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

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XXVIII.—Those who first advanced the Heresy of Artemon; their Manner of Life, and how they dared to corrupt the Sacred Scriptures.

1. In a laborious work by one of these writers against the heresy of Artemon, 1735 which Paul of Samosata 1736 attempted to revive again in our day, there is an account appropriate to the history which we are now examining.

2. For he criticises, as a late innovation, the above-mentioned heresy which teaches that the Saviour was a mere man, because they were attempting to magnify it as ancient. 1737 Having given in his work many other arguments in refutation of their blasphemous falsehood, he adds the following words:

3. “For they say that all the early teachers and the apostles received and taught what they now declare, and that the truth of the Gospel was preserved until the times of Victor, who was the thirteenth bishop of Rome from Peter, 1738 but that from his successor, Zephyrinus, 1739 the truth had been corrupted.

4. And what they say might be plausible, if first of all p. 247 the Divine Scriptures did not contradict them. And there are writings of certain brethren older than the times of Victor, which they wrote in behalf of the truth against the heathen, and against the heresies which existed in their day. I refer to Justin 1740 and Miltiades 1741 and Tatian 1742 and Clement 1743 and many others, in all of whose works Christ is spoken of as God. 1744

5. For who does not know the works of Irenæus 1745 and of Melito 1746 and of others which teach that Christ is God and man? 1747 And how many psalms and hymns, 1748 written by the faithful brethren from the beginning, celebrate Christ the Word of God, speaking of him as Divine.

6. How then since the opinion held by the Church has been preached for so many years, can its preaching have been delayed as they affirm, until the times of Victor? And how is it that they are not ashamed to speak thus falsely of Victor, knowing well that he cut off from communion Theodotus, the cobbler, 1749 the leader and father of this God-denying apostasy, and the first to declare that Christ is mere man? For if Victor agreed with their opinions, as their slander affirms, how came he to cast out Theodotus, the inventor of this heresy?”

7. So much in regard to Victor. His bishopric lasted ten years, and Zephyrinus was appointed his successor about the ninth year of the reign of Severus. 1750 The author of the above-mentioned book, concerning the founder of this heresy, narrates another event which occurred in the time of Zephyrinus, using these words:

8. “I will remind many of the brethren of a fact which took place in our time, which, had it happened in Sodom, might, I think, have proved a warning to them. There was a certain confessor, Natalius, 1751 not long ago, but in our own day.

9. This man was deceived at one time by Asclepiodotus 1752 and another Theodotus, 1753 a money-changer. Both of them were disciples of Theodotus, the cobbler, who, as I have said, was the first person excommunicated by Victor, bishop at that time, on account of this sentiment, or rather senselessness. 1754

10. Natalius was persuaded by them to allow himself to be chosen bishop of this heresy with a salary, to be paid by them, of one hundred and fifty denarii a month. 1755

11. When he had thus connected himself with them, he was warned oftentimes by the Lord through visions. For the compassionate God and our Lord Jesus Christ was not willing that a witness of his own sufferings, being cast out of the Church, should perish.

12. But as he paid little regard to the visions, because he was enp. 248 snared by the first position among them and by that shameful covetousness which destroys a great many, he was scourged by holy angels, and punished severely through the entire night. 1756 Thereupon having risen in the morning, he put on sackcloth and covered himself with ashes, and with great haste and tears he fell down before Zephyrinus, the bishop, rolling at the feet not only of the clergy, but also of the laity; and he moved with his tears the compassionate Church of the merciful Christ. And though he used much supplication, and showed the welts of the stripes which he had received, yet scarcely was he taken back into communion.”

13. We will add from the same writer some other extracts concerning them, which run as follows: 1757

“They have treated the Divine Scriptures recklessly and without fear. They have set aside the rule of ancient faith; and Christ they have not known. They do not endeavor to learn what the Divine Scriptures declare, but strive laboriously after any form of syllogism which may be devised to sustain their impiety. And if any one brings before them a passage of Divine Scripture, they see whether a conjunctive or disjunctive form of syllogism can be made from it.

14. And as being of the earth and speaking of the earth, and as ignorant of him who cometh from above, they forsake the holy writings of God to devote themselves to geometry. 1758 Euclid is laboriously measured 1759 by some of them; and Aristotle and Theophrastus are admired; and Galen, perhaps, by some is even worshiped.

15. But that those who use the arts of unbelievers for their heretical opinions and adulterate the simple faith of the Divine Scriptures by the craft of the godless, are far from the faith, what need is there to say? Therefore they have laid their hands boldly upon the Divine Scriptures, alleging that they have corrected them.

16. That I am not speaking falsely of them in this matter, whoever wishes may learn. For if any one will collect their respective copies, and compare them one with another, he will find that they differ greatly.

17. Those of Asclepiades, 1760 for example, do not agree with those of Theodotus. And many of these can be obtained, because their disciples have assiduously written the corrections, as they call them, that is the corruptions, 1761 of each of them. Again, those of Hermophilus 1762 do not agree with these, and those of Apollonides 1763 are not consistent with themselves. For you can compare those prepared by them at an earlier date with those which they corrupted later, and you will find them widely different.

18. But how daring this offense is, it is not likely that they themselves are ignorant. For either they do not believe that the Divine Scriptures were spoken by the Holy Spirit, and thus are unbelievers, or else they think themselves wiser than the Holy Spirit, and in that case what else are they than demoniacs? For they cannot deny the commission of the crime, since the copies have been written by their own hands. For they did not receive such Scriptures from their instructors, nor can they produce any copies from which they were transcribed.

19. But some of them have not thought it worth while to corrupt them, but simply deny the law and the prophets, 1764 and thus through their lawless and impious teaching under pretense of grace, have sunk to the lowest depths of perdition.”

Let this suffice for these things.



This anonymous work against the heresy of Artemon is no longer extant, and the only fragments of it which we have are those preserved by Eusebius in this chapter. Theodoret (Hær. Fab. II. 5) mentions the work, and says that it was directed against the heresies of Theodotus and Artemon, and that it bore the name Little Labyrinth. It is plain, from the fragments which Eusebius gives, that it was written in Rome some little time before the middle of the third century, probably not far from 230 or 240 a.d. The work is commonly ascribed to Hippolytus, in favor of which may be urged both the time and the place of its composition as well as some internal resemblance between it and the Philosophumena. On the other hand, Photius (Cod. 48) ascribes to Caius of Rome a work against Artemon, which may well be identical with the anonymous work quoted in the present chapter. It is therefore contended by some (e.g. by Salmon) that Caius was the author of the work. It must be noted, however, that in the same connection Photius ascribes another work to Caius which we know to have been written by Hippolytus, and hence his testimony is rather in favor of Hippolytus than Caius as the author of the work. On the other hand several objections have been urged by Salmon against the Hippolytine authorship, which, while not decisive, yet make it extremely doubtful. In view of these facts, we must conclude that it is possible, but very improbable, that Hippolytus wrote the work; that it is not impossible, though we are quite without evidence for the supposition, that Caius wrote it; that it is more likely that a work which even to Eusebius was anonymous, was written by an unknown man, who must remain unknown to us also. The extant fragments of the work are given, with notes, by Routh in his Rel. Sac., and an English translation in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V. p. 601 sq., among the works of Caius. Although the work is said by Eusebius to have been directed against the heresy of Artemon, he has preserved only extracts relating to the Theodoti and their heresy. They are described also by Hippolytus, both in his lost Syntagma (as we can learn from Pseudo-Tertullian, Epiphanius, and Philaster) and in his Philosophumena (VII. 23–24, and X. 19). Other ancient writers that mention him know only what our anonymous author or Hippolytus reports. It seems that the older Theodotus, a native of Byzantium, came to Rome in the time of Eleutherus or Victor, and taught a species of adoptionism, which reminds us somewhat of the Asia Minor Alogi, in whose circle he may have been trained. Hippolytus informs us that he was orthodox in his theology and cosmology, but that he was heretical in his Christology. He did not deny Christ’s birth from a virgin (as the Ebionites had done), but he did deny his divinity, teaching that he was a mere man (ψιλὸς ἄνθρωπος), upon whom the Holy Spirit descended at the time of his baptism, in consequence of which he became the Christ, received power to fulfill his special mission and by his righteousness was raised above all other men. The descent of the Holy Spirit, however, although raising him to a very exalted position, did not make him divine; some of Theodotus’ followers denying that he ever acquired divinity, others believing that he acquired it by his resurrection. Theodotus was excommunicated by Victor on account of his heretical Christology, but gained a number of followers, and after his excommunication founded a schismatical sect, which had a bishop Natalius, to whom a regular salary was paid (see below, §10), and which continued under the leadership of another Theodotus, a banker, and a certain Asclepiodotus, both of them disciples of the first Theodotus, during the episcopate of Zephyrinus, but seems soon to have disappeared, and to have exerted comparatively little influence during its brief existence. Theodotus, the banker, appears to have agreed substantially with the older Theodotus, but to have indulged himself in speculations concerning Melchizedek, pronouncing him to be a heavenly power still higher than Christ. Epiphanius makes the second Theodotus the founder of a second party, and gives his school the name of Melchizedekians, which appears in later works on heresy, but there is no reason to suppose that there were two separate parties.

A few years later another attempt was made in Rome to revive the old adoptionist Christology (essentially the same as that represented by Hermas early in the second century), by a certain Artemon, against whom the Little Labyrinth, quoted in this chapter, was directed. It is common to connect Artemon and his followers with the Theodotians; but, as Harnack remarks, it is plain that they did not look upon themselves as the followers of the Theodoti (see below, note 15). We cannot tell, however, in what respect their Christology differed from that of the latter, for we know very little about them. They at any rate agreed with the Theodotians in denying the divinity of Christ. From the epistle of the synod of Antioch (quoted below, in Bk. VII. chap. 30) we learn that Artemon was still living in the year 268, or thereabouts. He seems, however to have accomplished little in Rome, and to have dropped into comparative obscurity some time before this; at least, we hear nothing of him during all these years. In the controversy with Paul of Samosata he was called the father of the latter (see below Bk. VII. chap. 30, §16), and thus acquired considerable celebrity in the East, where his name became permanently connected with that of Paul as one of the leading heretics. Whether Paul really learned his Christology from Artemon we do not know, but that it closely resembled that of the latter there can be no doubt. He really reproduced the old adoptionist Christology of Hermas (as both the Theodotians and Artemon had done), but modified it under the influence partly of Origen’s teachings, partly of the Aristotelian method. For further particulars in regard to the Theodoti and Artemon, see the remaining notes on this chapter. For an admirable discussion of the whole subject, see Harnack’s Dogmengeschichte, I. p. 573 sq. On the Little Labyrinth, see especially the Dict. of Christian Biog. III. p. 98.


On Paul of Samosata, see below, Bk. VII. chap. 27, note 4.


The Artemonites were certainly correct in maintaining that the adoptionism which they held was, at least in its essential principles, an ancient thing, and their opponents were wrong in trying to deny it. It is the Christology which Hermas represents, and early in the second century it was undoubtedly a widespread popular belief. No one thought of questioning the orthodoxy of Hermas. The Christology of the Theodotians and of Artemon was an innovation, however, in so far as it attempted to formulate in scientific terms and to treat philosophically what had hitherto been only a popular belief. So soon as the logical conclusions were drawn, and its consequences to the divinity of the Son were perceived, it began to be felt as heresy, but not until then.


On Victor, see above, chap. 22, note 1. Victor is the thirteenth bishop if Cletus and Anencletus be reckoned as one, otherwise the fourteenth. This is used by Salmon as an argument against the Hippolytine authorship of the Little Labyrinth, for Hippolytus reckoned Cletus and Anencletus as two bishops, and therefore made Victor the fourteenth (see above, Bk. III. chap. 13, note 3).


The dates of Zephyrinus’ episcopate are to be gained by reckoning backward from that of Callistus, which is shown in Bk. VI. chap. 21, note 3, to have begun in the year 217. A comparison of the various sources shows that Zephyrinus was bishop eighteen or nineteen years, which brings us back to the year 198 or 199 as the date of his accession. Eusebius says “about the ninth year of the reign of Severus,” which according to the correct reckoning would be the year 201, but according to his erroneous reckoning of the dates of the emperors’ reigns (see the note already referred to) gives the year 200, so that the agreement is reasonably close (see Lipsius’ Chron. der röm. Bischöfe, p. 172 sq., and see above, Bk. V. chap. 22, note 1). In Bk. IX. of his great work Hippolytus gives quite an account of Zephyrinus and his successor, Callistus. The former is described as ignorant and illiterate, a taker of bribes, an uninformed and shamefully corrupt man, &c. How much of this is true and how much is due to prejudice, we cannot tell. But it seems at least to be a fact that Zephyrinus was completely under the influence of Callistus, as Hippolytus states. We learn from the latter that Zephyrinus at least countenanced the heresy of Patripassianism (at the opposite extreme from that of the Theodotians and Artemon), if he did not directly teach it.


On Justin Martyr, see Bk. IV. chap. 11, note 20.


On Miltiades, see above, chap. 17, note 1.


On Tatian, see Bk. III. chap. 29. The fact that Tatian is here spoken of with respect is urged by Salmon as an argument against the Hippolytine authorship of this work, for Hippolytus devotes two chapters of his Philosophumena (VIII. 9, X. 14) to the heresy of Tatian.


On Clement of Alexandria, see above, chap. 11, note 1.


θεολογεῖται ὁ χριστός. Our author is quite correct in making this statement. The apologists are agreed in their acceptance of the Logos Christology of which they are the earliest patristic exponents, and in the time of Clement of Alexandria it had become, as yet in an undeveloped form, the commonly accepted doctrine of the orthodox Church.


On Irenæus, see Bk. IV. chap. 21, note 9.


On Melito, see Bk. IV. chap. 26, note 1.


Irenæus’ utterances on this subject were epoch-making in the history of doctrine. No one before him had emphasized so energetically and brought out so clearly the God-manhood of Christ. His great significance in Christology is the emphasis which he laid upon the unity of God and man in Christ,—a unity in which the integrity both of the divine and of the human was preserved. Our author is also doubtless correct in saying that Melito called Christ God and man. If the two fragments from the Discourse on the Soul and Body, and from the Discourse on the Cross (printed from the Syriac by Cureton, in his Spic. Syr. p. 52 sq.), be genuine, as is quite probable (see above, Bk. IV. chap. 26, note 1), we have clear indications that Melito taught both the humanity and the deity of Christ (“when He was become incarnate through the womb of the Virgin, and was born man.” “Inasmuch as He was man, He needed food; still, inasmuch as He was God, He ceased not to feed the universe”).


This passage is sometimes interpreted as indicating that hymns written by the Christians themselves were sung in the church of Rome at this time. But this is by no means implied. So far as we are able to gather from our sources, nothing, except the Psalms and New Testament hymns (such as the “Gloria in Excelsis,” the “Magnificat,” the “Nunc Dimittis,” &c.), was as a rule, sung in public worship before the fourth century (the practice which had sprung up in the church of Antioch seems to have been exceptional; see Kraus, p. 673). Before the end of that century, however, the practice of singing other hymns in the service of the Church had become common, both in the East and West. On the other hand, the private use of hymns among the Christians began very early. We need refer here only to Pliny’s epistle to Trajan (translated above, in Bk. III. chap. 33, note 1); Clement of Alexandria, Strom. VII. 7; Tertullian, ad Uxor. II. 8; Origen, Contra Cels. VIII. 67; the epistle of Dionysius quoted below, in Bk. VII. chap. 24, &c. Compare the article Hymnen in Kraus’ Real-Encyclopädie der Christl. Alterthümer, and the article Hymns in Smith and Cheetham’s Dict. of Christ. Antiquities.


τὸν σκυτέα: “cobbler,” or “worker in leather.” On Theodotus, see above, note 1. As Harnack remarks, the Artemonites must have known that Victor had excommunicated Theodotus, and therefore, if they regarded themselves as his followers, it would have been impossible to claim that all the Roman bishops, including Victor, held their opinions. When to this is added the apparent effort of our author to identify the Artemonites with the Theodotians, it becomes clear that they must themselves have denied their connection with them, though in what points they differed with them, we do not know (see above, note 1; and cf. Harnack’s Dogmengesch. I. p. 583).


See above, note 5.


Of Natalius, we know only what is told us in this passage. The suggestion of Valesius that he might be identified with Cæcilius Natalis, the heathen who is represented as converted by Octavius, in the Octavius of Minucius Felix, is quite baseless.


Ασκληπιοδότου, according to all the mss. except one, which reads Ασκληπι€δου, and with which Nicephorus and Theodoret agree. He is undoubtedly the same man that is referred to in §17, below, where all the mss. unite in reading Ασκληπι€δου. Of this man we know only what is told us in this chapter. Theodoret (Hær. Fab. II. 5) mentions him, but adds nothing new, while Hippolytus in his Philosophumena, and apparently in his lost Syntagma, passes him by without notice.


On this second Theodotus, a money-changer or banker (τραπεζίτης,) who is distinguished from the first Theodotus by both our sources (Hippolytus and the Little Labyrinth quoted here), see above, note 1.


The Greek contains a play of words at this point: πὶ ταύτῃ τῇ φρονήσει, μᾶλλον δὲ ἀφροσύνῃ.


This is the earliest instance we have of a salaried clergyman. The practice of paying salaries was followed also by the Montanists, and brought great reproach upon them (see above, chap. 18, note 8). A Roman denarius was equal to about seventeen cents, so that Natalius’ monthly salary was a little over twenty-five dollars.


It is not necessary to doubt the truth of this report, if we substitute “muscular Christians” for “holy angels.” As Stroth dryly remarks: “Eben kein löblich Geschäft für die heiligen Engel; es werden aber ohne zweifel Engel mit guten starken Knochen und Nerven gewesen sein.”


The information which is given us here in regard to the methods of the Theodotians is very interesting. What is said in regard to their philosophical principles makes it evident that they used the grammatical and critical mode of exegesis as opposed to the prevalent allegorical mode. Nothing could seem more irreverent and irreligious to the Church of that age than such a method of interpretation, the method which we now recognize as the only true one. They were, moreover, textual critics. They may have been rash in their methods, but it is not necessary to suppose them dishonest in their purposes. They seem to have looked upon the Scriptures as inspired as truly as their opponents did, but they believed that radical criticism was needed if the true reading of the originals was to be reached, while their opponents were shocked at anything of the kind. That textual criticism was necessary, even at that early day, is clear enough from the words of Irenæus (quoted in chap. 20, above), and from the words of Dionysius (quoted in Bk. IV. chap. 23), as well as from many other sources. Finally, these men seem to have offended their opponents by the use of dialectical methods in their treatment of theology. This is very significant at that early date. It is indeed the earliest instance known to us of that method which seemed entirely irreligious to the author of the Little Labyrinth, but which less than a century later prevailed in the Antiochian school, and for a large part of the Middle Ages ruled the whole Church.


The author makes a play here upon the word earth, which cannot be reproduced in a translation. γεωμετρίαν (literally, “earth-measure”) πιτηδεύουσιν, ὡσὰν ἐκ τῆς γῆς ὄντες καὶ ἐκ τῆς γῆς λαλοῦντες


Ευκλείδηςγεωμετρεῖται: literally, Euclid is geometrized.


All the mss. read Ασκληπι€δου, which is adopted by most of the editors. Rufinus and Nicephorus, however, followed by a few editors, among them Heinichen, read Ασκληπιοδότου (see above, note 18).


κατωρθωμένα, τουτέστιν ἠφανισμένα


Of this Hermophilus we know nothing more.


Απολλωνίδου, which is the reading of one ancient ms., of Rufinus, Theodoret, and Nicephorus, and which is adopted by Stroth, Burton, Heinichen, and Closs. The majority of the mss. read Απολλωνίου, while a few read Απολλωνι€δου


These persons can hardly have rejected the Law and the Prophets utterly,—at least, no hint is given us that they maintained a fundamental difference between the God of the Old and the God of the New Testament, as Marcion did,—nor would such wholesale rejection be natural for critics such as they were. It is more likely that they simply, as many of the Gnostics did, emphasized the merely relative authority of the Old Testament, and that they applied historical criticism to it, distinguishing between its various parts in the matter of authority. Such action is just what we should expect from members of a critical school like that of Theodotus, and such criticism in its extremest form would naturally seem to an orthodox Catholic the same as throwing over the whole book. Cf. Harnack, Dogmengeschicte, p. 579 and p. 488 sqq.

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