Chapter XVII.—Miracle performed by Paul Bishop of the Novatians at the Baptism of a Jewish Impostor.
About this time Chrysanthus bishop of the Novatians, after presiding over the churches of his own sect seven years, died on the 26th of August, under the consulate of Monaxius and Plintha. 949 He was succeeded in the bishopric by Paul, who had formerly been a teacher of the Latin language: but afterwards, setting aside the Latin language, had devoted himself to an ascetic course of life; and having founded a monastery of religious men, he adopted a mode of living not very different from that pursued by the monks in the desert. In fact I myself found him just such a person as Evagrius 950 says the monks dwelling in the deserts ought to be; imitating them in continued fastings, silence, abstinence from animal food, and for the most part abstaining also from the use of oil and wine. He was, moreover, solicitous about the wants of the poor to as great an extent as any other man; he untiringly visited those who were in prison, and in behalf of many criminals interceded with the judges, who readily attended to him on account of his eminent piety. But why should I lengthen my account of him? For I am about to mention a deed done by him which is well worthy of being recorded in writing. A certain Jewish impostor, pretending to be a convert to Christianity, was in the habit of being baptized often 951 and by that artifice he amassed a good deal of money. After having deceived many of the Christian sects by this fraud—for he received baptism from the Arians and Macedonians—as there remained no others to practise his hypocrisy upon, he at length came to Paul bishop of the Novatians, and declaring that he earnestly desired baptism, requested that he might obtain it at his hand. Paul commended the determination of the Jew, but told him he could not perform that rite for him, until he had been instructed in the fundamental principles of the faith, and given himself to fasting and prayer for many days. 952 The Jew compelled to fast against his will became the more importunate in his request for baptism; now as Paul did not wish to discourage him by longer delays, since he was so urgent, consented to grant his request, and made all the necessary preparations for the baptism. Having purchased a white vestment for him, he ordered the font to be filled with water, and then led the Jew to it in order to baptize him. But a certain invisible power of God caused the water suddenly to disappear. The bishop, of course, and those present, had not the least suspicion of the real cause, but imagined that the water had escaped by the channels underneath, by means of which they are accustomed to empty the font; these passages were therefore very carefully closed, and the font filled again. Again, however, as the Jew was taken there a second time, the water vanished as before. Then Paul addressing the Jew, said, Either you are an evil-doer, wretched man, or an ignorant person who has already been baptized. The people having crowded together to witness this miracle, one among them recognized the Jew, and identified him as having been baptized by Atticus, the bishop, a little while before. Such was the portent wrought by the hands of Paul bishop of the Novatians.
On Evagrius, see IV. 23. On the passage in his works alluded, see Evagrius, Ecclesiastical History, IV. 35, 36.161:951
The repetition of baptism, except in cases in which there was doubt as to the validity of a first baptism, was considered a sacrilege. See Smith and Cheetham, Dict. of Christ. Antiq. art. Iteration Baptism.161:952
Cf. I. 8.