The Ancient Library
 

Scanned text contains errors.

On this page: Sabellius

SABELLIUS.

(Paus. x. 12. § 5 ; Aelian, V. //. xii. 35, with Perizonius' note.) [L. S.]

L. SABE'LLIUS, accused by L. Caesulenus. (Cic. Brut. 34.)

SABELLIUS, an heresiarch of the third cen­tury. Of this man, who has given name to one of the most enduring modifications of belief in the Christian Church, hardly anything is known. Phi-lastrius (De Haeres. c. 26) and Asterius of Amaseia (apud Phot. BibL cod. 271), call him a Libyan, and Theodoret repeats the statement, with the addition that he was a native of the Libyan Penta-polis (Haeretic. Fabul. Compend. lib. ii. 9). Diony-sius of Alexandria (apud Euseb. H.E. vii. 6) speaks of the Sabellian doctrine as originating in the Pentapolitan Ptolemais, of which town, there­fore, we may conclude that Sabellius was a resident, if not a native. Timotheus, the presbyter of Con­stantinople, in his work De Triplici Receptione Haereficorum (apud Coteler. Eccles. Graec. Monum. vol. iii. p. 385), distinguishes Sabellius the Libyan from Sabellius of the Pentapolis, but without reason : and his inaccuracy in this respect throws doubt on his unsupported assertion that Sabellius was bishop of the Pentapolis. Abulpharagius (Hist. Dynastiar. p. 81, vers. Pocock) calls him a presbyter of Byzantium, and places him in the reign of Gallus and Volusianus, A. d. 252, 253. That he was of Byzantium is contradicted by all other accounts ; but the date assigned is sufficiently in accordance with other authorities to be received. Philastrius (ibid.) calls him a disciple of Noetus, but it does not appear that this means anything more than that he embraced views similar to those of Noetus, who was of Asia Minor ; either of Smyrna (Theodoret. ibid. iii. 3) or of Ephesus (^Epiphan. Haeres. Ivii.), and flourished about the middle of the third century. When Sabellius broached his doctrines they excited great commotions among the Christians of the Pentapolis ; and both parties appealed to Dionysius of Alexandria, and endeavoured to secure him to their side. Dionysius wrote letters to them, which are not extant. There can be no doubt that he embraced the side of the opponents of Sabellianism, which he brands as " an impious and very blasphemous dogma :" but it does not appear that he wrote to Sabellius himself, nor do we even know whether Sabellius was then living (Euseb. H. E. vii. 6). From the manner in which Athanasius (Epistol. de Sententia Dionysii, c. 5) relates the matter, Dionysius was not engaged in controversy with Sabellius himself, but with some bishops of his party ; from which it is not improbable that Sabellius was already dead. The intervention of Dionysius is placed by Tillemont in A. d. 257, and by the Benedictine editors of Athanasius (I. c.) in A. d. 263. Indeed it is pro­bable, from the scanty notices we have of Sabellius, that his heresy was not broached till just before his death. His opinions were widely diffused, and Epiphanius (Haeres. Ixii.) found many who held them both in the East and West, in the plains of Mesopotamia, and in the busy population of Rome.

The characteristic dogma of Sabellius related to the Divine Nature, in which he conceived that there was only one hypostasis or person, identify­ing with each other the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, " so that in one Jiypostasis there are three designations" tas elvai tv /*iq, virotTTOLffei rpets ovoiMOLffias (Epiphan. Haeres. Ixii. 1). Epiphanius further illustrates the Sabellian hypothesis by com-

685

SABELLIUS.

paring it to the union of body, soul, and spirit, in man, " so that the Father, so to speak, was the body, the Son the soul, and the Spirit the spirit, of man." He appears not to give this as an illus­tration of his own, but as one employed by the Sabellians themselves, who also compared the Deity to the Sun, " which is one hypostasis, but lias three operations (ej/e/ryetas) :—that of impart­ing light (r& tyuxniKov}, which they compared to the Son ; of imparting warmth (rti fraATroi/), which they compared to the Spirit; and its orbicular form, the form of its whole substance (to eTSos

crris r-fjs UTTOo-racrews), which they compared to the Father. And that the Son having been once on a time (/coupo? Trore) sent forth as a ray, and tiaving wrought in the world all things needful to the Gospel economy and the salvation of men, had been received up again into heaven, like a ray emitted from the sun. and returning again to the sun. And that the Holy Spirit is sent into the world successively and severally to each one who is worthy (/cat KaOetfs Kal icaff e/caara els e/ca-crrov t&v KaTa£iouiuej'cci/), to impart to such a one new birth and fervour (dvafyoyovziv 5e tov toiovtov Kal ch/afeejj/), and to cherish and warm him, so to speak, by the power and co-operation

v^€dtT€cas) of the Holy Spirit" (ibid.}. Accord­ing to Basil (Ep. 214), Sabellius spoke of persons in God, but apparently only in the sense of haracters or representations—" that God was one in hypostasis, but was represented in Scripture under different persons : " eVa {jlsv eTmt rfj vtto-

dffei tov &eov9 7rpo(TW7ro7rote?cr0cu §6 vito rrjs ypatyrjs Sia^opa?*. Epiphanius charges them with deriving their opinions from Apocryphal writings, and especially from the spurious Gospel of the Egyptians; and Neander (Church Hist, by Rose, vol. ii. p. 276) thinks this statement is by no means to be rejected. However this may be (and we think the authority of Epiphanius in such a case of little moment), their main reliance in argu­ment was upon passages in the Canonical Scrip­tures, especially on that in Deut. vi. 4, " Hear O Israel, the Lord thy God is one Lord," and on Ex. xx. 3, Is. xliv. 6, Jolin, x. 30, 38, and xiv. 10. They dwelt also on the obvious difficulties in the popular view of the Godhead, asking the simpler and less-informed believers, " What shall we say then, have we one God or three?" And thus, says Epiphanius, they led the perturbed Christian " unconsciously to deny God, that is, unconsciously to deny the existence of the Son and the Holy Spirit." It is evident, however, that this denial was only the denial of their existence as distinct hypostases from the Father. The heresy of Sa­bellius approximated very nearly to that of Noetus, so that Augustin wonders that Epiphanius should have distinguished the Sabellian heresy from the Noetian: but Sabellius did not affirm that the Father suffered, though the name of Patripassions was given to his followers (Athanas. De Synodis, c. 7 ; Augustin, De Haeres. xli.) : and Mosheim has well observed that Sabellius did not, like Noetus, hold that the divine hypostasis was absolutely one, and that it assumed and united to itself the human nature of Christ ; but contended that 4t a certain energy (vim) emitted from the Father of all, or, if you choose, a part of the person and nature of the Father, was united to the man Christ." (Basil, Epistol. 210, 214, ed. Benedictin, 64, 349, editt. prior.; comp. Epiphan. /. c.; Augustin, De Haeres,

Pages
About | First

683

684

685
letter/word  
volume
page #  
Search this site
Google


ancientlibrary.com
WWW
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of Isidore-of-Seville.com.