Volume 6, issue 2 (winter 1998-1999)
God or angels as impersonators of saints
A belief and its contexts in the
"Refutation" of Eustratius of Constantinople and in the writings of
Anastasius of Sinai
by Dirk Krausmüller
In his article "L'ombre d'un doute" G. Dagron has
challenged the view that the end of Late Antiquity was an "age of
saints".1 He has argued that the hagiographical
literature of the 6th and 7th centuries presents a partisan view
which tends to gloss over the considerable opposition against a
pivotal role of saints in society. Clear signs of such an
opposition can be found in the collections of Questions and Answers
dating to that period. In this article I shall discuss one of the
points to which Dagron has drawn attention. In the answer to
Quaestio no. 19 of the collection of Anastasius of Sinai we find
the statement that "all visions of the saints in the churches and
at the tombs are effected through holy angels".2 This theory also
appears in a more developed form in the answer to Quaestio no. 26
of a collection attributed to Athanasius of Alexandria where we are
told that "the overshadowings and visions in the churches and at
the tombs of the saints do not happen through the souls of the
saints but through angels who change their shapes into the
appearances of the saints".3 The authors of the Questions and
Answers were, however, not the first to express this view. Dagron
has pointed out that a strikingly similar theory is already found
in the late 6th century when it is attacked by the
Constantinopolitan priest Eustratius in his "Refutation of those
who say that the souls of men are not active after the separation
from their bodies etc.".4 In the preface to this treatise
Eustratius describes the theory of his adversaries as follows:
"When the souls of the saints appear to certain people they do not
appear in their substance or own being but a divine power taking on
their shapes gives the impression that the souls of the saints are
While the purpose of this theory is obviously to exclude an
involvement of dead saints in the affairs of the living the
argument is curiously oblique for the apparitions are accepted as
real and simply explained in a different way. This is especially
interesting since it would not have been impossible to deny their
reality, as a passage in the writings of Maximus the Confessor
(+662) clearly shows. At the beginning of the 8th letter to John of
Cyzicus, Maximus confesses to the "yearning" he has felt for the
addressee ever since he met him for the first time and then goes on
to say: "Having been deemed worthy to have this yearning for you
most holy one from the beginning I seem to see you always being
present and to sense you conversing with me. ... And I for one am
convinced that my memory does not merely imagine you most holy one
but that I sense you as being truly present".6 Although in the
end he thus stresses the reality of John's presence, it is worth
noting that Maximus at first considers the alternative explanation
that his "yearning" might have induced his own imagination to
conjure up John's image based on the memory of a previous contact
with him. We only need to replace this with the previous seeing of
an icon to get an explanation which could well be used to reduce
the apparitions of saints to mere figments of the mind.
A look at the remainder of this passage shows its relevance to
our topic even more clearly. Maximus explains that he feels assured
of the reality of John's presence because it drives away his sinful
thoughts.7 This idea is then restated in the following
way: "For the effective power which is in you according to the
grace of God drives away the molesting demons and thus gives a most
clear sign for your presence".8 Thus Maximus presents himself as
a possessed man whose demons are expelled by the apparition of a
saint. By using this image to express that his sinful thoughts
leave him he clearly indicates that the experience of the
miraculous healings at the shrines of the saints provides the
background for this whole passage.
When Maximus bases his belief in the reality of John's presence
on the "real" effects it has on him he does, however, also give a
clue why the authors of the Questions and Answers and the
adversaries of Eustratius did not conclude that the visions were
merely imagined. Obviously the beneficient effects of the
apparitions of saints were something so widely agreed that they
could not simply be negated but had to be explained in a different
But what did these authors gain by substituting a divine force
or angels for the saints? A passage in Eustratius' "Refutation"
shows that by introducing a divine power as actor his adversaries
wanted to safeguard that all "supernatural" activity on earth comes
directly from God. Having stated his own position that the saints
themselves appear to the faithful Eustratius turns to his
adversaries: "You who object will certainly say that it is the
power of God which acts." To this he replies: "And I agree! For who
is so stupid not to think thus?"10 Then he deduces from God's
promise to "glorify those who glorify me" that the souls of the
saints must be active and that therefore "God who has been
glorified by them and glorifies them makes visible the souls of the
saints to those who are in need of their help when it pleases
him."11 Eustratius constructs his argument in a way
that God remains the sole actor and the saints are little more than
his instruments who carry out his will through their apparitions.
While Eustratius' presentation serves its purpose to show that in
the end there is no contradiction between the two models it must,
however, be stressed that it does not correspond to the beliefs
held by most of his contemporaries. As is amply testified in
hagiographical literature the faithful experienced the saints as
independent actors whom they expected to interact with God. When
Eustratius deviates from this predominant view the obvious
explanation is that he thus tried to prevent the objection of his
adversaries that the activity of saints could lead to an
infringement on the divine will.
In the Questions and Answers the angels take the place of the
divine power of Eustratius' adversaries as impersonators of the
saints. Again we need to determine in what it is that the role of
the saints as representatives of a distant God differs from that of
the angels. The souls of the saints appear with and act through
their own bodies and are therefore clearly distinguished from God.
In the case of the angels, on the other hand, there is no link
between appearance and "self" which means that they remain
anonymous and therefore cannot be perceived as individual actors
apart from God. This explains why angels are in fact dispensable
elements in the discourse and why the concepts of "angels changing
their shapes into the appearances of the saints" found in the
Questions and Answers and of "a divine power taking on the shapes
(sc. of the saints)" used by the adversaries of Eustratius are in
the end interchangeable.
The link with God is further stressed when the angels are said
to appear "through the command of God".12 One could
object that Eustratius had made the same point about the saints but
in the case of the angels it clearly coincides with the beliefs
held by the contemporaries. An episode from the Miracles of
Cyrus and John by Sophronius of Jerusalem (+638) is
especially instructive for an understanding of the different roles
of angels and saints.13 The hero of this story is a
fervent worshipper of the saints by the name of George. "When the
limits of the life were reached George ... departed from this life.
And he saw the angels taking him and leading him away and Cyrus and
John meeting them and asking them to give them the old man as a
favour. The angels said that they could not do this since they
served the divine command according to fixed rules; they said,
however, that they would wait for their entreaty of God and for his
second ruling. Having received this answer the martyrs turned to
their entreaty and bent their knees to God and asked him to give
them the venerator as a gift. And while they did this a voice came
down from heaven and commanded to give the old man to the martyrs
and fixed twenty more years in this life."14
What we find here are two radically different concepts of the
transmission of power. The angels are mere instruments of God's
will which they cannot change so that it is pointless for men to
influence them in their favour.15 The saints, on the other hand,
appear as real intermediaries who can negotiate the reversal of a
There can be no doubt that this scene exactly mirrors the social
experience of Sophronius and his contemporaries. The angels
correspond to the representatives of the central administration who
carry out its regulations in the provinces. The saints, on the
other hand, are clearly not "regular" officials entrusted with
standard tasks but rather correspond to local notables who are not
directly dependent on the emperor and who can use their influence
in favour of their clients when need arises.
Although the final decision is made by God, Sophronius' account
shows an initial discrepancy between the will of the saints and
that of God which is then overcome through negotiation. By
replacing the saints with angels the authors of the Questions and
Answers could exclude this discrepancy.16 And the same
aim was achieved even more effectively by the adversaries of
Eustratius who by reducing all apparitions to a divine power
completely eliminated all intermediaries. This means that while
they are accepted as reality the negotiations of the faithful with
the saints who appear to them are nevertheless deprived of their
function and thus have lost all their meaning.
It must, however, be stressed that this is only one
possible explanation for the belief in the impersonation of saints
by angels or a divine power. In the last part of this article I
shall return to this question and show that there could well be
other reasons for holding this belief.
The adversaries of Eustratius and the authors of the Questions
and Answers could only hope to convince others when they managed to
disprove the obvious explanation that it is the saints themselves
who appear to the faithful. Dagron has already remarked that they
used the theory of the "sleep of the soul" for this purpose. His
first case in point are the adversaries of Eustratius. I shall now
give the full quotation of the passage from the preface of the
treatise which I have already quoted partially at the beginning of
"They insist on saying that after the departure from
this life and the withdrawal of the souls from the bodies the souls
themselves also remain inactive, be they holy or otherwise. Thus
when the souls of the saints appear to certain people they do not
appear in their substance or own being, as they say, but a divine
power taking on a shape gives the impression that the souls of the
saints are active. For those are in some place and can
never show themselves to certain people in this life after the
departure from the body".17
This summary shows that Eustratius' adversaries presented their
views as a coherent system in which a radically "anti-Platonic"
anthropology based on the interdependence of body and soul led to a
denial of the posthumous activity of human souls and therefore
necessitated the hypothesis that a divine power takes on the shape
of saints as an alternative explanation to account for the
apparitions of saints after their death.
Anastasius' answer to Quaestio no. 19, on the other hand,
presents us with a rather different case. According to Dagron his
treatment of the topic is virtually identical with that of the
adversaries of Eustratius. And indeed before stating that "all
visions of the saints in the churches and at the tombs are effected
through holy angels" Anastasius has attempted to prove that after
death the soul is in a comatose state.18 He observes
that even in life the faculties of the soul cannot function when
the respective organs are maimed and that a fortiori the soul is
completely incapable of functioning after its separation from the
body.19 This shows his interest in questions of
"natural history" which has been stressed by Dagron.20
When we look more closely at Anastasius' answer to Quaestio no.
19 we see, however, one important difference. After having
developed the theory of the sleep of the soul and before turning to
the hypothesis that angels impersonate saints, Anastasius inserts a
passage in which he restricts the posthumous inactivity to those
who have died as sinners whereas he expresses the opinion that
those souls who have acquired the Holy Spirit during their
life-times are illuminated by Him and thus enabled to feel joy and
praise God and intercede for each other.21 One can argue
that this does not disprove his previous teaching about the sleep
of the soul since the activity of the saintly souls does not
originate in their self-movement but comes from the Holy Spirit as
an outside force.
Regardless of the explanation, however, the admission that the
saints are active after death has the consequence that the sleep of
the soul cannot be used as an explanation for the following
hypothesis that angels are responsible for the apparitions of
saints.22 Anastasius must have felt the deficiency of
his reasoning on the basis of the sleep of the souls for he then
adds further arguments to shore up his belief. First he objects
that a bodily appearance of saints is impossible since the
resurrection of the flesh has not yet taken place.23 Then he
states that the souls of the saints are circumscribed so that they
cannot appear at the same time in different places.24 These
arguments have in common that they are not dependent on the belief
in a sleep of the soul. The former simply denies the visibility of
dead saints but not necessarily their activity.25 And the
latter does not even exclude the actual presence of the soul of the
saint in one of these simultaneous apparitions.26 Anastasius
thus falls back to a second and even to a third line of defense.27
The most likely explanation for this chaos is that Anastasius'
answer to Quaestio no. 19 ultimately goes back to a source
containing an argument which was more or less identical with that
of Eustratius' adversaries and that the stringency of this argument
was then destroyed by limiting the conclusion that all souls are
inactive "be they holy or otherwise" to the souls of sinners alone.
Otherwise it cannot be explained why Anastasius should have
presented the now obviously unrelated theories of the sleep of the
souls and of the angels as impersonators of saints in the same
context. The phrase "as it seems to me" implies that Anastasius
himself was responsible for this change.28
Despite the superficial similarity of the argument there is
therefore a huge difference between the adversaries of Eustratius
and Anastasius. For the former the belief that a divine power
impersonates saints is the sign of a strong opposition against the
saints whose role is completely negated through the stress on their
posthumous inactivity.29 Anastasius, on the other hand,
shows no principal opposition to an active afterlife of the saints
let alone hostility towards them as a privileged group.30
As a consequence the close parallel we have drawn between the
function of the divine power and that of the angels as eliminating
the intermediate level between God and the living can only be said
to apply to Anastasius' source but not necessarily to Anastasius
This leaves us with a serious problem. When the wish to do away
with the saints could not have motivated him anymore why did he so
doggedly adhere to the belief that angels impersonate saints
despite the obvious weakness of his reasoning? It may, however, be
that we are not asking the right question. While it is true that
Anastasius uses a coherent argument of the kind proposed by
Eustratius' adversaries as starting point one cannot simply assume
that logical coherence had the same importance for him. For a
proper understanding of Anastasius' intentions we need to compare
his argument in Quaestio no. 19 with his treatment of other themes
in his Questions and Answers. A good example is the controversy
about whether the lifespans of men are predetermined by God or not.
There are clear indications that Anastasius adheres to the theory
that the term of life is fixed once and for all and can in fact be
deduced from certain signs.31 This fits in well with his
interest in natural history and the stress on the regularity of
natural processes which has been pointed out by Dagron.32
But these statements are found in the context of an "abstract"
discussion about the different types of prophecy. In those
questions where he is expressly asked about the term of life, on
the other hand, we find an outright denial that it could be
predetermined by God or known by men.33 But here the
explanation is of a radically different type. Anastasius points out
that men would then only be repentent right before their death and
thus argues with the bad effects such a predetermination and
foreknowledge would have on the human character. This shows clearly
that Anastasius' "scientific" or "abstract" reasoning could well be
at odds with his practical interests as a spiritual father and that
in the end the latter would carry the day. So we are entitled to
look for an explanation of the theory of the impersonation of
saints by angels quite apart from the concomitant anthropology.
Bearing this in mind we can now return to Anastasius in order to
find a satisfactory answer. A look at the parts of Quaestio no. 19
which we have not yet interpreted shows that the belief in the
posthumous activity of the souls of the saints is not just a stray
element found in an otherwise coherent context. At the beginning of
his answer Anastasius establishes a parallel between God and the
human soul as being created "in the image of God".34He first lists
apophatic predications of the divine essence like unknowable,
untouchable etc. and states that they also apply to the essence of
the soul.35 Then he turns to the operations of God and
points out that God who is himself invisible shows his activities
through his creation and that the soul mirrors him insofar as it is
also invisible in itself but shows its activities through the
body.36 This provides him with the starting-point for
the subsequent development of the theme of the sleep of the soul
for his next step is to conclude that the soul becomes inactive
once its visible activities are made impossible through the loss of
the body. This transition is, however, extremely awkward. Whereas
up to this point Anastasius has striven to establish an exact
parallel between God and the soul he now draws a conclusion which
only applies to the soul without giving an explanation why without
the creation God should not be equally inactive.
This muddle is caused by the fact that Anastasius here shifts
from one belief system to another. The parallel between God and
creation on the one hand and soul and body on the other has its
place in an anthropology which stresses the closeness of the soul
with God and presupposes that just as God does not need the world
to be active the soul is not in need of the body. It was, however,
completely rejected by those who adhered to the theory of a
posthumous inactivity of the souls. In fact, a stress on the utter
difference between God and all his creatures could be called the
distinctive mark of their argument. This is especially obvious in
Maximus' 6th letter to John of Cyzicus where he points to this
parallel in a refutation of this latter anthropology avowing that
otherwise the soul could no longer be called "image of God" and
ridiculing the fear of his adversaries that drawing such a parallel
would amount to blasphemy.37
This shows that it would be too simple to conclude that
Anastasius wrecks an otherwise straightforward argument through his
wish to safeguard the activity of dead saints. One can equally
argue that the theory of the sleep of the soul is the dysfunctional
element in Anastasius' argument. There are indications that
Anastasius himself came to see it this way in the end. The
image-relation between God and soul was a pet topic of his to which
he returned in his first speech about the kat' eikona.38
In this speech the hypothesis of the inactivity of the soul after
its separation from the body also reappears. Here it is, however,
attributed to a fictitious adversary and then refuted.39
Anastasius starts his argument by saying "that the soul as being in
the image and likeness of God shows its invisible faculties through
visible matter".40 This corresponds exactly to the parallel he
had drawn between God and the soul in his Questions and Answers but
now he no longer concludes from this observation that the soul
cannot be active without the body. Instead he says that "even when
it is separated (sc. from the body) the soul which is pure
according to nature and which is then found more perceptive and
more spiritual and simple and unencumbered and bright in its
substance can in a truer sense be called in the image and likeness
of God".41 When he now links the activity of the soul to
its substance he constructs an exact parallel with God whose
substance is equally self-sufficient and not dependent on the
world. This can only mean that the implications of his argument in
the Questions and Answers had finally dawned on him and that he had
now changed it to avoid possible misunderstandings.42
The analogy between God and the soul, however, only demands that
the soul is as perceptive without the body as it has been
with it whereas Anastasius now says that the soul will then be even
more perceptive. This shows that he has run the whole
gamut from an "Aristotelian" to a diametrically opposed "Platonic"
anthropology where the body is regarded as an encumbrance of the
self-moved soul.43 At first sight, this looks like a tremendous
change. The very fact, however, that these belief systems did not
inspire a life-long allegiance in Anastasius suggests that for him
they had lost the power to organize a stable symbolic universe.44
One can wonder whether this is simply the freak of an individual or
whether it is not rather the sign of a general disintregation of
traditional belief systems in the 7th century. This is, however, a
question which cannot be addressed in this article.
Considering these changes it comes as a surprise that at the end
of his speech on the kat' eikona Anastasius restates his
belief that the souls of the saints do not have contact with the
living after the separation from their bodies. It goes without
saying that this belief can in no way be explained by a Platonic
anthropology. Anastasius' explanation is therefore based on a
completely different reasoning. Now he argues that being sent back
to earth is a menial task which befits "servant spirits" like the
angels but not the souls of the saints which are "master spirits"
created in the image of a God who has then hypostatically united
himself with this image.45
What Anastasius rejects here is the idea that the dead saints
could be instrumentalized by God in his dealings with the living.
When he presents the inability to communicate as the sign of a
privileged position this sounds less odd when one remembers what
the saints had to endure on their missions to the faithful. I shall
only give one example from the Life of Sabas by Cyrill of
Scythopolis (+ca. 558): A deacon who has lost money goes to the
church of St. Theodore where he stays for many days expecting an
apparition. When the saint finally comes the deacon complains that
he has wasted so much time with praying and has not been helped.
The saint then justifies himself by telling the deacon that he has
had another task to see to and finally gives the information
required.46 This shows clearly that the saints were
believed to be constantly travelling from one church to another in
order to satisfy the wishes of the living.47 The Late
Antique collections of miracles give many more examples for the
trivial matters saints have to deal with and the often crude
attempts of the faithful to manipulate them in their favour. So it
is not surprising that we find authors who worried about the role
of the saints in these interactions. In his sermon on the martyr
Leontius patriarch Severus of Antioch (+538) clearly shows the
reservations he had regarding the stories of miracles which he
narrated.48 He explained them with the condescension of
the martyr who adapted to the level of insight of those who
benefitted from his appearances and stated that to the perfect he
reveals hidden things, to the middle ones he appears in a middle
way, and "to those who have imperfect dispositions he condescends
and amuses himself with prodigies as with small children".49
Severus speaks about the "amusement" felt by the martyr but this
lowering of one's own level could also cause a keen feeling of
pain. This is clearly expressed by Maximus in a passage of his
Ambigua where he says that the inner state of the perfect shines
through the body "so that those who are in need of some help may
receive it from those who can give it" which obviously refers to
miracles.50 The perfect himself, on the other hand, does
not gain anything by his actions so that it comes as no surprise
when Maximus exclaims at the end: "If only there was nobody in need
of receiving benefits ... and everyone was self-sufficient!"51
A similar statement we find in his Gnostic Chapters where Maximus
first interprets Abraham's travels from the "Land of the Chaldeans"
via "Mesopotamia" to the "Promised Land" as the stages of
"passionate life", "middle condition" and "state full of all goods"
which one has to go through to become a saint.52 In the next
chapter he points out that some of the saints were taken into the
Babylonian captivity thus going the opposite way and then states
that "none of the saints appears to go down to Babylonia out of his
free will" and that if some let themselves be carried away with the
people "through force" they did this only because of the salvation
of those who needed their guidance.53 These highly ambiguous
passages present us with an image of the saints as social climbers
who regard the help for their inferiors as an almost intolerable
burden and feel a strong tension between their social obligations
and the wish to enjoy the status they have achieved.
Anastasius' belief in the impersonation of saints by angels
could therefore be explained as a radical solution to that problem
for it liberates the saints from unwelcome tasks and at the same
time allows for a help of others through the substitution of
angels. This is all the more likely as Anastasius himself acted as
a spiritual guide which may have made him dread an equally burdened
afterlife. This helps us to modify Dagron's conclusion. Far from
being opposed to the concept of the "saints" as a special and
privileged group Anastasius tried to safeguard this concept against
the encroachments of the "non-saints".54
The barefaced egotism of the faithful is all too apparent in
those texts which defend the active role of the saints. Under the
reign of Leo VI (886-912) the quaestor Anastasius ho Traulo" wrote
an encomium of St. Agathonicus which ends with an exhortation to
his audience not to be confused by those who attribute the
apparitions of saints to the angels.55 There we find
the following argument: "Even if they are without their own body
which has been put down through death they wait on the creator with
the angels and are (also) not doubted to perform angelic
ministrations".56 What Anastasius ho Traulov" has in mind is
obviously a very similar argument to the one set out by Anastasius
of Sinai in his speech on the kat' eikona and he counters it
by making the saints "like angels". This reasoning shows clearly
that the concerns of Anastasius of Sinai are completely alien to
him. From the beginning he has exclusively argued from the
perspective of those "who are in need of help" whereas the point of
view of the saints in all this is not considered at all.57
Summing up we can say that the adversaries of
Eustratius deduced their belief that a divine power impersonates
the saints from the theory of the sleep of the souls and thus
integrated it into a coherent cosmology which was openly hostile to
the saints as a privileged group. This was, however, not
necessarily the case as the example of Anastasius of Sinai shows.
Anastasius held the similar belief that angels appear in the shape
of saints but he did not derive it from a specific anthropology be
it "Aristotelian" as in his Questions and Answers or "Platonic" as
in his speech on the kat' eikona. Moreover, when he denied
the saints their personal contacts with the faithful his motive was
not hostility towards them but rather the wish to liberate them
from an onerous task.
G. Dagron, "L'ombre d'un doute: L'hagiographie en question, VIe -
DOP 46 (1992), 59-68.
Anastasius of Sinai, Quaestiones et responsiones, no.
89 (= no. 19),
PG 89, 717C: pasai hai optasiai hai ginomenai en
tois naois è sorois toon hagioon di' hagioon angeloon
epitelountai. Cf. M. Richard, Les véritables "Questions et
réponses" d' Anastase le Sinaïte. Bulletin de
l'IRHT 15 (1967-1968), 39-56. [= Opera minora 3.
Turnhout-Louvain 1977, no. 64.
Ps-Athanasius, Quaestiones ad Antiochum ducem, no. 26,
613B: hai en tois naois kai sorois toon hagioon ginomenai
episkiaseis kai optasiai ou dia toon psuchoon toon hagioon ginontai
alla di' angeloon metaschematizomenoon eis to eidos toon
Cf. Dagron, L'ombre d'un doute, 64. Cf. J. Darrouzès, Art.
Eustrate de Cple. DSp 4
(1960), 1718-1719. This long treatise was partly edited by Leo
Allatius, De utriusque ecclesiae ... perpetua in dogmate de
purgatorio consensione. Rom 1655, 336-580. Since I had
no access to this book I am quoting from the Codex Vaticanus
graecus 511, foll. 151-204, on which Allatius' edition is based,
cf. fol. 151: logos anatreptikos pros tous legontas mè
energein tas toon anthroopoon psuchas meta ten diazeuxin heautoon
Codex Vaticanus graecus 511, fol. 152r: kan oun fainoontai tisin
hai toon hagioon psuchai kat' ousian è huparxin idian ...
fainontai; dunamis de tis theia schematizomene psuchas hagioon
Maximus Confessor, Epistulae, no. 8, PG 90, 441A1-2, 7-10:
touton ton pothon ap' arches pros tous hagiootatous humas echein
axiootheis aei parontas horan dokoo kai dialegomenoon aisthanesthai
.... kai peithomai ge mè psiloos ten mnèmèn
fantazesthai tous hagiootatous humas alla parontoon alèthoos
Maximus, Epistulae, no. 8, PG 90, 441A5-6: humas
parontas ... kai pantas tous en emoi dusoodeis logismous
Maximus, Epistulae, no. 8, PG 90, 441A10-14: ....
to ginomenon plèroforian akribè tès humoon
parousias poioumenos; hè gar en humin kata charin theou
drastèrios dunamis hama tèi mnèvmèi
tous diochlountas apelaunousa daimonas safestatèn tès
humoon parousias parechetai dèloosin.
One must not forget that the proof used by Maximus had been used by
Christian authors for centuries, cf. below note 31.
10 Codex Vaticanus graecus 511, fol. 158v: ereite oun pantoos
hoi antilegontes hoos hè tou theou dunamis estin hè
energousa; sumfèmi kagoo; tís gar houtoo tugchanei
abelteros hoos mè houtoo fronei.
11 Codex Vaticanus graecus 511, fol. 158v: legei gar hoti tous
doxazontas me doxasoo; poos oun doxazei mè energousoon toon
psuchoon ... toon doxasantoon auton hagioon .... ho doxastheis hup'
autoon theos kai doxazoon autous hotan autooi areskèi
emfaneis toon hagioon kathistèsi ta psuchas tois
chrèizousi thès autoon boètheias.
12 Anastasius of Sinai, Quaestio no. 89 (= no.
89, 717C: ... di' epitropès theou ....
13 Los Thaumata de Sofronio. Contribucion al estudio de
la Incubatio Cristiana (Manuales y anejos de "Emerita" 31),
ed. Natalio Fernandez Marcos. Madrid 1975.
14 Los Thaumata de Sofronio, miraculum 51, ed.
Marcos, c. 11, 364: Geoorgios ... toon horoon tès
zooès plèroothentoon tès parousès
zooès ekdedèmèken; kai tous angelous horai
labontas auton kai apagonta kai kuron autois kai iooannèn
sunantoontas tous marturas, kai charizesthai autois ton
presbutèn presbeuontas, hoper poiein elegon hai dunameis
mè dunasthai, theiooi de thespismati kata tropon
douleuousai; menein d' autoon tèn pros theon hiketeian
apèngellon, kai deuteran autou prosdechesthai keleusin.
tautèn labontes hoi martures tèn apokrisin, pros
hiketeian etreponto, kai pros theon ta gonata klinantes,
doorèthènai autois ton latrèn edeonto; kai
touto poiountoon, ap' ouranou foonè katefereto, didonai
prostattousa tois martusi ton presbuteron, kai chronous eikosi en
L&S s. v. kata tropon "according to
16 It must be stressed, however, that "angel" is not a
monolithic category and that angels like Michael can well appear as
individuals with a definite personality and history who then act as
intercessors like the saints.
17 Codex Vaticanus graecus 511, fol. 152r: diischurizontai
legontes hoti meta tèn tou biou toude metastasin kai
tèn toon psuchoon apo toon soomatoon anachoorèsin
anenergètous menousi kai autai hai psuchai eite hagiai eite
alloos poos huparchousin; kan oun fainoontai tisin hai toon hagioon
psuchai kat' ousian è huparxin idian hoos autoi fasin ou
fainontai; dunamis de tis theia schèmatizomenè
psuchas hagioon energousas deiknusin; ekeinai gar en tini topooi
eisi mèdepote dunamenoi meta tèn tou soomatos
ekdèmian en tooide tooi biooi tisin emfanizein.
18 Anastasius of Sinai, Quaestio no. 89 (= no.
89, 717C: pasai hai optasiai hai ginomenai en tois naois è
sorois toon hagioon di' hagioon angeloon epitelountai.
19 Anastasius of Sinai, Quaestio no. 89 (= no.
20 Cf. Dagron, "L'ombre d'un doute", 61-63. Anastasius does,
however, also list biblical passages in favour of his theory "so
that nobody may think that we invent medical mythologies",
Quaestio no. 89 (= no. 19), PG 89, 720A1-2: kai hina
mè doxoosi tinas iatrikas hèmas muthologias
anaplattein. A comparison with the Questions and Answers attributed
to Athanasius of Alexandria is instructive for there biblical
quotations are the only kind of proof, Ps-Athanasius,
Quaestio no. 26,
PG 28, 613B. This shows that the theory of a sleep
of the souls was not necessarily based on "scientific" reasoning
and that regarding this point Dagron's conclusion only applies to
Anastasius of Sinai. His two other points of alternative
explanations for diseases and for miracles cannot be discussed
21 Anastasius of Sinai, Quaestio no. 89 (= no.
22 That this is the case shows a comparison with patriarch
Methodius in the 9th century who held an identical view of the
afterlife but nevertheless accepted the apparitions of saints. Cf.
his Life of Euthymius of Sardes, c. 44, ed. J.
Gouillard, "La vie d'Euthyme de Sardes (+831), une oeuvre du
patriarche Méthode", TM 10 (1987), 83.
23 Anastasius of Sinai, Quaestio no. 89 (= no.
24 Anastasius of Sinai, Quaestio no. 89 (= no.
25 The argument is, moreover, rather weak for Anastasius does
not consider let alone explain why unlike the angels human souls
should not be capable of taking on shapes which are not "real"
bodies. A century earlier Eustratius had already suggested a
solution for this problem by saying that the saints can be their
own image-bearers. Cf. G. Dagron, "Holy Images and Likeness",
45 (1991), 23-33.
26 Such a distinction was actually made by patriarch Methodius
in the 9th century. Cf. his scholion on the Passio S. Marinae, ed.
H. Usener, Festschrift zur fünften Säcularfeier der
Carl-Ruprechts-Universität in Heidelberg. Bonn, 1886,
p. 53, ll. 4-5.
27 This is obvious from the phrase with which Anastasius
introduces his last argument: ei de antilegein nomizeis. So
it is not surprising when in the Questions and Answers attributed
to Athanasius of Alexandria we find a further desintegration of
this flawed argument. Here the sleep of the soul and the
explanation for the apparitions are presented in two successive
chapters so that the two steps of the argument are completely
disjointed and the only remaining reason for depriving the saints
of their contact with the living is the hypothesis of the
circumscription of the souls, Ps-Athanasius, Quaestio
PG 28, 613A, Quaestio no. 26,
28 Anastasius of Sinai, Quaestio no. 89 (= no.
89, 717C2: emoi dokei.
29 Moreover, this is not the only deduction they made from the
theory of the sleep of the souls for they also used it to explain
away the efficacy of the prayers of the living for dead sinners.
Most of Eustratius' treatise is, in fact, devoted to a proof of the
efficacy of the prayers for the dead. Thus, their hostility against
the saints as a privileged group of dead who are able to alleviate
the lot of the living is just a facet of a general attempt to sever
all bonds between the living and the dead. The adversaries of
Eustratius appear as moral rigorists who obviously considered all
forms of solidarity as corrupting and as potentially directed
against God and therefore developed the concept of an atomized
society. Their position needs to be discussed in greater detail
which cannot be done in this article.
30 Cf. his other statements about the afterlife in his
Questions and Answers where he expresses the belief that the
disembodied soul of a saint is not only active but can even see
this world. Cf. e. g. Quaestio no. 91, 724B.
31 Anastasius of Sinai, Quaestio no. 20,
521A9-13: hoi akathartoi daimones ... thanatous anthroopoon (sc.
heuriskousin); esti gar sussèma tina entethenta hupo
tès pronoias tooi anthroopinooi soomati malista en tais
opsesin autou kai pro pollou chronou kai pro bracheos hoos fasin
hoi tèn iatrikèn epistèmèn leptoos kai
32 Dagron, "L'ombre d'un doute", 63, concludes that the
attitudes found in the Questions and Answers show "une
réaction concertée" against the contemporary triumph
of hagiography and as a rethinking of faith after the Arab conquest
"en balisant le domaine légitime de la science profane".
33 Anastasius of Sinai, Quaestio no. 21, 532C3-4:
ei proginooskousin tou'o polla atopa emellon diaprattesthai.
34 Anastasius of Sinai, Quaestio no. 89,
35 Anastasius of Sinai, Quaestio no. 89,
36 Anastasius of Sinai, Quaestio no. 89,
37 Maximus Confessor, Epistulae, no. 6,
38 Anastasius Sinaita, Sermones duo in constitutionem
hominis secundum imaginem Dei necnon opuscula adversus
monotheletas. Ed. K.-H. Uthemann (Corpus Christianorum
Series Graeca 12). Turnhout-Löwen 1985.
39 Anastasius Sinaita, Sermones duo, ed. Uthemann,
I, c. 5, 29: ei de legeis moi hoti ouden kath' heautèn
energei hè psuchè chooris tou soomatos.
40 Anastasius Sinaita, Sermones duo, ed. Uthemann,
I, c. 5, 29: èdè touto kai hèmeis
proeirèkamen (this refers back to I, 2, p. 27) hoti kai en
toutooi kat' eikona kai homoioosin theou ousa, dia tès
hulès tès horoomenès tas aoratous autès
41 Anastasius Sinaita, Sermones duo, ed. Uthemann,
I, c. 5, 29: plèn hoti kai choorizomenè tou soomatos
hè kata fusin kathara psuchè, hè ousiai tote
malista dioratikootera kai pneumatikootera kai haplè kai
aparenochlètos kai footeinotera heuriskomenè, kat'
eikona kai homoioosin theou alèthesteroos dunatai
42 This is makes it likely that Anastasius wrote the speech
after the QA for it is hardly conceivable that he replaced the
sound argument presented here by a flawed one in the QA.
43 Cf. especially the key term
44 The almost playful treatment of these topics which is
especially obvious in Anastasius' development of the image-theme
points into the same direction.
45 Anastasius Sinaita, Sermones duo, ed. Uthemann,
I, c. 6, 30-31: hothen hoos theotimètos hèmoon
hè psuchè oude apostelletai heis diakonian meta
tèn apallagèn tou soomatos, kathoos hoi angeloi
apostellontai; epeidè ekeina men eisi leitourgika
ègoun doulika pneumata, hai de toon hagioon malista psuchai
kat'eikona theou despotika pneumata ... ei gar èlattootai ho
anthroopos meta tèn parakoèn brachu ti par' angelous
hoos thnètos gegonoos, all' homoos tetimètai polu ti
par' angelous dia tès tou theou logou en autooi kath'
46 Cf. the Life of Sabas, c. 78; E. Schwartz,
Kyrillos von Skythopolis. Leipzig 1939, 184-185.
47 This belief would have been shared by Anastasius who as we
have seen believed in the circumscription of the soul.
48 Homélie XXVII: Sur le saint martyr Léonce,
Les Homélies Cathedrales de Sévère
d'Antioche. Traduction syriaque de Jacques d'Édesse,
publiée et traduite par M. Brière et F. Graffin.
Homélies XXV à XXXI. (PO 36, 4) Turnhout
1974, pp. 559-573.
49 Severus, Homily XXVII, eds. Brière, Graffin, p. 567,
ll. 1-8: "... et à ceux qui ont des dispositions imparfaites
il condescend et s'amuse avec des prodiges, comme avec de tout
50 Maximus Confessor, Ambigua, PG 91, 1108C: ef' ooi
... tous deomenous epikourias tinos hupo toon dunamenoon tuchein.
The second point which does not concern us here is that the saint
thus presents others with a model for imitation. As in Severus this
is linked to condescension for the saint becomes everything to
everyone thus representing on his level the workings of divine
51 Maximus, Ambigua, PG 91, 1108C: hoos eige
mèdeis èn ho eu pathein deomenos ... auton hekaston
52 Maximus, Capita Theologica et Oeconomica, II,
90, 1145C: ho empathès bios ... ho epamfoterizoon tois
enantiois tropos ... hè pantos agathou
53 Maximus, Capita Theologica et Oeconomica, II,
90, 1145CD: sèmeiooteon hoos oudeis toon hagioon ekousioos
fainetai katelthoon eis tèn Babuloonian ... ei de tines
autoon kata bian ekei tooi laooi sunapèchthèsan
nooumen dia toutoon tous mè proègoumenoos alla kata
peristasin sootèrias heneken toon chrèizontoon
cheiragoogias afentas ton hupsèloteron tès gnooseoos
54 After all, a saint is not the sum of the demands society
makes on him but has his own voice. This is a point which has been
neglected by P. Brown!
55 G. van Hoof, "Encomium in s. Agathonicum Nicomediensem
AB 5 (1886) 369-415. Cf. S.
Pétridès, Art. Anastase 73: Anastase le Bègue.
DHGE 2 (1914), 1477, who points to a letter which
Anastasius sent to Leo Choerosphactes in the year 907.
56 Anastasius, Encomium, ed. van Hoof, c. 16, 414,
ll. 11-14: ei gar kai dicha tou oikeiou soomatos eisin
apamfiasthentos toutou tooi thanatooi alla met' angeloon tooi
ktistèi paristamenoi angelikas leitourgias apotelein ouk
amfiballontai. The remainder of his argument is made up of a
refutation of the argument of circumscription.
57 Anastasius, Encomium, ed. van
Hoof, c. 16, p. 414, l. 6: tois epikourias deomenois; cf. Maximus'
expression tous deomenous epikourias tinos quoted above note
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