THIRD CENTURY

TERTULLIANISTS: A sect that flourished in Carthage for 200 years after the death of Tertullian, whom they claimed as their founder. This man was the most eminent Latin ecclesiastical writer of the early Church. He was born at Carthage about 160, was converted to Christianity and later ordained to the priesthood. His over-severe views and austerity caused him to break with the regular Church authorities and he fell into the errors of Montanism. He is famous for many works, apologetical, doctrinal and ethicopractical, and is considered the most fecund, original and powerful genius in all the history of Christian Latin literature. He was a priest for 40 years and died at a very advanced age.
    The errors of Tertullian were a belief that the Church could not absolve adulterers; that those who married a second time were adulterers, and that it was not lawful to fly from persecution.

ORIGENISTS: Named after Origen, one of the most learned and spirited men of his time, born at Alexandria in 185. His father was St. Leonidas, the martyr, who had him educated in every branch of sacred and profane literature. So great was the zeal of Origen for Christianity that he besought his mother to allow him to join his father when he was in prison during the persecution that he too might shod his blood for Christ. His earlier years were devoted to intensive study and successful teaching, and as time went on his fame for learning and wisdom grew so that all the priests and doctors consulted him in any difficult matter. He was one of the most voluminous writers the world has ever seen. He was ordained to the priesthood at Caesarea, but the Bishop of Alexandria, provoked for some reason or other, refused to recognize him. In spite of his great learning some of Origen's views got him into trouble, and he was deposed and excommunicated by an Alexandrian council. He found refuge at Caesarea where he reopened his school with great success. During the persecution under Maximinus he fled to Cappadocia where he lived for two years. Under Gordianus he returned and continued his activities, but the suffering and torture he endured under the Decian persecution broke his strength, and he died at Tyre in 254.
     Origen held that from their beginning all rational creatures were pure spirits; taught that after the universal restoration, which was to be accomplished by a second crucifixion of Christ, all, even the damned in hell, would be pure spirits; and believed that the blessed in heaven could be expelled from that abode for faults committed there. These errors were condemned by the Second Council of Constantinople in 553.

NOVATIANS: A schismatical sect which took its name from Novatus (Novatian), a Roman priest who made himself anti-pope. He was a learned and eloquent man but of a melancholy temperament, and, according to St. Cyprian, was turbulent, seditious and avaricious. St. Cornelius states that Novatus was by Satan for a season, apparently while a catechumen. He was baptized by aspersion as he lay on a bed of sickness, but apparently was never confirmed. How he became a priest is not clear. He was accused by Cornelius of cowardice during the  persecution of Decius. At the beginning of 251 the persecution relaxed and St. Cornelius was elected Pope. Some days later Novatus set himself up as a rival pope and had himself consecrated bishop. A council of sixty bishops was assembled under Pope Cornelius before the end of 251 in which Novatus was excommunicated.
      The Novatians held that idolatry was an unpardonable sin, that confirmation was no sacrament, that mortal sins committed after baptism could not be forgiven; condemned second marriages, and refused Communion to those who had contracted them, even at the time of death.

MANICHEANS: Followers of Manes (Mani), a Persian, born in 216 in the village of Mardinu in Babylonia. In 242 he stood before the people of his native village as a religious teacher, but, being unsuccessful there, he lived the life of a wanderer for forty years. He announced himself as the "messenger of the True God", and amongst Christians as the promised Paraclete. Returning to Persia, he made at first a favorable impression upon the king, Ormuzd I. Ormuzd's favor, however, was of little avail, as he occupied the Persian throne only a single year, and Bahram I., his successor, caused Manes to be crucified, had the corpse flayed, and the skin stuffed and hung up at the city gate as a terrifying spectacle to his followers, whom he persecuted with relentless severity. Manes' death is fixed at about 276-277.
      The Manicheans believed in a plurality of gods; rejected the Old Testament absolutely, and of the New they retained only what had been revised and redacted by Manes; they held that Christ had no real body; denied free-will; recognized no baptism or marriage; believed in the transmigration (reincarnation) of souls, and held that each man had two souls.

MILLENARIANS: Advocates of an old heresy that was revived by Nipos (Nepos), Bishop of Egypt during the third century. His energy in defending the doctrines of this sect nearly brought about a schism in the Church, but unity was preserved by the prudent and moderate policy of Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria.
       The fundamental idea of millenarianism may be set forth as follows. At the end of time, Christ will return in all His splendor to gather together the just, to annihilate hostile powers, and to found a glorious kingdom on earth for the enjoyment of the highest spiritual and material blessings. He Himself will reign as its King, and all the just, including the Saints recalled to life, will participate in it. At the close of this kingdom the Saints will enter heaven with Christ, while the wicked, who have also been resuscitated, will be condemned to eternal damnation. The duration of this glorious reign of Christ with His Saints on earth is frequently given as 1000 years. Hence the name Millenarianism.

 

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Last edited March 17, 1998