Popes in a Year
#15 - Pope St. Zephyrinus
Pope from 199-217 A.D.
Died: 217 A.D.
How do we know he was pope?
(“Book of Popes”) lists Pope St. Zephyrinus as the 15th Bishop of Rome and 14th successor of St. Peter. Church historian Eusebius, writing around 325 AD, confirms the same.
Give me the scoop on Zephyrinus.
Most of what we know about Zephyrinus is from the Roman theologian Hippolytus. The good: Hippolytus was very thorough and detailed. The bad: Hippolytus had an axe to grind with the good pope (and, as it turned out, the next 3 popes, too).
Hippolytus not only called the pope dumb, but he accused Zephyrinus of modalism, a heresy which says the Father and Son are two names for the same person (as opposed to, you know, the Father and Son being two distinct persons). In reality, it appears Zephyrinus simply wasn’t educated in theology, instead preferring administration of the Church's daily duties, so he prudently refrained from speaking specifically on the subject either way. We don’t know when St. Zephyrinus was born, but he died December 20, 217.
What was he known for?
Zephyrinus is known for a couple things. First, he gave the Church its 16th pope - St. Callixtus I. Callixtus was the pope’s archdeacon (basically the 3rd-Century equivalent of a secretary of state), but seems to have also been Zephyrinus’ counselor and main man for all things theology.
Second, Zephyrinus reconciled the leader of a notorious heresy back to the Church. A priest named Natalius had been bribed into leading a group of heretics, but reportedly had many visions telling him to steer clear. According to
, Natalius finally wised up after being
scourged by an angel
one night. The next morning, he donned sackcloth and ashes (still fashionable for penitents back then) and “with great haste and tears” threw himself before Zephyrinus, who forgave him and welcomed him home (depicted above).
St. Zephyrinus was buried in the newly-created cemetery he'd appointed Callixtus to run. The cemetery, now known as the Catacomb of Callixtus, still exists today in Rome, though its relics were all moved to churches around Rome by the 9th Century.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
In the year 202, a Roman law banned female gladiators. Maybe the boys were just scared they'd lose.
Coming Monday....Pope St. Callixtus I
- John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
- Pope St. Zephyrinus -
- Pope Zephyrinus -
- 200s A.D. -
- Church History (Book V) -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Friday, January 20 at 2:00AM