BENEDICTINE DECONSTRUCTIONS

Mary, Mother of God or of Jesus? Anathematisms. Christian mob murders a pagan virgin

LOGOS VII BENEDICTINE DECONSTRUCTION BY DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
MOTHER OF GOD!

Clemens Brentano‟s account of the mystic Anna Katharine Emmerick‟s visions became the basis for the 1871 search for Mary‟s house conducted by two priests, formerly soldiers in the French army, Henry Jung and Eugene Poulin. They climbed the hill that overlooks Ephesus and found the ruins of a dwelling that had apparently been used as a chapel. We recall that the “City of the Mother Goddess” ( Aphasa, i.e. Ephesus.) was the site of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and an important regional headquarters for the Christian mission. It was in the Church of Mary within the confines of Ephesus that the famed A.D. 431 Council of Ephesus proclaimed the divinity of Mary‟s motherhood. The house found by the priests outside the city fit the mystic‟s description; local residents said the house had been recognized for centuries as the last residence of Meryem Anas, Mother Mary. Archeologists dated the abode to the first century; and said the village around the house had been built in the seventh century. Since then, not only Christians but Muslims as well go on pilgrimages to the house – the Koran declares the mother of
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Jesus to be “the only woman who has not been touched by the devil.” The actual location of Mary‟s final resting place is not certain: an empty tomb elsewhere used to be favored; it is the thought and not the thing that counts. Whatever the historical fact might be, Pope Benedict would celebrate Mass at Mary‟s House during his 2006 pilgrimage to Turkey. In a speech at Regensburg University shortly before his visit to Turkey, the Pope had expressed his admiration for “the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God…. God acts with logos…. Logos is God…. The mysterious name of God, revealed from the burning bush, a name which separates this God from all other divinities with their many names and declares simply that he is…pres ents a challenge to myth, to which Socrates‟ attempt to vanquish and transcend myth stands in close analogy…. This new understanding of God is accompanied by kind of enlightenment, which finds stark expression in the mockery of gods who are merely the work of human hands. Thus, despite the bitter conflict with those Hellenistic rulers who sought to accommodate it forcibly to the customs and idolatrous cult of the Greeks, biblical faith, in the Hellenistic period, encountered the best of Greek thought at a deep level…. Today we know that the Greek translation of the Old Testament…is an independent textual witness and a distinct and important step in the history of revelation, one which brought about this encounter in a way that was decisive for the birth and spread of Christianity…. Christianity, despite its origins and some significant developments in the East, finally took on its historically decisive character in Europe.” Finally, the convergence of Greek philosophy and Biblical faith, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, “created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe.” Anna Katharine Emmerick, beatified by Pope John Paul II on October 3, 2004, is well on her wayto becoming one of the saints, whose number must by now exceed the number of Greek gods and goddesses. Of course the Church claims that saints are not divinities or idolized human beings, but that claim makes little difference to devout folk who pray to saints and their images with various degrees of success – we need not make a spurious distinction here between idols fashioned by human minds and idols fashions by human hands. It does appear that Jesus has been idolized by Platonic reasoning: Christ Jesus is somehow man and god at once, part and parcel of the 3-in-1 deity who must exist mysteriously because the proposition 3=1 is logically absurd. And if the worship of Jesus and the saints is not idolatry, certainly Mariolatry is. Although her name does not appear in standard catalogues of goddesses, Virgin Mary is the goddess of the Roman Catholic Church. Long before the Pope Pius XII elevated her to Heaven on November 1, 1950, where she assumed her seat next to God, Mary was imbued with some of the divine graces of Artemis, the great virgin goddess of Ephesus whose temple was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. We have called Artemis among other things the Goddess of Margins because she was found on the margins of civilization and was invoked on the borders between life and
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death; for instance at the initiation of virgin girls, at childbirth, and during sacrifices before war. Now the ancient Church of Mary, the ruins of which still stand within the city of Ephesus, is not Mary‟s House on the hill. When the 431 Council of Ephesus was called to order at the Church of Mary, first of all to confirm the foregone conclusion that Mary should be called Theotokos or Mother of God, as insisted on by Archbishop Cyril of Alexandria, instead of Christokos or Mother of Christ, if not Anthropotokos, Mother of Man, or Theodokos, God Receiver, terms recommended by Archbishop Nestorius of Constantinople, women were allegedly marching about outside the assembly of 200 bishops, chanting, “Great is the Goddess of the Ephesians!” just as the idol craftsmen had chanted in favor of Artemis in Saint Paul‟s day when they were fearful that Christianity would ruin their business. Paul, like many other Jews who were jealous of their one-god, must have been an iconoclast since his proselytizing in his Hellenized homeland (now Turkey) was so much feared; but now that the Catholic Church was willing to incorporate pagan idolatry, presumably for educational purposes since most of the faithful were illiterate and the figures were deemed images rather than idols, the name „Mary‟ would replace „Artemis‟ for good. Mary was a kinder, or rather a more obedient goddess, one who worshipped her son in a way most becoming to patriarchal religion, at least more becoming than wild Artemis, the Greek Diana, and Mary‟s heroic Jewish predecessor, Miria m, who had a wild streak and wanted to be not only a priestess but a prophetess – perhaps it was Miriam, chanting and banging on her tambourine, who led the chosen people through the divided waters, and not Moses. Mary‟s innocuous title, Mother of God, h ad been popular for some time before the Council of Ephesus was called to sanction it. And Origen had expounded on the term Theotokos in the third century. A third-century Egyptian papyrus unearthed in 1938 bears a short prayer, now called Sub Tuum praesidium, to the Virgin Mary: “We fly to your patronage, O holy Mother of God. Despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us from all dangers, O glorious and Blessed Virgin.” That is not to say that the esteemed fathers of the Church worshiped Mary as a goddess, although they certainly revered her – one pope, however, was said to have idolized the Black Virgin, perhaps Isis. In any case the dispute was nothing new: Epiphanius (ca. 310-403), a bishop of Cyprus who fought heresies in the fourth century, took issue with the Collyridians, a women‟s sect who worshipped Mary as a goddess, as well as with the heretics who denied that Mary was “ever -virgin,” in his Panarion (circa 375) or “Medicine Chest” against heresies The Collyridians of Arabia offered little bread rolls or cakes to Mary on their table or altar - the Greek word for the cakes, κολλυρις, appears in the Septuagint. The “Antidicomarians, who say that the holy, ever-virgin Mary had relations with Joseph after bearing the Savior,” are numbe r 78 on Epiphanius‟ list of heresies; the Collyridians are number 79: “(They) offer a loaf in the name of this same Mary on a certain set day of the year. I have given them a
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name to correspond with their practice, and called them Collyridians.” Further: “ Some women decorate a sort of bench or rectangular litter, spreading a linen cloth over it, on an annual feast day, placing on it a loaf and offering it up in the name of Mary; then all communicate in that loaf . . . . They tell us that certain women, come here from Thrace, from Arabia, make a loaf in the name of the Ever-Virgin, assemble together in one selfsame place and carry out quite irregular actions in the name of the Blessed Virgin, undertaking to do something blasphemous and forbidden and performing in her name, by means of women, definitely priestly acts .” F. J. Dölger presented his detailed study of the sect in Die eigenartige Marienverehrung der Philomarianiten oder Kollyridianer. He concluded that the “Lord‟s table” was a stool or square seat, and the „collyris‟ was a small loaf of pure flour similar to the ones given to children. Ephipanius was no doubt an authority on the status of Mary in his day: he made his traditional patriarchal prejudice clear: Regardless of the reverence for Mary, women are not qualified for the priesthood – he himself refused to ordain females: Panarion 79, §1. „Who are there that teach such things apart from women? In very truth, women are a feeble race, untrustworthy and of mediocre intelligence. Once again we see that the Devil knows how to make women spew forth ridiculous teachings, as he has just succeeded in doing in the case of Quintilla, Maxima and Priscilla.‟ Panarion 79, § 2. “Courage, servants of God, let us invest ourselves with all the qualities of men and put to flight this feminine madness. These women repeat Eve‟s weakness and take appearance for reality. But let us get to the heart of the subject . . . Never, anywhere, has any woman acted as priest for God, not even Eve; even after her fall she was never so audacious as to put her hand to an undertaking so impious as this; nor did any of her daughters after her ever do so…. Many men in the Old Testament offered sacrifices but nowhere has a woman exercised the priesthood.” Panarion 79, § 3. “I come now to the New Testament. If women had been appointed to act as priests on behalf of God, or to perform official liturgical acts in the Church, it must surely have come about that Mary herself, who received the privilege of carrying in her bosom the Sovereign King, the heavenly God, God‟s Son, would in the New Testament have exercised the priestly office. But she did not judge such action to be right. She was not even entrusted with the bestowal of Baptism, since the Christ himself was baptized not by her but by John . . . . It was the Apostles who were entrusted with these ministries and they appointed their successors . . . Never has a woman been appointed amongst bishops and priests. But, someone will say, there were the four daughters of Philip, who prophesied. Yes, but they did not exercise the priestly office. And it is true that there is the Order of Deaconesses in the Church. But they are not permitted to act as priests or have anything to do with that office.” Panarion 79, § 4. “Deaconesses serve bishops a nd priests on grounds of propriety, it may be in connection with the care of women who are sick, it may be in connection with the Baptismal Rite . . . That is why the Word of God does not permit
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a woman to teach in the Church, or to lord it over men . . .This you must also carefully observe that only the office of deaconesses was necessary in the ecclesiastical order; also „widows‟ are mentioned by name, and among them the seniormost are called „elders‟ (Greek: presbytidas), but they have never been made women presbyters (presbyteridas) or women priests (sacerdotissas).” In any event the issue taken up by the synod at Ephesus in 431 had more to do with the divinity of manly Jesus than with declaring his earthly mother divine. Some advocates for the use of Theotokos had insisted that the term simply meant that Mary gave birth to the son of God, the son who had always been with God‟s potency, and that was not to say that she bore God the Father himself, the very Godhead. Theotokos as far as they were concerned was not meant to honor Mary as a deity in her own right, but simply to explain the status of her issue in the divine scheme of things. Therefore Theotokos should not to be confused with Dei Genetrix, a feminine generator or originator of God. In fine, the theological nature of Jesus was at stake at the 431 Council of Ephesus, as well as the eternal existence of God. The status of his popular mother, whom Nestorius of Antioch, now the meddling, heretic-hunting Patriarch of Constantinople, had presumably publicly insulted, was merely a pretext for convoking the prejudicial synod at Ephesus, the city founded by the Amazons, a city where the Goddess by whatever name had always been in vogue. Politics as usual was at play behind the scenes, and that, not the pretext, was why the Cyril, the Patriarch of Alexandria, jealous of the Antiochene influence at Constantinople, where the Eastern emperor favored Nestorius, complained to the Latin pope in Rome; Celestine was duly flattered by Cyril‟s appeal from the East, a nd ordered Nestorius deposed if he did not recant. Theologically speaking, if Jesus was God and Mary was God‟s mother, then it would naturally stand to reason that God did not exist beforehand; furthermore, it would seem to follow that, if Jesus suffered crucifixion, and if Jesus and God were the same being, then God must have suffered too. Such propositions were preposterous as far as some reasonable men were concerned, but they were apparently not in direct touch with the mysterious Logos, which, to reiterate, they believed could not suffer although the flesh obviously can. If Christ Jesus is the true model for humankind, he must have had his complete manhood with its human soul, as well as his impassible [impassive, not subject to pain] divine experience. The theological issue was Greek to most people, whose clamor and sometimes riotous behavior had to be incited with vulgar terms; they were by no means stupid to the political implications of what was really a power-struggle between Alexandria, Antioch, and Constantinople, as represented by their bigoted archbishops, with the city of Ephesus serving as gobetween. It seems that the Christian doctrine of universal love requires enemies to hate in order to love thy neighbors, as Sigmund Freud duly noted in Civilization and its Discontents:
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“The commandment, „Love thy neighbor as thyself,‟ is the strongest defense against human aggressiveness and an excellent example of the unpsychological proceedings of the cultural super-ego. The commandment is impossible to fulfill; such an enormous inflation of love can only lower its value…. Anyone who follows such a precept in present-day civilization only puts himself at a disadvantage vis-à-vis the person who disregards it. What a potent obstacle to civilization aggressiveness must be, if the defense against it can cause as much unhappiness as aggressiveness itself!” Of course a Hellenized Christian would platonically respond that virtue is its own reward, that it is better to suffer and evil than to do one, and that suffering willingly is the crux of Christianity. “So long as virtue is not rewarded here on earth,” Freud continues, “ethics will, I fancy, preach in vain…. A real change in the relations of human beings to possessions would be of more help in this direction than any ethical commands, but the recognition of this fact among socialists has been obscured and made useless for practical purposes by a fresh misconception of human nature.” He takes the communist system to task for its materialistic illusion, that the abolition of private property will resolve the problem of aggression, for “aggressiveness was not created by property. It reigned almost without limited in primitive times, when property was very scanty…. It forms the basis of every relation of aff ection and love among people…. If we do away with personal rights over material wealth, there still remains prerogative in the field of sexual relationships, which is bound to become the source of the strongest dislike and the most violent hostility among who are in other respects on an equal footing.” Furthermore, he claimed, doing away with the nuclear family will not remove aggressiveness from the scene. “It is clearly bit easy for men to give up the satisfaction of this inclination to aggression…. The a dvantage which a comparatively small cultural group offers of allowing this instinct an outlet in the form of hostility against intruders is not to be despised. It is always possible to bind together a considerable number of people in love, so long as there are other people left over to receive the manifestations of their aggressiveness.” Freud compliments his fellow Jews for serving as scapegoats in Christian countries so a difference could be drawn between them and their hosts. “But unfortunately all the massacres of the Jews in the Middle Ages did not suffice to make the period more peaceful and secure for their Christian fellows. When once the Apostle Paul had posited universal love between men as the foundation of the Christian community, extreme intolerance on the part of Christendom towards those who remained outside of it became the inevitable consequence. To the Romans, who had not founded their communal life as a State upon love, religious intolerance was something foreign, although with them religion was a concern of the State and the State was permeated by religion.” Now the Romans, whom our Pope Benedict naturally credits with influencing Christian culture laid the foundation of their culture on that of the Greeks – he did
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not mention that the Holy Roman Empire was seated in his homeland of Germany, where barbarians had had an invigorating influence on Christianity; when restoring the Roman Reichs, German anti-Jews eventually did their level best to take the Jew out of Jesus and make a Greek of him. The ancient imperialists tended to adopt the gods along with the people they conquered; the Roman Church followed suit to some extent by Christianizing many aspects of pagan religions; when the Church at times disrobed itself of the humility cloaking its pride, it proved itself to be extremely arrogant, intolerant and vicious. How could an institution of love be so perverted? We intend no insult to its god when we confess that the complex Christian religion is one sort of response to fear and hatred of perceived enemies; it is rooted in generalized self-love and self-contempt, in love for and hatred of one‟s own kind; indeed, love sharpens the sword. LOGOMACHY “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth,” said Jesus, according to the Gospel of Matthew; “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man‟s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” If Sigmund Freud is correct, simply abandoning the nuclear family and its social mores, and getting rid of property in order to pass through the eye of the needle into a common life, shall not rid human beings of their aggressiveness. The Christian Kingdom of God may be democratic or even communistic, but it shall be a totalitarian utopia governed by an absolute monarch. Until then there shall be plenty of swordplay if not wordplay. Confronted by the Roman Empire, many Jews revolted while Christians resorted to fantasy. The Romans deemed Christians anti-social, intolerant and atheistic. When the end did not occur immediately as expected, Christianity coveted the state religion for itself; unlike the Roman state religion, Christiandom would have no gods but its own god, a jealous god, and such a god would have to be carefully defined in councils convoked by emperors for whom Christianity was convenient if not their own faith. Even before the Church filled the political vacuum left by the Roman Empire, its regional sees assumed considerable political power, a secular power most vexing to the emperors. The seemingly trivial squabbles over the nature of Jesus and his mother might seem silly in retrospect – mutual intolerance led to dogmatic complexity instead of a simple statement of belief – but we should know that people took their religion, the worship of Power, very seriously in those days, because of its political (distribution of Power) ramifications. The symbolic speculations in the councils were one thing, but the deposition and exile of an overarching archbishop by his loving peers might have a very real impact on the
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ground through the reconstitution of government. As for the divine status of Mary, of course sexual politics were at play. Still, as can be seen by this excursus on the term theotokos – god-bearer or mother of god – pious Christian Platonists may actually believe the manmade words stand for concrete realities well worth fighting over: “There have been some who have tried to reduce all the great theological controversies on the Trinity and on the Incarnation to mere logomachies [word-wars], and have jeered at those who could waste their time and energies over such trivialities. For example, it has been said that the real difference between Arius [condemned at Nicea in 325 for believing that the begotten Son could not be of the same being as the unbegotten Godhead, following the Aristotelian logic of his teacher Lucian of Antioch] and Athanasius [of Alexandria; following Origen‟s occult path, holding that Father and Son are one in nature] was nothing more nor less than an iota, and that even Athanasius himself, in his more placid, and therefore presumably more rational moods [all those opposed are irrational], was willing to hold communion with those who differed from him and who still rejected the Homousian [Son and Father are the same substance as per the Creed decreed by the Nicene Council]. But however catching and brilliant such remarks may be, they lack all solid foundation in truth. It is perfectly manifest that a person so entirely lacking in discrimination as not to see the enormous difference between identity and likeness is not one whose opinion on such a point can be of much value. A brilliant historian is not necessarily an accurate historian, far less need he be a safe guide in matters of theological definition. A similar attempt to reduce to a logomachy the difference between the Catholic faith and Nestorianism has been made by some writers of undoubted learning among Protestants, notably by Fuchs and Schrockh. But as in the case of the homousios so, too, in the case of the theotocos the word expresses a great, necessary, and fundamental doctrine of the Catholic faith. It is not a matter of words, but of things, and the mind most unskilled in theology cannot fail to grasp the enormous difference there is between affirming, as does Nestorianism, that a God indwelt a man with a human personality of his own distinct from the personality of the indwelling god; and that God assumed to himself human nature, that is a human body and a human soul, but without human personality.” ( Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd series, Vol. XIV, edition by H.R. Percival) Suffice it for foolish historians to say that the universalizing tendency of Church and Empire were confronted with parochial interests; therefore ecclesiastical councils were called by emperors, who sometimes sat in with them, for the purpose of formulating authoritative creeds or articles of faith in an attempt to establish and maintain the imperial church-state identity in a diverse, discontinuous environment. Curious readers most unskilled in theology might want to decide for themselves as to the archetypical reality of the bare bones of contention of the Nestorian Controversy after pondering on the twelve anathematisms of Cyril together with the twelve counter-anathematisms drafted by Nestorius. And while doing so they shall enjoy the
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sort of Greek reasoning our current pope extolled at Regensburg University. Cyril‟s Anathematisms against Nestorius are located in „St. Cyril's Opera‟ in Jac ques Paul Migne‟s, Patrologia Graeca, Tom. LXXVII., Col. 119; and the Concilia. Nestorius‟ Anathematisms against Cyril may be found in Migne's edition of Marius Mercator, an ecclesiastic writer who lived 390-451 I. ANATHEMATISM CYRIL: If anyone will not confess that the Emmanuel is very God, and that therefore the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God (Qeotokos), inasmuch as in the flesh she bore the Word of God made flesh {as it is written, "The Word was made flesh"] let him be anathema. NESTORIUS: If anyone says that the Emmanuel is true God, and not rather God with us, that is, that he has united himself to a like nature with ours, which he assumed from the Virgin Mary, and dwelt in it; and if anyone calls Mary the mother of God the Word, and not rather mother of him who is Emmanuel; and if he maintains that God the Word has changed himself into the flesh, which he only assumed in order to make his Godhead visible, and to be found in form as a man, let him be anathema. II. ANATHEMATISM CYRIL: If anyone shall not confess that the Word of God the Father is united hypostatically to flesh, and that with that flesh of his own, he is one only Christ both God and man at the same time: let him be anathema. NESTORIUS: If any one asserts that, at the union of the Logos with the flesh, the divine Essence moved from one place to another; or says that the flesh is capable of receiving the divine nature, and that it has been partially united with the flesh; or ascribes to the flesh, by reason of its reception of God, an extension to the infinite and boundless, and says that God and man are one and the same in nature; let him be anathema. III. ANATHEMATISM CYRIL: If anyone shah after the [hypostatic] union divide the hypostases in the one Christ, joining them by that connexion alone, which happens according to worthiness, or even authority and power, and not rather by a coming together (sunodw), which is made by natural union (enwsin fusikhn): let him be anathema.

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NESTORIUS: If any one says that Christ, who is also Emmanuel, is One, not [merely] in consequence of connection, but [also] in nature, and does not acknowledge the connection (sunafeia) of the two natures, that of the Logos and of the assumed manhood, in one Son, as still continuing without mingling; let him be anathema. IV. ANATHEMATISM CYRIL: If anyone shall divide between two persons or subsistences those expressions (fwnas) which are contained in the Evangelical and Apostolical writings, or which have been said concerning Christ by the Saints, or by himself, and shall apply some to him as to a man separate from the Word of God, and shall apply others to the only Word of God the Father, on the ground that they are fit to be applied to God: let him be anathema. NESTORIUS: If any one assigns the expressions of the Gospels and Apostolic letters, which refer to the two natures of Christ, to one only of those natures, and even ascribes suffering to the divine Word, both in the flesh and in the Godhead; let him be anathema. V. ANATHEMATISM CYRIL: If anyone shall dare to say that the Christ is a Theophorus [that is, Godbearing] man and not rather that he is very God, as an only Son through nature, because "the Word was made flesh," and "hath a share in flesh and blood as we do:" let him be anathema. NESTORIUS: If any one ventures to say that, even after the assumption of human nature, there is only one Son of God, namely, he who is so in nature (naturaliter filius=Logos), while he (Since the assumption of the flesh) is certainly Emmanuel; let him be anathema. VI. ANATHEMATISM CYRIL: If anyone shall dare say that the Word of God the Father is the God of Christ or the Lord of Christ, and shall not rather confess him as at the same time both God and Man, since according to the Scriptures, "The Word was made flesh": let him be anathema. NESTORIUS: If anyone, after the Incarnation calls another than Christ the Word, and ventures to say that the form of a servant is equally with the Word of God, without beginning and uncreated, and not rather that it is made by him as its natural
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Lord and Creator and God, and that he has promised to raise it again in the words: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will build it up again"; let him be anathema. VII. ANATHEMATISM CYRIL: If anyone shah say that Jesus as man is only energized by the Word of God, and that the glory of the Only-begotten is attributed to him as something not properly his: let him be anathema. NESTORIUS: If any one says that the man who was formed of the Virgin is the Only-begotten, who was born from the bosom of the Father, before the morning star was (Ps. cix., 3)(1), and does not rather confess that he has obtained the designation of Only-begotten on account of his connection with him who in nature is the Onlybegotten of the Father; and besides, if any one calls another than the Emmanuel Christ let him be anathema. VIII. ANATHEMATISM CYRIL: If anyone shall dare to say that the assumed man (analhfqenta) ought to be worshipped together with God the Word, and glorified together with him, and recognised together with him as God, and yet as two different things, the one with the other (for this "Together with" is added [i. e., by the Nestorians] to convey this meaning); and shall not rather with one adoration worship the Emmanuel and pay to him one glorification, as [it is written] "The Word was made flesh": let him be anathema.. NESTORIUS: If any one says that the form of a servant should, for its own sake, that is, in reference to its own nature, be reverenced, and that it is the ruler of all things, and not rather. that [merely] on account of its connection with the holy and in itself universally-ruling nature of the Only-begotten, it is to be reverenced; let him be anathema. IX. ANATHEMATISM CYRIL If any man shall say that the one Lord Jesus Christ was glorified by the Holy Ghost, so that he used through him a power not his own and from him received power against unclean spirits and power to work miracles before men and shall not rather confess that it was his own Spirit through which he worked these divine signs; let him be anathema. NESTORIUS: If anyone says that the form of a servant is of like nature with the Holy Ghost, and not rather that it owes its union with the Word which has existed since the
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conception, to his mediation, by which it works miraculous healings among men, and possesses the power of expelling demons; let him be anathema. X. ANATHEMATISM CYRIL: Whosoever shall say that it is not the divine Word himself, when he was made flesh and had become man as we are, but another than he, a man born of a woman, yet different from him (idikws anqrwpon), who is become our Great High Priest and Apostle; or if any man shall say that he offered himself in sacrifice for himself and not rather for us, whereas, being without sin, he had no need of offering or sacrifice: let him be anathema. NESTORIUS: If any one maintains that the Word, who is from the beginning, has become the high priest and apostle of our confession, and has offered himself for us, and does not rather say that it is the work of Emmanuel to be an apostle; and if any one in such a manner divides the sacrifice between him who united [the Word] and him who was united [the manhood] referring it to a common sonship, that is, not giving to God that which is God's, and to man that which is man's; let him be anathema. XI. ANATHEMATISM CYRIL: Whosoever shall not confess that the flesh of the Lord giveth life and that it pertains to the Word of God the Father as his very own, but shall pretend that it belongs to another person who is united to him [i.e., the Word] only according to honour, and who has served as a dwelling for the divinity; and shall not rather confess, as we say, that that flesh giveth life because it is that of the Word who giveth life to all: let him be anathema. NESTORIUS: If any one maintains that the flesh which is united with God the Word is by the power of its own nature life-giving, whereas the Lord himself says, "It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing" (St. John vi. 61), let him be anathema. [He adds, "God is a Spirit" (St. John iv. 24). If, then, any one maintains that God the Logos has in a carnal manner, in his substance, become flesh, and persists in this with reference to the Lord Christ; who himself after his resurrection said to his disciples, "Handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye behold me having" (St. Luke xxiv. 39); let him be anathema.] XII. ANATHEMATISM

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CYRIL: Whosoever shall not recognize that the Word of God suffered in the flesh, that he was crucified in the flesh, and that likewise in that same flesh he tasted death and that he is become the first-begotten of the dead, for, as he is God, he is the life and it is he that giveth life: let him be anathema. NESTORIUS: If any one, in confessing the sufferings of the flesh, ascribes these also to the Word of God as to the flesh in which he appeared, and thus does not distinguish the dignity of the natures; let him be anathema. HISTORY OF THE QUESTION Nestorius had become a monk at Antioch, an eloquent preacher with a reputation for austerity. He was appointed Archbishop of Constantinople and was consecrated in April 428 thanks to the influence of the Eastern emperor, Theodosius II, who was vexed by the ecclesiastical struggle for power in the capital city and thought it would be best to bring in an outsider. It did not take Nestorius long to make enemies. A few days after taking office, he proceeded with a fierce campaign against sundry heretics, promising the emperor a residence in Heaven in return for his cooperation in purging the earth of all heretics: “Give me, O Caesar, give me the earth purged of heretics, and I will give you in exchange the kingdom of heaven. Exterminate with me the heretics, and with you I will exterminate the Persians!” Nestorius was labeled an “incendiary” forthwith: Arians apparentl y set fire to themselves to protest their persecutor, and the flames spread to neighboring homes. The so-called Nestorian Controversy took public shape after Nestorius brought presbyter Anastasius into Constantinople from Antioch – his fellow Antiochenes, although they rejected the Arian heresy, tended to emphasize the humanity of Jesus. Anastasius was reported to have declared, “Let no one call Mary Theotocos [god bearer], for Mary was but a woman, and it was impossible that God should be born of a woman.” Furthermore, a certain Dorotheus, Bishop of Marcianopolis, was received by Nestorius in Holy Communion after Dorotheus had proclaimed, 'Anathema, if any call the holy Mary, Theotocos,' a stance on nomenclature that seemed to anathematize the entire Catholic Church. Such declamations against Theotokus were not well received, particularly not by Nestorius‟ archenemy, the Patriarch of Alexandria. It diverged somewhat from the doctrine of Theodore, bishop of Mopsuesta in Cilicia, known by the Nestorians as “the Interpreter,” who had died before Nestorius went to Constantinople. The ecclesiastical historian and Bishop of Rottenburg, Karl Joseph von Hefele (1809-1893) quotes Theodore , in his chapter on the Nestorian Controversy in History of the Councils „“Mary,” said Hefele, “bare Jesus, not the Logos, for the Logos was and remained omnipresent, although from the beginning He dwelt in Jesus in a peculiar manner.
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Thus Mary is properly the Christ-bearer, not the God-bearer. Only figuratively, per anaphoram, can she be called God-bearer also, because God was in Christ in a remarkable manner. Properly she bare a man, in whom the union with the Logos was begun, but was still so little completed, that He was not yet (but only from the time of His baptism) called the Son of God.” And in another passage he remarks: “It is madness to say that God is born of the Virgin... not God, but the temple in which God dwelt, is born of Mary.”‟ We recall Augustine‟s notion to the effect that man is free only to sin; that freedom is really slavery to human nature. In the final analysis, then, man is truly free only as God‟s willing slave; that is, in voluntary obedience to all of God‟s laws – we can only hope that he knows what those laws really are. But Christ Jesus does not obey God for he is God, and he alone is sinless: he can do no wrong, nor would he be tempted by Satan temptations. Hefele writes, “Theodore holds most decidedly that complete humanity and so also moral freedom must be ascribed to the Redeemer. In order, however, to keep at a distance from the notion of the mutability of Christ – a theory which, however objectionable, seemed to be involved in that of His liberty – Theodore did not allow the idea of liberty to result in that of liberty of choice, but went on to the idea of a higher, ethical liberty, which consists in the unchangeable harmony of the human will with the divine, and ascribed to the human nature of Christ such a higher liberty, a kind of liberty which practically excluded all sin. So far he was right. But he further regarded the union of the divine and human in Christ only in the sense of indwelling, because to him the idea of Incarnation seemed to be identical with transmutation of the Logos into a man, and was therefore rejected by him as absurd.” If Jesus were a man he would have had to gradually perfect himself to fully correspond to his godhood, but that would mean that the man-god had two natures indwelling, a logical difficulty he tried to overcome by proposing that the two natures were united in one person, as is man and wife –some fathers referred to the divine-human relations as a “copulation.” And so on. If only Theodore of Mopsuesta had lived long enough, his views, which Nestorius lived to popularize, would have probably been declared anathema. However, although Theodore disliked the term theotokos, he would allow it to be used in the sense that Mary was both a god-bearer and a man-bearer inasmuch as she was mother to the man, but that man already had God indwelling in him at his birth. Theodore claimed the humanity of Jesus was perfectly sinless because it was united with the Person of the Divine Word which he had received as a reward; thus did the Word dwell in Jesus: “He united the assumed man entirely to Himself and fitted Him to be a partaker with Him of all the honor of which the indwelling Person who is Son by nature partakes.” And even Nestorius at one time conceded that he would be willing to tolerate the application of the noun Theotokos to Virgin Mary “as long as the Virgin is not made a goddess”; still, he otherwise denounced its use to the bitter end. And the same goes for the nature of Christ Jesus; as he declared in his
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autobiographical account, The Bazaar of Heracleides, written in exile. The Bazaar (verbal exchange) proceeds with an imaginary dialogue with a fictional “chief of saints”, a saintly inquisitor he calls Sophronius, to whom he also recites a protracted discussion of Christological issues. “But let yea be yea and nay nay in truth, so that Christ in truth and in nature may be confessed to be the saviour and the saved, God and man, who is in nature immortal and impassible as God and mortal and passible in nature as man. He is not God in both the natures nor yet man in both the natures. Therefore my own aim and my zeal is that God may be blessed and glorified even on earth as in heaven. But may Nestorius be anathematized; but may they say what I pray them to say concerning God. For I am of those who [are] with God and not of those who [are] against God, who scorn God himself in the schema of piety and make void [the fact] that he is God. For he was for the things [for] which I war, and they that war with me against him; and for this reason on his account I am pledged to endure and to suffer everything, so that by my own anathema would that every man might be [ready] enough to be reconciled unto God, because there is naught greater or more precious unto me than this.” Nestorius was moved by his love of the highest power to deliver a series of sermons defending Anastasius‟ statement in Constantinople: In his first Sermon he said he had been asked whether the Blessed Virgin was to be called 'Anthropotocos or Theotocos.' His response: “Has God a mother? Then heathendom may be excused, bringing in mothers to its gods. Then Paul is a liar, who saith of the Deity of Christ, 'without father, without mother, without descent.' Mary bore not God, my good friends. For that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. The creature bare not the Uncreated: the Father did not beget God the Word. For 'in the beginning was the Word,' as John saith. The creature did not bear the Creator, but she bare a Man, the instrument of Deity: the Holy Spirit did not create God the Word; for that which was born of her was of the Holy Spirit; but He framed of the Virgin for God the Word a temple wherein He should dwell.” And, “Let no one call Mary Theotokos, for Mary was but a woman, and it was impossible that God should be born of a woman.” From what we can glean from Nestorius‟ Bazaar, the supposedly offensive statement should be placed in the context of dogma already derived from heresies settled long before the statement was uttered by Anastasius. The Arian Controversy had been decided at Nicea, and Christians were eager to abide by the Creed established there but remained confused as to its interpretation in the context of Scripture. One “error” or “misbelief” that was troubling to the Antiochenes was that of the Apollinarian heresy, which held that Jesus was a sort of zombie or fleshly phantasm inhabited and controlled by the Logos; that is, the Son did not have a human soul, for the reason that such a worldly soul would constitute a corruption of divinity. Athanasius and some of the Apollinarians asserted that the Body was
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consubstantial or of the same substance of the Godhead, which might lead one to construe it as a phantasm. “[Apollinarius] disputed against Paul [of Samosata] and Photinus,” wrote Nestorius in the Bazaar, “in that he is the Word in nature a nd in hypostasis, and is eternal; but he erred in referring the things of the body to God the Word by a natural union….. And he further disputed on these two points with those who confess rightly, as though he was in charge of the company of the orthodox, and he exerted himself to bring his error into the church, and he has introduced controversy. Now this question came not about in the East and had long since vanished from the church which I found in Constantinople; and it began not in my days either in Constantinople or in the East, for I had not yet been born when the question arose concerning these things and was settled; and again the inquiry received not [its origin] in Constantinople from my words but in the time of my predecessors. Why then dost thou calumniate me, saying 'He has posed this inquiry', and call me an inventor of novelties and a cause of disturbance and war, me who have posed absolutely no such inquiry but, to be sure, found it in Antioch? And there I taught and spoke concerning these things and no man blamed me, and I supposed that this dogma had long been repudiated. But in Constantinople, when I found that men were inquiring and in need of being taught, I yielded to their persuasion as the truth required. For factions of the people who were questioning this came together to the bishop's palace, having need of a solution of their question and of arriving at unanimity. Those on the one hand who called the blessed Mary the mother of God they called Manichaeans, but those who named the blessed Mary the mother of a man Photinians . . . . But when they were questioned by me, the former denied not the humanity nor the latter the divinity, but they confessed them both alike, while they were distinct only in name: they of the party of Apollinarius accepted 'Mother of God' and they of the party of Photinus 'Mother of man'. But after I knew that they disputed not in the spirit of heretics, I said that neither the latter nor the former were heretics, [the former] because they knew not Apollinarius and his dogma, while similarly the latter [knew] the dogma neither of Photinus nor of Paul [of Samosata]. And I brought them back from this inquiry and from this dispute, saying that: 'If indistinguishably and without extrusion or denial of the divinity and of the humanity we accept what is said by them, we sin not; but if not, let us make use of that which is very plainly [affirmed], that is, of the Word of the Gospel: Christ was born and the Book of the generation of Jesus Christ. And by things such as these we confess that Christ is God and man, for of them was born in flesh Christ, who is God above all. 'When you call her the Mother of Christ, [Christ] by union and inseparate, you speak of the one and of the other in the sonship. But make use of that against which there is no accusation in the Gospel and settle this dispute among you, making use of a word which is useful toward agreement.' [i.e. that Mary should be called the mother of Jesus rather than the mother of God] When they heard these things, they said: 'Before God has our inquiry been solved.' And many
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praised and gave glory and went away from me and remained in agreement until they fell into the snare of those who were seeking for the episcopate. Now the clergy of Alexandria…persuaded them [of Con stantinople] as persons deceived that they should not accept the word 'Mother of Christ', and they were stirring up and making trouble and going around in every place and making use of everything as a help therein; for his [Cyril] clergy were sending word unto him, so that he also became their helper in everything, because long since he had been wounded by me; and he was in need of an excuse, because he had not been helped with what are called 'benevolences' [i.e. bribes]: and he was frightened of me because I had not helped his clergy.” According to the synod‟s report to Pope Celestine in Rome, unrepentant Nestorius would not hold his tongue on the subject even after he was deposed – legend has it that after his death in exile, the tongue of his corpse was eaten by worms. “”Even in the very metropolis of the Ephesians,” reads the Council‟s report to Pope Celestine, “he delivered a sermon to certain of the Metropolitan bishops, men who were not ignorant, but learned and God-fearing, in which he was bold enough to say, „I do not confess a two or three months old God,‟ and he said other things more outrageous than this.” The 431 Ephesus Council of 200 holy men was stacked against Nestorius, who did want to appear to defend his doctrine without the 30 or more bishops summoned from the East, whose leader was John of Antioch. The departure of the Eastern bishops for Ephesus had apparently been delayed by business at Antioch, or during the course of what was on the average a thirty-day journey in those days – Cyril‟s champions say the delay was deliberate. The Council, which amounted to little more than a kangaroo court whose prosecutor also served as judge, proceeded without the Eastern bishops, over the sole objection of Candidian, the Eastern emperor‟s representative. Cyril‟s Twelve Anathematisms, which appeared in his Third Letter to Nestorius, were read as an incontestable indictment; not a word of dissent was uttered against Cyril‟s indictment; when parts of Nestorius‟ counter -anathemas were read, the proceeding was interrupted by curses and anathemas; Nestorius was duly condemned, in a single day. The „Two Hundred Holy And Blessed Fathers who Met at Ephesus in A.D. 431‟ issued Canons naming and deposing certain Eastern bishops, and in general deposing any bishops who might have not shown up for the Council, having joined the apostasy, or who had taken part in the deposition but would change their mind and join the apostasy, as well as any clergy who might subscribe to the heresy, and so on; finally, “If any one shall bring forward a rule contrary to what is here determined, the holy and ecumenical Synod unanimously decrees that it shall be of no effect.” When the bishops of the East finally arrived, they convened a counter-Council of 30 bishops and summarily deposed Cyril, the Archbishop of Constantinople, and his chief supporter, bishop of Ephesus, not on the grounds that Nestorius was correct
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but on the grounds that the Synod had had no right to render its judgment without them. Cyril was declared to be a monster born and bred to destroy the Church. A civil disturbance ensued and imperial troops were called in to quell the violent disorder. In its letter to the emperors Theodosius and Valentinian, the Ephesian Synod claimed that John of Antioch had sent bishops Alexander of Apamea and Alexander of Hierapolis ahead to authorize the Synod to proceed in the absence of the Eastern bishops. The official council complained that John of Antioch, the leader of the Eastern party, “as soon as he was come to Ephesus, b efore he had even shaken off the dust of the journey, or changed his traveling dress, he assembled those who had sided with Nestorius and who had uttered blasphemies against their head, and only not derided the glory of Christ, and gathering as a college to himself, thirty men, having the name of bishops, some of whom were without sees, wandering about and having no dioceses, others again had for many years been deposed for serious causes from their metropolises…; he had the presumption to commit a piece of iniquity no man had ever done before. For all by himself he drew up a paper which he called a deposition, and reviled and reproached the most holy and reverend Cyril, bishop of Alexandria, and the most reverend Memnon, bishop of Ephesus…. But ignoring the anger of God for such behavior, and unheeding the ecclesiastical canons, and forgetting that they were hastening to destruction by such a course of action, and under the name of an excommunication, they then reviled the whole Synod. And placing these acts of theirs on a public bulletin board, they exposed them to be read by such as chose to do so, having posted them on the outside of theaters, that they might make a spectacle of their impiety.” Prior to the convocation of the Council of Ephesus, Nestoriu s‟ archenemy, Cyril, Archbishop of Alexandria, had been troubled by the news that Nestorius had allegedly insulted the nature of Mother Mary and the Son, hence the Heavenly Father too, and was otherwise disturbing the peace of Christianity in the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. Wherefore Cyril was duly moved, no doubt by his love for the highest power, to take issue with Archbishop Nestorius, who had risen from monkish pursuits to become the most politically powerful proponent of the Antiochene school – it dwelt on the humane virtues of the historical Jesus, while the Alexandrian school of course tended to emphasize the divinity of Christ. Cyril filed a full complaint about Nestorius‟ allegedly heretical conduct with Pope Celestine. We know little about Celestine‟s early life little is known except that he was a Roman, lived with Ambrose, and was most likely a great friend to Augustine. He took office during troubled times; on the one hand he had to deal with all sorts of heretics, and on the other there were barbarians proceeding towards the heart of the Western Empire. He is best known for his suppression of heresy and for sending St. Patrick to Ireland. He greatly pleased with Nestorius to begin with, at least until the Pelagians, whom he had banished from Rome, were well received by Nestorius in Constantinople. And even before he had received Cyril‟s full accounting of the heresy,
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he had heard rumors that Nestorius was preaching a dual personality for Jesus in Constantinople. In any case the Pope must have been flattered by Cyril‟s appeals, and, in a Roman synod of his own calling, he took sides with Cyril right off the bat even though the linguistic points of the argument must have been Greek to the Latinate pontiff. Celestine commissioned Cyril to execute his sentence: Nestorius must cease and desist an write a sincere retraction with ten days or be deposed and excommunicated. The Eastern emperor, who was sympathetic with Nestorius and his supporters, summoned a council to be held in Ephesus; but, as far as Celestine was concerned, the conclusion was foregone: his decision was final and the Council of Ephesus was compelled to honor it “by the sacred canons and the letters of Our Most Holy Father, Celestine, Bishop of the Roman Chuch.” “The Vatican received with open arms the messengers of Egypt,” wrote Gibbon. “The vanity of Celestine was flattered by the appeal; and the partial version by the monk decided the faith of the pope, who, with his Latin clergy, was ignorant of the language, the arts, and the theology of the Greeks. At the head of an Italian synod, Celestine weighed the merits of the cause, approved the creed of Cyril, condemned the sentiments and person of Nestorius; degraded the heretic from his episcopal dignity, allowed a respite of ten days for recantation of this rash and illegal sentence.” The result of the Nestorian Controversy was such that Cyril was sainted by the Church although he would become a disgrace to its sacred profession: His calling had summoned him from monkish life in the desert to the great city of Alexandria, where he soon became a famous orator. Once he had the patriarchal power of his see under him, he became the de facto civil magistrate of the Egyptian capital. He was backed up by armies of religious cohorts; for instance the the fanatical members of the parabolani, a charitable burial society that was hypothetically disbanded by the emperor for its depredations. Like his archenemy the Archbishop of Constantinople and other ambitious Christian bigots, the sainted Cyril loved nothing better than to persecute heretics. First of all, an upstart cult must persecute its forebears in order to secure an independent identity. Cyril violently attacked the prosperous community of Jews that had been ensconced in the city for centuries and whose privileges had been granted by Roman law: he led an extra-legal attack on the Jewish community, destroying their homes and businesses – the mob was rewarded with the plunder – the Jews fled and that was the end of the colony. Governor Orestes, the Prefect whose civic power Cyril was eager to usurp for himself, complained to the emperor about this outrage; consequently, one day Orestes‟ chariot was duly attacked by 500 Nitrian monks. Orestes had the monk who had bloodied his face with a hurled stone executed by his lictors. Cyril made a martyr of the criminal: he had the man dug up, changed his name to „Wonderful,‟ and praised him from the pulpit. A HYPATIAN EXCURSUS
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According to Edward Gibbon‟s entertaining History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Cyrus “prompted, or accepted, the sacrifice of a virgin, who professed the religion of the Greeks, and cultivated the friendship of Orestes.” Her name was Hypatia, an influential Greek woman of Alexandria who had been educated by her father, Theon, a mathematician and philosopher who was intrigued by Hermetic and Orphic texts. Hypatia, referred to by a contemporary correspondent as a divine guide to Platonic mysteries, was a popular teacher of the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, tutoring the elite in the mysteries at her residence and lecturing on more exoteric subjects before large audiences in public. Highly regarded for her modest attire and ethical conduct, she counseled civic leaders and visiting dignitaries. She took it upon herself to mediate between Imperial Prefect Orestes and Christian Patriarch Cyril in hopes of arriving at an amicable compromise, but she was seen by bigoted and violently disposed churchmen as ill disposed towards them; they resented and feared the friendship of her disciples with Byzantine emperor. “In the bloom of beauty and in the maturity of wisdom,” wrote Gibbon, “the modest maid refused her lovers and instructed her disciples…. A rumor was spread among the Christians that the daughter of Theon was the only obstacle to the reconciliation of the prefect and archbishop; and that obstacle was speedily removed. On a fatal day, in the holy season of Lent, Hypatia was torn from her chariot, stripped naked, dragged to the church, and inhumanly butchered by the hands of Peter the reader and a troop of savage and merciless fanatics: her flesh was scraped from her bones with sharp oyster-shells, and her quivering limbs were delivered to the flames. The just progress of inquiry and punishment was stopped by seasonable gifts; but the murder of Hypatia has imprinted an indelible stain on the character and religion of Cyril of Alexandria.” Soon after Hypatia was assassinated by Cyril‟s fanatical supporters, Orestes gave up the struggle and left the city to the power-mongering Christians. The city commissioners appealed to the Emperor to no avail, and the Christians had their way without further interference from Imperial appointees. Now Hypatia is a heroine of the modern feminist movement. Her story served protestants well as well: John Toland wrote an essay entitled Hypatia, or the History of a Most Beautiful, Most Virtuous, Most Learned and in Every Way Accomplished Lady; Who was Torn to Pieces by the Clergy of Alexandria, to Gratify the Pride, Emulation and Cruelty of the Archbishop, Commonly but Undeservedly Titled St. Cyril (1720) The Church countered with The History of Hypatia, a Most Impudent School-Mistress. In Defense of Saint Cyril and the Alexandrian Clergy from the Aspersions of Mr. Toland. In 1995, Harvard University Press published Maria Dzielska‟s recounting of the legend, Hypatia of Alexandria, which she pieced together from the few original sources. She estimated that Hypatia, in the maturity of her wisdom, was not exactly in t he “bloom” of her youth, but was probably aged sixty. Although some students believe that Dzielska‟s brief account somehow debunks the legend or myth of Hypatia, it varies little from that found
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within Gibbon‟s grandiloquent History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire written 1776-1778. One of Gibbon‟s most reliable original sources of information on the Christological controversies and his primary source for the story of Hypatia was her contemporary, Socrates the ecclesiastical historian. AN ASIDE ON THREE HISTORIANS Socrates the historian, named Scholasticus because he was a lawyer, was a resident of Constantinople; he had been educated there by two heathen grammarians, Helladius and Ammonius, they had fled Alexandria after rankling the e mperor‟s ire for retaliating against the Christians for attacking Alexandria‟s Greek idols and temples. Socrates like other lay persons of his day, when religion and politics were joined at the hip, took a keen interest in ecclesiastical controversies – to keep the reader from growing bored with the bishops‟ abstract logomachies, he inserted bloody accounts of physical violence into his history from time to time. He said he preferred to write about current events because he had witnessed them himself and did not have to write his own hearsay even when it was based on original accounts, which he sometimes found contradictory – he was careful to correct his histories when he found more plausible evidence elsewhere. “I write more fully of the famous acts done i n this city (Constantinople), partly because I behold most of them with my own eyes, partly because they are more famous and thought more worthy of others acts.” His love of historical truth and the fact that he was a lay writer kept him from personal involvement in religious persecution, which he had a keen eye for and despised; although he was relatively orthodox himself or subject to the well-received superstitions of his time, he was not afraid to praise good wherever he encountered it, hence he was accused of being a heretic for saying something good about the Novatians. And we must note that he was not violently opposed, like many of his fellow citizens of Constantinople, with Nestorius, its outsider archbishop; he said Nestorius, although an eloquent man, was ignorant of the philosophical developments of the ancient expositors, and he therefore spoke erroneously at times; he believed in the Godhead, but had made a bugbear or hobgoblin out of the word „Theotokos.‟ Unlike Edward Gibbon, who would have much in common with him 1,300 years later, Socrates the historian did not cotton to fancy talk: “I have not curiously addicted myself unto a lofty style, neither unto a glorious show of gay sentences; for so peradventure, in running after words and phrases I might have missed of my matter and failed of my purpose and intent…. Such a penning profiteth very little the vulgar and ignorant sort of people, who desire not so much the fine and elegant sort of phrase as the furtherance of their knowledge and the truth of history,” Gibbon, a son of the Enlightenment who dared to say that his account of the Middle Ages “described the triumph of barbarism and religion,” developed a penchant for theological controversy at a young age. He converted to Catholicism and
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then reconverted to Protestantism; as a historian, he ran afoul of the Church for his historical instead of supernatural treatment of the Roman institution, and his criticism of miracles and the Church‟s booming idolatry business: “The satisfactory experience that the relics of saints were more valuable than gold or precious stones stimulated the clergy to multiply the treasures of the church. Without much regard for truth or probability, they invented names for skeletons, and actions for names. The fame of the apostles, and of the holy men who had imitated their virtues, was darkened by religious fiction. To the invincible band of genuine and primitive martyrs they added myriads of imaginary heroes, who had never existed, except in the fancy of crafty or credulous legendaries…. But the progress of superstition would have been much less rapid and victorious if the faith of the people had not been assisted by the seasonable aid of visions and miracles to ascertain the authenticity and virtue of the most suspicious relics…. The innumerable miracles, of which the tombs of the martyrs were the perpetual theatre, revealed to the pious believer the actual state and constitution of the invisible world; and his religious speculations appeared to be founded on the firm basis of fact and experience. What ever might be the condition of vulgar souls in the long interval between the dissolution and the resurrection of their bodies, it was evident. that the superior spirits of the saints and martyrs did not consume that portion of their existence in silent and inglorious sleep. It was evident (without presuming to determine the place of their habitation or the nature of their felicity) that they enjoyed the lively and active consciousness of their happiness, their virtue, and their powers; and that they had already secured the possession of their eternal reward. The enlargement of their intellectual faculties surpassed the measure of the human imagination; since it was proved by experience that they were capable of hearing and understanding the various petitions of their numerous votaries, who, in the same moment of time, but in the most distant parts of the world, invoked the name and assistance of Stephen or of Martin. The confidence of their petitioners was founded on the persuasion that the saints, who reigned with Christ, cast an eye of pity upon earth; that they were warmly interested in the prosperity of the Catholic Church; and that the individuals who imitated the example of their faith and piety were the peculiar and favourite objects of their most tender regard…. The sublime and simple theology of the primitive Christians was gradually corrupted: and the MONARCHY of heaven, already clouded by metaphysical subtleties, was degraded by the introduction of a popular mythology which tended to restore the reign of polytheism….. As the objects of religion were gradually reduced to the standard of the imagination, the rites and ceremonies were introduced that seemed most powerfully to affect the senses of the vulgar.” Despite his keen sense of irony, lofty manner of writing – his style was much admired and sometimes imitated by Winston Churchill, Isaac Asimov, and Shoghi Effendi, author the primary works of the Bahai faith – and his personal contempt for the behavior of the Church of Rome, Gibbon was most interested in original
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documents bearing eyewitness reports of events; hence he was drawn to the like of Socrates the historian. "I have always endeavoured," Gibbon asserted, "to draw from the fountain-head; that my curiosity, as well as a sense of duty, has always urged me to study the originals; and that, if they have sometimes eluded my search, I have carefully marked the secondary evidence, on whose faith a passage or a fact were reduced to depend." Bishop Hefele‟s favorable view of Cyril and his position stands opposed to that of Edward Gibbon‟s denigrative perspective, and Christians have adjudged Hefele‟s history “impartial” by way of comparison; but we must keep in mind that Hefele was not only a devout Catholic but a bishop of the Church. He certainly was no pushover, and he did adhere to the facts of history the best he could. He opposed the dogma of papal infallibility when it was first proposed in council, and he even penned a paper elaborating his opposition; but in the end, as Karl van Hase wrote in Handbuch der Polemik gegen die römisch-katholische Kirche (1890), “"the bishop had strangled the scholar." Indeed, Hefele faithfully capitulated and made no bones about it, explaining that, “to tarry in the opposition party would have been inconsistent with my whole past. I would have set my own infallibility in the place of the infallibility of the Church."

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