Tuesday, June 30, 2009

381 and Beyond (PTT)

Ayres (251-260), Behr (117-122)

We have already treated briefly the arrival of Gregory of Nazianzus in Constantinople in 380. The edict of Theodosius, Feb 28, 380, and his treatment of Demophilus of Constantinople, clearly marked the new Imperial agenda. Jan 10th, 381 Theodosius forbade the use of churches and worship within city walls to various 'heretics'; Ayres notes that in this, and subsequent decrees, Theodosius describes a basic formulation of pro-Nicene Trinitarian theology, without any dependence upon a technical terminology.

Subsequently, he summoned the council of Constantinople, which opened May 31st, presided over by Meletius. There was no western representation at the council. 36 'Macedonians' came, but after conciliation failed, withdrew. An Egyptian delegation turned up late (Peter having died in February). Meletius died mid-council, and Gregory took over. He pushed for Paulinus in Antioch, but the council consecrated Flavian (a member of Paulinus' community, backed by the Syrians) instead. The Egyptian delegation, on arrival, raised objections to Gregory's legitimacy, not least in the transferral of see from Nazianzus to Constantinople; this was certainly connected to Peter of Alexandria's earlier persuasions to Maximus the Cynic to usurp Gregory's place in the capital. Gregory, losing support and patience with the council, resigned from both presidency and episcopacy, and retired to his country home; Nectarius, an unbaptised civil official was elected bishop, and presided until its conclusion in July. 4 canons were issued:

1. Endorsing Nicaea and anthematising Eunomians, Eudoxians, Pneumatomachians, Sabellians, Marcellians, Photinians, and Apollinarians (and all stripes of 'Arianism');
2. concerning episcopal sees and boundaries;
3. placing the honour of Constaninople after Rome, curtailing Alexandria's influence,
4. voiding Maximus the Cynic's bishopric and all his ordinations.

Lastly, it produced the creed, and issued a Tome. The creed is undocumented from the council itself, but is known from Chalcedon. Among significant changes are the extended statement on the Spirit, the omission of 'from the ousia of the Father' (Ayres suggests the precise wording of the creed was not as intensely formulated as we might think, and that Basil-Meletius and their circles were less attached to the phrase, cf. the significance in Athanasius' thought), and the omission of Nicaea's anathemas (probably explicable by the fact that the Council did not meet to condemn someone present at the council, cf. Arius at Nicaea).

July 30, 381, Theodosius issues a further edict, confirming the council. Behr writes, “ This edict is the imperial stamp on the pro-Nicene position settled upon at the Council of Constantinople, making it the official religion of the Roman Empire”. Western councils, while generally pro-Nicene in theology, met at Aquileia 381 and Rome 382, complaining and protesting the proceedings of Constantinople (not least re-ordering the prestige of metropolitan sees).

Constantinople is certainly not 'the end', though it is the triumph, not of a creed, but of a way of doing theology and speaking of God. In 383 Theodosius held a council and called for submissions of a statement of faith from all major sects; only pro-Nicenes and Novatianists were found acceptable. From 383-4 onwards Theodosius began to crack down on 'Eunomians', 'Macedonians', and 'Arians', though such communities persisted for quite some time.

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