Ariadne, the holy martyr, lived during the reigns of Emperor Hadrian (117-138) and Antoninus Pius (138-161). Ariadne was a slave girl of Tertullus, the chief ruler of the city of Prymenseos in Phrygia.* Her master became indignant when she refused to accompany him to the temple of the idols on the occasion of his son's birthday. After he punished Ariadne by severely flogging her, scraping her with an iron claw and starving her in a dungeon, he dismissed her and sent her away.
However, he persecuted Ariadne, even after he discharged her, when he dispatched his men to trail her. As her pursuers approached, Ariadne was nearby a large rock. The ever-memorable prayed that it open and conceal her from those tracking her. Straightway, by a divine wonder, the rock opened and received her. There, within the safe confines of the rock, she surrendered her spirit into the hands of Christ.
When the persecutors arrived they were utterly confused and started a fight among each other and killed one another. Other accounts say that fearful angels of the Lord appeared sitting on horseback and bearing spears, striking Ariadnes persecutors.
HYMN OF PRAISE: The Holy Martyr Ariadna
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
The fair maiden Ariadna,
Served her master honorably,
But served God more than man.
A slave in body but not in soul,
She did not desire spiritual slavery
And would not worship idols.
She would bow before God the Creator,
She would bow before Christ the Savior,
But she would not bow before the idols.
She was tortured for her Lord,
And accepted torture with great joy,
With joy and thanksgiving.
Merciful God, with His All-seeing eye,
Saw St. Ariadna's holy suffering,
And commanded the lifeless rock
To hide His suffering virgin,
As had once happened with Thecla and John.
Ariadna, all-blessed virgin,
Help us by your prayers
Before the throne of the merciful God;
And, in the company of the Holy Mother of God,
Help us by your prayers.
Ἀπολυτίκιον Ἦχος δ'. Ὁ ὑψωθεῖς ἐν τῷ Σταυρῷ.
Τὴ τοῦ Χριστοῦ κυβερνωμένη παλάμη, οὐκ ἐδουλώθης τὴν ψυχὴν Ἀριάδνη, ἀλλὰ ἐλευθέρα γνώμη ἠνδραγάθησας, πᾶσαν γὰρ ἐπίνοιαν, τοῦ ἐχθροῦ καθελοῦσα, στέφος χαριτόπλοκον, ἐκ Θεοῦ ἐκομίσω, ὃν ἐκδυσώπει Μάρτυς ἐκτενῶς, ἐλεηθήναι, τοὺς σὲ μακαρίζοντας.
* Phrygia was a mountainous region of Asia Minor between the Aegean plains and the central plateau west of the Halys and the interior desert.
Friday, September 18, 2009
This video is a must see. Frank Schaeffer pulls out all the punches against, what he calls, Republican Fundamentalists. This interview was in response to a New Jersey poll in which 35% of NJ Conservatives believe that President Obama may be the Antichrist (18% were sure of it) and 61% of McCaine voters in NJ aren't sure if Obama was born in the U.S.
by Gary R. Habermas
The usual attempts to defend the historical reliability of the New Testament are often fairly general in nature. These arguments are typically based on the quantity, quality, and early date of the available New Testament manuscripts; the traditional authorship of the books; extrabiblical confirmation; and a few archaeological discoveries. This evidence for the trustworthiness of the New Testament is often contrasted with ancient classical Greek and Roman writings, which do not exhibit the same wealth of data.
Lesser known among conservative scholars, however, are several, more recent and specific approaches that critical scholars apply to the Gospel texts. One of these approaches involves applying certain critical criteria of authenticity to particular texts, namely, to events and sayings that are reported in the four gospels. These contemporary techniques have mined many gems that indicate the historical richness of the Gospel accounts, while illuminating many aspects of Jesus’ life.
The historical reliability of the New Testament has long been a mainstay in Christian apologetics. For decades, believers have used avenues such as manuscript evidence, authorship, extrabiblical sources, and archaeology to show that the thousands of existing copies of the New Testament accurately preserve the original texts, as well as correctly report what actually occurred. The purpose of these approaches is primarily to argue that we have essentially what the biblical authors wrote and that these works are trustworthy historical accounts.1 This has been especially important in demonstrating that the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ teachings and actions are accurate.
In recent years, however, critical scholars2 have developed other tools that have uncovered additional grounds for recognizing certain Gospel accounts as historical reports. Most of the scholars who utilize these methods are not theologically conservative; nevertheless, often they have provided means by which to ascertain the historicity of separate sayings or incidents in the life of Jesus.
In this article, I will initially provide some brief comments regarding the older, more familiar paths taken by scholars who have sought to show that the Gospel accounts are reliable. I will then explain just one of the more recent avenues that uncovers some exciting new developments, namely, certain criteria that indicate when a specific text most likely includes a historical report.
Older strategies that support the historical reliability of the New Testament often begin by pointing out that the New Testament documents enjoy superior manuscript evidence. Indications are that the New Testament is supported by more than 5,500 copies and partial copies in Greek and other languages, while most ancient classical Greek and Roman texts have fewer than 10 each. There is, moreover, comparatively little significant variation between these New Testament manuscripts, even those that belong to different textual “families” (groups or branches of texts that have “descended” from the originals).
This extraordinary quantity and quality of the available texts does not tell us if the New Testament writings are historically reliable; however, most scholars think that the large number of manuscripts and portions does indicate that we have essentially what the authors originally wrote. This is obviously a crucial starting point.
The New Testament copies also are much earlier—that is, closer to their original writings—than the classical texts. Most of the New Testament is available from copies that date from only 100–150 years after its completion, while a copy of the entire New Testament dates from about another 100 years after that. In contrast, copies of the classical texts generally date from 700–1,400 years after their original compositions. This enormous difference indicates that the copies of the New Testament are likely more reliable than the copies of any of its counterparts.3
Generally speaking, critical scholars readily admit these initial two points of manuscript number and date. John A. T. Robinson, for example, agrees that “the wealth of manuscripts, and above all the narrow interval of time between the writing and the earliest extant copies, make it by far the best attested text of any ancient writing in the world.”4 Even the skeptical Helmut Koester attests, “Classical authors are often represented by but one surviving manuscript….But there are nearly five thousand manuscripts of the NT in Greek.…the manuscript tradition of the NT begins as early as the end of II CE [the second century AD]….Thus it seems that NT textual criticism possesses a base which is far more advantageous than that for the textual criticism of classical authors.”5
These are excellent indicators that we have essentially what the various authors originally wrote. New Testament scholar John Wenham thinks that the overall biblical text is 99.99 percent pure, without any of the differences affecting doctrine.6
Other areas of research take the next step by showing that the texts also reliably report the historical facts. Arguments that favor the traditionally accepted authors as being either the original writers or the chief sources behind certain New Testament books supply a strong move in this direction. The best example of this reliability that has been uncovered in recent years is the evidence that Paul was the author of at least the major works that bear his name.7
Additionally, approximately one-and-a-half dozen non-Christian, extrabiblical sources confirm many details from Jesus’ life and teachings as found in the Gospels.8 Early Christians such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius, and Polycarp provide even more confirmation, writing just 10 years or less after the completion of the New Testament.9 Archaeological sources do not contribute as much corroboration in New Testament studies as they do in Old Testament studies, but there are a number of indications that, when the details can be checked, the New Testament is often confirmed.10
There are a number of pieces of evidence that, especially when taken together, confirm the traditional picture regarding the life and teachings of Jesus. This is not to say that all the pertinent questions have been answered;11 but the available evidence from a variety of angles confirms the strong foundation on which we can base the general reliability of the New Testament reports of the historical Jesus.
Conservative scholars still gravitate to the traditional paths to show that the New Testament texts are reliable and many worthwhile insights emerge from the findings of these approaches. The quantity and quality of the texts bring us very close to the original wording. Authorship, source, and various kinds of historical confirmation all contribute data that support the accuracy of the New Testament reports.
Recent critical scholars, however, tend to approach the subject from other angles; and although they recognize a number of the traditional insights, they are not as interested in the overall trustworthiness of the New Testament. Their work is largely based on the twin assumptions that the various New Testament writings differ in value, and that, even within each composition, there is a mixture of worthwhile and questionable material; therefore, they avoid arguments for the reliability of the whole and concentrate on individual insights.
Among the strategies that critical scholars prefer, there are, nevertheless, many gems to be explored and mined. These treasures, though different, can strengthen the case for the historical reliability of various portions of the New Testament. Some of these prizes can add a more specific component to the general approach preferred by many Christian apologists. We will only be able to pursue one of the avenues to the reliability of various Gospel reports that might be explored here,12 namely, the criteria of authenticity.
As I noted above, recent critical scholars seldom address the question of New Testament reliability in a wholesale manner; rather, they tend to apply various analytical principles to the text in order to ascertain individual passages that present the highest likelihood of providing legitimate insights, historical or otherwise. This approach tends to isolate portions of the text, providing individual snippets.
It should be noted here that the methods or principles that contemporary biblical scholars use to analyze texts are actually borrowed from the approach that secular historians regularly apply to ancient texts. One seldom finds a complete list of these principles, perhaps due in part to each scholar’s preference for some of them over others. Eight of these rules that are regularly applied to the Gospel material, along with examples of each, are listed below.
Eight Criteria of Authenticity
The first two principles are not usually listed as part of the criteria of authenticity, but they are well recognized by scholars. (1) Early evidence is strongly preferred above later contributions. The difference of even a decade or two can be crucial. Regarding the historical Jesus, any material from between AD 30 and 50 would be exemplary, a time period highly preferred by scholars such as those in the Jesus Seminar.13
Reports from such an early date would actually predate the written gospels. A famous example is the list of Jesus’ resurrection appearances that Paul supplies in 1 Corinthians 15:3–8. Most critical scholars think that Paul’s reception of at least the material on which this early creedal statement is based is dated to the AD 30s.14 Other examples are supplied by the brief creedal statements that many scholars find embedded within the book of Acts, which Gerald O’Collins dates to the AD 30s.15 Another instance is the statement of high christology found in Matthew 11:27 and Luke 10:22, which some scholars date to the AD 50s.16 Paul’s earliest epistles also date from the AD 50s.
(2) One of the strongest evidences possible for reliability is when early sources are derived from eyewitnesses who actually participated in some of the events. Historian David Hackett Fischer dubs this “the rule of immediacy” and terms it “the best relevant evidence.”17 Ancient sources that are both very early and based on eyewitness testimony are a combination that is very difficult to dismiss.
One reason critical scholars take Paul’s testimony so seriously is that his writings provide a very early date as well as eyewitness testimony to what Paul believed was a resurrection appearance of Jesus. This is conceded even by atheist scholar Michael Martin.18 Other crucial instances would concern any eyewitness testimony that can be located in the Gospel accounts.
(3) Independent attestation or confirmation of a report by more than one source19 is another chief indication that a particular claim may be factual. Historian Paul L. Maier asserts, “Many facts from antiquity rest on just one ancient source, while two or three sources in agreement generally render the fact unimpeachable.”20 The skeptical Jesus Seminar emphasizes items “attested in two or more independent sources.”21
Several important examples might be provided. Jesus’ miracles are reported in all five of the sources often recognized in the Gospel accounts,22 with some specific occurrences reported in more than one.23 Jesus’ crucial “Son of Man” sayings are also attested in all five sources,24 and the empty tomb is reported in at least three, if not four, of them.25 This helps to explain why these items are taken so seriously by recent critical scholars.
(4) A rather skeptical criterion of authenticity is termed dissimilarity or discontinuity. It is frequently criticized, yet it continues to be a very popular tool for determining the historicity of some of Jesus’ teachings. Here it is thought that a particular saying can be attributed to someone only if it cannot be plausibly accounted for as the words or teaching of other contemporary sources. For Jesus, it must be determined if one of the Gospel teachings can be attributed to either Jewish thought or to the exhortations of the early church. Historian Michael Grant calls this the “principal valid method of research.”26
I have already mentioned that Jesus’ “Son of Man” sayings are attested to by multiple sources. It can also be shown that, by the principle of dissimilarity, they are unaccounted for by either Jewish or early Christian teachings. Some Jews did have a “Son of Man” concept (as indicated by texts like 1 Enoch 46:2; 48:2–5, 10; 52:4; 62:5–9; 69:28–29; and 4 Ezra 13:3ff.), but, of course, they did not apply this to Jesus. Furthermore, even though “Son of Man” is Jesus’ favorite self-designation in the Gospels, none of the New Testament epistles attribute this title to Jesus even a single time. The conclusion is that, in all likelihood, Jesus must have used this designation for Himself.27
(5) Another criterion applied to the study of the Gospels is the presence of Aramaic words, substrata (underlying layers), environment, or other indications of a Palestinian origin. Perhaps when these conditions appear in the Gospels, we are looking through a window into the actual teachings of Jesus.
One major study of an Aramaic term is provided by Joachim Jeremias’s well-known and influential research on whether Jesus utilized the word abba as a reference to God (Mark 14:36).28 Jeremias’s positive conclusions have been qualified, yet the case remains that this is an instance where Jesus probably employed an unusual term that Jews very rarely applied to God.29 This word as used by Jesus is therefore best understood as a familiar, personal, and even intimate reference for His Father.
(6) Coherence is a more general criterion. If a purported event or teaching fits well with what is already known concerning other surrounding occurrences and teachings of Jesus, it may be said to have a basis in history.30 Perhaps the proposed event or saying does even more by illuminating other known incidents and rendering them more intelligible.
Meier thinks that coherence is one of the best indicators of Jesus’ teachings. Jesus’ comment in Mark 12:18–27 concerning the resurrection of the dead, for example, coheres well with a saying of Jesus on the same subject of the afterlife reported in Matthew 8:11–12 and Luke 13:28–29, as well as other teachings of Jesus.31 Meier concludes that another instance in the Gospels is the teaching that Jesus’ family had rejected Him, which coheres well with Jesus’ repeated teaching that believers will be called to leave their own families for the sake of Himself and His kingdom (e.g., Mark 10:29–31).32
In addition to these major criteria, other details from Jesus’ life are enhanced by additional considerations. (7) The principle of embarrassment, negative report, or surprise is indicated by the presence of disparaging remarks made by the author about him- or herself, another individual, or event, concerning which the author is friendly and has a vested interest.33 The point is that, in normal circumstances, most people need a sufficient reason to report negative things about something that they deem valuable, or someone they love dearly. This would appear to be the case especially where the purpose of the writing was to instruct the readers in holy living.
Many examples of the principle of embarrassment can be found in the Gospels. The strong unbelief of James, Jesus’ own brother, prior to the crucifixion (Mark 3:20–25; John 7:5), for instance, begs an adequate cause for exposing such a report about this apostle and pious leader in the early church. This is why the majority of recent critical scholars believe that these are authentic reports.34 Another example is Jesus’ saying in Mark 13:32, where in the very same context in which He indicates that He is the Son of the Father, He also declares that He does not know the time of His coming. The report does not explain why the Son of God would not know something about the future.35
The fact that all four gospels report that the first ones to discover Jesus’ empty tomb were women is also quite embarrassing. It was not customary for women even to testify in court, especially when it came to crucial matters, which indicates that the early church would not have desired to make them their chief witnesses unless they actually were.36 Lastly, the repeated unbelief and other negative reactions reported about the disciples, both when Jesus told them about His resurrection before it occurred (Mark 8:31–33; 9:31–32; 10:32–34; 14:27–31), as well as after Jesus had risen from the dead (Matt. 28:17; Luke 24:36–38; John 20:19, 24–25), are further indications, again, that they really did react this way. Why else would the Gospel writers place the disciples, the leaders of the early church, in such a negative light?37
(8) The criterion of enemy attestation is satisfied when an antagonistic source expresses agreement regarding a person or event when it is contrary to their best interests to do so. Maier holds that “such positive evidence within a hostile source is the strongest kind of evidence…If Cicero, who despised Catiline, admitted that the fellow had one good quality—courage—among a host of bad ones then the historian correctly concludes that Catiline was at least courageous.”38
One example of enemy attestation in the Gospels is the repeated testimony that those who opposed Jesus either witnessed His miracles and failed to challenge them (Mark 3:1–6) or attributed them to Satan (Mark 3:22–27), thus acknowledging these events. Marcus Borg of the Jesus Seminar points out that this is one of the reasons that make it “virtually indisputable that Jesus was a healer and exorcist.”39 In another instance, the Jewish priests are said to have paid the guards at Jesus’ tomb in order to have them report that the disciples stole Jesus’ body (Matt. 28:11–15), thereby agreeing that Jesus’ tomb had indeed been discovered to be empty.
Critical criteria such as these are very helpful in establishing especially the historicity of separate Gospel accounts. Viewing the texts from various angles helps indicate that many of Jesus’ stories and sayings are historically grounded.
THE MINIMAL FACTS METHOD
A final consideration concerns the overall methodology employed when arguing for the reliability of the New Testament. One of the strongest indications of historicity occurs when a saying or event can be constructed from data that are admittedly well established, even across a wide range of otherwise diverse historical opinions. Historian Christopher Blake speaks of such scholarly agreement as the “very considerable part of history which is acceptable to the community of professional historians.”40
Along these lines, I have frequently proposed what I have termed the minimal facts historical method, in which I employ only those data that satisfy at least two major standards. Each event or saying must be (1) exceptionally well attested on multiple grounds, which might be indicated, for example, by authenticity criteria such as those listed above. The event or saying must also be (2) recognized as historical by the vast majority of scholars who address this subject, especially when they oppose the conclusion that they think is nonetheless warranted.
The first of these two standards is clearly the most significant. Strong confirmation of events and sayings, each for multiple reasons, places the emphasis directly on the factual claims themselves. The second standard—recognition by a strong majority of critical scholars—is still very helpful, but this can easily change over time, sometimes without reference to the data itself. This approach, as a chief method of investigation, allows the New Testament’s best historical data to be showcased in order to make the strongest case available.41
A FAMILIAR CONCLUSION
Traditional apologetic paths still generate several strong reasons for believing in the overall reliability of the New Testament. The various criteria of authenticity discussed above, however, have more specific applications within the Gospel accounts and presently are often the decisive tests employed in the study of the historical Jesus. Christian apologists would do well to investigate these new paths that support a familiar conclusion.
1. For the purposes of this article, we are not differentiating between the terms reliability and trustworthiness.
2. A “critical” scholar, as used here, is one who applies (or interacts with) contemporary methods of examining the biblical text.
3. See F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1960), 16–18; Josh McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999), esp. chap. 3.
4. John A. T. Robinson, Can We Trust the New Testament? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), 36.
5. Helmut Koester, History and Literature of Early Christianity, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982), 2:16–17.
6. John W. Wenham, Christ and the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1984), 186–87.
7. Numerous details and perspectives on Paul’s writings are found in Ben Witherington III, The Paul Quest: The Renewed Search for the Jew of Tarsus (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1998). See also Paul Barnett, Is the New Testament Reliable? A Look at the Historical Evidence (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1986), esp. chaps. 5–8, 11–12.
8. See Gary R. Habermas, The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1996), chap. 9; F. F. Bruce, Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974).
9. See J. B. Lightfoot, trans. and ed., The Apostolic Fathers (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1891, 1956); cf. Habermas, chap. 10.
10. See R. T. France, The Evidence for Jesus, The Jesus Library, ed. Michael Green (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1986), chap. 4; Bruce, New Testament Documents, chap. 8.
11. For a general consideration of many important issues, see Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1987).
12. For a brief listing of these criteria, plus an outline of several other critical approaches, see Gary R. Habermas, “Why I Believe the New Testament is Historically Reliable,” in Why I am a Christian: Leading Thinkers Explain Why They Believe, Norman L. Geisler and Paul K. Hoffman, eds. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2001), chap. 9.
13. This is the first of “The Rules of Oral Evidence,” as emphasized by Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus (New York: Macmillan, 1993), 25–26.
14. Walter Kasper even argues that this material may have been in use in AD 30! Walter Kasper, Jesus the Christ, trans. V. Green. (Mahweh, NJ: Paulist Press, 1974), 125; cf. Funk and Hoover, 24, 128.
15. Gerald O’Collins, Interpreting Jesus (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1983), 109.
16. The Jesus Seminar dates the so-called “Q” tradition that they believe was the source of these passages to the AD 50s (Funk and Hoover, 18, 128).
17. David Hackett Fischer, Historian’s Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought (New York: Harper and Row, 1970), 62. Fischer includes the archaeological “remains” of an occurrence and treats these as more primary than “direct observations.” For eyewitness reporting in ancient Greek writing, see Ernst Breisach, Historiography: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 38–39. For some concerns by one of the few ancient historians to address metahistorical issues, see Lucian of Samosata, How to Write History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1959), esp. 7–15.
18. Michael Martin, The Case Against Christianity (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991), 81.
19. Some scholars have also proposed multiple attestation of literary forms or patterns.
20. Paul L. Maier, In the Fullness of Time: A Historian Looks at Christmas, Easter, and the Early Church (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1991), 197.
21. Funk and Hoover, 26.
22. These five sources are (1) Mark; (2) the material found in Matthew (M) alone; (3) the material found in Luke (L) alone; (4) the “Q” sayings, which many scholars think are the source of the common material in Matthew and Luke; and (5) John.
23. Marcus Borg acknowledges that the attestation of Jesus’ miracles in the Gospels is “widespread.” Marcus Borg, Jesus: A New Vision; Spirit, Culture, and the Life of Discipleship (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1987), 61. See also the in-depth study on this topic, including the multiple attestation of Jesus’ miracles, in John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, vol. 2, Mentor, Message, and Miracles (New York: Doubleday, 1994), esp. 967–70.
24. Gary Habermas, The Risen Jesus and Future Hope (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003), 102.
25. Ibid., 23.
26. Michael Grant, Jesus: An Historian’s Review of the Gospels (1977; New York: Macmillan, Collier Books Edition, 1992), 202.
27. Meier spends considerable time on another example of discontinuity between the distinctives of Jesus’ message and those of the Dead Sea community. See John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, vol. 3, Companions and Competitors (New York: Doubleday, 2001), 489–532, 633–36.
28. Joachim Jeremias, The Central Message of the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1965), 9–30; Joachim Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus, 2nd rev. ed., trans. S. H. Hooke (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1972), 100–114.
29. Even Norman Perrin views this term as one a Jewish child might use of his father, and thinks that Jesus used it to refer to God. Perrin also thinks it fulfills the criterion of dissimilarity. Rediscovering the Teaching of Jesus (New York: Harper and Row, 1967), 37–41.
30. Cf. W. B. Gallie, “Explanations in History and the Genetic Sciences,” in Patrick Gardiner, ed., Theories of History: Readings from Classical and Contemporary Sources (New York: Macmillan, 1959), 397–98; the idea in critical New Testament research is pursued in Perrin, 43–45.
31. Meier, Companions and Competitors, esp. 437–44.
32. Ibid., 69, 72.
33. Grant, 202–3; cf. Funk and Hoover, 23.
34. See, e.g., the listing of scholars in Habermas, The Risen Jesus and Future Hope, 21–22.
35. Donald Guthrie speaks for many when he states that this comment is simply too embarrassing to have been invented, so its authenticity should not be questioned. New Testament Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1981), 794n14.
36. Habermas, The Risen Jesus and Future Hope, 23–24.
37. For a single example of the many relevant comments here, see Ben F. Meyer, The Aims of Jesus (London: SCM Press, 1979), 60.
38. Maier, 198–99.
39. Borg, 61.
40. Christopher Blake, “Can History be Objective?” in Gardiner, 331.
41. I have utilized this twofold methodology in my publications on Jesus’ death and resurrection. For examples, see The Risen Jesus and Future Hope, chap. 1, esp. 8–10, 26–31, and The Historical Jesus, 158–67. For an application to the deity of Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God, and salvation, see The Risen Jesus and Future Hope, chaps. 3–6. On how this approach might be applied to the doctrine of inspiration, see Gary R. Habermas, “Jesus and the Inspiration of Scripture,” Areopagus Journal 2 (2002): esp. 14–15.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
By Fr. George Metallinos
(From the book I Confess One Baptism)
The appearance in the eighteenth century of the Kollyvades on the Holy Mountain, and in Greece in general, constitutes a dynamic return to the roots of Orthodox tradition, to the "philokalic" experience which is at the core of the Orthodox Church's spirituality. Their "movement", as it was called, was regenerative and traditional, progressive and yet patristic. In other words, genuinely Orthodox. Using the scholarly methods of the time (composing writings), they first of all revealed the continuity of hesychasm on the Holy Mountain Athos, and at the same time remained faithful not only to the theoretical formulation of the hesychastic-Palamite theology, but also to its practical applications, i.e. the whole spectrum of the ascetic experience. Through the dissemination of their works and by their struggles in defence of the tradition, they formed the counter balance against the European "Enlightenment," and in their own right became enlighteners of their Nation and of Orthodoxy at large. That is why they were loved by traditionalists, but hated and fought (or slandered) by those who were instilled with the spirit of Frankish scholasticism or of the Anglo-French Enlightenment and were thus cut off from the philokalic roots. The hypertrophic (metaphysical) rationalism of the westernizers, a standing threat to the patristic way of theology, thus proved to be foreign to the experiential and Holy-Spiritual way of theology which the Kollyvades Fathers embodied and preached. If our reconnection with the genuine, theological tradition of the Fathers has been achieved in our day, this is owed to the precursory labors of the Kollyvades.
A contingent of Athonite monks in the second half of the eighteenth century, living within the tradition of "noetic prayer" or "prayer of the heart," and being provoked by a seemingly insignificant happening, which, however, had deep theological roots and enormous extensions, will light the Church's course and reveal the continuity or discontinuity of the fullness of Orthodoxy.
The monks of St. Anne's Skete on the Holy Mountain were building a larger church and, since they wanted to be able to work on Saturdays in order to complete it, they decided to move the memorial services from Saturday to Sunday after the Divine Liturgy. This decision, which conflicted with the Church's practice and theology (Sunday being the day of the Resurrection is a day of joy), scandalized the deacon Neophytos the Peloponnesian of the nearby Skete of Kafsokalyvia, who was the first to rise up with a theological campaign against the decision of the monks of St. Anne's. One further event also served to intensify the now ignited flame. In 1777, a book advocating the necessity of "frequent Holy Communion" was published from among the circle of Athonite hesychasts who, because of their involvement in the dispute "concerning memorial services" were by their opponents collectively called Kollyvades (from kollyva, the boiled wheat used at memorial services). The book was condemned by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1785, for it supposedly created scandals and dissensions. Aside from exposing the contra-traditional attitude of the monks of St. Anne's, this action revealed how Orthodox criteria had become obscured, thus affirming, also for Greece, what the ever-memorable Fr. Georges Florovsky called "pseudomorphosis." The Patriarchate's later decision, moreover, by which the condemnation was lifted, serves to show the instability of these matters.
The men who advocated the canonical performance of memorial services on Saturday also advocated frequent Holy Communion (when, of course, the correct Orthodox presuppositions of an ongoing spiritual life exist), thus ranging the practice of the early Church against the unfounded actions of their opponents. The latter, being as they were completely estranged from the tradition of the holy Fathers, accused the Kollyvades of being innovators, in exactly the same way that the fourteenth century Scholastics (Nicephorus Gregoras, John Kyparissiotes, etc.) had accused the hesychasts of the Holy Mountain of being "modernists." But then, the case of the Kollyvades is only a repetition of the affair of the hesychasts of the fourteenth century; for both groups, each in its own way, stood up against the spirit of the estranged West and against the westernizing of the "unionists" and westernizers of the East. The Kollyvades emphasized the issue of worship, for they diagnosed that there, i.e. in the area of the spirituality that preserved the unity of the subjugated Orthodox people, the problem of estrangement was perceptible. They encouraged participation in the sacraments/mysteries of the Church accompanied by a parallel spiritual struggle. They strove for the correct observance of the Church's typicon that would maintain the spiritual balance, and for the study of patristic works that would cultivate a patristic, i.e. the Church's mind. That is why the honor belongs to the Kollyvades, in that they preserved the Apostolic-Patristic continuity in the Church: noetic prayer and hesychastic practice, asceticism and experience, those enduring and unalterable elements of the Orthodox identity.
This contingent of Athonite hesychasts (Kollyvades) had their leaders, three of whom are among the theologians dealt with in the present study. Namely they are the following:
1) Neophytos Kafsokalyvitis (1713-1784), from 1749 rector of Athonias School on the Holy Mountain, is the man who initiated the cause; but after his expulsion from the Holy Mountain, he discontinued his active participation in the Kollyvades "movement" for reasons unknown. He dealt mainly with education, serving as rector in Chios around 1760; in Adrianoupolis in 1763; and in what is today Romania, Bucharest 1767, Bravsko 1770, and from 1773 until his death again in Bucharest. He left behind a number of important works, among which are some on canon law.
2) Saint Makarios (1731-1805), a descendant of the renowned Byzantine family of Notaras, was born in Corinth and later became Metropolitan of the diocese of Corinth (1765-1769). He was the "animator" of the movement and the person who not only encouraged St. Nikodemos to write, but also supplied him with material for his works. He died on 16 April 1805 on the island of Chios where he was living at the time, and the people immediately honored him as a Saint.
3) Saint Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain (1749-1809), officially declared a Saint in 1955, was the "theologian" of the Kollyvades contingent. A great hesychast-ascetic and a highly accomplished author of patristic caliber, he left behind a multitude of writings in which the whole patristic tradition is recast. One who studies the works of St. Nikodemos can unreservedly say that he has gone through patristic theology in its entirety. His Handbook of Counsels, for modern times, the representative work on Orthodox spirituality. The publication of the multi-volume Philokalia of the Wakeful Fathers (in collaboration with St. Makarios, but essentially the work of Nikodemos)contributed to spiritual rebirth in Orthodox countries. His work The Rudder constitutes the most authoritative compilation of our Church's holy Canons and explanations of them in conjunction with the Church's spirituality.
4) Athanasios Parios (1722-1813) was the most militant of the Kollyvades, and also the most martyric. From 1776 to 1781 he remained unfrocked as a "heretic" because of his vigorous stand on the issues of tradition. He passionately fought the European Enlightenment, Voltaireanism, and atheism, and was accused of being an obscurantist by his "West-struck" contemporaries. He, however, was not fighting education which he himself served, nor even the exact sciences themselves; but rather the "godless letters" and the conceit of the wisdom of this world (cf. James. 3:15). A prolific author, he left behind numerous writings full of patristic wisdom and spirituality.
The Kollyvades exerted a tremendous influence in their day, but also on the generations that followed. Their influence initially was greater off the Holy Mountain than on it. Today, however, the Holy Mountain acknowledges their contribution to the rebirth of Orthodox spirituality and follows their tradition. In spite of the fact that the Anti-kollyvades by far outnumbered the Kollyvades and engaged in a systematic persecution of them, not only did they fail to frustrate the latter's effort, but they in fact contributed to the spreading of their spirit in Greece and in the other Orthodox countries (Trans-danubian regions, Russia, etc.). To the Kollyvades is owed the rebirth of hesychasm in the nineteenth century. Even today, the Kollyvades Fathers continue to be spiritual guides for the Orthodox, and the principal bridge of reconnection with the patristic tradition. The rediscovery of the hesychasm of the fourteenth century, and chiefly of its champion St. Gregory Palamas (d. 1357), was accomplished thanks to the seeds that the Kollyvades of the eighteenth century sowed.
September 8, 2009
Dean of Orthodox churches in Rostov-on-Don, Archpriest Ioann Osyak, was decorated with the order of Sts Peter and Fevronia of Murom, the heavenly protectors of family.
The 18th child has been recently born to his family. Now he has got ten daughters and eight sons, the Express-Gazeta has reported on Tuesday.
The priest’s wife spent several days in the hospital to have her lungs artificially ventilated, but now her life is not endangered.
Last year in Kremlin, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev awarded the Osyak family with the Order of Parents Glory.
According to Fr. Ioann, his wife and he first planned to have two children, but now they are ready for the nineteenth baby.
Archpriest Nikolay Stremsky, Rector of the Holy Trinity Convent of Mercy in Saraktash village, brings up seventy children and his family is considered the biggest in Russia. He was earlier given St. Andrew the First-Called International Prize For Faith and Devotion.
The country’s renowned religious leader Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar also has one of the biggest families: now his wife Hanna and he have got twelve children.
Moral Relativism - Dark Cloud on the Horizon
Since the 1960's Western society, hitherto Christian in foundation, has come under the influence of a school of moral theology known as Consequentialism. Conseqгentialism, essentially denies objective truth and leads to moral relativism. Ultimately it leads to a culture of death that today sanctions everything from contraception to abortion, homosexual activity, sex outside of marriage, divorce, sterilization, in-vitro fertilization, pornography, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia and even false notions of a just war.
Consequentialism claims to draw the criteria of the rightness of a given way of acting solely from a calculation of foreseeable consequences deriving from a given choice. Consequentialism acknowledges moral values but maintains that it is never possible to formulate an absolute prohibition of particular kinds of behaviour which would be in conflict, in every circumstance and in every culture, with those values. In his book ‘Orthodoxy” G.K. Chesterton maintains that this is a false theory of progress. “We often hear it said, for instance , ‘What is right in one age is wrong in another’. This is quite reasonable, if it means that there is a fixed aim, and that certain methods attain at certain times and not at other times...[However] if the standard changes , how can there be improvement , which implies a standard?
The so-called goal of Consequentialism is to maximize the good of humanity. It operates on the Utilitarian principle that “the ends justify the means”. As a result human beings are often treated in an impersonal way i.e. not for their own sake but for the utility that can be derived from them.
Moral philosopher Bernard Williams criticized Conseqentialism on the grounds that the central idea of Consequentialism is that the only kind of thing that has intrinsic value is “states of affairs’. For the consequentialist human acts have no value in and of themselves but only insofar as they produce the best states of affairs. The right act is the act, of those available to choose from, that brings about the best consequences while supposedly maximizing the overall good of everyone’s self interest.
Williams also objected to the doctrine of “negative responsibility” that follows from Consequentialism’s assigning ultimate value to states of affair. This doctrine holds that one is just as responsible for the things that he allows to happen or fails to prevent as he is for the things he brings about. Consequentialism, then, does not take seriously the distinctiveness of persons but rather treats them impartially. It totally subordinates the individual to the collectivity. This deprives persons of their identity and integrity.
Consequentialism is a dehumanizing formula for it reduces human beings to material objects which can be exploited and to commodities that can be bought and sold. It reduces them to beings whose free will has effectively been abrogated - beings upon whom a judgment of moral good or evil cannot validly be passed. Such a philosophy ends up poisoning the social structures and human relations it purports to strengthen - defeating, in turn, its own purpose.
Some like Peter Railton advanced Consequentialism to a stage that supposedly allows the individual person the freedom to pursue personal goals of happiness while remaining, at the same time, subject to the collectivity. This “sophisticated consequentialist” is not always bound to consequentialist calculating, to rules or to “directly” seeking the goal of maximizing the good. Instead, he may at times find it more advantageous to “indirectly” maximize the good by cultivating certain, necessary areas of personal interest such as human relationships - relationships whose intimacy and friendship are not subject to suffer the “loss” and “alienation” that often comes with direct consequentialism. This would mean that on an act to act basis the sophisticated consequentialist will sometimes do the wrong thing according to his criterion of right in order to achieve the overall good. Here we have the clear justification for claiming that the ends justify the means. We also have the foundation for moral relativism.
This theory necessarily entails the cultivation of certain dispositions or character traits that are the product of moral, emotional, sociological and psychological inconsistency. These include a certain weakness of will, indecisiveness, rationalization and guilt. More precisely it involves a certain form of self-deception that enables the consequentialist to live a double life.
At the level of morality however, the conscience, being one and indivisible, does not permit the acting out of parallel lives. Scripture has it that "no man can serve two masters" (Matt. 6: 24). Railton’s sophisticated consequentialist serves as a psychological artifice to disguise this fact in order to allow the consequentialist the opportunity to live comfortably in a fictitious world of his own choosing.
How often do we see this charade being played out in the real world with our politicians?
Politicians, in order to get elected will first compartmentalize and separate their private life from their public life - claiming, in effect that one can lead an authentic Christian life while sustaining two different realities of existence. They will claim, for example, that one can privately oppose abortion, in unison with his or her religious faith while politically supporting, at the same time, a woman's right to choose. The longer this facade is upheld and sustained the more the conscience is degraded at its most core level to that of a mechanism producing excuses for one’s conduct. Incrementally, one begins to construct a wall of resistence to anyone who might oppose this parallel existence. As one’s guilt is pushed beneath the level of the specific judgement pronounced by conscience to that level of “neglect of one’s own being”, one becomes dulled to the voice of truth and eventually incapable of any longer hearing the voice of conscience. This explains how our politicians can publically, and out of a hardened conviction, confuse the reality of objective truth.
Ultimately, Consequentialism is something morally and psychologically debilitating. It eventually ends up poisoning all of society for when its’ gravely immoral policies make their way into law, they begin to incrementally, surreptitiously, almost invisibly, impose themselves on society by both coercion and force - marginalizing in the process both religion and those of religious faith.
Consequentialist - utilitarian ideology, which purports to bring about the greatest good for the greatest number of people, is insufficient for it operates from within a narrow landscape of particular instances and doesn’t consider - nor can it - how different situations are ultimately connected to each other in time or how they are understood in relation to the persons that help bring them about. In other words it functions on appeal only to consequences the totality of which cannot be known but which are necessary - according to its own standard in the absence of absolute truth - to arrive at a truthful decision. What may at first appear to be clearly the best thing in a particular situation may in the long run turn out to be the worst thing and vice versa.
Albeit calculated, every decision becomes little more than a shot in the dark. Consequentialism thus pretends to achieve the harmony of oneself with the cosmic “whole”, the overcoming of all separations - including the distance that separates creature from Creator. In this context, responsibility, evil, goodness and moral judgement become something collective without a clear concept or manageable moral definition. In fact Immoral acts, such as lying, dishonesty, cheating, stealing, killing, are often falsely elevated to the status of moral virtues under the description of the “right act” - that being the act required to bring about the “perceived” greater good. This is especially evident in the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century that have been largely motivated by consequentialist ideologies. Ultimately, Consequentialism fails as an adequate moral theory worthy of human pursuit. It succeeds only in advancing a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.
Ninety Tombs Desecrated In Historical Orthodox Christian Cemetery - Photos
Report by N. Manginas
Ninety tombs were desecrated by vandals in the beginning of September, at Baloukli cemetery, bringing to mind the tragic pogrom of the Greek community in September 1955. The vandalisms were ascertained in the morning of September 2nd by the guards of the nearby historical Monastery of the Life-giving Spring of Baloukli. The unknown individuals, who committed the sacrilege act, entered by the stone fence of the cemetery that faces the road.
After viewing the destroyed tombstones, the Board of Trustees of Baloukli Hospital, began construction of a higher fence so that access to the cemetery may be prevented. In most of the graves, are buried ethnic Greeks who lived the last years of their lives in the Nursing Home of Baloukli.
The vandals broke in pieces the tombstones that were bearing the cross, the names and dates of birth and death of those who died. The authorities are looking into the case. This incident, which has not yet been widely known, has created great concern among the Greek minority in Istanbul. It should be noted that on many other occasions in the past, the government has tracked down desecrations of smaller scale but this is the first time that so many burial plots have been vandalized. The destroyed tombstones will be restored when the work for building the outside fence is completed so that a new "invasion" of vandals will be prevented.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
One day Father Paisios was going through a very difficult phase. A problem was created in the Church at that time and many bishops had gone to him to ask for his help. However, it was a very complicated problem and even if he wanted to, he was unable to assist; as he said, no matter from which side you look at the problem, you come face to face with a spiritual impasse. So, he decided to turn his efforts to solve the problem with prayer. During that time, Father Paisios constantly prayed for God to give solution to the Church’s problem; he prayed especially to St. Ephemia:
"St. Euphemia, you who miraculously solved the serious problem the Church was facing then, take the Church out of the present impasse!"
One morning, at nine o’ clock, when Father Paisios was reading the service of the third hour, he suddenly heard someone discreetly knocking on his door. The Elder asked from inside:
"Who is it?" Then, he heard a woman’s voice answering:
"It is me, Euphemia, Father."
"Which Euphemia?" He asked again. There was no answer. There was another knock on the door and he asked again. "Who is it?" The same voice was heard saying:
"It is Euphemia, Father."
There was a third knock and the Elder felt someone coming inside his cell and walking through the corridor. He went to the door and there he saw St. Euphemia, who had miraculously entered his cell through the locked door and was venerating the icon of the Holy Trinity, which the Elder had placed on the wall of his corridor, on the right hand side of the church’s door. Then the Elder told the Saint: "Say: Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." St. Euphemia clearly repeated those words and immediately Father Paisios knelt and venerated the Saint. Afterwards, they sat and talked for quite a while; he could not specify for how long, as he had lost all sense of time while being with St. Euphemia. She gave the solution for all three matters he had been praying for and in the end he said to her: "I would like you to tell me how you endured your martyrdom."
The Saint replied: "Father, if I knew back then how eternal life would be and the heavenly beauty the souls enjoy by being next to God, I honestly would have asked for my martyrdom to last for ever, as it was absolutely nothing compared to the gifts of grace of God!"
Towards the end of June, the doctors informed [Elder Paisios] that he had about 2-3 weeks left. On Monday, July 11, on St. Euphemia’s day, Father Paisios received Holy Communion for the last time, kneeling in front of his bed. During the last 24 hours, he was very serene, and even though he suffered, he did not complain at all. He did not wish to take any more medication. The only medicine he accepted was cortisone, because, according to the doctors, it would not prolong his life span, but it would only give him some strength. On Tuesday, July 12, Elder Paisios humbly and peacefully rendered his soul to God, whom he had deeply loved and served since his early childhood.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
O Lord Jesus, unto Thee Thy lamb doth cry with a great voice: O my Bridegroom, Thee I love; and seeking Thee, I now contest, and with Thy baptism am crucified and buried. I suffer for Thy sake, that I may reign with Thee; for Thy sake I die, that I may live in Thee: accept me offered out of longing to Thee as a spotless sacrifice. Lord, save our souls through her intercessions, since Thou art great in mercy.
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Thou strovest valiantly in thy sacred contest; and even after death, thou makest us holy with streams of healings, O all-famed Euphemia. For this cause we venerate thy most holy dormition and with faith we stand before thine all-venerable relics, that we be freed from illness of the soul and also draw forth the grace of thy miracles.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
"I must confess that for Elder Arsenios, the Gospel words, 'Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no guile!' are relevant. He was naturally straight-forward, simple, without offence, meek, obedient; a rare struggler who possessed nothing. For Elder Arsenios, his yes was always yes, and his no, no. He never harbored resentment, no matter how he was wronged. He never got angry; he never hurt anyone. He lived obedience with precision. That is why, through obedience and his unwavering faith in his Elder, he lived in a way that surpassed the laws of nature. During vigils, he began the night labouring excessively by kneeling thousands of times and then remained standing until morning." - Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi
The ever-memorable Elder Arsenios was born in 1886 in Pontus. At a young age he became enflamed with divine zeal and walked from Russia to the Queen of Cities (Constantinople) and from there boarded a ship for the Holy Land. For about a decade he served in the Holy Sepulchre as well as other shrines there.
While there, by divine providence, Arsenios became acquainted with the well-known ascetic of Aegina, the blessed Elder Ieronymos, from whom he learned his first lessons in the ascetical life.
Enflamed with divine love, his soul began to thirst for a life away from the troubles of this world and he fled to Mount Athos, the Garden of the Panagia. His first few years he spent at the Holy Monastery of Stavronikita, where he also received his Great Schema and was named Arsenios. He had been named Anatolios when he received his rason in Jerusalem.
Since Stavronikita at that time operated under an idiorhythmic system, Arsenios desired greater ascetic feats and thus abandoned the monastic life and went into the "wilderness" of Mount Athos in search of great ascetics from whom he could learn and imitate by example to reach perfection.
The Lord, knowing his desire, did not take long to grant Arsenios that which he desired. In his search he found another young man with the same desire as himself. They met for the first time on the very peak of Mount Athos. The power of the Holy Spirit brought these two together as if by a magnetic force. And from that moment the two would not leave each other's side. This other young man was the blessed neptic ascetic famously known as Joseph the Hesychast, one of the greatest Saints of the 20th century. At the time he was just a simple layman named Francisco Kottis.
The two young men then became like bees gathering whatever good and beneficial thing they could from throughout the wilderness of the Holy Mountain, in order to bear the most abundant fruits of the Holy Spirit. They first met the famous Elder Daniel Katounakioti, then Kallinikon the Hesychast, as well as Gerasimos and Ignatios, and whatever other beautiful flowers had sprouted in the wilderness.
In one epistle, Elder Joseph the Hesychast writes: "All the caves of Athos received me as a visitor, step by step...in order to find a spiritual father to teach me heavenly contemplation and works (θεωρίαν και πράξιν)". High in the caves of Saint Peter they found their hearts desire, the rose of the desert, Papa-Daniel the Hesychast. This great ascetic Liturgized every night at midnight between 3-4 hours. This was because it was filled with many interruptions due to the Elder's compunction and emotion during the Liturgy, and it is said that the dirt on the ground would turn to mud from his many tears. He had many spiritual gifts bestowed on him by the grace of God, including that of clairvoyance. All his life he only ate dry foods (ξηροφαγία) once a day at most. It is from this great ascetic that the young Joseph and Arsenios learned the discipline of eating only dry things once a day and the importance of being vigilant.
Elder Arsenios once confessed that for many years he would do 3,000 prostrations every night, and the rest of the vigil he would do standing. For many years, the two spiritual brothers had no bed on which to rest from their very difficult labors. After a vigil that would last throughout the night they would only rest their weary flesh on a small bench while seated.
As for food, the two spiritual brothers would only eat once a day dry foods, primarily dried bread which often was even spoiled or infested with worms. On weekends, if they were able to find it, they would eat whatever they could except meat, but still only once a day.
Besides these labors, Elder Arsenios worked with his hands as well. In those initial years he lived high at Saint Basil's, and it would take him everyday 1-2 hours to walk up and down the hill to provide support not only for themselves, but for all the ascetics of the area. Like Sysiphus, he would carry stones and whatever necessities for preservation and the building of stone shelter and walls.
Because these feats were beyond human strength, Elder Arsenios was once asked how he did all these things. The Elder responded that he would always say the Prayer of the Heart and this would lighten the burden and a higher power would come to his aid. With the Prayer on his lips, the Elder confessed, the necessities he carried up the hill were a light burden, even in the peak days of summer heat.
Reagrding attire, for many years the two ascetics, whether it was winter or summer, dressed in rags and walked around shoeless, to the point where many regarded them as "fools". But they weren't fools in a worldly sense, but for Christ. For them, the words of the Apostle rang true: "They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented - of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth" (Heb. 11:37, 38).
Because these two great ascetics lived approximately for twenty years high in the Skete of Saint Basil, in 1938 they decided to move to a lower area in the Skete of Saint Anna. They did this with a small brotherhood who had gathered around them during this time. There they stayed until 1953. After 1953 they moved to a still lower area to Nea Sketi. The great ascetic Joseph the Hesychast fell asleep here in 1959.
After a number of years Elder Arsenios moved from Nea Sketi and spent twelve years in a cell at Chilandari Monastery known as Burazeri. The last three years of his life he lived in the Holy Monastery of Dionysiou. Because this monastery is dedicated to the Holy Forerunner John the Baptist, Elder Arsenios had him as his protector untill the end of his life. It is here that he fell asleep in the Lord on September 15, 1983 at the age of 97.
May his memory be eternal and may we have his blessing!
Elder Arsenios making a prayer rope
Church of Saint John the Baptist at the Skete of Saint Basil
Church of Saint John the Baptist at the Skete of Saint Basil
Skete of Saint Basil
A Cell in the Skete of Saint Basil
Skete of Saint Anna
The brotherhood of Elder Arsenios at the cell of Burazeri
Abbot Haralambos giving farewell kiss at the funeral service of Elder Arsenios
Abbess Eupraxia, sister according to the flesh of Elder Arsenios
Elder Ieronymos of Aegina
Elder Arsenios the Cave-Dweller
Between August 4-11 in 2009 the relics of St. Joachim were brought to the island of Lefkada, which neighbors Ithaki, to be venerated by the faithful. Hundreds took part in the procession and there were celebrations throughout the island.
...continued from Part 11
THE TRANSLATION OF HIS RELICS
As was proper and natural, the place of Saint Joachim’s spiritual birth assumed the duty of bringing to light and honoring its saintly offspring. In 1991, the Abbot of Vatopaidi Monastery, Archimandrite Ephraim, and fathers of the Monastery went to Ithaki and, with the help of the inhabitants of the island, identified the place of the Saint’s grave. They arranged with the Metropolitan Bishop of the diocese for the translation of the Saint’s relics on May 23 of the following year, 1992. News of this forthcoming event soon became known to the people of Ithaki, as well as to the faithful throughout all of Greece.
Abbot Ephraim, with two fathers from the Monastery, went to Ithaki on the appointed date. With the blessings of His All-Holiness Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch; with the assistance, solidarity and cooperation of Metropolitan Nikiphoros of Levkas and Ithaki; and with the ardent help of the officials and residents of the island, they were able to carry out the translation of the Saint’s relics.
This liturgy was attended by numerous priests and monks and a multitude of people who had thronged together to attend this historic and joyous event.
Following the Divine Liturgy, they began the process of the translation. At the Saint’s grave, which had been transformed into a small chapel, a few of the faithful began breaking up the flooring with sledgehammers, while the rest of the people were exuberantly singing “Christ is Risen.” Indeed the event was Resurrectional and fitted perfectly with the Paschal period of the Pentecostarion, in which it took place. Soon, amid a general atmosphere of pious emotion, monks who were digging at that moment found the first piece of the holy relics and, shortly thereafter, the Saint’s holy skull. Finally, they gathered all of the pieces of the holy relic that they washed and accordance with the usual ordinance, they were washed and arranged.
It is worth pointing out that Saint Joachim had prophesied, “A priest from the Holy Mountain, with a red beard, will take me up [his relics] and be the first to bring me to the people.” This prophecy indeed came true in the person of the Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Vatopaidi!
It is also noteworthy that the Saint had appeared to a priest in his sleep on the eve of the translation. He told him, “During the translation, I will satisfy everyone.” In fact, initially there was a dispute about who had the right to take the Saint’s skull: the Monastery or the Diocese. In the end, however, there was no problem; as soon as they removed the grace-filled skull of the Saint from the grave, it split in two!
That same day, Abbot Ephraim and his company set off for Vatopaidi Monastery, arriving the following day. The brotherhood reserved an especially fervent reception for the Saint, who was returning after nearly 170 years to his beloved monastery, which he had abandoned in order to serve the people of God, particularly in his native homeland of Ithaki.
“Who has known the mind of the Lord, and who has been His counselor?” (Isa. 40:13 LXX; Rom. 11:34).
Although we have attempted in these pages to portray a true friend of God, I am afraid that we may have instead slighted him; for if God has judged that someone is righteous, that person “is judged of no man” (1 Cor. 2:15). How are we then in a position to describe him? Nevertheless, we are not able to refrain from admiring the remarkable extent of this holy man’s influence and sway over the entire population of his island — not only then, through his personal presence, but now as well, after more than a century, through his deeply engrained presence in the memory and soul of the Ithacan people. Listening to the Ithacans talking about Papoulakis, one would think that the Saint is living and walking among them today. This is not something coincidental, but yet another witness to his boldness before God and to the twofold love of God and neighbor that this imitator of Christ so thoroughly cultivated. His dedication to God — and his success, by God’s grace, in living in “His likeness” — was followed by an equally fervent love for his “neighbor.” Consequently, he spent the rest of his life instructing the people and became, according to the maxim, “all things to all people” so that, were it possible, he might console and comfort everyone. Having divine illumination and the charisma of clairvoyance to complement his love toward his neighbor, he unerringly guided God’s people in the various circumstances of life. He liberated every inattentive soul held captive by ignorance or indifference and truly became the savior and teacher of the entire island; this is why today (rightly) they revere him and are so attached of him.
Behold, therefore, an image of a true teacher and educator, of a spiritual father and director, who exemplifies the genuine laborer in the spiritual harvest, one whom the Lord indicates that we should seek out. This blessed man “gave no sleep to his eyes, nor rest to his temples” (see Ps. 131:4 LXX), “nor did he desire the day of man” (see Jer. 17:16), but rather took on the pain and the problems of all the people, fulfilling his vocation with prudence, “doing and teaching” (see Matt. 5:19) whatever was of benefit. The words of Paul, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection” (1 Cor. 9:27), were his constant companion and preoccupation; this is why he was often seen transporting flagstones and other loads on his shoulders, which he would then put to use for the construction of the church that he himself had undertaken to build. His abstinence and self-denial were legendary, as everyone declared; but how could it have been otherwise? According to the testimony of his relatives and friends, when he was still an infant he refused to nurse on Wednesdays and Fridays. What else could this mean but that he was immersed in the grace of the Holy Spirit from the time of his birth?
Our fear is therefore justified that perhaps we have diminished such a hero of the love of God and neighbor, who not only “at that time,” but in recent times as well has proved the power of Christ to perfect and regenerate those who desire to join the ranks moving on this course to heaven. The power of Christ, which gives strength to all things, still today provides the power “to become children of God” (Jn. 1:12) to those who are willing to take up the cross. Never before has there been so urgent a need for this witness as there is today.
One other particular grace and virtue that distinguishes the Athonite fathers and, of course, our blessed father Joachim is their deep humility. Out of this humility, they have always kept hidden the supernatural qualities with which Divine Grace adorned them. Blessed Papoulakis also habitually hid his prophetic gifts. Whether he was healing the sick or whether he was foretelling the future to others, he would hide behind some pretext or point to some natural reason so as not to be discovered.
O Blessed Joachim Papoulakis, our holy father and intercessor before God, having been released from the bonds of this toilsome life and translated into the court of the Kingdom, cease not to plead for us your humble brethren at Vatopaidi, the holy Monastery of your repentance, which makes its boast of you as its child. Though out of obedience you had abandoned her, thus fulfilling the law of love towards our people, today we feel you, together with the rest of your fellow ascetics and the entire choir of your Monastery’s Saints, standing among us lowly ones who desire to be saved.
Some of the New Miracles of Saint Joachim, Papoulakis
Olga Konstantinou, a resident of Korydallos, Athens, had gone to the translation of Blessed Papoulakis’ holy relics in May of 1992. Searching carefully in the earth that had been dug out during the exhumation, she found a small piece of the Saint’s holy relics, which she kept as a blessing. During her departure from Ithaki on the small ship “Thiaki”, the holy relic of the Saint began giving off a wondrous, otherworldly fragrance, according to the general testimony of many pilgrim passengers, who venerated it with devotion.
Having arrived at her home in Korydollos, a bad thought passed through her mind that now she was going to have to keep a third “perpetual” vigil lamp burning, meaning she would be spending more oil.
To her surprise, however, and with great emotion, she realized that on the fourth day the oil lamp before the Saint’s holy relic had been burning for three full days without the level of the oil going down.
With contrition she asked forgiveness from the Saint. From then on, the oil burned normally.
Dorothea Paxinou, having lived for many years in South Africa, knew little about Blessed Papoulakis. In March of 1992, being unaware of the translation of the Saint’s holy relics that was about to take place, she had a vision.
She was in her room when suddenly the door opened and a venerable elderly monk entered wearing an old grey habit and a skoufo [monastic cap] on his head, exactly as the Saint is portrayed in his well-known portrait. He drew near her and said with kindness, “Do you have devotion for St. Barbara? Know that today the village of Stavros has another Saint.
Immediately the Saint vanished from before her. Mrs. Paxinou was very moved, because she indeed did have a special devotion to Saint Barbara. On the day dedicated to Saint Barbara’s memory, she had given birth to her son Gerasimos, the current president of the community of Lefki.
At dawn on November 25, 1995, “between sleep and awake”, as she herself describes it, Evstratia Stanitsa-Sykiotis, a resident of Stavros, heard a serious elderly voice tell her: “The time for my glorification as a Saint is approaching. Tell the villagers, however, that I do not want revelry.” Early in the morning, Mrs. Sykiotis went to the local school and revealed this miraculous sign to a teacher who had a special devotion for Papoulakis.
Here, unfortunately, we must point out the two-day revelry that takes place on 5-6 August in Stavros, during the celebration of the Feast of the Savior’s Transfiguration, with the grievous accompaniment of roast meat (it is a lenten season), drunkenness, and such.
Maria Kollyvas-Argyris and her son Efthymios Argyris, residents of South Africa from Ithaki, relate that in 1971, while they were living in the district of Agioi Saranta in North Ithaki, little three-year-old Efthymios became sick with a very high fever. The family doctor, along with other specialists, was not able to discover the reason for such a high fever.
The weary parents took turns at night staying up at their sick child’s bedside. One evening, the distressed mother Maria, worn-out from agony and sleeplessness, fell asleep for a little while sitting at the edge of the boy’s bed. In her sleep, she heard the sound of elderly footsteps and the tapping of a walking stick moving from the sitting room towards the bedroom. She opened her eyes and saw live before her an elderly monk entering the room. His face was kind and full of light, and he was wearing a skoufo and holding a staff in his hands.
“Saint Nektarios!” cried Maria with joy. “I’m not Saint Nektarios, Maria,” responded the unknown monk, gazing with sympathy at the sick child. “I am Saint Papoulakis. I’ve come to see how the grandchildren of Diamantia are doing. She continually prays to me for you.” Immediately the Saint disappeared in front of their eyes.
The next day, early in the morning, the family doctor communicated with the Argyris family in order to inform them with joy that they had found the cause of the boy’s feverish condition. An inflammation of the blood had developed from the bite of a parasitic insect. With the proper therapy, the child became completely well in no time.
The same day, the happy parents telephoned their relatives in Ithaki to tell them the joyful news. They asked them to go light oil lamps and candles at the Saint’s tomb.
That summer, having gone to the island for their vacation, they took little Efthymios to venerate at the tomb of Saint Papoulakis, at the church of Saint Barbara in Stavros, glorifying and giving thanks to their holy patron.
Several years ago, a pious elderly woman, Niki Patrikios-Tsonos, a resident of Kypseli, Athens and a distant relative of Saint Joachim, had vowed to have the silver reliquary for the Saint constructed at her own expense. Around mid-June, 1998, she had a “live” dream, as she herself describes it.
Saint Joachim appeared to her in her sleep wearing the monastic “koukoulion”, or veil. He told her, “Please, Niki, do not forget that which you promised me.” Niki woke up immediately and made a rough sketch of the Saint’s appearance on a paper napkin, because his head covering had made a particular impression on her. She had known him differently, according to the more well-know portrait that has survived until now.
Here we must point out that at that same time in Cyprus a holy icon of Saint Joachim was being painted — which would then be taken to the Holy Monastery of Vatopaidi by the Bishop of Kyrineia (Kerineia) in Cyprus, Mr. Pavlos - in which he is depicted with a koukoulion!
Some years ago, Efthymia Sophianos, who lives in Vathy, Ithaki, used to keep at her home the “Holy Belt”, which Blessed Joachim had given to the grandmother of her mother, Maria Molphesis-Sophianos. This holy relic was a light-brown belt embroidered with gold thread. It was kept at the Sopfianos family’s icon screen and was given to virgin daughters, who would wear it during their marriage service, tied around their head or waist as a virginal symbol.
This was considered a great blessing. Afterwards, the Holy Belt was returned to the Sophianos family.
The last request for the Belt was by a refugee family in 1935. In the Sophianos family they also used to bless the children with the Holy Belt at home when they were sick. Unfortunately, the Holy Belt was lost during the catastrophic earthquakes of 1953.
Christina Kallianos-Papadatos from Ithaki, now residing in the district of Harabolta Argostolios on Kefallonia (Cephalonia), had gone to the translation of the holy relics of Blessed Joachim, together with her children Gerasimos and Eirini. They were accompanying the nun Magdalene from the Holy Monastery of the Holy Apostle Andrew on Kefallonia. During the translation, Christina took as a blessing one of the clay tiles used to cover the head of the Blessed Joachim in the tomb.
In the spring of 1993, as Christina was tending the animals in the farmyard she fell and struck a tree hard, resulting in a mild concussion. Because she was feeling strong pains, she went to the Argostolios Hospital, where the doctors recommended that she remain for 24 hours as a precautionary measure.
Having a deep faith in Saint Joachim, Christina chose not to stay and instead returned home. Her son Gerasimos - now studying for the priesthood at the Rizario Ecclesiastical School - chanted the supplicatory canon to the Saint, and they prayed with faith. Christina placed the Saint’s clay tile under her pillow and, in the morning - glory to God - she woke up completely well. She has also given a large monetary sum as a votive offering towards the future church to be dedicated to Saint Joachim.
Sophia Vlassopoulos-Grivas, a resident of Lakos, Ithaki, relates that in the nineteenth century Blessed Papoulakis’ cousin, Nikolis Patrikios, and his wife Zacharenia were living in the house she now lives in. Saint Joachim visited them many time, especially during the winter evenings. At night he would repose on a chest in the kitchen of the old house.
One night, Nikolis woke up and discovered that the Saint was no where in the house. He went outside and dumb-founded he saw the Saint praying in the garden, surrounded by light and suspended three feet above the ground! Nikolis was very shook up. The Saint immediately calmed him down, saying, “Don’t be afraid, Nikolis; I was saying my prayers.” He also admonished him to tell no one about what had happened.
Another time, Nikolis was taking the mail on foot to the city before dawn. He encountered Saint Joachim, who went before him holding a branch and switching now and then the air as if he were driving away something. “Don’t be afraid, Nikolis,” he said, “I’m clearing the road for you to pass.”
Adamantini Kouvaras-Noutsatos and Evrikleia Koubaras-Sompolas, residents of Stavros, relate that around 1938-39, their grandmother Diamantia, wife of Dimitrios Sykiotis, became sick at the age 48. A fibrous tumor had developed in her female organs, from which she suffered frequent hemorrhaging. Two doctors from North Ithaki, I. Pazis and S. Vrettos, seeing the adverse progression of her health, decided that she must leave urgently for Athens to have an operation. Here we should note that Diamantia, nurturing a special love and devotion for Saint Papoulakis, never ceased to call upon him and to pray about this trial with her health.
Using D. Sikiotis’ flat cart – the means of transportation of that era - she and her husband went down from Stavros to Vathy, intending to depart with the ship going to Peiraia. At the harbor they met with Dr. N. Kolyvas, who also confirmed the precariousness of her condition. Suddenly at that point, Diamantia, feeling a deep faith in Saint Papoulakis, decided to return to the village and make a votive offering to Papoulakis for her health. Her vow was to never again dress in a worldly way. Her husband, her five children, and her grandchildren always remember her dressed for all of forty years without light-colored clothing, with a scarf on her head, and never wearing high-heeled shoes or carrying a handbag, even at very informal family moments. She was always close to the church — as she always had been — maintained a sacramental life, and was a regular pilgrim at the tomb of Saint Joachim, doing countless prostrations before his icon.
The fibrous tumor immediately began to shrink, and the hemorrhages gradually stopped; within a short time she was completely healthy. Diamantia Kouvaras reposed in the depths of old age in 1980 from a stroke. Her grandchildren remember that she never told them fables; always with an abundance of piety she recounted the miracles of Saint Joachim. She always said good night to them by blessing them with the Sign of the Cross, saying, “Christ and the Panagia be near you, and Saint Papoulakis at your right hand.”
To be continued...Part Thirteen
[St. Joachim was officially canonized a Saint of the Orthodox Church in 1998 by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. His official feast day is May 23 (the date of the uncovering of his relics). The hymns for this feast can be found here.
Here ends the translation of the book on Papoulakis written by Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi. In the past couple of days I have acquired another longer text which contains many photographs relating to the life of Papoulakis which was written and compiled by Konstantinou P. Kanellou. With this, I will continue the series on Saint Papoulakis. - J.S.]
Ἀπολυτίκιον. Ἦχος γ´. Θείας πίστεως.
Θεία χάριτι λελαμπρυσμένος κατεφώτισας τοὺς ἐν σκοτείᾳ ἀγνωσίας καὶ δουλώσεως πέλοντας ταῖς διδαχῶν καὶ θαυμάτων ἀκτῖσί σου, Ἰωακείμ, ἀσκητὰ ἐνθεώτατε· γόνε πάντιμε Ἰθάκης, Χριστὸν ἱκέτευε δωρήσασθαι ἡμῖν τὸ μέγα ἔλεος.
Apolytikion of St. Joachim in the Third Tone
Shining with divine grace, you illumined those caught in the darkness of ignorance and apostasy by your teachings and radiant wonders, Joachim, most-divine ascetic, all-precious offspring of Ithaki, entreat Christ to grant us great mercy.