JOSEPH BRYENNIOS: Byzantine theologian of the fifteenth century; b., probably in Lacedaemon, about 1350; d. apparently in Crete about 1436. Bryennios, whose original name was Bladynteros, entered a Cretan monastery about 1375, but some twenty years later was obliged to leave the island on account of a conflict with the clergy. He then went to Constantinople, joined the Studites, and soon became the court chaplain of the Emperor Manuel Palæologus, thus gaining an important influence in ecclesiastical polity. In 1416 and 1418 he was imperial ambassador to the West, and at first enjoyed the favor of John Palæologus, but when the emperor, for reasons of state, favored union with the Latin Church, Joseph, a rigid antagonist of this measure, retired from public life, and apparently spent the last years of his life in Crete. He was primarily a theologian, although his writings (first edited by Eugenius Bulgaris, 3 vols., Leipsic, 1768-84) contain a mass of material on all branches of Byzantine learning, especially rhetoric, dialectics, geometry, astronomy, physics, and philosophy. He was the author of twenty-one addresses and three dialogues on the Trinity, while other sermons are devoted to the Virgin, redemption, eschatology, faith, the plan of salvation, Easter, the Transfiguration, and the Tabor-light. His attitude toward union is given in his "Speech of Counsel" and "On the Union of the Cretans," while his twenty-six letters contain many theological allusions. Bryennios was rigidly orthodox and had no sympathy with humanism or with western thought. The prime source of authority, in his opinion, was the Bible, which was supplemented by the Church Fathers, who had established the truth of the dogmas contained in the Scriptures, so that these principles required no further proof and were superior to human reason. God can be defined only negatively, and man was created as the end of creation. Seeking to gain his apotheosis by his own powers, however, he lost the fellowship of God, though he retained the freedom of the will. The mission of Christ was to enable man to attain the end for which he was created, the special agency being the manifestation of the person of the Lord.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Fabricius-Harles, Bibliotheca Graeca, xi. 659-660, Hamburg, 1808; Krumbacher, Geschichte, p. 114; P. Meyer, in TSK, lxix (1896), 282-319; idem, in Bysantinische Zeitschrift, 1896, pp. 74-111; J. Dräsecke, in NKZ, 1896, pp. 208-228.


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