Issue 1 Contents

  • The Mother of Jesus in the Gospel according to John: A Narrative-Critical and Theological Perspective
    Christos Karakolis
    Associate Professor of New Testament, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece; Extraordinary Associate Professor, North-West University, South Africa

    This study attempts to analyse the narrative function and the theological significance of Jesus’ mother for the overall theology of the fourth gospel, mainly based on the exegetical method of narrative criticism.In the first part, the problem of the anonymity of Jesus’ mother in juxtapposition with the anonymity of the beloved disciple is dealt with. The second part consists of a detailed exegetical approach to the narrative of Jesus’ first sign in Cana within the Johannine narrative context as a whole. On this basis, in the third part a response to further relevant questions about the significance of Jesus’ mother according to the overall fourth gospel’s witness is attempted. The article is concluded with a summary of exegetical and theological positions, including a hypothesis about a possible Johannine background of the current Orthodox understanding of Theotokos.

    The fourth evangelist presents the mother of Jesus quite differently from the synoptic gospels. Specifically, he never mentions her name, and omits the nativity stories altogether, although apparently having some knowledge of at least parts of the synoptic tradition.1  Instead, he refers to her in two incidents that are unknown to the synoptic gospels, namely the miraculous change of water into wine at Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11), and her presence along with the beloved disciple at the foot of the cross (John 19:26-27). Through these two stories the fourth evangelist apparently complements the synoptic tradition and at the same time interprets it anew. The obvious question arising from these observations regards the particular significance of the ‘mother of Jesus’ in the Johannine narration and theology. In my attempt to answer to this question, I will base my analysis on a relatively new method in New Testament studies, namely narrative criticism.2

    1  For the problem of John’s knowledge of the synoptic tradition, see for instance Ian D. Mackay, John’s Relationship with Mark: An Analysis of John 6 in the Light of Mark 6–8, WUNT 2/182 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004); John Amedee Bailey, The Traditions Common to the Gospels of Luke and John (Leiden: Brill, 1963); Andrew Gregory, ‘The Third Gospel? The Relationship of John and Luke Reconsidered’ in Challenging Perspectives on the Gospel of John, WUNT 2/219, ed. John Lierman (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006), 109–134.

    2  On the use of narrative criticism in New Testament studies, see for instance James L. Resseguie, Narrative Criticism of the New Testament. An Introduction (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic Press, 2005).

  • The Sinlessness of our Most Holy Lady
    Abbot Ephraim
    The Holy and Great Monastery of Vatopaidi

    Following the Third Ecumenical Council, the assimilation of the dogmatic teaching about the Theotokos was very slow. Certain Fathers were waypoints regarding the person of the Theotokos, such as Cyril of Alexandria, John Damascene, Gregory Palamas, Nicholas Kavasilas, Nikodimos the Athonite, and Silouan the Athonite.In this paper, we compare the positions of certain contemporary Orthodox theo-logians with those of the previously mentioned Fathers regarding the subject of the sinlessness of the Virgin Mary.


    Let no uninitiated hand touch the living Ark of God’, we sing at the ninth ode of many of the feasts of the Mother of God. Indeed, the mystery concerning the person and the life of the Mother of God is a book ‘sealed with seven seals’1 for the uninitiated, for those who do not have the revelation, the divine grace. It is a real and audacious mystery, divine and human, inaccessible to those with feet of clay. How can anyone understand the most sublime matters concerning the Mother of God, since he or she does not even have experience of lesser things? How can anyone who has not been purged of the passions speak with authority about deification?...

    The Gospels are silent regarding the life of Our Lady, the Virgin, and reveal only very little. But the Holy Spirit, with the Tradition of the Church, teaches us a great deal, such as the significance and meaning of the Gospel references. And the Mother of God herself often reveals information to her faithful servants, the Fathers of the Church. 

    In the beginning, the Church was not greatly concerned with formulating dogma about Our Lady. It did so only as regards the Triune God (Trinitarian dogma) and the incarnate Word (Christological dogma). The dogmatic teaching of the Church concerning Our Lady was formulated gradually, in direct correlation with Christology. It was only the Roman Catholic Church which formulated particular doctrines about Our Lady (immaculate conception, the assumption of her body, etc.). Thus, Saint Basil the Great, within the perspective of the ancient patristic tradition and addressing those who had doubts about the virginity of the Mother of God after she gave birth, shifted the significance of the matter onto the virgin birth of Christ, and said that virginity was essential until the incarnation, but that we should not be curious about afterwards because of the mystery involved.3 


    *Literally ‘outside the temple’ therefore ‘uninitiated’, which is what the hymn says, rather than the modern meaning of ‘irreverent’. [trans. note]

    1. Rev 5:1.

    2. Basil the Great, Εἰς τήν ἁγίαν τοῦ Χριστοῦ γέννησιν 5 (PG 31:1468ΑΒ).

    3. See Chrysostomos Stamoulis, Θεοτόκος καί ὀρθόδοξο δόγμα. Σπουδή στή διδασκαλία τοῦ ἁγίου Κυρίλλου Ἀλεξανδρείας (Thessaloniki: Palimpsiston, 1996).

  • The Theotokos as Selective Intercessor for Souls in Middle Byzantine Apocalyptic
    Bronwen Neil
    Professor of Ancient History, Macquarie University, Sydney; Research Fellow, University of South Africa, Pretoria

    The Apocalypse of the Holy Theotokos, first edited from a single manuscript in 1866, has only recently become available in an English translation and commentary. However, the work enjoyed enormous pop-ularity in the later Byzantine period of the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries, when the Greek text was translated into almost a dozen other languages. An equally popular work of the mid-tenth century was the Vision of Anastasia. This paper considers Mary’s role in the two Apocalypses of the ninth to eleventh centuries in the broader context of Byzantine apocalypticism of the period. In particular, I focus on Mary’s role as a selective intercessor for Christian souls in torment, but not Jews. The increasing recognition of Mary’s humanity in the cult of the Theotokos (Mother of God) emerges as the justification for her discrim-ination against those who were perceived as the murderers of her son.


    This paper considers Mary’s role in two Apocalypses of the ninth to eleventh centuries in the broader context of Byzantine apocalypticism of the period.* The Apocalypse of the Holy Theotokos has recently become available in an English translation and commentary by Jane Baun. Selections of this text were edited from a single manuscript, Venice Marc. VII.43 in 1866. Its relative inaccessibility to scholars does not reflect the enormous popularity of the work in the later Byzantine period of the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries, when it was translated into almost a dozen other languages, including a sixteenth-century Romanian version and Old Church Slavonic versions, as well as medieval Greek.3


    *Some of this material has been included in my chapter ‘Mary as Intercessor in Byzantine Theology’, The Oxford Handbook of Mary, ed. Chris Maunder (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

    1. Jane Baun, trans., Tales from Another Byzantium. Celestial Journey and Local Community in the Medieval Greek Apocrypha (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 391-400. This paper was originally presented at the conference on The Theotokos in the Oriental Churches, 18-20 August 2015, University of Winchester, UK.

    2. Konstantin von Tischendorff, ed., Apocalypses Apocryphae Mosis, Esdrae, Pauli, Iohannis, item Mariae dormitio, additis Evangeliorum et actuum Apocryphorum supplementis (Leipzig, 1866; repr.. Hildesheim: G. Olms, 1966). A completed edition followed, made from Paris BN graecus 390, by Antoine Charles Gidel, ‘Étude sur une apocalypse de la Vierge Marie’, Annuaire de l’association de l’encouragement des études greques 5 (1871): 92-113. Another two editions appeared in 1893, the first in Athanasius Vasiliev, ed., Anecdota graeco-byzantina. Pars prior (Moscow: Imperial University, 1893; repr., Moscow, 1992), 125-34, and the other in Montague R. James, ed., Apocrypha Anecdota. A collection of thirteen apocryphal books and fragments, Texts and Studies 2.3 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1893), 109-26, the latter edition based on Oxford Bodleian Library MS Auct. E.5.12 (olim Misc. Greek 77).

    3. See Baun, Tales from Another Byzantium, 37.

  • The Mother of God and the Natural World: Byzantine Conceptions of Sacrament and Creation
    Mary B. Cunningham
    Honorary Associate Professor, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Nottingham, UK

    This article examines the connection between Mary, the Mother of God, and a transfigured natural world, as depicted in Byzantine liturgical texts and experienced in the lives of Orthodox Christians. Although these two aspects of Marian devotion may seem unrelated, they both reinforce the Virgin Mary’s theo-logical role as the meeting-place between the divine and created spheres. Byzantine hymnography and homiletics use typology not only to express Mary’s role as the receptive creation into which God entered, but also to convey a sacramental meaning specifically linking the Theotokos with the mysteries of baptism and the Eucharist. More tangible reminders of her link with the material elements that play a part in spiritual renewal and healing can be found in the shrines, often endowed with miraculous pools and springs, that existed in medieval Constantinople. Both formal liturgical and popular association of the Theotokos with a transfigured creation thus reinforced her role as Christians’ main intercessor before God in the Byzantine world.

      Hail, favoured one, the all-gold jar of manna and the tabernacle truly made of purple, which the new Bezaleel adorned in golden style! Hail, favoured one, forever purple God-bearing cloud and spring eternally pouring out grace for everyone! 1 ... Praise of Mary, the Mother of God, takes many forms in Orthodox liturgical worship. Passages such as the above, which appear not only in surviving Byzantine festal homilies but also in the hymnography that is still sung in offices of the great Marian feasts, may bewilder a visitor who encounters this tradition for the first time. Instead of instructing the faithful in a discursive or literal way by means of lessons and sermons, the Orthodox Church presents congregations with a fully developed exegetical interpretation of Scripture, much of which is expressed by means of prophecy, typology, and song (often the biblical canticles). Such didactic practice, which is especially espoused in the Eastern Christian tradition, must reflect a belief that the Christological mystery is best expressed by means of poetic, and especially biblical, language.  

    1. Germanos, Homily on the Annunciation, in D. Fecioru, ‘Un nou gen de predica in omiletica ortodoxa,’ Biserica Ortodoxa Romana 64 (1946): 71; trans. M. B. Cunningham, Wider Than Heaven. Eighth-Century Homilies on the Mother of God (Crestwood, NY: SVS Press, 2008), 226.

  • Practising Consubstantiality: The Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary between Synergy and Sophia in St Nicholas Cabasilas and Sergius Bulgakov, and in a Postmodern Perspective
    Nicholas Loudovikos
    Professor of Dogmatics and Philosophy, University Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki; Visiting Professor, Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, Cambridge, UK; Research Fellow, University of Winchester, UK

    This paper examines the in-depth way Nicholas Cabasilas assimilated Palamite Hesychastic theological anthropology, transforming it into a Mariological humanism of theological provenance, which responds to the humanism of the Western Renaissance. Then it compares it with an analogous tendency in Bulgakov’s thought, putting this theological humanism in dialogue with the self-sufficient humanism of the post-modern kingdom of man.

      A Long Introduction: Byzantine Individualism and Hesychasm According to the experts, the conflict between the iconoclasts and the iconophiles, which ended in the victory of the latter, seems to present a key to the interpretation for the understanding of the spiritual state of Byzantium in the period that Paul Lemerle refers to as the ‘first Byzantine humanism’ in his eponymous book.1 This era spiritually preceded and somehow inaugurated the period that Steven Runciman calls the ‘second (or last) Byzantine Renaissance/Humanism’,2  the period during which St Nicholas Cabasilas lived. The essence of the matter is that the icon defends the completeness of human nature and of the world against the likelihood of an Eastern (Semitic and Asian) ‘blending’ of this nature in the ocean of the divine nature. In this sense, the spiritual purview of icon veneration (apart from being the locus where a distinctive eschatological ontology was consolidated, the significant theological and philosophical consequences of which have yet to be studied) also provided a home for a humanism which, apart from anything else, preserved certain fundamental requirements of classical Greek education as well as the whole of medieval ‘Greek’ Aristotelianism.  

    1. In the ‘historical’ pages which follow an attempt is made to construct a critique of the works of specialists. See particularly P. Lemerle, Le premier humanisme byzantine. Notes et remarques sur enseignement et culture à Byzance des origines au Xe siècle (Paris: P.U.F., 1971); C. Mango, Byzantium, The Empire of New Rome (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1980); H. G. Beck, Das Byzantinische Jahrtausend (München: O. Beck, 1978); S. Runciman, Byzantine Civilization (London: Edward Arnold, 1959); S. Runciman, The Last Byzantine Renaissance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970; H. Ahrweiler, L’ideologie politique de l’Empire Byzantin (Paris: P.U.F., 1975).

    2. This also, not coincidentally, functions as the title of his book, The Last Byzantine Renaissance.

  • The Dormition of the Theotokos and Dionysios the Areopagite
    Andreas Andreopoulos
    Reader in Orthodox Christianity, University of Winchester, UK

    Much of the hymnography and the tradition surrounding the Dormition of the Theotokos have been based on a passage from the Divine Names of Dionysios the Areopagite, which includes the phrase ζωαρχικόν καὶ θεοδόχον σῶμα. This phrase was read by John of Scythopolis as a reference to the Dormition, and subsequent scholarship never questioned this until recently. In recent years, however, this reference has been questioned repeatedly. This article examines the significance of this issue and this confusion for Eucharistic and for Marian theology.


    Strange as it may sound, we derive much knowledge by accident and error. We can sometimes receive an insight on a certain process by noticing what it is being confused with, as it develops. Inscriptions or documents with misspelled words for instance, allow us to understand how pronunciation is changing, and how when we start finding the name of Matthew the Evangelist spelled as Ματθέος instead of Ματθαῖος (such as in the sixth-century mosaic of St Catherine’s on Sinai), we realize that there is no phonetic difference between ε and αι anymore. Naturally, we can find many such examples in the manuscript tradition, some of which may not be very important or meaningful, whereas others sometimes lead us to serious mistakes. In a strangely similar way, what I am going to talk about here is largely what can be thought of as a theological misspelling, which may likewise allow us to make some observations about the development of early Christian spirituality and the developing cult of Mary.

    Before we proceed with the study of the historical or theological misspelling though, let us take a wider look in order to establish the field. Our field of observation starts with the feast of the Dormition. Much work has been done on the textual and theological origins of the feast itself (mostly the impressive work of Stephen Shoemaker on the subject 1), and we have a fair idea of the way the significance of the feast developed from a more general Marian celebration to a feast that focusses on the historical—even if apocryphally attested—death of Mary, even if the theological implications of that particular death transcend history. The Dormition in the iconographic tradition is often portrayed on the western wall of a church, as the last image that the faithful see on their way out, a reminder of their own mortality and the hope of their salvation by Christ. In this way, Mary is presented as a model for all humanity, even in her death.


    1. Stephen J. Shoemaker, Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).

  • The Palamite Background in the Marian Theology of Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh
    Niki Tsironis
    Faculty Member, Institute for Historical Research, National Hellenic Research Foundation, Greece; Associate in Byzantine Studies, Centre for Hellenic Studies, Harvard University

    Perceptions of the Mother of God have always reflected theological and pastoral concerns of Orthodox theologians and thinkers in Byzantium and beyond. Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh, one of the em-blematic figures of the Russian Diaspora, treats the Virgin in a way that reflects the main concerns of his generation, marked by the political developments in Russia in the beginning of the twentieth century and the subsequent movement of the Russian Diaspora. The hardship of the loss of their homeland and the harsh reality of poverty, as well as the two world wars, greatly influenced the theological approach of Metropolitan Anthony and his generation. In his talks and homilies, Anthony of Sourozh focuses on the human person cut off from the community and its rituals. He speaks about the encounter of the individual with God on a one-to-one basis. He refers extensively to the agony man experiences when faced with the silence of God. He sees the Virgin as the model of the obedient but not passive disciple, the model of the dynamic surrender to God in freedom and sorrowful joy. Anthony’s approach to the Mother of God is paralleled and compared to that of Gregory Palamas, who in the fourteenth century saw Mary as the model of perfect Hesychast.

      Throughout Christian history, the Mother of God has been the vehicle for the expression of various aspects of Christian theology, formulated in literature, homiletics, and art. Her reception from the early Christian era down to our times reveals aspects of contemporary concerns and approaches to Christian doctrine. A great figure of the Russian Diaspora, Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh, is one of the eminent personalities who have marked Orthodox theology with their work in the 20th century. His approach to Patristic theology has been very different from the approach of other theologians of his era, like Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, Metropolitan John Zizioulas, Christos Yannaras, Fr Andrew Louth, and others. Each of the aforementioned figures contributed a distinct understanding of Christianity that enriched Orthodox theology and its reception in modern times.1  

    * This paper was originally written for the conference, Unwedded Bride: The Mother of God in the Hymns of the Eastern Churches (University of Winchester, 18th-20th August, 2015), organized by Sarah Jane Boss and Andreas Andreopoulos. It was revised for publication in Analogia.

    1. Andrew Louth, an eminent figure of Eastern Christian Studies himself, is the author of the book Modern Orthodox Thinkers: From the Philokalia to the Present (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2015. Most of the names mentioned above are included in this book, whose focal point is the Russian Diaspora and the thinkers influenced by this current of thought. Interestingly enough, Fr Andrew does not include Metropolitan Anthony in his book, although he is an integral part of the Russian Diaspora.