« Praedestinatus, an author Praxeas, a heretic Primasius, bp. of Adrumetum »

Praxeas, a heretic

Praxeas, a somewhat mysterious heretic about whom various theories have been held. He was a Monarchian and Patripassian. Tertullian wrote a treatise against him and places his scene of activity first of all at Rome, but never mentions Noetus, Epigonus, Cleomenes, Sabellius or Callistus. On the other hand, Hippolytus, who denounces these in his controversial works for the very same tenets, never once mentions Praxeas as teaching at Rome or anywhere else. Some have regarded Praxeas as simply a nick-name. Thus De Rossi (Bullet. 1866, p. 70) identifies him with Epigonus, Hagemann (Gesch. der röm. Kirche. § 234) with Callistus. Döllinger however (Hippol. u. Kallist. § 198) and Lipsius (Chronolog. der röm. Bisch. § 175) maintain that Praxeas was a real person who first of all started the Monarchian and Patripassian heresy in Rome, but so long before the age of Hippolytus that his name and memory had faded in that city. They fix his period of activity in Rome during the earliest years of Victor, a.d. 189–198, or even the later years of his predecessor Eleutherus. This explanation, however, seems to ignore the fact that Hippolytus must have been a full-grown man all through Victor's episcopate, as he expressly asserts (Refut. ix. 6) that he and Callistus were about the same age. Praxeas remained but a short time in Rome. and the shortness of his stay offers a better explanation of Hippolytus's silence. He then proceeded to Carthage, where he disseminated his views. Tertullian (adv. Prax.) attacks the heresy under the name of Praxeas, the local teacher, but was really attacking Zephyrinus and Callistus. The facts of his life we gather from Tertullian's notices in c. 1. He was a confessor from Asia Minor, where he had been imprisoned for the faith. Asia Minor was then the seed-plot of Monarchian views. He came to Rome when the Montanist party had just gained over the pope. Praxeas converted the pope back to his own opinion, which was hostile to the Montanists. Most critics agree that the pope so converted by Praxeas was Eleutherus: cf. Bonwetsch's Montanismus, § 174; Hilgenfeld's Ketzergeschichte, p. 569. Dr. Salmon, however, maintains that it was Zephyrinus. [MONTANUS.] By this, says Tertullian, Praxeas did a twofold service for the devil at Rome, "he drove away prophecy and he introduced heresy. He put to flight the Paraclete and he crucified the Father." He then went to Carthage, where he induced some to adopt his opinions. Tertullian opposed him prior to 202, according to Hilgenfeld (l.c. p. 618), and converted Praxeas himself, who acknowledged his error in a document extant among the Catholic party when Tertullian wrote. Praxeas then seems to have disappeared from Carthage, while Tertullian joined the Montanists. The controversy some years later broke out afresh, spreading doubtless from Rome, and then Tertullian wrote his treatise, which he nominally addressed 857against Praxeas as the best known expositor of these views at Carthage, but really against the Patripassian system in general. Hilgenfeld (l.c. p. 619) dates this work c. 206; Harnack c. 210, i.e. about 25 years after the first arrival of Praxeas in Rome; while Dr. Salmon dates it after the death of Callistus in 222: so great is the uncertainty about the chronology of the movement. Harnack's article on "Monarchianismus" in t. x. of Herzog's Real-Encyclopädie contains a good exposition of the relation of Praxeas to the Patripassian movement; cf. Lipsius Tertullian's Schrift wider Praxeas in Jahrb. für deutsche Theolog. t. xiii. (1869) § 701–724. Among patristic writers the only ones who mention Praxeas are pseudo-Tertullian; August, de Haer. 41; Praedestinat. 41; and Gennad. de Eccles. Dog. 4.

[G.T.S.]

« Praedestinatus, an author Praxeas, a heretic Primasius, bp. of Adrumetum »
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