Patristic scholars, rejoice again! Crisis of the Oikoumene, a multi-contributor volume on the mid-sixth century Three Chapters controversy fought initially over the doctrine of Theodore of Mopsuestia and the anti-Cyrilline writings of Theodoret of Cyr and Ibas of Edessa, is being released this month.

As the controversy expanded, and the churches of the Latin west responded negatively to Justinian’s anti-Nestorian program because of its attack on an exegete (Theodore) whom the Latin churches honoured and because its Christology that seemed to (but, in my estimation, did not in the least) undermine the claims of the Tome of Leo accepted at the Council of Chalcedon and so attack the authority of the Pope. The controversy was technically resolved in 553 at the Fifth Ecumenical Council, but this council did not win Roman acceptance until the late sixth century and continued to be a point of contention in the Aquileian church until the late seventh. The Three Chapters controversy is not only relatively little studied, but when it has been studied it has usually been misunderstood in important ways.

Mischa Meier, author of the relatively new Das andere Zeitalter Justinians, has made convincing claims that debunk the traditional view of the Three Chapters controversy as an elaborate ruse to lure dissident monophysites back into the Church. This is all the more compelling when one realises that the sources for this tradition are both hostile, North African Latin bishops who assumed the worst about Justinian’s motives and falsely imputed Origenism to the emperor’s advisor, Theodore Askidas, to explain why Askidas has pushed for the condemnation of the Three Chapters.