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About us Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies Organization Staff PhD Research Jewish, Christian and Islamic Origins

Corrie Hoogerland

Vincentius of Lérins and his rhetorical works in the 5th-century patristic debate: how an anonymous monk became a rhetorical bridge-building philologist in using the Bible and citing the Early Church Fathers.
Monastery of Lérins (St.Honorat)
Monastery of Lérins (St.Honorat)
Vincentius of Lérins (ca. 380-450 A.D.) called himself a Peregrinus. He wrote the Commonitorium and Excerpta as an anonymous monk. His qualities were an enormous knowledge about the issues of the trinity and of the incarnation of Christ, together with the corresponding heresies. He was also very interested in the Council of Ephesus (431), and the condemned Nestorian heresy. He combined this knowledge and interest with a magnificent rhetorical style; not as a ‘hollow phrases’-producer but as an eloquent word artist.

As a Lérinan monk it was Vincentius’ intention to be a reliable author, who laid down in writing the issues he had received from the trustworthy Fathers. He presented his most well-known work Commonitorium as a ‘memory-support’ in order to prevent from forgetfulness. In this book he described the way to protect the church against heresies: with the help of the Bible and citations of the Fathers. Very interesting is his use and exegesis of 1 Tim. 6,20: depositum custodi, devitans profanas vocum novitates; the depositum fidei which is explained here as an old and reliable pledge preserved from the Fathers, against the novelties of the heretics. His other work Excerpta is a collation of citations of Augustine. And maybe there are other unknown works left. Most likely he is also the writer, or at least an influential source of the so-called Quicunque (in the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands incorrectly called ‘Geloofsbelijdenis van Athanasius’, i.e. Confession of Athanasius).

The purpose of my research is to contribute to a clearer insight into the rhetorical forms and skills being used in the fifth-century patristic debate. Vincentius’ life and work seemed to us as one great moving circle: his rhetorical definition about the church is also his promotion-weapon for his own work. Unification as standard demands a pastoral, unifying document for all believers, everywhere and always. Therefore the beginning of the Commonitorium has a very strong rhetorical relevance: interroga patres – ask your fathers! But there’s more: Vincent is best known for his vision on catholicity, but is often misunderstood in my opinion. The distinguishing feature of my thesis is that it offers a new perception of Vincent’s oeuvre. The reason is that sources from the New Testament cited by him are never before taken into serious account. In my dissertation I will demonstrate that Vincent's writings can be read very well within the Greco-Roman context. I do that by placing his work against the Roman, rhetorical and philological background of his time. That will show a similar language use and idiom fitting within the Early Church. In this way he plays an interesting role as a "bridge builder" between the New Testament and the Early Church.

Contact Corrie Hoogerland

Last modified:09 January 2020 4.52 p.m.