May 2007 - Volume 11, Issue 10

The Ninth Pope

Saint Hyginus

Photo of a painting of Saint HyginusPope Saint Hyginus (136-140), a Greek from Athens with a background in philosophy. At the time of Hyginus, Rome played host to personages such as Saint Justin Martyr and the Gnostic teachers Valentinus and Cerdo. The most formidable of Hyginus' contemporaries in Rome was Marcion. His teachings discredited the Old Testament and devalued the God of the Old Testament, denied that Jesus had a real body and that Jesus simply appeared as a manifestation of the true God. Marcion rejected marriage and affirmed chastity.

The presence of such men and their heretical creeds created a volatile atmosphere for the reign of Hyginus. The centuries have obscured the impact of such men as Marcion, but in his time and for the next few centuries after him the teachings of Marcion and the devotion of his followers would present the Church, arguably, with what was it greatest challenge theologically ever. One reason for the monumental threat of Marcion and Marcionism was timing. The Church was so very young and vulnerable, without the ecclesiastical structures and protocols needed to counter such threats to orthodoxy sufficiently.

One might note that the migration of such prominent figures to Rome underscores the prominence of Rome as a base of theological thought and authority.

Pope Hyginus was considered to have suffered a martyr's death, but there is no definitive evidence of that occurrence.

Habemus papam.