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Chalcedon in Context: Church Councils 400-700

RICHARD PRICE
MARY WHITBY
Volume: 1
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vjnmz
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    Chalcedon in Context
    Book Description:

    This collection of essays has its origin in a conference held at Oxford in 2006 to mark the publication of the first English edition of the Acts of Chalcedon. Its aim is to place Chalcedon in a broader context, and bring out the importance of the acts of the early general councils from the fifth to the seventh century, documents that because of their bulk and relative inaccessibility have received only limited attention till recently. This volume is evidence that this situation is now rapidly changing, as historians of late antiquity as well as specialists in the history of the Christian Church discover the richness of this material for the exploration of common concerns and tensions across the provinces of the Later Roman Empire, language use, networks of influence and cultural exchange, and political manipulation at many different levels of society. The extent to which the acts were instruments of propaganda and should not be read as a pure verbatim record of proceedings is brought out in a number of the essays, which illustrate the fascinating literary problems raised by these texts.

    eISBN: 978-1-84631-675-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. vi-vii)
  4. LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-6)
    Averil Cameron

    The publication in three volumes in the series Translated Texts for Historians of a complete English translation with notes of the materials relating to the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451) by Richard Price and Michael Gaddis¹ is a major event. For the first time this priceless dossier becomes readily accessible, and in English translation. This means that professional historians, theologians and students alike can have to hand in convenient form a collection of material which is of the utmost importance for understanding both the history of the Church and the history of late antiquity. Its publication coincides with the appearance...

  6. THE COUNCIL OF CHALCEDON AND THE DEFINITION OF CHRISTIAN TRADITION
    (pp. 7-26)
    David M. Gwynn

    ‘Few councils have been so rooted in tradition as the Council of Chalcedon.’¹ The words are those of Aloys Grillmeier, from the conclusion of the first volume of his monumental workChrist in Christian Tradition, and they are words with which the bishops who gathered at Chalcedon in 451 would have wholeheartedly agreed. Yet what do we mean by ‘Christian tradition’? How did that tradition develop over time? Who had the authority to determine what would come to be regarded as traditional? All of our contemporary sources for the great controversies that divided the Christian Church in the fourth and...

  7. ‘READING’ THE FIRST COUNCIL OF EPHESUS (431)
    (pp. 27-44)
    Thomas Graumann

    Acta conciliorum non leguntur– Nobody reads council acts. Eduard Schwartz’s famous dictum¹ is slowly being overtaken by recent scholarly interest, no longer only of theologians and historians of the Church, but also of historians of late antiquity.² The fact that the first English translation of the Acts of Chalcedon appears in a series for historians is testimony to this development; it will surely spark many more studies into the riches of this material. With a distinctly historical rather than theological interest, new questions and scholarly perspectives open up. Yet, every examination must confront a number of difficulties of principle...

  8. THE SYRIAC ACTS OF THE SECOND COUNCIL OF EPHESUS (449)
    (pp. 45-69)
    Fergus Millar

    The Second Council of Ephesus and the Council of Chalcedon, called two years later, are inextricably linked, by their historical context, in their theological conclusions (in that the one was called with the deliberate intention of annulling measures taken at the other, and of having a new definition of faith adopted), and in the manuscript tradition through which the record of most of their proceedings is preserved. The Council of Ephesus, called by Theodosius II when, as it turned out by accident, his reign had little more than a year to run, represented an emphatic victory for the ‘miaphysite’ (one-nature)...

  9. THE COUNCIL OF CHALCEDON (451): A NARRATIVE
    (pp. 70-91)
    Richard Price

    The conventional opening date for the Christological controversy of the fifth century of which the climax was the Council of Chalcedon is the arrival at Constantinople in 428 of its new archbishop, Nestorius, a Syrian monk, who publicly criticized the ascription to the Virgin Mary of the titleTheotokos(Mother of God). The issue was not the status of the Virgin but the question who it was who was born of her – a human being, united to the Godhead but yet distinct from it (as Nestorius supposed), or God the Word himself, who, in the words of St Paul,...

  10. TRUTH, OMISSION, AND FICTION IN THE ACTS OF CHALCEDON
    (pp. 92-106)
    Richard Price

    Who in the early church published conciliar acts and why? Without attempting a generalization, I shall simply say that the Acts of Chalcedon were manifestly produced and published by the imperial government, shortly after the council.¹ What was the purpose of publishing the minutes, and not just the decrees? The minutes inevitably showed up disagreements: how was this of any advantage to the winning side?

    It is to be noted that conciliar decisions had to be unanimous. All the bishops at Chalcedon, save the Egyptians (allowed to drop out after their patriarch’s deposition), had to sign the Definition of Faith....

  11. WHY DID THE SYRIANS REJECT THE COUNCIL OF CHALCEDON?
    (pp. 107-116)
    Andrew Louth

    After the deposition of Dioscorus of Alexandria at the Synod of Chalcedon, the ‘Oriental bishops and those with them’ are represented as exclaiming: ‘Many years to the senate! Holy God, Holy Strong, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. Many years to the emperors! The impious are always routed; Christ has deposed Dioscorus.’² This is the earliest record of the Thrice-Holy Hymn, theTrisagion. It is not clear why the bishops of the diocese of Oriens thought it appropriate to exclaim it on this occasion. It is striking, however, that barely a quarter of a century later, the thrice-holy hymn, with...

  12. THE SECOND COUNCIL OF CONSTANTINOPLE (553) AND THE MALLEABLE PAST
    (pp. 117-132)
    Richard Price

    The past, we are told, is eternally fixed and immutable. Against this assertion, and the restriction on human freedom that it implies, the Russian philosopher Lev Shestov (1866–1938) uttered a powerful protest. A supposed fact, such as Socrates’ death by poison, might just be tolerable if it was restricted to a single historical period. ‘But’, he continued,¹–

    to promise it immortality, timeless existence, which no oblivion can obliterate – who has the audacity to take to himself the right to issue such a promise? Why should a philosopher, who knows that everything that has a beginning must have an...

  13. THE LATERAN COUNCIL OF 649 AS AN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL
    (pp. 133-147)
    Catherine Cubitt

    The repercussions of the Council of Chalcedon for both doctrinal questions and religious politics between east and west extended well beyond the fifth and sixth centuries into the seventh.¹ The monothelete doctrine which prompted the papal Lateran Council of 649 was but the latest in a series of attempts by the Byzantine emperors to achieve reconciliation amongst the dissenting religious groups of the empire. The activities of the emperor Justinian to enforce doctrinal agreement had rather provoked disagreement and division, particularly a damaging schism in the west between the papacy – who had been forced into agreement with the emperor...

  14. THE QUINISEXT COUNCIL (692) AS A CONTINUATION OF CHALCEDON
    (pp. 148-168)
    Judith Herrin

    In the study of the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, the canons attached to it are frequently neglected. This may be because no discussion of them is recorded in the official acts of 451. Nonetheless, in the oldest Latin version and the Greek manuscript tradition of the Acts of Chalcedon the twenty-seven canons are inserted as ‘the seventh act’, as if they formed part of the agreed record of the council.¹ The debate over Canon 28, which is numbered to follow on from the other 27, forms the seventeenth session in the Greek acts and the sixteenth in the Latin.²...

  15. ACCLAMATIONS AT THE COUNCIL OF CHALCEDON
    (pp. 169-177)
    Charlotte Roueché

    One of the more startling aspects of the conciliar acts is the regular recording of acclamations. To a modern reader, they appear intrusive and inappropriate, not least because in modern writing-based societies, cheering and shouting by groups has become increasingly marginalized: it is associated with disorder and disruption, even if it has an established role in certain situations, such as sporting events. This sense of what is appropriate is also influenced by a modern belief in the value of individual commitment. To a modern reader, the statements attributed to the individual bishops seem more significant than the ‘shouts’ of the...

  16. AN UNHOLY CREW? BISHOPS BEHAVING BADLY AT CHURCH COUNCILS
    (pp. 178-196)
    Michael Whitby

    The acts of church councils offer us an exceptionally rich source of information about the utterances and behaviour of large numbers of bishops while engaged in one of their most important duties, namely the collective establishment of orthodoxy and the identification of heresy. They provide examples of Christian leaders in action, not only of individual bishops who in their own cities would be regarded as leaders but in the context of an ecumenical council were overshadowed by their metropolitans or the patriarchs or other key figures prominent in a particular debate, but also of a small number of international leaders....

  17. INDEX
    (pp. 197-205)