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byzantine_theology J. Meyendorf

byzantine_theology J. Meyendorf

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Published by Serafino Liuzzi

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Published by: Serafino Liuzzi on Dec 19, 2010
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Excerpts from
“Byzantine Theology,”
Historical trends and doctrinal themesBy John Meyendorff 
(Please get the full version of this book at your bookstore)
Byzantine Theology after Chalcedon.
Exegetical traditions. Philosophical trends. The Problem of Origenism. Pseudo-Dionysius. Liturgy.
The Christological Issue.
The Monophysites. The Strict Dyophysites. The Cyrillian Chalcedonians. The Origenists.
The Iconoclastic Crisis.
Appearance of the Movement. Iconoclastic Theology. Orthodox Theology of Images:John of Damascus and the Seventh Council. Orthodox Theology of Images: Theodore theStudite and Nicephorus. Lasting Significance of the Issue.
Monks and Humanists.
Theodore the Studite. Photius (ca. 820
ca. 891). Michael Psellos (1018-1078). TheTrials of John Italos (1076-1077, 1082).
Monastic Theology.
The Origins of Monastic Thought: Evagrius and Macarius. The Great Spiritual Fathers.Opposition to Secular Philosophy. Christian Faith as Experience: Symeon the NewTheologian. Theology of Hesychasm: Gregory Palamas.
Ecclesiology: Canonical Sources.
The Councils and the Fathers. Imperial Legislation. Codifications of Ecclesiastical Law.Authoritative Commentaries and Criticism. Synodal and Patriarchal Decrees.
The Schism Between East and West.
. Other Controversies. Authority in the Church. Two Ideas of Primacy. TheMeaning of the Schism.
Encounter with the West.
The Circle of Cantacuzenos. Humanists. Palamite Theologians: Nicholas Cabasilas.Florence.
 Lex orandi 
The “Great Church” of Constantinople. The Liturgical Cycles. Hymnology. 
Doctrinal Themes. Creation.
Creator and Creatures. The Divine Plan. The Dynamism of Creation. Sanctification of  Nature.
Man and God. Man and the World. Original Sin. The New Eve.
Jesus Christ.
God and Man. Redemption and Deification. The
The Holy Spirit.
The Spirit in Creation. The Spirit and Man’s Redemption. The Spirit and the Church. TheSpirit and Man’s Freedom.
The Triune God.
Unity and Trinity. Hypostasis, Essence, and Energy. The Living God. 
Sacramental Theology: The Cycle of Life.
 Number of Sacraments. Baptism and Chrismation. Penance. Marriage. Healing andDeath.
The Eucharist.
Symbols, Images, and Reality. Eucharist and Church.
The Church in the World.
Church and Society. The Mission of the Church. Eschatology.
Byzantine Theology after Chalcedon.
onstantinople, the great cultural melting pot, the “New Rome” and capital of the empire, didnot produce any real outstanding theologian in the fifth and sixth centuries; but the city wit-nessed the great theological debates of the day since their conclusion often depended upon impe-rial sanction. Bishops, monks, exegetes, and philosophers coming to the capital to seek favour and support created around the Episcopal see of the imperial city, from which the government’stheological advisers were usually drawn, a convergence of ideas, and a predisposition to syn-cretic and compromise solutions. The bishops of Constantinople and their staffs however werestill able to defend explicit theological convictions, even against the imperial will, as the lonely pro-Chalcedonian stand adopted by the patriarchs, Euphemius (489-495) and Macedonius II(495-511), under the reign of the Monophysite emperor Anastasius, bears witness. Thus, a theol-ogy, which can be termed specifically “Byzantine” in contrast to the earlier currents of EasternChristian thought and centred mainly in Egypt and Syria, comes into being during the post- 2
Chalcedonian period. It would receive an official sanction under Justinian (527-565) and an ex- pression in the balanced synthesis of Maximus the Confessor (†662).It would have seemed that no individual figure played a decisive role in the formation of this theology, and one could be equally hard-pressed to locate any school or other intellectualcentre in the capital where the theological thought was creatively elaborated. Though it seemedreasonable to assume that a theological school for the training of higher ecclesiastical personnelwas connected with the patriarchate, sources about its character or the levels of its teaching werewanting. A centre of theological learning was attested at the famous monastery of the
 (the “Non-Sleepers”), and others certainly existed elsewhere, but very little was specificallyknown about them. Theologians, who were active during the fifth and sixth centuries, often re-ceived their training in distant parts of the empire, such as Syria or Palestine. The Lavra of St.Sabbas near Jerusalem, for example, was the scene of violent debates between competing Ori-genist factions.The imperial, secular University of Constantinople, founded by Constantine and reorgan-ized by a decree of Theodosius II (408-450), did not include theology among its subjects; yet itcertainly served as a channel for the perpetuation of ancient Greek philosophical ideas. The uni-versity remained bilingual (Greek and Latin) until the seventh century and until the reign of Justinian and included pagans among its professors. But the drastic measures taken by Justinianin excluding both, pagans and non-Orthodox Christians, from the teaching profession and inclosing the pagan University of Athens must have emphasized that the role of secular studies inChristian Byzantium was purely ancillary. Even if a small circle of intellectuals perpetuated the philosophical traditions of the ancient Greeks, the official position of both, Church and state,now considered philosophy as at best a tool for expressing Revelation, but it never admitted that philosophy was entitled to shape the very content of theological ideas. In practice, one mightreadily admit that Aristotelian logic is to be taught in the schools, but one would be consistentlydistrustful of Platonism because of its metaphysical implications. Yet Platonism would subsistthrough patristic literature mainly and especially through the Origenist tradition; but it wouldnever be formally acknowledged as a valid expression of religious ideas.Conservative in form and intent, Byzantine theology in the age of Justinian continually re-ferred to tradition as its main source. In particular, the Christological debates of the period con-sisted chiefly of a battle between exegetes of Scripture about philosophical terms adopted byChristian theology in the third and fourth centuries and about patristic texts making use of theseterms. Liturgical hymnology, which began to flourish at this time, incorporated the results of thecontroversies and often became a form of credal confession. The various elements of Byzantinetheological traditionalism dominated in the fifth and sixth centuries, constituted the basis of fur-ther creativity in the later periods, and required very special attention.
Exegetical traditions.
“It is necessary for those who preside over the churches... to teach all the clergy and the people... collectingout of divine Scripture the thoughts and judgments of truth but not exceeding the limits now fixed, nor vary-ing from the tradition of the God-fearing Fathers. But, if any issue arises concerning Scripture, it should not be interpreted other than as the luminaries and teachers of the Church have expounded it in their writings; letthem [the bishops] become distinguished for their knowledge of patristic writings rather than for composingtreatises out of their own heads.”

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