« Prev To Stephanus, Bishop of Rome Next »

To Stephanus, Bishop of Rome
(Eus., H. E. vii. 4 and 5)
(The First of the Epistles about Baptism)

(1) Know now, brother, that all the Churches in the East and even further afield6767This expression probably means to include the Churches of Mesopotamia and Osroene, besides those which he proceeds to mention below. which were divided, have been united: and all their rulers everywhere 52 are of one mind, rejoicing exceedingly at the unexpected peace6868Eusebius is mistaken in identifying this peace with the cessation of persecution: the reference is to the subsiding of the Novatianist schism in 254 which restored peace to Christendom. The surprise and joy were due to the violence of the language and other measures which the chief combatants (Stephen and Cyprian) had employed. which has come about, Demetrian in Antioch, Theoctistus in Cæsarea, Mazabbanes in Ælia,6969Hadrian’s colony in Mount Sion was so named (A.D. 132). Later on the older and more glorious name of Jerusalem was restored to the see. Marinus in Tyre, Alexander having fallen asleep, Heliodorus in Laodicea, Thelymidrus being at rest, Helenus in Tarsus and all the Churches of Cilicia, Firmilianus7070Bishop of Cæsarea in Cappadocia († A.D. 260), and one of Origen’s distinguished pupils. On the baptismal controversy he sided with Cyprian of Carthage. and all Cappadocia. For I have mentioned only the more prominent of the Bishops, in order that I may not make my letter too long nor my narrative wearisome. Nevertheless, the whole of Syria and Arabia, districts whose needs ye from time to time supply7171The adroit reference to the wonted liberality of the Roman Church is to be noted: other instances are given by Salmon, Infallibility, p. 375. and to whom ye now have sent an epistle, Mesopotamia also and Pontus and Bithynia, and, in one word, all men everywhere exult in the harmony and brotherly love displayed and praise God for it.7272Here again Dionysius shows his adroitness, if Benson (Cyprian, p. 357) is right in thinking that the list of churches he gives suggests a repetition of the Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Ghost (Acts ii. 9 f.).

[The two following extracts are translated from Syriac versions, and I am indebted for them to Mr. N. MacLean of Christ’s College, Cambridge. The first has been put together out of two MSS. in the British Museum, neither of which contains the whole, 53 and was printed by Pitra, Analecta Sacra, Vol. IV. The Greek original of most of the first sentence is preserved in a catena on Deuteronomy, Cod. Vat. 1521, fol. 591, and was first printed by Simon de Magistris in his edition of our author, p. 200. There is much probability that this extract formed part of the same letter to Stephanus as the extract from Eusebius which precedes it here. The second extract is found in three other Syriac MSS. in the British Museum, but is less certainly part of this letter, or indeed authentic at all.]

(2) If so be that any man speak a wicked thing of God like those who call Him unpitying7373Cp. the letter to Dionysius, p. 58. or any man living in the fear of other gods, the Law has commanded that such a one be stoned:7474Lev. xxiv. 13-16. but we would stone these men with sound words of faith. Or if a man receive not at all the mystery7575The word here used represents μυστήριον, denoting the Christian revelation as μυστήριον often does. of Christ or alter and distort it—(saying) that He is not God, or that he did not become a man, or that He did not die, or that He did not rise, or that He will not come to judge the quick and the dead—or preach anything else apart from what we preached, let him be a curse, says Paul.7676Cf. 1 Cor. xvi. 22 and Gal. i. 8, 9. Or if so be he have wronged the word concerning the resurrection of the flesh, let him be already reckoned with the dead. For we speak in carefulness concerning these things—in order that we may be in agreement one with another, churches with churches, bishops with bishops, priests with priests. And in regard to causes and affairs about matters which concern individual men—how it is 54 right to receive him who approaches from without and how him who comes from within7777The former are converts from heathenism, or perhaps from heresy; the latter Christians who have lapsed.—we counsel to obey those who stand at the head of every place who by Divine election7878The word here is the Greek χειροτονία in Syriac letters, and so might also be rendered “ordination.” are put into this ministration—leaving to our Lord the judgment of all things which they do.

(3) Those who were baptized in the name of the three Persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—though they were baptized by heretics who confess the three Persons, shall not be re-baptized. But those who are converted from other heresies shall be perfected by the baptism of the Holy Church.7979The MSS. from which this extract comes state that it is from a letter to Dionysius and Stephanus of Rome. No such letter is otherwise known, and it is not likely that Stephen’s name would come second, as he was then bishop and Dionysius only a presbyter, though later on he became bishop. Possibly it is from the letter which our Dionysius tells us he wrote to his Roman namesake and Philemon when they were of the same opinion as Stephen: see p. 55. As far as the contents of the extract go, it is not at all incredible that Dionysius was willing to admit the validity of such baptisms as are specified: it was only heresies of a very fundamental kind which he considered to invalidate baptism.

« Prev To Stephanus, Bishop of Rome Next »


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |