Pope Agatho’s Suggestion?

One of the worst arguments I’ve seen circulating online is the claim that Pope Agatho did not believe his profession of faith, sent to the emperor and read at the sixth ecumenical council, was definitive, because the English translation of the council refers to his profession as a “suggestion.” Aside from the overwhelming evidence that Agatho considered this profession to be definitive, the term translated as “suggestion” is ἀναφορᾶς in Greek and suggestione in Latin. Here is what the Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods (From B. C. 146 to A. D. 1100) has to say about this term:

Relatio, the laying of a thing before the proper authority; report, an official statement of facts. Polyb. 2, 17, 2. 4, 28, 3. 5, 26, 5 Τὴν ἀναφορὰν ἐποιοῦντο πρὸς ἐκεῖνον. 6, 17, 6. 28, 11, 12 Κατεκράτησε τοῦ τὴν ἀναφορὰν ἐπὶ τὸν ὕπατον γενέσθαι. 32, 2, 5 Ἀμφοτέρων τὴν ἀναφορὰν ποιουμένων ἐπὶ τὴν σύγκλητον. Diod. 18, 18 Περὶ δὲ τῆς Σάμου τὴν ἀναφορὰν ἐπὶ τοὺς βασιλεῖς ἐποιήσαντο. Carth. Can. 47. Synes. 1576 D. Ephes. 1093 C. Cyrill. A. X, 141 C. Antec. 1, 2, 6. Const. III, 632 C. Porph. Adm. 211, 15. 222, 7. 230.

The lexicon clearly notes that Constantinople III used the term in the sense that the profession of faith was a report, or an official statement of facts, not a mere suggestion, as we understand the term today. Moreover, the translation “suggestion” was made at the turn of the 20th century, whereas a more recent translation by Norman P. Tanner, in his Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, translates the term as “report,” which is in accord with the lexicon above. The translation reads: “This same holy and universal synod, here present, faithfully accepts and welcomes with open hands the report of Agatho…” Thus, the claim that the profession of faith by Pope Agatho was a mere suggestion to the sixth ecumenical council is based on an outdated translation of an English term that goes against the context of the meaning.

What about the Latin term suggestione? It is interesting that the Council of Carthage in A.D. 419 uses the term suggestiones in reference to an edict. Canon 5 states: “And those new edicts (suggestiones) which are obscure and generally ambiguous, after they have been examined by us, will have their value fixed…” This translation is from the same series that translated suggestione at the sixth ecumenical council as suggestion. This shows even the translators did not understand the term suggestion in the way we do today, since they also translate it as referring to an edict.

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