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

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XXX.—The Epistle of the Bishops against Paul.

1. The pastors who had assembled about this matter, prepared by common consent an epistle addressed to Dionysius, 2397 bishop of Rome, and Maximus 2398 of Alexandria, and sent it to all the provinces. In this they make manifest to all their own zeal and the perverse error of Paul, and the arguments and discussions which they had with him, and show the entire life and conduct of the man. It may be well to put on record at the present time the following extracts from their writing:

2. “To Dionysius and Maximus, and to all our fellow-ministers throughout the world, bishops, presbyters, and deacons, and to the whole Catholic Church under heaven, 2399 Helenus, 2400 Hymenæus, Theophilus, Theotecnus, Maximus, Proclus, Nicomas, Ælianus, Paul, Bolanus, Protogenes, Hierax, Eutychius, Theodorus, 2401 Malchion, and Lucius, and all the others who dwell with us in the neighboring cities and nations, bishops, presbyters, and deacons, and the churches of God, greeting to the beloved brethren in the Lord.”

3. A little farther on they proceed thus: “We sent for and called many of the bishops from a distance to relieve us from this deadly doctrine; as Dionysius of Alexandria 2402 and Firmilianus 2403 of Cappadocia, p. 314 those blessed men. The first of these not considering the author of this delusion worthy to be addressed, sent a letter to Antioch, 2404 not written to him, but to the entire parish, of which we give a copy below.

4. But Firmilianus came twice 2405 and condemned his innovations, as we who were present know and testify, and many others understand. But as he promised to change his opinions, he believed him and hoped that without any reproach to the Word what was necessary would be done. So he delayed the matter, being deceived by him who denied even his own God and Lord, 2406 and had not kept the faith which he formerly held.

5. And now Firmilianus was again on his way to Antioch, and had come as far as Tarsus because he had learned by experience his God-denying wickedness. But while we, having come together, were calling for him and awaiting his arrival, he died.” 2407

6. After other things they describe as follows the manner of life which he 2408 led:

7. “Whereas he has departed from the rule of faith, 2409 and has turned aside after base and spurious teachings, it is not necessary,—since he is without,—that we should pass judgment upon his practices: as for instance in that although formerly destitute and poor, and having received no wealth from his fathers, nor made anything by trade or business, he now possesses abundant wealth through his iniquities and sacrilegious acts, and through those things which he extorts from the brethren, 2410 depriving the injured of their rights and promising to assist them for reward, yet deceiving them, and plundering those who in their trouble are ready to give that they may obtain reconciliation with their oppressors, ‘supposing that gain is godliness’ 2411

8. or in that he is haughty, and is puffed up, and assumes worldly dignities, preferring to be called ducenarius 2412 rather than bishop; and struts in the market-places, reading letters and reciting them as he walks in public, attended by a body-guard, with a multitude preceding and following him, so that the faith is envied and hated on account of his pride and haughtiness of heart;—

9. or in that he practices chicanery in ecclesiastical assemblies, contrives to glorify himself, and deceive with appearances, and astonish the minds of the simple, preparing for himself a tribunal and lofty throne, 2413 —not like a disciple of Christ,—and possessing a ‘secretum,’ 2414 —like the rulers of the world,—and so calling it, and striking his thigh with his hand, and stamping on the tribunal with his feet;—or in that he rebukes and insults those who do not applaud, and shake their handkerchiefs as in the theaters, and shout and leap about like the men and women that are stationed around him, and hear him in this unbecoming manner, but who listen reverently and orderly as in the house of God;—or in that he violently and coarsely assails in public the expounders of the Word that have departed this life, and magnifies himself, not as a bishop, but as a sophist and juggler,

10. and stops the psalms to our Lord Jesus Christ, as being the modern productions of modern men, and trains women to sing psalms to himself in the midst of the church on the great day of the passover, which any one might shudder to hear, and persuades the bishops and presbyters of the neighboring districts and cities who fawn p. 315 upon him, to advance the same ideas in their discourses to the people.

11. For to anticipate something of what we shall presently write, he is unwilling to acknowledge that the Son of God has come down from heaven. And this is not a mere assertion, but it is abundantly proved from the records which we have sent you; and not least where he says ‘Jesus Christ is from below.’ 2415 But those singing to him and extolling him among the people say that their impious teacher has come down an angel from heaven. 2416 And he does not forbid such things; but the arrogant man is even present when they are uttered.

12. And there are the women, the ‘subintroductæ,’ 2417 as the people of Antioch call them, belonging to him and to the presbyters and deacons that are with him. Although he knows and has convicted these men, yet he connives at this and their other incurable sins, in order that they may be bound to him, and through fear for themselves may not dare to accuse him for his wicked words and deeds. 2418 But he has also made them rich; on which account he is loved and admired by those who covet such things.

13. We know, beloved, that the bishop and all the clergy should be an example to the people of all good works. And we are not ignorant how many have fallen or incurred suspicion, through the women whom they have thus brought in. So that even if we should allow that he commits no sinful act, yet he ought to avoid the suspicion which arises from such a thing, lest he scandalize some one, or lead others to imitate him.

14. For how can he reprove or admonish another not to be too familiar with women,—lest he fall, as it is written, 2419 —when he has himself sent one away already, and now has two with him, blooming and beautiful, and takes them with him wherever he goes, and at the same time lives in luxury and surfeiting?

15. Because of these things all mourn and lament by themselves; but they so fear his tyranny and power, that they dare not accuse him.

16. But as we have said, while one might call the man to account for this conduct, if he held the Catholic doctrine and was numbered with us, 2420 since he has scorned the mystery and struts about in the abominable heresy of Artemas 2421 (for why should we not mention his father?), we think it unnecessary to demand of him an explanation of these things.”

17. Afterwards, at the close of the epistle, they add these words:

“Therefore we have been compelled to excommunicate him, since he sets himself against God, and refuses to obey; and to appoint in his place another bishop for the Catholic Church. By divine direction, as we believe, we have appointed Domnus, 2422 who is adorned with all the qualities becoming in a bishop, and who is a son of the blessed Demetrianus, 2423 who formerly presided in a distinguished manner over the same parish. We have informed you of this that you may write to him, and may receive letters of communion 2424 from him. But let this man write to Artemas; and let those who think as Artemas does, communicate with him.” 2425

p. 316 18. As Paul had fallen from the episcopate, as well as from the orthodox faith, Domnus, as has been said, became bishop of the church at Antioch.

19. But as Paul refused to surrender the church building, the Emperor Aurelian was petitioned; and he decided the matter most equitably, ordering the building to be given to those to whom the bishops of Italy and of the city of Rome should adjudge it. 2426 Thus this man was driven out of the church, with extreme disgrace, by the worldly power.

20. Such was Aurelian’s treatment of us at that time; but in the course of his reign he changed his mind in regard to us, and was moved by certain advisers to institute a persecution against us. 2427 And there was great talk about this on every side.

21. But as he was about to do it, and was, so to speak, in the very act of signing the decrees against us, the divine judgment came upon him and restrained him at the very verge 2428 of his undertaking, showing in a manner that all could see clearly, that the rulers of this world can never find an opportunity against the churches of Christ, except the hand that defends them permits it, in divine and heavenly judgment, for the sake of discipline and correction, at such times as it sees best.

22. After a reign of six years, 2429 Aurelian was succeeded by Probus. He reigned for the same number of years, and Carus, with his sons, Carinus and Numerianus, succeeded him. After they had reigned less than three years the government devolved on Diocletian, and those associated with him. 2430 Under them took place the persecution of our time, and the destruction of the churches connected with it.

23. Shortly before this, Dionysius, 2431 bishop of Rome, after holding office for nine years, died, and was succeeded by Felix. 2432



On Dionysius of Rome, see chap. 27, note 2.


On Maximus of Alexandria, see chap. 28, note 10.


This phrase differs from that used in the previous chapter by the addition of πᾶς.


On Helenus, see Bk. VI. chap. 46, note 8. On Hymenæus and Theotecnus see above chap. 14, notes 11 and 9. Hierax is possibly the bishop addressed by Dionysius in the epistle quoted in chap. 21. Malchion is mentioned in the preceding chapter; Maximus of Bostra and Nicomas of Iconium, in chap. 28, as distinguished bishops. Of the others we know nothing.


It has been suggested that Theodorus may be Gregory Thaumaturgus, who was also known by that name (see Bk. VI. chap. 30); but this is extremely improbable for everywhere else in referring to him as bishop, Eusebius calls him Gregory, and in chap. 31 speaks of him as one of the most celebrated bishops, and puts him near the head of the list. Here Theodorus is placed near the end of the list, and no prominence is given him. There is in fact no reason to identify the two. The name Theodorus was a very common one.


See chap. 27.


On Firmilianus, see Bk. VI. chap. 26, note 3.


On this epistle, see chap. 27, note 6. As we see from this passage, the epistle of Dionysius was addressed not to Paul himself, but to the council, and hence could not be identified with the epistle given by Labbe, even were the latter authentic.


It is plain from this passage that the case of Paul of Samosata had been discussed in at least two Antiochian synods before the one which deposed him, and not only in one as has been claimed. The passage shows, too, the way in which Paul escaped condemnation so long. Not merely on account of his influential position, as some have said, but also because he promised that he would give up his heresy and conform his teaching to the orthodox faith. The language would seem to imply that Firmilian had presided at the synod or synods, which are referred to here; and this is assumed by most writers. On Firmilian, see Bk. VI. chap. 26, note 3.


The words “and Lord” are wanting in some good mss. as well as in Rufinus, and are consequently omitted by Schwegler and Heinichen. But I have preferred to follow the majority of the mss. and all the other editors in retaining the words which are really necessary to the sense; for it is not meant that Paul denied God, but that he denied his God and Lord Jesus Christ; namely, by rejecting his essential deity.


On the date of Firmilian’s death, see Bk. VI. chap. 26, note 3, above.


i.e. Paul of Samosata.


τοῦ κανόνος.


I follow Heinichen in reading ν žτι ἐκσείει τοὺς ἀδελφούς, which is supported by five important mss. (cf. Heinichen’s note in loco). The majority of the editors read ν αἰτεῖ καὶ σείει κ.τ.λ., which, however, is not so well supported by ms. authority. Laemmer, on the authority of a single codex, reads ν žτι καὶ σείει, and still other variations occur in some mss.


1 Tim. vi. 5.


Paul was the “Procurator Ducenarius” of Zenobia, the queen of Palmyra, an official so-called because his salary was 200 sestertia. “The Ducenarius was an imperial procurator, so-called from his salary of 200 sesteria, or 1600 pounds a year. Some critics suppose that the bishop of Antioch had actually obtained such an office from Zenobia” (Gibbon). There seems to be no reason to doubt that Paul held such a position under Zenobia, which appears to be the implication of the words here, and so he is commonly spoken of as a high official, even as “Viceroy” of Zenobia. We know from Athanasius (Hist. Ar. §71, Oxf. ed. Chap. VIII. §10), that he was a great favorite with Zenobia, and that to her he owed the privilege of retaining his bishopric after the synod had deposed him. This friendship shown toward him by Zenobia, who was of the strictest manners, is much in his favor, and almost tempts us to doubt the terrible character given him in this epistle by the members of the synod. There must have been some palliating circumstances in the case. He can hardly have been as unqualifiedly bad as this letter paints him.


Valesius says, “The Fathers do not here condemn Paul because he had a throne; …but because he erected a tribunal for himself in the church and placed upon that a high throne. Rufinus, therefore, translates this passage correctly: In ecclesia vero tribunal sibi multo altius quam fuerat exstrui, et thronum in excelsioribus collocari jubet. Bishops did sit on a seat a little higher than the rest of the presbyters, but they did not have a tribunal.” This has been frequently quoted, and is on the whole a true statement of facts. But the Greek is βῆμα μὲν καὶ θρόνον ὑψηλόν, and Rufinus is certainly wrong in putting his multo altius with the tribunal. The emphasis, as the Greek reads, is upon the βῆμα as such, not upon the height of it, while the θρόνος is condemned because of its height. The translation of Rufinus shows what was the custom in his day. He could not understand that a βῆμα should be objected to as such.


Greek σήκρητον, for the Latin secretum, which was the name of the place where the civil magistrates and higher judges sat to decide cases, and which was raised and enclosed with railings and curtains in order to separate it from the people. In the present case it means of course a sort of cabinet which Paul had at the side of the tribunal, in which he could hold private conferences, and whose resemblance to the secretum of a civil magistrate he delighted to emphasize.


Ιησοῦν χριστὸν κ€τωθεν. Compare, by way of contrast, the words of John iii. 31: “He that cometh from above is above all” ( ἄνωθεν ἐρχόμενος ἐπ€νω π€ντων ἐστίν). The words quoted in the epistle can hardly have been used by Paul himself. They are rather to be regarded as a logical inference from his positions stated by the writers of the epistle in order to bring out the blasphemous nature of his views when contrasted with the statement in John, which was doubtless in their minds while they wrote.


The account seems to me without doubt overdrawn at this point. It was such a common thing, from the time of Herod Agrippa down, to accuse a man who was noted for his arrogance of encouraging the people to call him an angel descended from heaven, that we should almost be surprised if the accusation were omitted here. We have no reason to think, in spite of the report of these good Fathers, that Paul’s presumption went to such a blasphemous and at the same time absurd length.


συνείσακτοι. On these Subintroductæ, see Smith and Cheetham’s Dict. of Christ. Antiq., s.v.


It is quite probable that Paul had given some ground for the suspicions which the worthy bishops breathe here, but that is very far from saying that he was actually guilty of immorality. In fact, just below (§13), they show that these are nothing more than suspicions. Exactly what position the two women held who are mentioned in §14 it is difficult to say, but Paul must of course have given some plausible reason for their presence, and this is implied in §16, where the writers say that were he orthodox, they would inquire his reasons for this conduct, but since he is a heretic, it is not worth while to investigate the matter. As remarked above, while the direct statements of the epistle can in the main hardly be doubted, we must nevertheless remember that the prejudices of the writers would lead them to paint the life of Paul as black as circumstances could possibly warrant, and unfounded suspicions might therefore easily be taken as equivalent to proved charges.


cf. Ecclesiasticus 25.


We get a glimpse here of the relative importance of orthodoxy and morality in the minds of these Fathers. Had Paul been orthodox, they would have asked him to explain his course, and would have endeavored to persuade him to reform his conduct; but since he was a heretic, it was not worth while. It is noticeable that he is not condemned because he is immoral, but because he is heretical. The implication is that he might have been even worse than he was in his morals and yet no decisive steps have been taken against him, had he not deviated from the orthodox faith. The Fathers, in fact, by their letters, put themselves in a sad dilemma. Either Paul was not as wicked as they try to make him out, or else they were shamefully indifferent to the moral character of their bishops, and even of the incumbents of their most prominent sees.


On Artemas, or Artemon, see Bk. V. chap. 28, note 1. Paul’s heresy was a reproduction of his, as remarked above, chap. 27, note 4.


The action of this council in appointing Domnus was entirely irregular, as the choice of the bishop devolved upon the clergy and the people of the diocese. But the synod was afraid that Paul’s influence would be great enough to secure his re-election, and hence they took this summary means of disposing of him. But it was only after the accession of Aurelian that Paul was actually removed from his bishopric and Domnus was enabled to enter upon his office (see chap. 27, note 4). The exact date of Domnus’ appointment is uncertain, as already shown (see the note just referred to); so also the date of his death. Both versions of the Chron. put his accession in the year of Abr. 2283 (a.d. 265), and Jerome’s version puts the accession of his successor, Timæus, in the year of Abr. 2288 (a.d. 270), while the Armenian omits the notice entirely. We can place no reliance whatever upon these dates; the date of Domnus’ death is certainly at least two years too early (see the note already referred to).


On Demetrianus, the predecessor of Paul in the episcopate of Antioch, see Bk. VI. chap. 46, note 12.


τὰ κοινωνικὰ γρ€μματα. Valesius says: “The Latins call them literas communicatorias, and the use of them is very ancient in the Church. They were also called formatæ (cf. Augustine Epistle 163). These writers were of two kinds: the one given to the clergy and laity when they were going to travel, in order that they might be admitted to communion by foreign bishops: while the other kind were sent by bishops to other bishops to declare their communion with them, and were in turn received from other bishops. Of the latter the synod speaks here. They were usually sent by new bishops soon after their ordination.” Valesius refers to Augustine (ibid.), to Cyprian’s epistle to Cornelius (Ep. 41, al. 45), and to the synodical epistle of the Council of Sardica.


This is a very keen bit of sarcasm. As Harnack remarks, the mention of Artemas in this way proves (or at least renders it very probable) that he was still alive at this time, in which case his activity in Rome must be put somewhat later than the commonly accepted dates, viz. the episcopate of Zephyrinus (202–217).


See chap. 27, note 4. The bishop of Rome to whose judgment Aurelian appealed was Felix, mentioned below.


Aurelian, according to tradition, was the author of the ninth of the “ten great persecutions” against the Church. But the report is a mistake. Eusebius apparently is the ultimate source to which the report is to be referred, but he says expressly that he died before he was able to begin his intended persecution, and more than that, that he was even prevented from signing the decree, so that it is not proper to speak even of an hostile edict of Aurelian (as many do who reject the actual persecution). It is true that in Lactantius’ De mort. persecutorum, chap. 6, it is said that Aurelian actually issued edicts against the Christians, but that he died before they had found their way to the most distant provinces. It seems probable, however, that Eusebius’ account is nearest the truth, and that the reports that Aurelian actually signed the edicts as well as that he commenced the persecution are both developments from the original and more correct version of the affair which Eusebius gives. There is no reason to doubt the account of Eusebius. Aurelian’s conduct in the case of Paul does not imply any special friendliness on his part toward the Church. The Christians had secured legal recognition under Gallienus; and it was a simple act of common justice to put the valuable property of the Church in Antioch into the hands of the rightful owners whoever they might be. His act does imply, however, that he cannot have been in the beginning actively hostile to the Church, for in that case he would simply have driven Paul out, and confiscated the property.


μονονουχὶ ἐξ ἀγκώνων τῆς ἐγχειρήσεως αὐτὸν ἐπιδεσμοῦσα


Aurelian reigned from 270 to 275, and was succeeded by Tacitus, who ruled only six months, and he in turn by Probus (276 to 282), who was followed by Carus and his sons Carinus and Numerian, and they in turn by Diocletian in 284. Eusebius here omits Tacitus, although he mentions him in his Chron., and assigns six months to his reign, and five years and six months to the reign of Aurelian.


Diocletian associated Maximian with himself in the government in 286, and sent him to command the West with the title of Augustus. In 293 he appointed Constantius Chlorus and Galerius as Cæsars, giving to the former the government of Gaul and Britain, to the latter that of the provinces between the Adriatic and the Euxine, while Maximian held Africa and Italy, and Diocletian himself retained the provinces of Asia. He issued an edict, opening his famous persecution against the Christians, of which Eusebius gives an account in the next book, on Feb. 23, 303.


On Dionysius, bishop of Rome, see chap. 27, note 2.


According to the Liberian catalogue, Felix became bishop on the fifth of January, 269, and held office five years eleven months and twenty-five days, until the thirtieth of December, 274, and these dates Lipsius accepts as correct. Eusebius, in chap. 32, gives five years as the duration of his episcopate, and with this Jerome’s version of the Chron. agrees, while the Armenian gives nineteen years, which is absolutely inconsistent with its own notices, and must be of course a copyist’s mistake. Jerome puts the accession of Felix in the first year of Probus, which is wide of the mark, and the Armenian in the first year of Aurelian, which is not so far out of the way.

Felix addressed a letter, in regard to Paul of Samosata, to Maximus and the clergy of Antioch, of which fragments have been preserved in the Apology of Cyril of Alexandria, and in the Acts of the Council of Ephesus (given by Mansi, Conc. I. 1114). The report of his martyrdom is probably a mistake, and has resulted from confusing him with Felix II., who was bishop of Rome in the fourth century.

Next: Chapter XXXI

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