Lucian of Antioch

From New World Encyclopedia
Saint Lucian of Antioch

San Luciano di Antiochia
Born ~240 in traditionally Samosata (now Samsat, Turkey)
Died January 7, 312 in possibly Nicomedia
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church; Eastern Orthodox Church
Feast January 7 Roman Catholic Church

October 15 Eastern Orthodox Church

Lucian of Antioch, also known as “Saint Lucian of Antioch” (c. 240–January 7, 312. January 7 was the calendar day on which his memory was celebrated at Antioch. Lucian was an early and influential theologian and teacher of Christianity, particularly for the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholics. He was noted for both his scholarship, his ascetic piety, and his martyrdom at the hands of the Roman emperor Maximinus.

Lucian had an enduring influence on Biblical textual study and is known for his critical revision of the text of the Septuagint and the Greek New Testament. Basing his revision on the original Hebrew, Lucian emphasized the need for textual accuracy and sought to limit the allegorical interpretation of the Alexandrian Christian tradition, which incorporated pagan philosophy. Lucian’s edition contributed significantly to the Syrian recension, that was used by Chrysostom and the later Greek fathers, and became the basis of the textus receptus from which most of the Reformation era New Testament translations were made. Lucian's rationalist approach permanently oriented Christian theology towards historical realism.

He developed the concept of Logos as an intermediate divine spiritual power or being, created by God The Logos became incarnate in Jesus. By stating the Logos was created by God, Lucian made a distinction between Jesus and God. Lucian held that in Jesus the Logos took upon himself a human body, but not a soul; Jesus was not fully God nor fully man. Although Lucian died before the Council of Nicea (325) and was not directly implicated in the Arian heresy, the leaders in the Arian movement; Arius, Eusebius of Nicomedia, Maris, and Theognis) received their training under Lucian and venerated him as their master and the founder of their tradition.


According to the Suidas, a massive tenth century Byzantine Greek historical encyclopedia of the ancient Mediterranean world, Lucian was born at Samosata, Kommagene, Syria (now Samsat, Turkey), to wealthy Christian parents. Following their death, he gave away his possessions, and studied rhetoric, philosophy, and Scripture in the neighboring city of Edessa, Mesopotamia, at the school of Macarius. This biography is not corroborated by any other author; some scholars suggest that the Suidas confused the biography of Lucian with that of his famous namesake, Lucian of Samosata, the pagan satirist of the second century.

In his youth Lucian was a hermit for a brief time. Lucian was ordained presbyter at Antioch, and soon became head of the theological school in that city. While there, he revised the Greek version of the Old Testament and of the four Gospels. Though he did not share the theological views of Antiochan bishop Paul of Samosata, he was his friend. When Paul was condemned for heresy for teaching Monarchianism, Lucian fell under suspicion and was expelled from the Church at Antioch.

This breach with the orthodox Church persisted through the episcopates of three bishops, Domnus, Timaeus and Cyril, whose administration extended from 268 to 303. Some historians say that Lucian was reconciled with the Church during the episcopate of Cyril’s successor, but it is more likely that the reconciliation took place early in the episcopate of Cyril (perhaps about 285), because bishops in the Orient received Lucian’s pupils during that time.

When the emperor Maximinus renewed persecution of Christians by the Romans, Lucian was arrested at Antioch and sent to Nicomedia, where he endured nine years of torture and imprisonment. He was starved for refusing to eat meat ritually offered to the Roman gods. Twice he was brought up for examination, and both times defended himself and refused to renounce his Christian beliefs, answering every question with, “I am a Christian.” [1]

He may have been starved to death, or been executed by the sword. The traditional date given for his execution is January 7, 312, in Nicomedia. He was buried at Drepanum on the Gulf of Nicomedia, which was later renamed Helenopolis to honor the mother of Constantine.

Lucian was known as a man of exceptional virtue. The early Church historian, Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 263 – 339?), noted his martyrdom (Ecclesiastical History, VIII, xiii, 2), but did not comment on his theology. During the height of the Arian controversy, Lucian was remembered as much for his sanctity as for his scholarship.

There is a late tradition that he was drowned in the sea and that his body was returned to land by a dolphin. No one knows exactly how this tradition originated; it may have been an adaptation of a pagan legend.[2]

He is commemorated as a Catholic saint, with a feast day of January 7.


Lucian had a profound influence on the history of Christianity through his opposition to the Alexandrines, one of the two major schools of biblical interpretation in the early Christian church. The Alexandrines incorporated Greek Pagan philosophical beliefs from Plato's teachings into Christianity (Neoplatonism), and interpreted much of the Bible allegorically, emphasizing the divine nature of Christ. Lucian rejected this system entirely and propounded a system of literal interpretation that dominated the Eastern Church for a long period.

Based on an encyclical of 321, promulgated by Alexander of Alexandria, that associates Lucian with Paul of Samosata, nearly all theological writers regard Lucian as the real author of the opinions that manifested themselves in Arianism, denying the eternity of the Logos and the human soul of Christ. A few scholars, such as Henry Melvill Gwatkin (Studies of Arianism, London, 1900) do not accept this view as correct. Lucian was reconciled with the orthodox Church in 285, before Arianism was declared a heresy. Church authorities officially accepted a conciliatory statement of belief by Lucian in 289 and, posthumously, in 341 at a church council in Antioch. In his History of the Christian Church, Philip Schaff offers the explanation that Lucian was “a critical scholar with some peculiar views on the Trinity and Christology which were not in harmony with the later Nicene orthodoxy,” but that his heroic defense of the Church and his martyrdom under the Romans restored his legitimacy in the Church.

In defining the relationship between Jesus and God, Paul of Samosata asserted that Jesus was a mere man supernaturally endowed with the Holy Spirit, and that only the Father is fully and truly God. Lucian sought to integrate the concept of Logos, a kind of intermediate divine spiritual power or being, created by God, that became incarnate in Jesus. Lucian considered Logos, or the Son, to be the highest spiritual being beneath God, the Father. By stating that the Logos was created by God “out of that which is not,” Lucian effectively placed Jesus together with all other created beings, as distinct from God. Lucian held that in Jesus the Logos took upon himself a human body, but not a soul; Jesus was not fully God nor fully man.[3]Christ, though himself the creator of all subsequent beings was a creation of God, and though superior to all other created things, was separated from God by the wide gulf between Creator and created.

The leaders in the Arian movement (Arius himself, Eusebius of Nicomedia, Maris and Theognis) received their training under Lucian and always venerated him as their master and the founder of their system. Later critics of Lucian, including Alexander of Alexandria, during the Council of Nicaea in 325, associated his school with Arius’s rejection of the absolute divinity of Christ. No one before Lucian of Antioch and Arius had taught that the Logos is categorically different from God.

Lucian is credited with the composition of a Creed setting forth a strictly orthodox view of the Trinity, presented after his death to the Council of Antioch in 341 (called the in encaeniis (εν εγκαινιοις), in dedicatione')[4]His authorship of the Lucian Creed is doubtful; he certainly did not compose it in its present form [5] Rufinus (Historia Eccles., IX, vi) has preserved a translation of his apologetic oration.

Having then this faith, having it both from the beginning and to the end, before God and Christ we anathematize all heretical false doctrine. And if any one, contrary to the right faith of the Scriptures, teaches and says that there either is or has been a period or time or age before the Son of God was begotten, let him be accursed (anathema). And if any one says that the Son is a creature as one of the creatures, or generated as one of the things generated, or made as one of the things made, and not as the Divine Scripture have handed down each of the things aforesaid, or if any one teaches or preaches a gospel other than we have received, let him be accursed.
Paragraph from the Lucian Creed[6]

Scholarship and legacy

In addition to the Christological controversy aroused by his teachings, Lucian had an enduring influence on Biblical textual study and is known for his critical revision of the text of the Septuagint and the Greek New Testament. Lucian believed in the literal sense of the biblical text and emphasized the need for textual accuracy.

Lucian undertook to revise the Septuagint based on the original Hebrew. By comparing the Greek text with Hebrew grammatical styles, and giving priority to the literal sense, Lucian sought to limit the symbolical interpretation characteristic of the Alexandrian (Egyptian) allegorical tradition which incorporated pagan philosophy into Christianity.[7] Lucian's influence permanently oriented Christian theology towards historical realism in its debate with classical non-Christian thought.

In the absence of definite information, it is impossible to evaluate the merits of Lucian’s critical labors. His Hebrew scholarship is uncertain, and, therefore, it is not known if his revision of the Septuagint was made from the original.[8][9]

Lucian’s edition contributed significantly to the Syrian recension used by Chrysostom and the later Greek fathers and mentioned by Jerome in De Viris Illustribus (III. I, xxvii Praef. ad Paralip.; Adversus Rufium xxvi, Epistle, 106). In addition to Lucian's recension of the Bible, Jerome (De Vir. Ill. # 77) refers to "Libelli de Fide;" neither are extant. Jerome mentions that copies were known in his day as "exemplaria Lucianea," but in other places he speaks rather disparagingly of the texts of Lucian.

The Syrian recension of the New Testament became the basis of the textus receptus,[10] (Latin: "received text"), a succession of printed Greek texts of the New Testament which constituted the translation base for the original German Luther Bible, for the translation of the New Testament into English by William Tyndale, the King James Version, and for most other Reformation-era New Testament translations throughout Western and Central Europe. Until the development of nineteenth-century biblical criticism, the textus receptus was the common text.

The Suidas written in the tenth century mentions epistles by Lucian; a fragment of one announces the death of Anthimus, a bishop (Chronicon Paschale in Patriologia Graeca XCII, 689).[11]

See also


  1. Saints Index Saint Lucian of Antioch Retrieved October 2, 2008.
  2. Donald Attwater and Catherine Rachel John. The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, 3rd edition. (New York: Penguin Books, 1993. ISBN 0140513124.)
  3. E. A. Green. Arianism – An Early Heresy. Retrieved October 3, 2008
  4. Athanasius of Alexandria, Epistle de Synod. Arim. et Seleuc. xxiii
  5. Patrick Healy, Lucian of Antioch The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910 ed, found his authorship doubtful; "it is certain he did not compose it in its present form." Retrieved October 17, 2008.
  6. "Creed of Lucius." A Bible Prayer Book, [1] The Church in the Wilderness. Retrieved October 3, 2008.
  7. [Lucian] "founded a college at Antioch which strove to counteract the dangerous ecclesiastical alliance between Rome and Alexandria…. [which] strove to exalt tradition… [and] teach Christianity… mixed with pagan philosophy" Benjamin G. Wilkinson, Ph. D., Truth Triumphant, c. 1890, (reprinted by TEACH Services, Inc., Brushton, NY: 1994), 47
  8. On his labors in regard to the Septuagint, see "Simeon Metaphrastes and Suidas", quoted in H.V. Routh IV. 3 sq. [2] Oxford Journals online, Routh, Years Work Eng Studies. 1923; IV: 232-254
  9. Field’s ed. of the Hexapla of Origen; Nestle in the "Zeitschrift d. D. Morgenl. Gesellsch.," 1878, 465-508; and the prospectus to the proposed ed. of the Septuagint by Paul de Lagarde.
  10. Dr. Hort, Introd. and Append. to Westcott and Hort’s Greek Test. (London and N. York: 1881), 138, says of Lucian: "Of known names his has a better claim than any other to be associated with the early Syrian revision; and the conjecture derives some little support from a passage of Jerome. Praetermitto eos codices quos a Luciano et Hesychio nuncupatos adscrit perversa contentio," etc. Dr. Scrivener, who denies such a Syrian recension as an ignis fatuus, barely alludes to Lucian in his Introduction to the Criticism of the N. Test., 3rd ed. (Cambr., 1883): 515, 517.
  11. "Works of his, 'On faith', and short Epistles to various people are extant." (Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. A Select Library of Nicene and post-Nicene fathers of the Christian church. Second series, published 1890- 1900)

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Attwater, Donald and Catherine Rachel John. The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, 3rd edition. New York: Penguin Books, 1993. ISBN 0140513124.
  • Bardy, Gustave. Recherches sur saint Lucien d'Antioche et son école. Paris: Beauchesne, 1936.
  • Green, E. A. Arianism – An Early Heresy. Retrieved October 3, 2008
  • Lucian, George, Henry Gwilliam, F. Crawford Burkitt, John Frederick Stenning, and Agnes Dorothee (von Blomberg) Bensley. Biblical and patristic relics of the Palestinian Syriac literature from mss. in the Bodleian library and in the library of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai. Jerusalem: Raritas. 1971.
  • Catholic Encyclopedia, Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Lucian of Retrieved on October 3, 2008. Contains bibliography.
  • Christian Classics Ethereal Library Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, Volume II: "Ante-Nicene Christianity. A.D. 100-325". Retrieved October 3, 2008.
  • Schaff, Philip, and Henry Wace. A Select Library of Nicene and post-Nicene fathers of the Christian church. Second series, published 1890- 1900.
  • Wilkinson, Benjamin G., Ph. D., Truth Triumphant, c. 1890, reprinted by TEACH Services, Inc., Brushton, NY, 1994. ISBN 0945383851

External links

All links retrieved November 3, 2022.


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