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The Thomist Basis of Prochoros Kydones’ anti-Palamite

Treatise ‘De essentia et operatione Dei’

and the Reaction of the Byzantine Church
C T (Athen)

The influence scholastic theology exerted on certain Byzantine theologians

of the fourteenth century, following the translation of a number of Thomas
Aquinas’ (1225–1274) works into Greek, was identified a long time ago and has,
to some extent, been studied1. What is important for the purposes of this paper is
the fact that as soon as translations of Thomas Aquinas’ works by Demetrios and
Prochoros Kydones started circulating in Byzantium (from 1354 onwards), a new
source of forceful argument was made available to theologians combating Gre-
gory Palamas’ (ca. 1296–1357) doctrines. Indeed, the leaders of the anti-Palamite
faction of the first phase of the Palamite controversy (Barlaam the Calabrian,
Gregory Akindynos, Nikephoros Gregoras)2 differ from the anti-Palamite theo-
logians of the second phase of this controversy (i.e. the period following the
official sanction of Palamite theology by the Synod of 1351) in the use of Tho-
mistic teachings in their anti-Palamite polemic3.
Within this historical context this paper will examine aspects of the reception
of Thomas’ thought in Byzantium in the light of Prochoros Kydones’ treatise
‘De essentia et operatione Dei’ (1367) – a treatise which draws heavily on Tho-
mas. Specifically, it will attempt to show that this treatise is not simply another
Byzantine case of the use of unacknowledged sources, but rather an intentionally-
staged confrontation of Thomas Aquinas with Gregory Palamas. Further, we shall
try to establish that this did not pass undetected by the Byzantine ecclesiastical
authorities, and then consider the reaction of the Byzantine Church as it has been

1 Cf. M. Jugie, Démétrius Cydonès et la théologie latine à Byzance au XIVe et XVe siècle, in: Échos
d’Orient 27 (1928), 385–402; S.G. Papadopoulos, ¿Ellhnikaì metafráseiv jwmistikøn e r¢ gwn.
Filojwmistaì kaì a¬ntijwmistaì en¬ Buzantíwı, Athens 1967; A. Fyrigos, Tomismo e anti-Tomis-
mo a Bisanzio (con una nota sulla “Defensio S. Thomae adversus Nilum Cabasilam” di Demetrio
Cidone), in: A. Molle (ed.), Tommaso d’Aquino e il mondo bizantino, Venafro 2004, 27–72. See
also the article in the present volume, pp. 333–410, by J. A. Demetracopoulos, which also
contains most of the relevant bibliography.
2 For Barlaam (ca. 1290–1348), Akindynos (ca. 1300–ca. 1348), and Gregoras (ca. 1292–ca. 1361) cf.
E. Trapp et al. (eds.), Prosopographisches Lexikon der Palaiologenzeit, 12 voll., Vienna 1976–
1994 (hereafter cited as PLP), nos. 2284, 495, and 4443 respectively.
3 Papadopoulos, ¿Ellhnikaì metafráseiv (nt. 1), 135–136.

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412 Christos Triantafyllopoulos

recorded in the Synodal Tome of April 1368. Finally, we shall attempt to give an
explanation for this reaction.

I. T he theological setting
The nature of the Palamite or hesychast controversy, which forms the theo-
logical context of Prochoros’ treatise, has been studied by modern scholars –
Orthodox and Roman Catholic alike. Their views do not converge. Apparently,
confessional as well as idiosyncratic criteria have led them to adopt different
approaches and reach different, if not conflicting, conclusions4. In any case, theo-
logical and historical studies on this period have contributed to our understanding
that the theological and intellectual developments of fourteenth century Byzan-
tium were part of a complex phenomenon. It has become evident that the groups
of people involved cannot be clearly demarcated from each other on the basis of
their beliefs and ideas regarding the theological, philosophical, ecclesiastical and
other issues of this time5. Nevertheless, broadly speaking, this controversy was
focused on two major issues: the nature of the distinction between the divine
essence and divine energy, and the question of the possible ways of knowing
God in this life, which is closely related to the nature of the divine grace. Both of
these issues are dealt with in Prochoros’ treatise ‘De essentia et operatione Dei’.

4 The bibliography on Palamas (PLP, no. 21546) and the Palamite or hesychast controversy is very
long on both sides, namely the Orthodox and Roman Catholic. To avoid repetition, I refer the
reader to the nearly thorough presentation of bibliography on Palamas up to 1999 by R.E. Sinke-
vicz, Gregory Palamas, in: C. G. Conticello/V. Conticello (eds.), La théologie byzantine et sa tradi-
tion. II: XIIIe–XIXe siècles, Turnhout 2002, 131–188, at 173–182.
5 The picture of the Byzantine society in the Palaeologan era (1261–1453) is a very complex one.
This is due to the specific characteristics of this period, which could be summarized as follows:
(1) The political and territorial decline of the Byzantine state. (2) The hesychast controversy,
which divided the Byzantine society on a theological level and was even transferred to the field of
politics. (3) The reinforcement of the authority of the Byzantine Church over its flock and over
the state once Palamism finally prevailed in 1347. (4) The inclination of certain Byzantine
intellectuals towards ancient Greek culture. (5) The issue of union with the Church of Rome,
which divided the Byzantines into pro-unionists and anti-unionists. (6) The significant presence
of the West in the East through Dominican monastic establishments and the translations of
Latin theological works, which facilitated the contact between the Latin West and the Byzantine
East and, most importantly, the influence of the former on the latter. These factors divided the
Byzantines into pro-Latins and anti-Latins on a theological and cultural level. Broadly speaking,
the pro-Latins were also pro-unionists and anti-Palamites, while the anti-Latins and pro-Palamites
were usually, though not exclusively, anti-unionists. However, there were also those who were
both anti-Latins and anti-Palamites, such as Gregory Akindynos and Nikephoros Gregoras. For
an overview of this period from both the historical and intellectual point of view cf. D. M. Nicol,
The Byzantine Church and Hellenic Learning in the Fourteenth Century, in: id., Byzantium: Its
Ecclesiastical History and Relations with the Western World, London 1972, article XII, 23–57;
id., Church and Society in the Last Centuries of Byzantium, Cambridge 1979, 66–97; id., The
Last Centuries of Byzantium, 1261–1453, Cambridge 21993; D. J. Geanakoplos, Interaction of
the “Sibling” Byzantine and Western Cultures in the Middle Ages and Italian Renaissance
(330–1600), New Haven–London 1976, 95–117.

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Prochoros Kydones’ Thomism and the Byzantine Church 413

Palamas and the Hesychasts proclaimed that there is a real distinction between
the essence and energy (or energies) of God. The all-transcendent God, absolutely
inaccessible in His divine essence, becomes accessible and directly knowable to
men through His uncreated energies. Palamas insisted, however, that the distinc-
tion between divine essence and energy by no means implies a division within the
simple deity. The divine power or energy is not a created grace, as his adversaries
argued, or an intermediary between God and man, or indeed a part of God; it is
God Himself in his activity, self-manifestation and self-revelation.
Thus, direct knowledge of God is gained by way of deification (theosis); the
mystical union of man with the deity, realized through, and in, the divine energy,
which effects a transformation of the human senses both in corporeal and mental
terms. Therefore, the Hesychasts maintained that the divine light, which the
mystics of the East experienced throughout the centuries as a result of their prac-
tising unceasing prayer and leading a true Christian life, was the same that shone
forth on Mount Tabor. This was the divine uncreated glory of the Kingdom to
come, already experienced in the Church by the holy persons.
On the other hand, Palamas’ opponents argued that such a distinction between
the essence and energy of God abolishes the simplicity of the divine essence and
leads to ditheism and polytheism – of which they accused Palamas. For them
God is identified with his essence. Whatever is not divine essence does not
belong to the divine being, and therefore is not God. Thus, the divine energy or
power cannot and should not be distinguished from the divine essence. This is
why, when speaking of energies distinct from the essence, one should understand
these as created effects of the divine essence.
Furthermore, some anti-Palamites argued that all knowledge, including know-
ledge of God, derives from the human senses. Thus, since divinity is a trans-
cendental essence, the only possible way for man to reach knowledge of God is
indirectly. This is possible through his intellect by way of philosophical specula-
tion and scientific learning, and, in extraordinary cases, through created symbolic
manifestations of the deity perceptible to the senses, such as the light which
illuminated Christ at His Transfiguration on Mount Tabor.
The foregoing brief exposition of the theological problems lying at the root of
the Palamite controversy reveals why certain opponents of Palamism employed
the Thomistic thought in their polemic. In Thomas they discovered a theological
ally who cogently maintained similar views: that human knowledge of God is
always an intellectual one, which does not differ from philosophical speculation;
that divine being and divine essence are identical; and that divine grace is a creat-
ed gift of God to the human soul 6.

6 J. van Rossum, ¿H jeología toû ¿Agíou Grhgoríou toû Palamâ kaì o™ jwmismóv, in: G. I. Mant-
zaridis (ed.), ¿O √Agiov Grhgóriov o™ Palamâv stæn i™storía kaì tò parón (Praktikà diejnøn
ep¬ isthmonikøn sunedríwn ∫Ajänav [1998] kaì Lemesoû [1999]), Mount Athos 2000, 319–328,
esp. 322–328.

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414 Christos Triantafyllopoulos

II. Prochoros Kydones: his theological production and

his treatise ‘On the Essence and Ener g y of God’

Along with his elder brother Demetrios (ca. 1324–ca. 1397)7, the first trans-
lator of Thomas Aquinas, Prochoros Kydones (ca. 1333–1370/71) was instru-
mental in the process of introducing and propagating Thomas’ thought in Byzan-
tium through his own translations of Thomistic works and the use of Thomistic
theology in his own writings8. Prochoros, unlike his brother who followed a suc-
cessful career in the court under successive emperors, chose the monastic life on
Mount Athos from the early age of fifteen. In 1364 he was ordained a priest. As a
result of his opposition to Palamism he was defrocked and excommunicated by
the Byzantine Church four years later. He translated the following works of Tho-
mas Aquinas: six articles (from ‘Quaestiones’ 45, 49, 54 and 55) from the Third
Part of ‘Summa theologiae’ and seventy six articles from its Supplement, the
‘De aeternitate mundi’, the ‘Quaestio disputata de spiritualibus creaturis’, the
‘Quaestio disputata de potentia’, and the Prologue of Thomas’ Commentary on
Aristotle’s ‘Metaphysics’. The eclectic use of these works in his own writings
makes it evident that Prochoros translated specific parts of the Thomistic corpus,
which, together with his brother’s translations, could serve him in his anti-Pala-
mite struggle9. Far from being a systematic translator of Thomas, Prochoros’
selective translations reveal his theological preoccupations, which were closely

7 For Demetrios Kydones (PLP, no. 13876) cf. F. Tinnefeld, Demetrios Kydones. Briefe. Übersetzt
und erläutert, vol. I/1 (Bibliothek der griechischen Literatur 12), Stuttgart 1981, 4–74; F. Kianka,
Demetrius Cydones (ca. 1324–ca. 1397): Intellectual and Diplomatic Relations between Byzan-
tium and the West in the Fourteenth Century (unpublished PhD Thesis from Fordham University),
New York 1981.
8 For Prochoros Kydones’ (PLP, no. 13883) life and works (original and translations) cf. G. Mercati,
Notizie di Procoro e Demetrio Cidone, Manuele Caleca e Teodoro Meliteniota ed altri appunti
per la storia della teologia e della letteratura bizantina del secolo XIV (Studi e Testi 56), Vatican
City 1931, 1–40 (works), 40–61 (biography); H.-G. Beck, Kirche und theologische Literatur im
Byzantinischen Reich, München 1959, 737–739; Papadopoulos, ¿Ellhnikaì metafráseiv (nt. 1),
90–97; G. Podskalsky, Theologie und Philosophie in Byzanz (Byzantinisches Archiv 15), Munich
1977, 207–209; Tinnefeld, Briefe I/1 (nt. 7), 237–244 (Exkurs: Prochoros Kydones); A. Rigo,
Il monte Athos e la controversia palamitica dal Concilio del 1351 al Tomo sinodale del 1368 (Gia-
como Trikanas, Procoro Cidone e Filoteo Kokkinos). Testi: I. Il Tomo sinodale del 1368. II. La
professione di fede degli athoniti. III. Il testamento di Giacomo Trikanas, in: id. (ed.), Gregorio
Palamas e oltre. Studi e documenti sulle controversie teologiche del XIV secolo bizantino (Orien-
talia Venetiana 16), Florence 2004, 1–177, at 18–51; N. Russell, Prochoros Cydones and the Four-
teenth-Century Understanding of Orthodoxy, in: A. Louth/A. Casiday (eds.), Byzantine Ortho-
doxies, Aldershot–Hampshire 2006, 75–91. See also the entries on Prochoros Kydones in the
following Dictionaries: A. Martinos (ed.), Qrhskeutikæ kaì ∫Hjikæ ∫Egkuklopaídeia, vol. 7,
Athens 1965, 1079–1081 (A. Spourlakou); W. Kasper (ed.), Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche,
vol. 6, Freiburg 31997, 549 (F. Tinnefeld); G. Kapriev (ed.), Grundriss der Geschichte der Philo-
sophie. Begründet von F. Überweg. Die Philosophie des Mittelalters. Band 1/1: Jüdische und
byzantinische Philosophie. Bandteil: Byzantinische Philosophie, Basel (forthcoming) (article by
J. A. Demetracopoulos).
9 Rigo, Il monte Athos e la controversia palamitica (nt. 8), 22.

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Prochoros Kydones’ Thomism and the Byzantine Church 415

connected to the theological issues of the time – the issues which eventually led
to his condemnation by the Synod of 136810.
Prochoros’ principal work is the treatise ‘On the Essence and Energy of God’
(1367)11. This work, unique of its kind, distinguishes Prochoros from the other
anti-Palamite writers of the second half of the fourteenth century, in that it is the
only Byzantine treatise to be largely based on excerpts from Thomas’ works trans-
lated into Greek12. The treatise consists of six books. The first five attempt to
demonstrate the unreasonableness of the distinction between divine essence and
energy. The sixth, based on the conclusions of the previous five, attempts to
show that the Taboric light is created. In order to combat the Palamite distinction
outlined above, Prochoros embarks on a detailed discussion of the ontological
status of God’s energy. This eventually arrives at the conclusion that God’s
essence is perforce identical with His energy. God’s essence, construed to be
the only absolutely simple and uncreated being, cannot be distinguished from
His energy, unless this is meant “conceptually” (e p¬ inoíaı) – for the so-called
“energies” of God, if considered per se, are identical with His essence13. Con-
sequently, in the sixth book Prochoros argues that the Taboric light, identified by
the Hesychasts with the divine energy, does not exist in God’s essence, as some-
thing different from it, and therefore it cannot be uncreated. The Taboric light,
Prochoros maintains, is only an “analogical” term which expresses divine
causality, in the sense that God is the cause of knowledge in every rational and
spiritual nature, just as the physical light enables our natural eyes to see14.

10 For the Tome of April 1368, drawn up by Patriarch Philotheos Kokkinos, cf. Patrologia Graeca
151.693–716 (hereafter cited as PG), and for a recent critical edition, Rigo, Il monte Athos e la
controversia palamitica (nt. 8), Testi: I. Il Tomo sinodale del 1368, 99–134 (hereafter cited as
11 For the treatise cf. Mercati, Notizie (nt. 8), 1–18.
12 The title of the treatise is preserved in codex Marcianus gr. as “Pragmateía ei¬v tò perì ou¬síav
kaì e n¬ ergeíav zäthma”. The first book and part of the second book of Prochoros’ treatise ‘De
essentia et operatione Dei’ were first edited by J. Gretzer in 1616 on the basis of Codex
Monacensis gr. 214, erroneously under the name of Gregory Akindynos. These parts were later
reprinted in Patrologia Graeca, vol. 151, coll. 1191–1242. Book I, the remaining parts of Book II
and Books III–VI were edited (with many errors and without an apparatus fontium) on the basis
of Codex Marcianus gr. 155 comprising the whole treatise, again under Akindynos’ name, by
J. Filovski and M.D. Petruševski, in: Živa antika 23 (1973), Bk. I, 34–66, Bk. II, 318–365;
24 (1974), Bk. III, 295–331; 26 (1976), Bk. IV–V, 161–192, Bk. VI, 487–499. Book VI was also
edited by M. Candal on the basis of more codices, in: Orientalia Christiana Periodica 20 (1954),
258–297. A new critical edition of the complete text, based on all extant manuscripts, is currently
under preparation by the author as part of the international on-going research project ‘Thomas
de Aquino Byzantinus’: see
13 For a brief presentation of Prochoros’ argumentation in Books I–V of the ‘De essentia et opera-
tione Dei’ cf. Demetracopoulos, forthcoming article on Prochoros Kydones (nt. 8).
14 De essentia et operatione Dei, VI, ed. Candal (nt. 12), 264.27–266.5, 270.10–14, 284.25–286.10.
The knowledge of the uncreated God through created analogies of this world is a Thomistic
teaching set out by Prochoros in Book II, chapters 26–29 (esp. 29). Cf. below (nt. 16), the list of
Thomistic sections.

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416 Christos Triantafyllopoulos

His analysis proceeds by means of delicate arguments, well-reasoned and

structured in a dialectical manner. In fact, he imitates the dialectical structure of
the articles of Thomas’ ‘Summa theologiae’. Thus, throughout his treatise Pro-
choros organizes his argumentation according to the scholastic model with argu-
ments pro, arguments contra, establishing of a thesis argued in a responsio, and a
resolution of the arguments contra. More importantly, Prochoros in the first five
books of his treatise inserted a large number of lengthy unacknowledged sections
from ‘Summa contra Gentiles’, ‘Summa theologiae’, and ‘De potentia’15. A pro-
visional investigation into the sources of these five books has shown that, roughly
speaking, eighty to ninety per cent of their content consists of translated excerpts
from Thomas Aquinas16. Most of them are quoted verbatim, and only a few are
This means that Prochoros’ treatise is not a work simply influenced by Tho-
mas. In the ‘De essentia et operatione Dei’ it is Thomas himself who speaks
through carefully selected passages, cut out of their original context and re-
organized in such a way as to refute the Palamite distinction between divine
essence and energy. Even in the sixth book, where the content is Prochoros’ own,
Thomas’ presence is clearly apparent; the material is based on work found in the
five previous books and the structure strictly adheres to the established scholastic
Considering this, the question arises whether Prochoros’ compilation of Tho-
mistic passages is a simple case of plagiarism, demonstrating, as it has been claim-
ed, his “blind adherence” to Thomas and his limited capacity in theologizing17,
or a deliberate act of contrasting Thomas to Palamas. The latter seems more
plausible. Prochoros chose to submit to the ecclesiastical authorities a work full of
verbatim quotations from Thomas when apparently he could have produced an
original work on the divine essence and energy if he had wanted to. For he had

15 The extensive dependence of Prochoros on Thomas in regard to the ‘De essentia et operatione
Dei’ was demonstrated by Mercati, Notizie (nt. 8), 1–3 with nt. 1, 14–18, and 485–486 (where he
identified many of the chapter-titles of Books III–V with the corresponding works of Thomas);
and Papadopoulos, ¿Ellhnikaì metafráseiv (nt. 1), 92–96.
16 There follows a list of the sections so far identified. For the most part it has been based on the
list made by Demetracopoulos (forthcoming article on Prochoros Kydones [nt. 8]). (S.c.G. =
Summa contra Gentiles; S.T. = Summa theologiae; De pot. = De potentia) Book I: I, 3 ex S.c.G.
I, 16; I, 4 ex S.c.G. I, 22 and I, 15; I, 5 ex De pot. 7, 2; I, 6 ex S.c.G. I, 17; I, 7 ex S.T. Ia, q. 3,
a. 1. Book II: II, 3 ex S.c.G. I, 44; II, 4 ex S.c.G. I, 72; II, 5 ex S.T. Ia, q. 25, a. 1; II, 8 ex De
pot. 7, 4; II, 10 ex S.c.G. II, 8; II, 11 ex S.c.G. I, 45; II, 12 ex S.c.G. I, 46; II, 13 ex S.c.G. I, 47;
II, 14 ex S.c.G. I, 56; II, 16 ex S.c.G. I, 60; II, 17 ex S.c.G. I, 73; II, 18 ex S.c.G. I, 74; II, 20 ex
S.c.G. IV, 19; II, 21 ex S.c.G. I, 98; II, 23 ex S.c.G. I, 38; II, 24 ex S.c.G. I, 100; II, 25 ex S.c.G. I,
101; II, 26 ex De pot. 7, 6 (S.T. Ia, q. 13, a. 4 and S.c.G. I, 35); II, 27 ex De pot. 7, 7; II, 28 ex
S.c.G. I, 33; II, 29 ex S.c.G. I, 34. Book III: III, 2 ex De pot. 10, 1; III, 3 ex De pot. 10, 2; III, 4 ex
De pot. 2, 1; III, 5 ex S.T. Ia, q. 27, a.a. 1 et 2; III, 7 ex De pot. 10, 3; III, 8 ex De pot. 8, 1. Book
IV: IV, 3 ex De pot. 2, 6; IV, 4 ex De pot. 2, 5; IV, 7 ex De pot. 3, 3. Book V: V, 2 ex De pot. 3, 7;
V, 3 ex S.c.G. II, 7; V, 4 ex S.c.G. II, 8; V, 5 ex S.c.G. II, 9; V, 6 ex De pot. 7, 8; V, 7 ex De pot. 7, 9;
V, 8 ex De pot. 7, 10; V, 9 ex De pot. 7, 11.
17 Papadopoulos, ¿Ellhnikaì metafráseiv (nt. 1), 92.

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Prochoros Kydones’ Thomism and the Byzantine Church 417

already written a refutation of the Synodal Tome of 1351, which he sent to Patri-
arch Philotheos (1353–1354 and 1364–1376)18 along with the ‘De essentia et
operatione Dei’ in 136719. Further, we know that he is the author of a florilegium of
fourteen patristic arguments proving, according to him, the identity of the divine
essence and energy20. This piece of work, too, belongs to his writings produced
before 136821. In addition, the sixth book of his treatise under discussion and the
rest of his original works testify to Prochoros being a competent theologian,
albeit not from an Orthodox point of view22. Besides, his erudition, both in theo-
logical and secular learning, and his superior intellect were attested not only by his
brother Demetrios23, but also by his opponent Patriarch Philotheos – though in
the latter case within a very negative context 24.

18 For Philotheos (PLP, no. 11917) cf. V. Laurent, Philothée Kokkinos, in: A. Vacant et al. (eds.),
Dictionnaire de Théologie catholique, vol. XII/2, Paris 1935, 1498–1509; F. Tinnefeld, Deme-
trios Kydones. Briefe. Übersetzt und erläutert, vol. I/2 (Bibliothek der griechischen Literatur 16),
Stuttgart 1982, 398–404 (Exkurs: Patriarch Philotheos Kokkinos).
19 The Tome of 1368 speaks of two treatises sent to Philotheos by Prochoros: RIG, ll. 610–611
(121) (Epistula ad Iacobum Tricanam); PG 708B. One is the refutation of the Tome of 1351, the
‘Adversus tomum synodicum anni 1351’, which is mentioned as “ ºElegcov ei¬v tàv paracräseiv
tøn r™htøn tøn keiménwn e n¬ tøı katà toû ∫Efésou kaì Grhgorâ tómwı” (Refutation of the
misinterpretation of texts quoted in the tome against [Matthew of] Ephesus and Gregoras). For
the title and the passages quoted in the Tome of 1368 cf. RIG, ll. 170–172 (104), 173–191 (105),
204–214 (106), 216–218 (106), 220–227 (106–107), 231–236 (107), 256–267 (108), 292–304
(109–110), 320–349 (110–111); PG 697C–698A, 698B–699A, 699CD, 700CD, 701BCD. A long
passage from Prochoros’ version of this work has been edited by I. D. Polemis, Theophanes of
Nicaea: His Life and Works (Wiener Byzantinistische Studien 20), Vienna 1996, 79–80. See also
Mercati, Notizie (nt. 8), 23–25. The other treatise is the ‘De essentia et operatione Dei’. The
Tome of 1368, however, does not give its title. For the passages quoted in the Tome of 1368 see
below, notes 60–61.
20 This florilegium is quoted in John Kantakouzenos’ refutation of it: E. Voordeckers/F. Tinnefeld
(eds.), Iohannis Cantacuzeni Refutationes duae Prochori Cydonii et Disputatio cum Paulo Patri-
archa Latino epistulis septem tradita (Corpus Christianorum. Series Graeca 16), Turnhout 1987,
II, 109–112.
21 For the dating cf. ibid., xvii.
22 For the sixth book of the ‘De essentia et operatione Dei’ cf. Candal (nt. 12), 258–297. We know
of an additional four original theological works by Prochoros: (1) the opusculum ‘Perì tñv e n¬ tøı
Qeøı patróthtov kaì ui™óthtov’ (On paternity and filiation in God) (Mercati, Notizie [nt. 8],
20–21); (2) a response to the Palamites of Mount Athos on the divine essence and energies, the
Taboric light, etc. (Mercati, Notizie, 21–22; an excerpt has been edited by Polemis, Theophanes
[nt. 19], 84); (3) an opusculum ‘Perì katafatikoû kaì a¬pofatikoû trópou e¬pì tñv jeologíav
kaì perì tñv e n¬ tøı o¢rei toû Kuríou jeofaneíav’ (On the cataphatic and apophatic modes of
theology and the Lord’s theophany on the mountain) (Mercati, Notizie, 22–23); (4) an untitled
opusculum on the significance of syllogisms in theological knowledge (F. Tinnefeld [ed.], Ein
Text des Prochoros Kydones in Vat. gr. 609 über die Bedeutung der Syllogismen für die theo-
logische Erkenntnis, in: A. Schoors/P. van Deun [eds.], Philohistôr. Miscellanea in honorem
Caroli Laga septuagenarii [Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 60], Leuven 1994, 520–523).
23 Cf. ‘Letter to a friend mourning the loss of Prochoros’, ed. Mercati, Notizie (nt. 8), 347.40–42
(cf. Tinnefeld, Briefe I/2 [nt. 18], 448); and ‘Second Invective against Patriarch Philotheos’, ed.
Mercati, op. cit., 316.88–91.
24 Tome of 1368, RIG, ll. 35–37, 46–48 (100); PG 694AB.

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418 Christos Triantafyllopoulos

III. T he challeng e of Prochoros Kydones’ treatise

‘On the essence and Ener g y of God’

By submitting to Philotheos a “Thomistic” treatise against Palamas’ doctrines,

Prochoros most probably intended to contrast one authority with another, for, by
the time he was composing this work, Thomas was not only well-known to the
pro-Palamite Byzantine theologians through Demetrios’ translations, but also
enjoyed some degree of appreciation. With the exception of Philotheos Kok-
kinos, this can be illustrated in the case of the other three most prominent theo-
logians of the Orthodox party after the death of Palamas: Neilos Kabasilas
(† 1363)25, John VI Kantakouzenos (ca. 1295–1383) and Theophanes of Nicaea
(† 1380/81)26. What is important here for our investigation is that Kantakouze-
nos and Theophanes, as we shall see below, were cognizant of and responded to
Prochoros’ writings examined by the Synod of 1368, and at the same time were
well acquainted with Thomas’ translated works. In fact, Theophanes employed
certain Thomistic ideas in his own writings.
Neilos Kabasilas, once a teacher of Demetrios Kydones, is reported to have
initially been an ardent admirer of Thomas through his student’s translations27.
Be that as it may, a few years before his death Neilos composed the first official
refutation of Thomas Aquinas’ theses regarding the filioque issue. The third part
of his lengthy treatise ‘De processione Spiritus sancti’ (between 1358 and 1361) is
an attack against the Latin use of syllogisms in support of the filioque. In this con-
text, he also refuted certain arguments of Thomas regarding the procession of
the Holy Spirit, along with other Latin syllogistic arguments28. Interestingly, in the
introductory section of Part III, where Neilos deploys scriptural and patristic
testimonies proclaiming the inappropriateness of the use of syllogisms and intel-
lectual demonstrations in the field of God’s revelation, Thomistic arguments indi-
cating the limits of the human intellect in the divine things are also utilised29. His
detailed and systematic discussion of his subject made Neilos’ treatise an essential

25 For Neilos Kabasilas (PLP, no. 10102), his works and especially his main treatise ‘On the Pro-
cession of the Holy Spirit’ cf. P.-T. Kislas (ed.), Nil Cabasilas: Sur le Saint-Esprit, Paris 2001.
26 For biographical details on Kantakouzenos (PLP, no. 10973) and Theophanes (PLP, no. 7615) cf.
D. M. Nicol, The reluctant emperor: a biography of John Cantacuzene, Byzantine Emperor and
monk, ca. 1295–1383, Cambridge 1996, and Polemis, Theophanes (nt. 19), 25–30.
27 Demetrios Kydones, Apologia I, ed. Mercati, Notizie (nt. 8), 391.28–31. On this statement of
Demetrios cf. Papadopoulos, ¿Ellhnikaì metafráseiv (nt. 1), 124 with nt. 194; and Kislas, Nil
Cabasilas (nt. 25), 87.
28 Part III of this treatise has been edited by M. Candal, Nilus Cabasilas et theologia S. Thomae de
processione Spiritus Sancti (Studi e Testi 116), Vatican City 1945, 188–385. The Greek title reads:
“ √Oti ou¬k e s¢ ti Latínoiv, sullogismoîv crwménoiv, a¬podeîxai tò Pneûma tò √Agion e k¬ toû
Ui™oû e k¬ poreuómenon.” For Neilos as an anti-Thomist see in general Papadopoulos, ¿Ellhnikaì
metafráseiv (nt. 1), 121–128.
29 This kind of Thomistic arguments can be found in: Candal, Nilus Cabasilas (nt. 28), §§ 12, 13,
14, 15, 18, 19, 22, 29, 33, 41, 47, 64, 65, 66, 69 (194–242).

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Prochoros Kydones’ Thomism and the Byzantine Church 419

handbook for subsequent anti-Latin theologians of this period30. It has been sug-
gested that the composition of this treatise was a reaction to the propagation of
the Latin doctrines by the Dominicans of Constantinople31.
The former Emperor John VI Kantakouzenos, despite being a pro-hesychast,
encouraged the translation of ‘Summa contra Gentiles’ by Demetrios Kydones in
1354, “saying that it would be of great advantage to the cause of the Greeks in
the future”32. As soon as the translation was completed, the Emperor ordered a
copy, thereby becoming Thomas’ first propagator in Byzantium33. This same year
Kantakouzenos abdicated from the throne and became a monk under the name
Joasaph. Nonetheless, he continued his active involvement in ecclesiastical affairs
and theological discussions defending Palamism. He was the first to refute Pro-
choros’ positions on the Taboric light, set out in the sixth book of the ‘De es-
sentia et operatione Dei’, before the latter’s condemnation in 136834. Moreover,
soon after Prochoros’ condemnation, he refuted the latter’s florilegium of patristic
passages put to anti-Palamite use (see above, nt. 20)35.
It is interesting that in his refutation of Prochoros’ views on the Taboric
light, Kantakouzenos utilized a passage from Thomas’ ‘Summa contra Gentiles’
I, 9,1–6, where it is argued that the human intellect is not adequate to prove
divine truth36. In other words, he tried to put Prochoros in juxtaposition with the
theological authority the latter respected the most, Thomas himself. In fact, Kan-
takouzenos was fully aware of Prochoros’ dependence on Thomas. He makes this
evident by the sarcastic tone he adopts when addressing Prochoros and intro-
ducing the Thomistic passage just described: “If these are not enough […] we
shall provide you also with a testimony by Thomas, the teacher of the Latins, who
breathes syllogisms rather than air; and you would be unjust to go against it, for
you rejoice over his writings, which you hold them to be like indestructible

30 Polemis, Theophanes (nt. 19), 12, 90.

31 Kislas, Nil Cabasilas (nt. 25), 85–86.
32 Demetrios Kydones, Apologia I, ed. Mercati, Notizie (nt. 8), 363.22–23; translation in F. Kianka,
The Apology of Demetrius Cydones: A Fourteenth-Century Autobiographical Source, Byzantine
Studies 7/1 (1980), 57–71, at 63–64.
33 Demetrios Kydones, Apologia I, ed. Mercati, Notizie (nt. 8), 363.20–26.
34 Refutatio I Prochori Cydonii, edd. Voordeckers/Tinnefeld, Iohannis Cantacuzeni Refutationes
(nt. 20), 3–105. For the dating of this Refutatio see pp. xv–xvi. In his libellus (pittakion) address-
ed to Jacob Trikanas, the Abbot of the Great Lavra on Mount Athos, Prochoros implies that he
met Kantakouzenos in Constantinople in the winter of 1367 and that the ex-Emperor was aware
of his writings: Tome of 1368, RIG, ll. 620–622 (121); PG 708BC.
35 Ibid., II, 109–172.
36 Ibid., I, 16 (22–24).
37 Ibid., I, 16.1–9 (22–24): “Ei¬ d’ ou¬k au¬tárkh taûta, […] kaì toû parà Latínoiv didaskálou
Qwmâ, sullogismòn mâllon h£ tòn a¬éra pnéontov, tæn marturían soi parexómeja, pròv hÇn
ou¬k a£n ei h¢ v díkaiov a¬ntibaínein, toîv au¬toû suggrámmasin e p
¬ icaírwn kaì taûta kajáper
plákav e c¢ wn a¬katalútouv.” In fact, here Kantakouzenos draws on Neilos Kabasilas. The
expression: “sullogismòn mâllon h£ tòn a¬éra pnéontov”, as well as most of Thomas’ excerpt

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420 Christos Triantafyllopoulos

Metropolitan Theophanes of Nicaea, who belonged to the circle of Kantakou-

zenos, was a friend and ex-student of Philotheos Kokkinos. He is considered to
be the “most important spokesman of the Palamite party” during Philotheos’
second patriarchate38. Demetrios Kydones implies that Theophanes was appoint-
ed president of a committee entrusted by Philotheos with the task of investigat-
ing the case of Prochoros after the latter’s visit to Constantinople in 1367. It is in
this period, i.e. before the Synod of 1368, that Theophanes acquired direct know-
ledge of Prochoros’ views and must have detected his predilection towards
Thomistic theology39. A year or so after the Synod of 1368, Theophanes, at the
request of Kantakouzenos, wrote a ‘Letter to Archbishop Paul’, the Latin titular
Patriarch of Constantinople (1366–1370), where he defended the Palamite doc-
trine. In this letter, without naming their author, Theophanes rebutted views of
Prochoros quoted in the Tome of 136840. Further, sometime between 1369 and
1376, Theophanes wrote ‘Five Discourses on the Light of Tabor’, where he
countered the main difficulties raised by Prochoros (among other anti-Palamite
positions) in his writings submitted to Philotheos in 136741.
Theophanes’ knowledge of Thomas Aquinas, through Demetrios Kydones’
translations, is attested by the eclectic use of Thomistic elements observed in two
of his writings: the afore-mentioned treatise ‘On the Light of Tabor’ and the
treatise ‘On the Eternity of Beings’ – the latter being dated soon before or soon
after 136842. What is interesting about Theophanes is that in these writings he

that follows the above introduction can also be found in Neilos’ treatise ‘On the Procession of
the Holy Spirit’; cf. Candal, Nilus Cabasilas (nt. 28), 238.24–25, 240.1–9, 242.15–19.
38 Polemis, Theophanes (nt. 19), 15.
39 Cf. Demetrios Kydones, Second Invective against Philotheos, ed. Mercati, Notizie (nt. 8),
322.2–3. Demetrios proceeds saying that Theophanes was prudent enough not to get involved in
this strange affair (ibid., 322.21–24). This could be an allusion to the fact that Theophanes did
not participate in the Synod of 1368, but the reason for this was that he was away on a mission to
Serbia; cf. Polemis, Theophanes (nt. 19), 26–27, 75.
40 For Theophanes’ unedited ‘Letter to Archbishop Paul’ (1369/70) cf. Polemis, Theophanes
(nt. 19), 31–32, 41, 62–70, esp. 64–66. For Prochoros’ ideas quoted in the Tome of 1368 and
refuted by Theophanes cf. RIG, ll. 286–290 (109), 298–299 (110), 350–351 (112); PG 700BC,
700C, 701D.
41 The treatise has been edited by G.Th. Zacharopoulos, Qeofámhv Nikaíav (; – ±1380/1): o™ bíov
kaì tò suggrafikó tou e r ¢ go (Buzantinà keímena kaì melétai 35), Thessaloniki 2003; and by
Ch. Sotiropoulos, Qeofánouv G´ e p ¬ iskópou Nikaíav Perì Qabwríou Fwtòv lógoi pénte tò
prøton nûn e k¬ didómenoi. Ei¬s ¬ agwgæ-keímenon, Athens 1990. On the treatise cf. Polemis, Theo-
phanes (nt. 19), 32–35, 41–46, 71–112; and Russell, Prochoros Cydones (nt. 8), 88–90.
42 The treatise has been edited by I.D. Polemis, Qeofánouv Nikaíav ∫Apódeixiv oçti e d¬ únato e x¬
a¬ïdíou gegenñsjai tà o¢nta kaì a¬natropæ taúthv: ei¬sagwgä, keímeno, metáfrash, eu™retäria
(Corpus philosophorum Medii Aevi. Philosophi Byzantini 10), Athens 2000. On the treatise
cf. Polemis, Theophanes (nt. 19), 35–36, 46–48, 113–125. J. A. Demetracopoulos suggests that
there is a Thomistic influence also in Theophanes’ afore-mentioned ‘Letter to Archbishop Paul’,
illustrated in the use of the term pragmatikøv: Palamas Transformed. Palamite Interpretations
of the Distinction between God’s ‘Essence’ and ‘Energies’ in Late Byzantium, in: M. Hinter-
berger/Ch. Schabel (eds.), Greeks, Latins, and Intellectual History 1204–1500 (Recherches de
Théologie et Philosophie Médiévales – Bibliotheca, 11), Leuven 2011, 310–311.

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Prochoros Kydones’ Thomism and the Byzantine Church 421

employs certain Thomistic views which were included in Prochoros’ ‘De essentia
et operatione Dei’ as well. Moreover, on certain less fundamental issues the pre-
sence of Thomistic ideas in Theophanes’ works seems to have resulted in a
departure from the corresponding ideas of Palamas43.
Specifically, in his treatise ‘On the Light of Tabor’, intended in part, as men-
tioned above, to refute Prochoros’ positions, Theophanes seems to adopt a num-
ber of Thomistic views. He accepts the Thomistic “tripartite division of Know-
ledge”, namely that the knowledge of God has three stages: the stage of Natural
Theology where divine knowledge is achieved through sensory observation of
the creatures; the stage of the faith in which man comes to believe the revealed
transcendental truths helped by the divine grace; and finally, the stage of divine
contemplation in which man will be able to see God “as He is” (1 John 3, 2)44.
Further, some of his views – admittedly of secondary importance – on the vision
of the light of God’s glory seem to be influenced by Thomas and deviate from
Palamas’ teachings45.
However, the most important point of agreement between Theophanes and
Thomas is the former’s view that the essence of God is identical to His intellect.
This is particularly interesting, as this Thomistic view was condemned by the
Synod of 1368 (see below, nt. 60)46. Furthermore, it could be that Theophanes’
position was based on the same Thomistic passages that Prochoros used in Book
II, 11–13 of ‘De essentia et operatione Dei’, deriving from ‘Summa contra Gen-
tiles’ I, 45–47 (see above, nt. 16). This is suggested by parallel passages found in
Theophanes and Prochoros47. Finally, a fourth point of concurrence between

43 This attitude of eclectic use of Thomistic views by Palamite theologians of the late Palaeologan
era has been labelled as “Thomistic Palamism”; see in general Demetracopoulos, Palamas Trans-
formed (nt. 42). Ibid., 292–305, the author argues that there is a Thomistic influence also in
Kantakouzenos’ elaboration of the Palamite distinction between God’s essence and energy set
out in a letter addressed to the afore-mentioned Latin Archbishop of Constantinople, Paul. It is
the ‘Third Epistle’ among five which the ex-Emperor addressed to Paul between September 1368
and August 1369 (edd. Voordeckers/Tinnefeld, Iohannis Cantacuzeni Refutationes [nt. 20],
191–201). In this letter, according to Demetracopoulos, Kantakouzenos “interpreted Palamas’
doctrine in the spirit of Thomas’ analogia entis and turned it into something substantially different
from what Palamas had stated on the issue”. However, in my opinion, this intriguing assertion
should be established on the basis of stronger evidence regarding both Palamas’ views on the
issue under discussion and the notion of the Thomistic analogia entis. Nevertheless, we know of at
least one more case of deviation of Kantakouzenos from Palamas’ views, such as in his treatise
against John Kyparissiotes; cf. Polemis, Theophanes (nt. 19), 70.
44 Polemis, Theophanes (nt. 19), 92–94.
45 Ibid., 95–104.
46 Ibid., 104–105.
47 Theophanes says: “tau¬tòn e p ¬ ì Qeoû nohtéon tó te kat’ ou¬sían u™párcein kaì tò ginåskein
e™autòn kat’ ou¬sían […]” and “[…] tau¬tòn e s ¢ tai taúthı tò noeîn kaì tò ei®nai” (cited in Pole-
mis, Theophanes [nt. 19], 104). For the latter sentence Polemis gives an almost exact parallel
from ‘Summa contra Gentiles’ III, 53: “[…] tò tøı Qeøı tau¬tòn ei®nai tó te ei®nai kaì tò noeîn
[…].” (Polemis, op. cit., 105). In Book II of Prochoros’ treatise there are passages of similar
meaning taken from Thomas Aquinas: e.g. (ch. 13): “Au¬tæ dè h™ jeía ou¬sía, hçtiv e s¬ tìn ei®dov

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422 Christos Triantafyllopoulos

Theophanes and Thomas refers to the idea that ‘theosis’ is the ultimate point of
man’s desire to experience God, for at this point man’s desire is fully satisfied and
ceases. This is in direct opposition to the patristic and Palamite view, which holds
that the progress of the deified man towards the experience of divine glory and
divine goods is everlasting, since the distance between the creature and the Crea-
tor is infinite48.
Thomas’ influence on Theophanes’ treatise ‘On the Light of Tabor’ is also
illustrated in the adoption of scholastic terminology. This tendency is more evi-
dent in Theophanes’ other treatise exhibiting Thomistic influences, the treatise
‘On the Eternity of Beings’49. In addition, this latter work is strikingly structured
following the scholastic model of the articles of ‘Summa theologiae’ 50.
Furthermore, in his treatise ‘On the Eternity of Beings’ Theophanes maintains
that God created the world through a passive energy, which is itself a creature.
Obviously, this runs counter to Palamas’ view that all energies of God, including
his creative power, are uncreated51. The use by Theophanes of the term “passive
power” or “energy” and his distinction between “active” and “passive motion” as
well as his understanding of these notions illustrate his dependence on Thomas52.
Again, it is notable that some of the Thomistic passages on which Theophanes’
views seem to have been based occur in Prochoros’ treatise ‘De essentia et opera-
tione Dei’, Book I, 3 and Book V, 5, and derive from ‘Summa contra Gentiles’
I, 16 and II, 9 (see above, nt. 16)53.
The fact that Theophanes’ two treatises discussed above may have been writ-
ten in the years immediately following the Synod of 1368 should not be taken as
an indication that Theophanes was not acquainted with Thomas’ works before

nohtón, w© ı o™ jeîov noûv noeî, e s ¬ tìn au¬tøı tøı Qeøı pánthı tau¬tón, kaì tøı nøı au¬toû o™moíwv
pánthı tau¬tón. ¿Eautòn a¢ra o™ Qeòv teleíwv ginåskei” and “ ¿H jeía dè ou¬sía e s¬ tìn e n¬ tøı Qeøı
katà tòn toû nohtoû trópon· kaì mâllon oçson tò fusikòn ei®nai toû Qeoû kaì tò ei®nai tò
noerón e s ¬ tin eÇn kaì tò au¬tó, e f
¬ óson tò ei®nai au¬toû e s ¬ ti tò noeîn au¬toû. ¿O Qeòv a¢ra noeî
tæn ou¬sían au¬toû teleíwv· e™autòn a¢ra, e f ¬ óson au¬tóv e s¬ tin h™ ou¬sía au¬toû”; (ch. 11): “Tò
noeîn a¢ra toû Qeoû e s ¬ ti tò ei®nai kaì h™ ou¬sía au¬toû” and “Tò noeîn a¢ra toû Qeoû e s ¬ ti tò
ei®nai au¬toû, e f
¬ óson tò e k¬ toû noeîn au¬toû proïón e s¬ ti tñv au¬tñv ou¬síav au¬tøı” (edd. Filovski/
Petruševski [nt. 12], 341 [§§ a´ and d´], 339 [§ a´], 340 [§ e´] respectively).
48 Polemis, Theophanes (nt. 19), 107–108.
49 Ibid., 108.
50 Ibid., 122–123.
51 Ibid., 118–120.
52 Ibid., 123–124.
53 Specifically, two of the Thomistic passages quoted by Polemis in order to demonstrate Theo-
phanes’ dependence on Thomas have been included in Prochoros’ ‘De essentia et operatine Dei’,
I, 3 (§ st’) (PG 151, 1197D–1200A), and V, 5 (edd. Filovski/Petruševski [nt. 12], 178). Demetra-
copoulos, Palamas Transformed (nt. 42), 313–318, argues that on this issue Theophanes may
have also taken into account Thomistic passages from ‘De potentia’ translated by Prochoros.
Again, all the sections suggested by Demetracopoulos, namely ‘De potentia’ III, 3 and VII, 8–11,
have been included in Prochoros’ ‘De essentia et operatione Dei’, IV, 7 and V, 6–9 respectively
(see above, nt. 16).

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Prochoros Kydones’ Thomism and the Byzantine Church 423

then. Indeed, in my opinion, the mere fact that Theophanes belonged to the circle
of Kantakouzenos is sufficient to rule out such an assumption.
In light of the above, it is clear that both Kantakouzenos and Theophanes
were qualified to discern the presence of Thomas Aquinas in Prochoros’ treatise
‘On the Essence and Energy of God’. Certainly, they denounced this fact to their
like-minded friend Patriarch Philotheos, although, given the diffusion of Thomas’
translations, one cannot exclude the possibility that Philotheos could recognise
the Thomistic passages on his own54. After all, Prochoros was a translator of
Thomistic works himself and brother of Demetrios, the leader of the latinophile
circle and the first and pre-eminent translator of Thomas.
Further, it is highly unlikely that Prochoros was unaware of the fact that the
Palamite party leaders possessed considerable knowledge of Thomas. Therefore,
it is equally unlikely that he hoped that his Thomistic passages would pass the
ecclesiastical establishment undetected. Thus, although he did not mention the
source of his long quotations, he could not have intended to conceal it either. In
actual fact, he may have deliberately trusted that his source would be detected, so
as to force the Byzantine Church into taking a stance towards Thomas’ forceful
argumentation which seemed to contradict the Palamite distinction between the
divine essence and energy. This probably explains Prochoros’ attitude both before
and during the trial as reported by Philotheos in the Synodal Tome of 136855. In
front of the Synod, Prochoros, putting all his trust in Thomas, repeatedly
demanded that his writings be read publicly and his arguments be resolved: “I
stand by these writings of mine. If anyone wishes to dispute them let him come
forward and propose solutions to the difficulties they raise”56. And when at Philo-
theos’ instigation some passages from his writings were read before the Synod,
Prochoros “defended them and asked for a resolution of the difficulties they

54 Demetrios Kydones in his ‘Apologia I’ (ed. Mercati, Notizie [nt. 8], 363.26–29) says that, follow-
ing the emperor’s (Kantakouzenos’) example, other notable people too ordered copies of the
‘Summa contra Gentiles’ translation, which eventually resulted in Thomas’ book being owned by
55 After their first meeting, Patriarch Philotheos read the works which Prochoros gave him.
Shocked by their content, during a second meeting before the trial, the Patriarch asked Prochoros
to read the Acts of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, Maximus the Confessor’s ‘Dialogue with
Pyrrhus’ and John Damascene’s ‘On the Orthodox Faith’, hoping that in these works he would
find all the necessary information in order to abjure his heretical views: Tome of 1368, RIG,
ll. 422–431 (114–115); PG 703CD. Prochoros, however, complained about Philotheos that “he
does not resolve my writings and the difficulties raised therein, instead he tells me to read the
books of the Saints” (¿O dè tà mèn e m¬ à suggrámmata kaì tàv e n¬ au¬toîv a¬poríav ou¬ lúei,
a¬nagnønai dé moi légei tà tøn a™gíwn biblía): RIG, ll. 437–438 (115); PG 704A.
56 Tome of 1368, RIG, ll. 489–490 (116); PG 705B: “Taûta stérgw tà par’ e m¬ oû suggrafénta,
oi©sper o™ boulómenov a¬ntilégein parítw kaì tàv e¬n au¬toîv a¬poríav luétw”; translation in Rus-
sell, Prochoros Cydones (nt. 8), 82.

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424 Christos Triantafyllopoulos

raise”57. In any case, contrary to what has been suggested58, it is fair to assume
that Philotheos was fully aware of Prochoros’ sources when he composed the
Tome of 1368.

IV. T he reaction of the Byzantine Chur ch:

the Synodal Tome of 1368

Paradoxically, the Synodal Tome of 1368 does not, however, mention Thomas
by name at all; neither does it discuss his teachings put forth in the first five books
of the ‘De essentia et operatione Dei’. The Tome focused almost exclusively on
the ‘Adversus tomum synodicum anni 1351’ and the sixth book of the ‘De essen-
tia et operatione Dei’ where Prochoros tries to prove that the Taboric light is
created. This book, too, was in effect an attack on the hesychast theology sanc-
tioned by the Tome of 135159. And while Prochoros’ views (both those found in
his writings and those expounded before the Synod) regarding the hesychast
doctrines are quoted and commented upon in some detail, only five chapter titles
from Thomas’ works are quoted, and even then en passant. These chapter titles,
which are from Book II of the treatise, derive from ‘Summa contra Gentiles’ and
are related to God’s essence being identical with His energy60. In addition, there is
a very short reference to Book II, chapter 9, which is a refutation of Palamite
arguments by Prochoros, structured after the scholastic model and based in
general on Thomistic ideas61. This means that five books of a long six-book trea-

57 RIG, ll. 493–494 (117); PG 705B : “sfodrøv ou©tov perì taûta diékeito, lúsin zhtøn tøn e¬n
au¬toîv a¬poriøn.” cf. also RIG, ll. 510–511 (117); PG 705D. In his ‘Letter to a friend mourning
the loss of Prochoros’, Demetrios Kydones reproaches Philotheos and the Synod for having
condemned his brother on the grounds of false and ill-willed accusations. In effect, Demetrios
asserts, they were not able to contradict Prochoros’ forceful arguments refuting their beliefs,
which were in “the book” (i.e. the ‘De essentia et operatione Dei’). Thus, despite their intense
efforts, they could not refute “the book”, although they had it in their hands for ten months:
‘Letter to a fried mourning the loss of Prochoros’, ed. Mercati, Notizie (nt. 8), 348.74–77 and
349.5–11 (cf. Tinnefeld, Briefe, I/2 [nt. 18], 449 and 450–451).
58 Russell, Prochoros Cydones (nt. 8), 79, nt. 24, believes that Philotheos “is unlikely to have detect-
ed the unacknowledged quotations from Thomas Aquinas”. S.G. Papadopoulos, ¿Ellhnikaì
metafráseiv (nt. 1), 136, simply points out the fact that the Tome does not answer the question
whether its writer Patriarch Philotheos knew “the source of Prochoros Kydones’ new anti-
hesychast argumentation”.
59 See the apparatus criticus of the text of the Tome (in Rigo’s edition, passim) where it becomes
evident that its focus was on these two works of Prochoros.
60 RIG, ll. 237–241 (107); PG 699B: “ √Oti h™ noerà toû Qeoû e n¬ érgeiá e s¬ tin h™ ou¬sía au¬toû”
(II, 11: S.c.G. I, 45); “ √Oti h™ noerà toû Qeoû dúnamív es¬ tin h™ ou¬sía au¬toû” (II, 10: S.c.G. II, 8);
“ √Oti h™ sofía toû Qeoû e s¬ tin h™ ou¬sía au¬toû” (II, 15: not yet identified, most probably it is a
compilation from S.c.G. IV, 1–26); “ √Oti h™ a¬läjeia toû Qeoû es¬ tin h™ ou¬sía au¬toû”
(II, 16: S.c.G. I, 60); “ √Oti h™ toû Qeoû jélhsív es¬ tin h™ ou¬sía au¬toû” (II, 17: S.c.G. I, 73).
61 Ibid., ll. 350–351 (112); PG 701D: “kaì h™ jearcía, kaì h™ a¬gajarcía, kaì tà a¢lla tà ouçtw legó-
mena ktistá e s¬ ti” (II, 9). However, the above statement could also have been taken from Pro-

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Prochoros Kydones’ Thomism and the Byzantine Church 425

tise were represented in the Tome by only six sentences. The Tome implicitly
attributes these demonstrably Thomistic titles, which in fact are Thomistic doc-
trines, to Prochoros. Without any reference to their provenance, the Tome only
accuses him of having tried to establish these sentences relying not on Holy
Scripture and the Holy Fathers but through his own thoughts and proofs, based
on Aristotelian syllogisms62. As for this last point, namely the use of Aristotelian
syllogisms, the Tome does not say much. In addition to the mild denunciation
mentioned above, at the end of the Tome there is a more explicit rejection of the
use of Aristotelian syllogisms in theology, prompted, however, by the similar atti-
tude of the Fathers of the Sixth Ecumenical Council towards the same issue63.
Again, this rejection is not explicitly associated with the philosophical theology of
Thomas in any way. Finally, in this context, it is worth noting, once again (see
above, nt. 19), that the Tome does not mention the ‘De essentia et operatione
Dei’ by its title – something which is done for the ‘Adversus tomum synodicum
anni 1351’.
The above evidence leads us to infer that Philotheos wanted to leave the Tho-
mistic passages out of the discussion and out of the realm of the Tome. He did
not wish to be drawn into a theological discussion and analysis of Thomistic
theology. This certainly accounts for the Kydones brothers’ indignation about the
fact that Prochoros’ arguments remained unanswered (see above, notes 56–57).
The Patriarch reproaches Prochoros’ rational approach to the patristic sayings and
his exegesis of them based on Aristotelian syllogisms, which made him deviate
from the correct interpretation64; he even hints at the scholastic method used by
Prochoros65, but says nothing about Thomas. Throughout, it is clear that the
primary concern of the Patriarch and the Synod was to reaffirm the doctrinal
status of the Tome of 1351 (which marked the final victory of Palamism) on the
occasion of Prochoros’ challenge to it66. The canonization of Gregory Palamas
by the Synod of 1368 is clearly indicative of its preoccupation67.
Philotheos’ account of the events and discussions which took place before and
during the proceedings of the Synod leaves no doubt about this. According to his
account, the Athonite monks ceased communion with the monks of the Great
Lavra Monastery because Prochoros was one of them. In doing so, they complied

choros’ opusculum ‘On the cataphatic and apophatic modes of theology and the Lord’s theo-
phany on the mountain’ (cf. above, nt. 22); cf. RIG, apparatus criticus on ll. 350–351 (112); and
Polemis, Theophanes (nt. 19), 64–66.
62 RIG, ll. 241–243 (107); PG 699B.
63 Ibid., ll. 818–824 (129); PG 713B. It is a traditional fideistic thesis going back to the Cappadocian
Fathers who denounced the use of philosophical reasoning in theology as inappropriate.
64 Ibid., ll. 197–201 (105–106), ll. 241–243 (107), l. 253 (108); PG 698B, 699BC.
65 Ibid., ll. 249–252 (108); PG 699C.
66 For the Tome of 1351, which was issued against “those who hold the same beliefs as Barlaam
and Akindynos”, cf. PG 151.717–764. Philotheos Kokkinos was one of the co-authors of this
67 Cf. RIG, ll. 724–785 (125–127); PG 710D–712B.

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426 Christos Triantafyllopoulos

with the Tome of 1351 which prohibits communion with those in communion
with the opponents of the Tome68. Later on, the Lavriotes demanded that Pro-
choros sign the Tome. He did, but soon regretted his action and retracted it69.
During his first meeting with Patriarch Philotheos, Prochoros was strongly
encouraged to sign the Tome, for in it he would find all the necessary clarifica-
tions for his doubts regarding the hesychast doctrines70. Likewise, during his
second meeting with Philotheos, he was accused of writing counter to the teach-
ings of the Tome71, he was still asked to sign72 and prescribed to read three
patristic works which, in fact, are among the sources of the Tome of 135173. Not
long after, because of a libellus Prochoros sent to the Abbot of the Great Lavra,
an assembly of Athonites, chaired by the Bishop of Ierissos and the Holy Moun-
tain, anathematized Prochoros for not accepting the Tome and for holding the
same beliefs as Barlaam and Akindynos74.
The main accusation against Prochoros, which runs throughout the Tome of
1368, is that he does not accept the Tome of 1351 and that his beliefs are those
of Barlaam and Akindynos, and even worse75. His condemnation was decided
primarily on these grounds76. However, the fact that Prochoros is also accused of
holding heretical views worse than those of Barlaam and Akindynos and being
the “father and inventor of many heresies”77, should not escape our attention.
Apparently, this accusation is with reference to Prochoros’ views regarding the
Taboric light and their implications on the hypostatic union of the divine and
human natures in the person of Christ, as well as the fact that he maintained that
the flesh assumed by Logos was not without sin, thereby introducing, according
to the Synod, an entirely new heresy78. In other words, these accusations about
new heresies are not directly related to Thomas, against whom there is no explicit
criticism. However, we cannot exclude the possibility that Patriarch Philotheos
and the Synod, to some extent, associated these new heresies with the influence
Thomistic teachings exerted on Prochoros.
All things considered, one could argue that if the Byzantine Church was look-
ing for an opportunity to explicitly and officially condemn Thomas Aquinas’

68 Ibid., ll. 72–76 (101); PG 695AB; cf. the Tome of 1351, PG 758B,2–3.
69 Ibid., ll. 106–111 (102); PG 696A.
70 Ibid., ll. 150, 158–163 (104); PG 697AB. Cf. also RIG, ll. 313–316 (110); PG 701A where Philo-
theos, after having read Prochoros’ writings, clearly states that the resolution of the latter’s posi-
tions can be found in the Tome of 1351.
71 Ibid., ll. 254–255 (108), 387–393 (113); PG 699C, 702D.
72 Ibid., l. 411 (114), PG 703B.
73 Ibid., ll. 422–427 (114); PG 703CD.
74 Ibid., ll. 440–455 (115); PG 704AB.
75 For such statements cf. RIG, ll. 192–194 (105), 273–274 (109), 305–307 (110); PG 698A,
76 RIG, ll. 790–802 (128), 851–856, 872–873 (130); PG 712CD, 714A,BC.
77 Ibid., l. 794 (128); PG 712C.
78 Cf. Ibid., ll. 893–898 (131); PG 715A. Cf. Russell, Prochoros Cydones (nt. 8), 82–85.

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Prochoros Kydones’ Thomism and the Byzantine Church 427

theology, the Prochoros Kydones’ affair, although well suited for such a purpose,
was not used accordingly. Evidently, the Byzantine Church at the time was not
interested in refuting and, even less so, in condemning Thomas’ teachings regard-
ing the ontological status of the deity. What the Church was concerned with was
not Thomistic views per se, but their use in an anti-Palamite context. This accounts
for the fact that the Tome of 1368 only implicitly condemns a few Thomistic
teachings in so far as they were employed in an attempt to invalidate the Tome of
1351. Nonetheless, it is interesting to see that the Synod of 1368 did not do what
Barlaam and Neilos Kabasilas had done overtly in the recent past (though in a
different context, i.e. the filioque issue), namely to refute and disavow Thomas
Aquinas79. The same is true for the pro-Palamite theologian Kallistos Angeli-
coudes who in the second half of the fourteenth century rebutted Thomas’
‘Summa contra Gentiles’ in his long treatise ‘Against the Latin Thomas Aquinas’
Book Allegedly Written ‘Against the Hellenes’’80.

V. An attempt at inter preting the reaction

of the Byzantine Chur ch

The reason for the Byzantine Church’s evasive attitude may stem from both
theological and political concerns. On the theological level we should consider
the – albeit limited – pro-Thomistic tendency observed in the two aforemention-
ed Palamite theologians related to Prochoros’ case, Kantakouzenos and Theo-
phanes. Patriarch Philotheos apparently did not rank among the Orthodox theo-
logians who either admired or employed Thomistic views, but was probably
aware of this theological process. My first hypothesis is that given the favourable
attitude of his patron Kantakouzenos and his former student Theophanes
towards Thomas Aquinas, Philotheos did not want to expose them by bringing
about an official and explicit reproach of the Latin theologian. This approach
may have been further strengthened by Philotheos’ apparent acceptance that
the eclectic use of Thomas by his two friends did not oppose the fundamental
Palamite doctrines sanctioned by the Tome of 1351, whose reaffirmation, as

79 In his anti-Latin treatises produced prior to his conversion to the Roman Catholic Church (1341),
Barlaam had attacked Thomas’ teachings on the Procession of the Holy Spirit as well as his
rationalism and use of syllogisms in theology. Cf. A. Fyrigos (ed.), Barlaam Calabro Opere contro
i Latini, 2 voll. (Studi et Testi 347, 348), Vatican City 1998, vol. 2, Contra Latinos, A, IV,
§§ 8–11 (560–562), § 21 (570); A, VI (588–590); A, VIII, § 1 (596), §§ 4, 6 (600); B, V, § 21 (402),
§ 30 (410).
80 Cf. S.G. Papadopoulos (ed.), Kallístou ∫Aggelikoúdh ‘Katà Qwmâ ∫Akinátou’: ei¬sagwgä, keí-
menon, kritikòn u™pómnhma, kaì pínakev, Athens 1970. For Kallistos Angelikoudes (fl. 2nd half
of the 14th c.) (PLP, no. 145) cf. Papadopoulos, ¿Ellhnikaì metafráseiv (nt. 1), 156–172; and
S. Koutsas, Callistos Angelicoudès. Quatre traités hésychastes inédits. Introduction, texte critique,
traduction et notes, Qeología 67 (1996), 109–156, 316–360, 518–528, 696–755; 68 (1997),
212–247, 536–581.

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428 Christos Triantafyllopoulos

argued above, was the main focus of the Synod of 1368. A second hypothesis
could be that Kantakouzenos and Theophanes convinced Philotheos not to let
himself and the Synod be drawn into a direct attack against Thomas Aquinas, as
Prochoros might have wished (as suggested above), because part of Thomas’
oeuvre enjoyed acceptance, especially among the intellectual Byzantine elite of
the time – of which they were members themselves.
Apart from these theological considerations, on a political level an explicit
reproach of Thomas Aquinas or his theology would have most certainly pro-
voked an immediate reaction from Demetrios Kydones as he was Thomas’ trans-
lator and a great admirer81, and had become a Roman Catholic in around 135782.
Given that in 1368 Demetrios was still in the service of the Emperor John V as
mesazon, we can expect that his response to such an event would have created a
difficult situation for the Patriarch and the Synod 83. Even more when one con-
siders that the Emperor himself (also at Demetrios’ instigation) advanced a policy
of alliance with the West by means of union with the Roman Catholic Church in
return for military help against the Ottomans84. One year later in 1369, the pur-
suit of this policy led to Emperor John V’s conversion to Roman Catholicism in
Rome, where he made his submission to the Pope in person85.
There is, in addition, the further consideration that in the summer of 1367 the
ex-Emperor Kantakouzenos discussed the possible ways and means of a true
reunion of the Eastern and Western Churches with the Pope’s representative, the
Latin Archbishop of Constantinople Paul. The two men agreed that the best way
was by means of an ecumenical council held in Constantinople and conducted on
equal terms86. As a result, Patriarch Philotheos and the Byzantine Church entered

81 Demetrios’ admiration for Thomas was based on two things: his use of dialectical argumentation
in theology and his sainthood. Indeed, Thomas was canonized by the Latin Church in 1323,
a fact considered by Demetrios as an official confirmation of his theology: Kianka, Demetrius
Cydones (nt. 7), 118. For Demetrios’ admiration for Thomas in general cf. ibid., 118–128.
82 For the date of Demetrios’ personal conversion to Roman-Catholicism cf. Kianka, Demetrius
Cydones (nt. 7), 142–147.
83 Demetrios did not hesitate to severely reprimand Patriarch Philotheos for summoning his
brother to a trial and then for his condemnation – the latter being despite the warnings of the
Tome of 1368. Cf. Demetrios’ ‘Letter to Patriarch Philotheos’ (ed. R.-J. Loenertz, Démétrius
Cydonès. Correspondance, vol. I [Studi e Testi 186], Vatican City 1956, letter 129, 164–166
[= Mercati, Notizie (nt. 8), 293–295] [cf. Tinnefeld, Briefe I/2 (nt. 18), 393–398]) before the trial
and his ‘Second Invective against Patriarch Philotheos’ (ed. Mercati, op. cit., 313–338) after Pro-
choros’ death two years or so after the Synod of 1368. For the warnings of the Tome against
anyone who agrees with, or supports in any way, the heretic Prochoros cf. RIG, ll. 856–866 (130),
882–892 (131); PG 714AB, D.
84 For John V’ reign and his policy towards the West cf. Nicol, Last Centuries (nt. 5), 253–295.
85 Ibid., 270–271.
86 For the project of this council and the record of the discussions between Kantakouzenos and
Paul cf. J. Meyendorff, Projets de concile oecuménique en 1367: Un dialogue inédit entre Jean
Cantacuzène et le légat Paul, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 14 (1960), 149–177 (= id., Byzantine
Hesychasm: historical, theological and social problems, London 1974, article XI).

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Prochoros Kydones’ Thomism and the Byzantine Church 429

a period of preparation for such a council with high hopes87. The disillusioning
response of the Pope, who did not share this optimistic perspective of the Byzan-
tines and would accept a union only on his own terms, was publicly announced to
the people of Constantinople in September 136888. This means that the Synod of
April 1368 took place in the optimistic atmosphere of an impending ecumenical
council. The condemnation of a Saint and important theologian of the Latin
Church would have jeopardized the project.
Finally, one should also consider the potential response of the Dominican
House established in Pera, which could have been triggered by the condemnation
of one of their brothers, since Thomas was a Dominican of huge importance;
their Doctor angelicus. Demetrios himself attested to his amicable relations with the
Dominicans of Pera and their role in his knowledge of Latin and acquaintance
with Thomistic theology89. One can assume that their resentment would have had
an unwanted effect on the Byzantine Church’s relations with both the latinophile
circle of Constantinople (especially Demetrios) and Rome. Clearly, the latter
event would have created a hindrance in Emperor John V’ efforts to secure help
from the West90.

VI. Conclusion

We may conclude that the case of Prochoros’ treatise ‘De essentia et operatione
Dei’ stands as a unique instance of contact between Western and Eastern theo-
logies. In this as well as other treatises produced by the Latinophiles of four-
teenth-century Byzantium, Western Thomistic positions were introduced and
employed in a theological conflict born and waged within the boundaries of the
Eastern Church. In the writings of these people, Orthodox and Latin theologies
debated with each other. The vast majority of the Byzantines eventually did not
accept the Western “solutions” to their theological problems as incompatible to

87 For the relevant Patriarcal documents cf. J. Darrouzès (ed.), Les regestes des actes du Patriarchat
de Constantinople, vol. I: Les actes des patriarches, fasc. 5: Les regestes de 1310 à 1376, Paris
1977, nos. 2523–2526, 439–441.
88 Nicol, Last Centuries (nt. 5), 266–269 with nt. 26; R.-J. Loenertz, Démétrius Cydonès I. De la
naissance à l’année 1373, Orientalia Christiana Periodica 36 (1970), 65.
89 Apologia I, ed. Mercati, Notizie (nt. 8), 361.63–74, 362.98–363.3. Cf. also p. 364.33–35 where
Demetrios says that his house was daily filled with Dominicans. On the relations of Demetrios
with the Dominicans of Pera cf. Papadopoulos, ¿Ellhnikaì metafráseiv (nt. 1), 80–83; Kianka,
Demetrius Cydones (nt. 7), 78–80.
90 The Dominicans of Byzantium actively supported the cause of military and financial help
coming from the West to Byzantium’s rescue. They believed that this would advance one of their
main missionary purposes, the submission of the Byzantine Church to Rome. One of their
methods to achieve this was to convert the influential elite of the local society. For the Domini-
cans in Byzantium cf. C. Delacroix-Besnier, Les dominicains et la chrétienté grecque aux XIVe et
XVe siècles (Collection de l’École Française de Rome 237), Rome 1997, esp. 141–200.

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430 Christos Triantafyllopoulos

both their doctrines and their definition of theology itself. However, political and
diplomatic considerations aside, the decision of the Byzantine Synod of 1368 not
to explicitly reproach or condemn Thomas Aquinas and his theology, given the
opportunity that Prochoros Kydones’ case presented, kept the lines of communi-
cation between the two Churches open. This, considered within the framework of
the attempts at reunion between the Eastern and Western Churches, was a
thoughtful and wise decision.
Finally, in my opinion, the use of Thomistic views by Theophanes of Nicaea,
who was among the leaders of the Palamite party, attests to the fact that the
character of Byzantine theology was sometimes more dynamic and creative than
generally believed. Further, it can be seen as an indication that the Palamite theo-
logy was not considered as a theological system to which everyone had to sub-
scribe. In other words, although the Orthodox accepted the Tome of 1351, based
on the elaboration of the traditional doctrine put forward by Palamas, they did
not feel obliged to follow him in everything he taught as adherent disciples91.

91 In this respect, cf. Polemis, Theophanes (nt. 19), 149–160 where it is argued that the third book
of Theophanes’ anti-Latin treatise is a “criticism” of Palamite positions on the Procession of the
Holy Spirit. Note also Neilos Kabasilas’ indirect refutation of Palamas’ apodictic syllogisms in his
treatise ‘On the Procession of the Holy Spirit’; see Kislas, Nil Cabasilas (nt. 25), 131–132.

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