Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Ecclesiastical History, Dialogues, and Letters of Theodoret.: Prologue.
p. 160 Dialogues.
The “Eranistes” 965 or “Polymorphus” 966 of the Blessed Theodoretus, Bishop of Cyrus.
Some men, distinguished neither by family nor education, and without any of the honourable notoriety that comes of an upright life, are ambitious of achieving fame by wicked ways. Of these was the famous Alexander, the coppersmith, 967 a man of no sort of distinction at all,—no nobility of birth, no eloquence of speech, who never led a political party nor an army in the field; who never played the man in fight, but plied from day to day his ignominious craft, and won fame for nothing but his mad violence against Saint Paul.
Shimei, 968 again, an obscure person of servile rank, has become very renowned for his audacious attack on the holy David.
It is said too that the originator of the Manichæan heresy was a mere whipping-block of a slave, and, from love of notoriety, composed his execrable and superstitious writings.
The same line of conduct is pursued by many now, who after turning their backs on the honourable glory of virtue on account of the toil to be undergone ere it be won, purchase to themselves the notoriety that comes of shame and disgrace. For through eagerness to pose as champions of new doctrines they pick up and get together the impiety of many heresies, and compile this heresy of death.
Now I will endeavour briefly to dispute with them, with the double object of curing them, if I can, of their unsoundness, and of giving a word of warning to the whole.
I call my work “Eranistes, or Polymorphus,” for, after getting together from many unhappy sources their baleful doctrines, they produce their patchwork and incongruous conceit. For to call our Lord Christ God only is the way of Simon, of Cerdo, of Marcion, 969 and of others who share this abominable opinion.
The acknowledgment of His birth from a Virgin, but coupled with the assertion that this birth was merely a process of transition, and that God the Word took nothing of the Virgins nature, is stolen from Valentinus and Bardesanes and the adherents of their fables. 970
To call the godhead and the manhood of the Lord Christ one nature is the error filched from the follies of Apollinarius. 971
Again the attribution of capacity of suffering to the divinity of the Christ is a theft from the blasphemy of Arius and Eunomius. Thus the main principle of their teaching is like beggars gabardines—a cento of ill-matched rags.
So I call this work Eranistes or Polymorphus. I shall write it in the form of a dialogue with questions and answers, prop. 161 positions, solutions, and antitheses, and all else that a dialogue ought to have. I shall not insert the names of the questioners and respondents in the body of the dialogue as did the wise Greeks of old, but I shall write them at the side at the beginning of the paragraphs. They, indeed, put their writings in the hands of readers highly and variously educated, and to whom literature was life. I, on the contrary, wish the reading of what I write, and the discovery of whatever good it may give, to be an easy task, even to the illiterate. This I think will be facilitated if the characters of the interlocutors are plainly shown by their names in the margin, so the disputant who argues on behalf of the apostolical decrees is called “Orthodoxos,” and his opponent “Eranistes.” A man who is fed by the charity of many we commonly call “Beggar;” a man who knows how to get money together we call a “Chrematistes.” So we have given our disputant this name from his character and pursuits.
I beg that all those into whose hands my book may fall will lay aside all preconceived opinion and put the truth to the test. For clearness sake I will divide my book into three dialogues. The first will contain the contention that the Godhead of the only-begotten Son is immutable. The second will by Gods help show that the union of the Godhead and the manhood of the Lord Christ is without confusion. The third will contend for the impassibility of the divinity of our saviour. After these three disputations we will subjoin several others as it were to complete them, giving formal proof under each head, and making it perfectly plain that the apostles doctrine is preserved by us.
ἔρανος—a meal to which every one contributes a share; a club feast, or pic-nic, and ἐρανιστὴς is in classical Greek a contributor to such a feast. But ἐρανίζω = (α) “contribute,” and (β) “beg for contributions.” So ἐρανιστὴς is by some rendered “beggar.” The idea of Theodoretus seems rather that his worse character is a picker up of various scraps of heresy from different quarters, and this explanation of the name is borne out by his use of the cognate verb ἐρανιζομαι in reference to the selection by Audæus of some of the doctrines of Manes in Hist. iv. 9.160:966
Polymorphus = Multiform.160:967
2 Tim. iv. 14160:968
2 Kings xvi. 5160:969
Cerdo, the gnostic teacher of the middle of the 2nd c., and placed by Theodoretus (Hær. Fab. i. 24) in the reign of Antoninus, a.d. 138–161, is described by the Ps. Tertullian as denying that Christ came in the substance of the flesh, but in appearance only. According to Marcion the greater follower of Cerdo, Christ was not born at all, but came down from heaven to Capernaum a.d. 29, his body being an appearance and his death an illusion. Simon Magus, the “father of all heretics” of Irenæus (adv. Hær. pr. in lib. iii.) is apparently quoted rather as the supposed originator of Gnosticism, than from any definite knowledge of his tenets.160:970
Valentinus (taught at Rome c. 140) the arch-gnostic is identified with the doctrine of emanation. Bardesanes (Bar Daisan), who lived some thirty years later at Edessa, was a great leader of the Syrian school of oriental dualism. For mention of his son Harmonius vide Hist. p. 129.160:971
Condemned at Constantinople in 381.
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