THE EARLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH - Volume 2: by Philip Carrington, Archbishop of Quebec. Published by the syndics of the Cambridge University Press, 1957. Katapi edition by Paul Ingram, 2013.


| HOME | |< | << | Table of Roman Bishops to A.D. 235 | The Roman church | Sixtus, Telesphorus, Hyginus | Valentinus of Egypt, c. A.D. 137 | The Ogdoad | The Valentinian myth | Valentine and the Roman church | Cerdo and the Syrian School, c. A.D. 137 | Marcion in Rome, c. A.D. 137 | Marcion's church, c. A.D. 140 | Marcion's New Testament | The Accession of Pius, c. A.D. 140 | Schisms and schools | The Roman tradition | >> |


(taken from the Chronicle of Hippolytus, A.D. 234-5 by the compiler of the Liberian Catalogue A.D. 354)

Bishop A.D.  
(1)Linus64 2 Timothy iv. 21.
(2)Anencletus76 Also called Cletus.
(3)Clement88 Wrote an Epistle to the Corinthians.
(6)Xystus115 Also called Sixtus; concordat with Asians.
(7)Telesphorus125 Died as a martyr.
(8)Hyginus136 Arrival of Cerdo, Valentinus, Marcion.
(9)Pius140 Brother of Hermas; arrival of Justin.
(10)Anicetus155 Visit of Polycarp; arrival of Hegesippus.
(11)Soter166 Correspondence with Dionysius of Corinth.
(12)Eleutherus174 Writings of Hegesippus and Irenaeus.
(13)Victor189 Paschal controversy.
(14)Zephyrinus199 With Callistus as deacon.
(15)Callistus217 Hippolytus as rival bishop.
(16)Urbanus222 ... schism continues.
(17)Pontianus230 ... schism continues.
 235 Martyrdom of Hippolytus and Pontianus.
Notes: The number of years allotted to the first three bishops, twelve years, is obviously a conventional figure, and so possibly is the date 64, with which the list begins. It is the date of the fire of Rome and the Neronian persecution, which is taken to be the date of the martyrdom of Peter and Paul.

|72 Clement's death is often allotted to 100 or 101, where Eusebius places it.

With the accession of Hyginus and Pius the dates may be taken as approximately correct.


The Rome of Hadrian differed considerably from the Rome of Nero. Numbers of magnificent buildings and monuments had been erected, and Hadrian had employed the Syrian architect, Apollodorus, to assist in this work; perhaps his influence may be seen in the domed temple called the Pantheon, which was rebuilt at this time; its appearance, as Spengler pointed out, resembles that of a mosque; it has the oriental touch, and was dedicated to the twelve gods of the heavens. Rome was becoming a cosmopolitan city. The old Roman families no longer controlled the senate. Hadrian himself was a Spaniard; his successor Antoninus belonged to a family from Gaul.

We learn from the Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans that the church in Rome was an influential body, and from Hernias that it had its wealthy households. Dionysius of Corinth, who wrote about thirty years later, looks back on the history of the previous generation and speaks of its wealth and generosity; it was their custom, handed down to them from their fathers, to extend help to other churches by sending funds to those who were in need, and especially those who had been condemned to work as convicts in the mines. It communicated with other churches, therefore, and helped them in their difficulties.


The traditional dates for the Roman bishops of the second century can only be approximate, but are useful as guides nevertheless. Xystus (or Sixtus) became bishop about 115-18 not long after the martyrdom of Ignatius and the accession of Hadrian. He had consolidated his position by making a concordat with a community of Asian Christians in the city, who maintained a liturgical tradition of their own. They were doubtless in touch with Polycarp of Smyrna and must have possessed the Johannine books. Xystus imparted to them the eucharist from his own service, a symbol of unity which we find continued in later centuries between the popes and the principal parish churches. This alliance between Asia and Rome remained the most powerful factor in church |73 history up to the end of the century, when it was dramatically broken. It contributed greatly to the leadership exercised by the Roman church.

The name Xystus appears as Sixtus in the Latin translation of Irenaeus, which was made not long after his book was written. He uses the Greek name Xystus in the Greek original, but notes the coincidence that Xystus was the sixth bishop from the apostles. Sixtus or Sextus, meaning sixth, was a common Roman name, and this bishop may have been of Latin origin.

The Jewish War of 132-5 broke out in the episcopate of the seventh bishop, Telesphorus. No doubt the Christians shared in the unpopularity of the Jews at this time, and we have some evidence of persecution in the fact that Telesphorus himself died as a martyr, probably in 137 or 138. The evidence for the martyrdom is quite clear; in the list of bishops given by Irenaeus, we find the statement that Telesphorus 'witnessed gloriously', which is the same phrase which he uses to describe the martyrdom of Polycarp a few paragraphs lower. No doubt there were other martyrs. The later Roman tradition, for what it is worth, supplies the names of martyrs who were believed to have died under Hadrian; St Symphorosa and her seven sons; and St Achilleus and St Nereus, who are buried in the cemetery of Domitilla.

In this troubled post-war period Hyginus became bishop, and held the position for only three years; but these three years, approximately 137-40, were years of momentous importance for the Roman church. Alexandrian and Syrian schools were established, or, if they were established already, received illustrious teachers from the east. These new teachers were welcomed at first without demur.


The new master of the Alexandrian school in Rome was Valentinus. He had established schools in Egypt and Cyprus, which were still flourishing in the fourth century. Epiphanius, who knew them well, says that he died in Cyprus. We also hear of Valentinian schools in Ephesus and Antioch.

It has often been said that it is difficult to obtain a fair view of the great heresiarchs through the controversial writings of their catholic opponents; still, the task can be attempted. Valentine appears as a man of intellectual genius, whose philosophic ideas were expressed in |74 imaginative or poetic form; not at all in the analytic manner of Basilides. Myth, ritual, gospel, magic, astrology, mysticism and philosophy were all blended in his fantastic theology. He could explain everything and fit everything in.

He was definitely an exponent of the gospel, however; and we have a few words of his which make this clear.

There is one God, whose presence is manifested in the Son. By him alone the heart can become pure; by the expulsion of every evil from the heart. ... As long as no thought is taken for it, the heart remains unclean, and the abode of many daemons; but when the Father who alone is good, visits it, it is made holy, and shines with light; and he who possesses such a heart is so blessed that he shall see God.
(Valentinus: in Clement of Alexandria, Strom, ii, 20.)

The writer of these sentences has meditated deeply on the Gospels, and links three passages together by a penetrating devotional analysis; the story of the rich young ruler, the expulsion of the legion of devils and the beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount. It illustrates the central thought of Valentinus, which tends to be lost altogether in the mazes of his theological 'system'; it is the visit to the soul of the believer of a divine power, an idea Hermas and Barnabas expressed in their mysticism about the Spirit. In Valentine's myth it was the descent of the Saviour into this dark world to be united with his spiritual bride.

Clement of Alexandria and Hippolytus of Rome preserve a few more sayings by which we can judge the personality of the master.

Many of the truths written in the ordinary books are found written in the church of God; for these are common words from the heart – the law written in the heart. This is the people of the beloved which is loved by him and loves him.
(Ibid. vi, 6.)

This passage recalls the saying of 'Barnabas' about the covenant of the beloved Jesus which is sealed in our heart; « See also Barnabas xvi, 7: 'Before we believed in God the dwelling-place of our heart was corrupt and weak as being in truth a temple made with hands; for it was full of idolatry and was a house of daemons.' Had Valentine read Barnabas or been instructed in his school? Barnabas thanks God for a supernatural gift of knowledge (gnosis) and wisdom (sophia). and the author of 'Barnabas' is thought to have been an Alexandrian like Valentine. |75 There is something in common between the 'gnosis' of the two writers.

Valentine says that he saw a new-born child, and questioning it he asked who it might be. It answered and said that it was the Word; and thence he frames some tragic myth and wants his heresy to consist of this.
(Hippolytus, Refutation, vi, 35.)

As Clement himself maintained, words are the children of the mind. The mind is fertile and brings them to birth; thought is genealogical; the relation of the sexes is the mirror of the eternal realities; the seed must be sown in the heart; the lover must visit the soul.


Basilides is reported to have said that the deity was best defined in negative words, since it was misleading to make any statement about him. Even the statement that he exists is misleading. Valentine had no such inhibitions. He was a master of words.

His philosophy of the ultimate reality was expressed in a genealogical myth, some of the names in it being borrowed from St John's Gospel. We follow the guidance of his pupil Ptolemeus, though he seems to have sacrificed something of the poetry of his master. He begins with Bythos: the unmeasured abyss of eternal being; abyss or eternity conceives grace or thought or silence to be his consort. Their first-born son is mind who is united with truth; their offspring is word married to life; then man married to church; making up the supreme 'Ogdoad' of eight primal 'aeons'. Next to these come five more pairs of divine attributes called the 'Dekad ' or ten ; and next to these the 'Dodekad' or twelve, which was the equivalent, at this infinitely higher level, of the zodiac circle or months of the solar year. The whole pleroma, or 'fullness' of the deity adds up to thirty aeons, the 'Triakontad', which corresponds to the days of the month or moon. The pleroma was the abode of perfect love and joy and harmony and praise.

The highest group, known as the Ogdoad or Eight, reflects the genealogy of the high gods of Egypt, and the number-mysticism of Pythagoras; but it is not possible to elaborate these points here. The system branches out in many directions before we come to the descent of the Saviour. It is brilliant and ingenious, but choked with too much detail.


Valentine's drama of creation and redemption was derived from the old Ophite myth, though he discarded the symbolism of the serpent. The mysterious Semitic name laldabaoth (child of chaos) was retained for the creator of the universe; and the female spirit from the higher realm, who inspires him in his work and counteracts his blunders, carries the name ' Achamoth', which is a perversion of the Hebrew word hokmah, which means wisdom. Her name in Greek was Sophia, and was to be found in the Septuagint as a personification of the intellectual or imaginative power which flows from the deity. Holy Wisdom had shared in the creation of the world, and guarded the chosen people and inspired the prophets. She was an Alexandrian importation, and was known to Roman Christians through the Wisdom of Solomon which was read in the church alongside of the New Testament.

Sophia was the last and lowest of the thirty aeons, and had conceived an incestuous desire to know the Father of all, who was the ultimate source of her own being. She had fallen from her high estate before the world began, and had become submerged in the void and darkness outside the Pleroma. She received visits from certain male aeons but was not able to return to her heavenly home. A new being called Horus, the boundary line, barred the way; he was the 'firmament' of the old religion and the cross of the new religion; the factor in the universe which divided it and yet united it, and held everything firmly in place. She became the mother of laldabaoth and his six associate angels. She was the mother of all living.

Before creation took shape, however, she was overwhelmed by the waters of chaos. Her tears and sorrows and anxieties were the substance out of which creation was made; for in some sense she was the original formless matter of the Greek physicists. But she had a divine origin, and something of her divine nature, some' seed' or light, was implanted in the gnostic man; for her passion represents the sense of crisis and frustration in the souls of the elect, who resent their imprisonment in the flesh and cry to the high God for deliverance from this inferior cosmos. They are the seed of the mother, and share her rather hysterical nature. Jesus, the divine Saviour, comes down from the heavenly realms to deliver her and them. Meanwhile laldabaoth, the God of the Jews, had prepared his human Christus or Messiah, who was to be born |77 of a virgin; the 'aeon' Jesus, who is the perfect offspring of all the thirty aeons, descends into her womb and so enters into the body of the earthly Christus; he passes through Mary like water passing through a tube. Jesus Christ is two persons, the 'psychic' Christ of the creator who is believed on in the catholic church, and the indwelling invisible Jesus who is known only to the gnostic.

We must pause to explain the word 'psychic'. A 'pneumatic' is a person possessed by the 'pneuma' or Spirit; the divine inward gift of Hermas; the heavenly spark of Satornil; the seed of the mother according to Valentinus. The 'psychic' has no pneuma, no seed of light, no spark of the divine; he has nothing but his soul or 'psyche', the ordinary life which animates the body. The ordinary catholic Christians are 'psychics'; they lack the 'pneumatic' endowment; they cannot see the pneumatic Saviour within the psychic Christ. The gnostics are 'pneumatic', they have perfect knowledge and a higher destiny.

The divine Saviour unites himself with his fallen consort, the erring Sophia, and restores her to the bridal-chamber in the pleroma above this visible universe. The souls of the gnostics (who are sons of this mother) will be delivered from the burden of the flesh and exalted to the same place whither their Saviour has gone before, where each will be united with an angel; for souls are feminine and angels are masculine. As for the common' psychic' Christians, who live by faith and good works, they will rise from the dead and ascend to their 'psychic' Christ, who is sitting at the right hand of the creator, who has been converted too, and promoted from the seventh heaven to the eighth heaven at the top of the visible universe, which used to be the abode of his mother, Sophia. The abandoned earth, along with such men and women as are not even 'psychic', but only 'choic' or earthly, will be destroyed by fire.

The catholic type of Christian appears to get all he ever expected.

Disregarding the endless ramifications of the myth, we may remark that its central theme is a penetrating study of the neurotic intellectual type and anticipates the Freudian theory. The hysterical Sophia represents the unlawful incestuous desire which has to be repressed and kept under in the region of the unconscious. Horus is the' censor' who bars its return into the realms of intellectual light. The word gnosis, or knowledge, has a sexual significance. The myth is sexual from start to finish; and the solution consists in the reunion of the separated sexual characters. The male saviour or angel represents the 'higher' |78 intellectual factor, and the female spirit, or portion of the spirit, represents the more emotional factor, which suffers from frustration and is unable to express itself satisfactorily. Valentine invites the neurotic intellectual idealistic type to achieve sublimation by contemplating the passion of the mother, identifying his soul with her and sharing in the nuptial redemption, which she achieves through the visit of the bridegroom who is her saviour.

It is furthermore very remarkable how this high fantastic myth is based on traditional concepts which could be found, for instance, in Hermas; the spirit who is a bride; the glorious male angel; the touch of spirit in the soul of the believer; the unhappy divided state of the non-integrated soul, which leads to melancholia and madness; the hints of nuptial solutions in his visions, which however, never terminate in anything. What Valentine did with his material was to dramatize it.


We may well wonder how the Roman Christians could have accepted Valentine as a legitimate teacher; but he did not oppose or contradict the traditional faith or practice. He allowed room for everything in his system; but perhaps he did not begin by promulging his system; perhaps he never promulged a system. If he spoke at first in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, or visions and revelations, it might be long before the true character of his thought became apparent. Roman Christians were accustomed to the visions of Hermas, and must have listened to oracles and allegories of many kinds. It was indeed this kind of thing that had gone to seed in the gnostic schools.

How soon Valentine parted from the church we do not know. Tertullian says that he was disappointed at not becoming bishop; someone who had been a confessor was preferred before him. This might have occurred in the vacancy after the death of Hyginus; or possibly not in Rome at all. He remained in Rome right through the episcopate of Pius, Hegesippus says. Then perhaps he retired to Cyprus and died there as Epiphanius says. He left no books. His pupils carried on his school.

According to the evidence of the Muratorian Catalogue, Hermas was living at this time, and it is possible that the conflict with the great heresiarch has left some traces in his latest work. It may have been now that he produced the long and complicated rewriting of his tower |79 vision, which is included in the Pastor as the ninth parable. In this he explains rather clumsily that the old woman of his first vision, who had originally been the Sibyl and was then transformed into the church, was also the Holy Spirit and a Son of God. His instruction by a spirit in female form belonged to an elementary stage in prophetic vision; but he had now advanced so far as to be instructed by a male angel whom he called the shepherd; and the principal actor in his later parables (or Similitudes) was the glorious angel or Son of God or Michael, who was the lord of the tower. The old vision with its feminine spirit could not be withdrawn from circulation, but it could be branded as elementary and inferior; the nuptial symbolism could be submerged, though it is only just below the surface.

In the new vision of the tower the apostles and teachers are definitely in the past. False teachers are a danger. They are described as the hypocrites who bring in strange teachings and pervert the servants of God, especially those who have sinned; not allowing them to repent but persuading them with foolish teachings. Much depends upon the bishops and deacons. The bishops are highly commended. They are the great spreading trees under which the sheep of the flock find shelter. The plural word constitutes a difficulty, since there is really no doubt that the single episcopate was established now in Rome; and Pius, the brother of Hermas, would succeed Hyginus in the chair of the church of the city of Rome, as the Muratorian Fragment says. But there must have been bishops in the adjacent communities, as there were in the case of Antioch in the time of Ignatius, who came in to councils in the city; and the writings of Hermas have the whole Christian world in view, and were sent out to many bishops.

There is also the picture of the false prophet which appears as the eleventh commandment. Close scrutiny of this chapter convinces one that it was written with a definite situation in view and a definite person. This person seats himself in a chair, as a teacher, or even as a bishop perhaps; he is filled with the spirit of the devil; he prophesies after the Gentile manner; he takes money. He leads astray the double-minded and the empty-headed. He is a schism-leader of some sort.

It is immediately after this, in the twelfth commandment, that Hermas is confirmed in his own ministry, and solemnly charged to adhere to the great and beautiful and glorious commandments, by means of which the heart is gladdened and men will live unto God.


We know very little about Cerdo, who was the head of the Syrian school. He represented the gnosis of Satornil of Antioch, and introduced his doctrine of the 'two gods', one of whom could be described as just, whereas the other was good, that it so say kind and benevolent. The former was the Hebrew God, of course, the other was the nameless deity who existed in the higher realms. His Christ was an immaterial spirit who never took human flesh. Hippolytus, as reported in the Latin Libellus, says that Cerdo used shortened editions of Luke's Gospel and Paul's Epistles, the same books that were used by his successor Marcion and this explains Marcion's own claim that his shortened Gospel had been used by Paul himself. If he believed what he said, it must have been in use for some considerable time before he received it. He must have received it from someone he trusted.

Nevertheless, most scholars hold that he produced this literature himself, and that is what Irenaeus and Tertullian unhesitatingly assert. If this is so, Hippolytus was mistaken in saying that Cerdo used it before him.

Irenaeus had a short account of Cerdo, which he drew without serious doubt from the pages of Hegesippus, to the effect that he arrived in Rome in the time of Hyginus and was received into the church after making a confession of faith; which is an interesting reference to the use of a creed-form to test the legitimacy of a teacher. He engaged in teaching privately or secretly, and made a second confession. He was then convicted or refuted by the majority, and withdrew from the convention of the brethren. The narrative is not perfectly clear, but it suggests a memorable secession from the whole church by a considerable group, who were led by a teacher from the east who had not been trusted by everybody in the first place. He now operated his own 'school'.


The same excellent source states that Marcion arrived in Rome under Hyginus, continued under Pius and reached his greatest strength under Anicetus.

It is not at all certain to what extent the theology of Marcion was formed before he came to Rome. The best that can be said is that he had |81 not yet parted from the catholic church. According to Tertullian, he attached himself to the church on his arrival and presented it with the magnificent sum of two hundred thousand sesterces; so he was a man who had control of considerable funds, whether as a successful shipowner, or as a church organizer, or both. In due course the unusual character of his views brought him into conflict with the Roman elders. It occurred, according to Epiphanius, when the episcopal see was vacant. The trouble arose from the fact that his father, the bishop of Sinope, had not absolved him from the sin of incontinence; a story which is not taken seriously by modern scholars.

If we leave this on one side, we find next in Epiphanius a reference to a controversy about the proedria or first seat, which looks like the position of a teacher or bishop in the church. Following this there comes a very credible story of a debate in which Marcion asked the elders what was meant by the parable of Jesus about the patch of new cloth on the old garment and the new wine poured into old skins. The old skins, in his opinion, meant the outworn tradition of the Jewish religion, to which the catholic church in part adhered; the new wine was the intoxicating gospel which he was preaching himself. Some argument followed, and Marcion left the church, swearing that he would inflict upon it an enduring 'schism'; he would tear the old garment once and for all.

There is little doubt that Epiphanius is reproducing his excellent second-century source here (Hegesippus perhaps), and scholars are inclined to consider his evidence seriously. In any case Marcion parted from the church and joined the school of Cerdo, taking, no doubt, a number of like-minded followers with him. His two hundred thousand sesterces were returned to him, Tertullian says. Before long he succeeded Cerdo as master of the school. He seems at some time to have issued an Epistle, which was known to Tertullian, in which he reviewed his quondam connexion with the catholic church; but no trace of this Epistle remains. Ten years after this, Justin remarks that he was teaching his perverse doctrines to every race under heaven. Marcion or his emissaries must have travelled widely. We know, for instance that his disciple Apelles visited Alexandria. He picked up the docetics and the ascetics and the anti-Jewish fanatics, and became a formidable rival to the catholic church.

|82 MARCION'S CHURCH, c. A.D. 140

Searching for the heart of the Marcionite theology, we find it in the sense of utter contrast between the God of the Jewish Law and the Saviour of the Christian gospel. It is possible that Marcion's modern admirers have failed to do him absolute justice by insisting too exclusively on his dependence on Paul. It looks as if the central idea of his preaching came straight from Jesus himself as he saw him in the pages of his Gospel of the Truth ; a God so good that it was wrong to call him just.

As we read the Sermon on the Mount in Luke we find the good God and the doctrine of unlimited mercy and forgiveness which formed the core of Marcion's faith. These words are followed immediately by his favourite parable of the tree and the fruit, which he applied to the deity himself; a good tree produces good fruit; a good God could not have made a bad world; he could not be warlike or revengeful or severe.

On the other hand, this gospel of pure goodness was fortified by a heroic asceticism. The simple believer in the' school' of Marcion had to renounce his wife, if he had one, and embrace perpetual celibacy. He must never partake of wine or flesh, though fish was permitted. The body must be mortified and starved; it belonged to the creator, and when it died it would be discarded for ever.

There is a point about Marcion which is worthy of some attention. Marcion's church did not depart from the pattern which was now everywhere adopted in the catholic tradition. It had bishops, presbyters and deacons. It had sacraments, though it used water for the eucharist instead of wine, the drinking of wine being altogether banned. In baptism the candidates were anointed with oil and given milk and honey to drink. These ceremonies were all in traditional use in the catholic church before the end of the century, as we learn from Hippolytus and Tertullian; and some of them appear in the Valentinian rituals. It would seem probable therefore that they were in general use before these three distinct traditions separated from one another. Of course they may have borrowed from one another, but in view of the feelings that existed between them it does not seem likely.

Barnabas uses the symbolism of milk and honey in connexion with baptism, and Theophilus of Antioch invites an inquirer to be anointed. These may refer to actual rituals, but could well be taken as figurative expressions.


It has been strongly argued that Marcion was the first to 'organize' a 'catholic' church order. There is no evidence that anybody ever 'organized' a catholic church order, but there are two points in the theory which are deserving of some attention. The first is that he imposed on all his churches his own theology; the other is that he seems to have laid down a canon of apostolic scripture for reading in the churches. The catholic church of his time, meaning by this term what Celsus called the great church, the mass of Christian churches of apostolic foundation, had a large inheritance of apostolic and sub-apostolic literature; but it was not yet a canon of scripture like the books of the Old Testament. It is maintained that Marcion did something new when he brought his book of Pauline Epistles into close association with his Gospel of the Truth, and so substituted a canon of Epistles and Gospel for the old canon of the Law and the Prophets; though actually there seems to be no evidence that he called them scripture.

Undoubtedly this was an important development which must have led the catholic churches to re-examine the situation; but we do not know that it was without antecedents of any kind. It should not be forgotten that the old Gospel of Luke, from which his Gospel of the Truth was formed, had possessed an apostolic sequel in the Acts of the Apostles; Marcion or some predecessor substituted the Pauline Epistles for it, Galatians taking the place of Acts as a source-book of Apostolic history and doctrine. The same pattern may have appeared in other quarters, too. The so-called First Epistle of John seems to have been the sequel to John's Gospel. 1 Peter may have been regarded as the sequel of Mark. The Didache was certainly composed as an apostolic sequel to Matthew.

Another point is that it is not perfectly accurate to say that the Old Testament was not read in the Marcionite churches. There was a third 'canonical' book, if we may use the term, which Marcion composed himself, called the Antitheses or Contradictions. The catholic churches read extracts from the Law and the Prophets along with their extracts from the Gospels, thus proving their perfect harmony; and words of Jesus quoted in Clement, Justin and Theophilus are sometimes prefaced by such Old Testament quotations. Marcion copied this procedure in his Antitheses, but with the object of proving their absolute |84 incompatibility; and this was regarded as his most important literary labour. Unfortunately we are not able to reconstruct this monument of his scholarship and controversial ability, though some information about it survives.

This does not detract from the originality and genius of Marcion, but it does suggest that his policies may have been determined to some extent by contemporary developments, which may not always be documented. Every point in the theology and church order of Marcion was related somehow to points which were established in the catholic church order of his time; but the position which he gave to his apostolic documents was necessarily a stronger one than they were given in the old tradition, which had no need to prove its theology or supply its credentials in quite the same way. For Marcion everything depended upon his combination of Galatians with the Gospel of the Truth.


The Syrian Chronicle dates the Marcionite schism in 138, and this date cannot be far out. It must have taken place by about 140 or 141, which is the approximate date for the accession of Pius as bishop of Rome in succession to Hyginus. If we take seriously the tales told by Tertullian and Epiphanius, this would be the episcopal election in which both heresiarchs were disappointed. Pius would be the 'confessor' who proved the more powerful candidate than Valentine.

Pius was the brother of Hermas, the Muratorian Fragment says, and Hermas 'compiled' his book called the Pastor while his brother Pius occupied the episcopal chair; that is to say, the definite edition of his various revelations. The book emphasizes the moral life, the coming judgement and the glory of martyrdom. The old Roman coalition of the bishop, the prophet and the martyr was firmly established. Senior men who could well remember the days of Clement were in the saddle, and nothing could have been more objectionable to Valentine and Marcion.

It looks as if Pius and his elders dealt firmly with certain novel tendencies and modernizing personalities in the ecclesia with which Hyginus had been more lenient or less fortunate. Hyginus had taken over the reins after a persecution in which his predecessor had been killed; and the parallel instance of the loss of Bishop Publius at Athens |85 indicates that the task of reorganization in such circumstances was no easy one. But perhaps Hyginus' own views were on the modernistic side? Perhaps he was even the patron of Cerdo or Valentine?

Pius is a Latin name like Clement and Sixtus, but it is not possible to build much on that. He must have been a slave like his brother Hermas who had a Greek name and wrote in Greek though his prose style is marked by a number of Latinisms. Their acceptance after so many years as leaders in the Roman church is a tribute to their character and ability and sustained Christian faith. But could Hermas really have been alive at this period? He was a married man with an insubordinate family when Clement was at the end of his episcopate about 97 to 100; but marriage and families came early in those days. If he married at twenty (and he could have married even younger), and his oldest child was fifteen (which is old enough for unruly conduct), he would have been about thirty-five when he wrote the Visions. If this was in the year 100, he would be about seventy-five when Pius became bishop, only five years older than Polycarp, who was in good form fifteen years later, and not too old to supervise the preparation of a standard edition of his prophetic works.


We know next to nothing about the appointment of bishops at this time. It is quite possible that the old bishop was expected to consecrate his successor or at any rate to designate him, no doubt with the concurrence of the whole ecclesia; but even if this custom prevailed in Rome, for which there is no evidence at all, it might not be possible when the bishop died as a martyr as Telesphorus did, or died unexpectedly as Hyginus may have done, since his episcopate was so short. In such cases the new bishop would have to be chosen in some other way, the presbyters taking the lead no doubt, and neighbouring bishops co-operating perhaps, and the whole ecclesia concurring. All these features are to be found in one case or another; but according to Hippolytus at the end of the century, the Roman bishop was chosen by all the people and consecrated by neighbouring bishops, the elders standing by.

In any case these two elections, if they were elections, were held in a period of confusion due to various causes, the aftermath of war, the effects of persecution and the conflict with heresy.

|86 It would appear that episcopal elections had a divisive effect upon the church. The state of affairs would appear to be this: after the accession of Pius the Roman church was seen to have broken into two or more parts, each of which was fully organized, and had oecumenical connexions. The more conservative part, which had Pius as its bishop, favoured the old concord of Jewish antecedents with apostolic tradition, and found a witness to it in the writings of Hernias, which were linked with the name of Clement, which now had a lustre of antiquity and apostolicity about it. The part of the church which accepted the doctrines of Marcion took a different line, by reducing the quantity of apostolic literature which was accepted as legitimate and adding to it the writings of Marcion himself. Whether Marcion was the bishop of Rome in the estimate of his church, or whether he had a bishop, we do not know. He certainly equipped his church with bishops; but he may have stood higher in the estimate of his followers than any bishop. They thought he was the only one who knew the truth, Justin sarcastically says.

Were there any other rival churches in Rome with rival bishops? We do not know. It seems rather unlikely that Valentine founded a church. He operated a school of more advanced studies for the intellectuals, and initiated them into a higher degree of illumination in the mysteries.

A word must now be said about the Christian schools. There were apostolic teachers in the church from the first, but we have so signs of schools being carried on separately from the church. But there were teachers now who gathered groups of pupils or inquirers round them, apparently in their own houses or lodgings, like St Paul, or in the houses of wealthy patrons who took them into their homes. We learn from the Two Ways and from the Didache that classes were held daily, and in the time of Hippolytus the proper time for this was the early morning. We may also begin to distinguish a class of inquirers who had not made up their minds to be baptized (the rolling stones of Hermas) from a class of hearers (the neoi or younger) who had been accepted, but were going through the long period of preparation which was now demanded before baptism; by the time of Hippolytus it was normally three years. It would include fasting and prayers and exorcisms, and Hippolytus says that it was competent for the teacher to bestow a laying on of hands, either in blessing or exorcism or both.

The Christian ecclesia consisted in theory of a circle of baptized saints, who possessed the Holy Spirit and were pledged to a life of |87 perfect chastity, either as married persons or as bachelors or spinsters; to a complete renunciation of pagan life; and possibly to martyrdom. If they lapsed from this high standard, the way of reconciliation was hard or, in the opinion of some, impossible. By now there must have been many who remained for years in the class of hearers or catechumens, rather than adopt the heroic and saintly life which was incumbent on the baptized; and if so, the school must have been the centre of their Christian life. It seems that they were not admitted to the prayers of the brethren or to the eucharist. Had the bishop or elders any effective control over these schools?

If this was the situation, it becomes fairly easy to understand the influence of the great teachers and the success with which they organized their following. Cerdo and Valentine were the heads of important schools, which were fully recognized by Hyginus and the elders; they had an organization already. But there is a further point. When a schism occurred, it was natural for each episcopal group to regard the rival episcopal group as nothing more than a 'school'. It could not be called a church, since there could not be two churches of God sojourning in one city. Thus the organization of which Cerdo was the head is called a school by Irenaeus; but we can hardly doubt that Cerdo called it a church. It would be the church for him; and either he was its bishop, bishop of Rome in the estimation of his flock, or else he had a bishop, with elders to support him. Marcion took over the 'school' of Cerdo, Irenaeus says, and therefore he may have been bishop of Rome in that succession; he certainly regarded his organization as the one true church.

The loose organization attributed to the heretical churches by Tertullian may have had something to do with the fact that they developed out of schools. It would explain perhaps why they did not exclude the catechumens from the prayers of the brethren. He also says that women were allowed to baptize and that episcopal appointments were not permanent; but perhaps these were oriental features.

Furthermore, since celibacy was a requirement for baptism in the Marcionite churches, few of the hearers would hasten to baptism; his churches would always consist very largely of a mass of catechumens.

There was also another class of Christian adherent to whom an appeal could be made. In his picture of the 'false prophet', Hermas remarks that those who associated with him were the 'double-minded' who frequently repented; which suggests that he offered easier terms |88 of repentance than Hermas did to those who had fallen from grace. The reference is easier to understand if the false prophet was a rival bishop; and the same charge was brought by Hippolytus against his rival bishop Callistus. It suggests that the penitents formed another class for whose allegiance rival groups could compete.


The Roman church was thus forced to consolidate its organization and its theology, and by doing so it gained stability and gave leadership to the church as a whole. The divisions and controversies in Rome were felt to the very bounds of the catholic church. No doubt the views of Marcion and Valentine were discussed before long by the Britons on the banks of the Thames; they certainly reached the Syrians on the banks of the Euphrates. The true philosophy of Valentine lingered longer in Antioch than elsewhere, Tertullian said. Marcionite churches were numerous in the east.

Was the third Roman tradition, the tradition of Bishop Pius, equally influential? The evidence leaves no doubt at all that it was; but it appears in the east as the tradition of Clement. The veneration which was extended in Syria and Palestine to the name of Clement as the successor of Peter in Rome, shows how high the reputation of the old Roman tradition stood. The tradition of Peter and Clement was regarded as the strong champion against Marcion and all heretics of the anti-Jewish type. The conviction was expressed in the oriental manner in the 'Clementine' romances of the Hellenistic Ebionite school, in which an imaginary Peter, seen through the eyes of an imaginary Clement, triumphantly refutes an imaginary Simon Magus, who is Paul, Marcion, Valentine and Basilides rolled into one; and in the so-called Acts of Peter the defeat of Simon Magus is transferred to Rome itself.

The exaltation of Clement in these works of fiction is the reflexion in Syria, of the position of leadership which the Roman church occupied in the west, and in the catholic church generally, until the end of the century. In the Ebionite imagination the conflict was seen in simpler terms than it was in Rome; it was a conflict between Peter and Paul, which is how Marcion saw it too. In Rome, however, the tradition of Clement is traced back to Peter and Paul jointly; and Clement is not the first successor; he has predecessors.
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