Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Cyrillus (2), bishop of Jerusalem

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Cyrillus (2), Κύριλλος, bp. of Jerusalem, was probably born in Jerusalem or its immediate neighbourhood, c. 315. His writings prove that his education was liberal, and embraced a large variety of subjects. Touttée has laboriously collected evidences (c. ii.) of his acquaintance with physics, dialectics, physiology, mythology, etc. That he was a diligent student of Holy Scripture is certain, from the intimate knowledge, at least of the text, shewn in his Catecheses. But he was only acquainted with the LXX. His knowledge of Hebrew was only second-hand, and often incorrect. He was ordained deacon probably by Macarius bp. of Jerusalem, c. 335 (Soz. H. E. iv. 20, where the text is doubtful), and priest by his successor Maximus, c. 345. Maximus, notwithstanding Cyril's youth, entrusted him with the responsible duty of instructing catechumens, and preparing them for baptism. He also allowed him the exceptional privilege, sometimes granted by bishops to presbyters of eminent ability (e.g. to Chrysostom by Flavian of Antioch, and to Augustine by Valerius of Hippo), of preaching to the people in full church on the Lord's Day. In his office of catechist, c. 347, Cyril delivered the catechetical lectures by which his name is chiefly known (Hieron. de Vir. Illust. § 12). These lectures were preached without book on the evenings of the weeks of Lent, in the basilica of the Holy Cross, or Martyrium, erected on Calvary by St. Helena. His references to the locality are numerous and interesting (e.g. iv. 10‒14, x. 19, xiii. 4, 22, 39, xviii. 33). The five mystagogical lectures were addressed during Easter-week at noon to those baptized on Easter-eve in the Anastasis, or church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The episcopate of Maximus terminated at the close of 350 or the beginning of 351, and Cyril was chosen to fill the episcopal chair of Jerusalem. A cloud of doubt and difficulty hangs over his elevation to the episcopate. Jerome can hardly have been mistaken as to the main fact, though theological prejudice and personal dislike may have warped his judgment and caused him to represent the case in the least favourable light. On some leading questions Cyril and Jerome were decidedly opposed. In the great controversy of the day Cyril belonged to the Asiatic party, Jerome to that of Rome. In the Meletian schism at Antioch also they took opposite sides: Cyril supporting Meletius, Jerome being a warm adherent of Paulinus. Jerome asserts (Chronicon ad ann. 349) that on the death of Maximus the Arians invaded the church of Jerusalem and promised to appoint Cyril to the vacant throne if he would repudiate his ordination by Maximus; that Cyril consented to the humiliating terms, served some time in the church as a deacon, and was then rewarded with the episcopate by Acacius, the semi-Arian bp. of Caesarea, and according to the seventh Nicene canon metropolitan of Palestine; that Cyril then dishonourably persecuted Heraclius, whom Maximus, on his deathbed, had nominated his successor, and degraded him to the presbyterate. This account is supported by Rufinus (H. E. i. 23, "Sacerdotio, confusa jam ordinatione, suscepto"). Socrates and Sozomen, though they say nothing of Cyril's repudiation of his orders, are almost equally unfavourable to his orthodoxy, identifying him with the semi-Arian party of Acacius and Patrophilus. They also introduce a new element of confusion by the statement that the see of Jerusalem was vacant not by death, but by Maximus's deposition and expulsion by the semi-Arians (Socr. ii. 38; Soz. iv. 20; Theophan. Chronograph. p. 34). This may safely be rejected. In refutation of Jerome's account, Cyril's advocates triumphantly point to the synodical letter to pope Damasus of the bishops assembled at Constantinople, the year after the second oecumenical synod, A.D. 382, which speaks of Cyril in terms of high eulogy, as a champion of the orthodox faith against Arian heresy, and affirms his canonical election to the see of Jerusalem (Theod. H. E. v. 9). But this does not touch the point at issue. Acacius was the metropolitan of Cyril's province. He and his fellow-bishops were, notwithstanding their heretical bias, the legitimate authorities for conferring the episcopate. Cyril's election and consecration was therefore strictly canonical. Besides, the silence of the members of the synod as to facts occurring 30 years before does not disprove them. Whatever might have been Cyril's earlier heretical failings, he was on the orthodox side then (cf. Socr. v. 8, and Soz. vii. 7). His adhesion was valuable, and it would have been as impolitic as it was needless to revive an almost forgotten scandal. Yet Cyril's own writings quite forbid us to follow Jerome's authority in classing him with the Arians, or charging him with heretical tenets. Circumstances might render his orthodoxy equivocal. His early patron, Maximus, was somewhat of a waverer. His friends and associates were semi-Arians, and he was chosen to the episcopate by them, with the hope of his supporting their cause. But no error of doctrine is to be discovered in his writings, though he avoids the test word "homoousion" in his catecheses. He is well characterized by the Duc de Broglie (l’Eglise et l’Empire, iii. 402) as "formant l’extrémité de l’aile droite du Semiarianisme touchant à l’orthodoxie, ou de l’aile gauche de l’orthodoxie touchant au Semiarianisme," and may be regarded, certainly in the later part of his life, as one of those of whom Athanasius speaks (de Synod. 41) as "brothers who mean what we mean, and only differ about the word." The first year of Cyril's episcopate was rendered memorable by the appearance, May 7, 351, of a remarkable parhelion, or other atmospheric phenomenon, over Jerusalem, which was regarded as a miraculous manifestation of the symbol of redemption intended to establish the faith and confute gainsayers, and produced great excitement in the city. The churches were thronged with worshippers, and many Jews and Gentiles were converted to the faith. So important did the phenomenon appear to Cyril that he wrote to the emperor Constantius describing it. This letter has been preserved. Its authenticity has been called in question by Rivet, but the internal evidence from the similarity of style is strong, and it is accepted by Blondel. The occurrence of the word "homoousion" at the close of the letter is, however, suspicious, and leads us to question whether the prayer for the emperor in which it stands is not a later addition (Soz. iv. 5; Philostorg. iii. 26; Chron. Alex. p. 678; Theophan. p. 35 a). If Acacius had reckoned on Cyril as a faithful adherent and ready instrument in carrying out his plans, the fallacy of his expectations was very soon shewn. Scarcely had Cyril established himself in his see when a distressing controversy, which became the source of much evil to the church, arose as to the claim to priority of their respective sees (Theod. ii. 25; Soz. iv. 25). Cyril grounded his claim on the apostolical rank of his see, Acacius on the decision of the council of Nice (Can. vii.), which placed the bp. of Aelia—i.e. Jerusalem—under the bp. of Caesarea as metropolitan. This contest for pre-eminence was speedily embittered by mutual accusations of heterodoxy (Soz. iv. 15). For two years Acacius continued vainly summoning Cyril to his tribunal, and at last cut the controversy short by deposing him from his see (Soz. u.s., 357 or 358) at a small packed synod of his own adherents. The ostensible grounds were very trivial: contumacy in refusing to appear, and the charge—afterwards brought against Ambrose by the Arians—of having sold some of the church ornaments during a prevailing scarcity to supply the wants of the poor (Socr. ii. 40; Soz. iv. 25; Theod. ii. 26; Epiphan. Haeres. lxxiii. §§ 23‒27), and also of having held communion with Eustathius and Elpidius after their deposition by the synod of Melitina, in Lesser Armenia (Soz. u.s.; Basil. Ep. 253 [74]). Cyril was forced to yield. He left his see, not, however, without an appeal to a larger council, the justice of which was allowed by Constantius. This is noted by Socrates (ii. 40) as the first instance of an appeal against the decision of an ecclesiastical synod. On leaving Jerusalem Cyril first retired to Antioch and thence to Tarsus, where he was hospitably received by the bp. Silvanus, one of the best of the semi-Arians, who availed himself of Cyril's powers as a preacher. We find him also here in communion and friendship with other leading members of the same party, Eustathius of Sebaste, Basil of Ancyra, and George of Laodicea (Soz. iv. 25; Philost. iv. 12). The enmity of Acacius pursued his rival. Silvanus was warned against holding communion with one who had been deposed for contumacy and other crimes. But Cyril had gained great popularity at Tarsus by his sermons, the people would not hear of his leaving them, and Silvanus declined to attend to the admonition (Theod. u.s.). Nearly two years after his deposition, Sept. 359, Cyril laid his appeal before the council of Seleucia, at which he took his place among the semi-Arians. Acacius vehemently protested against his admission to the council. "If Cyril did not leave the synod, he must." Some of the bishops, in the cause of peace, begged Cyril to yield, at least temporarily, till his appeal had been heard. Cyril refused, and Acacius quitted the council, but soon returned, and took a leading part in the subsequent stormy debates. The semi-Arians who were opposed to Acacius were in the ascendant. Acacius was himself deposed, and Cyril restored (Theod. ii. 26; Socr. ii. 40; Soz. iv. 22; Philost. iv. 12). Acacius and his friends at once started for the capital, where they easily persuaded the weak Constantius to summon a fresh council. Fresh accusations were added to those formerly adduced. The charge of sacrilegiously disposing of the church goods was revived, and the emperor's indignation was excited by hearing that a baptismal robe of gold brocade, presented by his father Constantine to Macarius, which had been sold, had unfortunately found its way into the wardrobe of a theatre, and been recognized on the stage. Acacius's arts prevailed, and Cyril was a second time banished (Socr. ii. 42; Soz. iv. 25; Theod. ii. 27).

On the accession of Julian, 361, Cyril was reinstated, together with all the exiled bishops (Socr. iv. 1; Soz. u.s.; Theod. iii. 4; Amm. Marcell. xxii. 5). At Jerusalem Cyril calmly watched the attempts of Julian to rebuild the Temple, and foretold that it must fail (Socr. iii. 20; Rufinus, i. 37).

During the reign of the orthodox Jovian Cyril's episcopate was undisturbed, and the accession of Valens and Valentinian found him in quiet possession of his see, 364. In 366 Acacius died, and Cyril immediately claimed the nomination to the see of Caesarea, and appointed Philomenus. Philomenus was deposed by the Eutychian faction, and another Cyril substituted. He, in return, was deposed by Cyril of Jerusalem, who consecrated his sister's son Gelasius in his room, A.D. 367 (Epiphan. Haer. lxxiii. 37). In 367 Cyril was a third time deposed and exiled, with all the prelates recalled by Julian, by the edict of the Arian Valens (Socr. ii. 45; Soz. iv. 30; Epiph. Haer. lxvi. 20). His banishment lasted till Valens died and Theodosius succeeded, Jan. 15, 379, when he reoccupied his see, which he retained quietly for the 8 remaining years of his life (Hieron. Vir. Ill. c. 112; Socr. v. 3; Soz. vii. 2). On his return he found Jerusalem rent with schisms, infested with almost every form of heresy, and polluted by the most flagrant crimes. To combat these evils he appealed to the council held at Antioch, 379, which dispatched Gregory Nyssen to his aid. But the disease was too deeply seated to admit of an easy or speedy remedy. Gregory departed hopeless of a cure, and in his Warning against Pilgrimages drew a dark picture of the depravation of morals in the Holy City (de Euntibus Hieros. p. 656). In 381 Cyril was present at the second oecumenical council held at Constantinople, when he took rank with the chief metropolitans, the bps. of Alexandria and Antioch. He there declared his full adhesion to the Nicene faith, and his acceptance of the test word "homoousion" (Socr. iv. 8; Soz. iv. 7).

Cyril died Mar. 18, 386 (Socr. v. 15; Soz. vii. 14; Bolland. Mar. 18, p. 625 b). He was bp. of Jerusalem for 35 years, 16 of which he passed in exile.

His works consist of 18 "Catechetical lectures" addressed to catechumens (κατηχήσεις φωτιζομένων), and 5 "Mystagogical lectures" to the newly baptized (μυσταγωγικαὶ κατηχήσεις πρὸς τοὺς νεοφωτίστους). These were composed in his youth (ἅς ἐν τῆ νεότητι συνέταξεν, Hieron. de Vir. Ill. c. 112), c. 347, while still a presbyter. The "Catechetical lectures" possess considerable interest as the earliest example extant of a formal system of theology; from their testimony to the canon of Scripture, the teaching of the church on the chief articles of the creed, and on the sacraments; and from the light they throw on the ritual of the 4th cent. The perfect agreement of his teaching, as Dr. Newman remarks (Lib. of the Fathers, vol. ii. part i. pp. ix.‒x.), as regards the Trinity, with the divines of the Athanasian school, is of great weight in determining the true doctrine of the early church on that fundamental question, and relieves Cyril from all suspicion of heterodoxy. But his Catecheses do not rank high as argumentative or expository work, nor has Cyril any claim to a place among the masters of Christian thought, whose writings form the permanent riches of the church.

All previous editions of his works were surpassed by the Benedictine ed. of A. A. Touttée (Paris, 1720, fol., and Venice, 1761, fol.). The introduction contains very elaborate and exhaustive dissertations on his life, writings, and doctrines. These are reprinted in Migne's Patrologia, vol. xxxiii.

The chief modern authorities for Cyril's life and doctrines are Touttée, u.s.; Tillem, Mémoires Ecclés. vol. viii.; Cave, Historia Lit. i. 211, 212; Schröckh, Kirchengeschichte, xii. 343 seq.; Newman, preface to the Oxf. trans., Lib. of the Fathers, ii. 1. Newman's trans. was carefully revised by Dr. E. H. Gifford in the Lib. of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (1844), and furnished with a very important introduction.