NR. 3 – 2017

Rezumate Studii Teologice 2017.3

Pr. Constantin COMAN — Experiența niptică – reper ermineutic

Summary: The neptic experience as a hermeneutical landmark

The premise of this paper is the difference between the Eastern Orthodox and the Western way of perceiving the experience of God. This spiritual starting point has a strong connection with the Orthodox biblical hermeneutics, which, according to Father C. Coman, allows the Orthodox theologian to have a direct experience and relation with God. The peak of experiencing God is the neptic experience, as Father C. Coman posits, following the Fathers of the Church: „the neptic experience of God is the highest level in the sensible experience of the divine by man, as the Church Fathers unanimously confess”. This paper also emphasizes the urgent and imperative need of defining an Orthodox biblical hermeneutics that can provide and determine specific methods of interpretation. The originality of this conception lies in the special character of what the author indicates as paths towards an Orthodox hermeneutics. Although one might expect a structured list of principles that are interconnected, as reference source to be consulted before any exegesis or hermeneutic exercise, this study offers a different perspective on what a profound and Orthodox hermeneutics might look like. Of course we are acquainted with Father J. Breck’s list of principles for Orthodox exegesis. Father C. Coman does not neglect or invalidate them. On the contrary, his study corroborates the eight exegetical principles listed by Father J. Breck. Just as the most important commandment of both the Old and the New Testament was not a moral prescription but one that aimed to transcend the natural limits, Father C. Coman claims that the Orthodox biblical hermeneutics must reach beyond the limits of criticism or doctrine, it must start from experience and end with deification. This study is structured by the author in five chapters: 1) What I understand by neptic experience and why I employed this concept; 2) What is a hermeneutical landmark?; 3) The neptic experience – a hermeneutical landmark; 4) Experience – a gnoseological and hermeneutical fundamental category; 5) The distinction between created and uncreated and the communion of the created with the uncreated; 6) Eucharistic eschatology and neptic eschatology. The term neptic designates a state of perpetual spiritual watchfulness, which is not just a passive state of mind, but rather a „sober-minded vigilance”. It is a cleansing act that aims to purify one’s mind from sinful desires of flesh and brings about the true knowledge of God. Watchfulness is gnoseologically relevant as Philotheus the Sinaite and Hesychius the Monk affirm. The term neptic becomes thus „a generic designation for the entire Eastern spirituality and tradition”. Father C. Coman stresses the fact that in the New Testament there is such usage of this concept, and by this usage the Orthodox theology and spirituality developed the concept of watchfulness as it can be found in the Church Fathers’ writings. The hermeneutical landmark has a profound meaning for the entire Theology, if we take in consideration the impact of a hermeneutical principle such as Sola Scriptura. This study aims as well to establish a counter principle to Sola Scriptura. Father C. Coman, following the Greek Orthodox Theological School, puts forward these hermeneutical principles: Eucharistic community (communional experience) and universal history. By Eucharistic community we understand the entity that encapsulates, recapitulates and re-enacts in a liturgical dimension the history and the facts of the Bible, while the universal history principle represents the organic continuity of Bible’s tradition. Father C. Coman sums up: „it is rather absurd to dissociate the Bible from history and should this happen, even at the personal level and as hermeneutic principle (Sola Scriptura), we could never agree with it”. The neptic experience is by far the most profound and loftiest level of experiencing the divine, which can be accessible to man. Father S. Saharov notes that: „the closest communion with the divine that we can reach is only due to our enlightenment by the Uncreated Light”. He also speaks plainly about the importance of experiencing God in every Christian’s life, offering his own spiritual experience as example: „Before I was looked upon by God, when I was reading the Holy Gospel and Apostles’ Epistles, I could not grasp the deep meaning behind the words of the Holy Scripture. I learned by my own experience, my own life that outside a direct and intense experience of the divine, …the mere intellectual information does not lead to the real purpose of our faith…”. Father C. Coman enumerates a few key aspects for building a genuinely Orthodox biblical hermeneutics: 1) The clear distinction that Father Sophronius operates between the words of the Holy Bible and the existential reality and meaning these words convey; 2) Without a direct experience which comes only from God, and which we receive in gift, the human person cannot understand the deep existential meaning the words of the Bible speak of; 3) The Holy Scripture validates one’s personal spiritual experience and points to it; 4) The one who reaches the blessed neptic encounter of God, also receives, in gift from Him, the deep understanding of the divine realities and truths described both in the Old and the New Testament. These key points to an Orthodox biblical hermeneutics can be summed up in the following thesis: there is no knowledge of God or of the Scriptures, without the experience of the object of knowledge. There is no knowledge without experience, without encounter. Therefore, we can affirm that a genuine Orthodox biblical hermeneutics has to be founded on the personal experience of God. A very important contribution to this idea is brought by St John Chrysostom. In his writings there are over 2,000 occurrences of the term πείρα, which means experience, most of them having gnoseological and hermeneutical relevance. There is an important remark we have to note, regarding the distinction between the truth itself and its expression. „Truth is not to be found in words, but in things”, the Church Fathers state. The way of experiencing God in the Orthodox Church has been for a long time a controversial subject. The answer to this deep meaningful question has been given by St Gregory Palamas who, based on the unanimous patristic tradition prior to him, emphasized the distinction between the Divine nature or essence, and the uncreated divine energies. The communion of man with God – who is uncreated and the Creator of all – is due to the divine uncreated energies, because no man can experience or know God’s nature or essence. In order for the human person to have any knowledge about the Uncreated God, man has to reach the state of theosis. Therefore, we cannot speak about the knowledge of God apart from the concept of theosis. Dogmatic Theology points out that the Holy Liturgy offers the most elevated and substantial foretasting of the eternal life. Here, Father C. Coman seeks to strike a balance between Eucharistic eschatology and neptic eschatology. These two categories of spiritual life correspond to the sacramental dimension of spiritual life and the charismatic dimension of the Church Life, represented by the anchorites and the neptic Fathers. There has always been a tension between these two, but this tension was always aimed at reaching theosis. Moreover, the tension Father C. Coman speaks about is not perceived only in what spiritual experience is concerned. Spiritual experience, or neptic experience has had an important influence regarding the correct interpretation of the Holy Scripture. As Father C. Coman states, the liturgical and spiritual life of the Orthodox Church gravitate around the presence of Jesus Christ the Saviour and His presence lies in both sacraments and words, respectively the Holy Bible. In order to prove the effectiveness of this method, the author addresses the more difficult or controversial episodes of the Holy Scripture. These episodes he mentions in his study are the ones which have raised numerous questions, both to believers and ordinary readership, and to the most refined and educated scholars and theologians. In most cases, in the effort of solving this kind of difficult questions, theologians have often provided different and even contradictory explanations. On the contrary, the Fathers of the Church who are illustrative for the neptic principle of Orthodox exegesis, offer solutions that are complementary, not contradictory. Inspired and guided by the work and agency of the Holy Ghost, they managed to supply deep spiritual exegesis to even the most difficult verses in the Bible. Their writings expressed the need to experience God before venturing to put forth explanations and suppositions. These categories are not mutually exclusive. Father C. Coman also deems this aspect to be empowering and fruitful for a genuine Orthodox hermeneutics. The Eucharistic experience and all of the Church’s sacraments are absolutely necessary for what being a Christian involves. Also, the neptic experience provides the Orthodox Christian with a higher level of participation in the Church’s sacramental life, and in Eucharistic communion. Thus, while the Eucharistic eschatology creates the sacramental and institutional context of Christian life, the neptic eschatology marks the personal and charismatic aspect of the Christian life. Father C. Coman suggests that the necessity of spiritual experience in the Orthodox hermeneutics stems from the precedence that tradition has over the Holy Scripture, respectively the precedence of history over writings. This precedence is chronological and can be considered the source of the Holy Scripture both of the Old and New Testament. Therefore, Father C. Coman quotes St John Chrysostom: „We should not have needed the help of the Holy Scriptures, instead we should have led such a pure life that the Holy Ghost would replace the Holy Scriptures for our souls […] God did not speak with Noah through letters or scriptures, nor with Abraham or his descendants, nor with Job or Moses, instead He spoke to them face to face for their soul was pure. Nevertheless, when the entire people sinned, then the writings, the Scriptures were needed”. The dynamic character of the Holy Scripture is not being reduced to „solving a quiz”; instead it is the quest for understanding the realities that the words speak of. In contrast to the Orthodox hermeneutics, Father C. Coman considers that the Western biblical interpretative school, by using the Sola Scriptura principle, narrowed the profound meaning of its message: „Sola Scriptura is the obvious counter-effect of the scholastic, speculative theology, in brief a way to imprison the truth inside words. The Protestant Churches primarily used Sola Scriptura as a means to react against the „the abuse of speculative theology” which strived to develop an artificial theoretic system based on the natural and supernatural revelation. Father C. Coman’s efforts are aimed at correcting the shortcomings of the previous Romanian biblical hermeneutical systems, which, in his opinion, are influenced by the Western scholastic system. This type of biblical hermeneutics sets as its main goal: „the transcending of any distance that separates the readers of different periods of time from the biblical times”. The genuine hermeneutics of the Orthodox Church has always strived to bring to the present times the redemptive events described in the Holy Scripture, based on the divine character of the Bible. Moreover, the goal of the any Orthodox hermeneutics should not be to supply information about past events, but to offer the spiritual guidance that culminates in theosis. Father C. Coman points out that one of the faults of Dogmatic Theology of the last century is the exclusive focus on Eucharistic eschatology, which he balances by using the neptic eschatology term, in order to regain the soteriological importance of the human person: „We have to agree that beyond the exclusiveness that defines the past century’s Dogmatic Theology, considering the Eucharistic eschatology as the only way of foretasting eternal life even in this world, there is a tendency to ignore the human person and its direct communion with God”.


Pr. Ioan CHIRILĂ Ermeneutica biblică din perspectivă răsăritean-ortodoxă

Summary: Biblical hermeneutics from the Eastern-Orthodox perspective

The hermeneutical issue has been intensively exploited and explored, both in the Western and in the Orthodox theology especially during the 20th century when clergy and theologians stated and established the principles and rules for biblical interpretation. Thus, several works and books have been written concerning the principles of biblical hermeneutics: the official documents of the Roman-Catholic Church and the works of authors such as P. Ricoeur and H.G. Gadamer. In other words, hermeneutics is like a chart or a map that indicates the correct way to interpret the biblical text. Hermeneutics puts forth and provides the rules and principles that are crucial in the exegetical process. Contrary to the general opinion, Orthodox Christians and theologians do not interpret any text in a dogmatic way; the patristic literature itself shows that early in the Church history the elements for identifying typologies were established and only after that the principles for acquiring the typos-antitypos relation were presented. The hermeneutical principles have developed over time, as guidelines for interpreting the biblical text. It is possible that some isagogic treatises of the past did not dwell enough on the interpretation of the biblical text, but the rules and principles of interpretation were embedded in them. The systematic approach of the teachings that can be derived from the biblical text is common to the scriptural hermeneutics. The patristic period produced commentaries, homilies and teachings to facilitate the interpretation of the Holy Scripture, each one of these being marked by the interpretative school their authors came from, be it Antiochian, Alexandrine or Cappadocian. The academic theology does not aim to raise scholars among its students as a primary objective, instead it aims to grow and raise missionaries for the Church. Consequently, the scientific research is second to spiritual enhancement and progress. Therefore, it is important to highlight this distinction, because this way we would know when and how to research and interpret the Holy Scripture without depreciating faith. Studying the patristic period, one can easily perceive a regress in the interpretation of the Holy Bible once rhetorical criticism emerged. This happened because the authority of the clergy was being questioned, thus leading to a fragmentation of the unity of the Holy Scripture and the Church. The internal unity and coherence of the biblical text can be grasped by means of the chapters and verses partition, thus conferring the text a smooth transition and unitary construction. The current tendency is to use the patristic heritage as an intermediary between the contemporary interpreters and the Holy Bible. The Church Fathers did not and do not interpret the holy text for today’s questions, instead from their interpretation we derive the paradigms for today’s biblical exegesis. The neo-patristic concept that has been developed by the Russian Orthodox theology in the 20th century became a symbol for Orthodoxy. An important issue is the dialogue with the contemporary philosophy. Therefore, it is extremely necessary that both the missionary and the biblical undertakings remain in the realm of faithfulness which Th. Stylianopoulos highlights when he lists the elements that compose this virtue: fidelity to the message of the Holy Bible, fidelity to the Church tradition, fidelity and continuity with the teachings of the Church Fathers, tenacious fidelity to the critic approach of the Bible and fidelity to the Holy Ghost, Who guides and inspires to the truth and towards superior and ever new interpretations of the Bible. St Gregory the Theologian teaches us that a genuine interpretation is a like «giving wings to the Holy Ghost». Scholars Al. Negrov, G. Florovsky and S. Bulgakov highlight the need to invoke and call on the Holy Ghost in prayer for developing a correct and useful interpretation. Therefore, the continuity in the ecclesiastical life is indispensable for establishing the interpretative principles of the Holy Bible because Church is the best suited place and space for this endeavour. This does not forbid a personal interpretation of the biblical text, on the contrary it encourages it. The personal reflections, however, must be subsumedand adhere to the Church’s interpretation. Exegesis must be performed inside the Church and the faith of Church, thus being devoted to the Christian faith, to continuity and to the Church Tradition. The fundamental structure of the Eastern Orthodox faith was laid by the Ecumenical Council’s decrees. Thus, any violation of these decrees is tantamount to desertion from the Orthodox biblical interpretation. It is hard to define what an Orthodox interpretation should look like because each local Orthodox Church has strived to establish genuine principles for exegesis. The polarization with which hermeneutics is faced is not constructive. P. Dragutinovici exhorts the Orthodox scholars to select and carefully apply the historical-critical methodology in their exegesis, for the Orthodox interpreter has a certain difficulty in establishing a creative connection or an adequate approach between historical criticism and the Orthodox interpretative paradigms. Perhaps the lack of an official assent from the Orthodox Church regarding the historical-critical methods is the reason for the Orthodox theologians’ reluctance towards them. Some works and studies accept the historical-critical method, while others do not. This is the starting point of this debate: which authors or scholars are right? The answer is to be found in the Orthodox Church’s fundamental principles and norms because the main author of the Holy Bible is He who reveals Himself. The biblical text must be understood and then transposed in the today’s language and understanding. The old and outdated language must be overcome and updated. Not only should we interpret the holy text but we also have to identify the axiological structure of the text through the faith and truth canon. Firstly, the interpreter needs to take into account what the hagiographer intended to communicate to his addressees, and then understand how the same text can be conveyed to secondary receivers. It is also of great importance to note that both the human mind and the human language do not have the ability to fully comprehend or express transcendent realities or various other aspects of the sensible, perceptible realm. The composing elements of the Holy Bible should not be perceived as simple literary monuments because it comprises numerous transcendent meanings and messages, and it constitutes a gate to the metaphysic realm. The biblical exegesis is a continuous and dynamic process for God Himself is transcendent, incomprehensible and infinite. Therefore, biblical exegesis must be a dynamic rather than a repetitive action. For example, the Holy Fathers provided interpretations for their historical period and we should do the same for our days. The biblical text, as Father J. Breck asserts, has to be understood in a Christological key and also in the perspective of the Resurrection – an anastatic perspective. It has to open to the anastatic dimension; otherwise it is nothing but mere literature. The anastatic dimension is the purpose of our earthly existence; more precisely it is the gate to the Kingdom of Heaven and to eternal life. An exclusively critical-historical exegesis does not suffice, it is incomplete. Even though exegesis requires more than ration, we must not ignore the usefulness of the critical-historical method in the biblical research. That is why the patristic exegesis has priority over the contemporary methodologies. The patristic exegesis is filled with divine energies and it represents the topos for the encounter of Christ, the Living God. It gives us the power to change our lives and the entire humanity.


Pr. Constantin JINGA — Ieșirea 12-15 în creația lirică occidentală

Summary: Exodus 12-15 in the Western lyrical creation

The biblical scenes have inspired numerous generations of artists who strived to illustrate them through different means: painting, sculpture, music, poetry or literature. These forms of artistic expression are also ways of expressing faith. The Holy Bible is a genuine source for the European culture. There is a deep connection between the Holy Bible and culture, for in the first centuries art served as an instrument which helped everyone, irrespective of their social standing, understand the contents of faith. Nowadays, this connection has undergone a significant shift. Th. Merton, a Roman-Catholic scholar, maintains that art helps us find ourselves and also makes us lose ourselves in it. A poem, a piece of music or painting can raise our thought above ourselves, like a mystical experience. Art can ease our understanding of Gods’ works and of ourselves. The chapters of Ex 12-15 have been the subject of numerous Western artworks. In this regard, the theme of deliverance from the Egyptian captivity and the crossing of the Red Sea theme have inspired a great number of poems, paintings and songs. This masterpieces’ purpose is to entail spiritual contemplation of the biblical events, a spiritual sensitivity that so often is distorteded by the scientific positivist interpretation of the same events. There are many great minds that were compelled to create by this chapter: É. Moulinié (The Song of Moses); Handel (Israel in Egypt); Rossini (Moses in Egypt); Schoenberg (Moses and Aaron); and Messiaen (The Two Walls of Water). Ex 12-15 is of utmost importance for both the Jewish and Christian theology. Chapters 12 and 13 describe the deliverance of the Jews from the Egyptian captivity and their crossing through the Red Sea. They also present the detailed instructions for the Paschal feast, followed by Israel’s exodus, the guidance offered by God during daytime and night. The Paschal feast becomes thus an annual celebration, with rigorous instructions because it commemorated one of the most important events in Israel’s history. Chapter 14 presents the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, having Moses as the main character, who splits the waters of the sea, while being chased by Pharaoh with his army, who all perished in the sea. Chapter 15 describes the joy of the freed Jews, as well as the Song of Moses and Miriam. This text is fundamental for the formation of Israel as a nation. This text is then referred to in chapters 12 and 13 and the following, when the celebration is attested. Other references are found in Mishnah, Pesachim and Talmud. Another mention is found in the fourth century in a book of Eusebius of Caesarea who refers to a piece of information from Alexander of Miletus’ Book about Jews. This book offers an artistic description of the event, coming from an Egyptian soldier. Philo of Alexandria provides another reference, this time having an intellectual and mystic interpretation of the event. St Ephrem the Syrian, Origen, St Melito of Sardis, St Gregorius of Nyssa follow Philo’s interpretative line, representing the crossing of the Red Sea as a cleansing of sins and deliverance from transgressions. The patristic exegesis of this event has both a Christological and a baptismal dimension. The Paschal lamb represents the sacrifice of our Lord while the crossing of the Red Sea represents the Baptism. The liturgical interpretation of the biblical events is characteristic for the Church Fathers. This interpretation focuses on the soteriological dimension of the Holy Scriptures rather than on the historical reality. During the Renaissance, the new methods and principles in literature influenced a new biblical hermeneutics. Thinkers like M. Luther, Th. Hobbes and B. Spinoza suggest that the Holy Bible should be approached with objectivity and scientific stringency, focusing on its literal aspect. They also disapproved of the use of any exegetic instrument or tradition other that the Holy Scripture itself could provide. This new method, prompted by scientific positivism, and the critical and historical interpretative school, strived to remove any Judaic or Christian tradition from the interpretation of the Bible. This then became an impulse for authors like É. Moulinié (Moulinier / Molinié, born in 1599 in France) to create Bible-inspired artworks. É. Moulinié had studied music and theology, was a member of the local cathedral choir, and then became one of the imperial musicians. Afterwards, as musical director of Languedoc, he composed various religious and lay music pieces. His late works Meslanges de sujets chrestiens (1658) or Œuvres Chretiènnes (1633) became very popular due to his undeniable talent. Œuvres Chretiènnes (1633) features fragments from Ex 15 in 28 stanzas, each stanza having its own melody, but the same tonality. Even though the composition does not follow closely the biblical text, it succeeds in conveying the joy of the freed Jews, God’s perfection and the human vanity. It points out the ethic aspects of the biblical text and exhorts the reader to praise God. While the works of É Moulinié were tremendously successful, Handel’s work, Israel in Egypt, did not enjoy the same popularity. However, this masterpiece was rediscovered in the 19th century and became more famous than before. Moreover, numerous fragments were included in the Anglican liturgical repertoire. G.F. Handel was one of the most representative musicians of the Baroque period alongside Bach and Scarlatti. Born in 1685 in Germany, Halle, was the disciple of W. Zachow and succeeded in composing a significant number of religious and chamber music compositions before the age of 18. Afterwards he was assigned the position as a violinist at the Hamburg Opera and then Kapellmeister of the British king George I. He composed various serenades, odes, arias and religious compositions, being considered the creator of the English oratorio as a music genre. His compositions had a major impact on the Western liturgical music. Israel in Egypt is a biblical oratorio in two parts, using the libretto of Ch. Jennes, who adapted texts from the Exodus and the Psalms. The first part presents the sufferings of the enslaved Jews in Egypt, the plagues, Jews’ exodus and the crossing of the Red Sea. The second part describes the joy of Israel for the triumph of God against the Egyptians. The complexity of this composition requires the spectators good knowledge of the biblical events. G.A. Rossini’s Moses in Egypt uses A.L. Tottola’s famous libretto, being staged in 1818 in San Carlo, Napoli. One of the greatest composers ever, Rossini was born in Pesaro, Italy in 1792 in a family of musicians. In his youth he sang in numerous choirs, appeared in opera shows and composed several songs. After graduating from the Bologna Music School, he composed Othello, Wilhelm Tell, Stabat Mater and many other operas. Mose in Egitto is an opera in three acts and required several adjustments before it became a famous masterpiece. It presents the star-crossed love story between Osiride, the son of Pharaoh and Elcia, a Jewish girl. The action takes place during Jews’ bondage in Egypt, a situation that causes their relationship to fail. This opera has two versions: the original of 1818 and the one of 1827. The second one features more characters and has a more complex script than the first one. The texts from Ex 10-15 offered Rossini the ability to create an exotic background, complex characters and tension that added up to the dramatics of the history itself. Rossini might not have intended to convey dogmatic or ethic ideas but he did employ the artistic and religious themes from the biblical account in a fabulous opera. A. Schoenberg’s opera Moses and Aaron is another representation of the biblical events of Ex 10-15. Born in Wien in 1874 to a Jewish family, A. Schoenberg was a controversial figure, having a major revolutionary influence on the musical language. He was a violinist, orchestrator, music teacher and composer. He converted to Lutheranism but then returned to Judaism. Moses and Aaron was firstly designed as an oratorio but then it was restructured as a three acts opera, the last act being unfinished. The libretto belonged to A. Schoenberg who used several texts from the Book of Exodus and from the Numbers, telling the story of the Jews deliverance from the Egyptian bondage, the crossing of the Sinaitic dessert and the proclamation of monotheism. A. Schoenberg tries to create an antithesis between Moses and Aaron, Moses representing the purity of the faith in unique God, while Aaron being a more earthly translator of God’s will expressed to Moses. Moses and Aaron often have arguments in this opera, for example the one suggested by Ex 32, the worship of the gold calf. The third act suggests the fact that the limit of interpretation should be the point where the receptor pursues and assumes the meaning of the artistic act. The music in this opera is atonal, being considered genius as it only uses 12 scales according to the 12 letters that compose the title. This opera is created as a drama, Moses and Aaron expressing the inner tendencies of the man who seeks the truth. O.E.P.Ch. Messiaen’s The Two Walls of Water (Les deux murailles d’eau) presents a new manner of perceiving the biblical text, without the need to use biblical words (Ex 14). O.E.P.Ch. Messiaen was a composer, organist, ornithologist and professor. He was born in 1908, being one of the greatest French composers. His compositions are filled with rhythm and genuine melody due to his Roman-Catholic faith. He tries and succeeds in overcoming the Western musical conventions, being more attached to the religious content of the composition. He strives to make his composition a way to express God’s glory and presence. O.E.P.Ch. Messiaen viewed music as a theological means of expression, a key liturgical element, the connection between the biblical text and its receptor. A genuine musical composition is to be conceived as a sign of the quest of man, an exhortation to introspection, to meditation and self-knowledge. While É. Moulinié and G.F. Handel stimulate our need to introspection, Rossini uses the biblical and religious message as the context of his compositions. A. Schoenberg perceives the biblical text as a personal effort to self-discovery of one’s inner contradictions. O.E.P.Ch. Messiaen strives to retrieve the sacredness of music, as a means to unveil the work of the Grace of God. In conclusion, the music compositions are not meant to illustrate the biblical narrative; instead they try to exhort the receptor to meditate about the text, to unveil the beauty of the text and from there, to gain self-knowledge and introspection. Both the listening of this compositions or the reading of the Holy Scripture help us escape the everyday pace of life, offering a chance to understand one’s own feelings.


Pr. Viorel-Cristian POPA Considerații exegetice contextuale la 3 Regi 16, 34

Summary: Exegetical contextual considerations on 3 Kings 16, 34

In the third Book of Kings there is continuity in the narration up to chapter 16, verse 34 where, there is a verse that apparently does not fit the context of the chapter: verse 34. This verse does not fit the precedent context, or the next one. Firstly, the hagiographer presents the story of King Ahab and the personality of the prophet Elijah from Tesbe in vv. 29-33. Afterwards, there is an insertion about a certain man called Hiel of Bethel and about the building that he is constructing in Jericho, more precisely the reconstruction of the city of Jericho, the oldest city historically attested. The question that is raised at this moment is whether 3 Kings 16, 34 has any kind of connection to the historical context. 3 Kings 16, 30-33 presents kings Ahab’s reprehension by the prophet Elijah, who was sent by God to foretell the drought that was going to occur as a punishment for the sins of Ahab the king. 3 Kings 16, 34 tells about the reconstruction of the city Jericho by Hiel of Bethel and his fellows. At the first look, the two parts are different in their extent. Moreover, they have different subjects and therefore, it might seem that the situations and contexts are not connected. Ahab and Elijah do not seem to have any connection to Hiel of Bethel, who is no longer mentioned in the following chapters. Therefore, apparently Hiel of Bethel has no connection to the subject. In fact, an analogy is being shaped, an analogy between Ahab and Hiel, two related characters. Their similarities are clarified in the larger context, through the texts from the following chapters even though Jericho and its reconstruction are not mentioned again in the following chapters. One of the reasons why this verse fits its immediate context is the analogy suggested in the following verses between Hiel and Ahab, analogy confirmed afterwards in the accounts about Ahab, Elijah and Elisha. Considering the text in chapter 3 Kings 16, 29-33 and 34 as literary unit (although at the first sight there seems to be no connection between the mentioned verses and chapter 17), two accounts are evident: the one of Ahab ben Omri and then in verse 34 the account of Hiel, mirroring the former. The two accounts seems to work as synthetic parallels because of their close disposition in the text, one concerning Ahab and the other one, concerning Hiel. The pericope ends with the personal name Joshua, son of Nun, mirroring the name of Ahab, which is stated at the beginning of the pericope. Thus, a parallel is drawn between Ahab and Hiel, two related characters that focus on building, constructing new buildings, edifices: Ahab builds sanctuaries for Baal while Hiel rebuilds the city of Jericho. Their common feature is their acting against the will of God. The reader might remark at first the verb banah. This verb is used in connection to two characters: Ahab in verse 32 and Hiel in verse 34. This moment marks the beginning of the parallelism between the two. Also, it is this moment that makes the reader better note the likeness or resemblances between these two figures. There are three verbs in the semantic field of the word construction that are used in relation with both Ahab and Hiel. Ahab builds sanctuaries for Baal (made, built, edified – vv. 32 and 33), while Hiel strives to rebuild the city of Jericho (to build, to fortify, to lay the foundation, to lay the gates of – verse 34). Therefore, verse 34 has multiple linguistic connections with the other verses that create the historical background (vv. 29-33). The second aspect that captivates the reader are the texts from 3 Kings 16, 29-33 and verse 34, texts that highlight that both characters, Ahab and Hiel are acting against the will of God by undertaking constructions that are not demanded and supported by Yahweh. Therefore, the biblical account defines Ahab as a worse king than Jeroboam. This account proves once more that both of them are acting in their own name with selfish and sinful reasons and are disobeying the will and commandment of God. Moreover, their blasphemy is severely punished by God with the death of their sons – two sons of Ahab. Hiel is punished for his daring, also by the death of his sons. So, there is a connection between verses 29-33 and 34, more precisely, an analogy. In the following texts, through careful and attentive reading we can remark the same analogy between Ahab and Hiel. This later account presents the early death of both of Hiel’s sons, who died during the construction of Jericho. Thus the word of God is fulfilled through the curse of Joshua, curse that concerns all those who would start rebuilding Jericho and the two sons of Ahab, the rightful heirs to the kingdom of Israel, Ahaziah and Joram. Verses 29-24 does not lead do this conclusion instead, but it becomes evident from the following chapters that they describe the death of two kings of Israel, the sons of Ahaz. The two of them are compared to the prophets Elijah, Elisha: Elijah with Ahaziah, against whom Elijah reveals a prophecy (2 Kings 1) and Elisha with Joram (2 Kings 9). Elisha had an active contribution in the coup d’état, which ended with the death of Joram, who was murdered, thus making the two of them contemporary. This is also a resemblance between Ahab and Hiel. These two early deaths are due to the word of Yahweh, who has spoken through Elijah for Ahab’s sake and with Joshua regarding the fate of Hiel. Therefore, this is another reason for affirming the link between verse 34 and its immediate context. Another important detail that should not be overlooked is the frequent mention of Bethel and Jericho, cities considered as being sinful (recalled in 3 Kings 16, 34 and 4 Kings 2). These two cities are directly linked to Ahab and Hiel, the latter being born in Bethel, as well as Elijah and Elisha, these two prophets living a long period of time in Bethel and contemporary with king Ahab and his sons. The narratives of the two connect 3 Kings and 4 Kings. Another connection, this time thematic is the one between 3 Kings 16, 34 and 4 Kings 2. These two refer to the reason of the curse, firstly pronounced by Elisha concerning the 42 children who scoffed him while the latter referring to Joshua who curses and anathematizes those who would rebuild Jericho (Josh 6, 26). Those who ignored the warning would immediately die. Thus, the text of 3 Kings 16, 34 resembles various texts like Josh 6, 26, 3 Kings 16, 29-33 and others. Surprisingly, both the characters and places are resembling. They are connected by analogy, as they would foretell the future of Ahab’s reign. Therefore, one can observe the connections between verse 34, chapter 16 and both its precedent and following historical context. Verse 34 has thus a narrative purpose. Not only is it not an interpolation, instead it is an important piece of narrative in the immediate context of the chapter 16. Also, it is not a text that breaches the continuity of the account of King Ahab’s damned reign and the account of Elijah and Elisha. In fact is a text that provides continuity between the two accounts mentioned above through the many resemblances of manner, immediate context and content. In what the cities of Bethel and Jericho are concerned (cities that are mentioned as sinful and deplorable), the existing analogy is thematic, both of these cities having a deprecative role. Bethel is the place where the curse of Elisha is fulfilled and also Bethel is where Hiel, the one who dared to defy the curse and began the reconstruction of Jericho, came from. Ahab and Hiel are two characters who not only do not live and act by the will and word of God, but defy and ignore it by their deeds. In conclusion, this particular text apparently is an interpolation and seems to be taken out of context, but in fact it is an important part of the general context. Considering its significance and its analogical understanding (meaning), the text can easily be considered part of the immediate of distant context of the Book 4 Kings.


Pr. Adrian MURG Evanghelia în capitala culturii păgâne. Sfântul Apostol Pavel şi Atenagora Atenianul

Summary: The Gospel in the Capital of Pagan Culture. The Holy Apostle Paul and Athenagoras of Athens

The discourse of the Areopagus (Acts 17, 15-34) illustrates the main elements of the apologetic strategy used by the Holy Apostle Paul. Firstly, the apostle adjusted to the atmosphere of Athens, observing the religious beliefs and acts of his audience. Secondly, he looked for as many common points as he could find. That is why he does not use arguments from the Old Testament, irrelevant for a pagan audience, but he uses ideas taken from the Greek philosophers and poets. Thirdly, starting from the ideas and notions that were familiar to those who listened to him, Saint Paul moved on to present the Christian teaching and the call for repentance. Through this discourse in the capital of classical culture, the Apostle to the gentiles offers the early Church a model of combining the apologetic and doctrinal arguments to ease the propagation of the Gospel. But, at the same time, he offers a general theological pattern that can be used to preach the Word of God in a manner that allows its penetration to the fundaments of the pagan culture in order to Christianize and integrate them into the new edifice of a Christian culture. The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, to which one must grant a normative value, is the first element of this pattern, because through it God’s plan regarding humankind is revealed and fulfilled. A special place in the word of the apostle is taken by the teachings on creation, providence and judgement, because through these the message of the Gospel can be articulated on the body of the pagan thought. Athenagoras of Athens develops this Pauline scheme in his attempt to prove the rationality of the Christian faith against the disdain coming from the pagan cultural environment. In his treatise on the Resurrection of the Dead, written in the last quarter of the 2nd century, and obviously based on the speech presented by the Holy Apostle Paul in the Areopagus, Athenagoras distinguishes between two types of discourse or argumentation: λόγος ὑπὲρ τῆς ἀληθείας – the discourse in favour or defence of truth, that is apologetic, and λόγος περὶς τῆς ἀληθείας – the discourse to present the truth, that is doctrinal. Both types of argumentation are used by this apologist in his two works Embassy for the Christians (Legatio pro Christianis, Πρεσβεία Χριστιανῶν), an apologetic writing, and The Resurrection of the Dead also known as On the Resurrection of the Body (Περὶ τῆς ἀναστάσεως τῶν νεκρῶν), a rational exposition of the teaching on resurrection, in order to dismiss the wrong and irrational opinions of the pagan religious thinking and to demonstrate the truth of the Christian faith. We will not find here the dualism characteristic to the subsequent theological and philosophical works between the natural and supernatural knowledge, this dualism being rejected by the fact that the Logos through whom the universe is created and organized is the eternal Word of God, incarnate in the Person of Jesus Christ. In Him the knowledge of the incarnation of the Word and of creation through the Word is inseparably intertwined. That is why, besides the unicity of God and unity of His works in space and time, it is also underlined His unifying Providence that circumscribes the entire creation and history, guiding them towards the fulfillment of God’s plan of love in judgement and resurrection. This theological scheme will be elaborated upon in the following centuries; but in the works of Athenagoras one may observe the beginnings of some profound changes within the Greek thinking, produced under the influence of the Gospel and reflected into his conception on the natural and theological logos (λόγος φυσικὸς καὶ θεολογικός). For Athenagoras, the teaching on God – the Creator and Lord of heaven and earth, who created all the things from nothing, has a crucial importance for the affirmation of the Christian faith, because it places the human life and thinking on a new foundation, completely separate from that which supports the Greek philosophy and religion. This can be noticed in the rejection of the views on the eternity and divinity of the heavenly spheres held by the Greek science and of the radical dualism from κόσμος νοητός (the intelligible word or the world of ideas) and κόσμος αἰθητός (the sensible world or the world of events) which occupy a central place in the Greek epistemology, proving in exchange that both worlds were brought from inexistence to existence and, hence, they constitute the created world upon which the unifying and disciplining power of the Word of God operates. This is why the Christians refuse any form of Greek polymorphism and polytheism, which contain ideas about the nature and works of God inspired from a cosmological theory that is incompatible with the biblical faith in the unity of God and of His creation. The Church also rejects any form of idolatry or anthropomorphism, since they are the product of a mythological thinking about God, which projects human fantasies upon divinity. For Athenagoras the Christian doctrines on creation and providence (πρόνοια) are inseparable linked, for through creation God made an intelligible and orderly universe, and in relationship to this universe He remains transcendent and present everywhere, preserving it and bestowing upon it His permanent and providential care. Like creation, providence may be correctly understood in the light of the common work of the persons of the Holy Trinity. However, above all things, the Christian teaching on providence is formulated in the light of the resurrection of Christ, completely different from the stoic and Hellenic ideas on πρόνοια, because in resurrection it is fully revealed the power of God to create and recreate, that is His free and powerful interaction and His total control upon the created world. Athenagoras states that by virtue of the same power through which God created bodies from nothing, He rebuilds, after the dissolution in death, through resurrection. On the one hand, in resurrection we are revealed completely the creating power of God, on the other hand, the internal reasons of the resurrection of the dead may be found within creation. Hence, the truth and rationality of the resurrection must be understood in the light of God’s wisdom and power manifest within creation and, as a consequence, in the work of providence. Athenagoras’ importance resides precisely in his robust commitment with the Greek philosophy and culture, through the Christian understanding and use of the concept of Logos and through the biblical pattern adopted in order to present the Christian perspective. The main purpose of his two writings is not to simply present the Christian teaching, but to penetrate through the conceptual barriers of Hellenism in order to make room for the Christian ideas. He was never preoccupied with the doctrinarian details, but with the fundamental principles, trying to transpose the Greek thinking into a perspective fundamentally different, within which the dualist and necessitarian views on the world, which refuse God the personal intervention into human affairs, lose their vigour and are replaced with a dynamic and teleological vision of God’s interaction with the world in space and time. To this respect, in continuity with the Holy Apostle Paul, Athenagoras presents the Christian teaching about creation and resurrection in a way that will influence the development of a specific Christian culture within Hellenism. At least two elements in Athenagoras’ presentation deserve our attention. He contributes to the consolidation of the Christian conception on the contingent nature of the universe and of the rational order, which in its developed form opened the way for the modern scientific understanding of nature and of its inherent and unitary intelligibility.


Pr. Doru FER — Dreptatea lui Dumnezeu oglindită în Comentariul Sf. Ioan Gură de Aur la Epistola către Romani

Summary: The righteousness of God reflected in St John Chrysostom’s Commentary on the Epistle to Romans

Saint Paul’s epistles represent a precious auxiliary of this unprecedented masterpiece in the history of Christianity. These epistles constitute a genuine example for the ecclesiastic life in the first centuries. They were written under certain historical and socio-political circumstances, at times under the pressure of certain situations or events that requested an immediate response and solution. Thus, these epistles were meant to be a practical guide for the converted Christians, considering the experience and authority Saint Paul had among most Christian communities. Therefore, when he did not manage to solve doctrinal or organizational issues that appeared in certain communities, Saint Paul, who had a hectic agenda because of his many pastoral and missionary travels, had to resort to epistles as a means of communicating with his disciples. The Church later considered his epistles the foundation of Christian theology which had a great impact in extending the ecclesial boundaries to include other cultures and territories, making it universal. Also, by his epistolary work, Saint Paul provided the Church with a complete and lofty theology, with a profound and ample missionary and pastoral experience unprecedented in the history of Church. One of the most prestigious capitals, Rome, succeeded in unifying most of the civilized world of that time, considering it was the economic and military centre of the known world, despite the wicked life going on inside its walls. Regarding the foundation of the first Christian community in Rome there is no specific information. However the presence of Romans in Jerusalem at Pentecost is confirmed by Saint Luke in Acts: «…and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes» (Acts 2,10). These might be the ones who founded the Christian community in Rome for they were real witnesses at the foundational event of the Church, Pentecost. Surely, when St Apostle Paul wrote the Epistle to the Romans, there was already an organized and long-established community in Rome. The homilies to the Epistle to the Romans focused on many theological themes, among which is the justice of God, a theme that can be found in the first chapters of this Epistle. St John Chrysostom insists on this subject in his commentary. Saint Paul defines the meaning of righteousness (δικαιοσύνη) as a conversation that he has with Israel. In the Pauline theology the Law only presents the idea of righteousness but has no power to grant it. Only the one who believes in Jesus Christ can be granted the righteousness of God: «Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference» (Rom 3, 22). The concept of righteousness – δικαιοσύνη must be considered in the entire Holy Scripture and provides the entire humanity with the ability to gain the knowledge of God. The righteousness of God is one of the attributes of God. God is Himself righteous, embraces and gives righteousness to all mankind as gift and as working grace or χάρις to adopt one as son of God. The righteousness of God emerges from Him through faith. Thus, it does not require a law (χωρὶς νόμου), it comes through faith (διὰ πίστεως) and it is only proclaimed by Law and prophets: «But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God» (Rom 3, 21-23). According to St John Chrysostom, the righteousness of God as it is presented in his commentary, is only for those who believe: «But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets» (Rom 3, 22), while His wrath is described as follows: «For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness» (Rom 1, 18). In both the Pauline and the Chrysostomic theology, the state of righteousness is defined as «redemption or salvation through the death of Christ by which death and sin brought to this world through Adam and Eve: «For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God» (Rom 3, 23). In the Chrysostomic theology, the salvation that Rom 5, 8-9 speaks about, encompasses a series of acts comprised by numerous deeds: «that Christ died, he died for the impious… that he reconciled, that he saved us, He made us immortal, sons and heirs». Through His Passions and Death, He crushed death. He, who was not touched by sin, died for our sin. The universality of sin brought with it the universality of atonement. St John Chrysostom considers God’s righteousness, described by the Epistle to Romans, as being a life full of grace, which God grants to all of His sons, to those who believe and trust in the redemption brought by our Lord Jesus Christ. This life full of grace commences with praising and participating in the Father’s glory: «Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord» (Rom 6, 11). If Jewish righteousness is called self-righteousness, the one that stems from faith is called the righteousness of God – ή δικαιοσύνη τοῦ Θεοῦ. After all, there is only one righteousness, the righteousness of faith. The Pauline concept about the righteousness of God is inspired by the prophetic theology. This righteousness is a leitmotif with the Apostle to the Gentiles. It is revealed to those who trust in God, being a proven righteousness. Before it emerged, all humankind was in a sinful state. In this respect St John Chrysostom emphasizes the similarity between Jews and pagans in their pursuit of righteousness. Israel did not find righteousness in the Law, for he did not fulfil the Law, instead he transgressed it. The righteousness of God, as eschatological event foreseen by Law and the prophets, has emerged in the messianic epoch through the death of Jesus Christ, the ultimate sacrifice offered to the Father in heaven, by which creation reconciled with its Creator, and was granted forgiveness. Saint Paul went down in the Church history as one of the most dedicated and wise missionaries. His missionary journeys and later, his epistles became the inspiration for those who intended to study closer the Christian missionary theology and methods. His unconditioned and steady faith, along with his bravery, made possible the evangelization of the gentiles in the Roman Empire. Saint Paul had a great impact on the Christian culture that was becoming more and more popular in the Western Europe. As the apostle of the gentiles he preached the teachings of Christ to everyone that was receptive to his message and was eager to embrace the new teachings. His historical presence determined the gentiles to discover Jesus Christ. Although Paul considers himself as the last one of the apostolic college, he was the one who was called the apostle of gentiles through his presence or epistolary work. Thus, he proved to be a spiritual guide not just a preacher, a father in the spiritual and mystical way, being concerned about his disciples who he loved above himself, as Jesus loved his disciples. St John Chrysostom wrote 32 exegetical homilies on the Epistle to the Romans, almost 300 columns in the Migne edition. Besides, the doctrinal teachings of the Epistle determined Saint John to focus exclusively on its text. His homilies on the Epistle to the Romans represent a treasure of wisdom. The great archbishop of Constantinople masterfully developed the Pauline teaching regarding the righteousness of God. To conclude, he asserted that righteousness is in fact the life full of grace which God grants to all of His sons, to all those who believe in the redemption brought by our Lord Jesus Christ.


Pr. Marian VILD Dumnezeieştile Scripturi – reper permanent al vieții duhovniceşti în literatura ascetică răsăriteană

Summary: The Divine Scriptures – A Constant Guide for Spiritual Life in the Eastern Ascetical Literature

The patristic tradition about biblical interpretation is unanimous that the exegesis of the Scripture in a deep, authentic sense is impossible outside the experience of God, without the Holy Spirit who inspired the biblical authors. In this sense the person of the exegete must be a charismatic one. The contemporary biblical studies, especially on the Eastern Orthodox side, have been emphasizing this aspect as part of a larger attempt to recover the patristic exegesis. It has been found that in the patristic tradition spiritual life goes through three stages: purification, illumination, and deification (θεώσις). The stage in which one can understand the Scriptures in a deep spiritual manner guided by the Holy Spirit is the second stage, the stage of illumination. Whoever wants to reach this level, however, has to first pass through the stage of purification from sin, achieved through an ascetical life. However, an aspect which remains, in my opinion, largely neglected is that of how the patristic tradition relates to the use of the Scriptures in the process, or dynamics, of obtaining this charisma, as well as on the place and role of the Scriptures for those who do not possess this charisma. To resolve these queries, it is necessary to take a look at the ascetical literature to discern the ways in which the Fathers use and resort to the inspired texts of the Scripture. In this study we focus our overview on four dimensions: 1) Scripture as a permanent guide and support in the Christian life; 2) the Scripture-Prayer binomial in the dynamics of spiritual life; 3) the purpose of reading and interpreting biblical texts according to the ascetical tradition; and 4) the appeal to the Scriptures as an encounter and dialogue with the divine Logos. 1) Scripture as a permanent guide and support in the Christian life. The ascetical writings show the permanent concern of the Fathers with reading, copying, learning, and reciting biblical texts. This practice is useful in many ways. First, the biblical texts are a guide for the day-to-day life: all Christian enterprises must be grounded in the biblical texts. Second, the sacred texts feed and guide the Christians on the spiritual life. In the absence of an experienced spiritual father, one can be guided by the Scriptures. Third, one who receives the Word of God with a deep faith will be slowly illuminated and start to walk the path to eternal life (St. Silouan the Athonite). In this perspective, to ignore the Scriptures is a terrible sin, and a big trap (St Epiphanius of Salamis, in Apophthegmata Patrum), because on the level of purification the Scriptures play a role in the process of the cleansing of the heart and mind (St Basil from Poiana Mărului). In other words, to reach the level of illumination where one gains access to a spiritual, deep understanding of the Scripture, one has to be involved from the very beginning in the reading and understanding of the biblical texts. 2) The Scripture-Prayer binomial in the dynamics of spiritual life. Prayer is, without any doubt, a very important practice for Christian life, being present in it at all the spiritual levels. A part of the Scripture, namely the Psalter Book was the first prayer book of the Christian community. In the New Testament it seems that some texts were already used in the Christian liturgy. So, the connection between prayer and Scripture is quite complex. Moreover, the patristic tradition links individual prayer very closely to the Scriptures. The ascetical experience shows that the reading of Scripture helps the practice of prayer, and prayer in turn helps the understanding of the Scriptures (St Isaac the Syrian, On Ascetical Life). For that reason the Scriptures remain very important in the spiritual life. The reading of the biblical texts and the practice of prayer sustain the spiritual, humble and genuine repentance. That’s why the Scripture-prayer binomial is one of the most important weapons the struggle against the passions. 3) The purpose of reading and interpreting biblical texts according to the ascetical tradition. The points above demonstrate that in the ascetic tradition the main point of turning to the Scriptures cannot be simply reduced to the mere finding about Jesus’ teaching. The patristic approach to the Bible is more complex, aiming at the spiritual life of the believers. As St Gregory of Nyssa defines it, for Christians the purpose of reading the Scriptures is a very practical one, namely, to acquire the Christian virtues. In the ascetical writings the characters, words and events described in the Bible are not considered as merely historical but rather as being paradigmatic for the spiritual life. The biblical texts are, at the same time, seen as comforting those who in their struggle with their limitations may become discouraged. The Scriptures are, therefore, a permanent support and guidance, a safe path in the process of purification, leading us to the truth and to virtues. 4) The final purpose of relating to the Bible is, in the patristic ascetical tradition, the encounter with the divine Logos. In the Eastern Orthodox ascetical tradition, reading the Scriptures already from the lowest level of the spiritual life is a way to relate to Christ himself. The Fathers were aware of the fact that the living Logos was speaking to them through the Scriptures. Thus, when they read the biblical text they did not stop at the initial context and meaning of the different passages, but rather felt that the words of the Scriptures were not only about some events in the past, but directly applicable to their context. For example, St Basil of Poiana Mărului uses the corrective text about glossolalia of 1 Cor 14, 19 as a basis for the practice of hesychastic prayer, saying that the five words from this texts are, in fact, the words of the Jesus Prayer. Another example is from the writings of elder S. Sakharov, who mentions a tradition from Mount Athos according to which the mysterious „katechon” (in both forms, masculine and neutral) from 2 Thess 2, 6-7 would refer to the practice of praying for the enemies. All these show that when reading the Scriptures the Fathers heard the voice of Christ, and these words were very important to them, which is why they tried to apply them in the specific context where they lived. In this sense one can say that there is a peculiar hermeneutics, which belongs to the ascetical literature, a constructive one, applied to the spiritual life, which does not exclude the historical-literary sense of the biblical texts. All in all we see that in the ascetical tradition of Orthodoxy the divine Scripture is necessary and important in all stages of the spiritual life. Even if one has no yet achieved the stage of being charismatic, the biblical text can guide, support, encourage, and help growth in the spiritual life. These four dimensions of the use of the Bible in the patristic tradition are not often considered in the academic approach of the Bible, but might be worth including in Bible studies curricula. For example, the close connection between Scripture and praying in the ascetical tradition, or Scripture as one of the criteria for genuine spiritual settling, would not only potentially help the spiritual life of the students, but also give us a better understanding of the patristic tradition. A living and confessing theology, as was that of the Fathers, was always rooted in the soil of the Scriptures. The recovery of this ascetical dimension of the reading and interpreting of the Scriptures does not mean, in my opinion, to renounce the scientific and systematic research of the biblical texts, but rather to articulate it to the Eastern spiritual ethos in which the studying process was never cut off from the practice. Any member of the Church must not ignore the ascetical effort, which is one of the important pillars of spiritual life according to the Orthodox tradition, and in this effort the Scriptures play an important role. This principle should be rediscovered and highlighted, both in the life of the Church and in academic theology.


Pr. Alexandru Atanase BARNA — Considerații cu privire la caracterul profetic al literaturii patristice, martor al raportului unitar al literaturii biblice cu cea patristică

Summary: Considerations regarding the Prophetic Character of the Patristic Literature, Witness of the Unitary Relationship between the Biblical and Patristic Literature

The author achieves within this study a review of several patristic texts, which he presents from the perspective of the relationship between the Holy Scripture and the patristic literature. The purpose of the endeavour consists in observing to what extent certain ideas proposed to the Romanian theological environment, especially those by Fr. I. Romanidis, referring to the unity between Prophets, Apostles and Holy Fathers, can be confirmed from the point of view of the patristic testimonies regarding the theme of the relationship between the Holy Scripture and the Holy Tradition of the Church. The author focuses both on establishing if there is a primacy of the Holy Scripture in the Eastern theology and on observing what are the limits and meanings of this primacy. He also postulates the idea that a strong and exclusive primacy of the Holy Scripture in the Church would, in fact, represent a form of indirect influence from the Protestant theology which is based on the principle sola Scriptura. In order to confirm a unitary relationship between the two types of texts, biblical and patristic, the author proposes as a linking element the prophetic character of the patristic literature. Thus, the author tries to identify and fundament, starting from a few patristic texts chosen for this purpose, the prophetic character of the patristic literature, in agreement with the dogmatic teaching of the Church, expressed in various old or new dogmatic syntheses, which present the relationship between the Holy Scripture and the Holy Tradition from an ecclesiological perspective. To this respect, it is indicated that the Holy Fathers referred permanently to the Holy Scripture as the Scripture of the Church, and to the Tradition as the Tradition of the Church. In the first part of the study the author highlights several texts centered on the depiction of the «stages» or «earthquakes» (as developments taken from Mt 27, 51 and Heb 12, 27), which, in the understanding of St Gregory the Theologian expressed in the Fifth Theological Oration, describe the modalities of prophetic revelation of the spiritual realities in the history of salvation. In general, three stages corresponding to the three stages of divine Revelation are described: 1) the Law, 2) the Gospel and 3) the eternal, eschatological Kingdom of God. The revelation of God occurs gradually, from one stage to another, with the understanding that the present state of the Church corresponds to a reality that will end with the complete revelation of the eschaton. The same spiritual evolution, with a greater stress on the prophetic work characteristic to each stage, can be found in the prologue to the Hagiorite Tome by St Gregory Palamas. Just as the prophets received the revelation of a truth about the Holy Trinity in the time of the Old Testament, so does the Church receive in the time of the New Testament charismatic discoveries concerning the truths and mysteries of the eternal life after the Final Judgement, respectively from the eschatological state that the Church offers as a prophetic foretaste. In the second part of the study, the author proposes a synthetic presentation of the patristic exegesis of the fragment of 1 Cor 13, 8-13, which has as a main theme the idea that the prophecies in the Church will disappear. The exegesis of St John Chrysostom on the end and continuation of the Pauline hymn of love shows that the biblical text speaks not of a dissolution of the charismas, which also includes that of the prophecy, but to a completion of the charismas, a passing from partial to complete, regarding the work of these charismas in the eschaton. Love is the only reality that will never fall, since God is Love, and thus He is communicated within the Church not as an incomplete part, but as an experience of completion. Instead, the charismas are incomplete works that will be fulfilled in the eschaton. Chrysostom’s exegesis emphasizes here the fact that the part will be dissolved by the whole. The conclusions of the patristic exegesis of this Pauline fragment show that it does not refer to the charismas certified historically within the Church until the 2nd century, whose disappearance St John Chrysostom had described in his exegesis, but it refers to the present and eschatological dimension of the work of prophecy within the life of the Church. The Church has a prophetic character, linked intimately to the sanctifying attribute that the whole Tradition confesses with respect to the Church. In the last part of the study, the author presents a few opinions included in the syntheses available in the Romanian theological milieu (Fr. D. Stăniloae, Fr. A. Louth, Fr. M. Pomazanski, Fr. G. Florovsky, Fr. I. Romanidis), which speak about the issue of the relationship between the Holy Scripture and the Patristic literature. Starting from the two main criteria of the authority of both types of texts, respectively 1) the work of the Holy Spirit and 2) the canonical or the ecclesial perception, the author seeks to demonstrate, by turning to older patristic testimonies (St Basil the Great, St John Damascene, St Symeon the New Theologian, Paul Evergetinos), as well as more recent ones (St John of Volokolamsk), the fact that the patristic literature meets the two criteria of authority within the Church: the work of the Holy Spirit and the ecclesial perception, although the writings of certain authors contain several personal opinions or theologoumena. Some of the testimonies presented within the study focus on the idea that the texts of the Fathers are as inspired as the biblical text. To complete these testimonies, the author presents a few attributes mentioned by the Tradition in relation to the Holy Fathers of the Church and their texts. Besides the attribute θεόφοροι («bearers of God»), which is in fact very common in the liturgical tradition and practice, it is also attested the attribute with biblical origin (2 Tim 3, 16) θεόπνευστοι (Fathers «inspired by God»), mentioned by various patristic authors of the first millennium (St Maximus the Confessor, St John Damascene, St Theodore the Studite, St Symeon the New Theologian), as well as in some of the documents of Ecumenical Councils (Constantinople, 681) and local councils (Lateran, 649), but also in various texts of authors of the second millennium (St Callistus I, patriarch of Constantinople John Evgenikos). The author also brings into discussion the direct approach of Fr. I. Romanidis, who states that the Scripture is not the word of God, but a word about the word of God. Apart from the radical character of these statements, the author proposes their harmonization, focused on a method of biblical and patristic research that doesn’t ignore the concrete reality of the consecration and deification proven, expressed and determined by the patristic tradition. The conclusions of this study concern, on the one hand the proposal of a method of unitary approach in the contemporary theology of the biblical and patristic fields (but not exclusively), similar to the theological unity that the Holy Fathers practiced without exception and, on the other hand, they refer to prompting the contemporary theological environment towards a common understanding of the biblical and patristic realities, starting from the pneumatocentric spiritual experience of the Tradition, which is expressed, at least by the patristic literature, in a very profound and direct manner as a continuation of the spiritual experience reflected within the biblical text.


Pr. Alexandru MOLDOVAN — Scripturile Vechiului Testament – dificultăți și contradicții

Summary: The Old Testament Scriptures – issues and controversies

The books of the Old Testament present various situations that are troubling for both scholars and the general readership. These situations refer to the morality of important biblical characters, God’s commandment that Israel should massacre entire citadels or life after death. Hagiographers create a genuine image of certain events or biblical personages, regardless of their moral and ethical flaws. Certainly, some of these can scandalize and confuse readers. However, the author does not seem to be concerned with the impact of the text among readers. For example, Abraham and Isaac present their wives as „sisters”; Jacob deceives his brother, Esau, Joseph before revealing his true identity to his brothers, first terrifies them for selling their younger brother. The examples go on: Samson, David or Solomon. Trying to explain these troubling situations, the Fathers of the Church suggested that these events and situations took place in another epoch thus should be interpreted figuratively. The symbolic and allegoric interpretation also meets difficulties in dealing with the above situations. Thus, certain questions arise: If these events belong to the past, are they relevant for the present readers? If this events are not fundamental for faith and for the ethics of the modern and postmodern epoch, isn’t this yet another reason for giving up on them? Such a text can raise questions in a believer’s conscience that lives by the commandment of love for enemies, commandment given by Jesus Himself. Another troubling situation in the Old Testament is the commandment that Israel should curse the conquered gentiles and his direct enemies with no exception. One of the issues that the Old Testament reader is faced with is that it does not provide the reader with a fulfilling theology, which gives purpose to life and makes light in what the eternal life is concerned. This issue is expressed thoroughly in the Book of Job where the main character, Job has a dramatic and tragic life. Nowadays every Christian knows that we will never live Job’s drama because we live by the teachings of Jesus, and we know the teaching about the resurrection of the dead. Therefore, do we need to read the Book of Job any longer? Such a text can raise numerous questions in the mind of a simple believer, whose heart is filled with the commandment of love towards enemies, commandment that our Lord Jesus Christ gave. Moreover, there are numerous biblical stories that are often contradictory, creating confusion among readers. The modern reader can scarcely accept books like Joshua and Judges as books that have any spiritual relevance. The same event read in the Holy Bible and then lectured in a lay book will be perceived differently, with major differences. Perhaps the author’s or the artist’s viewpoint might present or represent a biblical event in a less difficult fashion for the reader or believer to comprehend. For example, the history of Jephthah who is designated to sacrifice his own daughter due to a pledge and the story of Agamemnon who also sacrifices his daughter, Iphigenia. The drama and the story are the same, a father that is constrained to sacrifice his daughter to the deity. What differs is the way to present and depict the story. The reason Old Testament has such books and that those books are relevant is the fact that they present historical truths. The Holy Bible offers us sometimes memorable instances of characters that had a major importance in Israel’s culture and history both with positive and negative aspects. It is possible that the author or artist’s point of view presents a biblical event in a more difficult way for the public to comprehend. The history of Jephthah who is constrained to sacrifice his daughter due to a engagement he made and the story of Agamemnon who also sacrifices his daughter, Iphigenia. The drama and the story are almost the same, a father who needs to sacrifice his daughter to God. What differ are the presentation and the context of the events, which are of great importance. The biblical characters regardless their downfalls, always have been on a quest to find God in their lifetime. Deuteronomy, Joshua, 1 Kings speak about a law that urges the massacre of the citadels, leaving nothing behind and also prohibits claiming any prey, excepting the most precious gifts and items that should be consecrated to God. According to the Hebrew biblical text the commandment from Deut 7, 2 raises theological issues. Anathema means that prey, people, animals and goods should be offered to God as a sign of gratitude. However, in order to prevent idolatry, the prey was to be anathematized. That is why to anathematize became equivalent with destroy and decay, in other words, all the citadels and cities conquered by Jews had to receive the same treatment, respectively, they had to be destroyed with abominable cruelty, without any sign of mercy. The Book of Joshua shows that its author idealized Israel’s past leaders and rulers in order for God to show His mercy and bring prosperity to Israel in his time. Thus, Joshua’s ruling days were among the most prosperous Israel ever lived, and he was one of the most faithful rulers of Israel. However, the law regarding anathema wasn’t always respected, sometimes the rulers of Israel spared prey or even people. These examples show us the everlasting tension between the ideal and the reality. One should consider this tension in order to understand the relation between God’s promise and man’s instability and liability. Thus, the reader often acknowledges the intransigency of law and also corrections in its real practice. This road is to be travelled by every human generation. Another issue of the Old Testament narrative stories is its lack of concern regarding themes like the purpose of life or the existential dimension of man’s life, of the life that goes beyond the earthly existence, the biological and physical condition. The Book of Job is a positive exception in this regard because it develops a great existential theology that concerns the human being in a profound respect. Regarding Job’s dramatic life, many scholars consider that he wouldn’t have lived his tragedy if he had known the Christian teaching about resurrection. Job expresses his pain and misery, while his friends try to explain God’s ways, repaying the righteous and punishing the sinner; if one suffers during his lifetime, it is a sign of sinfulness and a result of the punitive action of God, leaving no way to escape it except penitence and repentance. God grants Job with righteousness, he who opposes this idea and finds strong arguments to support his opinion. God did not consider Job’s friends righteous for they did not try to share his terrible and terrifying condition, and they did not comfort Job in any way, instead they tried to find explanations for his condition. The text compels the reader to side with Job or with his friends, to condemn the divine agency or to blame Job for the state he ended up in. However, the reader should choose the middle way, to be neutral and wait for God’s final judgment regarding Job and the dispute between him and his friends. The reader or the believer can participate in this event in an existential way by assuming the characters’ opinions, re-living the condition of Job and of his friends. Thus, the reader can conclude that Job and his friends do not share the same existential condition or conscience, thus having no common ground. The end of the book reaffirms the abstruse character of the divine agency. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ assumes the sufferings of Job and of all the Old Testament righteous. He suffers indescribable pains and passions but His resurrection triumphs over death and tomb. In the lay literature, suffering means a ruthless destiny. Suffering is the consequence of disobedience and is inseparable from the life of man, who has to assume and resist it. The biblical text might not provide the contemporary reader with the most satisfying answer to the existential dilemmas, but it does offer examples and exhortations to leading a life of strong faith and strengthen oneself through the imminent sufferings of life.


Pr. Ion Sorin BORA Ce spun Sfinții Părinți despre «frații» și «surorile» Domnului (cf. Mt 13, 55)?

Summary: What do the Fathers of Church say about «the brothers and the sisters» of the Lord (Mat 13, 55)?

This paper focuses on the issue of the brothers of Jesus in the synoptic gospels who, according to the author, stand apart from Jesus’ audience and even outside the place where Jesus was preaching. These „brothers” seek to talk with Jesus and even send someone to call for Him. Moreover, there is no evidence of any words these brothers spoke outside the synoptic gospels’ information that they got closer to the place where Jesus spoke. Also the synoptic gospels note Jesus’ intransigent answer by which we learn that fulfilling the will of God makes one spiritually related to Jesus. The genealogy of Jesus points out that the Jesus’ most important relatives go from King David to Righteous Joseph and the Virgin Mary. Jesus’ relatives are not isolated from the reality that Jesus is the Son of God. Joseph is called the father of Jesus in a legal sense, alongside Virgin Mary who searched for Him one day long among relatives and kin. It was them who searched for him, and no other brother or sister. Jesus’ relatives surely existed but His encounter with them is not relevant in the economy of the four gospels. St John the Baptist was a close relative because of the close relation between Mary and Elisabeth. However, the author points out that the Judaic persecution against the brothers and sisters of Jesus was complemented by their opposition manifest in their blind submission to the Law. The pilgrims in Jerusalem tried to persuade both the brothers and sisters of Jesus to call Him insane and try to set him a trap so that everyone would forget the Jews’ attempt to lapidate Him. In the same context, the unbelieving brothers come to the Feast of Tabernacles in a new attempt to draw Jesus into a trap. When Jews sought to kill Him, Jesus entered Jerusalem so that His disciples would see the works He was about to do. In other words, they invited Him to a certain death, as Judas did a little later. This paper continues by showing that the power and impact of the word brothers are greater than they seem. For example, in Jn 7, 1-10 we find that the disciples tried to persuade Jesus to go to Jerusalem so that many other people would find the truth about Him and his miracles. Jesus refuses to declare his will to go to the feast precisely because His brothers rejected Him. The rhetorical impact of this expression comes from the word „brother”. If this word would have been replaced by „cousins”, the phrase would then be „for His cousins also did not believe in Him”. So, it is obvious that Jesus avoids feasting with them because the „brothers” represent the entire Jewish people. The brothers of Jesus is an expression that designates a group of people, that can be likened to the names of famous groups like the Seventeen Apostles, John’s disciples, the seven deacons. They are mostly recalled by those who doubted and rejected Jesus before His resurrection. After the Lord’s resurrection, they are recalled alongside the disciples of Jesus. There are only four names that lead us to the conclusion that there must have been only four „brothers” of Jesus: Jacob, Simon, Joshua and Judas. These are the only brothers of Jesus. However Jesus says that he is the brother of everyone who utters the Lord’s Prayer and of those who fulfil the will of His Father. The Holy Apostle Matthew replaces Joseph’s name with his occupation, a carpenter. In his homeland Jesus’ identity is known without reference to His name, which is not pronounced by His countrymen. The Righteous Joseph is also overlooked; in spite of the fact he was Jesus’ adoptive father. At this point of his public activity, His brothers and sisters are quiet but visible presences, in spite of their lack of involvement in the Lord’s service. Then, the author proves the fact that Virgin Mary did not have a biologic or adoptive sister otherwise Jacob and Joshua would have been Jesus’ cousins as Jerome states. Thus, the others cannot be included in the same kinship with Jesus, unless their mother was Virgin Mary’s sister. On the other side, Hegesippus insists to include Cleopas among Lord’s relatives, calling him the uncle of Jesus, father of Simon and Judas. Before the Lord’s Resurrection, as the author stresses, that the Lord’s brothers and sisters issue is ambiguous both concerning the spiritual and legal relatives. Beyond their attempts to prevent Jesus or force Him to declare his true identity before the time was right, they adhered to the teachings of Jesus, received His words and embraced Him with all their heart. Thus, the hypothesis that Joseph names Jacob as brother of Jesus is reliable. We have no arguments to believe that the word „brother” has other meaning unless we accept that, in the case of Jesus, this word has a different meaning and resonance for the entire Jewish people, Christians and non-Christians alike. Also, the author presents evidence from the apocryphal writings and from the heretical writings, stating then the apology of Orthodoxy. The kinship of Jesus and his brothers is a mystery as the biblical account of the Annunciation shows. In fact, without a real incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, there wouldn’t have been any kinship between Him and mankind. The New Testament provides some arguments that support His human nature: He is regarded as the son of Mary, the fiancée of Joseph from the Nazareth of Galilee, and he is also the Son of David, a well-known title for the Messiah. The Pharisees were greatly concerned with watching and observing the members of the Davidic dynasty and genealogy, given their messianic hopes of the chosen One who would arise from the house of David, as the prophets had foretold. Therefore, the real reason the brothers and sisters of Jesus were his kin resides in the allegiance to the Davidic family. The Virgin’s womb is a sacred mystery of Christianity, unknown even to angels and eternally hidden. Even though she was the one who gave birth to Jesus, the Son of God, she remained virgin and pure, being the mother of the entire Christian people. The brothers of Jesus are sometimes confusing for many Christians because their astonishment can be a hindrance for other believers: there is nowhere a rejected prophet, except among his kin and countrymen. The Fathers of the Church tell us who the brothers of Jesus are. More precisely, they show their kinship, using the common traditions and sources widely known. At the same time, they do not offer a definitive answer or solution to this issue. The brothers and sisters of Jesus, alongside Mary, the mother of Lord, are the first ones that fulfil and obey the will of the Father in heavens. The Church Fathers leave this issue unsolved, a mystery that is not to be unravelled by the human mind. Moreover, they consider that the bodily kinship with Jesus only raises sinful thoughts of pride in the minds of those who call themselves brothers or sisters of Jesus. In what we are concerned, faith must be sustained by humility, as we too are the brothers and sisters of Jesus, if we obey His commandments and fulfil the will of God as much as we can. It is not surprising that the Lord’s brothers are rarely named brothers of Jesus in the New Testament and in the other apocryphal writings. If the latter title would have been more frequently used, it is certain that the spiritual meaning of this title would have been undermined and overshadowed by the earthly and bodily meaning of it. In conclusion, this study shows that even though there was a historical and bodily kinship between our Lord Jesus Christ and his brothers or sisters, the spiritual meaning of the title the Lord’s brothers is more important and has a great impact on Christian spirituality nowadays.


Diac. Alexandru MIHĂILĂ Lecțiuni biblice la sărbătorile Sfinților în Paremiar

Summary: Biblical Readings on the Feasts of the Saints in the Prophetologion

Biblical scholars of the Romanian Orthodox Church acknowledge the need for new hermeneutics, which would exceed the patterns taken over from the West, as becoming more and more acute. That is why a research field in its own right should be centered on of the explicit quotations of the biblical text in the Orthodox liturgical services. For this purpose, the so-called lectionaries, the Apostle or Praxapostolos, the Evangeliary, and a less-known book, the Prophetologion (or the Prophetologium) can be of great help. The paper will focus on the analysis of the Prophetologium, whose readings are generally included into the service of Vespers in the Byzantine cult. The Prophetologion appeared in the 8th century against the background of the worship practices reform that began in Constantinople around the Stoudios Monastery. The manuscripts of the book date between the 9th and the 16th centuries, the flourishing period being the 11th-13th centuries. From late 17th century to early 18th century, despite the attempt for a revival, the Prophetologion disappeared, being absorbed into other liturgical books (the Menaia, Triodion and Pentecostarion). It was printed for the first time in Venice in 1545, then in 1595-1596, an edition long considered as editio princeps, under the name of Anagnostikon, „the book of readings”. Between 1931 and 1981, the critical edition of the Prophetologion was finalized. Analyzing one of the readings for the feast of St Michael the Archangel (November 8), it is noted that the text of the Book of prophet Daniel (Dan 10, 1-21) was taken from the version of Theodotion and not from the Septuagint as probably expected. The Septuagint is the main source, but not the only one. Studying the text of the Septuagint used by the Prophetologion for the reading from Judg 6, it was concluded that the biblical text coincides in more cases with that of the Codex Alexandrinus than with the Codex Vaticanus, but that the Prophetologion has also its own version. Therefore, the biblical text of the Prophetologion does not follow in fact any old textual tradition, but it is a composite one. Analyzing the biblical readings for the feast of the saints, we can extract some hermeneutical principles used by the Orthodox Church in the worship. First of all, we can observe the typological function of the biblical scenes. The Mother of God is identified at this typological level with Jacob’s ladder (Gen 28), the eastern gate of Ezekiel’s temple that remains closed (Ezek 44) or the burning bush contemplated by Moses on the Mountain of God (Ex 3). It can be seen that the typology works very well through the analogy created between certain elements described in the biblical text and important elements of the role played by the Mother of God in the history of salvation. She is compared to Jacob’s ladder, because as the ladder connects heaven and earth, the Mother of God united through the Incarnation of the Word the divine and the human natures. It is also possible to refer to the intercession role of the Mother of God between the heavens and the earth, praying for the remission of human sins and helping their spiritual ascension. Comparing her with the closed door of the temple, through which God alone has entered, the biblical exegesis of the Propheotologion undoubtedly refers to the perpetual virginity of the Mother of God. Her blessed womb resembles the holy Temple in the vision of prophet Ezekiel because God assumed the human nature as if he entered a temple that remained dedicated to the deity through sealing the entrance gate. The burning bush in Moses’ theophany refers symbolically to the miracle of union between the divine nature, represented by fire, and the human nature represented by the green bush. Just as through the Incarnation the human nature was not consumed, destroyed or affected by the divine nature, so Moses saw the miracle of the unconsumed bush. Another reading is about the house built by God’s Wisdom on seven pillars (Prov 9), a biblical fragment of great importance since the Arian controversy in the 4th century. God’s Wisdom is Jesus Christ the Saviour, so the seven-pillared house prefigures the Mother of God, in whose bosom the Logos found his dwelling. So, through these functional analogies, the typology is constructed, which, through some suggestive images, facilitates the spiritual understanding of the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word. The first reading of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple (Ex 40) reminds of the completion of the Tent of Meeting by Moses and the visitation of the glory of God. Thus, the Mother of God is mystically identified with the Tent of Meeting and with the most sacred object of the tent, the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the Tables of the Law. The second Bible reading maintains the same Marian typology, describing the completion of the Jerusalem Temple by king Solomon. So, entering the Temple, the Mother of God encountered her own typological images and the Church sees God’s promises as fulfilled in her person. Other readings have been selected because they explicitly mentioned the celebrated saints. For example, all the readings on July 20, extracted from the Old Testament, have as their main protagonist the Holy Prophet Elijah the Tishbite. The most significant episodes of Saint Elijah’s life were selected: the retreat in the wilderness by the brook Cherith, the resurrection of widow’s son of Sarepta (3 Kings 16), the sacrifice on Mount Carmel (3 Kings 18), the election of Elisha (3 Kings 19) and Elijah’s assumption into heaven (4 Kings 2). Traditions outside Scripture are also used, such as the identification with the Archangel Michael, the leader of the heavenly host in Josh 5 or of the angel who appeared to Judge Gideon in Judg 6, besides the biblical texts in which the archangel is clearly mentioned by name such as Dan 10. Other readings correspond to the prophetic significance. For example, the feast of St John the Baptist uses readings relating to the proclamation of Isaac’s birth of Isaac, because the same context is found: both mothers were barren and the birth occurs through the miraculous intervention of God. Likewise, the episode of Judge Samson’s birth was selected as a reading for the birth of St John the Baptist, because both of them were Nazirites from mother’s womb. Also belonging to the milieu of prophecy is the third reading on the feast of St John the Baptist, because he is identified with the voice of the one crying out in Isa 40, proclaiming the imminent return of the Lord in Jerusalem. The same is true regarding the choice of the biblical text from Mal 3, where Elijah’s coming is already interpreted in the New Testament as fulfilled through the work of John the Baptist. Some accounts are even extracted from the books of the celebrated hagiographers, as is the case of St John the Evangelist and Sts Peter and Paul. There is a certain hierarchy among the biblical writers in the sense that two feasts were dedicated only to St John the Evangelist, which may suggest that for the Orthodox Church, Saint John and his theology are given a certain pre-eminence, while in the West other biblical books were highlighted (for the Roman Catholic Church the stress is laid on Evangelist Matthew and Apostle Peter and for the Protestants on Saint Paul’s theology). Interestingly, in the case of Saint Peter and Paul’s feast, the Bible readings are exclusively from the First Epistle of Saint Peter, not from any Pauline writings. The holy teachers of the Church form a separate group, through the related readings and particularly through their selection from the Books of Parables and the Wisdom of Solomon. By selecting these texts, the theological profile of the Holy Three Hierarchs is associated with King Solomon’s wisdom model. Among them St John Chrysostom stands out, as two celebrations are dedicated to him. Interestingly, some readings dedicated to this gruoup, such as 56b // 58c // 59c, are very creatively composed from excerpts of the Bible: verses and parts of verses are combined even from different chapters or books, which is surprising if we think that the three Holy Hierarchs were excellent exegetes of Scripture, attaching great importance to the wording of the biblical text. It is also worth noting that the Three Hierarchs have one biblical reading in common (56b = 58c = 59c) that begins with the words «the mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom» (Prov 10, 31). On the one hand, the fragment describes perfectly their mission as divine teachers in the Church, but on the other hand the Holy Hierarchs are identified with the „righteous” of the Old Testament, attesting to the spiritual continuity between the Old Testament times and the epoch of the Church. The readings for the Ecumenical Councils are interesting because they link the Councils’ decrees and canons to the Law of God on Mount Sinai, delivered by Moses to the people of Israel in the Book of Deuteronomy. This establishes continuity between the Old Testament, the New Testament and the canons of the Church. The participants in the 1st Ecumenical Council are prefigured by the 318 servants of Abram who after they had liberated Lot encountered king Melchizedek, the priest of God Most High, who offered them bread and wine, symbolizing thus Lord Jesus Christ and the Eucharist. In this way, the Bible reading underscored the importance of the Nicaean theology for actually encountering God through the Sacrament. The second reading (Deut 1) identified typologically the Council fathers with the commanders of the Israelites, wise and experienced men, chosen by Moses. The final reading insists on the necessity to circumcise the foreskin of the heart and not to be stubborn, delimiting from the disobeying Israelites wandering in the wilderness and missing the entrance into the Promised Land. The 7th Ecumenical Council, centred on recognizing the veneration of icons, uses readings that refer to the cherubim of the Holy Tent (Ex 25), the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem (3 Kings 6) and the Temple of Ezekiel (Ezek 40-41), the latter interpreted as symbolizing the New Jerusalem descended from heaven and representing the paradise recovered (Rev 20-21). The presence of holy images already in the Old Testament, although any representation was strictly forbidden, opens up a new interpretive perspective on the function of holy icons. The icon is not an idol, but an image that makes God present, as the Lord has shown to Moses above the cherubim.


Sabin PREDA Cântarea Cântărilor în receptarea liturgică sau interpretarea ca proclamare în al doilea Canon Paraclis al Cuviosului Nicodim Aghioritul la icoana Maicii Domnului „Grabnic-Ascultătoarea”

Summary: Song of Songs in the liturgical hymnography or interpretation as proclamation in Saint Nicodemus the Hagiorite’s Second Paraklesis Kanon at Panagia Gorgoepikoos (She who is quick to listen) icon

Around 1790, St Nicodemus the Athonite was summoned by the community of Monastery Dochiariou who asked him to compose a prayer canon, a Paraklesis, dedicated to Theotokos Gorgoepikoos icon (She who is quick to listen). This icon received its name from Virgin Mary herself in 1646 during the miraculous cure of a monk named Nilus, who was punished with blindness because of his ignorance towards this beautiful icon and because he did not obey the commandment Theotokos gave. In front of this beautiful icon, charmed by its unearthly beauty, Saint Nicodemus, the author of the what was later called the New Theotokarion, could not stop writing and did not settle after writing the paraklesis he was asked for by the monachal community. Thus, he composed another paraklesis canon, asking Virgin Mary «the word in gift and the gift of writing». Not quite a prayer or litany paraklesis, as this poetic genre demands, it is rather a doxological hymn that has not been sung often. It was a draft until recent times when the fathers of Dochiariou brought it to light, publishing it in a two-volume monograph dedicated to this icon. Generally, the patristic commentaries interpret these texts as the key to the relationship between God and His people, the Church, or as the relation between Christ the Groom and His Bride, the Church. The hymnographic compositions following the patristic exegesis proclaim the union between saints and Christ the Groom using common places from different categories of saints. Given the physical limitations of this paper, we will present, just as examples, two of these categories. The version we propose is not a literal one, but a poetic version, which preserves the metric structure and the melody of the odes, with other words it keeps the original hymnographic patterns. This version regards three constitutive elements of a hymn: word, melos and rhythm, and not just the text, as in the case of the philological translations. On one side, this type of translation strives to bring into the target language the poetic construct of the words and the melos from the original language, and thus it creates the same mental and spiritual impact as in the original language. Simultaneously, by this translation we wanted to highlight a very important premise of the hymnographic text: the fact that it does not aim to present a discursive and intellectual exegesis of the biblical text, instead it is an exercise of admiration and contemplation by man of the divine beauties. This expression is used by the divinely inspired words of the Holy Bible in order to describe (interpret), proclaim and praise the unseen realities, re-activating these words in the context of the encounter between man and God. In order to a better observation of the biblical background of each troparion, we marked in bold the words and expressions from the Song of the Songs, indicating LXX as the source of the verses. Conversely, in order to create a smooth flow of the canon text, we chose to assign each stanza the corresponding notes for comparison, the text of the verses used by Saint Nicodemus. However, we chose to write the text in verses and to mark the hemistich and musical pauses of these compositions according to the old manuscript tradition, using a superior red dot. A few types of using the texts of Scripture can be observed, types that indicate a certain freedom (liberty) that the hymnographer has related to the literary data like the characters and the dialogue repartition in the Book Song of Songs. From what has been presented above, we can easily observe the liberty in the usage of the biblical texts, a liberty that the hymnographer allows himself. This liberty is the one that enables him to go beyond the historical context of the Book Song of Songs and even to go beyond what is commonly understood by biblical interpretation, the literal level of interpretation. On the one hand, one can explain the liberty of the hymnographer by connecting it to the iconic dimension applied to words, facts and events of this world. Although they belong to this world, they have an earthy character, they do not exist for and by themselves, they are a gift from God to man, a gift which purpose is to facilitate man’s relation with God. Each of these realities can make itself become transparent or, put in another way, can become a bidirectional word: 1) from God to man, as a heavenly gift for man in order to grant him access the unseen realms of the heavenly realities, and 2) from man to God as a returned gift in a doxological fashion, as a speaking gift, a personalized gift to the Creator, brought from His creation to the Creator Himself. In spite of their limitations, beings and words are the most suited to express our double nature. It enables us to express and praise the work of the Unseen God in the created world, as presence that opens (in a uncircumscribed way as long as we perceive them from an experiential point of view) the ungrounded and infinite dimension of the divine realities. On the other hand, the liberty towards the text of the Holy Bible should be understood from the hymnographer’s point of view. As in the Holy Scripture, the types of expression that exist in the liturgical life of the Church (hymnographic, iconographic, architectural, dramatic, etc.) subscribe to only one goal: to portray or bring, interpret or transpose images and words that belong to the created dimension in order to facilitate the mystical and unseen encounter between man and God, proclaiming and extolling it. At this point of the discussion, reference to the icon is edifying. For instance, the icon proclaims the presence of the saint it depicts and praises it in two ways: 1) by the way in which the saint is graphically and artistically depicted; 2) by presenting the deified body of the saint, an eschatological body, filled by the presence and work of the Holy Ghost. And the icon does not confine itself at the representational level, instead it reaches a functional level of existence, being venerated, an act that shows the believer’s participation in a intimate relation with the eschatological reality that is embodied by the saint himself, thus making the believer become part of the grace and glory the saint received. The same happens with hymnography. The person and the history are perceived in the perspective of the presence and work of the grace in history, of the interpenetration between the two realms the historic and eschatological. These types of manifestation of the grace (charis) are proclaimed both by the historical-eschatological precedents recorded in the Holy Scripture and by images from the nature book of which St John Chrysostom speaks about at the beginning of his Commentary to Matthew. The eschatological interpenetration between created and uncreated, humanly and divine, unconfused, unchanged, undivided and inseparable interpenetration is the red thread uniting all the events and characters portrayed in the Holy Bible, in the Lives of Saints, in the various words of the Fathers of Church as well as in the drama of the Church’s services, in hymnography and iconography. It is the only one that can bring man awe and astonishment, it can prompt the mind to fulfil its natural work, the one of ecstasy and encountering God and the infinite divine beauties; it is the only one that can pull our minds out from the platitude of historicism and sterile discourse, plunging it in a night fight comparable with that of Jacob against the angel, a fight or wrestle out of which the truly God seeking mind cannot escape without being transfigured, changed; it is left hurt and harmed by the beauty of the Groom, as numerous hymnographic texts affirm, referring to the Song of Songs.


Stelian PAȘCA-TUȘA Erminia Întrupării Cuvântului scripturistic în Canonul Sfântului Andrei Cretanul

Summary: The hermeneia of embodying the Holy Scriptures’ words in St Andrew of Crete’s Great Canon

By definition, the word of God is meant to be heard, received in one’s heart, kept and embodied. God plants His word in men’s hearts and waits patiently for them to assume it (as it would be their own) and then bear the fruits of faith. It’s not difficult to understand that only those who hear and keep the word in their cleansed and pure heart can bear rich fruit (Lk 8, 15). Those who hear the word but neglect its value (Lk 8, 12), as well as those who receive it with joy but do not settle a good soil for it to grow (Lk 8, 13-14), deny the call of their Creator and depart from the source of life. The embodiment of the biblical word requires man’s consent. Without a conscious consent, the divine word cannot become active in man. If one does not assume the divine word, the embodiment does not take place. Every man must understand the whole Bible as a letter addressed to him personally, that regards his personal salvation. The Canon of Repentance of Saint Andrew, bishop of Crete (660-740) is an example of responsible assumption of the biblical message, the subject of this paper. Without a deep assumption of the biblical word (especially of the characters and episodes Saint Andrew refers to), many of the deep concepts and ideas of his Canon cannot be properly understood. Each word of the Holy Scripture is familiar and personal to the hymnographer. He gives a personal and subjective character to every biblical event excepting those referring to Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary. The whole structure of the Canon gravitates around the mystery of the Incarnation of the Logos from the Virgin Mary. The penitential atmosphere expressed in this canon is corroborated with the joy of the Lord’s Incarnation. This indicates the direction to be followed by anyone who wants to be cleansed from sins needs to focus. Therefore, the reader is offered the example of the Logos who is incarnated or, in other words, His canonical state. Just as Jesus emptied Himself of his glory in order to become human, so must everyone assume this icon of humility in order to ready themselves to receive the Incarnated Logos in their hearts. Striving to make the biblical words more accessible, Saint Andrew uses a spiritual exegesis in which he compares his own sins to those of the biblical characters, suggesting by each example one of the aspects of the sinful human condition. Through this type of exegesis, the biblical characters become contemporary with us, their history, life and deeds become our own. The hymnographer only tries to make us aware that the word of the Holy Scripture must be our travel companion, our guide in everything we venture to do in order to acknowledge the proper way to embody it in our life and also make our life an embodiment of the biblical words. The assumption of the righteous life paradigm both helps and makes us ready to perceive and understand the Holy Bible deeper. Through our way of assuming the biblical words, saints prompt us to abandon the negative patterns and to assume the positive ones. Applying the biblical positive paradigms to his inner self, Saint Andrew presents us these examples as ways to perfection. The disposition of these patterns is mostly synchronic even though the author also relates to a diachronically disposition regarding the Old Testament characters and events. His aim is to underline the stages which any man must go through in order to reach moral perfection. If we regard these patterns with more attention, we notice that the biblical events are not randomly arranged inside the same ode. There is a thematic unity among them and most of the time, these themes complement each other in order to better underline and outline the way God relates to us. For instance, in the first ode, Abel the righteous, who was murdered by his brother, is set aside the good Samaritan who, in a mystical way foreshadows The One who spilled His blood as ransom (Heb 12, 24) and His brothers who did not embrace Him, but crucified Him. The second Ode refers to the events from the New Testament that present God’s mercy and grace upon the sinners (the adulterine woman and the tax collector) and Him seeking to guard and deliver those endangered (Peter) and the lost ones (the lost drachma). The same attitude full of compassion is to be found in the two Old Testament episodes mentioned in the Heirmologion. The third Ode refers to the lives of Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who received great gifts and blessings due to their strong faith. The characters of which the hymnographer speaks of in the fourth Ode share patience as a common virtue. Even though Jacob and Jacob were faced with great sufferings in their lifetime, they both succeeded and were victorious in their wrestle with God, thus being granted blessing and righteousness from God Himself. The main idea of the fifth Ode is the exodus from the land of sin and the entry in the promised land. After referring to Joseph’s abstinence from sinning with Potiphar’s wife, the hymnographer’s focus is directed almost exclusively to Moses, he who would deliver the people from slavery. His own salvation from the water as an infant, the acquiring of wisdom, the defending of the oppressed fellowman and the burning bush experience all precede his prophetic mission. The sixth Ode acquires an ample time-lapse in the history of Israel: from the entrance in Canaan until the anointment of David as king of Israel by the prophet Samuel. The Judges epoch fits best the economy and theme of Saint Andrew’s Great Canon. This phase is characterized by disobedience, promiscuity, enslavement, suffering, rehabilitation, seeking for divine help, miraculous interventions of God, delivery and rest. Thus, it reiterates the entire history of the human kind from decadence to delivery. The seventh Ode uses patterns from the monarchy period. The hymnographer uses positive episodes from the life of characters that are considered negative and immoral by the contemporary. For example, Saul who was granted royalty without having such desires and Manasseh who did nothing but wrong and sin before God, spilling a lot of innocent blood and lives (2 Kings 21, 16) but lastly asked and earned forgiveness. This idea is a common place for the numerous methods of repentance stated by the hymnographer. The prophets themselves are Old Testament patterns brilliantly presented by Saint Andrew in the eighth Ode. The facts and deeds that Saint Andrew refers to are uncommon miracles that express the presence of the divine agency that delivers those who serve God even in the most difficult situations. Ode nine is exclusively dedicated to the New Testament patterns. At first, the ill-regarded social categories in the Judaic society (Pharisees, thieves, harlots and tax collectors) are named as examples that show how, through repentance, they received forgiveness and entrance in the Kingdom of Heaven. Then, the believers are presented the characters that were the closest to the Lord since he was a child (the shepherds, Simeon and Hannah). At the end of his Great Canon, the hymnographer affirms in a few odes that the purpose of his composition, the exposition of the patterns and biblical paradigms, is nothing else but the salvation of the soul. Therefore, all the events and deeds described in this canon aim to form and transfigure one’s entire being. The soul that the hymnographer addresses must follow this path, otherwise he loses the chance to regain communion with his Creator. The lecture of the Holy Bible as a narrative discourse is used by St Andrew of Crete to offer the readers an example of embodiment of the Holy Scripture. Such was the personal assumption of the biblical text for Saint Andrew that he seems to belong to the events he refers to. Not only does he become a part of this holy history, but he embodies the text in such a way that one might think that the hagiographer himself is speaking to him at a personal level.

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