Dionysius of Corinth was the Overseer of Corinth in about 171 A.D.

Dionysius of Corinth, also known as Saint Dionysius, was the bishop of Corinth in about the year 171. His feast day is commemorated on April 8.

The date is established by the fact that he wrote to the overseer of Rome Soter (from c. 167 A.D. to his death in c. 174 A.D.). Eusebius, in his Chronicle placed his “floruit” in the eleventh year of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (171). When Hegesippus was at Corinth in the time of Pope Anicetus, Primus was bishop (about 150–5), while Bacchylus was Bishop of Corinth at the time of the Paschal controversy (about 190–8). Dionysius is only known to us through Eusebius. Eusebius knew a collection of seven of the Catholic Letters to the Churches of Dionysius, together with a letter to him from Pinytus, overseer of Knossos, and a private letter of spiritual advice to a lady named Chrysophora.

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Eusebius mentions (1) a letter to the Lacedaemonians, teaching orthodoxy and enjoining peace and union. (2) Another letter was to the Athenians, stirring up their faith exhorting them to live according to the Gospel since they were not far from apostasy. Dionysius spoke of the recent martyrdom of their bishop, Publius (in the persecution of Marcus Aurelius), and says that Dionysius the Areopagite was the first Bishop of Athens. (3) To the Nicomedians he wrote against Marcionism. (4) Writing to Gortyna and the other dioceses of Crete, he praised their bishop, Philip, for efforts on behalf of the church then warned him of the distortions of heretics. (5) To the Church of Amastris in Pontus he wrote at the instance of Bacchylides and Elpistus (otherwise unknown), mentioning the bishop’s name as Palmas; he wrote in this letter of marriage and celibacy and recommended the charitable treatment of those who had fallen away into sin or heresy. (6) In a letter to Pinytus, bishop of Knossus, he recommended that he should not lay the yoke of celibacy too heavily on his brethren but consider the weakness most of them have. Pinytus replied, after polite words, that he hoped Dionysius would send strong meat next time so his people might not grow up on the milk of babes.

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But the most important letter is the seventh one, addressed to the Romans, and the only one from which extracts have been preserved. The overseer of Rome Soter had sent alms and a letter to the Corinthians, and in response Dionysius wrote:

For this has been your custom from the beginning, to do good to all the brethren in many ways, and to send alms to many Churches in different cities, now relieving the poverty of those who asked aid, now assisting the brethren in the mines by the alms you send, Romans keeping up the traditional custom of Romans, which your blessed bishop, Soter, has not only maintained, but has even increased, by affording to the brethren the abundance which he has supplied, and by comforting with blessed words the brethren who came to him, as a father his children.

Again:

You also, by this instruction have mingled together the Romans and Corinthians who are the planting of Peter and Paul. For they both came to our Corinth and planted us, and taught alike; and alike going to Italy and teaching there, were martyred at the same time.

Again:

Today we have kept the holy Lord’s day, on which we have read your letter, which we shall ever possess to read and to be admonished, even as the former one written to us through Clement.

Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth

Fragments from a Letter to the Roman Church

————

[c. 170 C.E.][1] Eusebius is almost diffuse in what he tells us of this Dionysius, “who was appointed over the church at Corinth, and imparted freely, not only to his own people, but to others, and those abroad also, the blessings of his divine labours.” He wrote “Catholic Epistles; “he addressed an epistle to the Spartans and the Athenians; and, as Eusebius says, Dionysius the Areopagite, the convert of St. Paul, was the first bishop of Athens. He wrote to the Nicomedians, refuting Marcion, and closely adhering to “the rule of faith.” In an epistle to the Gortynians and others in Crete, he praises Philip for his courageous ministry and warns them against the heretics. He seems to recognize Palmas as bishop of Amastris and Pontus, and adds expositions of Scripture, and rules regarding marriage, its purity and sanctity. He also inculcates tenderness to penitent lapsers and backsliders. With Pinytus, bishop of the Gnossians, he corresponds on similar subjects; but Pinytus, while he thanks him and commends his clemency, evidently regards him as too much inclined to furnish “food for babes,” and counsels him to add “strong meat for those of full age.” He also writes to Chrysophora, his most faithful sister, imparting spiritual instruction.

The Epistle to the Hebrews

I.

For this has been your custom from the beginning, to do good to all the brethren in various ways, and to send resources to many churches which are in every city, thus refreshing the poverty of the needy, and granting subsidies to the brethren who are in the mines. Through the resources which ye have sent from the beginning, ye Romans, keep up the custom of the Romans handed down by the fathers, which your blessed Bishop Sorer has not only preserved, but added to, sending a splendid gift to the saints, and exhorting with blessed words those brethren who go up to Rome, as an affectionate father his children.

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II.

From the Same Epistle.

We passed this holy Lord’s day, in which we read your letter, from the constant reading of which we shall be able to draw admonition, even as from the reading of the former one you sent us written through Clement.

III.

From the Same Epistle.

Therefore you also have by such admonition joined in close union the churches that were planted by Peter and Paul, that of the Romans and that of the Corinthians: for both of them went to our Corinth, and taught us in the same way as they taught you when they went to Italy; and having taught you, they suffered martyrdom at the same time.

IV.

From the Same Epistle.

For I wrote letters when the brethren requested me to write. And these letters the apostles of the devil have filled with tares, taking away some things and adding others, for whom a woe is in store. It is not wonderful, then, if some have attempted to adulterate the Lord’s writings when they have formed designs against those which are not such.

[1] B.C.E. means “before the Common Era,” which is more accurate than B.C. (“before Christ”). C.E. denotes “Common Era,” often called A.D., for anno Domini, meaning “in the year of our Lord.”

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