Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume VI/Methodius/Introductory Notice
[a.d. 260–312]. Considering the strong language in which Methodius is praised by ancient writers, as well as by the moderns, I feel that our learned translator has too hastily dismissed his name and works in the biographical introduction below. Epiphanius makes great use of him in his refutations of Origen; and Dupin’s critical and historical notice of him is prolonged and highly discriminating, furnishing an abridgment of all his writings and of those vulgarly attributed to him heretofore. I have made into an elucidation some references which may be of use to the student. In like manner, I have thrown into the form of notes and elucidations what would be less pertinent and less useful in a preface. There are no facts to be added to what is here given by the translator; and remarks on the several works, which he has too sparingly annotated, will be more conveniently bestowed, perhaps, on the pages to which they immediately refer. The following is the translator’s brief but useful
Methodius, who is also called Eubulius, was, first of all bishop, simultaneously of Olympus and Patara, in Lycia, as is testified by several ancient writers. He was afterwards removed, according to St. Jerome, to the episcopal See of Tyre in Phœnicia, and at the end of the latest of the great persecutions of the Church, about the year 312, he suffered martyrdom at Chalcis in Greece. Some consider that it was at Chalcis in Syria, and that St. Jerome’s testimony ought to be thus understood, as Syria was more likely to be the scene of his martyrdom that Greece, as being nearer to his diocese. Others affirm that he suffered under Decius and Valerian; but this is incorrect, since he wrote not only against Origen long after the death of Adamantius, but also against Porphyry, whilst he was alive, in the reign of Diocletian.
Methodius is known chiefly as the antagonist of Origen; although, as has been pointed out, he was himself influenced in no small degree by the method of Origen, as may be seen by his tendency to allegorical interpretations of Holy Scripture. The only complete work of this writer which has come down to us is his Banquet of the Ten Virgins, a dialogue of considerable power and grace, in praise of the virginal life. His antagonism to Origen, however, comes out less in this than in his works On the Resurrection, and On Things Created. The treatise On Free Will is, according to recent critics, of doubtful authorship, although the internal evidence must be said to confirm the ancient testimonies which assign it to Methodius. His writings against Porphyry, with the exception of some slight fragments, are lost, as are also his exegetical writings.
Combefis published an edition of his works in 1644; but only so much of the Banquet as was contained in the Bibliotheca of Photius. In 1656 Leo Allatius published for the first time a complete edition of this work at Rome from the Vatican ms. Combefis in 1672 published an edition founded chiefly upon this; and his work has become the basis of all subsequent reprints.
The following translation has been made almost entirely from the text of Migne, which is generally accurate, and the arrangement of which has been followed throughout. The edition of Jahn in some places rearranges the more fragmentary works, especially that On the Resurrection; but, although his text was occasionally found useful in amending the old readings, and in improving the punctuation, it was thought better to adhere in general to the text which is best known.
A writer who was pronounced by St. Epiphanius to be “a learned man and a most valiant defender of the truth,” and by St. Jerome, disertissimus martyr, who elsewhere speaks of him as one who nitidi compositique sermonis libros confecit, cannot be altogether unworthy the attention of the nineteenth century.
- [In Dr. Schaff’s History (vol. ii. p. 809) is just such a notice and outline as would be appropriate here.]
- St. Epiph. Hæres., 64, sec. 63. [But this seems only his nom de plume, assumed in his fiction of the Banquet.]
- St. Hieronymus, De viris illustr., c. 83.
- For the larger fragments we are indebted to Epiphanius (Hæres., 64) and Photius (Bibliotheca, 234–237).
- Epiph., Hær., 64, sec. 63. ἀνὴρ λόγιος καὶ σφόδρα περὶ τῆς ἀληθείας ἀγωνισάμενος. [Petavius renders this: “vir apprime doetus acerrimusque veritatis patronus.”]
- Hieron., Com. in Dan., c. 13.
- Id., De vir. ill., c. 83. Many more such testimonies will be found collected in the various editions of his works in Greek.