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The Age Of Justinian

Justinian I, the greatest of all the rulers of the Eastern Empire,
succeeded his uncle Justin I (518-527); but he had, from the beginning of
the latter's reign, exercised an ever-increasing influence over the
imperial policy, and to him can be attributed the direction of
ecclesiastical affairs from the accession of Justin. No reign among the
Eastern emperors was more filled with important events and successful
undertakings. His first great work was the reduction of the vast mass of
Roman law to what approached a system. This was accomplished in 534,
resulting in the Digest, made up of the various decisions and opinions of
the most celebrated Roman legal authorities, the Codex, comprising all the
statute law then in actual force and applicable to the conditions of the
Empire, and the Institutes, a revision of the excellent introductory
manual of Gaius. No body of law reduced to writing has been more
influential in the history of the world. The second great undertaking, or
series of undertakings, was the reconquest of the West. In 533 Belisarius
recovered North Africa to the Empire by the overthrow of the Vandal
kingdom. In 554 the conquest of Italy by Belisarius and Narses was
completed. Portions of Spain had also been recovered. No Eastern Emperor
ruled over a larger territory than did Justinian at the time of his death.
The third great line of work on the part of Justinian was his regulation
of ecclesiastical and theological matters. In this he took an active
personal part. The end of the schism with the West had been brought about
under the reign of his uncle. Three controversies fill the reign of
Justinian: the Theopaschite (519-533) over the introduction of the phrase
into the Trisagion, stating that God was crucified for us, so that the
Trisagion read as follows, "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, who was
crucified for us, have mercy upon us"; the Second Origenistic controversy
(531-543) in which those elements of Origen's teaching which had never
been accepted by the Church were condemned along with Origen himself; and
the Three Chapters controversy, 544-553, in which, as an attempt to win
back the Monophysites, which began even before the Conference with the
Severians in 533, three of the leading Antiochians were condemned. In
connection with the two last controversies, the Fifth General Council was
held A. D. 553.

Additional source material: Evagrius, Hist. Ec., Lib. IV-VI;
John of Ephesus, The Third Part of His Ecclesiastical History,
trans. by R. Payne Smith, Oxford, 1860; Percival, Seven
Ecumenical Councils (PNF).

(a) Justinian, Anathematisms against Origen. Mansi, IX, 533. (MSG,
86:1013; MSL, 65:221.)

The Origenistic controversy arose in Palestine, where the learned
monks were nicknamed Origenists by the more ignorant. The abbot
St. Sabas was especially opposed to the group which had received
this name. But several, among whom the more important were
Domitian and Theodore Askidas, won the favor of Justinian and the
latter received promotion, becoming bishop of Caesarea in
Cappadocia. Supported by them, struggles broke out in various
places between the Sabaites and the Origenists. Ephraem, patriarch
of Antioch, in a synodal letter thereupon condemned Origenism. The
Origenists tried in vain to win the support of John, patriarch of
Constantinople. But he turned to Justinian, who thereupon
abandoned the Origenists and issued an edict condemning Origen and
his writings, and appending a summary of the positions condemned
in ten anathematisms. Text in Denziger, nn. 203 f. Synods were
ordered for the condemnation of Origen, and among these was the
synod under Menas, patriarch of Constantinople, in which were
issued fifteen anathematisms based upon the ten of Justinian
(Hefele, 257, 258). With this action, the controversy may be
said to be closed, were it not that in spite of the renewed
condemnation at the Fifth General Council (see below) disputes and
disturbances continued in Palestine until 563.

1. If any one says or thinks that human souls pre-existed, that is, that
they had previously been spirits and holy powers, but that satiated with
the vision of God, they turned to evil, and in this way the divine love in
them became cold and they were there named souls and
were condemned to punishment in bodies, let him be anathema.

2. If any one says or thinks that the soul of the Lord pre-existed and was
united with God the Word before the incarnation and conception of the
Virgin, let him be anathema.

3. If any one says or thinks that the body of the Lord Jesus Christ was
first formed in the womb of the holy Virgin, and that afterward there was
united with it God the Word and the pre-existing soul, let him be

4. If any one says or thinks that the Word of God has become like to all
heavenly orders, so that for the cherubim He was a cherub and for the
seraphim a seraph, in short, like all the superior powers, let him be

5. If any one says or thinks that, at the resurrection, human bodies will
arise spherical in form and not like our present form, let him be

6. If any one says or thinks that the heavens, the sun, moon, and stars,
and the waters above the firmament have souls and are spiritual and
rational beings, let him be anathema.

7. If any one says or thinks that Christ the Lord in a future age will be
crucified for demons as He was for men, let him be anathema.

8. If any one says or thinks that the power of God is limited and that He
created only as much as He was able to comprehend, let him be anathema.

9. If any one says or thinks that the punishment of demons and impious men
is only temporary and will have an end, and that a restoration
[apocatastasis] will take place of demons and impious men, let him be

10. Let Origen be anathema together with that Adamantius who set forth
these opinions together with his nefarious and execrable doctrine, and
whoever there is who thinks thus or defends these opinions, or in any way
hereafter at any time shall presume to protect them.

(b) Vigilius, Judicatum. Mansi, IX, 181.

This important document was addressed to Menas of Constantinople
and is dated April 11, 548. Unfortunately it exists only in
detached fragments, which are given below, taken from the text as
given by Hefele, 259. The first is given in a letter of
Justinian to the Fifth Council, an abridgment of which may be
found in Hefele, 267. Other fragments are from the Constitutum
(see below), where they are quoted by Vigilius from his previous
letter to Menas, which Hefele has identified with the Judicatum.
In this opinion Krueger (art. "Vigilius" in PRE). and Bailey (art.
"Vigilius" in DCB) and other scholars concur. The force of the
first is that the writings condemned by the Three Chapters are
heretical; of the others, that the credit of the Council of
Chalcedon must be maintained. How the two positions were
reconciled is not clear.

1. And because certain writings under the name of Theodore of Mopsuestia
have been handed to us which contain many things contrary to the right
faith, we, following the warnings of the Apostle Paul, who said: Prove all
things, hold fast that which is good, therefore anathematize Theodore, who
was bishop of Mopsuestia, with all his impious writings, and also those
who defend him. We anathematize also the impious epistle which is said to
have been written by Ibas to Maris the Persian, as contrary to the right
faith, and also all who defend it and say that it is right. We
anathematize also the writings of Theodoret which were written contrary to
the right faith and against the capitula of Cyril.(204)

2. Since it is evident to us by sufficient reason, that whosoever attempts
to do anything to the disparagement of the aforesaid council, will rather
sin against himself.

3. If it had been shown conclusively by us to be contained in the acts
[i.e., of the Council of Chalcedon], no one would have dared to be the
author of so great a presumption or would have regarded as doubtful or
undecided anything which was brought before that most holy judgment; since
it is to be believed that those then present could have investigated
things diligently even apart from writing, and have defined them
positively, which appears to us after so much time and on account of
unknown causes still unsettled; since also it is a part of reverence for
the synods that in those things which are less understood one recognizes
their authority.

4. All things being accepted and remaining perpetually established which
were defined in the venerable councils at Nicaea, and Constantinople, in
the first at Ephesus, and at Chalcedon, and confirmed by the authority of
our predecessors; and all who in the said holy councils were deposed are
without doubt condemned, and those are no less absolved whose absolution
was decreed by the same synods.

5. Subjecting also him to the sentence of anathema who accepts as of any
force whatsoever may be found against the said synod of Chalcedon, written
in this present letter, or in anything in the present case whatever done
by us or by any one; and let the holy synod of Chalcedon, of which the
authority is great and unshaken, perpetual and reverenced, have the same
force as that which the synods of Nicaea, Constantinople, and the first at
Ephesus have.

6. We anathematize also whoever does not faithfully follow and equally
venerate the holy synods of Nicaea. of Constantinople, the first of
Ephesus, and the synod of Chalcedon as most holy synods, agreeing in the
one and immaculate faith of the Apostles, and confirmed by the pontiffs of
the Apostolic See, and whoever wishes to correct as badly said, or wishes
to supply as imperfect, those things which were done in the same councils
which we have mentioned.

(c) Vigilius, Oath to Justinian, August 15, A. D. 550. Mansi. IX, 363.
(MSL, 69: 121.)

The Judicatum met with great opposition in the West. Vigilius,
to still the clamor against it, withdrew it and proposed other
measures in consultation with Justinian. In connection with this
he bound himself with an oath to support Justinian in putting
through the condemnation of the Three Chapters, and this oath
Justinian produced later, when Vigilius had presented his
Constitutum to him refusing to condemn the chapters. The Emperor
thereupon suppressed the Constitutum.

The most blessed Pope Vigilius has sworn to the most pious lord Emperor in
our presence, that is of me, Theodorus, bishop of Caesarea, in Cappadocia
[see DCB, Theodorus of Askidas], and of me, Cethegus, the patrician, by
the sacred nails with which our Lord God Jesus Christ was crucified and by
the four holy Gospels, as also by the sacred bridle,(205) so also by the
four Gospels; that, being of one mind and will with your piety, we shall
so will, attempt, and act, as far as we are able, so that the three
chapters, that is, Theodore of Mopsuestia, the epistle attributed to Ibas,
and the writings of Theodoret against the orthodox faith and his sayings
against the twelve capitula of the holy Cyril, may be condemned and
anathematized; and to do nothing, either by myself or by those whom we can
trust, either of the clerical or lay order, in behalf of the chapters,
against the will of your piety, or to speak or to give counsel secretly in
behalf of those chapters. And if any one should say anything to me to the
contrary, either concerning these chapters or concerning the faith, or
against the State, I will make him known to your piety, without peril of
death, and also what has been said to me, so that on account of my place
you do not abandon my person; and you have promised, because I observe
these things toward your piety, to protect my honor in all respects, and
also to guard my person and reputation and to defend them with the help of
God and to protect the privileges of my see. And you have also promised
that this paper shall be shown to no one. I promise further that in the
case of the three chapters, we shall treat in common as to what ought to
be done, and whatsoever shall appear to us useful we will carry out with
the help of God. This oath was given the fifteenth day of August,
indiction XIII, the twenty-third year of the reign of our lord Justinian,
the ninth year after the consulship of the illustrious Basil. I, Theodore,
by the mercy of God bishop of Caesarea, in Cappadocia, have subscribed
hereunto as a witness to this oath; I, Flavius Cethegus, patrician, have
subscribed hereunto as a witness to this oath.

(d) Vigilius, Constitutum, May 14, 553. (MSL, 69:67.)

The synod known as the Fifth General Council met May 5, 553, and
proceeded to condemn the Three Chapters, as directed by the
Emperor. Vigilius refused to attend, but consented to pronounce
his judgment on the matter apart from the council. This he did in
his Constitutum ad Imperatorem, May 14, 553. In it he condemns
the teaching of Theodore of Mopsuestia, but opposes the
condemnation of Theodore himself, inasmuch as he had died in the
communion of the Church. He also opposes the condemnation of
Theodoret and Ibas, because both were acquitted at Chalcedon. This
Constitutum is to be distinguished from the Constitutum of 554
(MSL, 69:143, 147), in which, after the council had acceded to the
proposals of the Emperor and condemned the Three Chapters and had
excommunicated Vigilius by removing his name from the diptychs,
the latter confirmed the decisions of the council and joined in
the condemnation of the Three Chapters. For a discussion of the
whole situation, see Hefele, 272-276. The devious course
followed by Vigilius has been the subject of much acrimonious
debate. The facts of the case are now generally recognized. The
conclusion of Cardinal Hergenroether, KG. I, 612, is the best that
can be said for Vigilius: "In the question as to the faith,
Vigilius was never wavering; but he was so, indeed, in the
question as to whether the action was proper or opportune, whether
it was advisable or necessary to condemn subsequently men whom the
Council of Chalcedon had spared, to put forth a judgment which
would be regarded by the Monophysites as a triumph of their cause,
which was most obnoxious for the same reason, and its supposed
dishonoring of the Council of Chalcedon, and was likely to create
new divisions instead of healing the old."

The portions of the Constitutum given below are the conclusions
of Vigilius as to each of the Three Chapters. The whole is a
lengthy document.

All these things have been diligently examined, and although our Fathers
speak in different phrases yet are guided by one sentiment, that the
persons of priests, who have died in the peace of the Church, should be
preserved untouched; likewise the constitutions of the Apostolic See,
which we have quoted above, uniformly define that it is lawful for no one
to judge anew anything concerning the persons of the dead, but each is
left in that condition in which the last day finds him; and especially
concerning the name of Theodore of Mopsuestia, what our Fathers determined
is clearly shown above. Him, therefore, we dare not condemn by our
sentence, and we do not permit him to be condemned by any one else; the
above-written chapters of dogmas, which are damned by us, or any sayings
of any one without name affixed, not agreeing with, or consonant with, the
evangelical and apostolic doctrine and the doctrines of the four synods,
of Nicaea, of Constantinople, of the first of Ephesus, and of Chalcedon,
we, however, do not suffer to be admitted to our thought or even to our

But concerning the writings which are brought forward under the name of
that venerable man, Theodoret, late bishop, we wonder, first, why it
should be necessary or with what desire anything should be done to the
disparagement of the name of that priest, who more than a hundred years
ago, in the judgement of the sacred and venerable Council of Chalcedon,
subscribed without any hesitation and consented with profound devotion to
the Epistle of the most blessed Pope Leo. The truth of these things
having been considered, we determine and decree that nothing be done or
proposed by any one in judgement upon him to the injury and defamation of
a man most approved in the synod of Chalcedon, that is to say, Theodoret
of Cyrus. But guarding in all respects the reverence of his person,
whatsoever writings are brought forward under his name or under that of
another evidently in accord with the errors of the wicked Nestorius and
Eutyches we anathematize and condemn.

Then follow these five anathematisms, the test of which may be
found in Hahn, 228:

1. If any one does not confess that the Word was made flesh, and the
inconvertibility of the divine nature having been preserved, and from the
moment of conception in the womb of the virgin united according to
subsistence [hypostatically] human nature to Himself, but as with a man
already existing; so that, accordingly, the holy Virgin is not to be
believed to be truly the bearer of God, but is called so only in word, let
him be anathema.

2. If any one shall deny that a unity of natures according to subsistence
[hypostatically] was made in Christ, but that God the Word dwelt in a man
existing apart as one of the just, and does not confess the unity of
natures according to subsistence, that God the Word with the assumed flesh
remained and remains one subsistence or person, let him be anathema.

3. If any one so divides the evangelical, apostolic words in reference to
the one Christ, that he introduces a division of the natures united in
Him, let him be anathema.

4. It any one says that the one Jesus Christ, God the Word and the same
true Son of Man, was ignorant of future things or of the day of the last
judgment, and was able to know only so far as Deity revealed to Him, as if
dwelling in another, let him be anathema.

5. If any one applies to Christ as if stripped of His divinity the saying
of the Apostle in the Epistle to the Hebrews,(206) that He knew obedience
by experience and with strong crying and tears offered prayers and
supplications to God who was able to save Him from death, and who was
perfected by the labors of virtue, so that from this he evidently
introduces two Christs or two Sons, and does not believe the one and the
same Christ to be confessed and adored Son of God and Son of Man, of two
and in two natures inseparable and undivided, let him be anathema.

We have also examined concerning the Epistle of the venerable man Ibas,
once bishop of the city of Edessa, concerning which you also ask if in
early times anything concerning it was undertaken by our Fathers, or
discussed, or examined, or determined. Because it is known to all and
especially to your piety, that we are ignorant of the Greek language, yet
by the aid of some of our company, who have knowledge of that tongue, we
discover clearly and openly that in the same synod the affair of the
venerable man Ibas was examined, from the action taken regarding Photius,
bishop of Tyre, and Eustathius, bishop of Berytus, that this epistle,
concerning which inquiry is made, was brought forward against him by his
accusers; and when, after discussion of the affair was ended, it was asked
of the venerable Fathers what ought to be done concerning the matter of
the same Ibas, the following sentence was passed:

Paschasius and Lucentius, most reverend bishops, and Boniface, presbyter,
holding the place of the Apostolic See (because the apostolic delegates
are accustomed always to speak and vote first in synods), by Paschasius
said: "Since the documents have been read, we perceive from the opinion of
the most reverend bishops that the most reverend Ibas is approved as
innocent; for now that his epistle has been read we recognize it as
orthodox. And on this account we decree that the honor of the episcopate
be restored to him, and the church, from which unjustly and in his absence
he was driven out, be given back." [The patriarchs of Constantinople and
Antioch agreed, and their opinions are also quoted by Vigilius from the
Acts of the Council of Chalcedon.]

Therefore we, following in all things the discipline and judgment of the
holy Fathers, and the disposition of all things according to the account
which we have given of the judgment of the Council of Chalcedon, since it
is most evidently true, from the words of the Epistle of the venerable man
Ibas, regarded with the right and pious mind, and from the action taken
regarding Photius and Eustathius, and from the opinions of bishop Ibas,
discussed in his presence by those present, that our Fathers present at
Chalcedon most justly pronounced the faith of the same venerable man Ibas
orthodox and his blaming the blessed Cyril, which they perceive to have
been from error of human intelligence, purged by appropriate satisfaction,
by the authority of our present sentence, we determine and decree in all
things so also in the often-mentioned Epistle of the venerable Ibas, the
judgment of the Fathers present at Chalcedon remain inviolate.

Conclusion of the Constitutum:

These things having been disposed of by us in every point with all caution
and diligence, in order to preserve inviolate the reverence of the said
synods and the venerable constitutions of the same; mindful that it has
been written [cf. Prov. 22:26], we ought not to cross the bounds of our
Fathers, we determine and decree that it is permitted to no one of any
ecclesiastical rank or dignity to do anything contrary to these things
which, by this present constitution, we assert and determine, concerning
the oft-mentioned three chapters, or to write or to bring forward, or to
compose, or to teach, or to make any further investigation after this
present definition. But concerning the same three chapters, if anything
contrary to these things, which we here determine and assert, is made in
the name of any one, in ecclesiastical order or dignity, or shall be found
by any one or anywheresoever, such a one by the authority of the Apostolic
See, in which by the grace of God we are placed, we refute in every way.

(e) Council of Constantinople, A. D. 553, Definition. Mansi, IX, 367.

Condemnation of the Three Chapters.

This action is taken from the Definition of the council, a rather
wordy document, but ending with a passage indicating the action of
the council. From this concluding passage this condemnation is
taken. See Hefele, 274, also PNF, ser. II, vol. XIV, pp.

We condemn and anathematize with all other heretics who have been
condemned and anathematized by the before-mentioned four holy synods, and
by the Catholic and Apostolic Church, Theodore, who was bishop of
Mopsuestia, and his impious writings, and also those things which
Theodoret impiously wrote against the right faith and against the twelve
capitula of the holy Cyril, and against the first synod of Ephesus, and
also those which he wrote in defence of Theodore and Nestorius. In
addition to these, we also anathematize the impious epistle which Ibas is
said to have written to Maris the Persian, which denies that God the Word
was incarnate of the holy Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary, and accuses
Cyril, of holy memory, who taught the truth, of being a heretic and of the
same sentiments with Apollinaris, and blames the first synod of Ephesus
for deposing Nestorius without examination and inquiry, and calls the
twelve capitula of Cyril impious and contrary to the right faith, and
defends Theodore and Nestorius, and their impious dogmas and writings. We,
therefore, anathematize the three chapters before mentioned, that is the
impious Theodore of Mopsuestia with his execrable writings, and those
things which Theodoret impiously wrote, and the impious letter which is
said to be by Ibas, together with their defenders and those who have
written or do write in defence of them, or who dare to say that they are
correct, and who have defended or do attempt to defend their impiety with
the names of the holy Fathers or of the holy Council of Chalcedon.

(f) Council of Constantinople A. D. 553. Anathematism 11. Mansi, IX,
201. Cf. Denziger. n. 223.

Condemnation of Origen.

Appended to the Definition of the council are fourteen
anathematisms, forming (1-10) an exposition of the doctrine of the
two natures, and concluding with condemnation of Origen, together
with other heretics, and of the Three Chapters (11-14). These
anathematisms are based upon a confession of faith of the Emperor
Justinian, a lengthy document, but containing thirteen
anathematisms. This confession of faith was composed before the
council, probably in 551. For an analysis of it, see Hefele,
263. The text of the council's anathematisms may be found in
Hefele, 274, also in Hahn, 148. Attempts have been made by
older scholars to show that the name Origen was a later insertion.
For arguments, see Hefele, loc. cit.

If any one does not anathematize Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, Apollinaris,
Nestorius, Eutyches, and Origen, with their impious writings, as also all
other heretics already condemned and anathematized by the holy Catholic
and Apostolic Church, and by the aforesaid four holy synods, and all those
who have been or are of the same mind with the heretics mentioned, and who
remain to the end in their impiety, let him be anathema.

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