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A “New” Fragment on the Difference between Hypostasis and Enhypostaton against Tritheists

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 August 2023

Francesco Celia*
University of Padova;
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This article provides edition, translation, and annotation of a Greek excerpt dealing with the christological issue of “whether there is an anhypostatos nature.” Until now unedited and recently catalogued as one of the fragments of Cyril of Alexandria’s Contra Synousiastas, it in fact contains a close parallel to a famous passage from Leontius of Byzantium’s Contra Nestorianos et Eutychianos concerning the distinction between hypostasis and enhypostaton. It is argued that the fragment was written in the aftermath of the Tritheist controversy and, more specifically, that it faces the doctrines of John Philoponus.

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The fragment edited, translated, and commented upon here was recently found by Nadezhda Kavrus-Hoffmann in an incomplete parchment manuscript, the MS Typ 46 of Houghton Library (Harvard),Footnote 1 which she classified as the eighteenth witness of the so-called “philosophical collection” and, accordingly, dated to the late ninth century.Footnote 2 The manuscript consists of eight misbound quires, has lacunas between folios, and is extensively damaged by mold, which makes it difficult to read and obliterates some areas of text. It contains mostly incomplete works composed by, or ascribed to, Nemesius of Emesa (De natura hominis, CPG 3550), Gregory Thaumaturgus (Confessio fidei, CPG 1764, and the spurious Ad Tatianum de anima, CPG 1773/7717), Gregory of Nyssa (De anima et resurrectione, CPG 3149), and John Philoponus (De Paschate, CPG 7267). Except for Thaumaturgus’s Expositio fidei and Philoponus’s De Paschate, the selection of the writings copied seems to have been driven by a certain interest in the relationship between the human soul and the body.Footnote 3

The last folio of the manuscript (59r–59v) contains an excerpt titled “How it is necessary to face those who ask us whether there is an anhypostatos nature” (Πῶς ἀπαντᾶν δεῖ τοῖς ἐπερωτῶσιν ἡμᾶς εἰ ἔστι φύσις ἀνυπόστατος), where the form-body imagery serves to argue that indeed there is no nature that is “non-subsistent” or “without hypostasis,”Footnote 4 and that nature and hypostasis cannot be identified. Kavrus-Hoffmann ascribes it to Cyril of Alexandria because its explicit reads: καθ’ ἃ φησιν ὁ δοκιμώτατος Κύριλλος· τὴν γὰρ τ<ῶν> <συν>ουσιαστῶν ἐνδεῖξαι θέλων δόξαν ἐπὶ λέξεως ταῦτα λέγει (translation below). However, the excerpt is anonymous, because this line means that the passage from the work of “the most excellent Cyril” where he treated the “opinion of the Synousiasts,” that is the Liber contra Synousiastas,Footnote 5 should follow, but it is missing, and this despite the fact that the verso of the folio has left several lines empty for a quotation to be copied.

Above all, our fragment has nothing to do with Cyril because, as we will see, its central part consists of an almost verbatim quotation of a well-known passage from Leontius of Byzantium’s Contra Nestorianos et Eutychianos concerning the distinction between hypostasis and enhypostaton. Indeed, the argument that there is no anhypostatos nature became one of the tools endorsed by Miaphysites, such as Timothy Elurus, Philoxenus of Mabbug, and Severus of Antioch, to demonstrate that the Chalcedonian doctrine of the two natures contradicted Cyril’s teaching and was in fact nothing other than Nestorianism.Footnote 6 The earliest pro-Chalcedonian solutions were devised by John the Grammarian and Leontius of Byzantium while specifically challenging this dictum by distinguishing between hypostasis and enhypostaton.

John dealt with the objection of Severus that there is “no anhypostatos nature” in his Apologia concilii Chalcedonensis, written between 514 and 518.Footnote 7 His answer has survived as a piece of the Συνηγορίαι of Eulogius, Chalcedonian patriarch of Alexandria, in the kephalaion of the Doctrina Patrum, which bears almost exactly the same title as our fragment.Footnote 8 By applying the Cappadocian distinction between οὐσία/φύσις and πρόσωπον/ὑπόστασις to the christological problem, John articulated his challenge to Severus and laid down the foundations of his concept of enhypostaton and of his formula of “two natures ἐνυπoστάτως united.”Footnote 9 As John explains:

we do not call our ousia in Christ enhypostatos, as being a characterized hypostasis on its own (ὑπόστασιν καθ᾽ ἑαυτὴν χαρακτηριστικήν) and a prosōpon, but insofar as it exists (ὑφέστηκε) and is. For sometimes the hypostasis means the existence (τὸ ὑφεστηκέναι), which is ousia, as has been shown, when it is deprived of its characteristic properties (χαρακτηριστικῶν ἰδιωμάτων) and of what is seen around the prosōpon.Footnote 10

In short, by defining the human nature in Christ’s hypostasis as enhypostatos, John means that it exists concretely, yet not as a hypostasis but as an ousia.Footnote 11

Leontius’s reply, which will be discussed with reference to our fragment below, became particularly significant, as it was appropriated in different ways by different Chalcedonian authors between the sixth and the seventh centuries.Footnote 12 Our anonymous author is representative of this tradition. What makes him of particular interest is that he is the only one who utilized the Leontian passage on hypostasis and enhypostaton directly, though not verbatim, as a defence against Miaphysite Tritheism.Footnote 13 Our author asserts that the human nature of Christ is not anhypostatos—that is, non-existent or without hypostasis—and is enhypostatos—namely, as he interprets Leontius, existing not as a hypostasis but as an ousia. By doing so, he sets out to neutralize the Tritheist assertion that there are three different substances in the Trinity inasmuch as it stems from the Miaphysite postulation that “every nature by all means has a distinct hypostasis” and therefore that “every hypostasis has a distinct substance” (¶1).

The latter is the most telling element in the fragment for establishing a terminus post quem for the composition of our fragment. The references to certain Miaphysites who, having acknowledged “three individual substances” (idikai ousiai), “do not refrain from saying that there are three gods” (¶1) and “blaspheme against the great Trinity having divided [ … ] three substances” (¶3) make it clear that our text was written in the aftermath of the Tritheist Controversy that plagued the Miaphysite churches in the second half of the sixth century. Ostensibly, this occurred at an advanced stage of its development, when Tritheism became a matter of some concern on the Chalcedonian side. Indeed, scholars tend to distinguish a primitive stage of Tritheism, which began in 557 with John Askotzanges, a Jacobite from Apamea, from a more advanced one, which was initiated by the composition of a treatise against Tritheists by Theodosius of Alexandria, another Miaphysite, no later than 564.Footnote 14 The plurality of substances within the Trinity was already an issue in earlier Tritheism. According to Michael the Syrian, John Askotzanges “confessed as many natures, substances and godheads as hypostases” and collected “a book of extracts (to show) that the Fathers taught a plurality of natures and godheads in the Trinity.”Footnote 15 Yet, two distinctive factors must be highlighted at this point: first, the “dogmatic writers on the Chalcedonian side” knew “nothing at all about the earlier stages of tritheist doctrine”;Footnote 16 second, the concept of idikai (or merikai) ousiai became of central importance specifically in the formulation of John Philoponus and in the Chalcedonians’ reaction to it.Footnote 17 We will see shortly that there are further aspects of the description of the Tritheist stance in our fragment that confirm that John Philoponus’s doctrine is under question.Footnote 18 Accordingly, since his Tritheistic writings date to the late 560s,Footnote 19 our fragment must have been written after 570.

Regrettably, there are no solid elements that help us set a precise terminus ante quem. However, it is difficult to see how our fragment has anything to do with the late Chalcedonian reaction against Tritheism by Maximus Confessor (d. 662) or John of Damascus (d. 749),Footnote 20 who appear to be distant witnesses to the debates that caused the involvement of Chalcedonians up to Eulogius of Alexandria (d. 607).Footnote 21 Moreover, if we admit that our author’s uncomplicated reading of Leontius’s distinction between hypostasis and enhypostaton is evidence of an earlier reception of it vis-à-vis those of other Chalcedonian authors who employed it, in one way or another, against Philoponus’s theory of idikai ousiai in the Trinity, this then provides us with a reason to date our fragment not later than the very first decades of the seventh century.Footnote 22

Text and TranslationFootnote 23

[59r] Πῶς ἀπαντᾶν δεῖ τοῖς ἐπερωτῶσιν ἡμᾶς εἰ ἔστι φύσις ἀνυπόστατος.

[1] Οἱ ὄντες ἐλεεινοὶ καὶ μόνον εἰδότες τὸ κακοποιεῖν, τὸ δὲ καλῶς νοεῖν οὔ, βουλόμενοι πάντοθεν, ὡς οἴονται, συνάγειν ἡμῖν ἢ τὸFootnote 24 σὺν αὐτοῖς δοξάζειν μίαν τοῦ Χριστοῦ τὴν φύσιν ἢ πάντως δύο φύσεις λέγοντας διελέγχειν ἡμᾶς ὡς δύο δοξάζοντας κατὰ Νεστόριον ὑποστάσεις, προσέρχονται μετὰ τῆς συνήθους εἰρωνείαςFootnote 25 ὡς ἄν εἰ ἐπερωτῶντες ἡμᾶς εἰ ἔστι φύσις ἀνυπόστατος, ἵνα πάντως τὸ ἕτερον ἀκούσωσι παρ᾽ ἡμῶν. Καὶ εἰ μὲν δοίημεν εἶναι φύσιν ἀνυπόστατον, συνάγουσιν ἡμῖν τὸ παντελῶς ἀνύπαρκτον. τὸ γὰρ ἀνυπόστατον καὶ ἀνύπαρκτον πάντως· εἰ δὲ φαίημεν πᾶσαν φύσιν ὑπόστασιν ἔχειν, οὐκοῦν φήσουσι· “δύο λέγοντες φύσεις καὶ δύο πάντως δώσετε τὰς ὑποστάσεις.” ταὐτὸν γὰρ αὐτοῖς δοκεῖ φύσις καὶ ὑπόστασις εἶναι· τί οὗν δεῖ πρὸς αὐτοὺς λέγειν; ἆρα τὸ σαφὲς ἐξ εὐθείας ἢ συνδιαστρέψαιFootnote 26 αὐτοῖς ὡς στρεβλοῖςFootnote 27; καὶ τάχα τοῦτο. τί τοίνυν ἀποκριτέον αὐτοῖς λέγουσιν εἰ ἔστι φύσις ἀνυπόστατος; τί ἕτερον ἤ ὅτι “οὐδὲ ὑπόστασις ἀνούσιος; εἰ οὖν πάντως δοκεῖ ὑμῖν πᾶσαν φύσιν ἰδίαν ὑπόστασιν ἔχειν, ἀναγκαῖον ἐστὶ καὶ πᾶσαν ὑπόστασιν ἰδίαν οὐσίαν ἔχειν”· καὶ πάντως τοῦτο συμβήσεται· τῆς γὰρ οὐσίας μιᾶς οὔσης, εἰ τύχοι, πάντων ἀνθρώπων καὶ ἑνὸς ὁποίου, τῶν δὲ ὑποστάσεων διαιρουσῶν καὶ ἄλλης ἄλλου φαινομένης ἰδιαζόντως, εἰ οὕτω δοίημεν καὶ τὰς οὐσίας, οὐκ ἔτι πεπερασμένη κατὰ τὴν περὶ αὐτῆς δόξαν ἔσται ἡ οὐσία, ἀλλ᾽ εἰς ἀπειρίαν χεθήσεται [59v] καθ’ ἃ καὶ αἱ <ὑ>πο<στάσ>εις. [ …. ] γὰρ τῆς ἁγίας τριάδος ὀκν<ῶ> λέγειν· ἅπαξ γάρ τινες αὐτῶν δεδώκασι τρεῖς [.. ] οὐσί<ας> ἰδικὰς ὅθεν καὶ τρεῖς θεοὺς οὐκ ὀκνοῦσι λέγειν· πόσον δὲ εὐπε<τ>έστερον ἦν καὶ ἀληθ<έστε>ρον τὰ μὲν ἑτεροούσια μέν<ειν> ἐν τῇ κατὰ φύσιν ἰδιότητι <ὁμο>λογεῖν ἢ τὰ ὁμο<ούσ>ια διϊστάναι εἰς οὐσιῶν ἑτερότητα· τὸ γὰρ ἰδικὸν οὐ<κ> ἔστι κ<ο>ινὸν ὥσπερ οὐδὲ τὸ κοινὸν ἰδικόν.

[2] ἀλλ᾽ ἠγνόησαν οἱ σοφοὶ ὅτι οὐ ταὐτὸν ὑπό<στα>σις καὶ ἐνυπόστατον ὥσπερ οὐδὲ <οὐσ>ία καὶ ἐνούσιον. καὶ τοῦτο σαφὲς αὐτόθεν ἀπο<δ>είκνυται σὺν οὐδενὶ πόνῳ καὶ πολυλογίας χωρίς· ἡ μὲν γὰρ ὑπόστασις τὸν τινὰ δηλοῖ, τὸ δὲ ἐνυπόστατον τὴν οὐσίαν· καὶ ἡ μὲν ὑπόστασις πρόσωπον ἀφορίζει τοῖς χαρακ<τ>ηριστικοῖς ἰδιώμασι, τὸ δέ γε ἐνυπόστατον τὸ μὴ συμβεβηκὸς εἶναι παρίστησιν· τὸ γὰρ συμβεβηκὸς ἐν ἑτέρῳ τὸ εἶναι ἔχει καὶ οὐκ ἐν αὑτῳ θεωρεῖται· τοιαῦται δὲ πᾶσαι αἱ ποιότητες, ὧν οὐδέν ἐστιν οὐσία, πρᾶγμα καθ᾽ ἑαυτὸ ὑφεστός, ἀλλ᾽ ἀεὶ περὶ τὴν <ο>ὐσίαν θεωρεῖται, ὡς χρῶμα ἐν σώματι καὶ ὡς ἐπιστήμη ἐν ψυχῇ. ὁ τοίν<υν> λέγων· “οὐκ ἔστι φύσις ἀνυπόστατος” ἀληθῶς μὲν λέγει, οὐδὲ γὰρ ἔστιν, οὐ μὴν ἀληθῶς συμπεραίνει τò μὴ ἀνυπόστατον εἰς ὑπόστασιν εἶναι. σόφισμα γὰρ τò τοιοῦτο καὶ παραλογισμός· οὐδὲ γὰρ ἐπεὶ πᾶν σῶμα ἐσχημάτισται καὶ χωρὶς σχήματος εἶναι οὐ δ<ύ>ναται τò σχῆμα ἂν εἴη τò σῶμα· οὐ γάρ ἐστι σῶμα τòFootnote 28 σχῆμα κἂν ἐν σώματι θεωρεῖται καὶ ἄλλως οὐ δύναται· τοῦτοFootnote 29 δὲ ῥητέον καὶ ἐπὶ ἑκάστων τῶν συμβεβηκότων ὧν χ<ω>ρὶς εἶναι σῶμα μὴ δυνατόν. ἀνυπόστατος μὲν οὖν φύσις, τοῦτ’ ἔστιν οὐσία, οὐκ ἂν εἴη ποτέ. οὐ μὴν ἡ φύσις ὑπόστασις, ὅτι μηδὲ ἀντιστρέφειFootnote 30· ἡ μὲν γὰρ ὑπόστασις, οἷον ὁ Παῦλος, καὶ φύσις· ἡ δὲ φύσις, οἷον ὁ κοινὸς ἄνθρωπος, οὐκ ἔστιν ὑπόστασις· καὶ ἡ μὲν φύσις τòν τοῦ εἶναι λόγον ἐπιδέχεται, ἡ δὲ ὑπόστασις καὶ τòν τοῦ καθ᾽ ἑαυτòFootnote 31 εἶναι· καὶ ἡ μὲν εἴδους λόγον ἐπέχει, ἡ δὲ τοῦ τινός ἐστι δηλωτική· καὶ ἡ μὲν καθολικòν πρᾶγμα σημαίνει, ἡ δὲ τοῦ κοινοῦ τò ἴδιον ἀφορίζει·

[3] ὥστε παυσάσθωσαν σοφιζόμενοι τὴν ἀλήθειαν οἱ ταὐτòν λέγοντες εἶναι φύσιν καὶ ὑπόστασιν κἀκεῖθεν ἀναγκασθέντες βλασφημεῖν τήν με<γάλη>ν τ<ρι>άδ<α> [ … ] τρεῖς διελόν<τες> οὐσίας· τοσαύτης γὰρ ὑπ<ο>στάσε<ως> [ … ] δε κ[.. ]ον [ …. ]χ[. ] ἕνω<σ>ιν ἐκ δὲ ὑποστάσε<ων> λέγοντες καί τινες οἱ ἐγκαλ[ ….. ] <Ν>εστ<ορ>ί<ῳ> καὶ Θεοδώρῳ λέγουσι προϋποστάντι ἀνθρώπῳ τòν λόγον ἡνῶσθαι. ἀλλ᾽ οὐκ ἔστι ευτ[ … … ] καὶ πεισάτωσαν ὑμᾶς οἱ πατέρες οἱ γενναίως ὑπὲρ ἀληθεί<ας> ἀγωνισάμενοι· μίαν γὰρ τὴν ὑπόστασιν τοῦ σωτῆρος Χριστοῦ ἐδίδαξαν ἡμᾶς ἐκ δύο συγκειμένην οὐσιῶν ἤτοι φύσεων· καὶ τούτων [ …. ]μέν<ων> ἐν τῇ πρòς ἀλλήλας ἑνώσει μήτε συγχυθείσας μήτε φ<θα>ρείσας μήτε τ<ὴν> [ …. ] <ἀλ>λοίωσιν δεξαμένας· καθ’ ἃ φησιν ὁ δοκιμώτατος Κύριλλος· τὴν γὰρ τ<ῶν> <συν>ουσιαστῶν ἐνδεῖξαι θέλων δόξαν ἐπὶ λέξεως ταῦτα λέγει.

How it is necessary to face those who ask us whether there is an anhypostatos nature.Footnote 32

1. Those who are pitiful and only know how to do ill but not to think well, willing from every side to prove us, as they believe, either to think with them that the nature of Christ is one or, since we say by all means that there are two natures, to refute us as if we maintained two hypostases in accordance with Nestorius, come with habitual dissimulation as if they were inquiring of us as to whether there is an anhypostatos nature in order to hear from us something completely different.

And if we granted that there is a non-subsistent (anhypostatos) nature, they (would) prove to us that it is altogether non-existent (anyparktos), for what is non-subsistent is necessarily non-existent as well. If we said, instead, that each nature has a hypostasis, then they will tell us accordingly: “by saying that there are two natures, you will no doubt also grant that there are two hypostases.” Indeed, to them, nature and hypostasis appear to be the same thing.

What should we say to them? Should we speak clearly and straightforwardly or be twisted together with those who are twisted? Perhaps the latter. What must one therefore reply to those who ask whether there is a non-subsistent (anhypostatos) nature? What more than that “not even hypostasis is non-substantial (anousios)? If, then, it seems to you that every nature by all means has a distinct hypostasis, it is also necessary that every hypostasis has a distinct substance.” And this, no doubt, will occur: since the substance is indeed one, for instance, of all men and of anyone, while the hypostases divide and one hypostasis appears to be distinctive of one man, another hypostasis of another man; if we also admit that the substances are like this, no longer will the substance be limited according to the opinion about it, but will flow to infinity, just as the hypostases (do). I refrain indeed from saying [ …. ] of the Holy Trinity, for once some of them conceded (that there were) three individual [.. ] substances so therefore they also do not refrain from saying that there are three gods.

How much easier and more truthful it would have been to confess that things of a different substance remain in their natural individuality rather than separating things of the same substance to the extent of acknowledging a difference between substances? What is individual is indeed not common, just as what is common is not individual.

2. But these wise men did not recognize that hypostasis and enhypostaton are not the same thing, just as substance and enousios are not the same thing. And this is immediately proved to be clear, with no trouble and without many words. Indeed, the hypostasis signifies the someone, whereas the enhypostaton (signifies) the substance. And while the hypostasis defines a person with characteristic peculiarities, the enhypostaton describes that which is not an accident. For the accident has its being in something else and is not considered in itself. Such are, instead, all the qualities, none of which is a substance, a thing which subsists by itself, but is always considered in relation to a substance, just as color in a body or science in a soul.

Therefore, the one who says “there is no anhypostatos nature” speaks according to the truth, because there is not; however, he cannot correctly deduce from its not being anhypostatos that it is a hypostasis. Such a proceeding is indeed a sophism and a paralogism; for it is not because each body takes a certain form and cannot be without a form that the form would be the body; indeed, the form is not the body even though it is considered in the body and cannot be otherwise. It is necessary to say this also in the case of each of the accidents which the body is not capable of being without.

Therefore, there could never be a nature, that is a substance, without hypostasis. However, nature is not a hypostasis for they are not convertible: indeed, a hypostasis, such as Paul, is also a nature, but a nature, such as man in general, is not a hypostasis; and while nature admits of the definition of being, the hypostasis admits also of (the definition of) being by itself. One presents the definition of form, the other is indicative of someone; the former points out the universal thing, the latter distinguishes the individual from the common.

3. Therefore, let those who say that nature and hypostasis are the same thing and who, as a result, are forced to blaspheme against the great Trinity having divided [ … ] three substances, stop meddling with the truth. For so great a hypostasis [ … … … … …. ], but those who speak of union out of hypostases and some who [ … … …. ] Nestorius and Theodore say that the Logos was united with a preexisting man. But it is not [ … … … ] and let the fathers, who have nobly contended for the truth, persuade you for they taught us that one is the hypostasis of the savior Christ, composed of two substances or natures; and these [ … … … ] in the union to one another, neither confused, nor destroyed, nor susceptible to [ …. ] alteration.

Thus states the most excellent Cyril, for, when he wants to set forth the opinion of the Synousiasts, he says these things literally …


1. The “dissimulators,” who believe that nature and hypostasis are equivalent, are clearly Miaphysites. Their objective is to win over their adversaries regarding the confession of one nature and one hypostasis of Christ. Their ploy consisted in putting forward the problem of “whether there is an anhypostatos nature” in order to refute the Chalcedonians or to force their hand to fall in with Nestorius’s mistaken point of view:Footnote 33 to answer that nature is anhypostatos implies the denial of its existence (ὕπαρξις) altogether, and this is absurd; to admit that “each nature has a hypostasis” amounts to acknowledging two natures and two hypostases, that is, to Nestorianism. Thus far, our author’s argument recapitulates some key points which already featured in earlier discussions.Footnote 34

However, the target of our author’s discussion is the view of those Miaphysites who speak of three gods.Footnote 35 The line of argument that introduces it follows four steps and aims to show how the Miaphysite endorsement of the second meaning of anhypostatos, that is “not having a hypostasis,” leads “some of them” to Tritheism. First, it juxtaposes the claims that there is “no anhypostatos nature” and that there is “no anousios hypostasis,” implying that the latter is as true as the former:Footnote 36 by admitting that every nature has a “particular hypostasis,” a Miaphysite is compelled to deduce that each hypostasis has a “particular ousia.”Footnote 37 Second, it provides a recurrent distinction between substance and hypostasis: while substance is one for the entirety (all men) and every individual from a set of things of the same kind (every man),Footnote 38 hypostasis applies only to a particular instantiation of the same kind (one single man) and differs from any other hypostasis.Footnote 39 This allows our author to denounce the first inadmissible consequence of his opponents’ view: if one holds that a substance functions just as a hypostasis, then the substance “will flow to infinity,” because, since “hypostases divide,” it will not be “limited” and “one” anymore, and there will be an infinite number of substances. Third, the major consequence from the proposition that each hypostasis has a “particular ousia” is that it permits the blasphemous idea of postulating three “individual substances” (ἰδικαὶ οὐσίαι) and gods from the three hypostases of the Trinity. Fourth, our author connects the mistaken belief that things of the same substance (τὰ ὁμοούσια) separate becoming different substances to the confusion between what is common and what is individual,Footnote 40 which will introduce the following reworked quotation from Leontius of Byzantium.

Several elements of the doctrinal outline of our author’s opponent can be straightforwardly traced back to the Tritheism of John Philoponus.Footnote 41 For him, indeed, hypostases amount to particular substances/natures, because a common substance is either nothing at all or a posterior creation of the abstracting mind,Footnote 42 and substances exist only in individuals provided with peculiar properties.Footnote 43 As John Philoponus says in one of the fragments from his Tritheist writings: “None of the things that one calls κοινός has its own existence, nor does it exist before the ἰδικά.”Footnote 44 Moreover, by having their reality in each hypostasis, he argues that natures multiply indefinitely with them, while, at the same time, he acknowledges in the Trinity only three individual substances and gods.Footnote 45 On the basis of their individual features, Philoponus held that the three individual substances in the Trinity are of different species (ἑτεροειδεῖς) and yet consubstantial in that each is God and substance, even though there is no common divine substance existing as oneFootnote 46 and of its own apart from the three hypostases.Footnote 47

2. Regardless of whether our fragment had as its specific aim John Philoponus’s doctrine, as I believe, its author was convinced that the best counter-argument to his interlocutor’s objection was the difference between hypostasis and enhypostaton established by Leontius of Byzantium and leveled by him against Nestorians.Footnote 48 This serves the purpose of our author’s argument that the human nature of Christ is neither anhypostatos nor a hypostasis, but enhypostatos, and helps him argue that the identification of nature and hypostasis, which stands as the basis of the Tritheists’ error in that it stems from the confusion between common and individual, is a mistake of logic. Since our author does not quote Leontius word for word, it will be profitable, first, to have them paralleled in their entirety and, second, to see how our author’s argument runs and differs from its source.Footnote 49

In the first lines of this paragraph, our author follows Leontius both in introducing a new double pair of terms, enhypostatos/hypostasis and enousios/substance (and in leaving the latter undeveloped), and in the definition of hypostasis. Just as it was taught by the Cappadocian Epistula 38, hypostasis is said to connote the individual, for it “signifies the someone (tis)” and “defines a person with characteristic peculiarities.”Footnote 51

As to the following lines, there is a foundational difficulty in comparing our fragment to Leontius’s text. As is well known, indeed, both ancient readers and contemporary scholars have offered different interpretations of Leontius’s passage, and one of the main reasons for these disagreements is the sentence τὸ δέ γε ἐνυπόστατον τὸ μὴ εἶναι αὐτò συμβεβηκὸς δηλοῖ, ὃ ἐν ἑτέρῳ ἔχει τὸ εἶναι καὶ οὐκ ἐν ἑαυτῷ θεωρεῖται, as it leaves open the issue of whether ὃ refers to ἐνυπόστατον or συμβεβηκός. In other words, is it the enhypostaton or the accident that has its being in another and is not seen in itself? Leaving aside the assortment of differentiated answers to this question,Footnote 52 our author ascribes these attributes to the accident, as he clearly states that the enhypostaton manifests “that which is not accidental” and that an accident, just like any quality, “has its being in something else”—namely, in a “substance, that is a thing which subsists by itself”—and “is not considered in itself … but always in relation to (περί) a substance, just as color in a body or science in a soul.” The prominence of the Aristotelian substance/accident framework in his interpretation of Leontius was thus apparently facilitated by the typical Aristotelian examples of color and science as accidentsFootnote 53 and, at the same time, must have determined the omission of the otherwise superfluous Leontian distinction between οὐσιώδεις καὶ ἐπουσιώδεις qualities. The Aristotelian imprint in our fragment is made evident also in the definition of οὐσία as πρᾶγμα καθ᾽ ἑαυτὸ ὑφεστός, which replaces Leontius’s πρᾶγμα ὑφεστώς: noteworthy, in this as well as in referring the clause ὃ ἐν ἑτέρῳ ἔχει τὸ εἶναι καὶ οὐκ ἐν ἑαυτῷ θεωρεῖται to συμβεβηκός, our author significantly agrees with Pamphilus.Footnote 54 At any rate, claiming that “being καθ᾽ ἑαυτό” defines the hypostasis, and not the οὐσία, later on in both our fragment and in Leontius’s work, makes the contradiction in the former evident.Footnote 55 Despite this, by his appropriation of Leontius, our author means to say that the (human) nature of Christ is enhypostatos in that it concretely exists on its own, but not as a hypostasis, that is not as an individual provided with qualities and accidents.

Yet, these are not the only features that characterize our author as “more Aristotelian” than his source. This is suggested, to a lesser degree, by the logical jargon displayed by our author’s claim, which is absent in Leontius, that deducing that nature and hypostasis are the same thing from the assertion that there is no anhypostatos nature is a sophism and a paralogism, namely, a false inference and a logical mistake.Footnote 56 Missing in Leontius’s passage is also the statement that the body cannot be without accidents, which originates from the analogy between form and accident and is based on the Aristotelian rationale that a form of a thing can be only if it is in matter.Footnote 57

What follows relies and expands on the logical value of this imagery and of its use in the Cappadocian Epistula 38:Footnote 58 there is no anhypostatos nature, but nature and hypostasis “are not convertible.” The technical meaning of ἀντιστρέφειν, which is Aristotelian,Footnote 59 marks the transition from the logical aspect of the issue to a more strictly predicative one, as is made clear by the following pairs of definitions (λόγοι) of nature and hypostasis, which seek to show that the former do not coincide with the latter, as they bear different definitions. It is indeed on the basis of the theory of the transitivity of predication expressed in the Categories that Leontius, just as the Cappadocian Epistula 38, articulates the relationship between common—eidos—nature and individual—tis—hypostasis exemplified in our fragment by the “common man” and “Paul”: “nature admits of the definition of being … hypostasis also of the definition of being by itself,” and the relationship between these definitions is not reversible.

It is striking therefore that, despite his apparent attention to correct reasonings, our author does not think that ascribing the definition of “being by itself” to both the substance and the hypostasis changes the purpose of his handling of Leontius’s passage in any way. In particular, he does not seem to be aware of the risk of positing a fourth subsisting element, namely, the common ousia, in addition to the three hypostases of the Trinity, a problem which Pamphilus recognized.Footnote 60 Apparently, this was the result of his attempt to hold together the Cappadocian definition of hypostasis and the Aristotelian substance/accident scheme.Footnote 61

3. The final section is the least readable of the three. The first sentence is fully understandable: the identification of nature and hypostasis is again linked to the Tritheist mistake. The meaning of the second sentence is not immediate, but it seems clear—as I presume that either ἐγκαλοῦντες or ἐγκαλούμενοι (“those who accuse” or “are accused by”) precedes Νεστορίῳ καὶ Θεοδώρῳ—that both the followers of Nestorius and Theodore, “those who speak of union of hypostases,” and some of their Miaphysite opponents, those who speak of three idikai ousiai, are charged with holding that “the Logos was united to a preexisting man.”Footnote 62

The concluding “declaration of faith” is unequivocal in authenticating the imprint of Cyril of Alexandria, who is behind the fathers’ teaching that Christ has one hypostasis,Footnote 63 “composed of two substances or natures,”Footnote 64 united but not “confused, nor destroyed, nor susceptible of alteration.”Footnote 65

Finally, we can only wonder whether the quotation from Cyril’s Liber contra Synousiastas served only to confirm this “confession” or provided our fragment with more weighty matter on its core question.



I wish to thank Hope Mayo and James Capobianco, who kindly provided me with pictures of the manuscript. I am grateful to Concetta Luna, Bishara Ebeid, Emiliano Fiori, Marco Zambon, and the anonymous reviewer of this journal for their valuable comments. I am responsible for any remaining shortcomings. All unattributed translations are my own.


1 Given the fragile physical state of the manuscript, no high-quality images could be provided, but the ones I had access to have been sufficient to recover a large part of the fragment.

2 Nadezhda Kavrus-Hoffmann, “Catalogue of Greek Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Collections of the United States of America. Part V.3: Harvard University, The Houghton Library and Andover-Harvard Theological Library,” Manuscripta 55.1 (2011) 1–108, at 17–29. On the “philosophical collection,” see Lidia Perria, “Scrittura e ornamentazione nei codici della ‘collezione filosofica,’ ” Rivista di studi bizantini e neoellenici 28 (1991) 45–111, and Guglielmo Cavallo, “Qualche riflessione sulla ‘collezione filosofica,’ ” in The Libraries of the Neoplatonists: Proceedings of the Meeting of the European Science Foundation Network “Late Antiquity and Arabic Thought; Patterns in the Constitution of European Culture” Held in Strasbourg, March 12–14, 2004 (ed. Cristina D’Ancona Costa; PhA 107; Leiden: Brill, 2007) 155–65. More recently, Filippo Ronconi, “La ‘collection philosophique’: un fantôme historique,” Scriptorium 67 (2013) 119–40, has questioned the applicability of the name “philosophical collection” and proposed abandoning it.

3 This also applies to the later marginal notes, which contain excerpts from the works of Michael Psellus. See Kavrus-Hoffmann, “Catalogue,” 25–28.

4 Both these meanings of anhypostatos appear in our fragment.

5 Cyril wrote the Lib. c. Syn., now preserved only in fragments in Greek and in Syriac (CPG 5230), after 438 (see Cyril of Alexandria, Ep. 70, together with Marcel Richard, “Les traités de Cyrille d’Alexandrie contre Diodore et Théodore et les fragments dogmatiques de Diodore de Tarse,” in Mélanges dédiés à la mémoire de Félix Grat [Paris: Pecqueur-Grat, 1946] 1:99–116, at 101–2, and Norman Russell, Cyril of Alexandria [ECF; London: Routledge, 2000] 56–57), in order to counter Diodore of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia for putting forward their doctrines in their writings against the Apollinarians and their radical branch, called Synousiasts or “Polemianos” (see CPG 3820 and 3858, respectively). Cyril accused the Synousiasts of admitting “that the Word of God has been turned into the nature of body” and “that the flesh is transformed into consubstantiality with God” in Lib. c. Syn. 17 and 3 (S. Cyril, Archbishop of Alexandria, Five Tomes against Nestorius, Scholia on the Incarnation, Christ Is One, Fragments against Diodore of Tarsus, Theodore of Mopsuestia, The Synousiasts [trans. Edward B. Pusey; Oxford: James Parker, 1881] 376–77 and 366–68). A similar account of their views is given by Severus in Oratio I ad Nephalium (ed. and trans. Joseph Lebon; CSCO 119–120; Louvain: L. Durbecq, 1949) 5.15–17 (ed.), 4.25–27 (trans.) = Contra impium Grammaticum Oratio 3.27 (ed. and trans. Joseph Lebon; CSCO 101–102; Louvain: L. Durbecq, 1933) 50.20–22 (ed.), 50.27–29 (trans.). For further information on Synousiasts, see Patrick Andrist, “Les protagonistes égyptiens du débat apollinariste,” Recherches Augustiniennes 34 (2005) 63–141, at 67; Robert V. Sellers, Two Ancient Christologies: A Study in the Christological Thought of the Schools of Alexandria and Antioch in the Early History of Christian Doctrine (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1940) 53 n. 2; and Joseph Lebon, Le monophysisme Sévérien (Louvain: Josephus van Linthout, 1909) 497–98.

6 Joseph Lebon, “La christologie du monophysisme syrien,” in Das Konzil von Chalkedon. Geschichte und Gegenwart (ed. Alois Grillmeier and Heinrich Bacht; 3 vols.; Würzburg: Echter, 1951) 1:425–580, at 461–62; and Uwe M. Lang, “Anhypostatos-Enhypostatos: Church Fathers, Protestant Orthodoxy and Karl Barth,” JTS 49 (1998) 630–57, at 636 n. 30. See also Benjamin Gleede, The Development of the Term ἐνυπόστατος from Origen to John of Damascus (VCSup 113; Leiden: Brill, 2012) 53 n. 149, where it is reported that Ps. Leontius’s De sectis (PG 86:1244D) claims “that the Monophysites stole this argument from the Nestorians.” Perhaps the first attestation of this borrowing is found in John the Grammarian, Apol. c. Chalc. 4.1 (Iohannis Caesariensis presbyteri et grammatici Opera quae supersunt [ed. Marcel Richard; CCSG 1; Turnhout: Brepols, 1977] 51.82–52.88). Leontius says that this argument was used by both Nestorians and Eutychians and makes the “from two natures” formula untenable in C. Nest. Eut. 1.1 (Leontius of Byzantium, Complete Works [ed. and trans. Brian E. Daley; OECT; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017] 130.12–14 and 132.14–16, respectively). Evidence of the Nestorian origin of this argument can be found in Nestorius, Le Livre d’Héraclide de Damas (trans. François Nau, Paul Bedjan, and Maurice Briere; Paris: Letouzey et Ane, 1910) 184, 192–94, and 284. The Liber Heraclidis, which has survived only in Syriac, consists of a collection of works that Nestorius seemingly revised and prepared for publication after Cyril’s death in 444. Luise Abramowski, Untersuchungen zum Liber Heraclidis des Nestorius (CSCO 242, Subs. 22; Louvain: Secrétariat du CorpusSCO, 1963), has argued that the first dialogue of the collection and the final part of the Lib. Heracl. were not written by Nestorius, but her arguments have not convinced other experts, such as Luigi I. Scipioni, Nestorio e il concilio di Efeso: storia dogma critica (Milan: Vita e Pensiero, 1974) 299–308 (who, nonetheless, acknowledges the interpolation of the final part of the work), and Roberta Chestnut, “The Two Prosopa in Nestorius’ Bazaar of Heracleides,” JTS 29 (1978) 392–409.

7 Lebon, Le monophysisme, 162.

8 See Marcel Richard’s introduction to Iohannis Caesariensis Opera (CCSG 1) XVII–XVIII. The similarity between the heading of our fragment and the twenty-seventh kephalaion of the Doctr. Patr. might be revelatory as regards the nature and the dating of the source utilized by the copyist of our fragment.

9 John the Grammarian, Apol. conc. Chalc. 4.2 (CCSG 1:53.118–119).

10 Ibid., 4.6 (CCSG 1:55.205–56.208).

11 John the Grammarian, Contra Monophysitas 9 (CCSG 1:64.107–110). On John’s doctrine see, with different results: Alois Grillmeier and Theresia Hainthaler, Christ in Christian Tradition, vol. 2, From the Council of Chalcedon (451) to Gregory the Great (590–601), pt. 2, The Church of Constantinople in the Sixth Century (trans. John Cawte and Pauline Allen; London: Mowbray, 1995) 52–79; Carlo dell’Osso, Cristo e Logos. Il calcedonismo del VI secolo in Oriente (SEAug 118; Rome: Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum, 2010) 95–103; Gleede, The Development, 50–61; and Anna Zhyrkova, “A Reconstruction of John the Grammarian’s Account of Substance in Terms of Enhypostaton,” Forum Philosophicum 22 (2017) 1–13.

12 For the history of this reception, see Grillmeier and Hainthaler, Christ in Christian Tradition 2.2; Dell’Osso, Cristo e Logos; and Gleede, The Development.

13 The assumption that the author is male is based on the fact that we know of no women involved in 6th- and 7th-cent. theological debates.

14 See Rifaat Y. Ebied, Albert van Roey, and Lionel R. Wickham, Peter of Callinicum: Anti-Tritheist Dossier (OLA 10; Leuven: Departement Oriëntalistiek, 1981) 20–33; Albert van Roey, “La controverse trithéite depuis la condemnation de Conon et Eugène jusqu’à la conversion de l’évêque Elie,” in Von Kanaan bis Kerala. Festschrift für Prof. Mag. Dr. J.P.M. van der Ploeg O.P. (ed. Wilhelmus C. Delsman et al.; AOAT 211; Kevelaer: Butzon & Bercker, 1982) 487–97; idem, “La controverse trithéite jusqu’à l’excommunication de Conon et d’Eugène (557–569),” OLP 16 (1985) 141–65; Alois Grillmeier, “The Tritheist Controversy in the Sixth Century and Its Importance in Syriac Christology,” in Theresia Hainthaler, Christ in Christian Tradition, vol. 2, From the Council of Chalcedon (451) to Gregory the Great (590–601), pt. 3, The Churches of Jerusalem and Antioch from 451 to 600 (trans. Marianne Herhardt; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013) 268–80; Carlo Dell’Osso, “Il triteismo del VI secolo: la fase arcaica (557–67),” Aug 60 (2020) 189–207; Johannes Zachhuber, The Rise of Christian Theology and the End of Ancient Metaphysics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020) 155–83; Bishara Ebeid, “Metaphysics of Trinity in Graeco-Syriac Miaphysitism: A Study and Analysis of the Trinitarian Florilegium in MS British Library Add. 14532,” Studia Graeco-Arabica 11 (2021) 83–128.

15 Michael the Syrian, Chronicon 9.30 (trans. Albert Van Roey and Pauline Allen, Monophysite Texts of the Sixth Century [OLA 56; Leuven: Peeters, 1994] 124). See also the quotation from Theodosius’s Apologia in his Oratio theologica (OLA 56:151.74–84 [trans.] and 224 [ed.]).

16 Van Roey and Allen, Monophysite Texts, 105, where it is also said that for Anastasius I of Antioch, Eulogius of Alexandria, and Maximus Confessor, Tritheism represents the work of John Philoponus.

17 See Pauline Allen, “Neo-Chalcedonism and the Patriarchs of the Late Sixth Century,” Byzantion 50 (1980) 5–17; Uwe M. Lang, “Patristic Argument and the Use of Philosophy in the Tritheist Controversy in the Sixth Century,” in The Mystery of the Holy Trinity in the Fathers of the Church: The Proceedings of the Fourth Patristic Conference, Maynooth, 1999 (ed. D. Vincent Twomey and Lewis Ayres; Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2007) 79–99; Dirk Krausmüller, “Under the Spell of John Philoponus: How Chalcedonian Theologians of the Late Patristic Period attempted to Safeguard the Oneness of God,” JTS 68 (2017) 625–49.

18 There are several reasons not to speculate about the presence of a fragment hostile to the theology of John Philoponus, who was condemned by the Council of Constantinople of 680–681, in a manuscript which hands down his De Paschate. First, the MS Typ 46 preserves the De Paschate anonymously, and only a later hand misattributed it to Gregory of Nyssa (see Kavrus-Hoffmann, “Catalogue,” 19). Second, the fragment criticizes Philoponus without naming him. Third, there is no internal contradiction between the fragment and the De Paschate. Moreover, the Typ 46 was copied by three different scribes and the hand copying the De Paschate is different from that which copied our fragment (see Kavrus-Hoffmann, “Catalogue,” 20).

19 Theresia Hainthaler, “John Philoponus, Philosopher and Theologian in Alexandria,” in Alois Grillmeier and Theresia Hainthaler, Christ in Christian Tradition, vol. 2, From the Council of Chalcedon (451) to Gregory the Great (590–601), pt. 4, The Church of Alexandria with Nubia and Ethiopia after 451 (trans. O. C. Dean Jr; London: Mowbray, 1996) 107–46, at 132.

20 Maximus deals with Tritheism only in Cent. char. 2.29, on which see Grigory Benevich, “Maximus Confessor’s Polemics against Tritheism and His Trinitarian teaching,” ByzZ 105 (2012) 595–610. John of Damascus touches upon it mostly in his polemical works (Contra acephalos 5; Contra Jacobitas 10 and 76). See also Andrew Louth, St. John Damascene: Tradition and Originality in Byzantine Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002) 99–100.

21 We do not know when Eulogius wrote the Συνηγορίαι. From the summary of another of Eulogius’s treatises in Photius, (Bibliotheca) Codex 230 (the ninth of the list) (Photius, Bibliothèque [vol. 5; ed. and trans. René Henry; Budé; Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1967] 55–57), we learn that he saw in Severus’s confusion between physis/ousia and hypostasis the root of Tritheism. Richard, Iohannis Caesariensis Opera, XVIII–XXI, has demonstrated that the Συνηγορίαι are the third treatise of Photius’s list (Photius, Cod. 230 [Budé:11–33]), but its summary does not provide any explicit link with Trinitarian issues.

22 Even if, as we will see, Pamphilus’s reading of the Leontian distinction is the most similar to our author’s, in his rebuttal of Miaphysite Tritheism in the eleventh chapter of his Diversorum capitum seu difficultatum solutio (hereafter Sol.)—where he also acknowledges that considering the hypostases idikai ousiai in the Trinity is a central issue for certain “Severians” (in particular Sol. 11.42–68 and 109–117 [Diversorum postchalcedonensium auctorum collactanea (ed. José H. Declerck; CCSG 19; Turnhout: Brepols, 1989) 202–5])—he applies the concept of enhypostaton to the hypostasis in Sol. 11.151–158 (CCSG 19:207), and not to the substance as in our fragment. For their parts, Anastasius I of Antioch, Adversus eos qui in divinis dicunt tres essentias 733–800 (ed. Karl-Heinz Uthemann, “Des Patriarchen Anastasius I. von Antiochen Jerusalemer Streitspräch mit einem Tritheiten (CPG 6958),” Traditio 37 [1981] 73–108, at 102–4), and John of Damascus, C. Jacob. 10–11 (Johannes von Damaskos, Die Schriften des Johannes von Damaskos [vol. 4; ed. Bonifatius Kotter; PTS 22; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1981] 113–14) present an understanding of the concept of enhypostaton that is significantly more complex than that attested in our fragment (see also C. Jacob. 76 for the use of the adjective idikos together with the otherwise preferred merikos). On their uses of enhypostaton, it suffices to mention here Gleede’s The Development, in particular, 118–22 and 172–74, respectively.

23 I have introduced the division of the text into three paragraphs to mark off the quotation of Leontius’s passage. The number of dots between square parentheses approximately corresponds to that of the letters which I consider unintelligible.

24 τὸ delevi.

25 εἰρωνίας correxi.

26 συνδαιστρέψαι correxi.

27 Ps 17:27.

28 σώματος correxi.

29 τοῦτον correxi.

30 ἀντιστρέφῃ correxi.

31 ἑαυτòν correxi.

32 The title is remarkably close to Doctr. Patr. 27 (Doctrina Patrum de Incarnatione Verbi [ed. Franz Diekamp; Münster in Westf.: Aschendorffsche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1907] 191.15–18): Τί τὸ ἐνυπόστατον καὶ τὸ ἀνυπόστατον καὶ τί ὑπόστασις, καὶ ὅτι διττὸν ἕκαστον τούτων, καὶ πῶς δεῖ ἀπαντᾶν τοῖς ἐπερωτῶσιν, εἰ ἔστι φύσις ἀνυπόστατος καὶ εἰ ἔστι φύσις ἀπρόσωπος.

33 That there is no anhypostatos nature was held both by opposers and defenders of Chalcedon. See, for instance, the list of passages provided by Uwe M. Lang, John Philoponus and the Controversies over Chalcedon in the Sixth Century: A Study and Translation of the Arbiter (SSL 47; Leuven: Peeters, 2001) 63 n. 212. See also n. 6 above.

34 See, in particular, the debate between Severus of Antioch and John the Grammarian. Severus explicitly asserted the identity of nature and hypostasis against the Chalcedonian confession of the two natures and one hypostasis in Or. II ad Neph. (CSCO 120:12.29–13.5). John criticized Severus for employing the Nestorian argument of “whether there is an aprosōpos nature” in an important passage from his Apol. conc. Chalc., where he shows that Severus would be obliged by maintaining the identity of physis and prosōpon to admit that “out of two natures” implies, in line with Nestorius, “out of two prosōpa.” See Apol. conc. Chalc. 4.1 (CCSG 1:51.82–52.98), where John also appeals to the ontological pattern on which the orthodox doctrine of Trinity was based.

35 See n. 14 above and Ebied, van Roey, and Wickham, Peter of Callinicum, 25.

36 The underlying rationale, apparently shared by both our author and his opponent, is that nature, as a (common) species, necessarily exists in one of its particular instantiations just as hypostasis, as individual, necessarily exists as belonging to a nature. Accordingly, if the former cannot be denied because it would entail a nature which is non-subsistent or unreal (anhypostatos), then this applies to the latter as well, because it would entail a hypostasis that is non-substantial or unreal (anousios).

37 Compare with Leontius of Byzantium, C. Nest. Eut. 1.1 (OECT:130.12–132.16), where the “no anhypostatos nature” objection put forward by the Miaphysites is turned around against them in a similar fashion.

38 Aristostle, Metaph. Δ.6.1016a24–26: “things are said to be ‘one’ when they are of the same kind or genus, though their differentiae separate them. All such things are said to be ‘one,’ because the genus to which the differentiae refer is one”; 1016a 32–35: “Also, things are said to be ‘one’ when their definition (λόγος), which states what it meant to be such a thing, is indistinguishable from the definition of another thing” (Aristotle, Metaphysics [trans. Richard Hope; New York: Columbia University Press, 1952] 96).

39 Basilius of Caesarea/Gregory of Nyssa (?), Ep. 38.2–3 in particular 2.19–30 (Saint Basile, Correspondance [ed. Yves Courtonne; 3 vols.; Budé; Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1957] 1:82): “Now, when the definition of the substance of men is sought of two or more who are in the same way, as Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, one will not apply one definition of the substance of Paul, another of Silvanus and another of Timothy; but by whatever words the substance of Paul is indicated, these same will apply to the others as well, and those who are described by the same definition of substance are consubstantial with one another. But whenever one who has learned what is common turns his investigation to the individual characteristics, whereby one thing is distinguished from another, no longer will the definition indicative of each one agree completely with the definition indicative of another, even though what is common is found in them.” The authorship of this letter has long been discussed by scholars, e.g.: Reinhard Hübner, “Gregor von Nyssa als Verfasser der sog. Ep. 38 des Basilius. Zum unterschiedliche Verstandnis der ousia bei den kappadozischen Brüdern,” in Epektasis. Mélanges patristiques offerts au Cardinal Jean Daniélou (ed. Jacques Fontaine and Charles Kannengiesser; Paris: Beauchesne, 1972) 463–90; Volker H. Drecoll, Die Entwicklung der Trinitätslehre des Basilius von Cäsarea. Sein Weg vom Homöusianer zum Neonizäner (Forschungen zur Kirchen- und Dogmengeschichte 66; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1996) 297–331; Johannes Zachhuber, “Nochmals. Der ‘38. Brief’ des Basilius von Cäsarea als Werk des Gregor von Nyssa,” ZAC 7 (2003) 73–90. What is clear is that the letter presents in a systematic form the doctrine of both Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa. On the definition of hypostasis, see below, n. 51. See also Cyril of Alexandria, Thesaurus 19 (PG 75:316B–C) and De sancta Trinitate dialogi 1.408.44–409.14 (Cyrille d’Alexandrie, Dialogues sur la Trinité, vol. 1, Dialogues I et II [ed. Georges M. de Durand; SC 231; Paris: Cerf, 1976] 196–98).

40 The rationale that an indefinite plurality of ousiai derives from misunderstanding the difference between common and individual seems to be based on Aristotle (see n. 38 above) and Porphyry’s Isagoge 2 (Porphyrii Isagoge et in Aristotelis categorias commentarium [ed. Adolf Busse; Commentaria in Aristotelem graeca 4.1; Berlin: Reimer, 1887] 6.12–23): “individuals (ἄτομα) are infinite (ἄπειρα)…. For species—and still more, genera—gather the many items into a single nature; whereas the particulars or singulars, in contrary fashion, always divide the one into a plurality. For by sharing in the species the many men are one man, and by particulars the one and common man is several—for the singular is always divisive whereas the common is collective and unificatory” (Porphyry, Introduction [trans. Jonathan Barnes; Clarendon Later Ancient Philosophers; Oxford: Clarendon, 2003] 7).

41 The Tritheist writings of John Philoponus survive only in Syriac and have been collected and translated into Latin by Albert Van Roey, “Les fragments trithéites de Jean Philopon,” OLP 11 (1980) 135–63. Still, these later works develop, in many respects, from theories expressed in the Diaitetes, an earlier work mostly of christological matter. Among the studies on Philoponus’s doctrine, see Hainthaler, “John Philoponus”; Lang, John Philoponus; idem, “Patristic Argument”; Christophe Erismann, “The Trinity, Universals, and Particular Substances: Philoponus and Roscelin,” Traditio 53 (2008), 277–305; Zachhuber, The Rise of Christian Theology, 145–69.

42 John Philoponus, De Trinitate fr. 1 and Contra Themistium fr. 18a (ed. Van Roey, 148 [158] and 154 [161]).

43 John Philoponus, Diait. 7, ap. John of Damascus, Liber de haeresibus 83 addit. (PTS 22:51.81–52.73). As Philoponus clarifies in Trin. fr. 1 (ed. Van Roey, 148 [158]), the reason why hypostases are also called substances is the application of the Aristotelian distinction between “first” (particular and actual) and “second” (generic and conceptual) substance, that is between individuals and universals (genera and species).

44 John Philoponus, Trin. fr. 2 (ed. Van Roey, 148 [158]), trans. (including the Greek words) by Hainthailer, “John Philoponus,” 133.

45 John Philoponus, Diait. 4 and 7 (?), ap. John of Damascus, Lib. haer. 83 addit. (PTS 22:50.5–10 and 54.157–55.161). The issue concerning the plurality of substances recurs also in the Sei scritti antitriteistici (ed. and trans. Giuseppe Furlani; PO 14/4; Paris: Firmin Didot, 1920) 673–766, in particular, the Confutazione di un ortodosso III (PO 14/4:696–702), where John Philoponus is directly mentioned.

46 John Philoponus, Trin. fr. 6a (ed. Van Roey, 150 [159]); De Theologia fr. 13 (ed. Van Roey, 153 [160]): “The divine substance subsists in three-fold fashion in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. This substance is divided not only by number but by the properties themselves. Therefore they are entirely of different species”; Theol. fr. 16 (ed. Van Roey, 153–54 [161]): “By saying that the divinity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is the same numerically, you have taken away the consubstantiality, because consubstantiality does not exist in one thing but in many” (trans. Ebied, Van Roey, and Wickham, Peter of Callinicum, 29–30). On this issue see Lang, “Patristic Argument,” 89–91 and Ebied, Van Roey, and Wickham, Peter of Callinicum, 25–31. See also Pamphilus the Theologian, Sol. 11.60–64 (CCSG 19:203), where the theory of ἰδικαὶ οὐσίαι leads to the acknowledgement that they are ἑτεροουσίαι as well.

47 John Philoponus, Diait. 7, ap. John of Damascus, Lib. hear. 83 addit. (PTS 22:52.71–73): “For what should the one nature of the divinity be if not the common intelligible content of the divine nature seen on its own and separated in the conception of the property of each hypostasis?” (trans. Lang, John Philoponus, 191). See also Trin. fr. 2 (ed. Van Roey, 148 [158]) and C. Themis. fr. 22 (ed. Van Roey, 156 [162]). The postulation of ἰδικαὶ οὐσίαι as distinguished from a generic substance (γενικὴ οὐσία), which can be seen only mentally, appears to be the central mistake from which Tritheism derives also in Anastasius of Antioch’s Adversus eos qui in divinis dicunt tres essentias 733–767 (ed. Uthemann, 102–3). On this, see also Ps. Leontius, Sect. 5.6 (PG 86:1233A-B), and Lang, “Patristic argument,” 82–83, for analysis and further passages from Chalcedonian authors dealing with this issue.

48 Leontius of Byzantium, C. Nest. Eut. 1.1 (OECT:132.17–18).

49 Minor additions and differences deriving from mere paraphrase will be overlooked in the following comments.

50 Leontius of Byzantium, C. Nest. Eut. 1.1 (OECT:132.9–134.19 [ed.], 133–35[trans.]): “Hypostasis, gentlemen, and the hypostatic are not the same thing, just as essence and the essential are different. For the hypostasis signifies the individual, but the hypostatic the essence; and the hypostasis defines the person by means of peculiar characteristics, while the hypostatic signifies that something is not an accident, which has its being in another and is not perceived by itself. Such are all qualities, those called essential and those called non-essential; neither of them is the essence, which is a subsistent thing—but is perceived always in association with an essence, as with color in a body or knowledge in a soul. He then who says, ‘There is no such thing as an anhypostatic nature,’ speaks truly; but he does not draw a correct conclusion when he argues from its being not-anhypostatic to its being an hypostasis—just as if one should say, correctly, that there is no such thing as a body without form, but then conclude incorrectly that form is body, not that it is seen in the body. There could never, then, be an anhypostatic nature—that is, essence. But the nature is not a hypostasis, because it is not a reversible attribution; for a hypostasis is also a nature, but a nature is not also a hypostasis: for nature admits of the predication of being, but hypostasis also of being-by-oneself, and the former presents the character of genus, the latter expresses individual identity. And the one brings out what is peculiar to something universal, the other distinguishes the particular from the general.”

51 See Ep. 38.3.14–27 (Budé:83), where τίς “individualizes” and “characterizes” the definition of anthrōpos, which otherwise would only indicate what is common, and Ep. 38.6.4–6 (Budé:89), where hypostasis is defined as “the combination of the peculiarities of each one” (τὴν συνδρομὴν τῶν περὶ ἕκαστον ἰδιωμάτων). This definition is reminiscent of a corrupt passage from Porphyry’s In Aristotelis Categorias commentarium that explains the distinction between specifically different realities on the grounds of a “peculiarity of a combination of qualities” (ἰδιότητι … συνδρομῆς ποιοτήτων (ed. Busse), 129.9–10).

52 Granted that it is impossible to offer here a full account of the variegated readings, the two options do not necessarily bring the exact same results, also because interpreters disagree on whether Leontius equated qualities with accidents. Thus, those who hold that the enhypostaton has its being in another and is not seen in itself argue that it means “existent within something else” (e.g.: Maximus Confessor, Opuscula theologica et polemica [PG 91:261A–264B]; John of Damascus, C. Jacob. 11.3–22 [PTS 22:114]; Friedrich Loofs, Leontius von Byzanz und die gleichnamigen Schriftsteller der griechischen Kirche [TU 3; Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1887] 65–68), or “provided with substantial qualities” (Carlo Dell’Osso, “Still on the Concept of Enhypostaton,” Aug 43 [2003] 63–80), or “enhypostatic” in that the ontological status of nature is not that of a mere accident (Karl-Heinz Uthemann, “Definitionen und Paradigmen in der Rezeption des Dogmas von Chalkedon bis in die Zeit Kaiser Justinians,” in idem, Christus, Kosmos, Diatribe. Themen der frühen Kirche als Beiträge zu einer historischen Theologie [Arbeiten zur Kirchengeschichte 93; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2005] 37–102, at 78–82) and is analogous to that of substantial qualities (Gleede, The Development, 65–67). On the contrary, those who maintain that “being in another” and “being not seen in itself” refer to the accident argue that enhypostaton means “concretely existent” (e.g.: Pamphilus the Theologian, Sol. 7 [CCSG 19:173.9–175.50]; Brian E. Daley, “A Richer Union: Leontius of Byzantium and the Relationship of Human and Divine in Christ,” SP 24 [1993] 239–65; Alois Grillmeier, “Die anthropologisch-christologische Sprache des Leontius von Byzanz and ihre Beziehung zu den Symmykta Zetemata des Neuplatonikers Porphyrius,” in Hermeneumata. Festschrift für Hadwig Hörner [ed. Herbert Eisenberger; Bibliothek der klassischen Altertumswissenschaften. Neue Folge, 2. Reihe 79; Heidelberg: Winter, 1990] 61–72; Lang, “Anhypostatos-Enhypostatos,” 630–57), or that it denotes “an unqualified substrate, which gives reality to the substantial idioms that inhere in it” (Dirk Krausmüller, “Making Sense of the Formula of Chalcedon: The Cappadocians and Aristotle in Leontius of Byzantium’s Contra Nestorianos et Eutychianos,” VC 65 [2011] 484–513), or the “individuated universal” inhering in the particular (Zachhuber, The Rise of Christian Theology, 207–8). Further insights and literature on the subject can be gathered from the aforementioned studies. It is beyond the scope of this essay to evaluate the merits of this scholarship.

53 Aristotle, Cat. 2.1a23–1b3 (see also Phys. 210a27–210a33). Cyril of Alexandria made use of the image of the color as an inseparable attribute or accident in Thes. 31 (PG 75:445C) and Trin. dial. 2.451.25–452.21 (SC 231:324–26). According to Trin. dial. 2.421.14–25 (SC 231:234), there is nothing accidental in God, because accidents do not have “independent existence and [are not] by themselves” (καθ’ ἑαυτά) and are observed “around the substances of beings” (περὶ τὰς τῶν ὄντων οὐσίας) as “inherent in them” (ἤγουν ἐν αὐταῖς).

54 See Pamphilus, Sol. 2.43–44 (CCSG 19:135) and 7.9–25 (CCSG 19:173–74). As a result, we can apply Lang’s explanation of Pamphilus’s position on our author as well (“Anhypostatos-Enhypostatos,” 644): “Pamphilus argues that ἐνυπόστατος is opposed to ἀνυπόστατος, as οὐσία is opposed to συμβεβηκότα, and therefore, since it is the accidents which are ἀνυπόστατα, i.e. without a concrete reality that is seen in themselves, we may conclude from the negative assertion that there is no nature without hypostasis that nature itself presupposes the ἐνυπόστατον, i.e. a reality of its own.” On the Aristotelian feature of the aforementioned definition of substance, see Marcel Richard, “Léonce et Pamphile,” RSPT 27 (1938) 27–52, at 30–33; Lang, “Anhypostatos-Enhypostatos,” 642–44; Uthemann, “Definitionen und Paradigmen,” 64–65; Krausmüller, “Making Sense of the Formula of Chalcedon,” 498–99; and Johannes Zachhuber, “Aristotle in Theodore of Raithu and Pamphilus the Theologian,” in Un metodo per il dialogo fra le culture. La chrêsis patristica (ed. Angela M. Mazzanti; Supplementi di Adamantius IX; Brescia: Morcelliana, 2019) 125–38, at 132–36.

55 Compare also with Leontius, Epilyseis 8 (OECT:308.13–20). To avoid the contradiction originating from the definitions of both ousia and hypostasis as being καθ᾽ ἑαυτό was not the only rationale of Leontius. He also perceived in the definition of physis as something καθ᾽ ἑαυτὸ ὑφεστώς the roots of the mistaken Miaphysite (and in some cases Chalcedonian) ἐκ δύο φύσεων formula as well as of the theory of the preexistence of Christ’s human nature (Epil. 7 [OECT:292.10–16]). We find it endorsed by John the Grammarian, Homiliae adversos Manichaeos 1.7 and 2.14 (CCSG 1:87.101–102 and 98.221–22).

56 Perhaps, our author had some notion of the Aristotelian “paralogism depending on accident” when he endorses the example of the form and body to deny the identification of nature with hypostasis. According to Aristotle, who distinguishes seven kinds of paralogisms in Soph. elench. 4.166b20–28, this type of fallacy occurs “whenever any attribute is claimed to belong in a like manner to a thing and to his accident” (Soph. elench. 7.166b29–30) and “because we cannot distinguish what is the same and what is different, what is one and what many, or what kind of predicate have all the same accidents as their subject” (Soph. elench. 7.169b3–6 [The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation (ed. Jonathan Barnes; trans. Wallace A. Pickard-Cambridge; 2 vols.; Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991) 1:6 and 12]).

57 Aristotle, De an. 403b2–3 (see also Cat. 5.2b4–5).

58 See Basilius of Caesarea/Gregory of Nyssa, Ep. 38.7.27–33 (Budé:91), where it is employed to account analogically for both the unity and the distinction between Father and Son.

59 Aristotle, Cat. 5.2b21 (τὰ δὲ εἴδη κατὰ τῶν γενῶν οὐκ ἀντιστρέφει), Top. 2.1.109a10–11, and 7.5.154a37–b3.

60 Krausmüller, “Under the Spell of John Philoponus,” 632–33.

61 For further details on the presence of Aristotelian, Porphyrian, and Cappadocian doctrines in Leontius’s passage, see Daley, “A Richer Union,” 247–50.

62 In the same line, see John the Grammarian, Apol. conc. Chalc. 24–25 (CCSG 1:12–13); Ps. Leontius, Sect. 7.1 (PG 86:1240A-B); and Leontius of Jerusalem, Aporiae 23 (Leontius of Jerusalem, Against the Monophysites: Testimonies of the Saints and Aporiae [ed. and trans. Patrick Gray; OECT; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006] 188). See also Justinianus, Edictum rectae fidei (Drei dogmatische Schriften Iustinians [ed. Rosangela Albertella, Mario Amelotti, and Livia Migliardi Zingale (post E. Schwartz); Milan: Giuffrè, 1973] 132.33–35), where Nestorius and Theodore are openly mentioned.

63 Cyril openly stated the “one hypostasis” twice, in Contra Nestorium 2.8 (ACO I.i.6:46.29) and Ep. 17.8 (Third Letter to Nestorius) (Cyril of Alexandria, Select Letters [ed. and trans. Lionel R. Wickham; OECT; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983] 24.16).

64 In this, our author distances himself from Leontius of Byzantium, Epil. 8 (OECT:306.19–24). Pamphilus himself showed some reservation toward the “from two natures” expression (see Grillmeier and Hainthailer, Christ in Christian Tradition, 2.3:146).

65 See, for instance, Ep. 45.6 (OECT:74.28–34 [ed.] and 75 [trans.]): “So if we consider, as I said, the mode of his becoming man we see that two natures have met without merger and without alteration in unbreakable mutual union (δύο φύσεις συνῆλθον ἀλλήλαις καθ΄ ἕνωσιν ἀδιάσπαστον ἀσυγχύτως καὶ ἀτρέπτως·)—the point being that flesh is flesh and not Godhead even though it has become God’s flesh … we do not damage the concurrence into unity by declaring it was effected out of two natures” (ἐκ δύο φύσεων); Ep. 97; the Reunion Formula speaks of ἀσυγχύτος ἕνωσις of δύο φύσεις (ACO I.i.4:17.9–14). See also Hans van Loon, The Dyophysite Christology of Cyril of Alexandria (VCSup 96; Leiden: Brill, 2009), 374.