Apollinaris of Hierapolis

By COGwriter

Apollinaris (sometimes spelled Apolinarius or Apollinarius, but not to be confused with Apollonius of Ephesus or Apollinaris of Laodicea) was a religious leader in the 2nd century. Catholics and others consider that this Apollinaris was a saint.

Here is some of what The Catholic Encyclopedia says about him

St. Apollinaris Claudius A Christian apologist, Bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia in the second century. He became famous for his polemical treatises against the heretics of his day, whose errors he showed to be entirely borrowed from the pagans. He wrote two books against the Jews, five against the pagans, and two on "Truth." In 177 he published an eloquent "Apologia" for the Christians, addressed to Marcus Aurelius, and appealing to the Emperor's own experience with the "Thundering Legion", whose prayers won him the victory over the Quadi. The exact date of his death is not known, but it was probably while Marcus Aurelius was still Emperor. None of his writings is extant (Campbell T.J. Transcribed by WG Kofron. St. Apollinaris Claudius. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I. Copyright © 1907 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

This article has most of the pieces by him that are extant.

The Protestant scholars Roberts and Donaldson wrote this:

Apollinaris was bishop of Hierapolis on the Maeander, and, Lightfoot thinks, was probably with Melito and Polycrates, known to Polycarp, and influenced by his example and doctrine." (Roberts and Donaldson pp. 772-773).

Like Melito, Polycrates, and Polycarp, Apollinaris would be considered a Quartodeciman (one who held that the date of Passover must remain the 14th of Nisan).

Apollinaris Wrote About the Passover

Anyway, here is nearly all of what is available from what Apollinaris wrote:

There are, then, some who through ignorance raise disputes about these things (though their conduct is pardonable: for ignorance is no subject for blame -- it rather needs further instruction), and say that on the fourteenth day the Lord ate the lamb with the disciples, and that on the great day of the feast of unleavened bread He Himself suffered; and they quote Matthew as speaking in accordance with their view. Wherefore their opinion is contrary to the law, and the Gospels seem to be at variance with them...

The fourteenth day, the true Passover of the Lord; the great sacrifice, the Son of God instead of the lamb, who was bound, who bound the strong, and who was judged, though Judge of living and dead, and who was delivered into the hands of sinners to be crucified, who was lifted up on the horns of the unicorn, and who was pierced in His holy side, who poured forth from His side the two purifying elements, water and blood, word and spirit, and who was buried on the day of the passover, the stone being placed upon the tomb (Apollinaris. From the Book Concerning Passover. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Excerpted from Volume I of The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors; American Edition copyright © 1885. Copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby).

Apollinaris is showing then the Passover is (Nisan 14) and that it signifies the sacrifice of Christ, both of which are the positions of the Churches of God.

One Anglican scholar commented;

...there is no doubt that Apollinarius was a Quartodeciman...Those who kept Passover in the evening understood it to be a repetition of the Lord's Supper (Stewart-Sykes A. Melito of Sardis On Pascha. St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood (NY), 2001, p. 81).

Praised by Serapion of Antioch (called Seraphion of Antioch by the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch)

Apollinaris was praised by Serapion of Antioch:

I have sent you letters of the most blessed Claudius Apollinarius, who was made bishop of Hierapolis in Asia (Serapion of Antioch. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. From the epistle to Caricus and Ponticus. Excerpted from Volume I of The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors; American Edition copyright © 1885. Copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby).

It is likely that this suggests that up until the time of Serapion, that those in Antioch were also Quartodecimans. And this also seems to have been suggested by Polycrates of Ephesus (and the 4th century historian Eusebius), who wrote about the time of Serapion that the Churches in Asia kept the Passover on the 14th of Nisan, like the Jews (Eusebius. Church History. Book V, Chapters 23,25).

An Anti-Montanist

Eusebius records that along with Apollinaris of Hierapolis, that Serapion of Antioch, Apollonius of Ephesus, and Thraseas of Eumenia opposed the Montanist heresies:

This same Apollonius states in the same work that, at the time of his writing, it was the fortieth year since Montanus had begun his pretended prophecy...

Serapion, who, as report says, succeeded Maximinus at that time as bishop of the church of Antioch, mentions the works of Apolinarius against the above-mentioned heresy. And he alludes to him in a private letter to Caricus and Pontius, in which he himself exposes the same heresy (Eusebius Book V, Chapters 18-19).

In those days also Melito, bishop of the parish in Sardis, and Apolinarius, bishop of Hierapolis, enjoyed great distinction...

A number of works of Apolinarius have been preserved by many, and the following have reached us: the Discourse...five books Against the Greeks, On Truth, a first and second book, and those which he subsequently wrote against the heresy of the Phrygians, which not long afterwards came out with its innovations, but at that time was, as it were, in its incipiency, since Montanus, with his false prophetesses, was then laying the foundations of his error (Eusebius Book IV, Chapters 26,27).

It should be noted, however, that nearly all of those works that Eusebius had were lost/destroyed.

Of the Montanists, according to The Catholic Encyclopedia:

the date of Thraseas is therefore about 160, and the origin of Montanism must be yet earlier...We hear of no false doctrines at first...St. Jerome's account, written in 384...describes them as Sabellians in their idea of the Trinity (Chapman J. Transcribed by Robert B. Olson. Montanists. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

One of the so-called Montanist Oracles was:

"I am the Father and the Son and the Paraclete." (Didymus, De trinitate iii. 41. 1.) (Assembled in P. de Labriolle, La crise montaniste (1913), 34-105, by Bates College, Lewston (Maine) http://abacus.bates.edu/Faculty/Philosophy%20and%20Religion/rel_241/texts/montanism.html 01/31/06).

This is one of the first references to a trinitarian view of the Godhead (the other earliest one was from the heretic Valentinus). The paraclete is a term used to signify the Holy Spirit (it is from the Greek term parakletos).

Since the true Church of God is binitarian, it is logical that any affiliated with it would have opposed any trinitarian concepts. Roman leaders seemed to be tolerant of the Montanists until sometime after Apollinaris and others in Asia Minor condemned them (Rome finally condemned the Montanists, but not for this doctrine).

Although Apollinaris held to positions that the real Church of God still holds, some like Passover on the 14th and the reality of the millennium have been condemned by the Church of Rome (see Passover and the Early Church and Did The Early Church Teach Millenarianism?). Yet, the Roman Catholics still tend to observe the 8th of January each year in his honor.

Others in Hierapolis

It is likely that Apollinaris was influenced by the teachings of earlier Christians who had been to Hierapolis. Some of the better known ones would have been the Apostle Philip and the writer Papius.

Polycrates records that the apostle Philip observed the Passover on the 14th of Nisan and that Philip died in Hierapolis (Eusebius. Church History. Book V, Chapter 24). Apollinaris probably did not know the apostle Philip personally, but would have reason to know his teaching.

The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that Papias was "Bishop of Hierapolis (close to Laodicea and Colossae in the valley of the Lycus in Phrygia) and Apostolic Father, called by St. Irenaeus "a hearer of John, and companion of Polycarp, a man of old time" " (Catholic Encyclopedia. St. Papias). Since John and Polycarp were quartodecimans (Eusebius. Church History. Book V, Chapter 24), and apparently so was Papias (since the churches in Asia had not adopted a Sunday Passover at this time, Ibid) hence these would provide other reasons that Apollinaris would have understood about the Passover being kept on the 14th of Nisan.

Like Papias (see Fragments of Papias), Apollinaris was also a millennialist (millennialism was the prevailing view among 2nd century church leaders).

Notice the following:

So Epiphanius, speaking on the notion of the millennium maintained by Apollinarius, says, “There is indeed a millennium mentioned by John…” (Panarion of Epiphanius, 77 in Bush G. The Millennium of the Apocalypse. 1842, p. 15).

Notice what Jerome wrote:

Papias, the pupil of John, bishop of Hierapolis in Asia...is said to have published a Second coming of Our Lord or Millennium. Irenæus and Apollinaris and others who say that after the resurrection the Lord will reign in the flesh with the saints, follow him (Jerome. De Viris Illustribus (On Illustrious Men), Chapter 18. Copyright © 2008 by Kevin Knight).

The Millennium was taught by several people that the Catholics and Orthodox consider to be saints. This is a further reason to consider that he would have kept not just Passover on the 14th, but the holy days like the Feast of Tabernacles which Christians believe points to the millennium.

From An Unknown Book

Another book states this,

"our writers, as lovers of truth, have reported the matter in a simple and artless way. To this number Apollinaris must be considered as belonging. `Thereupon, 'he says, `the legion which had by its prayer caused the prodigy received from the emperor a title suitable to the occurrence, and was called in the Roman language the Thunder-hurling Legion.'"(Eusebius, Church History, Book V, Chapter V, verses 3-4).

This shows us that Eusebius considered that Apollinaris was a lover of truth and a significant writer, who also wrote something about prayer. Whether he prayed for a certain outcome in a battle is unclear, though he most likely would have prayed for a quiet and peaceful life and that God's will would be done (cf. 1 Timothy 2:1-3).


As more and more ancient manuscripts are uncovered, we may possibly learn more about Apollinaris and his writings. Until then, what we do know is that Apollinaris was another one who kept the Passover on the 14th of Nisan and did not believe that the Gospel allowed that to be changed.

Eusebius taught that he had "great disinction" among the early leaders.

Apollinaris' teachings about Passover and the millenium pose severe problems for the Roman and Eastern Orthodox Catholics.  Although both groups claim Apollinaris as one of their saints, the reality is that those groups have both severely criticized both of the those beliefs.

Both groups supported the Council of Constantinople, whose initiator Theodosius decreed the death penalty for any who would keep Passover on the 14th (see Passover and the Early Church and Persecutions by Church and State).  And not only have both groups condemned millenarianism, it is the only supposed "doctrine of Antichrist" listed in the current Catechism of the Catholic Church (#676. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Imprimatur Potest +Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Doubleday, NY 1995, p. 194).

Despite any Catholic observance in Apollinaris' honor day, the reality is that based on what is actually known about Apollinaris, he had Church of God, not Church of Rome views.

Then why would the Catholics and Orthodox consider him to be one of THEIR saints, when clearly Apollinaris held to doctrines not held by them, but still held by the Philadelphia remnant of the Church of God?

It should be clear who changed.

Back to early Christianity page                                                                                                                                          Back to home page

Two free referenced booklets of possible interest may be Continuing History of the Church of God and Where is the True Christian Church Today?

Thiel B., Ph.D. Apollinaris of Hierapolis. www.cogwritercom 2005/2006/ 2007/2008/2010/ 2011/2012/2015/2017 0330