Vol. 3, Chapter X (Cont’d) – John Chrysostom


I. S. Joannis Chrysostomi. archiepiscopi Constantinopolitani, Opera omnia quae exstant vel quae ejus nomine circumferuntur, ad MSS. codices Gallic. etc. castigata, etc. (Gr. et Lat.). Opera et studio D. Bernardi de Montfaucon, monachi ordinis S. Benedicti e congregatione S. Mauri, opem ferentibus aliis ex eodem sodalitio monachis. Paris. 1718-’38, in 13 vols. fol. The same edition reprinted at Venice, 1734-’41, in 13 vols. fol. (after which I quote in this section); also at Paris by Sinner (Gaume), 1834-’39, in 13 vols. (an elegant edition, with some additions), and by J. P. Migne, Petit-Montrouge, 1859-’60, in 13 vols. Besides we have a number of separate editions of the Homilies, and of the work on the Priesthood, both in Greek, and in translations. A selection of his writings in Greek and Latin was edited by F. G. Lomler, Rudolphopoli, 1840, 1 volume. German translations of the Homilies (in part) by J. A. Cramer (Leipzig, 1748-’51), Feder (Augsburg, 1786), Ph. Mayer (Nürnberg, 1830), W. Arnoldi (Trier, 1831), Jos. Lutz (Tübingen, 1853); English translations of the Homilies on the New Testament in the Oxford Library of the Fathers, 1842-’53.

II. Palladius (a friend of Chrysostom and bishop of Helenopolis in Bithynia, author of the Historia Lausiaca; according to others a different person): Dialogus historicus de vita et conversatione beati Joannis Chrysostomi cum Theodoro ecclesiae Romanae diacono (in the Bened. ed. of the Opera, tom. xiii. pp. 1-89). Hieronymus: De viris illustribus, c. 129 (a very brief notice, mentioning only the work de sacerdotio). Socrates: H. E. vi. 3-21. Sozomen: H. E. viii. 2-23. Theodoret: H. E. v. 27-36. B. de Montfaucon: Vita Joannis Chrys. in his edition of the Opera, tom. xiii. 91-178. Testimonia Veterum de S. Joann. Chrys. scriptis, ibid. tom. xiii. 256-292. Tillemont: Mémoires, vol. xi. pp. 1-405. F. Stilting: Acta Sanctorum, Sept. 14 (the day of his death), tom. iv. pp. 401-709. A. Butler: Lives of Saints, sub Jan. 27. W. Cave: Lives of the Fathers, vol. iii. p. 237 ff. J. A. Fabricius: Biblioth. Gr. tom. viii. 454 sqq. Schröckh: Vol. x. p. 309 ff. A. Neander: Der heilige Chrysostomus (first 1821), 3d edition, Berlin, 1848, 2 vols. Abbé Rochet: Histoire de S. Jean Chrysostome. Par. 1866, 2 vols. Comp. also A. F. Villemain’s Tableau de l’éloquence chrétienne au IVe siècle. Paris, 1854.

Villemain: L’éloquence chrétienne dans le quatrième siècle. Paris 1849; new ed. 1857. P. Albert: St. Jean Chrysostôme considéré comme orateur populaire. Paris, 1858. Abbé Rochet: Histoire de S. Jean Chrysostôme. Paris, 1866. 2 vols. Th. Förster: Chrysostomus in seinem Verhältniss zur antiochenischen Schule. Gotha, 1869. W. Maggilvray: John of the Golden Mouth. Lond., 1871. Am. Thierry: S. J. Chrysostôme et l’ imperatrice Eudoxie. 2d ed. Paris, 1874. Böhringer: Johann Chrysostomus und Olympias, in his K. G. in Biogr., vol. ix., new ed., 1876. W. R. W. Stephens: St. Chrysostom: his Life and Times. London, 1872; 3d ed., 1883. F. W. Farrar, in “Lives of the Fathers,” Lond., 1889, ii. 460-540.

Engl. translation of works of St. Chrys., edited by Schaff, N. York, 1889, 6 vols. (with biographical sketch and literature by Schaff).

John, to whom an admiring posterity since the seventh century has given the name Chrysostomus, the Golden-mouthed, is the greatest expositor and preacher of the Greek church, and still enjoys the highest honor in the whole Christian world. No one of the Oriental fathers has left a more spotless reputation; no one is so much read and so often quoted by modern commentators.

He was born at Antioch, a.d. 347. His father was a distinguished military officer. His mother Anthusa, who from her twentieth year was a widow, shines with Nonna and Monica among the Christian women of antiquity. She was admired even by the heathen, and the famous rhetorician Libanius, on hearing of her consistency and devotion, felt constrained to exclaim: “Ah! what wonderful women there are among the Christians.” She gave her son an admirable education, and early planted in his soul the germs of piety, which afterwards bore the richest fruits for himself and for the church. By her admonitions and the teachings of the Bible he was secured against the seductions of heathenism.

He received his literary training from Libanius, who accounted him his best scholar, and who, when asked shortly before his death (395) whom he wished for his successor, replied: “John, if only the Christians had not carried him away.”

After the completion of his studies he became a rhetorician. He soon resolved, however, to devote himself to divine things, and after being instructed for three years by bishop Meletius in Antioch, he received baptism.

His first inclination after his conversion was to adopt the monastic life, agreeably to the ascetic tendencies of the times; and it was only by the entreaties of his mother, who adjured him with tears not to forsake her, that he was for a while restrained. Meletius made him reader, and so introduced him to a clerical career. He avoided an election to the bishopric (370) by putting forward his friend Basil, whom he accounted worthier, but who bitterly complained of the evasion. This was the occasion of his celebrated treatise On the Priesthood, in which, in the form of a dialogue with Basil, he vindicates his not strictly truthful conduct, and delineates the responsible duties of the spiritual office.

After the death of his mother he fled from the seductions and tumults of city life to the monastic solitude of the mountains near Antioch, and there spent six happy years in theological study and sacred meditation and prayer, under the guidance of the learned abbot Diodorus (afterwards bishop of Tarsus, † 394), and in communion with such like-minded young men as Theodore of Mopsuestia, the celebrated father of Antiochian (Nestorian) theology († 429). Monasticism was to him a most profitable school of experience and self-government; because he embraced this mode of life from the purest motives, and brought into it intellect and cultivation enough to make the seclusion available for moral and spiritual growth.

In this period he composed his earliest writings in praise of monasticism and celibacy, and his two long letters to the fallen Theodore (subsequently bishop of Mopsuestia), who had regretted his monastic vow and resolved to marry. Chrysostom regarded this small affair from the ascetic stand-point of his age as almost equal to an apostasy from Christianity, and plied all his oratorical arts of sad sympathy, tender entreaty, bitter reproach, and terrible warning, to reclaim his friend to what he thought the surest and safest way to heaven. To sin, he says, is human, but to persist in sin is devilish; to fall is not ruinous to the soul, but to remain on the ground is. The appeal had its desired effect, and cannot fail to make a salutary impression upon every reader, provided we substitute some really great offence for the change of a mode of life which can only be regarded as a temporary and abnormal form of Christian practice.

By excessive self-mortifications John undermined his health, and returned about 380 to Antioch. There he was immediately ordained deacon by Meletius in 386, and by Flavian was made presbyter. By his eloquence and his pure and earnest character he soon acquired great reputation and the love of the whole church.

During the sixteen or seventeen years of his labors in Antioch he wrote the greater part of his Homilies and Commentaries, his work on the Priesthood, a consolatory Epistle to the despondent Stagirius, and an admonition to a young widow on the glory of widowhood and the duty of continuing in it. He disapproved second marriage, not as sinful or illegal, but as inconsistent with an ideal conception of marriage and a high order of piety.

After the death of Nectarius (successor of Gregory Nazianzen), towards the end of the year 397, Chrysostom was chosen, entirely without his own agency, patriarch of Constantinople. At this post he labored several years with happy effect. But his unsparing sermons aroused the anger of the empress Eudoxia, and his fame excited the envy of the ambitious patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria. An act of Christian love towards the persecuted Origenistic monks of Egypt involved him in the Origenistic controversy, and at last the united influence of Theophilus and Eudoxia overthrew him. Even the sympathy of the people and of Innocent I., the bishop of Rome, was unavailing in his behalf. He died in banishment on the fourteenth of September, a.d. 407, thanking God for all. The Greeks celebrate his memorial day on the thirteenth of November, the Latins on the twenty-seventh of January, the day on which his remains in 438 were solemnly deposited in the Church of the Apostles in Constantinople with those of the emperors and patriarchs.

Persecution and undeserved sufferings tested the character of Chrysostom, and have heightened his fame. The Greek church honors him as the greatest teacher of the church, approached only by Athanasius and the three Cappadocians. His labors fall within the comparatively quiet period between the Trinitarian and the Christological controversies. He was not therefore involved in any doctrinal controversy except the Origenistic; and in that he had a very innocent part, as his unspeculative turn of mind kept him from all share in the Origenistic errors. Had he lived a few decades later he would perhaps have fallen under suspicion of Nestorianism; for he belonged to the same Antiochian school with his teacher Diodorus of Tarsus, his fellow-student Theodore of Mopsuestia, and his successor Nestorius. From this school, whose doctrinal development was not then complete, he derived a taste for the simple, sober, grammatico-historical interpretation, in opposition to the arbitrary allegorizing of the Alexandrians, while he remained entirely free from the rationalizing tendency which that school soon afterwards discovered. He is thus the soundest and worthiest representative of the Antiochian theology. In anthropology he is a decided synergist; and his pupil Cassian, the founder of Semi-Pelagianism, gives him for an authority. But his synergism is that of the whole Greek church; it had no direct conflict with Augustinianism, for Chrysostom died several years before the opening of the Pelagian controversy. He opposed the Arians and Novatians, and faithfully and constantly adhered to the church doctrine, so far as it was developed; but he avoided narrow dogmatism and angry controversy, and laid greater stress on practical piety than on unfruitful orthodoxy.

Valuable as the contributions of Chrysostom to didactic theology may be, his chief importance and merit lie not in this department, but in homiletical exegesis, pulpit eloquence, and pastoral care. Here he is unsurpassed among the ancient fathers, whether Greek or Latin. By talent and culture he was peculiarly fitted to labor in a great metropolis. At that time a bishop, as he himself says, enjoyed greater honor at court, in the society of ladies, in the houses of the nobles, than the first dignitaries of the empire. Hence the great danger, of hierarchical pride and worldly conformity, to which so many of the prelates succumbed. This danger Chrysostom happily avoided. He continued his plain monastic mode of life in the midst of the splendor of the imperial residence, and applied all his superfluous income to the support of the sick and the stranger. Poor for himself, he was rich for the poor. He preached an earnest Christianity fruitful in good works, he insisted on strict discipline, and boldly attacked the vices of the age and the hollow, worldly, hypocritical religion of the court. He, no doubt, transcended at times the bounds of moderation and prudence, as when he denounced the empress Eudoxia as a new Herodias thirsting after the blood of John; but he erred “on virtue’s side,” and his example of fearless devotion to duty has at all times exerted a most salutary influence upon clergymen in high and influential stations. Neander not inaptly compares his work in the Greek church with that of Spener, the practical reformer in the Lutheran church of the seventeenth century, and calls him a martyr of Christian charity, who fell a victim in the conflict with the worldly spirit of his age.

In the pulpit Chrysostom was a monarch of unlimited power over his hearers. His sermons were frequently interrupted by noisy theatrical demonstrations of applause, which he indignantly rebuked as unworthy of the house of God. He had trained his natural gift of eloquence, which was of the first order, in the school of Demosthenes and Libanius, and ennobled and sanctified it in the higher school of the Holy Spirit. He was in the habit of making careful preparation for his sermons by the study of the Scriptures, prayer, and meditation; but he knew how to turn to good account unexpected occurrences, and some of his noblest efforts were extemporaneous effusions under the inspiration of the occasion. His ideas are taken from Christian experience and especially from the inexhaustible stores of the Bible, which he made his daily bread, and which he earnestly recommended even to the laity. He took up whole books and explained them in order, instead of confining himself to particular texts, as was the custom after the introduction of the pericopes. His language is noble, solemn, vigorous, fiery, and often overpowering. Yet he was by no means wholly free from the untruthful exaggerations and artificial antitheses, which were regarded at that time as the greatest ornament and highest triumph of eloquence, but which appear to a healthy and cultivated taste as defects and degeneracies. The most eminent French preachers, Bossuet, Massillon, and Bourdaloue, have taken Chrysostom for their model.

By far the most numerous and most valuable writings of this father are the Homilies, over six hundred in number, which he delivered while presbyter at Antioch and while bishop at Constantinople. They embody his exegesis; and of this they are a rich storehouse, from which the later Greek commentators, Theodoret, Theophylact, and Oecumenius, have drawn, sometimes content to epitomize his expositions. Commentaries, properly so called, he wrote only on the first eight chapters of Isaiah and on the Epistle to the Galatians. But nearly all his sermons on Scripture texts are more or less expository. He has left us homilies on Genesis, the Psalms, the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of John, the Acts, and all the Epistles of Paul, including the Epistle to the Hebrews. His homilies on the Pauline Epistles are especially esteemed.

Besides these expository sermons on whole books of the Scriptures, Chrysostom delivered homilies on separate sections or verses of Scripture, festal discourses, orations in commemoration of apostles and martyrs, and discourses on special occasions. Among the last are eight homilies Against the Jews (against Judaizing tendencies in the church at Antioch), twelve homilies Against the Anomoeans (Arians), and especially the celebrated twenty and one homilies On the Statues, which called forth his highest oratorical powers. He delivered the homilies on the Statues at Antioch in 387 during a season of extraordinary public excitement, when the people, oppressed by excessive taxation, rose in rebellion, tore down the statues of the emperor Theodosius I., the deceased empress Flacilla, and the princes Arcadius and Honorius, dragged them through the streets, and so provoked the wrath of the emperor that he threatened to destroy the city — a calamity which was avoided by the intercession of bishop Flavian.

The other works of Chrysostom are his youthful treatise on the Priesthood already alluded to; a number of doctrinal and moral essays in defence of the Christian faith, and in commendation of celibacy and the nobler forms of monastic life; and two hundred and forty-two letters, nearly all written during his exile between 403 and 407. The most important of the letters are two addressed to the Roman bishop Innocent I., with his reply, and seventeen long letters to his friend Olympias, a pious widow and deaconess. They all breathe a noble Christian spirit, not desiring to be recalled from exile, convinced that there is but one misfortune, — departure from the path of piety and virtue, and filled with cordial friendship, faithful care for all the interests of the church, and a calm and cheerful looking forward to the glories of heaven.

The so-called Liturgy of Chrysostom, which is still in use in the Greek and Russian churches, has been already noticed in the proper place.

Among the pupils and admirers of Chrysostom we mention as deserving of special notice two abbots of the first half of the fifth century: the elder Nilus of Sinai, who retired with his son from one of the highest civil stations of the empire to the contemplative solitude of Mount Sinai, while his wife and daughter entered a convent of Egypt; and Isidore of Pelusium, or Pelusiota, a native of Alexandria, who presided over a convent not far from the mouth of the Nile, and sympathized with Cyril against Nestorius, but warned him against his violent passions. They are among the worthiest representatives of ancient monasticism, and, in a large number of letters and exegetical and ascetic treatises, they discuss, with learning, piety, judgment, and moderation, nearly all the theological and practical questions of their age.


171. Cyril of Alexandria

I. S. Cyrillus, Alex. archiepisc.: Opera omnia, Gr. et Lat., cura et studio Joan. Auberti. Lutetiae, 1638, 6 vols. in 7 fol. The same edition with considerable additions by J. P. Migne, Petit-Montrouge, 1859, in 10 vols. (Patrol. Gr. tom. lxviii-lxxvii.). Comp. Angelo Mai’s Nova Bibliotheca Patrum, tom. ii. pp. 1-498 (Rom. 1844), and tom. iii. (Rom. 1845), where several writings of Cyril are printed for the first time, viz.: De incarnatione Domini; Explanatio in Lucam; Homiliae; Excerpta; Fragments of Commentaries on the Psalms, and the Pauline and Catholic Epistles. (These additional works are incorporated in Migne’s edition.) Cyrilli Commentarii in Lucca Evangelium quae supersunt, Syriace, e manuscriptis apud museum Britannicum edidit Rob. Payne Smith, Oxonii, 1858. The same also in an English version with valuable notes by R. P. Smith, Oxford, 1859, in 2 vols. A new ed. of Cyril’s works, including his Com. on the Minor Prophets, the Gospel of John, the Five Books against Nestorius, the Scholia on the Incarnation, etc., was prepared with great pains by Philip Pusey (son of Dr. Pusey). Oxf., 1868-81. In 5 vols Engl. trans. in the Oxford “Library of the Fathers.” 1874 sqq. See an interesting sketch of Ph. Pusey (d. 1880) and his ed. in the “Church Quarterly Review” (London), Jan., 1883, pp. 257-291.

II. Scattered notices of Cyril in Socrates, Marius Mercator, and the Acts of the ecumenical Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon. Tillemont: Tom. xiv. 267-676, and notes, pp. 747-795. Cellier: Tom. xiii. 241 sqq. Acta Sanctorum: Jan. 28, tom. ii. A. Butler: Jan. 28. Fabricius: Biblioth. Gr. ed. Harless, vol. ix. p. 446 sqq. (The Vita of the Bollandists and the Noticia literaria of Fabricius are also reprinted in Migne’s edition of Cyril, tom. i. pp. 1-90.) Schröckh Theil xviii. 313-354. Comp. also the Prefaces of Angelo Mai to tom. ii. of the Nova Bibl. Patrum, and of R. P. Smith to his translation of Cyril’s Commentary on Luke. Hefele: Conciliengesch., vol. ii., revised ed. (1875), where Cyril figures very prominently, pp. 135, 157, 167 sqq., 247 sqq., 266 sqq., etc. C. Burk, in Herzog,2 iii. 418 sq. W. Bright: St. Cyrillus of Al., in Smith and Wace, i. 763-773.

While the lives and labors of most of the fathers of the church continually inspire our admiration and devotion, Cyril of Alexandria makes an extremely unpleasant, or at least an extremely equivocal, impression. He exhibits to us a man making theology and orthodoxy the instruments of his passions.

Cyrillus became patriarch of Alexandria about the year 412. He trod in the footsteps of his predecessor and uncle, the notorious Theophilus, who had deposed the noble Chrysostom and procured his banishment; in fact, he exceeded Theophilus in arrogance and violence. He had hardly entered upon his office, when he closed all the churches of the Novatians in Alexandria, and seized their ecclesiastical property. In the year 415 he fell upon the synagogues of the very numerous Jews with armed force, because, under provocation of his bitter injustice, they had been guilty of a trifling tumult; he put some to death, and drove out the rest, and exposed their property to the excited multitude.

These invasions of the province of the secular power brought him into quarrel and continual contest with Orestes, the imperial governor of Alexandria. He summoned five hundred monks from the Nitrian mountains for his guard, who publicly insulted the governor. One of them, by the name of Ammon, wounded him with a stone, and was thereupon killed by Orestes. But Cyril caused the monk to be buried in state in a church as a holy martyr to religion, and surnamed him Thaumasios, the Admirable; yet he found himself compelled by the universal disgust of cultivated people to let this act be gradually forgotten.

Cyril is also frequently charged with the instigation of the murder of the renowned Hypatia, a friend of Orestes. But in this cruel tragedy he probably had only the indirect part of exciting the passions of the Christian populace which led to it, and of giving them the sanction of his high office.

From his uncle he had learned a strong aversion to Chrysostom, and at the notorious Synodus ad Quercum near Chalcedon, a.d. 403, he voted for his deposition. He therefore obstinately resisted the patriarchs of Constantinople and Antioch, when, shortly after the death of Chrysostom, they felt constrained to repeal his unjust condemnation; and he was not even ashamed to compare that holy man to the traitor Judas. Yet he afterwards yielded, at least in appearance, to the urgent remonstrances of Isidore of Pelusium and others, and admitted the name of Chrysostom into the diptychs of his church (419), and so brought the Roman see again into communication with Alexandria.

From the year 428 to his death in 444 his life was interwoven with the Christological controversies. He was the most zealous and the most influential champion of the anti-Nestorian orthodoxy at the third ecumenical council, and scrupled at no measures to annihilate his antagonist. Besides the weapons of theological learning and acumen, he allowed himself also the use of wilful misrepresentation, artifice, violence, instigation of people and monks at Constantinople, and repeated bribery of imperial officers, even of the emperor’s sister Pulcheria. By his bribes he loaded the church property at Alexandria with debt, though he left considerable wealth even to his kindred, and adjured his successor, the worthless Dioscurus, with the most solemn religious ceremonies, not to disturb his heirs.

His subsequent exertions for the restoration of peace cannot wipe these stains from his character; for he was forced to those exertions by the power of the opposition. His successor Dioscurus, however (after 444), made him somewhat respectable by inheriting all his passions without his theological ability, and by setting them in motion for the destruction of the peace.

Cyril furnishes a striking proof that orthodoxy and piety are two quite different things, and that zeal for pure doctrine may coëxist with an unchristian spirit. In personal character he unquestionably stands far below his unfortunate antagonist. The judgment of the Catholic historians is bound by the authority of their church, which, in strange blindness, has canonized him. Yet Tillemont feels himself compelled to admit that Cyril did much that is unworthy of a saint. The estimate of Protestant historians has been the more severe. The moderate and honest Chr. W. Franz Walch can hardly give him credit for anything good; and the English historian, H. H. Milman, says he would rather appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, loaded with all the heresies of Nestorius, than with the barbarities of Cyril.

But the faults of his personal character should not blind us to the merits of Cyril as a theologian. He was a man of vigorous and acute mind and extensive learning and is clearly to be reckoned among the most important dogmatic and polemic divines of the Greek church. Of his contemporaries Theodoret alone was his superior. He was the last considerable representative of the Alexandrian theology and the Alexandrian church, which, however, was already beginning to degenerate and stiffen; and thus be offsets Theodoret, who is the most learned representative of the Antiochian school. He aimed to be the same to the doctrine of the incarnation and the person of Christ, that his purer and greater predecessor in the see of Alexandria had been to the doctrine of the Trinity a century before. But he overstrained the supranaturalism and mysticism of the Alexandrian theology, and in his zeal for the reality of the incarnation and the unity of the person of Christ, he went to the brink of the monophysite error; even sustaining himself by the words of Athanasius, though not by his spirit, because the Nicene age had not yet fixed beyond all interchange the theological distinction between οὐσία and ὑπόστασις.

And connected with this is his enthusiastic zeal for the honor of Mary as the virgin-mother of God. In a pathetic and turgid eulogy on Mary, which he delivered at Ephesus during the third ecumenical council, he piles upon her predicates which exceed all biblical limits, and border upon idolatry. “Blessed be thou,” says he, “O mother of God! Thou rich treasure of the world, inextinguishable lamp, crown of virginity, sceptre of true doctrine, imperishable temple, habitation of Him whom no space can contain, mother and virgin, through whom He is, who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed be thou, O Mary, who didst hold in thy womb the Infinite One; thou through whom the blessed Trinity is glorified and worshipped, through whom the precious cross is adored throughout the world, through whom heaven rejoices and angels and archangels are glad, through whom the devil is disarmed and banished, through whom the fallen creature is restored to heaven, through whom every believing soul is saved.” These and other extravagant praises are interspersed with polemic thrusts against Nestorius.

Yet Cyril did not, like Augustine, exempt the Virgin from sin or infirmity, but, like Basil, he ascribed to her a serious doubt at the crucifixion concerning the true divinity of Christ, and a shrinking from the cross, similar to that of Peter, when he was scandalized at the bare mention of it, and exclaimed: “Be it far from thee, Lord!” (Mat_16:22.) In commenting on Joh_19:25, Cyril says: “The female sex somehow is ever fond of tears, and given to much lamentation …. It was the purpose of the holy evangelist to teach, that probably even the mother of the Lord Himself took offence at the unexpected passion; and the death upon the cross, being so very bitter, was near unsettling her from her fitting mind …. Doubt not that she admitted some such thoughts as these: I bore Him who is laughed at on the wood; but when He said He was the true Son of the Omnipotent God, perhaps somehow He was mistaken. He said, ‘I am the Life;’ how then has He been crucified? how has He been strangled by the cords of His murderers? how did He not prevail over the plot of His persecutors? why does He not descend from the cross, since He bade Lazarus to return to life, and filled all Judaea with amazement at His miracles? And it is very natural that woman, not knowing the mystery, should slide into some such trains of thought. For we should understand, that the gravity of the circumstances of the Passion was enough to overturn even a self-possessed mind; it is no wonder then if woman slipped into this reasoning.” Cyril thus understands the prophecy of Simeon (Luk_2:35) concerning the sword, which, he says, “meant the most acute pain, cutting down the woman’s mind into extravagant thoughts. For temptations test the hearts of those who suffer them, and make bare the thoughts which are in them.”

Aside from his partisan excesses, he powerfully and successfully represented the important truth of the unity of the person of Christ against the abstract dyophysitism of Nestorius.

For this reason his Christological writings against Nestorius and Theodoret are of the greatest importance to the history of doctrine. Besides these he has left us a valuable apologetic work, composed in the year 433, and dedicated to the emperor Theodosius II., in refutation of the attack of Julian the Apostate upon Christianity; and a doctrinal work on the Trinity and the incarnation. As an expositor he has the virtues and the faults of the arbitrary allegorizing and dogmatizing method of the Alexandrians, and with all his copiousness of thought he affords far less solid profit than Chrysostom or Theodoret. He has left extended commentaries, chiefly in the form of sermons, on the Pentateuch (or rather on the most important sections and the typical significance of the ceremonial law), on Isaiah, on the twelve Minor Prophets, and on the Gospel of John. To these must now be added fragments of expositions of the Psalms, and of some of the Epistles of Paul, first edited by Angelo Mai; and a homiletical commentary on the Gospel of Luke, which likewise has but recently become known, first by fragments in the Greek original, and since complete in a Syriac translation from the manuscripts of a Nitrian monastery. And, finally, the works of Cyril include thirty Easter Homilies (Homiliae paschales), in which, according to Alexandrian custom, he announced the time of Easter; several homilies delivered in Ephesus and elsewhere; and eighty-eight Letters, relating for the most part, to the Nestorian controversies.


172. Ephraem the Syrian

I. S. Ephraem Syrus: Opera omnia quae exstant Graece, Syriace, Latine, in sex tomos distributa, ad MSS. codices Vaticanos aliosque castigata, etc.: nunc primum, sub auspiciis S. P. Clementis XII. Pontificis Max. e Bibl. Vaticana prodeunt. Edited by the celebrated Oriental scholar J. S. Assemani (assisted by his nephew Stephen Evodius Assemani, 1732-’43, 6 vols. and the Maronite Jesuit Peter Benedict). Romae, fol. (vols. i.-iii. contain the Greek and Latin translations; vols. iv.-vi., which are also separately numbered i.-iii., the Syriac writings with a Latin version). Supplementary works edited by the Mechitarists, Venet. 1836, 4 vols. 8 vo. The hymns of Ephraem have also been edited by Aug. Hahn and Fr. L. Sieffert: Chrestomathia Syriaca sive S. Ephraemi carmina selecta, notis criticis, philologicis, historicis, et glossario locupletissimo illustr., Lips. 1825; and by Daniel: Thes. hymn. tom. iii. (Lips. 1855) pp. 139-268. German translation by Zingerle: Die heil. Muse der Syrer. Innsbruck, 1830. English translation by Henry Burgess: Select metrical Hymns and Homilies of Ephr. Syrus, transl. Lond. 1853, 2 vols. 12 mo. Comp. §114, above.

II. Gregorius Nyss.: Vita et encomium S. Ephr. Syr. (in Opera Greg. ed. Paris. 1615, tom. ii. pp. 1027-1048; or in Migne’s ed. of Greg. tom. iii. 819-850, and in Ephr. Op. tom. i.). The Vita per Metaphrastem; several anonymous biographies; the Testimonia veterum and Judicia recentiorum; the Dissertation de rebus gestis, scriptis, editionibusque Ephr. Syr., etc., all in the first volume, and the Acta Ephraemi Syriaca auctore anonymo, in the sixth volume, of Assemani’s edition of the Opera Ephr. Jerome: Cat. vir. ill.c. 115. Sozomen: H. E. iii. c. 16; vi. 34. Theodoret: H. E. iv. 29. Acta Sanctorum for Fehr. i. (Antw. 1658), pp. 67-78. Butler: The Lives of the Saints, sub July 9. W. Cave: Lives of the Fathers, etc. Vol. iii. 404-412 (Oxford ed. of 1840). Fabricius: Bibl. Gr. (reprinted in Assemani’s ed. of the Opera i. lxiii. sqq.). Lengerke: De Ephraemo Syro S. Scripturae interprete, Hal. 1828; De Ephr. arte hermeneutica, Regiom. 1831. Alsleben: Das Leben des h. Ephraem. Berlin, 1853. E. Rödiger: Art. Ephraem in Herzog’s Encykl. vol. iv. (1855), p. 85 ff.

Evangelii Concordantis Expositio facta a S. Ephraemo Doctore Syro. Venet., 1876. (A Commentary on Tatian’s Diatessaron, found in the Mechitarist Convent at Venice in an Armenian translation, translated into Latin, 1841, by Aucher, and published with an introduction by Prof. Mösinger of Salzburg.) Comp. also the art. Ephraem, in Herzog,2 iv. 255-261 (by Radiger, revised by Spiegel). In Smith and Wace, ii. 137-145 (by E. Venables).

Before we leave the Oriental fathers, we must give a sketch of Ephraem or Ephraim the most distinguished divine, orator, and poet, of the ancient Syrian church. He is called “the pillar of the church,” “the teacher,” “the prophet, of the Syrians,” and as a hymn-writer “the guitar of the Holy Ghost.” His life was at an early date interwoven with miraculous legends, and it is impossible to sift the truth from pious fiction.

He was born of heathen parents in Mesopotamia (either at Edessa or at Nisibis) in the beginning of the fourth century, and was expelled from home by his father, a priest of the god Abnil, for his leaning to Christianity. He went to the venerated bishop and confessor Jacob of Nisibis, who instructed and probably also baptized him, took him to the council of Nicaea in 325, and employed him as teacher. He soon acquired great celebrity by his sacred learning, his zealous orthodoxy, and his ascetic piety. In 363, after the cession of Nisibis to the Persians, he withdrew to Roman territory, and settled in Edessa, which about that time became the chief seat of Christian learning in Syria. He lived a hermit in a cavern near the city, and spent his time in ascetic exercises, in reading, writing, and preaching to the monks and the people with great effect. He acquired complete mastery over his naturally violent temper, he denied himself all pleasures, and slept on the bare ground. He opposed the remnants of idolatry in the surrounding country, and defended the Nicene orthodoxy against all classes of heretics. He made a journey to Egypt, where he spent several years among the hermits. He also visited, by divine admonition, Basil the Great at Caesarea, who ordained him deacon. Basil held him in the highest esteem, and afterwards sent two of his pupils to Edessa to ordain him bishop; but Ephraem, in order to escape the responsible office, behaved like a fool, and the messengers returned with the report that he was out of his mind. Basil told them that the folly was on their side, and Ephraem was a man full of divine wisdom.

Shortly before his death, when the city of Edessa was visited by a severe famine, Ephraem quitted his solitary cell and preached a powerful sermon against the rich for permitting the poor to die around them, and told them that their wealth would ruin their soul, unless they made good use of it. The rich men felt the rebuke, and intrusted him with the distribution of their goods. Ephraem fitted up about three hundred beds, and himself attended to the sufferers, whether they were foreigners or natives, till the calamity was at an end. Then he returned to his cell, and a few days after, about the year 379, he expired, soon following his friend Basil.

Ephraem, says Sozomen, attained no higher clerical degree than that of deacon, but his attainments in virtue rendered him equal in reputation to those who rose to the highest sacerdotal dignity, while his holy life and erudition made him an object of universal admiration. He left many disciples who were zealously attached to his doctrines. The most celebrated of them were Abbas, Zenobius, Abraham, Maras, and Simeon, whom the Syrians regard as the glory of their country.

Ephraem was an uncommonly prolific author. His fertility was prophetically revealed to him in his early years by the vision of a vine which grew from the root of his tongue, spreading in every direction to the ends of the earth, and was loaded with new and heavier clusters the more it was plucked. His writings consist of commentaries on the Scriptures, homilies, ascetic tracts, and sacred poetry. The commentaries and hymns, or metrical prose, are preserved in the Syriac original, and have an independent philological value for Oriental scholars. The other writings exist only in Greek, Latin, and Armenian translations. Excellent Greek translations were known and extensively read so early as the time of Chrysostom and Jerome. His works furnish no clear evidence of his knowledge of the Greek language; some writers assert his acquaintance with Greek, others deny it.

His commentaries extended over the whole Bible, “from the book of creation to the last book of grace,” as Gregory of Nyssa says. We have his commentaries on the historical and prophetical books of the Old Testament and the Book of Job in Syriac, and his commentaries on the Epistles of Paul in an Armenian translation. They have been but little used thus far by commentators. He does not interpret the text from the original Hebrew, but from the old Syriac translation, the Peshito.

His sermons and homilies, of which, according to Photius, he composed more than a thousand, are partly expository, partly polemical, against Jews, heathen, and heretics. They evince a considerable degree of popular eloquence; they are full of pathos, exclamations, apostrophes, antitheses, illustrations, severe rebuke, and sweet comfort, according to the subject; but also full of exaggerations, bombast, prolixity, and the superstitious of his age, such as the over-estimate of ascetic virtue, and excessive veneration of the Virgin Mary, the saints, and relics. Some of his sermons were publicly read after the Bible lesson in many Oriental and even Occidental churches.

His hymns were intended to counteract the influence of the heretical views of Bardesanes and his son Harmonius, which spread widely by means of popular Syrian songs. “When Ephraem perceived,” says Sozomen, “that the Syrians were charmed with the elegant diction and melodious versification of Harmonius, he became apprehensive, lest they should imbibe the same opinions; and therefore, although he was ignorant of Greek learning, he applied himself to the study of the metres of Harmonius, and composed similar poems in accordance with the doctrines of the church, and sacred hymns in praise of holy men. From that period the Syrians sang the odes of Ephraem, according to the method indicated by Harmonius.” Theodoret gives a similar account, and says, that the hymns of Ephraem combined harmony and melody with piety, and subserved all the purposes of valuable and efficacious medicine against the heretical hymns of Harmonius. It is reported that he wrote no less than three hundred thousand verses. But, with the exception of his commentaries, all his Syriac works are written in verse, i.e., in lines of an equal number of syllables, and with occasional rhyme and assonance, though without regular metre.


II. — The Latin Fathers

173. Lactantius

I. Lactantius, Lucius Caecilius Firmianus: Opera. First edition in venerabili monasterio Sublacensi, 1465. (Brunet: “Livre précieux, qui est en même temps la première édition de Lactance, et le premier ouvrage impr. en Italia avec date.”) Later editions by J. L. Brünemann, Lips. 1739; Le Brun and N. Lenglet Du Fresnoy, Par. 1748, 2 vols. 4to; F. E. a S. Xaverio, Rom. 1754-’9, and Migne, Par. 1844, in 2 vols. A convenient manual edition by O. Fridol. Fritzsche, in Gersdorf’s Bibliotheca Patrum ecclesiast. selecta, Lips. 1842, vol. x. and xi.

II. The introductory essays to the editions. Jerome: Cat. vir. illustr. c. 80. Notices in Dupin, Ceillier, Cave (Vol. iii. pp. 373-384), Schönemann (Biblioth. Patr. Lat. i. 177 sqq.), etc. Möhler: Patrologie, i. pp. 917-933. On the Christology of Lactantius, comp. Dorner: Entwicklungsgeschichte der Lehre Von der Person Christi. Th. i. p. 761 ff.

English translation by W. Fletcher, in Clark’s “Ante-Nicene Library,” vols. xxi. and xxii. Edinb., 1871. For an estimate of his literary merits, see Ebert: Gesch. der christl. lat. Lit. Leipz., 1874 sqq., vol. i. 70-86. Ebert, in Herzog,2 viii. 364-366. Ffoulkes, in Smith and Wace, iii. 613-617.

Firmiamus Lactantius stands among the Latin fathers, like Eusebius among the Greek, on the border between the second period and the third, and unites in his reminiscences the personal experience of both the persecution and the victory of the church in the Roman empire; yet in his theological views he belongs rather to the ante-Nicene age.

According to his own confession he sprang from heathen parents. He was probably, as some have inferred from his name, a native of Firmum (Fermo) in Italy; he studied in the school of the rhetorician and apologist Arnobius of Sicca, and on this account has been taken by some for an African; he made himself known by a poetical work called Symposion, a collection of a hundred riddles in hexameters for table amusement; and he was called to Nicomedia by Dioclesian to teach Latin eloquence. But as this city was occupied mostly by Greeks, he had few hearers, and devoted himself to authorship. In his manhood, probably shortly before or during the persecution under Dioclesian, he embraced Christianity; he was witness of the cruel scenes of that persecution, though not himself a sufferer in it; and he wrote in defence of the hated and reviled religion.

Constantine subsequently (after 312) brought him to his court in Gaul, and committed to him the education of his son Crispus, whom the emperor caused to be executed in 326. At court he lived very simply, and withstood the temptations of luxury and avarice. He is said to have died in the imperial residence at Treves at a great age, about the year 330.

Jerome calls Lactantius the most learned man of his time. His writings certainly give evidence of varied and thorough knowledge, of fine rhetorical culture, and particularly of eminent power of statement in clear, pure, and elegant style. In this last respect he surpasses almost all the Latin fathers, except Jerome, and has not unjustly been called the Christian Cicero. His is the famous derivation of the word religion from religare, defining it as the reunion of man with God, reconciliation; answering to the nature of Christianity, and including the three ideas of an original unity, a separation by sin, and a restoration of the unity again.

But he is far more the rhetorician than the philosopher or theologian, and, as Jerome observes, has greater skill in the refutation of error than in the establishment of truth. The doctrinal matter of his writings, as in the case of his preceptor Arnobius, is very vague and unsatisfactory, and he does not belong to the narrower circle of the fathers, the authoritative teachers of the church. Pope Gelasius counted his works among the apocrypha, i.e., writings not ecclesiastically received.

Notwithstanding this, his Institutes, on account of their elegant style, have been favorite reading, and are said to have appeared in more than a hundred editions. His mistakes and errors in the exposition of points of Christian doctrine do not amount to heresies, but are mostly due to the crude and unsettled state of the church doctrine at the time. In the doctrine of sin he borders upon Manichaeism. In anthropology and soteriology he follows the synergism which, until Augustine, was almost universal. In the doctrine of the Trinity he was, like most of the ante-Nicene fathers, subordinationist. He taught a duplex nativitas of Christ, one at the creation, and one at the incarnation. Christ went forth from God at the creation, as a word from the mouth, yet hypostatically.

His most important work is his Divine Institutes, a comprehensive refutation of heathenism and defence of Christianity, designed to make Christianity better known among the cultivated classes, and to commend it by scholarship and attractive style. He seems to have begun the work during the Dioclesianic persecution, but afterwards to have enlarged and improved it about the year 321; for he dedicated it to the emperor, whom he celebrates as the first Christian prince.

To the same apologetic purpose was his work De morte, or mortibus, persecutorum, which is of some importance to the external history of the church. It describes with minute knowledge, but in vehement tone, the cruel persecutions of the Christians from Nero to Dioclesian, Galerius, and Maximinus (314), and the divine judgments on the persecutors, who were compelled to become involuntary witnesses to the indestructible power of Christianity.

In his book De opificio Dei he gives observations on the organization of the human nature, and on the divine wisdom displayed in it.

In the treatise De ira Dei he shows that the punitive justice of God necessarily follows from his abhorrence of evil, and is perfectly compatible with his goodness; and he closes with an exhortation to live such a life that God may ever be gracious to us, and that we may never have to fear his wrath.

We have also from Lactantius various Fragmenta and Carmina de Phoenice, de Passione Domini, de resurrectione Domini, and one hundred Aenigmata, each of three hexameters.


174. Hilary of Poitiers

I. S. Hilarius Pictaviensis: Opera, studio et labore monach. S. Benedicti e congreg. S. Mauri. Paris, 1693, 1 vol. fol. The same ed. enlarged and improved by Scip. Maffei, Verona, 1730, 2 vols. fol. (reprinted in Venice, 1749). Am ed. by Fr. Overthür, Wirceburgi, 1785-’88, 4 vols.; and one by Migne, Petit-Montrouge, 1844-’45, in 2 vols. (Patrol. Lat. tom. ix. and x.).

II. The Praefatio et Vitae in the first vol. of the ed. of Maffei, and Migne (tom. i. 125 sqq.). Hieronymus: De viris illustr. c. 100. Tillemont (tom. vii.); Ceillier (tom. v.); and Butler, sub Jan. 14. Kling, in Herzog’s Encykl. vi. 84 ff. On the Christology of Hilary, comp. especially Dorner, Entwicklungsgeschichte, i. 1037 ff. Reinkens: Hilarius von Poitiers. Schaffhausen, 1864. Semisch, in Herzog,2 vi. 416-427. Cazenove, in Smith and Wace, ii. 54-66, and his St. Hilary of Poitiers. Lond., 1883. (Soc. for Promot. Christian Knowledge.) Farrar: in “Lives of the Fathers” (1889), i. 426-467.

Hilary of Poitiers, or Pictaviensis, so named from his birth-place and subsequent bishopric in Southwestern France, and so distinguished from other men of the same name, was especially eminent in the Arian controversies for his steadfast confession and powerful defence of the orthodox faith, and has therefore been styled the “Athanasius of the West.”

He was born towards the end of the third century, and embraced Christianity in mature age, with his wife and his daughter Apra. He found in the Holy Scriptures the solution of the riddle of life, which he had sought in vain in the writings of the philosophers. In the year 350 he became bishop of his native city, and immediately took a very decided stand against Arianism, which was at that time devastating the Gallic church. For this he was banished by Constantius to Phrygia in Asia Minor, where Arianism ruled. Here, between 356 and 361, he wrote his twelve books on the Trinity, the main work of his life. He was recalled to Gaul, then banished again, and spent the last years of his life in rural retirement till his death in 368.

We have from him, besides the theological work already mentioned several smaller polemic works against Arianism, viz., On Synods, or the Faith of the Orientals (358); fragments of a history of the Synod of Ariminum and Seleucia; a tract against the Arian emperor Constantius, and one against the Arian bishop Auxentius of Milan. He wrote also Commentaries on the Psalms (incomplete), and the Gospel of Matthew, which are partly a free translation of Origen, and some original hymns, which place him next to Ambrose among the lyric poets of the ancient church.

Hilary was a man of thorough biblical knowledge, theological depth and acuteness, and earnest, efficient piety. He had schooled himself in the works of Origen and Athanasius, but was at the same time an independent thinker and investigator. His language is often obscure and heavy, but earnest and strong, recalling Tertullian. He had to reproduce the profound thoughts of Athanasius and other Greek fathers in the Latin language, which is far less adapted to speculation than the copious, versatile, finely-shaded Greek. The incarnation of God was to him, as it was to Athanasius, the center of theology and of the Christian life. He had an effective hand in the development of the dogma of the consubstantiality of the Son with the Father, and the dogma of the person of Christ. In this he was specially eminent for his fine use of the Gospel of John. But he could not get clear of subordinationism, nor call the Holy Ghost downright God. His Pneumatology, as well as his anthropology and soteriology, was, like that of all the fathers before Augustine, comparatively crude. In Christology he saw farther and deeper than many of his contemporaries. He made the distinction clear between the divine and the human in Christ, and yet held firmly to the unity of His person. He supposes a threefold birth of the Son of God: the eternal generation in the bosom of the Father, to whom the Son is equal in essence and glory; the incarnation, the humiliation of Himself to the form of a servant from the free impulse of love; and the birth of the Son of God out of the Son of Man in the resurrection, the transfiguration of the form of a servant into the form of God, at once showing forth again the full glory of God, and realizing the idea of humanity.