contributor.author: Vasileios Marinis

title.none: Louth and Casiday, Byzantine Orthodoxies (Vasileios Marinis)

identifier.other: baj9928.0702.004 07.02.04

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Vasileios Marinis, Queens College, CUNY, vasileios.marinis@qc.cuny.edu

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2007

identifier.citation: Louth, Andrew and Augustine Casiday, eds. Byzantine Orthodoxies: Papers from the Thirty-Sixth Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, University of Durham, 23-25 March 2002. Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies Publications, 12. Aldershot, U.K/ Burlington VT: Ashgate, 2006. Pp. xiii, 236. $89.95 ISBN-10: 0-7546-5496-6, ISBN-13: 978-0-7546-5496-4. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 07.02.04

Louth, Andrew and Augustine Casiday, eds. Byzantine Orthodoxies: Papers from the Thirty-Sixth Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, University of Durham, 23-25 March 2002. Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies Publications, 12. Aldershot, U.K/ Burlington VT: Ashgate, 2006. Pp. xiii, 236. $89.95 ISBN-10: 0-7546-5496-6, ISBN-13: 978-0-7546-5496-4. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Vasileios Marinis
Queens College, CUNY
vasileios.marinis@qc.cuny.edu

Byzantine Orthodoxies contains papers from the 36th Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, held at the University of Durham in 2002. The topic itself is a fascinating one and the questions posed in the introduction by Andrew Louth are intriguing. What was Byzantine Orthodoxy? How was it defined?

The first section of the book is entitled "Defining Orthodoxy." John Behr's excellent essay addresses the Nicene formulation of faith and argues against the idea that Orthodoxy was constructed for the first time in the fourth century. Based on recent scholarship on Nicene Orthodoxy, Behr suggests that Areios should not be conceived as the corruptor of an unspoiled faith who necessitated the formulation of a dogma. Rather, he is part of a larger theological tradition of theology debating Trinitarian and Christological issues; Areios acted as "a catalyst, bringing all of these rumblings to a head." Behr correctly claims that the main difficulty we have in understanding Nicene Christianity is due to our own presuppositions regarding Scripture, based almost entirely on the historical-critical methods of exegesis. By entirely dismissing the exegetical approach of the Nicene fathers, scholars have failed to notice that this approach is indeed the same as the one used by the authors of the New Testament books--Christ came, died, and rose according to the Scriptures, therefore the Scriptures (including the Old Testament) speak of Christ. This similarity asserts a great degree of continuity from apostolic Christianity to the fourth century. At the end, Behr argues, the difference between the Nicenes and the non-Nicenes is a matter of exegesis: the latter follow a univocal approach, which claims that all scriptural affirmations refer to one subject, thus creating a being who is neither fully god nor fully human; the former argue for a partitive exegesis, according to which some scriptural passages refer to Christ as God and others to Christ as man, yet the same Christ throughout.

Caroline Macé examines the ways in which Gregory of Nazianzos was used as an authoritative voice in the sixth century, even by opposing parties. Macé concludes that Gregory's work has been quoted with his name, has been named but not quoted, has been quoted without his name, and has even been falsely quoted. The author's careful analysis of the texts is commendable, but the examples are tantalizingly few. Furthermore, Macé is solely concerned with the "mechanics" of this process and only alludes to some questions that seem to have greater importance. It is a well-established fact that "authorities," Christian, pagan, and otherwise, are quoted and misquoted, used and reinterpreted, or even reshaped to fit a different context. But why is Gregory so popular specifically in the sixth century? Or, when and why do we see the emergence of the notion of the "Fathers," including Gregory, whose opinions became canonical and effectively infallible in Byzantine theology?

Dirk Krausmüller explores how traditional rhetorical devices could be used to render the conventional meaning of a term ambiguous. Krausmüller examines in detail a passage from the Life of Theodosios the Coenobiarch, written by Theodore, Bishop of Petra, in which the traditional term Theotokos ("God-bearer") is given alternative meanings, some even inconsistent with its proper doctrinal use, by means of parechesis (assonance). Some objections could be raised regarding the philological rigor of some of the author's arguments. Nevertheless, Krausmüller's essay is a fine example of textual analysis.

Patriarch Methodios, who replaced the Iconoclast John the Grammarian, and his synod are the subjects of Patricia Karlin-Hayter's paper. The author argues that the introduction of a completely new hierarchy was instigated by the palace, only to be "canonized" by the newly established church. But the extent of this "restoration" is not clear, and it might not have been as thorough as people have believed.

Norman Russel's exceptional essay focuses on Prochoros Cydones, brother of the more famous Demetrios Cydones, and the final challenger of Palamite theology. Russel traces the life of this fascinating personality who used Aristotelian syllogisms and quoted Boethius, Ambrose, Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas in his writings. After causing quite a stir in Athos, Prochoros went to Constantinople to appeal his case in front of patriarch Philotheos. He was finally condemned as a heretic in 1368. Cydones' writings, however, demanded a theological response and the task fell to the monk Joasaph--the former emperor John Kantakouzenos--and to Theophanes, the Metropolitan of Nicaea, both prominent leaders of the Palamite party. Russel is to be commended for the pithy overview of the convoluted (dare I say Byzantine?) theological arguments, especially regarding the nature of the light that Christ emanated during the Transfiguration. Russel concludes that it was not so much Prochoros' antagonism with the Hesychasts, but rather the christological implications of his exegesis of Transfiguration that provoked his condemnation.

The second part of this collection is dedicated to the theme of Orthodoxy in art and liturgy; it covers not only the expected issues of artistic production, but also--a welcome change--essays on medieval Byzantine music and hymnology. The first three essays, which can be viewed as a unit, deal with questions of Church councils and art. Leslie Brubaker analyzes the canons of the councils of Troullo (692) relevant to art, the earliest legislation dealing with images, and the Second Council of Nicaea (787). Liz James investigates an interesting excerpt from the proceedings again of the Second Council of Nicaea that has implications for the role of the artist and his or her adherence to a tradition established by the "Fathers." Robin Cormack's essay examines the issue of art and Orthodoxy in late Byzantium (1261-1453), when the councils of Constantinople (1341), which condemned Barlaam and vindicated Palamas, the council of Lyons (1274), and the council of Ferrara-Florence (1438-1439) took place. Cormack argues that the triumph of Hesychasm did not significantly influence artistic production. On the other hand, the unionist councils and their intellectual milieu affected not only Byzantine, but even Italian art. Cormack's essay offers, as usual, a very refreshing and canny reading of the evidence, with persuasive conclusions.

Dimitra Kotoula investigates the icon of the Triumph of Orthodoxy in the British Museum, dating to the late fourteenth century (a date of ca. 1400 has also been proposed). It is an interesting case since it is a retrospective proclamation of Orthodoxy. But its iconography certainly relates to the intellectual and theological climate of the late Byzantine Empire, ridden by the Hesychastic controversy and the relationship with the Catholic West, as Kotoula convincingly argues. I am not sure, however, why the liturgical character of the icon needs to be overemphasized, as the Triumph of Orthodoxy was, at least at this point of time, primarily a liturgical feast.

Alexander Lingas is one of the most preeminent musicologists of Medieval Byzantine chant--and for good reasons. His essay is a pleasure to read, informative, and clearly set forth. Lingas argues against the traditional narrative, still prevalent in contemporary Orthodox circles, that sharply differentiates Eastern Byzantine from Western Christian liturgical music, a divide that became sharply pronounced in the second millennium A.D. Lingas suggests that through the end of the fifteenth century the two musical traditions remained stylistically and aesthetically compatible, not only sharing similar musical forms, but also remaining aurally compatible.

Byzantine hymns of "hate" is the subject of Archimandrite Ephrem's study. The author concentrates on the hymnology of four feasts that commemorate the Fathers of the Church, who produced conciliar doctrines and definitions. These are the Sundays of the First, Fourth, and Seventh Ecumenical Councils, along with the Sunday of Orthodoxy. Archimandrite Ephrem provides some beautiful translations but I believe that hymns of "hate" is a misnomer, as most of the examples he quotes are rather innocuous in their polemic. The Canon connected with the proclamation of the Synodikon of Orthodoxy is an exception, as it was written, in all likelihood, immediately after the restoration of images and it is obviously influenced by the resentment on the part of the iconophile community, a resentment graphically expressed, for example, in the marginal illuminations of the Chludov Psalter. One would wish that the author provided some context for the composition of these Canons. We read that the hymns for the commemoration of the participants in the Council of Chalcedon in 425 were written by Philotheos, Patriarch of Constantinople, in the fourteenth century, a fact that certainly raises some interesting questions.

The third section of this volume is appropriately devoted to "Orthodoxy and the other." Nicholas de Lange addresses the issue of Jewish Orthodoxy in Byzantium. De Lange notes that in Judaism it is sometimes difficult to separate orthodoxy from orthopraxy. Since the eleventh century two main groups of Jews lived in Byzantium, the Rabbanites and the Karaites. Despite the heated rhetoric that the two used against each other, both groups agreed on a range of fundamental beliefs and the fact that they were part of a single Jewish people.

While Armenian bishops were present at the council of Ephesos, they never reached Chalcedon. Thus the Armenian church sided with the so-called "Oriental Orthodox" or Monophysites. An attempt at rapprochement was initiated by patriarch Photios in the ninth century. Igor Dorfmann-Lazarev surveys the epistolary exchange between patriarch Photios and Isaac Mrut. Dorfmann-Lazarev's analysis is very careful and exhaustive although, at points, too technical for non-specialists.

What eventually became the quintessential "other," the Latins, is the topic of Tia Kolbaba's fascinating essay. Kolbaba argues persuasively that at least in the eleventh century, some Byzantines, such as Peter III of Antioch or Theophylact of Ohrid, assumed the superiority of Greek Church and culture but expressed a moderate attitude towards the Latins. In brief, they saw the Latins as Orthodox but in error concerning only one matter, the filioque. The situation, however, changed in the twelfth century. The crusades, the presence of the Italian merchants in the empire, but also theological developments, such as the ideology of papal primacy, put Byzantines on the defensive.

An epilogue, by the late Sergei Averintsev, summarizes some of the constant characteristics of Byzantine Orthodoxy.

Although this volume contains some fine pieces of scholarship and addresses traditionally neglected areas, like music and hymnography, it is nevertheless plagued by the shortcomings of its genre. There is neither continuity nor consistency among the essays as to the nature or evolution of Byzantine "Orthodoxies." The questions posed by the editor in the introduction remain in great part unanswered after one has finished the book. Some of the essays address orthodoxy, per se, only nominally; others are too specialized even for most Byzantinists. But while the editors must insist on a greater measure of thematic unity and compatibility if such publications are to serve a purpose, the organization of such conferences and the publication of their proceedings remains a valued scholarly enterprise.