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Severian of Gabala


Bishop of Gabala, Syria, opponent of St. john chry sostom; b. 4th century; d. after 408. Although he was bishop of Gabala, Severian's ambitions demanded more than provincial success. Inspired by the good fortune of Antiochus of Ptolemais at constantinople, he went to the imperial capital c. 401. Well received by Chrysostom, Severian won popularity with the people and the imperial court by his oratory; and when Chrysostom visited Asia in 401, he left nominal authority with Severian, although he gave real power to Serapion, his archdeacon. Severian reacted angrily to Serapion's report that he had been attempting to undermine Chrysostom. On his return, Chrysostom induced Severian to leave for his own diocese; but the imperial court recalled him to Constantinople, and the Empress Eudoxia forced Chrysostom to receive him, although no genuine reconciliation was effected.

Severian served as accuser and judge of Chrysostom at the Synod of the oak, charging him with stirring clerical leaders against himself, and he was in part responsible for Chrysostom's first exile. This gained him general unpopularity; and when Chrysostom returned from exile, Severian and his friends fled from the capital.

Severian accused Chrysostom a second time, contending that he had burned his own church, and warned Emperor Arcadius (June 404) that there would be no peace in Constantinople until Chrysostom was removed. Working with Acacius of Beroea, Paul of Heraclea, Antiochus of Ptolemais, and Cyrinus of Chalcedon, he finally effected the second exile of Chrysostom. His last recorded act is his demand that Chrysostom be removed from Cucusus, which he considered too mild as a place of exile (407). Severian left Constantinople probably after 408 and returned to his diocese of Gabala; there is no evidence concerning his subsequent life.

Severian was a productive writer, influenced by the theology of the school of antioch. Many of his works have survived, ironically, under the name of his enemy, John Chrysostom. While Severian was no great thinker, his writings indicate that he knew the Scriptures well, was an able Biblical exegete, and was a popular speaker of at least moderate talents, although he possessed a slightly rough voice and a pronounced Syrian accent. He is remembered not for the importance of his writings, but for his struggle against Chrysostom.

Severian's homilies have survived in Greek, Syriac, Armenian, Arabic, and Coptic versions. Among the Greek homilies are Orationes sex in mundi creationem; Hom. in illud Abrahae dictum Gen. 24, 2; Hom. in dictum illud Matth. 21, 23; Hom. de ficu arefacta; Hom. de sigillis librorum; Hom. de pace; In Dei apparitionem; De serpente quem Moyses in cruce suspendit; and Contra Judaeos. In addition, fragments of his commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul have been preserved.

Bibliography: Patrologia Graeca, ed j. p. migne (Paris 185766) 56:411564; 59:585590; 63:531550. j. quasten, Patrology (Westminster, Maryland 1950) 3:484486. g. bardy, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 190350) 14.2:200006. h. d. altendorf, Untersuchungen zu Severian von Gabala (Diss. U. of Tübingen 1957). c. baur, John Chrysostom and His Time, tr. m. gonzaga, 2 v. (Westminster, Md.1960) 2:155164. b. marx, Orientalia Christiana periodica 5 (1939) 281367, works attributed to Chrysostom.

[w. e. kaegi, jr.]

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