Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Eusebius, EH.5.19-20: Serapion and Irenaeus Against Montanism

Image: Contemporary view of an archaeological site from ancient Antioch, taken from the Antiochepedia blog.

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 5, chapters 19-20. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

These chapters continue the attack against the Montanists by noting two more of their orthodox opponents: Serapion of Antioch and Irenaeus of Lyons.

Chapter 19 makes references to Serapion, who became bishop at Antioch following Maximinus. He wrote against the “new prophecy” in a letter, commending the writings of Claudius Apolonarius, bishop of Hierapolis, against them. His letter also included the “autographic signatures” of other bishops who opposed the Montanists.

Chapter 20 notes Irenaeus’s letters against the heresy, as it was found in Rome. He wrote a letter to Blastus, titled On Schism, and another to Florinus, titled On the Sole Sovereignty [monarchia], or That God is not the Author of Evil.

Irenaeus also refuted the Valentinian error is a work titled On the Ogdoad. Eusebius makes an interesting reference here to a scribal instruction, which urged faithful copying of Irenaeus’s letter. He also notes in the letter to Florinus, that Irenaeus had appealed to his connection with Polycarp, who had known the apostle John and others “who had seen the Lord.” He suggests that if Polycarp had seen such heresy, as represented by Montanism and Valentinism, he would have exclaimed, “O good God, to what time hast thou preserved me that I should endure this?”


These chapters illustrate again the conflict between orthodoxy and heresy in the early church. The orthodox could claim a direct connection to the apostles through men like Polycarp, showing that the “new prophecy” of Montanism was not a faithful apostolic practice.


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