Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Euchites
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Euchites. Doctrines and Practices.—At the beginning of the last quarter of the 4th cent. or a little earlier, fanatics made their appearance in Syria, whose manner of life was said to have been introduced from Mesopotamia, and who were known by the Syriac name of Messalians or Massalians (מְצָלין), praying people. צְלָא oravit is found in the Chaldee (Dan. vi. 11; Ezra vi. 10). Epiphanius, whose account of them is the last article (80) of his work on heresies, translates the name (εὐχόμενοι), but in the next generation the Messalians had obtained a technical name in Greek also, and were known as Euchites (εὐχήται or εὐχῖται). They professed to give themselves entirely to prayer, refusing to work and living by begging; thus differing from the Christian monks, who supported themselves by their labour. They were of both sexes, went about together, and in summer weather slept in the streets promiscuously, as persons who had renounced the world and had no possession or habitation of their own. Epiphanius dates the commencement of this sect from the reign of Constantius (d. a.d. 361). Theodoret (H. E. iv. 11; Haer. Fab. iv. 10; Rel. Hist. iii., Vit. Marcian. vol. iii. 1146) dates its beginning a few years later under Valentinian. There seems no foundation for the charge that the Euchites were derived from the Manichees. Epiphanius connects them with heathen devotees whom he calls Euphemites, and who it seems had also been known as Messalians. The Euchites appear never to have made any entrance into the West, but in the East, though probably at no time very numerous, they are heard of for centuries; and when the Bogomiles of the 12th cent. appeared, the name Messalian still survived, and the new heretics were accounted descendants of the ancient sect.
In the time of Epiphanius the Messalians scarcely were a sect, having no settled system nor recognized leader; and Epiphanius imputes to them no error of doctrine, but only criticizes their manner of life.
Two accounts of Euchite doctrine are apparently of greater antiquity than the authors who preserve them. One is given by Timotheus (de Receptione Haer. in Cotelier's Mon. Ecc. Gr. iii. 400). This writer was a presbyter of Constantinople in the 6th cent. His coincidences with Theodoret are too numerous to be well explained except on the supposition of common sources. These sources probably were the Acts of the councils of Antioch and Side, which contained summaries of Messalian doctrine. Theodoret may possibly also have used a Messalian book called Asceticus, the doctrines of which, Photius tells us, had been exposed and anathematized at the council of Ephesus in 431. Probably that book furnished the "heads of the impious doctrine of the Messalians taken from their own book" given by Joannes Damascenus (de Haer. ap. Cotelier, Mon. Ecc. Gr. i. 302, and Opp. Le Quien, i. 95), but which would seem also (see Wolf, Hist. Bogomil. p. 11) to have been separately preserved in two MSS. at Leipzig (Acta Eruditorum, 1696, p. 299; 1699, p. 157; and in the Bodleian, Cod. Barocc. 185).
They held that in consequence of Adam's sin every one had from his birth a demon, substantially united to his soul, which incited him to sin, and which baptism was ineffectual to expel. Dealing only with past sin, baptism did but shear off the surface growth, and did not touch the root of the evil. The true remedy was intense, concentrated prayer, continued till it produced a state from which all affections and volitions were banished (ἀπάθεια). In this the soul felt as sensible a consciousness of union with its heavenly bridegroom as an earthly bride in the embraces of her husband. Then the demon went out in the spittle or in the mucus of the nose, or was seen to depart in smoke or in the form of a serpent, and there was in like manner sensible evidence of the entrance of the Holy Spirit. St. Augustine (Haer. 57), who had some source of information independent of Epiphanius, ascribes to them a fancy that the Holy Spirit might be seen to enter in the appearance of innocuous fire, and the demon to pass out of the man's mouth in the form of a sow with her farrow. Possibly language intended by them metaphorically was misunderstood; for they described the soul of him who had not Christ in him as the abode of serpents and venomous beasts. They further thought that he who had arrived at the passionless state could see the Holy Trinity with his bodily eyes; that the three hypostases of the Trinity coalesced into one, which united itself with worthy souls. This doctrine no doubt furnishes the key to the account given by Epiphanius of the effacement of the sense of distinct personality in members of this
sect. They held the possibility in the passionless state of a perfection in which sin was impossible; such a man needed neither instruction for his soul nor fasting to discipline his body, for delicate food and luxurious living could stir no evil desire in him. It is probably a misconception to suppose that they claimed that he could be guilty of licentious conduct without falling from perfection. The soul of him who was "spiritual," as they boasted themselves to be, was changed into the divine nature; he could see things invisible to ordinary men; and so some of them used to dance by way of trampling on the demons which they saw, a practice from which they were called Choreutae. The things they saw in their dreams they took for realities, and boasted that they then acquired a knowledge of future events, could see the condition of departed souls, and could read men's hearts. Both sexes might partake of this divine illumination, and they had female teachers, whom they honoured more than the clergy. The use of the Lord's Supper they regarded as a thing indifferent: it could neither benefit the worthy nor harm the unworthy receiver; but there was no reason for separating from the church by refusing it. They disparaged all the ordinary forms of Christian charity as compared with the merit of bestowing alms on one of their members. They had speculations about our Lord's humanity, of which the most intelligible is that the body which He assumed had been full of demons which it was necessary for Him to expel.
History.—The first whom we read of as a leader of the sect is Adelphius; hence "Adelphians" was one of their many names. He was a layman of Mesopotamia. Epiphanius speaks of them in his time as having no recognized leader. Theodoret tells that Flavian bp. of Antioch sent monks to bring the Messalian teachers at Edessa to Antioch. They denied their doctrines, and charged their accusers with calumny. Flavian then used an artifice afterwards repeated by Alexius Comnenus in the case of the Bogomiles. He affected to take their part, treated the aged Adelphius with great respect, and led him to believe that he would find in an aged bishop one able to understand and sympathize with views which younger men rejected only from want of experience. Adelphius, having been thus enticed into a full disclosure of his sentiments, was rebuked in the words addressed by Daniel to the wicked elder (Susanna, 52) and punished as convicted out of his own mouth. He and his party were beaten, excommunicated, and banished, and were not allowed, as they wished, the alternative of recantation, no confidence being felt in their sincerity, especially as they were found communicating in friendly terms with Messalians whom they had anathematized. Probably it was on this occasion that Flavian held a synod against them (Photius, 52), attended by three other bishops (Bizus of Seleucia, a Mesopotamian bishop, Maruthas, described by Photius as bp. of the Supharenians, and Samus) and by about 30 clergy. With Adelphius there were condemned two persons named Sabas, one of them a monk and a eunuch, Eustathius of Edessa, Dadoes, Hermas, Symeon, and others. Flavian informed the bishops of Edessa and neighbourhood what had been done, and received an approving reply. The Messalians banished from Syria went to Pamphylia, and there met new antagonists. They were also condemned by a council of 25 bishops held at Side and presided over by Amphilochius of Iconium, which sent a synodical letter to Flavian, informing him of their proceedings. In their Acts Amphilochius gave a full statement of the Messalian tenets expressed in their own words. Photius represents the synod at Antioch just mentioned as having been called in consequence of the synodical letter from Side, but this is more than doubtful, though Theodoret also, in his Eccl. Hist., mentions the proceedings in Pamphylia before mentioning those which resulted in the banishment of the Messalians to Pamphylia. We cannot fix the year of these proceedings, but c. 390 will probably not be far wrong. Measures were taken against the Messalians in Armenia also. Letoius bp. of Melitene obtained information from Flavian as to the proceedings in Antioch. Finding some monasteries in his diocese infected by this heresy, he set fire to them, and hunted the wolves from his sheepfold. A less zealous Armenian bishop was rebuked by Flavian for favour shewn to these heretics. In Pamphylia the contest lasted for several years. The orthodox leaders were another Amphilochius, bp. of Side, and Verinianus bp. of Perga, who were stimulated by energetic letters from Atticus bp. of Constantinople, and later, in a.d. 426, from the synod held for the consecration of Sisinnius, the successor of Atticus, in which Theodotus of Antioch and a bishop named Neon are mentioned by Photius as taking active parts. Messalianism had probably at that time given some trouble in Constantinople itself. Nilus (de Vol. Paup. ad Magnam, 21) couples with Adelphius of Mesopotamia, Alexander, who polluted Constantinople with like teaching, and against whom he contends that their idleness, instead of aiding devotion, gave scope to evil thoughts and passions and was inimical to the true spirit of prayer. Tillemont has conjectured that this was the Alexander who about this time founded the order of the Acoimetae (see D. C. A. s.v.), but the identification is far from certain. There is no evidence that the latter was a heretic save that his name has not been honoured with the prefix of saint; and his institution would scarcely have met with the success it did if it could have been represented as devised by a notorious Messalian to carry out the notions of his sect as to the duty of incessant prayer.
Between the accession of Sisinnius and the council of Ephesus in 431, John of Antioch wrote to Nestorius about the Messalians, and Theodosius legislated against them (xvi. Cod. Theod. de Haer. vol. vi. p. 187). At Ephesus Valerian of Iconium, and Amphilochius of Side, in the name of the bps. of Lycaonia and Pamphylia, obtained from the council a confirmation of the decrees made against the Euchites at Constantinople in 426 and the anathematization of the Messalian book, Asceticus, passages from which Valerian laid before the synod (Mansi, iv. 1477). Fabricius names Agapius, and Walch Adelphius, as the author of this book, but the writer is really unknown. These proceedings at Ephesus were unknown to Gregory the Great (Ep. vi. 14, ad Narsem, vol. vii. p. 361), but are mentioned by Photius, and the decree was read at the second council of Nicaea (Mansi, xii. 1025). The cause of Gregory's oversight may have been that his correspondent cited to him as Ephesine the Acts of the council of Antioch. We learn from the Ephesine decree that Messalianism had also been condemned at Alexandria, and Timotheus mentions Cyril as an antagonist of these heretics. In the Ep. ad Calosyrium (prefixed to the tract adv. Anthropomorph. vii. 363) Cyril rebukes certain monks who made piety a cloak for laziness, but there is no evidence that they were Euchites. The articles of the Asceticus were the subject of 24 anathemas by Archelaus (bp. of Caesarea in Cappadocia some time between the two Ephesine synods of 431 and 449), and of two letters by Heracleidas of Nyssa (c. 440). The next Euchite leader of whom we read is Lampetius, after whom his followers were called Lampetians, and who is said to have been the first of the sect to attain the dignity of priesthood. He had been ordained by Alypius, bp. of Caesarea (Cappadocia) in 458. He was accused to Alypius by the presbyter Gerontius, superior of the monks at Glitis, of undue familiarity with women, unseemly language, scoffing at those who took part in the musical services of the church as being still under the law when they ought to make melody only in their hearts, and of other Euchite doctrines and practices. The examination of the charges was delegated by Alypius to Hormisdas bp. of Comana, and Lampetius was degraded from the priesthood. He wrote a work called the Testament, answered by the Monophysite Severus, afterwards bp. of Antioch. A fragment of this answer is preserved in a catena belonging to New College, Oxford (Wolf, Anecdota Graeca, iii. 182). It insists on the duty of praising God both with heart and voice. The same catena contains an extract from another work of Severus against the Euchites, an epistle to a bp. Solon. Photius tells that in Rhinocorura two persons named Alpheus, one of them a bishop, defended the orthodoxy of Lampetius, and were in consequence deposed. He learned this from a letter written by Ptolemy, another bishop of the same district, to Timotheus of Alexandria. There have been at Alexandria several bishops of that name, but probably the Timotheus intended is the one contemporary with Lampetius (460-482).
The next Messalian leader of whom we read (in Timotheus) is Marcian, a money-changer, who lived in the middle of the 6th cent., and from whom these sectaries came to be called Marcianists. The correspondence of Gregory the Great, already referred to, arose out of the condemnation under this name, unknown in the West, in 595, of one John, a presbyter of Chalcedon. He appealed to the pope, who pronounced him orthodox, complaining that he had not even been able to make out from his accusers what the heresy of Marcianism was. In the 7th cent. Maximus, in his scholia on the Pseudo-Dionysius (II. 88), charges those whom he calls indifferently Lampetians, Messalians, Adelphians, or Marcianists, with giving but three years to ascetic life and the rest of their life to all manner of debauchery.
We hear no more of the Messalians till the Bogomile heresy arose in the 12th cent.
Of modern writers, the most useful are Tillemont, viii. 530; Walch, Hist. der Ketz. iii. 418; and Neander, Ch. Hist. iii. 323.