Posted by: ken98 | September 21, 2011

An Old Man’s Three Chapters, A Forgotten General Council, And A Well-Intended Heresy

Day 740 – Ken here (W)(9-21-2011)
(DEF II, v.4, Ch.47, pp.970-980)(pages read: 2030)

Still grumpier (if that were possible) – we have two more days, then thankfully, back to real history, and enough of my frothing publicly at the mouth in a blog-like way.

We continue with Gibbon’s Chapter on the Heresies.

The Story
Justinian’s Three Chapters and the Forgotten General Council (553)
  • Attack against the theologian Origen (from the 200’s – dead 300 years now)in general, the attack started through DECREES of JUSTINIAN – this is the caesaropapism – the blending of theological and political resp’s in the Eastern Emperor – he could legislate theology – even of dead men – this is of course, when Justinian was very old – the 3 Chapters became his bete noire and his pet project
  • specifically against Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodore of Cyrrhus, and Ibas of Edessa – all 3 are condemned to hell as friends of Nestorius
  • Remember, supp. Justinian was pro-Dyphysite, his wife the empress Theodora was Mono-physite (pro-Cyril, anti-Nestorius) – so this is a Theodora move
  • 5th General Council in Constantinople (11th of Const) – made the authors/defenders of the 3 chapters HERETICS – against the monophysites
  • Pope Vigilius agrees, but as it goes against the Council of Chalcedon and the Tome of Leo, the Romans retracted their agreement and this caused a rupture between the Church in Rome and Constantinople – something which was not trivial as Eastern Rome had her troops scattered all over Italy and the Roman Bishop, like all Imperial Bishops was subj to the emperor – esp if hes was arrested – which happened from time to time
  • However the disagreement was allowed to lapse by later emperors (Justin, Tiberius, Maurice, Phocas), and the Council forgotten eventually – most national churches did not include the Council of 553 in their lists of authoritative councils anyway

    Monothelitism – the Artificial Heresy (629)
  • Heraclius, victorious after the Persian Wars (in the very few years before the Arabs took away 2/3 of his empire), turned his thoughts to Mono-Dyphysite issues and proposed an imperial solution
  • He asked and received positive results from both mono and dyphysite camps that all agreed that regardless of the NATURES of Christ, His WILL as SINGULAR
  • Encouraged (I would say fooled) by this, In good faith and hoping for the best for his country, he released a firestorm of protest by proposing mono-thelitism – one will-ness – as a unifying religious force for his recently-renewed and vast Roman Empire – all was to be good again, it was to be a golden age
  • Constantinople, Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch agreed, then REVOKED their agreement later
  • Apparently as they further studied it, they realized that Monothelitism was satanic and the worst of heresies – from her on out, Christ was said to have 2 perfectly coordinated wills (Dyphysites) – well, the Mono physites would only have one will
  • The end result: people that supported the emperors and their orthodoxy were termed YET A THIRD PARTY the Melchites (in Persia, in Arab-ruled Middle East, in places where national churches sprouted up not associated with Rome and not under Constantinopolitan rule

    Short Shrift to Heraclius – 6th General Council Constantinople(680)
  • Long after the empire was lost, Heraclius’s attempt at union is anathematized
  • Monothelitism is a heresy




    How I'm feeling reading Ecclesiastical History

    AAAUUUUGGGGHHH! How I'm feeling reading Ecclesiastical History - or any history with the history of the church included that maintains the laughable assumption that the Heresies and Heretics of 1400 years ago are the LOSERS and the Orthodox are the WINNERS and WE ARE THE WINNERS TOO - the truth is there isn't a church on earth today that would pass patriarchal muster in the 400's - WE ARE ALL HERETICS TODAY - in the eyes of Late Antiquity - and would have been stoned and exiled on sight - thus (AND YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED) the RABID GROUCHINESS of this BLOG over the past week or so - Gibbon's long chapter on Imperial Roman Reaction to Religious Dissension


    Last Word…


    On History In General – Hot Air vs Cold Facts

    It’s a truism that it’s impossible to communicate without some intention – and therefor there is no neutral communication. I think everyone figures that out sometime in Junior High School, about the time they figure out that their parents don’t know everything and adults aren’t always right. Sadly, some never progress beyond this joyous discovery, and I can personally attest to many of my former compatriots in Graduate History Programs who devoted a great deal of their time and energies into proving the fact that there ARE NO HISTORICAL FACTS and all is opinion. Everything is relative. Which again is true – an adolescent truth, but true nonetheless – something you can grow out of, if you give it the old college try, but you’ve got to work at it. because it’s only PARTIALLY TRUE – which you would think they would get, because if all truth is relative, even the truth that truth is relative, then it stands to reason it is true only in certain situations – but THIS TRUTH is usually glossed over. Anyways…

    It is a little like pouring a teaspoonful of salt into Lake Erie and maintaining that now SINCE YOU’VE ADDED SALT, Lake Erie is a salty Ocean and no longer a lake (either-or, no-gray, black-or-white reasoning – which unfortunately leads to egregious error).

    The key here is life is a spectrum of shades of gray, and beware anyone who presents TRUTH in binary form – all ones and zeroes – all black or all white – it’s usually a LOT MORE COMPLICATED THAN THAT.

    Hot Air, Cold Facts

    So… what kinds of useful SPECTRUMS can we use when looking at history? One would be the intent of the authors – To Win or To Describe – winning is the art of rhetoric, changing people’s behavior by getting them to believe your opinion – describing is the Aristotelian goal of describing the universe around us dispassionately in order to list facts and predict behavior of the universe in the future. Winning is using facts to CHANGE behavior, Describing is using facts to PREDICT behavior – and EVERY HISTORY is SOMEWHERE ON THIS SPECTRUM – from pure propaganda (a la Nazis, or Stalin) to pure SCIENCE (a la taxonomy – descriptions of species for classification for example). Again, obviously, all communication falls somewhere on this spectrum – so, like the 7th grader we can say “that’s not fact, you’re only trying to persuade me with your opinion.” The best a historian can do is state his or her own prejudices and then try (and here is where we separate the men from the boys, the women from the girls) to isolate your own desires to “WIN” from your efforts at “DESCRIPTION” except for the ones you’ve stated in your DESCRIPTION of your own PREJUDICES. That at least gives your readers a fighting chance.

    The most common problem with Late Antiquity is that 1) historians identify with ROME and want ROME to WIN – so barbarians are painted in the darkest colors 2) historians identify with the invading tribes (19th, 20th cent histories are particularly guilty of this – the new NATIONAL histories of the Slavs, Bulgarians, Germans, Russians, Celts (Gauls in France, etc – Asterix is a comic example), and so GLORIFY the particular tribe (Slav, Celt, German) above all others, 3) a grab-bag of other prejudices – pro-male, pro-heterosexual, etc that ascribe horrible historical mistakes to problems of character (she was female and therefor unfit to rule, he was “effeminate” and therefor the cause of the empire’s fall, eunuch-hating, glorification of the military, etc).

    The Absolute Falsity that We Are All 5th Century Christians

    Many readers of history are NOT Christian, and even those that are, are Christians (by definition) of the 21st century, NOT Christians of the 5th century.

    But the worst, and the most endemic, until just recently (like the last 30 or 40 years) has been the unintelligent, irrational identification of modern men with the primitive ideas of Christianity. Most historians WANT CHRISTIANITY to WIN. They think of themselves as WINNERS. They identify with the WINNERS OF THE PAST. And so they take it personally when they review history and get to the bits that deal with HERESY and ORTHODOXY. They ROOT for ORTHODOXY. Its driving me mad. It makes it difficult to read these histories, mainly because if YOU’VE FOUND ONE HUGE BLIND SPOT in their historical perspective, IT MAKES YOU WONDER HOW MANY OTHER BLIND SPOTS YOU’RE TOTALLY IGNORANT OF. It’s not a good feeling to be eating a meal, discover the mashed potatoes are really white-painted, grated cardboard, and then begin wondering what brown substance you have currently in your mouth, that has a strangely meat-flavored roast beef taste to it. It just does not make for a good time.

    I’ve been reading Vasiliev’s History of Byzantium and gave up, although I may go back to it, because of the obvioius slavophilia with which it is slavered, and the wildly pro-Orthodox stance. Ostrogorsky is better, but the blind spots are still all there. I’ve also been reading the Shorter Cambridge Medieval History (1950’s, Previte-Orton) and was enjoying it until I got to the Christianity. Again, there is the mistaken assumption that Christianity in the 20th century bears ANY RESEMBLANCE to Christianity in the 5th. Sometimes you just feel like screaming.

    I know, I know – rabid grouchiness.

    But, really. These authors WANT the ORTHODOX to WIN. What they’re GLOSSING OVER, what they’re NOT TELLING US, what they’re NOT EVEN ADMITTING TO THEMSELVES is that whatever WE/THEY THEMSELVES BELIEVE TODAY – it would in all likelihood have gotten them killed in a Byzantine/Roman riot in the 5th century. What we believe today as dogma is the happenstance success of political parties, the results of invasions, the accidents of history. ORTHODOXY WINNING in the 400’s means nothing to us today. WE ARE NOT THEIR CHILDREN. THEY WOULD NOT EVEN SPEAK TO US. WE ARE HERETICS. That’s the truth about us and them (from 1400 years ago).

    The truth is religious beliefs succeed (ie gain masses of adherents) because of political processes – seldom because of the superiority of their truths.

    So… I guess Previte-Orton’s smugness about Arians and Monophysites and the inevitability of “right thinking” is just more pablum – pre-chewed, nutritionally worthless, historical food that is MEANT TO PERSUADE, TO WIN, rather than to DESCRIBE. And as such it drives me crazy. It is the CANON – the received wisdom of how we view our own history, twisted and spun (even if unconsciously by the 20th cent historians) in such a way as to change our behavior in the 21st century. I mean really – what would Justinian have thought (a supposedly “Orthodox” emperor and one of the WINNERS and so ONE OF US and so SOMEONE WE THINK WELL OF) – what would he (or the Roman Bishop, or the Patriarch of Alexandria) have thought of a woman heading a national church of Anglo-Saxons? Anyone loudly and publicly espousing such a belief (ie the Anglican Church, and poss Previte-Orton and company) would have been stoned and imprisoned at the very least on the streets of Constantinople. We are not them. We are entirely someone different.

    I can’t identify with either the Roman, Constantinopolitan, or Alexandrian parties – unlike most historians, who somehow have gotten it into their heads that they are the spiritual great-grand-children of the Dyphysite Emperors – who WON – and so they must glorify the WINNERS and blacken the LOSERS.

    As long as the goal is not DESCRIBING and PREDICTING rather than WINNING, then history is relegated to the realm of info-mercials and not science. And that’s a pity. Because history really is a science – the applied science of human behavior.

    Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

    You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

    Google photo

    You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

    Connecting to %s


    %d bloggers like this: