Volume III - Church History

Eleventh Century

Other Developments East and West

Near the end of this century, Blessed Theophylact, Bishop of Ochrid (r. 1090–1109), a Greek missionary bishop in southwestern Bulgaria, was writing voluminous commentaries on the Holy Scriptures, making much use of the commentaries by St John Chrysostom as he did so. And in Byzantium there arose renewed interest in pagan antiquity, led by such men as Michael Psellus (c. 1019–c. 1078), who favored the philosophy of Plato, and John Italos (c. 1025–1082), who favored the thought of Aristotle. This flowering of “Byzantine humanism” did not have a deleterious effect on the life of the Church, unlike what happened in the West in later centuries during the Renaissance, especially in the realm of Church art. Psellus also wrote a fascinating insider’s history of the reigns of the fourteen Byzantine rulers who ruled during his lifetime.

Anselm of Canterbury (d. 1109), the most important theologian in the West in his time, was producing his extremely influential theological discourses. These writings contain the so-called “ontological proof” for the existence of God, a defense of the doctrine of the filio­que, and the so-called “satisfaction theory” of the atonement. In this theory it was contended that the death of Christ on the Cross was the adequate payment of the punishment that fallen man deserved that was necessary to satisfy the justice and wrath of God the Father. This innovative speculation, reflecting to some extent popular notions of chivalry at that time in Western Europe, came to prevail in much of Western Christianity, especially conservative Protestantism, to this day.