The Flesh Cannot See the Word: ‘Nestorianising’ Chalcedonians in the Seventh to Ninth Centuries AD

in Vigiliae Christianae
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Towards the end of the eighth century the Nestorian Patriarch Timothy convened a council, which condemned several mystics for having held the belief that Christ’s humanity could see his divinity. This article draws attention to a Chalcedonian sermon on the Annunciation whose author shared Patriarch Timothy’s views. Through comparison with the Questions and Answers of Pseudo-Athanasius and with Theodore of Stoudios’ sermon on the Angels it shows that the author of the sermon on the Annunciation participated in a wider Chalcedonian debate about the ability of human beings to see God and the equally invisible angels and souls. Having presented the evidence it makes the case that as regards this topic the Eastern Christian religious discourse had not yet fragmented along sectarian and political boundaries and that throughout the East Christians were experiencing the same anxieties and responding to them in remarkably similar ways.

The Flesh Cannot See the Word: ‘Nestorianising’ Chalcedonians in the Seventh to Ninth Centuries AD

in Vigiliae Christianae




M. Jugie‘Deux homélies patristiques pseudépigraphiques’Échos d’Orient39 (1940) pp. 283-289 suggested that the sermon was written soon after 700.


Cf. A. Treiger‘Could Christ’s humanity see his divinity? An eighth-century controversy between John of Dalyatha and Timothy I, Catholicos of the Church of the East’Journal of the Canadian Society for Syriac Studies9 (2009) pp. 9-27; A. Berti ‘Le débat sur la vision de Dieu et la condemnation des mystiques par Timothée Ier: la perspective du patriarche’ in A. Desreumaux (ed.) Les mystiques syriaques (Études syriaques 8 Paris 2011) pp. 151-176. Both authors seek to explain the controversy by linking it to contemporary developments within the Nestorian community.


P. Bruns‘Finitum non capax infiniti—Ein antiochenisches Axiom in der Inkarnationslehre Babais des Grossen (nach 628)’Oriens Christianus83 (1999) pp. 46-71.


Cf. GrillmeierJesus der Christus2.2 p. 374.


D. Krausmüller‘Conflicting anthropologies in the Christological discourse at the end of Late Antiquity: the case of Leontius of Jerusalem’s Nestorian adversary’Journal of Theological Studies56 (2005) pp. 413-447; D. Krausmüller “Anti-Origenism and the ‘Sleep of the Soul’ in Seventh- to Ninth-Century Byzantium” in R. Young and J. Kalvesmaki (eds.) Evagrius and His Legacy (forthcoming 2012).


Cf. Berti‘Débat sur la vision’ pp. 158-159.


Cf. O. Braun‘Zwei Synoden des Katholikos Timotheos I.,’ Oriens Christianus2 (1902) pp. 283-311 esp. p. 309.


For a concise summary cf. BeulayEnseignement spirituel pp. 429-433.


Cf. Treiger‘Christ’s humanity’ pp. 8-9.


Cf. Treiger‘Christ’s humanity’ pp. 10-11.


Cf. BeulayEnseignement spirituel pp. 354-379 esp. p. 362.


Cf. BeulayEnseignement spirituel p. 365.


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