(ca. 215 ad)

 3rd cent. Statue of Hippolytus,
 Lateran Museum, Rome

The Following is adapted from: The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. Cross, Livingstone; (OUP, 1983).

HIPPOLYTUS of ROME (c.170–c.236), ecclesiastical writer and Doctor. Though the most important 3rd-cent. theologian of the Roman Church, the facts of his life as well as his writings were soon forgotten in the W., perhaps by reason of his schismatic activities and of the fact that he wrote in Greek. Of his early life nothing is known. The assertion of Photius that he was a disciple of St Irenaeus is doubtful. During the first decades of the 3rd cent. he must have been an important personality among the Roman presbyters; when Origen came to Rome (c.212) he attended one of his sermons. Soon afterwards Hippolytus took an active part in attacking the doctrines of Sabellius. He refused to accept the teaching of Pope Zephyrinus (198–217), and under his successor, Callistus (217–22), whom he rejected as a heretic, he seems to have allowed himself to be elected as a rival Bp. of Rome. He continued to attack Callistus’ successors, Urban (222–30) and Pontianus (230–5). In the persecution of the Emp. Maximin (235–8), however, he and Pontianus were exiled together to Sardinia, and it is very probable that before his death he was reconciled to the other party at Rome; for under Pope Fabian (236–50) his body with that of Pontianus was brought to Rome (236).

    The Liberian Catalogue (q.v., in the part dated c.255) already considers him a Catholic martyr and gives him the rank of a priest, not of a bishop. When these facts had been forgotten in Rome, many legends grew up round his person. Pope Damasus (366–84) makes him a priest of the Novatianist Schism, a view later accepted by Prudentius in his ‘Passion of St Hippolytus’. In the Roman Passionals of the 7th and 8th cents. he is represented as a soldier converted by St Laurence, a legend which long survived in the Roman Breviary. He also has been confused with a martyr of the same name who was buried at Portus, of which city he was believed to have been a bishop. Feast day in the East, 30 Jan.; in the West, 13 Aug.

A list of several of Hippolytus’ writings as well as his Easter tables were discovered on a statue, long thought to portray him, but now recognized as originally a female figure, perhaps personifying one of the sciences; it was found in Rome and heavily restored in 1551; it is now kept in the Vatican Library. Many other works are listed by Eusebius of Caesarea and St Jerome. Hippolytus’ principal work is his ‘Refutation of all Heresies’ (not listed on the statue). Books 4–10 of this were found in a MS on Mount Athos and published (together with the already known Book 1) under the title ‘Philosophumena’ in 1851 at Oxford by E. Miller, who attributed it to Origin; but J. J. I. von Döllinger argued that its author was Hippolytus. Books 2–3 are lost. Its main aim is to show that the philosophical systems and mystery religions described in Books 1–4 are responsible for the heresies dealt with in the later Books. In the summary of ‘true doctrine’ at the end of the work, Hippolytus expresses his own trinitarian theology in a form of Logos doctrine calculated to answer the charge of ditheism which Callistus had levelled against him. For this purpose he follows the Greek Apologists, distinguishing between two states of the Word, the one immanent and eternal, the other external and temporal as the Father’s voice. Containing in Himself all the Father’s ideas, the Word is able to actualize them as the Father’s creative agent. The absence of any explicit reference to the Holy Spirit in this system lends colour to Callistus’ accusation; nevertheless Hippolytus frequently refers to the Holy Spirit at other points in the work. The ‘Refutation’ illustrates another important divergence between his teaching and that of the Roman bishops, namely his strenuous opposition to the mitigation of the penitential system necessitated by the influx of pagan converts in large numbers.

The other writings usually attributed to Hippolytus are: commentaries on Daniel and the Song of Songs as well as various other exegetical works, some of which survive only in translations or in fragments; a discourse against the followers of Noetus; a historical work entitled the Chronicon; a treatise on the nature of the universe directed against Plato, which survives only in fragments; and the Syntagma, an anti-heretical work, of which nothing remains. The statue also attributes to him the important treatise on the ‘Apostolic Tradition’ (q.v.), an attribution very generally accepted. Differences in style and theology, especially between the ‘Refutation’ and the Contra Noetum, led P. Nautin to attribute some of the works to a Hippolytus whom he identified as an E. bishop, and others to a virtually unknown Roman presbyter Josipus. Although the Josipus-theory won little support, Nautin’s view that the works are to be divided between two authors has been more widely accepted. V. Loi ascribed some to Hippolytus of Rome and others to a second Hippolytus whom he believed to have been an E. bishop. Apart from these works, the ‘Little Labyrinth’ (q.v.) has sometimes been attributed to Hippolytus, as has a Paschal Homily, at one time ascribed to St John Chrysostom; this is prob. of a later date.

The first collected edition was that of J. A. Fabricius (2 vols., Hamburg, 1716–18; repr. with additions in J. P. Migne, PG 10. 261–962). Crit. edn. by H. Achelis, G. Bonwetsch, and others in GCS (4 vols., 1897–1955) Separate edns. of Refutatio omnium haeresium by M. Marcovich (Patristische Texte and Studien, 25; 1986 [occasionally conjectural]); comm. on Dan., with Fr. tr., by M. Lefévre and G. Bardy (SC 14; 1947); and Contra Noetum by P. Nautin (Paris, 1949); also, with Eng. tr., by R. Butterworth, SJ (Heythrop Monographs, 2; London, 1977). Paschal Homily ed., with Fr. tr., by P. Nautin, PSS, Homélies Pascales, 1 (SC 27; 1950); improved edn., with comm., by G. Visonà (Studia Patristica Mediolanensia, 15; Milan, 1988). Eng. tr. of many of his writings in ANCL (vols. 6 and 9, pt. 2); of the Refutation of all Heresies by F. Legge (2 vols., 1921). For edns. of the ‘Apostolic Tradition’, see bibl. s.v. J. J. I. von Döllinger, Hippolytus und Kallistus (1853; Eng. tr., 1876); G. Ficker, Studien zur Hippolytfrage (1893); H. Achelis, Hippolytstudien (TU 16, Heft 4, 1897; several other items in this series are devoted to Hippolytus); A. d’Alès, La Théologie de Saint Hippolyte (1906); G. Bovini, Sant’Hippolito dottore e martire del III secolo (1943); P. Nautin, Hippolyte et Josipe (1947); A. Hamel, Kirche bei Hippolyt von Rom (Beiträge zur Förderung christlicher Theologie, 2. Reihe, 49; 1951). R. Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., L’omelia ‘In S. Pascha’ dello Pseudo-Ippolito di Roma (Pubblicazioni dell’Universitià Cattolica der Sacro Cuore. Contributi, 3rd set., Scienze Filologiche e Letteratura, 16; 1967), with refs. to earlier works. Ricerche su Ippolito (Studia Ephemeridis ‘Augustinianum’, 13; 1977), esp. M. Guarducci, ‘La statua di “Sant’Ippolito” ’ (pp. 17–30, with ref. to earlier art.), and V. Loi, ‘L’identità letteraria di Ippolito di Roma’ (pp. 67–88). A. Zani, La Cristologia di Ippolito (Pubblicazioni der Pontificio Seminario Lombardo in Roma, Ricerche di Scienze Teologische, 22; Brescia [1984]). J. Frickel, Das Dunkel um Hippolyt von Rom: Ein Lösungsversuch: Die Schriften Elenchos und contra Noëtum (Grazer Theologische Studien, 13; 1988). J. Mansfeld, Heresiology in Context: Hippolytus’ Elenchos as a Source for Greek Philosophy (Philosophia Antiqua, 56; Leiden, 1992). A. Brent, Hippolytus and the Roman Church in the Third Century (Supplements to VC, 31; 1995) J. A. Cerrto, Hippolytus between East and West: The Commentaries and the Provenance of the Corpus (Oxford, 2002). CPG 1 (1983), Pp. 256–78 (nos. 1870–925), and Suppl. (1998), pp. 42–6. M. Richard in Dict. Sp. 7 (pt. 1; 1969), cols. 531–71, s.v. See also bibl. to apostolic tradition, esp. the work of J. M. Hanssens.



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