Augustine in Byzantium

I’ve been excitedly reading through Orthodox Readings of Augustine.  I attended the conference a year and a half ago, but I have to confess, I did not know much of what I was listening to.  I’ve had time to catch up between then and now, and I can see that these papers are brilliant and important.  The first article in the book is by the editors, Aristotle Papinikolaou and George Demacopoulos, and it surveys the history of Augustine in the East.  Not to give away the whole thing, but they maintain that Augustine did not become a “bad guy” until the 1950s.

They cover Augustine’s place in the East by historical epochs.  The first of these is Byzantium, and it is clear that Augustine is considered a theological authority (though not the primary one) and a doctor of the Church:

There is little doubt that pockets within the Byzantine vaguely remained aware of the theological contributions of Augsutine.  The acta of the Fifth Ecumenical Council (meeting in Constantinople in 553) acknowledges Augustine in three ways: it lists him among the “holy fathers and doctors of the Church”; it includes excerpts from his writings among the florilegia; and it documents that some of his letters were read publicly during hte deliberations of the fifth session.  What is perhaps ironic with respect to the present East/West dichotomy concerning Augustine is that this appropriation of the bishop of Hippo in 553 was used to convince Pope Vigilius to accept the condemnation of the Three Chapters.  In other words, the Greek and African delegates at the council used the authority of Augustine to convince Pope Vigilius to accept the consensus of the assembly!  Subsequent eastern councils similarly acknowledge the authority of Augustine and, in at least one case, cited a florilegium taken from the In Evangelium Johannis tractatus (Tractates on the Gospel of John).

pg. 13

More to come.

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