« Joannes Talaia, bp. of Nola Joannes, bishop of Antioch Joannes Silentiarius, bp. of Colonia »

Joannes, bishop of Antioch

Joannes (31), bp. of Antioch (429–448). Our knowledge of him commences with his election as successor to Theodotus in the see of Antioch. In 429 the bishops of the East, according to the aged Acacius of Beroea, congratulated themselves on having such a leader (Labbe, iii. 386); but the troubles which rendered his episcopate so unhappily famous began immediately to shew themselves. His old companion and fellow-townsman Nestorius had just been appointed to the see of Constantinople, and had inaugurated his episcopate with a sermon in the metropolitan church repudiating the term "Mother 554of God," θεοτόκος. Celestine, the Roman pontiff, summoned a synod of Western bishops in Aug. 430, which unanimously condemned the tenets of Nestorius, and the name of John of Antioch appears in the controversy. The support of the Eastern prelates, of whom the patriarch of Antioch was chief, being of great importance, Celestine wrote to John, Juvenal of Jerusalem, Rufus of Thessalonica, and Flavian of Philippi, informing them of the decree passed against Nestorius (Baluz. p. 438, c. xv.; Labbe, iii. 376). At the same time Cyril, patriarch of Alexandria, wrote to John calling upon him, on pain of being separated from the communion of the West, to accept Celestine's decision and unite with him in defending the faith against Nestorius (Baluz. p. 442, c. xviii.; Labbe, iii. 379). Such a declaration of open hostility against an old friend, of whose virtual orthodoxy he was convinced, was very distasteful to John. He dispatched a letter full of Christian persuasiveness, by the count Irenaeus, to Nestorius, in his own name, and that of his brother-bishops Archelaus, Apringius, Theodoret, Heliades, Melchius, and the newly appointed bp. of Laodicea, Macarius, entreating him not to plunge the church into discord on account of a word to which the Christian ear had become accustomed, and which was capable of being interpreted in his own sense. He enlarged on the danger of schism, warning Nestorius that the East, Egypt, and Macedonia were about to separate from him, and exhorted him to follow the example of Theodorus of Mopsuestia in retracting words which had given pain to the orthodox, since he really held the orthodox faith on these points (Baluz. p. 445, c. xxi.; Labbe, iii. 390 seq.). John wrote also to count Irenaeus, Musaeus bp. of Antarada, and Helladius bp. of Tarsus, who were then at Constantinople, hoping to avail himself of their influence with Nestorius (Baluz. p. 688). Nestorius's reply indicated no intention of following John's counsels. He declared himself orthodox in the truest sense. He had no rooted objection to the term θεοτόκος, but thought it unsafe, because accepted by some in an Arian or Apollinarian sense. He preferred Χριστοτόκος, as a middle term between it and ἀνθρωποτόκος. He proposed to defer the discussion to the general council which he hoped for (ib. p. 688).

The divergence of the Antiochene and Alexandrian schools of thought in their way of regarding the mystery of the Incarnation lay at the root of this controversy about the term, and it was brought into open manifestation by the publication of Cyril's twelve "anathematisms" on the teaching of Nestorius. Nestorius, on receiving these fulminations at the end of 430, at once sent copies of them to John, together with his two sermons of Dec. 13 and 14, in which he professed to have acknowledged Mary as the "Mother of God" (ib. p. 691, c. iv.). John declared himself horror-stricken at the Apollinarian heresy which characterized Cyril's articles. He made them known far and wide, in Cappadocia, Galatia, and through the East generally, accompanying them with earnest appeals to the bishops and the orthodox everywhere to openly repudiate the grave errors they contained (ib. p. 838, No. xxxvi. Ep. Alexandri Episc.). His letter to Firmus is preserved (Baluz. p. 691, c. iv.), in which he expresses abhorrence of the "capitula," which he considers so unlike Cyril both in style and doctrine that he cannot believe they are his, and calls upon Firmus, if they reach Pontus, to get them abjured by the bishops of the province, without naming the supposed author. He rejoices over Nestorius's public acceptance of the test-word, in the two sermons he has sent him, which has quieted the storm and restored tranquillity to the church of Constantinople. John was also careful to have Cyril's heretical formularies refuted by able theologians. [ANDREAS SAMOSATENSIS; THEODORET.]

The breach between the two patriarchs was complete. Each denounced the other as heretical. A larger arena was supplied by the general council summoned by Theodosius to meet at Ephesus at Pentecost, 431. John's arrival having been delayed more than a fortnight beyond the time fixed for the opening of the council, he wrote that Antioch was 42 days' journey from Ephesus, at the fastest. He had been travelling without interruption for 30 days; he was now within five or six stages of Ephesus. If Cyril would condescend to wait a little longer, he hoped in a very few days to arrive (ib. p. 451, c. xxiii.). Cyril would not delay. On Mon. June 22, 431, 198 bishops met in the church of St. Mary the Virgin, and in one day Nestorius was tried, condemned, sentenced, deposed, and excommunicated. Five days later, Sat. June 27, John arrived with 14 bishops. His reasons for delay were quite sufficient. His patriarchate was a very extensive one. His attendant bishops could not leave their churches before the octave of Easter, Apr. 26. The distances some of them had to travel did not allow them to reach Antioch before May 10. John's departure had been delayed by a famine at Antioch and consequent outbreaks of the populace; their progress was impeded by floods (Labbe, iii. 602); the transport broke down; many of the bishops were aged men, unfit for rapid travelling. There was nothing to support Cyril's accusation that John's delay was intentional.

Cyril sent a deputation of bishops, and ecclesiastics to welcome John, apprise him in the name of the council of the deposition of Nestorius and that he must no longer regard him as a bishop (ib. iii. 761). John, who had already heard from count Irenaeus of the hasty decision of the council, refused to admit the deputation, and they complained that they were rudely treated by the guard whom Irenaeus had sent to do honour to and protect the Eastern bishops. The deputation were compelled to wait for some hours at the door of the house where John took up his quarters, exposed to the insults of the soldiers and the attendants of the Orientals (ib. 593, 764) while a rival council was being held within. The bishops who sided with John had hastened to his lodgings, where, "before they had shaken the dust off their feet, or taken off their cloaks" (Cyril. Ep. ad Colest. Labbe, iii. 663), the small synod—the "conciliabulum" their enemies tauntingly called it—of 43 bishops, passed a sentence of deposition on 555Cyril and Memnon, bp. of Ephesus, and of excommunication on all the other prelates of the council, until they should have condemned Cyril's "capitula," which they declared tainted not only with Apollinarian, but with Arian and Eunomian heresy (ib. 596, 637, 657, 664 passim). The sentences of excommunication and deposition were posted up in the city. There John vouchsafed an audience to the deputies of the other council. They communicated its decrees as to Nestorius, but received, they asserted, no reply but insults and blows (ib. 764). Returning to Cyril they formally complained of John's treatment, of which they shewed marks on their persons. The council immediately declared John separated from their communion until he explained this conduct.

John's attempts to reduce Cyril and his adherents to submission by his own authority proved fruitless, and he had recourse to the emperor and the ecclesiastical power at Constantinople. Several letters were written to Theodosius, to the empresses Pulcheria and Eudocia, the clergy, the senate, and the people of that city (Labbe, iii. 601–609; Liberat. c. vi.) to explain the tardiness of John's arrival and to justify the sentence pronounced on Cyril, Memnon, and the other bishops. Theodosius wrote to the council, declaring their decisions null (Labbe, iii. 704). The letter reached Ephesus June 29. John and his friends welcomed it with benedictions, assuring the emperor that they had acted from pure zeal for the faith which was imperilled by the Apollinarianism of Cyril's "anathematisms." Relying on imperial favour, John strove in vain to persuade the Ephesians to demand a new bishop in the place of Memnon. Meantime, the legates of Celestine had arrived from Rome, and the council, strengthened by their presence and the approbation of the bp. of Rome, proceeded, July 16, to summon John before them. Their deputation was informed that John could hold no intercourse with excommunicated persons (ib. 640). On this the council declared null all the acts of John's "conciliabulum," and, on his persisting, separated him and the bishops who had joined him from the communion of the church, pronounced them disqualified for all episcopal functions, and published their decree openly (ib. 302).

Two counter-deputations from the opposite parties presented themselves to Theodosius in the first week of September at Chalcedon. John himself did not shrink from an open defence of the orthodoxy of Nestorius, declaring his deposition illegal and exposing the heresy of Cyril's anathematisms (Baluz. pp. 837, 839). To support their evidently failing cause, John and his fellow-deputies wrote to some leading prelates of the West, the bps. of Milan, Aquileia, and Ravenna, and Rufus of Thessalonica, laying before them in earnest terms the heretical character of Cyril's doctrines (Theod. Ep. 112; Labbe, iii. 736), but apparently without favourable result. The victory was substantially with the Cyrillian party. After six audiences the emperor, weary of the fruitless strife, declared his final resolve. Nestorius, generally abandoned by his supporters, was permitted to retire to his former monastery of St. Euprepius at Antioch. Maximian, a presbyter of Constantinople, in defiance of the protest of John and his party, was consecrated (Oct. 25) bp. of the imperial see in his room. Memnon and Cyril were reinstated: the former to remain at Ephesus as bishop; Cyril and the other bishops to return home. John and the Orientals were only not formally condemned because the dogmatic question had not been discussed. Before he retired vanquished, John delivered a final remonstrance. The churches of Chalcedon were closed against the Oriental bishops, but they had obtained a spacious hall for public worship and preaching. Large crowds assembled to listen to the powerful sermons of Theodoret and the milder exhortations of John. The mortification with which John left Chalcedon was deepened by the events of his homeward journey. At Ancyra he found that letters from its bp. Theodotus, who was one of the eight deputies of the council, as well as from Firmus of Caesarea, and Maximian the newly appointed bp. of Constantinople, had commanded that he and his companions should be regarded as excommunicate.

From Ancyra John proceeded to Tarsus. Here, in his own patriarchate, he immediately held a council, together with Alexander of Hierapolis and the other deputies, at which he confirmed the deposition of Cyril and his brother-commissioners (Baluz, 840, 843, 847) Theodoret and the others engaged never to consent to the deposition of Nestorius. On reaching Antioch, about the middle of Dec., John summoned a very numerously attended council of bishops, which pronounced a fresh sentence against Cyril and wrote to Theodosius, calling upon him to take measures for the general condemnation of the doctrines of Cyril, as contrary to the Nicene faith which they were resolved to maintain to the death (Socr. H. E. vii. 34; Liberat. c. vi.; Baluz. p. 741, c. xxxix.). Soon after his return to Antioch John, accompanied by six bishops, visited the venerable Acacius of Beroea, whose sympathy in the controversy had greatly strengthened and consoled him. The old man was deeply grieved to hear the untoward result of their proceedings.

The battle was now over and the victory remained with Cyril. His return to Alexandria was a triumphal progress (Labbe, iii. 105). But the victory had been purchased by a schism in the church. Alexandria and Antioch were two hostile camps. For three years a bitter strife was maintained. The issue, however, was never doubtful. John, alarmed for his own safety, soon began to show symptoms of yielding. The emperor, at the urgent demand of Celestine, had pronounced the banishment of Nestorius. John might not unreasonably fear a demand for his own deposition. It was time he should make it clear that he had no real sympathy with the errors of the heresiarch. The pertinacity with which Nestorius continued to promulgate the tenets which had proved so ruinous to the peace of the church irritated John. The newly elected bp. of Rome, Sixtus, who had warmly embraced Cyril's cause, in a letter addressed to the prelates of the East in the interests of reunion, A.D. 432, declared that John might be received again into the Catholic 556church, provided he repudiated all whom the council of Ephesus had deposed and proved by his acts that he really deserved the name of a Catholic bishop (Coteler. Mon. Eccl. Graec. i. 47). Cyril was disposed to limit his requirements to the condemnation of Nestorius and the recognition of Maximian. John summoned Alexander of Hierapolis, Andrew of Samosata, Theodoret, and probably others, to Antioch and held a conference to draw up terms of peace. It was agreed that if Cyril would reject his anathematisms they would restore him to communion. Propositions for union were dispatched by John to Cyril. John and his fellow-bishops next sought the intervention of Acacius of Beroea, who was universally venerated, in the hope that his influence might render Cyril more willing to accept the terms (Baluz. 756, c. liii.; Labbe, iii. 1114). Cyril, though naturally declining to retract his condemnation of Nestorius's tenets, opened the way for a reconciliation with John. John, eager to come to terms with his formidable foe, declared himself fully satisfied of Cyril's orthodoxy; his explanation had removed all the doubt his former language had raised (Labbe, iii. 757, 782). Paul, bp. of Emesa, was dispatched by John to Alexandria to confer with Cyril and bring about the much-desired restoration of communion (ib. 783). These events took place in Dec. 432 and Jan. 433. Cyril after some hesitation signed a confession of faith sent him by John, declaring in express terms "the union of the two natures without confusion in the One Christ, One Son, One Lord," and confessing "the Holy Virgin to be the Mother of God, because God the Word was incarnate and made man, and from His very conception united to Himself the temple taken from her" (Labbe, iii. 1094; Baluz. pp. 800, 804; Liberat. 8, p. 30), and gave Paul of Emesa an explanation of his anathematisms which Paul approved (Labbe, iii. 1090). Cyril then required acceptance of the deposition of Nestorius, recognition of Maximian, and acquiescence in the sentence passed by him on the four metropolitans deposed as Nestorians; terms acceded to by Paul. Each party was desirous of peace and disposed to concessions. Paul, placing in Cyril's hand a written consent to all his requirements, was admitted to communion and allowed to preach at the Feast of the Nativity (Cyril. Ep. 32, 40; Labbe, iii. 1095; Liberat. c. 8, p. 32). John, however, sent letters stating that neither he nor the other Oriental bishops could consent so hastily to the condemnation of Nestorius, from whose writings he gave extracts to prove their orthodoxy (Baluz. p. 908). Cyril and the court began. to weary of so much indecision, and, to bring matters to a point, a document drawn up by Cyril and Paul was sent for John to sign (Cyril, Epp. 40, 42), together with letters of communion to be given him if he consented. Fresh delays ensued, but at last, in Apr. 433, the act giving peace to the Christian world was signed and dispatched to Alexandria, where it was announced by Cyril in the cathedral on Apr. 23. John, in a letter to Cyril, stated that in signing this document he had no intention to derogate from the authority of the Nicene Creed, and expressly recognized Maximian as the lawful bp. of Constantinople in place of Nestorius, sometime bishop, but deposed for teaching which merited anathema. He also wrote a circular letter of communion addressed to pope Sixtus, Cyril and Maximian (Labbe, iii. 1087, 1090, 1094, 1154; Cyril, Ep. 41). The East and West were once more at one. Cyril testified his joy in the celebrated letter to John, commencing "Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad" (Labbe, iii. 1106–1111). John wrote to Theodosius thanking him for the peace which his efforts had procured, and begged him to render it universal by restoring the deposed bishops.

This accommodation was far from being satisfactory to the extreme members of either party. Isidore of Pelusium and other adherents of Cyril expressed a fear that he had made too large concessions; while John had given great offence to many of his warmest supporters, who accused him of truckling to powerful advocates of a hollow peace to secure his position as bishop. Theodoret refused to abandon Nestorius. Alexander of Hierapolis broke off communion with his patriarch John (Baluz. pp. 799, 832). During the next two years John sought to force the bishops of his patriarchate to accept the terms of peace. Theodoret's unwillingness to abandon Nestorius and rooted dislike to Cyril's articles raised a coldness between him and John which was much strengthened by an unwarrantable usurpation on John's part, who at the close of 433 or beginning of 434 had ordained bishops for Euphratesia. This aggression caused serious irritation among the bishops of the province, who, led by Theodoret, withdrew from communion with John. John unhappily continuing his acts of usurpation, the disaffection spread. Nine provinces subject to the patriarch of Antioch renounced communion with John, who had at length to request the imperial power to force them into union by ejecting the bishops who refused the agreement he had arranged with Cyril. Theodoret, yielding to the entreaties of James of Cyrus and other solitaries of his diocese, consented to a conference with John and was received by his old friend with great cordiality. All reproaches were silenced, and as John did not insist on his accepting sentence against Nestorius, he embraced concordat, and returned to communion with John and Cyril (ib. pp. 834–836). The way towards peace had been smoothed by the death of Nestorius's successor, Maximian, Apr. 12, 434, and the appointment as archbp. of Constantinople of the saintly Proclus, who, in the early part of the Nestorian controversy, had preached the great sermon on the Theotokos (Socr. H. E. vii. 40; Baluz. p. 851). Proclus's influence was exerted in favour of peace, and so successfully that all the remonstrant bishops, except Alexander of Hierapolis and five others, ultimately accepted the concordat and retained their sees. Alexander was ejected in Apr. 435. John made a strong representation to Proclus in 436 that Nestorius in his retirement was persisting in his blasphemies and perverting many in Antioch and throughout the East (Baluz. p. 894), and formally requested Theodosius to expel him from the East and deprive him of the power of doing 557mischief (Evagr. H. E. i. 7; Theophan. p. 78). An edict was accordingly issued that all the heresiarch's books should be burnt, his followers called "Simonians" and their meetings suppressed (Labbe, iii. 1209; Cod. Theod. XVI. v. 66). The property of Nestorius was confiscated and he was banished to the remote and terrible Egyptian oasis.

Nestorian doctrines were too deeply rooted in the Eastern mind to be eradicated by persecution. Cyril, suspecting that the union was more apparent than real and that some of the bishops who had verbally condemned Nestorius still in their hearts cherished his teaching, procured orders from the Imperial government that the bishops should severally and explicitly repudiate Nestorianism. A formula of Cyril's having been put into John's hands for signature, John wrote in 436 or 437 to Proclus to remonstrate against this multiplicity of tests which distracted the attention of bishops from the care of their dioceses (Labbe, iii. 894).

Fresh troubles speedily broke out in the East in connexion with the writings of the greatly revered Theodore of Mopsuestia and Diodorus of Tarsus, whose disciple Nestorius had been. The bishops and clergy of Armenia appealed to Proclus for his judgment on the teaching of Theodore (ib. v. 463). Proclus replied by the celebrated doctrinal epistle known as the "Tome of St. Proclus." To this were attached some passages selected from Theodore's writings, which he deemed deserving of condemnation (ib. 511–513). This letter he sent first to John requesting that he and his council would sign it (Liberat. p. 46; Facundus, lib. 8, c. 1, 2), John assembled his provincial bishops at Antioch. They expressed annoyance at being called on for fresh signatures, as if their orthodoxy was still questionable, but made no difficulty about signing the "Tome," which they found worthy of all admiration, both for beauty of style and the dogmatic precision of its definitions. But the demand for the condemnation of the appended extracts called forth indignant protests. They refused to condemn passages divorced from their context, and capable, even as they stood, of an orthodox interpretation. A fresh schism threatened, but the letters of remonstrance written by John and his council to Proclus and Theodosius put a stop to the whole matter. Even Cyril, who had striven hard to procure the condemnation of Theodore, was compelled to desist by the resolute front shewn by the Orientals, some of whom, John told him, were ready to be burnt rather than condemn the teaching of one they so deeply revered (Cyril. Epp. 54, 199) Theodosius wrote to the Oriental bishops that the church must not be disturbed by fresh controversy and that no one should presume to decide anything unfavourable to those who had died in the peace of the church (Baluz. p. 928, c. ccxix.). The date of this transaction was probably 438. It is the last recorded event in John's career. His death occurred in 441 or 442. Tillem. Mém. eccl. t. xiv. xv.; Ceillier, Auteurs eccl.; Cave, Hist. Lit. i. 412; Neander, Church. Hist. vol. iv., Clarke's ed.; Milman, Latin Christ. vol. i. pp. 141–177; Bright, Hist. of Church, pp. 310–365.


« Joannes Talaia, bp. of Nola Joannes, bishop of Antioch Joannes Silentiarius, bp. of Colonia »
VIEWNAME is workSection