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

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Chapter XXII.—The Bishops that were well known at this Time.

In the tenth year of the reign of Commodus, Victor 1678 succeeded Eleutherus, 1679 the latter having held the episcopate for thirteen years. In the same year, after Julian 1680 had completed his tenth year, Demetrius 1681 received the charge of the parishes at Alexandria. At this time the above-mentioned Serapion, 1682 the eighth from the apostles, was still well known as bishop of the church at Antioch. Theophilus 1683 presided at Cæsarea in Palestine; and Narcissus, 1684 whom we have mentioned before, still had charge of the church at Jerusalem. Bacchylus 1685 at the same time was bishop of Corinth in Greece, and Polycrates 1686 of p. 241 the parish of Ephesus. And besides these a multitude of others, as is likely, were then prominent. But we have given the names of those alone, the soundness of whose faith has come down to us in writing.



The dates assigned to Victor’s episcopate by the ancient authorities vary greatly. Eusebius here puts his accession in the tenth year of Commodus (i.e. 189 a.d.), and this is accepted by Lipsius as the correct date. Jerome’s version of the Chron. puts his accession in the reign of Pertinax, or the first year of Septimius Severus (i.e. 193), while the Armenian version puts it in the seventh year of Commodus (186). Eusebius, in his History, does not state directly the duration of his episcopate, but in chap. 28 he says that Zephyrinus succeded him about the ninth year of Severus, i.e. according to his erroneous reckoning (see Bk. VI. chap. 21, note 3) about 200, which would give Victor an episcopate of about eleven years. Jerome, in his version of the Chron. and in his de vir. ill., assigns him ten years; the Armenian version of the Chron. twelve years. The Liberian Catalogue makes his episcopate something over nine years long; the Felician Catalogue something over ten. Lipsius, considering Victor in connection with his successors, concludes that he held office between nine and ten years, and therefore gives as his dates 189–198 or 199 (see p. 172 sq.). According to an anonymous writer quoted in chap. 28, Victor excommunicated Theodotus of Byzantium for teaching that Christ was a mere man. He is best known, however, on account of his action in connection with the great Quartodeciman controversy (see chap. 24). Jerome, in his version of the Chron., says of him cujus mediocria de religione extant volumina, and in his de vir. ill. chap. 34, he tells us that he wrote upon the passover, and also some other works (super quæstione Paschæ, et alia quædam scribens opuscula). Harnack believes that he has discovered one of these works (all of which have been supposed lost) in the Pseudo-Cyprianic de Aleatoribus. In his Texte und Unters. Bd. V. Heft 1, he has discussed the subject in a very learned and ingenious manner. The theory has much to commend it, but there are difficulties in its way which have not yet been removed; and I am inclined to think it a product of the first half of the third century, rather than of the last quarter of the second (see the writer’s review of Harnack’s discussion in the Presbyterian Review, Jan., 1889, p. 143 sqq.).


On Eleutherus, see the Introduction to this book, note 2. As remarked there, Eleutherus, according to the testimony of most of our sources, held office fifteen years. The “thirteen years” of this chapter are therefore an error, clearly caused by the possession on the part of Eusebius of a trustworthy tradition that he died in the tenth year of Commodus, which, since he incorrectly put his accession into the seventeenth year of Marcus Aurelius (or Antoninus Verus, as he calls him), made it necessary for him to draw the false conclusion that he held office only thirteen years.


On Julian, bishop of Alexandria, see chap. 9, note 2.


The date of the accession of Demetrius, the eleventh bishop of Alexandria, as given here and in the Chron., was 189 a.d. According to Bk. VI. chap. 26, below, confirmed by the Chron., he held office forty-three years. There is no reason for doubting the approximate accuracy of these dates. Demetrius is known to us chiefly because of his relations to Origen, which were at first friendly, but finally became hostile. He seems to have been a man of great energy, renowned as an administrator rather than as a literary character. He was greatly interested in the catechetical school at Alexandria, but does not seem to have taught in it, and he left no writings, so far as we know. His relations with Origen will come up frequently in the Sixth Book, where he is mentioned a number of times (see especially chap. 8, note 4).


On Serapion, bishop of Antioch, see above, chap. 19.


Theophilus, bishop of Cæsarea, has gained prominence chiefly on account of his connection with the paschal controversy. He presided with Narcissus over the council mentioned in the next chapter, which was called to consider the paschal question, and in conjunction with the other bishops present composed an epistle, which was still extant in Eusebius’ time (according to the next chapter), and of which he gives a fragment in chap. 25. Jerome, in his de vir. ill. c. 43, speaks very highly of this epistle (synodicam valde utilem composuit epistolam); but it seems to have been no longer extant in his time, for in mentioning it and the epistle of Bacchylus of Corinth and others in his Chron., he says that the memory of them still endured (quarum memoria ad nos usque perdurat). The dates of Theophilus’ accession to office and of his death are not known to us.


On Narcissus, see above, chap. 12.


This Bacchylus is possibly identical with the Bacchylides who is mentioned in Bk. IV. chap. 23 as one of those who had urged Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, to write a certain epistle. Bacchylus also is prominent solely on account of his connection with the paschal controversy. According to the next chapter, he was himself the author of an epistle on the subject, which he wrote, according to Jerome (de vir. ill. c. 44), in the name of all the bishops of Achaia (ex omnium qui in Achaia erant episcoporum persona). But the words of Eusebius seem to imply that the epistle was an individual, not a synodical one, for he does not say, “an epistle of those in,” &c., as he does in every other case. We must conclude, therefore, that Jerome, who had not seen the epistle, was mistaken in making it a synodical letter. Jerome characterizes it as an elegant composition (elegantem librum); but, like the epistle of Theophilus, mentioned in the preceding note, it seems not to have been extant in Jerome’s time. The dates of Bacchylus’ accession to office and of his death are not known to us.


Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus, is one of the most noted men connected with the paschal controversy, for the reason that he was the leader of the bishops of the province of Asia, in which province alone the Quartodeciman practice was uniformly observed. He was thus the leading opponent of Bishop Victor of Rome. His relation to the paschal controversy is brought out more fully in chap. 24. The dates of Polycrates’ accession to office and of his death are not known to us; though, of course, with Theophilus, Narcissus, Bacchylus, and the other bishops concerned in the paschal controversy, he flourished during the reign of Septimius Severus, while Victor was bishop of Rome. The only writing of Polycrates of which we know is his epistle to Victor, a portion of which is quoted by Eusebius, in Bk. III. chap. 31, and a still larger portion in chap. 24 of this book.

Jerome, in his de vir. ill. c. 45 speaks in terms of the highest praise of Polycrates, and quotes from Eusebius the larger fragment, given in chap. 24, adding, Hæc propterea posui, ut ingenium et auctoritatem viri ex parvo opusculo demonstrarem. The fact that he quotes only the passages given by Eusebius would be enough to show that he quoted from Eusebius, and not directly from Polycrates, even were it not plain from the statement in his Chron., referred to in note 6, that Polycrates’ epistle was, so far as Jerome knew, no longer extant. Polycrates himself informs us, in the second fragment given in chap. 24, that he wrote his epistle with the consent and approval of all the bishops present at the council summoned by him to discuss the paschal question. The fact that both Eusebius and Jerome praise Polycrates so highly, and testify to his orthodoxy, shows how completely the paschal question had been buried before their time, and how little the Quartodeciman practice was feared.

Next: Chapter XXIII

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