« Helladius, bp. of Tarsus Helvidius, a Western writer Henoticon, The »

Helvidius, a Western writer

Helvidius, a Western writer who, like Novatian and Pelagius, Jovinian and Vigilantius, put forward opinions on anthropological subjects opposed to the generally received teaching of the church in their day. The only extant contemporary notice of him is the short tract against him by St. Jerome (Opp. ii. p. 203–230, ed. Vall.), written when they were both at Rome, while pope Damasus was alive. It appeared, according to Vallarsius, a.d. 383. St. Jerome says he had put off answering him for some time: "Ne respondendo dignus fieret, qui vinceretur"; and he describes him throughout as "hominem rusticanum, et vix primis quoque imbutum literis" (§ 1); besides being wholly unknown to him: "Ego ipse, qui contra te scribo, quum in eadem urbe consistam, albus, ut aiunt, aterve sis, nescio." St. Jerome speaks of his own work in writing to Pammachius as "librum contra Helvidium de beatae Mariae virginitate perpetuâ" (Ep. xlviii. § 17), this being what his opponent had denied in the first instance, though the outcome of his opinions had been to rank virginity below matrimony. Helvidius sought countenance for his first point in the writings of Tertullian and Victorinus. St. Jerome shews (§ 17) he had misrepresented the latter; of Tertullian, whose writings may still speak for themselves, he merely says, "Ecclesiae hominem non fuisse." But, in any case, he retorts with much force: What avail straggling opinions against primitive truth? "Numquid non possum tibi totam veterum scriptorum seriem commovere: Ignatium, Polycarpum, Irenaeum, Justinum Martyrem, multosque alios apostolicos et eloquentes viros, qui adversus Ebionem, et Theodotum Byzantium, Valentinum, haec eadem sentientes, plena sapientiae volumina conscripserunt. Quae si legisses aliquando, plus saperes." This argument is just as suitable to our own as it was to patristic times, never losing anything by repetition. What had Helvidius to oppose to it in this case? Nothing, unless his adversary misrepresents him, but novel interpretations of Scripture by himself. St. Jerome therefore refutes him only so far as to point out that there is no necessity for understanding any of the passages adduced by him otherwise than the church had understood them hitherto; but that, in any case, the interpretations of them offered by Helvidius were delusive. For the application of the views of Helvidius to the question of the perpetual virginity of the Lord's mother see Lightfoot, Galatians, pp. 247–282, and Murray's 443Illus. B. D. (1908), art. JAMES. As Jerome nowhere charges Helvidius with having been "a disciple of Auxentius," the Arian bp. of Milan, or "an imitator of Symmachus," the champion of idolatry, we may well ask with Vallarsius where Gennadius, who wrote more than a century later, got authority for both statements (de Script. Eccl. c. 33) which Cave repeats in part (Hist. Lit. i. 278). Neither St. Ambrose nor St. Augustine mentions him when, in writing on Virginity, they join St. Jerome in condemning his views. His followers constitute the 84th of the heresies enumerated by the latter.


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