Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Church History of Eusebius.: Chapter XXVI
Chapter XXVI.—The Epistles of Dionysius.
1. Besides these, many other epistles of Dionysius are extant, as those against Sabellius, 2366 addressed to Ammon, 2367 bishop of the church of Bernice, and one to Telesphorus, 2368 and one to Euphranor, and again another to Ammon and Euporus. He wrote also four other books on the same subject, which he addressed to his namesake Dionysius, in Rome. 2369
2. Besides these many of his epistles are with us, and large books written in epistolary form, as those on Nature, 2370 addressed to the young man Timothy, and one on Temptations, 2371 which he also dedicated to Euphranor.
3. Moreover, in a letter to Basilides, 2372 bishop of the parishes in Pentapolis, he says that he had written an exposition of the beginning of Ecclesiastes. 2373 And he has left us also various letters p. 312 addressed to this same person. Thus much Dionysius.
But our account of these matters being now completed, permit us to show to posterity the character of our own age. 2374
On Sabellius, and on Dionysius attitude toward Sabellianism, see above, chap. 6, note 1.311:2367
The works addressed to Ammon, Telesphorus, Euphranor, and Euporus, are no longer extant, nor do we know anything about them (but see chap. 6, note 2, above). It is possible that it was in these epistles that Dionysius laid himself open in his zeal against the Sabellians to the charge of tritheism, which aroused complaints against him, and resulted in his being obliged to defend himself in his work addressed to Dionysius of Rome. If so, these letters must have been written before that work, though perhaps not long before. Of Ammon himself we know nothing. There were a number of cities in North Africa, called Berenice (the form Bernice is exceptional), but, according to Wiltsch, Berenice, a city of Libya Pentapolis, or Cyrenaica, is meant in the present case. This city (whose original name was Hesperides) lay on the Mediterranean some six hundred miles west of Alexandria.311:2368
Of Telesphorus, Euphranor, and Euporus, we know nothing.311:2369
On these books addressed to Dionysius of Rome, see below, p. 397.311:2370
οἱ περὶ φύσεως. The date and immediate occasion of this work cannot be determined. The supposition of Dittrich, that it was written before Dionysius became bishop, while he had more leisure than afterward for philosophical study, has much in its favor. The young man, Timothy, to whom it was addressed, is perhaps to be identified with the one mentioned in Bk. VI. chap. 40, §4. That it was a work of considerable extent, embracing more than one book, is indicated by Eusebius in this passage. A long extract from it is given by Eusebius in his Præp. Evang. XIV. 23–27 (printed with commentary by Routh, Rel. Sac. IV. p. 393 sq.; translated in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VI. p. 84–91), and a few fragments are still preserved in a Vatican codex, and have been published by Simon de Magistris, in his edition of Dionysius works (Rome, 1796), p. 44 sq. (cf. also Routh, IV. p. 418, 419). In the extract quoted by Eusebius, Dionysius deals solely with the atomic theory of Democritus and Epicurus. This subject may have occupied the greater part of the work, but evidently, as Dittrich remarks (Dionysius der Grosse, p. 12), the doctrines of other physicists were also dealt with (cf. the words with which Eusebius introduces his extracts; Præp. Evang. XIV. 22. 10: “I will subjoin from the books [of Dionysius] On Nature a few of the things urged against Epicurus.” The translation in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VI. p. 84, note 7, which implies that the work was written “against the Epicureans” is not correct). φύσις seems to have been taken by Dionysius in the sense of the “Universe” (compare, for instance, the words of Cicero, De nat. deorum, II., to which Dittrich refers: Sunt autem, qui naturæ nomine rerum universitatem intelligunt), and to have been devoted to a refutation of the doctrines of various heathen philosophers in regard to the origin of the universe. For a fuller discussion of the work, see Dittrich, ibid. p. 12 sq.311:2371
This work on Temptations (περὶ πειρασμῶν) is no longer extant, nor do we know anything about the time or occasion of its composition. Dittrich strangely omits all reference to it. Of Euphranor, as remarked in note 3, we know nothing.311:2372
Of this Basilides we know only what Eusebius tells us here, that he was bishop of the “parishes in Pentapolis” (or Cyrenaica, a district, and under the Romans a province, lying west of Egypt, along the Mediterranean Sea), which would seem to imply that he was metropolitan of that district (cf. Routh, Rel. Sac. III. p. 235). A canonical epistle addressed to him by Dionysius is still extant (see above, Bk. VI. chap. 40, note 1). Eusebius tells us that Dionysius addressed “various epistles” to him, but no others are known to us.311:2373
It is possible that this work also, like that On Nature, was written, as Dittrich thinks, before Dionysius became bishop. Eusebius evidently had not seen the commentary himself, for he speaks only of Dionysius reference to it. A few fragments, supposed to be parts of this commentary, were published in the appendix to the fourteenth volume of Gallands Bibliotheca Patrum Veterum, after the latters death, and were afterward reprinted in De Magistris edition of Dionysius works, p. 1 sq. (English translation in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, VI. p. 111–114). The fragments, or at least a part of them, are ascribed to Dionysius in the codex in which they are found, and are very likely genuine, though we cannot speak with certainty. For fuller particulars, see Dittrich, p. 22 sq.312:2374
τὴν καθ᾽ ἡμᾶς γενε€ν. This seems to indicate that the events recorded by Eusebius from this point on took place during his own lifetime. See above, p. 4.
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