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§ 203. Victorinus of Petau.


(I.) Opera in the "Max. Biblioth. vet. Patrum." Lugd. Tom. III., in Gallandi’s "Bibl. PP.," Tom. IV.; and in Migne’s "Patrol. Lat.," V. 281–344 (De Fabrica Mundi, and Scholia in Apoc. Joannis).

English translation by R. E. Wallis, in Clark’s "Ante-Nicene Library," Vol. III., 388–433; N. York ed. VII. (1886).

(II.) Jerome: De. Vir. ill., 74. Cassiodor: Justit. Div. Lit., c. 9. Cave: Hist. Lit., I., 147 sq. Lumper’s Proleg., in Migne’s ed., V. 281–302, Routh: Reliq., S. I., 65; III., 455–481.


Victorinus, probably of Greek extraction, was first a rhetorician by profession, and became bishop of Petavium, or Petabio,15831583    Vict. Petavionensis orPetabionensis; notPictaviensis (from Poictiers), as in the Rom. Martyrologium and Baronius. John Launoy (d. 1678) is said to have first corrected this error.584 in ancient Panonia (Petau, in the present Austrian Styria). He died a martyr in the Diocletian persecution (303). We have only fragments of his writings, and they are not of much importance, except for the age to which they belong. Jerome says that he understood Greek better than Latin, and that his works are excellent for the sense, but mean as to the style. He counts him among the Chiliasts, and ascribes to him commentaries on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Habakkuk, Canticles, the Apocalypse, a book Against all Heresies, "et multa alia." Several poems are also credited to him, but without good reason.15841584    Carmina de Jesu Christo Deo et homine; Lignum Vitae; also the hymns DeCruce or De Paschate, in Tertullian’s and Cyprian’s works. Routh, III. 483, denies the genuineness; so also Lumper in Migne V. 294.585

1. The fragment on the Creation of the World is a series of notes on the account of creation, probably a part of the commentary on Genesis mentioned by Jerome. The days are taken liberally. The creation of angels and archangels preceded the creation of man, as light was made before the sky and the earth. The seven days typify seven millennia; the seventh is the millennial sabbath, when Christ will reign on earth with his elect. It is the same chiliastic notion which we found in the Epistle of Barnabas, with the same opposition to Jewish sabbatarianism. Victorinus compares the seven days with the seven eyes of the Lord (Zech. 4:10), the seven heavens (comp. Ps. 33:6), the seven spirits that dwelt in Christ (Isa. 11:2, 3), and the seven stages of his humanity: his nativity, infancy, boyhood, youth, young-manhood, mature age, death. This is a fair specimen of these allegorical plays of a pious imagination.

2. The scholia on the Apocalypse of John are not without interest for the history of the interpretation of this mysterious book.15851585    Comp. Lüke, Einleitung in die Offen b. Joh, pp. 972-982 (2nd ed.); and Bleek, Vorlesungen über die Apok., p. 34 sq. Lücke and Bleek agree in regarding this commentary as a work of Victorinus, but with later interpolations. Bleek assumes that it was originally more pronounced in its chiliasm.586 But they are not free from later interpolations of the fifth or sixth century. The author assigns the Apocalypse to the reign of Domitian (herein agreeing with Irenaeus), and combines the historical and allegorical methods of interpretation. He also regards the visions in part as synchronous rather than successive. He comments only on the more difficult passages.15861586    As Cassiodorus remarks: "Difficillima quaedam loca breviter tractavit.’;587 We select the most striking points.

The woman in ch. 12 is the ancient church of the prophets and apostles; the dragon is the devil. The woman sitting on the seven hills (in ch. 17), is the city of Rome. The beast from the abyss is the Roman empire; Domitian is counted as the sixth, Nerva as the seventh, and Nero revived as the eighth Roman King.15871587    This explanation of 17:10, 11 rests on the expectation of the return of Nero as Antichrist, and was afterwards justly abandoned by Andreas and Arethas, but has been revived again, though with a different counting of the emperors, by the modern champions of the Nero-hypothesis. See the discussion in vol. I, 864 sqq.588 The number 666 (13:18) means in Greek Teitan15881588    T=300; E="5"; I=10; T=300: A=l; N=50; in all 666. Dropping the final n, we get Teita=616, which was the other reading in 13:18, mentioned by Irenaeus. Titus was the destroyer of Jerusalem, but in unconconsious fulfilment of Christ’s prophecy; he was no persecutor of the church, and was one of the best among the Roman emperors.589 (this is the explanation preferred by Irenaeus), in Latin Diclux. Both names signify Antichrist, according to the numerical value of the Greek and Roman letters. But Diclux has this meaning by contrast, for Antichrist, "although he is cut off from the supernal light, yet transforms himself into an angel of light, daring to call himself light."15891589    D=500; I="1"; C=100; L=50; V=5; X=10; in all=666. "Id est quod Graece sonat τειτάν id quod Latine dicitur diclux, quo nomine per antiphrasin expresso intelligimus antichrstum, qui cum a luce superna abscissus sit et ea privatus, transfigurat tamen se in angelum lucis audens sese dicere lucem. Item invenimus in quodom codice, Graeco ἄντεμος . " The last name is perhaps a corruption for Ἄντειμος, which occurs on coins of Moesia for a ruling dynasty, or may be meant for a designation of character: honori contrarius. See Migne, V. 339, and Lücke, p. 978.590 To this curious explanation is added, evidently by a much later hand, an application of the mystic number to the Vandal king Genseric (γενσήρικος) who in the fifth century laid waste the Catholic church of North Africa and sacked the city of Rome.

The exposition of ch. 20:1–6 is not so strongly chiliastic, as the corresponding passage in the Commentary on Genesis, and hence some have denied the identity of authorship. The first resurrection is explained spiritually with reference to Col. 3:1, and the author leaves it optional to understand the thousand years as endless or as limited. Then he goes on to allegorize about the numbers: ten signifies the decalogue, and hundred the crown of virginity; for he who keeps the vow of virginity completely, and fulfils the precepts of the decalogue, and destroys the impure thoughts within the retirement of his own heart, is the true priest of Christ, and reigns with him; and "truly in his case the devil is bound." At the close of the notes on ch. 22, the author rejects the crude and sensual chiliasm of the heretic Cerinthus. "For the kingdom of Christ," he says, "is now eternal in the saints, although the glory of the saints shall be manifested after the resurrection."15901590    "Nam regnum Christi nunc est sempiternum in sanctis, cum fuerit gloria post resurrectionem manifestata sanctorum." (Migne V. 344.)591 This looks like a later addition, and intimates the change which Constantine’s reign produced in the mind of the church as regards the millennium. Henceforth it was dated from the incarnation of Christ.15911591    Comp. § 188, p. 612 sqq.592



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