Circular letter of Basiliscus

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Circular letter
Emperor Basiliscus

According to Evagrius Scholasticus[edit]

Version reported by Evagrius Scholasticus (431-594), Ecclesiastical History, translated by E. Walford (1846). Book 3, Chapter IV.

The emperor Caesar Basiliscus, pious, victorious, triumphant, supreme, ever-worshipful Augustus, and Marcus, the most illustrious Caesar, to Timotheus, archbishop of the great city of the Alexandrians, most reverent and beloved of God.

It has ever been our pleasure, that whatever laws have been decreed in behalf of the true and apostolic faith, by those our pious predecessors who have maintained the true service of the blessed and undecaying and life-giving Trinity, should never be inoperative; but we are rather disposed to enounce them as of our own enactment. We, preferring piety and zeal in the cause of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ who created and has made us glorious, before all diligence in human affairs, and being further convinced that unity among the flocks of Christ is the preservation of ourselves and our subjects, the stout foundation and unshaken bulwark of our empire; being by these considerations moved with godly zeal, and offering to our God and Saviour Jesus Christ the unity of the Holy Church as the first fruits of our reign, ordain that the basis and settlement of human felicity, namely, the symbol of the three hundred and eighteen holy fathers who were assembled, in concert with the Holy Spirit, at Nicaea, into which both ourselves and all our believing predecessors were baptised; that this alone should have reception and authority with the orthodox people in all the most holy churches of God, as the only formulary of the right faith, and sufficient for the utter destruction of every heresy, and for the complete unity of the holy churches of God ; without prejudice, notwithstanding, to the force of the acts of the hundred and fifty holy fathers assembled in this imperial city, in confirmation of the sacred symbol itself, and in condemnation of those who blasphemed against the Holy Ghost; as well as of all that were passed in the metropolitan city of the Ephesians against the impious Nestorius and those who subsequently favoured his opinions.

But the proceedings which have disturbed the unity and order of the holy churches of God, and the peace of the whole world, that is to say, the so-called tome of Leo, and all things said and done at Chalcedon in innovation upon the before-mentioned holy symbol of the three hundred and eighteen holy fathers, whether by way of definition of faith, or setting forth of symbols, or of interpretation, or instruction, or discourse; we ordain that these shall be anathematised both here and every where by the most holy bishops in every church, and shall be committed to the flames whenever they shall be found, inasmuch as it was so enjoined respecting all heretical doctrines by our predecessors, of pious and blessed memory, Constantine, and Theodosius the younger; and that, having thus been rendered null, they shall be utterly expelled from the one and only catholic and apostolic orthodox church, as superseding the everlasting and saving definitions of the three hundred and eighteen fathers, and those of the blessed fathers who, by the Holy Spirit, made their decision at Ephesus; that no one, in short, either of the priesthood or laity, shall be allowed to deviate from that most sacred constitution of the holy symbol; and that, together with all the innovations upon the sacred symbol which were enacted at Chalcedon, there be also anathematised the heresy of those who do not confess, that the only begotten Son of God was truly incarnate, and made man of the Holy Spirit and of the holy and ever-virgin Mary, Mother of God, but, according to their strange conceit, either from heaven, or in mere phantasy and seeming: and, in short, every heresy, and whatever other innovation, in respect either of thought or language, has been devised in violation of the sacred symbol in any manner or at any time or place.

And, inasmuch as it is the special task of kingly providence to furnish to their subjects, with forecasting deliberation, abundant means of security, not only for the present but for future time, we ordain that the most holy bishops in every place shall subscribe to this our sacred circular epistle when exhibited to them, as a distinct declaration that they are indeed ruled by the sacred symbol of the three hundred and eighteen holy fathers alone — which the hundred and fifty holy fathers confirmed; as it was also defined by the most holy fathers, who, subsequently, assembled in the metropolitan city of the Ephesians, that the sacred symbol of the three hundred and eighteen holy fathers ought to be the only rule — while they anathematise every stumbling-block enacted at Chalcedon to the faith of the orthodox people, and utterly eject them from the churches, as an impediment to the general happiness and our own.

Those, moreover, who, after the issuing of these our sacred letters, which we trust to have been uttered in accordance with the will of God, in an endeavour to accomplish that unity which all desire for the holy churches of God, shall attempt to bring forward or so much as to name the innovation upon the faith which was enacted at Chalcedon, either in discourse or instruction or writing, in whatever manner, place, or time ; with respect to those persons, as being the cause of confusion and tumult in the churches of God and among the whole of our subjects, and enemies to God and our safety, we command (in accordance with the laws ordained by our predecessor, Theodosius, of blessed and sacred memory, against such sort of evil designs, which laws are subjoined to this our sacred circular) that, if bishops or clergy, they be deposed; if monks or laics, that they be subjected to banishment and every mode of confiscation, and the severest penalties: for so the holy and homoousian Trinity, the Creator and Vivifier of the universe, which has ever been adored by our piety, receiving at the present time service at our hands in the destruction of the before-mentioned tares and the confirmation of the true and apostolic traditions of the holy symbol, find being thereby rendered favourable and gracious to our souls and to all our subjects, shall ever aid us in the exercise of our sway, and preserve the peace of the world.

According to Zachariah of Mitylene[edit]

Version reported by Zachariah of Mitylene, Syriac Chronicle (1899). Book 5, Chapter II.

The king Basiliscus, the believing, victorious, all-virtuous ruler, Augustus, along with Marcus the most illustrious Caesar, to Timothy the reverend and God-loving archbishop of the great city Alexandria. Concerning all the laws justly and righteously enacted by the believing and memorable kings who have gone before us, for the salvation and good guidance of all the world, and in defence of the true faith as taught by the apostles and holy fathers ; it is our will that all these laws should be ratified, and not lightly annulled. Rather do we agree to them, and hold them to be of equal validity with our own.

And earnestly desiring to honour the fear of God more than any affair of man, through zeal for the Lord Jesus Christ our God, to Whom we owe our creation, exaltation, and glory; moreover also, being fully persuaded that the unity of His flock is the salvation of ourselves and our people, and is the sure and immovable foundation, and the lofty bulwark of our kingdom; we now, moved by a wise impulse, are bringing union and unity to the Church of Christ in every part of our dominion, namely, the faith of the three hundred and eighteen bishops, who being previously prepared by the Holy Ghost, assembled at Nicea, the security and well-being of human life, the faith which we hold, like all who have been before us, and in which we believe and are baptized, that it may hold and rule all the Churches with their chosen canons: the faith which is complete and perfect in all piety and true belief, and which rejects and exposes all heresies, and thrusts them out of the Church: the faith which the one hundred and fifty bishops, being assembled here to oppose and condemn the fighters against the Spirit, the Holy Lord confirmed, and with which they concurred and agreed : the faith which was also confirmed by the transactions of the two Councils at Ephesus, along with the chief priests of Rome and Alexandria, Celestine and Cyril, and Dioscorus, in condemnation of the heretic Nestorius, and all who after him have held similar opinions, and have confounded the order of the Church, and disturbed the peace of the world, and cleft asunder the unity; we mean the Tome of Leo, and the decrees of Chalcedon, whether by way of definition of the faith, or doctrine, or interpretation, or addition, or whatsoever other innovation was said or done contrary to the faith and the definition of the three hundred and eighteen.

And therefore we command that wherever, here or elsewhere, such written doctrine be found, it shall be anathematised and burnt in the fire. For in accordance with this order, our blessed predecessors in the kingdom, Constantine the Great and Theodosius, in like manner, commanded and ordained. And also, the three subsequent Synods, that of the one hundred and fifty bishops here, and the two of Ephesus, ratified only the faith of Nicea, and agreed to the true definition there made.

Moreover, we anathematise everyone who does not confess that the only-begotten Son of God truly became incarnate by the Holy Ghost from the Virgin Mary; not taking a body from heaven, in mere semblance or phantasy. And also we anathematise all the false teaching of all those heresies which are contrary to the true faith of the fathers,[…]