Leontius of Byzantium, “Adversus fraudes Apollinistarum”

If you browse idly through Quasten’s Patrology volume 3, a little here and a little there — if you do this idly but often, you will acquire quite a fund of knowledge about the later Greek fathers, their lives, their quarrels, and their works; and about what editions and translations are commonly relied on for all these.

A couple of hours ago I found myself reading the entry on Apollinaris of Laodicea.  This learned man wrote a great many commentaries on Scripture.  More, he stood up to the Emperor Julian the Apostate.  The emperor passed a decree in 361 AD banning Christians from teaching the classics — effectively from teaching.  This was the first but by no means the last attempt to make sure Christians were uneducated in order to jeer at them for being uneducated.  A similar approach has been used by modern atheistic regimes, and demanded by modern atheists in democracies.  Apollinaris responded by recasting the bible in the forms of Greek dialogues and so on, to ensure that Christians could continue to acquire knowledge.  The early death of Julian after a reign of 18 months rendered the effort unnecessary.

Apollinaris was later condemned as a heretic for some christological mistakes.  His works were banned.  But they continued to circulate under other names, and some have reached us.

A 6th century writer, Leontius of Byzantium, composed a work Adversus fraudes Apollinistarum.  This was designed to show that various works in circulation were not by people like Gregory Thaumaturgus, but in reality by banned Apollinarist authors.  Censorship of opinion had its natural consequence, that opinions circulated anonymously; and hate built on this the usual accusation of fraud.  It is hateful to ban a man from speaking his mind and then call him a forger when you force him to put his opinions forward under some form of camouflage.  In our politically correct days, we have lived to see the reappearance of this Byzantine tradition.

The work itself sounds more interesting than it is.  It appears in Migne, Patrologia Graeca, 86b, cols. 1947-1976.  It’s 15 columns of Greek (ignoring the parallel Latin translation), and would therefore cost $300 to translate.  I can find no evidence of a modern translation.

The work consists of a brief introductory paragraph, then the main body which consists entirely of excerpts from Apollinarists, each named and referenced; and then a final couple of paragraphs (1973C ff.) on the Apollinarist errors.


Some from the heresy of Apollinaris or Eutyches or Dioscorus, when they wanted to advance their heresy, inscribed some works of Apollinaris as by Gregory Thaumaturgus, or Athanasius, or Julius,  in order to deceive the more naive.  And so they did.  For by the authority of these people who deserved trust they were able to take in  many people in the Catholic Church.  And you can obtain from many true believers the book of Apollinaris with the title h( kata meros pistis, … ascribed to Gregory; and some of his letters have been ascribed to Julius, and others of his orations or expositions on the incarnation have been ascribed to Athanasius.  Likewise ascribed is the expostion  agreeing with the exposition of the 318; not only this but others also.  However this will be made evident to you, and to anyone studious of the truth, from these things which we haveextracted from Apollinaris himself, or his disciples, one of whom is Valentinus.

Valentinus: a chapter of an Apollinarist Apology

“Against those who say that we say that the flesh is consubstantial with God”.

Master Apollinaris, from his letter to Serapion.

 Receive this letter, of your charity, sir, …

And so on it goes.  I can see why it has never received translation; but surely, all these works ought to be more accessible?

2 thoughts on “Leontius of Byzantium, “Adversus fraudes Apollinistarum”

  1. I think that I’ve come across a recent translation of Leontius, by someome named Wolf or Wolfe, I vaguely recollect.

    Have a blessed Easter.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

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