The Condemnation of John Beccus

Exposition of the Tomus of Faith Against Beccus

From Aristeides Papadakis: Crisis in Byzantium: The Filioque Controversy in the Patriarchate of Gregory II of Cyprus (1283-1289)

 By the most holy and ecumenical patriarch, Lord Gregory of Cyprus, who was attacked by certain individuals, and for whom this vigorous reply was given. The disturbance and storm, which occurred in the Church a short while ago, had, as it were, for its father and leader, the Adversary himself, who is forever stricken with envy of man’s salvation, and who is always seeking to do that which would prevent it. Even so, he also had individuals who, although they were, at first, not the major leaders at fault, but only worked as so many servants and instruments, by preference, did for the disturbance whatever he wanted done. But, since from the beginning, the union [of 1274], the certain harmless accommodation, and the alleged benefit to us were not, in reality, what they claimed, their actual intention was made clear by their actions. And this was proposed as a bait, drawing men’s souls to that which was hidden; it was, further, proposed with promises, with the most terrible imprecations, and with solemn oaths, to the effect that they had nothing else in mind other than that which these very things signified — harmlessness, safety, that is, irreproachability. Shortly afterward, however, these imprecations and oaths were forgotten, as if they had been made for some purpose other than that for which they were intended. And the union and accommodation, and their hitherto seemingly important undertaking, are, as it were, cast down, while the words and the deeds of evil are raised up. And someone This “someone” is clearly John Beccus. The account here is historically accurate, and refers to the fact that initially the Union of Lyons, as sponsored by Michael VIII, was grounded on the principle οίκονομία. However, Beccus’ attempt to justify the Filioque theologically, shortly after his accession, transferred the issue from the plane of accommodation to that of theology. What was being threatened was the integrity of Byzantine theological tradition and custom, which Michael had promised to retain undisturbed. dares to declare in our midst that the Spirit also proceeds from the Son, just as it does, indeed, from the Father, and that the only-begotten Son — like the Father, who begets the Son — is its cause. This, then, is how the disturbance begins, how the great struggle against the Church is rekindled.

Almost everyone knows (there is no need to explain it again) that this alien doctrine, which disturbed us lately, was not a recent development, but had its genesis with others, not with us. All the same, it was brought here like a foreign plague, and flourished for quite some time. And it was John Beccus who gave it the strength to grow so much and he accepted it and became the suitable ground, as it were, for its growth; and he nourished it, in my opinion, from the rivers of evil and lawlessness, or, as he falsely said, from Holy Scriptures, interpreting it wrongly, spreading babble from there, and committing sacrilege, while, at the same time robbing the meaning of Scripture, and the sense of those who listened superficially or of those who had an eye on his wealth. Yet, this evil man was almost in his eighth Beccus’ patriarchate: 26 May 1275 to 26 December 1282. year of office and residence in this city; for this is how long he had been established on the patriarchal throne, the prize for a bad crop. And all this time God allowed the Church to suffer and endure the worst because of the multitude of the sins of everyone, by which we alone provoke the anger of Him who is without passion.

Eventually, however, God pitied us, his servants, and looked upon us with mercy and raised up an emperor — who seems to live only for the purpose of doing his bidding — and the Church, just as, in the past, He had raised David’s fallen and ruined tabernacle through him. Acts 15:16 And the man who had accepted and nourished the evil and discord was removed from our midst, and the true doctrine concerning the Spirit is expressed with confidence, and those who wish to change the life dearest to God are, in the future, free to build on the foundation of faith. It is, likewise, commendable, and truly salutary, and the work of superior planning to attend to the future safety of the Church and, in every way, to secure its stability so that if someone hateful to God should again attempt to disturb it he will be shown to be acting in vain, because he will be repelled by the unshakable words of our faith. This could be accomplished satisfactorily if we do two things. We should first define our belief dearly, that is, the Orthodox faith, and raise it as a permanent monument to our sublime faith; seen, thus, from a distance — being visible to all — it will attract to itself the spiritual eyes of everyone. Secondly we must make this evil, destructive and alien teaching known, so that when this has been exposed we will all turn away from it and despise it and quickly escape from its danger.

Accordingly, the faith which we acknowledge and believe in our heart is as follows. We believe as we have been taught from the beginning and from the Fathers. We have been taught and we believe in one God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible, who, being without principle (ἄναρχος), unbegotten, and without cause, is the natural principle and cause of the Son and of the Spirit. We also believe in His only begotten Son, who, being consubstantial with Him, was begotten eternally and without change from Him, through whom all things were made. We believe in the all-Holy Spirit, which proceeds from the same Father, which, with the Father and the Son together, is worshipped as coeternal, co-equal, co-essential, co-equal in glory, and as joint-creator of the world. We believe that the only-begotten Word of the supersubstantial and life-giving Trinity came down from heaven for us men and for our salvation, was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man; that is, He became perfect man while remaining God and in no way altered or transformed the divine nature by His contact with the flesh, but assumed humanity without change. And He, who is passionless according to His divine nature, suffered the passion and the cross and, on the third day, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven and sat at the right hand of God the Father. We believe in accordance with God, holy tradition and teaching in one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins, we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the age to come.

Additionally, we acknowledge a single hypostasis of the incarnate Word, and we believe the same Christ to be one, and we proclaim and know Him after the Incarnation, as redeeming with two natures, from which, and in which, and which He is. Consequently, we believe in two energies and two wills of the same Christ, each nature having its own will and its own saving action. We venerate, but not absolutely and without adoration, the holy and sacred images of Christ, of the immaculate Mother of God, and of all the saints, because the honor we show them passes over to the original. We reject the recently established union [of Lyons] which provoked God’s hostility toward us. Cf. Rom. 8:7 For this union divided and ravaged the Church, under the pretense of harmless accommodation, persuading it, by their stupidity and deception, to establish their glory, but not God’s, Rom. 10:3 and to turn from Orthodoxy and the sound teaching of the Fathers, and to fall down the precipice of heresy and blasphemy. The word “blasphemy” is used repeatedly by Gregory to describe Beccus’ doctrine concerning the procession of the Spirit. To be sure, the deeply biblical nuance of the word in Scripture and in patristic literature did not escape him. In the New’ testament, the word indicates violation of the power and majesty of God (Mark 2:7; Luke 5:2 1). In the early patristic period, opposing theological views were stigmatized as blasphemy. See especially G. Kittel (ed.), Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, I (Grand Rapids-London, 1964), 621-25. We also render void their dangerous doctrine concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit. We have been taught from God, the Word Himself, that the all-Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father; and we confess that it has its existence from the Father, and that it prides itself — exactly as the Son Himself does — in the fact that the same [Father] is essentially the cause of its being. And we know and believe that the Son is from the Father, being enriched in having the Father as His cause and natural principle, and in being consubstantial and of one nature with the Spirit, which is from the Father. Even so, He is not, either separately or with the Father, the cause of the Spirit; for the all-Holy Spirit’s existence is not “through the Son” and “from the Son” as they who hasten toward their destruction and separation from God understand and teach. Psalm 73:27 We shun and cut off from our communion those who do not correctly uphold the sound faith but blaspheme blatantly, and think and speak perversely Acts 20:30 and perpetuate what is most alarming and unbearable to hear.

They were originally members of our nation and of our doctrine and belonged to the Church, and yet they rebelled against it and put it aside — the Church which had spiritually given them birth and had nourished them. And they placed the Church in ultimate danger and showed themselves blameworthy children, estranged sons, who had veered from their paths. You did not repay well — evil and perverse generation Matt. 17:17 — either the Lord God or Mother Church. One should be willing to endure every danger — even death itself should not be rejected — on behalf of the Church and its doctrines. And yet, their behavior toward the Church was worse than that of natural enemies, for they were openly emotionally disturbed and had altogether lost the ability of distinguishing between friend and foe. The first among them, as we said, was John Beccus who (because Christ had visited his own Church, and moved against him and his evil associates, and proceeded clearly forward with the result that he was going to be justly punished for his endless chatter), after appearing to repent for the mischief he had caused when he went raving mad, and, after composing a pious statement and giving it to the synod handling his case, had hardly tasted leniency and escaped condemnation, when he turned back to his own vomit of blasphemy. 2 Peter 2:22

This statement should be made known so that all who hear This passage indicates that the text was intended for those who had assembled to “hear” the Tomus read from the pulpit of the Hagia Sophia. it may judge if he was justly condemned. The verbatim text was as follows:

Because of my attempt to promote the precarious accommodation of the supposed ecclesiastical union, and to bring everyone around to agree to it, it happened that I spoke and wrote on Church doctrine; certain things which I had said, however, were found to be of a dubious nature and at variance with sacred and holy doctrine and this being so, the synod had them condemned. I said, for example, that the Holy Spirit has, as cause of its personal existence, the Father and the Son, and that this doctrine was in harmony with the formula which declares that the ‘Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son.’ In the final analysis, this means that the Spirit has two causes, and that both the direct and the remote principles of causation were implied. That is, the Son is as much the cause of the existence of the Spirit as the meaning of the preposition “through” allows. And since all these doctrines are found in my own writings and speeches, they are mine, for no one else had thought and written these. Additionally, I said that the Father and the Son [together] constitute a single cause of the Spirit from whom, as from one principle and source, the Spirit has its being. All this and anything else that may lead to such dogmatic absurdity-before God, his awesome angels, and before the holy and sacred synod-from the bottom of my heart, without deceit, without hiding one thing and saying another, I turn away from, I reject, and I cast out because they lead to the ultimate destruction of the soul. I confess with heart and tongue and I believe as does the holy Catholic Church from the beginning in the Holy Trinity, the one God, thus: that the Father does not have His being either from another or from Himself, but is without beginning and without cause that the only-begotten Son of God has His existence by generation from the Father and has the Father as His cause; I confess and believe that the Holy Spirit has-by procession-its existence from God the Father; and that the Father, according to the voices of the holy teachers, is the cause of the Son and of the Spirit; that the formula ‘the Spirit proceeds through the Son’ in no way renders the Son, either separately or with the Father, the cause of the Spirit because, according to the dubious and absurd view of certain individuals, the Son and the Father constitute the one cause and unique principle of the Spirit. These, then, are the doctrines that I confess. I hope it will be these and all the doctrines of the holy catholic Church of God, according to this written confession, that I shall be found confessing unto my last breath. Everyone who, now or in the future, does not confess thus I dissociate myself from, and I cast out far from the Orthodox faith of Christians. This is the statement of my confession and faith, by which I acknowledge and witness to everyone, and by which I indicate clearly that I hold to the faith concerning God, and that I am entirely devoted to the evangelical, apostolic, and patristic doctrine and teaching. Because of my boldness, by which I precariously attempted to delve into certain of the above-mentioned doctrines, I was deposed from the episcopate by the most holy [Joseph], lord and ecumenical patriarch, and by his holy and sacred synod, in which the most holy [Athanasius] pope and patriarch of Alexandria was also present. As such, I approve this lawfully and canonically rendered sentence of deposition, and I accept this resolution as justifiable and lawful. I shall never try to regain the priesthood.

Nevertheless, once this confession which he wrote and signed with his own hand was published, he annulled it immediately as soon as the ecclesiastical court had given him a reprieve. And he again composes books and blasphemies, and he again adds spurious doctrines and the opinions of others which our fathers did not know. And he obstinately tries to prove himself superior to these “errors” of this evil, whereas, of course, he should have done this solely by repentance and by the suppression of all that he had written. By ignoring the way, 2 Peter 2:15 he veered from the straight path and was given to a mind even more reprobate than before. Rom. 1:28 We imagine that the spirit of error left him for a while, but attacked him again with greater force, having brought along not seven, but a whole legion of spirits, and that it took possession of his soul and filled it. Cf. Matt. 12:43-45 Therefore, he is again summoned and asked to account for this change from good to evil. And who summons him but the emperor [Andronicus] who is jealous of God, the God of hosts, 1 Kings 19:10 and who has become as the hand of the Most High himself in the restoration of the Church and the faith, whom I happily call a new Moses, God’s excellent servant, Heb. 3:5 who rescued the present-day people of Israel not from that ancient material bondage of Egypt, but from another one that is far worse. Because of this service, the emperor has been drawn by the hand of God, whose books contain his name. Cf. Phil. 4:3; Apoc. 17:8 We, therefore, need not write a great deal about him.

And Beccus was asked by the emperor and by the holy synod to state the reasons for which he turned back (after he had obtained the grace of a commendable repentance, and had put — to speak scripturally — his hand to the plow, Luke 9:62 and had agreed to follow the Church’s order), and lost all ability to gain the kingdom of heaven, preferring blasphemy to truth. However, it became clear from his words (he did not say anything that is true), and from his actions (he made no attempt to hide his wickedness), that he is so closely united with heterodoxy that no words would convince him to renounce his position. Accordingly, the entire assembly of the faithful, inspired by the righteous zeal against him and those who share his views, render this decision like the ancient priests pronouncing against their own kin, the sons of Israel, who had broken the law.

  1. To John Beccus and to those who follow him, to Constantine Meliteniotes and George Metochites, who were born of us, Cf. 1 John 2:19 and who were reared in our customs and doctrines, but who did not abide in them despite the fact that these were their own and of the Fathers, and had been established with the passage of time ever since the Christian faith began to be preached in these parts. But these, against which not even the gates of hell have prevailed nor shall prevail Matt. 16:18 — they have despised, and I do not know why they condemn them, or why they refuse to praise them. But then they introduced instead a belief that was entirely unknown to its authors, for they respect neither the text’s antiquity nor those who revealed these truths, namely, the ones who spoke of the things of the Spirit not for any other reason but because they were filled with the Spirit. To these men because they were so corrupt that they held beliefs both strange and alien to our traditions to the detriment and destruction of the Church; and, sometime later, they renounced this madness and declared by word and in writing before countless eyes and ears that they would be accursed if, in the future, they should not be found in full possession of the traditional faith, but drawn to a belief alien to the Church; and because they did not abide by their own written statement concerning this repentance, but changed their mind and opinion and again turned to their previous apostasy, as if possessed of a rebellious nature and a faithlessness toward ancestral doctrines, to these, because they wickedly turned away and preferred this separation from their own Church, we pronounce the resolution which they have pronounced upon themselves (or in the case of those who, in the future, will dare to do so), we cut them off (since they hold such views) from the membership of the Orthodox, and we banish them from the flock of the Church of God.
  2. To the same [John Beccus], and to those who along with him were rash enough to introduce into the apostolic faith matters which the teachers of the Church did not hand down and which we have not received through them, we pronounce the above-recorded resolution and judgment, we cur them off from the membership of the Orthodox, and we banish them from the flock of the Church of God.
  3. To the same, who say that the Father is, through the Son, the cause of the Spirit, and who cannot conceive the Father as the cause of the hypostasis of the Spirit — giving it existence and being — except through the Son; thus according to them the Son is united to the Father as joint-cause and contributor to the Spirit’s existence. This, they say, is supported by the phrase of Saint John of Damascus, “the Father is the projector through the Son of the manifesting Spirit.” John of Damascus, De fide orthodoxa, in Kotter, Die Schriften des Johannes von Damaskos II, 36 (= PG 94.849B): “He Himself [the Father], then, is mind, the depth of reason, begetter of the Word, and, through the Word, projector of the manifesting Spirit.” This, however, can never mean what they say, inasmuch as it clearly denotes the manifestation — through the intermediary of the Son — of the Spirit, whose existence is from the Father. For the same John of Damascus would not have said — in the exact same chapter — that the only cause in the Trinity is God the Father, thus denying, by the use of the word “only,” the causative principle to the remaining two hypostases. John of Damascus, De fide orthodoxa, in Kotter, Die Schriften des Johannes von Damaskos II, 36 (= PG 94.849B) Nor would he have, again, said elsewhere, “and we speak, likewise, of the Holy Spirit as the ‘Spirit of the Son,’ yet we do not speak of the Spirit as from the Son.” Ibid., 30 (= PG 94-832B). For both of these views to be true is impossible. To those who have not accepted the interpretation given to these testimonia by the Fathers, but, on the contrary, perceive them in a manner altogether forbidden by them, we pronounce the above recorded resolution and judgment, we cut them off from the membership of the Orthodox, and we banish them from the flock of the Church of God.
  4. To the same, who affirm that the Paraclete, which is from the Frather, has its existence through the Son and from the Son, and who again propose as proof the phrase “the Spirit exists through the Son and from the Son.” In certain texts [of the Fathers], the phrase denotes the Spirit’s shining forth and manifestation. Indeed, the very Paraclete shines form and is manifest eternally through the Son, in the same way that light shines forth and is manifest through the intermediary of the sun’s rays; it further denotes the bestowing, giving, and sending of the Spirit to us. It does not, however, mean that it subsists through the Son and from the Son, and that it receives its being through Him and from Him. For this would mean that the Spirit has the Son as cause and source (exactly as it has the Father), not to say that it has its cause and source more so from the Son than from the Father; for it is said that that from which existence is derived likewise is believed to enrich the source and to be the cause of being. To those who believe and say such things, we pronounce the above resolution and judgment, we cut them off from the membership of the Orthodox, and we banish them from the flock of the Church of God.
  5. To the same, who say that the preposition “through” everywhere in theology is identical to the preposition “from” and, as a result, maintain that there is no difference in saying that the Spirit proceeds “through the Son” from saying that it proceeds “from the Son” — whence, undoubtedly, the origin of their idea that the existence and essence of the Spirit is from the Son. And they either infer a double or a single procession of origin, and join the Son to the Father according to this explanation of “cause,” both of which are beyond all blasphemy. For there is no other hypostasis in the Trinity except the Father’s, from which the existence and essence of the consubstantial [Son and Holy Spirit] is derived. According to the common mind of the Church and the aforementioned saints, the Father is the foundation and the source of the Son and the Spirit, the only source of divinity, and the only cause. If, in fact, it is also said by some of the saints that the Spirit proceeds “through the Son,” what is meant here is the eternal manifestation of the Spirit by the Son, not the purely [personal] emanation into being of the Spirit, which has its existence from the Father. Otherwise, this would deprive the Father from being the only cause and the only source of divinity, and would expose the theologian [Gregory of Nazianzus] who says “everything the Father is said to possess, the Son, likewise, possesses except causality” Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 34, PG 36.252A; cf. also Mouzalon’s use and explanation of this proof-text, in PG 142.293A-B. as a dishonest theologian. To these who speak thus, we pronounce the above-recorded resolution and judgment, we cut them off from the membership of the Orthodox, and we banish them from the flock of the Church of God.
  6. To the same, who contend that the unique essence and divinity of the Father and the Son is the cause of the Spirit’s existence — an idea which no one who has ever had it in his mind has either expressed or considered making public. For the common essence and nature is not the cause of the hypostasis; nor does this common essence ever generate or project that which is undivided; on the other hand, the essence which is accompanied by individual characteristics does, and this, according to the great Maximus, denotes the hypostasis. Cf. Maximus the Confessor, Letter 7: To John the Presbyter, PG 91.436A. But also, according to the great Basil, because he too defines the hypostasis as that which describes and brings to mind what in each thing is common, and which cannot be described by means of individual characteristics which appear in it. Basil, locus incognitus. Because of this, the indivisible essence always projects something indivisible (or generates the indivisible that generates), in order that the created may be [simultaneously] the projector as well as the projected; the essence of the Father and the Son, however, is one, and is not, on the whole, indivisible. On this section, cf. John of Damascus, De fide orthodoxa, in Kotter, Die Schriften des Johannes von Damaskos, II, 27 (= PG 94.825A-B). To these, who absurdly blaspheme thus, we pronounce the above-recorded resolution and judgment, we cut them off from the membership of the Orthodox, and we banish them from the flock of the Church of God.
  7. To the same, who teach that the Father and the Son — not as two principles and two causes — share in the causality of the Spirit, and that the Son is as much a participant with the Father as is implied in the preposition “through.” According to the distinction and strength of these prepositions, they introduce a distinction in the Spirit’s cause, with the result that sometimes they believe and say that the Father is cause, and sometimes the Son. This being so, they introduce a plurality and a multitude of causes in the procession of the Spirit, even though this was prohibited on countless occasions. As such, we pronounce the above-recorded resolution and judgment, we cut them off from the membership of the Orthodox, and we banish them from the flock of the Church of God.
  8. To the same, who stoutly maintain that the Father by virtue of the nature — not by virtue of the hypostasis — is the Holy Spirit’s cause; the result is that they necessarily proclaim the Son as cause of the Spirit, since the Son has the same nature as the Father. At the same time, they fail to see the absurdity that results from this. For it is necessary first that the Spirit be the cause of someone, for the simple reason that it has the same nature as the Father. Secondly, the number of the cause increases, since as many hypostases as share in nature must, likewise, share in causality. Thirdly, the common essence and nature is transformed into the cause of the hypostasis, which all logic — and, along with this, nature itself — prohibits. To these, who believe in such things strange and alien to truth, we pronounce the above-recorded resolution and judgment, we cut them off from the membership of the Orthodox, and we banish them from the flock of the Church of God.
  9. To the same, who state that, in reference to the creation of the world, the phrase “through the Son” denotes the immediate cause, Immediate or primordial cause: προκαταρκτικὴ αἰτία; cf. Basil, On the Holy Spirit, PG 32.136B. as well as the fact that it denies the Son the right to be creator and cause of things made “through Him.” That is to say, in theology proper [the study of the Trinity in itself], even if the Father is called the initial cause of the Son and the Spirit, He is also, “through the Son,” the cause of the Spirit. Accordingly, the Son cannot be separated from the Father in the procession of the Spirit. By saying such things, they irrationally join the Son to the Father in the causation of the Spirit. In reality, even if the Son, like the Father, is creator of all things made “through Him,” it does not follow that He is also the Spirit’s cause, because the Father is the projector of the Spirit through Him; nor, again, does it follow that, because the Father is the Spirit’s projector “through the Son,” He is, through Him, the cause of the Spirit. For the formula “through the Son” here denotes the manifestation and illumination [of the Spirit by the Son], and not the emanation of the Spirit into being. If this was not so, it would be difficult, indeed, even to enumerate the theological absurdities that follow. To these, who irrationally express such views, and ascribe them to the writings of the saints, and from these stir up a multitude of blasphemies, we pronounce the above-recorded resolution and judgment, we cut them off from the membership of the Orthodox, and we banish them from the flock of the Church of God.
  10. To the same, who declare that the Son is said to be the fountain of life in the same way that the Virgin Mother of God is said to be the fountain of life. For the use of the phrase in patristic literature, sec G. W H. Lampe, A Patristic Greek Lexicon (Oxford, 1961-1968), fasc. 4, 1080. The Virgin is so called because she lent living flesh to the only-begotten Word with a rational and intellectual soul, and became the cause of mankind born according to Christ. Similarly, those who understand life to be in the Holy Spirit will think of the Son as the fountain of life in terms of cause. Hence, their argument — from conclusions drawn of incongruous comparisons and examples — for the participation of the Son with the Father in the procession of the Spirit. And yet, it is not because the Virgin is said to be the fountain of life that the only-begotten Word of God is called the fountain of life. For she is so called because it is from her that real life came, for the same Word of God and true God was born according to His humanity, and she became the cause of His holy flesh. As for the Son, He is the fountain of life because He became the cause of life for us who were dead to sin; because he became as an overflowing river to everyone; and because, for those who believe in the Son, the Spirit is bestowed as from this fountain and through Him. This grace of the Spirit is poured forth, and it is neither novel nor alien to Scripture were it to be called by the same name as Holy Spirit. For, sometimes, an act (ἐνέργεια) is identified by the name of the one who acts, since frequently we do not refuse to call “sun” the sun’s own luster and light. Cf. Patriarch Philotheus’ words in Against Gregoras, PG 151.916D: “And this divine splendor and grace, this energy and gift of the all-Holy Spirit, is called Holy Spirit by Scripture … for we call ‘sun’ not only the solar disk, but the splendor and energy sent forth from there.” To these, whose ambition is to draw such conclusions, and to reconcile what by nature cannot at all be reconciled, we pronounce the above-recorded resolution and judgment, we cut them off from the membership of the Orthodox, and we banish them from the flock of the Church of God.
  11. To the same, who do not receive the writings of the saints in the correct manner intended by the Church, nor do they honor what appears to be the closest [interpretation] according to the patristic traditions and the common beliefs about God and things divine, but distort the meaning of these writings so as to set them at variance with the prescribed dogmas, or adhere to the mere word and, from this, bring forth strange doctrine, we pronounce the above-recorded resolution and judgment, we cut them off from the membership of the Orthodox, and we banish them from the flock of the Church of God.

Certainly, the doctrines of the above-listed and already expelled individuals are filled with blasphemy, malice, and fall short of all ecclesiastical prudence. Even if Beccus, the father of these doctrines — or someone among his zealous supporters — confidently affirms that these teachings are the thoughts of the saints, in reality, we must suppose him a slanderer and blasphemer of the saints. For where have the God-bearing Fathers said that God the Father is, through the Son, the cause of the Spirit? Where do they say that the Paraclete has its existence from the Son and through the Son? Again, where do they say that the same Paraclete has its existence from the Father and from the Son? In what text do they teach that the one essence and divinity of the Father and the Son is the cause of the Holy Spirit’s existence? Who, and in which of his works, ever prohibited anyone from saying that the hypostasis of the Father is the unique cause of being of the Son and the Spirit? Who among those who believe that the Father is the cause of the Spirit has taught that this is by virtue of the nature, not by virtue of the hypostasis? And who has failed to maintain this as the characteristic that distinguishes the Father from the other two hypostases? Finally, who says that those other teachings, about which he has lied by insulting the Fathers, belong to the Fathers? He abstains from neither evil. For at some places he alters their own words, and, even when he uses the words without distortion, he does not adhere to their true meaning. Neither does he look at the aim that the author had in mind, but arrogantly passes over the purpose and the desire, and even the express intent of the author’s statement, and adheres to the word and, having obtained the shadow instead of the body, composes books. And this is like saying that he twists ropes of sand and builds houses therefrom to make I do not know what, unless it is a monument and a memorial — the former, an advertisement of his folly the latter, a declaration of the struggle he undertook against his own salvation. This being so, we condemn the doctrines themselves together with their authors, and judge that their memory, like the expelled, be eliminated from the Church with a resounding noise.

They are like thorns and thistles which, by divine permission, have grown within the life-giving precincts of the Church, or like evil weeds which the enemy has sown among the authentic wheat of the gospel. Cf. Matt. 13:24-30 For he found an opportunity for his wickedness in the forebearance of the avenging God. They are a death-bearing brood of vipers Luke 3:7 (if you prefer something that has a greater resemblance to evil) and, according to Scripture, descendants of serpents bringing death to every soul that approaches them; and they are worth preserving so long as they do not need to be born at all and men do not know of them. They should be destroyed with fire, and with iron, and with every possible means — a task the Church should undertake — and they should be given over to non-being and to ultimate destruction. Indeed, we counsel all the sons of our Church to avoid them with great care, and not even to listen to them in a cursory manner.

This section, beginning with “But we cannot” and continuing to the end of the Tomus, is quoted verbatim by Gennadius Scholarius in his Second Treatise on the Procession of the Holy Spirit; see L. Petit et al. (edd.), Œuvres complètes de Gennade Scholarios, II (Paris, 1929), 424-26. The patriarch here draws the threads of his argument together, and summarizes the reasons for the rejection of the Union of Lyons. Gennadius was particularly anxious to show that the Church had indeed solemnly and formally rejected the decision of 1274 and the dogmatization of the Filioque. Hence his lengthy quotation. But we cannot stop with admonition alone but must supplement this with both threat and fear for the sake of the security of the future. But what does this threat consist of? Is it because the act [of Lyons] which occurred a short while back — I know not why they called it “accommodation” and union, when it deserves a completely different name — confused the Church and finally ravaged it? Indeed, this act introduced precariously and very dangerously the aforementioned and unreasonable doctrines, which had John Beccus as their protector. Thus, we define our position very clearly for everyone, should any individual — living now or in the future — ever dare to revive that act which has been wisely abolished, or attempt to impose doctrines on our Church which have been already profitably condemned, or suggest them either secretly and maliciously, or introduce a proposal in favor of believing or approving these doctrines, or strive for their free acceptance among us, and thus scorn the genuine doctrines of the early Church and its present decrees against the spurious and alien and, indeed, against the accommodation and act by which they crept into the Church to its detriment. This Beccus, and anyone who agrees ever to receive those members of the Roman Church who remain intransigent concerning those doctrines for which they were from the beginning accused by our Church and for which the schism occurred, and who agree to receive them more openly than we were accustomed, that is, prior to this misleading accommodation and worthless union [of Lyons] hostile to the good — this man, besides expelling him from the Church, cutting him off, and removing him from the assembly and society of the faithful, we subject to the terrible penalty of anathema. For he should not even be forgiven by men, he who did not learn not to dare such things (after such an experience of the preceding evil, or after the recent condemnation), and who did not understand not to contrive against the accepted formulations of the Fathers, nor to remain forever a disciple and subject of the Church.

And we proclaim and do these things, as we said, for the sake of remaining spiritually unharmed, for the mutual benefit of everyone, for those who now belong to our devout Church, and for those who after this shall continue to do so. Remain steadfast, true [followers] of God, by avoiding and loathing those other doctrines that are opposed to the truth, and those fabrications of Beccus. Avoid not only him, but those individuals mentioned above by name who together with him spew out blasphemies which, till now, they have made their own, and which they accept unrepentantly. By so doing, the Paraclete will abide in you, and will preserve you not only from the plague of such error, but from the greater plague of the passions for the participation in the eternal benefits and the blessedness prepared for the just. And may you be and remain so.

The recorded resolution and decision has now been issued by the Church against those who have rebelled and repudiated the Church. In a short while it will be proclaimed by the supreme judge, unless, before the arrival of His great and manifest day, Acts 2:21 they set themselves free by repentance, tears and mourning beyond endurance. For if they repent and look again at the light of Mother Church with the pure eyes of the soul, they will be like those who, in coming to Christ, will not be turned out. To the contrary, Christ will approach the returning one and will embrace him, even if he is a prodigal son who has wasted his inherited portion, Luke 15:11-32 or a lost sheep which had abandoned its sheepfold, or an individual who has removed himself from grace. So it is with the Church which in like manner shall gather them together and reckon as its own and forthwith establish them among the ranks and company of its children, provided they lament one day and experience what we experience now. And although we excommunicate them, separate them from the Church of the devout, impose on them the awesome and great judgment of separation and estrangement from the Orthodox, we do not do it because we wish to exult over their misfortune or to rejoice over their rejection. On the contrary, we grieve and bear their isolation with loathing. But why do we need to act in this fashion? Mainly for two reasons: the first being that their unhappiness and bitterness will cause them, after they have realized their folly, to return repentant and save themselves in the Church. Secondly, others will henceforth be chastened and disciplined so as not to attempt anything similar, or attack that which is holy, or behave willfully against that which is sacred; lest, if they show such audacity, they receive the same rewards in accordance with the example that has been set. 

Some manuscripts add the following paragraph.

Whereas the Son is the living and enhypostatic wisdom of God the Father, the Holy Spirit which proceeds ineffably and eternally from God the Father alone as Scripture affirms, is likewise the light and self-subsistent life of the inaccessible and eternal light. Whosover is of a different mind we cut them off from the membership of the Orthodox, and we banish them from the flock of the Church of God.

Courtesey T. R. Valentine

11 Responses to The Condemnation of John Beccus

  1. Anthony,

    True, not all do, but I didn’t claim that they did. Second, I explained why the others don’t help you. And Third, I am not interested in wasting time with someone who simply cuts and pastes material without doing the analytical work necessary to make an actual argument. Ripping a single line from Cyril with no context or linguistic analysis isn’t going to cut it.

    If your gloss on the Spirit were right, then there is something different in the Father’s generation and the Son’s generation of the Spirit. In which case, it can’t be from one principle since a singular principle isn’t capable of contradictory properties.

    If the proof for the generation from the Son is that the Son also participates in the being of the Father, then since the Spirit does also, then the Spirit will be his own hypostatic cause as well, which is absurd.

    And at Florrence there was significant discussion over variant readings of Basil’s writings. In fact, the Leonine editors of Aquinas’ work against the Greeks found that a great many of the texts he used were flat out fabrications. I’d suggest getting up to speed on the issues.

  2. AnthonyJamesPuccetti says:


    Not all of those quotes say “through the Son”.


    The Greek distinction between ekporeusis and proienai doesn’t is not a problem for the filioque doctrine because the Latin word procedit simply means to go forth,from any source whatever. The word procedit is equivalent in meaning to proienai. Cyril says in his Thesaurus: “The Spirit proceeds [proei/si] from the Father and the Son.”

    Catholics take it as a given that the Father is the ultimate source of the Holy Spirit,simply because he is the Father.
    But it is also true that the Son eternally participates in being the ultimate source of the Spirit,because he is one in being with the Father. The filioque doctrine logically follows from the doctrine of consubstantiality.

    How is the quote from Basil dubious? He says the Spirit has his being from the Son. Has anyone proven that it was interpolated and doctored?

  3. This is probably where he cut and pasted from or some similar site.

  4. The ones from Cyril are so blatantly easy to answer since he distinguishes between procheisthai and ekporevsis. Anthony just hasn’t done his homework on Eastern Triadology and the distinctions that they draw.

    The one from Basil is dubious and one has to be careful from what manuscript it is drawn from. Some of Basil’s Adversus Eunomium has been interpolated and doctored.

  5. Anthony,

    I have seen this list of spoof texts before. I have answered everyone here in the past.

    First, everyone affirms that the Spirit procedes through the Son so those citations do no work for you.

    Second, some of the citations depend on translation issues such as translating other words other than ousia for essence.

    Third, some further are perfectly compatible with an energetic procession.

    Sorry but copy pasting spoof texts with no analysis isn’t going to cut it.

  6. Anthony James Puccetti says:

    Whoever wrote that condemnation did not read the writings of the Church Fathers very thoroughly.

    Here are examples from the Church Fathers where they said that the Spirit proceeds through the Son,or has his existence from the Father and Son.

    “For as the Son, who is in the Father and the Father in him, is not a creature but pertains to the essence of the Father (for this you also profess to say); so also it is not lawful to rank with the creatures the Spirit who is in the Son, and the Son in him.” Athanasius, To Serapion, I:21 (A.D. 360).

    “For He, as as been said, gives to the Spirit, and whatever the Spirit hath, He hath from the Word.” Athanasius, Against the Arians, III:24 (A.D. 362).

    “Even if the Holy Spirit is third in diginity and order, why need he be third also in nature? For that he is second to the Son, having his being from him and receiving from him and announcing to us and being completely dependent on him, pious tradition recounts; but that his nature is third we are not taught by the Saints nor can we conclude logically from what has been said.” Basil, Against Eunomius, 3, PG 29:653B (A.D. 365).

    “The Spirit is God, from the Father and the Son.” Epiphanius, The Man Well-Anchored, 9 (A.D. 374).

    “God …is Life, the Son Life from Life, and the Holy Spirit flows from both; the Father is Light, the Son is Light, the Holy Spirit the third from Father and Son.” Epiphanius, The Man Well-Anchored, 70 (A.D. 374).

    “The Father always existed and the Son always existed, and the Spirit breathes forth from the Father and the Son…” Epiphanius, The Man Well-Anchored, 75 (A.D. 374).

    “Our Lord teaches that the being of the Spirit is derived not from the Spirit Himself, but from the Father and the Son; He goes forth from the Son, proceeding from the Truth; He has no subsistence but that which is given Him by the Son.” Didymus the Blind of Alexandria, The Holy Spirit, 37 (ante A.D. 381).

    “Since the Holy Spirit when he is in us effects our being conformed to God, and He actually proceeds from Father and Son, it is abundantly clear that He is of the divine essence, in it in essence and proceeding from it.” Cyril of Alexandria, Treasury of the Holy Trinity, Thesis 34 (A.D. 425).

    “Inasmuch as the Son is God and is by nature from God, the Spirit is His own, and is both in Him and from Him.” Cyril of Alexandria, In Joel, 2:28 (A.D. 427).

    “He is the Spirit both of the Father and of the Son, seeing that He is poured forth in a way of essence from Both or in other words, from the Father through the Son.” Cyril of Alexandria, Worship and Adoration, 1 (A.D. 429).

    “For he [the Holy Spirit] is called the Spirit of Truth, and Christ is the Truth, and he is poured forth from him [the Son] just as he is also from God the Father.” Cyril of Alexandria, To Nestorius, Epistle 17 (A.D. 430).

    “Believe most firmly, and never doubt, that the same Holy Spirit, the One Spirit of the Father and the Son, proceeds from the Father and the Son. That He proceeds also from the Son is supported by the teaching both of Prophets and Apostles.” Fulgence of Ruspe (North Africa), Rule of Faith, 11 (A.D. 447).

    “And so under the first head is shown what unholy views they hold about the Divine Trinity: they affirm that the person of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost is one and the same, as if the same God were named now Father, now Son, and now Holy Ghost: and as if He who begot were not one, He who was begotten, another, and He who proceeded from both, yet another; but an undivided unity must be understood, spoken of under three names, indeed, but not consisting of three persons.” Pope Leo the Great [regn. A.D. 440-461], To Turribius, Epistle 15 (A.D. 447).

    “Great and incomprehensible is the mystery of the Trinity. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, an undivided Trinity, and yet it is known because it is characteristic of the Father to generate the Son, characteristic of the Son of God to be born of the Father equal to the Father, characteristic of the Spirit to proceed from Father and Son in one substance of deity.” Pope Hormisdas [regn. A.D. 514-523], Profession of Faith, PL 63:514B (A.D. 517).

    “The Spirit proceeds essentially from the Son…the Redeemer imparted to the hearts of His disciples the Spirit who proceeds from Himself.” Pope Gregory the Great (the Theologian) [regn. A.D.590-604], Moral Teachings drawn from Job, 1:22,2:92 (A.D. 595).

    “Our Lord … shews how the Spirit of Both so proceeds as to be coeternal with Both…He who is produced by procession is not posterior in time to those by whom He is put forth.” Pope Gregory the Great (the Theologian) [regn. A.D.590-604], Moral Teachings drawn from Job, 25:4 (A.D. 595).

    “The Holy Spirit (he writes elsewhere), as He is by nature and in the way of essence [the Spirit] of God the Father, so is He also the Son’s by nature and in the way of essence, since He proceeds from the Father essentially and ineffably through the Son, who is begotten.” Maximus the Confessor, Quaestiones ad Thalassium, 63 (ante A.D. 662).

    “Through the Word, the Father produces the Spirit, who manifests him (dia logou proboleus ekphantorikou Pneumatos)…The Holy Spirit is the power of the Father making secrets of the deity known and proceeding from the Father through the Son in a way that he knows, but which is not begetting…The Father is source of the Son and the Holy Spirit….The Spirit is not the Son of the Father, he is the Spirit of the Father, as proceeding from him (ekporeuomenon),…but he is also Spirit of the Son, not as (proceeding) from him, but proceeding through him from the Father. Only the Father is cause (aitios).” John of Damascus, Orthodox Faith, I:12 (A.D. 712).

    “In the Holy Spirit, Lord and giver of Life, proceeding from the Father through the Son.” Council of Nicea II (A.D. 787).

  7. Neo,

    I think that you are right. The Roman Church in the Ravenna Document has for all practical purposes said that the councils held in the West after the schism are not truly ecumenical (cf. Ravenna Document, no. 39). This, as I see it, is a good thing, because it will allow for a real theological rapprochement between the two sides.


  8. I guess I don’t understand the issue of polemics. Maybe somebody can tell me, perhaps I’m ignorant. I feel strongly about what I think because I just am a passionate person.

    I’ll let the readers decide here, what avenue and what way do you wish to see the direction of this blog go? Please be specific. Sometimes we are opaque to ourselves…

    Anyways, all good insights…

  9. Andrew says:

    I was bothered by the notes to the Spirit’s eternal manifestation through the Son, because you didn’t make clear what you meant. I saw the notes here and on those Catholic blogs that currently discuss the filioque issue along with the references to Patriarch Gregory, and I thought to myself, is this a dogma I’m not familiar with, and why do some Catholic bloggers appear it to be terribly close to the Spirit proceeding from the father filioque…

    But now, this text explains it all. It’s not a dogma I was ignorant of, but the ancient dogma of mutual indwelling. The Holy Spirit is eternally manifest through the Son because He lives in the Son. Like we can see the Spirit in Christ, in his miracles, in his life and resurrection, the three divine persons exist in each other, with the Father alone being the cause for the other two divine persons. We shouldn’t confuse the Spirit’s living in the Son, with the Spirit getting caused -in any manner whatsoever- by the Son…

    I wouldn’t mention this eternal manifestation because it confuses things rather than clarifies them, as evident from some Catholic bloggers take on that, i.e. they seem to me to be thinking that it\s about something other than what it really is about.

    Anyway, interesting text. I just hope this blog will follow a less polemical way in the future. Polemos is just a reflection of our personal passions, in my view. Discussion can be held in more eirenic ways, but eirene comes at a personal cost.

  10. Neo,

    I’m not sure how a Pope 700 years later could over turn what an “ecumenical council,” that they profess to believe as dogmatic, says regarding the profession. It’s one thing to state that the teaching of the Orthodox don’t contradict the Council, it seems quite another to say that those who deny it outright are not condemned by it.


  11. Photios,

    “For where have the God-bearing Fathers said that God the Father is, through the Son, the cause of the Spirit? ”

    It seems that the supposition of some kind of participation or “mediatory role” in generation of the Son or the spiration of the Spirit is required for the dogmatic teachings of Lyons II & Florence to be salvaged.

    In the Agreed Statement of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation on the Filioque, I was surprised to see the following “recommendation” near the end:

    “that the Catholic Church, following a growing theological consensus, and in particular the statements made by Pope Paul VI, declare that the condemnation made at the Second Council of Lyons (1274) of those “who presume to deny that the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son” is *no longer applicable.*”

    No longer applicable? Why? I don’t know what the Orthodox representatives said at those meetings but this “recommendation” is about as close to victory that you can expect to get.

%d bloggers like this: