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271Chapter XXIII.—Origen’s Zeal and his Elevation to the Presbyterate.

1. At that time Origen began his commentaries on the Divine Scriptures, being urged thereto by Ambrose,19561956    On Ambrose and his relation to Origen, see chap. 18, note 1. who employed innumerable incentives, not only exhorting him by word, but also furnishing abundant means.

2. For he dictated to more than seven amanuenses, who relieved each other at appointed times. And he employed no fewer copyists, besides girls who were skilled in elegant writing. For all these Ambrose furnished the necessary expense in abundance, manifesting himself an inexpressible earnestness in diligence and zeal for the divine oracles, by which he especially pressed him on to the preparation of his commentaries.

3. While these things were in progress, Urbanus,19571957    On Urbanus, bishop of Rome, see chap. 21, note 4. who had been for eight years bishop of the Roman church, was succeeded by Pontianus,19581958    For the dates of the first group of Roman bishops, from Peter to Urbanus, the best source we have is Eusebius’Church History; but for the second group, from Pontianus to Liberius, the notices of the History are very unreliable, while the Liberian catalogue rests upon very trustworthy data (see Lipsius, Chron. d. röm. Bischöfe, p. 39 and p. 142 sq.). We must therefore turn to the latter for the most accurate information in regard to the remaining Roman bishops mentioned by Eusebius, although an occasional mistake in the catalogue must be corrected by our other sources, as Lipsius points out. The notice of Eusebius at this point would throw the accession of Pontianus into the year 231, but this is a year too late, as seen in chap. 21, note 4. According to chap. 29, he was bishop six years, and was succeeded by Anteros at about the same time that Gordian became emperor; that is, in 238. But this is wide of the truth. The Liberian catalogue, which is supported by the best of the other sources, gives a little over five years for his episcopate, and puts his banishment to Sardinia, with which his episcopate ended, on the 28th of September, 235. According to the Felician catalogue, which may be trusted at this point, he was brought to Rome and buried there during the episcopate of Fabian, which began in 236 (see also the preceding chapter, note 1). We know nothing about the life and character of Pontianus. and Zebinus19591959    The notices of the Chronicle in connection with Zebinus are especially unreliable. The Armen. puts his accession into the sixth (227), Jerome into the seventh year of Alexander (228). Jerome makes no attempt to fix the date of his death, while the Armen. puts it in the first year of Gallus (251–252). Syncellus assigns him but six years. In the midst of such confusion we are obliged to rely solely upon the History. The only reliable data we have are Origen’s ordination to the priesthood, which took place in 231 (see below, p. 392) and apparently, according to this chapter, while Zebinus was bishop of Antioch. If Eusebius is correct in this synchronization, Zebinus became bishop before 231, and therefore the statements of the Chron. as to his accession may be approximately correct. As to the time of his death, we know that his successor, Babylas, died in the Decian persecution (see chap. 39), and hence Zebinus must have died some years before that. In chap. 29, Eusebius puts his death in the reign of Gordian (238–244), and this may be accepted as at least approximately correct, for we have reason to think that Babylas was already bishop in the time of Philip (see chap. 29, note 8). This proves the utter incorrectness of the notice of the Armen. We know nothing about the person and life of Zebinus. Harnack concludes from his name that he was a Syrian by birth. Most of the mss. of Eusebius give his name as Ζεβῖνος; one ms. and Nicephorus, as Ζέβενος; Syncellus as Ζέβεννος; Rufinus, Jerome, and the Armen. as Zebennus. succeeded Philetus19601960    On Philetus, see chap. 21, note 6. in Antioch.

4. At this time Origen was sent to Greece on account of a pressing necessity in connection with ecclesiastical affairs,19611961    See the note on p. 395, below. and went through Palestine, and was ordained as presbyter in Cæsarea by the bishops of that country. The matters that were agitated concerning him on this account, and the decisions on these matters by those who presided over the churches, besides the other works concerning the divine word which he published while in his prime, demand a separate treatise. We have written of them to some extent in the second book of the Defense which we have composed in his behalf.19621962    Eusebius refers here to the Defense of Origen, composed by himself and Pamphilus, which is unfortunately now lost (see above, chap. 2, note 1, and the Prolegomena, p. 36 sq.).

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