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Pope Dionysius

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Estimated Range of Dating: 259-268 A.D.

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Information on Pope Dionysius

C. Schmidt writes, "Dionysius I of Rome (D.), 3rd c., initially a Roman presbyter, 259/260-267/268, and then successor of Bishop Sixtus II, reorganized the Roman community, which had been greatly weakened by persecution. In 262, as a result of complaints from Alexandrian presbyters about the Origenist type of christology represented by Dionysius of Alexandria, Dionyius of Rome held a synod in Rome that condemned Sabellianism and subordinationism." (Dictionary of Early Christian Literature, p. 183)

J. Quasten writes, "Dionysius wrote two epistles to his namesake, Dionysius of Alexandria, on Sabellianism and Subordinationism. The Alexandrian prelate in a communication sent to certain bishops of the Pentapolis called Ammon and Euphranor, condemned the heresy of Sabellius, which was very popular in that section, insisting on the distinctness of the Son from the Father. Some Christians of the Pentapolis or Alexandria objected to the strong expressions he used in that letter, because, very much akin to the language of Origen, they seemed to favor the subordination of the Son to the Father. For this reason 'they went to Rome without asking him, so as to learn form him how he had written; and they spoke against him in the presence of his namesake Dionysius the Bishop of Rome' (Athanasius, Ep. de sent. Dion. 13). The Pope, 'upon hearing it, wrote simultaneously against the partisans of Sabellius and against those who held the very opinions for uttering which Arius was cast out of the Church; calling it an equal and opposite impiety to hold with Sabellius or with those who say that the Word of God is a thing made and formed and originated. And he wrote also to Dionysius to inform him of what they had said about him' (ibid., LNPF). A very valuable passage of the first letter (the Pope despatched this after the condemnation by a synod of Rome in 262 of both Sabellianism and Subordinationism), is quoted by Athanasius, De decretis Nic. syn. 26, and thus preserved, whereas the rest of the letter is lost. Without mentioning the name of Dionysius, the Pontiff refers to 'some among you' and defends the trinitarian doctrine against the two opposing heresies in a statement outstanding for its preciseness and clearness." (Patrology, vol. 2, pp. 239-240)

C. Schmidt writes, "The letters of Dionysius are almost entirely lost; only a fragment (in Athanasius, decr. 26) has survived of a synodal letter of Dionysius of Rome to Dionysius of Alexandria in which the latter is told of the decrees of the Roman synod. In a second, now lost synodal letter, mentioned by Athanasius (Dion. 13), Dionysius of Rome was supposed to have told Dionysius of Alexandria about the complaints against him. Basil the Great (ep. 70) mentions a letter of consolation from Dionysius to the community of Caesarea that was suffering from the consequences of the barbarian invasions; Dionysius added a gift of money for the release of Christian captives." (Dictionary of Early Christian Literature, p. 183)

J. Quasten writes, "From St. Basil (Epist. 70) we know that this Pope sent a consolatory epistle to the Church of Caesarea. It accompanied a contribution to ransom members of the Christian community from captivity when in the time of Gallienus the Scythians ravaged Cappadocia and the neighboring countries." (Patrology, vol. 2, p. 241)

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