Page images

discussed among Protestants, and especially such as have been most largely discussed within the past half century, have scarcely been moved at all among the members of the Oriental church. The inspiration of the scriptures; the harmony between human freedom and divine sovereignty; the order and mutual relations of repentance, faith, love, and regeneration -- these, and other questions familiar to us, are hardly known among them as topics of discussion. On points of this kind our statements will necessarily be brief and general. On the other hand, the Greek mind has been much occupied with questions which among us are little known, except to scholars. To this class belong the disputes concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit, whether from the Father only, or from the Father and the Son, and also concerning the question of one will or two wills in the person of Christ. The first of these, which was so earnestly disputed in the early controversies between the Eastern and Western churches, remains still the most prominent point of debate between them. We refer to this difference between them and us, in respect to the current subjects of theological controversy, as accounting for what might else seem a strange disproportion in the relative prominence given in the present Article to the several topics that come under our notice.

The Holy SCRIPTURES. The doctrine of the Greek church in regard to the holy scriptures is stated in her standards in this simple and general form : “ The holy scriptures are the true word of God.” Questions pertaining to the nature and extent of that divine inspiration under which prophets and apostles spoke and wrote, are hardly known as subjects of discussion in the modern Greek church. She contents herself with the statement, that the Holy Spirit is the author and communicator of scripture, and the prophets and apostles are the media through wbich that communication is made to men. In regard to the Apocrypha, the Greek church occupies sub

staníially the same position with the English, as this latter is defined in the sixth of the Thirty-nine Articles. The church reads the Apocryphal books, " for example of life and instruction of manners; but doth not apply them to establish any doctrine.” They are always included in the sacred Volume, but are not regarded as of canonical authority. In ibis important respect the doctrine of the Greek church differs from that of the Romish, which, since the time of the Council of Trent, “receives and venerates with equal reverence" the Apocryphal and the Hebrew books. There is not however, it must be confessed, the same agreement among the Greek authorities, ancient and modern, on this subject, which there is in the different Reformed confessions, and in almost all the Romish writers since the Tridentine Council. Even in the earlier centuries there was a difference of opinion. The Council of Laodicea (A.D. 363) names the book of Baruch as a part of the Canon. That of Carthage (a.d. 397) omits Baruch, but includes Tobit and Judith, and according to some copies Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, and 1 and 2 Maccabees. The Apostolical Constitutions include the two books of Maccabees only. And of the ancient catalogues given by individual writers, several include Baruch. There is something of the same diversity in the more modern authorities. The synod of Jerusalem (A.D. 1672) affirmed the canonical authority of the Apocryphal books as a whole, with an explicit censure of those who rejected them; but the decisions of this synod were under a controlling Romish influence, and did not fairly represent the general state of belief in the Greek church at that time. The authorized Russian Catechism receives as canonical only the books extant in Hebrew; and the same is true of the catechisms in general use in the kingdom of Greece. In regard to the Old Testament, the Greek translation of the LXX is practically regarded as of higher authority than the original Hebrew, though its superiority

Session IV., April 8, 1546. 8 Canon XXXII or XXVII.

2 Canon LX.
4 Canon LXXXV.

has not been formally sanctioned by any authoritative decree, Tor explicitly affirmed by any of the standard catechisms. Hebrew learning is very little cultivated in the Greek church; and it is not strange that a version so ancient, and having the traditionary reputation of being inspired, should have practically supplanted the original as an ultimate standard of appeal. One of the most learned of the Greek ecclesiasties, who died a few years ago, Constantine Economos, published a voluminous work on the Septuagint, in which he attempts to support the fabulous account given in the letter of Aristeas to Philocrates in regard to the miraculous correspondence, even to a letter, of the translations made separately by the seventy-two learned Jews employed for this purpose by Ptolemy. But this writer, though one of the ablest and most learned of the ecclesiastical writers of modern Greece, was a representative of the ultra conservative or high church school, and notoriously opposed to all progress and reformn.

The Greek church does not forbid the use of the scriptures by the common people. As Chrysostom, in the olden time, loved to extol the word of God, and to recommend to all, but especially to those most engaged in secular employments, the constant and devout study of the sacred volume, so the modern Greek writers, with a great approach to unanimity, advocate the universal dissemination and perusal of the oracles of God. The Synod of Jerusalem is believed to be the only Greek council that ever gave a negative answer to the question, whether the scriptures ought to be read by all Christians, without distinction. But the decisions of that synod, for the reason already mentioned, are not entitled to be regarded as a statement of the authorized and prevailing doctrine of the Greek church. Platon, the metropolitan of Moscow, in his Catechism of Orthodox Doctrine, enumerates among the errors of the Romish church, the denial of the scriptures to the common people; and he mentions as one of the most important safeguards against doctrinal error the reverential study of the holy scriptures,

and the adoption of them as the guide of all our thoughts and actions. And the learned Koraēs, in his annotations to the modern Greek translation of that work (first published in the Russian language), says: “ There are a few, even among us, who are so ignorant as to think that the reading of the holy scriptures in private ought not to be allowed. But, thanks be to God, such was never the doctrine of the Oriental church.” Of this exceptional class are those who, in the early history of Protestant missions to Greece, violently opposed the translation of the New Testament into the modern Greek dialect for the use of the uneducated. But while there were soine among the Greek priesthood, who thus opposed the efforts of foreign missionaries to enlighten the common people, there were others, and some who ranked among the ablest and most popular ecclesiastics, such as Neophytus Bambas and Theoclytus Pharmakides, who either directly co-operated with the missionaries in the work of translation, or boldly defended them against the assaults of the former class. And it is but a few months since a new translation of the Bible into the vernacular language of Russia has begun to be circulated among the population of that vast empire, with the concurrent encouragement of the highest civil and ecclesiastical authorities.


The Greek church has always held fast to the exact form of the Nicene Creed, as enlarged by the Council of Constantinople (A.D. 381), in regard to the procession of the Holy Spirit. The language of that creed is: “We believe in the Holy Spirit, which proceedeth from the Father.” In the Western church, this expression was changed, about two hundred years later (at the Synod of Toledo, A.D. 589), by the addition, “ and from the Son ” (filioque); and this alteration, though disapproved at first by the See of Rome, was finally adopted as the doctrine of the Western church. Against this innovation in the form of the ancient symbol,

1 Part II. chap. XXVIII. p. 121.

the Greek church has always protested, with an earnestness which does not seem, to those unacquainted with the history of the controversy, to be justified by the intrinsic importance of the difference. But in the minds alike of those who condemn and of those who justify the addition of these words to the creed, the doctrine which they teach is intimately. connected with just views of the mutual relations of the three persons of the Godhead. The Greeks, in condemning this addition of " filioque," appeal to the words of our Lord in John xv. 26, with which the language of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed precisely agrees; and they maintain that to derive the procession of the Spirit from the Son as well as from the Father, is to place the Spirit in a relation of seeming dependence on, and inferiority to, the Son, which has no warrant in scripture, and tends also to displace the Father from that primordial position which the scriptures assign to him, as the “ fons divinitatis,” to use the language of the schoolmen of a later age. The Greek church has here the unquestionable advantage of adhering literally to the inspired text, from which the church of Rome, and after her all the Protestant Confessions of Faith, have departed. In the controversy between the Eastern and Western churches which resulted in their separation, this subject of the interpolation of this addition into the creed was always prominent; and in all the discussions that have since taken place between them, it has occupied the chief place. At the Council of Florence, this was the first and principal topic of discussion between the two parties. Indeed it occupied the whole of the first twenty-four sessions of this council, and the greater part of the twenty-fifth and last. After the Greek deputies were brought to accede to the Romish doctrine on that point, the remaining differences were soon settled. In like manner, in the reply of the patriarchs of the East to the overtures of reconciliation made to the members of the Greek church by Pius IX., soon after bis accession to the pontificate, this subject takes precedence of all others. The patriarchs fill up ten pages of Vol. XXI. No. 84.


« PreviousContinue »