Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XI:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Commonitory of Vincent of Lérins, For the Antiquity and Universality of the Catholic Faith Against the Profane Novelties of All Heresies.: Chapter XXX. The Council of Ephesus.
The Council of Ephesus.
[79.] These then are the men whose writings, whether as judges or as witnesses, were recited in the Council: St. Peter, bishop of Alexandria, a most excellent Doctor and most blessed martyr, Saint Athanasius, bishop of the same city, a most faithful Teacher, and most eminent Confessor, Saint Theophilus, also bishop of the same city, a man illustrious for his faith, his life, his knowledge, whose successor, the revered Cyril, now 519 adorns the Alexandrian Church. And lest perchance the doctrine ratified by the Council should be thought peculiar to one city and province, there were added also those lights of Cappadocia, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, bishop and Confessor, St. Basil of Cæsarea in Cappadocia, bishop and Confessor, and the other St. Gregory, St. Gregory of Nyssa, for his faith, his conversation, his integrity, and his wisdom, most worthy to be the brother of Basil. And lest Greece or the East should seem to stand alone, to prove that the Western and Latin world also have always held the same belief, there were read in the Council certain Epistles of St. Felix, martyr, and St. Julius, both bishops of Rome. And that not only the Head, but the other parts, of the world also might bear witness to the judgment of the council, there was added from the South the most blessed Cyprian, bishop of Carthage and martyr, and from the North St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan.
[80.] These all then, to the sacred number of the decalogue, 520 were produced at Ephesus p. 155 as doctors, councillors, witnesses, judges. And that blessed council holding their doctrine, following their counsel, believing their witness, submitting to their judgment without haste, without foregone conclusion, without partiality, gave their determination concerning the Rules of Faith. A much greater number of the ancients might have been adduced; but it was needless, because neither was it fit that the time should be occupied by a multitude of witnesses, nor does any one suppose that those ten were really of a different mind from the rest of their colleagues.
This marks Vincentiuss date within very narrow limits, viz. after the Council of Ephesus, and before Cyrils death. Cyril died in 444.154:520
Vincentiuss copy of the acts of the Council appears to have contained extracts from no more than ten Fathers. But the Fathers from whose writings extracts were read were twelve in number; the two omitted by Vincentius being Atticus, bishop of Constantinople, and Amphilochius, bishop of Iconium. In Labbes Concilia, where the whole are given, it is remarked that in one manuscript the two last mentioned occupy a different place from the others.
Dean Milman (Latin Christianity, vol. 1, p. 164) speaks of the passages read, “as of very doubtful bearing on the question raised by Nestorius.” It is true only two, those from Athanasius and Gregory Nazianzen, contain the crucial term “Theotocos” but all express the truth which “Theotocos” symbolises. That the word was not of recent introduction, Bishop Pearson (Creed, Art. 3) shows by quotations from other writers besides those produced at the Council, going back as far as to Origen.
The Fathers cited may certainly be said to fulfil to some extent Vincentiuss requirement of universality. They represent the teaching of Alexandria, Rome, Carthage, Milan, Constantinople, and Asia Minor; but his appeal would have been more to his purpose if antiquity had been more expressly represented. With the exception of Cyprian, all the passages cited were from writers of comparatively recent date at the time, though, as Vincentius truly remarks, others might have been produced.
Petavius (De Incarn. l. xiv. c. 15), in defending the cultus of the blessed Virgin and of the saints generally, lays much stress on this omission of citations from earlier Fathers at the Council, as he does also on similar omissions in the case of the fourth, fifth, and sixth Councils, with what object is sufficiently obvious. Bishop Bull points out Petaviuss disposition to disparage or misrepresent the teaching of the earlier Fathers, in another and still more important instance. (Defens. Fid. Nic.) Introd. § 8.
Next: Chapter XXXI. The Constancy of the Ephesine Fathers in driving away Novelty and maintaining Antiquity.
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