Because I am trying to put together an article on Bekkos and George Moschabar, I have of late been reading Martin Jugie again; he seems to have read virtually everything in Byzantine theological literature. In particular, he has a lot of information, and very definite opinions, on the issue of how far Byzantine writers understood there to be an indwelling of the hypostasis of the Holy Spirit in the souls of the just; this is an issue on which John Bekkos and George Moschabar were entirely opposed. Specifically, Bekkos sees it as the clear consensus of Scripture and the Fathers that the Holy Spirit himself — i.e., the person or hypostasis — is given by Christ to the faithful, and he sees this giving as implying something about the eternal, inner-trinitarian relationships of these two persons; Moschabar, by contrast, sees Scripture to use the term “Holy Spirit” in an ambiguous way, sometimes referring to the third person of the Trinity, sometimes to that person’s gift of grace — or, to put it differently, to an “energy” — and he lays it down as a kind of exegetical first principle that, whenever Holy Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit being given or sent or flowing forth from the Son, the “Holy Spirit” referred to is an energy, not the person. In teaching this, I think that Moschabar anticipated, in important ways, the doctrine of Gregory Palamas; in fact, it seems quite likely to me that Palamas was directly influenced by Moschabar’s writings.

Jugie is not an ecumenically sensitive writer; he is a Catholic apologist of the old school, and his references to Orthodox Christians as “Graeco-Russians” are bound to be offensive. Nevertheless, he is a clear thinker, and he backs up his assertions with evidence. As such, his historical judgments deserve serious consideration; it is for this reason that I present him here in English. I do not want to claim that Jugie is giving here a balanced, complete assessment of Orthodox spiritual tradition. But it does seem to me that some of the most important Orthodox writers of the past century, in particular the late Fr. John Meyendorff, were engaged in a tacit debate with Jugie over the significance of St. Gregory Palamas and his theology; if one reads Meyendorff as replying to Jugie, I think it opens one’s eyes as to what is at stake.

I would only add that what is given below is not a complete translation of Jugie’s chapter; I break off at the point where Jugie begins treating of more recent Orthodox writers.

Translated from Martin Jugie, A.A., Theologia Dogmatica Christanorum Orientalium ab Ecclesia Catholica Dissidentium, Tomus II (Paris 1933), pp. 233-242.

Article 3: On the notion of divine mission and of the relation between eternal procession and temporal mission

The doctrine of the Graeco-Russians on divine missions differs from the doctrine held in common among Catholic theologians in no small way. First of all, among dissident theologians you will not find the subtle distinctions and accurate definitions that are found among ours; for example, they do not clearly distinguish between visible mission and invisible mission; the aim or scope of the missions is not discerned by them with precision. All of their speculation concerning the nature of the missions has had a polemical origin — as though, when they take up the question of divine missions, they had almost solely this end in view, to weaken the force of the argument based upon missions which Catholic theologians employ to prove that the Holy Spirit proceeds and has existence from the Son. In this, Photius himself was their predecessor, not in fact in those writings where his explicit purpose is to treat of the procession of the Holy Spirit, but in his Amphilochian questions nos. 159 and 188, where he seeks to overturn the grounds of the Latins’ argument by teaching that each person of the Trinity, not excepting the Father, both sends the others and by the others is sent, indiscriminately. To establish this point, he appeals to certain texts of Scripture: Isa 48:16, “And now the Lord, and his Spirit, has sent me”; Isa 61 and Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me … he has sent me to preach the good news to the poor.” After him, Byzantine theologians commonly held the same view on persons sent and sending, relying upon the same scriptural texts; nor do most of the moderns veer from this position.

Gravely, therefore, do the Graeco-Russians adulterate the notion of mission, insofar as they deny that mission implies a necessary connection with procession ad intra, that it imitates, manifests, and, as it were, reproduces this ad extra. They indeed commonly distinguish a double procession, one kind ad intra, which is from eternity, from which the divine persons are constituted in their hypostatic being; the other kind ad extra, which they call temporal, which is mission itself. The temporal procession is common to the three persons. The terminus ad quem of this procession is that temporal effect produced in creatures, which indeed is common to the three persons, as is any operation ad extra. But as for the terminus a quo, temporal procession or mission signifies a simple external manifestation of the person sent from the person sending. This external manifestation bears no necessary relation to a procession ad intra; it is something altogether accidental and extrinsic, pertaining to the historical order.

Moreover, as regards the form itself of this external manifestation, they do not agree among themselves. Does such a manifestation include a real bestowal of the person sent, made by the person sending to the creature, such that, beyond the gift of grace conferred upon the justified creature, there would be also a communication of an uncreated gift, that is, of a divine person himself, who in a new manner and on new terms would begin to exist within the creature? To this question they do not give one unanimous response. Before the Palamite controversy, most, not all, taught that, in mission, an actual divine person is communicated to the creature. After this controversy, most, not all, have held that a divine person is by no means given or communicated, and they have seen in mission nothing else than an operation common to the three persons, by which grace is communicated to the creature, grace which, according to the system of Palamas expounded above, is pronounced to be uncreated, and is regarded as a sort of eternal and uncreated outpouring from the divine essence. This very operation [or: energy] is a manifestation of Father and Son and Holy Spirit, and not just of the person sent or the person sending.

The earliest polemical writers after Photius and Michael Cerularius had no more common pastime than to reproach the Latins with confusing the eternal procession with a temporal procession or mission; nevertheless, most of them did not deny what the Greek fathers teach so plainly, namely, that in mission, besides grace and gifts, an actual divine person is communicated to human beings. See in volume one of this work the words of Nicetas the philosopher (pp. 291-292), Euthymius the patriarch (p. 298), the author of the tract Against the Franks (p. 300), Michael Psellus (p. 303), and especially Theophylact, who properly distinguishes between the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s very person. For, in order to overthrow the argument of the Latins that is based upon Christ’s breathing upon his disciples after the resurrection, he wrote the following:

He breathes upon them, then, and gives them the Holy Spirit, not now granting them the perfect gift of the Holy Spirit (for this he was going to give at Pentecost), but rendering them suitable for receiving that Spirit … But after the ascension, when the Spirit himself had descended, and had bestowed upon them the power of miracles and other gifts …. If then he gave the disciples the Spirit when he breathed upon them, how was it that he later said to them, “You will receive power from the Holy Spirit, who will come upon you not many days hence”; or why is it that we believe that, at Pentecost, the Spirit is made to descend, if in fact he gave him on the evening of the day of the resurrection?

[Comment. in Joannem, xx, 19-23, PG 124, 297; Epist. ad Nicolaum, 4, PG 126, 228; In Joan., c. iii, 32-34, PG 123, 1224. Cf. tom. I, pp. 306-307, 309-310.]

During the twelfth century, many polemical writers repeated Theophylact’s words. Thus, for example, Eustratius of Nicaea, Nicholas of Methone, Nicetas of Nicomedia, Michael Glykas; in the thirteenth century, Germanus II. Mystical writers frequently say the same thing concerning the bestowal of the person of the Holy Spirit and the dwelling of the divine persons in the soul of the just, among whom should be mentioned Symeon the New Theologian, who not only teaches that the soul of a holy person is a temple of the Holy Spirit, but, in addition, contends that the soul necessarily is aware of this indwelling, and that it is impossible for anyone to have the persons of the Trinity within himself without intimately experiencing their presence.

Nevertheless, certain polemical writers, even before Palamas, begin already to deny that the person of the Holy Spirit is really given to the soul of the just according to that special mode which accompanies an infusion of charity and grace. If one were to believe them, it is not a divine person, but solely the person’s gifts, which are communicated, and they interpret the term “Spirit,” in those passages of Scripture or of the Fathers which have to do with the sending, giving, and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, to mean the spiritual gifts themselves. They support their opinion by the testimony of pseudo-Chrysostom who, in a certain discourse On the Holy Spirit, previously cited by Photius himself, says the following:

But if you should hear him say, “I will send you the Holy Spirit,” do not interpret this to mean the godhead: for God is not sent. These are names signifying operation, in that everyone who sends, sends to those places where he is not…. Therefore when he says, “I will send you the Holy Spirit,” he means the gift of the Spirit. And, so that you may learn that the gift is sent, but the Spirit is not sent, the Savior says to the apostles, “Remain in Jerusalem, until you are clothed with power from on high.” The scripture says, “God poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit.” It is not the godhead that is poured out, but the gift. For this reason, so that it might be demonstrated that that which is poured out is not the Holy Spirit, but the grace of the Spirit of God, David says to Christ, “Grace is poured out by your lips.” Grace is poured out, not he who bestows the grace. (PG 52, 825-826.)

In the twelfth century, these words are applauded by Andronicus Camaterus in his Ἱερᾷ Ὁπλοθήκῃ (Sacred Treasury), wherein he means to show that it is not the person of the Spirit but only his charisms that are bestowed upon men. As for Camaterus, John Bekkos refutes him by citing against him, at one time Christ the Savior’s clear words in the gospel, at another time testimonies from other Greek fathers, especially Cyril of Alexandria; the perspicuity of these testimonies is clearer than light. (John Bekkos, In Camateri animadversiones, PG 141, 419-428.) To this same question Bekkos devotes also his eighth Epigraph, which he prefaces with the following notice:

Since some people, when they hear that the Holy Spirit “exists” and “fountains” and “emanates” from the Son, give the strange account that it is not the divine nature of the Spirit which springs forth and fountains from the divine substance and nature of the Son, but rather the spiritual gift which comes to those who are worthy … because they take it that such a gift must be understood as something divided and disjoined from the Spirit’s divine substance, the following patristic citations have been gathered, from which one may apprehend … that it is the Holy Spirit himself, one of the Trinity and him who completes it and who is himself divine nature and perfect God, just like the Father and the Son, who is meant when one says that the Holy Spirit “emanates” and “fountains” and “exists” from the Son.

[PG 141, 673. If Philotheos Kokkinos is to be trusted (Contra Gregoram Antirrhet., vi, PG 151, 915-920), George the Cypriot, Patriarch of Constantinople, held the same opinion as Camaterus about the sending of the Holy Spirit — which however does not appear true from his published writings. Gregory was, nevertheless, in a certain respect the precursor of Palamas, by reason of his teaching concerning the eternal manifestation of the Spirit through the Son. See B. De Rubeis, Dissertatio I in Georgium Cyprium, PG 142, 109-110.]

Gregory Palamas and his disciples apply his teaching about a real distinction between God’s essence and his operation (= energy) to the divine missions in the following manner: Since the divine essence and the divine persons themselves are, of themselves, utterly inaccessible, imparticipable, and incommunicable, the mission of a divine person can be understood only of a common operation of the Trinity, in particular of that operation which has the name grace. Since then this operation, just like all the other operations of God, is something divine, uncreated, and eternal, really distinct, indeed, from the divine nature, but in fact truly inseparable from it, it follows that a mission can, in a certain way, be called an eternal procession (πρόοδον). However, an eternal procession of this kind, which is manifested in time, is solely according to operation, κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν, not according to nature, κατὰ τὴν φύσιν, nor according to hypostases or persons, κατὰ τὰς ὑποστάσεις. It has creatures in view, it is ad extra; it does not have in view the persons nor the processions ad intra. Therefore differentiation has to be made between a two-fold eternal procession, one kind according to the subsisting of the persons in the divine essence, the other kind according to an operation of the essence which is common to the three divine persons. Where Scripture says that one person is sent by another, this in no way signifies that the person sent is communicated to the creature, that it indwells the creature in a special manner and on special terms — for this is altogether impossible. Such a mission indicates nothing other than an external and temporal manifestation of that eternal and uncreated operation which is called grace or the gifts of the Spirit, which is in fact common to the three persons, and is communicated to worthy souls, or rather, reaches to them, extends itself to them, like the light of some eternal sun which, at a certain moment in time, illuminates a new region, illuminates new things which earlier lay in darkness.

According to this speculation or conception, the following expressions of Scripture or of the Fathers — “the Holy Spirit is sent by the Son, is put forth, poured forth or shed forth by the Son, is from the Son, shines out from the Son,” etc. — signify in fact a certain eternal procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son, but not one ordered to the Spirit’s personal existence. Such a procession occurs solely according to operation, κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν, ordered to the sanctification of the creature, or insofar as it is directed towards a terminus ad quem, it can even be said to be a temporal procession. In it is beheld, in truth, a certain showing and manifestation of the three Persons under an aspect whereby the persons are able to be manifested and known, namely by their eternal operation, which extends to the creatures and sanctifies them.

This is the genuine notion of divine mission in Palamite theology. Hear Palamas describing the mission of the Holy Spirit in his Confession of Faith:

The Spirit, subsisting in himself, proceeding from the Father and sent — that is, manifested — through the Son, himself also cause of all the creatures, as indeed it is in him that they have been brought to perfection, himself equal to the Father and the Son except in respect of unbegottenness and begottenness. He was sent by the Son to his disciples — that is, he was manifested. For in what other manner would he have been sent, since he was not separated from him? Or in what other way would he be able to draw near to me, since he is everywhere present? Wherefore he is sent, not only from the Son, but from the Father and through the Son; and he comes being manifested also from himself. For the sending, that is the manifesting, of the Spirit is a common work. But he is manifested, not according to essence (for no one ever has seen or declared God’s nature), but according to grace and power and operation (= energy), which is common to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

[PG 151, 766 A-B. Cf. the same author’s Homilia viii de fide, PG 151, 100 D.]

In his second treatise On the Procession of the Holy Spirit, against the Latins, he says these things:

The Son gives the Holy Spirit, but according to gift and grace and operation (= energy); he does not give the very person of the Holy Spirit, for this can be received by no one…. To be sent and to be given, when applied to God, means nothing else than to be manifested.

[Λόγος δεύτερος περὶ τῆς ἐκπορεύσεως τοῦ ἁγίου Πνεύματος, Constantinople, 1627, pp. 54, 61: Δίδωσι Πνεῦμα ἅγιον, ἀλλὰ κατὰ τὴν δωρεὰν καὶ τὴν χάριν καὶ τὴν ἐνέργειαν, οὐκ αὐτὴν τὴν ὑπόστασιν τοῦ παναγίου Πνεύματος· παρ᾽ οὐδενὸς γὰρ αὕτη λαμβάνεσθαι δύναται … Οὐδὲν ἄλλο τὸ πέμπεσθαί τε καὶ δίδοσθαι ἐπὶ Θεοῦ ἢ τὸ φανεροῦσθαι.]

Palamas’s genuine disciples hold the same doctrine. Philotheus Kokkinos expounds it at length in his Antirrheticus vi contra Nicephorum Gregoram (Gregoras, by contrast, teaches that the three persons of the Trinity indwell the soul of the just):

If the three divine hypostases, as you say, indwell every one of those who are worthy of God, then each one of those who are made deiform will possess in himself more than did that divine temple which for our sake, in a manner surpassing reason, the Only-begotten Son of God indwelled, insofar as that [temple] held in itself [only] one of the Trinity, united with it according to hypostasis.” (PG 151, 893 A.) … “The Spirit is participated in, not according to essence, nor according to hypostasis — for this is altogether foreign to theology — but according to the divine charisms and operations (energies)…. From all these things you have been taught that the Holy Spirit inhabits those who are worthy energetically, not hypostatically. That is, his energy, not his hypostasis, dwells in them, and makes them to be temples of God; and through the divine energy and grace they have dwelling in them the whole Spirit. For in each gift (charism) the whole Spirit, as working, is analogically present.” (PG 151, 901 C, 902 C.)

In his Tractatus contra Latinos, Macarius Ancyranus devotes four chapters to the present question; their titles sufficiently express the doctrine defended in them:

Ch. 76: That the Holy Spirit, poured out upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost, was not the divine person himself, but his gift and grace and operation, which also is called “Holy Spirit.”

Ch. 77: That the Holy Spirit, a person of the Holy Trinity, is one thing, and his bestowal and grace and power and operation — or rather, the common bestowal and grace and power and operation of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — is another.

Ch. 78: Concerning the discrepancy which some people find in the prayers of Basil the Great which are read on the day of Pentecost, and that the Spirit poured out at Pentecost was not a person of the Trinity, but his gift and grace: for it is “divided.”

Ch. 79: Moreover, that the Holy Spirit, one person of the Most Holy Trinity, both is always identical with himself, and is invisible and incommunicable to others; and that, just as his gift and grace is called “Holy Spirit,” so also it is called “God,” whenever it is seen and divided and participated in by all.

[Κατὰ Λατίνων. In Dositheus, Τόμος καταλλαγῆς, pp. 132-139:
«Ὅτι τὸ κατὰ τὴν Πεντηκοστὴν ἐκχυθὲν Πνεῦμα ἅγιον εἰς τοὺς ἀποστόλους οὐκ αὐτὸ ἦν τὸ θεαρχικὸν πρόσωπον, ἀλλ᾽ ἡ δωρεὰ καὶ χάρις καὶ ἐνέργεια αὐτοῦ, Πνεῦμα ἅγιον καὶ αὐτὴ λεγομένη.
«Ὅτι ἄλλο Πνεῦμα ἅγιον, τὸ ἓν πρόσωπον τῆς Τριάδος, καὶ ἄλλο ἡ τούτου, μᾶλλον δὲ ἡ κοινὴ Πατρὸς, Υἱοῦ καὶ ἁγίου Πνεύματος δωρεὰ καὶ χάρις καὶ δύναμις καὶ ἐνέργεια.
«Περὶ τῆς δοκούσης τισὶ διαφωνίας ἐν ταῖς κατὰ τὴν Πεντηκοστὴν εὐχαῖς τοῦ μεγάλου Βασιλείου, καὶ ὅτι τὸ κατὰ τὴν Πεντηκοστὴν ἐκχυθὲν Πνεῦμα οὐ τὸ ἓν πρόσωπον τῆς Τριάδος, ἀλλ᾽ ἡ τούτου δωρεὰ καὶ χάρις· αὐτὴ γὰρ καὶ μερίζεται.
«Ἕτι, ὅτι τὸ μὲν Πνεῦμα ἅγιον, τὸ ἓν πρόσωπον τῆς ἁγίας Τριάδος, ἀεί τε ταὐτὸν αὐτό ἐστιν ἑαυτῷ, ἀόρατόν τε καὶ πρὸς τοῖς ἄλλοις ἀκοινώνητον· ἡ δὲ τούτου χάρις καὶ δωρεά, ὡς Πνεῦμα ἅγιον, οὕτω καὶ Θεὸς λεγομένη, ἔστιν ὅτε καὶ ὁρᾶται καὶ μερίζεται καὶ παρὰ πάντων μετέχεται.»]

On this question, Joseph Bryennius plainly agrees with Palamas:

No one of sound mind (he says), whether he thinks the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, or from the Son, or from both, holds the opinion that the person of the Spirit takes up his abode among men; for since he is God by nature, not only is he invisible, in this respect, to every created nature, but even to the Cherubim themselves he is by nature imparticipable.

[Λόγος η´ περὶ τῆς ἁγίας Τριάδος. Opera omnia, ed. E. Bulgaris, tome 1, Leipzig, 1768, p. 344: «Οὐδεὶς ὑγιαίνων τὰς φρένας δοξάζει τὴν τοῦ Πνεύματος ὑπόστασιν … ἐπιδημεῖν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις.»]

As for theologians and polemical writers of the modern era, the greatest part of them accept this Palamite view, even those who in other matters contradict the theologian of the hesychasts….

There is not much on George Moschabar in English; the following brief sketch of his life may help, in a small way, to remedy that lack. It is translated, somewhat loosely, from the German summary of a recent dissertation in Greek, Δήμητρα Ἰ Μονίου, Γεώργιος Μοσχάμπαρ: Ὁ βασικός ἀντιρρητικός θεολόγος τῆς πρώϊμης παλαιολογείου περιόδου, βίος καί ἔργο (Athens 2009), pp. 368-370. For anyone interested, the dissertation can be read online: see the above link.

George Moschabar was, without question, an important and gifted author of religious works, who was born most likely between the years 1230 and 1240 and, in the earliest years of his life, must have lived in Islamic territory, as may be inferred from his surname or, rather, his pseudonym.

After this, he left his parents and betook himself to Nicaea, a city which at that time was a popular destination for ambitious youths. There, although of middle class origins, he had the opportunity to receive a higher education alongside Theodore II Laskaris (1254-1258) and to study under the care of renowned, significant figures of his time. He completed his studies in the year 1271. Within ten years, the theologian had made a name for himself as a teacher of the gospel and had begun working actively within the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Concurrently with this, he took a stance favoring the opposition to ecclesiastical union, at a time when the emperor Michael VIII and his patriarch John XI Bekkos were doing everything in their power to implement the Union of the Churches. As officer of Hagia Sophia and a titled official at the Patriarch’s court, Moschabar had no opportunity to uphold his anti-latin positions openly; therefore he confined himself, for the time being, to authoring anonymous circular letters against the Patriarch so as not to have to bear open responsibility for his published opinions.

Later, that is, in the year 1282, when Andronikos II had ascended the imperial throne, the situation in Constantinople changed radically: the opponents of ecclesiastical union emerged from the background and assumed an active role and a decisive, influential position in framing ecclesiastical-political developments. Gregory II the Cypriot (= “Cyprius”) was appointed as new patriarch; he appointed Moschabar as chartophylax of the Great Church and set him at his side as a trusted aide. As a titled official, the theologian now acknowledged his earlier writings as his own and openly pursued his polemic against the Union of the Churches.

Being convinced that the Western Church had perpetrated and supported a fraud, he published numerous dogmatic works: some were newly composed writings, others, reworked editions of the anonymous circular letters he had published previously. Consequently, the literary production of the theologian is found to be very considerable: his works extend to at least 1100 pages in manuscript, preserved in 26 manuscripts in eighteen different libraries. They may be classified as follows: either they appear as chapters, belonging to the branch of theology that is termed “antirrhetic” or refutatory, and having as content those differences which divide the Christian churches (107 in total); or else they appear as dialogues or are composed as Logoi (treatises, discourses) against the Latins. In all cases, they have as their scope the same central recurring theme, that of the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father solely and alone.

Parallel to his extensive literary activity, Moschabar not surprisingly took part in the disputes which erupted within the Church, and had a most far-reaching influence among his contemporaries. He participated in the synod of Constantinople and signed the Tome of Blachernae in which John Bekkos, Constantine Meliteniotes and George Metochites were stigmatized and condemned as heretics. Later, oddly enough, he turned against Patriarch Cyprius and even had doubts about the Tome which he himself had signed and thus, as to its contents, had legitimized. Subsequently he took the lead of that group which had arisen within ecclesiastical circles and which maintained the position that Cyprius should be viewed as no less of a heretic than John Bekkos. Among its adherents were Michael Eskammatismenos and John Pentecclesiotes, who sought to support this position and to elaborate its dogmatic significance. Although Cyprius reproached [Moschabar] with organizing a propaganda campaign against him with the aim of removing him from office, nevertheless Emperor Andronikos summoned Cyprius before a tribunal and constrained him to renounce his title to office, after first [agreeing] that the orthodoxy of [Cyprius’s] faith would be clearly affirmed and recognized by a procedure which had been proposed by Moschabar himself, who, last but not least, had also written the text acknowledging the εὐσέβεια [piety] of the former patriarch. This text by Moschabar represents the last testimony that has come down to us concerning the antiunionist theologian.

From the year 1289 onward, other traces of him are lost and his other activities remain hidden from us to this day. We do not know whether he continued composing anti-latin treatises or withdrew from this work entirely. Whatever the activities of the last years of his life may have been, we can take it as certain that Moschabar must have been a remarkable person, who influenced his own era as profoundly as he did subsequent centuries. His works in later years would be continually reused, whether identified as his own or taken as anonymous, in such a way that (not least) many important personalities did not hesitate to adopt them as their own. Maximos Margunios may be taken as a most characteristic example of this — a scholar who, some three hundred years later, would present and publish a dialogue by Moschabar as his own composition. But numerous were those scholars who were capable of appreciating Moschabar’s literary legacy and for whom this legacy served as a model for their own writing.

However scholars may have met with the antiunionist theologian’s texts, the fact is clear that George Moschabar was a significant personality who gave expression to the theology of the thirteenth century against the Union of the Churches and found numerous followers, both during his own lifetime and during the following centuries.

I began rereading Hegel this afternoon, after coming across a note in the book Geist oder Energie by Dorothea Wendebourg (Münich 1980). Wendebourg (p. 7) says that the point stressed as an axiom by some modern theologians (Karl Barth, Karl Rahner, et al.) that the only way to a knowledge of God in his eternal being is through God’s self-revelation in his economy, was made by Hegel some two hundred years ago in his Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, vol. 3. That axiom is important, not only in itself, but also for the work I am currently doing on Bekkos: in his book Against George Moschabar which I have edited, one of the main criticisms Bekkos makes against his adversary is that the latter, by claiming that grace, or divine energy, is separate from the person of the Holy Spirit and denying that what Christ sends is the Holy Spirit himself, the third person of the Trinity, undercuts the whole basis for our understanding God to be a Trinity. Wendebourg (who has evidently not read this book by Bekkos) makes essentially the same point as Bekkos in a short English summary of her book, titled “From the Cappadocian Fathers to Gregory Palamas: The Defeat of Trinitarian Theology,” in: Elizabeth A. Livingstone, ed., Studia Patristica, vol. XVII, part one (Oxford 1982), pp. 194-198.

Anyway, those who have read Kierkegaard, who criticizes Hegel as a proponent of a soulless historicist approach to faith, may find the following passage from Hegel’s Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion fairly shocking. Although Hegel held an extreme view on the ability of reason to comprehend the truths of faith, he was, on matters of basic Christian dogma, an orthodox Christian. And his criticisms of a purely historical approach to dogma that, because of its indifference to the content of what is studied, remains spiritually dead, still deserve to be taken to heart.

From J. Glenn Gray, ed., G. W. F. Hegel on Art, Religion, and Philosophy (New York 1970), pp. 163-166.

“Christ still indeed continues to be made the central point of faith, as Mediator, Reconciler, and Redeemer; but what was known as the work of redemption has received a very prosaic and merely psychological signification, so that although the edifying words have been retained, the very thing that was essential in the old doctrine of the Church has been expunged….

“Even though Christ be for many the central point of faith and devotion in the deeper sense, yet Christian life as a whole restricts itself to this devotional bent, and the weighty doctrines of the Trinity, of the resurrection of the body, as also the miracles in the Old and New Testaments, are neglected as matters of indifference, and have lost their importance. The divinity of Christ, dogma, what is peculiar to the Christian religion is set aside, or else reduced to something of merely general nature. It is not only by the Enlightenment that Christianity has been thus treated, but even by pious theologians themselves. These latter join with the men of the Enlightenment in saying that the Trinity was brought into Christian doctrine by the Alexandrian school, by the neo-Platonists. But even if it must be conceded that the fathers of the Church studied Greek philosophy, it is in the first instance a matter of no importance whence that doctrine may have come; the only question is whether it be essentially, inherently, true; but that is a point which is not examined into, and yet that doctrine is the keynote of the Christian religion….

“The strongest indication, however, that the importance of these dogmas has declined, is to be perceived in the fact that they are treated principally in a historical manner, and are regarded in the light of convictions which belong to others, as matters of history, which do not go on in our own mind as such, and which do not concern the needs of our spirit. The real interest here is to find out how the matter stands so far as others are concerned, what part others have played, and centres in this accidental origin and appearance of doctrine. The question as to what is a man’s own personal conviction only excites astonishment. The absolute manner of the origin of these doctrines out of the depth of spirit, and thus the necessity, the truth, which they have for our spirits too, is shoved on one side by this historical treatment. It brings much zeal and erudition to bear on these doctrines. It is not with their essential substance, however, that it is occupied, but with the externalities of the controversies about them, and with the passions which have gathered around this external mode of the origin of truth. Thus theology is by her own act put in a low enough position.

“If the philosophical knowledge of religion is conceived of as something to be reached historically only, then we should have to regard the theologians who have brought it to this point as clerks in a mercantile house, who have only to keep an account of the wealth of strangers, who only act for others without obtaining any property for themselves. They do, indeed, receive salary, but their reward is only to serve, and to register that which is the property of others. Theology of this kind has no longer a place at all within the domain of thought; it has no longer to do with infinite thought in and for itself, but only with it as a finite fact, as opinion, ordinary thought, and so on. History occupies itself with truths which were truths—namely, for others, not with such as would come to be the possession of those who are occupied with them. With the true content, with the knowledge of God, such theologians have no concern. They know as little of God as a blind man sees of a painting, even though he handles the frame. They know how a certain dogma was established by this or that council; what grounds those present at such a council had for establishing it, and how this or that opinion came to predominate. And in all this, it is indeed religion that is in question, and yet it is not religion which here comes under consideration. Much is told us of the history of the painter of the picture, and of the fate of the picture itself, what price it had at different times, into what hands it came, but we are never permitted to see anything of the picture itself.

“It is essential in philosophy and religion, however, that the spirit should itself enter with supreme interest into an inner relation, should not only occupy itself with a thing that is foreign to it, but should draw its content from that which is essential, and should regard itself as worthy of such knowledge. For here man is concerned with the value of his own spirit, and he is not at liberty humbly to remain outside and to wander about at a distance.”

John Bekkos: Apology

August 9, 2014

I know that I have neglected this blog for a long time: for that, I apologize. There are many reasons for this neglect, perhaps the main one being that my work as a teacher takes precedence. But I thought I would present readers of this blog with a translation I completed recently of a short work titled Apology, by John Bekkos. It was written during the mid to late 1270’s, perhaps circa 1276-77, and, as it takes the form of a public address, it may actually have been a sermon Bekkos delivered, whether publicly or, as some think, before a select audience of Constantinopolitan churchmen. In it, Bekkos rebuts the accusation that he means to add the Filioque to the Greek text of the Creed (though this was, in fact, what the popes who succeeded Gregory X were pressuring him to do, with increasing vehemence as the decade of the 1270’s wore on), and he defends his policy of détente with the West by appealing to the example of the Fathers of the Church, in whose steps he claims he is following. It is curious, and perhaps worth noting, that, in this work, Bekkos compares reconciliation with the West with the policy St. Basil directed in the late fourth century towards reconciling moderate Pneumatomachians, who, while acknowledging the Spirit’s divine attributes, were uneasy about applying to the Spirit the term “God”; the comparison cannot be seen as very flattering towards the Westerners.

Italicized numbers in brackets within the translation refer to pagination of the Greek text as given in Hugo Lämmer’s Scriptorum Graeciae Orthodoxae Bibliotheca Selecta (Freiburg-im-Breisgau, 1864). Lämmer republishes the text that was edited by Leo Allatius and originally published by him in 1659; that text is also to be found in Migne, Patrologia Graeca vol. 141, cols. 1009C-1020B. In one place, towards the end of this work, I have corrected a mistake in Allatius’s text by checking it against the earliest manuscript (Laurentianus plut. VIII.26).

I would only add that this translation, like all other materials on this blog, is copyrighted; if people want to quote from it, that is fine, but those who do so ought to cite their source and acknowledge the translator. I have had the unpleasant experience of finding my own translations quoted verbatim, without attribution, in at least one published academic book; those who do this should know that they risk legal action.


That an acceptance of the union of the Churches does not lead to the destruction of our traditions, but to peace in Christ, because the Churches agree in their understanding of doctrine.

[426] 1. “Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak, and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.”[1] Today I call upon heaven and earth to hear my words. And how shall I succeed in uttering a voice that should make the ends of the earth resound? And if I fail to come by such a voice, how may I satisfy that desire which [427] has led me today to summon heaven and earth to hear my words? But he who chose the fishermen, and who so strengthened them in their weakness that “their sound went forth into all the earth, and their words were heard to the ends of the inhabited world,”[2] shall strengthen my weakness by the overflowing abundance of his power, and shall prepare the hearts of all who may hear an echo of my discourse, making them open to receiving the truth. For if he is a God of truth, one who rejoices in being called “the truth” (for David also teaches me to address him as “truth”[3]), he will cause our words to be communicated to the Christians throughout the inhabited world. And he will do this, because the promoter of lies has spread the nets of his slander against us upon the whole territory of those who are called by Christ’s name, not confining himself to specific peoples and towns, but ensnaring even those who dwell in caves and in mountains.

2. But what is the slander, and how do we make a defense of ourselves as to those things in which we have been slandered? Come and hear, all you nations; give ear, all you inhabitants of the world.[4] [428] All of you certainly know, and none of you is unaware, how the longstanding hatred between the Churches of Christ, between, I mean, the elder Rome and our new Rome, turned back again into the good estate of that ancient peace, by the favor of Christ the prince of peace, who reunites and links those things that were sundered. But you also know how Satan, who forever eyes the good with malice, who substitutes his own hatred in place of Christ’s peace, who, again, is always plotting and warring against those who belong to Christ, was tireless in whipping up multitudes to oppose the peace; and, although he failed to find a way to circumvent the good of the peace itself, out of all evil stratagems he discovered one worthy of his wickedness. And the stratagem is this: he causes a rumor to sound in the hearings of all, a rumor concerning the addition made by the Romans to the Creed, alleging that the bishop of Constantinople has been co-opted by the Church of Rome to persuade the Church of the Greeks to read this Creed with the same addition. And, once this rumor had taken wing, and had flown with unchecked force throughout the world, it filled everyone’s hearing with the slander against us.

[429] 3. That, then, is the slander. But our apology in response to it, on behalf of which we are summoning a world-wide hearing, will not be composed of plausible arguments of the sort used by those who attempt to win their case by showing off their expertise in employing human wisdom; but for demonstrating the truth it will make use of the things that were done and enacted by the luminaries and teachers of the Church; looking towards those things, as to a pattern, we came across those arguments which have been the occasion for the slander that everywhere resounds against us. For being ourselves simple, and wearing the simplicity of Christ as a coat, we shall make our apology with all plainness, once we have prepared the impartial judgment of the hearers to know and to assess, whether it is in line with the pattern handed down to the Church from the fathers that we advocate for the Church of Rome as regards the addition made by the Romans to the Creed or, instead, we are acting out of some privately adopted opinion and, as those who slander us say, with disrespect towards the fathers’ customs and institutions.

In the first place, then, we find that the most great Athanasius – that extraordinary man, the sun of the ecclesiastical firmament, whose word is unconquerable, [430] whose manner is inimitable – when in his days no minor scandal had broken out between these very same Churches which are the subject of our present discourse, brought about a reconciliation between them no otherwise than by acting as an advocate for the Roman Church (since the Easterners had judged those belonging to that Church to be their adversaries). And what was his advocacy? Let him be present here himself, and by the words expressed by his own tongue let him announce to us what it was. For in his Tome to the Antiochenes he speaks thus:

“For as to those whom some were blaming for speaking of three hypostases, on the ground that the phrase is unscriptural and therefore suspicious, we thought it right indeed to require nothing beyond the confession of Nicaea; but on account of the contention we made enquiry of them, whether they meant, like the Arian madmen, hypostases foreign and strange, and alien in essence from one another, … or whether, like other heretics, they meant three Beginnings and three Gods.”[5]

And after the interpretation brought forward by them of the words, in an orthodox sense, he adds:

“Having accepted then those men’s [431] interpretation and defense of their language, we made enquiry of those blamed by them for speaking of one hypostasis, whether they use the expression in the sense of Sabellius, to the negation of the Son and the Holy Spirit.”[6]

Then in his discourse he inserts also the apology these people made in response to this, and, in what follows, divinely adjuring [us] by the harmony of conception in the interchangeability of the words, he says:

“Well, thereupon they who had been blamed for saying there were three hypostases agreed with the others, while those who had spoken of one hypostasis also confessed the doctrine of the former as interpreted by them.”[7]

And going forward, he adds to those things already said:

“Those things then being thus confessed, we exhort you not hastily to condemn those who so confess and so explain the phrases they use, nor reject them, but rather to accept them as they desire peace and defend themselves, while you check and rebuke, as of suspicious views, those who refuse so to confess and to explain their language. But while you refuse toleration to the latter, counsel the others also who explain and [432] hold aright, not to enquire further into each other’s opinions, nor to fight about words to no useful purpose, but to agree in the mind of piety. For they who are not thus minded, but only stir up strife with petty phrases, … do nothing except ‘give their neighbor turbid confusion to drink,’ like men who grudge peace and who love schisms.”[8]

And again:

“Irreligiousness is utterly forbidden, though it be attempted to disguise it with artful expressions and plausible sophisms; but religiousness is confessed by all to be lawful, even though presented in strange phrases, provided only they are used with a religious view, and a wish to make them the expression of religious thoughts.”[9]

And again, after some other things:

“Therefore if they … make an excuse that the terms are strange, let them consider the sense in which the Council so wrote…, that, even if the expressions are not in so many words in the Scriptures, yet, as was said before, they contain the sense of the Scriptures, and expressing it, they convey it to those who have their hearing unimpaired for religious doctrine.”[10]

These, then, [433] are the echoing sounds that reverberate from Athanasius’s thunderous tongue. But, for our part, because we observed that that shining light of the inhabited earth effected a reconciliation of the Churches in his own days, using such acts of economy and such reasonings, and because we deemed it a great thing to walk in his footsteps and be illuminated, as by a guiding light, by those things which he effected for the edification of the Church, whose cornerstone and linking keystone is Christ God, we gave ourselves to the reconciliation with the Roman Church, despising empty logomachy and contentions over terms as utterly useless, given that we understood the Church of Rome to be in agreement with us in its conception of orthodoxy; we cast such logomachy away, so that we might not hear ourselves being called those who “stir up strife with petty phrases,” and who “give their neighbor turbid confusion to drink, like those who grudge peace and who stir up schisms.”

4. Come therefore, you hearers of my words, judge impartially before the Trinity itself, before every heavenly power, if those people who charge us with advocating for the Ro- [434] man Church, as though it were the greatest of accusations, cast their votes against us justly, given that that Church, as far as the meaning goes, confesses [the faith] in a most orthodox manner; for, although they are accused of thinking there are two origins and two causes in the blessed Trinity, they dispel that accusation insofar as they revere and confess one origin and one cause. Athanasius served as advocate for the Roman Church, although he had no pattern for his advocacy, and although, in advocating, he looked towards no other paradigm; and he did this when the Italians seemed to have erred with respect to the weightiest of matters. For their confession of “one hypostasis” in the Trinity presented a suspicion of Sabellianism. And, as for us, we are charged with transgressing the ordinances of the fathers, although we follow the teacher Athanasius as his disciple, and direct our actions by looking towards his, as to a paradigm and archetype.

Now I suppose no further arguments will be required of me to demonstrate that we did not act in error by advocating for the Roman Church, overlooking the lack of agreement in words, and grasping hold of the agreement in meaning, for the sake of the God- [435] beloved and legitimate good of peace. But if, on account of the gospel faith in what is said by two or three witnesses,[11] I be required to produce yet other advocates among orthodoxy’s teachers, advocates who indeed did not go so far as to change the opposing side into that for which they made advocacy, but advocates who directed the whole point of their own position towards the peace of both parties, as imitators of Christ the prince of peace who joins and unites things separated – both Basil, great in divine things, will here be presented, and Gregory who rightly bears the name Theologian will show his agreement with the things that are said. As for Basil, then, great in divine things, he eagerly strives to reconcile those who do not say that the Spirit is God with those who, in explicit language, proclaim him to be God and consubstantial with the Father and the Son. And Gregory also, pursuing the same path of reconciliation between these parties, adds to the things that Basil says. For he says that he would not reject the Jewish people if they wished to be united with us but sought, for awhile, to use the term “Anointed” rather than “Christ.”[12] [436] But neither did Athanasius, great in divine things, when advocating for those who said “one hypostasis,” advocate for them to the point that those who taught three hypostases should have adopted the confession of the others; nor did Basil the Great, when he was seeking a reconciliation between those who unequivocally confessed the Spirit to be God and those who did not say that he is God, hoping to effect a peace agreement by exhibiting the equality in other terms, so serve as advocate for those who did not call the Spirit God that he changed those who do call him God into adopting that other persuasion; but neither did he who is called the Theologian, when accepting, as far as it was up to him, the people of the Jews if they decided to be united with us but chose the word “Anointed” instead of “Christ,” so advocate for this word “Anointed” as though meaning to persuade those who did not yet say this to start employing this term. And therefore, when we advocate for the Church of Rome, we do not[13] advocate for them to this point, that those who from the beginning and up till now have read in the Symbol of Faith that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father should change this and start saying that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. [437] But just as those lights of the world showed their own zeal as advocates for peace by looking towards the harmony of meaning, so we too, as disciples following those teachers, make our whole advocacy for peace and reconciliation with the Church of Rome in this way, favoring not the word, but the concept. But as for those people who are eager to accuse, and are quick to slander all things, let them accuse, let them slander. There is a God who will judge. It is he, the ultimate arbiter, to whom we shall have to render account, both for our words and for our actions. But if we have spoken thus in making our present apology, it is so that those who are preaching nothing sound against us may place no stumbling-block in the way of the souls of simpler folk, who have been summoned by my discourse to give it a hearing. For, as stated at the outset of this present apologetic speech, we made our self-defense, not with plausible arguments of the sort used by those who attempt to win their case by showing off their human wisdom; but, in demonstration of the truth, we exhibited the things done and accomplished of old by the lights and teachers of the Church. [438] As for you, if, after receiving this apology of ours, you still require other witnesses beside the divine witness himself, may you not give heed to those who have readied their tongues for slander; but may you become discerning seekers of the truth, and may you hold to the peace of the Churches, knowing that a great reward is laid up for those who support it in the day of recompense from Christ, the prince of peace.


1) Deut 32:1; cf. Isa 1:2.
2) Ps 19:4.
3) Cf. Ps 31:5.
4) Cf. Joel 1:2.
5) Athanasius, Tomus ad Antiochenos 5, PG 26, 801A.
6) Athanasius, Tomus ad Antiochenos 6, PG 26, 801C.
7) Athanasius, Tomus ad Antiochenos, 6 PG 26, 801D.
8) Athanasius, Tomus ad Antiochenos 8, PG 26, 805 A-B; tr. NPNF ii.4, p. 485.
9) Athanasius, De Decretis 18; PG 25b, 448 B-C; tr. NPNF ii.4, p. 162.
10) Athanasius, De Decretis 21; PG 25b, 453 A-B; tr. NPNF ii.4, p. 164.
11) Cf. Mt 18:16; 2 Cor 13:1; 1 Tim 5:19.
12) See Gregory of Nazianzus, Or. 43.68; PG 36, 588C. Two sentences before this, Bekkos appears to summarize St. Gregory’s account, in this same Funeral Oration on Basil, of Basil’s attempts to reconcile the Pneumatomachians.
13) Reading οὐκ ἐπὶ τοσοῦτον συνηγοροῦμεν, from the text at Laurentianus plut. viii.26, fol.45. Published editions lack the word οὐκ.

Constantine Meliteniotes

March 16, 2012

For those who are interested, I added to the Wikipedia today a short article on John Bekkos’s archdeacon Constantine Meliteniotes.

Yesterday evening I gave a lecture here in Cleveland at the Lyceum School before an audience of ten people. It is, I confess, a somewhat haphazard discussion, having been thrown together in the past few days in the midst of my work teaching six separate subjects; I could wish that it were better. The Q&A that followed the lecture was, however, excellent; some very important topics were raised. The following is the text of the address, with slight revisions.

My name is Peter Gilbert; I have been, for the past three months, a teacher here at the Lyceum School. Because the manner in which I came to be at this school is, in some ways, pertinent to the subject matter of this lecture, I shall very briefly provide you with some historical background. In 2005, at the time that I was still teaching at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, but was preparing to leave, I made the acquaintance of Luke Macik, now the headmaster of this school; at that time, Mr. Macik served as a lawyer in Gallup, New Mexico. I had heard of him through a mutual acquaintance, Mr. Joe Cieszinski, manager and proprietor of Cornerstone Books, who one day told me about a project that was underway to found an Eastern Catholic great books college near Chicago; he mentioned Mr. Macik, a parishioner at his church in Albuquerque, as one of the men spearheading this endeavor. Through him I obtained Mr. Macik’s telephone number; I called him, then drove down to Gallup to visit him, and the rest, as they say, is history. Eventually I became closely involved in the project to found what was to be called Transfiguration College; unfortunately, for various reasons, including the downturn in the economy, the college never managed to become a reality. At the time, I found it striking how often people who heard about this college would say what a great idea it was, and how it filled a real need. I still think that such a college is a good idea, that there is a real, felt need for it, and that a marriage of the traditional, theological content of Eastern Christianity with the methodology of great books, liberal arts education makes inherent sense. It is doubtless because he knows that I think this that Mr. Macik asked me, some months ago, to deliver this lecture, to talk about why such an education makes sense.

But I have to preface this talk by stating that to attempt to talk about both liberal education and Eastern Christianity, and to accomplish this in the space of a half hour or 45 minutes, is to undertake a fairly impossible task. There are too many things that must be left undefined and unexamined. What do we mean by “Eastern Christianity”? What do we mean by “liberal education”? One could spend well over 45 minutes trying to define just one of these two entities; to attempt to speak of both is perhaps foolish.

So let me start by saying that it is not my intention this afternoon to spend the time allotted to me making an apologia for this or that brand of Eastern Christianity. I am, myself, an Orthodox Christian, and am grateful for my baptism in the Orthodox Church; but I am also an Orthodox Christian who is convinced that many Orthodox arguments commonly used to justify the continued separation of the Churches do not measure up to scrutiny. I am quite a newcomer to Cleveland, but I have lived here long enough to notice that there are various neighborhoods in town where one finds, at one end of the block, a large church with an onion dome on top of it and a sign on the front gate saying “Orthodox,” while, at the other end of the block or the street, one finds another large church, perhaps equally splendid and ornate, with perhaps even more onion domes on top and a sign on the front saying “Catholic.” I could wish that reasons of frugality, if not the better motives of Christian love and peace, might dictate an end to such unnecessary duplication. It is, indeed, distressing to see Eastern Christianity as a kind of permanent illustration of Jesus’ words about a house divided.

Much of my research over the past half decade or so has been devoted to reading and translating people who also were distressed by this division and who sought to do something to end it. In particular, I have translated some of the works of John Bekkos, who was Patriarch of Constantinople during the short-lived Union of Lyons (1275-1282); he supported that union, and argued at length that it was theologically sound. Most Orthodox do not like John Bekkos; in contemporary Greece, he is commonly portrayed as an arch-villain, a sort of Judas or Benedict Arnold who sold his priceless birthright of Orthodox truth for a mess of Frankish porridge; mythological stories are invented about him having descended upon Mount Athos with Latin mercenaries, wreaking destruction and slaughter upon the courageous monks who resisted his impious doctrines; one particularly strident commentator on my blog maintained last year that he had seen, with his own eyes, John Bekkos’s bones, preserved somewhere upon Mount Athos in some sort of liquid medium, perpetually boiling as a sure sign of his eternal damnation; how John Bekkos’s bones ended up on Mount Athos when he was buried hundreds of miles away in an unmarked grave in Asia Minor, inside a government fortress, the ardent commentator never saw fit to explain, nor how he recognized the bones as actually belonging to John Bekkos and not to some other individual.

For myself, I have no special revelation regarding the eternal destiny of John Bekkos’s soul, but I am persuaded that Bekkos was a sincere Christian and a man who loved peace and truth. Bekkos was, I think, not only a good man, but a good liberal artist; indeed, I suspect that these two things, being a good man and being a good liberal artist, have something to do with each other. What these two things have to do with each other is perhaps the most important thing we need to clarify today. But, to say a bit more about Bekkos: he accepted the Union of Lyons because he sought to inherit Christ’s blessing upon the peacemakers, because he believed it was right, and in accordance with God’s will, to seek the unity of God’s people, and because his studies of the fathers had led him to conclude that the Greek-speaking fathers of the ancient Church were not as dogmatically opposed to Latin Christian formulations of doctrine as were later Greek Christians like Photius and Michael Cerularius; he thought that the later theologians, under the pressure of nationalistic rivalry and dogmatic controversy, had emphasized those things in which the churches seemed to differ and had minimized those things that might allow those differences to be seen in a better light. Bekkos even thought that he could see, in Greek patristic literature, a teaching on the Holy Spirit akin to the Latin doctrine of the Filioque; he found evidence for this in writers like St. Cyril of Alexandria and St. Epiphanius, but also in the Cappadocian fathers themselves, in St. Athanasius, in St. Maximus, and in many others. When St. Cyril says that the Holy Spirit is “poured forth substantially from both, that is to say, from the Father through the Son” (De adoratione et cultu in spiritu et veritate, lib. I; PG 68, 148 A), and that the Spirit is “both proper to [the Son of God] and in him and from him, just as, to be sure, the same thing is understood to hold true in the case of God the Father himself” (Commentarius in Joelem prophetam 35; PG 71, 377 D), and when St. Gregory of Nyssa says that the Son “is conceived of as before the Spirit’s hypostasis only in concept, with respect to causality” (Contra Eunomium I; PG 45, 464 B-C), or when he compares the Trinity to three candles, in which the flame of the first is communicated to the third through the second one (Adv. Macedonianos 6; PG 45, 1308 B), John Bekkos infers from these statements, and others like them, that the fathers in question knew of a certain mediation of being within the Holy Trinity, that the order of the persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is not merely based upon the order of the persons’ manifestation in time, but it has a basis in an eternal order of relationships within the divine Trinity itself. Undoubtedly, there are those who disagree with this interpretation of the Greek fathers; each side has its own set of proof-texts, to which it invariably appeals. But, for the purposes of this lecture, my point is basically this: John Bekkos is one example of an Eastern Christian who is also a liberal artist, a man who makes use of his intellect in the pursuit and defense of truth. He is certainly not the only example, and probably is not even the best one, but he is one whom I happen to know pretty well. He knew that texts have more than one level of meaning, that you cannot always rely upon the currently fashionable interpretation of them, that it is important to go back to the original sources and see for yourself what they are actually saying, and that this activity is not only intellectually but also morally good; it is one of the ways in which Christ the Truth is served. In reading the texts in this way, I think he has some insight into the mind of the fathers; they also were liberal artists, who served the Truth with their intellects; they knew that, while reason cannot get us to faith and knowledge of the triune God, reason does have its proper place in defending faith and in differentiating truth from falsehood. It is not for nothing that St. Peter tells his readers to yearn after “sincere, logical milk” (1 Peter 2:2, τὸ λογικὸν ἄδολον γάλα).

Of course, someone may say that the fathers were much more than liberal artists; they were saints, and their speech about God proceeded, not merely from a mastery of grammar, rhetoric, and logic, but from prayer and spiritual experience. There is a saying commonly cited in works on Orthodox Christianity, a saying which, I think, goes back to the fourth century writer Evagrius of Pontus, to the effect that the theologian is not, primarily, the one who sets forth a propositional system, but the one who prays. The type of the theologian is Moses, the man who ascends Mount Sinai, enters the darkness there, and speaks with God face to face. It is perhaps dangerous to say this in a school called the Lyceum, but it must be acknowledged that Aristotle is not universally held in high esteem in the Christian East; there were various attempts to baptize him (much of St. John of Damascus’s work The Fount of Knowledge, for instance, consists of a summary presentation of Aristotelian philosophy), and the fathers often rely on Aristotelian categories more than they care to admit, but, by and large, the one whom St. Thomas refers to as “the Philosopher” is not, in the Christian East, presented as a model for emulation; St. Gregory the Theologian says that we need to speak of God ἁλιευτικῶς, μὴ ἀριστοτελικῶς, that is to say, like a fisherman, not like an Aristotelian. Greek Christian hymnology is full of lines like those found in the Akathist Hymn, where the Mother of God’s miraculous childbearing is said render eloquent orators as mute as fish, and to shred to pieces the “word-webs of the Athenians.” One may also recall the response of a certain Georgian delegate to the Council of Florence to the Aristotelian argumentation of the Dominican John of Montenero; he said: “What’s this about Aristotle, Aristotle? A fig for your fine Aristotle…. What is fine? St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Basil, Gregory the Theologian; a fig for your Aristotle, Aristotle.” (Cited by Joseph Gill, The Council of Florence [1959], p. 227.) More particularly, the idea that theology should be thought of as a “science of revealed truth,” a rationally adumbrated propositional system, is almost universally looked upon within the Christian East with suspicion and misgivings; this, I think, probably holds true for many Eastern Catholics as well as for most Eastern Orthodox.

All of this makes one wonder whether the subject of Liberal Education and Eastern Christianity is genuinely a fruitful topic, whether these two phenomena can be related otherwise than by mere negation. I think that they can be, although we have to be careful not to misrepresent one or the other. I remember that, when we were having our discussions about a curriculum for Transfiguration College, a proposal was made that we should structure our whole theology curriculum around the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. Probably the thought behind this was that some figure was needed comparable to the role St. Thomas plays in Western Catholic thought, that is, someone who gives the East a “Neo-Platonic” synthesis, parallel to the Aristotelian synthesis Thomas supplies the West; the fact that Thomas quotes Pseudo-Dionysius so frequently was probably an added benefit. I fervently sought to shoot down this trial balloon before it got too far off the ground. First, because I am not persuaded that the Dionysian corpus is all that representative of Eastern Christian theology; it probably arose in Monophysite circles, and only became fully accepted in the Byzantine world through the interpretations of St. Maximus. But, secondly, I don’t know how many of you have actually attempted to read the works of the Pseudo-Areopagite, but I have; they make Kant’s and Hegel’s writings appear as models of expository clarity by comparison. This does not mean that one should ignore them; they are in fact important. But, as in mountain-climbing, one should start on smaller hills, and only attempt the Matterhorn or Mount Everest after one has worked one’s way up and gained a certain facility, so likewise it seemed to me folly to be sentencing undergraduates to four years of prolonged exposure to the Pseudo-Dionysius, with his super-this and his hyper-that, and his paradoxical affirmations of God as not-Being and not-Love; I could think of no surer way to guarantee high attrition.

One way to approach this subject of Liberal Education and Eastern Christianity might be to give a brief historical survey of the kinds of education Eastern Christians have actually received over the years, in their various home countries. Such a survey would not be without interest, and perhaps it would help to balance exalted philosophical claims about what constitutes an ideal education; one would like to see such speculations grounded in facts and history. For instance, I find it somewhat curious that even the very expression “Liberal Education” [rather, the expression: “Liberal Arts Education”] seems to be confined mostly to American educational discourse: people in Europe do not seem to know what a “liberal arts college” is, or at least, they have very few institutions that would answer to that description. Earlier in my life, I spent two years studying in England; one of the things I observed there is that the British educational system directs young people into an academic specialization much earlier than the American system does; in America, most students do not choose a college major until about their Junior year; in Britain, students are already taking specialized tests, their “O-Levels” and “A-Levels,” in their mid-teens, at a time when most American students are muddling through high school. It seemed to me at that time that this British system, with its earlier specialization, reflects the fact that Britain is a smaller country, there are fewer openings within the economy and more competition to fill them; thus, the competition perforce starts earlier, and children are allowed a shorter time in which to grow up. They are forced earlier to decide who they are, and are given less opportunity to explore different possible futures. Perhaps that makes for a certain maturity, or perhaps it creates, in some cases, a certain grim acceptance of inevitability, an inability to imagine new possibilities. On this point, I prefer the American system, with all its faults; I like the fact that we allow ourselves a little more time to grow up, in spite of the danger this entails that some of us will never grow up at all.

Some of the early Christians of the second century went about in the habit of philosophers, like St. Justin Martyr; these men were generally recognized as teachers and accepted students. But it is not till nearly the beginning of the third century that we find the first Christian school, and we find this in Alexandria; the catechetical school there, founded by a man named Pantaenus, featured in time famous teachers like Clement and Origen, and, later, Didymus the Blind. Of Origen’s teaching methods we have a detailed description from his student St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, who gave a panegyric on Origen in the year 238; by this time, Origen had relocated to Caesarea in Palestine, but his teaching there probably followed the same pattern as at Alexandria. St. Gregory describes Origen as an inspired teacher who brought people to Christ, not by keeping secular knowledge from them, but precisely by engaging with it, accepting in it whatever was good and rejecting what was bad, but all the while subordinating all worldly knowledge to the inestimable prize of knowing Christ. At times, St. Gregory compares Origen to Socrates, probing the students’ ideas and cutting down anything of feeble growth, so that the ground could be cleared for genuinely worthy fruits. He says that, along with giving instruction in dialectic and in the mathematical and physical sciences, Origen also introduced his students to every school of Greek philosophy, “selecting and setting before us all that was useful and true in all the various philosophers, and putting aside all that was false.” “He deemed it right for us to study philosophy in such wise, that we should read with utmost diligence all that has been written, both by the philosophers and by the poets of old, rejecting nothing, and repudiating nothing (for, indeed, we did not yet possess the power of critical discernment), except only the productions of the atheists, who, in their conceits, lapse from the general intelligence of man, and deny that there is either a God or a providence.” (In Originem oratio panegyrica, 13; PG 10, 1088 A-B; tr., Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 6, p. 34.)

Origen’s Christian school, nevertheless, was not widely emulated in later times. It cannot be stressed enough that, in the Christian East, the idea that Christians should avoid secular schools never obtained much currency; quite the opposite. In the fourth century, it was quite normal for Christian teachers to teach secular subjects, and numerous saints of the Church attended secular schools and had pagans among their teachers; this was the case, for instance, with St. John Chrysostom, who studied under the pagan rhetorician Libanius, as well as with St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory the Theologian, who studied at Athens during the decade of the 340’s; one of their teachers of rhetoric was the Christian Prohaeresius; the other was a pagan named Himerius. Among their fellow students was a member of the imperial family, named Julian; while at Athens he became a secret pagan, and he openly espoused paganism at the time that he became emperor (360/361). One of Julian’s acts was to issue an edict commanding that all public teachers be approved by the emperor; the intention of this was to exclude Christians from the teaching profession. Julian’s reasoning was that the ancient classics are pagan literature, and do not belong to the Christians; Christians have no right to teach such things. St. Gregory of Nazianzus retorted that classical literature belongs to us in respect of our being human; letters are a gift from God, just as language is, and the proper cultivation of the mind cannot be rightfully withheld from any person. One result of Julian’s edict was that Christians increasingly sought to provide Christian substitutes for the classical literature that was the traditional basis for instruction; two men named Apollinarius, father and son, set to work translating the Bible into classical meters, St. Gregory the Theologian, likewise, composed great quantities of classical verse, and, in the Latin-speaking world, men like Pope Damasus and Prudentius and St. Ambrose wrote hymns and poems and epigrams; even St. Augustine tried his hand at this, producing some verses against the Donatists.

Nevertheless, in spite of all this literary work, the basic classical curriculum did not change much. Nearly a thousand years after the Cappadocians and St. John Chrysostom, John Bekkos, in the thirteenth century, still received basically the same kind of liberal education as these fathers did when he studied under his tutor George Babouskomites; he read Homer and the other Greek poets, studied grammar, logic, rhetoric, perhaps a bit of mathematics and the sciences; a similar kind of education was received by Bekkos’s chief adversary, George of Cyprus. Neither of them saw such an education as conflicting in any way with traditional Orthodox belief. One has to remember that, until the final capture of Constantinople by the forces of Mehmet the Conqueror in the year 1453, the Eastern Christian world had never known the same sort of extinction of classical learning that the West had undergone in the succession of barbarian invasions from the fifth century onward, until learning finally began to revive under Charlemagne. The East did not experience such a hiatus, and consequently the Church was not looked upon in the same way as the sole repository of knowledge — although later, during the Ottoman period, it was indeed the parish priest who was mainly responsible for keeping the Greek language alive.

* * *

Is there, then, a specifically Eastern Christian form of education? Should there be? Or should an Eastern Orthodox or Eastern Catholic believer simply receive the best education that is available, from whatever source, and leave the specific details of Christian doctrine to what can be picked up at home or in church?

As mentioned earlier, I still think that the idea of an Eastern Christian great books college, or some application of great books methodology to the study of Eastern Christianity, is a good idea. There have been at least two attempts that I know of to make that idea a reality; one of them, Transfiguration College, I have already spoken of; an earlier, Orthodox attempt, Rose Hill College, actually opened its doors in Aiken, South Carolina in the late 1990’s for about the space of a year; it finally had to close down because the president of the college, a man named Owen Jones, who had bankrolled the whole operation, had essentially spent all his fortune on it and was going broke. Currently, an Orthodox professor of philosophy named Bruce Foltz, who teaches in St. Petersburg, Florida, is one of the main people pushing the idea; he makes the claim that an Orthodox Christian, by virtue of being an Orthodox Christian, will be a better reader of the great books than other people, a claim which seems to me theoretically bold but not easily verifiable; it is not, in any case, a claim that I would be prepared to defend. Another man who still publicly argues in favor of Eastern Christian great books education is the sometime dean of Rose Hill College, Dr. James Cutzinger; my worry is that he seems a bit too enamored of the religious theosophy of Frithjof Schuon, whose works are sometimes to be seen in New Age bookstores and which teach the doctrine that all religions are one.

My own claims about the liberal arts and liberal education, claims that were embodied in the Transfiguration College Statement on Educational Policy and which I would still be prepared to defend, are the following:

Education is necessary for our humanity. Unlike frogs, which cannot be more or less frogs, or oak trees, which cannot be more or less oak trees, human beings can become more or less human; being human is a task to which we are called. We can fail to live up to our nature. One way of speaking about this difference is to say that, unlike frogs and oak trees, human beings are created in the image of God; we possess that image as our birthright, but we can also fail to live up to it, in which case we are judged by our Creator.

Part of our being made in the image of God consists in our ability to speak; the first thing we find Adam doing is that he gives names to the animals. We have what the Greeks call λόγος; we have reason. This reason pertains to our being in the image of God; just as God speaks, so do we, and we are, perhaps, most rational when we recognize God’s speech, echoing in manifold ways in the world around us, when we hear God’s word and do it.

In hearing and doing God’s word, all of us, children of Adam, have fallen short, all of us have in various ways disfigured the image of God that dwells within us. To restore that image, God sent his Image, his Word, his Son, into our midst, so that we, by believing in him, might again be rendered reasonable and be reckoned children of God.

Being restored to the image of God is not a thing which any liberal education, as such, is able to deliver. The only truly liberal education, that is able to free us and restore us to our proper humanity, is that education which is afforded in Christ’s Church, that school in which Christ is not only the Teacher, but the daily bread on which the students feed.

But this does not mean that liberal education, in the common sense of the term, is useless. Our nature as thinking, deliberating, moral beings has to be educated; we cannot make right choices if we deprive ourselves of the means of knowing what choices there are to make. We need to learn how to read, to weigh evidence, to test possibilities; this also is part of learning to recognize God’s word in the creation. And we need to learn how to speak, so as to persuade others of the truth and dissuade others from fallacy and wrong; this also is part of doing God’s word. We cannot do these things, or at least, cannot do them well, if we are illiterate and ignorant.

St. Paul is very clear: the world, by its wisdom, did not know God (1 Cor 1:21); and, he says, he does not come to the Corinthians with excellency of speech, or enticing words of man’s wisdom; he knows that the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Cor 1:25). Those of us who are in the business of education need to remember this, that there is no inherent guarantee that a person who studies the liberal arts, who has read all the Great Books backwards and forwards, who perhaps speaks with the tongue of men and of angels, may not turn out to be an utter scoundrel. It is a sad fact about the fallenness of our nature, that intellectual excellence is able to coexist with moral depravity. But St. Paul also says that “that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them: for the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made” (Rom 1:19-20). Even if the world, in its wisdom, did not know God, it had no excuse for not knowing God; God had, in fact, left sufficient evidence of himself in the world, for anyone who had eyes to see. It pertains to a Christian education to have the eyes to see, to point out the hand of God in his works, to remind those who might not see or hear that there is in fact a Creator who will judge us. If that is what a Christian education is supposed to do, then that is also what an Eastern Christian education is supposed to do.

I need to end this talk; there is much more that could be said about this subject; we have hardly touched at all upon large questions, like the meaning of “freedom” that is implied in the word “liberal” (what is it that liberal education purports to free us from?). And much could also be said about the ambiguous stance that various thinkers, both within Byzantium and in later Russia, took towards the value of the liberal arts; if Dostoevsky famously said that, “Two and two makes four; yes, but, ‘Two and two makes five’ is sometimes also very charming,” what does this tell us about his estimation of the claims of rationality? But these are eternal questions, and a lecture, fortunately, is not eternal, but has a time limit, so I shall herewith bring this talk to a close. Thank you.

Nearly four months ago, I pointed out that Hugo Laemmer’s 1864 edition of some of John Bekkos’s major writings (Scriptorum Graeciae Orthodoxae bibliotheca selecta) is now available on Google Books. Over the course of the past two weeks, I have discovered that some even older Bekkos resources, dating back to the seventeenth century, may be found on the same source. Below, I provide links to the three earliest printed versions of Bekkos’s writings, the editions that both Laemmer and Migne relied upon in their nineteenth-century reprintings of Bekkos’s works. These are, Leo Allatius’s Graeciae Orthodoxae, volumes 1 (1652) and 2 (1659), and Peter Arcudius’s Opuscula aurea theologica (1670; a reprint of the 1639 [1629?] edition). The last-mentioned book is especially interesting insofar as it contains, on pp. 98-159, an early work by Bekkos that was never again republished, a collection of patristic texts that, in Greek, is titled the Συναγωγὴ ῥήσεων γραφικῶν. In an article published in 1977, Vittorio Peri speculated that Bekkos, late in his life, may be alluding to this work when he states, in his work De libris suis, §4, that, at a certain, early point in his career, he defended the orthodoxy of the Filioque by speaking about the Holy Spirit being from the Father and the Son “as from one God” rather than by using the more controversial expression “as from one cause” (see V. Peri, “L’opuscolo di Giovanni Vekkos ‘sull’infondatezza storica dello scisma tra le chiese’ e la sua prima redazione,” Rivista dei Studi Bizantini e Neoellenici, new ser., 14-16 (1977-79), pp. 203-207, esp. p. 209).

The images of title pages below are links; if you click on any one of them, it will cause the corresponding Google Book to open in another window.