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2. Tradition.

The authority of Holy Scripture frequently appears in the Fathers as something wholly abstract and despotic. It contained, in fact, a latent tendency to assert its independence of the conditions out of which it had arisen. But the revolution which was characterised by the isolation of the Bible, its deliverance from the authority of ecclesiastical tradition, and the annihilation of the latter, only took place in the sixteenth century, and even then it was, we know, not completely successful. In ecclesiastical antiquity, on the contrary, the bond was by no means severed which connected Scripture with the maternal organism of the Church. The Church, its doctrine, institutions, and constitution, were held, in and by themselves, to constitute the source of knowledge and the authoritative guarantee of truth. As the holy, Apostolic, and Catholic institution, it possessed nothing whatever untrue or capable of amendment either in its foundations or its development. Everything in it, rather, was apostolic, and the guidance of the Church by the Holy Ghost had preserved this apostolic fabric from any change. This thought was necessarily emphasised more and more strongly in consequence of the development undergone by Church affairs in the fourth and following centuries. Since at the same time, however, the independent authority and the sufficiency of the Bible were also emphasised, there arose difficulties, in part even manifest inconsistencies, which were never removed.425425The Orientals, especially the Antiochenes, but Cyril of Jerus. also, adhered more exclusively to Scripture; the Alexandrians, and even the Cappadocians relied more strongly on tradition. Yet the differences are only in degree. At any rate, the difference comes out more strongly on a comparison of Theodoret and Cyril of Alexandria. But they were not clearly felt, because men always possessed the power, when confronted by inconvenient monitors, to carry through ultimately, whether in the form of dogma, or in that of order, whatever was required. In face of traditions become obsolete an appeal was made to other traditions, or to the Bible; where written testimony was uncertain or awanting, recourse was had to tradition; i.e., that was declared to be tradition which was 208not to be justified under another title. Hence it is already clear that tradition never was and never could be systematised and catalogued, that an authentic declaration never was and never could be published as to its extent and scope. There was no single deliverance on the application of tradition, which would not, if consistently carried out, have thrown the Church into confusion. If Augustine therefore (De bapt. c. Donat. II.3, 4) declared—certainly against his better knowledge—that ‘canonical Scripture was contained within fixed limits of its own’ (scriptura canonica certis suis terminis continetur), yet it never occurred to him or any one else to maintain as much about tradition. The latter was in antiquity a wholly elastic category, as we see when we look at its use in individual cases; in summa it was, however, an extremely rigid and clear notion: meaning simply that the Church was determined, in spite of all changes, to regard itself as the unchangeable creation of the Apostles. It derived its claim to this view partly from the divine promises, partly from the organisation instituted for it, yet without alleging confidently any empirical factor within the Church which should be the bearer of its infallibility.426426Reuter’s excellent explanation of Augustine’s position (Ztschrft. für K.-Gesch. Vol. VIII., pp. 181 f., 186 f.) was then true of very wide circles: “The Episcopate, and the Roman sedes apostolica, the whole relatively coördinated sedes apostolicæ, the relative and the absolute plenary councils were held to be representations of the (infallible) Church; but not one of these factors, not all of them combined, formed the (infallible) representation of the (infallible) Church. The latter possessed no indubitably sure institution or organs, indubitably representative of it.” The decrees of councils were only placed on a complete equality with Scripture in the East, after councils had ceased to be held, and when the latter therefore were seen, like Scripture, in a nimbus of hoary antiquity. The most important consequences of this view held by the Church regarding itself have been already stated in the second volume; but others came to be added in the post-Constantinian period.

A. The creed of the Church was always held to be the most important part of its tradition. The anti-gnostic formulas which the creed had preserved passed over in the East, along with theorems, half biblical half speculative, and here and there with purely philosophical or polemical discussions, into the Symbols.427427See Vol. II., p. 20 f. and III., pp. 48 ff., 111 ff. These Symbols, which had been adopted for use 209in the Church, were regarded as apostolic testimonies. Their phrasing was not considered in the East to be due to the Apostles, but the honour paid them was justified from the Apostles’ preaching.428428The Symbol of Gregory Thaumaturgus was derived from a special revelation; see Vol. III., p. 115. These Symbols of the provincial Churches were supplanted in the period between the first and third (fourth) Œcumenical Councils by the Nicene, or soon thereafter by the so-called Constantinopolitan Symbol.429429There were two symbol-constructing periods in the East before a universal Confession was framed. The former of these embraced A.D. 250-325, the second, A.D. 325 up to the beginning or the middle of the fifth century. In the latter period the attempt was made, either to transform the Nicene Creed into a baptismal Confession, or to displace it by parallel formulas; sometimes the leading words of the Nicene Symbol were inserted in those of the provincial Churches. See on the history of this, the part played by the Bishops of Asia Minor in these developments, and the history of the so-called Constantinop. Symbol, my art. “Konstantinop. Symbol” in Herzog R.-E. 21 Vol. VIII.; Caspari’s works, Hort’s investigations, Two Dissertations, Cambridge, 1876, and Kattenbusch, Confessionskunde I., p. 252 ff. This confession430430It was originally the Baptismal Confession of the Church of Jerusalem, revised soon after the middle of the fourth century, and furnished with a regula fidei concerning the Holy Spirit; it came thus to be honoured first through the authority of Epiphanius, and then through the energy of the Bishop of Constantinople, which also led to its supplanting the Nicene Symbol. had already been held at Chalcedon to be the creed pure and simple, and it never lost this place of honour. If it had already been constantly assumed that the doctrine of the Church was the theme, or the matter, constituting the real contents of Scripture, then this assumption was now definitely transferred to the Nicene or the Constantinopolitan Symbol. All subsequent dogmatic conclusions were accordingly regarded solely as explanations of this Symbol,431431Monophysites and orthodox believers always professed to be able to read their Christological formulas word for word in the Symbol. The Greek Church maintains to the present day that the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Symbol contains everything we require to believe. which was not maintained, however, to be of Apostolic origin—in its language. Tradition, in the strictest sense of the term, consisted in the contents of the Symbol for the time being. Cyril says of this (Cat. V. 12): ‘In these few paragraphs the whole dogma of the faith (is) comprised’ (ἐν ὀλίγοις τοῖς στίχοις τὸ πᾶν δόγμα τῆς πίστεως 210περιλαμβανόμενον). As the Church had obtained in the Nicene Creed a complete and uniform Symbol, the view was transferred to it. There were two sides meanwhile to the relations of Scripture and Symbol. You might not believe the contents of the Symbol unless you could convince yourself of their truth from Scripture;432432So, above all, Cyril and the Antiochenes. but on the other hand, your interpretation of Scripture had to be regulated by the creed laid down in the Symbol.433433No hesitation prevailed in the Church on this point; yet Synods simply forbade certain expositions of Scriptural texts as heretical. The Church alone furnished the gubernaculum interpretationis (see Vincent., Commonit. 2, 41) and that in its concise guide to faith, the Symbol. After the Constantinopolitan Symbol had been placed on an inaccessible height, we no longer find the blunt assertion that the creed is compiled from the Holy Scriptures. But this contention was also historically false. (For it see Cyril, Cat. V. 12): οὐ γὰρ ὡς ἔδοξεν ἀνθρώποις συνετέθη τὰ τῆς Πίστεως· ἀλλ᾽ ἐκ πάσης γραφῆς τὰ καιριώτατα συλλεχθέντα μίαν ἀναπληροῖ τὴν τῆς Πίστεως διδασκαλίαν. “Canon” was originally the rule of faith; the Scripture had in truth intervened, yet so that its authority had a support placed still further back, namely, the O. T. and the Lord’s sayings. In the West a unique dignity was retained by the old Roman Symbol (or its parallel forms in the provincial Churches) which was regarded as being composed of twelve articles. From the fourth century at least it was held to be the Apostolic Creed in the strict sense of the term.434434See my art. “Apostolisches Symbol” in Herzog R.-E. 2 B. I. The opinion that the Apostles had composed the Symbol jointly (Rufinus) cannot be traced earlier than the middle of the fourth century, but it may be much older. Yet we must not date it too soon; for if the Churches of the western provinces had received the Symbol with this legend attached, they would hardly have ventured to propose changes on it. It was certainly not extolled even in Rome in the third century, so exuberantly as it was afterwards by Ambrose. Its brevity and simplicity long preserved the Roman Church from extravagant theological speculations, but they could not barricade it against the theological development of the East. An industrious attempt was made, or at least professed, to derive the decision of dogmatic questions, as they emerged, from this Apostolic Symbol, and to rest upon it the whole of the ever increasing material of dogmatics.435435This point falls to be discussed in the next book. Augustine had to rest his distinctive theology on the Symbol, though the latter was only imperfectly adapted for the purpose. It was only after the beginning 211of the fifth century that the Constantinopolitan Symbol supplanted the apostolic in Church use in Rome and the West,436436See my art. on the Constantinop. Symbol, 1. c. yet without the latter losing its prestige. This was of course transferred in part to the new Symbol, but the old remained, though latent, in force.437437The history of the Apostolic Symbol between the fifth and sixth centuries urgently requires investigation. The twelve articles the Apostolic Symbol, to be explained by the Constantinopolitan, constituted in the West the ecclesiastical tradition κατ᾽ ἐξοχήν. Justinian’s legislation confirmed this conception, though, indeed, that was not needed.438438Justinian’s law-book is headed by the art. “De summa trinitate et de fide catholica et ut nemo de ea publice contendere audeat”; but see also the famous decree of the Emperors, Gratian, Valentinian and Theodosius, A.D. 380, with which the law-book begins.

B. At the beginning of the fourth century there already entered into the composition of the Church, not only its creed, but a cultus fixed in its main features; there were further disciplinary and ceremonial provisions—still differing, indeed, in part in the various provincial Churches439439See, e.g., Socrates, H. E. V. 22.—and finally, a settled constitution. It was only in a very late period that the notion of apostolicity was applied, in the strict sense, to the whole of these elements;440440When this occurred a very exact distinction had already been made between faith and disciplinary law. Apostolic faith was something different from and higher than apostolic laws {διατάξεις, νόμοι, κανόνες ἐκκλησιαστικοὶ διὰ τῶν ἀποστόλων}. This corrected the equality apparently attributed to the two branches of tradition by the common predicate “apostolic.” but not only did the foundations of these ordinances come to be characterised as apostolic, but as a rule, and to an increasing extent, everything which there was a desire to assure of permanence. Different methods were adopted, however, of establishing the apostolic character of these institutions. First, it was maintained that regulations observed by the whole Church required no proof that they were Apostolic.441441See August., De bapt. c. Donat. II. 7, 12: “Multa, quæ non inveniuntur in litteris apostolorum neque in conciliis posteriorum, et tamen quia per universam custodiuntur ecclesiam, non nisi ab ipsis tradita et commendata creduatur.” IV. 24. 31: “Quod universa tenet ecclesia, nec conciliis institutum sed semper retentum est, non nisi auctoritate apostolica traditum rectissime creditur.” V. 23. 31: “Multa, quæ universa tenet ecclesia et ob hoc ab apostolis præcepta bene creduntur, quamquam scripta non reperiantur.” 212Secondly, advantage was taken in the East, of the numerous legends of the Apostles current in the Churches; they began to be used in connection with the government and cultus of the Churches in such a way that definite detailed regulations were attributed to the Apostles, individually or collectively, whenever they were required for the discipline or cultus of the time.442442The Apologists had exhibited Christianity as the worship of God in Spirit and in truth, and as an alliance regulated by equality and fraternity. But there had gradually developed a complicated cultus round the mysteries, and a comprehensive and detailed code of discipline had become necessary. For both of these appeal was made to an increasing extent to apostolic authority. Compare the Apostolic Constitutions, the κανόνες ἐκκλησαστικοί, the Apostolic Canons, in general the mass of material, partly published, partly discussed, by Bickell, Pitra, and Lagarde; further, the designation of the Liturgies of the provincial Churches as by Mark, James, etc. The history, still partly unwritten, of these Eastern forgeries under apostolic names is closely connected with the general history of the legends of the Apostles (see Lipsius, Die apokryphen Apostelgesch.). The O. T. commandments were again introduced into the Church by means of apostolic fictions, until the ancient awe of Moses, the law-giver, was surmounted. After apostolic commandments of this sort had been allowed to spring up luxuriantly for a time, the Church had no little trouble to exorcise the spirits it had conjured. A sifting process began from the sixth century—at least in the Byzantine Church—to which, e.g., the Constitutions fell a victim. In the law books of the Monophysite and Nestorian Churches, much more comprehensive matter had been preserved, under apostolic names, as possessed of the value of law. Yet it did not receive the same honour as the Holy Scriptures. In order to realise the possibility of such an unabashed invention of regulations cloaked with the authority and name of the Apostles, we must remember that, from the second century, writings bearing on discipline were in existence, called διδαχαί or διατάξεις τῶν ἀποστόλων, and that these, having no individual impress, were thoroughly adapted for constant remodelling and expansion. Thirdly, men began in the fourth century—not uninfluenced by Clement and Origen—to introduce the notion of a παράδοσις ἄγαρφος (unwritten tradition), in whose wholly undefined contents were even included dogmatic theories which it was not everyone’s business to understand; yet it dealt extremely seldom with the trinitarian and Christological catchwords. This idea of an ‘unwritten tradition’ crept in in a very real sense; for it conflicted with more than one main point in the fundamental positions of the Church. But it attained high honour, and its existence absolutely became a dogma. But 213because it really made all else unnecessary and was a dangerous dras tic expediet, it was not defined, nor was its extent ever determined. And it did not banish Scriptural proof or the appeal to familiar and demonstrable tradition. The existence was maintained of a tradition which dispensed with all criteria—and that was what the παράδοσις ἄγραφος was; but a prudent use was made of it. Unwritten tradition was preferentially applied to the development of ritual and the sacramental performance of the mysteries, while the secret truths of the creed were based exclusively on Scripture and the Councils.443443The assumption of a secret apostolic tradition—that is, the παράδοσις ἄγραφος—first appeared among the Gnostics, i.e., among the first theologians, who had to legitimise as apostolic a world of notions alien to primitive Christianity. It then was found quite logically among the Alexandrians, and from them passed to Eusebius, who not only accepted it (H. E. II. 1, 4), but also vindicated it against Marcellus (lib. I. c. 1): ἐκκλησίας τὰς ἀπὸ τῶν θείων γραφῶν μαρτυρίας ἐξ ἀγράφου παραδόσεως σφραγιζομένης. But the Cappadocians first established it in their conflict with the Eunomians and Pneumatomachoi, yet the bold use made of it by them in defence of the dogma of the Trinity, was not afterwards parallelled. Basil (De spiritu sancto, 27) referred the orthodox doctrine of the Holy Ghost to the unwritten tradition, placing the latter on an equality with the public tradition; but he endeavoured at the same time to retain the old Alexandrian distinction between κήρυγμα and δόγμα, δόγμα being meant to embrace the theological formulation of the faith (τῶν ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ πεφυλαγμένων δογμάτων καὶ κηρυγμάτων τὰ μὲν ἐκ τῆς ἐγγράφου διδασκαλίας ἔχομεν, τὰ δὲ ἐκ τῆς τῶν ἀποστόλων παραδόσεως διαδοθέντα ἡμῖν ἐν μυστηρίῳ παρεδεξάμεθα ἄπερ ἀμφότερα τὴν αὐτὴν ἰσχὺν ἔχει πρὸς τὴν εὐσέβειαν . . . ἄλλο γὰρ δόγμα, καὶ ἄλλο κήρυγμα, τὰ μεν γὰρ δόγματα σιωπᾶται, τὰ δὲ κηρύγματα δημοσιεύεται). The latter distinction was opposed to the tendency of the age, and remained without effect. (With that which Basil named dogma, the μυστική παράδοσις was identical, of which Pamphilus and Eusebius speak, and by the aid of which they defended the orthodoxy of Origen; see Socrates III. 7.) But it is important that in order to prove the existence of a παράδοσις ἄγραφος, Basil appeals merely to matters of ritual—signs of the Cross, prayers of consecration, and baptismal rites. To these the unwritten tradition was in later times almost exclusively applied. Gregory of Nazianzus advanced in a different direction from Basil: he admitted to his opponents (Orat. 37) that tradition was defective in reference to the doctrine of the Spirit, but he believed he could assume a progressive development of the truth of revelation. But, as far as I know, he only once expressed himself so imprudently, and he found absolutely no imitators. His attempt only proves the difficulty caused by the defence of the dogma of the Trinity in the fourth century. In Cyril of Jerusalem (see his view so divergent from that of the Cappadocians, Cat. 16, ch. 2) and the older Antiochenes the παράδοσις ἄγραφος does not occur, but it does in Epiphanius (H. 61, ch. 6: δεῖ καὶ παραδόσει κεχρῆσθαι. οὐ γὰρ πάντα ἀπὸ τῆς θείας γραφῆς δύναται λαμβάνεσθαι· διὸ τὰ μὲν ἐν γραφαῖς, τὰ δὲ ἐν παραδόσεσιν παρέδωκαν οἱ ἅγιοι ἀπόστολοι). It is also found in Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, and others down to John of Damascus, who says plainly (De fide orthod. IV. ch. 12): ἄγραφός ἐστιν ἡ παράδοσις αὕτη τῶν ἀποστόλων, πολλὰ γὰρ ἀγράφως ἡμῖν παρέδοσαν (see details in Langen, Joh. von Damaskus, 1879, p. 271 ff.). So also the Greek Church of to-day teaches: διωρεῖται τὸ θεῖον ῥῆμα εἰς τε τὸ γραπτὸν καὶ ἄγραφον (see Gass, Symbolik der griech. Kirche, p. 107 ff.) Quotations are especially taken from Pauline texts in which παραδόσεις occur, and thus a sort of Scriptural proof is led in support of what does not occur in Scripture. The unwritten tradition is hardly again applied to the creed, since it was thought to be sufficiently supported by Scripture and the Symbol. In the West, Augustine was in the same doubtful position, with regard to certain theses which he defended against Donatists and Pelagians, as the Cappadocians were in reference to the orthodox doctrine of the Holy Ghost. Hence he derived, e.g., the doctrine of original sin, which could not be otherwise proved out of tradition, from the rite of exorcism, declaring this to have been an apostolic tradition; (see c. Julian. VI. 5, 11): “Sed etsi nulla ratione indagetur, nullo sermone explicetur, verum tamen est quod antiquitus veraci fide catholica prædicatur et creditur per ecclesiam totam; quæ filios fidelium nec exorcizaret, nec exsufflaret, si non eos de potestate tenebrarum et a principe mortis erueret, etc.). So also he appealed against the Donatists in the controversy as to Baptism by Heretics (against Cyprian’s authority) to the unwritten testimony of the whole Church (see note 6, p. 211). But 214this distinction was not sufficient, nor was it firmly held to be unalterable.

C. All conceptions of the authority of tradition, of which many Fathers—e.g., Cyprian—described Scripture to be the main element,444444Cyprian calls Scripture “divinæ traditionis caput et origo” (Ep.74, ch. 10). This designation is not common. were based ultimately on the conviction that the Church had been invested with authority through its connection with the Holy Spirit himself.445445The universal conviction is expressed in the famous sentence of Augustine (C. ep. Manich. 6) which he has given in various forms in the Confessions and elsewhere: Ego vero evangelio non crederem, nisi me catholicæ ecclesiæ commoveret auctoritas. Even Cyril of Jerusalem, who has emphasised most strongly the authority of Scripture, could not pass over that of the Church (Cat. IV., ch. 33). At this point two problems arose, which, though hardly ever clearly formulated, were yet felt, and which attempts were made to solve. I.—By whom and when did the Church speak? II.—How were novelties to be explained in the Church, especially in the sphere of doctrine, if the authority of the Church had its root exclusively in its apostolic character, that is, its ability to preserve the legacy of the Apostles?

As to I. It was a settled doctrine from the third century, that the representation of the Church was vested in the 215Episcopate, though the strict conception of the latter, as first taught by Cyprian, that it was the main support of the Church, was for a long time not universally held.446446In his studies on Augustine, Reuter has shown that Augustine fell short of Cyprian (see his theses in the Ztschr. f. K.-Gesch., Vol. VIII., p. 184, and the relative discussions in Vol. VII.). In the East the compiler of Apostolic Constitutions took substantially the view of the Episcopate held by Ignatius, but not by Irenæus and Cyprian. Even Chrysostom’s work, περὶ ἱερωσύνης, tends in the same direction as the Constitutions. It is very remarkable that Cyril of Jerusalem (Cat. XVIII., ch. 27) makes no mention of the hierarchy, but only of the Apostles, prophets, teachers and other office-bearers enumerated in the well-known passage in the Ep. to the Corinthians. That is a memorable archaism; yet see even Vincentius, Commonit. 40. He also says very little about Bishops, and nothing at all about. the apostolic succession. We find, meanwhile, even, e.g., from the plan of Eusebius’ Church History, that the Bishops, the successors of the Apostles, were regarded as guarantors of the legitimacy of the Church. The conception never emerged that the Bishop was infallible as an individual;447447On the contrary, the fallibility of individual bishops was always admitted from Irenæus down (III. 3, 1): “Valde perfectos et irreprehensibiles in omnibus eos volebant esse (apostoli), quos et successores relinquebant, suum ipsorum locum magisterii tradentes, quibus emendate agentibus fieret magna utilitas, lapsis autem summa calamitas.” but a certain inspiration was already—though not without differences of opinion—attributed to the provincial Synods.448448Cyprian (Ep. LVII., ch. 5) introduces the decree of the provincial Council of Carthage with the words, “Placuit nobis spiritu sancto suggerente.” Acts XV. 28 certainly influenced this phrase. On the other hand, we must not allow it too much weight, for Cyprian often appeals to instructions given to him personally by the Holy Ghost. See also the Votum of Bishop Lucius of Ausafa, No. 73 of the sentent. episcoporum LXXXVII. at the Carthaginian Council: “Secundum motum animi mei et spiritus sancti.” The Synod of Arles, A.D. 314, also used the formula, “Placuit ergo, præsente spiritu sancto et angelis eius” (see Mansi, Collect. Concil. II. p. 469, and Hefele, Conciliengesch. I. 2, p. 204); and Constantine wished to have its decision regarded as “cæleste iudicium”: this judgment by priests was to have the same honour as if it had been pronounced by the Lord himself (Mansi, 1.c. p. 478). For the rest, we may here recall the fact that ἡ ἱερὰ σύνοδος had long been a technical term in common use among the Greeks (see also “holy senate” in Justin). On the origin of the ecclesiastical Synods see Sohm’s excellent discussions in Kirchenrecht. I. p. 247 ff. Constantine was the first to form the idea of a universal Synod,449449This is now almost universally admitted; yet the idea was introduced by the great Oriental Synods in the cases of Novatian and Paul of Samosata, as well as by the Synod of Arles already indeed summoned by Constantine. The latter has been looked on in the West as a General Council for more than a century, and can also be regarded as such in many respects. On the Councils see Hatch’s fine lecture in his book “The Social Constitution of Christian Churches,” p. 172 f. and he 216also supposed such a body to be under the special guidance of the Holy Spirit, and therefore incapable of error.450450See Constantine’s letter to the Bishops after the Council of Nicæa (in Theodoret H. E. I. 9 fin): “Whatever is determined in the holy assemblies of the Bishops, may be attributed to the divine will.” Further, Socrates H. E. I. 9, who contrasts the recognition by the Emperor of the divine character of the Synod, with the aspersions of Sabinus the Macedonian. In the course of the fourth century the idea that the Nicene Synod possessed an infallible authority became slowly established;451451The orthodox party made use of the advantage presented by the decision of a Synod which none could refuse to recognise as a wholly extraordinary event. On the other hand, nothing but such an event could atone for the unusual forms given to the creed, and thus attest a new theory. For in spite of everything which it had been hitherto possible to relate of Synods being under divine leadership, it was a novelty to raise the decision of a Synod to the level of an authority above discussion. Of such a thing even Bishop Julius of Rome, e.g., knew nothing. And it was all the more startling when the decision was supported neither by the letter of Scripture, nor a clear tradition, nor even an analogy of any sort. But this very fact promoted the assumption of an absolute authority,—though not yet in the case of Athanasius (see Gwatkin, Stud. of Arianism, p. 50); a virtue was made of necessity. With the first victory over Arianism, the view arose that the dogma of the Trinity was a certain truth because it had been affirmed at Nicæa by 318 Bishops inspired by the Holy Ghost—thus the Cappadocians, Cyril of Alex. etc. It is, however, extremely paradoxical, that even up to the middle of the fourth century the Eusebians laid greater stress on the authority of Synodical decisions than the orthodox party. In order to get the West to accept the deposition of Athanasius, they continued to appeal to their Antiochene Synod, and declared its decisions to be irreversible. Although their tactics compelled them also to admit the validity of the Nicene Creed, they did so in the hope that after the removal of Athanasius they would be able to carry an interpretation of it suitable to their own views. it was transferred in the following centuries to the Œcumenical Synods generally, yet so that one—the second—was only subsequently stamped as Œcumenical.452452The latter fact is admitted also by Hefele (1. c. Vol. I., p. 3). Besides, nothing could be more incorrect than the opinion that the distinction between Œcumenical and other Synods, as regards dogmatics, was established soon after the Nicene Council. The greatest variety of opinion prevailed till past the middle of the fifth century as to what Synods were Œcumenical and might be ranked along with the Nicene. Gregory of Nazianzus we know, e.g., to have spoken very contemptuously of the Constantinopolitan Synod, and, indeed, of Synods in general. Conversely, a certain authority was still ascribed to Provincial Synods in dogmatic questions. Further, there is a passage in Augustine which infers not only a relatively binding authority on the part of Provincial Councils, but also uncertainty as to the absolute authority of General Councils. The passage is extraordinarily characteristic of the unsteadiness of the whole structure of tradition. Meanwhile Reuter (Zeitschr. f. K.-Gesch. VIII. p. 167, 173, 176, 186) has rightly decided that we must keep steadily in view the special circumstances under which Augustine has here written; De bap. c. Donat. II. 3, 4: “Quis nesciat sanctam scripturam canonicam tam veteris quam novi testamenti certis suis terminis contineri, eamque omnibus posterioribus episcoporum litteris ita præponi, ut de illa omnino dubitari et disceptari non possit, utrum verum vel utrum rectum sit, quidquid in ea scriptum esse constiterit: episcoporum autem litteras quæ post confirmatum canonem vel scriptæ sunt vel scribuntur, et per sermonem forte sapientiorem cuiuslibet in ea re peritioris, et per aliorum episcoporum graviorem auctoritatem doctioremque prudentiam et per concilia licere reprehendi, si quid in eis forte a veritate deviatum est: et ipsa concilia quæ per singulas regiones vel provincias fiunt, plenariorum conciliorum auctoritati quæ fiunt ex universo orbe Christiano, sine ullis ambagibus cedere: ipsaque plenaria sæpe priora posterioribus emendari, cum aliquo experimento rerum aperitur quod clausum erat, et cognoscitur quod latebat.” Emendari can only mean here actual emendation—not merely explanation, as Catholic historians of dogma have to assume. It is also worthy of note, that Augustine assigned Œcumenical rank to several Synods—e.g., that of Arles—which afterwards were not held to be Œcumenical. On the other hand, it is instructive that he himself did not, like the Orientals, regard the Nicene decree as the foundation of the doctrine of the Trinity; see Reuter’s arguments on the relation of the work “De trinitate” to the Nicene Symbol, (Ztschr. f. K.-Gesch. V. p. 375 ff.). The Council of Chalcedon first put an end to dubiety as to the number, and the authority, of Œcumenical Councils in the East (even at the Robber Synod, A.D. 449, only two had been recognised). Up till then the Nicene stood alone on an inaccessible height; moreover, in after times the uniqueness of this Council was still remembered, though others were added beside it. For the rest, Roman Bishops spoke very depreciatorily of, or even refused to recognise, many canons of later councils; so Leo I. of the third of Constantinople (Ep. 106 [al. 80]), to say nothing of the twenty-eighth of Chalcedon. But Leo did not recognise the second Council as legitimate. Even Felix III. and Gelasius knew only of three Œcumenical Councils. General Synods Leo I. declared to be inspired (see Ep. 114, 2, to the Bishops assembled at Chalcedon); but it is more than questionable whether he therefore held all their resolutions to be absolutely irreversible. From the sixth 217century there gradually ceased to be any doubt that the resolutions of Œcumenical Synods possessed an absolute authority.453453After the Council of Chalcedon, it was, above all, Justinian’s legislation which confirmed and popularised, even in the West, the view that there had been four Œumenical Councils: see his edict on the Three Chapters, 131: Οἱ ὑπὸ τῶν τεσσάρων συνόδων, τῶν ἐν Νικαίᾳ καὶ Κωνσταντινουπόλει, ἐν Ἐφέσῳ καὶ ἐν Χαλκηδόνι τιθέντες ὅροι νόμων τάξιν ἐχέτωσαν καὶ τὰ δόγματα αὐτῶν ὡς αἱ θεόπνευστοι τιμάσθωσαν γραφαί, Accordingly, this development was inaugurated by Constantine and closed by Justinian. After him Gregory I. (Ep. L. I. 25) wrote: “Sicut sancti evangelii quattuor libros, sic quattuor concilia suscipere et venerari me fateor.” But this very utterance proves that the West only slowly accepted this whole development; for Gregory leaves out of account the fifth Œcumenical Council held meanwhile. Again, the attitude of the North African Church in the sixth century proves that there the dubiety felt by Augustine had not yet been wholly overcome. But the attempts of the papal theologian Vincenzi to dispute the independent authority of the councils generally—even for the above date—are thoroughly biassed, and carried out with the most daring indifference to historical fact. See his “In St. Gregorii Nyss. et Origenis scripta et doctrinam nova defensio”, 5 T., 1865 f. and “De processione spiritus s. ex patre et filio”, 1878. Whoever rebelled against them refused to admit that the Synods in question were regular, but did not dispute the 218authority of regular Synods in general. After the seventh Synod it was a settled principle in the orthodox Church of the East that Scripture and the decisions of the seven Œcumenical Councils formed the sources of the knowledge of Christian truth.454454This is taught without any variation by the later so-called Symbols of the Greek Church and the most distinguished theologians up to the present day; see, e.g., Damalas, Ἡ ὀρθόδοξος πίστις, Athens, 1877, p. 3 ff.; οὐδεὶς πιστεύει εἰς μίαν ἐκκλησίαν ὁ μὴ ὁμολογῶν ὅτι τὰς ἐκπροσωπούσας ταύτην οἰκουμενικὰς συνόδους τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἄγιον ὁδηγεῖ εἰς πᾶσαν ἀλήθειαν. καὶ ὅτι ἡ ἐκκλησία αὕτη δὲν δύναται νὰ ἦ ἄλλη παρὰ τὴν ἐπῳκοδομημένην ἐπὶ τῆς μόνης ἑνοποιοῦ ἀρχῆς τῶν οἰκουμενικῶν συνόδων· διότι ἡ ἀρχὴ τῶν μερικῶν ὑποχρεωτικῶν ὁμολογιῶν, ἣν καθιέρωσαν αἱ λοιπαὶ ἐκκλησίαι, ἐστὶν ἡ μήτηρ τῆς διαιρέσεως . . . ἡ προμνημονευθεῖσα ἀναγνώρισις τῶν ἑπτὰ οἰκουμενικῶν συνόδων ἐστὶ γεγονὸς ἱστορικόν, μηδεμίαν πλέον ἐκκλησιαστικὴν αναψηλάφησιν ἐπιδεχόμενον. According to present Greek ideas, the whole period of the Councils belongs to the classical antiquity of the Church; this period has long run its course. They were characterised simply as the tradition, nay, men spoke, and not infrequently speak and act up to the present day, as if the Church possessed and required no other sources of knowledge or authorities. As a rule, the παράδοσις ἄγραφος is not included when Holy Scripture and the seven Councils are spoken of.

This apparently simple, consistent development, seemingly corresponding to all requirements, did not, however, solve all difficulties, either after it had come to an end, or still less during its course. But it had further to reckon with authorities, some of which were of long standing, while others emerged in the contemporary organisation of the Church. What position was to be taken up in doctrinal controversies in which an Œcumenical Synod had not pronounced its decision? Must there not 219be forthcoming in the Church at any moment a clear testimony to the truth, solving all doubtful questions, and giving forth no uncertain sound? What importance was due to the occupants of the great episcopal chairs, the Bishops of the apostolic communities, and especially of Rome? Decisions were not reached in all these questions, but a certain common sense arose. First, the Church speaks also by a unanimous testimony, audible from the earliest days, and this testimony never has been and never for a moment is, lacking. What has been always, everywhere, and by all, believed is inerrant tradition, even if it has not been solemnly and formally attested, or laid down in primitive authorities. This leads to a procedure similar to that followed by Eusebius in settling the N. T., viz., that the antiquity, unanimous attestation, and catholicity of a doctrine are to be expiscated in order that it may be certified a doctrine of the Church. The notion of ‘antiquity’ had now been extended and shifted with the advance of the Church. In the fourth century all the teachers held orthodox before Origen had been regarded as ancient, or vicini apostolorum (neighbours of the Apostles); the latter predicate especially had gradually been extended to the beginning of the third century: men like Irenæus, Apollinaris of Hierapolis and Hippolytus even were called γνώριμοι τῶν ἀποστόλων (friends of the Apostles).455455See as to this the introduction to my History of Ancient Christian Literature up to Eusebius, Vol. I. 1893. Then the whole period of the martyrs came to be considered sacred as the ancient time. But the Church was compelled to recognise to an increasing extent, that not much was to be gained for its purposes from its theological ‘witnesses’ before Athanasius, from those before as well as after Origen. Their names were still held in sacred memory—with the exception of those who seemed too greatly compromised, or had even fallen into bad odour with their own contemporaries; but their works disappeared more and more, or gave place to forgeries. Accordingly, from the fifth century, Athanasius and orthodox teachers of similar views of the fourth century, appeared as the “Fathers” proper.456456Athanasius was not indeed so frequently quoted as one would believe. His works have been comparatively eclipsed by those of the Cappadocians, and the final statement arrived at in the East, A.D. 381, of the dogma of the Trinity was more favourable to them than to Athanasius. The Synod of Constantinople, A.D. 383, (see in loco) furnishes the first example of the authority of the Fathers being made decisive, and of the Scriptures themselves being ignored. But the attempt miscarried at the time. 220When controversies arose, and soon even at Synods, the votes of these men were counted. Doctrines were looked on as armed with the testimony of antiquity, when they could be supported from the Fathers from Athanasius to Cyril. Nor were forgeries wanting here. The disciples of Apollinaris of Laodicea practised these frauds to a vast extent, in order to rediscover their master’s teaching in antiquity; they were afterwards imitated by others. In any case, the tribunal of the ‘Fathers’ remained an uncertain one; great as was the scope assigned to it, its place and value were not dogmatically detailed. It was not even really decided what relation the inspiration of the Councils held to the consensus patrum,457457To the “teachers” the predicate “Θεόπνευστος” was also applied. Thus Athanasius writes (De incarn. verbi 56): Αἱ γραφαὶ μὲν γὰρ διὰ θεολόγων ἀνδρῶν παρὰ Θεοῦ ἐλαλήθησαν καὶ ἐγράφησαν. ἡμεῖς δὲ παρὰ τῶν αὐταῖς ἐντυγχανόντων θεοπνεύστων διδασκάλων, οἳ καί μάρτυρες τῆς Χριστοῦ θεότητος γεγόνασι, μαθόντες μεταδίδομεν καὶ τῇ σῇ φιλομαθίᾳ. Similarly, though very rhetorically, Arius in his Thalia (Athanas. Orat. c. Arian I. 5): κατὰ πίστιν ἐκλεκτῶν Θεοῦ, συνετῶν Θεοῦ, παίδων ἁγίων, ὐρθοτόμων, ἄγιον Θεοῦ πνεῦμα λαβόντων, τάδε ἔμαθον ἔγωγε ὑπὸ τῶν σοφίης μετεχόντων, ἀστείων, θεοδιδάκτων, κατὰ πάντα σοφῶν τε. (see under). Such a consensus had often enough to be first restored; this was done by exegesis, or even by fabrications, because it was necessary to presuppose it. References of an opposite character remained of no effect; but when needs must a want of accuracy (akribeia) and detached errors were admitted in the case of individual Fathers, without the general conception being modified by these concessions. The Fathers were just read backwards—so to speak—i.e., from the standpoint of the dogma of the time being, and their undeveloped or divergent doctrines were interpreted in accordance with the principle of making the best of everything.458458It would take us too far to give detailed instances of the points discussed under this head. We only emphasise the following. (1) The attestation of a doctrine by the Councils was often set side by side with that given by the “Fathers”, the “ancient” or “holy doctors”, in such a way that the former seemed often to be merely a special case of the latter. And this was quite natural. The Church possessed no continuous testimony in the Councils; from its distinctive character, however, it required one. And this could only be furnished by the unbroken chorus of orthodox doctors. Even taken historically this court of appeal was the older. Irenæus and especially Clemens Alex. had already referred to deceased presbyters as authoritative teachers; and Eusebius’ conception of Church History embraced the idea—see preface and outline—that side by side with the successio episcoporum there stood a series of witnesses who, in uninterrupted succession, had declared the true doctrine orally and in writing. (2) No definitions were arrived at of the manner in which the authority of the Bishops was related to that of the doctors. It was possible to shut one’s eyes to this question, because in most cases the teachers were also bishops. As a rule, the Greeks spoke not of bishops, but the ancient doctors, when appealing to the witnesses to the truth. It was otherwise with the majority of the Latins after Cyprian (see p. 214). (3) As the usual procedure at the Councils was to set up no doctrinal tenet unless it was believed to have the support of the doctors, and as the claim was made that this course should always be adopted, the idea that the Councils were inspired was already abolished, and they were subordinated to the continuous testimony of the Church (see under). (4) The practice of consulting authorities began at the Ephesian Council; it played a more prominent part in every succeeding Synod. Athanasius and the Arians had undoubtedly disputed before this over passages in the Fathers, but their disputes were of slight importance compared with those that took place afterwards. (5) The notion of ecclesiastical antiquity gradually became more and more comprehensive; meanwhile the real ancient period of Christianity became more obscure, and bit by bit came to be forgotten. After the seventh the whole period of the Councils was looked on as the classical antiquity of the Church. If even in the fourth, nay, up to the middle of the fifth century, Councils were held to be an innovation, their absence was now considered a characteristic of the age of the Epigoni; indeed they were thought to be unnecessary, because everything was already settled. (6) The opinion held by faith that the “Fathers” had decided every disputed point beforehand, was a strong challenge to produce forgeries, and resulted in objective and and subjective falsehood. Caspari (Alte und neue Quellen, etc., 1879) has shown that the followers of Apollinaris were the first to forge on a large scale; but the Acts of Councils, and the examination of writings circulated under the names of celebrated Fathers, show that they had numerous imitators in the ranks of all parties. The practice of compiling collections of extracts, which was so much favoured after the middle of the fifth century, was, besides, especially adapted to conceal forgeries or inaccuracies. (7) But the limits, authority, and character of the Court of Appeal of the “Fathers” were never determined. It was taught that the orthodox Fathers agreed in all matters, nay, this theory was treated as a dogma. Stephen Gobarus’ attempt (Photius, Cod.232) to demonstrate the contradictions of the Fathers was felt to be profane, just as Eusebius had condemned as unchurchmanlike the attitude of Marcellus of Ancyra, who had censured the consultation, without independent examination, of the “wisest” Fathers. But even John of Damascus had to admit that Fathers—otherwise orthodox—held divergent opinions on single points (De imag. I. 25), and Photius actually was more than once compelled, in the course of his learned studies, to notice mistakes committed by them (see his Bibliotheca). Therefore the question was never decided who constituted the orthodox Fathers. It became the custom to prefer (Athanasius), Gregory of Nazianzus, Chrysostom, Cyril, and afterwards also John of Damascus. In the fourth century the orthodox were much troubled by the fact that the Synod of Antioch (A.D. 268) rejected, while that of Nicæa accepted, the term Ὁμοούσιος. The treatment of this difficulty in Athanasius, “De synod.” 43 sq., shows that no one had hit on the idea that the later decision made the earlier obsolete. It was rather held on the contrary: οἱ προλαβόντες ἀφανίζουσιν τοὺς μετά ταῦτα γενόεμνους. Therefore Athanasius sought and found evidences of the word Ὁμοούσιος before the Samosatian controversy. Ultimately, however, he had to adopt a different treatment of the whole question, i.e., to show that Ὁμοούσιος had only been rejected at Antioch as against Paul, in order not to admit a contradiction in the chorus of the Fathers. The same difficulty was caused about the middle of the fifth century by the term “δύο φύσεις;”, for it was hard to find an instance of that in antiquity. Of Eutyches the following expression is recorded (Mansi VI., p. 700): τὸ ἐκ δύο φύσεων ἑνωθεισῶν καθ᾽ ὑπόστασιν γεγεννῆσθαι τὸν κύριον ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν μήτε μεμαθηκέναι ἐν ταῖς ἐκθέσεσι τῶν ἁγίων πατέρων μήτε καταδέχεσθαι, εἰ τύχοι τι αὐτῷ τοιοῦτο παρά τινος ὑπαναγινώσκεσθαι, διὰ τὸ τὰς θείας γραφὰς ἀμείνονας εἶναι τῆς τῶν πατέρων διδασκαλίας. He afterwards disowned this expression as being distorted, his advocate corrected it in his name thus: “The Fathers have spoken in different ways, and I accept everything they say, but not as a rule of faith” (εἰς κανόνα δὲ πίστεως). That is very instructive. The words excited the greatest consternation in the assembly in which they were uttered, and the speaker felt himself compelled at once to excuse them on the ground of a momentary confusion.


Secondly, a peculiar reverence was inherited from the past for Apostolic Churches or their bishops, entwined with the evidence based on history and dogmatics. Although the theory of Cyprian, which allowed no special importance to the Bishops 222of Apostolic communities within the general authority of the Episcopate, had weakened this prestige, it still held its ground. Augustine still recalled it in the question of the extent of the Holy Scriptures.459459See above, Note 1, p. 198, and compare “De peccator. mer. et remiss.” I., 50. Here the auctoritas ecclesiarum orientalium is mentioned (in reference to the Ep. to the Hebrews), and to Augustine this auctoritas was exalted, because Christianity had come from the Apostolic Churches, from the communities to which John and Paul had written, above all, from Jerusalem (unde ipsum evangelium coepit prædicari). The fact that the Donatists had been separated from Apostolic Churches proved to him that they were wrong; see especially the Liber ad Donat. post collat. c. 4, c. 29; also Ep. 52, c. 3 and c. Lib. Petil. l. II., c. 51 (Reuter in the Ztschr. f. K.-Gesch. V., p. 361 ff.). Optatus had already held the same view as Augustine; see the important details “De schism. Donat.” II., 6, VI., 3. But even after the middle of the sixth century a Roman Pope, Pelagius I., singled out the fact in praise of Augustine, that he, “mindful of the divine teaching which founded the Church on the Apostolic Chairs, taught that those were schismatics who seceded from the doctrine and communion of these Apostolic Chairs” (Mansi, Concil. IX., p. 716). Pelagius even declared that when doubts as to the faith arose it was necessary to conform to the Apostolic Chairs (l. c. p. 732). This form of expression is all the more remarkable since the Roman Bishops of the fifth century spoke, as a rule, as if the designation sedes apostolica belonged peculiarly to their Chair. But there now grew up, in consequence of 223the Metropolitan and Patriarchate form of government, a new aristocracy among the Bishops, which received its importance from the size and influence of the episcopal cities. Rome, Alexandria—the founding of whose Church by Mark was undisputed about A.D. 300—and Antioch were not affected by the rivalry involved in this new principle; for in these cases the special connection with the Apostles coincided with the greatness of the city. But the political factor prevailed so strongly that the Chairs of Corinth, Thessalonica, etc., and finally, even that of Ephesus,460460At the transition from the fourth to the fifth century; see Hefele II., pp. 77 ff., 495 f., 528 ff. lost all peculiar prestige—only that of Jerusalem, in spite of the political insignificance of the city, was ranked with those more distinguished461461See the 7th Canon of Nicæa, and in addition, Hefele’s details, Vol. I., p. 403 f.; II., p. 213, Jerusalem was first raised to a Patriarchate at Chalcedon, see Hefele II., pp. 477, 502. Jerusalem became once more the ‘holy city’ in the fourth century; see Epiphanius and others.—but Constantinople was added to the list of the outstanding episcopates. In the East this was frankly justified by the political position of the city;462462See the 3rd Canon of Constantinople, Hefele, II., p. 17 f. and the 28th of Chalcedon, Hefele, II., p. 527 f.; τῷ θρόνῳ τῆς πρεσβυτέρας Ῥώμης διὰ τὸ βασιλεύειν τὴν πόλιν ἐκείνην, οἱ πατέρες εἰκότως ἀποδεδώκασι τὰ πρεσβεῖα, καὶ τῷ αὐτῷ σκοπῷ κινούμενοι οἱ ἑκατὸν πεντήκοντα θεοφιλέστατοι ἐπίσκοποι τὰ ἴσα πρεσβεῖα ἀπένειμαν τῷ τῆς νέας Ῥώμης ἁγιωτάτῳ θρόνῳ, εὐλόγως κρίναντες, τὴν βασιλείᾳ καὶ συγκλήτῳ τιμηθεῖσαν πόλιν καὶ τῶν ἴσων ἀπολαύουσαν πρεσβείων τῇ πρεσβυτέρᾳ βασιλίδι Ῥώμῃ. καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἐκκλησιαστικοῖς, ὡς ἐκείνην, μεγαλύνεσθαι πράγμασι, δευτέραν μετ᾽ ἐκείνην ὑπάρχουσαν. Constantinople was factitiously promoted to the place of Ephesus by reason of this unexampled act of legitimation. At the Robber Synod, nevertheless, it still held the fifth place. As regards the historical interpretation of the sixth Canon of Nicæa and the third of Constantinople, I agree substantially with the excellent arguments of Kattenbusch (l. c. I., p. 81 ff.); only it must be still more strongly emphasised that the Canons of A.D. 381 bore a clearly marked hostility to Alexandria. Even then it was considered necessary to suppress the authority of the Alexandrian Church, which was on the point of developing into the premier Church of the East. but this justification was so far insufficient as the chair, by its co-ordination with the Apostolic sees, participated in the attributes 224which the latter possessed in virtue of their apostolic character.463463An energetic protest was admittedly raised, especially by Leo I. and his successors. Leo at the same time also advocated the rights of the Apostolic Churches in general (Ep. 106). We cannot here follow out the controversy, although it reflects the revivification of the Byzantine Church and State, and the attitude of the Roman Bishops, which was purely ecclesiastical, though it did rest on fictions: see Hefele II., pp. 408, 539 ff., 549 ff., and Sohm l. c. I., pp. 377-440. It was not until the fourth Lateran Synod (Can. 5), when a Latin Patriachate existed at Constantinople (1215), that Rome recognised the 28th Canon of Chalcedon. Such attributes continued to be ascribed to those chairs without it being stated, however, in what they really consisted. They were nothing tangible, and yet they were held to exist.464464Although all Bishops were held to be successors of the Apostles, yet Leo I. singles out very distinctly those who had inherited the chairs of the Apostles; see his letter to the Emperor Marcian (Ep. 104). But even in the view of Orientals they belonged in a preëminent degree to Rome. The works of the only western author before Jerome who was also read in the East—i.e., Cyprian—could not fail to heighten the prestige of Rome.465465Not only Eusebius, but also Theodore of Mopsuestia had read Cyprian’s Epistles. At the Council of Ephesus evidence taken from him was read; see Vincent, Commonit. 42. Of the Westerns, after Cyprian, Ambrose was especially esteemed in the East. Augustine also possessed a certain authority. But that was already great enough in itself. As the ancient capital of the Empire, as the city of the two chief Apostles, of the Cathedra Petri, as the only apostolic community of the West, that which had done more for the whole Church than any other, Rome even in the East enjoyed a unique prestige.466466See Vol. II., p. 149 f. But as early as the fourth century, and certainly from the fifth onwards, Rome. meant the Roman Bishop, with whose spiritual dignity were fused the memories of the ancient city that had ruled the world. These memories overhung the place, after the Emperor had left, and the most of them clung to the Bishop. In the momentous Arian conflict the great Eastern sees, except Alexandria, became compromised or dishonoured; the orthodox Orientals sought and found their support in Rome.467467On the authority of the Roman Bishop in the fourth century, see Hauck, Der römische Bischop in 4 Jahrh., 1881; Rade, Damasus, 1881; Langen, Gesch. der römischen Kirche, 2 Vol., 1881, 1885; Sohm, l. c. In what follows we only discuss Rome’s prestige in the East. Even Hefele (l. c. I., p. 8) admits that the first eight Synods were not appointed and convoked by the Roman Bishops. His arguments as to the presidency at the Synods are, however, biassed (pp. 29-44). It was at Chalcedon that the legates of the Roman Bishop first occupied a special position. The sixth Canon of Nicæa, when correctly interpreted, gives no preference to Rome, but refers merely to the fact that it was the ecclesiastical metropolis for the Churches of several provinces. It is credible that Julius I. uttered the principle (Socrates H. E. II. 17): μὴ δεῖν παρὰ γνώμην τοῦ ἐπισκόπου Ῥώμης κανονίζειν τὰς ἐκκλησίας. The peculiar authority of the Roman Chair showed itself in the fourth century in the following facts. First, Constantine transferred to the Roman Bishop the duty of presiding over the commission to examine the case of the Donatists. Secondly, the oppressed adherents of the Nicene Symbol in the East turned to him for protection (see even Langen, l. c. I., p. 425 f.). Thirdly, we have the request of the Eusebians that Julius should decide the dogmatic question; it is true that very soon—when they foresaw their defeat in Rome—they changed their tone. They still conceded a peculiar dignity to Rome; it does not seem to me possible to translate φιλοτιμίαν (Sozom. III. 8) with Langen by “ambition.” Yet they pointed out that Rome had received its Christianity from the East, and that it was as little entitled to review the decision of a dogmatic question given in the East, as the Oriental Bishops would have been to take up the Novatian affair after Rome had spoken. (The letter is to be reconstructed from Sozom. III. 8, and Athanas. apolog. c. Arian. 25-35.) Fourthly, we have evidence of Rome’s position also in Julius’ epistle to the Orientals (Athanas. l. c.); fifthly, in Canons 3 and 5 of the Synod of Sardica; and sixthly, in the request of the Antiochenes, or Jerome, to Damasus, for a decision in the Antiochene schism (Ep. 16). The Emperor 225in Constantinople who brought the great controversy to an end was a Western, full of veneration for Rome. The promotion which he afterwards assigned to Constantinople was no equivalent—at first, at least,—for the advance in political power secured to Rome by the Arian controversy.468468Damasus’ policy did not at once succeed in raising the prestige of the Roman Chair in the East (see Rade, l. c., p, 137 f.), but the manner in which Theodosius I. at first decided the Arian controversy there, did. “Cunctos populos, quos clementiæ nostræ regit temperamentum, in tali volumus religione versari, quam divinum Petrum atostolum tradidisse Romanis religio usque ad nunc ab ipso insinuata declarat,” etc. Besides, the new style adopted by Damasus in his letter to the Oriental Bishops (Theodoret H. E. V. 10) was not without effect in the East. He calls them my “sons” instead of my “brethren,” and he no longer speaks, like other Bishops, as commissioned by the Synod—though the question at issue was a decision of the Synod—or as representing the Western Church. On the contrary, he addresses them in virtue of the authority of his “Apostolic Chair,” which he connects solely with Peter and without any reference to Paul. “The first rank is due to the Holy Church, in which the Holy Apostle had his seat, and taught how we should fitly guide the helm which we have undertaken to control.” Rade has, besides, here rightly conjectured (p. 136) that Jerome had a share in this letter, which did a great deal to raise the influence of the Roman Chair in the East. The role of 226observer and arbiter, which the Roman Bishop was able to play in the Christological controversies, made it possible for him to maintain for a time the lofty position he had won.469469From and after Siricius I., the Roman Bishops maintained that it was their province to care for all Churches (Constant., p. 659. Ep. 6, ch. 1). On the relation of Leo I. to the East, and to the fourth Council, see Langen, l. c. II., pp. 10 f., 50 ff. The phrase “our fatherly solicitude” occurs frequently even in the letters of his predecessors to the East. The appeal of Cyril to Coelestine is very important in its bearing on the dignity of the Roman Chair; compare the language of the Roman legate at the Council of Ephesus (Mansi III., p. 1279 sq.). (On the aspirations of the Alexandrian Bishops, Athanasius, Peter, etc., and the successful opposition to them by Leo, see chap. IX.) There can be no doubt that even in the eyes of the Orientals there attached to the Roman Bishop a special something, which was wanting to all the rest, a nimbus which conferred upon him a peculiar authority.470470In the work “Der Papst und das Concil von Janus” (1869), p. 93, we find this passage. “In the writings of the doctors of the Greek Church, Eusebius, Athanasius, Basil the Great, the two Gregorys, and Epiphanius, not a word is to be found of peculiar prerogatives being assigned to a Roman Bishop. Chrysostom, the most prolific of the Greek Fathers, is absolutely silent on the point, and so also are the two Cyrils. Basil (Opp. ed. Bened. III. 301, Ep. 239 and 214) has expressed his contempt for the writings of the Popes in the strongest terms [in the affairs of Marcellus): ‘these proud and conceited westerns, who would only fortify heresy’; even if their letters descended from heaven, he would not accept them.” It is true that, seeing the now wide-spread view of the apostolic succession of all Bishops, the prestige of the Roman Bishop is hardly perceptible in the East at the beginning of the fourth century, and that he had to fight, i.e., to wrest for himself the position which had formerly belonged to the Roman Church. Therefore the testimonies to a special dignity being possessed by the Roman Bishops in the East in the fourth century are in fact comparatively scanty, But they are not wanting—see, e.g., Greg. Naz., Carmen de vita sua T. II., p. 9, and Chrysostom, Ep. ad Innocent I.—and from A.D. 380 this dignity bulked more largely in the eyes of Orientals, though indeed, without receiving a definite and fixed meaning. Very characteristic in this respect are the Church Histories of Socrates and Sozomen, who on this point are free from partiality, and reflect the universal opinion. But it does not occur to them to doubt that the Roman Bishop had a special authority and a unique relation to the whole Church (see, e.g., Socrat. II. 8, 15, 17; Soz. III. 8; also Theodoret’s letter to Leo I.). Instructive here are the collections of Leo Allatius and in the Innsbrucker Theol. Ztschr., 1877, p. 662 f.; see also three treatises by the Abbé Martin: “Saint Pierre, sa venue et son martyre à Rome,” in the Rev. des quest. historiq., 1873 (principally from oriental sources); “S. Pierre et S. Paul dans l’église Nestorienne,” Paris, 1875; “S. Pierre et le Rationalisme devant les églises orientales,” Amiens, 1876. These discussions, though in part uncritical, are very full of matter. Matt. XVI. 18, John XXI. 18, were undoubtedly never referred in the East to the primacy of Rome (see Janus, p. 97). Still in any case it is saying too little—even for the period about the year A.D. 380—to remark as Rade does (l. c., p. 137). To the Orientals the Bishop of Rome was like the rest, only, thanks to his situation, the natural representative of the Churches of the western half of the Empire, acting, as it were, as correspondent in the name of the Christians of the West. Yet this nimbus was not sufficiently 227bright and luminous to bestow upon its possessor an unimpeachable authority; it was rather so nebulous that it was possible to disregard it without running counter to the spirit of the universal Church. And it gradually became fainter. The more completely, after the middle of the fifth century, the internal relations of West and East ceased, and the more strongly the distinctively Byzantine spirit could assert itself in the diminished Church of the East, so the more rapidly declined the prestige of the Roman Bishop. Constantinople put an end to it in its own midst, when the Roman Bishop set up claims which in the fourth and fifth centuries had been palliated by actual circumstances and the necessities of the time, but which 500 years afterwards could not fail to be felt as the intrusion of an alien spirit.471471The prestige of the Roman Bishop in the East was accordingly on the increase from the beginning of the fourth till the middle of the fifth century, remained at its height till about the time of Justinian, when, however, it lost its practical importance, and then, apart from the events about A.D. 680 and the next decades, slowly declined, yet without ever being wholly destroyed. The Roman Chair was now held to be schismatic; if not that, it would still have been the first. Undoubtedly there was a strong inclination in later times to oppose it by advancing the see of Jerusalem, the seat of James, but it was not possible to gain any confidence in the claim of the latter to the first place. See on the criticism of the papacy by the Greeks, Pichler, Gesch. der kirchl. Trennung zwischen Or. u. Occ., 1864; Hergenröther, Photius, 3 Vols. 1867 ff.; Gass, Symbolik, p. 216 ff.; Kattenbusch, l. c., pp. 79-124. It was a settled doctrine of the Church in the East, that the Church has no visible head. Yet, in spite of this, the idea of the unity of the Church still held its ground for a long time. After Synods ceased to be held, the influence of the great Patriarchates throughout the whole Church in the East increased472472The terms τυραννίς and δυναστεία are first used, so far as I know, in reference to Antioch, i.e., against Paul of Samos. (Eus. H. E. VII. 30), after Origen had already complained of the ambition of the Great Bishops. Socrates has expressed himself very frankly about this matter.—though, indeed, the orthodox Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, had lost their real importance; and theoretically the dignity of the 228Roman Bishop as primus inter pares, though not unassailed, was embraced in that of the great Eastern sees. But it was never made clear how far the Patriarchs in their collective capacity really constituted an authority in dogma: there is not even an explicit statement that they did form such an authority. There was an uncertainty of opinion as to their position alongside of and in the Œcumenical Synods.473473The importance of the four Patriarchs—of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem—was celebrated here and there in lofty expressions; it was especially prominent in the later Symbols, so-called, of the Greek Church (see Gass, l. c., p. 222 f.). Their presence or that of their representative was even held to be absolutely necessary at an Œcumenical Synod; but not only was the extent of their authority never defined, but the essential equality of all Bishops was steadily maintained in the East; and the latest development of the Greek Church, i.e., its disruption into perfectly independent National Churches, has thrown overboard the whole ‘Constitution of the Patriarchate’, which in all ages was more a matter of assertion than reality. The Bishop of Alexandria, undoubtedly, nearly succeeded in becoming in the fifth century supreme Bishop of the East, but Leo and Pulcheria overthrew him. Kattenbusch (l. c. p. 357 ff.) furnishes further details as to the “five Patriarchs as symbolical figures.” Has the Patriarchate of Rome come to an end in the view of the Greek Church? In the abstract, no; in the concrete, yes. Here also there was an absence of fixed definitions. The Church as it is, with its graduated orders, crowned by the Patriarchs, constituted the tradition and the authority. But the authority of no factor in this system possessed, when isolated, any significance whatever. It might not assert itself at the expense of the rest. Its dignity was founded on its being a part of antiquity.

As to II. This at once involves the answer to the second question (see p. 214). The assumption that the Councils were inspired did not imply any power on their part to deliver new revelations to the Church. On the contrary, they proved their peculiar possession of the Holy Spirit by their unfailing testimony to the ancient doctrinal tradition.474474See above, p. 215 f. Augustine gives utterance to a very remarkable statement in De bapt. c. Donat. II., 4, 5: “Quomodo potuit ista res (the baptism by heretics), tantis altercationum nebulis involuta, ad plenarii concilii luculentam illustrationem confirmationemque perduci, nisi primo diutius per orbis terrarum regiones multis hinc atque hinc disputationibus et collationibus episcoporum pertractata constaret?” Accordingly, only a matter which had already become ripe for decision through frequent deliberations could be submitted to and decided by a Council. But in that case the new formulas created by the Councils could not but cause 229offence. How far they did is shown by the history of the dogmatic controversies. Above all, the unbiblical catch-word ‘consubstantial’ (Ὁμοούσιος), for a time directly rejected by the Church, only won acceptance under great difficulties, even among those who had little or no objection to the cause it represented. These formulas had to be proved in some way or other to have been anciently held. For Ὁμοούσιος it was of the highest importance that a Council had made it an accomplished fact. As the word gradually made good its ground, the Council lay far enough in the past to be itself regarded as belonging to antiquity. The evidence was got by reasoning in a circle; the authority of the Council supported the word which was anything but old, but the authority of any Council was dependent on its rejection of all innovations. Numerous passages in the Fathers furnished material in confirmation of the later formulas—which were never, so far as I know, bluntly deduced from unwritten tradition (παράδοσις ἄγραφος); but a strong preference was shown for understanding them as a repetition of the Nicene Symbol, the explication being disregarded, just as Irenæus in his time had passed off the Symbol unfolded in an antignostic sense, the regula fidei, for the Symbol itself, i.e., for the ancient repository of the truth. In spite of all novelties, it was thus contended that novelties were not forthcoming in the Church. Nay, even the power of the Councils to unfold doctrines authoritatively was not plainly asserted in the East; on the other hand, a Western, Vincentius of Lerinum, did maintain it, and essayed to furnish a theory on the subject. After the uncertainties of the Greeks over the conception of tradition, we really breathe freely when we study the attempt of this man to introduce light and certainty into the question. However, even in the East, the younger generation now and then gave the older Fathers the benefit of looking at their words as having been uttered at a time when dogma was not yet explained, or sharply formulated. Strictly speaking, this expedient was not tenable on Greek ground. Only a very sparing use therefore was made of it there,475475The more common way of putting it in the East was that the writer in question had failed in the necessary “Akribeia” (exactness), i.e., he could, and should, have done it better (see, above all, the views of Photius). But it was rarely admitted that the Church at the time referred to did not yet possess complete akribeia in dogma. But we have further to notice here that a distinction was still drawn both in East and West between questions of faith, in the strict sense of the term, and theological doctrines, and that unity in the former was alone demanded. But as this distinction was in itself obscure, since in fact questions of faith had been transformed into theological and scientific ones, so in the East it became more and more restricted, though it was never wholly effaced. Augustine, besides, still laid great stress on this distinction, and accepted a whole group of theological doctrines in which differences did not endanger unity; the passages are given in Reuter, Ztschr. f. K.-Gesch. V., p. 363 ff. But if “faith” is itself a doctrine, where does it cease and the doctrine begin? Besides the excuse of want of accuracy, which, indeed, involves censure, that ἁπλούστερον γεγραφέναι was asserted. It involved no fault. Thus Athanasius writes (De Synod. 45) of the Fathers who in A.D. 268 rejected the term Ὁμοούσιος at Antioch: περὶ τῆς τοῦ υἱοῦ θεότητος ἁπλούστερον γράφοντες οὐ κατεγένοντο περὶ τῆς τοῦ ὁμουσίου ἀκρίβειας. Precisely in the same way the Homoiousians at Nice excused the Nicene Fathers. Unique, so far as I know, is the statement of Gregory of Naz. (Orat. 31. 28), which is only explicable from the still wholly confused state of the doctrine of the Holy Ghost in his time. “As the O. T. declared the Father clearly, but the Son more vaguely, so the N. T. has revealed the Son, but only suggested the divinity of the Spirit” [compare the contentions of the Montanists]. “Now, however, the Spirit reigns among us, and makes himself more clearly known to us; for it was not advisable to proclaim the divinity of the Son, so long as that of the Father was not recognised, or to impose upon the former—if we may use such a bold expression—that of the Spirit, while it (viz., the divinity of the Son) was not accepted.” We may in this passage study the distinction between Gregory the theologian and Athanasius. while the 230Catholic West employs it to a great extent up to the present day.476476   So, above all, Augustine, who excused Cyprian in this way, and further, set up the general rule that as long as no unequivocal decisions had been given in a question, the bond of unity was to be maintained among the dissentient Bishops (De bapt. c. Donat. II. 4, 5). Augustine thus admitted that ecclesiastical tradition did not at every moment solve all questions pending in the Church. The Donatist and Pelagian controversy roused Western theologians to reflect on tradition. One fruit of this reflection was the Commonitorium of Vincentius of Lerinum, unique, because it deals professedly with the question of tradition. The arguments are decisive of Western views, but the book did not extend its influence into the East; there the ideas about tradition remained characteristically indefinite. A short analysis of the Commonitorium is necessary. Let it be noticed that it is ultimately aimed at Augustine’s doctrine of grace and predestination, but that a large part of the rules are taken from that theologian.
   After a preface, in which Vincentius remarks that he is only sketching out what he had received from the past, he sets side by side the two foundations of the faith, the divine law (Holy Scripture) and the tradition of the Catholic Church (1). The former is sufficient by itself, but it requires the latter for its correct explanation (2). The latter embraces what had been believed everywhere, at all times, and by all—or, at least, by almost all priests and doctors (3). Accordingly, the following criteria were to be applied: (a) When a section of the Church renounced the communion of the Catholic faith, the Christian followed the great communion; (b) when a heresy threatened danger to the whole Church, he held by antiquity, “which, certainly, could not now be seduced”; (c) when he came upon heresy in antiquity itself, in a few men, or in a city or province, he followed the decision of a General Council; (d) if no such Council had spoken, he examined and compared the orthodox doctors and retained what—not two, or three—but all, had alike taught clearly, frequently, and persistently, in one and the same sense (4). These rules are illustrated by reference to the dangers, which had threatened the Church from Donatism, Arianism, and the Anabaptists (5-10). At this point, however, it is conceded that orthodox teachers might have and had fallen into error on one point; nevertheless they were blessed, but hell received the Epigoni, who, in order to start a heresy, took hold of the writings of one or other of the ancients (as the Donatists did of Cyprian’s) which were composed in obscure language, and which, owing to the obscurity prevailing in them, seemed to coincide with their teaching, so that the views brought forward by these heretics bore not to have been maintained for the first time and exclusively by them. Such people were like Ham in uncovering the shame of their father (11). After this excursus the author adduces proofs from Paul Epistles, that changes in the creed, in short, any kind of innovation, constituted the worst evil (12-14). In order to prove and tempt his own, God had permitted teachers belonging to the Church, and therefore not foisted in from without, to essay the setting up of new tenets in the Church; examples are taken from Nestorius, Photinus, and Apollinaris; their heresy is described, and contrasted with the true faith (15-22). But the greatest temptation of the Church was due to the innovations of Origen, who was so famous (23), and of the no less distinguished Tertullian (24). Here follows a detailed practical application; those who have been seduced by the great heretics should unlearn to their salvation, what they have learned to their destruction; they must apprehend as much of the doctrine of the Church as can be grasped by the mind, and believe what they cannot understand; all novelty is wickedness and folly; in making innovations ignorance cloaks itself under the ‘scientific spirit’, imbecility under ‘enlightenment’, darkness under ‘light’. The pure science of the worship of God is only given in the Catholic, ancient, and harmonious tradition (25-27). Antiquity is really the thorough-going criterion of the truth.

   This is followed by the second part, which contains the most original matter. It opens with the question whether there is any progress in the Church of Christ in religion. This is answered in the affirmative; the progress is ‘very great’; but it consists in deepening, not in altering. It is organic growth of knowledge both on the part of individuals and the Church (28). In order to illustrate this, use is made figuratively of the growth of the child and plants; religion is fortified with years, expanded with time, and developed more subtly with age; yet everything remains really what it was, no innovation takes place, for a single novelty would destroy everything (29-31). The Church is intent only on clearness, light, a more subtle differentiation and invigoration of doctrine. What then did it ever seek to attain by the decrees of Councils, except that simple belief should become more definite, supine preaching be rendered more urgent, and that a wholly indolent conduct of affairs should give place to a correspondingly anxious performance of duty? “Hoc inquam semper neque quidquam præterea, hæreticorum novitatibus excitata [that then is admitted], conciliorum suorum decretis catholica perfecit ecclesia, nisi ut quod prius a majoribus sola traditione susceperat, hoc deinde posteris etiam per scripturæ chirographum consignaret, magnam rerum summam paucis litteris comprehendendo et plerumque propter intelligentiæ lucem non novum fidei sensum novæ appellationis proprietate signando” (32). As compared with this admission, the author attacks all the more vigorously the ‘wicked verbal innovations’ practised by all heretics (33, 34). But it was still more necessary to be on one’s guard when heretics appealed to Scripture—as e.g., the Arians did to predicates taken from the Bible against the term Ὁμοούσιος—for they were the real wolves in sheeps’ clothing, sons of the devil, for the devil also quoted the Bible (35-37). All that was necessary to meet their exposition and obtain the correct sense, was simply to apply the criteria given in ch. 4. (38). The last of these was the search for the concordant views of many and great teachers, when a Council had not yet decided the question concerned. Then follows a particular instruction which betrays very clearly the uncertainty of that citerion. It was to be applied, not to every unimportant question, but only, at least for the most part only, in the case of the rule of faith; it was, further, only to be used when heresies had just arisen, “before they had time to falsify the standards of the ancient creed, before they could by a wider diffusion of the poison adulterate the writings of the forefathers. Heresies already circulated and deeply rooted were not to be attacked in this way, because in the long lapse of time they had had sufficient opportunity to purloin the truth” (!!). Christians must try to refute these ancient heresies by the authority of Scripture alone—accordingly the principle of tradition is declared insolvent; or they must simply be avoided as having been already condemned. But even the principle of the consensus of the teachers is to be used with the greatest caution; it is strictly guarded; it is only of weight when, as it were, a whole Council of doctors can be cited (39). But in that case no one is entitled to disregard it, for the ancient doctors are the ‘prophets and teachers’ ranked by Paul next to the Apostles, and described by him as presented to the Church by God. He who despises them despises God. We must cling to the agreement of the holy Churches, which are holy because they continue in the communion of the faith (40).

   In the so-called second Commonitorium (ch. 41-43) there is first a recapitulation in which the sufficiency of Scripture as source of truth is once more emphasised. It is then shown that, at the Council of Ephesus held three years before, no novelty was proposed, but decisions were based on the sayings of the Fathers. The Fathers are named singly whose works were publicly read there (42). Vincentius therefore considered that the authority of the Council consisted wholly in its strict adherence to the testimony of tradition. In the last chapter statements follow to the same effect by the two last Roman Bishops. The authority of the Roman Chair is appended ‘that nothing may seem wanting to completeness’. Perhaps the most notable feature in the whole of Vincentius’ exposition is that the Bishops as such—apart from the Council—play absolutely no part, and that, in particular, no reference is made to their Apostolic succession as sharing in the proof of doctrine. The ancient “teachers” are the court of appeal. We see that Cyprian’s influence was not so far-reaching, even in the West, as one should have supposed. The proof of tradition was not really based on the hierarchy.

The conception of tradition is accordingly quite obscure. The hierarchical element does not in theory play the leading 231part in it. The apostolical succession has in theory had no such thorough-going importance even in the West for the proof of tradition as one would expect. After the time of the Councils the authority of the Bishops as bearers of tradition was wholly 232spent on that proof. Yet even that is perhaps saying too much. Everything was really obscure. So far, however, as the Greek Church has not changed since John of Damascus, the Greek has at present a perfectly definite sense of the foundation of religion. 233Besides Holy Scripture, tradition is the source of knowledge of, the authority for, the truth; and tradition is the Church itself, not, as in the West, governed by Rome, as a sovereign, living power, but in its immovable, thousand-year-old doctrines and orders. Even Scripture is to be explained by the tradition which transmits it, although Scripture is itself to some extent the caput et origo traditionis. But tradition still really presents itself in two forms as it did among the earliest Alexandrians: there is a perfectly official form—now that of the Councils, and one more profound and indefinite—corresponding to the ‘scientific tradition’ (παράδοσις γνωστική) of the ancient Alexandrians.

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