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Statue of Hippolytus

Hippolytus, martyred around 235, was a scholar who wrote in Greek, but was resident in or near Rome . Some Eastern writers refer to him as the Bishop of Rome, but he is not on the list of Bishops of Rome at that time. Moreover, his surviving works include a severe censure of Callistus (Callixtus) , Bishop of Rome, whose life, if Hippolytus is correct, includes some scandalous episodes. (On the other hand, without supposing Hippolytus to be a liar, we can see innocent explanations for the actions he cites, and may conclude that he has read unwarranted interpretations into the actions of someone whom he opposes on other grounds. ) From these facts, some have inferred that he was an anti-pope, that is, the head of a rival faction who regarded him--rather than Callistus--as the true Bishop of Rome. They explain his canonization by assuming that he was reconciled with the Pope before his death. However, a simpler explanation is that he was Bishop of Ostia (41:46 N 12:18 E), the port city of Rome, and that the Eastern writers, observing him to be the most important Christian writer in Italy at that time, simply made a mistake.

His best known work is the Philosophoumena, a refutation of various Gnostic heresies. He also wrote a commentary on the book of Daniel, and a work called The Apostolic Tradition, which complains that public worship is getting very sloppy, and explains in detail how church services ought to be conducted, and were conducted back in the Good Old Days. It is one of our most valuable sources of information on the worship of the early Church.

written by James Kiefer


O God, who have enlightened your Church by the teaching of your servant Hippolytus: Enrich us evermore, we pray, with your heavenly grace, and raise up faithful witnesses who by their life and doctrine will set forth the truth of your salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.