Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

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Akindynos, Gregorios

Born: ca. 1300, Prilapos, Northern Macedonia
Died: ca. 1348, Macedonia
  • George ZografidisEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_6-1


Gregorios Akindynos was a Byzantine theologian of the fourteenth century (ca. 1300–1348), learned in patristic literature and Greek philosophy, and leader of the anti-Palamite party in the second phase of Hesychast Controversy (1341–1347). Based on his interpretation of the Greek patristic tradition, he wrote extensive refutations of Gregorios Palamas’ works and especially of the Hesychast theological justification of the essence-energies distinction within God. For Akindynos simplicity is a major attribute of the tripartite God, and everything separated from God’s essence is created; so there can be no distinction between incomprehensible uncreated divine essence and comprehensible and inferior uncreated divine energies. Any such theory subverts the unity of the Trinity and leads to ditheism, for which he accused Palamas. Divine names do not correspond to energies but just denote divine nature. Regarding man’s participation in God as a means for deification, Akindynos refuses Hesychast’s claim that man is capable of participating in divine energies and even seeing them in a spiritual manner. The divine light which humans experience is a symbol and, together with the created world and reason, a way to the knowledge of God. Given this kind of knowledge, it is only in divine love that the inexplicable union of man and God occurs and deification is possible. Akindynos influenced anti-Palamite writers, and his works have been severely criticized by Hesychast theologians.


Fourteenth Century Greek Philosophy Patristic Literature Divine Nature Divine Love 
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Gregorios (his baptismal name is unknown) was born in Prilapos, Northern Macedonia, at ca. 1300. He studied in Thessaloniki under the humanist Thomas Magistros and the monk Bryennios, and he was trained in theology and secular learning. Between 1326 and 1330 he met Gregorios Palamas who appreciated his talents and guided him to monastic spirituality though finally he was not accepted in Mount Athos. He returned to Thessaloniki (1332), where he met Barlaam of Calabria, and before 1334 he dwelled in Constantinople.

When the Hesychast Controversy started, Akindynos, being a friend of both Palamas and Barlaam (the leaders of the rival sides), tried to reconcile them and to bring peace to the Orthodox Church. Putting aside his theological disagreement with Palamas, Akindynos attempted to persuade Barlaam not to insult the psychosomatic technique of monks and defended Palamas from Barlaam’s accusations for heresy. But when an ecclesiastical Council (1341) condemned Barlaam and accepted the essence-energies distinction in God, he entered the anti-Hesychast party.

At the second phase of the Controversy, after Barlaam departed for Italy (1341), theology was mixed with politics: Akindynos became himself the leader of the anti-Palamite party, and during the Civil War (1341–1347), he took the part of Emperor John V Palaiologos against John VI Kantakouzenos, the co-emperor and theologian who had supported Palamas. He cooperated with Patriarch John Kalekas and started to gain ecclesiastical power; he charged Palamas for ditheism and a Council (1344) condemned his once friend. When John VI got back to power (1347), Akindynos lost the Court’s favor and left the capital, while a new Council restored Palamas. He died soon after (1348) and he was officially condemned together with Barlaam (1351).


Akindynos had a fair knowledge of Greek philosophy and of the patristic literature as it can be attested in his theological works and the numerous letters written in a short period of time. He is a competent writer although sometimes his argumentative style is loose and unmethodical mostly because of its polemical tone and the intentional repetitions.

Hesychast writers created a totally negative picture of a heretic Akindynos insensitive to monastic spirituality, influenced by Greek philosophy and exponent of erroneous or even pagan beliefs. Palamas presents him as an agnosticist and some modern scholars as a rationalist who is more concerned with secular wisdom and is using its tools to comprehend theological issues and especially the triadic dogma. Akindynos’ self-image is quite different: he does not claim personal originality but inscribes himself within the patristic tradition, and he constantly relies on patristic texts and recurs to their authority while accusing Palamas for dangerous theological renovations on account of textual misinterpretations.

His opus magnum is the Antirrhetics against what he calls Palamite heresy. He is methodically citing by paragraph Palamas’ text and then comments on it. The main problem of the Controversy was not (as it was in its first phase) the dispute over the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit and filioque but the possibility and the nature of man’s participation in God as a means for deification (theosis).

Akindynos reduces his opponents’ doctrines in two main theses: (1) the existence of uncreated energies (God’s operations) that are “infinitely infinite” inferior to divine essence and (2) man’s ability to participate in these energies and even to see them “in a spiritual manner through his corporeal eyes.”
  1. 1.

    The first thesis puts in question the very nature of God in himself. For Akindynos and all those who take simplicity to be a major attribute of the tripartite God, such a distinction undermines the unity of the Trinity and lets to intrude a substantial separation and hence inferiority in God; so he accuses Palamas for ditheism and Messalianism, as if the Hesychast was influenced by the dualist heresy of Bogomils.

For Akindynos divine names do not correspond to separate uncreated energies but are mere names that humans attach to God to denote divine nature; what we call uncreated energy is divine essence because “every uncreated is essence” (Antirr. 5.2.5). It is the human epistemological condition that constrains man to grasp the whole at once; so when we divide the whole in smaller unities, we risk to take them as being self-existing. Thus within the divinity, as simple and as a whole, there can be no distinction between incomprehensible divine essence and comprehensible divine energy. The divinity itself is either inconceivable as a whole or entirely conceivable. Palamas’ distinction introduces a hierarchical partition between essence (a higher divinity) and energies (a lower divinity), thus leading to a ditheism. In addition it implies two different ontological levels that render impossible for the energies to be uncreated (as Hesychast’s claim). So every divine energy, if separated from God’s essence, is created; the only uncreated energies (of the Father) are the Son and the Holy Spirit.
  1. 2.

    The second issue about man’s participation in God has serious impact on anthropological and ethical matters. If we suppose that man acquires the uncreated grace and thus participates in the divine essence, then man is uncreated and coeternal with the Creator, something absurd. It is only in divine love that the union of man with God occurs – something inexplicable to human reason.


As for the experience of the divine light (the Taborian light of transfiguration), Akindynos calls it mysterious and beyond human explanation, but Palamas argues that for Akindynos it is created (ktiston). This light is sensible; in fact it is a symbol. And such symbols, as well as the created world and reason, are ways to the knowledge of God. This knowledge is what man should pursue and not an unattainable view of God; it is a means to deification made possible by God himself and incarnation.

Akindynos’ views had influenced the anti-Palamite writers of the fourteenth century, and his works have been criticized or refuted in detail by numerous Hesychast theologians as his friend Gregorios Palamas, Matthaios Blastares, Patriarch Theophilos Kokkinos, David Disypatos, and Joseph Kalothetos.



Primary Literature

  1. Confession to the Empress: Candal, M. 1959. La Confesión de fe antipalamítica de Gregorio Acíndyno. Orientalia Christiana Periodica 25: 215–264.Google Scholar
  2. Discourse to monk Ierotheos: Pitsakes, K. 1972. Γρηγορίου Ἀκινδύνου ἀνέκδοτη πραγματεία περὶ (Κωνσταντίνου;) Ἀρμενοπούλου. Epeteris Kentrou Historias Hellenikou Dikaiou 19: 188–206.Google Scholar
  3. Discourse to Patriarch John [Kalekas]… on how the Controversy between Palamas and Barlaam started: Nadal Cañellas, J. 2002. Discurso ante Juan Kalekas. In La théologie byzantine et sa tradition, vol. 2, ed. C.G. Conticello and V. Conticello, 257–314. Turnhout, Brepols.Google Scholar
  4. Gregory Palamas, Antirrhetics I-VII Against Akindynos: Kontogiannis, L., and B. Fanourgakes. 1970. Γρηγορίου τοῦ Παλαμᾶ Συγγράμματα, vol. 3: Ἀντιρρητικοὶ πρὸς Ἀκίνδυνον. Thessaloniki. Italian translation: Perrella, E., ed. 2005. Gregorio Palamas, Dal sovraessenziale all’essenza, xx–xcvii, 3–881. Milano, Bompiani.Google Scholar
  5. Gregory Palamas, Epistles I-III to Akindynos: Chrestou, P., and J. Meyendorff. 1962. Γρηγορίου τοῦ Παλαμᾶ Συγγράμματα, vol. 1, 176–187, 196–224, 296–312. Thessaloniki. Italian translation: Perrella, E., ed. 2006. Gregorio Palamas, Che cos’è l’Ortodossia, 386–431, 574–605. Milano, Bompiani.Google Scholar
  6. Letters: Constantinides: Hero, A. 1983. Letters of Gregory Akindynos, Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae 21. Washington, DC, Dumbarton Oaks.Google Scholar
  7. Refutation of Palamas’ Confession: Candal, M. 1963. Escrito de Pálamas desconocido: su ‘Consfesión de fe’ refutada por Akíndino. Orientalia Christiana Periodica 29: 360–406.Google Scholar
  8. Refutation of Palamas’ Third Epistle to Akindynos: Nadal, J. 1974. La rédaction première de la Troisième lettre de Palamas à Akindynos. Orientalia Christiana Periodica 40: 233–285.Google Scholar
  9. Refutations of the “Dialogue between an Orthodox and a Barlaamite” of Gregory Palamas: Nadal Cañellas, J., ed. 1995. Gregorii Acindyni refutationes duae operis Gregorii Palamae cui titulus Dialogus inter Orthodoxum et Barlaamitam, Corpus Christianorum. Series Graeca 31. Turnhout/Leuven, Brepols. French translation: Nadal Cañellas, J. 2006. La résistance d’Akindynos à Grégoire Palamas: Enquête historique, avec traduction et commentaire de quatre traités édités récemment, Spicilegium Sacrum Lovaniense: Études et documents 50–51, 2 vols. Leuven, Peeters.Google Scholar

Secondary Literature

  1. Boiadjiev, T. 2000. Gregorios Akindynos als Ausleger des Dionysios Pseudo-Areopagita. In Die Dionysius-Rezeption im Mittelalter, Rencontres de philosophie médiévale 9, ed. T. Boiadjiev, G. Kapriev and A. Speer, 105–122. Turhnout, Brepols.Google Scholar
  2. Boiadjiev, T. 2005. Meriston symbolon. Gregorios Acindynos and the debate on tabor light. Synthesis Philosophica 39: 57–71.Google Scholar
  3. Nadal, J. 1974. La critique par Acindynos de l’herméneutique patristique de Palamas. Istina 19: 297–328.Google Scholar
  4. Nadal, J. 1990. Gregorio Akindinos, ¿eslavo o bizantino? Rivista di studi bizantini e neoellenici 27: 259–265.Google Scholar
  5. Nadal, J. 1996. Denys l’Aréopagite dans les Traités de Grégoire Akindynos. In Denys l’Aréopagite et sa postérité en Orient et en Occident, ed. Y. De Andia, 553–562. Paris, BrepolsGoogle Scholar
  6. Nadal Cañellas, J. 2002. Gregorio Akíndinos. In La théologie byzantine et sa tradition, ed. C.G. Conticello and V. Conticello, vol. 2, 189–256. Turnhout, Brepols.Google Scholar
  7. Nadal Cañellas, J. 2007. Le rôle de Grégoire Akindynos dans la controverse hésychaste du XIVeme siècle à Byzance. Ιn Eastern crossroads: Essays on medieval Christian legacy, ed. J.P. Monferrer-Sala, 31–60. Piscataway, Gorgias PressGoogle Scholar
  8. Phanourgakis, B. 1972. Άγνωστα αντιπαλαμικά συγγράμματα του Γρηγορίου Ακινδύνου (Unknown Antipalamite works of Gregory Akindynos). Kleronomia (Thessaloniki) 4Β: 285–302.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, School of Philosophy and EducationAristotle University of ThessalonikiThessalonikiGreece