The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Please can I have some more info on Justinian's 543 synod?

As you can see, a fair bit of weight is being Justinian’s 543 local synod. Please can I have some more information about it? Who attended? I’m told it’s not Ecumenical, does that mean someone boycotted it?

The Second Council of Constantinople is the fifth of the first seven ecumenical councils recognized as such by both West and East. Orthodox, Catholics, and Old Catholics unanimously recognize it. Protestant opinions and recognition of it are varied (presumably because it ratified the dogma of Mary as Mother of God). Traditional Protestants such as Reformed and Lutheran recognize the first four councils whereas most High Church Anglicans accept all seven. Constantinople II was convoked by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I under the presidency of Patriarch Eutychius of Constantinople and was held from 5 May to 2 June 553. Participants were overwhelmingly Eastern bishops; sixteen Western bishops were present (including those from Illyricum).

The main work of the council was to confirm the condemnation issued by edict in 551 by the Emperor Justinian against the Three Chapters (cf. Three Chapters controversy and Three Chapters schism). The “Three Chapters” were, one, both the person and writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia (d. 428), two, the attacks on Cyril of Alexandria and the First Council of Ephesus written by Theodoret of Cyrrhus (d. c. 466), and three, the attacks on Cyril and Ephesus by Ibas of Edessa (d. 457).

Its’ main purpose was to condemn the views of those who held too loose a view of the relationship between the human and divine natures of Christ and/or contested that Mary could be called Mother of God – a view that had been viciously propagated by the orthodox Cyril of Alexandria.

Origen and a form of apocatastasis (predicated on the idea of eternal return) were condemned at the ‘local’ Synod of Constantinople (543) by the Patriarch Mennas of Constantinople and the condemnation was ratified in 553 by the Fifth Ecumenical Council

The Fifth Ecumenical Council addressed what was called “The Three Chapters”[58] and was against a form of Origenism which truly had nothing to do with Origen and Origenist views. In fact, Popes Vigilius, Pelagius I (556-61), Pelagius II (579-90), and Gregory the Great (590-604) were only aware the Fifth Council specifically dealt with the Three Chapters and make no mention of Origenism or Universalism, nor spoke as if they knew of its condemnation even though Gregory the Great was opposed to the belief of universalism.

(Done in a hurry - cut and pasted from three wiki articles with added comments by me :blush: )

From a polemical point of view – I find it hard to defend a Council that defended Cyril of Alexandria against his opponents. It was at Cyril’s instigation that the saintly female philosopher, mathematician and Neo-Platonist Hypatia was dragged from her chariot by a murderous mob of monks and butchered. It’s one of the big moments of shame in the history of the ancient Church. :frowning:

Cassiodorus writing contemporary with Viglius I seems to testify that Vigilius confirmed with his signature the canons against Origen edited under the local synod held by Patriarch Menna (borrowed from the book against Origen written and promulgated by Emperor Justinian in 543). Canon 9 anathematizes the concept that demons and impious men will have temporary punishments and will be completely restored eventually.

From a Roman Catholic standpoint, that signature means he knew about canon 9 and anathematized it as much as any of the other canons (including for example Canon 7 that Christ will at some time be crucified on behalf of demons just as He was for men). Since the Pope participated in the Fifth Ecumenical Council which also ratified the local synod’s decision, it would be presumptuous to say he did not know of Canon 9.

Pelagius I, writing to Childebert I in April of 557, declares that his faith and his hope by the gift of the mercy of God, in defense of which blessed St. Peter taught that we ought to be especially ready to answer everyone who asks us for an accounting, includes this faith and hope: that the wicked in the general resurrection, who either did not know the way of the Lord or knowing it left it when seized by various transgressions, remaining by their own choice among the vessels of wrath fit for destruction, will be given over to the punishment of eternal and inextinguishable fire that they may burn without end (which indicates what he means by "eternal’).

So either Pelagius knew about the Canon 9 anathema, or he affirmed its general gist independently anyway. Notably around 560 he threatened a bishop with loss of salvation for withdrawing from the apostolic sees over the question of what the authority of the primacy of the Roman see meant. (Pelagius II went even further and in stronger language in the direction of salvation requiring affirmation of the unique authority of the Roman bishop as heir to Peter, although in the dogmatic sources compiled by Denzinger P2 does not mention apocatastasis. Later Popes during the Eastern schism, however, would require Eastern bishops to renounce apocatastasis on par with accepting the chief authority of the Roman bishop.)

Now that really is fascinating Jason - very fascinating indeed :smiley:

It certainly puts the current/recent popes in a peculiar place. :wink:

Yes, that’s my concern, does that mean UR is unorthodox?? :confused:

Certainly it must be from the RCC perspective. And not just a little heterodox either. Anathemas aren’t supposed to be thrown out lightly.

I don’t know for sure how the Eastern Orthodox work around this (those who hold to UR I mean – the others don’t have to work around it, obviously. :wink: )

If I recall correctly, reading from Bulgakov or somewhere like that, the anathemas of the previous local synod were read in a special preliminary session at Ecumenical V but nothing further was really done there. The actual canons of EcuV don’t mention them in Denzinger’s Sources. My impression is that EcuV didn’t formally ratify them, but allowed them to be read out of respect for Justinian–and maybe out of respect to Vigilius? I know from reading a history on the post-Chalcedonian councils that there was some kind of protest going on where Vigilius was in town but refused to come to the Council because they wouldn’t agree for him to be president, but he neatly spun that around afterward by affirming it after the fact as if they had needed his special authoritative approval. (I should look that up when I get back to the office later this weekend or next week. He participated but kind of in a backhanded way if I recall correctly.)

It’s hard to believe an Ecumenical council would have formally ratified those anathemas when respect for Gregory Nyssus was still so strong. It’s one thing to aim at Origen on other teachings (invented or not), since he was safely dead for three centuries, but how were they going to say that the Father of Orthodoxy, the Orthodox of the Orthodox, the president of the Chalcedonian Council, was anathema??? It wasn’t like they could pretend he hadn’t taught the same final salvation of Satan (albeit for more orthodox reasons) as Origen!

Alex, No, Justinian honored Gregory of Nyssa at the Fifth Ecumenical Council and all of Gregory’s views are consistent with the Nicene-Constantinople Creed on the doctrine of judgment for the living and dead.

Do you have a source for that?

Here is a quote from Emperor Justinian to the Fifth Ecumenical Council:

Thanks Jim!

Hi Jason :slight_smile: -

Just a couple of half remembered things and woolly observations on a topic on wot I know very little -

Doesn’t Robin (Parry) points out somewhere that those who cite the deliberations of the fifth council against the orthodoxy of universalism are in a sticky position if they are Protestants - because the fifth Council defends Mary as ‘Mother of God’?

It does seem to me that as the Roman Church gets more authoritarian - as does the Eastern Church but less so - the arm twisting at these councils becomes more and more full of intimidation and threats of violence with bands of monks acting like tonsured bovver boys in boots and braces asking, ‘D’yo want aggro’ :open_mouth: :laughing:

This is very interesting - I wonder if the Eastern Bishops at the fifth council came away thinking they had surrendered far too much in terms of the scope of ‘adiaphora’ in eschatology. I wonder if anyone has done a proper study on how much the Western doctrine of Purgatory and it’s role in the great Schism was related to the Western insistence on the renunciation of apocatastasis?

Hmmmmm :slight_smile:

P.S> I find the East West controversy over Purgatory confusing. However, would I not be right in observing that (???)

According to the Augustinian Doctrine Purgatory is a separate place from Hell and Heaven. In the intermediate sate before the final judgment people who have died in a state of grace but need further purification before entering paradise go there. The imaginative idea of Purgatory becomes increasingly more horrible throughout the Middle Ages. It was originally conceived of as a place of hope and of restorative/medicinal ‘punishments. But eventually its punishments are conceived of as no different from hell in quality – but only different in that they do not last forever.

Prayers for the dead can degenerate into an attempt to bribe God to remit punishment for loved ones.

The Western doctrine of purgatory rules out any doctrine of apocatastasis.

The Eastern Church do not have any doctrine of purgatory as a separate place

While much is left to mystery and adiaphora, the consensus seems to be that souls can be purified in the intermediate state but this is more likely to be through a temporary stay in hell; hell is only eternal to those who cannot be purified of selfishness by exposure to divine love experienced as wrath.

Prayers for the dead are made to express solidarity with those begin purified and to give them comfort.

The Eastern doctrine of ‘purgatory’ can be compatible with belief in UR.

Is that how it seems to you? And if so it does seem that we can see some of the seeds of schism planted in the rulings of the Fifth council?

Is there any link Jason :confused: :slight_smile:

That’s a title issue, not a doctrinal one. No trinitarian Protestant denomination would deny that God the Son was born of Mary; the problem back then like now is only that on the face of it “theotokos” / “Mother of God” sounds like God was originally born of a mother. That wasn’t what the promoters of the title were trying to say, whereas on the other hand they were very sharply trying to avoid one or another variety of neo-Arianism, which they thought the Nestorian party was inadvertently (or not-so-inadvertently) engaging in. Pretty much all the EcuV canons are directed at that issue; in summary, Christ was God the Son from conception and before conception; and at no time did the human nature of Christ exist separately from the divine nature (after or before conception), originating at conception instead by the power of God.

What bothers Protestant denominations is the veneration of Mary, not as the mother chosen by God the Son to be incarnated in (which is not a problem except for liberal Protestants who deny the incarnation at all), but as a mediatrix who seems to be a route to God and to God’s forgiveness.

I would even say it started with the Eastern Church before Rome got all that influential! Philip Jenkins has some hair-raising stories in his two part epic history of the situation.

I’m hoping Dr. Ramelli’s work will shed some light on the late Patristics and how the Roman doctrine of purgatory developed on one side while apokatastasis declined on the other side.

Thanks Jason -

Will look forward to what Professor Ramelli has to say about Purgatory (and since I have other books to buy I’ll look forward to one of the owners/readers of Ramelli on site posting on this. IT seems to me that the issue of Purgatory and Apocatastasis is important - but I’ve not seen anything very clear written about it yet; so fi she does unpack this issue in detail that’ll be great :slight_smile:


Have just found the half remembered point from Robin Parry. It is footnote 5, page 4 of ‘All Shall Be Well’ -

‘‘The fifth ecumenical council, for instance, declared Mary to be ‘ever virgin’ fixing her perpetual virginity in church dogma. Few Protestants feel any obligation to affirm that proposal because they consider it a) prima facie unbiblical (or at least, going beyond Scripture’s claims), and (b) theologically unnecessary. My point is simply that most Protestants are willing to reject a decision by an ecumenical council’’.

So it is ‘perpetual virginity’ that Parry uses as his example, not Mary as ‘theotokos’ :blush: :slight_smile:

Got it, good point, that’s true. :slight_smile:

Justinian wrote a letter to Menas condemning universalism. Where can I find this letter?