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

Early Church Fathers  Index     

p. 227 Chapter XIII.—Rhodo and his Account of the Dissension of Marcion.

1. At this time Rhodo, 1535 a native of Asia, who had been instructed, as he himself states, by Tatian, with whom we have already become acquainted, 1536 having written several books, published among the rest one against the heresy of Marcion. 1537 He says that this heresy was divided in his time into various opinions; 1538 and while describing those who occasioned the division, he refutes accurately the falsehoods devised by each of them.

2. But hear what he writes: 1539

“Therefore also they disagree among themselves, maintaining an inconsistent opinion. 1540 For Apelles, 1541 one of the herd, priding himself on his manner of life 1542 and his age, acknowledges one principle, 1543 but says that the prophecies 1544 are from an opposing spirit, being led to this view by the responses of a maiden by name Philumene, 1545 who was possessed by a p. 228 demon.

3. But others, among whom are Potitus and Basilicus, 1546 hold to two principles, 1547 as does the mariner 1548 Marcion himself.

4. These following the wolf 1549 of Pontus, and, like him, unable to fathom the division of things, became reckless, and without giving any proof asserted two principles. Others, again, drifting into a worse error, consider that there are not only two, but three natures. 1550 Of these, Syneros 1551 is the leader and chief, as those who defend his teaching 1552 say.”

5. The same author writes that he engaged in conversation with Apelles. He speaks as follows:

“For the old man Apelles, when conversing with us, 1553 was refuted in many things which he spoke falsely; whence also he said that it was not at all necessary to examine one’s doctrine, 1554 but that each one should continue to hold what he believed. For he asserted that those who trusted in the Crucified would be saved, if only they were found doing good works. 1555 But as we have said before, his opinion concerning God was the most obscure of all. For he spoke of one principle, as also our doctrine does.”

6. Then, after stating fully his own opinion, he adds:

“When I said to him, Tell me how you know this or how can you assert that there is one principle, he replied that the prophecies refuted themselves, because they have said nothing true; 1556 for they are inconsistent, and false, and self-contradictory. But how there is one principle he said that he did not know, but that he was thus persuaded.

7. As I then adjured him to speak the truth, he swore that he did so when he said that he did not know how there is one unbegotten God, but that he believed it. Thereupon I laughed and reproved him because, though calling himself a teacher, he knew not how to confirm what he taught.” 1557

8. In the same work, addressing Callistio, 1558 the same writer acknowledges that he had been instructed at Rome by Tatian. 1559 And he says that a book of Problems 1560 had been prepared by Tatian, in which he promised to explain the obp. 229 scure and hidden parts of the divine Scriptures. Rhodo himself promises to give in a work of his own solutions of Tatian’s problems. 1561 There is also extant a Commentary of his on the Hexæmeron. 1562

9. But this Apelles wrote many things, in an impious manner, of the law of Moses, blaspheming the divine words in many of his works, being, as it seemed, very zealous for their refutation and overthrow. 1563

So much concerning these.



We know nothing of Rhodo except what is contained in this chapter. Jerome gives a very brief account of him in his de vir. ill. 37, but it rests solely upon this chapter, with the single addition of the statement that Rhodo wrote a work Against the Phrygians. It is plain enough, however, that he had for his account no independent source, and that he in this statement simply attributed to Rhodo the work quoted by Eusebius as an anonymous work in chap. 16. Jerome permits himself such unwarranted combinations very frequently, and we need not be at all surprised at it. With him a guess is often as good as knowledge, and in this case he doubtless considered his guess a very shrewd one. There is no warrant for supposing that he himself saw the work mentioned by Eusebius, and thus learned its authorship. What Eusebius did not learn from it he certainly could not, and his whole account betrays the most slavish and complete dependence upon Eusebius as his only source. In chap. 39 Jerome mentions Rhodo again as referring, in a book which he wrote against Montanus, Prisca, and Maximilla, to Miltiades, who also wrote against the same heretics. This report is plainly enough taken directly from Eusebius, chap. 17, where Eusebius quotes from the same anonymous work. Jerome’s utterly baseless combination is very interesting, and significant of his general method.

Rhodo’s works are no longer extant, and the only fragments we have are those preserved by Eusebius in this chapter.


See Bk. IV. chap. 29.


Upon Marcion and Marcionism, see Bk. IV. chap. 11, note 22.


It is noticeable that Rhodo says γνώμας, opinions, not parties. Although the different Marcionites held various theoretical beliefs, which gave rise to different schools, yet they did not split up into sects, but remained one church, and retained the one general name of Marcionites, and it is by this general name alone that they are always referred to by the Fathers. The fact that they could hold such variant beliefs (e.g. one, two, or three principles; see below, note 9) without splitting up into sects, shows that doctrines were but a side issue with them, and that the religious spirit was the matter upon which they laid the chief emphasis. This shows the fundamental difference between Marcion and the Gnostics.


These fragments of Rhodo are collected and discussed by Routh in his Rel. Sacræ, I. 437–446.


The Fathers entirely misunderstood Marcion, and mistook the significance of his movement. They regarded it, like Gnosticism in general, solely as a speculative system, and entirely overlooked its practical aim. The speculative and theological was not the chief thing with Marcion, but it is the only thing which receives any attention from his opponents. His positions, all of which were held only with a practical interest, were not treated by him in a speculative manner, nor were they handled logically and systematically. As a consequence, many contradictions occur in them. These contradictions were felt by his followers, who laid more and more emphasis upon the speculative over against the practical; and hence, as Rhodo reports, they fell into disagreement, and, in their effort to remove the inconsistencies, formed various schools, differing among themselves according to the element upon which the greatest weight was laid. There is thus some justification for the conduct of the Fathers, who naturally carried back and attributed to Marcion the principles of his followers. But it is our duty to distinguish the man from his followers, and to recognize his greatness in spite of their littleness. Not all of them, however, fell completely away from his practical religious spirit. Apelles, as we shall see below, was in many respects a worthy follower of his master.


Apelles was the greatest and most famous of Marcion’s disciples. Tertullian wrote a special work against him, which is unfortunately lost, but from his own quotations, and from those of Pseudo-Tertullian and Hippolytus, it can be in part restored (cf. Harnack’s De Apellis Gnosis Monarchia, p. 11 sqq.). As he was an old man (see §5, below) when Rhodo conversed with him, he must have been born early in the second century. We know nothing definite either as to his birth or death. The picture which we have of him in this chapter is a very pleasing one. He was a man evidently of deep religious spirit and moral life, who laid weight upon “trust in the crucified Christ” (see §5, below), and upon holiness in life in distinction from doctrinal beliefs; a man who was thus thoroughly Marcionitic in his principles, although he differed so widely with Marcion in some of his doctrinal positions that he was said to have founded a new sect (so Origen, Hom. in Gen. II. 2). The slightest difference, however, between his teaching and Marcion’s would have been sufficient to make him the founder of a separate Gnostic sect in the eyes of the Fathers, and therefore this statement must be taken with allowance (see note 4, above). The account which Hippolytus (Phil. X. 16) gives of the doctrinal positions of Apelles is somewhat different from that of Rhodo, but ambiguous and less exact. The scandal in regard to him, reported by Tertullian in his De Præscriptione, 30, is quite in accord with Tertullian’s usual conduct towards heretics, and may be set aside as not having the slightest foundation in fact, and as absolutely contradicting what we know of Apelles from this report of his contemporary, Rhodo. His moral character was certainly above reproach, and the same may be said of his master, Marcion. Upon Apelles, see especially Harnack’s De Apellis Gnosis Monarchia, Lips. 1874.


The participle (σεμνυνόμενος) carries with it the implication that Apelles’ character was affected or assumed. The implication, however, does not lessen the value of Rhodo’s testimony to his character. He could not deny its purity, though he insinuated that it was not sincere.


This means that Apelles accepted only one God, and made the creator but an angel who was completely under the power of the Supreme God. Marcion, on the contrary, held, as said below, two principles, teaching that the world-creator was himself a God, eternal, uncreated, and independent of the good God of the Christians. It is true that Marcion represented the world-creator as limited in power and knowledge, and taught that the Christian God would finally be supreme, and the world-creator become subject to him; but this, while it involves Marcion in self-contradiction as soon as the matter is looked at theoretically, yet does not relieve him from the charge of actual dualism. His followers were more consistent, and either accepted one principle, subordinating the world-creator completely to the good God, as did Apelles, or else carried out Marcion’s dualism to its logical result and asserted the continued independence of the Old Testament God and the world-creator, who was thus very early identified with Satan and made the enemy of the Christian God. (Marcion’s world-creator was not the bad God, but the righteous in distinction from the good God.) Still others held three principles: the good God of the Christians, the righteous God or world-creator, and the bad God, Satan. The varying doctrines of these schools explain the discrepant and often contradictory reports of the Fathers in regard to the doctrines of Marcion. Apelles’ doctrine was a decided advance upon that of Marcion, as he rejected the dualism of the latter, which was the destructive element in his system, and thus approached the Church, whose foundation must be one God who rules the world for good. His position is very significant, as remarked by Harnack, because it shows that one could hold Marcion’s fundamental principle without becoming a dualist.


i.e. the Old Testament prophecies. Apelles in his Syllogisms (see below, note 28) exhibited the supposed contradictions of the Old Testament in syllogistic form, tracing them to two adverse angels, of whom the one spoke falsely, contradicting the truth spoken by the other. Marcion, on the other hand (in his Antitheses), referred all things to the same God, the world-creator, and from the contradictions of the book endeavored to show his vacillating and inconsistent character. He, however, accepted the Old Testament as in the main a trustworthy book, but referred the prophecies to the Jewish Messiah in distinction from the Christ of the New Testament. But Apelles, looking upon two adverse angels as the authors of the book, regarded it as in great part false. Marcion and Apelles were one, however, in looking upon it as an anti-Christian book.


This virgin, Philumene, is connected with Apelles in all the reports which we have of him (e.g. in Hippolytus, Tertullian, Jerome, &c.), and is reported to have been looked upon by Apelles as a prophetess who received revelations from an angel, and who worked miracles. Tertullian, De Præscriptione, 6, evidently accepts these miracles as facts, but attributes them to the agency of a demon. They all unite in considering her influence the cause of Apelles’ heretical opinions. Tertullian (ibid. 30, &c.) calls her a prostitute, but the silence of Rhodo and Hippolytus is sufficient refutation of such a charge, and it may be rejected as a baseless slander, like the report of Apelles’ immorality mentioned in note 7. There is nothing strange in the fact that Apelles should follow the prophecies of a virgin, and the Fathers who mention it evidently do not consider it as anything peculiar or reprehensible in itself. It was very common in the early Church to appeal to the relatives of virgins and widows. Cf. e.g. the virgin daughters of Philip who prophesied (Acts xxi. 9; Eusebius, III. 31), also the Eccles. Canons, chap. 21, where it is directed that three widows shall be appointed, of whom two shall give themselves to prayer, waiting for revelations in regard to any question which may arise in the Church, and the third shall devote herself to nursing the sick. Tertullian also appeals for proof of the materiality of the soul to a vision enjoyed by a Christian sister (de Anima, 9). So Montanus had his prophetesses Priscilla and Maximilla (see the next chapter).


Of these two men we know only what is told us here. They are not mentioned elsewhere.


See note 9.


ναύτης. This word is omitted by many mss., but is found in the best ones and in Rufinus, and is accepted by most of the editors of Eusebius. Tertullian calls Marcion a ship-master (Adv. Marc. III. 6, and IV. 9, &c.) and a pilot (ibid. I. 18), and makes many plays upon his profession (e.g. ibid. V. 1), and there is no reason to take the word in a figurative sense (as has been done) and suppose that he is called a mariner simply because of his nationality. We know that he traveled extensively, and that he was a rich man (for he gave 200,000 sesterces at one time to the church of Rome, which was a large sum for those days; see Tertullian, de Præscript. 30). There is, therefore, no reason to doubt that he was a “ship-master,” as Tertullian calls him.


It was the custom of the Fathers to call the heretics hard names, and Marcion received his full share of them from his opponents, especially from Tertullian. He is compared to a wolf by Justin also, Apol. I. 58, on account of his “carrying away” so many “lambs” from the truth.


See note 9.


Of Syneros we know only what is told us here. He is not mentioned elsewhere. Had the Marcionites split into various sects, these leaders must have been well known among the Fathers, and their names must have been frequently referred to. As it was, they all remained Marcionites, in spite of their differences of opinion (see above, note 4).


διδασκ€λιον, which is the reading of the majority of the mss., and is adopted by Heinichen. Burton and Schwegler read διδασκαλεῖον, on the authority of two mss.


Apelles was evidently like Marcion in his desire to keep within the Church as much as possible, and to associate with Church people. He had no esoteric doctrines to conceal from the multitude, and in this he shows the great difference between himself and the Gnostics. Marcion did not leave the Church until he was obliged to, and he founded his own church only under compulsion, upon being driven out of the Catholic community.


τὸν λόγον.


This is a truly Christian sentiment, and Apelles should be honored for the expression of it. It reveals clearly the religious character of Marcionism in distinction from the speculative and theological character of the Gnostics, and indeed of many of the Fathers. With Marcion and Apelles we are in a world of sensitive moral principle and of deep religious feeling like that in which Paul and Augustine lived, but few others in the early Church. Rhodo, in spite of his orthodoxy, shows himself the real Gnostic over against the sincere believer, though the latter was in the eyes of the Church a “blasphemous heretic.” Apelles’ noble words do honor to the movement—however heretical it was—which in that barren age of theology could give them birth.

The latter clause, taken as it stands, would seem to indicate an elevation of good works to the level of faith; but though it is possible that Apelles may have intended to express himself thus, it is more probable, when we remember the emphasis which Marcion laid upon Paul’s doctrine of salvation by the grace of God alone, that he meant to do no more than emphasize good works as a natural result of true faith, as we do to-day. The apparent co-ordination of the two may perhaps lie simply in Rhodo’s reproduction of Apelles’ words. He, at least, did not comprehend Paul’s grand doctrine of Christian liberty, nor did any of his orthodox contemporaries. The difference between the common conception of Christ’s relation to the law, and the conception of Paul as grasped by Marcion and perhaps by Apelles, is well illustrated by a passage in Tertullian, in which he expresses astonishment that the Marcionites do not sin freely, so long as they do not expect to be punished, and exclaims (to his own dishonor), “I would sin without scruple, if I believed as you do.”


Rhodo had probably brought forward against Apelles proof from prophecy which led to the discussion of the Old Testament prophecies in general. Although Apelles had rejected Marcion’s dualism, and accepted the “one principle,” he still rejected the Old Testament. This is quite peculiar, and yet perfectly comprehensible; for while Marcion was indeed the only one of that age that understood Paul, yet as Harnack well says, even he misunderstood him; and neither himself nor his followers were able to rise to Paul’s noble conception of the Old Testament law as a “schoolmaster to bring us to Christ,” and thus a part of the good God’s general plan of salvation. It took, perhaps, a born Jew, as Paul was, to reach that high conception of the law in those days. To Marcion and his followers the law seemed to stand in irreconcilable conflict with the Gospel,—Jewish law on the one side, Gospel liberty on the other,—they could not reconcile them; they must, therefore, reject the former as from another being, and not from the God of the Gospel. There was in that age no historical interpretation of the Old Testament. It must either be interpreted allegorically, and made a completely Christian book, or else it must be rejected as opposed to Christianity. Marcion and his followers, in their conception of law and Gospel as necessarily opposed, could follow only the latter course. Marcion, in his rejection of the Old Testament, proceeded simply upon dogmatic presumptions. Apelles, although his rejection of it undoubtedly originated in the same presumptions, yet subjected it to a criticism which satisfied him of the correctness of his position, and gave him a fair basis of attack. His procedure was, therefore, more truly historical than that of Marcion, and anticipated modern methods of higher criticism.


A true Gnostic sentiment, over against which the pious “agnosticism” of Apelles is not altogether unrefreshing. The Church did not fully conquer Gnosticism,—Gnosticism in some degree conquered the Church, and the anti-Gnostics, like Apelles, were called heretics. It was the vicious error of Gnosticism that it looked upon Christianity as knowledge, that it completely identified the two, and our existing systems of theology, some of them, testify to the fact that there are still Gnostics among us.


Of this Callistio we know nothing; but, as has been remarked by another, he must have been a well-known man, or Eusebius would probably have said “a certain Callistio” (see Salmon’s article in Smith and Wace).


Upon Tatian, see Bk. IV. chap. 29, note 1.


Upon this work (προβλημ€των βιβλίον) see ibid.


Whether Rhodo fulfilled this promise we do not know. The work is mentioned by no one else, and Eusebius evidently had no knowledge of its existence, or he would have said so.


εἰς τὴν ἑξαήμερον ὑπόμνημα. This work of Rhodo’s, on the Hexæmeron (or six days’ work), is mentioned by no one else, and no fragments of it are known to us. For a notice of other works on the same subject, see below, Bk. VI. chap. 22, note 3.


Hippolytus (X. 16) also mentions works of Apelles against the law and the prophets. We know of but one work of his, viz. the Syllogisms, which was devoted to the criticism of the Old Testament, and in which he worked out the antitheses of Marcion in a syllogistic form. The work is cited only by Origen (in Gen. II. 2) and by Ambrose (De Parad. V. 28), and they have preserved but a few brief fragments. It must have been an extensive work, as Ambrose quotes from the 38th book. From these fragments we can see that Apelles’ criticism of the Old Testament was very keen and sagacious. For the difference between himself and Marcion in the treatment of the Old Testament, see above, note 9. The words of Eusebius, “as it seemed,” show that he had not himself seen the book, as might indeed be gathered from his general account of Apelles, for which he depended solely upon secondary sources.

Next: Chapter XIV

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