By Luther W. Martin
If one were to unquestioningly accept all of Rome’s assertions, she would have us believe that the Roman Church was the mother of all things good! (Like Sad-dam Hussein’s “Mother of all battles!”).
The last of the living apostles was John the beloved; though not executed as were others of the Twelve, John was exiled to the Island of Patmos, from which location he penned the Book of Revelation. One of John’s students was a man named Polycarp; who, in turn, was an instructor to Irenaeus; by whom a fellow named Hippolytus, was taught. This Hippolytus was born approximately fifty years after the death of the Apostle John.
The memory of Hippolytus and his works, was so out-standing in his day (ca. 200 A.D.), that in later centuries, as the Roman Church evolved, she belatedly canonized him as one of her “saints.” Rome’s wisdom (?) in making a “saint” out of Hippolytus, was further confirmed by the discovery in 1551, of a marble statue, with Greek inscriptions, including a calendar, showing that the statue was dated in the first year of Emperor Alexander Severus, or 222 A.D. The statue was of a figure seated in a chair, with dates and titles of his books and writings. Although the statue was in pieces, craftsmen at the Vatican reassembled it. This statue of Hippolytus was conidered to be a valuable example of Catholic history, and was placed in the Vatican under the oversight of Pope Pius IV, of Council of Trent fame.
Hippolytus was martyred and has been accorded a place in the Roman Breviary (August 22). But now, the plot thickens, as they say.
Long after the Roman Catholic Church awarded all the post-mortem honors to the memory of Hippolytus, a number of his long-lost writings were discovered. The historian Eusebius had written that Hippolytus was the author of many works, which at that time, the historian stated “you will find . . . preserved by many.” Since the time of Eusebius, these works had disappeared and none was known for centuries. However, in 1842, one of Hippolytus’ great works was re-discovered. It was “Philosophoumena” (Philosophizing) and “Refutation of All Heresies.”
Remember now, during the centuries that this writing had been lost, the Roman Church had heaped many honors upon its author. In the mid-1800’s, Dr. Philip Schaff stated that the “Refutation” was “an irrefutable witness against the claims of an infallible papacy, which was entirely unknown in the third century.” And, as another author wrote: “Refutation of All Heresies’ demonstrates the absurdity of Rome’s claim that there has been a continuous chain of in-fallible successors of Peter” (W.W. Moore, Introduction, p. 11, The Search-Light of St. Hippolytus).
Parke P. Flournoy, wrote in 1896: “Professor George T. Stokes, of Dublin University … has found the writings of St. Hippolytus to be . . . `a veritable search-light on men and affairs in the church in Rome before and after the year 200.’ In addition to this, they reveal many proofs of the genuineness of the New Testament Scriptures.”
Hippolytus uses the terms presbyter, elder or bishop interchangeably, as does the New Testament. He suggests that presbuteros referred to their dignity as rulers in the congregation, while episcopos pointed to their function as overseers in the church. He also wrote of the `assembly of prebbyters,’ speaking of the plurality of the eldership.
In another of the works of Hippolytus, a Commentary on the Book of Daniel, which was found by Dr. Basilios Georgiades on the island of Chalce, near Constantinople, in the late I800’s, the author quotes the four gospels “as being the very words and teachings of Christ,” thereby affording early evidence and confirmation of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John’s gospels as existing and inspired in the late 2nd century.
Dr. Schaff also stated: “The Roman Catholic Church placed him (Hippolytus) in the number of its saints and martyrs, little suspecting that he would come forward in the nineteenth century as a witness against her.”
The .Apostles Paul and John had warned about “perilous times” that would come; and that the “man of sin” would be revealed. But the “hydra-headed heresy” emphasized by alliteration, on the part of Hippolytus, also stressed the “falling away” from the New Testament pattern of the Lord’s church.
Hippolytus was especially critical of Zephryinus and Callistus, presbyters who were teaching falsehoods about the Trinity. Later, the Roman Church would assert that Zephyrinus and Calixtus I, were early popes!
“Hippolytus goes on to inform us that Callistus, by promising to forgive sins, encouraged fornication, nameless crimes of lust and uncleanness, and even abortion; allowing the rich to revel in debauchery, and yet providing rules by which they might still remain in good and regular standing in the church; allowing all to come to the communion, and wresting the Scriptures to justify his course. Hippolytus exclaims: `See to what a pitch of impiety this lawless one [anontos] proceeded, teaching fornication and murder at the same time! Yet, in the face of all these enormities, these men are lost to all sense of shame and presume to call themselves the Catholic Church.’
“Here we see plainly the beginnings of that long series of pretensions and usurpations of power on the part of a bishop of Rome which finally developed, in A.D. 607, into the full-blown papacy, when the decree of Phocas compelled the submission of other bishops to the Roman see, and the bishops of Rome became popes. But there is not the slightest indication that Hippolytus felt that it was his duty to yield obedience to Zephyrinus or Callistus” (The Search-Light of St. Hippolytus, pp. 68-69).
Besides the apostasy within the bishopric, among the many-headed heresies was that of the Ophites, so-called due to their ideas that the serpent in Eden was in reality the
Logos or Word. They were one of the heads or branches of Gnosticism. Both Irenaeus and Hippolytus wrote against them, as had the Apostle John in his letters and Revelation.
One heretic, was Heracleon, a follower of Valentinian, also a Gnostic. He wrote a Commentary on the New Testament that, though quoted by Origen, is now lost. Consider this: If the New Testament had not been authoritative, its enemies would not have bothered to write commentaries concerning it! Dr. George Salmon wrote concerning Heracleon’s view of inspiration: “His theory of inspiration is just the same as the one now popularly current in the church of Christ.”
“The rise of various phases of Gnosticism in connection with the spread of Christianity is a most interesting as well as a very saddening phenomenon. Egypt seems to have been a hotbed of these heresies. Alexandria was a center of wonderful intellectual activity. There met the advocates of the Egyptian and the Syrian Gnosis and the Greek philosophies” (Search-Light of St. Hippolytus, p. 136).
Any writings by Hippolytus will take one back to the late second century and early third century A.D., and provide historical evidence which gives the lie to modern Catholic claims!
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 14, p. 20-21
July 15, 1993