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Oak, Synod of the


The Synod of the Oak was a local council convoked illegally in 403 by Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria, in a suburb of Chalcedon called "The Oak," to depose john chrysostom from the See of Constantinople. In 401 Theophilus had excommunicated and exiled the tall brothers, and other Nitrian monks who had offended him as Origenists. They appealed to John Chrysostom, who gave them hospitality but withheld ecclesiastical communion pending final settlement of their case. They also appealed to the Emperor Arcadius, and Arcadius summoned Theophilus to appear before a synod of 40

bishops in Constantinople, over which Chrysostom would preside. Chrysostom protested that, canonically, Theophilus had first to be heard by a synod in his own province.

Theophilus had no such canonical qualms. On his way to the capital, he threatened that he would depose John and, on his arrival (403), connived among court and clergy to achieve that end. His plotting prospered and he moved across the Bosporus to "The Oak," where, although outside his jurisdiction, he convoked a synod of 36 bishops. Of these, at least 29 were his own Egyptian suffragans; the others were John's foes, including some Ephesian bishops whom John had deposed for simony. Two Egyptian bishops were sent to John with a curt command for him to appear before Theophilus and his synod. John refused to appear before a court whose members were at once accusers, judges, and witnesses. Next, two of John's own clergy were told to summon him. John sent back a protest citing the illegality of the synod, and the three bishops who carried this reply were manhandled by the synodal fathers. A final summons, from the emperor himself, demanded his presence. Sure of his canonical position, John again refused, and was tried in absentia. In 46 charges he was accused of a misuse of church funds, tyrannical treatment of his clergy, irregularities in ritual, invasion of jurisdiction, and even high treason. All charges were frivolous, exaggerated, or totally false. Nevertheless, after 14 sessions, the synod condemned and deposed him. The charge of treason was referred to the emperor, who then ordered Chrysostom into exile.

Bibliography: c. baur, John Chrysostom and His Time, tr. m. gonzaga, 2 v. (Westminster, Md. 196061) 2:237261. c. j. von hefele, Histoire des conciles d'aprè les documents originaux, tr. and cont. by h. leclercq, 10 v. in 19 (Paris 190738) 2:137154. e. venables, A Dictionary of Christian Biography, ed. w. smith and h. wace, 4 v. (London 187787) 1:526528. a. biglmair, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche 2, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 195765); suppl. Das Zweite Vatikanische Konzil: Dokumente und Kommentare, ed. h. s. brechter et al., pt. 1 (1966) 3:722. photius, "Bibliotheca, 59," Patrologia Graeca, ed. j. p. migne, 161v. (Paris 185766) 103:105114. e. schwartz, Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche 36 (1937) 168181.

[p. w. harkins]

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