[A.D. 277.] The Manichaean heresy, which was destined to operate so terribly against the Church and the purity of the Gospel, encountered its earliest successful antagonism in the Thebaid; and I have not doubted the wisdom of prefixing this Disputation to the veritable name and work of Alexander of Lycopolis, as important to the complete history of the great Alexandrian school. The Edinburgh translator of this work regards it as an “authentic relic of antiquity,” in spite of Beausobre, who treats is as a romance. I have forced myself, in this republication, to reject no theory of the Edinburgh collaborators to which I have not been able to give as much critical attention, at least, as they have evidently bestowed upon their work. It seems to me a well-sustained presumption that the work is fundamentally real, and Dr. Neander admits its base of fact. It is useful, at any rate, in its form and place, as here presented, and so much may be inferred from the following: –
Translator’s Introductory Notice.
A certain memorable Disputation, which was conducted by a bishop of the name of Archelaus with the heretic Manes, is mentioned by various writers of an early date.1 What professes to be an account of that Disputation has come down to us in a form mainly Latin, but with parts in Greek. A considerable portion of this Latin version was published by Valesius in his edition of Socrates and Sozomen, and subsequently by others in greater completeness, and with the addition of the Greek fragments.2 There seems to be a difference among the ancient authorities cited above as to the person who committed these Acts to writing. Epiphanius and Jerome take it to have been Archelaus himself, while Heraclianus, bishop of Chalcedon, represents it to have been a certain person named Hegemonius. In Photius3 there is a statement to the effect that this Heraclianus, in confuting the errors of the Manichaeans, made use of certain Acts of the Disputation of Bishop Archelaus with Manes which were written by Hegemonius. And there are various passages in the Acts themselves which appear to confirm the opinion of Heraclianus.4 Zacagnius, however, thinks that this is but an apparent discrepancy, which is easily reconciled on the supposition that the book was first composed by Archelaus himself in Syriac, and afterwards edited, with certain amendments and additions, by Hegemonius. That the work was written originally in Syriac is clear, not only from the express testimony of Jerome,5 but also from internal evidence, and specially from the explanations offered now and again of the use of Greek equivalents. It is uncertain who was the author of the Greek version; and we can only conjecture that Hegemonius, in publishing a new edition, may also have undertaken a translation into the tongue which would secure a much larger audience than the original Syriac. But that this Greek version, by whomsoever accomplished, dates from the very earliest period, is proved by the excerpts given in Epiphanius. As to the Latin interpretation itself, all that we can allege is, that it must in all probability have been published after Jerome’s time, who might reasonably be expected to have made some allusion to it if it was extant in his day; and before the seventh century, because, in quoting the Scriptures, it does not follow the Vulgate edition, which was received generally throughout the West by that period. That the Latin translator must have had before him, not the Syriac, but the Greek copy, is also manifest, not only from the general idiomatic character of the rendering, but also from many nicer indications.6
The precise designation of the seat of the bishopric of Archelaus has been the subject of considerable diversity of opinion. Socrates7 and Ephiphanus8 record that Archelaus was bishop of Caschar, or Caschara.9 Epiphanius, however, does not keep consistently by that scription.10 In the opening sentence of the Acts themselves it appears as Carchar.11 Now we know that there were at least two towns of the name of Carcha: for the anonymous Ravenna geographer12 tells us that there was a place of that name in Arabia Felix; and Ammianus Marcellinus13 mentions another beyond the Tigris, within the Persian dominion. The clear statements, however, to the effect that the locality of the bishopric of Archelaus was in Mesopotamia, make it impossible that either of these two towns could have been the seat of his rule. Besides this, in the third chapter of the Acts themselves we find the name Charra occurring; and hence Zacagnius and others have concluded that the place actually intended is the scriptural Charran, or Haran, in Mesopotamia, which is also written Charra in Paulus Diaconus,14 and that the form Carchar or Carchara was either a mere error of the transcribers, or the vulgar provincial designation. It must be added, however, that Neander15 allows this to be only a very uncertain conjecture, while others hold that Caschar is the most probable scription, and that the town is one altogether different from the ancient Haran.
That date of the Disputation itself admits of tolerably exact settlement. Epiphanius, indeed,16 says that Manes fled into Mesopotamia in the ninth year of the reign of Valerianus and Gallienus, and that the discussion with Archelaus took place about the same time. This would carry the date back to about 262 A.D. But this statement, although he is followed in it by Petrus Siculus and Photius, is inconsistent with the specification of times which he makes in dealing with the error of the Manichaeans in his book On the Heresies. From the 37th chapter of the Acts, however, we find that the Disputation took place, not when Gallienus, but when Probus held the empire, and that is confirmed by Cyril of Jerusalem.17 The exact year becomes also clearer from Eusebius, who18 seems to indicate the second year of the reign of Probus as the time when the Manichaean heresy attained general publicity – Secundo anno Probi … insana Manichaeorum haeresis in commune humani generis malum exorta; and from Leo Magnus, who in his second Discourse on Pentecost also avers that Manichaeus became notorious in the consulship of Probus and Paulinus. And as this consulship embraced part of the first and part of the second years of the empire of Probus, the Disputation itself would thus be fixed as occurring in the end of A.D. 277 or the beginning of 278, or, according to the precise calculation of Zacagnius, between July and December of the year 277.
That the Acts of his Disputation constitute an authentic relic of antiquity, seems well established by a variety of considerations. Epiphanius, for instance, writing about the year A.D. 376, makes certain excerpts from them which correspond satisfactorily with the extant Latin version. Socrates, again, whose Ecclesiastical History dates about 439, mentions these Acts, and acknowledges that he drew the materials for his account of the Manichaean heresy from them. The book itself, too, offers not a few evidences of its own antiquity and authenticity. The enumeration given of the various heretics who had appeared up to the time of Archelaus, the mention of his presence at the siege of the city,19 and the allusions to various customs, have all been pressed into that service, as may be seen in detail in the elaborate dissertation prefixed by Zacagnius in his Collectanea Monumentorum Ecclesiae Graecae. At the same time, it is very evident that the work has come down to us in a decidedly imperfect form. There are, for example, arguments by Manes and answers by Archelaus recorded in Cyril20 which are not contained in our Latin version at all. And there are not a few notes of discrepancy and broken connections in the composition itself,21 which show that the manuscripts must have been defective, or that the Latin translator took great liberties with the Greek text, or that the Greek version itself did not faithfully reproduce the original Syriac. On the historical character of the work Neander22 expresses himself thus:23 “These Acts manifestly contain an ill-connected narrative, savouring in no small degree of the romantic. Although there is some truth at the bottom of it – as, for instance, in the statement of doctrine there is much that wears the appearance of truth, and is confirmed also by its agreement with other representations: still the Greek author seems, from ignorance of Eastern languages and customs, to have introduced a good deal that is untrue, by bringing in and and confounding together discordant stories through an uncritical judgment and exaggeration.”
1 Thus Cyril of Jerusalem, in the sixth book of his Catecheses, §§ 27 and 30, tells us how Manes fled into Mesopotamia, and was met there by that shield of righteousness (οπλον δικαιοσύνης) Bishop Archelaus, and was refuted by him in the presence of a number of Greek philosophers, who had been brought together as judges of the discussion. Epiphanius, in his Heresies, lxvi., and again in his work De Mensuris et Poderibus, § 20, makes reference to the same occasion, and gives some excerpts from the Acts of the Disputation. And there are also passages of greater or less importance in Jerome (De vir. illustr., ch. 72), Socrates (Hist. Eccles., i. 22), Heraclianus bishop of Chalcedon (as found in Photius, Bibliotheca, Cod. xcv.), Petrus Siculus (Historia Manichaeorum, pp. 25, 35, 37), Photius, (Adversus Manichaeos, book i., edited in the Biblioth. Coislin., Montfaucon, pp. 356, 358), and the anonymous authors of the Libellus Synodicus, Act_27:1-44, and the Historia Haereseos Manichaeorum in the Codex Regius of Turin. [See Cyril’s text in Routh, R. S., vol. v. pp. 198-205.]
2 As by Zacagnius at Rome, in 1698, in his Collectanea Monumentorum Veterum Ecclesiae Graecae ac Latinae; by Fabricius, in the Spicilegium Sanctorum Patrum Saeculi, iii., in his edition of Hippolytus, etc.
3 Biblioth., Cod. lxxxv. [Coleridge thinks “Manes” himself a myth, “a doubtful Ens.”]
4 See especially ch. 39 and 55. [Note reference to John de Soyres, vol. 5. p. 604, this series.]
5 De vir. illustr., ch. 72.
6 Such as the apparent confusion between ἀήρ and ἀνήρ in Joh_8:1-59, and again between λοιμός and λιμός in the same chapter, and between πήσσει and πλήσσει in Joh_9:1-41, and the retention of certain Greek words, sometimes absolutely, and at other times with an explanation, as cybi, apocrusis, etc.
7 Hist. Eccles., i. 22.
8 Haeres., lxvi. Ecc_5:1-20 and Ecc_7:1-29, and De Mens. et Pond., Deu_20:1-20.
10 For elsewhere (Haeres., lxvi. 11) he writes Κασχάρην, or, according to another reading, which is held by Zacagnius to be corrupt Καλχάρων.
11 And that form is followed by Petrus Siculus (Hist. Manich., p. 37) and Photius (lib. i., Adv. Manich.), who, in epitomizing the statements of Epiphanus, write neither Κασχάρων nor Καλχάρων, but Καρχάρων.
12 Geogr., book ii. Deu_7:1-26.
13 Book xviii. 23, xxv. 20, 21.
14 Hist. Misc., xxii. 20.
15 Church History, ii. p. 165, ed. Bohn.
16 De Mensur. et Pond., Deu_20:1-20.
17 Cateches., vi. p. 140.
18 Chronicon, lib. post., p. 177.
19 In Deu_24:1-22.
20 Catech., vi. p. m. 147.
21 As in the 12th, 25th, and 28th chapters.
22 [Compare Routh, Reliquiae Sacrae, vol. v. pp. 4-206, and his everywhere learned notes.]
23 Church History, ii. pp. 165, 166, ed. Bohn. [Compare Robertson, vol. i. pp. 136-144.]