Julian Of Eclanum


Letter To Rufus Of Thessalonica

Reconstructed by Daniel R. Jennings, M.A.


Synopsis: This letter was sent in the name of Julian and eighteen Italian bishops to Rufus, bishop of Thessalonica.  In 417 Pope Zosimus had approved of Pelagius’ doctrines stating that there was nothing unorthodox about them. In 418 Roman Emperor Honorius outlawed Pelagianism and Zosimus in turn retracted his approval, forcing all of the bishops in the East and the West to subscribe to a document renouncing Pelagianism or else lose their sees. Julian and eighteen other bishops refused to sign and were thus deposed. This letter was a defense of the nineteen bishops as to why they had refused to support Zosimus’ document.  It began by offering an objection to Augustinian theology, which had been officially forced upon Western Christianity after Honorius had outlawed Pelagianism, and ended with an explanation of the Pelagian doctrinal position. In their presentation of the arguments they attempted to show similarities between Augustinian theology and Manichean theology in their understanding of human nature, attitude towards marriage, understanding of the law, denial of free will and attitude toward the righteous men and women of the past (referred to as the saints). The following fragments of it are preserved in Augustine of Hippo’s “Against Two Letters Of The Pelagians”.


“[It is true now in regards to the Roman clergy] that, driven by the fear of a command, they have not blushed to be guilty of the crime of prevarication; so that, contrary to their previous judgment, wherein by their proceedings they had assented to the catholic dogma, they subsequently pronounced that the nature of men is evil."


"Under the name of grace, they (i.e. the Augustinian Catholics) so assert fate as to say that unless God inspired unwilling and resisting man with the desire of good, and that good imperfect, he would neither be able to decline from evil nor to lay hold of good."


"Under the name of grace, they (i.e. the Augustinian Catholics) so assert fate as to say that unless God should have inspired the desire for good, and that, imperfect good, into unwilling and resisting man, he would neither be able to decline from evil nor to grasp after good."


[At one point Julian made reference to Proverbs 16:1 which states "The preparation of the heart is man's part, and the answer of the tongue is from the Lord."]


"[The Augustinian Catholics] say that the law of the Old Testament was given not for the end that it might justify the obedient, but rather that it might become the cause of greater sin."


"They (i.e. the Augustinian Catholics) assert that baptism, moreover, does not make men new—that is, does not give complete remission of sins; but they contend that they are partly made children of God and partly remain children of the world, that is, of the devil."


"[The Augustinian Catholics say] that the Holy Spirit was not the assister of virtue in the Old Testament."


"[The Augustinian Catholics say] that all the apostles or prophets are not defined as entirely holy, but they say that they were less wicked in comparison with those that were worse; and that this is the righteousness to which God affords His testimony, so that, as the prophet says that Sodom was justified in comparison with the Jews, so also the saints exercised some goodness in comparison with criminal men."


"[The Augustinian Catholics say in regards to Jesus as our Advocate that this just Advocate] spoke falsely by the necessity of the flesh."


"[The Augustinian Catholics say] that after the resurrection such is to be our progress, that there men can begin to fulfill the commands of God, which they would not here."


"[The Augustinian Catholics] guard the continuous propagation of souls with the continuous propagation of sin."


"We (i.e. the Pelagians) confess that baptism is necessary for all ages, and that grace, moreover, assists the good purpose of everybody; but yet that it does not infuse the love of virtue into a reluctant one, because there is no acceptance of persons with God."


"[We, the Pelagians, teach] that God is the Maker of all those that are born, and that the sons of men are God's work; and that all sin descends not from nature, but from the will."


"[We, the Pelagians, teach] that baptism is necessary for every age, so that, the creature itself may be adopted among the children of God; not because it derives anything from its parents which must be purified in the laver of regeneration."


"[We, the Pelagians, teach] that Christ the Lord was sprinkled with no stain of sin as far as pertains to His infancy."


"[In regards to this we would like to introduce the question] of the origin of the soul…"


"[We, the Pelagians, teach] that nothing of evil passed from Adam upon the rest of humanity except death, which is not always an evil, since to the martyrs, for instance, it is for the sake of rewards; and it is not the dissolution of the bodies, which in every kind of men shall be raised up, that can make death to be called either good or evil, but the diversity of merits which arises from human liberty."


"[We, the Pelagians praise marriage] because the Lord says in the gospel, ‘He who made men from the beginning made them male and female, and said, Increase and multiply, and replenish the earth. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.’"


"[We, the Pelagians, teach] that the old law was, according to the apostle, holy and just and good; that on those who keep its commandments, and live righteously by faith, such as the prophets and patriarchs, and all the saints, life eternal could be conferred."


"[We, the Pelagians, teach] that free will has not perished, since the Lord says by the prophets, 'If you be willing and will hear me, you shall eat the good things of the land: if you are unwilling, and will not hear, the sword shall devour you.' And thus, also, it is that grace assists the good purpose of any person, but yet does not infuse a desire of virtue into the reluctant heart, because there is no acceptance of persons with God."


"[We, the Pelagians, teach in opposition to Manichaeism] that baptism perfectly renews men, inasmuch as the apostle is a witness who testifies that, by the washing of water, the Church is made out of the heathen holy and spotless; that the Holy Spirit also assisted pious souls in ancient times, even as the prophet says to God, 'Your good Spirit shall lead me into the right way;' that all the prophets, moreover, and apostles or saints, as well of the New as of the Old Testament, to whom God gives witness, were righteous, not in comparison with the wicked, but by the rule of virtue; and that in future time there is a reward as well of good works as of evil. But that no one can then perform the commandment which here he may have contemned, because the apostle said, 'We must be manifested before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things belonging to the body, according to what he has done, whether good or evil.'"


"[We, the Pelagians, teach in opposition to Manichaeism] that the good God is the maker of those that are born, by whom all things were made, and that the children of men are His work."


"[We, the Pelagians, teach in opposition to Manichaeism] that all sin descends not from nature, but from the will."


"[We, the Pelagians, teach in opposition to Manichaeism that] the flesh of Christ [was not only truly human flesh but also] that the soul [of Christ] itself was stained by no spot of sin."


"[We, the Pelagians, teach] that death passed to us by Adam, not sins."


"[We, the Pelagians, teach] that only death passed upon us by Adam's means."


"[We, the Pelagians, assert that our] enemies have taken up our words for hatred of the truth…"


"[We, the Pelagians, assert that] throughout nearly the whole of the West a dogma not less foolish than impious is taken up, and from simple bishops sitting in their places without a Synodal congregation a subscription [to the decree of Pope Zosimus] is extorted to confirm this dogma."