Tag Archives: John Fotopoulos

Was Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the First Person to See the Risen Lord Outside the Empty Tomb?

by John Fotopoulos | ελληνικά | Română | српски

In Orthodox icons of Jesus’s empty tomb and resurrection, it is common to see Mary the mother of Jesus depicted as one of the myrrhbearing women. A related theme, although perhaps depicted less frequently in icons, is that the Virgin Mary saw the risen Jesus outside the tomb. Indeed, some Orthodox Christians today insist that Mary the mother of Jesus not only saw the risen Jesus outside the tomb, but that she was the first to see him there. Where did these traditions about Mary at the empty tomb originate, and are they corroborated by evidence from the four canonical gospels? 

It is probable that these traditions about Mary the mother of Jesus at the tomb originated from the Diatessaron (attributed to Tatian c. 160-180), a harmony of the four gospels widely used by churches in Syria until the 5th century. Because the four gospels contain differences as well as contradictions that are difficult to reconcile, the Diatessaron selectively combines material from the four gospels to create a single, cohesive gospel. In the Diatessaron, the identities of Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus seem to have been fused intentionally so that Mary the mother of Jesus—rather than Mary Magdalene as in John 20:1-18—can be understood as going to the tomb alone, where she saw the risen Jesus. One possible motivation for this fusion of Mary Magdalene with Mary the mother of Jesus may have stemmed from a desire to counter certain Gnostic groups that emphasized a special love Jesus had for Mary Magdalene. Nevertheless, the presence of Jesus’s mother at the tomb and her encounter with the risen Jesus also became elements in some apocryphal and Gnostic writings from the 2nd-4th centuries.

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Some Common Misperceptions about the Date of Pascha/Easter

by John Fotopoulos  |  ру́сский

There is a common misperception among Orthodox Christians that the reason why Orthodox Easter (i.e. Pascha) often occurs so much later than Western Christian Easter is because the Orthodox Church abides by the rules for calculating the date of Pascha issued by the 1stEcumenical Council at Nicaea in 325 AD and thus the Orthodox must wait for Passover to be celebrated by the Jewish community before Pascha can occur. Despite this view being held by so many Orthodox Christians as well as being promoted in popular essays written by some Orthodox priests, it is not accurate. The reason why Orthodox Pascha frequently occurs so much later than Easter celebrated by Roman Catholics and Protestants has nothing to do with the Orthodox Church following the Paschal formula of Nicaea and the Western Churches not doing so, nor is it because the Orthodox must wait for Jewish Passover to be celebrated. Rather, Orthodox Pascha frequently occurs later than Western Easter because the Orthodox Church uses inaccurate scientific calculations that rely on the inaccurate Julian Calendar to determine the date of Pascha for each year. Some background information is in order to help explain precisely what the problems are. Continue reading

Women and the Creed: “For Us Humans and for Our Salvation”

by John Fotopoulos and Aristotle Papanikolaou

First Council of Nicaea

For a little more than a decade, a new translation of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed recited in the Divine Liturgy has been implemented in the parishes of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA). The desire to use a uniform translation of the Creed is commendable and long overdue.

The new GOA translation of the Creed was issued in 2005 and it is very similar to the one in the widely used “red liturgy book” entitled, The Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom (Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1985). The “red liturgy book” was a collaborative effort by the faculties of Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and it is a little unclear why the GOA felt the need to alter what was an already excellent translation of the Creed.

Among the changes in the new translation of the Creed, the one that is most noticeable and has received the most attention is the GOA’s translation, “for us men and for our salvation” over and against the former Hellenic College-Holy Cross translation, “for us and for our salvation.”

This change to the word “men” is unjustifiable and, quite simply, a mistake. Continue Reading…

Some Common Misperceptions about the Date of Pascha/Easter

by John Fotopoulos  |  ру́сский

Easter-Egg

Note: This essay was originally posted in 2016. While the Orthodox and Catholic/Protestant dates coincide this year, there is still widespread misunderstanding about the calendar differences between the Orthodox and Western churches.

There is a common misperception among Orthodox Christians that the reason why Orthodox Easter (i.e. Pascha) often occurs so much later than Western Christian Easter is because the Orthodox Church abides by the rules for calculating the date of Pascha issued by the 1st Ecumenical Council at Nicaea in 325 AD and thus the Orthodox must wait for Passover to be celebrated by the Jewish community before Pascha can occur. Despite this view being held by so many Orthodox Christians as well as being promoted in popular essays written by some Orthodox priests, it is not accurate. The reason why Orthodox Pascha frequently occurs so much later than Easter celebrated by Roman Catholics and Protestants has nothing to do with the Orthodox Church following the Paschal formula of Nicaea and the Western Churches not doing so, nor is it because the Orthodox must wait for Jewish Passover to be celebrated. Rather, Orthodox Pascha frequently occurs later than Western Easter because the Orthodox Church uses inaccurate scientific calculations that rely on the inaccurate Julian Calendar to determine the date of Pascha for each year. Some background information is in order to help explain precisely what the problems are. Continue reading