Ephesus, Robber Council of

views updated


After the condemnation of eutyches by flavian at the Synod of Constantinople on Nov. 22, 448, theodosius ii, at the suggestion of the eunuch Chrysaphius, Eutyches himself, and dioscorus of Alexandria, decided to call a council to rehabilitate Eutyches, depose Flavian, and "reaffirm the orthodox faith" against the Nestorians, that is, those who, like Theodoret, did not conform to the beliefs of Eutyches. Pope leo i on invitation sent three legates to the council together with his Tome to Flavian (June 13, 449); in the tome he set forth in detail the Catholic doctrine on the mystery of the Incarnation.

The council opened at Ephesus on Aug. 8, 449. In his instructions to Dioscorus, to whom he entrusted the presidency of the council, Theodosius advised him that the assembly was not to add or take away anything from the faith as it had been set forth at the councils of nicaea and ephesus. The bishops who had condemned Eutyches in 448 were present, but were prevented from taking part in the discussions.

Flavian was obviously in the role of the accused; and theodoret of cyr had been excluded from the council. In all about 130 bishops, carefully chosen from among the friends of Eutyches and the archimandrite Bar Sauma, an overzealous Cyrillian, accepted the leadership of Dioscorus while the adherents of Flavian were reduced to silence, and the three Roman legates, Julius, bishop of Pozzuoli, the deacon Hilary, and the notary Dulcitius, were handicapped by their lack of a knowledge of Greek.

Immediately at the opening of the council, Julius and Hilary, speaking through an interpreter, asked that the letter from the pope be read. Their request was evaded, and instead the Acts of the Synod of Constantinople at which Eutyches had been condemned were read, frequently interrupted by cries and protests of the bishops, who, at the suggestion of Dioscorus, threatened anathema to anyone who spoke of the two natures of Christ.

In the end, Eutyches was reinstated, and after the Roman representatives twice more in vain demanded that the Tome of Leo be read, Dioscorus proposed the deposition of Flavian and of Eusebius of Doryleum. Flavian protested as did the Roman deacon, Hilary, who shouted "contradicitur "; a great uproar broke out as the soldiers and the crowd invaded the basilica and disposed of the resistance of the minority by force. When order was restored, the bishops agreed to depose Flavian and Eusebius. Flavian was sent into exile and died en route.

A second session on August 22 dismissed other bishops suspected of Nestorianismviz, Theodoret of Cyr, Ibas of Edessa, and domnus of antioch. The Eutychian party triumphed and the doctrinal agreement between Cyril of Alexandria and John of Antioch reached in 433 was repudiated. On being informed of what had transpired at Ephesus by his deacon Hilary, who had escaped capture and brought an appeal from Flavian, Pope Leo in a local Roman Synod of Sept. 29, 449, denounced the decisions of what he later termed the latrocinium or Robber Synod of Ephesus (Epistles 95 of July 20, 451).

Bibliography: Acta conciliorum oecumenicorum (Berlin 1914) 2.1.1:68101; 2.3.1:4291. p. t. camelot, Das Konzil von Chalkedon: Geschichte und Gegenwart, eds. a. grillmeier and h. bacht, v. 3 (Würzburg 195154) 1:213242. h. bacht, ibid., 2:197231.

[p. t. camelot]