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Petrus, Patriarch of Jerusalem

Wace's Dictionary of Early Christian Biography

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Petrus (28), patriarch of Jerusalem, a.d. 524–544 (Clinton, F. R.; Niceph. Chron. p 410), born at Eleutheropolis, succeeded John II. (omitted by Evagr. H. E. iv. 37) in 524. He manifested the same reverence as his predecessors for the celebrated ascetic St. Sabas, and frequently visited him in the desert. During his episcopate occurred the sanguinary insurrection against the Christians of the Samaritans, goaded to madness by the persecution of Justinian, offering only the alternative of baptism or rebellion (Gibbon, c. 48). Many Christians were reduced to beggary. Peter therefore begged St. Sabas to go to Constantinople and lay before Justinian a petition for the remission of the taxes. His mission was successful and he was received with much joy on his return by Peter and his flock (Cyrill. Scythop. Vit. S. Sab. No. 70–76). On the deposition of Anthimus, the Monophysite patriarch of Constantinople, by the single authority of pope Agapetus, then present on state business at the imperial city, and the appointment of Mennas as his successor, Agapetus issued a synodical letter dated Mar 13, 536, announcing these facts, and calling on the Eastern church to rejoice that for the first time a patriarch of New Rome had been consecrated by the bp. of Old Rome, and, together with the errors of Anthimus, stating and denouncing those of Severus of Antioch, Peter of Apamea, and the monk Zoaras. On receiving this document Peter summoned a synod at Jerusalem and subscribed the condemnation, Sept. 19, 536. Agapetus having died on Apr. 21 (Labbe, v. 47, 275, 283). The rapid spread of Origenistic opinions in some monasteries of Palestine under the influence of Nonnus was vehemently opposed by other monastic bodies and caused serious troubles which Peter was unable to allay. The Origenists were supported by a powerful court party, headed by the abbats Domitian and Theodore Ascidas (Evagr. H. E. iv. 38). The dignity and authority of Peter, a decided enemy of Origenistic doctrines, being seriously weakened, he made concessions which compromised his position. His predecessor in the patriarchal chair, Ephraim, had issued a synodical letter condemning Origen, and the Origenistic party clamoured to have his name removed from the diptychs. Peter was convinced that Justinian had been hoodwinked by the powerful abbats and was ignorant of the real character of these doctrines. He therefore instructed two of his own abbats, Gelasius and Sophronius, to bring before him a formal complaint, setting forth the heresies of Origen in detail. This document he forwarded to Justinian, with a letter describing the disturbances created by the Origenistic monks and beseeching him to take measures to quell them. The emperor, flattered by this appeal at once to his ability as a theologian and his authority as a ruler, the petition being supported by a Roman deputation, headed by Pelagius, then at Constantinople on ecclesiastical business, granted the request and issued a decree condemning the heresies of Origen, and ordering that no one should hereafter be created bishop or abbat without first condemning him and other specified heretics. The emperor's edict was confirmed by a synod convened by Mennas, and was sent for signature to Peter and the other patriarchs, a.d. 541 ( Vit. S. Sab. No. 84; Liberat. Breviar. c. 23; Labbe, v. 635; Vit. S. Euthym. p. 365). The object, however, was thwarted by the Origenist leaders subscribing the edict, thus sacrificing truth to self-interest. Theodore maintained his position at court and threatened Peter with deposition if he continued to refuse to receive back the expelled Origenistic monks ( Vit. S. Sab. No. 85). To divert the emperor's attention an attack was craftily organized by Theodore Ascidas and others against writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret, and Ibas of Edessa, supposed to savour of Nestorianism. They had little difficulty, backed by the powerful influence of the empress Theodora, an avowed favourer of Monophysitism, in persuading the emperor to issue an edict condemning these writings, which, from the three points on which it specially dwells, obtained the name of "Edictum de Tribus Capitulis," or "The Three Chapters," by which the whole controversy became subsequently known. This edict being published on the sole authority of the emperor, without synodical authority, great stress was laid on its acceptance by the bishops, especially by the four Eastern patriarchs. No one of them, however, was disposed to sign a document which seemed to disparage the conclusions of Chalcedon. Mennas yielded first; Peter's signature was obtained after a longer struggle. On the first publication of the edict he solemnly declared, before a vast crowd of turbulent monks clamouring against its impiety, that whoever signed it would violate the decrees of Chalcedon. But Justinian's threats of deposition outweighed Peter's conscientious convictions, and, with the other equally reluctant patriarchs, he signed the document (Facundus, lib. iv. c. 4). He did not long survive this disgrace, and died, a.d. 544, after a 20 years' episcopate. Vict. Tunun. ap. Clinton, F. R. ii. 557; Fleury, Hist. eccl. livre 33; Neander, Ch. Hist. vol. iv. pp. 264 ff.; Le Quien, Or. Christ. vol. ii. 189 seq.


Bibliography Information
Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Petrus, Patriarch of Jerusalem'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hwd/​p/petrus-patriarch-of-jerusalem.html. 1911.
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