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Forum LockedPatronage and Primacy: A Study in "Honor"

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    Posted: 17-Mar-2009 at 04:59

Hello all,

Before I begin this discussion, allow me to first offer a bit of insight into the main aim of this thread. I endeavour, not so much to come to a concrete conclusion beyond differing viewpoints, but to, in a sense, "muddy the water" a bit; in so doing, maybe see more clearly that, for the church of the patristic age, our modern-day interpretations of honor, may not fit so neatly within the contemporary Fourth-Fifth century ecclesiastical context. 
 
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In our modern-day aspect of 'honor', we naturally think along the lines of Webster: High public esteem, fame, glory. But to be honored today, and to be honored in the days leading up to and during the early church and patristic age, is of little comparison. The question we must ask is: DO they carry the same merit and meaning? Were these distinctions of honor from political office and its necessary jurisdictional implications so discernable in the Fourth and Fifth centuries? For us to peer back into these years of Roman rule and Hellenistic influence, we must necessarily remove our modern-day lens' for which we have become accustomed. Also, examining the concept of "honor" before the rise of the Christian faith, we must be careful not to detach these certain honors from their patron; that is to say: honors conferred, necessarily meant honor reciprocated; at least it was for the early church. Some readings into the Acta of Chalcedon seem to confirm this much, but I shall return to this in a bit.
 
For Rome of the Republican age, honos was not just a view of ones own worth, or their virtuous merit; but was rather the result of public judgement about someone's value to society. In expressing this recognition of good and meritorious action, the normal vehicle was through the bestowal of office. So, in speaking on the city of Capua, Cicero has this to say:
 
"Where honour is not publicly given, there can be no desire for glory."
 
When he states, "Where honour is not publicly given", he is referring to the lack of Capua to elect public officials, positions which carry with them real and practical implications. So , for Cicero at least, a city of these sorts, is a crippled affair.
 
Earlier still, from a Hellenistic view -- Aristotle, arguing that only virtuous people should rule, speaking on Politics(3.6.3), has this to say:
 
"Therefore the rest must necessarily be without honour, since they are not given the honors of political office; for we call positions of rule 'honours', and if these are the ones who always rule, the rest must necessarily be 'those without honour'"
 
It would be impossible for us to survey honor in the early church, if we were to exclude the 3rd canon of Constantinople, and the 28th of Chalcedon. The reader may be somewhat familiar with these canons, per other discussions once walked through in the P&T subforum. Examining the language of the time, Professor of Theology at Notre Dame, Brian Daley has the 3rd canon thus:
 
"The Bishop of Constantinople shall have the prerogatives of office after the Bishop of Rome, because it is a new Rome."
 
In this context, it is interesting to note that the Orthodox Peter L'Huillier, has it almost exactly the same, save for where "office" is rendered, "honor" is written. This, taking into account the preceding climate, can be seen as, from a scholarly point of view, how "honor" and "office" can be seen as synonymous. These "prerogatives", that are a consequence of this "primacy, as L'Huiller has it, were not far off from being realized and utilized by their new possesor's, the Bishops of Constantinople. For instance, in 394, Nectarius presided at a synod in Byzantium, wherein both Alexandria and Antioch were present; where were discussed the affairs of the church in Bosra in Arabia, which would have fell over the patriarchal sphere of Antioch. Beginning with John Chrysostom, at the start of the Fifth century, the Bishops in Constantinople ordained the bishops of Pontus, Asia, and Thrace; as St. John's successors Atticus and Proclus had done. The reason for Theodosius II to render the region of Illyricum under the influence of the Bishop from the capital, seems clear enough: "[Constantinople] enjoys the prerogatives of Old Rome." Pope Boniface persuaded Honorius in the West to countermand such an initiative, but the implication seems clear enough, this "honor" conferred on Constantinople, seems to not only have real, practical, and even juridical implications, but it was beginning to widen far beyong the capital, as it naturally should, given the vaccum that Byzantium had to fill in the East with Pontus, Asia, and Thrace having no traditionally recognized centers of ecclesiastical gravity.
 
All this before Chalcedon in 451, and with it, the infamous canon 28. What the council set to do, was to simply sanction what was already procedure as normal in the East. Its unfortunate that Rome could not understand fully the situation the East, and Leo's refusal to confirm this canon, ended in the canon not being recorded in any canonical collections(including Greek collections) until the Sixth century. Dvornik, Nichols, and L'Huiller say this much.
 
But to switch up angles, let us turn to how the council fathers assembled at Chalcedon viewed this canon. For the bishops present, ordinations and acting as decision-maker in difficult questions of episcopal succession(a thing very prevelent in small eastern cities) were not purely honorary in our modern sense of the term, but were "honors" that carried much weight. As far as Patronage is concerned, Critianus of Aphrodisias has this to say, when the authenticity of his willingness to sign to the 28th canon of his own free-will, was called for confirmation:
 
"I gave my signature of my own free will, wanting to follow the intentions of the holy Fathers[Canon 3 od Const.] and because I am a debtor to that throne; I was ordained [by the Bishop of Const.], and my predecessors were, and our Church received its whole patronage from it" (ACO II, 1, 456, II.24-27)     
 
Also, Romanus of Myra has this to say:
 
"I was not forced to sign; I am glad to be under the throne of Constantinople, since he gave me my position and ordained me." (ACO II, 1, 455, II.30-32)
 
The words above seem clear enough, honors conferred can, justly, be expected, honors reciprocated.
 
Having said all this, allow me to clarify, lest my words carry me farther than I wish to go. None of this means that the Church did not possess the capability to set honors that  would amount to our modern day interpretation. For when after the 6th session of Chalcedon, when Marcian and Pulcheria formally received the definition of faith, Marcian proclaimed that this rather low unimportant city across the Bosphorus, should nevertheless, from henceforth carry honorary metropolitan status "In honor of the holy martyr Euphemia and of your holinesses". Marcian goes on to state,
 
"We have decreed that the city of Chalcedon, in which the holy faith has been confirmed by this synod, shall have the rank of a metropolis; but we only wish to honour it with the name, and the proper role of the metropolitan city of Nicomedia is to be preserved."(ACO I, 1, 353, II.35-38)
 
Also during the council, there was a jurisdictional dispute that was to be worked out, that between the Bishops of Nicomedia and Nicea. By custom, both these sees claimed metropolitan rank in the same province, but, to the council's decision, Nicomedia was to have full authority and Nicea "shall have only the honour of metropolitan, but shall be under the authority of the bishop of Nicomedia in the same way as all other bishops of the province."  So, was the church ablr to confer "honors" in the modern sense? Sure, but when such a thing is done, it must be accompanied by explanations of no real and practical authority. We may observe something of the like in the 7th canon of Nicea:
 
"Since the custom and the ancient tradition still holds good that the bishop of Aelia[Jerusalem] should have rank, let him possess the consequences of that rank, while the proper dignity of the metropolitan[Caesarea] is preserved."
 
The revived importance(of location) of the crucifixtion of our Lord was here acknowledged, but how that was to be realised was here left undefined. But the fine point being, the canon obviously forsees a clash in power between the revived Jerusalem and Caesarea. If this "consequence of rank" was not of some tangible reality, then the "dignity" still attached to Caesarea would not have to be noted and explained.
 
I'll close with a highlight of how "primacy" and "honor" were used in Latin. In the letter the council sends to Pope Leo, when speaking of Constantinople's new place, Rusticus renders this by honores, while an earlier Latin translation has it instead primatus. He also applies the same method when rendering canon 3 of Constantinople. It would appear, then, for at least some in the Latin sphere, 'honor" and "primacy" can be used interchangeably without significantly altering the meaning.
 
Would love to hear some of your thoughts on the subject.
 
Where not stated, I've taken much from Brian Daley's article published in: The Journal of Theological Studies 44.n2 (Oct 93'): pp 529(25).   
 
 
 


Edited by arch.buff - 17-Mar-2009 at 05:11
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Akolouthos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Mar-2009 at 06:53

I don't quite have the time to respond to this right now, but I thought it was worthy of a response, so I decided to bump this thread. Smile I certainly appreciate your desire to "muddy the waters"; indeed, the various interpretations of primacy -- both yours, ours, and the protestants' -- are different precisely because the waters are murky.

There were a couple of things I disagreed with, as you probably expected, but on the whole I think this is a fair treatment -- or, at very least, a sincere treatment, which is better than fair any day. I will certainly be checking my L'Huillier, and I am glad to see you have cited him. Honestly, I wish there were a good and complete translation of Balsamon and Zonaras; they may have taken more of a western, juridical view of the canons, but it would still be nice to have a primary source from the Eastern perspective. Then again, perhaps the very practice of canon law as law is foreign to the spirit of the East, eh? Wink

Anyway, I digress, for which I crave your pardon. This thread is quite worthy of a bump and further discussion, and I only regret that I will not have enough time to devote to it in the immediate future. Thus, all I can do is express my gratitude for an intellectually stimulating post. Smile
 
-Akolouthos


Edited by Akolouthos - 21-Mar-2009 at 06:58
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote arch.buff Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Mar-2009 at 22:40
Hello Ako,
 
The subject matter at hand is definitely dense, and the interpretations do indeed vary widely. While I would, in a limited sense, agree with you about Balsamon and Zonaras, I would also have to add that their interpretations of canon law would be more likened to the Orthodox perspective, rather than the Catholic one. However, I believe it was Zonaras who defended the belief that Rome was indeed the first see in Christendom, not because of its "after" -- as denoting an aspect of time -- but rather, as in a interpretation that holds some aspect of rank, and not a strictly chronological belief of firstness. This belief was, apparently, very prevelent in the East.  On the whole, still, I would say that Zonaras in his explanations, would be more akin to the modern-day aspect of honour. In any case, I'm very interested in hearing your thoughts on the subject, as always.  
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