Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries

By Everett Ferguson | Go to book overview

20. Writings Attributed to Hippolytus

Major challenges to the unity of authorship of the writings attributed to Hippolytus have resulted in assigning the major works belonging to the third century to two or possibly three authors.1 Treating works in the Hippolytan corpus relevant to the study of baptism together in this chapter is a matter of convenience for organizational purposes and not an affirmation that I accept common authorship. I treat them in the order of their relationship with a historical figure named Hippolytus. The Commentary on Daniel belongs to someone named Hippolytus;2 it is associated with the treatise On Christ and Antichrist; the Against Noetus is probably authentic; the Apostolic Tradition is a composite community document, perhaps originating with the “Hippolytan” community in Rome but expanded and modified later;3 and On the Holy Theophany I judge to have no connection with Hippolytus or the third century but ascribed to him as part of a later tendency to use his name as a way of

1. Allen Brent, Hippolytus and the Roman Church in the Third Century: Communities in Tension before the Emergence of a Monarch-Bishop (Leiden: Brill, 1995), chapters 4 and 5, reviews and evaluates the arguments by various scholars for two separate authors. He identifies the reconstructed statue of Hippolytus now at the entrance to the Vatican Library as originally a female figure that was accepted by the “Hippolytan” church-school community in Rome as a personification of wisdom (chaps. 1–2). The list of works on the plinth of the statue were community works and not one person’s writings. Of two works not listed on the statue, the Refutation of All Heresies (and writings associated with it) came from an early presbyter-bishop of the community antagonistic to the community led by Zephyrinus and Callistus, and Against Noetus (and writings associated with it) came from his successor (named Hippolytus) who effected reconciliation with the rival (majority) group (chapter 3). I find the case for different authorship more successful than the argument that the monarch bishop was not established in Rome until 235 (chaps. 6–7), although my disagreement is not so much about the situation described as the definition given to a monarch bishop. J. A. Cerrato, Hippolytus between East and West: The Commentaries and the Provenance of the Corpus (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), favors an eastern origin for the commentaries ascribed to Hippolytus.

2. Different from the author of the Refutation of All Heresies — Brent, Hippolytus and the Roman Church, pp. 273–276, 280–284.

3. Brent, Hippolytus and the Roman Church, pp. 184–203, 301–306, 458–475.

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