The Constantinopolitan Creed
- The Tradition about C
By far the most influential credal product of the fourth century is the formula which is sometimes technically called the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. Ordinary Christians are familiar with it as the Creed of the Holy Eucharist, where it is misnamed the Nicene Creed. It hybrid title combines the popular but erroneous tradition that it is none other than the true Nicene Creed enlarged with the theory, widely held since the middle of the fifth century at any rate, that the occasion of its enlargement was the second general council, held at Constantinople in 381. Of all existing creeds it is the only one for which ecumenicity, or universal acceptance, can be plausibly claimed. Unlike the purely Western Apostle’s Creed, it was admitted as authoritative in East and West alike from 451 onwards, and it has retained that position, with one significant variation int he text, right down to the present day. So far from displacing it, the Reformation affirmed its binding character and gave it a new lease of life and extended currency by translating it into the vernacular tongues. It is thus one of the few threads by which the tattered fragments of the divided robe of Christendom are held together. Yet the circumstances of its composition and promulgation, as well as the course of its history, are far from clear. It will be the business of this and the following chapter to attempt to unravel the tangled skein of problems which arise.
First of all, the original text of the creed, known as C for short, must be established. Its first appearance, at all events as an official formulary, was at the council of Chalcedon (451). At the third session of the council, on October 10, the Nicene Creed having been publicly read and acclaimed, the imperial commissioners order “the faith of the 150 fathers” to be read out too. The description they used was the one popularly applied to the Council of Constantinople of 381. Aetius, the archdeacon of the capital city, immediately got up and recited the creed from a written document. It again played a prominent part at the fifth and sixth sessions, on the 22nd and 25th of October, when it was incorporated along with the Nicene Creed in the definition adopted by the council. On the latter occasion the definition embodying it was signed, in the presence of the emperor Marcian, by the papal legates and all the bishops present. The minutes or acta of the Council of Chalcedon, which survived in full, thus constitute our primary source for the creed. The Greek text printed below, along with a translation, reproduces the version read out at the third session as it appears in the magisterial edition of Eduard Schwartz.
|Πιστεύομεν εἰς ἔνα θεὸν
πατέρα παντοκράτορα, ποιητὴν οὐρανοῦ καὶ γῆς ὁρατῶν τε πάντων καὶ ἀορἀτων
Καὶ εἰς κύριον Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν, τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ τὸν μονογενῆ, τὸν ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς γενηθέντα πρὸ πάντων τῶν αἰώνων, φῶς ἐκ φωτός, θεὸν ἀληθινὸν ἐκ θεοῦ ἀληθινοῦ, γεννηθέντα οὐ ποιηθέντα, ὁμοούσιον τῷ πατρί, δι᾽οὗ τἀ πάντα ἐγένετο, τὸν δι᾽ἡμᾶς τοὺς ἀνθρώπους καὶ διὰ τὴν ἡμετέραν σωτηρίαν κατελθόντα ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν καὶ σαρκωθέντα ἐκ Μαρίας τῆς παρθένου καὶ ἐνανθρωπήσαντα, σταυρωθέντα τε ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἐπὶ Ποντίου Πιλάτου, καὶ παθόντα καὶ ταφέντα, καὶ ἀναστάντα τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρα κατὰ τὰς γραφάς, καὶ ἀνελθόντα εἰς τοὺς οὐρανοὺς, καὶ καθεζόμενον ἐν δεξιᾷ τοῦ πατρός, καὶ πάλιν ἐρχόμενον μετὰ δόχης κρῖναι ζῶντας καὶ νεκρούς οὗ τῆς βασιλείας οὐκ ἔσται τέλος.
Καὶ εἰς τὸ ἅγιον, τὸ κύριον καὶ τὀ ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον, τὸ σὺν πατρὶ καὶ υἱῷ σθμπροσκυνοὺμενον καὶ συνδοξαζόμενον, τὸ λαλῆσαν διὰ τῶν προφητῶν· εἰς μίαν ἁγίαν καθολικὴν καὶ ἀποστολικὴν ἐκκλησίαν. ὁμολογοῦμεν ἔν βάπτισμα εἰς ἄφεσιν ἀμαρτιῶν προσδοκῶμεν ἀνάστασιν νεκρῶν καὶ ζωὴν τοῦ μέλλοντος αἰῶνος. ἀμήν
|We believe in on God
The Father almighty maker of heaven and earth of all things visible and invisible.
And in the one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father, through whom all things came into existence, Who because of us men and our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate from the Virgin Mary and became man, and was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried, and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures and ascended to heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father, and will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, of Whose kingdom there will be no end;
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord an life-giver, Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son is together worshipped and together glorified, Who spoke through the prophets; in one Holy Catholic and apostolic Church. We confess one baptism to the remission of sins; we look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.
There can be no doubt that the text of C, as of N, publicly recited at the third Chalcedonian session and reproduced above represents the primitive, authentic shape of the creed. Whether or not it was actually composed and ratified in 381 (we shall spend some time sifting this tradition a little later), its connection with Constantinople was apparently taken for granted. Thus the motive for inviting the archdeacon of the imperial city, to read out, as for calling upon Eunomius of Nicodemia to read out N, was plainly to make sure of an accurate version. The texts to which the assembly listened had been extracted from the archives in which the original documents were presumed to have been deposited. It should be observed that the texts embodied in the Definition appear to have differed in several respects from those recited at the the third session, and the E. Schwartz has suggested that they were deliberately modified, at the request of Marcion and the Empress Pulcheria, so as to be brought into closer harmony with each other. Whatever the final verdict on this difficult question may be, we may rest content that it can do nothing to upset our confidence in the antiquity and authority of the version of C quoted at the third session. It is interesting to notice that the creed was formally rehearsed and subscribed on the 16th of September, 680, at the eighteenth session of the sixth general council, the third of Constantinople, and that it is the form printed above that the recorded minutes preserve.
Having settled the text, let us turn to the problem of C’s identity. Reference has already been made to the universal tradition that it was the symbol of the council of Constantinople. At Chalcedon it was introduced as such, and the fathers apparently (we shall consider their attitude more closely later) accepted the description without demur. In the form prevalent from the sixth century onwards the tradition asserted that C was simply N elaborated by the interpolation of clauses designed to counter heresies which had cropped up subsequently to Nicaea. There are hints in the minutes of the council of Chalcedon that the theory of a revision of N was already in the making. At the first session, for example, Eusebius of Dorylaeum and Diogneses of Cyzicus jumped up and accused Eutyches (whose case, it will be recalled, was under investigation) of falsehood in denying the faith of the Nicene Council could receive additions. “The creed received additions,” cried Diogenes, “from the holy fathers on account of the perverse notions of Apollinarius and Valentinus and Macedonius and men like them. The words WHO CAME DOWN AND WAS INCARNATE FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT AN THE VIRGIN MARY was inserted into the creed, but Eutyches has left them out because he is an Apollinarian . . . For the expression which the holy fathers at Nicaea used, viz. WAS INCARNATE, the holy fathers who came later clarified by adding FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE VIRGIN MARY.” Though he did not explicitly mention C, it is probable that Diogenes had it in mind when he spoke of an expanded version of N. His statement was not allowed to pass unchallenged. The Egyptian bishops at once protested against the idea of anything having been added to the creed of the Nicene fathers, and declared that Eutyches had done right to quote it in its original form. But the episode itself is proof that, even at this relatively early date, C was regarded as an expansion of N carried out by the 150 fathers.
The same point of view came to the fore on several occasions at Chalcedon. For example, at the fourth session, when members were giving their testimony to the agreement of St Leo’s Tome with N and C, Florentius of Adrianopolis in Pisidia characterised our creed as “proclaiming clearly that our Lord Jesus Christ was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary.” In the definition itself the council spoke of “the decisions ratified by the 150 fathers at Constantinople with a view to the destruction of the heresies which had then sprung up as well as the confirmation of our same Catholic and apostolic faith.” Finally, there is a memorandum which the council addressed to the emperor justifying their acceptance of St Leo’s Tome against the charge of innovating matters of faith. In this they pointed out that it had proved necessary in the past to make explanatory additions to the rule of faith with a view to rebutting heresy, and as an illustration they instanced the words AND IN THE HOLY SPIRIT from the Nicene Creed. Sound believers, they said, would have this perfectly adequate, but current attacks on the status of the Spirit had determined “those who came after” (οἱ μετὰ ταῦτα the routine phrase for the Constantinopolitan fathers) to describe Him as “Lord and God, and having His procession from the Father.” Here again we have a transparent clue to their conception of C.
In the subsequent centuries the accepted theory of C’s origin conformed to this pattern, with a growing emphasis on the basic identity of the two creeds. A very instructive example is provided by the Monophysite usurper Basilicus, who obtained possession of the imperial throne in 475. One of his first acts was to publish an encyclical setting aside the council of Chalcedon and the Tome of Pope Leo, and affirming that the one and only valid formula was the Nicene Creed of the 318 fathers. At the same time he prescribed that the definitions drawn up by the 150 fathers as a reply to calumniators of the Holy Spirit should continue to hold good, and plainly regarded the council of 381 as having ‘sealed (ἐπεσφράγισαν)” N and elucidated its meaning. Zeno revealed precisely the same attitude in the Henoticon, or edict of union, which he published in 482. He insisted that the only symbol which should be professed was that of the 318 fathers, “which the 150 assembled at Constantinople confirmed.” The viewpoint of Justinian was exactly the same as that of these Monophysites, an in a decree of 533 he affirmed his loyalty to “the holy instruction or symbol . . . set forth by the 318 holy fathers, which the 150 holy fathers in this royal city explained and clarified.” When next it comes before our notice, at the council held at Constantinople in 536, and then at the fifth ecumenical council (also held at Constantinople) in 553, the theory seems to be established that C is an improved version of N. According to the minutes of the latter, “the same holy fathers [the 150], while following the orthodox faith as expounded by the 318 holy fathers, added an explanation regarding the deity of the Holy Spirit and gave a complete account of the dispensation of the incarnate Word.” In the middle ages the original difference of C from N was forgotten and in most circles it became known as the Nicene creed. Wherever the difference was recalled, however, C was treated as identical with N save for the insertion of material demanded by the emergence of later heresies. For example, at the provincial synod of Forum Iulii (Cividale del Friuli, in Venetia), which St Paulinus of Aquileia convened in 796 or 797, C was published (in its Latin dress, of course) with the addition of the clause AND FROM THE SON (filioque) of the procession of the Holy Spirit. In his explanatory discourse St Paulinus sought to justify the inclusion of the novel clause, and appealed to the precedent of the fathers of Constantinople. They too, he pointed out, had been obliged by the circumstances of their age to amplify the original creed of the Nicene council and, in particular, to make its teaching about the Holy Spirit more precise.
2. Comparison of C with N
Such is the complex tradition which we have now to examine. The following chapter will contain a section devoted to analysing the special teaching of C, and we can therefore postpone for the moment a consideration of the ways in which it can be regarded as having supplemented the Nicene faith. The section after this will begin to tackle the baffling problem of C’s connection with Constantinople. In this one we shall simply concern ourselves with a single strand of the tradition, that one which affirms that, certain additions for the purpose of clarification and precision apart, C is substantially identical with N. If this is to be taken literally (the possibility cannot, of course be ruled out that the ancients did not intend their words to be taken in all strictness), it is an affirmation with which few students will find it easy to rest satisfied. The case against it was stated long ago with the masterly thoroughness and skill, first by F. J. A. Hort, and then by Harnack. Here we shall content ourselves with summarising their argument, which has been universally accepted. Essentially it consists in making a meticulous comparison between the two creeds. If this is done, the admittedly additional matter of the third article being disregarded, the result is to demonstrate conclusively that they are in fact two entirely different documents.
The points to be noticed are in the following. First, there are certain notable omissions from C which are not easy to account for on the assumption that it is a modified version of N. These are (a) the wordsTHAT IS FROM THE SUBSTANCE OF THE FATHER; (b) GOD FROM GOD (c) THINGS IN HEAVEN AND THINGS ON EARTH. (of the Son’s creative work, in the second article); (d) the anathemas. It might be argued, of course, that the anathemas were no longer appropriate, for they envisaged a form of Arianism which not was obsolete and employed language inconsistent with the newly settled distinction between hypostasis and ousia; and also that the erasure of the clause labelled (e) was a dogmatically unimportant stylistic improvement. But these excuses do not avail in the case of the other two omissions, which comprise key-formulae of Nicene orthodoxy. Whoever was instrumental in carrying out the alleged modification of N must have acted very oddly in excising phrases which gave such clear-cut expression to the Nicene position.
Secondly, C contains a series of words and clauses, some of them of little or no significance, which are not present in N. These include (a) MAKER OF HEAVEN AND EARTH in the first article (b) the words BEFORE ALL AGES with BEGOTTEN in the second article; (c) the words FROM THE HEAVENS with CAME DOWN; (d) the sentence FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE VIRGIN MARY with WAS INCARNATE; (e) the clause AND WAS CRUCIFIED FOR US UNDER PONTIUS PILATE with the connecting particle AND before SUFFERED; (f) the words AND WAS BURIED after SUFFERED; (g) the words ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES after ROSE AGAIN ON THE THIRD DAY; (h) the clause AND SITS ON THE RIGHT HAND OF THE FATHER after ASCENDED TO HEAVEN; (i) the phrase AGAIN WITH GLORY with WILL COME; and, of course, (j) OF WHOSE KINGDOM THERE WILL BE NO END. The majority of these have little, if any, bearing on the current theological discussion, and only (d) and (j) can be plausibly explained as inspired by polemical considerations. The clause BEFORE ALL AGES represents not only a deviation but a recession from the strict Nicene standpoint. The latter’s champions were consistently reluctant to use language which might seem to define the time of the Son’s generation because of the misinterpretations to which any such definition, however guarded, could give rise. The point of (d), on the theory under examination, is clear enough, if it was though desirable to make the orthodox position clear against Apollinarianism (this will be discussed in the next chapter). (j) too was obviously intended to guard against any resurgence of the ideas of Marcellus of Ancyra. But why the other alterations which have been listed should ever have been made passes comprehension.
Thirdly, there are a number of differences, many of them trivial in themselves but for that reason all the more striking, between C and N in matters of word-order and sentence-construction. Thus (a) the first article, which describes God as creator of all things, while exactly the same in content in both, is built up rather differently in C. In C we read ὁρατῶν τε πάντων καὶ ἀοράτων as against N’s πάντων ὁρατῶν τε καὶ ἀοράτων. Again, (b) in C ONLY-BEGOTTEN (μονογενῆ) with the definite article stands in apposition to THE SON OF GOD, whereas in N it is placed alongside of BEGOTTEN FROM THE FATHER without the article. (c) So, too, N’s γεννηθέντα ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς is reproduced in C as τὸν ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς γεννηθέντα. (d) With the exception of σταυρωθέντα (crucified), the several members of the second article in C are linked together by AND. (e) In the third article the simple καὶ εἰς τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα (AND IN THE HOLY SPIRIT) of N reappears in C as καὶ εἰς τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον. It is difficult to conjecture why the supposed reviser of N should have gone to the trouble of making these, for the most part, trifling alterations.
The statistical comparison make it certain that, whatever else C may be, it cannot be accurately be described as a modified version of N. The two are really two utterly different texts, resembling each other in a broad, general way, but to no greater extent than any other pair of Eastern formularies. Hort summed the matter up with convincing succinctness when he pointed out that of the 178 (approx.) words in C only 33, or about a fifth, can be plausibly derived from N. If C had a direct relationship with any fourth century creeds, it was certainly not with N, but with certain others which have not so far been mentioned. It is interesting to observe, in passing, that it is practically identical with the first symbol, quoted by St Epiphanius towards the end of his Ancoratus—(118) that is, if the MS evidence can be trusted. The only respects in which the latter differs from it are in the inclusion of (a) THAT IS FROM THE SUBSTANCE OF THE FATHER, (b) THINGS IN HEAVEN AND THINGS ON EARTH, and (c) the Nicene Anathemas. C also bears a certain resemblance to a curious Latin creed found in the collection of Theodosius the Deacon, in Codex Verona LX (58), under the obviously unsuitable title Synbolus snactae synodi Sardici. This reads JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD has the order TRUE GOD FROM GOD, ONLY-BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD omits OF ONE SUBSTANCE WITH THE FATHER, and omits one are two items in the third article, but otherwise seems to coincide with C. A discussion of these early texts, however, raises large issues which can only be satisfactorily treated against the background of the main problem, viz. the relation of C to the council of Constantinople of 381. To this we must now turn, but we can do so with the full assurance that the tradition is in error at least in its identification of the basic stock of C with N.
3. The Case Against the Tradition
The universal tradition, as we already noted, dating at least from the time of the council of Chalcedon (451) is that C was the creed ratified by the 150 bishops who formed the council of Constantinople (May-July), and who had been summoned, along with some 36 bishops of Macedonian sympathies who later withdrew, by the emperor Theodosius I for the threefold purpose if finishing once and for all with Arianism, settling the Macedonian heresy as amicably as possible, and appointing a new patriarch for the imperial city. Until recently the great majority of modern scholars have been united in their rejection of this ancient view of C’s origin. the objections against supposing that C was composed and promulgated by the council of 381 have seemed overwhelming, both in number and in weight. One or two notable scholars have stood their ground, but the general opinion has been that the Chalcedonian fathers were just as mistaken about C’s original ratification as they, or at any rate their successors were about its relationship to N. So far from being the authoritative formulary, or ekthesis, of the bishops assembled at Constantinople, it must be some local baptismal creed which somehow or other (at this point the suggestions mooted differ markedly) became connected with the council. Some such theory, it is held, would explain how a creed which manifestly could not have been the official pronouncement of the council nevertheless succeeded in persuading uncritical generations of churchmen that it was.
The considerations which have been regarded as fatal to the tradition deserve detailed recapitulation. First, such first-hand evidence as we have bearing on the activities of the council of Constantinople is innocent of reference to C. The official minutes have not been preserved, no doubt because the council was not reckoned as ecumenical until much later. On the other hand, there is no mention of a creed in the four canons which the council sanctioned or in the letter which, on completing its labours, it despatched to Theodosius with the canons. True, later collections include three additional canons with our creed appended, but it is agreed that both they and it are intruders. The first of the genuine canons confines itself to confirming the Nicene faith in the words:
The faith of the 318 fathers who met at Nicaea in Bithynia must not be set aside but must be maintained as binding, and every heresy must be anathematized, and in particular that of the Eunomians, or Anomoeans, and that of the Arians, Eudoxians, and that of the Semi-Arians, or Pneumatomachians, and that of the Sabellians, and that of the Marcellians, and that of Photians, and that of the Apollinarians.
The letter to Theodosius epitomising the council’s work simply says: “After that we published some concise definitions (συντόμους ὅρους ἐξεφωνήσαμεν), ratifying the faith of the Nicene fathers and anathematising the heresies which had sprung up against it.” It is difficult, the critics think, to take this as an allusion to C, not least because C is devoid of anathemas. Very nearly the same company of bishops foregathered again in Constantinople in the following year (382), and sent a famous synodical letter to Pope Damascus excusing themselves on various grounds from accepting the invitation to an ecumenical council to be held in Rome. In the course of it, after summarising their theological views, they referred their correspondence for a fuller exposition of them to “the statement (τῷ τόμῳ) of the synod of Antioch” (which had been sent to the Pope in 379), and also to “the statement which was last year published by the ecumenical synod held at Constantinople, in which documents we have confessed our faith more fully (ἐν οἷ πλατύτερον τὴν πίστιν ὡμολοήσαμεν), and have in written form anathematised the heresies which have been recently invented.” Here again, it is argued, there can be no reference to a newly formulated or recently ratified creed. The tomos of Constantinople, like that of Antioch, must have been an extended theological manifesto with anathemas subjoined.
Secondly, the external evidence of historians and other writers of has every appearance of being in accord with this version of what took place at the council. Socrates, for example, in his account of the proceedings, describe how, after the secession of the Macedonian bishops, the fathers settled down to the re-affirmation of the Nicene faith. (ἐβεβαὶωσαν αὖθις τὴν ἐν Νικαίᾳ πίστιν). Earlier in the same chapter, he had remarked that the object of the council was “to ratify the Nicene faith.” Sozomen and Theodoret tell the same tale, using almost identical language. Harnack was convinced that St Gregory of Nazianzus, who had actually been president of the council for a time, must also have taken the view that its work was limited to ratifying the Nicene Creed. Shortly after the council he wrote a letter to Cledonius in answer to his request for “a concise definition and rule of our belief,” remarking in it:
We for our part have never esteemed, and never can esteem, any doctrine preferable to the faith of the holy fathers who assembled at Nicaea to destroy the Arian heresy. We adhere with God’s help and shall adhere, to this faith, supplementing the gaps which they left concerning the Holy Spirit because this question had not them been raised.
The natural implication of this, the German scholar argued, was that St Gregory admitted only the Nicene Creed, despite his consciousness of its deficiency in certain particulars. He could not have written in such terms had he been aware that a fully satisfactory alternative formula had already been solemnly promulgated a few months before.
The third and most impressive objection is the seemingly absolute silence regarding the Constantinopolitan creed which apparently reigned from 381 to 451. This silence is particularly striking for the various synods which met in the period, at which some allusion to such a creed, had it existed, might have been expected. At the third general council, at Ephesus in 431 the creed which played the authoritative role and which was entered in the minutes was N. A vote was even passed to the effect that nobody should be allowed “to bring forward or to compose or to put together any other faith tham that which has been defined by the holy fathers who assembled at Nicaea under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.” C was even passed over in silence at the synod which Flavian held at Constantinople in 448 to pass judgment of Eutyches, although if in fact it had been sponsored by the council of 381 one might have expected it to be held in honour in its own city. The authorities appealed to at the meeting of the council itself, in the imperial rescript reach out at the seventh session, and in Flavian’s own letter to Pope Leo acquainting him with the proceedings, were always the Nicene faith, the council of Ephesus, and St Cyril’s letters. A few months later, at the beginning of 449, writing to the emperor in response to a request for an exposition of his faith, Flavian said in similar vein: “Our views are orthodox and blameless, for we always conform to the divine Scriptures and the official statements of the holy fathers who met at Nicaea, and those who met at Ephesus in the time of St Cyril of blessed memory.” The words “and in Constantinople,” which occur in many MSS and which point to the creed of Constantinople, are rejected by historians of this school as an intrusion on the true text.
The evidence of the “Robber Synod” of Ephesus (449) points exactly in the same direction. Both the parties meeting there were apparently equally ignorant of C and equally united in their recognition of N as the sole authoritative formula. The emperor, in his official letter to the synod, made reference to “the orthodox faith set out by the holy fathers of Nicaea which the holy synod of Ephesus confirmed;” and Eutyches himself asserted that he had been exposed to many dangers because, in harmony with the resolutions adopted at the previous council of Ephesus, he determined “not to think otherwise than in accordance with the faith expounded by the holy fathers.” Apart from the council, however, the same reticence regarding the alleged ratification of C at Constantinople in 381 is reflected in the writings of theologians of all schools in the period under review. A detailed survey of the evidence would demand more space than can be spared at this point. It is noteworthy, however, that Nestorius, who was patriarch of Constantinople till 431 and was the first to introduce the creed into Christological controversy in his first letter to Pope Celestine, consistently spoke of “the faith of Nicaea.” Although the text he used often diverged markedly from N in its purity, it did not coincide with C and it apparently never occurred to him that any other formulary was authoritative than that sanctioned by the 318 fathers. St Cyril, too, was acquainted with only one valid and binding symbol, which he called the faith set forth by the fathers of Nicaea. He was indeed a stickler of its pure, unadulterated text, and on one occasion poured heavy scorn on Nestorius for suggesting that it contained the clause WAS INCARNATE FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE VIRGIN MARY. In the West St Leo made a number of references to the creed in handling the case of Eutyches. Sometimes he meant by it the Apostles creed, but at other times he explicitly mentioned the faith or decisions of Nicaea. But nowhere did he betray the least knowledge of a Constantinopolitan formulary.
The fact is, so Harnack once ventured to claim, there is not the slightest trace, in the period 381-451, whether in the offical records of synods Eastern or Western, or in the writings of theologians orthodox or heterodox, of the existence of C, much less any hint of its being the ekthesis sponsored by the fathers of Constantinople. It might be contended, of course, that this conspiracy of silence was merely the result of the fact that the council of Constantinople was not recognised as ecumenical until 451 at the earliest. There is force in this contention, for we know that only Eastern bishops were present at it, and in fact most of the delegates came exclusively from sees in Thrace, Asia Minor and Syria. Its decisions were repudiated from the start in the West and by Church leaders in Egypt. Nevertheless, for all its unpopularity in certain quarters, the work of the council was not entirely overlooked, as the preservation of its canons and the allusions of Church historians show. Moreover, the obscurity in which C is wrapped extends not only to the West and to Egypt, where it is perhaps explicable, but to the East as well, and even to Constantinople itself.
The weight of external evidence has thus seemed to many to be massively ranged against the traditional account of C’s origin. In the eyes of most critics, however, the coup de gráce seemed to be the fact, to which a passing reference is made in the preceding section, that C was in existence several years before the council of Constantinople. The creed which St Epiphanius, towards the end of the tract Ancoratus 118, recommended as a baptismal formula to the presbyters at the church of Syedra, in Pamphylia, is practically identical with our text. The tract may be assigned with absolute confidence to the year 374, for the author prefaces his second creed, in the following chapter, with an elaborate dating. If the identification be admitted, it may very well be that C has some connection with the council of 381, but it manifestly cannot have been drafted by it. The most that can be claimed is that the council took over and ratified an existing local baptismal creed, but the critics in question have thought this an extremely doubtful procedure.
The preceding paragraphs have given a résumé of the case against the tradition. The majority of scholars in the past found it absolutely decisive, and turned their attention to subsidiary but closely related topics. First, what is this creed which St Epiphanius reproduces? After setting it down, he proceeded to describe it in the enigmatic words: “The faith was handed down by the holy Apostles and in the Church, the holy city, by all the bishops, more than 310 in number gathered there on that occasion.” The answer, suggested first by G. J. Voss and fully worked out by F. J. A. Hort, is that what we have in it is the old creed of Jerusalem revised in the Nicene direction. If the characteristic Nicene clauses are removed, the whole of the first article and of the second as far as BEFORE ALL AGES is verbally identical with the creed recoverable from St Cyril’s Catechetical Lectures. The second article seems Jerusalemite in its basis, but the Nicene key phrases and certain more precise historical statements have been inserted—FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE VIRGIN MARY, ON BEHALF OF US UNDER PONTIUS PILATE, AND SUFFERED, AND ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES, AGAIN . . . WITH GLORY. In the third article the underlying plan is either pure Jerusalemite or can be vouched for in creeds related to Jerusalem; and the additional matter about the Holy Spirit finds its prototype in the letters of St Athanasius to St Serapion of Thmius (356-362). Hort carried the case a stage further by arguing, with extreme ingenuity and learning, that St Cyril himself was probably the author of the revision of the original Jerusalem creed, and by emphasising the possible historical links between St Cyril and St Epiphanius.
The second problem is solved, if the tradition is to be discarded, concerns the connection between the creed of Jerusalem and the council of 381. Some connection there must have been, or else it would have been impossible to represent it with any degree of plausibility as the ekthesis of the 150 fathers. Once again F. J. A Hort was the propounder of a widely accepted solution. He drew attention to the fact that, though St Cyril was present in person at Constantinople, his orthodoxy was not above suspicion in the eyes of the Western theologians, for he had long belonged to the anti-Nicene party. Indeed the hostility of the West to the council was in large due to the prominent part played in the deliberations by men about whose theology there was reason to be doubtful. Above all, the bishop who for a time was president of the council, Meletius of Antioch, hardly counted as an orthodox person at all in the West. The Eastern Church full understood the dogmatic attitude of the West. Nothing could therefore have been more natural that for St Cyril to present a creed as the proof of his theological correctness; and the creed which he would present would be the revised creed of Jerusalem. This would be entered in the minutes of the council, and many years later, when people had forgotten the precise order of events, may well have come to be regarded as in fact the creed promulgated by the council.
An alternative solution was advanced by J. Kunze in his important little book on our creed. His view, which was take up enthusiastically by A. E. Burns, was that C may have been used at the baptism and episcopal consecration of Nectarius, praetor of the city, who was elected bishop of Constantinople in the course of the council and, in consequence, became its third president. At the time of his election he is known to have been a layman and unbaptised. It is probable, argued Kunze, that he received both baptismal instruction and the sacrament itself at the hands of Diodore of Tarsus, who had sponsored his candidature. The fact that C comes to light in Cyprus (Salamis was St Epiphanius’s see-city), and passed thence to Syedra in Pamphylia, seemed to Kunze to make its adoption by the church of Tarsus, Cilicia, a distinct possibility. Its use at the baptism and ordination of Nectarius would therefore by perfectly natural if Diodore was the bishop who administered them. Granting that it was so used, C would inevitably be associated thereafter with the council, the more so as Nectarius probably make it the official creed of Constantinople thereafter. Among other pieces of evidence which seemed to Kunze to tally with his conjecture is a curious note embedded in the minutes recording the vote at Chalcedon on the question whether N and C agreed with Leo’s Tome. As he cast the vote, Callinicus of Apamea in Bithynia, a town not too far removed from Constantinople, describing the council of 381 as having been held “at the consecration of the most pious Nectarius.” there was evidently some connection in his mind between the creed which formed part of the definition and the elevation of Nectarius to the episcopate.
4. The Tradition Re-considered
The considerations listed in the foregoing section combine to confront the traditional ascription of C to the council of Constantinople with an embarrassing question mark. We cannot casually brush aside such facts, if facts they are, as (a) the absence of any hint in contemporary documents that the council itself responsible for anything more enterprising that the re-affirmation of N, (b) the unquestioning assumption in the long span between Constantinople and Chalcedon that N was the sole authoritative formula, and (c) the evidence for C’s vogue as a purely local baptismal creed almost a decade before the 150 fathers met. It is not surprising that many scholars have found the case overwhelming. On the other hand, there has always been a minority who refused to bow the knee. Caspari, it may be noted, steadily adhered to the tradition, despite the appreciation of the difficulties it entailed. Even in the hey-day of the Hort-Harnack hypothesis, voices could be distinctly heard questioning its validity. Amongst these conservative stalwarts may be numbered the German scholar W. Schmidt, the Russian ecclesiastical historian A. P. Lebedev, and the Greek Archbishop Chr. Papadopoulos. The English F. J. Badcock later joined their ranks. More recently still Eduard Schwartz added his powerful influence to the defence of the tradition in its most uncompromising form. So great is the prestige of his learning and, in particular, of his knowledge of the day-to-day working of the synods of the early centuries, that the position which he espoused, once abandoned as untenable in most quarters, has evidently begun to be taken seriously again.
It is easy to sympathise with the dissatisfaction of these more cautious students. There were grave weaknesses in the Hort-Harnack hypothesis which its brilliant facade could not conceal. Not every student, for example, will be prepared to admit its starting point, the identification of C as the creed of Jerusalem revised by St Cyril. Prudence bids us to remember that the formulary known as the creed of Jerusalem is an artificial construction based on St Cyril’s Catechetical Lectures, and that the text of a portion of the Christological section cannot be pronounced as certain. Furthermore, the points of difference between J (= Jerusalem) and C are numerous and far reaching. If the first articles of both coincide, the second article of C contains several items which are not present in J, such as BECAUSE OF US MEN AND BECAUSE OF OUR SALVATION, FROM HEAVEN (and probably CAME DOWN as well), FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE VIRGIN MARY, FOR US UNDER PONTIUS PILATE, ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES, and AGAIN. Some of these are dogmatically pointless, and so it is not clear why St Cyril should have inserted them. Again while J reads SAT (καθίσαντα) and IN GLORY (ἐν δόξη), C has SITS (καθεζόμενον) and WITH GLORY (μετὰ δόξης); and since J’s forms have Scriptural authority, it is not easy to understand why they should have been altered. In the third article, even if we leave the anti-Macedonian passages on one side, the modifications are so sweeping as to amount to a virtual re-writing. Among the more inexplicable phenomena, on the assumption that C resulted form a revision of J, are the erasure of J’s ONE WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT, the disappearance of J’s THE PARACLETE, the alteration of J’s IN THE PROPHETS to THROUGH THE PROPHETS, and the change of LIFE EVERLASTING to LIFE OF THE WORLD TO COME. Hort’s attempt to connect the transformation involved in these changes with the evolution of St Cyril’s theological views was a tour de force of ingenious conjecture, but was a study in the possible rather than the probable.
Furthermore, the general case developed by Hort and Harnack was more successful in drawing attention to the difficulties facing the tradition than in furnishing an alternative explanation of the facts. Beyond question there must be some point of contact between C and the council of 381, or else Chalcedonian fathers would never have swallowed the description of it foisted upon them so confidently. Yet it is hard to read with patience the theories propounded to account for this. Let us glance first at Hort’s suggestion that C was handed in at the council in token of St Cyril’s orthodoxy. The assumption that the 150 fathers felt the need to rehabilitate its leading figures in the eyes of the Western Church is pure guesswork. There is no positive evidence to support it, and the decision to appoint Meletius of Antioch as chairman of the council is scarcely indicative of a desire to be conciliatory. In any case it remains a mystery why St Cyril alone should have felt it necessary to clear himself. As a matter of fact, as A. E. Burns recognised, St Cyril’s orthodoxy had not been under a cloud for a decade at least, and he had suffered exile thrice at the hands of the Arians for his acceptance of the orthodox point of view. There is nothing at all to be said for the idea that he must have submitted a theological testimonial at the council. Much the same verdict must be passed on Kunze’s alternative proposal, that C became associated with the council through its use at the baptism and consecration of Nectarius. The only information we have is that the pious layman Nectarius was baptised and consecrated at the council, and that Diodore of Tarsus was his sponsor. There was no solid ground for supposing that Diodore catechised and baptised him, much less that the creed employed was the creed of Tarsus: and it involves a wild leap into the dark to argue that St Epiphanius’s creed had probably passed from Salamis to Syedra, and thence to Tarsus.
This is, however, a consideration far more weighty than the exposure of the inner weaknesses from which these conjectures suffer. Even granting that in themselves they were absolutely water-tight and that C may well have been employed either at baptism and consecration of Nectarius or in vindication of St Cyril’s orthodoxy, or on some other occasion at the council, is it really conceivable that it should have been described as the ekthesis, or as ektethenta, of the 150 fathers on the basis of such slender and almost accidental connection? The Chalcedonian bishops who accepted such language used of C were strongly opposed to the fabrication of new creeds. They would surely have insisted to the uttermost a barefaced attempt to palm off on them a formula which was entirely without synodical endorsement. The matter is so important that it will be worth our while to recall in detail the references made to C in the course of the proceedings.
C was first mentioned, at the very close of the first session, by the imperial commissioners. They invited all the bishops present to set out their faith in writing, without fear and in the knowledge that the emperor’s own beliefs were “in accord with the ekthesis of the 318 holy fathers at Nicaea and the ekthesis of the 150 who met subsequently.” At the opening of the third session, when the commissioners were urging the assembly to get down to the task of “setting forth the faith purely” (they wanted a new creed drafted), they again explained that, along with the emperor, “they adhered loyally to the orthodox faith delivered by the 318 and by the 150 and by the other holy and illustrious fathers.” In the discussion which ensued the bishops demurred to propounding the new creed, saying that the teaching of the fathers should prevail, and those who spoke appealed consistently to N, never so much mentioning C. Eventually in response to a motion from Cecropius of Sevastopol, N was read out, and was received with immense applause. The commissioners then ordered “the ekthesis of the 150″ to be read out too, and this was done. The applause which greeted it was noticeably less cordial, but no dissenting voice was raised. Shortly afterwards the meeting was adjourned, and we next hear of C at the beginning of the fourth session. In answer to the commissioner’s enquiry that the synod had decided about the creed, the papal legate Paschasinus replied on his own and his colleagues behalf that the synod adhered to the rule of faith first published by the 318 fathers at Nicaea, which self-same faith “the synod of the 150 assembled at Constantinople in the time of Theodosius the Great of blessed memory confirmed,” and that they did not propose to add anything to it or subtract anything from it. Applause followed these remarks, and the commissioners proceeded to inquire whether “the ekthesis of the 328 fathers who long ago at Nicaea and of those who assembled after in the royal city” was in harmony with Poe Leo’s Tome. In the voting which followed practically all the bishops, beginning with Anatolius of Constantinople and the papal legates, explicitly mentioned C side by side with N as the standard with which the Tome was in agreement. Only the Egyptian bishops and a few others confined their references to N, the council of Ephesus and St Cyril, although it became plain in the debates that their real opposition was to the Tome rather than to C. Finally at the fifth session C was incorporated in the Definition with the significant words:
. . . we have received the unerring faith of the fathers, proclaiming to all the symbol of the 318 fathers, and, in addition, accepting as our own fathers those who received that statement of orthodoxy, the 150 who subsequently met together in great Constantinople and themselves set their seal to the same creed.
The impression left by a study of the Chalcedonian acta is unambiguously clear. When C was introduced to the fathers at the first session, it was evidently quite unfamiliar to the great majority of them, and probably took them completely by surprise. We can only surmise the motives which prompted the imperial commissioners and their supporters at the council to push the claims of C, but there can be little doubt that the manoeuvre fitted with the policy of magnifying the prestige of “new Rome.” The fathers reticence, however, on the subject of a Constantinopolitan creed at the the third session is significant: it suggests that, while to question the formulary which the commissioners declared represented the emperor’s personal faith, they were by no means prepared to treat it as on a level with so unique and venerable creed as N. Even after the third session, when the history and identity of C must have been fully explained to them, they could not bring themselves to show the same enthusiasm towards it as towards N. Such reserve is perfectly comprehensible when we remember the extremely dubious state of the council in 381 in the eyes of many of the bishops. What is really noteworthy, however, about the attitude of the fathers towards C is that, in spite of their understandable detachment and even coolness, no one was apparently disposed to cast doubts on its bona fides. We should bear in mind that they were men of spirit, quite courageous enough, as in the case of their refusal to draw up a new creed, to stand out against the plainly expressed wishes of the emperor. The implication is they must have been satisfied that it had a real and substantial connection with council of Constantinople. To suppose they abstained from questioning its credentials, or that when they questioned them they allowed themselves to be hoodwinked by Anatolius and Aetius, reveals the extravagant measure of scepticism. The only reasonable conclusion to draw, in view of their initial bewilderment and their eventual readiness to canonise C along with N, is that in the meantime trustworthy evidence had been produced showing that it was indeed the creed of the council of 381.
The failure of the Hort-Harnack hypothesis to explain the attitude and language of the Chalcedonian fathers is its fundamentally unsatisfactory feature. In the light of the attempt of some scholars recently to discover ways and means of rehabilitating the tradition is not surprising. One great obstacle in their way has been the presence of C, or a creed remarkably like it, in the treatise of St Epiphanius written several years before 381. We should perhaps remind the reader that the implications of this argument have sometimes been carried too far. Granting it its full weight, it should still be possible to hold that the fathers of 381, even if they could no longer be reckoned as C’s authors, may nevertheless have adopted it as a suitable expression of their teaching. The obstacle, however, seemed unsurmountable to many until, as a result of a closer analysis of the text of St Epiphanius, certain facts were disclosed which, if solidly established, disposed of it once and for all. The scholars to whom this discovery is due are Lebedev, Papadopoulos and Schwartz.
To state their conclusion in sentence, there are grounds for believing that the creed originally occupying the place at present held by Ep I in Ancoratus 118 was not C but N. The reasons for making this inference are two. First, the language which St Epiphanius himself used in the surrounding context is more consistent with the creed’s being N than C; and secondly, the intrinsic character of the creed which follows in 119, know as Ep II, seems to presuppose N rather than C. As regards the former point, St Epiphanius commended his creed to the people of Syedra as one belonging to the whole Church: He spoke of it as this holy faith of Catholic Church as the holy and only virgin of God received it from the holy Apostles of the Lord as a trust to be preserved.” After setting it down in full, he went on explicitly to ascribe it to Nicaea in the words: “This faith was handed down from the holy Apostles and <was published?> in the Church, the holy city, by all the holy bishops, above three hundred and ten in number, gather together then.” The older interpretations of these enigmatic words, which took them as implying that the creed embodied apostolic Jerusalemite and Nicene elements, overlooked the true reference of “the holy city.” As K. Holl pointed out in the Berlin edition of the Ancoratus the phrase was commonly used by St Epiphanius to describe, not the earthly city of Jerusalem, but the heavenly Jerusalem of the Church. What he was really saying in his complicated way was the the creed he had just quoted was the Nicene creed. In harmony with this he terminated it with the Nicene anathemas, which undoubtedly look somewhat out of place at the end of Ep I as it stands in the text at present. Secondly, when proceeded to write out a fuller creed (Ep. II) in ch. 119, he announced in so many words that it would conform with “the faith enjoined by those holy fathers,” but would take account of the various heresies which had raised their heads since they had published it. But when Ep II studied closely, it is seen to add little or nothing to the anti-hertical content of Ep I: the most that can be said is that its language is slightly stiffer and more precise. If N originally stood where Ep I now stands, Ep II must have provided a valuable supplement to it, but after Ep I it was virtually superfluous. Moreover (and this is the really startling point), Ep II is in no sense a re-modelling of Ep I, but consists of the ancient creed, N, enlarged with an Anti-Apollinarian, anti-Macedonian running commentary, and the third article elaborated along the different lines from the third article Ep I. The conclusion is irresistible that the only way of explaining this queer assortment of facts is to assume that the position usurped by Ep I rightfully belongs to N, and the present situation came about through the misplaced zeal of some scribe in substituting, or adding as a marginal gloss, the form which he took to be fully developed, authorised Nicene creed. Since at this point the Ancoratus depends on a single, not very accurate MS, no objection against this inference can be convincingly raised from that quarter.
Another obstacle facing the champions of the tradition was, as we saw, the complete absence of any suggestion in surviving records that the council of Constantinople had been responsible for a creed of its own. Yet the questions has been asked recently whether this represents an altogether fair account of the evidence. First E.Schwartz and his supporters have called for a reconsideration of the letter, preserved by Theodoret which the synod of Constantinople of 382 despatched to the Western bishops assembled at Rome. In this, we remember, there was a reference to “the tomos of the synod of Antioch” and “the tomos which was last year published by the ecumenical council held at Constantinople, in which documents we have confessed our faith more fully.” There is nothing far fetched, it is argued, in taking tomos in this passage as a description of C. The verb “we have confessed” is precisely the one used for setting out one’s faith in a creed. Secondly, a parallel reconsideration of the letter which Flavian sent the emperor in 449 has been demanded. It has been asked whether the reasons for excising “and in Constantinople” from the texts are valid. The words have the backing of some important MSS, and the summary of his faith which Flavian gives in following sentences seems to presuppose a fuller creed than N.
Thirdly, in addition to these obscure and much disputed possible allusions, there are a number of quite unambiguous patristic passages which suggest that the Constantinopolitan fathers were known to have made alterations in the Nicene creed. Thus one of the pseudo-Athanasian dialogues De Trinitate represents Macedonius, who stands for the heresy called after his name, as being accused by one Orthodoxus of being dissatisfied with the Nicene creed and having made additions to it. He counters the charge by inquiring whether the orthodox too had been guilty of the same offence. Orthodoxus has to admit that they added to N, but pleads that their additions were not inconsistent with the Nicene creed and concerned matters which had not been raised at the time of Nicaea. The date and authorship of the dialogue are uncertain, but it must have been written prior to the outbreak of the Nestorian controversy, and recent scholarship has produced an impressive case for attributing it to Didymus the Blind (313-398). It may therefore well belong to the decade immediately following the council of 381. Again, Theodore of Mopsuestia, in his commentary on the Nicene creed, after ascribing the whole of it down to the words AND IN THE HOLY SPIRIT to the Nicene fathers, declared that the more developed teaching about the Spirit which followed was due to “the fathers who came after them.” The initiative, he said, was taken by a synod of Western bishops, but was confirmed by a later gathering of Eastern bishops. A few pages later he repeated his point, again affirming that “the doctors of the Church who assembled from all parts of the earth and who were the heirs of the first blessed fathers’ endorsed the Nicene faith but added clauses about the Holy Spirit. We noticed above that Diogenes of Cyzicus took the same line, though with regard to a different clause of C, Chalcedon, saying that FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE VIRGIN MARY had been inserted “by the holy fathers who came later.” The same tradition, as we saw earlier, regarding the activities of the 150 fathers was maintained in orthodox and Monophysite circles after Chalcedon.
It is not surprising, in the light of these and similar considerations, that the traditional theory that the council of 381 was responsible for promulgating C has come to be seriously canvassed once more. The chief difficulty still remains the blanket silence which, despite the occasional hints we have mentioned, seems to overhang it until Chalcedon. Many would think that the failure of the Constantinopolitan synod to achieve recognition as ecumenical provides a sufficient explanation. E. Schwartz, however, gave an individual twist of his own to this version of the course of events. Part of his object in the important article already referred to was to magnify the council of 381. According to his interpretation, Theodosius I regarded himself as wearing the mantle of Constantine, and in summoning the council he desired it to play the same august role of unifying the Church which the Nicene fathers had played. C may well have been deliberately overlooked in the West, but its position was admitted in the East. There it ranked, as the council which had framed it had intended, as the juridicial equal of N. Naturally, however, the see of Alexandria was ranged with Rome in opposing the council which had elevated Constantinople to the second rank. Hence it was St Cyril who fostered the idea that no creed could claim equality with N. Both in his writings and at the council of Ephesus, where he was the leading spirit, he sedulously propagated this doctrine, and it is to him more than anyone else that the obscurity of C is due. Nevertheless the fact that it was ratified by the 150 fathers, Schwartz thought, could not be concealed.
(There is a remaining section of this chapter. So as not to breach copyright I have intentionally left this out)