How Many?

“This heresy [filioque], which has united to itself many innovations, as has been said, appeared about the middle of the seventh century, at first and secretly, and then under various disguises, over the Western Provinces of Europe, until by degrees, creeping along for four or five centuries, it obtained precedence over the ancient orthodoxy of those parts, through the heedlessness of Pastors and the countenance of Princes. Little by little it overspread not only the hitherto orthodox Churches of Spain, but also the German, and French, and Italian Churches, whose orthodoxy at one time was sounded throughout the world, with whom our divine Fathers such as the great Athanasius and heavenly Basil conferred, and whose sympathy and fellowship with us until the seventh Ecumenical Council, preserved unharmed the doctrine of the Catholic and Apostolic Church. But in process of time, by envy of the devil, the novelties respecting the sound and orthodox doctrine of the Holy Ghost, the blasphemy of whom shall not be forgiven unto men either in this world or the next, according to the saying of our Lord (Matt. xii. 32), and others that succeeded respecting the divine Mysteries, particularly that of the world-saving Baptism, and the Holy Communion, and the Priesthood, like prodigious births, overspread even Old Rome; and thus sprung, by assumption of special distinctions in the Church as a badge and title, the Papacy. Some of the Bishops of that City, styled Popes, for example Leo III and John VIII, did indeed, as has been said, denounce the innovation, and published the denunciation to the world, the former by those silver plates, the latter by his letter to the holy Photius at the eighth Ecumenical Council, and another to Sphendopulcrus, by the hands of Methodius, Bishop of Moravia. The greater part, however, of their successors, the Popes of Rome, enticed by the antisynodical privileges offered them for the oppression of the Churches of God, and finding in them much worldly advantage, and “much gain,” and conceiving a Monarchy in the Catholic Church and a monopoly of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, changed the ancient worship at will, separating themselves by novelties from the old received Christian Polity. Nor did they cease their endeavors, by lawless projects (as veritable history assures us), to entice the other four Patriarchates into their apostasy from Orthodoxy, and so subject the Catholic Church to the whims and ordinances of men.”

Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs, 1848, sec. 6.

Signed, Patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem.

57 Responses to How Many?

  1. photios says:

    Constantinople IV (879/880) resended 869/870 and was considered an Ecumenical Council for 200 years after by the see of Rome. So, citing 869/870 is merely a footnote to 879/880.


  2. First,

    I have no problem citing the Fathers. What I have a problem is with trolls who just copy paste stuff from websites without any analysis or argument. So I don’t owe the Fathers an apology. Besides, you’re a Catholic troll as I have seen you do the same thing on other websites.

    As for the Formula of Hormisdas, this is what happens when people don’t read the literature on both sides of an issue.

    1st the Patriarch of Constantinople modified the text in the presence of the papal legates as he saw fit, to indicate that it was the JOINT authority of both sees.

    2nd In the signed version much of the high language of the papacy just doesn’t appear.

    3rd. About half of the Eastern clergy NEVER signed it and the Pope was forced to accept them into communion without it.

    So yes I have read it. Have you actually read ANY historical treatments of these issues other than the cut and paste method?

  3. Euthymios says:

    At the Fourth Council of Constantinople [869-870], where about a hundred bishops of the east participated, the Roman Legates made the bishops sign an expanded and adapted version of the formula of Pope Hormisdas. [Mansi 16:27 sq.].

    Have you ever read this formula? It affirms the Roman primacy. The original formula was signed by around 2500 eastern clergy.

  4. Because Rome revoked the 869 council and condemned the filioque along with the East.

  5. Euthymios says:

    You know, Photius died in communion with Rome. I wonder why.

  6. trvalentine says:

    W-a-y behind reading, but I still offer a cent and a half:
    I think it more accurate if we translate ‘Ecumenical’ as ‘Imperial’, i.e. Imperial Councils — they were called by the emperor, were deemed official business of the empire, decisions were added to the law books of the empire.

    There was one Apostolic Council. (The Apostolic Age ended)
    There were several Imperial Councils. (The Imperial Age ended in 1453)
    If, by the grace of God we get together a council of all the Orthodox, I would suggest calling it something else. (Suggestions: Pan-Orthodox, International, Global)


  7. Fr. John says:

    Not to change topic or anything (please!) but this statement from earlier in the comments, was earth-shaking in my view, even if it only corroborated an opinion I have long held.

    “It seems to me that the Byzantines never really made a functional distinction between oikoumene as ‘the empire’ and oikoumene as ‘inhabited creation,’ which is kind of problematic, given that the empire even at its zenith never contained all Christians or all bishops, and well, that the empire hasn’t existed for quite some time….”

    Well, maybe the EMPIRE hasn’t existed for some time, but the People [Race] and the Geography [‘bounds of their habitation’] still do! And, DID the Empire contain ‘all -right-believing- bishops’, if not the -wrong-believing- which, as the Church teacheth, are no ‘bishops’ at all….

    What I mean is, the post-schism Roman/Western attempts at World evangelization going on to this day, (which, I think everyone will agree, are intimately tied to their filioquist mindset; [of mixing the ‘persons’ of the Trinity with Man (pope) as active replacement for the H.S., who was reduced only to the ‘love between the Father and the Son” (“All you need is Love, yup da dum da dee”)]…

    In adopting filioquism, Rome (and Geneva/Augsburg/Canterbury) went OUTSIDE of the ‘Ecumene’ to do so. So, the first question to ask is, Was this correct/right? It would seem that, if they were THEOLOGICAL heretics in doing so, the INCARANATIONAL heresy of ‘ingrafting’ was wrong also….

    Conversely, once one goes outside of the “Ecumene’ -i.e., the Empire, i.e., Europe,(C-incidentally?) all sorts of theological heresies begin to erupt, following on Rome’s defection, and Protestantism’s defection of that defection…. thus, the 25,000 protestant groups alone, ignoring Eddyists, Smithites, Russelites, etc.

    IF the ‘World’ that Christ spoke of, when He gave the “Great Commission” was ONLY to the “Ecumene” (as I have argued before in other places) then are ALL missionary endeavors OUTSIDE of the “Ecumene” (i.e., Caucasoid Europe) misguided at best, or HERETICAL at worst?

    Could it be that the ‘lost sheep of the house of Israel’ ARE only to be found within the “Ecumene’ as the Greeks, (and thereby, the hellenized Hebrews of the first century) thought of the “World.”

    What then of “World Orthodoxy”? Are they in error in this point?
    Are the SCOBA-dox also erring, by seeking to ‘multiculturalize’ American [sic] Orthodoxy?
    Does pre-schism Orthodox missionary activity hold up this mode, or refute itl?
    What about post-schsim Orthodox missionary activity, until the ‘Lutheran influence’ occurs in Peter & Catherine [the Great’s] reigns?

    Just asking….for all of said activity would have resulted from an improper ‘scope and sequence’ of just how pervasive the mission of the H.S. indwelling His Church should have gone… and would of a necessity lead us to find that all such attempts are incarnationally no more than ‘temple prostitution’ by seeking to enfold ‘the nations round about us’ when we should be a ‘holy seed, a chosen people, etc.’.

  8. Lucian says:

    Actually, I would dare say even more than St. Photius already did: they deprived themselves at their own little Synod, where they’d condemned Truth and proclaimed falsehood: every bird perishes on her own tongue. They who condemn Truth are themselves condemned by the very Truth which they condemn, and -in the end- only manage to actually condemn themselves.

  9. Lucian says:

    See, St. Vincent of Lerins really meant business when he said ANTIQUITY, [which many detractors of the Truth completely lacked, no matter HOW MANY they’ve managed to convince], along with UNIVERSALITY, as well as CONSESNSUS. — It all really “boils down to” Trinitarian Theology. 😉

  10. Lucian says:

    The problem with St. Photios’ adversaries was that (1) the bishops at councils should speak for the truth as it was delivered unto them, and not behave like mitred theologians; (2) less so corrupt theologians, who, like some philosophers of old tried to excuse patricides and fratricides, they also wanted to excuse heresy which kills the soul; (3) and hersesy it was since they lacked continuity with the past, and history wasn’t on their side [*], whereas St. Photios -on the other hand- was true to the Solomonic advice not to change the ways of old and not to transgress against the Tradition of your elders, as his entire theology so nicely fits that of the previous Church Councils.
    [*] the faith once and for all delivered to the Saints.

  11. Lucian says:

    Why does it sound like Rome? Are You confounding the Church with the hierarchy, and the hierarchy with the Patriarch? :-\ What do the following verses mean to You?

    Psalms 133:1  ¶Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

    Deuteronomy 17:6  At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.

    Deuteronomy 19:15  One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.

    2 Corinthians 13:1  ¶This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.

    Matthew 18:15  ¶Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
    16  But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
    17  And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
    18  Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
    19  Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
    20  For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.


    What, now are You gonna say that I’m a Protestant, `cause I quote Scripture, right? 🙂

  12. The Saint said, “They [the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Alexandria and all the other heretical bishops of the East] have been deposed and deprived of the priesthood at the local synod which took place recently in Rome. What Mysteries, then, can they perform? Or what spirit will descend upon those who are ordained by them?”

    “Then you alone will be saved, and all others will perish?” they objected.

    To this the Saint replied, “When all the people in Babylon were worshipping the golden idol, the Three Holy Children did not condemn anyone to perdition. They did not concern themselves with the doings of others, but took care only for themselves, lest they should fall away from true piety. In precisely the same way, when Daniel was cast into the lion’s den, he did not condemn any of those who, fulfilling the law of Darius, did not wish to pray to God, but he kept in mind his own duty, and desired rather to die than to sin against his conscience by transgressing the Law of God. God forbid that I should condemn anyone or say that I alone am being saved! However, I shall sooner agree to die than to apostatize in any way from the true Faith and thereby suffer torments of conscience.”

    “But what will you do,” inquired the envoys, “when the Romans are united to the Byzantines? Yesterday, indeed, two delegates arrived from Rome and tomorrow, the Lord’s day, they will communicate the Holy Mysteries with the Patriarch. ”

    The Saint replied, “Even if the whole universe holds communion with the Patriarch, I will not communicate with him. For I know from the writings of the holy Apostle Paul: the Holy Spirit declares that even the angels would be anathema if they should begin to preach another Gospel, introducing some new teaching.”


  13. “To which church do you belong? To that of Byzantium, of Rome, Antioch, Alexandria, or Jerusalem? For all these churches, together with the provinces in subjection to them, are in unity. Therefore, if you also belong to the Catholic Church, enter into communion with us at once, lest fashioning for yourself some new and strange pathway, you fall into that which you do not even expect!”

    To this the righteous man wisely replied, “Christ the Lord called that Church the Catholic Church ***which maintains the true and saving confession of the Faith.*** It was for ***this confession*** that He called Peter blessed, and He declared that He would found His Church upon ***this confession.*** However, I wish ***to know*** the ***contents*** of ***your confession,*** on the basis of which all churches, as you say, have entered into communion. If it is ***not opposed to the truth,*** then neither will I be separated from it.”

    –The Life of our Holy Father, Maximus the Confessor: Based on the life by his disciple Anastasius, the Apocrisiarios of Rome

  14. Yeah…that sounds like Rome. Nice.

    Sorry, I don’t capitulate into such thinking. Neither did St. Maximos.


  15. Lucian says:

    `cause the Church says so.

  16. Lucian,


    Why is the 6th Ecumenical Council, Ecumenical?


  17. Lucian says:

    Listen, if You want to fight the Goliath of heresy, You have to fight it with the sling of David, not to burdain Yourselves with Saul’s heavy armour. You have to say together with St. Paul, that it is in our weakness that God’s strength shines forth at its highest. To re-write history by saying that the 8th and 9th were Ecumenical all along, and that somehow the vast majority of the faithful have simply ‘missed that’ [and that they still do] is a false approach and it won’t solve Your problem. If You want to defend Orthodoxy, then You’ld have to do that by accepting in all humbleness only the weapons which SHE HERSELF prescribes for You to use. 🙂

  18. Lucian says:

    I really don’t undestand MANY things of what You are saying, and what I do understand sounds either fishy, or suspicious, or just plain weird. The Ninth and the Eighth are indeed the last two with any *claims* at being such, but -nonetheless- it seems like their-being-called-or-receievd-or-regarded as such was simply *not granted or given* unto them by the Church of God through space and time, through history and geography, or whatever. Does the Calendar call “The Triumph of Orthodoxy” the Sunday of Gregory Palamas, or the Sunday of the Icons? Is anyone here questioning the universally-agreed nomenclature of the Feasts in the Calendar? There are indeed *individual* Fathers and *local* Synods which DO treat them as such … no question `bout that (and there’s certainly nothing wrong `bout that either … obviously!) … but Orthodoxy is MORE than just that. 😦 So, if You want to present these last two Synods as universally-perceived-as-such, it’s the Church that You have to convince, … not me. 😦 I can’t change history, and I can’t change THE FACT that the Church *Universal* doesn’t share in Your *opinion*. It doesn’t “condemn” it, or “forbid” it, or whatever, .. but it doesn’t “sustain” it, or “back it up” in any maningful way either. 😦

  19. St. Vincent is talking about ALL those Churches and Individuals who teach and hand down the Truth. Not every person or even every christian or even every see. I like to read the writer in context and read him consistently with himself.

    Well…geez…I didn’t think anything I said was difficult or some kind of “metanarrative.” I guess all that stuff about the link between the Emperor and an Ecumenical Council has been forgotten here.

  20. Lucian says:

    The spiritual or metaphysical Ecumene was always there [the Church of God founded invisibly on Great Friday and visibly on Pentecost]. But the First Ecumenical Synod, however, is NOT the first Synod [which was the Apostolic one] … yet it *should’ve been*, were Your P.O.V. correct. History shows us that the First Ecumenical Synod is the one that took place during the physical, visible Ecumene, and it was gathered at the command and expense of the Ecumen. It’s THAT simple and staright-forward. And the last Synod which has any claims at being called Ecumenical is indeed the Ninth, since there was no Ecumene, nor any Ecumen, after the Fall of C-tinople in 1453. But the universally-recognised counting [which both historically, as well as geographically has the best representation] stops at #7. It’s really easy. Honestly. :-\

  21. Lucian says:

    What I’m saying is: You can’t extend the number of Ecumenical Synods *further*, in the *future*, for the same reason that You can’t extend them *backwards*, in the *past*. But this is far from saying that, just `cause the expression is different, their weight or importance or reception is in any way different.

    We don’t call Niceea “Second Apostolical”, nor the Apostolical as “Ecumenical Zero”. And besides, what about the Synods that have happened in the meantime, over the course of those three centuries? Or the writings of Apostolic men, and of the Bishops that reigned over the Churches in these post-Apostolical, pre-Ecumenical times? :-\

  22. Lucian says:

    St. Vincent of Lerins and the Catholic rule of faith. You ask me how many, I tell You so many as the historical and geographical witness of the Church, cohesive and unified throughout space and time tells us: there are testimonies to support Your views from both, but they’re week[er].

    It’s the same as: how many years did Jesus live on earth? There are three Traditions, one Western, which seems to point out to 31; one Oriental, which seems to point out to about 40 or 50; and the majority Tradition, which is the best represented, and which gives the number of 33 1/2. The same thing with the canon of Scripture for both Old and New Testaments. It’s THAT simple.

    You keep asking me all these metaphysical questions which I don’t even understand, and whose very purpose for existing in the first place I don’t even understand. And I keep giving You these completely dull and boring and down-to-earth answers.

    You keep speaking of this metaphysical Ecumene, I keep speaking of the real one. Your P.O.V. doesn’t hold water because between the Apostolic Synod and the First Ecumenical Synod were 300 yrs in which heretics wandered from place to place, yaking and complaining that they’ve been unjustly condemned, then the bishops from that place gathered together to do them justice and ended up condeming them some more. Why? Because churches are many, but the Church is one; and because bishops are many but the bishoprick is one. The Faith once and for all delivered unto the Saints is one, and since faith is about God, Who is the Father of Light, in Whom there’s neither change nor even as much as a shadow of alteration, the faith is unchanging also. No matter when, where, and by whom these heretics were judged, the judgement was always the same: guilty as charged. It’s like doing a math-problem: You resolve it using various methids … but the outcome is always the same. NEVERTHELESS, THESE SYNODS WERE NEITHER APOSTOLIC NOR ECUMENICAL. Yet they had no problem in representing the united and cohesive mind of the Church. :-\

    1) Apostolic Synod. 2) Local Synods, expressing Universal truths. 3) Ecumenical Synods. 4) Synods not universally regarded as Ecumenical throughout Church history, but which nonetheless express the same Universal truths. 5) Various Synods (like the Pan-Orthodox ones, or the ones at Iasi, Jerusalem, etc). –> These various expressions are tightly linked to their own age, and we can’t escape the factuality of this historical reality. :-\

    Am I making myself clearer?

    Orthodoxy is not some sort of “Sola-Seven-Synods”, so You don’t *have to* “push” the eighth, ninth and tenth into them. –> Sabellianism and Trithiesm and Gnosticism were condemned throughout the Holy Church of God, without any need for an Ecumenical Synod. –> Don’t let Yourself be frustrated or constrained by such Protestant-like notions or ideas so foreign to our faith.

    And we aren’t Catholics either, to think that religious thought evolves ove rtime, so if You don’t have Yourself a merry little Ecumenical Synod each every 100-200 yrs., then You are not evolving, etc. –> All the Synonds were gathered by *the most stringent of necesities*, some of them well after the cake has already exploded! They were some sort of last resort, like a break-handle in a train-compartment.

    I don’t understand Your logic about the *theologiocal* primacy of the first Seven: that’s not true. The Eighth condemned a Christological as well as Pneumatological heresy, and the Ninth an Essential-Energetical one. They fit perfectly with the first two, as well as continuing where the first Seven left off. YET STILL, THEY’RE NOT ECUMENICAL, BUT OF ANOTHER SORT. They uphold same Universal truths, but they’re not included in the class or family or number of the Seven which are of an Ecumenical status.

  23. Lucian,

    You made an argument from Tradition and universality (whatever that is)? The fact that you appeal to universality, you seem to imply every church everywhere which is actually Rome’s idea. When I talk about universality, I’m talking about the truth of it: its wholeness. Not geography.

    So, what is your argument from Tradition that the number is seven. And whose Tradition is this?

    My point is that you can’t appeal to Tradition at all to support the number of Councils. The number comes from tracking those that have continuity WITH Tradition. Tradition is the gospel of Christ, your changing up the meaning of Tradition to give it a much broader meaning then what Irenaeus ever intended.


  24. Lucian says:

    I don’t understand what You’re trying to say. You talk about mutual recognition, I talk about universality. As for Irenaeus, antiquity is measured after the event appeared, obviously. (Are You pulling at straws here ?). :-S Anyway, regardless, Rome’s post-factum -not to mention revisionist- senseless allegations are as usually way, way off. Ecumenical Synods are gathered as a response to a very strongly-felt need of the Ecumene. Since we haven’t had that need for the last 1,000 years, their absence is self-understandable. And I did keep an open mind for quite some time after first finding out about them a few years back, on Mr. T.R. Valentine’s site, but … after all was said and done … it was time for me to run … no, just kiddin` :p … I just didn’t >buy< it, for reasons already presented and expounded above, so … :-\ Well, anyway…

  25. Lucian,

    Since you are going to use Tradition in that very wide sense. I’m going to nail you on that.

    Please explain to me from Tradition that the Ecumenical Councils are numbered in seven. Where does Irenaeus talk of such? He knows nothing of it. You and I have a different concept of what Tradition (i.e. the Gospel) is then. All the Ecumenical Councils are an affirmation of what is already taught and are rather a culling out the mingling, confusion, and damage of those who are making philosophy the handmaiden theology.

    I do not accept the modern day Orthodox concept of “mutual recognition” of what constitutes either an Orthodox Church and Her Bishop on a micro-level or of what constitutes an Ecumencial Council on a wider level. That my friend is nothing but innovation. That it is a good of the Church to have as to express the agape of the truth that we profess in common, no one would dispute. That it is the very definition of Orthodoxy or as a necessary condition, a good sober reading of Church history should remove the rose colored glasses as there was very rarely mutual recognition of Councils or even sometimes between Churches (Sts. Cyril and Chrysotom for example). A Council as Ecumenical is that she understand herself as protecting the gospel and as being incorporated into Roman law, both of which are understood on their own by the 8th and 9th. The seven ecumenical councils have a primacy because they are an iterative refutation of all Christological heresy, and the 8th is a summation of all those heresies into one heresy: the filioque. On that basis, I think there are good reasons to think that the loss of Rome as an Orthodox see has thrown this situation in too much confusion, specifically by her own rewriting of history and influence and infultration of Orthodox lands there after. Because of that confusion and because the confusion has run strong and deep for so long, has left the Orthodox in a state of epistemic chaos in her own recognition. We should never underestimate Rome’s importance and losing her as an Orthodox see, not because of her alleged authority, but that she was always such a good safeguard in keeping the Gospel for so long, analogous to losing your oldest big brother.

    Sorry to come across strong here, but your tone kind of afforded me such. You need to think a little open mindedly here.


  26. Lucian says:

    Mark Krause, I don’t engage in speculations, (that’s a very Catholic thing to do). All I know is that they aren’t remembered, or acknowledged, or reckoned, as Ecumenical at any signifficant or universal scale … and it’s also very clear *WHY*. That You don’t like the reason is of secondary importance, what matters is that it’s true. (And it doesn’t take a rocket-scientist, or a theology degree, to figure out the difference of significant proportions and vast magnitude that is easily observable between importance of the first Seven and the last two or three for the East, which East housed each and every one of the first Seven Councils, which Councils were expressly directed at combating very wide-spread Eastern heresies, which ran like wild-fire within the Eastern Empire, and threatened to divide it with social, political, territorial and administrative schism(s)). 😐

  27. Lucian says:

    Guys, I don’t know what we *should’ve* remembered as Ecumenical, and what we *shouldn’t have* remembered as such … all I know is that we *don’t* regard them as such: never did (at an universal scale) and still don’t. 😐 Sorry to crush Your little dreams and hopes under the insignificant weight of such periferal notions as, errr, universally received Tradition. 😐 You can still present Your case like this: there still exists within the Greek Tradition a small but significant minority belief in the existence of two or three more Ecumenical Councils. (But that’s about it). :-<

    Perry, is there any chance that my comment might be set free at the Great Origenistic Apokatastasis of Blog Hell, when all Comments shall be set free? :-))

  28. Whether or not an Orthodox Christian accepts Constantinople IV, the Blachernae Council of A.D. 1285, or the Palamite Councils, etc., as ecumenical, he cannot reject the binding nature of the teaching put forth in those councils without undermining the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

  29. Mark Krause says:

    The Eighth was not an affirmation of the faith to outsiders. I’m not even sure that’s very accurrate to say of proposed 9th (I don’t know of anyone who was claiming a 10th) but it’s definately not true of the 8th. The council was pre-schism and it had delegates from Pope John VIII there. St. Photios the Great himself refers to it as an Ecumenical Council in the Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit. I don’t think you can say it was a problem that didn’t touch the Orthodox Church considering the west was part of the Church at that point in time…and if the filioque problem could cause Photios to be removed as Bishop…doesn’t that seem like a problem that affects the East? The filioque is a heresy that has to do with a confusion of personal and natural properties (like pretty much all good heresies) and it is a Trinitarian heresy with Christological implications. How is this a completely different situation from the first seven? It sounds like most of your argument is just based on the fact that it’s just customary to talk about seven. I don’t think that really can be called a fool-proof argument from Tradition. Plus, you didn’t directly address (much less refute) any of Perry’s or Daniel’s arguments.

  30. Lucian,

    No, I consigned the comment to Comment Hell and Comment Hell is of an Annihlationalist variety, so it is long gone.

  31. Lucian says:

    Tradition. Pure and simple. Not much to tell there, really. I’m talking here about the overwhelming Tradition of the Church, which universally holds to this number. I understand that there is/are also minority Traditions that hold to a somewhat different number, and I respect them. There are also Traditions which hold a number of one year for Jesus’ ministry [West] or a about decade [Orient], but the majority Tradition is that which confesses a number of three-and-a-half years. The Sunday of Orthodoxy, in which she triumphed over all her adversaries is the one celebrating the Seventh Ecumenical Council, not another one. We celebrate Gregory Palamas -for instance- in Lent also, but it’s not his Sunday that is celebrated as such. And besides, let’s gace it: there is a significant difference between the first Seven [all treating ardent theological problems which (almost or completely) divided the Ecumene: remember the turmoil of Arianism and iconoclasm that lasted each for over a century; remember the Nestorian and Monophysite Schisms; or the problem of Monothelism, also fiercely persecuting its oponents] … and the last two or three: The Eighth: a problem which was never ours: at no point in time did the inhabitants of the Eastern Empire killed or tortured or persecuted eachother over Papal primacy or supremacy, or over the Filioque: it just wasn’t our problem. The Ninth: likewise, at no point in history did all rebellion and madness break loose because of Easterners persecuting the living soul out of eachother over the fact that Essence is different from Energies, and that both are eternal and part of God. And there is also a Tenth. Let’s face it: we remember the Seven because of a very visceral, down-to-earth, directly-concerning-us reason. Whereas the Eighth and Ninth [and Tenth] are simply affirmations of our belief (as we always knew it to be) to outsiders. Plain and simple. I understand the reasons that You (or anyone else) might want to insist on them (out of some sort of frustration towards Rome’s stupid claims) … but COME ON! At the turn of the first millennium, we were pretty much bored, and sick and tired, and left without any more imagination of what new heresies to invent (and calmness and stillness settled in) … whereas in the West, good ol’ Charlemagne had nothing better to do then … building schools! And when he finished building them, (all those fancy and clever Universities of philosophy and sciences and whatever) … guess what! … all hell brake loose there in the second millennium as it did to us in the first (Rome was the bulwark of Orthodoxy for so long precisely because it was an Empire of villages, not of Metropolises … and, let’s face it, how many peasants You know either directly, or from the study of Church History has ever fathered any heresies !?). Am I gettin` through to You? have I succeeded at making my reasons clear and explicit enough ? :-\ I mean, I can understand why You guys might be so interested in finding out all these forbidden and secret Synods [like finding out about all those forbidden and secret books, the Deuteros], but … :-\ Sorry to burst Your over-enthusiatic Indian-Jones-bubbles, but … honestly now … :-\

  32. Samn!,

    It would undermine Perry’s point, but only partially. Whatever we want to call a council with respect to solving a dogmatic question, they won’t be ecumenical in the sense that Photios thought of or a Gregory of Nyssa and such, as there is no Christian Emperor. But…it doesn’t undermine him in the sense that we can acutally hold Councils that solve theological disputes, we just have no Emperor to integrate them into secular law.


  33. On what basis, would you refute my claim? You can’t point to the liturgy, because say in the day of Maximos there were only 5, so the liturgy is capable of facilitating and adding more in it’s celebration by nature.

    I’ll be interested in hearing a detailed and well thought out response.

  34. Lucian says:

    I just said that there were only Seven of them. That’s all.

  35. photios says:


    I didn’t see your comment in the filter. Try posting it again.


  36. Lucian says:

    LOL. So, … I guess my comment is still in Purgatory then, not being pure enough to make it directly onto this heavenly blog, and all that … :-)))

  37. Lucian,

    It’s probably caught in the filter. As soon as I log in to wordpress I’ll post your comment.


  38. Lucian says:

    Guys, am I just being my usual paranoid conspiracy-theorist self, or was my previous comment simply censored? (And I won’t take an ‘apophatic approach’ as an answer).

  39. Samn! says:

    I hadn’t read the book you cite by Romanides, but what he’s saying is pretty sensible. That said, your reason (2) for why the Photian and Palamite councils should be considered ecumenical kind of undermines Perry’s point in the comment above, about the apologetic value of pointing out that the Orthodox can have more ecumenical councils.
    It seems to me that the Byzantines never really made a functional distinction between oikoumene as ‘the empire’ and oikoumene as ‘inhabited creation,’ which is kind of problematic, given that the empire even at its zenith never contained all Christians or all bishops, and well, that the empire hasn’t existed for quite some time. Now, if we accept that those councils whose decisions were incorporated into Roman law as ecumenical- as likely was the understanding of ecumenicity in the Byzantine period- then we have to admit that there can’t be any more ecumenical councils because there’s no oikoumene to have them in the original sense of the word. Which would be fine, as the incorporation of a council into civil law has never made a council true (as they could be latrocinia) nor does a council’s not being accepted into civil law make it any less true and binding on the faithful (local councils and major councils after the empire’s fall).
    But it makes talking to someone who only considers decisions of councils called ‘ecumenical’ to be binding dogma for the Church a bit more difficult, not to mention that the Latin understanding of what consitutes an ecumenical council seems way different. At least, it seems to me that there will always be some difficulty to explaining the fact that the Church continuously possesses the authority to clarify its dogmas despite that the mechanisms by which this takes place not being quite as bureaucratically defined as they are in some other organizations.
    Again, I’m not really solving or arguing here, just problematizing……

  40. Have you ever read John Romanides’ work on the Councils? One of the places where he is quite solid. His point is that Ecumenical Councils do not replace or supplant the need and necessity of local synods:

    “Canon Law makes specific provisions for the regular convocation of the Synods of bishops presided over by a Metropolitan, Archbishop, or Patriarch at regular intervals for dealing with the proper execution of the Church’s mission of cure within society. There are no such provisions for Ecumenical Councils. The reason for this is that the local synods were part of the original structure of the Church, whereas the Ecumenical Synod was of an extraordinary and imperial nature. One may draw a parallel between Ecumenical Councils and the Apostolic Council convoked in Jerusalem (Acts 15, 6:6-29). Ecumenical Councils, however, were convoked by the Roman Emperor for the purpose of signing into Roman Law what the synods of Autocephalous and Autonomous Churches believed and practiced in common.

    “Arius, Nestorius and Eutyches were first condemned by local Councils and then by Ecumenical Councils. Paul of Samosata was condemned by a local council whose decision was accepted by all other synods. The same was the case with Sabbelius. Even at Ecumenical Councils bishops participated as members of their own synods whose spokesmen were their Metropolitans, Archbishops, and Patriarchs, or their legates. It should be clear that neither can an Ecumenical Council become a substitute for local synods, nor can local synods take precedence over an Ecumenical Council, unless the one or the other strays from the faith.”

    From the Neurobiological Sickness of Religion, John Romanides.

    Having said that, I think there are good reasons to think that the Photian and Palamite Councils are of the Ecumenical variety. 1) They are dealing with matters that are direct to the gospel and that means Christology, and 2) they are convoked by the Emperor with the purpose of setting forth decisions that are to incorporated into Roman Law, by means of the Emperor who unites the secular and the Church in his personal and liturgical function as Roman Emperor.

    You’re not annoying me at all. 🙂


  41. Samn! says:

    Well, that’s kind of what I’m asking. Because, I’m not sure exactly. For the question of the eighth council, it’s not a Greek/Arab question, but rather a Greek, briefly Rome / everyone else question (possibly?). I brought up the reception of Nicea II by the Arabs as an illustration of how the reception of councils as ecumenical can be a somewhat drawn-out and uneven process, even when there’s no dogmatic dispute over the council (acceptance of first Nicea by the Church in the Persian Empire is another possible example, though much more complicated). I mean, the reason the Arabs didn’t pay much attention to Nicea II was likely because a theologically-articulate Christian iconoclasm wasn’t an issue in the 8th/9th C in Muslim territory.

    So, the question of what kind of reception a council needs by the wider Church to be ecumenical is kind of an ecclesiological issue. And I don’t think the numbering of a council as ecumenical is exactly the same thing as reception of its teachings, as there are all sorts of councils whose teachings no Orthodox would call into question but are still not called ecumenical. Outside of the Greek-speaking world, it seems that this is the case for the Photian council. So, you could argue that those Orthodox who don’t call the Photian council ecumenical are a bit like the Arabs who never bothered to call Nicea II ecumenical, all the while praying in front of icons. That is, just a few centuries out of sync with everybody else but eventually random historical factors will iron out the quirk. On the other hand, one might also argue that though the central churches of Rome and Constantinople called the council ecumenical, the fact that -at least currently, and possibly historically- not all the churches outside the empire called the council ecumenical though they accepted its decisions would mean that calling the council ecumenical is at most a local usage (something of a contradiction, I know).

    Now, I’m not really arguing either way, just pointing out the problem. Personally, I’m inclined to think that counting out the ecumenical councils is a bit like counting the sacraments- a bit weird and Latin, helpful for memorizing stuff in sunday school, but not necessarily all that useful, either. In terms of the actual life of the Church, in the liturgy we have the following: seven councils with their own feast days. So clearly I should accept their teaching. Gregory Palamas Sunday after Sunday of Orthodoxy (as opposed to his personal, fixed feast day)- so I should accept the Palamite councils as upholding Orthodoxy. Use of the teachings of the Photian council in the Synodikon. So as Orthodox I should accept those teachings as well. Etc.

    So, I mean, I kind of get the apologetic value for pointing out the the Photian council is frequently called ecumenical, but only if your interlocutor is of the mind that the only things that are dogmatically binding are those things proclaimed in councils that get called ecumenical. (And I realize that there are Greek Catholics out there especially who will come up with the most exotic ideas of what’s dogmatically binding upon them, vis-a-vis either of the two Romes). Of course, if we draw up a list of all those councils whose decisions are required by the litugy, the Synodikon (in whichever of its usages), and more-or-less universal acceptance, we’d have at least as many ecumenical councils as the Latins. And there might be apologetic value in that, but something might also be lost.

    Again, I’m not really looking to argue so much as problematize, and I hope my doing so hasn’t been annoying. This current comment itself is unduly prolix, so apologies in advance…..

  42. Samn!,

    Why would tighter control be the point of departure, since an 8th or 9th council’s unity would be based on the truth of the gospel and not on someone’s authority? In other words, since what you regard those councils to be saying as dogmatic truths, why would there be any need for an Arab to recognize those truths other than passive recognition and not cooercion?

    Building on this point, does it really make a difference if Arabs were influenced by Greek speaking bishops during the 18th and 19th? Were these bishops legitimate overseers of these Sees? Does ethnicity make any difference with regard to matters of the gospel? I would say not at all to the latter and affirmative to the former.

    I’m not sure if any Antiochians were represented at IV Constantinople (which was quite widely represented), but I highly doubt there any at II Constantinople, though I could be wrong.

    So…what is an ecumenical council?


  43. Samn! says:

    It is strange about the Arabs not picking up on 2nd Nicea, but they just never seem to have, at least for a few hundred years. I think Sidney Griffith has some remarks, if not a whole article on that somewhere.
    The philosopher is Abdallah ibn al-Fadl…. none of his major works are published, let alone translated into a western language. But, he was very important for the intellectual history of Antioch, both because he translated the Psalms and a huge amount of patristic material into Arabic, and because his own works were copied and used down to the 19th C. I made an edition / translation of a couple of his minor works that I’m sitting on for the time being, and I’m preparing a conference paper on his ideas on God’s unity that touches on his critique of ipsum esse. When I get the relavent passages translated out I’ll show you, if you’d like, but his logic would make you cringe something fierce.
    Well, without knowing about the understanding of an eighth ecumenical council in the smaller churches, it is at least an academically interesting question of what to do when a council is considered ecumenical by the central churches but possibly not on the periphery. The eventual acceptance of 2nd Nicea as ecumenical by the Arabs after some several centuries is of course one model of how it can eventually resolve itself, but then it only happened after they came under much tighter control from the center. I’m not sure what other models of resolving the question are possible, though…

  44. Samn,

    If memory serves the reference is in Mahlon Smith’s, And Taking Bread, but I’d have to check to be sure. It seems strange to me that they wouldn’t number Nicea 2 as ecumenical by that late period in Antioch.

    Which philosopher r u thinking of regarding ipsum esse?

    I also thought of looking at the Serbs and the Georgians but I haven’t been able to look into it.

    In any case, it seems fixed that the two principle sees, Rome and Constantinople took it to be so, took it to resvole the conflict and re-establish communion. I don’t think we can ignore a hundred years plus of Roman attestation.

  45. Samn! says:

    Actually, Perry, do you have the reference for Peter III?
    11th C Antioch is a very interesting situation, a nearly century-long period where the city itself, though not most of the territory of its patriarchate was back under Byzantine rule and in much closer communication with the Byzantine cultural world than it had been for three hundred years or would again be until the 18th C. So, if you were to find a pre-Ottoman attestation for this view in Antioch, that would be the most logical time to look for it. It didn’t much filter down to later times, though, as we find in almost every apology in Arabic against Muslims or heretics a list of six councils is very standard, for example in Paul of Antioch (bishop of Sidon)’s 12th century polemical works.
    (I work on an Arab Orthodox philosopher fl. ca. 1050 in Antioch… his dialectical arguments against God as ipsum esse would make your toes curl, especially given that he translated several works by St. Maximos).

    Re: Russia. Well, Romanides does blame the Jesuits for Russia’s numbering of councils. Plausible, but also good reason to look at Serbia or Georgia as well. Though, that’s beyond my own linguistic ability… Though, it does bring up the question of if a council is ecumenical, but word never gets out that it is, what do you do with it?

  46. Samn,

    I don’t think thats quite right re: Antioch as Peter III in the 11th century seems aware of the 8th council as being ecumenical and accepted by Rome. That is signficantly long before 1724.

    As for the property of being ecumenical, what ecumenical councils list the conditions for a council being one? That would certainly give us a much better idea wouldn’t it? Palamas actually has two feast days.

    Beyond Russia, I think Rome thought it was so and I think there is sufficient evidence to that effect.

    As for the argumentative value, it refutes, if not at least revbuts the charge that the Orthodox are stuck in some kind of 8th century stasis and can’t have an ecumenical council thereby implicitly admitting the Roman claim to deficiency. Interestingly enough I don’t think Catholics think papal ratification is a sufficient condition for a council to be ecumenical either and so at worst they aren’t in any better position than us.

    As for Russia, I’d have to look more carefully regarding the Palamite councils and their status among the Russians. There might be some Jesuitcal influence there, lack of adequate communication or it might not turn out to be the historical position of the Moscow patriarch. At this point, I am not sure.

  47. Samn! says:

    I’m nitpicking here maybe. But, it seems to me that there isn’t necessarily consensus in Orthodoxy about what makes a council ecumenical, or what ecumenical means when talking about a coucil. Now, some notions you see occasionally argued for in all seriousness, like that you need an emperor to call the council or that Rome needs to approve it for it to be ecumenical border on zaniness. The view about councils that I’m questioning here is that any council whose decisions are accepted by the whole Church is ecumenical. Now of course in one sense it is, just given that anything that’s universally accepted is universal. Fair enough. But, I’m still kind of hesitant to want to equate later councils (we can make a game of listing universally accepted later councils, from the Photian and Palamite councils to Jerusalem 1672 or Iasi 1642 or whathaveyou) to the first seven, given the somewhat special liturgical place given to those councils. Though, as I think about it, the Sunday of Gregory Palamas, treated liturgically as a kind of second Sunday of Orthodoxy, is as strong an argument as any for calling the Palamite councils ecumenical.
    Now, mention in the Synodikon is certainly enough to argue that the dogmas of those councils mentioned are dogmas of the church. But is that the same as the feast-days given to the first seven? I don’t honestly know, myself. The Synodikon as a document seems to be very amenable to locally-needed additions (as the ROCOR use of it occasionally shows).
    My asking about non-Greek churches wasn’t really asking about the west somuch as asking about what they do in Russia, Romania, and Serbia, etc. It seems to me from my maybe too-random reading that numbering the Photian and Palamite councils as ecumenical is mostly argued for by members of the Greek-speaking churches. The passage you quote, then, would be good evidence that those churches have had a reasonably long tradition of considering these councils ecumenical, but I’m not convinced that it’s more than a local usage.
    If I may ask, what is the (polemical?) value of calling these councils ecumenical if their content is already accepted by the Church? I’m likely not clear on what’s at stake here…

  48. Samn ! says:

    To clarify, by ‘Hellenic captivity’ of Antioch, I was using Hellenic as an ethnic term rather than in the more specialized way used more often on this blog. That is, I’m talking about the period from the reign of the patriarch Sylvester (starting in 1724) until the reign of the patriarch Meletios II (starting in 1899) where Greeks replaced Arabs as bishops and Constantinopolitan and Greek traditions replaced the native Antiochene traditions. It was really just an aside and I mentioned it only to point out that the ‘Eastern Patriarchs’ who signed the encyclical were, due to the way the Church was organized in the late Ottoman period, functionally reduced to being sufferegan bishops of Constantinople. Interestingly, it’s really only right around the start of this period where Arabs start talking about anything other than six ecumenical councils, not out of doctrinal opposition to the seventh but because it apparently hadn’t been commemorated liturgically in Antioch until its celebration was imported by Greek clergy. (Not that this was at all a bad thing…..)

  49. Mark,

    The same can be said of the Palamite councils, but I do not see them as “ecumenical” in the full sense of that term either, although the decrees issued by those councils have dogmatic status since they have been incorporated into the Synodikon.

  50. Not to nitpick (well, too late I guess), but it’s actually the medieval Roman church that preferred lists of seven (seven deadly sins, seven virtues, seven sacraments, etc). I’m not entirely certain the East has shared that affinity.

    Back to lurking…

  51. Mark Krause says:

    maybe there’s something I’m missing (which wouldn’t be very surprising) but there doesn’t seem to be anything in the eighth council which would disqualify it from being ecumenical in the same way the first seven were. Why not consider it Ecumenical? (besides the fact that the Orthodox really love things that come in sevens)

  52. I tend to see the seven great Councils as ecumenical, while the later councils in the East (i.e., Constantinople IV, the Palamite Councils, etc.) hold dogmatic authority without themselves being ecumenical.

  53. Sam I am,

    What kind of Hellenic captivity do you suppose of Antioch? Making philosophy the handmaiden of theology? A Hellenic cultural captivity? If so, what would culture have to do with truth since the filioque is a Triadological and Chistological heresy (actually, it’s the summation of all heresy).


  54. Samn,

    Yes, we do have evidence that it was accepted as such in the West. I’ll post some references later. But I don’t think universally assented to councils are just hanging around waiting to be plucked. They aren’t that easy to come by.

    The 8th Council is liturgically celebrated. Ever read the Synodikon?

  55. Samn! says:

    While it does seem that the Greek-speaking churches (Antioch at that time being in its Hellenic captivity) have tended to occasionally speak of eigth and sometimes ninth ecumenical councils, do we have instances where non-Greek sources refer to such?
    More importantly, can we consider a council to be ecumenical -on par with the first seven- if it is not celebrated liturgically in the same way as the first seven? I mean, we could probably find any number of councils whose decisions the whole church accepts….

  56. The Eighth Ecumenical Council re-instated Photios and condemned filioquism while also condemning the papacy’s pretensions of authority over the Eastern Churches… signed by the legates of Pope John VIII and the Eastern Patriarchs… It should definitely be reckoned Ecumenical, being ecumenically received.

    It’s my understanding that Roman Catholics later struck out this council as invalid and made the previous council that unlawfully deposed St. Photios the “Eighth” in their version of history.

  57. Sophocles says:


    May we never forget.

%d bloggers like this: