Epiphanius, Letter to John of Jerusalem

Translation by Andrew S. Jacobs

This letter from Epiphanius, bishop of Constantia on Cyprus (d. 403) to John, bishop of Jerusalem (d. 417), is one of the few pieces of surviving correspondence from a bishop famously involved in most of the controversies of the late fourth century Christian world. It was translated into Latin by the monk and scholar Jerome (d. 415), a close friend and theological ally of Epiphanius’s, near  the time of its composition.

Like other bishops of his day Epiphanius must have had a robust correspondence with friends and foes alike. He includes a letter of his to the “churches of Arabia” as a chapter in his heresiological mega-treatise, the Panarion (Panarion 78, against those who deny the lifelong virginity of Mary); we know he wrote to Basil of Caesarea, since we have Basil’s response (ep. 258); and Jerome refers to a “brief letter” Epiphanius circulated upon the death of his monastic mentor, Hilarion.

Unlike other bishops of his day, however, Epiphanius apparently had little interest in archiving or circulating his correspondence. This letter survives due to Jerome’s desire to memorialize his own correspondence, with which this letter was collected. Jerome also preserved a much shorter letter from Epiphanius (included among his letters as ep. 91) which was a cover letter for the proceedings of an anti-Origenist synod held by Theophilus in Alexandria around 400 C.E. (You can find a translation of that letter here.)

This letter, written in 394, is included in collections of Jerome’s letters as Epistula 51. The ostensible occasion is John’s anger at Epiphanius for ordaining a priest inside John’s episcopal jurisdiction. (That priest, unnamed in the letter, was Jerome’s brother and fellow monk Paulinian.) Epiphanius answers this charge but goes on to suggest that John is actually angry because of Epiphanius’s accusations of Origenism. Epiphanius had made these accusations publicly while preaching in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. (Jerome gives a vivid account of these events in his letter Against John of Jerusalem.)

By the 390s, Epiphanius had been raging against the teachings of Origen (d. ca. 254) for twenty years, particularly in his Panarion. He rehearses several of his main complaints about Origen’s teachings in this letter, many supposedly derived from Origen’s speculative theological treatise On First Principles (περὶ ἀρχῶν; Peri archōn): the restoration of all creatures, including the devil; the preexistence of souls; the denial of bodily resurrection; here he adds the claim that Origen (or his followers) say Adam lost the image of God when he sinned.

Jerome recounts the circumstances under which he translated this letter in a long letter to his friend Pammachius in Rome that has conventionally been called “on the best method of translating” (de optimo genere interpretationis, a riff on Cicero’s de optimo genere oratorum). According to that letter, Epiphanius’s letter was a “best-seller”: “copies of it were snatched up throughout Palestine, either because of its author’s worth or the elegance of the writing” (ep. 57.2). Jerome translated it into Latin for Eusebius of Cremona, one of his monks who couldn’t read Greek (although Jerome left in several terms in Greek). It was done, he claims, hastily and just for Eusebius’s eyes; but a “Judas” in their midst stole the letter and it circulated widely. Those who had seen the Greek original accused Jerome of making many changes in wording, style, and even content. Jerome defends himself by evoking classical Latin translators of Greek and proclaims: “except for Holy Scriptures, where even the order of words is a mystery, I express sense for sense, not word for word” (ep. 57.5). Jerome is vague on the criticisms of his translation and only includes one sentence in the original Greek for comparison (noted below). The overall tone is certainly reminiscent of Epiphanius’s other writings, but we cannot have any confidence that it attests to Epiphanius’s wording or style.

In addition to prompting Jerome to theorize his own translation technique, this letter also became part of a long debate over iconoclasm in later years based on the final section which details a further complaint from John: that Epiphanius ripped down a veil in a small church near Jerusalem because it had an image of Christ or a saint. He tells John that he has finally sent the promised replacement. During the eighth-century iconoclastic controversy this incident, as well as other anti-image texts supposedly written by Epiphanius, were dismissed as forgeries. It is true that it sits awkwardly in the letter, following what sounds like a final greeting. Epiphanius was, however, a famously digressive writer and poor editor so it is not impossible that he added a lengthy postscriptum about the veil and a warning about “Palladius of Galatia.”

I have translated from the text of the Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, part 1, vol. 54, ed. Isidore Hilberg and updated in 1996.

You may link to, share, or reproduce this translation with attribution. You may not make any commercial use of this work. Any suggestions for corrections or additions to the text or annotations are more than welcome: andrew [at] andrewjacobs [dot] org.

Letter of Epiphanius of Cyprus sent to John the Bishop (translated by Saint Jerome)

From Epiphanius to my dearest lord and brother John the Bishop

Clerical restraint

1. It was appropriate for us, dearest one, not to abuse our clerical rank for pride, In his defense of his translation, Jerome provides the only original Greek in this first line: ἔδει ἡμᾶς, ἀγαπητέ, μὴ τῇ οἰήσει τῶν κλήρων φέρεσθαι (edei hēmas, agapēte, mē tēi oiēsei tōn klērōn pheresthai) which we might render: “It was necessary for us, dear one, not to be carried away by the conceit of the clergy.” but by keeping and most diligently maintaining God’s commandments to be that which we are called. If indeed the sacred Scripture says: “Their portions cleri, which in Greek (κλήροι, klēroi) as well as Latin also means “clergy” shall not profit them” (Jer 12:13 LXX), what clerical presumption could be of use to us, who sin not only in our thoughts and feelings but also in our speech? Now I have heard that you are fuming against me, and you are enraged, and you threaten to write to the very ends of the world, such that I could not name the places and provinces. But where is the fear of God, which ought to shake us with that trembling which is spoken of by the Lord: “If anyone is angry at his own brother without cause, he will be judged a criminal” (Matt 5:22)? Not that I should especially care if you write what you like. Indeed also papyrus letters were written, according to Isaiah, and they were cast upon the waters, which swiftly passed away with the age (cf. Isa 18:2).

An irregular ordination

I wished you no harm, I did you no injury, I wrested nothing from you violently. It was in a monastery of brothers–and of foreign brothers who owe nothing to your province!—that, due to my own insignificant self nostra parvitas, which Epiphanius also uses of himself below, perhaps originally ἡμέτερος ταπεινότης, a phrase Epiphanius uses of himself in the Panarion. and letters which I sent frequently to them, they began to have a disagreement about communion with you. So that they would not by some strictness or conscience be perceived to be divided from the Church of ancient faith, I ordained a deacon and, after he ministered, made him again a presbyter, for which you ought to be grateful, understanding that I was compelled to do this because of fear of God; especially since there is no distinction in God’s priesthood sacerdotio dei; sacerdos usually means bishop: Epiphanius is stating that every bishop has the same share of ecclesiastical authority where it is provided for the Church’s use. For even if individual bishops of the Church have churches under them to which they are perceived to exert care, and no one may be extended past someone else’s limits, nonetheless the love of Christ, in which there is no hypocrisy, takes precedence before everything. We shouldn’t focus on what was done, but on when and how and for whom and why it was done.

So I saw the multitude of holy brothers stationed in the monastery, and that the holy presbyters Jerome and Vincentius, because of modesty and humility, did not want to oversee the offerings which are owed to their rank and to toil for the monastery in that area which is particularly for the salvation of Christians. I saw, what’s more, that you couldn’t find and capture that one enslaved to God, who often fled from you because he didn’t want to accept the heavy burden of the priesthood. I saw that no other of the bishops could easily recover him. So I was sufficiently amazed when, at the arrangement of God, he came to me with the monastery’s deacons, and with other brothers, to make satisfaction to me since I had some grudge or other against them.

Now when the service collecta, likely σύναξις (sunaxis) was celebrated in village church which is near my monastery, Epiphanius had been visiting “his” monastery, that is, the monastery he led before becoming bishop of Cyprus and over which he still exercised remote authority decades later. I commanded him—unknowing, and having no suspicion within—to be seized by several deacons and for his mouth be held (in fear that perhaps in desiring to be let go he might plead with us through Christ’s name). Now first I ordained him a deacon, setting before him the fear of God and compelling him to minister; of course he struggled vigorously, swearing that he was unworthy. Barely did I compel him and I was able to convince him with testimony from Scriptures and by setting before him God’s commands. And when he had ministered in the holy offerings, once more with his mouth held with enormous difficulty, I ordained him presbyter; and with these words, which which I convinced him before, I compelled him to sit among the ranks of presbyters.

After this I wrote to the holy presbyters of the monastery, that is, the monastery of Paulinian and Jerome and the rest of the brothers; and I upbraided them, since they had not written me about him, when the year before I had heard many of them complain how they didn’t have anyone who could perform the Lord’s sacraments for them, and by their own testimony they all begged him and testified how greatly useful it would be to the monastic community; why then when the opportunity arose didn’t they write to me, and beg me to do something about his ordination?

2. So these things were done, as I said, in Christ’s love, which I believed you possessed for my insignificant self; moreover I ordained him in the monastery, and not in the jurisdiction Jerome transliterates the Greek word παροικία (paroikia) which is subject to you. O truly blessed meekness and goodness of the bishops of Cyprus, although our boorishness to your mind and judgment is worthy of God’s pity! For many bishops in communion with me have ordained presbyters in our province, whom I have been unable to capture, and they have sent me deacons and subdeacons, Jerome transliterates the Greek ὑποδιάκονος (hupodiakonos) whom I receive with thanks. And I myself encouraged Bishop Philo of blessed memory and saint Theoprepus, that in the churches of Cyprus which were near them, which appeared to belong to the church of my jurisdiction (because the province is big and wide-ranging) they ordain presbyters and provide them to Christ’s church. I have never ordained deaconesses and sent them to other provinces, It’s unclear why Epiphanius makes this denial and whether the emphasis is on ordaining or deaconesses or sending: that is, if he is denying ordaining women as if they were men; if he is denying the order of deaconesses (unlikely, as he discusses them in his treatise On Faith); or if he is denying exporting them, which would be an odd accusation and practice. nor have I done anything to cause a schism in the church. So why has it seemed fitting to you in this way to be so deeply outraged and to be disturbed against me for doing God’s work, which was for the building up and not the tearing down of the brothers?

But also I am exceedingly amazed that you spoke to my clerics, asserting that you commanded me, through the holy presbyter and abbot of the monks Gregory, that I should ordain no one; and that I promised this, saying: “Am I a child, don’t I know the rules?” Listen now to the truth in God’s word: I didn’t hear this, I was unaware of it, I have absolutely no recollection of this statement. Nonetheless I supposed these might be perhaps among the many things I, a mere human being, have forgotten. Because of this I inquired of saint Gregory and Zeno the presbyter who is with him. Of these things Abba Gregory replied he knew absolutely nothing. Zeno moreover said that when the presbyter Rufinus was speaking about some other matters in passing, he said this to him: “Do you think the holy bishop will be ordaining some people?” Epiphanius seems to have a reputation for extrajurisdictional ordinations, particularly in dioceses in which he has theological disputes with the bishop. The fifth-century historian Socrates reports that Epiphanius almost a decade later ordained a deacon near Constantinople, leading to a momentous confrontation with the bishop, John Chrysostom (Church History 6.12, 14). and the discussion stopped at that point. Nonetheless I, Epiphanius, did not hear anything nor did I make a reply. So, my dearest one, may fury not get the better of you, nor indignation overcome you, nor be moved in vain; and upset about one thing you switch to other things Epiphanius suggests John’s anger over the ordination is a pretense and that his anger is really over their theological differences. and you seem to have found an opportunity for sinning. But the prophet in caution entreats the Lord: “Do not incline my heart into words of evil, making excuses for my sins” (Ps 140:4).

John’s Origenist leanings

3. Now when I heard this I was amazed: that certain persons, who usually carry common gossip hither and yon, and always add something to what they hear in order to incite grudges and quarrels among the brothers, then upset you and told you that in prayer as I was making the offerings to God I was accustomed to say on your behalf: “Lord, preserve John so he may believe correctly.” Do not think me so boorish that I could say such a thing openly. Although indeed, I should say this is always on my mind, nevertheless as I have confessed simply, I have never revealed it to another’s ears, for fear that I might seem to think little of you, my dearest. But when I finish my prayer according to the rite of mysteries, for everyone and for you I say: “Keep him who preaches truth”; or certainly thus: “Preserve, Lord, and keep him so he may preach the word of truth” as the opportunity for saying this has come up, and the time for the prayer has come.

So I implore you, my dearest, and falling at your feet I beseech you: preserve me and yourself so that you may be saved, just as it is written, “from a perverse generation” (Matt 17:17) and withdraw from the heresy of Origen, and from all heresies, my dearest. I see now that this is the reason that all of your indignation has been incited, because I said to you: “You shouldn’t praise the father of Arius, the root and father of all other heresies.” Epiphanius publicly accused John of Origenism while preaching in Jerusalem. And when I asked you not to err in this way, and I warned you, you argued with me and you brought me to grief and tears; not just me, but many other orthodox Jerome has catholicos; but in his extant Greek writings Epiphanius never uses καθολικός as a substantive noun for people (except when quoting someone else). Either his style has changed over time or Jerome is substituting a more common Latin term for Epiphanius's more typical ὀρθόδοξος. who were there. So, as I understand, this is all of your indignation and fury. And then you threatened that you would send letters against me, that your words would run here and there; and because of the defense of heresy, rousing up hatred against me, you break the love which I had for you; and in this you have driven me to regret how I held communion with you, in this way defending the errors and teachings of Origen.

4. I shall speak simply: I (according to what is written) shall not spare my own eye: I would dig it out should it cause me to stumble; likewise with my hand or my foot, if they should make a stumbling block for me (cf. Matt 5:29-30). And likewise for you: even if you were my eyes or my hands or my feet, you would be treated the same way! Who indeed of the orthodox could bear this with a calm mind, and who of those who embellish their faith with good works, as they hear the teaching and advice of Origen, would believe his extraordinary preaching: “The Son cannot see the Father, nor can the Holy Spirit see the Son”? This is written in his books περὶ Ἀρχῶν [peri Archōn], In some manuscripts the Greek words in this section are transliterated; the critical edition leaves them in Greek; I supply transliteration in brackets. we read these words, and thus speaks Origen: “Just as indeed it is incongruous to say, that the Son can see the Father, so it cannot follow that we believe that the Holy Spirit can see the Son.” This line is not extant in surviving portions of On First Principles. Who could suffer Origen saying this: that souls were angels in the heavens; and, after they sinned in the supernal realms, they were cast into this world, and, as if in tombs and graves, were thus bound up in these bodies to pay the penalty for ancient sins? And that the bodies of the faithful are not temples of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 3:16), but prisons of the damned?

Origen on bodies and souls

After that he distorts the truth of history into the lie of allegory and he multiplies words infinitely: and overturning the simple with complex argumentation he asserts that souls, according to the Greek ἐτομολογίαν [etomologian] [sic] are so named because when they came from the heavens to the lower regions they gave off their former heat; In On First Principles 2.8.3 Origen refers to the popular etymology that links “soul” (ψυχή, psuchē) to “become cool” (ψύχεσθαι, psuchesthai); variant manuscripts of Jerome’s translation insert this gloss directly into the text. now this body in return is according to the Greek δέμας [demas], that is “a chain” In Greek δέμα (dema) is a tether while δέμας (demas) is a body. or according to another meaning is called “cadaver” because souls fell from heaven. Jerome translates the Greek etymological connection between πτῶμα (ptōma), “corpse,” and πίπτειν (piptein), “to fall,” into a Latin etymological connection between cadaver and cado, “to fall.” since the souls fell down from heaven. Moreover according to the variable apparatus of Greek speech “body” is translated by many as σῆμα [sēma], that is, tomb: The equation of “body” (σῶμα [sōma], supplied here in some manuscripts) and σῆμα (sēma) goes back to Plato. “Variable apparatus” is variam supellectilem, a term found in Cicero and Quintilian indicating rhetorical “furnishings.” because it has the soul enclosed in it, just like graves and tombs hold the cadavers of the dead. And if this is true—

Where is our faith?

Where is the proclamation of the resurrection?

Where is the apostolic teaching, which lasts until now in the churches of Christ?

Where is that blessing to Adam, and to his seed, and to Noah, and to his sons: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen 1:28, 9:7)?

Indeed it would not be a blessing, but a curse, according to Origen, who turns angels into souls and makes them descend from the highest summit of dignity to the depths, as if God couldn’t give souls to the human race through a blessing unless angels sinned. And as many as have fallen in the heavens so many births are there on earth. Epiphanius caricatures Origen’s theory of preexistent souls and theodicy as outlined in On First Principles in which primeval “minds” in contemplation of God fell away and were placed in bodies according to the degree of their turning away from God: some as angels, some as humans, some as demons, and so on. So we should set aside the teaching of the apostles and prophets and the Law and even of the Lord Savior himself sounding forth in the Gospel. On the contrary, Origen teaches and makes a rule, or should I say he constrains his disciples, that no one should to pray to ascend into heaven, for fear that if they sinned once more even worse than they sinned before on earth they would be cast down into the world. Let him make a habit of affirming all manner of trifles and fantasies out of Scriptural interpretation twisted into another meaning, rather than what is true: “Before I was humbled by wickedness, I strayed” (Ps 118:47); and another: “Turn back, my soul, into your rest” (Ps 114:7). And yet another: “Lead my soul from prison” (Ps 141:8). And in another place: “I shall confess the Lord in the land of the living” (Ps 114:8). Although without a doubt there is another meaning of the Divine Scripture, which he distorts into his heresy by malicious interpretation. This is what the Manicheans do, and the Gnostics and the Ebionites, and the sectarians of Marcion, and the other heresies, eighty in number, A reference to Epiphanius’s Panarion, a catalogue of eighty heresies, written about twenty years earlier; his casual reference here suggests it was well-known to John and any other anticipated readers of the letter. which take their proof-texts from the most pure source of Scripture, not interpreting them the way they are written, but they want the simplicity of the ecclesiastical speech to mean what they think.

Origen on the redemption of the Devil

5. As to that which he tries to affirm, I don’t know whether I should grieve or laugh. The distinguished man of learning dares to teach that the devil will be again in the future what he was and that, restored to his former dignity, he will ascend to the Kingdom of Heaven. O horror! pro nefas Who is so foolish and stupid to accept that Saint John the Baptist and Peter and John the Apostle and Evangelist, even Isaiah and Jeremiah and the rest of the Prophets, will be made co-heirs with the Devil in the Kingdom of Heaven?

Origen on the “tunics of skin” and fallen souls

I omit his ludicrous explanation of the tunics of skin (cf. Gen 3:21), Since Epiphanius goes on at some length to refute Origen’s purported interpretation of the “tunics of skin” (Gen 3:21) it’s not clear in what sense he proposes to “omit” (praetereo) his explanation. how much he attempts and how many arguments he offers so that we may believe the tunics of skin are human bodies! Among the many things he said: “Was God a tanner or a leather-worker, that he prepared the skins of animals and he stitched tunics of skin out of them for Adam and Eve? It is clear, therefore (he said), that he is speaking about our bodies.” Epiphanius recites a version of this line in Ancoratus 62 and Panarion 64.63.5, neither quite identical to Jerome’s version here. Although purporting to cite Origen, no extant passage like this remains in Origen’s corpus.

But if this is so, how is that before the tunics of skin and before the disobedience and the fall from Paradise we read about Adam speaking not according to allegory, but in truth: “This now is bone from my bones, and flesh from my flesh” (Gen 2:23)? Or how is this received, what the Divine Word testified: “And God cast a sleep over Adam, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs; and he replaced it with flesh, and he built up the rib, which he took from him, into a wife for him” (Gen 2:21)? And what bodies did Adam and Eve cover with the fig leaves, after they ate from the forbidden tree (cf. Gen 3:7)? Who then could patiently bear Origen denying the resurrection of this flesh with his slippery arguments, just as he makes most manifestly clear in his volume Exposition on the First Psalm and in many other places? Epiphanius cites large sections of Origen’s On the first psalm in Panarion 64. And who could listen to Origen giving us Paradise in the third heaven; transferring it, which Scripture recalls, from earth to heaven; understanding allegorically all the trees that are described in Genesis, such that the trees are “angelic Powers,” when truth does not accept this?

But the divine Scripture did not say: “God placed Adam and Eve down on the earth,” but “he cast them out from Paradise” and “made them live opposite Paradise.” It does not say “under Paradise.” The placing of Adam and Eve “opposite Paradise” (contra Paradisum) is a detail found in the Septuagint version of Genesis. And “he placed a flaming sword, and Cherubim to guard the entrance to the tree of life” (Gen 3:24). He did not say, “ascent.” “And a river flowed from Eden”— he did not say, “flowed down from Eden”!—“this is divided into four principal parts: the name of one is Pishon, and the name of the second is Gihon” (Gen 2:10). I myself have seen the waters of Gihon, waters which I have gazed upon with these eyes of flesh. That is the Gihon which Jeremiah points to when he says: “What to you is the way of Egypt, that you drink the turbid waters of Gihon?” (Jer 2:10) I drank water from the great river Euphrates, real, which you can touch with your hand, swallow with your mouth, not spiritual waters! This is our only record that Epiphanius at some point had traveled to Mesopotamia, possibly out of the Roman Empire into Sasanid Persia. The later Life of Epiphanius recounts an extensive trip to Persia.

So where there are rivers and waters which can be seen and drunk there it follows that there are fig trees and the other trees, about which God says, “From every tree which is in Paradise you may eat” (Gen 2:16), just like with the rivers and waters. So if the water that can be perceived is real water it is necessary that the fig tree is also real and the other trees: and Adam in truth was formed immediately from the beginning in a body, just as Eve was, and not in an illusion in phantasmate and after the fall (as Origen wishes) they received a body afterward according to their sin.

But you say: “we read that Saint Paul was snatched up to the third heaven, and into Paradise” (cf. 2 Cor 12:2-4). You speak correctly: When he put “third heaven” and after added “and in Paradise,” he showed that heaven is one place and Paradise is another. But who would not immediately reject and condemn these sleights-of-hand when Origen says about these waters Epiphanius has returned to the primeval “waters,” typical of his digressive style.that are above the firmament that they are not waters but certain “Powers” of angelic force and furthermore the waters are above the earth, that is, under the firmament, these are opposing “Powers,” that is, demons? So how do we read in the [story of the] Flood about the floodgates of heaven opened, and the waters of the flood rained down? Whence are the sources of the deep opened, and all the world covered in water? (cf. Gen 7:17-24)

6. Alas! Human madness is joined to foolishness and together they abandon what is said in Proverbs: “Listen, Son, to the words of your Father, and do not reject the law of your mother” (Prov 6:20), and they are toppled into error and they say to the fool that he is their leader; and they do not condemn absurd things which are said by an absurd person, just as the Scripture testifies: “The absurd man says absurd things, and his heart understands empty things” (Isa 32:6). From this I beseech you, dearest one, and just as if sparing my own limbs, because of the love I have for you, I implore you in writing and in speech to fulfill what is written: “Have I not hated those who hate you, Lord, and have I not raged against your enemies?” (Ps 138:21). The words of Origen are the enemies and worthy of hatred, repugnant to God and his saints, and not just those which I have reported, but others uncountable. For my intention here is not to argue against all of Origen’s teachings.

Origen has not stolen anything from me, and he wasn’t in my generation: nor have I taken up hatred and quarrels against him due to some worldly matters or an inheritance; Possibly Epiphanius is responding to criticism, from John or elsewhere, that his single-minded hatred of Origen for more than twenty years is out of proportion. but (as I have simply confessed) I grieve, and especially I grieve when I see so many of the brothers and those especially who have no small calling and who have arrived into the highest rank of the priesthood, deceived by his arguments, made into food for the Devil by his most twisted teachings. In them that which was written has been fulfilled: “Over every battlement he will make sport and his dish is choice and he will gather captives like the sand” (Hab 1:10, 16, 9). Now may God free you, brother, and the holy people of Christ who were persuaded by you, and all the brothers who are with you, and especially Rufinus the presbyter, Rufinus was a key player in the Origenist controversy; a former schoolmate of Jerome’s and now a monk in Jerusalem, he sided with John against Epiphanius and Jerome and remained a proponent of Origen’s works. He would be formally reconciled with Jerome in 397, before returning West and producing a carefully edited Latin translation of Origen’s On First Principles which would reignite the controversy among them all. from the heresy of Origen, and from the other heresies and their ruin. If indeed for the sake of a single word or two which are contrary to faith many heresies have been cast out from the Church, Epiphanius refers to disputes over Trinitarian language in the creed that divided churches for much of the fourth century, sometimes over a single changed word. how much more will he be considered among the heretics, who devised so many perversions and such evil teachings against the faith and who appeared as an enemy of God and the Church?

Origen on the image of God

Now indeed among many evil things he dared to say that Adam lost the image of God, although the Scripture contains no passage showing this. If indeed it were thus, everything in the world would not be enslaved to Adam’s seed, that is, the whole human race, just as James the apostle says: “All things are dominated and are subject to human nature” (Jas 3:7). The universe would not be subject to people if people did not have that which has control over all things, the image of God. Moreover Divine Scripture joins together and links it to the grace of the blessing which he bestowed on Adam and his descendants who were not yet born from him. Since Gen 1:28, “Be fruitful and multiply,” follows immediately upon creation “in the image and likeness of God,” Scripture shows that the “image” was meant to be passed on to Adam’s descendants. To prevent someone from perhaps daring to say, from a malicious interpretation, that God’s grace was given to one person and that he alone was made in the image of God, the one who was formed from the earth, and his wife, but that those who were conceived in the womb and so were not born like Adam would not have the image of God, immediately in sequence he adds and says: “And Adam lived 230 years and he knew his wife Eve and she bore him a son in his likeness and according to his image, and she called his name Seth” (Gen 5:3). And again in the tenth generation after 2242 years, Epiphanius calculates years and generations in many of his writings, an antiquarian display of precision meant to add rhetorical weight to his biblical interpretations. God, defending his image and showing that he preserved the grace which he gave to human beings, says: “Let them not eat flesh in its blood, for I shall avenge your blood from the hand of every human being which sheds it: since I have made humanity in God’s image” (Gen 9:4-6). It is indeed after another ten generations until Abraham, and from Abraham until David another fourteen generations, and these twenty-four generations together come to 2117 years: the Holy Spirit in the thirty-eighth Psalm, that is, at the time of David when it bemoans concerning all humans that they walk in vanity and are beholden to sin, speaks: “Nevertheless every human walks in the image of God” (Ps 38:7 LXX). It is indeed after David, under his son Solomon, that we read about something called after the image of God. For he says in Wisdom, which is inscribed with his name: “God created humans incorrupt, and he gave them the image of his own likeness” (Wisd 2:23). And again after 1100 years, more or less, in the New Testament we read that human beings have not lost God’s image. James indeed, apostle and brother of the Lord, whom also we recalled above, taught us—lest we be ensnared by Origen’s traps!—that humanity has the image and likeness of God. For when he was arguing generally about the human tongue he added: “Unstable evil, in which indeed we bless God the Father, and in which we curse humans, who are established in the likeness of God” (Jas 3:8-9). Paul too, the vessel of election, who fulfilled by his preaching the gospel teaching, taught us that humans were established in the image and likeness of God, saying: “A man ought not to wear long hair, since he is the glory and image of God” (2 Cor 11:7): simply using the term “image,” but nonetheless indicating “likeness” by the term “glory.”

Heretical theories on the image of God

7. Instead of the three witnesses which you said should suffice for me to ferret out for you from holy Scripture, see I have given you seven witnesses! Who then will uphold Origen’s nonsense? Let me not say something more serious and likewise be made like him or like his disciples, who dare at the risk of their souls to proclaim whatever comes into their mouths, and even to command God rather than to pray or learn the truth from him. Epiphanius refuses say anything “more serious” (gravius), that is, to speculate on exactly what “the image of God” is. Many of the faulty theories of God’s image he lists here he refuted in Panarion 70. Some of them say that the image of God, which Adam had earlier received, perished when he sinned. Others posit that the body that the Son of God was going to have from Mary was itself the image. Some say the mind, others virtue; these that it is baptism, those that which humans have as the image of God is dominion over all; in the manner of drunks, they belch up this and that. They would do better to flee from so great a hazard and not deny what God says; but simply believing that they will be saved they should concede to God certain and true knowledge that he granted it; in some part he has above all else established humans in his image and likeness. Those who abandon these things have confused themselves with many questions, and through these they have been sunk into the mire of sins. But I, my dearest, believe in those things which the Lord said, and I know that the image of God persists in all humans, and I myself concede that I do not know in what part the human being was established in God’s image.

But no one should be deceived by that passage of the letter of John which some misunderstand when they read it; there it says: “Now we are sons of God, and we do not know what we will be. But we know that when he will be revealed, we will be like him. We shall see then how he is” (1 John 3:2). Now this was said because of glory, which is then going to be revealed to his saints; so too in another passage we read: “From glory to glory” (2 Cor 3:18); already in this world saints have received a deposit and a down payment of this glory. For “deposit” Jerome transliterates the Greek ἀρραβών/arrabonem; Epiphanius uses this same term in the same context (“deposit of glory”) in Panarion 42.11.17/ref. 15 and even adduces the same examples, although in that context—a refutation of Marcion’s gospel—he discusses Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration, not in the Old Testament. First Moses, whose face shone exceedingly, and the lightning flash shone forth like the sun (cf. Exod 34:29-35). Next Elijah, taken up in a chariot of fire into heaven, and not feeling the harm of the fire (2 Kgs 2:11). Stephen was stoned, and he had the face of an angel, which was perceived by all (Acts 7:55). What we said about a few of them should be understood about all of them, such that what was written is fulfilled: “Everyone who sanctifies himself, he will be numbered among the saints. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matt 5:8).

Final greeting

8. Since this is way things are, dearest one, guard your soul, and stop murmuring against me. For Divine Scripture says: “Don’t murmur against one another, just as some murmured and they perished by serpents” (1 Cor 10:9, 10): rather agree to the truth, and love those who love you and the truth. So too may the God of peace grant us according to his mercy that Satan be ground down under the feet of Christians and every twisted opportunity be cast out, so that the bond of love and peace and the preaching of correct faith may not be broken between us.

Addendum: A church veil

9. What’s more, I heard some people murmuring against me: at the same time that I was hurrying to the holy place which is called Bethel, where I celebrated the synaxis with you out of ecclesiastical custom, I came to a village called Anablatha. The location of this village is unclear but it must be near Jerusalem (Bethel is not far from Jerusalem) and within John's jurisdiction. As I was passing by there I saw a lamp burning and I asked what these place was and I learned that it was a church and I entered and I prayed: I found there a veil hanging on the doors of that church, dyed and painted and having an image like Christ or one of his saints; I no longer recall whose image it was. So when I saw this, that they had hung an image of a person in a church of Christ against the authority of Scriptures, I ripped it down, and I advised the guardians of that place that they should wrap a poor person’s corpse in it and take it away. And in response they complained and said: “If he wanted to rip it down it would be fair for him to give a veil in exchange.” Now when I heard that, I promised that I would give one and that I would send it there.

There has been a little delay in the meanwhile, while I sought the best veil to send in place of that one; I decided that I should send one from Cyprus. Now then I have sent that which I could acquire, and I pray that you order the priest of that place to accept from the reader the veil we sent and then to command that veils of this sort, which seem opposed to our religion, should not be hung in a church of Christ. For it befits Your Honesty rather to have care and pay special attention to what is unworthy of Christ’s church and to the people who have faith in you. Now beware Palladius the Galatian, This may be the same Palladius of Galatia who was a monk in Egypt and author of the Lausiac History, a series of monastic biographies which shows some sympathy for the pro-Origen monks in Egypt and Palestine. If Epiphanius was a former friend of Palladius’s it might in part explain the extreme rancor Palladius shows toward Epiphanius in his Dialogue on the Life of John Chrysostom. It is also possible it is another Palladius (perhaps even the monk of Syedra for whom Epiphanius wrote his Ancoratus?). who once was dear to me, and now does not deserve God’s mercy, since he preaches and teaches the heresy of Origen, or else perhaps others of the people who trust you might be drawn into the twistedness of his error.

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