Epiphanius of Salamis: 
Panarion / Adversus Haereses 
(Excerpts on the Council of Nicaea)

Bishop Epiphanius of Salamis wrote a huge work in 3 books cataloguing 80 heresies.  The work has recently been translated into English for the first time - the only complete translation in a modern language.  (Copyright prevents more than extracts being made available).  The title of the work is Panarion, meaning Medicine-chest, but the Latin translations of the 16th century had the title Adversus Haereses, meaning Against the heresies.


(Some readers of this page may find this note compiled from the preface to volume I useful).  Epiphanius was born between 310-320AD in Palestine, educated by monks and grew up in Egypt where he came into personal contact with Valentinian groups, where female members attempted to seduce him.  He founded a monastery at the age of 20.  About 367 he became Bishop of Salamis in Cyprus.  He was involved in the Origenist controversies of the period, although he respected the scholarship of Origen, becoming a friend of St. Jerome.  In 402 or 403 he was induced by Theophilus of Alexandria to travel to Constantinople to attend the Synod of the Oak as part of that prelate's campaign against John Chrysostom.  It is unclear what happened, but it seems possible that he was made aware of the political nature of the synod; he certainly left abruptly.  He died at sea on the way home to Cyprus.

Text and Translation

The English translation is:  (Checked)

Title:      The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis / Translated by Frank Williams.
Author:     Epiphanius, Saint, Bp. of Constantia in Cyprus.
Publisher:  Leiden : Brill, 1987,1994
Description 2 v. ; 25 cm ; hardback
Series:     Nag Hammadi studies vols. 35-36; ISSN: 0169-9350 (vol. 35) and 0929-2470 (vol. 36)
Notes:      Translation of: Panarion
            Includes bibliographical references and index
Contents:   Vol.1. Book I (Sects 1-46), xxx, 359pp -- Vol.2. Books II and III (Sects 47-80, De Fide), xviii, 677pp.
ISBN        90-04-07926-2 (Vol. 1), 90-04-09898-4 (Vol. 2)

The prefaces state that it is based on the following edition of the Greek text:

HOLL, Karl, Epiphanius I: Panarion haer. 1-33, rev. ed. Jürgen Dummer, Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 19??
HOLL, Karl, Epiphanius II: Panarion haer. 34-64, rev. ed. Jürgen Dummer, Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1980
HOLL, Karl, Epiphanius III: Panarion haer. 65-80, De Fide, rev. ed. Jürgen Dummer, Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1985

(The original edition was published in Die grieschischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte, in the 1915, 1928 and 1933).

Vol. 1, p.x states that Holl reviewed the transmission of the text from antiquity in Texte und Untersuchungen 36.2 (1910).  He concluded that the eleven extant manuscripts, none complete, all descend from a single carelessly copied archetype; and that the text (written in Koine dialect) has been further corrupted by Atticizing scribes.

§69 - Against the Arian Nuts (Excerpt)

This excerpt is taken from Vol.2, p.331-2: Book II, Heresy 69, chapter 11.  Note that the translator tells us in the preface that he has chosen to render the word 'heresy' as 'sect'.

11, 1  When this was over the emperor felt concerned for the church, because by now many members often differed with one another and there were many schisms.  He therefore convened an ecumenical council of 318 bishops, whose names are still preserved.  And they condemned Arius' creed in the city of Nicaea, and confessed the orthodox and unswerving creed of the fathers, which has been handed down to us from the apostles and prophets. (2) After the bishops had signed this and condemned the Arian sect, <peace *> was restored.  They passed certain ecclesiastical canons at the council besides, and at the same time decreed with regard to the Passover that there must be one unanimous concord in the celebration of God's holy and supremely excellent day.  For it was variously observed by people; some kept it early, some between [the disputed dates], but others, late. (3) And in a word, there was a great deal of controversy then.  But through the blessed Constantine God directed the right ordering of these things for the sake of peace.

11, 4  Alexander died that same year after Arius' condemnation and these measures ...

§70 - On the schism of the Audians (Excerpt)

This excerpt is taken from Vol. 2, pp.410-411; Book III, Heresy 70, chapter 9.

(2) For they choose to celebrate the Passover with the jews - that is, they contentiously celebrate the Passover at the same time that the Jews are holding their Festival of Unleavened Bread.  And indeed, <it is true> that this used to be the church's custom - even though they tell churchmen a slanderous thing in this regard and say (3) "You abandoned the fathers' Paschal rite in Constantine's time from deference to the emperor, and changed the day to suit the emperor." (4) And some, again, declare with a contentiousness of their own, "You changed the Passover to Constantine's birthday" 29

9, 5  And if the Passover were celebrated on the same day each year, and it had been decided to keep it on that day at the council convoked by Constantine, what they say might be plausible.  But since the rite cannot fall on the same day each year, their argument is worthless.  The emperor was not concerned for his birthday, but for the unity of the church. (6) In fact God accomplished two highly important things through Constantine, the most beloved of God and forever the most blessed. [One was] the gathering of an ecumenical council, and the publication of the creed that was issued at Nicaea and confessed <by> the assembled bishops with their signatures - the deposition of Arius and the declaration to all of the purity of the faith. [The other was] their correction of the Passover for our unity's sake.

9, 7  For long ago, even from the earliest days, the Passover was celebrated at different times in the church... 

(I have omitted to transcribe several pages on the varied methods of calculating Easter used from the second century onwards).

§72 - Against Marcellians (Excerpt)

This excerpt is taken from Vol. 2, pp.424; Book III, Heresy 72, chapter 2.

A Copy of a Letter of Marcellus, Whom the Council Deposed for Heresy

2, 1  Greetings in Christ from Marcellus to his most blessed fellow worker, Julius.

   Some who were formerly convicted of heresy, and whom I confuted at the Council of Nicaea, have dared to write to your Reverence that my opinions are neither orthodox nor in agreement with the church, thus endeavouring to have the charge against themselves transferred to me.  (2)  I therefore felt I must come to Rome and suggest that you send for those who have written against me, so that I could prove, in a direct confrontation, that what they have written against me is untrue, and further, that they persist even now in their former error, and have dared dreadful ventures against the churches of God and us who head them.

2, 3  But they have chosen not to appear, although you have sent presbyters to them and I have spent a year and three full months at Rome ...

(NB: 'the Council' in the heading is not Nicaea.  Marcellus of Ancyra was accused of Sabellianism by the Arians.)

§73 - Against Semi-Arians (Excerpt)

This excerpt is taken from Vol. 2, pp.468; Book III, Heresy 73, chapter 34.

They no longer make even a passing mention of the word 'creature', but confess that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are co-essential - three entities, one essence, one Godhead. (3) This is the true faith which we have received from the ancients, the faith of the prophets, Gospels and apostles, which our fathers and bishops confessed when they met at the Council of Nicaea in the presence of the great and most blessed emperor, Constantine. ...

§74 - Against Pneumatomachi (Excerpt)

This excerpt is taken from Vol. 2, pp.490; Book III, Heresy 74, chapter 14.

14, 4  All the sects are truly "gates of hell," but "They will not prevail against the rock", that is, the truth.  For even though some of them choose to say, "We too profess the creed that was issued at Nicaea; show me from it that the Holy Spirit is counted as divine," they will find themselves confounded even by this. (5) The dispute then was not about the Holy Spirit.  The councils make sure of the matter that arises at a particular time.  Since Arius was directing the insult at the Son, accuracy of language, with additional discussion, was required with regard to him. ...

Constructive feedback is welcomed to Roger Pearse.

Written 22nd December, 2000.

This page has been online since 22nd December 2000.

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