Monday, July 1, 2024

Today, on the Christian History Almanac, we head to the mailbag to answer a question about a saint with neither a tongue nor a right hand.

It is the 1st of July 2024. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac, brought to you by 1517 at; I’m Dan van Voorhis.


A very happy Monday to you- July is upon us- we render the name of the month to the Roman emperor after whom it is named. Fun fact: Some Puritans and other more scrupulous Christians would call this Day 1 of Month 7 instead of the first day of the Roman moon goddess in the month of the divine emperor.

Enough about that because we head to the mailbag today- to the “upper peninsula” of the United States- that’s right- ol’ Seward's Folly- “The AK,” the only state you can type using just one line of the keyboard- Alaska and our favorite Presbyterian Elder, Ron who’s kids still make fun of the way I say “Dan… van Voorhis….” My name and preposition rhyme and, well…

Ron wrote as if I was mentally summoning questions, as I was working on something else and thought- “yes, we will tell the story of the saint with neither a tongue nor right hand.” It was from an oral examination to license a young preacher, and he was asked why St. Maximus the Confessor lost both his right hand and his tongue… not the easiest question for a young candidate- and maybe Monothelitism isn’t all the rage today, even Microsoft word doesn’t think it’s an actual word, but it is and it has to do with a saint got himself into some trouble- and how a Pope got arrested and exiled unto death… it’s a good story.

And so, young preacher- and everyone else, lest someone try and surprise you with a “How did Maximus lose his tongue and right hand?” You look at that person in the eye and say, “Oh, so a reference to the Typo of Constans of 648 or 649, promulgated under Emperor Constans II as possible retribution for the Byzantine patriarch being excommunicated by the Pope”.

There are political issues, undoubtedly, but the issue at hand with Maximus and others in the 600s came from residue from the earlier debates about the person of Christ- how many natures and how many persons?

The definition from Chalcedon in the 400s was two natures and one person. Some didn’t like the “two natures” and wanted an intermixed single divine and human nature… but most bought on to the two natures and one person, which helped to smooth out one of the trickier theological issues in the early church.

But what about the will of Christ? Was it divine? Was it Human? Did he have one or two?

This could have kicked off a new centuries-wide battle over the nature of Christ. 2 natures and 1 person worked for all but a few in the East, but what of this new talk of the “thelema” the will! Mono Thelema or Dyo (two!) theletism…

At this time the weight of the empire was in the Eastern half- so the Eastern Emperor, with the west having fallen over a century earlier, was in charge.

Was he a “mono” or “dyo” guy? The answer: he was a political guy. And he would be behind the publication of the “typo Constans” he Constans II and the “typo”, or “model” of Constans, and his model was “we don’t talk about how many Will’s the son of God had…. And if you do, you will be in trouble”.

Pope Martin in the West would not be talked at to by a mere Emperor and thus continued to teach that holding to a Jesus with 1 will was a terrible mistake that would lead to us teaching he had only one nature.

For this, Pope Martin was arrested by the Eastern exarch, tried, found guilty, and sent into exile, where he would die- the last Pope to be Martyred.

The next Pope, Eugene, knew how to keep the peace- but over in the east was a character named Maximus. Maximus was a pious civil servant who had worked for the Eastern Emperors. He may have passed us by as a footnote- a pious civil servant learned in theology and philosophy.

But he couldn’t keep his mouth shut.

The whole “1 will or 2” issue bothered him, and so he spoke out against the “1 will folk” and the likes of Emperor Constans, who wanted to keep the issue quiet.

He kept preaching about it and writing about it, and so, in a way reminiscent of the mafia, Maximus had his tongue, for speaking, and his right hand, for writing, disposed of. Poor Maximus- but he would be venerated in Eastern and Western churches after the Ecumenical Council- the third at Constantinople confirmed the teaching of “2 wills” like “2 natures” was confirmed in 681 but too late for the poor tongue and right hand of Maximus, the confessor.

Thanks for the questions. Send them to me at


The last word for today is from the daily lectionary and Psalm 18- David, after being delivered from the hands of Saul.

I love you, Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,

    my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
    and I have been saved from my enemies.

The cords of death entangled me;

    the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.

The cords of the grave coiled around me;
    the snares of death confronted me.

In my distress I called to the Lord;
    I cried to my God for help.

From his temple he heard my voice;

    my cry came before him, into his ears.



This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 1st of July 2024, brought to you by 1517 at

The show is produced by a man who thought he had Monothelitism in High school... It turns out he was just really bored- he is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by Dan…. Pause…. van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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