November 2007 - Volume 12, Issue 4

The Fifteenth Pope

Saint Zephrynus

An illustration of Saint ZephrynusPope Saint Zephrynus (199-217) – Pope Zephrynus apparently was considered a simple man with a lesser amount of education in higher theological learning and more adept at the practical administration of the Church.

The pope would have to face both theological and social controversies. A new persecution of the Church as ordered by the Emperor Septimus Severus and a number of heretical teachings were assailing the faithful. Some heresies concurrent with the reign of Pope Zephrynus were Montanism – the world is ending, strong ascetic practices, Adoptionism – God the Father "adopted" Jesus (a normal human being) at his baptism, Sabellianism (Modalism, Monarchianism) – The Trinity is simple three modes or expressions of activity belonging to the one God.

As in the case of some earlier popes, Pope Zephrynus came under criticism by a number of theologians of his day for being too lenient toward the heretical teachings of the times. Part of the problem was a lack of development of a theological nomenclature and systems helpful in responding unambiguously to the heresies. Decrees from the pope did ultimately appear, but in a tardy fashion according to some theologians.

There is no evidence as of yet to confirm that the pope suffered a martyr's death. He is believed to be buried in a cemetery owned by the Church along the Appian Way.