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E04059: Sozomen in his Ecclesiastical History recounts the discovery in Palestine of the relics of *Zechariah (Old Testament Prophet S00283) and *Stephen the First Martyr (S00030) under Theodosius II (r. 408-450). Written in Greek at Constantinople, 439/450.

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posted on 20.09.2017, 00:00 by erizos
Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History, 9.16. 3-5, 17.

9.16
ἐν τούτῳ δὲ τὰ μὲν πρὸς ἕω τῆς ἀρχομένης πολεμίων ἀπήλλακτο καὶ σὺν κόσμῳ πολλῷ τὰ τῇδε ἰθύνετο παρὰ τὴν πάντων δόξαν· (4) ἦν γὰρ ἔτι νέος ὁ κρατῶν. ἐδόκει δὲ ὁ θεὸς περιφανῶς ἥδεσθαι τῇ παρούσῃ βασιλείᾳ, οὐ μόνον ἐξ ἀπροσδοκήτου τὰ περὶ τοὺς πολέμους ὧδε διατιθείς, ἀλλὰ καὶ πολλῶν ἐπ’ εὐσεβείᾳ πάλαι εὐδοκιμηκότων τὰ ἱερὰ σώματα ἀναφαίνων· οἷον δὴ καὶ τότε συνέβη ἐπὶ Ζαχαρίᾳ τῷ παλαιῷ προφήτῃ γενέσθαι καὶ Στεφάνῳ τῷ διακόνῳ χειροτονηθέντι παρὰ τῶν ἀποστόλων. (5) ἑκατέρου δὲ τῆς εὑρέσεως παραδόξου καὶ θείας οὔσης ἀναγκαῖον εἰπεῖν τὸν τρόπον.

9.17.
(1) Ἄρξομαι δὲ ἀπὸ τοῦ προφήτου. Χαφὰρ Ζαχαρία κώμη ἐστὶν ἐν ὁρίοις Ἐλευθεροπόλεως τῆς Παλαιστίνης. ἐπετρόπευε δὲ ταύτην Καλήμερός τις ὁμόδουλος τῷ ἀγρῷ, εὔνους μὲν τῷ κεκτημένῳ, χαλεπὸς δὲ καὶ δύσκολος καὶ περὶ τοὺς ὁμόρους ἀγροίκους ἄδικος. (2) τοιούτῳ δὲ ὄντι ὕπαρ ἐπιστὰς ὁ προφήτης ἑαυτὸν κατεμήνυσεν· καὶ κῆπόν τινα ἐπιδείξας «ἄγε δή», ἔφη, «ἐνθάδε ὄρυξον δύο πήχεις ἀναμετρήσας ἀπὸ τῆς αἱμασιᾶς ἐπὶ τὸν κῆπον, παρὰ τὴν ὁδὸν τὴν ἐπὶ Βηθθερέβιν τὴν κώμην ἄγουσαν· εὑρήσεις δὲ λάρνακα διπλῆν, ξυλίνην τὴν ἔνδον ἐν μολυβδίνῃ τῇ ἔξωθεν, ἀμφὶ δὲ τὴν λάρνακα ὑέλινον σκεῦος πλῆρες ὕδατος καὶ ὄφεις δύο μεγέθει μετρίους καὶ πράους καὶ ἀβλαβεῖς, ὡς δοκεῖν χειροήθεις εἶναι.» (3) κατὰ δὲ τὴν σύνταξιν τοῦ προφήτου παραγενόμενος Καλήμερος ἐπὶ τὸν δηλωθέντα τόπον σπουδῇ τοῦ ἔργου εἴχετο. ὑπὸ δὲ τοῖς προειρημένοις συμβόλοις ἀνακαλυφθείσης τῆς ἱερᾶς θήκης ἀνεφάνη ὁ θεῖος προφήτης, χιτῶνα καὶ λευκὴν ἐσθῆτα ἠμφιεσμένος, οἷά γε οἶμαι καὶ ἱερεὺς ὤν· ὑπὸ δὲ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ ἔξωθεν τῆς λάρνακος παιδίον ἔκειτο βασιλικῆς ἠξιωμένον ταφῆς· εἶχε γὰρ ἐπὶ μὲν τῆς κεφαλῆς χρυσοῦν στέφανον, χρυσᾶ δὲ τὰ ὑποδήματα καὶ τὴν ἐσθῆτα τιμίαν. (4) ἀπορούντων δὲ τῶν τότε ἱερέων καὶ σοφῶν περὶ τούτου τοῦ παιδίου, τίς τε καὶ πόθεν εἴη καὶ οὗ χάριν τοιάδε ἠμφίεστο, λέγεται Ζαχαρίαν τὸν ἡγούμενον τῆς ἐν Γεράροις μοναχικῆς συνοικίας Ἑβραίᾳ καὶ παλαιᾷ περιτυχεῖν γραφῇ, οὐ τῶν ἐκκλησιαζομένων. ἐδήλου δὲ ὡς, ἡνίκα Ζαχαρίαν τὸν προφήτην ἀνεῖλεν ὁ Ἰωὰς ὁ τῆς Ἰουδαίας βασιλεύς, οὐκ εἰς μακρὰν περὶ τὸν οἶκον ἐχρήσατο χαλεπῇ συμφορᾷ. (5) ἑβδόμῃ γὰρ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς ἀναιρέσεως τοῦ προφήτου ἐξαπίνης αὐτῷ μάλα κεχαρισμένος ὁ παῖς ἀπωλώλει. συμβαλὼν δὲ κατὰ θεομηνίαν τοιούτῳ παθήματι περιπεσεῖν, ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ τὸ μειράκιον ἔθαψεν, ἀπολογούμενος ταύτῃ ὑπὲρ ὧν εἰς αὐτὸν ἥμαρτε. (6) καὶ τὰ μὲν ὧδε ἔγνων. ὁ δὲ προφήτης, καίπερ πρὸ πλείστων γενεῶν ὑπὸ γῆν κείμενος, σῶος ἀνεφάνη, ἐν χρῷ κεκαρμένος, εὐθύρρις, γενειάδα μετρίως καθειμένην ἔχων, τὴν δὲ κεφαλὴν βραχυτέραν καὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ὀλίγῳ ἐν βάθει ταῖς ὀφρύσι καλυπτομένους.


‘16. Meanwhile the eastern part of the empire was free from wars and was governed in a very orderly manner - against everyone’s expectations, for the sovereign [Theodosius II] was still a minor. Yet God appeared to be manifestly pleased with the current ruler, not only by providing for such an unexpectedly positive state in the affairs of war, but also by revealing the sacred bodies of several persons that had been distinguished in the true religion in the past. Such was the case in that period with Zechariah, the ancient prophet, and Stephen, the deacon who was ordained by the Apostles. It is necessary to recount how each one of them was discovered, since both events are extraordinary and divine.

17. I shall start with the prophet. Chaphar Zacharia is a village in the territory of Eleutheropolis of Palestine. The land of this village was managed by a certain tenant called Kalemeros. He was loyal to his landlord, but was a harsh and difficult man, and unjust towards his peasant neighbours. Although he was such a person, the Prophet appeared to him in a living vision, announcing his presence. He indicated a certain garden, and said “Go then, dig in that garden, counting two cubits from the hedge of the garden by the road leading to the city of Bitheribis. You will there find a double coffin, the inner casket made of wood, the outer of lead. Beside the coffin you will see a glass vessel full of water, and two serpents of moderate size, but tame and harmless, so that they will seem to be used to being handled.” Following the instructions of the Prophet, Kalemeros went to the designated site and zealously started working. The hallowed tomb was recognised by the signs mentioned above, and God’s Prophet was uncovered clad in a tunic and white robe - in as much as he was also a priest, I reckon. At his feet outside of the coffin, there lay a child who had been granted a regal burial, wearing a golden crown on his head, golden shoes, and a costly robe. As the priests and learned men of the time were greatly perplexed about this child, who and whence he might be and for what reason he had been clothed like that, they say that Zacharias, the superior of the monastic community of Gerara, found an ancient Hebrew document, which was not among the canonical books. In this document, it was stated that not long after Joash, the king of Judah, had put Zechariah the prophet to death, a dire calamity befell his house. For seven days after the death of the Prophet, his dearest son suddenly died. Realising that this tragedy was inflicted on him by God’s wrath, he buried the boy at the feet of the Prophet, thus apologising for the crimes he had committed against him. This is what I know about this affair. As for the Prophet, although he had been resting in the ground for so many generations, he emerged intact; his hair was closely shorn, his nose straight, he had a moderately grown beard, a relatively short head, and his eyes were somewhat sunken and covered by the eyebrows.’

The account of Stephen has not survived, because the extant text of the Ecclesiastical History ends here.

Text: Bidez and Hansen 1995. Translation: E. Rizos.

History

Evidence ID

E04059

Saint Name

Zechariah, Old Testament prophet : S00283 Stephen, the First Martyr : S00030

Saint Name in Source

Ζαχαρίας Στέφανος

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

439

Evidence not after

440

Activity not before

408

Activity not after

416

Place of Evidence - Region

Constantinople and region

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul

Major author/Major anonymous work

Sozomen

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Apparition, vision, dream, revelation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - abbots Peasants

Cult Activities - Relics

Discovering, finding, invention and gathering of relics

Source

Salamenios Hermeias Sozomenos (known in English as Sozomen) was born in the early 5th c. to a wealthy Christian family, perhaps of Arab origins, in the village of Bethelea near Gaza. He was educated at a local monastic school, studied law probably at Beirut, and settled in Constantinople where he pursued a career as a lawyer. Sozomen published his Ecclesiastical History between 439 and 450, perhaps around 445. It consists of nine books, the last of which is incomplete. In his dedication of the work, Sozomen states that he intended to cover the period from the conversion of Constantine to the seventeenth consulate of Theodosius II, that is, 312 to 439, but the narrative of the extant text breaks in about 425. The basis of Sozomen’s work is the Ecclesiastical History of Socrates, published a few years earlier, which our author revises and expands. Like Socrates, Sozomen was devoted to Nicene Orthodoxy and the Theodosian dynasty, but his work is marked by stronger hagiographical interests, a richer base of sources, and different sympathies/loyalties. Sozomen probably lacked the classical education of Socrates, but had a broader knowledge of hagiographical and monastic literature and traditions, which makes him a fuller source for the cult of saints. Besides Greek and Latin, Sozomen knew Aramaic, which allowed him to include information about ascetic communities, monastic founders, and martyrs from his native Palestine, Arabia, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia, to which Socrates had had no access. Much like the other ecclesiastical historians of the fourth and fifth centuries, Sozomen focuses on the East Roman Empire, only seldom referring to the West and Persia.

Discussion

Sozomen presents the reign of Theodosius II (408-450), and especially the regency of Pulcheria (408-416) as a period of surprising stability for the empire, which he ascribes to God being pleased by the holiness of the monarch and his government. The proof of God’s approval was, once again, the discovery of relics. Sozomen mentions the discovery of the relics of Zechariah by Zebennos of Eleutheropolis together with the discovery of Stephen the First Martyr by John of Jerusalem, but it is not clear which of the two took place first. The discovery of Stephen took place in 415. Although Sozomen says nothing about the background of these discoveries, it seems that they were related to the rivalry between bishop Zebennos of Eleutheropolis and his neighbour, John of Jerusalem, which lasted from c. 390 down to 415 and later. The same bishop who discovered Zechariah, Zebennos of Eleutheropolis, had discovered the remains of the Prophet Habakkuk in the 390s (Cronnier 2016; E04055). The story conflates Zechariah the prophet, author of the Book of Zechariah, with Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, who was killed on the orders of King Joash (2 Chronicles, 24.21)

Bibliography

Text: Bidez, J., and Hansen, G. C., Sozomenus. Kirchengeschichte. 2nd rev. ed. (Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte, Neue Folge 4; Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1995). Translations: Grillet, B., Sabbah, G., Festugière A.-J. Sozomène, Histoire ecclésiastique. 4 vols. (Sources chrétiennes 306, 418, 495, 516; Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1983-2008): text, French translation, and introduction. Hansen, G.C. Sozomen, Historia ecclesiastica, Kirchengeschichte, 4 vols. (Fontes Christiani 73; Turnhout: Brepols, 2004): text, German translation, and introduction. Hartranft, C.D. “The Ecclesiastical History of Sozomen, Comprising a History of the Church from AD 323 to AD 425." In A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church: Second Series, edited by P. Schaff and H. Wace (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1890), 179-427. Further reading: Chesnut, G. F. The First Christian Histories: Eusebius, Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, and Evagrius (Atlanta: Mercer University, 1986). Cronnier, E. Les inventions de reliques dans l’Empire romain d’Orient (IVe-VIe s.) (Turnhout: Brepols, 2016). Leppin, H. Von Constantin dem Grossen zu Theodosius II. Das christliche Kaisertum bei den Kirchenhistorikern Socrates, Sozomenus und Theodoret (Hypomnemata 110; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1996). Van Nuffelen, P., Un héritage de paix et de piété : Étude sur les histoires ecclésiastiques de Socrate et de Sozomène (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 142; Leuven: Peeters, 2004).

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