Apollinarius on John 16:14

January 9, 2009

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. — John 16:13-15

The question of the meaning of John 16:13-15 is quite important for the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. If John 15:26 declares that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father,” John 16:13-15 indicates a relationship, perhaps an eternal one, of the Spirit with the Son. For numerous fathers, both Greek and Latin, the passage bears a strong interpretation; its language about the Holy Spirit “hearing” from the Son, “glorifying” the Son, and “receiving” from that which is the Son’s is interpreted to mean that, as the Holy Spirit is from the Father, so also is he from the Son, and that in an eternal sense. So St. Epiphanius: “Christ is believed to be from the Father, God from God, and the Spirit to be from Christ, or indeed from both (παρ᾽ ἀμφοτέρων) — as Christ says, ‘Who proceeds from the Father’ (Jn 15:26), and ‘He shall receive of mine’ (Jn 16:14)” (Epiphanius, Ancoratus 67). St. Photius rejected that interpretation of the passage, and claimed that, when Jesus says of the Holy Spirit that “he shall receive of mine” (ἐκ τοῦ ἐμοῦ λήμψεται), he means only that the Spirit shall receive from him that is mine, i.e., from the Father (cf. Photius, Mystagogy, §§ 22-23).

An examination of the sources would, I think, show that the Holy Spirit’s ontological dependence on the Son was one of the issues on which the Antiochene and Alexandrian schools of Christian thought disagreed, by the early fifth century at the latest. Like Photius, the Antiochenes took a weak view of the Spirit’s relationship with the Son, and were suspicious of attempts to read events in Jesus’ temporal life back into his eternal nature; if Jesus gives the Spirit in time, breathing upon his disciples (John 20:22) or sending him down upon them from the Father at Pentecost (Acts 1:4; 2:1-4), then what follows from this is that Jesus gives the Spirit in time, and nothing more. Writers of the Alexandrian tradition, like St. Cyril of Alexandria, tended to see a great deal more significance in such actions of the incarnate Son. St. Cyril, in particular, thought that one needed to confess that the Holy Spirit does not simply come to Jesus from without, but that the Spirit is, in fact, naturally and eternally the Son’s own (ἴδιον αὐτοῦ: cf. Cyril’s IXth Anathema against Nestorius), that, in performing miraculous works in the Holy Spirit, the incarnate Son was exercising a power which was his by nature and by right, and which flowed from him naturally and substantially, just as this same power flowed naturally and substantially from the Father. People had noticed the affinity of St. Cyril’s language about the Holy Spirit with that of the Latin-speaking Church from at least the seventh century (cf. St. Maximus’s letter to the priest Marinus of Cyprus). And, in the thirteenth century, St. Cyril was one of the writers John Bekkos quoted most frequently for showing the harmony of the Greek and Latin theological traditions.

I give, then, this passage by Apollinarius of Laodicea. Apollinarius was a fourth-century writer and friend of St. Athanasius who was later condemned for a christological heresy, but his trinitarian teaching is generally considered orthodox, and is, arguably, closely linked to that of St. Athanasius on the one hand and that of St. Cyril on the other. Some writers, e.g. Harnack and G. L. Prestige, see him as having had a most important role to play in the Cappadocian fathers’ own theological development; my guess is that they are right, and that the disputed early correspondence between Apollinarius and St. Basil is genuine. At any rate, St. Jerome boasted of having had him as a teacher of Scripture, and, in the passage translated below, it seems to me his interpretation is unobjectionable. His main point is that the temporal language in the text from St. John’s Gospel is a concession to human weakness, that, properly, the Spirit does not pass from a state of ignorance to knowledge. From this it seems to follow that the things said about the Spirit in this passage of the gospel, his “glorifying” the Son and “receiving from” the Son, are eternally true, though what those things mean remains an open question. Apollinarius says here that it is from the Son, as from the Father, that the Holy Spirit “starts moving” (ὁρμᾶται); whether that statement has any implications for the Holy Spirit’s being, or only for his activity (or “energy”), probably cannot be answered without a deeper investigation of Apollinarius’s thought than I am immediately able to supply. Nevertheless, I think the passage is worth reading.

Apollinarius on John 16:14

Translated from the edition of J. Reuss, Johannes-Kommentare aus der griechischen Kirche (TU 89), Berlin, 1966, pp. 48 f.; reprinted in Βιβλιοθήκη Ἑλλήνων Πατέρων καὶ Ἐκκλησιαστικῶν Συγγράφεων, τόμος 72: Ἀπολλινάριος Λαοδικείας, Μέρος Α´ (Athens 1994), pp. 365 f.

The Spirit’s activity and teaching will be to my glory, since it is “from me” that the Spirit’s motion arises. And when I say “from me,” it is clear that I also mean “from the Father,” since all the things that belong to the Father are mine. Thus, again, you should hear the phrase “he shall receive of mine” in the same way, not as though some knowledge were to come upon the Spirit, and that, moreover, at the present time; for it would be a strange thing indeed and might lead to suspicion if, at the time that the Spirit is about to tend to humanity, he should then receive instruction. And, again, it would be strange if one were to maintain that he is taught in any way. For, although he has not yet dwelt within men, when he does enter into them he will entrust them with all wisdom, albeit not a natural wisdom — and here, it is necessary for him to be taught! This is why, instead of saying that the Spirit’s motion completely originates from himself, he said, “he will receive of what is mine and will declare it to you.” For these words are briefer, the better to make the thing known to men, but the Spirit’s glory is greater in that the thing expressed is more proper to the Godhead. Now, God is also said to hear people’s words, and it is clear that this does not mean that they come to God’s knowledge in time; but, even before our words, he knows our prayers, and he created everything according to knowledge from the beginning, from the creation, knowing also the future movements of his own creatures. But, in spite of this, the expression is used, “Hearken, O Lord,” and again, “The Lord hearkened.” And in fact, to speak in terms that are proper to God, nothing like this ought to be taken in a temporal sense or as though some change had come to God from human prayers, nor yet as though some knowledge came to God of the things that were said, but, as I said, the words are spoken in a human way, but are understood by religious people in a divine way, such that the inalterable and unchangeable character of the glory of God will not be besmirched by your suppositions because of God’s hearing people talking. Likewise, then, in the case of the Spirit also, it is not the case that “hearing” and “receiving” indicate any addition of knowledge or any change in the Spirit’s inalterable substance. Εἰς ἐμὴν ἔσται δόξαν ἡ τοῦ Πνεύματος ἐνέργεια καὶ διδασκαλία, ὅτι καὶ παρ᾽ «ἐμοῦ» τὸ Πνεῦμα ὁρμᾶται. Τὸ δὲ παρ᾽ «ἐμοῦ» λέγων δῆλον καὶ τὸ παρὰ τοῦ Πατρός· ἐμὰ γάρ ἐστι τὰ πατρῷα. Τὸ οὖν «ἐκ τοῦ ἐμοῦ λήμψεται» κατὰ τὸν αὐτὸν αὖθις ἀκούει τρόπον, οὐχ ὡς γνώσεώς τινος ἐπιγινομένης τῷ Πνεύματι καὶ ταύτης ἐν χρόνῳ τῷ παρόντι· δεινὸν γὰρ ἂν εἴη καὶ μέχρις ὑπονοίας, εἴ γε τότε πνεῦμα προσλαμβάνει τὴν μάθησιν ἡνίκα εἰς ἀνθρώπους μέλλει κομίζειν. Δεινὸν δὲ καὶ εἰ διδασκόμενον αὐτὸ ὅλως τις θήσεται· οὐκέτι γὰρ ἐνοικοῦν ἀνθρώποις καὶ πᾶσαν εἰς αὐτοὺς σοφίαν εἰσάγον πιστευθήσεται, εἴπερ οὐ φυσική τίς ἐστι σοφία, ἀλλὰ καὶ αὐτῷ χρεία διδάσκεσθαι. Ὥστε ἀντὶ τοῦ λέγειν ὅλον παρ᾽ ἑαυτοῦ τὸ Πνεῦμα ὁρμᾶσθαι, εἴρηκε τὸ «ἐκ τοῦ ἐμοῦ λήμψεται καὶ ἀναγγελεῖ ὑμῖν»· μικρότεραι γὰρ αἱ φωναὶ πρὸς τὸ γνωριμώτερον ἀνθρώποις, μείζων δὲ ἡ τοῦ Πνεύματος δόξα πρὸς τὸ οἰκειότερον τῇ θεότητι. Λέγεται δὲ καὶ ἀκούειν Θεὸς ἀνθρώπου ῥήματα καὶ δῆλον ὡς οὐκ ἐν καιρῷ τι προσγίνεται πρὸς γνῶσιν Θεοῦ, ἀλλὰ καὶ πρὸ τῶν ἡμετέρων ῥημάτων οἶδε τὰς ἡμετέρας εὐχὰς καὶ τὸ ὅλον κατὰ διάνοιαν ἐξ ἀρχῆς ἀπὸ τῆς δημιουργίας ἐδημιούργησεν, ἐπιστάμενος καὶ τὰ μεταμέλοντα τῶν ἑαυτοῦ δημιουργημάτων κινήματα, ἀλλ᾽ ὅμως ἐλέγετο τὸ «εἰσάκουσον Κύριε» καὶ τὸ εἰσήκουσε Κύριος· καίτοι κατὰ τὸ πρέπον Θεῷ μηδὲν τῶν τοιούτων ἐκδέχεσθαι χρονικῶς μηδὲ ὡς μεταβολήν τινα περὶ Θεὸν γινομένην ἐκ τῶν ἀνθρωπίνων εὐχῶν, μηδὲ γνῶσις τῶν λεγομένων ἔπεισι Θεῷ, ἀλλ᾽ ἀνθρωπίνως μέν, ὡς ἔφην, οἱ λόγοι, θείως δὲ παρὰ τοῖς εὐσεβοῦσι νοοῦνται καὶ οὐ ῥανθήσεται τὸ ἀναλλοίωτον καὶ ἄτρεπτον τῆς τοῦ Θεοῦ δόξης ἐν ταῖς ὑμετέραις ὑπονοίας διὰ τὸ ἀκούειν αὐτὸν ἀνθρώπων λαλούντων. Οὕτω τοίνυν οὐδὲ ἐπὶ τοῦ Πνεύματος τὸ ἀκούειν καὶ τὸ λαμβάνειν προσθήκην τινὰ δέξεται γνώσεως οὐδὲ μεταβολῆς ἐπὶ τὴν ἀναλλοίωτον τοῦ Πνεύματος οὐσίαν.

18 Responses to “Apollinarius on John 16:14”

  1. Cristian Says:

    Apollinarius was an orthodox Athanasian, and perceived as the direct heir of the great Alexandrian Father.
    Thank you for this post, and for your wonderful blog.

  2. bekkos Says:

    Some writers, e.g. Harnack and G. L. Prestige, see him as having had a most important role to play in the Cappadocian fathers’ own theological development; my guess is that they are right, and that the disputed early correspondence between Apollinarius and St. Basil is genuine.

    See further on this R. P. C. Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God (Edinburgh 1988), pp. 695 f.:

    “Considerable light is thrown on Basil’s ideas about the relation of the ousia of the Son to that of the Father if we glance for a moment upon his correspondence with Apollinaris. This consists of Letter 361 and 363 (Basil to Apollinaris), 362 and 364 (Apollinaris to Basil). Doubt has in the past been cast upon the authenticity of this exchange of letters, doubtless because it was thought hurtful of Basil’s reputation that he should have corresponded in a friendly manner with and even asked for advice on theological matters from someone who later was branded as a heretic. But the work of G. L. Prestige and of H. de Riedmatten has made it almost impossible to regard these letters as a forgery, so exactly do they fit the historical situation between 360 and 364. The significance of the acceptance of the authenticity of the documents lies in the fact that they show us that on two occasions (probably early in 360 and late in 363) Basil consulted Apollinaris about the wisdom of accepting the homoousios as applied to the Son, and received from him two letters (probably soon after the respective dates of Basil’s two letters) firmly advocating an acceptance of homoousios in a sense which clearly is very little different from that of Athanasius, certainly not at all in a sense which would fit well with the concept of ‘like according to ousia‘ (ὅμοιος κατ᾽ οὐσίαν) nor homoiousios. It is a very likely conclusion to draw that it was in fact Apollinaris who effected Basil’s transition from being a follower of Basil of Ancyra, who taught ‘like in respect of ousia and repudiated homoousios, to being a whole-hearted champion of [the Creed drawn up by the Council of Nicaea of 325] and accepting homoousios.”

  3. Cristian C. Says:

    Your clarifications are, like your whole blog, enormously instructive. I did not know about Hanson’s considerations; Hans von Campenhausen mentions only the opposition of the Cappadocians to Apollinarius teaching–or, rather, to his school.
    On a purely psychological basis, it is to be believed that somebody like S Basil, so convinced of S Athanasius’ central role, should have looked upon Apollinarius’ teachings with much esteem.

  4. bekkos Says:

    Dear Cristian,

    Thanks for the encouraging words. The question of St. Basil’s, and the Cappadocian fathers’, relations with Apollinarius is a complex one, and I would not want to minimize the extent to which they came to disagree with him about some fundamental issues — chiefly, on matters of christology. But it should also be noted that St. Gregory the Theologian, in his First Letter to Cledonius, claimed that Apollinarius erred in his trinitarian thought. Here is what he says:

    “But since, puffed up by their theory of the Trinity, they falsely accuse us of being unsound in the faith and entice the multitude, it is necessary that people should know that Apollinarius, while granting the name of Godhead to the Holy Ghost, did not preserve the power of the Godhead. For to make the Trinity consist of Great, Greater, and Greatest, as of Light, Ray, and Sun, the Spirit and the Son and the Father (as is clearly stated in his writings), is a ladder of Godhead not leading to heaven, but down from heaven. But we recognize God the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, and these not as bare titles, dividing inequalities of ranks or of power, but as there is one and the same title, so there is one nature and one substance in the Godhead.”
    (St. Gregory of Nazianzus, ep. 101, PG 37, 192 B-C; tr. NPNF ii.7, p. 442)

    There are many things that could be said about this criticism. First, I don’t want to be found disagreeing with St. Gregory the Theologian. But I wonder if he is being entirely fair to Apollinarius here. The image of Light, Ray, and Sun is, for one thing, a traditional one, used frequently by Christian writers in the early centuries of the Church and still used in the late thirteenth century (both John Bekkos and Gregory of Cyprus employ the image, though they draw different conclusions from it). Secondly, there seems no reason to think that Apollinarius ever denied the one nature and one substance in the Godhead. He was a strong defender of the Nicene homoousion — and, if scholars like Hanson, Prestige and others are correct, he may well have played an important role in persuading St. Basil to accept that term. What Apollinarius did apparently hold, and what St. Gregory may be criticizing him for here, is that, just as the Father can legitimately be called “greater” than the Son in respect of this and this alone — that the Son is from the Father and not vice versa — so there is a legitimate, analogous sense in which the Son can be called “greater” than the Holy Spirit — namely, because the latter exists “through” him, and not vice versa.

    Or, it may be that he is criticizing him for some other reason. There is a phrase in one of Apollinarius’s (disputed) letters to Basil: ἐν ὑποβάσει τὸ ἶσον ἔχοντα, “having equality, but at a lower level” (ep. 362). Perhaps that is the phrase St. Gregory had in mind.

    I recently came across an article by Peter Gemeinhardt titled “Apollinaris of Laodicea: A Neglected Link of Trinitarian Theology between East and West?” (published in Zeitschrift für antikes Christentum 10 [2006], pp. 286-301). The author, who has written a major study of the Filioque debate, sees two basic Christian traditions of thought in response to Eunomianism in the late fourth century; one of them he calls the “trihypostatic” theology, the other he calls “miahypostatic” theology. Both theologies combatted the Eunomian claim that the Son and Holy Spirit are creatures, necessarily differing in essence from the uncreated Father. But they used different terminologies in doing this. The trihypostatic usage was enshrined, through the work of the Cappadocian fathers, as the basic, accepted theological grammar of Greek-speaking Christianity. But the miahypostatic theology, which, like the original Nicene creed, stressed the point that the Son and Holy Spirit are from the Father’s substance, also had its effects. Gemeinhardt thinks that this theology — one of whose major representatives was Apollinarius — led directly to the trinitarian theology of St. Augustine. “As I have tried to demonstrate in my Oxford communication four years ago, the defence of the Nicene ὁμοούσιος by arguing from the generation of the Son from the substance of the Father is crucial to the anti-arian trinitarian theology of Augustine” (Gemeinhardt, p. 298).

    What I have been trying to state for some time now is how John Bekkos in the thirteenth century both saw and did not see that connection. He saw that the Western, Latin, Augustinian theology had genuine roots in Greek patristic thought. He perhaps did not see the extent to which Greek writers already had misgivings about it early on. The citation above from St. Gregory the Theologian might be an example of such incipient misgivings.

    Thanks again for commenting on the blog.


  5. Cristian C. Says:

    Dear Peter,

    Your considerations are always extremely elevated, the most distinguished intellectually, of a rare charm, and miles away from the usual cognitive muddiness of the Internet clowns masquerading as religious polemists. It was startling for me to find such an Orthodox theologian. Raised with Lossky ,Bulgakov, Stãniloae and Vlachos, I was accustomed to much harsher notes. Yours is a truly gentlemanly prose. Being a gentleman (in the sense illustrated by Ven. Newman) is a deep thing and a meaningful human virtue as well.
    One of my favorite subjects is the work of Demetrios Kydones and Prochoros Kydones. How do you see their action?
    Could you please write something about them? Maybe even offer us a post?
    Hieromonk Prochoros Kydones embodies this eerie paradox—he shows at once that one (still) could be a practicing Thomist Athonite (he was one);and that one (already) could not be—he himself being deposed from priesthood, etc..

    For me, the Blemmydes/ Akindynos/ Kydones line (if such a thing could be traced) illustrates a very attractive and largely unexplored feature of the Byzantine culture—even if a seemingly minority.

    Moreover, having read my compatriot Dumitru Stãniloae’s book on S Gregory Palamas ,I noticed how the Romanian theologian preferred to deal with the obviously absurd and third—rate author Barlaam the Calabrian—as a representative ‘Scholastic’ (Stãniloae being a bitterly polemical anti—Catholic) ,rather than with the far more competent Gregory Akindynos–whom Stãniloae himself finds being much more respectable as a thinker than the surrogate Barlaam–or with or the two mentioned brothers. Stãniloae’s rebuttal of the Calabrian is predictably successful; while he somehow shows more respect to Akindynos.
    So, the anti—Scholastic rant is generally unfair, choosing—deliberately, I think—absurd representatives such as Barlaam of Calabria, by all accounts an inferior thinker ,instead of Gregory Akindynos or even better the Kydones brothers (as I guess it would not be fair to label Akindynos a ‘Scholastic’). The tactic of designating Barlaam as the prototypical Byzantine Scholastic is largely tendentious.

    I find it relevant that Barlaam is preferred for confrontations—as an easy target—while the extremely exquisite Blemmydes and the two Kydones aren’t frontally faced.

    That epoch was enormously interesting—psychologically, historically; I see that, in discussing Bekkos, you give a large share to this human, let’s say, interest, which is more than timely. What might be Akindynos’ human mystery? What prompted his shift?

  6. Cristian C. Says:

    I would like to communicate a few facts about a Romanian Orthodox layman who lived in the first half of the 20th century and was an avowed Thomist—Mircea Vulcãnescu.
    He was, of course, an exception—and more of an exception today, in starker times, it seems, than in his own time. He represented a faction of cultivated Romanian Orthodoxy, sadly at war with the mainstream mainline confessionalism.
    (One could also remember S Petru Movilã, more known as Moghila, author of a respected Catechism, the Romanian cleric who became Metropolitan of Kiev in the 17th century and at his death left in his drawer the project of an union with Rome. In Romania, S Petru Movilã—or Moghila—has been canonized in the 1990s, by people possibly unaware of the saintly Metropolitan’s final intentions. I should add that in the Romanian ultra circles, S Petru’s canonization was received as a slap in the face ,as an act of political concessions to the West. It is not generally known about his union project, but he is considered as sullied with ‘Western Scholasticism’—you may know the divine tune that goes like this.)
    My own Romanian blog is dedicated to S Petru Movilã (in my town, Jassy/ Iaşi, there’s also a street with his name) and to S Nicholas Cabasilas.

  7. Cristian C. Says:

    In all fairness, I can boast in the fact that my native Romania has two significant Thomist authors—and one of them was an Orthodox—Mircea Vulcãnescu, Orthodox, university professor, philosopher, Minister of Economy, sociologist, economist. He was not so much a speculative as an encyclopaedist ;in Thomism, he followed his very dear Maritain. In philosophy, he was original and creative; in Thomism, he left us many well—crafted lectures.
    So, between the wars in Romania one could again be an Orthodox and a staunch Thomist. (There was never one word about ‘sanctioning’ him for his explicit Thomism.)
    Being a right—wing and nationalist politician—never an extremist or a xenophobe–, between the wars, in the ‘30s, Vulcãnescu was afterwards atrociously punished by the Communists; sentenced to prison, he died in jail exactly like S MM Kolbe—he gave his life for another—there were several prisoners in the cell, one of them was young but extremely sick and on the verge of death, it was winter and very cold—and Mircea Vulcãnescu lied on the frozen floor and asked his fellows that the sick young man be placed upon him so as not to suffer from the severe cold. Mircea Vulcãnescu died, and the young man survived that illness.
    Before prison, Vulcãnescu had been an obese, a joyous obese, fond of Bach and literature; in prison, he began to look like a ghost. But even there he organized lectures and taught others chemistry and other things. He brought kindness, equilibrium and light. He was genuinely saintly.
    Mircea Vulcãnescu belonged to a circle of young nationalist intellectuals; some of his friends, like Mircea Eliade, could only very generically be termed Orthodox; some were agnostics; while most were die—hard anti—Catholic confessionalists. Vulcãnescu was a paradox. His revered master, the logician Nae Ionescu, was a tough anti—Catholic Orthodox; Vulcãnescu had the originality of being an Orthodox Thomist. [Of course, the Communist takeover broke that; nowadays there’s no such rara avis in the Church, the ‘Stãniloae party’ reigns, the catchword is: ‘UNLIKE THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, WE …’, and even writers reputed as ecumenically—minded put in writing that the Catholics are Arians ….]

  8. bekkos Says:

    Dear Cristian,

    To reply briefly to some of the many interesting things you write:

    First, I hope at some point to post to the blog other things about Palamism. One of the projects I’ve been working on off and on during the past few months is a translation of an encyclopedia article by Martin Jugie (“Controverse Palamite,” Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique XI [Paris 1931], cols. 1777-1818); it is still, after nearly eighty years, one of the clearest and most informative introductions to the subject of the Palamite controversy that has been written. All twentieth-century scholars of Palamas were deeply indebted to Jugie, even if some of them, like Meyendorff, wrote largely from a desire to debunk his conclusions.

    Another thing I’ve been reading is the two-volume work La résistance d’Akindynos à Grégoire Palamas. Enquête historique, avec traduction et commentaire de quatre traités édités récemment, by Juan Nadal Cañellas (Louvain: Peeters, 2006). This work is certainly one of the most important historical studies on Palamism to have appeared for many years, and, to a large extent, it confirms Jugie’s earlier judgments about how the movement arose. Nadal Cañellas translates Akindynos’s “Refutation of Gregory Palamas’s Dialogue between an Orthodox and a Barlaamite“; in his commentary to this work, he shows, among other things, that (1) Akindynos was probably spiritual adviser to the Princess Irene-Eulogia (as against the common Palamite contention, that he was a mere bumbling unspiritual rube); (2) that the allegations, made by both Barlaam and Akindynos, connecting Palamas with Bogomil circles at Athos were probably fully justified; and (3) that Akindynos’s frequent contention, that Palamas routinely twists the meaning of the patristic sources he cites, truncating passages to suit his purpose, is also fully justified. Someone ought to translate this work into English, so that proponents of the Palamite ideology might learn to reckon with historical evidence.

    I have not made much of a study of the Kydones brothers, although I do find their example, as fourteenth-century Greeks who set about translating Aquinas and other Latin writers into their own language, worthy of emulation. That Prochoros Kydones managed to be a Thomist monk on Mount Athos, and that he got into trouble by being so — as you say, this is eerie. But the whole period was much more fluid than I think it is generally presented as being; most people who argue over essence and energy take little notice of how far opinion swayed back and forth on the issue during the decades of the 1340s and 50s, and how far the ecclesiastical resolution to the debate — the conciliar decisions of 1341, 1347, and 1351 — depended upon the political and military fortunes of John VI Kantakouzenos. It is almost as though one were to suppose that the truth or untruth of an abstruse metaphysical doctrine were guaranteed today by, say, an edict by Vladimir Putin (or by George W. Bush, or Barack Obama). Many people would no doubt question the reliability of such an identification of might with right, of political fact and metaphysical truth; many people did in the fourteenth century.

    Although I have not done much work on the Kydones brothers, I have started reading a fourteenth-century author named John Kyparissiotes (I wrote a Wikipedia article on him recently). Virtually nothing is available on him in English, and his works, published decades ago in Greece in extremely limited editions, are essentially impossible to find. But he is seen by some people as the most important anti-Palamite writer in the later period of the controversy, after the main antagonists had died. Unfortunately one of his most important works (the Elementary exposition of theological texts, Τῶν θεολογικῶν ῥήσεων στοιχειώδης ἔκθεσις) is published in Migne only in a Latin translation; although an edition of it was published in Greece in 1982, it is unavailable to me. It is in ten books, each of which is divided into ten chapters. The titles of the books run like this:

    On symbolic theology
    On demonstrative (kataphatic) theology
    On divine emanations
    On the meaning of a divine name
    On the properties of the divine names
    On the appearances of divine light
    Concerning participation in God
    On the infinitude of God in creatures
    On God’s infinity
    On divine simplicity

    At some point, I would like to make a study of that book, and perhaps translate it. But that will have to wait until after I finish my work on John Bekkos. Currently I am trying to write an article on him, which needs to be sent in by April 15th. That is one reason why I have been neglecting the blog lately.

    Thanks again for your comments. It seems that no one else is reading the blog these days.


  9. bekkos Says:


    One question. Do you have any news about Metropolitan Nicolae of Banat? I haven’t heard anything about him since the “Timisoara incident” was reported last May.


  10. Cristian C. Says:

    Dear Peter,

    Please excuse the many Proustian parenthesis in the following.
    Up until the Timişoara event, Metr. Nicolae Corneanu was deemed to be the most distinguished Romanian patrologist—even the ultras honored him as such; moreover, he activates in Banat, the most Western zone of Romania, once under Austrian influence (I live in the Eastern corner of the country), where after the fall of the Communism the relations between Orthodox and Greek—Catholics have been better than in the rest of the country (in fact, the rest of the Western province, as the Greek Catholics exist only in the Western part of Romania ,see infra). After the Timişoara facts, Metropolitan Corneanu became, in the public opinion, from the most respected patrologist we have, an old hypocrite and a senile traitor, etc. (well, of course, not exactly for everyone, but his cause was taken up and championed by rather compromising fans, journalists and intellectuals with no qualifications whatsoever—someday, I would like to make a sketch of the ‘parties’ involved, as some are characterized by fanaticism and rudeness—the others by incompetence, good will, and a general lack of interest into theological matters—the ‘unionism’ of the ‘these things are too abstruse anyhow, and if we become Catholics the Pope will defend Romania of a Russian attack!’). Back to Nicolae Corneanu. No-one seemed to make the perhaps necessary connection between his Patristic knowledge and his gesture. Truth be told, he himself handled badly the situation—there was word of sanctions and deposition and he did all he could to water down the incident stating publicly the he acted rashly end emotionally and unthinkingly. He was prompt with his excuses—and was excused by the H. Synod.
    I do not think he is a particularly ecumenical author, but a smooth and amiable person who forgot where he lives; he did not assume his gesture in the aftermath of the events, but preferred to attribute his move to the rush and emotion. It was rather disappointing to see that he in fact was not standing really for any principle or general idea—but that he preferred to blame it on the emotion and call it a thoughtless gesture. He assumed the incident as a mistake—i.e., he did not assume it as a responsible action.
    Romania is a very heterogeneous country culturally. It is constituted of (largely) three provinces (the Voivodats) (and several smaller regions) which up to the 19th century existed separately. Each of them was under a different influence. I live in the North—Eastern part—in Moldavia; this province was under Russian influence, here came Paisyi Velichcovskyj in the 18th century, nowadays this is the most underdeveloped region of our country. The second province is the Southern one, formerly under Turkish and Bulgarian and Serbian influence; nowadays Romania’s capital, Bucharest, was this province’s capital until the union with Moldavia. The third province is the Western one—Transsylvania—in fact, many smaller provinces made into one—once under Hungarian and Austrian rule; this is the province where at 1700 part of the national Orthodox Church chose to join the Rome’s communion.[ Bram Stoker ,the Hammer Studios and FF Coppola pretended to believe that here lived Vlad Ţepeş ,Vlad the Impaller called Dracula. In fact, the real historical Voivod Vlad Dracula the Impaller reigned in the Southern province—in Muntenia—not in Transsylvania, as deemed by Stoker; by the way, this Vlad the Impaller Dracula was a Roman Catholic—as convert; he lived in the 15th century.) Nicolae Corneanu lives in Banat, a part of this Western province of the country.
    Corneanu’s final word was, as I said, disappointing. Yet I would not like to be too harsh on him, or expect too much, or ask from him too much; it’s just that one ought to either stand by what he does, or abstain from such gestures.
    On the other hand, maybe he was just tired or understandably afraid. Anyway, I ended up disapproving his gesture, as he showed he was not making any point and had no clear idea of the implications and had no real intentions or principles, but just an unreasoned slip, etc..
    As far as I recall, his Lent homilies and other occasional speeches he gave abounded in the ‘UNLIKE THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, WE …’ pattern; and he did all he could to show that his gesture at the Catholic Liturgy was but a mistake and an unreasoned action. It was, maybe, the small inconsequential sentimental gesture of a civilized man who lives in a very civilized part of the country and who had no real intentions or principles about this. It was him who affirmed he had no true doctrinal understanding or background for his gesture—but merely the emotion of a moment.

    With much sympathy and a brotherly thought,


  11. Cristian C. Says:

    So in fact all seemed like a very shallow and ‘Balkanic’ thing. Corneanu preferred to pass as a person who acted without thinking, etc..
    The outraged reaction of the confessionalists was perfectly foreseeable, so I assume that Metr. Nicolae Corneanu acted indeed on a momentary impulse, something he afterwards said he regretted. He looked like a clueless priest and like a man unwilling to assume a coherent attitude. I repeat that the consequences of his act were extremely foreseeable, and he should not have been surprised by what followed his gesture. He seemed and maybe was totally clueless (–on the other side—the Catholic one—the ‘support’ for Corneanu was on the slapdash note known—‘c’mon, we’re too cool to go back to the Middle Ages’, in a spirit of pedestrian ‘ecumenism’ and banal slogans–.) The whole affair looked rather like in the Russian satirical writers of the 19th century. To me at least, it had nothing of the range of an epochal opening, but the smallness of an irrational gesture promptly regretted and indeed taken back in hurry by the protagonist. Like you, in this things I stay be the line of the great Byzantine unionists—from Blemmydes, the two Kydones to S Isidore of Kiev—well, nothing of that sort with the poor, gentle, confused Metr. Nicolae. As I wrote, he is a genuinely nice and well—mannered person, more soft—spoken than his colleagues—but not the man for these openings.
    Now as a slice or an aside of piquant hideousness, one of Nicolae’s brothers in Episcopate, Bartolomeu Anania, bashed him saying that, since it was spring, he probably mistook the Catholics’ Eucharist for some stew of herbs …(technically, the word was bortsch—but it’s not the Russian bortsch you might have heard of, or even tasted some—it’s a much poorer variant, and in this context meant something worthless and insipid). This is the level. These things make the Vatican’s words about the ‘almost complete communion’ insanely funny ,if one is to make fun of such sad things.
    The Holy Synod of BOR (–the Orthodox Romanian Church–) gathered at the beginning of the last July to discuss the Metropolitan’s case. They mildly instructed him to be more careful, in rather peaceful terms, I would say.

    I would have to conclude that Nicolae Corneanu is no Irinej of Backa, ‘the controversial Bishop’.

  12. Cristian C. Says:

    Dear Peter,

    Regarding Cañellas’ appreciations.
    I am absolutely ashamed to confess being unable to locate retrospectively the source, but I distinctly remember reading once an academic paper where Akindynos’ piety and sanctity were mentioned, his good reputation of holiness and exquisite spirituality. I can not yet locate the source.
    As I said, Father Stãniloae treats him as a respectable—or rather a non—despised– author.( In other words, is unable to refute his ideas.)
    I belong to those who call Isidore of Kiev a saint.
    Generally, I like to consider the category of the holiness of some ‘Unionists’. (Of course the anti—hesychast and the Unionist parties did not coincide entirely. But maybe there is also a mistake in the idea that the Unionist were trying to replace the Byzantine thought with the Western Scholastic one, when perhaps they did not nothing more ‘treacherous’ than S Augustine did when reading S Gregory the Theologian, or S Thomas did when he was reading S John Damascene. I do not think that the Unionist were despising the Byzantine theology and were working against it. In general the question of this ‘preservation of the cultural specificity’ is a dirty one. An osmosis is a necessary cultural phenomenon. I have seen on an Anglican blog that there is an awareness of the Eastern confessionalists’ attempts to smash Pope Leo’s reputation and denounce his Tome and downplay his role.)
    I consider the ceaseless denouncing of the ‘latinization’ as absolutely wrong and hypocrite—as long as the Latins aren’t themselves considered guilty of ‘byzantinizing’/ orientalizing their faith by accepting the teachings of S Cyril and others.
    Orthodox and Catholics alike think today like politicians and diplomats, not like metaphysicians; this phony ‘tolerance’ (as in ‘this is not our specific …’—‘I don’t care if it’s true or not, since it’s not at all our specific …’) leads only to relativism, not to wisdom and real openness and integration; the relativism blocks and closes. What if the ancient Latins would have said:’ we won’t take these Eastern feasts and notions, as it’s not our way …’?
    There is this superstition of the ‘specific’; and there’s also the fashion—the wheel turned, and we witness the reverse of the 16th century ‘latinization’ (of the Orthodox)—the present byzantinization (of the Western Christians). This is bad because it’s as shallow and phony as ever.
    I remark with some amusement how today’s Catholics seem not to know anything about the Deipara and divinization—they only speak of theosis and about the Theotokos. (The Pope himself speaks of the Theotokos, as if Deipara was obsolete …).

  13. Cristian C. Says:

    About Joannes Kyparissiotes I have read a little, several years ago, in Lowell Clucas. This author portrayed K as being an apophatist free of any Scholastic/ Western influence. Clucas groups him with the other exponents of an intellectual riposte (Kalekas, D Kydones) under John V Palaeologos; and also says that all three theologians mentioned converted to Catholicism.
    The tale of the ‘very small minority of learned intellectuals’, as Clucas calls it, would lead to Bessarion ‘s Contra Palamam apologia irescriptionum Vecci.
    In 1339 Barlaam prophesized thus to the Pope of Rome:’ To convince the learned men is easy, since both they and you seek only the truth. But when the scholars return home they will be able to do absolutely nothing with the people. Some men will arise who will teach all exactly the opposite of what you will have defined.’

  14. Cristian C. Says:

    Also, dear Peter, I would feel very honored if you would consent that we periodically exchange some lines about readings, books, people and events; in case you agree, I would be grateful if you specify the best way to have this exchange (I have reservations about high-jacking your comboxes with my occasional remarks about books or people perhaps rather off-topic):
    –here on your blog;
    –or by email, in which case I can be found at cristian_ciopron@yahoo.com
    –or, of course, both.

    Thank you.
    May you benefit fully from the love of Christ, our God, Whose life be with you and yours. All the love of Christ our God, all the love of Christ our God, all the love of Christ our God.

  15. Cristian C. Says:

    I can not help noticing from your various posts, dear Peter, that your thought is truly and decisively nourished by the Bible, and how you find the Biblical place to suit a situation or a scene or a thought.
    You learned from life, it seems to me, at least as much as you learned from the books.

  16. Cristian C. Says:

    Warm congratulations for your Kyparissiotes article; I have read it eagerly.

  17. bekkos Says:

    Dear Cristian,

    My apologies for getting back to you so late. There is a lot to think about in what you say; unfortunately, life supervenes, and it is difficult to find a time to sit and frame a response.

    I don’t presume to make a judgment upon Metropolitan Nicolae’s motives, whether in his receiving communion at a Catholic liturgy when he did or in playing down the event afterwards. Plainly, isolated, spontaneous expressions of fraternal sentiment are not the way nine and a half centuries of separation and mistrust are going to be bridged. Somehow, the ecumenical task is to find a way in which Catholics can affirm their Catholicism and Orthodox can affirm their Orthodoxy, and at the same time each can affirm the legitimacy and truth of the other. This is fundamentally a theological task, and it is made infinitely more difficult by virtue of the fact that Orthodoxy and Catholicism have, to a great extent, defined their theological positions in conscious opposition to each other over the past thousand years. Although one might think that Eastern Catholicism would be an answer to the problem, in many ways it seems more an acute manifestation of it, a reminder to Orthodox of how strange to their own ecclesiastical experience Catholicism has in fact become.

    As is probably apparent to you and to other readers of this blog, I have been having considerable trouble affirming the Photian, Palamite interpretation of Christian theology as the pure, unadulterated, everlasting Gospel of Christ. Perhaps that means that, in conscience, I ought to refrain from communicating in Orthodox churches. I am, however, fully convinced of the powerful reality of the life of the Holy Spirit in the sacramental mysteries of the Orthodox Church, and I depend upon that life for whatever faint light I may occasionally manifest through my robe of mortality and corruption. I can imagine that Metropolitan Nicolae feels the same way, and is loath to separate himself from such a source of life, although his intellect may tell him that the purported justifications of the schism do not hold up to scrutiny.

    I would agree with you that the answer to the problem is not for the Catholic Church to “Byzantinize” itself, to create an ersatz identity, to buy into the interpretation that holds that the West never really did have a theology of divine personhood and that it now needs to import one from Gregory of Cyprus Inc. Nor — God knows — is the answer for the Orthodox Church to “Latinize” itself. To the extent that I have any answer to the problem, it is that both sides need to be very honest and clear about the history of doctrine, need to recognize that Christian doctrine has a history and that the interpretations of doctrine that have come about over time that posit an eternal opposition between the theological patrimonies of the two Churches may actually be misinterpreting what the earlier sources said. My sense is that, if such an honest and clear examination of doctrinal history were in fact to take place, the views of John Bekkos and his fellow Byzantine unionists, their reading of the theological inheritance of the Christian East, would come out looking pretty well when compared with the teachings of their adversaries; moreover, their efforts to heal the schism in the face of deep misunderstanding would appear glorious. For this reason, I feel I have a Christian responsibility to make their views and their deeds more generally known.

    Unfortunately, that is all I am able to write right now. Thank you again for your news and thoughts.


  18. Cristian C. Says:

    Dear Peter,

    A few words about how I arrived at being such as I am. I will treat here only about my readings in theology, as it were, not about those in the Fathers—that’s a distinct chapter, and somewhat independent of my religious allegiance.
    My Orthodox theologian has been Lossky. As a man, as a writer he is impressive, amazing and a most luminous part of my cognitive biography. I have always respected him more than I respected Evdokimov.
    I have been a follower of Lossky and Evdokimov—a quite mild one, it is true, and rather more of Evdokimov, perhaps, and generally of the Russians, and viscerally sickened and disgusted by chaps like Yannaras, and I was also more interested in Bloy and Claudel and coming from a philosophical and literary background and quite an admirer of Fr. Bulgakov; 4 yrs. ago, when I was 26, some things changed, I was reading S Pavel Florensky but also Chesterton, and I discovered also a book by Card. Ratzinger—his masterpiece, the INTRODUCTION … (a quite ‘liberal’ book, I would say, if one is to use such notions). The Ratzinger of the INTRODUCTION impressed me as the most endowed modern theologian known to me; a liberal, it is true, but more qualified than any other. [I see that nowadays the American Catholics are hailing this book as if it were the most orthodox thing ever written; on the contrary, I see it as marked by a very pronounced liberalism—but that’s another discussion.]
    Well, I was 26 yrs.. In a sense, Chesterton took me beyond Ratzinger, i.e., beyond the liberal personalism, and into the Thomism; the writings of Fr. Jaki gave me much pleasure and joy. Fr. Saward also. I read a host of other things as well. And many other Catholic theologians. Then I became papist, infallibilist, filioquist, immaculist (much more and unconditionally so than Card. Ratzinger, I would add …). The final word belonged probably to Tresmontant, the best author I have ever encountered. His was the capital lesson in openness and courage. This incomparable writer did the most for my intellectual life.
    You see that I don’t believe, I can’t believe in labels—yet I could say that in some ways I am a ‘modernist’ (in the sense Tresmontant and some of the other Frenchmen were), in others I’m rather a ‘lefebvrist’—if such words could describe one’s position.
    I would freely join either a Greek—Catholic church, or a Tridentine rite (or Gregorian rite) church. In the province where I live there is no trace of the Greek—Catholic Church; otherwise, I would formally join. And of course there’s no Tridentine rite church here. I see myself as one of those papist Anglicans, who are rather more ‘catholic’ than the Catholic establishment. The Catholic Church today looks to me very damaged by the theological fashions, and quite faltering and muddled, and this would be an objection MUCH MORE SO THAN THE FILIOQUE, and one has the uncanny feeling of being more Thomist, or perhaps even ‘traditionalist’ then, say, the Roman authorities. In my reading, only after the ‘60s an Easterner could legitimately question the integrity of the Roman faith.
    What about the Orthodox Church?
    There are in the Romanian Orthodox Church a few exceptions—someone like the monk Nicolae Steinhardt, who was a Jew and who joined the Romanian Orthodox Church while in prison and then he became a monk and did not indulge in the regular chicanes.
    And there are also the human ties one has—there is my late uncle, Bishop Partenie Ciopron, and also my aunts the nuns …. Some claim that the ‘ecumenism of confluence’ is an invention of Card. Kasper; yet, I have a Greek—Catholic textbook of Church History published in the 1910s and there it is plain to see that they regarded themselves not as ‘returning’ to the Church, but as reestablishing the ties with Rome. And they were affirming the history of the Romanian Orthodox Church prior to the union as being their own history, and not a repudiated wandering. The same is true for the Russians, for the Ukrainians, the Melkites—already in the times of S Pius X the ‘ecumenism of return’ was practically discarded for the Orthodox reestablishing ties with Rome. S Pius X discarded the ‘ecumenism of return’ long before Card. Kasper, whatever one may think of this fine gentleman, did it. The fact that the Melkites, Ukrainians, Russians, Transsylvanians were not required to renounce so much of what intervened in the interval of scission testifies that the ‘ecumenism of return’ was already discarded at least a century ago and the Churches were regarded as communities reestablishing ties, not as a repentant ‘daughter’ ‘returning’ to her righteously angry mom. Under Benedict XV, almost a century ago, the Romanian Greek—Catholics spoke about the history of the Romanian Orthodox Church (prior to the Metropolitan Atanasie’s union) as of their own history.
    In all, my model is P Kydones.
    Joking aside (the Anglican analogy), I would define myself as an Eastern Thomist—i.e. among others underlining the Platonic element in the magister’s writings.
    You wrote somewhere about Zizioulas; he is an author I enormously admire and approve of.
    About S Gregory Palamas, there is much sublimity in his writings; much chauvinism and also much sublimity.
    A word about the other Fathers—the Three Holy Hierarchs; S Maximus, S Cyril of Jerusalem, S Theodore the Studite, S John Damascene, S Nicholas Kabasilas.

    Please excuse my barbarous style; I’m like one of those Frankish monks writing their own brand of Latin somewhere in barbarity. The love of Christ of God be always upon you, dear Peter.

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