The “forgeries of the Apollinarians”

This evening I stumbled across a book which few, perhaps, will have read: Georges Florovsky’s The Byzantine Fathers of the Sixth to Eighth Centuries.  Fortunately the book is accessible here, for it is otherwise quite uncommon.

What led me here was a question about the “forgeries” of the Apollinarians.  We know that in the 6th century, works were in circulation which were ascribed to Pope Julius I, Athanasius, or Gregory Thaumaturgus, but were in reality by Apollinaris or his followers.  We know this because of a dossier of quotations, assembled by Leontius of Byzantium as Adversus Fraudes Apollinistarum.  Indeed a correspondent kindly translated this text for us all, and it is accessible online.

Apollinaris of Laodicea lived in the second half of the 4th century A.D.  He wrote an excellent refutation of Porphyry’s anti-Christian work, and, when faced with Julian the Apostate, did what he could to frustrate the latter’s desire to prevent Christians acquiring an education.  However he must have found himself out of his depth in the increasingly vicious theological-political currents of the late fourth century.  The opinion now known as Apollinarism is given by the old Catholic Encyclopedia thus:

A Christological theory, according to which Christ had a human body and a human sensitive soul, but no human rational mind, the Divine Logos taking the place of this last.

“Apollinarism” was condemned at the Council of Constantinople in 381, or so the CE says.  After this point, it may well have been dangerous to circulate texts under his name.  In the circumstances those who still agreed with him chose to place the other names at the head of his and their works.  This had the unfortunate consequence that monophysite writers such as Cyril of Alexandria found themselves quoting Apollinaris when they believed that they were quoting Athanasius.  In the disputes of the 6th century, the supporters of Chalcedon made use of this to attack the monophysite position.

But did the Apollinarians intend fraud?  or merely to preserve their now illegal belief?  It would be extremely harsh, surely, to condemn them for the latter.  The later use of their works is nothing to do with them.

Another supposed Apollinarian forgery is the long recension of the letters of Ignatius.  Seven letters were interpolated, while a further eight were composed.  The identity of the interpolator is unknown, unless we accept the suggestion that it is an otherwise unknown Arian named Julian of Antioch, whose name appears as author of a Commentary on Job of the same period.  But the author of the long recension is not obviously Arian, any more than he is certainly Apollinarian.  His purpose in interfering with the text in this way is entirely unknown today.  It is entirely possible that it was for dishonest purposes, to put into circulation a text in order to make an argument based on forged evidence; but we do not know this.

At all events, I then came across Florovsky’s work, which includes a discussion of the Apollinarian forgeries:

One work ascribed to Leontius which may actually belong to him and which modern scholarship should consider carefully is Against the Frauds of the Apollinarians. In the history of Monophysitism the so-called “forgeries of the Apollinarians” played a major and fateful role. Many of Apollinarius’ compositions were concealed and “armored” under the forged inscription of respected and honored names. Faith in such pseudo-patristic writings very much hindered Alexandrian theologians in their dogmatic confession — it is sufficient to recall St. Cyril of Alexandria. Even if the work titled Against the Frauds of the Apollinarians is someday conclusively proven to be not that of Leontius of Byzantium, it is discussed here. Regardless of the authorship of this work — and it is very possible that it was Leontius of Byzantium — it was a significant work which deserves attention.

It is difficult to reconstruct the history of these “forgeries” but they became especially wide-spread in the Monophysite milieu. Even Eutyches in his appeal to Pope Leo at the Council of Constantinople in 448 refers to the forged testimony of Pope Julius, Athanasius, and Gregory the Miracle-Worker. He referred to them in good conscience, not suspecting any “forgery.” In his document to the monks of Palestine, Emperor Marcian observed that among the people books by Apollinarius were circulating which were being passed off as dicta of the holy fathers. Justinian also mentions some forgeries. The historian Evragius discusses the influence of these forgeries — the inscription of honorable names (Athanasius, Gregory, Julius) on Apollinarius1 books kept many people from condemning the impious opinions contained in them. At the famous “conference” with the Severians, which took place about 532 (between 531 and 533, in any case), Hypatius of Ephesus challenged a whole series of patristic references by pointing out their spuriousness, their the false inscriptions.

Under such circumstances the uncovering and demonstration of forgeries became a pointed and recurrent task of theological polemics. In performing this task, it is the author of Against the Frauds of the Apollinarians who occupies the most prominent place. The author gathered much material in this work. He adduces the false testimonies, and compares them with the original opinions of those persons to whom they are ascribed. (It is noteworthy that this same procedure is followed in the work Against the Monophysites, a work modern scholarship does not regard as that of Leontius of Byzantium). The author then collates these testimonies with the undisputed texts of Apollinarius and his followers and shows the points of correspondence between them. In this connection the author has to enter into a detailed critique of Apollinarianism. The author’s critical conclusions are distinguished by great precision and cogency.

Interesting indeed.


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