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§ 151. Second Class of Antitrinitarians: Praxeas, Noëtus, Callistus, Berryllus.


The second class of Monarchians, called by Tertullian "Patripassians" (as afterwards a branch of the Monophysites was called "Theopaschites"),10641064    The Orientals usually call them "Sabellians" from their most prominent representative.064 together with their unitarian zeal felt the deeper Christian impulse to hold fast the divinity of Christ; but they sacrificed to it his independent personality, which they merged in the essence of the Father. They taught that the one supreme God by his own free will, and by an act of self-limitation became man, so that the Son is the Father veiled in the flesh. They knew no other God but the one manifested in Christ, and charged their opponents with ditheism. They were more dangerous than the rationalistic Unitarians, and for a number of years had even the sympathy and support of the papal chair. They had a succession of teachers in Rome, and were numerous there even at the time of Epiphanius towards the close of the fourth century.

1. The first prominent advocate of the Patripassian heresy was Praxeas of Asia Minor. He came to Rome under Marcus Aurelius with the renown of a confessor; procured there the condemnation of Montanism; and propounded his Patripassianism, to which he gained even the bishop Victor.10651065    Pseudo-Tert.: "Praxeas hoeresim introduxit quam Victorinus [probably=Victor] corroborare curavit." It is certain from Hippolytus, that Victor’s successors, Zephyrinus and Callistus sympathized with Patripassianism.065 But Tertullian met him in vindication at once of Montanism and of hypostasianism with crushing logic, and sarcastically charged him with having executed at Rome two commissions of the devil: having driven away the Holy Ghost, and having crucified the Father. Praxeas, constantly appealing to Is. 45:5; John. 10:30 ("I and my Father are one"), and 14:9 ("He that hath seen me hath seen the Father "), as if the whole Bible consisted of these three passages, taught that the Father himself became man, hungered, thirsted, suffered, and died in Christ. True, he would not be understood as speaking directly of a suffering (pati) of the Father, but only of a sympathy (copati) of the Father with the Son; but in any case he lost the independent personality of the Son. He conceived the relation of the Father to the Son as like that of the spirit to the flesh. The same subject, as spirit, is the Father; as flesh, the Son. He thought the Catholic doctrine tritheistic.10661066    The chief source: Tertullian, Adv. Praxean (39 chs., written about 210). Comp. Pseudo-Tertull. 20. Hippolytus strangely never mentions Praxeas. Hence some have conjectured that he was identical with Noëtus, who came likewise from Asia Minor; others identify him with Epigonus, or with Callistus, and regard Praxeas as a nickname. The proper view is that Praxeas appeared in Rome before Epigonus, probably under Eleutherus, and remained but a short time. On the other hand Tertullian nowhere mentions the names of Noëtus, Epigonus, Cleomenes, and Callistus.066

2. Noëtus of Smyrna published the same view about a.d. 200, appealing also to Rom. 9:5, where Christ is called "the one God over all." When censured by a council he argued in vindication of himself, that his doctrine enhanced the glory of Christ.10671067    τί οὖν κακὸν ποιῶ, he asked, δοξάζων τὸν Χριστόν.067 The author of the Philosophumena places him in connection with the pantheistic philosophy of Heraclitus, who, as we here for the first time learn, viewed nature as the harmony of all antitheses, and called the universe at once dissoluble and indissoluble, originated and unoriginated, mortal and immortal; and thus Noëtus supposed that the same divine subject must be able to combine opposite attributes in itself.10681068    On Noëtus see Hippol., Philos. IX. 7-9 (p. 410-442), and his tract against Noëtus (Ὁμιλία εἰς τὴν αἵρεσιν Νοήτου τινος, perhaps the last chapter of his lost work against the 32 heresies). Epiphanius, Haer. 57, used both these books, but falsely put Noëtus back from the close of the second century to about 130.068

Two of his disciples, Epigonus and Cleomenes,10691069    Not his teachers, as was supposed by former historians, including Neander. See Hippolytus, IX. 7.069 propagated this doctrine in Rome under favor of Pope Zephyrinus.

3. Callistus (pope Calixtus I.) adopted and advocated the doctrine of Noëtus. He declared the Son merely the manifestation of the Father in human form; the Father animating the Son, as the spirit animates the body,10701070    John 14:11.070 and suffering with him on the cross. "The Father," said he, "who was in the Son, took flesh and made it God, uniting it with himself and made it one. Father and Son were therefore the name of the one God, and this one person10711071    πρόσωπον, Callistus, however, rectified this statement, which seems to be merely an inference of Hippolytus.071 cannot be two; thus the Father suffered with the Son." He considered his opponents "ditheists,"10721072    δίθεοι.072 and they in return called his followers "Callistians."

These and other disclosures respecting the church at Rome during the first quarter of the third century, we owe, as already observed, to the ninth book of the Philosophumena of Hippolytus, who was, however, it must be remembered, the leading opponent and rival of Callistus, and in his own doctrine of the Trinity inclined to the opposite subordinatian extreme. He calls Callistus, evidently with passion, an "unreasonable and treacherous man, who brought together blasphemies from above and below only to speak against the truth, and was not ashamed to fall now into the error of Sabellius, now into that of Theodotius" (of which latter, however, he shows no trace, but the very opposite).10731073    Döllinger here dissents from, Harnack agrees with, the charge of Hippolytus.073 Callistus differed from the ditheistic separation of the Logos from God, but also from the Sabellian confusion of the Father and the Son, and insisted on the mutual indwelling (περιχώρησις) of the divine Persons; in other words, he sought the way from modalistic unitarianism to the Nicene trinitarianism; but he was not explicit and consistent in his statements. He excommunicated both Sabellius and Hippolytus; the Roman church sided with him, and made his name one of the most prominent among the ancient popes.10741074    On Callistus see Hippol. IX. 11, 12 (p. 450-462) and c. 27 (p. 528-530). Comp. Döllinger, Hippol. und Callistus, ch. IV. (Engl. transl. p. 183 sqq., especially p. 215), and other works on Hippolytus; also Langen, Gesch. der röm. Kirche, p. 192-216. Döllinger charges Hippolytus with misrepresenting the views of Callistus; while Bishop Wordsworth (St. Hippolytus and the Church of Rome, ch. XIV. p. 214 sqq.), charges Callistus with the Sabellian heresy, and defends the orthodoxy of Hippolytus by such easy reasoning as this (p. 254): "Callistus is asserted by Hippolytus to have been a heretic. No church historian affirms Callistus to have been orthodox. All church history that has spoken of Hippolytus,—and his name is one of the most celebrated in its annals,—has concurred in bearing witness to the soundness of his faith." Harnack (in Herzog X. 202) considers the formula of Callistus as the bridge from the original monarchianism of the Roman church to the hypostasis-christology (Die Bücke, auf welcher di ursprünglich monarchianisch gesinnten römischen Crhisten, dem Zuge der Zeit und der kirchtichen,WIssenschaft folgend, zur Anerkennung der Hypostasen- Christologie übergegangen sind.")074

After the death of Callistus, who occupied the papal chair between 218 and 223 or 224, Patripassianism disappeared from the Roman church.

4. Beryllus of Bostra (now Bosra and Bosseret), in Arabia Petraea. From him we have only a somewhat obscure and very variously interpreted passage preserved in Eusebius.10751075    H. E. VI. 33.075 He denied the personal pre-existence10761076    ἰδία οὐσίας περιγραφήi.e. a circumscribed, limited, separate existence.076 and in general the independent divinity10771077    ἰδία θεότης.077 of Christ, but at the same time asserted the indwelling of the divinity of the Father10781078    ἡ πατρικὴ θεότης.078 in him during his earthly life. He forms, in some sense, the stepping-stone from simple Patripassianism to Sabellian modalism. At an Arabian synod in 244, where the presbyter Origen, then himself accused of heresy, was called into consultation, Beryllus was convinced of his error by that great teacher, and was persuaded particularly of the existence of a human soul in Christ, in place of which he had probably put his πατρικὴ θεότος, as Apollinaris in a later period put the λόγος. He is said to have thanked Origen afterwards for his instruction. Here we have one of the very few theological disputations which have resulted in unity instead of greater division.10791079    The Acts of the Synod of Bostra, known to Eusebius and Jerome, are lost. Our scanty information on Beryllus is derived from Eusebius, already quoted, from Jerome, De Vir. ill. c. 60, and from a fragment of Origen in the Apology of Pamphilus, Orig. Opera, IV. 22 (ed. Bened.) Comp. Ullmann, De Beryllo Bostr., Hamb. 1835. Fock, Dissert. de Christologia Berylli, 1843; Kober, Beryll v. B. in the Tüb."Theol. Quartalschrift," for 1848. Also Baur, Dorner (I. 545 sqq.), Harnack, and Hefele (Conc. Gesch. I. 109).079



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