27 June 2010

The Real Issue Behind the Pseudo-Isidorean Decretals

During the Carolingian Period, about the middle of the ninth century 'a mysterious book,' as Schaff says, turned up in Christendom. The genuineness of the book did not really come into question until the 15th century and was not definitively repudiated until the 17th. Most likely it is the work of a Frankish Ecclesiastic, but this book of Decretals…now known as the pseudo-Isidorian Decretals profoundly shaped the Middle Ages.

It contained numerous canons or laws, a document known as the Donation of Constantine, and a breakdown of all the Papal Decretals from Pope Sylvester (a contemporary of Constantine) to Gregory II in the 8th century. Some of these decretals are completely fictitious and others had been changed to favour the views of the author.

The document buttressed and strengthened the Papacy and the ever growing Sacral order. Legally the church is placed above the state, and the Pope is basically established as the Theocratic Emperor of Christendom. The intelligentsia and the common people accepted these documents and to many, the Papal claims were validated. It's one of the great hoaxes of all time.

Remember, the Pope's crowning of Charlemagne in the year 800 was a direct attack on the authority of the Emperor in Constantinople. The Justinian re-conquest had already faded away, but the Emperor was still presiding in theory over a unified Christendom. The Popes of Rome wanted to change this, by establishing a new Holy Roman Empire with the crowning authority in the hands of the Pope.

It was no accident about a thousand years later that Napoleon formally ended the Holy Roman Empire, and placed the crown of the new French Empire on his head…with his own hands. The new Europe was not to be a 'holy' empire.

The Donation of Constantine was a fiction claiming that the Emperor Constantine 'gave' the western empire to Pope Sylvester and hence the Papal Succession. The Popes were the overlords, the Emperors of the Kings of the Earth.

The Medieval Underground rightly recognized this as Antichrist, the Popes being agents of the Beast.

But conventional and certainly contemporary Protestant thought so devoted to understanding the Church as a Geo-political and Cultural Institution…a monistic Sacralism, does not call the Medieval Papacy Antichrist…..they call it the True Church until one sunny Italian day in 1563 when suddenly the flow of history bifurcated and all the Institutional Authority, the Claims and Continuity suddenly shifted over to the Magisterial Reformers and their institutional succession? Under this narrative, Rome was the true church until it formally denied Justification by Faith Alone with the final 'amen' at the Council of Trent in 1563. In that moment the status of 'true' Church shifted from Roman Catholicism to the new Protestant Catholicism which was never as successful in forging a political unity as the old Roman form had been.

I find a latent Apostolic Succession-ist doctrine in many Protestants. If they're trusting in that….I'm sorry, but they don't have a leg to stand on. The extreme end of this silliness shows itself in Anglican quarters with the issue of Matthew Parker, the shoulders upon which the entire Anglican claim rests. It makes Canterbury tremble a little, I assure you..or at least did. If the Nag's Head Fable were true, they would (by their own definition) cease to be a New Testament Church. The Apostolic Succession would be broken.

The claims to being the True Church have nothing to do with institutional continuity. The Landmark Baptists also fall into this trap with the fictitious attempt of Institutional Continuity in their "Trail of Blood." But it's all based on the doctrine of Baptism! The one Baptist distinctive…believer's baptism by immersion becomes the ground upon which the church stands or falls. I often think of the Trail of Blood…an unfortunate document….another forgery for our age.

Due to so many being aware of it and its claims, the whole notion of a Medieval Church (not an organized institution) OUTSIDE the Roman fold is often ridiculed….another silly Trail of Blood akin to conspiracy theories.

Back to Pseudo-Isidore….

This document was the basis for not just a Catholic Christendom, but a Roman Catholic Christendom.

Embarrassingly, the document actually quotes passages from a Paris Council in 829 though it is purporting to be 4th century. The Latin is Frankish, and thus anachronistic for early church Bishops that are quoted. It uses categories and concepts which were not developed until the post-Nicene period. And the Scriptures quoted are not the Vulgate of Jerome, but the Carolingian revision of it.

The proto-protestants repudiated these claims and often identified themselves specifically as those who rejected the Donation of Constantine.

To some historians, this invalidates groups the Waldenses, because they were rejecting a forgery, so therefore they didn't realize or understand the truth of the situation.

The document was a forgery, but the ideas the documents supported were very real and shaped the Middle Ages.

Just because the Medieval Underground accepted the validity of the documents, while rejecting the theology, in no way discredits them or their anti-Constantinian ideas.

The documents were an attempt to give credence and historical validity to Sacralism…because The Bible didn't support it, and the early church didn't exactly support the claims of the Papacy. This was Rome's attempt to revise history in its favour. The issue is power…a Kingdom of the Sword…of this World.

We all reject the Donation of Constantine nowadays as fraudulent history, and propaganda. However the ideas behind it are still accepted even if under a Protestant or Americanist modification.

We all ought to reject the Sacralism that lay behind it…the proto-protestants certainly did.

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