Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Church History of Eusebius.: Chapter XIX
Chapter XIX.—Serapion on the Heresy of the Phrygians.
1. Serapion, 1651 who, as report says, succeeded Maximinus 1652 at that time as bishop of the church of Antioch, mentions the works of Apolinarius 1653 against the above-mentioned heresy. And he alludes to him in a private letter to Caricus and Pontius, 1654 in which he himself exposes the same heresy, and adds the following words: 1655
2. “That you may see that the doings of this lying band of the new prophecy, so called, are an abomination to all the brotherhood throughout the world, I have sent you writings 1656 of the most blessed Claudius Apolinarius, bishop of Hierapolis in Asia.”
3. In the same letter of Serapion the signatures of several bishops are found, 1657 one of whom subscribes himself as follows:
“I, Aurelius Cyrenius, a witness, 1658 pray for your health.”
And another in this manner:
“Ælius Publius Julius, 1659 bishop of Debeltum, a colony of Thrace. As God liveth in the heavens, the blessed Sotas in Anchialus desired to cast the demon out of Priscilla, but the hypocrites did not permit him.” 1660
4. And the autograph signatures of many other bishops who agreed with them are contained in the same letter.
So much for these persons.
Both versions of the Chron. agree in putting the accession of Serapion into the eleventh year of Commodus (190 a.d.), and that of his successor Asclepiades into the first year of Caracalla, which would give Serapion an episcopate of twenty-one years (Syncellus says twenty-five years, although giving the same dates of accession for both bishops that the other versions give). Serapion was a well-known person, and it is not too much to think that the dates given by the Chron. in connection with him may be more reliable than most of its dates. The truth is, that from the present chapter we learn that he was already bishop before the end of Commodus reign, i.e. before the end of 192 a.d. Were the statement of Eutychius,—that Demetrius of Alexandria wrote at the same time to Maximus of Antioch and Victor of Rome,—to be relied upon, we could fix his accession between 189 and 192 (see Harnacks Zeit des Ignatius, p. 45). But the truth is little weight can be attached to his report. While we cannot therefore reach certainty in the matter, there is no reason for doubting the approximate accuracy of the date given by the Chron. As to the time of his death, we can fix the date of Asclepiades accession approximately in the year 211 (see Bk. VI. chap. II, note 6), and from the fragment of Alexanders epistle to the Antiochenes, quoted in that chapter, it seems probable that there had been a vacancy in the see of Antioch for some time. But from the mention of Serapions epistles to Domninus (Bk. VI. chap. 12) we may gather that he lived until after the great persecution of Severus (a.d. 202 sq.). From Bk. VI. chap. 12, we learn that Serapion was quite a writer; and he is commemorated also by Jerome (de vir. ill. c. 41) and by Socrates (H. E. III. 7). In addition to the epistle quoted here, he addressed to Domninus, according to Bk. VI. chap. 12, a treatise (Jerome, ad Domninum…volumen composuit), or epistle (the Greek of Eusebius reads simply τὰ, but uses the same article to describe the epistle or epistles to Caricus and Pontius, so that the nature of the writing is uncertain), as well as some other epistles, and a work on the Gospel of Peter. These were the only writings of his which Eusebius had seen, but he reports that there were probably other works extant. There are preserved to us only the two fragments quoted by Eusebius in these two chapters. Serapion also played a prominent rôle in the tradition of the Edessene church, as we learn from Zahns Doctrina Addai (Gött. Gel. Anz. 1877, St. 6, p. 173, 179, according to Harnacks Zeit des Ignatius, p. 46 sqq.).237:1652
On Maximinus, see Bk. IV. chap. 24, note 6.237:1653
See Bk. IV. chap. 27, note 1.237:1654
Caricus and Pontius (called Ponticus in this passage by most of the mss. of Eusebius, but Pontius by one of the best of them, by Nicephorus, Jerome, and Eusebius himself in Bk. VI. chap. 12, which authorities are followed by Stroth, Burton, Schwegler, and Heinichen) are called in Bk. VI. chap. 12, ἐκκλησιαστικοὺς ἀνδρὰς. They are otherwise unknown personages. In that chapter the plural article τ€ is used of the writing, or writings, addressed to Caricus and Pontius, implying that ὑπομνήματα is to be supplied. This seems to imply more than one writing, but it is not necessary to conclude that more than the single epistle mentioned here is meant, for the plural ὑπομνήματα was often used in a sort of collective sense to signify a collection of notes, memoranda, &c.237:1655
This fragment is given by Routh, Rel. Sacræ, and, in English, in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, VIII. p. 775.237:1656
See Bk. IV. chap. 27, note 5.237:1657
Valesius justly remarks that Eusebius does not say that these bishops signed Serapions epistle, but only that their signatures or notes (ὑποσημειώσεις) were contained in the epistle. He thinks it is by no means probable that a bishop of Thrace (the nationality of the other bishops we do not know) should have signed this epistle of Serapions, and he therefore concludes that Serapion simply copies from another epistle sent originally from Thrace. This is possible; but at the end of the chapter Eusebius says that other bishops put in their signatures or notes with their own hands (αὐτόγραφοι σημειώσεις), which precludes the idea that Serapion simply copies their testimony from another source, and if they signed thus it is possible that the Thracian bishop did likewise. It may be that Serapion took pains to compose a semi-official communication which should have the endorsement of as many anti-Montanistic bishops as possible, and that, in order to secure their signatures he sent it about from one to the other before forwarding it to Caricus and Pontius.237:1658
Of this Aurelius Cyrenius we know nothing. It is possible that he means to call himself simply a witness (μαρτύς) to the facts recorded by Serapion in his epistle, but more probable that he uses the word to indicate that he has “witnessed for Christ” under persecution.237:1659
Ælius Publius Julius is also an otherwise unknown personage. Debeltum and Anchialus were towns of Thrace, on the western shore of the Black Sea.237:1660
Lightfoot (Ignatius, II. 111) suggests that this Sotas (Σωτᾶς) may be identical with the Zoticus (Ζωτικός) mentioned in the preceding chapter, the interchange of the initial Σ and Ζ being very common. But we learn from chap. 16 that Zoticus was bishop of Comana, so that he can hardly be identified with Sotas, bishop of Anchialus.
Next: Chapter XX
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