Neohellenic Theology at the Crossroads
Panagiotes K. Christou, The Greek Orthodox Theological Review 28, n. 1, Spring 1983, p. 39- 54
After a ten-year destructive war, a tiny part of Greece was liberated from the Turkish occupation and was constituted into an independent small state in 1830.
The Bavarian government, which was established in Greece in the name of the young King Othon, detached the new state 's dioceses from the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and proclaimed them to be an autocephalous church (1833). The members of the regency acted, of course, under the influence and with the cooperation of eminent members of the Greek intelligentsia, followers of the 'Parisian' enlightener Adamantios Koraes. The instigators of the autocephaly neither asked for the consent of the Patriarchate before taking action, nor did they notify the Patriarchate of what they were doing. They predicted that the Church of Greece, already free of all yokes, would advance to a new era of glory (1).
They felt even prouder four years after that event with the founding of the University of Athens, which included a school of theology, the first among all its schools. The university was patterned after the German educational system and replaced an entire system of higher education existing until then in the Greek world. As the instigators of autocephaly predicted again, a new era was anticipated for Greek theology. However, the opposite proved to be true.
During the last seventy years before the Greek Revolution (1750-1821), theological studies within the Greek world were in a rather satisfactory state, as was the case with all intellectual enterprises; they had reached a level of considerable progress. I shall illustrate this by presenting a few examples. Eugenios Vulgaris, who served as a professor in Ioannina and Mount Athos and as a prelate in Catherine the Great 's Russia, had such a successful career in philosophy that he was mentioned with honor by
contemporary European scholars for his original thought (2). His philosophical efforts aimed at finding convenient philosophical terms to formulate theological doctrines which were his main interest. He was also an erudite and sagacious editor of patristic texts, such as the writings of Theodoretos of Kyros and Joseph Bryennios, accompanied by thoughtful introductions and comments.
His colleague in both professions, Nikephoros Theotokes, was the editor of the ascetic writings of Isaak the Syrian, a unique edition considered valuable even today, as are those of Vulgaris. He had also enriched the library of Orthodox preachers with his precious Kyriakodromion , used by many even to this day and not only in Greek.
In a treatise written in 1775, Neophytos Kausokalybites, professor at the Academy of Mount Athos and the school at Jassy, developed the thesis that the writings preserved under the name of Makarios the Egyptian were of Massalian origin and, further, that they came from Symeon the Mesopotamian. Some critics were to express the same view after two centuries with the same argumentation and sometimes the same wording. Yet none of them mentioned its originator. It is not less surprising that another Athonite professor, Dorotheos Voulismas, in refuting Neophytos ' theory, wrote his own treatise in which he argued that the writings were genuine, but had been subject to falsification by a Massalian hand.
What Nikodemos Hagiorites has offered to theological studies, with his monumental editions of the great patristic and canonical collections and his commentaries and his essays, is well known. Obviously, the Greek theologians of this period had the leading role in all the Orthodox world, and there was nothing in Western Europe of which they had to be jealous. They moved on a level equal to the European one of the same time and much higher than that of the post-revolutionary period in Greece. Moreover, it is impossible to state that the three greatest Greek theologians of the nineteenth century were trained and matured before the Greek Revolution, namely, Konstantinos Oikonomos, Theokletos Pharmakides and Neophytos Vamvas.
The blossoming of theological thinking was not an isolated episode; it kept pace with the general rise of education and learning among the Greeks at that time. Also, it was not unexpected; the preambles had appeared much earlier. However, there were then special conditions which facilitated it; the loosening of pressure after the serious weakening of Turkish power, the increase of the wealth of the Greek population, the opening of numerous Greek schools of higher education within the Ottoman Empire and outside, and the right use of West European methods in scholarly work. Another important factor, especially for the promotion of theological studies, was the greater accessibility of the writings of the Church Fathers after much extended editorial work had been done in the West. Consequently, Greek theologians were determined to participate in this field.
It is interesting to see that even those theologians who explicitly rejected any influence deriving from Western Europe essentially did not remain uninfluenced and, at any rate, succeeded to contribute generously to theological studies. In addition to Neophytos Kausokalybites and Nikodemos Hagiorites, already mentioned above, we find Athanasios Parios, Makarios Notaras and other distinguished individuals. But, of course, those who remained faithful to the tradition, at the same time profited widely from European thought and were able to contribute much more.
A curious lack of theological studies was observed after the Greek Revolution, belying all optimistic hopes. One would be deeply disappointed if one sought to find out who were the theologians produced from mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century. If the value of a literary contribution is measured by how long it continues to be read, then their contribution was meager, since no one today uses their writings-with few exceptions - while many are those who still utilize the works of the pre-revolutionary theologians.
It is true that some worthwhile commentaries were produced in the exegetical field, namely by Nicholas Damalas and Emmanuel Zolotas. But, on the other hand, it does no honor to Greek theological scholarship to note that it has not, to this day, been able to prepare a full series of commentaries of the New Testament, not to speak of the whole Bible. The only full commentary of the New Testament has come from outside of 'official ' theology-from Apostolos Makrakes. This weakness is obviously due to the fact that all those German-educated theologians, though they used German methodology, were not, at the same time, willing to accept the content of Protestant interpretation. As a result, they remained hesitant, or preferred to keep silent. The principles of an Orthodox hermeneutics were to be used with clearness and exactness only forty-five years ago by Evangelos Antoniades and Vasileios Vellas.
The contribution in the historical field was limited to a couple of handbooks of church history, written by Diomedes Kyriakos and Philaretos Vapheides, both in three volumes. They present a good examination of the particular historical facts, but do not show a universal insight into the field. The shorter handbook of Vasileios Stephanides, written later, is of better quality, but its point of view is even more Westernizing.
The handbooks of patrology by Konstantinos Kontogones and Georgios Dervos, which very characteristically extend only to the limits defined by the Protestants of their time, i.e., the third and fourth cen-turies, are based on a careful analysis of the texts. Though both of them had studied the Fathers carefully, they looked at the texts with the eyes of Lutheran Germany. The concise handbook of Demetrios Balanos, distinguished by its clarity and dryness, lacks any kind of penetration into the spirit of the Fathers.
The dogmatic handbooks of this period are certainly not so negligible, but they also closely follow foreign patterns. Zekos Rosses, besides his incomplete handbook, left an excellent essay on the essence of Christian dogma with which he answered the Modernists. By combining ethos and dogma, he showed the right way for a useful exploitation of the patristic tradition. Christos Androutsos applied all his ingenuity into concise and well-written handbooks of dogmatics, symbolics and ethics which are still read by many.
Indeed, this is a period of handbook theology, of pamphlets and of panegyrics, especially of sermons on the Three Hierarchs. However, handbooks, as good as they may be, are restricted within close frameworks and do not allow enough room for developing original thought.
There were other factors which prevented theology from its ascending course in a period when general conditions seemed to be rather favorable for that purpose. One could suspect an external factor: the severe shock suffered by Christianity from the attacks of Enlightenment, the French Revolution and positivism. But in the West, instead of decay, these factors caused a reconstruction and renewal of theology. Even Russian theology seemed to have been favorably influenced by them. Up to the beginning of the nineteenth century, Russian theology was still fed by Greek theology and was not able to produce anything more than handbooks, polemical treatises, popular pamphlets and translations. Afterwards, with the help also of the educational reformation of 1814, a genuine vitality was observed. Neohellenic theology may have been indirectly influenced by that factor, but the reasons for its stagnation are basically internal.
As a first cause for this phenomenon, I would mention the cultural dichotomy which created two centers within the Greek world: Constantinople and Athens. One could say that the rise of this second center was inevitable after the establishment of an independent Greek state. But, in reality, the split existed even before the Greek Revolution, with the difference that the second center was Paris instead of Athens. The real creator of this center, Adamantios Koraes, called Paris 'New Athens. ' He was the promoter of the idea of the priority of Athens and called himself ' Philathenaios ' (3).
Adamantios Koraes had started his career suffering from a complex of personal and national inferiority. He succeeded in overcoming this inferiority by enormous effort and became one of the most distinguished figures of Neohellenism. But his inferiority complex had left some faint traces on his personality, as well as on Neohellenic history. Behind his failure in all endeavors during the first period of his life, both professional and scholarly, we discern a lack of confidence in his own abilities; and behind his opinion about the 'Wise Europe ' as the ideal, pattern and source for the regeneration of Greece, we discern a lack of confidence in his nation 's capacities.
He made his first acquaintance with Europe in the person of the Calvinist chaplain of the Dutch consulate in Smyrna, Bernard Keun, his teacher in Latin. He remained his devoted pupil thereafter. The second man who initiated him into Europe was another Calvinist clergyman, Hadrian Buurt, whose lectures he also attended in Amsterdam. It was their Calvinist doctrines which he had in mind when he wrote both his first work, Catechesis (1783), and his last one, Synekdemos (1833). As a result, he alienated himself completely from Orthodoxy, especially from its liturgical life and its administrative structure. He was, however, not ready to accept Calvinism because then he would have cut all links with his country which was not his intention. Consequently, he restricted Christianity to a corner of his mind to a system of moral and social behavior.
His admiration for Europe increased after he had come into closer contact with the achievements of science, as well as the refined ways of life in Montpellier and Paris. From that time he formed the opinion that nothing good could come forth from the Greek nation, finding itself in such a bad plight. He expected everything good to come from Europe -a wise and civilized Europe. The Greek nation, he believed, should empty its baskets and come to Europe seeking new goods. This is the mentality of the poor immigrant in a great, rich and advanced country.
In order to be prepared for these provisions, the Greek nation was counseled to abandon all hope in its religious and national leadership, i.e, the Patriarchate and ecclesiastical hierarchy, and cease all contact with tradition and with all persons and institutions related to that tradition. His hostile attitude toward Russia was mostly due to the fact that this country continued in the Byzantine tradition, at least to some degree. Yet Russia was the country from which Koraes derived the financial means to develop his literary and educational activities.
Koraes had constituted a kind of new 'patriarchate ' in Paris, or rather a kind of anti-patriarchate. From that position he fought continually against the Patriarchate of Constantinople, either personally or through his followers. The Patriarchate, he advocated, should be abolished for two reasons: (1) because it maintained a hated tradition, the Byzantine; and (2) because it was situated in the same city in which the Ottoman tyrant resided and from whom it derived its power. Koraes was unwilling to accept any scholar or thinker who was connected with the Patriarchate. For this reason he ignored and neglected all Greek scholars of his time, as well as those of the recent past. Later, when he came to recognize some of them, they all happened to be members of his party and were his followers and admirers.
The dichotomy progressed dangerously to even another point. Influenced by political fanaticism in France, Koraes confused political and national issues. Therefore, he was ready to accept all the theses pronounced by European historians and statesmen concerning the course of history of the Greek nation. Religious and national oppositions to the Greeks had led the Europeans to draw a distinctive line between the ancient Greeks whom they admired and the Byzantine and modern Greeks whom they hated. They therefore declared that the seal was put on Greek history as early as the Battle of Chaironeia (338 B.C.) in which Philip of Macedonia defeated the Athenians. As far as Koraes was concerned, that battle had caused Greece to become permanently enslaved. In one of his pseudonymous pamphlets, whose authorship he later accepted, he wrote: "The nation is a corpse devoured by crows. The fatherland has died. Slavery has taken away not only half of its virtue, as the poet said, but the whole of it. This has been our picture ever since Philip trod upon us up to the year 1453. We have changed various sovereigns who were speechless and mindless" (4). According to this view, the Macedonian and the Byzantine worlds lie outside the sphere of Hellenism and are ranked with that of the conquerors, the tyrants of Greece.
We notice here a historic change in the course of events, facilitated by the Romantic movement which demanded a return to remote heroic times. If the Romanticists of Western Europe, or the Slavophiles, went back to the Middle Ages in order to meet the roots of their nation, the archaiophiles of Greece could go back much further. There were many scholars and poets who did this. A great historian, Konstantine Paparregopoulos, was needed to change the course of the stream. It was only after his insistent emphasis on the unity of the history of the Greek nation through all ages, and particularly the contribution of Byzantium to Western civilization, that modern Greeks dared to deal with Byzantium. Yet for some time this was done timidly and, for the most part, independently from the course of Greek history. Prior to Paparregopoulos ' time this was averted by ' Koraism. '
The movement initiated by Koraes naturally led to a morbid love for antiquity which was well advanced before the Revolution. Until that time, the ideals of Greek education were to be found within the framework of Hellenic-Christian culture accepted by practically all the 'Teachers of the Nation. ' A characteristic expression of this ideal was the introduction of pictorial representations of ancient Greek wise men on frescoes placed in monastic churches of Greece and the Balkan countries (5). This ideal was then abandoned by some ardent antiquity lovers such as Theophilos Kaires. As early as 1817, in his capacity as dean of the school of Kydoniai in Asia Minor, Kaires had inspired such zeal in his students that they issued a proclamation, (the eighth day of the month of Elaphebolion ) that they were determined to abandon the vernacular in favor of ancient Greek in conversing with one another. The students who signed the document had Christian names, such as Angelos, Demetrios, Theophilos, Basileios, etc., but changed them to the names of Alkibiades, Themistokles, Kleanthes, Agisilaos, etc., for the purpose of the proclamation (6). Kaires had composed hymns to be used in his secret religious society in the Doric dialect and, of course, in ancient meter. In some areas of Greece enthusiastic classicists searched through the pages of epic and tragic poetry to find sufficient ancient names to fill the demand for children needing to be baptized. In the same areas no Old Testament names were to be heard.
The separation of the Church of Greece from the Patriarchate in 1833 was a natural result of the struggle carried on by Koraes and his followers against the Patriarchate for so many years. At the start of the Revolution he wrote: "The clergy of the part of Greece liberated up to this time are not obliged to recognize the Patriarch of Constantinople as their ecclesiastical leader, as long as Constantinople continues to be polluted by the seat of the illegal tyrant" (7).
The separation, which coincided with the year of Koraes ' death, was realized by his faithful friend Theokletos Pharmakides. The power to enact this program as a whole was given by the Bavarian government, which curiously enough assisted the Koraist party in detaching Greece from its roots and making it part of Western Europe, especially France. The followers of Koraes fought obstinately against the prudent and promising government of John Kapodistrias, who, after all, was Greek and Orthodox, because it was too Hellenic. Instead, they supported the government of the Bavarians because it was European and sought to destroy Greek tradition.
Through the use of an impressive illustration, Konstantinos Oikonomos accused the Bavarian government of using the Greek nation as "a palimpsest book," erasing every sacred element written upon it many ages ago and writing their own profane novelties (8). However, in this book, made partially a palimpsest even before the Revolution, positivism was indicated. Koraes had shaped the theory of metakenosis of which I hinted previously. The Greeks must empty their baskets with their useless content acquired during the time of Byzantium and the Ottomans and resort to Europe in order to fill them again with the new goods. Certain classes among the Greek people hurried to profit by this opportunity. This xenomania made Greece a poor satellite of European civilization. This was not so much an encounter with the West as a surrender to it.
Living for sixty-five years far from Greece, Koraes was not able to understand that at that time there was in Europe not only one civilization, but two. First, there was the civilization of the West, rationalistic and Faustian, which has led to our contemporary, insatiable, technological society; and there was, second, a Greek Orthodox civilization, essentially independent and self-sufficient. Therefore, having their own culture, the Greeks did not need to accept a foreign one. What they needed was to cultivate and develop elements of their own culture. To that end, they could and should have profited from any useful influence from the West; but they were also in a position to offer rudiments of their own as they had already done not long before then in the age of the Renaissance. The Koraists failed also to understand that a dynamic tradition that succeeded in surviving for centuries Turkish outrages could not be uprooted through a few decrees issued by foreign governors and by some articles of xenomaniac scholars. A tradition can be enriched or changed, but never abolished.
Such sentiments were alien to the feelings of the Greek people who remained faithful to their traditions. These sentiments were best expressed in a lively way by a popular hero and veteran of the Revolution, General Makrygiannes, when he commented on the action taken against tradition and the abolition of monasteries. The Bavarians and their political and ecclesiastical collaborators had, according to Makrygiannes, "completely abolished the monasteries and expelled the unfortunate monks who had suffered so much during the national struggle and were dying on the streets. The monasteries were the ramparts of our revolution.... They destroyed and desolated all churches of monasteries" (9).
It is easy now for everyone to understand that the ecclesiastical vocation and theological profession had little attraction for young people, and the few that happened to occupy themselves with them would always be faced with dilemmas. Additional reasons for this decay are related to the restrictions and narrowness caused by the Greek Revolution and its effects on the entire educational and scholarly movement.
Circumstances compelled all educators and scholars to interrupt their activities for ten years until peace was finally realized in 1830. This fact was in itself a serious negative element for theological progress, but became more serious when added to other conditions that were to prevail on the Greek scene. Some of the scholars had died during the war, others became too old, and still others were unable for one reason or another to resume their activities (10). The new generation, which was to replace the older one in this area, had been lost in the field of battle. If one takes into consideration that almost all the students of the Greek colleges of Bucharest and Jassy were exterminated in one battle, that of Dragatsani, one will understand what happened on a general scale. Consequently, there was no new scholarly generation to succeed the older one when the new state was established, as there was no educational substructure. The latter, however, could only be created on the territory of Greece. The Turkish government, having realized that the burden of the Revolution in the Danubian area, as well as elsewhere, had been borne to a large extent by students, was not willing to permit such activities on its territory.
The mentality prevailing in the Greek world after the Revolution reminds us of the conditions which led to the separation of the Greek Church from the Patriarchate. Two almost counterbalancing powers were in operation from that time on, which I shall call ' Helladism ' and 'Hellenism. ' The Revolution of 1821 was designed and realized by ardent and genuine patriots. They probably had not overestimated the fighting power of the nation, but they certainly had overestimated the readiness to react on the part of the Holy Alliance, i.e., the four world powers of the time: Austria, Russia, England and France. It was the unshaken faith and the heroic spirit of a small nation, enslaved for centuries with no military organization and heavy weapons, that enabled it to endure the pressure of not one, but many empires and to continue the struggle for so many years.
At any rate, the results of this struggle were meager, thanks to the will of the great powers. Two provinces in the south of Greece, Peloponnesos and Sterea Hellas, including a few islands, constituted the new state. In the year 1821, the Greeks delivered an empire only to give birth to a principality. Their commonwealth extended over all the Mediterranean shores, Asia Minor, the Balkans and even the Danube. It had its own religious institutions, spiritual activities, educational system, financial resources and social welfare. It had everything except political power and authority and this was its primary goal. On the other hand, the principality they received did possess political authority, although this was often obscure and there was much to be striven for. In at least twenty cities in mainland Greece, as well as beyond the Aegean, the Adriatic and the Danube, there were flourishing university centers. All of these centers were now substituted by one single center, Athens, which had to start from the beginning. The people living outside the borders of the Greek state thought it useless to be engaged in educational projects independent from the national center of Athens, even though this was allowed by external factors. All responsibilities had been by then transferred to that center, though it did not always meet expectations.
Through some of its actions the center, Athens, turned its back on the 'empire. ' It excluded all Orthodox living outside its realm from its interest; it excluded from public positions all citizens coming from outside its realm. Athens rejected the idea of an 'empire ' and the idea of a 'nation ' for the sake of the 'state. ' A short time thereafter, dispositions changed to some degree after the formation of the Μεγάλη Ιδέα (the Great Idea), but the tendency to have all activities concentrated in Athens remained. Greece 's responsibilities were great with limited means at its disposal. It sometimes advanced; but the more ' Helladism ' increased, the more 'Hellenism ' decreased.
Consequently, the center was unable to accomplish its great tasks and became incapacitated by using methods foreign to Greek tradition. Such was the case of the Theological School of Athens. This was another reason for the decay of theological learning. In pre-revolutionary Greece, at least forty professors taught theology in upper level schools. All these institutions were then degraded and became high schools. The University of Athens ' School of Theology became the sole theological school in the entire Greek world, while those that were established afterwards were considered to be lower seminaries. At its opening, the Athens School of Theology found itself with only three professors, and this number was not to be increased for several decades. In reality, the number was even lower, since one of them, Theokletos Pharmakides, never taught a course, occupied as he was with the duties of the Secretary to the Holy Synod, and was probably reluctant to face students who rejected his ecclesiastical policy. The second professor, Misael Apostolides, also did not teach regularly, having involved himself in church affairs and later having become Metropolitan of Athens. As a result, the burden was put on the shoulders of the twenty-five-year-old professor, Konstantinos Kontogones. The Athenians of that time joked about this situation, given the fact that Kontogones was lame. They used to say, "The School of Theology is supported by only one leg."
The school introduced a program with its scholastic structure as found in German Protestant institutions. Theology was fractured into scholarly branches, distinctly separated so that one was unable to communicate easily with the others. This is what underlies the prevalence of handbook theology.
The measure of the people 's estimation of the Theological School of Athens was given in 1852 by Apostolides, President of the University, who complained that its students, fifteen years after its establishment, numbered only seven. Today the number of theological students is about eight hundred.
The Patriarchal Theological School of Chalke, established a short time later in 1844, could not offer much to theological scholarship because it followed exactly the same program. However, being affiliated with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and providing a seminary type of life, it gave the Orthodox Church many good prelates and priests. The same could be said about the Holy Cross School of Jerusalem which functioned for about fifty years with some interruptions (1855-1909). The fact that men like Meletios Metaxakes, and theologians yet to be mentioned, came forth from this school shows that it had a dynamism even though its material means were limited. Rizarios Ecclesiastical School was the only institution in Greece which became a real nursery for theologians adequately trained because of its sufficient financial means, administrative autonomy and dormitory facilities. However, since Rizarios was established immediately after the Theological School of Athens (1844), it was not permitted to develop into a university and was confined to a junior college. In spite of this, graduates of the School of Athens who produced notable theological activity were, for the most part, graduates of the Rizarios School.
As previously indicated, few theologians survived the Revolution. Most of those who did settled in Athens and, of course, were isolated into two parties, namely, the Koraists under Theokletos Pharmakides and Neophytos Vamvas, and the Traditionalists under Konstantinos Oikonomos. Setting aside all other peculiarities, I will limit myself to characterizing the members of the first part as Protestantizers. Tradition and the liturgical life did not present any interest for the members of this party either in theory or in practice. For them, Christianity was a religion of moral and social standards as formulated in the Bible. It is not surprising, therefore, that the translation of the Bible into modern Greek came forth from this group; a translation made on the basis of the text not accepted by the Orthodox Church, but by Protestant churches. Furthermore, having in mind the church structure in Germany and England, they advanced a Caesaro -papist theory with regard to the system of church administration; and they subjected the Church to the state, making it one of their institutions. Russia, under Peter the Great, had done the same thing a hundred years earlier. This was the only element of Russian church life that the members of this group approved and of which they constantly reminded their opponents.
Konstantinos Oikonomos was, on the contrary, a supporter of the en-tire ecclesiastical tradition in all of its expressions. Contrary to the belief of some, he certainly was not an obscurantist. As a professor in Smyrna before the Revolution, he presented plays on the stage, including a comedy of Moliere which he had translated himself even though he was already a clergyman. However, he lived by the dogmas of the Church, the doctrines of the Fathers, the hymns of the services and, of course, the Bible. He spent much ink on all of these subjects and devoted brilliant pages to them.
In the meantime, the younger academic theologians who were trained were undecided and found it difficult to follow the steps of either party. Between the radicalism of Pharmakides, who enjoyed the favor of the government for some time, and the traditionalism of Oikonomos, they were unable to discern the identity of Orthodoxy. Usually silent, the Patriarchate in this instance reacted vigorously to the activities of the radicals, lending support to Oikonomos. The reaction was not so much against novelty as against the attempt to change the faith of the Greek people and forcibly alter their religious institutions. There was nothing liberal in that attempt, since the greatest part of the people obviously rejected all these measures.
Nothing is as alien to the truth as to condemn the Patriarchate of Constantinople for obscurantism, as some critics have done. As a church it was rather progressive, but within the permissible lines of a religious institution. An organized and admirable education system developed - one of the best in all of Europe at the time, and one which offered its people all the spiritual and cultural assistance allowed by prevailing conditions then. The actions of the Patriarchate must always be examined under the light of religious and national pursuits which require a balance between conservatism and progress.
I shall mention here one well-known and still impressive example. By the decision of three patriarchs, the Patriarchate had licensed the translation of the Bible into modern Greek. The translation was produced by a member of the hierarchy, Hilarion of Tirnovo in Bulgaria, who used a more popular linguistic form than the archaic idiom used by Vamvas in his translation published by the Bible Society. If later the Patriarchate banned Vamvas ' translation, this was due to the fact that Vamvas and the Bible Society had not based their work on the canon of the Orthodox Church, but on the Protestant canon, and also because they refused to include the ancient text in parallel columns. These were the two main reasons why the Bible Society abandoned Hilarion 's translation. Obviously, the Bible Society, in cooperation with the party of Pharmakides and Vamvas, aimed at substituting the Protestant Bible for that of the Orthodox Church. There was also another reason for banning this translation, which was published in Malta, as well as translations in other Balkan languages which were encouraged by the Patriarchate. The translated Bible was accompanied by the free distribution of Protestant proselytizing literature. I need not comment further concerning the propagandistic activities of the agents of the Bible Society among the Balkan people and their attempts to detach the people from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The members of the anti-Patriarchal party presented their goals to the Greek people under the slogan: 'A new Church, new Bible, new institutions. ' The Protestant missionaries brought the same message to other Orthodox people, harassed as they were by tyranny as bad as that suffered by the Greeks.
Facing such a situation, the Patriarchate issued an encyclical in 1836 (11) condemning the founders of the Protestant heresies, as well as the multitudes of heterodox and mercenary compatriots, and at the same time rejecting their translations. Twelve years later in 1848, the four patriarchs of the East (12) issued the encyclical against the Roman Catholic Church in response to one issued by Pope Pius IX of the same year (13).
It was, indeed, very difficult for a young Orthodox theologian to choose between the position taken by the Patriarchate on the one hand, and the disfavor of the state on the other. Consequently, many of them remained silent.
The practice of those who pursued an academic career by continuing their studies in German universities was no small obstacle to theological development. In fact, all those who were appointed professors at the Theological School of Athens during the first hundred years of its life had attended post-graduate courses exclusively in Germany, with the exception of only two who had studied in Russia, namely in Petrograd, Russia. This phenomenon would not be negative in itself; it could even be beneficent under some terms, given the superiority of German theology throughout the nineteenth century. However, if all Orthodox theological professors of Greece did their post-graduate studies in Protestant schools and this practice continued for more than a hundred years, things could become one-sided.
Some years ago I noted: Greek theology, since its new formation in the beginning of the nineteenth century, was entangled by a tragic adventure. Its heart was rooted in Orthodoxy, its mind was fed by Protestantism, and its argumentation derived from scholasticism. For this reason it did not succeed in becoming autonomous (14). This condition removed any disposition for serious theologizing; and all theologians were limited to composing handbooks and panegyries.
It is, therefore, natural that the vacuum created would be occupied by popular theology, explicitly moving against academic theology. The great popular theologians, using the squares of cities and villages as lecturing places, had such large audiences that the academic theologians became envious. It was from the ranks of the popular theologians that the only full Greek theological system, as well as a complete interpretation of the New Testament by Apostolos Makrakes, came forth in the last century.
Apostolos Makrakes (1831-1905) was a phenomenon contemporary and parallel to the Slavophile movement, but certainly different and independent from it. He had not studied at the University of Athens, but at the School of the Nation (Genous ) in Constantinople, a remnant of the pre-revolutionary higher education system. He used to call the university 'Panskotisterion' (literally, 'all-obscurity ') instead of 'Panepistemion ' ( 'all-sciences '). Having started from the squares of Athens with thousands of listeners and admirers, Makrakes finally established his own school, The School of the Word. Prophetic and theocratic in tendency, he imprinted all his ingenuity and peculiarities on a great number of vigorous writings. His best work is probably his commentary on the New Testament totaling about 3,000 pages. Certainly, he exhausted his great powers in many and aimless fights. If he were somewhat more moderate, he would have had greater success, but then he would not have been Makrakes. At any rate, he is the man who contributed directly or indirectly more than any other person to the maturing of religious consciousness in modern Greece.
Thereafter, Makrakes ' popular theology followed two directions: 'apologetic ' and 'pietistic ' The 'apologetic ' was best represented by two brilliant lawyers, John Skaltsounes and Michael Galanos. The second, the 'pietistic, ' became the origin of various Christian organizations, a characteristic feature of the Church of Greece in our age. The 'pietistic ' organizations conducted an uninterrupted war against heresies, the ecumenical movement, secularization, Western culture, the sins of the prelates of the Church, and instructed masses of people along these lines up to our day when they have begun to lose sight of their identity.
I do not think it strange that the way for true renewal in Neohellenic theology was shown only by two men who happened to study not in Germany, but in Russia after they had graduated from the Holy Cross School of Jerusalem. They were Chrysostomos Papadopoulos and Gregorios Papamichael, both professors at the Theological School of Athens and close friends. The first was a historian who searched through all the facets of Christian life from its beginning up to the present and who, with his voluminous literary production, demonstrated the unity of Orthodoxy in all of its variety. As archbishop of Athens (1922-38), he endowed the Church with its basic institutions. Gregorios Papamichael was responsible for resurrecting and placing in their proper places two almost forgotten great personalities of Orthodoxy: Gregorios Palamas and Maximos (Trivolis ) the Greek. Furthermore, he examined diligently various cultural aspects of church life. Both of them are rightly credited for establishing the two basic academic journals of Neohellenic theology: Theologia and Ekklesia .
Something which these two great scholars lacked was provided by Nikolaos Louvares, a German trained theologian. He might have started from the wrong vantage point, but he later found the right way. He stressed both the need for a nostalgic tour through places containing signs of the sacred, and the need for a turn to our inner self where the human spirit meets with the divine spirit.
Theological thought began to revive around these men who were joined by E. Antoniades, K. Dyovouniotes, H. Alivizatos, P. Bratsiotes, V. Vellas, V. Stephanides, G. Soteriou, P. Trempelas, V. Ioannides, G. Konidares, K. Bones, L. Philippides and others. Their occupation with the serious study of the history of the Orthodox Church led them to seek the identity of Orthodoxy.
After the Second World War, Neohellenic theology undertook a successful, ascending road. My own professor of patristics in Athens, Demetrios Balanos, the principal representative of the dry, rationalistic method, wrote the following concerning Symeon the New Theologian in his last book published in 1951: "With his morbid mysticism, which otherwise was fashionable in that time, he became a forerunner of the hesychasts of the fourteenth century" (15). All the narrow-mindedness of Neohellenic rationalistic theology is contained within this short sentence. However, it was, at the same time, its swan-song. In the same year I happened to publish my first book in which I described Ignatios of Antioch 's teaching concerning his endeavors to come into union with God in order to attain the new and true life (16).
In our age of unprecedented material and technological transformations, theological thinking is often confused and hesitant. Neohellenic theology has already made a new start, believing that a renovation is indispensable if it is to continue its dialogue and contact with modern man. Faculty members of the theological schools of Athens ; Thessalonike (founded in 1941); Brookline, Massachusetts (founded in 1937); and of Chalke, presently shut down, as well as other theologians, are participating in this movement.
At present, one observes many tendencies which one can describe as 'political theology. ' Although this theology looks new because it keeps pace with political movements of new formation and totalitarian pursuits, in reality it constitutes a survival of older tendencies. Basically, its members declare their faithfulness to the alleged political message of the New Testament interpreted with sociological criteria in a one-sided manner, exalting the moral aspect of Christian preaching while accepting the subjection of the church to the state.
The tendency of turning to patristic sources is stronger today. Those who follow this trend believe that no renewal is possible or allowable that permits the removal of the foundation of theology which is God 's revelation to the world, Christ 's epiphany on earth and man's transfiguration. No theological system of any kind can exist without the Fathers; for in Christianity the Fathers occupy a particular position because it is by them, and especially by the earlier ones, that the foundations of the Church were laid. They are responsible for the organizational structure of the Church, its forms of worship, its Creed and its rule of life. This is tradition in its deepest meaning. The spirit of the Fathers has a beneficial and positive influence on the renewal of Orthodox theology, as well as on Orthodox life. Their testimony is manifested in both their word and their life. Tradition is always unfolded within the organism of the Church as a form of life, and the threads of tradition are moved by the Fathers. Whenever Orthodox theology sinks its roots into the source of tradition, it acquires new life. By doing so, Neohellenic theology gets on an ascending course. For this reason, new studies of dogmatics present richer fruits. The Patriarchal Institute for Patristic Studies in Thessalonike is a bearer of this tendency, expressed through careful research in patristic texts, and other manifestations of patristic life expressed through its publications, including the journal Kleronomia .
Between these two tendencies, but much closer to the second, neopatristic and a new, vigorously popular theology are moving, abundantly watered by the springs of patristic wisdom. After much searching, this theology has found a vehicle of expression in the pages of the journal Synaxis . In addition, with its frequent references to the social and philosophical dimensions of religion, as well as to the thought of the Church Fathers, the excellent journal Epopteia , which gives a living picture of the movement of ideas both in the past and in the present, constitutes a bridge between philosophy and theology.
(1) The situation changed in 1850 after the Church of Greece asked forgiveness when the Patriarchate issued the Tomos establishing the autocephaly of the Greek Church.
(2) Cf. T.B. Monboddo, Origin and Progress of Language (Edinburgh, 1773) 1, pp. 46; Ancient Metaphysics (London, 1779) 1, pp. 479; W. Hamilton, Lectures in Metaphysics and Logics (Edinburgh, 1860) 3, pp. 205.
(3) Letter to Neophytos Vamvas, 21 November 18 16.
(4) Στοχασμοί Κρίτωνος, p. 5.
(5) Katholikon of Philanthropenon Monastery, island of loannina; Chapel of Portaitissa of Iveron Monastery; Refectory of Great Lavra ; Katholikon of Batskovo, Bulgaria; and the Katholika of a number of monasteries in Rumania.
(6) See P. Paschales, Θεόφιλος Καῒρης (Athens, 1928) p. 35.
(7) Aristotle, Πολιτικῶν τά Σωζόμενα (Paris, 1851) p. 41.
(8) Tά σωζόμενα ἐκκλησιαστικά 3, pp. 215.
(9) Tά Ἀπομνημονεύματα, p. 302.
(10) Cf. G. P. Henderson, The Revival of Greek Thought (Albany, 1970) p. 204f.
(11)Under Patriarch Gregorios VI.
(12) Anthimos of Constantinople, Hierotheos II of Alexandria, Methodios of Antioch, Kyrillos II of Jerusalem.
(13) In Suprema Petri Apostoli Sede, 6 January 18 48.
(14) Κληρονομία 1 (1969), preface for the edition.
(15) Bυζαντινοί Ἐκκλησιαστικοί Συγγραφεῖς (Athens, 1951) p. 87.
(16) Zωή ἀληθινή κατά τήν Διδασκαλίαν Ἰγνατίου τοῦ Θεοφόρου (Athens, 1951).