Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Seventy-Fifth Letter (Item 130): Pope Julius to the Eastern Bishops

We get more harping on Nicaea after the fake Lateran synod. This time it’s a decretal in the name of Julius, addressed to all eastern bishops and headed by a rubric: What follows, we read, concerns those who convene synods for the condemnation of bishops, absent apostolic authority, and either expel or even condemn said bishops. Without the pope, apparently, no such judgments can be issued. Next comes the address, “Julius to all the venerable brothers, the eastern bishops,” and then a long scriptural pastiche consisting of verses from Luke, Galatians, 1 Peter, Zachary, Wisdom, 1 John, Proverbs, and Job. Some of these excerpts wander pretty far afield, but most of them line up behind benign themes like fraternal charity and harmony.

Then Pseudo-Julius gets around to the meat of his letter. Borrowing from Benedictus Levita, he informs us that nothing is worse than citizens persecuting fellow citizens or brothers persecuting fellow brothers  and raising calumnies against one other. The bishops gathered at Nicaea, we read, were willing to bear persecution in order to legislate about the Christian life and to establish “laws that we call sacred canons.” So far so good – that’s all out of the Historia tripartita. But then Julius steps out on his own to assert that Nicaea established “multa pernecessaria” for the church and the support of its columns, the bishops. Those who violate these statutes or attempt to harm the columns/bishops will be demoted if they are clergy, and anathematized if they are monks or laity.

Now, I’m not sure whether the average reader of the Nicene canons would agree that the several bits of pertinent legislation therein contained (really only canon 4 on episcopal ordination and canon 18 on bishops and priests getting communion before deacons) really add up to “many” canons established for the support of bishops. But in case you had any doubts, Pseudo-Julius leaps quickly from mild characterization to bold-faced lie. He says, more specifically, that the bishops at Nicaea established the following: 1) No bishop is to be judged except at a legitimate synod, convened “in suo tempore” by apostolic authority; 2) proceedings convened otherwise have no force; 3) the right to call general synods and judge bishops is a singular privilege conceded by evangelical, apostolic and canonical decree, because many authorities prove that the judgment of major cases is to be referred to the apostolic see and that greaters are not to be judged by lessers; 4) councils in general are not to be celebrated without apostolic authority, nor (again) can a bishop be condemned, since the Roman see is the primate of all churches, just as Peter was the first of the apostles; and finally 5) once again, nobody can condemn bishops without the say-so of Rome. It was also decided at Nicaea, Julius goes on to say, that accusers and accusations not permitted by secular law cannot be brought against priests. Repetitive and insistent as usual, and naturally none of this is to be found anywhere in the authentic canons of Nicaea.

With that out of the way, we’re on the home stretch. We get a lot of quotes from Leo, punctuated with some scriptural spice and Pseudo-Julius's own sententious inserts. Julius’s correspondents are to remain steadfast in faith (Leo); the apostolic church will not abide infringement of its rights (canon 101 from the Dionysio-Hadriana African council) with respect to major cases and bishops (Pseudo-Julius); he who improperly condemns a bishop and drives him from his see is irrevocably damned (Pseudo-Julius) and bishops condemned in this way are to be restored (Benedictus Levita); there’s another reference to Nicaea in case you forgot; all the members of Christ’s body have different duties, and when each member correctly performs its duties the whole body is healthy (Leo); clergy should bear the cross of Christ and suffer with their brothers, rathern than persecute them (Benecitus Levita) and he who opens a pit for his brother merits a like punishment (Pseudo-Julius); everyone should observe the canons of the apostles and their apostolic successors, by which Julius and co. are delighted, surrounded, pleased and armed (Pseudo-Julius); the papal office requires frankness and the bishop of Rome is not at liberty to keep quiet about abuses (Siricius), lest through silence the popes condone or consent to the injury of brothers (Pseudo-Julius).

Given on 1 October 337 -- just a week after item 129 if we adopt the earliest possible date.


Recipients: eastern bishops

Date: 1 October 337 (Feliciano et Maximiano viris clarissimis consulibus: just like last time, and unsurprisingly, since they're the only set on offer in the LP)

Sources: the Bible, the Historia Tripartita, the Lateran council of 649, Benedictus Levita and the Capitula Angilramni, letters of Innocent I, Leo the Great, Siricius, Gelasius I, the African council of the Dionysio-Hadriana, the Liber Pontificalis (only for the consuls)

Words: 2000

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Item 129: A Synod Convened Under Pope Julius

After Mark’s letter, we get something different: A document purportedly issued at a Roman synod convened in the Lateran under Mark’s successor, Julius. Most of this piece consists of the Nicene creed, followed by various anti-Arian sentiments, all of them taken from books 2 and 4 of the Historia Tripartita. It carries a rubric that calls it “The faith recounted in the Holy Roman council by the most blessed pope Julius and other bishops of the true faith.”

Now I’m going to step out on a limb and presume that the limited readership of this blog (or what remains of it after the prolonged silences that have plagued my output since the summer) know their way around the Nicene creed. So I’ll set the HT stuff aside and concentrate on the things that Pseudo-Isidore contributes to this concoction. These amount to two substantial introductory paragraphs that set the scene, and a brief dating clause tipped in at the end.

Our document was issued “in the name of the Lord God and our saviour Jesus Christ, in the fourth year of the emperors Constantius and Constans, on the eighth day before the Kalends of October, the sixth indiction.” Julius, we read, is presiding over a synod that has been convened in the Basilica Constantiniana, before the “sacrosanct and venerable Gospels,” together with a total of 116 bishops of whom only five are named: Benedict of Aquileia, Rufus of Carthage, Agapitus of Ravenna, Julius of Milan, and Lucian of Maurienne. I’m sure there are many problems with this list, but I’m traveling and don’t really have the resources to check out the names. Wikipedia, however, tells me that there was a Bishop Benedict of Aquileia from 332 onwards. The other names appear to be completely fictional; Lucian of Maurienne is additionally impossible because, as far as I can tell, there weren’t any bishops at Maurienne until the sixth century. So, yeah.

Pope Julius then breaks in, acknowledging that all the bishops have gathered in Rome to confirm and correct the faith and establish Christian discipline. It is therefore necessary to collectively consider and remind everyone about the nature of God and Jesus Christ, because “Everyone therefore that shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven; but he that shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32-33). Thus Julius wants the “faith of the three hundred and eighteen fathers” that had been confirmed at Nicaea to be read into the record. The 116 bishops gathered in the Lateran chime in: They all think this is a great idea (no surprise there), and afterwards they look forward to getting on with their work “on behalf of the opression of brothers.” Apparently these brothers are so gravely afflicted that none of the bishops gathered before Julius has managed to find any rest, “because when the members are troubled the rest of the body can hardly find peace.”

The HT excerpts follow. On the other side of them is a short and rather odd sentence: “Trinitas consubstantialis aeterna est Iesus” (“The consubstantial and eternal Trinity is Jesus”). Now I am not a theologian, but that struck me as a highly peculiar sentiment, and so I sought the help of my old friend, the PL database. It seems to be an error (through interna dicta?: according to Schon’s edition it has near-unanimous MS support) for “Trinitas consubstantialis aeterna Deus est” ("The consubstantial eternal Trinity is God"), which benefits both from making far more sense, and for being the rubric concluding book 2, chapter 12 of the Historia Tripartita (whence also comes the immediately preceding passage in Pseudo-Julius). Finally, we read that our document was issued on 1 November, while Felicianus and Maximin were consuls.

Beyond the undeniable fact that Pseudo-Isidore is very down on Arians, it’s not entirely clear to me what work this document is doing for our forgers. Yes, we get the familiar carping about the persecution of brothers and some further reinforcement for our forgers’ beloved factoid that there were 318 bishops at Nicaea. But beyond that, whoever put this lovely document together mainly just managed to wade into a deep pit of chronological problems.

To wit: At the start, our document claims that it was issued in the fourth year of the reign of Constantius II and Constans, which would be about 340/341 if reckoned from the date both actually took power, or perhaps 343/344 if reckoned from the date that Constans got rid of his brother, Constantine II, thereby assuming sole rule in the West. But neither date works, because we’re also supposed to be in the sixth indiction, which could only be 348 (our only other options being 333, when Constantine I was still in charge, or 363, after Constantius and Constans had both kicked the bucket). Which also flies in the face of the consuls listed in the dating clause, which are naturally taken from Julius’s biography in the Liber Pontificalis. These are the only set on offer, and date the beginning of Julius’s pontificate. Maximin is some kind of error (etiology unknown, at least by me), but Felicianus yields 337. Not that very many ninth-century scholars would’ve had the resources (or the inclination) to work very much of this out, but still.


Recipients: Nobody and everybody. This purports to be a synodal document.

Date: You pays your money you takes your choice: 337? 341? 344? 348? Definitely 24 September, though.

Sources: The Historia tripartita. Hinschius also claims that the intro paragraphs discussed above were modeled on the acta of the Roman synod convened under Pope Zachary in 743, and cites Mansi. Right now I only have access to the MGH (hard to travel with the Nova et amplissima collectio), and I’m not seeing much resemblance with either recension of the acta edited there, but I’ve not exactly conducted a word-by-word collation either.

Words: 950