The Medieval Review 12.09.37

Hartmann, Wilfried and Kenneth Pennington. The History of Byzantine and Eastern Canon Law to 1500. History of Medieval Canon Law. Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2012. Pp. xvi, 356. $59.95. ISBN: 978-0-8132-1679-9. . .

Reviewed by:

Melodie H. Eichbauer
Florida Gulf Coast University

The History of Medieval Canon Law series fulfills two interconnected purposes. First, it is devoted to the history of canon law, its jurisprudence, and its influence on the Church from the patristic period to 1500. Second, it provides bibliographic information thereby serving as a reference tool to the texts. The History of Byzantine and Eastern Canon Law to 1500 follows this model, with the essays of Troianos offering the most in-depth discussion of canon law's influence on the Orthodox Church. The work is a welcome addition as it comprehensively covers the canonistic tradition and makes that literature accessible to a wide audience. It introduces and guides through the myriad of texts preserved in diverse languages, such as Greek, Syriac, Arabic, Coptic, and Armenian. Bringing the volume to press took the collective efforts of a small army. As the series editors, Wilfried Hartmann and Kenneth Pennington, noted much of the work had to be translated from German and Greek. Steven Rowan (University of Missouri, St. Louis) translated the chapters by Heinz Ohme and by Hubert Kaufhold. Father Panayiotis Papageorgiou (Famagusta, Cyprus) translated the chapters by Spyros Troianos. Ruther Macrides (then at Edinburgh and now at Birmingham), John Erickson (emeritus St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary), and David Wagschal (St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary) reviewed the translation of the chapters by Troianos and also contributed bibliographical suggestions (viii).

The chapters progress in chronological order. The first, by Susan Wessel, begins with the letters of Paul in the patristic period and ends with the councils of the early forth century. The second, by Heinz Ohme, continues from the councils of the early fourth century and ends with the Quinisext Council (691/692 A.D). The third and fourth chapters, both by Spryos Troianos, are devoted to the canonical collections and the variety of legal sources from the fourth and fifth centuries to the fifteenth century. The twelfth century serves as the divider between the two chapters. The final chapter, by Hubert Kaufhold, catalogues the sources of canon law by confession. Each of the authors engages in the current historiographical debates relevant to the topic at hand, such as questions of authorship and dating. The work includes an extensive list of abbreviations (ix-xvi), which doubles as an introduction to the historiographical sources of eastern canon law. The volume also includes two very helpful indices. The first is a list of councils and synods (343-344) and the second is a thorough general index (345-356).

Susan Wessel's essay, "The Formation of Ecclesiastical Law in the Early Church" (1-23), analyzes how different communities in the early church addressed the issue of internal regulation: how to structure the church vis-à-vis the Jewish tradition and a developing hierarchy, and how to instill moral norms. Wessel pays particular attention to questions of authority and how ecclesiastical law acquired legitimacy. Methodologically, she examines each source both individually and within the original context of its composition, being mindful of "the interests and concerns of the community that produced it" (2). Early sources of law--the letters of Paul, the Didaché, and the writings of the Apostolic Fathers (i.e. Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp of Smyrna, Epistle of Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, Didascalia, and Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus)--were concerned with questions of organization and moral conduct of the individual community in question. A fundamental shift took place with the advent of the council. As the Synod of Jerusalem (between 50 and 52 A.D.), the Council of Ancyra (314 A.D.), and the Council of Neocaesarea (318 A.D.) reveal, regulation became not a community concern but a concern for the wider church. Bishops took center stage as hierarchy and norms became the product of "collective deliberation." By shifting the locus of what constituted a proper source of authority, councils transformed where law originated, what it sought to achieve, and how it applied and to whom.

Heinz Ohme's essay, "Sources of Greek Canon Law to the Quinisext Council" (24-114), analyzes the canonical works and councils in-depth. Ohme assigns particular importance to c.2 of the Quinisext Council (691/692 A.D.). The council "first listed and authorized the canons of the apostles, the synods and the Fathers, hence the whole of the law applicable until then. One can speak here of the first synodical codification, and the canon is of basic importance to Orthodoxy" (25). The progression of his analysis, mimicking the order of c.2 of the Quinisext Council, is as follows: Canons of the Apostles; Synods of Nicaea (325 A.D.), Ancyra (314 A.D.), Neocaesarea (between 314 and 319 A.D.), Gangra (between 340 and 342 A.D.), Antioch (ca. 330 A.D.), Laodicae (before 380 A.D.), and Constantinople (381 A.D.); synods of Ephesus (431 A.D.), Chalcedon (451 A.D.), and Serdica (342 A.D.); Councils of Carthage (419 A.D.) and Constantinople (394 A.D.); at this point Ohme inserts a discussion of the Synod of Constantinople/Quinisext Council; finally, Canons of the Fathers which entails a discussion of each of the fathers. For each entry Ohme begins with a list of the editions or sources, translations, and relevant literature. He then follows with an assessment of relevant historiographical debates and a discussion of the historical context, themes addressed, and noteworthy canons or actiones.

At times throughout his detailed analysis, however, Ohme may have assumed that his point was clear to the reader. To offer a few examples, Ohme does not clearly and unequivocally illustrate how "the canons [of Nicaea] initiated a new organization of ecclesiastical leadership and administration in parallel with the secular reorganization of the empire carried out by Diocletian" (37). In reference to the Synod of Constantinople/Quinisext Council, he states: "The disasters suffered by the Byzantine Empire in the course of the seventh century constitute the historical background" (79-80). To which disasters is he referring specifically? Regarding the canons of the Synod of Ancyra (314 A.D.), he states that: "The lists given in the Prisca and the Isidoriana have no provincial titles attributed to bishops, but they were added later to the collection of Dionysius" (39). Both the Prisca and the Isidoriana appear here for the first time though without reference to or brief discussion about them. Finally, it would have been helpful to have important words, titles, and phrases, such as those on pages 32, 47, 54, 60, 61, 88, translated from the Greek.

Spyros Troianos's essays, "Byzantine Canon Law to 1110" (115-169) and "Byzantine Canon Law from the Twelfth to the Fifteenth Centuries" (170-214) utilize almost the same methodological structure. Chapter 3, which begins with the fourth and fifth centuries and ends with the beginning of the twelfth century, couples categories with chronology. Troianos intertwines the categories of collections, imperial legislation, Nomokanons, ecumenical councils and synods, ecclesiastical law, patriarchal and synodical acts, canonical responsa and treatises with key chronological eras, such as the fourth and fifth centuries, the sixth through the eighth centuries, the time of Photios, the Macedonian, Dukas, and Comneni dynasties, and the tenth and eleventh centuries. Coupling categories with chronology offers a clear picture of what types of canonical texts were relevant to a particular time period. Because the chronological period discussed in Chapter 4 is narrower, Troianos relies primarily on the categories of patriarchal and synodal acts, canonical collections, fundamental lawyers (John Zonaras, Alexios Aristenos, and Theodore Balsamon), jurisprudence in courts, canonical responsa and treatises, and monastica typica as an organizational schema. In both essays, Troianos's discussion of the canonical material centers on the history surrounding the legislation and its relevance to the Church. Troianos offers a window into the intersection of law, politics, and society by illustrating how historical develops shaped that particular piece of legislation. Oftentimes, though not in every instance, a list of editions, translations, and a bibliography is included for the source. If included the reference material will be either at the beginning of the category, before the particular legislation, or in a footnote.

Hubert Kaufhold's essay, "Sources of Canon Law in the Eastern Church" (215-342), is a catalogue of legislation organized by confession: the Melkite, Western Syrian (Jacobite), Maronite, Coptic, Ethiopian, Eastern Syrian (Nestorian), Armenian (and to a lesser extent Albanian), and the Georgian Churches. Kaufhold's analysis of each confession begins with a brief history of that church, for which one should be comfortable with the intricacies of the Monophysite Controversy. It then follows with a history of the literature and the relevant languages used by that confession, which is particularly interesting as the primary language often changed over time. In the case of the Western Syrian Church, for example, Greek gave way to Syriac after the Muslim conquests (239-240). In the case of the Maronite Church, Syriac was the primary language but little has survived (255-256). In other cases, such as the Coptic and Melkite Churches, the use of Arabic came to the fore. As the dominant language used by a particular confession could change, Kaufhold includes both sources translated either from Arabic, Greek, or from Syriac as well as sources native to that particular church. For example, in his analysis the Coptic Church Kaufhold discusses Greek synods fathers (270-277) as well as Coptic synods (277) and the works of the Coptic patriarch Cyril III ibn Laqlaq (277-280). Kaufhold also pays particular attention to the geographical scope of a confession. He discusses, for instance, the Western Syrians (Jacobites) and the Eastern Syrians (Nestorians) who lived in India (254-255, 313), the Copts who lived in Nubia (287-288), and the Eastern Syrians (Nestorians) who lived in Sogdian in northeastern Iran (313). Like Troianos, Kaufhold organizes his discussion of that confession around categories, but the categories can differ depending upon the legal sources available. For instance, the Western Syrian (251-252), Coptic (280-281), Ethiopian (294), Armenian (325), and Georgian (341) Churches preserved monastic rules. Charters, however, survive only for the Georgian Church (342). For the particular canonical source under discussion, Kaufhold provides a brief description of the text, its structure, the sources it relied upon, and references to editions and translations, if available, and relevant literature.

The History of Byzantine and Eastern Canon Law to 1500 provides legal historians, ecclesiastical historians, and historians of the Eastern Empire with a phenomenal and indispensable resource. The extensive use of "see above" and "see below," particularly in the essays by Ohme and Kaufhold, without the inclusion of the corresponding page number to direct the reader was, however, at times difficult to navigate. The density of the material and sharp analysis of the content in addition to the corresponding references to literature, editions, and translations made finding the exact location difficult at times. On page 274, for instance, Kaufhold instructs readers to "see above" for the reference to the Syntagma Doctrinae. The location to which he referred the reader is on page 272 amid the catalogue of reference material. It also would have been helpful if Ohme and Troianos had included a brief conclusion to their essays reiterating what they deemed to be the major issues and themes that guided the course of their period in question. In the case of Kaufhold a conclusion might have brought together what he deemed to be the significant challenges, both similar and divergent, between the confessions as they developed. Such objections, however, are minor when one considers the contribution of the work to the field.