Revista Studii Teologice


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"Elemente de „introducere formală” în istoriografia bisericească elenă în secolul al XX-lea"

Elements of a „Formal Introduction” to 20th-Century Greek Church Historiography

Autor(i): Dumitru Sorin STOIAN

On the definition and object of this discipline, the definitions given by the Greek historians discussed here share a number of common traits: (a) Church History is a science; (b) all authors indicate the same object of Church History, a discipline that systematically and objectively investigates and presents the emergence and evolution of the Church (most authors approaching this aspect provide details on the object of this discipline: the territory spanned by the Church, the evolution of dogmas and ritual, the evolution of Church leadership, the Church-State relationships, etc.); (c) differentiation between General Church History and the local (or particular) one.
We note the definition given by Gh. Konidaris for its concision: Church History is „the science presenting in a genetic, systematic and objective manner, the events in the domestic and foreign development and the activity of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, established by Christ and His apostles”.
Three types of Church History periodization are employed:
- into two periods, with two proponents: a) I. Anastasiou, who puts forth a periodization based on the Great Schism (1054); b) Vl. Feidas, who proposes the end of the iconoclastic era as the milestone separating the two periods.
- into three periods, with two proponents: a) F. Vafeidis, who suggests as mile-stones the year 700 (St. John Damascene and St. Boniface) and the fall of Constantinople (1453); b) V. Stefanidis, whose milestones are the Great Schism on the one hand, and the fall of Constantinople (in the East) respectively the Reformation (in the West), on the other hand;
- into four periods, with three proponents: a) K. Kontogonis, with the following milestones: Constantine the Great (313), Photius (857) and the fall of Constantinople (1453); b) A.D. Kyriakos, with the same milestones; c) Gh. Konidaris, indicating as milestones the Quinisext Council (691), the Tridentine Council (1563) and early 19th century (cca. 1800).
A number of common chronological milestones can be identified:
- the reign of Constantine the Great;
- late 8th century (the Quinisext Council according to Gh. Konidaris; The 6th Ecumenical Council in the view of I. Anastasiou; the year 700 according to F. Vafeidis);
- the patriarchate of Photius (857);
- the Schism becoming definitive – the mutual excommunications (1054);
- the fall of Constantinople (1453);
- the Reformation (sometimes considered a milestone together with the fall of Constantinople, as with V. Stefanidis).
There are also specific chronological milestones:
- the end of the iconoclastic period – Vl. Feidas;
- the Tridentine Council – Gh. Konidaris;
- the year 1700 (the reign of Peter the Great in Russia) – F. Vafeidis;
- early 19th century (the year 1800) – Gh. Konidaris.
The above-mentioned authors also agree on the sources of Church History. Their texts indicate the same sources: the Bible, the canons of the Holy Apostles and of the ecumenical and local councils, the papal decrees and bulls, the writings of the Holy Fathers and the other Church writers, other commentaries, texts, coins, buildings, etc..
The relationship with secular history and the scientific character of Church History are topics approached by most of the authors we have analyzed; all of them, including the late 19th-century ones, strongly assert that Church History is part of general history (historia profana), of the history of civilization, and not „a history with a difference”. The argument is that Church History has the same contents and employs the same methods as secular history. The authors also invoke the impartiality and objectivity required of a Church historian. Moreover, the investigation and description of historical events must be scientific, that is, based on the analysis, critique and interpretation of sources. Causality and internal relationships among events are emphasized; Church historians must not confine themselves to enumerating dates and events, but they also have to explain and interpret them.
Regarding the application of the methods of historical sciences to the study of Church history, some authors recommend caution, taking into account the particularities of Church History. Thus, V. Sfefanidis indicates three reasons why the genetic method cannot be applied to Church History in an absolute, undifferentiated manner: (a) firstly, the great personalities who have influenced the course of history, because they determine the evolution; (b) secondly, the fact that in the history of mankind there are some „universal, absolute” truths (the notions of honesty, good and truth); (c) thirdly, the fact that the genetic method cannot shed light on certain essential aspects in the history of early Christianity (events, teachings, institutions).
Vl. Feidas also asserts that „the unilateral limitation brought about by autono-mous, or independent, historical-philological investigation into the sources ... would result... in useless, circumstantial historicism. Ignoring or misunderstanding the ecclesiological hypotheses and criteria, confirmed by concrete historical events, restricts the globality of perspectives on original church events and, consequently, fails to render their real significance along the genetical lines of historical developments”. The historian concludes: „the secular and theological character of any church event cannot be reconstructed simply by a rigorous application... of the usual methods employed by historiography (the historical-literary or the synthetical historical-genetic method), since every church event must be placed in its organic context and its proper origins, thus evincing its general historical dimensions”.
Two late 19th-century authors (A.D. Kyriakos and F. Vafeidis) mention reverence for the Christian Church among the necessary qualities of a church historian. In mid-20th century, Gh. Konidaris resumes this idea, but asserts that it is only a historian with a theological background that can fully understand the history of a religious institution such as the Church.

Pagini: 127-159