Theology as Christian Epopteia in St Basil of Caesarea
PhD, associate professor
School of Philosophy,
National Research University HSE, Moscow
In this paper, I intend to trace the origin of the well-known division in St. Basil of Caesarea between kerygma (public proclamation of the Christian truth) and dogma (liturgical and the doctrinal tradition refused to the multitude). It has been noted that dogma has been described in terms reminiscent of the ancient mystery cults (SS 27.66 βέβηλος, ἀμύητος, ἐποπτεύειν, μυστήριον etc.). Thus, the word ἐποπτεύειν refers to the highest degree of initiation in the Eleusinian mysteries. Same technical terminology is used in his commentaries on the Psalms. Why did Basil use this term? I contend that his appropriation of the Eleusinian imagery was conditioned by the philosophical tradition of Platonism, as well as by the Alexandrians, Origen in the first place. In the SS 27.66, the apocalyptic tones of μυστήριον, influenced by the Book of Daniel and inherited by St. Paul, are deliberately merged with the classical meaning of the word and its use in Platonism, that is: the gradual initiation into philosophy. In this respect, Cappadocian Fathers follow in Origen’s footstep: μυστήριον of the Church becomes the highest stage of Christian education.
Irenaeus’ Political Theology and the Ecclesial Recapitulation of the State
Ms. Awet Andemicael
Irenaeus argues that God sanctions the civil use of violence to keep society in check and enable the Gentiles to “attain to some degree of justice” (Against Heresies 5.24.1-2). Yet Irenaeus’ presentation of the Church provides an alternative vision of human society, eschatologically transcending the limitations of the polis. In this paper, I argue that, within Irenaeus’ Christ-centered, cosmic system (AH 5.19.1), the Church functions as a transformative recapitulation of civil government.
While the foundation of God’s salvific and restorative work is Christ’s recapitulation of humanity in Adam (AH 3.21.10. i.a.), Irenaeus’ theory of the political authority highlights the brokenness of human society in the image of Cain (AH 5.24.2). In contrast, Irenaeus’ presentation of the Church represents a paradigm shift not only in the individual redeemed human beings that comprise it, but in the structural ways in which power is exercised.
Whereas the state needs military force to enforce social control and institutional coherence, the Church is able, by the free grace of the Holy Spirit, to maintain unity of persons and faith in the midst of the diversity of its cultural expressions (Eusebius, Church History, 5.24.13). With all believers transformed by a common orientation toward God, the Church follows God’s example, exercising only non-coercive power (AH 4.37.1, 3) and working “for the aid and encouragement of mankind” with acts of healing and provisioning done “without fee or reward” (AH 2.31.3). Thus, the Church universal, as constitutively linked to the Holy Spirit as its locus of action in the world (AH 3.24.1), gathers together the fragments of social hope, the potential for social justice, in eschatological readiness.
This recapitulation of society reaches its fulfillment in the millennial kingdom. In that rebalancing of the scales of justice, creation falls under the “dominion of the righteous” (AH 5.32.1), who exercise their Christ-modeled authority. The reign of the saints interrupts patterns of oppression of imperial injustice culminating in the tyranny of the Antichrist (AH 5.25.1). In that realm of divine and human action that Irenaeus envisions as the kingdom, society itself is reclaimed, recapitulated by the Body under the headship of Christ.
The “Logos” in the teaching of Marcellus of Ancyra and Sabellius
Eirini Artemi, Phd & MA Theology,
Post Doc of ancient and byzantine philosophy
Professor in the Hellenic Open University
Academic Teacher of Israel Institute of Biblical Studies
of Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Marcellus of Ancyra tried with zeal to combat Arius, but he adopted the opposite extreme of modified Sabellianism. Marcellus taught that the Logos did not become a separate person until the incarnation, perhaps looking back to an earlier model of “two-stage” Logos theology. This denial of a separate preexistent Son made Eusebius of Caesarea label his theology as “Sabellian” throughout his ‘Against Marcellus’ dyo – prosopic christology is one in which the Logos, not as separate personal being, but as God himself in his activity, is joined to an man. On the other hand, Sabellius taught that the Logos or Word existed before the incarnation, but not as a distinct person, being immanent in the essence of the Deity as the divine reason. He was regarded as therein differing from St. John in the fourth gospel, denying that the Logos, the creating, revealing, and redeeming principle, is a person really and eternally distinct from the Father. In this paper we will try to compare the triadological teaching of Marcellus and of Sabellius in order to show Marcellus’ doctrine of the trinity isn’t a simple or successive modalism of Sabellius, although Eusebius of Caesarea may perhaps be excused for confusing it with Sabellianism. To sum up if the God of Sabellianism was metamorphosed to meet the changing needs of the world’, Marcellus’ God was expanded to meet the changing needs of the world.
Friendship, Figuration and the Unity of the Church
Phillip Brown, University of Nottingham
This paper will focus upon Augustine’s 6th tractate on John, drawing out the central thrust of Augustine’s argument that to be a friend of Christ requires participation within his body, the Church. We shall see how Augustine, weaves his vision of friendship through his argument with figurative tropes to illustrate the contrasting signs of what it means to belong. Augustine deploys his skills of rhetoric to illustrate that unity is central to the notion of divine befriending and calls all Christians to participate in the unity of the Church which is the community of the befriended. One of the central ways Augustine argues this point is through the deployment of biblical figures. This culminates in Augustine’s comparison of different characters that cements his points, highlighting the sign of unity and of dis-unity. This culminates in a rhetorical probing of what a friend of Christ and thus the Church looks like and ultimately what one’s life points towards through out of what it is imbedded in. As his central figurative trope, John the Baptist is displayed within the imagination of his audience as the archetypal Illustration of what true representation of a faithful Christian. John, the ‘amicus sponsi’ is marshalled as the true ‘figurabat’ of faithful friendship. Through this anti-Donatist sermon, we glimpse Augustine establishing the link between friendship and the Church. This leads onto the central claim that friendship for Augustine is not just about belief—but belonging.
Gregory of Nyssa on the Soul and the Cyberpunk Future
Emma Brown Dewhurst, University of Edinburgh
In On the Soul and the Resurrection, St Macrina and St Gregory of Nyssa consider what the soul is, and in particular its relationship to our body and our identity.
Gregory notes the way that our bodies are always changing, and asks which is most truly our ‘real’ body. If we are always in a state of growth, decay, and transience, which of our atoms does our soul cling to and consider its own? What physical body will be with us at the resurrection? If our body is as important to our identity as our soul, if these together are truly what makes me a person, then who does that mean I am in a world of constant change? Am I even the same person I was yesterday? Macrina answers that out identity is bodily, but that the sufferings and passages of time that alter are bodies mean that we are an imperfect version of ourselves in this life. Who we will be at the resurrection will be free from the influence of evil and the ravages of impermanence.
Macrina’s answer gives us an important insight into her conception of personhood as simultaneously embodied, but also detached from the things we traditionally want to consider as belonging to our bodies (like ageing, eating, and having sex). Lots of our modern day science-fiction wrestles with Gregory’s problem – where is my identity located?; if my body is altered beyond recognition, or if consciousness is placed in an entirely new receptacle – am I still me? The worries of the cyberpunk future and indeed our near-future real-world transhumanist difficulties, are concerns that fall into the ancient topic of mind/body dualism. Macrina and Gregory have some surprisingly relevant insights to offer to our contemporary technological dilemmas.
Early Christian Ethical Reading of Synoptic Anecdotes: A Contribution to the
Understanding of Early Roman Morality
Simeon R. Burke (University of Edinburgh)
Recent work on early Roman morality forms a consensus around the notion that the
reading of anecdotes and maxims in this period is characterised by situational variability:
‘whether an action can be judged to be right depends on the circumstances in which it is
performed; what is right for one person in a given situation may not be right for another’
(Langlands 2011:100; cf. Morgan 2007; Roller 1994; 2018; Inwood 2005). Through attending to neglected early Christian evidence, I seek to call into question the universal applicability of the current model of ‘situational variability’ for early Roman uses of maxims and anecdotes.
Taking early Christian re-usage anecdotes from the Gospels as my evidence, I apply this
challenge to both maxim and anecdote re-usage. In the first part of the paper, I argue that early Christian re-usages of the maxims of Jesus feature a high degree of attentiveness to the wider anecdotes in which they travelled, as well as to perceivably similar texts in the growing body of Christian scriptures. Far from resulting in one single use of an individual maxim, what these contextual practices do point to are highly innovative attempts to define or circumscribe the appropriate application of maxims attributed to Jesus. Second, for anecdotes, I seek to show that whereas non-Christian authors generally allows for one particular anecdote to be read in a multiplicity of ways, early Christians apply anecdotes from the Gospels in a surprisingly singular manner. When authors reproduce the entire tribute anecdote, for instance, they do so to make a socio-political point—‘pay your taxes’, ‘give to God divine honours’. Taken together, I suggest that these two patterns of early Christian ethical reading should lead to a significant rethinking of early Roman ethical reading, and the applicability of the current paradigm of ‘situational variability’. As part of this proposal, I submit that Christians and non-Christians are situational in different ways. For non-Christians, the situation of the reader (whether author or audience) is of paramount importance. To apply an anecdote or maxim correctly required appropriate discernment of the set of circumstances facing a reader as an individual within a reading community. For Christians, in the early Roman period, the situation of the reader to some extent shaped the application of the maxim, as we find a variety of applications of the same maxim by early Christian authors (and sometimes even by the same author). More often than not, however, it is the situation of the text, the context of the narrative frame of the anecdote as well as the wider body of scriptural texts that appears to shape the ethical import of Jesus’ sayings. In the third and final part of the paper, I briefly attempt to explain these patterns in early Christian ethical reading.
'True God from true God': The Father's Communication of the Divine Essence
Steve Duby <>
This paper will explore some patristic claims about the Father's communication of the divine essence to the Son. In particular, it will be asked whether and in what way those claims might cohere with the doctrine of divine simplicity as articulated in patristic and later scholastic thought. There are two chief difficulties to address. First, it may be asked whether the sharing of the essence with the Son implies that the essence is located within the relation of one divine person to another and thus in what distinguishes one divine person from another. Second, it may be asked whether the power of communicating must be situated alongside the essence, if only the Father has that power, whereas what pertains to the essence is had by all three divine persons. To address these questions, the paper will explore the distinction between communicating and generating and the notion of the potentia generandi, with the help of later analysis of patristic claims by Peter Lombard and Thomas Aquinas.
The World City: A Reconstruction of Nemesius of Emes’s De Natura Hominis
This paper will sketch a new and coherent interpretation of Nemesius of Emesa’s conspectus of late-antique anthropology, De Natura Hominis (ca 390). The Stoics held that “the world … is like a city and a polity”. Their Hellenistic ‘world city’ theory likened “human nature” (natura hominis) to “a code of civil law” (CICERO Fin. III 62–67). Now, the bishop of Emesa rejects numerous Stoic tenets. His ‘world city’ is not theirs. Moreover, he criticizes aspects of the Platonic ‘world city’, as set out in the Timaeus. Nevertheless, for Nemesius – as for the Stoics, and late-antique Platonists – the human person is a natural-born world-citizen who is in communion with the whole of creation, and indeed with the Demiurge, since humankind is a “child of God” (θεοῦ τέκνον). Thus, Nemesius opens the Nat. Hom. with an elaborate description of divine creation as οἰκείωσις, and his (unfinished) text closes with a closely argued defence of divine providence as διοίκησις. Nemesius accepts in Nat. Hom. 1 that humankind is “by nature … a political animal”, and his description of human nature is thoroughly political. It is the idea of a ‘world city’ which gives structural and conceptual unity to Nemesius’ Nat. Hom. – a unity which his 19th and 20th-century source-critical interpreters failed to recognize.
Land of the Apocalypse: the Pannonian context of Victorinus of Pettau’s commentary on Revelation
Dr Zachary Esterson
While much attention has been paid to Victorinus of Pettau’s literary and exegetical inheritance from his predecessors, less regard has been given to influences from his local cultural, linguistic, social and religious circumstances. His text suggests these were considerable, and recent research shows these may have been even deeper than previously thought. Pannonia in the third century was unique in many ways. Half the legions were stationed there, while Poetovio was a widely frequented centre of Mithraism. There was also a considerable Jewish presence, perhaps in the last place one would suspect, the imperial Roman army and administration. We know little to nothing of these perhaps most Romanized Jews in history, centuries after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and its conversion to a pagan colony. But there is evidence direct and indirect of wider Jewish survival and influence in Pannonian culture, while Victorinus’ paranoid Christian fantasy of Antichrist, a Judeo-pagan hybrid Caesar who seduces Christians into circumcising while restoring Jews to Jerusalem, his inheritance from his predecessors, may have been more grounded in a perceived local reality than in any other time or place. Moreover, Pannonia was a province of vestige linguistic cultures, indigenous and foreign, holding on in the face of relentless Roman- and Latin-isation, making it a fruitful region for cultural, linguistic and religious miscegenation. Victorinus’ Poetovian church was a paradoxically established rock against this rising tide, as he defined the Church as both fundamentally anti-imperial, but also sought to appeal to its military, Jews, indigenes and others, in a new Christian Latin culture that set its compass towards a Christian authority in Jerusalem rather than Rome.
Chrysostom’s Preaching on Job and his Illness
There is burgeoning scholarly interest in the relationship between the preaching and theology of John Chrysostom and medical theory and practice in Greco-Roman late antiquity. The results of this research have led the prominent Chrysostom scholar Wendy Mayer to call for a
reconsideration of Chrysostom’s work along the lines of the ancient tradition of medicophilosophical psychagogy. In the proposed presentation—which emerges from a broader investigation into Chrysostom’s use of the biblical figure of Job as an exemplar for his Christian congregations—I will analyze Chrysostom’s discussion of Job’s illness using recent scholarship on Greco-Roman views of the public and isolating aspects of pain. What is notable to Chrysostom about Job’s suffering is the very public and spectacular character of Job’s physical suffering and social isolation. According to Chrysostom, God made Job a spectacle so that no one could doubt the reality of his ordeal or the extent of God’s love in eventually remedying Job’s situation. Chrysostom is well-known for his frequent denunciations of his culture’s obsession with spectacles, including the theater, and one of his more telling distinctions between pagan spectacle and the Christian alternative with which Chrysostom sought to replace it was the passivity that marked out the spectators of the former. By contrast, those who watch biblical or Christian exemplars engaged in spiritual contests are active—they are able to participate and help. With regard to Job and his illness, we see how Chrysostom utilizes the tools of epideictic rhetoric, in particular ekphrasis, to give his hearers an experience of Job’s struggle with illness, so that they might be able to identify with him and others who suffer and reach out to them, thereby counteracting the painful social isolation that many sick people feel. Chrysostom’s preaching on Job forms part of his pastoral effort to spiritualize the material world—to make real the love God shows by means of the example of Job—through the building up of the church community as the body of Christ.
The historiography of imperial advisors: Eusebius of Caesarea and Theodoret of Cyrrhus against the consensus
Eusebius and Theodoret’s literary personae are religious experts of a
Christian faith which is projected on the inhabitants of the oikoumene
and which should ideally be represented in consensual and majoritarian
discourses. Their characterisation of synodical proceedings nuance the
authority of decision-making by representative bodies, even in the
case of the sessions of the Oriental bishops in Ephesus in 431, who
were Theodoret’s allies. The paper analyses the largely urban and
Roman legal and political context to which each of them referred when
lending authority to synods as representative bodies in the narratives
of conciliar proceedings in their church historiographies. It shows
the discursive strategies that allow for their ego-discourses to stand
out with authority to disagree and correct it.
The Late Antique Roots of Introspection
Postdoctoral scholar, Theologische Fakultaet
Late antiquity marked one of the great turning points of history. Alongside social, political, cultural, and religious transformations, in this period some of the elements that have since constituted the identity of the Western self have emerged. In particular, new theological concerns in Christianity resulted in the emergence of a new notion of the self and a greater interest in the inner life of the individual, along with new lines of psychological investigation. The proposed paper focuses on one procedure for producing psychological knowledge which emerged within the Eastern monastic movement—introspection (defined as a systematic attempt to observe and, sometimes, describe one's own occurrent mental states or processes).
While historians of psychology (e.g., Kurt Danziger) treat introspection as a historically recent development, I would like to argue that the Desert Fathers and their followers, especially Evagrius Ponticus and his disciple John Cassian, have already employed introspection as a method for investigating the human mind and its operations. Whereas Augustine of Hippo has often been hailed by modern scholars as the initiator of introspective consciousness in Christianity, I would like to argue that no less important developments took place within the Eastern monastic tradition in late antiquity, where introspective procedures were self-consciously employed in order to produce psychological knowledge. Moreover, the notion that individual consciousness can be a special object of investigation goes back to these developments, which constitute therefore a crucial stage in the history of Western psychology.
“…In the synagogue of gods”: Augustine’s Notion of Deification in
Faculty of Theology, University of Bern, Switzerland
In the recently discovered dated to the winter of 403-404 and probably preached in Carthage, we find interesting considerations on the deification of the human being. Commenting on 81 (82), 1: „God has stood up in the synagogue of gods”, Augustine highlights that human vocation is, despite our mortality and infirmity, to tend to divinity, and that deification is a possibility opened with the Incarnation of the Son of God (. 23B.1). Augustine explores here new ways of naming God according to his deifying power: „deifying God”, „god-making God”, „God not made making gods” (. 23B.2) and uses a refined vocabulary in relation to deification (, etc.). In order to reveal the original aspects of this sermon, articulating Augustine’s mastery in both Biblical exegesis and preaching, I would like to compare it with other writings where Augustine speaks of deification by transfiguration into what one loves ( 2.14), by becoming children of God ( 49.2, 94.6), by seeing God ( 49.2), by progressing into the loving knowledge of God ( 9.11.16), or by achieving the eschatological perfection of the image of God in man ( 14.19.25). In particular, I will examine the image of “the synagogue of gods” in connection to becoming god by participation or by grace (. 23B.6, compared to En. Ps. 49.2; 94.6). I will revisit the topic of idolatry as enhancing the likeness to senseless idols, as eclipsing the inner senses, and ruining the image of God in man (S. 23B.5). I will also contextualize and interpret the metaphors of the goldsmith’s furnace (S. 23B.12) and oil press (S. 23B.15) as images related to the inner shaping of a true Christian and to the “time of discernment”.
Liturgical expression of Trinitarian theology in the third century Antioch
University of Winchester
I will address this topic by exploring how the descriptions of clergy and liturgy in the Didascalia express the understanding of the Trinity in third century Antioch and Syria. My aim in this paper to express the close link between the Trinitarian theology of the church in the Antioch and the developing theology of the deaconate in this region. The Antiochian theology in this era is important since it influenced the development of the theology of the diaconate and the order of the deacon across the Eastern Roman Empire over the succeeding centuries.
I will start by setting out what is known of third century liturgies in Antioch and the surrounding province of Syria along with the first instances of theological linking clergy with aspects of the Trinity by of Ignatius of Antioch. I will then present the passages of the Didascalia which are the focus of my presentation, this being the first paragraph of Chapter 9 of the where the Trinitarian theology is expressed. Other passages of the Didascalia will be used to illustrate and expand on the implied meaning and context of this passage. Since the Didascalia was written within the Aramaic speaking region I will breafly examine the influence this had on the theology of this document. I will also refer to Greek texts of the Didascalia, as this may also provide insights into aspects of the document which are unclear in English translation. Within my presentation I will also refer to Temple and Wisdom Traditions both of which are evident in my key source text and help to place it within the unwritten traditions of the church at this time.
“Blessed radiance”: Transfiguration, Divinisation and Exegesis in Ambigua 10
Ewan King (firstname.lastname@example.org)
In patristic studies, the centrality of the theme of divinisation has long been recognised. By contrast, it is only comparatively recently that the importance of the theme for Systematic Theology has been fully recognised, at least in this part of the world. A new attention to the topic of divinisation, while still far from universal, seems to be the trend: a very welcome one. Yet the fact remains that the concept of divinisation has little or no acknowledged part in the thought of most Western Christians. Indeed the very words ‘divinisation’ and ‘theosis’ are still unknown to many educated Christians of Catholic, Protestant and even Orthodox subscription.
The growing interest of Western scholars in this topic is surely neither misplaced nor untimely. Some kind of language of divinisation seems to be the necessary condition of a successful integration of dogmatics, reflection on spirituality, and the lived practices and experiences that are the life of the Spirit. What then can we make of this divide between academic and congregational life, between traditions of east and west? How, if at all, might the chasm be bridged? This paper examines Maximus’ reflections on transfiguration and divinisation with a view not so much to bridging as to sounding the depths of this divide.
Three different Maximian accounts of the transfiguration have reached us, most extensively in Quaestiones et Dubia and the tenth of his Ambigua. Maximus is a classic exponent of the doctrine of divinisation, and these passages are at the heart of his contribution, firstly in their own right, and secondly in their Wirkungsgeschichtlich afterlife (e.g. in Palamas).
This paper will argue that in our context, the strength of Maximus’ contribution to the doctrine of divinisation depends on the exegetical status of his comments on transfiguration. The Maximian reading of the gospel narrative is anything but naïve. Maximus offers an exegesis that is self-consciously traditional, drawing most directly on Gregory Nazianzen, Pseudo-Dionysius and Diadochus of Photike. In Ambigua 10 this influence leads to something that looks like ‘Alexandrian’ exegesis and Christology at their most ‘Alexandrian’. Maximus exhorts his reader to pierce the ‘νεφος’ and ‘προκαλυμμα’, the “cloud” and “veil” of created reality, insisting that unless we get beyond the human and the textual “flesh” we will never penetrate to the “blessed radiance” of the transcendent and unchanging God.
The long and enthusiastic reception of these passages attests to the generativity of Maximus’ readings of scripture. But how effective can his exegetical strategies be considered in our context. How, if at all, might Maximus’ approach be integrated with either broadly ‘literal’ or else Historical Critical approaches to scripture? Is it possible for a responsible contemporary reader of scripture to listen with the Confessor for the vox Dei in these gospel passages? I will argue that if we are to read scripture responsibly with Maximus, we need to read these passages of scripture not merely as a source for authoritative statements about divinisation, but as a ‘case in point’, i.e. as a specimen of what it means for “man” to “become God”.
Whatever humanity becoming God might mean, a religion that transgresses the “bounds of reason alone” is clearly involved. Divinisation thus seems to promise access to a whole affective and symbolic universe from which recent theology and worship have both been shut off to their mutual detriment. Maximus on transfiguration and divinisation thus promises to be a rich site for resourcing both contemporary theological reflection and practice.
Human Will and Divine Grace - Damascene’s teaching on theosis and it’s Echo in Aquinas
University of South Bohemia, Faculty of Theology
St. John of Damascus is one of the most frequently cited authors in Aquinas’ Summa theologiae. In Damascene’s writings we find a well developed if somewhat un-systematic teaching on deification which in turn finds its echo in the works of the Angelic Doctor. John touches upon this topic while writing about the Orthodox Faith, defending the Holy Images or arguing against the heresies.
Man participates in God (to a certain degree) firstly because he is a created being and secondly because he is a rational being – according to John this is the meaning of man being created in the Image of God. He also recognizes further „degrees“ of deification, where both human free will – and virtues which are „fruit“ of the free will and attaining them means attaining the Likeness of God – as well as the Grace of God (and its‘ operation through the Sacraments) come to play according to John and without both the free consent of man and divine grace poured onto the same theosis would be unattainable after the Fall.
The aim of this paper will be to unravel Damascene’s understanding of the relation between the human will and divine grace in the process of deification or attaining the likeness of God and furthermore to look how this notion of “likeness” as expression of the image and its perfection by virtue (STh I, q93, a. 9.) was received and developed by Aquinas.
Ascetic Clothing and Spiritual Authority in Late Antique Monasticism
West University of Timisoara
This paper explores the theme of the spiritual authority in the late ascetic tradition. More exactly, I will analyze the relationship between ascetic authority and ecclesiastical authority as it appears in late ascetic literature.
I divide this paper into two sections. Section one explores the relationships between ascetics and bishops in monastic literature. If asceticism is a sign of the spiritual status of the monk, ordination represents a locus of ecclesiastical authority (bishops and priests). Several examples from ascetic literature reveal a significant tension between the two sphere of authority. Examining each of these spheres we will understand that this tension generated a fluid and ambiguous relationship between ascetics and bishops in Late Antiquity.
Section two examines the relationship between ascetic clothing and spiritual authority. Clothing was a visible marker of spiritual authority in late monasticism. In this sense, the most known example is Life of Antony, a popular and influential text in Late Antiquity. Focusing on the Antony’s mantle, this section argues that the monk’s clothing was a symbol of wisdom and ascetic authority. Building upon this premise, my purpose is to examine how the monk’s mantle participated in discourse concerning spiritual authority in late ascetic tradition.
Pieties in Conflict: Lactantius, Porphyry and the Latin Panegyrics
Kirsten H. Mackerras
University of Oxford
Pietas was central to how Romans understood their place in the universe. This polyvalent virtue traditionally meant fulfilling one's duty to the gods, one's pare nts, and/or to the fatherland and emperor. In the early fourth century, Christians were charged, by philosophers as well as emperors, with failing each of these obligations; they were persecuted for their impiety. This paper investigates how Lactantius (re)defined piety, in comparison with Latin Panegyrics V-XI, which indicate what Lactantius' pagan peers thought the emperors wanted to hear about the virtue, and Porphyry, the most prominent philosopher and Christian opponent of the time. Exploring the imperial and philosophical conceptions of piety will explicate the ideology behind this persecution, and contextualise the Christian response to it. The Latin Panegyrics largely perpetuate the popular account of piety, but Porphyry and Lactantius modify it in significant ways. Porphyry's and Lactantius' criticisms of popular piety follow similar lines, and both utilise the motifs of appropriate worship and ancestral tradition in their critique. Comparing these accounts reveal where the boundaries between legitimate and illegitimate innovation lay. Lactantius collapses piety's three realms of obligation into two: piety means treating God as father, and humanity as siblings, a
reframing of the Great Commandment. For Lactantius, the imperial and philosophical
interpretations of piety illustrate the axiom that truth unites religio with sapientia. Popular and imperial understandings of piety fail because they are not based on wisdom, and the philosophers do not unite their teachings with true religion and knowledge of the true God. Hence, he attempts to construct an account of piety that uses imperial and philosophical values to accuse emperors and philosophers of impiety.
Gregory’s of Nyssa, “On the Soul and the Resurrection”: the items, the influences and the relationship with the Socratic dialogue
Gregory of Nyssa is discussing about the soul with his sister Macrina. The main point is the nature of the soul and its relation with the body when somebody lives and after his death. If the soul is made of a different nature than the body, then it can’t be in it. The soul is incomprehensible to the senses, without weight, size, dimension, location, or any of the qualities of matter. Another issue is the pre-existence of souls and their fall into bodies. The soul’s mortality is also discussed and Macrina prove that the soul is an image of the divine essence, so it is immorality. The location of the souls is another question. Another issue is when does the soul have its origin?
The influences in the discussion are from the ancient Greek philosophers, from Origen and from the St Paul’s eschatology. Although some Platonic and Neoplatonic traditions are categorically rejected, such us the idea that the souls are descended into physical bodies because of a prehistoric fall, some other ideas, such us the yearning to the beautiful and to the good are surely Platonic. Also the issue that “all men desire what they perceive as good and hence may miss the good due to misconceptions about it, so attainment of the good requires knowledge of what is truly good”, is Platonic. St Gregory says that the body is not discarded from the soul but changes its state and Origen says that the soul will always be associated with the body but its characteristics are changeable, so there is an influence.
The relationship with the Socratic dialogue is great, not only about the style, the methods etc, but even about the role of Macrina. For example she notes that St. Gregory presented several strong rhetorical objections by such forceful language against the doctrine of the Resurrection, none of which correspond to the truth. She refrains to answer in the same style. We meet the same way between the Hellenistic rhetoric which was based on artful language and the philosophers who were based on the logic. In this case St Gregory speaks as a rhetoric and Macrina speaks as a philosopher.
The Second Dionysian Text in ms. “Vat. Sir. 123”
Michael Muthreich, Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities
In an old Syriac manuscript from the Vatican Library (Vat. Sir. 123) we find a fragment resp. a short text which Assemani calls “De Sacerdotio” in his catalogue of Syriac manuscripts in the Vatican Library. It immediately follows the “Epistola de Morte SS. Apostolorum Petri et Pauli” (CPG 6631) and both texts are ascribed to S. Dionysius. “De Sacerdotio” is actually an excerpt of the eighth letter to Demophilos (CPG 6611) belonging to the Corpus Dionysiacum. Comparing the excerpt “De Sacerdotio” to Syriac translations of the mentioned letter to Demophilos it is most probable that its translation goes back to Sergius of Reshaina the first translator of Dionysian writings into Syriac. The present paper indicates main features of the manuscript and gives a detailed description of the excerpt from letter VIII to Demophilos existent in the Vatican manuscript (Vat. Sir. 123).