April 6, 2010

Saint Eutychios and the Condemnation of Heretics After Death

At the very beginning of his patriarchal service, St. Eutychios, Patriarch of Constantinople (April 6), convened the Fifth Ecumenical Synod (553), at which the Fathers condemned the heresies cropping up and anathematized them. Among them was Origenism. When the debate began at a local synod called by Emperor Justinian whether heretics like Origen, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrus and Ibas of Edessa could be anathematized after their deaths, Eutychios, noted for his great knowledge of Holy Scripture, supported the opinion that they could be by calling upon the Third Book of Kings (in some translations, called the First Book of Kings 13:1-8 and the Fourth Book of Kings (in some translations, called the Second Book of Kings 23:16). In these passages King Josiah burned the bones of the pagan priests of Bethel. Recalling the example of King Josiah, he declared that one could anathematize the dead to protect the Church against the perverse influence of their doctrine. This interpretation won the favor of Justinian to procur his enthronement as Patriarch of Constantinople, and later at the Fifth Ecumenical Synod, fifteen anathemas were pronounced against Origen.