Hippolytus

d. c.236. Presbyter and teacher in the Church of Rome. Origen heard him preach there in 212. Very little is known about his early life, but he was a presbyter under Bishop Zephyrinus whom he accused of compromise with the views of Sabellius. Perhaps his theological judgment was affected by his opposition to Callistus, the archdeacon, who himself became pope in 217. Hippolytus then set himself up as an antipope and continued as such until deported in 235 by Emperor Maximin during a period of persecution. In exile he was reconciled to the pope, and after his martyrdom his body was brought to Rome with honor by the church.

In the centuries following his death his identity was confused and he was equated with various people—e.g., in the Roman Breviary he is identified as a soldier converted by St. Lawrence. After many years of oblivion he was given prominence again by the discovery near his tomb in Rome of a (headless) statue of him enthroned as a bishop (erected by his followers who later merged with the Novatians?). Inscribed on the statue were a table for computing the date of Easter and a list of his writings. Among those which survive in translation are the Philosophoumena (the title given to parts 4-10 of his longer Refutation of all Heresies) which was thought to be by Origen until J.J.I. Döllinger in 1859 showed it to be by Hippolytus. And there is the Apostolic Tradition which E. Schwartz in 1910 and R.H. Connolly in 1916 demonstrated was also by Hippolytus. The Philosophoumena is of value for its description of the Gnostic sects, and the Apostolic Tradition preserves for us a conservative picture of Roman church order and worship at the end of the second century. Mention may also be made of his Commentary on Daniel which is the oldest Christian Bible commentary to survive in its entirety.

Theologically, Hippolytus taught a Logos doctrine inherited from Justin Martyr. He distinguished two states of the Logos, the one eternal and immanent, the other exterior and temporal. By his opponents he was, with some justice, called a ditheist. In disciplinary matters he was a rigorist who strenuously opposed the mitigation of the penitential system in order to cope with the entry into the church of large numbers of converts. Also he seems to have been the first scholar to construct an Easter table that was independent of contemporary Judaism.

C. Wordsworth, Saint Hippolytus and the Church of Rome (1853); works of Hippolytus in J.P. Migne, Patrologia Graeca, vol. X (1857); translation of The Apostolic Tradition by G. Dix (1937).