Hippolytus of Rome

By COGwriter

Hippolytus was a Bishop of Rome in the third century.

Although known as the first “antipope,” The Catholic Encyclopedia claims that Hippolytus is a Catholic saint and was “the most important theologian…of the Roman Church in the pre-Constantinian era” (Kirsch, Johann Peter. “St. Hippolytus of Rome.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 18 Jul. 2012 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07360c.htm>).

He is apparently important enough in the Greco-Roman churches to have three different days set aside to honor him. December 2nd and August 13th are "saints days" for Hippolytuse that Catholics of Rome acknowledge, while the Eastern Orthodox use January 30. He was believed to have been "scourged to death" c. 258 (http://saints.sqpn.com/saint-hippolytus-2-december/).

What were his theological views? If he was elected "Bishop of Rome," why is he considered to be an antipope? This article will try to touch on this matters.

Beliefs and Teachings of Hippolytus

Here is some claimed information about Hippolytus:

Introductory Notice to Hippolytus

[a.d. 170-236.] The first great Christian Father whose history is Roman is, nevertheless, not a Roman, but a Greek. He is the disciple of Irenaeus, and the spirit of his life-work rejects that of his master. In his personal character he so much resembles Irenaeus risen again, that the great Bishop of Lyons must be well studied and understood if we would do full justice to the conduct of Hippolytus. (Ante-Nicene Fathers. Edited by Roberts & Donaldon. VOLUME V FATHERS OF THE THIRD CENTURY: HIPPOLYTUS, CYPRIAN, CAIUS, NOVATIAN, APPENDIX. )

Irenaeus is considered to be a saint by the Roman and Eastern Orthodox Catholics as well as many Protestant groups.

Despite being a Catholic saint and important theologian, Hippolytus apparently held a binitarian, not trinitarian, view of the Godhead:

He did not say, “I and the Father am one, but are one.” For the word are is not said of one person, but it refers to two persons, and one power…(Hippolytus. Against Noetus: Against the Heresy of One Noetus, Chapter 7.  from The Extant Works and Fragments of Hippolytus: Dogmatical and Historical.  Roberts-Donaldson English Translators. Copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby)

This should not be a surprise as Irenaeus of Lyon did as well.

LIke Irenaeus, Hippolytus also taught that God has a 6000-7000 year plan, like those of us in the genuine Church of God do (see Does God Have a 6,000-7,000 Year Plan?):

And 6,000 years must needs be accomplished, in order that the Sabbath may come, the rest, the holy day “on which God rested from all His works.” For the Sabbath is the type and emblem of the future kingdom of the saints, when they “shall reign with Christ,” when He comes from heaven, as John says in his Apocalypse: for “a day with the Lord is as a thousand years. “Since, then, in six days God made all things”, it follows that 6,000 years must be fulfilled. (Hippolytus. On the HexaËmeron, Or Six Days’ Work. From Fragments from Commentaries on Various Books of Scripture. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0502.htm viewed 9/17/07)

Hippolytus thus taught the 7,000 year plan (6,000 for humankind, followed by 1,000 from God).

Hippolytus also  noted that in the third century celibacy was not required for the clergy (and not by his rival, Roman Bishop Callistus) including bishops, and he condemned this:

About the time of this man, bishops, priests, and deacons, who had been twice married, and thrice married, began to be allowed to retain their place among the clergy. (Hippolytus. Refutation of All Heresies, Book IX, Chapter VII. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886)

The Catholic Encyclopedia teaches  that the 3rd century Bishop of Rome, “Callistus allowed the lower clergy to marry.” (Chapman J. Transcribed by Benjamin F. Hull.  Pope Callistus I. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Published 1908. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Hippolytus also wrote about idol or icon makers:

If someone is a sculptor or a painter, let them be taught not to make idols. Either let them cease or let them be rejected. (Hippolytus. The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus of Rome, Chapter 16, Verse 3)

Idols and icons were not even part of the early worship practices of the Church of Rome (see also What Did the Early Church Teach About Idols and Icons?).

Hippolytus noted:

That it is not meet for Christians to bear arms…(Hippolytus. Heads of the Canons of Abulides or Hippolytus, Which Are Used by the Ethiopian Christians. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886.)

16:6 A charioteer, likewise, or one who takes part in the games, or one who  goes to the games, he shall cease or he shall be rejected. 7 If someone is a gladiator, or one  who teaches those among the gladiators how to fight, or a hunter who is in the wild beast  shows in the arena, or a public official who is concerned with gladiator shows, either he  shall cease, or he shall be rejected. 8 If someone is a priest of idols, or an attendant of idols,  he shall cease or he shall be rejected. 9 A military man in authority must not execute men. If  he is ordered, he must not carry it out. Nor must he take military oath. If he refuses, he shall  be rejected. 10 If someone is a military governor, or the ruler of a city who wears the purple,  he shall cease or he shall be rejected. 11 The catechumen or faithful who wants to become a  soldier is to be rejected, for he has despised God. (Hippolytus. The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus of Rome. From the work of Bernard Botte (La Tradition Apostolique. Sources Chretiennes, 11 bis. Paris, Editions du Cerf, 1984) and of Gregory Dix (The Treatise on the Apostolic Tradition of St. Hippolytus of Rome, Bishop and Martyr. London: Alban Press, 1992) as translated by Kevin P. Edgecomb http://www.bombaxo.com/hippolytus.html viewed 08/06/09)

All legitimate scholars realize that until the late third/early fourth centuries, even Greco-Roman professors of Christ were generally opposed to Christians being in the military (for more information, please see Military Service and the Churches of God: Do Real Christians Participate in Carnal Warfare?).

Hippolytus also wrote about Simon Magus (Simon Magus, What Did He Teach?), prophetic matters (When Will the Great Tribulation Begin?, Some Doctrines of Antichrist, and Who Are The Two Witnesses?) and is one who also attempted to put together the locations that the original apostles went to (see Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome).

Hippolytus Reported About Problems with Other Bishops of Rome

Hippolytus is well known for writing about certain corrupt bishops. Particularly two of them: Zephyrinus and Callistus.

Hippolytus wrote the following about Zephyrinus (who is believed to have been Bishop of Rome from 199-217):

Zephyrinus, an ignorant and illiterate individual, and one unskilled in ecclesiastical definitions. (Hippolytus. Refutation of All Heresies, Book IX, Chapter VI)

Perhaps it should be noted that Callistus (Bishop of Rome from 217-222) was considered to have been corrupt.  Callistus was condemned by Hippolytus for his corruption, allowing abortion/infanticide, and for instituting a Saturday fast.

In circa 217 A.D., Callistus became bishop of Rome and somehow succeeded Zephyrinus.  After he did, as Hippolytus reports, Callistus lowered standards and many who professed Christ liked that:

Callistus…a man cunning in wickedness, and subtle where deceit was concerned, (and) who was impelled by restless ambition to mount the episcopal throne. Now this man moulded to his purpose Zephyrinus, an ignorant and illiterate individual, and one unskilled in ecclesiastical definitions. And inasmuch as Zephyrinus was accessible to bribes, and covetous, Callistus, by luring him through presents, and by illicit demands, was enabled to seduce him into whatever course of action he pleased. And so it was that Callistus succeeded in inducing Zephyrinus to create continually disturbances among the brethren, while he himself took care subsequently, by knavish words, to attach both factions in good-will to himself. (Hippolytus. Refutation of All Heresies, Book IX, Chapter VI)

The impostor Callistus … And the hearers of Callistus being delighted with his tenets, continue with him, thus mocking both themselves as well as many others, and crowds of these dupes stream together into his school. Wherefore also his pupils are multiplied, and they plume themselves upon the crowds (attending the school) for the sake of pleasures which Christ did not permit. But in contempt of Him, they place restraint on the commission of no sin, alleging that they pardon those who acquiesce (in Callistus’ opinions). For even also he permitted females, if they were unwedded, and burned with passion at an age at all events unbecoming, or if they were not disposed to overturn their own dignity through a legal marriage, that they might have whomsoever they would choose as a bedfellow, whether a slave or free, and that a woman, though not legally married, might consider such a companion as a husband. Whence women, reputed believers, began to resort to drugs for producing sterility, and to gird themselves round, so to expel what was being conceived on account of their not wishing to have a child either by a slave or by any paltry fellow, for the sake of their family and excessive wealth. Behold, into how great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by inculcating adultery and murder at the same time!  And withal, after such audacious acts, they, lost to all shame, attempt to call themselves a Catholic Church! And some, under the supposition that they will attain prosperity, concur with them. (Hippolytus. Refutation of All Heresies, Book IX, Chapter VII)

Notice that Callistus’ allowance of biblically condemned sin led to an increase in Roman Church attendance, and that Callistus allowed (or at least permited) abortion and adultery.  Callistus apparently thus caused many pagans to become part of the Church of Rome.

Note that even The Catholic Encyclopedia admitted this about Callistus and Zephyrinus:

Callistus…Our chief knowledge of this pope is from his bitter enemies…He obtained great influence over the ignorant, illiterate, and grasping Zephyrinus by bribes. We are not told how it came about that the runaway slave (now free by Roman law from his master, who had lost his rights when Callistus was condemned to penal servitude to the State) became archdeacon and then pope…Again Callistus…permitted noble ladies to marry low persons and slaves, which by the Roman law was forbidden; he had thus given occasion for infanticide. (Chapman , Pope Callistus I)

Here is Hippolytus’ condemnation of Callistus’ Sabbath fast:

Even today some allow themselves the same audacities: they order fasting on the Sabbath of which Christ has not spoken, dishonoring even the Gospel of Christ. (Hippolytus.  In Danielem commentarius, 4, 20, 3 as Cited in Bacchiocchi Anti-Judaism and the Origin of Sunday, p. 65)

Hippolytus also wrote about nude baptism, which apparently was a practice in Alexandria, and possibly for a while in Rome (see ).  But neither the Alexandrian Orthodox nor Roman Catholics currently teach that.

A book sold at the Vatican (I bought one copy there and later saw the later version which had the same information on this matter) included the following information:

Zephyrinus was…not exceptionally learned or cultured…

CALLISTUS, ST. (217-222)…He was born in Rome…After a tumultuous and certainly not edifying life which saw him imprisoned and exiled for common crimes…{he was} chosen by Zephyrinus as his private secretary…

Hippolytus, was…elected with the support of some bishops and presbyters, …thus became the first anti-pope…

Callistus…before his death became reconciled with the Church…(Lopes A. Translation by Charles Nopar. The Popes.  Pontifical Administration, Rome, 1997 and 2005 editions, pp. 5-6)

Obviously it appears that the corrupt Callistus attempted to buy the office from Zephyrinus (where his money came from has not been determined, but may have had something to do with Callistus' role related to the catacombs).  And since he was trying to buy an ecclesiastical office, he violated the warning from the Apostle Peter against Simon Magus first who tried to buy the gift of God for money:

20 But Peter said to him, "Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! 21 You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity." (Acts 8:20-23).

Yet Callistus (and the bribe-taking Zephyrinus) is listed as part of the claimed apostolic successors of this same Peter according to the Church of Rome.

Were not Zephyrinus and Callistus heretics and apostates?  Should one, like Callistus, who allowed abortion/infanticide and apparently bribed his way into his office be considered a true Christian?  Or instead should not those in Asia Minor who condemned Marcion’s lawlessness be considered as true apostolic successors?

Even though Hippolytus is considered to be a saint by the Church of Rome, and even “was the most important theologian and the most prolific religious writer of the Roman Church in the pre-Constantinian era,” it would seem that because Hippolytus clearly held to more of a binitarian view of the Godhead--Callistus considered him to be a Ditheist (Chapman J. Transcribed by Kevin Cawley. Fathers of the Church. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VI. Copyright © 1909 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, September 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York), the Roman Catholic Church decided to claim apostolic succession through Callistus instead of Hippolytus.  Hippolytus also complained about Callistus’ heretical view of the Godhead, which indicated that Callistus’ more “trinitarian” leaning was not universally accepted or Hippolytus would not likely have publicly complained about it as a heresy (Hippolytus. Refutation of All Heresies, Book X, Chapter XXIII).

As referred to earlier, Hippolytus was the first to be labeled as an “antipope” because he and his followers refused to accept that Callistus could morally have apostolic succession. Unlike Callistus (who some claim was elected, but may not have been), Hippolytus was actually elected “Bishop of Rome” right after Zephyrinus’ death (Kirsch. St. Hippolytus of Rome. The Catholic Encyclopedia). But because of Callistus’ ‘liberal’ views, many chose to follow Zephyrinus’ archdeacon Callistus instead of Hippolytus. If the Roman Church truly had apostolic succession how could they trace their church through the bride-taking Zephyrinus and the abortion-allowing Callistus than Hippolytus?

Of course, those who associate with the Church of Rome should ask themselves if Hippolytus was elected as the Bishop of Rome in the 3rd century and Callistus was considered a corrupt “imposter” who somehow wrestled control, would it not make sense from a Roman Catholic perspective that it was Callistus who should be considered the first antipope and not Hippolytus?

Yet, most of those associated with Rome tend to ignore this.

What is even stranger is that the Roman Catholic Church currently claims that it never allowed abortion (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2271, p. 606)and the Didache clearly condemned abortions and infanticide (Didache, 2:1-3.  In Holmes, p. 253), yet at least two of its important theologians (one in each of the 3rd and 20th centuries respectively) reported that Callistus did allow abortion/infanticide.  It is also reported that other pontiffs, such as Gregory XIII and Gregory XIV, also allowed abortion (De Rosa, pp 374-375). Apparently it seems that since Callistus’ view of the Godhead was less binitarian than Hippolytus, an individual who committed simony (attempting to buy a church office) and who condoned abortion/infanticide and immortality (Callistus) was more acceptable to Rome to be considered as an “apostolic successor.”

Perhaps it should also be mentioned that there were no 'popes' with that title as bishop of Rome at that time. Others have pointed out that Hippolytus could have been another bishop in Rome at that time (Walsh M. The Popes. Metro Books, 2013, p.15)--and there could have possibly been more than two. G. Salmon suggested that Hippolytus was bishop of the Greek speakers there, while those in the Catholic succession lists were mainly Latin speakers.

Hippolytus Did Not Support the Biblical Date for Passover

Despite having several views consistent with genuine Church of God positions, Hippolytus condemned others.  Notice some complaints from Hippolytus concerning beliefs of those he considered to be heretics:

…a passover of the Lord God kept unto our generations, by those who are able to discern (this mystery), at the commencement of the fourteenth day…

And certain other (heretics), contentious by nature, (and) wholly uniformed as regards knowledge, as well as in their manner more (than usually) quarrelsome, combine (in maintaining) that Easter {Passover} should be kept on the fourteenth day  of the first month, according to the commandment of the law, on whatever day (of the week) it should occur. (But in this) they only regard what has been written in the law, that he will be accursed who does not so keep (the commandment) as it is enjoined… In other respects, however, these consent to all the traditions delivered to the Church by the Apostles. (Hippolytus.  Refutation of All Heresies, Book 8, Chapters 7 and 11)

So sadly, Hippolytus of Rome clearly is condemning the views and practices of those who kept Passover on the 14th as heretical (a term he referred to them as in the verse that followed the one above), even though he seemingly otherwise considers them to be faithful.

Concluding Comments on Hippolytus

Hippolytus is somewhat of a link between the original Church of God and what became Constantian Christianity. Hippolytus held to a variety of doctrines that the genuine Church of God still holds, but that the Church of Rome and similar groups no longer do.

It seems most likely that the Church of Rome determined him to be an antipope (though it still reveres him as a Catholic saint) because his views on the Godhead were documented to be basically binitarian, and not trinitarian. Although many other earlier Roman presbyters and presbyters apparently were also likely to have been binitarian and not trinitarian, the limited available records do not tend to make this so clear that they (in the case of those considered now to have been early "Bishops of Rome") had to be given labels such as antipope.

Although Hippolytus was not truly part of the Church of God, his writings show that many practices that the Church of Rome and the Eastern Orthodox now hold were simply not even the practices of those churches in the third century.  They changed, but the genuine Church of God has not.

Thiel B. Hippolytus of Rome. http://www.cogwriter.com/hippolytus.htm 2012/2015/2017 0906

Some items of possibly related interest may include:

The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?
The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3 Do they matter? Most say they must, but act like they do not. This article contains some history about the Church of God (sometimes referred to as the continuation of Primitive Christianity) over the past 2000 years. It also discusses the concept of church eras.
What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History? Although most believe that the Roman Catholic Church history teaches an unbroken line of succession of bishops beginning with Peter, with stories about most of them, Roman Catholic scholars know the truth of this matter. This eye-opening article is a must-read for any who really wants to know what Roman Catholic history actually admits about the early church.
Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes? Should Christians be Nazarenes today? What were the practices of the Nazarenes.
Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome What actually happened to the primitive Church? And did the Bible tell about this in advance?
Apostolic Succession What really happened? Did structure and beliefs change? Are many of the widely-held current understandings of this even possible? Did you know that Catholic scholars really do not believe that several of the claimed “apostolic sees” of the Orthodox have apostolic succession–despite the fact that the current pontiff himself seems to wish to ignore this view? Is there actually a true church that has ties to any of the apostles that is not part of the Catholic or Orthodox churches? Read this article if you truly are interested in the truth on this matter!
Early Church History: Who Were the Two Major Groups Professed Christ in the Second and Third Centuries? Did you know that many in the second and third centuries felt that there were two major, and separate, professing Christian groups in the second century, but that those in the majority churches tend to now blend the groups together and claim “saints” from both? “Saints” that condemn some of their current beliefs. Who are the two groups?
Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Continuing Church of God? Do you know that both groups shared a lot of the earliest teachings? Do you know which church changed? Do you know which group is most faithful to the teachings of the apostolic church? Which group best represents true Christianity? This documented article answers those questions. [Português: Qual é fiel: A igreja católica romana ou a igreja do deus?]
Some Similarities and Differences Between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Continuing Church of God
Both groups claim to be the original church, but both groups have differing ways to claim it. Both groups have some amazing similarities and some major differences. Do you know what they are?
Where is the True Christian Church Today? This free online pdf booklet answers that question and includes 18 proofs, clues, and signs to identify the true vs. false Christian church. Plus 7 proofs, clues, and signs to help identify Laodicean churches. A related sermon is also available: Where is the True Christian Church? Here is a link to the booklet in the Spanish language: ¿Dónde está la verdadera Iglesia cristiana de hoy? Here is a link in the German language: WO IST DIE WAHRE CHRISTLICHE KIRCHE HEUTE? Here is a link in the French language: Où est la vraie Église Chrétienne aujourd’hui?
Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from Acts 2 to the 21st century. Related sermon links include Continuing History of the Church of God: c. 31 to c. 300 A.D. and Continuing History of the Church of God: 4th-16th Centuries. The booklet is available in Spanish: Continuación de la Historia de la Iglesia de Dios, German: Kontinuierliche Geschichte der Kirche Gottes, and Ekegusii Omogano Bw’ekanisa Ya Nyasae Egendererete.