Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Church History of Eusebius.: Chapter III
Chapter III.—The Vision which appeared in a Dream to the Witness Attalus.
1. The same letter of the above-mentioned witnesses contains another account worthy of remembrance. No one will object to our bringing it to the knowledge of our readers.
2. It runs as follows: “For a certain Alcibiades, 1406 who was one of them, led a very austere life, partaking of nothing whatever but bread and water. When he endeavored to continue this same sort of life in prison, it was revealed to Attalus after his first conflict in the amphitheater that Alcibiades was not doing well in refusing the creatures of God and placing a stumbling-block before others.
3. And Alcibiades obeyed, and partook of all things without restraint, giving thanks to God. For they were not deprived of the grace of God, but the Holy Ghost was their counselor.” Let this suffice for these matters.
4. The followers of Montanus, 1407 Alcibiades 1408 and Theodotus 1409 in Phrygia were now first giving wide circulation to their assumption in regard to prophecy,—for the many other miracles p. 219 that, through the gift of God, were still wrought in the different churches caused their prophesying to be readily credited by many,—and as dissension arose concerning them, the brethren in Gaul set forth their own prudent and most orthodox judgment in the matter, and published also several epistles from the witnesses that had been put to death among them. These they sent, while they were still in prison, to the brethren throughout Asia and Phrygia, and also to Eleutherus, 1410 who was then bishop of Rome, negotiating for the peace of the churches. 1411
Of this Alcibiades we know only what is told us in this connection. Doubtless Eusebius found this extract very much to his taste, for we know that he was not inclined to asceticism. The enthusiastic spirit of the Lyons Christians comes out strongly in the extract, and considerable light is thrown by it upon the state of the Church there. Imprisoned confessors were never permitted to suffer for want of food and the other comforts of life so long as their brethren were allowed access to them. Compare e.g. Lucians Peregrinus Proteus.218:1407
On Montanus and the Montanists, see below, chap. 16 sq.218:1408
Of this Montanist Alcibiades we know nothing. He is, of course, to be distinguished from the confessor mentioned just above. The majority of the editors of Eusebius substitute his name for that of Miltiades in chap. 16, below, but the mss. all read Μιλτι€δην, and the emendation is unwarranted (see chap. 16, note 7). Salmon suggests that we should read Miltiades instead of Alcibiades in the present passage, supposing that the latter may have crept in through a copyists error, under the influence of the name Alcibiades mentioned just above. Such an error is possible, but not probable (see chap. 16, note 7).218:1409
Of the Montanist Theodotus we know only what is told us here and in chap. 16, below (see that chapter, note 25).219:1410
On Eleutherus, see above, Bk. V. Introd. note 2.219:1411
It is commonly assumed that the Gallic martyrs favored the Montanists and exhorted Eleutherus to be mild in his judgment of them, and to preserve the peace of the Church by permitting them to remain within it and enjoy fellowship with other Christians. But Salmon (in the Dict. of Christian Biog. III. p. 937) has shown, in my opinion conclusively, that the Gallic confessors took the opposite side, and exhorted Eleutherus to confirm the Eastern Church in its condemnation of the Montanists, representing to him that he would threaten the peace of the Church by refusing to recognize the justice of the decision of the bishops of the East and by setting himself in opposition to them. Certainly, with their close connection with Asia Minor, we should expect the Gallic Christians to be early informed of the state of affairs in the East, and it is not difficult to think that they may have formed the same opinion in regard to the new prophecy which the majority of their brethren there had formed. The decisive argument for Salmons opinion is the fact that Eusebius calls the letter of the Lyons confessors to Eleutherus “pious and most orthodox.” Certainly, looking upon Montanism as one of the most execrable of heresies and as the work of Satan himself (cf. his words in chap. 16, below), it is very difficult to suppose that he can have spoken of a letter written expressly in favor of the Montanists in any such terms of respect. Salmon says: “It is monstrous to imagine that Eusebius, thinking thus of Montanism, could praise as pious or orthodox the opinion of men who, ignorant of Satans devices, should take the devils work for Gods. The way in which we ourselves read the history is that the Montanists had appealed to Rome; that the Church party solicited the good offices of their countrymen settled in Gaul, who wrote to Eleutherus representing the disturbance to the peace of the churches (a phrase probably preserved by Eusebius from the letter itself) which would ensue if the Roman Church should approve what the Church on the spot had condemned.…To avert, then, the possibility of the calamity of a breach between the Eastern and Western churches, the Gallic churches, it would appear, not only wrote, but sent Irenæus to Rome at the end of 177 or the beginning of 178. The hypothesis here made relieves us from the necessity of supposing this πρεσβεία to have been unsuccessful, while it fully accounts for the necessity of sending it.”
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