PHILOXENUS OF MABBUG (Hierapolis) (c. 440-c. 523)
A great writer of Syriac prose and a champion of Monophysite doctrine. He was born of Aramean parents at Tahal in the Persian province of Beth-Garmai, east of the Tigris, in about 440. He had a brother named Addai, who may have been a teacher at the school of the Persians at Edessa, and he had a sister. He was educated at Edessa while Ibas was bishop there. At that time the school of Edessa had two factions, one supporting the tradition of Theodorus and the other the tradition of CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Philoxenus sided with the Cyrillians but read the works of Cyril’s opponents. He became a Monophysite spokesman. He then went to Antioch.
Calandio, patriarch of Antioch, expelled him from the city for his Monophysite teachings and his support of the HENOTICON. In 485 he was made bishop of Hierapolis, which at that time was a center for the cult of the fertility goddess Atargatis. Peter the Fuller, the Monophysite patriarch of Antioch, consecrated him.
By 486, Philoxenus had succeeded in deposing many of his orthodox enemies from the neighboring sees. He persuaded his friend the emperor Anastasius I to depose Flavian and have Severus appointed in his stead. Philoxenus may have had a hand in the closing of the Persian school of Edessa in 489 for doctrinal reasons.
Since he opposed the doctrine of the Council of CHALCEDON, he was humiliated at the Council of Sidon in 511, but later he was responsible for having many of his enemies deposed. When, sometime between 513 and 515, the Synod of Tyre took place (it is likely that it was actually held at Antioch), it was presided over jointly by Philoxenus and Severus. The council decreed that the Henoticon was in contradiction to the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon, and Chalcedon was anathematized.
In 519, after Justin became emperor and Severus went into his exile in Egypt, Philoxenus was captured and taken into exile first in Gangra in Paphlagonia and then in Philippopolis in Thrace, where he died of suffocation, probably in 523. Philoxenus had been an ardent supporter not only of the Monophysite cause but also of Syriac language and culture. He wrote exclusively in Syriac.
Among his eighty major exegetical, dogmatic, homiletical, and ascetic writings, thirteen orations on the Christian life, five tracts on the Incarnation and the Trinity, and a collection of his letters have been edited. He also commissioned a Syriac version of the scriptures that was in use by Monophysites in the sixth century. This version of the scriptures was made at his direction by the chorepiscopus Polycarp around 505. It seems to have been a revision of the Peshitta (the official bible text of Syrian Christians) according to the Lucan version of the Septuagint. It is not known whether it extended to the whole Bible.
Philoxenus was a self-consciously Syrian theologian who saw himself as the man who must introduce authentic technical theological language into the Syrian tradition. He perceived that he must develop Syriac as a language in which theological inquiry could be conducted, as it was in Greek.
- Baumstark, A. Geschichte der syrischen Literatur, pp. 141-44. Bonn, 1922.
- Chestnut, R. Three Monophysite Christologies. London, 1976.
- Duval, A. Littérature syriaque. Paris, 1907.
- Halleux, A. de. Philoxène de Mabbog: Sa Vie, ses écrits, sa théologie. Louvain, 1963.
- Lemoine, E., ed. and trans. Philoxène de Mabboug: Homélies. Sources chrétiennes 44. Paris, 1956.
- Stein, E. Histoire du Bas Empire, trans. J.-R. Palanque. Paris, 1959.