CHAPTER XIV. BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF ECCLESIASTICAL WRITERS. [This chapter, with the exception of the last four sections, has been prepared under my direction by the Rev. Samuel M. Jackson, M. A., from the original sources, with the use of the best modern authorities, and has been revised, completed and adapted to the plan of the work.—P. S.
§ 142. Chronological List of the Principal Ecclesiastical Writers from the Sixth to the Twelfth Century. I. Greek Authors.
St. Maximus Confessor
St. John of Damascus
c. 1020–c. 1106
Eustathius of Thessalonica
d. c. 1126
I. Latin Authors.
c. 477–c. 580
St. Gregory of Tours
St. Gregory the Great
St. Isidore of Seville
The Venerable Bede (Baeda)
Paulus Diaconus (Paul Warnefrid)
St. Paulinus of Aquileia
Theodulph of Orleans
Claudius of Turin
Agobard of Lyons
Jonas of Orleans
Florus of Lyons
St. Paschasius Radbertus
Hincmar of Rheims
Johannes Scotus Erigena
Ratherius of Verona
Pope Sylvester II. (Gerbert)
Fulbert of Chartres
§ 143. St. Maximus Confessor. I. Maximus Confessor: Opera in Migne, Patrol. Gr. Tom. XC., XCI., reprint of ed. of Fr. Combefis, Paris, 1673 (only the first two volumes ever appeared), with a few additional treatises from other sources. There is need of a complete critical edition.
II. For his life and writings see his Acta in Migne, XC. col. 109–205; Vita Maximi (unknown authorship) col. 67–110; Acta Sanctorum, under Aug. 13; Du Pin (Eng. transl., Lond. 1693 sqq. ), VI. 24–58; Ceillier (second ed., Paris, 1857 sqq. ), XI. 760–772.
III. For his relation to the Monotheletic controversy see C. W. Franz Walch: Historie der Kezerien, etc., IX. 60–499, sqq.; Neander: III. 171 sqq.; this History, IV. 409, 496–498. On other aspects see J. N. Huber: Die Philosophie der Kirchenväter. München, 1859. Josef Bach: Die Dogmengeschichte des Mittelalters. Wien, 1873–75, 2 parts, I. l5–49. Cf. Weser: Maximi Confesoris de incarnatione et deificatione doctrina. Berlin, 1869.
As a sketch of St. Maximus Confessor (c. 580-Aug. 13, 662) has been elsewhere given,6it is only necessary in this place to pass in review his literary activity, and state briefly his theological position.
Notwithstanding his frequent changes of residence, Maximus is one of the most prolific writers of the Greek Church, and by reason of his ability, stands in the front rank. Forty-eight of his treatises have been printed, others exist in MS., and some are lost. By reason of his pregnant and spiritual thoughts he has always been popular with his readers, notwithstanding his prolixity and frequent obscurity of which even Photius and Scotus Erigena complain.
His Works may be divided into five classes.
I. Exegetical. A follower of the Alexandrian school, he does not so much analyze and expound as allegorize, and make the text a starting point for theological digressions. He wrote (1) Questions [and Answers] upon difficult Scripture passages, 857sixty-five in number addressed to Thalassius, a friend who had originally asked him the questions. The answers are sometimes very short, sometimes rich speculative essays. Thus he begins with a disquisition upon evil. Unless one is expert in allegorical and mystical writings, the answers of Maximus will be hard reading. He seems to have felt this himself, for he added explanatory notes in different places. 858 (2) Questions, seventy-five in number, similar to the preceding, but briefer and less obscure. (3) Exposition of Psalm LIX. 859 (4) The Lord’s Prayer. 860 Both are very mystical.
II. Scholia upon Dionysius Areopagita and Gregory Nazianzen, which were translated by Scotus Erigena (864). 861
III. Dogmatical and polemical. (1) Treatises.2 The first twenty-five are in defense of the Orthodox dyotheletic doctrine (i.e. that there are in Christ two perfect natures, two wills and two operations) against the Severians. One treatise is on the Holy Trinity; another is on the procession of the Holy Spirit; the rest are upon cognate topics. (2) Debate with Pyrrhus (held July, 645) upon the Person of Christ, in favor of two wills. 863 It resulted in Pyrrhus’ retraction of his Monotheletic error. This work is easier to read than most of the others. (3) Five Dialogues on the Trinity. 864 (4) On the Soul. 865
IV. Ethical and ascetic. (1) On asceticism6a dialogue between an abbot and a young monk, upon the duties of the monastic life. A famous treatise, very simple, clear and edifying for all Christians. It insists upon love to God, our neighbors and our enemies, and the renunciation of the world. (2) Chapters upon Charity, 867four in number, of one hundred aphorisms, each, ascetic, dogmatic and mystical, added to the preceding, but not all are upon charity. There are Greek scholia upon this book. (3) Two Chapters, theological and oeconomical, 868each of one hundred aphorisms, upon the principles of theology. (4) Catena, 869five chapters of one hundred aphorisms each, upon theology.
V. Miscellaneous. (1) Initiation into the mysteries, 870an allegorical exposition of the Church and her worship. Incidentally it proves that the Greek liturgy has not changed since the seventh century. (2) Commonplaces, 871seventy-one sections, containing texts of Scripture and quotations from the Fathers, arranged under heads. (3) Letters 872forty-five in number, on theological and moral matters; several are on the Severian heresy, others supply biographical details. Many of his letters exist in MS. only. (4) Hymns, 873three in number.
Maximus was the pupil of Dionysius Areopagita, and the teacher of John of Damascus and John Scotus Erigena, in the sense that he elucidated and developed the ideas of Dionysius, and in turn was an inspiration and guide to the latter. John of Damascus has perpetuated his influence in the Greek Church to the present day. Scotus Erigena introduced some of his works to Western Europe. The prominent points of the theology of Maximus are these: 874Sin is not a positive quality, but an inborn defect in the creature. In Christ this defect is supplied, new life is imparted, and the power to obey the will of God is given. The Incarnation is thus the Divine remedy for sin’s awful consequences: the loss of free inclination to good, and the loss of immortality. Grace comes to man in consequence of Christ’s work. It is not the divine nature in itself but in union with the human nature which is the principle of atoning and saving grace. God is the fountain of all being and life, the alpha and omega of creation. By means of the Incarnation he is the Head of the kingdom of grace. Christ is fully Man, and not only fully God. This is the mystery of the Incarnation. Opposed to the Monophysites and Monothelites, Maximus exerts all his ingenuity to prove that the difference of natures in Christ requires two wills, a human and a divine will, not separated or mixed, but in harmony. Christ was born from eternity from the Father, and in time from the Virgin, who was the veritable Mother of God. Christ’s will was a natural, human will, one of the energies of his human nature. The parallel to this union of the divine and human in Christ is the human soul wrought upon by the Holy Spirit. The divine life begins in faith, rules in love, and comes to its highest development in the contemplative life. The Christian fulfils the command to pray without ceasing, by constantly directing his mind to God in true piety and sincere aspiration. All rational essences shall ultimately be re-united with God, and the final glorification of God will be by the complete destruction of all evil.
An interesting point of a humane interest is his declaration that slavery is a dissolution, introduced by sin, of the original unity of human nature, and a denial of the original dignity of man, created after the image of God.
§ 144. John of Damascus. Cf. §§ 89 and 103.
I. Joannes Damascenus: Opera omnia in Migne, Patrol. Gr. Tom. XCIV.-XCVI. (reprint, with additions, of Lequien’s ed. Paris, 1712. 2 vols. fol. 2d ed. Venice, 1748).
II. John of Jerusalem: Vita Damasceni (Migne, XCIV. col. 429–489); the Prolegomena of Leo Allatius (l.c. 118–192). Perrier: Jean Damascène, sa vie et ses écrits. Paris, 1862. F. H. J. Grundlehner: Johannes Damascenus. Utrecht, 1876 (in Dutch). Joseph Langen (Old-Catholic professor at Bonn): Johannes von Damaskus. Gotha, 1879. J. H. Lupton: St. John of Damascus. London, 1882. Cf. Du Pin, V. 103–106; Ceillier, XII., 67–99; Schroeckh, XX., 222–230; Neander, iii. passim; Felix Nève: Jean de D. et son influence en Orient sous les premiers khalifs, in "Revue Belge et etrangère," July and August, 1861.
I. Life. John of Damascus, Saint and Doctor of the Eastern Church, last of the Greek Fathers, 875was born in the city of Damascus in the fourth quarter of the seventh century. 876 His common epithet of Chrysorrhoas (streaming with gold) was given to him because of his eloquence, but also probably in allusion to the river of that name, the Abana of Scripture, the Barada of the present day, which flows through his native city, and makes it a blooming garden in the desert. Our knowledge of his life is mainly derived from the semi-legendary account of John of Jerusalem, who used an earlier Arabic biography of unknown authorship and date. 877
The facts seem to be these. He sprang from a distinguished Christian family with the Arabic name of Mansur (ransomed). His father, Sergius, was treasurer to the Saracenic caliph, Abdulmeled (685–705), an office frequently held by Christians under the caliphs. His education was derived from Cosmas, a learned Italian monk, whom Sergius had ransomed from slavery. He made rapid progress, and early gave promise of his brilliant career. On the death of his father he was taken by the caliph into his service and given an even higher office than his father had held.8 When the emperor Leo the Isaurian issued his first edict against images (726) 879, he prepared a circular letter upon the subject which showed great controversial ability and at once raised him to the position of leader of the image worshippers. This letter and the two which followed made a profound impression. They are classical, and no one has put the case better.0 John was perfectly safe from the emperor’s rage, and could tranquilly learn that the letters everywhere stirred up the monks and the clergy to fanatical opposition to Leo’s decrees. Yet he may well have found his position at court uncomfortable, owing to the emperor’s feelings towards him and his attempts at punishment. However this may be, shortly after 730 John is found as a monk in the Convent of St. Sabas, near the shore of the Dead Sea, ten miles southeast from Jerusalem. A few years later he was ordained priest. 881 His last days were spent in study and literary labor. In the closing decade of his life he is said to have made a journey through Palestine, Syria, and even as far as Constantinople, for the purpose of exciting opposition to the iconoclastic efforts of the Emperor Copronymus. He died at St. Sabas; the exact date is not known, probably 754. 882 The Greek Church commemorates him upon Dec. 4th (or Nov. 29 in some Menologies); the Latin upon May 6.
Many legends are told of him. The most famous is that Leo the Isaurian, enraged at his opposition to the iconoclastic edicts, sent to the caliph a letter addressed to himself which purported to have come from John, and was written in imitation of his hand and style, in which the latter proposed to the emperor to capture Damascus—a feat easily accomplished., the writer said, because of the insufficient guard of the city. Moreover, in the business he could count upon his support. The letter was of course a forgery, but so clever that when the caliph showed John the letter he acknowledged the similarity of the writing, while he denied the authorship. But the caliph in punishment of his (supposed) treachery had his right hand cut off, and, as was the custom, hung up in a public place. In answer to John’s request it was, however, given to him in the evening, ostensibly for burial. He then put the hand to the stump of his arm, prostrated himself before an image of the Virgin Mary in his private chapel, and prayed the Virgin to cause the parts to adhere. He fell asleep: in a vision the Virgin told him that his prayer had been granted, and he awoke to find it true. Only a scar remained to tell the story of his mutilation. The miracle of course convinced the caliph of the innocence of his servant, and he would fain have retained him in office, but John requested his absolute dismission. 883 This story was manifestly invented to make out that the great defender of image-worship deserved a martyr’s crown. 884
Other legends which have more of a basis of fact relate to his residence in the convent of St. Sabas. Here, it is said., he was enthusiastically received, but no one would at first undertake the instruction of so famous a scholar. At length an old monk undertook it, and subjected him to the most humiliating tests and vexatious restrictions, which he bore in a very saintly way. Thus he sent him once to Damascus to sell a load of convent-made baskets at double their real value, in order that his pride might be broken by the jeers and the violence of the rabble. He was at first insulted; but at last a man who had been formerly his servant, bought out of compassion the baskets at the exorbitant price, and the saint returned victorious over vanity and pride. He was also put to the most menial services. And, what must have been equally trying, he was forbidden to write prose or poetry. But these trials ended on a hint from the Virgin Mary who appeared one night to the old monk and told him that John was destined to play a great part in the church. He was accordingly allowed to follow the bent of his genius and put his immense learning at the service of religion.
II. Writings. The order of his numerous writings5is a mere matter of conjecture. It seems natural to begin with those which first brought their author into notice, and upon which his fame popularly rests. These were his three Orations, 886properly circular letters, upon image worship, universally considered as the ablest presentation of the subject from the side of the image-worshippers. The first 887appeared probably in 727, shortly after the Emperor Leo the Isaurian had issued his edict forbidding the worship of "images," by which term was meant not sculptures, but in the Greek Church pictures exclusively; the second 888after Leo’s edict of 730 ordering the destruction of the images; and the third 889at some later time.
In the first of these three letters John advanced these arguments: the Mosaic prohibitions of idolatry were directed against representations of God, not of men, and against the service of images, not their honor. Cherubim made by human hands were above the mercy-seat. Since the Incarnation it is allowable to represent God himself. The picture is to the ignorant what the book is to the learned. In the Old Testament there are signs to quicken the memory and promote devotion (the ark, the rod of Aaron, the brazen serpent). Why should the sufferings and miracles of Christ not be portrayed for the same purposes? And if Christ and the Virgin have their images, why should not the saints have theirs? Since the Old Testament Temple contained cherubim and other images, churches may be adorned with images of the saints. If one must not worship an image, then one must not worship Christ, for he is the image of the Father. If the shadows and handkerchiefs of apostles had healing properties, why can one not honor the representations of the saints? It is true there is nothing about such worship in the Holy Scriptures, but Church ordinances depend for authority on tradition no less than on Scripture. The passages against images refer to idols. "The heathens dedicate their images to demons, whom they call gods; we dedicate ours to the incarnate God and his friends, through whom we exorcise demons." He ends his letter with a number of patristic quotations of greater or less relevancy, to each of which he appends a comment. The second letter, which is substantially a repetition of the first, is characterized by, a violent attack upon the Emperor, because of his deposition and banishment of Germanus, the patriarch of Constantinople. It closes with the same patristic quotations, and a few new ones. The third letter is almost necessarily a repetition of the preceding, since it goes over the same ground. It likewise looks upon the iconoclasts as the servants of the devil. But it bears marks of more care in preparation, and its proofs are more systematically arranged and its quotations more numerous. 890
For his writings in favor of images he was enthusiastically lauded by the second Nicene Council (787).1
But the fame of John of Damascus as one of the greatest theologians of history rests chiefly on his work entitled the Fount of Knowledge.2 It is made up of three separate and complete books, which yet were designed to go together and constitute in outline a cyclopaedia of Christian theology and of all other kinds of knowledge. 893 It is dedicated to Cosmas, bishop of Maiuma, his foster-brother and fellow-student under the old monk. Its date is after 743, the year of Cosmas’s consecration. In it the author avows that he has introduced nothing which had not been previously said, and herein is its value: it epitomizes Greek theology.
The first part of the trilogy, "Heads of Philosophy," 894commonly called, by the Latin title, Dialectica, is a series of short chapters upon the Categories of Aristotle and the Universals of Porphyry, applied to Christian doctrines. The Dialectica is found in two forms, one with sixty-eight, and the other with only fifteen chapters. The explanation is probably the well-known fact that the author carefully revised his works before his death. 895 The longer form is therefore probably the later. Its principal value is the light it throws upon the Church terminology of the period, and its proof that Christians preceded the Arabs in their study of Aristotle, by one hundred years. The second part of the trilogy, the "Compendium of Heresies," 896is a description of one hundred and three heresies, compiled mostly from Epiphanius, but with two sections, on the Mohammedans and Iconoclasts, which are probably original. A confession of faith closes the book. The third, the longest, and by far the most important member of the trilogy is "An accurate Summary of the Orthodox Faith." 897 The authors drawn upon are almost exclusively Greek. Gregory Nazianzen is the chief source. This part was apparently divided by John into one hundred chapters, but when it reached Western Europe in the Latin translation of John Burgundio of Pisa, made by order of Pope Eugenius III. (1150), 898it was divided into four books to make it correspond in outward form to Peter Lombard’s Sentences. Accepting the division into four books, their contents may be thus stated: bk. I., Theology proper. In this he maintains the Greek Church doctrine of the single procession of the Holy Spirit. bk. II. Doctrines of Creation (severally of angels, demons, external nature, paradise, man and all his attributes and capacities); and of Providence, foreknowledge and predestination. In this part he shows his wide acquaintance with natural science. bk. III. Doctrine of the Incarnation. bk. IV. Miscellaneous subjects. Christ’s passion, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, session; the two-fold nature of Christ; faith; baptism; praying towards the East; the Eucharist; images; the Scriptures; Manichaeism; Judaism; virginity; circumcision; Antichrist; resurrection.
The entire work is a noteworthy application of Aristotelian categories to Christian theology. In regard to Christology he repudiates both Nestorianism and Monophysitism, and teaches that each nature in Christ possessed its peculiar attributes and was not mixed with the other. But the divine in Christ strongly predominated over the human. The Logos was bound to the flesh through the Spirit, which stands between the purely divine and the materiality of the flesh. The human nature of Jesus was incorporated in the one divine personality of the Logos (Enhypostasia). John recognizes only two sacraments, properly so called, i.e. mysteries instituted by Christ—Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In the latter the elements are at the moment when the Holy Ghost is called upon, changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, but how is not known. He does not therefore teach transubstantiation exactly, yet his doctrine is very near to it. About the remaining five so-called sacraments he is either silent or vague. He holds to the perpetual virginity of Mary, the Mother of our Lord, and that her conception of Christ took place through the ear. He recognizes the Hebrew canon of twenty-two books, corresponding to the twenty-two Hebrew letters, or rather twenty-seven, since five of these letters have double forms. Of the Apocrypha he mentions only Ecclesiasticus and Wisdom, and these as uncanonical. To the New Testament canon he adds the Apostolical Canons of Clement. The Sabbath was made for the fleshly Jews—Christians dedicate their whole time to God. The true Sabbath is the rest from sin. He extols virginity, for as high as angels are above men so high is virginity above marriage. Yet marriage is a good as preventive of unchastity and for the sake of propagation. At the end of the world comes Antichrist, who is a man in whom the devil lives. He persecutes the Church, kills Enoch and Elijah, who are supposed to appear again upon the earth, but is destroyed by Christ at his second coming. 899 The resurrection body is like Christ’s, in that it is immutable, passionless, spiritual, not held in by material limitation, nor dependent upon food. Otherwise it is the same as the former. The fire of hell is not material, but in what it consists God alone knows.