Monday, July 07, 2008

Roger Pearse and Cyril of Alexandria

Roger Pearse of and the Thoughts on Antiquity blog has done a lot of great work over the years in making English translations of the early church fathers available online. Thanks Roger! It's great to have such works more freely available.

For some reason though, recently he has been focusing on the works of Cyril of Alexandria. Cyril was one of the least positive influences in Christian history, so I have mixed feelings about this. Roger comments "It is hard for anglophone readers to like Cyril." Among his many other endearing traits, Cyril was the first to permanently split the Christian church. Roger writes:
At the Council of Ephesus in 433, Cyril obtained the condemnation of his rival Archbishop Nestorius of Constantinople for heresy. The vote was taken before the eastern bishops who supported Nestorius could arrive. When they did arrive they excommunicated Cyril. Both sides then appealed to the imperial government, then run by the eunuch Chrysaphius, who wisely deposed them both. After a campaign of letter writing and bribery, Cyril was allowed to return and the decisions of the synod endorsed. The Nestorian schism had begun, and has still not been resolved to this day.

After the synod, Cyril’s reputation was tarnished. Isidore of Pelusium wrote to him that, while he agreed with Cyril theologically, a lot of people thought that the Alexandrian Archbishop had behaved like a jerk. (From here)
The above is an example of one of the "great" ecumenical church councils in action. I love their careful consideration of the evidence and Christian willingness to carefully discuss things prayerfully in brotherly love. The way they handled things gives me such confidence that their decisions were correct. Thanks to this God-guided council we were saved from the errors of Nestorianism and Pelagianism by the inspired St Cyril. (As I said, Church history is somewhat depressing)

Elsewhere Roger quotes Cyril as saying:
indeed we often purchase men’s friendship with large sums of gold, and if those of high rank are reconciled to us, we feel great joy in offering them presents even beyond what we can afford, because of the honour which accrues to us from them.
But then later Roger expresses surprise when reading the letters of Cyril and finds him bribing people:
I was astonished to find, as ‘letter’ 96, a list of ‘presents’ to be given to various court personages in Constantinople. The FoC editor simply describes these as bribes, and, since they indicate that the purpose of the gifts is to purchase favour or disarm opponents, so they must indeed be!


Blogger Roger Pearse said...

Thanks for the name check. I'll respond on Thoughts on Antiquity.

NB: The first quote is from a sermon, and I think that 'we' is not Cyril, but ordinary people. The preacher's "we", in other words.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home