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The very suggestion of a unified tradition implicit in the idea of the word orthodox renders its meaning problematic for the simple reason that conceptions of any religion's traditions are notoriously pluralist. Moreover, the term is hardly universal, since it is seldom applied to indigenous traditions around the world, even though there are some beliefs and practices within each aboriginal group that might be regarded as orthodox to some practitionersfor example, the Plains peoples in North America regard the Sundance as an "orthodox" rite. Generally the articulation of a theological system is one requirement of an orthodox tradition, and indigenous traditions rarely have such a publicly acknowledged construction. Despite its problems, though, major religions continue to use the term, and believers, external observers, and sometimes scholars find it useful. In the contemporary period, it embraces notions of the traditional, conservative, basic, and customary, all of which point to a normative idea about a religion's self-understanding. Because history, rituals, institutions, and doctrines all combine in manifold ways in each religion, orthodoxy really has to be understood from within each religion. Key notions will be drawn from diverse religious traditions.


Christianity, for example, has a major group of churches whose links to each other in a single communion constitutes the Orthodox Church. Adherents look back to the great ecumenical councils and even to Jesus's apostles as the root of their identity, but the groups that make up national churches known as autocephalous (meaning that they are in full communion with each other, but independent of external, patriarchal authority) also acknowledge autonomous churchesthat is, those that are not in full communion with them (usually because of some jurisdiction issue). Other issues related to identity also play a role; Orthodox Christianity makes much of its connection to the Greek fathers, has adopted the Julian calendar, affirms the validity of married parish priests, and gives an important place to monasticism, especially that of Mount Athos, from which the episcopacy is drawn.

Orthodox Christianity's central doctrinal difference with Western Christianity concerns the Trinity as developed by St. Augustine; Orthodoxy rejects the filioque affirmed by the Latin Church; the Latin idea was that the Holy Spirit proceeded from both the Father and the Son. Orthodoxy made the rejection of this doctrine a central fixture of its beliefs. Perhaps as a result, a different spirit is to be found in Orthodox liturgy, where the worshipper is encouraged to experience the presence of God in the sacraments, the icons, and the beauty of the rituals. This emphasis implies an engagement with God's mystical presence in many forms, whereas the Western Church emphasizes the person of Jesus Christ as the principal focus of that engagement.

Beyond this reference to particular institutional churches, however, one must acknowledge that Christianity in general holds certain notions to be orthodox: the idea of a sacred writing called the Scriptures, the role of the community of believers, the church, the central place of Jesus Christ in the understanding of revelation, and a firm commitment to the concept of God. While each of these doctrines is configured according to each group's theological instincts, all Christian groups insist on these conceptions as normative, and in some sense they all see them as existing from the beginning of the tradition. Feminist theologians have raised questions about the representativeness of such "orthodoxies," since, they hold, the orthodox theologians ignore the patriarchal substratum within which conventional theology was framed. The feminist claim is to a more authentic equality and inclusionary model before the official orthodoxy shaped the accepted discourse. Despite these claims, one point seems convincing: included in the term orthodoxy is the idea that it reflects a loyalty to the original or authentic content and expression of the religion.


Religious orthodoxies are not necessarily historically ancient. Judaism's distinctive Orthodox tradition is fairly recent: 1791. In this year, France recognized Judaism as a separate religion. This was partly in response to Moses Mendelssohn's influence, but also to Hasidism (established by Shem Tov [17001765]), which became an international movement emphasizing the return to the fundamentals of the tradition. By the beginning of the nineteenth century it had become clear to practicing Jews that the Orthodox way of life could be demarcated from those who affirmed a reforming vision of the tradition. Those who believed that the law, whether oral or written, was divine came to be known as Orthodox; for them, Torah could not be subject to modernization or cultural alteration, as the Reform Tradition insisted should be done.

For the Orthodox believers, however, the central ideas of their faith had nothing to do with Reform doctrine. Rather, Orthodoxy was based on limitations on the kinds of food that could be eaten under the laws of kashrut, proper observance of the Sabbath (i.e., restraint on activities on the day of rest), and a vigorous commitment to family purity. In effect, Orthodoxy was (and is) home-centered in ways other Judaic traditions were not, for the purity of the family arose out of relations between husband and wife and could not be observed by outsiders, while the laws of kashrut were principally practiced in the home. A life of training at home coupled with school-supported teachings and solid synagogue attendance constituted the main parameters of the Orthodox way of life; a corollary of this approach was (and is) a certain reluctance toward participation in modern life and even a trend towards isolation, especially in the face of contemporary secularism.

These beliefs have institutional impact; a central perception is that both non-Orthodox rabbis and converts to Judaism are beyond Orthodoxy and hence outside the community of those who practice the true Torah life. Consequently, community membership is hence strongly defined. In North America, Orthodox communities have steadily maintained their presence through an emphasis on the Hebrew language, yeshivot (day schools), and a trained rabbinate through Yeshiva University. Such an emphasis on a "true" Torah education also sets the Orthodox tradition apart from believers in the Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist branches of modern Judaism. The experience of the Orthodox in Judaism highlights the fact that orthodoxy is not always rooted in religion's antiquity.


Islam also reflects how difficult it is to define the term orthodoxy, even for a tradition that holds that the umma (the Islamic community) is theoretically united as one because God is one and He has given one divine Scripture, the Koran. There is, for example, no word in the Koran that is equivalent to the English word orthodox. Western writers often regard Sunnism, the tradition to whom the majority of Muslims belong, as orthodox, and many introductory texts define orthodoxy that way. But such a view is not valid, because Shiism, the other important group in Islam, does not regard Sunnism as defining Muslim orthodoxy for a variety of reasons, and even Sunnis would be reluctant to regard their beliefs as "normative," implying that others are not, because the Koran insists that one's true religion is to be judged by God, not by humans.

Moreover, contemporary Islam has been challenged by Islamism, or fundamentalism, which cuts across traditional distinctions between Sunni and Shii and embraces a neoconservative ideology that its practitioners regard as orthodox. Part of the doctrine of that stance involves an antipathy to all non-Muslim ideas and cultural expressions. Currently the West, in all its cultural diversity, is the object of that negative reading. This perception of Islamic orthodoxy is rejected by both mainstream Sunnis and Shiis.

Some scholars prefer to regard Sunnism as an orthopraxy, meaning that the way of life developed by most Muslims around the world reflects important common elements of belief and practice. The formation of a normative path for the believer to walk, particularly by means of the shari'a (Islamic law), became the preferred idea. Insisting on such a view accords with Sunni notions of their own tradition, because at a critical time in its development (c. 900 c.e.), Islamic doctrine moved away from Greek intellectual categories and the use of the mind to construct theologies. Such a movement reduced the input of the mind in constructing the true understanding of Islam. Still, even Shiis would accept that restriction with some modifications.

Jewish Orthodoxy

Of all the things you can teach, Gemara (explanations of the Mishna) is more important than anything else. Gemara is everything. It is Torah sheh ba'al peh' (the Oral Law). It's the real stuff. Everything else will follow. In this world it is Torah sheh ba'al peh', which is the harder way, not the sweet way; it's demanding. But we also give them what the guys call "bags of candy." We always laugh about it. They themselves call other studies bags of candy after a while. The rabbi calls it that, too. He says, "Okay. Give out bags of candy."

source: Murray Danzger, Returning to Tradition: The Contemporary Revival of Orthodox Judaism. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), p. 118.

Despite these important qualifiers, orthodoxy does have a place in Islamic self-expression. For example, the Koran itself implores, "guide us in the mustaqiam [straight] path" (1:6), thereby implying that there is a singular way of being Muslim that all should follow. Moreover, Muslims have always valued the noun salaam, a word whose meanings include soundness of being, an attribute of God, as well as peace; in its verbal form it means "surrender" or "submit," and in another form it gives the name of the religion, Islam. Furthermore, submitting to God is held to bring a special perfection to the human being, a perfection called salaam. Finally, from the Koran, the verbal form waqaa, which means to protect, defend, or preserve, has a noun form taqwa, god-fearing or righteousness. This word takes on special meanings in pious circles, for it suggests someone who lives according to normative Islam.

Some contemporary Muslim women have argued that too much of traditional scholarship, and indeed, most of the tradition since the Prophet, has been crafted without proper regard to the principles of equality. They therefore maintain that the true orthodox position of Islam was essentially gender-neutral; male scholarship subsequently skewed the true orthodox position away from women's equal rights (see Ahmed). They contend that Islam must return to the true orthodox position on gender relations. All these interpretations delineate the idea of ethical and religious exemplariness involved in any definition of orthodoxy.


Hindu tradition has always privileged diversity, and at first blush, discovering any form of orthodoxy in Hinduism may seem to be impossible. Indeed, there is no institutional form that the majority of Hindus would consider the orthodox group. Nevertheless, there are ideas within Hinduism that fulfill the notion of orthodoxy, such as those designated by the word astika, or assenting to the authority of the Vedas. Almost all Hindus would acknowledge the singular importance and basic religious authority of the collection of texts known as the four Vedas. Moreover, the ordinary believer would probably insist that the most important marker of orthodoxy is the religious activity and interpretation approved by the local Brahman; he defines normativeness for the common folk.

Scholars acknowledge that some rituals are not propounded in the Vedasrituals such as cremation, for example. Yet cremation acts are certainly smriti ("that which is remembered"); they are required acts that go beyond the Vedic record but are held to be essential for an acceptable Hindu life. Such requirements may be found in writings such as the Laws of Manu, a work that provides evidence that local custom can also be a source of the true dharma (duty). Yet once again such teachings are likely to be defined for the faithful by the most respected local authority. Those of a more philosophical bent might insist that the system of belief known as Vedanta is likely the most orthodox "theology," even where some of the notions of the philosophical system pose serious problems.

Finally, in Hinduism, even if orthodoxy is not enshrined in any one particular sect or group, it does take a social form. An orthodox Hindu social form is represented most plainly by the caste system. Following one's designated caste in everything, from how and with whom one associates, to the minutia of life (i.e., what caste the person is who prepares lunch) indicates a marker of special gravity in Hindu tradition. Hindu women are deeply affected by the traditional stance of the dharma on caste, for it has defined women's roles almost completely within the role of marriage. The subordination of women to their husbands is most graphically expressed in the rite of suttee (from the Sanskrit sati, "faithful wife"), in which the widow immolated herself on her husband's funeral pyre. Modern Hindu women struggle with the implication of an identity tied to husbands and not to their own dharma. Still, for many Hindus, whether male or female, proper caste interaction is a true measure of one's orthodoxy.

The method of final salvation that I have propounded is neither a sort of meditation, such has been practiced by many scholars in China or Japan, nor is it a repetition of the Buddha's name by those who have studied and understood the deep meaning of it. It is nothing but the mere repetition of the "Namu Amida Butsu," without a doubt of his mercy, whereby one may be born into the Land of Perfect Bliss. The mere repetition with firm faith includes all the practical details, such as the three-fold preparation of mind and the four primordial truths. If I as an individual had any doctrine more profound than this, I should be left out of the Vow of the Amida Buddha.

source: Honen's Pure Land Buddhism. In Ryūsaku Tsunoda, Wm. Theodore de Bary, and Donald Keene, compilers, Sources of Japanese Tradition. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1958), p. 208.


The issue of orthodoxy in Buddhism has been a matter of no little disputation; the earliest form of the teachings of the Enlightened One (the Buddha) held sway for several centuries before the variety of Buddhist converts pushed the tradition to embrace doctrinal diversity. The "original" dharma, meaning the teachings or truth taught by the Buddha, was embodied in a sangha, or religious order, which encompassed both lay and ordained disciples. These "three jewels"the Buddha, dharma, and sanghaconstitute the fundamental building blocks upon which the worldwide Buddhist community rests. Yet the tradition became so diversified and those who pursued enlightenment so far removed from the milieu of ancient India, where the Buddha flourished, that three distinctive ways or "vehicles" developed: the Theravada, the Mahayana, and the Vajrayana.

The Theravadans hold that they are loyal to the original Buddhist tradition, insisting, then, that they are orthodox in their teachings. They are often dubbed Hinayana ("Little Vehicle") by rival Buddhists, implying that they have restricted the means of enlightenment to a single kind of experience. Both the other vehicles, however, hold that they are just as orthodox. They maintain that they accept other cultural frameworks for configuring the dharma and they notably give great significance to the Bodhisattva in the practice of Buddhism. For the ordinary believer, weighed down by the chores of life, the assistance of one who has completed the way is a magnificent boon: the Bodhisattva puts off entering into nirvana in order to assist those who are less endowed with good karma by transferring some of the merit obtained in the process of enlightenment to the less advanced searcher for enlightenment.

Debates about orthodoxy arose largely because of Buddhism's swift successes across manifold cultural frontiers, and these debates pitted those committed to the earliest texts and most common social forms associated with earliest Indian Buddhism (termed the Way of the Elders) against more manifold expressions. Buddhist orthodoxy, then, rests upon claims of authentic connection to the ideas, doctrines, and social forms deemed consistent with those of this early period. Those committed to the Theravadan tradition believe that theirs most closely follows these normative dimensions of that early Buddhism. Others insist that their enlightenment truth is the same (i.e., is orthodox) but that the formulas for expressing it in human language must be diversified in order to appeal to humans in their rich cultural environment. Initially such groups designated themselves as Mahayanist or "Big Vehicle."

In addition, Mahayanist tradition developed several philosophical schools as ways to comprehend the true impact of the Buddha's teachings for all kinds of minds. One of the most important of these was begun by a Brahman convert called Nagarjuna. His position is referred to as the "Middle Way," or Madhyamika. It is sometimes regarded as the most orthodox of the many schools in Mahayana Buddhism. Nagarjuna declined to debate whether or not one could talk about what is absolutely real. He insisted, rather, that anything that could be claimed to be real had to be "empty" of self-essence or absolute truth claims. This was because all the evidence around us in the world of phenomena points to the fact that nothing is permanent. Nagarjuna noted that everything appears to have an essence that abides forever, but in truth it does not. Thus what is true must be empty of such claimsit is truly "nothing" in its most authentic expression.

His orthodoxy of thought is often contrasted to orthodoxy of practice, such as that expressed in the great Yogacara school of meditation practice developed by a bhiksu, or monk, named Maitreya (270350 c.e.), who insisted on the momentariness of all conscious awareness. Once one had meditated to the point where the false nature of substance became apparent, one could then proceed to the point where consciousness itself would merge into ultimate reality. His sketch of the processes of meditation provided the foundation for subsequent meditational developments and hence took on a kind of conservative orthodoxy. The citation of these schools as orthodox shows that the term relates to fundamental stances toward what is real or what exists.

Buddhist women in particular have no problem with the traditional religious understandings of the way, whichever of the three vehicles they belong to, but more and more they are objecting to the social restrictions imposed by the patriarchal structures of the Buddhist societies in which they live. Traditionally, monks were regarded as superior to nuns, and seldom were female practitioners of any Buddhism school accorded a leadership role. Monastic codes almost always insisted that females adopt a male stance in order to progress along the path. Currently women are insisting on the equality expressed by the Buddha's original teachings, a notion of orthodoxy that differs considerably from the norm. In the final analysis, the case of Buddhist orthodoxy raises the issue of whether orthodoxy's meaning can be limited to a single linguistic or cultural expression. Rather, it might well rest upon a core intuition which is then embodied in many cultural forms and languages, all of them ultimately unreal but all provisionally necessary for human knowledge.

This survey does not exhaust the religious environments in which the ideas of orthodoxy flourish, but what has been noted here should throw into relief some of the key ideas and affirm the multidimensionality of the term. Since the very use of the word implies exclusion, it runs counter to the more positive instincts of inclusion important today, especially in the West. Still, orthodoxy reminds us again of the immense power that religious affirmation and division have encapsulated in the human family.

See also Buddhism ; Christianity ; Hinduism ; Islam ; Judaism ; Orthopraxy ; Religion .


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Earle H. Waugh

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Orthodoxy has been an integral part of Russian civilization from the tenth century to the present.

The word Orthodox means right belief, right practice, or right worship. Also referred to as Russian Orthodoxy or Eastern Orthodoxy, all three terms are synonymous in Orthodox self-understanding. Orthodoxy uses the vernacular language of its adherents, but its beliefs and liturgy are independent of the language used. The Russian Church is Eastern Orthodox because it maintains sacramental ties (intercommunion) with the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople. This differentiates it from Oriental Orthodox groups such as the Nestorians, Monophysites, and Jacobites who broke with Byzantium over doctrinal and cultural differences between the fifth and eighth centuries. The distinctive characteristics of Orthodoxy in comparison with other expressions of Christianity explain some unique features of Russian historical development.


Orthodox theology is generally characterized by a strong emphasis on incarnation. It upholds Christian dogma related to the life, teachings, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as expressed through Christian tradition shaped by the Bible (both Old and New Testaments), the earliest teachings of the Christian leaders in the second to fourth centuries (the Church Fathers), and the decisions of seven ecumenical or all-church councils held between the fourth and eighth centuries. God is understood to be creator of the universe and a single being who finds expression in the Trinity or three personsFather, Son, and Holy Spirit. Although the essence of God is unknowable to human beings, they can gain knowledge of God through nature, the revelation of Christ, and Christian tradition. God is described as eternal, perfectly good, omniscient, perfectly righteous, almighty, and omnipresent.

Human beings are described as possessing both body and soul and having been originally made in the image and likeness of God. The image of God remains, although the divine likeness is seen as corrupted by original sin, a spiritual disease inherited from Adam and Eve, the first humans. Thus, Orthodox doctrine does not support the idea of total human depravity as defined by the fourth-century western theologian St. Augustine of Hippo. The goal of human existence in Orthodox theology is deification, often described using the Greek term theosis. Humans are understood to be striving for the restoration of the divine likeness, becoming fully human and divine following the example of Christ.

Incarnational theology is expressed in popular practice as well as in dogma. Holy images or icons express incarnation through religious paintings that provide a window into the redeemed creation. The subjects of icons are God, Jesus, biblical scenes, the lives of saints, and the Virgin Mary, who is referred to as Theotokos (God bearer). Icons are holy objects that are always venerated for the images they represent. Some icons also are believed to have divine power to protect or heal. Miracle-working icons are sites of divine immanence, where the energies of God are physically accessible to the Orthodox believer. Immanence is also seen in holy relics, graves, and even natural objects such as rocks, fountains, lakes, and streams.

liturgy and worship

The Orthodox faith is expressed through the Divine Liturgy a term synonymous with Eucharist, Mass, or Holy Communion in Western Christianityand other services. All Orthodox services center around the prayers of the faithful; for Orthodox believers, worship is communal prayer. Monasticism had a particularly strong influence on the Russian liturgical tradition. From the sixteenth century, worship in parish churches imitated the long, complex forms found in monasteries. The structure of the Orthodox liturgy has unbroken continuity with the earliest forms of Christian worship and has remained basically unchanged since the ninth century, just before the conversion of Russia. Russian as a written language traces its origins to the work of two brothers, Cyril and Methodius, who were missionaries to the Slavs in the ninth century. The Russian Orthodox Church has maintained the language and forms of worship that it received from Byzantium during the tenth century, including the use of Old Church Slavic as a liturgical language. As a result, the Russian Orthodox liturgy sounds archaic and at times even incomprehensible to modern Russians.

Orthodox worship includes the seven sacraments defined by the Roman Catholic Church (baptism, chrismation, Eucharist, repentance, ordination, marriage, and anointing of the sick). Orthodox theologians frequently note, however, that their church's sacramental life is not limited to those seven rites. Many other acts, such as monastic ton-sure, are understood to have a sacramental quality. Baptism is the rite of initiation, performed on infants and adults by immersion. Chrismation, also known as confirmation in the West, involves being anointed with holy oil and signifies reception of the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Eucharist lacks any theological interpretation of transubstantiation or consubstantiation. Instead, the transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ is explained as a mystery beyond human understanding. Communicants receive both bread and wine, which are mixed together in the chalice and served to them by the priest on a spoon. Repentance involves confession of sin to a priest followed by an act of penance (in Russian, epitimia ). Ordination is the sacrament for inducting men into clerical orders. The Orthodox ceremony of marriage is distinctive in its use of crowns placed on the heads of the bride and groom. Anointing of the sick, as known as unction, is not reserved for those who are dying but can be used for anyone who is suffering and seeks divine healing.


Orthodox believers are served by three types of clergy: bishops, priests, and deacons. All clergy are male and are differentiated by the color of their liturgical vestments, which are in turn related to their form of ecclesiastical service. Married priests and deacons who serve in parishes are called the white clergy (beloye dukhovenstvo ), while those who take monastic vows are known as the black clergy (chernoye dukhovenstvo ). Men who wish to marry must do so before being ordained. They cannot remarry, either before or after ordination, and their wives cannot have been married previously.

Marital status decides clergy rank. Married clergymen can be either priests or deacons who are ordained by a single bishop and can serve in either monasteries or parish churches. Priests assist bishops by administering the sacraments and leading liturgical services in places assigned by their bishop. Deacons serve priests in those services. As long as his wife is alive, a member of the white clergy cannot rise to the episcopacy. Should his wife die, he must take monastic vows and, with very rare exceptions, enter a monastery. Bishops are chosen exclusively from the monastic clergy and must be celibate (either never married or widowed). A new bishop is consecrated when two or three bishops lay hands upon him. He then becomes part of the apostolic succession, which is the unbroken line of episcopal ordinations that began with the apostles chosen by Jesus. Bishops can rise in the hierarchy to archbishop, metropolitan, and patriarch, but every bishop in the Russian Orthodox Church is understood to be equal to every other bishop regardless of title.


The rise of Kiev in the ninth century as the center of Eastern Slavic civilization was accompanied by political centralization that promoted the adoption of Orthodox Christianity. The process of Christianization began with the conversion of individual members of the nobility, most notably Princess Olga, the widow of Grand Prince Igor of Kiev. Her grandson, Prince Vladimir, officially adopted Orthodoxy in 988 and enforced mass baptisms into the new faith. Vladimir's motives for this decision to abandon the animistic faith of his ancestors remain unclear. He was probably influenced both by a desire to strengthen ties with Byzantium and by a need to unify his territory under a common religious culture. The story of Vladimir's purposefully choosing Orthodox Christianity over other faithsa story that is difficult to substantiate despite its inclusion in the Russian Primary Chronicleplays an important role in Russian Orthodoxy's sense of divine election. Christianity spread steadily throughout the Russian lands from the tenth to thirteenth centuries, aided by state support and clergy imported from Byzantium. Close cooperation between political and ecclesiastical structures thus formed an integral part of the foundations of a unified Russian civilization. Slavic animistic traditions merged with Orthodox Christianity to form dvoyeverie ("dual faith") that served as the basis for popular religion in Russia.

The years of Tatar rule (the Mongol Yoke, 12401480) gave an unexpected boost to the spread of Orthodox Christianity among the Russian peoples. The collapse of the political structure that accompanied the fall of Kiev forced the church to become guardian of both spiritual and national values. Church leaders accepted the dual task of converting the populace in the countryside, where Orthodoxy had only slowly spread, and promoting a new political order that would avoid the internecine political squabbles among princes that had led to the Mongol defeat of Russia. The church accomplished its political goals by backing leaders such as Prince Alexander Nevsky for his defense of Russia against western invaders (he was canonized for his efforts). Conversion of the masses took place largely through the efforts of monastic communities that spread throughout Russia during the period of Mongol domination. Hesychastic or quietist spirituality based on meditative repetition of the Jesus Prayer fed the proliferation of monasteries under the influence of St. Sergius of Radonezh (13141392), founder of the Holy Trinity Monastery outside Moscow. Monastic leaders gained significant political influence, as evidenced by St. Sergius's blessing of Prince Dmitry Donskoy as he marched his army to victory over the Mongols at Kulikovo Pole in 1380.

Moscow emerged as the true political and religious center of Russia by the middle of the fifteenth century. The senior bishop of Russia acknowledged his support for the Muscovite princes and their drive to reunify the Russian state by moving to Moscow in 1326. The Russian Orthodox hierarchy declared independence from Byzantium after the Council of Florence-Ferrara (14391443) where Constantinople tried in vain to solicit western military aid in return for acceptance of Roman Catholic policies and dogma. Church leaders promoted a messianic vision for Muscovite Russia after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Having broken Mongol domination, Muscovy understood its role as the only independent Orthodox state to mean that it must defend the true faith. The description of Moscow as "the Third Rome" captured this messianic mission when it came into use at the beginning of the sixteenth century.

Russian political power grew increasingly independent from Orthodoxy in the Muscovite state, however, and church leaders struggled with the consequences. During the early 1500s, a national church council sided with abbots who argued for the rights of their monasteries to accumulate wealth ("possessors") and against monastic leaders who advocated strict poverty for monks ("nonpossessors"). The possessor position promised greater political influence for the church. Tensions between secular and ecclesiastical power increased under Tsar Ivan IV ("the Terrible," 15301584), although the Stoglav Council held in 1551 issued strict rules for everyday Orthodox life. The struggle for succession to the throne following Ivan's death also brought religious instability by the end of the century. Success in elevating the Moscow metropolitan to the rank of patriarch in 1589 added to the church's influence in defending Russia from foreign invaders and internal chaos during the Time of Troubles (15981613). Rivalry developed between secular and ecclesiastical powers by the middle of the seventeenth century when Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich disagreed with the prerogatives claimed by Patriarch Nikon. Nikon's position was undermined by the Old Believer schism (raskol ) that resulted from his attempts to reform Russian Orthodoxy following contemporary Greek practice. Nikon was exiled and eventually deposed on orders from the tsar, who with other Russian nobles of the time became fascinated with Western lifestyles and religion. Limitations on the power of institutional Orthodoxy increased through the second half of the seventeenth century.

Orthodoxy in the imperial period (17031917) was heavily regulated by the state. The authoritarian, Westernized system of government implemented by Peter I ("the Great") and his successors meant that secular Russian society lived side-by-side with traditional Orthodox culture. The Moscow patriarchate was replaced with a Holy Synod in 1721. Church authority was limited to matters of family and morality, although the church itself was never made subservient to the state bureaucracy. Western ideas had a striking influence on the clergy, who became a closed caste within Russian society due to new requirements for education. Church schools and seminaries were only open to the sons of clergy, and these in turn tended to marry the daughters of clergy. The curriculum for educating clergy drew heavily on Catholic and Protestant models, and clergy often found themselves at odds with both parishioners and state authorities. Monastic power declined due to government-imposed limitations on the numbers of monks at each monastery and the secularization of most church lands in 1763. Monastic influence recovered in the nineteenth century with the emergence of saints embraced by Russian believers who saw them as models for piety and social involvement. An intellectual revival in Orthodoxy took place at this time, when writers including Alexei Khomyakov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Vladimir Soloviev sought to combine Orthodox traditions and Western culture. Various leaders in church and state also embraced panSlavism with an eye toward Russian leadership of the whole Orthodox world.

Twentieth-century developments shook Russian Orthodoxy to its core. The revolutions of 1905 and 1917 weakened and then destroyed the governing structures upon which the institutional church depended. The emergence of a radically atheistic government under Lenin and the Bolsheviks promised to undermine popular Orthodoxy. Nationalization of all church property was quickly followed by the separation of church from state and religion from public education. Orthodox responses included the restoration of the Moscow patriarchate by the national church council (sobor ) of 19171918 as well as an attempt by some parish priests to combine Orthodoxy and Bolshevism in a new Renovationist or Living Church. In reality, the institutional church was unable to find any defense against the ideologically motivated repression of religion during the first quarter century of the Soviet regime. Neither confrontation nor accommodation proved effective within emerging Soviet Russian culture that emphasized the creation of a new, scientific, atheistic worldview. The Stalin Revolution of the 1930s accompanied by the Great Terror led to mass closures of churches and arrests of clergy.

Orthodoxy remained embedded in Russian culture, however, as seen by its revival during the crisis that accompanied Nazi Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Soviet policy toward the Russian Orthodox Church softened for nearly two decades during and after World War II, tightened again during Nikita Khrushchev's de-Stalinization campaign (19591964), and then loosened to a limited extent under the leadership of Leonid Brezhnev (19641982). Mikhail Gorbachev turned to the church for help in the moral regeneration of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s. This started a process of reopening Orthodox churches, chapels, monasteries, and schools throughout the country. The collapse of the Soviet Union accelerated that process even as it opened Russia to a flood of religious movements from the rest of the world. Orthodoxy in post-communist Russia struggles to maintain its institutional independence while striving to establish a position as the primary religious confession of the Russian state and the majority of its population. It faces the dilemma of accepting or rejecting various aspects of modern, secular culture in light of Orthodox tradition.

See also: architecture; byzantium, influence of; dvoeverie; hagiography; metropolitan; monasticism; patriarchate; religion; russian orthodox church


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Edward E. Roslof

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The concept of orthodoxy is variously used as: (1) a historically specifically located term; (2) a descriptive-analytic term to describe traditions or writers that may not describe themselves by that term; and (3) a titular self-description in various religious communities (e.g., Modern Orthodox Judaism, Greek Orthodox Church). Often, orthodoxy is juxtaposed with orthopraxy, whereby orthodoxy would apply more appropriately to cognitivist traditions, such as Christianity and its emphasis on faith and theology, rather than to traditions that define themselves along behavioral lines, such as Judaism and Islam with their emphases on religious law. This juxtaposition is artificial, however, since Judaism and Islam, as well as Christianity, develop discourses of orthodoxy and authenticity.

The historical origin of the concept of orthodoxy (from the Greek word for correct or normative faith) as the antonym of heresy (Greek, faction) can be traced back to early Christian literature. Conceptually, orthodoxy emerges as a by-product of the early Christian practice of heresiography, whereby the two antonyms were aligned with other oppositional pairs, such as, importantly, truth and its perversions. To a large degree, the heresiographers opted to define orthodoxy by what it was notnamely, the aberrant heresiesrather than to formulate what orthodoxy actually entailed. First-century writers such as Josephus (37c. 100 CE) could still employ the term heresy in the sense of school of thought, as in his description of the various schools of thought in first-century Judaism (Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and potentially Zealots). Hence, this first-century phenomenon is most often described as sectarianism rather than as a struggle for orthodoxy. To Josephus, none of these groups constituted an orthodox versus a heretical version of Judaism, or an exclusionary normative Judaism from which the others were to be excluded as deviant marginal groups. What distinguishes the heresiographical texts of the second half of the second century and onward from first-century writers such as Josephus is precisely this shift in meaning from heresy as a school of thought, still subsumed under the umbrella of the larger category term of Judaism (in Josephuss case), to heresy as a deviant aberration from the true religion, hence to be excluded from its boundaries of identity. Only the latter allows a notion of orthodoxy as the true, authentic version of Christianity (and subsequently Judaism) to emerge.

It may be debatable as to the degree to which the early Christian leader Paul already engaged in a heresiographical practice in his epistles without resorting to the concept of heresy when in his Epistle to the Galatians (1:67) he denounced his opponents as those preaching another gospel and thereby perverting the gospel of Christ. However, it appears that the first author of what turned into the genre of Christian heresiography was Justin Martyr (100165 CE) with his Refutation of all Heresies, a text that is no longer preserved. Subsequently, Irenaeuss treatise Adversus omnes haereses (Against All Heresies, 185 CE) drew on Justins work, and from then on heresiographies present a distinct genre of Christian literature and theology. Around the same time, Jewish writers, such as the authors of the earliest Rabbinic text, known as the Mishnah (c. 200 CE), began to adopt heresiographical practices.

The early Jewish and Christian debates were carried out in a context in which the writers lacked the support of institutional or political authority. A case may be made that these strategies of self-representation contributed to, if not entirely caused, the institutional consolidation of the Catholic Church, ultimately backed by the political authority of the Roman Empire, and the rabbinical leadership of the Jewish community at the end of the late antique period.

The heresiographers employed a number of strategies to render persuasive their notion of the true and therefore authoritative or normative version of theology and practice. One strategy to establish authenticity was to attribute historical or chronological priority to their norms. For example, the early rabbis claim that their traditions or their oral Torah was already given to Moses on Sinai (Mishnah Avot 1:1), and the Christian heresiographers attribute their teachings to the first apostles and ultimately Jesus himself. The historical priority of authentic traditions is subsequently secured by chains of traditions that lead from the source to each respective heresiographical author. Heresies then are represented as groups (them) that split off from the normative tradition and perverted it, versus the projected us who continue the authentic and original tradition. This classic strategy of self-representation is employed in various other religious contexts, often in order to disguise innovative practices and beliefs. In the case of early Judaism and Christianity, this strategy was so successful that modern historians have often assumed such claims to be descriptive rather than recognizing them for their rhetorical work.

Another strategy of the heresiographers was to adduce and at the same time reduce the origin of what they wished to portray as false belief to a founding figure whose name would give the denounced faith its name. Paul juxtaposes the idea of following Christ with merely following Paul, Apollo, or Cephas (Peter) in his argument against divisions in the early church communities (1 Cor. 1:12). Subsequently, heresiographers provide lists of named and supposedly nameable groups who may not have described themselves by those names, as Justin Martyr does in his Dialogue with Trypho : Some are called Marcionites, some Valentinians, some Basilideans and some Saturnalians, and some others by other names (Martyr 1930, p. 70), just not the name Christians. This strategy allows for contrasting these marginalized categories of groups with the universal unnamed category employed to promote the appearance of authenticity, whether that is represented by terms like orthodox and catholic (Greek, universal) in the Christian case, or Israel versus groups such as Sadduceans and Boethusians in the early Rabbinic case. Both these strategiesthe attribution of historical priority to that which is promoted as authentic, and the reduction of opponents to marginal movements contrasted to ones own universalityare repeated in numerous other conflicts, mostly of a religious nature.

While the concepts of orthodoxy and heresy have specific historical origins, and are mostly used in the contexts of religious practices and religious studies as well as in sociology of religion, they have come to be used more broadly in various other disciplines and subject matters. Any established tradition or symbolic order perceived as truth, as the law, or as political consensus can be described as orthodoxy, and anyone diverging therefrom as heterodox or heretic. A discipline of study may be legitimated by one normative methodology, leading to a perception of innovative approaches as heterodox or heretic.

In the social sciences, Pierre Bourdieu (19302002) elevated the concepts of orthodoxy and heresy to methodological principle in his analysis of social behavior, accompanied by a third concept, doxa. In his classic work Outline of a Theory of Practice (1977), he defines orthodoxy as a system of euphemisms, of acceptable ways of thinking and speaking the natural and social world, which rejects heretical remarks as blasphemies (Bourdieu 1977, p. 169). Hence, orthodoxy is always a social fiction, a socially established convention in the realm of discourse. Doxa, on the other hand, refers to the preverbal taking-for-granted of the world that flows from practical sense (Bourdieu 1990, p. 68). At times, Bourdieu maps all three terms on class distinctions in that doxa is the product of a system of domination. Accordingly, he defines doxa as the viewpoint of the dominant, which disguises itself as universal, neutral, or objective, and which the dominant classes have an interest in defending, whereas the dominated have an interest in pushing back the limits of doxa and exposing the arbitrariness of the taken for granted (Bourdieu 1977, p. 169). Doxa is a stronger tool of domination because it is an ensemble of fundamental beliefs which do not even need to affirm themselves in the guise of an explicit dogma, conscious of itself (Berlinerblau 2001, p. 346), that is, orthodoxy. Hegemony and orthodoxy are interchangeable. The heretic then is the person, a prophet or homo academicus, who discovers some unrecognized belief about the world that supplies the means of thinking the unthinkable.

Bourdieu is not the first to translate the concepts of orthodoxy and heresy or heterodoxy, originally coined in a religious context, into analytic vocabulary for sociological and political analysis, but his is the most influential to date.

SEE ALSO Bourdieu, Pierre; Christianity; Galbraith, John Kenneth; Hegemony; Judaism; Kuhn, Thomas; Religion; Revolutions, Scientific; Roman Catholic Church; Science


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Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert

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or·tho·dox·y / ˈôr[unvoicedth]əˌdäksē/ • n. (pl. -dox·ies) 1. authorized or generally accepted theory, doctrine, or practice: monetarist orthodoxy | he challenged many of the established orthodoxies. ∎  the quality of conforming to such theories, doctrines, or practices: writings of unimpeachable orthodoxy. 2. the whole community of Orthodox Jews or Orthodox Christians.

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orthodoxyChrissie, Cissy, kissy, missy, prissy, sissy •dixie, pixie, tricksy, Trixie •chintzy, De Quincey, wincey •efficiency, proficiency, sufficiency •Gypsy, tipsy •ditzy, glitzy, itsy-bitsy, Mitzi, ritzy, Uffizi •Eurydice •odyssey, theodicy •sub judice • prophecy • anglice •chaplaincy • policy • baronetcy •governessy • Pharisee • actressy •clerisy, heresy •secrecy • statice • captaincy •courtesy •dicey, icy, pricey, spicy, vice •stridency • sightsee •bossy, Flossie, flossy, glossy, mossy, posse •boxy, doxy, epoxy, foxy, moxie, poxy, proxy •bonxie •poncey, sonsy •dropsy, popsy •biopsy • heterodoxy • orthodoxy •autopsy

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