The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 16 (part 4)

In response to fan mail (!), here is some more of the Annals of the Arabic Christian writer, Sa`id ibn Batriq / Eutychius of Alexandria.  This is not a translation from the Arabic, and nobody has seen fit to make one.  So I’m turning the Italian translation of Bartolomeo Pirone (itself a very rare item, and the only translation known to me) into English.  I’m doing so with the aid of Google Translate, with a view to making the work better known.  I make no guarantees of it’s accuracy!  Academics should go direct to Pirone, or indeed to the Arabic.  With luck, someone will make a proper translation.

We continue the narrative of events in the late 5th century AD.  Remember that Eutychius is a Melkite, accepting the Council of Chalcedon – as all westerners do – and so his perspective is that of someone hostile to monophysite teachings. 

Much of this disputing was really the politics of the time in theological dress, because of the ban on politics.  After nearly 50 years of incessant ecclesiastical strife, the emperor Anastasius was sympathetic to the possibility that the decisions at Chalcedon had been a mistake.  The monophysites saw their chance.

14. There lived in Constantinople a man named Severus. He professed the doctrine of Dioscorus and Eutyches and he was saying that there is only one nature, one person and one will [in Christ].  [He] presented himself to King Anastasius and said: “The six hundred bishops, who in the past gathered in the city of Chalcedon and excommunicated Dioscorus and Eutyches, were wrong in what they did.  The sound religion is solely that affirmed by Eutyches and Dioscorus.  Don’t follow what the monks that came to you from Jerusalem said, because their doctrine is false.  Instead send letters to all the provinces, giving your instruction to excommunicate the six hundred bishops gathered in the city of Chalcedon, and ensure that people profess only one nature, one will and one person.”  King Anastasius agreed to do what he asked.

15. When Flavian, patriarch of Antioch, received the news of what the king Anastasius had set out to do, he wrote him a letter saying: “Do not act as Severus has said, because the six hundred bishops, gathered in the city of Chalcedon were in the truth, and he who is opposed to their doctrine is an excommunicate.”  King Anastasius was angry, and he sent to depose Flavian, Patriarch of Antioch, and in his place he made Severus Patriarch of Antioch.

16. When Elias, Patriarch of Jerusalem, learned that Flavian had been deposed and Severus had been elected in his place, he summoned the monks before the Tomb and Golgotha ​​and excommunicated the king Anastasius, the patriarch Severus and anyone who professed their doctrine.  On receiving the news of what Elijah, Patriarch of Jerusalem, had done, the king Anastasius sent to depose him and exiled him to Aylah [Aqaba].  This happened in the twenty-third year of the reign of Anastasius.  He then made a man named John Patriarch of Jerusalem, because that John had assured him that he would excommunicate the six hundred bishops who had been at Chalcedon.  When [John] arrived in Jerusalem, he went to the monks at Saba and said: “I do not accept the doctrine of Severus but rather defend the council of Chalcedon and I will remain on your side.”  He assured them that he would do this, contrary to what the king had ordered him to do.  Learning of this, the king sent his general to John, Patriarch of Jerusalem, to hold him to the promise made to him and to disavow the resolutions of the Council of Chalcedon: and if he did not, to remove him from office.  The commander came, arrested John, Patriarch of Jerusalem, and put him in prison.  The monks went to visit him in prison, and they advised him to assure the general that he would do what he had first assured the king, and then, once outside, to excommunicate all those whom the monks excommunicated.  He followed their advice.  The monks gathered – there were about ten thousand of them, and with them Theodosius, Cantonus and Saba, the founders of the monasteries – and excommunicated Dioscorus, Eutyches, Severus and Nestorius; they also excommunicated anyone else who had not accepted the doctrine of the Council of Chalcedon.  The envoy of the king was afraid of the monks.  This was the son of the uncle of the king.  Seeing himself cornered, he assured the monks that the king would abandon that doctrine and return to that he had professed and to all truth.

17. When the son of the uncle of the king arrived in Constantinople, he made the king aware of what had happened.  The king considered removing John, Patriarch of Jerusalem.  The monks and bishops gathered and wrote to the king Anastasius saying that they would never accept the doctrine of Severus, or any of the heretics, even at the cost of shedding their own blood.  They asked him also to desist from harming them.  When Symmachus, patriarch of Rome, heard what Anastasius had done, he wrote him a letter in which he reproved the action and excommunicated him.  Symmachus, patriarch of Rome, died after having held the office for fourteen years.  After him Hormisdas was made patriarch of Rome.  He excommunicated Severus, Patriarch of Antioch and all who professed the doctrine.  This happened in the twenty-third year of the reign of Anastasius, king of Rūm.  Hormisdas was patriarch of Rome for seven years and died.  The excommunicate Severus was Patriarch of Antioch for six years and died.  Severus had a disciple named James, who used to wear a garment made of pieces of saddles, the kind used for the beasts of burden, which he stitched together, and he was therefore called Jacob Baradaeus.  According to the theory he supported, Christ has only one nature rather than two natures, [only] one substance rather than two substances and one will, in conformity with the doctrine of the excommunicated Severus, Dioscorus and Eutyches.  By going to Mesopotamia, to Giza, Tikrit, Harran and into Armenia, he sowed corruption in the faith of those people causing them to profess his doctrine.  Those who followed the religion of James, and professed the doctrine were called Jacobites, from the name of James.

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