Theology (from the Greek theologia, which means "the science of God") was much studied in Byzantium (q.v.). Among the topics considered were the nature of God (the Trinity), the relationship of Christ's human and divine natures, and the meaning of salvation. Basic ideas from Neoplatonism (q.v.), in particular from Pseudo-Dionysios the Areopagite (q.v.), were used to express what was considered inexpressible, even unknowable, namely, a full knowledge of God. The influence of Neoplatonism is seen in apophatic theology, which evolved to deal with problems about the knowledge of God. This tendency inclined toward mysticism (e.g., with Symeon the New Theologian [q.v.]), in opposition to the rational discussion about God seen in western Scholasticism (q.v.). Theology was rarely free from controversies, the resolution of which was attempted at ecumenical councils (q.v.), where heresy (q.v.) was condemned. Arianism (q.v.) was condemned at the First Ecumenical Council at Nicaea (qq.v.) in 325 and at the Second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople (q.v.) in 381. Nestorianism (q.v.) was condemned at the Third Ecumenical Council at Ephesus (q.v.) in 431, and Monophysitism (q.v.) at the Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon in 451 (q.v.). The so-called Three Chapters (q.v.) were condemned at the Fifth Ecumenical Council at Constantinople (qq.v.) in 553. The Sixth Ecumenical Council at Constantinople (qq.v.) in 680/681 condemned Monotheletism (q.v). Iconoclasm (q.v.) was condemned at the Seventh Ecumenical Council at Nicaea (qq.v.) in 787. The 11th century was dominated by the church schism of 1054, with the issues that accompanied the schism (e.g., filioque and azyma [qq.v.]), and by the less dramatic revival of theological interest in Neoplatonism and Aristotle (q.v.). The belief of the 12th-century theologian Sotericho Panteugenos (q.v.) that only the Father was present at the Eucharist was condemned by Nicholas of Methone and by Manuel I Komnenos (qq.v.). Astrology (q.v.) was also a controversial topic in the 11th and 12th centuries. The union of the churches (q.v.), achieved on paper at the Council of Lyons in 1274 (q.v.) and at the Council of Ferrara-Florence (q.v.) in 1438-1439, remained a center of controversy. The defense of Hesychasm by Gregory Palamas (qq.v.) also aroused great controversy, as did the defense of western scholasticism, which applied the logic of Aristotle to analyze Christian doctrine, among some Byzantine scholars. The works of scholastic theologian Thomas Aquinas (q.v.) were translated by Demetrios Kydones and Prochoros Kydones (qq.v.), and they influenced the writing of Gennadios II Scholarios (q.v.). However, theology was composed of more than its controversies, and those controversies consisted of more than extensions of Greek philosophical thought. Some controversies, like Monophysitism, can be viewed as mass movements. The controversy over papal primacy (q.v.) manifested itself in the Fourth Crusade (q.v.) during the final Latin assault on Constantinople (q.v.). Robert of Clari (q.v.) reports that when western knights expressed concern about killing fellow Christians, they were assured by their Latin clergy that the Byzantines were not Christians at all but enemies of God who had seceded from the papacy (q.v.). Thus, the clergy concluded, attacking Constantinople was not a sin, but a righteous deed.

Historical Dictionary of Byzantium . .


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