Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Ecclesiastical History, Dialogues, and Letters of Theodoret.: Letters of the Emperors Valentinianus and Valens, written to the diocese of Asia about the Homoüsion, on hearing that some men in Asia and in Phrygia were in dispute about the divine decree.
Chapter VII.—Letters of the Emperors Valentinianus and Valens, written to the diocese 681 of Asia about the Homoüsion, on hearing that some men in Asia and in Phrygia were in dispute about the divine decree.
Valentinian ordered a council to be held in Illyricum 682 and sent to the disputants the decrees ratified by the bishops there assembled. They had decided to hold fast the creed put forth at Nicæa and the emperor himself wrote to them, associating his brother with him in the dispatch, urging that the decrees be kept.
The edict clearly proclaims the piety of the emperor and similarly exhibits the soundness of Valens in divine doctrines at that time. I shall therefore give it in full. The mighty emperors, ever august, augustly victorious, Valentinianus, Valens, and Gratianus, 683 to the bishops of Asia, Phrygia, Carophrygia Pacatiana, 684 greeting in the Lord.
A great council having met in Illyricum, 685 after much discussion concerning the word of salvation, the thrice blessed bishops have declared that the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is of one substance. 686 This Trinity they worship, in no wise remitting the service which has duly fallen to their lot, the worship of the great King. It is our imperial will that this Trinity be preached, so that none may say “We accept the religion of the sovereign who rules this world without regard to Him who has given us the message of salvation,” for, as says the gospel of our God which contains this judgment, “we should render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsars and to God the things that are Gods.” 687
What say you, ye bishops, ye champions of the Word of salvation? If these be your professions, thus then continue to love one another, and cease to abuse the imperial dignity. No longer persecute those who diligently serve God, by whose prayers both wars cease upon the earth, and the assaults of apostate angels are repelled. These striving through supplication to repel all harmful demons both know how to pay tribute as the law enjoins, and do not gainsay the power of their sovereign, but with pure minds both keep the commandment of the heavenly King, and are subject to our laws. But ye have been shewn to be disobedient. We have tried every expedient but you have given yourselves up. 688 We p. 112 however wish to be pure from you, as Pilate at the trial of Christ when He lived among us, was unwilling to kill Him, and when they begged for His death, turned to the East, 689 asked water for his hands and washed his hands, saying I am innocent of the blood of this righteous man. 690
Thus our majesty has invariably charged that those who are working in the field of Christ are not to be persecuted, oppressed, or ill treated; nor the stewards of the great King driven into exile; lest to-day under our Sovereign you may seem to flourish and abound, and then together with your evil counsellor trample on his covenant, 691 as in the case of the blood of Zacharias, 692 but he and his were destroyed by our Heavenly King Jesus Christ after (at) His coming, being delivered to deaths judgment, they and the deadly fiend who abetted them. We have given these orders to Amegetius, to Ceronius to Damasus, to Lampon and to Brentisius by word of mouth, and we have sent the actual decrees to you also in order that you may know what was enacted in the honourable synod.
To this letter we subjoin the decrees of the synod, which are briefly as follows.
In accordance with the great and orthodox synod we confess that the Son is of one substance with the Father. And we do not so understand the term of one substance as some formerly interpreted it who signed their names with feigned adhesion; nor as some who now-a-days call the drafters of the old creed Fathers, but make the meaning of the word of no effect, following the authors of the statement that “of one substance” means “like,” with the understanding that since the Son is comparable to no one of the creatures made by Him, He is like to the Father alone. For those who thus think irreverently define the Son “as a special creation of the Father,” but we, with the present synods, both at Rome and in Gaul, hold that there is one and the same substance of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in three persons, that is in three perfect essences. 693 And we confess, according to the exposition of Nicæa, that the Son of God being of one substance, was made flesh of the Holy Virgin Mary, and hath tabernacled among men, and fulfilled all the economy 694 for our sakes in birth, in passion, in resurrection, and in ascension into Heaven; and that He shall come again to render to us according to each mans manner of life, in the day of judgment, being seen in the flesh, and showing forth His divine power, being God bearing flesh, and not man bearing Godhead.
Them that think otherwise we damn, as we do also them that do not honestly damn him that said that before the Son was begotten He was not, but wrote that even before He was actually begotten He was potentially in the Father. For this is true in the case of all creatures, who are not for ever with God in the sense in which the Son is ever with p. 113 the Father, being begotten by eternal generation.
Such was the short summary of the emperor. I will now subjoin the actual dispatch of the synod.
The twelve dioceses of the Empire, as constituted under Diocletian, were (1) Oxiens; (2) Pontica; (3) Asiana; (4) Thracia; (5) Mœsia; (6) Pannonia; (7) Britanniæ; (8) Galliæ; (9) Viennensis; (10) Italiciana; (11) Hispaniæ; (12) Africa.111:682
Under Constantine Illyricum Occidentale included Dalmatia, Pannonia, Noricum, and Savia; Illyricum Orientale, Dacia, Mœsia, Macedonia and Thrace.111:683
Eldest son of Valentinian I. Born a.d. 359. Named Augustus 367. Succeeded his father 375; his uncle Valens 378. Murdered 383. The synod was convoked in the year of Valentinians death.111:684
Phrygia Pacatiana was the name given in the fourth century to the province extending from Bithynia to Pamphylia. “Cum in veterum libris non nisi duæ Phrygiæ occurrant, Pacatiana et salutaris, mavult Valesius h. l. scribere, καριας φρυγίας πακατιανῆς. Sed consentientibus in vulgata lectione omnibus libris mallem servare καραφρυγίας πακατιανῆς, quam Pacatianam καροφρυγίαν dictam esse putaverim quod Cariæ proxime adhæresceret.” Schulze.111:685
The date of this Council is disputed. “Pagi contending for 373, others for 375, Cave for 367.” Dict. Ch. Ant. i. 813.111:686
Matt. xxii. 21111:688
ἡμεις ἐχρησάμεθα τῷ ἅλφα ἕως τοῦ ὠ ὑμεῖς δὲ ἑαυτοὺς ἀπεδώκατε
The passage is obscure and perhaps corrupt. Schulzes note is “Nisi mendosus sit locus, quod quidem suspicabatur Camerarius, sensus talis esse videtur: Nos quidem primis usi sumus ad extrema, h.e. omnia adhibuimus et tentavimus ad pacem restituendam et cohibendas vexationes, vos vero impotentiæ obsecuti estis. Alias interpretationes collegit suamque addidit Valesius.” The note of Valesius is as follows: hic locus valde obscurus est. Et Epiphanius quidem scholasticus ita eum vertit: et nos quidem subjicimur ei qui primus est et novissimus: vos autem vobismet arrogatis. Quæ interpretatio, meo quidem iudicio, ferri non potest. Camerarius vero sic interpretatur: nos quidem ordine a primo ad ultimum processimus tractatione nostra: ipsi vero vosmet ipsos abalienastis. At Christophersonus ita vertit: nos patientia semper a principio usque ad finem usi sumus: vos contra animi vestri impotentiæ obsecuti estis…mihi videtur verbum χρῆσθαι hoc loco idem significari quod communicare et commercium habere. Cujus modi est illud in Evangelio: non coütuntur Judæi Samaritanis. (Johon IV. 9.)112:689
The turning to the East is not mentioned in the Gospel of St. Matthew or in the Apocryphal Acts of Pilate; and the Imperial Decree seems here to import a Christian practice into the pagan Procurators tribunal. Orientation was sometimes observed in Pagan temples and the altar placed at the east end; perhaps in connexion with the ancient worship of the sun. cf. Æsch. Ag. 502; Paus. V. 23. i; Cic. Cat. iii. §43. In. Virg. Æn. viii. 68 Æneas turns to the East when he prays to the Tiber. cf. Liv 1. 18. But praying towards the East is specially a primitive Christian custom, among the earliest authorities being Tertullian (Apol. XVI.) and Clemens Al. (Stromat. VII. 7).112:690
Matthew xxvii. 24112:691
“Locus densis,” says Valesius, “tenebris obvolutus”…The note of Schulze is “primum ὁ παρακεκλημένος videtur malus genius esse (φθοριμαῖος δαίμων postea dicitur) qui excitaverat (παρεκάλεσε) episcopos ad dissentientes vexandos plane ut crudeles Judæi excitaverant Pilatum ut Christum interimerent; sic enim in superioribus Valentinianus dixerat. Porro Valent. non modo ad historiam Zachariæ a Judæis in templo interfecti alludit, sed, si quid video, etiam ad verba ea quibus utitur Paulus, Heb. x. 29 τον υἱ& 232·ν τοῦ Θεοῦ καταπατεῖν καὶ τὸ αἷμα τῆς διαθήκης κοινὸν ἡγήσασθαι, quare placet conjectura Valesii πατεῖν” (the reading adopted in the translation above), “τὰ τῆς διαθήκης αὐτοῦ ὡς ἐπὶ τοῦ Ζαχαρίου τοῦ αἵματος, ut tota sententia sit: ne hodie sub nostro imperio incrementa capiatis et cum eo qui vos incitat conculcetis sanguinem fœderis, fere ut Zachariæ tempore factum est a Judæis.”112:692
It is to be observed that the imperial letter does not add the probably interpolated words “son of Barachias” which are a difficulty in Matt. xxiii. 35, and do not appear in the Codex Sinaiticus.112:693
Here for the first time in our author we meet with the word Hypostasis to denote each distinct person. Compare note on page 36. “Origen had already described Father, Son and Holy Spirit as three ὑποστάσεις or Beings, in opposition to the Monarchians, who saw in them only three modes of manifestation of one and the same Being. And as Sabellius had used the words τρία πρόσωπα for these modes of manifestation, this form of expression naturally fell into disfavour with the Catholics. But when Arius insisted on (virtually) three different hypostases in the Holy Trinity, Catholics began to avoid applying the word hypostases to the Persons of the Godhead. To this was added a difficulty arising from the fact, that the Eastern Church used Greek as the official language of its theology, while the Western Church used Latin, a language at that time much less well provided with abstract theological terms. Disputes were caused, says Gregory of Nazianzus (Orat. xxi. p. 395), διὰ στενότητα τῆς παρὰ τοῖς ᾽Ιτάλοις γλώττης καὶ ὀνομάτων πενίαν. (Compare Seneca Epist. 58.) The Latins used essentia and substantia as equivalent to the Greek οὐσία and ὑπόστασις, but interchanged them, as we have seen in the translation of the Nicene Creed with little scruple, regarding them as synonyms. They used both expressions to describe the Divine Nature common to the Three. It followed that they looked upon the expression “Three Hypostases” as implying a division of the substance of the Deity, and therefore as Arian. They preferred to speak of “tres Personæ.” Athanasius also spoke of τρία πρόσωπα, and thus the words πρόσωπα and Personæ became current among the Nicene party. But about the year 360, the Neo-Nicene party, or Meletians, as they are sometimes called, became scrupulous about the use of such an expression as τρία πρόσωπα, which seemed to them to savour of Sabellianism. Thus a difference arose between the old Athanasian party and the Meletians.” Archd. Cheetham in Dict. Christ. Biog. Art. “Trinity.”112:694
Compare note on page 72.
Next: Synodical Epistle of the Synod in Illyricum concerning the Faith.
Like & share St-Takla.org
© Saint Takla Haymanout Website: Coptic Orthodox Church - Alexandria, Egypt / URL: https://st-takla.org / Contact us at