History of the christian church



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His remaining works are minor theological treatises, including a brief catechism on the Holy Trinity; controversial writings against Mohammedanism (particularly interesting because of the nearness of their author to the beginnings of that religion), and against Jacobites, Manichaeans, Nestorians and Iconoclasts; homilies, 900among them an eulogy upon Chrysostom; a commentary on Paul’s Epistles, taken almost entirely from Chrysostom’s homilies; the sacred Parallels, Bible sentences with patristic illustrations on doctrinal and moral subjects, arranged in alphabetical order, for which a leading word in the sentence serves as guide. He also wrote a number of hymns which have been noticed in a previous section. 901

Besides these there is a writing attributed to him, The Life of Barlaam and Joasaph2the story of the conversion of the only son of an Indian King by a monk (Barlaam). It is a monastic romance of much interest and not a little beauty. It has been translated into many languages, frequently reprinted, and widely circulated. 903 Whether John of Damascus wrote it is a question. Many things about it seem to demand an affirmative answer. 904 His materials were very old, indeed pre-Christian, for the story is really a repetition of the Lalita Vistara, the legendary life of Buddha. 905

Another writing of dubious authorship is the Panegyric on St. Barbara,6a marvellous tale of a suffering saint. Competent judges assign it to him. 907 These two are characteristic specimens of monastic legends in which so much pious superstition was handed down from generation to generation.

III. Position. John of Damascus considered either as a Christian office-holder under a Mohammedan Saracenic Caliph, as the great defender of image-worship, as a learned though credulous monk, or as a sweet and holy poet, is in every way an interesting and important character. But it is as the summarizer of the theology of the Greek fathers that he is most worthy of attentive study; for although he seldom ventures upon an original remark, he is no blind, servile copyist. His great work, the "Fount of Knowledge," was not only the summary of the theological discussions of the ancient Eastern Church, which was then and is to-day accepted as authoritative in that communion, but by means of the Latin translation a powerful stimulus to theological study in the West. Peter Lombard, Thomas Aquinas and other schoolmen are greatly indebted to it. The epithets, "Father of Scholasticism" and "Lombard of the Greeks" have been given to its author. He was not a scholastic in the proper meaning of that term, but merely applied Aristotelian dialects to the treatment of traditional theology. Yet by so doing he became in truth the forerunner of scholasticism.

An important but incidental service rendered by this great Father was as conserver of Greek learning. "The numerous quotations, not only from Gregory Nazianzen, but from a multitude of Greek authors besides would provide a field of Hellenic literature sufficient for the wants of that generation. In having so provided it, and having thus become the initiator of a warlike but ill-taught race into the mysteries of an earlier civilization, Damascenus is entitled to the praise that the elder Lenormant awarded him of being in the front rank of the master spirits from whom the genius of the Arabs drew its inspiration." 908

One other interesting fact deserves mention. It was to John of Damascus that the Old Catholics and Oriental and Anglo-Catholics turned for a definition of the relation of the Holy Spirit to the Father and Son which should afford a solid basis of union.9 "He restored unity to the Triad, by following the ancient theory of the Greek church, representing God the Father as the ajrchv, and in this view, the being of the Holy Spirit no less than the being of the Son as grounded in and derived from the Father. The Holy Spirit is from the Father, and the Spirit of the Father; not from the Son, but still the Spirit of the Son. He proceeds from the Father the one ajrchv of all being, and he is communicated through the Son; through the Son the whole creation shares in the Spirit’s work; by himself he creates, moulds, sanctifies all and binds all together." 910


§ 145. Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople.
I. Photius: Opera omnia, in Migne, "Patrol. Gr." Tom. CI.-CIV. (1860). Also Monumenta Graeca ad Photium ejusgue historiam pertinentia, ed. Hergenröther. Regensburg, 1869.

II. David Nicetas: Vita Ignatii, in Migne, CV., 488–573. The part which relates to Photius begins with col. 509; partly quoted in CI. iii. P. De H. E. (anonymous): Histoire de Photius. Paris, 1772. Jager: Histoire de Photius. Paris, 1845, 2d ed., 1854. L. Tosti: Storia dell’ origine dello scisma greco. Florence, 1856, 2 vols. A. Pichler: Geschichte der kirchlichen Trennung zwischen Orient und Occident. Munich, 1864–65, 2 vols. J. Hergenröther: Photius, Patriarch von Constantinopel. Sein Leben, seine Schriften und das griechische Schisma. Regensburg, 1867–69, 3 vols. (The Monumenta mentioned above forms part of the third vol.) Cf. Du Pin, VII., 105–110; Ceillier, XII., 719–734.


Photius was born in Constantinople in the first decade of the ninth century. He belonged to a rich and distinguished family. He had an insatiable thirst for learning, and included theology among his studies, but he was not originally a theologian. Rather he was a courtier and a diplomate. When Bardas chose him to succeed Ignatius as Patriarch of Constantinople he was captain of the Emperor’s body-guard. Gregory of Syracuse, a bitter enemy of Ignatius, in five days hurried him through the five orders of monk, lector, sub-deacon, deacon, and presbyter, and on the sixth consecrated him patriarch. He died an exile in an Armenian monastery, 891.

As the history of Photius after his elevation to the patriarchate has been already treated,1this section will be confined to a brief recital of his services to literature, sacred and secular. 912

The greatest of these was his so-called Library,3which is a unique work, being nothing less than notices, critiques and extracts of two hundred and eighty works of the most diverse kinds, which he had read. Of the authors quoted about eighty are known to us only through this work. The Library was the response to the wish of his brother Tarasius, and was composed while Photius was a layman. The majority of the works mentioned are theological, the rest are grammatical, lexical, rhetorical, imaginative, historical, philosophical, scientific and medical. No poets are mentioned or quoted, except the authors of three or four metrical paraphrases of portions of Scripture. The works are all in Greek, either as originals or, as in the case of a few, in Greek translations. Gregory the Great and Cassian are the only Latin ecclesiastical writers with whom Photius betrays any intimate acquaintance. As far as profane literature is concerned, the Library makes the best exhibit in history, and the poorest in grammar. Romances are mentioned, also miscellanies. In the religious part of his work Chrysostom and Athanasius are most prominent. Of the now lost works mentioned by Photius the most important is by an anonymous Constantinopolitan author of the first half of the seventh century, who in fifteen books presented testimonies in favor of Christianity by different Greek, Persian, Thracian, Egyptian, Babylonian, Chaldean and Jewish scholars.

Unique and invaluable as the Library is, it has been criticized because more attention is given to some minor works than to other important ones; the criticisms are not always fair or worthy; the works spoken of are really few, while a much larger anthology might have been made; and again there is no order or method in the selection. It is, however, to be borne in mind that the object of the work was to mention only those books which had been read in the circle to which he and his brother belonged, during the absence of the latter; that it was hastily prepared, and was to have been followed by a second. 914 Taking these facts into consideration there is nothing but praise to be given to the great scholar who in a wholly undesigned fashion has laid posterity under heavy obligation by jotting down his criticisms upon or making excerpts of the more important works which came under his observation during a comparatively short space of time.

Among the Greek fathers, he esteems most highly Athanasius, Chrysostom, Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, Epiphanius, Ephraem, Cyril of Alexandria, the fictitious Dionysius the Areopagite, and Maximus; among the Latin fathers, Leo. I. and Gregory I. He recognizes also Ambrose, Augustin, and Jerome as fathers, but often disputes their views. Of the ante-Nicene writers he has a rather low opinion, because they did not come up to his standard of orthodoxy; he charges Origen with blasphemous errors, and Eusebius with Arianism.

One of the earlier works of Photius, perhaps his earliest, was his Greek Lexicon, 915which he began in his youth and completed before the Library, although he revised it from time to time. He made use of the glossaries and lexica of former workers, whose names he has preserved in his Library, and has been in turn used by later lexicographers, e.g. Suidas (ninth century). Photius designed to remove the difficulties in the reading of the earlier and classic Greek profane and sacred literature. To this end he paid particular attention to the explanation of the old Attic expressions and figures of speech.

The most important of the theological works of Photius is the Amphilochian Questions 916— so called because these questions had been asked by his friend, Amphilochius, metropolitan of Lyzikus. The work consists of three hundred and twenty-four discussions, mostly in biblical exegesis, but also dogmatical, philosophical, mythological, grammatical, historical, medical, and scientific. Like the other works of Photius it displays rare learning and ability. It was composed during his first exile, and contains many complaints of lack of books and excerpts. It has no plan, is very disjointed, unequal, and evidently was written at different times. Many of the answers are taken literally from the works of others. The same question is sometimes repeatedly discussed in different ways. 917

Although it is doubtful whether Photius composed a complete commentary on any book of the Old Testament, it is very likely that he wrote on the Gospels and on Romans, Corinthians and Hebrews, since in the printed and unprinted catenae upon these books there are found many citations of Photius.8 No such commentary as a unit, however, now exists.

Two canonical works are attributed to Photius, "A Collection of Canons" and "A Collection of Ecclesiastical and Civil Laws." 919 To these some add a third. The second of these works, the Nomocanon, is authoritative on canonical law in the Greek Church. 920 The word "Nomocanon" itself is the Greek name for a combination of ecclesiastical laws (kanovne") and secular, especially imperial, law (novmoi). Photius made such a collection in 883, on the basis of earlier collections. It contains (1) the canons of the seven universally accepted oecumenical councils (325–787), of the Trullan council of 692 (Quinisexta), the synods of 861 and 879; and (2) the laws of Justinian relative to the Greek Church. Photius was not only a collector of canonical laws, but also a legislator and commentator. The canons of the councils held by him in 861 and 879, and his canonical letters or decretals had a great and permanent influence upon Greek canonical law. The Nomocanon was enlarged and commented on by Balsamon in the twelfth century, and is usually published in connection with these commentaries. It is used in the orthodox church of Russia under the name Kormczia Kniga, i.e., "The Book for the Pilot." As in his other works, he builded upon the foundations of his predecessors.

The historical and dogmatico-polemical writings of Photius may be divided into two classes, those against the Paulicians or Manichaeans, and those against the Roman Church. In the first class are four books which bear in the editions the general title "Against the new Manichaeans." 921 The first is a history of the old and new Manichaeans, written during Photius’ first patriarchate, and apparently largely borrowed from a contemporary author; the remaining three are polemical treatises upon the new Manichaeans, in which biblical rather than philosophical arguments are relied upon, and mostly those which had already been used against the Manichaeans.

The works against the Latin Church embrace (1) The Mystagogia, or doctrine of the Holy Spirit; his most important writing against the Latins. 922 It is a discussion of the procession alone, not of the personality and divinity, of the Holy Spirit, for upon these latter points there was no difference between the Latin and Greek Churches. It appears to be entirely original with Photius. 923 It is characterized by acuteness and great dialectical skill. There exists an epitome of this book, 924but it is doubtful whether Photius himself made it. (2) A collection 925of ten questions and answers upon such matters as, "In what respects have the Romans acted unjustly?" "How many and what true patriarchs are not recognized by the Romans, except compromisingly?" "Which emperor contends for the peace of the Church?" The collection has great historical interest, since it embraces materials which otherwise would be entirely lost. (3) Treatise against the Roman primacy. (4) Tractate against the Franks, from which there are extracts in the Kormczaia Kniga of the Oriental Slavs, which was extensively circulated in the thirteenth century, and enjoys among the Russians great authority as a book of canonical law. It has been attributed to Photius, but in its present shape is not his. 926 (5) His famous Encyclical Letter to the Eastern Patriarchs, written in 867. 927

The genuine works of Photius include besides those already mentioned three books of letters8of different contents, private and public, written generally in verbose style; homilies, 929two printed entire and two in fragments and twenty unprinted; several poems 930and moral sentences, probably a compilation. Several other works attributed to Photius are only of doubtful genuineness.


§ 146. Simeon Metaphrastes.
I. Simeon Metaphrastes: Opera omnia, in Migne, Patrol. Gr. Tom. cxiv.-cxvi.

II. Panegyric by Psellus, in Migne, CXIV. col. 200–208; Leo Allatius: De Symeonum scriptis, in Migne, CXIV. col. 19–148; and the Preface to Migne’s ed. Cf. Du Pin, VIII. 3; Ceillier, XII. 814–819.


This voluminous author probably lived in Constantinople during the reigns of Leo the Philosopher (886–911) and Constantine Porphyrogenitus (911–959). 931 He was the Imperial Secretary, High Chancellor and Master of the Palace. When somewhat advanced in years he was sent by the Emperor Leo on a mission to the Cretan Arabs for the purpose, which was accomplished, of turning them from their proposed campaign against the Thessalonians. It was on this journey that he met on the island of Pharos, an anchorite, who suggested to him the writing of the lives of the saints and martyrs.

To this collection Simeon owes his fame. 932 He apparently never carried out his original plan, which was to cover the year, for the genuine Lives of his now extant are nearly all of September (the first month of the Greek Church year), October, November and December. The remaining months have very few. But how many he wrote cannot be determined. Allatius credits him with only one hundred and twenty-two. MSS. attributed to him are found in the libraries of Munich, Venice, Florence, Madrid, Paris, London and elsewhere. The character of his work is sufficiently indicated by his epithet Simeon the Paraphraser, given to him because he turned "the ancient lives of the saints into another sort of a style than that wherein they were formerly written." 933 He used old material in most cases, and sometimes he did no more than edit it, at other times he re-wrote it, with a view to make it more accurate or attractive. Some of the lives are, however, original compositions. His work is of very unequal value, and as his credulity led him to admit very doubtful matter, it must be used with caution. However, he deserves thanks for his diligence in rescuing from obscurity many now illustrious names.

Besides the Lives, nine Epistles, several sermons, orations, hymns, and a canonical epitome bear his name. 934 The Simeonis Chronicon is probably the work of a Simeon of the twelfth century.
§ 147. Oecumenius.
I. Oecumenius: Opera omnia, in Migne, Patrol. Gr. Tom. CXVIII., CXIX., col. 726, reprint of ed. of Hentenius. Paris, 1630–31, 2 vols. fol. Ceillier, XII. 913, 914.
Oecumenius was bishop of Tricca, in Thessaly, toward the close of the 10th century, and wrote a commentary upon the Acts, the Epistles of Paul and the Catholic Epistles, which is only a catena, drawn from twenty-three Fathers and writers of the Greek Church, 935with an occasional original comment. The work displays taste and judgment.
§ 148. Theophylact.
I. Theophylact: Opera omnia, in Migne, Patrol. Gr. Tom. CXXIII.-CXXVI., reprint of ed. Of de Rubeis. Venice, 1754–63, 4 vols. fol. Du Pin, IX. 108, 109; Neander, III. 584–586; Ceillier, XIII. 554–558.
Theophylact, the most learned exegete of the Greek Church in his day, was probably born at Euripus, 936on the Island of Euboea, in the Aegean Sea. Very little is known about him. He lived under the Greek Emperors Romanus IV. Diogenes (1067–1071), Michael VII. Ducas Parapinaces (1071–1078), Nicephorus III. Botoniates (1078–1081), Alexius I. Comnenus (1081–1118). The early part of his life he spent in Constantinople; and on account of his learning and virtues was chosen tutor to Prince Constantine Porphyrogenitus, the son of Michael Ducas. From 1078 until after 1107 he was archbishop of Achrida and metropolitan of Bulgaria. He ruled his diocese in an independent manner, but his letters show the difficulties he had to contend with. It is not known when he died.

His fame rests upon his commentary 937on the Gospels, Acts, Pauline, and Catholic Epistles; and on Hosea, Jonah, Nahum and Habakkuk, which has recently received the special commendation of such exegetes as De Wette and Meyer. It is drawn from the older writers, especially from Chrysostom, but Theophylact shows true exegetical insight, explaining the text clearly and making many original remarks of great value.

Besides his commentary, his works embrace orations on the Adoration of the Cross, 938the Presentation of the Virgin 939and on the Emperor Alexius Comnenus; 940a treatise on the Education Of Princes; 941a History of Fifteen Martyrdoms 942and an Address on the Errors of the Latin Church. 943 Two of these call for further mention. The Education of Princes is addressed to Constantine Porphyrogenitus. It is in two books, of which the first is historical and discourses upon the parents of the prince, the second discusses his duties and trials. It was formerly a very popular work. It is instructive to compare it with the similar works by Paulinus, Alcuin, and Smaragdus. 944 The Address is the most interesting work of Theophylact. It is written in a singularly conservative and moderate strain, although it discusses the two great matters in dispute between the Greek and Latin Churches,—the procession of the Holy Spirit, and the bread of the Eucharist. Of these matters Theophylact considered the first only important, and upon it took unhesitatingly the full Greek position of hostility to the Latins. Yet his fairness comes out in the remark that the error of the Latins may be due to the poverty of their language which compelled them to "employ the same term to denote the causality of the communication of the Holy Spirit and the causality of his being. The Latins, he observed, moreover, might retain the less accurate forms of expression in their homiletic discourses, if they only guarded against misconception, by carefully explaining their meaning. It was only in the confession of faith in the symbol, that perfect clearness was requisite." 945 In regard to the bread of the Eucharist the Latins held that it should be unleavened, the Greeks that it should be leavened. Each church claimed to follow the usage of Christ. Theophylact admitted that Christ used unleavened bread, but maintained that His example in this respect is not binding, for if it were in this then it would be in everything connected with the Supper, and it would be necessary to use barley bread and the wine of Palestine, to recline at table and to hold the Supper in a ball or upper room. But there is such a thing as Christian liberty, and the kind of bread to be used is one of the things which this liberty allows. Upon both these points of fierce and long controversy he counseled continual remembrance of the common Christian faith and the common Christian fellowship.
§ 149. Michael Psellus.
I. Michael Psellus: Opera, in Migne, Patrol. Gr., Tom. CXXII., col. 477–1358. His Hist. Byzant. et alia opuscula, ed. by Constantin Sathas. Paris, 1874.

II. Leo Allatius: Diatriba de Psellis, in Migne, l.c., col. 477–536. Ceillier, XIII. 335–337.


Michael Psellus, the third of the five of that name mentioned by Allatius, was born of a consular and patrician family in Constantinople about 1020. He took naturally to study, and denied himself the amusements and recreations of youth in order that he might make all the more rapid progress. Having completed his studies at Athens, he returned to Constantinople, and was appointed chief professor of philosophy. Constantine Monomachus invited him to his court, and entrusted him with secular business. He then turned his attention from philosophy and rhetoric to theology, physics, medicine, mathematics, astronomy and military science. In short, he explored the entire domain of knowledge, and as his memory was tenacious, he was able to retain everything he studied. "It has been said that in him human nature yielded up its inmost powers in order that he might ward off the downfall of Greek learning." 946 He was made the tutor of Michael Ducas, the future emperor, who when he came to the throne retained him in his councils. Psellus, of course, took the Greek position upon the Filioque question, and thwarted the movement of Peter, bishop of Anagni, to establish peace between the Greek and Latin churches. When Michael Ducas was deposed (1078), he was deprived of his professorship, and so he retired to a monastery, where he died. The last mention of him is made in 1105.

Psellus was a prolific author, but many of his writings are unprinted, and many are lost. 947 Of the theological works which have been printed the most important are:

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