Little Bits of History

September 28

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 28, 2017

235: Pope Pontian resigns. Nothing is known of his early life, but it is thought he was born around the year 200. He became the 18th Pope in the new Christian religion, still sometimes at odds in the Roman empire. Pontian followed Pope Urban I taking his position on August 21, 230. His early pontificate was peaceful under Emperor Severus Alexander. Origen was a Greek Christian, ascetic, and scholar whose theology was inconsistent with early teachings. Pontian likely presided over a Roman synod, condemning Origen. Severus died in March 235 and was replaced by Maximinus Thrax who did not agree with leniency towards Christians. He had Pope Pontian, and the Antipope Hippolytus exiled to Sardinia’s work camps, a death sentence. Pontian resigned his papacy in order to allow a new Pope to be easily elected.

Hippolytus of Rome was born in 170 and was the most important theologian in the Christian Church in the third century. He was one of the elders of the Greek portion of the new Christian religion and Pope Zephyrinus (199-217) came under his accusations for modalism, a heresy which denied the absolute Trinity of God, stating Father and Son were just different names of the same being. Origen was one of Hippolutus’s disciples. Hippolytus was conservative and was scanalized when Pope Calliztus (217-222) granted absolution to sinners, including adulterers. Hippolytus continued to be critical of the next Popes as well. He was so incensed by the Leaders of his Church, that he allowed himself to be elected a rival Bishop of Rome.

Both men were sent to the mine in Sardinia to be worked to death. It has been assumed both men died in the mines but that a reconciliation had been achieved. Pope Fabian (236-250) brought the bodies of both men back to Rome and had them reburied on August 13, 236, giving them a Christian burial. Pontian was buried in the papal crypt in the Catacomb of Callixtus on the Appian Way. The marker over his tomb was found in 1909 and was engraved in Greek with the message that it contained Ponianus, Bishop. In a different hand “Martyr” was inscribed. Hippolytus was buried in a cemetery on the Via Tiburtina and his inscription gives his rank as a priest, suggesting the schism had been resolved.

Maximinus Thrax was the 27th Roman Emperor and ruled during the Crisis of the Third Century. Alexander was assassinated by his own troops and Maximinus came to power as the Empire was wracked by invasions, civil war, plague, and economic depression. The fifty years after Alexander had 26 claimants to the title of Emperor, most of them prominent Roman generals. This was the case for Maximinus who was born into a low status family, considered to be barbarous, and earned his way to the top via the Roman army. He ruled over the empire until early May 238. He died at Aquileia as he was attempting to quash a Senatorial revolt.

Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life. – Buddha

Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays. – Soren Kierkegaard

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness. – Dalai Lama

To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing. – Martin Luther



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