Monday, October 14, 2019

Eusebius, EH.4.19-22: Hegesippus and the "Seven Heresies"

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical HistoryHere is Book 4, chapters 19-22. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

These chapters continue the record of the succession of church leaders in various cities during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, as well as cataloguing the various heresies that contended with the orthodox faith. Special attention is given to the early Jewish Christian writer Hegessipus.

Chapters 19-20 notes that in Rome Soter succeeded Anicetus; in Alexandria, Agrippinus succeeded Celadion; in Antioch Theophilus (sixth from the apostles) succeeded Eros (fifth) who succeeded Cornelius (fourth).

Chapter 21 notes other key writers and leaders who provided a standard for ‘sound faith”, including Hegessipus, Dionysius of Corinth, Pinytus of Crete, as well as Philip, Apolinarius, Melito, Musanus, Modestus, and “above all” Irenaeus.

Chapter 22 turns to the writings of Hegesippus, who, Eusebius says, wrote five treatises. He also says that Hegesippus was “converted from among the Hebrews.”

Eusebius cites Hegesippus as saying he had traveled widely, as far as Rome, and that he had “mingled” with many key bishops “and that he found the same doctrine among them all.”

He adds Hegesippus’s observation that in each city “things are as the law, the prophets, and the Lord preach.”

He further notes Hegesippus’s record of the bishops in Jerusalem where Simeon followed James the Just and his claim that the earliest church was like a “virgin” before the rise of heresies.

He notes one source of error as Thebouthis who was not made a bishop and says this began the “seven heresies” (but it is hard to say what these seven were, since more than seven seem to be listed). The various heresies catalogued include:

Simon (Magus) and the Simonians;
Cleobius and the Cleobians;
Dositheus and the Dosthians;
Gorthaeus and the Goratheni and the Masbothei;
The Menandrianists, Marcianists, Carpocratians, Valentinians, Basilidians, and Saturnillians.

To these he adds a list of (seven) Jewish sects: Essenes, Galileans, Hemerobaptists, Masbothei, Samaritans, Sadducees, and Pharisees.

He adds a few further observations on Hegesippus’s writings noting that they included extracts from the Gospel according to the Hebrews and that he discussed various apocryphal writings.


Eusebius again sees a pristine early church, attacked from within by various heresies, withstood by the line of faithful bishops and orthodox writers, like Hegesippus.


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