Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Commodianus
Commodianus, the author of two Latin poems, Instructiones adversus Gentium Deos pro Christiana Disciplina, and Carmen Apologeticum adversus Judaeos et Gentes. His Instructions are included "inter apocrypha" in a synodal decree of Gelasius (Concil. tom. iv.), probably because of certain heterodox statements respecting Antichrist, the Millennium, and the First Resurrection. In what age he lived has been much disputed. Internal evidence in the poem shews that the author lived in days of persecution. The style of the Instructions points to the age of Cyprian, with whose works they have more than once been edited. There is an allusion to the Novatian Schism (§ xlvii. ad fin.), and the language of § lii. seems to be aimed against the "Thurificati" and "Libellatici" of the 3rd cent. In § lxvi. 12 a "subdola pax" is mentioned, which Cave refers to the temporary quiet enjoyed by the Christians under Gallienus, after the Decian and before the Aurelian persecution. Other expressions (e.g. agonia propinqua, § liii. 10) clearly point to the expectation of fresh suffering. But the most important passage as affecting the date of the poem is one in which the author upbraids the Gentiles for perseverance in unbelief, though Christianity has prevailed for 200 years (§ vi. 2), and this, which, singularly enough, seems to have escaped the notice of the earlier critics, must be held to fix the date of Commodian as approximately A.D. 250. The barbarity of his style, and the peculiarity of certain words (e.g. Zabulo, Zacones), led Rigault to infer that he was of African extraction. He applies to himself the epithet "Gazaeus," but this probably refers to his dependence upon the treasury of the church (gazophylacium) for support, and not to any connexion with Gaza. Originally a heathen (Instruct. Praef. 5, § xxvi. 24), he was converted by the perusal of the Scriptures (Praef. 6), and if the words "Explicit tractatus sancti Episcopi . . ." discovered on the MS. of the Carmen Apologeticum by Pitra, may be taken to refer to the author of the poem, who, from internal evidence, is conclusively proved to have been Commodian, it would seem that he ultimately became a bishop.
His works (a trans. of which is given in the Ante-Nicene Lib.), though utterly valueless as literature, are of considerable interest in the history of the Latin language as showing that the change had already commenced which resulted in the formation of the Romance languages.
The Instructions are in Migne's Patr. Lat. vol. v.; the Apology in Pitra's Spicilegium Solismense, vol. i.