Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Ibas, bp. of Edessa
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Ibas, bp. of Edessa
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Ibas, bp. of Edessa c. a.d. 435–457, a Syrian by birth. His name in Syriac is Ihiba or Hiba = Donatus. He appears first as a presbyter of the church of Edessa during the episcopate of Rabbulas, and warmly espousing the theological views which his bishop uncompromisingly opposed. He was an ardent admirer of the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia, which he translated into Syriac and diligently disseminated
through the East. The famous theological school of Edessa, of which, according to some accounts, Ibas was head, and to which the Christian youth from Persia and adjacent lands resorted for education, offered great facilities for this propagation of Theodore's tenets. The growing popularity of doctrines which appeared to him decidedly heretical caused Rabbulas much alarm, and he endeavoured to get Theodore's works anathematized and burnt. The church of Edessa was generally favourable to Theodore's teaching, and Ibas was supported by the majority against their bishop. He attended the council of Ephesus in 431 as a presbyter, was cognizant of Cyril's autocratic conduct (Ep. ad Mar.; Labbe, Conc. iv. 662), and wrote in 433 the letter to Maris, then or subsequently bp. of Hardaschir in Persia, to which subsequent events gave celebrity. Maris had been at Edessa previous to the Nestorian controversy, and Ibas wrote this letter to tell him what had occurred since his visit. Though evidently written under great exasperation, it shews Ibas as a man of independent judgment, free from party spirit. Nestorius is severely censured in it for refusing the title θεοτόκος to the Virgin, and Ibas accuses Cyril of Apollinarianism, and denounces the heresy of his 12 chapters, charging him with maintaining the perfect identity of the manhood and Godhead in Christ, and denying the Catholic doctrine of the union of two Natures in One Person (Labbe, iv. 661, v. 510). Rabbulas dying in 435 or 436, a reactionary wave made Ibas his successor. This was very distasteful to those who held the strong anti-Nestorian views of their late bishop, and they speedily planned to secure his deposition, by spreading charges against him of openly preaching heretical doctrines. The accusations soon reached the ears of Theodosius II. and Proclus, patriarch of Constantinople. To Proclus the matter appeared so serious that towards the close of 437 he wrote to John of Antioch, as the leading prelate of the East, though really having no canonical jurisdiction over Osrhoene, begging him to persuade Ibas, if innocent, to remove the scandal by condemning publicly certain propositions chiefly drawn from Theodore's writings against the errors of Nestorius. The same demand was made by Proclus of all the Eastern bishops; but Ibas and the bishops generally refused to condemn Theodore's propositions (ib. v. 511–514). Though foiled so far, the malcontents at Edessa maintained their hostile attitude to their bishop. Their leaders were four presbyters, Samuel, Cyrus, Eulogius, and Maras, acting at the instigation of one of Ibas's own suffragans, Uranius, bp. of Himeria, a pronounced Eutychian. Domnus, who had in 442 succeeded his uncle John as bp. of Antioch, visiting Hierapolis for the enthronization of the new bp. Stephen, the conspirators chose that moment for action. Cyrus and Eulogius formally laid before Domnus the accusation against Ibas, signed by about 17 clergy of Edessa, and supported by 30 (ib. iv. 658). Ibas, when starting for Hierapolis to pay his respects to Domnus, heard of the accusation, and at once summoned his clergy, pronounced excommunication on Cyrus and Eulogius as calumniators, threatened the same treatment to all who participated in their proceedings. No immediate step seems to have followed the presentation of the libel. In 445 Ibas was summoned by Domnus to the synod held at Antioch in the matter of Athanasius of Perrha, but he excused himself by letter (ib. iv. 739). The sympathies of Domnus inclined to Ibas, and he shewed no readiness to entertain the charges brought against him. At last, in Lent 448, the four chief delators presented their indictment before Domnus and the council of the East in a manner too formal to be neglected. Domnus consequently summoned Ibas to appear before him after Easter to answer the charges. The council was held at Antioch, and was attended by only a few bishops. The existing Acts bear only nine signatures (ib. iv. 643). Ibas in person answered the 18 charges, mostly of a frivolous character and destitute of proof: e.g. that he had appropriated a jewelled chalice to his own use; that the wine at the Eucharist was inferior in quality and quantity; the malversation of sums given for the ransom of captives; simoniacal ordinations and the admission of unfit persons to the ministry and episcopate, especially his nephew Daniel, stated to be a scandalous person, whom he had made bp. of Charrae. The most weighty charges were that he had anathematized Cyril and charged him with heresy; that he was a Nestorian; and especially that at Easter 445, in the presence of his clergy, he had spoken the blasphemous words, "I do not envy Christ His becoming God, for I can become God no less than He." "This is the day that Jesus Christ became God" (ib. iv. 647–654 ; Liberat. c. 12). The first charge he acknowledged, the others he indignantly repudiated as base slanders. Only two of the accusers appeared. Samuel and Cyrus had gone to Constantinople, in defiance of the terms on which the excommunication had been taken off, to lay their complaint before the emperor and patriarch, the favourable feeling of Domnus towards the accused being too evident for them to hope for an impartial trial. Domnus and the council declined to proceed in the absence of the chief witnesses, and the case seemed to be postponed indefinitely (Labbe, iv. 642 seq.; Theod. Ep. 111). Eulogius and Maras, thereupon, hastened to join their fellow-conspirators at Constantinople, where they found a powerful party strongly hostile to the Eastern bishops, Theodoret in particular. Their faction was soon strengthened by the arrival of Uranius, the prime mover of the whole cabal, and half a dozen more Edessene clergy. The emperor and Flavian, who had succeeded Proclus as patriarch, listened to their complaints, but declined to hear them officially. The case was remitted to the East, and by an imperial commission, dated Oct. 26, 448, Uranius of Himeria, Photius of Tyre, just elected Sept. 9, 448, on the deposition of Irenaeus, and Eustathius of Berytus were deputed to hear it, and Damascius, the tribune and secretary of state, was dispatched as imperial commissioner. The whole proceeding was manifestly illegal. It was contrary to the canons that bishops should be subjected to the judgment of other bishops, two belonging to another province, on the strength of an
imperial decree. No one, however, protested. The imperial power was regarded as absolute. The tribunal also was grossly unfair. One of the three judges, Uranius, was ringleader of the movement against Ibas; the other two had obtained their sees by the instrumentality of Uranius (Martin, Le Brigandage d’Ephèse, pp. 118–120). Tyre was named as the place of trial. The exasperation stirred up there by the blasphemies charged against Ibas was so great that it was thought politic to remove the trial to Berytus to avoid disturbances (Labbe, iv. 636). The court sat in the hall of Eustathius's episcopal residence. The indictment was produced by Ibas's accusers. Ibas laid before his judges a memorial signed by many of his clergy, denying that he had ever uttered the alleged blasphemies (ib. iv. 667–671). Only three witnesses supported the accusation, and brought forward a copy of the celebrated letter to Maris (ib. . iv. 659–662). The commissioners, avoiding any judicial decision, brought about a friendly arrangement. His enemies agreed to withdraw their accusations on Ibas promising that he would forget the past, regard his accusers as his children, and remit any fresh difficulty for settlement to Domnus
- and that, to avoid suspicion of malversation, the church revenues of Edessa
should be administered, like those of Antioch, by oeconomi. Ibas gave equal satisfaction on theological points. He engaged to publicly anathematize Nestorius and all who thought with him on his return, and declared the identity of his doctrine with that agreed upon by John and Cyril, and that he accepted the decrees of Ephesus equally with those of Nicaea as due to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The concordat was signed, Uranius alone dissenting, Feb. 25, 449 (ib. . iv. 630–648). The truce had no elements of permanence, and a very few weeks saw it broken. The Eutychian party, resolved on the ruin of Ibas and irritated at their failure at Berytus, left no stone unturned to overthrow it. All-powerful at Constantinople through the intrigues of Chrysaphius, Dioscorus and his partisans easily obtained from the feeble emperor, indignant at the condemnation of Eutyches, an edict summoning a general council at Ephesus for Aug. 1, 449. Reports diligently spread in Edessa during his absence of Ibas's heterodoxy made his reception so unfavourable that he was obliged to leave the town and call upon the "magister militiae" for a guard to protect him. He soon discovered that all appeal to the civil power was idle; he was regarded as a public enemy to be crushed at all hazards. The count Chaereas as civil governor of Osrhoene, but with secret instructions from Constantinople emanating from Chrysaphius and Eutyches, was deputed to arrest and imprison him and reopen the suit. When Chaereas entered Edessa, Apr. 12, 449, to commence the trial, he was met by a turbulent body of abbats and monks and their partisans, clamouring furiously for the immediate expulsion and condemnation of Ibas and his Nestorian crew. Ibas was "a second Judas," "an adversary of Christ," an "offshoot of Pharaoh." "To the fire with him and all his race." Two days later the inquiry began in the absence of Ibas amid violent interruptions. All Edessa knew that Chaereas had come merely to ratify under the colour of judicial proceedings a sentence of condemnation already passed. Chaereas, however, was moving too slowly for their hatred, and on Sun. Apr. 17 the excitement in church was so violent that the count was compelled to promise that the verdict of the synod of Berytus should be reviewed and a new investigation commenced. This began on Apr. 18 ; all the old charges were reproduced by the same accusers, amid wild yells of "Ibas to the gallows, to the mines, to the circus, to exile" drowning every attempt at explanation or defence. Chaereas, as had been predetermined, addressed a report to the imperial government, declaring the charges proved; and on June 27 the emperor, acknowledging the receipt of the document, ordered that a bishop who would command the confidence of the faithful should be substituted for Ibas (Perry, The Second Synod of Ephesus; Martin, u.s. t. ii. c. ix.). Only a legally constituted synod could depose him, but meanwhile his enemies' malice could be gratified by his maltreatment. He was forbidden to enter Edessa, apprehended and treated as the vilest of criminals, dragged about from province to province, changing his quarters 40 times and being in 20 different prisons (Labbe, iv. 634; Liberat. c. 12 ; Facund. lib. vi. c. 1). The council of Ephesus, so notorious for its scandalous violence, which gained for it, from Leo the Great (Ep. 95), the title of the "Gang of Robbers," opened on Aug. 3. One of its objects was to get rid finally of Ibas. This was the work of the second session, held on Aug. 22. Ibas was not cited to appear, being then in prison at Antioch (Labbe, iv. 626, 634). Before the witnesses were allowed to enter, the three bishops who had conducted the investigation at Tyre and Berytus were asked for an account of their proceedings. Instead of declaring the fact that, after examination made, they had acquitted Ibas, they made pitiful excuses as to their inability to arrive at the truth from the distance of the place of trial to Edessa, and endeavoured to shift the burden by saying that an investigation had subsequently been held at Edessa itself, which had received the approbation of the emperor, and that the wisest course for the council would be to inquire what was the decision there. This advice was followed. The monks of .Edessa and the other parties to the indictment were admitted, and the whole of the depositions and correspondence read to the assembly. As the reading of the document ended, wild maledictions burst forth, invoking every kind of vengeance, temporal and eternal, on the head of this "second Iscariot," this "veritable Satan." "Nestorius and Ibas should be burnt alive together. The destruction of the two would be the deliverance of the world." Eulogius, the presbyter of Edessa, who had been one of the first accusers of Ibas before Domnus, followed with a summary of the proceedings from their commencement, specifying all the real or supposed crimes laid to his charge. The question of deposition was put to the council, and carried nem. con. Among those who voted for it were Eustathius of Berytus and Photius of Tyre, who had previously acquitted him on the same evidence
The sentence was that he should be deposed from the episcopate and priesthood, deprived even of lay communion, and compelled to restore the money of which it was pretended he had robbed the poor. Ibas, twice acquitted, was condemned without being heard or even summoned; and no protest was raised in his favour, even by those who, a few months before, had given him their suffrage (Martin, u.s. t. iii. c. ii. p. 181; Labbe, iv. 674; Chron. Edess. anno 756; Assemani, Bibl. Or. i. 202). We have no certain knowledge of what befell Ibas on his deposition. At the beginning of 451 the deposed and banished bishops were allowed to return from exile, but the question of their restoration was reserved for the fourth general council which met at Chalcedon a.d. 451. In the 9th session, Oct. 26, the case of Ibas came before the assembled bishops. On his demand to be restored in accordance with the verdict of Photius and Eustathius at Berytus and Tyre, the Acts of that synod were read, and the next day the pope's legates gave their opinion that Ibas, being unlawfully deposed, should be at once restored. After much discussion this was carried unanimously. The legates led the way, declaring his letter to Maris orthodox, and commanding his restitution. All the prelates agreed in this verdict, the condition being that he should anathematize Nestorius and Eutyches and accept the tome of Leo. Ibas consented without any difficulty. "He had anathematized Nestorius already in his writings, and would do so again ten thousand times, together with Eutyches and all who teach the One Nature, and would accept all that the council holds as truth." On this he was unanimously absolved, restored to his episcopal dignity, and voted as bp. of Edessa at the subsequent sessions (Labbe, iv. 793, 799; Facund. lib. v. c. 3). Nonnus, who had been chosen bishop on his deposition, being legitimately ordained, was allowed to retain his episcopal rank, and on Ibas's death, Oct. 28, 457, quietly succeeded him as metropolitan (Labbe, iv. 891, 917). The fiction that Ibas had disowned the letter to Maris at Chalcedon (Greg. Magn. lib. viii. Ep. 14), as he was asserted by Justinian to have done before at Berytus, as having been forged in his name; is thoroughly disproved by Facundus (lib. v. c. 2, lib. vii. c. 5). A controversy concerning his letter to Maris arose in the next century, in the notorious dispute about the "Three Articles," when the letter was branded as heterodox (together with the works of Theodore of Mopsuestia and Theodoret's writings in favour of Nestorius) in the edict of Justinian, and was formally condemned in 553 by the fifth general council, which pronounced an anathema, in bold defiance of historical fact, against all who should pretend that it and the other documents impugned had been recognized as orthodox by the council of Chalcedon (Evagr. H. E. iv. 38; Labbe, v. 562–567). Ibas is anathematized by the Jacobites as a Nestorian (Assemani, t. i. p. 202). According to the Chronicle of Edessa, Ibas, during his episcopate, erected the new church of the Apostles at Edessa, to which a senator gave a silver table of 720 lb. weight, and Anatolius, praefectus militum, a silver coffer to receive the relics of St. Thomas the Apostle, who was said, after preaching in Parthia, to have been buried there (Socr. H. E. iv. 18).
Ibas was a translator and disseminator of the writings of others rather than an original author. His translations of the theological works of Theodore of Mopsuestia, Diodorus of Tarsus, Theodoret, and Nestorius, were actively spread through Syria, Persia, and the East, and were very influential in fostering the Nestorian tenets which have, even to the present day, characterized the Christians of those regions. His influence was permanent in the celebrated theological school of Edessa, in spite of the efforts of Nonnus to eradicate it, until its final overthrow and the banishment of its teachers to Persia. Tillem. Mém. eccl. t. xv.; Assemani, Bibl. Orient. t. i. pp. 199 seq., t. iii. pp. 70–74; Cave, Hist. Lit. t. i. p. 426; Facund. Defens. Trium. Capitul.; Schröckh, xv. 438, xviii. 307–311; Perry, Acts of the Second Council of Ephesus; Abbé Martin, Actes du Brigandage d’Ephèse; Le Pseudo-synode d’Ephèse.