Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Tichonius, an African Donatist

Tichonius (Tychonius), an African Donatist, whose personal history is very little known, but who was conspicuous in the Donatist controversy, chiefly because Augustine mentions him in his letters to Parmenian and elsewhere. He appears to have flourished between 380 and 420, but according to Tillemont his date may be as early as 370. He was apparently a layman with a strong turn for church matters, including theology, was well versed in Scripture, and though a Donatist, revolted from the exclusive views of the sect, and occupied a position intermediate, as Neander says, between it and the church (Ch. Hist. iii. 280, ed. Clark; cf. Dr. Sparrow Simpson, St. Aug. and Afr. Ch. Divisions [1910], p. 51). Early in his career, perhaps 370–373 he published a work maintaining the universality of the church, and that no misconduct of a portion can annul the promise of God or contaminate Christians elsewhere. Consequently Catholic Christians in Africa were not cut off from the church of Christ, but still in communion with it. He pointed out the arbitrary character of the Donatist test of holiness, summing it up in the epigrammatic phrase, "quod volumus sanctum est" (Aug. c. Parm. i. 1; ii. 13, 31; see also ii. 21, 40, and 22, 42; iii. 3, 17; Ep. 93, 43). In support of his argument he quoted the decision of a council at Carthage of 270 bishops, who, having debated for 75 days, concluded, as the words of Augustine seem to imply, that traditors ought to be invited to receive rebaptism, but if they declined to do so ought to be admitted to communion. He adds that down to the time of Macarius, A.D. 348, communion was not refused to Catholics by Donatists (Aug. Ep. 93, 43). Of this council no other record exists than the statement of Tichonius, who gives it no date. His book has perished, but is probably the same either as the one in three books mentioned by Gennadius under the title Bellum Intestinum, or the one entitled Expositiones Diversarum Causarum, unless these two titles refer to one book only, in which, says Gennadius, Tichonius mentions some ancient councils (de Scr. Eccl. 18). Though denounced strongly for his inconsistency by St. Augustine, he appears to have continued his allegiance to the Donatists (Aug. de Doctr. Chr. iii. 30; Gennad. u.s.), and while still belonging to them wrote another book entitled The Seven Rules or Keys of Christian Life, which was discussed by Augustine in his work de Doctr. Christ. iii. 30–42. Its main heads are: (1) The church is the Lord's body, indivisible from Him, so that in Scripture language applicable to Him is applied also to the church. (2) The two-fold Body of the Lord, i.e. the distinction between bad and good people in the church. (3) The promises and the law. (4) Genus and species. Readers must be careful not to ascribe to the one what belongs to the other, e.g. in explaining Ezek. xxxvi. 23, which must be compared with N.T. and the promise of baptism there contained. The "new land" is the church to be gathered from all nations, but not yet revealed. (5) Concerning Jewish expressions denoting time, as "three days and three nights," etc., and also such numbers as 7, 10, 12, etc. (6) Concerning what he calls Recapitulation. (7) The personality of Satan. Tichonius also wrote a commentary on the Revelation, which, Gennadius tells us, he interpreted entirely in a spiritual sense—that the human body is an abode of angels ("angelicam stationem corpus esse"); that the Millennium in a personal sense is doubtful, that there is only one resurrection in which human bodies of every sort and age will rise, and that of the two resurrections mentioned, one is to be understood of the growth of grace in the soul of man and in the church. The Seven Rules are printed at length in the Bibl. Max. Patr. (Lyons, 1677), vi. 49, and Bibl. Patr. Galland. (Venice, 1765), viii. 107. Prof. F. C. Burkitt pub. a critical ed. of them in the Camb. Texts and Studies 1894), iii. 1.