Methodius of Olympus (d. ca. A.D. 310) played a significant role in the theological developments of the late third and early fourth centuries. His writings constitute the largest body of Greek Christian works to survive from the late third century--other than those of Eusebius of Caesarea--and provide important insight into Christian thought from an otherwise poorly documented period. Surprisingly, however, Methodius' writings have been studied only incidentally and mainly for their influential criticism of Origen's views. Little interest has been shown in Methodius himself or in his place in the theological trends of his time. Going beyond the "incidental" interests commonly analyzed, this book studies Methodius the person and provides a much-needed framework for reconsidering Methodius' contribution to the issues of the period. L. G. Patterson offers a close analysis of Methodius' writings with respect to their literary style, their use of earlier writers--particularly, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen--and their unfolding theological preoccupations.
In considering Methodius' criticism of Origen, Patterson expands the traditional scope of analysis and reflects on the origin and context of the misrepresentations of Origen underlying this criticism. Patterson attributes these misrepresentations to Methodius' growing conviction that Origen, by whom he was profoundly influenced, had unwittingly embraced a dualistic cosmology of the sort which Methodius himself opposed. Patterson explains the underlying issues of Methodius' work--divine sovereignty, human freedom, and life in Christ--in light of his commitment to the ascetic life as central to Christian existence, and discusses Methodius' influence on major figures of the fourth century, mainly Arius and Gregory of Nyssa. The book is a significant contribution to the study of early Christian theology. It will be of particular interest to scholars studying Origen, early Arianism, the Cappadocian fathers, and the later Origenist controversies, as well as to students of early Christian asceticism. L. G. Patterson, a priest in the Episcopal Church, is professor of historical theology at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
His long-standing interest in Methodius has been reflected in articles published in the proceedings of Colloquium Origenianum and theInternational Conference on Patristic Studies, as well as in papers presented to the North American Patristic Society. "The study is not only informative but also enjoyable, and it sheds much light on an important but not widely known author of early Christianity."--Vigiliae Christianae Table of Contents: Preface Introduction 1. The Author of the Writings 2. De libero arbitrio: Dualism and the Problem of Evil 3. The Symposium: Chastity and the Plan of Salvation 4. Origen in the Symposium 5. De resurrectione and the Initial Criticism of Origen 6. De creatis and the Later Criticism of Origen Conclusion Appendix 1: The De lepra among Methodius' Writings Appendix 2: The Hymn of Thecla and the Purpose of the Symposium Bibliography Index of Names Index of Subjects