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Chapter XVIII.—Another Heresy, that of the Sabbatians, is originated by the Novatians. Their Synod in Sangarus. Account in Greater Detail of the Easter Festival.

A division arose during the same reign among the Novatians15541554    Soc. v. 21, 22. Soz. has independent material. concerning the celebration of the festival of Easter, and from this dispute originated another, called the Sabbatian. Sabbatius, who, with Theoctistus and Macarius, had been ordained presbyter by Marcian, adopted the opinion of the co-presbyters, who had been convened at Pazoucoma15551555    Παζουκώμῃ ; Soc. ἐν Πάζῳ κώμῃ. during the reign of Valens, and maintained that the feast of the Passover (Easter) ought to be celebrated by Christians as by Jews. He seceded from the Church at first for the purpose of exercising greater austerity, for he professed to adopt a very austere mode of life. He also declared that one motive of his secession was, that many persons who participated in the mysteries appeared to him to be unworthy of the honor. When, however, his design of introducing innovations was detected, Marcian expressed his regret at having ordained him, and, it is said, was often heard to exclaim that he would rather have laid his hands upon thorns than upon the head of Sabbatius. Perceiving that the people of his diocese were being rent into two factions, Marcian summoned all the bishops of his own persuasion to Sangarus, a town of Bithynia, near the seashore, not far from the city of Helenopolis. When they had assembled, they summoned Sabbatius, and asked him to state the cause of his grievance; and as he merely complained of the diversity prevailing in regard to the feast, they suspected that he made this a pretext to disguise his love of precedency, and made him 389declare upon oath that he would never accept the episcopal office. When he had taken the required oath, all were of the same opinion, and they voted to hold the church together, for the difference prevailing in the celebration of the Paschal feast ought by no means to be made an occasion for separation from communion; and they decided that each individual should be at liberty to observe the feast according to his own judgment. They enacted a canon on the subject, which they styled the “Indifferent (ἁδιάφορος) Canon.” Such were the transactions of the assembly at Sangarus. From that period Sabbatius adhered to the usage of the Jews; and unless all happened to observe the feast at the same time, he fasted, according to the custom, but in advance, and celebrated the Passover with the usual prescriptions by himself. He passed the Saturday, from the evening to the appointed time, in watching and in offering up the prescribed prayers; and on the following day he assembled with the multitude, and partook of the mysteries. This mode of observing the feast was at first unnoticed by the people but as, in process of time, it began to attract observation, and to become more generally known, he found a great many imitators, particularly in Phrygia and Galatia, to whom this celebration of the feast became a national custom. Eventually he openly seceded from communion, and became the bishop of those who had espoused his sentiments, as we shall have occasion to show in the proper place.

I am, for my own part, astonished that Sabbatius and his followers attempted to introduce this innovation. The ancient Hebrews, as is related by Eusebius,15561556    Eus. H. E. vii. 32. Extracts from the canons of Anatolius. on the testimony of Philo, Josephus, Aristobulus, and several others, offered the sacrifices after the vernal equinox, when the sun is in the first sign of the zodiac, called by the Greeks the Ram, and when the moon is in the opposite quarter of the heavens, and in the fourteenth day of her age. Even the Novatians themselves, who have studied the subject with some accuracy, declare that the founder of their heresy and his first disciples did not follow this custom, which was introduced for the first time by those who assembled at Pazoucoma; and that at old Rome the members of this sect still observe the same practice as the Romans, who have not deviated from their original usage in this particular, the custom having been handed down to them by the holy apostles Peter and Paul. Further, the Samaritans, who are scrupulous observers of the laws of Moses, never celebrate this festival till the first-fruits have reached maturity; they say it is, in the law, called the Feast of First-Fruits, and before these appear, it is not lawful to observe the feast; and, therefore, necessarily the vernal equinox must precede. Hence arises my astonishment that those who profess to adopt the Jewish custom in the celebration of this feast, do not conform to the ancient practice of the Jews. With the exception of the people above mentioned, and the Quartodecimani of Asia, all heresies, I believe, celebrate the Passover in the same manner as the Romans and the Egyptians. The Quartodecimani are so called because they observe this festival, like the Jews, on the fourteenth day of the moon, and hence their name. The Novatians observe the day of the resurrection. They follow the custom of the Jews and the Quartodecimani, except when the fourteenth day of the moon falls upon the first day of the week, in which case they celebrate the feast so many days after the Jews, as there are intervening days between the fourteenth day of the moon and the following Lord’s day. The Montanists, who are called Pepuzites and Phrygians, celebrate the Passover according to a strange fashion which they introduced. They blame those who regulate the time of observing the feast according to the course of the moon, and affirm that it is right to attend exclusively to the cycles of the sun. They reckon each month to consist of thirty days, and account the day after the vernal equinox as the first day of the year, which, according to the Roman method of computation, would be called the ninth day before the calends of April. It was on this day, they say, that the two great luminaries appointed for the indication of times and of years were created. This they prove by the fact that every eight years the sun and the moon meet together in the same point of the heavens. The moon’s cycle of eight years is accomplished in ninety-nine months, and in two thousand nine hundred and twenty-two days; and during that time there are eight revolutions made by the sun, each comprising three hundred and sixty-five days, and the fourth part of a day. For they compute the day of the creation of the sun, mentioned in Sacred Writ, to have been the fourteenth day of the moon, occurring after the ninth day before the calends of the month of April, and answering to the eighth day prior to ides of the same month. They always celebrate the Passover on this day, when it falls on the day of the resurrection; otherwise they celebrate it on the following Lord’s day; for it is written according to their assertion that the feast may be held on any day between the fourteenth and twenty-first.


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