The Byzantine Fathers of the Fifth Century

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The Byzantine Fathers
of the Fifth Century.

Fr. Georges Florovsky 1893-1979.


The Byzantine Fathers of the Fifth Century.

Fr. Georges Florovsky 1893-1979.

In Memoriam

Author’s Preface (1978).

Chapter one The Source of Byzantine Theology

Chapter Two. The Legacy of the New Testament.

The Witness of the New Testament.

The Source of the New Testament

Revelation and the Language of Dogma

Chapter 3 Preservation of the Legacy

Chapter 4. The Earliest Christian Writers.

The Church’s Struggle with two Extreme Views of Jesus.

St. Clement of Rome

St. Ignatius of Antioch

St. Polycarp.

The Martyrdom of St. Polycarp

The Didache

The Oldest Extant Christian Homily.

The Letter of Barnabas

The Letter of Diognetus.

St. Justin the Martyr.

Athenagoras of Athens.

Tatian the Syrian.

Theophilus of Antioch.

Melito of Sardis.

Chapter Five. St. Irenaeus of Lyons and Clement of Alexandria.

St. Irenaeus of Lyons.

Clement of Alexandria.

Chapter Six. Essential Thoughts of the Early Apologists.

The Apostolic Deposit.

On the Nature and Knowledge of God.

The Apologists and the Logos. The Influence of Philo.

The Immanent and Expressed Logos.

The Problem of Terminology.

Chapter Seven.


Dynamic Monarchianism in the Latin West.

The Alogi.

Theodotus of Byzantium.

Artemas and the Lingering of Dynamic Modalism in Rome.

Modalistic Monarchianism.




Dynamic Monarchianism in the Greek East

Chapter Eight

Tertullian and Hippolytus


St. Hippolytus

Chapter Nine. Origenism and Arianism

Chapter Ten Nicaea and the Ecumenical Council

The Theological Nature of a Council in the First Three Centuries

Constantine and the Ecumenical Council

The Role of Byzantine Emperors.

Constantine and the Distinction of two Authorities

Is The Fifth Canon of the Council of Nicaea Ecclesiastical Elitism or Tradition?

The Silent Presence at the Ecumenical Councils.

The Guiding Hermeneutical Principle at the Ecumenical Councils.

The Meaning of “the Fathers” and “Scripture.”

The Council of Nicaea.

Chapter 11 From Nicaea to Ephesus

The Dogmatic Meaning of Nicaea.

St. Athanasius


St. Basil

St. Gregory of Nazianzus

St. Gregory of Nyssa

The Holy Spirit


The Second Ecumenical Council.

The Road To Ephesus

Diodore of Tarsus.

Chapter Twelve. Theodore of Mopsuestia.


St. John Chrysostom’s Letter to Theodore of Mopsuestia

Theodore’s Reputation during His Life and His Posthumous Condemnation


Knowledge and Preservation of the Works of Theodore of Mopsuestia

Theodore’s Commentaries on the Old Testament

Theodore’s Commentaries on the New Testament

Theodore’s Catechetical Homilies

Theodore’s De Incarnatione and his Disputatio cum Macedonians

Theodore’s Ascetical Works

Theodore’s Contra Eunomium

Theodore’s Work Against Apollinarius

Theodore’s Work Against St. Augustine

Theodore’s Works Against Magic.

Theodore’s Liber margaritarum.

Theodore’s Adversus allegoricos, De obscura locutione and De legislatione.

Theodore’s Theological Thought.

Christ as Perfect Man United With God.

The Indwelling of God in Christ.

Theodore’s Concept of Unity of Person.

Theodore’s Objection to the Term Theotokos.

Theodore’s Anthropological Design.

Chapter Thirteen. Nestorius.


The Condemnation of Apollinarius at the Second Ecumenical Council (381).

The Selection of Nestorius as Patriarch of Constantinople.

Nestorius’ Character.

Nestorius’ Agenda upon Becoming Patriarch.

Nestorius and the Term “Theotokos.”

The Significance of the Term “Theotokos.”

St. John Chrysostom and Nestorius.

The Reaction to Nestorius.

Nestorius’ First Letter to Pope Celestine.

Nestorius’ Diplomatic Blunder.

Pope St. Celestine I and the Authority of the Roman See.

St. Cyril’s Second Letter to Nestorius.

St. Cyril and Pope St. Celestine.

St. Cyril’s Third Letter to Nestorius November 430.

The Twelve Anathemas of St. Cyril Against Nestorius.

Nestorius’ Reaction to the Decisions of Rome and Alexandria.

The Works of Nestorius.

The Bazaar of Heraclides of Damascus.




The Letters of Nestorius.

The Theological Tendency of Nestorius.

Chapter 14. St. Cyril of Alexandria.


Cyril’s Background.

Cyril’s Early Years as Patriarch.

The Storm Cloud in Constantinople.

The Alliance of Cyril and Pope Celestine.

The Reaction to St. Cyril’s Twelve Anathemas in the East.

Behind the Scenes at the Council of Ephesus.

St. Cyril and the Aftermath of the Council of Ephesus.

Cyril’s Letter to John of Antioch (April 23, 433).

The Confession of John of Antioch and the Easterners.

The Difficulties of Reunion with the Easterners.


The Early Exegetical Works.

The Commentary on the Gospel of St. John.

The Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke.

Fragments of Other Works on the New Testament.

Dogmatic Writings Before the Nestorian Controversy.

Writings during the Nestorian Controversy.

The Letters of St. Cyril.

For the Holy Religion of the Christians Against the Books of the Impious Julian.

St. Cyril’s Theology.

Limits of Logical Consciousness.

The Importance of Faith as a Necessary Prerequisite for Understanding.

The Mystery of the Knowledge of Complete Truth.

The Ontological Character of the Trinitarian Hypostases.

The Church as the Perfect Reflection of the Unknowable Trinity.

The Revelation of God as Father and Its Trinitarian Significance.

The Logos or Word of the Father.

The Holy Spirit.

The Procession of the Holy Spirit.

The Difference Between st. Cyril and st. Augustine on the Doctrine of the Procession of the Holy Spirit.

The Incarnation.

The Incarnation and the Eucharist.

The Single Person or Hypostasis of Christ From Faith and Experience.

Nestorius and the Denial of the Ontological Unity of Christ.

The en-Hypostasis in Christ.

His Early Rejection of Apollinarianism.

The Basis and Essence of His Attack on Antiochene Christology.

Imprecision and Unclarity in His Theological Terminology.

Chapter Fifteen.

The Road to Chalcedon.

The Formula of Reunion of 433.

Egypt after 433 and the Rise of Monophysitism.


Chapter 16. The Council of Chalcedon.

The Problem of the Tome of Pope Leo the Great.

The Chalcedonian Oros.

Chapter 17. Theodoret of Cyrus.


Theodoret and the Outbreak of the Nestorian Controversy.

Theodoret’s Fear of Apollinarianism in St. Cyril’s Thought.

Dioscorus’ Controversy With Theodoret.

The Imperial Edict Against Theodoret.

The “Robber Council” and Theodoret.

Theodoret’s Appeal to Rome.

The Accession of Emperor Marcian and the Change of Policy.

Theodoret and the Council of Chalcedon.

The Dispute over Theodoret Continues after His Death.

Pope Vigilius’ Attitude Toward Theodoret and the “Three Chapters.”

Theodoret and the Fifth Ecumenical Council.

Theodoret’s Status in the Church’s Consciousness as “Blessed.”


Exegetical Works and his Philosophy of Interpretation.

The Cure of Pagan Maladies or The Truth of the Gospels Proved from Greek Philosophy.

His Apologetical Work Ten Discourses on Providence.

Ad quaesita magorum.

Contra Judaeos.

The Historical Significance of his Historia Ecclesiastica.

Historia religiosa seu ascetica vivendi ratio.

Haereticarum Fabularum Compendium.

On the Council of Chalcedon.

Theodoret’s Dogmatic Works De sancta et vivifica Trinitate and De Incarnatione Domine.

Refutation of the Twelve Anathemas of Cyril of Alexandria Against Nestorius.


Defence of Diodore of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia.

The Letters of Theodoret.


An Abridgement of Divine Dogmatists.

Theodoret’s Sermons.

Theodoret’s Theology.

Theodoret’s Christological Emphasis.

The Theological Basis of Theodoret’s Objection to Cyril’s “Hypostatic or Natural Union.”

The Freedom of The Son of God’s Humanity.

The Assumption by God the Word of “Human Nature” or “a Man?”

The Inadequacy of Theodoret’s Theological Language, the Imprecision of His Ideas, and His Suspicion of an Unfounded Apollinarianism.

St. Cyril’s Recognition that Theodoret had not Understood the Anathemas.

Theodoret’s Struggle With Burgeoning Monophysitism.

Theodoret’s Emphasis on The Reality of Christ’s Suffering.

Chapter 18.

The Rise of Monophysitism.

In Memoriam

“Pre-eminent Orthodox Christian Theologian, Ecumenical Spokesman, and Authority on Russian Letters”

All quotations are from pages 5 and 11 of the Harvard Gazette of October 1, 1982, written by George H. Williams, Hollis Professor of Divinity Emeritus, Harvard Divinity School and Edward Louis Keenan, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University and “placed upon the records” at the Harvard Faculty of Divinity Meeting on September 16, 1982.

*** *** ***

“Archpriest Professor Georges Vasilyevich Florovsky (1893-1979), pre-eminent theologian of Orthodoxy and historian of Christian thought, ecumenical leader and interpreter of Russian literature died in Princeton, New Jersey in his 86th year” on August 11, 1979.

Born in Odessa in 1893, Fr. Florovsky was the beneficiary of that vibrant Russian educational experience, which flourished toward the end of the 19th century and produced many gifted scholars. His father was a rector of the Theological Academy and a dean of the Cathedral of the Transfiguration. His mother, Claudia Popruzhenko, was a daughter of a professor of Hebrew and Greek. Fr. Florovsky’s first scholarly work, “On Reflex Salivary Secretion,” written under one of Pavlov’s students, was published in English in 1917 at the last issue of The Bulletin of the Imperial Academy of Sciences.

In 1920, with his parents and his brother Antonii, Fr. Florovsky left Russia and first settled down Sophia, Bulgaria. He left behind his brother Vasilii, a surgeon, who died in the 1924 in famine, and his sister Claudia V. Florovsky, who became a professor of history at the University of Odessa. In 1921 the President of Czechoslovakia, Thomas Masaryk, invited Fr. Florovsky and his brother Antonii to Prague. Fr. Florovsky taught the philosophy of law. Antonii later became a professor of history at the University of Prague.

In 1922, Georges Florovsky married Xenia Ivanovna Simonova, and they resettled down Paris where he became cofounder of St. Sergius Theological Institute and taught there as a professor of patristic (1926-1948). In 1932, he was ordained a priest and placed himself canonically under the patriarch of Constantinople.

In 1948, he came to the United States and became a professor of theology at St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary from 1948 to 1955 and a dean — from 1950. From 1954 to 1965, he was a professor of Eastern Church History at Harvard Divinity School, an associate of the Slavic Department (1962-1965), and an associate professor of theology at Holy Cross Theological School (1955-1959).

“Although Fr. Florovsky’s teaching in the Slavic Department [at Harvard University] was only sporadic, he became a major intellectual influence in the formation of a generation of American specialists in Russian cultural history. His lasting importance in this area derives not from his formal teaching but from the time and a thought he gave to informal “circles” that periodically arose around him in Cambridge among those who had read The Ways of Russian Theology [then only in Russian], for decades — a kind of “underground book” among serious graduate students of Russian intellectual history, and had upon discovering sought him out that he was at the Divinity School. During a portion of his incumbency at Harvard patristic and Orthodox thought and institutions from antiquity into 20th century Slavdom flourished. In the Church History Department meetings, he spoke up with clarity. In the Faculty meetings, he was remembered as having energetically marked book catalogues on his lap for the greater glory of the Andover Harvard Library! In 1964, Fr. Florovsky was elected a director of the Ecumenical Institute founded by Paul VI near Jerusalem.” Active in both the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches, Fr. Florovsky was Vice President-at-Large of the National Council of Churches from 1954 to 1957.

“After leaving Harvard, Professor Emeritus Florovsky taught in Slavic from 1965 to 1972 Studies at Princeton University, having begun lecturing there already in 1964; and he was visiting lecturer in patristic at Princeton Theological Seminary as early as 1962 and then again intermittently after retirement from the University. His last teaching was in a fall semester of 1978/79 at Princeton Theological Seminary.”

“In the course of his career, Fr. Florovsky was awarded of honorary doctorates by St. Andrew’s University Boston University, Notre Dame, Princeton University, the University of Thessalonica, St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary, and Yale. He was a member or honorary member of the Academy of Athens, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the British Academy, and the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius.”

Fr. Florovsky personified the cultivated, well-educated Russian of the turn of the century. His penetrating mind grasped both the detail and depth in the unfolding drama of the history of Christianity in both eastern and western forms. He was theologian, church historian, patristic scholar, philosopher, Slavist, and a writer in comparative literature. “Fr. Florovsky sustained his pleasure on reading English novels, the source in part of his extraordinary grasp of the English language, which, polyglot as he was, he came to prefer above any other for theological discourse and general exposition. Thus, when he came to serve in Harvard’s Slavic Department, there was some disappointment that he did not lecture in Russian, especially in his seminars on Dostoyevsky, Soloviev, Tolstoy, and others. It was as if they belonged to a kind of classical age of the Russian tongue and civilization that, having been swept away as in a deluge, he treated as a Latin professor would Terrence or Cicero, not presuming to give lectures in the tonalities of an age that had vanished forever.”

Fr. Florovsky’s influence on contemporary church historians and Slavists was vast. The best contemporary multi-volume history of Christian thought pays a special tribute to Fr. Florovsky. Jaroslav Pelikan of Yale University, in the bibliographic section to his first volume in The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, writes under the reference to Fr. Florovsky’s two works in Russian on the Eastern Fathers: “These two works are basic to our interpretation of Trinitarian and Christological dogmas” (p. 359 from The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition: 100-600). George Huntston Williams, Hollis Professor Emeritus of Harvard Divinity School, wrote: “Faithful priestly son of the Russian Orthodox Church, Fr. Georges Florovsky — with a career-long involvement in the ecumenical dialogue — is today the most articulate, trenchant and winsome exponent of Orthodox theology and piety in the scholarly world. He is innovative and creative in the sense wholly of being ever prepared to restate the saving truth of Scripture and Tradition in the idiom of our contemporary yearning for the transcendent.”

Author’s Preface (1978).

These four volumes on the Eastern Fathers of the fourth century and the Byzantine fathers from the fifth to eighth centuries were originally published in 1931 and 1933 in Russian. They contained my lectures given at the Institute of Orthodox Theology in Paris from 1928 to 1931 and were originally published in Russian more or less in the form in which they were originally delivered. They therefore lacked exact references and appropriate footnotes. Another reason for the omission of reference material in the 1931 and 1933 publications is that the books were originally published at my own expense and strict economy was therefore necessary. In fact, their publication was only the result of the generous cooperation and help of friends. These English publications must be dedicated to their memory. The initiative of the original publication was taken by Mrs. Elizabeth Skobtsov, who became an Orthodox nun and was later known under her monastic name of Mother Maria. It was she who typed the original manuscripts and she who was able to persuade Mr. Iliia Fondaminsky, at that time one of the editors of the renowned Russian review, Sovremennye Zapiski [Annals Contemporariness], to assume financial responsibility. Both these friends perished tragically in German concentration camps. They had been inspired by the conviction that books in Russian on the Fathers of the Church were badly needed, not only by theological students, but also by a much wider circle of those concerned with doctrinal and spiritual vistas and issues of Eastern Orthodox Tradition. Their expectation was fully justified: the volumes in Russian were rapidly sold out and were warmly appreciated in the general press.

When I began teaching at the Paris Institute, as Professor of Petrology, I had to face a preliminary methodological problem. The question of the scope and manner of Patristic studies had been vigorously debated by scholars for a long time. (There is an excellent book written by Fr. J. de Ghellinck, S.J., Patristique et Moyen Age, Volume II, 1947, pp. 1-180.). The prevailing tendency was to treat Petrology as a history of Ancient Christian Literature, and the best modern manuals of Petrology in the West were written precisely in this manner: Bardenhewer, Cayre, Tixeront, Quasten, adherents to this school of thought, made only sporadic reference to certain points of doctrine but their approach was no doubt legitimate and useful. However, another cognate discipline came into existence during the last century, Dogmengeschichte, or the school of the history of doctrine. Here, scholars were not concerned so much with individual writers or thinkers but rather with that can be defined as the “internal dialectics” of the Christian “mind” and with types and trends of Christian thought.

In my opinion, these two approaches to the same material must be combined and correlated. I have tried to do precisely this with the revision of some of the material for the English publications. I have written some new material on the external history and especially on the ecumenical councils. However, in essence Petrology must be more than a kind of literary history. It must be treated rather as a history of Christian doctrine, although the Fathers were first of all testes veritatis, witnesses of truth, of the faith. “Theology” is wider and more comprehensive than “doctrine.” It is a kind of Christian Philosophy. Indeed, there is an obvious analogy between the study of Patristic and the study of the history of Philosophy. Historians of Philosophy are as primarily concerned with individual thinkers as they are interested ultimately in the dialectics of ideas. The “essence” of philosophy is exhibited in particular systems. Unity of the historical process is assured because of the identity of themes and problems to which both philosophers and theologians are committed. I would not claim originality for my method, for it has been used occasionally by others. Nevertheless, I would underline the theological character of Petrology.

These books were written many years ago. At certain points, they needed revision or extension. To some extent, this has been done. Recent decades have seen the rapid progress of Patristic studies in many directions. We now have better editions of primary sources than we had forty or even thirty years ago. We now have some new texts of prime importance: for example, the Chapters of Evagrius or the new Sermons of St. John Chrysostom. Many excellent monograph studies have been published in recent years. However, in spite of this progress I do not think that these books, even without the revisions and additions, have been made obsolete. Based on an independent study of primary sources, these works may still be useful to both students and scholars.

Georges Florovsky September 1978.

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