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St. Pamphilus of Cæsarea

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Martyred 309. Eusebius's life of Pamphilus is lost, but from his "Martyrs of Palestine" we learn that Pamphilus belonged to a noble family of Beirut (in Phœnicia), where he received a good education, and that he quitted his native land after selling all his property and giving the proceeds to the poor. He attached himself to the "perfect men". From Photius (cod. 118), who took his information from Pamphilus's "Apology for Origen", we learn that he went to Alexandria where his teacher was Pierius, then the head of the famous Catechetical School. He eventually settled in Cæsarea where he was ordained priest, collected his famous library, and established a school for theological study (Eusebius, Church History VII.32.25). He devoted himself chiefly to producing accurate copies of the Holy Scripture. Testimonies to his zeal and care in this work are to be found in the colophons of Biblical manuscripts (for examples see EUSEBIUS OF CÆSAREA). St. Jerome (De Vir. Ill., lxxv) says that Pamphilus "transcribed the greater part of the works of Origen with his own hand", and that "these are still preserved in the library of Cæsarea." He himself was a possessor of "twenty-five volumes of commentaries of Origen", copied out by Pamphilus, which he looked upon as a most precious relic of the martyr. Eusebius (Church History VI.32) speaks of the catalogue of the library contained in his life of Pamphilus. A passage from the lost life, quoted by St. Jerome (Adv. Rufin., I, ix), describes how Pamphilus supplied poor scholars wtih the necessaries of life, and, not merely lent, but gave them copies of the Scriptures, of which he kept a large supply. He likewise bestowed copies on women devoted to study. The great treasure of the library at Cæsarea was Origen's own copy of the Hexapla, probably the only complete copy ever made. It was consulted by St. Jerome ("In Psalmos comm.", ed. Morin, pp. 5, 21; "In Epist. ad Tit."). The library was certainly in existence in the sixth century, but probably did not long survive the capture of Cæsarea by the Saracens in 638 (Swete, "Introd. to O.T. in Greek", 74-5).

The Diocletian persecution began in 303. In 306 a young man named Apphianus—a disciple of Pamphilus "while no one was aware; he even concealed it from us who were even in the same house" (Eusebius, "Martyrs of Palestine")—interrupted the governor in the act of offering sacrifice, and paid for his boldness with a terrible martyrdom. His brother Ædesius, also a disciple of Pamphilus, suffered martyrdom about the same time at Alexandria under similar circumstances (ibid.). Pamphilus's turn came in November, 307. He was brought before the governor and, on refusing to sacrifice, was cruelly tortured, and then relegated to prison. In prison he continued copying and correcting manuscripts (see EUSEBIUS OF CÆSAREA). He also composed, in collaboration with Eusebius, an "Apology for Origen" in five books (Eusebius afterwards added a sixth). Pamphilus and other members of his household, men "in the full vigour of mind and body", were without further torture sentenced to be beheaded in Feb., 309. While sentence was being given a youth named Porphyrius—"the slave of Pamphilus", "the beloved disciple of Pamphilus", who "had been instructed in literature and writing"—demanded the bodies of the confessors for burial. He was cruelly tortured and put to death, the news of his martyrdom being brought to Pamphilus before his own execution.

Of the "Apology for Origen" only the first book is extant, and that in a Latin version made by Rufinus. It begins with describing the extravagant bitterness of the feeling against Origen. He was a man of deep humility, of great authority in the Church of his day, and honoured with the priesthood. He was above all things anxious to keep to the rule of faith that had come down from the Apostles. The soundness of his doctrine concerning the Trinity and the Incarnation is then vindicated by copious extracts from his writings. Then nine charges against his teaching are confronted with passages from his works. St. Jerome stated in his "De Viris illustribus" that there were two apologies—one by Pamphilus and another by Eusebius. He discovered his mistake when Rufinus's translation appeared in the height of the Origenistic controversy, and rushed to the conclusion that Eusebius was the sole author. He charged Rufinus, among other things, with palming off under the name of the martyr what was really the work of the heterodox Eusebius, and with suppressing unorthodox passages. As to the first accusation there is abundant evidence that the "Apology" was the joint work of Pamphilus and Eusebius. Against the second may be set the negative testimony of Photius who had read the original; "Photius, who was severe to excess towards the slightest semblance of Arianism, remarked no such taint in the Apology of Origen which he had read in Greek" (Ceillier). The Canons of the alleged Council of the Apostles at Antioch were ascribed by their compiler (late fourth century) to Pamphilus (Harnack, "Spread of Christianity", I, 86-101). The ascription to Pamphilus, by Gemmadius, of a treatise "Contra mathematicos" was a blunder due to a misunderstanding of Rufinus's preface to the "Apology". A Summary of the Acts of the Apostles among the writings associated with Euthalius bears in its inscription the name of Pamphilus (P.G., LXXXIX, 619 sqq.).


BARDENHEWER, Gesch. der altkirch. Lit., II, 242 sqq.; HARNACK, Altchrist. Lit., 543 sqq.; CEILLIER, Hist. des aut., III, 435 sqq.; TILLEMONT, Hist. ecclés., V, 418 sqq.; ROUTH, Relig. sac., III, 258 sqq.; RUFINUS's Translation of the Apology for Origen will be found in editions of the works of Origen.

About this page

APA citation. Bacchus, F.J. (1911). St. Pamphilus of Cæsarea. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Bacchus, Francis Joseph. "St. Pamphilus of Cæsarea." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by WGKofron. With thanks to Fr. John Hilkert and St. Mary's Church, Akron, Ohio.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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