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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. II: The Ecclesiastical History of Sozomen.: Concerning Apolinarius: Father and Son of that Name. Vitalianus, the Presbyter. On being dislodged from One Kind of Heresy, they incline to Others.

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Chapter XXV.—Concerning Apolinarius: Father and Son of that Name. Vitalianus, the Presbyter. On being dislodged from One Kind of Heresy, they incline to Others.

About this period, Apolinarius openly devised a heresy, to which his name has since been given. 1480 He induced many persons to secede from the Church, and formed separate p. 362 assemblies. Vitalius, a presbyter of Antioch, and one of the priests of Meletius, concurred with him in the confirmation of his peculiar opinion. In other respects, Vitalius was conspicuous in life and conduct, and was zealous in watching over those committed to his pastoral superintendence; hence he was greatly revered by the people. He seceded from communion with Meletius, joined Apolinarius and presided over those at Antioch who had embraced the same opinions; by the sanctity of his life he attracted a great number of followers, who are still called Vitalians by the citizens of Antioch. It is said he was led to secede from the Church from resentment at the contempt that was manifested towards him by Flavian, then one of his fellow-presbyters, but who was afterwards raised to the bishopric of Antioch. Flavian having prevented him from holding his customary interview with the bishop, he fancied himself despised and entered into communion with Apolinarius, and held him as his friend. From that period the members of this sect have formed separate churches in various cities, under their own bishops, and have established laws differing from those of the Catholic Church. Besides the customary sacred order, they sang some metrical songs composed by Apolinarius; for, in addition to his other learning he was a poet, and skilled in a great variety of meters, and by their sweetness he induced many to cleave to him. Men sang his strains at convivial meetings and at their daily labor, and women sang them while engaged at the loom. But, whether his tender poems were adapted for holidays, festivals, or other occasions, they were all alike to the praise and glory of God. Damasus, bishop of Rome, and Peter, bishop of Alexandria, were the first to learn that the heresy was creeping among the people, and at a council held at Rome 1481 they voted it to be foreign to the Catholic Church. It is said that it was as much from narrowness of mind as from any other cause that Apolinarius made an innovation in doctrine. For when Athanasius, who administered the church of Alexandria, was on his road back to Egypt from the place whither he had been banished by Constantine, he had to pass through Laodicea, and that while in that city he formed an intimacy with Apolinarius, which terminated in the strictest friendship. As, however, the heterodox considered it disgraceful to hold communion with Athanasius, George, the bishop of the Arians in that city, ejected Apolinarius in a very insulting manner from the church, under the plea that he had received Athanasius contrary to the canons and holy laws. The bishop did not rest here, but reproached him with crimes which he had committed and repented of at a remote period. For when Theodotus, the predecessor of George, regulated the church of Laodicea, Epiphanius, the sophist, recited a hymn which he had composed in honor of Dionysus. Apolinarius, who was then a youth and a pupil of Epiphanius, went to hear the recitation, accompanied by his father, whose name also was Apolinarius, and who was a noted grammarian. After the exordium, Epiphanius, according to the custom always observed at the public recitation of hymns, directed the uninitiated and the profane to go out of doors. But neither Apolinarius the younger nor the elder, nor, indeed, any of the Christians who were present, left the audience. When Theodotus, the bishop, heard that they had been present during the recitation, he was exceedingly displeased; he, however, pardoned the laymen who had committed this error, after they had received a moderate reproof. With respect to Apolinarius, father and son, he convicted them both publicly of their sin, and ejected them from the church; for they both belonged to the clergy, the father being a presbyter, and the son a reader of the Holy Scriptures. After some time had elapsed, and when the father and son had evinced by tears and fasting a degree of repentance adequate to their transgression, Theodotus restored them to their offices in the church. When George received the same bishopric, he excommunicated Apolinarius, and treated him as alien to the Church on account of his having, as before stated, received Athanasius into communion. It is said that Apolinarius besought him repeatedly to restore him to communion, but that he was inexorable. Apolinarius, overcome with grief, disturbed the Church, and by innovations in doctrines introduced the aforesaid heresy; 1482 and he thought by means of his eloquence to revenge himself on his enemy by proving that George had deposed one who was more deeply acquainted with the Sacred Scriptures than himself. Thus do the private animosities of the clergy from time to time greatly injure the Church, and divide religion into many heresies. And this is a proof; for had George, like Theodotus, received Apolinarius on his repentance into communion, I believe that we should never have heard of the heresy that bears his name. Men are prone, when loaded with opprobrium and contempt, to resort to rivalries and innovations; whereas when treated with justice, they become moderate, and remain in the same position.



Ruf. H. E. ii. 20; Soc. ii. 46, iii. 16. Cf. Theodoret, H. E. v. 3, 4. Soz. has much independent material.


Held a.d. 377 (Rade), 374 (Hefele). The letters of Damasus “Illud sane miramur,” “non nobis quidquam,” refer to this subject.


Athan. Tomus ad Antioch. 7, 8; Ep. ad Epictetum; De incarnatione Domini nostri Jesu Christi contra Apollinarium.

Next: Eunomius and his Teacher Aëtius, their Affairs and Doctrines. They were the first who broached One Immersion for the Baptism.

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