Victorinus of Pettau

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Victorinus of Pettau
Victorinus (cropped).jpg
Victorinus on a fresco in the parish church of Nova Cerkev (Slovenia)
Bishop of Poetovio and Martyr
BornLikely in Byzantine Greece
Died303 or 304 AD
Ptuj (Pettau or Poetovio)
Venerated inCatholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
Feast2 November
AttributesPalm, pontifical vestments

Saint Victorinus of Pettau (also Ptuj or Poetovio; died 303 or 304) was an Early Christian ecclesiastical writer who flourished about 270, and who was martyred during the persecutions of Emperor Diocletian. A Bishop of Poetovio (modern Ptuj in Slovenia; German: Pettau) in Pannonia, Victorinus is also known as Victorinus Petavionensis or Poetovionensis.[1] Victorinus composed commentaries on various books of Holy Scripture.


Born probably in Byzantine Greece on the confines of the Eastern and Western Empires or in Poetovio with rather mixed population, due to its military character, Victorinus spoke Greek better than Latin, which explains why, in St. Jerome's opinion, his works written in the latter tongue were more remarkable for their matter than for their style.[2] Bishop of the City of Pettau, he was the first theologian to use Latin for his exegesis.

His works are mainly exegetical. Victorinus composed commentaries on various books of Holy Scripture, such as Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Habakkuk, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, St. Matthew, and the Apocalypse, besides treatises against the heresies of his time. All that have survived are his Commentary on Apocalypse[3] and the short tract On the construction of the world (De fabrica mundi).[4]

Victorinus was a firm believer in the millennium.[5] He was also much influenced by Origen.[6] His works were ranked with the apocrypha and other writings which according to the Decretum Gelasianum decree list De libris recipiendis et non recipiendis ("On books to be received and not to be received"), later attributed to Pope Gelasius I, were to be rejected as not considered free of error.[7] By contrast, St. Jerome gives him an honourable place in his catalogue of ecclesiastical writers. Jerome occasionally cites the opinion of Victorinus (in Eccles. iv. 13; in Ezech. xxvi. and elsewhere), but considered him to have been affected by the opinions of the Chiliasts or Millenarians.[8]

According to Saint Jerome, Victorinus died a martyr in 304.[9] He is commemorated in both the Latin Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church on 2 November. Until the 17th century he was sometimes confused with the Latin rhetorician, Victorinus Afer.

Commentary on the Apocalypse[edit]

Victorinus wrote a commentary on the Book of Revelation that was later republished in a redacted form by Saint Jerome in the 5th century AD. An original unredacted manuscript was found in 1918, however. The commentary was composed not long after the Valerian Persecution, about 260. According to Claudio Moreschini, "The interpretation is primarily allegorical, with a marked interest in arithmology."[10] Johannes Quasten writes that "It seems that he did not give a running commentary on the entire text but contented himself with a paraphrase of selected passages."[11]

The book is interesting to modern scholars as an example of how people in antiquity interpreted the book of Revelation. Victorinus sees the four animals singing praise to God as the Gospels, and the 24 elders seated on thrones in Revelation 4 are the 12 patriarchs of the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles. He also agrees with views that the Whore of Babylon "drunk with the blood of martyrs and saints" represents the City of Rome and its persecutions of Christians, and that The Beast described in chapter 13 represents Emperor Nero. As Nero was already dead during Victorinus's time, he believed that the later passages referred to Nero Redivivus, a monstrous revived Nero who would attack from the East with the aid of the Jews.[12]


  • On the Creation of the World[4]
  • Commentary on the Apocalypse[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Erroneously, based on some bad manuscripts, also as Victorinus Pictaviensis. He was long thought to have belonged to the Diocese of Poitiers (France).
  2. ^ Clugnet, Léon. "St. Victorinus." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 10 August 2018
  3. ^ a b "CHURCH FATHERS: Commentary on the Apocalypse (Victorinus)".
  4. ^ a b "CHURCH FATHERS: On the Creation of the World (Victorinus)".
  5. ^ Tixeront, J., A Handbook of Patrology, (S. A. Raemers, trans.), St. Louis, Missouri, B. Herder Book Co., 1920, p. 135
  6. ^ Bardenhewer, Otto. Patrology: The Lives and Works of the Fathers of the Church, B. Herder, 1908, p. 227
  7. ^ "The Development of the Canon of the New Testament - The Decretum Gelasianum".
  8. ^ Wilson, H.A., "Victorinus", Dictionary of Christian Biography, (Henry Wace, ed.), John Murray, London, 1911
  9. ^ Butler, Alban. "St. Victorinus, Bishop Martyr", The Lives of the Saints, 1866
  10. ^ Moreschini, Claudio and Norelli, Enrico. Early Christian Greek and Latin Literature, Vol. 1, Baker Academic, 2005, ISBN 978-0801047190, p. 397
  11. ^ Quasten, Johannes. Patrology, Vol. 2, Thomas More Pr; (1986), ISBN 978-0870611414, p. 413
  12. ^ Ehrman, Bart (12 October 2021). "Who Knew? Our Oldest Commentary on the Book of Revelation". The Bart Ehrman Blog: The History & Literature of Early Christianity. Retrieved 14 October 2021.


External links[edit]