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Bible Dictionaries

A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography

Babylas, Bishop of Antioch

Babylas (1) , bp. of Antioch from a.d. 237 or 238 until his martyrdom, a.d. 250 or 251, under Decius, either by death in prison for the faith (Eus. H. E. vi. 39), or by direct violence (St. Chrys. de St. Bab. c. Gentes , tom. i.); other authorities—Epiphanius (de Mens. xviii.), Sozomen (v. 19), Theodoret ( H. E. iii. 6)—simply calling him martyr, while St. Jerome ( de Scriptt. Eccl. liv. lxii.) gives both accounts in different places. The Acta of Babylas ( Acta SS. Jan. 24), place his martyrdom under Numerian, by a confusion (according to Baronius's conjecture, ad ann. 253, § 126) with one Numerius, who was an active officer in the Decian persecution (Tillemont, M. E. iii. 729). The great act of his life was the compelling the emperor Philip, when at Antioch shortly after the murder of Gordian, to place himself in the ranks of the penitents, and undergo penance, before he was admitted to church privileges ( κατέχει λόγος , according to Eus. H. E. vi. 34, but asserted without qualification by St. Chrysostom, as above, while the V. St. Chrys. in Acta SS. Sept. tom. iv. 439, transfers the story, against all probability, to Decius, and assigns it as the cause of St. Babylas's martyrdom). But his fame has arisen principally from the triumph of his relics after his death over another emperor, viz. Julian the Apostate, a.d.362. The oracle of Apollo at Daphne, it seems, was rendered dumb by the near vicinity of St. Babylas's tomb and church, to which his body had been translated by Gallus, a.d.351. And Julian in consequence, when at Antioch, ordered the Christians to remove his shrine ( λάρνακα ), or rather (according to Amm. Marcell. xxii.), to take away all the bodies buried in that locality. A crowded procession of Christians, accordingly, excited to a pitch of savage enthusiasm characteristic of the Antiochenes, bore his relics to a church in Antioch, the whole city turning out to meet them, and the bearers and their train tumultuously chanting psalms the whole way, especially those which denounce idolatry. On the same night, by a coincidence which Julian strove to explain away by referring it to Christian malice or to the neglect of the heathen priests, the temple of Apollo was struck by lightning and burned, with the great idol of Apollo itself. Whereupon Julian in revenge both punished the priests and closed the great church at Antioch (Julian Imp. Misopog. Opp. ii. 97 (Paris, 1630); St. Chrys. Hom. de St. Bab. c. Gent. and Hom. de St. Bab.; Theod. de Cur. Graec. Affect. x. and H. E. iii. 6, 7; Socr. iii. 13; Soz. v. 19, 20; Rufin. x. 35; Amm. Marcell. xxii. pp. 225, 226). St. Chrysostom also quotes a lamentable oration of the heathen sophist Libanius upon the event. The relics of St. Babylas were subsequently removed once more to a church built for them on the other side of the Orontes (St. Chrys. Hom. de St. Bab.; Soz. vii. 10).


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Bibliography Information
Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Babylas, Bishop of Antioch'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. 1911.

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