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Saint Pamphilus ( ) (latter half of the 3rd centuryFebruary 16, 309), was a presbyter of Caesareamarker and chief among Catholic Biblical scholars of his generation. He was the friend and teacher of Eusebius of Caesarea, who recorded details of his career in a three-book "Vita" that has been lost.

Eusebius' "Martyrs of Palestine," attests that Pamphilus was of a rich and honorable family of Beirutmarker, but the assertion that he gave all his property to the poor and attached himself to the "perfect men" does not square with his magnificent patronage of the library at Caesareamarker and his constant generosity to scholars through his lifetime. Photius, quotes Pamphilus's "Apology for Origen" to the effect that Pamphilus went to Alexandriamarker, where his teacher was Pierius, the head of the famous catechetical school there, before settling in Caesarea Maritimamarker, where he was ordained a priest. In Alexandriamarker, Egyptmarker, Pamphilus became devoted to the works of Origen of Alexandria. Photius says that Pamphilus was a Phoenician born at Berytus, and a scholar of Pierius, that collected sacred literature. According to Eusebius, he suffered martyrdom in the third year of the Diocletian persecution, after spending two years in prison. While he was in prison, Pamphilus and Eusebius worked together on five books in defense of Origen.

St Pamphilus is regarded as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. His feast day is celebrated on February 16 and on June 1.

The library at Caesarea

St Pamphilus, not unlike the humanist of the Renaissance, devoted his life to searching out and obtaining ancient texts which he collected in the famous library that Jerome was later to use, and established a school for theological study. In the scriptorium, a necessary adjunct to all libraries of antiquity, he oversaw the production of accurate edited copies of Scripture. Testimonies to his zeal and care in this work are to be found in the colophon of biblical manuscripts. Jerome's "De Viris Illustribus" (75) says that Pamphilus "transcribed the greater part of the works of Origen of Alexandria with his own hand," and that "these are still preserved in the library of Cæsarea." He himself was a possessor of "twenty-five volumes of commentaries of Origen," copied out by Pamphilus, which he looked upon as a most precious relic of the martyr.

Among other priceless lost treasures in the library, was the Gospel according to the Hebrews. Jerome knew of this copy of the so-called "Hebrew" or Aramaic text of the Gospel of Matthew and Eusebius refers to the catalogue of the library that he appended to his life of Pamphilus. A passage from the lost life, quoted by Jerome, describes how Pamphilus supplied poor scholars with the necessaries of life, and, not merely lent, but gave them copies of the Scriptures, of which he kept a large supply. He likewise bestowed copies on women devoted to study. The great treasure of the library at Caesarea was Origen's own copy of the "Hexapla," probably the only complete copy ever made. It was consulted by Jerome.

The collections of the library suffered during the persecutions under the Emperor Diocletian, but was repaired subsequently by bishops of Caesarea. It was noted in the 6th century, but Henry Barclay Swete was of the opinion that probably did not long survive the capture of Caesarea by the Saracens in 638, though a modern historian would attribute more destruction to its previous capture by the Sassanid Persiansmarker.

The Diocletian persecution began in earnest in the year 303. In 306 a young man named Apphianus – a disciple of Pamphilus "while no one was aware; he even concealed it from us who were even in the same house"–interrupted the governor in the act of offering sacrifice, and paid for his boldness with a terrible martyrdom. His brother Aedesius, also a disciple of Pamphilus, suffered martyrdom about the same time at Alexandria under similar circumstances. St Pamphilus's turn came in November, 307. He was brought before Urbanus, the governor of Palestine, and upon refusing to offer sacrifice, was cruelly tortured, and then relegated to prison. In prison he continued copying and correcting manuscripts. He also composed, in collaboration with Eusebius, also imprisoned, an "Apology for Origen" in five books, which Eusebius edited and to which he added a sixth book. St Pamphilus and other members of his household, along with Valens, deacon of the Church of Jerusalem and Paul of Jamnia, men "in the full vigour of mind and body," were without further torture sentenced to be beheaded in February, 309. While sentence was being given a youth named Porphyrius – "the slave of Pamphilus," "the beloved disciple of Pamphilus," who "had been instructed in literature and writing" – demanded the bodies of the confessors for burial. He was cruelly tortured and put to death, the news of his martyrdom being brought to Pamphilus before his own execution.

Pamphilus' works

  • Of the "Apology for Origen" only the first book is extant, in a Latin version made by Rufinus. It begins with describing the extravagant bitterness of the feeling against Origen. He was a man of deep humility, of great authority in the Church of his day, and honoured with the priesthood. He was above all things anxious to keep to the rule of faith that had come down from the Apostles. The soundness of his doctrine concerning the Trinity and the Incarnation is then vindicated by copious extracts from his writings. Then nine charges against his teaching are confronted with passages from his works. Saint Jerome stated in his "De Viris illustribus" that there were two apologies—one by Pamphilus and another by Eusebius. He discovered his mistake when Rufinus's translation appeared in the height of the controversy over Origen, and rushed to the conclusion that Eusebius was the sole author. He charged Rufinus, among other things, with palming off under the name of the martyr what was really the work of the heterodox Eusebius, and with suppressing unorthodox passages. As to the first accusation there is abundant evidence that the "Apology" was the joint work of Pamphilus and Eusebius. Against the second may be set the negative testimony of Photius who had read the original; "Photius, who was severe to excess towards the slightest semblance of Arianism, remarked no such taint in the Apology of Origen which he had read in Greek." The canons of the alleged Council of the Apostles at Antioch were ascribed by their compiler (late fourth century) to Pamphilus.
  • The ascription to Pamphilus, by Gemmadius, of a treatise "Contra mathematicos" was a blunder due to a misunderstanding of Rufinus's preface to the "Apology".
  • A "Summary of the Acts of the Apostles" among the writings associated with Euthalius bears in its inscription the name of Pamphilus.

David Hume adopted the evocative pseudonym Pamphilus for his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.


  • "Lives of the Saints, For Every Day of the Year," edited by Rev. Hugo Hoever, S.O.Cist., Ph.D., New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1955, pp. 211 – 212.

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