Christian Emperors, Christian Church and the Jews of the Diaspora in the Greek East, CE 379-450

Christian Emperors, Christian Church and the Jews of the Diaspora in the Greek East, CE 379-450

Millar, Fergus (Oriental Institute, Oxford University)

Journal of Jewish Studies, Vol. 55,  Issue 1 (2004)


This sudden side-light on Jewish–Christian relations in the fifth century comes from Iohannes, archbishop of Antioch, writing to Proclus, his counterpart in Constantinople, in 435. What we are reading is in fact a sixth-century Latin translation of a letter originally written in Greek, and referring to the long-drawn-out and acutely controversial process by which, after the Council of Ephesus in 431, most of the original supporters of the Nestorian, or ‘two-nature’, position had agreed to a formula of reconciliation with the victorious proponents of a ‘one nature’ understanding of Christ, led by Cyril of Alexandria. Iohannes himself, originally Nestorius’ main proponent, had yielded, and now found himself regarded as a traitor by those who still resisted, including the Cilician bishops to whom he refers.

Iohannes was writing fifty-six years after the accession of Theodosius I in 379, which it is entirely reasonable to see as the decisive moment in the adhesion of the Roman State to Christianity, in its commitment to the step-bystep suppression of paganism, and also in the proclamation by the Emperor, a couple of years later, of the State’s support for what we can label as either ‘orthodox’ or ‘catholic’ belief, in essence subscription to the doctrine of the consubstantiality of the Trinity. Since that time, a division into twin Empires, ruled from Rome or Ravenna on the one hand and Constantinople on the other, had come about on the death of Theodosius in 395; while with the accession of Theodosius’ very young grandson, Theodosius II, in 408 an absolute and much-advertised commitment to Christian piety had come to mark the Imperial court in Constantinople

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