Click to View

Early Church Fathers
Click to ViewMaster Index
Click to ViewPower Search

 Click to View

Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Document

Excursus on the Words Pivstin jEpevran.


Excursus on the Words Pi/stin 0Epe/ran.

It has been held by some and was urged by the Greeks at the Council of Florence,1 and often before and since, as well as by Pope Leo III., in answer to the ambassadors of Charlemagne, that the prohibition of the Council of Ephesus to make, hold, or teach any other faith than that of Nice forbade anyone, even a subsequent General Council, to add anything to the creed. This interpretation seems to be shewn to be incorrect from the following circumstances.

1. That the prohibition was passed by the Council immediately after it had heard Charisius read his creed, which it had approved, and on the strength of which it had received its author, and after the reading of a Nestorian creed which it condemned. From this it seems clear that e9te/ran must mean "different," "contradictory," and not "another" in the sense of mere explanatory additions to the already existing creed.

(E. B. Pusey, On the Clause "and the Son," p. 81.)

St. Cyril ought to understand the canon, which he probably himself framed, as presiding over the Council of Ephesus, as Archbishop of Alexandria and representative of Celestine, Bishop of Rome. His signature immediately succeeds the Canon. We can hardly think that we understand it better than he who probably framed it, nay who presided over the Council which passed it. He, however, explained that what was not against the Creed was not beside it. The Orientals had proposed to him, as terms of communion, that he should "do away with all he had written in epistles, tomes, or books, and agree with that only faith which had been defined by our holy Fathers at Nice." But, St. Cyril wrote back: "We all follow that exposition of faith which was defined by the holy fathers in the city of Nice, sapping absolutely nothing of the things contained in it. For they are all right and unexceptionable; and anything curious, after it, is not safe. But what I have rightly written against the blasphemies of Nestorius no words will persuade me to say that they were not done well:" and against the imputation that he "had received an exposition of faith or new Creed, as dishonouring that old and venerable Creed," he says:

"Neither have we demanded of any an exposition of faith, nor have we received one newly framed by others. For Divine Scripture suffices us, and the prudence of the holy fathers, and the symbol of faith, framed perfectly as to all right doctrine. But since the most holy Eastern Bishops differed from us as to that of Ephesus and were somehow suspected of being entangled in the meshes of Nestorius, therefore they very wisely made a defence, to free themselves from blame, and eager to satisfy the lovers of the blameless faith that they were minded to have no share in his impiety; and the thing is far from all note of blame. If Nestorius himself, when we all held out to him that he ought to condemn his own dogmas and choose the truth instead thereof, had made a written confession thereon, who would say that he framed for us a new exposition of faith? Why then do they calumniate the assent of the most holy Bishops of Phoenicia, calling it a new setting forth of the Creed, whereas they made it for a good and necessary end, to defend themselves and soothe those who thought that they followed the innovations of Nestorius? For the holy Ecumenical Synod gathered at Ephesus provided, of necessity, that no other exposition of faith besides that which existed, which the most blessed fathers, speaking in the Holy Ghost, defined, should be brought into the Churches of God. But they who at one time, I know not how, differed from it, and were suspected of not being right-minded, following the Apostolic and Evangelic doctrines, how should they free themselves from this ill-report? by silence? or rather by self-defence, and by manifesting the power of the faith which was in them? The divine disciple wrote, `be ready always to give an answer to every one who asketh you an account of the hope which is in you.' But he who willeth to do this, innovates in nothing, nor doth he frame any new exposition of faith, but rather maketh plain to those who ask him, what faith he hath concerning Christ."2

2. The fathers of the Council of Chalcedon, by their practice, are authoritative exponents of the Canon of Ephesus. For they renewed the prohibition of the Council of Ephesus to "adduce any other faith," but, in "the faith" which is not to be set aside, they included not only the Creeds of Nice and Constantinople, but the definitions at Ephesus and Chalcedon itself. The statements of the faith were expanded, because fresh contradictions of the faith had emerged. After directing that both Creeds should be read, the Council says, "This wise and saving Symbol of Divine grace would have sufficed to the full knowledge and confirmation of the faith; for it teaches thoroughly the perfect truth of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and presents to those who receive it faithfully the Incarnation of the Lord." Then, having in detail shewn how both heresies were confuted by it, and having set forth the true doctrine, they sum up.

"These things being framed by us with all accuracy and care on every side, the holy and ecumenical Synod defines, that it shall be lawful for no one to produce or compose, or put together, or hold, or teach others another faith, and those who venture, etc." (as in the Council of Ephesus).

The Council of Chalcedon enlarged greatly the terms although not the substance of the faith contained in the Nicene Creed; and that, in view of the heresies, which had since arisen; and yet renewed in terms the prohibition of the Canon of Ephesus and the penalties annexed to its infringement. It shewed, then, in practice, that it did not hold the enlargement of the things proposed as deride to be prohibited, but only the producing of things contradictory to the faith once delivered to the saints. Its prohibition, moreover, to "hold" another faith shews the more that they meant only to prohibit any contradictory statement of faith. For if they had prohibited any additional statement not being a contradiction of its truth, then (as Cardinal Julian acutely argued in the Council of Florence), any one would fall under its anathema, who held (as all must) anything not expressed in set terms in the Nicene Creed; such as that God is eternal or incomprehensible.

It may not be amiss to remember that the argument that pi/stin forbids any addition to the Creed or any further definition of the faith, was that urged by the heretics at the Latrocinium, and the orthodox were there condemned on the ground that they had added to the faith and laid themselves under the Anathema of Ephesus. How far this interpretation was from being that of the Council of Chalcedon is evinced by the fact that it immediately declared that St. Flavian and Bishop Eusebius had been unjustly deposed, and proceeded to depose those who had deposed them. After stating these facts Dr. Pusey remarks, "Protestants may reject consistently the authority of all councils; but on what grounds any who accept their authority can insist on their own private interpretation of a canon of one council against the authority of another General Council which rejected that interpretation, I see not."3

4. The Fifth Ecumenical Council, the Second of Constantinople, received both the creeds of Nice and that of Constantinople, as well of the definitions of Ephesus and Chalcedon, and yet at the end of the fourth Session we find in the acts that the fathers cried out, with respect to the creed of Theodore of Mopsuestia: "This creed Satan composed. Anathema to him that composed this creed! The First Council of Ephesus anathematized this creed and its author. We know only one symbol of faith, that which the holy fathers of Nice set forth and handed down. This also the three holy Synods handed down. Into this we were baptized, and into this we baptize, etc., etc."4 From this it is clearer than day that these fathers looked upon the creed of Constantinople, with its additions, to be yet the same creed as that of Nice.

(Le Quien, Diss. Dam., n. 37.)

In the Sixth Council also, no one objecting, Peter of Nicomedia, Theodore, and other bishops, clerks, and monks, who had embraced the Monothelite heresy, openly recited a Creed longer and fuller than the Nicene.

In the Seventh Synod also, another was read written by Theodore of Jerusalem: and again, Basil of Ancyra, and the other Bishops, who had embraced the errors of the Iconoclasts, again offered another, although the Canon of Ephesus pronounced, that "it should not be lawful to offer to heretics, who wished to be converted to the Church, any other creed than the Nicene." In this same Synod, was read another profession of faith, which Tarasius had sent to the Patriarchs of the Eastern sees. It contains the Nicene, or Constantinopolitan Creed, variously enlarged and interpolated. But of the Holy Spirit it has specifically this: "And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, which proceedeth from the Father through the Son." But since the Greeks at the Council of Florence said, that these were individual, not common, formulae of faith, here are others, which are plainly common and solemn, which are contained in their own rituals. They do not baptize a Hebrew or a Jew, until he have pronounced a profession of Christian Faith, altogether different from the Creed of Constantinople, as may be seen in the Euchologion. In the consecration of a Bishop, the Bishop elect is first bidden to recite the Creed of Constantinople; and then, as if this did not suffice, a second and a third are demanded of him; of which the last contains that aforesaid symbol, intermingled with various declarations. Nay, Photius himself is pointed out to be the author of this interpolated symbol.5 I pass by other formulae, which the Greeks have framed for those who return to the Church from divers heresies or sects, although the terms of the Canon of Ephesus are, that "it is unlawful to propose any other faith to those who wish to be converted to the Church, from heathenism, or Judaism, or any heresy whatever."The Judgment of the same Holy Synod, pronounced on the petition presented to it by the Bishops of Cyprus:

Our brother bishop Rheginus, the beloved of God, and his fellow beloved of God bishops, Zeno and Evagrius, of the Province of Cyprus, have reported to us an innovation which has been introduced contrary to the ecclessiastical constitutions and the Canons of the Holy Apostles, and which touches the liberties of all. Wherefore, since injuries affecting all require the more attention, as they cause the greater damage, and particularly when they are transgressions of an ancient custom; and since those excellent men, who have petitioned the Synod, have told us in writing and by word of mouth that the Bishop of Antioch has in this way held ordinations in Cyprus; therefore the Rulers of the holy churches in Cyprus shall enjoy, without dispute or injury, according to the Canons of the blessed Fathers and ancient custom, the right of performing for themselves the ordination of their excellent Bishops. The same rule shall be observed in the other dioceses and provinces everywhere, so that none of the God beloved Bishops shall assume control of any province which has not heretofore, from the very beginning, been under his own hand or that of his predecessors. But if any one has violently taken and subjected [a Province], he shall give it up; lest the Canons of the Fathers be transgressed; or the vanities of worldly honour be brought in under pretext of sacred office; or we lose, without knowing it, little by little, the liberty which Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Deliverer of all men, hath given us by his own Blood.

Wherefore, this holy and ecumenical Synod has decreed that in every province the rights which heretofore, from the beginning, have belonged to it, shall be preserved to it, according to the old prevailing custom, unchanged and uninjured: every Metropolitan having permission to take, for his own security, a copy of these acts. And if any one shall bring forward a rule contrary to what is hero determined, this holy and ecumenical Synod unanimously decrees that it shall be of no effect.


Ancient Epitome of Canon VIII.

Let the rights of each province be preserved pure and inviolate. No attempt to introduce any form contrary to these shall be of any avail.

The caption is the one given in the ordinary Greek texts. The canon is found word for word in the VII Session of the Council, with the heading, "A decree of the same holy Synod." (Labbe and Cossart, Concilia, Tom. III., col. 802.)

I have followed in reading "the Canons of the Holy Apostles" the reading in Balsamon and Zonaras, and that of Elias Ehingerus Augustanus (so says Beveridge) in his edition of the Greek canons, a.d. 1614. But the Bodleian ms., and John of Antioch in his collection of the Canons, and the Codex edited by Christopher Justellus read "of the Holy Fathers" instead of "of the Holy Apostles." Beveridge is of opinion that this is the truer reading, for while no doubt the Ephesine Fathers had in mind the Apostolic Canons, yet they seem to have more particularly referred in this place to the canons of Nice. And this seems to be intimated in the libellum of the Bishops of Cyprus, whogave rise to this very decree, in which the condemned practice is said to be "contraryto the Apostolic Canons and to the definitions of the most holy Council of Nice."

This canon Photius does not recognize, for in the Preface to his Nomocanon he distinctly writes that there were but seven canons adopted by the Ephesine Synod, and in the first chapter of the first title he cites the pre- ceding canon as the seventh, that is the last. John of Antioch likewise says that there arebut seven canons of Ephesus, but reckons this present canon as the seventh, from which Beveridge concludes that he rejects the Canon concerning Charisius (vii).


Concerning the present canon, of rather decree, the Bishop of Antioch, who had given occasion to the six former canons, gave also occasion for the enacting of this, by arrogating to himself the right of ordaining in the Island of Cyprus, in violation of former usage. After the bishops of that island, who are mentioned in the canon, had presentedtheir statements (libellum) to the Synod, the present decree was set forth, in which warning was given that no innovation should be tolerated in Ecclesiastical administration, whether in Cyprus or elsewhere; but that in all Dioceses and Provinces their ancient rights and privileges should be preserved.

Previous PageTop Of PageNext Document

Click Your Choice