Saturday, December 5, 2009

Yes, Eastern Orthodoxy is Christian!

This is a rejoinder to Robert Morey's book "Is Eastern Orthodoxy Christian?"

Sidenote: These are my own personal oppionions, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Church. Any error in this post must be pointed at me, and not Mother Church. However, any truth in this post must be pointed at Mother Church, and not me.

Robert Morey wrote a book about something he knows very little about.

In Chapter one of "Is Eastern Orthodoxy Christian?",

He says on Page 15 that Eastern Orthodoxy started out well. He speculates from what happened in Acts chapter 2:10 that many Jewish converts went back to their homelands and converted other Jews into the Christian Faith. He then fantasizes about how glorious and wonderful the Church and it’s pastors were. However, he has no documentation for this. He just declares it and expects us to take his word for it.

He goes on to talk about how hostile the early Egyptian Church was to Pagan philosophy.
He quotes Dr. Frend, the professor of Church history at the University of Glasgow to support his argument that the early Egyptian Church was against pagan philosophy. However, neither the New Testament nor the Apostolic Fathers that he quotes say anything about Christianity in Egypt. And the context of the "heretics" in his quote of Frend is most likely in reference to Valentinus, Basilides , The Heretic Cerinthus, Simon Magus, and maybe Marcion....and all of their followers.

The evidence we do have about Jews in Egypt is that some of them did make use of Hellenistic philosophy. Philo was such an Egyptian Jew. Also Morey is either ignoring or just doesn’t know the stronghold that Hellenism had on "Egyptian Jews". Not to mention Palestian Jews.

As seen from the Jewish Encyclopedia

"At Alexandria.

It was, however, in Alexandria that Jewish Hellenism reached its greatest development. Here, freed from the national bonds which held it firmlyto tradition in Palestine, Hellenistic Judaism became more Hellenistic than Jewish (see Alexandria). It is not true to say with Güdemann ("Monatsschrift," xlvii. 248) that Hellenism had no appreciable influence upon the development of Judaism; its influence was appreciable for many centuries; but it was driven out of the Jewish camp by the national sentiment aroused in the Maccabean and Bar Kokba revolts, and in forming the bridge between Judaism and Christianity it lost whatever permanent influence it might have possessed. Since that time, even in Egypt, the classical home of Hellenism, rabbinical Jewish communities have flourished that have borne no perceptible trace of the movement which made Alexandria great."

Also there is some evidence that even Palestinian Jews were influenced by Hellenistic culture. As Seen here, here, and here.

The Jewish Encyclopedia says:

"It was especially in eastern Palestine that Hellenism took a firm hold, and the cities of the Decapolis (which seems also to have included Damascus) were the centers of Greek influence. This influence extended in later times over the whole of the district east of the Jordan and of the Sea of Gennesaret, especially inTrachonitis, Batanæa, and Auranitis. The cities in western Palestine were not excepted. Samaria and Panias were at an early time settled by Macedonian colonists. The names of places were Hellenized: "Rabbath-Ammon" to "Philadelphia"; "Armoab" to "Ariopolis"; "Akko" to "Ptolemais." The same occurred with personal names: "Ḥoni" became "Menelaus"; "Joshua" became "Jason" or "Jesus." The Hellenic influence pervaded everything, and even in the very strongholds of Judaism it modified the organization of the state, the laws, and public affairs, art, science, and industry, affecting even the ordinary things of life and the common associations of the people."

So according to the evidence we have, it seems as if the Jews in Egypt were already Hellenized way before the first advent of Christ. We also know that the Jews in Palestine were not immune to the spread of Hellenism either.

The name "Nicodemus" is a greek name.

John 19:39
"He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds."

Alot of the cities in Palestine had greek names.

He talks about how 1st Clement never quoted any Stoic writer to supprt his convictions about the Stability of the Universe, but clement wasn’t in Egypt. He was in the West. And just because someone makes use of Pagan philosophy, that doesn’t mean they agree with everything the philosopher said. A prime example of this is Saint Paul in Acts Chapter 17 when he quotes Aratus.

Acts 17:28
'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'

He mentions Polycarp who was the Bishop of Smynia not Egypt, and his pupil Irenaeus moved to Gaul(modern day France). Non of this tells us about early Egyptian Christianity.

On page 16 Morey continues with the idea that the Egyptian Jewish Church eventually attracted gentile converts. Eventhough he is talking about early Eastern Orthodoxy he makes it seem as if the "churches" were like some sort of Reformed Baptist egalitarian congregational gathering with the repetitive use of words like “the pastor” or “the Jewish pastors”. You didn't have an "egalitarian congregationalism in the mid second century". Well wait, you did among some of the Gnostics.

He mentions how the Jewish pastors were thrilled to have gentile converts. I wonder where Morey got this from? Did he invent this from thin air? How does he know they were happy at first? Also the traditions of Eastern Orthodoxy are broad. You can't just focus on Alexandria as if that's the only origin of Orthodoxy. The Origin is Jerusalem, and with the Apostles going all over the place our secondary Origins spread to different regions.......Alexandria is only one of them. Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch were the early key centers of early Christianity. Later, both Constantinople, and Jerusalem joined that list.

But whatever the case, this is where his conspiracy theory begins. He develops the plot of gentiles taking over the leadership of the Church and kicking Jewish Christians out. He says the Gentile Egyptian Church persecuted the Jewish wing as a sect. I really don't see how that can be if the Jews in Egypt were Hellenistic.

He quotes Dr. Frend again to prove this point. However, the quote he gives is ambiguous. Frend mentions how in the 2nd century there were many Christians who were nonconformist Jews. In this quote he shows the enmity between Orthodox(nonbelieving) Jews and christian Jews. He mentions the essenes, but it is unclear what he is trying to say. The quote ends with the mention of an active Jewish Christianity by the year 190 A.D. that has been reduced to a sect.

Is he talking about the second Jewish rebellion? We all know they were nonconformist, but we also know that they were anti-christian as well. I don't think Morey wants to align himself with Bar Kokhba,

But From my recollection, the Ebionites were the Jewish community that were called a sect by Early Chistians. And I doubt if Morey wants to be associated with them. One can learn more about the Ebionites here and Here.

Also, around this time, Christians were bizzy converting Jews to Christianity, yet Morey says we were kicking Jews out. According to Eusebius the Third Bishop of Jerusalem, who was Jewish by the way, became a christian and helped others of the circumcision sect come back to the Faith.
as seen here "Justus, the third bishop of Jerusalem".

It would seem more likely that Hellenistic Jewish Christianity merged with it’s Hellenistic gentile counterpart. Jewish believers and Gentile believers eventually intermarried. If one looks at how Orthodox(nonbelieving) Jews worship in the synagogue with how Orthodox Christians worship in the churches. Then one will see a strong continuity of thought, ritual, and custom. Morey tries to use Dr. Frend to support his theory of the fall of Jewish Christianity in Egypt, but from the look of his quotes I doubt if Frend was talking about Egypt at all.

Any student of Church history will know that most sects and heretical groups lived side by side with the Orthodox Church. And Sometimes they were both killed and persecuted by the Pagan Roman State. During and slightly after Constantine, people were put in exile, but most of the persecution happened during and after Emperor Julian the Apostate's reign. So most heretical groups were persecuted after 360 A.D., and for the most part it wasn’t done by the Church. It was done mainly by the State.

On page 17 he asserts that the political rule of the Church was total. That’s not accurate.
He exaggerates the political arm of the state over the Church. It was the Church that eventually made the state close down the gladiatorial games. It was the laity of the Church that eventually made the state stop destroying Icons. There were times of peace as well as times of friction between the Church And State.

On page 18, Morey pretends to play God by judging the hearts and minds of early christian Egyptian clergy.

Later on the page he says:

"With the assistance of the politicians, they took over
the Orthodox Church and their pagan doctrines, rituals, attire, icons, and art
became the "holy traditions" of Eastern Christianity.

Under the leadership of the emperor and his pagan
priests, Eastern Christianity adopted the core beliefs and rituals of the
paganism around them. This made it even more popular.

The "Babylonian Captivity" of Eastern Christianity took
place between A.D. 130 and A.D. 200. It climaxed with the rise of the "Christian
Apologists." Frend comments,"

This dude keeps jumping around. On page 17 he starts out talking about the mid second century only to jump to the 4th and 5th centuries at the end of page 17, only to jump back again to the mid second century on page 18.

What Emperor in the mid second century claimed to be a christian? What Emperor in the mid 3rd century claimed to be a christian?

Who were the clergy in 2nd century Egypt that took over the Orthodox Church with the assistance of politicians? Morey is worst than Dan Brown & Jack chick with his conspiracy theories.

Also on pages 18 through 21 he totally ignores the fact that Egyptian Jews were Hellenistic. This one fact alone collapses everything he said. It makes the whole book pointless. He seemed too bizzy painting a work of fiction to even notice.

Also Morey seems ignorant of the Icons in the Holy of Holies in the once Jewish temple.(Ex 25:18-22),
Ex 25:17-22
"Make an atonement cover of pure gold—two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover. Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the Testimony, which I will give you. There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites."

The Jews bowed down in front of the footstool in the Temple(Psalm 99:1-5)
"The LORD reigns; Let the peoples tremble! He dwells between the cherubim; Let the earth be moved! The LORD is great in Zion, And He is high above all the peoples. Let them praise Your great and awesome name— He is holy. The King’s strength also loves justice; You have established equity; You have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob. Exalt the LORD our God, And worship at His footstool— He is holy."

He also seems ignorant of the fact that the Priest’s garment had pictures of pomegranates( Ex 28:31-35).
Ex 28:31-35
""Make the robe of the ephod entirely of blue cloth, with an opening for the head in its center. There shall be a woven edge like a collar around this opening, so that it will not tear. Make pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn around the hem of the robe, with gold bells between them. The gold bells and the pomegranates are to alternate around the hem of the robe. Aaron must wear it when he ministers. The sound of the bells will be heard when he enters the Holy Place before the LORD and when he comes out, so that he will not die."

The curtains had the image of cherubim (Exodus 26:1-6)
Ex 26:1-6
"Make the tabernacle with ten curtains of finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim worked into them by a skilled craftsman. 2 All the curtains are to be the same size—twenty-eight cubits long and four cubits wide. 3 Join five of the curtains together, and do the same with the other five. 4 Make loops of blue material along the edge of the end curtain in one set, and do the same with the end curtain in the other set. 5 Make fifty loops on one curtain and fifty loops on the end curtain of the other set, with the loops opposite each other. 6 Then make fifty gold clasps and use them to fasten the curtains together so that the tabernacle is a unit."

And through archaeology we see that the artifacts of the 2nd temple were highly decorated:
Relics of the 2nd Temple

A bowl used in the 2nd Temple:

An up close look at some of it's Icons:

About a century or two after the 2nd Temple, we still see Jews making use of Icons in a Synagogue in Damascus Syria: (Dura Europos)

A closer look:

A podcast interview with a conservative Jewish Rabbi:
The Illuminedheart by kevin Allen who is speaking with a Rabbi about judaism and christianity

We don't worship icons, we venerate them. There is a difference between the two. The Jews venerate the Torah as well as a few other things in the Synagogue ......not to mention the wailing wall.

Icons are not new to Jews and in Christianity we see an outgrowth from mostly Icons of signs and symbols with few human image icons, to mostly human image Icons centuries later. Eventhough christians always had Icons (depicted symbols of the Faith both in human and nonhuman form), it took centuries before the Church finally decided on the issue. Before then, you will find christians arguing with eachother or just taking a stance one way or the other. The issue of the Incarnation is what finally ended the dispute with the 7nth Ecumenical council. And so, to deny Icons is to deny the Incarnation.

"Icons and the Incarnation: 7th Christian Council" by Judith Irene Matta

"Icons ... not Idols" a talk by Paul Finley

This is from the podcast Our Life in Christ by Steven Robinson and Bill Gould.

Icons Part 1 (49:50 minutes) as seen from the website:
"This is the first of a six part series on "ICONS" from our KPXQ live radio program archives from 2004. In this program we introduce icons and what you will see in an Orthodox Church and look at the scriptures, especially in the Old Testament, that seem to prohibit the making of "graven images". Are all images "idols", and are ALL images and representations of the material world prohibited by God?"

Play Audio

Direct Link

Icons Part 2 (50:32 minutes) as seen from the website:
"In part two of "Icons" we continue to discuss the Scriptures and the post-Reformation emphasis on the "intellectual" apprehension of the rational message of the Gospel as written in the Bible. But we will see that icons are a fulfillment of the Gospel and more specifically are a logical ramification of the Incarnation of God."

Play Audio

Direct Link

To listen to the other 4 podcasts in the series, please visit the Our Life in Christ webpage.

Now lets look at what really happened in Egypt.

According to Eusebius:

"Mark first proclaimed Christianity to the inhabitants of Egypt.

(1) The same Mark, they also say, being the first sent
to Egypt, proclaimed the gospel there which he written and first established
churches at the city of Alexandria. (2) So great a multitude of believers, both
of men and women, were collected there at the very outset, that in consequence
of their extreme philosophical discipline and austerity, Philo considered their
pursuits, their assemblies, and entertainment, and in short their whole manner
of life, as deserving a place in his descriptions."

To learn more about Saint Mark, go here: "Saint Mark"

It was the Apostle Mark that was the first sent to Egypt to proclaim the Gospel there. Also, according to Eusebius, "Annianus was appointed the first bishop of Alexandria after Mark.

"(1) Nero was now in the eighth year of his reign when
Annianus suceeded the apostle and evangelist Mark in the administration of the
church of Alexandria. He was a man distinguished for his piety and admirable in
every respect."

After Annianus was Avilius

"(1) In the fourth year of Domitian Annianus, who was
the first bishop of Alexandria, died after having filled the office twenty
years. He was succeeded by Avilius, who was the second bishop of that

Credon was the third bishop of Alexandria

"(1) After Nerva had reigned a little more than a year,
he was succeeded by Trajan. It was in the first year of his reign that Cerdon
succeeded Avilius in the church of Alexandria, after the latter had governed it
thirteen years. He was the third who held the episcopate there since Annianus.
During this time, Clement was yet bishop of the Romans, who was also the third
who held the Episcopate there after Paul and Peter, Linus being the first and
Anencletus next in order."

Next in line was Primus

"(1) About the Twelfth year of the reign of Trajon, the
bishop of the church of Alexandria, who was mentioned by us a little before,
departed this life. Primus was the fourth from the apostles to whom the
functions of the office were there allotted. At the same time, after Euarestus
had completed the eighth year as bishop of Rome, he was succeeded in the
episcopal office by Alexander, the fifth in succession from Peter and

After Primus was Justus

"(1) In the third year of the same reign, Alexandria,
bishop of Rome, died , having completed the tenth year of his ministrations.
Xystus was his successor; and about the same time Primus, dying in the twelfth
year of the episcopate, was succeeded by Justus."

We are mainly talking about all the Egyptian Christians from the reign of the Emperor TIBERIUS (about 33 A.D.) to the Emperor Severus (about 211 A.D.) To find out more about Early Egyptian Christianity, please visit this Link. And to know more about the time line in question, please visit Notes on Church History by R. Grant Jones.

Also buy this book "Wade In The River" by Fr. Paisius Altschul.

Other books to get:
Jews and Christians the parting of ways 70 A.D. to 135 A.D.
History-Eastern-Christianity by Aziz-Atiya
- The Eastern Christian Churches: A Brief Survey, by Ronald G Roberson
- Timeline of Eastern Church History, by Kathryn Tsai
- The Arab Christian: A History in the Middle East, by Kenneth Cragg
- A History of Christianity in Asia: Beginnings to 1500 by Samuel Hugh Moffett
- Christians in the Arab East: A Political Study, by Robert B. Betts

Other books that are similar in topic are:
- A History of the Christian Church by Walker
- The Christian East and the Rise of the Papacy by Aristeides Papadakis & John Meyendorff
- The Orthodox Church by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware
- The Orthodox Church by Sergius Bulgakov
- The Orthodox Church by John Meyendorff
- Imperial Unity And Christian Divisions by John Meyendorff

Morey thinks the Egyptian Christian "Babylonian Captivity" happened around this time. Christians were still being persecuted in this era. Most of what he says in this chapter is pure nonsense. He ignores the real historical evidence in favor of his mythical reconstruction.

Yes, Eastern Orthodoxy is Christian! Chapter 2 - A (chapter 2)


[1] page 18, by Robert Morey, in the book "Is Eastern Orthodoxy Christian" christian scholars press 2007

[2] page 50, [3] page 62, [4] page 82, [5] page 85, [6] 109, [7] page 110 by Eusebius in the book "Ecclesiastical History" translated by C.F. Cruse, Hendrickson Publishers 1998






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