Epiphanius of Cyprus

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Our father among the saints Epiphanius of Cyprus, also Epiphanius of Salamis, was Bishop of Salamis on the island of Cyprus and, later, Bishop of Cyprus during the latter part of the fourth century. He was known for his great zeal for the faith, his love and charity toward the poor, and simplicity of character. He is known for composing a large compendium of the heresies in his time. His feast day is May 12.


Epiphanius was born in the village of Besanduk in Palestine probably in 310. Of Jewish descent, he was well educated and became a Christian after seeing how a monk named Lucian gave away his clothing to a poor person. Struck by the monk's compassion, Epiphanius asked him to instruct him in Christianity.

After his baptism, he became a member of a monastery in Egypt under the guidance of the elder St. Hilarion the Great. As he progressed as an ascetic in the monastic life, he occupied himself copying Greek books. In his quest to avoid human glory, Epiphanius set out to the Spanidrion desert where robbers fell upon him and held him for three months. By his talk about repentance, Epiphanius brought one of the gang of robbers to the faith in the True God. When he was set free, the robber joined him. Epiphanius took him to his monastery and baptized him with the name John. From that time John became a faithful disciple of Epiphanius and carefully recorded in writing about the life and miracles of his spiritual guide.

Returning to the wilderness of Palestine about 333, Epiphanius again sought the ascetic life with his disciple John. As the reputation of Epiphanius spread, more disciples came to him leading to his founding a monastery in Ad. There he was ordained a priest and became the superior. He led the monastery for some thirty years during which he further gained in knowledge and faith as well as gaining the ability to speak many languages including Hebrew, Syriac, Egyptian, Greek, and Latin.

In 367, Epiphanius was chosen by a council in Salamis[1] on Cyprus as their bishop. In 368, he was elected to the cathedra of Cyprus, a position he held until his repose. During the following year, Bp. Epiphanius traveled throughout the area to participate in events that protected the Orthodox faith. He participated in the synod of 376 in Antioch where questions about the Trinity were debated against the heresy of Apollinarianism. In 382, he was present at a Council of Rome that attempted to reconcile the Meletian schism.

In 402, at the urging of Abp. Theophilus of Alexandria, Epiphanius traveled to Constantinople to support Theophilus in his campaign against Abp. John Chrysostom of Constantinople, and the four "Tall Brothers" monks. When he realized he was being used as a tool by Theophilus against John, who had given refuge to the monks persecuted by Theophilus and had appealed to the emperor, Epiphanius returned to Salamis, only to die on the way home in 403.


The earliest known work of Epiphanius is the Ancoratus (the well anchored man), which includes arguments against Arianism and the teachings of Origen.

His best-known book is the Panarion which means "medicine-chest" (also known as Adversus Haereses, "Against Heresies"). It is presented as a book of antidotes for those bitten by the serpent of heresy. Written between 374 and 377, it forms a handbook for dealing with the arguments of heretics.

It lists 80 heresies, some of which are not described in any other surviving documents from his time. While Epiphanius often let his zeal come before facts - he admits on one occasion that he writes against the Origenists based only on hearsay (Panarion, Epiphanius 71). The Panarion is a valuable source of information on the Christian church of the fourth century. It is also an important source regarding the early Jewish gospels such as the Gospel according to the Hebrews that circulated among the Ebionites, the Nazarenes, as well as the followers of Cerinthus and Merinthus.[2]

The Panarion has only been recently translated into English (in 1987 and 1990).

Epiphanius wrote a work of biblical antiquarianism, called, for one of its sections, On Measures and Weights (περί μέτρων καί στάθμων). It was composed in Constantinople for a Persian priest, in 392.[3] The first section discusses the canon of the Old Testament and its versions, the second of measures and weights, and the third, the geography of Palestine. The texts appear not to have been given a polished finish but consist of rough notes and sketches.

The collection of homilies traditionally ascribed to a "Saint Epiphanius, bishop" are dated in the late fifth or sixth century and are not connected by modern scholars with Epiphanius of Salamis.[4]


  • The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Book I (Sects 1-46) Frank Williams, translator, 1987 (E.J. Brill, Leiden) ISBN 90-04-07926-2
  • The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Book II and III (Sects 47-80, De Fide) Frank Williams, translator, 1993 (E.J. Brill, Leiden) ISBN 90-04-09898-4
  • The Panarion of St. Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis Philip R. Amidon, translator, 1990 (Oxford University Press, New York) ISBN 0-19-506291-4


  1. Salamis was also known as Constantia after emperor Constantine II
  2. Panarion, Epiphanius 30 iii 7
  3. Allen A. Shaw, "On Measures and Weights by Epiphanius" National Mathematics Magazine 11.1 (October 1936: 3-7).
  4. Alvar Erikson, Sancti Epiphani Episcopi Interpretatio Evangelorum (Lund) 1938, following Dom Morin.
Succession box:
Epiphanius of Cyprus
Preceded by:
Bishop of Salamis
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Archbishop of Cyprus
Succeeded by:
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