Excerpts from Hippolytus of Rome

01.  On the tenets of the philosophers.

02.  On the systems of the astrologers.

03.  On the Gnostics.

04.  On  Peratae and Sethians.

05.  Concerning Simon Magus.

06.  Concerning Valentinus.

07.  Concerning Basilides.

08.  Concerning Marcion and Carpocrates.

09.  Concerning the Docetae.

10.  Concerning the Noetians.

11.  On Elchasai and the Jews.

12.  Hippolytus, the rightful bishop in opposition to Callistus.



Now it seems expedient, even at the expense of a more protracted investigation, not to shrink from labour; for we shall leave behind us no trifling auxiliary to human life against the recurrence of error, when all are made to behold, in an obvious light, the clandestine rites of these men, and the secret orgies which, retaining under their management, they deliver to the initiated only. But none will refute these, save the Holy Spirit bequeathed unto the Church, which the Apostles, having in the first instance received, have transmitted to those who have rightly believed. But we (the bishops), as being their successors, and as participators in this grace, high-priesthood, and office of teaching, as well as being reputed guardians of the Church, must not be found deficient in vigilance, or disposed to suppress correct doctrine. Not even, however, labouring with every energy of body and soul, do we tire in our attempt adequately to render our Divine Benefactor a fitting return; and yet withal we do not so requite Him in a becoming manner, except we are not remiss in discharging the trust committed to us, but careful to complete the measure of our particular opportunity, and to impart to all without grudging whatever the Holy Ghost supplies (Refutation of all heresies, Proemium).

Those who, desirous of learning, addict themselves to the truth, will be assisted by our discourse to become, when they have learned the fundamental principles of the heresies, more intelligent not only for the easy refutation of those who have attempted to deceive them, but that also, when they have ascertained the avowed opinions of the wise men, and have been made acquainted with them, that they shall neither be confused by them as ignorant persons would, nor become the dupes of certain individuals acting as if from some authority; nay, more than this, they shall be on their guard against those that are allowing themselves to become victims to these delusions (R4.45).

I shall not be silent as regards the opinions of (heresiarchs) who follow these (Ophites in succession); nay, not one (speculation) will I leave unrefuted, if it is possible to remember all (their tenets), and the secret orgies of these (heretics) which one may fairly style orgies,-for they who propagate such audacious opinions are not far distant from the anger (of God) (R6.1).

There are, however, among the Gnostics diversities of opinion; but we have decided that it would not be worth while to enumerate the silly doctrines of these (heretics), inasmuch as they are (too) numerous and devoid of reason, and full of blasphemy (R7.24).

The school of these heretics during the succession of such bishops, continued to acquire strength and augmentation, from the fact that Zephyrinus and Callistus helped them to prevail. Never at any time, however, have we been guilty of collusion with them; but we have frequently offered them opposition, and have refuted them, and have forced them reluctantly to acknowledge the truth. And they, abashed and constrained by the truth, have confessed their errors for a short period, but after a little, wallow once again in the same mire (R9.2).

And so it was that Callistus succeeded in inducing Zephyrinus to create continually disturbances among the brethren, while he himself took care subsequently, by knavish words, to attach both factions in good-will to himself ... Callistus perverted Sabellius himself, and this, too, though he had the ability of rectifying this heretic's error. For (at any time) during our admonition Sabellius did not evince obduracy; but as long as he continued alone with Callistus, he was wrought upon to relapse into the system of Cleomenes by this very Callistus (R9.6).

Zephyrinus would in this way continue to keep up ceaseless disturbance among the people. And we, becoming aware of his sentiments, did not give place to him, but reproved and withstood him for the truth's sake. And he hurried headlong into folly, from the fact that all consented to his hypocrisy -we, however, did not do so- and called us worshippers of two gods, disgorging, independent of compulsion, the venom lurking within him (R9.6).

And thus there appeared another beside Himself. But when I say another, I do not mean that there are two Gods, but that it is only as light of light, or as water from a fountain, or as a ray from the sun. For there is but one power, which is from the All; and the Father is the All, from whom cometh this Power, the Word. And this is the mind which came forth into the world, and was manifested as the Son of God (Against the Heresy of One Noetus, 11).

Thus, after the death of Zephyrinus, supposing that he (Callistus) had obtained (the position) after which he so eagerly pursued (the Pontificate), he excommunicated Sabellius, as not entertaining orthodox opinions. He acted thus from apprehension of me, and imagining that he could in this manner obliterate the charge against him among the churches, as if he did not entertain strange opinions. He was then an impostor and knave, and in process of time hurried away many with him (R9.7).

And many persons were gratified with his regulation, as being stricken in conscience, and at the same time having been rejected by numerous sects; while also some of them, in accordance with our condemnatory sentence, had been by us forcibly ejected from the Church. Now such disciples as these passed over to these followers of Callistus, and served to crowd his school. This one propounded the opinion, that, if a bishop was guilty of any sin, if even a sin unto death, he ought not to be deposed. About the time of this man, bishops, priests, and deacons, who had been twice married, and thrice married, began to be allowed to retain their place among the clergy (R9.7).

(Elchasai) alleges, as to those who have been involved in every description of lasciviousness, and filthiness, and in acts of wickedness, if only any of them be a believer, that he determines that such a one, on being converted, and obeying the book, and believing its contents, should by baptism receive remission of sins ... And notwithstanding we offered resistance to this, and did not permit many for any length of time to become victims of the delusion. For we carried conviction to the people, when we affirmed that this was the operation of a spurious spirit, and the invention of a heart inflated with pride (R9.8).

It now seems to us that the tenets of both all the Greeks and barbarians have been sufficiently explained by us, and that nothing has remained unrefuted either of the points about which philosophy has been busied, or of the allegations advanced by the heretics. And from these very explanations the condemnation of the heretics is obvious, for having either purloined their doctrines, or derived contributions to them from some of those tenets elaborately worked out by the Greeks, and for having advanced (these opinions) as if they originated from God (R9.26).

(The Doctrine of the Truth): The different principles, however, of what will come into existence, He first fabricated, viz., fire and spirit, water and earth, from which diverse elements He proceeded to form His own creation. And some objects He formed of one essence, but others He compounded from two, and others from three, and others from four. And those formed of one substance were immortal, for in their case dissolution does not follow, for what is one will never be dissolved. Those, on the other hand, which are formed out of two, or three, or four substances, are dissoluble; wherefore also are they named mortal (R10.28).

(The Doctrine of the Truth): The Logos was in the Father Himself, bearing the will of His progenitor, and not being unacquainted with the mind of the Father ... when the Father ordered the world to come into existence, the Logos one by one completed each object of creation, thus pleasing God ... I confess that angels are of fire, and I maintain that female spirits are not present with them. And I am of opinion that sun and moon and stars, in like manner, are produced from fire and spirit, and are neither male nor female (R10.29).

You shall escape the boiling flood of hell's eternal lake of fire and the eye ever fixed in menacing glare of fallen angels chained in Tartarus as punishment for their sins; and you shall escape the worm that ceaselessly coils for food around the body whose scum has bred it. Now such (torments) as these shall thou avoid by being instructed in a knowledge of the true God. And thou shalt possess an immortal body, even one placed beyond the possibility of corruption, just like the soul (R10.30).


From his own writings, Hippolytus appears as the rightful Bishop of Rome who upheld the true apostolic tradition against the unworthy pontiff Callistus, an impostor and a villain no less than a laxist and a heretic. The surprising reconciliation of the two bitterly opposing groups subsequently took place, following which the Callistians endorsed him as another glorious martyr in a united Church. However, he was only acknowledged as a presbyter or, at most, as a bishop in some uncertain see.


An alternative stance that relates these events to the struggles that rent the Roman Christians in the times of Maxentius is examined in Did Tertullian really exist? Did Cyprian? Did Hippolytus? Once more tolerant tetrarchs overthrew Diocletian’s system in the west, African and Roman rigorists forcefully attempted to depose the prelates that yielded or fled under persecution. Whereas in North Africa Donatus Magnus and Caecilian of Carthage attacked one another through the works of Tertullian and Cyprian respectively, the conflicting Roman ecclesiastical heads Heraclius and Eusebius contended under the figures of Hippolytus and Callistus.



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