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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: February 2019

17 - Theology in the Middle Ages (c. 500–1400)

from PART III - HISTORICAL SURVEY OF CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY

Summary

INTRODUCTION: DIVERGING TRADITIONS

The previous chapter surveyed the topography of patristic theology, the cornerstone of the Christian church's subsequent doctrinal development. In that period we saw the seeds of the schism that would later develop between the eastern and western provinces of the church, with the Cappadocian theologians in the East and Augustine in the West setting the tone for their respective theological traditions. While the divide between East and West as formalized in 1054 is a complicated matter involving a variety of factors – including linguistic, cultural, and political considerations – this chapter can address only the major theological developments of these diverging traditions. Our survey of the theology of the Middle Ages will first examine some of the important features and controversies of Byzantine theology in the Greek-speaking East before proceeding to a more detailed review of Latin theology in the West.

BYZANTINE THEOLOGY

After Constantine became emperor of the eastern Roman Empire in the early fourth century, he chose the city of Byzantium as his imperial seat. Though that city was quickly renamed Constantinople, in the popular mind it was still known as Byzantium. As the imperial capital, Constantinople became such a major and influential center of theology that the tradition it produced is still known as “Byzantine.” One should keep in mind, however, that the term “Byzantine theology” refers more widely to the Greek-speaking theology of the entire eastern Mediterranean region, including the work done by theologians in other major centers, most notably Alexandria and Antioch, a tradition which later became known as “Eastern Orthodoxy.”