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The persecution under Severus.
1. When Severus
began to persecute the churches, glorious testimonies were given everywhere by
the athletes of religion. This was especially the case in Alexandria, to which
city, as to a most prominent theater, athletes of God were brought from Egypt
and all Thebais according to their merit, and won crowns from God through their
great patience under many tortures and every mode of death.
2. Among these was
Leonides, who was called the father of
Origen, and who was beheaded while his son was still young. How remarkable the
predilection of this son was for the Divine Word, in consequence of his father's
instruction, it will not be amiss to state briefly, as his fame has been very
greatly celebrated by many.
The training of Origen from childhood.
3. Many things
might be said in attempting to describe the life of the man while in school; but
this subject alone would require a separate treatise. Nevertheless, for the
present, abridging most things, we shall state a few facts concerning him as
briefly as possible, gathering them from certain letters, and from the statement
of persons still living who were acquainted with him.
4. What they
report of Origen seems to me worthy of mention, even, so to speak, from his
swathing-bands. It was the tenth
year of the reign of Severus, while Laetus was governor of Alexandria and the
rest of Egypt, and Demetrius had lately received the episcopate of the parishes
there, as successor of Julian.
5. As the flame of
persecution had been kindled greatly, and multitudes had gained the crown of
martyrdom, such desire for martyrdom seized the soul of Origen, although yet a
boy, that he went close to danger, springing forward and rushing to the conflict
in his eagerness.
And truly the
termination of his life had been very near had not the divine and heavenly
Providence, for the benefit of many, prevented his desire through the agency of
at first, entreating him, she begged him to have compassion on her motherly
feelings toward him; but finding, that when he had learned that his father had
been seized and imprisoned, he was set the more resolutely, and completely
carried away with his zeal for martyrdom, she hid all his clothing, and thus
compelled him to remain at home.
But, as there
was nothing else that he could do, and his zeal beyond his age would not suffer
him to be quiet, he sent to his father an encouraging letter on martyrdom, in
which he exhorted him, saying, "Take heed not to change your mind on our
account." This may be recorded as the first evidence of Origen's youthful
wisdom and of his genuine love for piety.
9. For even then
he had stored up no small resources in the words of the faith, having been
trained in the Divine Scriptures from childhood. And he had not studied them
with indifference, for his father, besides giving him the usual liberal
education, had made them a matter of no secondary importance.
10. First of all,
before inducting him into the Greek sciences, he drilled him in sacred studies,
requiring him to learn and recite every day. Nor was this irksome to the boy,
but he was eager and diligent in these studies. And he was not satisfied with
learning what was simple and obvious in the sacred words, but sought for
something more, and even at that age busied himself with deeper speculations.
So that he
puzzled his father with inquiries for the true meaning of the inspired
Scriptures. And his father rebuked him seemingly to his face, telling him not to
search beyond his age, or further than the manifest meaning. But by himself he
rejoiced greatly and thanked God, the author of all good, that he had deemed him
worthy to be the father of such a child.
12. And they say
that often, standing by the boy when asleep, he uncovered his breast as if the
Divine Spirit were enshrined within it, and kissed it reverently; considering
himself blessed in his goodly offspring. These and other things like them are
related to Origen when a boy.
13. But when his
father ended his life in martyrdom, he was left with his mother and six younger
brothers when he was not quite seventeen years old. And the poverty of his
father being confiscated to the royal treasury, he and his family were in want
of the necessaries of life.
14. But he was
deemed worthy of Divine care. And he found a welcome and rest with a woman of
great wealth, and distinguished in her manner of life and in other respects. She
was treating with great honor a famous heretic then in Alexandria; who, however,
was born in Antioch. He was with her as an adopted son, and she treated him with
the greatest kindness.
15. But although
Origen was under the necessity of associating with him, he nevertheless gave
from this time on strong evidences of his orthodoxy in the faith. For when on
account of the apparent skill in an argument with Paul, - for this was the man's
name, - a great multitude came to him, not only of heretics but also of our
16. Origen could
never be induced to join with him in prayer; for he held, although a boy, the
rule of the Church, and abominated, as he somewhere expresses it, heretical
teachings. Having been instructed in the sciences of the Greeks by his father,
he devoted him after his death more assiduously and exclusively to the study of
17. So that he
obtained considerable preparation in philology and was able not long after the
death of his father, by devoting himself to that subject, to earn a compensation
amply sufficient for his needs at his age.
1. But while he
was lecturing in the school, as he tells us himself, and there was no one at
Alexandria to give instruction in the faith, as all were driven away by the
threat of persecution, some of the heathen came to him to hear the word of God.
2. The first of
them, he says, was Plutarch, who after living well, was honored with divine
martyrdom. The second was Heracles, a brother of Plutarch; who after he too had
given with him abundant evidence of a philosophic and ascetic life, was esteemed
worthy to succeed Demetrius in the bishopric of Alexandria.
3. He was in his
eighteenth year when he took charge of the catechetical school. He was prominent
also at this time, during the persecution under Aquila, the governor of
Alexandria, when his name became celebrated among the leaders in the faith,
through the kindness and goodwill which he manifested toward all the holy
martyrs, whether known to him or strangers.
4. For not only
was he with them while in bonds, and until their final condemnation, but when
the holy martyrs were led to death, he was very bold and went with them into
danger. So that as he acted bravely, and with great boldness saluted the martyrs
with a kiss, oftentimes the heathen multitude round about them became
infuriated, and were on the point of rushing upon him.
5. But through the
helping hand of God, he escaped absolutely and marvelously. And this same divine
and heavenly power, again and again, it is impossible to say how often, on
account of his great zeal and boldness for the words of Christ, guarded him when
6. So great was
the enmity of the unbelievers toward him, on account of the multitude that were
instructed by him in the sacred faith, that they placed bands of soldiers around
the house where he abode.
7. Thus day by day
the persecution burned against him, so that the whole city could no longer
contain him; but he removed from house to house and was driven in every
direction because of the multitude who attended upon the divine instruction,
which he gave. For his life also exhibited right and admirable conduct according
to the practice of genuine philosophy.
8. For they say
that his manner of life was as his doctrine, and his doctrine as his life.
Therefore, by the divine Power working with him he aroused a great many to his
9. But when he saw
yet more coming to him for instruction, and the catechetical school had been
entrusted to him alone by Demetrius, who presided over the church, he considered
the teaching of grammatical science inconsistent with training in divine
subjects, and forthwith he gave up his grammatical school as unprofitable and a
hindrance to sacred learning.
becoming consideration, that he might not need aid from others, he disposed of
whatever valuable books of ancient literature he possessed, being satisfied with
receiving from the purchaser four aboli a day. For many years he lived
philosophically in this manner, putting away all the incentives of youthful
11. Through the
entire day he endured no small amount of discipline; and for the greater part of
the night he gave himself to the study of the Divine Scriptures. He restrained
himself as much as possible by a most philosophic life; sometimes by the
discipline of fasting, again by limited time for sleep. And in his zeal he never
lay upon a bed, but upon the ground.
12. Most of all, he
thought that the words of the Savior in the Gospel should be observed, in which
he exhorts not to have two coats nor to use shoes, nor to occupy oneself with
cares for the future.
With a zeal
beyond his age he continued in cold and nakedness; and, going to the very
extreme of poverty, he greatly astonished those about him. And indeed he grieved
many of his friends who desired to share their possessions with him, on account
of the wearisome toil, which they saw him enduring in the teaching of divine
14. But he did not relax his perseverance. He is said to have walked for a number of years never wearing a shoe, and, for a great many years, to abstain from the use of wine, and of all other things beyond his necessary food; so that he was in danger of breaking down and destroying his constitution.
By giving such
evidences of a philosophic life to those who saw him, he aroused many of his
pupils to similar zeal; so that prominent men even of the unbelieving heathen
and men that followed learning and philosophy were led to his instruction. Some
of them having received from him into the depth of their souls faith in the
Divine Word, became prominent in the persecution then prevailing; and some of
them were seized and suffered martyrdom.
The pupils of Origen that became martyrs.
16. The first of
these was Plutarch, who was mentioned just above. As he was led to death the man
of whom we are speaking being with him at the end of his life, came near being
slain by his fellow-citizens, as if he were the cause of his death. But the
providence of God preserved him at this time also.
17. After Plutarch,
the second martyr among the pupils of Origen was Serenus,
who gave through fire a proof of the faith, which he had received.
18. The third
martyr from the same school was Heraclides,
and after him the fourth was Hero. The
former of these was as yet a catechumen, and the latter had but recently been
baptized. Both of them were beheaded.
19. After them, the
fifth from the same school proclaimed as an athlete of piety was another Serenus,
who, it is reported, was beheaded, after a long endurance of tortures. And of
women, Herais died while yet a
catechumen, receiving baptism by fire, as Origen himself somewhere says.
may be counted the seventh of these. He led to martyrdom the celebrated
Potamiaena, who is still famous among the people of the country for the many
things, which she endured for the preservation of her chastity and virginity.
For she was
blooming in the perfection of her mind and her physical graces. Having suffered
much for the faith of Christ, finally after tortures dreadful and terrible to
speak of, she with her mother, Marcella,
was put to death by fire.
They say that
the judge, aquila by name, having inflicted severe tortures upon her entire
body, at last threatened to hand her over to the gladiators for bodily abuse.
After a little consideration, being asked for her decision, she made a reply,
which was regarded, as impious.
received sentence immediately, and Basilides, one of the officers of the army,
led her to death. But as the people attempted to annoy and insult her with
abusive words, he drove back her insulters, showing her much pity and kindness.
the man's sympathy for her, she exhorted him to be of good courage, for she
would supplicate her Lord for him after her departure, and he would soon receive
a reward for the kindness he had shown her.
6. Having said
this, she nobly sustained the issue, burning pitch being poured little by
little, over various parts of her body, from the sole of her feet to the crown
of her head. Such was the conflict endured by this famous maiden.
7. Not long after
this Basilides, being asked by his
fellow-soldiers to swear for a certain reason, declared that it was not lawful
for him to swear at all, for he was a Christian, and he confessed this openly.
At first they thought that he was jesting, but when he continued to affirm it,
he was led to the judge, and, acknowledging his conviction before him, he was
brethren in God coming to him and inquiring the reason of this sudden and
remarkable resolution, he is reported to have said that Potamiaena,
for three days after her martyrdom, stood beside him by night and placed a crown
on his head and said that she had besought the Lord for him and had obtained
what she asked, and that soon she would take him with her.
9. Thereupon the
brethren gave him the seal of the Lord; and on the next day, after giving
glorious testimony for the Lord, he was beheaded. And many others in Alexandria
are recorded to have accepted speedily the word of Christ in those times.
appeared to them in their dreams and exhorted them. But let this suffice in
regard to this matter.
Clement of Alexandria.\
11. Clement having
succeeded Pantaenus, had charge at that time of the catechetical instruction in
Alexandria, so that Origen also, while still a boy, was one of his pupils. In
the first book of the work called Stromata, which Clement wrote, he gives a
chronological table, bringing events down to the death of Commodus. So it is
evident that that work was written during the reign of Severus, whose times we
are now recording.
12. At this time
another writer, Judas, discoursing about the seventy weeks in Daniel, brings
down the chronology to the tenth year of the reign of Severus. He thought that
the coming of Antichrist, which was much talked about, was then near. So greatly
did the agitation caused by the persecution of our people at this time disturb
the minds of many.
Origen's daring deed.
13. At this time
while Origen was conducting catechetical instruction at Alexandria, a deed was
done by him, which evidenced an immature and youthful mind, but at the same time
gave the highest proof of faith and continence. For he took the words,
"There are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of
heaven's sake," in a sense too literal and too extreme.
14. And in order to
fulfill the Savior's word, and at the same time to take away from the
unbelievers all opportunity for scandal, -for, although young, he met for the
study of divine things with women as well as men, -he carried out in action the
word of the Savior.
15. He thought that
this would not be known by many of his acquaintances. But it was impossible for
him, though desiring to do so, to keep such an action secret.
When Demetrius, who presided over that parish, at last learned of this,
he admired greatly the daring nature of the act, and as he perceived his zeal
and the genuineness of his faith, he immediately exhorted him to courage, and
urged him the more to continue his work of catechetical instruction.
16. Such was he at
that time. But soon afterward, seeing that he was prospering, and becoming great
and distinguished among all men, the same Demetrius, overcome by human weakness,
wrote of his deed as most foolish to the bishops throughout the world. But the
bishops of Cesarea and Jerusalem, who were especially notable and distinguished
among the bishops of Palestine, considering Origen worthy in the highest degree
of the honor, ordained him a presbyter.
fame increased greatly, and his name became renowned everywhere, and he obtained
no small reputation for virtue and wisdom. But Demetrius, having nothing else
that he could say against him, save this deed of his boyhood, accused him
bitterly, and dared to include with him in these accusations those who had
raised him to presbyter
however, took place a little later. But at this time Origen continued fearlessly
the instruction in divine things at Alexandria by day and night to all who came
to him; devoting his entire leisure without cessation to divine studies and to
19. Severus, having
held the government for eighteen years, was succeeded by his son, Antoninus.
Among those who had endured courageously the persecution of that time, and had
been preserved by the Providence of God through the conflicts of confession, was
Alexander, of whom we have spoken already as bishop of the church in Jerusalem.
On account of his pre-eminence in the confession of Christ he was thought worthy
of that office of bishop, while Narcissus, his predecessor, was still living.
The miracles of Narcissus.
20. The citizens of
that parish mention many other miracles of Narcissus, on the tradition of the
brethren who succeeded him; among which they relate the following wonder as
performed by him.
They say that
the oil once failed while the deacons were watching through the night at the
great paschal vigil. Thereupon the whole multitude being dismayed, Narcissus
directed those who attended to the lights, to draw water and bring it to him.
22. This being
immediately done he prayed over the water, and with firm faith in the Lord,
commanded them to pour it into the lamps. And when they had done so, contrary to
all expectation by a wonderful and divine power, the nature of the water was
changed into that of oil. A small portion of it has been preserved even to our
day by many of the brethren there as a memento of the wonder.
23. They tell many
other things worthy to be noted of the life of this man, among which is this.
Certain base men being unable to endure the strength and firmness of his life,
and fearing punishment for the many evil deeds of which they were conscious,
sought by plotting to anticipate him, and circulated a terrible slander against
24. And to persuade
those who heard of it, they confirmed their accusations with oaths: one invoked
upon himself destruction by fire; another the wasting of his body by a foul
disease; the third the loss of his eyes. But though they swore in this manner,
they could not affect the mind of the believers; because the continence and
virtuous life of Narcissus were well known to all.
25. But he could
not in any wise endure the wickedness of these men; and as he had followed a
philosophic life for a long time, he fled from the whole body of the Church, and
hid himself in desert and secret places, and remained there many years.
But the great
eye of judgment was not unmoved by these things, but soon looked down upon these
impious men, and brought on them the curses with which they had bound
themselves. The residence of the first, from nothing but a little spark falling
upon it, was entirely consumed by night, and he perished with all his family.
The second was speedily covered with the disease, which he had imprecated upon
himself, from the sole of his feet to his head.
27. But the third,
perceiving what had happened to the others, and fearing the inevitable judgment
of God, the ruler of all, confessed publicly what they had plotted together. And
in his repentance he became so wasted by his great lamentations, and continued
weeping to such an extent, that both his eyes were destroyed. Such were the
punishments, which these men received for their falsehood.
The Bishops of Jerusalem.
having departed, and no one knowing where he was, those presiding over the
neighboring churches thought it best to ordain another bishop. His name was
Dius. He presided but a short time, and Germanio succeeded him.
2. He was followed
by Gordius, in whose time Narcissus appeared again, as if raised from the dead.
And immediately the brethren besought him to take the episcopate, as all admired
him the more on account of his retirement and philosophy, and especially because
of the punishment with which God had avenged him.
But as on
account of his great age Narcissus was no longer able to perform his official
duties, the Providence of God called to the office with him, by a revelation
given him in a night vision, the above-mentioned Alexander, who was then bishop
of another parish.
4. Thereupon, as
by Divine direction, he journeyed from the land of Cappadocia, where he first
held the episcopate, to Jerusalem, in consequence of a vow and for the sake of
information in regard to its places. They received, him there with great
cordiality, and would not permit him to return, because of another revelation
seen by them at night, which uttered the clearest message to the most zealous
5. For it made
known that if they would go outside the gates, they would receive the bishop
foreordained for them by God. And having done this, with the unanimous consent
of the bishops of the neighboring churches, they constrained him to remain.
Alexander, himself, in private letters to the Antinoites, which are still
preserved among us, mentions the joint episcopate of Narcissus and himself,
writing in these words at the end of the epistle:
salutes you, who held the episcopate here before me, and is now associated with
me in prayers, being one hundred and sixteen years of age; and he exhorts you,
as I do, to be of one mind." These
things took place in this manner.
But, on the
death of Serapion, Asclepiades, who had been himself distinguished among the
confessors during the persecution, succeeded to the episcopate of the church at
Antioch. Alexander alludes to his appointment, writing thus to the church at
a servant and prisoner of Jesus Christ, to the blessed church of Antioch,
greeting in the Lord. The Lord hath made my bonds during the time of my
imprisonment light and easy, since I learned that, by the Divine Providence,
Asclepiades, who in regard to the true faith is eminently qualified, has
undertaken the bishopric of your holy church at Antioch."
9. He indicates
that he sent this epistle by Clement, writing toward its close as follows:
"My honored brethren, I have sent this letter to you by Clement, the
blessed presbyter, a man virtuous and approved, whom ye yourselves also know and
will recognize. Being here, in the providence and oversight of the Master, he
has strengthened and built up the Church of the Lord."
Serapion and his extant works.
10. It is probable
that others have preserved other memorials of Serapion's literary industry, but
there have reached us only those addressed to a certain Domninus, who, in the
time of persecution, fell away from faith in Christ to the Jewish will-worship;
and those addressed to Pontius and Caricus, ecclesiastical men, and other
letters to different persons, and still another work composed by him on the
so-called Gospel of Peter.
He wrote this
last to refute the falsehoods, which that Gospel contained, on account of some
in the parish of Rhossus who had been led astray by it into heterodox notions.
It may be well to give some brief extracts from his work, showing his opinion of
the book. He writes as follows:
12. "For we,
brethren, receive both Peter and the other apostles as Christ; but we reject
intelligently the writings falsely ascribed to them, knowing that such were not
handed down to us.
When I visited
you I supposed that all of you held the true faith, and as I had not read the
Gospel, which they put forward under the name of Peter, I said, If this is the
only thing, which occasions dispute among you, let it be read. But now having
learned, from what has been told me, that their mind was involved in some
heresy, I will hasten to come to you again.
brethren, expect me shortly. But you will learn, brethren, from what has been
written to you, that we perceived the nature of the heresy of Marcianus, and
that, not understanding, what he was saying, he contradicted himself.
15. For having
obtained this Gospel from others who had studied it diligently, namely, from the
successors of those who first used it, whom we call Docet (for most of their
opinions are connected with the teaching of that school) we have been able to
read it through, and we find many things in accordance with the true doctrine of
the Savior, but some things added to that doctrine, which we have pointed out
for you farther on." So much in regard to Serapion.
The writings of Clement.
All the eight
Stromata of Clement are preserved among us, and have been given by him the
following title: "Titus Flavius Clement’s Stromata of Gnostic Notes on
the True Philosophy." The books entitled Hypotyposes are of the same
number. In them he mentions Pantaenus by name as his teacher, and gives his
opinions and traditions.
17. Besides these
there is his Hortatory discourse addressed to the Greeks; three books of a work
entitled the Instructor; another with the title “What rich man is saved?”
The work on the Passover; discussions on Fasting and on evil speaking;
the Hortatory discourse on Patience, or to those recently baptized; and the one
bearing the title Ecclesiastical Canon, or Against the Judaizers, which he
dedicated to Alexander, the bishop mentioned above.
18. In the
Stromata, he has not only treated extensively of the Divine Scripture, but he
also quotes from the Greek writers whenever anything that they have said seems
to him profitable.
19. He elucidates
the opinions of many, both Greeks and barbarians. He also refutes the false
doctrines of the heresiarchs, and besides this, reviews a large portion of
history, giving us specimens of very various learning; with all the rest he
mingles the views of philosophers. It is likely that on this account he gave his
work the appropriate title of Stromata.
He makes use
also in these works of testimonies from the disputed Scriptures, the so-called
Wisdom of Solomon, and of Jesus, the son of Sirach, and the Epistle to the
Hebrews, and those of Barnabas, and Clement and Jude. He mentions also Tatian's
21. Discourse to
the Greeks, and speaks of Cassianus as the author of a chronological work. He
refers to the Jewish authors Philo, Aristobulus, Josephus, Demetrius, and
Eupolemus, as showing, all of them, in their works, that Moses and the Jewish
race existed before the earliest origin of the Greeks.
abound also in much other learning. In the first of them the author speaks of
himself as next after the successors of the apostles.
23. In them he
promises also to write a commentary on Genesis. In his book on the Passover he
acknowledges that he had been urged by his friends to commit to writing, for
posterity, the traditions which he had heard from the ancient presbyters; and in
the same work he mentions Melito and Irenaeus, and certain others, and gives
extracts from their writings.
The Scriptures mentioned by him.
1. To sum up
briefly, he has given in the Hypotyposes abridged accounts of all canonical
Scripture, not omitting the disputed books, I refer to Jude and the other
Catholic epistles, and Barnabas and the so-called Apocalypse of Peter.
2. He says that
the Epistle to the Hebrews is the work of Paul, and that it was written to the
Hebrews in the Hebrew language; but that Luke translated it carefully and
published it for the Greeks, and hence the same style of expression is found in
this epistle and in the Acts.
But he says
that the words, Paul the Apostle, were probably not prefixed, because, in
sending it to the Hebrews, who were prejudiced and suspicious of him, he wisely
did not wish to repel them at the very beginning by giving his name.
4. Further on he
says: "But now, as the blessed presbyter said, since the Lord being the
apostle of the Almighty, was sent to the Hebrews, Paul, as sent to the Gentiles,
on account of his modesty did not subscribe himself an apostle of the Hebrews,
through respect for the Lord, and because being a herald and apostle of the
Gentiles he wrote to the Hebrews out of his superabundance."
5. Again, in the
same books, Clement gives the tradition of the earliest presbyters, as to the
order of the Gospels, in the following manner:
The Gospels containing the genealogies, he says, were written first. The
Gospel according to Mark had this occasion.
6. As Peter had
preached the Word publicly at Rome, and declared the Gospel by the Spirit, many
who were present requested that Mark, who had followed him for a long time and
remembered his sayings, should write them out. And having composed the Gospel he
gave it to those who had requested it.
learned of this, he neither directly forbade nor encouraged it. But, last of
all, John, perceiving that the external facts had been made plain in the Gospel,
being urged by his friends, and inspired by the Spirit, composed a spiritual
Gospel. This is the account of Clement.
8. Again the
above-mentioned Alexander, in a certain letter to Origen, refers to Clement, and
at the same time to Pantaenus, as being among his familiar acquaintances. He
writes as follows: "For this,
as thou knows, was the will of God, that the ancestral friendship existing
between us should remain unshaken; nay, rather should be warmer and stronger.
9. For we know
well those blessed fathers who have trodden the way before us, with whom we
shall soon be; Pantaenus, the truly blessed man and master, and the holy
Clement, my master and benefactor, and if there is any other like them, through
whom I became acquainted with thee, the best in everything, my master and
So much for
these matters. But Adamantius, -for this also was a name of Origen, - when
Zephyrinus was bishop of Rome, visited Rome, "desiring," as he himself
somewhere says, "to see the most ancient church of Rome."
11. After a short
stay there he returned to Alexandria. And he performed the duties of
catechetical instruction there with great zeal; Demetrius, who was bishop there
at that, time, urging and even entreating him to work diligently for the benefit
of the brethren.
12. But when he saw
that he had not time for the deeper study of divine things, and for the
investigation and interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures, and also for the
instruction of those who came to him, - for coming, one after another, from
morning till evening to be taught by him, they scarcely gave him time to
breathe, -he divided the multitude.
13. And from those
whom he knew well, he selected Heraclas, who was a zealous student of divine
things, and in other respects a very learned man, not ignorant of philosophy,
and made him his associate in the work of instruction. He entrusted to him the
elementary training of beginners, but reserved for himself the teaching of those
who were farther advanced.
Origen's earnest study of the divine Scriptures.
14. So earnest and
assiduous was Origen's research into the divine words that he learned the Hebrew
language, and procured as his own the original Hebrew Scriptures, which were in
the hands of the Jews. He investigated also the works of other translators of
the Sacred Scriptures besides the Seventy. And in addition to the well-known
translations of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, he discovered certain others,
which had been concealed from remote times, - in what out-of-the-way corners I
know not, and by his search he brought them to light.
Since he did
not know the authors, he simply stated that he had found this one in Nicopolis
near Actium and that one in some other place.
In the Hexapla of the Psalms, after the four prominent translations, he
adds not only a fifth, but also a sixth and seventh. He states of one of these
that he found it in a jar in Jericho in the time of Antoninus, the son of
collected all of these, he divided them into sections, and placed them opposite
each other, with the Hebrew text itself. He thus left us the copies of the
so-called Hexapla. He arranged also separately an edition of Aquila and
Symmachus and Theodotion with the Septuagint, in the Tetrapla.
The translator Symmachus.
17. As to these
translators it should be stated that Symmachus was an Ebionite. But the heresy
of the Ebionites, as it is called, asserts that Christ was the son of Joseph and
Mary, considering him a mere man, and insists strongly on keeping the law in a
Jewish manner, as we have seen already in this history.
Symmachus are still extant in which he appears to support this heresy by
attacking the Gospel of Matthew. Origen states that he obtained these and other
commentaries of Symmachus on the Scriptures from a certain Juliana, who, he
says, received the books by inheritance from Symmachus himself.
19. About this time
Ambrose, who held the heresy of Valentinus, was convinced by Origen's
presentation of the truth, and, as if his mind were illumined by light, he
accepted the orthodox doctrine of the Church.
20. Many others
also, drawn by the fame of Origen's learning, which resounded everywhere, came
to him to make trial of his skill in sacred literature. And a great many
heretics, and not a few of the most distinguished philosophers, studied under
him diligently, receiving instruction from him not only in divine things, but
also in secular philosophy.
21. For when he
perceived that any persons had superior intelligence he instructed them also in
philosophic branches-in geometry, arithmetic, and other preparatory studies-and
then advanced to the systems of the philosophers and explained their writings.
And he made observations and comments upon each of them, so that he became
celebrated as a great philosopher even among the Greeks themselves.
22. And he
instructed many of the less learned in the common school branches, saying that
these would be no small help to them in the study and understanding of the
Divine Scriptures. On this account he considered it especially necessary for
himself to be skilled in secular and philosophic learning.
Circumstances related to Origen.
1. The Greek
philosophers of his age are witnesses to his proficiency in these subjects. We
find frequent mention of him in their writings. Sometimes they dedicated their
own works to him; again, they submitted their labors to him as a teacher for his
2. Why need we say
these things when even Porphyry, who lived in Sicily in our own times and wrote
books against us, attempting to traduce the Divine Scriptures by them, mentions
those who have interpreted them; and being unable in any way to find a base
accusation against the doctrines, for lack of arguments turns to reviling and
calumniating their interpreters, attempting especially to slander Origen, whom
he says he knew in his youth.
without knowing it, he commends the man; telling the truth about him in some
cases where he could not do otherwise; but uttering falsehoods where he thinks
he will not be detected. Sometimes he accuses him as a Christian; again he
describes his proficiency in philosophic learning. But hear his own words:
persons, desiring to find a solution of the baseness of the Jewish Scriptures
rather than abandon them, have had recourse to explanations inconsistent and
incongruous with the words written, which explanations, instead of supplying a
defense of the foreigners, contain rather approval and praise of themselves.
5. For they boast
that the plain words of Moses are enigmas, and regard them as oracles full of
hidden mysteries; and having bewildered the mental judgment by folly, they make
their explanations." Farther on he says:
6. "As an
example of this absurdity take a man whom I met when I was young, and who was
then greatly celebrated and still is, on account of the writings which he has
left. I refer to Origen, who is highly honored by the teachers of these
7. For this man,
having been a hearer of Ammonius, who had attained the greatest proficiency in
philosophy of any in our day, derived much benefit from his teacher in the
knowledge of the sciences; but as to the correct choice of life, he pursued a
course opposite to his.
8. For Ammonius,
being a Christian, and brought up by Christian parents, when he gave himself to
study and to philosophy straightway conformed to the life required by the laws.
But Origen, having been educated as a Greek in Greek literature, went over to
the barbarian recklessness.
9. And carrying
over the learning, which he had obtained, he hawked it about, in his life
conducting himself as a Christian and contrary to the laws, but in his opinions
of material things and of the Deity being like a Greek, and mingling Grecian
teachings with foreign fables.
For he was
continually studying Plato, and he busied himself with the writings of Numenius
and Cronius, Apollophanes, Longinus, Moderatus, and Nicomachus, and those famous
among the Pythagoreans. And he used the books of Chaeremon the Stoic, and of
Cornutus. Becoming acquainted through them with the figurative interpretation of
the Grecian mysteries, he applied it to the Jewish Scriptures."
11. These things
are said by Porphyry in the third book of his work against the Christians. He
speaks truly of the industry and learning of the man, but plainly utters a
falsehood (for what will not an opposer of Christians do?) when he says that he
went over from the Greeks, and that Ammonius fell from a life of piety into
doctrine of Christ was taught to Origen by his parents, as we have shown above.
And Ammonius held the divine philosophy unshaken and unadulterated to the end of
his life. His works yet extant show this, as he is celebrated among many for the
writings, which he has left. For example, the work entitled The Harmony of Moses
and Jesus, and such others as are in the possession of the learned.
13. These things
are sufficient to evince the slander of the false accuser, and also the
proficiency of Origen in Grecian learning. He defends his diligence in this
direction against some who blamed him for it, in a certain epistle, where he
writes as follows:
devoted myself to the word, and the fame of my proficiency went abroad, and when
heretics and persons conversant with Grecian learning, and particularly with
philosophy, came to me, it seemed necessary that I should examine the doctrines
of the heretics, and what the philosophers say concerning the truth.
15. And in this we
have followed Pantaenus, who benefited many before our time by his thorough
preparation in such things, and also Heraclas, who is now a member of the
presbytery of Alexandria. I found him with the teacher of philosophic learning,
with whom he had already continued five years before I began to hear lectures on
16. And though he
had formerly worn the common dress, he laid it aside and assumed and still wears
the philosopher's garment; and he continues the earnest investigation of Greek
works." He says these things
in defending himself for his study of Grecian literature.
17. About this
time, while he was still at Alexandria, a soldier came and delivered a letter
from the governor of Arabia to Demetrius, bishop of the parish, and to the
prefect of Egypt who was in office at that time, requesting that they would with
all speed send Origen to him for an interview. Being sent by them, he went to
Arabia. And having in a short time accomplished the object of his visit, he
returned to Alexandria.
after a considerable war broke out in the city, and he departed from Alexandria.
And thinking that it would be unsafe for him to remain in Egypt, he went to
Palestine and abode in Caesarea. While there the bishops of the church in that
country requested him to preach and expound the Scriptures publicly, although he
had not yet been ordained as presbyter.
19. This is evident
from what Alexander, bishop of Jerusalem and Theoctistus of Caesarea, wrote to
Demetrius in regard to the matter, defending themselves thus:
"He has stated in his letter that such a thing was never heard of
before, neither has hitherto taken place, that laymen should preach in the
presence of bishops. I know not how he comes to say what is plainly untrue.
persons able to instruct the brethren are found, they are exhorted by the holy
bishops to preach to the people. Thus in Laranda, Euelpis by Neon; and in
Iconium, Paulinus by Celsus; and in Synada, Theodorus by Atticus, our blessed
brethren. And probably this has been done in other places unknown to us."
21. He was honored
in this manner while yet a young man, not only by his countrymen, but also by
foreign bishops. But Demetrius sent
for him by letter, and urged him through members and deacons of the church to
return to Alexandria. So he returned and resumed his accustomed duties.
The extant works of the writers of that age.
flourished many learned men in the Church at that time, whose letters to each
other have been preserved and are easily accessible. They have been kept until
our time in the library at Aelia, which was established by Alexander, who at
that time presided over that church. We have been able to gather from that
library material for our present work.
23. Among these
Beryllus has left us, besides letters and treatises, various elegant works. He
was bishop of Bostra in Arabia. Likewise also Hippolytus, who presided over
another church, has left writings.
reached us also a dialogue of Caius, a very learned man, which was held at Rome
under Zephyrinus, with Proclus, who contended for the Phrygian heresy. In this
he curbs the rashness and boldness of his opponents in setting forth new
only thirteen epistles of the holy apostle, not counting that to the Hebrews
with the others. And unto our day there are some among the Romans who do not
consider this a work of the apostle.
The bishops that were well known at that time.
1. After Antoninus
had reigned seven years and six months, Macrinus succeeded him. He held the
government but a year, and was succeeded by another Antoninus. During his first
year the Roman bishop, Zephyrinus, having held his office for eighteen years,
died, and Callistus received the episcopate.
for five years, and was succeeded by Urbanus. After this, Alexander became Roman
emperor, Antoninus having reigned but four years. At this time Philetus also
succeeded Asclepiades in the church of Antioch.
3. The mother of
the emperor, Mammaea by name, was a most pious woman, if there ever was one, and
of religious life. When the fame of Origen had extended everywhere and had come
even to her ears, she desired greatly to see the man, and above all things to
make trial of his celebrated understanding of divine things.
Staying for a
time in Antioch, she sent for him with a military escort. Having remained with
her a while and shown her many things which were for the glory of the Lord and
of the excellence of the divine teaching, he hastened back to his accustomed
The works of Hippolytus, which have reached us.
5. At that time
Hippolytus, besides many other treatises, wrote a work on the Passover. He gives
in this a chronological table, and presents a certain paschal canon of sixteen
years, bringing the time down to the first year of the Emperor Alexander.
6. Of his other
writings the following have reached us: On the Hexaemeron, On the Works after
the Hexaemeron, Against Marcion, On the Song of Songs, On Portions of Ezekiel,
On the Passover, Against All the Heresies; and you can find many other works
preserved by many.
Origen's zeal and his elevation to Presbyter.
At that time
Origen began his commentaries on the Divine Scriptures, being urged thereto by
Ambrose, who employed innumerable incentives, not only exhorting him by word,
but also furnishing abundant means
he dictated to more than seven amanuenses, who relieved each other at appointed
times. And he employed no fewer copyists, besides girls who were skilled in
elegant writing. For all these Ambrose furnished the necessary expense in
abundance, manifesting himself an inexpressible earnestness in diligence and
zeal for the divine oracles, by which he especially pressed him on to the
preparation of his commentaries.
9. While these
things were in progress, Urbanus, who had been for eight years bishop of the
Roman church, was succeeded by Pontianus, and Zebinus succeeded Philetus in
Antioch. At this time Origen was
sent to Greece on account of a pressing necessity in connection with
ecclesiastical affairs, and went through Palestine, and was ordained as
presbyter in Caesarea by the bishops of that country.
10. The matters
that were agitated concerning him on this account, and the decisions on these
matters by those who presided over the churches, besides the other works
concerning the divine word which he published while in his prime, demand a
separate treatise. We have written of them to some extent in the second book of
the Defense, which we have composed in his behalf.
The commentaries, which he prepared at Alexandria.
It may be well
to add that in the sixth book of his exposition of the Gospel of John he states
that he prepared the first five while in Alexandria. Of his work on the entire
Gospel only twenty-two volumes have come down to us.
12. In the ninth of
those on Genesis, of which there are twelve in all, he states that not only the
preceding eight had been composed at Alexandria, but also those on the first
twenty-five Psalms and on Lamentations. Of these last five volumes have reached
them he mentions also his books On the Resurrection, of which there are two. He
wrote also the books De Principia before leaving Alexandria; and the discourses
entitled Stromata, ten in number, he composed in the same city during the reign
of Alexander, as the notes by his own hand preceding the volumes indicate.
His review of the canonical Scriptures.
the first Psalm, he gives a catalogue of the sacred Scriptures of the Old
Testament as follows: "It
should be stated that the canonical books, as the Hebrews have handed them down,
are twenty-two; corresponding with the number of their letters."
Further on he
says: "The twenty-two books of
the Hebrews are the following: That which is called by us Genesis, but by the
Hebrews, from the beginning of the book, Bresith, which means, `In the
beginning'; Exodus, Welesmoth, that is, `These are the names'; Leviticus, Wikra,
`And he called`; Numbers, Ammesphekodeim; Deuteronomy, Eleaddebareim, `
3. These are the
words'; Jesus, the son of Nave, Josoue ben Noun; Judges and Ruth, among them in
one book, Saphateim; the First and Second of Kings, among them one, Samouel,
that is, `The called of God'; the Third and Fourth of Kings in one, Wammelch
David, that is, `The kingdom of David'; of the Chronicles, the First and Second
in one, Dabreïamein, that is, `
4. Records of
days'; Esdras, First and Second in one, Ezra, that is, `An assistant'; the book
of Psalms, Spharthelleim; the Proverbs of Solomon, Meloth; Ecclesiastes, Koelth;
the Song of Songs (not, as some suppose, Songs of Songs), Sir Hassirim; Isaiah,
Jessia; Jeremiah, with Lamentations and the epistle in one, Jeremia; Daniel,
Daniel; Ezekiel, Jezekiel; Job, Job; Esther, Esther.
5. And besides
these there are the Maccabees, which are entitled Sarbeth Sabanaiel. He gives
these in the above-mentioned work. In his first book on Matthew's Gospel,
maintaining the Canon of the Church, he testifies that he knows only four
Gospels, writing as follows:
6. "Among the
four Gospels, which are the only indisputable ones in the Church of God under
heaven, I have learned by tradition that the first was written by Matthew, who
was once a publican, but afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ, and it was
prepared for the converts from Judaism, and published in the Hebrew language.
7. The second is
by Mark, who composed it according to the instructions of Peter, who in his
Catholic epistle acknowledges him as a son, saying, `The church that is at
Babylon elected together with you, salutes you, and so doth Marcus, my son.'
8. And the third
by Luke, the Gospel commended by Paul, and composed for Gentile converts. Last
of all that by John." In the
fifth book of his Expositions of John's Gospel, he speaks thus concerning the
epistles of the apostles:
who was `made sufficient to be a minister of the New Testament, not of the
letter, but of the Spirit,' that is, Paul, who `fully preached the Gospel from
Jerusalem and round about even unto Illyricum,' did not write to all the
churches which he had instructed and to those to which he wrote he sent but few
10. And Peter, on
whom the Church of Christ is built, `against which the gates of hell shall not
prevail,' has left one acknowledged epistle; perhaps also a second, but this is
Why need we
speak of him who reclined upon the bosom of Jesus, John, who has left us one
Gospel, though he confessed that he might write so many that the world could not
contain them? And he wrote also the Apocalypse, but was commanded to keep
silence and not to write the words of the seven thunders.
He has left
also an epistle of very few lines; perhaps also a second and third; but not all
consider them genuine, and together they do not contain hundred lines."
In addition he makes the following statements. In regard to the Epistle
to the Hebrews in his Homilies upon it:
verbal style of the epistle entitled `To the Hebrews,' is not ruled like the
language of the apostle, who acknowledged himself `rude in speech` that is, in
expression; but that its diction is purer Greek, any one who has the power to
discern differences of phraseology will acknowledge.
the thoughts of the epistle are admirable, and not inferior to the acknowledged
apostolic writings, any one who carefully examines the apostolic text will
admit.' Further on he adds: "If I gave my opinion, I should say that the
thoughts are those of the apostle, but the diction and phraseology are those of
some one who remembered the apostolic teachings, and wrote down at his leisure
what had been said by his teacher.
15. Therefore if
any church holds that this epistle is by Paul, let it be commended for this. For
not without reason have the ancients handed it down as Paul's. But who wrote the
epistle, in truth, God knows.
of some who have gone before us is that Clement, bishop of the Romans, wrote the
epistle, and of others that Luke, the author of the Gospel and the Acts, wrote
it." But let this suffice on these matters.
Heraclas becomes bishop of Alexandria.
It was in the
tenth year of the above-mentioned reign that Origen removed from Alexandria to
Caesarea, leaving the charge of the catechetical school in that city to
Heraclas. Not long afterward Demetrius, bishop of the church of Alexandria,
died, having held the office for forty-three full years, and Heraclas succeeded
him. At this time Firmilianus, bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, was
He was so
earnestly affected toward Origen, that he urged him to come to that country for
the benefit of the churches, and moreover he visited him in Judea, remaining
with him for some time, for the sake of improvement in divine things.
19. And Alexander,
bishop of Jerusalem, and Theoctistus, bishop of Caesarea, attended on him
constantly, as their only teacher, and allowed him to expound the Divine
Scriptures, and to perform the other duties pertaining to ecclesiastical
The persecution under Maximinus.
1. The Roman
emperor, Alexander, having finished his reign in thirteen years, was succeeded
by Maximinus Caesar. On account of his hatred toward the household of Alexander,
which contained many believers, he began a persecution, commanding that only the
rulers of the churches should be put to death, as responsible for the Gospel
Origen composed his work On Martyrdom, and dedicated it to Ambrose and
Protoctetus, a presbyter of the parish of Caesarea, because in the persecution
there had come upon them both unusual hardships, in which it is reported that
they were eminent in confession during the reign of Maximinus, which lasted but
three years. Origen has noted this as the time of the persecution in the
twenty-second book of his Commentaries on John, and in several epistles.
Fabianus, who was wonderfully designated bishop of Rome by God.
succeeded Maximinus as Roman emperor; and Pontianus, who had been bishop of the
church at Rome for six years, was succeeded by Anteros. After he had held the
office for a month, Fabianus succeeded him.
They say that
Fabianus having come, after the death of Anteros, with others from the country,
was staying at Rome, and that while there he was chosen to the office through a
most wonderful manifestation of divine and heavenly grace.
For when all
the brethren had assembled to select by vote him who should succeed to the
episcopate of the church, several renowned and honorable men were in the minds
of many, but Fabianus, although present, was in the mind of none. But they
relate that suddenly a dove flying down lighted on his head, resembling the
descent of the Holy Spirit on the Savior in the form of a dove.
6. Thereupon all
the people, as if moved by one Divine Spirit, with all eagerness and unanimity
cried out that he was worthy, and without delay they took him and placed him
upon the episcopal seat.
7. About that time
Zebinus, bishop of Antioch died, and Babylas succeeded him. And in Alexandria
Heraclas, having received the episcopal office after Demetrius, was succeeded in
the charge of the catechetical school by Dionysius, who had also been one of
The pupils of Origen.
8. While Origen
was carrying on his customary duties in Caesarea, many pupils came to him not
only from the vicinity, but also from other countries. Among these Theodorus,
the same that was distinguished among the bishops of our day under the name of
Gregory, and his brother Athenodorus, we know to have been especially
deeply interested in Greek and Roman learning, he infused into them a love of
philosophy, and led them to exchange their old zeal for the study of divinity.
Remaining with him five years, they made such progress in divine things, that
although they were still young, both of them were honored with a bishopric in
the churches of Pontus.
10. At this time
also Africanus, the writer of the books entitled Cesti, was well known. There is
extant an epistle of his to Origen, expressing doubts of the story of Susannah
in Daniel, as being spurious and fictitious. Origen answered this very fully.
Other works of the same Africanus which have reached us are his five books on
Chronology, a work accurately and laboriously prepared.
He says in this
that he went to Alexandria on account of the great fame of Heraclas, who
excelled especially in philosophic studies and other Greek learning, and whose
appointment to the bishopric of the church there we have
12. There is extant
also another epistle from the same Africanus to Aristides on the supposed
discrepancy between Matthew and Luke in the Genealogies of Christ. In this he
shows clearly the agreement of the evangelists, from an account, which had come
down to him, which we have already given in its proper place in the first book
of this work.
The commentaries, which Origen composed in Caesarea in Palestine.
About this time
Origen prepared his Commentaries on Isaiah and on Ezekiel. Of the former there
have come down to us thirty books, as far as the third part of Isaiah, to the
vision of the beasts in the desert; on Ezekiel twenty-five books, which are all
that he wrote on the whole prophet.
14. Being at that
time in Athens, he finished his work on Ezekiel and commenced his Commentaries
on the Song of Songs, which he carried forward to the fifth book. After his
return to Caesarea, he completed these also, ten books in number.
But why should
we give in this history an accurate catalogue of the man's works, which would
require a separate treatise? We have furnished this also in our narrative of the
life of Pamphilus, a holy martyr of our own time.
how great the diligence of Pamphilus was in divine things, we give in that a
catalogue of the library which he collected of the works of Origen and of other
ecclesiastical writers, Whoever desires may learn readily from this which of
Origen's works have reached us. But we must proceed now with our history.
The error of Beryllus.
17. Beryllus, whom
we mentioned recently as bishop of Bostra in Arabia, turned aside from the
ecclesiastical standard and attempted to introduce ideas foreign to the faith.
He dared to assert that our Savior and Lord did not pre-exist in a distinct form
of being of his own before his abode among men, and that he does not possess a
divinity of his own, but only that of the Father dwelling in him.
18. Many bishops
carried on investigations and discussions with him on this matter, and Origen
having been invited with the others, went down at first for a conference with
him to ascertain his real opinion. But when he understood his views, and
perceived that they were erroneous, having persuaded him by argument, and
convinced him by demonstration, he brought him back to the true doctrine, and
restored him to his former sound opinion.
19. There are still
extant writings of Beryllus and of the synod held on his account, which contain
the questions put to him by Origen, and the discussions, which were carried on
in his parish, as well as all the things done at that time.
20. The elder
brethren among us have handed down many other facts respecting Origen, which I
think proper to omit, as not pertaining to this work. But whatever it has seemed
necessary to record about him can be found in the Apology in his behalf written
by us and Pamphilus, the holy martyr of our day. We prepared this carefully and
did the work jointly on account of faultfinders.
21. Gordianus had
been Roman emperor for six years when Philip, with his son Philip, succeeded
him. It is reported that he, being a Christian desired, on the day of the last
paschal vigil, to share with the multitude in the prayers of the Church, but
that he was not permitted to enter, by him who then presided, until he had made
confession and had numbered himself among those who were reckoned as
transgressors and who occupied the place of penance.
22. For if he had
not done this, he would never have been received by him, on account of the many
crimes which he had committed. It is said that he obeyed readily, manifesting in
his conduct a genuine and pious fear of God.
23. In the third
year of this emperor, Heraclas died, having held his office for sixteen years,
and Dionysius received the episcopate of the churches of Alexandria.
Other works of Origen.
1. At this time,
as the faith extended and our doctrine was proclaimed boldly before all, Origen,
being, as they say, over sixty years old, and having gained great facility by
his long practice, very properly permitted his public discourses to be taken
down by stenographers, a thing which he had never before allowed.
He also at this
time composed a work of eight books in answer to that entitled True Discourse,
which had been written against us by Celsus the Epicurean, and the twenty-five
books on the Gospel of Matthew, besides those on the Twelve Prophets, of which
we have found only twenty-five.
3. There is extant
also an epistle of his to the Emperor Philip, and another to Severa his wife,
with several others to different persons. We have arranged in distinct books to
the number of one hundred, so that they might be no longer scattered, as many of
these as we have been able to collect, which have been preserved here and there
by different persons.
He wrote also
to Fabianus, bishop of Rome, and to many other rulers of the churches concerning
his orthodoxy. You have examples of these in the eighth book of the Apology,
which we have written in his behalf.
The dissension of the Arabians.
5. About the same
time others arose in Arabia, putting forward a doctrine foreign to the truth.
They said that during the present time the human soul dies and perishes with the
body, but that at the time of the resurrection they will be renewed together.
6. And at that
time also a synod of considerable size assembled, and Origen, being again
invited thither, spoke publicly on the question with such effect that the
opinions of those who had formerly fallen were changed.
The heresy of the Elkesites.
7. Another error
also arose at this time, called the heresy of the Elkesites, which was
extinguished in the very beginning. Origen speaks of it in this manner in a
public homily on the eighty-second Psalm, "A certain man came just now,
puffed up greatly with his own ability, proclaiming that godless and impious
opinion which has appeared lately in the churches, styled `of the Elkesites.'
I will show you
what evil things that opinion teaches, that you may not be carried away by it.
It rejects certain parts of every scripture. Again it uses portions of the Old
Testament and the Gospel, but rejects the apostle altogether.
says that to deny Christ is an indifferent matter, and that he who understands
will, under necessity, deny with his mouth, but not in his heart. They produce a
certain book which they say fell from heaven.
They hold that
whoever hears and believes this shall receive remission of sins, another
remission than that which Jesus Christ has given." Such is the account of
The persecution under Decius, and the sufferings of Origen
11. After a reign
of seven years Philip was succeeded by Decius. On account of his hatred of
Philip, he commenced a persecution of the churches, in which Fabianus suffered
martyrdom at Rome, and Cornelius succeeded him in the episcopate.
Alexander, bishop of the church of Jerusalem, was brought again on Christ's
account before the governor's judgment seat in Caesarea, and having acquitted
himself nobly in a second confession was cast into prison, crowned with the
hoary locks of venerable age.
13. And after his
honorable and illustrious confession at the tribunal of the governor, he fell
asleep in prison, and Mazabanes became his successor in the bishopric of
Jerusalem. Babylas in Antioch, having like Alexander passed away in prison after
his confession, was succeeded by Fabius in the episcopate of that church.
14. But how many
and how great things came upon Origen in the persecution, and what was their
final result, -as the demon of evil marshaled all his forces, and fought against
the man with his utmost craft and power, assaulting him beyond all others
against whom he contended at that time, -and what and how many things he endured
for the word of Christ, bonds and bodily tortures and torments under the iron
collar and in the dungeon.
15. And how for
many days with his feet stretched four spaces in the stocks he bore patiently
the threats of fire and whatever other things were inflicted by his enemies; and
how his sufferings terminated, as his judge strove eagerly with all his might
not to end his life; and what words he left after these things, full of comfort
to those needing aid, a great many of his epistles show with truth and accuracy.
The events, which happened to Dionysius.
16. I shall quote
from the epistle of Dionysius to Germanus an account of what befell the former.
Speaking of himself, he writes as follows: "I speak before God, and he
knows that I do not lie. I did not flee on my own impulse nor without divine
17. But even before
this, at the very hour when the Decian persecution was commanded, Sabinus sent a
frumentarius to search for me, and I remained at home four days awaiting his
arrival. But he went about examining all places, -roads, rivers, and fields,
-where he thought I might be concealed or on the way.
18. But he was
smitten with blindness, and did not find the house, for he did not suppose, that
being pursued, I would remain at home. And after the fourth day God commanded me
to depart, and made a way for me in a wonderful manner; and I and my attendants
and many of the brethren went away together. And that this occurred through the
providence of God was made manifest by what followed, in which perhaps we were
useful to some."
Further on he
relates in this manner what happened to him after his flight:
"For about sunset, having been seized with those that were with me,
I was taken by the soldiers to Taposiris, but in the providence of God, Timothy
was not present and was not captured. But coming later, he found the house
deserted and guarded by soldiers, and ourselves reduced to slavery."
After a little
he says: "And what was the manner of his admirable management? For the
truth shall be told. One of the country people met Timothy fleeing and
disturbed, and inquired the cause of his haste. And he told him the truth.
And when the
man heard it (he was on his way to a marriage feast, for it was customary to
spend the entire night in such gatherings), he entered and announced it to those
at the table. And they, as if on a pre-arraigned signal, arose with one impulse,
and rushed out quickly and came and burst in upon us with a shout. Immediately
the soldiers who were guarding us fled, and they came to us lying as we were
upon the bare couches.
22. But I, God
knows, thought at first that they were robbers who had come for spoil and
plunder. So I remained upon the bed on which I was, clothed only in a linen
garment, and offered them the rest of my clothing, which was lying beside me.
23. But they
directed me to rise and come away quickly. Then I understood why they were come,
and I cried out, beseeching and entreating them to depart and leave us alone.
And I requested them, if they desired to benefit me in any way, to anticipate
those who were carrying me off, and cut off my head themselves.
24. And when I had
cried out in this manner, as my companions and partners in everything know, they
raised me by force. But I threw myself on my back on the ground; and they seized
me by the hands and feet and dragged me away.
25. And the
witnesses of all these occurrences followed: Gaius, Faustus, Peter, and Paul.
But they who had seized me carried me out of the village hastily, and placing me
on an ass without a saddle, bore me away." Dionysius relates these things respecting himself.
The martyrs in Alexandria.
1. The same
writer, in an epistle to Fabius, bishop of Antioch, relates as follows the
sufferings of the martyrs in Alexandria under Decius:
persecution among us did not begin with the royal decree, but preceded it an
entire year. The prophet and author of evils to this city, whoever he was,
previously moved and aroused against us the masses of the heathen, rekindling
among them the superstition of their country.
And being thus
excited by him and finding full opportunity for any wickedness, they considered
this the only pious service of their demons, that they should slay us.
seized first an old man named Metras, and
commanded him to utter impious words. But as he would not obey, they beat him
with clubs, and tore his face and eyes with sharp sticks, and dragged him out of
the city and stoned him.
5. Then they
carried to their idol temple a faithful woman, named Quinta, that they might force her to worship. And as she turned
away in detestation, they bound her feet and dragged her through the entire city
over the stone-paved streets, and dashed her against the millstones, and at the
same time scourged her; then, taking her to the same place, they stoned her to
6. Then all with
one impulse rushed to the homes of the pious, and they dragged forth whomsoever
any one knew as a neighbor, and despoiled and plundered them. They took for
themselves the more valuable property; but the poorer articles and those made of
wood they scattered about and burned in the streets, so that the city appeared
as if taken by an enemy.
7. But the
brethren withdrew and went away, and `took joyfully the spoiling of their
goods,' like those to whom Paul bore witness. I know of no one unless possibly
some one who fell into their hands, who, up to this time, denied the Lord.
seized also that most admirable virgin, Apollonia,
an old woman, and, smiting her on the jaws, broke out all her teeth. And they
made a fire outside the city and threatened to burn her alive if she would not
join with them in their impious cries. And she, supplicating a little, was
released, when she leaped eagerly into the fire and was consumed.
9. Then they
seized Serapion in his own house, and
tortured him with harsh cruelties, and having broken all his limbs, they threw
him headlong from an upper story. And there was no street, nor public road, nor
lane open to us, by night or day; for always and everywhere, all of them cried
out that if any one would not repeat their impious words, he should immediately
be dragged away and burned.
10. And matters
continued thus for a considerable time. But a sedition and civil war came upon
the wretched people and turned their cruelty toward us against one another. So
we breathed for a little while as they ceased from their rage against us.
11. But presently
the change from that milder reign was announced to us, and great fear of what
was threatened seized us. For the decree arrived, almost like unto that most
terrible time foretold by our Lord, which if it were possible would offend even
12. All truly were
affrighted. And many of the more eminent in their fear came forward immediately;
others who were in the public service were drawn on by their official duties;
others were urged on by their acquaintances. And as their names were called they
approached the impure and impious sacrifices.
13. Some of them
were pale and trembled as if they were not about to sacrifice, but to be
themselves sacrifices and offerings to the idols; so that they were jeered at by
the multitude who stood around, as it was plain to every one that they were
afraid either to die or to sacrifice.
14. But some
advanced to the altars more readily, declaring boldly that they had never been
Christians. Of these the prediction of our Lord is most true that they shall
`hardly' be saved. Of the rest some followed the one, others the other of these
classes, some fled and some were seized.
15. And of the
latter some continued faithful until bonds and imprisonment, and some who had
even been imprisoned for many days yet abjured the faith before they were
brought to trial. Others having for a time endured great tortures finally
retracted. But the firm and blessed
pillars of the Lord being strengthened by him, and having received vigor and
might suitable and appropriate to the strong faith, which they possessed, became
admirable witnesses of his kingdom.
16. The first of
these was Julian, a man who suffered so
much with the gout that he was unable to stand or walk. They brought him forward
with two others who carried him. One of these immediately denied.
17. But the other,
whose name was Cronion, and whose surname
was Eunus, and the old man Julian himself, both of them having confessed the
Lord, were carried on camels through the entire city, which, as you know, is a
very large one, and in this elevated position were beaten and finally burned in
a fierce fire, surrounded by all the populace.
18. But a soldier,
named Besas, who stood by them as they were led away rebuked those who insulted
them. And they cried out against him, and this most manly warrior of God was
arraigned, and having done nobly in the great contest for piety, was beheaded.
A certain other
one, a Libyan by birth, but in name and blessedness a true Macar, was strongly
urged by the judge to recant; but as he would not yield he was burned alive.
After them Epimachus and Alexander,
having remained in bonds for a long time, and endured countless agonies from
scrapers and scourges, were also consumed in a fierce fire.
20. And with them
there were four women. Ammonarium, a holy
virgin, the judge tortured relentlessly and excessively, because she declared
from the first that she would utter none of those things which he commanded; and
having kept her promise truly, she was dragged away.
21. The others were
Mercuria, a very remarkable old woman,
and Dionysia, the mother of many
children, who did not love her own children above the Lord. As the governor was
ashamed of torturing thus ineffectually, and being always defeated by women,
they were put to death by the sword, without the trial of tortures. For the
champion, Ammonarium, endured these in
behalf of all.
The Egyptians, Heron
and Ater and Isidorus,
and with them Dioscorus, a boy about
fifteen years old, were delivered up. At first the judge attempted to deceive
the lad by fair words, as if he could be brought over easily, and then to force
him by tortures, as one who would readily yield. But Dioscorus
was neither persuaded nor constrained.
23. As the others
remained firm, he scourged them cruelly and then delivered them to the fire. But
admiring the manner in which Dioscorus
had distinguished himself publicly, and his wise answers to his persuasions, he
dismissed him, saying that on account of his youth he would give him time for
repentance. And this most godly Dioscorus
is among us now, awaiting a longer conflict and more severe contest.
24. But a certain Nemesion,
who also was an Egyptian, was accused as an associate of robbers; but when he
had cleared himself before the centurion of this charge most foreign to the
truth, he was informed against as a Christian, and taken in bonds before the
governor. And the most unrighteous magistrate inflicted on him tortures and
scourgings double those, which he executed on the robbers, and then burned him
between the robbers, thus honoring the blessed man by the likeness to Christ.
25. A band of
soldiers, Ammon and Zeno and Ptolemy and Ingenes,
and with them an old man, Theophilus, were standing close together before the
tribunal. And as a certain person who was being tried as a Christian, seemed
inclined to deny, they standing by gnashed their teeth, and made signs with
their faces and stretched out their hands, and gestured with their bodies.
26. And when the
attention of all was turned to them, before any one else could seize them, they
rushed up to the tribunal saying that they were Christians, so that the governor
and his council were affrighted.
And those who
were on trial appeared most courageous in prospect of their sufferings, while
their judges trembled. And they went exultingly from the tribunal rejoicing in
their testimony God himself having caused them to triumph gloriously."
Others of whom Dionysius gives an account.
others, in cities and villages, were torn asunder by the heathen, of whom I will
mention one as an illustration. Ischyrion
was employed as a steward by one of the rulers. His employer commanded him to
sacrifice, and on his refusal insulted him, and as he remained firm, abused him.
And as he still held out he seized a long staff and thrust it through his bowels
and slew him.
I speak of the multitude that wandered in the deserts and mountains, and
perished by hunger, and thirst, and cold, and sickness, and robbers, and wild
beasts? Those of them who survived are witnesses of their election and victory.
But I will
relate one occurrence as an example. Chaeremon,
who was very old, was bishop of the city called Nilus. He fled with his wife to
the Arabian mountain and did not return. And though the brethren searched
diligently they could not find either them or their bodies. And many who fled to
mountain were carried into slavery by the barbarian Saracens. Some of them were
ransomed with difficulty and at a large price others have not been to the
present time. I have related these things, my brother, not without an object,
but that you may understand how many and great distresses came upon us. Those
indeed will understand them the best who have had the largest experience of
5. A little
further on he adds: "These divine martyrs among us, who now are seated with
Christ, and are sharers in his kingdom, partakers of his judgment and judges
with him, received some of the brethren who had fallen away and become
chargeable with the guilt of sacrificing.
6. When they
perceived that their conversion and repentance were sufficient to be acceptable
with him who by no means desires the death of the sinner, but his repentance,
having proved them they received them back and brought them together, and met
with them and had fellowship with them in prayers and feasts.
7. What counsel
then, brethren, do you give us concerning such persons? What should we do? Shall
we have the same judgment and rule as theirs, and observe their decision and
charity, and show mercy to those whom they pitied?
8. Or, shall we
declare their decision unrighteous, and set ourselves as judges of their
opinion, and grieve mercy and overturn order?" These words Dionysius very
properly added when making mention of those who had been weak in the time of
Novatus, his manner of life and his heresy.
9. After this,
Novatus, a presbyter of the church at Rome, being lifted up with arrogance
against these persons, as if there was no longer for them a hope of salvation,
not even if they should do all things pertaining to a genuine and pure
conversion, became leader of the heresy of those who, in the pride of their
imagination, call themselves Cathari.
There upon a
very large synod assembled at Rome, of bishops in number sixty, and a great many
more presbyters and deacons; while the pastors of the remaining provinces
deliberated in their places privately concerning what ought to be done.
11. A decree was
confirmed by all, that Novatus and those who joined with him, and those who
adopted his brother-hating and inhuman opinion, should be considered by the
church as strangers; but that they should heal such of the brethren as had
fallen into misfortune, and should minister to them with the medicines of
12. There have
reached us epistles of Cornelius, bishop of Rome, to Fabius, of the church at
Antioch, which show what was done at the synod at Rome, and what seemed best to
all those in Italy and Africa and the regions thereabout.
13. Also other
epistles, written in the Latin language, of Cyprian and those with him in
Africa, which show that they agreed as to the necessity of succoring those who
had been tempted, and of cutting off from the Catholic Church the leader of the
heresy and all that joined with him.
of Cornelius, concerning the resolutions of the synod, is attached to these; and
yet others, on the conduct of Novatus, from which it is proper for us to make
selections, that any one who sees this work may know about him. Cornelius
informs Fabius what sort of a man Novatus was, in the following words:
you may know that a long time ago this remarkable man desired the episcopate,
but kept this ambitious desire to himself and concealed it,-using as a cloak for
his rebellion those confessors who had adhered to him from the beginning,-I
desire to speak.
one of our presbyters, and Urbanus, who twice gained the highest honor by
confession, with Sidonius, and Celerinus, a man who by the grace of God most
heroically endured all kinds of torture, and by the strength of his faith
overcame the weakness of the flesh, and mightily conquered the adversary, -these
men found him out and detected his craft and duplicity, his perjuries and
falsehoods, his un-sociability and cruel friendship.
17. And they
returned to the holy church and proclaimed in the presence of many, both bishops
and presbyters and a large number of the laity, all his craft and wickedness,
which for a long time he had concealed. And this they did with lamentations and
repentance, because through the persuasions of the crafty and malicious beast
they had left the church for the time." A little farther on he says:
remarkable, beloved brother, the change and transformation which we have seen
take place in him in a short time. For this most illustrious man, who bound
himself with terrible oaths in nowise to seek the bishopric, suddenly appears a
bishop as if thrown among us by some machine.
19. For this
dogmatist, this defender of the doctrine of the Church, attempting to grasp and
seize the episcopate, which had not been given him from above, chose two of his
companions who had given up their own salvation. And he sent them to a small and
insignificant corner of Italy, that there by some counterfeit argument he might
deceive three bishops, who were rustic and very simple men.
asserted positively and strongly that it was necessary that they should come
quickly to Rome, in order that all the dissension, which had arisen there, might
be appeased through their mediation, jointly with other bishops.
When they had
come, being, as we have stated, very simple in the craft and artifice of the
wicked, they were shut up with certain selected men like himself. And by the
tenth hour, when they had become drunk and sick, he compelled them by force to
confer on him the episcopate through a counterfeit and vain imposition of hands.
Because it had
not come to him, he avenged himself by craft and treachery. One of these bishops
shortly after came back to the church, lamenting and confessing his
transgression. And we communed with him as with a layman, all the people present
interceding for him. And we ordained successors of the other bishops, and sent
11 them to the places where they were.
23. This avenger of
the Gospel then did not know that there should be one bishop in a catholic
church; yet he was not ignorant (for how could he be?) that in it there were
forty-six presbyters, seven deacons, seven sub-deacons, forty-two acolyths,
fifty-two exorcists, readers, and janitors, and over fifteen hundred widows and
persons in distress, all of whom the grace and kindness of the Master nourish.
24. But not even
this great multitude, so necessary in the church, nor those who, through God's
providence, were rich and full, together with the very many, even innumerable
people, could turn him from such desperation and presumption and recall him to
25. Again, farther
on, he adds these words: "Permit us to say further: On account of what
works or conduct had he the assurance to contend for the episcopate? Was it that
he had been brought up in the Church from the beginning, and had endured many
conflicts in her behalf, and had passed through many and great dangers for
religion? Truly this is not the fact.
But Satan, who
entered and dwelt in him for a long time, became the occasion of his believing.
Being delivered by the exorcists, he fell into a severe sickness; and as he
seemed about to die, he received baptism by effusion, on the bed where he lay;
if indeed we can say that such a one did receive it.
27. And when he was
healed of his sickness he did not receive the other things, which it is
necessary to have according to the canon of the Church, even the being sealed by
the bishop. And as he did not receive this, how could he receive the Holy
Spirit?" Shortly after he says again:
"In the time of persecution, through cowardice and love of life, he
denied that he was a presbyter.
28. For when he was
requested and entreated by the deacons to come out of the chamber in which he
had imprisoned himself and give aid to the brethren as far as was lawful and
possible for a presbyter to assist those of the brethren who were in danger and
needed help, he paid so little respect to the entreaties of the deacons that he
went away and departed in anger.
29. For he said
that he no longer desired to be a presbyter, as he was an admirer of another
philosophy." Passing by a few
things, he adds the following: "For this illustrious man forsook the Church
of God, in which, when he believed, he was judged worthy of being presbyter
through the favor of the bishop who ordained him to the Presbyterian office.
This had been
resisted by all the clergy and many of the laity; because it was unlawful that
one who had been effused on his bed on account of sickness as he had been should
enter into any clerical office; but the bishop requested that he might be
permitted to ordain this one only." He adds to these yet another, the worst
of all the man's offenses, as follows:
he has made the offerings, and distributed a part to each man, as he gives it he
compels the wretched man to swear in place of the blessing. Holding his hands in
both of his own, he will not release him until he has sworn in this manner (for
I will give his own words): Swear
to me by the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ that you will never forsake
me and turn to Cornelius.'
32. And the unhappy
man does not taste until he has called down imprecations on himself; and instead
of saying Amen, as he takes the bread, he says, I will never return to
Cornelius." Farther on he says again:
that he has now been made bare and desolate; as the brethren leave him every day
and return to the church. Moses also, the blessed martyr, who lately suffered
among us a glorious and admirable martyrdom, while he was yet alive, beholding
his boldness and folly, refused to commune with him and with the five presbyters
who with him had separated themselves from the church."
34. At the close of
his letter he gives a list of the bishops who had come to Rome and condemned the
silliness of Novatus, with their names and the parish over which each of them
presided. He mentions also those
who did not come to Rome, but who expressed by letters their agreement with the
vote of these bishops, giving their names and the cities from which they
severally sent them. Cornelius wrote these things to Fabius, bishop of Antioch.
Dionysius' account of Serapion.
1. To this same
Fabius, who seemed to lean somewhat toward this schism, Dionysius of Alexandria
also wrote an epistle. He writes in this many other things concerning
repentance, and relates the conflicts of those who had lately suffered martyrdom
2. After the other
account he mentions a certain wonderful fact, which deserves a place in this
work. It is as follows: "I
will give thee this one example which occurred among us. There was with us a
certain Serapion, an aged believer who had lived for a long time blamelessly,
but had fallen in the trial. He besought often, but no one gave heed to him,
because he had sacrificed. But he became sick, and for three successive days
continued speechless and senseless.
recovered somewhat on the fourth day he sent for his daughter's son, and said,
How long do you detain me, my child? I beseech you, make haste, and absolve me
speedily. Call one of the presbyters to me. And when he had said this, he became
again speechless. And the boy ran to the presbyter. But it was night and he was
sick, and therefore unable to come.
4. But as I had
commanded that persons at the point of death, if they requested it, and
especially if they had asked for it previously, should receive remission, that
they might depart with a good hope, he gave the boy a small portion of the
eucharist, telling him to soak it and let the drops fall into the old man's
returned with it, and as he drew near, before he entered, Serapion again
arousing, said, `Thou art come, my child, and the presbyter could not come; but
do quickly what he directed, and let me depart.' Then the boy soaked it and
dropped it into his mouth. And when he had swallowed a little, immediately he
gave up the ghost.
6. Is it not
evident that he was preserved and his life continued till he was absolved, and,
his sin having been blotted out, he could be acknowledged for the many good
deeds which he had done?" Ionysius relates these things.
An epistle of Dionysius to Novatus.
7. But let us see
how the same man addressed Novatus when he was disturbing the Roman brotherhood.
As he pretended that some of the brethren were the occasion of his apostasy and
schism, as if he had been forced by them to proceed as he had, observe the
manner in which he writes to him:
to his brother Novatus, greeting. If, as thou say, thou hast been led on
unwillingly, thou wilt prove this if thou retire willingly. For it were better
to suffer everything, rather than divide the Church of God.
9. Even martyrdom
for the sake of preventing division would not be less glorious than for refusing
to worship idols. Nay, to me it seems greater. For in the one case a man suffers
martyrdom for the sake of his own soul; in the other case in behalf of the
10. And now if thou
canst persuade or induce the brethren to come to unanimity, thy righteousness
will be greater than thine error, and this will not be counted, but that will be
praised. But if thou canst not prevail with the disobedient, at least save thine
own soul. I pray that thou may fare well, maintaining peace in the Lord."
This he wrote to Novatus.
Other epistles of Dionysius.
He wrote also
an epistle to the brethren in Egypt on repentance. In this he sets forth what
seemed proper to him in regard to those who had fallen, and he describes the
classes of transgressions.
12. There is extant
also a private letter on Repentance, which he wrote to Conon, bishop of the
parish of Hermopolis, and another of an admonitory character, to his flock at
Alexandria. Among them also is the one written to Origen on Martyrdom and to the
brethren at Laodicea, of whom Thelymidres was bishop. He likewise sent one on
Repentance to the brethren in Armenia, of whom Merozanes was bishop.
these, he wrote to Cornelius of Rome, when he had received from him an epistle
against Novatus. He states in this that he had been invited by Helenus, bishop
of Tarsus, in Cilicia, and the others who were with him, Firmilianus, bishop in
Cappadocia, and Theoctistus, of Palestine, to meet them at the synod in Antioch,
where some persons were endeavoring to establish the schism of Novatus.
Besides this he
writes that he had been informed that Fabius had fallen asleep, and that
Demetrianus had been appointed his successor in the episcopate of Antioch. He
writes also in these words concerning the bishop of Jerusalem: "For the
blessed Alexander having been confined in prison, passed away happily."
15. In addition to
this there is extant also a certain other diaconal epistle of Dionysius, sent to
those in Rome through Hippolytus. And he wrote another to them on Peace, and
likewise on Repentance; and yet another to the confessors there who still held
to the opinion of Novatus.
16. He sent two
more to the same persons after they had returned to the Church. And he
communicated with many others by letters, which he has left behind him as a
benefit in various ways to those who now diligently study his writings.