Orthodox Symbolic Books

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The Orthodox Churches follow the Nicaean-Constantinopolitan Creed as the symbol or statement of their faith; but as they admit the ecumenicity of the decisions of only the first seven ecumenical councils [see councils, general (ecumenical), theology of; councils, general (ecumenical), history of], they have been constrained in modern times to formulate their own statement of faith particularly in dealing with Catholicism and Protestantism. This has been done in a concise and definite form by a number of prelates and theologians in their Symbolic Books (symbolon or creed) whose statements and definitions, however, do not have an obligatory or infallible status as do the decisions of the ancient Church. They are authoritative, but depend for acceptance on the approbation of various authorities.

The principal confessions are: (1) The Confession of the Patriarch gennadius ii Scholarius of Constantinople, made after the fall of Constantinople in 1453 for the Sultan Mohammed II. It dealt primarily with the Trinity, the Incarnation, immortality, and the Resurrection. (2) The three answers given by the Patriarch Jeremiah II of Constantinople to the German Protestant theologians in 1576, 1579, and 1581. (3) The Confession of metrophanescritopoulos (1625), who became patriarch of Alexandria in 1636. This confession is orthodox in content, but of Protestant inspiration. (4) The Confession of Peter Moghila, Metropolitan of Kiev (163347), which was called the Great Catechism and was aimed at neutralizing the Protestant influence of the Confession of the Patriarch of Constantinople, Cyril Lukaris. The Great Catechism, written originally in Slavic and in Latin (before 1640), was then translated into Greek by Meletius Syrigus; it was approved, with some corrections, by the patriarch of Constantinople in 1643 as well as by the other Oriental patriarchs. It was published in Greek for the first time only in 1667, however. It went through numerous editions and translations into different languages. As is evident from his Small Catechism (1645), Moghila himself refused to approve the corrected translations, which had an anti-Catholic bias. (5) The Confession of the Patriarch Dositheus of Jerusalem, which was approved by the Synod of Jerusalem in 1672, and was composed with definite Catholic influence in an anti-Protestant sense. (6) The Catechism of the Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, which in its third edition (1839) was modified in accord with the anti-Protestant reform of 1836. It went through many editions. (7) The Encyclical of the four Oriental Patriarchs, headed by the Patriarch Anthimus VI of Constantinople in 1848. This letter was a negative response to the invitation of Pope Pius IX for union with the Catholic Church. (8) The Encyclical of the Patriarch Anthimus VII of Constantinople (1895) in answer to a letter from Pope leo xiii.

The authority of the Symbolic Books among the Orthodox varies. The Confession of Peter Moghila and that of Dositheus are accepted for the most part by the Greeks and Slavs, while the Catechism of Philaret is considered as a Symbolic Book only by the Russians and Slavs and is ignored by the Greeks. The significance of the Encyclical of 1848 was increased by Khomiakov who considered it as the foundation for his ecclesiology. In former times the Symbolic Books were greatly esteemed; during the last few decades, however, critical voices have been raised against them because of either the Catholic or the Protestant influences under which they were proposed. The Confession of Gennadius II was never accepted by all the Orthodox churches as an authentic expression of orthodoxy. The Confession of Metrophanes Critopoulos, even though a private work, enjoys considerable authority among many Greek Orthodox today. According to the Orthodox leaders it will be the obligation of a future pan-orthodox council to decide what kind of obligatory authority should be given to the Symbolic Books.

Bibliography: e. j. kimmel, Monumenta fidei Ecclesiae Orientalis, 2 v. (Jena 184350). j. michalcescu, Die Bekenntnisse und die wichtigsten Glaubenszeugnisse der griechischorientalischen Kirche (Leipzig 1904). a. malvy and m. viller, eds., La Confession orthodoxe de Pierre Moghila (Orientalia Christiana 39; Rome 1927). j. n. karmires, T δογματικ κα συμβολικ μνημε[symbol omitted]α τ[symbol omitted]ς Ορθοδόξου Καθολικ[symbol omitted] 'Εκκλησίας 2 v. (Athens 195253). a. palmieri, Theologia dogmatica orthodoxa, 2 v. (Florence 191113). m. jugie, Theologia dogmatica christianorum orientalium ab ecclesia catholica dissendentium, 5 v. (Paris 192635) 1:671682. s. zankow, Das orthodoxe Christentum des Ostens (Berlin 1928). m. jugie, Échos d'Orient (Paris 1897) 28 (1929) 423430. m. gordillo, Compendium theologiae orientalis (3d ed. Rome 1950). h. mulert, Konfessionskunde, ed. e. schott and k. onasch (3d ed. Berlin 1956) 72153. k. algermissen, Konfessionskunde (7th ed. Celle 1957) 465469. b. schultze, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765); suppl., Das Zweite Vatikanische Konzil: Dokumente und kommentare, ed. h. s. brechter et al., pt. 1 (1966) 2:148149.

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Orthodox Symbolic Books

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