Church Councils of 381–382 and the Polarization of the Western and Eastern Parts of the Late Roman World

Zakharov Georgiy E.

The subject of this paper is the role of the church councils of 381–382 (the councils of Constantinople and Aquileia of 381, those of Constantinople and Rome of 382) in the development of West–East opposition in the early Christian tradition. Considering the background of the problem, the author comes to the conclusion that a certain part of the eastern episcopate (the so-called Eusebians) formulated at the councils of 341–343 the idea of autonomy of the Eastern churches. Development of this conception during the Arian crisis led to the situation in which this global ecclesiastical conflict was understood as a result of disagreement in faith between the East and the West. In 379–381 the doctrinal unity of the Christian world was restored, but the West–East opposition acquired a new, political and canonical meaning. Church councils of 381–382 demonstrated that a large part of the Eastern episcopate remained faithful to the idea of ecclesiastical autonomy of the East, while the Western bishops were inclined to regard the Roman chair – Saint Peter’s See (?) – as a single centre of church communion between the East and the West. The rise of Constantinople laid a basis for a synthesis of these two conceptions within the Byzantine tradition: the “West–East” opposition was supplemented by the idea of universal primacy of “two Romes”, Old and New.

Keywords: Arian controversy, early Church, ecclesiastical councils, Roman primacy, Constantinople, imperial power, church organization, St. Ambrose of Milan, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, pope Damasus I.
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