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Conciliatory reflections on the procession of the Holy Spirit in Giles of Viterbo's Sentences commentary

  • Daniel J. Nodes (a1)

Giles of Viterbo's early sixteenth-century commentary on Peter Lombard's Libri sententiarum includes a discussion of the controversial Western doctrine of the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son (Filioque) in its regular place at distinction 11 of book 1. In treating this issue Giles remained true to his aim of producing a commentary ‘according to the mind of Plato’ (ad mentem Platonis). Giles had access to the dialogues of Plato but only limited access to original texts of the Greek Fathers. Nevertheless, he reviewed the Filioque controversy in a manner which respects the sententia Graecorum, even disagreeing with a line of argumentation championed by scholastic supporters of the Augustinian tradition, including Thomas Aquinas, over the related question of whether it should be said that there is one spirator or plural spiratores. Giles' conciliatory position owes much to his intellectual environment, which fostered a renewed admiration for Hellenism and classical humanism. Working largely without benefit of the emerging rediscovery of Eastern patristic theology Giles nevertheless reassesses the arguments for and against the Filioque which he received from the Latin scholastic tradition, seeking, as he does throughout his commentary, what is true on both sides of apparently divergent teachings on divine mystery.

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1 O'Carroll, Michael, Veni Creator Spiritus: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Holy Spirit (Collegeville, MI: Liturgical, 1990), p. 23.

2 Giles lived in a post-conciliar age and wrote his commentary almost a century after the Council of Florence 1439 which advocated allowing either per Filium or Filioque to be included in the Creed. While making no addition to the Creed was not a recommended option, it was thought that per Filium would appease opponents of Filioque, because the former reflected the Orthodox theology of the procession of the Holy Spirit more accurately than did the latter. See O'Carroll, Veni Creator Spiritus, p. 82.

3 Giles reached the eighteenth distinction of book 1 by 1512, when he abandoned his commentary for other interests and the pressing administrative duties of his order. For details see O'Malley, John W., Giles of Viterbo on Church and Reform: A Study in Renaissance Thought (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1968), p. 16. Martin, Francis X., Friar, Reformer, and Renaissance Scholar (Villanova, PA: Augustinian Press, 1992), p. 161. The present author has published several sections of Giles’ commentary for individual studies and has prepared a critical edn of the entire text.

4 John Damascene's ἔκδοσις ἀκριβὴς τῆς ὀρθοδόξου πίστεως, On the Orthodox Faith, De fide orthodoxa, is the third part of a three-part work called πηγὴ γνώσεως The Fount of Knowledge. The Western division of Damascene's De fide orthodoxa into four books was first made by Burgundio of Pisa by 1224. But Burgundio's ordering has nothing to do with the Greek manuscript tradition. The MSS all present the work as a single series of 100 chapters. The reorganisation was done to make the work correspond to the four books of Peter Lombard's quattuor libri sententiarum but it obscures the original genre. A series of 100 chapters constitutes a ‘century’, a genre still popular in the Orthodox world. It is a monastic form developed by Evagrius of Pontus in the fourth century. Diodochos of Photiki and Maximus the Confessor also wrote centuries that are extant. The chapters in a century are not necessarily closely related, and not part of a system. John's work is not meant as a systematic treatise but meant for monks to meditate on and turn into a life of prayer. It is not necessarily helpful to think of John as the first Christian scholastic theologian. See Louth, Andrew, St John Damascene: Tradition and Originality in Byzantine Theology (Oxford, 2002). Please consult the critical edn by Kotter, Bonifatius, John of Damascus. Expositio Fidei (Berlin and New York: De Gruyter, 1973), vol. 2 of Die Schriften des Johannes von Damaskos.

5 Giles began his commentary after completing studies at the Augustinian studium generale, the College of Sts Philip and James, in Padua. He also studied at the University of Padua, a centre of both humanism and of metaphysics in via S. Thomae. After publishing an edn of three works of the Augustinian friar Giles of Rome (c.1247–1316) in 1493, he studied with Marsilio Ficino in Florence, and further cultivated the theologia platonica, which was providing scholars of the period with an alternative to Averroistic Aristotelianism, esp. since Gemistos Plethon had composed De differentiis, his criticism of the West's distorted understanding of Aristotle, and championed Plato as superior. For a detailed discussion of Giles’ education and relation to the scholastic-humanist controversy in the early Renaissance, see Nodes, D., ‘Humanism in the Commentary ad mentem Platonis of Giles of Viterbo’, Augustiniana 45 (1995), pp. 285–98; Nodes, D., ‘A Hydra in the Gardens of Adonis: Literary Allusion and the Language of Humanism in Egidio of Viterbo (1469–1532)’, Renaissance Quarterly 57/2 (2004), pp. 124; Gionta, Daniela, ‘Scholastik und Platonismus im Prolog zum Sentenzenkommentar des Aegidius von Viterbo’, Augustiniana 39 (1989), pp. 132–53. For a discussion of Giles of Viterbo's approach to the related theme of the eternal and temporal processions of the Holy Spirit see Nodes, D., ‘Dual Processions of the Holy Spirit: Development of a Theological Tradition’, Scottish Journal of Theology 52 (1999), pp. 118. For a discussion of Plethon's influence see Woodhouse, C. M., Gemistos Plethon: The Last of the Hellenes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986).

6 ‘Hic dicendum est, spiritum sanctum esse a Patre et Filio et procedere a Patre et Filio, quod multi haeretici negaverunt’: Peter Lombard, Sententiarum quattuor libri, lib. 1, d. 11, cap. 1.

7 ‘Dicit enim Apostolus: Misit Deus Spiritum Filii sui in corda nostra. Ecce hic dicitur Spiritus Filii. Et alibi: Qui autem Spiritum Christi non habet, hic non est eius. Ipse etiam Filius de Spiritu sancto dicit in Evangelio: Quem ego mittam vobis a Patre’ (ibid.).

8 ‘Patris autem Spiritus dictus est, ubi legitur: Si Spiritus eius, qui suscitavit Iesum a mortuis, habitat in vobis. Et ipse Christus dicit: Non enim vos estis, qui loquimini, sed Spiritus Patris vestri qui loquitur. Et in alio loco: Quem mittet Pater in nomine meo. Et alibi ipse Filius de Spiritu sancto ait: De Patre procedit’ (ibid.).

9 It has been pointed out that the Filioque is not referred to in the Synodikon of Orthodoxy, with many of its anathemas coming from the eleventh–fourteenth centuries. See Ware, Timothy (Bp Kallistos), ‘Orthodox and Catholics in the Seventeenth Century: Schism or Intercommunion?’, in Baker, Derek (ed.), Schism, Heresy and Religious Protest (Cambridge: CUP, 1972), p. 259.

10 ‘. . . cum dicat in eo Veritas, Spiritum sanctum a Patre procedere, non addit solo, et ideo etiam a se procedere non negat’: Lombard, Sententiarum, lib. 1, d. 11, cap. 1.

11 Peter refers to what is known as the Athanasian Creed, two texts of Didymus the Blind, and two texts which he took to be by John Chrysostom.

12 It is not the intention of the present study to review all the theology of the Filioque even by the theologians treated here, nor to discuss conciliatory efforts by later Catholic and Orthodox theologians who, in a spirit of renewed ecumenism, have sought a valid and mutually honourable solution to the controversy. Nevertheless, the example of earlier efforts like those of Giles to understand the specific intention in the words of both sides can contribute to the construction of a positive atmosphere for renewed efforts towards reconciliation.

13 ‘Graeci comparaverunt Spiritum spirationi flatus exterioris; sed Latini spirationi amoris interioris: et ideo Latini melius, quia spiritualiori et similiori similitudini aptaverunt’: Bonaventure, In I Sent., d. 11, q. 1, conclusio.

14 ‘Spiritus Sanctus procedit a Patre et a Filio non quatenus sunt distinctae personae, sed quatenus in eis est una fecunditas voluntatis sive una spiratio activa’: In I Sent., d. 11, a. 1, q. 2 conclusio.

15Professio vero huius articuli venit ab Ecclesia Latinorum ex triplici causa, videlicet ex fidei veritate, ex periculi necessitate et ex Ecclesiae auctoritate. Fides dictabat hoc, et periculi necessitas imminebat, ne forte aliquis hoc negaret, in quod periculum inciderunt Graeci; et Ecclesiae auctoritas aderat: et ideo sine mora exprimi debebat. Negatio vero huius articuli venit ex triplici causa, scilicet ex ignorantia, ex superbia et pertinacia.In I Sent., d. 11, a. 1, q. 1 conclusio.

16 ‘Item, Damascenus: “spiritum sanctum ex patre dicimus, et spiritum patris nominamus; ex filio autem spiritum non dicimus, spiritum vero filii nominamus”’: Thomas Aquinas, Super Sent., lib. 1, d. 11, q. 1, a. 1, arg. 3.

17 Gal 4:6: ‘Misit Deus Spiritum Filii sui in corda nostra.’ Thomas writes: ‘Haec probatio non videtur sufficiens: quia Graeci confitentur spiritum sanctum esse filii, sed non a filio.’ Super Sent., lib. 1, d. 11, q. 1, a. 4 expos.

18 ‘Cum enim divinae personae secundum nihil absolutum distinguantur, oportet quod omnis ipsarum distinctio sit secundum relationes originis’: Super Sent., lib. 1, d. 11, q. 1, a. 1 co.

19 ‘Sed dicendum, quod cum oporteat genitivum in aliqua habitudine construi, non potest alia inveniri nisi habitudo originis, quia sola talis relatio personas distinguit; et ideo oportet concedere, quod spiritus sanctus a filio oriatur.’ Super Sent., lib. 1, d. 11, q. 1, a. 4 expos.

20 ‘Respondeo dicendum, quod actus recipit numerum a suppositis; unde etiam verbum significans substantiam per modum actus, dicitur de pluribus personis pluraliter, quamvis sit essentia una, sicut Joan. 10, 30: ego et pater unum sumus. Actus autem significatur etiam in verbo et in participio et in nomine verbali; sed tamen participium plus accedit ad substantiam quam verbum, et adhuc nomen verbale magis quam participium. Et ideo non praesumimus dicere, quod pater et filius spiret spiritum sanctum; vel quod sint spirans, vel quod sint spirator; sed quod spirent, et sint spirantes et sint spiratores; et quamvis sit actus unus quo spirant, tamen secundum quod unumquodque eorum magis accedit ad significandum actum, minus proprie potest in singulari praedicari.’ Super Sent., lib. 1, d. 11, q. 1, a. 4 co.

21 Cap. 104: ‘Spiritus a Filio etiam manat. Quomodo spirent ut unum. In quo sint unum. Sunt etiam unus et plures spiratores.’ All citations of Giles’ commentary are edited by the present author from the five extant MSS: Vatican City, Biblioteca apostolica Vaticana, Lat. 6325; Rome, Biblioteca Angelica 636; Naples, Biblioteca Nazionale VIII F 8; Naples, Biblioteca Nazionale XIV H 71; Hamburg, Staats-und Universitätsbibliotek, Codex Philol. 308. See Giles of Viterbo: The Commentary on the Sentences of Petrus Lombardus, ed. D. Nodes (Leiden: Brill, 2010). All translations are those of the present author.

22 ‘Diximus antiquam religionem prius in Etruria apparuisse, postea in Graeciam Asiamque commigrasse, duce Dardano. Vera autem pietas primo in Asia, postea in Graecia, et in Etruriae Ianiculo Petri interitu, et in Vaticano Petri heriditate viguit atque floruit; in qua cum de Amore agendum esset, gravis inter Patres Graecos Etruscosque orta quaestio est.’

23 See O'Malley, Giles of Viterbo on Church and Reform, pp. 31–2.

24 ‘Platonis sententia, nihil affirmandum omnino, nisi quod sacrum affirmavit oraculum.’

25 ‘Audiant hi viri Platonem, qui in Civili de orbe condito atque de divinis Patrum sermones audiendos esse monet et credendos. In Legibus quoque lege cavet, ne quis sacra oraculorum mutet, ut quoties de divinis agitur, non profanorum usus, sed oraculorum consuetudo consulatur.’

26 ‘At Spiritum divinum, quode agimus, a Filio manare non legimus in sacris libris, sed a Parente dumtaxat a divo Ioanne, Spiritus veritatis qui a Patre procedit; quam ob rem non est, cur a Vaticano sacerdote Senatuque Romano Spiritus a Filio manare decernatur.’

27 ‘Accedit et Damasceni sententia hominis Graeca eruditione primarii. Ait namque is, quod Spiritus Patris atque ex Patre dicimus, Filii etiam Spiritum dicimus, sed Spiritum ex Filio non dicimus.’ Aquinas, like most commentators, made this point: ‘Item, Damascenus: spiritum sanctum ex patre dicimus, et spiritum patris nominamus; ex filio autem spiritum non dicimus, spiritum vero filii nominamus.’ Super Sent., lib. 1, d. 11, q. 1, a. 1, arg. 3.

28 ‘Haec igitur Graecorum sententia fuit, Spiritum quidem Filii dici, ex Filio autem dici non oportere. Adversus hanc opinionem omnes Latinorum nervi nisi sunt; nam non modo Filii, sed etiam ex Filio Spiritum dicendum esse statuerunt.’

29 ‘Inter Filium ac Spiritum, qui materia carent, ordo ullus esse non potest, nisi originis; ut alter igitur alternus origo sit necesse est. Non tamen Filius a Spiritu. Spiritus itaque a Filio proveniat necesse est.’

30 De fide orth., 1.8.

31 The effort to combat Arianism was a major impetus for adding the Filioque in the West. Giles thus argues that if the Spirit comes forth from the Father and not the Son, then the Son would be less than the Father. On the other side of the issue there is a danger of approaching Sabellian modalism: if the Spirit and Son are both simply from the Father then, as Giles has already shown, there would be nothing to distinguish them.

32 ‘Amor semper ex intelligentia manat atque cognitione. Nihil enim amari potest, nisi aliqua ratione cognoscatur, ac quae nos prorsus latent amari non possunt. Quam ob rem cum Verbum sapientiae et intelligentiae modo exoriatur, nonnisi ex ipso ducere originem Amor potest.’

33 ‘Unde dico, quod verbum, secundum generationem aeternam est simile verbo mentali; et ideo a verbo procedit spiritus sanctus, sicut a verbo mentali amor.’ Thomas Aquinas, Super Sent., lib. 1, d. 11, q. 1, a. 1, ad 4.

34 ‘Porus enim Themidos filius dicitur, a quo Amorem oriri Plato vult. Quare tantus auctor non modo a Latinis patribus Etruscoque Vaticano, verum etiam a Platone suo Graecaque Academia vexatur. Neque enim ea dicimus, quae sacris in oraculis non contineantur.’

35 ‘Ille, inquit, Spiritus me clarum faciet, quoniam de meo accipiet.’

36 ‘Quae quidem verba idem de Spiritu Sancto testantur, quod de se ipso Filius dicebat, cum ait; omnia mihi tradita sunt a Patre meo, hoc est, ab ipso natus sum, atque ita Spiritus de meo accipiet, hoc est, a me procedet.’

37 ‘Ita a Patre manare dicit Spiritum Filius, neque propterea negat Filius a se manare Spiritum, sed negat a se praecipue manare.’

38 ‘Praecipuam autem manandi auctoritatem tribuimus idcirco Parenti, qui unus aliunde non accipit, sed quaecumque possidet, ex se ipso possidet.’

39 ‘Quod vero ad Damascenum et Graecos attinet, varia sententia est. Alii eos male de fide ac pietate sentire. Alii quod ad concilium, ubi ea sententia consecrata decretaque a Senatu est, vocati non fuerint, stomachatos dicunt, sententiamque quam iudicio clam probarent, indignatione palam accipere noluisse.’ Giles is referring to the Council of Florence (1439), whose Bull Laetentur coeli expressly affirms procession of the Holy Spirit from Father and Son as a doctrine to be believed and accepted by all Christians. That council did have a considerable Greek delegation, and per Filium was presented to them as an equivalent to the Filioque, but their acceptance of the compromise was rejected by those not in attendance. He may also be including the Council of Toledo (589), the first council to give official support to the Filioque but which did not have participation from Eastern bishops.

40 ‘Sed natio de genere humano, omni disciplinarum genere vel invento vel exculto, optime merita tuenda defendendaque potius, quam accusanda vel in ius vocanda videtur. Tantum enim abest, ut Graecos errasse credamus, ut etiam Latinorum scriptorum, qui de sacris scripsere rebus, vel praeceptores vel duces fuisse in arcanis enucleandis arbitremur.’

41 ‘Damasceni quoque verba ita interpretari fortasse possumus, quod Spiritum Filii quidem dicimus, ex Filio non dicimus, non quod dici a nobis, sed legi in sacris voluminibus non possit.’

42 ‘Videamus tamen quid dicant. Volunt Spiritum manare per Filium, non ex Filio.’

43 ‘Ut enim universae nationis partes tueamur. Fratres siquidem nostros non temere eiiciendos, sed amice conplectendos existimamus, eos praecipue, qui rem publicam Christianam et vitae sanctitate et doctrinae claritate ditissimam a longe celeberrimam reddidere.’

44 ‘Quam quidem sententiam si aequis iudiciis procul a perturbatione pensitemus, rebus nostris fortasse non modo non pugnantem, quin potius consentientem ac concordem iudicabimus.’

45 Bessarion, an Orthodox legate to the Council of Florence who later converted to Roman Catholicism, appealed to St Basil to argue for acceptance of the pro-Latin Filioque. Giles, a Latin clergyman who appealed to John of Damascus and Plato, is by contrast pro-Hellenist. As this article attempts to show, Giles is striving to present the truth of both Latin and Greek positions with the help of the ancient sources. This is the central campaign of his entire commentary.

46 Maximus Confessor, Quaestiones ad Thalassium, sec. 63(PG90:672C). See also O'Carroll, Veni: Creator Spiritus, p. 150.

47 lbid., p. 220.

48 ‘Quid enim prodest de Amore disserere, si contentiones et odia exercemus?’

49 ‘Nonulli itaque volunt, neutrum simpliciter dandum esse, sed si agens spectetur, cum duae personae sint, dicendum quod qua plures; sin forma et agendi ratio notetur, cum una sit Spiritus producendi vis in utroque, non qua plures, sed qua unum sunt Spiritus manantis initium.’

50 ‘Alii, quibuscum sentimus, simpliciter qua unum dicendum decernunt, cum ille significandi modus non agens aspiciat, sed solam agendi rationem.’

51 ‘Spiratorem tamen unum, non plures damus, ut illi sentiunt, cum forma sit una, quae in ambobus est spirandi principium.’

52 ‘Nos conciliatores libenter inter nostros intercedimus, ne Amoris haec disputatio odiorum seminarium sit.’

53 ‘Dicemus itaque utrumque dici posse spiratorem, et unum et plures, si tamen in altera oratione agentes, in altera agendi principium spectemus. Quod vero actio singula respiciat, non naturam, quamquam non ita Plato forte sentiat, esto tamen ut volunt. Quoniam vero in unaquaque re constat in primis spectandum esse principium, quod quando unum est, id etiam dicetur unum, in quo est. Quare nihil prohibet unum dici haud absurde spiratorem. Sed neque analogia quicquam facit in sententiam alteram. Personae etenim creant uno creandi initio, quae essentia est etiam creans. Sed si personae spirant, eo spirandi initio id agunt, quod non spirat. Spirandi enim potestas, non spirare ratio dicitur et principium. Quare si creator est unus, maxime consentaneum est ob ipsam divinitatem, quae una est et creans. Sed cum spirandi principium eadem sit divinitas, quae tamen non spirat, atque illi qui spirant, non unus sit, sed plures; idcirco nihil est quod prohibeat plures Amoris esse spiratores. Cui quidem sententiae etiam Platonis verba consentiunt, qui Peniam atque Porum facit Amoris progenitores. Quod si analogiam sequi libeat, utique recepto vocabulo nos quoque faciemus Patrem Filiumque Amoris spiratores.’

54 O'Malley, Giles of Viterbo on Church and Reform, p. 21 and n. 3.

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