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§ 73. The Meletian Schism at Antioch.


Hieronymus: Chron. ad ann. 864. Chrysostomus: Homilia in S. Patrem nostrum Meletium, archiepiscopum magnae Antiochiae (delivered a.d. 386 or 387, in Montfaucon’s ed. of Chrysost. Opera, tom. ii. p. 518–523). Sozomen: H. E. iv. 28; vii. 10, 11. Theodor.: H. E. V. 3, 35. Socrates: H. E. iii. 9; v. 9, 17. Comp. Walch: Ketzerhistorie, part iv. p. 410 sqq.


The Meletian schism at Antioch684684   Not to be confounded with the Meletian schism at Alexandria, which arose in the previous period. Comp. vol. i. § 115 (p. 451). was interwoven with the Arian controversies, and lasted through more than half a century.

In 361 the majority of the Antiochian church elected as bishop Meletius, who had formerly been an Arian, and was ordained by this party, but after his election professed the Nicene orthodoxy. He was a man of rich persuasive eloquence, and of a sweet and amiable disposition, which endeared him to the Catholics and Arians. But his doctrinal indecision offended the extremists of both parties. When he professed the Nicene faith, the Arians deposed him in council, sent him into exile, and transferred his bishopric to Euzoius, who had formerly been banished with Arius.685685   Sozom. H. E. iv. c. 28.. The Catholics disowned Euzoius, but split among themselves; the majority adhered to the exiled Meletius, while the old and more strictly orthodox party, who had hitherto been known as the Eustathians, and with whom Athanasius communicated, would not recognize a bishop of Arian consecration, though Catholic in belief, and elected Paulinus, a presbyter of high character, who was ordained counter-bishop by Lucifer of Calaris.686686   This Lucifer was an orthodox fanatic, who afterward himself fell into conflict with Athanasius in Alexandria, and formed a sect of his own, the Luciferians, On rigid principles of church purity. Comp. Socr. iii. 9; Sozom. iii. 15; and Walch, Ketzerhist. iii. 338 sqq

The doctrinal difference between the Meletians and the old Nicenes consisted chiefly in this: that the latter acknowledged three hypostases in the divine trinity, the former only three prosopa; the one laying the stress on the triplicity of the divine essence, the other on its unity.

The orthodox orientals declared for Meletius, the occidentals and Egyptians for Paulinus, as legitimate bishop of Antioch. Meletius, on returning from exile under the protection of Gratian, proposed to Paulinus that they should unite their flocks, and that the survivor of them should superintend the church alone; but Paulinus declined, since the canons forbade him to take as a colleague one who had been ordained by Arians.687687   Theodoret, H. E. lib. iii. 3. He highly applauds the magnanimous proposal of Meletius. Then the military authorities put Meletius in possession of the cathedral, which had been in the hands of Euzoius. Meletius presided, as senior bishop, in the second ecumenical council (381), but died a few days after the opening of it—a saint outside the communion of Rome. His funeral was imposing: lights were borne before the embalmed corpse, and psalms sung in divers languages, and these honors were repeated in all the cities through which it passed on its transportation to Antioch, beside the grave of St. Babylas.688688   Sozom. vii. c. 10. The historian says that the singing of psalms on such occasions was quite contrary to Roman custom. The Antiochians engraved his likeness on their rings, their cups, and the walls of their bedrooms. So St. Chrysostom informs us in his eloquent eulogy on Meletius.689689   Chrysostomsays in the beginning of this oration, that five years had elapsed since Meletius had gone to Jesus. He died in 381, consequently the oration must have been pronounced in 386 or 387. Flavian was elected his successor, although Paulinus was still alive. This gave rise to fresh troubles, and excited the indignation of the bishop of Rome. Chrysostom labored for the reconciliation of Rome and Alexandria to Flavian. But the party of Paulinus, after his death in 389, elected Evarius as successor († 392), and the schism continued down to the year 413 or 415, when the bishop Alexander succeeded in reconciling the old orthodox remnant with the successor of Meletius. The two parties celebrated their union by a splendid festival, and proceeded together in one majestic stream to the church.690690   Theodoret, H. E. l. v. c. 35. Dr. J. R. Kurtz, in his large work on Church History (Handbuch der Kirchengesch. vol. i. part ii. § 181, p. 129) erroneously speaks of a resignation of Alexander, by which he, from love of peace, induced his congregation to acknowledge the Meletian bishop Flavian. But Flavian had died several years before (in 404), and Alexander was himself the second successor of Flavian, the profligate Porphyrius intervening. Theodoret knows nothing of a resignation. Kurtz must be used with considerable caution, as he is frequently inaccurate, and relies too much on secondary authorities.

Thus a long and tedious schism was brought to a close, and the church of Antioch was permitted at last to enjoy that peace which the Athanasian synod of Alexandria in 362 had desired for it in vain.691691   See the Epist. Synodica Conc. Alex. in Mansi’s Councils, tom. iii. p. 345 sqq.



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