The contest between Theophilos and John Chrysostom which began at John’s ordination now came to its climax. The Long Brothers and the eighty fellow Nitrian monks with them had arrived in Constantinople in 400 and immediately prostrated themselves before John, recounting all of the horrendous acts performed against them by Theophilos. John took two important steps: he forbade the monks to speak publicly about their trials and he sent a personal letter to Theophilos begging that he receive them back into fellowship.
Please do me a courtesy – me, who am your son as well as your brother – and take these people back under your protection. 
When Theophilos received the letter from John he realized that the Nitrian monks were in a prime position to have him convicted before the Emperor. Therefore Theophilos sent agents to Constantinople to stir up lies about the Long Brothers. When the Nitrian monks learned of this move they submitted formal charges to John against Theophilos. Upon receiving these charges John sent another letter to Theophilos to inform him of the predicament and that he could not convince the monks to leave the city. Theophilos in turn sent a letter back to John advising him to mind his own business.
I think you are not unaware of the ordinance of the Nicene canons forbidding a bishop to adjudicate a case which falls outside his ecclesiastical area. If however you were unaware, now that you have been informed refrain from meddling with accusation brought against me. If it were necessary for me to be put on trial, it would be before Egyptian judges and not before you, who live more than seventy-five days’ journey away.  Continue reading “Historical Survey: Chrysostom and the Origenist Controversy (III)”
Although Epiphanios had been writing against the teachings of Origen for quite some time the controversy came to a head when Theophilos of Alexandria issued his festal letter in 399. Upon the arrival of the letter in Scete the Anthropomorphite monks were shocked with Theophilos’ discussion of the incorporeality of God. These monks were simple-minded ascetics who had come from areas recently purged of paganism. Evidently the idol worship of these monks had only taken a new form, the idol of God in the mind. “It [Origenism] was a dispute with a past, a past located historically in the conversion of native Egyptians from paganism (“idolatry”) to Christianity…” In fact much of Evagrios’ thought can be seen as an attempt to cleanse the mind of idolatry. Many of the more simple ascetics asserted that God was corporeal, having a human figure; therefore any discussion of God as incorporeal was a denial that man is in the image of God. The question of whether man is in the image of God became the center of the controversy – the Anthropomorphites answering in the affirmative and the Origenists answering in the negative.
The festal letter of Theophilos caused an uprising of Anthropomorphite monks who were threatening his life in the city of Alexandria. Theophilos quickly changed his mind on the subject of God’s incorporeality during the turmoil to support the Anthropomorphites. This was partly due to the advice of the monk Aphou who demonstrated to him that if humans do not truly image God then Christ cannot be truly present in the Eucharist (the corporeal bread cannot correspond to an incorporeal Christ), a proposal that no orthodox Christian could affirm. After this volte-face on the part of Theophilos he began to seek the eradication of what he understood was Origenist heresy. This desire to eliminate Origenism was one impetus for the excommunication of Isidore and the subsequent banishment of the “Long Brothers” (a nickname given in description of their tall stature). Theophilos had at one time held Isidore and the Long Brothers (Dioskoros, Ammonios, Eusebios, and Euthymios) in high regard (nominating Isidore for bishop of Constantinople and appointing Dioskoros bishop of Hermopolis) until Isidore was accused of managing church funds behind his back. Isidore, excommunicated, sought refuge with the Long Brothers (whom Theophilos had learned were avid supporters of Origen; also, Ammonios was a close friend of Evagrios) in their dwelling in the Nitrian desert. Infuriated at the apparent betrayal by former friends, Theophilos enlisted his band of Anthropomorphite monk fighters to expel the Nitrian monks. Apparently shortly after this, Ammonios confronted Theophilos in Alexandria about his violent actions, but Theophilos, recognizing him, seized him by the throat, punched him in the face and exclaimed, “Anathematize Origen, you heretic!” Continue reading “Historical Survey: Chrysostom and the Origenist Controversy (II)”