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Conrad Mazeski wrote:

Hi, guys —

Pope Constantine in 343 A.D. gathered all those who spoke about or wrote about Jesus' travels and formed the New Testament according to his thinking. We ended up with the Holy Roman Catholic faith and the Greek Orthodox faith.

  • Did the Greek Orthodox faith prefer to accept all the Scriptures that were presented prior to the formation of the New Testament?
  • What was the name of the council that met in about 543 A.D. where they removed reincarnation and removed the possibility of women becoming priests?

Conrad

  { Did the Greek Orthodox faith prefer all the Scriptures and what was the name of the council? }

Mike replied:

Hi Conrad,

Thanks for the question.

I couldn't get a handle on what your question was though you seem to have a misunderstanding of early Christian history so I forwarded your question to John and my other colleagues for their two cents.

Constantine was never a Pope but an emperor who, like many, converted to the Catholic faith.

Mike

John replied:

Hi, Conrad —

I don't think we had a Pope Constantine at the point in history.

Secondly, the Greek Orthodox Church or rather the Eastern Orthodox Church was part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, a title she still has partial legitimate claim to. The East and West had a schism in 1054 A.D.

The term Orthodox and, even Melkite, was given to the whole Church around the time of the Council of Chalcedon, when there was a schism with the Monophysites. Melkite actually means "with the King" and the reason that title was given was because the true Church was accepted by the Emperor who, at the time, moved to Byzantium. The term Orthodox means "correct" or "correct teaching" so for most of the first ten centuries of the Church: the Catholic Church or Universal Church, as Catholic means universal, was also known as the Orthodox Church, and to some degree, also recognized as Melkite, but the two latter titles were added to distinguish the true Church from the schismatic sects such as the Monophysites, the Nestorians, and the Arians.

Now as it relates to the Scriptures, both the New and Old Testament were canonized later in 382 A.D. at the Council of Rome, however, there were several ancient manuscripts and differences in these manuscripts. Depending on what local church you were in, you might have a slightly different version of the same books.

Some time after the Reformation, the Orthodox had a council that recognized some additional Old Testament books which has been part of the small "t" Tradition in the East, but they are not in the Roman Catholic canon. Everything in the Roman Catholic canon is found in the Eastern canon.

As for reincarnation, the Church never removed it, because it was never part of the Church's teaching. Perhaps there was a Council that officially condemned it as heresy, but it was never part of the Church's teaching.

The same goes for women in the priesthood. The Church never ordained woman to the priesthood. It is, and always will be, a theological and sacramental impossibility. There is no such thing as a woman priest. A woman calling herself a priest, is just a woman calling herself a priest. She's not. The Church has never had the authority to ordain women, doesn't now, and never will.

It may have addressed certain questions and simply stated the obvious. The Church can't ordain women, and even if a Catholic wanted to, they wouldn't be priests.

John

Eric replied:

Hi, Conrad —

I'm not sure what you mean by:

  • Did the Greek Orthodox faith prefer to accept all the Scriptures that were presented prior to the formation of the new Testament?

The Greek Orthodox faith, with all the Orthodox churches and the Catholic Church as well, only recognizes as Scripture the 27 books we know now as the New Testament.

In a certain sense, there were books that were candidates for Scripture, which they also look to, but they don't treat them as "Scriptures that were presented prior to the New Testament" but simply as part of a body of books they (and we) call the patristic writings. Among these would be:

  • Clement to the Corinthians
  • the Didache
  • the Epistle of Barnabas
  • the Shepherd of Hermas, and
  • others.

Both the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church venerate these writings and consider them important, although the Orthodox Church tends to rely on them much more heavily than the Catholic Church (but as a part of tradition, not in any way Scriptural). This corpus includes a lot of later works that were never candidates for the New Testament.

343 A.D. is not a relevant year for the Scriptures. My colleague mentioned the Council of Rome in 382 A.D.; there was also the Council of Hippo in 393 A.D. and Council of Carthage in 419 A.D.

Eric

Mike replied:

Conrad —

You said:
What was the name of the council that met in about 543 A.D. where they removed reincarnation and removed the possibility of women becoming priests?

I found two articles on New Advent that may help us.

This is the closest council to 543 A.D.:

V. Second Council Of Constantinople — Year: 553
Summary: The Second General Council of Constantinople, of 165 bishops under Pope Vigilius and Emperor Justinian I, condemned the errors of Origen and certain writings (The Three Chapters) of Theodoret, of Theodore, Bishop of Mopsuestia and of Ibas, Bishop of Edessa; it further confirmed the first four general councils, especially that of Chalcedon whose authority was contested by some heretics.

Mike

Eric replied:

This explains it.

Thanks for posting this, Mike.

What the Second Council of Constantinople condemned in 543 A.D. was not reincarnation, but
the pre-existence of souls. This was a speculation, primarily advocated in the Church by Origen of Alexandria (d. c. 253 A.D), who taught that souls are not created at conception, but pre-exist in Heaven and, being punished for doing evil, come down to be incarnated (conceived and born). Origen saw the body as a kind of prison or degrading place of exile from Heaven for souls. This differs from reincarnation in that these are not souls that have died, but pre-carnate souls that have been created new for incarnation. This was never a concept taught by the Church, and it's foreign to Scripture and Apostolic Tradition. Instead, it was a matter of speculative theology,
one based in part on pagan philosophy. The question of reincarnation is even more foreign to the Church; not only did the Church never teach it, no respected theologian ever even suggested it, because it contradicts the Scriptures. (Hebrews 9:27) So the Church never "removed" reincarnation, because no Christian theologian had ever believed or advanced it, and the Church had never believed it or received it from the Apostles. Nor did it believe, as a matter of faith, or receive from the Apostles, or "remove" the doctrine of pre-existence of souls, although some theologians, influenced by paganism, speculated on it.

As for women priests, again, the Church has never in its history, or in any of the apostolic churches throughout the world, ever believed in women priests or thought this vocation was possible. There is no solid, credible evidence this was ever legitimately done or formed a valid and accepted tradition. She, the Church, might have condemned those who were trying to corrupt the existing male-only practice. I suppose in a certain sense one can claim that this is "removing the possibility of women priests", but to say that women priests are possible, implies a knowledge that they can exist, whereas, in reality, there was an implicit understanding that this vocation was impossible, with perhaps the absence of a definitive statement either way.

What may have been implicit and unclear was clarified by Pope John Paul II in the letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis issued in 1994. It seems unlikely to me that a prohibition on women's ordination would have been articulated by the Council of Constantinople, because in the last 30 years I've never seen that cited, and if an Ecumenical Council had said that, it definitely would have been appealed to and things would have been done differently than they were.

There is a Council of Laodicea (c. 363) that suppressed a class of women known as presbytides, or female presidents.

"In old days certain venerable women (πρεσβύτιδες) sat in Catholic churches, and took care that the other women kept good and modest order. But from their habit of using improperly that which was proper, either through their arrogancy or through their base self-seeking, scandal arose. Therefore the Fathers prohibited the existence in the Church thereafter of any more such women as are called presbytides or presidents." (more)

Eric

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