« Mesrobes Methodius Miltiades, 2nd cent. Christian writer »

Methodius

Methodius (called also Eubulius), commemorated June 20 (Basil, Menol.) and Sept. 18 (Mart. Rom.), a Lycian bp. highly distinguished as a writer, bp. first of Olympus, afterwards of Patara, early in 4th cent. Jerome (Cat. 83), Socrates (vi. 13), and Maximus (in Schol. Dionys. Areop. 7) state that he was bp. of Olympus. Leontius of Byzantium calls him bp. of Patara, and he is thus known to all later Greek authorities. Jerome's unsupported statement that he was translated to Tyre was probably due to a transcriber's error for Patara m the authority which Jerome followed.

Jerome states that "he was crowned with martyrdom at the end of the last [i.e. Diocletian's] persecution; or as some affirm under Decius and Valerian, at Chalcis in Greece." The earlier date is inconsistent with the facts that Methodius wrote against Porphyry and that Eusebius speaks of him as a contemporary (ap. Hieron. Apol. adv. Rufin. I. vol. ii.). The martyrdom of a Lycian or Phoenician bp. at a place so remote as Euboea must also be pronounced incredible. The places were not then even under the same ruler, Greece being under Licinius and the Eastern provinces under Maximin. Accordingly Sophronius, the Greek translator of St. 725Jerome, substitutes for Chalcis "in Greece," "in the East," whence some modern critics have concluded that Methodius suffered at Chalcis in Syria. But no weight can fairly be attached to this correction of Sophronius; and it is more probable that a Methodius whose name tradition had preserved as a martyr at Chalcis under Decius was wrongly identified with the better-known Lycian bishop. The evidence that the latter was a martyr at all is weak, and the silence of Eusebius is a difficulty; but Theodoret calls him bishop and martyr, as do the late Greek writers, while the Menaea make the mode of death decapitation.

Methodius wrote much, and his works were widely read and highly valued. Jerome several times refers to him: Epiphanius calls him ἀνὴρ λόγιος καὶ σφόδρα περὶ τῆς ἀληθείας ἀγωνισάμενος; Gregory Nyssen or Anastasius Sinaita (for the authorship is disputed), ὁ πολύς ἐν σοφίᾳ; Andrew of Caesarea, ὁ μέγας; Eustathius of Antioch, ὁ τῆς ἀγίας ἄξιος μνήμης; and he is quoted by Theodoret, besides many later writers. Photius has preserved copious extracts (Codd. 234–237); other shorter extracts are to be found in Catenae, and others are given in the Nitrian MSS. (see Wright, Cat. MSS. Syr. in Brit. Mus.). The works of which we have knowledge are:

(1) The only one extant entire is the Symposium, or Banquet of the Ten Virgins. It reveals Methodius as an ardent admirer of Plato, from whom he probably derived his preference for dialogue form. In the present case he has not only imitated him in several passages, but has taken from him the whole idea of his work. As in Plato's Symposium the praises of Love are celebrated, so here are proclaimed the glories of Virginity. The imitation of the form of Plato's work is even kept up in not presenting the dialogue directly, but as reported by one present at it. Eubulius, or Eubulium, receives from a virgin Gregorion an account of a banquet in the gardens of Areté, not under Plato's plane-tree, but under an agnus-castus, in which ten virgin guests, at their hostess's command, pronounce ten successive discourses in praise of chastity. At the end of the banquet the victor Thecla leads off a hymn, to which the rest standing round as a chorus respond. But Methodius has caught very little of Plato's style or spirit. He has little dramatic power, and there is often little to distinguish one speaker from another. Of his general soundness on our Lord's Divinity there can be no doubt; and we have not found anything in the writings ascribed to him which an orthodox man might not have written, especially before the Arian disputes had made caution of language necessary. Elsewhere (Cod. 162) Photius mentions Methodius with Athanasius and other great names as one from whose writings Andrew had produced extracts garbled and falsified so as to teach heresy.

(2) In the Catalogue of Jerome he gives the first place to the writings of Methodius against Porphyry. He elsewhere refers to them (in Comm. in Dan. Pref. c. 13, vol. v. pp. 618, 730; Apol. ad Pammach. vol. i.; Ep. 70 ad Magnum, i. 425), stating in Ep. 70 that they ran to 10,000 lines. Philostorgius (viii. 14) rates the reply of Apollinarius to Porphyry as far superior to either that by Eusebius or by Methodius. All three replies have perished.

(3) On the Resurrection.—This work has been lost, but large extracts have been preserved by Epiphanius, Haer. 64, and by Photius, Cod. 234, see also Johan. Damasc. de Imag. Orat. 2. The text as given by Combefis and reprinted by Migne suppresses the heretical portions of the Epiphanian extracts. This work also is in the form of a Platonic dialogue, and is in refutation of Origen. The Origenist speakers deny the materiality of the resurrection body, and urge that it is enough if we believe that the same form shall rise again, beautified and glorified. In heaven our bodies will be spiritual; and so St. Paul teaches: "It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body"; "Flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Man had been originally in Paradise, that is, in the third heaven (II. Cor. xii.), having there none but a spiritual body; having sinned he was east down to earth, where God made him "coats of skins," that is to say, for a punishment clad him in our present gross material bodies, which clog and fetter the soul and out of which spring our temptations to sin; for without the body the soul cannot sin. When we rise therefore to dwell where sin cannot be, we shall be like the angels, liberated from the flesh which has burdened us here. In reply, Methodius acutely points out the inconsistence of teaching that the soul cannot sin without the body, and at the same time that the body had been imposed on the soul as a punishment for sins previously committed; and in truth the body is an instrument for good as well as for evil. Paradise and the third heaven are not identified (II. Cor. xii.); two distinct revelations are spoken of. It is said that we shall hereafter be as the angels, that is, like them, not subject to change or decay; but not that we shall be angels or without earthly bodies. God does not make mistakes; if He had meant us to be angels He would have made us so at first. His creatures are diverse: besides angels; there are thrones, principalities, and powers. By death He does not design to turn us into something different in kind from what He at first meant us to be; but only as an artificer, when a work of his is polluted with stains which cannot otherwise be removed, melts it down, and makes it anew; so by death we shall be remade free from the pollution of sin. Similarly the world will not be destroyed, but made into a new and purer earth, fit for the risen saints.

(4) De Pythonissa.—Jerome tells us that this work, now lost, was directed against Origen. We may presume, therefore, that its scope was the same as that bearing the same title by Eustathius of Antioch, viz. to refute the opinion held by Origen after Justin Martyr that the soul of Samuel was under the power of Satan, and was evoked by the magical art of the witch of Endor. Methodius's view, however, could not have been the same as that of Eustathius, for a passage at the close of Photius's extracts from the treatise on the Resurrection implies a belief that the appearance of Samuel was real.

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(5) Xeno.—Socrates (vi. i3), expressing his indignation against the reviling of Origen by worthless writers who sought to get into notice by defaming their betters, names Methodius as the earliest of Origen's assailants; adding that he had afterwards by way of retractation expressed admiration of him in a dialogue entitled Xeno. We believe the dialogue referred to by Socrates to be identical with (6). There is nothing in Methodius's confutations of Origen inconsistent with his having felt warm admiration for the man; and he has certainly followed him in his allegorical method of interpretation.

(6) Περὶ τῶν γενητῶν.—This work "on things created" is only known by extracts preserved by Photius (Cod. 235). It is a refutation of Origenist doctrine as to the eternity of the world, the principal arguments with which Methodius deals being that we cannot piously believe that there ever was a time when there was no Creator, no Almighty Ruler, and that there cannot be a Creator without things created by Him, a Ruler without things ruled over, a παντοκράτωρ without κρατούμενα. Further, that it is inconsistent with the unchangeableness of God to suppose that, after having passed ages without making anything, He suddenly took to creating. The orthodox speaker deals with his opponent by the Socratic method of question and answer. Photius's extracts begin with a discussion of the text, "Cast not your pearls before swine"; and we have near the commencement the phrase, μαργαρίτας τοῦ ξενῶνος. It is hard to get good sense by translating "pearls of the guest-chamber"; and with the knowledge we have that one of Methodius's dialogues was called Xeno, we are disposed to think that Xeno was one of the speakers in this dialogue, and that we are to translate "Xeno's pearls," i.e. pearls which Xeno presumably had mentioned, or else that the words τοῦ Ξενῶνος have got transposed and ought to be prefixed to the extract, the whole being taken from a speech by this interlocutor. Photius says that Methodius calls Origen a centaur, and interpreters have puzzled as to what he could have meant. In the extracts preserved the orthodox speaker addresses his Origenist interlocutor as ῶ Κένταυρε without the slightest air of uttering a sarcasm, so that we should be disposed to think that the name of the Origenist speaker in this dialogue was Centaurus.

(7) On Free Will.—[MAXIMUS (24)].

For the works of Methodius see Migne, vol. xviii.; Eng. trans. in Schaff's Ante-Nicene Fathers; Jahn; S. Methodii opera, and S. Method. Platonizans, Halis. Sax. 1865.

[G.S.]

« Mesrobes Methodius Miltiades, 2nd cent. Christian writer »
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