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History of the Christian Church, Volume IV: Mediaeval Christianity. A.D. 590-1073.
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§ 111. History of Monotheletism and Dyotheletism.


The triumph of Dyotheletism was the outcome of a bitter conflict of nearly fifty years (633 to 680). The first act reaches to the issue of the Ekthesis (638), the second to the issue of the Type (648), the third and last to the sixth oecumenical Council (680). The theological leaders of Monophysitism were Theodore, bishop of Pharan in Arabia (known to us only from a few fragments of his writings), Sergius and his successors Pyrrhus and Paul in the patriarchal see of Constantinople, and Cyrus, patriarch of Alexandria; the political leaders were the Emperors Heraclius and Constans II.

The champions of the Dyotheletic doctrine were Sophronius of Palestine, Maximus of Constantinople, and the popes Martin and Agatho of Rome; the political supporter, the Emperor Constantine Pogonatus (668–685).

1. The strife began in a political motive, but soon assumed a theological and religious aspect. The safety of the Byzantine empire was seriously threatened, first by the Persians, and then by the Arabs, and the danger was increased by the division among Christians. The Emperor Heraclius (610–640) after his return from the Persian campaign desired to conciliate the Monophysites, who were more numerous than the orthodox in Armenia, Syria, and Egypt.609609    In Egypt the Monophysitic or national Coptic church numbered between five and six millions, the orthodox and imperial party only three hundred thousand heads. Renaudot, Hist. Patriarch. Alexandr. Jacob. (Par., 1713), p 163 sq., as quoted by Hefele, III. 130. He hoped, by a union of the parties, to protect these countries more effectually against the Mohammedan invaders. The Monophysites took offence at the catholic inference of two energies (ejnevrgeiai) in the person of Christ. The emperor consulted Sergius, the patriarch of Constantinople (since 610), who was of Syrian (perhaps Jacobite) descent. They agreed upon the compromise-formula of “one divine-human energy” (miva qeandrikh; ejnevrgeia).610610    The phrase was borrowed from the mystic writings of Dionysius Areopagita (Epist. IV. ad Cajum). Maximus, who was an admirer of Pseudo-Dionysius, gave this passage and a similar one from Cyril Of Alexandria a different meaning. See Hefele, III. 129. Sergius secured the consent of Pope Honorius (625–638), who was afterwards condemned for heresy. Cyrus, the orthodox patriarch of Alexandria, published the formula (633), and converted thousands of Monophysites.611611    See the nine chapters of Cyrus in Mansi, XI. 563, and Hefele, III. 138.

But Sophronius, a learned and venerable monk in Palestine, who happened to be in Alexandria at that time, protested against the compromise-formula as a cunning device of the Monophysites. When he became patriarch of Jerusalem (in 633 or 634), he openly confessed, in a synodical letter to the patriarchs, the doctrine of Dyotheletism as a necessary part of the Chalcedonian Christology. It is one of the most important documents in this controversy.612612    It is preserved in the acts of the sixth oecumenical council. See Mansi, XV. 461-508; and Hefele, III. 159-166.

A few years afterwards, the Saracens besieged and conquered Jerusalem (637); Sophronius died and was succeeded by a Monotheletic bishop.

In the year 638 the Emperor issued, as an answer to the manifesto of Sophronius, an edict drawn up by Sergius, under the title Exposition of the Faith (e[kqesi” th’” pivstew”), which commanded silence on the subject in dispute, but pretty clearly decided in favor of Monotheletism. It first professes the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity and incarnation in the Chalcedonian sense, and then forbids the use of the terms “one” or “two energies” (miva or duvo ejnevrgeiai) since both are heretically interpreted, and asserts one will (qevlhma) in Christ.613613    Mansi, X. 991 sq.; Hefele, III. 179 sq.

2. Two synods of Constantinople (638 and 639) adopted the Ekthesis. But in the remote provinces it met with powerful resistance. Maximus Confessor became the champion of Dyotheletism in the Orient and North Africa, and Pope Martinus I. in the West. They thoroughly understood the controversy, and had the courage of martyrs for their conviction.

Maximus was born about 580 of a distinguished family in Constantinople, and was for some time private secretary of the Emperor Heraclius, but left this post of honor and influence in 630, and entered a convent in Chrysopolis (now Scutari). He was a profound thinker and able debater. When the Monotheletic heresy spread, he concluded to proceed to Rome, and passing through Africa be held there, in the presence of the imperial governor and many bishops, a remarkable disputation with Pyrrhus, who had succeeded Sergius in the see of Constantinople, but was deposed and expelled for political reasons. This disputation took place in July, 645, but we do not know in what city of Africa. It sounded all the depths of the controversy and ended with the temporary conversion of Pyrrhus to Dyotheletism.614614    The disputation is printed in the Opera of Maximus, ed. Combefis, II. 159 sqq., and Migne, I. 287 sqq. Compare Walch, IX. 203 sqq., and Hefele, III. 190-204. The report in Mansi, X. 709-760, is full of typographical errors (as Hefele says). Maximus dealt in nice metaphysical distinctions, as θέλησις, βούλησις, ἐνέργεια, βουλευτικὸνθέλημα, ὑποστατικόν, ἐξουσιαστικόν, προαιρετικόν, γνωμικόν, οἰκονομικόν. Pyrrhus returned afterwards to the see of Constantinople and adopted the absurd theory of three wills in Christ, one personal anti two natural.

About the same time, several North-African synods declared in favor of the Dyotheletic doctrine.

In the year 648 the Emperor Constans II. (642–668) tried in vain to restore peace by means of a new edict called Typos or Type, which commanded silence on the subject under dispute without giving the preference to either view.615615    Also called τύποςπερὶπίστεως. In Mansi, X. 1029; Walch, IX. 167; Hefele, III. 210; also Gieseler, 1. 539, note 9. The Typos was composed by Paul, the second successor of Sergius, who had written the Ekthesis. It set aside the Ekthesis and declared in favor of neutrality. The aim of both edicts was to arrest the controversy and to prevent a christological development beyond the fourth and fifth oecumenical councils. But the Type was more consistent in forbidding all controversy not only about one energy (miva ejnevrgeia), but also about one will (e{n qevlhma). Transgressors of the Type were threatened with deposition; if clergymen, with excommunication; if monks, with the loss of dignity and place, of military or civil officers.

3. An irrepressible conflict cannot be silenced by imperial decrees. Pope Martin I., formerly Apocrisiarios of the papal see at Constantinople, and distinguished for virtue, knowledge and personal beauty, soon after his election (July 5th, 649), assembled the first Lateran Council (Oct., 649), so called from being held in the Lateran basilica in Rome. It was attended by one hundred and five bishops, anathematized the one-will doctrine and the two imperial edicts, and solemnly sanctioned the two-will doctrine. It anticipated substantially the decision of the sixth oecumenical council, and comes next to it in authority on this article of faith.616616    See the acts in Mansi, X., and Hefele, III. 212-230.

The acts of this Roman council, together with an encyclical of the pope warning against the Ekthesis and the Type, were sent to all parts of the Christian world. At the same time, the pope sent a Greek translation of the acts to the Emperor Constans II., and politely informed him that the Synod had confirmed the true doctrine, and condemned the heresy. Theodore of Pharan, Sergius, Pyrrhus, and Paulus had violated the full humanity of Christ, and deceived the emperors by the Ekthesis and the Type.

But the emperor, through his representative, Theodore Calliopa, the exarch of Ravenna, deposed the pope as a rebel and heretic, and removed him from Rome (June, 653). He imprisoned him with common criminals in Constantinople, exposed him to cold, hunger, and all sorts of injuries, and at last sent him by ship to a cavern in Cherson on the Black Sea (March, 655). Martin bore this cruel treatment with dignity, and died Sept. 16, 655, in exile, a martyr to his faith in the doctrine of two wills.

Maximus was likewise transported to Constantinople (653), and treated with even greater cruelty. He was (with two of his disciples) confined in prison for several years, scourged, deprived of his tongue and right hand, and thus mutilated sent, in his old age, to Lazica in Colchis on the Pontus Euxinus, where he died of these injuries, Aug. 13, 662. His two companions likewise died in exile.

The persecution of these martyrs prepared the way for the triumph of their doctrine. In the meantime province after province was conquered by the Saracens.



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