Optatus (wished for), a Roman Catholic bishop of Milevia, in Asia Minor, is known by his work, still extant, entitled De schismateDonatistarum libri vii adversus Parmenianum. We possess no information as to his personal history; even the ancient Church historians who mention him, such as Jerome (De Viris illustribus, cap. 121), Augustine (De Doctrina Christ. lib. ii, cap. 40, num. 61; Contra epist. Parmenaiani, cap. 13, num. 5; De unitate Ecclesiastes cap. 19, num. 50), Fulgentius (Ad Monimum, lib. ii, cap. 13), Honorius of Autun (De scriptorib. Ecclesiastes cap. 3), speak only of his work. The Roman martyrology mentions him under the date of June 4, with the simple notice, Milevi in Numidia sancti Optati episcopi doctrina et sanctitate conspicui. According to Jerome, he wrote his work during the reign of Valentinian I († 375) and Valens († 378). This is derived from Optatus's statement that the persecution commenced by Diocletian had spread all over Africa for more than sixty years ("ferme ante annos sexaginta et quod excurrit"). Aside from the vagueness of this statement, Jerome's opinion seems contradicted' by the fact that Optatus mentions (2:2) Siricius as occupying the see of Rome, whence we would sluppose his work to have been written between the years 384 and 398. As a writer of the African Church during the period which elapsed from the death of Cyprian to Augustine, his work is the only important one which we now possess. It was written in answer to a work of the Doniatist bishop Parmenianus of Carthage, the same whose tetter to the Donatist Tychonius Augustine afterwards opposed in three books. These two works of Parmenianus, now lost, must not be confounded. That which was attacked by Augustine disputed the views, held by Tychonius concerning the Church; that opposed by Optatus was a polemic against the Roman Catholic Church. According to Jerome, Optatus's work contained but six books, and as known at present it has seven, yet Dupin (Praef. num. 2) solved this difficulty by showing that the seventh book consists of four independent fragments, the first three of which, at least, have Optatus for their author, and are additions made by him to the first, second, and third books; while the fourth part gives evidence in its style and tendencies of being from another writer, and very badly connected with the other. After the writings of Augustine, this work of Optatus is the most important source we possess for the history of Donatism, for although essentially polemic in its character, and particularly intended as an answer to Parmenianus, it gives a vast amount of interesting historical information on the subject. It is also of value for the history of dogmas, as affording a clear and comprehensive view of the position of the North African Church previous to St. Augustine. The central dogma of Optatus is the unity of the Church, so impressively asserted by Cyprian, and considered by him as of paramount importance (3:4). He looks upon the see of Rome as its outward manifestation, and entitled as such to the regard and obedience of all. He considers the catholicity of the Church as resulting from its rationality (from an erroneous derivation from κατὰ λόγον), and from its spreading over the earth ("quod sit rationabilis et ubique diffusa," 2:1). However, he already went farther than Cyprian in considering the holiness of the Church to consist, not in the individual purity of its members, but in the sacraments ("ergo ecclesia una est. cujus sanctitas de sacramentis colligitur, non de superbia personarum ponderatur," 2:1) — an opinion which we must consider as the most important result of the Donatistic controversy. He even denies the possibility of perfect holiness within the Church; he considers Christ as alone perfect, commanding his disciples to attain to perfection, but not making them perfect (2:20). This view stands in close connection with that which he held concerning the relation between freewill and grace; even the Christian, though willing only that which is right, yet can, put it into practice but to a certain extent; the final accomplishment is not in man's power, but in God's, because he alone is perfect, and alone capable of perfecting anything ("sed homini non est datum perficere, ut post spatia, quae debet homo implere, restet aliquid Deo, ubi deficienti succurrat quia ipse est perfectio," 2:20). Such declarations coming from the North-African Church show clearly what a change Augustine wrought in the views of the Church. The, opinions of Optatus on baptism are particularly deserving of notice: since all, even the children of Christian parents, are from their birth animated by an unclean spirit, exorcism must precede baptism, so that the evil spirit depart and make room for the heart to become a temple of God (4:6). Baptism is to be looked upon in two principal aspects, the objective and subjective; the first is based in the Trinity, the second in the faith and profession of the person baptized coinciding with the first. The result of this coincidence is the blessing attached to baptism, spiritual regeneration, by virtue of which God becomes the father of man, and the Church his mother ("concurrit Trinitati fides credentium et professio ut dum Trinitas cum fide concordat, qui natus fuerit seculo, renascatur spiritaliter Deo; sic' fit hominum pater Deus, sancta fit mater ecclesia,' 2:10). The sanctifying efficacy of baptism is independent of the person baptized, who only acts as an operative (operatrins); it depends exclusively on the name of the Godhead ("nomen est, quod sanctificat, non opus," v. 7), which also is the source whence flows the holy water ("aqua sancta, quae de trium nominum fontibus inundat," v. 3). Baptism performed in the name and through the power of the Trinity confers grace ("'baptisma Christianorum, Trinitate confectum, confert gratiam," v. 1); this baptism is the vital force of virtue ("virtutum vita"), the death of sin ("criminium mors"), the immortal birth ("nativitas immortalis"),the acquisition of the kingdom of heaven ("coelestis regni comparatio"), the wreck of all sins ("peccatorum naufragium," v. 1). Although the expression baptismus onzfert gratiam may at a first glance be thought to indicate that Optatus inclined to the subsequent Roman Catholic dogma on that subject, we find that he differed widely from it in considering the efficiency of the sacrament to be independent of the disposition of the receiver. Faith (which he considers only as a subjective acquiescence in the Trinitarian creed) is for him not merely a condition for the reception of the grace connected with the sacrament, but a necessary, constitutive element of the sacrament itself ("duas enim species video necess. principal. loc. Trin. possidet, sine qua res ipsa non potest geri; hanc sequitur fides credentis," v. 4); he designates it as the merit of believers ("restat jam de credentis merito aliquid dicere, cujus est fides," v. 8); he values it the more as Christ considers it as: superior to his holiness and majesty ("fidem filius Dei et sanctitati suae anteposuit et majestati"); he points out various miracles in which faith was the acting principle (v. 8). He looks, upon immersion anointing, and the imposition of hands, which he finds portended in Christ's baptism (4:7), as parts of the sacrament of baptism. He denies the efficacy of baptism performed by. heretics, because of the absence of the Trinitarian creed ("haereticorum morbidi fontes"), while he considers baptism performed by schismatics as valid and efficacious, and condemns its being renewed (v. 1). He also declares positively that those converts who were permitted to renew the vows of baptism previously taken by them should not be anointed, as be says to Parmenianus. "Quod a vobis unctum est, tale servamus, quale suscipimus" (7:3). He was the first to hold to the indelible character of baptism- afterwards established by Augustine. His views concerning the Lord's Supper are also of importance: he considers it as a sacrifice offered for the universal Church (2:12), but on the other hand he does not name the body and blood of Christ, but the offering of the community. He calls the altar the place where the gifts of the brotherhood are brought to show the peace of the Church; the place for the prayers of the community and the members of Christ (i.e. the community presenting itself to God in its gifts, and constituting the body of Christ); and when he speaks of the Eucharist itself, he says that the Almighty descends upon the altar, as does the Holy Spirit, at the prayers of the faithful; at the altar many find eternal salvation, and the hope of immortality. In his work Optatus uses especially the allegorical method of interpretation, which, like most of the writers of his time, he even abuses. His style is heavy, and wholly wanting in elegance; and in dialectic talent and ingenuity he is far behind Augustine. That Optatus was highly considered in the North-African Church is shown by what Augustine relates of him (Brevicul. collation. cap. 20, No. 38)., On the third day of the Synod of Carthage, in 411, the Donatistic bishops asserted that bishop Cecilianus of Carthage had been condemned by the emperor Constantine I, basing themselves on the statement in Optatus's work (1:26). This passage, however, said only that Cecilianus had, at the investigation of his schismatic enemies, and for the sake of restoring peace in the Church, been banished by the emperor to Brescia. The editio princeps of the six books of Optatus was printed by F. Behem (Apud S. Victoremn prope Moguntiam), 1549, fol., under the inspection of Joannes Cochlaeus, from a MS. belonging to the Hospital of St. Nicholas, near Trives. The text, which there appears under a very corrupt and mutilated form, was corrected in a multitude of passages by Balduinud, first from a single new MS. (Paris, 1653, 8vo, with the seventh book added in small type), and afterwards from two additional codices (ibid. 1659, 8vo). The second of these impressions remained the standard, until the appearance of the elaborate edition by Dupin (ibid. 1700, fol.; Amst. 1701, fol.; Antw. 1702, fol.); the last, in point of arrangement, is superior to all the others. That of Casaubon (Lond. 1631, 8vo) is of no particular value; that, of L'Aubespine, bishop of Orleans (Paris, 1631, fol.), is altogether worthless. Galland, in his Bibl. Path. v. 462 (Venet. 1769, fol.), has followed the text of Dupin, selected the most important of his critical notes, adopted his distribution of the Monumenta Vetera ad Donatistarum Historiam pertinentia, and brought together much useful matter in his Prolegomeza, cap. 18, p. 29. See Jerome De Viris ill. p. 110; Honor, p. 1, 3; Trithenm. p. 7.6; Augustine, De Doctrin. Christ. 2:40; Lardner, Credibility of Gospel History, cap. cv; Funcius, De L. L. veget. Senect. cap. x, § 56-63; Schonemann, Bibl. Patr. Lat. vol. i, § 16; Bahr, Gesch. der Romans Lit. suppl. pt. ii, § 65; Tillemont; Hist. des Empereurs, 4:364; Wernsdorf, Dissert. in Poet. Lat. min.; Milman, Hist. of Christianity; Mosheim, Ecclesiastes Hist. vol. i; Alzog, Patrologie, § 62; Shepherd, Hist. Ch. of Rome, p. 176, 222, 524 sq.; Herzog; Real-Encyklopadie, 10:665; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Generate, 38:723; Smith, Dict. of Greek and Roman Biog. and Mythol. s.v.

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