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Table of contents :
Foreword (Bishop Suriel)
Preface (Malki Malki)
Notes on Contributors
Severus of Antioch: Heir of Saint John Chrysostom? (Allen)
Se glorifier de sa ville et de son siège? La grandeur d’Antioche et le mépris des titres chez Sévère le Grand (Akhrass)
A Letter from the Orthodox Monasteries of the Orient Sent to Alexandria, Addressed to Severos (Brock)
The Asceticism of Severus: An Analysis of Struggle in His Homily 18 on the “Forty Holy Martyrs” Compared to the Cappadocians and the Syrians (D’Alton)
Quotations from the Works of St. Severus of Antioch in Peter of Callinicus’ magnum opus ‘Contra Damianum’ (Ebied)
Severus of Antioch and Changing Miaphysite Attitudes toward Byzantium (Kavvadas)
The Doves of Antioch: Severus, Chalcedonians, Monothelites, and Iconoclasm (Parry)
Severus of Antioch at the Crossroad of the Antiochene and Alexandrian Exegetical Tradition (Roux)
Hymns of Severus of Antioch and the Coptic Theotokia (Youssef)
Severus of Antioch
Texts and Studies in Eastern Christianity Chief Editor Ken Parry (Macquarie University)
Editorial Board Alessandro Bausi (University of Hamburg) – Monica Blanchard (Catholic University of America) – Malcolm Choat (Macquarie University) Peter Galadza (Saint Paul University) – Victor Ghica (Norwegian School of Theology) Emma Loosley (University of Exeter) – Basil Lourié (St Petersburg) John McGuckin (Columbia University) – Stephen Rapp (Sam Houston State University) – Dietmar Winkler (University of Salzburg)
Texts and Studies in Eastern Christianity is intended to advance the field of Eastern Christian Studies by publishing translations of ancient texts, individual monographs, thematic collections, and translations into English of significant volumes in modern languages. It will cover the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic traditions from the early through to the contemporary period. The series will make a valuable contribution to the study of Eastern Christianity by publishing research by scholars from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds. The different traditions that make up the world of Eastern Christianity have not always received the attention they deserve, so this series will provide a platform for deepening our knowledge of them as well as bringing them to a wider audience. The need for such a series has been felt for sometime by the scholarly community in view of the increasing interest in the Christian East.
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Severus of Antioch His Life and Times
John D’Alton Youhanna Youssef
leiden | boston
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: D'Alton, John (Priest), editor. Title: Severus of Antioch : his life and times / edited by John D'Alton, Youhanna Youssef. Description: Leiden ; Boston : Brill, 2016. | Series: Texts and studies in Eastern Christianity, ISSN 2213-0039 ; VOLUME 7 | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2016000253 (print) | LCCN 2016002783 (ebook) | ISBN 9789004298019 (hardback : alk. paper) | ISBN 9789004307995 (E-book) Subjects: LCSH: Severus, of Antioch, approximately 465-538. Classification: LCC BR65.S3956 S48 2016 (print) | LCC BR65.S3956 (ebook) | DDC 270.2092–dc23 LC record available at http://lccn.loc.gov/2016000253
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Contents Foreword vii Bishop Suriel Preface ix Bishop Mor Malatios Malki Malki Notes on Contributors xi Introduction xiv Severus of Antioch: Heir of Saint John Chrysostom? 1 Pauline Allen Se glorifier de sa ville et de son siège? La grandeur d’ Antioche et le mépris des titres chez Sévère le Grand 14 Roger-Youssef Akhrass A Letter from the Orthodox Monasteries of the Orient Sent to Alexandria, Addressed to Severos 32 Sebastian P. Brock The Asceticism of Severus: An Analysis of Struggle in His Homily 18 on the “Forty Holy Martyrs” Compared to the Cappadocians and the Syrians 47 John D’Alton Quotations from the Works of St. Severus of Antioch in Peter of Callinicus’ magnum opus ‘Contra Damianum’ 65 Rifaat Ebied Severus of Antioch and Changing Miaphysite Attitudes toward Byzantium 124 Nestor Kavvadas The Doves of Antioch: Severus, Chalcedonians, Monothelites, and Iconoclasm 138 Ken Parry Severus of Antioch at the Crossroad of the Antiochene and Alexandrian Exegetical Tradition 160 René Roux
Hymns of Severus of Antioch and the Coptic Theotokia 183 Youhanna Nessim Youssef Index
Foreword Bishop Suriel
It gives me great pleasure to read this book titled: Severus of Antioch: His Life and Times. This book started with a Symposium that took place at St. Athanasius Coptic Orthodox Theological College—a member college of the University of Divinity, Melbourne. His Eminence Mor Malatius Malki Malki, Archbishop of our sister Syrian Orthodox Church and members of his clergy and community were present. I will make just a few brief comments on the relationship of St. Severus with the Coptic Orthodox Church.
What is the Status of St. Severus of Antioch in the Coptic Orthodox Church? St. Severus holds a great status in the Coptic Church. For example, in the Coptic liturgy in “The Absolution of the Servants” his name precedes the names of the great Alexandrine Fathers, Athanasius, Cyril, and Dioscorus, and directly after St. Mark the apostle. The same occurs when reciting “The Commemoration of the Saints.” Another example of this phenomenon can be seen in the Coptic Psalmody where Severus is mentioned amongst Athanasius and Dioscorus, the two great fathers of the Coptic Church. In the Morning Doxology, the Coptic Church expresses the value of the Christological teachings of Severus by praying and saying, “The great patriarch, our father Abba Severus, whose holy teachings, enlightened our minds.” This prominence given to St. Severus in Coptic liturgical worship ahead of the Coptic Patriarchs shows how much he is venerated and respected as a leader and teacher of Miaphysite Christology. St. Severus, with a number of the [non-Chalcedonian] bishops, managed to escape to Egypt. In Egypt, Severus lived a harried existence,1 but wrote some of his most important works, and completed his correspondence with Sergius from his exile. Lebon dates his great anti-Chalcedonian work, the Liber contra impium Grammaticum, to around 519. St. Severus lived in a monastery in Egypt under the direction of the abbot Nephalius. Nephalius had fallen away from the Miaphysite view, and St. Severus
1 He mentions this twice in his Third Letter to Sergius: em p. 158.6–7; p. 176.14–17.
made an unsuccessful attempt to reconvince him. This action resulted in his being expelled from the monastery. He died in the town of Sakha, east of Alexandria, on Monday, 8 February 538. His body was transferred at a later date to the Monastery of Glass at Enaton, outside of Alexandria.
Why is St. Severus Important for the Coptic Orthodox Church? The name of Severus became widespread in Egyptian monasteries and intellectual centres, where he was venerated not as a miracle-worker but as the greatest theologian of the one-nature Christology. St. Severus has been misunderstood for many centuries and attacked with all sorts of names by the Byzantine Churches and the West since 536. As Professor Pauline Allen states in her excellent book on Severus of Antioch, it was only recently when Joseph Lebon wrote his 600 page monograph in 1909 that he discovered that the christology of Severus of Antioch was that of Cyril of Alexandria. Hence, the Coptic Church sees St. Severus as one of its great fathers.
Christology of St. Severus of Antioch St. Severus strongly defended the Cyrillian Alexandrine Christology and skilfully brought into unity the Antiochene and Alexandrine teachings concerning the incarnation of the Logos. And let me end with a quote of St. Severus on this very point: Since the one Christ is one nature and hypostasis of God the Word incarnate from Godhead and manhood, it necessarily follows that the same is known at once as consubstantial with the Father as to Godhead and consubstantial with us as to manhood. The same is the Son of God and the Son of man. He is not, therefore, two sons, but he is one and the same son.2 2 V.C. Samuel, The Council of Chalcedon Re-Examined (The Senate of Serampore College: Madras, India, 1977), 246, quoting Severus, Contra impium Grammaticum i, 227.
Preface M.M. Malki Malki
The Lord of Glory entrusts us with His great glory when he tells us, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8: 12). He also challenges us saying, “You are the light of the world … Let your light so shine before men” (Matthew 5: 14–16). In considering the course of the life and patriarchate of St. Severus of Antioch, the subject matter of this volume, we would notice how St. Severus was on the one hand managing his own spiritual life, and the stages and means of administering his patriarchate while in office or in exile on the other. As Church history testifies, the lives and career of the Patriarchs of Antioch were never easy. Severus of Antioch, who lived in a period of doctrinal and historico-political turbulences and travails, is a perfect example. The “crown of the Syrians”, as he is entitled by the Syrians, was born in Sozopolis of Pisidia in Asia Minor around 456ad, on the edges of the schismatic Council of Chalcedon. Severus, the apologist of the Miaphysite doctrine of St. Cyril, was elevated to the patriarchal See of Antioch in 512. To the Western Church and scholars, his patriarchate ended in 518, when he was exiled by the order of the Byzantine Emperor Justin i (518–527). For the Oriental Orthodox Church (Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Ethiopic Orthodox) and scholars, Severus is considered a saint and his patriarchate lasted until his death in 538. St. Severus’ writings are of the utmost importance. His books, treatises, letters and homilies (ca. 3900), albeit the majority of which have not survived, reflect his talent as an administrator, composer and preacher and describe a major critical stage in the history of Christianity. These works are an early, firm, and defending frontline of the Miaphysite clear-cut stand of the postChalcedon schism which ensued. What is published in this volume are the papers, along with some invited contributions, presented by scholars at the “Symposium on St. Severus of Antioch” which took place on the 2nd and 3rd March, 2013 at St. Athanasius Coptic Orthodox Theological College (sacotc) under the patronage and presidency of His Grace Anba Suriel, Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox diocese of Melbourne and affiliated regions and Dean of sacotc. In these papers, each contributor has treated an aspect of St. Severus’ life and patriarchate. Thanks are due to His Grace Bishop Suriel for arranging and shepherding the Symposium, to St. Athanasius Coptic Orthodox Theological
College for organizing and hosting the event, and to Dr. Youhanna Youssef and John D’Alton for their efforts in bringing this volume to fruition. St. Ephraim’s Cathedral, Sydney, April 2015
Notes on Contributors Pauline Allen is Director of the Centre for Early Christian Studies at Australian Catholic University, an honorary research fellow at the University of Pretoria, and a fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. She has written extensively on the christological controversies of the fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries, with recent translation volumes of the letters and other writings of Severus of Antioch and Sophronius of Jerusalem. Most recently she has co-authored a volume on Gelasius i of Rome, a book on early Christian letter-collections, and coedited the Oxford Handbook of Maximus the Confessor. Roger-Youssef Akhrass is of Lebanese origin and belongs to the community of Saint Ephrem monastery, Maarrat Saydnaya Syria. He teaches at the University of Saint-Esprit de Kaslik, Lebanon, and is interested in the apostle Peter and Antioch in the writings of Severus the Great. In 2015, he published with Geuthner his doctoral thesis in Patristics at the Catholic Institute of Paris, under the title Michel le Grand. Le Livre des Chapitres. This is in two volumes with the Arabic text and French translation. He is the author of several books and articles on Philoxenus of Mabboug, and is Executive Director of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchal Journal. He also currently leads the Syriac Studies Department at the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East. Sebastian P. Brock is Emeritus Reader in Syriac Studies in the University of Oxford. He has published extensively in the field of Syriac studies, with four volumes in the Variorum Reprints series. His translations include St Ephrem the Syrian: Hymns on Paradise (1990) and The Syriac Fathers on Prayer and the Spiritual Life (1987). He is one of the editors of The Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage (2011), and of the three-volume The Hidden Pearl: the Syrian Orthodox Church and its Ancient Aramaic Heritage (2001). John D’Alton is a priest in the Antiochian Orthodox Church and is completing his PhD at Monash University on “The Jihad of Jesus: The concept of struggle in preIslamic Syrian Christian and early Sufi Muslim writings.” His research covers Syrian and Greek Church fathers from the 4th to 7th centuries and their ideas of ascetic struggle, and compares this to early Arabic Christian and Sufi Muslim viewpoints.
notes on contributors
Rifaat Ebied is Foundation Professor of Semitic Studies in the University of Sydney. Prior to his appointment at the University of Sydney in 1979, he taught Arabic, Hebrew and Syriac at the University of St. Andrews (Scotland) and the University of Leeds (England). He has published extensively in the field of Semitic Studies in general and Arabic, Islamic, Hebrew and Syriac Studies in particular. His publications include numerous books and articles of edited Arabic and Syriac medieval texts. Nestor Kavvadas holds a doctorate from the University of Tübingen where he is a research fellow in Ancient Church History. He has published monographs, translations and articles on Late Antiquity and Byzantium, including Die Natur des Schlechten bei Proklos (de Gruyter, 2009) and Isaak von Ninive und seine Kephalaia Gnostika (Brill, 2015). Ken Parry is Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Ancient History at Macquarie University, Sydney. He researches and publishes in the fields of Late Antiquity, Byzantine Studies, and Eastern Christianity. He is the founding editor of the series Texts and Studies in Eastern Christianity in which this volume appears. In addition he has edited The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity (1999), The Blackwell Companion to Eastern Christianity (2007), Art, Architecture and Religion along the Silk Road (2008), The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Patristics (2015), and co-edited Byzantium, Its Neighbours and Its Cultures (2014). René Roux studied philosophy, theology and patristics in Aosta, Rome, Oxford and Paris. Until January 2015 he was Professor of Ancient Church History and Patrology at the University of Erfurt (Germany) and since then he is Rector of the Theological Faculty of Lugano (Switzerland). His research areas are history of biblical hermeneutics in the Ancient Church, early Syriac theology, and theology of religions. Among his latest publications are “Antimarcionitica in the Syriac Liber Graduum”, in Augustinianum 53 (2013) 91–104; and “Die katholische Theologie im 20. Jahrhundert und die Kirchenväter”, in Theologie der Gegenwart 57 (2014), 275–286.
notes on contributors
Youhanna Nessim Youssef is an Associate Professor, sacotc, University of Divinity (Melbourne) and a researcher in the Centre for Early Christian Studies, Australian Catholic University. He holds a PhD from Montpellier and is the author of many books and chapters in English, French and Arabic.
Introduction Severus is central to the ongoing reappraisal of the events post-Chalcedon and the growing rift between the Oriental and Eastern Orthodox churches. This volume contains nine papers covering a wide range of issues related to the life, theology and context of Severus. Each one raises important questions about how Severus is understood, with many calling for a re-evaluation of his stances and legacy. A common theme is a concern for the context of Severus and seeing him with more nuance than has often been presented. The papers include a few invited submissions but are mainly those presented at the “Symposium on St. Severus of Antioch” which took place on the 2nd and 3rd March, 2013 at St. Athanasius Coptic Orthodox Theological College, Melbourne. Pauline Allen’s opening chapter is an excellent introduction to the character and contribution of Severus, and positions him in relation to Cyril of Alexandria and John Chrysostom. Roger Akhrass follows with a discussion of Severus’ praise of, and relation to, the city of Antioch, and his concern for Orthodoxy. Sebastian Brock analyses one specific letter to Severus and its important perspectives on Christ’s sufferings and the incorruptibility of his body. John D’Alton places Severus within the broader Syrian and Cappadocian ascetic traditions through analysis of Severus’ Homily on the Forty Holy Martyrs of Sebaste. Severus’ works were often quoted, and Rifaat Ebied presents an extensive collection of such quotations in the writings of Peter of Callinicus. If these first five papers explore some literary and historical aspects of Severus, the second four cover more the theological side. Nestor Kavvadas investigates the changing attitudes of the Oriental Orthodox churches to Constantinople, and Ken Parry overturns simplistic notions of christological causes of iconoclasm, again contextualising Severus, in this case within the debates of Monothelitism and Monenergism. René Roux discusses how Severus combined the exegetical methods of both Alexandrian and Antiochene traditions. Youhanna Youssef concludes the volume with an analysis of the Coptic Theotokia in relation to the Hymns of Severus. It is evident in relation to Severus that there are many areas of textual and contextual analysis that are still in their infancy. It is hoped that this rich collection of papers will demonstrate the significance of Severus’ life and legacy and stimulate further research into this important but often neglected church figure. The study of Severus of Antioch is still in its beginning stages and many studies will surely follow soon. John D’Alton and Youhanna Youssef
Severus of Antioch: Heir of Saint John Chrysostom?* Pauline Allen
In this paper I seek to redress the situation of interpreting Severus as a second Cyril by showing how Severus, although a native of Pisidia in Asia Minor who was educated in Egypt and Palestine and came to the patriarchate of Antioch as an outsider, followed in the Syrian presbyter Chrysostom’s footsteps in the see of Antioch, and cited or silently used over and over again the works of the Golden Mouth in his homilies, letters, and dogmatic works.1 I will argue too that just as Chrysostom saw himself as first and foremost a monk, so too did Severus.
* This paper has its inspiration in the comments and encouragement of participants in the session dedicated to the 1500th anniversary of the consecration of Severus as patriarch of Antioch, which took place in the context of the Symposium Syriacum at the University of Malta in July 2012, and where I delivered a paper now published as “Severus of Antioch, the monk-bishop: monastic and epistolary networks”, Parole de l’Orient 38 (2014), 1–14. I would like to thank especially Frédéric Alpi, Rifaat Ebied, Dominique Gonnet, René Roux, and Youhanna Nessim Youssef for encouraging me to explore further the influence of Chrysostom on Severus. 1 For a select bibliography on Severus and his background see Joseph Lebon, Le Monophysisme sévérien. Étude historique, littéraire et théologique (Louvain: J. Van Linthout, 1909; repr. New York: ams Press, 1978), revised in “La Christologie du monophysisme sévérien”, in Alois Grillmeier and Heinrich Bacht (eds), Das Konzil von Chalkedon. Geschichte und Gegenwart (Würzburg: Echter Verlag, 1951), vol. 1, 425–580; Roberta C. Chesnut, Three Monophysite Christologies. Severus of Antioch, Philoxenus of Mabbug, and Jacob of Sarug (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976) 9–56; Robin Darling Young, The Patriarchate of Severus of Antioch, 512– 518, unpublished PhD diss., Chicago, 1982; Pauline Allen and C.T. Robert Hayward, Severus of Antioch, The Early Church Fathers (London and New York: Routledge, 2004); Frédéric Alpi, La Route royale. Sévère d’Antioche et les Églises d’Orient (512–518), 2 vols, Bibliothèque archéologique et historique 188 (Beirut: Presses de l’ ifpo, 2009). The main works of Severus referred to in this paper are: E.W. Brooks (ed. and trans.), The Sixth Book of the Select Letters of Severus Patriarch of Antioch in the Syriac Version of Athanasius of Nisibis, 2 vols (OxfordLondon, 1902–1903) hereafter sl; E.W. Brooks (ed. and trans.), A Collection of Letters of Severus of Antioch, po xii.2 (Paris, 1916; reprint Turnhout, 1973), and po xiv.1 (Paris, 1920; reprint Turnhout, 1973) hereafter cl; Hom. Zachariah, John of Beith Aphtonia, Athanasius of Antioch.
© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2016 | doi: 10.1163/9789004307995_002
Introduction The teachings of the wise and great Severus are a likeness of all the right doctors and mystic instructors of the church: for in him one may see of Ignatius the God-clad and the tried martyr the holy and Godinspired words; of Athanasius the illustrious champion and combatant the extended and exact knowledge of the faith; of Basil and Gregory the sublime preaching of theology; and of John the admonitory instruction which pours itself forth and expands like the sea; of Cyril the exactitude of teaching concerning dogmas; of all together the purity of life and of virtuous conduct.2 According to the composer of this hymn, Paul of Edessa in east Syria, a later contemporary of Severus, this was the saint’s theological pedigree. Let us examine it more closely. Ignatius, of course, was the first bishop of Antioch (110–130ce), in whose name are transmitted seven letters, written to various early Christian communities.3 In the early church he was regarded as a martyr, although we have no certain evidence that he was.4 There was a church dedicated to him in Antioch, where Severus delivered homilies on at least four occasions.5 John Chrysostom too preached on Ignatius, and we may regard this duty as part-and-parcel of the work of a preacher in Antioch. In Severus’ homilies, however, he concentrates not on Ignatius but on Saints Basil of Caesarea and Gregory Nazianzen, explaining that Basil and Gregory’s emulation of Ignatius is the reason why he has had the people assemble in this house of prayer.6 Severus occasionally quotes Ignatius’ letters in his other works.7 It was inevitable that Severus’ hymnological pedigree should begin with the first bishop of Antioch.
2 Hymn 191-i–ii; po 7/5, 653–654. Trans. adapted from that of E.W. Brooks; italics mine. 3 Text and trans. in Michael W. Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers. Greek Texts and English Translations, 3rd edn (Grand Rapids, mi: Baker Academic, 2007), 166–271. 4 On Ignatius see Allen Brent, Ignatius of Antioch and the Second Sophistic: A Study of an Early Christian Transformation of Pagan Culture (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006). 5 On the church see Wendy Mayer and Pauline Allen, The Churches of Syrian Antioch (300– 638 ce), Late Antique History and Religion 5 (Leuven, Paris, Walpole ma: Peeters, 2012), 81–82, 86, 123–124, 127, 172, 189, 191, 194. On Severus’ preaching in the church see Hom. 9, 37, 65, 84; possibly also 102, 116. 6 Hom. 37, p. 485.28–31. 7 E.g. Hom. 95, pp. 67–71; Hom. 113, pp. 281–282; cl 69, pp. 97–98.
severus of antioch: heir of saint john chrysostom?
Athanasius (d. 373), described in the hymn as “illustrious champion and combatant”, was the patriarch of Alexandria renowned for his dogmatic works against Arianism and his personal sufferings during the Arian debate.8 One homily on him survives from Severus,9 in which the various exiles endured by Athanasius are compared to the sufferings of Job, and the patriarch himself is called a “doctor” and a “combatant”. The hymn praises his “extended and exact knowledge of the faith”. His works are frequently cited by Severus,10 and one of his biographers informs us that during his student days Severus studied his works.11 The great Alexandrian is included in Severus’ hymnological pedigree as a fighter against heresy. We are told by his biographers that during his student days Severus also read the works of Basil of Caesarea Cappadocia and Gregory Nazianzen, as well as those of other Fathers.12 All three theologians are frequently cited in Severus’ dogmatic and polemical works, and the patriarch preached on Basil and Gregory Nazianzen annually.13 Severus’ admiration for the Cappadocians is easy to understand, for not only did they reconcile Hellenic learning with Christian beliefs but also systematized christological and trinitarian doctrine. The hymn with which we began next refers glowingly to the “admonitory instruction” of John, that is, of the most famous preacher in Christian antiquity, John Chrysostom.14 Severus’ biographer Zachariah recounts how in Alexandria the pious man Menas prophesied that Severus would be illustrious among bish-
11 12 13 14
In general on Athanasius see Timothy D. Barnes, Athanasius and Constantius: Theology and Politics in the Constantinian Empire (Cambridge, ma: Harvard University Press, 1993); Khaled Anatolios, Athanasius, The Early Church Fathers (Routledge: London and New York, 2004); idem, Athanasius: The Coherence of His Thought (London: Routledge, 2005). Hom. 91, pp. 7–27. See, e.g., Severus’ second letter to Sergius, in Ian Torrance, The Correspondence of Severus and Sergius. Translation and Introduction, Texts from Christian Late Antiquity 11 (Piscataway, nj: Gorgias Press, 2011), 62/63, 72/73, 86/89; third letter, ibid., 148/149. Cf. Christopher J.A. Lash, in Charles Kannengiesser (ed.), “Saint Athanase dans les écrits de Sévère d’ Antioche”, Politique et théologie chez Athanase d’Alexandrie. Actes du colloque de Chantilly 23–25 sept. 1973, Théologie historique 27 (Paris: Beauchesne, 1974), 377–394. Zachariah, 52; trans. Brock and Fitzgerald, 61. Zachariah, 67; 52; trans. Brock and Fitzgerald, 61. Hom. 9, 37, 65, and 84. See the register of Severus’ homilies by Maurice Brière in po 29/1, 50–62. On Chrysostom in general see e.g. John N.D. Kelly, Golden Mouth. The Story of John Chrysostom: Ascetic, Preacher, Bishop (London: Duckworth, 1995); Wendy Mayer and Pauline Allen, John Chrysostom, The Early Church Fathers (London and New York: Routledge, 2000).
ops, like holy John of Constantinople.15 As a young man Severus immersed himself in John’s works, as he did also in those of Athanasius and the Cappadocians. Zachariah also relates that from the time of Severus’ first homily in Antioch everyone admired his orthodoxy, his citations from Scripture, the clarity of his speech, and looked on him really as a second John.16 This is stretching the truth a little because while he was in Antioch John Chrysostom was a priest, not a bishop, and when he did become patriarch it was of the city of Constantinople. There is no extant homily of Severus on Chrysostom or his feast and no church dedicated to him that we are aware of, but most homilies on him come from Constantinople anyway and are later.17 John features in Severus’ hymnological pedigree as a famous Antiochene and a great preacher. The sixth part of Severus’ pedigree as sung in the hymn is Cyril’s “exactitude of teaching concerning dogmas”. This is similar to the earlier praise of Athanasius, another great Alexandrian, and links with what we know of Severus’ own approach to dogma, which was characterized by exactitude (akribeia in Greek).18 Since several of Cyril’s works represented the touch-stone of orthodoxy for both anti-Chalcedonians and Chalcedonians, it was inevitable that Severus would cite them copiously, particularly Cyril’s works against Nestorius, his twelve anathemata, and the two letters to Succensus. Hence Severus has been seen first and foremost as a second Cyril. In illustration of this let us review the opinion of the late Cardinal Grillmeier, a master of historical christology: The Alexandrian is for Severus simply “the king of the explication of dogmas”. His pupil will do nothing else than think through logically the formulations of the model, and if necessary also intensify them. All partners in the dialogue will be measured by how they stand towards this great teacher. Among the Fathers there is for Severus no higher authority than Cyril.19
15 16 17 18 19
Zachariah, 11, 59, 158. See Alpi, La Route royale, vol. 1, 41. Zachariah, 159. See Alpi, La Route royale, vol. 1, 68. Information kindly supplied by my colleague, Dr Wendy Mayer, from her forthcoming book, John Chrysostom: The Deconstruction of a Saint. See Allen and Hayward, Severus of Antioch, 21. Aloys Grillmeier with Theresia Hainthaler, Christ in Christian Tradition, vol. 2, From the Council of Chalcedon (451) to Gregory the Great (590–604), part 2, The Church of Constantinople in the Sixth Century, trans. John Cawte and Pauline Allen (London and Louisville, ky: Mowbray and Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), 21.
severus of antioch: heir of saint john chrysostom?
This statement will need to be reconsidered later in this chapter, but I would like to conclude this part by pointing out the chronological and geographical symmetry of Paul of Edessa’s hymn: Antioch/Alexandria/Cappadocia/Antioch/Alexandria, which demonstrates where, in the eyes of a near contemporary, Severus stood.
Comparison of Backgrounds and Career Paths Whereas there is no extant biography of Cyril of Alexandria against which to test the thesis that Severus was a second Cyril,20 we have several biographies of John and Severus, all evincing various degrees of historical accuracy.21 I concentrate here on the backgrounds and career-paths of John and Severus as portrayed in their biographies. Both men came to their ministries in the church of Antioch with different backgrounds. John was a Syrian by birth and, according to Kelly, “His family, his mother at any rate if not his father, was Christian”.22 For Severus, on the other hand, the evidence suggests that his family from Pisidia in Asia Minor was pagan;23 hence the great pains taken by his biographers to detail his opposition to paganism during his student years in Alexandria and Beirut.24 It seems that only after he completed his legal studies in Palestine did Severus contemplate the Christian ascetic life. 1. John’s educational background was in the rhetorical schools of Antioch, particularly that of the famous pagan sophist Libanius.25 Severus’ was more wide-ranging: he began in the rhetorical schools of Alexandria, after which he embarked on legal studies in Beirut. Although, as we shall see, during his postgraduate days he adopted an ascetical way of life characterized by severe fasting and abstinence from bathing, he was still obviously a philosophical rather than a Christian ascetic, who remained committed to a legal career. “[D]on’t make me into a monk!”, he is reported as saying. “I am a law student,
22 23 24 25
On this point see Pauline Allen, “St Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria, and Pastoral Care”, Phronema 29.2 (2014): 1–20. For John the earliest biography we have is Palladius’Dialogue on the Life of St John Chrysostom. On the several biographies of Severus, contemporary, near-contemporary, and later, see Brock and Fitzgerald, Two Early Lives of Severos, 11–15. Kelly, Golden Mouth, 5. See Allen and Hayward, Severus of Antioch, 5. On this strategy see Brock and Fitzgerald, Two Early Lives of Severos, 20–21. Kelly, Golden Mouth, 14.
and my great interest lies in the law”.26 Severus’ legal training shines through his preaching, exegesis, polemics, and letter-writing, in contrast to the works of John Chrysostom, which, like those of Cyril, show little interest in the law, except the Law of the Old Testament. 2. While both John and Severus had ascetic/monastic backgrounds, these too were quite different. Chrysostom studied in an ascetic school in Antioch together with upper-class young Christian men.27 Here through continual, extreme fasting he ruined his health. Although he was then ordained a reader by Bishop Meletius of Antioch in 371, John opted for the ascetic life on the outskirts of the city until ill-health forced him to return. After twelve years serving the next bishop of Antioch, John became patriarch of Constantinople, where he strove to continue his ascetical life and to preach against social abuses. On his consecration as patriarch he was said to have cut back expenditure in the bishop’s palace, abandoning “lavish banquets and glittering receptions”, although these comments could well be topoi.28 In his writings we discern a continuing interest in the ascetic life: for example, he wrote a set of three books against the opponents of the monastic life, and his homilies are replete with references to holy men and women. When he went on a trip to Jerusalem, Severus met some disciples of the famous first-generation anti-Chalcedonian Peter the Iberian (that is, from modern-day Georgia in the Caucasus), and became a monk in Peter’s monastery near Gaza.29 With this step he had joined what has been described as “the most volatile and influential subculture” of late antiquity,30 containing as it did influential groups of monastics and intellectuals, both anti- and proChalcedonian. Influenced in its turn by its links with Egyptian monasticism, this was a different monastic environment from that of Syria, one in which political lobbying with the imperial government was rife. Although Severus too, like John, at one stage ruined his health by extreme ascetic practices,31
26 27 28 29
Zachariah, 52; trans. Brock and Fitzgerald, 61. Kelly, Golden Mouth, 18–20. Kelly, Golden Mouth, 118–119, who points out that John continued to need warm baths for his poor health. John of Beit Apthonia, 25, ed. Kugener, 140; trans. Brock and Fitzgerald, 113. For background to Gaza in this period see J.L. Hevelone-Harper, Disciples of the Desert: Monks, Laity, and Spiritual Authority in Sixth-Century Gaza (Baltimore, md: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005), with lit.; B. Bitton-Ashkelony and A. Kofsky, The Monastic School of Gaza, Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 78 (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2006), esp. 82–106. Darling Young, The Patriarchate of Severus, 26. John of Beit Aphtonia, 35–36, 115–116; trans. Brock and Fitzgerald, 115–116.
severus of antioch: heir of saint john chrysostom?
soon we see him travelling to Constantinople with a large group of Palestinian monks to seek the protection of Emperor Anastasius in his struggle against Chalcedon.32 On his appointment as patriarch in Antioch in 512 we are told that: Immediately he expelled from there [Antioch] those kitchen servants and cooks of the episcopal mansion as well as every culinary invention found among them, He pulled down the bath-house that was there … The worthless and wretched bread which bakers customarily made for the poor was brought to him from the market.33 While we note here the similarity with John Chrysostom’s asceticism in the bishop’s palace, it cannot be denied that readers and listeners of biographies of the monk-bishop in late antiquity expected such passages for their edification and entertainment.34 As I have already said, we have no biography of Cyril with which to compare these details. Nor, for that matter, do we have one of Athanasius. A passage that clearly illustrates Severus’ continuing commitment to the ascetic life is found in a homily delivered on his return from visiting churches and monasteries in the country east of Antioch.35 He claims that these monastics live on earth the life which they will live more truly still in the future. He maintains somewhat rhetorically that while he was in these country monasteries he wept for himself because he was cut off from this way of life, and asked his soul whether he should stay with the mountain monks. At first his soul replied “Yes”, but then remembered that the patriarch was “married” to the church of Antioch and could not be divorced from her. The patriarch’s congregations who listened to this and such other homilies must have been very familiar with his persona as a monk.
On Severus’ sojourn in Constantinople see William H.C. Frend, The Rise of the Monophysite Movement. Chapters in the History of the Church in the Fifth and Sixth Centuries (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972), 216–220; Alpi, La Route royale, vol. 1, 44–48. John of Beit Aphtonia, ed. Kugener, 159; trans. Brock and Fitzgerald, 126. On late-antique bishops see Andrea Sterk, Renouncing the World Yet Leading the Church. The Monk-Bishop in Late Antiquity (Cambridge, ma: Harvard University Press, 2004); Claudia Rapp, Holy Bishops in Late Antiquity. The Nature of Christian Leadership in an Age of Transition, The Transformation of the Classical Heritage 37 (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 2005). Hom. 45, 254–268. See further Allen, “Severus of Antioch, the Monk-Bishop”, 10.
3. Let us contrast another aspect of the careers of both saints. John Chrysostom was a native son of the church of Syria who had lived and worked in Antioch before being chosen as patriarch of Constantinople, a city in which he was a stranger. Severus, on the other hand, was a stranger to Antioch and probably unfamiliar with catechizing the laity,36 but he had had significant political experience lobbying in the court of Constantinople, having eventually become the theological adviser to Emperor Anastasius.
Exegesis Now I am going to argue that it is predominantly in the area of exegesis that we see Severus as the heir of John Chrysostom. Here we must rely on the detailed study of René Roux,37 whose main arguments I summarise. Professor Roux makes the point that, while in his exegetical homilies we see how Severus borrowed the biblical commentaries of John Chrysostom, Cyril, and other orthodox writers, Severus does not hesitate to nuance or correct their opinions. This correction is, however, made quietly, while the opinion of heretics is pushed to the extreme and completely rejected.38 Similarly Severus draws freely on John and Cyril, but does not hesitate to depart from his sources if it is convenient.39 Severus also takes up and occasionally completes John’s explanations40 and does not hesitate to correct and systematize Cyril’s thought,41 which is necessary since Cyril’s theology varied depending on whom he was refuting (for example, Arians or Nestorians). Roux argues convincingly42 that Severus’ approach to legislative Old Testament texts came from the influence of John Chrysostom and from Severus’ own legal training, a facet of Severus that we saw above, while Chrysostom exercised on Severus an even greater influence than Cyril, especially with regard to New Testament exegesis. Furthermore, Severus conducts a kind of psychological analysis of the characters in the Gospel, which is a technique frequently employed by John Chrysostom in his homilies on the
36 37 38 39 40 41 42
Darling Young, The Patriarchate of Severus of Antioch, 46. L’ Exégèse biblique dans les Homélies Cathédrales de Sévère d’Antioche, Studia Ephemeridis Augustinianum 84 (Rome: Institutum patristicum Augustinianum, 2002). Roux, L’ Exégèse biblique, 16. Roux, L’ Exégèse biblique, 124, 132. Roux, L’ Exégèse biblique, 137. Roux, L’ Exégèse biblique, 213. Roux, L’ Exégèse biblique, 46.
severus of antioch: heir of saint john chrysostom?
New Testament texts.43 Occasionally, continues Roux, Severus’ explanation of a biblical passage over against that of Chrysostom is characterized by a greater interest in historical learning and a finer attention to human psychology, as well as a greater desire to highlight the internal coherence of the biblical text.44 To Roux’ analysis we can add that among the works of Chrysostom it is the homilies on Matthew and John that Severus uses most frequently, probably because of their size—90 and 88 homilies, respectively.45 To be noted is that Severus cites predominantly Chrysostom’s New Testament works: for example, in his polemical works against Julian of Halicarnassus, he cites John’s homilies on Matthew and John, and on Romans, Corinthians, Colossians, and Hebrews, as well as homilies on various topics.46 Although Chrysostom is cited only once in Severus’ homilies,47 and then in the company of Cyril and others, yet, as Roux demonstrates, John is the exegete on whom Severus relies most. In his magisterial christological work, the Philalethes or Lover of Truth (meaning Cyril of Alexandria), Severus uses extensively John’s commentary on Romans and his seven homilies, Praises of St Paul, in order to interpret the works of the great Alexandrian in an anti-Chalcedonian sense.48 It is worth remarking that Severus does not follow Chrysostom’s style of exegesis, which, true to the preachers of Antioch, is a more literal elucidation of the scriptural texts;49 instead Severus employs a more spiritual, allegorizing exegesis
43 44 45 46
Roux, L’ Exégèse biblique, 106–107. Roux, L’ Exégèse biblique, 166, 169. See cpg 4424 and 4425, respectively. See the indices in Robert Hespel, Sévère d’Antioche. La polémique antijulianiste, ii.b, L’Adversus apologiam Juliani, Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium 302, Scr. Syr. 127 (Louvain: Secrétariat du Corpus sco, 1969), 304–305; idem, Sévère d’Antioche. La polémique antijulianiste, iii, L’Apologie du Philalèthe, Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium 319, Scr. Syr. 137 (Louvain: Secrétariat du Corpus sco, 1971), 125. Hom. 119, 399. The Philalethes is edited and translated by Robert Hespel, Sévère d’Antioche, Le Philalèthe, Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium 133 (text) and 134 (trans.), Scr. Syr. 68, 69 (Louvain: L. Durbecq, 1952). An Arabic version is being edited by Dr Youhanna Nessim Youssef. On which see Christoph Schäublin, Untersuchungen zu Methode und Herkunft der antiochenischen Exegese, Theophaneia 23 (Cologne and Bonn: Peter Hanstein Verlag, 1974). Cf. Bradley Nassif, “ ‘Spiritual Exegesis’ in the School of Antioch”, in idem (ed.), New Perspectives on Historical Theology. Essays in Memory of John Meyendorff (Grand Rapids, mi: William B. Eerdmans, 1996), 343–377. For the nature of Alexandrian exegesis see Aloys Grillmeier with Thereesia Hainthaler, Christ in Christian Tradition, vol. 2, From the Council of Chalcedon (451) to Gregory the Great (590–604), part 4, The Church of Alexandria with
reminiscent of Alexandrian theologians, and for this reason some modern scholars speak of him as an Alexandrian in Antioch.50
Letters In his letters Severus frequently refers to Chrysostom without necessarily quoting him every time. He introduces John in such terms as “the holy/wise John who was bishop of Constantinople,”51 “the holy John also the great in spiritual wealth,”52 and “John, the holy and renowned, who adorned the church of Constantinople.”53 In his letters Severus quotes John’s homilies on Matthew and John, on 1Corinthians, Hebrews, and Titus.54 In addition apart from quoting repeatedly from John’s commentary the Psalms, Severus refers to John’s homiletical series Against the Jews, and the Praises of St Paul,55 and to John’s homilies on martyrs.56
Concluding Observations Severus, with his tidy, legal mind, and unlike both Cyril and John, was a systematic theologian. His overriding concern is Chalcedon, which of course postdates Chrysostom, and it is therefore inevitable that Severus uses Cyril’s arguments against Nestorius extensively to support his own attack on the Council of 451. This is not to say that Severus blindly follows Cyril, but rather that he felt
51 52 53 54
Nubia and Ethiopia after 451, trans. O.C. Dean (Mowbray: London, and Louisville, ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996), 7–161. Alexandre Olivar, La predicación cristiana antigua, Biblioteca Herder, sección de teología y filosofía 189 (Barcelona: Editorial Herder, 1991), 188, supported by Roux, L’Exégèse biblique, 213. sl 1.53; Brooks 176/159; sl 2.3 234/210; sl 5.1, 312/277; sl 10.7, 510/453. cl 94, 178. cl 84, 138–139. For references to Chrysostom’s commentary on Matthew see cl 85, 142–143; cl 87, 149. On the commentary on John see e.g. cl 81, 99–101; cl 91, 163; cl 93, 171–172. For John on Hebrews see e.g. cl 88, 152; for 1 Cor. see cl 69, 99–101. For John on Titus see e.g. sl 2.3, 234/210; 139. On Adversus Iudaeos see Collection, ep. 84, po 14/1; on Praises of St Paul see sl 5.1, 5.6. sl 8.5; 468–469/ 414.
severus of antioch: heir of saint john chrysostom?
responsible for interpreting him against the proponents of Chalcedon. On the other hand, Chrysostom, despite his engaging exegesis and pastoral emphases, was not always directly relevant for Severus’ theological and dogmatic concerns. Was Severus, then, a second Cyril or the heir of John Chrysostom? Let us return to the hymn with which we began. From what we saw in the hymnographer’s schema, Severus stood between the axes of Antioch and Alexandria, with a pivotal point being Cappadocia and its influential theology. Let us then posit, along the lines of Cardinal Grillmeier’s presentation of him, that Severus was a second Cyril, to the extent that he had to rely on the great Alexandrian’s refutation of Nestorius; at the same time Severus had to systematize and defend Cyril’s often contradictory formulations in the face of Chalcedonian appropriation of Cyrillian ideas. However, we must also designate Severus as the heir to Chrysostom to the extent that he followed in the steps of the greatest Antiochene preacher to his day and inherited a church that was used to Antiochene exegesis, which Severus’ Alexandrine training led him to modify. In both these senses Severus may then indeed more properly be called an Alexandrian in Antioch and an heir to both Chrysostom and Cyril.
The Quotes from sl and cl Referred to above sl 1.53, 159: I forbear to mention also the celebrated case of John who was bishop of Constantinople … you know he incurred deprivation … sl 1.60, 190: This is also confirmed by the wise John who was bishop of Constantinople, in the sermon entitled ‘On the treason of Judas and on the Passover’ (pg 49.380). sl 2.3, 210: This the holy John also, who was bishop of cp, interpreted. when he wrote as follows about Titus (pg 62.663). sl 5.1, 277–278: I remember to have heard a discourse of the holy John, bishop of cp, read (In laudes Pauli, pg 49.498). sl 5.6, 306: And that this is so the saintly John will bear witness, who with wisdom fed the holy church at cp, in that in the fifth book of his Praises of the apostle Paul he speaks thus (pg 49.498–499). sl 10.7, 453–454: The wise John, who was bishop of cp, towards the end of the commentary on the gospel of Matthew … wrote (pg 58.768) … cl 27, 253–254: And the most wise John, the expounder of the divine words, in the commentary on the epistle to the Hebrews speaks as follows … And in the commentary on the epistle to the Romans he gives an account of this matter …
cl 69, 99: That this is so, the holy John bishop of cp also testifies in the fourteenth note of the second part of the commentary on the first epistle to the Corinthians (Hom. 39.30) … cl 81, 131: John also in the 34th homily of the commentary on the Gospel of John uses these words (Hom. 34.3). cl 84, 138–139: And John the holy and of renowned memory, who adorned the throne of the church of cp at that time, said … (Adv. Iud. 5.10.11) … But for your assurance I have thought it to be necessary for us to cite also the words of the interpretation of the man whom we have mentioned, the holy John, which are these … cl 85, 142–143: as the very wise John bishop of Constantinople also said in the 56th homily of the Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew … cl 87, 148–149: John bishop of cp says that … (In Matt. Hom. 82.2) cl 88, 152: That this is so is confirmed by John also the wise in the Spirit, who became bishop of cp, in the 22nd homily of the commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (hom 22.8). cl 91, 160–164: And that these things are so laid down by the very wise John also who became bishop of cp, when he is interpreting the 104th Psalm … But in the above-mentioned commentary on the 104th Psalm we find the holy John bishop of cp solving the point in Exodus that seemed doubtful … But the wise doctor John … cl 93, 171–172: … it is not we only who admit this, but men also who are highly distinguished among the fathers, and guides to the mysteries and doctors of the holy church. And John, who became bishop of cp, in the commentary on the Gospel of John … says (In Ioh. Hom. 88.2). cl 94, 178–179: For the holy Basil the wise in divine things in the homily on the Faith says … But the holy John also the great in spiritual wealth taught in accord with this in the commentary on the Epistle to the Corinthians (In Ep. i ad Cor. Hom. 32.10) cl 96, 184–185; And John the holy bishop of cp in the homily entitled ‘Why that tree was called the tree of good and evil’ … (In Gen. Hom. 7, 4, 5) cl 97, 198–199: But John, who became bishop of cp and was a preacher of the true dispensation with boldness, in the homily entitled ‘Concerning the cross and concerning the robber’ … cl 98, 210–212: And John, in the 66th homily of the commentary on the Gospel of Matthew states things consonant with these as follows (In Matt. Hom. 66.4) … and the same again in the 79th exposition when speaking of the Passion … (In Matt. Hom. 79). And then in Matt. Hom. 82.6). cl 100, 236–244: The very wise John who became bishop of Constantinople in the 6th homily of the commentary on the Gospel of Matthew … (In Matt.
severus of antioch: heir of saint john chrysostom?
Hom. 6.3) … And in the 24th homily of the same work … John who became bishop of cp in the 85th homily of the commentary on the Gospel of John wrote as follows (In Ioh. Hom. 85.1, 2).
Se glorifier de sa ville et de son siège ? La grandeur d’Antioche et le mépris des titres chez Sévère le Grand Roger-Youssef Akhrass
Introduction Le 18 novembre 512, Sévère de Sozopolis, supérieur d’ un monastère à Maïouma, le port de Gaza, est élevé au siège patriarcal d’ Antioche. La ville dont le nouveau patriarche reçoit le gouvernement est chargée d’ histoire, tant au plan civil que religieux: fondée environ trois cents ans avant l’ère chrétienne par Séleucus Nicator, un des généraux d’Alexandre le Grand, Antioche reste sous la domination des Séleucides jusqu’à la conquête romaine. C’ est alors que la ville, en tant que capitale de la Syrie et résidence du légat impérial, reçoit le nom de «Reine de l’Orient» et devient «le centre de gravité de l’ empire grec ».1 À l’avènement du christianisme, la communauté chrétienne d’ Antioche est la plus ancienne après celle de la «sainte Sion, mère de toutes les Églises ». À Antioche, les disciples de Jésus reçoivent pour la première fois le nom de «chrétiens» (Ac 11,26). Les apôtres Pierre et Paul y séjournent et, à partir d’elle, les premières missions sont envoyées vers l’ Occident et vers l’ Asie. Selon Eusèbe de Césarée (†340),2 l’apôtre Pierre a institué l’ épiscopat à Antioche en le passant à Évode.3 1 L. Duchesne, Origines du culte chrétien: études sur la liturgie latine avant Charlemagne (5e éd.), (Paris: De Boccard, 1925) 21, cité par L. Laham, «Le patriarcat d’Antioche au premier millénaire : juridiction patriarcale,» in I. Zuzek e. a., I patriarcati orientali nel primo millennio: relazioni del Congresso tenutosi al Pontificio Istituto Orientale nei giorni 27–30 Dicembre 1967 (Orientalia Christiana Analecta, 181), (Rome: Pontificium Institutum Orientalium Studorium, 1968), 115–135 et en particulier 117. 2 Eusèbe de Césarée, Histoire Ecclésiastique, G. Bardy (Sources Chrétiennes xxx), (Paris: Cerf, 2003) ch. iii, 22. 3 En introduction à l’ histoire et au rôle d’ Antioche dans l’histoire du christianisme, nous renvoyons à G. Downey, A History of Antioch in Syria from Seleucus to the Arab Conquest, (Princeton, nj : Princeton University Press, 1961); D.S. Wallace-Hadrill, Christian Antioch. A Study of Early Christian Thought in the East, (Cambridge etc.: Cambridge University Press, 1982) et C. Kondoleon, Antioch : The Lost City, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000). W. Mayer and P. Allen, The Churches of Syrian Antioch (300–638) (Late antiquity history and religion 5) (Leuven : Peeters, 2012).
© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2016 | doi: 10.1163/9789004307995_003
se glorifier de sa ville et de son siège ?
Lorsque Sévère accède donc au trône patriarcal, il est conscient qu’ il se tient à la tête d’ une grande et célèbre métropole.4 Cette conscience le pousse à chanter souvent sa grandeur, sa distinction et son amour pour le Christ.5 Il ne cessera de rappeler l’excellence de ses origines apostoliques et l’ actuelle ferveur de son peuple. Les deux sujets traditionnels de fierté des antiochiens sont, à son avis, le premier siège du chef des apôtres et le grand nom de « chrétiens» qui a été béni sur la terre.6
Antioche, grandeur d’une ville apostolique et fidèle Honneurs traditionnels Antioche, siège de l’apôtre Pierre et de ses successeurs Dans sa première homélie cathédrale prononcée à l’ occasion de son accès au trône d’Antioche, Sévère déclare fièrement que la ville qu’ il vient de recevoir la charge d’administrer, « est la pierre sur laquelle le Christ Dieu de tout l’ univers a établi la base de l’Église en tout lieu (cf. Mt 16, 18) ».7 Ailleurs, il tempère l’ emphase de cette affirmation en disant qu’Antioche a été fondée la première de toutes les saintes Églises de tous les lieux de la terre.8 D’après le patriarche, la grandeur de la ville remonte à ses origines apostoliques, à Pierre le grand des apôtres,9 celui qui s’ est entendu dire: Tu es Pierre
4 M. Brière et F. Graffin, Les Homiliae cathedrales de Sévère d’Antioche, traduction syriaque de Jacques d’Édesse. Homélies xxvi à xxxi, (Patrologia Orientalis 36/4), (Turnhout: Brepols, 1974), 577 , Hom. 28 ; R. Duval, Les Homiliae cathedrales de Sévère d’Antioche, traduction syriaque de Jacques d’ Édesse. Homélies lii–lvii, (Patrologia Orientalis 4/1), (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1906) 94 , Hom. 57. 5 E.W. Brooks, The Sixth Book of the Select Letters of Severus Patriarch of Antioch in the Syriac Version of Athanasius of Nisibis, sl, ii, 3, vol. ii: 208 (= vol. i, 232 [syr.]); sl, i, 20, vol. ii, 71 (= vol. i, 78 [syr.]). E.W. Brooks, A Collection of Letters of Severus of Antioch, (Patrologia Orientalis 12/2), (Paris : Firmin-Didot, 1915), 311 , let. 44. 6 M. Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales de Sévère d’Antioche, traduction syriaque de Jacques d’ Édesse. Homélies cxxi–cxxv, (Patrologia Orientalis 29/1), (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1960), 229 –231 , Hom. 124. 7 M. Brière et F. Graffin et al, Les Homiliae cathedrales de Sévère d’Antioche, traduction syriaque de Jacques d’ Édesse. Homélies i à xvii, (Patrologia Orientalis 38/2), (Brepols: Turnhout, 1976), 259 , Hom. 1. 8 M. Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales de Sévère d’Antioche, traduction syriaque de Jacques d’ Édesse. Homélies lviii–lxix, (Patrologia Orientalis 8/2), (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1912), 261– 262 [147–148]. Hom. 61. 9 Brière et Graffin et al., Les Homiliae cathedrales i–xvii, 259 , Hom. 1.
et sur cette pierre je bâtirai mon Église et les portes du Shéol ne prévaudront pas contre elle, et qui a reçu les clefs du royaume des cieux.10 La ville d’ Antiochos ܳ a été la première à recevoir Pierre en qualité de pasteur (焏q)ܪܥ, de mari (焏r)ܰܓܒ et de constructeur (焏q;)ܰܒܳܢ11 elle l’a suivi en tant que pasteur qui a fait paître le troupeau spirituel, en le nourrissant des dogmes saints de la religion;12 elle a cohabité avec lui comme avec un mari en pratiquant la chasteté et en réglant sa propre conduite sur la sienne, et elle a caché dans ses trésors le fondement qu’il a posé en tant que constructeur.13 Antioche est dite «Église apostolique»14 mais elle se distingue des autres Églises également apostoliques, par le fait qu’ elle a recueilli le siège évangéܺ lique,15 sacré et apostolique de Pierre16 (ܘܣrq ܕܦ焏ܬܒ熏ܬ ܰܡ熏rܽq ܘܪ焏qqܳqܠr 焏ܡ熏)ܰܩ, chef des apôtres.17 Il est fort possible que l’insistance de Sévère sur ce point visât à contrecarrer les revendications de Rome et ceux qui, du diocèse de l’Orient, ont fait appel à son évêque. Après le séjour et l’accomplissement de la charge apostolique (焏ܡ熏 ܆ ܩ焏qܬ焏ܡ 焏qqܳqܠr) de Pierre et sa présidence au siège (焏qܡ煟 ܩ焏ܬܒ熏 ܆ ܡ焏ܬܒ熏ܬ ܡ熏rq)ܪ, il revenait à Ignace Théophore – revêtu de Dieu – le grand évêque et martyr, d’orner le siège des antiochiens et de faire paître leur Église.18 Sévère néglige la mention d’Évode et se considère comme tenant le siège d’ Ignace. Il ne se contente pas de parler de Pierre car l’épiscopat est différent de l’apostolat. En effet, l’ancienne tradition chrétienne ne désignait pas un apôtre (Pierre en l’occurrence) comme premier évêque de la ville où il avait implanté la foi (Antioche ou Rome). C’était celui qui avait été ordonné par lui qui était considéré comme le premier évêque. De cette manière, Eusèbe de Césarée 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales lviii–lxix, 260 , Hom. 61. Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales lviii–lxix, 262 , Hom. 61. Brière et Graffin et al, Les Homiliae cathedrales i–xvii, 259 , Hom. 1. Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales lviii–lxix, 262 , Hom. 61. Duval, Les Homiliae cathedrales lii–lvii, 77 , Hom. 56. Brooks, Select Letters, i, 20, vol. ii, 71 (= vol. i, 78 [syr.]). Brière et Graffin et al, Les Homiliae cathedrales i à xvii, 255 , Hom. 1; E.W. Brooks, A Collection of Letters of Severus of Antioch, (Patrologia Orientalis 14/1), (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1920), 97 , let. 69. M. Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales cxxi–cxxv, 229 [733–735] Hom. 124. Cf. M.A. Kugener, Vie de Sévère d’Antioche par Jean supérieur du monastère de Beth-Aphtonia, (Patrologia Orientalis 2/3), (Paris : Firmin-Didot, 1904), 328 . Brooks, A Collection of Letters, 97 , let. 69 ; Brooks, Select Letters, i, 57, vol. ii, 174 (= vol. i, 193 [syr.]). Cf. aussi M. Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales de Sévère d’Antioche, traduction syriaque de Jacques d’Édesse. Homélies lxxviii–lxxxiii, (Patrologia Orientalis 20/2), (Paris : Firmin-Didot, 1927), 298 , Hom. 78.
se glorifier de sa ville et de son siège ?
dans son Histoire ecclésiastique considère qu’Ignace avait obtenu, au second rang dans la succession de Pierre, l’épiscopat à Antioche.19 Ceci explique pourquoi Sévère tenait à lier le nom d’Ignace, après celui de Pierre, au siège d’ Antioche. Ainsi donc, dans la même lignée apostolique-épiscopale, la charge passe à Sévère devenu successeur et héritier du siège de Pierre et d’ Ignace : Après son élection et son avènement au trône patriarcal d’ Antioche, toute la ville le considérait comme un second Pierre.20 Selon son biographe, Sévère était semblable à Pierre par ses prodiges21 et ses œuvres qui se sont chargés de le faire connaître.22 Et si, d’une part, ses détracteurs le comparaient péjorativement à Pierre qui s’était donné tort à Antioche (Ga 2, 11),23 pour ses amis tel que Théodose d’Alexandrie (535–538, †566), Sévère était semblable à Pierre « rocher du Christ et gardien inébranlable de la foi pure».24 Les évêques de l’ Orient, opposés à Chalcédoine, voyaient en lui le successeur de Pierre, des pasteurs et des docteurs de l’Église orthodoxe.25 Le biographe de Sévère, Jean Bar Aphtonia, dit de lui qu’ il monta sur le trône d’Ignace, lui succédant, il est vrai après beaucoup d’ autres au point de vue numérique, mais immédiatement pour la vertu.26 Or Sévère, comme tous les pères qui furent élus à de telles chaires élevées, quand il apprit le choix qu’ on avait fait de lui pour être patriarche d’Antioche, songea à s’enfuir et disait:
19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26
Eusèbe de Césarée, Histoire Ecclésiastique, ch. iii, 36. M.A. Kugener, Vie de Sévère d’Antioche par Zacharie le scholastique, (Patrologia Orientalis 2/1), (Paris : Firmin-Didot, 1903), 114 . Kugener, Vie de Sévère d’ Antioche, Jean de Beth-Aphtonia, 260 . Kugener, Vie de Sévère d’ Antioche, Jean de Beth-Aphtonia, 212 . Dans la correspondance entre Julien et Sévère, l’ évêque d’Halicarnasse critiquait l’évêque d’ Antioche et ce faisant, il se comparait à Paul « le petit» (焏ܪ熏 )̇ܗܘ ܙܥréprimandant à Antioche Pierre « le chef » (焏r( )̇ܗܘ ܪGa 2). Mais, là où Pierre acceptait la réprimande – peut-être même injuste à son égard – et saluait plus tard la grande théologie de Paul qui se profile à travers ses épîtres quelque peu difficiles, Sévère successeur de Pierre, selon Julien, ne supportait pas la critique. Cf. R. Hespel, La polémique antijulianiste i (Corpus Scriptorum Christianoum Orientalium 244–245), (Louvain: Secrétariat du csco, 1964), 160 . Kugener, Vie de Sévère d’ Antioche, Jean de Beth-Aphtonia, 294 . J.-B. Chabot, Documenta ad origines monophysitarum illustrandas, (Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium 37), (Paris : Typographeo Reipublicae, 1908), 192. Kugener, Vie de Sévère d’ Antioche, Jean de Beth-Aphtonia, 242 .
Je ne suffis pas pour un ministère aussi sacré. Comment moi, petit, qui ne suis pas préparé, pourrais-je m’asseoir sur le siège du grand Ignace? Ordonnez un autre qui soit capable.27 Dans le même sens, il dira dans sa 9e homélie prononcée le jour de l’ an qu’ il célébrait chaque année dans le sanctuaire de saint Ignace : Comment en viendrons-nous au même état, moi et Ignace le Théophore, celui sur le siège duquel j’ose m’asseoir? Est-ce que l’ eau ne diffère pas du feu?28 Ainsi, ma vie dissolue ne ressemble pas à la vie ardente et céleste de celui-là.29 Connaissant son indignité à s’asseoir sur ce siège ignacien, Sévère signera sobrement toutes ses lettres: «Sévère, par la miséricorde de Dieu, évêque d’Antioche.»30 En effet, nous verrons plus loin que les honneurs des sièges et des titres lui importaient fort peu. Bref, à ce premier grand honneur d’avoir accueilli l’ apôtre Pierre comme pasteur, mari et constructeur, Antioche peut ajouter un deuxième mérite, celui d’avoir donné au peuple de Jésus le nom de chrétiens.
Antioche, berceau du nouveau nom de chrétiens Par conséquent, il faut donc glorifier cette ville et la saluer, parce qu’ alors elle nous donnait les donateurs des aliments spirituels ; et c’ est à cause d’eux que, nous étant multipliés et étant devenus une grande assemblée, nous avons été désignés également par le nom de ‘premiers chrétiens’.31 Lorsque Sévère se tenait devant la foule enthousiaste des fidèles à Antioche, notamment aux anniversaires de son intronisation, il s’ enchantait, flattait ce
27 28 29 30 31
Kugener, Vie de Sévère d’Antioche, Jean de Beth-Aphtonia, 240 . C’ est le sens du nom Ignace en latin. Brière et Graffin et al, Les Homiliae cathedrales i à xvii, 347 , Hom. 9. Brière et Graffin et al, Les Homiliae cathedrales i à xvii, 324 , Hom. 9. M. Brière et F. Graffin, Les Homiliae cathedrales de Sévère d’Antioche, traduction syriaque de Jacques d’Édesse. Homélies xxvi à xxxi, (Patrologia Orientalis 36/4), (Turnhout: Brepols, 1974), 577 , Hom. 28.
se glorifier de sa ville et de son siège ?
peuple fidèle et lui rappelait incessamment ses racines chrétiennes et apostoliques. Selon le livre des Actes (11, 26), les antiochiens sont le peuple sur lequel a été écrit le saint nom du Christ et qu’avant tous les autres a été appelé « les chrétiens».32 Ce n’est pas rien qu’ils portent le même nom que le Christ.33 Ce nom est un honneur pour l’Église d’Antioche qui fut la première à s’ en revêtir avant les autres biens ainsi que de quelque chose de supérieur, comme d’ un vêtement sublime, royal et de pourpre.34 Il est vrai que ce nom de chrétiens n’a pas été donné par le Christ à ses disciples et qu’il provient d’une tradition ultérieure. Mais cela ne fait pas de tort. Sévère souligne que les usages de l’Église ne nous sont pas tous venus à partir de traditions apostoliques, mais il y en a qui ont passé dans toute l’ Église également par suite d’ inventions successives et de progrès. Parmi ces traditions, il y a d’abord le fait que nous soyons nommés chrétiens beaucoup d’ années après que l’Évangile a été prêché: ce qui, après avoir commencé par cette Église d’Antioche, nous a englobés pour former un peuple saint, nous qui sommes en tout lieu de la terre.35 Bien que ce nom nouveau de chrétiens qui a été béni sur toute la terre ne fût pas donné directement par le Christ, il a néanmoins été indiqué à l’ avance par le prophète Isaïe:36 Et il appellera ton nouveau nom, celui que le Seigneur nommera
Brière et Graffin et al, Les Homiliae cathedrales i–xvii, 259 , Hom. 1. M. Brière, F. Graffin et C.J.A. Lash, Les Homiliae cathedrales de Sévère d’Antioche, traduction syriaque de Jacques d’Édesse. Homélies xxxii à xxxix, (Patrologia Orientalis 36/3), (Turnhout: Brepols, 1972), 447 , Hom. 35. Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales lviii–lxix, 262 , Hom. 61.; M. Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales de Sévère d’Antioche, traduction syriaque de Jacques d’Édesse. Homélies lxxviii–lxxxiii, (Patrologia Orientalis 20/2), (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1927), 324 , Hom. 80. Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales cxxi–cxxv, 247 , Hom. 125. Sévère profite de cet exemple pour l’ utiliser en faveur de l’ incise ajoutée au Trisagion «Celui qui a été crucifié pour nous », qui était inconnue des Alexandrins et des Lybiens et a commencé par la ville d’ Antioche, par où a commencé aussi le nom de chrétiens. Sévère veut que l’ incise ajoutée au Trisagion, née à Antioche, trouve son chemin vers toutes les Églises comme il en était du nom de chrétiens qui a commencé aussi à Antioche (Ibid., 249 ). Brière et Graffin et al, Les Homiliae cathedrales i–xvii, 259 , Hom. 1.
(Is 62, 2). Or le nouveau nom est celui de l’Église et celui qui le complète, c’ està-dire celui des chrétiens. C’est le Seigneur qui a donné ce nom et parmi les hommes personne ne l’a inventé, puisque Jésus a été le premier à le révéler lorsqu’il a dit: Tu es roc, et sur ce roc je bâtirai mon Église (Mt 16, 18).37 En somme, le premier siège de Pierre que la ville d’ Antioche a accueilli et le grand nom de chrétiens qu’elle a propagé dans les Églises du monde, font l’honneur des antiochiens. Mais ce qui attire davantage les éloges du patriarche sur eux est qu’ils ont mérité en actes leur nom de chrétiens, par leurs vertus et tout particulièrement par leur foi orthodoxe laquelle est leur plus grand trésor: Depuis que j’ai mis les pieds dans cette ville et jusqu’à ce jour, j’ ai trouvé que vous amassez une grande richesse spirituelle, que vous confirmez votre nom que vous avez bien mérité, d’ être appelés chrétiens les premiers et que vous montrez dans la réalité et par les faits eux-mêmes les ordonnances apostoliques qui sont proclamées en paroles à l’ Église.38
Un présent honorable Conservation pratique du dépôt apostolique Dès le premier jour de son intronisation, Sévère ne cachait pas son admiration pour le peuple d’Antioche, qu’il appelle «peuple ami du Christ ».39 Il décrit l’Église d’Antioche qui l’écoutait pour la première fois en ces termes: « Je vois cette église remplie d’hommes bouillonnant de par l’ Esprit et resplendissant des rayons de lumière de l’orthodoxie».40 En vertu de leur nom de chrétiens qui connote un lien privilégié avec le Christ – ils sont, en effet, son peuple –, les antiochiens sont censés être les mieux disposés à saisir les choses révélées et à s’ élever aux pensées sublimes et spirituelles, là où Sévère souhaite les entraîner.41 Depuis que le nouveau patriarche a mis les pieds dans la ville, il a trouvé que les antiochiens amassaient une grande richesse spirituelle. À leurs origines apostoliques que nous avons déjà exposées, il faut ajouter que certaines de
37 38 39 40 41
Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales cxxi–cxxv, 99 , Hom. 121. Brière et Graffin, Les Homiliae cathedrales xxvi à xxxi, 543 , Hom 26. Brière et Graffin et al, Les Homiliae cathedrales i–xvii, 261 , Hom. 1. Brière et Graffin et al, Les Homiliae cathedrales i–xvii, 259 , Hom. 1. Brière, Graffin et Lash, Les Homiliae cathedrales xxxii à xxxix, 447 , Hom. 35.
se glorifier de sa ville et de son siège ?
leurs églises comme celle de Cassien jouissent d’ un fondement apostolique direct, tant matériellement que spirituellement.42 Mais le plus important est que les traditions transmises des apôtres aux pasteurs locaux de l’ Église se trouvent conservées intègrement à Antioche qui a fidèlement et précieusement sauvegardé ce dépôt traditionnel: Je célèbre les traditions des apôtres, que les pasteurs de cette Église nous ont léguées comme un héritage paternel, après les avoir reçues à tour de rôle, ainsi qu’un fils reçoit de son père, après les avoir étendues par des développements successifs, lorsque la connaissance du mystère s’ élargissait avec les montées du cœur (cf. Ps 83, 6), comme dit David, et après les avoir gardées avec soin.43 Outre leurs solides fondements apostoliques, les antiochiens ont pratiqué dans la réalité et par les faits, les ordonnances apostoliques qui sont proclamées en paroles à l’Église. À ce sujet, Sévère énumère dans sa 26e homélie les nombreuses vertus qu’il a constatées chez eux: ils aiment sans acception des personnes (cf. Jc 2, 1), ils haïssent le mal et s’attachent au bien ; ils travaillent à montrer l’amour de la charité fraternelle les uns à l’ égard des autres; dans le zèle ils ne sont pas nonchalants, ils sont fervents selon l’ esprit ; ils servent le Seigneur, ils se réjouissent dans l’espérance et sont constants dans la tribulation (cf. Rm 12, 9–12).44 Sur ce dernier point, Sévère rendra plus tard, depuis son exil, hommage à Antioche qui endure bravement la persécution.45 De même, les antiochiens ont célébré toutes les fêtes du Christ avec foi, pureté et honneur. D’une part, ils sont nés de nouveau avec la naissance de l’ Emmanuel parce qu’ils se sont préoccupés de marcher en renouveau de vie (cf. Rm 6, 4) et, d’autre part, ils se sont levés avec le lever divin etc. Sévère poursuit sa litanie montrant comment ils ont conformé leur vie à celle du
Brière et Graffin et al, Les Homiliae cathedrales i–xvii, 419 , Hom. 15. M. Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales de Sévère d’Antioche, traduction syriaque de Jacques d’ Édesse. Homélies lxx–lxxvi, (Patrologia Orientalis 12/1), (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1915), 52 , Hom. 71. Brière et Graffin, Les Homiliae cathedrales xxvi à xxxi, 543 , Hom. 26. « In everything the consideration of your vigour church in Antiochus’ city (焏qܩ熏ܒ ܣ熏q熏qqܢ焏ܗ ܕrܢq煟 ̇ܗܝ ܕܒܡ焏ܬ煟 ܥqqܬ熏ܢrܠqq)ܕ, causes me wonder, and the fact that you not only hold yourself readily and courageously against disturbing elements coming from without, but also manage your internal government wisely, and are guided in the right way by the gospel law. » Brooks, Select Letters, v, 8, vol. ii, 319 (= vol. i, 361 [syr.]).
Christ, en passant par la crucifixion et la résurrection et jusqu’à la venue de l’Esprit-Saint.46 Si Sévère prend plaisir à prolonger ses hommages aux antiochiens, c’ est surtout pour les disposer à accepter ses avertissements et ses critiques concernant leurs mœurs païennes. En effet, il va constamment les avertir des spectacles des chevaux47 et leur dire ouvertement que leur attachement aux soucis matériels et leur dérive vers les spectacles de prostitution dans les théâtres, les conduiront à la perdition.48 Sévère n’hésite pas à interpréter le tremblement de terre qui secoua Antioche, comme ayant lieu à cause des péchés et des iniquités des gens de la ville. Cependant, il ne s’ en prend pas à la ville ou l’attaque mais il ne la flatte pas non plus: il l’ appelle à la pénitence sans plus.49 Cela dit, le plus grand danger qui a longtemps guetté et troublé Antioche et qui occupe profondément Sévère est celui qui provient de l’ impiété des hérétiques, en premier lieu Diodore de Tarse (372–392) et Théodore de Mopsueste (392–428), et ensuite leur disciple Nestorius patriarche de Constantinople (428–431; †451).50 Alors que la ville vivait sous l’ influence de ces personnes, elle encourait les menaces de malédiction que le prophète Isaïe avait jadis proférées contre Jérusalem qui s’était vidée des docteurs de la parole divine et des auditeurs intelligents. Sévère, de son côté, comparant Antioche à Jérusalem, rendait grâce à Dieu qui n’a pas enlevé l’ auditoire intelligent de sa Jérusalem – entendre l’Église Antioche – qui a écouté et suivi la voix de son vrai pasteur lequel n’est autre que Sévère lui-même, s’ est rebellée et rebiffée contre les voix étrangères, celles des évêques hétérodoxes.51 Voici un nouveau motif touchant la foi, qui agrandit encore plus le mérite d’ Antioche aux yeux de Sévère. Refus des époux étrangers et union à Sévère Le thème de l’Église-épouse, inspirée par le Cantique des Cantiques, est cher à notre auteur. Il se plaît à le développer dans ses homélies52 et à peindre la
46 47 48 49 50 51 52
Brière et Graffin, Les Homiliae cathedrales xxvi à xxxi, 543 , Hom. 26. Brière et Graffin, Les Homiliae cathedrales xxvi à xxxi, 545–557 [11–23], Hom. 26. Duval, Les Homiliae cathedrales lii–lvii, 44 , Hom. 54. Brière et Graffin, Les Homiliae cathedrales xxvi à xxxi, 653 , Hom. 31. Brière et Graffin et al, Les Homiliae cathedrales i–xvii, 259 , Hom. 1. Brière et Graffin et al, Les Homiliae cathedrales i–xvii, 273 , Hom. 2. Cf. M. Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales de Sévère d’Antioche, traduction syriaque de Jacques d’ Édesse. Homélies xci–xcviii, (Patrologia Orientalis 25/1), (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1935), 36–42 [480–486], Hom. 92.
se glorifier de sa ville et de son siège ?
beauté53 de l’ Église ornée et parée comme une épouse amenée aux noces du Christ.54 La prolongation de l’image continue avec les disciples du Christ qui ont placé à la tête de chaque ville un évêque, figure de l’ époux spirituel qui s’ unit à son épouse.55 À partir de cette image de l’évêque-époux de l’ Église locale sur laquelle il est établi, Sévère représente le jour de son intronisation comme une union matrimoniale avec les antiochiens. Mais avant d’arriver à ce jour, Antioche a dû d’ abord répudier avec zèle les époux impies – entendre les évêques hérétiques –, car elle ne pouvait supporter que la parole de la vérité soit altérée par ceux qui trafiquent les choses de Dieu. Les hommes qui se sont unis à cette Église d’ une façon indécente, après qu’ ils eurent cohabité avec elle pour un bon moment et qu’ ils ne se furent point repentis et détournés de leur impiété, elle les a chassés cruellement en leur donnant un acte de répudiation (cf. Mt 5, 31). Et, leur portant une juste haine, elle s’est refusé à cohabiter avec eux.56 Les ayant repoussés ainsi que des étrangers, elle a montré qu’ils cohabitaient mensongèrement avec elle à tel point que ceux aussi qui comme Jean-Baptiste sont animés de l’ Esprit, gémissent et s’écrient: Il ne t’est pas permis de la posséder (Mt 14, 4). De tels époux défectueux, lors même qu’ils étaient censés être avec l’ épouse, n’ étaient pas en réalité avec elle, bien qu’ils eussent la témérité d’ être assis corporellement sur le trône.57 Après qu’Antioche eût répudié les époux étrangers, Sévère a été conduit au lit spirituel. Et le Christ qui négocie les fiançailles dans les mariages de ce genre et dans les unions qui consolident l’orthodoxie de la foi et la pureté de la conduite, lui a livré et confié, ainsi qu’une épouse sacrée, l’ Église d’ Antioche qui s’est parfaitement accordée avec lui de telle sorte que les témoins de cette union disaient: « Vraiment c’est de la part du Seigneur que cette épouse s’accorde avec ce mari ».58 Le nouveau mari n’avait d’autre objectif que celui de transmettre à son épouse la parole de la foi orthodoxe, afin d’en être aimé davantage.59 Il savait
55 56 57 58 59
Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales xci–xcviii, 121–126 [565–570], Hom. 97. Cf. M. Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales de Sévère d’Antioche, traduction syriaque de Jacques d’ Édesse. Homélies civ–cxii, (Patrologia Orientalis 25/4), (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1943), 700  – 717 , Hom. 108. Brooks, Select Letters, ii, 3, vol. ii, 210 (= vol. i, 234 [syr.]). Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales lviii–lxix, 262 , Hom. 61. Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales lxxviii–lxxxiii, 325 , Hom. 80. Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales lxxviii–lxxxiii, 324–325 [158–159], Hom. 80. Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales lviii–lxix, 263 , Hom. 61.
bien que cette célèbre mère des Églises brûle d’ amour pour lui et n’aime pas qu’il la quitte. Lui aussi n’aimait pas s’en séparer,60 mais voilà qu’ il était obligé parfois de le faire pour visiter les évêchés subordonnés à sa métropole. Sévère exprime la souffrance du déchirement parce qu’ il allait se priver de la vue sacrée des antiochiens, en disant: « Mais vous, dans quel état pensez-vous que je me trouverai lorsque je cesserai pour un peu de temps de me mêler avec vous les amis de Dieu? »61 Cette douleur venait de sa triple passion pour eux : il les aime de la charité qui unit l’époux à la fiancée du Cantique des Cantique qui symbolise à l’avance l’Église;62 il les aime également d’ un amour paternel et filial décrit par Paul en ces termes: Nous, ô nos Frères, qui avons été fait orphelin de vous pour un moment, de vue et non de cœur, nous étions surtout sollicité par un vif désir de voir votre visage (1t 2, 17). Sévère explique que Paul prenait la figure d’un père et s’appelait en même temps orphelin, donnant à entendre qu’il possédait en lui les deux amours : l’ amour paternel et l’ amour filial, aimant comme un père qui souffre dans son amour et comme un enfant qui ne peut supporter d’être orphelin. Mais là où le père est peut-être en mesure de supporter la séparation des enfants, le fils n’a ni la philosophie ni la force d’agir ainsi; aussitôt il se laisse aller aux larmes et aux sanglots.63 Lorsque Sévère arrive, lors de sa tournée en dehors d’ Antioche, aux monastères, il ressent une nostalgie de la vie ascétique et souhaite y retourner, adressant à son âme la parole de Pierre: Veux-tu que nous dressions ici une tente? Et il la voit accourir rapidement et donner son consentement.64 Mais quand son âme se remet en mémoire que le Christ l’a unie par le mariage et l’ alliance à l’Église d’Antioche, elle se rappelle l’amour des antiochiens et se dit : «Laisse cette pensée, ô toi; tu es lié à une femme ne cherche pas à rompre ce lien (cf. 1 Co 7, 27)».65 Et là, par d’admirables paroles, le patriarche décrit le grand abîme séparant la grandeur et la beauté d’Antioche de sa petitesse, exprimant son dévouement pour son épouse et sa disposition à donner sa vie pour elle comme Christ a aimé l’Église et s’est livré pour elle (cf. Ep 5, 25):
62 63 64 65
Cf. Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales civ–cxii, 782–783 , Hom. 110. R. Duval, Les Homiliae cathedrales de Sévère d’Antioche, traduction syriaque de Jacques d’ Édesse. Homélies lii–lvii, (Patrologia Orientalis 4/1), (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1906) 68 , Hom. 55. Duval, Les Homiliae cathedrales lii–lvii, 68 , Hom. 55. Duval, Les Homiliae cathedrales lii–lvii, 69 , Hom. 55. Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales lviii–lxix, 260 , Hom. 61. Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales lviii–lxix, 260 , Hom. 61.
se glorifier de sa ville et de son siège ?
Après m’être remis en esprit l’image de cette sainte Église (d’ Antioche), et avoir oublié cette philosophie (de la vie monastique), je lui ai appartenu tout entier et je pensais que je dois me priver même de mon sang pour elle, si l’occasion le demande. Car de même qu’ une femme comblée de très grandes richesses, ornée et parée de la gloire de la naissance et de la grâce de la beauté, et de plus réellement vénérable par la pratique et le sceau de la chasteté, se trouve fiancée, en vue du mariage, à un pauvre et à un malheureux qui ne possède absolument que des mœurs douces ; de même cette Église a agi également à mon égard. Moi qui suis pauvre et dépourvu de toute perfection, et qui ne possède rien autre chose que la prédication orthodoxe de la foi, elle m’a réuni à elle-même, elle m’a fait monter dans sa chambre mystique et elle a estimé cette seule qualité plus que toute la richesse: c’est pourquoi, quand je suis présent, elle m’aime et, quand je suis absent, elle me réclame.66 On ne dira jamais assez l’importance que notre patriarche accorde à la question de la foi. Son amour et son union avec l’ Église d’ Antioche se basent uniquement sur la foi. Pauvre et dépourvu de toute perfection, Antioche ne l’ a choisi que pour sa foi droite et n’a requis de lui que la prédication de l’ orthodoxie, ce qu’il fera volontiers et avec beaucoup de zèle. Mais malgré les privilèges de la ville d’Antioche, de son siège et de celui qui l’ occupe, il n’est pas inopportun d’évoquer le renoncement systématique chez notre patriarche à tous les honneurs élogieux relatifs aux sièges et aux titres ecclésiastiques.
Renoncement aux honneurs des sièges et des titres La leçon des Pères cappadociens et d’Athanase Le désintérêt des Pères à l’égard de la gloire des grands sièges et des titres honorifiques, notamment lorsque l’intégrité de la foi était en question, a constamment été pour Sévère un modèle à contempler et à proclamer. Au cours de son épiscopat à Antioche, le patriarche saisissait chaque année l’ occasion de la fête des saints Basile et Grégoire pour s’ étendre sur ce thème. Il montrait à ses auditeurs comment ces deux frères théologiens considéraient comme éphémères les honneurs terrestres et estimaient qu’ ils n’étaient même pas dignes de l’honneur épiscopal qui leur était confié.67 Devant les menaces 66 67
Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales lviii–lxix, 261 . Brière et Graffin et al, Les Homiliae cathedrales i à xvii, 349 , Hom. 9.
de mort, ils ont paru pleins d’émulation pour Ignace leur prédécesseur et désiraient comme lui le martyre en employant ses paroles: Il est beau de se coucher hors du monde et de se lever dans le Christ, sans aucun attachement à leurs trônes « car ils n’étaient pas vissés à leurs trônes, ni liés aux délices de ce monde ».68 Grégoire de Nazianze est un autre exemple de la modestie des Grands qui n’ont aucun égard aux considérations humaines. Il reçut en charge la ville de Nazianze, la plus petite des villes de Cappadoce ; or non seulement il ne se jugeait même pas digne d’elle, mais il fuyait l’honneur de l’ épiscopat, non pas en le mesurant à l’importance de cette ville, mais conscient que ce pouvoir est unique et égal en honneur pour tous ceux qui exercent cette fonction sacrée; il laissa le fait de penser à la grandeur ou à la petitesse de la ville, aux personnes incultes et charnelles.69 Et lorsque Dieu l’ appela à rejoindre Constantinople et à devenir archevêque de la ville impériale afin de remédier aux hérésies pernicieuses qui sévissaient là-bas, il accepta le nouveau siège avec indifférence, sinon malgré lui. Mais il continua à mépriser l’ honneur du siège et regardait constamment vers sa petite bourgade Nazianze, en vue d’ imiter la pauvreté du Maître qui, alors qu’il est l’auteur du ciel, roi et Dieu de toutes les choses visibles et invisibles, a pris sur lui, à cause de nous, d’ être inscrit dans la maison de ses ancêtres de Bethléem et de Nazareth.70 Contemporain des Cappadociens, leur analogue alexandrin Athanase le Grand avait lui aussi souci de la pureté de la foi. Il s’ adonna à défendre l’ orthodoxie des dogmes contre l’arianisme, au risque de sa propre vie. Encore diacre, mais riche en toute sagesse et intelligence, il fut invité à participer à Nicée aux côtés de son évêque Alexandre. Sévère nous dit qu’ étant donné sa science, sa force et la rectitude de sa doctrine, il jouissait, malgré l’ infériorité de son degré ecclésiastique, « des premiers honneurs au point de vue de la première place des conseils71 (焏q̈)ܕܡܠ, avant ceux qui avaient les premiers honneurs au point de vue du siège».72 Devenu évêque, Athanase poursuivait sa lutte pour la foi et refusait obstinément qu’elle fût altérée, quitte à être banni de son siège sacré, sur lequel il estimait être assis en esprit, toutes les fois qu’ il en était chassé pour le motif de la religion.73
68 69 70 71 72 73
Brière, Graffin et Lash, Les Homiliae cathedrales xxxii à xxxix, 485 , Hom. 37. Brière et Graffin et al, Les Homiliae cathedrales i à xvii, 343 , Hom. 9. Brière et Graffin et al, Les Homiliae cathedrales i à xvii, 345–347 [101–103], Hom.9. Variante : rois. Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales xci–xcviii, 14 , Hom. 91. Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales xci–xcviii, 22 , Hom. 91.
se glorifier de sa ville et de son siège ?
Voilà la leçon que les saints Pères du 4e siècle ont transmise à leurs disciples : dédaigner les honneurs humains, titres et sièges, et rechercher la pureté de la foi à tous les égards. Sévère, très bon connaisseur et admirateur des Pères, a bien saisi la leçon et l’a appliquée à lui-même avant de l’ enseigner aux autres. Sévère, disciple appliqué des Pères Moins de deux mois après son intronisation sur l’ éminent siège d’ Antioche, Sévère prononce le 1 janvier 513, dans l’Église de saint Ignace, sa neuvième homélie cathédrale consacrée à la mémoire de Basile et de Grégoire. Le nouveau patriarche profite de cette fête pour se faire connaître devant les Antiochiens comme un vrai disciple des Pères pour le refus des honneurs et des pompes élogieuses. Après avoir relaté les exploits de ces grands saints, il demande à son peuple fier de sa ville: Sommes-nous dignes alors de délier la chaussure de ces gens-là, ou même plutôt de fouler la terre qu’ils foulaient, nous qui brûlons de désir pour les premières places et pour les premiers honneurs, qui nous gargarisons à gorge déployée de notre siège apostolique, qui relevons le front plus ou moins haut, qui gonflons les joues, qui crachons à profusion et marchons sur la pointe des pieds?74 Le patriarche continue à décrire la passion des évêques, y compris lui-même, pour les cérémonies et les convois pompeux, au point qu’ ils trouvent pénible de fouler le sol et se laissent porter en triomphe sur de grands ânes, au pelage de belle couleur, en avançant comme sur des chars, alors qu’ ils reçoivent les honneurs d’une foule de gens qui marchent devant, derrière et à leurs côtés.75 Il critique également les flatteries auxquelles on se complaît chaque jour et remarque que la décence et la crainte de Dieu sont devenues un objet de mépris. Ce sont, par contre, les félicitations et les compliments qui sont les plus valorisés, et encore, ceux-ci seront bientôt insatisfaisants voire dédaignés car on aspirerait, comme les rois de la terre, aux titres réservés à la divinité.76 Sévère déclare qu’il ne pense pas avoir reçu la primauté épiscopale par convenance ou par mérite et qu’il ne peut pas, selon l’ opinion reçue, être fier d’ un siège aussi exalté. Au contraire, il déplore au fond de lui-même qu’ il n’y a
74 75 76
Brière et Graffin et al, Les Homiliae cathedrales i à xvii, 347 , Hom. 9. Brière et Graffin et al, Les Homiliae cathedrales i à xvii, 347 , Hom. 9. Brière et Graffin et al, Les Homiliae cathedrales i à xvii, 347 , Hom. 9.
en lui nulle trace de perfection apostolique et, de plus, qu’ il est tourmenté de passions: « Je tremble non pas seulement de toucher ce siège sacré, mais aussi d’y souffrir quand je siégerai dessus.»77 Pour notre prédicateur, l’équation est simple : celui qui veut se glorifier des honneurs apostoliques et des juridictions, doit se conduire comme un apôtre et brûler de zèle dans les périls pour la cause de la religion. Suivant cette règle, Sévère voyait le grand abîme qui le séparait d’ Ignace qui fut semblable aux apôtres par sa lutte en faveur de la foi chrétienne : Comment en viendrons-nous au même état, moi et Ignace le Théophore, celui sur le siège duquel j’ose m’asseoir? […] Comment donc ne me faut-il pas me lamenter sur moi-même, d’avoir part à la même dignité ?78 Sévère achève cette merveilleuse homélie en incitant chacun et chacune à fuir la vaine gloire, à abandonner les éloges (ou du moins chercher à les mériter par une saine conduite de vie!), à connaître soi-même en tout temps, à mépriser les honneurs passagers d’ici-bas et à regarder, finalement, vers la glorification qui ne passe pas dans le monde à venir.79 Dans d’autres homélies, Sévère exprime la même conviction, à savoir que les saints attendent les éloges venant non pas des hommes mais de Dieu, à qui ils crient avec le psalmiste: C’est d’auprès de toi que vient mon éloge dans la grande Église (Ps 21, 26).80 Les clercs, malheureusement, sont les plus exposés à tomber dans la vaine gloire. Sévère, pour sa part, reconnaît au fond de lui-même qu’ il n’a jamais désiré l’ordination épiscopale ni son honneur prétendu.81 Au contraire, il s’efforçait toujours de la fuir. Et, avec cette même maturité, à chaque anniversaire de son intronisation, il faisait un retour sur lui-même révisant sa fidélité aux traités qu’il avait contractés avec Dieu par son ordination. Sévère dit qu’ il retire grand profit d’un tel jour, non pas qu’il célébrerait son élévation à une telle hauteur de gloire et d’autorité sacrée – il sait en effet que même s’il est assis en haut, il manque beaucoup de la marque du pontife et rampe en bas dans les œuvres terrestres bien qu’il soit appelé à s’ élever vers le ciel sur les 77 78 79 80
Brière et Graffin et al, Les Homiliae cathedrales i à xvii, 347 , Hom. 9. Brière et Graffin et al, Les Homiliae cathedrales i à xvii, 347–349 [103–105], Hom. 9. Brière et Graffin et al, Les Homiliae cathedrales i à xvii, 349 , Hom. 9. M. Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales de Sévère d’Antioche, traduction syriaque de Jacques d’ Édesse. Homélies cxiii–cxx, (Patrologia Orientalis 26/3), (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1948), 292 , Hom. 114. Brooks, Select Letters, i, 29, vol. ii, 91 (= vol. i, 101–102 [syr.]).
se glorifier de sa ville et de son siège ?
ailes des vertus – mais parce que ce jour lui offre l’ occasion de s’ examiner luimême et de déplorer ses manquements devant ses fidèles.82 De cette manière, notre patriarche se soumettait à l’ autocritique et s’ alignait humblement au rang des clercs qui s’occupent uniquement du titre et du trône, en disant: « Mais à nous, prêtres et évêques, le nom de prêtre et d’évêque suffit ainsi que le trône, et nous avons totalement oublié de vaquer à notre service».83 Il explique par ailleurs, que cette maladie de se vanter de l’ appellation et non des actions, est passée de la tête aux autres membres, à savoir de l’ évêque aux moines et aux laïcs: Telles sont l’attention et la sollicitude que nous portons sur les noms, et non sur les actions. Tous les hommes, pour ainsi dire, cherchent à passer pour être tels, et non à l’être. La cause de tout cela remonte à la tête (焏rq)ܪ, à l’évêque, à cause duquel les autres membres aussi ont été corrompus. Car si moi je me préoccupais des actions et non des noms seulement, les autres eux-mêmes s’en préoccuperaient. Or maintenant si quelqu’un m’appelle “évêque”, et non “archevêque” ou “patriarche”, s’ il retranche de moi ces deux syllabes, j’en souffre comme quelqu’ un dont on couperait les extrémités des membres principaux et nécessaires de son corps.84 Comme il est déjà évident, Sévère faisait toujours prévaloir la foi sur tout honneur provenant de la fonction ecclésiale ou du siège : D’une part, il considérait que ce qui décide de la vérité d’ une ordination n’ est d’aucune façon le siège, mais l’embrassement de la foi droite en Dieu.85 Quand la foi est en danger, il n’y a pas lieu de se taire sous prétexte de respecter la dignité du sacerdoce. Sévère tient ce principe du Christ qui, parlant en Paul, enseigne: Mais quand même nous, ou quand même un ange descendu des cieux vous annoncerait un autre Évangile que ce que nous vous avons annoncé, qu’il soit anathème! (Ga 1, 8) Voici que l’αξίωμα ou la dignité des anges n’a pas été jugée digne de respect par le maître, quand bien même celui qui change ou altère la foi descendrait des cieux.86 82 83
84 85 86
Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales lxxviii–lxxxiii, 331 , Hom. 80. I. Guidi, Les Homiliae cathedrales de Sévère d’Antioche, traduction syriaque de Jacques d’ Édesse. Homélies xcix–ciii, (Patrologia Orientalis 22/2), (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1930), 217 , Hom. 99. Guidi, Les Homiliae cathedrales xcix–ciii, 219–220 [19–20], Hom. 99. Brooks, A Collection of Letters, 338 , let. 57. Guidi, Les Homiliae cathedrales xcix–ciii, 640 , Hom. 103.
D’autre part, il faut que l’orthodoxie de la foi soit caractérisée et éprouvée, non pas par les lieux ou par les autorités, mais par une confession saine et apostolique.87 Et lorsqu’on mentionne à Sévère les querelles sur la première place, en l’occurrence celle qui s’embrasa naguère à Constantinople, il invite à éteindre la jalousie et à ignorer ces détails trop humains,88 pour fixer le regard sur notre métropole céleste, la Jérusalem d’en-haut, la seule ville qui mérite qu’on s’en glorifie.89 Maintes fois, Sévère affirme que les discours sur le siège ne sont que bavardage si la foi n’est pas saine. Il nous faut, en effet, regarder la foi saine seule et nous mettre en règle avec elle. Quand les Antiochiens, pour leur part, auraient de puissants sujets de se glorifier (le premier siège du chef des apôtres, le grand nom de chrétiens qui a commencé chez eux), « ce ne (sont) là que des bavardages orgueilleux et superbes, si nous n’occupons pas le roc, mais seulement le siège»,90 dit Sévère. En conséquence de ce principe, on devrait consentir sans peur à quitter son siège en cas de pression et de persécution, plutôt qu’à changer sa foi. Ce fut le sort de Sévère qui entrevoyait cette situation dès le premier jour de son intronisation,91 et celui des cinquante-deux évêques expulsés avec lui du diocèse d’Orient vers des terres d’ exil, notamment en Égypte.92 Ce fut aussi le lot d’Anthime de Constantinople qui fut rallié par Sévère à sa cause en 536. Le biographe de Sévère nous décrit cette conversion et ses suites par ces termes: « Le vénérable Anthime comprit ces paroles, se les grava bien dans l’esprit et s’en alla aussitôt, abandonnant tout: siège épiscopale, chaire, honneur et gloire».93
Conclusion En conclusion, il est utile de retenir un élément capital qui habite la pensée ecclésiologique et morale de Sévère le Grand, à savoir le souci de l’ orthodoxie. Quoiqu’il en soit des privilèges traditionnels d’ Antioche, de son siège et des sources de fierté de son peuple, c’est la fidélité ou la conservation vivante du dépôt apostolique ainsi que l’agir conforme à la foi droite qui font, selon Sévère, la fierté des Antiochiens. Les honneurs et les titres importent peu, encore moins 87 88 89 90 91 92 93
Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales cxxi–cxxv, 209 , Hom. 124. Brooks, Select Letters, ii, 2, vol. ii, 204–207 (= vol. i, 227–231 [syr.]). Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales xci–xcviii, 48–49 [492–493], Hom. 93. Brière, Les Homiliae cathedrales cxxi–cxxv, 229–231 [733–735], Hom. 124. Brooks, A Collection of Letters, 321 , let. 46. Brooks, Select Letters, v, 8, vol. ii, 319–320 (= vol. i, 361–362 [syr.]). Kugener, Vie de Sévère d’Antioche, Jean de Beth-Aphtonia, 256 .
se glorifier de sa ville et de son siège ?
lorsque la foi est en question. Un patriarche n’est pas vissé à un trône mais au roc de la foi; il n’est non plus assis sur un siège illustre pour sa propre gloire mais lié à sa ville et à ses fidèles par des liens sacrés de mariage qui demandent une fidélité absolue devant le Christ, promoteur et parrain de cette union.
A Letter from the Orthodox Monasteries of the Orient Sent to Alexandria, Addressed to Severos Sebastian P. Brock
The Letter published here is taken from Harvard Syriac 22, an acephalous and much damaged and disordered manuscript of the eighth or ninth century containing a number of letters and documents, mostly belonging to the sixth century, and including a number of Letters by Severos, as well as the present Letter which is addressed to him at some time probably soon after his flight to Alexandria in 518. An initial survey of the contents of Harvard Syr. 22 was given in my ‘Some new Letters of the Patriarch Severus’,1 and some of the documents contained in it have subsequently been published, while the publication of others is under way.2 The documents published so far are, in chronological sequence of appearance: Severos: Letter to John the Soldier;3 The conversations with the Syrian Orthodox4 [Harvard Syr. 22, ff. 67rv + 78r–79v];
1 Studia Patristica 12 = Texte und Untersuchungen 115, (Berlin, 1975), 17–24. Quite a number of folios contain the correspondence between Sergius and Severus; the list given on pp. 19–20 can now be supplemented: see I. Torrance, Christology after Chalcedon. Severus of Antioch and Sergius the Monophysite (Norwich, 1988; repr. Piscataway, 2011), p. 20. 2 Editions of the ‘Document of Agreement’ (ff. 70+1) and Severos’ Letter to Antiochus (ff. 68+ 61+74+?75–76+80) are in preparation. 3 S.P. Brock, ‘Severos’ Letter to John the Soldier,’ in G. Wiessner (ed.), Erkenntnisse und Meinungen ii (Göttinger Orientforschungen, i. Reihe, Syriaca, Band 17; Wiesbaden, 1978), 53–75. [Harvard Syr. 22, ff. 18v–20r, with a fuller text than that found in other manuscripts]. 4 S.P. Brock, ‘The Conversations with the Syrian Orthodox under Justinian (532),’ Orientalia Christiana Periodica 47 (1981), 87–121; reprinted in Studies in Syriac Christianity (Variorum Reprints, 1992), ch. xiii. See also ‘The Orthodox—Oriental Orthodox Conversations of 532,’ Apostolos Varnavas [Nicosia] 41 (1980), 219–227; reprinted in Syriac Perspectives on Late Antiquity (Variorum Reprints, 1984), ch. xi.
© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2016 | doi: 10.1163/9789004307995_004
a letter from the orthodox monasteries of the orient
A report on trouble in Alexandria;5 Letter of Severos to Nonnos.6 The Letter published here is a response to one of a series of letters sent by Severos to ‘the Orthodox monasteries of the Orient’7 on the topic of Julian of Halicarnassus’ teaching; it must date from some time between 528 and 538 (see annotation to 23).8 The Letter was originally written in Greek, and had been signed by Julian, abbot of the monastery of Beth Mar Bas(sos), along with a number of abbots of different monasteries, but in the Syriac translation as preserved in Harvard Syr. 22 only the name of Julian is specifically mentioned. This new Letter is of interest from a number of different points of view, but two in particular. Firstly, it sheds light on the practicalities of communication between Greek- and Syriac-speakers: Severos’ Letter, written in Greek, was evidently translated at once on arrival at the Monastery of Mar Bassos into Syriac (3), and perhaps also put into writing as well as translated orally; the reply was also written in Greek (presumably by an educated bilingual speaker in the Monastery) and then, before being sent off, it was translated into Syriac (38) in order for the non-Greek speaking monks, evidently including the abbot Julian, to give their approval to the contents before adding their signatures. Secondly, it gives some insight into the variety of differing views on the incorruptibility of Christ’s body held by followers of Julian. Particularly intriguing is the view of ‘some’ who held that Mary ‘was also immortal and not subject to the passions, and that she was raised up to the state (katastasis) of Eve before the Fall’ (16). The significance of this claim is indicated below in the annotation to 16.
5 S.P. Brock, ‘A report from a supporter of Severos on trouble in Alexandria,’ in D. Atanassova and T. Chronz (eds), Synaxis Katholike. Beiträge zu Gottesdienst und Geschichte … für H. Brakmann (Orientalia-Patristica-Oecumenica 6:1; 2014), 47–64. [Harvard Syr. 22, ff. 73rv+65rv+ 60r]. 6 V. Menze and K. Akalin, “Letter of Severos to Nonnos, scholastikos of Harran,” forthcoming. [Harvard Syr. 22, f. 60r]. An earlier edition of this Letter which I sent to a periodical in 1975 was evidently lost on the death of the editor. 7 See sections 6–7. 8 Bold numbers refers to sections in the text below.
Edition Harvard Syriac 22, ff. 1r2–3r19
焏qܢ煟 ܕܡ熏ܣqܬܕܘr ܐ焏rq煟̈ܐ ܩrܡ熏 ܥ爯ܕܪܬ ܡrrܬܐ ܕܐrܬܘܒ ܐܓ 焯q 煿ܡr ܘܡ焏rq煟ܬ ܩ熏ܘܢ܆ ܠ煿 ܕܡܢ焏qrqܐ ܕ煿 ܐܠqܡqr 煟q ܒ焏qܪ煟ܣܢqܠ焏ܠ .焏qܢܣrܩq ܐܠ焏ܢqܠ熏q 焏ܡr rqqr ܕ爿q ܗܪܣ爏q ܡ.ܘܪܐ焏 ܣ焏qrqrqܦ ܐrqrr 焏ܬܐ ܘܡܠܦܢ熏ܥr rq ܪ焏q ܘܪܥ:爯ܠq ܕ焏qrqrq ܦ焏ܢrܒ熏q ܘܪܐ焏 ܠܣ1 爯q ܗܠ2 :焏q煟qqqܐ ܕrqܩq 煿ܡ煟 ܒrܢq ܙܒ焏 ܕܐܪܥ煿̇qܦ熏̈ ܣ爯ܬܐ܆ ܕܡ煟ܕܥ ܬܐ熏q ܕܐ焏qrr ܘ:焏ܢr̈ܡrܬܐ ܘܡrq ܕqrqr ܘ焏rqr̈ܐ ܩ煿ܗܝ ܕܐܠ熏ܡqrܕܒ ܬܐrܩqܐ ܡrܒq̈rq ܆焏qܒ熏r ܬ犏q ܬܪ焏qܢ煟ܬܐ ܕܒܡrq ܕܕ焏qqrܕܒܡ .焏ܠܡr 焏ܐ ܘܒܠܒ ܼ rqq̈r ܦ焏q煟q̈焏 ܒ.爯ܐ ܩܒܠܢrqܢrܘܥ煟q ܢ熏qܬ熏ܕܡܠܦܢ ܐ煿ܠ焏 ܠ爟qr ܠܡ10爿qܐ ܡܦ犏q ܬܪ焏ܢ煟ܩ熏ܐ ܘܦ煿 ܕܐܠ煿ܣ熏 ܕܢܡ焏ܢqqܐ ܐrq ܬܪܒrq ܗܕܐ ܓqq ܕܐ3 .焏ܠqq ܘ焏rܐ ܘܢܦrq ܘܬܪܥ焏 ܠܒ煿ܠq 爯ܡ ܆焏qqܪ熏 ܣ焏 ܒܩܠ爯 ܠ犟r ܕܐܬܦ爯q ܐܢ爯ܢqrܐ ܕܩ煟q܆ ܕܡ爯ܘܕܥܢrrܢ ܐrr̈ܕܢܦ ܬܐ焏 ܠܡ焏ܡ煟܆ ܘܥ爯qrr ܘ爯qr ܕܬܠ焏ܢq ܡܢ爯ܒ ܡ煿ܼq ܐr ܥܠܠqܪܐ ܣܓ焏ܦ .ܐrqܐ ܕܬܪܒr ܥܠܠ爏ܼܩr 煟q .ܐrqܢqܒrrܡ ܐrq̈ܒr ܬrqܒrrܐ ܒrq ܕܗ̇ܝ ܕܐܡ焏ܡ ܐܠ煟 ܡ爯 ܗܘܐ ܠrqܣq 爯q ܕ焏 ܠ4 5 ܗܼܝ熏ܘܡr( ܒ1v1) ܟ熏 ܘܐܠܒ焏ܩܠ煟 ܠ犟܇ ̇ܐܣrܡ焏ܐ ܢrq煿ܐ ܐܠrܠq 爯ܡ ܐrqܠ熏ܬܐ ܕܒr ܘܐܓ焏ܡq̈ܘܢ ܣ煿ܠq 爯 ܡ焏 ܐܘ ܐܒ爯 ܒܠܒ爯ܐ ܣܡrܕܡ̈ܣܩ 焏ܒܢ熟܆ ܒ焏qܢ煟 ܕܒܡ焏qrq ܕ爯qrqܐ ܐ煿ܗܝ ܕܐܠ熏ܡqr ܕܒ爯qܠq ܐ:爯q煟qܗܘܘ ܨ 焏ܕܥ熏 ܡ.rq焏ܢqܥܠr ܘܡrq焏q ܓܠ焏r ܗ̇ܝ ܕܗ爯 ܡ爯q ܕrqܐrqrq .焏qܕܪܕܘܦ ܬܘܢrq ܕܐܬܢ爯qܠ煿܇ ܠ焏ܢqrܬ ܡ熏ܥqܐ ܕܩܒrܥqrq ܐrܥܣ煟q 爯qܠ煿ܠ ̈ .爯 ܗܘܝ ܡܢ爟q煟 ܩ爯ܢ ܡ熏 ̈ qܬ熏qܣq 煟q ܕܨ爯qܠqܬܐ܇ ܐrq犏ܬܢ ܒrܓ焏ܢ ܠ熏ܕܬܕܡ ܬܗ煟 ܠܥ焏q煿̈ ܐܠ焏ܠܦܢ熏qܕ ܕܒ熏qܬ̇ܗ ܕܗܕܐ ܒܠ熏ܢqq ܩ爏 ܥ熏 ܠ焏 ܐܠ6 ܘܬܐ焏q ܕܣܓ煿̇qܡ煟 ܗ̇ܝ ܕܩ爏q ܘܡ焏܆ ܐܠ焏ܠ̈ܣ熏ܒ ܩrq܇ ܠ爯ܢqܒ煿q 焏qqrܕܡ ܐrܬܐ ܕܕܘܒ熏qqܒr܇ ܘ焏q煿̈ ܐܠ焏ܢ熏̈ܬܐ ܕܐܓ熏ܢqܦq ܘܡ焏r̈q ܬ熏q熏rܕ ܐrqq ܗܘܬ焏ܡ煟 ܗ̇ܘ ܕܩqqܐ܇ ܐ焏q̈ܐ ܢܒr熏ܦqr 爯 ܘܗ̇ܝ ܕܡ7 ܐ܇rrqܡ 爯 ܕܠ爯q ܗܠ爯 ܡ焏 ܡܢ焏ܼ ܐܠ8 .煿̇ܡ熏ܣ ܘܒܩ熏qqqܗ ܕܐܢrܢq煟̇ܗ ܕܡrܠ熏ܒܡܦ .ܐr ܡܠ焏ܦqܐ ܡ煿 ܕܐܠ煿qܒ熏rܐ܇ ܗ̇ܝ ܕr ܠܡܠ煿̇qܡܠr ܘܢ牯ܣ熏 ܢ爯ܡqܦ ܢ ܐܘ熏q ܕܠ爏q ܡ焏ܦq ܡ爯ܠqܕܐ ܕ煿 ܠrq焏ܢ焏q ܢ熏qܠq ܕܗ̇ܘ ܕ焏 ܐܠ9 爯qܠqܬܐ ܕܐrqrr ܐrܥ煟q ܒ煿̇q ܐ܇rܡqq ܕ煿̇qܢ ܡܩܒܠ̈ܢ熏qܬ熏q ܕܐ爯qܠ煿ܠ ܢ熏ܦ犏q ܐrܐ ܡܠ煟q ܒ焏ܢ ܕܐܦܠ熏 ܗ̇ܢ:熏q熏q ܐܬ煿̇ܒܠ熏 ܕܠܩ煟q ܗ̇ܝ ܕ.爯q煿qrqܕܐ ܘܢ煿qܠq̈ܒrܬܐ ܘ熏 ܡ煟qܗܘܢ ܨrq ܒ熏ܬܐ܆ ܣܡ熏ܢ焏q ܕ焏ܠܦܢ熏qܢ ܒ熏ܥq熟ܕܢ 9 10
I am grateful to the Trustees of the Harvard College Library for permission to publish the text. For convenience of reference section numbers have been provided. Slightly correcting the manuscript’s 爿ܡܦ, which could only be understood in this context as ‘permits’.
a letter from the orthodox monasteries of the orient
焏ܠq̈ܒr 熏ܡ煟 ܠܡܩ爯qqqr ܡ焏ܠ ܗܕܐ ܠ熏q ܡ10 .焏 ܐܪܥ爯ܝ ܡ煟̈qܠq 爟ܠ܆ ܥ熏qrܒ ܗܘܘ11爯q ܪܕrq ܓ熏 ܐܠ11 .焏q̈q ܕ焏q̈ܢr 爯 ܡ爯qܡ煟ܩr ܡ焏( ܕܠ1v2) 爏q ܡ.焏q̈qܕ 爯qr ܐܡ焏܆ ܘܠ焏ܩq̈ ܕܙܕ爯q ܗܠ焏q̈ܦr 焏ܠq̈ܒr ܗܘܘ爯qqqr ܡ.焏̈ܒq 焏ܠq̈ܒrܒ 爏q ܘܡ12 .ܢrܘܗܝ ܡrq ܐ熏 ܡܢ爯q ܐ̈ܢ爯ܠqܬܢ ܕ熏̈܇ ܣܦ焏ܥq̈ܬ ܦ熏ܡ煟ܗܘܘ ܒ 爯qܩq ܕܡܥ爯q ܪܢ煟q ܗܘܘ܆爯qܢqܕ熟ܐ ܡrq煿̈ܠ焏 ܒqܡq̈qq ܬܐ煿̈ ܐܒ爏ܩܒ熏ܗܕܐ ܠ 爯qܠq ܐ煟q܇ ܕ爯q焏qܢrܢ ܕ熏 ܕܗ̇ܢ12ܪܬܐ熏qr ܐrqܬ ܬܪܥ熏ܡ煟 ܒ.ܢ熏qܬ熏ܢrܒ熏qܠ ܆爯q ܡܣܓܦ焏ܢrq焏 ܕܠ爯qrܗܘܢ ܣܒrܒܣ ܢ熏qܬ熏܆ ܕܨܠ爯ܢqܣqܢ ܡܦ熏ܬܗܘܢ ܕܗ̇ܢ熏ܢqܦܢrܐ ܕܡ煟 ܕܥܒ焏 ܐܠ13 焏r煿 ܠ焏ܡ煟ܢ ܕܥ熏 ܗ̇ܢ14 13.焏rq煟ܢ ܬܗܘܐ܇ ܐܘ ܩ熏qrܬ ܡ熏ܐ ܕܠrqqܦq 爏ܩܒ熏 ܠ爯q ܕrqܐrqrq ܇爯ܒܠ熏 ܠܩrq焏ܢq ܕܐܡ熏qܠr 焏܆ ܠ焏ܥrܬܐ ܕܪܘ熏qܢrܒ ̈ q煿 ܠܡ焏 ܘܠ爯qqܐ ܡ̈ܢ煿ܠ焏 ܠ焏 ܕܠ爯qܠqܢ܇ ܐ熏ܣrܦrܪܐ ܢrr .ܢr煟 ܡܥ焏ܡܢ ̈ ܘܢ煟 ܘܢܓ焏qܢq̈q ܬܐ ܕܬܪܝ熏rq ܒ爯 ܡrqrq ܐrqrܘܢ ܡ熟qr ܢ爏qq ܕܡ焏ܢqqܐ ܘܡ煟 ܣqq ܡܢrܐ܇ ܐܙܕܕܩr ܐܡrq焏ܢ煟qqܐ ܕܡrq焏qܐ ܢܒrܘܢ ܠܡܠ煿qܥܠ ܆爯qܩq ܣ焏qܢܣrܩq ܐܠ焏ܢqܠ熏q ܐrܗܝ ܕܥܢ熏ܠܦ̈ܢ熏q ܠ14爯q ܗܠ煟q 爯q ܕ爯q ܗܠ15 .qqrq 焏ܢq ܒܣ焏ܢqܠ̈ܒr ܡ焏 ܠ.焏qܕr ܒ爯qrq ܢ焏ܦ焏qܬܐ ܒrq ܕܒܡ焏q̈ ܡqqܐ ܘ܆煟qܬܐ ܐܬܬ熏qܢqܕܡܢ ̇煿 ܡܢ焏ܘܢ ܘܠ煿r ܕܢܦ焏ܣ熏 ܕܢܡ焏ܢq ܨܒ爯ܘܢ ܡ煿 ܡܢrq ܓ爯qr ܐ̈ܢ16 ܬ煟ܠq ܠ煿̇ܘ ܘܠ煟q 爯ܐ ܡrr熏rq 焏ܬܬܐ ܘܠ熏q ܡ焏܆ ܠ焏qܗ ܕܪܘrqܬ焏ܕܡ ܢ熏ܪܘܬܗܘܢ ܕܗ̇ܢ熏qr ܕqq ܐ爯qr ܐܡrq ܘܕܐܬܥܠ.爯qܦ犏q ܕܘܢ熏ܐ ܕܢ煿ܐܠ ܘܢ煿q煟q( ܨܐ2r1) 爯܇ ܗ̇ܝ ܕܡ焏ܢ煟ܩ熏 ܦrܡ ܥܒ煟ܐ ܕܩ熏q ܕ爿qܣqܣq ܩ煟q ܨ焏̇qܨܒ 煟q ܨ煟q 爏qq ܕܡ爏q ܡ17 .ܬܬܐ熏q ܡ焏ܐ ܘܠrr熏rq 焏 ܗܘܬ ܠ煿̇qrq ܐ焏ܢqqܒ ܬܐrqrr ܐrq熏ܐ ܠܣr ܕܥܩ焏q ܕܘܡqq܆ ܐ爯q ܐܬ焏q煟qqqܬܗ ܕ熏ܢrܒܣrܡ ܘܗܝrqܘܐ ܐ煿ܬܐ ܢ熏ܢrܢrܒr ܕܡ焏̇ܠq焏r ܘܐ熟q ܘܕ焏qܣq ܕܕܦܢ.ܢ熏ܩܢrܢ .ܕܐ熏ܥܒ ̈ ̈ ̈ ܬܐ煿 ܕܕܐܒ.ܬܘ煿ܬܐ ܒ焏qܬܐ ܣܓ熏ܣܢq ܡ爯 ܡ煟q 爯q ܕ焏ܢrq ܐ18 焏 ܐܠ.ܬܘܬܐ熏qܬܐ ܘܡ熏r熏rq̇ܝ ܕ煿 ܕܒ.焏ܒܠܢqrܐ ܕܡr ܗ̇ܝ ܡܠ熏 ܙܕܩ煿̇qrqܐ .ܗr ܒܣ煟qܐ ܨrܬܗ ܕܡܠ熏q煟q ܕ煿̇ܬܐ ܗܘܐ ܡܢ熏q ܡ焏 ܘܠ焏r熏rq 焏ܕܠ 爯qܣq ܡܦ爏qq煟 ܥ. ܗܘܬ焏qܣq ܦܢ焏 ܘܕܠrqܐrqrr 焏ܦܣܩܢr ܡ焏 ܠ焏ܒܢ熟ܕܒ .焏qq̈rܠܦ 熏 ܘܠ焏qrܗ ܕܡrܘܗܝ ܒܣrq ܕܐ爯qܕ熏ܬܐ ܡ熏q ܘܡ焏r熏rq 爯q ܕ焏ܢrq ܐ19 ܕܐ܆煿 ܒ焏ܒܠܢqrܡ ܆熏ܐ ܢܦܠrܢrܐ ܒrܥq煟q ܐ焏ܬܐ ܠ熏q ܪܘ爯 ܕܡqq ܕܐ爯q ܕ焏ܢrq ܐ20 ܘܢ煿ܠq ܠ爯qܪܡr ܡ焏ܦ焏̈ ܒ焯̇ܝ ܕܒܡܣ煿 ܒ.爯q ܡܦܣ爯qrܡ ܕܐܡ煟 ܒܡ焏ܐܦܠ 爯qܐܠrr ܡ.焏ܒܠܢqrܕܐ ܡ煿ܬܐ ܘܒ熏q ܘܡ焏r熏rq̇ܝ ܕ煿 ܘܠ.ܐ犏qr ܬ焏ܠܦܢ熏̈q 11 12 13 14
Correcting the erroneous 爯q ܕܪof the manuscript. Correcting ܪܘܬܐ熏qr of the manuscript (alternatively, read ܪܘܬܐ熏qr)ܕ. The manuscript has 焏rq̈煟 ;ܩthe two points (normally indicating a plural), however, will originally have denoted a vocative. The manuscript has the order 煟q 爯qܗܠ, which can hardly be correct.
ܕ 爯qܠܡ焏ܡ rܗ̇ܝ ܕqqܢ rq焏ܘܒ熏q熏rܬ 熏r熏rqܬܐ rqܡ焏qr܇ ܗܘ ܕܨܒqܢrq焏 ̇ ܡqܠ̇rܗ ܕܗܕܐ ܣrܩ ܢܦ :煿rܠ煿ܘ ܕ熏rܒ 焏qܣܓ焏qܐ ܡqܩ rܒ.爏q ̈ ̈ 21ܡ 爏qܕܐ qqܕܡ 爯ܢ煿ܪܐ ܕܣqܢ 焏ܣܓ qܬܦ焏܆ ܠ焏qܦ煿qܘܢ ܕܗܠ爯q 熏qܝ ܕܐܬܦܠ煿ܕܘ ܠ 焏qܘܠ焏q܇ ܨ 煟qܠ 焏ܩq熏ܡ 焏ܕܬܪܥrqܗܘܢ ܪqrܥrܐ܇ ܗ̇ܝ ܕܡ熏qr 爯ܪܘܬܐ ܕܐ qqܗܕܐ ܩܢ熏r rܪܪܐ܇ ܕ熏qܠqܢ 焏ܐܡqrܢ 爯ܗ̇ܘ ܐܠqܩrܢܣ 22 .焏qܕܒ 煟qܗܠ 爯qܬrq熏̈qܐ ܕܐrqܝ ܗ̇ܝ ) (2r2ܕܣܢ焏q܆ ܘܗ̇ܝ ܕܣrqܗ ܕܐܕܡ܆ ܘܗ̇ܝ ܕ̈qܡ 焏rܓ犏qrܢ ܕܡrܩ :爯q犏ܘܗ̇ܝ ܕܗܠq̈ 爯qܠ 焏qܕܢܦܠ 熏ܒ焏ܬܘܢ焏܆ ܘqܠ 爯q煿ܕܐ qqܗܠ 爯qܐqܠ 爯qܕܠܠ 焏ܡrܓrܢ熏ܬܐ ܕ焏qܒ 焏ܡ熏rܕܥ爯܆ ܠ焏 熏r熏rqܬܐ ܘܠ 焏ܡ熏qܬܘܬܐ ܕܦܓrܐ ܡ焏ܪܢ焏q܆ ܡܢ̇ 煿ܕ熏q煟qܬܐ ܠ焏 ܡrܦrܩܢܼrqܐ ܐ qqܕܒ熏rܥrqܐ ܒܼ煟ܐ .ܐܠ 焏ܘܒܡ焏ܡrܘܢ 煿ܗ̇ܘ ܕܣܓq ܬܐ̈ܢrqܐ ܓܠ rq焏qܠ煿ܪܣ 爿qܕqܠ 煿ܕܠ熏r 焏ܪܐ .qqrܘܕܐ qqܠ 焏q̈熏ܡ煟ܡ ̈qrqܒ qܠ焏ܠ煿ܐ ܐ qqܢܡ熏ܣ 焏ܣ 爟ܠ爯܇ ܕ 焏rqܠ 焏r熏rq 焏ܗܘ 焏rq ܡ焏ܪܢ.焏q ̇ ̈ 23ܐܠ 焏ܠ 焏ܡrܘܡ ܡrܪܡqܢ 爯ܠܣqrܩ熏ܬ ܡܠ煿qܘܢ ܕܗܢܼ熏ܢ ܒ煟ܩqrܢ爯 ܒqqܒ熏ܬܗ ܕܐܠ煿ܐ ܠ̈rqܒ 焏ܗܠ 爯qܕܐܬܦrܩ 熏ܠ 爯ܣ熏ܪ .rq焏qܕܡܢ煿ܘܢ ܠq熏rܠܦ 焏ܕܐ qqܗܢ 焏ܐ煟qܥܢ 爯ܕܬܪܥrqܗ ܒrrqܐ ܕ熏qܠqܢ .焏ܘܕܐ̈ܒ煿ܬܐ ܗܠ 爯qܕܒrܘ 焏qܕܐܠ煿ܐ ܡܠܠ熏q 熏ܠܦܢ 焏ܡܥܠ 焏qܘܕܠ 焏ܙܐܦ 焏ܘrܡqܢ .焏ܐqq ܕܒrrܪܐ 24 .ܒrܪ ܗ̇ܢ熏ܢ ܕܐܦ ܐܙܠqܢ .爯ܘܠ 熏ܒ rq犏ܕ 爯qܘܐܦ ܕܒrܪ ܡܠܦܢ熏ܬ熏qܢ ̇ ܡܥܠrqܐ ܕܢ焏ܙܠ ܡ犏ܠqܢ .爯ܠ 熏ܒܡܠrܐ ܐܠ 焏ܘܒܥܒ煟ܐ ܘܒrrܪܐ. 25ܒ煟ܓ熏ܢ ܘ 煟qܪܕqܢ 爯ܥ 爟ܗܠ 爯qܐ̈ܒ煿ܬܐ ܐrqܢ :焏ܒrܪ ܒܣqܠ熏qܣ ܗ̇ܘ ܪܒ 焏ܘq熏qܢ熏q 爯ܒrܢ 焏ܐܦܣܩܦ 焏ܕܐܘrrܠܡ 焏qܗ̇ܘ ܕܐܡ :rܘܐqqܢ焏 ܕܡ熏ܕqܢ 爯ܕ 焏r̈qܕܒܣrܗ ܒrrܪܐ ܗܘܘ ܠ 煿ܘܠ 熏ܒܦܢqܣ .焏qܗqܢ 焏ܘܗܠ爯q ܕܢܦ 焏rܒrrܪܐ ܡq煿ܡܢqܢ 爯ܕܗܘܼܘ ܘܠ 熏ܒܦܢqܣ焏q܆ 26ܠ煿ܠ 爯qܕ (2v1) 爯qܕܐ̇ܡ爯qr ܕ 煟qܡrܢܓ 煟ܗܘܐ ܠ焏̇q 焏ܒ ܗܘܐ ܠ :煿ܐܘ ܕ 煟qܡq犏ܠ 焯ܠ焏q 焏ܫ ܗܘܐ煟q : ̈ܨܨܐ ܡrܩܒܥ 爯qܗܘܘ ܒ .煿ܐ qqܕܠqqr煿ܩ 熏ܡrqܡqܢ.爯 27ܒrܠܡ熏ܬܐ ܐܡqrܢ .爯ܕܐqܢ 焏ܕܠ 焏ܡ熏ܕܐ ܘܐ qqܒܣqܠ熏qܣ ܗܘ̇ ܕܒ rqܩ :焏rq̈煟ܕrqܒ ܨ̇ 煟qܗܢ熏ܢ ܕܒܣ熏ܙܘܦ熏ܠ .爿qܘܡ 爏qܗܕܐ ܡ熟qrܐ ܗܼܘ ܡ 焏ܼqrܕܠ̇ 焏r̈qܡ̈qq 爯ܢ 焏qܩܒ 爏ܠ熏rܪܪܐ ܕܡrܒrܢrܢ熏ܬܗ rqrrܬܼܐ ܘܠ熏 ܒܦܢqܣ 28 .焏qܐܘ ܐqܢ 焏ܬܘܒ ܕܐ qqܩq熏q 焏rq煟ܢ 爯ܕܐܘܪrܠ :爟ܠ 焏ܡ熏ܕܐ rqrrܐ rqܠrqrrܘܬܗܘܢ ܕ 焏r̈qܨܒ̈qܢ .焏qܡrqܡ 焏ܢ煿ܘܐ .ܘܢrܬܣ 爟qܥ爟 ܩ̈qܠ qܠ焏ܠ煿ܐ. q 29ܢ 爯ܓ rqܐܘ ܐܒ熏ܢ ܩ焏rq煟܆ ܠ 熏ܒܡܢrܐ ܐqܠܦܢ 爯ܕܢrq̇rܫ ܠ熏ܩܒ爏 ܗܪܣ爿q܇ ܒܡܢrܐ ܕ 爯qܢ焏ܨܦ ܕqܠ .煿ܐܠ rq焏q熏r 焏ܒqq 煟qܒ熏ܬܗ ܕ熏rqܥ. ̈ ܐqqܢ 焏ܕܡrqܡqܢ 爯ܠܣ熏ܢ煿ܕܘܣ ܪqrܥrܐ ܕqܠܩ煟ܘܢ 焏ܕܒqq 爯qrrܢ 爯qܬqܡ:r ̈ ܘܒܡܥܒ煟ܢ熏ܬܗܘܢ ܕܗܠ 爯qܘܒq̈煟ܠrqܗܘܢ :ܘܡܦܠܓ 焏ܠ焏ܪܙܐ ܪܒ 焏ܕ焏qܢ熏ܬܐ. ܘܠ熏qܡܣ 煿ܕܠ焏ܘܢ ܘܠ 煿ܠܠ焏ܘܢ܆ 30ܗqܢ 焏ܘܠ 焏qqrܣ 焏qrܪܘܡܢ焏 ܐܦܣܩܦ 焏ܕܪܣ熏ܣ ܘܠ煿ܪܣ 爿qܡܢqܢrqܐ ܕܠܩ熏ܒܠ焏܇ ܗ̇ܝ ܕܣܢ焏ܓ̇rܗ ܐܬ熟qܝ 熏qܠqܢ 焏ܗ̇ܘ ܐܠqܩrܢܣ焏q܇ ܕܒܡܠrܐ ܕ焏qܢ熏ܬܐ ܠ 煟q 煿ܠ 煿ܠrqܡ 焏ܐqq ܗܪqqܩ 焏ܐܬ̇ .焯qqܡ 爏qܕܒܡܠrܐ ܦ rq焏ܠrܡܥ̇ 煿ܕܠ 焏ܡqrܒܠܢ焏܆ ܠܠ̈ܒ熏ܬܐ ܕܦ 焏qq̈rܒ熏qܠܦܢ 焏ܡܢqܢ 焏qܐqܥ.q
a letter from the orthodox monasteries of the orient
31ܘܡ 爏qܕܒܒܣrܗ ܕܠ熏qܕܐ rqܕܐ :焏q煟qqqܗ̇ܘ ܕܡܢܦ煟q (2v2) rܘܥrܢrq焏܆ ܐ煟qqܐ 焏rqܘܠ熏r熏rq 焏ܬܐ ܬ̇ .爟qܘܠ 熏ܠ 煿ܠܡ̇rܗ ܕܬrܒrq熏ܐ ܐܣ爏qr܇ 焏r熏rqܒܒܣ rܠ 焏r熏rq 焏ܒ焏ܠ煿ܘܬܐ܇ ܡܣqqrܢ 焏ܒܦܓ rܠ 焏ܡܣqqrܢ焏 ܒrܘܚ .ܐqqܢ 焏ܕܐܡ rܓqrܓ熏qrܣ ܗ̇ܘ ܕܒ rqܩ 32 .焏rq̈煟ܕܥܡ 煿ܕ熏qܠqܢ焏 ܐ煿qrqܘܢ ܡq̈qܒ .焏ܘ̇ܗܢ熏ܢ ܕܒ煟q焏ܥrܐ q犏qܦ 爯qܕܪܘrܥ 煿ܕ熏qܠqܢ焏܇ ܘܡ爏q 焏rqܐܢ 焏qrܐ 熏qqrܠܡ煿ܦ 熏qܠܥ煟ܬܐ ܕܐܠ煿ܐ ܕܐrܬܕܘqܣ熏܇ ܘܠrܕܘܦ焏q ܕܡ焏q 爏qܢ熏ܬܐ ܕܥ熏ܡrܐ ܩ 焏rq̈煟ܡܠ焏ܘ̇ܗ r̈qܠ焏܇ ܘܦܣܩ 爯qܠܦܓrܗ ̇ ܕܡ 焏qqrܗܘ ܕܐܼܘܐ ܐ qqܕrܦ rܠ焏ܠ煿ܐ .ܠܡq熏ܩ 焏ܘqܣ煟ܐ ܕ̇ܗܢ熏ܢ ܕ煟qܪ.爯q 33ܘܐܡ 爯qrܡ 爯ܡܠܦܢ熏ܬܗ rqqrܐ ܕ熏qܠqܢ焏܇ ܕܦܓrܗ ܩ rq煟ܒ熏qܠ ܕܡrܢ ܘܐܠ煿ܢ ܘܦrܘܩ熏rq 爯ܥ ܡ焏qqr܇ ܠ 焏ܡ熏qܬܐ ܘܠ 焏r熏rq 焏ܐrqܘܗܝ ܩ煟ܡ ܙܩqܦ .焏ܘܒ煿ܓܓ熏ܬܐ ܘܦܢqܣ 焏qܡܢqܢrqܐ ܡܩqܡ 爯qܠ煿ܘܢ ܠrqrr 焏r̈qܐ ܘܦrܘܩ焏q܇ ܘܠܡ熏ܬܗ rqrrܐ ܕܡ 焏qrܖܠqܠ 爯ܦrܩ. 34ܒ̇ 煿ܒ煟ܡ熏ܬܐ ܢ煿ܘܘܢ ܐ煿qrqܘܢ ܡrqܡ 焏ܘܐqܠ 爯qܕܡܡ爯qqr ܠܡ焏ܡ rܐܘ ܠܡrܪܥ熏q܇ ܕܦܓrܗ ܕܡrܢ 熏rqܥ ܡ焏qqr܇ ܠqܒܠ 焏ܘܠ焏qrr ܕܒܩܒrܐ ܣܼܒ爏܇ ܐܘ ܕܒܩrqqܐ ܘܠ 焏ܨܒqܢ rq焏ܡ熏ܕ 爯qܕܼrq܇ ܘܠ 熏ܨܒqܢrq焏 ܘrqrrܐ rqܠq̈q 爯qr̈qܢ 焏qܘܠ 焏ܥq̈煟ܠ 焏ܩܒ 35 .爏ܒqܠ煟ܘܟ ܓ rqܩq煟ܡ 焏ܗܝ ܗ̇ܝ ܨܒqܢrqܐ ܠ̇煿ܝ qqܢrqܐ܆ ܐqqܢ 焏ܕ熏qܒrܢ熏ܬ熏qܢ ܒܣ̈qܡ 煿̇qܠqܠ 煿ܬrqq rܡ 焏qܐܼܠܦ rܐܘ ܐܒ熏ܢ܇ 36ܘܗ̇ܝ ܕܙܕܩ ܕܥ 爟ܐ̈ܒ煿ܬܐ ܗܠ 爯qܡ̈qqܡ qܡ爯 ܐܠ煿ܐ qq 煟qܢ 焏ܢ熏ܕܐ ) (3r1ܗ̇ܘ ܕܐܠ煿ܐ ܡܠrܐ ܕܡܒܣr܇ ܒܣrܐ ܒqq rܢ爯 ܘ焏qܫ ܐ熏qܬܢ܇ ܕܡܢܦ rܒܢܦ 焏rܡܠqܠrܐ ܘ煟qܘܥrܢrqܐ .ܕܒ煿ܠ 爯qܕ 爯qܢrܕܐ ܐ. 焏qrrܕܙܒܢ 焏ܕ 焏q̈qܕ̈熏qܡܼ r ̈ ̇ ̇ 37ܬܦ 爿qܢܦ熏qrܢ ܡܥܠrqܐ ܠܡrܗ܆ ܕܠ 焏ܢ 焯qqrܒ煟qܐ ܡ 爯ܡܠ焏 ܒ熏qܡ 焏ܕܕqܢ焏܇ 煟qܡrܬq煟qܢ 爯ܒ熏qܬܡ 焏ܗܪqqܩ 焏qܐqܢ 焏ܕܗܘ .ܐܠ焏 ܕrqrqܐ rqܢrܬ 煟qܒq煿ܡܢ熏ܬܐ ܕܠ 焏ܡ熏ܡ܇ ܘܒܣ熏ܥrܢ 焏ܡ̈rrܒ.焏q ܕܢrrܘܐ ܠ熏̈qܒ 焏ܕܡܠ̈ 15爯qqqܒ 煟qܡܥq熟ܢ熏ܬܐ ܕܪܕܘܦ 焏qܥܡ熏qܢ܇ ܐܢ ܡrrܘqܢ 爯ܐܘ ܐܒ熏ܢ .ܐܡrܝ ܕܡܠ 焏q焏ܕqܠ qܒܦrܗܣ 焏qܣܓ焏qܬܐ ܐ̇ܡr ̈ ܗܐ ܐܢ 焏ܘܒܢ 焏qܕ煿ܼqܒ ܠ qܐܠ煿ܐ. 38ܠ熏rܪܪܐ ܕ 爯qܕܗܠ 爯qܕܡܢ 爯ܐܬrqܒ :ܠ熏qrrܢ ܡqܩrܐ ܐܘ ܐܒ熏ܢ ܩ.焏rq煟 ܐܬ rq熟qܠ 爯ܕܐܦ ܒ焏ܪܡ qܐ 爯q煟̈qܢrrܪ 煿̇qܠ焏ܓrܬܐ ܗܕܐ ܕܐܬܦrܩ rܠ爯 ܣ熏ܪ rq焏qܒrqrqܘܬܐ. 39ܐܪܡ qܐ煟qܐ .ܐܢ熏q 焏ܠqܢ 焏ܕܒrܡ熏ܗܝ ܕܐܠ煿ܐ ܪrq煟rqܐ ܕܒ rqܡrܝ ܒ.爿 ̇rܠ 爟ܐܢ 焏ܠqܠ 爯q煿ܗܠ 爯qܕq̈rqܒ 爯ܡ 爯ܠܥ .爏ܘܡ犏ܠ 焏ܐܢ 焏ܕܢ 爯qrܠ 爯ܐܠ煿ܐ 焏q̈qܕqܣ熏qܬܟ ܐܒ熏ܢ ܩ.焏rq煟 40ܗqܢ 焏ܐܦ 焏qrrܕqܣ̈ qrr 焏qܕrqܬܐ rqܒ 熏ܐqܠ 爯qܕܡ熏qܠ ܣܓ焏qܘܬܗܘܢ ܠ 焏ܐܬrqܒ 熏ܗܪr .焏qܠܡ.r
.ܕܡܠThe manuscript erroneously has 爯qq
Translation16 Next, the letter that was sent from the holy orthodox monasteries of the Orient to Alexandria, through God-loving monks from among them, to the holy and highly renowned Patriarch Severos, concerning the heresy of the shamefullynamed Julian of Halicarnassos. 1 To Severos, our blessed Patriarch and shepherd, chief shepherd and true teacher of the Church from the extremities of the earth, (the Church) that has been purchased by the honoured Blood of the Only-Begotten (cf. 1 Cor. 6:20, Rev. 5:9): 2 we, who by God’s mercy are priests, heads of monasteries, and deacons, and the rest of the orthodox brotherhood in Christ belonging to the monasteries that are in the Orient, have received with outstretched hands and with a perfect heart, the precious writings of your knowledgeable teaching, just as the law of God and the upright command urges to love God with all the heart, mind, soul, and strength (cf. Mt. 12:36, Mk 12:33, Lk. 10:27), 3 for we recognized (in it) such great progress for our souls that the moment we read its contents, once they had been translated into Syriac speech, they produced a ripe yield of fruit, more than thirty- and sixty-fold, even reaching the praiseworthy hundredfold once they had received the harvest of (spiritual) growth (Mt. 13:8, 23; Mk 4:8). 4 Nothing was lacking for us apart from our saying what is spoken of in the Song of Songs by the divine Bride ‘I will go up to the palm tree and take hold of its topmost (fronds)’ (Cant. 7:9), 5 for we have placed ladders in our hearts, O Father, as a result of all the compositions and letters which fittingly reached us, who through God’s mercy are monks in the Orient at the time of the persecution—especially as a result of that (letter) which now openly and in an exalted way acknowledges the eleven veils of the fixture of the tent (Exod. 26:7, 36:14–15), with which you condescended to liken our insignificant letters which had previously came from us to your Eminence. 6 But it is not about the finesse of this (letter) alone with (its) divine instruction that we give to the Church of Christ a panegyric, but also because of the previous one (containing) much fellow-feeling in sufferings, encouragement in godly struggles, with a resplendent display of noble conduct, 7 and that (further letter) which from the trumpeted words of the prophets was, as it were, looking ahead at the fall of the city of Antiochus and its (present) situation: 8—but 16
The translation is deliberately kept rather literal, so as to show up something of the underlying Greek syntax that the Syriac translation reflects; indeed, in several places the syntax and precise meaning remain unclear (this especially applies in sections 8, 10, 20 (final clause), and 21).
a letter from the orthodox monasteries of the orient
why should we add to and fill out the discourse from these things (just now) compared to us—a discourse which the glory of God hides; 9 but in the case of yours, rightly does it hide our (letter), because to you, or to those who are like you (being) recipients of wisdom, He gives true knowledge of things that exist—(a knowledge) against which there have appeared those who not even with a single word have taken trouble to set in motion upright instruction,17 (thus) placing their habitation beside death and their paths in Sheol (Prov. 7:27), along with the earth-born: 10 for this reason they are unable to proceed on the paths of life (Prov. 5:6, 15:24), because they are not anticipated by the years of life(?). 11 For if they had been travelling on good paths, they would have found the ‘smooth paths which belong to the righteous’ (cf. Prov. 4:18, 8:20, 12:28, etc.), and they would not have been saying like fools ‘our lips belong to us: who is our Lord?’ (Ps 11/12:5). 12 For this reason they were arming themselves against the Fathers who are wise in matters divine, thinking that they were causing grief to your blessed self, resembling the stupid mentality of those gone crazy: while devouring their own flesh, they imagine that they are harming others. 13 But we urge that your prayer to our Lord, O holy one, will be assiduous, for it (will) effect their return. 14 (We refer to) those who up till now have not ceased in (their) mad wickedness from their continual opposition to us; but especially let them be laid bare in their opposition to truth, people who carry out things that are displeasing to God and do not assist the faithful, with the result that henceforth they may be seen to be even more embittered than the evil of the dyophysites, and may they attract to themselves the prophetic words which say in a way that puts to shame, ‘Your sister Sodom has proved more just than you’ (cf. Ezek. 16:48–52). 15 These same people, sucking up the teachings of the perverse Julian of Halicarnassos, like water that comes rushing down violently, unrestrained they have been caught in the mire of Manichaeism. 16 Now some of them, following the whim of their own law, and not as a result of the coming of the Spirit, are concerned to confess that already the Bearer of God was immortal and not subject to the passions, and that she was raised up—according to what their folly wishes—to the state (katastasis) of Eve before the transgression,—(the state) which, from their point of view, was in (her human) nature, not subject to the passions, and which was immortal. 17 (This is) because, when they come to the incarnation of the Only-Begotten, they might establish as it were a likeness of the root to the true branch— (a likeness) that effects that the incarnation is a phantasy and a borrowed appearance.
Or perhaps, ‘make any stir at (your) upright instruction’.
18 Others, being ashamed as a result of many rebukes, rightly say that the Word (was) subject to corruption with respect to passibility and mortality (is the teaching) of the Fathers, but that He became not subject to the passions and not subject to death after the union of the Word with His flesh, which occurred in an unsplittable moment of time truly and not in phantasy. (In this) they still persuade the simple. 19 Others confess that the flesh of the Lord is subject to passions and mortal, but not thereby subject to corruption. 20 Others, as if as a result of some unknown drunken state, have fallen into a sleep, unaware of what they are saying, in that they hypocritically consent to all the upright teachings, both (on the matter of) ‘subject to passions’ and ‘subject to death’, and thereby, ‘subject to corruption’, but they refuse to say that the Lord suffered naturally and sharing in the passible state—He who had voluntarily for this very purpose emptied Himself (Phil. 2:7), the one whose great glory is held in honour by all. 21 This is because, as if from a river of mud that has many channels, (Julian) has manifested the impetus of these people who have been dispersed hither and thither for the instability of their wicked opinion, which as a result of such folly as this has acquired a confirmation—we mean (the teaching) of Julian of Halicarnassus 22 who, through these demonstrations which he adduced, of the (burning) bush (Exod. 3:2) and of the side of Adam (Gen. 2:21–22), and of the five loaves that were broken (Mt. 14:17, Jn 6:9), and of the Children cast into the furnace (Dan. 3:49–50), and all such things which indicate the lack of awareness of an illness, (namely the assertion of) the impassibility and immortality of the Dominical Body after the inexplicable union, was babbling away as if in a story; but he also clearly laid out his baseless heresy in that highly lamentable little discourse of his, setting out for us as a law, as it were certain tablets written by God, that the Lord’s suffering was a passionless suffering. 23 But we are never swayed by the vain words of those people, in that we read, through the grace of God, those books which have been translated for us into Syriac, from which we have come to know such a great variation in the wicked opinion of Julian from that of the Fathers who spoke by the Spirit of God exalted teaching, that is genuine and truly heavenly. 24 We follow after them, and no less do we pray to follow after your exalted teaching, not (just) in word, but in action and in truth. 25 Therefore, as we journey with these other Fathers, following the great Basil, and the blessed John bishop of the people of Jerusalem who said, ‘and as we confess that the sufferings of His flesh were in reality, and not in phantasy, 26 thus we also believe that (the sufferings) of the soul (of Christ) were in truth and not in phantasy. To those who say that when He was scourged he had no
a letter from the orthodox monasteries of the orient
pain, or when He was crucified He was not suffering when the nails were fixed in Him, we anathematize as heretics’. 27 In agreement (with you) we say that anyone who does not confess like Basil, who is among the saints, who wrote to those in Sozopolis also concerning this, ‘that the Lord is seen to have received the sufferings belonging to (human) nature in confirmation of His true inhomination, and not in phantasy’. 28 Or in the case of the person who does not truly confess, with the holy John of Jerusalem, the reality of the voluntary sufferings, let him be anathema and set alongside the killers of God. 29 As for us, O holy Father, it is not just in part that we have learnt to struggle against heresy, while in part we are concerned for him, but equally, by the grace of Jesus, just as we anathematize the wicked Synod of Chalcedon which defined ‘in two natures’, and in the activities of these and in their properties, dividing the great mystery of uprightness; and the Tome of Leo, and Leo himself. 30 Thus also that foul smell, Romanos bishop of Rhossos, and the opposing (?)18 Manichaean heresy, whose advocate Julian of Halicarnassus appeared, who by upright word was guilty, as a heretic, of the same anathema, who through the attractive sounding term ‘incorruptible’ led astray simple hearts into Manichaean doctrine. 31 And because solely in the flesh of the Only-Begotten, (flesh) which is ensouled intellectually, he defined suffering and impassibility, and did not understand the Lord of glory ‘to be subject to passion in the flesh, and not subject to passion in divinity, limited in body, but limitless in spirit’, as Gregory who is among the saints said. 32 Those with Julian are condemned, and those who knowingly take care for Julian’s wickedness, and who in the matter of human suffering have dared to overthrow the Church of God of the orthodox, and have (brought about?) the persecution for the sake of uprightness of the holy monasteries, filling (the Church) with stumbling blocks, cutting up the Body of Christ which consented, in a way pleasing to God, to the mockery and insult of those round about (Him). 33 And they say, following the despicable teaching of Julian, that the all-holy Body of our Lord and our God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ, is not subject to death or suffering prior to the cross, and they affirm to be in semblance and in Manichaean phantasy the true and saving sufferings, and the true death of the Lord who has saved us all. 34 In like fashion let them be anathema, along with those who dare to say or think that the body of our Saviour Jesus Christ endured corruption and
The sense of dalqubla here is unclear; in Severos’ anti-Julianist polemic haw dalqubla ‘the opponent’ is frequently used of Julian; possibly the word has got displaced.
dissolution in the tomb, or who confess that He suffered under compulsion and not voluntarily; and that it was not voluntarily and truly that he accepted our natural sufferings that are not subject to blame. 35 For everywhere ‘voluntary’ precedes ‘natural’, just as your Beatitude has taught the entire universe in his writings, O Father. 36 And as is proper, along with these Fathers made wise by God, let us confess one nature of God the Word made flesh, a flesh that belongs to our (human) nature and suffers like us, ensouled with a rational and intellectual soul; so that in these (teachings) we may journey for the rest of our daily lives. 37 May your exalted soul beg its Lord that we not be condemned in a single word on the day of judgement, being caught with some heretical stain of one sort or another; but rather let us be caught up in blameless faith and with praiseworthy actions, so that we may be held worthy of the promised bliss, by means of holding out in persecution together with you, if we prove worthy, O our Father, when your angel says with great confidence (parrhēsia), See, here am I and the children that God has given to me. 38 For the confirmation of the things that have been written from us to your honourable self (lit, head), O our holy Father, it has seemed (good) to us to confirm with our signatures this letter that has been translated for us exactly into Syriac. 39 Signature: I, Julian, by God’s mercy the abbot of Beth Mar Bas(sos), I agree with all that has been written above, and I pray that God may grant to us the (long) life of your Eminence, our holy Father. 40 Likewise all the rest of the reverend abbots have signed, but because of their large number they have not been written down here. The end.
Annotation19 4. its topmost (fronds): lit. ‘its heights’ = lxx, against Peshitta’s ‘its branches’. 5. ladders: i.e. to reach the topmost branches. This delightful image is not suggested by anything in the ensuing biblical text.
Severos’ anti-Julianist works are cited from R. Hespel, Sévère d’Antioch, La polémique antijulianiste, i, Lettres, Critique du Tome de Julien, Réfutation des Propositions hérétiques (csco 244–245. Scr. Syri 104–105; 1964); iia, Le contra Additiones Juliani (csco 295–296, Scr. Syri 124–125; 1968); iib, L’Adversus Apologiam Juliani (csco 301–302, Scr. Syri 126–127; 1969), and iii, Apologie du Philalèthe (csco 318–319, Scr. Syri 136–137; 1971).
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eleven veils (or ‘curtains’): it is not clear exactly what meaning Severos’ reference to these intended; in a catena fragment preserved in Greek he had stated that the veils refer to ‘the roughness of the philosophical (i.e. monastic) life’ and the effects of ‘the labours of virtue’, etc.; see F. Petit (with L. van Rompay), La Chaîne sur l’Exode. i. Fragments de Sévère d’Antioche (Traditio Exegetica Graeca 9; Louvain, 1999), 76–77 (no. 806). fixture of the tent: reflecting skēnopēgia (in the lxx, however, this term is restricted to the Feast of Tabernacles). 7. city of Antiochus: i.e. Antioch (in fact founded by Seleucus i); the city owed its name to Antiochus iv Epiphanes (175–164bc), who had considerably expanded and adorned it. Severos too refers to Antioch as ‘the city of Antiochus’ in Letter i.11 of the sl. (52–53, text; ii, p. 48, translation), addressed to an abbot of the Monastery of Mar Bassos. 15. the mire of Manichaeism: Severos regularly described Julian’s teaching as being Manichaean; similarly in an anonymous ‘Report from Alexandria’, section 20.20 16. the Bearer of God was immortal and not subject to the passions … the state of Eve before the transgression: the attribution by some Julianists of Eve’s pre-Fall state (by extension from Christ) to Mary is not to be found elsewhere; possibly it was due to a typological interpretation in connection with the wood of the Ark of the Covenant, made from wood not liable to decay (Exod. 25:10, lxx ek xulōn asēptōn).21 The explicit statement here lends some support to Mimouni’s suggestion that some of the developments in the Dormition and (especially) Assumption legends had links with Julianist circles.22 22. the (burning) bush: for Julian’s use of this in support of his teaching, see Severos, La polémique, i, pp. 125/96.23 20
Ed. S.P. Brock, ‘A Report from a supporter of Severos on trouble in Alexandria,’ in D. Atanassova and T. Chronz (eds), Synaxis Katholike. Beiträge zu Gottesdienst und Geschichte der fünf altkirchlichen Patriarchate für Heinzgerd Brakmann (Orientalia—Patristica—Oecumenica 6.1; Münster, 2014), 47–64, here 51–52, 61. Cf. A. Grillmeier and Th. Hainthaler, Christ in Christian Tradition, ii.2. The Church of Constantinople in the Sixth Century (London, 1995), 87–88. S. Mimouni, Dormition et Assomption de Marie. Histoire des traditions anciennes (Théologie historique 98; Paris, 1995), 666–671; contrast S. Shoemaker, Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary’s Dormition and Assumption (Oxford, 2002), 261–268, where he argues against any Julianist (or Miaphysite) connections. The single passage that Mimouni had adduced in support of his argument was the view ‘of some simpler people’ mentioned by an Aphthartodocetist interlocutor in Leontios of Byzantium’s Contra Nestorianos et Eutychianos (cpg 6813), pg 86, cols 1325–1328. This corresponds to excerpt 16 in R. Draguet, Julien d’Halicarasse et sa controverse avec
the side of Adam: for Julian’s use of this, see Severos, La polémique, iia, pp. 154/130–131.24 the five loaves: for Julian’s use of them, see Severos La polémique, iib, pp. 262/ 229. Children in the furnace: for Julian’s use of them, see Severos, La polémique, i, pp. 180/139; they are also mentioned in the anonymous ‘Report’, section 19.25 the Dominical Body (pagra maranaya): the phrase occurs quite frequently in Severos’ anti-Julian polemic, e.g. i, p. 45; ii. pp. 215, 234, 265, 308; iii, p. 18, 144. little discourse (me’mruneh): the same diminutive (no doubt used pejoratively) is found in Severos, La polémique, iib, pp. 307/269. 23. books which have been translated for us into Syriac: it is very likely that this is a reference to the Syriac translation of Severos’ dossier against Julian; accordingly, the present letter will date between April 528 (the date of Vatican Syr. 140 containing this translation26) and 538 (the date of Severos’ death). The author of the letter indeed seems to have derived his quotations of John of Jerusalem and Basil in 25–27 from this Syriac translation. 25–26. and as we confess … we anathematize as heretics: the author of the letter has derived the passage from one or other of Severos’ longer quotations from John of Jerusalem’s credal statement (cpg 3620); the passage quoted here corresponds almost exactly with La polémique i, p. 139, lines 12–18 = p. 252, lines 13–18 = p. 286, lines 3–7. The quotation also features in the anti-Julianist Florilegia in British Library Add. 12,155, 14,532 and 14,533.27 27. that the Lord … not in phantasy: the author again derives this quotation of Basil’s Letter 261 from Severos, La polémique, iia, p. 31, line 29 o 32, line 1 = p. 57, lines 12–14 = 137, lines 25–26 = iib, p. 274, lines 13–14 = p. 278, lines 9–11 (cf. also iii, p. 13). According to Severos, Julian, when quoting this letter, interpolated his own views: La polémique, iia, pp. 31–2/26 and iib 274/241. Basil’s Letter also features in the Syriac anti-Julianist Florilegia in British Library, Add. 12,155,
24 25 26
Sévère d’Antioche sur l’ incorruptibilité du corps du Christ (Louvain, 1924), 9*, 49*. Draguet’s monograph remains fundamental. This corresponds to excerpt 35 in Draguet, Julien, 14*, 53*. Brock, ‘A Report’, 51, 60. It is not clear whether the translation was actually made by Paul, bishop of Kallinikos, (as is generally assumed), or just commissioned by him: see my, ‘Manuscripts copied in Edessa,’ in P. Bruns and H.O. Luthe (eds), Orientalia Christiana. Festschrift für Hubert Kaufhold (Wiesbaden, 2013), 109–127, here 120–121. See Wright, Catalogue, 932, 960, 969.
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14,532 and 14,533,28 as well as in the Greek Florilegium, preserved under the name of Leontios, in Vatopedi 236, v.46.29 28. voluntary sufferings (ḥashe ṣebyanaye): Severos uses the phrase extremely frequently in his anti-Julianist polemic (as indeed the composer of the letter observes in 35). 30. Romanos bishop of Rhossos: Romanos of Rhossos’ work, entitled ‘the Ladder’, was already criticised by Severos in his Cathedral Homily 119, given during his last year on his patriarchal throne.30 Harvard Syr. 22 also contains Severos’ Letter to Antiochos, an earlier abbot of the Monastery of Mar Bassos, concerning Romanos, written ‘two years before he was expelled’ (see below, under 39); and, on ff. 70+1, a ‘Document of agreement’ of the bishops who gathered in Alexandria ‘when they also anathematized Romanos, bishop of Rhossos in Cilicia’. 31. Gregory: the reference is to Gregory of Nazianzus, First Letter to Cledonius (Ep. 101.14; ed. P. Gallay, in Sources chrétiennes 208, 1974). Severos quotes from the passage in La polémique, iib, pp. 306/368 (just ‘subject to passion in the flesh, and not subject to passion in the divinity’), iii, pp. 8/7, and especially pp. 89–90/75 (with ‘limited…limitless’). 33. Manichaean phantasy: thus also Severos, against Julian, ii, p. 295, and iii, p. 136. saving sufferings (ḥashe paroqaye): another phrase very frequently used by Severos in his anti-Julianist polemic. 35. For everywhere ‘voluntary’ precedes ‘natural’: this is borne out by the frequency of the adjective ‘voluntary’ in connection with Christ’s sufferings in Severos’ anti-Julianist writings (the Syriac adjectival form is in fact very rare before the sixth century, during which it rapidly becomes very common). 39. Julian, abbot of the Monastery of Mar Bassos: Julian was the recipient of a letter from Severos of which an extract is preserved in The Sixth Book of the Select Letters of Severus i, no. 59 (ed. Brooks, i text, pp. 197–198 = ii tr. pp. 178– 179), and the beginning of which is also found in Harvard Syr. 22, f. 30v. Another letter in the same collection (i, no. 11) is simply addressed to ‘the abbot of the Monastery of Bassos’; a further letter in this collection (x, no. 6) is addressed to 28
See W. Wright, Catalogue of the Syriac Manuscripts in the British Museum acquired since the Year 1838, ii (London, 1871), 930, 959, 969. The manuscripts date from the eighth century. Cf. also Draguet, Julien, 83–88. Ed. M. Richard, ‘Le florilège du Cod. Vatopédi 236 sur le corruptible et l’incorruptible,’ Le Muséon 86 (1973), 249–273, here, 272. Draguet, Julien, 79–81; E. Honigmann, Évêques et Évêchés monophysites d’Asie antérieure au vie siècle (csco Subs. 2; Louvain, 1951), 82–83.
‘the members of the Monastery of the blessed Bassos’. In Letter v, no. 15, Severos makes reference to the abbot of the Monastery as having sent two of his monks to Alexandria with a letter to himself. The Monastery of Mar Bassos, situated at Bitabo,31 was founded by the periodeutes Mar Bassos, whose family came from Edessa, and who was a friend of Symeon the Stylite; it played an important part in miaphysite affairs in the sixth century: Jacob of Serug’s Letters 13, 16 and 17 were addressed to its abbot Laʿazar (no. 15 is from Laʿazar to Jacob),32 and Harvard Syr. 22, f. 68r contains a letter of Severos ‘to Antiochos, abbot of the holy monastery of Beth Mar Bas(os) concerning the utterly wicked Romanos, bishop of Rhossos’;33 later in the sixth century the abbot Eusebios is a signatory (in Syriac script) of two Letters in the ‘Documenta Monophysitica’.34 40. Compare, for such a list, the long list of names of those anathematizing ‘the Phantasiasts’, to be found in a sixth-century Syriac inscription found near the village of El Gantari, between Raqqa and Ras al-ʿAin.35 31 32 33
Near Kefr Kermin, c. 30 km East South East of Aleppo (b1 in Map x, in R. Dussaud, Topographie historique de la Syrie antique et mediévale (Paris, 1927), opposite p. 436). Ed. G. Olinder, Iacobis Sarugensis epistulae quotquot supersunt (csco 110, Scr. Syri 57; 1937); French tr. M. Albert, Les Lettres de Jacques de Saroug (Kaslik, 2004). See note 2. The title adds that ‘he wrote it while still on the (patriarchal) throne, two years before he was expelled’. For contents of the letter, which is not found elsewhere, see provisionally Brock, ‘Some new Letters’, 23–24. Ed. J-B. Chabot, Documenta ad origines monophysitarum illustrandas (csco 17, Scr. Syri 17; 1908), 127, 130. The two letters are Documents nos 15 and 16 in the convenient inventory of the contents of the manuscripts given in A. van Roey and P. Allen, Monophysite Texts of the Sixth Century (Orientalia Lovanensia Analecta 56, 1994), 267–303. Published by P. Mouterde, ‘Une inscription syriaque récemment trouvée en haute Djéziré’. Annales archéologiques arabes de Syrie 10 (1960), 87–92. The inscription is on two blocks of stone; a photograph with the opening of that part of the inscription with the names is to be found in S.P. Brock with D.G.K. Taylor (eds.), The Hidden Pearl. ii. The Heirs of the Ancient Aramaic Heritage (Rome, 2001), 24.
The Asceticism of Severus: An Analysis of Struggle in His Homily 18 on the “Forty Holy Martyrs” Compared to the Cappadocians and the Syrians John D’Alton
Severus (roughly 446–542) was Patriarch of Antioch from 511–518 and one of the chief leaders of resistance to the definition of orthodoxy formulated at Chalcedon (451).1 He was an ardent and influential supporter of the Christology of Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376–444), and he was considered important enough that his letters and homilies were collected and translated during his lifetime.2 The ongoing debate between Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian branches of Orthodoxy however has brought an imbalanced focus on Severus’ Christology at the expense of other areas of his life such as his teaching on asceticism. Severus was renowned for his pastoral approach, but his sermons on martyrs and ascetics have been understudied.3 These ascetic letters reveal a broader mindset shared by both sides of the Christological debate, and show his position relative to the Cappadocian and Syrian fathers. One hundred and twenty-five of the sermons of Severus are extant in the Syriac and Coptic translations while the original Greek versions were lost when Severus was condemned in 536. These sermons cover the martyrs, feast days, instructions to catechumens, and various other topics.4 In this paper I will be exploring just one homily of Severus, Homily 18, and focus on its theme of the struggle (Greek agon, Syriac agona), and the conceptually-related imagery of the soldier, athlete and gymnasium. I will compare this to similar homilies by Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, and then also to the Syrian fathers with their particular more Stoic approach, which emphasises the elements of struggle against the passions, and struggle for stillness and perfection.
1 Pauline Allen and C.T.R. Hayward, Severus of Antioch (London: Routledge, 2004), 4–11. This book is an excellent introduction to Severus and his life and teaching. See also Kathleen Hay, “Severus of Antioch: An Inheritor of Palestinian Monasticism”, Aram 15 (2003), 159–171. 2 Allen and Hayward, Severus, 31. 3 Pauline Allen, “A Bishop’s Spirituality: The case of Severus of Antioch,” in Pauline Allen, Raymond Canning and Lawrence Cross, eds. Prayer and Spirituality in the Early Church Vol. 1 (Everton Park, Queensland: Centre for Early Christian Studies), 169–180, discusses Severus’ pastoral approach and notes that his homilies have been “little studied”, 169. 4 Allen and Hayward, Severus, 4, 25, 31, 50.
© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2016 | doi: 10.1163/9789004307995_005
By exploring these themes we can see Severus within the broader church ascetic tradition inhabited by both the Cappadocians and Syrians. Allen and Hayward have noted how much the Cappadocians were models for Severus,5 and this paper will build on this connection and also note the Syrian and Stoic emphases in his writings, especially his references to the virtues of tranquillity and perfection. Severus is thus revealed as very much an Antiochian synthesis of the Cappadocian and Syrian approaches and an effective teacher of Christian asceticism.
Homily 18 Homily 18 is Severus’ homily on the forty holy martyrs, forty Christian soldiers who were thrown into a lake and froze to death rather than renounce their faith.6 During this ordeal, one soldier deserted but was replaced by the guard who was impressed by the faith of the remaining thirty-nine. The homily was given around 513 by Severus to commemorate the martyrs, and was apparently preached on a Saturday during Lent at the cathedral in Antioch. Severus starts his homily by discussing the importance of intention as opposed to legalism in the fast. He speaks of “deprivation of food and other acts of self-denial” and “training exercises for their struggles.”7 This idea of ascetic struggle is a central theme for Severus, and is reflected in almost every section of his homily. His opening sentence refers to the “victory” of the martyrs which invokes the whole metaphor of battle or athletic contest, and this concept flows all through his homily.8 Severus several times says that the forty holy martyrs “struggled.” The image he is using is of the wrestler who grappled with an opponent, or of the soldier who engaged in hand-to-hand combat.9 The Syriac word used each time is a conjugate of agona, which is the cognate of the Greek agon, the term used by the Cappadocians. Because the focus of this study is on the concepts and metaphors used rather than the exact words, and because Severus’s homily is not available in Greek, references to the original Syriac or Greek will generally be omitted. 5 Allen and Hayward, Severus, 6. 6 Hom. 18: 6–23; English translation used here is from Allen and Hayward, Severus, 118–126. 7 Severus, Severus, 118. References are from the English translation of Homily 18 by Allen and Hayward, Severus, 118–126. For struggles the Syriac has the word meaning athleticism, which elsewhere is used as the equivalent to Greek agonistes. 8 Severus, Severus, 118. 9 Severus, Severus, 118, 120, 123.
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The struggle is also called by Severus a “contest”, which evokes the Olympic games context of the organised struggle in the arena. Severus also uses a number of other related words including “stadium”, “arena”, “conflict”, “battle”, and “rules of combat.”10 He often speaks in extended metaphor weaving several of these terms closely together. The homily is replete with military and athletic imagery and Severus is quite a rhetorician. This language of struggle hearkens back to St Paul who says to Timothy in 1 Tim 6:12, “fight the good fight of faith.”11 Christian faith for Paul is a kind of fight against sin and the lusts of the flesh. This theme is most clearly seen in Heb 12:1,4 where the author says: Therefore, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us (the image is the stadium), let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us (that is, the athletic contest), fixing our eyes on Jesus … (v4) You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your struggling against sin.12 In this passage the author is referring back to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane where he wrestles with temptation. Luke 22:44 says “And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly.”13 The metaphorical connection of asceticism as a kind of struggle originated in Greek culture with the notion that the athlete or soldier wrestled with the enemy, but was also applied to other domains of life like music contests, poetry struggles, intellectual combats etc. The inherent breadth of the idea of the agon, the struggle, made it a natural metaphor for ascetic practice since it too involves wrestling with the passions and the demons. Winning in the struggle or contest in both cases required training; that is, askesis. We see this in Paul who writes that Scriptures are for “training in righteousness.”14 Similarly in Heb 5:14 we read “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”
10 11 12 13 14
For example see Severus, Severus, 120–121. The Greek here has agon and the Syriac agona. This was the usual translation from Greek to Syriac. Note the Greek for struggle here is again agon, and the Syriac agona. Again, in Greek this is agon, in Syriac agona. 2 Tim 3: 16.
Severus uses this image of the ascetic training, when he affirms those in the congregation who like the martyrs, “by means of a virtuous way of life, have prepared (trained) themselves for the resurrection.”15 Naturally with a sermon about forty soldier martyrs, the image of combat is appropriate, but Severus uses this image in other homilies too. For example, in regards to the Maccabean martyrs, he speaks of the “manly struggle of these seven youths” who fought in the “stadium of conflict.”16 Severus also applies this image to his congregation when he challenges them to “train” themselves and to stand “against debilitating fornication.”17 For him, being a well-trained spiritual soldier and struggling athlete is a powerful metaphor. So let us look further at how Severus uses these images of the athlete and the soldier in Homily 18. Severus several times describes the Christian as an athlete. He connects the forty martyrs to the forty days of fasting and says that they are “the offspring of these forty days of fasting, for each day has brought forth for us an athlete and martyr.”18 Indeed, the forty are called athletes several times, and when they are thrown into the freezing water he says “The warmth of [their] faith increased in proportion as [their] bodies chilled, and strongly warmed the athletes.”19 These martyr athletes according to Severus fought in the “arena” and “competed in a great contest.”20 Severus also applies this image to his people, and says that a holy life is to imitate the forty, that is, to also be an athlete and martyr.21 Severus writes with a beautiful extended metaphor about the athletic struggles of the forty. He says that God Himself is the Umpire in the Arena. “From heaven, the Master of Games watched over them” … “And a light, descending from on high, picked out and illuminated the stadium of their contest.”22 Here we see how richly Severus uses these images, likening God to the Umpire, the martyrs’ location to the stadium, and their endurance as like that exhibited in the Olympic Games contest.
15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22
Severus, Severus, 119. Severus, Sermon 52: On the Maccabees. R.L. Bensly (trans.) The Fourth Book of Maccabees (np: 1895) 17–31. Severus, Severus, 121. Severus, Severus, 120. Severus, Severus, 122, 123. Severus, Severus, 123, 125. Severus, Severus, 120, compare 126. Severus, Severus, 122. This also invokes the frequent Syrian imagery of the Divine Light of God’s Glory.
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Severus does the same with the image of the soldier. To his audience he challenges, “Let all learn” concerning “the discipline of the fast” so that the “whole congregation in its entirety” is a “company of soldiers and a troop of men armed.”23 He says that the holy are those people who know the “rules of combat”, thus equating holiness with being a good spiritual combatant.24 Severus explicitly links actual with metaphorical fighting when he praises the Forty Holy Martyrs because they were men who “transferred [their] experience of battle and applied [it] to the spiritual conflict.”25 He even quotes Paul from 1 Cor 15:27 about taking “every thought captive to Christ” in relation to the martyrs.26 Severus also speaks of the guard, who prior to his conversion was watching over the forty, as viewing the “arena of the athletes, so as to receive any fugitives [deserters] from the struggle who might desert their station [military post].”27 Here we see the athletic sporting image blended with the military, and this is an important point. So far we have noted separately the images of soldiers, athletes, the arena, and the gymnasium, when in fact these are all closely related. While in modern life we usually consider sport and warfare as separate fields of interest requiring different government ministries and unrelated sections in newspapers, in Greek the word athletes could mean either a soldier or a sportsperson. In Greek culture, sports grew out of practice for the military, for example wrestling, javelin, discus, the marathon etc. were all of military importance.28 So soldiers and athletes, and thus gymnasia and arenas, were all closely related, with the core element being the struggle or fight (agon).29 What this previous discussion has shown is that Severus uses a cluster of words and metaphors to describe the struggle. What he says is very similar to the imagery used by Gregory of Nyssa and Basil, and indeed to many other church fathers going right back to the New Testament.
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
Severus, Severus, 120, 123. Severus, Severus, 120. Severus, Severus, 120–121. Severus, Severus, 120. Severus, Severus, 123. See Jacob Burkhardt, The Greeks and Greek Civilization, trans. Shiela Stern (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1998), 160–217 for details of the breadth of the agon. It is interesting that in current usage in many European languages this sporting and military connection in shown by the frequent use of almost identical agonistic language in newspaper references to both sport and the military. See John D’Alton, European and Islamic notions of struggle: the opportunities in a shared history, Unpublished paper, 2011.
In the last few sentences of Severus’ homily he explicitly notes that Basil has already praised these martyrs “when he was composing eulogies for the athletes of his own region.”30 For this reason and because of the similarities of approach it is worth noting how Basil and Gregory of Nyssa discuss these martyrs. Basil in his homily on the forty martyrs, and this is presumably what Severus is referring to, uses very similar words to Severus. He discusses the soldiers as “athletes”, and speaks of the “stadium” and “ascetic exercises”, and so does Gregory of Nyssa.31 Because Severus explicitly mentions Basil’s work it will be fruitful to explore in detail the commonalities in content and theme, as well as the differences, to see how he re-uses and re-works the previous material.
Severus, Basil, and Gregory Basil (d. 379) was an extremely influential bishop who wrote on theology, monasticism and ascetic practice, and whose work was esteemed by both the Greek and Syrian churches.32 He delivered a homily on the forty holy martyrs of Sebaste (Armenia) in 373 to the congregation at the martyrium in Caearea.33 The homily consists of eight sections which follow a similar progression to that found in both Gregory and Severus. In section one Basil urges his hearers to imitate the martyrs, emphasises that the martyrs had one soul and were united in suffering, extols their virtue, and describes them in words similar to what we will see again in both Gregory and Severus, that is, as “a phalanx of soldiers, a corps hard to struggle against.”34 In section two Basil urges the congregation to remember the martyrs’ virtue, and exhorts his people to imitate them. He then gives a lengthy exposition on the unity of the martyrs, a theme also found in Gregory but not in Severus.
Severus, Severus, 126. Basil, ‘A Homily on the Forty Holy Martyrs of Sebaste,’ in Johan Leemans, Wendy Mayer, Pauline Allen and Boudewijn Dehandschutter, “Let Us Die That We May Live” (New York: Routledge, 2003), 68–77. For details on the life and theology of Basil, see Philip Rousseau, Basil of Cæsarea (Transformation of the Classical Heritage Book 20) (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998), or Andrew Radde-Gallwitz, Basil of Caesarea: A Guide to His Life and Doctrine (Eugene, or: Wipf & Stock, 2012). Pauline Allen, ‘Basil of Caesarea,’ in Johan Leemans, Wendy Mayer, Pauline Allen and Boudewijn Dehandschutter, “Let Us Die That We May Live” (New York: Routledge, 2003), 55–56. Basil, in Leemans et al, Let Us Die, 68.
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In section three Basil begins recounting the actual events concerning the martyrs, how they came to the attention of the emperor and boldly proclaimed themselves to be Christians. Section four continues the story of how the emperor threatened them and includes a lengthy speech by the martyrs that is not in Gregory or Severus. In these two parts Basil also describes the martyrs as “the invincible and noble soldiers of Christ” who underwent “struggles”, “just as in the stadiums those proceedings to the contest.”35 Section five describes the emperor’s torturing of the martyrs in the icy-cold water. Basil’s description of the cold and the north wind is repeated almost identically by both Gregory and Severus. He speaks of how “Piercing blasts of the north wind rushed every living thing to its death.”36 Most of this section is a vivid description of how the body is affected by freezing, including graphic details of how the body turns “livid” and “jumpy” and how the extremities feel as if they are burned by fire. Section six mainly concerns the response of the forty and how they encourage each other. In section seven, when one of the forty deserts, the guard joins them. Of note is the parallel between the martyrs’ self-description of their entry into the water as being into a “stadium” and the guard as warming himself in the “gymnasium.” Again, agonistic language is used, with the one who “gave up the fight” “deserting” while the newly-repentant guard is “imitating those in the line of battle.”37 Section eight concludes with a reminder about the great unity of the forty who offer up “unanimous prayer.” Basil again challenges his hearers to imitate the virtue of the martyrs, and uses more military language by describing the forty as “an army of trophy-bearers.”38 He extols them as a “hallowed battalion”, an “unbroken fighting order” and “common guards of the human race.”39 Gregory shared much theology with his older brother Basil, and this is evident in his homily on the same forty martyrs of Sebaste.40 Gregory of Nyssa gave this homily, according to Leemans, around 376–377, and because of interruption had to deliver it on two consecutive days. After an opening where Gregory
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Basil, in Leemans et al, Let Us Die, 70. Basil, in Leemans et al, Let Us Die, 72. Basil, in Leemans et al, Let Us Die, 74. Basil, in Leemans et al, Let Us Die, 75. Basil, in Leemans et al, Let Us Die, 76. For a good background on Gregory see Anthony Meredith, Gregory of Nyssa (The Early Church Fathers), (Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 1999), or Jean Danielou, From Glory to Glory: Texts from Gregory of Nyssa’s Mystical Writings (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press: New York, 1997).
mentions the size of his audience, he moves to urge his listeners to imitate the virtue of examples, using Job. He then talks at length about honouring parents, and about the geographical features of the city and its surrounds. Finally he says he will turn to the main topic which is the “martyr’s stadium”, the “virtuous” story of the Forty who went through a “common contest.”41 He discusses their “virtuous life”, their miraculous victory in battle, and how they were chosen for the “contest” of martyrdom.42 He speaks of their “perfection through suffering” and of how the martyrs “marvellously transferred your experience in military warfare to the battle line against the Devil.” They “marched against the opposing force” and so “the Enemy falls to the ground and is decapitated.” Just as in Basil, the martyrs are “soldiers of Christ,” and “foot soldiers of the Holy Spirit.”43 Further, he describes this “spectacle” as a “wrestling match between the Devil and men”, and contrasts “the serpent who floored Adam” with the martyrs who are “loftier than the first contestants.” Whereas Adam and Eve brought down human nature, the martyrs “by their courage erected it again.” These “greatest of contestants” gained the “crown of the contests”, and the angels rejoiced because of “the athletes’ achievement.”44 This is all similar to Basil except that Gregory is more verbose and discusses soteriology at length. Also notable is the interweaving as in Severus of both the military and sporting imagery—both are aspects of the athletic struggle.45 Gregory then follows Basil by describing the actual details of the tortures of the martyrs, the “chilly northerly winds”, the jailer who joins their number, and the mother who places her son on the cart. He adds to his agonistic imagery by speaking of how the martyrs who are “athletes” in their “contest” “advanced towards their perfection through death” and were able to “attain victory” and “grasp the crown.” He also urges his hearers to “run together with the saints to the end of their contests.”46 In his concluding section, Gregory says that the martyrs were able to enter paradise because the revolving sword outside the garden of Eden which kept out Adam and Eve, rotated to let them in.47
41 42 43 44 45 46 47
Gregory, in Leemans et al, Let Us Die, 96, 97. Gregory, in Leemans et al, Let Us Die, 98, 99. Gregory, in Leemans et al, Let Us Die, 100, 101. Gregory, in Leemans et al, Let Us Die, 102–103. This use of struggling soldiers and athletes is not confined in the Cappadocians to sermons on the forty either, and they use these images concerning Christians elsewhere. Gregory, in Leemans et al, Let Us Die, 104–105. Gregory, in Leemans et al, Let Us Die, 106–107.
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Severus broadly follows the same order of events and draws many of the same lessons as the Cappadocians. After his introduction explaining the spirit of the fasting rules, he introduces the martyrs using the athletic and military language already discussed.48 He extols the bravery of the martyrs and challenges his congregation to imitate them. Severus then discusses the judge’s efforts to make the soldiers renounce their faith and how he arrives at the perfect torture involving the icy-cold water.49 The story proceeds with details of how the martyrs encourage each other, how the jailer joins them and how the mother acts heroically.50 Severus frequently leaves the story to urge his people to imitate their ascetic faith and concludes with various exhortations.51 We are now in a position to compare the three homilies. All three bishops speak of the key moments of the events—the cold northerly wind, the torture in the icy water, the jailer who converts and the mother of the dying martyr. They all use athletic and military imagery and urge their listeners to imitate the virtue of the martyrs. But there are also differences, and Severus noticeably follows Basil more than he does Gregory. Only Basil and Severus mention the Maccabean martyrs and their struggles, and only they emphasise the emperor’s role. Severus and Basil make the most of agonistic imagery, while Gregory alone waxes at length about the soteriological implications of the martyrs’ actions. Basil discusses unity while Severus does not. Most noticeably, only Severus refers to tranquillity, an important Stoicderived Syrian Christian ascetic concept we will discuss below. Severus also discusses or mentions perfection four times, while Gregory briefly refers to it only twice and Basil not at all. Severus challenges his hearers to “show me your perfection” in a way that is missing in the Cappadocians.52 In summary, Severus’ ascetic approach in language and concept is very similar to the Cappadocian approach. But we must also note how at certain points he expresses the more Syrian emphasis on tranquillity and perfection, which is natural given his location in Antioch at the intersection of the Greek and Syrian cultures.53
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Severus, Severus, 118–120. Severus, Severus, 121–122. Severus, Severus, 122–125. Severus, Severus, 124–126. Severus, Severus, 124. The particular emphases of the Syrian church have been widely discussed, and best summarised in Robert Murray, Symbols of Church and Kingdom: A Study in Early Syriac
Severus and the Syrians The Syrian approach is somewhat different to the Cappadocian because it speaks much more frequently of the struggle, and as a struggle against the passions that in turn leads to tranquillity (or stillness) and perfection. I will elaborate on this with several examples because there is a particular emphasis in Severus that is not so usual in the Cappadocians and that can be defined as the Syrian emphasis. This particular understanding of asceticism is seen in Aphrahat, Ps-Macarius and Isaac, as well as in the Liber Graduum, Ephrem and many other Syrians. I will focus on just four aspects of this Syrian emphasis, that is, the centrality of the agon, the fight against the passions, tranquillity (stillness), and perfection, and on four representative Syrians, Aphrahat, PsMacarius, Theodoret, and Isaac. We will start with Aphrahat because he is the earliest major Syriac author and because his ascetic writings are so definitive. Aphrahat was a Persian Christian and leader of the church in Syria. He writes between 337 and 344 a series of 23 chapters or “Demonstrations”. Composed in Syriac, these describe the ideal ascetic life in extensive detail and respond to issues raised by Jewish opponents. At the same time, Aphrahat’s writings have often been noted as exhibiting a uniquely early more-Jewish form of Christianity.54 In Demonstration Six, Aphrahat writes repeatedly of spiritual warfaretrampling on Satan, fighting and striving against temptation etc. He says “Let the one who wants to enter the stadium to fight, learn about his opponent. Let the one who wishes to enter into battle take armour for himself in order to fight.”55 In Demonstration Seven he develops this theme in 27 sections. He argues that all spiritual warriors will at times fall in the struggle, but can be healed by repentance. Christians need “not be defeated” by Satan if they “take away his weapon” with vigilance. He says “You who have put on the armour of Christ, learn the intricacies of war, so that you might not be defeated and weary in the struggle. Our enemy is cunning and clever, but his armour is inferior to ours.”56 Aphrahat returns to the theme of the struggle (agona) many times, and
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Tradition (New York: T&T Clark, 2004), 3–38. See also S.P. Brock, “Early Syrian Asceticism.” Numen, Vol. 20 (Apr. 1973), 1–19. Adam Lehto, Introduction, The Demonstrations of Aphrahat, the Persian Sage, trans. Adam Lehto (Piscataway, nj: Gorgias, 2010), 4–7, 32–56. Aphrahat, The Demonstrations of Aphrahat, the Persian Sage, trans. Adam Lehto (Piscataway, nj: Gorgias, 2010), 174. Aphrahat, Demonstrations, 203.
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this theme alone takes up roughly 10% of his general teaching.57 Whereas the agon is somewhat peripheral for the Cappadocians, it is central for Aphrahat, as well as for the other Syrians as we shall see. Next I want to briefly provide examples from Ps-Macarius and Theodoret that show parallels with Severus in order to place his writing in context. PsMacarius writes extensively in Syriac in the late 4th century on asceticism and holiness and his work is central in the Syrian tradition.58 He says in his 21st homily: Whoever truly desires to please God and truly makes himself an enemy against the adversary must wage battle on a double front. One battle takes place in the material affairs of this life by turning completely away from … the sinful passions. The other battle … [is] against the evil spirits.59 Further, Ps-Macarius writes extensively about tranquillity or stillness. He says for example in words reminiscent of Marcus Aurelius, “It is not becoming of a servant of God to live in a state of disturbance, but rather in all tranquillity” and in the same homily discusses prayer with tranquillity in some detail.60 In relation to perfection Ps-Macarius says “whoever strives for perfection does not long for evil things … [but are] servants to the holy and passionless Spirit.”61 He links various ideas of athletic struggle and perfect holiness together when he challenges his readers to engage in “struggles of the race” and to “hunger and thirst” for “righteousness”, “as befits those who strive for perfection.”62 PsMacarius discusses all these concepts numerous times, and these Stoic terms feature far more heavily in his works than in any of the Greek fathers. Given that Ps-Macarius writes at roughly the same time as Basil and Gregory, his much greater use of the Stoic concepts of tranquillity and perfection is notable. We will see similar language to this later in Severus. Another Syrian example is Theodoret of Cyrus who writes in Greek a “History of the Monks of Syria” in the mid-5th century.63 He frequently uses the struggle
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This is excluding the anti-Jewish polemic Demonstrations. George Maloney, Introduction, in Pseudo-Macarius: The Fifty Spiritual Homilies and the Great Letter (New York: Paulist Press, 1992), 6. Ps-Macarius, Pseudo-Macarius: The Fifty Spiritual Homilies and the Great Letter (New York: Paulist Press, 1992), 153. Ps-Macarius, Pseudo-Macarius, 76. Ps-Macarius, Pseudo-Macarius, 256. Ps-Macarius, Pseudo-Macarius, 259. Theodoret of Cyrrhus, A History of the Monks of Syria, trans. R.M. Price (Kalamazoo:
motif all through his work, and it is by far the defining image. For example, in his praise of James of Cyrrestica, Theodoret links athletes and war in an extended metaphor. Now that we have proceeded through the contests of the athletes of virtue described above, narrating in summary their laborious exercises, their exertions in the contests and their most glorious and splendid victories, let us now record … the way of life of those … who contend magnificently and strive to surpass their predecessors in exertion. (James) unceasingly under the eyes of spectators … strives in combat and repels the necessities of nature.64 The language of this is strikingly similar to Severus, and the description could almost be a summary of his extolling of the Forty Martyrs. The themes of athletes contesting virtuously and victoriously, and ignoring their bodies before the spectators, make up a cluster of images that we have seen in all the Syrians, Cappadocians and Severus. Given that Theodoret was a Chalcedonian with strong Nestorian sympathies, the fact that Severus uses language very similar to Theodoret shows us just how pervasive and non-sectarian this ascetic mindset and language indeed was. It is time now to turn to Isaac, who unlike the other authors is later than Severus, but who again uses very similar language to describe asceticism. His writings help us to locate several of Severus’ passages within a conceptual and metaphorical framework. Isaac was born early in the seventh century in Beth Qatraye on the South Coast of the Persian Gulf (near Bahrain). He lived as a monk for many years and wrote numerous homilies on the ascetic life. Although in 676 he was briefly made a bishop of the Church of the East (often incorrectly called the Nestorian Church), he is also greatly revered as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox churches because of his holiness and writings, and even the Miaphysite churches respect him and use his writings.65 Isaac’s over 100 ascetic homilies were originally written for an audience of monastics in the 690s.66 He wrote in Syriac and his work was early trans-
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Cistercian, 1985). This work also has an excellent introduction to Theodoret which notes the specific Syrian approach to asceticism. Theodoret, History, 133, 135. Hilarion Alfeyev, The Spiritual World of Isaac the Syria, (Kalamazoo: Cistercian, 2000) has an excellent introduction to the life and teaching of Isaac. Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Introduction, in The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian (Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 2011), 60.
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lated into Greek and Arabic. His work evidences many Syriac thought-forms intermingled with Greek philosophy, especially Stoicism. Other authors have focussed on his Neoplatonic thought, but almost nothing has been written about Isaac’s Stoicism.67 Isaac draws heavily on Ps-Macarius and follows the earlier Syrian tradition but accentuates the Stoic even further, especially when contrasted to both the Cappadocian and later Greek fathers. Isaac repeatedly emphasises the ideas of struggle, fight, contest and battle, often using the Syriac word agona. He writes of the “many struggles and diverse kinds of warfare that are met continually on the path to righteousness”, and reminds his audience to “never cease … from wrestling with your adversaries.”68 Isaac writes that anyone who is having difficulties in the fight “should not be troubled on this account, nor quit the arena and the fight.”69 He also writes of “holy athletes and strugglers who splendidly ran the course of their life” and of the attainment of stillness.70 The spiritual fight for Isaac is specifically a struggle against the passions which are the enemy within.71 He lists the passions towards the end of Homily 2 as being “love of riches; amassing of possessions; the fattening of the body, from which proceeds carnal desire; love of honours, which is the source of envy; … pride and pomp of power; elegance; popularity, which is the cause of ill-will; fear for the body.”72 These lists of virtues and passions are very reminiscent of the Stoic lists as found in Seneca etc. For Isaac as for the Stoics, the path to victory over the passions is through ascetic practice to attain to apatheia and stillness. With regards to Stoic influence it needs to be emphasised that it is unclear how much Isaac, Severus, and other Christian writers were drawing directly on specific Stoic authors. They may have been simply building on earlier church fathers who were in turn shaped by the Stoic language of popular culture. After all, even in Acts we see Paul quoting Greek philosophers to communicate with his audience, and some of Paul’s language is very Stoic-like.73 The Stoic idea of
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For example, Alfeyev’s much-cited work noted above only treats Isaac’s NeoPlatonism and does not even mention the Stoic influence on his work. Isaac, The Ascetical Homilies, 191. Isaac, The Ascetical Homilies, 188. Isaac, The Ascetical Homilies, 232–233. Isaac, The Ascetical Homilies, 477. Isaac, The Ascetical Homilies, 125. See Troels Engberg-Pedersen, “Setting the Scene: Stoicism and Platonism in the Transitional Period in Ancient Philosophy,” in Stoicism in Early Christianity, ed. Tuomas Rasimus (Grand Rapids, mi: Baker, 2010), and Leif E. Vaage and Vincent L. Wimbush eds, Asceticism and the New Testament (New York: Routledge, 1999).
philosophy was that it is not just a set of beliefs or metaphysics, but a whole way of life involving constant practice and training (askesis). Given Paul’s emphasis on training for holiness and fighting the passions, one can see how attractive Stoic language was to other early Christian writers. This is not to say that Basil and Gregory are not influenced by Stoicism, but that the Syrians are far more affected.74 One of the main aims and virtues of the Stoics is ataraxia (tranquillity, stillness, or being undisturbed). In his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius says, “Do not disturb yourself”, for the goal of life is to live a “tranquil and god-fearing life.”75 Another central Stoic concept and almost an equivalent to ataraxia is apatheia, being without the passions which are seen as the base emotional responses of fear, anger, and so on, which undermine one’s stillness. Stoics consider uncontrolled emotion to be a disturbance of the mind and against nature.76 Isaac often uses these very Stoic arguments against emotions by asserting the need to flee passions and fight against them to attain apatheia and stillness. He speaks of “contests with the passions”, and sees the goal of the monk as acquiring “dispassion” (apatheia) which “cannot be acquired outside of stillness.”77 Isaac writes frequently of stillness or of having a limpid heart. He opens his 4th Homily with the saying “The soul that loves God is at rest in God alone.”78 The aim of the monk is to make the soul a “limpid/still receptacle of the blessed light.”79 Further, “… be assured that God is near to his friends … (those who) follow Him with a limpid/still heart.”80 One is “lifted to God” by “stillness of soul from the world.”81 This being god-like (the theology of theosis) is typically 74
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See Michel René Barnes, “Divine Unity and the Divided Self: Gregory of Nyssa’s Trinitarian Theology in its Psychological Context”, Modern Theology, Volume 18, Issue 4, October 2002, pp. 475–496. Barnes discusses various aspects of Platonic and Stoic impact on Gregory’s anthropology. Meditations 2.5, 4.26, Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, trans. Robin Hard (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 11, 26. F.H. Sandbach, The Stoics, (London: Chatto and Windus, 1975), 59–63. Isaac, Isaac of Nineveh: The Second Part, trans. Sebastian Brock (Louvain: Peeters, 1995), 41; Isaac, The Ascetical Homilies, 554. Isaac, On the Ascetical Life, trans. Mary Hanbury, (Crestwood, ny: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1989), 63. Isaac, On the Ascetical Life, 44. Severus’ reference to the light of God shining on the martyrs is a related concept. Isaac, On the Ascetical Life, 86. Isaac, On the Ascetical Life, 43. There is a notable comparison here with the Stoics, for whom ataraxia was an attribute of the gods.
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Eastern Orthodox, but in the Syrian tradition the idea of attaining perfection while on still on Earth is more pronounced. So now after this contextualizing excursus on the Syrians’ approach to the struggle, we can turn again to Severus and understand what he says about stillness in this light. In his homily he writes: Therefore, we too, having learned the martyr’s tactics, let us stir ourselves against debilitating fornication, and in the face of the passion which turns us savage like wild beasts, let us train ourselves to calmness [tranquillity].82 This unites these two closely-related Stoic ideas of stillness and passionlessness, with the spiritual combat of the martyrs. For Severus, the fight against the passions involves an ascetic training for stillness, just as we have seen in the Syrians. Severus also draws a strong contrast between the martyrs who exhibit “gentleness” and the judge who is “inflamed with fury”, and thus who is clearly not virtuous in the Stoic conception.83 When Severus urges his hearers to struggle for stillness he is drawing on Stoic concepts well embedded in a Syrian spiritual tradition that starts in the 4th century and extends to Isaac and well beyond. Again, it must be noted that the Cappadocians also mention stillness, but relatively rarely compared to Severus or Isaac. Basil for example writes (using the Greek word hesychia) “We must strive after a quiet mind [stillness].”84 Gregory Nazianzus similarly says, “It is necessary to be still in order to have clear converse with God and gradually bring the mind back from its wanderings.”85 In this light, Severus’ statement “let us train ourselves to calmness” (stillness) is like the Cappadocians, but his repeated emphasis on stillness is very Syrian. I want to briefly mention one further theme in Severus which is also common to the Cappadocians but especially the Syrian fathers, the idea that the goal of the spiritual struggle is perfection. The idea of perfection is important for Severus. When the forty martyrs appear before the judge, Severus describes them as having “arrived at the perfect man.”86 Later, the bathhouse guard is so inspired by the courageous sufferings of the martyrs that he joins the forty. Severus writes: 82 83 84 85 86
Severus, Severus, 121. Severus, Severus, 121. Basil, npnf 2.8, 110. Gregory, quoted in Hierotheos Vlachos, Orthodox Psychotherapy, trans. Esther Williams, (np: Birth of the Theotokos Monastery, 1994), 312. Severus, Severus, 120. Severus is quoting Paul in Eph 4:13.
He was smitten within his soul and completely overcome by the beauty which was appearing … Proclaiming himself a Christian, he threw himself into the midst of the martyrs, remaining with delight in the midst of the ice … hence he too was deemed worthy of his divine desire and when he had been dipped and made perfect in the contests of piety he flew a martyr with the martyrs and swiftly saw him whom he so ardently desired.87 Severus later challenges the congregation about their excuses and insists they “show me your perfection this present hour.” He mentions excuses of horseraces, and says that “(T)he theatre screams piercingly”, which is in contrast to the calmness and tranquillity of true holiness.88 Again, he contrasts his hearers with the forty holy martyrs who he says “had competed in a great contest, and with a leap had been made perfect.”89 Briefly, this ascetical theology of Severus is virtually identical to that of Ps-Macarius and Isaac and should be read in the light of their extended discussions of this appeal to perfection. Severus may also be compared with Gregory of Nyssa, who writes in his “On Perfection”, and here we must note the extensive inter-twined language of combat and perfection: “How blessed is he who is drawn up under the divine generalship and enlisted in the ranks of the thousands and thousands of men armed against evil with virtues which are imprinted with the image of the king” … “This, therefore, is perfection in the Christian life in my judgment, namely, the participation of one’s soul and speech and activities in all of the names by which Christ is signified, so that the perfect holiness, according to the eulogy of Paul, is taken upon oneself in ‘the whole body and soul and spirit,’ (1Thess 5:23) continuously safeguarded against being mixed with evil” … “Let us struggle, therefore, against this very unstable element of our nature, engaging in a close contest with our opponent … not becoming victors by destroying our nature, but by not allowing it to fall” … “Let no one be grieved if he sees in his nature a penchant for change. Changing in everything for the better, let him exchange ‘glory for glory’ (2Cor 3:18), becoming greater through daily increase, ever perfecting himself, and never arriving too quickly at the
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Severus, Severus, 123. Severus, Severus, 124. Severus, Severus, 125.
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limit of perfection. For this is truly perfection: never to stop growing towards what is better and never placing any limit on perfection.”90 So when compared to both the Syrians and Cappadocians, it can be concluded that Severus is using a well-known set of interlaced ideas to challenge his audience to virtue. When he refers to perfection his congregation knows that this is a philosophical and Christian ideal that can be achieved through ascetic struggle. It must also be noted however that while the Cappadocians refer to perfection at times, and usually in a NeoPlatonic framework, the Syrians discuss perfection more frequently, and from a Stoic perspective. In this homily, Severus sits somewhere between the Syrians and Cappadocians in his level of usage of typically Syrian/Stoic concepts. The differences between the Cappadocians and the Syrians should not be over-emphasised, however they exist and are noticeable. Severus, having been trained in the Palestinian monastic tradition, which melded both Greek and Syrian traditions, and as the Patriarch of Antioch, reflects a blending of the Cappadocian and Syrian approaches.
Conclusion In this paper I have shown that Severus uses a cluster of words and metaphors to describe the struggle in a way that is very similar to the imagery used by Gregory of Nyssa and Basil. Further, I have shown evidence that Severus is also firmly a member of the Syrian school of asceticism, in the lineage of Aphrahat, Ps-Macarius and Isaac, with an emphasis on the struggle against the passions leading to stillness and perfection. It is important to note that despite some theological differences between the three major branches of Syrian Orthodoxy (Chalcedonian, “Nestorian”, and “Miaphysite”)91 their ascetic teachings are very similar and form a basis for connection. Of particular note is that all three churches revere St Isaac of Nineveh at some level. In the same way, Severus’ ascetic spirituality is also a bridge for dialogue between the three groups, as his approach to spiritual 90
Gregory of Nyssa, “On Perfection” 119, 121, 122, In Gregory of Nyssa, Ascetical Works (The Fathers of the Church, Volume 58), trans. Virginia Woods Callahan (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1967). Technically speaking, “Nestorian” is the popular misnomer for the Assyrian Church of the East, and “Miaphysite” is the more accurate term for the Oriental Orthodox (which includes the Syrian Orthodox and Coptic churches) who are commonly incorrectly labelled “Monophysite”.
struggle is fully acceptable to all. Emphasis on Christology has obscured this significant shared understanding, and this calls for a reappraisal of Severus’s contribution. For Severus, attainment of spiritual growth and stillness is only possible through intense spiritual struggle, that is, being in combat as a soldier of Christ. His emphasis on being a victorious athlete in the gymnasium of life places him firmly in the Cappadocian and Syrian ascetic traditions. His emphasis on stillness and perfection reveals his Syrian Stoic mindset. It is appropriate to conclude with quotes from Isaac and Severus that relate to the athletic martyrdom of the forty soldiers of Christ. Isaac writes “Better for us is death in the battle for the love of God than a life of shame and debility.”92 Severus concludes, “The warmth of [their] faith increased in proportion as [their] bodies chilled, and strongly warmed the athletes.”93 92 93
Isaac, The Ascetical Homilies, 115. Severus, Severus, 122, 123.
Quotations from the Works of St. Severus of Antioch in Peter of Callinicus’ magnum opus ‘Contra Damianum’ Rifaat Ebied
The purpose of this paper is to identify, enlist, and reproduce (together with an English translation and commentary) the numerous quotations, in their Syriac dressing, from the various seminal works of St. Severus of Antioch, which are contained in Peter of Callinicus’s magnum opus ‘Contra Damianum’. But first I shall begin with a brief account of the Tritheist controversy which broke out more than a hundred years after the acrimonious controversy over the Council of Chalcedon had cooled down.1 I will focus mainly on the dispute over the doctrine of the Trinity between Peter of Callinicus and Damian of Alexandria which, in turn, led to the schism between Antioch and Alexandria lasting about 30 years and also precipitated Peter’s authorship of his magnum opus. Everybody, or at least everybody who is interested in reading about the controversy between Peter of Callinicus the ‘miaphysite’ patriarch of Antioch (581– 591)2 and Damian (578–605) his counterpart and spiritual superior of Alexandria, will know that they fell out over the doctrine of the Trinity. When the dust had settled on their graves and when churchmen turned their minds to assuaging the bitterness of the rift between fellow-believers, men pronounced the whole quarrel a mere logomachy, a battle of words in which the contestants had been at cross-purposes.3 No doubt these churchmen were in part, at least, right—even if in matters of this kind, ecclesiastical diplomacy, as so often happens, puts akribeia to flight and remoulds the past to its own liking. No doubt too as Gregory the Theologian observes (and that for both our contes-
1 For a detailed account of the history and doctrine of Tritheism, see Rifaat Ebied, “Peter of Callinicus and Damian of Alexandria: the Tritheist Controversy of the Sixth Century,” in Parole de l’ Orient 35 (2010), 184ff.; R.Y. Ebied, A. Van Roey and L.R. Wickham, Peter of Callinicum: Anti-Tritheist Dossier [Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta, 10] (Louvain, 1981), 20– 33. 2 Not 578 as is usually given for the date of his assumption of the See of Antioch (cf. W. Wright, A Short History of Syriac Literature, Amsterdam 1966, 113). See A. Van Roey, ‘Het Dossier van Proba en Juhannan Barboer,’ in Scrinium Lovaniense 2 (1961), 183. 3 Chronique de Michel le Syrien, ed. J.-B. Chabot, Tome 11 (Paris, 1901, reprinted 1963), 391, Col. 1.
© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2016 | doi: 10.1163/9789004307995_006
tants, Peter and Damian, is almost the equal of a divine utterance) ‘men must have something to blaspheme or life would be unliveable’4—or, to paraphrase more charitably, a living theology demands adventurous debate, and the adventure runs the perpetual risk of turning into temerarious blasphemy. No doubt, moreover, a calm student of church affairs would have good cause to point to this quarrel as one further symptom of the rickety structure of a miaphysite church which lacked secular authority to moderate its internal doctrinal disagreements. All that would be true, or at least, partly true. Yet it would all, also, be beside the point. Peter and Damian were in dispute about the substance of the faith. That is what they believed and, if we are to understand them, what we must try to believe too. When Peter called Damian a ‘Sabellian’ and Damian retorted by calling Peter a ‘Tritheist’ each meant what he said. About 586 Peter of Callinicus became involved in a stormy controversy with his patron Damian, Patriarch of Alexandria, over a problem which arose during the course of anti-Tritheist polemics. Damian was accused by Peter of Sabellianism on the grounds that in the course of refuting Tritheism he had taught that the divine hypostases were themselves the characteristic properties of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Thereupon Damian accused his critic of Tritheist sympathies. What follows is a brief word about Peter’s writings.5 But I will confine myself here to those which contain the seminal quotations from the works of St. Severus of Antioch, viz. his Anti-Tritheist Dossier and Adversus Damianum.
The Anti-Tritheist Dossier Peter wrote at least three treatises, one of which is his Anti-Tritheist Dossier which also concerns us here and which has survived in only one manuscript, viz. British Library Add. 12155, containing an extensive florilegium, and which was published by Ebied, Van Roey and Wickham.6 It bears the title: ‘Rebuttal of those who are charged with Sabellianism and who therefore maliciously spread
4 Oratio xxxi, 2. 5 For a detailed discussion of Peter’s writings, see Rifaat Y. Ebied, Albert Van Roey and Lionel R. Wickham, Petri Callinicensis Patriarchae Antiocheni Tractatus Contra Damianum, i Quae Supersunt Libri Secundi [Corpus Christianorum, Series Graeca, 29] (Turnhout: Brepols, 1994), xiv ff. 6 R.Y. Ebied, A. Van Roey and L.R. Wickham, Peter of Callinicum: Anti-Tritheist Dossier [Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta, 10] (Louvain, 1981). [hereafter = Ebied et al, Anti-Tritheist Dossier].
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the libellous report about us of holding the heathen dogmas of the Tritheists.’ The writing, then, is not directed against the Tritheists (as Baumstark7 has wrongly suggested) but against people accused of Sabellianism, the heresy diametrically opposed to Tritheism. The author’s aim is not to refute either Tritheism or Sabellianism but simply to prove that the accusation of Tritheism advanced by his Sabellian, or Sabellianizing, opponents is utterly baseless and that, quite the contrary, he has from the start of his patriarchate (581) up to the moment of composing his dossier of documents (586/7) always fought against that heresy.8 The Anti-Tritheist Dossier of Peter of Callinicus forms part of the controversy between the two patriarchs of Antioch and Alexandria. It was connected with the struggle against Tritheism and started as a result of Damian’s refutation of Tritheism. The work, which is evidently incomplete and may even be a portion of the lost Book i Adversus Damianum, is the dossier of documents (prefaced by a short Introduction) assembled by Peter to show how he and Damian were once friends, how they have fallen out and how shamefully he (Peter) has been maltreated and slandered. Peter will prove that far from being a tritheist himself, as Damian alleges, he has been a highly successful combatant of tritheists with one outstanding convert to show for it; besides which, Damian in earlier days wrote him extremely flattering letters, congratulating him on his prowess in the battle. Moreover, when Peter had arranged to meet Damian to sort out the issues in Egypt, the whole situation turned out to be a fiasco, for which Damian was to blame. That in outline is the subject matter.
Peter’s Magnum Opus: ‘Contra Damianum’ As mentioned above, Damian accused his critic (Peter) of Tritheist sympathies. Peter, in turn, compiled his magnum opus: Against Damian9 in which he rebuts the thesis defended by Damian in his refutation of the tritheists, that the characteristic properties of the divine persons, i.e. fatherhood, sonship and procession are the hypostases themselves. What this book reveals is that the
7 Geschichte der Syrischen Literatur (Bonn, 1922), 177. 8 Cf. Ebied et al, Anti-Tritheist Dossier, 15 ff. 9 A critical edition of this work was published by Rifaat Y. Ebied, Albert Van Roey and Lionel R. Wickham, Petri Callinicensis Patrriarchae Antiocheni Tractatus Contra Damianum, i, ii, iii, iv [Corpus Christianorum, Series Graeca, vols 29, 32, 35 and 54] (Turnhout: Brepols, 1994– 2003). [hereafter = Ebied et al, Contra Damianum].
patristic doctrine of the Trinity inherited by Peter and Damian alike was, if not actually inconsistent, at least expressed in various and genuinely puzzling ways.
Quotations from the Works of St. Severus of Antioch I now turn to a consideration of the quotations from the works of St. Severus of Antioch in the above mentioned writings of Peter of Callinicus. Throughout the extensive writing of Peter of Callinicus, the Contra Damianum, the author appeals to patristic proof-texts and patristic theology in order to advance his arguments and augment his thesis. To this end, he employs a large number of patristic quotations from the works of many Church Fathers including Sts. Athanasius of Alexandria, Basil of Caesarea, Cyril of Alexandria, Eustathius of Antioch, Gregory Nazianzen, Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom and Severus of Antioch. I shall confine myself here to the quotations from the various works of St. Severus of Antioch which are contained in Peter’s magnum opus. In his surviving Syriac magnum opus Peter quotes at least 107 (one hundred and seven) passages of varying length from 27 (twenty-seven) different works (Books, Epistles, Homilies, etc.) of St. Severus of Antioch. Some of the passages quoted are brief while others are very extended ones. By far the largest number of quotations is from St. Severus’s seminal work, Contra impium Grammaticum10 [52 quotations]. I give below the translation of these quotations arranged according to the books from which they have been extracted. These are as follows: i
From the Letter to Eleusinus (po xii, 201–202) [1 quotation] Now because Truth’s enemies are wont to accuse us and cast against us the charge of the heterodoxy opposite to theirs, alleging that we hold to a mixture, confusion, intermingling or mere appearance in respect of the divine and inexpressible incarnation, we decide—the general view of the church having been given—that I should clarify your indefinite statement by a definition.11
cpg 7024, ed. Iosephus Lebon, Severi Antiocheni Liber contra impium Grammaticum. Oratio prima et secunda. Textus (csco 111). Versio (csco 112) (Paris-Louvain, 1938). Cf. Ebied et al, Anti-Tritheist Dossier, p. 73 (Syriac); pp. 46–47 (English).
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ii From Contra impium Grammaticum (cpg 7024)12 [52 quotations] (1) In quoting St. Severus, Peter of Callinicus says the following: “And again he who illumined the world from the East says this in the 30th chapter of the Discourse against the impious Grammaticum from Caesarea in refutation of the impious man’s calumnies.” Severus says: So you say you pity us—you being drunk with this incurable intoxication. Thus are in error and need a great deal of pity, tears and wails of mourning. Why should it be remarkable? For this is the way with such as are intoxicated in error and drunkenness not only from wine but also from various causes, who, in their confusion and dizziness, imagine that standing people and very often that motionless ones too, are revolving.13 (2) In chapter 5 of his Book ii Peter quotes the following passage from St. Severus’s Contra impium Grammaticum for the purpose of showing that the term ‘Oosia’ (οὐσία) can signify not only the species but also an individual hypostasis: But we recognise the Son and Word, begotten before the worlds, incorporeally, impassibly and eternally as the Father’s Word, as a single hypostasis. And if we find him denominated ‘substance’ by the God-clad fathers and doctors of the holy Church, we recognize that they used the term ‘substance’ instead of hypostasis; and let us not because the term ‘substance’ properly speaking indicates the generic meaning comprehending a plurality of hypostases, transfer and ascribe the generic sense to the hypostasis of the Only-begotten and think of him not as a single hypostasis but as a substance comprehending the three hypostases for the reason that he has been called ‘substance.’ We should also interpret the appellation of the names or their imposition in accordance with the subject.14 (3) In chapter 7 of his Book ii Peter quotes the following text from St. Severus’s Contra impium Grammaticum, to which Damian appeals, in order to prove that Damian’s interpretation of Severus leads to the view that the divine hypostases and their characteristic properties are mere words and names:
12 13 14
See note 10 above. Cf. Ibid., p. 97 (Syriac), p. 67 (English). Cf. Ebied et al, Contra Damianum, vol. 29, pp. 25, 27 (Syriac); pp. 24, 26 (English).
We must also then recognize that fatherhood (i.e. ingeneracy) or generacy or procession are not empty names and relationships bereft of realities (as Gregory the Theologian says somewhere) but the fatherhood which exists in the Godhead, so that God is Father, and the Sonship or generacy which exists in the Godhead, so that God is Son or offspring and likewise the procession which exists in the Godhead, so that the Holy Ghost is God proceeding. If, again, you say “light” or any other common thing you will mean the ingenerate light, the generate light and the proceeding light: three lights in the hypostases.15 (4) Peter ends chapter 11 of his Book ii by quoting the following two passages from St. Severus’s Contra impium Grammaticum who says that the divine persons are not mutually opposed in their common substance but in their properties: So in the same way that with us manhood is the whole substance comprehending many hypostases (Peter’s, Paul’s, John’s and each individual’s) whereas Peter, Paul and John are hypostases sharing equally in the substance, for each of them shares fully and no less in the manhood, and is a man, separated by his own designation and grouped with the consubstantial hypostases because he resembles them unvaryingly in every thing common without being the whole substance and manhood comprehending all the individual hypostases. In this very way, in the case of the Holy Trinity too, the substance is the whole Godhead comprehending all the three hypostases of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, but each of the hypostases shares also by the same substance in equality of honour, and is completely God, and has no difference at all from its consubstantial hypostases, but is separated and parted by its particular indication (ingeneracy, generacy or procession), the property safeguarding the absence of confusion. He writes to the same effect in the eighteenth chapter of the same book: So from this we learn that there is no confusion of the hypostases within the Holy Trinity, but each hypostasis exists along with its indication in the substance of the Godhead; because through the community of substance, it possesses absences of difference, complete similarity, unity and identity with the consubstantial hypostases, whereas through its property it possesses absence of confusion. So that, because of complete equality in the community, the others
Ibid., p. 83 (Syriac); p. 82 (English).
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also, who participate in the same substance, will be seen and recognized in each hypostasis.16 (5) We must also recognize that fatherhood (i.e. ingeneracy) or generacy or procession are not empty names or relationships bereft of realities (as Gregory the Theologian says somewhere) but the fatherhood which exists in the Godhead, so that God is Father, and the sonship or generacy which exists in the Godhead, so that God is Son or offspring, and likewise the procession which exists in the Godhead so that the Holy Ghost is God proceeding. If, again, you say ‘light’ or any other common thing, you will mean the ingenerate light, the generate light and the proceeding light: three lights in the hypostases. For it is not one light a triple-named hypostasis which changes at different times into what the Father is or is thought to be, into what the Son is or is thought to be and into what the Holy Ghost is or is thought to be.17 (6) In the following passage, quoted from St. Severus’s Contra impium Grammaticum, Peter rebuts Damian’s interpretation, given in his Letter to the Eastern Bishops, in which Severus, on the basis of Basil’s Adversus Eunomium, teaches, allegedly that the proper names are the hypostases: Whereas Peter, Paul and John are hypostases sharing equally in the substance, for each of them shares fully, and no less in the manhood; and being a man, is separated by his proper designation and connected with the consubstantial hypostases by similarity and equality in everything generic and common”. And a little later: “In this very way, in the case of the Holy Trinity too, the substance is the whole Godhead comprehending all the three hypostases of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, but each of the hypostases shares also by the same substance in equality of honour, and is completely God, and has no difference at all from its consubstantial hypostases, but is separated and parted by its proper indication (ingeneracy, generacy or procession), the property safeguarding the absence of confusion.18
16 17 18
Ibid., pp. 167, 169 (Syriac); pp. 166, 168 (English). Ibid., pp. 175, 177 (Syriac); p. 176 (English). Ibid., pp. 187, 189 (Syriac); pp. 186, 188 (English).
(7) In the following two passages Peter continues his criticism of Damian’s exegesis of Severus’s text, maintaining that Damian has mutilated the Father’s text: So in the same way that with us manhood is the whole substance comprising many hypostases whereas (Peter’s, Paul’s, and John’s and all the rest) whereas Peter, Paul and John are hypostases sharing equally in the substance; for each of them shares fully and no less in the manhood, and is a man, and is separated by his own designation and grouped with the consubstantial hypostases by similarity and equality in everything generic and common without being the total substance and manhood which embraces all the hypostases; in this very way too, in the case of the Holy Trinity too etc. Despite this, he cut out the beginning of the prooftext viz. So, in the same way that with us manhood is the whole substance comprising many hypostases (Peter’s, Paul’s, John and all the rest) and set down from it Peter, Paul and John are hypostases sharing equally in the substance. In the same fashion he cut out from the middle without being the total substance and manhood which embraces all the hypostases and after putting and a little later, he added: “But in this very way, in the case of the Holy Trinity too etc.”19 (8) Rebuttal of the mischievous tricks of heretics who think they can cloak the blasphemy by changing the names and who state that ‘two natures’ is to be interpreted as ‘two substances.’20 (9) The following two quotations illustrate how Severus clearly distinguishes the names, designating by ‘Peter’, ‘Paul’ and ‘John’ the hypostases of Peter, Paul and John, not their names: Each of the hypostases, then, which is included under the genus and the substance and under the common meaning (i.e. substance comprising many hypostases) shares equally in what is perceived to be within the common genus. For instance, Peter shares the common manhood and substance i.e. rationality, mortality, capacity for understanding and knowledge. Similarly, both Paul and John, though separated by unique marks and not being mutually confused, share too the common sub-
Ibid., pp. 227, 229 (Syriac); pp. 226, 228 (English). Ibid., p. 243 (Syriac); p. 242 (English).
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stance i.e. are rational, mortal, capable of understanding and knowledge. And again at another point he says (as has been set out before): So, in the same way that with us manhood is the whole substance comprising many hypostases (Peter’s, Paul’s, John’s and all the rest) whereas Peter, Paul and John are hypostases sharing equally in the substance, for each of them shares fully and no less in the manhood and is a man and is separated by his own designation and connected with the consubstantial hypostases by similarity and equality in everything generic and common without being the total substance and manhood which embraces all the hypostases; in this very way, in the case of the Holy Trinity too, the substance is the whole Godhead comprehending the three hypostases of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; but each of hypostases shares by the same substance in equality of honour and is completely God, and has no difference at all from its consubstantial hypostases, and is separated and parted by its particular indication (ingeneracy, generacy, or procession), the property safeguarding the absence of confusion.21 (10) Wherein he displays the Father, as an image displays the original and as the hypostatic Word displays, with total exactness, the mind which begot him, and not as if the Father’s hypostasis were poured out into him; for that is the blasphemous confusion of Sabellius and Marcellus. And again: So from this we learn that there is no confusion of the hypostases within the Holy Trinity, but each hypostasis exists along with its indication in the substance of the Godhead. And in chapter nineteen he taught in these words: You make a show, then, of satisfying true religion by empty mouthings, saying ‘not as if the Father were the Son or the Son the Father,’ wherever you are caught out merging the hypostases by saying ‘in Christ are the whole Godhead and the whole manhood’; and thus drawing the blasphemous inference that Christ is in two substances in the common meaning, with the consequence that in this way, as a result of this subtle confusion of yours, the whole substance of the Godhead i.e. the Holy Trinity will be found to be incarnate in the whole substance of manhood and the whole human race.22 (11) The following quotation from Severus, who is referred to as the “divinely inspired father”, is presented by Peter in chapter 8 of his Book iii in order to
Ibid., p. 245 (Syriac); p. 244 (English). Ibid., pp. 245, 247 (Syriac); pp. 244, 246 (English).
rebut Damian’s claim that the phrase of Severus ‘the hypostasis is indicative of the property’ means the indicator and the indicated are one and the same thing. Peter further shows that this is not always the case as can be proved from the fathers: This, then, to sum up, is what we are saying: that substance is indicative of the community and the generic sense, whereas hypostasis is characteristic of a single separate substrate which we term also ‘prosopon’ when it exists in its own proper subsistence, whether it be simple or brought together into indivisible union by composition’. And again, he writes a few lines later concerning our same divinely inspired father: The same doctor instructs us again in what follows, by saying: ‘But in that other there is a great and wide difference. For substance is indicative of the genus and the sense inclusive of many species, whereas hypostasis is a determination of some one species i.e. it is indicative of the prosopon which has by its property non-participation with the fellow-members of the genus, and embraces the substrate in its proper mark.23 (12) The following lengthy passage from Severus is presented in chapter 9 of Book iii in which Peter proves that Severus clearly distinguishes between the natural properties and the substance even in the case of created nature and that he also clearly distinguishes the characteristic properties of the hypostases from the hypostases themselves when he describes the characteristic properties of Job and Elkanah: But if anyone happens to mention Job, or Elkanah (father of Samuel), the meaning of the appellation points out, as if with a finger, so-and— so, and his single hypostasis. For immediately one hears ‘Job’, one has understood man—not all man but one of those placed under the substance and common genus of manhood. For the particular appellation ‘Job’ does not permit the hearer’s understanding to be diffused over the full expanse of the substance and embrace all men. No, it curbs the understanding by the properness of the designation; it limits and directs the mind towards the one hypostasis of so-and-so; and indicates distinctively what characterizes this very hypostasis. It grants us understanding of Job, the king and inhabitant of the land of Uz, the one to whose complete righteousness God bore witness, the one who was handed over to the evil
Ibid., vol. 32, p. 193 (Syriac); p. 192 (English).
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demon and adversary for combat, that is for full mastery over him, which would provide a testing-out of this witness; the one who used to offer to God daily prayers and sacrifices for the transgressions or mental sins of his sons and was deprived of these very sons and simultaneously of all his possessions, and in his bereavement of his sons and penury after his abundance of children and wealth, uttered that marvellous word of the thanksgiving undimmed by time: The Lord gave, and the Lord took away; as it has pleased God, so has it been done; blessed be the Lord’s name; the one who, in addition to this, was smitten with ulcers all over his body and held out despite the ailment’s unendurable and long ensuing pain, and despite the reproaches from friends who trifled with it ignorantly; the one to whom God again bore witness and who received the crown of martyrdom and divine splendours. Likewise, if one hears ‘Elkanah’, from the particular name one mentally imagines the marks characterizing a single man, not many men but a single hypostasis. For one mentally brings back and depicts the one who is known as being from the country of Ramah; the one who lived according to the Law; the one who used diligently to accomplish the sacrifices and offerings ordained through Moses and the other things, according to the prescribed cycles of seasons; who used to go up to the place of the divine tabernacle as the Law had ordained; the one who lived with Hannah, his chaste and devout wife who valued the marriage embrace as a means to the procreation of sons and was without fruit by childbirth, yet who, by prayers and tears, conquered the defect of nature and received a child as a result of her petition; she brought Samuel, who became renowned among the prophets and great among those who invoke the Lord, and who was entrusted with the anointing of Israel’s kings and used unerringly to foresee the future and prophesy what was to happen, so that not one of his words fell to the ground (as the Scripture says) for which reason he was called the visionary and the seer.24 (13) The following two passages from chapters 10 and 11 of Book iii are adduced by Peter in order to refute the interpretation given by Damian of Severus’s affirmation that the ‘hypostasis is indicative of the property’: For substance is indicative of the genus and the sense inclusive of many species, whereas hypostasis is a determination of indicative one species having by its property non-participation with the fellow-members of the
Ibid., pp. 245, 247 (Syriac); pp. 244, 246 (English).
genus and embracing the substrate in its proper mark. Indeed, he wrote also in similar fashion in the fourth chapter of the same second book, as follows: This, then, to sum up, is what we are saying: that substance is indicative of the community and the generic sense, whereas hypostasis is characteristic of a single, separate substrate.25 (14) Hypostasis, indeed, in reference to the meaning of “being” is the same as “substance”. For just as “substance” means what is, so “hypostasis” means what subsists, but what is and what subsists do not differ in anything.26 (15) In chapter 11 of Book iii Peter quotes the following three texts from Severus’s Contra impium Grammaticum to conclude that in the definitions of ‘substance’, ‘nature’ and ‘hypostasis’ given there, Severus intends to teach us what the terms not the realities are indicative of: The term ‘substance’, then, is indicative of something which is; for we must produce definitive demonstrations of the terms by approximating them to the thoughts and words of the divine Scripture. And again: For it is clear that the term ‘substance’ is derived from ‘being’. Therefore the word is not unscriptural, as the frigid and lamentable little arguments of the Arians … And a little later he writes the words quoted by your wise self, which are as follows: For substance is indicative of the genus and the sense inclusive of many species, whereas hypostasis is a determination indicative of one species having by its property non-participation with the fellow-members of the genus and embracing the substrate in its proper mark. Besides this he wrote in the fifth chapter of the same second book, setting down for us precise knowledge of the terms and of those indicated by the terms, as follows: These distinctions having been thus made and the force and meaning of each of the terms previously set down for examination having been clarified as best I can, we are to recognize that we find sound doctors of the holy churches often using the term ‘substance’ of the proper hypostasis too. And again: It is, therefore, not unknown that here too the one flesh ensouled with intelligent soul, the flesh hypostatically united with the Word, is clearly denominated ‘substance’; because the fathers sometimes apply the term ‘substance’ in the
Ibid., p. 273 (Syriac); p. 272 (English). Ibid., p. 301 (Syriac); p. 300 (English).
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proper sense. In the second chapter of the same book, he wrote as follows: So much for substance and hypostasis. The term ‘nature’, on the other hand, is sometimes indicative of the common and the genus like ‘substance’, sometimes of the species and of a single substrate like ‘hypostasis’ too. And again: it is to be noted and observed here too how the saint termed the two hypostases of Father and Son ‘two natures’; and showing that he applied the term ‘nature’ for the proper sense he said ‘two hypostatic natures’, aware that the term ‘nature’ is often used also for ‘substance’. This can be seen not only in the case of the Godhead but in that of the manhood too: sometimes the term ‘nature’ is used for substance and the generic sense, sometimes for the proper sense declaratory of hypostasis.27 (16) The term ‘substance’, then, is indicative of something which is; for we must produce definitive demonstrations of the terms by approximating them to the thoughts and words of divine Scripture.28 (17) In this latter case, then, substance, hypostasis and being share a meaning; in the former the difference is wide. For substance is indicative of the genus and the sense inclusive of many species whereas hypostasis is a determination indicative of one species. But he clarifies the force of the meaning of the terms under examination more subtly by saying: the holy fathers often used the term ‘substance’ in the proper sense, of hypostasis too. Likewise he also spoke of the term ‘nature’ in a different way, as previously set down: Sometimes it is indicative of the common and the genus like ‘substance’, sometimes of the species and of a single substrate like ‘hypostasis’ too.29 (18) In chapter 11 of his Book iii Peter cites the following text from Severus’ refutation of the Grammarian in order to show that Severus uses expressions sometimes to indicate the realities, sometimes the terms, leaving it to the reader to determine their exact meaning by the context. He (Peter) concludes that in the definitions given by Severus, the subject of the phrases is merely a term, but the predicate a reality, and that, consequently characterizers and characterized are sometimes identical but sometimes are not:
27 28 29
Ibid., pp. 305, 307, 309 (Syriac); pp. 304, 306, 308 (English). Ibid., p. 309 (Syriac); p. 308 (English). Ibid., pp. 309, 311 (Syriac); pp. 308, 310 (English).
So it is evident here too, that the nature is called one ‘prosopon’ and ‘hypostasis’. But where the doctor said that man’s nature has by Adam’s transgression come under the curse and death, he has indicated, by the term ‘nature’, the community of man and the whole race. Therefore ‘nature’ sometimes signifies ‘substance’, sometimes ‘hypostasis’. And again, at the very beginning of the third chapter: Thus also ‘being’ is indicative of both substance and hypostasis and is sometimes intermediate, meaning sometimes the one sometimes the other in accordance with the underlying meaning. He speaks, indeed, in similar terms at the end of the fourth chapter of the second book: This, then, to sum up, is what we are saying: that substance is indicative of the community and the generic sense, whereas hypostasis is characteristic of a single separate substrate which we term also ‘prosopon’ when it exists in its own proper subsistence, whether it be simple or brought together into indivisible union by composition. A few lines later, he introduced this too: But ‘nature’ and ‘being’ we understand to be intermediate terms and are sometimes taken to stand for ‘substance’, sometimes for ‘hypostasis’.30 (19) Peter quotes the following passage from Severus to prove that the fathers teach that three hypostases along with their characteristic properties are in the divine substance, but that the characteristics are to be distinguished from the hypostases and exist in the common substance not as hypostases but as their characteristic properties: So from this we learn that there is no confusion of the hypostases within the Holy Trinity, but each hypostasis exists along with its indication in the substance of the Godhead; because through the community of substance, it possesses absence of difference, complete similarity, unity and identity with the consubstantial hypostases, whereas through the property it possesses absence of confusion. So that, because of complete equality in the community, the others also, who participate in the same substance, will be seen and recognized in each hypostasis.31 (20) In chapter 15 of his Book iii Peter cites the following passage from Severus’s 15th chapter of the second book of his Against the Grammarian of Caesarea to the effect that an evil trick of heretics is to mix intentionally into their expositions heretical and orthodox statements: 30 31
Ibid., pp. 317, 319 (Syriac); pp. 316, 318 (English). Ibid., p. 351 (Syriac); p. 350 (English).
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That the heretics, as if in concord, and with the pretence of peace, are at pains to say with evil trickery, ‘Let us use our phrases and those beloved of the orthodox’, a thing which the word of truth will not accept. And again in the same fifteenth chapter he wrote: Heretics are careful either to import their heresy in toto or, at least, by all means to mix, in various plausible ways, something heretical in with what is correct.32 (21) At the end of chapter 16 of his Book iii Peter quotes the following text from Severus who reproached the Grammarian for the misuse of the homonymy of the term ‘nature’, describing him as follows: “… this foolish ignoramus, like a greedy hound ever drawn on by the smell of meat, is enticed towards the term, ‘nature’, and greedily seizing upon the fact that the doctor said ‘confirming the nature of the resurrected body …’” But this foolish ignoramus, like a greedy hound ever drawn on by the smell of meat, is enticed towards the term, ‘nature’, and, greedily seizing upon the fact that the doctor said ‘confirming the nature of the resurrected body’, he supposed that this suffices him to divide the one Christ into two natures after the union. Again, he speaks as follows in the 40th chapter of the same third book: Why, then, you ignorant fellow, do you go around collecting words idly, extracts from other people, and if you find the holy fathers anywhere using ‘natures’ in the plural, you immediately exult like a proverbial puffed-up, avaricious harlot, as though the orthodox deny that Christ is from two natures?33 (22) The following two quotations of Severus’ Against the Grammarian are presented by Peter in chapter 18 of his Book iii in order to confirm the synonymy of ‘hypostasis’ with ‘subsisting’, ‘being’ and ‘existing’: Hypostasis, indeed, in reference to the meaning of ‘being’, is the same as substance. For just as substance indicates existing, so too hypostasis indicates subsisting. ‘Existing’ and ‘subsisting’, indeed, are indistinguishable. Thus the God of all is brought forward by Jeremiah the prophet as saying: If they stood within my basis. He who said I am ‘He who is’ himself said: If they stood within my basis, signifying that he both exists and has been subsisting perpetually and never either non-existing or non subsisting,
Ibid., p. 387 (Syriac); p. 386 (English). Ibid., pp. 437, 439 (Syriac); pp. 436, 438 (English).
gathering together in himself all his eternal existence and subsistence. The word ‘being’ also is the same in meaning as ‘existing’ and ‘subsisting’, for there is no difference between existing, subsisting and being. He speaks again also as follows in the third chapter of the same book: Thus also ‘being’ is indicative of both substance and hypostasis and is something intermediate, meaning sometimes the one sometimes the other in accordance with the underlying meaning. Thus the God of all is brought forward by Jeremiah the prophet as saying: If they stood within my basis. He who said I am ‘He who is’ himself said: If they stood within my basis. For this reason too, the voice came to Moses from the person of God the Father and said I am ‘He who is’; thus shall you speak to the children of Israel: I am has sent me to you. Hypostasis, indeed, in reference to the meaning of ‘being’, is the same as substance. For just as ‘substance’ indicates existing, so too ‘hypostasis’ indicates subsisting. ‘Existing’ and ‘subsisting’, indeed, are indistinguishable.34 (23) But why must we suffer that fate? Because we can in no other way understand or utter what pertains to it save from thoughts and concepts which arise from the inferior and the everyday. And again: But because it is impossible to approach thoughts about God in any other way, we have taken an example from concepts belonging to our ordinary condition.35 (24) For thus it is written of these men in the fourth book of Kingdoms: They feared the Lord and worshipped their own gods, and again: And these were the nations which feared the Lord and reverenced their own graven images, for their children and grandchildren, too, do as their fathers did to this day. But Elijah the prophet, aflame with the fire of divine zeal, rebuked these wicked wretches with a foot in each camp when he said as follows: How long will you limp on your two hams? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is, follow him!36 (25) What Jeremiah who knows the mystery of lamentation will not weep over so much madness and lack of feeling and impose a lament upon inani-
34 35 36
Ibid., pp. 487, 489, 491 (Syriac); pp. 486, 488, 490 (English). Ibid., vol. 35, p. 23 (Syriac); p. 22 (English). Ibid., p. 31 (Syriac); p. 30 (English).
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mate things, as though rational nature is not capable of worthy lamentation, and say: Let Zion’s walls pour out floods of tears day and night?37 (26) The grammarian: But perhaps our opponents will say that a difference existed before the union, whereas after the union, none at all. But I pity such people rather, for thinking the thoughts of Nestorius, for he too grants that the man was created first and that God the Word then dwelt in him. Which is what these present-day perverters of truth, who think the thoughts of Nestorius, also assert. So you say you pity us, you, drunk with this incurable intoxication and so frantic and in need of much pity, tears and wails of mourning! What is surprising about that? For such are those who are drunk not only with the drunkenness and craziness which comes from wine, but with that which comes from different causes; who, in their confusion and dizziness think that standing things, often indeed immovable things as well, are going round.38 (27) The following two brief passages from Severus’ Against the Grammarian are quoted by Peter in chapter 25 of his Book iii in order to show that Severus used ‘subsistent’ of the Son’s generation or generacy, but also explained that terms have to be understood in correspondence with the underlying realities: Rebuttal of the mischievous trick of heretics which thinks it can cloak the blasphemy by changing the names.39 (28) See how he has said the natures will be divided but the prosopon indivisibly united: like dicers who are at pains to cheat those they are talking to by alterations and changes round of terms, they call the unity of natures a ‘unity of prosopon’.40 (29) The following three passages from Severus’ Against the Grammarian are quoted by Peter in chapter 25 of his Book iii. They declare that the divine hypostases are not distinguished by their eternity but only by their mode of being; that the Son exists from the Father by generation and the Holy Ghost by procession; and that each hypostasis is known by its property:
37 38 39 40
Ibid., p. 53 (Syriac); p. 52 (English). Ibid., pp. 99, 101 (Syriac); pp. 98, 100 (English). Ibid., p. 155 (Syriac); p. 154 (English). Ibid., p. 155 (Syriac); p. 154 (English).
The hypostasis of the Father, that of the Son and that of the Holy Ghost are different. For though eternity belongs to them and thereby the fact of being equal in honour and without difference of substance, nevertheless their mode of being is different. For the Father exists ingenerately unbegotten by another; which is why he is Father in the full sense. Whereas the Son is non-temporally and eternally begotten of the Father, shining unparted from his Father’s hypostasis like a beam from the Sun, spiritual light from spiritual light. But the Holy Ghost has his eternal being from the Father, yet not generately like the Son, but by the procession. For just as the Son exists from the Father by a divine, incorporeal and inconceivable generation, which the mind cannot comprehend, so too the Holy Ghost exists from the Father by a divine, incorporeal and inconceivable generation, which the mind cannot comprehend, so too the Holy Ghost exists from the Father by divine, incomprehensible and inexplicable procession. For it is written that he is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father. Therefore, the fact of their existing non-temporally and eternally shows the community and consubstantiality of the Holy Trinity, whereas the difference in mode of being brings in the particularity and non-participation of each of the hypostases with respect to the other two; For the Father stands fixedly in being neither from anything nor existing generately, not changing from this property whereby he is known as Father. Whereas the Son abides in shining forth generately from the Father, not changing to the ingeneracy of his begetter or to the procession of the Holy Ghost, but having divine and incomprehensible generation as the unblended indication, present to him alone, whereby he is recognized as the Only-begotten Son in his particular hypostasis. But the Holy Ghost possesses a fixed procession from the Father which shows clearly his hypostasis, not changing to the ingeneracy of the Father or to the Son’s generacy. In this way, then, with its innate property being present in each of the three hypostases (generacy in the Son, procession in the Spirit) the Father remains Father and not Son or Spirit, the Son remains Son and not Father or Spirit, and the Holy Ghost remains Holy Ghost and not Son or Father. Thus the Holy Trinity is known in three distinct hypostases by the distinction of properties, and in one substance by the identity of the Godhead.41 (30) The following two lengthy quotations from Severus’ Against the Grammarian is presented by Peter in chapter 25 of his Book iii. It gives Severus’
Ibid., pp. 175, 177 (Syriac); pp. 174, 176 (English).
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explanation of the term ‘hypostasis’ and that each has its peculiar appellation designating the particular subject: Therefore the term ‘man’, as we said previously, is indicative of the substance, signifying the community, equality, sameness and connaturality of the whole genus. But if anyone happens to mention Job, or Elkanah (father of Samuel), the peculiar mark of the appellation points out, as if with a finger, so-and-so, and his single hypostasis. For immediately one hears ‘Job’, one has understood man—not all man, but one of those under the substance and common genus of manhood. For the particular appellation ‘Job’ does not permit the hearer’s understanding to be diffused over the full expanse of the substance and embrace all men. No, it curbs the understanding by the peculiar mark of the designation; it limits and directs the mind towards the one hypostasis of so-and-so and indicates distinctively what things characterize it. And again: Likewise if one hears ‘Elkanah’, from the particular name one mentally imagines the impressions characterizing a single man, not many men but a single hypostasis. And a few lines later: Therefore Elkanah, who is signified to us by what has been said, is a man like Job, but another one apart from him and subsisting separately and particularly. For hypostasis establishes at the same time the identity of being with the co-generic and separates the one signified by particular and unconfused marks, from those who share in the genus and substance with him. No, says the doctor, the appellation curbs the understanding by the peculiar mark of the designation; it limits and directs the mind towards the one hypostasis of so-and-so and indicates distinctively what things characterize it. And again: Likewise if one hears ‘Elkanah’, from the particular name one mentally imagines the impressions characterizing a single man. And again: For hypostasis establishes at the same time the identity of being with the co-generic and separates the one signified by particular and unconfused marks.42 (31) So will one who said these things appear to you to be severing the substance of Father and Son or is he disclosing that each hypostasis exists in the substance of the Godhead, having its own innate property? And because of his being without difference with respect to his consubstantials each will be said to share in the same substance because the substance over all the hypostases of the same genus is one. For just, he says,
Ibid., pp. 169, 171, 173 (Syriac); pp. 168, 170, 172 (English).
as the Son exists from the Father by a divine, incorporeal and inconceivable generation which the mind cannot comprehend, so too the Holy Ghost exists from the Father by divine, incomprehensible and inexplicable procession. Just as the Son exists from the Father, this: by a divine, incorporeal and inconceivable generation. For the Father stands fixedly in being neither from anything nor existing generately, not changing from this property whereby he is known as Father. Whereas the Son abides in shining forth generately from the Father, not changing to the ingeneracy of his begetter or to the procession of the Holy Ghost, but having divine and incomprehensible generation as the unblended indication, present to him alone, whereby he is recognized as the Only-begotten Son in his particular hypostasis. But the Holy Ghost possesses a fixed procession from the Father which shows clearly his hypostasis, not changing to the ingeneracy of the Father or to the Son’s generacy.43 (32) The following passage from Severus’ Against the Grammarian (Book ii, chapter 7) is quoted by Peter in chapter 27 of his Book iii in order to show that Severus rebukes the slippery character of people arguing as Damian: Likewise you too, with the difference that you do not begin your first assault involuntarily like them, but very willingly, speak at random and claim it true, as if it were a point of dispute, that the uncreated is not the same substance as the created, nor the made with the unmade nor the temporally subject with the non-temporal. And though there is no one who disputes the point, you quote a multitude of proof-texts by the holy fathers. In regard to this it is good and very appropriate to say to you what was said by one of the prophets: Woe to him who multiplies what are not his—till when? And makes heavy upon him his yoke with severity; because those who bite him will suddenly arise.44 (33) The following lengthy passage is quoted by Peter in chapter 30 of his Book iii. It gives Severus’ interpretation of Cyril’s careful distinction between ‘substance’ (as the common to all members of the same genus) and ‘hypostasis’ (the individual member), a term never used by the fathers for the common substance:
Ibid., pp. 177, 179, 181 (Syriac); pp. 176, 178, 180 (English). Ibid., p. 263 (Syriac); p. 262 (English).
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However, please listen. For we shall again whisper to you some of the fathers’ Spirit-uttered words, those of Cyril, the proven doctor, who teaches that the sameness of substance introduces no confusion of hypostases into the Holy Trinity and that the substance of the hypostases is comprehensive of each. He wrote in the first book of the treatise On the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity addressed to a certain Hermias in the form of a question and answer, as follows: ‘There is a natural and ineffable unity, not with the hypostases undergoing some mutual confusion (as certain people have supposed) so that Father and Son should be the same; but, with each of the two existing and subsisting and being said to possess a particular being, it is the identity of substance which bestows unity. b. So, are you saying that the Son is apart from the Father in a particular substance? a. Not in a substance other than what he has qua God, but in the hypostasis he has qua Son. b. In substance one thing and hypostasis another? a. Yes, there is a big difference and distinction between them, since the substance is comprehensive of each. b. How do you mean? I am apparently slow in such matters. a. Do you not know that for me, too, discourse on these things is unfamiliar? You must, therefore, proceed none the less to an examination, available by an image, since the divine greatness exists in exalted heights. Thus the meaning of substance seems to apply to some common reality whereas the term “hypostasis” is said and used of each thing that falls under this common reality. Suppose I now tell you! a. What? b. We define man as a “rational, mortal animal”, ascribing him the appropriate concept, and this we say is the definition of a substance which extends over each of the separate subsistents. So under this common thing, man, i.e. the definition of man, fall, I suppose, Thomas and Mark or, let us say, Peter and Paul, and in this way one will indicate the substance. But one has not yet effected a clear and evident indication of what are to be recognized separately. For all that is simply man is not Peter and Paul. But by saying “Thomas” or “Peter” one will not bring the signified outside the limits of the substance. For he is no less man, but one has shown him existing in such and such a species in proper hypostasis and separately. So substance applies to every man, because it is pregnant with the common principle of the genus, whereas hypostasis to each one, by its not bringing the signified out of the community or, again, confusing and mixing into unrecognizability the properly individual’.45
Ibid., pp. 367, 369 (Syriac); pp. 366, 368 (English).
(34) In proof of his understanding of ‘hypostasis’, Peter adduces the following quotation from Severus’ Against the Grammarian which, according to Peter, shows that, for the fathers, the collection of a hypostasis’ properties is always with a substrate and does not subsist apart from it: Wherefore the divine Scripture, about to discourse on each of those mentioned (Job, I mean, and Elkanah) began in similar manner, there was a certain man in the land of Uz and there was a certain man from Ramah; and by ‘man’ sets out the identity of being and community of each, but in saying ‘a certain’ and ‘in the land of Uz’ and ‘from Ramah’ separates each of the hypostases without confusion. Although if it had only said ‘man was’, the noun would have disclosed the being, but, proceeding into indefiniteness, it would have signified and indicated the substance of every man and not of so-and-so, as does Man has not considered his honour, he has surrendered to senseless brutes and has become like them, but by adding to ‘man’ the phrases ‘a certain’ and ‘in the land of Uz,’ it determined his being in the particular meaning. So, ‘being’, said without determination, produces a generic indication and is indistinguishable from substance, but, conjoined with a particular distinction, contains the meaning of hypostasis; and the noun ‘man’, when stated without determination, enunciates man, substance and generic being, but in there was a certain man in the land of Uz hypostasis and particular being are enunciated also.46 (35) In the following quotation from Against the Grammarian (Book ii, chapter 18) Severus explains that fatherhood, sonship and procession are not empty names but exist in the Godhead in such wise that Father, Son and Holy Ghost are truly God: And we must also recognize another thing: that fatherhood i.e. ingeneracy, or generacy or procession are not empty names and ‘relationships bereft of realities’ (as Gregory the Theologian says somewhere) but the fatherhood which exists in the Godhead, so that God is Father, and the sonship or generacy which exists in the Godhead, so that God is Son or offspring and likewise the procession which exists in the Godhead, so that the Holy Ghost is God proceeding.47
Ibid., pp. 381, 383 (Syriac); pp. 380, 382 (English). Ibid., p. 391 (Syriac); p. 390 (English).
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(36) Peter cites the following quotation from Severus’ Against the Grammarian as a proof-text which had also been used by Damian in his Letter delivered through Zachariah: And we must also recognize that fatherhood i.e. ingeneracy, or generacy or procession are not empty names and ‘relationships berefts of realities’ (as Gregory the Theologian says somewhere) but the fatherhood which exists in the Godhead, so that God is Father, and the sonship or generacy which exists in the Godhead, so that God is Son or offspring, and the procession which exists in the Godhead, so that the Holy Ghost is God proceeding. If, again, you say ‘light’, or any other common thing you will mean the ingenerate light, the generate light and the proceeding light: three lights in the hypostases. For it is not one light in a triple-named hypostasis which is changed now into being or being thought Father, now into being or being thought Son, and now into being or being thought Holy Ghost, but they are three lights in hypostases. Because of this the light is both recognized and believed to be one light, on account of the participation in substance, the complete likeness and sameness, the one will, the one activity and the one brilliant radiance they communicate which shines forth upon those who are aided and participate in it. For Gregory the Theologian said, in the Oration on the Holy Ghost, the following too: ‘One commingling of light, as it were in three mutually linking Suns.48 (37) In the following three quotations from Severus’ Against the Grammarian Peter appeals to the authority of Severus. He (Peter) examines the proof-text again, in its context, to establish that Severus, rebutting here Sabellian doctrines, teaches that ‘fatherhood’, ‘sonship’ and ‘procession’ represent real relationships: For Christ is not the whole substance of the Godhead but one hypostasis of the substance and Godhead viewed and known in trinity, a hypostasis which is the Son, the Word who became incarnate without alteration, one ensouled and mind-endowed flesh which he assumed from the Virgin Mother of God by hypostatic union, wherein he displays the Father, as an image displays the original and as the hypostatic Word displays, with total exactness, the mind which begat him, and not as if the Father’s
Ibid., pp. 391, 393 (Syriac); pp. 390, 392 (English).
hypostasis were poured out into him: for that is the blasphemous confusion of Sabellius and Marcellus.49 (38) So if the Son (the begotten light, who displays in himself, as in an image, the unbegotten light, the Father; who is unmerged with the hypostasis of his begetter, and is a paraclete, other than the Holy Ghost, and separate and different in hypostasis; and who because of the non-difference of the common substance is viewed and known in him as in image) became incarnate and made man; what division do you suppose will thereby be made of the Holy Trinity, of the single substance and the Godhead in which the three hypostases participate equally alike without difference? And again: But if you shun saying that the Father was incarnate, or the Holy Ghost, and say that the whole Godhead exists in the Son’s hypostasis, you are to recognize that you lapse unconsciously into the same impiety. For the Son is not whole Godhead, but one hypostasis out of the three hypostases wherein the whole Godhead consists. For neither the Father’s nor the Holy Ghost’s hypostasis is merged in him. For although the archetype, which is the Father, is revealed and viewed in the Son as in a living and unvarying image, nevertheless the image is not therefore not other in hypostasis than the archetype nor are the two contracted into one hypostasis. And again: So you hope, then, to appease true religion by empty mouthings, saying ‘not as if the Father were the Son or the Son the Father’, wherever you are caught out merging the hypostases by saying ‘in Christ are the whole Godhead and the whole of manhood’; and thus drawing the blasphemous inference that Christ is in two substances in the common meaning, with the consequence that in this way, as a result of this subtle confusion of yours, the whole substance of the Godhead i.e. the Holy Trinity, will be found to be incarnate in the whole substance of manhood and the whole human race. And we must also recognize that fatherhood i.e. ingeneracy, or generacy or procession are not empty names and ‘relationships bereft of realities’ (as Gregory the Theologian says somewhere) but the fatherhood which exists in the Godhead, so that God is Father, and the sonship or generacy which exists in the Godhead, so that God is Son or offspring, and likewise the procession which exists in the Godhead, so that the Holy Ghost is God proceeding—proving that there is not one triple-named hypostasis which is changed now into being or being thought Father, now into being or being thought Son, now into being or being thought Holy Ghost.50 49 50
Ibid., p. 415 (Syriac); p. 414 (English). Ibid., pp. 415, 417, 419 (Syriac); pp. 414, 416, 418 (English).
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(39) So will one who said these things appear to you to be serving the substance of Father and Son or is he disclosing that each hypostasis exists in the substance of the Godhead, having its own innate property? In this way, then, with its innate property being present in each of the three hypostases (fatherhood in the Father, generacy in the Son, procession in the Spirit) the Father remains Father and not Son or Spirit, the Son remains Son and not Father or Spirit, and the Holy Ghost remains Holy Ghost and not Son or Father. Thus the Holy Trinity is known in three distinct hypostases by the distinction of properties, and in one substance by the identity of the Godhead. But the fatherhood which exists in the Godhead, so that God is Father, and the sonship or generacy which exists in the Godhead, so that God is Son or offspring, and likewise the procession which exists in the Godhead, so that the Holy Ghost is God proceeding. And the sonship or generacy which exists in the Godhead, so that God is Son or offspring, and likewise the procession which exists in the Godhead, so that the Holy Ghost is proceeding.51 (40) Therefore each of the hypostases participates in the substance, but the substance is the participated holding all the hypostases participating in it by equality of honour in a common and generic principle. For each of us participates in the common manhood and the one substance over all, and is one man and one hypostasis. But he will not be called, because he participates in the substance, not a hypostasis but substance. For the former is the participant whereas the latter is the participated.52 (41) So you hope, then, to appease true religion by empty mouthings, saying ‘not as if the Father were the Son or the Son the Father’, wherever you are caught out merging the hypostases by saying ‘in Christ are the whole Godhead and the whole of manhood’; and thus drawing the blasphemous inference that Christ is in two substances in the common meaning, with the consequence that in this way, as a result of this subtle confusion of yours, the whole substance of the Godhead i.e. the Holy Trinity, will be found to be incarnate in the whole substance of manhood and the whole human race. For this is the common meaning of ‘substances’: being a substance comprehending many hypostases, and not a single hypostasis participating with fellow hypostases of the same genus in
Ibid., pp. 419, 421 (Syriac); pp. 418, 420 (English). Ibid., p. 439 (Syriac); p. 438 (English).
the same substance, in the way that so-and-so participates in manhood. Otherwise, indeed, the same hypostasis would also be found to be a substance because it participates in the substance; which is at once very ludicrous, and very absurdly blasphemous.53 (42) In the following quotation from Severus’ Against the Grammarian (Book ii, chapter 19 and Book iii, chapter 1) Peter repeats and expounds Severus’ teaching that the Holy Trinity is the substance comprehending the hypostases: For Immanuel is not from two substances in the generic sense, comprehending a plurality of hypostases, but from one hypostasis of God the Word and from proper flesh ensouled with intelligent soul, flesh which is from Mary and subsists in unity with God the Word and completed without confusion or division one Christ, one Lord, one hypostasis and nature of the Word incarnate and in an ineffable manner made man. For it is not the Godhead’s substance in the generic sense (which is the Holy Trinity) which was incarnated into the substance and whole genus of manhood. For this is the height of impiety and witlessness.54 (43) It has been revealed to us by the words and thoughts found in the sacred Scriptures that we are to believe that God exists in one substance and in three hypostases.55 (44) Peter returns to a critique of the contention that God the Father is both participant and participated. To this end, he adduces the following quotation from Severus’ Against the Grammarian (Book ii, chapter 1) where Severus establishes that ‘God the Father’ refers only to the Father and not to the common divine substance; he is not both hypostasis and comprehensive substance: For this reason too, then, the voice came to Moses from the person of God the Father and said I am ‘He who is’; thus shall you speak to the children of Israel: He who is has sent me to you! John the theologian and evangelist, too, said in the Gospel, about the living and subsisting Son and Word ‘Begotten of the Father before the worlds’: In the beginning was the Word; and in his epistle; Who was from the beginning; and in his Revelation: Who is and was
53 54 55
Ibid., pp. 471, 473 (Syriac); pp. 470, 472 (English). Ibid., p. 473 (Syriac); p. 472 (English). Ibid., p. 485 (Syriac); p. 484 (English).
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and is to come. And Job the philosopher, speaking of the holy hypostatic Spirit who proceeds eternally from God the Father: But the divine spirit who is in my nostrils.56 (45) The following quotation from Severus’ Against the Grammarian (Book ii, chapters 17 and 25) is presented by Peter in order to show how Severus demonstrates that if God the Father is both participant and participated, then the whole Godhead or Holy Trinity must have become incarnate: The Church’s God-clad masters of mysteries, indeed, call ‘union’ the joining of God the Word to spiritually ensouled flesh, following, as they do, the divinely inspired word of the Gospel which clearly proclaims the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us; which union they also term ‘incarnation’, ‘becoming man’ and ‘composition’, inasmuch as God the Word, one hypostasis, united to himself hypostatically one particular flesh, rationally and spiritually ensouled, from Mary the mother of God. And again: Therefore, it was not a union of substances that was effected, but of one hypostasis, that of God the Word with particular flesh endowed with soul and mind, derived from the Virgin mother of God. He set down similar things to these in the 25th chapter of the same second book, as follows: But the one prosopon out of the Trinity, God the Word, is a hypostasis and not a substance in the common sense, as you said; and the Word’s hypostasis itself, which possesses, according to you, the Godhead’s substance, is one of the three hypostases subsisting in the Godhead’s substance which participate in the substance and in equality without diminution and fully. And a hypostasis is not the substance; because it participates in the substance. And consequently God the Word made man is not, as you blather, known in two substances; for being one hypostasis he also united to himself one flesh ensouled with rational soul in a concurrence of natural union.57 (46) In the following quotation Peter reiterates Severus’ rejection of the notion of an incarnation of the whole Trinity and Severus’ definition of the substance of the Godhead in the generic sense as the Holy Trinity:
Ibid., p. 505 (Syriac); p. 504 (English). Ibid., pp. 509, 511 (Syriac); pp. 508, 510 (English).
With the consequence that in this way, as a result of this subtle confusion of yours, the whole substance of the Godhead i.e. the Holy Trinity, will be found to be incarnate in the whole substance of manhood; and at another point: For it is not the Godhead’s substance in the generic sense (which is the Holy Trinity) which was incarnated into the substance and whole genus of manhood.58 (47) The following passage is quoted by Peter in proof that he distinguished substance and hypostasis without ever using the language favoured by Damian, the purpose of which is to establish that the hypostases of the Holy Trinity are only God in a derivative sense: But the one prosopon out of the Trinity, God the Word, is a hypostasis and not a substance in the common sense, as you said; and the Word’s hypostasis itself, which possesses, according to you, the Godhead’s substance, is one of the three hypostases subsisting in the Godhead’s substance which participate in the substance and in equality without diminution and fully. And a hypostasis is not the substance, because it participates in the substance.59 (48) So that, because of the equality of the community in everything which is seen and recognized in each hypostasis, the others also will participate in the same substance; for it is to this that the words of the Lord himself, He who has see me has seen the Father, will lead us on.60 (49) Peter quotes the following brief passage from Severus’ Against the Grammarian (Book ii, chapter 1) which also speaks of the hypostases as ‘seen in the Father, and in the Son and in the Holy Ghost’: So that, because of the equality of the community in everything and continued the others also who participate in the same substance will be seen and recognized in each hypostasis. (So that, because of the equality of the community in everything) with seen and recognized in each hypostasis, he put in the others also will participate in the same substance.61
58 59 60 61
Ibid., p. 529 (Syriac); p. 528 (English). Ibid., vol. 54, p. 101 (Syriac); p. 100 (English). Ibid., pp. 241, 243 (Syriac); pp. 240, 242 (English). Ibid., p. 245 (Syriac); p. 244 (English).
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(50) The following two passages are quoted from Severus’Against the Grammarian (Book ii, chapter 1) wherein Severus trumps Basil and confirms through him orthodoxy of doctrines irreproachable: What, then, has been revealed let us love; what has not been revealed let us not inquire after; for it has not been revealed: not out of grudgingness (for grudgingness is far from God), but because it surpasses our comprehension. It is a grand thing for us to know (and this when we are purified, or educated by those who have been purified and illuminated) that there is one common substance of Godhead of the blessed, uncreated and unmade Trinity and three hypostases particularly, definitely and unconfusedly seen in the Father, and in the Son and in the Holy Ghost.62 (51) For the Son is one of the hypostases which are based in the substance and are included in the generic signification, whereas the substance and the generic signification (i.e. the Godhead) is inclusive of the three hypostases of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, with each of the hypostases participating fully in the concept of the substance and being God. And again: For this is how Saint Basil too, in the Letter to Terentius, explains the concept of the divine substance from our humanity, when he writes as follows: ‘If we too must say briefly what appears to us to be the case, we will say this: that substance possesses with regard to hypostasis the same conceptual relationship as the common to the particular. For each of us participates in being and is such and such a person, by both the common concept of substance and by the properties belonging with him. In this way, furthermore, the concept of the substance is common (for example, the goodness, Godhead, or whatever else is conceived of), but the hypostasis is seen in the property of fatherhood, sonship or hallowing power.’ So, in the same way that with us manhood is the whole substance embracing many hypostases (Peter’s, Paul’s, John’s and each one’s), whereas Peter, Paul and John are hypostases participating equally in the substance, for each of them participates fully and no less in the manhood and, being a man, is separated by his own designation and joined with the consubstantial hypostases because of the complete resemblance and absence of variation belonging to the genus and community, without being the whole substance and manhood comprehending all the individual hypostases; in this very way, in the case of the Holy Trinity too, the substance is the
Ibid., p. 249 (Syriac); p. 248 (English).
whole Godhead comprehending the three hypostases of Father, Son and Holy Ghost; but each hypostasis participates also in the substance by equality of honour, and is completely God, and has no difference from its consubstantial hypostasis, and is separated and parted by its proper indication (ingeneracy, generacy or procession), the property safeguarding the absence of confusion. Therefore the same Son who was united to flesh endowed with reason and became man, is one of the hypostases based in the same substance of Godhead, and is not the whole substance comprehending the three hypostases and signifying the community.63 (52) God is seen in one substance and Godhead and in three unconfused hypostases, and again that three hypostases are seen, properly and separately, in the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.64 iii From Contra codicillos Alexandrii (fragmenta inedita) [1 quotation] (1) In the following two long quotations from Severus’ Against Alexander’s Codicils and Letter to Eupraxias Peter appeals to the authority of Severus to prove that this is indeed the meaning of his words: Severus says throughout the same thing: the hypostases are not to be thought of as mere names but as individually subsisting realities: For the Holy Trinity exists in three hypostases and one substance. ‘Godhead’ is the term indicating the substance and identity or commonness, for there is one substance of the three hypostases, and just as the Father is God, so is the Son, who has shone forth without beginning from the Father and has been eternally begotten from him, God; so too is the Holy Ghost, co-eternal with Father and Son, God; for he is the Spirit of truth who proceeds non-temporally from the Father. But each hypostasis has its own, non-common name; one has ‘Father’, one has ‘Son’ and one has ‘Holy Ghost’. For fatherhood and not-being-from-something but existing ingenerately is the Father’s particular and distinctive mark; the Son’s fixed and immovable mark is Sonship and being-begotten-from-the-Father; as the Holy Ghost’s proper, and incommunicable mark is procession from the Father, not being generate like the Son or being ingenerate like the Father. For the hypostases, properties and the names indicative of them, are immutable and fixed. They do not transfer, flow or alter into another,
Ibid., pp. 257, 259 (Syriac); pp. 256, 258 (English). Ibid., p. 283 (Syriac); p. 282 (English).
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but safeguard the stability of each hypostasis by their fixedness, without severing the unity and equality of honour of the substance and of the Godhead of the three. For the name ‘Father’ and ‘not-being-from-something’ never leaves the Father to transfer to the Son or Holy Ghost; nor again is the name ‘Son’ and ‘existing-by-generation-from-the-Father’ stripped from the Son, like clothing or a mask, to be applied to Father or Holy Ghost; nor too can the title or procession of the Holy Ghost depart to another. For what characterizes each hypostasis, fitting particularly only the hypostasis whose it is, abides; so that there are understood to be three, each recognized singly in a proper subsistence and disconnected by his property from any other, though the community of the Godhead unites the three without confusing them, and safeguards the Trinity as at once inseparable and unconfounded. And a few lines later: For were the Father wholly the Son (i.e. in every respect) and the Son in every respect the Father, and were there nothing to distinguish the hypostases, the property both of the Father and of the Son would be lost and effaced, and the names would be empty of realities.65 iv From Epistula ad Eupraxium (po 14)66 [2 quotations] (1) In the following passage from Severus’ Letter to Eupraxias Peter again appeals to the authority of Severus who never says ‘an hypostasis is the whole Godhead’, or ‘the substance of the Godhead is one thing and the hypostases of the Holy Trinity another’: But, because we are mutable, our mind is subject to changes and alterations and emits a word uttered and dissolving in the air and likewise a breath which is uttered and straightway dissolved in the same air. But God the Father the living, hypostatic Mind, being thus eternally incorruptible and immutable, begets, in consequence, a living, hypostatic Word and emits a living hypostatic Spirit. And, just as the Father is Creator, so is the Son and so is the Spirit Creator. For by the Word of the Lord were the heavens made and all their host by the Spirit of his mouth. And because they belong to the same substance as the Father, they must have the same glory, royalty and eternity; for identity of substance implies equality in every respect. For when we hear ‘Son’, we immediately understand that he is consubstantial with the Father; for every father must beget a consubstantial son.
Ibid., vol. 29, pp. 275, 277 (Syriac); pp. 274, 276 (English). Ed. E.W. Brooks, po, vol. 14 (1920), 6–68.
In this way we infer notions about the Son, which are worthy of God, from every title: from ‘Radiance’ we infer his co-eternity with the Father; from ‘Word’, the impassibility of his generation; from ‘Son’, his consubstantiality. We cannot, indeed, define all that belongs to the divine nature by a single title or indication, seeing that he is incomparable and peerless. But taking from each term what is worthy of God, we reject all the rest and let it stay beneath. But when we speak of the divine nature, we speak of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Though we distinguish the hypostases, we unite the Godhead. And as the term ‘Father’ and the fact of not being begotten by anything is the characteristic and the property of the Father’s hypostasis, so the term ‘Son’ and the fact of being begotten by the Father is the characteristic and the property of the Son’s hypostasis. In the same way too the title ‘Holy Ghost’ and the fact of not being begotten by the Father but proceeding from him is the characteristic and the property of the Holy Ghost’s hypostasis.67 (2) For when we hear ‘Son’, we immediately understand that he is consubstantial with the Father; for every father must beget a consubstantial son. In this way we derive notions about the Son, which are worthy of God, from every title: from ‘Radiance’ we infer his co-eternity with the Father; from ‘Word’, the impassibility of his generation; from ‘Son’, his consubstantiality. We cannot, indeed, define all that belongs to the divine nature by a single name or indication, seeing that he is incomparable and peerless. But taking from each term what is worthy of God, we reject all the rest and let it stay beneath. But when we speak of the divine nature, we speak of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Though we distinguish the hypostases we unite the Godhead. And again: The hypostases, then, or prosopa, being seen in their own marks (Father not changing into Son or Holy Ghost, nor Son transferring into Holy Ghost or Father, nor Holy Ghost altering into being Father or Son), the three are one, by identity of substance and Godhead; for the Father is God, the Son God, the Holy Ghost God. For the hypostases abiding unconfused, the Trinity is in all things unalterable. For one is its substance, glory, eternity, sovereignty, power, will, activity; therefore we hold that the three hypostases are one God.68
Cf. Ebied et al, Contra Damianum, vol. 29, pp. 277, 279 (Syriac); pp. 276, 278 (English). Ibid., vol. 54, pp. 263, 265 (Syriac); pp. 262, 264 (English).
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v From Epistula ad Oecumenium (cpg 7071) [1 quotation] (1) The following quotation from Severus’ Letter to Oecumenius is drawn upon by Peter in chapter 22 of his Book iii by way of apology for the length of the argument against his opponent and also as support for the excuse: For those, therefore, who desire summarily and briefly to learn the intention of what was written by us, these things had to be expressed, but to those who yearn to know the reasons and the inner meaning herein the whole letter will be given. Clearly one who has been given the conclusions of statements also needs all the statements. For a conclusion is an abbreviation of the many details. So we must first know the many details in order that we may know what it is an abbreviation of, otherwise it may happen that we shall only utter empty words devoid of meaning like those, perhaps, who longed only to speak in tongues, whom Paul rebukes, saying: For if I were praying in a tongue, my spirit prays but my understanding is sterile; adding subsequently what he preferred, I will pray with my spirit but I will also pray with my understanding. I will sing with my spirit but I will sing also with my understanding. With a small alteration, therefore, I too may say that one ought to instruct in words but one ought also to instruct with the understanding. For I do not know if any of the God-clad fathers judged it right to speak briefly in his teachings. For it is a precious thing in these matters if, even when we expend the whole force of language which is in us, we say a small fraction and that obscurely, of what is to be understood.69 vi From Homilia Cathedralis 21 (po 37)70 [1 quotation] (1) Peter points out from the following text that the fathers do not admit the general canon of Damian but distinguish sometimes between indicators and indicated: Where, then, do evils come from? Whence do they arise? From free-will. For God made us in his image, by bestowing a rational soul which brings in it the divine marks by its being incorporeal; because, in mental activities, it reaches out and extends, as much as it can, towards everything it desires, and is quite unbounded by place and is capable of virtues such as righteousness and the rest.71 69 70 71
Ibid., vol. 29, p. 365 (Syriac); p. 364 (English). Ed. Maurice Brière and François Graffin, po, vol. 37 (1975), 64–87. Cf. Ebied et al, Contra Damianum, vol. 32, p. 221 (Syriac); p. 220 (English).
vii From Homilia Cathedralis 42 (po 36)72 [2 quotations] In chapters 20 and 44 of his Book iii Peter cites the following two passages from Severus’ Homilia Cathedralis 42 in order to illustrate that the fathers regularly introduce corporeal analogies as aids to comprehension of things divine. In the following two passages Severus, inter alia, is cited as doing so: (1)
The phrase ‘he searches out’ indicates exalted knowledge and that nothing passes by the Spirit’s knowledge as too inscrutable or incomprehensible for him. Yet even this phrase does not escape our lowliness, for ‘searching out’ is the part of those who do not have knowledge. No, let us reject the meanings of words, meanings which are remote from the alltranscending substance, because more exalted terms are not available to us when we make known things divine; and let us apply to it only those ideas which are as close as possible to the subject.73
(2) Those who were eye-witnesses and stewards of the Word and those who shepherded the apostolic Church everywhere in their footsteps, taught us to believe in Father, Son and Holy Ghost, in a new and primeval mystery. And a little later: But when I say Father, Son and Holy Ghost, understand me: one substance and Godhead in three hypostases.74 viii From Homilia Cathedralis 67 (po 8)75 [1 quotation] (1) Peter maintains at the beginning of chapter 37 of his Book iii that the claim to oppose tritheism is a mask for atheism and is in contradiction with the fathers who name each prosopon severally ‘God Himself’. As a proof-text from Severus he quotes the following passage from Homilia Cathedralis 67: But earlier, where the spirit of slavery was, there was a smoking mountain which only received the appearance of the Lord’s glory as a burning fire, and Moses was the ministering servant; whereas here, where the grace of adopted sonship is, there is the Virgin, a spiritual mountain, which blazes with purity and the indwelling of the Spirit; not the appearance of God’s glory but God Himself, the Son, Word, Stamp and Image of the Father’s hypostasis. He does not tread merely on the top of the mountain
72 73 74 75
Ed. Maurice Brière and François Graffin, po, vol. 36 (1971), 30–73. Cf. Ebied et al, Contra Damianum, vol. 35, p. 23 (Syriac); p. 22 (English). Ibid., vol. 54, p. 263 (Syriac); p. 262 (English). Ed. Maurice Brière, po, vol. 8 (1911), 349–367.
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but, without change he is incarnate and born of it; for the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.76 ix From Homilia Cathedralis 70 (po 12)77 [1 quotation] (1) The following quotation underlines what Peter says towards the end of chapter 48 of Book iii to the effect that ‘we must take the middle road not going from one extreme to the other: not professing three gods on the one hand, or making the Godhead a mental construct on the other. The divine unity in trinity is a mystery and a paradox’: For the Father is ‘God’, the Son ‘God’, the Holy Ghost God, but not three ‘Gods’ dividedly, because the Son and the Spirit lead back to the Father, to one Beginning as non-temporal cause (for from him, though not after him, are Son and Spirit, for they are co-eternal); so that the same Trinity will be perceived threefold in the properties and recognized unitarily in the Godhead, will be indivisibly separated and unconfusedly joined, and will avoid the Jewish poverty of Sabellius which restricts the Godhead to one prosopon and one hypostasis and will negate, by the oneness and sameness of substance, the polytheism of Arius and the heathen; being singly many (which is a paradox), because from one it extends only to three and leads back again to one. For after ‘two,’ ‘three’ is an odd and not an even number, so that no participation or comparability of God with creation will here be understood. For amongst things incorporeal we see nothing with oneness and threeness save God, whereas duality is a property of bodies which consist of matter and form; but there can be no composition in the Trinity either, for Godhead is simple and incomposite in substance.78 x From Homilia Cathedralis 90 (po 23)79 [2 quotations] (1) The following text by Severus, which is adduced in support of Damian, is quoted and explained by Peter at the beginning of chapter 18 of his Book ii where Peter calls attention to the rule that texts are to be interpreted in context: But this is stuff for myth-makers not theologians. For ‘Father’, ‘Son’ and ‘Holy Ghost’ are characteristic titles explanatory of the hypostases’ free76 77 78 79
Cf. Ebied et al, Contra Damianum, vol. 54, p. 79 (Syriac); p. 78 (English). Ed. Maurice Brière, po, vol. 12 (1915), 5–51. Cf. Ebied et al, Contra Damianum, vol. 54, pp. 403, 405 (Syriac); pp. 402, 404 (English). Ed. Maurice Brière, po, vol. 23 (1932), 120–165.
dom from confusion. For, they do not divide the Trinity in terms of superiority and inferiority. Everything belonging to Father and Son is to be seen in the Holy Ghost. For the prophet David, addressing the Father, made the following prediction: In thy light shall we see light – i.e. in the Son we shall see the Holy Ghost. For manifested to us in the flesh he revealed him and was himself also revealed more gloriously by him.80 (2) Peter quotes the following long passage from the same Homily (90) in which Severus rebuts Arians who argue from the difference of names to a difference of substance between the divine persons. Clearly here Severus means the names; ‘Father’, ‘Son’ and ‘Holy Ghost’: My Father is greater than I. But we must not be perfunctory in our attention to him who in those very Gospels says: The Father who gave me them is greater than all and nobody can snatch them from my Father’s hand; the Father and I are one. For because he became man for our sake without altering, he became one of the ‘all’, and was reckoned with the ‘all’ (meaning those thought of as inferior to God) without abandoning the divine majesty. Accordingly he called the Father greater than himself because his Father was greater than all. Consequently he calls the things he possessed and over which he was, as God, master, given him by the Father. But (in virtue of the identity of substance) he says: The Father and I are one. In this way greater belongs to the incarnate dispensation, one to the equality of honour in the Godhead. This is the reason why, when he was criticized for this remark, a spiteful crowd of Jews, hostile to God, hurried to pelt him with stones saying: Though you are a man you are making yourself God. Indeed by this same word of voluntary kenosis and his declaration that he had been sent by the Father, that he received the commandment, and that he could do nothing of himself, we are aware that being in the form of God and condescending to accept a slave’s form, he spoke words in keeping with slavery and obedience though these diminish not a whit the elevation of his Godhead. For how could the humble language of the dispensation bring about a lessening in the divine substance or glory? For if ignorant people take The Father is greater than I as making a comparison in Godhead, how could a creature have compared himself with the Uncreated? Like things can be compared, not things utterly distant and remote in nature. Moreover, if Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom, would it not
Cf. Ebied et al, Contra Damianum, vol. 29, p. 241 (Syriac); p. 240 (English).
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be unthinkable to call the Father wiser and more powerful than his wisdom and power? The Son is inferior to the Father in nothing, because he is endowed with the same glory, royalty, eternity and power as the Father. He is the image of the invisible God, the effulgence of his glory and the image of his hypostasis, Paul said. For all the features of the original are in the image if he is to be the image in the full sense of the word: not an image, such as we have, an inanimate piece of craftsmanship, nor in the way that we are said to be in the image and likeness of God because we have received some of his grace. No, he is the stamp of his Father’s hypostasis, whose image he also is. So that he is hypostatic life from life, light from light, infinite power from infinite and unbounded power. Where shall we establish that ‘greater’, when at every point complete equality is what principally strikes us, except one be constrained to say, perhaps, in the Son’s being ‘from the Father’, even if he has shone forth from him non-temporarily and eternally as the effulgence of the paternal glory, co-eternal with him who beams him forth? But this brings the Son no inferiority. For just as it is a high thing for the Son to be begotten, unbeginning and eternal, from the Father, so for the Father too it is a high thing and an honour appropriate to God that he should have a co-eternal Son not one subsequently acquired. For were the Son to be thought the Father’s inferior, because he is not the Father, then the Father too must be defective through his not being the Son. But this is stuff for myth-makers not theologians. For ‘Father’, ‘Son’ and ‘Holy Ghost’ are characteristic titles explanatory of the hypostases’ freedom from confusion. For they do not divide the Trinity in terms of superiority and inferiority.81 xi From Homilia Cathedralis 109 (po 25)82 [3 quotations] (1) In the following quotation from Severus, Peter (Book ii, chapter 10), after making reference to an objection by Damian, points out the teaching of the father’s prudent tongue (i.e. Severus) to the effect that: “when to ‘life’ is added the characteristic property of the hypostasis, the hypostasis is indicated”: So from what we have said now it will be clear to everyone that God is known both in unity and Trinity, as he revealed to Moses in discourse with him. In unity: Through singleness and identity of substance, lordship, Godhead and moreover, of will, power, operation, kingship, glory, eternity;
Ibid., pp. 249, 251, 253 (Syriac); pp. 248, 250, 252 (English). Ed. Maurice Brière, po, vol. 25 (1943), 732–781.
in a word, all that can be thought and said of God. In Trinity: through the particularity and freedom from confusion of the hypostases. So when you mentally apprehend or imagine the Trinity, call the whole ‘one God,’ not because you diffuse or merge hypostases but because you recognize in the three one Godhead and the other indications of the common identity. But when you confine your view to the Father, or e.g. to the Son, or it may be, to the Holy Ghost, and use the invocation ‘God’ or ‘He who is’ or ‘Lord’ or any other term common to the Holy Trinity, you are making a good invocation; but let the property be coupled by you, and invoke God as Father who exists ingenerately and not from others, and likewise name the Son ‘God’, ‘Lord’, and ‘He who is’ but who has been begotten eternally of the Father; and likewise extol the Holy Ghost with the same equally honourable names: not as if he were not from another, or were begotten, but as proceeding from the Father. Let the properties remain unshaken from the common indications and names, and likewise let what is common remain inseparable from the properties. You have spoken of three? Run uninterruptedly towards one! You have imagined one? Think separately of the three! ‘Three’ will put a brake upon Sabellius’ Jewish confusion; ‘one’ upon Arius’ heathen dissection.83 (2) The following text from the same Homily (109) by Severus, quoted by Peter (Book iii, chapter 17), underlines the teaching of Severus which explains the point made also by Basil that generacy follows life: meaning here by ‘life’ not the whole Trinity but the hypostasis of God the Father alone: So, when you mentally apprehend or imagine the Trinity, call the whole ‘one God’, not because you diffuse or merge the hypostases but because you recognize in the three one Godhead and the other indications of the common identity. But when you confine your view to the Father, or e.g. to the Son, or it may be, to the Holy Ghost, and use the invocation ‘God’ or ‘He who is’ or ‘Lord’ or any other term common to the Holy Trinity, you are making a good invocation; but, let the property be coupled by you, and invoke God as Father who exists ingenerately and not from others, and likewise name the Son ‘God,’ ‘Lord,’ and ‘He who is’ but who has been begotten eternally of the Father; and likewise extol the Holy Ghost with the same equally honourable names: not as if he were not from another, or were begotten, but as proceeding from the Father. Let the properties
Cf. Ebied et al, Contra Damianum, vol. 29, pp. 141, 143 (Syriac); pp. 140, 142 (English).
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remain unshaken from the common indications and names, and likewise let what is common remain inseparable from the properties.84 (3) The same passage cited above is quoted again by Peter in Book iii, chapter 31 in order to emphasise Severus’ explanation that by saying ‘God’ we indicate the whole Trinity and distinguish the persons by name through the addition of the property e.g. ‘God the Son’: So when you mentally apprehend or imagine the Trinity, call the whole ‘one God’, not because you diffuse or merge the hypostases but because you recognize in the three one Godhead and the other indications of the common identity. But when you confine your view to the Father, or e.g. to the Son, or it may be, to the Holy Ghost, and use the invocation ‘God’ or ‘He who is’ or ‘Lord’ or any other term common to the Holy Trinity, you are making a good invocation but let the property be coupled by you, and invoke God as Father who exists ingenerately and not from others, and likewise name the Son ‘God’, ‘Lord’, and ‘He who is’ but who has been begotten eternally of the Father; and likewise extol the Holy Ghost with the same equally honourable names: not as if he were not from another, or were begotten, but as proceeding from the Father. Let the properties remain unshaken from the common indications and names, and likewise let what is common remain inseparable from the properties.85 xii From Homilia Cathedralis 119 (po 26)86 [2 quotations] (1) The following text from Severus’ Homily 119 is cited by Peter (Book ii, chapter 21) in proof of the father’s teaching that we are not baptised into the names of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, but into the divine persons themselves: For Christ, one of the Holy Trinity, taught us that perfect baptism, which bestows, adoption, should be accomplished in the Father and in the Son and in the Holy Ghost. With these three invocations of hypostases there concurs an equal number of immersions, wherein there is another mysterious Principle evidenced by the holy Scriptures. For because, as Paul, writing to the Romans, declares: We are buried with Christ in baptism by being baptized into his death, and because Christ’s burial (after which
84 85 86
Ibid., vol. 32, pp. 463, 465 (Syriac); pp. 462, 464 (English). Ibid., vol. 35, pp. 387, 389 (Syriac); pp. 386, 388 (English). Ed. Maurice Brière, po, vol. 26 (1948), 375–439.
the Resurrection occurred) was for three days, we display this fact by three immersions in the water and bury the old sins in a life-giving grave; we change into the new man, gaining therefrom an earnest of the resurrection.87 (2) The following passage from the same Homily (119) by Severus is quoted by Peter in Book iii, chapter 27 to point out that the father rebukes the slippery character of people arguing as Damian: We spurn such people as heretics and when they allege some defence which chimes in with orthodoxy on another point and not on the one which they are criticized or censured, they will be adjudged wrong-doers and deceivers. For the fact that Eutyches and Nestorius judged the Holy Trinity to be consubstantial does not free them from their other errors. For nobody censured them over that. The fact that Novatus agreed with the Church’s view on all other points was no help to him, when he would not accept repentance. For it would be ridiculous for someone accused of committing adultery to weave a defence of not having committed murder. No heretic, in fact, can be found who never said anything sound, as the Church holds it, and we do not therefore number them anywhere with the orthodox.88 xiii From Homilia Cathedralis 123 (po 29)89 [3 quotations] (1) The following long passage is cited by Peter (Book iii, chapter 25) in proof that Severus used ‘subsistent’ of the Son’s generation or generacy, but also explained that the terms have to be understood in correspondence with the underlying realities: Who is the father of the rain or who begat so much dew and abundance? It was not to show the birth and generation of these things but because he is explaining that to human generations or births and those of the rest of what are on earth belong time and travail, this is why he says, ‘Do you suppose I have need of those things, of such delay and labour in generation, for bringing dew, rain, frost and ice, and did not these things subsist more swiftly than a word, as a result of the divine activity,
87 88 89
Cf. Ebied et al, Contra Damianum, vol. 29, pp. 307, 309 (Syriac); pp. 306, 308 (English). Ibid., vol. 35, pp. 261, 263 (Syriac); pp. 260, 262 (English). Ed. Maurice Brière, po, vol. 29 (1960), 124–189.
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indeed, rather, by the will, by a sign only, or by whatever swifter thing than these we can say of God?’ But we should, then, understand the terms in correspondence with the meaning of the underlying realities and not maim truth by a metaphorical usage of words. For one understands God as Father ‘of the rain’ and ‘of the Son, the Only-begotten’, in different senses. For the term ‘Only-begotten’ shows that God the Word was begotten of God the Father, unique from unique and outside every kind and notion of any generation. Therefore ‘Only-begotten’ separates the Son’s generation on high from the later generations or births below, whether they really exist or are called this by custom. In other words, if Scripture had only said, ‘The Father begat the Son’ and nothing else, one could have understood the birth by a comparison with similar expressions, not as truly from the Father’s substance but in its metaphorical usage as in the case of rain, ice and frost. But because what concerns the Son’s generation does not stand by this point and because we do not, as these inane people suppose, depend on one word, and so, by a different explanation of it, run the risk of losing the things of our faith, let them desist from filthily nibbling off the very words like mice. For what are we to do when we hear John saying, In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. For if he was in the beginning as He who is with Him who is and as God with God, how can we understand God’s generation which exists perpetually, as not being true, subsistent and eternal and from the very substance of the begetter, but compare it with rain and dew? But how can we apply those words to ice and rain which were begotten, as you will say, like the Son? And how will it suit one of those to say: And no one knows the Son but the Father and no one knows the Father but the Son and him to whom the Son shall, if he wills, reveal him. How, indeed, should he understand ice as being the splendour of God and the image of his hypostasis? For a creature cannot be the image of the Creator’s hypostasis, but the offspring shows what the Father is in hypostasis, because of the participation in nature. You will see how the Arians, when they attempt to belittle the Son’s generacy, float like the empty upon empty verbal similarities devoid of ideas, because they do not distinguish what underlies the terms or is to be understood from them, and lapse into total folly.90 (2) For if he was in the beginning as He who is with Him who is and as God with God, how can we understand God’s generation which exists perpetually,
Cf. Ebied et al, Contra Damianum, vol. 35, pp. 151, 153 (Syriac); pp. 150, 152 (English).
as not being true, subsistent and eternal and from the very substance of the begetter but compare it with rain and dew?91 (3) The following text from the same Homily (123) by Severus is quoted by Peter in Book iii, chapter 43 in proof that the father spoke of the mutual equality and implication of the hypostases. It speaks of ‘one God seen in one substance and Godhead and in three unconfused hypostases’: Co-eternal, then, is the holy and uncreated Trinity and consubstantial. And as the Father is God, so too is the Son God, and the Holy Ghost God; and as the Father is light, so too is the Son light, and the Holy Ghost light; and as the Father is maker, creator and omnipotent, so too are both Son and Holy Ghost. But there are not therefore three Beginnings. For because the Son and the Holy Ghost have upward course towards the Father (the one is begotten of him, the other proceeds from him) there must be one Beginning and one God, seen in one substance and Godhead and in three unconfused hypostases, as good, just, visiting all in care and kindness. For The Lord is kind to all and his compassion is upon all his works; for being maker of all, he justly cares for all and spares all.92 xiv From Contra additiones Juliani (cpg 7029)93 [5 quotations] (1) The following short text from Severus’ treatise Against Julian’s Additions is quoted by Peter (Book iii, chapter 8) in order to illustrate that it is clear that the fathers do not admit the general canon of Damian but distinguish sometimes between indicators and indicated: For mortality and immortality (or imperishability) are not substances but features belonging with the substance. That is why we believe that God has immortality. Yet he does not have this immortality as his substance; no, he is something other in substance, but his natural feature is his endlessness and imperishability.94 (2) The following passage, also from Severus’ treatise Against Julian’s Additions, is quoted by Peter (Book iii, chapter 2) to point out that St. Severus suffered a 91 92 93 94
Ibid., p. 149 (Syriac); p. 148 (English). Ibid., vol. 54, p. 247 (Syriac); p. 246 (English). Ed. Robert Hespel, Sévère d’Antioche. La polémique antijulianiste. iia: Le contra additions Juliani. Textus [csco 295]. Versio [csco 296] (Louvain, 1968). Cf. Ebied et al, Contra Damianum, vol. 32, p. 233 (Syriac); p. 232 (English).
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similar fate from Julian as did Saint Basil who showed sympathy to Eunomius, but was also treated brutally by the heretic: For, knowing as I did, from the start, that the enduring of a rebuttal is not the part of just anybody but of those whose way of life runs in divine wisdom, and having read his tome sent to me for scrutiny, I reminded his Reverence in a humble letter: ‘I have read some of what you wrote but have felt certain hesitations, for I see proven masters of piety who give us different spiritual guidance.’ I did this without engaging in anything here except that he should correct himself and compare the holy father’s statements with his writings. This he did not do but only became upset and angered because, as he said: ‘You did not straight away dispatch brief memoranda on such matters’ but, more truly, because he was bitterly annoyed at my failure to concur with his ill thought out writings, and I was like someone consorting with a thief and making his portion with an adulterer (as David says in psalm at one point). And again I bore it patiently and wanted to keep silence unlawfully (for it was a time to speak) but cherishing, as I ought not to have done, affection towards him. Nevertheless he assailed me, silent and remote though I am, and having armed a letter with abusive remarks, he wanted, as it were, to murder me.95 (3) The following two quotations by Peter (Book iii, chapters 6 and 31) from Severus’ treatise Against Julian’s Additions are cited by Peter in proof that Damian’s last resort against the assaults will be the sort of countercharge of falsification that Julian of Halicarnassus devised against Severus, according to a declaration of the Patriarch in his treatise: For, had he cared for truth, he should have written a pure defence of his Tome and have aided his arguments, and he should not have added other things from time to time covertly, like beaten slaves speaking through clenched teeth, to make it look as if we, who had reminded him of these things at the outset, had falsified words by cutting them short. And again: Are these, then, no acts of perfidy? Me, who reminded him fraternally of correct thought about God, he tries, by an ambush, to prove a slanderer and falsifier, by devising his additions without abandoning his opinion or heeding the wise counsellor who says, Sow not a lie against your brother, nor reverencing the divine book of Proverbs which foretells what will
Ibid., pp. 71, 73 (Syriac); pp. 70, 72 (English).
be the end of those who labour emptily in lying, when it says, He who gets treasures by a lying tongue pursues vanities and comes to the snares of death.96 (4) For, now, you have been convicted of lapsing, as I said before, into the last dregs of Valentinus, Manes and Eutyches who say that Christ suffered like a phantom figure of the night. For to the night truly belong such phantoms. But how will your speaking and writing against (as you suppose) the Manichees, help in ridding you of this absurd suspicion? For you are like someone charged with theft, who, though he ought to defend himself on that count and prove himself free of the accusation, leaves it on one side and hastens to charge robbers like him with another theft.97 (5) But how can he not appear self-contradictory when he says that man became sick with sin of his own will and, again, on the contrary, says that the body was attached to us as a result of that corruption which is sin? And I first held back from a rebuttal of this madness, wanting him to understand his own words; which is why, having credited him with orthodoxy on the point, with a certain medicinal ‘economy’, so that I might draw him towards correction, I only mentioned that the terminology and mere wording were not good.98 xv
From Contra Felicissimum (cpg 7032) [Fragmenta Inedita] [6 quotations] (1) Having stated that Damian has criticized him because he wrote that ‘the quotation was taken from the first book of the Against Eunomius, whereas it belongs in fact to the third book’, Peter proves from the following two quotations from Severus’ treatise Against Felicissimus that ‘Severus wrote with his own hand, that not he but Damian was mistaken’: Similarly, he says these things also, expressing them in almost the same words, in the third book Against Eunomius (whose beginning goes: But concerning the statement of the Apostle Peter, it is time to examine more studiously what was said): ‘So that these things seem not to exist in the two on their own with any division; but by juncture with the Godhead, the
96 97 98
Ibid., pp. 171, 173 (Syriac); pp. 170, 172 (English). Ibid., vol. 35, pp. 397, 399 (Syriac); pp. 396, 398 (English). Ibid., vol. 54, p. 217 (Syriac); p. 216 (English).
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temporal nature, being re-formed in accordance with the stronger nature, receives the Godhead’s power, as one might say that the mixture makes into sea a drop of vinegar mingled with the ocean, so that the natural operation of the latter moisture no longer remains in the boundlessness of what contains it’.99 (2) But Gregory of Nyssa, wise in things divine, will confirm that he recognizes the immortal and uncreated nature, God the Father’s eternal and Only-begotten Word, as unchangeable and immutable in the same divine substance, and that he voluntarily took on the change involved in the passibility of the flesh which he united to him hypostatically. For he wrote in the fourth book Against Eunomius the impious: ‘So believing the immortal, impassible and uncreated nature to have been made in the passibility of the Creation and therein understanding change, how can we be condemned for saying that he emptied himself by those who noise abroad their own argument in opposition to our doctrines?’100 (3) Peter rebukes Damian for his carelessness in his references. He did not specify the source of Severus’ statement; neither had he done so previously in the case of Epiphanius’ phrase. Severus himself was always very accurate in quoting the fathers and reproached Julian of Halicarnassus and Felicissmus. The following passage is quoted by Peter (Book iii, chapter 7) in proof of all these points: But by usefully repeating these things to you, I have made known the doctor’s words, put to shame the asinine and contentious ears of the impious, and demonstrated with clarity to the listeners the soundness of his profession, which takes no delight in the heretical, unsound and implausible fabrications which they have wickedly ventured to publish against him. Julian fabricates the name only (I mean, of saint Peter the martyr) whereas Felicissimus has encompassed holy Timothy too, in his fabrication, falsely quoting his book to make the deception of his pen plausible, and this despite our making known the author of the discourse at every testimony, and clearly announcing the intentions of the writings and the number of the books which are devoted to the intentions and the long-standing causes which each quoted testimony has been concerned
Ibid., vol. 32, p. 529 (Syriac); p. 528 (English). Ibid., pp. 529, 531 (Syriac); pp. 528, 530 (English).
with. For this is the way with truth and the words of the wisdom from on high which goes forth and has free expression, and shows the light to everyone. For according to the sacred word of Proverbs: Wisdom is honoured in the streets and in the market-places, she lifts up her voice, on the walls, indeed, is she proclaimed. But slander and falsehood are fond of hiding under the covering of tricks, just as thieves and bandits love to hide behind walls and darkness,101 (4) Peter reverts to the explanation of Severus’ phrase that ‘the hypostasis is indicative of the property’. For Damian, this phrase means that the characteristic properties are not accidents or natural indications. Severus, however, in his Against Felicissimus opposes hypostases to natural indications, as can be proved from the following brief text from his Against Felicissimus cited by Peter (Book iii, chapter 9): For, Felicissimus, (for it is good to reply to you, because you are close) does calling the same body “corruptible”, “passible”, and “mortal”, signify three hypostases and three substrates, as e.g. Paul, Silvanus and Timothy and Father, Son and Holy Ghost; for those exist in three separate and unconfused hypostases?102 (5) In chapter 29 of his Book iii, Peter states that Damian is guilty of selecting rare and obscure phrases to advance his cause. He then quotes the following passage from Severus’ Against Felicissimus to prove that the Patriarch denounces this practice: The stupid fellow having been unable to prove this, those who devised the last murky volume with him go the rounds to collect proof-texts for him, as it were in a begging-bowl, and have even collected indeed some texts which are quite irrelevant to the point proposed i.e. which say that in the beginning man was made not mortal but immortal. The lunatic forgot that nobody quarrels with him on that point. And then his retinue of these little men, sick with the same plague as he, in their pretence strained every nerve, as they say, to help out their penury by a theft capable of misleading the simple: by testimony extracted somehow from books by the holy fathers, the initiators into divine mysteries, without concern for the whole
Ibid., pp. 183, 185 (Syriac); pp. 182, 184 (English). Ibid., p. 259 (Syriac); p. 258 (English).
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teaching on the subject in all their writings, like contestants in suits in the high courts who, eager for spoil, want to snatch an unjust victory.103 (6) In chapter 33 of his Book iii, Peter complains that though Athanasius and Basil are quoted, Damian has failed to provide the necessary validating references: a common practice of heretics, as Severus bears witness in the case of Julian as can be shown in the following quotation from his Against Felicissimus: But by usefully repeating these things to you, I have made known the doctor’s words, put to shame the asinine and contentious ears of the impious, and demonstrated with clarity to the listeners the soundness of his profession which takes no delight in the heretical, unsound and implausible fabrications which they have wickedly ventured to publish against him. Julian fabricates the name only (I mean, of Saint Peter the martyr) whereas Felicissimus has encompassed holy Timothy too in his fabrication, falsely quoting his book to make the deception of his pen plausible, and this despite our making known the author of the discourse at every testimony and clearly announcing the intentions of the writings and the number of the books which are devoted to the intentions and the long-standing causes which each quoted testimony has been concerned with. For this is the way with truth and the words of the wisdom from on high which goes forth and has free expression, and shows the light to everyone. For according to the sacred word of Proverbs: Wisdom is honoured in the streets and in the market-places, she lifts up her voice, on the walls, indeed, is she proclaimed. But slander and falsehood are fond of hiding under the covering of tricks, just as thieves and bandits love to hide behind walls and darkness.104 xvi From Epistula ad Eustathium Scholasticum (cpg 7071) [1 quotation] (1) In chapter 2 of his Book iii, Peter states that he will not follow human wisdom as does Damian, but only the inspired doctors of the Church. In proof of this he quotes the following text from Severus’ Letter to Eustathius the Scholasticus in which the father confesses to be a very rustic disposition and content to follow only the orthodox doctors:
Ibid., vol. 35, p. 311 (Syriac); p. 310 (English). Ibid., p. 489 (Syriac); p. 488 (English).
Your wisdom has, I think, seen therefore, by these statements that the doctor designated as ‘sufferings’ both the partial and the complete corruptions and changes. You are to understand clearly that we follow him therefore and the doctors who are like him, being ourselves of a very rustic disposition and not accurately instructed in profane matters, in order that we may be able therefrom to meet the tangles and objections expressed by certain parties.105 xvii
From Epistula ad presbyteros et archimandritas Iohannem et alios (po 12)106 [1 quotation] (1) In chapter 4 of his Book iii Peter makes it clear that he will happily name the hypostases ‘properties’, as also the fathers did, in the sense of perfect, individually subsisting properties. The fathers did not decline the use of terms unfamiliar to them to establish peace and harmony. The dissension had been removed for the most part in the days of Athanasius, but lasted till the time of the Cappadocians and even of Severus as can be shown from the following quotation from Severus’ Letter to the priests and archimandrites John and the rest: But I hear that the Romans are saying: ‘We are afraid of calling him who suffered for us in the flesh “one of the Trinity”, because we should not subject the Holy Trinity to number’. But all this is replete with ignorance and impiety and is an opportunity for those who lay hold of pretexts for sins or those who do not know what they are talking about or what they are making assertions about as the apostle Paul says of certain persons. For the Trinity is numerable in the hypostases but subsists outside number because it is one and the same substance. And a little later: Therefore these very subtle Romans are sick with a profound error, not knowing that the Trinity is, in the substance, not numerable or divisible, but in the hypostases is divided and separated in order that the unconfusedness may be preserved to the proper marks of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. But I am very surprised at the Jebusites who resemble the Romans, both in impiety and ignorance because they have termed the Holy Trinity ‘tri-hypostate’ in a rustic manner using a new and exceedingly crude expression. For I have never before today heard this compound word. Indeed it presents us with the idea that they do not hold to three individually subsisting hypostases but a single hypostasis which takes shape in three ways and alters, sometimes into
Ibid., vol. 32, p. 63 (Syriac); p. 62 (English). Ed. E.W. Brooks, po, vol. 12 (1916), 214–216.
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the Father’s hypostasis, sometimes into the Son’s and sometimes into the Holy Ghost’s: and that it is one hypostasis, but that it changes prosopa as if it were on the stage and sometimes speaks and acts in the prosopon of the Father, sometimes in the Son’s prosopon and sometimes in the Holy Ghost’s prosopon, as witless Sabellius, the Libyan, saw fit to suppose.107 xviii From Epistula ad Constantinum episcopum Seleuciae Isauriae108 [1 quotation] (1) In proof of his critique of the contention that God the Father is both participant and participated, Peter (Book iii, chapter 34) adduces the following text from Severus’ Letter to Constantine: But if we were to accept those who assembled at Chalcedon on the ground that they are against the heresies of Eutyches and were to praise, rather than censure, them, for having in part spoken well, it is time we also lauded the heresy of the Ario-maniacs, for contending with the evil view of Sabellius and for being partly in harmony with the Church’s orthodox teaching by professing God the Father as ingenerate and by not confounding the three hypostases but defining them in their proper marks or prosopa.109 xix
From Epistula ad Sergium Grammaticum (cpg 7025)110 [4 quotations] (1) Peter (Book iii, chapter 8) explains that Theodosius says that the characteristic properties of the Godhead characterize the Godhead but does not mean that these characteristic properties are the same thing as the Godhead. Indeed, Severus teaches the contrary as can be shown from the following passage from his Third Letter to Sergius the Grammarian: What, then, will you say, my admirable fellow? Is goodness in this way a property of God, just as laughter is a property of man or neighing of a horse? Therefore, say first what God is in substance and in this way we
Cf. Ebied et al, Contra Damianum, vol. 32, pp. 129, 131 (Syriac); pp. 128, 130 (English). Ed. E.W. Brooks, The Sixth Book of the Select Letters of Severus, Patriarch of Antioch, in the Syriac Version of Athanasius of Nisibis. Vol. i (Text) Part i; Vol. ii (Translation) Part i (London, 1902–1903), 3–12. Cf. Ebied et al, Contra Damianum, vol. 35, pp. 503, 505 (Syriac); pp. 502, 504 (English). Ed. Iosephus Lebon, Severi Antiocheni orations ad Nephalium, eiusdem as Sergii Grammatici epistulae mutuae. Textus (csco 119), 103–177. Versio (csco 120), 53–136.
shall recognize what his property, in the full sense of the term, is. For it is obvious that substance is something other than property, since a property appears upon substances.111 (2) Peter adduces the following passage (Book iii, chapter 9) from Severus’ First Letter to Sergius the Grammarian in order to show that the father clearly distinguishes between the natural properties and the substance even in the case of created nature: To say that Immanuel is composed of two properties or two activities is foolish and ignorant. For do we, because reasoning is a property of rational soul, whereas blackness or whiteness, it may be, is a property of body, on that account say of the man himself that he is composed of reasoning, whiteness (or blackness). No, no sane person says that; but he will say that man subsists of the natures themselves, body and soul, to which the things stated attach, on which they appear and in accordance with which they naturally exist without separation. But in another way: must it not be ludicrous to speak of two properties or two activities? For there are many properties of each nature and not merely two. For example manhood’s palpability, visibility, mortality, being subject to hunger, thirst and to other things likewise; whereas of God’s nature there are a multitude of properties: invisibility, impalpability, being before the worlds and infinity.112 (3) In chapter 29 of his Book iii Peter states that Damian is guilty of selecting rare and obscure phrases to advance his cause: a practice denounced by Severus in the following lengthy quotation from his Second Letter to Sergius the Grammarian: Will you not consider that we ought to use Saint Cyril as guide and expositor of divine doctrines, and the words of the holy fathers, if we are going to fight Nestorius’ division which exactitude? For though I could have introduced many other passages written by Gregory the Theologian and taken up very ferociously by those who divide the one Christ, I left them aside on the ground that I did not want to disturb your mind; for you perhaps, being far from mixture, would have required a defence of these passages which is not easy for the inexpert but to those who have closely
Cf. Ebied et al, Contra Damianum, vol. 32, pp. 233, 235 (Syriac); pp. 232, 234 (English). Ibid., pp. 241, 243 (Syriac); pp. 240, 242 (English).
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examined everything said by the doctor they appear sound and clear of all criticism and cavil. Did not even Peter, first-chosen of the Apostles write of Paul’s wise and profound epistles, as follows: Wherein there are certain things difficult to understand which the ignorant and unstable distort, as they do the rest of the Scriptures, to their own damnation? For one can see those even who serve draughts from Eutyches’s cup of error alleging Saint Gregory’s words in the sermon On the Epiphany, ‘The discarnate becomes flesh, the Word condenses’; for the wretches think that the Word condensed as water hardens into ice. And, contending for their error, they quote in confirmation what he said in the oration On New Sunday as follows: ‘Flesh hardening he becomes poor that by his poverty we might become rich’. But they are clearly convicted of being sick in mind to the last degree, and of gnawing off petty phrases like mice and dwelling on the letter like Jews, although the same doctor said in the First Oration on the Son, as follows: ‘He was in the beginning without cause (for what is cause of God?) but later he “became” because of a cause: It was that you, his despiser, might be saved; you who on account of this spurn his Godhead which assumed your denseness’. So it is obvious from here that Gregory said that the Word condensed with our denseness meaning that he hypostatically united our substance to himself truly without illusion. That is why he also said: ‘The Word condenses, the invisible becomes visible, the impalpable becomes palpable, the timeless begins’. I could set down very many words which those who contend with orthodoxy have excerpted from the holy fathers’ sound doctrine and used as weapons against us in various ways, but which refuted and shamed them when they said them in full. But having compiled a book of up to 250 testimonies, so called ‘excerpts’ from the proven doctor Cyril, and alleged him as an advocate of the error of two natures, God stretched out his hand in the imperial city and we set briskly to work against the error; and we wrote a book entitled Philalethes using the same words of Cyril as weapons against them and everybody knew what the force of truth was and what was sacrilege and plausible falsehood.113 (4) The following passage is adduced by Peter (Book iii, chapter 29) from Severus’ Third Letter to Sergius the Grammarian to show that both Gregory the Theologian and Severus agree that ‘an isolated statement is not a law of the Church’:
Ibid., vol. 35, pp. 311, 313, 315 (Syriac); pp. 310, 312, 314 (English).
For this reason we counsel your charity, with a mind of love, to bid adieu to such sophisms, to honour faith’s simplicity and not to run too readily into doctrinal discussions, but to reckon it a good thing always to follow the fathers if, at any time, it befalls you of necessity to write or say some such thing. For it is no small thing to make a slip in these matters or say something not very expert and not first to save ourselves, so far as we can, at all points from ambushes and cavils by opponents. For if we are going to inquire after things said readily by certain persons and to defend mis-statements, it will be opportune for us to mention the Holy Trinity of one hypostasis; because we find Eustathius, of blessed memory, formerly bishop of Antioch, saying in his Commentary on the 92nd Psalm of Father and Son that they are one hypostasis.114 xx From Epistula ad Maronem (po 12)115 [3 quotations] (1) In support of his critique of the contention that God the Father is both participant and participated, Peter quotes the following passage from Severus’ Letter to Maron: But the divine Scriptures instruct us in a different fashion, teaching us that God the Word, one only of three hypostases, was incarnate and made man. For the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. Inasmuch as God the Word, one hypostasis, united to himself hypostatically one particular flesh, rationally and spiritually ensouled, from Mary the mother of God; and then: Therefore, it was not a union of substances that was effected, but of one hypostasis, that of God the Word with particular flesh endowed with soul and mind; and again, at another point: But the one prosopon out of the Trinity, God the Word, is a hypostasis and not a substance in the common sense, as you said; and: A hypostasis is not the substance; because it participates in the substance; and again, But the divine Scriptures instruct us in a different fashion teaching us that God the Word, one only of the three hypostases, was incarnate and made man.116 (2) The following two brief texts are adduced by Peter from Severus’ Letter to Maron the Reader to show that characteristic properties may share some aspects of hypostases yet differ from them and also in proof of his understanding of ‘hypostasis’: 114 115 116
Ibid., pp. 325, 327 (Syriac); pp. 324, 326 (English). Fragments ed. E.W. Brooks, po, vol. 12 (1915), 196–200. Cf. Ebied et al, Contra Damianum, vol. 35, pp. 511, 513 (Syriac); pp. 510, 512 (English).
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For the Son is all that the Father is, save only being Father, and likewise the Holy Ghost has substantially what belongs to Father and Son naturally, except fatherhood and sonship.117 (3) Hypostasis, therefore, without denying the identity of the being distinguishes the substrate by particular marks.118 xxi From Epistula ad Victorem (cpg 7071) [1 quotation] (1) Peter quotes the following passage from Severus’Letter to Victor the presbyter in proof of his statement that the claim to oppose tritheism is a mask for atheism and is in contradiction with the fathers who name each prosopon severally ‘God Himself’: And these things will be apparent on a first and, one may say, superficial interpretation, for I did not even propose to aim at grasping the profound meaning of the passage; But now the previous words of Job’s discourse seem to me to be leading to the higher meaning under discussion and to be proving more clearly that we ought to understand the statement as about the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father and is Life Itself and God, who exists eternally with Father and Son.119 xxii From Epistula ad Isidorum Comitem (po 14)120 [2 quotations] (1) The following passage from Severus’Letter to Count Isidore is quoted by Peter (Book iii, chapter 42) as having inspired him (Peter) in writing his Memorandum to Damian in which his interpretation of Damian is explained as a gentle corrective modelled on Severus’ initial approach to Julian: (Concerning these matters, then, I think we should avoid this composite term and not call the Holy Trinity ‘uni-substantial’ or the Father ‘unisubstantial’, both because it is not to be found in accurate teachers and because it gives pretexts to the evil propensities of heretics, whereas the doctors called the Trinity ‘consubstantial’ in order that by this word, so plainly and very well established, there might be expressed both the ‘one’ of the substance and at the same time the separateness of the hypostases, and by this one word, both unity and division; for when the Son is called 117 118 119 120
Ibid., p. 67 (Syriac); p. 66 (English). Ibid., p. 383 (Syriac); p. 382 (English). Ibid., vol. 54, p. 79 (Syriac); p. 78 (English). Ed. E.W. Brooks, po, vol 14 (1920), 3.
‘consubstantial with the Father and the Holy Ghost’ it shows that he participates in the substance along with those numbered with him, but is separate in hypostasis, for nobody is consubstantial with himself, but one man is consubstantial with another), we added: Because the holy august and consubstantial Trinity is three perfect, characteristic and individually subsisting hypostases and three prosopa, and not simply three properties viewed as belonging with the substance.121 (2) The following text, also from Severus’ Letter to Count Isidore, is adduced by Peter (Book iii, chapter 44) in proof that Severus and Basil never say ‘an hypostasis is the whole Godhead’ or ‘the substance of the Godhead is one thing and the hypostases of the Holy Trinity another’: For the Lord of the seed himself, who dawned, by fleshly advent, upon us and came to cast good seed on the earth, that one of the Holy Trinity who is spoken of in terms divine and glorified along with Father and Holy Ghost (for in them we have the Godhead, indeed rather, they are the Godhead) will increase in you the seed of piety many times over, the more because you are aglow with vigilance and are aflame with zeal against the seed of tares heretical.122 xxiii From Hypomnestica ad Caesarium (cpg 7071—Fragmenta inedita) [3 quotations] In chapter 19 of his Book iii, Peter states that Damian has criticized him because he wrote that the quotation from Gregory was taken from the first book of Against Eunomius, whereas it belongs in fact to the third book. But Peter proves with quotations from Severus that the father wrote with his own hand and that not he but Damian is mistaken. In support of his argument he quotes the following two passages from Severus’ Hypomnesticon to Caesaria: (1)
Just as, too, the economy of the incarnation is termed ‘ministry’, because the Only-begotten became obedient voluntarily to the Father, delineating to us the pattern of obedience, ministry and service by his dealings with men which (as we have often said) the doctors term ‘the form of the slave’. Gregory, wise in things divine, brother of Basil the Great and bishop of Nyssa, will confirm this in the second book Against Eunomius: ‘Therefore
Cf. Ebied et al, Contra Damianum, vol. 54, p. 221 (Syriac); p. 220 (English). Ibid., pp. 265, 267 (Syriac); pp. 264, 266 (English).
quotations from the works of st. severus of antioch
he indicates by the word the fearful manifestations of the judge at the end of the ages, when he will be seen no longer in the form of the slave but seated in grandeur on the throne of empire, worshipped by all the angels round him. For this reason, he who came once for all into the world and was made first-born of the dead, of his brothers, and of all Creation, when he comes again into the world, he who (as prophecy says) will judge the world in righteousness, does not reject the title “first-born” which he accepted once for all on our behalf.123 (2) The brilliant speech about the ant which demolishes the arrogance of Eunomius who boasts that he knows what God’s substance is and the nature of beings by the same author from the eighth book Against Eunomius: ‘So one who prides himself on having attained a knowledge of beings should explain to us the kind of nature the smallest of visible things has, so that he may assure us about the hidden by the known. Let him explain to us by reason what the ant’s nature is.’124 (3) In chapter 19 of his Book iii Peter sets down the right numbering of Gregory’s ten books and, describing their origin, as did Severus in the 101st Hypomnesticon to Caesaria, he indicates the reason for Damian’s error. The following passage from Severus is cited in support of his argument: Your God-loving Eminence should know that Gregory, wise in the Spirit, initially produced two volumes or books against Eunomius the blasphemer, in defence of what Saint Basil had said which had been written against by Eunomius; and these two books are not in the volume sent me by you. Now when Eunomius wrote also against what had been written by holy Gregory, he provided, as third in the order, those ten refutatory books against the wicked fellow which are set down in this volume; and thereafter he wrote, fourth in order, Against Eunomius’ Statement, which is entitled ‘fourth’ in this volume; the blasphemous Statement, against which was written the literary work standing fourth in order, is set down at the end of the volume. So look for another volume which is not at fault. But if you cannot, write to me, since the work is hard to come by.125
123 124 125
Ibid., vol. 32, p. 535 (Syriac); p. 534 (English). Ibid., p. 537 (Syriac); p. 536 (English). Ibid., p. 543 (Syriac); p. 542 (English).
xxiv From Synodus Romana (pg 82, 1052–1056)126 [1 quotation] (1) The following extract from a decree of a Roman synod confirms that the Italians professed the Trinity only one hypostasis: So, that the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are to be believed to be one power, one image and one hypostasis. Him who thinks otherwise we judge estranged from our communion.127 xxv From Apologia Philalethes (cpg 7031)128 [1 quotation] (1) Peter quotes the following passage from Severus’Defence of the 226th chapter of his Philalethes in proof of his statement that the claim to oppose tritheism is a mask for atheism and is in contradiction with the fathers who name each prosopon severally ‘God Himself’: Therefore he was thought by his beholders to grow and be deified, though being God Himself and Wisdom Itself by nature, whereas it is we who are truly deified and grow in him.129 xxvi From Censura Tomi Juliani (cpg 7027)130 [1 quotation] (1) At the beginning of chapter 48 of his Book iii Peter says that we must respect the tradition and adhere to the fathers’ teaching as Theodosius, the two Gregorys, Cyril and Severus bid us. The following passage from Severus’ book Against Julian is quoted in support of his statement: But in addition to divinely inspired Scripture we must follow the proven and lawful masters of mysteries of holy Church, who have lived at various times, not only in doctrines but also in the words expressing the doctrines; and we are to think secure what they say and insecure what they do not say. For I myself acknowledge that I am conscious of my own frailty and all my life I have been careful to direct my mind by their thoughts and words, to bridle my tongue, and to say and write theirs whenever occasion for it arose. Let us not acknowledge them as ‘fathers’ but exalt ourselves 126 127 128 129 130
Epistula ad episcopos Illyici. Cf. Theodoretus, Ecclesiastica Historia, ii, 22. Cf. Ebied et al, Contra Damianum, vol. 32, pp. 133 (Syriac); pp. 130, 132 (English). Ed. Robert Hespel, Sévère d’Antioche. La polémique antijulianiste. iii: L’Apologie du Philaléthe. Textus [csco 318]. Versio [csco 319] (Louvain, 1971). Cf. Ebied et al, Contra Damianum, vol. 54, p. 79 (Syriac); p. 78 (English). Ed. Robert Hespel, Sévère d’Antioche. La polémique antijulianiste. Textus [csco 244]. Versio [csco 245] (Louvain, 1964), 20–205.
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above the cogent words expressing the exactness of their doctrines. For it was not they who uttered them, according to the unlying word of the Saviour, but it was the Spirit of their Father speaking in them, indicating what they should say and, again, what they should not say, concerning the cunning wiles of evil heresies to come, so that nothing unexamined or uninvestigated would befall us. It is, then, a truly great thing for our generation, even though we are set among the doctors, to think and speak purely and without deceit what they studied and laboured over.131 xxvii From Locum non invenimus / Loco non reperto [5 quotations] (1)
We should, he says, interpret the appellation of the names or their imposition in accordance with the subject. And again: And thus, falsifying and altering the order of realities, and concluding some things instead of others, you add what is very absurd; and arbitrarily and violently you assail along with the realities also the names.132
(2) In chapter 6 of his Book iii Peter criticizes the behaviour of Damian who promises further testimonies but actually repeats only the passage of the Theologian given a little earlier without even recording the proof-text of Severus annexed to it. The following passage from an unidentified work by Severus is quoted by Peter in proof that Severus condemns such behaviour: Therefore, what penalty would this good fellow not have endured if, on being in contention over some question in a lawsuit be concealed or excised a text of the documents produced for examination? Would not both his hands and his very tongue have been cut off? But because the discussion concerns divine doctrines and he has ventured to do this very thing in connection with the faith than which there is nothing higher for believers and those who perceive the truth, no condemnation can be laid down for him by men, but we abandon it to him who said Vengeance is mine, I will repay!133 (3) In chapter 22 of his Book iii Peter draws upon some ironical words of Severus, from an unidentified source, to pour scorn on Damian’s claims:
131 132 133
Cf. Ebied et al, Contra Damianum, vol. 54, pp. 393, 395 (Syriac); pp. 392, 394 (English). Ibid., vol. 29, pp. 359, 361 (Syriac); pp. 358, 360 (English). Ibid., vol. 32, pp. 177, 179 (Syriac); pp. 176, 178 (English).
Oh, the profound considerations! Oh, the inventions of a profound understanding! Oh, the soul which is instructed, in the proverbial phrase, in the repetition of words which are inescapable! But I was desirous of asking your Wisdom whether it gave birth to these things for us after a long watch, or whether it suddenly brought out such clever and acute things. For the whole world ran the risk of not knowing (if you yourself had not discovered it) that the human body is corruptible whereas the soul is immortal.134 (4) And then in their pretence they strained every nerve, as they say, to help out their penury by a theft capable of misleading the simple: by testimony extracted somehow from books by the holy fathers, initiators into divine mysteries, without concern for the whole teaching set down in all their writings. They strained, he says, every nerve, as they say, to help out their penury by a theft capable of misleading the simple: by testimony extracted somehow from books by the holy fathers, the initiators into divine mysteries, without concern for the whole teaching set down in their writings.135 (5) Oh, words pregnant with a huge folly inviting heavy censure and bringing upon us severe condemnation from God unless we be moved by righteous zeal!136
Conclusion All in all, then, it is clear from the foregoing discussion that Peter of Callinicus was well acquainted with the various seminal works of St. Severus of Antioch. Thus, in support of his arguments against Damian of Alexandria, he made full use of these works by quoting extensively from them in the extant chapters of his extensive Syriac work, Contra Damianum, albeit, only less than half of which has survived. The value of these quotations lies in the fact that from them we could glean an insight into the theology, doctrine and teaching of this great father with regard to the issues argued and discussed therein.
134 135 136
Ibid., vol. 35, p. 77 (Syriac); p. 76 (English). Ibid., p. 317 (Syriac); p. 316 (English). Ibid., vol. 54, p. 169 (Syriac); p. 168 (English).
quotations from the works of st. severus of antioch
In presenting these quotations in his surviving magnum opus, Peter refers to St. Severus of Antioch, in more than one place, as “Cyril’s peer, proven Severus, who always followed Saint Cyril” (ܘܪܐ焏ܐ ܣrqq ܒ:ܤ熏ܠqܪ熏 ܕܩ煿ܡq ܦrܒ ܤ熏ܠqܪ熏 ܩ焏rq煟 ܠܩ牯ܡ ܢ̣ܩ煟ܠܡq)ܘܕܒ.137 Furthermore, he introduces St. Severus with such wonderful appellations as the following: – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
“who illumined the world from the East” (焏ܪ ܠܥܠܡ煿 ܐܢ焏qܢ煟 ܡ爯;)̇ܗܘ ܕܡ “the distinguished patriarch Severus” (焏qrqrqܘܪܐ ܦ焏 ܣ焏ܒqܒq); “divinely inspired father” (焏ܐ ܐܒ煿 ܐܠ爯 ܡqq;)ܕܢܦ “proven Severus, champion of the truth” (牯ܠq ܕ焏qܢܣ熏ܐ ܘܐܓrqqܒ ܪܐrr); “sound Severus” (ܘܪܐ焏ܐ ܣrqq;)ܒ “wise doctor” (焏ܡqqq 焏;)ܡܠܦܢ “accurate Severus” (ܘܪܐ焏ܐ ܣrqrq); “God-clad Severus” (ܘܪܐ焏ܐ ܣ煿ܠ焏 ܠrq;)ܠܒ “the guide of truth” (ܪܐrr ܕ焏ܢqܕ煿̇;)ܡ “Severus, preserver and exact expositor of patristic teaching” (ܘܪܐ焏ܣ ܐrq煿̈ܬܐ ܐܒ熏̈ܐ ܕܡܠܦܢrqrq 焏ܩܢrܪܐ ܘܡܦ熏q;)ܢ “the father’s prudent tongue (I mean Saint Severus)” (:ܐrq ܙܗrq ܓ焏ܢrܠ ܘܪܐ焏 ܣ焏rq煟 ܩ爯q ܕ焏 ܐܢr;)̇ܐܡ “God-clad Severus, the expert destroyer of heretical practices” (ܘܪܐ焏ܣ 焏qܩqqr ܗ焏ܘܪܐ ܕܐܡ̈ܢrܐ ܘܣrqrq 焏ܘܥ煟q ܐ ̇ܗܘ煿ܠ焏 ܠrq;)ܠܒ “the teacher of truth” (ܪܐrr ܕ焏;)ܡܠܦܢ “Cyril’s peer, proven and accurate Severus” (ܐrqq ܒ焏 ܕܗܢ煿ܡq ܦrܒ ܘܪܐ焏ܐ ܣrqrq;)ܘ “Severus, the proven teacher of truth” (ܘܪܐ焏ܐ ܣrqqܪܐ ܒrr ܕ焏q)ܪܕܘ.
Cf., e.g., Ebied et al, Contra Damianum, vol. 35, pp. 66, 67; 324, 325.
Severus of Antioch and Changing Miaphysite Attitudes toward Byzantium Nestor Kavvadas
The career of Severus is a turning-point in the history of changing attitudes of the Miaphysite movement toward the Byzantine imperial power, with its selflegitimations and its claims of authority to intervene in, and exert influence on, Church affairs. Just as critical, as is well known, was the role Severus played in the actual ecclesio-political developments of the day, namely the progressive deepening of the rift between Chalcedonians and anti-Chalcedonians, which, in one way or another, conditioned changes in the attitudes of Miaphysite “opinion makers” and, through the latter, of the Miaphysite masses in the entire Byzantine Orient. His name became directly linked, even in his own lifetime, with the final separation between Chalcedonians and anti-Chalcedonians, the latter being labelled “Severans” by the former. In spite of this, his actual political role—especially in the 20 years separating his deposition from his death (518– 538)—is as yet too understudied for one to judge to what extent this linkage was justified. One can say with certainty, though, that his declared goal was not separation but, on the contrary, restoration of Church unity. The following observations are a preliminary attempt to inquire if this contradiction between his intention and—at the very least—his opponents’ view of his actual political role and its results may have its roots in a tension innate in Severus’ own attitude toward Byzantine state power on the one hand, and the ecclesiastical authority of Constantinople (and Rome) on the other.
Confession as a Matter of Loyalty The osmotic movement between imperial policy and the high affairs of the Church, going back to Constantine the Great, intensified dramatically in the decades after Chalcedon, before climaxing in the age of Justinian.1 On the one hand, we see those foremost in the ecclesiastical hierarchy claiming an
1 On this process during Justinian’s reign cf. F. Millar, “Rome, Constantinople and the Near Eastern Church under Justinian: Two Synods of c.e. 536,” Journal of Roman Studies 98 (2008), 62–82, esp. 62–70.
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authority unthinkable in even the very near past. For instance, the Roman bishop Hormisdas, in an unparalleled move, excommunicated posthumously in his so-called libellus, a document meant to be approved by the emperor Justin and by all bishops of the Oriens, two deceased emperors, Anastasios and Zeno,2 both sympathisers of the Miaphysite cause. It is all the more striking— and characteristic of an unprecedented merging of imperial and ecclesiastical politics, or rather an unprecedented expansion of ecclesiastical politics in the field of imperial politics—that Justin did endorse this document. Although pale compared with Hormisdas’ step of excommunicating two emperors, there is something cognate in Severus’ attitude toward Anastasios i, the emperor to whose support he owed his career. Even though Anastasios was as favourably disposed as possible toward Severus and his theology, when he, the emperor, asked from the Patriarch only to abandon, for the sake of Church unity and even of social peace, his demand for an explicit condemnation of the Council of Chalcedon,3 Severus refused persistently to give in—such compromise in matters of faith was absolutely impossible for him.4 It was
2 See Collectio Avellana, ed. O. Günther, csel 35.2 (Wien, 1898), documents nr. 167, at p. 620 and nr. 223, p. 684. 3 Such a condemnation would be impossible for Anastasios, primarily on account of the influence of the Chalcedonian party in the capital, but also for formal reasons, seeing that Chalcedon had been an Ecumenical Council convoked by an emperor and attended by more bishops than any other Council until then. 4 This happened shortly after Severus’ election as Patriarch of Antioch, i.e. around May of the year 513, right after Severus had sent a synodical letter to Timothy of Constantinople condemning the Council of Chalcedon, Pope Leo and all adherents of the doctrine of two natures. Reactions, not only in Constantinople but also in Antioch, were so grave that the a secretis Asterios was sent to Severus to tell him that “the kingdom of the Romans is in a turmoil on account of this” (煿ܿqrq ܐ焏ܢ熏ܡqq ܗܕܐ ܒ爏q ܡ焏qܗܘܡrܬܐ ܕ熏q ;)ܡܠin reply, Severus proclaimed his resolution to abide by his letter, i.e. his condemnation of Chalcedon and Leo, at all costs: “I am ready to leave the city and resign the see, rather than upset one stroke of what I wrote from the beginning in the synodical words expressed to Timothy”, was his answer to Asterios; and he continues: “this I did not say without writing it down, but I expressed myself with freedom in writing to the God-fearing emperor also” (rq ܐrq焏ܒqqܕܡ
爯ܒqrq ܕ爯q ܗܠ爯ܥ܇ ܡ熟 ܐܙܥ焏qr ܣ煟q ܆ ܐܘ焏qܪܣ熏q 爯 ܡ牯rܐ ܘܐrܢq煟 ܡ爯ܩ ܡ熏 ܕܐܦqܠ 焏ܬ܆ ܐܠr ܐܡ焏ܒrq 焏 ܕܠ熏 ܘܗܕܐ ܠ.ܐܘܣrܡqq ܬ熏 ܠ焏ܩq̈ܕ煿ܢ熏 ܣ焏 ܒ̈ܡܠ焏qܪ熏r 爯 ܡqܠ 焏qܗܣr ܦq ܗܘܬ ܠ焏ܒrq܆ ܒ焏qܐ ܡܠ煿ܠ焏 ܠ爏qqܬ ܕ熏 ܘܠcl 321 (this letter of Severus to Anastasios is lost)); cf. F. Alpi, La route royale. Sévère d’Antioche et les Églises d’Orient (512– 518), vol. ii: Sources et documents (Beyrouth, 2009), 71 f.; cf. also three further extant excerpts from letters of Severus to Hippocrates the Alexandrian that illustrate Severus’ intransigence in the question of the condemnation of Chalcedon and Pope Leo: “While the things wickedly
finally Anastasios that had to step back from his original position. Here too, we see imperial policy conforming to the demands of Church politics. Just as Church politics was invading with enormous elan the field of imperial politics, the emperor and his milieu, for their part, were delving ever more directly into Church affairs. In Zeno’s Henotikon we have the first highly influential (after Basiliskos’ ephemeral Enkyklion) such direct attempt on the part of an emperor to dictate to bishops the creed that would guarantee Church union;5 moreover, at the other end of the period in question—i.e. the era of Severus— Justinian appears, in his own theological writings (and through his personal interventions in theological negotiations between the different Church parties), as emperor and theologian in one, indeed in the latter role as attempting to determine the creed that was to be taught by the Church.6 This politicisation found expression also in state documents. Beside the notorious first lines of Justinian’s 6th Novella, to the effect that the sacerdotium and the imperium were the two greatest gifts bestowed on humanity by the heavenly Goodness,7 we have the following declaration by the Patriarch of Constantinople Menas, made at an Endemousa Synodos held in May-June 536, against Severus: “it is not appropriate that any change occurring in the most holy Church should take place against his (sc. the emperor’s) opinion and command”.8 Thus, permeation between the two spheres of imperial and ecclesiastical politics was supposed to be mutual: on the one hand, there was the
done at Chalcedon against the orthodox faith are not anathematised by name, no argument can persuade me like an interpreter of dreams to expound and forcibly understand the text of the edict (sc. the Henotikon) as a rejection of the unlawful things … for it (sc. the Henotikon) contains a right confession of faith only, though by itself it be destitute of healing for what is required”, (煟q 焏 ܠ焏ܡr ܒ焏qܒ熏r ܬ犏qܬܐ ܬܪ熏ܡܢq ܗ爏ܩܒ熏 ܠ:焏ܘܢ煟ܠܩq ܒrq焏ܠ熏 ܥrܥr ܕܐܣ爯q ܗܠrqܓ
爯qܐ ܕܗܠrܬ ܡܦܩ熏ܢ ܠ熏qܩq ܕܐܕ焏qq܇ ܕܨqܣܢq ܕܬܦ焏qqrܐ ܡr ܡܠ煟q 焏܆ ܘܠ爯qܡrqrܡ ܬܐ犏q ܬܪrqܐ ܓrq … ܬܘܕ爏qr ܐܣrqܐrqq܇ ܘܩ犟r ܐܦ焏ܠ̈ܡq rrܐ ܒܦrq̈ܣ熏 ܢܡ焏ܠ 煿 ܘܠ煿 ܡܢ爯q̈ܒܥr ܕܡ爯qܬܐ ܕܗܠ熏q ܐܣ爯 ܗܘ ܕܡ爯 ܐܦ.ܕ熏q ܒܠ煿 ܠrqܬܐ ܐ熏ܡܢqܕܗ 爏ܡr ܡcl 320; cf. ibid., 322 f.). 5 See A. Grillmeier and Th. Hainthaler, Jesus der Christus im Glauben der Kirche 2/2: Das Konzil von Chalcedon (451)—Rezeption und Widerspruch (Freiburg: u.a., 1989), 279–294. 6 Cf. Mischa Meier, Das andere Zeitalter Justinians (Göttingen, 2003), 234–293; J.A.S. Evans, The Age of Justinian: The Circumstances of Imperial Power (London, 1996), 60–61; Millar, “Rome, Constantinople and the Near Eastern Church,” 62–68; K.-H. Uthemann, “Kaiser Justinian als Kirchenpolitiker und Theologe,” Christus, Kosmos, Diatribe. Themen der frühen Kirche als Beiträge zu einer historischen Theologie, akg 93 (Berlin/New York, 2005), 257–331. 7 See Codex iuris civilis, vol. iii, R. Schöll and G. Kroll (eds), (Berlin, 1895), 35. 8 “προσήκει μηδὲν τῶν ἐν τῇ ἁγιωτάτῃ ἐκκλησίᾳ κινουμένων παρὰ γνώμην αὐτοῦ καὶ κέλευσιν γενέσθαι,” ed. E. Schwartz, aco iii (Berlin, 1940), 181, Par. 130 (fourth session).
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imposing presence of the sacerdotium in the emperor’s law book; on the other hand, there was the emperor as judge of last resort in the eyes of the Patriarch. This politicisation of Church affairs and the concomitant theologisation of state politics—amounting to a complete blurring of the boundaries between Church politics and state affairs,—was deeply interrelated with the endless conflicts around Chalcedon, beginning in the aftermath of the Council. Ever since Chalcedon, confessional question turned more and more into one of loyalty, a development that now, after Justin’s turn, further intensified. What this meant for those not fully integrated into the structures of the Catholic Church—in the period after the libellus of Hormisdas and the healing of the Acacian schism, the Chalcedonian Churches in communion with the bishops of Constantinople and Rome—was that their attitude toward the Catholic Church was, at the same time, a stance taken toward the emperor—or the Byzantine state.9
Developing Miaphysite Attitudes toward Constantinople The Miaphysite movement had to somehow cope with this double problem of taking a position vis-à-vis the emperor and the Catholic Church. This problem—continuously in the background of Miaphysite politics since Chalcedon—posed itself in its full acuteness only when the emperor Justin made clear that he was determined to undo all the pro-Miaphysite measures of Anastasios i and endorsed the libellus of Hormisdas.10 At the same time,
The question touched the very core of early Byzantine identity, which was most closely connected to an ideal of—almost—limitless loyalty to the emperor; as G. Greatrex notes, “loyalty to the emperor was the determining factor as to who was Roman and who was not in the sixth century” (G. Greatrex, ‘Roman Identity in the Sixth Century,’ in: S. Mitchell and G. Greatrex (eds.), Ethnicity and Culture in Late Antiquity (London, 2000), 267–292, at p. 274); cf. A. Rodolfi, ‘Procopius and the Vandals: How the Byzantine Propaganda Constructs and Changes African Identity,’ in: G.M. Brendt and R. Steinacher (eds.), Das Reich der Vandalen und seine (Vor-)Geschichten (Wien, 2008), 233–242; for an attempt to relativise this position pointing at other essential elements of Roman identity, like the opposition against the “Barbarians”, see S. Dmitriev, “John Lydus and His Contemporaries on Identities and Cultures of Sixth-Century Byzantium,”Dumbarton Oaks Papers 64 (2010), 27–42, at pp. 28–30. See A. Vasiliev, Justin the First. An Introduction to the Epoch of Justinian the Great (Cambridge, ma, 1950), 176.
Severus was forced to leave Antioch.11 The problem was most pressing in the Syrian Orient, while Egypt was at first kept out of it; seeing that the Egyptian episcopate was almost unanimously Miaphysite, and that therein they enjoyed the full support of the people, the bishops of Egypt were exempted from the obligation to sign the libellus of Hormisdas.12 Faced with this pressing issue, the Syrian bishops, Church authors, etc., were forced by political reality to find and tender prompt answers. In the most cases such answers were given implicitly, and this applies to Severus too: it was rather by his actions that he took a stance. However, his stance in this central, practical issue was at least as influential as his theology within the Miaphysite movement, deeply informing its political orientation—even if the result of his influence was askance, as we shall see, with his original intention. Attempting to situate Severus in the history of Miaphysite attitudes toward the aforementioned double problem, one quickly realises that these attitudes underwent a deep change from the time of his early youth until his death, and then in the following actions of his immediate “successors”. One may discern roughly, with due caveats for attempting a schematisation of this kind, a sequence of different attitudes toward the Byzantine state and the Chalcedonians, such as were represented by successive generations of Miaphysite leaders from the late fifth to the middle of the sixth century.
The Age of Emperor Zeno’s Henotikon The generation of the older Miaphysite leaders, that is to say Severus’ elder contemporaries and predecessors in the movement’s leadership—such figures as the Patriarch of Alexandria Timothy Ailouros, his successor Peter Mongos, and Peter Knapheus (The Fuller) of Antioch—had supported in their overwhelming majority the Henotikon of emperor Zeno, interpreting it as an implicit rejection of Chalcedon, and this over a period of several decades, often with support from the emperor(s). For this generation of Miaphysite leadership, dominated by the Greek Patriarchs of Alexandria, the only possible prospect they could envisage was the restoration of Church union; actually, the unity of the Church was in their eyes intact, one had only to solve the obnoxious problem of the “dyophysite heresy”. For them, there was no other option than the one ortho-
See V. Menze, Justinian and the Making of the Syrian Orthodox Church (Oxford, 2008), 44. See ibid., 112.
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dox (i.e. Miaphysite) Church under an orthodox emperor.13 Committed to this prospect, they were in certain cases ready to make concessions to Constantinople, even to the point of considering pro forma acceptance of Chalcedon,14 seen as an exclusively anti-heretical Council which had but confirmed the condemnations of Eutyches and Nestorios.15 This elite was opposed, however, in both Egypt and the Syrian Orient by groups of zealotic monks, who would not countenance any retreat from the demand that the Council of Chalcedon, together with Pope Leo and his tomus ad Flavianum, should be formally condemned before Church peace could be restored. Of course, this demand ruled out in advance any real prospect of an understanding with Constantinople. From the perspective of these groups of zealotic monks, though, any departure from this demand was tantamount to betrayal of the orthodox faith. Their influence on the popular basis of the Miaphysite movement can hardly be overestimated,16 and only grew stronger during Justinian’s measures against the Miaphysite leadership in the Oriens. However, prior to Severus, their stance always remained oppositional to the ruling “uniate”, one could say, line taken by the Miaphysite episcopal leadership.
Cf. W.H.C. Frend, ‘Severus of Antioch and the Origins of the Monophysite Hierarchy,’ in: D. Neiman and M. Schatkin (eds.), The Heritage of the Early Church (Festschrift Georges Vasilievich Florovsky), oca 195 (Rome, 1973), 261–275, at p. 262f. Of course, the original position of these leaders was clearly anti-Chalcedonian. See e.g. Timotheos Ailouros’ doctrinal demands from those converting from the Chalcedonian to the Miaphysite creed, Zacharias Rhetor, Historia Ecclesiastica iv.12, ed. Brooks, csco Syr. 38, (Louvain, 1953), 202–205; cf. Wright, Catalogue of Syriac mss. in the British Museum, part ii, (London, 1871), 643; however, they were in many cases ready to negotiate over these condemnations, provided that the positive expression of the Christological doctrine complied with their principles, as it was the case with Zeno’s Henotikon (see Zacharias Rhetor, Historia Ecclesiastica vi.2, pp. 2–4, concerning Timotheos Ailouros). For this view cf. Zacharias Rhetor, Historia Ecclesiastica ix.20, p. 140. Cf. Severus’ arguments against this interpretation in a letter written before his ascension to the throne of Antiochia and addressed to Constantine of Seleucia; sl i.1, pp. 4–5. See Zacharias Rhetor, Historia Ecclesiastica vi.2, pp. 2–4: The influence of these monks, in Egypt even more than in the Syrian Orient, was so strong that they succeeded, by threatening a schism, in forcing the Patriarch Petros Mongos to deviate, shortly after his election, from the stance taken by his predecessor Timothy (who was satisfied with the Henotikon without explicit condemnations) and demand also the condemnation of Chalcedon and Pope Leo (while still accepting the Henotikon); cf. W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of the Monophysite Movement. Chapters in the History of the Church in the Fifth and Sixth Centuries (Cambridge, 1972), 180.
Severus of Antioch: Political Loyalism and Dogmatic Zealotism—An Uneasy Coexistence and Its Breakdown With Severus’ appearance on the central stage of Church politics, the massive favoring of him by emperor Anastasios, and his election to Patriarch of Antioch, the end of this ambivalent co-existence of “uniate” leadership and popular zealotic agitators began for the Miaphysite movement. Superficially, Severus seemed to be a man after the Miaphysite leaders of the previous generation: he was also Greek (at least in terms of linguistic and cultural identity), had received the best classical education his age could offer, and was informed theologically by the study of the classical Greek fathers, namely the Cappadocians and John Chrysostom, who were of course equally cherished by both Chalcedonians and Miaphysites.17 However, Severus’ stance toward the Byzantine emperor (and his claim to authority in matters ecclesiastical) was informed not only by his own cultural background, but, perhaps even more decisively, by the influence of Philoxenos of Mabbug, the most notorious proponent of the aforementioned zealotic monastic circles in the Syriac Oriens. The overall influence of Philoxenos on the much younger Severus, reaching also to the core issues of the latter’s theology, is well known;18 in matters of Church politics this influence is even more palpable, going back to the time when Philoxenos had mobilized his vast Syrian network to bring about the deposition of the Chalcedonian Patriarch Flavian from the see of Antioch and his subsequent replacement by Severus.19 Already at the beginning of his incumbency, under his protector Anastasios i, Severus displayed an attitude bearing affinities with the ascetic zealots of Philoxenos: He rejected, as mentioned already, the demand of his patron and emperor that he should accept the Henotikon of Zeno without explicitly condemning Chalcedon. Severus supported the Henotikon, which the zealotic monks for the most part rejected as too mild, but for him to abstain from explicit condemnation of Chalcedon was out of the question. Even a thoroughly new interpretation of the Council, one that aligned it to his views, could
See Zacharias of Mytilene, Vie de Sévère. ed. M.A. Kugener, PO 2/1, 48 and 54f.; cf. his portraits by Frend, The Rise of the Monophysite Movement, 201–219 and P. Allen and C.T.R. Hayward, Severus of Antioch (London/New York, 2004), 3–34, esp. 3–7. As P. Allen and C.T.R. Hayward put it, “the two men developed a partnership which was a turning-point in the history of incarnational christology” (Allen and Hayward, Severus of Antioch, 8). Cf. A. de Halleux, Philoxène de Mabbog: sa vie, ses écrits, sa théologie (Louvain, 1963), 64– 75.
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not bring him to revise this position. For the first time, this crucial element of the zealotic opposition within the Miaphysite movement, the adamant persistence in explicit condemnation of the Council of Chalcedon, even in the face of a pro-Miaphysite emperor like Anastasios who was asking just for this one concession, was put forward by its most prominent and influential leader.20 This does not imply that Severus favoured general restriction of the emperor’s interventions in ecclesiastical affairs: As Patriarch of Antioch under Anastasios he had no scruples in referring to the judgment of the emperor such problems of the bishops of Oriens as did not necessarily pertain to his jurisdiction, or in accepting the decisions of the Endemousa Synod of Constantinople in his Patriarchate.21 It was on this one point of the explicit rejection of the Council of Chalcedon that he was not ready to negotiate. Nevertheless, for Severus too any future prospect other than the restoration of Church unity as unity of an orthodox (i.e., Miaphysite) Church for the entire empire was inconceivable. The way to this restoration was, for him, through an uncompromising struggle on the part of orthodox prelates like himself. In a sermon preached at the common feast of St Basil the Great and St Gregory of Nazianzos, he drew a comparison between their steadfast opposition to the Arian emperors of their day on the one hand, and the present struggle by him and his followers against the modern “heretics” of Chalcedon on the other; if he failed to display the same courage as they did, they would be his denouncers at the Last Judgment.22 This image is most characteristic of the way Severus saw his own full engagement in Church politics. Furthermore, it clearly implies what he expected from the future: Just as the uncompromising resistance of the Cappadocians had finally overcome the imperial heresy and restored Nicene orthodoxy, so too his own struggles would restore orthodoxy in the end—i.e, they would make his and his followers’ Miaphysite theology into the creed of a united and peaceful Catholic Church under an orthodox emperor.
On this attitude of Severus cf. Frend, Severus of Antioch, 267. As for Severus’ theological authority within the Miaphysite camp, this was not uncontested; there was even a time when his theological opponent among the Miaphysite theologians, Julian of Halicarnassus, seemed to be gaining the upper hand in the controversy between them. In political matters, his authority as Patriarch of Antioch was—at least apparently—second to that of the Miaphysite Patriarch of Alexandria. However, his impact on the development, theological and political alike, of the Miaphysite movement finally superceded by far that of all other Miaphysite leaders of his time. On this point see Alpi, Sévère d’ Antioche et les Églises d’Orient (512–518), vol. i, 117–119. See Hom. 103, 279–282.
This vision was to remain unchanged even long after Anastasios’ death and the demise of pro-Miaphysite imperial Church politics. After all, even under Justinian this was not as unrealistic a prospect as it may seem if considered from the posterior point of view: As late as 536, the two most powerful incumbent patriarchs of the East, Anthimos of Constantinople and Theodosios of Alexandria, were in ecclesiastical communion with the deposed (since 518) Severus.23 In such a constellation, any hope must have seemed realistic. This “Severan” combination of uncompromising perseverance in a zealotic dogmatic stance with a loyalism dictated by the prospect of a Miaphysite Catholic Church with a Miaphysite emperor proved at least as formative as Severus’ Christology was. It is eloquently expressed in a petition addressed to Justinian by a group of deposed and exiled Syrian Severan bishops, who arrived in 532 in Constantinople at the emperor’s invitation to participate in a theological negotiation with the Chalcedonians. The exiled bishops introduce their petition letter as follows: “We, who have been ourselves judged worthy to venerate your virtues, render thanks to you with a crown of laudation, which we weave with splendour”.24 Only briefly alluded to is the fact that they had been sent into exile by Justinian: “While we were in the desert, and, so to speak, at the end of the world …”,25 they used to pray for the emperor, just like they do now, in Constantinople, where the emperor had had the kindness and clemency to invite them. Nonetheless, when their declaration of faith begins, the tone changes, becoming noticeably more self-conscious: “Accordingly, victorious king, we do now also declare the freedom of our faith …”,26 so they commence, and in the following profession they remain all along uncompromising in the central theological issue of the dogma of Chalcedon. But at the same time they argue for their position in a pointedly inclusive manner, which clearly shows their devotion to the prospect of the restoration of Church unity—after the Chalcedonian “heresy” is overcome. First, they present their Christological stance as the simple truth of the Scriptures, of the Councils from Nicaea to Ephesos, and of the Church fathers, from which a succession of heretics had deviated: Diodore of Tarsos, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Nestorios—and latterly Pope Leo and the Council of
̈ q qrqr ܐr ܬܠ爯q ܗܠ煟q See Zacharias Rhetor, Historia Ecclesiastica ix.19, p. 135: 爯q ܐܘ焏ܢ煿 ܟ熏qq ܕܐܢ爟qr ܐܬܪܗܒ ܐܦ. ܗܘܘ爯qrqr ܦ焏ܕܐ ܠ煟q 爯ܬܐ ܡ熏ܡܢq煿 ܘܒ焏ܒ熏qܗܘܘ ܒ q ܐܬܕܠq ;ܘܣܓcf. Frend, The Rise of the Monophysite Movement, 271.
爯ܢq ܐܢ爯qܠ煟 ܓ煟q ܐrq熏ܒr ܕܬ焏ܠqܠqܪܘܬܟ ܒrqܬܐ ܕܡ煟 ܠܣܓ爯ܢq 爯qܘrr ܕܐ爯q ܕ爯ܢq ܬܟ熏ܒqq 爯ܢqܬܐ ܡܩܒܠ熏ܓr ܒܡܦZacharias Rhetor, Historia Ecclesiastica ix.15, ed. Brooks, p. 115.
爏qܬܐ ܕܬܒrq ܒ煿ܿ ܒrܡ焏 ܕܢqq ܘܐ.ܐrܒ煟 ܒܡ爯qrq ܐ煟q (ibid., 115). 焏r ܘܗ爯ܢq ܐܢ爯qܕܥ熏ܬܢ ܡ熏ܡܢqܪܘܬܐ ܕܗ焏q .焏q ܡܠ焏qq ܙ爯q煟( ܡibid., 116).
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Chalcedon. Then, they presume as self-evident that the emperor shares their faith in this one simple truth of Church tradition, which only the heretics defy: “If those who strive against us (sc. the Chalcedonians) adhered to these things (the Scriptures, the Councils and the Fathers) in truth … as we do and you do and as our holy God-clad fathers consented to believe,”27 then there would be no conflict at all. They close their petition with an appeal to the emperor in the name of “the doctors of the Church”, “who, we believe, are now also entreating your Serenity with us, that you may aid the truth of the faith”.28 This is no mere rhetoric, but mirrors, one may assume, how the Syrian Severan Miaphysites conceived of the entire conflict and of their own position within it. A couple of years after the journey of these Severan bishops to Constantinople, also Severus himself would receive an invitation from the emperor. His sojourn in the capital (535–536) made possible contacts with churchmen like the newly elected Anthimos of Constantinople, who was formerly not a Severan, amounting to the aforementioned unique—though very short-lived— circumstance of 536, when the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Constantinople sided both with Severus. However, while the Severan bishops of the Orient had expressed themselves in the above way to Justinian, Severus himself is supposed, according to John of Ephesos, to have given open expression to his disappointment with the emperor already before traveling, almost reluctantly, to the capital: “But the blessed Severus had before these things [sc. the deposition of Anthimos] been summoned by the king to the royal city on account of the peace of the Church; and under great pressure from everyone he came, saying, Since it is everybody’s will lo! I will go up, but it is impossible that anything whatever will be done by those who are in power; and so he went up, and passed two years [535–536, i.e. the statement dates to 534–535] labouring and teaching. And, when he saw that his statement that nothing would be done was being accomplished, he went back to the southern regions of Alexandria.”29 In another place, John phrases
ܬܢ熏q ܐ爯qܢ ܕ熏 ܡܠ.ܬܢ熏 ܠ爯qrqr ܕܡ爯qܪܐ … ܗܠrr ܗܘܘ ܒ爯qܦq ܢܩ熏 ܐܠ爯qܠ煿ܠ ܢ熏ܡܢq煿 ܗܘܘ ܕܢ爯qܪܡr ܡ爯q煿ܐ ܐ̈ܒ煿 ܐܠqrq ܠܒ焏rq煟 ̈ܩqq ܘܐ.ܢ熏qܬ熏q( ܘܐibid., 119).
ܬܢ熏ܡܢqܪܐ ܕܗrr ܕܠ.ܬܟ熏ܢqr ܠܡ爯qܣq ܡܦ爯 ܕܥܡ爯ܢq ܐܢ爯qܡܢq煿 ܡ焏r ܕܐܦ ܗ爯qܗܠ ܪ煟( ܬܥibid., 122). See Lives of Five Patriarchs, ed. Brooks, po 18, 687: ܠ熏q ܡ爯qܡ ܗܠ煟ܘܪܐ ܩ焏 ܣ爯q ܕ焏ܒܢ熏q 爯ܬܐ ܕܡrqܬܐ ܣܓ犏ܝ܂ ܘܒܥrܬܐ ܐܬܩ熏qܐ ܡܠrܢq煟 ܠܡ焏q ܡܠ爯ܬܐ܆ ܡ煟 ܕܥ煿ܿܢqr ܘܐ煿ܡ ܕܢ煟 ܡ煟q ܂焏 ܐܢ犟 ܗܐ ܣܠr ܐܢ爏q ܕ焏ܢq ܨܒ爟 ܠ爏q܆ ܕܡr ܐܡ煟q ܐܬܐrܠܢq 爏 ܥܡ煟q ܆爯qܢr 爯qܬr ܬr ܘܥܒ犟 ܣܠ焏ܢq ܘܗ.焏ܪܣ熏 ܦrq܂ܠ爯q煟qq ܕܐ爯q ܗܠ爯 ܡrܠܓܡ 焏qܡܢq̈ܘܬܐ ܬrܬ焏 ܠq ܗܘܐ܆ ܗܦ焏ܡ ܠ煟ܗ ܕܡr ܡܠ焏ܠܡrܐ ܕ熟q 煟q܂ ܘ牯ܘܡܠ 焏qܪ煟ܣܢqܕܐܠ. It is worth noticing that the combination of dogmatical integrity on the
slightly differently the same account, having Severus answer to those urging him to yield to the emperor’s call as follows: “Do not deceive yourselves; in the days of these kings [sc. Justinian and Theodora] there is no way that [Church] peace may come to be”30—a much more direct formulation, in fact implying the wish for Justinian’s reign to come to an end. But can we take such reports at face value? How likely could it be that Severus, just before the dashing breakthrough of 536 in Constantinople, should be in the position to predict the vanity of the enormous efforts he was about to undertake? And even if this was the case, why should he speak out his dissatisfaction with Justinian and thus expose himself to utmost dangers? It seems much more likely to assume that John of Ephesos is projecting a hagiographical common place, the holy man’s foreknowledge, on his hero. In reality, Severus seems to have always tried—just like the aforementioned Severan bishops—to keep the emperor out of all criticism against the Chalcedonians.31 But after that singularly favourable constellation of 536, when Severus seemed to be wining over the leadership of the Byzantine Church, a massive Chalcedonian reaction broke out, triggered, at least apparently, by the Patriarch of Antioch Ephrem of Amida,32 which led to the excommunication of Severus and his followers in all cities of the empire, including the (shortly before) deposed Anthimos of Constantinople. A new stage in the development of Miaphysite attitudes toward Constantinople was opened. For this condemnation of Severus and his followers—i.e. of the Miaphysite movement per se—was to prove most consequential: Justinian endorsed and confirmed the condemnation with a harsh edict (6.8.536) against Severus, placing him in the same group as Arius and Porphyry and threatening the copying and dissemination of his writings with the hardest punishments.33 This was followed up by an anti-Miaphysite campaign all over the empire, but most intensive in Syria and Northern Mesopotamia.
30 31 32 33
one hand and loyalty to both the person of the emperor and the vision of Church unity on the other is the overall tenor of John of Ephesus’ emblematic presentation of the “five blessed Patriarchs who distinguished themselves in exile in the time of the persecution”, Lives of the Eastern Fathers ii, ed. Brooks, po 18, 684–690—somewhat paradoxically followed by the life of Jacob Baradaeus. Cf. ‘Extraits, notices et poésies sur Sévère,’ in: John of Beith-Aphthonia, ed. M.A. Kugener, ̈ po 2, 302–303: 焏ܢqr ܘܐ煿 ܕܢ煿ܿ ܠrq ܠ焏ܪܣ熏܆ ܦ爯q ܗܠ焏q ܡܠqܡ熏q̈ܢ܂ ܕܒ熏ܥq ܬ焏ܠ. Cf. a telling personal testimonial of Severus in cl ii, 291. Cf. Zacharias Rhetor, Historia Ecclesiastica ix.19, pp. 35–37. See ‘Textes Grecs relatifs à Sévère,’ in: John of Beith-Aphthonia, ed. M.A. Kugener, po 2, 360– 361.
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The Consequences This condemnation may be seen as the critical point, after which all realistic hopes for a restoration of Church union were lost. It certainly triggered unpredictable developments, which finally led (in conjunction with other factors) to the establishment of a separate Miaphysite episcopal hierarchy in the Syrian Orient, tantamount to final solidification of the schism. This new reality connected with the names of John of Tella and Jacob Baradaeus, who first began to consecrate bishops outside the framework of the Catholic hierarchy, did not have the effect of making Severus, who not only witnessed its beginnings but also conferred on John of Tella the licence to ordain bishops, abandon his vision of Church union. Notwithstanding the facts, Severus considered—and allowed—these “schismatic” ordinations as a merely pastoral measure justified by the lack of “orthodox” bishops, primarily in the Sassanian empire where the “Nestorian heresy” held sway.34 It is characteristic that, in his view, the “schismatic” ordinations should only take place, if possible, outside the boarders of the Byzantine empire; even if this was just wishful thinking, it shows how important Byzantine loyalty was for him. In this he was not alone: the leading “Severans” of his generation and some of the next too, such as his followers Theodosios of Alexandria and Anthimos of Constantinople, kept their faith in Severus’ vision of Miaphysite Catholic Church unity, even when in practical terms it had been overturned by reality. Theodosios of Alexandria, perhaps the most powerful Miaphysite leader for a full thirty years from Severus’ death, said in a sermon held in Constantinople in 548 that whoever caused turmoil and schisms in the Church “cannot be delivered from this awesome and terrifying guilt even by the blood of martyrdom”.35 This same attitude is attested to by a most important piece of evidence, a letter addressed either by Theodosios or by Anthimos of Constantinople (congenial with Theodosios and Severus in this question) to Jacob Baradaeus, rebuking him for his excessive missionary zeal and giving him strict instructions to restrict drastically the number of the ordinations he made.36
See Elias, ‘Vita Johannis episcopi Tellae,’ in: Vitae virorum apud Monophysitas celeberrimorum, ed. E.W. Brooks, csco Syr. 25 (Paris, 1907), 60–61; cf. N.J. Andrade, “The Syriac Life of John of Tella and the Frontier Politeia,” in: Hugoye 12 (2009), 199–234; Frend, Severus of Antioch, 273. ܙܒ熏r ܢ焏ܥqq ܘܙ焏ܠqq ܕ焏ܒq熏q ܗܘ爯ܕܘܬܐ܆ ܡ煿 ܕܣ焏 ܕܡ焏( ܐܦ ܠDocumenta ad origines Monophysitarum illustrandas, ed. Chabot, csco Syr. 37, (Paris/Leipzig, 1907), 78). See F. Nau, “Littérature canonique syriaque inédite (fin),” Revue de l’Orient Chrétien 4/14 (1909), 113–130, at pp. 123–124.
However, in reality the new direction taken by John of Tella, Jacob Baradaeus and their comrades was to set the course for all later political developments in the Miaphysite movement. This new generation of the “successors” (and some younger contemporaries) of Severus, in many ways (in terms of—Syriac instead of Greek—nationality, culture and education, mentality, and social standing) different from their predecessors, had their own, very distinctive voice in the matter of loyalty. Its proponents would not hesitate to utter things unthinkable only a short while before: Even John of Ephesos, one of those most faithful to the Severan loyalist tradition among the new generation of Jacob Baradaeus,37 could depict a discussion between the Miaphysite Syrian ascetic Zʼura, who had travelled to Constantinople to protest to the emperor, and indeed Justinian himself, directly identifying the latter with “him who ‘roared as a lion, and looked upon whom he should devour’”, i.e. the devil according to 1Pet 5:8, and attributing to Justinian personally the responsibility for all innocent blood (of persecuted Miaphysites) that had been shed in his time.38 This protest against imperial power and its abuse becomes even more radical in the (as yet unedited) Psalm Commentary by the contemporary Miaphysite author Daniel of Salah, as David Taylor has shown, since it is disconnected from one specific emperor and directed against worldly rulers and worldly power in general: “Let not the poor person sit ashamed, but let the needy and the poor praise your name (Ps 74:21). Those who are opposed [the demons etc.] have command over kings and over rulers, and in governors and in nobles they boast. But those who proclaim your truth are the needy and poor. Because these are overwhelmed by violence, ‘Arise O God and pronounce your judgments.’”39 One could add here the numerous examples of more or less direct Kaiserkritik against Justinian and his Church politics that was produced by—mostly anonymous—authors of this generation, notably in the Syrian Orient.40
38 39 40
See J. van Ginkel, ‘John of Ephesus on Emperors: The Perception of the Byzantine Empire by a Monophysite,’ in: vi Symposium Syriacum, ed. R. Lavenant, oca 247 (Rome, 1994), 323–333, 332–333. See John of Ephesos, Lives of the Eastern Saints, ed. E.W. Brooks, po 17 (Paris, 1923), 23. Cited by D. Taylor, “The Psalm Commentary of Daniel of Salah and the Formation of SixthCentury Syrian Orthodox Identity,” chrc 89 (2009), 65–92, at p. 88. For several such cases see M. Papoutsakis, “The Making of a Syriac Fable: From Ephrem to Romanos,” Le Muséon 120 (2007) 29–75, esp. 31; Ph. Wood, “We Have no King but Christ”: Christian Political Thought in Greater Syria on the Eve of the Arab Conquest (c. 400–585), (Oxford, 2010), 158–162; cf. D.L. Schwartz, ‘Religious Violence and Eschatology in the Syriac Julian Romance,’ in: jecs 19 (2011), 565–587, at p. 568f.
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Thus, in the peculiar antinomic mixture of dogmatic zealotism and political loyalism that was typical of Severus and the Severans strictu sensu, loyalism lost out at the end. Political developments, beginning with Justin’s and Justinian’s policies toward the Miaphysite movement, had the effect of rendering the loyalists obsolete, even as they gave the zealotic factor the upper hand, so that at the very end “Severanism” (in part due to this antinomy in its inner logic) became causally connected with a certain consequence—the establishment of a separate Miaphysite hierarchy—diametrically opposed to the intention of its author, who remained loyal to his vision of unity until the end.
The Doves of Antioch: Severus, Chalcedonians, Monothelites, and Iconoclasm Ken Parry
Introduction The theme of this study focuses on the accusations of iconoclasm in the christological debates in the Christian East during the sixth to eighth centuries, especially in relation to anti-Chalcedonians and Monothelites. Such accusations appear before the outbreak of iconoclasm in Constantinople in the eighth century, and indicate that christology and iconoclasm had become linked in the minds of theologians. The incidents of iconoclasm associated with Severus of Antioch will be the starting-point of our investigation into these accusations. In doing so we will need to discuss their textual history, and whether they represent any real connection with the faith communities they disparage, or are simply the result of Chalcedonian polemic. This in turn will lead us to reassess the politics of heresy in relation to these accusations and how they may have impacted on Byzantine iconoclasm itself. In an article published in 2012 in the Art Bulletin entitled ‘Iconoclasm as Discourse: From Antiquity to Byzantium’, the art historian Jaś Elsner has demonstrated that in order to understand Byzantine iconoclasm it is important to examine the long-standing debate over the status of images that is evident in the ancient cultures of the Mediterranean.1 He has done so to some extent in response to the exhaustive work on Byzantine iconoclasm by Leslie Brubaker and John Haldon published in 2011.2 In their book Brubaker and Haldon have isolated the phenomenon of iconoclasm in Byzantium and abandoned discussion of theological and christological themes and thereby diminished the intellectual content of the controversy. I am in agreement with Elsner on this, for it seems to me that unless we place Byzantine iconoclasm in this broader perspective we miss vital aspects of that discourse on images that went on for centuries across cultures and languages, and which undoubtedly impacted on what happened in Constantinople in the eighth century. I would go further and
1 J. Elsner, ‘Iconoclasm as Discourse: From Antiquity to Byzantium’, Art Bulletin (2012), 368–394. 2 L. Brubaker and J. Haldon, Byzantium in the Iconoclast Era c. 680–850: A History (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2011).
© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2016 | doi: 10.1163/9789004307995_008
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say that it impacted on attitudes and responses in the early Islamic world as well.3 It is therefore with this notion of ‘iconoclasm as discourse’ in mind that I want to approach the topic of this study.
Severus of Antioch There are two surviving passages that detail Severus’ apparent iconoclasm. The first is from a petition against Severus by Chalcedonian monks and clergy from Antioch preserved in the Acts of the Home Synod of Constantinople in 536,4 and cited at Nicaea ii in 787. It reads as follows: He [Severus] did not even spare the sacred altars and vessels: for the former he scraped off on the pretext they were impure, the latter he melted down and distributed [the proceeds] among his fellow-thinkers. This, too he has daringly done … He has appropriated, along with other things, the gold and silver doves representing the Holy Spirit that hung above the sacred fonts and altars, saying that the Holy Spirit should not be designated in the form of a dove.5 This episode is referred to as a source of iconoclast authority in an eighthcentury work called the Nouthesia, or The Warning of the Elder Concerning the Holy Images attributed to George, bishop of Constantia in Cyprus, who may have been the George condemned by the iconoclasts at their council in 754 at Hiereia (an Asiatic suburb of Constantinople), along with the patriarch Germanus and John of Damascus.6 Some of the contents of the Nouthesia suggest a date prior to 754, but it erroneously refers to the Fifth Ecumenical Council of 553 as condemning Severus for his supposed iconoclastic actions,
3 See the important study by G. Hawting, The Idea of Idolatry and the Emergence of Islam: From Polemic to History (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1999). 4 J.D. Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum Nova et Amplissima Collectio, viii. Florence 1767; Graz 1960– 1962, 1039a–b; C. Mango, The Art of the Byzantine Empire 312–1453 (University of Toronto Press: Toronto, 1986), 44. 5 Mansi, xiii, 184a; Mango, Art of the Byzantine Empire, 44. Clement of Alexandria was the earliest writer to discuss images of doves, in his case on signet rings, as Christian art, Paidagogos, 3.10.59. For a sixth-century silver dove from Syria in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, see W. Mayer and P. Allen, The Churches of Antioch (300–638) (Peeters: Leuven, 2012), 367. 6 S. Gero, Byzantine Iconoclasm during the Reign of Constantine v with particular attention to
when the Antiochene petition was cited at the synod of 536.7 Although Severus is here cast in the role of an iconoclast, it cannot be used to support antiChalcedonian influence on Byzantine iconoclasts.8 It is not known which works (if any) by Severus in Greek (or Syriac) were available in Constantinople in the first half of the eighth century.9 We should bear in mind that the emperor Justinian i (r. 527–565) had declared in his Novel 42, promulgated after Severus was banned from the capital in 536, that: We forbid to all men that any should possess the books of Severus. And just as it was not permitted to transcribe and possess the books of Nestorius, because the emperors which have preceded us have decided in their edicts to ‘categorise’ those works with the writings of Porphyry against the Christians, so in the same way no Christian shall possess either the speeches of Severus, but these from now on shall be considered as profane and contrary to the Catholic church …10 The banning and burning of the Neoplatonist Porphyry’s Against the Christians had begun with Constantine the Great (r. 311–337) and culminated with the emperor Theodosius ii (r. 408–450) in 448, but in spite of this, fifteen chapters of his book have survived through incorporation into refutations and other works.11 This act of book burning was not only a form of damnatio memoriae but was to some extent on a par with iconoclasm. The anti-Chalcedonian historian John of Ephesus writing in the late sixth century informs us that in Syrian monasteries portraits of anti-Chalcedonian
the oriental sources. csco 384, Sub. 52 (Secrétariat du Corpus sco: Louvain, 1977), 23–36; A. Kazhdan, A History of Byzantine Literature (650–850) (The National Hellenic Research Foundation: Athens, 1999), 146–147; L. Brubaker and J. Haldon, Byzantium in the Iconoclast Era (ca. 680–850): The Sources (Ashgate: Aldershot, 2001), 251–252. Gero, Constantine v, 34–36. The iconoclasts at their council of 754 viewed themselves as orthodox Chalcedonians and listed Severus as a heretic in several places, Mansi xiii, 236d, 244d, 260b; see T. Krannich, C. Schubert and C. Sode (eds) Die ikonoklastische Synode von Hiereia 754: Einletiung, Text, Überstezung und Kommentarihres Horos (Mohr Siebeck: Tübingen, 2002), 36, 38, 42. For background, see M. Leontsini, ‘Views regarding the use of the Syrian language in Byzantium during the 7th century’, Graeco-Arabica 9–10 (2004), 235–247. Quoted in W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of the Monophysite Movement: Chapters in the History of the Church in the Fifth and Sixth Centuries (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1972), 273. See further Nestor Kavvadas’ chapter in this volume. On the dating of Porphyry’s writings see, B. Croke, ‘The Era of Porphyry’s Anti-Christian Polemic’, Journal of Religious History 13.1 (1984), 1–14.
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fathers were removed by John iii Scholasticus, patriarch of Constantinople from 565 to 577, to be replaced by his own ubiquitous image.12 However, on John’s demise his own portraits were in turn replaced by those of his predecessor and successor on the patriarchal throne, Eutychius (r. 552–565 and 577– 582).13 We can see from this episode the interplay of church politics involving character assassination and damnatio memoriae. This example of replacing one portrait with another demonstrates the power of images in the propaganda war to win the hearts and minds of the faithful. It would be interesting to know who exactly the anti-Chalcedonian fathers were whose portraits were removed, but one would like to think that Severus’ icon was among them. Another example from the late sixth century is mentioned by the seventhcentury historian Theophylact Simocatta. This relates to an event in 588 involving the general Priscus whose soldiers in Mesopotamia rebelled against a decree by the emperor Maurice (r. 582–602) to reduce their pay. In the hope of suppressing the rebellious soldiers Priscus ordered a copy (?) of the famous icon of Edessa, the image of Christ not-made-by-hands, to be paraded among the soldiers in order to distract them. However, instead of calming them and showing their respect for it, the sight of the icon incensed them further and they threw stones at it, thus obliging Priscus to grab a horse and ride quickly away. The rebellious army did not stop there but went on, as Theophylact reports: … to tear down the royal statues [of Maurice], and they also obliterated the pictorial representations which had by the art of painting been composed on panels and boards for the honour of the emperor; for they said that they would not endure to be ruled by a shopkeeper.14 The last phrase ‘would not endure to be ruled by a shopkeeper’ refers to the parsimonious action of the emperor in cutting the soldiers’ pay. The erasure of Maurice’s portrait and the stoning of the Edessan icon are further examples of iconoclast behaviour that demonstrate two things.15 Firstly that acts of icon-
12 13 14 15
E.W. Brooks, Johannis Ephesini, Historiae Ecclesiasticae pars tertia. csco 106, Syr. 55 (Secrétariat du Corpus sco: Louvain, 1936), 2.27. Johannis Ephesini, Historiae Ecclesiasticae, 2.34. History, 3.1.10–13; 3.2.8–9, see M. & M. Whitby, The History of Theophylact Simocatta: An English Translation with Introduction and Notes (Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1986). See further A. Cameron, ‘The Mandylion and Byzantine Iconoclasm’, in H.L. Kessler and G. Wolf (eds), The Holy Face and the Paradox of Representation, Papers from a Colloquium at the Bibliotheca Hertziana, Rome and the Villa Spelman, Florence, 1996. (Bologna, 1998), 33–54.
oclasm in relation to emperors and patriarchs were perhaps not that uncommon, and secondly that images of emperors and patriarchs were integral to the empire’s publicity machine. A further example relative to our theme is from a collection of excerpts from Theodore of Mopsuestia compiled by Justinian for the Fifth Ecumenical Council of 553 and sent to pope Vigilius (r. 537–555) for his comments. In what is called the First Constitutum Theodore is purported to have written: There are two explanations of how it [Christ, the invisible word] serves as an image. Those who love someone often set up images of them after their death, thinking that this provides a sufficient solace for death; as if beholding as in the image one who is neither seen nor present, they think they see him, thereby calming the fire and strength of longing. But those also who have in the cities images of the emperors honour as if present and visible those who are not present, by means of the cult and veneration of images At the end of this passage (not quoted here in full) pope Vigilius adds his commentary: In the above-written eighteenth chapter Christ is asserted to be the image of the invisible Word in the same sense as that in which images of absent princes are revered in honour of them. If anyone holds, teaches, believes and preaches this accordingly, let him be anathema.16 These passages were collected as part of an orchestrated campaign against Theodore of Mopsuestia that began after the Council of Ephesus in 431, and reopened in the early sixth century around the question of whether Theodore should be condemned ad hominem in addition to his writings.17 Vigilius’ hostile reaction to Theodore’s comparison of Christ as an image of the invisible Word with an image of the emperor appears to be based on the premise that Christ cannot be likened to an artificial image, and if this is what the pontiff meant, then it anticipates the position of the Byzantine iconoclasts in the eighth
R. Price, The Acts of the Council of Constantinople of 553, 2 vols. tth 51 (Liverpool University Press: Liverpool, 2009), ii, 163, with discussion on the authenticity of the excerpts, i, 227– 230. J. Meyendorff, Imperial Unity and Christian Divisions: The Church 450–680 a.d. (svs Press: New York, 1989), 235–245.
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century.18 The iconoclasts argued that it was impossible to represent Christ in an image because the name Christ signified a unique person who was both human and divine; thus in trying to depict Christ the painter was guilty of separating the two natures and representing only the human, given that it was impossible to represent the divine.19 However, other fathers such as John of Damascus in the eighth century were never censured for drawing a comparison between an image of the absent Christ and the image of the emperor.20 Taken out of their original context these passages were intended to be read as prooftexts for Theodore’s posthumous condemnation. The second passage implicating Severus as an iconoclast is a fragment from the Life of Severus attributed to John, Chalcedonian bishop of Gabala in Syria, who was present at the Home Synod that condemned Severus in 536. It states that Severus gave a speech opposed to the representation of angels in purple vestments when white was their appropriate colour. The fragment was cited at Nicaea ii in 787, but does not appear to be known before then. It reads as follows: Severus used to stand in the bema and deliver long addresses, and he often attempted to persuade the multitude in the very church of the mostholy Michael that white vestments, not purple ones, were appropriate to angels. He was not ignorant of the fact that the holy [angelic] host had no concern with vestments, but tried by this device to cause division and to urge against one another people who had this or that opinion.21 The speech referred to by John of Gabala is clearly related to Homily 72 delivered in the Church of the Archangel Michael at Antioch in June 515,22 in which Severus takes painters to task for depicting angels in imperial purple. He writes:
19 20 21 22
See Mansi xiii, 336a–341e for the anathemas of the Iconoclast Council of 754 against those who think that Christ can be represented in an icon; Krannich, Die ikonoklastische Synode von Hiereia, 62, 64. Mansi xiii, 252a; Krannich, Die ikonoklastische Synode von Hiereia, 40. K. Parry, Depicting the Word: Byzantine Iconophile Thought of the Eighth and Ninth Centuries (Brill: Leiden, 1996), 22–32. Mansi xiii, 184c; Mango, Art of the Byzantine Empire, 22; G. Peers, Subtle Bodies: Representing Angels in Byzantium (University of California Press: Berkeley, 2001), 74–75. On the Church of the Archangel Michael, see Mayer and Allen, The Churches of Antioch, 98–99, index.
But the presumptuous hand of the painters, being a law unto itself since it condones the fictions of pagan illusions regarding idolatry, and planning everything for profit, clothes Michael and Gabriel in the manner of lords or kings with a royal robe of purple, adorns them with a crown, and places in their right hand the sign of rulership and universal authority [this refers to a sceptre or orb]. For these reasons, and ones which are like them, those who so senselessly honour the angels depart from the church and transgress her laws: those who ordered and set in place the holy canons have placed these people under anathema.23 The art historical evidence shows that by the sixth century angels were being depicted in a variety of colours, for example, the archangels Michael and Gabriel in the church of Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo at Ravenna,24 but mostly angels were shown wearing white, for example, in the apse mosaics in the church of San Vitale at Ravenna.25 Severus’ target here is not so much the representation of angels, but rather those who exult and worship them. Severus’ concern with the proper understanding of angels has been discussed in relation to the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius,26in particular his Celestial Hierarchy.27 This is because Severus was one of the earliest witnesses to the writings of the Areopagite.28 Although the debate continues over the identity of this pseudonymous author most scholars agree that it was someone from within the circle of Peter the Iberian and/or Severus of Antioch.29 The latter appears to cite Dionysius on only three occasions and one of these is
24 25 26
P. Allen and C.T.R. Haywood, Severus of Antioch (Routledge: London, 2004), 132. Canon 35 of the fourth-century Council of Laodicea outlawed angelolatry, see R.H. Cline, Ancient Angels: Conceptualizing Angeloi in the Roman Empire (Brill: Leiden, 2011), ch. 6. R.M. Deliyannis, Ravenna in Late Antiquity (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2010), 266–267. Deliyannis, Ravenna in Late Antiquity, 238. P. Allen, ‘Severus of Antioch and the Homily: The End or the Beginning?’, in P. Allen and E. Jeffreys (eds), The Sixth Century: End or Beginning? Byzantine Australiensia 10 (Australian Association of Byzantine Studies: Brisbane, 1996), 163–175. Allen, ‘Severus of Antioch and the Homily’, 170–174; Peers, Subtle Bodies, 71–79. See R.A. Arthur, Pseudo-Dionysius as Polemicist: The Development and Purpose of the Angelic Hierarchy in Sixth Century Syria (Ashgate: Aldershot, 2008). P. Rorem and J.C. Lamoreaux, John of Scythopolis and the Dionysian Corpus: Annotating the Areopagite (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1998), 11–15. See B. Lourié, ‘Peter the Iberian and Dionysius the Areopagite: Honigmann—van Esbroeck’s Thesis Revisited’, Scrinium 6 (2010), 143–212.
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found in his Letter to John the Hegumenos,30 who may have been John of Beth Aphtonia to whom is attributed a biography of Severus.31 The passage in question is from the Areopagite’s Fourth Epistle where he attributes to Christ the ‘new theandric energy’ (καινήν θεανδρικὴν ἐνέργειαν),32 which became a heated topic in the christological debates of the sixth and seventh centuries, especially in relation to Severus’ interpretation of it as ‘one composite activity’ and the adoption of this by the Monenergists.33 It should be said, however, that the dating and provenance of Severus’ Letter to John the Hegumenos is far from clear.34 It was Hypatius, bishop of Ephesus, who was one of the first to cast doubts on the authenticity of the Areopagite’s works at the colloquium held between Chalcedonians and anti-Chalcedonians in Constantinople in 532. He is reported to have said: But if none of the ancients made mention of them [the writings of Dionysius], I simply do not know how you can prove that they were written by him.35 As has been pointed out Hypatius does not so much object to what the Areopagite was saying as suggest that lack of discussion by earlier fathers made it is difficult to ascertain when the author flourished.36 Yet the fact that his works were absent from the writings of the fathers and from florilegia, and that the pseudonymity of the author was clearly recognised, did not prevent the Corpus Dionysiacum from being accepted into the patristic para30 31 32 33
34 35 36
Allen and Hoyland, Severus of Antioch, 152–153. On this question, see S. Brock and B. Fitzgerald, Two Early Lives of Severos, Patriarch of Antioch. tth 59 (Liverpool University Press: Liverpool, 2013), 24–29. G. Heil and A.M. Ritter (eds), Corpus Dionysiacum ii: Epistulae. Patristische Texte und Studien 36 (Walter De Gruyter: Berlin, 1991), 161. For Maximus the Confessor’s refutation of Severus and the Monenergist interpretation of the Areopagite’s phrase, see J. Lollar, Maximus the Confessor, Ambigua to Thomas, Second Letter to Thomas. Corpus Christianorum in Translation 2 (Brepols: Turnout, 2009), 70–74, 82, 129–130. For further discussion see C. Hovorum, Will, Action and Freedom: Christological Controversies in the Seventh Century (Brill: Leiden, 2008), 111–120. Arthur, Pseudo-Dionysius as Polemicist, 107–108. Quoted in Rorem and Lamoreaux, John of Scythopolis and the Dionysian Corpus, 18. Rorem and Lamoreaux, John of Scythopolis and the Dionysian Corpus, 18. See further, A. Louth, ‘The Reception of Dionysius up to Maximus the Confessor’, in S. Coakley and C.M. Strang (eds), Re-Thinking Dionysius the Areopagite (Wiley-Blackwell: Oxford, 2009), 43–53.
dosis.37 It is of interest that Hypatius subsequently had attributed to him a letter-fragment on the subject of images in which he appears to treat them in a similar manner to Dionysius. However, the attribution of this fragment to the sixth-century bishop of Ephesus has been questioned and it may in fact belong to the eighth century.38 It was Hypatius who headed a delegation to Rome in 534 where he was instrumental in persuading Pope John ii (r. 533–535) to accept Justinian’s promotion of the Theopaschite formula ‘One of the Holy Trinity suffered in the flesh’, which the emperor wanted to add to the Trisagion.39 The Trisagion was the liturgical refrain ‘Holy God, Holy and strong, Holy and immortal, have mercy upon us’, which had become a bone of contention since Peter the Fuller, the antiChalcedonian patriarch of Antioch who died in 488, had added the phrase ‘who was crucified for us’. In Constantinople the Trisagion was taken to be addressed to the Trinity whereas in Syria and in Egypt it was understood as referring to Christ. The Fifth Ecumenical Council held in Constantinople in 553 condemned those who denied that Christ, who was crucified in the flesh, was one of the Trinity.40 This was reinforced by the bishops at Nicaea ii: It is obvious … that those who ascribed the passion to the divinity are Theopaschites, and those who share in this heresy do not allow themselves to accept icons, as neither Severus the impious one did, nor Peter the Fuller, Philoxenus of Mabbug, or any of their many-headed but headless hydra.41 The ‘many-headed but headless hydra’ is a pun on the title Acephaloi or headless ones, a title by which Severus’ anti-Chalcedonian party was known. We notice here the iconophile assimilation of leading anti-Chalcedonians, including Severus, into the iconoclast camp and the automatic assumption than antiChalcedonians must by definition be iconoclasts.
39 40 41
See my, ‘Reading Proclus Diadochus in Byzantium’, in H. Tarrant and D. Baltzly (eds), Reading Plato in Antiquity (Duckworth: London, 2006), 223–235. P. Speck, ‘On the Fragment of Hypatios of Ephesos on Images, with an Appendix on the Dialogue with a Jew by Leontios of Neopolis’, in his Understanding Byzantium: Studies in Byzantine Historical Sources (Ashgate: Aldershot, 2003), viii, first published in German in 1984. See most recently, S. Mariev, “Hypatios of Ephesos and Ps.-Dionysios Areopagites”, Byzantinische Zeitschrift 107, 1 (2014), 113–138. Meyendorff, Imperial Unity and Christian Divisions, 224–226. Price, Acts of the Council of Constantinople of 553, i, 144; ii, 123. Mansi, xiii, 317b–c.
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Further indication of a concerted effort by Chalcedonians to blacken antiChalcedonians, particularly Antiochene anti-Chalcedonians, as iconoclasts, is found in a quotation provided by John of Damascus in the first half of the eighth century. In the florilegium to his Third Oration in Defence of Icons he quotes from the sixth-century History of the Church by Theodore the Lector: Palladius, the bishop of Antioch, to gain the favour of the Emperor, loathed the followers of the holy dogmas of Chalcedon and cast down the icons of the holy fathers.42 The Palladius mentioned here succeeded Peter the Fuller as bishop of Antioch in 488 when the anti-Chalcedonian inclined emperor Zeno (r. 474–491) was reigning. Palladius had accepted the Henotikon or ‘act of union’ issued by Zeno in an attempt to reconcile the differences between the supporters of Chalcedon and their opponents.43 Whatever the merits of the case for redating Hypatius’ letter the text is of interest because of the position it takes on images. It states: Thus we allow even material adornment in the sanctuaries, not because God considers gold and silver, silken vestments and vessels encrusted with gems to be precious and holy, but because we allow every order of the faithful to be guided in a suitable manner and to be led up to the Godhead, in as much as some men are guided even by such things towards the intelligible beauty …44 Earlier in the fragment Hypatius expresses his preference for the written word over the painted image, but concedes that the latter is suitable for the ‘less perfect’ (ἀτελέστεροι).45 This section is cited in a letter by the ninth-century iconophile Theodore the Stoudite, and as one might expect, it does not meet
43 44 45
Contra imaginum caluminatores orations tres, iii, 97; B. Kotter (ed), Die Schriften des Johannes von Damaskos, iii (Walter De Gruyter: Berlin, 1975), 187. On the fragments of Theodore the Lector, see W. Treadgold, The Early Byzantine Historians (Palgrave Macmillan: New York, 2007), 169–174. R. Kosiński, The Emperor Zeno: Religion and Politics (Historia Lagellonica: Cracow, 2010), 196–197. P.J. Alexander, ‘Hypatius of Ephesus: a note on image worship in the sixth century’, Harvard Theological Review 45 (1952), 177–184. Parry, Depicting the Word, 36.
with his acceptance.46 When it came to the veneration of icons Theodore was not prepared to accept a ‘them’ versus ‘us’ situation, any more than he liked monks wearing the great habit (μεγάλο σχήμα) to distinguish rank within his monastic community.47 Although there is no reason to suppose that Hypatius was directly dependent upon the Areopagite, it is worth remarking that Dionysius himself refers to painted images as aids for those who are ‘uninitiated (ἀτελέσιν).’48 If Severus did know the Celestial Hierarchy then he would have come across what Dionysius calls ‘dissimilar similarities’ or ‘unlike likenesses,’ paradoxical expressions that sum up his theory of angelic representation and its anagogical or uplifting purpose. He writes: In this way the wise men of God, exponents of hidden inspiration, separate the “holy of holies” from defilement by anything in the realm of the imperfect or the profane. They therefore honour the dissimilar shape so that the divine things remain inaccessible to the profane, and so that all those with a real wish to see the sacred imagery may not dwell on the types as true … For this reason there is nothing ridiculous about representing heavenly beings with similarities which are dissimilar and incongruous, for the reasons mentioned.49 The reference to dissimilar and incongruous representations is to images of angels with multiple eyes and zoomorphic shapes and does not, as far as I can see, reflect disapproval of their representation as such, so long as their anagogical function is understood. However, it has been suggested that Dionysius was only concerned with their spiritual nature and not with their material representation,50 because he also says:
46 47 48 49
Epistle 499; G. Fatouros (ed), Theodori Studitae Epistulae, 2 vols. (Walter De Gruyter: Berlin, 1992), ii, 737. Testamentum 12, pg 99: 1820c. Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, 3.3.2; Heil and Ritter, Corpus Dionysiacum ii: De Ecclesiastica Hierarchia, 82. Celestial Hierarchy, 2.5; Heil and Ritter, Corpus Dionysiacum ii: De Coelesti Hierarchia, 15– 16; trans. C. Luibheid, Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works (Paulist Press: New York, 1987), 152–153. Arthur, Pseudo-Dionysius as Polemicist, 63.
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We cannot … profanely visualise these heavenly and godlike intelligences as actually having numerous feet and faces. They are not shaped to resemble the brutishness of oxen or to display the wildness of lions. They do not have the curved beak of the eagle or the wings and feathers of birds. We must not have pictures of flaming wheels whirling in the skies …51 What Dionysius is referring to here is the artistic representation of angels as described by the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah as well as the author of the Apocalypse. These consist of seraphim with many wings covered with eyes and cherubim with the faces of a man, an ox, a lion, and an eagle, and with the feet of creatures. The faces of the tetramorph became associated in early Christianity with the four evangelists, the man with Matthew, the ox with Luke, the lion with Mark, and the eagle with John.52 The legitimacy of representing angels was debated during the Byzantine iconoclastic controversy in the eighth century and appeals to Dionysius by iconophiles were made because by then he had been accepted as a patristic authority.53 According to a passage from the Vita of Severus attributed to John of Beth Aphtonia, and found in the Chronicle of Pseudo-Dionysius of Tell Mahre, when Severus arrived at his episcopal residence in Antioch: … and found the kitchen servants and cooks of the residence and all the equipment installed by them, he removed (all of it) from the place. He also destroyed the bath which was there … he reverted to the austere customs of monasticism, which were his habit previously. He practised lying down on the ground, refraining from washing, (performing) offices with long psalmody, eating vegetables like the youths of Babylon.54 He brought back from the market place bread which was very inferior and low quality.55
51 52 53 54
Celestial Hierarchy, 2.1; Heil and Ritter, Corpus Dionysiacum ii: De Coelesti Hierarchia, 9–10; Luibheid, Pseudo-Dionysius, 147. Peers, Subtle Bodies, 33–34. The earliest writer to make the association of the four living creatures with the four Gospel authors was Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3,11,8. Parry, Depicting the Word, ch. 9. See F. Ivanović, Symbol and Icon: Dionysius the Areopagite and the Iconoclastic Crisis (Pickwick Publications: Eugene, 2010). On vegetarianism in the period under discussion, see my, ‘Vegetarianism in Late Antiquity and Byzantium: The transmission of a regimen’, in W. Mayer and S. Trzcionka (eds), Feast, Fast or Famine: Food and Drink in Byzantium. Byzantina Australiensia 15 (Australian Association of Byzantine Studies: Brisbane, 2005), 171–187. W. Witakowski, Pseudo-Dionysius of Tel-Mahre: Chronicle Part iii. tth 22 (Liverpool Uni-
However, the austerity of Severus’ own lifestyle was not carried over into the decoration of churches within his jurisdiction. This is clear from his Homily 100 on the feast of the martyr St. Drosis in which he appeals to his congregation to donate silver to complete the canopy (ciborium) in the church of St. Drosis, suggesting that each member of the congregation could donate a pound of silver or a single donor could give the whole amount required.56 Like the reference to gold and silver doves, donating silver vessels and adorning churches with silver revetment was a meritorious way of contributing to ecclesiastical wealth in the sixth century.57 A good example is that provided by Paul the Silentiary in his ekphrasis on Justinian’s recently rebuilt church of Hagia Sophia in which he waxes lyrical over the silver furnishings in the chancel.58 So how are we to interpret these various accusations against Severus by his Chalcedonian opponents, especially the destruction of church furnishing, such as gold and silver doves representing the Holy Spirit hanging over altars and fonts? This alleged iconoclastic action has been interpreted as an attempt by Severus to stamp out pagan practices, based on the suggestion that there was a strong cult of the goddess Atargatis or Aphrodite in parts of Syria in the sixth century, and that images of doves connected with her cult may have found their way into Christian places of worship.59 The problem with this interpretation is that doves were not her only attribute because lions and fish were associated with her as well. Furthermore, it does not explain why a Chalcedonian would condemn an anti-Chalcedonian for trying to eradicate pagan practices. If nothing else, both sides of the Chalcedonian divide would have been united in their condemnation of paganism. Whatever lies behind the accusations levelled at
versity Press: Liverpool, 1996), 14–15. Section 58 in the Life attributed to John of Beth Aphthonia, see Brock and Fitzgerald, Two Early Lives of Severos, 126. Allen and Hayward, Severus of Antioch, 25; Mayer and Allen, Churches of Syrian Antioch, 115–116. R.E. Leader-Newby, Silver and Society in Late Antiquity: Functions and Meanings of Silver Plate in the Fourth to Seventh Centuries (Ashgate: Aldershot, 2004), 70–71. On the use of silver utensils in pagan rituals in the Life of Severus by Zacharias Rhetor, see Brock and Fitzgerald, Two Early Lives of Severos, 72. Mango, Art of the Byzantine Empire, 87. This argument seems first to have been proposed by E. Honigmann, Évêques et évêchés monophysites d’Asie antérieure au Vie siècle. csco 127, Subs. 2 (Secrétariat du Corpus sco: Louvain, 1951), 23, n. 4. On the multiple usages and readings of doves in antiquity, see D.T. Potts, ‘The deacon and the dove: on some early Christian (?) grave stelae from al-Maqsha and Shakhura (Bahrain)’, Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 19 (2008), 109– 119.
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Severus by his Chalcedonian opponents they look like a polemical red herrings and as such belong to our ‘iconoclasm as discourse’ theme.
Philoxenus of Mabbug We have seen that at Nicaea ii Philoxenus, bishop of Mabbug in northern Syria, was included in a list of anti-Chalcedonians as iconoclasts along with Severus and Peter the Fuller. A passage from the lost Ecclesiastical History of John Diakrinomenos was also cited at Nicaea ii,60 in which Philoxenus is said to have opposed the representation of angels in human form as well as the representation of the Holy Spirit as a dove. It reads: He [Philoxenus] used to say it was not lawful to endow angels with bodies since they were incorporeal, and to represent them in bodily human form or, for that matter, to deem that by confecting a painted image one was offering honour or glory to Christ; and that the only [image] acceptable to Him was worship in spirit and in truth. And continues: … one ought to know this also, namely that it is an infantile act to represent the most-holy and venerable Spirit in the likeness of a dove seeing that the text of the Gospel teaches not that the Holy Spirit became a dove, but that it was once seen in the form of a dove, and that since this happened only once by reason of dispensation and not essentially, it was in no way fitting for believers to make for it a bodily likeness. Philoxenus not only taught these things, but he also practised his teaching; for he took down and obliterated images of angels in many places, while those representing Christ he secreted in inaccessible places.61 The iconophile historian Theophanes Confessor in the ninth century endorses this but adds that Philoxenus opposed images of the saints as well.62 The focus on the representation of angels and doves, whether symbols of the Holy Spirit 60 61 62
On the ‘Hesitants’ (διακρινομένοι), those reluctant to accept the Council of Chalcedon from whom John derives his cognomen, see Johannis Ephesini, Historiae Ecclesiasticae, 2.37, 47. Mansi xiii, 180e–181a; Mango, Art of the Byzantine Empire, 43–44. am 5982, see C. Mango and R. Scott, The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor: Byzantine and Near Eastern History ad 284–813 (Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1997), 206.
or not, is a common feature in the accusations of iconoclasm against Severus and Philoxenus, and suggests that both may have been points of contention in discussions between the opposing factions. Awareness of what Philoxenus had said concerning the Holy Spirit as a dove seems to be reflected in what he writes in the passage quoted below. It is a matter of some interest that in the second fragment of his Commentary (Memrē) on Matthew and Luke, Philoxenus discusses the theme of the dove as found in Matthew 3:16 and Luke 3:22. In these verses the Gospel writers refer differently to the descent of the Holy Spirit at the time of Jesus’ baptism. Matthew writes that ‘he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove’, while Luke writes ‘the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form like a dove upon him’. In his exegesis of these verses Philoxenus makes the following observations in relation to the reality of the incarnation: How, then, O heretic, may the corporality of Christ be compared with the likeness of the dove in which the Spirit was seen? … When the Holy Spirit appeared alone, it was in the likeness of a dove; as they say, “No one saw except only John [the Baptist]” [John 1:34]. But everyone was well aware of Jesus … Now it was not by the physical eye that the Spirit was seen, but by revelation He was perceived by the mind in the way that the early prophets were also accustomed to seeing … By this kind of revelation the Holy Spirit was seen by John in the likeness of a dove.63 And continuing: But you have compared the incarnation of the Word to the likeness of the dove in which the Spirit appeared, and you have betrayed the Scripture (in your statement): “As the Person of the Spirit appeared in the likeness of a dove, so the Son showed Himself in the likeness of a man.” … It is clear that the time was short and swift in which the Spirit appeared to John in the “likeness of the body of a dove” [Luke 3:22] … Now if Jesus had also appeared to men in that likeness, why was His kind of revelation not even such that the man would suddenly be revealed and then concealed, like the Spirit in the likeness of a dove, and like the Father in various appearances, and like angels in the likeness of men?64
D.J. Fox, The “Matthew-Luke Commentary” of Philoxenus: Text, Translation and Critical Analysis (Scholars Press: Missoula, 1979), 133–134. Fox, The “Matthew-Luke Commentary” of Philoxenus, 136.
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The descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove was part of theological debate before the time of Philoxenus. For example, John Chrysostom in his Homilies on John discusses the question of the Holy Spirit in the likeness of a dove in terms of what John the Baptist saw.65 Quite clearly Philoxenus in the passage cited above does not denounce the making of a dove on the grounds that it appeared to John only once as a dispensation. His concern is to show that there is no comparison between the Holy Spirit appearing in the likeness of a dove and the appearance of Christ in human form, the latter being in no sense a mere concession to spiritual discernment. The Chalcedonian diatribe against Philoxenus and Severus for destroying images of doves was surely intended to belittle their anti-Chalcedonian position.66 We have noted the evidence for the presence of doves in early Christian and Byzantine art,67 but we should also note doves in the decoration of churches in Constantinople. For example, in the twelfth-century ekphrasis by Michael of Thessaloniki, he describes the golden dove with wings hanging over the altar in Hagia Sophia,68 and according to one Byzantine tradition the visitation (ἐπιφοίτησις) of the Holy Spirit at the time of the consecration would flutter the golden dove suspended over the altar.69 Such references suggest that the image of the dove over the altar was symbolic of the invocation or epiclesis of the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine during the anaphora. Indeed depictions of the descent of the Holy Spirit at the Baptism of Christ could be linked pictorially to liturgical performance.70 The fact that Severus was accused
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Homily on John, 17. 3; P. Schaff (ed), A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, xiv. (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1975), 60–61. Epiphanius maintains that the Holy Spirit took the form of a dove to distinguish himself from the other persons of the trinity, see F. Williams, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books ii & iii, Sects 47–80 (Brill: Leiden, 1994), 125. In a recent paper Henry Maguire has taken the reports of Severus’ and Philoxenus’ iconophobia at face value, see his ‘ “They worshipped the creature rather than the creator.” Animals in 8th century art and polemic’, in M. Campagnolo et al (eds), L’aniconisme dans l’ art religieux byzantin. Actes due colloque de Genève (1–3 octobre 2009) (La Pomme d’or: Geneva, 2014), 141–147. See further R.M. Jensen, Baptismal Imagery in Early Christianity: Ritual, Visual, and Theological Dimensions (Baker International: Grand Rapids, 2012), 116–121. C. Mango and J. Parker, ‘A Twelfth-Century Description of St. Sophia’, Dumbarton Oakes Papers xiv (1960), 233–245. J. Wortley, John Moschos: The Spiritual Meadow (Pratum Spirituale). (Cistercian Publications: Kalamazoo, 1992), 240. H.-S. Schulz, The Byzantine Liturgy: Symbolic Expression and Faith Expression (Pueblo Publishing: New York, 1986), 80–98.
of destroying doves hanging over altars and fonts in the sixth century clearly indicates their existing function as liturgical ornaments.
Monothelites In addition to accusations of iconoclasm against anti-Chalcedonians we find similar accusations against Monothelites. In 711 the new Byzantine emperor of Armenian descent, Philippikos Bardanes (r. 711–713), a Monothelite,71 is said to have refused to enter Constantinople until a wall-painting of the Sixth Ecumenical Council of 680–681 was removed from the imperial palace. Agathon, archdeacon and chartophylax of Hagia Sophia, records the following in his Epilogos: He ordered the destruction of the image of the Holy Sixth Council which several years previously had been set up between the Fourth and Sixth Schola [quarters for the palace guard] in the vestibule of the imperial palace, for, he said he would not deign to enter the palace unless this had been done. He also insisted this further arbitrary demand that the names of Sergius, Honorius and their followers [who had been expelled and anathematised by the same Sixth Ecumenical Council] should be proclaimed in the sacred diptychs of the holy churches and that their images should be set up again in their proper places …72 Agathon then describes the deposition of Philippikos and the accession of his successor, emperor Anastasius ii (r. 713–716): After the destruction of the conciliar image just mentioned, he who had ordered this lawless act … decreed that in the vault of the so-called Milion [the mile-marker monument] the five holy Ecumenical Councils, and they alone, should be represented on a picture and he had himself together with Sergius portrayed standing upright in the middle of it. These 71
On the Armenian-Monothelite connection see especially, T. Greenwood, ‘“New Light from the East”: Chronography and Ecclesiastical History through a Late Seventh-Century Armenian Source’, Journal of Early Christian Studies 16, 2 (2008), 197–254; also M. Nichanian, ‘Byzantine Emperor Philippikos-Vardnes: Monothelite Policy and Caucasian Diplomacy’, in R.G. Hovannisian and S. Paysalian (eds), Armenian Constantinople. ucla Armenian History & Culture Series 9 (Mazda Publishers: Costa Mesa, 2010), 39–52. Mansi xii, 192d–e; Mango, Art of the Byzantine Empire, 141.
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two personages were now necessarily and quite appropriately removed, and the holy Sixth Ecumenical Council was depicted there together with the other five.73 Depending on the christological alliance of the Byzantine emperor depictions of the ecumenical councils could either be removed or reinstated. Just like the patriarchs John Scholasticus and Eutychius in the sixth century, the emperors of the early eighth century engaged in iconoclast politics prior to the official edict of Leo iii (r. 717–741) around 726.74 According to Theophanes Confessor both Andrew of Crete the hymnographer, and Germanus bishop of Kyzikos, the future patriarch of Constantinople, signed and condemned the Sixth Council at a synod called by Philippikos in 712.75 After the removal of Philippikos in 713 Andrew of Crete dedicated a poem to Agathon the Deacon celebrating his return to orthodoxy after his compliant support for Monothelitism. Apparently Andrew saw the error of his ways when Agathon sent him a book to read, but unfortunately we do not know what book that was.76 Both Germanus and Andrew were replaced as bishops by the iconoclast emperor Leo iii, but again not before both had become implicated to some extent in the new heresy. Agathon informs us that Philippikos had the official copy of the proceedings of the Sixth Council burned and he exiled those bishops who did not adhere to Monothelitism. At the synod he convened in 712 the emperor installed his own patriarch and was supported in this by many bishops, including it seems Germanus and Andrew of Crete, who later claimed they were intimidated.77 In Rome pope Constantine i(r. 708–715) refused to accept the emperor’s portrait and coins minted with his image as well as declining to commemorate him in the liturgy.78 It is not without significance that Philippikos came to the throne after the deposition of Justinian ii, who had promoted the image of Christ
74 75 76 77 78
Mansi xii, 193d–196a; Mango, Art of the Byzantine Empire, 141. See J. Herrin, ‘Philippikos “The Gentle”’, in H. Amirav and B. ter Haar Romeny (eds), From Rome to Constantinople: Studies in Honour of Averil Cameron (Peeters: Leuven, 2007), 251–262. On this date and the resignation of Patriarch Germanus under Leo iii, see Brubaker and Haldon, Byzantium in the Iconoclast Era c. 680–850: A History, 117–127. am 6177; Mango and Scott, Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor, 505, where it is noted that this appears to be an interpolation. Kazhdan, A History of Byzantine Literature (650–850), 38–39. Herrin, ‘Philippikos “The Gentle” ’, 254. Liber Pontificalis, 90.10; see R. Davis, The Book of the Pontiffs (Liber Pontificalis to ad 715). tth 6 (Liverpool University Press: Liverpool, 1989), 90.
over the symbol of the lamb in canon 82 at the Council of Trullo in 692, as well as depicting Christ for the first time on imperial coinage.79 If nothing else Philippikos’ iconoclastic actions appear to show that he was determined to overthrow the policies of Justinian ii in relation to christology and the Sixth Council.80 These events demonstrate the difficulty of knowing which way to jump when emperors imposed doctrine on the Byzantine Church. In the case of iconoclasm it was not immediately apparent to the bishops that heresy was in the offering, and that Leo iii would instigate a policy that would divide the patriarchate of Constantinople for the next hundred years or more. The fact that a Monothelite emperor was soon followed by further heretical emperors, the Iconoclasts, would seem to suggest that the christological debates were far from over. As John of Damascus reminded his readers when defending the cult of icons in the early eighth century, this was not the first time that Byzantine emperors had promulgated heretical doctrines.81Although he does not use the term, John could see that ‘caesaropapism’ was well and truly active in the Byzantine state. His condemnation of Leo iii was known to the Iconoclast Council of 754 because he was anathematised by the bishops at that council and his Arab name Mansūr ridiculed.82 The restoration of the councils in the vault of the Milion by emperor Anastasius ii may not have lasted long, if we are to believe the Vita of the iconophile saint, Stephen the Younger. This is suggested by the actions of the eighthcentury iconoclast emperor Constantine v (r. 741–775): Having gone out the palace, the tyrant proceeded to that part of the public street that is called Milion. At that public spot the Six Holy Ecumenical Councils had been depicted by the pious emperors of olden times and were conspicuously displayed so as to proclaim the orthodox faith to the people. These the new Babylonian tyrant had at that time smeared over and obliterated, and portrayed in their stead a satanic horse-race and that
Illustrated in J. Herrin, The Formation of Christendom (Blackwell: Oxford, 1987), pl. 9 a, c. The eighth-century Parastaseis Syntomoi Chronikai claims that he erred out of ignorance, see A. Cameron and J. Herrin, Constantinople in the Early Eighth Century: The Parastaseis Synotomoi Chronikai (Brill: Leiden, 1984), 161, whereas the oriental sources suggest that he was highly educated theologically, see Herrin, ‘Phillipikos “The Gentle”’. Contra imaginum calumniatores orations tres, ii, 16; Kotter, Die Schriften des Johannes von Damaskos, iii, 113–114. Mansi xiii, 356c–d; Krannich, Die ikonoklastische Synode von Hiereia 754, 68.
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demon-loving charioteer whom he called Ouranikos—so much he loved him … that he honoured him more than he did the holy fathers of the church.83 Now it seems unlikely that Constantine v would have destroyed a depiction of the six ecumenical councils when his own Iconoclastic Council of 754 explicitly evoked the previous six councils in order to legitimize its pretensions to be called the seventh.84 There is no evidence that the Byzantine iconoclast emperors were anything less than orthodox adherents to all previous ecumenical councils. Byzantine iconoclasm has, of course, been seen as a further attempt to reconcile the anti-Chalcedonian churches with Constantinople, but no matter how attractive this argument may appear there is not a great deal of evidence to support it.85 The political and religious situation for the Byzantine emperors in the early eighth century was markedly different from that of the seventh century when the emperor Heraclius (r. 610–641) attempted to impose Monenergism and Monothelitism on the Byzantine Church.86 By the early eighth century most of the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa, along with their Chalcedonian and anti-Chalcedonian communities, were firmly under the control of the Arabs. The Byzantine general of Syrian extraction who broke the Arab siege of Constantinople in 717 became a celebrated hero and was subsequently enthroned as emperor Leo iii. However, he did not promote his iconoclast policy in the immediate aftermath of his victory over the Arabs, but waited some years before announcing his position on the veneration of icons. Leo’s iconoclasm had to wait till the reign of his son Constantine v and his Iconoclast Council of 754 to formulate its christology, which was subsequently preserved in the proceedings of the sixth session of the Second Council of Nicaea in 787.87
84 85 86
See M.-F. Auzépy, La Vie d’Étienne le Jeune par Étienne le Diacre: Introduction, Édition et Traduction (Ashgate: Aldershot, 1997), ch. 65; Mango, Art of the Byzantine Empire, 153; Gero, Constantine v, 113. Mansi xiii, 208d, 217b; Krannich, Die ikonoklastische Synode von Hiereia 754, 30, 32. G. Young, ‘Byzantine Iconoclasm: An Imperial Religious Policy Aimed at Unification’, Phronema 23 (2008), 35–66. It has been suggested that Heraclius issued his Ekthesis in 638 to coincide with the centenary of Severus’ death and that George of Pisidia penned his poem, Contra Severum, in the same year, see L. MacCoull, ‘George of Pisidia, Against Severus: In Praise of Heraclius’, in R. Dahood (ed), The Future of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Problems, Trends, and Opportunities for Research (Brepols: Turnhout, 1998), 69–79. Mansi, xiii, 204a–364e.
Conclusion Finally, the question I would like to ask is: what difference, if any, does christology make to the use of images and their veneration? Certainly Byzantine iconophiles argued that only their interpretation of Chalcedonian christology provided the orthodox basis for the painting and venerating of Christ’s icon. However, the historical evidence does not support the view that the antiChalcedonians, or the Church of the East for that matter,88 were iconoclasts because of their christologies. There is no evidence as far as I am aware that christological differences contributed to the removal of mosaics from some churches in Syria-Palestine in the eighth century under the Arabs.89 The fact of the matter is that theologians on all sides of the christological divide wrote treatises on the role of images within their respective traditions. In addition, we should emphasise that the Byzantine iconoclasts thought of themselves as the true interpreters of Chalcedon; in other words, even among Chalcedonians there were differences in interpretation of what Chalcedon meant in relation to icons and their veneration. All the Byzantine iconoclast emperors adhered to this council and never wavered in their support for it. The literary and art historical evidence taken together indicates that christological and sectarian differences were not divisive in relation to images in churches. I am not saying that a full-blown icon cult was the norm in all the Christian churches of the Eastern Mediterranean, but I am saying that we need to be more cautious than we have been in the past in identifying christological differences with iconoclastic positions. It turns out that the situation is less complicated than the polemical texts would have us believe, mainly 88
H. Teule, ‘The Veneration of Images in the East Syriac Tradition’, in B. Groneberg and H. Spieckermann (eds), Die Welt der Götterbilder (Walter de Gruyter: Berlin, 2007), 324– 346; and my, ‘Images in the Church of the East: The Evidence from Central Asia’, in J.F. Coakley and K. Parry (eds), The Church of the East: Life and Thought, special edition of the Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 78, 3 (1996), 143–162. R. Schick, The Christian Communities of Palestine from Byzantine to Islamic Rule: A Historical and Archaeological Study (Darwin Press: Princeton, 1995), ch. ix. ‘Iconoclasm’; S. Obnibene, Ummal-Rasas: la Chiesa di Santo Stefano ed il ‘problema iconofobico’ (Rome: ‘L’Erma’ di Bretschneider, 2002); and my ‘Byzantine and Melikite Iconophiles under Iconoclasm’, in Ch. Dendrinos et al (eds), Phorphyrogenita: Essays in the History and Literature of Byzantium and the Latin East in Honour of Julian Chrysostomides (Ashgate: Aldershot, 2003), 137–151. For a recent reassessment, see J. Signes Codoñer, ‘Melkites and Icon Worship during the Iconoclastic Period’, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 67 (2013) 135–187. And the same author’s ‘Theodore the Studite and the Melkite Patriarchs on Icon Worship’, in M. Campagnolo et al (eds), L’ aniconisme dans l’ art religieux byzantin, 95–103.
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because they belong to our ‘iconoclasm as discourse’ theme, and that we need to reassess divisions in the Eastern Churches less on how they differed and more on what they shared.
Severus of Antioch at the Crossroad of the Antiochene and Alexandrian Exegetical Tradition René Roux
In a fragment from one of his letters,1 Severus claims: (…) I testify to all that confess the right faith (…) that I have stood and stand as a mediator between the holy church of Alexander’s city and that of the city of Antiochus, holding the right hand of each of them (…).2 The exegetical material contained in Severus’ writings reveal that there is more in the image of the Patriarch holding the hands of both Churches than a mere declaration of ecumenical or political intentions. Indeed, the modern reader is at times baffled at finding so many typically Alexandrian features under the pen of the man who was about to become the most influential of all Antiochene bishops and the Doctor par excellence of the Syrian Orthodox Church.3 In dealing with the Holy Scriptures, Severus proves to be a sovereign master of the exegetical tradition of the ancient Church, able to exploit and combine the methods of both Alexandrian and Antiochene hermeneutical traditions as well as to develop the exegetical science in new directions, thanks to his own intellectual background, in order to answer to the new pastoral and controversial needs.4 This chapter aims at providing an initial orientation through Severus’ exegetical works. Firstly, after some methodological considerations on the use of the Bible in Severus, we shall briefly describe the exegetical material contained in his
1 Addressed to a certain Hippocrates, scholasticus working in Alexandria; cf. F. Alpi, La route royale. Sévère d’Antioche et les Églises d’Orient (512–518). ii Sources et documents (Beyrouth, 2009), (Bibliothèque archéologique et historique 188), 135. 2 Severus Antiochenus, Epistulae selectae 48 (po 12, 323). 3 Cf. P. Allen, Severus of Antioch as Theologian, Dogmatician, Pastor, and Hymnographer, in Questions liturigiques 92 (2011), 361–375, in part. 365. 4 Studies on Severus’ biblical exegesis are still at their very beginnings: cf. R. Roux, L’exégèse biblique dans les Homélies cathédrales de Sévère d’Antioche (Roma 2002), (Studia Ephemeridis Augustinianum 84). For further interesting observations on the subject, cf. also Allen, Severus of Antioch as Theologian, 361–375; R. Roux, Merkmale der theologischen Argumentation in den Katechetischen Homilien des Severus von Antiochien, in Sacris Erudiri 52 (2013),
© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2016 | doi: 10.1163/9789004307995_009
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works. Secondly, the main characteristics of Severus’ hermeneutical method will be highlighted. Finally, an attempt shall be made at assessing the historical significance of his exegesis and at showing how a better understanding of Severus’ attitude towards the language of the Holy Scripture casts new light on the real reasons of his opposition to the Council of Chalcedon and on the successful spreading of Alexandrian Christology well into Antiochene territory.
Severus’ Exegetical Writings: A Survey Severus was probably the most learned bishop and theologian of his time,5 well versed not only in dogmatic, canonical and spiritual matters, but also in exegetical questions, as shown by the huge number of those who addressed him with biblical queries during his life and by the great authority, indeed veneration, he has enjoyed among Miaphysite Christians (Copts and Syrian Orthodox) after his death. In spite of his popularity as exegete,6 he did not leave commentaries nor series of homilies on biblical books. His most important exegetical writings are to be found in the Cathedral homilies7 and in his surviving letters,8 both mainly preserved in Syriac versions. Only the 77th homily, on the contradictions among the resurrection narratives,9 and some fragments10
6 7 8
161–179; Sapere teologico e sapere profano all’inizio del vi secolo: l’esperienza di Severo di Antiochia a Beiruth, in C. Noce, M. Pampaloni, C. Tavolieri (eds.), Le vie del sapere in ambito siro-mesopotamico dal iii al ix secolo. Atti del convegno internazionale tenuto a Roma nei giorni 12–13 maggio 2011 (Roma, 2013), (Orientalia Christiana Analecta 293) 91–103. For a general introduction to Severus, cf. F. Alpi, La route royale. Sévère d’Antioche et les Églises de l’ Orient (512–518). i Texte (Beyrouth, 2009), (Bibliothèque archéologique et historique 188) and P. Allen, C.T.R. Hayward, Severus of Antioch (London, 2004). Cf. Otoechus for Severus (po 2, 327–328). Cf. cpg iii, 7035. Cf. cpg iii, 7070. Unfortunately, most of the letters have been heavily edited. The surviving exegetical excerpts, however interesting they might be, do not always allow us to exactly understand the context of the exegesis. The contradictions among the gospel narratives of the resurrection was felt to be an extremely serious menace to the credibility of the New Testament in Christian late antiquity. Thanks to its clear and convincing solution, Severus’ homily has been preserved under various pseudonyms. Cf. Roux, L’exégèse, 80–86. Cf. for instance F. Petit, L. Van Rompay, La chaîne sur l’Exode. 1. Fragments de Sévere d’ Antioche (Lovanii, 1999); F. Petit, L. Van Rompay, Sévère d’Antioche. Fragments grecs tirés des chaînes sur les derniers livres de l’ Octateuque et sur les Règnes (Lovanii, 2006). It is not
have survived in the original Greek despite the order of the emperor Justinian to destroy all his works. Severus’ exegetical texts are mostly very close to the genre of the quaestiones, i.e. explanations and commentaries of specific words or passages of the Bible, which were brought to the attention of Severus by his correspondents or were read during liturgical assemblies. What at first sight seems a rather incomprehensible and arbitrary way of making use or sense of the Holy Scripture displays its internal logic when the context in which the exegesis takes place, the intention of the exegete, and the nature of biblical text, are taken into account. Given that almost all the homilies are precisely dated, and that the addressees of many letters are known, it is often comparatively easy to figure out Severus’ intentions, according to which different typologies of exegetical material can be identified. A first group is represented by the many texts in which Severus tries to explain a specific biblical text as such; this might be called “direct exegesis.”11 In another set of texts, Severus is using biblical citations or references not to explain them as such, but to clarify or confirm a doctrinal point, or to explain the meaning of the liturgical feast being celebrated, or even only to spiritually inspire or entertain his audience. All these uses of the Bible imply an interpretation, but obviously they do not adhere to the same logic that governs the direct exegesis, and in order to grasp the mens exegetica of Severus need to be treated separately.12 A third set of texts is made up by the highly significant— if not very numerous—explicit observations of Severus on the right approach to the Bible.13
Direct Exegesis Severus’ strictly exegetical texts can be divided into four categories according to the nature of the biblical pericope he comments upon and, as a consequence, on the basis of his hermeneutical approach: those related to the Old Testament; the solution of the contradictions among the Gospels; the commentaries on
11 12 13
unlikely that more fragments might show up in the future. Unfortunately, due to the fact that they are decontextualized and variously shortened, they prove less useful in order to reconstruct Severus’ exegetical method. Cf. Roux, L’ exégèse, 20–25. Cf. Roux, L’ exégèse, 179–180. Cf. Roux, L’ exégèse, 48–56.
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narrative texts from the New Testament, deeds and parables; the interpretation of the words uttered by Jesus or his Apostles.
Direct Exegesis of the Old Testament Even if the Old Testament is constantly present under Severus’ pen as a source of typologies and references of various kinds, it seldom receives critical exegetical attention in the Cathedral homilies. Among the few examples of direct exegesis of the Old Testament to be found in the homilies, there are three cases of direct exegesis of historical texts: 2Kgs. (lxx) 23. 18–19 (on a weird wording of the text),14 2Macc. 6–7 (on the narrative of the Maccabean martyrs),15 and Jon. 2.7 (it seems that Severus considered this as an historical event, unfortunately we only have a fragment of the homily, so that we cannot really understand what Severus’ intention was);16 three further examples of exegesis of prophetical texts: Is. 19.18;17 Is. 42.1–4;18 Jer. 20.14–15.19 The text Is. 42.1–4 is commented on because it is cited in the New Testament (Mt. 12.15–21). Finally, we have one instance of exegesis of the Song of Songs, (Song 5.2–3) which is fundamental for Severus’ understanding of the dynamic of divine revelation.20 The pericopes Is. 19.18, Song. 5.2–3, 2Kgs. (lxx) 23.18–19 and Jer. 20.14– 15 have been explained in two homilies (hom. 107 and 108) delivered during Lent 517, in the form of a quaestio:21 Severus says that a deacon Philip had submitted him these four passages for clarification.22 The passage from 2 Macc. 6–7 was the reading for the liturgical feast of the Maccabean Martyrs, so that in this case the direct exegesis complemented for the liturgical celebration.23 As already mentioned, the pericope Is. 42.1–4 is explained in the context of a larger interpretation of Mt. 12.15–21, because this text is cited in the New Testament
14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Cf. hom. 108 (po 25, 717–719). Cf. hom. 52 (po 4, 7–23). Cf. hom. 3 (po 38, 293–297). Cf. hom. 107 (po 25, 670–696). Cf. hom. 98 (po 25, 140–150). Cf. hom. 108 (po 25, 719–730). Cf. hom. 107 (po 25, 700–717); Roux, L’ exégèse, 59–64. Cf. Roux, L’ exégèse, 58–59, 65, 67–73. Cf. hom. 107 (po 25, 667–669). Cf. Roux, L’ exégèse, 66–67.
in homily 98.24 The fragment on Jonah (hom. 3) is unfortunately too short to permit a contextualisation. Other examples of direct exegesis can be gathered from his letters:25 we find answers to some general questions (on the metaphorical meaning of the anthropomorphisms;26 on the reasons for the circumcision27); the explanations of difficult expressions (for instance: Is. 45.7;28 Job 29.13;29 Job 42.1730); and the search for a higher or symbolical meaning alongside the historical or factual interpretation (for example: Ps. 126.4;31 Ex. 20.25;32 Eccl. 4.1733). They are usually in the form of a quaestio.
Direct Exegesis of the New Testament: The Contradictions among the Gospels The contradictions among the Gospels constituted a serious theological problem in late Christian antiquity not only because they cast doubt on the credibility of the Gospels as historical documents but also because they questioned belief in their divine inspiration.34 Severus tackled the problem in the homilies 77 and 94 to 96.35 Homily 77 was preached in summer 515 and deals with the Resurrection narratives, in particular with the contradictions concerning the visits of the women to the empty tomb, their identity, and the Lord’s appearances after Easter.36 The trilogy 94 to 96 was preached one year later and deals at length with the contradictions among the two genealogies of Christ, the one according to Matthew and the one in Luke.37 It seems that both explanations have been prompted by the people attending the liturgical services. In the case 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37
Cf. Roux, L’ exégèse, 73–75. Unfortunately, they have not been critically studied yet. Cf. ep. 28 (po 12, 259–260). Cf. ep. 45 (po 12, 44–54). Cf. ep. 67 (po 14, 69–71). Cf. ep. 69 (po 14, 89–91). Cf. ep. 69 (po 14, 91–101). Cf. ep. 70 (po 14, 104–107). Cf. ep. 90 (po 14, 156–157). Cf. ep. 106 (po 14, 258–259). Cf. H.G. Klemm, Die Widersprüche zwischen den Evangelien. Ihre polemiche und apologetische Behandlung in der alten Kirche bis zu Augustinus (Tübingen, 1971). Cf. Roux, L’ exégèse, 79–96. Cf. hom. 77 (po 16, 794–861). Cf. hom. 94–96 (po 25, 51–120).
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of homily 77, it was because the four Resurrection narratives had been read one after the other, thus bringing out their inconsistencies. On the other hand, the genealogies of Christ were not only contradictory, but their liturgical proclamation had proved boring and irrelevant for Christian life. Severus wants to show their spiritual usefulness and, at the same time, given the difficulty in harmonizing their content, he claims that such an exegetical endeavour is a fitting alternative to the public games that were held nearby, in Daphne.38 As has already been mentioned, the short treatise on the Resurrection narratives is the only complete text of Severus to have survived in the original Greek, even if under various pseudonyms. This was possible because the homily does not contain any reference to the theological debates of the day. Moreover, it is a clear sign of the success and popularity of Severus’ approach to that kind of exegetical problem.
Direct Exegesis of the New Testament: Deeds and Parables The biblical texts of this group are basically facta or narratives of events, real or invented.39 They can be historical deeds performed by Jesus or the Apostles, as opposed to the words they uttered, or just parables, as long as they narrate facts. Severus systematically handles these kind of texts using a twolevel interpretation scheme. The first level is the level of history: he tries to establish their literal meaning, making use of philological analysis and historical research. This first level of interpretation eventually leads to dogmatic or moral teachings. The second level of interpretation is the realm of the theoria in which the narrated events are somehow seen as reflection of the history of salvation. The various characters may be considered as symbols or types of humanity, of the Law, or of the Church, and so on. Some of these homilies of Severus are literary master-pieces, and one feels sorry the original text has been destroyed. Here is a list of the main pericopes explained in this way: Mt. 17.23–32 (on the temple tax),40 Mt. 22.15–22 (to Caesar what belongs to Caesar),41 Lk. 7.36–50 (the sinful woman),42 Lk. 10.25–37 (the good Samaritan),43
38 39 40 41 42 43
Cf. hom. 94 (po 25, 71–74) and hom. 95 (po 25, 92–96). Cf. Roux, L’ exégèse, 97–98. Cf. hom. 81 (po 20, 348–367); Roux, L’ exégèse, 104–107. Cf. hom. 104 (po 25, 625–639); Roux, L’ exégèse, 110–112. Cf. hom. 118 (po 26, 359–372); Roux, L’ exégèse, 108–110. Cf. hom. 89 (po 23, 101–114); Roux, L’ exégèse, 117–123.
Jn. 2.1–11 (the wedding at Cana),44 Jn. 9.6–7 (the born blind),45 Acts 3.1–11 (the lame beggar of the temple gate).46 Other shorter examples can be find in the letters: Lk. 11.5–10,47 Mt. 17.2 (why did Jesus take three disciples up to the mountain of the transfiguration?),48 or Jn. 21.1–11.49 Some of these pericopes had been read during the liturgy (Acts 3.1–11; Lk. 10.25–37); other had been brought to Severus’ attention ( Jn. 2.1–11); in other cases it might well have been that the questioning had been prompted by the liturgical readings, even if we do not know for certain (Mt. 17.24–32; 22.15–22).
Direct Exegesis of the New Testament: Words of the Lord or of the Apostles A final group of biblical texts which Severus has analysed directly consists of words uttered by the Lord or his Apostles.50 They might be either words that in the Gospels have been put in the mouth of Jesus, or simply citations from the letters of Paul. While in the case of the facta the literal meaning of the biblical text was basically clear, and the main scope of the exegesis was to bring out its moral or dogmatic value in order to make it relevant for the audience, in this case the literal meaning is already theologically relevant, but it lacks clarity in its literal wording. The purpose of Severus is not to find out possible symbolic meanings hidden in the text by the Holy Spirit for the sake of our meditation, but to define the exact literal meaning entrusted to those words by the same Spirit. While in the exegesis of the facta the meanings are organized on two hierarchical levels, the historical meaning (moral and dogmatic teachings) and the theoretical or higher one (symbolical or typological, showing God’s attitude through the history of salvation), in the case of the dicta the meaning is usually only one. If the text allows more than one interpretation in agreement with the regula fidei, then they are all legitimate and on the same level. The main examples of pericopes explained in this way are the following: Mt. 5.13–12/Lk. 6.20–26,51
44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51
Cf. hom. 119 (po 26, 378–429); Roux, L’ exégèse, 112–117. Cf. hom. 33 (po 36, 426–428); Roux, L’ exégèse, 98–100. Cf. hom. 74 (po 12, 97–111); Roux, L’ exégèse, 100–104. Cf. ep. 69 (po 14, 76–79). Cf. ep. 85 (po 14, 140–146). Cf. ep. 86 (po 14, 146–148). Cf. Roux, L’ exégèse, 127–128. Cf. hom. 113 (po 26, 265–268); Roux, L’ exégèse, 137–143.
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Mt. 5.25,52 Mt. 12.31–32,53 Mt. 13.23 (just a fragment),54 Mt. 15.5–6.11,55 Mt. 16.17– 18,56 Mt. 23.51,57 Mt. 26.29,58 Rom. 5.12–14,59 1Cor. 3.10,60 1 Cor. 6.18,61 1 Cor. 14.4,62 1 Cor. 15.28,63 Gal. 3.13,64and 1Tim. 4.7–8,.65 It should be noticed that a single biblical pericope may contain words uttered by the Lord included in a narrative context, in which case Severus might follow both hermeneutical procedures, defining the exact meaning of the words as in the case of the dicta and expanding on the story as with the facta: Jn. 9.2–32 and Jn. 20.17, or, in the letters, the short comment on Mt. 24.20/Lk. 17.34–35.66
Indirect Exegesis: Uses of the Bible in the Life of the Church The most important biblical texts, like the theophanies of the Old Testament, the prologue of John, the mysteries of the life of Christ (e.g. Nativity, Transfiguration, Passion, Ascension) have not been explained by Severus according to the methods of the direct exegesis. Even if he has written extensively on all these topics and always with constant and systematic references to the Holy Scripture, there is an essential difference: in the case of the direct exegesis, his intention is to explain the biblical text as such, while here his intention is to explain a reality outside of the text thanks to the information provided by the Bible. Moreover, by the beginning of the 5th century many biblical pericopes had already been collected and organized according to their function for liturgical or controversial purposes. This means that most of those texts 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66
Cf. ep. 65 (po 14, 54–58). Cf. hom. 98 (po 25, 151–162); Roux, L’ exégèse, 143–149. Cf. ep. 73 (po 14, 118–119). Cf. hom. 79 (po 5, 299–319); Roux, L’ exégèse, 163–175. Cf. hom. 124 (po 29, 208–231); Roux, L’ exégèse, 128–137. Cf. ep. 69 (po 14, 79–86). Cf. ep. 87 (po 14, 148–150). Cf. hom. 44 (po 36, 96–106); hom. 49 (po 35, 340–352); on Severus’ understanding of Paul, cf. Roux, L’ exégèse, 149–162. Cf. ep. 77 (po 14, 122–123). Cf. ep. 65 (po 14, 58–68). Cf. ep. 69 (po 14, 86–89). Cf. hom. 49 (po 35, 352–356). Cf. ep. 65 (po 14, 30–40). Cf. hom. 45 (po 36, 108–119). Cf. ep. 71 (po 14, 107–109).
were usually read within a new context which opened up their meaning in new directions. Let’s briefly consider three main fields of these uses of the Bible: the dogmatic exegesis, the liturgy and the catechesis.
Dogmatic Exegesis Dogmatic exegesis was the battlefield of doctrinal controversies in the ancient Church. The great theological debates on the divinity of the Son or on the theandric identity of Christ took place on the base of scriptural arguments. Each party involved used to scrutinize the Bible in order to collect evidence in favor of its own position. The lists of testimonia, or biblical citations, fostered the theological discussion, but organizing the biblical passages in a new context opened the door to new meanings that the original context of the quotes could no longer support.67 Even in Severus’ homilies there are some examples of this kind of exegesis, or, more correctly, of the use of biblical testimonia. A typical case is the explanation of the verb egéneto in Jn. 1.14 (“and the Word became flesh”).68 For Severus it is clear that the interpretation of this verb has to be such as not to suggest the idea of change or alteration in God, thus finding in this text an answer to later problems that as such may not have been foreseen in the original text.69 Another example is the explanation of the words uttered by Jesus on the cross (Mt. 27/Mc. 15.34; and Lk. 23.43).70 Whatever meaning they might have had in the original text, they became after Chalcedon the battlefield between miaphysite and diphysite theologians. Severus, loyal to the traditional doctrine of the communicatio idiomatum, sees in the diphysite approach of Theodoret the danger of dividing Jesus Christ in two separated beings, while the diphysites accuse the miaphysite of missing the reality of the two natures after the Incarnation. Indeed, the lists of testimonia produced by both parties in support of their theological ideology inevitably became the source of further speculations in their own right.71 In all these cases, the dogma is at the same time the result of a traditional interpretation and the framework for future exegesis. 67
68 69 70 71
Cf. M. Simonetti, Alcune osservazioni sull’interpretazione teologica della Sacra Scrittura in età patristica, in Id., Profilo storico dell’esegesi patristica (Roma, 1981), 113–127. Basically, all references to the Bible in Severus’ dogmatic works are examples of dogmatic exegesis. Cf. hom. 23 (po 37, 114–133); hom. 43 (po 36, 74–95). On this extremely complex matter, cf. Roux, L’ exégèse, 180–190. Cf. hom. 22 (po 37, 88–113). Cf. Roux, L’ exégèse, 190–201.
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The Bible as Part of the Liturgy In the Cathedral homilies, a large number of biblical texts are explained in the context of a liturgical celebration that very often determines the choice of readings and always their interpretation.72 As in the case of the dogmatic exegesis, the pericopes are extrapolated from their original context and embedded in a new one, made of other pericopes, memories or teachings from the life of the saints, liturgical actions, or external events. The hermeneutical horizon is therefore different. The intention of Severus is not to explain the meaning of the readings as such, but their relation to the actual celebration. Old Testament pericopes are mainly taken in their typological meaning. It is therefore not surprising that the Jewish Pentecost is understood as a type of the Christian Pentecost.73 During the feast of Saint Basil and Saint Gregory, the vestment of the High Priest is explained as a symbol of the moral and spiritual virtues of the High Priest, which were typologically shown in the Old Testament through the priestly garments but have been shown in reality through the life of these two great Church Fathers.74 In the case of liturgical feasts celebrating events of the life of the Lord, the New Testament narratives are the main source for our knowledge of what happened. Differences between the four Gospels are not felt as a contradiction, but rather as a help to establish the historical events more exactly, as Severus explains in one of his sermons for Palm Sunday.75 The homily for the feast of St John the Baptist gives an interesting example of double level of interpretation.76 On the one hand, Severus reconstructs the life of John exploiting all the evidence he can collect at a historical level, as he usually does for celebrating the memory of a saint. But since in this case the source is the Bible itself, the various events and historical details receive a second or higher level of interpretation, as we have seen for the direct exegesis of the facta. The Baptist’s diet, for instance, prompts all sorts of allegorical speculations.77 On other occasions, the readings may not have been immediately and completely related to the liturgy. It was the preacher’s duty to explain them in such a way as to make them fit into the celebration. An extreme example is the interpretation of the Ark of the Covenant, which is a type of the Virgin Mary
72 73 74 75 76 77
Cf. Roux, L’ exégèse, 201–209. Cf. hom. 25 (po 37, 146–148). Cf. hom. 116 (po 26, 328). Cf. hom. 20 (po 37, 57). Cf. hom. 32 (po 36, 402–412). Cf. hom. 32 (po 36, 402).
in homily 67 for a feast of the Mother of God,78 but becomes a type of the 40 days of fasting in homily 105 which was preached at the beginning of Lent.79 Another example can be found in homily 92, preached on the occasion of the fasting held on Friday after Pentecost, a devotional practice which apparently had been introduced or at least reinforced in Antioch by Severus.80 The Gospel reading proclaimed on that occasion was Mt. 9.10–16 (on Jesus eating with sinners). Severus deals at length with the pericope, explaining it at both the historical and higher level, but his purpose is to show that the fasting on that day was the implementation of Mt. 9.15 (“the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast”).81 Another example is the commentary on Mt. 25.1–14 (the parable of the ten virgins). The text was read on the occasion of the procession to the Baptistry which took place at the beginning of Lent. The doors of the Baptistry were then closed and remained closed until the Easter Vigil. The closing of the doors is the obvious link between the liturgical action and the pericope which provides the occasion for further symbolical considerations.82 On the whole, in his commentaries on liturgical readings Severus adopts almost the same exegetical methods that he used for the direct exegesis, but not systematically. Hermeneutical procedure and details to be explained are chosen as a function of the liturgical context that, at the same time, allows him to find further, sometimes otherwise unexpected, meanings.
The Theophanies in the Catechetical Homilies The chapter on the uses of the Bible cannot be complete without mentioning the reference to the theophanies in the catechetical homilies, which make up a special group among the Cathedral homilies. Every year during the Holy Week Severus gave a special sermon for those who were going to be baptized.83 Overall, he preached six catecheses, one for each year in Antioch. In four
78 79 80 81 82 83
Cf. hom. 67 (po 8, 350–356). Cf. hom. 105 (po 25, 644–646). Cf. hom. 92 (po 25, 28–29). Cf. hom. 92 (po 25, 42–43). Cf. hom. 121 (po 29, 96–100). Cf. F. Graffin, La catéchèse de Sévère d’Antioche, in L’orient chrétien 5 (1960), 47–54; J. Gribomont, La catéchèse de Sévère d’Antioche et le Credo, in Parole de l’Orient 6–7 (1975–1976), 125–158; R. Roux, Merkmale der theologischen Argumentation in den Katechetischen Homilien des Severus von Antiochien, in Sacris Erudiris 52 (2013), 161–179.
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cases, Severus begins the catechesis with the description of a theophany: Moses ascending to Sinai (Ex. 3);84 the angelic choirs (Eph. 3.10; Ez. 2.1; and Is. 6.2);85 Moses in front of the burning bush (Ex. 9);86 and the Transfiguration (Mt. 17.1–9/Mk 9.2–10/Lk 9. 28–36).87 Apart from the literary beauty of these texts, the use of the theophanies in this context is a direct consequence of Severus’ understanding of how humanity can attain knowledge (theoria) of the divine. This might happen through three ways: immediate revelation (as in the case of the Prophets and the Apostles—but it is not excluded for us, in spite of possible demonic deceptions), the study of Scripture, and the knowledge of the dogmatic teaching of the Church, which for us is the safest of all ways but, due to its dryness, by far the less able to nourish devotion or to influence human behavior.88 By putting the explanation of the creed in the framework of biblical theophanies, Severus stresses the unity of God’s revelation, highlights the role of Church dogmas, which are the criterium veritatis to assess the value of both exegetical results and mystical experiences, invites the audience to go beyond the simple intellectual knowledge of the catechism in order to reach a real communion with God, and implicitly shows that the study of the biblical text is a privileged occasion for this to happen.
Severus on Biblical Exegesis Severus did not write any systematic treatise on biblical exegesis, but he did occasionally make some observations on the topic. They are all the more interesting, because Severus, especially in his homilies, was quite keen to avoid repetition and, when collected, these provide us with a very rich theology of the Word of God.89 Severus’ ideal of biblical exegesis is well expressed in homily 116, in honor of Saint Basil and Saint Gregory.90 Describing their virtues, he writes: “they were at the same time administrators and spiritual intendants of the depth of the Divine Book; they did not despise nor did they suppress the superficial beauty of the letter and its exterior simplicity; but they used to draw out, according 84 85 86 87 88 89 90
Cf. hom. 21 (po 37, 64–87), 64–67. Cf. hom. 90 (po 23, 120–165), 124–128. Cf. hom. 109 (po 25, 732–781), 732–738. Cf. hom. 123 (po 29, 124–189), 124–129. Cf. Roux, L’ exégèse, 29–39. Cf. Roux, L’ exégèse, 48–56. Cf. hom. 116 (po 26, 325–338).
to the degrees of an accomplished science, the richness of the Spirit that was hidden in them, without being intoxicated, because of ignorance, by the chalice without mixture of the different erroneous or fictitious explanations, those imbibed with the deception of the heretical chattering and having adulterated and falsified the beauty of the truth by fanciful narratives apt for the interpretation of dreams.”91 Here we find the three main characteristics of a good exegesis: able to appreciate the letter of the text as well as its higher or spiritual meanings, and faithful to orthodoxy. In connection with this, the exegete has to be a peacemaker (Mt. 5.9), that is: “be able scientifically and conveniently to solve the questions that, in the holy Scriptures, are likely to raise contradictions at any time, to harmonize the teachings of the Old with those of the New Testament, like the different chords of a cithara that produce a single beautiful symphony.”92 Indeed, Severus, following the tradition of the Church, considered the Old Testament a prefiguration of the New: “We say that according to the letter the law was abolished, but that in the spirit it was much more fully brought to fulfillment,”93 which explains the need of claiming continuity while at the same time acknowledging innovation. Since the Scripture is a work of the Holy Spirit, it is not possible for the interpreter to discover all its hidden meanings. Biblical exegesis is by its nature a research that remains open. This concept is also expressed through images. The Scripture is compared to a mine,94 to the chalice of divine wisdom,95 to a precious pearl,96 and to a fascinating picture.97 The reader has to listen not only with his intelligence, but also with his heart.98
Severus as Exegete of the Bible After this brief survey on the kind of exegetical material to be found in Severus’ homilies and letters, let’s now more systematically consider the general features of his exegesis. Some are common to all the Church Fathers, others are
91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98
Cf. hom. 116 (po 26, 334–335). Cf. hom. 99 (po 22, 227). Cf. Origenes, In Matthäum fragmenta (ed. E. Klostermann), Matthäuserklärung iii, Origenes Werke xii (Leipzig, 1941), 5. Severus, ep. 83 (po 14, 132). Cf. hom. 81 (po 20, 344–347). Cf. hom. 104 (po 25, 625–626). Cf. hom. 113 (po 26, 265–269). Cf. hom. 118 (po 26, 357–359). Cf. hom. 89 (po 23, 100–101); hom. 98 (po 25, 139–140); hom. 119 (po 26, 375–376).
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more specifically linked with regional traditions, the Alexandrian and the Antiochian, now merging under the pen of Severus, and some seem to be more of a specific contribution of Severus, most likely derived from his legal training and adapted to the need of Christian theology.
Severus as Heir to the Ancient Church Understanding of the Scripture as Divine Word In agreement with all the Church Fathers, Severus believes firmly that the Bible has been inspired by the Holy Spirit and that this fact needs taking into account in order to understand its real message. This has implications for his exegetical practice,99 which might at first sight puzzle the modern student of theology, almost exclusively trained in the principles and methods of the socalled “historical-critical method” which is uncritically assumed to be the only legitimate and consistent approach to the Scriptures. If the Spirit of God is the author of the Scripture, then it is, first of all, necessary to consider it as a single work. That is why it is possible to use a text from one book to explain a point in another one, like the classical school taught to explain Homer through Homer. Secondly, all contradictions in the text and all unworthiness need to be explained away, because they are incompatible with a single divine authorship. Concerning the Old Testament this is easily done by referring to the divine oikonomia; in the case of differences or disagreements in the New Testament, by considering the texts as complementary, each one of the human authors having been entrusted with an aspect of the truth. Thirdly, since the scope of the exegesis is not to find what the human writer meant, but what the Holy Spirit wanted to communicate through him, it is necessary to take into account the fact that the Spirit is still present and manifests himself in the life of the Church and has guided the great Fathers in the penetration of the divine mysteries as well as the saints in their everyday life. This is why Severus seems to consider Basil of Caesarea or Gregory of Nazianzus almost as divinely inspired,100 and why, in case of difficult passages, like those concerning the divinity of Christ, the regula fidei plays a defining role. Moreover, he frequently affirms that the life of the saints is an exegesis of the Gospel, even though this affirmation remains
Cf R. Roux, Individuelle Aneignung von Heiligen Schriften in der christlichen Antike, in B. Kracke, R. Roux, J. Rüpke (eds.), Die Religion des Individuums (Münster, 2013), 51–61. Cf. hom. 37 (po 36, 481–483); Philalethes (csco 133, 130. 183 [t.]; 134, 106. 150 [vers.]); Apologia Philalethis (csco 318, 14 [t.]; 319, 12–13 [vers.]).
very general.101 Finally, if the scope of the exegesis is to understand a divine message, the exegete needs to purify himself and the eye of his mind, because it was generally assumed that only the spiritual could know the spiritual.102 All these elements are a common heritage of Christian thinking in antiquity and underlie every single utterance of Severus on the Scripture.
A Learned Exegesis A more characteristic feature of Severus’ approach to the Bible is that it is a learned or scholarly “exegesis”. We know from Zacharias Scholasticus, Severus’s friend and biographer, that Severus began studying the Bible and the works of the most important Fathers during his stay at Beirut, in what seems to have been a rather systematic approach.103 Considering his dogmatic and canonical writings, one can only wonder at his knowledge of the theological tradition. Before formulating his own view on a given subject, he used to scrutinize the opinions of the Fathers. This was not done simply on the basis of collections of testimonia, but with an appreciation of the original context of the citations.104 In dealing with exegetical matters, he basically follows the same method,105 though with a minor difference. The opinions of the previous exegetes are not always explicitly quoted. In a normal context, which is the case of the majority of the homilies, the “authorities” are not usually mentioned; on the contrary, in a polemical context, like in the homily 119 against a certain Romanos106 and in some of the letters,107 citations from the Fathers are inserted in the argument, as is the case in the great theological treatises. Severus shows great liberty in choosing, integrating, and sometimes even correcting their views. In his homily on the Beatitudes, he adopts a less radical interpretation of the beatitude of poverty (Mt. 5.3) than the one suggested by Gregory of Nyssa;108 even more
101 102 103
104 105 106 107 108
Cf. hom. 9 (po 38, 376); hom. 27 (po 36, 562); hom. 65 (po 8, 322–323). Cf. hom. 15 (po 38, 420); hom. 123 (po 29, 178). Cf. Zacharias Scholasticus, Vita Severii (po 2, 53–54): Zacharias gives a reading list with “orthodox” authors, among which the most important are Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom and Cyril of Alexandria. Cf. for example Severus, Philalethes 12 (csco 133, 222[t.]; 134, 182 [vers.]). Cf. Roux, L’ exégèse, 69. Cf. hom. 119 (po 26, 390–437); Roux, L’ exégèse, 112–117. Cf. for example Severus, ep. 85 (po 14, 140–146); ep. 87 (po 14, 148–150). Cf. hom. 113 (po 26, 268–277); Gregorius Nyssenus, De beatitudinibus 1 (ed. J.F. Callaghan), Gregorii Nysseni Opera 7,2 (Leiden, 1992), 88.
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surprisingly, in the interpretation of Mt. 12.31–32 on the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, Severus adopts the solution given by Origen even though it had been criticized by Athanasius.109
Severus and the Antiochian Exegetical Tradition John Chrysostom has largely influenced Severus in exegetical matters. In line with the Antiochian tradition, John avoids allegorical interpretations, and looks for the moral and spiritual teaching in the letter of the Scripture. In this, Severus follows his example. The moral and spiritual teachings are always found at the historical level, while in the typical Alexandrian tradition they already belong to the higher meaning. A rather striking example of this procedure is Severus’ comment on Song of Songs, in which he tries to take into account the dialogical nature of the text and deduces a lesson of humility in spiritual matters from the attitude and the answer given by the girl in Songs 5.2–3 (in their allegorical interpretation, Theodoret of Cyrus and Gregory of Nyssa had overlooked this aspect).110 A second feature that is clearly reminiscent of Chrysostom is the attention given to the psychology of the characters, which was a method involving meditation on the biblical narratives in order to reach a better understanding of the moral teaching implied in them. Various examples of this can be found especially in the direct exegesis of the facta: for instance in the analysis of the attitude of those who asked Jesus about the tax to Caesar (Mt. 17.24–32);111 or of those who took part in the banquet where the sinful woman washed Jesus’ feet (Lk. 7.36–50).112 On one occasion, Severus seems even to outdo John Chrysostom. Commenting on Mt. 16.13–18,113 Severus derives from John Chrysostom the historical and geographical details,114 but then he adds some psychological observations that Chrysostom had not made.115 A third aspect in which we can discern the impact of the Antiochene tradition on Severus is the banishment of the concept and the very word “allegory” from the exegetical activity. In his De Principiis, Origen had justified the need for allegorical interpretation arguing that the Holy Spirit had put some passages 109 110 111 112 113 114 115
Cf. hom. 98 (po 25, 159–161); Roux, L’ exégèse, 146–147. Cf. hom. 108 (po 25, 700–717); Roux, L’ exégèse, 59–64. Cf. hom. 81 (po 20, 357–359); Roux L’ exégèse, 106–107. Cf. hom. 118 (po 26, 359–365); Roux, L’ exégèse, 108–109. Cf. hom. 124 (po 29, 208–212). Cf. Roux, L’ exégèse,130–131. Cf. Johannes Chrysostomus, In Mattäum 54,1 (pg 58, 531–533).
in the Bible that had no literal meaning in order to push the reader towards the search for the higher meanings.116 This was felt as a threat to the historicity of the facts narrated from the Bible, which were reduced to a simple myth. Already Cyril of Alexandria had somehow distanced himself from the Alexandrian ideal of finding a spiritual (i.e. christological) meaning to every single passage of the Old Testament,117 and abandoned the word allegory118 due to the criticism of Diodorus and Theodore.119 Severus shares the same objections to the notion of allegory understood as a negation of the historical reality of the narrated facts and even though he practices allegorical readings he never qualifies them as such.120
Severus and the Alexandrian Exegetical Tradition The Alexandrian tradition has had a double impact on Severus’ exegesis as we can see from the exegetical consequences of the Miaphysite christology and in the search for a higher meaning, above the historical or literal one. The orthodox confession of faith sets the boundaries for every exegetical activity. If the study of the Word of God is per se an unending activity, not every meaning one can think to find in it is correct and acceptable. The criterium veritatis is given by the dogma of the Church. We have already seen the importance of this in Severus dealing with the contradictions among the Gospels and between the Old and the New Testament. The typical Alexandrian perspective is to be found in christological matters. Severus adheres wholeheartedly to the Miaphysite theology that he derives from Athanasius121 and Cyril;122 this is the principle 116 117 118 119
Cf. Origenes, De Principiis iv, 3. Cf. Cyrillus Alexandrinus, In Jonam (pg 71, 600–601). Cf. M. Simonetti, Lettera e/o allegoria. Un contributo alla storia dell’esegesi patristica (Roma, 1985), 217. Cf. Diodorus Tarsensis, Commentarii in Psalmos. Prologus (ccg 6, 7–8); T. Hainthaler, Die “antiochenische Schule” und theologische Schulen im Bereich des antiochenischen Patriarchats, in A. Grillmeier, Jesus der Christus im Glauben der Kirche. 2/3. Die Kirchen von Jerusalem und Antiochien nach 451–600 (Freiburg in B., 2002/2004), 227–261, in part. 233– 238. For an attempt at reconstructing Severus’ exegetical terminology on the basis of the Syriac translations: cf. Roux, L’ exégèse, 39–48. We now know for certain that the famous formula “mia physis tou theou logou sesarkomenê” comes from Apollinaris of Laodicea, but Severus thought it was of Athanasius of Alexandria: cf. for instance Severus, Ad Nephalium 2 (csco 64, 16). Cyril had occasionally spoken of “two natures” and even signed (433) a christological dec-
severus of antioch at the crossroad
that governs his understanding of the Gospels where we see Jesus acting as God (performing miracles, commanding to the elements, resurrecting) and as a man (suffering, dying, ignoring things). Everything has to be referred to the one subject (nature) of God’s incarnate logos, according to the traditional teaching of the communicatio idiomatum. Severus reacts sharply to the Diphysite approach to the Gospel, as we can see for instance in homily 22 where he comments on the words uttered by Jesus on the Cross. In this context, he radically criticizes Theodore of Mopsuestia, Leo of Rome and the Council of Chalcedon along with them for their attempt to separate what is said about the divinity from what belongs to humanity.123 According to Severus, this approach inevitably leads to the affirmation of two sons, and two persons in Christ, which is why he considers the Diphysite theology unacceptable. A second feature that links Severus’s exegesis with the Alexandrian tradition is the search for a higher meaning. As we have seen, Severus systematically explains narrative texts, historical events or parables, at two different levels. At the level of history, where he clarifies philological, geographical or historical details, he analyses the events and expands on the psychology of the main characters in order to discover moral teachings for his audience. In a second step he looks for what he calls the theoria or higher meaning. Circumstances and characters are now allegorically (even though the word is not used) explained as referring to the history of salvation or to the divine revelation. In homily 89 on the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10.25–37), the first level of interpretation highlights the moral message of the parable, that is the need for universal love or solidarity,124 but the higher interpretation sees the Good Samaritan as Jesus, the divine Logos that has become man in order to save humanity, symbolically represented by the man assaulted by the bandits; the hostel is the Church, and so on.125 The event of sinful woman at the banquet (Lk. 7.36–50), at an historical level,126 gives teachings on how to participate in the Holy Mass, on humility, and on doubts about the faith, but at a higher level,127 the Pharisee represents the Synagogue, and the sinful woman the Church, and the perfume symbol-
123 124 125 126 127
laration which contained this formulation. Taking into account Cyril’s own explanation of that declaration in the letters to Succenus, Severus had no difficulties showing that Cyril considered the “two natures” a mere theoretical abstraction of the human mind (en theôriai), but that he never thought them as being actually existing after the union. Cf. hom. 22 (po 37, 88–112); Roux, L’ exégèse, 190–201. Cf. hom. 89 (po 23, 101–104). Cf. hom. 89 (po 23, 104–114). Cf. hom. 118 (po 26, 359–365). Cf. hom. 118 (po 26, 366–372).
izes the Christian perfection made out of doctrinal purity and virtuous acts.128 The historical event wherein the prophet Elijah has been fed by “ravens who brought him bread in the morning and meat in the evening” (3 Kings 17.16), is “pregnant with mystic and secret teachings,”129 and shows that even unworthy priests, like ravens that are unclean animals, can celebrate the Eucharist in a valid manner, because in reality Christ himself is performing the offering while the priest fulfills a mere ministerial function.130
Legal Science and Biblical Exegesis Severus had been a very committed student of Law in Beirut during the years 487 to 492.131 After his conversion, not only did he keep in touch with some of the former students from Beirut,132 but he became himself the most important authority in all matters concerning canon law. As a lawyer, he had to learn how to deal with a huge number of legal texts, laws, edicts, and rescripts, with all of these being a source of law but having different degrees of authority and often contradicting each other. It is not surprising, therefore, that some of the hermeneutical strategies that he acquired during his legal training may have influenced his theological method and consequently his exegesis.133 As a matter of fact, some peculiar and otherwise seemingly contradictory features of Severus’ exegesis reveal their internal logic when seen as an application of contemporary legal methods to theology. 128 129 130
131 132 133
Cf. hom. 118 (po 26, 372–374). Ep. iii.3 (ed. E.W. Brooks, The Sixth Book of the Selected Letters of Severus Patriarch of Antioch (London, 1903–1904), v. 1, 270–271 [textus], v. 2, 239 [versio]). Cf. ep. iii.3 (ed. Brooks, The Sixth Book, v. 1, 268 [t.], v. 2, 238 [ver.]). For further examples of this procedure, cf. for instance ep. 65 (po 14, 44–54); ep. 69 (po 14, 89–91); ep. 70 (po 14, 104–107); ep. 74 (po 14, 120: a mere fragment on the nature of the higher understanding). A systematical analysis of the exegetical material in the surviving letters remains a desideratum. Cf. Zacharias Scholasticus, Vita Severi (po 2, 46–92, in part. 92). Cf. Alpi, La route royale i, 212–213. Cf. R. Roux, The Concept of Orthodoxy in the Cathedral Homilies of Severus of Antioch, in M.F. Wiles, E.J. Yarnold (eds.), Papers Presented at the Thirteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies held in Oxford 1999 (Louvain, 2001), 487–493 (= Studia Patristica 35); and, more recently, Id., Sapere teologico e sapere profano all’inizio del vi secolo: l’esperienza di Severo di Antiochia a Beirut. For the influence of legal science on theology during the 3rd and the 4th century, see C. Humress, Orthodoxy and the Courts in Late Antiquity (Oxford, 2007), 147–152.
severus of antioch at the crossroad
A major case is the role of dogmatic definitions in exegesis. We have already seen that the dogmas of the Church are considered by Severus as a criterium veritatis to assess the validity of both biblical exegesis and of eventual mystical experiences. On the other hand, Severus does not hesitate to criticize the dogmatic definition of the council of Chalcedon. This apparent contradiction can be better understood if we compare the function of a proclaimed dogma, or regula fidei, with the function of the regulae iuris in legal science. Severus himself applies the classical definition of a regula iuris to the regula fidei in the Cathedral homily 91134 when he explains the nature of the definition of the Council of Nicea. The regula iuris is not the law and does not take the place of the law, but is a summary that helps to establish the law when the actual laws are difficult to understand or to harmonize due to their number or disparate nature. Similarly, the regula fidei states in summarized form what is otherwise scattered through the Holy Scriptures. In this way, it becomes a norm to guide the exegete through difficult or contradictory passages in the Bible, but does not have authority above the Bible itself. On the contrary, it must be founded upon a sound understanding of the Scripture. This explains why Severus, in spite of his attachment to the teaching of the Church, feels obliged to fight with all his strength against the regula defined at Chalcedon.135 A second significant case is the way of dealing with the teachings of the Church Fathers. It has already been mentioned that the exegesis of Severus is a very learned one, but, in spite of his great esteem for the Fathers whom he considered almost inspired, he does not feel obliged to follow them slavishly. Now, this singular mixture of fidelity to and freedom from tradition can better be understood if compared with the rules that governed the correct approach to the opinions of the great lawyers of the past.136 In case of disagreement among the main scholars, one had to follow the opinion of the majority, in case of parity, one had to follow the group of a specific one of them, namely Papinianus, who enjoyed the greatest esteem among them. In the absence of a clear majority, one had to decide on one’s own. Moreover, a similar hierarchy was established even between the works of a single author. Much in the same way, Severus works with his own theological authorities, Basil, the two Gregorys,
134 135 136
Compare hom. 91 (po 25, 15), and Digesta 50, 17,1: cf. Roux, Sapere sacro e sapere profano, 91–103. Cf. hom. 124 (po 29, 225–231): the “rock” upon which the Church is built is not the “See” of Peter, but the “Faith” of Peter. Cf. Codex Theodosianus i,4,3; Roux, Concept of Orthodoxy, 487–493.
John Chrysostom, and Cyril, but does not hesitate to choose among them or even to adopt different interpretations in some cases.137 A third field in which the legal mind is discernible is in the interpretation of the legislative texts in the Scriptures, where he avoids both the Antiochene and the Alexandrian approach and shows greater attention to the particular characteristics of juridical texts.138 A typical example of this kind of “juridical” exegesis is the interpretation of the numerous prescriptions relating to food or hygiene.139 A representative of the Antiochene exegesis, John Chrysostom, sees in these rules nothing more than elements of Judaism that have been abolished by Jesus Christ, so that no need is felt to find anything positive in them.140 Other authors from the Pseudo-Barnabas onwards,141 very much in line with the classical Alexandrian approach, read these texts as allegories of spiritual realities, thus finding in them a relevance for today’s reader, but denying them any real literal sense: the Jews who take them literally just lack a spiritual understanding. Severus agrees with the Alexandrian in the attempt at finding a permanent validity in those laws, but adopts a juridical method. When interpreting a text of legislation, one has to grasp the intention of the legislator, especially when the wording, if taken at face value, might lead to absurd consequences which cannot be in line with the will of the law-maker. In the case of food and hygiene rules, Severus demonstrates that with the Incarnation the intention of the divine Legislator has not changed but has been perfectly revealed. What was said about bodily rules has revealed its fullness when applied to the soul. The intention of the legislator is the same, but the ways of application of the law vary according to time and space. The “Christian” interpretation of those rules is no allegory and no abolishment, but it is the fulfillment of their real meaning as the legislator intended them.142
138 139 140 141 142
This is mostly evident in christology, where Severus does not accept the Chalcedonian interpretation of the diphysite formulae of Cyril, but corrects them on the basis of the later letters of Cyril to Succensus, thus correcting de facto his main theological authority. Cf. Roux, L’ exégèse, 163–175. Cf. hom. 79 (po 20, 299–319). Cf. Johannes Chrysostomus, In Mattäeum hom. 51 (pg 58, 513–516). Cf. Roux, L’ exégèse, 172, n. 127; 174, n. 134. For further examples, cf. Roux, L’ exégèse, 169–175.
severus of antioch at the crossroad
Conclusion: Final Remarks on the Historical Significance of Severus’ Exegesis Severus has not left any systematic commentary but he has written extensively on almost all the important passages of the Bible, either as direct exegesis, in form of answers to quaestiones that arose from the readings of the day or that were brought to his attention by others, or in form of “indirect” exegesis, as in the homilies for liturgical feasts and celebrations or in the context of doctrinal controversies. In dealing with biblical texts, Severus shows that he masters all the methods of patristic exegesis: philologically and historically sound according to the standards of the time, consciously embedded in the framework of a broader theological hermeneutical theory, able to make use of the Greek exegetical tradition in its entirety, Alexandrian (especially Cyril of Alexandria) as well as Antiochene (essentially John Chrysostom),143 able to appreciate the different literary genera of the Biblical pericopes and to systematically adopt appropriate exegetical strategies in order to provide his hearers with orthodox theology and deep spirituality, and not lacking at times in extraordinary literary beauty, still shining through the Syriac translation. In a sense, Severus’ exegesis represents the climax of Greek patristic exegesis, in which the various exegetical trends of late antiquity converge in the service of preaching, theology and Christian life. It is only in matters related to the theandric identity of Christ that Severus’ exegesis would not have been accepted by the adherents to the council of Chalcedon. Severus’ opposition to the dogmatic horos of Chalcedon on the ground of the problems caused by the concept of “physis” is well known,144 but the analysis of Severus’ exegesis reveals that there is another reason that comes from his exegetical practice. When reading about Jesus Christ in the Gospel, the Diphysite approach distinguishes the assertions that are proper to the divinity (like performing miracles) from those that belong to the humanity (like suffering). While Severus might have agreed that discerning the different modes of operation of Christ is perfectly legitimate and even necessary in order to grasp His real identity, he could not possibly accept the inquisitive asking about the underlying subject (“who does this, God or the man?”) which is 143
He does not seem to have read theological treatises written in Latin, although he must have learned the language as a student. As far as Syriac is concerned, we know that he was in contact with Philoxenus of Mabbug, but there is no evidence that he knew Syriac: cf. Roux, L’ exégèse, 188, n. 11. Cf. A. Grillmeier, Jesus der Christus im Glauben der Kirche. 2/2. Die Kirche von Konstantinopel im 6. Jahrhundert (Freiburg in B., 1989/2004), 161–171.
typical of some Diphysite theologians, and this for two main reasons: firstly, as already said, because in Severus’ understanding it inevitably leads to the assertion of two persons in Christ, and, secondly, because it implicitly claims the right to correct and improve the Word of God. If Jesus himself, his Apostles and consequently the Evangelists never felt the need to distinguish Christ’s deeds according to the abstract notions of humanity and divinity, then the arrogant strive to correct and specify the language of the Scriptures is nothing but a sinful act of hubris in the name of man-made philosophical categories and cannot be justified. In conclusion, through his criticism of the Diphysite exegesis, Severus aims at defending not just the traditional doctrine of the communicatio idiomatum, but the very way in which the Scriptures speak about Jesus Christ from what he considers an arrogant and ill-founded attempt at reducing the divine Revelation into human limited concepts. At this point one could wonder if this desire to be faithful not only to the content of the Gospel but also to its very language and manner of expression might have contributed to the diffusion of the Miaphysite doctrine into traditionally Antiochene territory. This certainly opens up a new field of investigation, and already casts new light on the motives beyond Severus’ vehement opposition to the horos of Chalcedon.
Hymns of Severus of Antioch and the Coptic Theotokia Youhanna Nessim Youssef
Introduction Severus of Antioch has a special veneration in the Coptic Church.1 In previous studies, we highlighted the role of Severus of Antioch in the Coptic Theotokia,2 especially the homilies 14 and 67 which commemorate a local tradition of the visit of the Virgin Mary to Elisabeth. These homilies were translated from Greek into Syriac3 and Coptic.4 The homilies 2 and 4 were delivered by Severus of Antioch in the advent of the first year of his ordination.5 While the liturgical6 context of the homilies is known, the context of the hymns by contrast,7 as well as their content, has not been analysed. Their authorship remains questionable as the title of the book is Hymns of Severus and others. In this paper, we will compare the hymns with the homilies, and highlight the importance of the hymns of Severus as a source of the Coptic Theotokia and later in relation to the Ethiopic Marian literature. 1 Youhanna Nessim Youssef, “Notes on the cult of Severus of Antioch in Egypt,” Ephemerides Liturgicae 115 (2001/1): 101–107. 2 Youhanna Nessim Youssef, “Severus of Antioch in the Coptic Theotokia,” in B. Neil, G. Dunn and L. Cross (eds), Prayer and Spirituality in the Early Church: Liturgy and life, Volume 3 (Sydney: St Paul’s, 2003), 93–108. Id., “The Coptic Marian homilies of Severus of Antioch,” Bulletin de la Société d’ Archéologie Copte 43 (2004): 127–140. 3 M. Brière, F. Graffin, C. Lash, J.-M. Sauget, Les Homiliae cathedrales de Sévère d’Antioche, i– xvii, (Patrologia Orientalis 38/2), (Turnhout: Brepols, 1972), 400–414. 4 E. Porcher, “Un discours sur la sainte Vierge par Sévère d’ Antioche,”Revue de l’Orient Chrétien 20 (1915–1917): 416–423. E. Lucchesi, “Notice touchant l’ homélie xiv de Sévère d’Antioche,” Vigiliae Christianae 33, (1979): 291–293. Id., “L’homélie xiv de Sévère d’Antioche: un second témoin copte,” Aegyptus 86 (2006): 199–205. 5 F. Alpi, La route royale: Sévère d’Antioche et les Églises d’Orient (512–518), (Bibliothèque Archéologique et Historique 188 vol. 1), (Beyrouth: Institut Français du Proche Orient, 2009), 139. 6 G.J. Cuming, “The Liturgy of Antioch in the Time of Severus (513–518),” in J.N. Alexander (ed.), Time and Community: In Honor of Thomas J. Talley (Washington, dc: The Pastoral Press, 1990), 83–103. 7 For the hymns of Severus cf. E. Lucchesi, “Hymnes de Sévère et sur Sévère,” Aegyptus 88 (2008): 165–198.
© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2016 | doi: 10.1163/9789004307995_010
The Hymns of Severus As the book bears the title Hymns of Severus and Others, it is not an easy task to determine what belongs really to Severus and what belongs to others but we may assume that Severus of Antioch composed hymns for each subject that is treated in his homilies. We have a similar situation in the Ethiopic Synaxarium where after each event commemorated we find what is called the “Salam” (Praise). The table below compares the topics treated in the hymns and the homilies.
Nativity Epiphany Lent
7, 36, 63, 101, 115 10, 38, 66, 85, 103, 117 15/16, 39, 68, 87, 105, 120
1–14/228 15–25/211/255 26–34
M. Brière, F. Graffin M. Brière, F. Graffin M. Brière, F. Graffin M. Brière, F. Graffin, C. Lash M. Brière, F. Graffin M. Brière, F. Graffin R. Duval M. Brière M. Brière M.A. Kugener, E. Triffaux M. Brière M. Brière M. Brière I. Guidi M. Brière M. Brière M. Brière
1–17 18–25 26–31 32–39 40–45 46–51 52–57 58–69 70–76 77 78–83 84–90 91–98 99–103 104–112 113–119 120–125
38/2–1976 37/1 1975 36/4 1974 36/3 1972 36/1 1971 35/3 1969 4/1 1906 8/2 1911 12/1 1915 16/5 1924 20/2 1927 23/1 1931 25/1 1935 22/2 1930 25/4 1943 26/3 1940 29/1 1960
175 171 170 169 167 165 15 37 57 81 97 112 121 108 124 127 138
246–470 1–180 536–676 391–535 1–135 281–390 1–94 209–396 1–164 761–865 271–434 1–176 1–174 201–312 619–816 259–450 1–262
9 E. Brooks, The Hymns of Severus of Antioch and Others, Patrologia Orientalis 6 fasc. 1 (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1910), Id. Patrologia Orientalis 7 fasc. 5, (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1911).
hymns of severus of antioch and the coptic theotokia
On the preparation for entering to the Baptistery Palm Sunday On the robber On persons baptized On the Holy mid-Pentecost On the Ascension of our Lord On the Genuflexion/ Pentecost On the holy God Bearer On John the Baptist On holy Stephen the martyr The Apostles On the Apostle Thomas Sergius and Bacchus On Saint Thecla the Martyr Thalleliaos Leontius the Martyr On St Babylas the Martyr Simon the Stylite St Antony the Great On the holy Maccabee martyrs On the xl martyrs On Saint Drosis the martyr On Saint Athanasius On ss Basil and Gregory On drought On earthquake On Vitalian the Tyrant When he returned from visiting monasteries Of admonition and on theatres and dancing
40, 69, 88, 106, 121
22 20 21, 42, 70, 90, 109, 123 46, 92, 24, 47, 71 25, 48; 74, 92 14, 67 32, 61 7
51–57 65 92–101/229 102 103–107/230 108–114 117–122/217/231 123–126 127–128 129 134 143–144/145 160
28 57 97 110 27, 50 11 30 12, 86 52 18, 41 5, 100, 114 91 9, 37, 65, 84, 102, 116 19 31 34 61
138 141–142 147 148 149–150 155–159 161–162 183 182, 184 252–254/256 257–262 263 272
The Coptic Theotokia The Theotokia are part of the Psalmodia service. According to Abu al-Barakat ibn Kabar10 (priest of the hanging church—Old Cairo) (+1324ad) in his encyclopedia The Lamp of Darkness for the Explanation of the Service,11 Manuscript Paris Arabe12 fol. 202v
ﰒ ﺑﻌﺪ ذكل ﯾﻘﺎل اﻟﺜﺎوﺿﻮﻛﯿﺎت وﱔ ﻣﻌﺮوﻓﺔ ﻋﻨﺪ اﻟﻘﺒﻂ اﳌﴫﯾﲔ ﯾﺘﺪاوﻟﻮﳖﺎ ﰲ ﻛﻨﺎﯾﺲ ﻣﴫ واﻟﻘﺎﻫﺮة واﻣﺎ اﻫﻞ اﻟﺼﻌﯿﺪ ﻓﻼ ﺗﻘﻮﻟﻮن ﲠﺎ وﻻ ﺗﺴـﺘﻌﻤﻞ ﰲ ﺑﻼدﱒ الا اندرًا ﰲ اﻟﺒﻌﺾ ﻣﻦ.واﻟﻮﺟﺔ اﻟﺒﺤﺮي .ﻛﻨﺎﯾﺲ اﻟﺼﻌﯿﺪ الادان ﻣ ـ ﺸ وﻫﺬﻩ اﻟﺜﺎوﺿﻮﻛﯿﺎت ﻣﺪاﱖ ﻟﻠﺴـﯿﺪة اﻟﻌﺬرا ﳣةل ﻋﲆ اتوﯾﻞ رﻣﻮز اﻟﻌﺘﯿﻘﺔ وﺗﲋﯾﻞ ﻧﺒﻮات الاﻧﺒﯿﺎ ﻋﲆ الاﺣﻮال اﻟﺴـﯿﺪة اﻟﻌﺬرا والاﺳـﺘﺪﻻل ﲠﺎ ﻋﲆ ﺣﺒﻠﻬﺎ وﱔ ﻋﺬرا ووﻟﻮد رب اجملﺪ ﻣﺘﺠﺴﺪًا ﻣﳯﺎ اﱃ ﻏﲑ ذكل ﻣﻦ اﳌﻌﺎﱐ وﯾﻨﺴﺐ اﱃ اﻟﺒﻄﺮﯾﺮك اﺛﻨﺎﺳـﯿﻮس اﻟﺮﺳﻮﱄ رزﻗﻨﺎ ﷲ ﺑﺮﰷﺗﻪ ﻧﺴـﺒﺔ ﻏﲑ ﻣﺴـﻨﺪة وﻗﯿﻞ ان ﴯﺼًﺎ ً ﻗﺪﯾﺴﺎ ﻓﺎﺿ … ﻼ ﰷن ﻗﺮﻣﻮﺿﯿﺎ وﺗﺮﻫﺐ ﺑﱪﯾﺔ ﺷﻬﯿﺎت رﺗﺐ اﳊﺎﳖﺎ After that the Theotokia are recited. These are known to the Copts as Masriyin (= those of Old-Cairo) and were passed to the churches of Misr (Old-Cairo), Cairo and Lower Egypt. As for the people of Upper Egypt (Saʿid), they (the Theotokia) are not used in their countries except on rare occasions in some churches of the closer Saʿid (Middle-Egypt). These Theotokia are praises for the Lady Virgin Mary including the interpretations of the symbols of the Old Testament and the revelation of the prophecies of the prophets concerning her conception while being Virgin, and the birth of the Lord of Glory incarnated from her and other things relating to these meanings. They (the Theotokia) are attributed to the Patriarch Athanasius the Apostolic, may God grant us his blessing. This attribution is not supported. It is said that a holy virtuous person who was a potter and became a monk in the desert of Scetis composed their melodies. 10
Samir Khalil, “Un manuscrit arabe d’ Alep reconnu, le Sbath 11253,” Le Muséon 91 (1978): 179–188. Id., “L’encyclopedie Liturgique d’ Ibn Kabar (+ 1324) et son apologie d’usages Coptes,” in H.-J. Feulner, E. Velkouska and R. Taft (eds), Crossroad of Cultures. Studies in Liturgy and Patristics in Honor of Gabriele Winkler, Orientalia Christiana Analecta 260 (Rome: Edizioni Orientalia Christiana, 2000), 629–655. L. Villecourt, “Les observances Liturgiques et la discipline du jeûne dans l’Église Copte,” Le Muséon 37 (1924): 201–280, especially 229. G. Troupeau, Catalogue des Manuscrits Arabes—première partie manuscrits Chrétiens, tome 1 (Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale, 1972), 171–172.
hymns of severus of antioch and the coptic theotokia
Ibn Kabar talked about the Theotokia stricto sensu, hence the quotations of the Theotokia that occur in the Antiphonarion of Upper Egypt13 are not regarded as the text of the Theotokia. According to Ibn Kabar the recitation of Theotokia started first in Old Cairo,14 and from there extended to the other churches of Old Cairo, Cairo, Lower Egypt and Middle Egypt. It is worth mentioning that the church of Misr (Old Cairo) is related to a tradition of Severus of Antioch as, according to the Garshuni manuscript Sachau 43 of Berlin, he visited the Hanging Church of Old Cairo,15 while this event according to the Coptic Synaxarium,16 the Book of Glorification17 is placed in Scetis. We may expect that Ibn Kabar as a priest of the Hanging Church in Old Cairo preferred to support his local church, while the visit of Severus of Antioch to Scetis is well attested.18 Some modern scholars such as Giamberardini19 and Muyser20 identified the quotations of the Theotokia from the homilies of Cyril of Alexandria during the Council of Ephesus and the Coptic Theotokia. The Theotokia in fact contains not only extracts from the Cyrillian homilies but also from those of Proclus of Cyzicus and Theodotus of Ancyra, such 13 14 15
Cf. M. Cramer and M. Krause, Das koptische Antiphonar, Jerusalemer Theologisches Forum 12 (Münster: Aschendorff, 2008). The translation of Villecourt is misleading as he rendered the word Masryin as Egyptian, while in the early fourteenth century this word means those of Old Cairo. M.A. Kugener, Textes relatives à la vie de Sévère patriarche d’Antioche, deuxième Patrie, Vie de Sévère par Jean supérieur du monastère de Beith-Aphthonia, Patrologia Orientalis 2 fasc. 3 (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1904), 399 -400. R. Basset, Le Synaxaire Arabe Jacobite, Patrologia Orientalis 1 fasc. 3 (Paris FirminDidot, 1907), 313–314; O.H.E. Burmester, “The Liturgy Coram Patriarcha aut Episcopo in the Coptic Church,” Le Muséon 49 (1936): 79–84. For this book cf. Youhanna Nessim Youssef, “Un témoin méconnu de la littérature copte,” Bulletin de la Société d’Archéologie Copte 32 (1993): 139–147; Youhanna Nessim Youssef, “Une relecture des glorifications coptes,” Bulletin de la Société d’Archéologie Copte 34 (1995): 77–83. Attala Arsenios al-Muharraqi, ⲡⲓϫⲱⲙ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉ ⲛⲓϫⲓⲛϯⲱⲟⲩ ⲉ︦ⲑ︦ⲩ︦ ⲛ̀ϯⲡⲁⲣⲑⲉⲛⲟⲥ ⲛⲓⲁⲅⲅⲉⲗⲟⲥ ⲛⲓⲁⲡⲟⲥⲧⲟⲗⲟⲥ ⲛⲓ⳥ ⲛⲉⲙ ⲛⲏⲉ︦ⲑ︦ⲩ︦ [The book of the holy glorifications for the Virgin, the Angels, the Apostles, the Martyrs and the Saints], (Cairo: n.p., 1972), 350–351. It is not clear who is this potter, however there is a tradition linking Severus with Scetis cf. Youhanna Nessim Youssef, “Severus of Antioch in Scetis,” Ancient Near Eastern Studies 43 (2006): 141–162. G. Giamberardini, Il culto Mariano in Egitto, Pubblicazioni dello Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Analecta 7 (Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press, 1974), 197–212. J. Muyser, Maria’s heerlijkheid in Egypte: Een studie der koptische Maria-literatuur, 1st part, (Louvain—Utrecht: Sint Alfonsusdrukkerij, 1935), 60–74 and especially 72–74.
as comparing the Virgin with the burning bush that Moses saw in the desert.21 The Theotokia can be dated between the sixth and the eighth centuries as we will explain later in detail. Briefly we can say that the first manuscript containing some quotations of the Theotokia (the Sahidic Difnar) is dated from the ninth century, and there are similarities with the homilies 14 and 67 of Severus of Antioch which are dated between 512–514 ad (see below). In this paper we will compare the two Marian hymns of Severus with the Theotokia of Sunday and the direct quotations in the Theotokia of Tuesday.
119 The Hymn of the Virgin22
Theotokia of Sunday
Because the Lord took pleasure in Zion and chose it to himself for a habitation ⲥⲉⲙⲟⲩϯ ⲉⲣⲟ ⲇⲓⲕⲉⲱⲥ ⲱ ⲑⲏⲉⲧⲥⲙⲁⲣⲱⲟⲩⲧ ϧⲉⲛ ⲛⲓϩⲓⲟⲙⲓ ϫⲉ ϯⲙⲁϩⲥⲛⲟⲩϯ ⲛⲥⲕⲏⲛⲏ23 ⲛⲓⲙ ⲡⲉⲑⲛⲁϣⲥⲁϫⲓ ⲙⲡⲧⲁⲓⲟ ⲛϯⲥⲕⲏⲛⲏ ⲉⲧⲁ ⲙⲱⲩⲥⲏⲥ ⲑⲁⲙⲓⲟⲥ ϩⲓϫⲉⲛ ⲡⲧⲱⲟⲩ ⲛⲥⲓⲛⲁ ⲁϥⲑⲁⲙⲓⲟⲥ ϧⲉⲛ ⲟⲩⲱⲟⲩ ⲕⲁⲧⲁ ⲡⲥⲁϫⲓ ⲙⲡ⳪ ⲛⲉⲙ ⲕⲁⲧⲁ ⲛⲓⲧⲩⲡⲟⲥ ⲧⲏⲣⲟⲩ ⲉⲧⲁϥⲧⲁⲙⲟϥ ⲉⲣⲱⲟⲩ
ⲁⲩⲧⲉⲛⲑⲱⲛⲓ ⲉⲣⲟⲥ ⲙⲁⲣⲓⲁ ϯⲡⲁⲣⲑⲉⲛⲟⲥ ϯⲥⲕⲏⲛⲏ ⲙⲙⲏⲓ ⲉⲣⲉ ⲫϯ ⲥⲁϧⲟⲩⲛ ⲙⲙⲟⲥ24
21 22 23 24
You are truly called, O blessed one among women the Second tabernacle
the God-bearer and Virgin one might very justly compare and one might call thee the Who can speak of the honour tent of witness, which was of the tabernacle which Moses hidden within the second had made on Mount Sinai curtain which is called the holy of holies. For after the He made it with glory, as same model Emmanuel abode commanded by the Lord, and dwelt in thee according to the model shown unto him. They likened it to you, O Virgin Mary, the true tabernacle wherein dwelt God
Youhanna Nessim Youssef, “Une relecture des Théotokies Coptes,” Bulletin de la Société d’ Archéologie Copte 36 (1997): 153–170. E.W. Brooks, The Hymns of Severus and others in the Syriac Version of Paul of Edessa as revised by James of Edessa (Patrologia Orientalis 6/1), (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1911), 158–159. Nahdat al-Kanais, ⲡⲓϫⲱⲙ ⲛⲧⲉ ϯⲯⲁⲗⲙⲟⲧⲓⲁ ⲉⲑⲟⲩⲁⲃ, 101–102. Theotokia part 1a. Nahdat al-Kanais, ⲡⲓϫⲱⲙ ⲛⲧⲉ ϯⲯⲁⲗⲙⲟⲧⲓⲁ, 103–104. Theotokia part 1b.
hymns of severus of antioch and the coptic theotokia
Theotokia of Sunday
119 The Hymn of the Virgin
Ϯⲕⲓⲃⲱⲧⲟⲥ ⲉⲧⲟϣϫ ⲛⲛⲟⲩⲃ ⲛⲥⲁⲥⲁ ⲛⲓⲃⲉⲛ ⲑⲏⲉⲧⲁⲩⲑⲁⲙⲓⲟⲥ ϧⲉⲛ ϩⲁⲛϣⲉ ⲛⲁⲧⲉⲣϩⲟⲗⲓ
The Ark overlaid roundabout with gold that was made with wood that would not decay
ⲁⲥⲉⲣϣⲟⲣⲡ ⲛϯⲙⲏⲓⲛⲓ ⲙⲫϯ ⲡⲓⲗⲟⲅⲟⲥ ⲫⲏⲉⲧⲁϥϣⲱⲡⲓ ⲛⲣⲱⲙⲓ ϧⲉⲛ ⲟⲩⲙⲉⲧⲁⲧⲫⲱⲣϫ
It foretold the sign, O God the Word, who became man without separation
ⲟⲩⲁⲓ ⲡⲉ ⲉⲃⲟⲗϧⲉⲛ ⲃ︦ ⲟⲩⲙⲉⲑⲛⲟⲩϯ ⲉⲥⲧⲟⲩⲃⲏⲟⲩⲧ ⲉⲥⲟⲓ`ⲛⲁⲧⲧⲁⲕⲟ`ⲛⲟⲙⲟⲟⲩⲥⲓⲟⲥ ⲛⲉⲙ ⲫⲓⲱⲧ
One (nature) out of two, a Holy Divinity, consubstantial with the Father, and incorruptible
ⲛⲉⲙ ⲟⲩⲙⲉⲧⲣⲱⲙⲓ ⲉ︦ⲑ︦ⲩ︦ ⲭⲱⲣⲓⲥ ⲥⲩⲛⲟⲩⲥⲓⲁ ⲛⲟⲙⲟⲟⲩⲥⲓⲟⲥ ⲛⲉⲙⲁⲛ ⲕⲁⲧⲁ ϯⲟⲓⲕⲟⲛⲟⲙⲓⲁ
A holy humanity, begotten without seed consubstantial with us according to the economy
ⲑⲁⲓ ⲉⲧⲁϥϭⲓⲧⲥ ⲛϧⲏϯ ⲱ ϯⲁⲧⲑⲱⲗⲉⲃ ⲉⲁϥϩⲱⲧⲡ ⲉⲣⲟⲥ ⲕⲁⲧⲁ ⲟⲩϩⲩⲡⲟⲥⲧⲁⲥⲓⲥ25
This which He has taken, from you O undefiled, He made one with Him as a hypostasis
who like the ark all-pure Godhead and of the manhood which is pure and uncorrupted and without seed
Nahdat al-Kanais, ⲡⲓϫⲱⲙ ⲛⲧⲉ ϯⲯⲁⲗⲙⲟⲧⲓⲁ, 104–105. Theotokia part 2a.
Theotokia of Sunday
119 The Hymn of the Virgin
ⲡⲓⲓⲗⲁⲥⲧⲏⲣⲓⲟⲛ ⲉⲧⲟⲩϩⲱⲃⲥ ⲙⲙⲟϥϩⲓⲧⲉⲛ ⲛⲓⲭⲉⲣⲟⲩⲃⲓⲙ ⲉⲩⲟⲓ ⲛϩⲓⲕⲱⲛ
The mercy-seat was overshadowed by the Cherubim being as an image
ⲉⲧⲉ ⲫϯ ⲡⲓⲗⲟⲅⲟⲥ ⲉⲧⲁϥϭⲓⲥⲁⲣⲝ ⲛϧⲏϯ ⲱ ϯⲁⲧⲁϭⲛⲓ ϧⲉⲛ ⲟⲩⲙⲉⲧⲁⲧϣⲓⲃϯ
Who was God who was incarnated of you without change, O undefiled one.
ⲁϥϣⲱⲡⲓ ⲛⲧⲟⲩⲃⲟ ⲛⲧⲉ ⲛⲉⲛⲛⲟⲃⲓ ⲛⲉⲙ ⲟⲩⲣⲉϥⲭⲱ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ⲛⲧⲉ ⲛⲉⲛⲁⲛⲟⲙⲓⲁ26
He became the purification of our sins, and the forgiveness of he resembles the model of our transgressions. the mercy-seat which was overshadowed by the wings of The two golden Cherubim, the holy Cherubim, because of being image28, covered the invisibility of the Godhead continuously the mercy-seat with their wings
ⲭⲉⲣⲟⲩⲃⲓⲙ ⲃ︦ ⲛⲛⲟⲩⲃ ⲉⲩⲟⲓ ⲛϩⲓⲕⲱⲛ ⲉⲩϩⲱⲃⲥ ⲙⲡⲓⲓⲗⲁⲥⲧⲏⲣⲓⲟⲛ ϧⲉⲛ ⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉⲛϩ ⲛⲥⲏⲟⲩ ⲛⲓⲃⲉⲛ
ⲉⲩⲉⲣϧⲏⲓⲃⲓ ⲉϩⲣⲏⲓ ϩⲓϫⲉⲛ ⲡⲓⲙⲁ ⲉ︦ⲑ︦ⲩ︦ ⲛⲧⲉ ⲛⲏⲉ︦ⲑ︦ⲩ︦ ⲛⲧⲉ ⲛⲏⲉ︦ⲑ︦ⲩ︦ ϧⲉⲛ ϯⲥⲕⲏⲛⲏ ⲙⲙⲁϩⲥⲛⲟⲩϯ
Overshadowing the place of Holy of the Holies in the second tabernacle
ⲉⲩϩⲱⲥ ⲉⲡⲟⲩⲣⲉϥⲥⲱⲛⲧ ⲉϥⲭⲏ ϧⲉⲛ ⲧⲉⲛⲉϫⲓ ⲫⲁⲓ ⲉⲧⲁϥϭⲓ ⲙⲡⲉⲛⲓⲛⲓ ⲭⲱⲣⲓⲥ ⲛⲟⲃⲓ ϩⲓ ϣⲓⲃϯ27
Praising their creator, who was in your womb, and took our likeness without sin or alteration
26 27 28
Nahdat al-Kanais, ⲡⲓϫⲱⲙ ⲛⲧⲉ ϯⲯⲁⲗⲙⲟⲧⲓⲁ, 107–108. Theotokia part 3a. Nahdat al-Kanais, ⲡⲓϫⲱⲙ ⲛⲧⲉ ϯⲯⲁⲗⲙⲟⲧⲓⲁ, 108. Theotokia part 3b. The use of the singular “image” here is because the author is using it as a technical term, in parallel with two stanzas later where ‘their creator … took our likeness’.
hymns of severus of antioch and the coptic theotokia
Theotokia of Sunday ⲛⲑⲟ ⲡⲉ ⲡⲓⲥⲧⲁⲙⲛⲟⲥ ⲛⲛⲟⲩⲃ ⲧⲧⲟⲩⲃⲏⲟⲩⲧ ⲉⲣⲉ ⲡⲓⲙⲁⲛⲛⲁ ϩⲏⲡ ⲛϩⲣⲏⲓ ϧⲉⲛ ⲧⲉϥⲙⲏϯ ⲡⲓⲱⲓⲕ ⲛⲧⲉ ⲡⲱⲛϧ ⲉⲧⲁϥⲓ ⲉⲡⲉⲥⲏⲧ ⲉⲃⲟⲗϧⲉⲛ ⲧⲫⲉ ⲁϥϯ ⲙⲡⲱⲛϧ ⲙⲡⲓⲕⲟⲥⲙⲟⲥ29 ⲡⲓϣⲃⲟⲧ ⲛⲧⲉ ⲁⲁⲣⲱⲛ ⲉⲧⲁϥⲫⲓⲣⲓ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ⲭⲱⲣⲓⲥ ϭⲟ ⲛⲉⲙ ⲧⲥⲟ ϥⲟⲓ ⲛⲧⲩⲡⲟⲥ ⲛⲉ ⲱ ⲑⲏⲉⲧⲁⲙⲉⲥ ⲡⲭ︦ⲥ︦ ⲡⲉⲛⲛⲟⲩϯ ϧⲉⲛ ⲟⲩⲙⲉⲑⲙⲏⲓ ⲁϭⲛⲉ ⲥⲡⲉⲣⲙⲁ ⲛⲣⲱⲙⲓ ⲉⲥⲟⲓ ⲙⲡⲁⲣⲑⲉⲛⲟⲥ.30
119 The Hymn of the Virgin You are the pot, made of the pure gold, wherein was hidden and is as the bread that come the true manna down from heaven which was prefigured in the vessel of gold The bread of Life which came and in the manna that was in from heaven and gave life unto it. the world The rod of Aaron, which blossomed without planting or So also be imitated moreover watering, resembles you. the rod of Aaron, which after had withered, budded and put O [you] who gave birth to forth fruit by means of his Christ our True God, without humanization the seed of man and remained a Virgin
The Theotokia of Tuesday While the comparison of the Virgin with the mount of Sinai was treated first by Cyril of Alexandria,31 the text mentioned above is nearly identical to the hymn of Severus. It is known that Severus was an admirer of Cyril of Alexandria and a defender of his theology.32 The Theotokia of Tuesday as it is chanted contains some noticeable differences–the compiler made a few changes in the text of the hymn. These changes could be categorized as follows:
29 30 31 32
Nahdat al-Kanais, ⲡⲓϫⲱⲙ ⲛⲧⲉ ϯⲯⲁⲗⲙⲟⲧⲓⲁ, 109. Theotokia part 4a. Nahdat al-Kanais, ⲡⲓϫⲱⲙ ⲛⲧⲉ ϯⲯⲁⲗⲙⲟⲧⲓⲁ, 117. Theotokia part 7. A.J. Festugière. Ephèse et Chalcédoine, actes des conciles, Textes dossier documents (Paris: Beauchesne, 1982), 304 document 77. P. Allen and C.T.R. Hayward, Severus of Antioch (The Early Church Fathers) (London: Routledge, 2004), 33–36.
1 Embellishment by adding a few words. 2 Summarizing. 3 Changing some words. In order to facilitate the comparison for the reader, we will add the following symbols to highlight the differences: a Words between * * are word/s of embellishment. b The words underlined are the summarizations. c The words changed will be put between / /.
Theotokia of Tuesday33
120 The Hymn of the Virgin34 God hath sent forth his grace truth
ⲁⲣⲉϣⲁⲛⲟⲩⲁⲓ ϯⲛⲓⲁⲧϥ`ⲙⲙⲟ ⲱ ϯⲡⲁⲣⲑⲉⲛⲟⲥ ⲉ︦ⲑ︦ⲩ︦ ⲟⲩⲟϩ`ⲙⲙⲁⲥⲛⲟⲩϯ
If someone contemplates you, *O holy* Virgin and Mother of God
ⲛⲉⲙ ⲡⲓⲙⲩⲥⲧⲏⲣⲓⲟⲛ ⲉⲧⲟⲓ`ⲛϣⲫⲏⲣⲓ ⲉⲧⲁϥϣⲱⲡⲓ ⲛϧⲏϯ ⲉⲑⲃⲉ ⲡⲉⲛⲟⲩϫⲁⲓ
And about the mystery, *full of And at the divine mystery wonder,* which became in you which was by a miracle *for our salvation* wrought in thee
ϥⲁⲛⲭⲁⲣⲱϥ ⲙⲉⲛ ⲉⲑⲃⲉ ϯⲙⲉⲧⲁⲧⲥⲁϫⲓ`ⲙⲙⲟϥ ϥⲛⲁⲧⲟⲩⲛⲟⲥⲧⲉⲛ ⲉⲡϣⲱⲓ ⲉⲟⲩϫⲓⲛⲉⲣϩⲩⲙⲛⲟⲥ
He would keep silent, for he cannot utter he would make us, *rise up* for praise
He is silent because of the ineffability, and wondering is stirred to utter praise
ⲉⲑⲃⲉ ϯⲙⲉⲧⲛⲓϣϯ`ⲛⲧⲉ ⲫⲏⲉⲧⲟⲓ`ⲛϣⲫⲏⲣⲓ`ⲛⲣⲉϥⲉⲣⲡⲉⲑⲛⲁⲛⲉϥ ⲉⲧⲟⲓ`ⲛⲑⲟ`ⲛⲣⲏϯ
Because of greatness of the wonderful, *Maker of all different good things*
Because of the greatness of him who helped as so much.
ⲡⲓⲗⲟⲅⲟⲥ ⲅⲁⲣ ⲉⲧⲟⲛϧ`ⲛⲧⲉ ⲫϯ ⲫⲓⲱⲧ ⲉⲧⲁϥ̀ⲓ ⲉⲡⲉⲥⲏⲧ ⲉϯⲛⲟⲙⲟⲥ ϩⲓϫⲉⲛ ⲡⲧⲱⲟⲩ `ⲛⲥⲓⲛⲁ
For the *Living* Word, of God *the Father,* came down /to give the Law,/ on the Mount of Sinai
The Word of God himself who came down upon the high mountain of Sinai to lay down the Law
When a man looks toward thee, God-bearer and Virgin
Nahdat al-Kanais, ⲡⲓϫⲱⲙ ⲛⲧⲉ ϯⲯⲁⲗⲙⲟⲧⲓⲁ, 173–176. Theotokia part 4. E.W. Brooks, The Hymns of Severus, 159–160.
hymns of severus of antioch and the coptic theotokia
ⲁϥϩⲱⲃⲥ`ⲛⲧⲁⲫⲉ ⲙⲡⲓⲧⲱⲟⲩ ϧⲉⲛ ⲟⲩⲭⲣⲉⲙⲧⲥ ⲛⲉⲙ ⲟⲩⲭⲁⲕⲓ ⲛⲉⲙ ⲟⲩⲥⲁⲣⲁⲑⲏⲟⲩ
*He covered* the peak of the mountain, with smoke darkness and mist and with storms
ⲉⲃⲟⲗϩⲓⲧⲉⲛ ϯⲥⲙⲏ`ⲛⲧⲉ ϩⲁⲛⲥⲁⲗⲡⲓⲅⲅⲟⲥ ⲛⲁϥϯⲥⲃⲱ ϧⲉⲛ ⲟⲩϩⲟϯ ⲛ̀ⲛⲏⲉⲧⲟϩⲓ ⲉⲣⲁⲧⲟⲩ
Through the sound of the And by the sound of trumpets trumpets, He was teaching, the [he] caused those who were people standing with fear standing round to marvel, and taught them through such fear and terrors
ⲛⲑⲟϥ ⲟⲛ ⲁϥ̀ⲓ ⲉⲡⲉⲥⲏⲧ ⲉϫⲱ ϧⲁ ⲡⲓⲧⲱⲟⲩ`ⲛⲗⲟⲅⲓⲕⲟⲛ ϧⲉⲛ ⲟⲩⲙⲉⲧⲣⲉⲙⲣⲁⲩϣ ⲛⲉⲙ ⲟⲩⲙⲉⲧⲙⲁⲓⲣⲱⲙⲓ
He also descended on you, O intellectual mountain that spoke with humility and love of mankind
came down upon thee, Mary the rational mountain peacefully and gently and mercifully in that he blessed this and hallowed it by the descent of the Holy Spirit
ⲟⲩⲟϩ ⲟⲛ ⲙⲡⲁⲓⲣⲏϯ ⲁϥϭⲓⲥⲁⲣⲝ `ⲛϧⲏϯ ϧⲉⲛ ⲟⲩⲙⲉⲧⲁⲧϣⲓⲃϯ `ⲛⲟⲩⲥⲁⲣⲝ`ⲛⲗⲟⲅⲓⲕⲏ
And likewise, He took flesh from You without alteration /an intellectual body/
And so became incarnate of her without variation in flesh which is of /our nature/
`ⲛⲟⲙⲟⲟⲩⲥⲓⲟⲥ ⲛⲉⲙⲁⲛ ⲉⲥϫⲏⲕ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ⲉⲟⲩⲟⲛ`ⲛⲧⲁⲥ`ⲛⲟⲩⲯⲩⲭⲏ`ⲛⲟⲏⲣⲁ
Consubstantial with us and perfect and also has *a rational soul*
endowed with a living rational intelligent soul and became perfectly man
ⲁϥⲟϩⲓ ⲉϥⲟⲓ`ⲛⲛⲟⲩϯ ϧⲉⲛ ⲫⲏⲉⲛⲁϥⲟⲓ`ⲙⲙⲟϥ ⲟⲩⲟϩ ⲁϥϣⲱⲡⲓ`ⲛⲣⲱⲙⲓ`ⲛⲧⲉⲗⲓⲟⲥ
He remained God, *as He is and became a perfect man*
While he remained what he is God
ϩⲓⲛⲁ`ⲛⲧⲉϥⲃⲱⲗ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ `ⲙⲡⲁⲣⲁⲡⲧⲱⲙⲁ`ⲛⲁⲇⲁⲙ ⲟⲩⲟϩ`ⲛⲧⲉϥⲥⲱϯ`ⲙⲫⲏⲉⲧⲁϥⲧⲁⲕⲟ
So as to abolish the iniquity of In order to do away the Adam and that *He might save offence of our father Adam those who perished * and deliver
`ⲛⲧⲉϥⲁⲓϥ`ⲙⲡⲟⲗⲓⲧⲏⲥ`ⲛϩⲣⲏⲓ ϧⲉⲛ ⲛⲓⲫⲏⲟⲩⲓ`ⲛⲧⲉϥⲧⲁⲥⲑⲟϥ ⲉⲧⲉϥⲁⲣⲭⲏ ⲕⲁⲧⲁ ⲡⲉⲕⲛⲓϣϯ`ⲛⲛⲁⲓ
/And to make him a citizen, of heaven and restore/ his leadership according to His great mercy
for the people and hid that peak with smoke and gloom and with darkness and mist and by the flashing of the terrible mighty lightning
and restore the lost one according to the riches of his great mercy.
Commentary The table shows clearly that the embellishments are the most numerous while the summarization occurs only a few times. It is noticeable, however, that the word “nature”35 which was so dear to Severus of Antioch is omitted and replaced by /an intellectual body/. The reason for this change is not clear. It could be that the compiling of the Theotokia took place after the Arab conquest and the term “nature” lost its importance in view of the mystery of the incarnation(?). It is worth mentioning that this hymn was translated later36 into Ethiopic with some variations, and we will give the text here in full.37 7. O Virgin, O Saint, O Bearer of God, since thou didst bring forth the King, a marvellous mystery dwelt upon thee for our salvation. We will hold our peace, for we are unable to search into the matter completely, as the greatness thereof requireth, and will describe that Doer of good things, through the exceedingly great wonder of the manifestation. So then 8. He was the Living Word of the Father Who came down on Mount Sinai, and gave the Law to Moses (Exodus xix, 16 ff.) whilst the top of the
For the theological meaning of the word “nature” in the theology of Severus of Antioch see J. Lebon, “La Christologie du monophysisme syrien,” in A. Grillmeier and H. Bacht (eds), Das Konzil von Chalkedon Geschichte und Gegenwart, Band 1, Der Glaube von Chalkedon, (Wurzburg: Echter-Verlag, 1951), 419–580. It seems that this translation took place under the Abun Salama ii (+ 1388) who was the successor of Abuna Yaʿqob and served as metropolitan during the reigns of Negus Sayfa Arʿad (1344–1372), Negus Newaya Maryam (1372–1382), and Negus Dawit i (1382–1412). The Liber Axumae indicates that he arrived in Ethiopia in 1341 of the Ethiopian calendar (a.d. 1348–1349) and died in 1380 (a.d. 1387–1388). According to the Ethiopian Synaxarion, he died on 20 Nahasé (1380) (a.d. 13 August 1388). Salama ii occupies an important place in the history of Ethiopian Christian Literature, having been the promoter of a vast literary movement based on the translation from Arabic into Ethiopic (Geʿez) of a considerable number of texts derived from the religious literature of the Copts. Cf. Ge. Haile, “Ethiopian Prelates, (continued),” Coptic Encyclopedia, A.S. Atiya (ed.), volume 4 (New York: MacMillan, 1991), 1005–1044. L. Ricci, “Ethiopian Literature”, Coptic Encyclopedia, A.S. Atiya (ed.), volume 3 (New York: MacMillan 1991), 975–979. C. Chaillot, Vie et spiritualité des Églises orthodoxes orientales des traditions, syriaque, arménienne, copte et éthiopienne, Patrimoine orthodoxie (Paris: Cerf, 2011), 339. E.A. Wallis Budge, Legends of our Lady Mary the Perpetual Virgin and her Mother Hannâ Translated from the Ethiopic Manuscripts …, (London, Liverpool and Boston: Medici Society, 1922), 284.
hymns of severus of antioch and the coptic theotokia
mountain was covered with mist, and with smoke, and with darkness, and with storm, and with the terrifying blasts of trumpets. He admonished those who were standing there in fear. So then 9. It was He Who came down to thee, O rational mountain, in the humility of the Lover of men. Without any change He became incarnate of thee, and took a perfect body, endowed with reason and like unto ourselves, through the spirit of wisdom. God took up His abode in her and became perfect man so that He might deliver Adam, and forgive him his sin, and make him to dwell in heaven, and bring him back to his former state in His abundant compassion and mercy. When was the translation done? The date of the translation from the Greek to Coptic is not known, but as part of the Theotokia are included in the Sahidic Coptic38 Antiphonarion39 which can be dated from the ninth-tenth century,40 the translation must have been done before this date. As we mentioned, the context of the composition of the hymn by Severus is not known. Euringer41 identifies the author of the Theotokia as the deacon Simon the potter (+514) and contemporary to James of Sarûg. Where was the translation done from Greek (Syriac) to Coptic? If the date is situated between the sixth and ninth centuries, a study of the Syriac centres in Egypt would help to localize the translation: 1 The monastery of Enaton42 where Thomas of Heraclia bishop of Mabbug made his revision of the translation of the New Testament at the end of the sixth century.43
39 40 41 42
For the Sahidic liturgy (or the liturgy of Upper Egypt), U. Zanetti, “Liturgy in the White Monastery,” Christianity and Monasticism in Upper Egypt, Gawdat Gabra and Hany N. Takla (eds) Volume 1, A Saint Mark Foundation, (Cairo and New York: The American University in Cairo Press, 2008), 201–210. Cramer and Krause, Das koptische Antiphonar, 182, 184, 194, 198–212. Cramer and Krause, Das koptische Antiphonar, 15. Villecourt, “Les observances Liturgiques …” (1924), 229 note 3. R-G. Coquin, M. Martin, “Monasteries in and around Alexandria,” Coptic Encyclopedia, A.S. Atiya (ed.), volume 5 (New York: MacMillan, 1991), 1654–1646; J. Gascou, “Enaton, the,” Coptic Encyclopedia, A.S. Atiya (ed.), volume 3 (New York: MacMillan, 1991), 954– 958. J.M. Fiey, “Coptes et Syriaques, contacts et échanges” Studia Orientalia Christiana Collectanea 15 (1972–1973), 295–366 and especially 317.
2 According to the legend the Monastery of Surian (Scetis) was bought in the ninth century.44 3 There was a church for the Syriac speakers named after Saint John in Fustat in the ninth century.45 4 The last two places. i.e. Scetis and Old-Cairo (= Fustat) are mentioned in the quotations of Ibn Kabar. Hence it is plausible that the place where the translation was completed was the monastery of Enaton or Wadi al-Natrûn (Scetis). Why are the Coptic and the Syriac texts not identical? This phenomenon could be explained by the way that the Theotokia are chanted, where some words may be added to assist with the rhyme and rhythm. In fact, the Coptic texts are not usually identical to the Syriac, as seen for example in Severus’ homily on Leontius,46 or the homily 14.47
Conclusion We have demonstrated that most of the hymns treat the same subjects as the homilies that were composed either by Severus himself or at least one of his disciples. These hymns were used in the same way as the two Marian hymns of Severus—to be included in the Coptic Theotokia. The tables containing the comparison between the hymns of Severus and Theotokia demonstrate clearly that parts of the Coptic Theotokia are inspired by (if not taken from) the hymns of Severus on the Virgin Mary. Thus it can be said that the legacy of Severus of Antioch in Egypt is not only his presence but also his liturgical contribution.48 44
45 46 47 48
This legend was proved wrong with the discoveries of new wall paintings cf. K.C. Innemée, “Recent discoveries of Wall-Paintings in Deir al-Surian,” Hugoye, Journal of Syriac Studies, vol. 1 nr 2 (1998); K.C. Innemée and L. Van Rompay, “Deir al-Surian (Egypt) new discoveries of 2001–2002,” in Hugoye, Journal of Syriac Studies vol. 5 nr 2 (2002) http://syrcom.cua.edu/ hugoye. Fiey, “Coptes et Syriaques,” 327. G. Garitte, “Textes Hagiographiques Orientaux relatifs à Saint Léonce de Tripoli ii, L’ homélie de Sévère d’ Antioche,” Le Muséon 79, (1966), 335–386. Cf. above. W.E. Crum, “Sévère d’ Antioche en Egypte,” Revue de l’Orient Chrétien 23 (1922–1923), 92– 104; De Lacy O’Leary, “Severus of Antioch in Egypt,” Aegyptus 32 (1952), 425–436; van der Meer, “Het verbijf van Severus van Antiochie in Egypte” Het Christelijk Oosten 48 (1996), 49–72.
hymns of severus of antioch and the coptic theotokia
The introduction of the Theotokias to the Coptic rite took place between the seventh and eighth centuries. The translation was made probably in the monastery of Enaton or Wadi al-Natrûn where bilingual communities lived. The text was later translated into Ethiopic around the fourteenth century. This similarity is not a unique fact, as we have noticed a similarity between the hymn praising Severus in the Antiphonarion49 and the Syriac hymn praising Severus.50 We may say in conclusion that the study of Coptic liturgical texts relating to Severus of Antioch51 is still in its infancy. There are still texts to be discovered. 49
M. Krause, “Das koptische Antiphonar aus dem Handschriften von Hamuli,” in Ägypten– Münster: Kulturwissenschaftliche Studien zu Ägypten, dem Vorderen Orient und verwandten Gebieten, A.I. Blöbaum et al, (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 2003), 167–185; M. Cramer and M. Krause, Das koptische Antiphonar, 244–255. Youhanna Nessim Youssef, “A contribution to the Coptic Biography of Severus of Antioch,” in Coptic Studies on the Threshold of a New Millennium: Proceedings of the Seventh International Congress of Coptic Studies—Leiden, August 27-September 2, 2000, M. Immerzeel and J. Van der Vliet (eds), (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 133) (Leuven-Paris-Dudley, ma: Peeters, 2004), 413–426. Youhanna Nessim Youssef, “Severus of Antioch in the Coptic Liturgical books,” Journal of Coptic Studies 6 (2004): 141–150.
Chrysostom, John 3n14, 4n17, 5n21, 10n54, 153 Acacian schism 127 Church Acephaloi 146 politicisation 126, 127 Adversus Eunomium 71, 108 unity 128, 158 Agathon, archdeacon 154, 155 communicatio idiomatum 168, 177 agon communication, between Greek- and Syriaccentrality of 56 speakers 33 agona 48, 49n11, 56, 59 Constantine i, Pope 155 akribeia 4 Constantine the Great 124, 140 Alexandria 3, 5, 5n20, 9, 11, 32, 65, 160 Constantine v, emperor 156, 157 Anastasius i, emperor 7, 8, 125, 127, 130 Constantinople ii 139 Anastasius ii, emperor 156 Contra Damianum 65 Andrew of Crete 155 Council of Ephesus 142 Anthimos of Constantinople 132, 133, 135 Cyril of Alexandria 1, 2, 4, 5, 5n20, 6–11, 68, Antioch 1, 1n1, 2, 2n4, 2n5, 4–7, 7n35, 8, 8n36, 176, 187 9, 9n49, 11, 14, 22, 65, 128, 160, 170 Antiochene exegesis 11 Damian of Alexandria 65 apatheia 59, 60 De Principiis 175 Aphrahat 56 Diodore of Tarsus 22, 132 Aphrodite 150 Diodorus 176 Arianism 3 Dyophysites 39 Arius 134 Dyophysitism 128 Ark of the Covenant 169 ascetic 5–7 Egypt 1, 128 ascetical 5, 6 Egyptian monasticism 6 asceticism 7, 38, 56, 59, 63 Endemousa 126 imagery of 47, 50, 57 Enkyklion 126 askesis 49, 60 Ephrem 56 ataraxia 60 Ephrem of Amida 134 Athanasius 2, 3, 3n8, 4, 7, 68, 175 Eusebius of Caesarea 14 athletes 51 Eustathius of Antioch 68 athletes 58 Eutyches 104, 108, 113, 129 Eutychius, patriarch 141, 155 Basil the Great 2, 3, 12, 25, 41, 47, 51, 52, 107, 131, 171, 179 fasting 5, 6 Basiliskos 126 Beatitudes 174 Germanus, patriarch 139, 155 Beirut 5, 178 Gregory 41 Gregory of Nazianzus 2, 3, 25, 26, 65, 68, 171 Caesar 175 Gregory of Nyssa 47, 51, 53, 62, 68, 174, 175 Chalcedon 4n19, 7, 10, 41, 47, 65, 113, 125, 127, Grillmeier 1n1, 4, 11 133, 138, 177 Christ Henotikon 126, 128, 130, 147 asceticism 49 hesychia 61 suffering 40–42 Hiereia, Council of 139, 157
200 Holy Spirit as dove 153 Hormisdas 125, 127 Hypatius, bishop of Ephesus hypostasis 75, 77, 79, 92
icon of Edessa 141 iconoclasm 138 Ignatius 2 Isaac the Syrian 56, 58 Isaiah 163 Jacob Baradaeus 135, 136 Jerusalem 22 Job 3 John 166 John iii Scholasticus 141, 155 John Beth Aphthonia 17, 145, 149 John Chrysostom 1–4, 6–11, 68, 130, 153, 175, 180 John Diakrinomenos 151 John of Damascus 139, 147, 156 John of Ephesus 136, 140 John of Tella 135, 136 John Scholasticus 155 John the Baptist 152, 153, 169 John, bishop of Gabala 143 Jonah 163, 164 Julian of Halicarnassus 9, 33, 38, 39, 40, 109 Julian, abbot of the monastery of Beth Mar Bassos 33 Justin, emperor 125, 127 Justinian, emperor 124, 126, 134, 140, 162 Leo of Rome 129, 132, 177 Leo iii, emperor 156, 157 Letter to Eupraxias 95 Letter to Terentius 93 Libanius 5 libellus 127 Luke 164, 165 Maïouma monastery 14 Marcus Aurelius 57, 60 martyrs 48, 54, 61, 163 Mary 169 immortality 33, 39 Matthew 164, 165 Menas 3
Menas, Patriarch of Constantinople 126 Miaphysitism 42, 127, 176 exiled bishops 132 versus Byzantine imperial power 124 Michael of Thessaloniki 153 monk 58 monks 38 opposition to Chalcedon 129, 130 Monenergism/Monoenergist 145, 157 Monothelitism 138, 155 Moses 171 Nestorius 4, 10, 11, 22, 104, 129 Nicaea ii 139, 143, 151 Nouthesia 139 Novatus 104 Origen
Palestine 1, 5 Palladius 147 Papinianus 179 Paul 14, 24, 49, 51 Paul of Edessa 2, 5 Paul the Silentiary 150 Peter 14 Peter of Callinicus 65 Peter the Iberian 6, 144 Peter Knapheus (the Fuller) of Antioch 128, 146, 147, 151 Peter Mongos, Patriarch of Alexandria 128 Philippikos Bardanes, emperor 154, 155 Philoxenos of Mabbug 130, 151, 152 Pisidia 1, 5 Porphyry 134, 140 prosopon 92 Ps-Macarius 56, 57 Ps-Dionysius/Dionysius the Areopagite 144, 148, 149 Ravenna 144 Romanos 174 Romanos, bishop of Rhossos
Sabellianism 66 Severus 1, 2, 2n5, 3, 3n13, 4, 5, 5n21, 6, 7, 7n32, 7n35, 8, 8n36, 9–11, 65 asceticism 47, 61, 63, 150 Church unity 124, 131
index education 1, 5, 178 exegesis 6, 8, 9, 160 Henotikon of Zeno 130 homilies 183 iconoclasm 138, 139 letters 10, 32, 47, 160 monk 1, 1n1, 5–7 New Testament exegesis 164 Old Testament exegesis 162 reputation 38, 124, 161 rhetoric 49 sermons 21, 47, 150, 161 successors of 136 theoria 165 Song of Songs 163 St. Drosis 150 Stephen the Younger 156 Stoicism 47, 55, 59 Succensus 4 testimonia 168, 174 Theodore 176
Theodore of Mopsuestia 22, 132, 142, 177 Theodore the Stoudite 147 Theodoret of Cyrus 57, 168, 175 Theodosios of Alexandria 132, 135 Theodosius ii, emperor 140 Theophanes the Confessor 151, 155 theophanies 170 Theophylact Simocatta 141 theoria 171, 177 Theotokia 186–188 Timothy Ailouros, Patriarch of Alexandria 128 Tome of Leo 41 tranquillity 56, 57, 61, 62 Tritheism 66 two natures 41 Vigilius, Pope
Zacharias Scholasticus 174 Zeno, emperor 125, 128