St. Apollonius the Apologist, Feastday 18 April or 23 July

St. Apollonius the Apologist, Feastday 18 April or 23 July

Martyr whose Apologia, or defense of the faith, is considered one of the most priceless documents of the early Church. He is also sometimes known as Apollonius of Ephesus, being thought to have come fromEphesus because of his familiarity with and knowledge of that place. Some even believe he may have been Bishop there, but it is doubtful this is true, there being no record of his holding such position.

Apollonius was a Roman senator of the second century, and a staunch defender of Christianity. At that time there was an apocalyptic, charismatic movement within the Church which was a threat to Tradition, the Holy Scriptures, and the office of the bishop, lead by Montanus who claimed to be directly inspired by the Holy Spirit. He had many followers, including two "prophetesses", Maximilla and Priscilla. They prophesied the end of the world and the need to restore rigorous ascetic practices to Christianity. Although most of their writings have been lost or destroyed, Eusebius and Epiphanius indicate that the Montanist doctrines were not readily susceptible to attack on matters of dogma. Therefore, the Church stressed traditional sources of authority and raised character issues in order to combat the Montanists. Apollonius exposed the errors in the Montanist prophecies, as well as the sinful lives of Montanus and his prophetesses. He also shed light on some of those in the sect, such as the apostates Themison and Alexander, who was a thief who was publicly condemned at Ephesus and had himself adored as a god.

He rlates in some of his writings the tradition that Jesus advised His Apostles not to go far from Jerusalem during the twelve years immediately following His Ascension. This is also a tradition known to Clement of Alexandria, as written in the apocryphal “Praedicatio Petri.” Apollonius also tells about a time when St. John the Apostle resurrected a dead man at Ephesus. Apollonius knew St. John’s Apocalypse and quoted from it often.

Apollonius was denounced as a Christian by one of his slaves, Severus, who was executed, under a law of Aurelius stipulating that anyone accusing another of being a Christian must himself be put to death.

The Praetorian Prefect, Sextus Tigidius Perennis, arrested St. Apollonius. Perennis demanded that Apollonius denounce the faith, and when he refused, the case was remanded to the Roman senate. There a debate took place between Perennis and Apollonius that clearly outlines the beauty and the value of Christianity, saying in part: ". . . if it were a delusion (as you assert) which tells us that the soul is immortal, and that there is a judgment after death and a reward of virtue at the resurrection, and that God is the Judge, we would gladly be carried away by such a lie as that, which has taught us to lead good lives awaiting the hope of the future even while suffering adversities." Despite his eloquent defense, Apollonius was condemned - the Romans crushed his legs and beheaded him April 21 circa 186 A. D., to see what would happen.