Featured Post

Saints and Feasts of May 25

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

A Biography of Saint Epiphanios of Salamis


EPIPHANIUS, bishop of Salamis, in the island of Cyprus, and one of the most zealous champions of orthodox faith and monastic piety, was born at Besanduke, a village near Eleutheropolis in Palestine. The year of his birth is unknown, but seeing that in A.D. 392, twelve years before his death, he was already an aged man, we may conjecturally set the date of his nativity in some year of the decade between A.D. 310 and A.D. 320. Much of his early lifetime was spent among the monks of Egypt, among whom he not only acquired a burning zeal for ecclesiastical orthodoxy and the new forms of ascetic life then coming into favour, but also came for the first time into contact with various kinds of heretics. It is probably a reminiscence of his life in Egypt, when he tells us that in his early youth, Gnostic ladies of seductive beauty had endeavoured to obtain his adhesion to their sect and given him some of their books to read. But the youthful anchorite, successfully resisting all temptations, revealed the matter to the bishops of the neighbourhood, and caused an investigation to be set on foot, which resulted in the banishment of eighty persons (Haer. xxvi. 17). At twenty years of age he returned home and built a monastery near Besanduke, of which he himself undertook the direction. It appears that he was ordained presbyter by Eutychius, then bishop of Eleutheropolis. With St. Hilarion, the founder of Palestinian monasticism, Epiphanius early stood in intimate relation, and at a time when the great majority of Oriental bishops favoured Arian or semi-Arian views, adhered with unshaken fidelity to the Nicene faith, and its persecuted champions, Eusebius of Vercelli and Paulinus of Antioch, whom Constantius had banished from their sees. In A.D. 367 he was elected bishop of Constantia in Cyprus, the ancient Salamis, where, for six and thirty years, he discharged the episcopal office with the like zeal to that with which he had presided over his monastery in Palestine. Under his influence the whole island was soon covered with monastic institutions. With the monks of Palestine, and especially those of his own monastery at Eleutheropolis, he continued as bishop to hold uninterrupted communication; and these last were unwearied in their efforts to extend his renown for piety, orthodoxy, and learning. It soon came to pass that people consulted him on all important questions of doctrine and discipline, and Epiphanius found no difficulty in convincing himself that a watchman of the church must reckon it among his duties to let his voice be heard in all the controversies of the time. Some years after his elevation to the episcopate, he addressed a letter to the faithful in Arabia, in defence of the perpetual virginity of Mary, which was afterwards incorporated, almost without alteration in his great work, Against all Heresies. {Haer. lxxviii.)

Soon after this several presbyters of Suedra, in Pamphylia, invoked his assistance in their controversy with Arians and Macedonians, by drawing up for them a detailed exposition of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.

Similar applications were at the same time made to him from various other quarters; by an Egyptian Christian, for instance, named Hypatius, who himself undertook a journey to Salamis for that purpose, and by a presbyter, Conops, apparently a Pisidian, who, in his own name, and that of his co-presbyters, sought instruction from Epiphanius in reference to a long series of disputed doctrines. This was the origin of his Ancoratus published in the year 374 A.D., being an exposition of the true faith, as it had from the beginning been taught in the church, which, anchor-like, might fix the minds of its readers, and save them from being tossed about by the malice of Satan amid the stormy waves of heresy.

A similar occasion gave the impulse to his great heresiological work, written in the years 374 to 376 or 377 A.D., the so-called Panarion, on which his fame as a combater of heresy chiefly rests. He wrote this work at the request of Acacius and Paulus, two presbyters and heads of monasteries in Coele-Syria, and in it attacks with like zeal the numerous Gnostic sects of the second and third centuries, and the ecclesiastical opposition of his own time, Arians, semi-Arians, Macedonians, Apollinarians, Origenists, whose various opinions he regards as so many corruptions of the true faith, as it had been handed down from the apostles themselves. But a merely literary activity could not satisfy his pious zeal; we find him also embracing every opportunity of personally opposing what appeared to him soul-destroying error. So, about the year 376 A.D., we find him taking an active part in the Apollinarian controversies. Vitalis, a presbyter of Antioch, had been consecrated bishop by Apollinaris himself; whereupon Epiphanius undertook a journey to Antioch for the purpose of recalling Vitalis from his error, and reconciling him to the orthodox bishop Paulinus. His utmost efforts, however, proved unsuccessful. Though not himself present at the oecumenical council of Constantinople, A.D. 381, which ensured the triumph of the Nicene doctrine in the Oriental churches, his shorter confession of faith, which is found at the end of his Ancoratus (c. 120), and seems to have been the baptismal creed of the church of Salamis, agrees almost word for word with the Constantinopolitan formula. He took no part in the synod held at Constantinople in the following year, A.D. 382; but towards the end of that year we find him associated with St. Jerome, Paulinus of Antioch, and the three legates of that synod, at a council held under bishop Damasus at Rome, which appears to have dealt with the Meletianic and Apollinarian controversies. During his residence in the Eternal City he was domiciled at the house of the elder Paula, who, under the spiritual guidance of St. Jerome, had dedicated her ample fortune to the support of the poor and sick, and be seems to have strengthened her in her resolution to forsake home and children in order to lead an ascetic life at a great distance from Rome. At the beginning of the following spring, when the bishops were returning to their sees, Paula also went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. On her voyage to Syria she stayed with Epiphanius in Salamis, remaining there about ten days. Somewhat later St. Jerome also came to visit Epiphanius, on his return from Rome and way to Bethlehem, bringing with him a train of monks to Cyprus, to salute "the father of almost the whole episcopate, the last relic of ancient piety." From this time onward we find Epiphanius in almost unbroken intercourse with St. Jerome. In alliance with this father he began in the last years of his life those miserable Origenistic controversies, in which monkish fanaticism combined with personal hatreds and jealousies, to brand with heresy the greatest theologian of the primitive church. Epiphanius had indeed already, in his Ancorattu (c. 54), and still more copiously in his Panarion, attacked Origen as the ancestor of the Arian heresy, in a most violent manner. It has been conjectured that Epiphanius in his early years, when among the Egyptian monks, had been already filled with horror at the erroneous doctrines of Origen himself. In confirmation of this view appeal has been made to what is related in the Vita Pachomii (Boll. Acta Sanctorum, Maii, torn. iii. Appendix, p. 25 sqq.), that St. Pachomius had not only forbidden his monks to read the writings of Origen, but even to have any intercourse with those who did so. But this was probably a mere invention for the sake of ascribing to the founder of Egyptian monasticism the glowing hatred with which St. Jerome and his circle were afterwards inspired towards the great theologian. It is contradicted by the fact of the extreme reverence in which Origen was held by these very monks of Egypt in the times of Epiphanius and St. Jerome. It is far more probable that the zealous confidence with which the Arians were wont to appeal to Origen in support of their doctrine directed the attention of Epiphanius to the writings of the great Alexandrine father, and in them, though held in the highest esteem by Athanasius himself, to detect the hidden sources of Arian pravity. Incapable as he was of impartially estimating the various sides of Origen's speculative theology, Epiphanius seems to have fixed his whole attention on those passages which appear to teach the creaturely nature of the Son, and which in reality did emphasize His filial subordination to the Father in a stronger way than later orthodoxy found admissible.

Origen's predilection for Hellenic philosophy he regarded as the source of all kinds of error, as well as his audacious undertaking to explain the mysterious doctrines of Holy Scripture. He had also a particular aversion from Origen's allegorical interpretations and the whole idealizing tendency of his speculation, which seemed to Epiphanius to destroy the reality of the objective facts of Christian faith. The resurrection of the flesh, for instance, that is of our mundane corporeity, was zealously maintained by Epiphanius against the spiritualistic conception of Origen.

St. Jerome himself had originally belonged, like the friend of his youth Rufinus, and John, bishop of Jerusalem, to the warmest admirers of the great Alexandrine father. But, attacked as he now was, with remonstrances from different sides, he began out of anxiety for his own reputation for orthodoxy to separate himself with the utmost care from the heresies with which he was charged on this account.

Epiphanius, moreover, on hearing that Origenism had made its appearance in Palestine himself hastened thither, in advanced old age (a.d. 394), to crush at once and on the spot the odious heresy. His appearance sufficed to drive the ci-devant Origenist, St. Jerome, into the camp of the opposition, and into the bitterest enmity with his old friends, who with greater independence of character refused even now to repudiate their old attachment. Epiphanius, received with all honours by the bishop of Jerusalem, proceeded at once to abuse the rights of hospitality by preaching in the most violent manner in the Church of the Resurrection. Bishop John, after listening for a time in silence, and expressing by gestures only his disapproval, sent at last his archdeacon to the preacher to beg him to abstain from speaking further on these topics. The sermon being over, Epiphanius, as he walked by the side of John to the Church of the Holy Cross, was thronged by the people, as St. Jerome tells us, who pressed upon him from all sides with tokens of veneration; those thought themselves happy who were able to touch the hem of his garment or to kiss his feet. Mothers held up their little ones before him to receive his blessing. The throng at last became so great that Epiphanius stood still. This homage was possibly spontaneous or possibly artificial; however that might be, bishop John, irritated as he was by the sermon, evidently preached against himself, reproached Epiphanius for the vanity and self-conceit which he shewed in not leaving the spot where these honours were pressed upon him, and afterwards availed himself of the next opportunity to preach for his part against certain simple and uneducated persons who represented God to themselves in human form and corporeity. Whereupon Epiphanius rose, and expressing his full concurrence with what John had said, went on to declare that it was quite as necessary to repudiate the heresies of Origen as that of the Anthropomorphists. He then hastened to join his friend Jerome at Bethlehem, and required the monks of that community to renounce at once all church-fellowship with the bishop of Jerusalem: they, on the other hand, entreated him unanimously to return to John. Epiphanius yielded, and went back to Jerusalem the same evening, but immediately regretting the step he had taken, and without so much as speaking to the bishop, he left Jerusalem again at midnight, and betook himself to his old monastery of Eleutheropolis. From these quarters he continued to press the monks of Bethlehem, with demands to renounce church fellowship with the Origenist bishop John, and finally availed himself of the occasion provided by a deputation, sent to him from Bethlehem, to ordain as presbyter, in a somewhat violent manner, St. Jerome's brother Paulinianus, and impose him on the community, as one who should in future administer the sacraments among them. This intrusion into the rights of another bishop Epiphanius endeavoured subsequently to excuse in a letter to bishop John, as an act of Christian charity supplying a spiritual want long felt by the community at Bethlehem, and even on the ground that the ordination had taken place in a monastery, exempt from his episcopal jurisdiction. He also alleged that he had himself empowered his neighbour bishops in the isle of Cyprus to give priests' orders in his absence, in the remoter portions of his diocese. As might be expected, these and the like excuses were far from satisfying the bishop of Jerusalem, who reported to other bishops this violation of the ecclesiastical canons, and, at the same time threatened the monks of Bethlehem with severe ecclesiastical penalties so long as they should recognise Paulinianus as their presbyter, or persist in their present separation. While Epiphanius and Jerome continued to insist on bishop John publicly purging himself of Origenistic heresy, the latter proceeded to invoke the mediation of Theophilus, bishop of Alexandria. Theophilus' legate, a presbyter, named Isidore, openly sided with bishop John, and Theophilus himself, who at that time was reckoned among the friends of Origen, designated Epiphanius, in a letter to the bishop of Rome, as a heretic and schismatic.

According to another account, he accused him, as well as bishop John, of Anthropomorphism. Certain is it, that Epiphanius received in this controversy little or no support from other bishops. He returned to his Cyprian diocese, and was followed thither by his newly ordained presbyter Paulinianus. In this way, the main point in dispute between bishop John and the monks of Jerusalem was set at rest, and St. Jerome himself found it prudent to renew provisionally church communion with the bishop of Jerusalem, and with his old friend Rufinus. In the subsequent renewal of personal strife between St. Jerome and Rufinus, Epiphanius took no part. On the other hand, a few years after the close of the first Origenist controversy he found himself involved in much more unpleasant transactions. Among the monks of Egypt, the controversy between Anthropomorphists and Origenists continued to rage, and found no end. Theophilus of Alexandria having, in the year A.D. 398, directed a Paschal epistle against the Anthropomorphists, a wild army of monks from the wilderness of Scete rushed into Alexandria, and so frightened the bishop that he thought his life depended on immediate concession. From that time and onwards Theophilus suddenly appeared as a violent opponent of Origen. In the paschal epistle of the following year, A.D. 399, he hastened to controvert the heresies of Origen in the most violent manner. Personal quarrels with his old friend Isidore, and with the so-called "Long Brothers," Dioscurus, Ammonius, Eusebius and Euthymius, who all enjoyed, on account of their piety and learning, the highest esteem amongst monks of Origenist proclivities, were added to the causes of strife, and inflamed the wrath of the passionate and violent bishop. Isidore and two of the "Long Brothers" had found a refuge among the monks of the Nitrian mountains. Theophilus followed them into the wilderness, assembled there a number of bishops, who under his influence condemned them as erroneous teachers, and persuaded the secular authorities to issue a decree for the banishment of Origenists.

About three hundred monks are said, at that time, in order to escape the violence of Theophilus, to have fled from Egypt. An Alexandrian synod, at which Theophilus presided, confirmed this condemnation of Origenist heresies. But the zeal of the patriarch was not even herewith satisfied. He not only continued to abuse Origen in his Paschal letters, but reporting at once to foreign bishops what had been done in Alexandria, he required them to condemn the heresies of Origen in similar terms. A synodical letter addressed to the bishops of Palestine and Cyprus (first published by Vallarsi in his edition of St. Jerome—Hieronym. Opp. torn. i. Ep. 92, p. 557) contains a long list of errors in doctrine said to have been discovered in the works of Origen. Similar writings were also sent to the bishop of Rome and other heads of the church. Theophilus wrote to Jerome that, mindful of the apostle's exhortation, "rebuke them sharply," he had with prophetic sickle cut down the adherents of the Origenist heresy, and Jerome answered in triumphant strain—"The old serpent hisses no longer, crushed and disembowelled; she has crept away into caves of darkness." Still greater joy was expressed by Epiphanius that in his extreme old age such happiness had befallen him, and to see what he had always himself maintained now confirmed and established by the witness of so just a bishop. "Know, my beloved son," he writes to Jerome, "that Amalek is destroyed to the very root; on the hill of Rephidim has been erected the banner of the cross. God has strengthened the hands of His servant Theophilus as once He did those of Moses." The aged bishop was soon to be drawn yet more deeply into these transactions. The bishops now began from all sides to lift up their voice against the heresies of Origen. A synod assembled at Jerusalem promised Theophilus to receive none of those whom he had condemned as Origenists into communion till he himself had removed the anathemas (cf. the synodal letter printed also for the first time by Vallarsi in Hieronym. Opp. tom, i. p. 549). Dionysius, bishop of Lydda, wrote to congratulate him on the accomplished work (loc. cit. p. 551). Anastasius also, bishop of Rome, and several other bishops of the West, expressed their readiness to put Origenism under the ban.

The persecuted Origenists had in the first instance hoped to find a place of refuge in Palestine, but even John of Jerusalem was now afraid to receive them, whereupon some of them, Isidore, for example, and the "Long Brothers," fled to Constantinople, where they presented to the patriarch, St. John Chrysostom, a formal complaint in writing against Theophilus. Chrysostom endeavoured to persuade them to withdraw their complaint, and meanwhile refused to admit them to the Mysteries till the matter had been decided by a synod, according them, at the same time, a friendly reception, and intervening on their behalf with Theophilus A.D. 401. But Theophilus, irritated by false reports, replied with an anathema against Dioscuros, and accused his colleague in Constantinople of acting against the canons, in setting himself up as judge in the affairs of another province, whereupon the "Long Brothers" presented their complaint to the empress Eudoxia, who called upon the bishop of Alexandria to answer in person for himself at Constantinople. Theophilus made the most strenuous efforts to gain the assistance of the aged Epiphanius. He had already, on hearing of the arrival of the monks in Constantinople, called upon Epiphanius to pass judgment upon Origen and his worthless heresy, by means of a Cypriot synod, to inform the bishops of the neighbouring provinces of what had taken place in Egypt, and, above all, to forward the Alexandrine synodal decree to Constantinople by the hands of a trustworthy messenger. Epiphanius complied with his usual zeal, assembled a synod, at which he prohibited the works of Origen, and called on Chrysostom to do the same. He was then moved by Theophilus, as an ancient combatant of heresy, to appear personally at Constantinople, while Theophilus intentionally delayed his own departure. The astute plan succeeded. In the winter of the year 402 A.D. Epiphanius set sail for the imperial city, convinced that only his appearance was required to destroy the last remains of the Origenistic poison. Meanwhile a party at court, which had long been displeased with Chrysostom 's administration, were earnestly endeavouring to make use of the opportunity for deposing the stern detector of moral evils. This opportunity appeared to be given by the arrival of a bishop with such a name for piety as Epiphanius. The object was to make use of the approaching council in order to pass judgment less upon Theophilus than upon Chrysostom himself. Full of suspicion against the protector of the Origenistic heretics, Epiphanius, accompanied by several of his clergy, landed in the neighbourhood of Constantinople. His first step was, at the request of some fanatical monks of the party of Theophilus, to ordain a deacon in a monastic church. Notwithstanding this breach of the canons Chrysostom sent the whole of his clergy to give him the most honourable reception possible at the gates of the city, with a friendly invitation to take up his abode in the episcopal residence. This was rudely refused by the passionate old man, who declared himself unable to hold church communion with Chrysostom until he had expelled the "Long Brothers" from the metropolis, and had subscribed a condemnation of the writings of Origen. This Chrysostom gently declined with reference to the synod about to be holden, whereupon Epiphanius at once assembled the bishops, who had already gathered in considerable numbers at Constantinople, laid before them the decrees of his own provincial council against the writings of Origen, and required them all to subscribe them. Some of the bishops present consented willingly to do this, others, on the other hand, like the Scythian bishop, Theotimus, steadfastly refused. Whereupon the opponents of Chrysostom urged Epiphanius to come forward at the service in the Church of the Apostles, and openly before all the people to preach against Origen, the Origenists, and Chrysostom, as their protector. The latter, however, received timely notice of these intentions, and warned Epiphanius to abstain before it was too late from his passionate undertaking. The honest zealot may by this time have begun to suspect that he was but a tool in the hands of others. On his very way to the church he turned back, and soon after, at a meeting with the "Long Brothers," was obliged to confess that he had passed judgment upon them on hearsay evidence only, and, growing weary of the miserable business, determined to return home as soon as possible. A legend says that he bade farewell to the bishops who accompanied him to the ship with the words, "I leave you the city, the imperial palace, and their hypocrisies." According to another narrative, he sent a message to Chrysostom before his departure, "I hope thou wilt not die a bishop," to which the other replied, "I hope thou wilt not return home." Unhistorical as this narrative may be, it clothes in the form of two prophecies the fates which befell them both. Chrysostom soon after this, at the instance of the empress, was deposed from his see of Constantinople by a synod composed of his personal enemies, and presided over by Theophilus. Epiphanius died on board ship before he reached home in the spring of A.D. 403.

The end of the controversy proved how little it had to do with any real interests of faith. Theophilus, having once gratified his thirst for revenge, made up his quarrel with the banished monks.

The character of Epiphanius is well illustrated by these last transactions. An honest, but credulous and narrow-minded zealot for church orthodoxy, and notwithstanding the veneration in which he was held by episcopal colleagues, and still more in monastic circles, he was often found promoting divisions, where a more moderate course would have enabled him to maintain the peace of the churches. His violence of temper too often led him, especially in the Origenistic controversies, into an ill-considered and uncanonical line of conduct; and the narrowminded spirit with which he was wont to deal with controverted questions contributed in no small degree to impose more and more oppressive fetters on the scientific theology of his time. His contemporaries, nevertheless, regarded him as an ideal of ecclesiastical piety. His charity to the poor was loudly praised, it went so far that when his own means failed he distributed without hesitation the rich possessions of his church among them. It is related that once when all had been given away, and his steward was complaining of such prodigality, an unknown benefactor suddenly appeared with a sack full of gold pieces. In practical life he often manifested that sound common sense which in theological conflicts too frequently failed him. It is related for instance how, on one occasion, he rebuked the ascetic zeal of St. Hilarion by a word of genuine evangelical spirit. Hilarion, at a common meal, had refused to partake of some fish which was offered him, alleging that he never partook of anything that had life. "And I," said Epiphanius, "since I commenced monastic life have never suffered any one to go to rest with any ground of offence on his mind against me." "Thy rule, my father," replied Hilarion, "is better than mine."

Less success had he with the elder Paula, whom, at St. Jerome's instance, he vainly endeavoured to persuade to relieve her physical infirmities by the use of a little wine. On Jerome's asking him what he had accomplished, his reply was, "Only this, that she nearly persuaded an aged man to abstain likewise from the use of wine." In opposition to the attempts that were then being made to enlist pictorial art in tho service of the church, Epiphanius maintained the full puritanical rigour of primitive times. Having entered on one occasion a village church in Palestine he found a curtain adorned with a picture of Christ or some saint; in sudden anger he tore it in pieces, and then promised the local presbyter to send him another curtain in its place. It was natural, therefore, that in the iconoclastic controversies of a later time the image breakers appealed to the example of St. Epiphanius.

His learning was much celebrated, he was said to have spoken five languages, Hebrew, Syriac, Egyptian, Greek, and also a little Latin, for which Rufinus satirised him with the remark that he thought it his duty as an evangelist to speak evil of Origen, among all nations and in all tongues.

His frequent journeys and extensive reading enabled him to collect a large but ill-arranged store of historical information, and this he used with much ingenuity in defending the church orthodoxy of his time, and opposing every kind of heresy. But as a man attached to dry literal formulas he exercised really very small influence on dogmatic theology, and his theological polemics were more distinguished by pious zeal than by impartial judgment and penetrating intelligence. He is fond of selecting single particulars, in which to exhibit the abominable nature of the errors he is combating. When one bears in mind that his whole life was occupied in the Origenistic controversy, his refutation of the doctrine of the Alexandrine theologian is quite astoundingly superficial, a few meagre utterances detached from their context, and in part thoroughly misunderstood, is all that he has to give us by way of characterising the object of his detestation, and yet at the same time he boasted of having read no less than 6,000 of Origen's works, a much larger number, as Rufinus remarks, than the man had written. His credulity allows the most absurd relations to be imposed upon it; a heretic was capable of any abomination, nor did he think it at all necessary quietly to examine the charges made. He nevertheless enjoys the fame of having been, if not the most powerful champion of orthodoxy, yet certainly the most learned opponent of heretical pravities in his time, and one who, however deficient in critical acumen and orderly arrangement, had collected an enormous material for his purpose. In the eyes of contemporaries, his credulity and want of criticism detracted as little from his credit as the passionate violence of his mode of action.

The whole age regarded him as a saint; wherever he appeared, he found himself surrounded by troops of admiring disciples, and crowds waited for hours to hear him preach. Already in his lifetime all kinds of miracles were said to have been worked by him, and immediately after his death rumour said that demons had been exorcised and sick persons healed beside his grave.

His biography, written in the name of Polybius, an alleged companion of the saint (printed in the editions of Epiphanius by Petavius and Dindorf), is little more than a collection of such legends. His day in the calendar is the 12th of May.

Among the writings of Epiphanius the two most important are the Ancoratus and Panarion already mentioned. The Ancoratus comprises in 121 sections a prolix exposition, full of repetitions, of the doctrine of the Trinity, as well as of those of the true humanity of Christ and of the resurrection of the body, with a constant polemic against Origen and the heresiarchs of his own time, especially Arians, Sabellians, Pneumatomachi, and Dimoirites (Apollinarians). The whole is concluded with the Nicene creed in a twofold form with various additions. Epiphanius having had no theology peculiar to himself, this work has no other interest for us than as a witness to the orthodoxy of its time. The Panarion is of much greater importance. It is so called as being a kind of medicine chest, in which he had collected means of healing against the poisonous bite of the heretical serpent. It embraces in three books, which again are divided* into seven sections, not less than 8O heresies. The catalogue of heresies is essentially the same as that which he had already given in his Ancoratus (chap. 11 and 12). He begins with not less than 20 heresies existing at the time of our Lord's birth; Barbarism, Scythianism, Hellenism, Judaism, Samaritanism. The last three divide again, each into several heresies; Hellenism and Samaritanism into four each, Judaism into seven, making 20 in all. Then follow 60 heresies after the birth of Christ, from the Simonians to the Massalians, and among them some which, according to the acknowledgment of Epiphanius himself, are not to be reckoned so much as heresies as acts of schism. Otherwise, every variation from the orthodoxy of the time is in his view a heresy. The extraordinary division of pre-Christian heresies is founded on a passage he often quotes (Col. iii. 11), Barbarism lasted from Adam to Noah, Scythianism from the time of Noah to the migration of Peleg and Reu to Scythia. Hellenism, he thinks, sprang up under Serug, understanding thereby idolatry proper. With regard to the various Greek schools of philosophy, which he regards as particular heresies belonging to Hellenism, and offers a complete list of them in the conclusion of his work, he shews himself but poorly informed. His communications, likewise, concerning the various Jewish sects are for the most part worthless; and what he says of the Nazarenes and Ossenes (Haer. xviii. and xix.) is derived purely from respectable but misunderstood narratives concerning the Ebionites and Elkesaites. The accounts he gives of the Jewish Christian, and Gnostic sects of the 2nd and 3rd centuries exhibit a marvellous mixture of valuable traditions with misunderstandings and fancies of his own. His pious zeal to excel all heresiologues who had gone before him, by completing the list of heretics, led him into the strangest misunderstandings, the most adventurous combinations, and arbitrary assertions. He often frames out of very meagre hints long and special narratives. The strangest phenomena are combined with total absence of criticism, and things which evidently belonged together are arbitrarily separated. On the other hand he often copies his authorities, with slavish dependence on them, and so puts it in the power of critical commentators to collect it rich abundance of genuine traditions from what seemed a worthless mass. For the section extending from Heresies xiii. to lvii. from Dositheus to Noetus, he used as clue a writing now lost, but of very great importance, which is also made use of by a contemporary writer, Philastrius of Brixia, the work namely of Hippolytus, Against all Heresies. Besides this he made use of the well-known book against heresies by Irenaeus of Lyons, as a welcome mine of information. The narratives derived from both sources are often pieced together in very mechanical fashion, and hence frequent repetitions and contradictory statements are found perpetually.

In addition to these two main authorities, he had at his command many original works of heretics themselves and numerous oral traditions derived from trustworthy witnesses. Very valuable are the extracts given from an old Valentinian work {Haer. xxxi.); the Epistle of Ptolemaeus to Flora, which is quoted entire {Haer. xxxiii"), and the copious extracts from Marcion's gospel {Haer. xlii.). For his section against the Montanists {Haer. xlviii.) he makes use of an anonymous controversial work of great antiquity, from which Eusebius also {H. E. v. 17) gives large extracts; in his article on the Alogi {Haer. li.) he probably makes use of the work of Porphyry against the Christians. In the section Against Origen {Haer. xliv.) copious extracts are introduced from the work of Methodius On the Resurrection.

Several notices of heretical parties existing in Epiphanius's own time are derived from his own observation. The last main division of the Panarion {Haer. lxv. to lxxx.), which takes special care to note the different opinions of Arians, semi-Arians, Photinians, Marcellians, Pneumatomachi, Aerians, Aetians, Apollinarists, or Dimoirites, is one of the most important contemporary authorities for the history of the Trinitarian and Christological controversies since the beginning of the 4th century. Although a fanatical partisan, and therefore not always to be relied on in his statements, Epiphanius speaks almost everywhere from his own knowledge, and moreover enhances the value of his representations by the literal communication of important documents. Of far inferior value to these historical sections are the refutations of various heresies attempted by Epiphanius. Apart from his strange fancy for calling his adversaries by the names of various animals, he has acquitted himself in a marvellous fashion in all kinds of fanatical terms of abuse, misrepresentation of opinions, and attacks on character. He takes particular pleasure in describing real or alleged licentious excesses on the part of heretics; his refutations proper contain sometimes really successful strokes of argument, but are for the most part weak and unhappy. The conclusion of the whole work is formed by the section On Faith, a glorifying description of the Holy Catholic Church, its faith, its manners, and its ordinances. This description is of great and manifold significance for the history of the church of that time. Each section is preceded by a short summary. An Anakephalaiosis, probably the work of Epiphanius himself (preceded by a short extract from an epistle of Epiphanius to Acacius and Paulng, and followed by an extract from the section setting forth the Catholic faith), is itself an almost literal repetition of the contents of these summaries. This Anakephalaiosis, a work made use of by St. Augustine and St. John Damascene, seems to have circulated as an independent writing in a similar way to the x. book of the Philosophumena and the summary added to Hippolytus's Syntagma against all heresies, and preserved in a Latin translation in the Praescriptioms of Tertullian. Of another somewhat more copious epitome, occupying in some measure a mid-position between the brevity of the Anakephalaiosis and the details of the Panarion, a large fragment has been recently published by Dindorf from a Paris MS., No. 854, in his edition of Epiphanius, vol. i. pp. 339-369, from a transcript made by Fr. Duebners (cf. also the various readings given by Dindorf from a Cod. Cryptoferrar. vol. iii. p. 2, praef. pp. iv. to xii.).

Among the other writings of Epiphanius should first be mentioned his book, De mensuris, et ponderibus {written in the consulate of Arcadius and Rufinus, A.d. 392. The title is unsuitable, inasmuch as only the smallest part of the work gives any account of biblical weights and measures. This work is a somewhat irregular collection of different notices, serving to introduce the reader to the Greek Bible of the Old Testament, with remarks on the accents and critical and grammatical signs concerning the origin of the Septuagint, the translations of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, the Hexapla of Origen, etc. The section on the Greek version of the Old Testament was published by Montfaucon as a work by itself, with the help of two manuscripts {Prolegg. ad Orig. Hexapla, p. 77 sqq.), and also by Dindorf (vol. iv. part i. praef. p. viii. sqq.). The treatise De Gemmis, that is, concerning the 12 jewels in the breastplate of the Jewish high priest, is preserved in only two Greek extracts, the one first published by Conrad Gessner (Zurich, 1565), the other in the Quaestiones of Anastasius Sinaita (chap, xl.), and in an old Latin version, incomplete towards the end, first published by Foggini at Rome (a.d. 1743). This treatise, which is preceded by an epistle of Epiphanius to bishop Diodorus of Tyre, contains bits of information concerning names, origin, nature, and uses of the different precious stones, together with all manner of spiritualisations.

Further, there are two letters of Epiphanius in reference to the Origenist controversy, one, longer, addressed to John of Jerusalem; the other, shorter, to Jerome, preserved in a Latin version made by that father (found in the best form in Vallarsi's edition of St. Jerome). Among his lost writings must be reckoned an Eulogium on St. Hilarion, of which Jerome makes mention. Of doubtful origin is the so-called Physiologus, a short treatise on the nature of beasts, and with somewhat tasteless pious meditations (Pitra, Spicilegittm Solismense, vol. iii, Paris, 1855).

Cassiodorus {de Inst. div. Literar. Opp. ed. Venet. torn. ii. p. 513) mentions a commentary by Epiphanius on the Song of Songs, of which he had caused a Latin translation to be made. This work is supposed to be identical with the mystical interpretation of the Song first published by Foggini, from a Vat ican Codex, Rome, 1750. But of this work there also exists another somewhat amplified redaction, bearing the name of Philo of Carpathus, one of Epiphanius's suffragan bishops, first published with the Latin translation of Stephanus Salutus, Paris, 1537, and nfterwards by (iiacomelli, Rome, 1772. Further are ascribed to Epiphanins the following works: A fragment of An Exposition of the Gospel of St. John (in Combefis Auctar. S'oriss. Bi >l. 1'atr. tom, i. p. 300). Seventeen Apophthegmata (in Cotelerii Monumenta £ccl. Graec. t. i. p. 426) and a lately discovered tractate, containing under 102 heads a collection of passages from the Old Testament, in which the author found the history of our Lord, announced beforehand (Opusculum S. Epiphanii de Uitina Incarnatione, ed. Steph. Ant. Morcellus, Mutinae, 1828). Unquestionably spurious is the work De Vitis Prophetarum, which is full of fables, and nearly related to that of Pseudo-Dorotheus, concerning the prophets and disciples of the Lord (recently published by H. A. Hamaker, Amsterdam, 1833). And so are likewise eight homilies attributed to Epiphanius.

The Editio Princeps is that of Basle, edited for the printer, Joh. Hervagius, by Job. Oporinus, 1544. This edition contains the Panarion with Anacephalaeosis, the Ancoratus, and De Mensuris et Ponderibus. The first part of the MS. used by Oporinus, sent him from Erfurt by Joh. Lange, is now lost. It contained the Panarion up to p. 604, of Petavius's edition. The second part of the MS. remains in the university library at Jena. It was written in the year 1304. The same MS. had before Oporinus been already made use of by Janus Cornarius for his Latin translation of Epiphanius, Basle, 1543. The second edition of Epiphanius is that prepared by the learned Jesuit, Dionysius Petavius, Paris, 1622, in two volumes. It contains the Greek text with a new Latin translation, and numerous and still valuable Latin notes. To the writings contained in the editio princeps, a few smaller ones are added, most of them doubtful or spurious. A reprint of this is the Cologne or rather Leipzig edition of 1682, which is marred by numerous misprints. The Paris MS. used by Petavius (BM. Nat. 833,835) is derived from the same source as that of Jena, but was more recently written, 16th century. To the same class of MSS. belong another Codex Membr. saec. xv. in the B'M. fihedigerana, at Breslau, and a Codex chart. Vindobonensis, saec. xiv. (127, in suppL Kollarii, p. 738), which contains only fragments of the Panarion and of the Anakephalaiosis. To another and better family belong a MS. now no longer heard of, in the Vatican (Codex Vatican.), and another in St. Mark's library at Venice (Cod. Marcian. 125). Of the former Petavius used a collation made by Andreas Schott for the second and third tombs of the 1st Book of the Panarion (pp. 55-395, ed. Petav.). This collation appears attached to the margin of a still existing copy of the Basle edition, which fell accidentally into Oehler's hands.

The Codex Marcianus, 125, in the year 1057, in reliance on which the brothers Coleti began to prepare a new edition, contains, alas, only the first part of the Panarion, to p. 604 (ed. Petav.). This manuscript contains a much more original text than those of the first-named family. With its help not only are we enabled to correct innumerable corruptions and arbitrary alterations of text made by later writers, but also to fill up numerous and some very -onsiderable lacunae. A complete collation of this MS. was first made by W. Dindorf as groundwork of his edition of Epiphanius (Leipsic, 1859-18G2, 5 vols. sm. 8vo.). This, now the best edition, contains all the genuine writings of Epiphanius (the Ancoratus, the Anakephalaiosis, the Panarion, and the De Mensuris et Ponderibus in the Greek text, De Gemmis, in all three text forms, and the two Epistles, in Jerome's translation), and beside these the spurious homilies, the abovementioned epitome, and the Vita Epiphanii of Polybius. Vol. iii. pt. 2, contains the critical apparatus to the Panarion, vol. v. the Annotations of Petavius. An appendix, which has not yet appeared, besides several supplements, not further described, is announced to contain various readings of two MSS. of the first part of the Panarion, rivalling in value the Venetian Codex, as well as the remaining doubtful or spurious writings of Epiphanius.

The Greek and Latin edition of the Panarion by Franz Oehler, in the Corpus Ifaeresiologicum, vols, ii.-iii. (Berlin, 1859-1861), has only made use of a few specimens of the text of the Codex Marcianus, and that for its two first sections containing the first and second books of the Panarion. The third division of the second volume, containing the third book of the Panarion and the Anacephalaeosis adds, pp. 592-676, addenda et corrigenda, by way of making up for neglected revision of the text. The third volume contains, besides the Annotations of Petavius, valuable contributions by Albert Jahn, to the criticism and exegesis of the Panarion. Compare reviews of both editions by Lipsius, in Literarisches CentraMatt fur Deutschland, 1859, N. 15, 1860, N. 42, 1864, N. 23. A worthless edition is that of Migne, in the Patrologia (Series Graeco-latina, torn, xli.-xliii. Paris, 1863-64). This edition contains the Panarion, the Anakephalaiosis, the Ancoratus, the book De Mensuris et Ponderibus, the treatise De Gemmis, the two letters addressed to John and to Jerome, and the doubtful or spurious works De Vitis Prophetarum, De Numcrorum Mysteriis, Seven. Homilies, and the Physiologus. A Syriac translation (so-called) of the Panarion, which has found its way from the Kitrian monastery of St. Maria Deipara into the British Museum, appears to contain nothing but the Anakephalaiosis. This last is found not only in MSS. of the Panarion, but in several other Greek Codices. A Syriac translation of De Mensuris et Ponderibus is found in two Syriac MSS. of the British Museum, Cod. add. 17148 and 4620. A number of various readings of this treatise have been published by P. de Lagarde (Philologus, xviii. p. 352 sq.). The sources of the Biography of Epiphanius are pretty numerous and scattered; beside the notices found here and there in his own writings, the reader may compare especially Socrates, Hist. Eccl. vi. 10, 12-14 j Sozomen, Hist. Eccl. vi. 32, vii. 27, viii. 14-15; Palladius, Dialogus de Vita Chrysostomi (in Chrysost. Opp. ed. Montfaucon, torn, xiii.); Hieronym. Catal. Viror. Illustr. 114, Epist. ad Pammach. 38 (61), ad Theophil. 39 (62), Vita S. Hiiarion. torn. iv. pt. ii. p. 72, ed. Martianay; Apolog. adv. Bufin. ii. passim. Compare also Vitae Patrum, ed. Rosweyde, tom. v. (Antwerp, 1615); Acta Sanctorum, 12 Mai. Completely useless is the above-mentioned Vita Epiphanii, by Polybius. Of works and treatises concerning Epiphanius may be mentioned the book attributed to the abbe Gervais, VHisbrire et la Vie de St. jtpiphane, Paris, 1738; Tillemont, Mtmoires, torn. x. p. 484, N. 822 sq.; Fabricius, BAl. Qraec. ed. Harl. viii. p. 261 sq.; Schrockh, Christliche Kirchengeschichte, tom. x. p. 3 ff.; Eberhard, Die Betheiligung des Epiphanius an detn Streite iiber Origenes, Trier, 1859; Lipsius, Zur Qaelknkritik des Epiphanios, Wien, 1865.

Source: From A Dictionary of Christian Biography, Literature, Sects and Doctrines.


Currently we have 114 monthly supporters. Our goal is to have 500 monthly supporters.

To read more about supporting the ministry of the Mystagogy Resource Center, either as a monthly supporter or an annual supporter, please visit the DONATE page.

Thank you!

Please Visit Our Sponsors

BannerFans.com