Bekkos on Google Books

February 4, 2011

Yesterday I discovered an on-line resource which, if it had been available some years earlier, would have made my studies of John Bekkos much easier. The resource is Hugo Laemmer’s Scriptorum Graeciae Orthodoxae Bibliotheca Selecta, published at Freiburg-im-Breisgau in sequential parts in the years 1864-65. I photocopied this book in, I believe, the year 2006 from a copy found at Harvard’s Widener Library (the copy which also, it seems, served as the basis of the Google Book); it is the text I mainly used when translating John Bekkos’s On the Union and Peace of the Churches of Old and New Rome, his Epigraphs, and the short work Sententia synodalis. The book is the first volume of a projected four-volume work; the other three volumes never appeared. It mostly consists of reprintings of texts of Greek authors favorable to ecclesiastical union which had been edited and translated into Latin by Leo Allatius in his Graeciae Orthodoxae Tomi II (Rome 1652-53); Laemmer adds to these texts various exegetical and polemical notes (at least some of which are also by Allatius); his actual revision of the texts on the basis of original manuscripts appears to have been minimal. In fact, Laemmer makes more typographical errors than Migne does (PG 141), although, because of the clearer typeface, Laemmer’s edition is much the easier to read.

The Greek text of Bekkos’s De unione ecclesiarum, with Allatius’s Latin translation, will be found in this book on pp. 197-406. Aside from the De unione and Bekkos’s Epigraphae (pp. 445-652), Sententia synodalis (pp. 411-422), and Apologia (pp. 426-438), the book also contains the text of Nikephoros Blemmydes’ two Orations on the subject of the procession of the Holy Spirit (pp. 108-186), as well as the debate between Gregory Palamas and Bessarion of Nicaea over Bekkos’s Epigraphae (published as running commentary under the text of that work).

13 Responses to “Bekkos on Google Books”

  1. Timothy Flanders Says:

    Hello, greetings in Christ,

    I am new to your blog, but I found it to be very interesting. I am an Orthodox Christian. Have you already translated Bekkos’ De unione, or is this whole blog a project to do just that?

    thank you !


  2. bekkos Says:

    Hello, Timothy.

    You ask a good question. This blog was actually started around the time when I had just finished a translation of Bekkos’s De unione ecclesiarum. Although excerpts from that translation have been published on the blog, I have not published the whole thing here, because I would like to see it published in the traditional fashion, that is, as a book. The reasons why the book has not yet been published are complicated; partly it has to do with the distractions of trying to make a living, partly it has to do with the necessary process of trying to gain a deeper understanding of the subject matter. At present, my goal is to publish the English translation alongside an edition of the original Greek text, based on the earliest manuscript; I have acquired microfilms or PDF’s of the different manuscripts, and have gotten some way towards collating them. I would hope to get that textual work done by the end of this year.

    I also am an Orthodox Christian, although, if you continue to read this blog, you will find that I am not a great fan of either St. Photius or St. Gregory Palamas. I think that Bekkos’s criticisms of Photian monopatrism deserve to be taken seriously; he is not an “anthologist,” as some scholars have described him, but a perceptive theologian who thinks that the antithesis between Western and Eastern Christian theology has been exaggerated for polemical reasons; I largely agree with him. As for St. Gregory Palamas, I am still attempting to gain a clearer picture of his doctrine and his history (the translations of Kyparissiotes that I have recently been putting on the blog are one expression of this desire); but it is already clear to me that St. Basil and St. Gregory of Nyssa do not teach a “real distinction” in God between essence and energy, and attempts to read that teaching back into them seem to me unjustified.

    In short, I write this blog for the glory of God and for my own salvation. St. Gregory the Theologian, towards the end of his life, said that he wrote poetry as a φάρμακον ἀνίας, that is to say, a medicine for grief; perhaps, if he were around today, he would be writing a blog for the same purpose.

    Asking for your prayers, and hoping you continue finding this blog worth reading.

    In Christ,

    Peter Gilbert

  3. Timothy Flanders Says:


    thanks for the reply. I am very interested in your perspective. I am a new convert to Orthodoxy and have been frustrated in the past few months by realizing that Orthodoxy is not as simple and as monolithic as many seem to believe strongly. I have never heard of an Orthodox theologian who questioned St. Gregory, but as I learn more, I am tending to lean more toward the view that these divisions (East and West) are exaggerated. Do you perhaps have any time to correspond? I think you can get my email from this comment.

    in Christ,


  4. Michaël de Verteuil Says:


    I hope to answer your last post re Islam and violence shortly, but something you wrote here caught me eye: “I am not a great fan of either St. Photius.”

    I will admit to being a bit puzzled. I deeply despise Photius’ churchmanship and his cloyingly self-serving personal apologetics, but I would have thought that his greatness as a scholarly theologian (readily acknowledged by Catholic commentators) was beyond question, whether or not one agreed with his “monopatrism.” Surely it is the force and accuity of his argumentation that prompted the West to sit back, think carefully, and articulate with greater care and clarity just what exactly it meant by the filioque (even if this reflection seems to have escaped most Orthodox observers).

    As I would not expect an Orthodox scholar to share my appreciation (or rather “disdain”) of Photius’ politics, is it possible that your siding with Bekkos on the very narrow issue of the procession may be blinding you to Photius’ broader merits and contribution as a theologian?

  5. bekkos Says:


    In saying that I am a great fan neither of St. Photius nor of St. Gregory Palamas, I did not mean to deny the merits or greatness of either of these men. I simply meant to forewarn Timothy that I question the judgment of these saints (who are commonly described as “Pillars of Orthodoxy”) on some matters of real doctrinal importance. If he finds that questioning offensive or corrosive of faith, then he were better off not reading this blog. For my own part, I write, not to offend anyone or to corrode anyone’s faith, but because I think certain things are true, and because, by speaking truth as best I see it, I seek to glorify God and work out my salvation. That is, essentially, all that I meant to say in the previous comment.

    As to Photius’s broader merits and contribution as a theologian: his broader merits, qua man of letters, were recognized by Bekkos himself. All those who have ever written about Photius acknowledge that he was perhaps the most learned man that Byzantium ever produced. And I would not deny that his specifically trinitarian thought helped to sharpen minds; if that were the measure of theological greatness, then he would share that honor with people like Arius and Eunomius. If I thought that his syllogisms against the Western doctrine were sound, then I would have no basis for complaining about him; I would rest content in the knowledge that you Catholics and Protestants do not worship the true God. But it seems to me Bekkos is right: Photius, on the basis of logical premises that are not scriptural or patristic but are actually his own invention, renders the ancient teaching that the Holy Spirit proceeds through the Son unintelligible; he exaggerates and absolutizes the differences between East and West. That is why I am not a great fan of his.


  6. Timothy Flanders Says:


    This is exactly what I wanted you to elaborate on. First of all, what do you mean by monopatrism? And the logical premises of his own invention? How does this make the procession of the Holy Spirit unintelligible, and how does this exaggerate and absolutize the differences? Especially, how does this make Caths and Prots out to not worship the true God? Is there a post that enumerates these things from your point of view? I did see your “general intro to the Filioque.” Should I read this to understand this perspective. Otherwise, feel free to email me or just comment if you prefer.

    in Christ,


    PS: I’m open to your view point.

  7. bekkos Says:


    I will e-mail you soon. But, for the present: “monopatrism” refers to the teaching that the Holy Spirit proceeds ek monou tou Patros, that is, from the Father alone. St. Photius is not the first monopatrist, but he is perhaps the first person to present a theological rationale for why the Holy Spirit cannot be held to proceed “from the Father and the Son.” Another way of putting this is that Photius is the first Eastern Christian writer to reply, in a serious way, to Augustinian trinitarian theology.

    As for most of your other questions: perhaps the clearest statement I have given about these things will be found in an article I published a year and a half ago in the journal Communio; links to that article are found in the post The Communio article, from October 2009.

    When I say that, if Photius is right, then the Catholics and Protestants do not worship the true God, I am indulging in a certain amount of hyperbole; it is certainly not my own position that the God Catholics and Protestants worship is a false one, and it is perhaps not the position of all Orthodox who think that Photius is essentially right. Yet I have met Orthodox Christians who do think this way. There was, in particular, one Orthodox hieromonk I met while I was teaching in Albania, who had done missionary work in Africa; he routinely put Catholics and Protestants into the same religious categorization as Muslims, animists, and idol-worshipers: all of them, for him, were merely different flavors of the same poison of “heterodoxy,” a lump of perdition showing no significant gradations or distinctions.

    Perhaps some would hold that that is a religiously serious point of view. But I don’t share it.


  8. Michaël de Verteuil Says:


    I know Photius more as a historical figure than I know his theology, but I did peruse his Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit and didn’t read there anything that doesn’t fall within the range of acceptable Catholic beliefs.

    He misconstrues and misrepresents what the West meant by the filioque, but it’s not entirely clear to me that he considered filioquists, even as he understood them, to be heretics as opposed to simply wrong and usurpatious fiddlers with the creed. He was quite happy to remain in communion with any of them who were willing to recognize his claim to the patriarchate, for example. I suspect that many Orthodox tend to out-Photius Photius in their anti-Catholicism and tend to ignore the more moderate letters he apparently wrote to some Western bishops in making his points, and the less arrogant tone he assumed following his second deposition (I think the Mystagogy dates from this later period, if I am not mistaken).

    Comparing Photius to Arius, strikes me as a bit harsh. He is also a Catholic saint, after all, even if only venerated in the Byzantine rite. It is admittedly rather hard to maintain much enthusiasm for a saint who claims that we are “forerunners of apostasy, servants of Antichrist who deserve a thousand deaths, liars, fighters against God,” but I don’t think he actually ever leveled the “h” word at us.

    As you are certainly more familiar with his theology than I am, feel free to correct me, but my impression was that he was the first scholar to attempt to synthesize the faith of the fathers into a more manageable and smaller set of more broadly applicable axioms, thus setting the ground for the greater of the Western scholastics such as Anselm, Aquinas and Abelard. If so, this is no small feat.

  9. bekkos Says:


    The “h” word:

    “See, O blind men, and hear, O deaf men, you who reside in the heretical West and are held by darkness!” Mystagogy (Studion Publishers, tr.), §81.

    “Recently (the second generation has not yet passed) that eminently celebrated Leo, who also was adorned with miracles, removed all pretext for heresy [i.e., for the filioque] from everyone….” Op. cit., §87.

    “The idea was conceived not only because of what we have just said, but also because of that heresy [i.e., the filioque] now openly and unrestrainedly proclaimed, but then only being whispered of in the city of Rome.” Ibid.

    Granted, the word “heresy” is used less frequently in the Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit to describe the Filioque than are some other words; the most common term appears to be the word “blasphemy,” which is found on almost every page; other terms are “impiety,” “apostasy,” “madness” (§56: “That noxious venom of impiety you have so copiously vomited forth truly demonstrates what spirit animates and possesses you.” §55: “you would be righteous if you entreated and sought how to escape death by hanging.” §9: “Oh, intemperant [sic] mind, drunk with impiety! And the Father (may He be gracious unto us, and may the blasphemy return upon the heads of those who originated it) would survive as a mere name…”). I find it somewhat astounding that you describe this book, written in Photius’s final years, as exhibiting “the less arrogant tone he assumed following his second deposition.” But, since you raise the point: yes, Photius did level the “h” word at you.

    “I did peruse his Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit and didn’t read there anything that doesn’t fall within the range of acceptable Catholic beliefs.”

    Strange. Last I heard, the range of acceptable Catholic beliefs is delimited by official pronouncements like those of the Second Council of Lyons and the Council of Ferrara/Florence; the former of these states:

    Fideli ac devota professione fatemur, quod Spiritus Sanctus aeternaliter ex Patre et Filio, non tanquam ex duobus principiis, sed tanquam ex uno principio, non duabus spirationibus, sed unica spiratione procedit…

    And it goes on to condemn and reprove anyone who would presume to deny this teaching:

    Nos huiusmodi erroribus viam praecludere cupientes, sacro approbante Concilio, damnamus et reprobamus, qui negare praesumpserint, aeternaliter Spiritum Sanctum ex Patre et Filio procedere…

    Likewise the Council of Florence:

    diffinimus … quod Spiritus Sanctus ex Patre et Filio aeternaliter est, et essentiam suam suumque esse subsistens habet ex Patre simul et Filio, et ex utroque aeternaliter tamquam ab uno principio et unica spiratione procedit….

    In my simpleminded view, these definitions declare that a positive denial of the Holy Spirit’s eternal and substantial procession from the Father and the Son falls outside the range of acceptable Catholic belief. If they are not saying this, then the common meaning of language has failed and these texts can mean nothing at all. Of course, care is taken further to delimit the sense of these statements (from the Father and the Son as from one principle, not as from two separate principles). But, taking all delimitations of meaning into account, it still seems utterly plain that the position these statements define as binding dogma is the position Photius, in his Mystagogy and elsewhere, characterizes as blasphemy, impiety, and heresy; and, vice versa, the position Photius defends in his Mystagogy (the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, in no way deriving his existence from or through the Son) is precisely the position these documents mean authoritatively to condemn, reprove, and exclude from Catholic faith.

    So I marvel when you state that, having perused Photius’s Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit, you found nothing there that does not fall within the range of acceptable Catholic belief. The range of acceptable Catholic belief appears to be a much broader and more nebulous spectrum than I had conceived to be possible.

    I say this, not because I regard either the Orthodox Church or the Catholic Church as heretical. As this blog’s existence attests, I would like to see a restoration of communion between the two. But such a restoration would require one of three things: either the Orthodox should become convinced of the truth of the Catholic doctrine and abandon their own, or the Catholics should become convinced of the truth of the Orthodox doctrine and abandon their own, or, in some way, both should become convinced that there is a measure of truth in both formulations. I would like to think that the third possibility is a real one, although logically it seems to be disallowed by the fact of an absolute contradiction; the fact that I do not think Photius’s syllogisms are logically sound, and I view Bekkos’ criticisms of them as largely valid, suggests, to some minds, that, instead of the third possibility, I have tacitly adopted the first. But, either way, to propose that there is nothing within Photius’s Mystagogy that does not fall within the range of acceptable Catholic belief is to make an extraordinary claim: it is to say that one can flatly deny the truth of a dogma of the Catholic Church, one can denounce it as blasphemy, impiety, and heresy, and yet remain within the range of acceptable Catholic belief. Would this not suggest, to some minds, that those who make this claim have tacitly adopted the second of the above three possibilities?

    As to Photius’s being accounted a saint in the Catholic Church, or at least venerated as such in the Byzantine rite, you know more about this than I do. But my guess is that it results from various people being persuaded by the revisionist history of the ingenious Francis Dvornik, S.J., who by and large ignores the Filioque issue, and whose whole history of Photius is predicated upon the dubious idea that there were two neatly identifiable classes of people involved in a struggle for power and influence in Byzantium during Photius’s day: the Moderates (i.e., the Good Guys, of whom Photius was a representative) and the Extremists (i.e., the Bad Guys, whose leader was Ignatius). Dvornik concludes (after much belabored argumentation that few people actually read) that the “Second Photian Schism” never actually occurred, and that Photius died in communion and in good odor with Rome, his accusations of blasphemy against Pope John VIII’s successors notwithstanding. I will grant that Photius wrote some conciliatory letters to Western bishops; he could be a charming man when he wanted to be. He clearly didn’t always want to be; and I must agree with the judgment of Henry Chadwick, that, in writing the Mystagogy, Photius had “planted a delayed-action bomb with enormous destructive potential” (East and West: The Making of a Rift in the Church [Oxford 2003], p. 191).

    Here are some verses from a canon in honor of Photius (from Isaac E. Lambertson, The Menaion of the Orthodox Church. Volume VI: February [Liberty, Tennessee: The St. John of Kronstadt Press, 1998], pp. 95, 101):

    “We have known thee, O Photius, to be the confirmation of the Faith, a teacher of the Church and immovable pillar of confession, a lamp of grace most bright and a mouth of divine inspiration.

    “As a faithful and holy hierarch, thou didst lawfully contend, braving battle for the divine teaching, O wondrous one; and with the cords of thy dogmas thou didst strangle the vain-minded Nicholas as though he were a wild beast.”

    My guess is that the Melkites and Ruthenians have dropped that last stanza.


  10. Michaël de Verteuil Says:


    I guess I will have to read the Mystagogy more closely (I did say I had only “perused” it). :-)

    But seriously, I should explain why I found it more “moderate” than you seem to. To begin with, caustic insult is part of Photius’s style of writing. It’s just rhetoric. Having an abiding contempt for Photius as a churchman, courtier and politician (why does he remind me so much of Michael Psellus?), I don’t take his fulminations too seriously, and just let them slide off my back. Perhaps I should take them more to heart, but the correspondence between Rome and the Melchite (i.e. dyaphysite Syrian and Egyptian) bishops at the time seems to suggest that Photius’ diatribes tended to provoke near-universal eye rolling and shaking of heads amongst his contemporaries.

    Now, as to why I don’t think the Mystagogy contains anything unacceptable from the Catholic perspective, consider that Photius is damning and anathematizing a straw man that doesn’t and, insofar as I can tell, never did exist.

    Photius appears to be under the impression that someone in the West (who, exactly he doesn’t say, but clearly it isn’t Rome where the “heresy” he perceives is only “whispered”) has been teaching that the Spirit originates as a first principle in both the Father and the Son. This strikes me as the (actually non-existent) “heresy” he is anathematizing. So he isn’t, in my view, anathematizing as heresy anything actually taught in the West either then or since.

    Now if Photius had insisted that the Son had no role in the procession whatsoever, he would indeed have been gone off the deep end as far as Western teaching (and Patristic teaching generally) is concerned. But I don’t see that he does. Indeed, his followers at Blachernae in 1285 implicitly acknowledged as much through a rather unconvincing recognition of this role as eternal in manifestation but essentially temporal and non-hypostatic. While clearly this isn’t what the West teaches, the exact mode and context of Christ’s role in the procession is not something that has ever been dogmatized in the West, so if Blachernae is a faithful expression of Photian theology, then Photian theology lies within the realm of currently acceptable Catholic belief (i.e. theologoumena). If Photius were a heretic, he couldn’t be venerated by even Byzantine Catholics.

    The three options you listed (Orthodoxy is right, Catholicism is right, they are both right) may be objectively comprehensive, but they assume a level of omniscient certainty to which the Catholic side does not pretend. The West teaches dogmatically that the procession is not independent of the Son, that it would not be without the Son, and that the Son (and of course the Father) are thus logically (but not temporally) prior to the Spirit (hence the invocation of Father, Son and Spirit in that consistent order). But that’s about as far as it goes. It makes sense to Catholics that the Son’s role pertains to the hypostatic relationship between the Son and the Spirit (and I guess this is what you should pick up in a Catholic seminary), but this isn’t actually dogmatically defined anywhere. Most Catholics would find a strictly temporal relationship as posited at Blachernae unconvincing, but theologians and bishops haven’t always agreed on everything. There is only so much about the triune nature of God that has been revealed, and we have to assume that speculation that goes beyond, but does not explicitly contradict, what has been revealed is not damnable.

    As to Dvornick, I coulnd’t agree with you more. I don’t understand how anyone can think that his whitewash can stand up to scholarly scrutiny. As an interested party, Photius’ entirely self-serving narrative should logically be tested against and corroborated by other contemporary testimony. This is a test Photius cannot pass and to which Dvornik conspicuously fails to subject him. If we are just to accept Photius’ portrayal of the critical events as the Gospel truth, why would we need Dvornik anyway?

  11. bekkos Says:


    Sorry for the delay in getting back to you.

    I very much wish that I could agree with your benign and broadminded reading of Photius’s intentions. Or, at least, I wish that you might succeed in convincing my co-ecclesiasts that that was really all that St. Photius the Great had in mind when he argued against the Filioque — the knocking down of the straw horse claim that the West teaches two ultimate sources in God. But I am convinced that his critique goes beyond that. First, Photius, I think, is aware that no one in the West actually asserts that Father and Son are two ultimate sources in God; this is, to him, beside the point; his point is, not that two ultimate sources is what Western people are literally saying and teaching in their churches, but that this is what their doctrine about the procession of the Holy Spirit logically implies. Secondly, Photius’s critique of the Western doctrine goes beyond the straw-horse claim about two ultimate sources because that claim itself forms only one side of a fundamental dilemma that he proposes: either the Filioque implies two ultimate causes, a kind of pneumatological Manichaeism, and the Spirit, consequently, must be seen as compounded, not simple, because it has its being from two sources, not one; or, if Father and Son are not two sources of the Holy Spirit’s procession, but a single one, then this implies that the Father and the Son have been coalesced into a single, trans-personal unity in which their personal distinctions are submerged, which amounts to a new form of the modalist, Sabellian heresy. These are not his only criticisms of the Filioque doctrine, but I do think all the rest revolve around this fundamental dilemma.

    If anything, it is the second horn of the dilemma, the charge of semi-Sabellianism, that most Orthodox have tended to see as the more serious one, particularly since the councils of Lyons and Florence defined the Holy Spirit’s procession to be from the Father and the Son “as from a single principle.” Writers like Lossky and Florovsky, not to say Gregory Palamas, see that “single principle” doctrine as substantiating Photius’s claims about the Filioque’s logical implications. The general Orthodox criticism is that Western trinitarian theology subordinates person to nature, makes personhood a mere function of the divine nature’s necessary self-unfolding. It seems to me that that criticism, whether justified or not, is not merely attacking a straw horse. There are differences between West and East, differences of mentality that come to expression in many ways, among them in the ways they formulate trinitarian doctrine; the basic question really comes down to whether or not these differences, which have always existed in the Church in one form or another, justify and necessitate the rejection of the Other as heretical and the breaking of ecclesiastical communion. My own reading of Photius’s works forces me to conclude that he did reject the Other as heretical (at least, after the Other had rejected his own claims to patriarchal authority). As I say, I would like to be able to pretend that he didn’t; and I don’t think that his doing this was wise and good, or should be followed by the Orthodox Church to all eternity. But if the question is whether or not Photius viewed the doctrine of the Filioque, as such, as heresy, then the answer is undoubtedly yes. And the same holds true of Gregory of Cyprus and the Second Synod of Blachernae, although they tweaked Photius’s doctrine to the extent of accomodating an eternal “manifestation” of the Holy Spirit through the Son; as I have stated many times, the intention of this synod was not to open a door to the West, but to close one. (I’m sorry if, in saying this, I sound like an ecumenical party-pooper.)

    “The West teaches dogmatically that the procession is not independent of the Son, that it would not be without the Son, and that the Son (and of course the Father) are thus logically (but not temporally) prior to the Spirit (hence the invocation of Father, Son and Spirit in that consistent order). But that’s about as far as it goes.”

    There are, I believe, places where Gregory of Cyprus affirms that the patristic doctrine of the Holy Spirit’s proceeding from the Father through the Son has no other purpose than to remind people that the name “Father” itself implies a relationship to a Son; to that extent, it seems, he is willing to acknowledge the logical priority of the Son to the Spirit: it has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit’s existence; it merely has to do with a clarification of the meaning of the Father’s name. To that extent, it doesn’t point to any real, objective order in God. Bessarion, in his debate with Palamas over Bekkos’s Epigraphs, replies to this claim; he points out that, if the issue is merely the meaning of the name “Father,” then one can equally call the Father “Spirator” and maintain that, to the extent that the Son is from the “Spirator,” the Spirit is logically prior to the Son; one can juggle the logical order by juggling the names. Bessarion says this, not to encourage such juggling, but to make it clear that, if Gregory Palamas and Gregory of Cyprus are right in denying that “through the Son” has anything to do with the Spirit’s existence, then the Christian practice of speaking of the three persons in the order Father, Son, Holy Spirit has no objective foundation.

    My point in bringing this up is that people like Photius, George Moschabar, Gregory of Cyprus, Gregory Palamas, and Mark of Ephesus routinely do deny the objective reality, in God, of an order of persons. They generally represent the trinitarian order of names as a mere reflection of the historical accident of how the persons were revealed in time.

    So, to get back to things said earlier, I would like to think that the third possibility, the possibility that the trinitarian formulations of both East and West have a measure of truth to them, is realistic, and that, in this possibility, there lies hope for a reconciliation of the churches. I would like to think this, but I am increasingly pessimistic about it. I fully agree with you that “there is only so much about the triune nature of God that has been revealed, and we have to assume that speculation that goes beyond, but does not explicitly contradict, what has been revealed is not damnable.” Yet I confess that I find it hard, at times, to see a reconciliation between positions that, after a thousand years of ideological warfare, have become thoroughly entrenched in their mutually exclusive self-sufficiency. Bekkos, in the thirteenth century, thought that the patristic doctrine of the Holy Spirit’s being “through the Son” served to thread the eye of the needle and tie the two teachings together; his viewpoint was dogmatically rejected by the Synod of Blachernae of 1285. I think his arguments deserve to be given a closer look. But I have, at this point, little expectation that a translation of John Bekkos’s works would change many people’s minds.


  12. Michaël de Verteuil Says:


    Actually, this pace is about right for me. Any faster and I would never get anything else done. ;-(

    I think we can bring this discussion to a close. I certainly don’t see myself as an apologist for Photius. He certainly believed there was heresy in the West somewhere. Even if he couldn’t actually find it in Rome itself, he clearly felt Rome was sheltering and even nurturing it by defending the filioque. As no one in the West is actually on record as drawing the inferences you suggest Photius felt the filioque implied, at best the West stands accused of philosophical incoherence rather that outright heresy.

    This business of Orthodox opposition to “as from a single principle” just leaves me bemused. This was specifically intended as no more than an apophatic assertion setting aside any notion that there are two processions. To zoom in on these words as if they were yet ANOTHER novel Western invention ON TOP OF the filioque (as opposed to a clarification aimed at addressing Orthodox concerns) just sets up a classic damned-if-you-do-and-damned-if-you-don’t.

    I should amend a point I made in my last post, btw. The logical priority of the Son with respect to the Spirit is not, insofar as I can tell, actually dogmatically taught in the West. It is merely an inference almost all Catholics draw. One wouldn’t be a heretic for not drawing it, and maintaining instead that there is no priority within the Trinity (though I am not sure how one would square that with the monarchy of the Father on which both sides agree).

    Understandably, I think your third thesis, is the correct one. It also happens to be the official Catholic position, which is why Photius and Gregory Palamas can be venerated as Catholic saints.

    The Orthodox participants in the North American dialogue also appear to agree, as they were willing to make in writing recommendations like the following:

    “that all involved in such dialogue expressly recognize the limitations of our ability to make definitive assertions about the inner life of God;

    “that… Orthodox and Catholics refrain from labeling as heretical the traditions of the other side on the subject of the procession of the Holy Spirit;

    “that Orthodox and Catholic theologians distinguish more clearly between the divinity and hypostatic identity of the Holy Spirit, which is a received dogma of our Churches, and the manner of the Spirit’s origin, which still awaits full and final ecumenical resolution;

    “that the theological dialogue between our Churches also give careful consideration to the status of later councils held in both our Churches after those seven generally received as ecumenical.”

    I take this last as a reference to Lyon II, Blachernae and Florence. Room may be grudgingly made for Bekkos yet, and these recommendations suggest to me that the book is not necessarily as closed as you fear.


  13. bekkos Says:


    Good. I stand by the third position; I’m glad to see that other Orthodox theologians are willing publicly to do so. I do not see Catholics as heretics, and do not call them this; as a historian, however, I feel obliged to point out that St. Photius and St. Gregory Palamas did not refrain from using this term. And the historical fact of their speaking this way creates present-day problems for Orthodox Christians who wish to get beyond the old impasse.

    I would also agree that we have sufficiently beat this dead horse, and that he should now be allowed to rest in pieces.


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