Thraseas of Eumenia

By COGwriter

Thraseas was a martyr, as well as Quartodeciman Christian leader, in Asia Minor in the second century. He is sometimes also referred to as Stataeas (e.g. Monroy, Mauricio Saavedra. The Church of Smyrna: History and Theology of a Primitive Christian Community. Peter Lang edition, 2015, p. 190).

Quartodecimans kept Passover (please see the article on Passover) on the 14th of Ahib (also known as Nisan), in spite of the preferences of Roman Bishops who preferred a Sunday date which ultimately became Easter Sunday (Did Early Christians Celebrate Easter?).

There is not a lot of information on Thraseas as no clear writings from him seem to be available. But since he was written about by others, we can get some idea of his beliefs.

While he is considered to be a saint by the Church of Rome, Eastern Orthodox, and the Continuing Church of God, the views he did have are inconsisent with those now held by the first two listed groups.

Apollonius

Thraseas apparently knew Apollonius, a church leader in Ephesus. Eusebius reports:

This same Apollonius states in the same work that, at the time of his writing, it was the fortieth year since Montanus had begun his pretended prophecy. And he says also that Zoticus, who was mentioned by the former writer, when Maximilla was pretending to prophesy in Pepuza, resisted her and endeavored to refute the spirit that was working in her; but was prevented by those who agreed with her. He mentions also a certain Thraseas among the martyrs of that time (Eusebius. Church History, Book V, Chapter 18).

The connection to Apollonius is important as he had views still held by the Continuing Church of God.

An Anti-Montantist

According to The Catholic Encyclopedia, Thraseas was an anti-Montantist:

...the martyr-Bishop Thraseas, another adversary of Montanism (Grey F.W. Transcribed by Paul-Dominique Masiclat, O.P. Apollonius of Ephesus. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I. Copyright © 1907 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Of the Montanists, according to The Catholic Encyclopedia:

the date of Thraseas is therefore about 160, and the origin of Montanism must be yet earlier...We hear of no false doctrines at first...St. Jerome's account, written in 384...describes them as Sabellians in their idea of the Trinity (Chapman J. Transcribed by Robert B. Olson. Montanists. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

It needs to be understood that it was first Church of God leaders from Asia Minor that condemned the Montanists and that the Church of Rome seemed to accept them until the early third century. Thus as long as he lived, Thraseas was not in agreement with the Church of Rome on this matter.

One of the so-called Montanist Oracles was:

"I am the Father and the Son and the Paraclete." (Didymus, De trinitate iii. 41. 1.) (Assembled in P. de Labriolle, La crise montaniste (1913), 34-105, by Bates College, Lewston (Maine) http://abacus.bates.edu/Faculty/Philosophy%20and%20Religion/rel_241/texts/montanism.html 01/31/06).

This is one of the first references to a trinitarian view of the Godhead (the other earliest one was from the heretic Valentinus). The paraclete is a term used to signify the Holy Spirit (it is from the Greek term parakletos).

Since the true Church of God is binitarian, it is logical that any affiliated with it would have opposed any trinitarian teachings. Roman leaders seemed to be tolerant of the Montanists until decades sometime after Thraseas and others in Asia Minor condemned them (Rome finally condemned the Montanists, but not for this doctrine).

A Martyr from Eumenia

Thraseas is believed to have been martyred for his faith around 160 A.D. as The Catholic Encyclopedia concluded:

...the martyr Thraseas, mentioned chronologically between Polycarp (155) and Sagaris (under Sergius Paulus, 166-7) in the letter of Polycrates to Pope Victor; the date of Thraseas is therefore about 160 (Chapman J. Transcribed by Robert B. Olson. Montanists. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Here is some of what is recorded about ancient Eumenia:

Eumenia A titular see of Phrygia Pacatiana in Asia Minor, and suffragan to Hierapolis. It was founded by Attalus II Philadelphus (159-138 B.C.) at the sources of the Cludrus and near the Glaucus, on the site of the modern Ishekli, the centre of a nahie in the vilayet of Brusa (1000 inhabitants). The new city was named by its founder after his brother Eumenes. Numerous inscriptions and many coins remain to show that Eumenia was an important and prosperous city under Roman rule. On its coins it boasts of its Achaean origin...Its bishop and martyr, St. Thraseas (Euseb., H.E., V, xxiv) (Petrides S. Transcribed by Gerald M. Knight. Eumenia. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume V. Copyright © 1909 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, May 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Although he was from Eumenia, Thraseas was, according to Polycrates and Jerome, martyred in Smyrna:

Thraseas of Eumenia also, bishop and martyr, rests in the same Smyrna (Jerome. De Viris Illustribus (On Illustrious Men). Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Volume 3. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1892. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

There is also a mention of him in a questionable book called The Life of Polycarp (a book that, if it was based on some truths in the second century, it was changed--at least slightly--in the fourth century). Here is the one comment:

So having taken the body of the blessed Bucolus to Smyrna to the cemetery in front of the Ephesian Royal gate, and placed it where recently a myrtle tree sprung up after the burial of the body of Thraseas the martyr, when all was over, they offered bread for Bucolus and the rest (Pionius, Life of Polycarp, Chapter 20. Translated by J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 3.2, 1889, pp.488-506).

A Quartodeciman

A document that was probably later tampered with, called the Life of Polycarp, apparently mentions Thraseas (Strataeas per Monroy, Mauricio Saavedra. The Church of Smyrna: History and Theology of a Primitive Christian Community. Peter Lang edition, 2015, p. 190). It states:

In the days of unleavened bread Paul, coming down from Galatia, arrived in Asia, considering the repose among the faithful in Smyrna to be a great refreshment in Christ Jesus after his severe toil, and intending afterwards to depart to Jerusalem. So in Smyrna he went to visit Strataeas, who had been his hearer in Pamphylia, being a son of Eunice the daughter of Lois. These are they of whom he makes mention when writing to Timothy, saying; Of the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois and in thy mother Eunice; whence we find that Strataeas was a brother of Timothy. Paul then, entering his house and gathering together the faithful there, speaks to them concerning the Passover and the Pentecost, reminding them of the New Covenant of the offering of bread and the cup; how that they ought most assuredly to celebrate it during the days of unleavened bread, but to hold fast the new mystery of the Passion and Resurrection. For here the Apostle plainly teaches that we ought neither to keep it outside the season of unleavened bread, as the heretics do, especially the Phrygians...but named the days of unleavened bread, the Passover, and the Pentecost, thus ratifying the Gospel (Pionius. Life of Polycarp, Chapter 2. Translated by J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 3.2, 1889, pp.488-506).

So, a record indicates that Thraseas was the brother of Timothy--if so, that is an interesting tie to someone mentioned in the Bible--it would thus also indicate that Timothy and Thraseas probably had similar religious practices as both were Christians.

Polycrates mentions that Thraseas was among those who observed the Passover on the date that was handed down from scriptures and the Apostle John, and thus, that he did not change to Sunday when some in Rome did. That would be consistent with him keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread with the Apostle Paul. That would have made him fairly old by the time he died, but as Polycarp lived to be over 100 (see, for example, the Harris Fragments, cited in Polycarp of Smyrna: The Heretic Fighter), this is not out-of-the question.

The Catholic writer Eusebius recorded that Polycrates of Ephesus, around 195 A.D. wrote the following to the Roman Bishop Victor who wanted all who professed Christ to change Passover from the 14th of Nisan to Sunday:

We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord's coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate. He fell asleep at Ephesus. And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who fell asleep in Smyrna. Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead? All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ' We ought to obey God rather than man' (Eusebius. Church History, Book V, Chapter 24. Translated by Arthur Cushman McGiffert. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series Two, Volume 1. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1890. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Notice that Polycrates said that he and the other early church leaders (like the Apostles Philip and John, and their successors like Polycarp, Thraseas, Sagaris, Papirius, Melito) would not deviate from the Bible, and that they knew the Bible taught them to keep the Passover on the correct date, and not on a Sunday. Polycrates also reminded the Roman bishop that true followers of Christ "obey God rather than men."

Hence it is clear that throughout the second century, that Thraseas and the churches in Asia Minor continued to observe the Passover on the 14th of Nisan, unlike the Romans. Groups, such as the Continuing Church of God keep Passover on the 14th of Nisan, but most Protestants do not. Neither do those with the Church of Rome or the Eastern Orthodox--actually, leaders associated with those two groups condemned this practice in the Council of Nicea and the Council of Constantinople.

Actually, if he would have lived in the late fourth century, Thraseas would have been subject to being killed for holding his biblical, Church of God, position.

In the Hierarchy of the Church

Interestingly, although he is not in the list of Bishops of Rome (since he was not Roman, that is logical), Thraseas is mentioned in the article on titled Hierarchy of the Early Church in The Catholic Encyclopedia:

A. Mention of Bishops by Polycrates

In a synodal letter written by Polycrates of Ephesus about the year 190 this bishop, sixty-five years of age, speaks of seven of his relatives who had been bishops before him. Besides these he mentions Polycarp and Papirius of Smyrna, Thraseas of Eumenea, Sagaris of Laodicea and Melito of Sardes (Eusebius, "Hist. Eccles.", v, 24, 2 sq.) (Borkowski S. De Dunin. Transcribed by Douglas J. Potter. Hierarchy of the Early Church. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Thus, it is known that Thraseas was in the true hierarchy of the early Christian church in the second century.

A historian/theologian of the late 2nd/early 3rd century, Tertullian notes:

Anyhow the heresies are at best novelties, and have no continuity with the teaching of Christ. Perhaps some heretics may claim Apostolic antiquity: we reply: Let them publish the origins of their churches and unroll the catalogue of their bishops till now from the Apostles or from some bishop appointed by the Apostles, as the Smyrnaeans count from Polycarp and John, and the Romans from Clement and Peter; let heretics invent something to match this (Tertullian. Liber de praescriptione haereticorum. Circa 200 A.D. as cited in Chapman J. Transcribed by Lucy Tobin. Tertullian. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Since Thraseas died in Smyrna, it appears likely that Tertullian considered Thraseas was one in succession in that region.

These two quotes, suggest, to me at least, that the Roman Catholics at least indirectly acknowledge that there was a hierarchy of apostolic succession in the church in Asia Minor, that included Thraseas.

We in the Continuing Church of God are the only COG group that I know of that specifically includes Thraseas as part of our early leaders of succession.

Concluding Comments

Since Thraseas taught against the Montanist heretics as did Quartodecimans Apollinaris and Apollonius, and apparently believed that one needed to heed scripture, and was apparently approved by the Christian Polycrates wrote, it appears that Thraseas was a true Christian and that he was part of the true Church of God.

The writings about him suggest a theology closer to that held by the genuine Continuing Church of God, than the Orthodox or Catholic faiths. And that helps demonstrate that it is the Continuing Church of God that holds positions most consistent with truly orthodox Christianity, than the majority who now profess Christianity do.

Some items of possibly related interest may include:

Where is the True Christian Church Today? This free online pdf booklet answers that question and includes 18 proofs, clues, and signs to identify the true vs. false Christian church. Plus 7 proofs, clues, and signs to help identify Laodicean churches. A related sermon is also available: Where is the True Christian Church? Here is a link to the booklet in the Spanish language: ¿Dónde está la verdadera Iglesia cristiana de hoy? Here is a link in the German language: WO IST DIE WAHRE CHRISTLICHE KIRCHE HEUTE? Here is a link in the French language: Où est la vraie Église Chrétienne aujourd’hui?

Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from Acts 2 to the 21st century. Related sermon links include Continuing History of the Church of God: c. 31 to c. 300 A.D. and Continuing History of the Church of God: 4th-16th Centuries. The booklet is available in Spanish: Continuación de la Historia de la Iglesia de Dios, German: Kontinuierliche Geschichte der Kirche Gottes, and Ekegusii Omogano Bw’ekanisa Ya Nyasae Egendererete.

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