St. Epiphanius in a fresco painting (Gračanica Monastery)
|Bishop of Salamis (Cyprus), Oracle of Palestine|
|Died||403 (aged 82–93)|
|Venerated in|| Catholicism |
|Feast|| 12 May |
17 Pashons (Coptic Orthodoxy)
|Attributes||Vested as a bishop in omophorion, sometimes holding a scroll|
Epiphanius of Salamis (Greek : Ἐπιφάνιος; c. 310–320 – 403) was the bishop of Salamis, Cyprus at the end of the 4th century. He is considered a saint and a Church Father by both the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. He gained a reputation as a strong defender of orthodoxy. He is best known for composing the Panarion , a very large compendium of the heresies up to his own time, full of quotations that are often the only surviving fragments of suppressed texts. According to Ernst Kitzinger, he "seems to have been the first cleric to have taken up the matter of Christian religious images as a major issue", and there has been much controversy over how many of the quotations attributed to him by the Byzantine Iconoclasts were actually by him. Regardless of this he was clearly strongly against some contemporary uses of images in the church.
Epiphanius was either born into a Romaniote Christian family or became a Christian in his youth. Either way, he was a Romaniote Jew who was born in the small settlement of Besanduk, near Eleutheropolis (modern-day Beit Guvrin, Israel),and lived as a monk in Egypt, where he was educated and came into contact with Valentinian groups. He returned to Palestine around 333, when he was still a young man, and he founded a monastery at Ad nearby, which is often mentioned in the polemics of Jerome with Rufinus and John, Bishop of Jerusalem. He was ordained a priest, and lived and studied as superior of the monastery in Ad that he founded for thirty years and gained much skill and knowledge in that position. In that position he gained the ability to speak in several tongues, including Hebrew, Syriac, Egyptian, Greek, and Latin, and was called by Jerome on that account Pentaglossos ("Five tongued").
His reputation for learning prompted his nomination and consecration as Bishop of Salamis, Cyprus,in 365 or 367, a post which he held until his death. He was also the Metropolitan of the Church of Cyprus. He served as bishop for nearly forty years, as well as travelled widely to combat unorthodox beliefs. He was present at a synod in Antioch (376) where the Trinitarian questions were debated against the heresy of Apollinarianism. He upheld the position of Bishop Paulinus, who had the support of Rome, over that of Meletius of Antioch, who was supported by the Eastern Churches. In 382 he was present at the Council of Rome, again upholding the cause of Paulinus.
During a visit to Palestine in 394 or 395, while preaching in Jerusalem, he attacked Origen's followers and urged the Bishop of Jerusalem, John II, to condemn his writings. He urged John to be careful of the "offence" of images in the churches. He noted that when travelling in Palestine he went into a church to pray and saw a curtain with an image of Christ or a saint which he tore down. He told Bishop John that such images were "opposed . . . to our religion" (see below).This event sowed the seeds of conflict which erupted in the dispute between Rufinus and John against Jerome and Epiphanius. Epiphanius fuelled this conflict by ordaining a priest for Jerome's monastery at Bethlehem, thus trespassing on John's jurisdiction. This dispute continued during the 390s, in particular in the literary works by Rufinus and Jerome attacking one another.
In 399, the dispute took on another dimension, when the Bishop of Alexandria, Theophilus, who had initially supported John, changed his views and started persecuting Origenist monks in Egypt. As a result of this persecution, four of these monks, the so-called Tall Brothers, fled to Palestine, and then travelled to Constantinople, seeking support and spreading the controversy. John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, gave the monks shelter. Bishop Theophilus of Alexandria saw his chance to use this event to bring down his enemy Chrysostom: in 402 he summoned a council in Constantinople, and invited those supportive of his anti-Origenist views. Epiphanius, by this time nearly 80, was one of those summoned, and began the journey to Constantinople. However, when he realised he was being used as a tool by Theophilus against Chrysostom, who had given refuge to the monks persecuted by Theophilus and who were appealing to the emperor, Epiphanius started back to Salamis, only to die on the way home in 403.
Letter LI in Jerome's letters gives Jerome's Latin translation, made at Epiphanius' request, of his letter, originally in Greek from c. 394, "From Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis, in Cyprus, to John, Bishop of Jerusalem" (see previous section for wider context). The final section covers the often quoted incident of the curtain, which unlike other passages attributed to Epiphanius and quoted by the Iconoclasts, is accepted as authentic by modern scholars:
9. Moreover, I have heard that certain persons have this grievance against me: When I accompanied you to the holy place called Bethel, there to join you in celebrating the Collect, after the use of the Church, I came to a villa called Anablatha and, as I was passing, saw a lamp burning there. Asking what place it was, and learning it to be a church, I went in to pray, and found there a curtain hanging on the doors of the said church, dyed and embroidered. It bore an image either of Christ or of one of the saints; I do not rightly remember whose the image was. Seeing this, and being loth that an image of a man should be hung up in Christ’s church contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures, I tore it asunder and advised the custodians of the place to use it as a winding sheet for some poor person. They, however, murmured, and said that if I made up my mind to tear it, it was only fair that I should give them another curtain in its place. As soon as I heard this, I promised that I would give one, and said that I would send it at once. Since then there has been some little delay, due to the fact that I have been seeking a curtain of the best quality to give to them instead of the former one, and thought it right to send to Cyprus for one. I have now sent the best that I could find, and I beg that you will order the presbyter of the place to take the curtain which I have sent from the hands of the Reader, and that you will afterwards give directions that curtains of the other sort—opposed as they are to our religion—shall not be hung up in any church of Christ. A man of your uprightness should be careful to remove an occasion of offence unworthy alike of the Church of Christ and of those Christians who are committed to your charge. Beware of Palladius of Galatia—a man once dear to me, but who now sorely needs God's pity—for he preaches and teaches the heresy of Origen; and see to it that he does not seduce any of those who are intrusted to your keeping into the perverse ways of his erroneous doctrine. I pray that you may fare well in the Lord.
His best-known book is the Panarion which means "medicine-chest" (also known as Adversus Haereses, "Against Heresies"), presented as a book of antidotes for those bitten by the serpent of heresy. Written between 374 and 377, it forms a handbook for dealing with the arguments of heretics.
It lists, and refutes, 80 heresies, some of which are not described in any other surviving documents from the time. Epiphanius begins with the 'four mothers' of pre-Christian heresy – 'barbarism', 'Scythism', 'Hellenism' and 'Judaism' – and then addresses the sixteen pre-Christian heresies that have flowed from them: four philosophical schools (Stoics, Platonists, Pythagoreans and Epicureans), and twelve Jewish sects. There then follows an interlude, telling of the Incarnation of the Word. After this, Epiphanius embarks on his account of the sixty Christian heresies, from assorted gnostics to the various trinitarian heresies of the fourth century, closing with the Collyridians and Messalians.
While Epiphanius often let his zeal come before facts – he admits on one occasion that he writes against the Origenists based only on hearsay (Panarion, Epiphanius 71) – the Panarion is a valuable source of information on the Christian Church of the fourth century. It is also an important source regarding the early Jewish gospels such as the Gospel according to the Hebrews circulating among the Ebionites and the Nazarenes, as well as the followers of Cerinthus and Merinthus.
One unique feature of the Panarion is in the way that Epiphanius compares the various heretics to different poisonous beasts, going so far as to describe in detail the animal's characteristics, how it produces its poison, and how to protect oneself from the animal's bite or poison. For example, he describes his enemy Origen as "a toad noisy from too much moisture which keeps croaking louder and louder." He compares the Gnostics to a particularly dreaded snake "with no fangs." The Ebionites, a Christian sect that followed Jewish law, were described by Epiphanius as "a monstrosity with many shapes, who practically formed the snake-like shape of the mythical many-headed Hydra in himself." In all, Epiphanius describes fifty animals, usually one per sect.
Another feature of the Panarion is the access its earlier sections provide to lost works, notably Justin Martyr's work on heresies, the Greek of Irenaeus' Against Heresies, and Hippolytus' Syntagma.The Panarion was first translated into English in 1987 and 1990.
His earliest known work is the Ancoratus (the well anchored man), which includes arguments against Arianism and the teachings of Origen. Aside from the polemics by which he is known, Epiphanius wrote a work of biblical antiquarianism, called, for one of its sections, On Weights and Measures (περὶ μέτρων καὶ στάθμων). It was composed in Constantinople for a Persian priest, in 392,and survives in Syriac, Armenian, and Georgian translations (this last is found in Shatberd ms 1141 along with Physiologus and De Gemmis). The first section discusses the canon of the Old Testament and its versions, the second of measures and weights, and the third, the geography of Palestine. The texts appear not to have been given a polish but consist of rough notes and sketches, as Allen A. Shaw, a modern commentator, concluded; nevertheless Epiphanius' work on metrology was important in the history of measurement.
Another work, On the Twelve Gems (De Gemmis), survives in a number of fragments, the most complete of which is the Georgian.The letter written by Epiphanius to John, Bishop of Jerusalem, in 394 and preserved in Jerome's translation, is discussed above. The collection of homilies traditionally ascribed to a "Saint Epiphanius, bishop" are dated in the late fifth or sixth century and are not connected with Epiphanius of Salamis by modern scholars.
Such was Epiphanius's reputation for learning that the Physiologus , the principal source of medieval bestiaries, came to be widely falsely attributed to him.
Ebionites is a patristic term referring to a Jewish Christian movement that existed during the early centuries of the Christian Era. They regarded Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah while rejecting his divinity and his virgin birth and insisted on the necessity of following Jewish law and rites. They used only one of the Jewish–Christian gospels, the Hebrew Book of Matthew starting at chapter three; revered James, the brother of Jesus ; and rejected Paul the Apostle as an apostate from the Law. Their name suggests that they placed a special value on voluntary poverty. Ebionim was one of the terms used by the sect at Qumran who sought to separate themselves from the corruption of the Temple. Many believe that the Qumran sectarians were Essenes.
According to the Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, and Theodoret's Haereticarum Fabularum Compendium, the Borborites or Borborians were a libertine Christian Gnostic sect, said to be descended from the Nicolaitans. The word Borborite comes from the Greek word βόρβορος, meaning "mud"; the name Borborites can therefore be translated as "filthy ones".
The Euchites or Messalians were a Christian sect from Mesopotamia that spread to Asia Minor and Thrace. The name 'Messalian' comes from the Syriac ܡܨܠܝܢܐ, mṣallyānā, meaning 'one who prays'. The Greek translation is εὐχίτης, euchitēs, meaning the same.
James the Just, or a variation of James, brother of the Lord, was the brother of Jesus, according to the New Testament. He was an early leader of the Jerusalem Church of the Apostolic Age, to which Paul was also affiliated. He died as a martyr in 62 or 69 AD.
The Nazarenes were an early Christian sect in first-century Judaism. The first use of the term is found in the Acts of the Apostles (24:5) of the New Testament, where Paul the Apostle is accused of being a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes before the Roman procurator Antonius Felix at Caesarea Maritima by Tertullus. At that time, the term simply designated followers of Jesus of Nazareth, as the Hebrew term נוֹצְרִי still does.
Cerinthus was an early gnostic Christian, who was prominent as a heresiarch in the view of the early Church Fathers. Contrary to the Church Fathers, he used the Gospel of Cerinthus, and denied that the Supreme God made the physical world. In Cerinthus' interpretation, the Christ descended upon Jesus at baptism and guided him in ministry and the performing of miracles, but left him at the crucifixion. Similarly to the Ebionites, he maintained that Jesus was not born of a virgin, but was a mere man, the biological son of Mary and Joseph.
The Audians or Anthropomorphites were a sect of Christians in the fourth century in Syria and Scythia, named after their founder Audius, who took literally the text of Genesis, i, 27, that God created mankind in his own image.
The Archontics, or Archontici, were a Gnostic sect that existed in Palestine and Armenia, who arose towards the close of the 2nd century CE. They were thus called from the Greek word ἄρχοντες, "principalities", or "rulers", by reason that they held the world to have been created and ruled by malevolent Archons.
Jude is one of the brothers of Jesus (Greek: ἀδελφοί, romanized: adelphoi, lit. 'brethren') according to the New Testament. He is traditionally identified as the author of the Epistle of Jude, a short epistle which is reckoned among the seven general epistles of the New Testament—placed after Paul's epistles and before the Book of Revelation—and considered canonical by Christians. Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians believe this Jude is the same person as Jude the Apostle and that Jude was perhaps a cousin, but not literally a brother of Jesus, or perhaps St. Joseph’s son from a previous marriage.
The Simonians were a Gnostic sect of the 2nd century which regarded Simon Magus as its founder and traced its doctrines, known as Simonianism, back to him. The sect flourished in Syria, in various districts of Asia Minor and at Rome. In the 3rd century remnants of it still existed, which survived until the 4th century.
In early Christian heresiology, the Panarion, to which 16th-century Latin translations gave the name Adversus Haereses, is the most important of the works of Epiphanius of Salamis. It was written in Koine Greek beginning in 374 or 375, and issued about three years later, as a treatise on heresies, with its title referring to the text as a "stock of remedies to offset the poisons of heresy." It treats 80 religious sects, either organized groups or philosophies, from the time of Adam to the latter part of the fourth century, detailing their histories, and rebutting their beliefs. The Panarion is an important source of information on the Jewish–Christian gospels, the Gospel of the Ebionites, and the Gospel of the Hebrews.
The Apotactics or Apotactites were adherents of a Christian heresy which sprang up in the third century and spread through the western and southern parts of Asia Minor.
John II was bishop of Jerusalem from AD 387 to AD 417. John II succeeded to the episcopal throne of Jerusalem on the death of Cyril in 386. He was the author, according to an increasing number of modern scholars, of the five Mystagogical Catecheses traditionally ascribed to his predecessor Cyril.
Aerius of Pontus was a 4th-century presbyter of Sebaste in Pontus. He taught doctrines that were in opposition to the Roman Catholic Church's beliefs. His views are known from St Epiphanius's Panarion in which he was accused of being an Arian. For a short period, he had many followers in Sebaste. He failed to make his teachings widely popular and his sect died out soon after his death.
Judah Kyriakos, also known popularly as Judas of Jerusalem, was the great-grandson of Jude, brother of Jesus, and the last Jewish Bishop of Jerusalem, according to Epiphanius of Salamis and Eusebius of Caesarea. He is sometimes regarded as the great grand-nephew of Jesus.
Ebion was the presumed eponymous founder of an early Christian group known as the Ebionites. The existent historical evidence indicates that the name "Ebionite" is derived from a Hebrew word, "ebion" (אביון) meaning "poor" and thus not from someone's name. Ebion is generally seen today as a purely literary figure, whose reputed existence in antiquity was used to explain where the Ebionites got their inspiration. However, once he had been accepted as real, a small tradition developed around him that lasted in early learned Christian circles for a few centuries.
The Valesians were a Christian sect that advocated self-castration. The sect was founded by Valens, an Arabian philosopher who established the sect sometime in the second century AD. They were notorious for forcibly castrating travelers whom they encountered and guests who visited them.
Justus II of Jerusalem was a 2nd century Jewish Christian bishop of Jerusalem.
Levis of Jerusalem was a 2nd century Jewish Christian bishop of Jerusalem.
The Origenist Crises or Origenist Controversies are two major theological controversies in early Christianity involving the teachings of followers of the third-century Alexandrian theologian Origen. The First Origenist Crisis began in the late fourth century AD in Palestine and later spread to Egypt. It dealt with ideas discussed in some of Origen's writings that some members of the church hierarchy deemed heretical. Objections against Origen's writings and demands for his condemnation were first raised by Epiphanius of Salamis and later taken up by Jerome and Pope Theophilus of Alexandria, who were both initially supporters of Origen's teachings. Origen's defenders included Tyrannius Rufinus and John II, Bishop of Jerusalem.
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