Cassianus, Julius

Ancient Christian Church

In the midst of his identification of Clement of Alexandria (160-215), Jerome (c. 347-419) notes the great variety of authors, some Christian, some otherwise, who are “mentioned” at one point or another within the books written by Clement and still known, at least by title, perhaps only from Clement’s usage, in Jerome’s own day [ J 38; NPNF 2 III (1892) 371]. Among these is “a Chronography of one Cassianus, a work which I have not been able to find,” says Jerome, though we might well note that at this point much of what Jerome knows about Clement itself would appear to have been derived from the earlier identification of those writings of Clement which were listed by Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 260-340) within his history (H.E. VI.13.1-14.7, specifically at 13.7; Oulton 1927: 188). The reference within Clement’s work occurs at Stromateis I.21, which was quoted apparently in its entirety by Eusebius in his Preparation for the Gospel (Book X, chapter xii; Gifford 1903: 532-536) from which we learn that the basic concern, at least of this first portion of the chronography was to demonstrate “that Moses was more ancient than most of the gods of the Greeks, and not merely than their so-called Sages and poets” (as translated by Gifford 1903: 536). Much within appears to be comparative chronology citing various ancient Greek authors. The work itself may well have been called by Julius Cassianus, “Exegetics,” since the origin for his concern lay in a reappraisal of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Within Stromateis (III.13.91-92), Clement also quotes from another treatise by Julius Cassianus, dually entitled Peri egkrateias ê Peri eunoukhias “Concerning Abstinence or Concerning Eunuchry” (Q1.7.2.16 pp. 274-275; perhaps better translated “On Continence or On Castration,” with Grant 1946: 52), which carries within the title such a notion as “encratic,” understood as that form of “sexual abstinence” which became essential as part of asceticism to monastic as well as clerical life, but also defining a form of heresy whose devotees abstained from meat, drank only water, and were forbidden to marry [cf. Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies VIII.xiii; ANF V (1885) 124], so that Julius Cassianus is included among the originators of “Encratism.” The title also carries the notion of “eunuchry,” never accepted within the mainstream of the Tradition, though known to have been personally employed in this era by Origen, on the occasion of his self-castration by virtue of a too-literal acceptance of Matthew 19:12 (cf. Eusebius, H.E. VI.8.1-3; Oulton 1927: 183).

In Clement’s citation it is also to be noted that Julius Cassianus quotes from the apocryphal gospel so-called “According to the Egyptians” to support his understanding that intercourse is not from God–a position which he understood, though dubiously, was taught by the Saviour (apud Grant 1946: 52-53; cf. Aland 1978: 336): <Jesus said to Salome> “When you conceal the garment of shame, and when the two become one, and the male with the female is neither male nor female.” The implication of non-procreation might well include a consideration that Christ’s flesh was mere appearance. It has been observed that “Clement of Alexandria calls Cassianus the originator of Docetism, and, like Tatian <fl. 160-180, with whom he was associated by both Eusebius and Jerome; cf. Grant 1955a: 28; Grant 1988: 124-132>, a follower of Valentinus <fl. at Rome c. 136-165; cf. Carrington 1957: II.73-79>” (Grant 1946: 52), but the minimal material from Cassianus that has been preserved makes it difficult to affirm the full extent of his connections, though one might well agree upon the implications for his lifespan – teaching “in Egypt about the year 170 A.D.” (Q1.7.2.16 p. 275).

Clyde Curry Smith

Bibliography (see link to abbreviations table below):

<J 38>; CPG i.1290-1291; TLG 1822

Q1.7.2.16; DECL 355 (DWyrwa); FOTC 100 63 n. 17; OEEC 460-461 (FBolgiani); GEEC 645 (MPMcHugh)

Supplementary Bibliography

Aland 1978

Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum: Locis parallelis evangeliorum apocryphorum et patrum adhibitis, edidit Kurt Aland. 10th edition. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelstiftung.

ANF V 1885 Hippolytus, translated by Stewart Dingwall Fordyce Salmond, in Ante-Nicene Fathers. Buffalo and New York: Christian Literature. Volume V, pp. 9-153.

Carrington 1957 The Early Christian Church, by Philip Carrington. Cambridge: At the University Press. 2 volumes.

Gifford 1903

Eusebius, Preparation for the Gospel, translated by Edwin Hamilton Gifford. Oxford: At the Clarendon Press. 2 volumes. Reprinted; Grand Rapids: MI: Baker Book House, 1981.

Grant 1946 Second-Century Christianity: A Collection of Fragments, by Robert McQueen Grant. London: SPCK.

Grant 1955a “The Chronology of the Greek Apologists”, by Robert McQueen Grant. Vigiliae Christianae IX/1 (January) 25-33.

Grant 1988 Greek Apologists of the Second Century, by Robert McQueen Grant. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.

NPNF 2 III 1892 Jerome, De viris inlustribus, translated by Ernest Cushing Richardson, in A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Buffalo and New York: Christian Literature. Series 2, Volume III, pp. 359-384.

Oulton 1927 Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, The Ecclesiastical History and the Martyrs of Palestine, translated with Introduction and Notes, by Hugh Jackson Lawlor and John Ernest Leonard Oulton. London: SPCK. 2 volumes. Volume I: Translation, by John Ernest Leonard Oulton. (Specific references also cited as H.E. with book and chapter).

This article, received in 2001, was researched and written by Dr. Clyde Curry Smith, Professor Emeritus of Ancient History and Religion, University of Wisconsin, River Falls.

Click here forAbbreviations and Source References for Ancient African Christians.