Pantaenus : biography
Saint Pantaenus ( died ca. 200)"As he was succeeded by Clement who left Alexandria about 203, the probable date of his death would be about 200. " (Catholic Encyclopedia) was a Christian theologian and a significant figure in the Catechetical School of Alexandria from around AD 180. This school was the earliest catechetical school, and became influential in the development of Christian theology.
Pantaenus was a Stoic philosopher teaching in Alexandria. He converted to the Christian faith, and sought to reconcile his new faith with Greek philosophy. His most famous student, Clement, who was his successor as head of the Catechetical School, described Pantaenus as "the Sicilian bee".Clement, Stromata, 1.1. Although no writings by Pantaenus are extant,Although Lightfoot (Apost. Fathers, 488), and Batiffol (L’église naissante, 3rd ed., 213ff) attribute the concluding passages of the Epistle to Diognetius to Pantaeus; see "Pantaenus" in The Westminster Dictionary of Christian History, ed. Jerald Brauer. his legacy is known by the influence of the Catechetical School on the development of Christian theology, in particular in the early debates on the interpretation of the Bible, the Trinity, and Christology. He was the main supporter of Serapion of Antioch for acting against the influence of Gnosticism.
In addition to his work as a teacher, Eusebius of Caesarea reports that Pantaenus was for a time a missionary, traveling as far as India where, according to Eusebius, he found Christian communities using the Gospel of Matthew written in "Hebrew letters", supposedly left them by the apostle Bartholemew (and which might have been the Gospel of the Hebrews).Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 5.10 This may indicate that Syrian Christians, using a Syriac version of the New Testament, had already evangelized parts of India by late 2nd century. However, some writers have suggested that having difficulty with the language of Saint Thomas Christians, Pantaenus misinterpreted their reference to Mar Thoma (Bishop Thomas), who is currently credited with an evangelization mission to India by the Syrian churches, as Bar Tolmai (the Hebrew name of Bartholomew). Others say Eusebius may have confused India with Arabia or Ethiopia as was done by some other Greek writers. St. Thomas Christians themselves have always maintained that Thomas the Apostle himself was the first to bring Christianity to India.
Saint Jerome, apparently relying entirely on Eusebius’ evidence from Historia Ecclesiastica, wrote that Pantaenus visited India, “to preach Christ to the Brahmans and philosophers there. ”De viris illustribus 36 It is unlikely that Jerome has any information about Pantaenus’ mission to India that is independent of Eusebius. On the other hand,his claim that "many" of Pantaenus’ Biblical commentaries were still extant is probably based on Jerome’s own knowledge.
His feast day is July 7 (June 22 in the Coptic tradition).
19th Century and Modern study on Pantaenus
Some have claimed – though without citing any evidence – that Pantaenus was a Palestinian Jew and that the statement of Eusebius that he was a Stoic is an inherent improbability (as if Palestinian Jews, living in Alexandria, could neither read nor talk). It has also been claimed, without good reason, that Pantaenus’ visit to India is improbable, or that it is founded on a mistaken understanding of what ‘India’ meant (for which confusion no evidence is given). There seems no good reason to insist that visits to Arabia or Ethiopia were more likely. That the Apostle Bartholomew visited India as a missionary does not contradict the tradition that St. Thomas also visited India, but there is perhaps some doubt about the provenance of any Christian communities there. The Universalist Church of America historian J. W. Hanson (1899) argued that Pantaenus "must, beyond question" have taught Universalism to Clement of Alexandria and Origen.J. W. Hanson Universalism: The Prevailing Doctrine of the Christian Church p49 "Pantænus was martyred AD 216. The Universalism of Clement, Origen and their successors must, beyond question, have been taught by their great predecessor, Pantænus, and there is every reason to believe that the Alexandrine school had never known any contrary teaching from its foundation" However, since it is now considered that Clement of Alexandria’s views contained a tension between salvation and freewill,Itter, Andrew C. Esoteric teaching in the Stromateis of Clement of Alexandria 2009 p181 "… universal salvation and hinges on the tension between an individual soul’s freedom to refuse the chastisements of God, … universal capacity to save all things.44 It is a tension between the soul’s autonomy and universal salvation" and that he and Origen did not clearly teach universal reconciliation of all immortal souls in their understanding of apokatastasis, Hanson’s conclusion about Pantaenus lacks a firm basis.FW Norris, "Apokatastasis," in Westminster Handbook to Origen, 59-62. 58.