St Soter

(c. 166—174)

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Peter (c. 64 ad)


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(c. 166–c. 174)

Eleventh in the earliest succession lists of bishops of Rome, he was reckoned the twelfth pope by the later convention which counted St Peter as the first. LP reports that he was an Italian, from Campania; the early authorities vary about his exact dates. At some stage he dispatched a letter, with charitable gifts, to the Corinthian church, and Eusebius (c. 260–c. 340) has preserved fragments of an effusive acknowledgement from Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, promising that Soter's letter would be regularly read at service at Corinth. Other letters of Dionysius have led scholars to suspect that Soter may have expressed disapproval of his lax attitude both to the ideal of sexual continence and to the restoration of penitent sinners to communion irrespective of the kind of sins they had committed, and that his obsequious reply may be an attempt to soothe the pope without yielding any point of principle. An event of great importance which seems to have occurred at Rome under Soter was the introduction of Easter as an annual festival. It had not existed there previously, and the date now accepted, in contrast to the Quartodeciman practice of the churches of Asia Minor, was the Sunday following the 14th of the Jewish month Nisan (the day of the Passover). Reports were circulating in the 5th century that Soter wrote critically of Montanism, the apocalyptic and ascetic movement started in Phrygia by the prophet Montanus, but they should be rejected. Although he came to be venerated as a martyr, there is no evidence that he was one. Feast 22 Apr.

Further Reading

Irenaeus, 3. 3. 3Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 4. 19, 4. 23. 9–11, 4. 30. 3, 5. 24. 14–17LP i. 4 f., 58 f. (Davis 1: 6, 98, 107), 135Caspar i. 3, 8 f., 13, 18, 21, 48P. Nautin, Lettres et écrivains chrétiens au IIe et IIIe siècles (Paris, 1961), ch. 1K. Holl, Gesammelte Aufsätze (Tübingen, 1927–8), ii. 214–19J. Flamant, ‘Le Calendrier chrétien: Naissance du comput ecclésiastique’, Histoire, i.493–508M. Richard, ‘La Question pascale au IIe siécle’, L'Orient syrien, 6 (1961), 179–212‘La Lettre de s. Irénée au pape Victor’, ZNTW56 (1965), 260–82DTC xiv. 2422 f. (É. Amann)NCE xiii. 328–9 (E. G. Weltin)Lampe

Subjects: Christianity.

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