Author Archives: Public Orthodoxy

The Orthodox Monk-Archaeologist who Discovered a Crucified Man

by Nicolae Roddy

As a follow-up to my recent article “Where are the Orthodox Biblical Archaeologists?” it seems timely to present the fascinating story of the single greatest exception to the rule: Vassilios Tzaferis, the Greek Orthodox monk-turned-archaeologist who discovered the material remains of the only crucified man ever found.

Tzaferis was born to a rural peasant family on April 1, 1936, on the island of Samos, Greece. His childhood coincided with the Axis occupation during WWII, followed by the Greek civil war. In 1950, encouraged by his father and the village priest, fourteen-year old Vassilios traveled to the East Jerusalem to study theology at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. He was ordained a deacon six years later, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and assigned to the Greek Orthodox community of Nazareth, in the newly established state of Israel.

Two years later, Tzaferis was ordained a priest, but his thirst for learning compelled him to seek permission to study in Athens. His request was denied, but he decided to go anyway. Unwilling to lose such a gifted young priest, Patriarch Benedictos persuaded him to stay, permitting him to enroll in a degree program in history and archaeology at Hebrew University. In a 2010 newspaper interview, Tzaferis mused how students stared in wonder at his monastic garb, a sight so out of the ordinary that even David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s foremost founder and its first prime minister, asked to see the monk who was studying archaeology (Haaretz, Oct. 29, 2010). Continue reading

On the Toll Houses Again: A Byzantinist’s Thoughts

by Eirini Afentoulidou

David Bentley Hart’s recent article on the toll houses is very welcome in that the discussion has turned away from refuting the occasional “pro-toller” to a scholarly and detached examination of texts and contexts and the theological implications of their worldview. I do not intend to explain that the notion of the aerial toll houses has never been the official dogma of the Orthodox Church, as this has been demonstrated in other publications, notably by Stephen Shoemaker on Public Orthodoxy (although I often have to explain this to colleagues who are not acquainted with how theological authority worked in Byzantine Christianity). References to the toll houses are found exclusively in pastoral/edifying texts, usually side-by-side with other, rival notions of posthumous judgment. There was a consensus among the theologically educated, as there is now, that attempts to speak about afterlife are figurative, fragmentary and not conclusive – although most contemporary Christians would not agree with their pre-modern co-religionists on the necessity of constantly keeping the horrors of the judgment in mind as a means to avoid doing evil. Yet, as a Byzantinist, I am fascinated by the texts on the aerial toll houses and wish to share some observations regarding two points: the democratization and the individuation of judgment that distinguish these texts from notions on posthumous judgment found in other Late Antique and Byzantine texts. Continue reading

“How Are You Feeling?” An Approach to Reading the Scriptures

by Rev. Dr. Cristofor Panaitescu

After struggling for years longing for the ultimate way of understanding the Bible, I finally concluded that my struggling would have no end. I understood also that there was no ultimate way, but just a way.

Watching television testimonies today often means hearing how people feel in different situations of life. Breaking news about a catastrophe is basically a report about what and how someone felt at the moment of that tragedy. And frequently, it is about what and how they felt in the aftermath of the event. Usually, the reporter tries to be empathetic regarding the subjects of his or her story. Actually, the simple fact of being at that place, on that spot, involves empathy. The same applies to happy events like sport, shows, or documentaries involving victory, accomplishment, celebration or astonishment.

The question “how did you feel?” is the verbal outcome of an everyday experience studied and described by psychologists as being the basis of life at its first undeveloped and uncomplicated emotional level. Once this question of feelings is addressed, the newsperson invites people to develop their story or their version of the event. As for the one watching TV at home, that person sees the whole thing throughout his or her feelings, and the simple fact of watching implies emotional involvement. I’ve had the opportunity to compare this media pattern in different countries on different continents while watching TV, and it is always the same.

This question is of paramount importance with respect to the study of the Bible. Continue reading

Filaret’s Final Act and the Future of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine

by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Denysenko

In the four months that have elapsed since the Ecumenical Patriarchate (EP) granted autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), the process of adjusting to the new situation has been challenging for both the OCU and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP). The OCU has been enduring the growing pains of stabilizing Church life after the unification council, while the UOC-MP has sought to sustain its inner unity and keep parishes from migrating to the new church.

Recently, a new wrinkle has emerged in the Ukrainian Church situation. In a series of interviews with the Ukrainian media, Filaret, the former patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP), insists that he remains patriarch and that he is governing the OCU together with Metropolitan Epifaniy, primate of the OCU. Filaret has also suggested that the OCU can immediately elevate its status from a metropolia to a patriarchate by convoking an All-Ukrainian council and revising the Church’s statute.

Filaret’s public position on the situation of the Ukrainian Church compromised the situation when he invited numerous bishops of the OCU to St. Volodymyr cathedral in Kyiv for the commemoration of St. Macarius, Metropolitan of Kyiv on May 14. Metropolitan Epifaniy was not initially invited to the celebration. Continue reading