8. The First Church of Rome Under Victor, Zephyrinus and Callistus (§§74-108)

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8. The First Church of Rome Under Victor, Zephyrinus and Callistus (§§74-108)

The Bride Fights Back

74. The Bible-believing Christians of the house-church at the Timothinian Baths (Santa Pudenziana) had been deprived of their spiritual leaders in the persecution. Their teacher Justin and the other faithful brethren had won the martyr’s crown. But God had immediately provided them with a leader anointed with spiritual power greater even than the faith-warrior, Justin. That new leader was Irenaeus, the young pastor sent by Polycarp’s disciples in Gaul on that fruitless mission of peace to the Bishop of the First Church of Rome. As he stood in Rome one day, perhaps wondering what God’s purpose for him now was, he heard a great voice like a trumpet blasting out the message from Heaven, “Polycarp has been martyred!” He learnt later that this happened at the very hour of the hero’s execution. It was as if Polycarp’s mantle had fallen with the voice from Heaven on the shoulders of Irenaeus. He took up the battle against the spiritual serpents that were sapping the life of the nominal Christian Church of Rome. He preached and taught with the holy zeal of a prophet in the great metropolis. God confirmed His Word with mighty signs and wonders of the Holy Ghost. The sick were healed, the dead raised to life and demons expelled in the ministry of Irenaeus.

75. Irenaeus saw through the hypocrisy of the bishops of the First Church of Rome. When they talked to the Bible-believers they pretended to be one of them; but in their day-to-day dealings with the members of their flock, they tolerated and catered to every foul doctrine of the Devil, as long as it was popular with the public and the authorities of Rome. He determined to turn the spiritual heat up on the First Church bishops. He was in an excellent position to do this since he was a personal disciple of Polycarp, and Polycarp was a personal disciple of the Apostle John, the closest of all the disciples to the heart of Jesus. He was thus only one step removed from the fountainhead of Apostolic doctrine. No Gnostic heretic could claim in the presence of Irenaeus to be a recipient of “secret” traditions from the mouth of Jesus. If anyone knew the secret counsels of the Lord it was His beloved disciple John. And John had entrusted the truths he had received from Jesus to his faithful ministers, of whom Polycarp was one of the most worthy.

76. Irenaeus admitted that the First Church of Rome was the oldest church in the capital and that it could trace its origin from apostles in the primitive era of the New Testament Church. In this he concurred with the Gnostics. But, pointing to the elders of the First Church before Sixtus who were Bible-believing Catholics, Irenaeus proved that their doctrines were identical to his own and had nothing in common with Gnosticism. These elders were accepted as transmitters of the authentic apostolic teaching by both sides, by the Bible-believing Catholics on the one hand and by the Gnostic heretics on the other (because the list of these bishop-elders preceding Sixtus was used by the Gnostics to validate the apostolic succession of Sixtus himself and therefore of Sixtus’ successors on the episcopal chair of the First Church). Irenaeus had only to refer doubtful souls to the Letter of Clement — Clement being the most notable of these early elders of the First Church — to prove that the true apostolic doctrine was nothing like what the Gnostics taught to have been the apostles’ “secret tradition”. Clement was, like Polycarp, a personal disciple of the apostles and was well acquainted with all their doctrines.

77. Irenaeus’ arguments and proofs were set out in his opus magnum, the monumental Refutation and Subversion of Science Falsely So Called (commonly called Against Heresies). This work dealt a fatal blow to the many-headed beast of Gnosticism. He proved that the Gnostics were nothing more than pagans with a Christian label. He unmasked their absurd theories as poor imitations of the heathen philosophies and their rituals and liturgies as borrowings from the indigenous and oriental idolatries. He also provided for posterity a record of the simple, powerful, scriptural doctrine handed down by the Apostle John to his disciples. Many other works of Irenaeus, which would throw a flood of light on apostolic doctrine and practice, have strangely gone missing. The Byzantine scholar Photius, who still had access to some of them, explains their later disappearance when he refers to what they contained as “unorthodox” by the ecclesiastical canon of Photius’ own degenerate times137.

78. Those who had abandoned Bible-faith, Irenaeus did his best to reclaim. He wrote to Blastus, the elder who had fallen into Montanist heresy: he was now proclaiming that it was absolutely a divine requirement for all believers to celebrate the Passover, like the Jewish disciples of John, on the 14th of the month Nisan. Irenaeus exhorted him to abandon his schismatic legalism and return to the fold of God. He also wrote to Florinus, who had once been a pastor of the Bible-believing Catholics and had fellowshiped in his youth, like Irenaeus himself, with Polycarp, but was now a priest in the apostate First Church of Rome and an avid proponent of the Gnosticism of Valentinus. His loving entreaties were disregarded. Florinus wrote books developing even further the Valentinian system and tried to turn other brethren from the straight and narrow Way of the Cross. The bishop of the First Church, Eleutherus’ successor, Victor, hypocritically turned a blind eye to Florinus’ propaganda. Irenaeus then wrote to Victor, publically putting him on notice (as if he needed to know it) that Florinus was actively promoting Valentinian heresy.

79. Though Irenaeus’ overtures were unsuccessful, it was a good time to approach Victor: the Gnostic teachers Valentinus and Marcion were losing favor in the First Church and Victor was currently toying with the new, more fashionable, heresy of Noetianism, influenced by its eloquent advocate, Praxeas. In fact, the First Church of Rome was in a crisis. Victor was its first Latin-speaking pastor and wanted to distance himself from the Greek-speaking theological “experts” in order to construct a purely Roman, Latin or Western theology. Previously the Roman Church had been under the sway of Greeks. The Gospel and the various heresies had arrived in Rome from the Greek-speaking East. Most of the renowned teachers were Greek-speakers. Christianity, therefore, took root first amongst the sizeable Greek-speaking population of the metropolis. Now, on one excuse or another, the earlier heretical favourites were banished from the First Church. Valentinianism, Marcionism and Montanism were abandoned. The Bishop of the First Church was in the process of evolving his very own Latin heresy. This incorporated elements of doctrine and practice culled from the multi-faith experience of the preceding century, but centered around the Noetian doctrine favoured by one group of Montanists (the Cataeschinetans).

80. In the earlier phase of this development Victor proceeded as a Montanist would138. He became overly anxious about ceremonies, fasts and rituals. He suddenly denounced the rival Montanist group who followed Blastus in asserting the NECESSITY of celebrating Passover precisely on the 14th of the Jewish month Nisan. These he called “Quartodecimans”, meaning “fourteenthers” in Latin. Victor, on the contrary, as definitively asserted (as though by inspiration of the Paraclete) that Passover must be celebrated with the ritual of the First Church of Rome. This was the ritual which was so strikingly similar to that of Cybele, the “Mother of the Gods”.

81. As Victor always had one eye on the Palace, he must have been aware of Commodus’ interest in Mithraism and the cult of Cybele with which it was combined. In the religious sphere, the Empire was moving in the direction of a single solar cult. Rival religions were encouraged to lay down their arms and accept the “One God” (the Sun, Sol, Helios, Mithras, Apollo, Baal, Jupiter, Zeus etc., under whatever name he was called), this god, the King of Heaven, being embodied in the Emperor, who was King on Earth. Political stability — dear to the heart of emperors and despots — was the hoped-for result. The feminine element was represented in the Imperial “one-world” religion by the universal “Mother-goddess” (Cybele, Isis, Astarte, Juno etc.), and her divine child was the Platonic Logos, the creative World-Soul. It was a divine Triad or Trinity, superceding the old Triad worshiped on the Capitol Hill at Rome, namely Jupiter, the father-god, his wife Juno and Jupiter’s spontaneously-generated child Minerva, the last representing a Logos-like creative wisdom, but feminine in gender. Many superficial connections could be forged between the Imperial Solar cult and Christianity and this fact will not have escaped Victor. Ahead lay an enticing vision: the possibility of becoming unofficial “Pontifex” (priest) to the Emperor in his “one-world” religion.

82. Encouraged by such thoughts, Victor became more and more dogmatic about the rituals of the First Church. As the accusations and counter-accusations flew, it was clear the whole Church would suffer as it had recently done under Eleutherus. This time Irenaeus did more than act as go-between. He intervened directly. He wrote to Victor in Christian love, as tender as a mother with an erring child. Why should there be strife over rituals, days and fasts? What did these matter in comparison to the great truths of the Gospel? Faith, Hope and Love only were essential. Victor was now imposing rules on details of ritual which his predecessors on the episcopal throne of the First Church had left up to the individual conscience. The earlier bishops of his group had claimed to believe in “multi-faith” tolerance. They had welcomed all faiths, and that had been their justification for embracing within their fellowship (though contrary to the Scriptures) even infamous Gnostic heretics, as well as for accepting the ministry of Polycarp, for example, who kept the Passover differently from them in the original Jewish manner of John the Apostle. Victor had changed all this. He pronounced that the Easter fast must absolutely be maintained up to the Sunday on which the Resurrection of Jesus was celebrated. “Judaizers” who ate a memorial passover meal on the 14th of Nisan, whatever day of the week that was, and who broke the First Church’s pre-Sunday fast, were stigmatized as “Quartodeciman” heretics. That was a falsehood. “Quartodecimans”, properly speaking, were sectarians like Blastus who said the Passover MUST be celebrated on the 14th Nisan. Irenaeus opposed their legalism; nevertheless, he upheld the right of all believers to celebrate the Last Supper on the evening of the 14th Nisan, as the Apostles had done, so long as that was not made a LAW. Irenaeus believed the point was one that should be left to the individual’s conscience. He personally celebrated a memorial of the Lord’s resurrection on Sunday of the Passover week and he believed that was the way it should be done in order to follow more perfectly the example of the Apostles. But he was far from condemning those who thought differently from himself. Church ritual had been changed by Victor into some kind of magical rite. Victor was prepared to disfellowship believers if they did not fast up to Easter Sunday. That was ridiculous and a disgrace to Christianity. The fast leading up to Easter Sunday had become in Victor’s system a paganizing self-purification rite, like the mortifications and fasts imposed in the cult of the Great Mother Goddess especially at the time of the pagans’ spring-festival. In fact, according to the Book of Popes, the First Church of Rome had instituted a 40 day lenten fast leading up to their Paschal festival as early as the time of Telesphorus (sub nom.) in the first half of the second century. The parallel between that supposedly Christian period and the 40 nights of weeping for the maiden Kore in the Eleusininian mysteries, ending, like the Lenten fast, on “Quadragesima,” the “Fortieth,” so named, is obvious to any impartial observer139. In this era, particularly, the chief divine figures in the Eleusinian mysteries, Demeter and Iakkhos, were assimilated to the Asian Cybele and Attis, the Egyptian Isis and Osiris, the Syrian Aphrodite and Adonis, and the Babylonian Ishtar (Sumerian Inana) and Tammuz (Dumuzi), all which deities were particularly favored by the Gnostics. The orthodox accused the Montanizing heretics in the later second and early third centuries AD of imitating the “Castus” or “ascetic fast” of the Attis cult and this in turn, according to Arnobius, was specifically an imitation of the Eleusinian rite.

83. Victor took no heed to Irenaeus. He sent emissaries all over the Christian world, proclaiming the dangers of Judaizing “Quartodecimanism”. Because there was truly a heretical Quartodecimanism preached by Blastus, many Bible-believing Catholics responded to the call. They convened councils to debate the question. However, the results did not at all match Victor’s swelling expectations. Their decision was that “Just as the mystery of the Lord’s resurrection from the dead would not ever be celebrated on any other day than the Lord’s Day, so also we would observe the termination of Passover fasting on that day alone” … and that was all. The true character of the festival period was thereby ensured — it was not a commemoration of the suffering of Christ, but a joyful celebration of Christ’s victory over sin and death. These councils were careful to address a confusion, with dangerous consequences, which sprang out of the Passover practices of the First Church so aggressively advocated by Victor. That was the alteration of the character of the resurrection celebrations on the first day of the week (Sunday). In Catholic circles this day had nothing to do with the suffering and death of Jesus. Those aspects of the last week in Jesus’ earthly life were celebrated, as one would expect, at Passover on the 14th Nisan, or on the Friday preceding the day of the resurrection, or otherwise, depending on the local ecclesiastical custom. Symbolic of these aspects was the reinterpretation of the Hebrew festival name Pesach (Passover), or rather of its Greek transliteration, Pascha, as though it was derived from the Greek verb pascho, “to suffer”. Strictly speaking, Passover (Pascha) was the commemoration of the sacrifice of Christ’s own body, the antitype of the Paschal Lamb in the Law of Moses. In the ritual of the First Church, however, the name Pascha was applied perversely to the eucharistic celebration, the breaking of the fast, on the day of the resurrection. The Catholics maintained, correctly, that the latter should not be a celebration of the suffering or sacrifice of Christ, but a joyful memorial of His resurrection. The insistence of the First Church on the application of the word Pascha, with its connotations of suffering and sacrifice, to the eucharist on Easter Sunday, betokens a theological emphasis of a unique kind placed by them upon this eucharist as a sacrifice. Such a theology is known to have long been at home in the First Church, and that is the Gnostic theology already referred to, which held that the human body of Jesus (the “Good God”) was apparitional and that his real, material, body was the eucharistic bread — the breaking asunder of which was, indeed, a sacrifice of the divinity’s actual body, like that of the corn-god Osiris in Egyptian paganism. It is surely no coincidence that the fertility-god Attis, who was assimilated to Osiris, was believed to have hung dead on a pine-tree and then to have revived mysteriously upon it on one and the same day, and that day was the Hilaria festival or festival of joy, the 25th March (the notional spring equinox), which was celebrated with wild abandon in that era at Rome. This was the pagan festival the Catholics accused Montanists, and Montanizers, like Victor, of imitating. The same heretical groups, held, against all astronomical possibility and, presumably, for identical, Gnosticizing, theological reasons, that this was the historical date Jesus died and/or rose from the dead. The event was fitly re-enacted in the Passover ritual on Easter Sunday. In time these ideas received formal recognition in the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Mass.

83a. Those who celebrated the Lord’s Supper, like the Apostle John, on the evening of the 14th Nisan at the time of the Jewish Passover were, of course, in no way condemned by these Catholic councils. That was the Passover memorial meal, the precursor to the memorial of the resurrection. Also, any fasting BEFORE the evening of the 14th was NOT a “Passover” fast as the Passover only began on that evening. If the followers of John fasted any time before the evening of the 14th and then broke their fast by eating the Lord’s Supper, as Christ Himself had done, on that evening, they were not breaking any “Passover” fast before resurrection Sunday and thus they fell in with the considered decision of these councils. Some, as we learn from Anatolius of Laodicea, followed through in the Passover week the pattern set by Christ Himself in the days of his flesh, beginning the Passover celebration on the evening of the 14th Nisan, then extending the beginning of the celebration through the intervening days till the joyful Sunday of the resurrection (which could fall as late as the 20th Nisan on the Jewish lunar calendar), to commemorate the occasion when Christ Himself had eaten that original resurrection Sunday with his disciples140. However those who fasted over the 14th of Nisan and only celebrated the Lord’s Supper on Sunday of Passover week (like Victor) were likewise not condemned. The councils, in other words, confirmed the apostolicity of the advice and practice of Irenaeus.

84. Victor was furious. He had made his Montanizing stand, which demanded compliance with the Roman rite, now he had to back it up. By his own lights, the ritual was the commandment of the Paraclete: so those who rejected it were guilty of blaspheming the Spirit of God. He summarily EXCOMMUNICATED every church throughout the world which celebrated the Lord’s Supper on the evening of the 14th Nisan. The churches of the East were amazed at Victor’s blustering intolerance and dogmatic arrogance. Of course, they took no notice whatsoever of his excommunication. However, this ecclesiastical decree did not lapse, it was simply held in reserve by subsequent bishops of the First Church to be hauled out later when the power of the emperor could be teamed up with the ecclesiastical authority of the Church of Rome in order to enforce it on the eastern churches. A hundred years were to pass yet before that opportunity presented itself on an empire-wide scale. The single-minded patience of the First Church in achieving its own devious ends was (and is) quite remarkable. Constantine, initially, and Theodosius, latterly, imposed on the whole Empire by statute in the fourth century what Victor in the second could only extract by machination. Theodosius, that “most religious” Emperor, revealed his colors and, in particular, his antipathy to the Greeks — a foretaste of things to come — in the massacre of 7000 at Thessalonica in AD 390, for which affront to God and man he was reined in at last, not, of course, by the First Church of Rome which he patronized, but by the evangelical bishop, Ambrose of Milan.

85. While these events were transpiring, Irenaeus was back in Gaul continuing his spiritual warfare against the Gnostic heresies. Even on the barbarian mission-field of Gaul the heretics had made some inroads. A particularly virulent pest from the First Church called Marcus had made disciples in the Rhone valley and it now fell to Irenaeus to deal with the spiritual wrecks he left behind him. Marcus’ penchant was for deludable, wealthy, and beautiful, young women. With his mystic chants and promises of spiritual marriage, many had been convinced they were to enter, in union with Marcus, the ultimate Gnostic nirvana. When the fantasy dissolved, they ran back in tears to Pastor Irenaeus. Marcus’ methods and results are a paradigm of the whole Gnostic movement.

86. Still, in spite of this and similar obstructions to the work, Irenaeus had great success evangelizing the idolatrous barbarians of Gaul. By Irenaeus’ own account the churches of Gaul were aflame with the revival fire of the Holy Spirit. He had witnessed himself many miraculous demonstrations of the Holy Spirit in the churches where he exercised his ministry: “Wherefore, also, those who are in truth His disciples, receiving grace from Him, do in His name perform miracles, so as to promote the welfare of other men, according to the gift which each one has received from Him. For some do certainly and truly drive out devils, so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe in Christ, and join themselves to the Church. Others have foreknowledge of things to come: they see visions, and utter prophetic expressions. Others still, heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole. Yea, moreover, as I have said, the dead even have been raised up, and remained among us for many years. And what shall I more say? It is not possible to name the number of the gifts which the Church, scattered throughout the whole world, has received from God, in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and which she exerts day by day for the benefit of the Gentiles, neither practicing deception upon any, nor taking any reward from them on account of such miraculous interpositions. For as she has received freely from God, freely also does she minister to others. Nor does she perform anything by means of angelic invocations, or by incantations, or by any other wicked curious art; but, directing her prayers to the Lord, who made all things, in a pure, sincere, and straightforward spirit, and calling upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, she has been accustomed to work miracles for the advantage of mankind, and not to lead them into error.”

87. Irenaeus pointed out that the same supernatural working of the Spirit of God was not found amongst heretics: “Moreover, those also will be thus confuted who belong to [the Gnostic teachers] Simon and Carpocrates, and if there be any others who are said to perform miracles — who do not perform what they do either through the power of God, or in connection with the truth, nor for the well-being of men, but for the sake of destroying and misleading mankind, by means of magical deceptions, and with universal deceit, thus entailing greater harm than good on those who believe them, with respect to the point on which they lead them astray. For they can neither confer sight on the blind, nor hearing on the deaf, nor chase away all sorts of demons — none, indeed, except those that are sent into others by themselves, if they can even do so much as this. Nor can they cure the weak, or the lame, or the paralytic, or those who are distressed in any other part of the body, as has often been done in regard to bodily infirmity. Nor can they furnish effective remedies for those external accidents which may occur. And so far are they from being able to raise the dead, as the Lord raised them, and the apostles did by means of prayer, and as has been frequently done in the brotherhood on account of some necessity — the entire Church in that particular locality entreating the boon with much fasting and prayer, the spirit of the dead man has returned, and he has been bestowed in answer to the prayers of the saints — that they do not even believe this can be possibly be done, and hold that the resurrection from the dead is simply an acquaintance with that truth which they proclaim.”

The Strange History of Callistus

88. Meanwhile back in Rome, the stage was being set for the final phase of the First Church’s career into episcopal apostasy. This phase began in apparent innocence when Victor received a “charitable” request from his protegée in the palace, Marcia, the concubine of Emperor Commodus141. This request related to members of the First Church who had been convicted of various criminal offences by the good Emperor Aurelius and condemned to penal servitude on the island of Sardinia. The First Church called these convicts “martyrs”. The story is told by one of Irenaeus’ noted Roman disciples, Hippolytus142, in a heavy tone of irony and sarcasm. “After a time, there being in that place [the mines of Sardinia] other ‘martyrs’, Marcia, a concubine of Commodus, who was a ‘God-loving female’, and desirous of performing some ‘good work’, invited into her presence the ‘blessed’ Victor, who was at that time a ‘bishop of the Church’, and inquired of him what ‘martyrs’ were in Sardinia. And he delivered to her the names of all, but did not give the name of Callistus, knowing the villainous acts he had ventured upon. [Callistus was the fugitive slave of a true Christian called Carpophorus (who was counted amongst the “brethren” of Hippolytus’ fellowship, and was therefore not a member of Victor’s church), and had been successfully prosecuted before the Roman magistrate for fraud and other corrupt practices. The full details of Callistus’ crimes are related hereafter.] Marcia, obtaining her request from Commodus, hands the letter of emancipation to Hyacinthus, a certain eunuch, a presbyter [presumably an elder in the First Church]. And he, on receiving it, sailed away into Sardinia, and having delivered the letter to the person who at that time was governor of the territory, he succeeded in having the ‘martyrs’ released, with the exception of Callistus. But Callistus himself, dropping on his knees, and weeping, entreated that he likewise might obtain a release. Hyacinthus, therefore, overcome by the captive’s importunity, requests the governor to grant a release, alleging that permission had been given to himself from Marcia, and that he would make arrangements that there should be no risk in this to him. Now the governor was persuaded, and liberated Callistus also. And when the latter arrived at Rome, Victor was very much grieved at what had taken place; but since he was a ‘compassionate’ man, he took no action in the matter. Guarding, however, against the reproach uttered by many, — for the attempts made by this Callistus were not distant occurrences, — and because Carpophorus [the slave’s Christian master] also still continued adverse, Victor sends Callistus to take up his abode in Antium, having settled on him a certain monthly allowance for food. And after Victor’s death, Zephyrinus [the next bishop of the First Church after Victor], having had Callistus as a fellow-worker in the management of his clergy, paid him respect to his own damage; and transferring this person from Antium, appointed him over the cemetery.”

89. The characters in this story of “humanitarian” compassion are quite a collection. At the head of the list is the arrogant, blustering and vicious bishop Victor of the First Church. In close collusion with him is the palace harlot Marcia, who later attempted to poison her own lover Commodus and when this failed brought in an athlete to strangle him in his bath, and her attendant, the eunuch Hyacinthus, who seems to have had no problem combining a position of spiritual leadership as a Christian “elder” with the intrigue and corruption of the imperial palace. Then there is Marcia’s admittedly deserving victim, the mad Emperor Commodus. Following Victor on the episcopal throne is Zephyrinus, whom Hippolytus describes as “an ignorant and illiterate individual” and as one not only “unskilled in ecclesiastical definitions” but also “accessible to bribes, and covetous”. At the center of the whole story is the sniveling, cowardly, and utterly third-rate fraudster, Callistus. What should surprise one (but fails to in this particular company) is that the criminal Callistus was to become in remarkably short shrift the successor of Victor and Zephyrinus as bishop of the First Church!

90. Callistus’ rise to eminence began with Victor’s act of “compassion” in granting him free board in Antium. But to put this act in proper perspective, and thoroughly appreciate the quality of the character thus thrust into the ecclesiastical limelight, the details of Callistus’ past must first be taken into consideration. Hippolytus tells the whole story from its commencement several years earlier in the house of the hapless Christian businessman Carpophorus:

91. “It would seem to us desirable to explain the life of this heretic, inasmuch as he was born about the same time with ourselves, in order that, by the exposure of the habits of a person of this description, the heresy attempted to be established by him may be easily known, and may perchance be regarded as silly, by those endued with intelligence. This Callistus became a ‘martyr’ at the period when Fuscianus was prefect of Rome, and the mode of his ‘martyrdom’ was as follows.

92. “Callistus happened to be a domestic of one Carpophorus, a man of the faith belonging to the household of Caesar. [Several thousands of the inhabitants of Rome were employed, like Carpophorus, in the extended imperial household in one capacity or another, and some, from the earliest days of the Christian presence in Rome, were devoted Christians.] To this Callistus, as being of the faith, Carpophorus committed no inconsiderable amount of money, and directed him to bring in profitable returns from the banking business. And he, receiving the money, tried the experiment of a bank in what is called the Piscina Publica [The Public Fishpond at the Porta Capena, an area where there was a Jewish colony and where the house-church of Aquila and Priscilla was located in the first century AD]. And in process of time were entrusted to him not a few deposits by widows and brethren, under the ostensive cause of lodging their money with Carpophorus. Callistus, however, made away with all the moneys committed to him, and became involved in pecuniary difficulties.

93. “And after having practiced such conduct as this, there was not wanting one [apparently Hippolytus himself] to tell Carpophorus, and the latter stated that he would require an account from him. Callistus, perceiving these things, and suspecting danger from his master, escaped away by stealth, directing his flight towards the sea. And finding a vessel in Portus ready for a voyage, he went on board, intending to sail wherever she happened to be bound for. But not even in this way could he avoid detection, for there was not wanting one [presumably Hippolytus] who conveyed to Carpophorus intelligence of what had taken place. But Carpophorus, in accordance with the information he had received, at once repaired to the harbor Portus, and made an effort to hurry into the vessel after Callistus. The boat, however, was anchored in the middle of the harbor; and as the ferryman was slow in his movements, Callistus, who was in the ship, had time to descry his master at a distance. And knowing that himself would be inevitably captured, he became reckless of life; and, considering his affairs to be in a desperate condition, he proceeded to cast himself into the sea. But the sailors leaped into boats and drew him out, unwilling to come, while those on shore were raising a loud cry.

94. “And thus Callistus was handed over to his master, and brought to Rome, and his master lodged him in the Pistrinum [the mill where slaves were punished with hard-labor at the millstone]. But as time wore on, as happens to take place in such cases, brethren repaired to Carpophorus, and entreated him that he would release the fugitive serf from punishment, on the plea of their alleging that Callistus acknowledged himself to have money lying to his credit with certain persons. But Carpophorus, as a devout man, said he was indifferent regarding his own property, but that he felt a concern for the deposits; for many shed tears as they remarked to him, that they had committed what they had entrusted to Callistus, under the ostensive cause of lodging the money with himself. And Carpophorus yielded to their persuasions, and gave directions for the liberation of Callistus.

95. “The latter, however, having nothing to pay, and not being able again to abscond, from the fact of his being watched, planned an artifice by which he hoped to meet death. Now, pretending that he was repairing as it were to his creditors, he hurried on their Sabbath-day to the synagogue of the Jews, who were congregated, and took his stand, and created a disturbance among them. They, however, being disturbed by him, offered him insult, and inflicted blows upon him, and dragged him before Fuscianus, who was prefect of the city. And on being asked the cause of such treatment, they replied in the following terms: ‘Romans have conceded to us the privilege of publicly reading those laws of ours that have been handed down from our fathers. This person, however, by coming into our place of worship, prevented us so doing, by creating a disturbance among us, alleging that he is a Christian.’ And Fuscianus happens at the time to be on the judgment-seat; and on intimating his indignation against Callistus, on account of the statements made by the Jews, there was not wanting one [presumably Hippolytus] to go and acquaint Carpophorus concerning these transactions. And he, hastening to the judgment-seat of the prefect, exclaimed, ‘I implore of you, my Lord Fuscianus, believe not thou this fellow; for he is not a Christian, but seeks occasion of death, having made away with a quantity of my money, as I shall prove.’ The Jews, however, supposing that this was a stratagem, as if Carpophorus were seeking under this pretext to liberate Callistus, with the greater enmity clamored against him in presence of the prefect. Fuscianus, however, was swayed by these Jews, and having scourged Callistus, he gave him to be sent to a mine in Sardinia.”

96. Sadly, as with Dracula’s bat, it seemed impossible to keep Callistus down. The criminal pseudo-Christian was soon back on the mainland and back in Church business, under the understandably very hawkish eye of Victor, and subsequently under the less discerning patronage of Victor’s successor, Zephyrinus. It is hard to believe that Victor’s volte-face in his dealings with Callistus — first refusing to put in so much as a good word for him because of his record, then going to the other extreme of offering him free board and a Church appointment — had nothing to do with Callistus’ original involvement with the rival Christian fellowship in Rome. When presented, against his will, with the liberated convict, Victor may well have decided to turn this embarassing situation to his advantage. By granting him asylum the bishop of the First Church put Callistus under obligation to himself at a time when he craved protection from the creditors he had dealt with as a member of Carpophorus’ church. Accordingly, in gratitude to Victor and aversion to his former fellowship and the brethren in Carpophorus’ circle, Callistus threw himself wholeheartedly into Victor’s rival programmes. And when Callistus himself was promoted to the bishopric of the First Church he followed through to execution what had only been formulations in the mind of Victor.

97. Now, as well as the Spring Festival Passover, Victor was particularly interested in the latest Gnostic theology, which had been introduced into the First Church by the teacher Praxeas, but was the original invention of Noetus of Smyrna in Turkey and had been advocated in Rome by more than one theological “expert”. Callistus took this project up with gusto. Under Victor’s successor, Zephyrinus, we find Callistus going to extraordinary lengths to promote the theology of Noetus, as taught by its then current expositor, Cleomenes. Again Hippolytus takes up the story:

98. “There has appeared one, Noetus by name, and by birth a native of Smyrna. This person introduced a heresy from the tenets of Heraclitus [a heathen philosopher]. Now a certain man called Epigonus becomes his minister and pupil, and this person during his sojourn at Rome disseminated his godless opinion. But Cleomenes, who had become his disciple, an alien both in way of life and habits from the Church, was wont to corroborate the Noetian doctrine. At that time, Zephyrinus imagines that he administers the affairs of the Church — an uninformed and shamefully corrupt man. And he, being persuaded by proffered gain, was accustomed to connive at those who were present for the purpose of becoming disciples of Cleomenes. But Zephyrinus himself, being in process of time enticed away, hurried headlong into the same opinions; and he had Callistus as his adviser, and a fellow-champion of these wicked tenets. But the life of this Callistus, and the heresy invented by him, I shall after a little explain.

99. “The school of these heretics during the succession of such bishops, continued to acquire strength and augmentation, from the fact that Zephyrinus and Callistus helped them to prevail. Never at any time, however, have we been guilty of collusion with them; but we have frequently offered them opposition, and have refuted them, and have forced them reluctantly to acknowledge the truth. And they, abashed and constrained by the truth, have confessed their errors for a short period, but after a little, wallow once again in the same mire. Callistus attempted to confirm this heresy, — a man cunning in wickedness, and subtle where deceit was concerned, and who was impelled by restless ambition to mount the episcopal throne.

100. “Now this man molded to his purpose Zephyrinus, an ignorant and illiterate individual, and one unskilled in ecclesiastical definitions. And inasmuch as Zephyrinus was accessible to bribes, and covetous, Callistus, by luring him through presents, and by illicit demands, was enabled to seduce him into whatever course of action he pleased. And so it was that Callistus succeeded in inducing Zephyrinus to create continually disturbances among the brethren, while he himself took care subsequently, by knavish words, to attach both factions in goodwill to himself. And, at one time, to those who entertained true opinions, he would in private allege that they held similar doctrines with himself, and thus make them his dupes; while at another time he would act similarly towards those who embraced the tenets of Sabellius [another heretical teacher with similar views as Noetus on the godhead]. But Callistus perverted Sabellius himself, and this, too, though he had the ability of rectifying this heretic’s error. For at any time during our admonition Sabellius did not evince obduracy; but as long as he continued alone with Callistus, he was wrought upon to relapse into the system of Cleomenes by this very Callistus, who alleges that he entertains similar opinions to Cleomenes. Sabellius, however, did not then perceive the knavery of Callistus; but he afterwards came to be aware of it, as I shall narrate presently.

101. “Now Callistus brought forward Zephyrinus himself, and induced him publicly to avow the following sentiments: ‘I know that there is one God, Jesus Christ; nor except Him do I know any other that is begotten and amenable to suffering.’ And on another occasion, when he would make the following statement: ‘The Father did not die, but the Son.’ Zephyrinus would in this way continue to keep up ceaseless disturbance among the people. And we, becoming aware of his sentiments, did not give place to him, but reproved and withstood him for the truth’s sake. And he hurried headlong into folly, from the fact that all consented to his hypocrisy — we, however, did not do so — and called us worshipers of two gods [a mocking misrepresentation of the Bible-believers’ Scriptural doctrine that the Father and the Son were two distinct character-roles], disgorging, independent of compulsion, the venom lurking within him …. And Callistus, who was in the habit of always associating with Zephyrinus, and, as I have previously stated, of paying him hypocritical service, disclosed, by force contrast, Zephyrinus to be a person able neither to form a judgment of things said, nor discerning the design of Callistus, who was accustomed to converse with Zephyrinus on topics which yielded satisfaction to the latter.

102. “Thus, after the death of Zephyrinus, supposing that he had obtained the position [as bishop of the First Church] after which he so eagerly pursued, he excommunicated Sabellius, as not entertaining orthodox opinions. He acted thus from apprehension of me, and imagining that he could in this manner obliterate the charge against him among the churches, as if he did not entertain strange opinions. He was then an impostor and knave, and in process of time hurried away many with him. And having even venom imbedded in his heart, and forming no correct opinion on any subject, and yet withal being ashamed to speak the truth, this Callistus, not only on account of his publicly saying in the way of reproach to us, ‘Ye are Ditheists [worshipers of two gods, viz. the Father and the Son],’ but also on account of his being frequently accused by Sabellius, as one that had transgressed his first faith, devised some such heresy as the following. Callistus alleges that the Logos Himself is Son, and that Himself is Father; and that though denominated by a different title, yet that in reality He is one indivisible spirit. And he maintains that the Father is not one character-role [Greek prosopon, lit. ‘face’, ‘mask’, ‘role’] and the Son another, but that they are one and the same; and that all things are full of the Divine Spirit, both those above and those below. And he affirms that the Spirit, which became incarnate in the virgin143, is not different from the Father, but one and the same. And he adds, that this is what has been declared by the Savior: ‘Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me?’ For that which is seen, which is man, he considers to be the Son; whereas the Spirit, which was contained in the Son, to be the Father. ‘For,’ says Callistus, ‘I will not profess belief in two Gods, Father and Son, but in one. For the Father, who subsisted in the Son Himself, after He had taken unto Himself our flesh, raised it to the nature of Deity, by bringing it into union with Himself, and made it one; so that Father and Son must be styled one God, and that this character-role being one, cannot be two.’

103. “And in this way Callistus contends that the Father suffered along with the Son; for he does not wish to assert that the Father suffered, and is one character-role, being careful to avoid blasphemy against the Father. How careful he is! senseless and knavish fellow, who improvises blasphemies in every direction, only that he may not seem to speak in violation of the truth, and is not abashed at being at one time betrayed into the tenet of Sabellius [that there is only one character-role], whereas at another into the doctrine of Theodotus [that Jesus was merely human and became God secondarily by the indwelling of the Spirit of God].

104. “The impostor Callistus, having ventured on such opinions, established a school of theology in antagonism to the Church, adopting the foregoing system of instruction. And he first invented the device of conniving with men in regard of their indulgence in sensual pleasures, saying that all had their sins forgiven by himself. For he who is in the habit of attending the congregation of any one else, and is called a Christian, should he commit any transgression; the sin, they say, is not reckoned unto him, provided only he hurries off and attaches himself to the school of Callistus.

105. “And many persons were gratified with his regulation, as being stricken in conscience, and at the same time having been rejected by numerous sects; while also some of them, in accordance with our condemnatory sentence, had been by us forcibly ejected from the Church. Now such disciples as these passed over to these followers of Callistus, and served to crowd his school. This one propounded the dogma, that, if a bishop was guilty of any sin, if even a sin unto death, he ought not to be deposed. In his time bishops, priests, and deacons, who had been twice married, and thrice married, began to be allowed to be enrolled in the ministry; declaring further, in case any in the ministry might be aware that such [viz. a twice or thrice married person] should not remain in the ministry, as if he had done nothing wrong, that what has been spoken by the Apostle has been declared in reference to this situation144: ‘Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant?’ But he asserted that likewise the parable of the tares was uttered in reference to this case: ‘Let the tares grow along with the wheat;’ or, in other words, let those who in the Church are guilty of sin remain in it. But also he affirmed that the ark of Noe was made for a symbol of the Church, in which were both dogs, and wolves, and ravens, and all things clean and unclean; and so he alleges that the case should stand in like manner with the Church. And as many parts of Scripture bearing on this view of the subject as he could collect, he so interpreted.

106. “And the hearers of Callistus being delighted with his tenets, continue with him, thus mocking both themselves as well as many others, and crowds of these dupes stream together into his school. Wherefore also his pupils are multiplied, and they plume themselves upon the crowds attending the school for the sake of pleasures which Christ did not permit. But in contempt of Him, they place restraint on the commission of no sin, alleging that they pardon those who acquiesce in Callistus’ opinions. Moreover he permitted women also, if they were husbandless and had become pregnant in full maturity, to do away with what they got by way of penalty — the one they brought on their own selves, a penalty they did not intend145. Which is how it comes about that they are held to be lawfully married to whichever one they choose to be their bedfellow, whether a slave or free, and a woman, though not legally married, might consider such a companion as a husband. Whence women, reputed believers, began to resort to drugs for producing sterility, and to gird themselves round, so to expel what was being conceived on account of their not wishing to have a child either by a slave or by any worthless fellow, for the sake of their family and vaunted wealth. Behold, into how great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by inculcating adultery and murder at the same time! And withal, after such audacious acts, they, lost to all shame, attempt to call themselves a Catholic Church! And some, under the supposition that they will attain prosperity, concur with them. During the episcopate of this one, second baptism was for the first time presumptuously attempted by them.

107. “These, then, are the practices and opinions which that most astonishing Callistus established, whose school continues, preserving its customs and tradition, not discerning with whom they ought to communicate, but indiscriminately offering communion to all. And from him they have derived the denomination of their men; so that, on account of Callistus being a foremost champion of such practices, they should be called Callistians.”

107a. The sectarian Montanist, Tertullian, learned in Africa of this shameful conduct of Callistus. He also heard that Callistus had awarded himself the title “Pontifex Maximus” which was the title of the Emperor as High Priest of the pagan religion of Rome! The title is still used by the popes of Rome today146. “[6] …. I hear that there has even been an edict set forth, and a peremptory one too. The Pontifex Maximus — that is, the bishop of bishops — issues an edict: “I remit, to such as have discharged the requirements of repentance, the sins both of adultery and of fornication.” [7] O edict, on which cannot be inscribed, “Good deed!” And where shall this liberality be posted up? On the very spot, I suppose, on the very gates of the sensual appetites, beneath the very titles of the sensual appetites. There is the place for promulgating such repentance, where the delinquency itself shall haunt. There is the place to read the pardon, where entrance shall be made under the hope thereof. [8] But it is in the church that this edict is read, and in the church that it is pronounced; and the Church is a virgin! Far, far from Christ’s betrothed be such a proclamation! She, the true, the modest, the saintly, shall be free from stain even of her ears. [9] She has none to whom to make such a promise; and if she have had, she does not make it; since even the earthly temple of God can sooner have been called by the Lord a “den of robbers,” than of adulterers and fornicators. [10] This too, therefore, shall be a count in my indictment against the Psychics [= “soulish” as opposed to “spiritual” Christians]; against the fellowship of sentiment also which I myself formerly maintained with them [as a past member of the First Church of Rome]; in order that they may the more cast this in my teeth for a mark of fickleness. Repudiation of fellowship is never a pre-indication of sin. As if it were not easier to err with the majority, when it is in the company of the few that truth is loved. [11] But, however, a profitable fickleness shall no more be a disgrace to me, than I should wish a hurtful one to be an ornament. I blush not at an error which I have ceased to hold, because I am delighted at having ceased to hold it, because I recognise myself to be better and more modest.”

107b. Along with the high-sounding title Pontifex Maximus, Callistus assumed, without any Scriptural warrant, the prerogatives of Peter. This practice, too, has become the hallmark of the Roman popes. Tertullian inveighed against the latter pretension, as he did against the former, and, in the process, managed himself to stumble over the true interpretation of Scripture in his eagerness to do down Callistus. (Tertullian thought the Scripture represented Peter himself as the foundation of the Church rather than the God-given revelation Jesus Himself was referring to. He also introduced the ominous word “Trinity”, which in his case certainly had deviant overtones147. “[9] I now inquire into your opinion, to see from what source you usurp this right to “the Church.” If, because the Lord has said to Peter, “Upon this rock will I build My Church,” “to thee have I given the keys of the heavenly kingdom; “ or, “Whatsoever thou shall have bound or loosed in earth, shall be bound or loosed in the heavens,” you therefore presume that the power of binding and loosing has derived to you, that is, to every Church akin to Peter, [10] what sort of man are you, subverting and wholly changing the manifest intention of the Lord, conferring as that intention did this gift personally upon Peter? “On thee,” He says, “will I build My Church; “and,” I will give to thee the keys,” not to the Church; and, “Whatsoever thou shall have loosed or bound,” not what they shall have loosed or bound. [11] For so withal the result teaches. In Peter himself the Church was reared; that is, through Peter himself; Peter himself essayed the key; you see what key: “Men of Israel, let what I say sink into your ears: Jesus the Nazarene, a man destined by God for you,” and so forth. [12] Peter himself, therefore, was the first to unbar, in Christ’s baptism, the entrance to the heavenly kingdom, in which kingdom are “loosed” the sins that were beforetime “bound; “and those which have not been “loosed” are “bound,” in accordance with true salvation; and Ananias he “bound” with the bond of death, and the weak in his feet he “absolved” from his defect of health. [13] Moreover, in that dispute about the observance or non-observance of the Law, Peter was the first of all to be endued with the Spirit, and, after making preface touching the calling of the nations, to say, “And now why are ye tempting the Lord, concerning the imposition upon the brethren of a yoke which neither we nor our fathers were able to support? But however, through the grace of Jesus we believe that we shall be saved in the same way as they.” [14] This sentence both “loosed” those parts of the law which were abandoned, and “bound” those which were reserved. Hence the power of loosing and of binding committed to Peter had nothing to do with the capital sins of believers; [15] and if the Lord had given him a precept that he must grant pardon to a brother sinning against him even “seventy times sevenfold,” of course He would have commanded him to “bind” — that is, to “retain” — nothing subsequently, unless perchance such sins as one may have committed against the Lord, not against a brother. For the forgiveness of sins committed in the case of a man is a prejudgment against the remission of sins against God. [16] What, now, has this to do with the Church, and your church, indeed, Psychic? For, in accordance with the person of Peter, it is to spiritual men that this power will correspondently appertain, either to an apostle or else to a prophet. For the very Church itself is, properly and principally, the Spirit Himself, in whom is the Trinity of the One Divinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Spirit combines that Church which the Lord has made to consist in “three.” [17] And thus, from that time forward, every number of persons who may have combined together into this faith is accounted “a Church,” from the Author and Consecrator of the Church. And accordingly “the Church,” it is true, will forgive sins: but it will be the Church of the Spirit, by means of a spiritual man; not the Church which consists of a number of bishops. For the right and arbitrament is the Lord’s, not the servant’s; God’s Himself, not the priest’s.”

108. Here is the birth of the Roman Catholic system, described in vivid detail by a reliable contemporary bishop, and eyewitness of the process, Hippolytus, the disciple of Irenaeus, and confirmed by Tertullian, the sectarian who had come under the beneficial influence of Irenaeus and the other Apostolic upholders of the tradition of St John. After a gestation of a century and a half, the beast had emerged into the full light of day. It called itself then, and still calls itself, the “Catholic Church”, aping the nomenclature of the Bible-believing majority, but it was never anything but the “Callistian heresy”.

109. Taking up where we left off the history of Irenaeus, we find the heretical system promoted by Callistus concentrating its fire on the disciples of John, especially those in Lyons, France, under the loving supervision of Polycarp’s most illustrious disciple. It seems to have been Septimius Severus, that ruthless, daring and murderous military commander, or rather his wife Marcia, who succeeded first in harnessing the services of the heretical school in the days of Callistus to achieve for himself, a foreigner outside the pale of the great Roman families, the ultimate political prize the purple of Imperial power. Both Severus and Marcia were of Punic (Canaanaite, Phoenician) descent, being natives of the North African littoral. That put them at a great disadvantage in the social circles of the Roman nobility, but they amply made up for it by the exercise on a phenomenal scale of skulduggery, machination and intrigue. The Punic race had a strong anti-Semitic bent, on account of the fact that their people had been forced to migrate to the barren shores of Africa by the Israelite hero Joshua. The anti-Semitic teachings of the Near-Eastern heretics of the First Church of Rome must surely have intrigued Marcia when she was looking for allies to aid her in her attempt, encouraged by Severus, to scale up the precipitous social ladder of Imperial Rome. The First Church heretical gurus shared the same Semitic-speaking background as her Punic ancestors and hated Jews just as virulently. It seems natural therefore that, immediately after Eleutherus, an African of the same origin as Marcia and Severus became bishop of the First Church, namely Victor, and that within a very short while both he and they were friends of the Emperor Lucius (Commodus). Of course Severus “let his wife go” and she ended up in Commodus’ bed. According to Dio Cassius, who was in a position to know, Commodus was not “evil by natural inclination”, so it was most likely Marcia who encouraged and took advantage of his pleasure-loving indolence, since he was obviously obsessed with her, and fostered his sense of paranoia and intolerance, twisting his mind, on behalf of her spiritual “father”, the bishop of the First Church, both against Severus’ political rivals and also against the innocent disciples of John. The “Pontifex Maximus” of the First Church was willing and able to blot out Marcia’s sins (which were many), and this was her payback. For her it was a psychological priority. One of the first to fall was Polycarp when Commodus was a precocious and wicked young man, and in the last year he was co-ruler with his father, Marcus Aurelius. This was in the same phase of persecution (AD 177-180) as the martyrdoms at Lyons, including that of Blandina. Having achieved through Marcia his ultimate political objective, Severus completed the destruction of the Christian community in Lyons under its then guiding light, Irenaeus.

110. Far from being adverse to Christianity in all its forms, as is commonly imagined, Severus was attached very closely to one form of it. That was the variety practiced in the compromised First Church on the Lateran. His devotion to Marcia is clear evidence of that fact, and her machinations succeeded in making him Emperor in the end. He made no mention of her in his autobiography, however: it would have been unwise for him to recall to the minds of his readers his close association with the murderess of Commodus, when it was that murder which gave him access to the imperial purple. Yet he quietly arranged for statues to be erected in her memory. His attachment to Marcia is only one strand of evidence. Another is the admission to his court of two noted professors of the Christian faith, one named Proculus, who supposedly healed him by the application of holy oil, and the other Torpacion. Healing by a material substance was not the kind of healing experienced by evangelical Christians, who ascribed such powers to Christ alone. Christ might work through a faithful disciple who anointed the sick with oil, but glory was always given to God for recovery, not to the oil. It was typical, however, of the First Church gurus to credit oil itself with spiritual efficacy, which is why they had a ceremony of magical anointing in their baptismal rite. The actual water of the baptismal font was similarly credited with regenerative powers. Tertullian is the contemporary witness who tells us about Severus’ Christian gurus and his healing, and he shared a like belief in the supernatural power of the natural elements, which he inherited from the Artemonites of the First Church.

111. In addition to these more significant items of evidence of Severus’ attachment to the cult of Callistus and his associates, there are also the later medieval legends which sprang up about “king Severus”, who is described, like Lucius (Commodus) in similar stories, as “king” (= emperor) of Britain, and who sent the young nobles of Britain, and along with them Albinus (Clodius Albinus), to Rome, where some received instruction in the Christian faith from Bishop Zephyrinus, Victor’s successor to the episcopal throne of the First Church.

112. Zephyrinus was an incompetent individual, by Hippolytus’ estimate, and wholly under the influence of Callistus. Callistus’ enemies were now Severus’ enemies. Though no persecution of Christianity is known, therefore, to have been initiated by Severus in the city of Rome, he became a fierce opponent of the rivals of the First Church in foreign lands. Most notably the victims of his savagery were Irenaeus of Lyons (Lugdunum) in Gaul, and in Egypt Leonides the loving father of Origen, disciple of Hippolytus, the disciple of Irenaeus.

113. Irenaeus was martyred in Lyons itself during the massacre initiated against its inhabitants after the incomprehensibly enormous military carnage which occurred at its gates on the 19th February AD 197. Albinus advanced from his headquarters in Britain into Gaul and gathered around him a force of 150,000 men to defend his honor and the Christians of Lyons (Lugdunum) against Severus. Severus was jealous of the popularity of Albinus, having reneged on his pledge to award the latter the prerogatives of the title Caesar. He gathered an equally huge force of 150,000 men to meet his opponent, which means that, as has been estimated, about two-thirds of the totality of men in arms in the Empire were now invested in this single engagement. It was the greatest contest in weight of numbers and ferocity the Roman Empire ever witnessed. It centered, of course, on the very city where God’s agent of mercy, the spiritual warrior Irenaeus, ablaze with the fire of the Holy Spirit, and proffering words of salvation confirmed to be of God by works of healing and restorative power, was shedding abroad the beneficent rays of the authentic Gospel of Jesus Christ. This fiery new light of love and faith illuminated far and wide the barbarian villages and Roman colonial outposts of the West, and even, more faintly perhaps, in somewhat of an afterglow, the jaded and cynical metropolitan areas of the East, where the malign influence of the First Church had succeeded in dimming its luster.

114. On that fateful wintry day Albinus’ forces suffered massive losses and collapsed, and Severus’ soldiers closed in on their principal prey. Albinus himself, it was alleged in the legends, emerged from his house wrapped in the rough outer garment of his Christian mentor Amphibalus. Amphibalus was originally one of the “beautiful” British youths patronized by Zephyrinus, but is described as having been subsequently “perfected”, meaning he had dispensed of his worldly belongings to benefit the poor, most probably under the influence of the disciples of Irenaeus in his new home town. Amphibalus died a martyr, along with Irenaeus himself at this juncture, and since the murderers of Irenaeus, according to the Eastern ecclesiastical source referred to, were the “heretics”, it is clear many of Severus’ men belonged to what Hippolytus called the “school of heretics” under Victor, Callistus and Zephyrinus. Evidently the force of 150,000 men mustered by Severus drew heavily, amongst others, on the fanatics of the First Church in the capital. Severus never fought personally on the field, but in this bloody conflict he dashed madly here and there between the fighting and the dying, searching for his rival. Arrayed in the humble cloak of the Christian he patronized Albinus was dragged off and laid at Severus’ feet. He died a brutal death, it is certain, but the details were afterwards obscured. The first “carnifex”, or military executioner, is said to have refused to slaughter the great general: the medieval stories say he bowed his head in shame and accepted Christ as his Lord too, meeting in consequence an equally brutal death. Albinus’ body was savagely dismembered and thrown into the River Rhone on whose banks Lyons was located. His head was stuck on a pike and taken back to Rome. There, midway between Severus’ palace above the Circus Maximus and the First Church on the Lateran, it was displayed in the Forum before the Senate, who had previously favored Albinus. The topographical location nicely reflected the dilemma in which the Senators found themselves, caught between the vice-like jaws of the religio-political beast: on one side the ruthless Emperor, on the other, the vicious First Church bishop. If the latter, as Tertullian put it, was Pontifex Maximus, Callistus was his chief lictor (lictor being the name given to the Pontifex’s religious henchmen who supervised ceremonies such as the disposal of corpses). Once the display had achieved its purpose, the trophy was handed over to the First Church. The skull was transferred later in the 10th century from the First Church authorities to Cologne under the patronage of the “Holy Roman Emperor”. By that time, as in similar cases, its real origin was forgotten, and it had come to be treated as the relic of a “saint”, on account of the popularity of Albinus as a defender of Christians in Britain. Even dust stained with the general’s blood was kept as a sacred memento in Verulamium near London, which was named Saint Albans after him (Alban = Albanus = Albinus). Some of this dust was said to have been transported by Germanus, a missionary disciple of Martin’s circle in France, from Britain to the European continent, and when Germanus was transmogrified (like his fellow Martinian Sucat or Patrick) into a Roman “saint”, Albinus too was officially exalted to a similar quasi-divine status, whilst his historicity was fudged by a loss of memory regarding his actual place and time. The Romanist Bede of Jarrow thought he “may” have perished in the persecution of Diocletian. Thus in the medieval Golden Legend Diocletian is depicted as the Emperor who reigned when Albinus was martyred and incongruously Severus as “king” of Britain at the same time, during the episcopate of Zephyrinus in the First Church (which shows the era was actually that of Emperor Septimius Severus). The sources before Bede all locate the death of Albinus (the “saint”) in Lyons under Septimius Severus, and connect it with the martyrdom of Irenaeus and his fellow missionaries to Gaul, the disciples of Polycarp.

115. The following is from the Chronicle of Saint Benignus of Dijon (Chronicon Sancti Benigni Diuionensis, 12th century, which wrongly applies the later ecclesiastical titles to these early Christian heroes, ed. Migne, Patrologia Latina 162, 755, and ascribes the mission of Benignus to a premonition of Irenaeus’ martyrdom given to Irenaeus’ teacher Polycarp. Textes ut cit infra., No. 111):

“Saint Irenaeus is crowned by martyrdom. Saint Benignus is sent to Gaul by Polycarp. And so in the year from the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ one hundred and ninety-five, in the third Indiction, when Severus was Emperor, this witness of Christ {Benignus} was commissioned to come here with his companions of the Gallic race at the time of a terrible tempest of persecution initiated by him. This commission given to the servant of God was of divine authorization, and one prompted by the metropolitan bishop of Asia, Polycarp, and by Irenaeus the blessed archbishop of Lugdunum {Lyons}, on the seventh day of the Passion of this saint, which was foreordained to be accomplished in the thirteenth year of the Emperor Severus. For indeed, once Claudius Albinus (who had made himself Caesar at Lugdunum) was slain, Severus handed the whole city over to the edge of the sword, and there Saint Irenaeus was martyred, along with the whole population of Christians totaling eighteen thousand souls. And such was the slaughter of those cut down that the Rhone {Rhodanus} and the Saone {Araris} which there form one body of water could be seen equally to flow red with blood for many miles. So Irenaeus appeared in a vision to Polycarp with this martyrdom a done deed, accompanied by a multitude of martyrs, and admonished him to send the priests Benignus and Andochius, Thyrsus the deacon and Andeolus the subdeacon to Gaul to preach the Gospel. These saints of God were sent by Saint Polycarp, the angel of God leading the way, and arrived at Lugdunum, which is the metropolitan city of Gaul. There they found the sainted presbyter Zacharias, who had hidden from the tempest of persecution in the crypts amongst the sepulchers of the martyrs, and prayed that divine aid would arrive for the floundering Church. He accordingly ruled the aforesaid Church after Saint Irenaeus.”

116. As regards the reason for Severus’ attack on Irenaeus we have, as well as the Syriac testimony concerning his death at the hands of “heretics”, the following statement in the Roman Martyrology, most of which goes back to that of Usuard c. AD 850-865, based on Ado bishop of Vienne AD 860-875: “IV Kal. Iul. {= 28 June} the feast of Saint Irenaeus the bishop and martyr who (as Jerome writes) was a disciple of Polycarp bishop of Smyrna, and close to the time of the Apostles. Since he had numerous conflicts with the heretics in word and script, he received the crown of a glorious martyrdom in a persecution initiated by Severus along with almost the whole population of his city.” According to Gregory of Tours (History I. 28-29, Textes ut cit. infra No. 89) Irenaeus had indeed won almost the whole city of Lyons to faith in Christ before his martyrdom, and consequently uncountable numbers of the citizens of Lyons perished in the persecution with him, the streets running like rivers with their blood. An anonymous Martyrology of Lyons prior to AD 806 adds that Irenaeus was slain in the persecution of Severus after being subjected to numerous acts of torture, in the midst of which he received comfort from an angelic being, and agrees with Ado that his martyrdom under Severus transpired 28 June. (Lyons dans les textes grecs et latins, Decourt et Lucas, Lyons 1993, Textes no. 100. Jerome calls Irenaeus a martyr who suffered at Lyons, Liber de uiris illustribus, AD 392, s.n. Irenaeus, Textes, ut cit., No. 60. Cf. also No. 108, “Irenaeus the martyr.”)

117. The circumstances of Irenaeus’ martyrdom are described more minutely in Six Ages of the World (Libri de sex aetatibus mundi, printed Nuremberg 1493, drawing on much earlier sources, Textes, ut cit. No. 113): “Irenaeus was placed by Severus between two hills, on one of which he had placed a Cross, and on the other an idol, that he might choose between death on the Cross or life by the idol. With the people, however, he went to the Cross, and all were crowned with martyrdom IIII Kal. Julii {28 June}.”


Footnotes 137-147

137. Photius, Myriobiblon 120: “[Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses] Read the work of Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, entitled the Refutation and Subversion of Knowledge falsely so called or Against Heresies, in five books. The first, in which Valentinus and his impious heresy are discussed, begins as far back as Simon Magus and goes down to Tatian, who, at first a disciple of Justin Martyr, afterwards fell headlong into heresy. It also deals with those who are properly called Gnostics and the Cainites, setting forth their abominable doctrines. Such is the contents of the first book. In the second the impious dogmas of the heretics are refuted. The third quotes all kinds of testimony from the Scriptures against them. The fourth answers certain difficulties put forward by the heretics. The fifth shows that all that was said and done by the Lord in the form of parables, derived both from His saving doctrine and from the apostolic epistles, is suited for the refutation of the claptrap of the heretics. St. Irenaeus is said to have been the author of many other works of various kinds including letters, in some of which it should be observed that the exact truth of the doctrines of the Church appears to be falsified by spurious arguments. It is said that he was a pupil of the holy martyr Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, and was presbyter to Pothinus, whom he succeeded in the bishopric of Lyons. At that time Victor was pope of Rome, whom Irenaeus frequently exhorted by letter not to excommunicate any members of the Church on account of a disagreement about Easter.”

138. THE PASSOVER CONTROVERSY. Eusebius, Hist. Ecc. V. xxiii-xxv: “CHAPTER 23. THE QUESTION THEN AGITATED CONCERNING THE PASSOVER. A QUESTION of no small importance arose at that time. For the residential districts [of the churches] of all Asia, as from an older tradition, held that the fourteenth day of the moon, on which day the Jews were commanded to sacrifice the lamb, should be observed as the feast of the Savior’s passover. It was therefore necessary to end their fast on that day, whatever day of the week it should happen to be. But it was not the custom of the churches in the rest of the world to end it at this time, as they observed the practice which, from apostolic tradition, has prevailed to the present time, of terminating the fast on no other day than on that of the resurrection of our Savior. Synods and assemblies of bishops were held on this account, and all, with one consent, through mutual correspondence drew up an ecclesiastical decree, that “Just as the mystery of the Lord’s resurrection from the dead would not ever be celebrated on any other day than the Lord’s Day, so also we would observe the termination of Passover fasting on that day alone.” There is still extant a writing of those who were then assembled in Palestine, over whom Theophilus, bishop of Caesarea, and Narcissus, bishop of Jerusalem, presided. And there is also another writing extant of those who were assembled at Rome to consider the same question, which bears the name of Bishop Victor; also of the bishops in Pontus over whom Palmas, as the oldest, presided; and of the residential districts [of the churches] in Gaul of which Irenaeus was bishop, and of those in Osrhoene and the cities there; and a personal letter of Bacchylus, bishop of the church at Corinth, and of a great many others, who uttered the same opinion and judgment, and cast the same vote. And that which has been given above was their unanimous decision.

CHAPTER 24. THE DISAGREEMENT IN ASIA. BUT the bishops of Asia, led by Polycrates, decided to hold to the old custom handed down to them. He himself, in a letter which he addressed to Victor and the church of Rome, set forth in the following words the tradition which had come down to him: “We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord’s coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate. He fell asleep at Ephesus. And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who fell asleep in Smyrna. Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead? All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ‘We ought to obey God rather than man.’” He then writes of all the bishops who were present with him and thought as he did. His words are as follows: “I could mention the bishops who were present, whom I summoned at your desire; whose names, should I write them, would constitute a great multitude. And they, beholding my littleness, gave their consent to the letter, knowing that I did not bear my gray hairs in vain, but had always governed my life by the Lord Jesus.” Thereupon Victor, who presided over the church at Rome, immediately attempted to cut off from the common unity the residential districts [of the churches] of all Asia, with the churches that agreed with them, as heterodox; and he wrote letters and declared all the brethren there wholly excommunicate. But this did not please all the bishops. And they besought him to consider the things of peace, and of neighborly unity and love. Words of theirs are extant, sharply rebuking Victor. Among them was Irenaeus, who, sending letters in the name of the brethren in Gaul over whom he presided, recommended that the mystery of the resurrection of the Lord should be observed only on the Lord’s Day. He fittingly admonishes Victor that he should not cut off whole churches of God which observed the tradition of an ancient custom and after many other words he proceeds as follows: “For the controversy is not only concerning the day, but also concerning the very manner of the fast. For some think that they should fast one day, others two, yet others more; and some, forty — these count their day as consisting of day and night hours [placing the stop after tessarakonta with Rufinus, followed by Harvey, Irenaeus, II. 474, n. 6, et al.]. And this variation in its observance has not originated in our time; but long before in that of our ancestors, who, it seems, did not maintain in a strictly accurate fashion the original custom, simple and homely as it was, and thus produced [this variation] for their successors. Yet all of these lived none the less in peace, and we also live in peace with one another; and the disagreement in regard to the fast confirms the agreement in the faith.” He adds to this the following account, which I may properly insert: “Among these [the ones who had received customs, like the First Church of Rome Passover ritual, which were not strictly in accord with Apostolic practice, ibid.13 ] were the presbyters before Soter, who presided over the church [the First Church of Rome] which thou [Victor] now rulest. We mean [working back in time] Anicetus, and Pius, and Hyginus, and Telesphorus, and Xystus [Sixtus]. They neither observed it [the Jewish Passover celebration] themselves, nor did they permit those after them to do so. And yet though not observing it, they were none the less at peace with those who came to them from the residential districts [of other churches] in which it was observed; although this observance was more opposed to those who did not observe it. But none were ever cast out on account of this form [the Jewish Passover]; but the presbyters before thee who did not observe it, sent the Eucharist to people from the residential districts [of other churches] who themselves observed it, and furthermore, at the time when the blessed Polycarp visited Rome in the time of Anicetus, and having little things against eachother on other points, they [viz. the presbyters of the First Church who did not keep the Jewish Passover, and those from other church districts who did] quickly made peace amongst themselves, not caring to quarrel over this matter. For neither was Anicetus able to persuade Polycarp not to observe what he had always observed with John the disciple of our Lord [i.e. the Jewish Passover celebration], and the other apostles with whom he had associated; neither did Polycarp persuade Anicetus to observe it, as he [Anicetus] said that he ought to follow the customs of the presbyters that had preceded him. And in this state of affairs, they held communion amongst themselves. Also Anicetus conceded the Eucharist in the church to Polycarp, evidently out of a feeling of shame. And they settled the matter between them in peace, both those who observed [the Jewish Passover], and those who did not, maintaining the peace of the whole church.” Thus Irenaeus, who truly was well named, became a peacemaker in this matter, exhorting and negotiating in this way in behalf of the peace of the churches. And he conferred by letter about this mooted question, not only with Victor, but also with most of the other rulers of the churches.

CHAPTER 25. HOW ALL CAME TO AN AGREEMENT RESPECTING THE PASSOVER. THOSE in Palestine whom we have recently mentioned, Narcissus and Theophilus, and with them Cassius, bishop of the church of Tyre, and Clarus of the church of Ptolemais, and those who met with them, having stated many things respecting the tradition concerning the passover which had come to them in succession from the apostles, at the close of their writing add these words: “Endeavor to send copies of our letter to every church, that we may not furnish occasion to those who easily deceive their souls. We show you indeed that also in Alexandria they keep it on the same day that we do. For letters are carried from us to them and from them to us, so that in the same manner and at the same time we keep the sacred day.”

THE PASCHAL CANON OF ANATOLIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, Chapter 10: “But nothing was difficult to them with whom it was lawful to celebrate the Passover on any day when the fourteenth of the moon happened after the equinox. Following their example up to the present time all the bishops of Asia — as themselves also receiving the rule from an unimpeachable authority, to wit, the evangelist John, who leant on the Lord’s breast, and drank in instructions spiritual without doubt — were in the way of celebrating the Paschal feast, without question, every year, whenever the fourteenth day of the moon had come, and the lamb was sacrificed by the Jews after the equinox was past; not acquiescing, so far as regards this matter, with the authority of some, namely, the successors of Peter and Paul, who have taught all the churches in which they sowed the spiritual seeds of the Gospel, that the solemn festival of the resurrection of the Lord can be celebrated only on the Lord’s day. Whence, also, a certain contention broke out between the successors of these, namely, Victor, at that time bishop of the city of Rome, and Polycrates, who then appeared to hold the primacy among the bishops of Asia. And this contention was adjusted most rightfully by Irenaeus, at that time president of a part of Gaul, so that both parties kept by their own order, and did not decline from the original custom of antiquity. The one party, indeed, kept the Paschal day on the fourteenth day of the first month, according to the Gospel, as they thought, adding nothing of an extraneous kind, but keeping through all things the rule of faith. And the other party, passing the day of the Lord’s Passion as one replete with sadness and grief, hold that it should not be lawful to celebrate the Lord’s mystery of the Passover at any other time but on the Lord’s Day, on which the resurrection of the Lord from death took place, and on which rose also for us the cause of everlasting joy. For it is one thing to act in accordance with the precept given by the apostle, yea, by the Lord Himself, and be sad with the sad, and suffer with him that suffers by the cross, His own word being: ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death;’ and it is another thing to rejoice with the victor as he triumphs over an ancient enemy, and exults with the highest triumph over a conquered adversary, as He Himself also says: ‘Rejoice with Me; for I have found the sheep which I had lost.’”

139. Julius Firmicus Maternus, De Errore Profanarum Religionum, xxvii. 2: “In Proserpinae sacris caesa arbor in effigiem virginis formamque componitur, et cum intra civitatem fuerit illata, quadraginta noctibus plangitur, quadragesima vero nocte comburitur.” “In the rites of Proserpina, a tree is cut down and shaped into the effigy and likeness of a maiden, and, after it has been carried into the city, mourning is made for it for forty (quadraginta) nights; then on the fortieth (quadragesima) night it is given to the flames.” Firmicus goes on to relate that other sacred wooden images earlier referred to by him were similarly burnt, but in their case at the end of a whole year (post annum). This is known to have been the practice in Egypt. The other wooden images were the lopped-off pine branch on which was tied the image of a youth (Attis) in the Phrygian rites of the Great Mother and the felled pine-tree which was carefully hollowed out and filled with seeds forming an image of Osiris in the Egyptian rites of Isis. Ibid. xvii. 1: “For his own nefarious purposes, the victim-slayer of ill-omen was regularly disposed to have his rites performed with a piece of a tree, because he well knew that it would be to a piece of a tree in the form of a cross that the life of a man would be affixed, bound in a bond of eternal immortality, and so he used an imitation of that piece of a tree to deceive perishing mankind. In the Phrygian rites which they name after the Mother of the Gods, each year a pine tree is cut down and in the middle of the tree an image of a young man is fastened with bonds. In the rites of Isis the trunk of a pine tree is cut down. The middle part of this trunk is carefully hollowed out and in that is interred an idol of Osiris formed out of seeds.” “Sacra sua perditus carnifex, pro nefas, per lignum semper renovari disposuit, ut quia sciebat fore ut ligno crucis affixa vita hominis perpetuae immortalitatis compagine stringeretur, perituros homines ex ligni imitatione deciperet. In sacris Frygiis quae matris deum dicunt, per annos singulos arbor pinea caeditur, et in media arbore simulacrum iuvenis subligatur. In Isiacis sacris de pinea arbore caeditur truncus. Huius trunci media pars subtiliter excavatur, illic de seminibus factum idolum Osiridis sepelitur.” Hislop, Two Babylons, 102f. with my additions in square brackets: “That festival [Passover] agreed originally with the time of the Jewish Passover, when Christ was crucified, a period which, in the days of Tertullian, at the end of the second century, was believed [but only in heretical circles] to have been the 23rd of March [25th March Julian]. That festival was not idolatrous, and it was preceded by no Lent. “It ought to be known,” said Cassianus, the monk of Marseilles, writing in the fifth century, and contrasting the primitive Church with the Church in his day, “that the observance of the forty days had no existence, so long as the perfection of that primitive Church remained inviolate.” Whence, then, came this observance? The forty days’ abstinence of Lent was directly borrowed from the worshipers of the Babylonian goddess. Such a Lent of forty days, “in the spring of the year,” is still observed by the Yezidis or Pagan Devil-worshipers of Koordistan, who have inherited it from their early masters, the Babylonians. Such a Lent of forty days was held in spring by the Pagan Mexicans, for thus we read in Humboldt, where he gives account of Mexican observances: “Three days after the vernal equinox…began a solemn fast of forty days in honor of the sun.” Such a Lent of forty days was observed in Egypt, as may be seen on consulting Wilkinson’s Egyptians. This Egyptian Lent of forty days, we are informed by Landseer, in his Sabean Researches, was held expressly in commemoration of Adonis or Osiris, the great mediatorial god. At the same time, the rape of Proserpine seems to have been commemorated, and in a similar manner; for Julius Firmicus informs us that, for “forty nights” the “wailing for Proserpine” continued; and from Arnobius we learn that the fast which the Pagans observed, called “Castus” or the “sacred” fast, was, by the Christians in his time, believed to have been primarily in imitation of the long fast of Ceres [Demeter], when for many days she determinedly refused to eat on account of her “excess of sorrow,” that is, on account of the loss of her daughter Proserpine, when carried away by Pluto, the god of hell. [Arnobius Adversus Nationes V. 16. 6. Quid temperatus ab alimonio panis, cui rei dedistis nomen castus? nonne illius temporis imitatio est quo se numen ab Cereris fruge violentia maeroris abstinuit? “What means the abstinence from eating bread which you have named Castus? Is it not in imitation of the time when the goddess [Ceres] abstained from Ceres’ fruit in her vehement sorrow?”] As the stories of Bacchus, or Adonis and Proserpine, though originally distinct, were made to join on and fit in to one another, so that Bacchus was called Liber, and his wife Ariadne, Libera (which was one of the names of Proserpine), it is highly probable that the forty days’ fast of Lent was made in later times to have reference to both. Among the Pagans this Lent seems to have been an indispensable preliminary to the great annual festival in commemoration of the death and resurrection of Tammuz, which was celebrated by alternate weeping and rejoicing, and which, in many countries, was considerably later than the Christian festival, being observed in Palestine and Assyria in June, therefore called the “month of Tammuz”; in Egypt, about the middle of May, and in Britain, some time in April.” This was evidently the practice in the First Church of Rome before the Nicean Council. Already Irenaeus (apud Eusebius, Hist. Ecc. V. xxiv. 12, on Rufinus’ understanding of the relevant passage) refers to a 40 day fast before Easter in the second half of the second century AD (n. 115 above), and tradition ascribed its institution in Rome to Telesphorus in the early years of the same century, Book of Popes, s.n. “hic constituit, ut septem ebdomadas ante pascha ieiunium celebraretur.” “He [Telesphorus] ordained that a fast should be celebrated seven weeks before Pascha.” Athanasius seems, on the evidence of his “Festal Letters,” to have introduced the 40 day lenten fast amongst the churches of the East, after his trip to Rome and the West, in AD 339. By the time of Cassian in the fifth century it was openly and widely celebrated, and its pagan associations were no longer of consequence.

140. Luke 24. 36-43: “ 36 ¶ And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. 38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? 39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. 40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? 42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. 43 And he took it, and did eat before them.”

141. On Marcia, we have a first-class, contemporary witness, Dion Cassius (a contemporary of Commodus) LXXIII. iv. 6: “There was a certain Marcia, the mistress of Quadratus (one of the men slain at this time), and Eclectus, his cubicularius [valet]; the latter became the cubicularius of Commodus also, and the former, first the emperor’s mistress and later the wife of Eclectus, and she saw them also perish by violence. The tradition is that she greatly favoured the Christians and rendered them many kindnesses, inasmuch as she could do anything with Commodus.”

Dion Cassius LXXIII. xiii. 5: “Marcia, the notorious wife of Quadratus”

Dion Cassius LXXIII. xxii. 1-3: “And he actually did die, or rather was slain, before long. For Laetus and Eclectus, displeased at the things he was doing, and also inspired by fear, in view of the threats he made against them because they tried to prevent him from acting in this way, formed a plot against him. It seems that Commodus wished to slay both the consuls, Erucius Clarus and Sosius Flaco, and on New Year’s Day to issue forth both as consul and secutor from the quarters of the gladiators; in fact, he had the first cell there, as if he were one of them. Let no one doubt this statement. Indeed, he actually cut off the head of the Colossus, and substituted for it a likeness of his own head; then, having given it a club and placed a bronze lion at its feet, so as to cause it to look like Hercules, he inscribed on it, in addition to the list of his titles which I have already indicated, these words: “Champion of secutores; only left-handed fighter to conquer twelve times (as I recall the number) one thousand men. (ibid. 4-6) For these reasons Laetus and Eclectus attacked him, after making Marcia their confidant. At any rate, on the last day of the year, at night, when people were busy with the holiday, they caused Marcia to administer poison to him in some beef. But the immoderate use of wine and baths, which was habitual with him, kept him from succumbing at once, and instead he vomited up some of it; and thus suspecting the truth, he indulged in some threats. Then they sent Narcissus, an athlete, against him, and caused this man to strangle him while he was taking a bath. Such was the end of Commodus, after he had ruled twelve years, nine months, and fourteen days. He had lived thirty-one years and four months; and with him the line of the genuine Aurelii ceased to rule.”

Dion Cassius LXXIV. xvi: “He [Julianus] accordingly put to death both Laetus and Marcia, so that all who conspired against Commodus perished; for later Severus gave Narcissus to the wild beasts, causing it to be expressly proclaimed that he was the man who had strangled Commodus.”

There are also a few references in the Historiae Augustae, Commodus, VIII. 6: Fuit praeterea ea dementia, ut urbem Romanam coloniam Commodianam vocari voluerit; qui furor dicitur ei inter delenimenta Marciae iniectus. “His madness was so great that he actually purposed to change the name of the City of Rome to “The Colony of Commodus”, this mania having been, it is said, infused into him by the blandishments of Marcia.” XI. 9: Amazonius autem vocatus est ex amore concubinae suae Marciae, quam pictam in Amazone diligebat, propter quam et ipse Amazonico habitu in harenam Romanam procedere voluit. “Now he [Commodus] was called “The Amazonian” from love of his concubine, Marcia, whom he liked to be painted as an Amazon, on account of whom also he himself wished to enter into the Roman arena in the dress of an Amazon.” XVII. 1-2: 1 His incitati, licet nimis sero, Quintus Aemilius Laetus praef. et Marcia concubina eius inierunt coniurationem ad occidendum eum. 2 Primumque ei venenum dederunt; quod cum minus operaretur, per athletam, cum quo exerceri solebat, eum strangularunt. “Stirred up by these things, and, one might justly add, not much beyond due time, Quintus Aemilius Laetus the Prefect and the concubine Marcia entered into a conspiracy to murder him. And they first plied him with poison, but when this failed to have the required effect, they strangled him by the hands of an athlete with whom he used to train.”

Since Commodus poached the sexual partners of his associates it is likely his concubine Marcia is the “Marcia” whom the young tribune of African origin, Septimius Severus, married around AD 174, according to the Historia Augusta (Life of Septimius Severus iii. 2). Severus is said to have “let his wife go” (Latin: amissa uxore) and to have remarried, at some undetermined time, but certainly several years before the reign of Commodus turned sour (ibid. iii. 9, cf. iv. 3). The woman referred to under the single name of Marcia in the Historia needed no other title of introduction, and that implies she was the famous, or rather the infamous Marcia, that is, the consort of Commodus. Severus will have “let her go” either to Quadratus, to whom she was both mistress and wife, or to Commodus himself, to whom she was mistress and concubine, or to Eclectus, to whom she was also married after her dalliance with Commodus. Severus’ Marcia was African like Severus, of Punic or Libyan descent. This would explain why Commodus’ Marcia was known in that subsequent period of her life as the “Amazon,” and Commodus himself as the “Amazonian” on account of his obsession with her, since the Amazons were a Libyan tribe. Septimius Severus became emperor a short interval after the death of Commodus. He made no mention of Marcia in his autobiographical writings. Since these were composed with the apparent intent to absolve him of the charge of “cruelty” in his suppression of Clodius Albinus, the remembrance of his association with Marcia, the brutal murderer of Commodus, would doubtless have worked against his purpose. Statues were erected, however, in her honor. One such has been discovered in her native land, in the African town of Lepcis Magna. Her full name was Paccia Marciana, and the inscription reads: “To Paccia Marciana, former wife of our lord Emperor Caesar Lucius Septimius Severus Pius Pertinax Augustus, victor in Arabia, victor in Adiabene, greatest victor in Parthia; the three curiae, Plotina, Nervia and Matidia, set this up.” The common identification of Commodus’ Marcia with one Marcia Aurelia Ceionia Demetrias, commemorated on an inscription from Anagni, southeast of Rome, is based solely on the name, and on a surmise of the historian Mommsen, and should be abandoned.

142. Photius, Myriobiblon 121: “ [Hippolytus, Against Heresies] Read the tractate of Hippolytus, the pupil of Irenaeus, entitled Against the Thirty-two Heresies. It begins with the Dositheans, and goes down to the heresies of Noetus and the Noetians, which he says were refuted by Irenaeus in his lectures, of which the present work is a synopsis. The style is clear, somewhat severe and free from redundancies, although it exhibits no tendency to atticism. Some of the statements are inaccurate, for instance, that the epistle to the Hebrews is not the work of the apostle Paul. Hippolytus is said to have addressed the people after the manner of Origen, with whom he was very intimate and whose writings he so much admired that he urged him to write a commentary on the Bible, for which purpose he supplied, at his own expense, seven shorthand writers and the same number of calligraphists. Having rendered this service, he persistently demanded the work, whence Origen, in one of his letters, calls him a “hustler.” He is said to have written a large number of other works.” Further on the relationship between Hippolytus and Origen (a commanding figure in the ecclesiastical history of the third century AD, and a major influence on the theological course taken by the Eastern churches in their conflict with Rome), Jerome: De Viris Illustribus 61: “HIPPOLYTUS, bishop of some church (the name of the city I have not been able to learn [actually: of Rome — hence the problem of identification]) wrote A reckoning of the Paschal feast and chronological tables which be worked out up to the first year of the Emperor Alexander …. He wrote Some commentaries on the Scriptures, among which are the following: On the six days of creation, On Exodus, On the Song of Songs, On Genesis, On Zechariah, On the Psalms, On Isaiah, On Daniel, On the Apocalypse, On the Proverbs, On Ecclesiastes, On Saul, On the Pythonissa, On the Antichrist, On the resurrection, Against Marcion, On the Passover, Against all heresies, and an exhortation On the praise of our Lord and Savior in which he indicates that he is speaking in the church in the presence of Origen. Ambrosius, who we have said was converted by Origen from the heresy of Marcion, to the true faith, urged Origen to write, in emulation of Hippolytus, commentaries on the Scriptures, offering him seven, and even more secretaries, and their expenses, and an equal number of copyists, and what is still more, with incredible zeal daily exacting work from him, on which account Origen, in one of his epistles, calls him his “Taskmaster.””

143. It is important to observe how, by employing his Heraclitian, pagan, philosophizing, Callistus had now identified the Spirit “WHICH BECAME INCARNATE IN THE VIRGIN” completely with the Father, making a SINGLE prosopon. By this theological sleight the human Jesus was identified as God absolutely, and, to switch the focus onto Jesus’ mother — which seems to have been the bishop’s object here — THE VIRGIN MARY HAD ALREADY BECOME WHAT THE FIRST CHURCH OF ROME STILL BLASPHEMOUSLY PROCLAIMS HER TO BE, THE VERITABLE “MOTHER OF GOD”! It is obvious that there was in operation in Callistus’ system a syncretizing of the Christian Gospel message with the pagan cult of Apollo-Mithras-Attis (“God”, i.e. the sun-god) and of Isis-Anaitis-Cybele, the so-called “Mother of God”, which was favored by the imperial authorities and especially by Victor’s benefactor, Commodus. In orthodox Christianity Christ was both God and Man, and Mary was the mother of the fleshly man (the Son of Man), Jesus, and not, of course, of the divine nature (the Son of God, the Logos) within Him. In the new Callistian heresy, Mary was the mother of both natures, and hence could properly be called the “Mother of God”, for in Callistus’ theory Jesus was God absolutely and without any lesser human admixture in the single prosopon.

144. This translation follows the reading of the text (for the Greek, see Appendix 13 §7), and simply splits the gnômê into two words gnô(i) mê The wanton emendation found in modern editions (gamoiê instead of the gnô mê of the codex) utterly destroys the sense of the original, and represents Hippolytus as a defender of priestly celibacy! The proper, literal, translation is: “But in case any in the ministry might be aware (gnôi) that such [viz. a twice or thrice married person] should not () remain in the ministry, he [Callistus] alleges, as if he had done nothing wrong, that what has been spoken by the Apostle has been declared in reference to this situation: ‘Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant?’” The common translation, following the perverse emendation, runs as follows: “If also, however, any one who is in the ministry should become married [reading Gk. gamoiê (!) instead of the gnômê of the codex)] (he permitted) such a one to continue in the ministry as if he had not sinned, alleging that what has been spoken by the Apostle has been declared in reference to this person: ‘Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant?’” The proper reading, as well as following the text as it stands, appropriately involves two people (viz. the minister who knows the sinfulness of the situation, and the minister who is wrongly ordained) in the conduct condemned by the scripture, which likewise refers to two people (the one who judges and the one judged), whereas the commonly accepted emendation does not.

145. Again, the usual modern emendations are unnecessarily harsh on the text, which only needs to be split correctly to read: kai gar kai gunaixin epetrepsen, ei anandroi eien kai ‘êlikiai te tekaion, ta en axiai (‘ê ‘eautôn, axian ‘ên mê boulointo) kathairein. (This instead of the ridiculous reading … ‘êlikiai te te kaionta enaxia … which makes no sense at all.) In the conditional clause the verbs are optative, so we would expect an optative after the kai following the first optative eien. The questionable phrase follows, but in that we find accordingly an optative tekaion, the third person plural 2d aorist active optative of tiktô (2d aorist indicative 3 p. pl. etekon). We might expect a form like tekeien, but cf. e.g. phênai for phêneie and phênaien or phêneian for phêneien. The more correct form in this case might be tekaien. For the Greek see Appendix 13 §11.

146. The Latin (De Pudicitia I. 6-11): “[6] Aduersus hanc nunc, ne dissimulare potuissem, audio etiam edictum esse propositum, et quidem peremptorium. Pontifex scilicet maximus, episcopus episcoporum, edicit: Ego et moechiae et fornicationis delicta paenitentia functis dimitto. [7] O edictum cui adscribi non poterit: Bonum factum ! Et ubi proponetur liberalitas ista? Ibidem, opinor, in ipsis libidinum ianuis, sub ipsis libidinum titulis. Illic eiusmodi paenitentia promulganda est, ubi delinquentia ipsa uersabitur. Illic legenda est uenia, quo cum spe eius intrabitur. [8] Sed hoc in ecclesia legitur, et in ecclesia pronuntiatur, et uirgo est. Absit, absit a sponsa Christi tale praeconium ! Illa, quae uera est, quae pudica, quae sancta, carebit etiam aurium macula. [9] Non habet, quibus hoc repromittat, et si habuerit, non repromittit, quod et terrenum Dei templum citius spelunca latronum appellari potuit a Domino quam moechorum et fornicatorum. [10] Erit igitur et hic aduersus psychicos titulus, aduersus meae quoque sententiae retro penes illos societatem, quo magis hoc mihi in notam leuitatis obiciant. Numquam societatis repudium delicti praeiudicium. Quasi non facilius sit errare cum pluribus, quando ueritas cum paucis ametur. [11] At enim me non magis dedecorabit utilis leuitas quam ornarit nocens. Non suffundor errore quo carui, quia caruisse delector, quia meliorem me et pudiciorem recognosco.”

147. The Latin De Pudicitia XXI. 9-17: “[9] De tua nunc sententia quaero, unde hoc ius ecclesiae usurpes. Si quia dixerit Petro Dominus : Super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam, tibi dedi claues regni caelestis, uel: Quaecumque alligaueris uel solueris in terra, erunt alligata uel soluta in caelis, idcirco praesumis et ad te deriuasse soluendi et alligandi potestatem, id est ad omnem ecclesiam Petri prouinciam, [10] qualis es, euertens atque commutans manifestam Domini intentionem personaliter hoc Petro conferentem? Super te, inquit, aedificabo ecclesiam meam, et: Dabo tibi claues, non ecclesiae, et: Quaecumque solueris uel alligaueris, non quae soluerint uel alligauerint. [11] Sic enim et exitus docet. In ipso ecclesia extructa est id est per ipsum, ipse clauem imbuit, uides quam: Viri Israelitae, auribus mandate quae dico: Iesum nazarenum uirum a Deo uobis destinatum, et reliqua. [12] Ipse denique primus in Christi baptismo reserauit aditum caelestis regni, quo soluuntur alligata retro delicta et alligantur quae non fuerint soluta, secundum ueram salutem, et Ananiam uinxit uinculo mortis et debilem pedibus absoluit uitio ualetudinis. [13] Sed et in illa disceptatione custodiendae <necne> legis primus omnium Petrus spiritu instinctus et de nationum uocatione praefatus, et nunc, inquit, cur temptastis Dominum de imponendo iugo fratribus, quod neque nos neque patres nostri sufferre ualuerunt? Sed enim per gratiam Iesu credimus nos salutem consecuturos, sicut et illi. [14] Haec sententia et soluit quae omissa sunt legis et alligauit quae reseruata sunt. Adeo nihil ad delicta fidelium capitalia potestas soluendi et alligandi Petro emancipata. [15] Cui si praeceperat Dominus etiam septuagies septies delinquenti in eum fratri indulgere, utique nihil postea alligare id est retinere mandasset, nisi forte ea quae in Dominum, non in fratrem, quis admiserit. Praeiudicatur enim non dimittenda in Deum delicta, cum in homine admissa donantur. [16] Quid nunc et ad ecclesiam et quidem tuam, psychice? Secundum enim Petri personam spiritalibus potestas ista conueniet, aut apostolo aut prophetae. Nam et ipsa ecclesia proprie et principaliter ipse est spiritus, in quo est trinitas unius diuinitatis, Pater et Filius et Spiritus sanctus. Illam ecclesiam congregat quam Dominus in tribus posuit. [17] Atque ita exinde etiam numerus omnis qui in hanc fidem conspirauerint ecclesia ab auctore et consecratore censetur. Et ideo ecclesia quidem delicta donabit, sed ecclesia spiritus per spiritalem hominem, non ecclesia numerus episcoporum. Domini enim, non famuli est ius et arbitrium; Dei ipsius, non sacerdotis.” Tertullian was a believer in “traducianism” (De Anima, De Carne Christi), viz. the theory that the soul, the individual sentient life-force, is inherited at birth along with the physical body, from the original founder of the human race Adam, into whom it was infused originally by God. That would be merely an intriguing topic for debate if it was restricted to the realm of anthropology, but when mixed, as in Tertullian’s system, with the theology of incarnation it became rational justification for the Artemonism or dynamic Monarchianism which Tertullian had clearly absorbed when he was a member of the heretical First Church of Rome in its earlier Artemonite phase. For Tertullian believed that Christ, being the Son of God, did not receive a soul from Adam by inheritance, but received from His heavenly Father directly the Spirit of God Himself as his soul. He also received His physical body, Tertullian taught, from the flesh of Mary’s womb. The latter would have meant Christ inherited original sin, though Tertullian seems to have been blithely unaware of the fact. The former belief would have meant Christ had no actual human soul of His own, and that His fleshly body was animated wholly and solely by Tertullian’s Trinitarian God. This is the Dynamic Monarchian position, that the Trinitarian God, the single Monarchian Being, variously termed Father, Son and Holy Spirit, either ousted Christ’s human soul at the Baptism of John, or otherwise (as in Tertullian’s system) entered his fleshly body in place of the human soul. This was the heresy condemned by Origen, according to Pamphilus (Apology for Origen 33): “Moreover, not without danger may those be associated with the Church’s membership who say that the Lord Jesus was a man, foreknown and predestined, who before his coming in the flesh had no substantial and proper existence, but that, because he was born human, he possessed only the deity of the Father within him.” The eternal “Trinity” with three “aspects” (lit. faces, Gk. prosopa) thus manifest in Jesus, according to Tertullian, was a product of the earliest strand of Gnosticism formulated by Simon Magus, and it was his formulation which engendered the Docetic and Psilanthropic (Artemonite) theories. Already in Simon’s system the Father, or rather “Unknown Father” (a higher being than the God of the Jews), was manifested under the denomination “Son” to the Jews in the form (and therefore with the face) of Jesus of Nazareth, and to the Samaritans as the Father himself, in the form (and face) of Simon Magus, whilst the Father’s “Mind” (Ennoia), his female side or “Consort”, the Holy Spirit, was manifested on earth as the “lost sheep” (and with the face of) Helena, the prostitute from Tyre whom Simon “came down” to redeem and with whom he had sexual relations. Simon (the Father/Son) was worshiped in the form of an idol of Zeus (Jupiter) and Helena (the Holy Spirit) as Athena (Minerva). We see then that Tertullian separated from the First Church, not principally on account of his Montanist “revivalism”, for which he was ultimately dependent on the ministries of the disciples of John, secondarily filtered through the Phrygian extremism of Montanus, but on account of the movement of the First Church away from Artemonism and towards Noetian Monarchianism of the Docetic variety. It is adherents of the latter position, particularly those intimately associated with the First Church of Rome, that Tertullian targets in his principal works. From Tertullian the same heretical theology as well as the factitious pseudo-asceticism of the Montanists, was passed down to Cyprian, who was a Tertullianist rather than a Montanist ipso nomine, calling Tertullian his “master”, and to Novatus, who became loosely associated, and then totally confused, with the orthodox and evangelical Novatian of the Second Church. The Novatianists were the inheritors of the mantle of “ditheism” (as their enemies liked to call the orthodox doctrine of the godhead) which fell from the departing Elijah Hippolytus on his Elisha Novatian, and then on the evangelicals of Gaul like Hilarius, the teacher of Martin of Tours, and the Cappadocian Fathers in his circle. The Artemonism of Tertullian and the African school found a vociferous advocate in Paul of Samosata in Syria, whose Artemonism was adopted and adapted in turn by Arius of Alexandria. After the Arian controversy and the Council of Nicea, which rejected Arius’ novelties and established the Dynamic Monarchian homoousios of Paul of Samosata in the East and the Modalist Monarchian homoousios in the West, the “ditheists” were more popularly dismissed as “Semi-Arians”, because the confusion of Novatus and Novatian associated them rather with the Artemonism of Paul of Samosata. Far into the Dark Ages the label “Cathari” (applied originally to pseudo-ascetic Montanists like Novatus) was slapped broadly on the “Semi-Arians” of Hilarius, Martin, and the Celtic Christians evangelized by them in the West, provoking their persecution as if they were adherents of the Magian dualism of the primitive heretics.

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