Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Gennadius (11) Massiliensis, presbyter of Marseilles

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search


Gennadius (11) Massiliensis, presbyter of Marseilles, who died in 496.

If we accept his de Viris Illustribus as it is commonly published, we are warranted in classing Gennadius of Marseilles with the semi-Pelagians, as he censures Augustine and Prosper and praises Faustus. Moreover, the very laudatory account of St. Jerome at the commencement of the book seems inconsistent with the hostile reference to that father under the art. Rufinus in the same catalogue.

The de Viyis Iliustribus in its most commonly accepted form was probably published c. 495. and contains, in some ten folio pages, short biographies of ecclesiastics between 392 and 495. Although lacking the lively touches of his great predecessor, Jerome, the catalogue of Gennadius exhibits a real sense of proportion. The greater men stand out in its pages, and it conveys much real and valuable information. With due allowance for the bias referred to, it may be regarded as a trustworthy compilation.

His other treatise, entitled Epistola de Fide med, or de Ecclesiasticis Dogmatibus Liber, begins with a profession of faith in the three creeds, interwoven with the names of those who are considered by the writer (with occasionally questionable accuracy) to have impugned this or that article of belief. Gennadius considers (like later writers, e.g. Aquinas) that all men, even those alive at the second Advent, will have to die (7). But this conviction, though derived from a widespread patristic tradition, is, he admits, rejected by equally catholic and learned Fathers. Of the theories concerning the soul of man subsequently known as the creationist and the traducianist views, he espouses the creationist. He will not allow the existence of the spirit as a third element in man besides the body and the soul, but regards it as only another name for the soul (19). Heretical baptism is not to be repeated, unless it has been administered by heretics who would have declined to employ the invocation of the Holy Trinity (52). He recommends weekly reception of the Eucharist by all not under the burden of mortal sin. Such as are should have recourse to public penitence. He will not deny that private penance may suffice; but even here outward manifestation, such as change of dress, is desirable. Daily reception of holy communion he will neither praise nor blame (53)· Evil was invented by Satan (57). Though celibacy is rated above matrimony, to condemn marriage is Manichean (67). A twice-married Christian should not be ordained (72). Churches should be called after martyrs, and the relics of martyrs honoured (73). None but the baptized attain eternal life; not even catechumens, unless they suffer martyrdom (74). Penitence thoroughly avails to Christians even at their latest breath (80). The Creator alone knows our secret thoughts. Satan can learn them only by our motions and manifestations (81). Marvels maybe wrought in the Lord's name even by bad men (84). Men can become holy without such marks (85). The freedom of man's will is strongly asserted in this short treatise, but the commencement of all goodness is assigned to divine grace. The language of Gennadius is here not quite Augustinian; but neither is it Pelagian, and the work was long included among those of St. Augustine.

The de Viris Illustribus is given in most good edd. of the works of St. Jerome, and is ed. by Dr. Richardson in the Lib. of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers; the Liber de Ecclesiasticis Dogmatibus is in the Appendix to t. viii. of the Benedictine ed. of St. Augustine (p. 75). Cf. C. H. Turner in J. of Theol. Studies (1905), vii. 78–99, who prints a new text of the Liber de Eccl. Dogm.

[J.G.C.]