Celestius

EARLY FIFTH CENTURY. Associate of Pelagius.* Probably an African, he deserted the Roman bar about 400 for Pelagius's reform movement, accompanying him in 409-10 to Sicily and Carthage, where Pelagius left him hoping for ordination. He received instead in 411 the first Catholic condemnation of a “Pelagian,” for teaching that Adam's mortality was independent of his sin, which in turn injured only himself, so that the newborn enjoy Adam's condition prior to the Fall. Infants are baptized in order to obtain sanctification or the kingdom, not remission of sins. His denial that transmission of sin was de fide challenged African tradition, which was also sensitive about baptism. Withdrawing to Ephesus, Celestius acquired ordination, but here and at Constantinople African denunciation hounded him, and further condemnation followed in absentia at the Palestinian synod of Diospolis in 415, with Pelagius, unconcerned about infant baptism, partly disavowing his opinions. Back in Rome in 417, Celestius appealed personally to the vacillating Pope Zosimus,* but in 418 Emperor Honorius expelled the Pelagian troublemakers and papal reprobation was reaffirmed. In 428/9 he secured refuge in Nestorius's Constantinople, but Marius Mercator's Memorandum on the Name of Celestius heralded imperial exile and conciliar condemnation at Ephesus in 431, after which he vanished from sight. Augustine preserves much of his Definitions on Sinlessness and Statement of Faith (to Zosimus). Lost works included The Monastic Life and a Book against Original Sin. He was a successful propagandist, tenacious and candid. His theology owed much to Rufinus “the Syrian.”*

See Pelagius bibliography.