"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Friday, August 28, 2020

The Dynamic Legacies of Cities and Councils of Eastern Christian Antiquity

Amidst the endless, and increasingly tedious, debates among Catholics at least over the Second Vatican Council--debates which are also about episcopal authority as well--some have put it about that eventually the legacy of that council will be no more easily recalled than that of, say, Nicaea I or Constantinople I or Chalcedon.

But the legacies of those early councils is not fixed, either, as a cleverly named new book reminds us once more: Justin M. Pigott, New Rome Wasn't Built in a Day: Rethinking Councils and Controversy at Early Constantinople 381-451 (English and Ancient Greek Edition) (Brepols, 2020), 231pp.

About this book the publisher tells us this:
Traditional representations of Constantinople during the period from the First Council of Constantinople (381) to the Council of Chalcedon (451) portray a see that was undergoing exponential growth in episcopal authority and increasing in its confidence to assert supremacy over the churches of the east as well as to challenge Rome's authority in the west. Central to this assessment are two canons - canon 3 of 381 and canon 28 of 451 - which have for centuries been read as confirmation of Constantinople's ecclesiastical ambition and evidence for its growth in status. However, through close consideration of the political, episcopal, theological, and demographic characteristics unique to early Constantinople, this book argues that the city's later significance as the centre of eastern Christianity and foil to Rome has served to conceal deep institutional weaknesses that severely inhibited Constantinople's early ecclesiastical development. By unpicking teleological approaches to Constantinople's early history and deconstructing narratives synonymous with the city's later Byzantine legacy, this book offers an alternative reading of this crucial seventy-year period. It demonstrates that early Constantinople's bishops not only lacked the institutional stability to lay claim to geo-ecclesiastical leadership but that canon 3 and canon 28, rather than being indicative of Constantinople's rising episcopal strength, were in fact attempts to address deeply destructive internal weaknesses that had plagued the city's early episcopal and political institutions.

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