St. Apollonius is also known as Apollonius of Ephesus. He was a Roman senator who lived in the second century. He is thought to come from Ephesus because he was so well acquainted with the Christian history of that area. One early author stated that Apollonius was the bishop of Ephesus; however, since there are no other written accounts of this, it is doubtful that this is true. He certainly was known as a great defender of the faith, which earned him the name Apollonius the Apologist.
In the second century there was an apocalyptic and charismatic movement within the Church which was a threat to Tradition, the Holy Scriptures, and the office of the bishop. A man named Montanus claimed to be directly inspired by the Holy Spirit. He had many followers, including two prophetesses, Maximilla and Priscilla. They were prophesying the end of the world and the need to restore rigorous ascetic practices to Christianity. Although most of their writings have been lost or destroyed, written records of Eusebius and Epiphanius indicate that the Montanist doctrines were not readily susceptible to attack on matters of dogma. Therefore, the Church stressed traditional sources of authority and raised character issues in order to combat the Montanists. This is where the writings of Apollonius were so effective. Although many of his writings have been lost, according to others he showed the errors in the Montanist prophecies, and reported the unedifying lives of Montanus and his prophetesses. He also shed light on some of those in the sect, such as the apostate Themison and Alexander. Alexander was a notorious thief who was publicly condemned at Ephesus and had himself adored as a god.
Apollonius was denounced as a Christian by his slave to the Roman Prefect, Sextus Tigidius Perennis, who arrested him and had his slave put to death. Perennis then demanded that Apollonius denounce Christianity. When Apollonius refused to do so he had his case put before the Roman senate. A debate then took place in which Apollonius defended the faith eloquently, but he was still condemned and beheaded.
Apollonius recalls in some of his writings the tradition that Jesus advised His Apostles not to go far from Jerusalem during the twelve years immediately following His Ascension. This is also a tradition known to Clement of Alexandria, as written in the apocryphal “Praedicatio Petri.” Apollonius also tells about a time when St. John the Apostle resurrected a dead man at Ephesus. Apollonius knew St. John’s Apocalypse and quoted from it often.
Lord Jesus, may we, as Saint Peter advised, always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks us for a reason for the hope that is in us. Help us to speak eloquently of our faith, as St. Apollonius did, remembering also to be charitable. We pray that through our words, many will come to know the truth. Amen.