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Florovsky Georges: The Byzantine Fathers of the 5th century

Florovsky Georges: The Byzantine Fathers of the 5th century, Pournaras, Thessaloniki, 1992.

This book constitutes the second part of a tetralogy, which starts with the Fathers of the 4th century, to end, in the fourth part, with the Fathers of the eighth (century). This is a meaty piece of patristic research with concrete theological grounding and no lack of historical and philological references. Besides, this tetralogy emanates from the author’s conviction that patristic studies should not be exhausted simply to a grammatological and historical presentation of the persons and works of the Fathers, but should also extend to the “dialectic” of their ideas, the development of their problematic so as to both face the heretic challenges and theologically construct the body of the Church.

In Fr. Georges’ days there was a drive in this direction, not least due to the development of patristic theology with critique monographs gaining in publicity and the fully established by the 20th century related academic discipline of Doctrinal History. Thus, Fr. Georges’ main concern, though not an original one, was to establish Patrology as something more than a sort of literature history. His goal was to create a fertile and creative imprint of the dialectic of theological ideas and the fermentations of Christianity in its history, as well as to construct a theology framework as live testimony of the Christian truth.

The book starts with the presentation of the New Testament heritage, which, according to the author, is a deep expression of early Christianity’s existential agony about the Person of the “Son of Man” and His relationship to the Father. He, then, moves on to the later experience of the above truth, as it was expressed in the works of the early Christian writers. He stands on crucial points of the process of the Christian Doctrine, such as Monarchianism, Tertyllian and Hippolytus, Origenis, to reach Nice and from there on to Ephesus.

Equipped with the above analyses, the author elaborates on the main persons and ideas, which marked the 5th century Christological problematic.

He addresses the theological presence of Theodoros Mompsuestias with an analytical presentation of his work, the theologian’s relationship with John Chrysostomos, but also the concept of the “Antiochian Christology”, which stems from his work. He present Nestorios’ prevailing theological trend, but also the theology of Cyrill of Alexandria as the opposing theological trend.

The evolution of Christological ideas from Nestorios to Eutiches, offers an opportunity for the development and synthesis of the Chalcedon Christology. The role of Kyros Theodoritos and the “volume” of Pope Leon express the dialectic theological background that the Chalcedon Synod ought to clarify.

Fr. Georges Florovsky follows this course of the Christological problematic, equipped with the deepest historical-doctrinal knowledge and its simple, but complete methodological presentation. These virtues of his render the volume charming and easy to follow.


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