), bishop of CONSTANTIA and metropolitan of Cyprus, was born at Bezanduca, a small town in Palestine, in the district of Eleutheropolis, in the first part of the fourth century. (Sozomen. 6.32.) His parents were Jews.
He went to Egypt when young, and there appears to have been tainted with Gnostic errors, but afterwards feli into the hands of some monks, and by them was made a strong advocate for the monastic life, and strongly imbued with their own narrow spirit.
He returned to Palestine, and lived there for some time as a monk, having founded a monastery near his native place. In A. D. 367 he was chosen bishop of Constantia, the metropolis of the Isle of Cyprus, formerly called Salamis. His writings shew him to have been a man of great reading; for he was acquainted with Hebrew, Syriac, Egyptian, Greek, and Latin, and was therefore called πεντάγλωσσος
But he was entirely without critical or logical power, of real piety, but also of a very bigoted and dogmatical turn of mind, unable to distinguish the essential from the nonessential in doctrinal differences, and always ready to suppose that some dangerous heresy lurked in any statement of belief which varied a little from the ordinary form of expression.
It was natural that to such a man Origen, whom he could not understand, should appear a dangerous teacher of error; and accordingly in his work on heresies he thinks it necessary to give an essential warning against him.
A report that Origen's opinions were spreading in Palestine, and sanctioned even by John, bishop of Jerusalem, excited Epiphanius to such a pitch, that he left Cyprus to investigate the matter on the spot. At Jerusalem he preached so violent a sermon against any abettors of Origen's errors, and made such evident allusions to the bishop, that John sent his Archdeacon to beg him to stop.
Afterwards, when John preached against anthropomorphism (of a tendency to which Epiphanius had been suspected) he was followed up to the pulpit by his undaunted antagonist, who announced that he agreed in John's censure of Anthropomorphites, but that it was equally necessary to condemn Origenists. Having excited sufficient commotion at Jerusalem, Epiphanius repaired to Bethlehem, where he was all-powerful with the monks; and there he was so successful in his denuneiation of heresy, that he persuaded some to renounce their connexion with the bishop of Jerusalem.
After this he allowed his zeal to get the better of all considerations of church order and decency, to such an extent, that he actually ordained Paullinianus to the office of presbyter, that he might perform the ministerial functions for the monks (who, as usual at that time, were laymen), and so prevent them from applying to Jerusalem to supply this want. John naturally protested loudly against this interference with his diocese, and appealed for help to the two patriarchal sees of Alexandria and Rome. Peace was not restored to the Church for some time.
The next quarrel in which Epiphanius was involved was with Chrysostom. Some monks of Nitria had been expelled by Theophilus, bishop of Alexandria, as Origenists, but were received and protected at Constantinople [CHRYSOSTOMUS]. Upon this Theophilus persuaded Epiphanius, now almost in his dotage, to summon a council of Cyprian bishops, which he did A. D. 401.
This assembly passed a sentence of condemnation on Origen's books, which was made known to Chrysostom by letter; and Epiphanius proceeded in person to Constantinople, to take part in the pending dispute. Chrysostom was irritated by Epiphanius interfering in the government of his diocese; and the latter, just before his return home, is reputed to have given vent to his bad feeling by the scandalous malediction, "I hope that you will not die a bishop!" upon which Chrysostom replied,--" I hope you will never get home !" (Sozomen. 8.15.) For the credit of that really great and Christian man, it is to be hoped that the story is incorrect; and as both wishes were granted, it bears strong marks of a tale invented after the deaths of the two disputants. Epiphanius died on board the ship, which was conveying him back to Cyprus, A. D. 402, leaving us a melancholy example of the unchristian excesses into which bigotry may hurry a man of real piety, and a sincere desire to do God service.
The extant works of Epiphanius are
A discourse on the faith, being an exposition of the doctrine of the Trinity.
A discourse against Heresies, of which he attacks no less than eighty.
An epitome of
The first to John bishop of Jerusalem, translated by Jerome into Latin; the second to Jerome himself.
These letters are both found in the works of Jerome.
A great number of Epiphanius's writings are lost.
The earliest editions were at Basle, in Latin, translated by Cornarius, 1543
, and again in the following year sumtu et typis Jo. Hervagii.
The edition of Dionysius Petavius, in Greek and Latin, appeared at Paris, 1622, 2 vols. fol.
, and at Leipzig, 1682, with a commentary by Valesius.
1. ad v. Rufin.
p. 222; Cave, Hist. Litt.
vol. i.; Neander, Kirchengeschichte,
vol. ii. p.1414, &c.