Patristic Symposium 2013 Abstracts

St Cyril of Alexandria

20-21 September, 2013

Convened by Very Revd Dr Doru Costache and Dr Philip Kariatlis


Keynote Speakers

Director of the Centre for Early Christian Studies, Australian Catholic University (Brisbane QLD); Research Associate in the Department of Ancient Languages at the University of Pretoria
PhD (University of Oxford); Diploma in Middeleeuwse Studies (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven); MA (Honours) (University of New England); BA (Honours); BA (Qld).

St Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria: Exegete, Politician, or Pastor?

Abstract: My starting-point for this presentation is provided by the observations of two eminent scholars.

‘For one who reveals his commitment to the pastoral care of his flock in such voluminous commentary on Scripture, the bishop rarely gives himself to direct exhortation in applying the text to their lives’ (the late Robert Charles Hill in his translation of Cyril’s Commentary on the Twelve Prophets, Fathers of the Church 115 [Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press 2007] 8).

‘Cyril’s role as an episcopal administrator, positively considered, can be seen to be a very neglected area of studies’ (John A. McGuckin, ‘Cyril of Alexandria. Bishop and Pastor’, in Thomas G. Weinandy and Daniel A. Keating, The Theology of St Cyril of Alexandria. A Critical Appreciation [London and New York: T&T Clark 2003] 205-236).

Thus the questions to be asked are whether Cyril was not interested primarily in pastoral aspects of his episcopal role, whether the evidence of his pastoral involvement is simply too difficult to discern or assemble from his numerous exegetical and polemical works, or whether finally his role as a pastor has been neglected by scholars—in favour, for example, of his political activities. On the basis of a recent study which draws on modern theories of pastoral care to outline the profile of the pastoral activities of a late-antique bishop, I propose to assess Cyril as pastor.  The salient aspects of this profile are the following: (i) the administration of justice and social welfare; (ii) teaching and preaching; (iii) conversion; (iv) the maintenance of orthodoxy; (v) the ransom of captives; (vi) the provision of spiritual direction or guidance; (vii) ritualised care in the form of liturgical rites; and (viii) a charismatic ministry of prayer. How does St Cyril measure up? 

Professor David Bradshaw

Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Philosophy Department at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY (USA).

PhD in Philosophy (University of Texas, 1996), BS in Physics (Auburn University, 1982)

The Philosophical Theology of St Cyril's Against Julian 

Abstract: Although it is primarily a work of apologetics, Cyril's Against Julian also includes a great deal of philosophical interest. It includes, for example, discussion of questions such as: Can God deliberate, given that He is unchanging and has perfect foreknowledge? Can He change His mind? Why does He act in ways that He knows will permit creatures to do evil? Does He experience emotions such as anger and jealousy, and, if so, how is this compatible with divine goodness? In this paper I examine Cyril's answer to such questions. Drawing on the approach of John McGuckin, I argue that his answers implicitly lead to a parallel between the divine economy displayed in the Incarnation and that displayed as God acts within time and history more generally.


Daniel Anlezark

Associate Professor in the English Department, University of Sydney

DPhil (Oxford), MSt (Oxford), BA Hons (Macquarie), BTh (SCD)

Cyril of Alexandria’s Reputation and Thought in the Early Medieval West: Bede to Alcuin 

Abstract: Direct knowledge of the works of Cyril of Alexandria was strictly limited in the West in the early Middle Ages. However, his historical reputation as a bishop and scholar who had defended Christological orthodoxy was understood and appreciated by western theologians. This paper will examine the reputation and theology of Cyril in the works of two early medieval English scholars, the Venerable Bede and his greatest intellectual heir, Alcuin of York. Bede’s early eighth-century biblical commentaries present a carefully defined Christology, though Cyril was perhaps better known to him through Irish circles which had produced Cyrilian apocrypha. In the face of the Adoptionist Christological controversy which emerged in late eighth-century Spain, Alcuin of York became Charlemagne’s theological champion against a group of Spanish bishops who were understood as revivers of Nestorianism in the West.

Mario Baghos

Associate Lecturer in Patristic Studies and Church History, St Andrew's

PhD candidate in Studies in Religion (Sydney), BTh Hons (SCD, 2010), BTh (SCD, 2009)

Ecclesial Memory and Secular History in the Conflicting Representations of Cyril of Alexandria – An Apology for the Saint 

Abstract: Modern historiography is well known for its adverse appraisal of Alexandrine theologians, who are often portrayed in negative terms. This trend is paralleled by a rehabilitation of the heretical opponents of Alexandria. St Cyril’s negative portrayal has perhaps been the most problematic insofar as it has impacted upon popular culture, with novels such as Azazeel and films such as Agora, both released in 2009, depicting the saint as an unscrupulous despot. This paper will return to the ancient historical sources on St Cyril, as well as his own writings, in order to demonstrate not only that the negative assessments in his immediate context were unfounded, but that these biased depictions inspired most modern secular approaches towards his person, approaches that in turn have impacted so much upon popular culture. The paper will explore the positive appraisals of the saint by early Byzantine historians such as Evagrius Scholasticus, highlighting their connection with the mindset of the Church as manifested in the Orthodox hymnography that developed in later centuries. In venerating the saint, the hymns for his feast day (June 9) have perpetuated his sacred memory; a memory which is not only antithetical to the above secular historiographical and popular representations, but which still remains significant for the ecclesial community.

(Rev.) Hugh Bowron

Vicar St Peter's Caversham, Diocese of Dunedin, New Zealand

Diploma in Theology (University of Leeds, 1978); MA in History (University of Canterbury, NZ, 1976)

Robert Jenson’s Radical Cyrillean Christology: How radical, how Cyrillean, how orthodox?

Abstract: Robert Jenson is a contemporary American Lutheran theologian who is intent on providing a high content eschatology.  Associated with this is his high ecclesiology in which he gives a great deal of eschatological weighting to the Church.   Jenson’s resource base for arriving at this densely textured ecclesiology is old Lutheranism’s radical Christology.  In particular his attention turned to the little known Johannes Brenz and the Swabians, as his followers came to be called, with their radical Cyrillean Christology.  This style of Christology was a house favourite of Lutherans from the time of the Reformation up to the Book of Concord.  In it they deployed the notion of “the communication of attributes,” in which both divine and human attributes were communicated to the one person, Jesus, who could thereby call upon either as or when required.  Jenson uses the Swabians take on this to explain how Christ can be present simultaneously in heaven, throughout the creation, and as Eucharistic presence in the Church. Christ’s body “needs no spatial heaven and is not restricted in its presence by created spatial distances” because “he is one way present in his Word, he is otherwise present at all points in created space, he is otherwise present in the hearts of believers.” (ST 1: p 204)  This paper considers whether Cyril would recognise the Christology that bears his name in this instance, whether the Swabians and Jenson have gone too far in the way they use the communication of attributes, and whether Jenson’s Christology is authentic and in tune with the boundary markers of orthodox belief as proposed by the Councils of Nicea, Constantinople, Ephesus and Chalcedon.

Adam G. Cooper

Senior Lecturer, John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, Melbourne (VIC)

STD (Lateran), STL (Lateran, 2009), PhD (Durham, 2002), Grad Dip Pastoral Ministry (Luther Seminary, Adelaide, 1998), BTh (Luther Seminary, Adelaide, 1997)

Christology in the Concrete: Cyril of Alexandria’s Answer to the Problem of Theological Abstraction

Abstract: Contemporary theology is plagued with abstraction. Part of the problem stems from a failure to identify Christ’s actual personhood with clarity and to specify the nature of his saving work. A main strand in western Christological tradition however has always sought to distinguish between theology done in abstracto and in concreto. This tradition finds its roots in Cyril of Alexandria’s insistence on the priority of the concrete and paradoxical in Christology over a (Nestorian) concern for the theoretical and abstract. This characteristically Cyrillian emphasis has key implications for a number of pressing theological problems today, including sacramental theology, the question of the relationship between nature and grace, and an apparently all-pervasive evanescence in preaching.

(Protopresbyter) Doru Costache

Senior Lecturer in Theology (Patristic Studies), St Andrew's

ThD (Bucharest, 2000), BTh (Bucharest, 1993)

Adam as a Hesychast in Saints Athanasius the Great, Cyril of Alexandria, Gregory Palamas and Silouan the Athonite

Abstract: The paper considers a reference of St Gregory Palamas to St Cyril’s representation of Adam as a hesychast saint, aiming to explore a particular understanding of the paradisal experience. It contends that there is a perfect agreement between the two Fathers, for whom Adam was a saint and the paradise a metaphor for holiness. The investigation is complemented by tracing back to St Athanasius and the Apophthegmata Patrum the literary sources of the Cyrillian perception, and by considering the reiteration of this perception in the thought of a modern hesychast, St Silouan the Athonite. It is proposed that since the Fathers shared the same understanding of Adam, they should have had similar experiences and not just common literary sources; one's perspective is framed by one’s inner predisposition. Thus, the purpose of this analysis is double; it brings to the fore the understanding of Adam as a hesychast, and says something about the Fathers under consideration. It is hoped that this exploration will open new avenues for the understanding of both St Cyril’s personality and the reception of the paradisal experience within tradition.

Bernard (Patrikios) Doherty

PhD in Ancient History (Macquarie, 2012); MA (Macquarie, 2007); BA (Macquarie, 2006)

Cyril and Hypatia: The Social Construction and Maintenance of an Anti-Christian Myth

Abstract: The 2009 film Agora drew widespread acclaim amongst critics whilst at the same time shocking some Christian audiences from many traditions for its less than flattering depiction of the Christians of early fifth century Alexandria and notably for its depiction of the much celebrated theologian and bishop Saint Cyril.  Far from being a new development the use of the tragic and violent death of the female philosopher Hypatia as a trope for which to attack aspects of Christian teaching and impugn the reputation of Saint Cyril has a long and surprising pedigree. Using a insights drawn from contemporary social constructionist theory this paper traces some of the ways in which Saint Cyril’s alleged involvement in the death of Hypatia has been rhetorically appropriated by a number of agenda-setting writers since the eighteenth century to buttress their attacks on Roman Catholicism, Christian attitudes to science, Christian attitudes toward women, and contemporary historiographical trends which invert the received historical traditions of Christian origins.  The paper will conclude by suggesting that while many would view the cinematic depiction of Cyril’s role in Hypatia’s death in Agora as a piece of harmless historical drama, in fact, the film is instead a cynical appropriation of a genuinely tragic historical episode in the interests of contemporary anti-religious ideology.  In this process the historical person of Saint Cyril has become collateral damage with little or no regard for the historiographical problems or his importance for contemporary Christians.

(Rev.) Jonathan Douglas Hicks

PhD candidate in Theology (University of Otago), MDiv (Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, 2011), BA (Wheaton College, IL, 2005)

St Cyril on the Role of Christ’s Humanity in the Age to Come

Abstract: The Church would consistently reject Marcellus of Ancyra’s suggestion (based on his reading of 1 Corinthians 15:24-8) that the kingdom of the Son would come to an end; this would entail an unwarranted denial of the Son’s eternal co-activity with the Father and the Spirit. Although later theologians like Didymus the Blind safeguarded the eternal co-activity of the Son by insisting on the Son’s eternal kingdom, they sometimes failed to secure the significance of the humanity assumed by the Son as an eternally-significant reality with implications for the Son’s rule in the coming age. This paper examines the form of St Cyril’s response to the question in the context of his mixed Alexandrian heritage. Does the saint assign a particular role or function to Christ’s humanity in the age to come? That is, does St Cyril safeguard the eternal humanity of the Son by ascribing to it a positive function in the eschaton? I am particularly interested in exploring the metaphorical language of St Cyril in connection with this doctrine. Does he employ the language of Christ’s role as priest, teacher, lawgiver, king, etc. in an eschatological sense? And what effect does this have on his reading of Scripture? I will focus on Cyril’s exegetical material.

(Rev.) Joseph Lam

Senior Lecturer in Systematic Theology, ACU Strathfield NSW

PhD (Louvain, 2004)

Revelation in Cyril of Alexandria and Augustine of Hippo

Abstract: Since the emergence of the Enlightenment, Revelation has become one of the most controversial aspects of theology. The main debate between the Lutheran-Protestant Church and the Catholic Church was focused on this principal question:  Is Revelation informative or performative? Is Revelation about a set of propositional truths? Or does it rather designate the divine action performed in the hearts of the faithful? The early Church's theology does not make this distinction. Revelation is seen as a divine act of God's self-communication, aiming to redeem sinners. The Logos spermatikos is always the Word incarnated. This is the uniting view between the Eastern and Western Churches. This paper will examine the theology of revelation in the writings of Cyril of Alexandria and Augustine of Hippo.

Andrew Mellas

PhD candidate in Modern Greek Studies (Sydney), LLB Hons (Sydney, 2003), BA (Hons) (Sydney, 2001)

“The Passions of His Flesh”: St Cyril of Alexandria and the Emotions of the Logos

Abstract: Although Christianity inherited the Stoic ideal of apatheia (freedom from emotions) as well as the Aristotelian idea ofmetriopatheia (moderation of emotions), it did not advocate the eradication of feeling. Nonetheless, it was controversial to hold that emotions are an inherent part of human nature. Even the Logos, who became human through the Incarnation, according to some Church Fathers only experienced adiableta pathe (blameless emotions), such as grief, joy and fear. However, others would contend that while the divinity was impassible, Christ’s humanity was exposed to – but not ruled by – all forms of passion. Navigating the presupposition of divine impassibility, Nestorius’ charge of theopatheia and the anthropomorphism inherent in ascribing emotions to God, St Cyril of Alexandria retorted with the paradoxical proclamation that Christ suffered impassibly (apathos epathen). Yet he also stressed that Christ suffered in the flesh (sarke peponthen) for our salvation. Likewise, the question of the Logos’ emotions was essentially a soteriological one. Drawing on recent studies in the history of emotions, this paper revisits Cyril’s position on the matter in his commentary on the gospel according to St John – the Evangelist who most profoundly narrated Christ’s feelings. In reconsidering the Cyrillian and broader Byzantine understanding of emotions, this paper also explores whether an alliance between theology and emotionology can shed new light on the mystery of the person of Christ.

Anthony Papantoniou

Associate Lecturer in Theology (Patristic Studies), St Andrew's

PhD candidate in Studies in Religion (Sydney), MTh Hons (SCD 2008), MTh (SCD 2002), BTh (SCD 2001)

The Theandric Mystery of Christ in St Cyril of Alexandria

Abstract: This paper will argue that St Cyril’s Christological thought was framed within the principle of theandricity and furthermore, contributed in giving more concise articulation of the “theandric” reality of Christ. The paper will explore two fundamental concepts, namely, the hypostatic union and the “mia physis” formula as developed by St Cyril, which dynamically gave expression to Christ’s theandric reality. Furthermore, these two concepts will be posited within the framework of the “mode of the incarnation” and the “mode of Christ’s existence,” given that the hypostatic union expresses the reality of the incarnation and how the incarnation actually took place, that is, “according to hypostasis.” In light of this understanding, the hypostatic union establishes a new mode of existence for Christ, which is fundamentally divine-human. St Cyril, however, emphasises the “mia physis” formula in order to point out that although Christ exists in a divine-human way, his person is one reality. This paper will highlight the significance of St Cyril’s Christological thought as giving concise expression and shape to the formulation of “theandric” mystery of Christ - an aspect not fully addressed by contemporary scholars.


 Rebecca Burgess

Lecturer in Biblical Greek and Hebrew at Bishopdale Theological College, New Zealand

PhD Candidate at Otago University, B.Div. (Laidlaw College, 1995), BA (Canterbury University, 1991)

Trinitarian Hermeneutics in Hilary of Poitiers’ Commentary on the Psalms 

Abstract: Hilary of Poitiers shares an interest with the Cappadocian and Alexandrine Fathers in his focus on the Psalms and the doctrine of the Trinity. His chief works, De Trinitate and Tractatus Super Psalmos, show striking theological similarities to the approaches of these Eastern Fathers. His clearly expressed lens for interpretation is that the Psalms – and indeed the whole of the Old Testament – witness to Christ. This paper will explore the impact of his Trinitarian theology (Hilary is known as the Athanasius of the West for his public campaign against Arianism) on his exegesis of the Psalms in the hope of encouraging the Church today to appreciate more fully the witness of the Old Testament to the revelation of God in Christ, through the Holy Spirit.

Philip Kariatlis

Senior Lecturer in Theology (Systematic), St Andrew's

ThD (SCD, 2010), MTh (SCD, 2001), BA (Sydney, 2000), BTh (SCD, 1995)

Towards a Comprehensive Soteriology for Today: Implications of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ in St Athanasius' De Incarnatione

Abstract: This paper builds upon my previous work in the area of Athanasian soteriology which brought to light the need to discern the inner coherency of the entire salvific economy of Christ. Unlike modern soteriologies which have tended to isolate different moments of Christ’s earthly ministry for their understanding of salvation, St Athanasius presented a more comprehensive vision which included the entire life of Christ. In continuing this area of exploration, this paper will analyse in detail the salvific implications of the different ‘moments’ of Christ’s earthly life – namely, his incarnation, death and resurrection respectively – with the aim of identifying the significance of each towards the whole. Against this background, the goal is to contribute a holistic soteriology, based on the Athanasian treatise De Incarnatione, which emphasises the salvific value of the different events of Christ’s activity, namely, their distinction-in-unity. The hope is that this comprehensive approach will regain its central place in contemporary systematic theology.

(Rev.) Jeremy Krieg

Assistant Priest, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia - Holy Monastery of St Nectarios SA

BTh candidate (SCD), BSc (UA, 2002), BE Hons Elec (UA, 1998) 

Appropriating St Gregory the Dialogist: An Orthodox Perspective

Abstract: Scholars of East and West have differing appreciations for the legacy of St Gregory the Dialogist, (or the Great), considered a Holy Father by the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches. For instance, a common view among Western scholars, such as R. A. Markus, is that St Gregory’s thought and sources were primarily (if not entirely) Western. In turn, whilst revered in the East as composer of a Lenten liturgy, strangely St Gregory is deprived of a full liturgical celebration; furthermore, contemporary Orthodox scholars do not show much interest in his thought, which may suggest a subconscious idea that as a Latin Father he is not ‘entirely relevant.’ Against such perceptions, the intention of this paper is to continue the recent work of George Demacopoulos, one among the very few modern Orthodox scholars interested in St Gregory. More precisely, it will explore some of his more prominent works (in particular the Book of Pastoral Rule and the Dialogues), in search of the points of commonality and direct influence between Eastern sources and Gregorian thought. In so doing, my purpose is to highlight the significance of St Gregory as a Father of the crossroads, whose legacy is far richer and significant than usually acknowledged.

Anita Strezova

Independent Researcher affiliated with ANU, Canberra (2013); Research Consultant, Macquarie University, Sydney; Practicing iconographer

PhD (ANU 2013), MA Hons (Macquarie 2004), BTh I Hons (Skopje 1996)

The Doctrines of Apophaticism and Deification in the Early Christian Tradition

Abstract: The aim of this paper is to analyse certain aspects of the Christian tradition, namely, the doctrines of apophasis(also known as negative theology) and theosis (deification). These are surveyed together because they often complement one another in Christian thought. Although the later Byzantine fathers, of the hesychast tradition, solved the theological questions of apophaticism and deification, the problematic was already articulated in early Christianity through conceptualising the vision of God. The contention of this paper is that the Alexandrine and Antochene traditions developed two different understandings of the vision of God. In short, whereas for the Alexandrians the vision and knowledge of God stressed the ascent of the human being to union with divine nature, the Antiochenes were more interested in the divine condescension, which adapts the manifestation of God to the faculties of created beings. After exploring some of the general characteristics of the Alexandrian and Antiochene thought, this paper will address the particularities of the two interpretive strands.

Kevin Wagner

PhD candidate in Patristics (John Paul II Institute, Melbourne); MDiv (SCD); MA (Sydney); BTeach (Western Sydney); BSc (Sydney)

Theophilus of Alexandria and the Episcopal Ordination of Synesius of Cyrene

Abstract: History has not remembered Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria, very well. The legacy of his counterpart in Constantinople, John Chrysostom, is generally highly positive, while Theophilus is remembered more for his role in John’s downfall than for his work in fighting against the heretical aspects of Origen’s theology. Extant works certainly show that Theophilus was fiercely opposed to the Origenism of the Tall Brothers and their fellow monks. These same works also demonstrate that he was a competent and orthodox theologian. In peculiar contrast to the written proof of Theophilus’ anti-Origenism, Theophilus ordained Synesius of Cyrene who had openly declared Origenistic views. Norman Russell, in his workTheophilus of Alexandria, declares that he was willing to ordain Synesius and appoint him as bishop of the Pentapolis so long as he kept these heretical opinions private. Given the unusual nature of his ordination, Synesius’ relationship with Theophilus thus offers a useful perspective on the character, leadership style, and theology of the Patriarch of Alexandria.

Archimandrite Kyrillos Zisis

Rector of the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Theotokos, Sydney, NSW

MTh student (St Andrew's)

Nature and Grace in St Maximus the Confessor's To Thalassius 59

Abstract: This paper endeavours to contribute to the current knowledge of the patristic theme of nature and grace, by examining a relevant text in St Maximus the Confessor's Questions and Answers to Thalassius, chapter 59. To date unavailable in the English-speaking readership, To Thalassius 59, as the text will be designated herein, treats the theme of nature and grace within the very interesting discussion of the content of the experience of holiness. This paper will focus on a few relevant passages within the chapter, which reveal that for St Maximus the theme of nature and grace could not be construed in exclusive terms - either/or - instead requiring a comprehensive approach from the vantage point of the Christological principle of synergy. After a brief introduction to the specifics of Questions to Thalassius, the paper examines aspects pertaining to the synergy of nature and grace, and the existential outcomes of the cooperation between the Holy Spirit and the saints.