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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.—The Works of Hippolytus which have reached us.

1. At that time Hippolytus, 1947 besides many other treatises, wrote a work on the passp. 270 over. 1948 He gives in this a chronological table, and presents a certain paschal canon of sixteen years, bringing the time down to the first year of the Emperor Alexander.

2. Of his other writings the following have reached us: On the Hexæmeron, 1949 On the Works after the Hexæmeron, 1950 Against Marcion, 1951 On the Song of Songs, 1952 On Portions of Ezekiel, 1953 On the Passover, 1954 Against All the Heresies; 1955 and you can find many other works preserved by many.



Hippolytus (mentioned above in chap. 20) was one of the most learned men and celebrated writers of his age, and yet his personal history is involved in the deepest obscurity. The earliest mention of him is by Eusebius in this passage and in chap. 20, above. But Eusebius tells us there only that he was a bishop of “some other church” (τέρας που ἐκκλησίας), and Jerome (de vir. ill. c. 61) says that he was a bishop of some church whose name he did not know (Hippolytus, cujusdam Ecclesiæ episcopus, nomen quippe urbis scire non potui). In the East, from the fourth century on, Hippolytus was commonly called bishop of Rome, but the Western tradition makes him simply a presbyter. The late tradition that he was bishop of Portus Romanus is quite worthless. We learn from his Philosophumena, or Refutation of Heresies, that he was active in Rome in the time of Zephyrinus and Callistus; but what is significant is the fact that he never recognizes Callistus as bishop of Rome, but always treats him as the head of a school opposed to the orthodox Church. This has given scholars the clue for reconciling the conflicting traditions about his position and his church. It seems probable that he was a presbyter of the church of Rome, and was at the head of a party which did not recognize Callistus as lawful bishop, but set Hippolytus up as opposition bishop. This explains why Hippolytus calls himself a bishop, and at the same time recognizes neither Callistus nor any one else as bishop of Rome. The Western Church therefore preserved the tradition of Hippolytus only as a presbyter, while in the Orient, where Hippolytus was known only through his works, the tradition that he was a bishop (a fact directly stated in those works; see the preface to his Philosophumena) always prevailed; and since he was known to have resided in Rome, that city was made by tradition his see. The schism, which has left no trace in the writings either of the Western or Eastern Church, cannot have been a serious one. Doubtless Callistus had the support of by far the larger part of the Church, and the opposition of Hippolytus never amounted to more than talk, and was never strong enough to enlist, or perhaps even attempt to enlist, the support of foreign bishops. Callistus and the body of the Church could afford to leave it unnoticed; and after Callistus’ death Hippolytus undoubtedly returned to the Church and was gladly received, and the memory of his brief schism entirely effaced, while the knowledge of his orthodoxy, and of his great services to the Church as a theologian and a writer, kept his name in high repute with subsequent generations. A Latin translation of a Chronicle written by Hippolytus is extant, and the last event recorded in it is the death of the Emperor Alexander, which took place early in the year 235. The Liberian catalogue, in an entry which Lipsius (Chron. d. röm. Bischöfe, p. 194) pronounces critically indisputable, records that, in the year 235, the bishop Pontianus and the presbyter Hippolytus were transported as exiles to the island of Sardinia. There is little doubt that this is the Hippolytus with whom we are concerned, and it is highly probable that both he and Pontianus died in the mines there, and thus gained the title of martyrs; for not only is the account of Hippolytus’ martyrdom given by Prudentius in the fifth century not reliable, but also in the depositio martyrum of the Liberian catalogue the bodies of Pontianus and Hippolytus are said to have been buried in Rome on the same day; and it is therefore natural to think that Hippolytus’ body was brought from Sardinia, as we know Pontianus’ was.

The character of Hippolytus, as revealed to us in the Philosophumena, is that of a strictly, even rigidly, moral man, of a puritanic disposition, who believed in drawing the reins very tight, and allowing to the members of the Christian Church no license. He was in this directly opposed to Callistus, who was a lax disciplinarian, and favored the readmission to the Church even of the worst offenders upon evidence of repentance and suitable penance (see the previous chapter, note 3). We are reminded greatly of Tertullian and of Novatian in studying Hippolytus’ character. He was, moreover, strictly orthodox and bitterly opposed to what he considered the patripassianism of Zephyrinus and of Callistus. He must be admired as a thoroughly independent, sternly moral, and rigidly orthodox man; while at the same time it must be recognized that he was irascible, bitter, and in some respects narrow and bigoted. He is known to have been a very prolific writer, composing all his works in Greek. Eusebius mentions but eight works in this chapter, but says that many others were extant in his day. Jerome, who in the present instance has other sources of information than Eusebius’ History, mentions some nineteen works (de vir. ill. c. 61), including all of those named by Eusebius, except the commentary on portions of Ezekiel and the work on the Events which followed the Hexæmeron (but see note 4, below). In the year 1551 a statue representing a venerable man sitting in a chair, and with an inscription upon it enumerating the writings of the person commemorated, was found near the church of San Lorenzo, just outside of Rome. The statue, though it bears no name, has been shown to be that of Hippolytus; and with the help of the list given upon it (which contains some thirteen works), together with some extant fragments of writings which seem to have been composed by him, the titles known to us have been increased to about forty, the greater part of which are entirely lost. We cannot discuss these works here. For the most complete list of Hippolytus’ writings the reader is referred to Caspari’s Taufsymbol und Glaubensregel, III. 377 sq., or to the more accessible article by Salmon in the Dict. of Christ. Biog. In 1842 was discovered the greater part of a work in ten books directed against heresies, the first book of which had been long before published by the Benedictines among Origen’s works with the title of Philosophumena. This discovery caused great discussion, but it has been proved to the complete satisfaction of almost every scholar that it is a work of Hippolytus (cf., among other discussions, Döllinger’s Hippolytus und Callistus, translated by Plummer, and the article in the Dict. of Christ. Biog. already referred to). The work was published at Oxford in 1851 by Miller (who, however, wrongly ascribed it to Origen), and at Göttingen, in 1859, by Duncker and Schneidewin. It is given also by Migne; and an English translation is found in the Ante-Nicene Fathers (Amer. ed.), Vol. V., under the title the Refutation of All Heresies.


This chronological work on the passover, which contained a cycle for the purpose of determining the date of the festival, is mentioned also by Jerome, and is given in the list on the statue, on which the cycle itself is also engraved. Jerome says that this work was the occasion of Eusebius’ work upon the same subject in which a nineteen-year cycle was substituted for that of Hippolytus. The latter was a sixteen-year cycle and was formed by putting together two of the eight-year cycles of the Greek astronomers,—according to whose calculation the full moon fell on the same day of the month once in eight years,—in order to exhibit also the day of the week on which it fell; for he noticed that after sixteen years the full moon moved one day backward (if on Saturday at the beginning of the cycle, it fell on Friday after the sixteen years were past). He therefore put together seven sixteen-year cycles, assuming that after they had passed the full moon would return again to the same day of the week, as well as month. This cycle is astronomically incorrect, the fact being that after sixteen years the full moon falls not on the same day of the week, but three days later. Hippolytus, however, was not aware of this, and published his cycle in perfect good faith. The work referred to seems to have contained an explanation of the cycle, together with a computation by means of it of the dates of the Old and New Testament passovers. It is no longer extant, but the cycle itself, which was the chief thing, is preserved on the statue, evidently in the form in which it was drawn up by Hippolytus himself.


This treatise on the Hexæmeron, or six days’ work, is mentioned also by Jerome, but is not in the list on the statue. It is no longer extant; but according to Jerome (Ep. ad Pammachium et Oceanum, c. 7; Migne’s ed. Ep. 84), was used by Ambrose in the composition of his own work upon the same subject, which is still preserved (cf. also Bk. V. chap. 27, note 3, above).


Greek, εἰς τὰ μετὰ τὴν ἐξαήμερον. This work is not given in the list on the statue. It is mentioned in some of the mss. of Jerome under the form et post Hexæmeron; but the best mss. omit these words, and substitute for them et in Exodum, a work which is not mentioned by any other authority. Jerome mentions also a commentary in Genesim, which we hear of from no other source, and which may be identical with this work mentioned by Eusebius. If the two be identical (which is quite possible), the nature of the work is plain enough. Otherwise we are left wholly to conjecture. No fragments of the work have been identified.


This work is mentioned also by Jerome, but is not in the list on the statue. The last work, however, mentioned in that list bears the title περὶ τἀγαθοῦ καὶ πόθεν τὸ κακόν, which, it has been conjectured, may be identical with Eusebius and Jerome’s Contra Marcionem. No fragments are extant.


Eusebius has simply τὸ ἆσμα (The Song), which is the title given to the book in the LXX. This commentary on the Song of Songs is mentioned also by Jerome, but is not in the statue list. Four fragments of it are given by Lagarde, in his edition of the works of Hippolytus.


This commentary on portions of Ezekiel is mentioned by no one else. A supposed fragment of it is given by Lagarde, Anal. Syr., p. 90.


Jerome agrees with Eusebius in mentioning a work On the Passover, in addition to the chronological one already referred to. The list on the statue, however, mentions but one work on the passover, and that the one containing the paschal cycle. Fragments are extant of Hippolytus’ work On the Passover,—one from his ξήγησις εἰς τὸ π€σχα (see Lagarde’s edition of Hippolytus p. 213), and another from “the first book of the treatise on the holy paschal feast” (τοῦ περὶ τοῦ ἁγίου π€σχα συγγρ€μματος, Lagarde, p. 92). These fragments are of a dogmatic character, and can hardly have occurred in the chronological work, except in a separate section or book; but the last is taken from “the first book” of the treatise, and hence we are safe in concluding that Eusebius and Jerome are correct in enumerating two separate works upon the same subject,—the one chronological, the other dogmatic, or polemical.


This work, Against All the Heresies, is mentioned both by Eusebius (πρὸς ἁπ€σας τὰς αἱρέσεις) Jerome (adv. omnes hæreses), but is not given in the list on the statue. Quite a full account of it is given from personal knowledge by Photius (Cod. 121), who calls it a small book (βιβλιδ€ριον) directed against thirty-two heresies, beginning with the Dositheans and ending with Noetus, and says that it purported to be an abstract of lectures delivered by Irenæus. The work is no longer extant (it must not be confounded with the Philosophumena, or Refutatio, mentioned in note 1), but it has been in part restored by Lipsius (in his Quellenkritik des Epiphanius) from the anti-heretical works of Pseudo-Tertullian, Epiphanius, and Philaster. There is in existence also a fragment of considerable length, bearing in the ms. the title Homily of Hippolytus against the Heresy of one Noetus. It is apparently not a homily, but the conclusion of a treatise against a number of heresies. It was suggested by Fabricius (who first published the original Greek) that it constituted the closing chapter of the work against the thirty-two heresies. The chief objection to this is that if this fragment forms but one of thirty-two chapters, the entire work can hardly have been called a “little book” by Photius. Lipsius suggests that the little book of which Photius speaks was not the complete work of Hippolytus, but only an abbreviated summary of its contents, and this is quite possible. At any rate it seems probable, in spite of the objections which have been urged by some critics, that this constituted a part of the larger work, and hence we have one chapter of that work preserved. The work seems to have been composed in Rome and during the episcopate of Victor (as Lipsius holds), or, as is more probable, in the early part of the episcopate of Zephyrinus (as is maintained by Harnack). This conclusion is drawn from the dates of the heretics mentioned in the work, some of whom were as late as Victor, but none of them later than the early years of Zephyrinus. It must, too, have been composed some years before the Philosophumena, which (in the preface) refers to a work against heresies, written by its author a “long time before” (π€λαι). Upon this work and its relation to the lost Syntagma of Justin Martyr, which Lipsius supposes it to have made use of, see his work already referred to and also his Quellen der ältesten Ketzergeschichte together with Harnack’s Quellenkritik der Gesch. des Gnosticismus, and his article in the Zeitschrift für historische Theologie, 1874, p. 143–226.

Next: Chapter XXIII

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