For all this argument about the relationship between Jesus Christ and God the Father, the issues disturbing the Roman church were clearly wide-ranging. 'Hippolytus' turns to criticism of Callistus' lax views on clerical marriage, and refusal to exercise the discipline needed to maintain the purity of the church. Over it all hang suspicions about the administration of church funds and the management of the cemetery (probably the catacomb of Callistus), together with issues arising from persecution, not to mention the offering of hospitality to Christians from abroad who arrive with suspicious books, such as the volume containing the revelations granted to Elchasai. Amongst many other doctrines disliked by 'Hippolytus', this work asserted that Christ was born in the same way as any other human being, had other births in the past, and would have more in the future. The discussion of Elchasai, however, draws 'Hippolytus' away from Callistus to discuss Jewish sects. Now the point of mentioning all this is not simply for completeness. Rather it is to emphasise the fact that it is all too easy to abstract the christological arguments from the general maelstrom of personal rivalries, ethical uncertainties and speculative views of all sorts that were around at the time. Indeed the principal objection to Callistus that 'Hippolytus' had could well have been his attempt to consolidate the 'fractionated' Roman church under a single monepiscopate undergirded by a 'monarchian' theology.25 Be that as it may, Celsus' question clearly did exercise the church at Rome in the first part of the third century, and there was more sympathy for monarchian views of one sort and another than later historians were comfortable to recount - hence, no doubt, the inadequacies of Eusebius' account.
This may also be the right background for considering the question whom Tertullian was challenging in his work Adversus Praxean. There is absolutely no other evidence for a person named Praxeas, and the word could well be a pseudonym - it means 'busy-body'. According to Tertullian, he is referring to the first person to bring this 'wrong-headedness' from Asia to Rome. At first sight this might mean the person 'Hippolytus' calls Epigonus, the disciple of Noetus of Smyrna. According to Tertullian, however, 'Praxeas' is also puffed up with boasting of his status as a confessor. Given the tales 'Hippolytus' tells of Callistus' exploitation of his imprisonment, it is hard not to wonder whether the nickname may not be a cover for criticism of the future bishop of Rome -Tertullian probably wrote about 213, some six years before Callistus succeeded Zephyrinus.
25 Brent, Hippolytus, and Imperial cult; see pt iv, ch. 22, above.
Was this article helpful?