Bishop Gregory (hgr) wrote,
Bishop Gregory

Solomon, etc.

последний содержательный раздел статьи. еще выводы небольшие надо будет сделать.

A Byzantine source of the 6th century


One passage in Prophecy is dedicated to a celebre, since Proclus of Constantinople (430s), theme “the Virgin as the true Ark of Covenant”[1] (p. 434–435). Its wording would look shocking in Byzantium since, at least, 530s, to both Chalcedonian and anti-Chalcedonian milieus, unless it belongs to the Julianists[2]: here, the body of Christ as it has been born from the Virgin is called “incorruptible”. To both Chalcedonians and their opponents from the camp of Severus this term is applicable to the body of Christ after the resurrection (in some groups, with some reservations also during the three days of death), but, in no way, to the period before the death. However, our text insists, in the beginning and, again, in the end of the passage, that the Virgin gave birth to an “incorruptible” body: “...the pure Virgin from whom the incorruptible body of Christ issued...” and “ of his [Christ’s] Mother, from whom [that is, from Mother] his incorruptible body issued”.

A more close approach reveals, however, that the Virgin in this passage is a newcomer. The core of the passage is an explanation of Ex 25:11, commandment to overlay the Ark with gold inside and outside (“You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside you shall overlay it” NRSV), and this symbolism is applied to the body of Christ directly:

“...the pure Virgin from whom the incorruptible body of Christ issued, decorated [sc., body], as if with gold, outside by the humanity and inside by the Holy Spirit, as Moses said: “Overgild inside, outside”. Because inside he became God by the godhead, and outside man by the humanity, both having perfected when he arrived. It is for this purpose, oh Jew, God commanded to Moses to create the Ark”.


In this exegesis, the Ark is the body of Christ itself, not the Virgin, and all the words around the quote above that, within our passage, apply the symbol of Ark to Virgin, resulted from an attempt to inscribe a strange exegesis into a familiar context.

 The Ark, as composed from the “rot-resistant woods” (ἐκ ξύλων ἀσήπτων) (Ex 25:10 LXX; “wood of acacia” in MT), would be a natural symbol of the body of Christ be this body considered as incorruptible. We know many instances when the wood of the Ark is treated as ἄφθαρτος, but, in the most widespread exegetical tradition, this symbolism is applied to the Virgin and in a different context (when “incorrupt” means “virgin”).

The core quote of the above passage is easily recognisable. Most probably, according to the modern scholarly consensus, it originally belongs to a lost commentary of Hippolytus of Rome, while it is more often cited in the Byzantine sources under the name of Ireneus of Lyon[3]. The original text runs as follows:

Ὥσπερ γὰρ ἡ κιβωτὸς κεχρυσωμένη ἔσωθεν καὶ ἔξωθε χρυσίῳ καθαρῷ ἦν· οὕτω καὶ τὸ τοῦ Χριστοῦ σῶμα καθαρὸν ἦν καὶ διαυγές· ἔσωθεν μὲν τῷ Λόγῳ κοσμούμενον, ἔξωθεν δὲ τῷ Πνεύματι φρουρούμενον· ἵνα ἐξ ἀμφοτέρων τὸ περιφανὲς τῶν φύσεων παραδειχθῇ.[4]


This fragment is preserved exclusively in the documents of the polemics between the adherents and the adversaries of the Council of Chalcedon. It is quoted, in this context, by Severus of Antioch (preserved in Syriac version only, in his work against the Chalcedonian John Grammaticus of Caesarea), Leontius of Byzantium, Anastasius the Sinaite (the author of Hodegos, 7th cent.), and John of Damascus. The Chalcedonians loved this quote because of the mention of “natures” in Christ in plural.

The wording of this fragment is still recognisable in our passage of Prophecy, while the changes are substantial. The authentic fragment says nothing about the humanity (instead, it speaks about the Logos), and the Holy Spirit is, in the authentic text, not inside but outside. The mention of the Holy Spirit in Prophecy in the place where one should place such word as “godhead” (that is, not the name of only one hypostasis) makes the point of the author of Prophecy unclear, and so, he needs to make a clarification (thus, he adds: “Because inside he became God by the godhead, and outside man by the humanity...”). However, this mention of the Holy Spirit in our passage of Prophecy betrays the ultimate source of the quote. But this source says nothing about the incorruptibility, either.

Further research leads to a Church Father as authoritative as causing problems to everybody who later was claiming for his authority, Cyril of Alexandria. He elaborated on the previous Hippolytus’ commentary on the glided Ark in the sense of incorruptibility of the body of Christ from the very beginning. The pertinent exegesis occurs in the known works of Cyril only twice and has evident traces of being suppressed from the Chalcedonian tradition. One case is in an exegetical work, another case in a dogmatic one. The first is preserved in the manuscript tradition in Greek (De adoratione et cultu in spiritu et veritate, CPG 5200) because the exegetical literature was less sensible to the changes of the conjuncture in dogmatics. The second is available in full in Syriac (unpublished) and Armenian only, but in Greek a lot of fragments is preserved (Scholia de incarnatione unigeniti, CPG 5225). However, the fragment about the body of Christ as incorruptible is preserved in Greek only by chance, within a florilegium of a unique destiny, so-called Florilegium Cyrillianum.

In his exegetical work, Cyril follows the Hippolytus’ fragment more closely, while without explicit reference. The Ark is a testimony that Christ was the Logos of God; then, Cyril continues:

 “The woods of the Ark is rot-resistant, and it [Ark] was bound round with the gold from inside and from outside — because the body of Christ is incorruptible, being hold in incorruptibility, as if with some gold, with the power and brightness of the indwelling Logos and by the nature and life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit”.[5]


Hippolytus’ pattern is here clearly recognisable: the Logos is the gold that is inside, and the Spirit is the gold outside. In our Prophecy, the Spirit will be shifted from outside to inside, and the Logos will be replaced with the humanity, but the vicinity of the theme of incorruptibility will remain as a mark that it is still Cyril who is paraphrased.

In the second Cyrillian quote, the exegesis itself is different (the gold outside is the body and the gold inside is the rational soul, ψυχὴ λογική, of Christ), but it is clearly stated that the body of Christ is incorruptible (“But the rot-resistant wood would be a typos of the incorruptible body...”[6]). Its destiny is interesting to us as a mean to evaluate in what extant Cyril’s words about the incorruptibility of the body of Christ were incompatible with the mainstream Byzantine tradition.

The Scholia, being a major dogmatic work of Cyril widely known in the epoch of the first Council of Ephesus (431), are preserved as a whole in the anti-Chalcedonian traditions only, including that of the Julianists (Armenian). Florilegium Cyrillianum where the place about the incorruptibility is cited has been composed probably in Alexandria in the epoch of Henotikon of Zeno (482) and reached Rome in the luggage of John Talaia, the Chalcedonian Patriarch of Alexandria who preferred to fly to Rome instead of waiting for being deposed. Then, it has been returned in Constantinople during the years 508—511, where Severus, future Patriarch of Antioch, composed his Philalethes as its refutation. The main purpose of the whole Florilegium, including our chapter 102, was to demonstrate that Cyril used the terms “nature” and “hypostasis” interchangeably, with no difference in the meaning. In this epoch, nobody took care about Cyrillian “incorruptibility”[7].

The situation changed after the polemics between Severus of Antioch and Julian of Halicarnassus (520s) that affected the Chalcedonians not later than up to the Council of 536. After all this, the wording of such phrases of Cyril becomes sounding as Julianistic. This results in the expurgation of the “criminal” phrases from the Byzantine manuscript tradition, while, fortunately, not absolutely consecutive.

It is therefore reasonable to date the corresponding source of our Prophecy to the 6th century.

[1] In general on this theme: M. van Esbroeck, The Virgin as the true Ark of Covenant, in: M. Vassilaki, ed. Images of the Mother of God. Perceptions of the Theotokos in Byzantium (Aldershot/Burlington, 2005) 63–68.

[2] The conflict between Severus of Antioch and Julian of Halicarnassus (520s) became important, in the eyes of the official Church, at least, since 530s.

[3] CPG 1882.2 — the main entry under the name of Hippolytus, In I Reg., quae de Helcana et Samuele; CPG 1315.3 — under the name of Ireneus, Fragmenta varia graeca, fr. 8 Harvey.

[4] “In the same way as the Ark was overgilded inside and outside with the pure gold, the body of Christ was pure and brilliant: from inside it was decorated with the Logos, and from outside [it was] kept with the Spirit, to show from both [inside and outside] the splendour of the natures”.

[5] PG 68, 507 CD: Καὶ ἄσηπτα μὲν ἦν αὐτῆς τὰ ξύλα, χρυσῷ δὲ τῷ καθαρῷ καὶ δοκιμωτάτῳ κατεκαλλύνετο, ἔσωθέν τε καὶ ἔξωθεν. Ἄφθαρτον γὰρ τὸ σῶμα Χριστοῦ, καθάπερ τινὶ χρυσῷ, τῇ τοῦ ἐνοικοῦντος Λόγου δυνάμει καὶ λαμπρότητι, καὶ τῇ τοῦ ἁγίου Πνεύματος φύσει καὶ ἐνεργείᾳ ζωοποιῷ, πρὸς ἀφθαρσίαν διακρατούμενον.

[6] The relevant passage is the ch. 11 of the work (judging on the ground of the Armenian version). The Greek is available as ch. 102 of the Florilegium Cyrillianum; R. Hespel, Le florilège cyrillien réfuté par Sévère d'Antioche (Louvain, 1955) (Bibliothèque du Muséon, 37) 155–156: Ἀλλὰ τὸ μὲν ἄσηπτον ξύλον εἴη ἂν εἰς τύπον τοῦ ἀφθάρτου σώματος. The same in the Armenian version: F. C. Conybeare, The Armenian Version of Revelation and Cyril of Alexandria’s Scholia on the Incarnation and Epistle on Easter, ed. from the Oldest MSS. and englished (London, 1907) 178 (English tr.) / 105 (Armenian text) (different paginations).

[7] See, on Florilegium Cyrillianum: A. Grillmeier with Th. Hainthaler, Christ in Christian Tradition. Tr. P. Allen and J. Cawte. Vol. 2/2 (London/Louisville, 1995) 22–23.и

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