Chapter XIV.—Perversity of Theophilus. St. Epiphanius: his Residence at Constantinople and Preparation to excite the People against John.
Theophilus kept his designs against John as secret as possible; and wrote to the bishops of every city, condemning the books of Origen. 1603 It also occurred to him that it would be advantageous to enlist Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis, in Cyprus, on his side, a man who was revered for his life, and was the most distinguished of his contemporaries; and he therefore formed a friendship with him, although he had formerly blamed him for asserting that God possessed a human form. As if repentant of having ever entertained any other sentiment, Theophilus wrote to Epiphanius to acquaint him that he now held the same opinions as himself, and to move attacks against the books of Origen, as the source of such nefarious dogmas. Epiphanius had long regarded the writings of Origen with peculiar aversion, and was therefore easily led to attach credit to the epistle of Theophilus. He soon after assembled the bishops of Cyprus p. 408 together, and prohibited the examination of the books of Origen. He also wrote to the other bishops, and, among others, to the bishop of Constantinople, exhorting them to convene synods, and to make the same decision. Theophilus, perceiving that there could be no danger in following the example of Epiphanius, who was the object of popular praise, and who was admired for the virtue of his life, whatever his opinion might be, passed a vote similar to that of Epiphanius, with the concurrence of the bishops under his jurisdiction. John, on the other hand, paid little attention to the letters of Epiphanius and Theophilus. Those among the powerful and the clergy, who were opposed to him, perceived that the designs of Theophilus tended to his ejection from the bishopric, and therefore endeavored to procure the convention of a council in Constantinople, in order to carry this measure into execution. Theophilus, knowing this, exerted himself to the utmost in convening this council. He commanded the bishops of Egypt to repair by sea to Constantinople; he wrote to request Epiphanius and the other Eastern bishops to proceed to that city with as little delay as possible, and he himself set off on the journey thither by land. Epiphanius was the first to sail from Cyprus; he landed at Hebdomos, a suburb of Constantinople; and after having prayed in the church erected at that place, he proceeded to enter the city. In order to do him honor, John went out with all his clergy to meet him. Epiphanius, however, evinced clearly by his conduct that he believed the accusations against John; for, although invited to reside in the ecclesiastical residences, he would not continue there, and refused to meet with John in them. He also privately assembled all the bishops who were residing in Constantinople, and showed them the decrees which he had issued against the discourses of Origen. He persuaded some of the bishops to approve of these decrees, while others objected to them. Theotimus, bishop of Scythia, strongly opposed the proceedings of Epiphanius, and told him that it was not right to cast insult on the memory of one who had long been numbered with the dead; nor was it without blasphemy to assail the conclusion to which the ancients had arrived on the subject, and to set aside their decisions. While discoursing in this strain, he drew forth a book of Origens which he had brought with him; and, after reading aloud a passage conducive to the education of the Church, he remarked that those who condemned such sentiments acted absurdly, for they were in danger of insulting the subjects themselves about which these words treated. John still had respect for Epiphanius, and invited him to join in the meetings of his church, and to dwell with him. But Epiphanius declared that he would neither reside with John nor pray with him publicly, unless he would denounce the works of Origen and expel Dioscorus and his companions. Not considering it just to act in the manner proposed until judgment had been passed on the case, John tried to postpone matters. When the assembly was about to be held in the Church of the Apostles, those ill-disposed to John planned that Epiphanius should go beforehand and publicly decry the books of Origen to the people, and Dioscorus and his companions as the partisans of this writer; and also to attack the bishop of the city as the abetter of those heretics. And some concerned themselves in this; for by this means it was supposed that the affections of the people would be alienated from their bishop. The following day, when Epiphanius was about entering the church, in order to carry his design into execution, he was stopped by Serapion, at the command of John, who had received intimation of the plot. Serapion proved to Epiphanius that while the project he had devised was unjust in itself, it could be of no personal advantage to him; for that if it should excite a popular resurrection, he would be regarded as responsible for the outrages that might follow. By these arguments Epiphanius was induced to relinquish his attack.
Mainly after Soc. vi. 10, 12, 14; Pallad. Dialog. 8.