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    September 23, 1897

    “How the Catholic Creed Was Made. The Second General Council of Ephesus” The Present Truth 13, 38, pp. 597, 598.


    THE emperors summoned the bishops to meet in Ephesus in August, 449, in order to settle the Eutychian controversy. Dioscorus, Bishop of Alexandria, was appointed to preside in the council.PTUK September 23, 1897, page 597.1

    Leo, the Bishop of Rome was specially invited; and a certain Barsumas, a priest and superior of a monastery in Syria, was called as the representative of the monks.PTUK September 23, 1897, page 597.2

    Not willing to wait for the decision of the question by the coming general council, Leo took occasion to assert his authority as Roman Bishop over all. He sent a letter to Flavianus, Bishop of Constantinople, in which he indorsed the action of the Synod of Constantinople as far as it went, but reproved the synod for treating the matter so mildly as it had done, and himself took the strongest ground against Eutyches. In answer to the request of the emperor that he should attend the general council, Leo declined to attend in person, but promised to be present by Legates a Latere.PTUK September 23, 1897, page 597.3


    THE council, composed of one hundred and forty-nine members, met in the church of the Virgin Mary at Ephesus, and was formally opened August 8, A.D. 449. Dioscorus, the president, was seated upon a high throne. Two imperial commissioners, Elpidius and Eulogius, were in attendance, with a strong body of troops to keep order in the council, and preserve peace in the city. The council was opened with the announcement by the secretary, that “the God-fearing emperors have from zeal for religion, convoked this assembly.”PTUK September 23, 1897, page 597.4

    The emperor’s instructions to the two imperial commissioners, ran as follows:—PTUK September 23, 1897, page 597.5

    But lately the holy Synod of Ephesus has been engaged with the affairs of the impious Nestorius, and has pronounced a righteous sentence on him. Because, however, new controversies of faith have arisen, we have summoned a second synod to Ephesus, in order to destroy the evil to the roots. We have therefore selected Elpidius and Eulogius for the service of the faith in order to fulfill our commands in reference to the Synod of Ephesus. In particular, they must allow no disturbances, and they must arrest every one who arouses such, and inform the emperor of him; they must take care that everything is done in order, must be present at the decisions, and take care that the synod examine the matter quickly and carefully, and give information of the same to the emperor. Those bishops who previously sat in judgment on Eutyches (at Constantinople) are to be present at the proceedings at Ephesus, but are not to vote, since their own previous sentence must be examined anew. Further, no other question is to be brought forward at the synod, and especially no question of money, before the settlement of the question of faith. By a letter to the proconsul, we have required support for the commissioners from the civil and military authorities, so that they may be able to fulfill our commissions, which are as far above other business as divine above human things.PTUK September 23, 1897, page 597.6

    Following this was read a letter from the emperor to the council itself, in which he said:—PTUK September 23, 1897, page 597.7

    The emperor has adjudged it necessary to call this assembly of bishops, that they might cut off this controversy and all its diabolical roots, exclude the adherents of Nestorius from the Church, and preserve the orthodox faith firm and unshaken; since the whole hope of the emperor and the power of the empire, depend on the right faith in God and the holy prayers of the synod.PTUK September 23, 1897, page 597.8

    The council was now formally opened, and according to the instructions of the emperor they proceeded first to consider the faith. But upon this a dispute at once arose as to what was meant by the faith. Some insisted that this meant that the council should first declare its faith; but Dioscorus interpreted it to mean not that the faith should first be declared, for this the former council had already done, but rather that they were to consider which of the parties agreed with what the true faith explains. And then he cried out: “Or will you alter the faith of the holy Fathers!” In answer to this there were cries, “Accursed be he who makes alterations in it; accursed be he who ventures to discuss the faith.”PTUK September 23, 1897, page 597.9

    Next Dioscorus took a turn by which he covertly announced what was expected of the council. He said: “At Nicea and at Ephesus the true faith has already been proclaimed; but although there have been two synods, the faith is but one.” In response to this there were loud shouts from the assembly, “No one dare add anything or take anything away. A great guardian of the faith is Dioscorus. Accursed be he who still discusses the faith; the Holy Ghost speaks by Dioscorus.”PTUK September 23, 1897, page 597.10


    EUTYCHES was now introduced to the council, that he might explain his faith. He first commended himself to the holy Trinity, and censured the Synod of Constantinople. He then handed to the secretary a written confession, in which he repeated the Nicene Creed, indorsed the acts of the Council of Ephesus and the doctrine of the Holy Father Cyril, and cursed all heretics from Nestorius clear back to Simon Magus, who had been rebuked by the apostle Peter. He then gave an account of the proceedings against himself. When this had been read, Flavianus demanded that Eusebius should be heard; but the imperial commissioners stopped him with the statement that they were not called together to judge Eutyches anew, but to judge those who had judged him, and that therefore the only legitimate business of the council was to examine the acts of the Synod of Constantinople.PTUK September 23, 1897, page 597.11

    Accordingly the proceedings of that synod were taken up. All went smoothly enough until the reader came to the point where the synod had demanded of Eutyches that he should acknowledge two natures in Christ after the incarnation. When this was read, there was an uproar against it in the council, as there had been against the statement of Eutyches in the synod; only the uproar here was as much greater than there, as the council was greater than the synod. The council cried with one voice, “Away with Eusebius! banish Eusebius! let him be burned alive! As he cuts asunder the two natures in Christ, so be he cut asunder!PTUK September 23, 1897, page 597.12

    Dioscorus asked: “Is the doctrine that there are two natures after the incarnation to be tolerated?” Aloud the council replied: Accursed be he who says so.” Again Dioscorus cried: “I have your voices, I must have your hands. He that can not cry loud enough to be heard, let him lift up his hands.” Then with uplifted hands the council unanimously bellowed: “Whoever admits the two natures, let him be accursed; let him be driven out, torn in pieces, massacred!PTUK September 23, 1897, page 597.13

    Eutyches was then unanimously pronounced orthodox and declared restored to the communion of the Church, to the government of his monastery, and to all his former privileges; and he was exalted as a hero for “his courage in daring to teach, and his firmness in daring to defend, the true and genuine doctrine of the Fathers. And on this occasion, those distinguished themselves the most by their panegyrics, who had most distinguished themselves by their invectives before.” (Bower.)PTUK September 23, 1897, page 598.1


    DIOSCORUS having everything in his own power, now determined to visit vengeance upon the archbishop of Constantinople. Under pretence that it was for the instruction of his colleagues, he directed that the acts of the previous Council of Ephesus concerning the Nicene Creed, etc., should be read. As soon as the reading was finished, he said: “You have now heard that the first Synod of Ephesus threatens every one who teaches otherwise than the Nicene Creed, or makes alterations in it, and raises new or further questions. Every one must now give his opinion in writing as to whether those who, in their theological inquiries, go beyond the Nicene Creed, are to be punished or not.”PTUK September 23, 1897, page 598.2

    This was aimed directly at Flavianus and Eusebius of Dorylaeum, as they had expressed the wish that the expression “two natures” might be inserted in the Nicene Creed. To the statement of Dioscorus, several bishops responded at once: “Whoever goes beyond the Nicene Creed is not to be received as a Catholic.” Then Dioscorus continued: “As then the first Synod of Ephesus threatens every one who alters anything in the Nicene faith, it follows that Flavianus of Constantinople and Eusebius of Dorylaeum must be deposed from their ecclesiastical dignity. I pronounce, therefore, their deposition, and every one of those present shall communicate his view of this matter. Moreover everything will be brought to the knowledge of the emperor.”PTUK September 23, 1897, page 598.3

    Flavianus replied: “I except against you,” and, to take time by the forelock, placed a written appeal in the hands of the legates of Leo. Several of the friends of Flavianus left their seats, and prostrating themselves before the throne of Dioscorus, begged him not to inflict such a sentence, and above all that he would not ask them to sign it. He replied, “Though my tongue were to be cut out, I would not alter a single syllable of it.” Trembling for their own fate if they should refuse to subscribe, the pleading bishops now embraced his knees, and entreated him to spare them; but he angrily exclaimed: “What! do you think to raise a tumult? Where are the counts?PTUK September 23, 1897, page 598.4

    At this the counts ordered the doors to be thrown open and the proconsul of Asia entered with a strong body of armed troops, followed by a confused multitude of furious monks, armed with chains, and clubs, and stones. Then there was a general scramble of the “holy bishops” to find a refuge. Some took shelter behind the throne of Dioscorus, others crawled under the benches—all concealed themselves as best they could. Dioscorus declared: “The sentence must be signed. If any one objects to it, let him take care; for it is with me he has to deal.” The bishops, when they found that they were not to be massacred at once, crept out from under the benches and from other places of concealment, and returned trembling to their seats.PTUK September 23, 1897, page 598.5


    THEN Dioscorus took a blank paper, and accompanied by the Bishop of Jerusalem, and attended by an armed guard, passed through the assembly and had each bishop in succession to sign it. All signed but the legates of the bishop of Rome. Then the blank was filled up by Dioscorus with a charge of heresy against Flavianus, and with the sentence which he had just pronounced upon Flavianus and Eusebius. When the sentence was written, Flavianus again said: “I except against you;” upon which Dioscorus with some other bishops rushed upon him, and with Barsumas crying out, “Strike him! strike him dead!” they beat him and banged him about, and then threw him down and kicked him and tramped upon him until he was nearly dead; then sent him off immediately to prison, and the next morning ordered him into exile. At the end of the second day’s journey he died of the ill usage he had received in the council.PTUK September 23, 1897, page 598.6

    All these proceedings, up to the murder of Flavianus, were carried out on the first day. The council continued three days longer, during which Dioscorus secured the condemnation and deposition of Domnus of Antioch, and several other principal bishops, although they had signed his blank paper, for having formerly opposed Cyril and Eutyches. He then put an end to the council, and returned to Alexandria.PTUK September 23, 1897, page 598.7

    The Emperor Theodosius, whom Leo had praised as having the heart of a priest, issued an edict in which he approved and confirmed the decrees of the council, and commanded that all the bishops of the empire should immediately subscribe to the Nicene Creed. He involved in the heresy of Nestorius, all who were opposed to Eutyches, and commanded that no adherent of Nestorius or Flavianus should ever be raised to a bishopric. “By the same edict, persons of all ranks and conditions were forbidden, on pain of perpetual banishment, to harbor or conceal any who taught, held, or favored, the tenets of Nestorius, Flavianus, and the deposed bishops; and the books, comments, homilies, and other works, written by them or passing under their names, were ordered to be publicly burnt.” He then wrote to Valentinian III., that by the deposition of the turbulent prelate Flavianus, “peace had in the end been happily restored to all the churches in his dominions.”PTUK September 23, 1897, page 598.8

    As the doctrine which the council had established was contrary to that which Leo had published in his letter, he denounced the council as a “synod of robbers,” refused to recognise it at all, and called for another general council. But in every respect this council was just as legitimate and as orthodox as any other one that had been held from the Council of Nice to that day. It was regularly called; it was regularly opened; the proceedings were all perfectly regular; and when it was over, the proceedings were regularly approved and confirmed by the imperial authority. In short, there is no element lacking to make the second Council of Ephesus as thoroughly regular and orthodox as was the first Council of Ephesus, which is held by the Church of Rome to be entirely orthodox; or even as orthodox as was the Council of Nice itself.PTUK September 23, 1897, page 598.9

    A. T. JONES.

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