POPE LEO the GREAT, c. 458
LETTER 15 to Turribus
On the Errors of the Priscillianists


 The Trinity, Little Hours of the Duke of Berry

Dual Descent of the Holy Spirit - Filioque

Leo the Great. (1895). Letters. In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), C. L. Feltoe (Trans.), Leo the Great, Gregory the Great . NPNF Vol. 12a, Letter 15.  Epistola XV. ad Turribium Asturicensem Episcopum. De Priscillianistarum erroribus. PL 54, 678 ff.

LEO, bishop, to Turribius, bishop, greeting.

LEO episcopus TURRIBIO episcopo salutem.

Your laudable zeal for the truth of the catholic Faith, and the painstaking devotion you expend in the exercise of your pastoral office upon the Lord’s flock is proved by your letter, brother, which your deacon has handed to us, in which you have taken care to bring to our knowledge the nature of the disease which has burst forth in your district from the remnants of an ancient plague. For the language of your letter, and your detailed statement, and the text of your pamphlet4, explains clearly that the filthy puddle of the Priscillianists again teems with life amongst you5. For there is no dirt which has not flowed into this dogma from the notions of all sorts of heretics: since they have scraped together the motley dregs from the mire of earthly opinions and made for themselves a mixture6 which they alone may swallow whole, though others have tasted little portions of it.

Quam laudabiliter pro catholicae fidei veritate movearis, [678B] et quam sollicite Dominico gregi devotionem officii pastoralis impendas, tradita nobis per diacoconem tuum fraternitatis tuae scripta demonstrant, quibus notitiae nostrae insinuare curasti, 695 qualis in regionibus vestris de antiquae pestilentiae reliquiis errorum morbus exarserit. Nam et epistolae sermo, et commonitorii series, et libelli tui textus eloquitur Priscillianistarum fetidissimam apud vos [679A] recaluisse sentinam. Nihil est enim sordium in quorumcumque sensibus impiorum, quod in hoc dogma non confluxerit: quoniam de omni terrenarum opinionum luto multiplicem sibi faeculentiam miscuerunt: ut soli totum biberent quidquid alii ex parte gustassent.

In fact, if all the heresies which have arisen before the time of Priscillian were to be studied carefully, hardly any mistake will be discovered with which this impiety has not been infected: for not satisfied with accepting the falsehoods of those who have departed from the Gospel under the name of Christ, it has plunged itself also in the shades of heathendom, so as to rest their religious faith and their moral conduct upon the power of demons and the influences of the stars through the blasphemous secrets of the magic arts and the empty lies of astrologers. But if this may be believed and taught, no reward will be due for virtues, no punishment for faults, and all the injunctions not only of human laws but also of the Divine constitutions will be broken down: because there will be no criterion of good or bad actions possible, if a fatal necessity drives the impulses of the mind to either side, and all that men do is through the agency not of men but of stars. To this madness belongs that monstrous division of the whole human body among the twelve signs of the zodiac, so that each part is ruled by a different power: and the creature, whom God made in His own image, is as much under the domination of the stars as his limbs are connected one with the other. Rightly then our fathers, in whose times this abominable heresy sprung up, promptly pursued it throughout the world, that the blasphemous error might everywhere be driven from the Church: for even the leaders of the world so abhorred this profane folly that they laid low its originator, with most of his disciples, by the sword of the public laws. For they saw that all desire for honourable conduct was removed, all marriage-ties undone, and the Divine and the human law simultaneously undermined, if it were allowed for men of this kind to live anywhere under such a creed. And this rigourous treatment was for long a help to the Church’s law of gentleness which, although it relies upon the priestly judgment, and shuns blood-stained vengeance, yet is assisted by the stern decrees of Christian princes at times when men, who dread bodily punishment, have recourse to merely spiritual correction. But since many provinces have been taken up with the invasions of the enemy7, the carrying out of the laws also has been suspended by these stormy wars. And since intercourse came to be difficult among God’s priests and meetings rare, secret treachery was free to act through the general disorder, and was roused to the upsetting of many minds by those very ills which ought to have counteracted it. But which of the peoples and how many of them are free from the contagion of this plague in a district where, as you point out, dear brother, the minds even of certain priests have sickened of this deadly disease: and they who were believed the necessary quellers of falsehood and champions of the Truth are the very ones through whom the Gospel of God is enthralled to the teaching of Priscillian: so that the fidelity of the holy volumes being distorted to profane meanings, under the names of prophets and apostles, is proclaimed not that which the Holy Spirit has taught, but what the devil’s servant has inserted. Therefore as you, beloved, with all the faithful diligence in your power, have dealt under 16 heads with these already condemned opinions1, we also subject them once more to a strict examination; lest any of these blasphemies should be thought either bearable or doubtful.

Denique si universae haereses quae ante Priscilliani tempus exortae sunt diligentius retractentur, nullus pene invenietur error de quo non traxerit impietas ista contagium: quae non contenta eorum recipere falsitates qui ab Evangelio sub Christi nomine deviarunt, tenebris se etiam paganitatis immersit, ut per magicarum artium profana secreta et mathematicorum vana mendacia, religionis fidem morumque rationem in potestate daemonum, et in effectu siderum collocarent. Quod si et credi liceat [679B] et doceri, nec virtutibus praemium, nec vitiis poena debebitur, omniaque non solum humanarum legum, sed etiam divinarum constitutionum decreta solventur: quia neque de bonis neque de malis actibus ullum poterit esse judicium, si in utramque partem fatalis necessitas motum mentis impellit, et quidquid ab hominibus agitur, non est hominum, sed astrorum. Ad hanc insaniam pertinet prodigiosa illa totius humani corporis per duodecim coeli signa 696 distinctio, ut diversis partibus diversae praesideant potestates; et creatura quam Deus ad imaginem suam fecit, in tanta sit obligatione siderum, in quanta est connexione membrorum. Merito patres nostri, sub quorum temporibus haeresis haec nefanda prorupit, per totum mundum instanter egere ut impius [679C] furor ab universa Ecclesia pelleretur: quando etiam mundi principes ita hanc sacrilegam amentiam detestati sunt, ut auctorem ejus cum plerisque discipulis legum publicarum ense prosternerent. Videbant enim omnem curam honestatis auferri, omnem conjugiorum copulam solvi, simulque divinum jus [680A] humanumque subverti, si hujusmodi hominibus usquam vivere cum tali professione licuisset. Profuit diu ista districtio ecclesiasticae lenitati, quae etsi sacerdotali contenta judicio, cruentas refugit ultiones, severis tamen Christianorum principum constitutionibus adjuvatur, dum ad spiritale nonnumquam recurrunt remedium, qui timent corporale supplicium. Ex quo autem multas provincias hostilis occupavit irruptio, et executionem legum tempestates interclusere bellorum. Ex quo inter sacerdotes Dei difficiles commeatus et rari coeperunt esse conventus, invenit ob publicam perturbationem secreta perfidia libertatem, et ad multarum mentium subversionem his malis est incitata, quibus debuit esse correcta. Quae vero illic aut quanta pars plebium a [680B] contagione pestis hujus aliena est, ubi, sicut dilectio tua indicat, lethali morbo etiam 697 quorumdam sacerdotum corda corrupta sunt; et per quos opprimenda falsitas et defendenda veritas credebatur, per ipsos doctrinae Priscillianae Evangelium subditur Christi, ut ad profanos sensus pietate sanctorum voluminum depravata, sub nominibus prophetarum et apostolorum non hoc praedicetur quod Spiritus sanctus docuit, sed quod diaboli minister inseruit. Quia ergo dilectio tua fideli, quantum potuit, diligentia damnatas olim opiniones sedecim capitulis comprehendit, nos quoque strictim omnia retractamus, ne aliquid harum blasphemiarum aut tolerabile videatur aut dubium.

II. (1) The Priscillianists’ denial of the Trinity refuted

CAP. I. Quam impie de Trinitate personarum in Deo sentiant Priscillianistae. [680C]

And so under the first head is shown what unholy views they hold about the Divine Trinity: they affirm that the person of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost is one and the same, as if the same God were named now Father, now Son, and now Holy Ghost: Primo itaque capitulo demonstratur quam impie sentiant de Trinitate divina, qui et Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus sancti unam atque eamdem asserunt esse personam, tamquam idem Deus nunc Pater, nunc Filius, nunc Spiritus sanctus nominetur;
and as if He who begat were not one, He who was begotten, another, and He who proceeded from both, yet another; nec alius sit qui genuit, alius [681A] qui genitus est, alius qui de utroque processit;

but an undivided unity must be understood, spoken of under three names, indeed, but not consisting of three persons. This species of blasphemy they borrowed from Sabellius, whose followers were rightly called Patripassians also: because if the Son is identical with the Father, the Son’s cross is the Father’s passion (patris-passio): and the Father took on Himself all that the Son took in the form of a slave, and in obedience to the Father. Which without doubt is contrary to the catholic faith, which acknowledges the Trinity of the Godhead to be of one essence (ὁμοούσιον) in such a way that it believes the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost indivisible without confusion, eternal without time, equal without difference: because it is not the same person but the same essence which fills the Unity in Trinity

 sed singularis unitas in tribus quidem vocabulis, sed non in tribus sit accipienda personis. Quod blasphemiae genus de Sabellii opinione sumpserunt; cujus discipuli etiam Patripassiani merito nuncupantur; quia si ipse est Filius, qui et Pater, crux Filii, Patris est passio; et quidquid in forma servi Filius Patri obediendo sustinuit, totum in se Pater ipse suscepit. Quod catholicae fidei sine ambiguitate contrarium est, quae Trinitatem Deitatis sic μοοσιον confitetur, ut Patrem, et Filium, et Spiritum sanctum sine confusione indivisos, sine tempore sempiternos, sine differentia credat aequales: quia Unitatem in 698 Trinitate non eadem persona, sed eadem implet essentia.

III. (2) Their fancy about virtues proceeding from God refuted

CAP. II. De virtutibus quas ex Deo procedere fingunt. [681B]

Under the second head is displayed their foolish and empty fancy about the issue of certain virtues from God which he began to possess, and which were posterior to God Himself in His own essence. In this again they support the Arians’ mistake, who say that the Father is prior to the Son, because there was a time when He was without the Son: and became the Father then when He begat the Son. But as the catholic Church abhors them, so also does it abhor these who think that what is of the same essence was ever wanting to God. For it is as wicked to speak of Him as progressing as it is to call Him changeable. For increase implies change as much as does decrease.

In secundo capitulo ostenditur ineptum vanumque commentum de processionibus quarumdam virtutum ex Deo, quas habere coeperit et quas essentia sui ipse praecesserit. In quo Arianorum quoque suffragantur errori, dicentium quod Pater Filio prior sit, quia fuerit aliquando sine Filio, et tunc Pater esse coeperit, quando Filium genuerit. Sed sicut illos catholica Ecclesia detestatur, ita et istos, qui putant umquam Deo id quod ejusdem est essentiae defuisse. Quem sicut mutabilem, ita et proficientem dicere nefas est. Quam enim mutatur quod minuitur, tam mutatur etiam quod augetur.

IV. (3) Their account of the epithetOnly begottenrefuted

CAP. III. Cur unigenitus dicatur apud eos Filius Dei.

Again the third head is concerned with these same folk’s impious assertion that the Son of God is called “only-begotten” for this reason that He alone was born of a virgin. To be sure they would not have dared to say this, had they not drunk the poison of Paul of Samosata and Photinus: who said that our Lord Jesus Christ did not exist till He was born of the virgin Mary. But if they wish something else to be understood by their tenet, and do not date Christ’s beginning from His mother’s womb, they must necessarily assert that there is not one Son of God, but others also were begotten of the most High Father, of whom this one is born of a woman, and therefore called only-begotten, because no other of God’s sons underwent this condition of being born. Therefore, whithersoever they betake themselves, they fall into an abyss of great impiety, if they either maintain that Christ the Lord took His beginning from His mother, or do not believe Him to be the only-begotten of God the Father: since He who was God was born of a mother, and no one was born of the Father except the Word.

Tertii vero capituli sermo designat, quod iidem [681C] impii asserant, ideo unigenitum dici Filium Dei, quia solus sit natus ex virgine. Quod utique non auderent dicere, nisi Pauli Samosateni et Photini virus hausissent, qui dixerunt Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum, antequam nasceretur ex virgine Maria, non fuisse. Si autem isti aliud de suo sensu intelligi volunt, neque principium de matre dant Christo, asserant necesse est non unum esse Filium Dei, sed alios quoque ex summo Patre genitos, quorum hic unus sit natus ex femina, et ob hoc appelletur Unigenitus: quia hanc nascendi conditionem alius filiorum Dei nemo susceperit. Quoquoversum 699 igitur se contulerint, in magnae tendunt impietatis abruptum, si [682A] Christum Dominum vel ex matre volunt habere principium, vel Patris Dei unigenitum diffitentur cum et de matre is natus sit qui erat Deus Verbum, et de Patre nemo sit genitus praeter Verbum.

V. (4) Their fasting on the Nativity and Sunday disapproved of

CAP. IV. Quod jejunent in Natali Domini et die Dominica.

The fourth head deals with the fact that the Birth-day of Christ, which the catholic Church thinks highly of as the occasion of His taking on Him true man, because “the Word became flesh and dwelt in us2,” is not truly honoured by these men, though they make a show of honouring it, for they fast on that day, as they do also on the Lord’s day, which is the day of Christ’s resurrection. No doubt they do this, because they do not believe that Christ the Lord was born in true man’s nature, but maintain that by a sort of illusion there was an appearance of what was not a reality, following the views of Cerdo and Marcion, and being in complete agreement with their kinsfolk, the Manichæans. For as our examination has disclosed and brought home to them, they1 drag out in mournful fasting the Lord’s day which for us is hollowed by the resurrection of our Saviour: devoting this abstinence, as the explanation goes, to the worship of the sun: so that they are throughout out of harmony with the unity of our faith, and the day which by us is spent in gladness is past in self-affliction by them. Whence it is fitting that these enemies of Christ’s cross and resurrection should accept an opinion (like this) which tallies with the doctrine they have selected.

Quarto autem capitulo continetur, quod Natalem Christi, quem secundum susceptionem veri hominis catholica Ecclesia veneratur, quia Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis (Joan. I, 14), non vere isti honorent, sed honorare se simulent, jejunantes eodem die, sicut et die Dominico, qui est dies resurrectionis Christi. Quod utique ideo faciunt quia Christum Dominum in vera hominis natura natum esse non credunt, sed per quamdam illusionem ostentata videri volunt quae vera non fuerint; sequentes [682B] dogmata Cerdonis atque Marcionis, et cognatis suis Manichaeis per omnia consonantes. Qui, sicut in nostro examine detecti atque convicti sunt, Dominicum diem, quem nobis Salvatoris nostri resurrectio consecravit, exigunt in moerore jejunii; solis, ut proditum est, reverentiae hanc continentiam devoventes: ut per omnia sint a nostrae fidei unitate discordes, et dies qui a nobis in laetitia habetur, ab illis in afflictione ducatur. Unde dignum est ut inimici crucis et resurrectionis Christi talem excipiant sententiam, qualem elegerunt doctrinam.

VI. (5) Their view that the soul is part of the Divine being refuted

CAP. V. Quod animam hominis divinae asserunt esse substantiae.

The fifth head refers to their assertion that man’s soul is part of the Divine beings2, and that the nature of our human state does not differ from its Creator’s nature. This impious view has its source in the opinions of certain philosophers, and the Manichæans and the catholic Faith condemns it: knowing that nothing that is made is so sublime and so supreme as that its nature should be itself God. For that which is part of Himself is Himself, and none other than the Son and Holy Spirit. And besides this one consubstantial, eternal, and unchangeable Godhead of the most high Trinity there is nothing in all creation which, in its origin, is not created out of nothing. Besides anything that surpasses its fellow-creatures is not ipso facto God, nor, if a thing is great and wonderful, is it identical with Him “who alone doeth great wonders3.” No man is truth, wisdom, justice; but many are partakers of truth, wisdom, and justice. But God alone is exempt from any participating: and anything which is in any degree worthily predicated of Him is not an attribute, but His very essence. For in the Unchangeable there is nothing added, there is nothing lost: because “to be4” is ever His peculiar property, and that is eternity. Whence abiding in Himself He renews all things5, and receives nothing which He did not Himself give. Accordingly they are over-proud and stone-blind who, when they say the soul is part of the Divine Being, do not understand that they merely assert that God is changeable, and Himself suffers anything that may be inflicted upon His nature.

Quinto capitulo refertur quod animam hominis divinae asserant esse substantiae, nec a natura Creatoris sui conditionis nostrae distare naturam. [682C] Quam impietatem ex philosophorum quorumdam et Manichaeorum opinione manantem catholica fides damnat: sciens nullam tam sublimem tamque praecipuam esse facturam, cui Deus ipse natura sit. Quod enim de ipso est, id est quod ipse, neque id aliud est 700 quam Filius et Spiritus sanctus. Praeter hanc autem summae Trinitatis unam, consubstantialem, et sempiternam, atque incommutabilem Deitatem, nihil omnium creaturarum est quod non in exordio sui ex nihilo creatum sit. Non autem quidquid inter creaturas eminet Deus est, nec si quid magnum est atque mirabile, hoc est quod ille qui facit mirabilia magna solus (Ps. CXXXV, 4). Nemo [683A] hominum veritas, nemo sapientia, nemo justitia est; sed multi participes sunt veritatis, et sapientiae atque justitiae. Solus autem Deus nullius participationis indigus est: de quo quidquid digne utcumque sentitur, non qualitas est, sed essentia. Incommutabili enim nihil accedit, nihil deperit: quia esse illi, quod est sempiternum, semper est proprium. Unde in se manens innovat omnia, et nihil accepit quod ipse non dederit. Nimium igitur superbi nimiumque sunt caeci qui cum dicant humanam animam divinae esse substantiae, non intelligunt nihil se aliud dicere quam Deum esse mutabilem, et ipsum perpeti quidquid potest naturae ejus inferri.

VII. (6) Their view that the devil was never good, and is therefore not God’s creation, refuted

CAP. VI. Quod aiunt diabolum numquam fuisse bonum, nec Dei opus esse, sed ex chao et tenebris emersisse.

The sixth notice points out that they say the devil never was good, and that his nature is not God’s handiwork, but he came forth out of chaos and darkness: because I suppose he has no instigator, but is himself the source and substance of all evil: whereas the true Faith, which is the catholic, acknowledges that the substance of all creatures spiritual or corporeal is good, and that evil has no positive existence6; because God, who is the Maker of the Universe, made nothing that was not good. Whence the devil also would be good, if he had remained as he was made. But because he made a bad use of his natural excellence, and “stood not in the truth7,” he did not pass into the opposite substance, but revolted from the highest good to which he owed adherence: just as they themselves who make such assertions run headlong from truth into falsehood, and accuse nature of their own spontaneous delinquencies, and are condemned for their voluntary perversity: though of course this evil is in them, but is itself not a substance but a penalty inflicted on substance.

[683B] Sexta annotatio indicat eos dicere quod diabolus numquam fuerit bonus, nec natura ejus opificium Dei sit, sed eum ex chao et tenebris emersisse: quia scilicet nullum sui habeat auctorem, sed omnis mali ipse sit principium atque substantia: cum fides vera, quae est catholica, omnium creaturarum sive spiritualium, sive corporalium bonam confiteatur substantiam, et mali nullam esse naturam: quia Deus, qui universitatis est conditor, nihil non bonum fecit. Unde et diabolus bonus esset, si in eo quod factus est permaneret. Sed quia naturali excellentia male usus est, et in veritate non stetit (Joan. VIII, 44), non in contrariam transiit substantiam, sed a summo bono, cui debuit adhaerere, descivit; sicut ipsi qui talia asserunt a veris in falsa [683C] proruunt, et naturam in eo arguunt in quo sponte delinquunt, ac pro sua voluntaria perversitate damnantur. Quod utique in ipsis malum erit, et ipsum malum non erit substantia, sed poena substantiae.

VIII. (7) Their rejection of marriage condemned

701 CAP. VII. Damnant nuptias et usum matrimonii.

In the seventh place follows their condemnation of marriages and their horror of begetting children: in which, as in almost all points, they agree with the Manichæans’ impiety. But it is for this reason, as their own practices prove, that they detest the marriage tie, because there is no liberty for lewdness where the chastity of wedlock and of offspring is preserved.

Septimo loco sequitur, quod nuptias damnant, et procreationem nascentium perhorrescunt, in quo, sicut pene in omnibus, cum Manichaeorum profanitate concordant: ideo, sicut ipsorum mores probant, conjugalem copulam detestantur; quia [684A] non est illic libertas turpitudinis, ubi pudor et matrimonii servatur et sobolis.

IX. (8) Their disbelief in the resurrection of the body has been already condemned by the Church

CAP. VIII.---Corpora humana aiunt per diabolum formari, et eorum resurrectionem negant.

Their eighth point is that the formation8 of men’s bodies is the device of the devil, and that the seed of conception is shaped by the aid of demons in the wombs of women: and that for this reason the resurrection of the flesh is not to be believed because the stuff of which the body is made is not consistent with the dignity of the soul. This falsehood is without doubt the devil’s work, and such monstrous opinions are the devices of demons who do not mould men in women’s bellies, but concoct such errors in heretics’ hearts. This unclean poison which flows especially from the fount of the Manichæan wickedness has been already1 arraigned and condemned by the catholic Faith.

Octavum ipsorum est, plasmationem humanorum corporum diaboli esse figmentum, et semina conceptionum opera daemonum in mulierum uteris figurari: propter quod resurrectionem carnis non esse credendam, quia concretio corporis non sit congruens animae dignitati. Quae falsitas sine dubio opus diaboli est, et talia prodigia opinionum, figmenta sunt daemonum, qui non in feminarum ventribus formant homines, sed in haereticorum cordibus tales fabricantur errores. Quod immundissimum virus de Manichaeae impietatis specialiter fonte procedens, olim [684B] fides catholica deprehendit atque damnavit.

X. (9) Their notion thatthe children of promiseare conceived by the Holy Ghost is utterly unscriptural and uncatholic

702 CAP. IX. Filios promissionis per Spiritum sanctum conceptos esse dicunt.

The ninth notice declares that they say the sons of promise are born indeed of women, but conceived by the Holy Spirit: lest that offspring which is born of carnal seed should seem to share in God’s estate. This is repugnant and contrary to the catholic Faith which acknowledges every man to be formed by the Maker of the Universe in the substance of his body and soul, and to receive the breath of life within his mother’s womb: though that taint of sin and liability to die remains which passed from the first parent into his descendants; until the sacrament of Regeneration comes to succour him, whereby through the Holy Spirit we are re-born the sons of promise, not in the fleshly womb, but in the power of baptism. Whence David also, who certainly was a son of promise, says to God: “Thy hands have made me and fashioned me2.” And to Jeremiah says the Lord, “Before I formed thee in the womb I knew thee, and in thy mother’s belly I sanctified thee3.”

Nona autem annotatio manifesta quod filios promissionis, ex mulieribus quidem natos, sed ex Spiritu sancto dicant esse conceptos: ne illa soboles quae de carnis semine nascitur, ad Dei conditionem pertinere videatur. Quod catholicae fidei repugnans atque contrarium est, quae omnem hominem in corporis animaeque substantia a conditore universitatis formari atque animari intra materna viscera confitetur: manente quidem illo peccati mortalitatisque contagio, quod in prolem a primo parente transcurrit; sed regenerationis sacramento subveniente, quo per Spiritum sanctum promissionis filii renascuntur, non in utero carnis, sed in virtute [684C] baptismatis. Unde et David, qui utique erat promissionis filius, dicit ad Deum: Manus tuae fecerunt me, et plasmaverunt me (Ps. CXVIII, 73; Job. X, 8). Et ad Jeremiam Dominus ait: Prius quam te formarem in utero, novi te; et in vulva matris tuae sanctificavi te (Jerem. I, 5).

XI. (10) Their theory that souls have a previous existence before entering man refuted

CAP. X. Affirmant animas in coelo peccantes, in corpora detrusas pro peccati poena.

Under the tenth head they are reported as asserting that the souls which are placed in men’s bodies have previously been without body and have sinned in their heavenly habitation, and for this reason having fallen from their high estate to a lower one alight upon ruling spirits4 of divers qualities, and after passing through a succession of powers of the air and stars, some fiercer, some milder, are enclosed in bodies of different sorts and conditions, so that whatever variety and inequality is meted out to us in this life, seems the result of previous causes. This blasphemous fable they have woven for themselves out of many persons’ errors5: but all of them the catholic Faith cuts off from union with its body, persistently and truthfully proclaiming that men’s souls did not exist until they were breathed into their bodies, and that they were not there implanted by any other than God, who is the creator both of the souls and of the bodies. And because through the transgression of the first man the whole stock of the human race was tainted, no one can be set free from the state of the old Adam save through Christ’s sacrament of baptism, in which there are no distinctions between the re-born, as says the Apostle: “For as many of you as were baptized in Christ did put on Christ: there is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus6.” What then have the course of the stars to do with it, or the devices of destiny? what the changing state of mundane things and their restless diversity? Behold how the grace of God makes all these unequals equal, who, whatever their labours in this life, if they abide faithful, cannot be wretched, for they can say with the Apostle in every trial: “who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘For thy sake we are killed all the day long, we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ (Ps. 44:22.) But in all these things we overcome through Him that loved us7.” And therefore the Church, which is the body of Christ, has no fear about the inequalities of the world, because she has no desire for temporal goods: nor does she dread being overwhelmed by the empty threats of destiny, for she knows she is strengthened by patience in tribulations.

Decimo autem capitulo referuntur asserere, animas quae humanis corporibus inseruntur fuisse sine corpore, et in coelesti [685A] habitatione peccasse, atque ob hoc a sublimibus ad inferiora delapsas, in diversae qualitatis principes incidisse, et per aerias ac sidereas potestates, alias duriores, alias mitiores, corporibus esse conclusas, sorte diversa et conditione dissimili: ut quidquid in hac vita varie et inaequaliter provenit, ex praecedentibus causis videatur 703 accidere. Quam impietatis fabulam ex multorum sibi erroribus texuerunt; sed omnes eos catholica fides a corpore suae unitatis abscidit, constanter praedicans atque veraciter, quod animae hominum, priusquam suis inspirarentur corporibus, non fuere, nec ab alio incorporantur nisi ab opifice Deo, qui et ipsarum est creator et corporum; et quia per primi hominis praevaricationem tota humani generis propago vitiata sit, [685B] neminem posse a conditione veteris hominis liberari, nisi per sacramentum baptismatis Christi, in quo nulla est discretio renatorum, dicente Apostolo: Quicumque enim in Christo baptizati estis, Christum induistis. Non est Judaeus, neque Graecus; non est servus, neque liber; non est masculus, neque femina: omnes enim vos unum estis in Christo Jesu (Gal. III, 27). Quid ergo hic agunt cursus siderum, quid figmenta fatorum, quid mundanarum rerum mobilis status, et inquieta diversitas? Ecce tot impares gratia Dei facit aequales, qui inter quoslibet vitae hujus labores, si fideles permanent, miseri esse non possunt, apostolicum illud in omni tentatione dicentes: Quis nos separabit a charitate Christi? tribulatio? an angustia? an persecutio? an fames? an nuditas? an periculum? [685C] an gladius? Sicut scriptum est, quia propter te morte afficimur tota die, aestimati sumus ut oves occisionis. Sed in his omnibus superamus per eum qui nos dilexit (Rom. VIII, 35). Et ideo Ecclesia, quae corpus est Christi, nihil de mundi inaequalitatibus metuit, quia nihil de bonis temporalibus concupiscit; nec timet inani strepitu fatorum gravari, quae patientia tribulationum novit augeri.

XII. (11) Their astrological notions condemned

704 CAP. XI. Fatalem necessitatem hominibus imponunt.

Their eleventh blasphemy is that in which they suppose that both the souls and bodies of men are under the influence of fatal stars: this folly compels them to become entangled in all the errors of the heathen, and to strive to attract stars that are as they think favourable to them, and to soften those that are against them. But for those who follow such pursuits there is no place in the catholic Church; a man who gives himself up to such convictions separates himself from the body of Christ altogether.

Undecima ipsorum blasphemia est, qua fatalibus stellis et animas hominum, et corpora [686A] opinantur obstringi, per quam amentiam necesse est ut omnibus paganorum erroribus implicati, et faventia sibi, ut putant, sidera colere, et adversantia studeant mitigare. Verum ista sectantibus nullus in Ecclesia catholica locus est: quoniam qui se talibus persuasionibus dedit, a Christi corpore totus abscessit.

XIII. (12) Their belief that certain powers rule the soul and the stars the body, is unscriptural and preposterous

CAP. XII. Animas certis potestatibus subjiciant, aliis corporum membra.

The twelfth of these points is this, that they map out the parts of the soul under certain powers, and the limbs of the body under others: and they suggest the characters of the inner powers that rule the soul by giving them the names of the patriarchs, and on the contrary they attribute the signs of the stars to those under which they put the body. And in all these things they entangle themselves in an inextricable maze, not listening to the Apostle when he says. “See that no one deceive you through philosophy and vain deceit after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ; for in Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and in Him ye are made full, who is the head of every principality and power1.” And again: “let no man beguile you by a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, treading on things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by the senses of his flesh, not holding fast the Head from whom all the body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and bands, increaseth with the increase of God2.” What then is the use of admitting into the heart what the law has not taught, prophecy has not sung, the truth of the Gospel has not proclaimed, the Apostles’ teaching has not handed down? But these things are suited to the minds of those of whom the Apostle speaks, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts: and will turn away indeed their hearing from the truth, and turn aside unto fables3.” And so we can have nothing in common with men who dare to teach or believe such things, and strive by any means in their power to persuade men that the substance of flesh is foreign to the hope of resurrection, and so break down the whole mystery of Christ’s incarnation: because it was wrong for Christ to take upon Him complete manhood if it was wrong for Him to emancipate complete manhood.

Duodecimum inter haec illud est, quod sub aliis potestatibus partes animae, sub aliis corporis membra describunt; et qualitates interiorum praesulum in patriarcharum nominibus statuunt, quibus e diverso signa siderea, quorum virtuti corpora subjiciantur, opponunt. Et in his omnibus inextricabili se errore praepediunt, non audientes [686B] dicentem Apostolum: Videte ne quis vos decipiat per philosophiam et inanem fallaciam secundum traditionem hominum, secundum elementa mundi, et non secundum Christum: quia in ipso inhabitat omnis plenitudo Divinitatis corporaliter, et estis in illo repleti, qui est caput omnis principatus et potestatis (Coloss. II, 8). Et iterum: Nemo vos seducat volens in humilitate et religione angelorum, quae non vidit ambulans, frustra inflatus sensu carnis suae, non tenens caput, ex quo totum corpus per nexus et conjunctiones subministratum et constructum crescit in augmentum Dei (Ibid., 18). Quid ergo opus est in cor admittere, quod lex non docuit, quod prophetia non cecinit, quod Evangelii veritas non praedicavit, quod apostolica doctrina non tradidit? Sed haec apta sunt [686C] eorum mentibus, de quibus apostolus dicit: Erit 705 enim tempus, cum sanam doctrinam non sustinebant, sed ad sua desideria coacervabunt sibi magistros prurientes auribus; et a veritate quidem auditum avertent, ad fabulas autem convertentur (II Tim. IV, 3, 4). Nihil itaque nobiscum commune habeant, qui talia audent vel docere, vel credere, et quibuslibet modis nituntur astruere quod substantia carnis ab spe resurrectionis aliena sit, atque ita omne sacramentum Incarnationis Christi resolvunt: quia indignum fuit [687A] integrum hominem suscipi, si indignum erat integrum liberari.

XIV. (13) Their fanciful division of the Scriptures rejected

CAP. XIII. Qualem Scripturarum scientiam astruant?

In the thirteenth place comes their assertion that the whole body of the canonical Scriptures is to be accepted, under the names of the patriarchs4: because those twelve virtues which work the reformation of the inner man are pointed out in their names, and without this knowledge no soul can effect its reformation, and return to that substance from which it came forth. But this wicked delusion the Christian wisdom holds in disdain, for it knows that the nature of the true Godhead is inviolable and immutable: but the soul, whether living in the body or separated from the body, is subject to many passions: whereas, of course, if it were part of the divine essence, no adversity could happen to it. And therefore there is no comparison between them: One is the Creator, the other is the creature. For He is always the same, and suffers no change: but the soul is changeable, even if not changed, because its power of not changing is a gift, and not a property.

Tertio decimo loco positum est eosdem dicere quod omne corpus Scripturarum canonicarum sub patriarcharum nominibus accipiendum sit: quia illae duodecim virtutes, quae reformationem hominis interioris operantur, in horum vocabulis indicentur, sine qua scientia nullam animam posse assequi, ut in eam substantiam de qua prodiit reformetur. Sed hanc impiam vanitatem despectui habet Christiana sapientia, quae novit verae Deitatis inviolabilem et inconvertibilem esse naturam; animam autem, sive in corpore viventem, sive a corpore separatam, multis passionibus subjacere. Quae utique si de divina [687B] esset essentia, nihil adversi posset incidere. Et ideo incomparabiliter aliud Creator, et aliud creatura. Ille enim semper idem est, et nulla varietate mutatur, haec autem mutabilis est, etiam non mutata, quia ut non mutetur, donatum poterit habere, non proprium.

XV. (14) Their idea that the Scriptures countenance their subjecting of the body to the starry influences denied

706 CAP. XIV. Siderum et signorum potestati hominem subjiciunt.

Under the fourteenth heading their sentiments upon the state of the body are stated, viz., that it is, on account of its earthly properties, held under the power of stars and constellations, and that many things are found in the holy books which have reference to the outer man with this object, that in the Scriptures themselves a certain opposition may be seen at work between the divine and the earthly nature: and that which the powers that rule the soul claim for themselves may be distinguished from that which the fashioners of the body claim. These stories are invented that the soul may be maintained to be part of the divine substance, and the flesh believed to belong to the bad nature: since the world itself, with its elements, they hold to be not the work of the good God, but the outcome of an evil author: and that they might disguise these sacrilegious lies under a fair cloak, they have polluted almost all the divine utterances with the colouring of their unholy notions.

Sub quarto decimo vero capitulo, de statu corporis sentire dicuntur quod sub potestate siderum atque signorum pro terrena qualitate teneatur, et ideo multa in sanctis libris, quae ad exteriorem hominem pertineant, reperiri, ut in ipsis Scripturis inter divinam terrenamque naturam quaedam sibi repugnet adversitas; et aliud sit quod sibi vindicent animae praesules, aliud quod corporis [687C] conditores. Quae fabulae ideo disseruntur ut et anima divinae affirmetur esse substantiae, et caro credatur malae esse naturae: quoniam et ipsum mundum cum elementis suis non opus Dei boni, sed conditionem mali profitentur auctoris; atque ut haec mendaciorum suorum sacrilegia bonis titulis colorarent, omnia pene divina eloquia sensuum nefandorum immissione violarunt.

XVI. (15) Their falsified copies of the Scriptures, and their apocryphal books prohibited

CAP. XV. Scripturas veras adulterant, falsas inducunt. [688A]

And on this subject your remarks under the fifteenth head make a complaint, and express a well-deserved abhorrence of their devilish presumption, for we too have ascertained this from the accounts of trustworthy witnesses, and have found many of their copies most corrupt, though they are entitled canonical. For how could they deceive the simple-minded unless they sweetened their poisoned cups with a little honey, lest what was meant to be deadly should be detected by its over-nastiness? Therefore care must be taken, and the priestly diligence exercised to the uttermost, to prevent falsified copies that are out of harmony with the pure Truth being used in reading. And the apocryphal scriptures, which, under the names of Apostles1, form a nursery-ground for many falsehoods, are not only to be proscribed, but also taken away altogether and burnt to ashes in the fire. For although there are certain things in them which seem to have a show of piety, yet they are never free from poison, and through the allurements of their stories they have the secret effect of first beguiling men with miraculous narratives, and then catching them in the noose of some error. Wherefore if any bishop has either not forbidden the possession of apocryphal writings in men’s houses, or under the name of being canonical has suffered those copies to be read in church which are vitiated with the spurious alterations of Priscillian, let him know that he is to be accounted heretic, since he who does not reclaim others from error shows that he himself has gone astray.

De qua re quinti decimi capituli sermo conqueritur, et praesumptionem diabolicam merito detestatur: quia et nos istud veracium testium relatione comperimus, et multos corruptissimos eorum codices, qui canonici titularentur, invenimus. Quomodo enim decipere simplices possent, nisi venenata pocula quodam melle praelinirent, ne usquequaque sentirentur insuavia, quae essent futura mortifera? Curandum ergo est, et sacerdotali diligentia maxime providendum, ut falsati codices, et a sincera veritate discordes, in nullo usu lectionis habeantur. Apocryphae autem scripturae, quae sub nominibus apostolorum multarum habent seminarium 707 falsitatum, non solum interdicendae, sed etiam penitus [688B] auferendae sunt, atque ignibus concremandae. Quamvis enim sint in illis quaedam quae videantur speciem habere pietatis, numquam tamen vacua sunt venenis, et per fabularum illecebras hoc latenter operantur, ut mirabilium narratione seductos laqueis cujuscumque erroris involvant. Unde si quis episcoporum, vel apocrypha haberi per domos non prohibuerit, vel sub canonicorum nomine eos codices in Ecclesia permiserit legi, qui Priscilliani adulterina sunt emendatione vitiati, haereticum se noverit judicandum: quoniam QUI ALIOS ab errore non revocat, seipsum errare demonstrat.

XVII. (16) About the writings of Dictinius2

CAP. XVI. De Dictinii scriptis.

Under the last head a just complaint was made that the treatises of Dictinius which he wrote in agreement with Priscillian’s tenets were read by many with veneration: for if they think any respect is due to Dictinius’ memory, they ought to admire his restoration rather than his fall. Accordingly it is not Dictinius but Priscillian that they read: and they approve of what he wrote in error, not what he preferred after recantation. But let no one venture to do this with impunity, nor let any one be reckoned among catholics who makes use of writings that have been condemned not by the catholic Church alone but by the author himself as well. Let not those who have gone astray be allowed to make a fictitious show, and under the veil of the Christian name shirk the provisions of the imperial decrees. For they attach themselves to the catholic Church with all this difference of opinion in their heart, with the object of both making such converts as they can, and escaping the rigour of the law by passing themselves off as ours. This is done by Priscillianists and Manichæans alike; for there is such a close bond of union between the two that they are distinct only in name, but in their blasphemies are found at one: because although the Manichæans reject the Old Testament which the others pretend to accept, yet the purpose of both tends to the same end, seeing that the one side corrupts while receiving what the other assails and rejects.

Postremo autem capitulo hoc prodidit justa querimonia, quod Dictinii tractatus quos secundum Priscilliani dogma [688C] conscripsit, a multis cum veneratione legerentur, cum, si aliquid memoriae Dictinii tribuendum putant, reparationem ejus magis debeant amare quam lapsum. Non ergo Dictinium, sed Priscillianum legunt, et illud probant, quod errans docuit, non quod correctus elegit. Sed nemo hoc impune praesumat, nec inter catholicos censeatur quisquis utitur scriptis, non ab Ecclesia solum catholica, sed etiam a suo [689A] auctore damnatis. Non sit perversis liberum simulare quod fingunt, nec sub velamine nominis Christiani, decretorum imperialium statuta declinent. Ideo enim ad Ecclesiam catholicam cum tanta cordis diversitate conveniunt, ut et quos possunt suos faciant, et legum severitatem, dum se nostros mentiuntur, 708 effugiant. Faciunt hoc Priscillianistae, faciunt Manichaei, quorum cum istis tam foederata sunt corda, ut solis nominibus discreti, sacrilegiis autem suis inveniantur uniti: quia etsi vetus Testamentum, quod isti se suscipere simulant, Manichaei refutant, ad unum tamen finem utrorumque tendit intentio, cum quod illi abdicando impugnant, isti recipiendo corrumpunt.

But in their abominable mysteries, which the more unclean they are, are so much the more carefully concealed, their crime is but one, their filthy-mindedness one, and their foul conduct similar. And although we blush to speak so plainly, yet we have tracked it out with the most painful searches, and exposed it by the confession of Manichæans who have been arrested, and thus brought it to the public knowledge: lest by any means it might seem matter of doubt, although it has been disclosed by the mouth of the men themselves, who had performed the crime, in our court, which was attended not only by a large gathering of priests, but also by men of repute and dignity, and a certain number of the senate and the people, even as the missive which we have addressed to you, beloved, shows to have been done. And there has been found out and widely published about the immoral practices of the Priscillianists just what was also found out about the foul wickedness of the Manichæans. For they who are throughout on a level of depravity in their ideas, cannot be unlike in their religious matters.

In exsecrabilibus autem mysteriis eorum, quae [689B] quanto immundiora sunt, tanto diligentius occuluntur, unum prorsus nefas est, una est obscenitas et similis turpitudo. Quam etsi eloqui erubescimus, sollicitissimis tamen inquisitionibus indagatam, et Manichaeorum, qui comprehensi fuerant, confessione detectam, ad publicam fecimus pervenire notitiam: ne ullo modo posset dubium videri quod in judicio nostro, cui non solum frequentissima praesentia sacerdotum, sed etiam illustrium virorum dignitas, et pars quaedam senatus ac plebis interfuit ipsorum qui omne facinus perpetrarant ore reseratum est; sicut ea quae ad dilectionem tuam nunc direximus gesta demonstrant. Quod autem de Manichaeorum foedissimo scelere, hoc etiam de Priscillianistarum incestissima consuetudine olim compertum multumque [689C] vulgatum est. Qui enim per omnia sunt impietate sensuum pares, non possunt in sacris suis esse dissimiles.

So having run through all that the detailed refutation contains, with which the contents of the memorial of their views does not disagree, we have, I think, satisfactorily shown what our opinion on the matters which you, brother, have referred to us, and how unbearable it is if such blasphemous errors find acceptance in the hearts even of some priests, or to put it more mildly, are not actively opposed by them. With what conscience can they maintain the honourable position which has been given them, who do not labour for the souls entrusted to them? Beasts rush in, and they do not close the fold. Robbers lay wait, and they set no watch. Diseases multiply, and they seek out no remedies. But when in addition they refuse assent to those who act more warily, and shrink from anathematizing by their written confession blasphemies which the whole world has already condemned, what do they wish men to understand except that they are not of the number of the brethren, but on the enemy’s side?

Decursis itaque omnibus quae libelli series comprehendit, et a quibus commonitorii forma non discrepat, sufficienter, ut opinor, ostendimus quid de his quae ad nos fraternitas tua retulit censeamus, et quam non sit ferendum, si tam profanis erroribus etiam quorumdam sacerdotum corda consentiunt, [690A] vel, ut mitius dixerim, non resistunt. QUA CONSCIENTIA honorem sibi praestitum vindicant, qui pro animabus 709 sibi creditis non laborant? Bestiae irruunt, et ovium septa non claudunt. Fures insidiantur, et excubias non praetendunt. Morbi crebrescunt, et remedia nulla prospiciunt. Cum autem etiam illud addunt, ut his qui sollicitius agunt consentire detrectent, et impietates olim toto orbe damnatas, subscriptionibus suis se anathematizare dissimulent; quid de se intelligi volunt, nisi quod non de numero fratrum, sed de parte sunt hostium?

XVIII. The body of Christ really rested in the tomb, and really rose again

CAP. XVII. An caro Christi vere requieverit in sepulcro.

Furthermore in the matter which you placed last in your confidential letter, I am surprised that any intelligent Christian should be in difficulty as to whether when Christ descended to the realms below, his flesh rested in the tomb: for as it truly died and was buried, so it was truly raised the third day. For this the Lord Himself also had announced, saying to the Jews, “destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up1.” Where the evangelist adds this comment: “but this He spake of the temple of His body.” The truth of which the prophet David also had predicted, speaking in the person of the Lord and Saviour, and saying: “Moreover my flesh also shall rest in hope; because Thou will not leave my soul in Hades, nor give Thy Holy One to see corruption2” From these words surely it is clear that the Lord’s flesh being buried, both truly rested and did not undergo corruption: because it was quickly revived by the return of the soul, and rose again. Not to believe this is blasphemous enough, and is undoubtedly of a piece with the doctrine of Manichæus and Priscillian, who with their blasphemous conceptions pretend to confess Christ, but only in such a way as to destroy the reality of His incarnation, and death, and resurrection.

In eo vero quod in extrema familiaris epistolae tuae parte posuisti, miror cujusquam catholici intelligentiam laborare, tamquam incertum sit [690B] an descendente ad inferna Christo, caro ejus requieverit in sepulcro: quae sicut vere et mortua est et sepulta, ita vere est die tertio suscitata. Hoc enim et ipse Dominus denuntiaverat, dicens ad Judaeos: Solvite templum hoc, et in triduo suscitabo illud (Joan. II, 19). Ubi evangelista subjungit: Hoc autem dicebat de templo corporis sui (Ibid., 21). Cujus rei veritatem etiam David propheta praedixerat, loquens sub persona Domini Salvatoris, et dicens: Insuper et caro mea requiescet in spe. Quoniam non derelinques animam meam in inferno, nec dabis Sanctum tuum videre corruptionem (Psal. XV, 9). Quibus utique verbis manifestum est, quod caro Domini et vere sepulta requievit, et corruptionem non subiit: quia celeriter vivificata reditu animae resurrexit. Quod [690C] non credere satis impium est, et ad Manichaei Priscillianique doctrinam pertinere non dub um est, qui sacrilego sensu ita se Christum simulant confiteri, ut incarnationis, 710 et mortis, et resurrectionis auferant veritatem.

Therefore let a council of bishops be held among you, and let the priests of neighbouring provinces meet at a place suitable to all: that, on the lines of our reply to your request for advice, a full inquiry may be made as to whether here are any of the bishops who are tainted with the contagion of this heresy: for they must without doubt be cut off from communion, if they refuse to condemn this most unrighteous sect with all its wrongful conceptions. For it can nohow be permitted that one who has undertaken the duty of preaching the Faith should dare to maintain opinions contrary to Christ’s gospel and the creed of the universal Church. What kind of disciples will there be in a place where such masters teach? What will the people’s religion, or the salvation of the laity be, where against the interests of human society the holiness of chastity is uprooted, the marriage-bond overthrown, the propagation of children forbidden, the nature of the flesh condemned, and, in opposition to the true worship of the true God, the Trinity of the Godhead is denied, the individuality of the persons confounded, man’s soul declared to be the Divine essence, and enclosed in flesh at the Devil’s will, the Son of God proclaimed only-begotten in right of being born of a Virgin, not begotten of the Father, and at the same time maintained to be neither true offspring of God, nor true child of the virgin: so that after a false passion and an unreal death, even the resurrection of the flesh re assumed out of the tomb should be considered fictitious? But it is vain for them to adopt the name of catholic, as they do not oppose these blasphemies: they must believe them, if they can listen so patiently to such words. And so we have sent a letter to our brethren and fellow-bishops of the provinces of Tarraco, Carthago, Lusitania and Gallicia, enjoining a meeting of the general synod. It will be yours, beloved, to take order that our authoritative instructions be conveyed to the bishops of the aforesaid provinces. But should anything, which God forbid, hinder the coming together of a general council of Gallicia3, at least let the priests come together, the assembling of whom our brothers Idacius and Ceponius shall look to, assisted by your own strenuous efforts to hasten the applying of remedies to these serious wounds by a provincial synod also. Dated July 21, in the consulship of the illustrious Calipius and Ardaburis (447).[1]

Habeatur ergo inter vos episcopale concilium, et ad eum locum qui omnibus opportunus sit vicinarum provinciarum conveniant sacerdotes, ut, secundum haec quae ad tua consulta respondimus, plenissimo [691A] disquiratur examine an sint aliqui inter episcopos qui hujus haereseos contagio polluantur; a communione sine dubio separandi, si nefandissimam sectam per omnium sensuum pravitates damnare noluerint. Nulla enim ratione tolerandum est ut qui praedicandae fidei suscepit officium, is contra Evangelium Christi, contra apostolicam doctrinam, contra universalis Ecclesiae Symbolum audeat disputare. Quales illic erunt discipuli, ubi tales docebunt magistri? QUAE ILLIC religio populi, quae salus plebis, ubi contra humanam societatem pudoris sanctitas tollitur, conjugiorum foedus aufertur, propagatio generationis inhibetur, carnis natura damnatur, contra verum autem veri Dei cultum Trinitas Deitatis negatur, personarum proprietas confunditur, anima hominis [691B] divina essentia praedicatur, et eadem ad diaboli arbitrium carne concluditur, Dei Filius per id quod ex Virgine ortus, non per id quod ex Patre natus est, unigenitus praedicatur, idemque nec vera Dei proles, [692A] nec verus Virginis partus asseritur; ut per falsam passionem mortemque non veram, mendax etiam resurrectio resumptae de sepulcro carnis habeatur? Frustra autem utuntur catholico nomine, qui istis impietatibus non resistunt. POSSUNT haec credere, qui possunt talia patienter audire. Dedimus itaque litteras ad fratres et coepiscopos nostros Tarraconenses, Carthaginenses, Lusitanos, atque Gallicos, eisque concilium synodi generalis indiximus. Ad tuae 711 dilectionis sollicitudinem pertinebit, ut nostrae ordinationis auctoritas ad praedictarum provinciarum episcopos deferatur. Si autem aliquid, quod absit, obstiterit, quo minus possit celebrari generale concilium, Galliciae saltem in unum conveniant sacerdotes, quibus congregandis fratres [692B] nostri Idatius et Ceponius imminebunt, conjuncta cum eis instantia tua, quo citius vel provinciali coaventu remedium tantis vulneribus afferatur. Data XII kal. Augustas Calepio et Ardabure vv. cc. coss.




3 This Turribius was a man of learning and zeal, Bishop of Asturia (Astorga) in Spain (province of Gallicia): canonized by the Roman Church and commemorated on April 16 (Hurter). The date of the letter is given as 21 Jul., 447.

4 Hurter distinguishes these three documents thus: (1) epistola, the private letter of Turribius to Leo; (2) commonitorium, the detailed statement (under 16 heads) of the Priscillianist errors; and (3) libellus, Turribius’ refutation of each head. This heresy was of Spanish origin, having been broached by Priscillian about 380. Their views will be seen in the sequel.

5 Priscillianistarum fætidissimam apud vos recaluisse sentinam.

6 Multiplicem sibi fæculentiam miscuerunt.

7 He alludes to the invasion of Spain by the German tribes (Perthel, p. 38).

1 See above, n. 6. Quesnel draws attention to the fact that Leo’s refutation of the Priscillianist heresy, which here follows, was adopted (almost) word for word by the first council of Bracara (Braga, in Portugal), held in 563, as a sufficient exposition of their own position.

2 S. John 1:14.

1 Viz. the Manichæans.

2 This Pantheistic view was not, of course, a new one, nor pseudo-Christian in its origin, as Leo himself shows. Cf. Virg., Georg. IV. 219–227, and Aen. vi. 724–727.

The philosophi quidam to which he makes reference are the Pythagoreans, and following them with modifications the Platonists and the Stoics.

3 Ps. 136:4.

4 The reader need hardly be reminded of the recorded revelation of the great “I am” (Jehovah) to Moses (Ex. 3).

5 Cf. Rev. 21:5.

6 i.e. that evil is not anything positive, but only the negation or absence of good which is positive, just as black is not itself a colour, but only the absence of colour, whereas white is the presence (in due proportion) of all the colours of the spectrum.

7 S. John 8:24.

8 Plasmationem, a vile hybrid, being the Greek πλάσμα with a Latin ending (-atio); for which apparently the Low Latin of the Vulgate is responsible. Cf. Ps. 119:73, “et plasmaverunt me” (quoted below, chap. x.).

1 Olim. Perhaps Leo refers to his own action mentioned in Lett. vii. 1.

2 Ps. 119:73.

3 Jer. 1:5

4 In diversæ aualitatis principes incidisse, cf. Rom. 8:38; Eph. 3:10; Col. 2:10, &c.

5 The Pythagorean doctrine of μετεμψύχωσις (transmigration of souls) which was in a modified form accepted by Plato (Phædr, et alibi), would seem to have been the original source of this view of the soul’s origin. It would naturally be palatable doctrine to the Gnostics and other philosophizing sects. In Lett. XXXV., chap. iii., it is attributed to Origen. For a modern exposition the reader cannot do better than refer to Wordsworth’s ode on the intimations of Immortality in childhood.

6 Gal. 3:27, 28.

7 Rom. 8:35–37.

1 Col. 2:8–10.

2 Ibid. 18, 19.

3 2 Tim. 4:3, 4.

4 Leo’s commentary on this obscure fancy of the Priscillianists is disappointing, as it is merely a repetition or continuation of his remarks on the 12th head. They seem to have divided the scriptures in some mystic fashion into portions corresponding to the qualitates interiorum præsulum in patriarcharum nominibus (statutæ) of chap. xiii., and to have insisted on knowledge of the Scriptures as necessary to the proper action of those “ruling principles” on the soul. Cf. S. Aug. Letter CCXXXVII., chap. iii (Hurter.)

1 Viz., such writings as the Actus of Thomas, Andrew and John, and the Memoria apostolorum, qui totam destruit legem veteris Testamenti, according to Turribius’ letter to Idacius and Ceponius, chap. v., subjoined to this letter in the Leonine series.

2 Dictinius was a bishop who had turned Priscillianist, and afterwards, at the synod of Toledo (400), had returned to the fold of the Church (Perthel, p. 41)

1 S. John 2:19.

2 Ps. 16:10.

3 The whole district over which Turribius was Vicar is here called Gallicia, though, as just above, we find it included the provinces of Tarraco, Carthago, and Lusitania as well as Gallicia.

[1] Leo the Great. (1895). Letters. In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), C. L. Feltoe (Trans.), Leo the Great, Gregory the Great (Vol. 12a, pp. 20–26). New York: Christian Literature Company.





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