Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Arnobius, Junior
Arnobius, Junior, a presbyter, or possibly bp., of Gaul; presumed, from internal evidence of his writings, to have lived at least as late as A.D. 460.
The only external notices seem to be those of Venerable Bede, who praises his Commentary on the Psalms, and of Alcuin, who favourably alludes to his Altercation with Serapion in a letter addressed to Flavius Merius, and in the sixth book of his treatise Contra Felicem Urgelitanum. The internal evidence is based upon the Commentarium in Psalmos, the Notes on some passages of the Gospels, and the Altercatio cum Serapione. The Commentary and Altercation may both be found in the Bibliotheca Patrum Maxima (tom. viii.), Lyons, 1677; but the contents render it very difficult to believe that the same person was author of both.
The Commentary on the Psalms is avowed by its author, who dedicates it to Leontius, bp. of Arles, and to Rusticus, bp. of Narbonne. The comments are devout, practical, and pointed, but brief and uncritical, interpreting everything as referring to Christ and the church. They are, however, accused of a semi-Pelagian tendency; and a very learned writer, whose Hist. Eccl. appeared c. 1686, Natalis Alexander, invites special attention to remarks of Arnobius upon Pss. l. ciii. cviii. and cxxvi. (in the Heb.; in A.V., li. civ. etc.). But Nat. Alexander was a Jansenist; and anti-Jansenist writers, such as the Bollandists, might maintain that the majority were capable of an orthodox interpretation. It must, however, be allowed that the author of the Commentary is anti-Augustinian; as on Ps. cviii. (cix.) 16, 17, he speaks of the heresy, "quae dicit Deum aliquos praedestinâsse ad benedictionem, alios ad maledictionem."
The Altercatio cum Serapione is a dialogue, represented as having been held between Arnobius and Serapion. Serapion by turns plays the part of a Sabellian, an Arian, and a Pelagian, and is gradually driven from each position. Considerable learning is displayed and a clear apprehension of the points at issue, combined with much real ingenuity of argument. The circumstance of Arnobius being the chief speaker does not of course prove that the authorship is his, any more than the position of Socrates in certain of the Platonic dialogues would prove that Socrates wrote them. Moreover, just as we cannot make Socrates responsible for all that Plato has put into his mouth, so neither can Arnobius junior be justly credited with the tenets here ascribed to him by some unknown author. Both the style and tone of the Altercation seem different from that of the Commentary; and though there is in both works a consentient rejection of the errors condemned in the first four general councils, yet it is hardly possible that an author of semi-Pelagian leanings, who had stigmatized predestinarian doctrine as a heresy, should declare, as Arnobius is made to do towards the conclusion of the Altercatio cum Serapione, that he "accepts and defends the dicta of St. Augustine concerning Pelagianism, as if they were the most hallowed writings of the Apostles."
The Notes on some passages of the Gospels, which seem really to belong to Arnobius junior, are given in the edition of his works by Laurence de la Barre (Paris, 1639). But for a new view of the authorship of these works see G. Morin in Revue Bénédictine (1903). He thinks that the author of the Adnotationes, the Altercatio, and the Predestinatus is probably an Illyrian, who lived in Rome. Of the events of our author's life we are wholly ignorant.