Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes

Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes

Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes

Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes

Synopsis

For over a thousand years, Eastern Christendom had as its center the second capital of the Roman Empire--Constantinople, the "New Rome," or Byzantium. The geographical division between the Eastern and Western Churches was only one manifestation of deeper rifts, characterized by a long history of conflicts, suspicions, and misunderstandings. Although the art, monasticism, and spirituality of Byzantium have come to be recognized as inspirational and influential in the shaping of Eastern European civilization, and of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance as well, the West has been in the main ignorant of the historical evolution and the doctrinal significance of Byzantine theology. Here, for the first time in English, is presented a synthesis of Byzantine Christian thought. The reader is guided through its complexities to an understanding of Byzantium: its view of man and his destiny of "deification"; its ability to transcend the "Western captivity"; its survival under quite adverse historical circumstances. In the end, he may well find himself receptive to the basic positions of Byzantine thought, which have attained, in this time of need for the reintegration of Christianity itself, a surprising, contemporary relevance.

Excerpt

The publication of a new edition of this book has given the author an opportunity to correct minor inaccuracies and to add several bibliographical references. It is clear, however, that in a field which is constantly being enriched with new publications, a general survey like this one cannot be fully comprehensive, even if the author feels himself greatly indebted to the findings of many of his colleagues, whose names do not appear in the Bibliography.

The largely positive response which met Byzantine Theology seems to indicate that the attempt at combining the historical and the systematic methods of approach to the subject was basically justified. There was, however, a risk of misunderstanding the use of any adjective in the title, and particularly the adjective "Byzantine," to define "theology." The adjective appears today in a variety of different contexts, and the limit of what is properly "Byzantine" is difficult to determine. On the other hand, the Byzantine theologians themselves did not conceive of their own religious tradition as being culturally or doctrinally limited. They used Scripture and the early Christian Fathers as a constant reference, and, at the same time, claimed to be the spokesmen of true Christian doctrine, as distinct from the non-Chalcedonian East and the Latin West. Furthermore, the modern Orthodox Church identifies herself, in a very particular way, with that "Byzantine" tradition (without excluding the potentiality of other expressions or developments of the same Christian truth), because she sees it as having been historically consistent with the Apostolic faith itself. Under such conditions, an historical survey--and, particularly, an attempt at a systematic account of Byzantine theology--could easily be interpreted either as confessionally biased or, on the contrary, as deliberately rejecting the claim of the Byzantines themselves and of modern Orthodox theology, in the name of historical objectivity.

The author can certainly understand the critics who, in expressing their views about the book, have reflected one or the other of these mutually exclusive interpretations. He is firmly convinced that it is both possible and necessary to study Byzantium and Byzantine theol-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.