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2. Authenticity of the Canon

            In the seventeenth century, the English canonist G. Beveridge (Beveregius) raised the question of the authenticity of Canon VII of The Second Ecumenical Council,[56] when he demonstrated that it does not belong to the work of the Council because of its being a text of the fifth century.[57] Of course, for the Orthodox Church, the proving of this Canons inauthenticity[58] in no way diminishes its authority (which was never disputed on Orthodox soil), inasmuch as its contents were repeated verbatim by Canon XCV of Penthekte, and hence it acquired Ecumenical an eternal authority.[59]

            Only one of our theologians,[60] namely Neophytos Kafsokalyvitis, deals with the issue of the Canons authenticity. He rejects it, something rather bold for the Greek-speaking world of the eighteenth century.[61] His argument, which fills many pages of his unpublished work, is based on the Western sources of his time.[62] It encompasses not only Canon VII of the Second Ecumenical Council, but also Canon XCV of Penthekte, which is consonant with and the equivalent of Canon VII of the Second Council.[63] Neophytos considers both to be not from a Council, but from the epistle to Martyrios of Antioch,[64] and consequently interpolated,[65] and clearly in opposition to the Apostolic Canons and those of St. Basil which were ratified by Penthekte.[66] Neophytos does not determine precisely when the interpolation of these Canons into the work of the two Ecumenical Councils occurred.[67] However, according to him, it is not certain that Penthekte did it.[68] In any event, it must have occurred before Photios and the monk Arsenios, who list both of the above-mentioned Canons together with the rest of the Canons of these Councils.[69] But this again does not substantiate their authenticity, for there exists evidence of the opposite in earlier writers who, by virtue of their antiquity, posses greater credibility.[70] So, Neophytos judges that Canon VII of the Second Council (together with Canon XCV of Penthekte) should be rejected, especially in order to escape the charges against the Orthodox Church by the Lutherocalvinists.[71]

            According to Neophytos, acceptance of the inauthenticity of these two Canons with good reason also weakens their authority, which otherwise constitutes a real cross for the Athonite monk who accepts the absoluteness and immovableness of the Cyprianic principle, according to which heretical baptism is without substance, never and nowise capable of being accepted by the Orthodox Church. Yet a reasonable explanation needed to be given for the evidence of the origin of the present Canon, as well as for the reason it was listed among the Canons of the Second Ecumenical Council. In this respect, Neophytos develops the following argument:

            The ownerless[72] epistle of the Church of Constantinople to Martyrios of Antioch which contains Canon VII of the Second Ecumenical Council exactly, which one parenthesis,[73]does not refer to the Churchs generally prevailing procedure, but rather cites the Constantinopolitan custom. It is, consequently, of a local and not catholic, Ecumenical character. Besides as he logically observes had such a rule for the reception of converting heretics been imposed by virtue of Canon VII of the Second Ecumenical Council and hence been in usage by the Church at large; it would have been known to him who posed the question, and hence he would not have needed to seek the opinion of the Patriarch of Constantinople.[74] Therefore, that which is described in the epistle is just a custom of the Constantinopolitan Church which cannot assume catholic force and an obligatory character;[75] for the citys prestige cannot impose a mere local practice on the entire Church. He does accept that this practice had in fact prevailed in Constantinople from the time of the Arian controversy (4th cen.), due to the problem of the returning converts to Arianism[76] (i.e. baptized Orthodox Christians who converted to Arianism and then returned to Orthodoxy), whom the Church rightly did not rebaptize, but only chrismated. With the passage of time, however, the distinction between Arians and converts to Arianism became obscure. Hence the procedure followed in the case of the latter was applied also to the Arians, according to Neophytos, uncanonically.[77]

            This explains why, on the one hand, this practice is partly at variance with the Canons, and on the other hand, contradicts itself.[78] The first arises from this Canons opposition to Canon II of Penthekte, which nowhere appears reversely to repeat anything it ratified.[79] The second materializes from the fact that the Canon accepts the baptism of the Arians and Macedonians, but not their ordination, contrary to Apostolic Canon XLVII, also ratified by Penthekte.[80] It follows, therefore, that there is no justification for the claim that the Sixth Council subsequently canonized the hitherto uncanonized prevailing Constantinopolitan practice concerning heretics, for in such a case the Council would have been contradicting itself.[81]

            Since it was impossible to harmonize this Canon with the Apostolic Canons, Neophytos goes one step further and disputes the authority of the this epistle, and thus even further weakens the creditability of the two above-mentioned Canons deriving therefrom. Thus, he considers that the epistle was written not by Patriarch Gennadios I (458-471), as it is accepted, but by Akakios (471-479), of the heresy of the Acephaloi.[82] Basing his argument on the phrase in the epistle, ..of which (i.e. the catholic Church) Your Beatitude is the president and head, Neophytos remarks: It [the epistle] can in no way be patriarchal, for it calls the bishop of Antioch the head of the catholic Church of Christ, something which is improper and impious, for there is but one head of the Church, Christ![83]

            In light of the above, Neophytos conclusion is easily understood. The two Canons in question cannot be considered synodal,[84] but spurious and false.[85] Then, rejoicing that he was able to remove the scandalous contradiction of Penthekte, he exclaims: And glory to our holy God worshipped in Trinity, who showed to disciples what evaded the wise and teachers.[86] Thus, the manner of receiving heretics must be defined on the basis of the following Canons especially written for this: XLVII and LXVIII Apostolic; VIII and XIX of the First Ecumenical Council; VII and VIII of Laodicae; I of Carchedon-Carthage; and I and XLVII of St. Basil; all of which posses the required Ecumenical authority, for they were ratified by Canons I of the Fourth, II of  Penthekte, and I and XI of the Seventh Ecumenical Councils.[87]

            Be that as it may, Neophytos closes his critique on the authenticity of Canon VII of the Second Ecumenical Council with a statement, obviously added later, which shows, among other things, his sincerity and objectivity. He writes that, sufficient time having elapsed since the matters pertaining to the aforementioned two Canons were examined from the compendiums of Canons, he noticed in the fourth act of the Seventh Ecumenical Council that the Fathers of that Council read Canon LXXXII (should read CII) of the Sixth (Penthekte) Council from the original Acts of the Council. In the sixth act it expressly says that the Sixth Ecumenical Council issued Canonsreaching in number one hundred and two, which also agrees with the testimony of Photios. Thus, Neophytos is forced to admit: Hence, the things pertaining to Canon VII of the Second Ecumenical Council, which we heretofore conjecturally examined from the ancient [compendiums], now indeed appear to be obviously repudiated on the grounds of Canon XCV of the Sixth Council. Yet, he again ascertains that the contradiction, according to him, of Penthekte is not resolved. For, since the Seventh Ecumenical Council endorses Canon XCV of Penthekte, it remains for someone to examine and devise another solution as regards this Canons apparent partial disaccord with both the Apostolic Canons and Canon I of St. Basil which the Sixth and Seventh Councils ratified.[88] The above contradiction continues to hold, for the Arians are, on the basis of the Apostolic Canons and according to St. Basil, considered as being in need of baptism, while by Canon E, p. 147 of Penthekte as needing Chrismation only, even though according to the Seventh Council (act vi, tome ii) they are not merely heretics, but the same as pagans.

            Neophytos does not continue. He cannot continue! The question remains for him unsolved. Of course, this is easy to explain, for Neophytos did not tolerate the exercise of economia towards heretics. As will appear below, the principle of economia removes what Neophytos considers a contradiction, and demonstrates the unity of the holy Canons of the Orthodox Church.

            Of course, in confronting those whose position regarding the manner of receiving later heretics was based upon these two Canons, Neophytos, loyal to his Churchs tradition, does use Canon VII of the Second Ecumenical Council,[89] putting aside the problem of its authenticity. In most cases, however, he uses it in conjunction with Canon XCV of Penthekte, and indeed in the form: the Sixth Council together with the Second,[90] or the Second and Sixth.[91] This shows that the authenticity of Canon VII of the Second Ecumenical Council depended on Canon XCV of Penthekte, and that without a doubt it remained diminished in his conscience because of the lack of authenticity, and also because of the problems it created, as we shall see further on.



[56] , since Pandectae Canonum SS. Apostolorum et Conciliorum ab Ecclesia Graeca receptorum, nec non canonicarum SS. Patrum epistolarum; una cum scholiis antiquorum, singulis eorum annexis, et scriptis aliis huc spectantibus; quorum plurima e bibliothecae Bodleianae aliarumque MSS. Codicibus nunc primum edita; reliqua cum lisdem MSS. Summa fide et diligentia collata. Totum opus in duos tomos divisum, Guilielmus Beveregius Ecclesiae Anglicanae presbyter, recensuit, Prolegomenis munivit et annotationibus auxit, Oxonii, e theatro Sheldoniano, sumptibus Guilielmi Wells et Roberti Scott bibliop. Lond. MDCLXXII. See vol. II, p. 98ff. Cf. Mansi 3 :563/4, n. 2. Karl Joseph Hefele, Conciliengeschichte, 2nd ed. (Freiburg i. Br. 1856), pp. 12ff, 27.

[57] The authenticity of only the first four Canons of the Council was defended. See A. P. Christophilopoulos, ( Greek Ecclesiastical Law) (Athens, 1965), p. 40 Cf. Karmiris, vol. I, p. 129 n.2 D. Georgiadis, (The baptism of heretics), (1924), p. 104. Ware, p. 72.

[58] Of course, the opposite opinion also exists. The authenticity of Canon was defended by, among others, Chrysostomos Papadopoulos in his study: (On the baptism of the non-Orthodox), 14 (1915), p. 474.

[59] See Karmiris. See Ware, p. 72 n. 1.

[60] St Nikodemos does not deal with this problem. See e.g. P, pp. 154, 423, 590 et al.

[61] He devotes a special chapter of his Epitome to the problem, titled: On Canon VII of the Second Ecumenical Council and XCV of the Sixth (pp. 147 xx 147 xxv).

[62] He repeatedly quotes verbatim from the Jus Graecoromanum IV, pp. 290-291, and from the or Pandectae (of Beveridge). E, pp. 147 xx, 147 xxi, 147 xxii (quotes from vol. II, pp. 100, 501, 717, 748). Neophytos argument, which he obviously took from Beveridges work, is that the Canon is not found in the early translations (Latin, Arabic), nor in the Summaries of John the Scholastic and Symeon Magistros.

[63] E, p. 147 xx.

[64] Neophytos quotes the whole epistle (E, p. 147 xxiii-xiv), citing the Jus Graecoromanum IV, pp. 290-291, and the Pandectae, vol II, p. 100 (E, p. 147 xx-xxi).

[65] E, pp. 147 xxi, 147 xxii.

[66] E, p. 147 xx.

[67] E, p. 147 xxi.

[68] Where is the indisputable proof that it [i.e. the custom of Constantinople] was canonized by the Sixth Council? E, p. 147 xxiii. Since the Canon is verbatim, it belongs neither to the Second nor to the Sixth. (E, p. 147 xxiv).

[69] Photios, Nomokanon, titl. Iv, ch. Xiv. Arsenios Monk, Kanoniki Synopsis, ch. xxxv and cxxxiv. E, p. 147 xx and 147 xxv.

[70] And yet, these Canons are not to be entered as indisputably authentic on the grounds of this minuscule evidence alone, for they are unknown to John and Symeon who were prior to Arsenios and PhotiosHence, John might be more trustworthy being earlier than Alexios, Arsenios and Photios for he was nearer to the Second Council than they E, p. 147 xx.

[71] Hence, I think it is much better to reject Canon VII, and also Canon XCV of the Sixth Council, as having been interpolated, rather than, by reckoning them with the authentic Canons, have things that cannot be tolerated by my own conscience which is unable to reconcile what is unreconcilable, but most of all by the Lutherocalvinists who attack the catholic Church that she supposedly contradicts herself. E, p. 147 xx.

[72] For the writer is anonymous. E, pp 147 xx, 147 xxiii et al.

[73] E, p. 147 xxi.

[74] Ibid.

[75] E, p. 147 xxi-xxii. He adds rather sharply: The epistle seems to demand that everyone everywhere ought to follow and however Constantinople practices! E, p. 147 xxiii. The Constantinopolitans give the orders of the synodal Canons second place after whatsoever custom of their own (ibid). and he concludes: How mighty is custom, and how hard to fight against!

[76] E, p. 147 xxiv.

[77] E, p. 147 xxiv-xxv.

[78] E, p. 147 xxi.

[79] E, pp. 140-141.

[80] E, p. 147 xxii: It both accepts and does not accept the heretics ordination, and this a contradiction.

[81] E, pp. 147 xxii 147 xxiii.

[82] E, p. 147 xxi: At any rate, one might consider the aforesaid epistle as belonging to Akakios who came after Anatolios, for it does not mention the Acephaloi-Severians together with those whom it requires to be chrismated?

[83] E, p. 147 xxi: For it does not befit a Patriarch, and indeed of Constantinople, to call the bishop of Antioch the head of the catholic Church of Christ. Ibid.

[84] E, p. 147 xxiv.

[85] E, p. 147 xxii.

[86] E, p. 147 xxiii.

[87] Ibid.

[88] E, p. 147 xxv.

[89] See e.g. E, p. 127, 131, 132, 139f.

[90] E.g. E, p. 132.

[91] E.g. E, p. 139.


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Article published in English on: 14-9-2007.

Last Update: 15-9-2007.