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 | |< | << | Map 1: The eastern expansion of the Church | The new prophecy; Montanus, A.D. 150-5 | Priscilla and Pepuza | A glance at Antioch | Lucian of Samosata | Peregrinus the Christian | East of Antioch | The church in Edessa | Apostolic memorials | Hegesippus and his researches | Hegesippus and the episcopate | Hegesippus in Rome, c. A.D. 160 | >> |

|140 Map 1. The oriental expansion of Christianity

Oriental Christianity

(1) Phrygia, the home of Montanism, was divided among several Roman provinces.

(2) Cappadocia, a border province of increasing importance, where Christianity was strong. Its capital was Caesarea (2 A). Tyana (2 B) was the home of Apollonius, the philosopher-mystic, who was converted into a rival of Christ. Melitene (2 C) was the place where the Twelfth Legion was stationed, and took in Christian recruits.

(3) Armenia was an important semi-independent buffer-state, under Roman influence. The country became Christian by about 300.

(4) Commagene was a Syrian state. Its capital city, Samosata (4 A), was the birth-place of the satirist Lucian, and of the third-century bishop of Antioch, Paul.

(5) Cilicia, an old Roman province, whose capital was Tarsus, the birthplace of St Paul.

(6) Osrhoene, an independent Syrian kingdom under Roman influence, ruled by the Abgar dynasty. Its capital, Edessa (6 A), the modern Urfa or Urhai, was evangelized by the legendary Addai, who is said to have built a church there. Christianity was favoured by some members of the royal family, ana well established before 200. Haran (6 B), the Roman Carrhae, was associated with the story of Abraham.

(7) Mesopotamia and Assyria are names for areas of land between the two rivers. Their application does not seem to have been exactly denned. Nisibis (7 A) was an important' Assyrian' city, which came under Roman influence.

(8) Antioch was the second largest city in the empire, and the capital of the empire in the east. It was the chief city of Syria, and an apostolic see which claimed Peter as its founder. Not far off was Rhossos (8 A), where Bishop Serapion found the church reading the Gospel of Peter; and Beroea (8 B), a Jewish-Christian centre where the Hebrew Gospel was still in use in the fourth century.

(9) Coele Syria (Hollow Syria) was a name which was often given to the Syrian inland region between Antioch and Palestine. Apamea on the Orontes (9 A) was a centre of the Jewish-Christian sect of Elkhasai. Palmyra (9 B) was an important city, dominating the trade-routes, and in the mid-third century was the capital of an eastern empire. Emesa (9 C) was an old Syrian city, devoted to the sun-god, El-Gabal; a dynasty descended from the priest-kings of Emesa ruled the Roman empire in the early third century.

(10) Phoenicia included various coast-towns which were the scenes of the legends about Peter, which form the substance of the Jewish-Christian Clementine books. The bishops of Tyre (10 A) and Ptolemais (10 B) were early connected with the Palestinian and Alexandrian churches.

(11) Palestine included the old apostolic centre of Caesarea (11 A), which was a leading bishopric, and Aelia (11 B), which was the new name for Jerusalem; they were in close touch with Alexandria. Pella (11 C) was the town by the Lake of Galilee, to which the original Jerusalem church had migrated. Jewish-Christian communities were found east of Jordan and in northern Arabia, many of them heretical.

(12) Arabia, the Roman province east of the Jordan, ran as far south as the Gulf of Akaba, where there was communication by sea with India. Bostra (12 A) was its capital.

(13) Babylonia is a name which may be assigned to the southern part of the land between the two rivers. Dura-Europus (13 A) is a very advanced Roman outpost of the early third century, which was taken by the Persians in 268. Interesting synagogue and church remains have been excavated there. Ctesiphon (13 B), with its companion city of Seleuceia, is near the site of the ancient Babylon. Ctesiphon and Seleuceia were, from time to time, the joint-capital of the Parthian empire.

(14) Adiabene was a Syrian kingdom east of the Tigris which early received a Christian mission. Its capital was Arbela (14 A).

|139 In studying the account of the martyrdom of Polycarp we noticed a certain apologetic tendency, as if the discreet non-provocative policy of Polycarp had to be defended against a different attitude which rushed upon martyrdom with enthusiasm. There were these two different types of martyrs in the church, and they corresponded to two different types of faith or theology. The exponent of the second type in the martyrdom of Polycarp is the Phrygian would-be martyr Quintus, whose courage failed him at the last moment; and Marcianus observes that his conduct in giving himself up was not in accordance with the gospel. The letter which tells the story was directed to the church of Philomelium in eastern Phrygia; and Phrygia was the home of Christian enthusiasm, using the word in the sense of utter surrender to a divine indwelling spirit. The man is 'en-theos'; a god is in him.


We are now in a position to approach the subject of the outbreak of prophetic enthusiasm in western Phrygia, which is known as Montanism. In the highlands of Mysia, which lay north of Laodicea and Hierapolis, it would seem that whole villages had embraced the Christian faith in its prophetic form. The Phrygians were an emotional people, who had been accustomed to worship Cybele, the mother of the gods, with wild music and the shedding of blood and unmentionable rites. Their priests were emasculated in honour of the jealous goddess, who must be served by 'half-men'. The horrible sacrament of the taurololium, or immersion in hot bull's blood, is said to have originated in this cult. Their hero-god was the shepherd Attis, who cut himself |142 for love of the mother and died under the pine-tree. In the wild excitement of her mysteries, the mourners for Attis passed into a state of frenzy which resembled madness.

In the village of Ardabau, which has not been precisely located, there lived a Christian prophet named Montanus, who had once been a priest of Cybele, Jerome says. He set going a religious revival in the church, the effect of which would be felt far and wide. It was known as the New Prophecy by its friends and the Phrygian Heresy by its enemies; it was called Montanism by the theologians of a later time. Its strong features were fasting and asceticism, the seeing of visions, the hearing of voices, and possession by the Spirit. The condition of the prophet, during his seizure by the Spirit, was described as 'ecstasy'; he was 'beside himself, and had no control over what he was saying. Another mind was in command; another person was speaking through him; it was the Word of God, or the Spirit, or the Almighty Father who spoke. It was a non-rational influx of sheer supernatural energy, which was its own final authority. There was a word out of St John's Gospel which Montanus liked to use: the Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth who would come and lead the disciples into all truth, and convict the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgement. This hour had now struck.

Montanus could not be content with the older conception of the Spirit working organically in the whole body of the church through all its members and functions; nor with the Hermadic view of the interior life as a fusion of the divine with the human; he believed that when he was in ecstasy, the entire deity was speaking through him at that moment. All that was human was in abeyance. 'I am God Almighty', he is reported to have said, 'dwelling in a man'; 'I am neither angel nor envoy; I am the Lord God and Father, and have come myself.' Hernias had said that the inspiration of the prophet was due to an 'angel' from the divine Spirit, an impulse as we might say; Montanus made a more exalted claim for the power that spoke in him.

Behold the man is as it were a lyre, and I flutter as it were the key; the man sleeps but I awake. Behold it is the Lord that moves the hearts of men in ecstasy: and I that give them hearts.
(Epiphanius, Panarion, 48.)

The simile of the musical instrument was not peculiar to Montanism. It was used by such grave and learned writers as Athenagoras of Athens and Theophilus of Antioch in reference to the Old Testament prophets. |143 Why should it not be applied in stark realism to the prophets of the church?

The prophetic ministry was no new idea. It was indeed an essential element in the Jewish inheritance of the church, and therefore in its catholic order; but none except the Lord himself had enjoyed the whole fountain of the Holy Spirit, Justin said; a thought which appears to have been embodied in the story of the baptism of Jesus in the Hebrew gospel. He had given the Holy Spirit to his church. He had gone up on high; he had led captivity captive; he had 'given gifts to men'; but these gifts were parcelled out; one gift to one and one to another. Montanus introduced a new thing. The total prophetic authority was concentrated in one place. The voice of the Lord God himself was being heard in the valleys of Phrygia; and this new fact constituted it the centre of the universal church, a doctrine which soon assumed authoritative form.


There were a number of women who were associated with Montanus in his work. Among these were Maximilla and Priscilla. They too had the gift of prophecy.

Written records were made of the oracles which were uttered by Montanus and the women, and Epiphanius quotes some of them in his account of the sect. He tells us that Priscilla received an important revelation as she slept; 'for Christ came to her and slept with her, as the deluded woman herself says,

In the form of a woman Christ came to me in a shining robe, and infused wisdom into me, and revealed it to me that this place is holy, and here it is that Jerusalem cometh down from heaven.'
(Epiphanius, Panarion, 49.)

The word 'here' in this oracle refers to the small village of Pepuza, and its neighbour, Tymion. Pepuza was the holy city of the New Prophecy, and Montanus gave it the name of Jerusalem, we are informed by the Ephesian writer Apollonius at the end of the century, because it was the scene of his religious assemblies;' For everybody to assemble there', is what he says.

The language of Priscilla's oracle is taken from the Revelation of St John. The holy city, or New Jerusalem, is the vision of blessedness |144 and peace on which the book closes; a spiritual vision, many Christians have thought, among them the hymn-writers who have interpreted it for the common people; 'Saviour, since of Zion's city, I through faith a member am.' Such may have been the meaning of this oracle for Priscilla herself. Where the saints were congregated and the Spirit fell from God and the prophets prophesied, there Jerusalem 'cometh down'. The verb is in the present tense.

This is not how the church historians and theologians have understood it, however. They think that the adherents of the New Prophecy expected to see a golden city appear visibly in the sky and descend to earth at Pepuza. The difficulty about this literal interpretation is that there is no trace of it in the evidence. Western Montanism certainly had never heard of it. Tertullian, the devoted adherent of Montanus, did indeed take the descent of the holy city literally, but he believed that it would come down on the site of the old Jerusalem in Palestine. His ignorance of what has been regarded as the official Montanist eschato-logy is exceedingly hard to explain.

Perhaps some light may be shed on the problem by going back to the original source of the vision. The Revelation of St John contains a special message for the Phrygian church of Philadelphia, not very far from Pepuza. This church was in serious conflict with Jews or Judaiz-ing Christians, and John says,

To him that overcometh ... I will inscribe upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which cometh down from heaven.
(John, Revelation iii. 12.)

In other words, the name of Jerusalem now belonged, not to the actual Jews in Philadelphia, who were a synagogue of Satan, but to the despised and persecuted Christians. They were the true city of God; the new Jerusalem, which God had chosen 'to put his name there'.

Since that time, Philadelphia had boasted of a prophetess named Ammia, who was regarded as the predecessor of Maximilla and Priscilla. A connexion or pedigree of a sort appears here which may help to explain Priscilla's dream. When the prophetic witness was in Philadelphia, Philadelphia was given the name of Jerusalem; when the prophetic witness was in Pepuza, Pepuza was given the name of Jerusalem. There is no evidence that the Phrygian prophets were concerned with millennial forecasts like Papias and Justin. It would seem that they were |145 concerned with the fulfilment of Gospel prophecy in their own movement. They may have had prophecies of a golden future after the wars and disturbances predicted by Maximilla; but there is no record of them.

The two great promises of the Johannine books were both realized in their midst; the one was the presence of the Paraclete or Comforter in the persons of Montanus and the women; the other was the gathering of the saints with these prophets, in Pepuza and Tymion, which constituted the New Jerusalem, which cometh down from heaven.

What was the date when the New Prophecy began to lift up its voice? Eusebius gives 177 to 178 as the date when it was attracting world-wide attention, but this is much too late for its origin. The date which is given by Epiphanius is the nineteenth year of Antoninus, which works out at 157. Apollonius says that it was forty years before he wrote, which works out with a high degree of probability as about 152 or 153. We will not go far wrong in assuming that Montanus was beginning to prophesy when Polycarp died as a martyr; and this would help to explain the critical note in the story of his martyrdom; but one would suppose that there were prophesyings in Phrygia before Montanus. His movement cannot have come out of nothing, and it claimed to possess predecessors in Quadratus and Ammia.


Antioch on the Orontes was the centre of the imperial administration in the east and the gateway to Roman Syria. It grew wealthy on the trade in luxury products with the far-eastern countries, such as China and India, as Alexandria did in Egypt. The church in Antioch must have been numerous and powerful, and much divided by controversy; but we hear next to nothing of it, and are forced to fall back upon conjecture. We may reasonably consider, however, the docetic schools, the prophets of the Didache, and the case of Peregrinus.

At the end of the century, Bishop Serapion of Antioch found the so-called Gospel of Peter being used in the church at Rhossos in Cilicia. He made inquiries, and found that it was the gospel of a sect of Docetae, whose leader or founder had been a certain Marcianus, who, he said, had been in the habit of contradicting himself. Marcianus and his Docetae may have been flourishing at this time. A strongly docetic theology had existed in Antioch ever since the days of Menander and Satornil; |146 and their emphasis on an unsubstantial and 'spiritual' Christ may partially account for the emphasis on the historic and Judaistic side of the gospel in the official theology of the church, which sometimes seemed to err in the direction of humanism or adoptionism. The Gospel of Peter was not necessarily an Antiochene production, however. It may have been introduced there; from Alexandria for instance, where another sect of Docetae also existed, under the leadership of Julius Cassianus; but Julius quoted from the Gospel of the Egyptians, Clement of Alexandria says. Our information is so meagre, however, that for all we know, the Egyptian gospel may have had much in common with the so-called Peter, fragments of which were discovered in Egypt.

As for the Didache, we have taken the view that its origin is Syrian, and that it is not likely to be much later than 150 in its present form. Those who wish to assign it to an earlier date would not object, however, to the supposition that it was still exercising its influence in the neighbourhood of Antioch, where we may locate its ambitious and refractory prophets who aspired to step into the positions of the apostles of Jesus and the high priests of Judaism. We may visualize them going their rounds of the rural churches in the harvest seasons, receiving the first-fruits, and 'ordering tables' and demanding money in the Spirit, and celebrating their 'cosmic mystery of the church'; a mystery on which no light has yet been shed, though we may conjecture much. To question their oracles was to sin against the Holy Ghost.

Sacred teachers and sacred prophets seem to have been the glory and the shame of the church. Celsus, the philosophic critic of Christianity, tells us that they were specially active in Palestine and Phoenicia, where he had seen them at work.

There are many [he says] who, though they are people of no importance, yet affect the manner of inspired persons, both inside and outside of temples ... 'I am God', they say, or 'I am the divine Spirit; I have come because the world is perishing through your iniquities; but I desire to save you, and you shall see me returning again in heavenly power. Blessed is he who now does me homage: on all the rest I will send down eternal fire.'
(Celsus, The True Word, in Origen, Against Celsus, vii, 9.)

Celsus has preserved some authentic Christian notes in this parody of the prophetic preacher. He represents the prophet as speaking in the |147 person of Christ; but the example of the Phrygian prophets shows that this was not at all an impossible idea; and the prophet of the Didache also claims that the divine Spirit is speaking through him.


There was one Syrian kingdom which had been incorporated into the empire, since it lay west of the Euphrates. Its name was Commagene, and it bordered on the province of Cappadocia. Its capital city was Samosata; and Samosata was the birthplace of Lucian, the most graceful and witty of the Greek authors of the period. His satire was a finer and keener weapon than that of Celsus. He had wandered from country to country in his younger days, giving lectures in Greece and Italy and Gaul; but he settled in Antioch about the year 160, moving after a while to Athens. In both cities he fell in with the notorious Peregrinus, also called Proteus, or made enquiries about him; and after Proteus' famous act of self-destruction at Olympia in 165, he wrote the unkind sketch of his life, which sheds some light on Christianity. But the wit of Lucian spared neither gods nor men.


In his skit which he calls Concerning the Death of Peregrinus, Lucian tells us that the subject of his satire was born at Parium on the Hellespont, where he committed many crimes, not even drawing the line at parricide. He was permitted to leave the city, however, after the confiscation of his property, which makes the extreme charges of Lucian sound rather improbable. He travelled as far as Palestine, where he became a Christian. He wandered from church to church as a 'synagogeus or prophet or thiasarchus'. These titles are not very serious appellations. The first has a Jewish look, and the last is decidedly Bacchic; they might be translated 'a master of assemblies, a prophet, a leader of divine revels'. He carried with him sacred books, some of which he had composed himself. He was imprisoned in Antioch and became a martyr of great fame. His fellow-Christians attempted to secure his release, and when this was found impossible they looked after his wants with unremitting care and zeal. In the day-time widows and orphans waited about the doors of the prison; the clergy bribed the |148 guards to let them keep company with him at night; delicacies to eat were smuggled in; and envoys arrived from the far-off cities of Asia Minor to advise and console him. In the eyes of Lucian all this was very funny. The Christians were a simple people, easily imposed upon, and Peregrinus was doing remarkably well at their expense. To use the words of the Didache, he was a Christ-monger not a Christian.

The historian, however, must make some allowances for the mocking spirit of Lucian and give Peregrinus some credit for sincerity, and the Christians some credit for common sense. Peregrinus was not without his admirers at Athens a few years later, and he demonstrated his sincerity, at least, by his theatrical death at Olympia; for the martyrdom at Antioch was never consummated. Had the proconsul condemned Peregrinus, he might have shone in the pages of church history as another Justin Martyr. Like Justin, he was an author; like Justin, he was in love with philosophy; and the Christians called him the new Socrates. But the proconsul decided that he would not benefit the Christians by granting them another martyr. Peregrinus was released, and escorted on his way by jubilant Christians. Finally he fell from grace. He parted from the church after some controversy on the matter of forbidden foods, Lucian thought. We shall continue the story of Peregrinus in the next chapter, in which he will appear as a Cynic philosopher.


In the desert cities between Antioch and the Euphrates, a wealthy and cultured society was coming into existence, which would have an increasing influence on the fortunes of the empire. The old Iranian and Babylonian religious traditions were going through a period of intellectual ferment under the stimulus of Greek thought. We cannot expect to find Syrian Christianity exactly like the Christianity of the west.

The Euphrates River was still the boundary of the Roman empire; and on the eastern side of its western bulge was the Syrian kingdom which the Greeks called Osrhoene. This name was a corruption of the native name of its principal city, Urhai, the modern Urfa; but the Greeks had called this city Edessa, and this is the name it was generally known by. The whole territory between the two rivers, in these latitudes, was vaguely known as Assyria.

Farther east still, across the Tigris, was the Syrian kingdom of |149 Adiabene, whose capital was Arbela. Its royal family had accepted Judaism in the first century, but this was now an affair of past history. Nevertheless the Jewish religion, in various forms, was spread far and wide in the lands between the two rivers, and beyond. It is natural to suppose that Christianity in its various Jewish forms had spread there too; but it is only now that we begin to find evidence of it.

The kingdom of Osrhoene, or Edessa, had a line of sovereigns of Arab origin, whose names were usually Abgar or Manu: they were connected in some way with the sovereigns of Arbela. Under the patronage of these sovereigns, or some of them, a form of Christianity took possession of the city of Edessa and was in a flourishing condition by the end of the century. The language spoken there was Syriac, and the local church expressed itself in that language. It became the medium of a widespread and illustrious Christian culture, which spread in due course as far as China. It is still the language of the Syrian liturgy, though modern Syrians speak Arabic. It was not identical with the Aramaic which was spoken by the Jews and the Palmyrenes, though it resembled it closely. The Syriac Christianity of Edessa was not continuous, on a language basis, with the Aramaic Christianity of Jesus and his disciples, of which no literary trace remains today; translation was necessary.


The legendary founder of Christianity in Edessa (for Syrian Christianity abounds in splendid legends) was a certain Addai, who is said to have been one of the seventy-two disciples of Jesus. Eusebius had received from the Edessenes a long romantic story in which the legendary Addai had been transformed into the apostle Thaddaeus, or 'Thaddai'; but this is not apparently the oldest form of the legend. The native account of it, the Doctrine of Addai, which took its present form in the fourth century, does not make this claim, though it agrees in its main outline with Eusebius. It tells how King Abgar Ukkama (the Black) sent a messenger to Jesus, asking him to come to Edessa and cure him of his leprosy. Jesus could not accept this invitation, but he sent Abgar a portrait of himself, with an Epistle, in which he promised that an evangelist would come in due course. After the Ascension the apostle 'Judas Thomas' sent Addai, who cured the king and built a church at Edessa.

|150 Now the Addai legends may not be entirely devoid of historical value; for a hard historical fact is found at the core of most legends, or, at any rate, they must attach themselves to history at some point. The Acts of Paul, for instance, may be classed as an historical novel, but their hero is the historical Paul, who actually existed and planted churches in the locations where the legend places him. The name of Addai may be received as historical. The legend tells how he was befriended by a Jew named Tobiah the son of Tobiah, who received him into his house, and helped him in various ways; and this suggests that the oldest form of Christianity in Edessa was Jewish.

The Doctrine of Addai goes on to say that he died in peace after consecrating his pupil Aggai to be his successor as bishop. « Our first reference to an episcopal consecration, if the fact is accepted: in any case, a venerable tradition. Aggai displeased the next king, whose name was Manu, and was put to death before he was able to consecrate as his successor a third bishop, Palut, who had also been a disciple of Addai; so Palut was consecrated by Serapion of Antioch, who had been consecrated himself by Zephyrinus of Rome. We have suddenly moved on more than a hundred years, for Zephyrinus did not become bishop before about 200, and cannot have consecrated Serapion, who became bishop of Antioch about 190. It is plain what has happened. A tradition about Palut has been awkwardly spliced on to a tradition about Addai. It is an important tradition. Palut appears to be an historical character, since the orthodox Christians of Edessa were nicknamed 'Palutians' by their heretical opponents, who may have represented the older tradition.

In the old Syrian chronicles there are various entries which add to the confusion. The great Syrian intellectual, Bar Daisan, or Bardesanes, who was born in 154, was converted to the faith in 179 by hearing the bishop Hystasp preaching in the church which had been built by Addai. This entry confirms the tradition about Addai and his church, but it adds more names to the episcopal succession; for Hystasp is given a predecessor called Yaznai (or Izani), and a successor named 'Aqai, who excommunicated Bar Daisan for heresy. We are quite unable to piece together an episcopal succession-list; but we are pleased to note that the Syrian chroniclers did not make the attempt to do so; nor did they invent names to fill the void. The names we have may well be genuine. They point to confusion and conflict, and the existence of more than |151 one succession of bishops. Palut seems to have been the first of a new succession, which was in touch with the Christian tradition of the west.

he existence of the church is put beyond all reasonable doubt by an entry in one of the chronicles, which says that it was destroyed in the year 202, when the River Daisan flooded. It looks as if it had been built on low ground as a convenient site for baptisms. It is our first reference to a church building, though there is evidence by the end of the second century that such buildings existed. The shadowy figure of Addai and his Jewish-Christian mission may be placed, perhaps, after the wars of Trajan (114-17) in which Edessa was destroyed by Lusius Quietus; or even after the Jewish wars of 132-5, when great numbers of Jews must have sought refuge in the east. The Chronicle of Arbela, the capital of Adiabene, suggests that Christianity reached the east of the Tigris about the same time.


We have reached a point now when the apostolic age, in the most generous interpretation of the phrase, was receding beyond the reach of man's memory. We have seen an instance in which two long lives have bridged the interval. John had stood by the cross of Jesus, and Polycarp his pupil had crowned his own career with martyrdom one hundred and twenty-five years later; three average generations of about forty years each had been covered by two long lives. We enter the fourth generation, and look now to men like Irenaeus and Hegesippus and Eleutherus to carry on the tradition to the end of the century.

Many changes occur at such a period of transition. It is the point at which, in every human community, an historical interest comes into existence, which is marked in modern times by jubilees and centenaries. The newer generation begins to ask questions about the historical origins of the community and the personalities of its pioneers and founders. In the church of the second century this becomes apparent in the construction of written lists of the bishops who linked it with the apostolic founders. It showed itself, too, in an interest in historic sites, and especially in the burial-places of the great men of the first generation. It played its part in ecclesiastical controversy.

Recent excavation has shown that it was marked in Rome by a certain amount of new construction in the cemetery on the right-hand side of |152 the Via Cornelia as one goes up the Vatican Hill, a site which was revered as the burial-place of St Peter. A shrine was erected with a little altar or table which was supported by two graceful columns about four feet six inches in height the remains of which have recently been discovered. Behind it is a curved niche beneath which was discovered a rectangular cavity, which was empty. There are many burials around it. There are no inscriptions mentioning the name of Peter. The best that can be safely said is that this is the shrine mentioned by the Roman writer Gaius about the year 200; he calls it a tropaion or monument of victory, and adds that there was a similar monument of St Paul on the Ostian Way, but this site has not been excavated. On the other hand, the numerous second-century catacombs show how piously the Roman Christians took care of their dead. The Martyrdom of Polycarp shows that there was a religious service at the tomb on the anniversary of a martyr's death.

A Montanist champion named Proclus, in the course of an argument with Gaius, referred to the tomb of St Philip at Hierapolis in the Montanist country; and so did Polycrates, the bishop of Ephesus, who also mentioned the burial of St John at Ephesus. We have no second-century evidence about the sacred sites in Jerusalem, except for the stele or upright stone by the Temple, where James the brother of the Lord was martyred, which is mentioned by Hegesippus.


The figure of Hegesippus is an elusive one. His once famous Note-books have disappeared in the course of time, and we have nothing from his hand but a few extracts. There are several in Eusebius, and one or two in the Oxford manuscript which de Boor regarded as an epitome of Philip of Side. « See note appended to vol. I, chapter 19. These can be supplemented by a study of certain passages in which Irenaeus or Epiphanius, or both, have used the Note-books without acknowledgement. After careful comparison of these authorities, a useful picture emerges. We have made use of it, from time to time, in discussing the history of the old Jewish church and it helps us to work out the chronology of the second century.

Hegesippus came from Palestine, where he had learned the old traditions. He brought with him the traditional narratives about James |152 the brother of Jesus, who had suffered martyrdom in Nero's reign, and the less illustrious members of the family of the Lord, who had survived 'into the times of Trajan', that is to say into living memory. He was bilingual or even trilingual. He quoted his Hebrew Gospel in Hebrew and in Syriac; he quoted apparently from other sources in Hebrew, and from unwritten Hebrew traditions. The word Hebrew probably means Aramaic in all cases. It was the language of the Hebrews, and is referred to in the Gospels as Hebrew. Eusebius deduces from the use Hegesippus made of it that he was a Hebrew Christian himself.

This famous Palestinian teacher was probably younger than Justin and older than Irenaeus. Like Justin, he had devoted himself to the controversy with heresy, and arrived in Rome with a good deal of research on the subject to his credit; but this research had been done on Palestinian soil, and dealt with Jewish heresies which are mere names to us now. His mind worked in the oriental manner, and he constructed a sort of pedigree of heresy. First came the old Jewish sects which had opposed the Lord and his brother James; their offspring were the Jewish-Christian sects which opposed his cousin Simeon ben Clopas; and these were the progenitors of the third-generation heresies of the Gentile type, which had been catalogued by Justin in his Syntagma ; the Menandrianists, and 'Marcianists', and Carpocratians, and Valen-tinians, and Basilidians, and Satornilians. (There may have been a sect called the Marcianists, but the word is an obvious clerical error for Marcionites in this catalogue.)

Among their Jewish predecessors in the episcopate of Simeon, he mentions Simon and Cleobius and Dositheus, whose names were not unknown in the Gentile Christianity of the east.


Hegesippus made much of the fact that the apostolic tradition was maintained in each city through its succession of bishops. His interest in this field of historical research had been awakened in Palestine where the episcopate seems to have been held in high esteem as an apostolic institution; and it was not unnatural that he should visit Rome to compare what he was accustomed to in Palestine with the tradition of Clement, of which he must have heard a great deal. The episcopal |153 successions were everywhere established in his time, but he felt that he would like to verify their orthodoxy by actual research. He was not disappointed. He visited many cities and conversed with many bishops. He was most gratified with the results. In every city, and in every succession, he found the same teaching; and it was all in accordance with the Law, the Prophets, and the Lord—meaning by this the Gospel.

We could wish that we had the story of his journeys. It is likely that he passed through Asia Minor, like Ignatius, for it seems that he assigned John's imprisonment on the Island of Patmos to the reign of Domitian; and he too 'survived into the times of Trajan'. This reference is preserved in the 'de Boor' manuscript, and in Eusebius too, though he does not name Hegesippus as the author from whom he takes the information.
See Lawlor and Oulton, Church History of Eusebius, vol. ii; note on E.H. iii, 21.

He made the journey to Corinth by sea, where Primus was the bishop apparently. He gave some account, which has not survived, of the disorders of the church in the time of Clement but says that the right teaching was preserved down to the time of Primus. He mentioned Clement's Epistle. This is how Eusebius quotes him:

[After some remarks on the Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, he goes on to say:] And the church of the Corinthians continued in the right teaching until Primus was bishop at Corinth:

And I associated with them on my voyage to Rome, and I abode with the Corinthians many days, during which we were refreshed together in the right teaching.

But when I came to Rome I made for myself a succession-list as far as Anicetus, whose deacon was Eleutherus.

And from Anicetus, Soter received the succession; after whom came Eleutherus. And in every succession, and in every city, that which the Law and the prophets and the Lord do proclaim, is faithfully followed.
(Hegesippus, Note-books, in Eusebius E.H. lv, 22, 2-3.)



When Hegesippus says that Eleutherus was the deacon of Anicetus, he does not mean that there was only one deacon in the Roman church. Eleutherus was the bishop's deacon or principal assistant. He was what came to be called the archdeacon. He had a long and honourable |154 career, and must have exercised a continuous influence on the policy of the Roman church, until he became bishop himself, dying about 190. At this period he was the head of the business administration. Among other matters, he may have looked after such cemeteries as were not in private hands, as his successor Callistus did. We may, perhaps, credit his administration with the work which was done on the Vatican cemetery and the monument of St Peter.

The list of Roman bishops which Hegesippus compiled was incorporated by Irenaeus in his Refutation, and helps us to map out the Christian chronology of the period. It did not give the years of the episcopates.

It appears, from a comparison of our evidence, « The text of Irenaeus is supported by the text of Epiphanius, which gives further particulars. They are using the same source without acknowledgement. See B. H. Streeter, The Primitive Church. that Hegesippus then went on to speak of a lady named Marcellina, who arrived in Rome about the same time that he did. She was a teacher of the school of Carpocrates, an Alexandrian heresiarch, who combined breadth of mind with laxity of morals. He had created a philosophic cult out of a mixture of Plato and Jesus. Marcellina came from Alexandria; she had a chapel in her house which contained images of Pythagoras and Plato and Aristotle and other sages, among whom she placed an image of Christ which had been made by order of Pontius Pilate. The vision which we get of this intellectual lady, crowning her statues with garlands, and preaching the only true gnosis, is an astonishing one. We may be sure that she would not have put Christ in this elect company, if there had been no willingness on the part of the intelligentsia to welcome him. It is a notable sign that the spirit of the age might be willing to enrol him among the immortals if only the inheritance of Hebrew monotheism could be thrown overboard. Marcellina was in advance of her times. Fifty years later, this union of religions was the fashion in imperial circles.

As for Pontius Pilate, the legend of his portrait of Jesus is still going the rounds. It belongs to a cycle of legends which were incorporated into such works of fiction as the Acts of Pilate or the Gospel of Nicodemus, which we possess in rather late recensions. It should be compared with the legend of the portrait of Jesus in the Syrian Doctrine of Addai. Perhaps Addai's church in Edessa contained such a portrait, |156 like Marcellina's chapel in Rome. As for legends, Hegesippus says that the fabrication of an apocryphal literature was well under way in his time, and there is no doubt that this was the case. He may have had in mind books like the so-called Gospel of Peter which had a friendly interest in Pilate. We have considered it already, but it is not likely that it was written before the hundred-and-fifties.

There is an important little group of chronological notes in Irenaeus, which also seem to come from Hegesippus. Cerdo arrived in Rome in the time of Hyginus, it says; Valentine arrived under Hyginus, flourished under Pius, and persisted under Anicetus; Marcion succeeded Cerdo in his school and grew in strength under Anicetus. It is the picture as Hegesippus saw it when he arrived in Rome, and as he placed it in relation to his episcopal chronology. Did he invent this method of dating ecclesiastical events by the episcopates in which they occurred? or did he bring this custom to Rome from Palestine? And did he relate his episcopal chronology to general chronology? to the regnal years of the emperors, for instance? The unknown second-century source used by Epiphanius did so, and this source may be Hegesippus; it dealt with Aquila in Jerusalem, Marcion in Rome, the Phrygian prophesying, and the return of Tatian to the east.

Rome now had at least three oriental teachers, Justin of Samaria, Tatian of Assyria, and Hegesippus of Palestine; but Justin represented the tradition of Asia Minor.
<< | top | >>