PRIOR, PRIORESS: The title of an official over a monastery or convent next in rank to the abbot or abbess. Before the pontificate of Celestine V. (1294), the term signified a monk of superior rank or greater age. After that time the prior claustralis was next to the abbot, and was appointed by him to inspect and control the deans, and to maintain discipline among the monks. The prior conventualis was master of his own monastery when it was an offshoot from another monastery, or he was superior of a house of canons.
PRISCA, PRISCILLA. See MONTANISM.
Bishop of Abila and Spanish sectary, and his followers; beheaded at Treves about 385. Apparently educated under Gnostic influences by a certain Manichean Marcus of Memphis, Priscillian held to the doctrine that charismata continued in the Church and regarded the Apocrypha (q.v.) as inspired. He was a rigid ascetic, though he did not forsake his wife even when he became bishop. The first literary production of Priscillian seems to have been his Nonaginta canones, which purport to refute heretics on the basis of the writings of Paul, and it is marked by a primitive and even Marcionitic spirit. Bishops and clergy on the whole are to be peaceable; apostles, prophets, and masters (doctors) are the divinely appointed orders of the Church, preeminence being due the doctors, among whom Priscillian reckoned himself. he "spiritual" comprehend and judge all things, being "children of wisdom and light"; and the distinction between flesh and spirit, darkness sad light, Moses and Christ, and the "prince of this world" and Christ, are emphasized, so that two sorts of spirits and two wisdoms are contrasted. At the same time this dualism is blended with monism; but though Christ is both God and man, as man he is "not made of divinity, but of the seed of David and of woman," a primitive Christology, drawing upon him the charge of Photinianism (see PHOTINUS). Justification is by faith, and faith by the grace of God. Rigid asceticism, including abstinence from wine and meat, is recommended, and separation from unbelievers is urged. The Old Testament is ranked far below the New.
Priscillian was not content to remain a lay teacher and leader of conventicles. Like other ascetics, he wished to become priest and bishop to give his views more influence. So formidable became the movement that in 380 Bishop Hydatius of Emerita convened a synod at Saragossa in which he charged the ascetic faction with reading Apocryphal writings and with Novatianism, Photinianism, Manicheanism (see NOVATIAN; and MANICHEANS), and all sorts of heresy. Priscillian, still a layman, did not appear at the synod, though he wrote in reply his third tractate justifying the reading of the Apocrypha, without denying that their contents were partly spurious. The resolutions of the synod, which consisted of two Gallic and ten Spanish bishops, condemned certain practises of the conventicles; such as receiving the Eucharist in the church but eating it at home or in the conventicle; fasting for three weeks before Epiphany, as the day of Christ's birth and baptism (the twenty-fifth day of December being not yet accepted in Spain), and substituting meditation in the mountains for attending church during this period, fasting on the Sundays of the period of Quadragesima and on Sundays as a whole; their imitation of Christ in the desert during the forty days of Lent; and their preference of conventicles, in which women spoke and taught, to churches; and Priscillian, though forbidden to call himself doctor, was not expressly condemned. Hydatius, however, claimed that Priscillian and his adherents had been anathematized, whereupon bishops Hyginus of Cordova and Symposius of Astorga, sympathizers with Priscillian, advised that the matter be brought before a synod. The ascetic faction followed this suggestion the more readily since Priscillian was then consecrated bishop of Abila by Instantius and Salvianus. Hydatius, foreseeing defeat, obtained from Gratian a rescript against pseudo-bishops and Manicheans, whereupon Priscillian, Instantius, and Salvianus went to Damasus at Rome, and, laying before him a memorial (the second tractate), asked to be rehabilitated either by a synod or by the emperor. While both received the three Spanish bishops with suspicion, they obtained from Gratian a rescript relieving them of the charge of being pseudo-bishops and Manicheans, thus assuring Priscillian of his position.
Theologically (Tractates, iv.-xi.) Priscillian's God is the "God Christ"; he is not Patripassian but Christopassian. God is "invisible in the Father, visible in the Son," and the Holy Ghost is one in the work of the two. In Christ is all; without him, nothing. This God-Christ was to him the order of
With the victorious return of Priscillian and Instantius, the controversy with the anti-ascetics seemed to be at an end. But their route through Gaul had brought the ascetics of that country into contact with those of Spain, so that they now felt themselves to be a power. The opposing bishops renewed their activity, the Spaniards being led by Ithacius Clarus, bishop of Sossuba (Ossonoba?) from before 379 to e. 388. Though he did not directly attack Priscillian, the latter appealed for protection to the proconsul Volventius, and Ithacius sought refuge in Gaul with the prefect Gregorius. Meanwhile Gratian had died, and the new emperor, willing to hear Ithacius, convened a synod at Bordeaux, in 385, where all parties concerned were to be heard. Here Priscillian defended himself in his first tractate, maintaining that the Apocrypha should be read, but declaring himself innocent of Patripassianism, Manicheanism, Ophitism, and other heresies, condemning Basilides, Arius (qq.v.), the Borborites (see GNOSTICISM, § 2); and Montanists (see MONTANISM), and denying that he worshiped stars and demons, or taught that man had been created by the devil. He likewise denied that he practised magic. The result of the synod hard been determined from the first. Inatantius was deposed, and Prisciilian, to escape a worse state, appealed to the emperor. The decision took place at Treves. Ithaeius, seconded by Hydatius, accused Priscillian of magic and Manicheanism, the penalty for either being death by Roman law. Martin of Tours, himself denounced by Ithacius as a heretic, interceded fo Priscillian at court, urging that deposition was a sufficient penalty. Maximus solemnly promised to spare the lives of the accused; but the bishops Magnus and Rufus urged the emperor to break his word, and he entrusted the investigation to the prefect Evodius, who employed torture. Tertullus, Potamius, and Johannes, in order to escape a penalty, now confessed themselves and their friends as guilty. Evodius held Priscillian charged with sorcery and enforced a confession that the conventicles were basely immoral. Maximus could now take advantage of the victims to satisfy his avarice. Ithacius, hitherto the accuser, withdrew to avoid scandal among the bishops, and his place was taken, at the emperor's command, by a certain Patricius. Priscillian and four others were beheaded, the same fate soon overtaking Asarbus and the deacon Aurelius. Inatantius and Tiberianus (whose property was confiscated) were banished, and Tertullus, Potamius, and Johannes were sentenced to brief exile.
The execution of a bishop for sorcery and immorality (the latter charge entirely baseless) attracted attention far and wide, but with the fall of Maximus the tide changed. Hydatius resigned his see, while Ithacius was deposed and probably exiled from Spain. Priscillian, on the other hand, was regarded by his friends as a martyr. His sect spread widely, especially in Galicia (Spain), though no longer represented in the episcopate. So flourishing were they that appeal was made to Leo I. (440-461), who wrote an epoch-making letter (given in Eng. transl. in NPNF, 2 ser., iii. 20-26); a synod of Toledo (447) under the influence of the pope condemned the sect; and in 563 the Synod of Braga was obliged to deal with it, but thenceforth it vanished, being absorbed by the Cathari (see NEW MANICHEANS, II.). The ascetic and Gnostic sect of the Priscillianists must be regarded primarily as a phenomenon of Occidental monasticism and early
BIBLIOGRAPHY: For sources consult Priacilliani qua supersunt, ed. G. Schepes, in CSBL, xviii. 1889. For discussions consult: DCB, iv. 470-478 (detailed); J. M. Mandernach, Geschichte des Priscialliniamus, Treves, 1851; J. Bemays, Die Chronik des Sulpicius Severus, Berlin, 1861; P. B. Gams Kirchengeschichte von Spanien, vol. ii., Regensburg, 1864; H. L. Mansel, Gnostic Heresies, lectures ix., xii., London, 1875; G. Schepes, Priscillian, Warzburg, 1886; idem, Pro Priscilliano, in Wiener Studien, pp. 128-147, Vienna 1893; F. Paret, Priscillian, Ein Reformator des 4. Jahrhunderts, Würsburg, 1891; Hilgenfeld; in ZWT, 1892, pp. 1-84; Dierich, Die Quedlen zur Geschichte des Priscillianismus, Breslau, 1897; F. Lezius, Die Libra des Dictinius, in Abhandlungen A. won Oettingen gewidmet, pp. 113-124, Munich, 1898; K. Künstle, Antipricilliana. Dogmengeschichtliche Untersuchungen und Texte aus dem Streite gegen Priscillians Lehre, Freiburg, 1905; E. C. Babut, Priacillien et le Pr iscillisnisme Paris, 1909; Harnack, Dogma, iii. 336, iv. 133, v. 58. vi. 8; Neander Christian Church, ii. 354, 771-779. A considerable body of periodical literature is indicated in Richardson, Encyclopaedia, p. 882.
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