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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Hippoltus, St.

( ῾Ιππόλυτος ), the name of several saints and martyrs of the early Church, especially that celebrated one of the fathers of the Church who probably lived in the early part of the 3rd century. Every particular of his life has been made a point of controversy. Thus the oldest ecclesiastical writers who make any mention of him, Eusebius and Jerome, give him the title of bishop, but without stating of what see, the latter even saying that he was unable to ascertain this point. "The Chronicon Paschale, our earliest authority, makes him bishop of the so-called Portus, near Rome;' and as this statement is supported by the authority of Cyril, Zonaras, Anastasius, Nicephorus, and Syncellus (see Bunsen's Hippolytus, 1, 205), and as Prudentius (lib. περὶ στεφάνων, Hymn 9) describes his martyrdom as having taken place at Ostia, close by Portus, most critics will probably regard this point as finally settled. His mastery of the Greek language would render him peculiarly fit to be a bishop of the nations,' who frequented the harbor of Rome in multitudes. In spite of Jacobi's assertion (see below) to the contrary, there seems to be no reason why he should not at the same time have been (what the ῎Ελεγχος shows him to have been) a presbyter and head of a party at Rome. We know, further, that he was a disciple of Irenaeus (Phot. Cod. 121), and was engaged in some warm disputes with Callistus on points of doctrine and discipline, which are graphically described in his recovered book, κατὰ πασῶν αἱρέσεων ἔλεγχος " (Kitto, Cyclop. s.v.). On the other hand, the treatise De duabus Naturis, attributed to pope Gelasius I, gives Hippolytus the title of metropolitan of Arabia.

Le Movne even indicated a town of the district of Aden, called Portus Romanus, on account of its being the great mart of Roman trade in the East, as the seat of his bishopric. The same uncertainty exists with regard to the time in which he lived. Eusebius places him in the first half of the 3rd century. Photius states that he was a disciple of Ireneus; Baronius says, of Clement of Alexandria; two assertions which appear equally well grounded. Portius adds that Hippolytus was the intimate friend and zealous admirer of Orngen, and that he invited him to comment on the Scriptures, furnishing him for that purpose seven amanuenses to write under his dictation, and seven copyists. Hippolytus himself testifies to his acquaintance with Origen. As for the other details given by Photius, they are based on a misinterpretation of a passage in Jerome. According to this father, Ambrosius of Alexandria, struck with the reputation Hippolytus had acquired by his commentaries on the Scriptures, invited Origen to attempt the same task, and furnished him with a number of secretaries for that purpose. The martyrdom of St. Hippolytus is not mentioned by Eusebius. Jerome, Photius, and other writers, however, call him a martyr, and his name appears with that title in the Roman, Greek, Coptic, and Abyssinian calendars.

Yet these martyrolegies differ so much from each other that they appear rather to refer to different parties of the same name than to one individual only. Prudentius, a Christian poet of the 4th century, wrote a long poem on the martyrdom of St. Hippolytus, but it is evident that he also confounded several parties of that name, and his pious legend is devoid of all historical authority. The date of St. Hippolytus's death is very doubtful. It is generally believed to have occurred under Alexander Severus, yet it is well known that this prince did not persecute Christians. If we admit that the Exhortatorius ad Severinam, mentioned among Hippolytus's works, is the same which Theodoret states was addressed to a certain queen or empress (πρὸς βασιλίδα τινά ), and, further, that this Severina, according to Dö llinger (see below), was the wife of the emperor Philip the Arabian, this would bring the martyrdom of the saint to the time of Decius's persecution (about 250), and perhaps later. In that case, Hippolytus, having been a disciple of Irenneus, who died about 190, must have been quite advanced in age at the time of his death. It is generally supposed that he suffered martyrdom near Rome, probably at the mouth of the Tiber. According to general opinion, it is thought he was thrown into the sea with a stone tied around his neck. In 1551 a statue was discovered at Rome, near the church of St. Lorenzo, which appeared to date back to the 6th century, and represented a man in monastic garb, in a sitting posture. The inscription bore the name of Hippolytus, bishop of Portus, and on the back of his seat was found inscribed the canon or paschal cycle which he introduced into Rome, and also a list of his principal-works. Some of these works, mentioned by Eusebius, Jerome, Photius, and other ecclesiastical writers, or named on the statue, are yet extant, and we have extensive fragments of several others. A number of them have been published separately. Fabricius gave a complete collection of them under the title S. Hippolyti, episcopi et martyris, Opera non antea collecta et partem nunc primum e MSS. in lucen edita, Greece et Latine (Hamb. 1716-1718, fol.). This was reprinted, with additions by Galland, and inserted in his Bibliotheca Patrum (Venice, 1766, fol.), vol. 2. A collection of fragments of Syriac translations of Hippolytus is given in the Analecta of Lagarde. The same scholar, in an appendix to his Analecta (Lagardii ad Analecta sua Syriaca Appendix [Lips. 1858]), gives Arabic fragments of a commentary of Hippolytus on Revelation.

A recent discovery has directed general attention to this old ecclesiastical writer. In 1842 M. Mynoide Minas, on his return from a mission on which he had been sent by M. Villemain, minister of public instruction in France, brought back from Mount Athos, among other unpublished works, a mutilated Greek MS. of the 14th century, written on cotton paper, without name of author, and containing a Refutation of all Heresies (κατὰπασῶν αἱρέσεων ἔλεγχος ). This MS. was deposited in the Imperial Library at Paris, where it remained undisturbed until M. Emmanuel Miller found it to contain the last part of a treatise, the beginning of which was printed in the works of Origen. At Miller's request, the University of Oxford consented to publish it, under his direction, at their own press, with the title, ᾿Ωριγένους φιλοσόφούμενα κατὰ πασῶν αἱρέσεων ἔλεγχος (Origenis Philosophumena sive omnium Haeresium Refutatiae Codiae Parisino nunc primum edidit Emmanuel Miller [Oxford, 1851, 8vol.). This work attracted great attention among the theologians and philologists of Germany and France, as well as of England. The first argument published to show that Hippolytus was the author of the MS. may be found in the Methodist Quarterly Review for October, 1851, in an article by professor J. L. Jacobi, of the University of Berlin. After proving that Origen was not the author, Jacobi shows that the writer was certainly contemporary with Origen. "He places himself in that age, and all his statements harmonize with this view. Taking him, then, to have lived in the first quarter of the 3rd century at the time of Zephyriuus, bishop of Rome, and of Cailistus, we should be led by Eusebius to identify him with the learned presbyter Caius, or with Hippolytus. It is easily shown, however, that Caius could not have been the author of the book, for he was specially distinguished for his writings against Cerinthus, and for his peculiar views with regard to that Gnostic leader; while our author has nothing of his own to offer about Cerinthus, and borrows all that he does say (and that is not much), word for word, from Irenaeus. Caius ascribed the Apocalypse to Cerinthus our author assigns it to the apostle John. The former was a strenuous opponent of the sensual Chiliasm; the latter, while he blames much in Montanism, does not include Chiliasm under it, and indeed it is more than probable that he was a friend of that doctrine." On the other hand, there are the following, among other reasons, for ascribing the work to Hippolytus.

(1.) A work bearing the same or a similar title was ascribed by Eusebius, Jerome, Epiphanius, and Nicephorus to Hippolytus.

(2.) The monument dug up at Rome (see above) has on it the names of writings which the author of the treatise on heresies claims as his own.

(3.) The internal evidence is all in favor of Hippolytus. Professor Jacobi developed the argument at greater length in the Deutsche Zeitschrift fir Christl. Wissenschaft (1852), and Dr. Duncker followed in the Gö ttingen Gelehrt Aneigen (1851). But the most earnest work on the subject was done by the Chevalier Bunsen, who canvassed the whole question with great, learning in his copious and somewhat clumsy book, Hippolytus and his Age, or the Doctrine and Practice of the Church of Rome under Commodus and Alexander Severus, and ancient and modern Christianity and Divinity compared (Lond. 1852, 4 vols. 8vo). In this work it is, we think, established beyond a doubt that the Refutation of all Heresies was written by Hippolytus, bishop of Portus, near Rome, in the first quarter of the 3rd century. Several writers, however, objected to some of Bunsen's conclusions, and he replied to them by republishing his work, greatly enlarged, under the title Christianity and Mankind (London, 1854, 7 vols. 8vo). This work is full of erudition, but often advances hasty statements and unauthorized conclusions.

The importance of this newly-discovered work of Hippolytus in the sphere of Church History and archaeology can hardly be overstated. It throws great light upon the Gnostic and other heretical sects of the early Church. Names and even facts are given of which we knew absolutely nothing before; while others that were held to be as unimportant as they were obscure are brought out into light and prominence, illuminating many dark nooks of Church History. The book tells us, for instance, of a Gnostic, by name Justin, of whom we had not before heard: and describes at length Monoiamos and the Peraticians, of whom we knew only the names. The Simonians, and the strange, fragmentary, and enigmatical ideas generally attributed to Simon Magus, are here treated with something approaching to orderly and clear connection. That part of the work which treats of the morals of the Roman Church and of its clergy is full of interest. Hippolytus censures them for unchastity, and casts it up to them as a great reproach that many, even of the higher orders of clergy, were married-some of them more than once. His account of Callistus throws much light upon the state of society and of religion in Rome at the time. The work shows us also that the received doctrine of the Church at that time-a century before the Council of Nice-was the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity and the person of Christ. Its revelations are fatal, too, to many of the claims of the papacy. Romanist writers, therefore, have sought to invalidate the conclusions drawn by Jacobi, Bunsen, and the Protestants generally. Professor Dö llinger seeks to refute the "calumnies" of the book against Callistus in his Hippolytus und Kallistus (Ratisb. 1853, 8vo), and to settle the question of the authorship of the Philosophoumena. He undertakes to show also from the character of the work itself that the author was not a Catholic, but a heretic, in the judgment of the Church of the age when he wrote it. The abbd Cruice, of Paris, published Etudes sur les... Philosophoumena (Paris, 1853, 8vo), to show that the book is neither genuine nor authentic; and he has since followed it up by his Histoire de l'Eglise de Rome sous les Pontificats de St. Victor, St. Zephyrin, et St. Calliste (Paris, 1856). He has also published an elegant edition of the Philosophoumena, with Latin version, notes, and indexes (Par. 1861, 8vo). The best edition of the work, however, is that of Duncker and Scheidewin (Gö ttingen, 1859, 8vo). Another edition, which embraces all the Greek works of Hippolytus, was published by Lagarde (Hippolyti Romani quae feruntur omnia Grae, Leips. 1858). The subject is very ably treated in its theological aspects, especially in their bearing on the Romish controversy, by Wordsworth, Hippolytus and the Church of Rome (London, 1852, 8vo). A very good account of the history and contents of the book, with an English translation of the most important parts, is given by Tayler, Hippolytus and the Christian Church of the Third Century (Lond. 1853, 12mo), and by Volkmar, Hippolytus u. d. rom. Zeitgenossen (Zurich, 1855). The leading reviews have generally given articles on the subject: see especially Methodist Quarterly Review, Oct. 1851; Jan. 1863, p. 160; Quarterly Rev. (Lond.) 89, 87; Journ, of Sacred Literature, Jan. 1853, and Jan. 1854; N. Brit. Review, Nov. 1854; Edinburgh Review, Jan. 1853; Ulgen, Zeitschriftf. hist. Theolog. 1842, 3:48-77; 1862, 2, 218; Journal des Debats, Dec. 1852; Baur, Theolog. Jahrbü cher (Tü bingen, 1853); Studien u. Kritiken, by Gieseler (1853). Another important work ascribed to Hippolytus, a collection of canons, has lately been published for the first time, in an Arabic translation, by Dr. Hamberg (Canones S. Hippolyti Arabiae e codicibus Romanis cum versione Latina, annotationibus et prolegomenis, Munich, 1870). The collection contains thirty-eight canons, which are known to have been in use in the 12th century in the Coptic Church. Before this time no mention is made of this work by any ecclesiastical writer; but the editor regards this as no argument against its authenticity (which he defends), as all the works of Hippolytus had fallen into oblivion. In case it is genuine, its contents are of considerable importance for the history of Christian doctrines and on the constitution of the Christian Church.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Hippoltus, St.'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/h/hippoltus-st.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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