« Marcellus, bp. of Rome Marcellus, bp. of Ancyra Marcia, concubine of Commodus »

Marcellus, bp. of Ancyra

Marcellus (4), bp. of Ancyra, believed to have been present at the synod held there in 315; but nothing can be proved from subscriptions doubtful in themselves. St. Athanasius, writing in 358 (Hist. ad Mon. 76), calls him an old man then; so that his age could have been no bar to his being bishop a.d. 315. He was certainly present, 325, at the Nicene council, where he obtained a good report, as pope Julius tells the Eusebians (Mansi, ii. 1215), for having contended earnestly for the Catholic faith against the Arians. Later, in refuting the heterodox writings of Asterius, he was accused of falling into doctrines combining the errors of Sabellius and Paul of Samosata, but his attachment to St. Athanasius and the orthodox cause may have subjected his book to unfair criticism. Anyhow the Eusebians, piqued at his absence from the synod of Tyre and afterwards the festivities at Jerusalem, A.D. 335, in honour of the dedication of the church of the Holy Sepulchre, called upon him to render account of the opinions advanced in it, and to recant them, and, according to Socrates, extorted a promise that he would burn the offending book. For not having at once done this, he was deposed in the synod held, by command of the emperor, at Constantinople by the chiefs of that party, in Feb. 336, when Eusebius of Nicomedia presided, and Eusebius of Caesarea was charged by the assembled bishops with the task of refuting the work of Marcellus. Basil the semi-Arian was appointed to the see vacated by him (Socr. i. 36). Condemned at Constantinople, Marcellus betook himself to Rome, apparently without loss of time. It must have been almost the first act of Julius, after his election (Feb. 6, 337), to receive Marcellus into communion. Marcellus could have scarcely left Rome when the Eusebian deputies, Macarius and two deacons, arrived (a.d. 339), hoping to persuade Julius to join them in unseating St. Athanasius who had returned from exile without being synodically restored. This led to Athanasius coming to Rome about Easter 340, and to a synod of more than 50 bishops assembled at Rome by pope Julius in Nov. 341.

Marcellus was at Rome then, having been admitted by Julius to communion on a previous visit; and Julius followed the precedent suggested by Marcellus at his previous visit, and adopted in his case, viz. that of sending presbyters to the Eusebians with the object of bringing them to Rome to confront an opponent already there. Neither Julius nor his bishops ventured to restore Marcellus or St. Athanasius to their respective sees. They 690merely gave their collective voice for admitting them to communion, and declared their innocence. It was now that Marcellus testified to Julius and the assembled bishops that his attempt to return to Ancyra, A.D. 338–339, had only provoked such flagrant scenes as had happened more recently at Alexandria when St. Athanasius was expelled (Apol. c. Arian. § 33, cf. Hil. Frag. iii. 9).

"Marcellus," Athanasius says, in his history to the monks (§ 6), "went to Rome, made his apology, and then at their request gave them his faith in writing, of which also the Sardican council approved." The Sardicans grounded their verdict in his favour on the book which Eusebius had maligned, but which they pronounced consistent with orthodoxy. "For he had not, as they affirmed, attributed to the Word of God a beginning from Mary, nor any end to His kingdom; but had stated His kingdom to be without beginning or end" (Apol. c. Arian. § 47). Hence they declared him faultless and free from taint. St. Hilary, who also says nothing of his profession, bears them out in their decision on the book; adding that Marcellus was never again tried or condemned in any subsequent synod (Frag. ii. 21–23). Against such testimony—living, competent, and explicit—as this, it is plainly not for moderns to contend, the book being no longer extant to speak for itself; and therefore we must—in spite of all Cave may urge to the contrary (Hist. Lit. i. 202), and after him Cardinal Newman (Library of the Fathers, xix. 503) and the learned writer of art. EUSEBIUS in this work—conclude with Montfaucon (Diatr. c. iii.), that, strongly as the extracts from it may read in Eusebius, whose party bias betrays itself in every line, yet "read by the light of what precedes and follows," as say the Sardican fathers, they may all be interpreted in a sense not conflicting with orthodoxy. St. Hilary, moreover, speaks with unwonted weight, as he proclaims the fact loudly that Marcellus subsequently by some rash utterances and his evident sympathy with his former disciple, Photinus, the ejected from Sirmium, came at last to be suspected of heretical leanings by all; and notably that he was, though privately, put out of communion by St. Athanasius, on which Marcellus abstained from church himself (Frag. ii. 23). Possibly such a rash utterance was in the mind of St. Hilary when he said to Constantius: "Hinc Marcellus Verbum Dei cum legit, nescit," and then adds: "Hinc Photinus hominem Jesum Christum cum loquitur, ignorat," classing them both in the same category. In the work of St. Epiphanius against heresies the Photinians rank first (71), and the Marcellians follow (72); yet even there the inference is, that the latter had been led astray by the former. St. Epiphanius does not mention the work of Eusebius against Marcellus, but gives extracts from one against him by Acacius, the successor of Eusebius at Caesarea, but not, as he says, because he thinks it any more conclusive than the Sardican fathers thought the work of Eusebius. But he criticizes the profession made by Marcellus in writing to pope Julius on the principle "Qui s’excuse s’accuse." This profession, what both Marcellus himself and St. Athanasius call his "ἔγγραφον πίστιν," which, he says expressly, he gave to pope Julius before leaving Rome, and which St. Epiphanius gives at full length. St. Athanasius says it was exhibited to the Roman and Sardican councils as well; but we have no other proof of this. It is but one of three different professions exhibited at different times on behalf of Marcellus—all characterized by the same suspicious surroundings, as will be shewn in due course. The two first are given by St. Epiphanius (Haer. lxxii.); the third was exhumed by Montfaucon. Dr. Heurtley (de Fide et Symbolo, p. 24) took this creed of Epiphanius as the earliest specimen of a Western creed. It was as certainly the baptismal creed of the West as it was not that of the local church of Rome (ib. pp. 89–133). For had it been the creed of the church of Rome, would not St. Athanasius have characterized it as such; would not Julius have recognized and applauded the adoption of his own formula? No doubt Marcellus picked it up in the Danubian provinces, or at Aquileia, in his way to Rome. It is identical with the creed commented upon by St. Augustine, which follows it in Heurtley (op. cit.), saving in the expression τὸν γεννηθέντα ἐκ Πνεύματος ἁγίου, etc., which is suspiciously peculiar, and may well have excited the misgivings of St. Epiphanius. Now this creed Marcellus never ventures to call the creed of his own church, yet must have meant that Julius should think it so, as he designates it "what he had been taught by his spiritual fathers, had learnt from holy Scripture, and preached in church," and he begs Julius to enclose copies of it to those bishops with whom he was corresponding, that any to whom he was unknown might be disabused of wrong notions formed of him from hostile statements. By way of preface, he recites, to condemn them, the principal errors held by his enemies; and affirms several points on which his own faith had been questioned. Whether by his own contrivance or otherwise, this profession was never made public, nor appealed to by him again. It satisfied Julius, and Julius may have communicated it to his correspondents among the Western bishops and to St. Athanasius on his arrival in Rome: but it cannot be proved to have been formally brought before the 50 bishops afterwards assembled there, and there is no proof that it was so much as named at Sardica. In dealing with Easterns, anyhow, the creed in which he professes his faith was that of Nicaea. This profession is extant as well as the other, and was being employed by his disciples in their own justification when it was placed in the hands of St. Epiphanius. It is headed "Inscription of the faith of Marcellus." Yet it can hardly be thought accidental that his own assent is not explicitly given by subscription either to this or the third formula, produced on his behalf. Montfaucon, preoccupied with his own discovery, seeks to connect it with this second profession, with which it has nothing whatever to do. Evidently Marcellus aimed at being an Eastern to the Easterns, and a Western to the Westerns.

Finally, neither of these professions would seem to have sufficed for him in extreme old age, but he must construct a third, intended this time for St. Athanasius himself. The date fixed for it by Montfaucon is 372, not 691earlier, to give time for some letters that passed on the subject of Marcellus in 371, between St. Athanasius and St. Basil, elected to the see of Caesarea the year before; not later, because St. Athanasius died in 373, and Marcellus himself in 374. But if Montfaucon had dated it 373, he would have got rid of the very difficulty which perplexed him most, viz. the absence of the name of St. Athanasius amongst its countersigners (Diatr. c. vi. 4). Far from having been received by St. Athanasius and his colleagues, the signatures affixed to this "aureum opusculum," as Montfaucon in his enthusiasm calls it, are such as go far towards impeaching its genuineness, or else depriving it of the least weight. Surely the signatures to it should have been not of those to whom it was delivered, but from whom it emanated! The document purports to be the work of a gathering of the church of Ancyra under their father Marcellus; and it may well have been dictated by a man of his advanced years, recapitulating and repudiating all the various errors amid which his chequered life had been passed. As no other name is given but his own and that of his deacon Eugenius who was charged with its delivery, we may well doubt whether any third person had a hand in it. The reference in it to the commendatory letters given to its bearer by the bishops of Greece and Macedonia seems consistent with its having been addressed, and expedited through their good offices, to St. Athanasius (Diatr. ib. § 2). Basil (Epp. 59, 125, 239, 265, ed. Ben.) is just as disgusted at Marcellus having been received into communion in the West under Julius, as at Eustathius having been similarly received under Liberius (Epp. 226, 244, 263). He looked upon both as trimmers, as indeed their acts prove them; and heterodox at heart, in spite of their repeated disclaimers, and undeserving of any trust. There was one point of which Marcellus never lost sight and traded upon through life, with whatsoever errors he was charged. "Se communione Julii et Athanasii, Romanae et Alexandrinae urbis pontificum, esse munitum"—as St. Jerome puts it (de Vir. Illust. c. 86). Some may, possibly, consider that he duped them both; and the second more, by a good deal, than the first. All that remains to be said of Marcellus is, that although restored at Sardica, and included in the general letter of recall issued subsequently by the emperor Constantius and preserved by St. Athanasius (Apol. c. Arian. § 54), he never seems to have regained his see. Basilius certainly was in possession of it at the second council of Sirmium a.d. 351, when he refuted Photinus; and either he, or Athanasius his successor, with whom St. Basil corresponded in 369 (Ep. 25), was in possession A.D. 363, and joined in the petition recorded by Socrates (iii. 25) to the emperor Jovian. St. Athanasius, according to Cardinal Newman, upheld him "to c. 360," but attacked his tenets pointedly, though without naming him, in his fourth oration against the Arians. The short essay demonstrating this is of the highest interest—Introd. to Disc. iv. pp. 503 seq. vol. xix., also vols. viii. and xiii. (p. 52, note 1.), of Lib. of the Fathers. Cf. Montfaucon, Diatr. de causâ Marcelli, vol. ii. collect. Nov. Pat. Praef. 41 seq.; Newman's Arians; Rettberg's Pref. in Migne, Patr. Gk. xviii. 1299; Wetzer's Restit. Ver. Chronol.; and Larroque's Diss. de Phot. Haeret. [ATHANASIUS; EUSEBIUS OF CAESAREA.]


« Marcellus, bp. of Rome Marcellus, bp. of Ancyra Marcia, concubine of Commodus »
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