Gennadius of Massilia

Gennadius of Massilia (died 496), also known as Gennadius Scholasticus or Gennadius Massiliensis , was a 5th-century Christian priest and historian .

His best-known work is De Viris Illustribus (“Of Famous Men”), a biography of over ninety-five contemporary Christians, which continued to work of the same name by Jerome .


Was a priest Gennadius of Massilia (now Marseille ) and a contemporary of Pope Gelasius I .

I wrote: “I, Gennadius, presbyter of Massilia, wrote eight books against all heresies, five books against Nestorius, ten books against Eutyches, three books against Pelagius, a treatise on the thousand years of the Apocalypse of John, this work, and a letter about my faith sent to blessed Gelasius, bishop of the city of Rome.

Gelasius reigned from 492-496, so Gennadius must have lived at the end of the 5th century.


Gennadius knew Greek well and was well read in Eastern and Western, orthodox and heretical Christian literature. He was a diligent compiler and a competent critic.

From Viris Illustribus

Viris Illustribus , in its most commonly accepted form was probably published c. 495 and contains, in some folio pages, short biographies of ecclesiastics between the years 392 and 495. It is a very important source and only one source of acquaintance.

It is a continuation of St. Jerome’s De Viris Illustribus . In that work Jerome had a series of short biographies of famous Christians, with lists of their chief writings. It was the first patrology and dictionary of Christian biography. This book of reference was so much that it became popular, and many people wrote continuations after the same method. We hear of such a continuation by one Paterius, a disciple of Jerome, and of a Greek translation by Sophronius .

It was Gennadius’ continuation which became most popular and accepted as a second part of Jerome’s work, and was always written (eventually printed) together with his. Gennadius’s part contains about one hundred lives, modeled closely after those of Jerome. Various edits and reprints by Bernoulli, i to xcvii, with some marked as xciib, etc., originally cxxxvi-ccxxxii).

The series is arranged more frequently, but there are frequent exceptions.

In xc, 92, he says (in one version) that Theodore of Coelesyria (Theodulus) “died three years ago, in the reign of Zeno”. From this Czapla deduces that Gennadius wrote between 491 and 494.

The present form of the text indicates a repeated revision of the entire work. Other people have made it easy to understand the facts of the world. Some scholars including Richardson and Czapla consider that chapters xxx ( Bishop John II of Jerusalem ), xviii ( Victorinus ), xciii ( Caerealis of Africa. ), And all the end portion (xcv-ci), are not authentic. There is doubt about parts of the others.

Other writings

Gennadius states that he composed a number of other works, most of which are not extant:

  • Adversus omnes hæreses libri viii. , “Against all heresies” in 8 volumes
  • Five books against Nestorius
  • Ten books against Eutyches
  • Three books against Pelagius
  • Tractatus of millennio and apocalypsi beati Johannis , “Treatise on the thousand years and the Apocalypse of St. John”
  • Epistola de fide , a “letter of faith” which he feels to Pope Gelasius.
  • Works of Evagrius Ponticus and Timothy Ælurus , translated and restored to their authentic form. These translations are also lost.

From Ecclesiasticis Dogmatibus

There is a treatise called ” Ecclesiasticis Dogmatibus ” (“Of Church Doctrine”) which was originally attributed to Augustine of Hippo but is now universally attributed to Gennadius. The work was long included among those of St. Augustine.

Some scholars ( Caspari , Otto Bardenhewer , Czapla ) think it is probably a fragment of Gennadius’s eight books “against all heresies”, apparently the last part, in which, having confided the heretics, he builds up a positive system.


The De Viris Illustribus was edited and published by J. Andreas (Rome, 1468), by JA Fabricius in Bibliotheca ecclesiastica (Hamburg, 1718), and by EC Richardson in Texte und Untersuchungen , xiv. (Leipsig, 1896). It also appears with many editions of the works of Jerome.

An English translation by Richardson was produced in the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers , 2nd ser, iii. 385-402.

A critical issue of the Ecclesiasticis Dogmatibus Liber under the title Liber Ecclesiasticorum Dogmatum was published by CH Turner in the Journal of Theological Studies vii. (1905), pp. 78-99 at pp. 89-99. Turner’s introduction to a number of previous editions and also provides a survey of manuscripts that have been known to him, that he used for the edition.

Attitude and views

There are many indications that the author was a Semipelagian in “De Viris Illustribus”. Semipelagians are warmly praised ( Fastidiosus , lvi, P. 80, Cassian , lx, 81, Faustus of Riez , lxxxv, 89); full Pelagians ( Pelagius himself, xlii, 77, Julian of Eclanum , xlv, 77) are heretics; Catholics are treated shabbily ( Augustine of Hippo , xxxviii, 75, Prosper of Aquitaine , lxxxiv, 89); even popes are called heretics (Julius I, in i, 61).

The same tendency is confirmed by the treatise “From Dogmatibus Eccles”, which is full of Semipelagianism, either open or implied (original sin carefully evaded, great emphasis on free will and denial of predestination, grace as an adjutorium in the mildest form, etc.).

Gennadius considers (like later writers, eg Thomas Aquinas ) that all men, even those alive at the Second Coming , will have to die. But this belief, though derived from a widespread patristic tradition, is, he admits, rejected by Fathers.

Of the theories concerning the soul of the author and the authorist. He will not allow the existence of the spirit of a third person in the world of soul and soul, but it is only another name for the soul.

In Dogmatibus Ecclesiasticis , his views include the following points. Heretical baptism is not repeated, unless it has been administered by heretics who would have declined to employ the invocation of the Holy Trinity. He recommends weekly reception of the Eucharist by the death of sin. Such as are should have recourse to public penitence. He will not deny that private penance may suffice; but even here outward manifestation, such as change of dress, is desirable. Daily reception of holy communion he will neither praise nor blame. Evil was invented by Satan. Though celibacy is rated above matrimony, to condemn marriage is Manichean. A twice-married Christian should not be ordained. Churches should be called after martyrs, and the relics of martyrs honored. None but the baptized attain eternal life; not even catechumens, unless they suffer martyrdom. Penitence thoroughly avails to Christians even at their latest breath. The creator alone knows our secret thoughts. Satan can learn them only by our motions and manifestations. Marvels might be wrought in the Lord’s name by bad men. Men can become holy without such marks. The freedom of man’s will be strongly asserted, but the beginning of all goodness is assigned to divine grace.

The language of Gennadius is here not quite Augustinian; but neither is it Pelagian.


  •  Cet article Incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Jackson, Samuel Macauley, ed. (1914). ” article name needed “. New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (third ed.). London and New York: Funk and Wagnalls.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication in the public domain : Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). ” Gennadius of Marseilles “. Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication in the public domain : Wace, Henry ; Piercy, William C., eds. (1911). ” Gennadius (11) Massiliensis, presbyter of Marseilles “. Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature at the End of the Sixth Century (third ed.). London: John Murray.

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