Exerpted from: Philostorgius, Ecclesiastical History,
Summarized by Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople
(xlated by Walford, 1855)
Last Updated: Feb 15, 2009
Philostorgius (364-425 A.D.) was a church historian like Eusebius (320 A.D.), and set out at least with the pretense of continuing Eusebius' Church History. Eusebius' history ends around 320 A.D. with the victory of Constantine over Licinius (324 A.D.). Philostorgius covers the next hundred years in twelve books (two volumes).
Unfortunately, Philostorgius was of the Arian party, a group which denied the Godhead of Jesus and had their own explanation of Jesus as a being of lesser status. By this time (425 A.D.) such a position had been debated for 100 years and settled by ecclesiastical synods in favour of the Trinity and against the Arians.
This would have been less important, except that Philostorgius energetically defended the views of the Arian party and those now classed as heretics. Philostorgius' Ecclesiastical History was probably 'banned' and destroyed, and no longer survives. It is probably fair to say that this is partly his own fault. He could have been more even-handed in his History and saved the debating and apologetics for a separate work.
Philostorgius also suffers from being gullible and superstitious concerning legendary and 'miraculous' events. But this does not seriously impede the work of historians or the value of his other historical data:
"Philostorgius would seem to have been a person possessed of a considerable amount of general information, and he has inserted in his narrative many curious geographical and other details about remote and unknown countries, and more especially about the interior of Asia and Africa. "
-translator's notes (see below)
A Critically Important Work
In spite of Philostorgius' bias, his work remains of great value because it provides information about the critical period between 325-425 A.D. that we would not have otherwise, such as the details of the debates over Arianism and the identity and activity of the various parties.
Philostorgius rescued by Photius
Although the work itself no longer survives, Photius, the Patriarch of Constantinople (circa 853 A.D.) saw its value, and made a surprisingly thorough summary ('Epitome') of its contents for us. Although Photius was obviously orthodox, he himself was apparently responsible for the removal of the term "Filioque" from the Nicene Creed.
Photius himself however liberally criticizes Philostorgius as an impious heretic throughout, and so colors his own work. Alerted to these biases, the historian can readily work around the superfluous remarks and sift the surviving historical information.
Philostorgius and John 8:1-11
Two of the most remarkable pieces of information are found in Philostorgius, which have a bearing upon the possible excising of John 7:53-8:11, or the perpetuation of this omission.
(1) Philostorgius informs us of the death of Constantine's son and queen (Book II chapt 4), in which Constantine orders the queen to be 'steamed to death' for adultery. Both Constantine's intense anger and potential for violence, and his extreme emotional response to adultery are evident in this anecdote.
Plainly, Constantine's disposition toward the Pericope de Adultera (Jn 7:53-8:11) may have been understandably tainted by his experience here.
(2) Philostorgius relates the remarkable circumstances of the translation of the Gothic Version of the Bible (Book II chapt 5), in which he notes that two whole books of the Bible (probably 1st/2nd Samuel & Kings in the LXX) were left out entirely by the translator (Bishop Urphilas, appointed by Constantine and Eusebius!), in spite of their importance.
This was done "because they are a mere narrative of military exploits, and the Gothic tribes were especially fond of war, and were in ...need of restraints to check their military passions."
Whether or not Constantine or Eusebius (or both) actually ordered this omission, it was a decision done at the highest level (the bishops), and Constantine had a special interest in the Goths.
It is hard to imagine that either Constantine or Eusebius were uninformed of Bishop Urphilas' decision to omit the books of Kings, or that it wasn't discussed. After all, Philostorgius and Photius have knowledge of it, and don't think it is very remarkable.
When all is said and done, it is evident that the bishops and translators were willing to pragmatically omit portions of Holy Scripture they deemed 'unsuitable' when providing translations into other languages in this period. This has great bearing on the variants in other 'versions' (translations) such as the Syriac Peshitta and the Armenian etc. And the Roman Church continued this practice well into the 9th century.
Elijah left Hanging
And the books of the Kings are not an insignificant portion of Holy Scripture: these contain the stories of Elijah and Elisha the prophets, who are referenced repeatedly in the New Testament. Dropping these books leaves large parts of the Gospel story unexplained and even incomprehensible.
Philostorgius then, through the hands of Photius, preserves for us key information on events and attitudes for this critical period in which both Codex Sinaiticus and Vaticanus were produced, probably by under the direction of Eusebius at the orders of Emperor Constantine.
Translator's Biography of Philostorgius
ALL that is known with certainty of Philostorgius is that he was a native of Cappadocia, and was born of humble parentage about the year A. D. 364. It would seem he came to Constantinople in his youth to complete his studies; but it is uncertain whether he was educated for the legal or for the ecclesiastical profession. In later life he composed a History of the Church, comprised in twelve books from the beginning of the Arian schism down to the year A. D. 425.
The work itself is no longer extant; but we have an Epitome [summary] of it compiled by Photius, who was appointed to the Patriarchal see of Constantinople, A. D. 853, and under whom the schism between the Eastern and Western churches was formally consummated. We have also a short notice of this work in the Bibliotheca of the same learned writer (Myriobiblion, Cod. 40). It is to be observed that Photius, although he himself was the author [cause] of the expulsion of the term "Filioque" from the Nicene Creed, inveighs throughout his Epitome against Philostorgius as a heretic and impious person, and as a friend and apologist of Arius, Eusebius of Nicomedia, Apollinaris, and other heretics of the fourth and fifth centuries.
Philostorgius would seem to have been a person possessed of a considerable amount of general information, and he has inserted in his narrative many curious geographical and other details about remote and unknown countries, and more especially about the interior of Asia and Africa.
He was rather inclined to credulity, in regard to portents, monsters, prodigies, and other wonderful things, of which he gives accounts at considerable length; and Photius himself vehemently censures him for his absurdity in attributing miracles to those whom the patriarch himself regarded as heretics. He is quoted by Gibbon in the 18th, 19th, and 20th chapters of his “Decline and Fall,” not however without a caution against his Arian predilections and his partiality to the cause of Gallus.
The Epitome was translated into Latin, with comments by J. Gothofredus, and published in quarto at Geneva in 1642; as also by H. de Valois, under tile title of " Compendium Historiae Ecclesiasticae Philostorgii, quod dictavit Photius Patriarcha," Paris, 1673, with notes. It has also been translated into French, and published at Paris in 1676, under the title Abregé de l'Histoire de l'Eglise de Philostorge. It appears now for the first time in an English translation.
Edward Walford, M. A., Translator (p. 428)
"The following notice and short bibliography is taken from J. Quasten, Patrology, vol. 3, pp.532-4:
'Philostorgius was born about 368 at Borissus in Cappadocia Secunda but went at the age of twenty to Constantinople where he spent most of his life. Though a layman he became a follower and warm admirer of Eunomius (cf. above, p. 306).
While at Constantinople he published between 425 and 433 a Church History in twelve books covering the period 300-425 ostensibly a continuation of Eusebius but in reality a late apology for the extreme Arianism of Eunomius. Photius describes (Bibl. cod. 40) its size, content, style and tendency as follows:
'Read the so-called Ecclesiastical History by Philostorgius the Arian, the spirit of which is different from that of nearly all other ecclesiastical historians. He extols all Arians, but abuses and insults all the orthodox, so that this work is not so much a history as a panegyric of the heretics, and nothing but a barefaced attack upon the orthodox. His style is elegant, his diction often poetical, though not to such an extent as to be tedious or disagreeable. His figurative use of words is very expressive and makes the work both pleasant and agreeable to read; sometimes, however, these figures are overbold and far-fetched, and create an impression of being frigid and ill-timed. The language is variously embellished even to excess, so that the reader imperceptibly finds himself involved in a disagreeable obscurity. In many instances the author introduces appropriate moral reflections of his own. He starts from the devotion of Arius to the heresy and its first beginnings, and ends with the recall of the impious Aetius. This Aetius was removed from his office by his brother heretics, since he outdid them in wickedness, as Philostorgius himself unwillingly confesses. He was recalled and welcomed by the impious Julian. The history, in one volume and six books, goes down to this period. The author is a liar and the narrative often fictitious. He chiefly extols Aetius and Eunomius for their learning, as having alone cleansed the doctrines of faith overlaid by time, therein showing himself a monstrous liar. He also praises Eusebius of Nicomedia (whom he calls the Great), Theophilus the Indian, and several others, for their lives and wonderful works. He severely attacks Acacius, bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, for his extreme severity and invincible craftiness, in which, he declares, Acacius surpassed all his fellow-heretics, however filled they were with hatred of one another, as well as those who held different religious opinions. This was the extent of our reading. Soon afterwards six other books were found in another volume, so that the whole appears to have filled twelve books. The initial letters of each book are so arranged that they form the name of the author. The work goes down to the time of Theodosius the Younger, when, after the death of Honorius, Theodosius handed over the throne of the West to his cousin Valentinian the Younger, the son of Constantius and Placidia. Notwithstanding his rage against the orthodox, Philostorgius does not venture to attack Gregory the Theologian [i.e. of Nazianzus], but unwillingly accepts his doctrines. His attempt to slander Basil the Great only had the effect of increasing his reputation. He was forced to admit the vigour and beauty of his sermons from actual knowledge, although he timidly calls Basil overbold and inexperienced in controversy, because he ventured to attack the writings of Eunomius." (SPCK)
- Photius, Myriobiblion, Cod. 40
Apart from this interesting report Photius published separately an Epitome, a series of excerpts culled from the twelve books. Since Philostorgius' work has perished, this Epitome serves as a skeleton for its reconstruction. It survives in a number of manuscripts whose archetype is Cod. Barocc. 142 s. XIV. Scattered fragments are also extant in the Passio Artemii composed by John of Rhodos in the ninth century, in Suidas and in a Vita Constantini found in Cod. Angelicus 22 and edited by Opitz; still others in the Thesaurus orthodoxae fidei by Nicetas Acominatus, and in two epigrams of the Anthologia Palatina. These remains show that Philostorgius used excellent sources no longer extant, especially documents of Arian origin, which furnish very valuable information for the history of this controversy and its chief personalities. For this reason the loss of the complete text is deplorable despite its bias and inaccuracy.
One of the fragments reveals that Philostorgius wrote earlier a Refutation of Porphyry and an Encomium on Eunomius of which we know nothing.
Editions: MG 65, 459-624. -- Crit. ed.: J. BIDEZ, Philostorgius Kirchengeschichte: GCS 21 (1913) 1-150; Anfang der Artemii Passio mit Philostorgius Angaben über Artemius, ibid. 151-157. -- H. G. OPITZ, Die Vita Constantini des Cod. Ang. Gr. 22: Byz 9 (1934) 535-593 (contains the complete text of the Vita with the fragments of Philostorgius). -- New fragments: P. HESELER, Neues zur 'Vita Constantini' des Codex Angelicus 22: Byz 10 (1935) 399-402. --J. BIDEZ, Fragments nouveaux de Philostorge sur la vie de Constantin: Byz 10 (1935) 403-442.
Translation: English: E. WALFORD, The Ecclesiastical History of Sozomen... also the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius as Epitomized by Photius. London, 1855.
Studies: P. BATIFFOL, Fragmente der Kirchengeschichte des Philostorgius: RQ. 3 (1889) 252-289; idem, Die Textüberlieferung der Kirchengeschichte des Philostorgius: RQ 4 (1890) 134-143; idem, Quaestiones Philostorgianae (thesis). Paris, 1891; idem, Un historiographe anonyme arien du IVe siecle: RQ9 (1895) 57-97 (a source of Philostorgius). -- L. JEEP, Zur Überlieferung des Philostorgius (TU 17, 3b, 2). Leipzig, 1899. --J. R. ASMUS, Ein Beitrag zur Rekonstruktion der Kirchengeschichte des Philo-storgios: BZ 4 (1895) 30-44. -- J. BIDEZ, GCS 21 (1913) IX-CLXIII (important introductions on manuscripts, sources, life, education and purpose of Philostorgius). J. MARQUART, Die schwarzen Syrer des Philostorgios: ThLZ 38 (1913) 705-709. --G. FRITZ, DTC 12 (1935) 1495-1498.
I believe a new translation of Philostorgius into English is planned, which will include fragments discovered since 1855."
- From tertullian.org
Photius (Photios) Patriarch of Constantinople
Patriarch of Constantinople (858-867 and 877-886, feast day February 6), is considered the greatest of all Byzantine patriarchs. Extremely learned in ancient Greek literature and philosophy as well as Christian theology, he was originally professor of philosophy at the famous University of Constantinople -- the first university (or "higher school") to be established in medieval Europe, at a time when the West was still stuck in the mire of the barbaric Dark Ages.
Photios was perhaps responsible for a new codification of canon (church) law, the Collection of 14 Titles, and probably for a new legal code, the Epanagoge, which spelled out a new importance for the patriarch with respect to the Emperor.
Photius Converts the Slavs
But he is perhaps best known for his leading role in the conversion of the Slavic peoples. It was Photios who, correctly understanding the inner psychology of the semi-barbaric Moravian Slavs (in today's Czechoslovakia), dispatched to convert them in 862, at their request, the Apostles to the Slavs, Cyril (or Konstantinos) and his brother Methodios, two Greeks from Thessalonike learned in the Slavonic language and, most important, to translate the Greek liturgy into Slavonic.
Rome (850 A.D.) Witholds Liturgy from Slavs
In this way Photios bound them to Constantinople instead of to Rome which was also seeking to convert them but would not permit the liturgy to be translated into Slavonic.
Photios was also primarily responsible for converting the Bulgars, then wavering between Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy. It was Photios' conversion of the Moravians and Bulgars through the work of Cyril and Methodios that later led to the Byzantine conversion of the Russian Slavs.
Falsely Branded a Heretic by Latin Church
In addition, Photios established, or reorganized, the patriarchal school in Constantinople for the education of priests in literature and philosophy as well as in theology. (It is the direct ancestor of the modern patriarchal school at Halki). Until publication of Father Dvornik's recent work on Patriarch Photios, he was considered by the Roman Church (not of course by the Orthodox for whom he has always been a great ecclesiastical hero) as the arch-heretic, the one most responsible for originating the schism or split between the Churches of Rome and Constantinople, the first to formulate Orthodox Greek charges against innovations (kenotomies) in doctrine and practices of the Roman Church. But these were usually teachings propounded not so much by the Latins of Rome as by the recently converted Germans, who had sent missionaries into Bulgaria. In particular they taught the doctrine of the flioque (that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and Son), contrary to explicit pronouncements of the early Ecumenical Councils that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father (alone). (Ekporevetai ek tou Patros). The latter is the view of the Orthodox, a belief considered necessary in order to preserve the unitary nature of God -- since there can be only one fundamental archic source for the Godhead, not two. If there are two sources, there would in effect be two Gods.
It was the precedents and the increase in patriarchal authority that developed under Photios which enabled the Church and subsequent patriarchs to surmount the difficult times which followed for both the state and Church. Indeed, by the time of the apogee of the Byzantine Empire in the late tenth and early eleventh century when it had become without question the most powerful, richest, cultured, and sophisticated state in the world, the patriarchal court of Constantinople had become second to none in splendor and in the respect accorded it.
The Hagia Sophia
Within his cathedral church, the incomparable Hagia Sophia, whose dome seemed to "hang suspended as if from heaven itself," to quote the Byzantine poet George of Pisidia, and whose mosaics glittered from their places on the walls, the patriarch officiated in the most impressive ecclesiastical edifice in all Christendom.
To take care of the liturgical needs of the "Great Church" (as the Greeks always called it), Emperor Justinian decreed in 537 that there be constantly in attendance a huge staff consisting of sixty priests, ten deacons, forty deaconesses, ninety subdeacons, one hundred readers, twenty five chanters, and one hundred custodians.
No wonder the Russian envoys, sent to Constantinople in 988 to compare its religious services with those of other religions they were considering adopting, were so awed by the splendor and the sublimity of the Liturgy that, on their return to their capital city of Kiev, they declared to their master Prince Vladimir the Great, that in Hagia Sophia they thought they were "in Heaven itself." So far-reaching was the fame of Hagia Sophia that it became almost mythical -- being known to the far-off Anglo-Saxons of England who borrowed not only aspects of Byzantine art but even the title of Basileus for their king and whose own first Archbishop of Canterbury was in fact a Greek, the missionary Theodore from Tarsus in Asia Minor. Even the Vikings in distant Scandinavia and in Russland referred to Constantinople as Miklegard or Tsargrad (the Emperor's city), of which the chief jewel was Hagia Sophia.
Hagia Sophia and the Patriarchate were noted in the medieval world of both East and West for the enormous number of relics preserved there and in the church of the Holy Apostles, dating from the time of Christ or shortly thereafter: the true cross, the crown of thorns, the Virgin's girdle and robe -- the latter two in particular looked upon by the Byzantine populace as the palladia (protectors) of Constantinople. Numerous stories remain from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries recounting dangerous journeys made by Russian pilgrims to Constantinople, not to speak of Western clerics who earlier, before the time of the schism in 1054, had come to Constantinople to see the Church of the Holy Apostles (where the Byzantine Emperors were all buried), to participate in the liturgy in Hagia Sophia with the remarkably moving chant of the patriarchal antiphonal choirs, and above all, to worship the sacred relics dating from the time of Christ. Some modern scholars believe that Pope Gregory the Great, after he was papal envoy in Constantinople (before 590), in imitation of the chanting in Hagia Sophia, which he had often heard, introduced into St. Peter's at Rome the so-called Gregorian chant.
Constantine and Adultery
In about 326 A.D., Emperor Constantine, apparently at the instigation of his Queen, has his son brutally executed. Then upon discovering his error, has his Queen boiled alive in rage, for adultery.
Book II: Chapter 4
"Philostorgius asserts that Constantine was induced by the fraudulent artifices of his step-mother to put his son Crispus to death; and afterwards, upon detecting her in the act of adultery with one of his Cursores, ordered the former to be suffocated [to death] in a hot bath.
He adds, that long afterwards Constantine was poisoned by his brothers during his stay at Nicomedia, by way of atonement for the violent death of Crispus."
- Photius, Epitome (Book II, Ch.4)
The Missing Books of Kings
Here Philostorgius documents how and why Bishop Urphilas, apparently under the authority of Eusebius, left out the 1st and 2nd books of Kings (which contain the exploits of Elijah and Elisha) in translating the Bible for the Goths,.
Book II: Chapter 5
"He [Philostorgius] also says that Urphilas19 brought over as settlers to the Roman territory a large body of persons who had been driven out of their ancient abodes for the sake of their religion. These came from among the Scythians, north of the Ister, and were formerly called Getae, though now they are better known as Goths.
And he asserts that this race of men were brought over to the faith of Christ in the following manner: While Valerian and Gallienus were administering the empire, a large multitude of Scythians, who lived north of the Ister, made an incursion into the Roman territory, and laid waste a great part of Europe by their predatory excursions and afterwards having crossed over into Asia, invaded Cappadocia and Galatia.
Here they took a large quantity of prisoners, among whom were not a few ecclesiastics; and they returned to their own country laden with spoils and booty. These pious captives, by their intercourse with the barbarians, brought over a great number of the latter to the true faith, and persuaded them to embrace the Christian religion in the place of heathen superstitions. Of the number of these captives were the ancestors of Urphilas himself, who were of Cappadocian descent, deriving their origin from a village called Sadagolthina, near time city of Parnassus.
This Urphilas, then, was the leader of this pious band which came out from among the Goths, and became eventually their first bishop. The following was the method of his appointment. Being sent by the then king of the Goths on an embassy to the court of the emperor Constantine, (for the barbarous tribes in those parts were subject to the emperor,) he was ordained bishop of the Christians among the Goths, by Eusebius and the other prelates that were with him.
Accordingly he took the greatest care of them in many ways, and amongst others, he converted their language to a written form, and translated into their vulgar tongue all the books of holy Scripture, with the exception of the Books of Kings which he omitted, because they are a mere narrative of military exploits, and the Gothic tribes were especially fond of war, and were in more need of restraints to check their military passions than of spurs to urge them on to deeds of war.
(But those books [of the Kings] have the greatest influence in exciting the minds of readers, since they are regarded with great veneration, and are adapted to lead the hearts of believers to the worship of God. )
This multitude of converts were located by the Emperor in the different parts of Moesia, as he thought best, and he held Urphilas himself in such high honour, that he would often speak of him in conversation as the Moses of his day.
Philostorgius is loud in his praises of this Urphilas; 20 and asserts that both he and the Goths who were under his spiritual rule, were followers of his own heretical opinions [Arianism]."
- Photius, Epitome (Book II, Ch.5) pp. 435f
The following text was taken from the introduction to:
The Gothic Version (Gothic/Greek) of Wilhem Streitberg, (Heidelberg, 1919),
who in turn took the text from the critical edition of Photius by Bidez (Leipzig, 1913).
The church history of Philostorgius (c. 425 A.D.), a continuation of the church history of Eusebius of Caesarea, is given to us in the Epitome of Photius (MSG. 65), critical edition of Bidez (Leipzig, 1913). [translated from the German preface]
Book II: Chapter 5
οτι Ουρφιλαν φησι κατα τουτους τους χρονους εκ των περαν Ιστρου Σκυθων, ους οι μεν παλαι Γετας, οι δε νυν Γοτθους καλουσι, πολυν εις την Ρωμαιων διαβιβασαι λαον, δι ευσεβειαν εκ των οικειων ηθων ελαθεντας. χριστιανισαι δε το εθνος τροπω τοιωδε.
βασιλευοντος Ουαλφιανου και Γαλλιηνου, μοιρα Σκυθων βαρεια των περαν του Ιστρου, διεφησαν εις την Ρωμαιων και πολλην μεν κατεδραμον της Ευρωπης. διαβαντες δε και εις την Ασιαν, την τε Γαλατιαν και την Καππαδοκιαν επηλθον και πολλους ελαβον αιχμαλωτους, αλλους τε και των κατειλεγμενων τω κληρω. και μετα πολλης λειας απεκομισθησαν οικαδε.
ο δε αιχμαλωτος και ευσεβης ομιλος συναναστραφεντες τοις βαρβαροις, ουκ ολιγους τε αυτων εις το ευσεβες μετεποιησαν, και τα χριστιανων φρονειν αντι της Ελληνιδος δοξης παρεσκευασαν. ταυτης της αιχμαλωσιας γεγονεσαν και οι Ουρφιλα προγονοι, Καππαδοκαι μεν γενος, πολεως δε πλησιον Παρνασσου, εκ κωμης δε Σαδαγολθινα καλουμενης.
ο τοινυν Ουρφιλας ουτος καθηγησατο της εξοδου των ευσεβων, επισκοπος αυτων πρωτος καταστας. κατεστη δε ωδε. παρα του την αρχην εχοντος του εθνους επι των Κωνσταντινου χρονων εις πρεσβειαν συν αλλοις αποσταλεις - και γαρ και τα τηδε βαρβαρα εθνη υπεκεκλιτο τω βασιλει -υπο Ευσεβιου και των συν αυτω επισκοπων χειροτονειται των εν τη Γετικη χριστιανιζοντων.
Και τα τε αλλα αυτων επεμελειτο και γραμματων αυτοις οικειων ευρετης καταστας, μετεφρασεν εις την αυτων φωνην τας γραφας απασας, πλην γε δη των βασιλειων, ατε των μεν πολεμων ιστοριαν εχουσιων, του δε εθνους οντος φιλοπολεμου, και δεομενου μαλλον χαλινου της επι τας μαχας ορμης, αλλ' ουχι του προς ταυτα παροξυνοντος. οπερ ισχυν εχει ταυτα ποιειν, σεβασμια τε μαλιστα νομιζομενα, και προς την του θειου θεραπειαν τους πειθομενους καταρυθμιζοντα.
ιδρυσατο δ' ο βασιλευς τον αυτομολον τουτον λαον περι τα της Μυσιας χωρια, ως εκαστω φιλον ην. και τον Ουρφιλαν δια πλειστης ηγε τιμης, ως και πολλακις ο' εφ' ημων Μωσης' λεγειν περι αυτου. λιαν δε ουτος τον ανδρα θειαζει. και της αιρετικης αυτου δοξης εραστην αυτον τε και τους υπ' αυτον αναγραφει.
- Photius, Epitome (Book II, Ch.5) pp. 435f