Feast day: May 12
Born at Besanduk, Palestine, c. 315; died at sea in 403. Born into a Hellenized Jewish family, Epiphanius became an expert in the languages needed to understand Scripture. From his earliest youth, he was a monk in Palestine. Later he went to Egypt and stayed at several desert communities. He returned to Palestine about 333, was ordained, and became superior of a monastery at Eleutheropolis (Beit Jibrin), which he had built in his youth and which he directed for 30 years. He achieved a widespread reputation for his scholarship, austerities, mortifications, spiritual wisdom, and advice. Called "the Oracle of Palestine," he became bishop of Constantia (Salamis), Cyprus, and metropolitan of Cyprus in 367, although still continuing as superior of his monastery. His reputation was such that he was one of the few orthodox bishops not harassed by Arian Emperor Valens, though Epiphanius preached vigorously against Arianism. He supported Bishop Paulinus in 376 at Antioch against the claims of Metetius and the Eastern bishops, and attended a council in Rome summoned by Pope Saint Damasus in 382. Late in his life Epiphanius was embroiled in several unpleasant episodes with fellow prelates. First, he ordained a priest in another bishop's diocese. He also denounced his host, Bishop John of Jerusalem, in John's cathedral in 394 for John's softness to Origenism (he believed Origen responsible for many of the heresies of the times). This won for Epiphanius the friendship of Saint Jerome, who was a bitter opponent of Origen. (It is said that there was a test of wills between Jerome and Origen; the winner of the crown was the one who outlived the other, Jerome.) Like Saint Jerome, Epiphanius was too immoderate in his zeal and unable to use tact and discretion in his polemics. When Epiphanius was nearly 80, in 402, at the behest of Bishop Theophilus of Alexandria, the saint went to Constantinople to support Theophilus in his campaign against Saint John Chrysostom, and the four "Tall Brothers" and then admitted he knew nothing of their teachings. Yes, even a saint can be headstrong or ornery at times. When he realized he was being used as a tool by Theophilus against Saint John Chrysostom, who had given refuge to the monks persecuted by Theophilus and who were appealing to the emperor, and Epiphanius started back to Salamis, only to die on the way home. He wrote numerous theological treatises, among them Ancoratus, on the Trinity and the Resurrection; Panarion (The Medicine Box) on some 80 heresies--real and imagined--and their refutations. The number 80 was chosen to correspond with the 'four-score concubines' of the Song of Songs (6:8) . He also authored De mensuribus et ponderibus, on ancient Jewish customs and measures. He was an authority on devotion to Mary and taught the primacy of Peter among the Apostles.
Printed with permission from Catholic-Defense.