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Bible Dictionaries

A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography

Vitalius


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Vitalius ( Vitalis ), bp. of the Apollinarian congregation at Antioch. Vitalius was a man of high character, brought up in the orthodox faith at Antioch, and ordained presbyter by Meletius (Theod. H. E. v. 4; Soz. H. E. vi. 25). Jealousy of his fellow-presbyter Flavian caused a breach between him and his bishop, deprived of whose guidance Vitalius fell under the influence of Apollinaris and embraced his theological system. Tidings of his unsoundness having reached Rome, Vitalius made a journey thither in 375 to clear himself before pope Damasus, and to be received by him into communion. By the use of equivocal terms he convinced Damasus of his orthodoxy. Damasus did not, however, receive him into communion, but sent Vitalius back to Antioch with a letter to Paulinus, whom, during the Meletian schism, Rome and the West recognized as the orthodox and canonical bishop of that see, remitting the whole matter to his decision. Shortly after Vitalius had left Rome Damasus despatched a second letter to Paulinus, containing a profession of faith, which, without naming Apollinaris, condemned his doctrines, desiring Paulinus to require signature to it as the terms of admission to communion (Labbe, ii. 900 sqq.; Theod. H. E. v. ii). Vitalius refused, and the breach between him and Paulinus became complete. Apollinaris ordained Vitalius bishop of his schismatical church, his holiness of life and pastoral zeal gathering a large number of followers, the successors of whom were still at Antioch under the name of Vitalians when Sozomen wrote (Soz. H. E. vi. 25). The unsoundness of Vitalius on the point on which Apollinaris diverged from the orthodox faith did not prevent his receiving much esteem and affection from leaders on the orthodox side, with whom, this one point excepted, he completely agreed. It must have been very shortly after Vitalius's return to Antioch that Epiphanius, urged thereto by Basil (Bas. Ep. 258 [325]), visited Antioch to try to heal the differences then rending that church. There he met "Vitalius the bishop," of whom he speaks in the highest terms. He earnestly besought him to reunite himself to the Catholic church. Finding that the misunderstanding was chiefly a personal one between him and Paulinus, each charging the other with unsoundness in the faith, Epiphanius invited both to a conference. At first Vitalius's language appeared perfectly orthodox. He acknowledged as fully as Paulinus that Christ was perfect man with a human body and soul ( ψυχή ); but when pressed as to whether He also had a human mind (νοῦς ), he said that His divinity was to Him in its place. Neither party could persuade the other, and Epiphanius had to give up the hopeless attempt (Epiph. lxxvii cc. 20–23). [Dimoeritae.] The schism of Vitalius added a third or, counting the Arians, a fourth church at Antioch, each denouncing the others. Meletius, Paulinus, and Vitalius each claimed to be the orthodox bishop. The perplexity created is graphically described by Jerome to pope Damasus (Hieron. Epp. 57, 58). Tillem. Mém. eccl. vii. 617–622 ; Dorner, Person of Christ , div. 1, vol. ii. pp. 386 ff., Clark's trans.

[E.V.]


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Bibliography Information
Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Vitalius'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hwd/v/vitalius.html. 1911.

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