Sacred Texts  Christianity  Early Church Fathers  Index  Previous  Next 

Chapter IV.—The Epistles which Dionysius wrote on this Subject.

Dionysius, therefore, having communicated with him extensively on this question by letter, 2172 finally showed him that since the persecution had abated, 2173 the churches everywhere had rejected the novelty of Novatus, and were at peace among themselves. He writes as follows:



διὰ γραμμ€των, which might mean “letters,” but in the present case must refer apparently to a single letter (the plural, γρ€μματα, like the Latin litteræ, was very commonly used to denote a single epistle), for in chap. 2 Eusebius says that Dionysius’ first epistle on baptism was addressed to Stephen, and in chap. 5 informs us that his second was addressed to Xystus. The epistle mentioned here must be the one referred to in chap. 2 and must have been devoted chiefly to the question of the re-baptism of heretics or schismatics (περὶ τούτου referring evidently to the subject spoken of in the previous chapter). But Eusebius quite irrelevantly quotes from the epistle a passage not upon the subject in hand, but upon an entirely different one, viz. upon the peace which had been established in the Eastern churches, after the disturbances caused by the schism of Novatian (see Bk. VI. chap. 43 sq.). That the peace spoken of in this epistle cannot mean, as Baronius held, that the Eastern churches had come over to Stephen’s opinion in regard to the subject of baptism is clear enough from the fact that Dionysius wrote another epistle to Stephen’s successor (see the next chapter) in which he still defended the practice of re-baptism. In fact, the passage quoted by Eusebius from Dionysius’ epistle to Stephen has no reference to the subject of baptism.


The persecution referred to is that of Decius.

Next: Chapter V