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§ 193. Opponents of Origen. Methodius


(I.) Μεθοδίου ἐπισκόπου καὶ μάρτυρος τὰ εὑρισκόμενα πάντα. In Gallandi’s "Vet. Patr. Biblioth." Tom. III.; in Migne’s "Patrol. Gr." Tom. XVIII. Col. 9–408; and by A. Jahn (S. Methodii Opera, et S. Methodius Platonizans, Hal. 1865, 2 pts.). The first ed. was publ. by Combefis, 1644, and more completely in 1672. English translation in Clark’s "Ante-Nicene Libr.," vol. XIV. (Edinb. 1869.)

(II) Hieronymus: De Viris ill. 83, and in several of his Epp. and Comment. Epiphanius: Haer. 64. Socrates: H. E. VI. 31. Photius: Bibl. 234–237.

Eusebius is silent about Method., perhaps because of his opposition to Origen; while Photius, perhaps for the same reason, pays more attention to him than to Origen, whose De Principiis he pronounces blasphemous, Bibl 8. Gregory of Nyssa, Arethas, Leontius Byzantius, Maximus, the Martyrologium Romanum (XIV. Kal. Oct.) and the Menologium Graecum (ad diem 20 Junii), make honorable mention of him.

(III.) Leo Allatius: Diatribe de Methodiorum Scriptis, in his ed. of the Convivium in 1656. Fabric." Bibl. Gr.," ed. Harles, VII. 260 sqq. W. Möller in Herzog2, IX. 724–726. (He discusses especially the relation of Methodius to Origen.) G. Salmon in Smith and Wace, III. 909–911.


The opposition of Demetrius to Origen proceeded chiefly from personal feeling, and had no theological significance. Yet it made a pretext at least of zeal for orthodoxy, and in subsequent opponents this motive took the principal place. This was the case, so early as the third century, with Methodius, who may be called a forerunner of Epiphanius in his orthodox war against Origen, but with this difference that he was much more moderate, and that in other respects he seems to have been an admirer of Plato whom he imitated in the dramatic dress of composition, and of Origen whom he followed in his allegorical method of interpretation. He occupied the position of Christian realism against the speculative idealism of the Alexandrian teacher.

Methodius (also called Eubulius) was bishop first of Olympus and then of Patara (both in the province of Lycia, Asia Minor on the southern coast), and died a martyr in 311 or earlier in the Diocletian persecution.15001500    Jerome makes him bishop of Tyre ("Meth. Olympi Lyciae et postea Tyri episcopus"); but as all other authorities mention Patara as his second diocese, "Tyre" is probably the error of a transcriber for "Patara," or for "Myra, " which lies nearly midway between Olympus and Patara, and probably belonged to the one or the other diocese before it became an independent see. It is not likely that Tyre in Phoenicia should have called a bishop from so great a distance. Jerome locates the martyrdom of Methodius at "Chalcis in Greece" (in EubŒa). But Sophronius, the Greek translator, substitutes "in the East for " in Greece."Perhaps (as Salmon suggests, p. 909) Jerome confounded Methodius of Patara with a Methodius whose name tradition has preserved as a martyr, it Chalcis in the Decian persecution. This confusion is all the more probable as he did not know the time of the martyrdom, and says that some assign it to the Diocletian persecution ("ad extremum novissimae persecutionis") others to the persecution " sub Decio et Valeriano."501

His principal work is his Symposium or Banquet of Ten Virgins.15011501    Συμπόσιον τῶν δέκα παρθένων, Symposium, or Convivium Decem Virginum.502 It is an eloquent but verbose and extravagant eulogy on the advantages and blessings of voluntary virginity, which he describes as "something supernaturally great, wonderful, and glorious," and as "the best and noblest manner of life." It was unknown before Christ (the ἀρχιπάρθενος). At first men were allowed to marry sisters, then came polygamy, the next progress was monogamy, with continence, but the perfect state is celibacy for the kingdom of Christ, according to his mysterious hint in Matt. 19:12, the recommendation of Paul, 1 Cor. 7:1, 7, 34, 40, and the passage in Revelation 14:1–4, where "a hundred and forty-four thousand virgins" are distinguished from the innumerable multitude of other saints (7:9).

The literary form is interesting. The ten virgins are, of course, suggested by the parable in the gospel. The conception of the Symposium and the dialogue are borrowed from Plato, who celebrated the praises of Eros, as Methodius the praises of virginity. Methodius begins with a brief dialogue between Eubulios and Eubuloin (i.e. himself) and the virgin Gregorion who was present at a banquet of the ten virgins in the gardens of Arete (i.e. personified virtue) and reports to him ten discourses which these virgins successively delivered in praise of chastity. At the end of the banquet the victorious Thecla, chief of the virgins (St. Paul’s apocryphal companion), standing on the right hand of Arete, begins to sing a hymn of chastity to which the virgins respond with the oft-repeated refrain,


I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom,

And holding a lighted torch, I go to meet Thee."15021502    ἁγνεύω σοι, καὶ λαμπάδας φαεσφόρους κρατοῦσα, Νυμφίε, ὑπαντάσω σοι.503


Then follows a concluding dialogue between Eubulios and Gregorion on the question, whether chastity ignorant of lust is preferable to chastity which feels the power of passion and overcomes it, in other words, whether a wrestler who has no opponents is better than a wrestler who has many and strong antagonists and continually contends against them without being worsted. Both agree in giving the palm to the latter, and then they betake themselves to "the care of the outward man," expecting to resume the delicate discussion on the next day.

The taste and morality of virgins discussing at great length the merits of sexual purity are very questionable, at least from the standpoint of modern civilization, but the enthusiastic praise of chastity to the extent of total abstinence was in full accord with the prevailing asceticism of the fathers, including Origen, who freed himself from carnal temptation by an act of violence against nature.

The work On the Resurrection, likewise in the form of a dialogue, and preserved in large extracts by Epiphanius and Photius, was directed against Origen and his views on creation, pre-existence, and the immateriality of the resurrection body. The orthodox speakers (Eubulios and Auxentios) maintain that the soul cannot sin without the body, that the body is not a fetter of the soul, but its inseparable companion and an instrument for good as well is evil, and that the earth will not be destroyed, but purified and transformed into a blessed abode for the risen saints. In a book On Things Created15031503    Περὶ τῶν γενητῶν, known to us only from extracts in Photius, Cod. 235. Salmon identifies this book with the Xeno mentioned by Socrates, H. E. VI. 13, as an attack upon Origen.504 he refutes Origen’s view of the eternity of the world, who thought it necessary to the conception of God as an Almighty Creator and Ruler, and as the unchangeable Being.

The Dialogue On Free Will15041504    Περὶ αὐτεξουσίου, De libero arbitrio. Freedom of the will is strongly emphasized by Justin Martyr, Origen, and all the Greek fathers.505 treats of the origin of matter, and strongly resembles a work on that subject (περὶ τῆς ὕλης) of which Eusebius gives an extract and which he ascribes to Maximus, a writer from the close of the second century.15051505    PrŒp. Evang. VII. 22; Comp. H. E. V. 27; and Routh, Rel. S. II. 87. Möller and Salmon suppose that Methodius borrowed from Maximus, and merely furnished the rhetorical introduction.506

Other works of Methodius, mentioned by Jerome, are: Against Porphyry (10, 000 lines); Commentaries on Genesis and Canticles; De Pythonissa (on the witch of Endor, against Origen’s view that Samuel was laid under the power of Satan when he evoked her by magical art). A Homily for Palm Sunday, and a Homily on the Cross are also assigned to him. But there were several Methodii among the patristic writers.



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