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The Apostolic Fathers



By J. B. Lightfoot

The personality and life of Hippolytus are beset with thorny and perplexing questions on all sides. Of what country was he a native? Where and how did he spend his early life? Under what influences was he brought in his boyhood and adolescence? Was he a simple presbyter or a bishop? If the latter, what was his see? Of the works ascribed or attributed to him, how many are genuine? What were his relations to the Roman see? Was he guilty of heresy or of schism? If the one or the other, what was the nature of the differences which separated him? Was this separation temporary or permanent? Was he a confessor or a martyr, or both or neither? What was the chronology of his life and works? More especially, at what date did he die? Has there, or has there not, been some confusion between two or three persons bearing the same name? What explanation shall we give of the architectural and other monumental records connected with his name?

These questions started up, like the fabled progeny of the dragon's teeth—a whole army of historical perplexities confronting us suddenly and demanding a solution—when less than forty years ago the work entitled Philosophumena was discovered and published to the world. To most of these questions I shall address myself in the dissertation which follows. The position and doings of Hippolytus are not unconnected with the main subject of these volumes. In the first place; wheereas the internal histry of the Church of Rome is shrouded in thick darkness from the end of the first century to the beginning of the third, from the age of Clement to the age of Hippolytus—scarcely a ray here and there penetrating the dense cloud—at this latter moment the scene is suddenly lit up with a glare—albeit a lurid glare—of light. Then again; we have some reason for believing that the earliest western list of the Roman bishops may have been drawn up by Hippolytus


himself, and it is almost absolutely certain that the first continuator of this list, in whose work the earliest notice of Hippolytus occurs outside his own writings, was a contemporary (see above, 1. p. 255, p. 259 sq). The questions asked above have not indeed in very many cases any immediate connexion with the matters with which we are directly concerned; but they hang very closely together one with another, and this seemed a fit opportunity of placing before the reader the results, however briefly, yet with some sort of completeness, of the investigations and discoveries which have been stimulated by the publication of the Philosophumena.

Return to the Table of Contents of J. B. Lightfoot's The Aposstolic Fathers, Part I, Vol. 2

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