On Nicetas of Maroneia

January 28, 2009

Nicetas of Maroneia was a chartophylax (i.e., chancellor and archivist) of the Church of Constantinople who later served as Archbishop of Thessalonica, probably sometime during the first half of the twelfth century. Of his Dialogues on the Procession of the Holy Spirit, in six books, book one was edited by J. Hergenröther and published in Migne’s Patrologia Graeca, vol. 139, cols. 169-202, along with excerpts from the other five books in cols. 201-222. An edition, with Latin translation, of books two, three, and four was made by Nicholas Festa and published in a series of articles in the journal Bessarione between the years 1912 and 1916. Books five and six have never, to my knowledge, been published, although there is a dissertation on them that I have not seen (C. Giorgetti, Nicetas de Maronée et ses dialogues V et VI sur la procession du Saint-Esprit, Lateran University, Rome, 1965). The entire work is contained in codex Vaticanus graecus 1115. It is significant as being the first known literary attempt, by a Greek and in the Greek language, to give an accurate and sympathetic account of the Latin position on the chief issue that divided the churches, the procession of the Holy Spirit. The “Greek” in Nicetas’s dialogue ends up acknowledging that the “Latin’s” position is orthodox, but he still insists that the offending term Filioque needs to be taken out of the Creed.

Nicetas’s Dialogues exercised a decisive influence upon both Nikephoros Blemmydes and John Bekkos. I am presenting an excerpt from them today, a passage which I think is especially significant for the claim it makes concerning the need to take substance and personal property in God together, and the inference it makes from this coherence, that it is legitimate to speak of the Holy Spirit proceeding from the substance of the Father and the Son, just as various Greek fathers in the fourth century had spoken of the Son being begotten from the Father’s substance. Both of these points are made repeatedly in John Bekkos’s writings. Indeed, this passage from Nicetas of Maroneia may have been, for Bekkos, the source of an insight that I believe is vital for understanding his theology. As I have said elsewhere, I think Bekkos’s theological position effectively reappropriates, in a thirteenth-century Byzantine context, the doctrine of those whom various patristic scholars have called “Old Nicenes.” Although Bekkos himself would not have called himself that, and would have said that he was simply giving the common and constant doctrine of the Church, I do think that, by exercising his own, thirteenth-century sort of ressourcement, he managed to bring into focus a view of substance that had deep roots, but had effectively been forgotten in the Christian East. He was, perhaps, a scribe bringing out of his treasury things old and new; in arguing for the harmony of the Latin and the Greek teachings on the procession, he certainly brought forth some things that were very old, and needed to be thought about again.

The Greek text of the following passage from Nicetas’s third Dialogue is transcribed from N. Festa, “Niceta di Maronea,” Bessarione 29 (1913), pp. 300-302. The translation is my own.


Third Discourse concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit

by Nicetas of Maroneia

(Greek) As we once again set forth on a new start of our discussion concerning the Holy Spirit, tell me, how is it not absurd to say that it is not from the Father alone, but also from the Son that he proceeds? For in fact it is necessary that what proceeds from the Father should be either from the Father’s substance or from his individuating property. But if it is from the substance, then, since the substance is common and the same to the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, the Spirit will proceed, not from the Father and the Son alone, but also from himself: which thing is not true. But if it is from the individuating property, and property is not substance, but around the substance, how will what he is according to himself, that is, the Spirit, be from that which is not according to himself, but which is contemplated around another, that is to say from the property? Either then he simply does not proceed, or, if he does proceed, and proceeds from the Father and the Son, he will proceed also from himself — which is never the case.

(Latin) Your argument shows, not that the Spirit does not proceed from the Son, but that he neither proceeds from the Father, nor indeed proceeds at all. For, indeed, if it is necessary for the Spirit to proceed either from the substance of the Father or from his individuating property, then, since the substance of the three is one and the same, if he proceeds from the substance he will proceed also from himself; but, if he proceeds from the property, then what is properly his own will come from what is not properly his own but is around another. For, one might say, as is the Spirit, so is his property. On account of these things he will not proceed in any manner; but that is absurd. The argument, therefore, is invalid. For the absurdity you attempt to demonstrate from our doctrine which says that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son, this very absurdity will follow also from your doctrine that says that he is from the Father alone.

For it might be said: Neither is he from the substance simply, nor from the individuating property alone. For neither is the property separated from the substance, nor is the substance without the property. Thus, he would be either from the substance according to the property, or from the property according to the substance. But to be from the property according to the substance is also absurd. For, in that case, what is substantial and subsisting would, again, be from what is around the substance, something which is impossible and is said by none of the fathers. Therefore he is from the substance; for the fathers in fact say this. But he is from the substance according to the individuating property; for this reason he will not be also from himself. Now the individuating property of the Father is to beget the Son from himself and, simultaneously, to emit the Spirit through the Son; just as it is the individuating property of the Son to emit the Spirit from himself immediately in his being begotten from the Father — that is to say, it is his property both to be begotten of the Father, and to emit the Spirit immediately from himself. For the Son is a mean between the Father and the Spirit, as John of Damascus says. But the individuating property of the Spirit is to proceed from the Father through the Son, which is as much as to say, from the Son or out of the Son. And, in this way, the Spirit comes forth from both, while the individuating property is preserved unchanging for each of the three — the property according to which each possesses, in a unique way, the existence of his own hypostasis.

But, for your part, bring on again your claim that I am introducing, as an absurd consequence, two origins of the Spirit, as though you were consigning the belief to the realm of absurdity, and were thinking you had therefore pushed it aside, as you are still not content with the things I earlier stated upon this subject. And, if you like, add on again your point about inferiority, and enumerate what is direct and immediate, and all the other things which seemed to you to follow in that case. But, as for me, avoiding all excessive, repetitive speech, I will give you a brief argument. Do you not say that the creation both exists from God, and by God the Father’s agency, having been brought out of nothingness into being through the very Word of God — who exists together with him and shines forth out of him — and in the Holy Spirit? But you also say that it is “from” the Son and by his agency that the world has taken its being, and “from” the Spirit and by the Spirit’s agency; and thus there is source and source and source for the world’s creation, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit; and yet there are not three sources, but one source, and the Father, on the one hand, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit has created all things, while, on the other hand, the Spirit, co-creating with the Father and the Son, has brought to perfection the creation of all things. And there is no inferiority at all in any of the three, but each of them, in one nature, is recognized by right believers as activating each thing according to those properties which pertain to him. And as for the words “through” and “from” and “in,” these appellations neither divide the one source or origin into many, nor do they divide the nature into greater and less. But neither, again, does the term “through,” which introduces the notion of immediacy, distance the Spirit from the Father; nor does “greater,” nor “first,” nor “prior,” when taken in respect of the individuating characteristics, involve absurdity. But we shun absurdities, and we understand and interpret these things piously and, one might say, in the way the saints take these expressions in their own writings. Thus also understand in the case of the procession of the Holy Spirit, only this: that the Spirit is from the existing Father, through the coexisting Word, as from a single substantial, natural source in both, a source not manufacturing him or making him or creating him; nor again as though he had some beginning in time, but beginninglessly, as being eternal and above time, he proceeds from the Father and from the Son from before all ages; but the creatures are from without, out of nothingness, and have commenced their existence afterwards. As therefore, in the case of the creation of creatures, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are source, and source, and source, yet one single source of all things, so also in the case of the procession of the Spirit, the Father is source, the Son also is source, but there is one source. But it is one thing for things to be called later into being out of non-being; another thing is he who is always with the Father and the Son and always shining forth together with both of them, as substantially proceeding from both of them, that is, from the Father through the Son. If then you are able to refute this doctrine in some other way, give it a try. But, for the present, leave insults aside.

* * * * *

(Γρ.) Ἔτι ταύτην ἀρχὴν καὶ αὖθις τιθέμενος τῆς μεθ᾽ ἡμῶν περὶ τοῦ ἁγίου Πνεύματος συζητήσεως, λέγε, πῶς οὐκ ἄτοπον τὸ λέγειν τοῦτο μὴ ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐκ τοῦ Υἱοῦ ἐκπορεύεσθαι. καὶ γὰρ ἀνάγκη ἢ ἐκ τῆς οὐσίας εἶναι τοῦ Πατρὸς τὸ ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον, ἢ ἐκ τῆς ἰδιότητος. ἀλλ᾽ εἰ μὲν ἐκ τῆς οὐσίας, ἐπεὶ ἡ οὐσία κοινὴ καὶ ἡ αὐτὴ τοῦ Πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ Υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ Πνεύματος, οὐκ ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ Υἱοῦ μόνον ἐκπορεύοιτ᾽ ἄν, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐξ ἑαυτοῦ τὸ Πνεῦμα· ὅπερ οὐκ ἔστιν. εἰ δὲ ἐκ τῆς ἰδιότητος, ἡ δὲ ἰδιότης οὐκ οὐσία, ἀλλὰ περὶ τὴν οὐσίαν, πῶς τὸ καθ᾽ ἑαυτό, ἤγουν τὸ Πνεῦμα, ἔσται ἐκ τοῦ μὴ καθ᾽ ἑαυτό, ἀλλὰ περὶ ἕτερον θεωρουμένου, τουτέστι τῆς ἰδιότητος. ἢ οὖν οὐδὲ ἐκπορευ·τὸν ὅλως· ἢ εἰ ἐκπορευτόν, ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς καὶ ἐκ τοῦ Υἱοῦ ἐκπορευόμενον, ἔσται καὶ ἐξ ἑαυτοῦ ἐκπορευόμενον· ὅπερ οὐδέποτε.

(Λα.) Οὗτος ὁ λόγος δείκνυσιν οὐχ ὅτι μὴ ἐκ τοῦ Υἱοῦ, ἀλλ᾽ ὅτι μηδὲ ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται, μηδὲ [ὅτι] ὅλως ἐκπορευτόν ἐστιν, εἰ γὰρ ἀνάγκη τὸ Πνεῦμα ἢ ἐκ τῆς οὐσίας τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεσθαι ἢ ἐκ τῆς ἰδιότητος, εἰ μὲν ἐκ τῆς οὐσίας, διότι αὕτη μία τῶν τριῶν καὶ ἡ αὐτή, καὶ ἐξ ἑαυτοῦ ἐκπορεύσεται· εἰ δὲ ἐκ τῆς ἰδιότητος, ἔσται τὸ καθ᾽ αὑτὸ ἐκ τοῦ μὴ καθ᾽ αὑτὸ ἀλλὰ περὶ ἕτερον. τοιοῦτον γὰρ ὡς εἰπεῖν τὸ Πνεῦμα· τοιοῦτον δὲ καὶ ἡ ἰδιότης. διὰ τὰ αὐτὰ δὲ οὐδὲ ἐκπορευτὸν ὅλως ἔσται· ἀλλ᾽ ἄτοπον τοῦτο. ἀνίσχυρος οὖν ὁ λόγος. ὃ γὰρ ἄτοπον ἐπιχειρεῖς δεῖξαι τῷ καθ᾽ ἡμᾶς δόγματι ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς καὶ ἐκ τοῦ Υἱοῦ λέγοντι τὸ Πνεῦμα ἐκπορεύεσθαι, τοῦτο ἕψεται καὶ τῷ ὑμετέρῳ λέγοντι ἐκ μόνου τοῦ Πατρός.

Φαίη γὰρ ἄν τις· ἀλλ᾽ οὔτε ἐκ τῆς οὐσίας ἁπλῶς, οὔτε ἐκ τῆς ἰδιότητος μόνης. οὔτε γὰρ ἡ ἰδιότης τῆς οὐσίας χωρίς, οὔτε ἡ οὐσία ἄνευ τῆς ἰδιότητος· λοιπὸν εἴη ἂν ἢ ἐκ τῆς οὐσίας κατὰ τὴν ἰδιότητα, ἢ ἐκ τῆς ἰδιότητος κατὰ τὴν οὐσίαν. ἀλλὰ τὸ μὲν ἐκ τῆς ἰδιότητος κατὰ τὴν οὐσίαν καὶ ἄτοπον. ἐκ γὰρ τοῦ περὶ τὴν οὐσίαν πάλιν τὸ οὐσιῶδες καὶ ὑφεστηκός, ὅπερ ἀδύνατον καὶ παρ᾽ οὐδενὸς τῶν πατέρων ῥηθέν. ἐκ τῆς ούσίας ἄρα· τοῦτο γὰρ καὶ οἱ πατέρες εἶπον· ἀλλὰ κατὰ τὴν ἰδιότητα· διὰ τοῦτο οὐκ ἔσται καὶ ἐξ ἑαυτοῦ. ἰδιότης δὲ τοῦ Πατρὸς τὸ γεννᾶν μὲν ἐξ ἑαυτοῦ τὸν Υἱόν, τὸ δὲ Πνεῦμα ἅμα προβάλλεσθαι διὰ τοῦ Υἱοῦ· ὥσπερ ἰδιότης τοῦ Υἱοῦ πάλιν τὸ ἐξ ἑαυτοῦ ἀμέσως προβάλλεσθαι τὸ Πνεῦμα ἐν τῷ γεννᾶσθαι ἐκ τοῦ Πατρός, ἤγουν τὸ γεννᾶσθαι μὲν ἐκ τοῦ Πατρός, ἅμα δὲ καὶ ἐξ ἑαυτοῦ ἀμέσως τὸ Πνεῦμα προβάλλεσθαι. Μέσος γὰρ ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ Πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ Πνεύματος, καθώς φησιν ὁ ἐκ Δαμασκοῦ, τοῦ δὲ Πνεύματος ἡ ἰδιότης τὸ ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς διὰ τοῦ Υἱοῦ, ταὐτὸν δὲ εἰπεῖν καὶ παρὰ τοῦ Υἱοῦ ἢ ἐκ τοῦ Υἱοῦ, ἐκπορεύεσθαι· καὶ οὕτω πρόεισιν ἐξ ἀμφοῖν τὸ Πνεῦμα φυλαττομένης ἑκάστῳ τῶν τριῶν τῆς ἰδιότητος ἀκινήτου, καθ᾽ ἣν ἕκαστον ἰδιότροπον ἔχει τὴν ὕπαρξιν τῆς ἑαυτοῦ ὑποστάσεως.

Σὺ δέ μοι πάλιν τὸ δύο εἰσάγειν ἀρχὰς τοῦ Πνεύματος ὡς ἑπόμενον ἄτοπον ἔπαγε, ὡς εἰς ἄτοπον ἀπάγων τὴν δόξαν, καὶ διὰ τούτου δοκῶν ἀναιρεῖν· οὐκ ἀρκούμενος οἷς περὶ τούτου πρότερον διείλεγμαι. εἰ δὲ βούλει καὶ τὴν ὕφεσιν αὖθις προτίθει, καὶ τὸ προσεχὲς ἀπαρίθμει, καὶ τὰ ἄλλα ὅσα σοι ἐδόκει προσίστασθαι· ἐγὼ δὲ τὴν περιττολογίαν καὶ ταυτολογίαν ἐκκλίνων, σύντομον λόγον ἐρῶ σοι· ἆρα οὐ φὴς καὶ τὴν κτίσιν ὑπάρξαι ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ Πατρός, ἐκ τοῦ μὴ ὄντος εἰς τὸ εἶναι παραχθεῖσαν διὰ τοῦ συνόντος αὐτῷ καὶ ἐκλάμποντος ἐξ αὐτοῦ θεοῦ Λόγου καὶ ἐν ἁγίῳ Πνεύματι; ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐκ τοῦ Υἱοῦ καὶ παρὰ τοῦ Υἱοῦ λέγεις εἰληφέναι τὸ εἶναι αὐτὴν καὶ ἐκ τοῦ Πνεύματος καὶ παρὰ τοῦ Πνεύματος· καὶ ἔστιν ἀρχὴ καὶ ἀρχὴ καὶ ἀρχή, ὁ Πατήρ, ὁ Υἱὸς καὶ τὸ Πνεῦμα πρὸς τὴν τῆς κτίσεως δημιουργίαν· ἀλλ᾽ οὐ τρεῖς ἀρχαί, ἀλλὰ μία ἀρχή· καὶ ὁ μὲν Πατὴρ διὰ τοῦ Υἱοῦ ἐν ἁγίῳ Πνεύματι τὰ πάντα ἔκτισε· τὸ δὲ Πνεῦμα συνδημιουργοῦν τῷ Πατρὶ καὶ τῷ Υἱῷ τὴν τῶν πάντων ἐτελείωσε κτίσιν· καὶ ὕφεσις οὐδαμοῦ τῶν τριῶν οὐδενί, ἀλλ᾽ ἕκαστον ἐν μίᾷ φύσει κατὰ τὰς προσούσας ἰδιότητας ἐνεργοῦν ἕκαστα τοῖς εὐσεβέσι γνωρίζεται. καὶ τὸ διὰ καὶ ἐξ καὶ ἐν, αἱ προθέσεις αὖται οὔτε τὴν μίαν ἀρχὴν εἰς πολλὰς κατατέμνουσιν, οὔτε τὴν φύσιν εἰς μεῖζον καὶ ἔλαττον· ἀλλ᾽ οὐδὲ τὸ διὰ πάλιν, τὸ προσεχὲς παρεισάγον, τὸ Πνεῦμα διίστησι τοῦ Πατρός· οὐδὲ τὸ μεῖζον, οὐδὲ τὸ πρῶτον οὐδὲ τὸ πρότερον, κατὰ τὰς ἰδιότητας ἐκλαμβανόμενον, ἔχει τὸ ἄτοπον· ἀλλὰ τὰ μὲν ἄτοπα φεύγομεν, εὐσεβῶς δὲ ταῦτα καὶ νοοῦμεν καὶ ἑρμηνεύομεν, καὶ καθὼς ἂν φαῖεν καὶ οἱ τὰς λέξεις ταύτας ἐν τοῖς οἰκείοις συγγράμμασι παραλαμβάνοντες ἅγιοι. οὕτω δὴ νόει καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς τοῦ ἁγίου Πνεύματος ἐκπορεύσεως, πλὴν ὅτι τὸ μὲν Πνεῦμα ἐξ ὄντος τοῦ Πατρὸς διὰ τοῦ συνόντος Λόγου ὡς ἐξ ἀρχῆς μιᾶς ἀμφοῖν οὐσιώδους καὶ φυσικῆς, οὐχὶ τεχνικῆς ἢ ποιητικῆς ἢ δημιουργικῆς, οὐκ ἀρχὴν ἔχον χρονικήν, ἀλλ᾽ ἀνάρχως ὡς ἄχρονον ὂν καὶ ὑπὲρ χρόνον ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς καὶ ἐκ τοῦ Υἱοῦ προαιωνίως ἐκπορευόμενον· τὰ δὲ κτίσματα ἔξωθεν ἐκ τοῦ μὴ ὄντος καὶ ὕστερον τοῦ εἶναι ἀρξάμενα. ὡς οὖν ἐπὶ τῆς τῶν κτισμάτων δημιουργίας ἀρχὴ καὶ ἀρχὴ καὶ ἀρχὴ ὁ Πατὴρ καὶ ὁ Υἱὸς καὶ τὸ Πνεῦμα, ἀλλὰ μία ἀρχὴ πάντων, οὕτω καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς τοῦ Πνεύματος ἐκπορεύσεως ἀρχὴ ὁ Πατήρ, ἀρχὴ καὶ ὁ Υἱός, ἀλλὰ μία ἀρχή. ἕτερον δὲ τὸ τὰ μὲν ὕστερον εἰς τὸ εἶναι ἐκ τοῦ μὴ ὄντος κληθῆναι· τὸ δὲ ἀεὶ συνὸν Πατρὶ καὶ Υἱῷ καὶ ἀεὶ συνεκλάμπον ἀμφοῖν, ὡς ἐξ ἀμφοῖν, ἤτοι ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς διὰ τοῦ Υἱοῦ, οὐσιωδῶς ἐκπορευόμενον. οὐκοῦν εἰ ἄλλοθεν τουτὶ τὸ δόγμα ἐλέγχειν ἰσχύεις, ἐκεῖθεν ἐπιχείρει. Τῶν δὲ μέμψεων ἀπόσθητι τουτωνί.

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