Today in History

H/T: (here)

The year 1492 is most often associated with Columbus and his discovery of America. But another event of tragic proportions developed that year. It gave the world the Sephardic Jews (so called because Sepharadh was a region of Spain where many Jews had settled).

By 1492, Spain, under Ferdinand and Isabella had just emerged as a defender of the Roman Catholic faith. The marriage of the two rulers eventually united Aragon and Castile, although while she lived, Isabella did not yield her authority to her husband. In Granada, the pair defeated the Islamic Moors, who had long controlled Spain. Spurred on by the cruel Grand Inquisitor Torquemada, Ferdinand and Isabella felt they must remove all heretics and non-Christians from their land in order to purge it of pagan influences and firmly establish the Christian faith.The fires of the Inquisition had already roared in Spain for twelve long years. The Inquisition’s primary purpose was not to deal with Jews and Muslims. Any person who professed Christianity and then returned to his or her ancestral faith was tried and punished. In eight years, the tribunal of Seville alone put 700 persons to death and condemned 5,000 others to life in prison.

But what about those Jews who never adopted Christianity? Their majesties had a plan for them, too. On this day, March 31, 1492, in the city of Granada, Ferdinand and Isabella signed an edict banishing from the Kingdoms of Aragon and Castile all Jews unwilling to receive baptism.

“You know well or ought to know, that whereas we have been informed that in these our kingdoms there were some wicked Christians who Judaized and apostatized from our holy Catholic faith, the great cause of which was interaction between the Jews and these Christians…we ordered the separation of the said Jews in all the cities, towns and villages of our kingdoms and lordships and [commanded] that they be given Jewish quarters and separate places where they should live, hoping that by their separation the situation would remedy itself.”

Separation not having worked, the monarchs gave the Jews until July 31st to sell their goods and leave the country. They were forbidden to carry gold or silver out of the kingdom. Worse, although signed in March, the edict was not publicly announced until the end of April, so the Jews actually had only three months to convert their property to trade goods.

“Christians” took advantage of the situation and paid ridiculously low prices for Jewish possessions — a donkey bought a house; a piece of cloth or linen purchased an entire vineyard.

In July 1492, the exodus began. When Columbus left on his famous voyage in August, he could not use the port of Cadiz because of the large numbers of Jews waiting to board ships in the harbor. Many Jews of Castile went to Portugal, where they were forced to pay a ransom to remain. Others went to Italy or the northern coast of Africa. Wherever they went, they were robbed.

Spain’s economy paid for its mistreatment of the Jews: many had been skilled craftsmen. Sultan Bajazet of Turkey warmly welcomed those who escaped to his country. “How can you call Ferdinand of Aragon a wise king–the same Ferdinand who impoverished his own land and enriched ours?” he asked. He employed the Jew in making weapons to fight against Europe.

The 8th and 9th Ecumenical Councils

H/T: On Earth As in Heaven (here)

Question: You mention an Eighth and a Ninth Ecumenical Council, but I thought there were only Seven Ecumenical Councils recognised by Orthodox Christians. What’s the story?

Answer: It is sometimes stated that Orthodox Christians only recognise seven Ecumenical Councils (Synods). That number arose in Russia under Jesuit influences. In the Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs written in 1848 and signed by bishops of the Holy Synods of Constantinople, Antioch, and Jerusalem, the reader finds repeated references to the Eighth Ecumenical Council. This can be read at: (

In an article titled ‘The Theological Question of our Day: An Interview with Protopresbyter George Metallinos’ published in “Divine Ascent: A Journal of Orthodox Faith”, Father George stated (all parentheses and brackets in original):

“Blessed John Popovich, a confessor of our Faith, has written an important critical treatise on the upcoming synod. The cause that leads to an ecumenical synod is always a specific problem, and the question is, what is the key problem today? If we look at the agenda of the Synod, it seems [as if] we want to formulate a new dogmatic [theology]. Traditionally, the holy Fathers brought three main problems to the Council: issues concerning the Trinity, issues concerning Christology, or issues concerning the grace of God and man’s salvation. (Of the nine Ecumenical Synods of the Orthodox Church, the Eighth (879-880) and the Ninth (1341) dealt with these problems. The trinitarian problem expresses Orthodox sociology, which is ecclesiology, and the Christological problem expresses Orthodox anthropology.) We do not need anything new today; we only need to live and experience our Orthodox Tradition.” Vol. 1, Number 2; pp. 59-60.

Fr. John Romanides, described by Fr. George Metallinos as ‘today’s greatest Orthodox theologian of dogmatics’, consistently refers to the Eighth and Ninth Ecumenical Councils. See, for example:

“Augustine’s Teachings Which Were Condemned As Those of Barlaam the Calabrian by the Ninth Ecumenical Council of 1351”, which can be read at:

The sharp reader may note that the first quote from Father George states that the Ninth Ecumenical Council was in 1341, but the title of the essay by Father John refers to the Ninth Ecumenical Council of 1351. A typo in one of the sources? Perhaps. But there were councils in 1341, 1347, and 1351, held in Constantinople. They are sometimes referred to as the ‘Palamite Councils’ because their focus was the dispute between Saint Gregory Palamas and Barlaam of Calabria over hesychasm. The difference reflects an uncertainty as to which of the Palamite Councils should be deemed ‘ecumenical’, but at the same time, it demonstrates that the result of the Palamite Councils is accepted by all Orthodox Christians. Aristeides Papadakis writes:

“But if Gregory’s insight and solution are important, so is his impact on the later Palamite synthesis. Part of that synthesis was actually prepared in the thirteenth century by Patriarch Gregory II of Cyprus. In a very real sense, the fundamental distinction between the essence and the energy is none other than the “working piece” of Palamas’ theology. Even so, its formal ratification as dogma by the Palamite councils of 1341, 1347, and 1351, was foreshadowed in the confirmation of the Tomus at the Council of 1285. Significantly, all Orthodox scholars who have written on Palamas, such as Lossky, Krivosheine, Papamichael, Meyendorff, Christou, assume his voice to be a legitimate expression of Orthodox tradition. Mutatis mutandis the same is true of Gregory of Cyprus. As one of these scholars has recognized, what is being defined is “one and the same tradition … at different points, by the Orthodox, from St. Photius to Gregory of Cyprus and St. Gregory Palamas. Western scholars who have dealt with Gregory II and with Palamas, Jugie, Cayr, Laurent, Candal, have seen fit to attack both of them as revolutionary ‘innovators’.” Crisis in Byzantium: The Filioque Controversy in the Patriarchate of Gregory II of Cyprus (1283-1289), p. 205.

There is far less uncertainty regarding the Eighth Ecumenical Council. The Encyclical of 1848 regards the council held at Constantinople in 879-880 to be the Eighth Ecumenical Council. Thus, it is normal for Orthodox writers to make references to it. For example Clark Carlton writes:

“Remember that it was this Photios who was reconciled to Pope John VIII at the Eighth Ecumenical Council held in 879. At that council the Roman Church condemned the addition of the Filioque to the Creed.” The Truth: What Every Roman Catholic Should Know About the Orthodox Church, page 64, footnote 30.

The Eighth Ecumenical Council of 879-880 was affirmed by the patriarchs of Old Rome (Pope John VIII), New Rome [Constantinople] (Saint Photius), Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria and by the Emperor Basil I. This council condemned any ‘additions’ to the Creed of Nicaea-Constantinople, condemned anyone who denied the legitimacy of the Seventh Ecumenical Council and its decree on icons, and contained an agreement that patriarchates would not interfere in each others’ internal affairs. This council was regarded by (Old) Rome (present-day Rome) as the Eighth Ecumenical Council until the eleventh century. At that time, Roman Catholicism found it more convenient to replace it with a council held in Constantinople in 869 (a council that was never accepted in the East and was condemned by the Eighth Ecumenical Council of 879-880). It was at that time that Old Rome began to use the heretical Filioque in the Creed. They could no longer embrace a council which condemned that which they did.

It should also be remembered that Orthodoxy continued to hold synods which generated canonical sanctions that were then added to the Synodicon. It would take more research to determine when such additions were made, but I know of 843 (the final suppression of iconoclasm), 1077, 1082, and 1117. It is almost certain that there would have been additions in 1341.

Judging and Repenting

H/T: Salt of the Earth (here)

“Fire and water do not mix, neither can you mix judgment of others with the desire to repent. If a man commits a sin before you at the very moment of his death, pass no judgment, because the judgment of God is hidden from men. It has happened that men have sinned greatly in the open but have done greater deeds in secret, so that those who would disparage them have been fooled, with smoke instead of sunlight in their eyes.”

* This excerpt is from “The Ladder of Divine Ascent” by St. John Climacus

Unto the ages of ages

“Now this phrase ‘before the ages’ is highly significant, because the ages and time are not the same. The Fathers make a distinction between the ages and time, even though they do not know modern physics. In physics, time as understood in the past no longer exists. In the past, time was measured by the movement of the earth relative to the sun and moon.  But now, our understanding of time has changed drastically.

“But what matters to us is that the Fathers clearly distinguish between the ages and time. So the Fathers say that when God created the world, He first created the ages, then the angels, and afterwards both the world and time. In other words, the Fathers knew that time was a dimension of a particular aspect of the created universe, because the ages were the first creation to be created and not time. Time was created later on by God.

“The main difference between the ages and time is that in time one event is followed in turn by another, while in the ages events do not necessarily follow one another. Instead, events and reality coexist in such a way that what happens is not necessarily entangled in the process of succession. But since man exists within time, his experience is limited to alternating states….”

Fr. John Romanides
“Patristic Theology”