Martin Jugie, The Palamite Controversy (continued).


(Translated from the text in the Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 11 [Paris, 1931], cols. 1795-1802.)

The Palamite Controversy gave birth to a massive theological literature; no complete inventory of it has yet been made, and it remains, for the most part, unedited. Followers and opponents of Palamas rivaled each other in literary fecundity, and the fact that so meager a subject as that of the nature of the light of Tabor was able to stir up the Byzantines of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries to such an extent, at a time when the Turks were depriving them of the last fragments of their empire, may evoke genuine surprise. Our purpose here is not to point out all the monuments of this controversy. It will suffice us to give a general view of the course of the quarrel, the physiognomy of the principal combatants, the opposition of their doctrines as well as the more or less marked nuances which, even within the same camp, sometimes separated companions at arms. Let us, for a start, deal with the principal representatives of Palamism.

1. It goes without saying that authentic Palamism must be sought for in the works themselves of Gregory Palamas. We spoke about this sufficiently in the preceding article; there is no point in repeating things here. Let us merely note that, in this system, as elaborated by its author, one must differentiate two things: the doctrinal basis and the terminology. As for what concerns that basis, Palamas had many disciples; as for the formulas, one can hardly count a single follower. The chief Palamite theologians with whom we are acquainted doubtless praise their teacher highly; they honor him as a saint and hail him as the great champion of Orthodoxy who in no way falls behind the most illustrious teachers of the ancient Church. Nevertheless, not one of them, not even the faithful Philotheos Kokkinos, habitually employs his most strident formulas; there is not one who speaks to us, for example, of the θεότης ὑπερκειμένη and the θεότης ὑφειμένη [superior Godhead, inferior Godhead]; who tells us that the former is raised above the latter to an infinite degree; that there is a multitude of θεότητες ὑφειμέναι, ἀνούσιοι or ἐνούσιοι [inferior Godheads, lacking substance or within a substance]; that the saints, by participating in uncreated grace, become uncreated and eternal, ἄκτιστοι, ἀΐδιοι. There thus existed, from the start, and even during Palamas’s lifetime, a tendency to tone down his system with respect to its formulas. He himself, at the council of 1351, appeared, for a time, to renounce the use of the plural θεότητες. Numerous Antipalamites took note of this backing down of the disciples when faced with their teacher’s wilder statements; cf. Kyparissiotes, Palamiticarum transgressionum, I, i, 2 (PG 142, 676); Manuel Kalekas, De essentia et operatione (PG 142, 336B: καὶ ἴσως μετ’ ἐκεῖνον οἱ τοῖς ἐκείνου συνηγορεῖν βουλόμενοι … οὐκ ὀλίγον τῶν τοιούτων ὑφεῖλον [“And perhaps after him those who wanted to support him … tempered no small number of things of this kind.”]). But there is no need to resort to the Antipalamites to make this thing clear. Codex 135 of the Great Lavra of St. Athanasius at Mount Athos contains (fol. 776v f.) a curious letter of the emperor John Kantakouzenos (unfortunately incomplete at the beginning) addressed to a bishop, after the council of 1351, in which this great protector of Palamism declares anathema to anyone who would employ a number of the formulas dear to Palamas. He writes, for example: “Our adversaries accuse us of placing in God two divinities, one which is essence, the other which is not essence; and I reply: Anathema to whoever thinks thus; λέγουσιν ὡς δῆθεν δοξάζομεν ἡμεῖς ἐπὶ Θεοῦ δύο θεότητας, μίαν οὐσίαν, καὶ ἑτέραν ἀνούσιον· ἐφ’ ᾧ καὶ λέγω ἐγώ, ὅτι ὑπὸ ἀνάθεμα ἔστω ὁ τοῦτο φρονῶν.” And again: “They pretend that we say that those who participate in the inferior divinities become beginningless, uncreated, and eternal; and I say, Anathema to whoever has such an opinion; Ἔτι λέγουσιν ὅτι λέγομεν ὡς τοὺς μετέχοντας τῶν ὑφειμένων θεοτήτων ἀνάρχους καὶ ἀκτίστους καὶ ἀϊδίους γενέσθαι· καὶ λέγω ὅτι ἀνάθεμα ἔστω ὁ τοῦτο φρονῶν. — They say again that we affirm that there are in God numerous and different faculties and operations. Anathema to anyone who thinks after that manner! But we confess three hypostases, of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, one sole essence and power and operation, and not numerous ones differing one from another, as those who defame us represent us as saying; μίαν δὲ οὐσίαν καὶ δύναμιν καὶ ἐνέργειαν, καὶ οὐ πολλὰς διαφερούσας ἀλλήλων, ὠς οὗτοι οἱ μάταιοι διαβάλλουσιν.” Kantakouzenos had good reason to protest: one could show him that the expressions upon which he casts his anathema are found in Palamas in virtually the same terms.

Apart from the formulations, one must recognize that most of the Palamite theologians of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries retain that which constitutes the basis of the master’s doctrine. Like him, they conceive of God in an anthropomorphic manner, and place in him a metaphysical composition of essence and of person, of substance and of accident. All of them teach the propositions expressed in the anathematisms and the acclamations of the Synodikon of the Sunday of Orthodoxy.

2. One faithful disciple of Palamas is the monk David Dishypatos, to whose short work on the origins of the controversy we have already alluded (col. 1754), [1] and whose Treatise on the blasphemies of Barlaam and Akindynos, addressed to Nicholas Kabasilas, has been preserved for us in the codex Paris. graec. 1247, fols. 1r-51v. [2] For him, the analogy of the sun and its rays conveys quite properly the idea we should have of the unique divine essence and its multiple operations (energies), as well as their relations.

3. Philotheos Kokkinos, another disciple of the first rank, is, even more than Palamas himself, the theologian of official Palamism. It was he who composed the τόμος ἁγιορειτικός, the anathematisms against Barlaam and Akindynos, and (with the collaboration of Nilos Kabasilas) the Tome of 1351 (cf. PG 151, 677D), he who inserted the new doctrine into the bishops’ profession of faith, he who canonised Palamas, who wrote his Life [3] and composed in his honor the service which the Greco-Russian church still chants. Of his numerous writings against the Antipalamites, only the fifteen books against Nikephoros Gregoras have been published (in PG 151, 773-1186, following the unreliable edition of Dositheos, Τόμος ἀγάπης). [4] One should note that the two λόγοι and the ἐπίλογος given in appendix, cols. 1139-1186, constitute in reality the three first books of the work against Gregoras, which thus consists of fifteen books, as many manuscripts indicate. Cf. G. Mercati, Notizie di Procoro e Demetrio Cidone, di Manuele Caleca, di Teodoro Meliteniota, ed altri appunti per la storia della teologia e della letteratura bizantina del secolo XIV, Rome, 1930, p. 245. Cf. the article “Philotheos Kokkinos” [in the DThC].

4. After Philotheos, it is John Kantakouzenos who in fact deserves first place among the Palamite theologians. No doubt, as we showed earlier, he sacrifices and reproves various of his teacher’s formulas; no doubt also, when debating with a Latin like Paul, archbishop of Smyrna, later [Latin] patriarch of Constantinople, he mitigates, as best he can, the very foundation of the doctrine, using artifices and reticences. But he upholds, nonetheless, the principal theses of the Tome of 1351. It was after he had abdicated and had become a monk that he took up the pen to defend the doctrine which he had caused to triumph by force when he was the basileus. His chief work on this subject is a long refutation of the Παλαμιτικαὶ παραβάσεις of John Kyparissiotes, contained in codex Laurentianus VIII, 8. Only the prologue, which gives a short historical perspective on the controversy, has been published (in PG 154, 694-700): Προοίμιον εἰς τοὺς παρὰ τοῦ μονάχου Χριστοδούλου συγγραφέντα λόγους κατὰ τῆς τοῦ Βαρλαὰμ καὶ Ἀκινδύνου αἱρέσεως [Foreword to the dissertations, written by the monk Christodoulos, against the heresy of Barlaam and Akindynos]. In his polemical writings, Kantakouzenos in fact calls himself, sometimes the monk Joasaph, sometimes the monk Christodoulos, while at other times he prefers to remain anonymous. His other polemical writings, all unedited, are [5]:

  1. A Refutation of Prochoros Kydones (contained in Paris. 1241). [6]
  2. A Refutation of Isaac Argyros (in Paris. 1242, fols. 9r-70r, and in other manuscripts). The work was written following a discussion with the monk Argyros, who maintained that the grace and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are created. Kantakouzenos teaches that they are uncreated and eternal, just like the light of Tabor.
  3. An Apology for the Palamite Doctrine, addressed to Paul, Latin patriarch of Constantinople, consisting of four dogmatic letters written in reply to questions from the patriarch. [7] This correspondence with a Latin prelate is highly interesting, and we shall presently return to it. In it, Kantakouzenos minimizes, as much as he can, the real distinction posed by Gregory Palamas between the essence of God and his operation (energy), to the point where, in certain passages, he seems to accept only what we would call a virtual distinction. Yet, in other passages, he maintains the Palamite thesis, saying, for example, that οὐσία and ἐνέργεια differ amongst themselves κατὰ τὸ αἴτιον καὶ τὸ αἰτίατον [as cause and caused], and that the essence remains inaccessible, invisible, imparticipable, whereas the operation (energy) is participable. What he categorically rejects is the formula dear to Palamas, θεότης ὑπερκειμένη, θεότης ὑφειμένη [superior divinity, inferior divinity], and he makes note of the fact that this expression is not found in the Tome of 1351: οὔτε ἐν τῷ τόμῳ εὔροι τις ἂν ὑφειμένην θεότητα, οὔτε παρ’ ἡμῶν λέγεται [neither in the Tome will anyone find the phrase “inferior Godhead,” nor is it said by us]. See the correspondence in question in the Barocc. 193, fols. 307r-354r.

5. Alongside Kantakouzenos one should mention Theophanes, metropolitan of Nicaea [8], who took part in the correspondence that took place between the former basileus and the patriarch Paul. Cod. Panteleim. Athonensis 179, fols. 108 sq. has in fact preserved for us a reply to questions from Paul, written by him in Kantakouzenos’s name: Ἐπιστολὴ ἐν ἐπιτόμῳ δηλοῦσα τίνα δόξαν ἔχει ἡ καθ’ ἡμᾶς Ἐκκλησία περὶ τῶν παρὰ τοῦ Παύλου προενηνεγμένων ζητήσεων συγγραφεῖσα παρὰ Θεοφάνους ἐπισκόπου Νικαίας ὡς ἐκ προσώπου τοῦ βασιλέως [A summary letter indicating what view our Church holds concerning the questions raised by Paul, written by Theophanes bishop of Nicaea as though in the person of the emperor]. Like the basileus, in whose name he speaks, Theophanes minimizes the Palamite distinction, but not to the point of rendering it acceptable to a Catholic; for he denies that, in God, the possessor and the thing possessed are the same thing (καὶ ἐν θείοις ἀδύνατόν ἐστι τό τε ἔχον καὶ τὸ ἐχόμενον ταὐτόν τι πρᾶγμα εἶναι καθὸ ἔχει καὶ ἔχεται [and, in divine matters, it is impossible that that which possesses and that which is possessed be one thing, in respect of it possessing and being possessed]), and he assimilates the distinction between essence and operation to the distinction of the divine persons among themselves. He goes on at length about the famous comparison between the sun’s disk and its rays, and finds it adequate for expressing the distinction between the divine οὐσία and ἐνέργεια insofar as it indicates that the two are inseparable and constitute two different realities: οὐ μόνον κατὰ τὸ ἀχώριστον τῆς οὐσίας καὶ ἐνεργείας συμβάλλεται τὰ τοιαῦτα, ἀλλὰ κατὰ τὸ διάφορον τῶν πραγμάτων [perhaps: such things are understood, not only in respect of the indivisibility of essence and energy, but also in respect of a difference of realities].

The metropolitan of Nicaea did not rest content with having sent the patriarch Paul this reply. Perhaps in response to being himself questioned again by the patriarch, he addressed to him a fairly lengthy work on the same subject, in five books; it is found in Paris. 1249, fols. 26r-112v.

6. The two Kabasilases, Nilos and Nicholas, uncle and nephew, also became converts to Palamism. It is with Nilos Kabasilas, not with Nicholas, as Boivin wrote in his edition of the Byzantine History of Gregoras, that Gregoras held a long discussion on the Palamite theses; this discussion is reported in Books XXII-XXIV of that History (PG 148, 1328-1450). Nilos finds nothing blameworthy in Palamas’s doctrine. He teaches, in particular, that grace and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are uncreated. We should mention the following work of his, contained in the Vallicel. 87, fols. 428r-433v: Λόγος σύντομος πρὸς τὴν κακῶς ἐκλαμβανομένην φωνὴν παρὰ τῶν αἱρετικῶν Ἀκινδυνιανῶν τοῦ θείου Γρηγορίου τοῦ Νύσσης λέγοντος· ἄκτιστον δὲ πλὴν τῆς θείας φύσεως οὐδέν, καὶ ὅτι οὐχ ἡ τοῦ Θεοῦ φύσις ἄκτιστος μόνη, ἀλλὰ σὺν αὐτῇ καὶ τὰ φυσικὰ αὐτοῦ ἰδιώματα [A brief discourse concerning the text, which the heretical Akindynists misinterpret, of the divine Gregory of Nyssa who says: “There is nothing uncreated except the divine nature,” and that it is not God’s nature alone which is uncreated, but, with it, his natural characteristics]. This title alone clearly shows us that Nilos is, indeed, an authentic disciple of Palamas.

From his nephew Nicholas, who happily earned renown for other writings, we know the short work titled: Κατὰ τῶν τοῦ Γρηγορᾶ ληρημάτων [Against the ludicrous statements of Gregoras], contained in the excellent Paris. 1213, fols. 282r-284v.

7. Again, among the Palamite theologians of the fourteenth century we should mention Philotheos, metropolitan of Selivri, whom we should be careful not to confuse with his contemporary, Philotheos Kokkinos. Under the title Διάλογος περὶ θεολογίας δογματικῆς [Dialogue on dogmatic theology], this author composed a veritable drama on the Palamite controversy, from which a note of comedy, even, one might say, a trace of mockery, is not absent. A dozen characters take part in the action, along with a choir of sophists, which plays the role of arbiter and counsellor, and emits, from time to time, picturesque exclamations such as are found in the choirs of Sophocles, Euripides, or Aristophanes —  Ὑπέρευγε, ἰού, ἰού, φεῦ, φεῦ — exclamations which fortunately serve to interrupt the laborious exposition of theological theses and to amuse the spectators. After an introductory scene between Mercurios, Philotheos, and Sophianos, Barlaam and Gregoras appear; they give us a repetition of the debate recounted by Gregoras in his Florentios. Although victorious in grammar, astronomy, and geometry, Gregoras is defeated by the Calabrian in dialectic and philosophy. After this scene of sheer comedy, there begin the dialogues on theology between partisans and adversaries of Palamas. Barlaam, Palamas, Akindynos, Gregoras, Kantakouzenos, the “patriarch” (who must be either Isidore or Kallistos), Isaac Argyros, Atoumenes, Dexios, and Philotheos expound, each in turn, their opinions. It is Palamas, as is only fitting, who speaks most often. The choir of sophists is not sparing in applause for him, although one has the impression that these accolades are somewhat ironic. What is remarkable about this curious composition is the exactitude with which it reports the opinions and the intellectual and moral physiognomy of each of the characters. It serves, in this respect, as an excellent résumé of the whole Palamite controversy. But, after one has gone through it, it is not hard to think that its author was, to some extent, skeptical with regard to the theses of Palamas. It is found in the Patmiacus 366, fols. 369r-411r.

8. During the fifteenth century, the controversy was not yet completely extinguished. There were still Barlaamites and Akindynites to be found in Byzantium, and we see numerous theologians taking it upon themselves to refute them. Symeon of Thessalonica, in his Dialogue against Heresies, speaks about the Antipalamites in exceedingly harsh terms. It is true that he ascribes to them errors which they never taught, for example the following: μηδεμίαν δύναμιν προσεῖναι λέγοντες τῷ Θεῷ [they say that, in God, there is no power], Dialogus contra haereses, chs. 30-31, PG 155, 144-158.

9. In Joseph Bryennios, we find a true disciple of Palamas. We possess one of his sermons, preached at the court, in which he seeks to prove by the testimony of seventeen authoritative teachers, among them the holy apostles John, Peter, and Paul, that the divine energy, grace, and the light of Tabor are uncreated, and that the elect in heaven see, not the divine essence, but its light. He teaches also, explicitly, that the divine hypostases really differ from the divine essence and are another thing than [it]: “In the same way,” he says, “that, when we assert that, in God, there is one sole essence, which is something other than the three hypostases, and three hypostases, we do not introduce composition in God and we do not turn him into a quaternity: so likewise, when we place in God one operation, ἐνέργεια, which is something else than the essence and the three hypostases, we do not make him something composite: οὐσίαν λέγοντες ἐν τῷ Θεῷ μίαν, ἄλλο τι οὖσαν παρὰ τὰς κατ’ αὐτὸν ἁγίας τρεῖς ὑποστάσεις, οὔτε σύνθεσιν, οὔτε τετράδα ποιοῦμεν.” Λόγος περὶ θείας ἐνεργείας, in Ἰωσὴφ μοναχοῦ τοῦ Βρυεννίου τὰ εὐρηθέντα, ed. Eugene Bulgaris, vol. II, Leipzig, 1768, pp. 112-140; see in particular his Discourse on the Transfiguration, vol. III, pp. 25-36.

10. Another rigid Palamite is Mark of Ephesus, who devoted the longest of his writings to refuting Manuel Kalekas’s work Περὶ οὐσίας καὶ ἐνεργείας. (Cf. the article “Marc Eugénicos,” DThC vol. IX, cols. 1981-1983, in which this work is described along with the doctrine it espouses.) It is still unedited, except for its third part: Κεφάλαια συλλογιστικὰ κατὰ τῆς αὐτῆς αἱρέσεως τῶν Ἀκινδυνιστῶν καὶ πρὸς Λατίνους περὶ οὐσίας καὶ ἐνεργείας [Syllogistic chapters against the same heresy of the Akindynists and in reply to the Latins concerning essence and energy], published by Seraphim of Pisidia, in the edition of Eustratios Argentis: Βιβλίον καλούμενον Ῥαντισμοῦ στηλίτευσις [The Book called “Droplets of Aspersion”], Leipzig, 1748, pp. 221-227, afterwards by W. Gass, Die Mystik des Nikolaus Cabasilas, Greifswald, 1848, pp. 217-233. We should note that these editions do not give all the κεφάλαια [chapters], in particular that which we have cited in the article “Palamas,” col. 1760.

11. Versed as he was in Latin scholasticism and, in particular, Thomistic theology, George Scholarios must have been rather embarrassed by the doctrine of his Church concerning the real distinction between the essence of God and his operation (energy) and concerning the uncreated light of Tabor. This embarrassment is apparent in the two dissertations which he has left us on the subject, the one, written in a polemical mood: Πρὸς κῦρ Ἰωάννην τὸν βασιλικὸν ἐρωτήσαντα περὶ τῆς τοῦ μακαρίου Θεοδόρου τοῦ Γράπτου ῥήσεως, ἀφ’ ἧς οἱ ματαιόφρονες Ἀκινδυνισταὶ θορυβοῦσιν, ἔτι δὲ καὶ περὶ ὧν οἱ αὐτοὶ περὶ τοῦ Πνεύματος τοῦ ἁγίου σοφίζονται [In reply to his lordship, the imperial John, who had asked concerning the saying of the blessed Theodore Graptus, about which the Akindynists clamor; also, concerning those things wherein the same people speak sophistically about the Holy Spirit]; the other, irenical, titled: Περὶ τοῦ πῶς διακρίνονται αἱ θεῖαι ἐνέργειαι πρός τε ἀλλήλας καὶ τὴν θείαν οὐσίαν, ἧς εἰσιν ἐνέργειαι, καὶ ἐν ᾖ εἰσιν [Concerning how the divine energies are differentiated both from one another and from that divine essence whose energies they are and in which they are]. Cf. Oeuvres complètes de Georges Scholarios, vol. 3, Paris, 1930, pp. 204-239. In the first of these, written in 1445, in which our theologian confronts the exegesis of one of the main patristic texts employed by the Antipalamites against the theology of Palamas (a text which derives not from Theodore Graptus, as the Byzantines of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries believed, but from St. Nikephoros, patriarch of Constantinople; cf. Antirrheticus I adversus Constantinum Copronymum, 41, PG 100, 304C-305A), the Palamite thesis on the uncreated light of Tabor and the real distinction between God’s essence and his operation (energy) is strongly mitigated, even if not entirely abandoned. The chief passage is the following:

As is God’s nature, so also is his operation; that is to say that, since, the nature is infinite, uncreated, and eternal, the operation is equally so, for, in God, operation should be on a footing of equality with nature, contrary to what we see in all other beings, in which, first, an essence is encountered and, then, an operation which, even if substantial, pertains to the order of accidents. This is how the thing may be explained: The essence of God is formally infinite, but his operation is not formally infinite, since a multitude of infinites is impossible. But, since it has a single existence along with the essence, which is infinite, the operation is also infinite, in such a way that the essence and the operation, considered as such, differ from each other as infinity and non-infinity. Infinity, in fact, does not come to God’s goodness from the concept of operation, but it pertains to it on account of the essence; contrariwise, infinity pertains to God’s essence by itself and on account of itself. But, by the fact that the one and the other have the same mode of existence, which is required by the divine simplicity, the two constitute one single infinite and one single God, the formal distinction being unable here to introduce either a division or a composition of realities, given that the divine nature is founded upon one unique and most simple subject: τῷ δὲ τὸν αὐτὸν τῆς ὑπάρξεως τρόπον ἔχειν, τῆς θείας τοῦτ’ ἀναγκαζούσης ἁπλότητος, ἕν τε ἄπειρόν εἰσιν ἄμφω καὶ εἷς Θεός, τῆς εἰδικῆς διακρίσεως οὔτε διαίρεσιν ἐκεῖ πραγμάτων οὔτε σύνθεσιν δυναμένης ἐργάζεσθαι, ἅτ’ ἐφ’ ἑνὸς ὑποκειμένου καὶ ἁπλουστάτου τῆς θείας φύσεως ἱδρυμένης. Op. cit., pp. 225-226.

Let us acknowledge that this language is not a model of lucidity, and Scholarios is no longer here to clarify it for us. If we understand him correctly, the Byzantine theologian is approximating here, very closely, the distinctio formalis a parte rei of Duns Scotus. The very term “formal distinction” is found here and must derive from Scotus himself, of whom Scholarios was not unaware. This interpretation is all the more plausible in that our theologian ascribed to the Akindynists, whom he is combatting here, pure nominalism. According to him, between God’s essence and his operation and his various attributes, they only posed a pure distinction of reason, the distinctio rationis ratiocinantis of our scholastics: ἠγνόουν δὲ ἄρα, ὡς ἔοικε, τίς τέ ἐστιν ὡς ἀληθῶς ἡ τῆς ἐπινοίας διάκρισις, ὅτι ὅρων ἐστὶν ἐν τῇ ψυχῇ καὶ ὑπ’ αὐτῆς πεποιημένων καὶ πεπλασμένων [Perhaps: But, as it seems, they did not know what really is a conceptual distinction, that it has to do with definitions in the soul, which are made by it and formed by it]. Ibid., p. 212, §5. As for him, he affirms that, prior to all operation of our mind, God’s divine attributes are distinguished formally, εἰδικῶς, both from the divine essence and among themselves. This formal distinction he also calls real, πραγματική; but it is a real distinction that is weaker than that which distinguishes the divine persons from each other: τῆς δὲ πραγματικῆς ἐκείνης αὖθις ἀδρανεστέραν, ᾗ τὰ θεῖα διακρίνονται πρόσωπα [but it is, again, weaker than that real (distinction) by which the divine persons are differentiated]. Ibid., p. 215, §6. Among the Palamites, Scholarios is the only one who expresses himself in this manner. In the opusculum about which we speak, he tries in vain to refer this view to Palamas and make it his praise. It is all too evident that we are far from the anthropomorphic verbiage of the hesychast theologian and the real distinctions taught by his true disciples. His [Scholarios’s] real distinction is, for him, nearly equivalent to the distinctio virtualis cum fundamento in re of the generality of Catholic theologians, and this, in our view, does not basically differ from the formal distinction a parte rei of Scotus.

There remains the question of the uncreated light of Tabor. Scholarios maintains this in the first of his abovementioned short works; but explains it as following from his general theory concerning the relation between the essence and the attributes, and he identifies it, in fact, with the divinity itself. The vision of Tabor was a manifestation of the Godhead: τὰ δ’ ἐν τῷ ὄρει γινόμενα τότε αὐτὸ τοῦτο θεότητος ἐπίδειξις ἦν. By a very rare miracle, the apostles upon Tabor enjoyed the beatific vision and possessed, for an instant, the kingdom of God: ταύτην τὴν βασιλείαν ἐνίοις αὐτῶν καὶ πρὸ τοῦ θανάτου διὰ τὴν τῆς οἰκονομίας ἀνάγκην ἐπηγγείλατό τε δείξειν καὶ ἔδειξεν. Ibid., §8, p. 221.

The short polemical work about which we have just spoken was written in 1445, while the author was in all the heat of the controversy against the Latins. The other dissertation on the divine essence and its operations is subsequent to the capture of Constantinople. Scholarios had no doubt read more attentively, in the interval, the two Summas of St. Thomas Aquinas, of which he has left us a summary in Greek, written in his own hand. What is certain is that the doctrine expressed in this second work, from which all polemicism is absent, approaches even more closely to the Catholic solution. From the outset, no mention is made of the light of Tabor. Moreover, the author, before giving his solution, examines the different kinds of distinctions, real and mental. He can then give his judgment on the question with greater precision. “The divine perfections or operations,” he says, “are distinguished among themselves and from the essence from which they are; but this distinction is neither completely real, like those which are found in other beings, nor solely mental. A fully real distinction would destroy the divine simplicity; a purely mental distinction would render our theology vain and superfluous. This distinction, from the perspective of reality, is inferior to the distinction which exists between the divine persons among themselves. It is called real insofar as it is opposed to a distinction of pure reason. The concept of each of the perfections is really distinct from the concept of the others. It is in this sense that they are really and formally distinguished, and are not the mere product of our mind: διακρίνονται δὲ οὔτε πάντα πραγματικῶς κατὰ τὴν τῶν ἄλλων τῶν ἐν τοῖς οὖσιν οὕτω διακρινομένων διάκρισιν, οὔτε κατ’ ἐπίνοιαν μόνην … Ἑκάστη τῶν θείων ἐνεργειῶν πρᾶγμά ἐστιν ἐν τῷ Θεῷ κατὰ λεπτοτέραν τοῦ πράγματος ἔννοιαν, ὅτι δῆλον ὅτι τι τοῦ πράγματός ἐστι κἀν τῷ πράγματι πρὸς ἀντιδιαστολὴν τῶν δευτέρων νοητῶν. Op. cit., pp. 235-239.

True Palamism, it is evident, dissolves away under the analysis of this Aristotelian student of St. Thomas, George Scholarios. We have another indication from his final thought. In his résumé of the two Summas of the Angel of the School, he notes, to be sure, in the preface, that St. Thomas strays from Byzantine Orthodoxy on the two points of the procession of the Holy Spirit and the distinction between God’s essence and his operations. But, whereas he skips the articles which treat of the procession of the Holy Spirit ab utroque, he summarizes, faithfully and without any comment, the numerous articles in which the Latin theologian affirms the real identity, in God, of the essence and the attributes and operations, and also the real identity of each person with the essence. Is this not to acknowledge to us, implicitly, that he subscribes to the Thomist doctrine and that he is, fundamentally, very embarrassed by official Palamism, which his reason finds repugnant?


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