Markus Vinzent's Blog

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Studia Patristica 52 - forthcoming - here the abstracts

Christology and Hybridity in Nemesius of Emesa

Roberto E. Alejandro, Durham


Using Nemesius of Emesa’s christological discussion in the De Natura as an illustration, I propose a revision to the way of thinking about the postcolonial concept of hybridity in its application to late antique Christian thought presented by Rebecca Lyman in her 2002, NAPS Presidential Address. Emphasizing hybridity’s rejection of essentialist cultural definitions as constructions, I propose a reading of Nemesius’ christology that demonstrates the useful way in which hybridity analysis exposes the ambivalence in the enunciated categories of Christianity and Hellenism in early Christian texts. 

The bishop as spiritual father in early Christian writings and the Eastern Orthodox tradition of spiritual fatherhood

Liviu Barbu, Norwich, UK

The portrayal of the bishop in the early Church evinces various depictions: president of the Eucharistic assembly and as such the principle of unity in the local church, the successor of the apostles, the guardian of the true teaching, and so forth. Is there anything beyond these commonly acknowledged titles that can add something else to the bishop’s ministry? Notwithstanding the scholarly debates about the historical aspects of the episcope in the early Church, the depiction of the bishop as spiritual father is a uniquely interesting aspect that bears significant weight for the understanding of a key pastoral activity widespread in the early Church and still alive in the Christian East to our own day. I shall try therefore to explore ways in which the fatherhood of God was conveyed in the lives of early Christians through the concept and practice of spiritual fatherhood and how that concept lived on in Eastern Orthodox tradition.

The ‘Measured’ Approach:
Bad Pun or Theological Stance in the Poetry of Gregory of Nazianzus?
Grant D. Bayliss, Cambridge
A series of puns on the idea of metron or ‘measure’ as both poetic verse metre and theological, moral or political restraint point not just to Gregory of Nazianzus’ love of word-play, nor indeed to contemporary literary debate but to a deeper theology enacted for immediate political purpose. Taking the argument of Poem 2.1.39 seriously, we find poetry portrayed as an ascetic discipline and a key part of his attempt to rehabilitate his claim to be rightful Bishop of Constantinople, as evidenced in a number of both the autobiographical works and the poems explicitly meditating upon his vow of silence in Lent 382 (2.1.34–38). Earlier studies have noted the importance of poetry more widely within Gregory’s thought, and the personal significance of his poetic compositions and ‘turn to literature’ during his Lenten silence. However, when read against new conceptions of the ecclesiastical politics of the early 380s and Gregory’s fulsome involvement in them, the word-play points to something more: a metaliterary critique of his political opponents and the extension of anti-Eunomian developments in his understanding of logos into a general ethical and theological attack upon Nectarius and the bishops he felt contrived his removal from Constantinople in 381. The medium is the message and Gregory’s measured verse is a witness not just to his sophistication and literary accomplishment but to his theological moderation, ethical discipline and Christian humility, in sum all the attributes of a true bishop.

The Ethics of Organ Donation: Insights from St Symeon the New Theologian
John Bekos, Nicosia, Cyprus

Advancements in modern medicine have made it possible for organ donors to save lives. However, it is difficult to reconcile the deep individualism of secular, modern man with society’s demand for his posthumous altruism. This essay seeks to outline a Christian view of individualism that provides an alternative, yet persuasive, view of organ donation—one rooted in St Symeon the New Theologian’s concept of ‘voluntary death’. It suggests that a Christian’s personal, individual decision to donate organs flows naturally from the ethics of living a Christian life and need not be limited by the determination of the time of biological death. 

Charity as Equity in the Hermeneutics of Augustine’s De doctrina Christiana

Jeremy W. Bergstrom, Durham, England


Close readings of Augustine’s De doctrina Christiana almost always involve comparisons with classical rhetorical teaching, and this essay shows that, for Augustine, charity functions as the Christian version of the rhetorical notion of equity. Augustine believes Christian equity is brought about by the reformation of the human will which, when conformed to the will of God, gives the reader of Scripture the appropriate disposition needed for taking up and rightly discerning the intention of its divine author. For him, only a loving reader is able to discern the meaning of the inspired text, which invariably refers its readers to the love of God.

The human soul between death and resurrection in Eustathius of Antioch

Sophie H. Cartwright, Edinburgh

This paper examines the ontology of the human soul that underlies Eustathius’s conception of the soul between bodily death and resurrection, focusing particularly on his discussions of the soul in Hades and paradise in Engastrimytho contra Origen and Contra Ariomanitas. It highlights and explores a dialectic between the soul as the seat of human agency and the soul as dependent on the body for its agency and human identity. It seeks to demonstrate that not only is the soul’s experience between death and resurrection determined by its experiences and actions as part of the embodied human person but that its identity continues to be defined by association with a particular body. The soul’s disembodied actions and experiences reflect its embodied experiences. Between death and resurrection, the soul and the body both operate on behalf of the whole human person, pointing to a dipartite anthropology. However, the body’s role is passive whilst the soul’s is active. The distinction between body and soul corresponds to a distinction between the visible and invisible spheres. The disembodied soul itself is properly invisible, but it is capable of making itself visible to the physical world. It therefore retains an ongoing connection to the physical world which complicates but is defined by its connection to a particular body. The paper concludes that Eustathius does not locate human essence exclusively in the soul, but that there is a tension between an idea of the soul as an agent co-operating with the body and an idea of the soul as an agent directing the body.

Preaching at the Council of Ephesus (431 A. D.)

Luise Marion Frenkel, Cambridge

A few texts closely related to the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431 A.D.) contain information about liturgical celebrations involving some, occasionally most, of the hundreds of bishops gathered in that city for several weeks. There are also reports of some bishops being denied access to churches and therefore being denied a space within which to defend and develop their theological and ecclesial ideas. This is significant because preaching was an important means of mobilising support among other members of the council as well as the clergy and population of the city. The authority of the fathers and of the church, the defence of orthodoxy as well as the condemnation of opposing views, were among the main themes of such homilies. It has been shown how these themes dominate and unify the written output of the Council(s), that is, in letters and the recorded proceedings. The aim of this paper is to discuss how the bishops were openly defending their views, in homiletic forms. Personal attacks, slogans, and interaction with the audience were some of the rhetorical devices which make these homilies worth examining.
One of the principal goals of the bishops preaching at the Council of Ephesus was to demonstrate that their christology was part of the authoritative teaching of the church, and that for this reason they were bound to defend it. After briefly sketching the context, the discussion is centred around fifteen excerpts from texts closely linked to the Council.

‘Working the Earth of the Heart’: images of cultivation and harvest in Macarius and Ephrem
Hannah Hunt, Leeds

Abstract:
This paper explores in brief the biblical provenance of imagery of cultivation and harvest and sets the context for its more extended theological exposition in the writings of Ephrem the Syrian and Pseudo-Macarius. Both of these writers are contextualized within modern debates about the nature and place of Messalianism and the rehabilitation of prayerful life as a crucial part of early Christian spirituality. Syrian models of typology and metaphorical modes of writing suggest Christ as both farmer and the life-bearing sheaf of salvation; Mary’s womb is both the soil in which Christ is planted and the bearer of he who plants new life. Interpreters of Ephrem and Macarius can read this discourse as refuting heresy and heterodoxy such as Messalianism and Pelagianism. The material qualities of the metaphors suggest a positive approach to humanity’s physicality.

Biblical interpretation in Jerome of Stridon’s Vita Hilarionis

Thomas Hunt, Cardiff

Jerome’s Vita Hilarionis draws clear parallels between the life of its protagonist and events in the gospels. The power of intertextual allusions in Early Christian literature is well documented, and their sustained use in this particular work suggests they are not merely ornamental. Comparing Vita Hilarionis with some statements contained within Jerome’s own, near contemporary commentary on Ephesians, this paper argues that Jerome’s hagiography presents its readers with the unification of exegesis and ascetic propaganda typical of the monk from Stridon. It concludes by suggesting that both Jerome’s exegesis and his asceticism depend on reflexive contemplation.

Theodor von Mopsuestia zur Kanonizität des Hoheliedes
Nestor Kavvadas, Tübingen

The fragmentary sources on Theodore of Mopsuestia’s position concerning the Song of Songs, although unanimously testifying to his poor appreciation of this book, do not allow one to tell, whether or not he had actually pled for excluding the Song of Songs from the biblical canon. This fact has conditioned the contradicting opinions held by certain scholars. A combined analysis of all available evidence can demonstrate though that this ambiguity rather goes back to Theodore himself. This fact depicts the tension, characteristic of his exegetical work, between scholarly independence and loyalty to the biblical tradition.

Augustine of Hippo on the Bishop as Spiritual Father


Maria Kilby, Cambridge

The church had a tradition of regarding bishops as ‘fathers’ of the laity, but Scripture did not straightforwardly support that tradition. Paul clearly regards himself as in some sense father of the Corinthians (1Cor. 4:15), but Matthew 23:9 and John 3:6 are more problematic for the idea of the Christian leader as a father. Augustine takes all of these Scriptural verses into account as he formulates his account of the begetting of spiritual children by bishops: it is the Word of God Who begets spiritual children through the instrument of the father-bishop. Augustine may then gloss this account to paint a positive picture of the subordinate role of the bishop as a true spiritual father, or a less positive picture of his role as merely honorary paternity, but his theology of the subordinate nature of the father-bishop’s role nonetheless remains constant. The polemical or rhetorical context often has an impact on how Augustine chooses to gloss the paternity of the bishop in a particular text. Another important driver in determining whether Augustine chooses to highlight or downplay the role of the bishop in the fathering of spiritual children is the exegetical context, in other words, the verses of Scripture at which he is looking at any given moment.

Dialogue and Ideology in the Martyrdom of Polycarp: A Bakhtinian Analysis
Lai Pak Wah, Durham and Singapore

In his Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, Mikhail Bakhtin argues that a Dostoevskian novel is polyphonic when each of its characters is portrayed as ideologist in his own right. Moreover, since an idea is dialogical in nature, a character’s ideas are best expressed in the course of his dialogues with his interlocutors, both explicit and implicit. What emerges then is, what Bakhtin calls, ‘an image of an idea’, where the character’s ideology, along with its multi-varied accents, is well illustrated. As communal liturgical texts, martyr stories are most likely to be polyphonic and should therefore be amendable also to Bakhtin’s hermeneutical analysis. This is demonstrated in our examination of the first seven chapters of the Martyrdom of Polycarp. Here, what we encounter is neither a mere historical narrative nor a text fraught with redactions. Rather, the Act is no less than an ideological exploration of the image of evangelical martyrdom, an exploration which would take on a life of its own as the narrator engages in constant dialogue with the potential questions, opinions or even misunderstandings of his interlocutors. And what one arrives at, at least in these preliminary chapters, is the recognition that evangelical martyrdom is not merely the nobility and endurance of the martyrs, or the glory of their suffering and triumphing for Christ. What is involved are also the questions and corresponding accents that emerge from this preliminary image, that is, how one might, on the one hand, discern and embrace God’s will for martyrdom and, on the other, avoid the presumptuousness of voluntary martyrdom.

Sight and Perception: The Male Gaze and the Desert Fathers

Andrew Brower Latz and Fr. Serafim Aldea, Durham

The male gaze is a term of feminist film theory denoting the way that films structure the viewing of the audience, specifically the way films represent women as erotic objects and draw the audience along with this representation. This structuring of the gaze is common in advertising and in the multiple images in contemporary cities as part of the aestheticization of everyday life. It is problematic from feminist and Christian perspectives as objectifying women and denying their agency. The Desert Fathers lived in a very different situation, yet this paper will argue that it is possible to learn something from them in contemporary attempts to respond to the male gaze, and that their concerns in this regard are surprisingly closely related to male gaze theory. It is well known that sex, fornication and mental fantasies thereof were important matters of concern for the early monastics. This paper will look in particular at the attitude of ‘violence to oneself’ and the practice of watchfulness developed by the monks as available for contemporary appropriation. It seeks to contextualize these practices within the approach of the desert tradition to perception more generally.

Rational or Radical: Origen on Romans 9:10-4
Jonathan A. Linebaugh, Durham


When read against the backdrop of early Jewish interpretations of the patriarchal narratives, Paul’s treatment of Isaac, Jacob and Esau in Romans 9:7-14 appears both different and dangerous. Whereas Philo hunts for even the slightest ‘whiff of virtue’ to explain God’s choice of Jacob over Esau, Paul’s argument seems designed to exclude the possibility of identifying a reason for divine election based on some criterion of moral, rational or social fittingness. For Origen, however, this apparently ‘unreasonable election’ generates a question about divine righteousness. Taking his cue from Paul’s insistence that God is not unjust (Rom. 9:14), Origen re-rationalizes Romans 9:10-4. Applying his principle that temporal diversity is a product of the movement of pre-existent souls away from the Logos, Origen argues that God’s election of Jacob and rejection of Esau is dependent and therefore explainable on the basis of the twins’ pre-birth existence (De. princ. II 9.7). In his search for a rationale for election, Origen sounds more like Philo than Paul; and yet the terms of his explanation are demonstrably attentive to the text of Romans. The result is a reading of Paul that is a genuine response to the text’s semantic data, while simultaneously a muting of Paul’s insistence that divine mercy is the sole explanation for divine choice.

Reassembly, Purification or Restoration: The Resurrection of the Body in St Gregory Of Nyssa
Robin Orton, London
The paper addresses the question of how Gregory of Nyssa conceives of the destiny of our human bodies after our individual death and then at the End. It draws mainly on his On Those who have died (De mortuis) and On the soul and the resurrection (De anima et resurrectione), but also refers to other of his works. It identifies three separate themes or motifs within Gregory’s writings on this subject, each of which presents a different perspective on death and resurrection. The first, in which our resurrection bodies will be reassembled from the remains of our earthly bodies in order to be reunited with our immortal souls, is not discussed at length here. It is in any case difficult to reconcile with the other two. Under the second, the focus is on the transformation of the body through its purification (by fire) from the animality of fallen human nature. Under the third, the resurrection is identified with the restoration of human beings to their original condition, in which they fully reflect the image of God; it is linked by Gregory to the restoration at the End of the whole rational creation to its original condition of harmony and unity. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of the theological strengths and weaknesses of the different models. It suggests that it is difficult to see how Gregory’s awkward compromise between Platonic (or gnostic) and Christian eschatologies constitutes an adequate account of the real salvation of real human beings.

How to Lynch a Patriarch Without Really Trying:
Peter the Iberian and the Ambiguities of Late Antique Sanctity
Paul Parvis, Edinburgh

Peter the Iberian was a leading figure in the flourishing monastic movement of Gaza and Palestine and an ardent and influential opponent of Chalcedon, heavily involved in the first faltering steps toward the creation of a Miaphysite hierarchy. His career and the way that career is portrayed in the Life of Peter by his disciple John Rufus of Maiuma reveal something of the ambiguities of Late Antique sanctity.
In a narrative which is rather a tour de force, John Rufus manages to present Peter’s involvement in the consecration of Timothy the Weasel in 457 as an exemplum of his love of retirement and monastic calm. And John Rufus elides the more problematic features of Peter’s involvement with Theodosius and the monastic rebellion in Jerusalem. But Peter was also a member of a powerful elite – a former royal hostage on close terms with the imperial family itself. In the Life, and reading between its lines, we can see him enjoying the patronage and support of such figures as Eudocia, Melania, and Pulcheria, and a series of anecdotes in both the Life and the Plerophoriae of John Rufus show his ability to negotiate his way through the power structures of fifth-century society.
Peter’s status as a member of a top-drawer elite is something he was able to utilize and exploit, even when it was his set aim to thwart imperial policy. But he was also genuinely ‘holy’ – as holiness was reckoned in Late Antiquity. Without the element of personal sanctity he would have lacked the element of popular authority that alone validated his role. But it was the status that enabled that role. Without the status, without the political skills he had learned and the influence that accrued to him as a card-carrying member of a powerful elite, he would never have had either the space or the leverage to deploy that popular authority. Gaza, so often and so tragically in our news, was in Late Antiquity one of the major cultural centres of the Eastern Empire. The ancient city was some three miles from the coast, and its port was the city of Maiuma. Peter the Iberian became the bishop of Maiuma in 452 or 453. He was not only one of the leading figures in the flourishing ascetic movement in Gaza and Palestine; he was also an ardent and influential opponent of the Christology of the Council of Chalcedon. In this paper I want to look at two facets of that influence, two dimensions of the role he carved out for himself.

The Lost Sheep who is Found: Irenaeus’ Intertextual Reading of Genesis 3 in
 Adversus Haereses III 23.1-8


Stephen O. Presley, St Andrews


This essay examines a significant Irenaean chiasm in Adv. haer. 3.23.1-8 that contains a web of textual allusions oriented around his interpretation of Gen 3 and, in particular, the disobedience of Adam and Eve in Gen 3:5. Irenaeus’ reading of Gen 3 alters the flow of the original text in order to demonstrate his theological understanding of the events and their Christological significance. Within the structure of the chiasm, Irenaeus interprets a number of Genesis passages including: Gen 1:26; Gen 3:5; Gen 3:7; Gen 3:8; Gen 3:10; Gen 3:13; Gen 3:15; Gen 3:16; Gen 3:16; Gen 3:17-19 Gen 3:21; Gen 3:23-24; Gen 4:7-8; Gen 4:9; and Gen 4:11. His reading of these texts, however, is explicitly intertextual as he draws together networks of related scriptural passages bound by common imagery and the application of his theological framework. The polemical occasion of the chiasm address the heretics, such as Tatian, who wish to argue that Adam is not saved. The climax of the chiasm centers on the typological comparison of the actions of Cain and Adam. Irenaeus implores the faithful not to be deceived by the heretics who are obstinate before God like Cain. Instead, the faithful should humble themselves before God, as Adam and Eve in paradise, and find salvation from the one who overcomes the serpent. In the bookends of the chiasm, Irenaeus illustrates his theological reading of Gen 3:5 and 3:15 with the imagery of lost sheep who is found in Lk 15:47. Just as the lost sheep is found in Christ’s parable, so also has the work of Christ overturned the deception of the serpent and restored the lost humanity back to God.

The Dialogue of Adamantius: A Document of Origen’s Thought?
(Part One)
Ilaria L.E. Ramelli, Milan, Italy


The present essay stems from a long and careful research triggered by Richard P. C. Hanson’s invitation to a closer examination of the Dialogue of Adamantius (which indeed, notwithstanding some contributions that have appeared meanwhile, remains an important desideratum in Patristic scholarship and early Christian literature), and by the mystery that surrounds this text, its composition, its double redaction, Greek and Latin, and its relation to Origen, a mysterious ‘Maximus’, Eusebius, Methodius, the Philocalists, and Rufinus.[1]
After an investigation into Origen’s byname, Adamantius (used only by Christians, and not by pagans, in reference to him), and into the relationship between this dialogue and the dialogues publicly held by Origen in his life, I adduce arguments for the anteriority, and priority, of Rufinus’ version over the extant Greek, which even includes very late words. The most extensive part of the study is devoted to a detailed demonstration that the doctrines and conceptions supported by Adamantius in this dialogue, his way of arguing, his Scriptural quotations and exegesis, and many details in fact correspond to Origen’s true thought and methodologies. The final section is a refutation of all the arguments adduced against the identification of ‘Adamantius’ in the dialogue with Origen. The conclusion proper is followed by a few suggestions that hopefully will help cast some light onto the mystery of the Dialogue of Adamantius.

Athanasius as Trinitarian Theologian
Adolf Martin Ritter, Heidelberg

The main purpose of this paper is to stimulate a discussion especially between English and German speaking patristic scholars which, I am sorry to say,  normally or at least rather frequently does not take place. The trinitarian theology of Athanasius of Alexandria seems to be an especially worthwhile subject for such a discussion. 


Conflict or Collusion? Pope Martin I (649-54/5) and the Exarch Olympius in Rome after the Lateran Synod of 649

Eileen Rubery, Cambridge/UK

The relationship between the Byzantine emperor, Constans II and the papacy led by Popes Theodore I, Martin I and Eugenius I during and immediately after the Lateran Synod of 649 (which condemned the heresy of Byzantine monothelitism) is explored through the fresco decorations in the church of S Maria Antiqua in the Roman Forum, augmented with an analysis of the various near-contemporary reports of the trials of both Pope Martin I and the monk Maximus the Confessor in Constantinople. The nature of the events surrounding the revolt of Exarch Olympius, the factors that would have driven this revolt and the likely role of Pope Martin in the revolt are considered. It is proposed that the surviving two sets of frescoes of four standing church fathers (Leo the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, Basil of Caesarea and John Chrysostom), found in the sanctuary of the church and outside the Oratory of the forty martyrs, could have been part of the arrangements made by Olympius and Martin for establishing the new regime introduced by Olympius following his conversion to the dyothelite cause. The four church fathers each hold an extract from their writings that was included in the florilegium known as the Testimonia Patrum that formed part of the Acts of the fifth day of the Lateran Synod and that underpinned the anathematisation of monothelitism. It is proposed that these frescoes were used during the ceremony in which the military swore allegiance to the new regime led by Olympius and Martin, a ceremony which mimicked the arrangements for swearing loyalty that had been specified by Constans II to be undertaken by the military in the imperial Typus issued in 648/9 and placed in the narthex of churches including Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.

The Collatio at Carthage and the Unity of the Church

William G. Rusch, New York, NY


The purpose of this presentation is to examine the interplay of an individual, an event, and a concept during the Donatist controversy. I will begin with the individual, for his context is significant in relating him to the event and the concept.


Epiphanius’ account of the Alogi: Historical Fact or Heretical Fiction?

T. Scott Manor, Edinburgh

Abstract:
Epiphanius’ work is an important resource for the study of the struggles between ‘orthodoxy’ and ‘heresy’ in early Christianity.  A majority of the heresies catalogued in the Panarion have correlations with the refutations of Irenaeus and Hippolytus, and Epiphanius provides valuable expositions on these sects with details that are not included in the heresiologues of his predecessors.  Yet there are a number of entries that appear for the very first time with Epiphanius that have little or no corroborating evidence to support their historical existence.  One group in particular, the Alogi (Haer. 51), who are said to have rejected the Gospel and Apocalypse of John, has been the subject of much scrutiny throughout much of the twentieth century.  In an attempt to better understand the nature, provenance, theology and dates of this heretical group, numerous scholars have attempted to align various descriptive features of the Alogi with information found in the writings of other early Church Fathers.  In spite of the fact that the results of such inquiries are inconclusive, this heretical group is said to represent strong anti-Johannine sentiments from within the early Church.  In contrast, this essay will explore the likelihood that these so-called Alogi are, in fact, a manufactured heretical group created by Epiphanius based on disparate elements of the testimonies of his predecessors.



A ‘Robber’s Den’? A Fresh Look at the Second Council of Ephesus, AD 449

Mark S. Smith, Cambridge University


Ephesus II has become regarded as the archetypal ‘bad’ church council: shamelessly rigged, inexcusably violent, and lamentably heretical. Yet much of this familiar depiction derives not from the evidence of the proceedings of 449, but from the claims of various interested parties at Chalcedon. The traditional charges against Ephesus II will be considered under four headings: (i) violence, (ii) erroneous theology, (iii) anti-papalism, and (iv) procedural impropriety; and it will be contended that each of these accusations is at best problematic. Indeed, much of what happened at Ephesus II was entirely within the boundaries of normal church practice: the Council was convened by an emperor, presided over by a senior bishop (acting in concert with imperial officials), scrupulously followed very clear imperial instructions, rightly found fault with the Home Synod of 448, and so on. Indeed, it is somewhat ironic that Chalcedon succeeded not by repudiating Dioscorus’ methods but by perfecting them, stage-managing proceedings so effectively that violence could remain a threat rather than needing to become a reality. Ephesus II has, in short, too readily been evaluated not on the basis of its intrinsic merit (or lack thereof), but in line with the subsequent rulings of later assemblies, with their own particular prejudices and agendas.


The Instrumentalization of Christ’s Human Nature in Athanasius of Alexandria

Darren O. Sumner, Aberdeen

Abstract:
The manner in which Athanasius conceives of the relationship between the Word of God and his assumed humanity is rightly described as ‘instrumentalist’. The acting agent in the life of Jesus Christ is understood to be the Logos simpliciter, who has ‘put on’ or ‘taken up’ human flesh in order to accomplish the salvation of human persons – but is, in his own eternal person, unaltered. This is striking to a post-Chalcedonian understanding of the Incarnation as a hypostatic union of two natures, divine and human, which results in the Word’s becoming a composite person whose humanity is no less important to his identity than is his divinity. The purpose of this paper is to test the sufficiency of Athanasius’ understanding of the Incarnation for Christian dogmatics. It begins by exploring Athanasius’ interpretation of a number of problematic biblical texts that seem to grant the humanity a higher status in the make-up of Christ’s person – his ignorance of something that God the Father knows (Mark 13:32), for example. Next, it considers three ways in which Athanasius guards against the hazardous conclusions one might draw from a purely instrumentalist construal of the Incarnation. For Athanasius, the humanity of the Word is not merely a tool in his hand. Finally, it considers the broader implications for dogmatics, particularly with respect to the question of divine impassibility, attempting to answer whether or not Athanasius’ safeguards sufficiently compensate for the dangers of his instrumentalism.

A Performative Reading of Augustine’s Doctrine of Predestination
Susannah Ticciati, London

Abstract:
This article will test whether Augustine’s doctrine of predestination as set forth in his four late works to the monks of Hadrumetum and Marseilles can be read as a performative speech-act,  according to the theory of speech-acts developed by J.L. Austin. More precisely, it will ask after the illocutionary force of the doctrine, suggesting that it is not best regarded as an act of stating, as it has customarily been understood, but involves something more like acts of exhorting and promising. And therefore it is not best appraised according to its truth or falsity, but according to its appropriateness as encouragement to its recipients.

Direct or Discrete – On inter-textuality and counter-textuality in Athanasius, Orations against the Arians I-III

Markus Vinzent


Andrew Teal mapped the field of historians of ideas and divided it into two different camps, the indirect and direct. The latter, he thinks, ‘distorts the complex picture’, while only the former captures ‘the messy world’ of late antiquity. The following paper positions our contemporary re-modern hermeneutical approach in Patristics and uses Athanasius’ Orations against the Arians I-III to exemplify a reading beyond the alternative between indirect and direct.

Encountering Christ in the Psalms:
Antecedents of the Jesus Prayer in Eastern Monastic Psalmody c.350-c.450

James F. Wellington, Nottingham

In seeking to chart the early development of the Jesus Prayer in his 1960 publication, Noms du Christ et voies d’oraison, Irénée Hausherr’s account of Eastern monastic culture of the late fourth and early fifth century is of lasting value.  However, its failure to take seriously the role of psalmody in the life of the Desert Fathers is an omission which greatly inhibits the acquisition of an accurate portrait of the milieu generally accredited with having given rise to the prayer of the heart. The purpose of the present study is to rectify this omission by posing the question: What contribution did psalmody make to the environment in which the Jesus Prayer first appeared? Having defined the two components of the Jesus Prayer as an invocation of Christ and an act of supplication for his assistance, it will examine how prayers of divine invocation and supplication in the Psalter were understood by the monastic communities of this period. To this end, the study will explore the psalm-commentaries ascribed to such influential Eastern authorities as Origen, Eusebius of Caesarea, Athanasius, Didymus the Blind, Cyril of Alexandria, and Theodoret of Cyrrhus.  Particular attention will be paid to the authors’ treatment of those psalm-verses which refer to the name or face of God, and to those which consist of a short prayer for divine aid. Following this exploration, and by way of conclusion, the study will offer a revised version of Hausherr’s portrait of the late fourth- and early fifth-century Eastern monastic culture in which the Jesus Prayer first developed.

More Nicene than Nestorian:
Ancient Theology in the Church of the East

D.H. Williams, Waco, Texas

Except for the first council held at Nicaea in A.D. 325, in what is now the town of Iznik in northwest Turkey,[2] all seven councils that have been received authoritatively for Latin/Greek speaking Christians were Roman/Byzantine events. The Church of the East had nothing to do with the decisions made at these councils. It is true that Persian Christianity embraced most of the theological perspectives that emerged from Nicaea and Chalcedon. Nevertheless, the middle and far eastern churches did not share most of the conciliar and political history that has so fundamentally shaped the Christianity in the Roman Empire and its descendants.
Although Persian Christianity declared its ecclesiastical independence from the authority of the west by the mid-fifth century – that is, from the Antiochene episcopacy and attending statements of faith – its collective synodical documents show that this was not precisely the case theologically. The Nicene Creed and canons were not introduced to the Synod of 410 at Seleucia-Ctesiphon as mere instruments of the west, but (with certain later fourth century qualifications) as possessing a doctrinal primacy that endured among confessional statements the Church of the East until the eighth century and probably beyond. Whereas the kind of Christianity that shaped the east has been justifiably questioned as ‘Nestorian’, there is no doubt that it was ‘Nicene’.

Death and the Possibility of a Ladder
Jonathan L. Zecher, Durham, UK

Within the uniquely Sinaite ascetic landscape of confluent ascetic and theological influences, of living traditions and constructed origins, at a crossroads between memories of 4th Century Egypt and the influential thought of the Gaza Fathers, John Climacus wrote a uniquely ‘synthetic’ book: The Ladder of Divine Ascent. A monk and later abbot of the Vatos Monastery, living (probably) between 579 and 649 or 659 A.D. The Ladder, which Climacus described as a treatise inked with the humility and wisdom of the saints, comes from the last age of his life, when he was abbot. In the Ladder Climacus developed a compendious and complex vision of ascetic spirituality, shaped as much by his own experience, humour, and compassion, as by the literary and theological traditions of which he was an inheritor. The Ladder quickly became one of the most popular and influential Christian works of the Byzantine world, and it is not without reason that John Chryssavgis compares Climacus with Maximus the Confessor—two synthesizers of inherited tradition, each casting wide shadows over ages to come.
In this paper I will examine the shape of Climacus’ contribution to ascetic spirituality, by asking what practices and considerations condition and compel his vision of ascetic progress. I will first examine the image of a ‘ladder’, which Climacus uses to organize his thought. This will reveal the crucial importance of the memory and practice of death for ascetic progress. I will then draw out the specific ways in which Climacus conceives memory and practice of death by first situating him within the wider ascetic literary tradition and then discussing three scenes in which he describes death in the monastery. These scenes will show how he draws together themes from earlier literature into an existential framework for the ascetic life within which progress is possible.

John Damascene's conception of individual: hypostasis versus person

Anna Zhyrkova, Versailles

As identification of the notion of person with the one of hypostasis is frequently considered as a revolutionary achievement of Greek Patristics, one may easily overlook the fact that John Damascene takes much care to distinguish the two notions, both on theoretical level and in his practice of theological utterance.
To be sure, both terms refer to individuals. Yet, ‘hypostasis’ conveys an ontological conception, explaining the actual existence of an individual entity, whereas ‘person’ refers to the way in which individuals of rational nature express themselves.
In contrast to Boetius’ definition of person, according to the one accepted by Damascene, ‘person’ is not merely a synonym for ‘a human individual’. Being a person presupposes the ontological priority of hypostasis, because it is grounded in the hypostatic being of a rational nature. A person is such an individual, who stands out from the crowd thanks to his own operations and interactions with other human individuals. Thus, being a person is a relative feature, since an individual of rational nature becomes a unique person in relations to others.
John consistently refuses to apply any kind of ‘relationality’ to the union of natures in Christ and to the Divine hypostases. The union of natures in Christ is real and essential, i.e. it is hypostatical. ‘Hypostasis’ is primarily an ontological and existential term, designating the exclusive mode of real existence. Therefore, it is ‘hypostasis’ which expresses the three modes of existence of one God, whose existence is not determined by any relations.



[1] The publication of this contribution will appear in two issues of SP.
[2] Bishops from Arabia (about 5 or 6), Armenia (about 4-5), Persia (though no specific town is mentioned), three from Mesopotamia, are mentioned by different lists of the locales of those who attended the council.

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