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TOM XIV 2009
Editura Universităţii „Alexandru Ioan Cuza” Iaşi
Preafericitul Părinte Daniel, Patriarhul Bisericii Ortodoxe Române,
Membru de onoare al Academiei Române
Înaltpreasfinţitul Părinte Teofan, Mitropolitul Moldovei şi Bucovinei
Academician Prof.dr. Emilian Popescu
Prof.dr.pr. Viorel Sava – decan
Prof.dr.pr. Gheorghe Popa
Prof.dr.pr. Nicolae Achimescu
Prof.dr.pr. Petre Semen
Prof.dr.pr. Ioan C. Teşu
Prof.dr. Ion Sandu
Prof. Joseph Famerée – Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain - la - Neuve, Belgia
Prof. François Bousquet, Faculté de Théologie et de Sciences Religieuses de l’Institut
Catholique de Paris, Franţa
J.A. McGuckin, Universitatea Columbia, New York, USA
Matija Strlic PhD – University College London Centre for Sustainable Heritage
CONSILIU DE REDACŢIE:
Prof.dr.pr. Gheorghe Petraru
Conf.dr.pr. Ion Vicovan
Conf.dr. Vasile Cristescu
Conf.dr. Carmen-Maria Bolocan
Conf.dr. Carmen-Gabriela Lăzăreanu
Lect.dr.pr. Alexandrel Barnea
Lect.dr.pr. Ilie Melniciuc-Puică
Lect.dr.pr. Dan Sandu
Lect.dr.pr. Adrian-Lucian Dinu
Lect.dr.pr. Daniel Niţă-Danielescu
Lect.dr. Merişor Dominte
Lect.drd. Stelian Onica
Prof.dr. Nicoleta Melniciuc-Puică
Str. Cloşca, nr. 9 Tel: 0040 232 201 328
Iaşi, 700 066 0040 232 201 329
România Fax: 0040 332 816 723; 0040 232 258 430
Names’ Valence According to the Bible- Jesus’ Names before and after the Incarnation
PhD.Rev. Petre SEMEN.................................................................................................. 5
Une influence essénienne sur l’Église primitive de Jérusalem ? Actes 1-5, les textes de
Qumrân et des découvertes archéologiques récentes à Jérusalem
Christian GRAPPE........................................................................................................ 17
Stewardship and Wealth in Luke 16
PhD.Rev. Ilie MELNICIUC-PUICĂ............................................................................. 33
The Main Hebrew Words for Love: Ahab and Hesed
PhD.Cand.Rev. Cezar-Paul HÂRLĂOANU ................................................................. 51
Empress Catherine II of Russia’s Foreign Policy and Its Influence upon the Romanian
Orthodox Church in Moldavia
PhD.Rev. Daniel NIŢĂ-DANIELESCU....................................................................... 67
Monk Gavril Uric – Romanian Calligrapher and Miniaturist –580 Years Since the
Publication of the Famous Book of the Four Gospels at Neamt (1429-2009)
PhD. Archimandrite Emilian Vlad NICĂ...................................................................... 83
Teaching methods classified according to the logical approach which induces learning,
identified in The Hexaemeron of Saint Basil the Great
PhD. Carmen-Maria BOLOCAN ................................................................................ 103
Social Assistance-the Philanthropic Vocation of the Church
PhD.Rev. Dan SANDU............................................................................................... 117
Spiritual Life in the Age of Religious Pluralism and Main Elements of the Formation of
PhD.Rev. Adrian-Lucian DINU .................................................................................. 137
PhD. Merişor G. DOMINTE,
PhD.Cand. Stelian ONICA.......................................................................................... 157
Radical Feminist Theology: From Protest to the Goddess
PhD.Cand. Constantin-Iulian DAMIAN...................................................................... 171
Names’ Valence According to the Bible- Jesus’ Names
before and after the Incarnation
Faculty of Orthodox Theology,
“Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iaşi, ROMANIA
In this study entitled Names’ Value According to the Bible- Jesus Names before
and after the Incarnation is a remembering of Bible professing about Jesus Christe. The
author’ research is focused on the most important messianic texts of the Bible which
reffers to the significations of Jesus’ Name and explains why He Named Himself „Bar
Enosh” (Daniel 7, 13) and not „Ben Adam” (Ezechiel). The aim of this study is to
illustrate the great truth about the kenotic act of Jesus Christe (Phil. 2, 7-9).
Keywords: Name, Christe(Meshia), bar-enosh, ben-adam.
Unlike the modern man, who gives his child a randomly picked
name, which has got nothing to do with his family religion or future
profession and only picks it because it sounds better or because it just
reminds him of a public life personality, in the Hebrew antiquity, the
name was an agent full of meaning (Wigoder 2006: 485). It seems there is
a close connection between the sense of the name and that of the
creatures, at least this would be the ultimate goal since giving names to
the created things in the world is seen as a crowning of creation (Genesis
1:3-10, Isaiah 40:26). It is notable to mention that giving names to stars,
the land, and the waters and for the division of time is only for God to
make because all these are His domain and are directly and
unconditionally submitted to Him. Giving names to animals is the duty of
the first man because he was going to be their master (Gen. 2:19-20). We
cannot precisely tell how the first man named all the living creatures on
earth, but from the fact that he names his woman Eva and because he
makes a motivation for picking that name, being aware that she will be
the mother of all living people, it means that he chose the right names.
Petre Semen 6
The biblical word םֵ שׁ (name) appears more than 800 times in the
First Testament and about 180 times in the New Testament (The
Interpreter ΄s Dictionary of the Bible. An Illustrated Encyclopedia 1993:
500-501). From a biblical perspective, a name is directly linked with the
reality it wants to denote. Thus it can express Adam’s origin or his
constitutive state „adamah” = from earth (Gen.2:7)
, someone’s character
(I Samuel 25:25) even if in Nabal’s case, which means fool, it is hard to
believe that someone gave his child such a name or that he could foretell
the outcome of this child. It can also express mission (Jud.6:12), destiny
(Exodus 2:10) (Monloubou 1987: 903), or even the hopes of the child’s
parents (The Interpreter΄s Dictionary of the Bible. An Illustrated
Encyclopedia 1993: 530). If for names like: Nabal (fool), Abel (passage,
cry), Acan (deceptive, the troubling) Acub (phoney, stooping), Achitofel
(brother of foolishness, brother of decay), Hatil (talkative, weak), Ish-
Bosheth (the man of shame) we cannot say that they express some
extraordinary qualities of their bearers which could have be intuited by
their parents, it is hard to believe that their parents would have made them
public. Some names are indeed markers of the qualities of the bearers or
of some special missions or circumstances closely related to their birth
(e.g. Jacob means “he grasps the heel” or “deceiver”, luring; Gen. 25; 26).
Taking into account the fact that some names express some special skills
or diligence, for example the name Deborah (bee) or Tamara (fruitful as
the palm tree), it goes without saying that history may have recorded only
the second name, the reputation or someone’s nickname. It is a known
fact that in antiquity it was usual for a child to be given two names out of
which one remained a family secret and one became public. For example,
the known name of Jacob was used among his own kind, while the name
of “Israel” wasn’t known by anybody because it was received as a result
of a special experience involving the divinity (Gen. 32:28). Some names
No biblical text tells us what the name of the first man was. He was named
“Adam” because he was taken from the earth and this name only tells us his constituent
matter. In fact the text from Genesis (2:7) says that God modeled the first man from
earth just like a potter does. From the predicate iasar derives the noun ioser, an active
participle in Qal form, which means potter. The Prophet Jeremiah understands this very
well when he uses the parable of the potter (chapter 18 and 19) to illustrate God’s
willingness of destroying and creating a new people. Nowhere in the Bible are we told
that Adam is a proper noun.
Names’ Valence According to the Bible… 7
were suggestive because of the circumstances of the birth or because of
the future foreseen or desired by the parents. The daughter in law of arch-
priest Eli, the wife of Phinehas, when she found out the sad news that the
ark of God had been stolen, she gave birth prematurely and si named
“Ichabod” , meaning “he glory has departed from Israel” (I Samuel 4:21).
Likewise, Rachel who died giving birth to her last son named him
“Ben-Oni”, meaning the son of my throes. It is obvious that some names
could be changed at a later stage especially when one’s life was having a
new destiny. Thus after Rachel’s death, Jacob will give another name to
his son, Benjamin, meaning “son of my right hand”. Even the patriarch
himself will gain a new name, “Israel” and his brother Esau, “the hairy”
will be called Edom or “the red one” because it was said he enjoyed
hunting very much and he was an amateur of bodily pleasures. Some
names seem like having prophetical values.
In other cases, by the act of naming a child, the parents remembered
a great benefaction from God and in turn they gave the child a name
which was an expression of gratitude towards divinity. At the same time
the parents had hopes that the child becomes worthy of the Holy
Providence. For example, the name Isaac means “he laughs” or “laughter”
since hearing the news about the fact they were going to have a son,
Abraham laughed (Gen 17:17) and Sarah laughed also at the very thought
that she could be still capable to conceive children at such an old age
(Gen.18:12-15) (The Illustrated Bible Dictionary-Part Two: Goliath-
Papyri 1998: 697; Moisa 1996:; Beaucheamp 2001: 38-40), but they also
laughed because of the joy they experienced when hearing the news they
were going to have a son that would inherit their name and the wealth
It was not unusual that in some cases could be linked to some
moments in the historic past of Israel or it could be the expression of a
future deliver. Thus the biblical characters did not bear randomly picked
names that only referred to filiations (The Interpreter ΄s Dictionary of the Bible.
An Illustrated Encyclopedia 1993: 698). A great percentage of the biblical
onomasticon has clear biblical resonances and the partial referring to the
name of God is frequent. A large number of names are compound and
thus constitute short sentences. For example Nathaniel means 'God's gift';
Elimelek means “God is my king”; Jonathan means “God gave”, Ezekiel
Petre Semen 8
means “God is strong”; Adoniah means “God is the Lord”. Sometimes
out of a single name a phrase could be built, such as Šear-Yašub = “a rest
will come back” or “Maher- Šalal- Has-Baz” meaning “they, the
Assyrians, are anxious to plunder, they are running after prey” (it was a
warning regarding Syria and Samaria) Brown et al. 1973: 350). In almost
all the Biblical history, the names are given a special importance and a
strong relation between the person and the bared name appeared. This is
the reason when a change in the personality or in someone’s fate, that
person was given a new name that marked the end of a stage in that
person’s life and the beginning of a totally new one (The Interpreter ΄s
Dictionary of the Bible. An Illustrated Encyclopedia 1993: 1051;
Dicţionar biblic: 451). Prophet Daniel tells that the names of the three
young men from Babylon, including him, were changed. On the first
hand, it is likely that the ancient names were not in pagan’s graces
because the name of a divinity which they did not respect was present in
them (Daniel = God judges; Hannania = The lord shows mercy; Azariah =
God helps and Misail = Who is like God), on the other hand, by changing
the names, Babylon, an icon for wickedness and tyranny, wanted their
slaves to be aware of the fact that the new master wants discretionary
possession of their bodies and souls. The same manner was used by the
Pharaoh of Egypt when dealing with young Joseph who was a slave in
Egypt naming him „Tafnat-Paeneah”, meaning the „mystery discoverer”
and at a later stage, another Pharaoh, appointed Eliakim as king of Judah,
but then changed Eliakim’s name to Jehoiakim (II Kings 23; 24), this
signifying that from that moment onwards he will be entirely dependant
and thus becomes vassal (Leon-Dufour et al. 1988: 827). When the divine
name was invoked upon a city or upon a certain thing, automatically the
person that made the invocation became the ruler of the city (II Samuel
12:28). Likewise, with the occasion of marriage, the bride had to say the
name of her husband and thus she gained the right for possession and the
duty to protect it (Isaiah 4:1; Exodus 21:10) (Monloubou 1987: 903). In
the same manner, whoever wrote the name of God upon himself
immediately became His servant (Isaiah 44:5) and the person who God
himself called by name would enjoy the protection of the Divine
Providence: But now, this is what the Lord says - he who created you, O
Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
Names’ Valence According to the Bible… 9
I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1). The divine
name was also connected with blessings, in other words a blessing could
not occur unless it was uttered in and using the name of the Lord. By
giving a blessing, the priest actually placed the people under the direct
protection of God (Num. 6:27).
The necessity for knowing the name was essential for both
particular and public prostration. In human’s case, knowing one’s name
could mean discovering his character (Butler 1991: 1007), but when God
Himself reveals as a Person to a human subject, it is needed that he also
reveals His name so that the human could call Him by his name
afterwards. From the Bible we draw the conclusion that God declines His
identity and reveals His name or calls someone by his name in order to
grant him with a mission. From the moment of name revelation, god
actually wants to show that person that He wants to continue the
relationship once this was initiated. This is why knowing the divinity by
its name is essential for all religions since without knowing the name, no
one could invoke or draw its attention towards him. The Divine cult, in all
its stages had been centred mainly on the invocation of the Divine name
(Monloubou 1987: 903).
The Names of Jesus
According to the Jewish tradition, Our Lord Jesus Christ got a name
not only to reveal His person, but also His mission, the Salvation for
which he had come to this world. Compared to other Jewish personalities,
it must be underlined the fact that in Jesus’ case we refer to names given
by the prophets and the holy writers before His incarnation; also to a
name that He called himself, in accordance with the things revealed about
Him; names that were given by the writers of the Gospels. If we take into
account the mission he was going to undertake, In fact His names are met
in almost all the Scripture and this thing reveals the work and not His
essence. The Gospels call him Jesus Christ, as is also stated in the Creed:
And I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God….
The word “Jesus” derives from the Hebrew ע שׁ י – iaša and the noun
iešuah, meaning salvation or “God saves”. The second name, “Christ”, is
the Greek translation of the Aramaic “mešiah” and of the Hebrew word
“Mašiah”, meaning the anointed one, the Messiah. “Jesus” was his
Petre Semen 10
surname and “Christ” points to his title, his status as being anointed. It
must be said that in the Hebrew antiquity not anybody and not in any
circumstances could be anointed. Anointment was seen as a divine grace,
a gift from God which coincided with the appointment to a function and a
special position in God’s plan and the chosen ones gained a special status
because, as the Psalmist says, in the name of God should be read as: Do
not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm (Ps. 105:15). The
anointed ones, the prophets, the archpriests and the kings were Chosen by
God. The anointment not only meant preparation for a service, but also
endowment with special gifts very useful in terms of the fulfilment of the
mission. This meant the overflowing of the Holy Spirit upon the person in
question making him physically capable to fulfil his mission. We know
about Samson that his extraordinary physical force was because the Spirit
of God was upon him The Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power so
that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a
young goat (Jud.14:6;15:14). That force was not through his powers, but
was the result of the Holy Spirit overflowing upon him. Jesus’ earthly
parents were told that He will be the barer of such a name. It is about the
announcement that an angel makes to Joseph: Joseph son of David… she
will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because
he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Luke informs us
that Mary was also told to name her son Jesus, because you will be with
child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He
will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High (Luke 1:31). As
we can observe, the mission is foreseen since before the birth, like it is in
the case of Moses (exodus 2:10), Jeremiah (ch.1:5) for example. But in
Jesus’ case, His name is connected directly to the mission He was going
to fulfil. In other words, the name or the title of “Messiah” or “Christ”, in
the New Testament gathered in its meaning all the hopes and prophetic
promises made in the Old Testament. It is worth to mention that Jesus,
since the beginning of His mission called himself “Mašiah”, meaning “the
anointed of God”. Luke informs us that at the age of 12, he entered a
synagogue in Nazareth and he was given to read the Isaiah scroll, and
when he started reading he found the place where it is written “the Spirit
of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to
the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and
Names’ Valence According to the Bible… 11
recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the
year of the Lord's favour” (Luke 4:17-19). Jesus’ testimony clearly shows
that the overflow of the Holy Spirit upon somebody was in close
connection with the act of anointment. The words “God anointed me”
takes into consideration the fact that Messiah means the anointed one and
the anointment of a person with holy oil is equivalent with the receiving
the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:27; 10:38) (Mayer 1999: 173).
Another well-known name of Jesus that was given to Him by Isaiah
the prophet, with more than 700 years prior to his embodiment is
Immanuel ל א ו נ מ ע , translated by the Septuagint with Εμμανουηλ
(Mathew 1:23), meaning God is with us (Ch.7:14). Some consider that
this was the name which was temporarily bared by a son of Isaiah, but it a
full extent this name was exclusively applied to Jesus (Jamieson and
Fausset and Brown 1991: 516). It is not a proper name, but a symbolic
one, about which the prophet says it will be given to a special child and
that will be a sign for king Ahaz and the royal house that God will set
their enemies free. (Isaiah 8:8). The biblical history confirmed that the
prophecy was fulfilled during the reign of king Ahaz (VIII century
B.C.E.) but “Immanuel” may be a real messianic landmark in the history
of salvation. When Mathew sees in baby Jesus the Immanuel prophesised
by Isaiah, he wants to tell us that through Jesus (Immanuel) person God
will closer to men than He was during Isaiah’s times (Lacocque 1987:
Many speculations have been made concerning the name Immanuel.
It should be considered that this is not exclusively owed to Isaiah; he just
expresses the unanimous accepted belief that in some circumstances
throughout their history, God was with them. It is thus possible that those
moments were desired to remain immortalized in people’s conscience and
history. This is why the words in Isaiah 7:14 and 8:9-10 “God is with us”
or just the name “Immanuel” represent a statement about the miraculous
interventions made by God in the life of Israelite community, a
community he has saved in a wonderful manner, in Elias’s times, saving
them from the hands Syrian king Ben-Hadad. Guided by the Spirit of
God, the prophet always knew about the king’s secret military
manoeuvres, about his plan to capture the king of Israel in an ambush,
plans always foiled by Elias. Disappointed that he always fails, the king
Petre Semen 12
started to suspect his generals to spy for the Israelites. Finding out that
Elias reveals all his plans, the king tried to capture him, but he didn’t
stand any chance. Furthermore, with Divine help, Elias blinded his
soldiers so that the Assyrian army was led right into the city of Samaria
and surrendered to the Israelite king (II Kings 6:8-23). It is clear that
facing such miraculous intervention, the people cheered, being filled with
wonder and gratitude: God is with us. Thus we come to the conclusion
that even if we have this expression form Isaiah, this is not his invention,
but is a statement about God’s providential powers regarding the chosen
people. Isaiah only repeats and in the same time prophesizes the coming
of Christ (Messiah) and he calls Him “Immanuel”, suggesting that
because the birth of this Son from a virgin, God will be closer to men and
with his people, He will be protective like in the times of Elias if not in a
more profound way.
Son of Man is another name frequently used in the Gospels, a name
which Jesus gives to himself not to create confusion, but to clearly
illustrate the great truth behind the kenotic act above which Saint Paul
focuses the most. Saint Paul states that Jesus emptied himself out of the
Divine glory and he took the nature of a servant but only by the looks he
became as a man, as he because he humbled himself and “became
obedient to death- even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:7-9). In other words
he gave away his heavenly glory for our sake, he gave (John 17:4), He
gave away his wealth (II Corinthians 8:9) thus becoming a servant (Mark
13:32; Luke 2:40-52; Romans 8:3; II Corinthians 8:9; Hebrews 2:7-14).
He took our human nature which presumes all the temptations ad
weaknesses, but he was without sin (Heb. 4:15). It is known that before
the incarnation of Christ, only two prophets used the expression “Son of
Man”, but with totally different meanings. The first one is Prophet
Ezekiel, who uses this expression 91 times. Daniel states that he saw
“someone like the son of man coming with the clouds of heaven” (Daniel
7:13). When Christ referred to himself as “son of man”, he borrowed the
expression from Daniel and not from Ezekiel. It is not hard to find out
from which prophet our Lord made reference to. In order to be sure that it
was Daniel He had in mind, it is necessary to know which language was
used by Jesus, and this thing is revealed because of the word spoken to
the Heavenly Father while he was on the cross, citing from Psalm 22:1י נ
Names’ Valence According to the Bible… 13
ת ב ז ע ה מ ל י ל א י ל א Eli, Eli, lama΄(h) azabtani = My God, my
God, why have you forsaken me? It is important to mention that the verb
“azab”, spotted by Gesenius in more that 143 places in the Old Testament,
used with different forms and tenses (Hebrew and English Lexicon. 1979:
736-737), is synonym with the Aramaic verb “sabahtani”, which was used
by Christ on the cross. Saint Mathew quotes a psalm intensely used in the
Early Church as a Psalm of the Passions, taking in account the fact that
the Church itself was going through some difficult moments. Jesus uses
the psalm as a prophecy and not as a sign of despair, as some may believe
(Brown 1973: 966). It is not out of the question that the writer quotes the
psalm partially in Aramaic and partly in Hebrew, probably the liturgical
language of the Mathew’s community (Noul Testament, trans. Bădiliţă
2009: 386), with the purpose to show that Jesus did speak Aramaic even
though he also knew the Hebrew texts as well. Thus it is not hard to probe
if Jesus spoke Aramaic. The question that needs to be asked is why Our
Lord quoted from Daniel, who used the expression “Bar Enoš” (The son
of Man) just once? The answer could be found if we go back to the
meaning of “ben adam”, which is used so many times by Ezekiel, and at
the meaning of “Bar Enoš). The words “ben adam” mean “the son of the
earthly one”, the son of the one created from dust and ground (Gen. 2:7).
He receives a new identity and a new quality by birth (Benoit 1984: 51-
52), which clearly has the destiny that by death becomes dust and ground
again, giving back the earth the constituent elements he has borrowed
during his lifetime. Thus even if Ezekiel uses 91 times the expression
”ben adam” and Daniel only once (Ch. 8:17), Jesus has in mind chapter
7:13 when he calls himself “Bar Enoš”. Between these two expressions
there is a slight difference, even if at a first look they may seem to denote
the same thing. Their meaning in the two Semitic languages is different.
When he adopted the title of “Son of Man”, Jesus did not only want to
confirm that Daniel’s prophecy was referring to his person His
incarnation and His return to the world (Mathew 16: 27; 24:30; 30:26, 64;
Mark 13:26; 14:62; Luke 21:27; Acts 1”11; Revelation 7:13; 14:14), as de
Benoit says, or to emphasize that by His incarnation he truly became a
son of man, that he is God in human form. In addition to that, He wanted
to emphasize that the Aramaic “bar enoš” ש ו נ א ר ב , which he
preferred, expresses his mission best, as by His incarnation He accepted
Petre Semen 14
to become the son of weakness. The Aramaic noun “enoš” derives from
the verb ש נ א (anaš), meaning to be weak, to be perishable (Davidson
1970: 36). Many things have been written about kenosis (κενωσις), the
temporary renunciation of his divine grace for the love of humans (Phil.
2:6-7), and the expression Son of Man takes into account this very aspect
of Christ activity which took place for a short time, so that by his death on
the cross our redemption could be accomplished and our reconciliation
with God could take place (Ephesians 2:14-16; Hebrews 2:9) (Chiţescu
anr Todoran and Petreuţă 1958: 600-601; Mircea 1984: 112-113). It
seems though that nobody captured the meaning of these prophetic texts
to which we refer to. By proclaiming himself “Son of Man”, meaning
“bar enoš”, Christ showed that, in order to perform our salvation, he
willingly accepted to become the son of weakness, of suffering, humility
and even death but never the son of dust and total destruction because his
body rose from the dead. Therefore, the expression “ben adam” means
“son of the dust, of the earth” or the one destined that after death would
become ground again according to the message given by god to Adam
after the sin : ב וּ שׁ תּ ר פ ע ל א ו ה תּ א ר פ ע י כ = ki afar atta ve΄el
afar tašuv= for dust you are and to dust you will return (Genesis 3:19).
Even if Christ had a human body, his body will be diffrent from others
because his was united with God’s essence and this is why he could not
be perishable like those of the mortal. In conclusion, when he called
himself „Son of Man”, meaning a „Bar Enoš”, Christ drew attention that
he will never be a “ben adam” because his life-giving body could never
Names’ Valence According to the Bible… 15
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Bădiliţă, Cristian, intr., trans., comm. 2009. Noul Testament- Evanghelia după Matei.
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Beaucheamp, Paul, trans. Claudiu Constantin. 2001. Cincizeci de portrete biblice. In
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par Editions Emmaüs.
Brown, Raymond E., Fitzmyer, Joseph A., and Roland E. Murphy. 1974. Isaia. Parte I,
Il Vecchio Testamento, Parte II, Il Nouovo Testamento e Articoli Tematici. In
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secondo Mateo. Parte I, Il Vecchio Testamento, Parte II, Il Nouovo Testamento
e Articoli Tematici. In Grande Commentario Biblico. Brescia: Queriniano.
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Chiţescu, Prof. N., Todoran, Prof. Isidor, and Petreuţă, Prof. I. 1958. Teologie
Dogmatică Specială şi Simbolică. Bucharest: EIBMBOR.
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Samuel Bagster Sons Ltd 72 Marylebone Lane.
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the cooperation of S.R. Driver, D.D., Litt., D. and Charles A. Briggs, D. D., D.
Litt., Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody.
Jamiesson, Fausset, and Brown. 1991. Prophecy against Syria and Samaria (Israel). In
Commentary on the Whole Bible. Michigan: New Clear-Type Edition,
Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids.
Jamiesson, R., Fausset, A.R., and Brown, D. 1991. Commentary on the Whole Bible.
Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids.
Lacocque, André. 1987. Emmanuel. In Dictionnaire Encyclopedique de la Bible.
Direction de Mathias Delcor; Edmond Jacob; Edouard Lipinki; Robert Martin-
Achard; Joseph Ponthot. Ed. Brepols.
Leon-Dufour, Xavier, Jean Duplacy, Augustin George, Pièrre Grelot, Jacques Guillet,
and Marc-François Lacan. 1988. Nom. In Vocabulaire de Théologie Biblique.
Sixième édition. Paris : Les editions du Cerf.
Mayer, Gerhard. 1999. Evanghelia după Luca-Comentariu Biblic. In Lumina lumii, vol.
4-5. Korntal (Germany): Publishing House.
Mircea, Dr.Fr. Ioan. 1984. Deşertare. In Dicţionar al Noului Testament A-Z. Bucharest:
Moisa, Constantin. trans. 1996. In Dicţionarul Biblic, vol. 2, I-O. Bucharest: Stephanus
Monloubou, Louis. See the note at Isaiah, chapter 4:1. In TOB; Nom-Conception du
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Petre Semen 16
Monloubou, Louis. 1987. Nom. In Dictionnaire Encyclopedique de la Bible. Ed.
Motyer, J. A. 1998. Name. In The Illustrated Bible Dictionary.
The Illustrated Bible Dictionary-Part Two: Goliath-Papyri. 1998. Look at Isaac. Inter-
The Interpreter΄s Dictionary of the Bible. 1993. Name-Terminology. An Illustrated
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Wigoder, Geoffrey (ed). 2006. Nume. In Enciclopedia Iudaismului. Bucharest: Hasefer
Une influence essénienne sur l’Église primitive de
Actes 1-5, les textes de Qumrân et des découvertes
archéologiques récentes à Jérusalem
Groupe de Recherches Intertestamentaires (EA 1344),
Faculté de Théologie Protestante, Université Marc Bloch, Strasbourg, FRANCE
Starting from a comparison of three narratives of Acts 1-5 (The choice of
Matthaias; The Pentecost narrative; Ananias and Saphira) with essenian parallels, the
author goes on with archeological considerations that can corroborate Essenian
influences upon the primitive Church of Jerusalem. He concludes that taking into
account the Essenian movement and its writings is essential in order to get a better
understanding of the early Christian movement, particularly of the primitive Church of
Keywords: Jérusalem, Qumrâm
Les chapitres 1 à 5 du livre des Actes nous présentent les origines de
l’Eglise primitive de Jérusalem à travers différents récits dont trois au
moins font apparaître des analogies pour le moins surprenantes avec les
écrits esséniens (Grappe 1992: 53-60)
Il s’agit d’abord du récit de
l’élection de Matthias, ensuite du récit de la Pentecôte et enfin des
passages relatifs à la communauté des biens.
Le récit de l’élection de Matthias
Dans ce récit, ce qui étonne plus particulièrement, c’est la procédure
employée pour procéder au choix du remplaçant de Judas, à savoir le
tirage au sort.
Elle était employée au Temple pour répartir l’ordre de service des
différentes familles sacerdotales au cours de l’année (1 Ch 24-26) et pour
déterminer, au sein de ces diverses familles, les tâches cultuelles entre les
prêtres (Lc 1,9; Mishna Yoma 2,2-4; Mishna Tamid 1,4; 3,5.6.9; 5,4-5).
Christian Grappe 18
Par ailleurs, l’Ancien Testament l’atteste à propos du choix de Saül
par Samuel (1 Sa 10,20-27) et le Livre des antiquités bibliques l’envisage
à propos de la désignation de Cénez comme chef du peuple (25,2) .
Elle n’est, en revanche, aucunement attestée en milieu pharisien
pour la nomination des rabbins.
Les zélateurs de la Loi y eurent pour leur part recours, au cours de
la Guerre Juive, pour choisir un personnage quelconque parmi les familles
1967: 263-265) et l’élever à la dignité de grand prêtre
(Flavius Josèphe, BJ IV, 153-157):
« Enfin, à Qumrân, le tirage au sort jouait un rôle essentiel dans
l’admission des postulants au sein de la communauté. À chaque étape, le
sort devait décider si le candidat était autorisé ou non à accéder au stade
suivant [1QS 6,16.18.21 (voir document)]. (…) La démarche suivie
permettait d’associer choix humain et choix divin” tout au long d’une
procédure qui n’est pas sans évoquer celle décrite en Ac 1,15-26. “En
effet, si deux candidats seulement ont été présentés (v. 23: estèsan) pour
succéder à Judas, c’est [sans doute] qu’il y a eu tri préalable parmi les
disciples qui répondaient aux critères choisis, seuls les deux plus dignes
étant retenus. On retrouverait ainsi les analogies suivantes avec le mode
qumrânien: ‘critères personnels tenant à la vie et non à l’hérédité;
délibération préliminaire; choix du sort entre seulement deux solutions;
entrée dans un corps permanent (à Qumrân le groupe des Rabbim; dans
Luc le collège des Douze)’ (Jaubert
1973: 274-280), soit une parenté
beaucoup plus étroite qu’avec les procédures usitées au Temple ou par les
zélotes » (Grappe 1992: 53-54).
D’autres parallèles qumrâniens sont envisageables pour le récit
relatif à la désignation de Matthias
a. Les notions de klèros et de topos
Au verset 25b, il est affirmé que Judas a abandonné sa place (topos)
pour gagner celle qui est la sienne propre (eis ton topon ton idion).
Comme nous nous efforcerons de le montrer, c’est en fait son lot, sa part
d’héritage [dans le Royaume de Dieu], qu’il a abandonné au profit des
Ces deux notions de place (mqwm) et de lot (gwrl) se trouvent
associées à Qumrân. Il est ainsi précisé en 1QS 2,23: “Et nul ne descendra
Une influence essénienne sur l’Église primitive de Jérusalem ? 19
au-dessous du poste qu’il doit occuper ni ne s’élèvera au-dessus de la
place que lui assigne son lot”.
Le concept de lot (gwrl) désigne, dans la littérature essénienne au
sein de laquelle il revêt une importance fondamentale, la place que chacun
occupe dans le conseil de Dieu (1QS 1,10) ou parmi les maudits (1QS
b. Le concept de diskonia (vv. 17 et 25)
Intérêt du parallèle fourni par l’emploi de la notion de rbwd en
1QSa 1,13.16-18. Il y est question de l’exercice du service de la
Congrégation (16 et 18), de celui que le sort aura désigné pour prendre
pl[ace] dans des fonctions [littéralement des services] et qui sortira et
entrera devant la congrégation (17).
De fait, la diakonia paraît bien ici désigner une fonction donnée et
pas seulement un service puisqu’il s’agit en fait de l’appartenance au
cercle des Douze auquel on attribuait sans doute, nous le verrons, des
c. La notion d’episkopè (v. 20)
Dans le Ps 109,8, cité dans notre texte, episkopè traduit pqydh. En
Nb 4,16, les mêmes vocables définissent la charge du grand prêtre qui a
finalement vocation à veiller sur tout le sanctuaire. Il est question par
ailleurs de l’episkopos (pqyd) des lévites (Ne 11,9.14). À Qumrân, le pqyd
est l’inspecteur [placé] à la tête des Nombreux (1QS 6,14), mais le
personnage le plus important semble avoir été le mbqr (epimeletès).
d. L’emploi des verbes katharithmeisthai (v. 17) et
sugkatapsèphizesthai (v. 26)
Leur emploi évoque respectivement celui de chshb en 1QS 3,1 [voir
document]; 5,11.18 (5,11: « Ceux-là qui n’ont pas été comptés dans son
Alliance »; 5,18: « tous ceux qui n’ont pas été comptés dans Son Alliance,
on les séparera, ainsi que tout ce qui leur appartient ») et CDB 1,35
(« Tous les individus qui sont entrés dans la Nouvelle Alliance au pays de
Damas mais sont retournés et ont trahi et se sont écartés du Puits d’eaux
vives ne seront pas comptés dans l’Assemblée du peuple […]) »).
e. L’usage du verbe estèsan
En 1QS 6,15, il est spécifié que le novice viendra se présenter
devant les Nombreux (voir document). En CD 15,11, il est question du
candidat désireux d’entrer dans l’Alliance et à qui il ne convient pas de
Christian Grappe 20
faire connaître les ordonnances avant qu’il ne soit présenté devant
f. Le concept d’onomata (v. 15)
On pourra rapprocher son usage de CD 2,11-13: « En tous ces
(temps), il se suscita des hommes appelés d’un nom, afin de laisser des
rescapés à la terre et de remplir la surface du monde de leur postérité; et Il
leur fit connaître par l’intermédiaire de ses Oints Son Esprit saint et Il leur
montra la vérité; et avec exactitude, il fixa leurs noms. Mais, quant à ceux
qu’Il a haïs, Il les égara” et 14,3 “Qu’ils soient tous recensés
nominativement… » (voir aussi Nb 1,17-18).
g. l’usage du mot frères (v. 15)
Il est attesté dans l’AT comme désignation des membres du peuple
(Ex 2,11; 4,18, Dt 18,15.18; Tb 1,3). Il était employé à Qumrân à propos
des membres de la secte (1QS 6,22…; CD 8,6; CDB 1,18; 2,18).
Par ailleurs, et plus généralement, les éléments constitutifs du récit:
recours à l’Ecriture; interprétation actualisante de ladite écriture (cf.
pesher qumrânien); rôle de la prière (voir LAB 25,5-6) sont tous attestés à
Qumrân et pourraient donc reproduire un rituel d’élection communautaire
dont nous serait fournie ici la variante chrétienne (Stauffer
Le récit de la Pentecôte
Il suppose une compréhension de la fête des Semaines en tant que
fête communautaire de renouvellement de l’Alliance, compréhension qui
ne prévalait au début de notre ère qu’en milieu essénien alors que les
autres partis juifs, par réaction, se refusaient de reconnaître à la fête une
dimension autre que strictement agraire.
De fait, le livre des Jubilés révèle que les milieux esséniens
célébraient la fête des Semaines en lui accordant une valeur particulière et
en tension avec les autres partis juifs. C’est ce qu’illustre surtout le
discours par lequel l’ange de la Face montre comment Dieu institua cette
fête au temps du déluge.
Ce passage insiste sur un certain nombre de points: a. la fête
commémore l’alliance avec Noé (vv. 15-17 et déjà 10-11); b. elle doit être
célébrée une fois dans l’année et un seul jour (vv. 20 et 22); c. elle
possède un double caractère (v. 21); d. elle a été fréquemment oubliée
Une influence essénienne sur l’Église primitive de Jérusalem ? 21
(vv. 18 et 19). Chacun de ces aspects mérite d’être brièvement développé.
a. Le lien de la fête avec l’alliance est souligné en différents
endroits dans le livre des Jubilés. Ainsi, la conclusion de l’alliance avec
Abraham (14,10.18-20) a-t-elle lieu ce jour-là. Elle est renouvelée à la
même date (15,1-10), celle que Dieu choisit également pour annoncer au
patriarche la naissance d’Isaac tout en s’engageant à établir à son tour son
alliance avec l’enfant de la promesse (15,19) dont la naissance se produira
précisément le jour de la fête des Prémices de la moisson (16,13) !
Ajoutons encore qu’Abraham, Isaac et Jacob célèbrent ensemble les
Semaines juste avant la mort du premier nommé qui profite de l’occasion
pour bénir son petit-fils en demandant à Dieu de renouveler avec lui et
avec sa descendance son alliance à jamais (22,15.30). Enfin le livre des
Jubilés commence le seizième jour du troisième mois, soit le lendemain
de la fête des Semaines, par une scène qui calque exactement Ex 24,12.
Or cet épisode suit, dans l’Exode, la conclusion de l’alliance sinaïtique
(Ex 24,1-11). Cela donne à penser que l’auteur de l’ouvrage a voulu
implicitement suggérer que cette alliance avait été scellée la veille, soit le
même jour que les précédentes.
b. L’insistance sur la durée de la fête dont la célébration doit se
limiter à une seule journée semble bien ne pouvoir s’expliquer que dans
une perspective polémique, le but étant de combattre l’introduction d’un
deuxième jour de fête que d’aucuns auraient voulu instituer dès la fin du
deuxième siècle avant notre ère, même si nous ne possédons pas d’autres
indications en ce sens avant une période nettement plus tardive.
c. L’accent placé sur le caractère double de la célébration montre
également qu’il n’était pas reconnu par tout le monde. La fête ne doit pas
seulement être tenue pour une célébration agraire en lien avec les
prémices de la moisson. Elle est aussi, et sans doute convient-il d’ajouter
surtout, fête des Semaines (shbw‘wth) ou des Serments (shbw‘th),
l’assonance entre ces deux termes qui ne diffèrent que par une voyelle en
hébreu rendant le jeu de mot facile. Elle est, de ce fait même, liée à
l’alliance. Tous les efforts sont d’ailleurs mis en œuvre pour rattacher cet
aspect, assurément relativement nouveau mais jugé essentiel, de la fête
aux figures les plus illustres du passé: Noé; Abraham; Isaac; Jacob et
Moïse. Il est intéressant de noter ici que les premières traces d’une telle
association sont déjà perceptibles dans le livre des Chroniques que l’on
Christian Grappe 22
peut faire remonter au troisième siècle avant notre ère. Il y est fait
mention en effet d’une fête d’entrée dans l’alliance (2 Ch 15,12) qui a lieu
le troisième mois (v. 10) et au cours de laquelle la foule assemblée prête
serment devant le Seigneur (v. 15). Ce texte est particulièrement
intéressant parce qu’il marque la transformation, par le Chroniste, d’une
tradition relatant la purification du culte yahviste par Asa (1 R 15,12) en
une célébration du renouvellement de l’alliance ayant lieu à l’occasion de
la fête des Semaines. De même, Ex 19,1-6 paraît porter la marque d’un
réviseur sacerdotal qui a voulu suggérer que l’alliance au Sinaï avait eu
lieu à l’occasion de la fête des Semaines.
Dans ce contexte, il est hautement significatif que ni la littérature
rabbinique, ni Flavius Josèphe, ni Philon ne nous livrent le moindre indice
en faveur d’une réinterprétation de la fête en fonction de l’Alliance et de
son renouvellement avant la ruine du Temple en l’an 70 de notre ère. Le
Talmud de Babylone montre encore Rabbi Aqiba et Rabbi Josué le
Galiléen discutant gravement la question de savoir si, oui ou non, la Loi
fut proclamée le jour de la fête des Semaines (Yoma 4b), ce qui indique
que, même au temps de Trajan, voire d’Hadrien, le problème restait
débattu parmi les rabbins. Même si d’autres passages démontrent que le
débat fut tranché assez rapidement en faveur de la coïncidence des deux
événements (Seder Olam 5; Talmud de Babylone Pesahim 68b; Sifré Dt
16,8), il n’en demeure pas moins que les réticences longtemps affichées
par les rabbins à l’encontre d’une interprétation théologique de la fête et
le silence de Flavius Josèphe et de Philon à son endroit sont surprenants,
d’autant, nous l’avons vu, qu’une telle relecture trouvait quelques points
d’appui dans l’Ecriture. Il faut se demander, nous semble-t-il, si ces
réserves et ce silence ne trouvent pas leur explication dans une occultation
volontaire de cet aspect de la fête par les milieux officiels du judaïsme.
Ces derniers auraient été mus en l’occurrence par un souci majeur: ne
cautionner en aucun cas les développements que la fête des Semaines
connaissait chez les esséniens, d’autant qu’ils en avaient fait, dans son
interprétation nouvelle, nous aurons l’occasion de le voir un peu plus loin,
le cœur de leur année liturgique.
d. Il semble bien que ce soit également le refus d’associer la
célébration aux premières alliances et tout particulièrement à l’alliance
sinaïtique que vise la stigmatisation des oublis dont a fait l’objet la fête
Une influence essénienne sur l’Église primitive de Jérusalem ? 23
dans le passé. En effet, ce point est souligné au verset 19 avec des accents
d’une telle actualité (“en tes jours les fils d’Israël l’ont oubliée jusqu’à ce
que tu l’aies restaurée pour eux auprès de cette montagne”) que l’on ne
peut manquer de se demander si, par-delà la négligence des ancêtres des
pères, qui est visée de fait, n’est pas stigmatisée celle de la génération
contemporaine. La reconnaissance exclusive du caractère agraire de la
fête qui était le fait des milieux officiels aurait donc été assimilée, par les
milieux esséniens, à un oubli pur et simple d’une célébration qui trouvait
pour eux sa signification majeure ailleurs.
Autres éclairages relatifs à la fête des Semaines à Qumrân
Les écrits découverts à Qumrân ont confirmé l’importance
exceptionnelle que revêtait la fête des Semaines pour les esséniens. Un
fragment de l’Ecrit de Damas (4QDb) atteste en effet que la cérémonie la
plus solennelle de la secte, celle qui marquait l’entrée dans l’Alliance,
avait lieu ce jour-là. C’est à l’occasion de cette fête, dont il est question en
divers endroits (1QS 1,16-3,12; 1QH 14,8-22; 1Q34bis; CD 15,5-16), que
les candidats qui avaient fait leurs preuves étaient définitivement admis
dans la communauté après s’être engagés à respecter en tous points les
prescriptions divines. 1QS 1,16-18 illustre bien l’importance des
Serments qui étaient prêtés ce jour-là. Nous savons par ailleurs que les
esséniens estimaient se trouver déjà au bénéfice de la nouvelle Alliance,
considérant que les promesses faites en Jr 31,31-33 et Ez 36,25-27 étaient
désormais accomplies. L’expression se rencontre en CD 6,19; CDB 1,33;
2,12. La grande majorité des auteurs la rétablit par ailleurs en 1QpHab
2,3. L’ère nouvelle promise par ces textes se caractérise notamment par le
don d’un cœur et d’un esprit nouveaux (Ez 36,26). On ne s’étonnera donc
pas de trouver en Jubilés 1,22-25, passage qui paraît provenir du rituel
célébré lors de la fête des Semaines (Jaubert
1963: 106-107), un texte qui
suppose que la communauté est désormais au bénéfice de ce don de
Deux des traits principaux du récit de la Pentecôte trouvent un
éclairage singulier à la lumière des textes dont nous venons de faire état.
Il s’agit d’abord des nombreuses allusions aux prodiges qui
accompagnent, dans le récit de l’Exode, la conclusion de l’Alliance au
Sinaï. Elles font écho à des développements de caractère midrashique sur
Christian Grappe 24
Ex 19,16 et 20,18-19 que l’on rencontre notamment chez Philon, auteur
qui n’effectue pourtant aucun rapprochement entre cet événement et la
fête des Semaines. Ainsi le bruit (v. 2), les langues de feu (v. 3), le
miracle qui permet à chacun d’entendre dans sa propre langue (v. 6)
trouvent-ils chacun leur correspondant dans le passage du De Decalogo
(par. 33-47) où est décrit le don de la Loi. À partir d’un bruit invisible qui
se transforme en un feu flamboyant puis en une voie articulée (par. 33),
Dieu réalise un prodige: la flamme se transmue en un langage familier
aux auditeurs; les paroles son formulées si clairement que l’on a
l’impression de les voir plutôt que de les entendre (par. 6). Des traditions
ultérieures précisent encore que la voix divine s’est partagée en soixante-
dix mangues permettant à chaque peuple d’entendre
(Exode Rabba 5,9;
. On se trouve ici dans un univers de représentations semblable à
celui qui sous-tend le récit d’Ac 2,1-13, mais ce qui est essentiel c’est
qu’il soit rapporté, dans ce dernier texte, à la fête des Semaines et que
nous soit proposée une interprétation renouvelée de ce temps fort de la
liturgie juive à la lumière d’un événement qui n’était célébré ce jour-là
que dans les milieux esséniens.
De même, l’irruption de l’Esprit (v. 4) apparaît comme le sceau de
la Nouvelle Alliance promise par les prophètes. Cette ère tant désirée,
dans laquelle les esséniens étaient convaincus de vivre déjà et qu’ils
célébraient justement le jour de la fête des Semaines, voilà que notre texte
proclame à son tour qu’elle est inaugurée, à cette même date, pour la
communauté primitive de Jérusalem. Certes, une différence d’accent
apparaît et elle est à souligner. À Qumrân, le rituel solennel qui parquait
l’entrée des novices dans l’alliance et la réitération de cette dernière
calquait fort étroitement celui, décrit en Dt 29, par lequel Moïse avait
conclu, avec le peuple d’Israël, au pays de Moab, les paroles de l’Alliance
qui s’ajoutaient à celles déjà scellées à l’Horeb (Dt 28,69). Il revêtait
l’aspect le plus légaliste et, du respect ou non des serments prêtés en vase
clos, dépendait la bénédiction ou la malédiction future des novices. Dans
le récit néotestamentaire, au contraire, l’effusion du souffle divin
provoque l’apparition d’un parler nouveau qui va s’adresser à la foule
bigarrée présente à Jérusalem pour l’occasion et il n’est pas question de
serments redoutables. Cette tradition provient d’une communauté
Une influence essénienne sur l’Église primitive de Jérusalem ? 25
persuadée d’avoir vécu un tournant de l’histoire du salut mais qui
n’entend demeurer ni enfermée dans les catégories du passé ni repliée sur
elle-même. Tout en trahissant la dette qu’a souscrite cette communauté à
l’endroit des représentations esséniennes, le récit d’Ac 2,1-13 laisse
apparaître que cette assemblée n’est pas demeurée captive d’un modèle
dont elle s’est plutôt servie pour exprimer son originalité propre.
Les passage relatifs à la communauté des biens
Les passages relatifs à la communauté des biens que l’on trouve en
Ac 1-5 ont été rapprochés, sans qu’une telle perspective soit dénuée de
fondement car l’auteur à Théophile s’adresse à des gens cultivés de son
temps, de l’utopie prônée par certains philosophes grecs (Platon,
Respublica III,416cd; V,457cd et 462c; Aristote, Ethica Nicomachea
IX,8, p. 1168b) et réalisée, apparemment, dans les cercles pythagoriciens
- Diogène Laërce 8,10, Pythagore aurait enseigné la communauté des
biens à ses disciples. Jamblique confirme ce témoignage (De Vita
Pythagoricae 17,72-74; 18,81; 30,167-168). Il faut noter toutefois que,
dans la Palestine du début de notre ère, cet idéal social avait pris corps
chez les esséniens, à Qumrân. C’est ce qu’ont déjà illustré les textes de
Flavius Josèphe et de Philon produits à propos d’Ac 2,42-47. Il convient
d’ajouter à ces témoignages celui que fournissent les manuscrits de la mer
Morte. Ils confirment que les esséniens ont bel et bien pratiqué la mise en
commun de leurs biens, du moins dans leur maison mère de Qumrân (1QS
1,11-13; 5,2; 6,15-23. CD 13,11), et nous ont appris qu’elle s’effectuait
selon un processus progressif au cours de l’admission dans la secte (1QS
6,16-23). Les parallèles que l’on peut établir entre ces usages et ceux que
nous révèlent les récits des Actes sont d’autant plus intéressants que l’on
ne peut trouver, dans le judaïsme palestinien de l’époque, d’autres milieux
dans lesquels prévalait une telle communauté des biens.
Les récits relatifs respectivement à l’attitude de Joseph Barnabas
(4,36-37) et aux mésaventures d’Ananias et de Saphira (5,1-11) gagnent à
être étudiés dans cette perspective. Le premier nous paraît authentifier
l’information sur laquelle se fonde l’auteur à Théophile. Il montre en effet
que l’on devait parler à Antioche, avec fierté et admiration, de Barnabas
qui avait encore appartenu à cette génération fondatrice qui, à Jérusalem,
pratiquait la communauté des biens.
Christian Grappe 26
Quant au second, il contient nombre de traits intéressants pour notre
Ce qui y est reproché à Ananias puis à sa femme, c’est d’avoir
menti en matière de biens. Or c’est là la première infraction sanctionnée
par le code pénal qumrânien que nous a conservé le Rouleau de la Règle
(1QS 6,24-25), encore que la peine encourue par le coupable – à savoir
une exclusion d’un an – y soit moins sévère que le châtiment subi par les
deux époux et soit exécutée par la communauté et non par Dieu lui-même.
Parallèlement, l’opposition entre ho Satanas et to pneuma to hagion,
autour de laquelle s’articule Ac 5,3, n’est pas sans évoquer celle que
l’instruction sur les deux Esprits établit entre Esprits de vérité et de
perversion (1QS 3,18-4,26). Un détail du verset 4 pourrait de même être
éclairé par l’usage qumrânien. Pierre y rappelle en effet à Ananias que,
quoiqu’il eût cédé son terrain, le produit de la vente restait à sa disposition
(en tèi sèi exousiai), expression dont le substrat sémitique doit être byd.
Or les candidats désireux d’intégrer la communauté des bords de la mer
Morte faisaient d’abord à ladite communauté un abandon conditionnel de
leurs biens, et, dans un passage qui s’y rapporte, le terme byd désigne
justement le compte bloqué dans lequel était préservé le bien des novices
(1QS 6,20). Il ne peut dont être exclu que la communauté primitive de
Jérusalem ait eu recours au système essénien d’abandon conditionnel de
la propriété. L’auteur qui a relevé cette similitude (Capper 1986: 223-
236 ; 1983: 117-131), est allé encore plus loin dans l’analyse, suggérant
que la double question que Pierre adresse à Ananias au début du verset
(ouchi menon soi emenen kai prathen en tèi sèi éxousiai hupèrchen ?) se
rapporterait en fait à un processus d’entrée progressive dans la vie
communautaire, le premier volet ayant trait à une phase catéchétique
introductive (« avant que tu vendes ce terrain, ne restait-il pas à toi ?
[littéralement: est-ce que, restant (en l’état), il ne restait pas à toi ? »]) et
le second à une étape au cours de laquelle les convertis auraient, en
quelque sorte, dû vendre leurs biens et confier l’argent à la collectivité,
tout en conservant un droit sur lui jusqu’à leur adhésion définitive au
groupe (« et, après qu’il fut vendu, ne demeurait-il pas à ta disposition
? »). Il nous paraît clair que Capper force ici le texte et néglige un élément
essentiel, à savoir que la communauté des biens ne revêtait pas, à
Jérusalem, le caractère obligatoire qu’elle avait à Qumrân. C’est ce
Une influence essénienne sur l’Église primitive de Jérusalem ? 27
qu’indique justement la première apostrophe de Pierre. Il n’en demeure
pas moins que la vente de leurs biens semble avoir conféré, à ceux qui
l’effectuaient, une dignité particulière, comme nous l’a déjà montré
l’exemple de Barnabas. Accédaient-ils ainsi au groupe des « parfaits » qui
auraient constitué le noyau de la communauté jérusalémite ? L’hypothèse
est à prendre d’autant plus au sérieux qu’aux versets 6 et 10 apparaissent
respectivement les termes hoi neôteroi et hoi neaniskoi pour désigner des
jeunes gens, chargés de tâches subalternes, qui pourraient bien avoir été,
de fait, des novices (Grappe 1992: 59).
Toutes ces similitudes, teintées aussi, nous l’avons vu, de
dissemblances, invitent à prendre en compte l’influence d’un mode de
pensée qumrânien sur la communauté primitive, même si cette dernière
n’a pas reproduit servilement le modèle essénien mais semble plutôt s’en
être inspirée librement. Il convient d’ajouter que la conviction de
l’imminence de la parousie a dû jouer un rôle non négligeable dans
l’adoption d’un tel modèle par une communauté unie dans l’attente du
retour de son Maître. Le retard de la parousie et les problèmes
économiques qui se posèrent rapidement conduisirent à l’abandon de ce
modèle par la communauté primitive (Grappe 1992: 139-142).
Les données de l’archéologie à l’appui des données des textes ?
Le faisceau convergent de similitudes dégagées au fil de nos trois
récits invite à prendre en compte l’influence d’un mode de pensée
qumrânien sur la communauté primitive, même si cette dernière n’a pas
reproduit servilement le modèle essénien mais semble plutôt s’en être
Pareille hypothèse nous paraît trouver un appui dans les données
historiques et archéologiques relatives au lieu d’implantation de la
communauté primitive de Jérusalem et à l’existence éventuelle d’un
quartier essénien dans la ville sainte. Ces données font apparaître que les
deux communautés étaient peut-être voisines (Riesner
1995: 1777-1922 ;
1993: 198-234 ; Pixner 1996: 309-322 ; Grappe 1992: 60-69).
En ce qui concerne le lieu d’implantation de la communauté
primitive de Jérusalem, la tradition situe, depuis les temps les plus
reculés, l’installation de la première assemblée jérusalémite sur la colline
occidentale, encore appelée mont Sion. Les fouilles ont confirmé
Christian Grappe 28
l’occupation de ce secteur à l’époque néo-testamentaire, même s’il fut
abandonné par la suite en l’an 70 de notre ère, avant de connaître un
nouvel essor au cours du second quart du quatrième siècle (Broshi
81-88). La découverte, dans ce quartier, et plus précisément dans le
prétendu « Tombeau de David », d’une niche et de graffiti pourrait, dès
lors, se révéler intéressante. La niche, dont on a retrouvé des exemplaires
semblables ailleurs dans des synagogues (Gamla [Gaulanitide];
Eschtemoa [sud de la Judée]; Naveh [Batanée]…), est orientée en effet
non pas en direction du Temple, mais du Golgotha. Quant aux graffiti
examinés par J. Pinkerfeld à l’occasion d’un sondage en 1951, ils
pourraient être judéo-chrétiens. L’un d’entre eux aurait ainsi porté, selon
certains, l’inscription « O Jésus, que je vive, Seigneur du Tout Puissant
(de l’Autocrate) », texte qu’ils reconstituent à partir d’un original
I[ES]OU[S] ZH[SW] KI[RI]E AUTOKRATOROS. Cette double
trouvaille paraît s’harmoniser avec le témoignage d’Epiphane selon lequel
Hadrien, quand, lors d’un voyage de reconnaissance dans l’est de
l’Empire (en 125 ap. J. -C. environ), il visita Jérusalem, « trouva toute la
ville détruite et le Temple anéanti, en dehors de quelques bâtisses, telle
que la petite église de Dieu, sise sur le lieu où les disciples, après
l’ascension de leur Sauveur sur le mont des Oliviers, retournèrent et
montèrent à l’étage. Elle était construite là, sur le mont Sion » (Epiphane,
De mensuris et ponderibus 14 (= J.-P. Migne, PG 43, c. 260 D et 261 A)).
Pour ce qui est, à présent, de l’existence éventuelle d’un quartier
essénien dans la ville sainte, l'archéologie vient désormais corroborer le
témoignage de Flavius Josèphe. De fait, le passage dans lequel Flavius
Josèphe décrit le mur d’enceinte de Jérusalem en affirmant que, de la tour
Hippicos, il « atteignait le lieu-dit Bethso, la porte des Esséniens; puis, de
là, au sud (…) s’infléchissait jusqu’au-delà de la source de Siloé »
(Flavius Josèphe, Guerre juive V,145) pourrait trouver toute sa
signification à la lumière des fouilles entreprises par Bliss et Dickie et
prolongées récemment par B. Pixner, S. Margalit et D. Chen. Si Bliss et
Dickie ont mis au jour un fragment de la muraille et la porte décrite par
Josèphe, les dernières recherches ont montré que le rempart remonte à la
période hasmonéenne et que la porte n’y fut percée qu’après coup, au
début de la période hérodienne. Son creusement apparaît insolite en raison
de la raideur de la pente à cet endroit. Elle pourrait, de fait, n’avoir été
Une influence essénienne sur l’Église primitive de Jérusalem ? 29
conçue qu’à l’usage de piétons qui se seraient rendus, en l’empruntant,
aux latrines – Beit zo’ah en araméen, expression que Josèphe aurait
rendue par son mystérieux Bethso– situées hors les murs pour éviter toute
contamination de la villes sainte (cf. RT 46,13-16; BJ II, 148-149). Ces
gens, soucieux à l’extrême de pureté rituelle, semblent bien avoir été des
esséniens. La découverte, dans le quartier, au cours des fouilles, d’un
réseau de bains rituels tend à le confirmer. Un autre de ces bains, double
et datant de la période hérodienne, a d’ailleurs été mis au jour sur le
chemin qui conduisait de la porte au Bethso. Creusé dans le roc, il était
alimenté par des conduites provenant de citernes situées intra muros et
dont on peut imaginer qu’elles appartenaient aux membres de la secte,
désireux d’éviter toute pollution et de contrôler l’approvisionnement des
bassins dans lesquels ils se purifiaient.
Si l’on se fie à ces données historiques et archéologiques,
l’existence d’un établissement essénien à Jérusalem pourrait remonter au
règne d’Hérode le Grand. Les premiers chrétiens pourraient donc avoir eu
pour voisins ses habitants.
La conclusion peut paraître trop belle pour être vraie. Ajoutons
cependant qu’elle n’est pas nécessaire à la démonstration proposée. En
effet, même si la localisation de la chambre haute n’était pas assurée, il
n’en demeurerait pas moins que la première communauté s’est installée à
Par ailleurs, même si le cheminement des influences esséniennes ne
pouvait s’expliquer par un voisinage immédiat des deux communautés,
cela n’empêcherait pas que leur existence tende à s’imposer au regard de
Ajoutons encore ici que la parenté que nous avons relevée entre
premiers chrétiens et esséniens tant au niveau des spéculations
messianiques que de l’interprétation des Ecritures renforce l’hypothèse de
contacts et, en tout cas, d’une influence. On comprend
d’ailleurs très bien
pourquoi les premiers chrétiens ont pu s’inspirer du modèle essénien.
Etant retournés à Jérusalem, sur les lieux mêmes où leur Maître avait été
crucifié, pour s’y installer, sans doute parce qu’ils y attendaient le retour
imminent de leur Maître (cf. Lc 19,11…), ils étaient venus en quelque
sorte se jeter dans la gueule du loup. Le type d’organisation essénien a pu
leur apparaître dès lors comme un exemple auquel il serait prudent de se
Christian Grappe 30
conformer. Ces esséniens n’étaient-ils pas, comme eux, les disciples d’un
maître qui avait été victime de la fureur des autorités juives (1QpHab
11,6) ? N’étaient-ils eux-mêmes en rupture avec le culte sacrificiel au
Temple ? N’étaient-ils pas parvenus, cependant, à reprendre pied à
Jérusalem et à y fonder un établissement tout en s’imposant un mode de
vie et en affichant des convictions différentes de celles qui prévalaient
dans les milieux officiels ? Pourquoi dès lors ne pas se constituer comme
eux en un groupe qui vivrait à part mais pourrait, de ce fait, s’autoriser
une certaine audace dans le domaine de la réflexion et s’efforcer de
pénétrer et d’exprimer le mystère de la personne du Nazaréen, dans
l’attente de son prochain retour en gloire ?
Telle est l’explication qui nous semble la plus satisfaisante de la
métamorphose que connut le groupe des disciples de Jésus quand,
convaincus que leur Maître ressuscité les engageait à poursuivre l’œuvre
entamée, ces derniers regagnèrent Jérusalem. Il apparaît d’ailleurs qu’ils
fournirent, consciemment ou non, des gages de bonne volonté. C’est ce
qu’illustre notamment leur fréquentation du Temple, même si leur respect
pour le lieu de prière s’accompagnait d’une prise de distance à l’endroit
du culte sacrificiel. De même, l’intégration des aspects les plus radicaux
de la prédication de Jésus dans une discipline, une catéchèse et une
liturgie à usage interne eut assurément pour effet de rendre leur présence
beaucoup moins menaçante. Cela leur permit d’acquérir une marge de
manœuvre suffisante pour qu’ils puissent entamer une activité
missionnaire dont le livre des Actes nous conserve, certes amplifiée et
magnifiée, la trace. Nous sommes ainsi conduit au constat suivant: c’est
au stade de la communauté primitive de Jérusalem qu’apparaissent les
analogies les plus frappantes entre le mouvement chrétien naissant et le
Broshi, Magen. 1976. Excavations on Mount Zion – Preliminary Report, 1971-1972.
Israel Exploration Journal 26: 81-88.
Capper, Brian J. 1983. The Interpretation of Acts 5,4. Journal for the Study of the New
Testament 19: 117-131.
Capper, Brian J. 1986. “In der Hand des Ananias... ”. Erwägungen zu IQS VI,20, und der
urchristlichen Gütergemeinschaft. Revue de Qumrân 12: 223-236.
Epiphane, De mensuris et ponderibus 14 (= J.-P. Migne, PG 43, c. 260 D et 261 A).
Flavius Josèphe, Guerre juive V,145.
Une influence essénienne sur l’Église primitive de Jérusalem ? 31
Grappe, Christian. 1992. D'un Temple à l'autre. Pierre et l'Eglise primitive de Jérusalem
(Etudes d'histoire et de philosophies religieuses 71). Paris: PUF.
Grappe, Christian. 2002. L’apport de l’essénisme à la compréhension du christianisme
naissant. Études Théologiques et Religieuses 77: 517-536.
Jaubert, Annie. 1963. La notion d’alliance dans le Judaïsme aux abords de l’ère
chrétienne (Patristica Sorbonensia 6). Paris: Seuil.
Jaubert, Annie. 1973. L’élection de Matthias et le tirage au sort. In Studia Evangelica.
Vol VI. Papers presented to the Fourth International Congress on New
Testament Studies held at Oxford, 1969. Edited by E. Livingstone (TU 112).
Jeremias, Joachim. 1967. Jérusalem au temps de Jésus. Paris: Cerf.
Pixner, Bargil. 1991. Wege des Messias und Stätten der Urkirche. Jesus und das
Judenchristentum im Licht neuer archäologischer Erkenntnisse. Herausgegeben
von Rainer Riesner. Giessen-Basel: Brunnen Verlag.
Pixner, Bargil. 2006. Mount Zion, Jesus, and Archeology. In Jesus and Anrcheology.
Edited by James H. Charlesworth. Cambridge: Grand rapids, Eerdmans.
Riesner, R. 1993. Jesus, the Primitive Community, and the Essene Quarter of Jerusalem.
In Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls (edited by J. H. Charlesworth) (The Anchor
Bible Reference Library). New York: Boubleday.
Riesner, Rainer. 1995. Das Jerusalemer Essenerviertel und die Urgemeinde (Josephus,
Bellum Judaicum V 145; 11QMiqdasch 46,13-16; Apostelgeschichte 1-6 und
die Archäologie). In Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt. Teil II:
Principat. Band 26.2. Berlin-New York: Walter de Gruyter.
Stauffer, Ethelbert. 1952. Jüdisches Erbe im urchristlichen Kirchenrecht. Theologische
Literaturzeitung 77: col. 201-206.
Stewardship and Wealth in Luke 16
Faculty of Orthodox Theology,
“Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iaşi, ROMANIA
Among Luke’s theological themes developed in Gospel, wealth and stewardship
are joined in two parables founded in Lk 16: unjust manager and poor man Lazarus.
Both stories show the manner of conversion terrestrial wealth and stewardship into
spirituals gifts prepared to heavenly life. The dishonored manager use the economic
strategy of conversion the debts, so debtors and master appreciate his shrewd in the
energetic planning with respect to one’s physical resources. Eschatological dimension
implied in Lk 16: 14-18 is enchained with parable of Rich man and poor Lazarus. This
second story that have two sequences - terrestrial and celestial – point that proud, stored
up treasures on earth doesn’t inherit happiness and comfort in heaven world. In afterlife
existence God positively reward the spiritual and social goodness and negatively reward
the self-satisfaction suite with blind to divine revelation. Luke propose the pattern of
stewardship with eschatological dimension and a shrewd conversion of terrestrial
wealth in human lovely sentiment.
Keywords: Luke, unjust manager, Lazarus, debt, wealth, stewardship
Luke’s attitude on wealthy man and salvation
Luke 16 reveals vital concern for responsible stewardship. Two
parables (16:1-8, 19-31) are linked with other paragraphs in Luke’s
“Travel-Narrative,” which introduces a rich person: The Parable of the
Rich Fool (12:16-21) – “the land of a rich man brought forth
plentifully...” (12:16); The Parable of the Dishonest Manager (16:1-9) –
“there was a rich man who had a steward...” (16:1); The Parable of the
Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19) – “Now there was a rich man...” (16:19);
The Rich Ruler (18:18-39) – “But when he heard this he became sad, for
he was very rich.” (18:23) and Zacchaeus (19:1-10) – “he was a chief tax-
collector, and rich”.
In each instance, wealth poses a problem, expressed in parable or
narrative form. The rich fool lived life in a self-sufficient manner without
Ilie Melniciuc-Puică 34
taking God seriously. The desire for wealth led the dishonest manager
into his original squandering, compounded by his dishonest treatment of
the debtors. The rich man, who lived in luxury, had no regard for the
poverty-stricken Lazarus who daily lay in misery at his gateway. The
value of the rich ruler’s possessions was greater than his desire to follow
Jesus. Zacchaeus’ wealth is introduced prior to his encounter with Jesus,
but his “salvation” (19:9-10) issues in his subsequent honest self-
reckoning and willingness to reverse any prior dishonesty.
Stewardship in Luke 16
The two parables in Luke 16 need to be understood together. Both
parables begin with the words “There was a certain rich man” and relate
to the explicit command of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount to, “lay up
for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Mt. 6:20).
That command is illustrated positively by the unjust manager (Lk.
16:1-8) and Jesus’ application of the parable (v. 9-13), also negatively by
the Rich man in 16:19-31, who laid up for himself “treasures on earth”
(Mt. 6:19). Both parables call for stewardship responsible in the present,
with a view to an impending future. Moreover, Jesus’ answer to
avaricious opponents (16:14-18) serves as the seam which holds together
the overall message of the two parables.
In regard to the profession of the steward, (Manson 1949: 291) lists
three alternatives through the word “oivkono,moj”:
1. an overseer or head-servant responsible for the welfare and
discipline of the rest of the household staff (Luke 12:42);
2. an estate-manager;
3. a civic official, like the city treasurer (Romans 16:23).
Some scholars (Derrett 1961: 214; Landry and May 2000: 296) sees
the manager as “moneylender” and regards the debts as “usurers.” He
argued that cash debts were liquidated and reinstated in agricultural
produce in order to avoid the laws of usury.
In the first parable, the dishonest manager prepared for his future
life by his actions toward those who were in debt to his master. By
generously reducing the debt of each one, he insures a reception into the
homes of his master’s debtors after his official discharge. The debtors
would have a good feeling toward him because of the generosity he had
Stewardship and Wealth in Luke 16 35
shown to them. He “laid up treasure” for his future life. He acted quickly
(v. 6) and shrewdly (v. 8), receiving from his master commendation for
Into the second parable, Rich man “laid up treasures on earth” (cf.
Mt. 6:19). Since he knew Lazarus by name (Luke 16:24) and since
Lazarus was lying facing his gateway (16:20), in keeping with the graphic
portrayal, we surmise that he had passed by Lazarus more than once.
Whether Rich man gave the order that some table scraps be taken to
Lazarus is not clear. Nor is it clear if, before the scraps arrived, the dogs
devoured them as they proceeded to lick the open sores of the leprous
one. It’s clear that Rich man lived in luxury and extravagance as though
Lazarus had no real claim upon his time and resources and, therefore, the
beggar was no object of his concern.
Manifestly, there is a stark inhumanity ingrained in Rich man
nature. In his splendid clothing and with his delectable banquets (16:19),
Rich man lived as one whose “treasure is on earth” and the enjoyment
consumed all of his time and energy for as long as he lived in this world.
He gave no thought to the future and laid up no treasure for the next
world. Lazarus was also there on the other side - not to “welcome” him as
the debtors would be ready to welcome the dishonest manager (“they will
welcome” in 16:9). There is no expression of regret by Rich man for his
neglect of Lazarus’ need while Lazarus was languishing at his gateway.
He simply wants Lazarus to administer momentary relief in his painful
need and to minister to the need of his five brothers still living in the
Unitary, the parables point the readership to a life on earth of
responsible stewardship with material possessions and – preeminently - to
stewardship on behalf of fellow humans who are in desperate need,
having tender and compassionate care.
The Parable of the Dishonest Manager: Luke 16:1-13
There is a change in audience from the Pharisees and Scribes (15:1-
2) to the disciples (16:1) and then, to the Pharisees, characterized as
“lovers of money” who hear “these things” (16:14). Specifically, there is
a particular directive to use money in a proper way in the present age, so
Ilie Melniciuc-Puică 36
as to ensure a “well done” in the final age. While wealth endangers people
often leading them astray, disciples should make use of the mammon of
unrighteousness that others might receive them into eternal dwellings.
The immediate audience of the parable is the disciples (v. 1a).
Parable explains the problem of the dishonest manager (vs. 1b-2). The
reader is introduced to two actors, the rich man and the manager, seen
through a clear chain of events:
Report about the manager
Reckoning time for the
Loss of the manager’s
1 There was a rich man who
had a manager, and charges
were brought to him that
this man was squandering
2 So he summoned him
and said to him, ‘What is
this that I hear about you?
Give me an accounting of
because you cannot be my
manager any longer.’
The “manager” is a house steward in a privileged position, manages
his master’s property and estate, possibly as a treasurer. Usually born as a
slave, the manager possessed great economic freedom and responsibility
with which he could realize personal benefit through loans with
A second person brings charges to the rich man about the steward’s
squandering of the master’s property, a report which the master
apparently believes. This charge leads to an official summons of the
manager for a reckoning. The rich man demands that the steward produce
proof to refute these accusations. The rich man’s anger is expressed in
two crisp expressions: “What is this that I hear about you?” and “Turn in
the account of your management”. The result of the reckoning is clear - it
will lead to the manager’s loss of his job, “for you can no longer be
Envisioned solutions to the manager’s problem (vs. 3-4)
The manager engages in a monologue, “What shall I do?” In view
of his ability to speak and act before the final reckoning, there is a period
of grace. At the same time, the outcome of the reckoning is clear to him.
Even though there is some leeway, his actions are governed by a sense of
Stewardship and Wealth in Luke 16 37
urgency (v. 6). His deadline is a reality - he is going to lose his job: What
will I do now that my master is taking the position away from me?
At this point the manager thinks with prudence and self-interest,
planning a further use of his master’s financial resources. “The verb
avfaire,w, [is taking the management away from me] signifies the process
of dismissal, which will not be completed until the steward has had time
to set down his accounts” (Marshall 1979: 618).
The next part of his monologue is concerned with two possible
ways to make a living. Each possibility is raised, and then dismissed as
impractical for him:
I am not strong enough to dig,
I am too ashamed to beg.
He will not easily be able to find another job as a manager - his
references will not “check out.” Due to his sedentary job, he has not
acquired the strength to dig12 and he is too ashamed to beg. At least the
rogue is honest about his desire for a life of ease. It is clear that there is no
future for him unless he does something radical.
After the two possibilities are raised and dismissed, a new thought
strikes the manager:
“I know [it just now hit me] what to do,
that, when I am put out of the stewardship,
they may receive me into their houses” (Moule 1953: 7).
He faces a real crisis in terms of future employment and survival.
But he has a plan - an idea that will provide for his physical needs - at
least for a period of time while he looks for employment. The subject of
the verb, they may receive anticipates his master’s debtors (Gächter 1950:
127-129). The readers are not told whether he was welcomed after his
dismissal. But it is ironical that the manager, about to lose his job because
of his incompetence (low profits for the master), plots a course of further
planned incompetence, “by means of the very reason (low profits) that
had created it in the first place” (Crossan 1973: 110).
Actual solution of the manager’s problem (v. 5-7)
The plan (v. 4) is now made clear through a brief description of the
manager’s actions. The summoning of the debtors and their reckoning
presuppose that some time elapses between the rich man’s summons of
Ilie Melniciuc-Puică 38
the manager and the final reckoning. While the general invitation to the
debtors may have been more extensive (one by one), attention is devoted
to two debtors only and the reduction of their debts:
he asked the first,
7 Then he asked another,
Original Debt - ’How much do
you owe my master?’ 6 He said,
'A hundred measures of oil.'
New Debt - He said to him, Take
your bill, and sit down quickly
and write fifty.'
Original Debt - And how much do you owe?' He
said, 'A hundred measures of wheat.'
New Debt - He said to him, 'Take your bill, and
“Thus we see an internally connected movement from threatening
crisis, through decisive response, to an improved situation. The image of
man is that of a being who is capable of recognizing that he is in a crisis
and of laying hold on the situation in such a way as to overcome the
threat” (Via 1967: 158). He believes that his new “debtor-friends” will be
honor bound to welcome their newfound “benefactor” into their homes
when he is dismissed from his managerial position. Through his
shrewdness he has provided for his well-being at his master’s expense.
Tribute to the manager by his master (v. 8a)
The dishonest manager is commended, not condemned. The crisis
that occurred through dishonesty is “overcome by more questionable
behavior.” (Kistemaker 1980: 228) Substantiation for the commendation
is introduced by a conjunction “because he had acted shrewdly.”
The idea of undivided service to a master is carried over from the
parable and sayings. Mt. 6:24 and Lk. 16:13 presuppose the possibility of
a slave having two owners with equal shares to him and therefore with
equal claims to his services ... Jesus is attacking the man who suffers from
the illusion that he can do what is implied by the infinitive “to serve”
without concentrating all his powers on rendering service in the sense of
an exclusive commitment and obligation” (Kittel, II 1993: 270-271). The
saying is both a warning against unfaithfulness in Christian commitment
and a warning against enslavement by wealth.
The Seam—The Teaching Paragraph (16:14-18)
The theme of stewardship advances into the interchange between
Jesus and his opponents, the Pharisees, characterized as “lovers of
Stewardship and Wealth in Luke 16 39
money,” who “sneered” (v. 14, “to turn up the nose to someone”) at Jesus
for his teaching on responsible stewardship.
Jesus enjoined his disciples to make friends for themselves by using
the world’s medium of exchange discreetly, to build a solid and eternal
future, where they will be welcomed (16:9) into eternal tents (Manson
1938: 587). Their wealth is not to be “lord,” but to be placed on the altar
of service of the one Lord (Jesus) through its use in the lives of others,
thereby producing an eternal reward. But his opponents have “sold out” to
the love of money, i.e., avarice, and look only to what money can provide
in the present age. Jesus knows that their possession of wealth easily
becomes “lord” in their lives. He had just instructed his disciples that
wrong attitudes towards wealth will thereby make ineffective any service
that is rendered to the Lord Jesus (16:13). His opponents’ hostility and
sarcasm reveals the truth of Jesus’ prior statement that the love of wealth
will issue in hatred for God (v. 13), amply expressed in their
contemptuous response to Him as the
Prophet of God (Derrett 1961: 215). Their retort reveals that their
master to whom they give devotion, is wealth of a temporal sort—with no
eternal reward in view. Jesus attacks the illusion that one can give
exclusive devotion to two masters. The following parable demonstrates
how wealth exercises such complete mastery over Rich man.
The hostile interchange between Jesus and his opponents also
reveals the related issue of pride and prepares for the second parable. That
is to say, the love of money and pride fit hand in glove. The same two
issues (love of money and pride) lie at the root of Rich man extravagant
a) Stewardship also means to recognize the one to whom
Christians belong-the true Lord. The thoughts, intents and
priorities that govern behavior are known by Him, “God knows
your hearts” (v. 15). What is treasured by people may be an
abomination to God.
b) Honorable stewardship is also related to the law and the
prophets and the fruition and fulfillment of both in the new
economy of the Kingdom of God. The strength of the claim,
“everyone is striving to enter [the Kingdom of God]” - 16:16,
Ilie Melniciuc-Puică 40
may rest on the affirmation in the larger context 15:1 - (”all the
tax-collectors and sinners”).
The fulfillment of each part of the law is assured (16:17), finding
fruition in the good news of the Kingdom of God to which everyone is
“urgently invited” (Blomberg 1990: 246), but it is accompanied by the
higher law of Jesus (16:18). The reference to “the law and the prophets”
anticipates the same authoritative claim of the Old Testament that appears
in the following Parable of Rich man and Lazarus (v. 30-31). The
aggressive response of “all” who are urgently invited into the Kingdom of
God, witnessed by the law and the prophets, is countered by the
insensitivity of the six brothers to the ongoing witness of Moses and the
prophets. Either the divorce-remarriage text is a dislocated text or it
provides one specific example of commitment to the Law’s ongoing
The parable spread one central truth. It is not an elaborate allegory
in which each person, attitude, word and action represents a hidden code.
The major thrust of the parable lies in the praise of the manager’s shrewd
use of money in the face of an impending crisis. Thus, the manager
develops a plan, knowing that soon he would be destitute. He uses his
power with money to make some friends and collect some favors,
presuming that those favors could be “cashed in” when his dismissal took
effect. The adjective, shrewd, implies keen, artful action and innovation,
the energetic planning with respect to one’s physical resources. The
parable speaks of creativity, and limitless commitment - and by virtue of
its broader literary context - it certainly speaks of the wise and prudent
use of finances.
The words more than in v. 8 are very important. Jesus admires a
clear-sighted shrewdness which senses a crisis and effectively deals with
it. The manager was about to lose his job, the books were about to be
opened up, and the verdict was clear-guilty. Jesus desires that his people
come to grips with their crisis.
Although Jesus is not opposed to money, he is aware of its power to
displace God and his claim upon human life. He insists that money is to
be used as a utility in making friends with God and others. Jesus wishes to
project his people into a position where they can see God’s oversight over
Stewardship and Wealth in Luke 16 41
their lives with his resources of spiritual and material blessings. He wills
that his people become adequately prepared for greater blessings and
responsibilities to be used for God’s glory.
The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus: Luke 16:19-31
The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is the only parable that
contains a proper name, “Lazarus”; the traditional name “Dives” is the
Latin word meaning “rich.” There is no moral or religious component to
the story of Rich man and Lazarus - at least in the earthly scene
(McArthur and Johnson 1990: 195).
This parable is a story of contrast. It begins with the contrast
between rich and poor, fine linen and skin ulcers, sumptuous feasting and
longing for scraps. The story continues with contrasts between earthly and
heavenly spheres, between bosom of Abraham and fire of hell. The
conclusion holds still a final contrast. The hope of Rich man that his
brothers will repent if Lazarus goes to them from the dead appears in
contrast to the words of Abraham, “they [your brothers] will not even be
persuaded [repent] if someone should rise from the dead” (16:31).
With its eye on the future, the parable warns people about the perils
of wealth, skepticism and unbelief, selfsatisfaction, blind to divine
revelation which so easily controls the rich. Great surprises lie in store for
both the rich and the poor.
This parable clearly contrasts with the Parable of the unfaithful
Manager in that Rich man laid up “treasure on earth” (Mt. 6:10) with no
provision for the future to be welcomed by others into eternal “tents”
(16:4, 9). The proud, stored up treasures on earth which remain - on earth.
Similarly, the authoritative witness of the law and prophets (Lk. 16:16-
18) fails to convince Rich man or his five brothers (v. 29-31).
Act I: Earthly
Earthly condition of the rich man (v. 19)
The parable summarizes the earthly stations of the rich man (v. 19)
and Lazarus (vss. 20-21), and brings they together in their earthly lives,
i.e., Lazarus, a poor beggar lies at the gate of the rich man’s house.
Ilie Melniciuc-Puică 42
The parable begins with brief summary statements of the earthly
condition of the rich man told in three crisp clauses: 1) he was rich; 2) he
would dress in purple and fine linen; 3) he would live in luxury every day
(Ellis 1991: 361).
The first statement affirms the wealth of the man; he does not need
to work for a living. The second statement narrates his usual clothing,
purple and fine linen, clothing for prominent people, “arrayed in a costly
mantle of purple wool with underwear of fine Egyptian linen”
(Encyclopedia Biblica col. 2800). The last clause notes his luxurious
living every day, i.e., “he fared sumptuously every day” (Jeremias 1971:
84) which is linked to the participle “being glad, enjoying oneself,
rejoicing,” and is used elsewhere in Luke to refer to the physical
satisfaction of eating. His feasts were not reserved for special occasions,
but were enjoyed on a daily basis. The verb euvfrai,nw “be glad, enjoy
oneself” is used of the rich fool in 12:19, “eat drink, be merry,” in the
celebration of the father’s household upon the return of the lost son, “let
us make merry” (15:23), and the sour demeanor of the older son “you
never gave me ... in order that I might make merry” (15:29).
Earthly condition of Lazarus the poor man (v. 20-21)
By way of contrast, Lazarus is introduced as “the poor man”
(ptwco.j). The name “Lazarus,” a Jewish name (“God helps”), is an
abbreviation of “Eleazer.” He is a beggar, a cripple, who lay at the rich
man’s gate and is covered with ulcerous sores. The rich man’s luxurious
clothing is clearly contrasted with the poor man’s covering - ulcers on his
skin. His food is meager in that he wishes to be fed with scraps that fell
off the rich man’s table. But, in place of food, the dogs come and lick the
ulcers on his skin. The dogs are the street dogs which “cannot refrain
from nosing the helpless, scantily-clad cripple” (Fitzmyer 1985: 428). His
pitiful condition is reinforced by the painful reality that the dogs were
able to eat the table scraps while Lazarus only received their licking on
his sores. The mention of the “gate” indicates a palatial residence and
there, Lazarus is open to view - an opportunity for Rich man to minister
to the leprous man (Story 2009: 114). He could not pass out of his house
without seeing him. The stark scene cannot be overlooked for misery
presents itself to Rich man at his gate every day. “Lazarus represents
opportunity for the exercise of humanity” (Bruce 1980: 385). Lazarus is
Stewardship and Wealth in Luke 16 43
an individual in the story but is also indicative of a class of people that fill
the world and daily come into contact with the rich. Like the priest and
Levite, Rich man passes by on the other side (Lk. 10:31-32). As we learn
from the other-worldly scene, there is no indication that Rich man was
unaware of Lazarus’ condition, lying at his gate.
Act II: Other Worldly
Death and afterlife-position of Lazarus (v. 22a)
The poor man’s death is simply recorded with no mention made of a
funeral or burial and is followed by a brief statement about where he was
carried-in the bosom of Abraham. He has a benefactor who welcomes him
(16:4, 9), the great patriarch Abraham. During a middle-eastern meal, as
the guests recline, the place of honor is at the right, where the guest
reclines “on the chest of” the host. The readers are intended to supply the
participle “reclining” to the text. Thus, the phrase would be understood,
“reclining in Abraham’s bosom in the place of honor at the banquet in the
next world” (Bovon 1978: 318). He is carried off and accompanied by the
angels to this place of honor or intimate fellowship (Talbert 1974: 166).
For reasons unknown to us, Lazarus’ miserable lot in life is transformed
into endless bliss with the patriarch Abraham.
Death and afterlife position of the rich man (v. 22b-23)
The rich man also dies and is buried. We read of no happy
entourage to Abraham’s bosom but the simple fact of his death (v. 22b)
and then of the place (v. 23a) which comes as no surprise. The one who
has loved himself only is in hell. The place is Hades, the place of the
dead, in the depths, in sharp contrast with heaven (Marshall 1979: 241).
Generally, Hades is the intermediate state, the shadowy underworld,
which does not seem to have the finality of Gehenna. Hades is a place of
torment or torture (vss. 23, 28). Thus, there is a contrast from the general
stereotype of Jewish belief about Hades - it means “torment” (Noack
The rich man discovers the Hades. Although the place is far
removed from Abraham and Lazarus, he nonetheless is able to see
Abraham with Lazarus in the position of honor at the banquet.
Personal plea (v. 24)
The rich man calls to father Abraham and cries out for mercy. He
appeals to his Jewish ancestry; he knows and recognizes that he can’t
Ilie Melniciuc-Puică 44
move from Hades to the place where Lazarus is - with Abraham. Yet, he
requests that Lazarus be sent to him as his servant for the temporary relief
of his torment (“tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue”). Here, in
Luke story, is an implicit contrast between Lazarus desire for a scrap from
the rich man’s table (earthly), and Rich man request to Abraham for a
drop of water - from Lazarus (heavenly). How he recognizes Abraham—
even Lazarus—this no- named figure that had begged at his gate, is not
told. His pain is reiterated, “I am in anguish in this flame.”
The parable, by way of contrast, discloses to his horror that this
underworld is no shadowy extinction, but a frightful existence
characterized by anguish.
Reason for refusal: reversal of condition (v. 25)
The divine refusal, expressed through Abraham, summons the rich
man to remember the way it was in earthly-life, which is now
dramatically reversed in the afterlife.
A remember that you in your
lifetime received your good things,
A’ and you are in anguish.
B’ and Lazarus in like manner
received evil things;
B but now he is comforted here
Abraham’s response, expressed in chiastic form, brings the reversal
before the rich man’s eyes. The first explanation of the condition in the
afterlife is that the respective conditions of both persons have
dramatically altered. Lazarus’ poverty, sickness and hunger have now
been replaced by honor and comfort; the rich man’s luxurious life-style
has now given way to isolation and anguish. Even Abraham’s word might
suggest a mechanized reversal between experiences of a person on earth
with the opposite experience in the afterlife, the text reveal the contrast
between the time of decision in the earthly sphere and the time when no
decision can be made, in the afterlife.
The contrasting after-lives of the two men are not due to ignorance.
Those who are physically poor often develop qualities of humility,
compassion, and dependence upon God, they have no other recourse. It
does not appear that the rich man is condemned simply for his wealth, but
because he had not seized the opportunity to help the beggar at his gate.
Stewardship and Wealth in Luke 16 45
Lazarus was daily at his gate, but the rich man evidently believed that
there was only one life to live and spent everything in the pursuit of his
Reason for refusal (v. 26)
Lazarus will not move with mercy and relief to the rich man for he
cannot. Even if it were right for Lazarus to extend momentary relief, he
cannot by virtue of a chasm which is impassable, fixed and unbridgeable
(the phrase “expresses the irrevocability of God’s judgment”) (Sabourin
1985: 248). In brief, neither person can go to the other’s place.
Plea for brothers (v. 27-28)
Abraham’s verdict is accepted in terms of the rich man’s own
person, i.e., Lazarus will not and cannot move to relieve the agony of
Rich man. At this point, the story-parable introduces a feature distinct
from the traditional story about reversal paid in the afterlife. His thought
turns to his five brothers who will find themselves in the same horror of
torment. What would Lazarus tell them? Perhaps the rich man believes
that Lazarus can convince them of life after the grave with a fearful
retribution. He hopes that in some way Lazarus can visit them
(reincarnated, visionary?) and then witness to them (v. 28), so effectively
that they can be spared the same torture. Perhaps they will make the
necessary changes and live their lives in the light of the future. At least,
the rich man’s plea moves from himself to others, his own family
Reason for refusal (v. 29)
The reason for refusing the request for a revived Lazarus is that the
brothers do not really need another witness since they already have Moses
and the prophets, i.e., the witness of the Old Testament. The imperative is
clear, “Let them hear them,” while the outcome of the imperative is
likewise clear—the five brothers will not hear the witness of the Old
Testament for they are already deaf to its message (Allen 1955-1956:
317). Rich man, also a Jewish man, has been surprised at the turn of
events. Evidently, he and his five brothers had lived as if the grave were
the end of all things. Paradoxically, while the Scriptures, which they
possess are the only authority they recognize, yet these very Scriptures
point to a life beyond the grave.
Ilie Melniciuc-Puică 46
Further plea (v. 30)
Although the reason is adequate, it is not enough for the rich man
for now his plea is more explicit, “if the brothers will see a man brought
back from the dead, who goes to them, surely they will repent”.
This is the first time in the parable where there is some type of
attitude or action which the rich man should have expressed, which would
have led to a different fate. Repentance would avert the disastrous fate
and subsequent torture. He hopes for a different fate for his brothers than
what he was experiencing. Rich man use of the word “repentance” with
reference to his brothers is curious. The word appears to be a mockery on
his lips since repentance means turning to God “while practicing deeds
worthy of repentance,” i.e., to the neighbor (Acts 26:20). The use of the
term “repentance” by Rich man indicates that he knows the word, though
it has no place in his life. Moreover, the rich man disagrees with Abraham
that the witness of the Old Testament is sufficient for them. Rich man
pleads that they need a special miracle to bring about a change. Evidently
the brothers are pursuing the same course of wealth and power as Rich
man had done.
Restatement of reason for refusal (v. 31)
The language of the last verdict is resolute, expressed in a major-
minor form of argument; the negative appraisal is certain; nothing will
persuade them. The witness of the Old Testament is more powerful than
an awesome display of power in a revived Lazarus.
If they do not listen to Moses and the
prophets (which they do not)
neither will they be persuaded if someone
should rise from the dead
The record of the Old Testament - Moses and the prophets - is
always available (Dahl 1976: 152). If they continue to turn a deaf ear to
that record they will likewise close themselves to any further revelation.
In the parable, there is a clear link forged between “hearing” (v. 29),
“repenting” (v. 30), and “being persuaded” (v. 31) - all of which express
the same openness to the Word of God.
Reading “through the lines” of the parable’s structure, it is clear that
another audience surfaces late in the story - the brothers who have the
problem of unbelief. Jeremias finds the counterpart of these six brothers
Stewardship and Wealth in Luke 16 47
“in the men of the Flood generation, living a careless life, heedless of the
rumble of the approaching flood (Mt. 24:37-39)” (Jeremias 1971: 211).
They have not listened to the voice of Scripture, the ongoing witness of
God. Those who fail to respond to the witness of the Old Testament will
not be converted by a miracle of a magnitude such as the raising of a
brother from the dead [Sf. Ioan Gură de Aur, trans. 2002: 143). Indeed, in
the fourth Gospel, the raising of Lazarus from the dead (Jn. 11) becomes
the very instrument for sealing Jesus’ own death sentence (Jn. 12:9). And
his critics want to put Lazarus to death—who had just been raised from
the dead! “The demand for a sign is an evasion and a sign of impenitence.
Hence the sentence is pronounced: ‘God will never give a sign to this
generation’ (Mk. 8:12)” (Manson 1949: 291).
The parable affirms the reality of a future life and condemns
Sadducees to be unresponsive at this reality, since they disavow an
indisputable future with its rewards and punishments.
The over-all message of Luke 16 speaks of what responsible
stewardship means. The story-parable of Rich man and Lazarus
challenges a popular assumption (then and now) that material “blessings”
are a sign of divine favor reserved for special people. Indeed, some of the
promises in Scripture seem to make such an equation (see Deut. 27-28).
The argument is subtle and often convincing that God would not pour out
such blessings upon one whose life is corrupt.
Yet, Jesus is well aware that his opponents allowed their love of
money, pride, and position to control their lives. They simply were not
using their wealth or position to serve others. Since God knows their
hearts, Jesus speaks even more pointedly that what they prized (wealth
and position) was loathsome and repugnant to God (v. 15).
The story reveals a surprising reversal of positions in life when this
world gives way to the other world. While Jesus does not intend to satisfy
curiosity with details of the afterlife, he nonetheless paints a canvas. A
great chasm separates a life of honor, and fellowship with Israel’s saints
from a life of torment. The images are similar to other passages in which
Jesus speaks of “many who will come from east and west and sit at table
with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons
Ilie Melniciuc-Puică 48
of the kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness; there men will
weep and grind their teeth” (Mt. 8:11-12).
The parable does not say that all the wealthy will experience
torment in the afterlife, while all the poor will experience bliss. Rather,
the parable probes the attitudes of the human heart, found in both rich and
poor. In the case of Rich man, there is an attitude and behavior that
expresses extravagance, unbelief, skepticism, and an indifference to
human need and misery at his doorstep, indeed, a mercy-less living.
Lazarus is a beggar, hungry, diseased, living for scraps - living with no
apparent sign of divine favor. Yet, this man experiences manifest favor
and honor with God in the afterlife. The rich man served riches and was
given the reward of self-serving wealth - torment. Lazarus received the
promise of God for joyous fellowship with Him and others.
The parable indicts the other brothers who are living the same
skeptical and unbelieving existence as their rich brother. The surprising
message is voiced, “they will not move from their skepticism and unbelief
even if they see Lazarus brought back from the dead.” A miracle of this
proportion will avail nothing, since they are unresponsive to the call of
Moses and the prophets (v. 31). Faith will never arise from compelling
miracles or material signs of apparent “blessings” of God if the heart is
indifferent to the divine revelation that has already been bestowed (Sf.
Ioan Gură de Aur, trans. 2002: 148).
True disciples do not look for spectacular “signs,” such as physical
wealth and comfort. The people of God are to appreciate what God has
already given in the wonder of divine revelation, whether they are rich or
poor. The divine purpose is already at work, which will be manifest in the
afterlife. The people of God are to look beyond the confusing perplexities
of pain and hardship - aware of the love of God that will create wonderful
surprises of an eternal sort. Those entrusted with wealth must demonstrate
practical stewardship in using their means to see the poor and move in
compassion to pain and hardship. Those caught in cycles of poverty,
addiction, and suffering must similarly trust God to work out his purpose
with the firm assurance of a glorious future yet in store.
In our culture, such needs are well reflected in issues related to the
needs of the poor for housing, food, clothing, and a much-needed job for
people to empower themselves. When people vocalize the words, go in
Stewardship and Wealth in Luke 16 49
peace, be warmed, be filled (James 1:16), their words do nothing but
mock the impoverished.
Treasure laid up in heaven may appear as an imperative to the
Church of economic responsibility that is moved with compassion and
courage to provide for the legitimate needs of the impoverished, through
its witness through words and compassionate activity for those in the
local and global community.
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cinq ans de recherche (1950-1975). Neuchâtel-Paris : Delachaux & Niestle.
Bruce, B.B. 1980. The Parabolic Teaching of Christ. Minneapolis: Klock & Klock
Crossan, John Dominic. 1973. In Parables: The Challenge of the Historical Jesus. New
York: Harper & Row.
Dahl, N.A. 1976. Story of Abraham in Luke-Acts. In Jesus in the Memory of Early
Church. Augsburg, Minneapolis.
Derrett, J.D.M. 1961. Fresh Light on St Luke 16: The Parable of the Unjust Steward. In
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Encyclopedia Biblica, col. 2800.
Fitzmyer, J.A. 1985. The Gospel According to Luke, X-XXIV, vol. II, col. Anchor Bible
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Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
The Main Hebrew Words for Love: Ahab and Hesed
Faculty of Orthodox Theology,
“Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iaşi, ROMANIA
The Hebrew Bible uses more words to express the feeling of love. Sometimes the
words used have different meanings and they can cover a great semantic area: love,
mercy, kindness, and compassion. The most used Hebrew words are ahab and hesed,
and each of them refers to a different kind of love. Also, each is related with human and
Keywords: ahab, hesed, love, Abraham, Rahab, David
For the modern readers of the Bible, the text itself doesn’t have any
particular significance, except, of course, the ones which are involved in
the translation. Biblical scholars are able to see the difference between the
original text and its translation in modern languages. There are many
ancient words which don’t have a correspondent in modern languages or,
when translated, they lose their special meaning. Not all the time are
modern words capable of showing the exact feelings of the men from
Ancient Near East. It is necessary to improve our knowledge of ancient
languages so that we can get closer to the exact meaning of the ancestors.
Speaking about the Hebrew Bible, we will see that it is necessary to have
better skills of Hebrew language because in this way the possibility of
understanding the divine words will be even greater.
This paper pursues this line of thinking, intending to show the
necessity of lowering ourselves to the original words of the Bible. The
paper focuses on the Hebrew words for love, especially the most
The Hebrew Bible uses more words to describe the affection which
implies a subject (the person who shows affection) and an object (the
receiver of that affection). Biblical scholars speak of at least five verbs
with this meaning. The first one is :¬ s (ahab) and it is the most used verb
Cezar-Paul Hârlăoanu 52
to describe the affectionate feeling. The second important word for
affection is hesed. Other words used to describe love are ¡: · – hasaq, :··
– rhm (from this root comes the :·: · ·-rahamim which means mercy), ··:
– dod (Lipinski 1987: 51; Palmer 1995: 344)
This paper will focus only on the first two of them, which are the
most important ones (Morris 1981: 85). The purpose is to show the real
meaning of each term, and also to give some examples of biblical texts.
Also, the focus will be mostly on the way ahab and hesed reflect human
The lexical analysis of the Hebrew Bible shows that the main word
used to describe love is derived from the ahab roots (Stauffer 1993: 21).
Ahab’s etymology is quite uncertain because not even the academic
circles have a precise opinion. There have been attempts to associate ahab
with the Arabic word habba, a word which means to breath hard or to be
excited. Also it has been associated with another Arabic word ihab, which
meant skin (Wallis 1977: 102). Other scholars have suggested that ahab
could come from a root which in its origins meant to desire (Tambasco
1996: 567). Anyway, ahb doesn’t appear only in the Hebrew Bible but
also in some other texts of the Jewish culture and it has connections with
a few Semitic dialects (Wallis 1977: 101). The term has been identified
by some biblical scholars as being part of juridical vocabulary present in
Ancient Near East international treaties, long before being used in Israel
(Moran 1963: 77-78 quoted in L’Hour 1966: 33). In the Bible, ahab
appears approximately 200 times as a verb (Sakenfeld 1992: 376) and
almost 50 times as a noun (Wallis 1977: 102). There are other scholars
who count 208 Old Testament appearances of the verb ahab (Morris
It is interesting to see that ahab covers a quite big area of meanings
starting from the physical attraction between two person of opposite sex
to God’s love for Israel. It has been noticed that some scholars preferred
mostly ahab for describing the relation between Yahweh and Israel
(Henry 2002: 387) and they sustained that the use of ahab is restricted
only to God’s love for His people and Israel’s response to this love
(Whybray 2002: 53). The significance of ahab is a special one, because it
The Main Hebrew Words for Love: Ahab and Hesed 53
represents a very strong feeling, like an inner force which gives impulse
in performing a pleasant action, in obtaining the desired object or in
assuming the self sacrifice for the happiness of the loved ones (Palmer
The semantic area of ahab is a very generous one, since the
dictionaries use it to show the love between two humans: a man’s love for
his woman or for his wife and vice-versa; parents’ love for their children,
a slave’s love for his or her master, a neighbor’s love and also the love for
a foreigner or a friend. Ahab can also express the love for different things,
such as food, drink and etc. From this mundane point of view our sight is
moving to the celestial place because ahab is also used to express human
love for God. Most importantly, ahab represent God’s love for the entire
world such as men, particular persons, Jerusalem or Israel (Brown and
Driver and Briggs,: 12-13; Wallis 1977: 104; Eichrodt 1961: 250; Oord
2004: 5; Toombs 1965: 402).
Ahab as erotic love
First of all, we shall shortly analyse the first meaning of ahab, the
one that underlines the sexual attraction between man and woman.
According to F. Gangloff ahab belongs to sexual love in ancient texts of
the Near East (Gangloff 1999: 20). The love between Isaac and Rebekah
is the first biblical testimony for this kind of love: ·¬·¬-· ¬¡ :·-s ·¡··
¬:¬s·· ¬:s¬ (wayyqqa et-ribqa wattehi-lo leissa wayye’ehabeha) „so she
became his wife, and he loved her” (Genesis 24, 67). In this case the
biblical author uses the verb :¬s in pa’al (qal) imperfect (¬:¬s·) to show
Isaac’s love for Rebekah. In this text ahab is used to suggest the intimate
attraction between the patriarchate and his wife.
The patriarchal story in Genesis continues to show the same
meaning of ahab, as referring to sexual attraction. Isaac’s son, Jacob fell
in love with Rachel, Laban’s daughter. To describe his feelings, the Bible
uses the same word ahab: ¬··-s :¡.· :¬s·· wayye’ehab ya’aqob et-rahel)
„Jacob was in love with Rachel” (Genesis 29, 18). It is interesting to see
the Romanian translation of this text: “lui Iacov însă îi era dragă
Rahila…” Anyone can realize that this view misses the erotic accent of
Jacob’s attraction to Rachel.
Cezar-Paul Hârlăoanu 54
After only two verses the biblical author will show the same love
between Jacob and Rachel: “so Jacob served seven years to get Rachel,
but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her”
(¬-s ·-:¬s: be’ahabato otah). In this case, the Romanian translation is
quite different too. The Romanian Bible uses the verb “pentru că o iubea”,
while the Hebrew texts uses the noun. So the exact translation will be the
English one: “because of his love for her” (pentru iubirea lui faţă de ea).
The author of Genesis has very strong argument for the attraction which
Jacob feels for Rachel and his indifferent attitude to Leah. In the same
chapter, verse 17, those two sisters are described according to their
physical look: “Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form and
beautiful”. Rachel’s beauty is clearly underlined by the text above. We
cannot say the same about Leah’s flaw. The Jewish tradition assigns
Leah’s illness to her tears. She cried for a very long time and now her
eyes did not have the same sharpness as before (Midrash Rabbah 1961:
648; Ginzberg 1968: 359-360). These words explain the reason why
Jacob was more attracted to Rachel than to her sister.
Another text in which abab has this carnal connotation is found in II
Samuel 13, 1. The first verses of this chapter recount how Amnon, one of
David’s sons, is attracted to his stepsister, Tamar. The first verse
mentions Amnon’s feeling using our verb: ··:¸: ¸·.:s ¬:¬s··
(wayye’ehabeha amnon ben-dawid) „Amnon, son of David, fell in love
with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom”. The following verses show
very clearly that Amnon was indeed attracted to his sister. It was not
about a pure or brotherly love, but the most passionate attraction one can
feel for a woman. The verses 12-17 stand as a proof for this idea. After
abusing his stepsister, Amnon refuses to see her again.Moreover, the
Bible tells us that his feelings are now opposite to those he had in the
beginning: he hated her, more than he had loved her: ‘¬s.c ¸·.:s ¬s.c··
¬:¬s ·:s ¬:¬s: ¬s.c·:s ‘¬s.c¬ ¬¬··. ·: ·s: ¬¬··. (Wayysna’eha amnon
sina’h gedola’h me’od ki gedola’h hassina’h aser seneah me’ahaba aser
ahebah) “Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her
more than he had loved her”. The Biblical author uses four times the
words from s.c family, words which all have the meaning of hate (Brown,
Driver and Briggs, 971). Not only does the repetition of the s.c root’s
family have a powerful meaning, but also the second use of the adjective
The Main Hebrew Words for Love: Ahab and Hesed 55
¬··. (gadol), great (Brown, Driver and Briggs, 153), has to role of
underlining the intensity of Amnon’s new feeling for Tamar.
Ahab is used also to reflect the feelings between other persons of
opposite sex. This is the case of Leah’s love for Jacob (Genesis 29, 32),
Sechem’s attraction to Dinah (Genesis 34, 3), Samson’s love for Delilah
(Judges 16, 4, 15), the love which Elkanah shows to Hannah (I Samuel 1,
5) and Michal’s love for David (I Samuel 18, 20) (Imschoot 1954: 80).
All the examples above have in common the idea of sexual
attraction. All, except one. The example of Elkanah and Hannah. In their
story, the sexual and erotic connotation is missing and it is possible to
have a short look at a pure and innocent love. The author of Samuel’s
book tells that “to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her,
and the Lord had closed her womb” (:¬s ‘¬.·-s ·: :·es -·s ¬.: ¸-· ¬.·¬·
¬:·· ·.: ¬·¬·· ulehanna yitten manah ahat appayim ki et-hanna aheb
wa’yhwh sagar rahmah). LXX completes the story of Elkanah and his
wife, Hanna by saying that he loved his wife just for this reason: her
barren womb. The novelty LXX brings consists in connecting Elkanah’s
love with Hannah’s impossibility of having a child. In this context the
feelings Elkanah suggests more the intention of protection, of taking care
of Hannah than any sexual suggestion. Even if we can speak of love
between man and woman, in this case the sexual attraction is totally
Ahab – family love
Another important area in which ahab is involved is that of family
relations, especially that of parents for their children. This is Abraham’s
case who loves his son Isaac (Genesis 22, 2: “take your son, your only
son, Isaac, whom you love”; -:¬’s·:s aşer- ahabta). The same word is
used for Isaac and Rebekah’s love for their children. Only that each of
them has feelings for a different child: Isaac loves Esau (·c . -s ¡· s· :¬s··
wayye’ehab yiţhaq et-esaw) and Rebekah loves Jacob (:¡.·-s -:¬s ¬¡:··
waribqah ohebet et-ya’aqob) (Genesis 25, 28). This parent-child relation
continues through the Genesis, because Jacob has special feelings for his
son Joseph (37, 3-4: ¸:··-s :¬s ¬s·c·· wa’yisrael ahab et-yosep) and for
Benjamin (44, 20: ·:¬s ··:s· we’abiw ahebo).
Cezar-Paul Hârlăoanu 56
Some scholars (Ackerman 2002: 441) said that ahab is used to
describ David’s love for his son Amnon. But the Hebrew Bible doesn’t
say anything about this. II Samuel 13, 21 confesses that “when king
David heard of that he was furious” (···· ¬·s¬ :··::¬¬: -s .:: ··: ¸¬:¬·
·s: ·¬ wehammelek dawid sama et kol-haddebarim ha’elleh wayyihar lo
me’od). As in other cases LXX sheds light in this case, because it
contains more information about David’s feeling to his son: “and king
David heard all these words and he was very angry and he did not
aggrieved Amnon’s soul, his son, because he loved him being his first
born” (sat µseuc.| e ¡actì.u, ^aute :a|·a, ·eu, ìe,eu, ·eu·eu, sat
.òu¡.òµ c|eeça sat eus .ìu:µc.| ·e :|.u¡a A¡|.| ·eu uteu au·eu e·t
µ,a:a au·e| e·t :ç.·e·ese, au·eu µ| – kai ekousen o basileus David
pantas tous logous toutous kai etimote sphodra kai ouk elupesento
pneuma Amnon tou iou autou oti egapa auton oti prototokos autou en).
So, LXX reveals the true inner feelings which David, as a father, had for
Amnon, his son.
In all the texts in which ahab is used to describe the relation
between parents and their children, no child is described as loving his
parents through ahab’s family words. This was the reason why it was
thought that the person who makes ahab, who loves must be
hierarchically superior to the one who receives love (Ackerman 2002:
Even if this is the main use of ahab, there are still some instances in
which ahab is expressed by a person who is inferior on the social scale.
The perfect example is that given by the Alliance Code from Exodus 21,
5: a slave may refuse to be set free if he confesses that he loved his
master. “I love my master” (·.·s-s ‘·-:¬’s ·:.¬ ‘·:s· ·:s:s·
yomar ha’ebed ahabti et-adoni). The same idea can be found in
Deuteronomy 15, 16. This suggests very clearly that not always is ahab
used to describe the superior’s action to a person who is beneath him on
the social scale.
The fact that ahab is used, as we have seen, to describ the love
between man and woman and that of parents for their children, constitutes
an important argument for the future use of ahab in relation between God
and man. More important is the fact that from here the image of God as
husband and as father might spring.
The Main Hebrew Words for Love: Ahab and Hesed 57
An important aspect of ahab is connected with God’s action over
the world. Even so, ahab is used as an action of Yahweh only in
Deuteronomy (Renaud 1963: 33). In chapter 4, verse 37 of this book the
first direct confession (Konkordanz 1958: 66) that God loved Israel, more
exactly his ancestors is found: “because He loved your forefathers” (z·-:s
-s :¬s ·: ki ahab et-aboteka). Lawrence E. Toombs (Toombs 1965: 402-
403) finds a series of motives for the author of Deuteronomy to prefer
ahab in expressing God’s love, and not other words. The first reason is
that ahab signifies such a powerful feeling that it creates a close
connection between the lover and the loved one. A second reason is
founded on the fact that love is an activity of all personality. Love cannot
be an emotional move, an intellectual exercise or an effort of the will.
Thirdly, the word suggests the source of action and not only the visible
act. Finally, ahab is a word which suggests, as we have seen, a strong
family relationship. It is possible that ahab should have been preferred
because of its affectionate and passional dimension which it can suggest
(Lapsley 2003: 351).
After ahab, ·:· (hesed) is the second term through which the Old
Testament expressed love. Unlike :¬s (ahb) roots, which could have
verbal and nominal form, hesed doesn’t have a verbal form. It is only a
noun and only in this aspect is it found in the Hebrew Bible. Most
scholars include hesed in the words which underline love, both divine and
humanly, but its translation is quite different from that of :¬s’s family.
Hesed means kindness, mercy (Brown, Driver and Briggs:338-339), help
and brotherly love (Semen 1993: 65) and this term denotes a certain
willingness between humans or between a human and God. The opening
of the heart suggested by hesed is expressed through good deeds and even
through human solidarity (Abma 1999: 102). The Bible shows that hesed
refers both to God and to men and it is not possible to make an exact
statistics of this. For example, in Pentateuch it is referred more often as a
divine attribute, than as a characterization of man (Brown, Driver and
Briggs:338-339; Tambasco 1996: 568).
When hesed represents an attribute of man, it can be directed to his
fellows in acts of kindness, good will and mercy for those in need. Not
Cezar-Paul Hârlăoanu 58
every action of mercy can be an act of hesed. For an action to be
considered a hesed, it must accomplish certain conditions. First of all, the
person who makes the request to be helped should be unable to help
himself. Secondly, the hesed’s action must be strictly necessary and the
subject of this action may be in a close relation with the person who is in
need. The last condition is that the person who really needs help should
not be able to do anything to influence the answer to his/her request
(Sakenfeld 1978: 44). One of the conditions that must be accomplished is
that a relation should be supposed between the subject (the man who is
merciful) and object (the man who receives mercy or love). This was the
reason why some people thought that hesed would belong, by its nature,
to the social area of family ant tribal society (Zobel 1986: 51; Kuyper
1964: 5-6; Glueck 1967 38).
Human hesed and its action
Biblical texts underline very clearly this affirmation. If anyone had
the curiosity to read the Hebrew text of Genesis 20, 13, that person would
find there the way in which hesed becomes a part of Abraham-Sarah
relation: “And when God had me wander from my father’s household, I
said to her: This is how you can show your love to me” (·c.- ·:s ¸::·
hasdek aşer ta’asi). Abraham’s words are heated to Sarah, his wife. He
makes this strange request when he is in the land of Gerar and he is afraid
of what Abimelech would do to him when he sees Sarah. It’s not the first
time Abraham made this request to his wife. In Egypt, Abraham asked
Sarah for the first time to declare she is his sister. Sarah’s beauty is the
main reason for this strange request of her husband. Referring to hesed,
one can see that the conditions for hesed are totally fulfilled. Abraham
finds himself in the impossibility of fulfilling the request he made to
Sarah and neither can he force her to give an affirmative answer. Sarah’s
attitude depends totally on her free will. The Nuzi tablets are showing that
a man could present his wife as sister, only if she accepts this (Kuen
2002: 124). And this was the hesed Sarah showed to Abraham: she
accepts her husband’s request, and by this she makes her own
contribution to Abraham salvation. It’s like an important manifestation of
her feelings to the Jewish patriarch. Not only does she accept the appeal
The Main Hebrew Words for Love: Ahab and Hesed 59
of Abraham, but by accepting it, she is revealing her kindness, but mostly
In this special case hesed is connected with two of the most
profound meanings of the term, that of marriage and of the covenant
(Britt 2003: 304). Some theologians (Hepner 2003: 148) consider that by
being used here, hesed knows a certain “impurity” because Abraham and
Sarah have an incestuous relation and they break Moses’ law. Such
opinion can’t be accepted because it has nothing to do with the truth the
Bible teaches. It is true that according to Moses Abraham had sinned. But
Abraham lived before Moses times and in this case Paul’s words are more
than adequate: “where there is no law there is no transgression” (Romans
4, 15). If Abraham had sinned, would he be still called “God’s friend and
the father of the believers”?
As we have seen above, hesed is used here between family
members. The same aspect is revealed by the case of Jacob’s request to
his son, Joseph. In Genesis 47, 29, the patriarch Jacob asked his son: “If I
found favor in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that
you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not burry me in Egypt”.
So, he is asking for kindness and faithfulness, that is to say ·:· ‘··:. -·c.·
-:s· (we’asita immadi hesed we’emet). Jacob’s request stands within
hesed fulfilling conditions because, first of all, he finds himself in the
impossibility of doing anything to accomplish his desire; it refers to the
period after is death. His wish is very simple: not to be buried in Egypt,
but in the same tomb as his fathers. Jacob can’t do anything about this.
Only Joseph, his powerful and influent son, can fulfill his desire. The
second condition of hesed is that relations involve family members. This
example is important mostly for the idea it suggests. Hesed is seen as an
unlimited love (Post 2003: 18), unlimited kindness because the action it
implies surpasses even death.
The use of hesed is not restricted only to the relation between
relatives or persons belonging to the same tribe. It works also in the
relations between hosts and guests, between allies and their relatives,
between friends or rulers and the obedient (Glueck 1967: 35-37).
In the first case, the best example is the use of hesed in the Jericho’s
conquest episode. The book of Joshua presents in second chapter the
meeting between Rahab and the two Israelites spies. As a reward for
Cezar-Paul Hârlăoanu 60
saving those spies, Rahab, the prostitute, asks them to act with her in the
same way she did with them, that is to save her. “Now then, please swear
to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I
have shown kindness to you” (v. 12 -·: :. :-s:. :-’·c.· ·:· :::. ·-·c.·:
·:· ‘·:s - ki-asiti immakem hased wa’asitem gam-attem im-bet abi hesed).
In this context, hesed seems to be situated in the same semantic area as in
those two cases above, Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Joseph. It’s
obvious that the person who expects hesed is unable to help himself. The
verse itself uses twice hesed. First, it is the hesed done by Rahab to the
spies, and second, it is the hesed she expects for her family. In both cases,
the persons who show hesed, may or may not act as they did. It is a
problem about free will. Rahab was not forced to save the spies, and they
were not forced to save her family. But they had to save Rahab, as one
who did the same thing for them. It is the basic rule of reciprocity. This is
the reason why Rahab doesn’t mention herself in this case. The attitude of
the Israelites to the woman who saved them could not be hesed, meaning
mercy or kindness. They were in debt to her, so their act is not an act of
mercy, but an act of justice (Drucker 1998: 123).
In Rahab’s case, hesed does not “respect” the rules which were
present before, because Rahab has no personal or tribal relation with the
spies. On the contrary, she belongs to the Canaanites tribes who were
damned and who should be banished and killed. But, maybe the things are
not like they seem to be. In a way, Rahab belonged to God’s people. She
wasn’t born in the middle of Israel, but she became an Israelite through
her confession “the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the
earth bellow” (2, 11). By this confession of faith she entered God’s
people, as Ruth will do later (Ruth 1, 16).
Hesed is used also to describe a well known relationship, the one
between David and Jonathan. The first book of Samuel tells that
“Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself”
(18, 1). In this case the Hebrew Bible uses the word :¬s and it would
seem that it has nothing to do with hesed words. But, by strarting this
point, the relation between David and Jonathan is often described by
hesed. In the 20
chapter of the same book, hesed can be found three
times, all used to describ David’s and Jonathan’s relation and, also, the
relations between their heirs. David is the one who asks hesed for the first
The Main Hebrew Words for Love: Ahab and Hesed 61
time: “show kindness to your servant” (v. 8 z::.¬. ·:·’ -·c.· we’asita
hesed al-abdeka). Jonathan asks David the same hesed to him and to his
sons: “show me unfailing kindness like that of the Lord as long as I
live…and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family” (v. 14-15
·- ·: :. : z::·-s -·:-s¬· -·:s s¬· ¬·¬· ·:· ··:. ¬c.-s¬· ·· ·.··.:s s¬· –
welo yim-odeni hay welo-ta’ase immadi hesed yhwh welo amut welo-
takrit et-hasdeka me’im beti). This is the moment when a covenant is
engaged between David and Jonathan, and from this moment on, their
friendship becomes stronger than brotherhood. Hesed becomes the mark
of how they act for each other (Glueck 1967: 47). The relation between
David and Jonathan lives after second’s death, because hesed is involved
now in a covenant relation. So, David has to keep the promise he makes.
When he became king for all Israel, David is searching to see if there is
anybody alive from Saul’s house. He finds out that the only person still
alive was Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son. Chapter 9, in II Samuel,
presents the attitude which David had for this person. In this chapter,
hesed is present three times, and two of these appearances are connected
with Jonathan. First, David feels the need to show hesed to anyone from
Saul’s house, for the sake of his death friend. “Is there anyone still left of
the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (9,
1 (¸-.·¬· ··:.: ·:· ‘·:. ¬c.s· we’e’eseh immo hesed ba’abur yehonatan). In
verse 3, David shows he is ready to do hesed to Saul’s heirs: “is there no
one still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”
He speaks of God’s kindness, that is :·¬¬s ·:· (hesed Elohim). The third
usage of hesed appears in the discussion between David and
Mephibosheth. David says that “I will surely show you kindness for the
sake of your father Jonathan” (v. 7). The Hebrew texts suggest how
decided David was: z·:s ¸-.·¬· ‘··:.: ·:· ’ z:. ¬c’. s •¬c. ·: (ki asoh e’eseh
immeka hesed ba’abur yehonatan abika). Through ¬c. repetition at qal
infinitive and imperfect, the text underlins the action supposed by the verb
(Currid, 2002, 76), but also the fact that the decision will stand. This is
why a literarily translation will be “doing I will do with you hesed for
your father Jonathan”.
David keeps his promise by giving back the land and proprieties
which belonged to Saul, and by permitting Mephibosheth to eat at the
king’s table (Auld 2003: 234; Brown, Fitzmayer and Murphy 2000: 157).
Cezar-Paul Hârlăoanu 62
Not all the scholars subscribe to this opinion. There are some who think
that Mephibosheth was kept prisoner in the royal palace, and that he was
not allowed to gather an army (Mills 2001: 59; Mauchline 1971: 241).
This opinion doesn’t have a biblical support because the book of Samuel
tells that Mephibosheth “was crippled in both feet” (II Samuel 4, 4; 9, 3).
In Old Testament times, the king was considered to be anointed by God,
and this was the reason why he was seen as having a special relation with
Yahweh (Whitelom 1989: 134-135). As being set apart for God himself,
the king had to have spiritual and physical integrity. If he couldn’t prove
these things, then he will lose his throne. The spiritual life was not always
requested, but the physical integrity was necessary (Barrois 1953: 50). For
example, the case of Azariah (Uzziah), who was punished with leprosy
for his sin. After he got sick he lived in a separate house, and “Jotham the
king’s son had charge over the palace and governed the people of the
land” (2 Kings 15, 5).
According to the Hebrew Bible, hesed is the mark of relations
between humans. There are more biblical texts which confess that hesed
should be the normal behavior of a man toward another. One of these
texts, is the well known verse uttered by Hosea, “for I desire mercy, not
sacrifice” (6, 6 - ·:·s¬· ·-se· ·:· ·: ki hesed hapaţti welo-zabah). God
shows, through Hosea’s words, that He loves more a merciful behavior
than a bloody sacrifice. Jesus Christ uses the same words when he speaks
to his listeners (Mathew 9, 13; 12, 7). The fact that Jesus is using those
words is an argument for the fact that Hosea’s hesed is not far away from
the kingdom of God the way Christ saw it (Moffat, 1930, 17).
Hesed becomes the most important mark of those who walk on
God’s paths. Micah confesses that hesed is among the things God expects
from us. “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the
Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly
with your God” (6, 8 - ·:· -:¬s· we’ahabat hesed).
Hesed is not only a mark of human behavior toward another human
person. It can also be used to describe the human feelings toward God. It
is indeed used rarely in this way, but there is a beautiful text in Jeremiah
2, 2: “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved
me” (¸···.. ·:· ‘¸¬ ·-·:· zakarti lak hesed ne-urayik). In this case, hesed
seems not to fit in its usual meaning. It still remains important, because
The Main Hebrew Words for Love: Ahab and Hesed 63
it’s connected here with the image of marriage. And this is an image used
to describe the relation between Yahweh and Israel, as the prophet Hosea
did before (Bright 1986: 14).
In all the above cases, hesed was made by men, by human persons
and it was headed to other human persons or rarely, to God. But hesed is
also a divine attitude and it can represent Yahweh’s mercy and kindness
overflowing the entire world. In this way, divine hesed means to preserve
life against death, to quicken spiritual life or to rise from the sin. And all
these are made within the covenant He made with His chosen people
(Brown, Driver and Briggs: 339).
Divine hesed acts differently from the human one. If the latter
supposed the existence of a relation between the involved persons, things
are quite different about the way hesed acts in divine sphere. Hesed has
the quality of a free and unconditioned gift from God to all humanity or
the special persons (Gangloff 1999: 17-18; Jaubert 1963: 60). Divine
hesed manifests in different ways and it is possible to see some kind of
evolution of love. The evolution has nothing to do with the increase of
love. He refers to the objects of divine hesed. It moves from Israel, the
chosen people, to particular persons and afterwards to the entire world
(Gangloff 1999: 18-19).
An important aspect of divine hesed is found in the close relation
between Yahweh and Israel. Hesed starts in Egypt and at Sinai, that is the
moment God chose His people and He made a covenant with him
(Beaucamp and de Pelles 1964: 106; Spieckerman 2000: 314). Within the
covenant hesed reveals its full and total significance and , in time, it will
become the mark of covenant between Yahweh and Israel (Glueck 1967:
47; Morris 1981: 68-69; Imschoot 1954: 66; Good 1993: 66; Gangloff
1999: 16; Eichrodt 1961: 235; Britt 2003: 285). In this covenant, hesed
underlines God’s fidelity as an answer to the faith of the people (Krinetzki
1970: 53-54; Anderson 1999: 60). But God’s fidelity is not conditioned
by people’s attitude, because hesed is present even when Israel sins
against God. In such moments, hesed manifests through the forgiveness
of sins and after that God’s relation with His people is renewed (Glueck
Hesed is present for 245 times in the Old Testament (Zobel 1986:
45; Morris 1981: 65; Gangloff 1999: 17; Spieckermann 2000: 313; Britt
Cezar-Paul Hârlăoanu 64
2003: 289). The frequency of hesed in each book of the Old Testament is
different. Hesed is found 20 times in Pentateuch, 54 times in historical
books, 127 times in Psalms, 13 times in sapient books and 29 times in the
prophetic books (Morris 1981: 81-82; Spieckerman 2000: 313). LXX
translates hesed by .ì.e, (eleos), which means mercy. Eleos is used to
translate hesed for 213 times of the 245 hesed’s presence in Hebrew Bible
(Selis 1987: 541).
This paper tried to show the importance of acceding to the Old
Testament through the Hebrew language. Reading the Bible in the words
of biblical authors, Hebrew or Greek, gives to the reader the exact amount
of their teaching. Words like ahab and hesed are expressions of love and
kindness and, as such, their usage uncover the true meaning of the Bible’s
Abma, R. 1999. Bonds of Love: Methodic Studies of Prophetic Texts with Marriage
Imagery (Isaiah 50:1-3 and 54: 1-10, Hosea 1-3, Jeremiah 2-3). Assen: Van
Ackerman, Susan. 2002. The Personal Is Political: Covenantal and Affectionate Love
(’AHEB, ’AHABA) in the Hebrew Bible. Vetus Testamentum, LII, no. 4.
Anderson, Bernhard W. 1999. Contours of Old Testament Theology. Minneapolis:
Auld, Graeme. 2003. 1 and 2 Samuel. In Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. James
D.G. Dunn and John W. Rogerson Editors. Michigan: W.B. Eerdmans
Publishing Co., Grand Rapids.
Barrois, A.-G. 1953. Manuel d’archéologie biblique. Tome II, Éditions A. Et J. Picordet
et Cie. Paris.
Beaucamp, Évode and Pelles, Jean-Pascal de. 1964. Israël regarde son Dieu, Casterman
Èditions de Maredsous.
Bright, John. 1986. Jeremiah. A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary.
New York: Doubleday&Company, Garden City.
Britt, Brian. 2003. Unexpected Attachments: A Literary Approach to the Term ·:· in
the Hebrew Bible. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, XXVII, no. 3.
Brown, Francis and Driver, S.R. and Briggs, Charles A. A Hebrew and English Lexicon
of the Old Testament. Based on the Lexicon of William Gesenius, As
Translated by Edward Robinson. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Brown, Raymond E. and Fitzmayer, Joseph A. and Murphy, Roland E. 2000. The New
Jerome Biblical Commentary. London: Geoffrey Chapman Ltd.
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The Main Hebrew Words for Love: Ahab and Hesed 65
Drucker, Rabbi, Reuven. 1998. The Book of Joshua. A New Translation with a
Commentary ANthologized from Talmudic, Midrashic, and Rabbinic Sources.
Translation and Commentary by Rabbi Reuven Drucker. New York: Published
by Mesorah Publications.
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Baker. London: SCM Press.
Gangloff, Frédéric. 1999. Is the Old Testament God a Loving God?. Theological Review,
XX, no. 1.
Ginzberg, Louis. 1968. The Legends of the Jews, vol. I: Bible Times and Characters
from Creation to Jacob. Translated from the German Manuscris by Henrietta
Szold. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publicationn Society of America.
Glueck, Nelson. 1967. Hesed in the Bible. Translated by Alfred Gottschalk. Cincinnati:
The Hebrew Union College Press.
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Henry, Carl F.H.. 2002. Dumnezeu, revelaţie, autoritate, vol. VI: Dumnezeu care stă şi
rămâne. Oradea: Cartea Creştină.
Hepner, Gershom. 2003. Abraham’s Incestous Marriage with Sarah a Violation of the
Holiness Code. Vetus Testamentum, LIII, no. 2.
L’Hour, Jean. 1966. La morale de l’alliance. Paris: J. Gabalda et Cie Editeurs.
Imschoot, Paul van. 1954. Théologie de l’Ancien Testament, tome I: Dieu. Tournai:
Jaubert, Annie. 1963. La notion d’alliance dans le judaisme aux abords de l’ère
chrétienne. Paris: Editions du Seuil.
Konkordanz Zum Hebräischen Alten Testament. 1958. Nach dem von Paul Kahle in der
Biblia Hebraica edidit Rudolph Kittel besorgten Masoretischen Text Unter
verantwortlicher Mitwirkung von Leonard Rost ausgearbeitet und geschrieben
von Gerhard Lisowsky, Württembergische Bibelanstalt Stuttgart.
Krinetzki, Leo. 1970. L’alliance de Dieu avec les hommes. Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf.
Kuen, Alfred. 2002. Cum să interpretăm Biblia. Trans. Constantin Moisa. Bucureşti:
Kuyper, Lester J. 1964. Grace and Truth. An Old Testament Description of God and Its
Use in the Johannine Gospel. Interpretation, no. 1.
Lapsley, Jacqueline E. 2003 Feeling Our Way: Love for God in Deuteronomy. The
Catholic Biblical Quaterly, LXV, no. 3.
Lipinski, Edouard. 1987. Amour. In Dictionnaire Encyclopedique de la Bible. Ed.
Mauchline, John. 1971. 1 and 2 Samuel. London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott Ltd.
Midrash Rabbah, Genesis. 1961. Vol. II. Translated into English by Rabbi Dr. H.
Freedman. London: The Soncino Press.
Mills, Mary E. 2001. Biblical Morality. Moral Perspectives in Old Testament
Narratives. Hampshire-England: Ashgate Publishing Ltd.
Moffat, James. 1930. Love in the New Testament. London: Hodder and Stoughton
Limited, St. Paul’s House.
Cezar-Paul Hârlăoanu 66
Moran, W.L. 1963. The Ancient Near Eastern Background of the Love of God in
Deuteronomy. The Catholic Biblical Quaterly, XXV.
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London: Templeton Foundation Press.
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Post, Stephen G. 2003. Unlimited Love. Altruism, Compassion and Service. Philadelphia
and London: Templeton Foundation Press.
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Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. 1978. The Meaning of Hesed in the Hebrew Bible: A New
Inquiry. Montana: Published by Scholars Press for the Harvard Semitic
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Noel Freedman, Editor-in-Chief. New York: Doubleday.
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Vechiului Testament. Iaşi: Trinitas.
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E. Green. Michigan/Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company,
Empress Catherine II of Russia’s Foreign Policy and Its
Influence upon the Romanian Orthodox Church in
Faculty of Orthodox Theology,
“Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iaşi, ROMANIA
Russia’s Empress, Catherine II, also called “thre Great” (1762-1796), after she
consolidates her rule at the domestic level, when she implicates her preference for some
of the principles of the enlightened despotism, quite fashionable in Western Europe,
resumes with new means and under new circumstances the path of the Russian
expansion towards South. After the glorious military successes in the war with the Turks
between 1769-1774, she will draw up a “Greek project”, aiming at releasing
Constantinople from the Ottoman yoke, and installing here a Slav Emperor; the United
Romanian Principalities were meant to form the “Kingdom” of Dacia. The plan, in
which the Tsarina tries to attract Emperor Joseph II of Austria (together with whom she
fights the Turks in 1787-1792) will fail, but at the time Catherine II dies, the Russian
Empire’s frontiers were already extended up to the Dniester and the Black Sea.
Under these circumstances, the situation of the Orthodox Church in the
Romanian Principalities (under Ottoman rule, but enjoying a large autonomy) is an
extremely difficult one. Thus, the military conflicts taking place on the Romanian
territory often affect the church governing process, they raise internal organization
problems and problems related to the fostering of natural relations with other
ecclesiastic Orthodox structures (on the territory of the great rival powers other
Orthodox Churches display their activities, with which the Church of the Romanian
Principalities is in liturgical communion and canonic and disciplinary unity). One could
also notice the weight of the cultural currents promoted by the Church: the one resorting
to some of the principles of the enlightened despotism, the movement of spiritual
renaissance initiated by Saint Paisius Velichkovsky (1722-1794), the hegumen of the
monastery of Neamţ, as well as the one developed at the monastery of Putna, nourishing
the attachment to the Orthodox values and the interest for the Romanian historical past
(obliging the descendents to carry on the inheritance).
Keywords: Church,Catherine II, Romanian, Ottoman
Daniel Niţă-Danielescu 68
After the seizure of power on 28 June 1762, to the Tsars’ throne
came Catherine II, the one that the posterity called “the Great”, a name
that she had actually taken since her lifetime. When she had joined the
Orthodox Church, in order to marry Elizabeth of Russia’s nephew (a
matrimonial project suggested by the King of Prussia, Frederick II), Karl
Peter Ulrich de Holstein Gottrop (the future tsar Peter III), the German
Princess Sophie-Friedrike Auguste de Anhalt Zerbst received the name of
Catherine (Warnes 2001: 128-130; Dixon 2004: 43 sqq). She accedes to
the throne after she had mobilized around her a favourable group from
among the Russian officers discontent with the policies of tsar Peter III’s
(1761-1762) in what concerned the Russian values and the Orthodox
Church (whose properties he wanted to secularize). In her first
proclamation, the new sovereign will show that “Our Greek Orthodox
Church (…) was exposed to the gravest danger, that of replacing our old
Orthodoxy with a heterodox religion, and Russia’s glory, which its saving
armies had brought to its climax, was simply trampled on” (Troyat 1994:
160-177; Brian Channinov 1928: 189-190; Yet, in 1764 Ecaterina decides
to definitively maintain the measure of Church properties secularization
adopted in 1762 by Peter III).
Catherine’s strong personality and great ambitions will cause the
Russian Empire, at the end of her long rule (1762-1796), to have a
territorial extent, a military force and a prestige that it had never known
After her accession to the throne, the Empress tries to embody for
Europe the type of “enlightened despot” (the fact was also ascribed to the
effort of legitimating the power conquered in such a controversial way).
Since she was a German Princess, she had familiarized herself with the
western philosophers’ works, which were theorising a new Europe that
should have been ruled by ideal monarchs, according to principles of
reason, harmony and general interest. Any political structure had to
comply with the principles of the natural law, and the foreign relations
resort to concepts like reason of state, balance of forces and division
diplomacy. Catherine reads Voltaire’s, Montesquieu’s, d’Alambert’s,
Beccaria’s writings, she sets up a rich library and with some of the
“philosophers” she will later correspond intensely. Denis Diderot, upon
her invitation, comes to visit Russia and according to his indications is
Empress Catherine II of Russia’s Foreign Policy… 69
organized the Smolny Institute for Noble Maidens. Moreover, the
Academy founded in Sankt Petersburg follows the example of the French
Academy. It was however noticed that the Empress was convinced that
principles had not much to do with real politics and therefore she would
observe them as much as she thought it was necessary to make a good
reputation in Western Europe. Later, when the French Revolution brings a
radicalization of the spirits, she would give up the benevolent attitude
from the past (Oppenheim
1998: 75 sqq; Warnes 2001: 133-134;
Brătianu 1997: 275 sqq).
In accordance to the new principles, Catherine II convenes between
1767-1768 a meeting of the representatives of all social states in Russia
(Zemstvo) to discuss the future legislation and she is also the one to draw
up a set of governing principles into a unitary text called Nakaz
(Instruction). This seems not to include proper laws, but to resume and
bring together several ideas regarding the rule, quite fashionable at the
time in Europe, some of them borrowed from the French Encyclopaedia,
others from Montesquieu’s or Cesare Beccaria’s writings. Among the 526
statements included in the text, we could mention: “Russia is a European
state”, “The Christian Law teaches us to act for mutual welfare”, “The
Sovereign is absolute; there is no other power than the one rising from his
person and which can act with a force corresponding to the extent of this
large domain”, “Citizens’ equality consists in the fact that they should
obey the same rules”, “The safest, but also the hardest attempt to readjust
the people’s morals is to make a perfect educative system”, “Any parent
should restrain himself in front of his children not only from facts, but
also from words which tend to express injustice and violence and they
should never allow any bad example”, “Torture must be forbidden”, and
“crimes prevented”. The idea of confining the monarchic power is
rejected, as it is considered to be impracticable in Russia. The principles
included in Nakaz impress Western Europe (the text is translated into
Latin, French and German), and the enthusiastic “philosophers” consider
their ideas are here fulfilled. Voltaire thinks the document is “the most
beautiful monument of the century” and Catherine II, who takes the name
of “the Great” in 1767, is eulogized with phrases like “the brightest North
Star” or the “North Semiramis”. In a short while, the Tsarina manages to
create a good image abroad and to consolidate her power in the country
Daniel Niţă-Danielescu 70
1998: 84088; Troyat 1994: 326; The text of the Nakaz in
Internet Modern History Sourcebooks, Catherine the Great
Catherine II’s foreign policy manifests, on the one hand, the
continuation of the strategic major projects launched by her predecessors,
who, starting with Peter the Great, had succeeded in opening a “window”
towards the North (the Empire capital moved to Sankt Petersburg and the
new possessions are consolidated through treaties signed with the powers
who had interests in the area), and redirecting, afterwards, the attention
upon the Orient and the South, especially upon the Black Sea and
Constantinople; on the other hand, one should take into consideration the
new realities of the second half of the 18
century, which, without
essentially modifying the old plans, influence them and ensure them new
possibilities. A privileged position is occupied by the relation with the
Ottoman Empire, which had conquered the territories once belonging to
the Byzantine Empire, replacing the Christian rule with a Muslim one and
managing to control the older “crusade” attempts against it. The present
situation seemed to be favourable to Christians, as the generalized inner
crisis in the Ottoman Empire could not be solved with the energetic
measures taken by Sultan Ahmed III (1703-1730), the one who had tried
to “Occidentalize” and “modernize” the Empire’s structures. The most
serious problems are related to the agreements between the Christian
powers, preoccupied not only to reject the Turks out of Europe and to
conquer areas of influence in the Orient, but also to ensure a balance of
interests and of benefices, expected to come from the new conquests.
Intense diplomatic efforts are made in this direction, the Great Powers’
chancelleries draw up more and more plans meant to divide the areas of
interest and the debates start resorting to other arguments than the
traditional ones, in which the denominational weight had been significant
(Stiles 2001: 77-92; Boicu 1986: 116 sqq).
As for the system of alliances between the European powers, in
1756 occurs the so-called “diplomatic revolution”. The reversal of the
traditional alliances through the Franco-Austrian defensive treaty signed
on 1 May 1756 at Versailles (and the offensive alliance between the two
partners, one year later, against England and Prussia) leads to new
confrontations, quite beneficial for Russia (who fosters good relationships
Empress Catherine II of Russia’s Foreign Policy… 71
with England and who had signed since 1726 a treaty with Austria).
During the Seven Year War (1756-1763), in May 1762, the Russo-
Prussian treaty is signed (and maintained for more than a hundred years),
by which the Russian Empire’s expansion to North phase is put an end to
(Carpentier, Lebrun 1997: 242; Ciobanu 2007: 7 sqq). From now on, the
Russian interests would mainly be directed towards the South, towards
the areas under the Ottoman Empire’s control, where it had faced, in the
past, a strong “barrier policy”, promoted by France, which supported
Poland and Turkey in order to temper the Russian ambitions. Secured by
the treaties signed with Austria and Prussia, Catherine II thinks that the
possibility to achieve the “South project” is now more reachable than
ever. Starting the war was the next step. Profiting by the action of the
Polish noblemen gathered in the Bar Confederation (a city lying near
Moldova), who were aiming at chasing the Russians from the occupied
Polish territories and limiting the non-Catholic Polish’s rights, Catherine
II intervenes in Poland (Xenopol 1997: 46-47; Ciobanu 1970: 276-285).
France’s reaction, interested in maintaining Poland’s position, is prompt;
the French Foreign Affairs minister, the duke of Choiseul, writes on 21
April 1766 to the Ambassador at Istanbul, Vergennes: “the safest way to
overthrow from her usurped throne the usurper Catherine is to start a war.
Only the Turks could make us this favour. A war launched by the Turks
should be the unique purpose of your preoccupations” (Daria 1965: 72).
As for the Russian strategic plan to start the war with the Turks, a
Turco-Polish anti-Russian action was anticipated, which could have been
embezzled through a general revolt of the Christian peoples in the Balkan
area. This is why the “crusade” slogan is resumed, although such an
enterprise, as for its strictly denominational finality, was contradicting the
dominant Enlightenment principles, shared by Catherine II as well. Under
this propagandistic camouflage hide well-built political plans. For
instance, Voltaire writes to Frederick II to help the Tsarina to “chase from
the Bosporus these dirty Turks, these enemies of the fine arts, these
harmers of the beautiful Greece. You could then get some province too, to
round up your frontiers” (Oeuvres de Frédéric le Grand, 1853 apud Boicu
1986: 152). In the official discourse, the Russians try to mobilize, under
the Orthodox flag, the Balkan peoples. In the manifest that Catherine II
addressed on 19 January 1769 to all Christian in “Muntenia, Moldova,
Daniel Niţă-Danielescu 72
Montenegro, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Macedonia, Albania and
other Russian territories” she shows that the new war continues the one
under Peter I and Tsarina Ana, who had tried to “release those peoples
from the Turkish yoke (…) but it had not been God’s will”. Now the fight
restarts, and the peoples should rise “because everyone owes one’s life for
one’s law and one’s country (…) to stay free and independent, as it was
from the beginning”, and after the signing of the peace they would receive
“our protection and mercy’. In Moldavia, the Turks find out about the
rising of six Russian monks and about the attempts to attract the boyars to
the Russian plans; in Walachia, Major Carazin was working “under
cover”, who had managed to set up a whole network, including
Damaschin, Hegumen of the monastery of Curtea de Arges, brothers
Mihail and Pârvu Cantacuzino and even the young Prince of the country,
Alexandru Ghica (Bezviconni 2004: 176; Boicu 1986: 165).
Catherine II launches the war with three armies: the first, led by
Golitsyn, made for Khotyn, the second under the command of
Rumyantsev for Ukraine and the third for Kuban and Caucasus. The
Russian armies move forward in the Principalities, and the Romanians get
in contact with the Occupation armies.
In Moldavia, the head of the Church in Iaşi is the Metropolitan
Bishop Gavriil Callimachi (1760-1786), who had been archdeacon of the
Ecumenical Patriarchal Church and then, for fifteen years, Metropolitan
Bishop of Thessalonica. At his arrival in Moldavia, a fundamental change
in the Church policy can be noticed. If until then the Church relations
between the Romanians and the Russians have been fostered, with mutual
influences, rather on a cultural and spiritual level, during his rule and that
of his disciple and successor, the metropolitan Bishop Leon Ghencă, the
relations with Russia will enter the path of committed politics. We find
Metropolitan Bishop Gavriil Calimachi involved on the Russians’ side
since the beginning of the war. He keeps the contact with the commander
of the Russian Army, Aleksandr Galitsyn, to whom he sends messengers
with news about the Turks’ moves in the country - “all the news you
bade” (Corespondenţii cu Rusia 1860: 129-130). He asks the Russians to
enter the city of Iaşi, to protect it from the Tartars’ pillages, he places
Moldavia under Catherine’s protection and participates in the
reorganization of the country. As prince Grigore Callimachi (the
Empress Catherine II of Russia’s Foreign Policy… 73
Metropolitan Bishop’s nephew) is removed and murdered by the Turks
(accused of infidelity to the Ottoman cause), the Metropolitan Bishop
Gavriil becomes the actual leader of the country, as he is entrusted with
the administration (helped by Ioan Sturza and Alexandru Neculce). The
Russians ask him to follow the Turks’ circulation and to prepare the
leaving of delegations to Sankt Petersburg (Corespondenţii cu Rusia
1860: 133-150). In the difficult war circumstances, he writes to the
Tsarina, in the name of his compatriots “with hope that they would not be
deserted and that the Turks would be chased for ever from the country”.
He receives the promise of defense, but “according to your fidelity and to
the eagerness you will show towards our service”. The metropolitan
Bishop addresses the believers a pastoral letter urging them to fight ‘for
the law and for the country’ and prepares a delegation to be sent to Sankt
Petersburg. The delegation is led by Inochentie, the Bishop of Huşi, and
includes Vartolomei Măzăreanu (Hegumen of the monastery of Solca),
Venedict Teodorovici (Hegumen of the monastery of Moldoviţa), Ioan
Paladi, who dies during the trip and Enache Milo (Corespondenţii cu
Rusia 1860: 156). At the same time, a delegation from Walachia makes
for Russia too, run by the Metropolitan Bishop Grigorie together with the
future Bishops of Râmnic, Chesarie and Filaret (Păcurariu, II 2006: 365;
Manolache 1996: 132). The diplomatic mission leaves from Moldavia in
December 1769 and reaches the destination in March, the next year. The
delegates bring to Sankt Petersburg letters regarding the new relations that
are going to be established with Russia and the demand to get back the
archive of the Metropolitan Church and the relics of saint Ioan cel Nou of
Suceava, which had been taken in 1686 by the saint Metropolitan Bishop
Dosoftei of Moldavia, when he had retreated in Poland. The reunited
delegations of Moldavia and Walachia are received by Catherine II on
Palm Sunday in 1770. Bishop Inochentie is the first to take the floor,
stating the Romanians’ content to be “allowed in their old customs and
habits” and asks for “us to be saved until the end”. The next is the word of
Walachia’s Metropolitan Bishop. Through his vice-chancellor, the
Tsarina assures the delegates of her “goodwill” and of the fact that the
country inhabitants “will be allow in all their judgments and customs”;
she also expresses her hope that the Romanians “will participate,
according to their powers (…) in her armies against those who ruined the
Daniel Niţă-Danielescu 74
peace and are enemies of her Empire and of all Christians”. The delegates
also bring forward two projects of organization of the country, out of
which the desire to “stay in our old customs and habits” prevails. The
formula, deliberately ambiguous, has the value of a diplomatic cliché, by
which one is meant to understand a substantial criticism against the
Phanariots’ policies, who were the Turks’ people, affirming the old
Romanian rights, which meant, within the Church, the hierarchy of the
locals and full control upon the monasteries and full authority on the
whole territory of the country, as aforetime. In the capital of the Russian
Empire, the Romanians assist pompous masses, sit at table with the
Imperial family, see the luxury and glitter of the Court, which
overwhelms and intimidates (Corespondenţii cu Rusia 1860: 6, 196-197,
249-262 and 262-268; Georgescu, Callimachi 1961: 795 sqq). But they
know nothing about Catherine’s conception of etiquette: “those who
judge things according to how they are welcomed are deeply
misconceived”. Through Ivan Tastiev, “the first priest in the Court”, an
old friend, the Romanians meet Ivan, Tsarina’s confessor, as well as count
Panin, and receive many gifts (Vornicescu 1963: 525-529;
Corespondenţii cu Rusia 1860: 261-262). They are received by Platon
Levshin (the future Metropolitan) and assist to his enthroning as an
archbishop. When sitting at his table, they meet the Romanian priest from
Banat, Mihai Popovici, who tells about “the pains, weariness and
afflictions that the people in Transylvania are submitted to” (Elian 2003:
210-215). After the delegates return to the country, on 10 January 1771
the Metropolitan Gavriil Callimachi decides to extend the Moldavian
Metropolitan Church’s jurisdiction upon the formerly Romanian
territories that had entered in the past under the Ottoman administration
(the issue had probably been debated at Sankt Petersburg). Thus, South
Moldavia, which had been “from the very beginning within the frontiers
and protection of the country” (Melchisedec 1869: 313) is ascribed to the
Bishop of Huşi, and the territory of Hotin, where the Turks had imposed
their administration at the beginning of the century, passes under the rule
of the Bishop of Rădăuţi, Dositei Herescu (Melchisedec 1869: 313). In his
trun, the Metropolitan Grigorie of Walachia decides to ascribe the
territory of the former Turkish administration of Brăila to the rule of the
Bishop of Buzău.
Empress Catherine II of Russia’s Foreign Policy… 75
In Iaşi, in 1773, Gavriil Callimachi will print Catherine II’s Nakaz,
in a translation made by Chancellor Toma - upon the request of Field
Marshal Rumyantsev, but edited by the Metropolitan who, in the Preface,
states that “I humbly accomplished myself the work that I was entrusted,
to translate and print this book. After which I dare say: blessed be the
peoples who are willing to share these rulings, which irradiate justice of
the political impartation, decency, honesty to God and love for the others”
(Bianu, Hodoş 1910: 201-202). Gavriil also tries now, helped by Leon
Gheucă, the Bishop of Roman, to reorganize the educational system.
Asking from Rumyantsev “permission and help (…) for a better set up of
schools”, Leon Gheucă underlines the necessity of this measure and
proposes the limitation of the use of Greek, which was resorted to in the
past “for some political affairs” (Corespondenţii cu Rusia 1860: 232-
But Russian politics starts changing in the autumn of 1770, when
Rumyantsev receives the order to enter into peace negotiations with the
Turks. As a result of Austria’s and Prussia’s pressures, the Romanian
Principalities remain in the Ottoman influence area. Yet, through the
Russian-Turkish treaty signed in 1774 at Kuchuk-Kainarji, Russia is
acknowledged the right of intervention in their favour and in favour of all
Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire (a privilege similar to the one
France had as for all Roman-Catholic Christians). The Porte commits to
offer a general amnesty to all the opponents of its interests; Metropolitan
Gavriil Callimachi is one of its beneficiaries (Xenopol 1997: 67-68; Iorga
1985: 316; Moldova în contextul relaţiilor politice internaţionale, 1387-
1858. Tratate 1992: 261-262). In 1775, through an Austro-Turkish
Convention, the Court of Vienna benefits by a “rectification” of frontier
on Moldavia’s expenses, the territory in the north of the country, later
called Bukovina, being incorporated into the Austrian Empire - with
Russia’s approval, which, although had initially envisaged an intervention
to Prussia to baffle Austria’s plans, eventually give it up in order to
maintain, according to the principle of the balance of interests, its already
conquered strategic positions (Because of the protest addressed to Turkey,
showing that the Romanians, unless their country is protected, will be
forced to appeal to another foreign power (implying, obviously, Russia),
the Moldavian Prince Grigore III Ghica will be murdered on 12 October
Daniel Niţă-Danielescu 76
1777; see Nistor 1991: 13-16; Eminescu 1941: 19 sqq; Heppner 2000: 32-
The Russo-Turkish war, ended with the peace Treaty of Kuchuk-
Kainarji, is just a phase in the competition of the great powers, interested
in extending their influence areas through the Ottoman Empire’s
European possessions. The evolution of events in Europe will direct the
interests of the House of Habsburg, in the future, almost exclusively to
the East. Blocked in its attempts to annex Bavaria, both by Prussia’s
opposition and by France’s refuse to offer its support, in accordance to the
alliance of 1756, Austria finds itself in the situation of attempting a
rapprochement to Russia. The occasion is particularly favourable for the
Russian politics, which sees in the agreement with the house of Habsburg
the best opportunity to restart its plans of expansions towards South and
to achieve it integrally. Thus, around 1780, Catherine II’s “Greek project’
becomes definite, a project for which she would try to obtain the
Austrians’ agreement as well. The plan provided the abolishing of the
Ottoman Empire in Europe and the reconstruction of the Byzantine
Empire, under a Slav Emperor, already chosen to be the Grand Duke
Constantine, Catherine’s nephew. The Tsarina’s calculations regarding
the division of the European Turkey are communicated to Emperor
Joseph II (1780-1790) during their meeting at Mogilev, and two years
later an Austro-Russian Convention is signed, with a secret clause
stipulating the parties’ agreement with regard to some future benefits
from the Ottoman Empire, in accordance with the principle of a “perfect
reciprocity”. The Russian party expresses its interest for the territory
between Bug and Dniester (with the city of Ochakiv) and for the
formation of a buffer state made of Moldavia (with its south territories,
returned, after 1774, to the Turkish administration) and Walachia; the new
structure was going to be called Dacia. The “kingdom” of Dacia,
entrusted to a Christian prince of the same denomination as the country’s
inhabitants, was meant to ensure the balance of Austro-Russian interests
at the Danube mouths. In the South, the Byzantine Empire was going to
be reconstructed, with its capital at Constantinople. Austria, in exchange,
was going to occupy Hotin, Oltenia, Vidin, the territory between Belgrade
and Nikopol, part of Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
France was going to get Egypt. Russia was committing that never the two
Empress Catherine II of Russia’s Foreign Policy… 77
crowns – of Dacia and of the resurrected Byzantium – should become
one. Yet, the negotiations drag on, the European chancelleries learning of
the “dangerous rapprochement” between Vienna and Sankt Petersburg
(Arnăutu 1996: 46-47; Oţetea 1980: 126; Iorga 1985: 346-351; Heppner
A new Russo-Austro-Turkish war starts in 1787. Although he
hesitates in front of Catherine II’s exaggerated ambitions, Joseph II (who
meets the Tsarina in Crimea in 1787) enters the war on Russia’s side,
against Turkey. At the beginning, the war has a changeable evolution, but
the Russian generals Suvorov, Potemkin and Rumyantsev assume the
command, managing to chase the Turks from the Principalities. To Iaşi
come Potemkin, the supreme commander of the Russian armies and
presumptive ruler of the “Kingdom” of Dacia (as he is known is the
diplomatic circles of the time). Metropolitan Bishop Leon Gheucă is now,
just like his predecessor in the past war, in relations with the Russians
since the beginning of the war. The Russian officers are everywhere,
pompous parties are organized, as well as balls, theatre and ballet
spectacles; the Russian commander edits the first newspaper in the
country, Courier de Moldavie. Potemkin wishes to attract the boyars to
the Russian plans, spending thus large amounts of money (Bezviconi
2004: 174 sqq; Ciobanu 1985: 175-181; Bogdan 2004: 150-151).
The Russian administration installed in Moldavia will last until the
beginning of 1792. Protopope Mihail Strilbiţchi, the Russians’ trusted
man, former collaborator of Metropolitan Gavriil Callimachi and the
liaison man between the Field Marshal Rumyantsev and Leon Gheucă,
comes to Iaşi. Gifted engraver and printer, he will found in Iaşi a
“political printery”, where he will print several books in Russian or in
Russian and Romanian (Dan 1912: 225 sqq; Chiaburu 1996-1997: 81-88;
Păşcurariu 2002: sub voce). When the Russian troops leave Moldavia,
Mihail Strilbiţchi, fearing the reprisals because of his “role as a political
spy which he had played”, leaves too, settling in Dubasari, in the territory
between the Dniester and the Bug, where Catherine II had founded, out of
propagandistic reasons, a land called “New Moldavia” (there was another
one called “New Serbia”) (Frăţiman 1923: 342).
In 1788 (or at the beginning of the next year, during the Russian
occupation, Metropolitan Leon dies (under not yet elucidated conditions)
Daniel Niţă-Danielescu 78
(Ciurea 1942: 47; Zahariuc 2008: 272). Profiting by favourable
conditions, the Russian authorities, who “were introducing the Russian
rule and appointed to more or less important functions the Russians,
Greeks, Moldavians or Walachians that had served before in Russia,
known for their devotion to this country” - and “the same practice
functioned in the appointments to the important church functions”
2004: 23), appoint in the autumn of 1789 as a vicar of the
metropolitan of Moldavia the Russian Archbishop Ambrose Serebrenikoff
(previously titular of Yekaterinoslav and of Poltava). In 1790, Ambroise
“asking for permission from the Court” goes to the monastery of Neamţ,
where he will enthrone as archbishop Saint Paisius Velichkovsky (Viaţa
cuviosului Paisie de la Neamţ după manuscrisul 154 din Biblioteca
1997: 66), who, after the travel to Mount Athos, had
settled to Moldavia in 1763, with the approval of the Metropolitan Gavriil
Callimachi; here, he will be the promoter of an ample movement of
spiritual renaissance, which will develop in the decades to come
“especially in Ukraine and Russia” (Daniel 1997: 1997:12; Iluminism şi
isihasm; Aufklärung und Hesychasmus 2006). Starting with that period, in
the monastery of Neamţ the monks start officiating in Romanian or
Ambroise Serebrenikoff calls to Moldavia Gavriil Bănulescu-
Bodoni, a noble family Romanian (coming from Bistriţa, Transylvania)
devoted to the Russian cause, who had retired now at Yekaterinoslav,
where he was the rector of the Seminary. In 1791, Gavriil Bănulescu
Bodoni will be enthroned “vicar Bishop of Akkermann and bender” and
after the peace treaty with the Turks, he will become the Metropolitan of
Moldavia. The reinstallation of the Phanariot regime will bring about the
decision to remove the Russians’ Metropolitan. The ecumenical Patriarch
urges upon the election of a new Metropolitan. On 21 June 1792, the
Bishop of Huşi, Iacob Stamati, comes to the Metropolitan throne; in his
Pastoral to the believers, he shows that Gavriil Bănulescu-Bodoni’s
appointment as a Metropolitan Bishop was made “through the violation of
the old rules and prerogatives, so that anathema (…) was signed by three
Blessed Patriarchs, disrobing him of all the gifts and honour of an
Archbishop”; after that, “according to our customs, a free and legitimate
election took place among the locals (…), of which we were the final
Empress Catherine II of Russia’s Foreign Policy… 79
chosen one”; he finally advises everyone “not to worry, to keep a kind
heart, everyone following the duty of one’s condition and paying no
attention to the vain and rebellious words that are sown among the people
to their disquietude” (Ciurea 1946: 102; Stadniţchii 2004: 26-27;
Păcurariu 2002: sub voce). Gavriil Bănulescu-Bodoni is seized and sent
under escort to Istanbul. Accused of usurping, with foreign support, the
Metropolitan throne, he is threatened with death. But he resists with
dignity and, upon the insistences of the Court of Sankt Petersburg, he is
released. He turns back to Russia, where Catherine II decorates him and,
after archbishop Ambroise Serebrenikoff dies, he will be entrusted the
throne of the eparchy of Yekaterinoslav, with its headquarters at Poltava.
Later, when Metropolitan Hierotheus dies, he becomes Metropolitan
Bishop of Kiev. Starting with 1801, he becomes member of the Russian
Holy Synod and during the Russo-Turkish war of 1806-1812, the
Russians entrust him the Church of Moldavia and Walachia, which he
will run as an Exarch, after metropolitans Veniamin Costachi and Dositei
Filitti are removed (Stadniţchii
The military Russo-Austrian confrontations during the second half
of the 18
century influence the cultural and spiritual life as well. For the
Romanian Principalities, to reorganize and define their future status
supposed to understand the principles and rulings according to which the
European diplomacy and politics of the time functioned. The contacts
with different cultural environments, the interest of not staying outside the
general debates and to plead as convincingly as possible their own cause,
in order to achieve in their own projects, will open the Principalities the
way towards new cultural acquirements and new political principles. We
should also count here the effort of attracting the Romanian elites towards
the new ideological trends now developing, in which we could read the
presence of the forces competing for influence upon the Romanian area.
Under these circumstances, the ecclesiastic circles start to be
influenced by the Enlightenment principles and values as well (As for the
way the Enlightenment ideas were received in the Romanian
Principalities, see Georgescu
1972: passim; Iorga, II 1969: passim: Duţu
1968: passim). For instance, the principles of the enlightened despotism,
as they have been received in Catherine II’s Russia, become more and
more influential, especially in the context of the military confrontations.
Daniel Niţă-Danielescu 80
Thus, in 1773, Metropolitan Gavriil Callimachi prints the Tsarina’s Nakaz
and eulogizes its principles, and the Court of Sankt Petersburg encourages
now the anti-Ottoman rhetoric in accordance with the enlightened
philosophers’ arguments, preferring to appreciate Catherine’s war against
the Turks not as “crusades”, but as a fight of the civilized world against
An essential mutation is operated in the Russian options after the
1789 French Revolution. Catherine II will distance herself from the
revolutionary philosophy which, although belonging to the Enlightenment
spirit, was radically against monarchy and Church, proclaiming the
sovereignty of the people and the nations’ right (the term itself acquires
new meanings) to self-organization and an independent political life. A
period of maximal development starts in the Eastern Church, with the
trend of spiritual renaissance, initiated by Saint Paisius Velichkovsky, the
hegumen of the monastery of Neamţ. He affirms the specificity and the
identity of Orthodoxy, confronted with the spiritual secularization
tendencies, in accordance with the new European order promoted by the
French Revolution. At the level of doctrine confrontations, both the deist
and anticlerical trend, coming from the Occident of the “Godless
Votlaire” and the one of the Roman-Catholics, who “corrupted the
righteous doctrine” of the Church are rejected. One of the brothers of the
community of Neamţ, Vitalie, registers in 1796 in his diary the death of
Tsarina Catherine II, about whom he does not hesitate to write that she
“ruled efficiently and expediently” (Iorga 1968: 323).
Another cultural current develops around the monastic centre of
Putna. Unlike the movement initiated by Starets Paisius, in which initially
there is no sign of interest for the Romanian people’s identity, history and
future, the cultural trend promoted at Putna is specifically characterized
by the attachment to the Romanian Orthodoxy values and past (Iorga
. Among the promoters, there are Metropolitan Iacob
Putneanul (removed from the throne in 1760) and his disciple, Vartolomei
Empress Catherine II of Russia’s Foreign Policy… 81
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Monk Gavril Uric – Romanian Calligrapher and
Miniaturist – 580 Years Since the Publication of the
Famous Book of the Four Gospels at Neamt (1429-2009)
Vlad Emilian Nică
Faculty of Orthodox Theology,
“Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iaşi, ROMANIA
The paper discusses the contribution of monk Gavril Uric, the first documented
Romanian artist, to the establishment of the arts and formal schools of calligraphy and
miniature in 15
-century Moldavia and more broadly in the Romanian states. The
author seeks to highlight Uric’s essential role and influence in shaping the unique
Moldavian style in fresco painting, manuscript miniatures and religious art.
Keywords: calligraphy, miniature, manuscript, religious literature
Whereas in 2008 the Romanian Orthodox Church paid special
homage to the hieromonk Macarie, who printed the first books in our
country (The Liturgy, 1508-2008), this year, in 2009, Church culture
brings forth the memory of monk Gavriil Uric (the name of monk Gavriil
Uric will be written in quotations using the authors’ spelling, with either
one or two i), a calligrapher and miniaturist, as 580 years have passed
since the publication of his main work, The Book of the Four Gospels
It is widely known that Romanian monasteries have been,
throughout history, not only places for the accomplishment of Christian
life, but also centres of religious and lay culture, which have spread light
in the Romanian society. It was in the monastic milieu that the first and
foremost art and culture centres emerged from the 14
to the 16
centuries. In the monks’ cells the very first manuscript books were
transcribed on parchment or paper, with exquisite penmanship making
ample use of richly adorned letters and frontispieces.
“Religious literature, although the most widely spread in the Middle
Ages, is limited to copies and there seems to be almost no documented
Vlad Emilian Nică 84
original works in the Romanian lands. The works written in Slavic in the
Romanian lands are not very numerous, however they have a rather
considerable general interest” (Panaitescu 1971: 18). The Romanian
religious literature of that period was not original as the manuscripts and
afterwards the religious printings were only copies of Slavic texts written
in Bulgaria, Serbia and Russia, which were in turn translations of
Bulgaria, Serbia or Russia, which in turn were translations of Greek
Byzantine works. In this context, one ought to refer to calligrapher
copyists, gifted in the fine inscription of letters and illuminations, such as
the monk Gavril Uric working at Neamt Monastery from 1429 to 1447.
All Romanian researchers acknowledge the originality of 15
century Moldavian culture, expressed as a creative synthesis in the arts,
architecture and painting, as well as manuscript miniatures. The
Romanian sacred heritage is completed by the culture and spirituality of
interior and exterior church frescoes, icons, wood sculptures, silver
artefacts, embroideries and exquisite miniature manuscripts. “In addition
to their genuine artistic value, miniature manuscripts complete our history
as they provide a series of highly interesting facts, through annotations
and notes, often supplanting chronicles, in transformative times for our
people. From such manuscript notes one can realise the generous material
and spiritual support that the Romanian people, through their kings,
offered to the spiritual centres of Eastern Orthodoxy such as
Constantinople, Mount Athos, Jerusalem, a.o., and to neighbouring
peoples” (Popescu-Vâlcea 1981: 6).
Despite all the external influences and the aid offered to the Holy
Lands “Romanian medieval culture is confined to the king’s court, the
Church and the feudal domains” (Panaitescu 1971: 52), because culture
was dependent on the economic developments and the state of society,
and furthermore the Romanian states were constantly under threat of
being occupied and raided by foreign invaders and were lacking the time
and opportunities to develop culturally as Western states did. At the same
time, “the Slavic language was confined to Church literature, Church
services and historical accounts, and the heroic literature of kingly and
noble courts” (Panaitescu 1971: 52).
Monk Gavril Uric – Romanian Calligrapher and Miniaturist 85
Whereas in Walachia the ecclesial Slavic language used the median-
Bulgarian alphabet, in Moldavia the Slavic language was written in the
West Russian alphabet.
Historian P. P. Panaitescu states clearly that “the Slavic language
was not only the languge of the Church, i.e. the language of Liturgy
services and worship books, it was also used as literary language, i.e. in
chronicles (historical literature), law books, stories, as well as in property
documents (charters and deeds), orders issued by kings and noblemen, in
diplomatic correspondence and even in literary correspondence”
(Panaitescu 1971: 53).
-century Slavic manuscripts make up the most interesting
collection. These manuscripts include, among others, the set of texts,
miscellanea of saints’ lives and works of Church fathers, copied by the
scribe Gavril of Neamt Monastery (1439-1447), some of which are
valuable historical references for the 13
centuries, such as the
works of Patriarch Efthymios of Tarnovo (manuscripts no 164, 165, 151,
152, 302 and others) (Cercetări Literare, vol.VI) and those of Grigorii
Tzamblac, a metropolitan of Kiev, who lived in Moldavia (manuscripts
no. 164, 309) (Revue des etudes slaves: 46-81).
An interesting group of Moldavian manuscripts in Slavic date from
the reign of St. Stephen the Great, who had them written and copied for
the monasteries and churches in his country. A series of laws, the
commemoration list of Bistrita, and a number of Wallachian manuscripts
in Slavic from the same century, of various origins, comprising laws and
texts by Church Fathers, add to the group of 15
manuscripts” (Panaitescu 1958: VIII).
However, “the emergence of the specially crafted manuscripts in
century Moldavia, exhibiting a strictly observed orthographic
tradition different, from that of other countries which used the Slavic
language, means that one can speak of Moldavian manuscripts dating
from a more distant period” (Panaitescu 1971: 54).
As this article refers to manuscripts, it should be emphasised that
besides wood painting, the art of miniatures (Vătăşianu 1959, 458-464)
produced invaluable works in the 15
miniature played a very important role in the Middle Ages. 15
Moldavian miniaturists, during the reigns of Alexander the Kind and St.
Vlad Emilian Nică 86
Stephen the Great (Stănescu 1964: 9-45), were quite original in terms of
the colouring of their works. Colour was extremely important not only for
manuscripts but also for fresco paintings inside and outside churches.
The manuscript literature in Romanian-Slavic in the 14
centuries (Simionescu and Buluţă 1981: 17-21) comprising the
theological culture of the time included: gospel books, epistle books,
octoechos, menaions, bible commentaries, psalters, horologions, liturgy
books, in brief, religious books transcribed and disseminated both for the
purpose of religious worship and for teaching the alphabet and reading.
Neamt Monastery, founded and expanded by kings Petru I Musat,
Alexander the Kind and St. Stephen the Great, holds a prominent place
among the Moldavian monasteries with a rich spiritual and cultural
activity in the Romanian Middle Ages. It is noteworthy that in the 15
centuries Neamt Monastery hosted the oldest and richest library
in Moldavia, unparalleled ever since in any other Romanian monastery.
However, repeated sackings and damage, and long use lead to the
destruction of most of the manuscripts, while others ended up in foreign
countries. Nevertheless, an inventory of the assets preserved at Neamt
Monastery revealed that there were one hundred manuscripts from the
centuries remaining, which comprised a host of liturgical and
moral writings, before the publication of the first printed book in 1508.
Writing about the cultural life of Putna Monastery in the second
half of the 15
century, Emil Turdeanu points out that: “for over half a
century, Neamt was at the forefront of the finest cultural achievements of
the country; it was there that the talented Gavril, son of monk Paisie Uric,
worked as calligrapher and artists, leaving behind thirteen manuscripts
containing both liturgical texts and various texts for moral edification; a
Byzantine model was followed, but also an even older local original, the
epitaph of abbot Siluan. It was only natural that Neamt would boast the
finest scholars of the time, the best manuscript sources for new in demand
copies and the most famous copyists who transcribed them on new
parchments” (Turdeanu 1997: 43-44).
The same historical time is described by Mircea Tomescu as
follows: “the calligraphic and miniature craft reached a high level of
artistry in Moldavia, during the stable and thriving years of king
Alexander the Kind. The talented calligrapher and miniaturist Gavril
Monk Gavril Uric – Romanian Calligrapher and Miniaturist 87
Uricovici was active in the latter years of his reign, from 1424 to 1450.
The son of Paisie Uric, a so-called ‘uric’ being a writer of royal orders,
Gavril was obviously handed down and taught the art of calligraphy by
his father. There must also have been forerunners who had striven to
establish the Moldavian schools for calligraphers and miniaturists. Gavril
the monk organized to a higher level the calligraphy and miniature school
at Neamt Monastery and trained in turn other calligraphers and
miniaturists such as the hieromonk Nicodim of Putna Monastery”
(Tomescu 1968: 22).
During the Middle Ages there were several schools for calligraphers
and miniaturists in the Romanian states, each with its own special
characteristics. Yet the organiser of the very first miniature school in
Moldavia was a monk who was a calligrapher and a miniaturist, namely
Gavriil Uric of Neamt Monastery.
Who was Gavriil Uric? He was a monk at the Neamt Lavra, a
copyist, calligrapher and miniaturist, who lived in the first half of the 15
century. His father was a Moldavian nobleman, charged with writing
royal orders, who, in his later life, decided to enter the monastic life at
Neamt Monastery, being given the name Paisie.
“Also known as Gavriil of Neamt (or Gavriil the monk), he was a
most gifted scholar of his time. His manuscripts include collections of
widely distributed Slavic and Greek religious texts, customised for the
Romanian audience: gospels, patristic texts and hagiographies. More
important still was his outstanding achievements in the area of
polychromous writing and miniatures. While drawing on Byzantine
sources, Uric enriched his miniature art with his own elements and folk
art influences. The most important manuscript is a Book of the Four
Gospels (1429), now preserved at the Bodleian library at Oxford
University, which features exquisite illuminations and miniatures. Fifteen
other manuscripts which he wrote (or have been attributed to him) from
1424 to 1449 are nowadays kept in various libraries in Romania and
abroad. His calligraphic and miniature art was continued and developed
during the thriving years of the reign of Stephen the Great, establishing a
Moldavian school which had an impact all over the Slavic cultural space”
(Dicţionarul Literaturii Române 1979: 879-880).
Vlad Emilian Nică 88
None of the manuscripts illuminated by Gavril Uric remains in our
country, however, in the collection of Putna Monastery there are
manuscripts illuminated by skilled disciples of Uric, such as Nicodim of
Humor Monastery, the author of a famous portrait of King Saint Stephen
the Great (Book of the Four Gospels, 1473) or monk Paladios, the author
of the Book of the Four Gospels of Putna Monastery, dating from 1488-
1489, during the reign of the same king.
The manuscripts of monk Gavril Uric remain to this day an
inexhaustible source for the history of Slavic literature, while the Book of
the Four Gospels in Slavic-Greek, dating from 1429, which he wrote and
illuminated, is a “genuine masterpiece with all the features of Neamt
school” (Tomescu: 1968).
Dr. G. Popescu-Vâlcea provides a technical description of the Book
of the Four Gospels: “The Book of the Four Gospels of 1429; Bodleian
Library, Oxford. (Cod. Can. Graeci 122). Fig. 1-6; Parchment written in
the Slavic language, with Greek text on the margins; Frontispieces in
entrelacs: f.7r; f.90r; f.145r; f.236r.; Miniatures: the evangelists
„Matthew”, f.6v; „Mark”; f:89v; „Luke”, f.144v; „John”, f. 235v.; Work
by monk Gavril Uric, Neamţ monastery; Epilogue: ‹‹With the will of the
Father and the help of the Son and the working of the holy Spirit, this
Gospel Book was written during the time of the pious and Christ-loving
king Alexander, Lord over the entire country of Moldowallachia and of
his pious Lady Marina who, venerating the love-filled words of Christ,
ardently instructed that this be written, in the year 6937 (1429), the work
being completed in the month of March, in 13 days, by Gavril the monk,
son of Uric, who worked at Neamt Monastery››. Bought in the 19
century from the antiquarian Johan Pericinotti, of Venice, for the
Bodleian Library. The circumstances of the manuscript’s transfer from
Moldavia to Venice are not documented” (Popescu-Vâlcea 1981: 85 –
Sorin Ulea, who has extensively researched the Uric’s personality,
states that: “the miniature work of monk Gavril uric of Neamt Monastery,
as displayed in his Book of the Four Gospels of 1429, is not only the
oldest such monument of Romanian medieval painting; it is also, for the
whole history of Romanian painting, the first creation that can be linked
to a known artist, with clearly defined features. Although they are greatly
Monk Gavril Uric – Romanian Calligrapher and Miniaturist 89
admired for their artistic achievement, Uric’s miniatures have not been
studied from an aesthetic point of view, so far researchers limiting
themselves to simple iconographic descriptions or broad stylistic
remarks” (Ulea 1964: 23; here the author refers to those who researched
more closely the Gospel Book of 1429, namely: I. Bianu, Documente de
artă romanească din manuscripte vechi, fasc. I, Bucharest, 1922 and
more extensively Emil Trudeanu, Miniatura bulgară şi începuturile
miniaturii româneşti, excerpt from the Bulletin of the Romanian Institute
of Sofia, I, Bucharest, 1942).
As our focus here is mostly on the description of miniatures from
the iconography point of view, I will first introduce Emil Trudeanu’s
comments and afterwards return to the aesthetics details highlighted by
The illuminated Book of the Four Gospels and its icons “are parts of
a homogenous type, featuring two elements: 1. The evangelists are
depicted seated at their work table: St. Matthew is sharpening his goose
quill pen; Sts. Mark and Luke are writing, whereas St. John gazes in the
distance. Matthew is old, Mark and Luke are in their prime, whereas John
has white hair and beard. Matthew is seated in a large chair with a
rounded back and next to him there is a low table with writing utensils,
while on a stand placed over the table there is a gospel roll; Mark and
Luke are sitting on slightly inclined benches, without backrests, and are
holding on their knees the book or parchment in which they are writing;
John is sitting in a large chair, with the backrest similar to a armchair,
while near him there is a marble pedestal against which a lectern with an
open book on top. The heads of the evangelists are surrounded by halos;
under their feet there is a small podium, while their dress consists of a
kiton and himation. 2. The background of the miniatures features
architectural themes. In Matthew’s portrait (icon, our note) one can see
the front of a temple with arcades supported by 10 Corynthian green and
red marble columns. (…) Mark is standing in front of ciborium with
slender porphyry columbs; (…) Bizarre but not unknown to Byzantine
illuminators is the building that fills the background of Luke’s icon. It
appears to be a stylised church (…) The décor of John’s miniature
features more fantasy elements. There was no actual model for the bright
Vlad Emilian Nică 90
green building, with two side spires, a flat open ceiling, over which rises a
red dome” (Turdeanu 1997: 191-192).
Mircea Tomescu offers an almost identical description of the
Gospel Book, emphasising that: “(…) it is written in calligraphy which is
itself a work of art. The letters are long, slender and elegant. The
manuscript is richly adorned. At the beginning of each gospel, the
respective evangelist is depicted on a full page, against a Byzantine
architectural background. The evangelists sit in deep armchairs or
benches, in front of their desks with writing tools: Matthew is honing his
quill pen, Mark is writing in a book (our note: he is writing the Gospel)
which he is holding on his knees, Luke writes in a roll, while John, with
the quill in his hand, listens to the voice of an angel who is dictating to
him (our note: like the other Holy Evangelists, St John is writing his
Gospel under divine inspiration). The neatly drawn characters are
animated and expressive. The frame of the miniatures is bordered by
foliage and wreath ornaments. At the beginning of each gospel, on almost
a third of a page, there is a frontispiece of intertwining circles and
semicircles, at times crisscrossed by lines. The motifs of the frontispieces,
artistically integrated, create a harmonious ensemble. The illuminated title
cases, featuring interlaced plant stems, add to the richness of the
manuscript. The bold colouring, with dominant gold used in backgrounds,
halos and circle lines, combining with red, blue, violet, green, etc.,
enlivens the decoration and creates an impression of majesty and wealth”
(Tomescu 1968: 22-23).
As has been mentioned above, Sorin Ulea has focused in detail on
the aesthetic interpretation of the miniatures in the Book of the Four
Gospels. He provides a thorough description of the spiritual and human
traits of the Evangelist Saints and of the milieu of their depiction by
Gavril Uric. Sorin Ulea argues that: “What draws one’s attention from the
very beginning in these miniatures, made in pastel colours, on a golden
background, is the clear imprint of antiquity. The many elements of
architectural décor – columns, porticoes, domes, edicules, pediments –
were harmonised by a conspicuously Hellenistic urban style. It was the
Paleologue painting, impregnated with the traditions of ancient art, which
inspired in the artist the concern to strictly observe the proportions of the
human body and the preference for plastic modelling and statuesque
Monk Gavril Uric – Romanian Calligrapher and Miniaturist 91
postures. The miniaturist’s adroitness in suggesting, under the Byzantine
veil, the values of ancient art and also the exquisite technique he
employed to bring them to life, demonstrate not only his artistic talent and
refinement but also his solid familiarity with the greatest models of the
culture of Constantinople. However, in adopting the form of Byzantine
painting, Gavril was not an ordinary copyist. He processed these forms
thoroughly, adapting them to his artistic perception. Without a doubt, his
most remarkable achievements were in the treatment of the human body
and face, as can be seen in particular in the portraits of Luke and John
which are the most accomplished (…) Discarding the ascetic sternness
and severity typical of Byzantine representations, the figues of the
evangelists depicted by Gavril are more relaxed and serene, expressing
with their humane eyes the gentle nature of Moldavian peasants,
emphasised in Luke’s portrait by an obvious local facial construction.
Indeed special mention must be made of the head of this evangelist,
whose features of serene beauty express with impressive suggestive force
all the character’s inner life. The reflection of the author’s own state of
mind in this portrait is so obvious that it creates the illusion that we are
viewing the very image of the artist, concentrated on the deeply personal
act of artistic creation” (Ulea 1964: 248-249).
At the same time, the author of the study emphasises the difference
and the contrast with the Byzantine miniature art in decline at the time
Uric was producing his own miniatures.
“When referring to the relevance of lines and contours in Gavril’s
art, one must point out in particular the deep connection between the
characters’ gestures and postures and their expressions. Thus, Luke’s
body, heavily arched over the roll, plastically emphasises the
psychological focus which can be noticed on the evangelist’s inspired
face, just as John’s ease is in agreement with the Apollonian serenity of
The local artistic perception of the Romanian miniaturist is in full
display in the optimism and refinement of his choices of colour. The
warm colour of ripe sour cherries of the himation worn by Luke greatly
amplifies the harmony of the long curves of his figure, evoking melodic
associations. At the same time, the three accents of blue, organised as a
pyramid (on the evangelist’s chest and on two corners of a duvet), were
Vlad Emilian Nică 92
distributed only as necessary to enhance, by means of the contrast created,
the resonance of the core colour of the vestment and stabilise the
character’s figure. In John’s portrait, the balance between the serene blue
of his kiton and the light tones of brown of his himaton creates translucent
and calm harmonies, which highlight the evangelist’s elegant and
composed demeanour. It is worth noting, finally, the essential role that
colour plays in constructing forms. Gavril’s skill in modelling the nuances
and the delicate transfers from one tone to another and from shadow to
light is equally obvious in the treatment of the body, whose harmonious
shapes are highlighted through the subtle close-fitting garments and also
through the treatment of the facaes, whose force of expression is largely
the result of a skilful distinction of planes and volumes.
Gavril Uric was able to express a new moral and aesthetic ideal as
he was removed, through birth and cultural allegiance, from the theologal
dogmatism of Byzantine artistic culture. However, by the mediation of
this same culture he was able to perceive the luminous message of ancient
art. From the miniatures of the Book of the Four Gospels of 1429 emerges
the serene image of man freed from the mortifying grip of Byzantine
transcendence” (Ulea 1964: 249-250).
Refering to the composition set-up of the miniatures, Sorin Ulea
contradicts Emil Trudeanu’s claim that Gavril Uric had copied his
miniatures directly from a Constantinople manuscript (Trudeanu 1942:
428). He maintains that “the conducted research did not identify, in
Byzantine miniature or that of Southern Slavs, any representation similar
to those in Gavril’s Gospel Book” (Ulea 1964: 251). Moreover, “we must
stress that the in-depth analysis of Uric’s aesthetics shows that in terms of
composition we are dealing – as in the case of the human image – with
the author’s personal vision, who did not replicate the miniatures of a
standard model, but rather processed elements from various sources:
miniatures, model icons used by painters; the only miniature reproduced
according to the model was that of Mark” (Ulea 1964: 251).
The representation of the evangelist Mark (cf. figure 1) was made
according to Uric’s own conception: the writing utensils on the work
desk, the architectural décor, “the pyramid-like focus exhibited by the ten-
column gallery, fixed on the arched base, and secondly in the upper side
of the edifice, by strongly stressing the cornice and by means of the
Monk Gavril Uric – Romanian Calligrapher and Miniaturist 93
overlapping small towers, culminating with the (Moldavian) church on
top” (Ulea 1964: 252).
As regards “Mark’s miniature (cf. figure 2), it represents an instance
of relaxed creative effort, as the artist, tired of the analytical researches in
the first miniature, but having not yet established a synthesis, resorted to
the more convenient method of reproducing a model, one which was
widely spread ever since the late antiquity: the ciborium with a two apse
roof, supported by four columns (…) Also, in Mark’s miniature the
progress of his skill is apparent, both in the enhanced expression of lines,
of the drawing, and also in the composition vision, which is more unified
yet simplified compared with the first miniature and, relevant for the
spatial tendency of the local artist – more elongated and projected (Ulea
Referring to evangelist Luke’s portrait (cf. figure 3), Sorin Ulea
asserts that in the artist’s work one may note greater experience,
qualitative difference and the use of a Byzantine scheme” (Ulea 1964:
G. Popescu-Vâlcea shares this view, stressing that: “the portrait of
evangelist Luke is the most accomplished in Gavril Uric’s Book of the
Four Gospels and in Romanian miniature overall. He unites the qualities
of a genuine work of art, through the concordance between his action and
the character’s contemplative stance, nobility and serenity and the
expressive image of the body hunched over the papyrus and through the
harmony of all the shapes, which suggest a very balanced movement.
Talent and love were the basic elements in designing the portrait,
imprinting a warm inner feeling in the character expressed by perfectly
harmonised shapes. The depiction of the character in full movement, quite
vigorous move, does not exclude serenity, calmness and equilibrium”
(Popescu-Vâlcea 1981: 14).
The miniature representation of evangelist John (cf. figure 4) and its
décor “constitute a transfiguration – again through simplification – of the
same décor as in the miniature depiction of evangelist Mark. Indeed the
edifice in the last composition was created by developing the central
group of the edifice in Mark’s miniature, as well as the suppression of the
gallery of columns. The small Moldavian church is replaced with a square
structure, superimposed by a dome supported by four pillars, the dome
Vlad Emilian Nică 94
being copied obviously from Byzantine painting, where there are similar
representations. (…) All these transformations gave the architectural
décor a calm and soothing spatial element, closer to the collected
spatiality of Byzantine architecture and highlighted by the serene colour
tones: green-grey for the façade and mauve for the dome. The same effect
is achieved by the motifs in the decorative border, more rounded than
those in Luke’s miniature and set horizontally in the upper area of the
border” (Ulea 1964: 254; see also Popescu-Vîlcea’s description, 1981: 14-
In the end, Sorin Ulea concludes that Gavril Uric, to avoid
monotony and repetition, does not arrange the evangelists’ icons in the
same direction, as in Byzantine miniature art, but rather presents them in a
symmetrical composition, two by two. He also infers that the miniatures
were not the first the author had created (Ulea 1964: 255).
Sorin Ulea also refers to the graphical make-up of Uric’s
manuscripts, “which turns these manuscripts into genuine works of art.
The grand and luxurious frontispieces, made by amply and rationally
using a conception of Byzantine origin: the intertwined circles and lines,
the cheerful flourish of title cases, the elegant shape of letters, known in
Slavic studies as “Moldavian writing”, in the overall unified and
harmonious page layout all exhibit the same qualities as the illuminated
miniatures – i.e. a sense of proportion, exquisite decoration and great
refinement. These qualities distinguish all other genuine Romanian works
of art through history, from Moldavian exterior paintings to the folk
carpets, from embroideries from the time of Stephen the Great to the
canvases of Luchian or Tonitza” (Ulea 1964: 256; the author remarks that
“the Greek text which in the Gospel Book of 1429 accompanies the Slavic
one, as a slender column, was not written by Gavriil himself. It was added
at a much later time”, a view supported by other researchers too).
As regards the model that inspired Gavril Uric in creating the Book
of the Four Gospels of 1429, most of the researchers in the field agree
that it was a Byzantine one, which was not however imitated.
Emil Turdeanu shows that: “neither in Bulgarian nor in Serbian art
was found any manuscript dating from before the Neamt one, having the
same characteristics in the iconographic representation of the Evangelists”
(Turdeanu 1997: 193).
Monk Gavril Uric – Romanian Calligrapher and Miniaturist 95
After king Alexander the Kind reconciled with the Patriarchate of
Constantinople in 1401, by recognising Iosif Musat as Metropolitan of
Moldavia, the emperor of Byzantium, John VIII the Paleologue, stopped
for a visit in Moldavia in 1424 on his way to Chilia, where he was to
embark for the imperial capital. The emperor offered the Moldavian king
a miracle-making icon of the Mother of God, which is now kept at Neamt
Monastery. During the same period, the Greek metropolitan Makarios
visited Moldavia and facilitated the penetration of Byzantine models for
the very first local royal courts. The epitaph of 1428 paid for by
metropolitan Makarios, “reflects a combination of Byzantine-Serbian type
and a Constantinople type with Greek inscriptions (Turdeanu 1997: 193;
cf. Bobulescu 1934: 65-74; Turdeanu 1940: 172-178, 203-204 and pl. III;
reproduced by Cartojan 1940, 24) and also an epitrachelion with Greek
inscriptions bearing the portrait of king Alexander and lady Marina which
reflects the magnificent iconography created in the Byzantine ateliers”
(Turdeanu 1997: 193; cf. Iorga 1913: 343-346 and a chart in Turdeanu,
1941: 11-12, providing the complete bibliography). Gavriil’s Book of the
Four Gospels accompanies these works, given its creation and its
distinctive features. “Thus, 15
-century Moldavian miniature follows the
tradition inaugurated, on the foundations of a Byzantine model, by the
first outstanding painter of Neamt Monastery, himself a son of a “writer
of laws”, therefore bound to Moldavia through his parents’ history”
(Turdeanu 1997: 229).
Besides the famous Book of the Four Gospels of 1429, Gavriil Uric
created other manuscripts, which researchers have analysed and referred
to in various studies. Following his research conducted in libraries in
Russia, Radu Constantinescu concluded that Gavriil Uric started to work
as calligrapher and miniaturist around 1413 (Vornicescu 1983: 212; cf.
Constantinescu 1977: passim). „At that time, Gavriil Uric, aided by two
copyists, brought to light for our Church in Moldavia and for posterity a
beautiful and substantial anthology of the work fo St. Gregory the
Theologian and the Ladder of St. John the Sinaite” (Vornicescu 1983:
In one of his works, Metropolitan Nestor Vornicescu refers to
manuscripts by Gavriil Uric, but only those which included patristic
writings (Vornicescu 1983: 211-218).
Vlad Emilian Nică 96
We will list below the other manuscripts transcribed by Uric:
Tetraevangheliarul (The Book of the Four Gospels), in Slavic, 1436
(Porcescu 1962: 490-491, apud. Ştefănescu 1884: 145. In 1911 this
manuscript was in the library of Neamt monastery, cf. Petrescu 1911; In
1955 it was returned by the U.S.S.R., cf. Lăzărescu and Mircea 1958:
213), Sbornic (a collection of hagiographies and bible commentaries),
1439, preserved at the library of the Romanian Academy (Porcescu 1962:
491); Sbornic, 1441 (Porcescu 1962: 491); St. John Chrysostom, Sermons.
Collection, 1443 (Porcescu 1962: 493); Menaion for the month of
February, 1445 (Porcescu 1962: 493); John of the Ladder the Sinaite: the
Ladder of Divine Ascent, 1446 (Porcescu 1962: 493); Menaion for the
month of March, 1447 (Porcescu 1962: 493); Sbornic, 15
(Porcescu 1962: 493). All the manuscripts contain the author’s
annotations and are preserved at the library of the Romanian Academy.
The last Sbornic, whose publication year has not been determined,
includes ‹‹Fragments from the work of St. John Chrysostom: On the
paralytic››; ‹‹Having said these things to them, Jesus stayed in Galilee››;
Sermon on the feast and on Melchised; Sermon on the feast … and on
how one should not judge according to appearances; Sermon on the
Samaritan woman …; ‹‹As he passed by, Jesus saw a man blind from
birth››; Sermon on the Ascension of the Lord; Having been found outside
the Church Eutropius was taken captive; On the holy, first ecumenical
synod ...; On the Epistle to the Thessalonians; Do not mourn too much for
the departed; On the Pentecost and the Holy Spirit; Sermon on the saints
and „the glorified twelve Apostles”; Tribute to all the saints; and other
texts from other Church Fathers and Church writers: Proclus of
Constantinople, Sermon on the Good Samaritan; Athanasius of
Alexandria, Sermon on the Blind from Birth and Sermon on the Ascension
of the Lord, Basil of Seleucia On the Ascension of the Lord, Basil the
Great, On the Holy Spirit and Ephrem the Syrian, Sermon on All the
Saints (Vornicescu 1983: 218).
We can notice that Uric copied both manuscripts with a liturgical
content, necessary for church offices, and writings with a spiritual,
theological and apologetic content, needed for the edification of the
faithful and the defence of the right faith.
Monk Gavril Uric – Romanian Calligrapher and Miniaturist 97
There are other manuscripts, some of them preserved at the
Romanian Academy, others in various libraries and museums abroad,
which some researchers (such as Ecaterina Piscupescu) have attributed to
Gavriil Uric (Porcescu 1962: 493-495).
Gavriil Uric’s disciples and successors at the school for
calligraphers and miniaturists in Neamt moved out to other Moldavian
monasteries, establishing similar schools at the monasteries of Putna,
Humor, Voronet, etc., which were active in the 15
Some of his outstanding disciples were Athanasius of Neamt, Paladie of
Putna, Teodor Marisescul of Neamt (Turdeanu 1997: 106-116), monks
Casian and Filip, etc. (Sabados 1995: 64-73; cf. Molin 1959: 309.).
Next I would like to highlight the comparison that Sorin Ulea made
between the school of miniaturists established by Gavriil Uric and the
mural painting of Moldavian monasteries in the 15
He points out that: “among the evidence for the existence of the
Moldavian school of painting during the time of St. Stephen the Great,
there is a very important one, which has inexplicably remained so far
wholly unknown to researchers. It’s about the mural representations of
evangelists which have never been properly documented (…) It is a
documented fact that Moldavian miniaturists in the 15
and the early 16
centuries observed the tradition established by monk Gavril of Neamt in
the depiction of the evangelists in his famous Book of the Four Gospels of
1429. Based on the idea that the painters of Stephen the Great’s
monasteries, if they were indeed locals, must have learned the art in the
same school where miniaturists were trained, we have inferred that the
painters could not have been unfamiliar, in their depiction of evangelists,
with what their miniaturist peers were doing” (Ulea 1964: 434-435). The
author of this research maintains that: „all the depictions of evangelists
preserved of the mural paintings of the 15
century, except for those of
Pătrăuţi church and the one made by Ioan of Bălineşti – derived, as did
the miniature representations of the time – from prototypes established by
monk Gavril of Neamt in his Book of the Four Gospels of 1429” (Ulea
1964: 435). This implies that “both the painters and the miniaturists
working after Gavril Uric were local artists, who had been trained in their
craft in the same indigenous painting or miniature school, a properly
Vlad Emilian Nică 98
organised and coherent school, which was based on a tradition that it
strove to preserve” (Ulea 1964: 445).
Therefore, “we can view in a different light the prominent artistic
influence of monk Gavriil of Neamt, the founder of this tradition, who,
owing to his remarkable talent, created a mode of depicting the
evangelists which became established and lived on as a norm not only in
miniature art but also in 15
-century monumental painting. Even as late
as the reign of Petru Rares, Moldavian painters would remember the
tradition of the ancient Book of Gospels of Neamt and would seek to
revive it in the icons of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark and Luke” (Ulea
As we have already noted the link between Uric’s miniatures and
the mural paintings of his time, we will now turn to another connection,
between his manuscripts and the books of Macarie, as documented by
Virgil Molin. After in-depth analyses and research, he concluded that “at
the base of the first polygraphic books (published by Macarios) as a
model and source of inspiration was the miniature art, established in
Moldavian monasteries, the direct source being the exquisite Book of the
Four Gospels, by monk Gavriil Uric, the founder of the school of
miniature and calligraphic art at Neamt Monastery” (Molin 1967: 382; cf.
Molin 1959: 303-313) Molin shows that besides the polygraphic shapes
of the letter characters and the illuminations of the first books published
by Macarie, the Book of the Four Gospels of 1429 occupies a prominent
place, owing to the date of its publication and its distinctive features.
To conclude, we would like to note that the work of monk Gavriil
of Neamt monastery had a great impact on the art of painting and printing
in the Middle Ages, being acknowledged both locally and abroad.
In the tranquillity of the monastery, the calligrapher and miniaturist
monk brought to light the gifts that God had bestowed upon him, and the
result of his efforts has benefited both the clergy and the faithful of our
Church. The monk Gavriil can be considered a trailblazer in the spiritual
and cultural life of Neamt monastery, which was developed further over
Monk Gavril Uric – Romanian Calligrapher and Miniaturist 99
Vlad Emilian Nică 100
Monk Gavril Uric – Romanian Calligrapher and Miniaturist 101
Bianu, I. 1922. Documente de artă romînească din manuscripte vechi, fasc. I, Bucureşti.
Bobulescu, C. 1934. Aerul sau epitaful lui Alexandru cel Bun. Revista Societăţii
Bisericeşti din Chişinău, XXIV.
Cartojan, N. 1940. Istoria literaturii române vechi, I. Bucureşti.
Constantinescu, R., trans. 1977. Texte româneşti în arhive străine. Nichita din
Heracleea. Comentariile la cele 16 Cuvântări ale lui Grigorie din Nazianz.
Dicţionarul Literaturii Române de la origini până la 1900. 1979. Bucureşti: Editura
Iaţimirski, A.I. 1904. Grigorii Ţamblak (in Russian). St. Petersburg.
Iorga, N. 1913. Patrahirul lui Alexandru cel Bun. Cel dintâi chip de domn român.
Analele Academiei Române. Memoriile Secţiunii Istorice, s. II, t. XXXV.
Kaluzniacki, Emil. 1901. Werke des Patriarchen von Bulgarien Euthimius, Vienna.
Lăzărescu, E. and I.R. Mircea. 1958. Manuscrisele. In Studii asupra tezaurului restituit
de U.R.S.S. Bucureşti.
Molin, Virgil. 1967. Observaţii şi opinii noi în legătură cu tipăriturile ieromonahului
Macarie (1508-1512). Mitropolia Moldovei şi Sucevei, no. 5-6.
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Teaching methods classified according to the logical
approach which induces learning, identified in The
Hexaemeron of Saint Basil the Great
Faculty of Orthodox Theology,
“Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iaşi, ROMANIA
Saint Basil’s writings have an inestimable and overwhelming value for the
Christian faith. His work reflects in a staunch manner the perfection pf his life. The
beauty and the accurate spiritualized harmony of his work were accomplished thanks to
his exceptional peculiarities, which by the permanent grace of God he always strove to
cultivate and to perfect, and to his deeds which always followed consistently the word,
the word of his thinking.
The Homilies at Hexaemeron are a vivid expression of the profound spirituality of
the Saint Father, who exposed the creative work of God in a personal manner, with a
view to spotlight the unbounded wisdom and love of our Creator towards the human
The author takes into account the science of the antiquity and that of his time,
concerning nature and philosophy. He uses skillfully this science and extracts constantly
pertinent and beautiful conclusions for the Christian spirituality.
This study is meant to underline the up-to-dateness of the methods Saint Basil
used in his homilies, and the way they can be used today when teaching the religion
The Hexaemeron has an educative role because it facilitates the conceiving and
upholding some particular religion lessons and they also help to know the creation of
God on stages.
Keywords: Hexaemeron, religion, methods, teaching, learning, permanence
The dialogue between science and religion has always existed.
Since he was created, man was fascinated by everything around him, he
wondered and looked for answers and explanations, he tried to realize
why everthing he sees and feels is like that, and also what is the meaning
of this state of things, what is the purpose of all he sees. As soon asa he
Carmen-Maria Bolocan 104
could understand gradually the universe, the number of his questions
increased and deepened. At the same time with the progress of the human
understanding and the evolution of science, people unrest for finding the
meaning of creation became more significant. In this view it is natural for
the scientifical explosion to intensify the dialogue between science and
The whole creation is under the power of God. The world is not
absurde as some philosophers would let us understand through their
The world is harmonious, beautiful and perfectibil. The creation has
an eucharistical meaning. The whole universe keeps the creation in a
unity, advancing continuously to a more complex union with God
(Diaconescu 1996: 53).
Part of our being, the aspiration towards light and virtue, truth and
completion, enlivens and enhances permanently the endeavour we make
in order to gain the redemption. An emblem and a style of christian life,
the devoutness or the christian piety must represent the bunch of merits
which adorn the life those people who want to be loved by God and who
strive to fulfill His saint will.
The permanent wakefulness state of mind recommended by the
Saint Fathers of the Church, the persevering prayer, together with the
deeds of christian love, the permanent support offered to the others, all
these ones help us on our ascent to completion. This superior and
comprehensive conception about the way of getting our self-fulfilment
can be found in the writings of Saint Basil the Great and all the other
Saint Fathers from the first christian centuries.
The teological thinking of the great capadocian father, with its
social-practical features was easy accepted and put into practice by our
forefathers. The priority accorded by them to the meaning of helping and
raising man, to the dignity and the value of man as being belonging to
God, represented a real beacon for the devoutness of all the believers of
The Hexaemeron of Saint Basil the Great 105
II. Saint Basil the Great and the Neo-Alexandrine School
The Neo-Alexandrine School represents the second epoch of the
Catehetical School from Alexandria, whose activity superpose on the
second patristic period (Bolocan 2008: 192). It develops its activity and
its influence both in Alexandria but also inside the auspicious circles of
Origen in Little Asia, Palestine şi Capadocia. The specialists in patrology
consider that to this school belong: Saint Athanasius, Macarie the
Egiptian, Macarie the Young, Evagrie the Pontic, Eusebiu of Cezareea
and, of course, the three great Capadocians: Saint Gregory Nazianzen,
Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory of Nyssa, togethr with those who
followed Origen at the origine of school as a didactic form of teaching
(Heracles, Dionisie the Great, Petru the Martyr, Teognest and Didim the
Blind, the last teacher of the school) (Grigoraş 1993: 194).
The Alexandrine School becomes, gradually, an organized and
permanent clerical establishment, having a complex program of
teological studies and of general knowledge.
At the same time with the prestige of the Greek culture, with the
aspiration of a christian gnose oposed to the pagan philosophy, over the
town from the mouth of Nile a mistical tendency was felt, come
especially from Little Asia.
The consequence of this tendency of religious syncretism and of
diverse influences proved to be not only the christian „science” and the
humanism of Clement the Alexandrine, but also the predominance of the
alegorical methods of interpretation, anticipated as early as the
misteriosofic neoplatonism in the thirs century, and before, by the
writings of Filon the Judish. The dogmatic and exegetic errors of Origen
marks exactly the extreme stadium of this phenomenon.
Through his teological formation and through his general
concernings, Saint Basil the Great belongs to this cultural-religious
climate. In some respects, the Capadocian hierarch continues the
traditions of the renowned teological centre, but in others he moves away
from it, as we can see in his work (Drăgulin 1979: 87).
Thus, in this epoch, the Alexandrine School outruns, in a large
measure, the dogmatic and interpretation errors interpretare of Origen.
For the tradition of the „mother”-school, the dogmatic speculation was
very important. It gave the Church and the world the most brave fighters
Carmen-Maria Bolocan 106
in the battle for defending the Holy Trinity. These ones consider the truth
of faith as being objective, the rule of faitgh is, in their acceptation, the
reason and the undisputed norm of the teological science, and the truth
given by faith was conceived by them as a gnose through the means of the
grace; there is no knowledge without faith, there is no understanding of
the truth without the purity of the soul, there is no knowledge of the
divine truths without living in this knowledge. They use the alegorical
method only in the edification writings, in homilies, when neccesary.
Apart from these general features, each personality who contributed to the
flourishing of the Neo-Alexandrine School, has his specific notes
(Grigoraş 1993: 195).
The most famous representatives of this school are the three great
Capadocians : Basil „the man-deed”, Gregory de Nazianzen „the master
of the word” and Gregory of Nyssa „the prince of the meditation wealth”
(Bolocan 2008: 193).
For Saint Basil the Great it is very important the fulfilment of the
moral and religious personality, the life in Jesus Christ, the cultivation of
love for God and people.
He proves to be a refined psychologist especially when he analizes
the influences and the educational determinations of life together with the
A genuine character, Basil the Great was not less prolific in the
writing field.Inured to the Platonic writings and the Stoic ones, he
influenced his contemporaries and also the posterity both through the
content of his writing and the stilistical features of it (Adămuţ 1997: 227).
Saint Basil’s writings have an inestimable and overwhelming value
for the Christian faith. His work reflects in a staunch manner the
perfection pf his life. The beauty and the accurate spiritualized harmony ,
of this work were accomplished thanks to his exceptional peculiarities,
which by the permanent grace of God he always strove to cultivate and to
perfect, and to his deeds which always followed consistently the word, the
word of his thinking.
His works carry in themselves, during the unceased reflection of the
time, a spiritual message. It is an invitation to a thoroughgoing study of
the fundamental data of the religious life, from a view which means real
teological activity, and to a perpetual enrichment of meanings that can be
The Hexaemeron of Saint Basil the Great 107
gained through deep thinking and meditation on the truths of faith.
Among the Fathers of the Church, generally, and among the Capadocians,
especially, Saint Basil the Great represents an unique personality, a firm
energy against the sin, an undaunted defender of Orthodoxy and a
comprehensive mind who knew and understood in all its plenitude not
only the Christian doctrine, but also the culture of his epoch from which
he extracted the proper benefits in order to ground the religion- the main
concern of his life.
In the patristic literature, Saint Basil the Great becomes conspicuous
through an impressive work which testifies for a profound teological
thinking and a very rich culture, the great hierarch emphasizes in his
(Dumitreasa 1975: 633-634).
One of his main works in which he sets forth the increase of the
world according to the biblical report is The Hexaemeron, a synthesis of
all that the antique science and philosophy could discerne concerning the
people and God.
In the nine Homilies at Hexaemeron „the author will make the
proof of an ample culture from all the fields of knowledge, meant not to
impress the reader, but for the fact that at that time a lot of heresies
reffering to the creation of the world began to come to light
Thus, „apart from the explanation of the phenomena concerning the
biblical creation days, based on the antique science and philosophy, the
preacher discourages, the astrological distractions, defending the human
liberty and responsibility” (Drăgulin 1979: 94).
From Sant Basil’s homilies results clearly his knowlegde and his
appreciation for the scinece of his time. The specialists consider The
Comentary on Hexaemeron as being a whole of the scientifical
information which the great hierarch owned and which outran the teology
field exttending to cosmogony, meteorology, astronomy, natural history,
Saint Basil’s work has, therefore, a complex content, diverse and
difficult to sistematize, assertion sustained precisely by the content of
Hexaemeron which, beyond the variety of information, is exposed in a
personal but concise manner, , as a fruit of the authors’ activity and
thinking: „Having a profound philosophical culture and a deep knowledge
Carmen-Maria Bolocan 108
of The Holy Scriptures, Saint Basil is a man of doctrine: his accurate,
precise thinking, leads an entire generation” (Prescule 1962: 287). The
purpose of this book, which is part of the pedagogical activity of Saint
Basil, is to reflect the pedagogy of God inside His creation, because He
ordered everything in a certain succession and with a certain utility”
(Bolocan 2008: 198).
The Homilies at Hexaemeron are a vivid expression of the profound
spirituality of The Saint Father, who exposed the creative work of God in
a personal manner, with a view to spotlight the unbounded wisdom and
love of our Creator towards the human being.
The author takes into account the science of the antiquity and that of
his time, concerning nature and philosophy. He uses skillfully this science
and extracts constantly pertinent and beautiful conclusions for the
Christian spirituality. Saint Basil wrote about the creation of the universe
until the fifth day, and his brother, Gregory of Nyssa completind this
writing with a work called: About the Creation of the Mankind, the sixth
In this study I’ll try to underline the up-to-dateness of the methods
Saint Basil used in his homilies, and the way they can be used today when
teaching the religion classes.
The Hexaemeron has an educative role because it facilitates the
conceiving and upholding some particular religion lessons and they also
help to know the creation of God on stages. I’ll try to highlight the
importance of the didactic methods used by the Saint Father in his work,
The Homilies at Hexaemeron.
III. Teaching methods classified according to the logical approach
which induces learning
III.1. The inductive method
The inductive method is efficient for those lessons in which the
teacher intend to teach general, abstract knowledge, starting from
concrete, familiar things, knowledge.
Reflecting on the act of creation, Saint Basil reveals in The First
Homily, the permanent internal connection between nature and grace, for
in this act the great mistery of divinity with the mistery of creation. His
The Hexaemeron of Saint Basil the Great 109
thinking doesn’t set off from mankind, but from God, in order to unclose
the creation of the seen universe and the unseen universe.
Starting with the first verse: „In the beginning God created the
heavens and the earth” (The Genesis 1, 1), the author explains the verb
„created” through a logical, concrete example: „Such as the potter,
preserving his job, makes a lot of pots without squandering his job and
power, the creator of this universe also has power not only to create one
single world but His power is never-ending” (Sfântul Vasile cel Mare
trans. Fecioru 2004: 19). The verb created is meant to empasize that what
God made is only a very small part of His creative power. According to
Saint Basil the Great these words specifies, on the one hand, that those
things that can be seen have a beginning for their existance, it’s us that
can’t perceive with our senses, and on the other hand, that everything that
exists has a beginning and an end” (Sfântul Vasile cel Mare, trans.
Fecioru 2004: 20).
About the beginning and the end of this world „In the beginning” şi
„The image of this world will end”, he explains this way: „such as the one
who described the universe at the beginning, from a certain place,
established a centre and a certain distance from the centre, you also, don’t
be wrong to believe that the world has not a beginning and an end for its
existance, for everything moves around, come to a start point place,
having a permanent, unceased movement” (Sfântul Vasile cel Mare, trans.
Fecioru 2004: 17).
Usually , the ancient authors claimed for the eternity of the world,
considering the circular movement of the stars. To them, the circle was
represnted by a curve line. Analyzing the biblical creation, the author
stands the time started by the moment when the cosmos was created,
therefore, it has a beginning in time, and implicitly, it will have an end,
just like every created thing: „such as «the beginning » of a way is not the
way in itself, and «the beginning» of a house doesn’t represent the whole
building, «the beginnning» of time also is neither all the time, and not the
smallest part of the time” (Kalomiros 1998: 29). Being a dimension of the
material creation, time started at the same time with the universe. Time
and universe are completely connected and interdependent.
Here „«the beginning» is something invisible and unmeasurable.
The one who separates «the beginning» in two parts makes two
Carmen-Maria Bolocan 110
beginnings instead of one; rather, many and uncountable, because the
separated parts are always parted in others. So Moses said «In the
beginning» in order to make us understand that the world took life
without reflecting before, in time, but, when God wanted it” (Kalomiros
Thus, according to Saint Basil the Great the first moment of time is
not time yet. „The beginning” for the temporality, we can admit,
logically, as a geometric, indispensable notion, represents a kind of
momentary absence of time, whose creative explosion gives birth to time .
The Forth Homily. „And God said: «Let the waters under the
heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land
appear»” and then: „And God called the dry land Earth, and the
gathering together of the waters He called Seas”.
„So, why is it wrriten «Let the waters under the heavens be
gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear », and not
the land appeared?”
(Sfântul Vasile cel Mare, trans. Fecioru 2004: 94).
„And again: why is it wrriten «And God called the dry land
Earth»?” (Sfântul Vasile cel Mare, trans. Fecioru 2004: 95).
The topic of this homily is the creation of the seas and of the dry
land. Saint Basil set off from a concrete example again, in order to
establish the general rule ccording to which the features that characterizes
the nature of an object is not the object in itself.He makes this inn order to
show the reason for whom God called the „dry land, Earth” and not
„Earth, the dry land”. He shows that the Earth is composed by four
elements, each of them having a peculiar feature (dry land - dryness, air–
humidity, water – cold, and fire - warmth).
These peculiar characteristics are interdependent due to the affinity
that exists among the various elements which produces the diverse
material different objects, bodies are made of (Vicovan 1997: 77).
„Such as the speech is a human characteristic feature, and the word
«man» shows the being who bear this feature, the dry land also, is a
proper and specific feature for the earth. The object whose feature is the
dry land, was called earth, just as the object whose feature is to neigh was
called horse” (Sfântul Vasile cel Mare, trans. Fecioru 2004: 96-97).
By separating the dry land from the seas, earth gains a proper
individuality, an equilibrum between the solid and liquid elements, for the
The Hexaemeron of Saint Basil the Great 111
divine order for separating seas from dry land brought the two agregation
states, and their specific characters until the end of the world are: firmness
and stability, to dry land , cohesion and continuous circuit in nature, to
In The Sixth Homily Saint Basil explains, with the help of the
inductive method, the difference between the created light „In the
beginning”, in the first creation day, and the shining celestial bodies from
the forth day: „Such as the fire is different from the lamp – the fire has
the power to give light, and the lamp is made to give light to those that
need light – in the same wai the celestial lighted bodies were created, in
order to be vehicles for these pure, true, unmaterial world” (Sfântul Vasile
cel Mare, trans. Fecioru 2004: 133-134). The problem of light and of the
celestial bodies being explained in the first homily, Saint Basil doesn’t
come again on this matter, but specifies that the light, which wasn’t
reffered to as an essence in the first homily when reffering to the first day
of creation, from this moment on, becomes an element spreaded by
celestial bodies, because betwwen these bodies and the light there is the
sameconnection as between the lamp and the light. The light as an
essence in itself is different from the light emanated from a lamp. The role
of the celestial bodies is to separate day from night, and at the same time ,
to keep life on earth, as God decided, they also being those who
delimitate the epochs, signs of the division of time.
In his Hexaemeron, Saint Basil cites the words of God from The
Book of Genesis: „Let the dry land appear”. „This small order”, Saint
Basil says, „became quickly and in a masterly manner, a very strong law
In The nineth Homily, the Saint Father has a quotation precisely
about the problem of the succesion of creatures, one after another. He
cites The Book of Genesis again 1, 24: „Let the earth bring forth the
living creature according to its kind:cattle and creeping thing and beast of
the earth, each according to its kind”.
In a philosophical assertion, he explains the perpetuation of animal
species in time of the creation existance, using the inductive method:
„Think of the words of God. They started from that time, the creation
time . Such as a sphere, if is pushed on an inclined surface, it will go
down due to its shape and to the specific feature of the place, and doesn’t
Carmen-Maria Bolocan 112
stop before it reaches a flat place, the existances also, moved by a single
order, traverse equally the creation, submissive to birth and death, and
preserve until the end the continuation of kinds through the anssemblance
of those that compound the kind. A horse gives birth to a horse, a lion
gives birth to a lion, an eagle gives birth to an eagle, and each creature
preserve its kind through the perpetual succession of births, until the end
of the world. Time neither damages, nor loses the specific features of the
creatures, but they are the same for the eternity, as long as the time exists”
(Sfântul Vasile cel Mare, trans. Fecioru 2004: 201).
III.2. The Analitical Method
The analitical method requires communication, assimilation and
checking knowledge by decomposing a whole in its component parts
(Călin 1984: 229).
In The First Homily, Saint Basil brings for debating the quotation
from the Genesis 1, 1: „In the beginning God created the heavens and the
earth” (Călin 1984: 20), and in order to explain this verse, hesets off from
the entire verse as a whole to each component word. Each word from this
quotation is taken separately and definitely analized, in order to underline
the profound and incontestable meaning of it, which reveals the unclosed
This method is also used in The Fifth Homily, where it is presented,
in detail, the process by which the water is distributed to each small part
of a plant, making it to bear fruit.
Saint Basil the Great explains that this work of earth was possible
only after the earth had rested and unburdened by the weight of waters,
when it received the order and the power to give birth and to bear fruit
(Vicovan 1997: 78): „The same water goes to the leaves and shares to
branches and twigs, makes the fruit to grow; the tear of the plant and its
juice proceed from the same source (Sfântul Vasile cel Mare, trans.
Fecioru 2004: 120)”.
In The Sixth Homily, Saint Basil says: „Let it be for signs and times
and days and years” (Sfântul Vasile cel Mare, trans. Fecioru 2004: 143).
For times: here The Holy Scriptures refere to the rotation of seasons:
winter, spring, summer şi autumn. Then , he gives an explanation about
the time when seasons appear.
The Hexaemeron of Saint Basil the Great 113
III.3. The Synthetical Method
The synthetical method is opposed to the analytical one. It aims to
bring together the component parts in the initial integer, formulating a
conclusion meant to express a general truth. This method can be used
more rare, for one single lesson or in a cicle of lessons.
The philosopher aspires to define, conquer, have, and transmit a
personal wisdom, a certain recoil of distracted speculation of the spirit
that correspond to restlessness and moral consciousness deepening
(Marrou, Henri Irenée, trans. Stella Petecel 1997: 328).
The author focuses his speech on clear explanations, carefully
elaborated, using the mentioned above method The First Homily in order
to show the vanity of the conceptions about nature proliferated by the
Putting together the theories of these philosophers, who didn’t know
God, Saint Basil argues in a sinthetical, concise way, that, according to to
their ideas, the creation of the world hasn’t a rational reason, being
exposed various material hypothesis, so the main reason that caused the
creation of the universe were these elements of the world. Another theory
about the act of creation is that nature is made of atoms, molecules and
pores, all these unite among them and lead to bringing existances in
nature forth, and then lead them to death.
The harmony and the beauty were created thanks to the wisdom of
God, and their meaning is not that of a simple, passing organization, but
they are meant, on the one hand, to permanently remind the beauty of The
Creator, on the other hand, to anticipate (promise) the perfect beauty of
the world which is to come. To Saint Basil, beauty does not represent
only the final promise, but also the expression of this function, of one
utility, as he says about the light from the beggining: „God’s reason about
the beauty of the lightconcerned not only the pleasant aspect when
watching it, but also its later effect” (Sfântul Atanasie cel Mare, trans.
Pr.prof. Dumitru Stăniloae 1987: 46).
Carmen-Maria Bolocan 114
III.4. The Genetic Method
The genetic method can be used when studying those phenomena in
which we can find a genetic evolution of events (Şebu and Opriş 2000:
It is used esspecially when teaching events from biblical or clerical
history, moral or faith learnings.
The Hexaemeron is structured according to the days of creation, and
the author elaborated the content of his work setting off from the
decomposing of the whole (the creation of cosmos),in its component
parts, namely he analized each day of creation, depending on their
specific feature. The writer described God’s work in a logical order, the
works of each day are basen one on the other.
The first day God created the matter and the light. The second day,
the heavens, the third day the seas, the rivers and all the plants, the fourth
day, the celestial lights appeared. The fifth day He created the sea living
creatures, and the sixth day, big amd small animals on the dry land.
The Hexaemeron is hard to be taught in primary school, but, in spite
of that, using the didactical methods taught by Saint Basil, a teacher could
make references to this work, in appropriate lessons which contain the
message of creation and of God’s wisdom.
The great hierarch was one of the most skillful speaker of the
patristic epoch, having a great gift in masterly using the words, and he
still has until today a huge influence upon Christians.
IV. Instead of conclusion
If the data used by Saint Basil, concerning the sciences field, seem
outdated today, permanently valid in The Hexaemeron remain: the
profound attachement for the divine Revelation and for the words of The
Holy Scriptures, the faith for the saint truth, the poetic and untired oratory
gift, and above all, the permanent connection with the practical life of the
listeners, which is so current still today, because the permanences of the
human soul remain basically, the same.
As a conclusion, we may say that the didactical methods used by
the Homilies author, can be succesfully used nowdays, during the religion
classes, in order to concretize the educational ideals, in bahaviours and
mentalities. This thing is noy possible if the learnig activity does not
The Hexaemeron of Saint Basil the Great 115
have a coherent system, by mays and means of teaching. Saint Basil’s
pedagogical experience constitutes an efficent weapon in improving the
education and in corectly learning about The Work of God (Ausubel and
Robinson 1981: 3).
Thus, Saint Basil’ work has an infinite value for the education of all
times, and for Cristians, generally, because the explanation of The Holy
Scriptures (from the education prospective) cannot be but one, both for
the young people and the old ones.
The methods used by Saint Basil in The Hexaemeron have a
remarkable importance in teaching realigion, because they analize main
problems from the hystory of the Christiandom and, at the same time,
they allow a easy way to understand the Creation, the reader being,
through this book acquainted to an explanation of the creation act, which
is so brilliantly explained by Saint Basil the Great (Krajenche 1999: 7).
Adămuţ, Anton I. 1997. Literatură şi Filozofie Creştină, secolele I-VIII, vol. I. Iaşi:
Ausubel, David P. and Floyd G. Robinson, trans. Dr. Leonard Gavriliu and Sandu
Lăzărescu. 1981. Învăţarea în şcoală - o introducere în psihologia pedagogică.
Bucureşti: Editura Didactică şi Pedagogică.
Bolocan, Lect.Dr. Carmen-Maria. 2008. Catehetica şi Didactica Religiei - interferenţe şi
deosebiri. Iaşi: Editura „Sf. Mina”.
Călin, Marin C. 1994. Elemente de metodologie a acţiunii didactice. Bucureşti:
Universitatea din Bucureşti, Facultatea de Istorie-Filozofie.
Diaconescu, Mihai. 1996. Prelegeri de estetica ortodoxiei, vol. I. Galaţi: Porto Franco.
Drăgulin, Pr. Gheorghe I. 1979. Sfântul Vasile cel Mare şi Şcoala Alexandrină.
Mitropolia Olteniei, XXXI, nr. 1-3.
Dumitreasa, Pr.Dr. Gh. Caliciu. 1975. Crearea lumii, expusă în Hexaemeronul Sfântului
Vasile cel Mare. Ortodoxia, XXVII, no. 4.
Grigoraş, Pr.Lect. Costachi. 1993. Omiletica şi Catehetica, Partea I. Iaşi: Editura
Kalomiros, Dr. Alexandros. 1998. Sfinţii Părinţi despre originile şi destinul omului şi
cosmosului. Slava materiei. Sibiu: Deisis.
Krajenche, Robert W. 1999. Un milion de ani către pământul făgăduinţei. Braşov:
Editura Sfântul Apostol Andrei.
Marrou, Henri Irenée, trans. Stella Petecel. 1997. Istoria educaţiei în antichitate. In
Lumea greacă, vol. l. Bucureşti: Editura Meridiane.
Prescule, Pr. Magistrand Vasile. 1962. Personalitatea morală a Sfântului Vasile cel Mare.
Studii Teologice, XIV, nr. 5-6.
Carmen-Maria Bolocan 116
Sfântul Atanasie cel Mare, trans. Pr.prof. Dumitru Stăniloae. 1987. Tratat despre
întruparea Cuvântului, Partea I. «PSB», 15. Bucureşti: EIBMBOR.
Sfântul Vasile cel Mare, trans. Fr. Dumitru Fecioru. 2004. Omilii la Hexaemeron.
Bucureşti: Editura Institutului Biblic şi de Misiune al Bisericii Ortodoxe
Şebu, Sebastian and M. Opriş and D. Opriş. 2000. Metodica predării religiei. Alba Iulia:
Vicovan, Pr. Ion. 1997. Concepţia Sfântului Vasile cel Mare despre creaţie în
Hexaemeron. Teologie şi Viaţă, LXXIII, nr. 1-6.
Social Assistance-the Philanthropic Vocation of the Church
Faculty of Orthodox Theology,
“Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iaşi, ROMANIA
“The love for the human being” has always been an attribute of God, the great
philanthropist. As a practice in the Church it finds its origins in the earthly practice of
Jesus Christ. His ministry was a continuous example of care, healings, and the natural
outcome of the divine mercy toward our afflicted human nature. After resurrection, He
gave His disciple the commandment of love to one another as the foundation of Christian
identity. Love can go as far as putting someone’s live for the neighbor. It is the Church
that was created out of His sacrificial love the one to continue practice in the world
empathy for the disadvantaged, the needy and the abandoned, the elderly and the
forgotten. In God’s love there is a place for everybody, this is what the Church has
always taught. The present study is both a description of the preoccupation that the
Orthodox Church has for the social work and a historical and sociological survey of
what has been done and how much more is still to complete. It is therefore important to
approach with kindness and responsibility every single member of the community, and
provide care through compassion, charity, responsibility in a changing and globalizing
Keywords: Orthodox Church, social work, Romania, wellbeing, spiritual disorder,
Suffering and illness-issues in Christian social assistance
Social assistance has been one of the vocations of the Orthodox
Church since its foundation, being fulfilled constantly but in secret, in
keeping with the ecclesiastical principle stating that discretion should
prevail so that “when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand
know what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6: 3). Since the dawn of
Christianity, the care for the human person has been reflected in Christ’s
concern for all those in need, as He accompanies and assists them not
only in their physical and social needs, but also particularly in solving
their spiritual problems. This shows Him to have an intimate knowledge
Dan Sandu 118
of the human psychology. „All the philanthropic work of the Church as a
divine-human institution and also of each of the faithful is fulfilled by the
cooperation with Christ, the greatest philanthropist, Who has always been
and shall be within the Church until the end of time. He has made
philanthropy the road to perfection” (Vizitiu 2002: 163). The Church, as
the „the assembly of people that pray and live in communion” (Acts 9:
31; 13: 1; Romans 16: 23 et al.), connects in an indestructible manner the
social and physical activity with spiritual life, viewing them as
interdependent due to the prevalence that the spiritual has always had
over the material aspect from the theological perspective. In striving to
find the meaning of his passing through the world, man cannot ignore the
ultimate realities, which the Christian religion has approached with much
From the Church perspective, the ultimate reality is God, unique in
being and triune in the Persons, i.e. entities that are in perfect communion.
He is the model and the source of communion amongst people.
Seemingly idyllic, life according to the Trinitarian community was a
reality in the original Christian communities: “Those who accepted his
message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their
number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and
to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was
filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by
the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in
common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he
had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.
They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere
hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the
Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:
One of the first visible effects of such life lived in communion was
the healing of psychosomatic disorders and the alleviation of ailments
which were otherwise incurable. The healing of disease was a gift of the
Church, often disputed and interpreted emotionally, yet for many it was
and still remains the only way to be released from the domination of a
traumatic state. To understand man’s need to be in good health one must
realise that ‘communion’ plays the primary role in the person’s activity,
Social Assistance-the Philanthropic Vocation of the Church 119
and the presence or lack of communion can help or destroy a person.
Communion is a blessing that God bestowed on the first persons, besides
the triune Self, and they perceived and experienced it as an ontological
necessity. The lack of communion leads to suffering, which is part of the
process by which a person seeks to restore their relationship with God.
Suffering is not necessary and should not exist but when it occurs
its role is pedagogical: it shows to the person who experiences it in whom
he should base his hope and also gives the people around him the
opportunity to exercise ‘philanthropy’. It is part of God’s secret plan for
each person. According to the Apostle Paul, it would be impossible to
penetrate the mystery of God’s work with each individual person without
understanding suffering: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and
knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths
beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has
been his counsellor? (Romans 11: 33-34). The Apostle himself declares
that certain suffering enables him to realistically understand God’s plan
for him: “To keep me from becoming conceited of these surpassingly
great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of
Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away
from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power
is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly
about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (II
Corinthians 12: 7-9).
The search for physical wellbeing at all costs and the avoidance of
suffering has fostered a sensationalist approach to healing through faith,
by promoting practices that the Church itself discourages, on the basis of
Scriptural arguments. Christ warns of the danger of seeking miracles and
signs, while ignoring the true way of alleviating suffering, i.e. God’s love,
as reflected in the world in the love for one’s fellow human persons,
which must not be just a theory. The parable of the Good Samaritan
provides the model of social assistance based on neighbourly love and
communion between people, in keeping with a certain discipline. In short,
a man saves a stranger, compassion being the only motivation for his act
(Luke 10: 30-37). The parable’s aim is to show that there is hope for each
person when there is charity, while without charity not even one’s blood
brother can be one’s ‘neighbour’.
Dan Sandu 120
In following Christ’s model, Christianity has been aware of and has
embraced physical suffering and ailment as instruments that give man the
meaning of his metaphysical existence which one is unable to grasp
independently from the divine power - St. Theophan the Recluse
considers that both in illness and in alleviation or cure it is important for
man to be aware of God’s plan for oneself and above all to not lose
patience and serenity when thinking about the ‘trial’ that God has in store
for one or about one’s meeting with (Him. St. Theophan the Recluse
2002: 21-43, passim). Therefore, the message of the Christian
community, which is the message of the apostolic Church, which has
always preserved the gospel teaching and practice in the spirit of tradition,
has never been and could never be a comforting message, not even to
those that follow and observe its precepts. Man is tempted to think that
there is an answer and an explanation to every question about suffering.
In part, it is normal for man to think so. Yet the answer does not lie in
finding the cause of suffering but in relieving it and in finding avenues to
understanding the opportunity that suffering holds for the sufferer and for
those around him. This is an occasion for mutual help and peacemaking,
as pointed out by Mother Teresa of Calcutta: „The fruit of silence is
prayer; the fruit of prayer is faith; the fruit of faith is love; the fruit of love
is service; the fruit of service is peace” (Vardey 1995: XXXVIII). There
are no ultimate rules and infallible recipes that guarantee physical or
psychological healing because each human person is unique and relates to
God in a unique and unrepeated manner. From the theological perspective
social assistance is motivated by the love for one’s fellow human beings
and the respect for the human person created in the image of God and
such principles guarantee a universal inclusion, whereas hatred and sin
block the road to Christ, hinder communion and lead to solitude.
Wellbeing and health or human solidarity as the answer to poverty
Christ’s coming marked the beginning of an unmediated
relationship between God and mankind, based on love and empathy. He
came into the world to bring the simplicity of existence, mutual
recognition, spiritual and physical wellbeing and the faith the Redeemer
of all and the return of all those saved to a life in communion with their
Social Assistance-the Philanthropic Vocation of the Church 121
Creator. The healings performed by Christ were the result of forgiveness
out of love, which he first offered to the soul of those cured. “Forgiveness
breaks the chain of causality, for the one who forgives you takes upon
himself the consequences of your actions. Therefore, forgiveness always
involves a sacrifice” (Hammarskjöld 2001: 197). Christ’s life was indeed
the ultimate sacrifice was He took upon himself the sins of the world and
healed human nature from within, bringing it up to theosis.
Man generally views wellbeing in his earthly life in terms of
primarily material welfare and spiritual wellness. For a theologian,
wellbeing is primarily a state of the spirit. It begins with a certain
discipline that one must acquire and exercise: first one must rank his
wishes, and then set a transcendent ideal to follow steadfastly. Finally, as
one aims for this ideal, one must relate to one’s fellow, because spiritual
progress is only achieved by relating with other people. In the Eastern
Christian experience, starting from the example of the first Christian
congregations (Acts 2), wellness cannot be accepted as an individual
fulfilment but as communal achievement wherein man disciplines his own
desires and selflessness and is aware of sacrifice. Providing help to the
neighbour becomes, for the practising Christian, his contribution to the
establishment of God’s kingdom on earth as a visible and attainable ideal.
Giving presupposes forgiveness, that is, a positive spiritual state. The
Church embraced from the earliest times the concern for the wellbeing of
those in need, seeking relief for their social plight (Harakas 1992: 362).
One must note that in achieving this state of wellbeing the Church and the
State work as two complementary social entities. This was the actual
situation in the Byzantine Empire where the two institutions cooperated in
seeking the material and spiritual progress of citizens. Yet as the State
gradually abandoned this ideal in favour of politics, the Church took on
several prerogatives such as its continuing service of the faithful. The
Church cannot repudiate or distance itself from the faithful, as it would
then cease to be a Church, yet this does not mean that it becomes a social
institution like all others. The church values of philanthropy, love and
care for the people have become general values adopted by the state and
the society at large, yet the Church preserves the transcendental
dimension of the care for the human person.
Dan Sandu 122
In lay terms, health has two components: one a practical level, it is
the state of physical wellbeing, meaning that a person does not suffer
from temporary or constant pain and is not impaired or disabled; on a
spiritual level, health is the state of peace, gratitude and fulfilment
wherein the intellectual, the mental and the affective activities are in
When referring to ‘health’ in one’s relationship with God, things
become more complicated: “health” in theological terms means
“redemption” (the Greek soteria), i. e. that state of harmony within the
person, between the person and the outside, which is the created nature
and God. It is therefore clear that physiological health is not a goal of
theology in itself. The Church seeks primarily the spiritual health. For
example, a physically impaired person who is spiritually healthy can
experience physiological suffering as theological health, depending on
how he approaches suffering. This leads to the paradox which states that
through suffering man comes closer to God, to the source of health, while
through health a (spiritually unhealthy) man can distance himself from
We will not explore the criteria of God’s work together with man
for his holistic health, but will only highlight the fact that he does not
bring illness along in order to bring people closer to Him, but allows it,
enabling them to interpret its message themselves. There are people who
bear illnesses without being burdened, accepting them as pedagogical
ways leading to Christ. Christ healed the physiological illness only after
making a clear hierarchical distinction, by emphasising that the first step
towards recovery is the understanding of the meaning of the physiological
disorder, underlying a spiritual deficiency, upon which he would perform
the healing itself. He has always been the healer par excellence, showing
that divine power is above suffering and that He wants everyone to be
healed, through the forgiveness of sins and banishing of weakness.
The opening chapter of the Bible tells that Adam was created a
healthy man, enjoying in Eden the created nature and bodily health
(implied by his harmony with the Creator). It is stated that work was a
pleasant activity that helped him be an active person and maintain his
physical powers. The notion of pain emerges after his sin, as work
becomes a burden, the childbearing is pain, the ground produces thorns
Social Assistance-the Philanthropic Vocation of the Church 123
and thistles, and suffering becomes universal through Cain’s fratricide,
which causes a social imbalance that engulfs the victim, the parents, the
Creator and nature (the brother’s “blood cries out from the ground”,
Genesis 4: 10-11). The effects of sin extend in the community, the
society, nature and the universe. It is the first unequivocal sign that illness
is closely connected with sin and with abuse. Through sin man lost the
connection with God, the source of spiritual health and with the source of
physiological health, i.e. the welcoming nature, the home (oikos) where
God had put Adam. Jesus Christ confirms this fact when he forgives the
sins of the paralytic man, thus eliminating the cause of the physical
illness. The healing of the body occurs as a natural phenomenon and, to
Him, it holds a symbolic and temporary value.
In the face of the generalised crisis of the present day, man has
become increasingly aware of and interested in thoroughly exploring the
sources of physical and psychological health. Some people discover God,
the infallible source, by genuinely returning to a life of faith. They seek to
regain harmony in nature by making particular choices in consumption (It
is an increasingly common to spot consumers closely examining the
labels on the products they buy in supermarkets, to verify whether they
are “bio” or “organic”). In other words the nature that produces the food
is increasingly “ailing” (the term should be understood in its primary, not
the metaphorical sense). Man’s interventions bring this ailment on the
environment, through genetic modifications and pollution. Genetic
modification aims to increase productivity and sales, make products more
attractive and pleasant and provide ever greater comfort through waste.
Nature is sacrificed to satisfy man’s craving through irreparable damage.
One can conclude that man needs to reconsider two terms:
cleanness and cleanliness, the former referring to the soul, the latter to the
biological self and the environment. By sinning, man does not harm God,
but “kicks against the goads” (Acts 9: 5), meaning that he harms himself,
as he loses the “garden” of harmony, suffers from disease and is estranged
from his neighbour. Paradise in the Apocalypse, as described by St. John
the Evangelist, is a garden in the middle of which lies the Tree of Life
whose fruit the redeemed (i.e. the “healthy”) will taste, thus restoring
harmony with the universe.
Dan Sandu 124
Philanthropy-the social theology of the Church
Theological discourse has retained the term “philanthropy” to refer
to the attitude of a Christian towards his neighbour in dealing with
welfare, poverty and illness. The extent of one’s commitment to one’s
neighbour is determined by the fraternity of all in God and not by social
standing, ethnicity or religion, which is why the term “social assistance”
has not been used in this context throughout the centuries. Social
assistance is a more recent formula, one might say a secular one, requiring
professionalism in dealing with social issues and target groups rather than
the inner motivation of social action - theologians define secularism as
means the irreconcilable separation between the religious and the lay
society. According to Alexander Schmemann, secularism is the medieval
reaction of society against the Christian clericalism, its most conspicuous
form in the life of man being the lack of public and private prayer. Other
theologians have described secularism as the individualistic behaviour of
man, as from a belief that death does not exist or God does not exist (etsi
deus non daretur). For a classical discussion of this issue from a Christian
Orthodox perspective (Schmemann 2973: 98-99 and 117 et seq.; Popa
2000: 21). One could say that the notion is less generous and so
philanthropy prevails over it. Philanthropy means care for the person seen
as an eternal being of immeasurable value and not simply the concern for
man’s social needs or for making the social system be more equitable for
man as a physical entity. Philanthropy may be practised in all the political
and social systems as it is a question of vocation and of person-to-person
Christianity seeks to harmonise man’s material and spiritual needs,
which it has always viewed as complementary realities. The early
Christian Church viewed philanthropy as a duty of the eternal life, rich in
moral meanings. The first types of organisations through which the
Church worked to protect the disadvantaged were the church communities
with communal property, church communities organised as colleges,
corporations and associations, as allowed by law, and the communities
without communal property which had a network of religious societies
and social care establishments. The oldest such religious societies
grouped widows, virgins and deaconesses, whose goal was to help people
in need. From the earliest times, the social care institutions set up by the
Social Assistance-the Philanthropic Vocation of the Church 125
Church have helped poor families, orphaned or abandoned children and
the sick elderly, providing care, schooling and religious education, aiming
for their moral and social integration.
During the first Christian centuries, under the patronage of Roman
emperors, from Constantine the Great to Justinian, several types of
institutions providing social care were established, including nursing
homes for abandoned children up to seven years old, orphanages, shelters
for young women raised by poor families or in orphanages, asylums for
elderly and deprived widows and groups of Christian volunteers who
provided medical services to the sick. During the Middle Ages,
monasteries preserved, further organised and promoted the spiritual
model that combines contemplation and practical action for the benefit of
Church philanthropy as organised care for the disadvantaged is
motivated by the fact that the person was created in the image of God.
The theological base of social assistance resides in man’s dignity, which
is not highlighted by science: it is the work of a rational and personal
reality, i. e. a partner in the universal rationality from which it originates.
Human dignity also derives from God’s personal care, as he was willing
to become flesh and restore man to the original communion. Equally
important is man’s Trinitarian makeup, namely his communal dimension,
as a person seeking and capable of relating (Moltmann 1991: 111).
Christian communion is based on love (I John 4: 8). The love for
one another has nothing to do with “eros”, as it encourages empathy and
sharing in the suffering of one’s neighbour. Love is the second greatest
biblical commandment. The neighbour is designated in the Christian
scripture as an unknown person who becomes the Samaritan from whom
no sympathy could have been expected for the one who “fell into the
hands of robbers” (Luke 10: 29 et seq.). The notion of neighbour does not
exclude one’s relatives or friends, but also includes strangers, one’s
enemies and those who have left this world: “And if someone wants to
sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone
forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who
asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from
you. “You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbour and hate
your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who
Dan Sandu 126
persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes
his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous
and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5: 40-45). According to the same text
one’s obligations towards one’s neighbour include the respect for life and
forbidding any murder, the protection of the neighbour’s health and
property against greed, the responsibility for the neighbour’s freedom, the
responsibility for the neighbour’s salvation, empathising with the joys and
trials of one’s neighbour, regardless of their social standing and also
irrespective of the way they actually react to Christian love.
The first step that the loving religious community makes is to
determine all its members to join in solidarity with those in need and
providing instant aid. There follows a long process of aid and education
aimed at overcoming deprivation and providing health care, shelter and
food. There will also be religion-themed visits, activities promoting better
knowledge of faith, inclusion in social life and raising the awareness of
Church and State in social responsibility
Although owing to its social activities the Church has had great
credibility throughout its history, nowadays state non-religious power and
influence is greatly increasing while the Church’s influence or authority is
generally declining. This process has a negative impact on the social
activities of the Church (Harakas 1983; 1990). Under these
circumstances, the Church must expand its philanthropic care to those
areas that are not properly attended to by the lay State, particularly the
people who do not have political influence and are not representative as
an “electoral mass” in the politics of a particular community. The care for
the neighbour manifested by the civilian authority is not necessarily
founded on love for the neighbour, but rather emerges from the cold
calculation that in order to preserve its stability and security, society
needs to develop social assistance and security measures for the
disadvantaged. This is where the main distinction between social
assistance and philanthropy lies: the local community, through the social
assistance system helps a person in times of suffering or social challenge,
providing the necessities within the boundaries of the law, in agreement
with the interests of the political majority. Christian philanthropy is not
Social Assistance-the Philanthropic Vocation of the Church 127
simply confined to giving the poor and the sick what they need for
biological existence. Philanthropy is always accompanied by
catechisation or teaching and bears Christ’s message. Its target is not the
body in itself, but the person as a psychological and somatic entity (for
the definition of personalism in theology, see Yannaras 1996: 42-45; Fr.
Dumitru Stăniloae calls man an “undying being” and shows how man can
become eternal through the union with the hypostasis of Christ made
man, see Stăniloae 1987: 138 et seq.) that seeks spiritual release or
salvation. It would be a mistake to mistake the implementation of social
assistance regulations as prescribed by State laws with philanthropy,
which is a state of human communication with eternity.
The kind of social assistance that the Church practises aims to
promote values and eliminate immoderation in dealing with material
things, to teach the economical use of resources, thus creating a space
where selfishness, self-centredness and greed should no longer exist. It
discourages individualistic orientations, the get-rich-quick attitude and
avaricious excesses, while promoting care for the community,
responsibility towards the neighbour and compassion for the weak and
helpless, in agreement with the biblical commandments: „Then the King
will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father;
take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of
the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was
thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you
invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you
looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' "Then the
righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed
you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a
stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did
we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'I
tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers
of mine, you did for me.'” (Matthew 25: 34-40). One can conclude
therefore that the philanthropic work carried out within the Church, if
deprived of the theological component, would amount to philanthropy
done as a job, emptied of the transcendental essence, i. e. the love of God
and of people. When resources run out, such a programme will inevitably
Dan Sandu 128
Romania - the “poor child” of united Europe
During the past 20 years, poverty as a phenomenon has expanded in
Romania, against the background of unprecedented increasing social
discrepancies, between the very rich and the very poor. However, the state
protection and aid system has failed to deal with cases of extreme poverty
because the role in the community of the social assistant has not been
properly understood. Any analysis of poverty involves nowadays
statistical data, an approach that is regrettably absent from scholarly
sermons on the need for generous acts. Such figures provide to all
interested parties an accurate assessment of distress in a particular area at
a particular point in time. The local church works with each person from
the spiritual, geographical and temporal world under its jurisdiction, but,
at the same time, the universal Church is responsible for the entire
mankind, acting in an all-encompassing manner with enduring love for
The table below provides figures on poverty in Romania during the period 1995-2000:
% of population
Extreme poverty rate
% of population
1995 25.3 8.0
1996 19.9 5.1
1997 30.1 9.5
1998 33.8 11.7
1999 41.2 16.6
2000 44.0 N/A
In reading such data any Christian must be appalled by the fact that
approximately half the country’s population was affected by poverty in
the year 2000. The 44% figure means that around 10 million Romanians
were affected by poverty-a level that could not be dealt with by the state
social assistance system or the still fragile and developing Church
The figures indicate the actual position of the country in the
dramatic ranking of poverty in Central and Eastern Europe. During
Social Assistance-the Philanthropic Vocation of the Church 129
roughly the same period (i. e. 1995-1999), the poverty rate in this area
reached the following levels:
US $2 PPP*/day
% of population
US $4 PPP/day
% of population
Moldova 1999 55.4 84.6
Russia 1998 18.8 50.3
Albania 1996 11.5 58.6
Romania 1998 6.8 44.5
Macedonia 1996 6.7 43.9
Latvia 1998 6.6 34.8
Bulgaria 1995 3.1 18.2
Lithuania 1999 3.1 22.5
Ukraine 1999 3.0 29.4
Slovakia 1997 2.6 8.6
Estonia 1998 2.1 19.3
Hungary 1997 1.3 15.4
Poland 1998 1.2 18.4
Belarus 1999 1.0 1.0
Croatia 1998 0.2 4.0
Czech Republic 1996 0.0 0.8
Slovenia 1997/98 0.0 0.7
The statistics regarding poverty use the US $/day/adult thresholds for the PPP level in
1996. Source: World Bank, 2000
In Romania, in the year 1996, daily purchasing power parity per
person was the equivalent of US $2 for 6.8% of the population and US $4
for 44.5%. In other words, 6.8% of the population lived in extreme
poverty, a situation that turned Romania into a vector for poverty, ranking
fourth among the poorest CEE countries.
Besides the effects on the dignity of the human person, poverty has
devastating effects on the social system. Sociologists and theologians
have shown that it strikes primarily the foundations of family, so that for
many the idea of Christian family has become a religious theory. Whereas
in 1995, approximately 70% of Romanian families with four children
were affected by poverty, by 1998 the proportion had risen to more than
80%. Following the waves of emigration after the year 2000 and in
particular after 2007, with Romania’s accession to the EU, the state of the
Dan Sandu 130
family is truly dramatic: abandonment and divorce rates have risen to
unimaginable levels, leading immediately to psychological, educational
and social trauma in the children deprived of parental care. Often these
children will display antisocial behaviour, such as alcohol and drug abuse.
Poverty has unavoidable repercussions in education. In a poor
family, whose head never attended schooling, there will always be an
unfavourable (even dismissive) view of the children’s wish to go to
school. There is actually a measurement of poverty that takes into account
the education level of the head of the family. Thus, around 43% of the
families whose head had not attended school were poor in the year 2001,
yet at the same time 6% of the families whose head was a university
graduate were affected by poverty.
Poverty is also calculated in relation to the occupation of the head
of the family. Thus, in 2001, poverty touched 60% of Romanian families
whose head was unemployed, around 56% of families whose head was a
farmer and also almost 30% of families whose head was employment.
In recent years, besides poverty, a large part of the population has
experienced extreme weather conditions caused by climate change, from
tornadoes to devastating floods. These have led to an alarming increase in
the number of people living below the poverty line, as they have lost their
possessions and cannot be compensated by the State. On top of this, the
worldwide economic crisis, experts predict, will particularly strike the
poor and vulnerable groups in the less developed countries in Europe.
Social assistance in the Romanian Orthodox Church
Since 1990, the Romanian Orthodox Church has been able to
resume its traditional activities in the social field, which have greatly
expanded and diversified, focusing on an ever larger number of people
and dealing with a multitude of social issues generated by the socio-
economic transformations in Romania. The years after the Romanian
revolution have brought to light a reality that neither the theologians nor
the sociologists had expected: the strength and vitality of a Christian faith
which, although oppressed through decades of communism, did not
surrender, but paradoxically was able to emerge stronger in intensity and
service. As is widely known, the final years of communism were
unfavourable to the Church, which was not allowed to carry out its social
Social Assistance-the Philanthropic Vocation of the Church 131
work in society or to establish and maintain places of worship. Not even
the sympathisers of the communist regimes were spared, due to
obstructions, for example, on buying private houses. As a result, after
regaining freedom in 1989, besides the desire to have their own homes,
Christians embarked on a building a great many churches. The priority
was to offer the community a place for meeting with God, based on the
belief that where there is prayer, there is will also be human solidarity.
On 27 May 1997, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox
Church decided to establish the Social assistance network within the
Church and to approve the Rules for the management and operation of the
social assistance system in the Romanian Orthodox Church, which would
provide a coherent framework for the social and charitable activity
(Article 2 states: „The social assistance system is integrated and organised
professionally within the administrative departments of the Romanian
Orthodox Church. The social and philanthropic associations and
foundations that operate under the jurisdiction of the administrative
departments of the Church are legal entities, in agreement with the
legislation on NGOs”. For a detailed analysis of the social work of the
Church after 1990) (Vicovan 2001: 197 et seq.). In agreement with the
objectives of the social assistance network (Fulfil the mission of the
Church. To provide primary services of social and medical specialisation,
community support, establish social-medical care facilities, elaborate and
implement social practices, partnerships with the specialised public
services, raise public awareness about social issues - Article 3), Church
infrastructure was reorganised to meet the demands of specialisation and
enable diverse activities including after-school programmes, care for the
elderly or the disadvantaged, courses and youth camps to raise
environmental awareness, study the bible or discuss family violence (In
Iasi Archdiocese, whose situation I know directly, there is a series of
wide-ranging programmes in these fields, including the establishment of a
social care charity called ‘Solidarity and Hope’, a medical centre, a dental
clinic, social care and preventative education facilities, shelters and day
centres for street children and community projects implemented by
parishes which address all the sections of society).
The Statute for the Organisation and Functioning of the Romanian
Orthodox Church, adopted in 2008, refers explicitly to the importance of
Dan Sandu 132
social care as an integral component of the religious assistance that is the
remit of the Church. Article 137 states: “The the social assistance system
of the Romanian Orthodox Church is integrated and organised
professionally within the administrative departments or in social
philanthropic organisations governed by the Church. The Romanian
Orthodox Church, through its local and central units (the parish, the
monastery, the deanery, the vicarage, the diocese, the metropolitanate and
the patriarchate) and through the nongovernmental organisations
operating with the agreement of the competent Church authorities,
provide social services accredited according to the the legislation in
force”. One can note that the act ensures access to the existing church
facilities and enables the Church to set up nongovernmental social
assistance bodies and organisations that must be accredited and operate in
agreement with the State and the European Union policies in this field.
The Statute also underlines that the Church has its own system of
training specialised staff, through the Faculties of Theology that include
Social Theology departments. The document indicates that the work of
the Church is aimed at “persons, groups and communities in distress,
without making any discrimination” (article 137, paragraph 4). Church-
based bodies can organise partnerships with “specialised institutions of
the state, local administration and NGOs” (paragraph 5).
For the sake of a comprehensive overview, we would like to point
out that the Romanian Patriarchate consists of 14,100 church units
including: the patriarchal see, five metropolitanates, ten archdioceses, 14
dioceses, 161 deaneries, 11,007 parishes and 2,313 subsidiary parishes,
386 monasteries (5.896 currently existing and 260 under construction), as
well as 12,052 church cemeteries.
Also within the Romanian Patriarchate 14,575 places of worship are
open for services, including: 63 cathedrals (24 diocesan cathedral and 23
church cathedrals), 10,580 parish churches, 2,072 subsidiary churches,
433 monastic churches, 208 cemetery churches, 12 charity churches, 48
isolated churches, 298 parish chapels, 171 cemetery chapels, 74 parish
chantries, 182 monastic chantries, 403 churches and chapels in state
institutions (89-in the Army and Home Department, 37 in prisons, 166 in
hospitals, 50 in schools and 61 in social assistance facilities)
(www.patriarhia.ro). Church units (Patriarchate, dioceses, deaneries,
Social Assistance-the Philanthropic Vocation of the Church 133
monasteries and sketes) employ 841 persons in managerial positions and
12,855 priests and deacons.
These figures testify that the Romanian Orthodox Church has a
complex and developed system which, at least theoretically, has the
financial and human resources required to tackle social problems, from
poverty and disease to the immediate needs of disadvantaged persons or
groups. Each church is potentially a social centre, each priest or deacon
can be a philanthropist with access to strong and motivated human
resources. The 14,574 places of worship can become strategic centres for
the coordination of social work and starting points for philanthropic
action at national level by the 12,855 priests and deacons.
The Church also has considerable potential for volunteer action
through the lay organisations that operate under its spiritual patronage
(Notable organisations at national level include the Association of
Christian Orthodox Students of Romania (ASCOR), the League of
Romanian Christian Orthodox Youth (LTCOR), the National Society of
Romanian Orthodox Women (SNFOR), the Medical-Christian
Association “Cristiana” and “PRO-VITA” Association for those born and
unborn, as well as numerous NGOs activating in dioceses, deaneries and
parishes). The energy of volunteers must be matched by financial support
from civil central and local authorities. As regards specialised institutions,
the Romanian Orthodox Church has built, established or organised a
system of social care facilities including 57 establishments for children,
20 for the elderly, 74 social canteens and bakeries, 29 medical centres and
pharmacies, 21 centres for diagnosis, treatment and assistance for
disadvantaged families, and the number of these facilities is constantly
Church philanthropy is not only expressed by figures and statistics
but also through active presence in every corner and region of the
country; constant action focused on education and engaging each member
of the community in social work. The Church is able to establish, fund
and manage social assistance establishments and nongovernmental
organisations that comply with state accreditation rules and free market
conditions. Such institutions managed and utilised by the Church,
continuing those church-based social care establishments of the past
centuries, can now make up a system of social assistance of Christian
Dan Sandu 134
Orthodox essence with the formal features required by European
The European Union, whose regulations already apply to new
member states, has decided that social assistance constitutes an
independent concept implemented through the activity of state and
community institutions in the name of social justice and solidarity, such
institutions being staffed by civil servants such as social workers and
social assistants. The risk of this approach is the emergence of a group of
overpaid professionals, who have the knowledge and skills to apply social
assistance theory and state laws or to prepare financing applications, but
lack spiritual motivation. The effectiveness of such people concerned with
the form of the social act comes at the cost of love for the neighbour,
through the transformation of persons into statistical numbers. The goal of
social action is no longer the salvation of the soul, but reporting a higher
number of food portions, supplies and money delivered to the poor and
the sick. The church-based system can complete and enrich social service
through its spiritual, affective and empathic contribution.
From the perspective of the Church, philanthropy (which includes
social assistance) is best applied in the parish, the community of the
helpers and the helped, where everyone has the opportunity to be the
channel of God’s giving love. Through ordination and assignment to a
parish, the priest and his family are a model of philanthropy. The new
context of freedom has enabled church organisations to help the poor, no
longer leaving this service to private charities or public persons who use it
to improve their own image. Philanthropy is in a way the heart of the
parish, expressed in liturgical worship and service among people, and is
not the remit of some charity which provides only occasional and
insufficient aid, limited to food banks twice a year or during the election
season. Of equal importance are those public social institutions, such as
army bases, prisons, hospitals and university campuses served by
chaplains. Chaplains are not assigned to a parish but can organise their
given community as a parish, as a community of the faithful who are
united by the same principles of spiritual life. According to a well-known
Romanian theologian, “the Church’s social mission in schools, in the
army, in hospitals and prisons requires self-sacrifice, love, compassion
Social Assistance-the Philanthropic Vocation of the Church 135
and fortitude. The mission of the priest is not an invention of the Church
or of society, it is a divine commandment” (PLămădeală 1996: 205).
The Church strives to meet the new social realities, to extend its
social assistance network based on the philanthropic work of national
NGOs and strong philanthropic centres. It is true that there may never
always be sufficient resources to deal with all the challenges of poverty
and to provide education through and for the faith and human solidarity in
keeping with the universal values of Christianity. The solution or rather
the foundation remains the parish, where the priest is called upon to serve
as a philanthropist and manifest the love for the neighbour, to be the first
servant of the poor and caretaker of the sick and to offer guidance as well
as bread and medicine, just as the Saviour Jesus Christ did. It was He, the
Son of God, who promised: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,'
will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my
Father who is in heaven”. (Matthew 7: 21 and 5: 19).
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Harakas, Stanley Samuel. 1990. Health and Medicine in the Eastern
Orthodox Tradition. NY, Crossroad.
Harakas, Stanley Samuel. 1992. Living the Faith. The Praxis of Eastern
Orthodox Ethics. Minneapolis: Light and Life Publishing
Harakas. Stanley Samuel. 1983. Let Mercy Abound: Social Concern in the
Greek Orthodox Church. Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press.
Him. St. Theophan the Recluse. 2002. Illness and Death. Bucureşti:
Moltmann, Jürgen. 1991. History and the Triune God. London: SCM
Plămădeală, Antonie. 1996. Preotul în Biserică, în lume, acasă [The
Priest in the Church, in the world and at home]. Sibiu.
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secularizării lumii moderne [Spiritual Communion and Renewal
in the Context of the Secularisation of the Modern World]. Iasi:
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Schmemann, Alexander. 1973. For the Life of the World. New York: St.
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Eternal Image]. Craiova: The Publishing House of the
Metropolitanate of Oltenia.
Vardey, Lucinda (ed). 1995. A Simple Path. Introduction to Mother
Teresa. New York: Ballentine.
Vicovan, Rev. Ioan. 2001. Daţi-le voi să mănânce. Filantropia creştină –
istorie şi spiritualitate. Iasi: Trinitas.
Vizitiu, Rev. Mihai. 2002. Filantropia divină şi filantropia Bisericii după
Noul Testament [Divine Philanthropy and Church Philanthropy
According to the New Testament], Iasi: Trinitas.
Yannaras, Christos. 1996. Elements of Faith. Bucharest: Bizantina.
Spiritual Life in the Age of Religious Pluralism
and Main Elements of the Formation of Future Monks
Faculty of Orthodox Theology,
“Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iaşi, ROMANIA
Through this study, I did not intend to achieve introspection on the historic
evolution of the monachism or of the notions of “monk”, “nun” etc., but on the complex
issue inferred by the monastic life. It is a known fact that orthodox spirituality has a
universal character, to which spirituality – i.e. the entirety of the spiritual, monastic life
– belongs. I believe that a few clarifications regarding this life desired by some men are
quite opportune, especially in the social, political and religious context we are living in.
Keywords: monk, spirituality, Fathers of the Church, prayer, virtues
We are all living in a Romanian society that is characterized by an
acute perfidy towards religion and by a profound lack of culture. Changes
occur everywhere daily: in the technical, cultural, social, medical,
political fields etc. The models most sought for and often taken as
reference include: singers, sportsmen, musicians, artists, politicians etc,
but lesser and lesser people with well organized families or coming from
the ascetic field: monks, those wise old men and many other. Why was
this situation created and which are its consequences? The answer to such
a questions is our intercession in this study.
When we make statements such as: humane person, personality,
character, individual and so forth, we exit the area of the ordinary
significances and enter in a special reality, that of the being created by
God. Although the above mentioned terms are different under many
considerations, their accurate value is still observed in the human
existence. This truth is even more obvious when speaking about monks
and nuns. From this point of view, they are completely valorized people,
or that abound in love for God. The historic evolution of the notions
Adrian-Lucian Dinu 138
monk, nun etc. is complex. The Greek word prosopon, as well as its Latin
equivalent persona originally meant, as we know very well, drama mask
and role to be played, either on the stage or in society (Evdokimov 2008:
86). I believe that in the ancient times before the coming of the Saviour to
earth, the Greeks knew this word with all its semantic, family, social
implications and it rendered what man is in relation to divinity, to one’s
fellow men and to oneself. The emergence of Christianity caused its
reversion or rather its deepening, as the Gospel speaks about the
uniqueness of the person and about the valorization of the person, about
God’s image that must be marked out through a virtuous life. Later on,
Renaissance, enlightenment and the other currents of judgment and
feeling more or less important of the world, the notion of “person” roused
violent reactions, confusions or idealizations. A rich and complex
production of the human sensitiveness and feeling produced formulas and
systematizations that approached or drifted away from the true
significance of the word person (Evdokimov 2008: 88).
From the orthodox standpoint, we say that the Church has always
kept the clean character and shape of this notion and, what is more,
showed – through the emphasis of the Lord’s Embodiment from Virgin
Mary – its theological value that overcomes any philosophical
explanation. Therefore, going back to the announced topic, we would like
to answer a question such as: Who are the monks? through a concrete
reference. This study refers to the inner life in Christ, to its concrete
character, to the possibility of leading it immediately and generally, which
is why the answer is: monks are people who reach the character of person.
They are complete humans precisely because they proved themselves
superior to the world and overcame the condition of mere inhabitant of
As already mentioned, this study will emphasize a few of the
aspects of the spiritual life whose preachers par excellence are the monks.
We think a few topics such as: the universal character of the monastic
spirituality, interiorized monachism, Christian unity and the monastic
votes, the hell of the modern world and the escape from the world will
draw attention through diversity and the approach which is not intended
to be out of the traditional patterns, but merely new.
Spiritual Life in the Age of Religious Pluralism 139
The universal character of the orthodox spirituality
St. Golden-Mouthed John said that monasteries are necessary
because the world is not entirely Christian (Saint Golden-Mouthed John
apud Evdokimov 2008: 10). All that happened since the coming of the
Saviour must be understood as follows: the world is baptized or
Christinized in the general sense, which is why the monastic message is
assimilated differently, too. From the very beginning, from the Gospel,
there was a “premonachism” or a manner of being inward that changed
characters and lives. Later the West established the two ways of being in
the world: layman and monk, but at the beginning “it was not like this”.
The proof is some people’s dichotomous understanding of some life
situations nowadays. On the one hand, there are the weak, the ones in the
world, always subject to change and fall, and on the other hand there are
the chosen ones that populate monasteries. The Orthodox Church
confesses the perfectly homogenous character of its spirituality, valid for
all people, because the Gospel is one and the same. There is only one
Gospel both for the young and the elderly, both for women and for men,
for the African-Americans and the white, for the Asian race and the
mulattoes etc. When Christ the Lord urges us to follow the narrow path
leading to life (Jews 7: 4), He includes all men, regardless of their race,
people etc. He asks for only one spirituality or feeling for all men, which
is why we say that both the ones from the world and the monks must
fulfill the same aim: completion! There is no distinction between those
leading their life in Christ, be they mere monks, bishops, patriarchs,
women or men. Furthermore, Pateric shows clearly that women often
surpassed men with their profound living. Also, on the Sunday of the
Myrrh-bearers, a song is sung in church about the women who surpassed
– due to the man-like power of their character – many of the Christians.
Therefore, prayer, fasting, reading the Scriptures, discipline in
ascesis are imperative for everyone equally (Dinu 2008: 285). A generally
known and recognized phrase regarding the monastic life is the following:
earthly angel and heavenly man. This shows that, to a greater or smaller
extent, the monk-man is not the one who retired from the world, but nor is
he a mere living being among the others, but he is the man acknowledging
the Holy Spirit, living in Him. A fragment of the dialogue between
Motovivlov and Abbot Seraphim of Sarov says: “The understanding of
Adrian-Lucian Dinu 140
these things is not given only to you, but through you to all the others, for
you to confess God’s work to the entire world, from which many will
benefit. As regards the fact that you are a laymen and I am a monk, there
should be no difference … The Lord searches for the heart full of love of
God and one’s fellow men … That is the throne in which He wants to
dwell and on which He will appear in His glory …” (Evdokimov 2008:
14). Hence both monk and spiritual son, clergyman and layman are the
same before God and can become equally a “sign” for all the others who
follow the same spiritual precept. And as an emphasis on the above stated,
here is the assertion of St. Tihon of Zadonsk: “Do not endeavour to
increase the number of monks. The black robe does not save anyone. The
one who wears white clothes and has obedience, humility and chastity is a
true monk of the interiorized monachism” (Evdokimov 2008: 15 apud
Giuppius 1996: 15).
The Christian unity and the apprentice
In the entire cult of the Orthodox Church, either the public or the
private, one can notice that people feel inspired by the communion
relation that God establishes with the man that prays and – through Him –
with the saints and all our fellow men. The daily prayers from the
monasteries appeal to the intercession of the saints, in order to ask God
for “peace and great mercy” for the Church and the country, the leaders of
the Church and of the country and then for the community of the
monastery. The prayer is thus a voice recapturing all the members of the
Church and the saints praising God. Thus we can see that the prayer
fulfills two objectives: places the one who truly prays in spiritual
connection with God, with the saints and with the fellow men and brings
down God’s help for the one that prays.
St. John of Kronstadt in his book Liturgy – the Skies and Earth
emphasizes this aspect of the prayer: “In the holy masses of our Orthodox
Church, each attentive believer notices instantly and feels vividly the
thought that all the believers on earth – shepherds and pastured – and the
beloved saints of God in the sky – starting with the Holy Mother of God –
form one Church, one house of God, one body, whose Head is our Lord
Jesus Christ Himself and whose soul if the Holy Spirit Himself, who
Spiritual Life in the Age of Religious Pluralism 141
inspires, lightens, clears and re-enforces all the limbs of this great body
fighting on earth.
He who comes to pray in the Church must always keep in mind this
thought, profound and truly comforting. Because it can and must have a
highly benefic and redeeming effect on the state of the Christian’s spirit,
especially during the prayer, as well as over his entire life… One should
have the vivid conviction one is a limb of the Church, that there is a
mutual connection between all the limbs of its live body … The Church
reminds us incessantly that in the sky the Mother of God, the Angels and
all those pleasant to God are praying for us; on earth, the fighting Church
prays day and night to God for us, its devoted sons” (Saint John of
Kronstadt 2002: 47).
The manuals of liturgics bring countless arguments supporting these
particularities of the prayer, of the unity of all men in one body and with
God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, making ourselves “Christ’s body
and limbs each of us”. Hence man cannot be redeemed in selfishness,
separately from his fellow men, but only inspired by love. In fact,
humility cannot be acquired in selfishness. Moreover, if the prayer does
not root in a soul conciliated with everyone and full of love for everyone,
is not prayer, but doom.
We are all amazed by the idea of the celestial and earthly unity of
the Church: “We now pray to the Most Holy, Pure, Blessed Virgin Mary,
together with all the saints; let us give ourselves and each other and our
entire life to Christ the Lord!” We can hear these prayers many times a
day in the Church and it would be proper not to be indifferent to them!
One who lives not only with his body in the monastery but will all his
soul, who is present every day at the Seven Praises of the Church and the
Holy Liturgy, who the rest of the time makes an effort to remain in prayer
can but be full of this feeling of the communion, because, as Evagrius of
Pontus says: “A monk is he who is separate from everyone and united to
everyone” (Evagrius 1999: 30). The separation of the monk from the
world is compensated by this duty of his to pray for the world. The monks
were asked to work for the world; this is why we consider that from the
very beginning of their lives, even from the world, it is appropriate that
the prayer, as the Fathers of the Church intended it, may be their main
Adrian-Lucian Dinu 142
We know that the true life of the Church is, for the most part, made
of our prayers for each other. No one should confide only in his own
prayer. When we pray, we ask for intercession for the whole Church. The
angels, apostles, patriarchs and the Mother of God pray for us and when
we pray for others and for ourselves, we can feel the unity with God. For
the one who has not first united with the Saints of God and his fellow
men, which are His creation, cannot unite with God. God Himself, being
love and perfect inter-Trinitarian communion, cannot receive hateful men
in communion. This is why the Savior advices us in such situations to
leave our gift at the altar door, to go and make peace with the others and
only then to offer the gift at the altar. It is an obvious impulse to
communion, for in the communion out of love there can be nothing
selfish or solitary.
As regards the help constituted by the prayers for the communion
with God, here is the testimony of a person converted to Orthodoxy: “The
prayers that the Church makes available arouse an intimate feeling of the
presence of God” (Gallatin 1993: 181-182). And, to this same line, the
words of Priest Prof. Viorel Sava, PhD., Dean of the Faculty of Theology
of Iaşi are suggestive: The prayers of the Church unify the human being
and unite mysteriously the people of the same faith, living and deceased.
This is accomplished perfectly in the Holy Liturgy where the believers
commune with Christ “The One that breaks into pieces and divides, the
One that breaks and does not disunite” (Saint Liturgy 2000: 245). “He
unites the ones who commune because the One that offers Himself form
housel breaks without disuniting” (Sava 2003: 49). Then, explaining what
our union with the Church means, he states that it is so profound and real
that the hearts of everyone gathered at the Holy Liturgy unite in one
whole and their spirits in one and their voices in one: “And let us with one
mouth and one heart praise and sing Your most glorified name…”. And
as regards the communion with Christ and the saints, as a taste of the
eternal life, he tells us that during the holy masses, the Christian
experiences eternal life and is not alone any more, but together with
Christ and His saints, being part of this big communion (Sava 2003: 27).
Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov also reminds of the character of the
prayer of uniting us with God: “Essentially, the prayer consists of keeping
us in the presence of God and uniting us with Him; it is conciliation of
Spiritual Life in the Age of Religious Pluralism 143
men with God … At the beginning you have to force yourself to pray, but
soon the prayer begins to bring comforting … Nevertheless we will have
to endeavor to pray our whole life” (Saint Ignace Briancianinov 1996:
If we try to behold all these qualities of the prayer and place man in
communion, we can see that they reveal themselves especially when we
speak about the man in the Church and especially the ones in
Monasteries. Paul Evdokimov in Orthodoxy expresses beautifully this
truth: “Monasticism leaves the world in order to bless it immediately from
the desert and to bear it incessantly in its prayers … Amazed before the
Hesychasts, the world discovers in this dimension of the prayer, in the act
of worship, what is essential in the human being – the sacrifice of his
being “grinded in the grindstones of humility in order to become the
sweet bread pleasant to God”. Monasticism saves the world from its most
terrible pest: autopistia and autoritmia – the faith in one’s own strength
and the arrogance spirit – and teaches it that the spirit is a profound divine
entity, through its absolutely evangelic aspiration to “the impossible”
(Evdokimov 1996: 24). Therefore, the Saviour tells us about His coming
into the world in words that express communication: “We will come and
make ourselves a dwelling” (John 14: 23). And St. Gregory the
Theologian says, referring to the cohabitation of God in man, that God
calls it happiness and not a mere knowledge about Him.
As a result of the prayer programme in the monasteries, established
through the experience of the feeling of the Fathers of the Church, the true
monk feels God’s work in His people: “The monk’s heart aims to a loving
hug of his fellow man, wants to comfort and help him, according to
Christ’s example (John 13: 34) and in the monastic life, the best
expression of this love is prayer. The religious masses, the cell rules and
even work and rest are based on prayer and communion with God …
Through prayer, the monk wants to embrace the creation in love and
intercession, thus the monastic community opens channels for the Spirit
of God may transform both the individual and the community within …
The prayer life is the foundation of the entire monastic life” (H.E. Dr.
Irineu Pop Bistriţeanul 1995: 27-28).
Being always the same, the masses are known by heart by many
people. This is why, sometimes, though in the pew the prayers are read
Adrian-Lucian Dinu 144
too fast or too low, no one demurs. The custom of prayer does not fail
anyone’s expectations and does not wear out morally the apprentice but
generates their exact reverse: becoming accustomed and profound in life
and in faith. The future monk, living in the atmosphere of the masses
opens himself and “feels willing to receive the sacred, which overwhelms
his heart and fills it with warmth” Metropolitan Antonie Plămădeală says.
Through prayer, the young or old apprentice participates in the sacred and
connects as a new link to the golden chain of the communion with the
ones before him, who prayed in the same words, ensuring their
transmission to others. The apprentice prays for them and for himself and
knows that one day, with the same prayers and feelings, the ones that will
follow in the next generations will pray for him. Thus prayers ensure the
condition of the communion with the Church in its wholeness, in the sky
and on earth, yesterday, today and always.
These testimonies reveal that prayer not only approaches the monk
to people and saints and especially to God, but turns him into a person,
into a human being in communion. “Through prayer, God is blessed and
praised; but through it the he who blesses and praises God is blessed and
praised by God: “God is close to all that call His name” (Ps. 114, 118).
The word “close” states that the Lord is even in the ones that call for Him,
but he is not confounded with Him. The prayer is a state of interiority
between the one who prays and God. The soul of the one who prays is
like a plant thirsty for water, that is God (Ps. 142, 6), but at the same time
is full of divine sap” (Stăniloae 1986: 68). It is thus a paradox that the
lonely one – we could make a lexical suggestion from the Greek mono
and monk – is with everyone or endeavours to be with everyone. These
positive changes that inspire the praying monk, rehabilitates God’s image
in himself and makes him even resume resemblance with God, Who is
Love and “the giver of all good…” (Prayer of the Pulpit).
The prayer as an inward work of the apprentice at spiritual level
As a superior life style, the divine-human dialogue infers a variety
of forms difficult to comprise with the mind. A basic form remains
nevertheless the prayer, with its most elevated aspects.
The prayer is a theandric reality that was, along the history of
Christianity, the stage of countless formulations, contestations,
Spiritual Life in the Age of Religious Pluralism 145
reformulations, theories … The prayer was an ontic-dialog form of the
man with God, with nuances specific to different human époques.
Through His Embodiment, Jesus Christ will sublimate the character of the
prayer both by practicing it and by setting out an authentic kind of prayer”
(Petra 1986: 28). We can see its power starting from the Savior’s life
itself, from His temptation to His passions in all the miracles worked by
Him, in healings, resuscitations, demon banishments; then we can see it in
His Saint Apostles, in their activity and then in the Fathers of the Church,
from whom we make efforts to learn it.
It is known that in monasteries, the work of the prayer is special for
the new-comers and for the highly pious. Therefore, being almost
permanent, it widens its sphere of activity. It offers not only the
connection between the monk and God, but it also works within the one
who prays (together with the other monastic tasks), bringing him to the
state of the man before the fall into sin. What happens with the fact that
monks have the duty of serving the world, too? Their service does not
occur randomly, but it is a specific manner of serving the world: the
dedication through their own sanctification from their dialogue with God.
The devoted prayer of the monk for the world can take place only after
personal selfishness (the ego) changed in him into communion with his
He who wants to become an accomplished monk tries of course to
follow Christ, but this is a long path that treads in the steps of His deeds,
which would actually not be completely possible. It is the endeavour to
stop living like an individualized, isolated person and to leave room for
love to enter our whole being, to be according to Apostle Paul’s words:
“It is no longer I who live, Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2: 20). This
change of the old man into a new man, this particularity of salvation
brought by the New Adam cannot occur over night.
Prayer is especially important in the process of the candidate
turning into a monk, but both faith and the endeavour of the one who
makes an effort to fulfill the customs left by the Fathers of the Church
who experienced the transformation of the old man. The Metropolitan
Hierotheos Vlachos talks in detail about the man as a person
(theologically) and about the importance of this quality. Bringing patristic
arguments, he shows that one cannot refer to that being born by humans
Adrian-Lucian Dinu 146
but that cannot see God’s revelation and who has no love for God as a
person. He refers to the man as person when he opens his heart through
God’s grace, and this can be achieved through ascesis and by means of
the sanctified life of the Church. He points out a tight connection between
the person and the ascesis. “If man does not heal, if he does not go from
image to resemblance, he cannot become a person theologically speaking,
and theology cannot be understood outside experience” (Vlachos 2002:
83). He shows us two ways through which the man becomes person in
reality. The first way is in man’s attempt – inspired mainly by God’s
Grace – of freeing his mind from logic, from the surrounding world and
from passions (Vlachos 2002: 83). This is attempted especially in
monasteries. He explains that our mind was blurred starting the moment
of the fall and the freeing is acquired through Hesychasm: “This means
that the man fights to free himself from the things that keep him tied,
obeys a highly devoted spiritual father, practices prayer… he tries to
practice prayer permanently, sometimes with the lips, other times with the
mind, he shows permanent sobriety and vigilance, in order not to allow
any tempting apparition of the mind to enter his heart… advances toward
godliness” (Vlachos 2002: 85). These are possible as our prayers are not
addressed to an abstract God, but to a personal God, trebled in Persons
that reveal Themselves and, being Himself Love, He loves His creatures.
What we want to assert here is that the ideal of those who want to
become monks must be this: to become true persons, theologically
speaking. And prayer contributes the most to this endeavour of acquiring
resemblance. Without pursuing this objective expressly, and only by
observing the customs of prayer in the monasteries, the future monk
commits himself to his own change. Related to this, Paul Evdokimov says
about the young apprentice: “The ascesis, which is – above all – practical
and concrete, banishes evil, enhancing the good… after perpetual prayer
reaches an unchanged state, the man feels himself light, detached from the
earthly burden, divested of his ego. The world where an ascetic lives is
the world of God, amazingly vivid, as it is the world of the crucified and
resurrected. By the light of the flame burning deep down in his soul, he
can see in a poor man that which the Gospel refers to as the richness in
God. From everything that means to have, the man passes to to be of the
being. The man becomes embodied prayer” (Evdokimov 2008: 117).
Spiritual Life in the Age of Religious Pluralism 147
This theologian dares one to experience these states and makes the
ones that do want to become monks to emphasize what is actually the
essence of their calling: to pray as much and as well as possible so that
they may come to turn into “He who comes in the name of the Lord”.
Hence, monasticism accomplished according to the sacred customs
is nothing else but a radical self-transformation or transformation of the
self. The candidate must be like a lit candle and have a wakeful soul
awaiting for the desired Groom, as St. Dionysus the Areopagite says:
through praises and spiritual songs, the monk awakes the sun, worships
the Truth and makes his heart Tent for He who comes in the name of the
Lord (Mark 11: 9) (H.E. Dr. Irineu Pop Bistriţeanul 1995: 47).
So actually, the ascesis of the young, their prayers to God must not
be a purpose in themselves, but what is hidden behind these endeavours
should constitute life in God, the return to the state of communion with
God. The young men or the apprentice comes from the world and he must
not only be aware and admit his state, but it must burn in the fire of
repentance, of the prayer sprung from a pure heart and humble spirit. The
same theologian Paul Evdokimov pointed out an important issue of the
possibility of reaching knowledge through communion: “Theology
focuses on the divinizing unification, theosis, and acts by means of
knowledge-communication, participation. Or, “everything that is
participated changes the self of the one who participates” (Evdokimov
2008: 57-58). Thereby we reach another definition, according to which
the future monk is the one who wants to make the true theology, the
science of practical speaking with God. This confirms our belief that the
rules or customs that the young monk should follow is a powerful help in
his daily fight towards the change of his self. “Monachism reminds us
always and very powerfully the sole need: acquiring the fruit of salvation
through the ascetic work, through an invisible war, through this restless
and permanent fight of a fighter that attacks the sins, according to the
classic formula of St. Nil in the silence of the Hesychasts’ cells, in the
school of the taught by God, the amazing change of the man in a new
creature takes place gradually. We may assert that, in the eremites’ caves
or within the community life of the monasteries, the evangelic metanoia
achieved this metamorphosis” (Evdokimov 2008: 24). Father Dumitru
Stăniloae sees in prayer more than a spiritual growth of the man, a certain
Adrian-Lucian Dinu 148
anticipation of the eschatological happiness: “Prayer is the environment
of the life full of grace, the environment of the man’s spiritual growth,
and implicitly an anticipation of the eschatological happiness or a crown
of this happiness. It accustoms us to a more intense living experience with
God or in God, under the rays of His love that shines, strengthens and
raises our life, preparing us for the purpose for which we were created”
(Stăniloae 1981: 11).
Certainly, these assertions about what a monk can do in the
monastery make us first of all remember the endeavour and wish of the
young men who come to this life: to change into spiritual men, to become
fruitful. Saint Ignatius Briancianinov said: “I ask you who pray, my
brother or sister: are you interested in prayer, is it dear, pleasant to you,
does it delight you, does it change you positively, does it comfort your
heart? Or do you show a cold, indifferent, non-participative, unfruitful
attitude toward it? Then you pray in vain: ‘This people praise Me with
their lips, but their heart is far away from Me’ (Mathew 15:18)” (St. John
of Kronstadt 2002: 362).
One can see clearly that the glory brought to God only with the lips
should make us wonder. The change of the human in us will not take
place gradually and nothing will change positively if our devotion and
dialogue with God are not profound.
And a contemporary theologian says: “The prayer is the spiritual air
the monk breathes continuously and without which he perishes. The
prayer is not only a ladder on which the soul climbs up to God and God
climbs down in the soul, but an endless network of connections through
which he who prays presents God his joys, sorrows, requests and his
hopes and those of his fellow men. Through the connection the prayer
establishes between the monk’s soul, God, the people and the entire
nature, the soul clears its selfishness, is enlightened by the presence of the
other beings and improves through the love he shows other people by
praying for them. This is why the true prayer is not intended only for the
one that prays but for as many people as possible, for the whole world,
even for the living and dead, for people and animals, for plants, earth, air,
waters and the rest. The prayer will not ask for ill for anyone” (H.E. Dr.
Irineu Pop Bistriţeanul 1995: 82).
Spiritual Life in the Age of Religious Pluralism 149
Therefore, he who will give himself in beauty to the Lord daily and
will acquire pure prayer, will experience inner transformation, and due to
the fact that all the prayers in the orthodox cult contain requests for mercy
and peace, in time they will impress on the face on the one who uses them
what we generically call: angel face. It is natural for the one who gives
every day to endeavours of true prayer to acquire God’s resemblance and
to restore God’s image from himself, as “understood as a text full of the
vitality of feeling, the prayer … is of the man and at the same time it is
the work of God or of Christ in the man, and implicitly in the community
of believers” (Stăniloae 1986: 667).
The main elements of the spiritual formation nowadays
This part is dedicated especially to the prayer of the mind
complemented by obedience as the virtue cultivated in the soul of the
future monks. It is a known fact that most monasteries manage themselves
in order to be able to offer all the dwellers both the food necessary for
survival and the fulfillment of other necessities. Thus, many monasteries
own arable land that they farm to obtain its fruits, others have pastures in
which they carry out zootechnical or other activities. Through all the
activities in a monastery, a basic virtue is fulfilled: obedience.
Saint Apostle Paul urged his apprentices to work with their hands in
order to make a living, telling those who did not want to work that they
should not eat, either. The Fathers of the Church from Pateric wanted to
work always in order to prevent laziness and lounge and so that the devil
would not give them things to do. They used to make baskets and they
would unsew a coat and sew it back so that they stayed occupied for the
day. Upon the monastic tonsure, one of the three votes assumed by the
one received in the monastic churchdom is obedience or submission to the
superior. This is how in monasteries, everyone have their obedience – a
responsibility – and this rule is assumed by all, without doubt or
Obedience plays an important role in the monk’s life, as the Fathers
of the Church say that “those who obey celebrate Liturgy”. This is why
when one is sent to comply with an obedience order during any mass, one
must not hesitate to do so, as it is more valuable to obey (nevertheless he
also urges us to pray during obedience).
Adrian-Lucian Dinu 150
Pateric says that “obedience is greater than prayer”, but without
saying that prayer is minor or that some one could be a monk without it.
We should know that obedience is redeeming when we comply with it
with love and with the prayer in our mind and heart. And in order to do
this, the Fathers of the Church left us Jesus’ prayer, through which we call
Christ in the temple of our body, anywhere we are and no matter what
works we have to carry out. The words: “Jesus Christ, our Lord and Son
of God, have mercy on me, for I have sinned!” are more than a phrase or a
sentence. “This prayer contains the entire Bible concentrated, its entire
message reduced to the simplest and essential expression: the confession
of the Kingship of Christ, of His divine Filiation, thus of the Trinity.
Then, the depth of the fall and eventually the invocation of the
profoundness of the divine mercy… this prayer re-echoes permanently
deep down in the soul, with each breath, Jesus’ name entwines with our
breath. His name is engrafted in the man, who shifts, in God’s name, in
Christ; the man is initiated in as directly as possible in the experience of
St. Apostle Paul: “It is no longer I who live, Christ lives in me” (Galatians
2: 20)… The frequent calling of Jesus’ name leads to the presence of God,
and this is the internalized Liturgy” (Evdokimov 2008: 125-126).
Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov urges simple people and monks to
pray like this not only during obedience, but they should also say a
number of prayers even together with the customs they have to comply
with: “If you are in a monastery where the evening prayer is not common
and each says it in their own cell, it starts with the given genuflections,
and then read the prayers and psalms and in the end say Jesus’ prayer. For
starters, plan to say it one hundred times. Then, if you see you can say it
more, say it a hundred times more… You need about a half an hour to say
it slowly and attentively… Accustom yourself to making Jesus’ prayer
your first thought, word and deed when you wake up. Say it a few times,
wash yourself and then go quickly to the Matins… Make an effort to
accustom yourself to Jesus’ prayer so that it may become your incessant
The Fathers said: “If he is eating and drinking, if he is in his cell or
complying with his tasks, if he is traveling or doing something else, the
monk must call incessantly: “Jesus Christ, our Lord and Son of God, have
mercy on me, for I have sinned!” (Calist and Ignatie Xantopol)… It is
Spiritual Life in the Age of Religious Pluralism 151
clear that a novice monk cannot have incessant prayer; but in order to be
able to have it some day, he should start by accustoming himself to
frequent prayer. At the same time, frequent prayer will turn into incessant
prayer” (Saint Ignace Briancianinov 1996: 90-92).
So Jesus’ prayer is of two kinds: with the voice and in the mind.
And the one that says the prayer goes spontaneously from the prayer with
the voice to the one in the mind, provided he says the prayer attentively.
The body position is not as important as the state of the one that prays at
that moment. Even if one says it in obedience or in one’s cell, maybe
exhausted or recumbent. In Jesus’ prayer, the mind concentrates on one
thing only: forgiveness for one’s sins through Jesus. The prayer was given
by Jesus Christ Himself: “Whatever you ask for in My name, that I will
do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask for anything in
My name, I will do it” (John 14: 14).
Through this interlacing of work and prayer, the obedience of the
young apprentice will not be an opportunity for his spiritual fall, but
spiritual ascension. Prayer crowns the physical efforts, making them
sanctified and offering them to God. At the same time, accompanying
obedience with Jesus’ prayer, we are protected against the temptation of
drifting away from the monk spirit, we prevent ourselves from giving the
mind the freedom to travel through any kind of thoughts and from making
room for temptation from the devil. As “the sovereign means to escape
the tempter’s traps is, according to Diadoch of Foticea, the invocation of
Lord Jesus’ name, the invincible weapon, which should be as frequent as
possible, even permanent, in order to leave no room for temptation from
the devil: “If the mind will be found holding permanent remembrance of
the saint name of Lord Jesus Christ and will use as a weapon that most
saint and praised name, the cunning deceiver will leave” (Savin 1996: 96-
It is not randomly enacted to us to pray all the time. Why were we
not told to fast or work all the time? But it says: “It was enacted to us to
pray incessantly, because the intellect is made naturally for prayer”
(Spïdlik 2005: 366). Thus, I think we must see in this practice the
appropriate means for inner clarification and enhancement in the spiritual
life. It is a known fact that the mind turns to God in prayer even if the
body is tired; what is more, it seems to approach God more easily then, it
Adrian-Lucian Dinu 152
seems to be less hardened or burdened. Jesus’ prayer does imply effort,
will and attention of the mind, an endeavour of the soul. At first, we have
to be faithful to the vocal prayers, though it will not be easy to orient the
mind to calling the name of God. This is why St. Teofan Zăvorâtul urges
us: “Call God with diligence: “Jesus Christ, our Lord and Son of God,
have mercy on me, for I have sinned!” do this incessantly: in church, in
your cell, on the way, during work, during lunch, in bed; with one word
starting when you open your eyes until you close them” (Spïdlik 2005,
369). He also recommends to learn a few psalms, as it is very good to say
them during work or between the problems you have to solve” (St. Teofan
Zăvorâtul 1999: 213).
It is clearly shown that we must direct our endeavour to not taking
our mind off God in order not to separate ourselves from the Good God. I
find very important Saint Arsenie the Deacon’s words: “He who prays
only when he prays, that does not pray”. Other arguments may be brought
as well. During the Great Lent, during the Compline, we sing a special
hymn, which is actually the song of the Prophet Isaiah” God is with us”,
and it is impossible not to be touched by this hymn, sung in church. I also
believe in our churches and monasteries, we try hard to make people who
come be able to say convincingly and with all their heart: God is with us!
And all the aspects of the life in the monastery, especially prayer
contribute to it. True prayer maintains the one who prays in direct contact
with God and maintains his dependence upon God, which makes him
humble, prevents him from self-worship and arrogance. We must know
that humility does not make him inferior, but gives him immense lucidity,
exact recognition of the place of man in the world and before God. “The
humble is in a real relation with God, maintains himself on earth as well
and does not fall prey to illusions, is aware of his earthly reality”
(Plămădeală 1995: 86-93).
His ascension is “in depth”, in the inward where God’s Kingdom is.
This is the only way man can approach God, otherwise, the more he
grows, the farther away he gets from Him. Hence, the new member of the
monastery who tries hard to observe the monastic customs (he who
entwines prayer and obedience) will not be kept in exclusive spaces for
prayer or obedience, but together with the other apprentices, because all
the spiritual actions are sustained and rise like wings of a bird. The dictum
Spiritual Life in the Age of Religious Pluralism 153
valid in life, and especially in the monastery life: ora et labora is
precisely the imperial way recommended by the entire Eastern Tradition:
“The spiritual tradition of the past unanimously teaches us that prayer and
action have equal course and go together. Never has prayer hindered
action; on the contrary, it gave the action a direction and enriched it from
the inside. The prayer has always been the good angel of the action, and
vice versa, never has an action hindered prayer” (Plămădeală 1995: 86-
All our endeavours, outside or inside the monastery, will be good,
provided we make them for God, and not because He might need any of
our deeds, but in order to live everything with the interest of obtaining the
fruits of our efforts here, on earth, being aware that God sees us and
wishes for us to acquire His resemblance. And this we can acquire only
by being in relation or in communion with God.
Thus, I think that what the psalmist says: “the fear of God is the
beginning of wisdom” means to live being aware that God is close to us
and sees us and we cannot allow ourselves to err, as we know that our
mistakes do not bring us closer to Him. For many young men the desire of
approaching God turns into the “gesture” more or less precipitated of
joining the monastery, which proves to be overwhelming for the
individual in question. We should know that our awareness of God’s
presence both in the world and afterwards is more important. There is a
feeling the once joining the monastery, where every corner urges one to
decency, piety and sanctity, everything will be solved by itself, but the
concrete life situations often show something else. The one who joins the
monastery needs attention and will to form oneself spiritually and
practically in the monastic spirit. And as every means necessary are at
hand, he must take every step. The thirst of walking on the path of
completion of the ones that already live there and of the ones who go
there should be dominant in order to make visible the spiritual ascension
according to the effort made and the praises made to God. It was not in
vain that the Fathers of the Church compared the young men from the
world or even monks with the bees that take only the best of everything
but never stop working.
Adrian-Lucian Dinu 154
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Merişor G. Dominte,
Faculty of Orthodox Theology,
“Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iaşi, ROMANIA
Heading to the Exhibition “UniVerse” (Ceramics-Glass and Painting-Graphic
Arts by Mihai Grati, Merişor G. Dominte, Stelian Onica, 4
May 2009, “N.
Tonitza” Gallery, Iaşi, România) and part of two authors achievements.
Keywords: the artist, the Universe, the faces of her/his feelings, Meditation, images
about World, harmony of languages, the Matter to the Spirit , UniVerse, a poetic
invitation to Reflection
Multivalent and in continuous TransFormation, the Universe is a
complex organism. Its Ambient and Interiority are uniting the Non-
comprising into Comprising, that is reflecting us through a imagined and
concrete duality, what our souls feel in relation to a reality. This way, in
the trying of a ensemble unity, several ways of expression are imposing
the accords when they co-exist and interpose. The selection and
adaptation is for their Verse to rise like an unique force, flame that
underlines the matter, remembering that the artist is creating from it the
faces of her/his feelings.
The Quietness and Tension, the Light and the Dark, the Joy and the
Sorrow, the Integrity and the Dissipation, the Consistence and the
Fragility, the Harshness and the Malleability, the Warmth and the
Coldness, the Order and the Chaos, the Transparency and the Opacity, the
Communication and the Non-communication, the Unity and the
Separation, the Open and the Closed, the Sociability and the Loneliness,
the Stopping and the Recreation, as other contrasts too, are experiences
that we live and meet by the steps that we make from the Matter to the
Spirit. Through its Verses, the Universe is transmitting to us its subtle
invitation to Meditation. Each of us, creator and receiver in the same
Merişor G. Dominte, Stelian Onica 158
time, form images about World. Through correlation we can harmonize
our sights when life is situating us within a certain context. In the ante-
chamber of what we exteriorize is the living itself, series of histories with
roots, trunks and branches, with sap, flowers, fruits, and seeds, with
growth, developing, sunsets, sacrifices and rebirths. Along with these the
Hope is always present within us.
Not only us that propose some visualisations but us that we
contemplate and try to perceive the messages are the actors of the scene
where our lives are played. What we are doing in distinct or chained
stages, with intention under the pressure of some limitations of time and
context, or beneficing of a chance or other, becomes history in time,
where other recounts are waiting for their revelation.
As a wish that needs to reunite differences through conciliate decks,
the harmony of languages ask to become practically real. What the
creativity is uniting is especially the feel of sublimation, that is propelling
us from our own distinct universes to the infinite inspiring energy.
From Earth to the large cover, out thoughts, of whom we resonate
inside and outside some artistic experiences, are these ways creatively
integrating in the vast Universe of the human feelings. In this cover the
UniVerse we can find here is the intention of a poetic invitation to
(Heading to the Exhibition “ UniVerse”, Ceramics-Glass and
Painting-Graphic Arts by Mihai Grati, Merişor G. Dominte, Stelian
May 2009, “N. Tonitza” Gallery, Iaşi, România)
Works by authors:
Merişor G. Dominte – “Effigy”, A4, mixed technique, digital print
Merişor G. Dominte -„ Sight”, A3, mixed technique, digital print
Merişor G. Dominte -„Universe”, A4, mixed technique, digital print
Merişor G. Dominte, Stelian Onica 160
Merişor G. Dominte -„Time”, A2, tempera on canvas
Merişor G. Dominte -„Hermit”, A1, tempera on canvas
Merişor G. Dominte -„ Parable(My brother)”, 100x110cm,mixed technique on canvas
Merişor G. Dominte -„Evanescence”(I), A3, mixed technique, digital print
Merişor G. Dominte, Stelian Onica 162
Merişor G. Dominte -„Evanescence”(II), A3, mixed technique, digital print
Merişor G. Dominte -„Remember”, 3x A4, mixed technique, digital print
Merişor G. Dominte -„Echo”(I), 2xA3, mixed technique, digital print
Merişor G. Dominte-„Echo”(II), 2xA3, mixed technique, digital print
Merişor G. Dominte, Stelian Onica 164
Merişor G. Dominte -„Mirror”, A2, tempera on canvas
Merişor G. Dominte -„Metaphore”, 2x A3, mixed technique, digital print
Merişor G. Dominte -„Cliff”, A3, mixed technique, digital print
Merişor G. Dominte, Stelian Onica 166
Stelian Onica - “Day One”, 38x46 cm, mixed technique on canvas
Stelian Onica - “Day Two”, 38x46 cm, mixed technique on canvas
Stelian Onica – Fragment of “The Myth of the Sacrifice” project, 7x(138x100)cm,
mixed technique and digital print (1-7)
Merişor G. Dominte, Stelian Onica 168
Merişor G. Dominte, Stelian Onica 170
Radical Feminist Theology: From Protest to the Goddess
Faculty of Orthodox Theology,
“Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iaşi, ROMANIA
The feminist theology appeared initially as a reaction to the presumed
Christianity’s patriarchal character. While some feminist theologians tried to find
solutions to reform Christianity, others – the radical ones – have created a new religion
with its own divinity, doctrine and ethics. First, our purpose is to outline the directions
followed by the radical feminists from protest to a new deity, generally called the
Goddess, and from theology, regarded as a discourse concerning a masculine God, to
thealogy, a discourse concerning a feminine deity. Second, we want to highlight the
different ways in which the followers perceive this new deity supposed to be an
alternative to the Christian God considered inadequate for the self-development of the
contemporary woman. Finally, we point out the antichristian character that animates the
construction of this new deity, created “after the image and likeness of man”.
Keywords: Feminism, feminist theology, thealogy, Goddess movement
Although it came out at the middle of the 19
century, at the same
time with the first feminist wave, because of the inauspicious context of
the epoch (the conservatism, the cautious feminist politics centred on
socio-political, not religious women rights etc.) and poor representation, it
is considered that the feminist theology itself came into being at the and
of the 60s, once with the second wave of feminism. An ideological and
political favourable context, the acceptance of women as students and
teachers at the protestant theological schools, the ordination of women in
some Christian denominations, and the catholic-protestant ecumenism
that facilitated the access of the catholic women for studying in protestant
universities are few of the most important and prominent factors that
permitted the beginning of constructing a feminist theology. Hereby, in
the 80s, the feminist theology became the best-represented liberation
theology (see Radford Ruether 2000: 4-8).
Constantin-Iulian Damian 172
Initially, feminist theology intended to “redefine” the main
theological significances of God, humanity, man and woman, creation,
evil, and salvation in an egalitarian and non-sexist manner. Nevertheless,
starting with this “programme”, the feminist theology developed
unpredictable trajectories, becoming a kind of generic term for a wide
range of theological directions. While some of these remained loyal to the
traditional Christianity, others, on the contrary, adopted a virulent
antichristian discourse. Thus, we can distinguish two main “ideological
axes” or directions: the reformist and the radical feminist theology.
Feminists from the biblical tradition, who try to purify Christianity of
patriarchy from within, represent the first one. The latter, represented by
the radical feminist theologians, is a post-Christian and post-traditional
direction that affirms the irremovable sexist character of Christianity and
professes that the only solution is the replacing of the Christian male and
patriarchal God with a new deity, more suited for the women’s spirit.
In the next pages, we will try to underline, on the one hand, that this
new deity is born from protest against the presumed patriarchal
Christianity, constructive endeavour, and much imagination, and on the
other hand to briefly analyse the outcome of this process.
“If God is male, than the male is God”
The criticism of the traditional theology, of male hierarchical and
stereotypical influence on the concept of God, of the body/spirit,
finite/infinite, rational/non-rational dualisms, the questioning of
traditional authorities etc. (see Christ 2002: 82) are common features of
all feminist directions. Nevertheless, in the 70s, the feminist theologians
that adopted an obvious antichristian discourse tried to find alternatives.
Some of them rejected the male god and proposed an androgynous one;
some a goddess linked to women’s experiences, and some others a Great
Goddess (Shinn 1984: 181-182). In this article, we will discuss only the
last alternative and we will start from Mary Daly, the fist and the most
important feminist theologian who seriously and radically questioned the
possibility of woman’s salvation in the patriarchal Christianity.
Developing in the most radical grade Simone de Beauvoir’s opinion than
Christianity is responsible for the inferior, evil and biological status of the
woman (see De Beauvoir 1998: 120-121), Daly (1985: 14-18; see also
Radical Feminist Theology: From Protest to the Goddess 173
Daly 1994) starts her critique arguing that Christianity is guilty for
projecting the societal patriarchal structures in heaven; in fact, human
beings contrived God according to their own image. This is why we have
the popular image of a He-God, a heavenly patriarch who punishes and
rewards at his own will as a king who rules his kingdom or as a father
who rules his family. This image confirms and legitimates the male-
dominated society, where woman is the victim. In accordance with the
syllogism “If God is male, than the male is God”, the husband dominates
his wife as God dominates His creation. Mary Daly (1985: 29-31)
militates in favour of breaking of Judeo-Christian idols as a new phase of
the feminist consciousness liberation process. She means the
dethronement of false ideas and symbols of God (masculine ones) that
still haunt the Christian prayers, hymns, sermons, and religious education.
Daly also means the dethronement of the God of explanations who
“serves sometimes as the legitimation of anomic occurrences such as the
suffering of a child” and “does not encourage commitment to the task of
analyzing and eradicating the social, economic, and psychological roots
of suffering”. The God of otherworldliness who rewords and punishes
after death should also be dismissed, together with the God who is the
judge of the sin “who confirms the rightness of the rules and roles of the
reigning [patriarchal] system”. Not even Jesus Christ escapes from Daly’s
iconoclasm. She operates a distinction between Jesus the person and
Christ the symbol. From her point of view, the man Jesus has a
charismatic and revelatory power, but the incarnation of the second
person of the Trinity as a unique male confirms male superiority. Christ,
as a symbol, is also oppressively used; although some theologians
interpreted it as “New Being”, Daly (1985: 72) considers that “it is most
improbable that under the conditions of patriarchy a male symbol can
function exclusively or adequately as bearer of New Being. Inevitably
such a symbol lends itself to reinforcement of the prevailing hierarchies,
even though there may be some ambivalence about this”. Daly’s
conclusion is that
A patriarchal divinity or his son is exactly not in a position to save
us [women] from the horrors of a patriarchal world. Does this mean, then,
that the women's movement points to, seeks, or in some way constitutes a
rival to ‘the Christ’? In its depth, because it contains a dynamic that
Constantin-Iulian Damian 174
drives beyond Christolatry, the women’s movement does point to, seek,
and constitute the primordial, always present, and future Antichrist. It
does this by breaking the Great Silence, rising up female pride, recovering
female history, healing and bringing into the open female presence.
The Antichrist is not necessary evil – as the patriarchal
Christolatrism presented him –, but he is the surge of consciousness, the
spiritual awakening, the Second Coming of women that will liberate Jesus
from the role of the saviour or, in her words, from the role of the
“mankind’s most illustrious scapegoat” (Daly 1985: 96). It is more than
obvious from these lines Mary Daly’s virulent antichristian attitude. From
her point of view, the feminist movement, which strikes at the source of
the societal dualism, represents “a growing threat to the plausibility of the
inadequate popular ‘God’ not so much by attacking ‘him’ as by leaving
‘him’ behind” (Daly 1985: 18). Yet Daly says almost nothing about the
divinity that should replace the He-God. Even she uses the term
“Goddess” (or “Great Goddess”), Daly (1985: 34) considers, without
rejecting it, that like the term “God”, it is a static term and represents
merely a replacement of the masculine noun with a feminine one.
However, the “Verb” or “Verb of Verbs” that she suggests as alternatives
to the Christian God (not only on linguistic level) seems to be too abstract
to be functional.
Some feminists soon adopted and developed this kind of approach,
constituting what we can generally call the radical wave of feminist
theologians. To summarize, in their opinion Christianity is responsible for
the Western dualism and for the identification of the “flesh, nature,
woman, and sexuality with the Devil and the forces of evil”. It is also
responsible for the delusion of poor, marginalized and oppressed with a
happy life in heaven and for the witch craze of the Middle Age and so on
(Starhawk 1990; cited in Clack 1999: 25-26; for reformist and radical
theologians tensions see Clack 2005: 250-261). In consequence,
Christianity is guilty of almost everything was wrong in the Western
civilization in the last 2000 years. This is why the radical feminists
consider that women cannot find anything good in Christianity or, as
Daphne Hampson (1996: 50; cited in Clack 1999: 27) remarks: “Why
anyone who calls herself (or himself) a feminist, who believes in human
Radical Feminist Theology: From Protest to the Goddess 175
equality, should wish to hold to a patriarchal myth such as Christianity
must remain a matter for bafflement”.
The attacks were directed not only towards “patriarchal
Christianity”, but also towards reformist feminist. According to Naomi
Goldenberg, another radical feminist, Judaism and Christianity,
patriarchal religions par excellence, will finally disappear. This is the
reason why, considers Goldenberg (1979: 22), the reformist feminist
theology that remains stick to the Judeo-Christian tradition have no
chance; the only “salvation” is the total brake loose from this patriarchal
Jesus Christ cannot symbolize the liberation of women. A culture
that maintains a masculine image for its highest divinity cannot allow its
women to experience themselves as the equals of its men. In order to
develop a theology of women's liberation, feminists have to leave Christ
and Bible behind them. Women have to stop denying the sexism that lies
at the root of the Jewish and Christian religions.
From Protest to the Goddess
Therefore, a deity vacuum that remained after the repudiation of
God had to be fulfilled. The radical feminists needed a very different
deity from the “male” Christian God, a feminine one. Daly did not agree
with the Goddess, but it seems that this feminine deity was the only
functional alternative. In 1979, Naomi Goldberg was already talking
about “the changing of the Gods” and the replacement of the Christian
God with the Goddess, an indication that the association between radical
feminist theology and the neo-pagan movement had been already realized.
Obviously, few factors and circumstances facilitated this association. In
the same period when Mary Daly was writing about the inextricably
patriarchal character of Christianity and the necessity for the women to
give up the Male-God, providing a critique of the established patriarchal
religion, the Hungarian refugee Zsuzsanna Budapest initiated Susan B.
Anthony Coven #1 in Los Angeles and published the lesbian-feminist
manifesto The Feminist Book of Lights and Shadows (1975), providing an
alternative symbol system and ritual practice calling upon women-
identified women to reclaim the ancient religion of the Goddess. The
publishing of the WomanSpirit magazine (1974) by the lesbian couple
Constantin-Iulian Damian 176
Ruth and Jean Mountaingrove provided a forum where women could
share their non-traditional spiritual experiences, visions, and rituals, many
of them affirming the cycles of the female body and an affinity between
women and nature. Finally, Marija Gimbutas, by publishing The Gods
and Goddesses of Old Europe unwittingly supplied a history through her
analysis of the symbolism of the Goddess in the religion of Palaeolithic
and Neolithic Old Europe (Christ 2002: 80).
We consider that the pre-existing witchcraft groups as Susan B.
Anthony Coven #1 and Wicca (especially Dianic Wicca) inspired and
substantially contributed at the birth of a new religion or rather a new
religious movement, generally called the Goddess movement that P. Reid-
Bowen (2007: 15) defines as:
[A]n umbrella term for a diverse array of spiritual orientations and
perspectives whose membership can generally be linked by a shared
reverence for female sacrality and goddesses (or a single Goddess) and an
associated interest in matriarchal or matrifocal cultures and societies.
The Goddess movement is the outcome of the meeting between
antichristian discourse of the radical feminists and the neo-pagan
feminine deity. However, this newborn religion needed a theology,
history, ethics, etc. to create its identity. As Reid-Bowen (2007: 15)
depicts, the most important activities of women from within Goddess
movement are the creation of “alternative goddess and woman-centred
spiritual orientations to the world (and/or recreating or re-connecting with
an ancient pre-patriarchal spirituality)”. In the next pages, we will insist
on the theology of the Goddess (or, more correctly, thealogy), a
constructive endeavour intended to give her an identity, and we will try to
underline few of the basic characteristics of this creative process.
Thealogy: imagination and constructiveness
Naomi Goldenberg proposed thealogy as an alternative term for the
theology of the Goddess, considering that the doctrine of the followers of
this feminine deity should not be called theology. “In Greek, theos” she
argues “is the word for a masculine god. Thea is the word for ‘goddess’
and is a more appropriate root for a term referring to theories of feminist
Radical Feminist Theology: From Protest to the Goddess 177
witchcraft. The word theology has also come to be used almost
exclusively in regard to Christian godtalk” (Goldenberg 1979: 96).
This essential characteristic of thealogy as a counter-weight to
Christian theology is also underlined by Carol Christ (Christ 2002: 79)
who considers that thealogy developed “in reaction to the limitations of
Christian and Jewish theologies”. The dualism of the traditional theology,
including transcendence-immanence and monotheism-polytheism does
not describe with accuracy the meaning of the Goddess. Thealogy should
develop alternative ways of thinking, alternative conceptual tools and
alternative methodologies to those that have been deployed by traditional
patriarchal theology (cited in Reid-Bowen 2007: 27).
Being a counterweight to the theology, thealogy rejects everything
that might associate it with the “male” way of doing theology. This
attitude is obvious in the issue of the method. Because of its fear of
contamination from patriarchal methodologies, thealogy searches its own
original method. However, such an approach is very difficult considering
the fact that theology already “monopolized” and “used” all traditional
research methods. In this situation, the appropriate tactic was Daly’s
“methodicide”. By associating methodology with patriarchy, (Mary Daly
called it “methodolatry”, considering the method one of the false gods of
theologians and philosophers) (1985: 11-12), in the same spirit of the
protest against patriarchy, thealogy repudiates any method. It is more
adequate for the feminist thealogical approach the “non-method”, a
position that permits, as we will see, an extraordinary flexibility (Reid-
Bowen 2007: 28-29).
By comparison with theological methodology, thealogy’s
expository, hermeneutical and constructive approaches – developed in
different degrees –, are radically different. First, thealogy does not engage
in exposition because it does not recognize any authoritative sacred text
or revelation, situation that makes commentary and exposition irrelevant.
In fact, the term “thealogy” was invented by the neo-pagan priest and writer
Isaac Bonewits in the middle of the 70s. He defines thealogy as “Intellectual
speculations concerning the nature of the Goddess and Her relations to the world in
general and humans in particular; rational explanations of religious doctrines, practices
and beliefs, which may or may not bear any connection to any religion as actually
conceived and practiced by the majority of its members” (1989: 268).
Constantin-Iulian Damian 178
About hermeneutics, things are different. Thealogians are engaged in a
wide-ranging and eclectic reading of religious narratives from across the
world, albeit they interpret them in a feminist way, characterized by the
suppression of the patriarchal elements and the emphasizing of the female
empowering ones (see Reid-Bowen 2007: 28-29, 32). Finally and the
most important, thealogy not only uses, as Reid Bowen considers, it is a
Although Sallie McFague (1987: 35-36; cited in Reid-Bowen 2007:
37) speaks about theology as “an imaginative human construct”
considering that theology have to be pragmatic in its attitude towards
religious representations, metaphors, and models, and to be ready do
adapt to situations, times and visions of the world, this characteristic is
more appropriate to thealogy. Nevertheless, such a constructive
endeavour is much more present in thealogy than in traditional theology
for few reasons. First, in contrast with traditional religions, as mentioned
above, thealogy does not have a corpus of authoritative and sacred texts
(e.g. Torah, the Bible, the Koran) and consequently any thealogian have
complete freedom to “imagine” and “create”. Even it finds inspiration in a
variety of sources (the beliefs of pre-Christian Europe, Oriental,
Amerindian or African mythologies), as Carol Christ (1979) suggests,
“these traditions are filtered through modern women’s experiences.
Traditions of Goddesses’ subordination to Gods, for example, are
ignored. Ancient traditions are tapped selectively and eclectically, but
they are not considered authoritative for modern consciousness”. Second,
the only authority is the subjective experience of the woman. The same
Goddess thealogy often begins with an individual woman’s
dissatisfaction with the male imagery of biblical religion. Her experience
of the Goddess, which may have come to her through reading, dreams,
ritual, or meditation, becomes authoritative for her. She may then share
her experiences and ideas with friends, start or find a ritual group. (Christ
Thealogy’s subjectiveness and eclecticism create enough room for
the manifestation of the “imaginative human construct”. Of course, such a
method – or rather “non-method” – has many advantages, starting with
Radical Feminist Theology: From Protest to the Goddess 179
the capacity of being personalized by any follower and ending with the
continuous renewal and adaptation to the times.
Constantin-Iulian Damian 180
Inventing a mythology
Although this plurality and eclecticism appears to be beneficent, it
makes the Goddess an ambiguous deity and endangers her identity in the
religious field. This is why thealogy needs a footing. Therefore,
something interesting happens: thealogy appeals to mythology. Rejecting
all the myths as patriarchal and oppressive, thealogy had to invent a
gynocentric Goddess mythology which to be the footing, the starting
point, and a source of inspiration for Goddess feminists. Significantly, in
contrast with other mythologies, the myth of the Goddess does not ground
on a sacred text or tradition; instead, in the same imaginative spirit, it is
constructed from “a combination of intuition and historical research” (see
Christ 2002: 85). Obviously, intuition is much better represented than the
historical research. For instance, Monique Wittig’s recommendation
(apud Rountree: 56) is illustrative:
There was a time when you were not a slave, remember that. You
walked alone, full of laughter, you bathed bare-bellied. You say you have
lost all recollection of it, remember … You say there are no words to
describe this time, you say it does not exist. But remember. Make an
effort to remember. Or, failing that, invent.
Although, according to some theories, the Goddess has been the
central deity of the religions from the European continent since Upper
Palaeolithic (sometime 30,000 years ago), the majority of the theologians
are not so audacious; they limit Goddess’ “date of birth” to Neolithic
(about 10,000 B.C.). To summarise, thealogians affirm that before the
Indo-European people’s invasions, the agrarian society of Europe was a
matriarchal and matrifocal one, which venerated a feminine supreme deity
(the Goddess). Corroborating this information with the presumed
peaceful, non-violent and harmonious character of the Neolithic society,
thealogians conclude that the feminine deity and matriarchate lay at the
bedrock of an “earthly Paradise”. Nevertheless, violent, war-loving, and
patriarchal Indo-Europeans destroyed this perfect society and replaced the
feminine deity with their masculine warlike gods. Consequently, violence,
war, and oppression of the weak installed in a once peaceful Europe.
Afterwards, in the next millenniums, the cult of the Goddess (and
feminine deities in general) was the victim of persecutions and was
hushed up by the followers of the masculine deities. This process of
Radical Feminist Theology: From Protest to the Goddess 181
driving away the Goddess from the scene ended with Theodosius the
Great, who destroyed the last strongholds of this time-honoured religion
(see Christ 2002: 80, 84-85; Rountree 2003: 56; Radford Ruether 1983:
47-52; Thornton 1999: 194-207).
Despite especially Marija Gimbutas’ archaeological documentation,
this theory is far from being accepted by the majority of scholars.
However, with this in mind, we can observe few interesting things. First,
thealogians do not seem to be very preoccupied with the scientific validity
of this contested theory. Apparently, they are not looking for irrefutable
historical proofs to attest the cult of the Goddess in prehistoric past, but
an anchor point from where to start in fabricating a religious system.
Second, this artificially created/imagined myth of origins obviously
maintains the antichristian characteristic depicted above. Thus, while the
Goddess/goddesses denote(s) peace, harmony, and kindness, the
masculine gods (especially the Christian God) imply war, violence,
aggression. Consequently, the modern Western culture, with all its
problems: greed, consumerism, wars, destruction of the nature etc., is the
outcome of patriarchy and especially of Christianity. The suggested
solution to all these problems is “simple”: the banishing of patriarchy and
Christianity and the return to the Goddess. Finally, this myth has a
missionary role if we bear in mind that this fallacious theory spreads
especially in the universities. Interpreting archaeological discoveries in
the feminist religious key (a process of “engendering archaeology”),
reputed academics and feminists as Marija Gimbutas transform Goddess
mythology in a scholarly discipline, contributing in this way, on one
hand, at creating a scientific image of this mythology, and on the other
hand at spreading a false knowledge into the wider culture (Thornton
1999: p. 179).
We may conclude that this fabricated gynocentric mythology has a
double role: it creates the footings of the Goddess feminism and
challenges the patriarchal myths proposing itself as an alternative.
Hereby, the “creation” of a mythology proves that imagination and
subjective constructivism are not enough to make a “religion” work and
even though the Goddess movement wants to be different, finally it needs
at least one set point.
Constantin-Iulian Damian 182
The Goddess: symbol and/or ontological reality?
The eclecticism and the emphasis on personal experience give
thealogy not only the constructive character, but they also represent a
wellspring of metaphors, images and symbols of the Goddess. We have
already mentioned the advantages of such an approach. Nevertheless,
there are some disadvantages. We mention only two of them: the
ambiguity of the concept of Goddess and its extreme subjective character,
reflected in the multitude of ways that its followers perceive this deity.
Thus, the Goddess has the capacity to adapt to any follower accordingly
to his/her needs and necessities, not vice versa. Therefore, for some the
Goddess is a relatively abstract concept that works only as an
“emancipatory metaphor” or as a symbol of the network of personal,
political or cosmic energies of all the living beings of the Universe. For
some others, the Goddess is the deity of the woman’s soul. Finally, many
consider that she is a real concrete feminine deity towards whom they can
pray and who intervenes in people’s lives (see Raphael 1999: 55-58).
Consequently, we distinguish two primary approaches to the
Goddess. The first one considers the Goddess a symbol or a metaphor
created to bolster up contemporary women’s progress and affirmation.
The second conceives the Goddess as an ontological reality, an actual
As a symbol, the Goddess is, first, the symbol of feminine power’s
legitimacy and beneficence, in contrast with the negative image that
women have in biblical religions, starting from the doctrine of the original
sin. Second, the Goddess validates the bodily experiences and life cycle
of women, including menstruation, motherhood, and menopause, and
restores the relation between man and environment, a relation destroyed
by the patriarchal religions. Thirdly, it represents a positive valuation of
the women’s willpower and energy, previously considered evil (see here
Eve’s sin). Carol Christ (1979) underlines that “[a] woman is encouraged
to know her will, to believe that her will is valid, and to believe that her
will can be achieved in the world, three powers traditionally denied to her
in patriarchy”. Finally, the Goddess is very important for the revaluation
of women’s bonds and heritage. The women’s bonds to each other (as
mothers, daughters, colleagues, sisters, lovers etc.) recover through the
Goddess their true value. Above all, the symbol of Goddess legitimates
Radical Feminist Theology: From Protest to the Goddess 183
and underlies the feminist approach in the same way the symbol of God
legitimized the oppressive patriarchal attitude of the last millenniums (see
Christ 1979). In sum, the Goddess “is a collective symbol of women’s
needs, values, and experiences” and it seems that the Goddess is so
meaningful for women especially because she is female (Shinn 1984: 183,
As we have already mentioned, such a perception of the Goddess
(as a symbol) has numerous advantages, but the most important is the fact
that when the “liberating” significance of the symbol will erode, a new
one, more congruent with the times, will easily replace it. However, not
all thealogians share the same opinion about the Goddess. For some of
them, the symbols, metaphors, and images of or about the Goddess are
related to a real existence of the Goddess as deity. Likewise, the Goddess
is not only an “opportunistic construct” or a psychological projection, but
also a real deity, with whom they relate (Reid-Bowen 2007: 36).
As an “ontological reality”, the Goddess has the same anti-
patriarchal and post-traditional character. If God is seen as transcendent,
spiritual, disembodied, rational, sovereign and male, the Goddess is
“transcendent and immanent, embodied, passionate, sexual, relational,
and female” (Coleman 2005: p. 236). In contradistinction to patriarchal
God, the Goddess is not an “exterior power”, from “outside” the world,
but she reflects the sacred power or essence from humanity and nature.
While thealogians consider the concept of “transcendental deity” as the
bequest of patriarchal monotheistic religions and associate it with an
extreme deism, the Goddess is considered immanent, but an immanence
that is identical with the intrinsic power of Earth, nature and humanity.
Hence, Earth is the body of the Goddess who grants, takes back and
regenerates life, an allegation that suggests pantheism.
While the more
reserved thealogians prefer to interpret this as a panentheism, others
From thealogians point of view, Christianity is a hierarchical system, where
man serves God and nature serves man. Therefore, man can abuse nature as he wishes
and this is why Christianity is guilty for the desacralization of nature and, consequently,
for the contemporary ecological disaster. To this deism, thealogy opposes a quasi-
pantheistic perception of nature as body of the Goddess. Thus neither deity, nor human
beings are radically distinct from nature. The nature’s identification with the body of
Goddess is seen as the only way to resacralize the nature and to make man responsible
for nature (See Christ 2002: 81, 87, 89-90).
Constantin-Iulian Damian 184
consider the Goddess a pantheistic principle that rules out any form of
transcendence. Although it seems that those two standpoints are
contradictory, in thealogy they do not exclude each other (Salomonsen
2002: 145). Thealogians consider that the Goddess is beyond any
dualism, she is “and-and”, she is not the subject of the dichotomy “or-or”.
Likewise, the Goddess is at the same time the both extremities of any
polarity. As Carol Christ states, “she is rational and other than rational;
transcendent and immanent; light and dark; one and many” (2002: 88).
More than that, the Goddess is simultaneously manifested and hidden
deity (in the common sense of the term) and manifested and hidden other-
than-deity. Jone Salomonsen who, after she studied a witchcraft group
from San Francisco, succeeds in systematizing the anarchy of Goddess’s
significations makes this necessary distinction. Accordingly, as “other-
than-deity”, the Goddess is perceived as an “internal force”, “a metaphor
for the life-generating powers and for the principle of creation throughout
the universe”; as an “external force”, she is “an anthropomorphic symbol
believed to mediate and express divine action and being” (Salomonsen
2002: 146). More detailed, there are four aspects of Goddess: (1) as
manifest other-than-deity, she represents the principle of creation and is
immanent in all beings, a metaphor for the life-generating powers; (2) as
hidden other-than-deity, she is ultimate, indefinable mystery, “the silent
part of Deep Self”, and no symbol can represent her in this aspect; (3) as
hidden deity, she is the subject of naming, getting many names and
disguises and so she appears as plural goddesses; (4) finally, as manifest
deity, Goddess is virtually present in all beings and she and humans can
“meet, merge and become as one” (Salomosen 2002: 146-148; for other
exemplifications and field observations about how the Goddess is
perceived see Griffin 1995: esp. 40-46).
However, without a reference point (sacred text or tradition),
without a method and underlain only by imagination and creativity,
thealogy does not reach its purpose: to “create” a deity which to be a
viable alternative to the Christian God. The only certitude is that the
outcome, the Goddess, is completely different from the Christian God. As
Kristi Coleman (2005: 236) suggests:
Radical Feminist Theology: From Protest to the Goddess 185
The substitution of Goddess in place of God is not a mere sex
change or 'God-in-a-skirt'. The contemporary notion of the Goddess, in
some sense is, in fact, a deconstruction of God. This at times leads to a
reductionistic claim that the concept is a mere reaction to the patriarchy.
The Goddess is never simply an inversion.
Through thealogy and Goddess, the radical feminist theology
succeeded in accomplishing the most wanted break from God and
Christianity. Nevertheless, despite all the systematizations, the Goddess
remains an ambiguous and strictly subjective principle. The thealogy’s
worldview, anthropology, ethics etc., all characterized by an antichristian
spirit, do not really succeed in creating a logic and coherent religious
system. In fact, thealogians created a deity in their own image.
For the History of religions, not the number of the follower makes
this new religion significant, but the fact that this movement is the result
of a constructive process started from radical reaction to Christianity,
continued with the searching of a new deity and with the effort to
historically legitimating it, and ended with a more or less coherent
From a Christian point of view, the “negotiation” and
“reconsidering” of God or, when needed, His repudiation in an artificially
created and circumstantial deity’s favour lead nowhere else than to
spiritual surrogates. Far from representing an alternative to Christianity,
the Goddess movement born from the radical feminist theology could not
outrank, despite all thealogians’ efforts, the statute and stage of a diffuse
spirituality, with syncretic practices and an uncertain doctrine. It does not
succeed more than placing itself in the vast field of contemporary neo-
paganism and alongside other diffuse spiritualities from under the
generous umbrella of New Age.
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