ERA 3 << Medieval Church (1): Expansion & Conflicts (AD 600–1000) >> SESSION 1
Reference: Gonzalez, volume 1, chapters 26-27
† 8.1.1 Easter controversy
The question about the proper date to celebrate Easter appeared in mid-2nd-c.
The Eastern church held that Easter should be celebrated on the 14th day of
Nisan, the date of the Passover according to the Jewish calendar, no matter
what day of the week it fell on. In contrast, the Western church celebrated
Easter on the Sunday after the 14th day of
Nisan, based on the decision of by Anicetus, the bishop of
Irenaeus claimed that the system used in the Eastern church was from Polycarp,
who received the tradition from John the Apostle. Synods were held to decide on
the matter, and they supported the Western church. The churches in
· Decision: There was no agreement until the Council of Nicea  which decided in favour of the Western church. It symbolized the victory of the Western church over the Eastern church.
· Decision of the date: All churches accepted the computation of the Coptic Church that Easter is the first Sunday after the first 14th day of the moon (the Paschal Full Moon) that is on or after the Spring Equinox (March 21 when day and night are of equal length). Easter falls on a different day every year in the solar calendar. There are 35 possible dates, between March 22 and April 25 inclusive.
† 8.1.2 Dominance of the Roman bishop
to dominance: Between 313 and 450, the Roman bishop came to be
acknowledged as the first among equals. The claim
of supremacy began after Leo I became the
of the church: After
recognition: The Council of Constantinople  recognized the
primacy of the Roman see. The patriarch of Constantinople was given “the
primacy of honour next after the Bishop of Rome, because
recognition: Emperor Valentinian III recognized the supremacy of
the bishop of
of the Franks:
leaders: The Roman church was blessed with many able bishops.  Damasus I [366–384] was likely the first bishop or
Roman popes: Because of conflicts between the Byzantine emperor
and the Ostrogoths who ruled
† 8.1.3 Pope Gregory I (540–604)
Gregory I stood at the divide between two worlds of classicism and medieval
Christianity and became the symbol of the new medieval world in which culture
was institutionalized within the church which was dominated by the bishop of
Gregory was born in a wealthy family. He was an ambassador of the papacy to
administrator: Gregory led the reorganization of the devastated
power: Gregory’s greatest work was to expand
the power of the papacy. He saw himself as patriarch of the West
although he did not claim universal authority like Leo I. Though he disclaimed
the title of pope, he asserted the spiritual supremacy of the bishop of
o Importance: He was ranked with Jerome, Ambrose, and Augustine as one of the 4 great doctors of the Western church. Medieval theology bore the stamp of Gregory’s thought.
o Tendency to superstition: Gregory was unduly superstitious and gullible. He readily accepted the stories circulating at his time as if they were simple and direct confirmation of Christian faith. His scholarship was marred by a lack of knowledge of the original languages of the Bible (Hebrew and Greek). He encouraged some of the superstitions of the time, such as the veneration of relics.
o On purgatory: Gregory tried to follow the footsteps of Augustine of Hippo. However, what for Augustine was conjecture, in Gregory became certainty. Augustine suggested the possibility that there was a place of purification for those who died in sin, where they would spend some time before going to heaven. Based on these speculations, Gregory affirmed the existence of a purgatory.
o On penance: Gregory set aside the Augustinian doctrines of predestination and irresistible grace. Instead, he was more concerned with how we are to offer satisfaction to God for sins committed. This is done through penance, which consists of contrition, confession, and the actual punishment or satisfaction. Additionally, priestly absolution confirming the forgiveness granted by God is required.
◦ The practice of private lay confession was probably introduced by Irish monks. It involved the laity confessing their sins to the clergy, followed by measures prescribed by the clergy to provide satisfaction for the sins. The belief arose that, not only eternal punishment, but also temporal punishment was due for sins. God’s forgiveness would remove the former but not the latter. Unless “satisfaction” were made for this temporal punishment, the soul would go to purgatory. Satisfaction might be made by prayer, church attendance, fasting, pilgrimage, almsgiving, or other good works. However, the Bible teaches that when God forgives He forgives completely (Hebrews 8:12). Also, confessions of sin should be made “to one another” (James 5:16), not just to the priest.
o On mass for the dead: Those who die in the faith and communion of the church, but without having offered satisfaction for all their sins, will go to purgatory before final salvation. The living can help the dead out of purgatory by offering masses in their favour.
o On mass as sacrifice: The mass or communion was real sacrifice of Christ. This led to the doctrine of transubstantiation.
o On predestination: Human will is free; only its goodness has been lost. Grace is not irresistible because it is based on both the foreknowledge of God and the merits of man.
o On Scripture: Gregory held to verbal inspiration of the Scripture but gave tradition a place of equality with the Bible.
o Allegorical exegesis: He used allegory excessively. In his commentary on the book of Job, he pictured Job as a type of Christ, his wife as a type of the carnal nature, the 7 sons as types of clergy, and the 3 daughters as types of the faithful laity.
· Liturgy: He organized the Gregorian chant which involved the use of a stately and solemn monotone in the worship.
† 8.1.4 After Gregory
· Support for civil authority: Intervention by the Byzantine emperors in the Western church increased after Gregory I. The Eastern church was divided by Christological controversies and the emperors demanded the support of the popes to their own theological positions. Those who refused were treated harshly. Thus, Pope Honorius [625–638] declared himself a monothelite—a heretical sect (believing in two natures of Christ but only one will).
by civil authority: The election of a
pope had to be confirmed by the authorities in Constantinople before the
pope could be consecrated as bishop of
8.1.5 Formation of the
of Pepin: When threatened by the
document: In 8th-c, someone forged a document (proved as forgery
by historical criticism) called Donation of Constantine. The document claimed
that Emperor Constantine had granted
decretals: Pope Nicholas I made use of a collection of decrees of
various pontiffs of Rome known as the False Decretals  which included the Donation document. It asserted the supremacy of the pope over all ecclesiastical
leaders. It gave any bishop the right to appeal directly to the pope over the
head of his archbishop. It also claimed the right of the church to be free from secular control. Based on the decretals,
the papacy claimed supremacy of the bishop of
† 8.2.1 Invasion & evangelization of the Teutonic tribes
Between 375 and 1066 was the period called the Dark
Ages when there were mass movements of the barbarian tribes in western
Europe, including Teutonic, Viking, Slav, and Mongol peoples. They invaded into
the territories occupied by the
· Problems facing the church:  The church was needed to conserve Helleno-Hebraic culture which was threatened with destruction.  The church had a mission to preach the gospel to the wandering tribesmen. Both of these were fulfilled by the monasteries where manuscripts were carefully preserved and copied, and where missionaries were sent out to evangelize.
Barbarian Goths (originally from Scandinavia, later in northern
They swept through the Balkans and sacked
The Arian Vandals (from the northeast of Rhine) crossed the Rhine ,
The Arian Ostrogoths (southern Goths) under Theodoric moved from the Balkans,
The Arian Burgundians and pagan Franks (from northern
The Franks were at first an unruly alliance of independent tribes until unity
was brought by the Merovingian dynasty
[457–751] established by Meroveus.
The Arian Lombards (from northern
The pagan Anglo-Saxons (from northern
The Mongol Huns under Attila invaded
† 8.2.2 Evangelization of other areas
countries: Wilfrid (634–709), an
English, landed in
King Harald asked
· Problems: Mass conversions and baptism of whole tribes and nations had their problems. Many who were baptized might not have a real experience of faith. In addition, there were insufficient priests to teach and train the large number of new converts.
† 8.2.3 Slavic kingdoms
† 8.3.1 Mohammad (570–632)
· Influenced by Christianity: Mohammad was an Arab merchant who knew about Judaism and Christian sects. He claimed that an angel Gabriel revealed to him about a single God (monotheism) who is just and merciful, who rules all things, and requires obedience from all . He claimed that he was not preaching a new religion, but simply the culmination of what God had revealed in the Hebrew prophets and in Jesus, whom Mohammad accepted as a great prophet, although not divine as Christians claimed.
founded: When the merchants in
† 8.3.2 Muslim conquests
& Africa: Muslims conquered the
by Christians: Their advance in Europe was finally halted and
pushed back after Charles Martel defeated them at the battle of
† 8.3.3 Islam
· Quran: The main source of Islam is the Quran. This work, two-thirds the length of the NT, is arranged in 114 chapters. The longest chapter comes at the beginning of the book, and the chapters become successively shorter until the last chapter has only 3 verses. It is repetitious and unorganized.
· Central theme: Belief in one God known as Allah is the central theme of Islam. Allah made his will known through 25 prophets, including Abraham, Moses, and Christ; but Muhammad was the latest and greatest of these prophets. Muslims deny both Christ’s deity and His death on the cross.
Islam is fatalistic with its idea of passive
submission to the will of Allah. After judgment, men will enjoy a rather
sensual paradise or face the terrors of hell. The good Muslim prays 5 times
daily, facing toward
† 8.3.4 Effects
diminished: Many ancient centres of Christianity—
of the empire: The
of Christian focus: Until this time, Christianity had developed
along the Mediterranean basin. Now, the focus shifted to a north-south axis that included
† 8.4.1 End of arguments on the natures of Christ
· Continuing problem: The settlement of the relation between the human and divine natures of Christ was followed by the discussion of the relationship between the wills of Christ. Did He have both a divine and human will? If so, were they equal or was one subordinate to the other?
Monothelitism: Sergius, patriarch of
· Council of Constantinople III [680–681]—This is the 6th ecumenical council. It condemned monothelitism, and condemned Pope Honorius. The council declared that in Jesus Christ are “two natural wills and two natural operations, without division, without change, without separation, without confusion.” In other words, that the two wills of Christ exist in Him in a harmonious unity in which the human will is subject to the divine will. The main argument was that without a human will, Jesus would have had an incomplete human nature and would not have been truly man.
o Papal infallibility? The condemnation of Pope Honorius had serious repercussions on the question of papal infallibility, which was first discussed in 9th-c.
† 8.4.2 Use of images
· Problem: In the early church, there was little objection to the use of images (pictures and statues), for the catacombs and places of worship were decorated with paintings about Biblical stories and Christian life. After Christianity was accepted by the empire, some bishops expressed concern that masses now flocking to the church would be led to idolatry so they preached against the misuse of objects of worship.
· Worship of icons: Icons are pictures of Jesus Christ and the saints. These became widespread in the Orthodox Church. People would bow down before them, kiss them, and pray to them. Some people objected to such practice. They were the iconoclasts (destroyers of icons). In opposition were the iconodules (worshippers of icons).
· Arguments:  Is the worship of icons idolatry? The iconoclasts invoked the Second Commandment against images. The iconodules argued that the worship of icons was not idolatry because it was not the worship of false gods. They also argued that honour paid to the image passed on to the original. But this was an argument used by pagan idolaters and was rejected by the Church Fathers.  What was the earliest Christian practice? Until 4th-c, the church was predominantly opposed to any direct representation of God or Christ. Images were adoptions from pagan practices. Iconodules appeal to unwritten tradition had no support.  What is best for common people? Iconodules saw icons as the books of the unlearned, as the way to bring spiritual realities to them. Iconoclasts retorted that the simple people could not distinguish between worship offered to an icon and worship offered to God so icons led them to idolatry.  John of Damascus supported the iconodules by the argument that Jesus was a visible incarnation of God, how could one object to representing him? However, the charge of idolatry was a serious one and should always be considered.
· East vs West: Emperor Leo III of the East forbade any kneeling before pictures or images ; he later ordered all pictures and images removed from the churches and destroyed, except crosses . This was partly to refute Muslim charges of idolatry. Eventually, the church in the East eliminated statues but kept icons. In the West, Charlemagne and the pope opposed the worship of images but favoured the use of visible symbols of divine reality. The church in the West continued to use pictures and statues in worship.
· The Council of Hieria —It was called to discuss the question of images and the iconoclasts won. The council (not ecumenical) forbid the use of images and condemned those who defended them.
· Council of Nicea II —This is the last (7th) ecumenical council. This time, the iconodules won. The council condemned the iconoclasts and distinguished between worship (latria) which is due only to God, and a lesser worshipful veneration (dulia) which is to be given to icons. The decision was celebrated by the Eastern church but questioned by the Western church. In contrast to previous ecumenical councils, this council did not deal with doctrinal issues about God and Christ, but dealt with a practice (veneration of icons) that at best has no Biblical warrant and at worst is blatantly unbiblical. Protestants generally reject the decision in this council.
† 8.4.3 Theology in Eastern Orthodox Church
· General: The Eastern Orthodox Church was fiercely traditional. The overwhelming concern was the preservation of the orthodox tradition without the slightest variation. This applied both to dogma (belief) and to liturgy (worship). The supreme authority rested with the general or ecumenical (world-wide) councils.
· Stagnation of Eastern theology: After the 7 ecumenical councils, Eastern theology remained stagnant until modern times, with the exception of John of Damascus. The other famous Eastern theologians contributed mostly in Eastern mysticism which has been a main characteristic of the Orthodox Church.
· Dionysius the Areopagite (6th-c)—The name refers to the judge of the Areopagus who was converted to Christianity by Paul (Acts 17:34). The name was used by a Syrian monk. His Mystical Theology was about the mystical union of the soul with God. His thought was permeated by Neoplatonism which emphasized the transcendence of God. God is beyond anything that we can understand—beyond existence, essence, or personality so that we can only talk about God, not by saying what He is (the positive way), but by saying what He is not (the negative way). This negative way was a way of drawing near to God and entering into union with Him. Dionysius’ influence was mostly on medieval mysticism.
o Heavenly Hierarchy: This book discussed the nature of angels who are divided into a hierarchy of 9 choirs: seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominations, virtues, powers, principalities, archangels, and angels.
o Ecclesiastical Hierarchy: This book portrayed the church as a hierarchy of 3 orders of ministry: bishop, priest, deacon; and 3 lower levels: monk, layman, catechumen. There are 3 sacraments: baptism, eucharist, confirmation; and 3 stages to God or 3 ways of the spiritual life: purification, enlightenment, union.
· Maximus the Confessor (580–662)—He was called the father of Byzantine theology, writing influential commentaries. He was against the monothelites. He was also renowned as a mystical teacher. For him, the goal of a life of prayer is the vision of God.
· Simeon the New Theologian (949–1022)—He was the abbot of St Mamos. He was called the greatest of Byzantine medieval mystics. He was the first systematic exponent of the technique of inner prayer. His theology was charismatic and spiritual, opposing formalism. He taught that baptism is of no value unless there is a holy life. He taught the need for a baptism in the Holy Spirit following water baptism. This involves repentance and conversion to Jesus Christ, awareness of Him as Lord and Saviour. It means a personal experience of God, in terms of deification, and a life of obedience.
· Gregory Palamas (1296–1359)—He was a monk who supported a tradition of spirituality aiming at victory over the passions, inner tranquility, and contemplation of God. It involved a silent meditation reciting repeatedly the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.” The goal was the vision of the divine light and union with God. Based on the Cappadocian Fathers, he stressed that God is inaccessible in His essence but accessible and knowable in His energies (inside vs outside nature of God).
Major Theological Issues in Early Church (from
 Relation of Christ and Father—overstress on divine unity
[a] Ebionites—Jesus Messiah by Holy Spirit
[b] Gnostics—One pure God, known through Gnosis of Christ, Dualism
[c] Dynamic Monarchians—Paul of Samosata, Adoptionist
[d] Modal Monarchians—Sabellius: one essence in three modes
[e] Orthodox: Tertullian: three persons in one essence;
 Relation of Christ’s Natures
[a] Overstress on humanity—Nestorius: Jesus Christ, a God-bearing man
[b] Overstress on divinity—Apollinaris: body, soul, Logos, no spirit;
 Nature of Man
[a] Augustine—soul inherited original sin, free-will, monergistic salvation, baptism important
[b] Pelagius—soul created, born sinless, broken will, synergistic salvation, baptism unimportant
 treasure our heritage
Evangelism by missionaries has long been a Christian tradition.
 appreciate God’s providence
Barbarians were all converted by missionaries.
 avoid past errors
The disunity of the north African church led to their disappearance after the Muslim invasion.
 apply our knowledge
The condemnation of Pope Honorius is an excellent evidence against papal infallibility.
 follow past saints
Theologians in the Eastern Orthodox Church sought a closer relationship with God through Christian mysticism.
● What were the factors that lead to the development (centralization of power) of the papacy? How much influence was exerted by Leo the Great and Gregory the Great?
o The popes claimed primacy over all other bishops because of historical factors:
◦ The Roman see claimed to follow the apostolic succession of Peter who was given the keys of the kingdom and who was appointed as the foundation of the church.
o There were practical reasons:
◦ The other 4 important sees had theological or political problems.
◦ Because of the fall of the western empire, the papacy became the main power in both ecclesiastical and political areas.
The primacy of
◦ Many Roman bishops were able leaders.
Leo I was regarded as the first pope because: [a] He claimed universal power in the
church and was not challenged. [b]
He was able to protect
Gregory I was regarded as the last Church
Father. He was able to revive the city of
● What were the unbiblical theological inventions of Gregory I?
o the use of penance in the forgiveness of sins
o mass for the dead to reduce time in the purgatory
o mass as the real (re-)sacrifice of Christ
● What were the effects of the Islamic expansion on Christianity?
o Many cities in the Eastern church were under Muslim rule and lost their prestige.
Christianity became stagnant in those areas. In
some areas like northern
o The power of the Western church increased.
o The focus of Christian growth moved northwards.
● The first two ecumenical councils dealt with the theology of trinity. What is the main theological issue in the next three ecumenical councils? How did the Eastern and the Western churches react to them?
o The main issue in the next 3 ecumenical councils was Christology, specifically the two natures of Christ—how divinity and humanity are joined in Jesus Christ.
o In the Eastern church, there were two schools: the Alexandrines asserted Jesus’ divinity while the Antiochenes asserted Jesus’ full humanity. The West—following Tertullian—supported “two natures united in one person.”
o Even after the Council of Chalcedon, many Eastern churches still did not follow orthodox faith.
● How did political intervention contribute to schism? What were the remote and proximate causes of the East-West schism in 1054?
Remote causes: [a] Intervention by wavering emperors brought the conflict out in
the open: Basiliscus (annulled
Proximate causes: [a] Bulgarian archbishop Leo of Ochrid declared the West in error:
made clerical celibacy universal; celebrated communion with unleavened bread. [b] Pope Leo IX sent the ambassador
Humbert who was a zealous reformer and who made undue confrontations with the
● How was eastern Europe converted?
Cyril and Methodius were sent to convert the
Slavs . They were successful in
Russian Queen Olga was converted by German
missionaries . Her grandson sent for missionaries from