02 Kasım 2013

İlklerin Kitabı'ndan Kesitler

New York'ta iken Modern Sanatlar Müze'sini ziyaret etme fırsatı bulmuştum. Müzeyi terk eylemeden önce de hediyelik dükkanına girdim ve çıkarken Peter D'Epiro'nun The Book of Firsts adlı kitabını almış idim. Miladi takvimin başlangıcı ile beraber günümüze kadar ulaşan, Batı medeniyetleri merkezli belli başlı olayları yüzyıllara göre sınıflandırarak anlatıyor yazar. Toplamda 150 kişi ve olayı barındırıyor kitap.

Kitabın bir yerinde ekümenik konsey ile ilgili bir bölüm var. Malum bu olayların temeli ülkemiz sınırlarında atıldı. Ekümenik konseyler tarih boyunca farklı şehirlerde toplandı. Teslis odaklı çalışmalar yapılmış diyebilirim sanırım kısaca. Ortodoks- Koptik- Katolik- Protestan gibi ayrımlar bu konseyler neticesinde oluşmuştur desek yeridir.

Normalde bu yazacağım yeri Türkçe'ye çevirip yazmak isterdim; ama oldukça üşengeç hissettiğim için kitaptan birebir aktarıyorum. Belki biraz özet geçerim. Konuya merak duyanlar için kaynak olur.

What was the first ecumenical Christian council? 
The Council of Nicaea, 325, which condemned the teachings of Arius on Christ's nature

(*Nicaea, İznik'in eski adı)

From the beginning, to be a Christian meant to accept the mission of Jesus of Nazareth as divinely ordained by the God of the Jews, but the precise nature of Jesus himself- prophet? Messiah? Son of God? God incarnete?- began in the third and fourth centuries to exercise the ingenuity of the church's subtlest thinkers: the Greek-speaking, philosophically sophisticated prelates and clerics of the Eastern Roman Empire. For a mere hint of the problems involved, consider the same New Testament that contained these statements pointing to the divinity of Jesus:

         the only Son, God, who is at the Father's side (John 1:18)
        [Thomas the Apostle to Jesus]: My Lord and my God! (John 20:28)
        He is the true God and eternal life (John 5:20)

also presents Jesus as saying of himself 

        a man who has told you the truth I heard from God (John 8:40)
        for the Father is greater than I (John 14:28)
       but of that day and hour [the end of the world] no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor   the Son, but the Father alone (Matthew 24:26)

In about 318, Arius (c. 250-336), a Christian priest in Alexandria, Egypt, began promulgating his doctrines on the nature of Christ: 
that Jesus Christ, though an exalted semidivine being and Son of God, had been created by God out of nothing; 
that there was a time when he had not existed; 
that he inhabited his human form like a veil of flesh, rather than being truly human; 
and that though he had created the heavens and the earth (and the Holy Ghost), and was the intermediary between all of creation and God, he was not of the same nature and substance as God, to whom he was inferior (as the earlier theologians Tertullian and Origen had maintained).
Arius's superior, Alexander, archbishop of Alexandria, removed him from his post and excommunicated him, but Arius had broad backing for his views.

Emperor Constantine, fresh from defeating in 324 his last rival, Licinius, for authority over the entire empire, east and west, was disturbed by the rifst in the Christianity he hoped would bring ever-increasing unity of religious thought and practice to his vast domains. After failing to get the two sides to agree over what he considered the first Christian ecumenical ("worldwide") council, which was supposed to bring together bishops- all expenses paid- from all over the empire to Nicaed, a small town not far from Constantinople.

About 250 bishops heeded his summons, almost all from the Greek-speaking Eastern Christian world. Hardly any of the Western bishops could see what all the pother was about, but Pope Sylvester I, too infirm to attend, sent to priests as his representatives.

The council opened in either May or June of 325 with preliminary sessions in the main church of Nicaea and the chief hall of Constantine's lakeside palace- some of the attendees hobbling in on crutches or maimed and scarred from the not-too-distant anti-Christian persecutions. When the emperor himself arrived, clad in imperial purple and gold [Lakers forması gibi] cloth covered with precious gems, and mounted his golden throne, you can be sure the real business of the council began.

Soon the Nicene Creed was drawn up, representing a revision of an earlier creed and succinctly embodying what became the orthodox statement of belief, to the effect that Jesus Christ was begotten of the Father (not created); was himself God and was of the same substance as- homoousios- the Father;
that God created all things in heaven and earth through the agency of Christ, who became incarnate as man, and as such suffered and died, rose from the dead on the third day, ascended into heaven, and would return to judge the living and the dead. The creed anathematized (formally cursed) those who said there was a time when Christ did not exist or that he was of a different substance from the Father.   

Most of the bishops at Nicaea had never thought very deeply about some of these hairsplitting issues, but almost all of them, with the encouragement of Constantine, who wanted a consensus, soon subscribed to the notion that God the Father and Christ were consubstantial, that is, they shared the same divine substance or essence. Arius and two bishops who refused to accept the Nicene Creed were exiled and anathematized, Arius's writings, now officially heretical, were consigned to the flames. A legend expects us to believe that Bishop Nicholas of Myra- we are talking Santa Claus here- gave the septuagenarian[at the ages of 70's] Arius a swat upside his head that knocked him out of his chair.

(*Myra, Demre- Antalya)

The council also addressed the issue of when to celebrate Easter (the first Sunday after the full moon following the spring equinox) and passed twenty canon laws, including one that forbade any clergyman to live with a woman other than his mother, sister, aunt, or "any person who is above suspicion" (though the council declined to vote on a measure mandating clerical celibacy), and another law forbidding clergymen to lend at interest. (islami finans hesabı) The council came to an end on either July or August 25 with superb feast hosted by Constantine, who also lavished gifts on the attendees.

Nonetheless, now that Pandora's box had been opened, rival points of view sprang up. Various clerics maintained that Christ was totally unlike the Father (anomoios), or sort of similar to him (homoios), or perhaps even of a similar substance with him (homo{i}ousios). It may seem that between this last compromise position and the orthodox one homoousios, there is only an iota of difference- which there literally is- but much depended on that extra i. Was Christianity just another version of pagan polytheism or of Neoplatonism, complete with its own demigod, or did it have at his heart an austere mystery asserting that humankind's salvation was personally accomplished by God himself, rather than a created being? When the equally divine nature of the Holy Spirit was asserted by later councils, the church had its dogma of the Trinity intact: one divine substance-one God- in three divine persons.

(Neoplatonism, bu da başka bir yazının konusu olsun. Aynı kitaptan aktaracağım.)

In later years, Constantine flip-flopped twice on his pro-Nicene position after meeting with smooth-talking Arius, but on the second occasion, after being restored to Christian communion at Constantinople, the old heresiarch died suddenly on the very day of his triumph. As described in grisly terms by a fifth-century church historian, Arius, while walking through the streets of the capital, suffered a massive hemorrhagic bowel evacuation that expelled his small intestine and other viscera. Some later historians, among them Edward Gibbon, smelled foul play on the part of Arius's ecclesiastical enemies.

Constantine's deathbed baptism was performed by the Arian bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia (izmit) whose influence at court may have led Constantine's son Constantinus II to embrace Arianism ardently and protract the seething- and often violent- religious conflict into the next generation and beyond. In just the years 342-43, more Christians were murdered by other Christians than the Roman authorities had killed in all their persecutions.

At the second ecumenical council, held at Constantinople in 381, Jesus was declared to possess a truly human soul, 
and at the Council of Chalcedon (Kadıköy, İstanbul), the fourth ecumenical council, in 451, Jesus was pronounced to be a "hypostatic union", being both true God and true man and containing within himself two complete natures, divine and human, in one person.
Further councils addressed other Christological heresies that had sprung up, including Nestorianism (Christ exists as two persons rather than two natures), Monophysitism (Christ has only one nature- divine), and Monothelitism (Christ has only one will, as opposed to the orthodox view positing two wills, one for each nature).

Several later Roman emperors professed or supported Arianism, not to mention various barbarian tribes who converted to Arian Christianity, such as the Goths, Vandals, Burgundians, and Lombards. Persecutions and counterpersecutions over a doctrine that the church had branded a heresy at the Council of Nicaea thus persisted three centuries after the death of its founder, fueling countless whirligigs of human futility.