chapter  12
18 Pages

Heresy, Orthodoxy and the Interaction Between Canon and Civil Law in Theodore Balsamon’s Commentaries

The commentaries of Theodore Balsamon are one of the most important keys to an understanding of the normative context in which orthodoxy and heresy are articulated in Byzantium.1 They do not tell us a lot about ecclesiology and –

1 Theodore Balsamon together with John Zonaras and Alexios Aristenos represent the Golden Age of Byzantine Canon Law in the twelfth century. All three canonists produced commentaries of what is to become the standard corpus of canon law of the Chalcedonian Orthodox churches. The corpus includes: 1) the Apostolic Canons; 2) The Decrees of the Seven Ecumenical Councils recognized by the Orthodox Church (I Nicaea (325); I Constantinople (381); Ephesus (431); Chalcedon (451); II Constantinople (553); III Constantinople (681) – the decrees of the Quinisext Council, a.k.a. ‘in Trullo’ (692), not recognized in the West, are incorporated along with II and III Constantinople – and II Nicaea (787)); 3) the local councils at Ancyra (314), Neo-Caesareia (315), Gangra (340), Antioch (341), Sardica (343), Laodicaea (364), Constantinople (394), Carthage Council (419), Constantinople (861) and Constantinople (879)); 4) the Patristic canons (disciplinary works by Dionysius of Alexandria, Peter of Alexandria, Gregory Thaumaturgus, Athanasius, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nasianzen, Theophilus of Alexandria, Ciril of Alexandria, Amphilochius of Iconium, Gennadius of Constantinople and Tarasius of Constantinople). The commentaries of the three twelfth-century canonists are displayed under each canon starting with the commentaries by Aristenos, followed by those by Zonaras and by Balsamon’s commentaries. Although this ‘arrangement’ of laws or Syntagma has a chronological appearance as far as the organization of the conciliar canons are concerned, the material is actually organized by the authority of a particular body of canons, starting with the Apostolic canons, followed by the degrees of the ecumenical councils, local councils and the canons of the Holy Fathers. This collection would have been used alongside the Nomocanon of XIV Titles which is a systematic collection in the strict sense, organized around thematic headings dealing with imperial ecclesiastical law and providing cross-references to the Chronological Syntagma. In addition to his commentaries on the Chronological Syntagma, Balsamon also produced a commentary to the Nomocanon of XIV Titles. While all three twelfth-century commentators had distinguished legal careers, Zonaras and Aristenos say disappointingly little about the wider landscape of Byzantine law up until the twelfth century. Balsamon, on the other hand, is

despite Steven Runciman’s claim – surprisingly little about relationships between Rome and Constantinople.2