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Hippolytus, a Roman presbyter, and Bishop of Portus, the harbor of Rome, near Ostia...lived and wrote about the year 220. (Christian Charles Josias von) Bunsen makes him Origen's senior by twenty-five years, and pronounces him "one of the leading men of ancient Christianity," —"one of those Christian teachers, governors, and thinkers, who made Christianity what it became as a social system, and as one of thought and ethics." He places him "among the series of leading men of the first seven generations of Christians." The title of the work is, "A Refutation of all Heresies." The tenth book contains what Bunsen calls "the confession of faith of Hippolytus"; which he pronounces "the real gem of his writings," — "his sacred legacy to posterity."
The history of Hippolytus has been involved in great obscurity; and all is not yet perfectly clear. Photius makes him a scholar of Irenaeus. He wrote numerous works, the titles of which are preserved hy the old writers. He is styled bishop, and both Eusebius and Jerome more than once mention him; but neither of them knew where he had his abode or see. Some have assigned him a residence at Portus Romanus in Arabia, that is, Adan or Aden; others at the port of Rome, where Bunsen places him. It is not improbable that he might have resided at both places at different periods of his life. He wrote in Greek. His death by martyrdom is referred to the early part of the third century. In 1551, a statue in marble was dug up in the vicinity of Rome, representing a venerable man seated in a chair, and having the title of several of Hippolytus's works engraved upon it; and there can be little doubt that it is his. Few of his writings have been supposed to remain.
The fragments we before possessed, however, showed the opinions he entertained on the subject of the Trinity. He was no believer in a co-equal Three. His Trinity, says (August) Neander, was "strictly subordinational." He asserted that "God caused the Logos to proceed from him when he would and as he would." In regard to the words, "I and my Father are one," he observes, that Christ "used the same expression respecting his own relation to the disciples." [Hist. Christ. Dogm., p. 168]
But he comes to us now, since the discovery of this work, as a new witness against the antiquity of the modern doctrine of the Trinity. The confession just referred to, as given by Bunsen, clearly exhibits the superiority of the Father, and the dependent and derived nature of the Son. The Father, according to the confession, is "the one God, the first and the only One, the Maker and Lord of all," who "had nothing coeval with him, no infinite chaos, no measureless water or solid earth, no thick air or hot fire or subtile spirit; not the blue vault of the great heaven. But he was One, alone by himself; who, willing it, called into being what had no being before, except that when he willed to call it into being, he had full knowledge of what was to be." Here is the One Infinite Father, who is above all, without co-equal, the Originator of all things. But, like the other ante-Nicene Fathers, Hippolytus believed, that, in creating the world, God made use of a subordinate being, or instrument, which was the Logos, or Son. "This sole and universal God," Hippolytus says, "first by his cogitation begets the Word (Logos), . . . the indwelling Reason of the universe." "When he (the Logos) came forth from Him who begat him, being his first-begotten speech, he had in himself the ideas conceived by the Father. When, therefore, the Father commanded that the world should be, the Logos accomplished it in detail, pleasing God." Again: this or that effect took place, "so far as the commanding God willed that the Logos should accomplish it." Here is subordination as unequivocally expressed as language can declare it. God is the Original: he commands, and the Son, or Logos, performs. "These things he (God) made by the Logos," the "only-begotten child of the Father, the light-bringing voice, anterior to the morning star." In common with the other Fathers, Hippolytus applies to the Son the title "God," because begotten of the substance of God, and not created out of nothing, as other things were; but he clearly distinguishes him from the Supreme, Infinite One. We discover in the confession, as Bunsen gives it, no mention of the Spirit as a distinct manifestation. Bunsen quotes G. A. Meier as asserting "the fact, that Hippolytus decidedly ascribes no personality to the Holy Spirit." [See Meier's Lehre von der Trinitat, i. 88; Bunsen's Christianity and Mankind, i. 464. — Ed.]
The creed of this old bishop, who, as we are told, "received the traditions and doctrine of the Apostolic age from an unsuspected source," is certainly not Athanasian. Well might Bunsen pronounce the "doctrinal system of the ante-Nicene Church," among the teachers of which he assigns to Hippolytus so elevated a place, "irreconcilable with the letter and authority of the formularies of the Constantinian, and, in general, of the Byzantine councils, and with the mediaeval systems built upon them." He subjoins, "I say that it is irreconcilable with that letter and that authority, as much as these are with the Bible and common sense; and I add, it would be fully as irreconcilable with the Byzantine and Roman churches if Arianism had prevailed."
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