Jewish or Samaritan ascetic sect, something akin to the Essenes, existing from before our Lord’s time, and that the stories connecting their founder with Simon Magus and with John the Baptist [see the Clementine Recognitions, II. 8 and Homilies, II. 24], may be dismissed as merely mythical” (Salmon, in the Dict. of Christ. Biog. art. Dositheus).


Epiphanius and Theodoret also mention the Goratheni, but apparently knew no more about them than Hegesippus tells us here, Epiphanius classing them among the Samaritans, and Theodoret deriving them from Simon Magus.


The name Masbotheus is supported by no ms. authority, but is given by Rufinus and by Nicephorus, and is adopted by most editors. The majority of the mss. read simply Μασβωθαῖοι or Μασβώθεοι. Just below, Hegesippus gives the Masbotheans as one of the seven Jewish sects, while here he says they were derived from them. This contradiction Harnack explains by Hegesippus’ use of two different sources, an unknown oral or written one, and Justin’s Syntagma. The list of heresies given here he maintains stood in Justin’s Syntagma, but the derivation of them from the seven Jewish sects cannot have been Justin’s work, nor can the list of the seven sects have been made by Justin, for he gives quite a different list in his Dialogue, chap. 80. Lipsius, p. 25, thinks the repetition of the “Masbotheans” is more easily explained as a mere oversight or accident. The Apostolic Const. VI. 6 name the Masbotheans among Jewish sects, describing them as follows: “The Basmotheans, who deny providence, and say that the world is ruled by spontaneous motion, and take away the immortality of the soul.” From what source this description was taken we do not know, and cannot decide as to its reliability. Salmon (in the Dict. of Christ. Biog.) remarks that “our real knowledge is limited to the occurrence of the name in Hegesippus, and there is no reason to think that any of these who have undertaken to explain it knew any more about the matter than ourselves.”


On Menander and the Menandrianists, see Bk. II. chap. 26; on the Carpocratians, chap. 7, note 17; on the Valentinians, see chap. 11, note 1; on the Basilidæans, chap. 7, note 7; on the Saturnilians, chap. 7, note 6.


There is some dispute about this word. The Greek is Μαρκιανισταί, which Harnack regards as equivalent to Μαρκιωνισταί, or “followers of Marcion,” but which Lipsius takes to mean “followers of Marcus.” The latter is clearly epigraphically more correct, but the reasons for reading in this place Marcionites, or followers of Marcion, are strong enough to outweigh other considerations (see Harnack, p. 31 ff. and Lipsius, p. 29 ff.).


These are the seven Jewish heresies mentioned above by Hegesippus. Justin (Dial. chap. 80) and Epiphanius (Anaceph.) also name seven Jewish sects, but they are not the same as those mentioned here (those of Justin: Sadducees, Genistæ, Meristæ, Galileans, Hellenianians, Pharisees, Baptists). Epiphanius (Vol. I. p. 230, Dindorf’s ed.,—Samaritan sects 4: Gorothenes, Σεβουαῖοι, Essenes, Dositheans; Jewish 7: Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, Hemerobaptists, Οσσαῖοι, Nazarenes, Herodians). See Jess, in the Zeitschr. für hist. Theol. 1865, p. 45. sq.


The exact meaning of this sentence is very difficult to determine. The Greek reads: žκ τε τοῦ καθ᾽ ᾽Εβραίους εὐαγγελίου καὶ τοῦ Συριακοῦ καὶ ἰδίως ἐκ τῆς ῾Εβραΐδος διαλέκτου τινὰ τίθησιν. It is grammatically necessary to supply εὐαγγελίου after Συριακοῦ, and this gives us a Syriac gospel in addition to the Hebrew. Some have concluded that Tatian’s Diatessaron is meant by it, but this will not do; for, as Handmann remarks, the fact that Hegesippus quotes from the work or works referred to is cited as evidence that he was a Hebrew. Hilgenfeld supposes that the Chaldæo syroque scriptum evangelium secundum Hebræos, which Jerome mentions, is referred to, and that the first-named εὐαγγέλιον καθ᾽ ῾Εβραίους is a Greek translation, while the τὸ Συριακόν represents the original; so that Hegesippus is said to have used both the original and the translation. Eusebius, however, could not have made the discovery that he used both, unless the original and the translation differed in their contents, of which we have no hint, and which in itself is quite improbable. As the Greek reads, however, there is no other explanation possible, unless the τὸ Συριακὸν εὐαγγέλιον be taken to represent some other unknown Hebrew gospel, in which case the following clause refers to the citations from both of the gospels. That such a gospel existed, however, and was referred to by Eusebius so casually, as if it were a well-known work, is not conceivable. The only resource left, so far as the writer can discover, is to amend the text, with Eichhorn, Nicholson, and Handmann, by striking out the first καί. The τοῦ Συριακοῦ then becomes a description of the εὐαγγέλιον καθ᾽ ῾Εβραίους, “The Syriac Gospel according to the Hebrews.” By the Syriac we are to understand, of course, the vulgar dialect, which had before the time of Christ taken the place of the Hebrew, and which is ordinarily called Aramaic. Eusebius then, on this interpretation, first qualifies the Gospel of the Hebrews more exactly, and then adds that Hegesippus quotes from the Hebrew original of it (κ τῆς ῾Εβραΐδος διαλέκτου), and not from a translation; e.g. from the Greek translation, which we know existed early. There is, to be sure, no ms. authority for the alteration of the text, and yet the sense of the passage seems to demand it, and I have consequently omitted the καί in my translation. Upon the interpretation of the passage, see Handmann’s Hebräer-Evangelium, p. 32 ff., and upon the Gospel according to the Hebrews, see above, Bk. III. chap. 25, note 24, and chap. 27, note 8.


Eusebius had abundant opportunity to learn from Hegesippus’ works whether or not he was a Hebrew Christian, and hence we cannot doubt that his conclusion in regard to Hegesippus’ nationality (whether based merely upon the premises given here, or partly upon other facts unknown to us) is correct. His nationality explains the fact that he deduces the Christian heresies from Jewish, and not, like other writers, from heathen roots. There is, however, no reason, with Baur and others, to suppose that Hegesippus was a Judaizer. In fact, Eusebius’ respectful treatment of him is in itself conclusive proof that his writings cannot have revealed heretical notions.


This phrase (παν€ρετος σοφία) was very frequently employed among the Fathers as a title of the Book of Proverbs. Clement of Rome (1 Cor. lvii.) is, so far as I know, the first so to use it. The word παν€ρετος is applied also to the apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon, by Epiphanius (de mens. et pond. §4) and others. Among the Fathers the Book of Sirach, the Solomonic Apocrypha, and the Book of Proverbs all bore the common title σοφία, “Wisdom,” which well defines the character of each of them; and this simple title is commoner than the compound phrase which occurs in this passage (cf. e.g. Justin Martyr’s Dial. c. 129, and Melito, quoted by Eusebius in chap. 26, below). For further particulars, see especially Lightfoot’s edition of the epistles of Clement of Rome, p. 164.

Next: Chapter XXIII

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