Jovinian (2)

Jovinian one of the early opponents of monachism, and, in a measure, one of the earliest reformers before the Reformation, flourished near the end of the 4th century. He was an Italian, but whether a native of Rome or Milan is not known. He taught in both cities, and gained a number of adherents. His real opinions, freed from the misrepresentations of his opponents, it is hardly possible to ascertain; it is apparent, however, that he opposed asceticism, which we find so generally and strenuously advocated in the writings of the Church fathers of the 4th century. He evidently maintained "that there is but one divine element of life, which all believers share in common; but one fellowship with Christ, which proceeds from faith in him; but one new birth. All who possess this in common with each other — all, therefore, who are Christians in the true sense, not barely in outward profession — have the same calling, the same dignity, the same heavenly blessings the diversity of outward circumstances creating no difference in this respect, that all persons whatsoever, if they keep the vows they make to Christ in baptism and live godly lives, have an equal title to the rewards of heaven, and, consequently, that those who spend their lives in celibacy or macerate their bodies by fasting are no more acceptable to God than those who live in wedlock, and nourish their bodies with moderation and sobriety." He also held that Mary ceased to be a virgin by bringing forth Christ; that the degrees of future blessedness do not depend on the meritoriousness of our good works; and that a truly converted Christian, so long as he is such, cannot sin willfully, but will resist and overcome the temptations of the devil. Yet, while upholding all these views, Jovinian himself remained single, and lived like all other monks, and his enemies even admit that the tenor of his life was always blameless. He first advocated his opinions at Milan, but, being there denied by the stern Ambrose all liberty of speech, he went to Rome, which, as appears from the evidence of Jerome, was one of the last places to entertain the ascetic fanaticism, nor was it until after monasteries had darkened all parts of the East, as well as many of the West, that these establishments were seen in that city. There, according to the report of pope Syricius and others, the doctrine of the Milanese monk had made many converts, so that the Church, "torn by dogs" in a manner heretofore unheard of, doubted whereto so unlooked for an assault might proceed. Not a few of the laity, if not of the clergy, had listened to Jovinian; and eight persons are named as his supporters, who, with him, were, by a unanimous decision of the Romish clergy, condemned and excommunicated in a council held at Milan in 390, as the authors of a "'new heresy, and of blasphemy and they were forever expelled from the Church. "Pilate and Herod" were at one in this instance. Pope Syricius confirmed the condemnation, the emperor Honorius enacted penal laws against the Jovinians, and Jovinian himself was banished to the desolate island of Boa, off the coast of Illyria, and there died before A.D. 406. But Jovinian\ had also written, as well as preached, in support of his opinions, which continued to spread on all sides, notwithstanding the terrors of Church authority. At Rome, although none dared openly to profess Jovinian's heresy, it was nevertheless covertly taught, and was whispered about, even to such an extent that certain nuns fell into matrimony in consequence of its prevalence. In this emergency, and m aid of the endeavors of the Romish Church to crush the "monstrous doctrine," the good Augustine, a tool of bad men, came forth in defense of the "orthodox" practices and principles of the ascetics; and in his treatise De bono conjugali, and in others of a similar kind, he. labors hard, by wily sophistry, to reconcile the prevailing absurdities with reason and Scripture. The mild, pious, and honest Augustine, however, was not the men to be the Church's thorough going champion on this notable occasion: she had a better man at hand; "one who, by various learning, by a voluble pen, as well as by rancor of temper, and boundless arrogance, and a blind devotion to whatever 'the Church' had sanctioned, was well qualified to do the necessary work of cajoling the simple, of inflaming the fanatical, of frightening the timid, of calumniating the innocent, and, in a word, of quashing, if it could be quashed, all inquiry concerning 'authorized' errors and abuses. The Church, right or wrong; was to be justified; the objector, innocent or guilty, was to be crushed; and Jerome would scruple nothing could he but accomplish so desirable an object. SEE JEROME. But, notwithstanding these attacks by the Church's three greatest doctors — Augustine, Ambrose, and Jerome, whose great irritation and anxiety or the cause of the Church is sufficiently betrayed by their determination to oppose Jovinians jointly, though living at points quite remote from each other the "heresy," instead of dying out, spread, and was favorably thought of and accepted in different parts of Christendom, and no doubt made easier the task of Vigilantius and of Luther. Neander does not hesitate to rank the services of Jovinian so high as to consider him worthy of a place by the side of Luther. See Neander, Ch. Hist. 2, 265 sq., Schaff, Ch. Hist. 2, 226 sq.; Ambrosius, Epist. 42; Augustine, De Hoeres. c. 82; Baronius, Annales Eccl. p. 390, 412; Walch, Ketzerhistorie, 3, 635 sq.; Baur, Christl. Kirche (4th to 6th century), p. 311 sq.; Lindner, De Joviniano et Vigilantio purioris doctrinoe antesignanis (Lpz. 1839).

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