Ways of Russian Theology



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The Baptism of Rus'.


Rus' received baptism from Byzantium. That act immediately defined its historical destiny and its cultural and historical road. Rus' was immediately included in a definite and previously elaborated network of ties and actions. Baptism marked the awakening of the Russian spirit. It was a summons from the “poetic” dreaminess to spiritual temperance and thought. At the same time Christianity ushered Rus' into creative and vital intercourse with the entire surrounding civilized world. Of course, one cannot and should not imagine the baptism of Rus' as a single event for which a precise date can be given. Baptism was a complex and multifaceted process; a lengthy and frequently punctuated event extending not over decades but over centuries. In any case, it began before the reign of Vladimir. “Christianity prior to Vladimir” is a much greater and better defined quantity than is usually assumed. Prior to St. Vladimir's day, cultural and religious ties were already established between Kiev and Tsar Symeon in Bulgaria[14] and perhaps with Moravia. Baptism laid claim to the legacy of SS. Cyril and Methodius.[15] Byzantine influence was not only direct and immediate (it would seem that its indirect influence came first and was the most significant and decisive one). Acceptance of the Cyril and Methodius legacy, not the direct reception of Byzantine culture, proved decisive. Direct spiritual and cultural contact with Byzantium and the Greek element was secondary to that from Bulgaria. Possibly one can even speak of a clash and struggle in ancient Kiev between elements and influences, between those of Bulgaria and those directly from Greece.

However, we still do not know in detail the history of this struggle, and it cannot be surmised or reconstructed. Differences and divergencies among such contending influences should not be exaggerated. One theory suggests that the “Greek faith” and the “Bulgarian faith” were in essence quite different, so that at the very dawn of Russian Christianity two religious ideals or doctrines contested with each other. The victor was not the joyous Christianity of the Gospels, which inspired and enflamed St. Vladimir. Instead, a different and “dark religious doctrine,” Bogomilism, triumphed.[16] Many objections can be quickly raised against such a bold interpretation. First, all efforts to separate the “faith of Vladimir,” that “joyful and triumphant Christian outlook” “free from ascetic rigorism” from that of Bulgaria betrays an incomprehensible misunderstanding. It would be more appropriate to deduce this “dark doctrine” from the Bulgaria of the priest Cosmas’[17] day, for Bogomilism was then precisely a “Bulgarian heresy.” Second, one is hardly permitted to array all of the religious life of the Monastery of the Caves[18] under the rubric of this “dark doctrine” and attribute the monastery's ascetic life to fanaticism. In any case, such a characterization scarcely describes St. Feodosii,[19] who is least of all a “dark” person. But he is undoubtedly a Grecophile personally linked with the Monastery of Studior.[20] And it should not be imagined that the “Greek faith” possessed only a single face. Great caution and precision in making distinctions is needed at this point, but one would do well to compare St. Symeon the New Theologian[21] with his opponents during this same eleventh century. Third, doubt is cast on the work of SS. Cyril and Methodius. Was their labor not a mistake or an extremely careless undertaking?[22] Does not the Slavic language of the Church mark a “break with classical culture?” Translation obscures the original and reduces the need to know Greek in that same way which compelled the West to learn the Latin language of the Church. This “absence of a classical legacy,” as one of the chief traits distinguishing Russian from “European” culture, was noted long ago by the Slavophiles, and in particular by Ivan Kireevskii.[23] However, oversimplification will not do. True, neither Homer nor Virgil was known in ancient Kiev, but it does not follow that the Slavic language of the liturgy provided the impediment. Only irresponsible hyperbole could suggest that of all the riches of Christian Hellenism, Rus' received from Byzantium only “one book,” the Bible. In any event, it is hardly true that only the Bible was translated, for a long list of other sufficiently diverse literary monuments were translated as well. One must also admit that the “scientific, philosophical, and literary tradition of Greece is absent” in Old Russia's cultural inventory. But again, this was not the fault of the Slavic language.

Most importantly, the very fact or process of translation cannot be diminished. Biblical translation has always been a major ' event in a nation's life and has always signified a particular effort and achievement. The constant sound of the Gospels in the familiar language of the liturgy obliged and facilitated the recollection of Christ and the preservation of His living image in the heart. In general, translation requires more than just a knowledge of the words; it also requires a great creative tension and presence of mind. Translation is a mental vigil and trial, not simple exercise or abstract mental gymnastics. Authentic translation always means the molding of the translator. He must penetrate his subject; that is, he must be enriched by the event and not just have his knowledge increased. Hence the enduring significance of the writings of Cyril and Methodius. Their work shaped and formed the “Slavic” language, gave it an inner Christian leavening, and infused it with ecclesiastical life. The very substance of Slavic thought became transfigured. “Slavic” language was molded and forged in the Christian crucible under the powerful pressure of Greek ecclesiastical language. This was not simply a literary process; it was the construction of thought. Christian influence was felt far beyond and far deeper than in any particular religious themes. Christianity affected the very manner of thinking.

Thus, after its conversion, eleventh century Rus' saw the sudden appearance of an entire literature written in a familiar and wholly comprehensible language. In effect, the entire library of Tsar Symeon's Bulgaria became accessible to Russian writers. Jagic[24] once made the following remark about the literature of Symeon's age: “because of the richness of its literary works of religious and ecclesiastical content, [it] could rightly stand alongside the richest literature of the time whether Greek or Latin, exceeding in this regard all other European literatures.” The present day historian of Slavic literature can fully endorse this estimate.

In any event, the outlook of Old Russia's man of letters cannot be described as narrow. The opposite difficulty and danger was actually greater: the transfer of a complete literature might overwhelm a Russian writer or reader, for a new and wealthy but utterly foreign world stood before him-a world that was too rich and remote from the surrounding national life. Once again what was most needed was psychological self-discipline and self-abstraction.

Of course the acquisition of Bulgarian letters should not be seen as a single act or an unique event. In reality their “acquisition” meant that Bulgarian writings became a source from which educated Russians could take what they wished. Bulgarian writings, however, did not obscure those in Greek, at least not during the eleventh century. At Iaroslav's[25] court in Kiev (and soon at the cathedral of St. Sophia as well), a circle of translators labored on translations from Greek. Thus, a long series of literary monuments unknown in Tsar Symeon's Bulgaria was included in the Slavic idiom.

Iaroslav loved religious rules and regulations and was devoted to priests, especially to monks. He applied himself to books, and read them continually day and night. He assembled many scribes, and translated from Greek into Slavic. He copied and collected many books. . . .

It is interesting to note that the literature brought from Bulgaria was largely related to liturgical needs (the Holy Scriptures and patristic writings for reading in the cathedrals), while at Iaroslav's court historical and secular books were more often translated.

Kiev stood at a great crossroads. No one should imagine that the Church of Kievan Rus' was cut off or isolated. During the eleventh and twelfth centuries, Kiev maintained close links with Constantinople and Mt. Athos,[26] as well as with distant Palestine, which at that time was in the hands of the Crusaders. Ties with the West, too, were constant and well developed. We can confidently surmise how the acquisition of Byzantine Christian literature, that communion with Christian culture, resounded in Rus'. The first Russian chroniclers, hagiographers, and biographers of the new and holy Rus' were raised precisely on this literature. These men possessed a definite and sensitive outlook. They were certainly not naive simpletons. One always detects a clear religious and historical tendency or conception in the development of the chronicles.

Several names are particularly relevant to this discussion. One is Metropolitan Ilarion,[27] best known as the author of the remarkable sermon On the Law of Moses Given to Him by God and on Grace and Truth [O zakone, Moiseom dannom, i o blagodati i istine] which even that constantly carping Golubinskii was compelled to describe as “an impeccable academic speech with which among modern speeches only those of Karamzin[28] can be compared,” and “[he was] not a rhetorician of the least distinguished days of Greek oratory, but a true orator during its flourishing period.” Golubinskii deemed Ilarion's sermon worthy to stand alongside The Tale of Igor's Campaign, [Slovo o polku Igoreve]. In fact, it is an exemplary model of oratorical skill. The language is free and simple. It discloses the intensity of Christian experiences and it possesses a well made and translucent structure. The sermons of Kirill of Turov[29] belong to the same literary type.

There is little point in speaking about the originality of these writers. They were under the formative influence of Byzantine letters, repeating foreign themes and exploiting well-known material. Yet for the historian it is precisely this fact which is the important and instructive one. Kirill of Turov himself reminds us that he teaches and writes “not from myself, but from books.” And “from books” he wrote ably and freely. Kirill's sermons are very dramatic, yet rhetorical '' refinement does not overcome his vital and sensitive heart. Of course his sermons are merely compilations, although they are inspired and living ones. One must also mention Klimentii Smoliatich[30]: “Such a philosopher there has not yet been in the Russian land,” the Chronicle says of him. He wrote “from Homer, from Aristotle, and from Plato.” Mention, too, should be made of St. Avraamii of Smolensk.[31] To be sure, these men were part of a minority, or if one prefers, of an ecclesiastical intelligentsia. During these early centuries there were no theologians in their ranks. But there were men of genuine Christian cultivation and culture. They made the first flights of Russian Hellenism.


Second “South Slavic” Influence

Eremitical Renaissance Ivan III and the West.


The Tatar invasion[32] was a national disaster and a political catastrophe. “The destruction of the Russian land,” as one contemporary puts it. “A pagan scourge.” “A cruel people came upon us, violating God and laying waste our land.” There is no need to lighten the colors while portraying such devastation and destruction.

However, the Tatar yoke does not constitute a separate period in the history of Russian culture. No interruption or break can be observed in Russia's cultural effort or in its creative mood and aspirations. True, culture moves or is displaced to the north. New centers develop, while old ones decline. Yet this new growth sprang from seeds previously sown and cultivated, not from the “transmission of enlightenment” from the cultured south of Kiev to the semi-barbarous northeast, as until even recently some historians have delighted in describing the process. The north had long since ceased to be wild and unknown. Situated astride a major crossroad, the Suzdal' land hardly stood as a lonely outpost.



In any case, the thirteenth century was not a time of decline or impoverishment in the history of Russian culture and letters.[33] An important series of ideological and cultural tasks was started at that time and included the Paterikon[34] of the Monastery of the Caves, the Palaea[35] (the Old Testament), and a series of anti-Jewish polemics, not to mention the sophisticated level of writing already achieved in the chronicles. As early as the thirteenth century one detects in these literary works new bonds with the Slavic south and the Dalmatian coast. The next century saw those bonds strengthened and multiplied, making it possible to speak of a new wave of “South Slavic” influence. And this new vitality did not merely echo but directly continued the new cultural movement in Byzantium correctly termed the “Palaeologian Renaissance,”[36] which captivated the new South Slavic kingdoms. Rus' was in intimate contact with Patriarch Euthymius'[37] Bulgaria during the fourteenth century, and for this reason the example of Metropolitan Kiprian is instructive. He was born in Turnovo. Later he became a monk at the Studion Monastery and then a monk on Mt. Athos. As the Greek protege and candidate, he came to Russia to occupy the office of the metropolitan. Moscow received him with great reluctance and delay. Yet this reception did not prevent him from leaving a significant mark on the history of Russian culture. As a learned man and bibliophile, Kiprian devoted himself to translations, not, however, with any great success. “He wrote everything in Serbian.” More important were his liturgical writings and concerns. He attempted to introduce Russia to the liturgical reform of the well-known Palamite, Patriarch Philotheus of Constantinople.[38] It would seem that the celebration of Gregory of Palamas[39] as a saint in the Russian Church dates back to Kiprian. Kiprian was a convinced non-possessor.[40] He was also a foreigner and a newcomer to Moscow, and quite typical of that incipient movement which he had not begun. Russian ties with Constantinople and Mt. Athos were strengthened and revitalized during the fourteenth century. Russian settlements were founded or refurbished, being settled with many inhabitants who engaged in the copying of books. One notes a sizeable quantity of manuscripts and books in Russian monastic libraries which date back precisely to this period. More importantly, these new writings form a fresh new stream. This time their content was mystical and ascetical, but once again they constituted a complete literature. Indeed, this new translation activity on Mt. Athos and in Bulgaria stems from the Hesychast movement with its deeply contemplative spirit and approach. These translations made the works of the ascetical Fathers known in Slavic literature. Such works included St. Basil the Great's[41] two homilies on fasting entitled De Jejunio, the writings of the Blessed Diadochus of Photice,[42] Isaac the Syrian,[43] Hesychius,[44] the Ladder of St. John Climacus,[45] On Love [O liubvi] , and the “Chapters” [Glavizny] by Maximus the Confessor[46] and various “Hymns of Divine Love” by Symeon the New Theologian,[47] as well as Dioptra by the monk Philipp.[48] Of particular note is the translation of the Areopagite[49] together with the commentaries made on Mt. Athos in 1371 by the monk Isaiah at the request of Theodosius, Metropolitan of Serres. Someone in Russia was reading such mystical and ascetical books.

The fourteenth century witnessed an eremitical and monastic renaissance: this is the age of St. Sergei of Radonezh.[50] One senses during these decades the powerful intensity of a new Byzantine impact in Russian Church art, particulary iconography. It is sufficient to mention the remarkable Theophanes the Greek[51] and his celebration in colors. And Theophanes was not alone, for he had many worthy disciples. Thus, during the fourteenth and part of the fifteenth century, Russian culture experienced a new wave of Byzantine influence.

Yet such new influence occurred on the eve of crisis and schism. True, the crisis had been long in the making, yet cultural self-consciousness had not been prepared for the break. The crisis was above all a national and political one linked with the growth of the Muscovite State and with the dawning of national political self-awareness. Such an awakening also required ecclesiastical independence from Constantinople. With a few interruptions, but always with great incisiveness and intensity, Moscow and Constantinople debated these themes throughout the fourteenth century. The quarrel was broken off rather than resolved. The Council of Florence[52] and the journey to that “unholy eighth council” by the Greek candidate for the Moscow see, Metropolitan (and later Cardinal) Isidore[53] served as a pretext for the break. Greek apostasy at Florence provided the justification and the basis for proclaiming independence. It was an act of ecclesiastical politics. But there were reverberations and consequences for cultural construction. Doubts and disquiet concerning the faith of the Greeks had some rational foundation. The fall of Constantinople served as an apocalyptical token and testimony (and not just in Russia was it given such an interpretation). Even much later Kurbskii[54] could write that “Satan was released from his imprisonment.” One must remember how much in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries religious consciousness became agitated and confused by eschatological expectations and by a general foreboding: “night is approaching, our life is ending.” “Behold, today apostasy is come,” Iosif Volotskii was soon to write.[55]

The first traces of the famous “Third Rome Theory” are sketched out precisely in such perspectives of apocalyptical unrest. The theory is intrinsically an eschatological one, and the monk Filofei sustains its eschatological tones and categories. “For two Romes have fallen, a third stands, and a fourth there cannot be.”[56] The pattern is a familiar one taken from Byzantine apocalyptical literature: it is the translatio imperii, or more accurately, the image of the wandering Kingdom-the Kingdom or city wandering or straying until the hour comes for it to flee into the desert.

The pattern has two sides: a minor one and a major one; an apocalyptical dimension and a chiliastic one. The minor side was primary and fundamental in Russia. The image of the Third Rome is brought into sharper focus against a background of the approaching end. “For we await the Kingdom which has no end.” And Filofei recalls the apostolic warning: “The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” History is abbreviated and historical perspective is foreshortened. If Moscow is the Third Rome, then it is also the last. That is, the last epoch, the last earthly kingdom, has begun. The end approaches. “Thy Christian kingdom cannot remain.” With the greatest humility and with the “greatest apprehension,” a perfectly preserved pure faith must be observed and its commandments kept. In his epistle to the Grand Prince, Filofei gives warning and even makes threats, but he does not use glorification. Official writers only later reinterpreted this apocalyptical theme in a panegyrical sense. By doing so, the theory became transformed into a peculiar doctrine of semi-official chiliasm.[57] If one forgets about the Second Coming, then it is quite another matter to affirm that all Orthodox kingdoms are brought together and combined in that of Moscow, for then the Muscovite tsar is the last, sole, and therefore, universal tsar. Even in its original form, the Third Rome replaces and does not continue the Second. The task is not to continue or preserve Byzantine tradition unbroken. Byzantium somehow must be replaced or recreated. A new Rome must be constructed to replace the old one, which has fallen away. “The Muscovite tsars wished to become the heirs of the Byzantine emperors without leaving Moscow or entering Constantinople,” as Kapterev had put it.[58] The conquest by the Hagarenes[59] provided the usual explanation for the fall of the Second Rome, and the “Hagarene captivity” was understood as a constant menace to the purity of the Greek faith. This fact accounts for the intense caution and mistrust in dealing with those Greeks living “in the pagan tsar's realm of godless Turks.” Thus, the Orthodox horizon began to narrow.

It took only a short step to make a complete break with Greek tradition and to obliterate any memory of the Greek past, that is, the patristic past. The danger arose that the historical ecumenical tradition might become obscured and replaced by a local and national one which would confine ecumenical tradition within the arbitrary limits of Russia's specific and national memory. Vladimir Solov'ev rightly termed it “a Protestantism of national tradition.” Of course not everyone shared this outlook. Such conclusions were certainly not reached all at once and probably no sooner than the mid-sixteenth century. But it is indicative of the way in which Greek mediation came to be completely excluded and rejected. In fact, the meaning of the story about the Apostle Andrew's sermon in Rus',[60] as amended and restated in the sixteenth century, must be understood precisely in this way. Gradually, but steadily, Byzantium's authority collapsed, and all interest in Byzantium ceased. Russia's national self-affirmation played the decisive part in this estrangement. Simultaneously Russia developed and strengthened its links with the West. By the end of the fifteenth century, many perceived the West as something more real than the destroyed and conquered Byzantium. Such sympathy is perfectly understandable and natural for practitioners of Realpolitik, that is, among men of politics. But sympathy for the West soon arose among other segments of society as well.

The marriage of Ivan III to Sophia Palaeologus is often viewed as a Byzantine restoration in Moscow.[61] In reality, the “marriage of our tsar in the Vatican” symbolized the beginning of Russian westernism. Of course Zoe, or Sophia, was a Byzantine princess, but in fact she was raised in the atmosphere of the union achieved by the Council of Florence. Cardinal Bessarion[62] served as her guardian. The marriage actually did take place in the Vatican, and a papal legate accompanied Sophia to Moscow. Despite the legate's enforced early departure from Moscow, the binding ties with Rome and Venice remained intact. The marriage quickly drew Moscow closer to the orbit of contemporary Italy and did not signify any awakened aware ness for Byzantine traditions and memories. “He lifted the curtain separating us from Europe,” writes Karamzin about Ivan III. “Expiring Greece refuses the remains of its ancient greatness; Italy grants the first fruits of its nascent art. The people still stagnate in ignorance and coarseness, yet the state is already operating according to the dictates of an enlightened mind.” Ivan III possessed an undoubted taste and preference for Italy. He brought architects from Italy to rebuild and remodel the Kremlin, the palace, and the cathedrals. “More Italico,” as Herberstein[63] reports about these new constructions in Moscow built by such famous architects as Aristotle Fioravanti,[64] Aloisio[65] and Pietro Solario.[66] The influence of Byzantium at this time was far less evident. At the turn of the sixteenth century, Russian diplomats were strenuously absorbed in building an alliance with Suleiman I. “the Magnificent,”[67] and had little time for dreams about the “patrimony of Constantine” or a crusade against Constantinople. Western states, carefully calculating the power of Muscovy in the international arena, swiftly noted this development.

There is every reason to consider Ivan III a westerner. Such a description applies even more fully to Vasilii III. The son of the “Greek Enchantress” (as Kurbskii dubbed Sophia), Vasilii took as his second wife (in a disputed marriage) the Princess Glinskaia,[68] who was raised wholly in the western manner. “Thus, the Grand Prince has altered our ancient customs.” This remark should not be confined to political or social changes. “Once again our land was in turmoil.” It is interesting to note that Vasilii III's favorite physician, Nikolai “Nemchin” (“the German”) or Bulev corresponded on such themes as the reunion of the churches. Many men of like mind surrounded him in Moscow. (These were the “modest connections” in higher ecclesiastical circles to which Golubinskii refers). It was Maxim the Greek's[69] fate to engage him in polemic and debate. Curiously, Nikolai “Nemchin” addressed himself to the Archbishop Vassian of Rostov (the brother of Iosif Volotskii) as if counting upon his sympathy or at least interest. Moreover, “Nemchin” was devoted to astrology.

Zabelin[70] has some responsible grounds for writing that many of Ivan III's policies evoke the image of Machiavelli. This applies more fully to Vasilii III, whose cruel and despotic rule, so often the object of complaint in boyar circles, more closely mimics contemporary Italian princes than it does any remote Byzantine basileus.

The Judaizers.


The Novgorodian lands had already experienced a new religious ferment as early as the fourteenth century. The “heresy of the strigol'-niki”[71] was primarily a protest against the Church hierarchy. Another and more complex movement appeared at the end of the next century: the Judaizer heresy. After capturing the leaders of the married clergy, the heresy shifted to Moscow where it “germinated” in the favorable soil of royal protection. Little is known about the movement, and even that knowledge comes from unreliable witnesses, the partisan opponents and enemies of the heresy such as Archbishop Gennadii of Novgorod[72] and especially Iosif Volotskii. Iosif's Enlightener [Prosvetitel'] constitutes the chief source.[73] There are also many important pieces of information not found in the first edition of the Enlightener which are preserved in Metropolitan Makarii's[74] Great Reading Compendium [Ireliki chet'i-minei]. Generally speaking, it is difficult to distinguish what is of primary importance from that which is secondary or even extraneous in the descriptions provided by these polemists.

The books coming from or circulating in Judaizer circles are much more reliable and instructive. They include Biblical translations from Hebrew and astrological books, as well as translations from Maimonides[75] and Algazel.[76] These translations were written in “Lithuanian,” that is, West or Southwest Russian. The Judaizer monk Zakhar, around whom the trouble started, came from Kiev. His background remains obscure. Some scholars speculate that he might have lived among the Crimean Karaite Jews,[77] or he may have had connections with Constantinople. In any case, he was a representative of Jewish learning. “Judaizer” Biblical translations were produced in a Jewish milieu for use in the synagogue (for example, the text of the Book of Daniel is divided into the two categories of haphtarah or parashah[78] according to the days of the week). Thus, the Judaizer heresy expressed intellectual ferment. “Wavering has appeared in the people and in doubting words about the Divine” (The Nikonian Chronicle). “Now in the homes, along the roads, and in the market places, monks and laymen are all in doubt and anguish concerning the faith,” wrote St. Iosif Volotskii. Judging by Archbishop Gennadii's first communications concerning the heresy, the ferment and doubts began as the result of reading books. Gennadii sought out books belonging to the heretics, such as Sylvester, Pope of Rome [Seliverst, papa Rimskii], (that is, the story of the white cowl[79] purportedly given to Pope Sylvester I by Constantine the Great) as well as Athanasius of Alexandria, The Sermon of Cosmas on the Bogomils [Slovo Koz my na bogomilov], Dionysius the Areopagite, Logic, the Biblical books of the Prophets, Genesis, Kings, and the Wisdom of Solomon. Menander[80] was also included. The list is a sufficiently diverse and disconnected one. However, the books of the Old Testament clearly stand out. Perhaps “doubts” developed precisely through the interpretation of texts. “They have altered the psalms and the prophecies,” writes Gennadii. For the same reason St. Iosif Volotskii barely gets beyond the limits of clarifying texts in his Enlightener. Apparently the Judaizers found it difficult to accept the prefigurative meaning of the Old Testament to the effect that the prophecies have not yet come to pass but still await their fulfillment. Moreover, the Novgorodian heretics failed to discover any evidence concerning the Holy Trinity in the Old Testament theophanies. Possibly an outside or Jewish source accounted for these exegetical difficulties. One should recall that precisely at that moment work was going forward on Biblical texts at the Archbishop's court in Novgorod.

Astrological themes held a special place in “Judaizer” teachings. “You study the laws of the stars and gaze at the stars and arrange human birth and life according to them,” Iosif Volotskii accuses the official Fedor Kuritsyn[81] and the archpriest Aleksei. Stargazing was directly imputed to Zakhar, “who has studied every contrivance for evil doing, as well as magic, the Black Book, the laws of the stars, and astrology.” One such astrological book mentioned by Gennadii is fully known: the Six Wings [Shestokryl], a set of astronomical tables compiled in the fourteenth century by the Italian Jew Emmanuel bar Jacob. Astrology became an object of interest in Moscow at the outset of the sixteenth century. Even Maxim the Greek undertook to write about “the power and arrangement of the stars,” and on the “German fascination for telling fortune and on fortune's wheel.” In Novgorod, Gennadii most vigorously attacked Judaizer astrology, which was being used to calculate the date of Easter in connection with the end of the seventh millenium with its expectant apocalyptical catastrophe. According to Jewish calculations, the sixth millenium was only just beginning.

There is no need to recite the full history of the “Jewish heresy” or to attempt a complete reconstruction of its “system.” Most likely there was no heretical enclave, only certain predispositions; that is, precisely those “waverings in the mind,” or rethinking, referred to in the Nikonian Chronicle.



The historical significance of the “Judaizer” movement becomes clearer when it is related to other circumstances present in contemporary Novgorodian life. Quite probably the Novgorodian heretics adhered to Moscow's point of view. That would explain why Ivan III appointed those “soul harming archpriests” to the leading positions in the Kremlin cathedrals. The heretics found protection and support in Moscow. Meanwhile, in Novgorod a great and very important theological project was being carried through: the compilation and revision of the first complete Slavic Bible. Unexpectedly, the project passed into Roman Catholic hands. Although general supervision and official editorship belonged to the episcopal archdeacon Gerasim Popovka in reality a certain Dominican friar named Veniamin possessed the decisive influence. (Perhaps he came from Cracow or Prague). “A presbyter or monk of the monastery of St. Dominic by the name of Veniamin, born a Slovenian and by faith a Latin.” This Veniamin did not come to Novgorod accidentally, and he was probably not alone. Foreigners were already gathering in Novgorod during the time when Evfimii was archbishop (1430-1458). “All who came from strange or foreign lands were received with love and given rest,”[82] wrote Pachomius the Serb. In any event, during Gennadii's day in Novgorod one observes a ferment in the Latin style. Apparently Veniamin brought prepared Biblical texts with him, for the influence of Croatian glagolitic can be detected in the language. No one in Novgorod attempted to use either Greek manuscripts or books. Nor were easily accessible Slavic materials (from the liturgical books) fully exploited. Yet the Vulgate's[83] influence clearly stands out. Whole books — Paralipomena Jeremiah, 3 Ezra, Wisdom of Solomon, 1 and 2 Maccabees -were simply translated from Latin. A German Bible published in 1500 supplied the introductory headings. Latin usage also dictated the inclusion into the text of the deutero-canonical books. One modern investigator characterized the Gennadii Bible as a “many-colored coat sewn from various tatters and patches.” I.E. Evseev[84] speaks with leeriness of its “imperceptible approximation” to the Latin Bible (“the diverting of the Slavic Bible from its Greek streambed into a Latin one”). He also notes the “very thick Catholic atmosphere” surrounding Gennadii and the outright “appearance of a militant Catholic spirit in Russian ecclesiastical life.”

During the period when Gennadii was archbishop, a good deal was translated from Latin “at the archbishop's residence.” A treatise by Guillaume Durandus entitled Rationale divinorum officiorum[85] was translated at least in extracts, with the obvious purpose for use as a guide to the work on the new liturgical statute. (Judging by the language of the translation, one would suppose the translator was a foreigner. Perhaps it was the Dominican friar Veniamin). For the purposes of polemic with the Judaizers, Gennadii instructed the well-known Gerasimov to translate the famous book by the fourteenth century Franciscan Nicholas of Lyra,[86] De Messia eiusque adventu and the writings “against the apostate Jews” by Samuel the Jew.[87] To this same period belongs the very characteristic Brief discourse against those who would violate the sacred movable and immovable property of the Universal Church (Slovo kratko protivu tekh, izhe v veshchi sviashchennyia podvizhnyia i nepodvizhnyia, s'bomyia tserkvi vstupaiutsia]. The Brief Discourse was a defense of Church property and an assertion of the clergy's full independence. That independence included the right to act “with the aid of the secular arm,” (that is, brachium saeculare). Undoubtedly, the book is a translation from Latin. Interestingly enough, the final version of saints' lives and instructional books are permeated with Latin constructions. Characteristic, too, is the special twist given to the stories of Varlaam and Ioasaf collected in Metropolitan Makarii's Great Reading Compendium. They were intended to demonstrate the superiority of ecclesiastical authority over temporal power. At the same time, anything “in the earlier redactions which spoke of the insignificance of all worldly blessings has been toned down. Both of these literary monuments relate precisely to that period when the quarrel broke out over Church properties and the relationship between Church and State. When the “Josephites” became dissatisfied with the Grand Prince's arbitrariness, Gennadii and Iosif turned to Latin sources for self-justification. In the course of his struggle with the Judaizers, when Gennadii was compelled to obtain a new Easter Cycle [Paskhaliia], or “Cycle for the creation of the world,” he sent off for and obtained one from Rome. These were hardly accidental coincidences. One should recall the critical circumstances surrounding the question of civil punishment of heretics according to the example of the “Spanish king.” Georg von Thurn, the envoy of the Hapsburg emperor, related how the Spanish king had “cleansed his land.” Orest Miller[88] once made the remark that “in its inner meaning and spirit, the council on heretic held in Moscow under Iosif Volotskii's direction was a second council of Florence.” Aside from its inaccuracy, his statement is too emphatic and sweeping. Yet in one respect he was correct: “at that moment the Latin world drew nearer to us than did the world of Greece.” In essence, one observes in the celebrated debate between the Josephite and the Transvolgan Elders a struggle between new and old, between Latin and Greek.

Gennadii of Novgorod was replaced by Serapion, a man of completely different style, who is remembered for his tragic encounter with Iosif after he had been removed from office and incarcerated. Afterward, the archiepiscopal see in Novgorod long remained vacant. Obviously the circumstances affecting the development of ecclesiastical culture under Gennadii's direction did not alter. The same cultural atmosphere and purpose persisted and found a typical representative in Dmitrii Gerasimov. As an official in the Foreign Service with important responsibilities, he traveled frequently to Western Europe, including Rome. In his youth he had worked under the direction of Veniamin in Novgorod. Subsequently, he served as a translator for Maxim the Greek. Already “in venerable old age,” in 1536, Makarii, then Archbishop of Novgorod, commanded him to translate “from Roman writing and speech” the Interpreted Psalter [Tolkovaia psaltir] of Bruno Herbipolensis (of Wiirzburg)[89] despite the fact that Maxim had been brought to Russia for the very purpose of translating such an interpreted Psalter from Greek. Gerasimov's translation stands as an epilogue to Gennadii's work.




Josephites, Transvolgan Elders and Maxim The Greek.


There exists an enormous literature about the conflict and debates between the “Josephites” and the “Transvolgan Elders,” yet the meaning of this quarrel and of the “irritations” among the Russian monastics has still to be fully revealed. Historians have addressed “their attention mainly to the debates over monastic property or to the controversy surrounding the punishment of heretics. But those issues were only superficial ones. The real struggle went on deep below the surface and was fought over the very basis and limits of Christian life and construction. Two religious conceptions or, ideals clashed. The dispute over monastic properties served only as a formal pretext, clothing this inner tension. The religious life of the people became enmeshed in this spiritual contest, thereby polarizing the national life.

A detailed inquiry into this fateful historical struggle and schism would be inappropriate here. One needs only to determine its significance for the history of Russian culture. The chief difficulty for interpretation lies in the fact that the clash was one between two truths. St. Iosif's truth is now the harder one to grasp. His shallow and haughty successors badly tarnished it. But there was undeniably a truth — the truth of social service.

Iosif advocated and persuasively preached strict communal life. Although stern and harsh, he was strictest with himself. Life in his monastery was unbearably cruel and hard, requiring an extreme concentration of will and ultimate dedication. That dedication was linked with a measured, highly ritualized, and strictly regulated routine. Iosif's idea of social service and the calling of the Church entirely defined his outlook and reminds one of Russian populism of the mid-nineteenth century (that is, of “going to the people”). During Iosif's lifetime, the need was great for the Church to play such a role. The people lacked firm moral foundations, and the burdens of life were nearly insupportable. Josif's originality derives from his theory and practice of monastic life as a kind of social organization, as a special sort of religious and national service. His ideal “community” contains many new non-Byzantine traits. Formal regulation or ritualizing of life does not obscure his ideal's inner dimension, and that spiritual core is inwardly subordinated to social service and the achievement of justice and charity. Iosif least deserves to be called indulgent. Nor can he be accused of indifference or inattention to those around him. As a great benefactor and “a person, who commiserates with the unfortunate,” he defended the ownership of monastic “villages” precisely on the basis of his philanthropical and social convictions. In fact, he received, “villages” from the powerful and wealthy so that he might share and divide their proceeds among the lower classes and the poor. Charity, not merely fear or a sense of obligation, prompted Iosif to carry out good works and convert his monastery into an orphanage and hospice, while setting aside a portion of the cemetery for burial of strangers.

Iosif includes even the tsar in this system of Godly injunctions The tsar, too, is subject to law, and he melds his power only within the framework of God's Law and the Commandments. One owes no service to an unjust or “disobedient” tsar, for he is not really a tsar. “Such a tsar is not God's servant, but a devil; not a tsar but a tyrant.” Iosif borders on justification of regicide. One can easily see how subsequent generations of “Josephites” dimmed and emasculated St. Iosif's vision. Their words became unrelated to their deeds, so that even the most learned pastors could simultaneously be very indulgent men. St Iosif's conception and plan, contains an inherent danger, which is not confined to its ordinary defects and modifications. There is a danger of excessive attention to society with a resultant reductionism or minimalism, perhaps not for oneself, but for society.

Iosif was an insatiable, if superficial, reader, and the Volokalamsk Monastery housed a rich library. One source relates that “he possessed all the divinely inspired books on the tip of his tongue.” The fact that he largely acquired this wide, if uncritical, familiarity from compendiums and miscellanies rather than from complete collections of patristic writings is of less importance. Yet all of his reading still left Iosif, indifferent to culture. More precisely, culture provided him only with those things which serve the ideals of outward magnificence and splendor, yet Iosif would not accept culture's creative pathos. As a consequence, the Josephites could frequently produce enormous and magnificent cathedrals adorned with an inspired iconography, but still remain distrustful and indifferent to theology. It was precisely this indifference that prevented Iosif from transcending the narrow limits of his reading, or becoming anything but a mechanical reader. Actually, his Enlightener [Prosvetitel'] is almost completely reducible to a series of quotations and references. Even a reserved Kazan' publisher remarked that “one can hardly describe the book as an original work, or even in the strict sense a Russian work.” Any originality it may possess finds expression only through the selection and arrangement of the works of others. Iosif's selection is quite daring, for he did not hesitate to include innovations, even western ones, if it was advantageous to do so.

This is not the place to dissect and determine what significance Josephite sermons and activities possessed for life and thought in the religious and political history of the sixteenth century. The important point is that their activities did not promote culture. Such populism (that is, “going to the people”) invariably leads directly to cultural indifference, whatever the reason for it. The concept of social justice may easily be reduced to the level, of an equilibrium and status quo which mews creative pathos as a disruptive force.

The Josephites' theological inventory was neither negligible nor limited. The best Josephites demonstrated familiarity and erudition among primary sources on doctrine, the Scriptures, and the writings of the Fathers. Iosif, and to a greater extent Metropolitan Daniil[90] freely manipulated quite varied theological materials. One cannot speak of the poverty of their data. Nevertheless, the question of creativity remains, and these references do not gainsay the fact that the Josephites read only superficially. Yet in an important sense their opponents, too, suffered from the same defect. Like the Enlightener St. Nil's[91] The Tradition to the Disciples [Predanie uchenikam] is designed more as a collection or “link” than as an original discourse.

Somewhat later, the Josephite Metropolitan Makarii[92] conceived of and brought to fruition a plan to gather together all books available in Russia. One of Makarii's collaborators calls him a “Second Philadelphia.” He succeeded in choosing literary assistants who could build from his blueprint. The presbyter Andrei (subsequently Metropolitan Afanasii), the compiler of the Book of Degrees [Stepennaia kniga][93] belonged to the “Makarii circle.” Other members of the group included the presbyter Agafon, author of the famous Creation Cycle [Mirotvornyi krug]; Savva, later Bishop of Krutitsk, who assisted the work of compiling the lives of the saints; Ermolai-Erazm, the author of many interesting works, such as his Books on the Holy Trinity [Knigi o sv. Troitse] written in the spirit of mystical symbolism. Gerasimov, a holdover from an earlier day, also belonged to the group. However, the Josephites always compiled or systematized writings, they never created or shaped them.

The Josephites cannot be portrayed as traditionalists. They hardly valued Byzantine tradition, while their own national tradition was of relatively recent origin and relatively marginal importance. The Transvolgan Elders, the opponents of the Josephites, grasped the past much more firmly the Josephites are more readily recognizable as innovators. Their iconography makes this obvious. In particular the victory of the Josephites meant the interruption or restriction of Byzantine tradition.

Of course the Transvolgan movement cannot be described simply, as a preservation and continuation of Byzantine traditions (just as Byzantium cannot be reduced to the Transvolgan movement). 'The Transvolgans formed living and organic constitution (and not merely a reflection) of that spiritual and contemplative movement which seized the entire Greek and South Slavic world during the fourteenth century. This was a renaissance in contemplative monasticism. Fundamentally, the Transvolgan movement constituted a new experiment, a new discipline and a trial of this spirit. At the outset, Transvolgans largely sought silence and quiet. Consequently, their movement, signalled a decisive departure or escape from the world, a careful surmounting of all “love for the world.” The skete, thus, became the model for their lives. Or else they chose the life of the solitary hermit. “Coenobitical” monasteries seemed too noisy and organized. “Non-possession,” that is, to possess nothing in the world, forms their road leading away from the world. The Transvolgans' truth — the truth of contemplation and intellectual construction lies in their flight from the world. Yet one must immediately add that they not only tried to surmount worldly passions and “love for the world” they also sought to forget the world, and not just its vanity, but its needs and sicknesses. They not only rejected it, but denied it as well. For this reason, whereas the Josephites continued to work in the word, the Transvolgan movement had no historical impact.

Of course the Transvolgans did not utterly abandon the world. Their second generation became entangled in political struggles and intrigues (the “prince-monk” Vassian Patrikeev[94] provides a sufficient example). However, the Transvolgans did not approach or return to the world in order to build within it. Rather, they came to argue and fight against secularization of ecclesiastical life and to advertise and insist upon monastic withdrawal from the world. Such was the meaning of their memorable quarrel with the Josephites over Church properties. The Transvolgan's refusal to take direct religious and social action served as a peculiar social coefficient to their movement.

The Transvolgan Elders built an incomparable school for spiritual vigil, which provided a spiritual and moral, preparation for theology. While in the strict sense only with difficulty can one speak of Transvolgan theology, the movement itself signified an awakening of theological consciousness. An intellectual thirst is revealed in the depths of their spiritual concentration. St. Nil of the Sora was a “silent one” [bezmolvnik]. He had no need to speak or teach. Although not a thinker, writer, or theologian, Nil appears in history precisely as an “elder” [starets] or teacher. He was a teacher of silence an instructor and guide for “mental construction” in the spiritual life.

Upon comparison with the wider contemplative tradition of Greece and Byzantium or after comparison with the Philokalia [Dobrotoliubie],[95] one discovers nothing new in St. Nil. Usually one cannot easily distinguish or separate his personal views and thoughts from the uninterrupted stream of excerpts and citations in his writing. Perhaps St. Nil's moral themes and, to a lesser extent, his definitely formed outlook provide his most distinguishing traits. However, if Nil expresses little that is his “own” which is distinguishable from generally accepted spiritual tradition, then at least he expresses it independently. He lives in the patristic tradition. That tradition lives and is alive in him. Only through a complete misunderstanding could historians Russian literature frequently find the beginnings of rationalistic criticism and the collapse of ecclesiastical tradition in St. Nil of the Sora. Such surprising speculations are constructed only in total ignorance of that tradition.

Nil of the Sora came from and remained confined to the ascetical and contemplative tradition of the ancient and Byzantine Church. One should remember that the “freedom” which St. Nil always demands also requires a simultaneous severance of “self-will.” If the Transvolgans remained indifferent to formal discipline and obedience nonetheless obedience serves as their fundamental ascetical commandment and task. “Bind yourself with the law of the divine writings and observe it” is St. Nil's point of departure, with the stipulation that “the true and divine writings” not be interpreted either in the, sense of “critical” tradition or as a confinement of the corpus of “scripture” within the limits of “Holy Scripture.” On the contrary, in this instance Nil meant the “divine” writings of ascetical literature. In doing so, St. Nil laid particular stress on the ascetical guidance, experience, and advice of “wise and spiritual men.” Orest Miller once described the Transvolgans as a “spiritual militia.” 'Their movement did amount to a kind of spiritual recruitment, but according to a very high and sensitive standard. The lives of the Transvolgan monks and saints provide a clear and moving demonstration of how their teachings were applied and transformed in life and deeds. Their inward disposition was of chief importance.

The following contrast sums up the disagreements between the Josephites and the Transvolgans: the former sought to conquer the world by means of social labor within it; the latter attempted to overcome the world through transfiguration and through the formation of a new man, by creating a new human personality. The second points the way to creative cultural growth.

The affair of Maxim the Greek provides the most celebrated and instructive episode in the history of the Josephite-Transvolgan struggle. True, in reality political motives largely determined his conviction and condemnation. Acting on his own dreams (and perhaps on direct commission), Maxim took part in political maneuvers to obtain Russian aid against the Turks. His efforts coincided with Moscow's exertions to achieve an eternal peace and alliance with those same Turks. Moreover, Maxim inveighed too greatly against autocephaly for the Russian Church.

Maxim's fate contains an inherent contradiction. As a Greek expert, he was summoned to Moscow to correct translations. Yet only with considerable difficulty could his expertise be used for that purpose. Maxim knew no Russian when he first arrived, while no one who knew Greek could be found in Moscow. This seems almost incredible. However, Maxim was able to translate from Greek into Latin. Other translators then recast the Latin into Russian: “He writes in Latin, and with a copyist we write in Russian.”

Maxim's personality is of general interest. He was not only an Athonite monk, but also a man of humanist education. “If Maxim had remained in Italy and taken a position in one of the Italian cathedrals, then we are convinced that among all of the outstanding (Greek scholars and professors then residing in Italy, he would have occupied the most important position,” wrote Golubinskii. Maxim studied in Venice, Padua, and Florence. “He was unable to obtain philosophical training in Greece because of the poverty of books” Savonarola[96] produced a strong impression on him, and later in Moscow Maxim sympathetically described the Carthusian monks.[97] Although not a humanist in the western sense of that word, Maxim may be called a Byzantine humanist. In any case, he was a man of genuine literary culture. Acquaintance with his Greek manuscripts shows that he wrote in the original and erudite literary language close to that of the Bible. He did not write in the vernacular. He himself stressed “Athenian Eloquence” [dobroglagolaniia kekropidskago]. He brought an Aldus Manutius[98] edition of the Bible with him from Venice, where he had often visited Manutius about bookprinting. While there, he met the famous Janus Lascaris.[99] Maxim totally and characteristically rejected western scholasticism. He openly admired Plato and “the formal philosophers of the supreme,” while “Aristotelian artistry” remained for him a synonym for heresy. Concerning scholasticism, he makes the following remark: “No dogma, human or divine, can firmly be considered reliable among them [scholastics], if Aristotelian syllogisms do not affirm that dogma and if it does not respond to artistic demonstration.” Maxim's religious style was also typically Byzantine.

In Moscow he primarily busied himself (or rather was busied) with translations. In addition he argued a good deal, particularly against the “gift of stargazing,” and generally against Latin propaganda, Hagarene impiety, the Judaizers, or even the Armenian heresy. Maxim also devoted himself to themes on the prevailing morality. Only a small group of students formed around Maxim, but he produced a great and powerful impression. His miserable fate and incarceration merely gave new grounds to respect his patient suffering. Thus, he was soon canonized, in 1591, during the reign of Fedor I Ivanovich (1584-98).[100] This was a belated but unambiguous rejoinder to those “sly monks called Josephites,” who censured St. Maxim for heresy and independent thinking during his lifetime.

Maxim's condition symbolizes and testifies to the break in the Byzantine succession and marks the renunciation of creative continuity. The differences between Maxim and his Russian accusers can be summarized single formula. For a “Josephite,” the “Third Rome” meant that great and newly constructed Christian kingdom Muscovy. By contrast, for Maxim, the “Third Rome” signified a City wandering in the wilderness.

Journeying along a wild road filled with many dangers, I came upon a woman kneeling with her regal head held in her hands, moaning bitterly and weeping inconsolably. She was dressed entirely in black, as is the custom for widows. Around her were wild animals: lions, bears, wolves, and foxes . . . . . “Basileia [Empire] is my name” . . .. “Why do you sit alongside this road surrounded as it is by wild animals?” And again she answered me: “O traveler, let this road be the last one in an accursed age” . . ..


Metropolitan Makarii and the Council of a Hundred Chapters.


R. Wipper, in his popular biography of Ivan the Terrible, cleverly compared the age of Metropolitan Makarii with that of the “Catholic Reformation.”[101] The Council of a Hundred Chapters (Stoglav) thus became a Russian Council of Trent. The comparison contains an undoubted truth, for during the era of Metropolitan Makarii in Moscow, there appeared an urge and endeavor to “construct culture as a system.” This was an age of compilations. Makarii's followers compiled the past; that is, they systematized Russia's national history. No renewed attention was given to the Greek example. “In the sixteenth century, the Old Russian source replaced the Greek one,” as Istrin rightly noted. Yet one must immediately recognize the peculiar fact that the work of compilation began in Novgorod. Should not this effort be connected with the labors of Archbishop Gennadii? In one sense, this sixteenth century “compiling” meant that strengthened Novgorodian habits, customs, and traditions were given a general extension. Tsar Ivan IV did not accidentally cite Novgorodian precedents and examples more often than any others in his speech and questions at the Council of a Hundred Chapters.

The Council's attempt to generalize the Novgorodian example went hand in hand with the western (particularly German) influenced undertaking of Makarii and Sylvester. The exact nature of the mutual relationship between the Select Council [Izbrannaia rada] and the metropolitan is not clear. Politically Sylvester and Makarii were different minds, but on cultural questions they came from the same mold. Breaking with the Greeks (the question of the Greek exam was entirely ignored at the Council of a Hundred Chapters) and submitting to local custom constitute the cultural and religio-psychological achievement of the sixteenth century. Custom, or the ideal of “society,” emerged victorious. The average mid-sixteenth century Muscovite's spiritual household no longer had room for the contemplative life.[102] Contemplative mysticism and asceticism-the best and most valuable part of Byzantine tradition-played no role in the conservative Muscovite synthesis. This synthesis, at once selective and tendentious, amounted less to a compilation than to an assortment defined by an overarching idea or will. However, the Athonite translation of the Areopagitica did pass into Makarii's Great Reading Compendium or Menelogos [velikie chet' i minei] and generally enjoyed an unexpectedly wide circulation and popularity. (Ivan the Terrible greatly admired the Areopagitica). One need not discuss the details of Makarii's Great Reading Compendium, which had as its design to gather into one collection “all the sacred books available in Russia.” The most important point is that Makarii not only collected the lives of saints, but he also reworked them and adjusted them in relation to each other in order to achieve a codified and systematic model of piety.

Metropolitan Makarii's literary and encyclopedic enterprises did not end with the Great Reading Compendium. His grandiose Biblical codex, which combined Biblical stories with the Palaea[103] and the Chronograph[104] [Khronograf] is no less characteristic and significant. In particular, the Pentateuch is given a free paraphrase. Curiously, this Biblical text generally does not conform to the Gennadii Bible. The codex, profusely illustrated with miniatures, still remains insufficiently studied, but it does disclose a particular cultural and historical purpose. The miniatures provide incontestable testimony and proof about the increasing strength of western influence. Generally speaking, the influence of German engravings is very noticeable in the Muscovite and Novgorodian manuscripts of the sixteenth century (the characteristic vine ornamentation taken from later German Gothic, for example). Moreover, German (perhaps Danish) influence via Novgorod is linked with the first book printing in Moscow. The Triumphal Book [Torzhestvennaia kniga] also deserves mention, for it was composed on the instructions of Metropolitan Makarii as a supplement and parallel to the Great Reading Compendium. It was compiled largely under South Slavic influence. The Book of Degrees [Stepennaia kniga] should also at least be mentioned here.

But most importantly, something must be said about the Council of a Hundred Chapters,[105] one of the most difficult and complex problems in the history of Old Russian life and law. The chief difficulty lies in the notable lack of correspondence and the obvious disjunction in the protocols of the Council between the questions asked and the answers given. The questions were posed by Tsar Ivan IV, that is, by the advisers in the Select Council surrounding him at the time. The questions are generally liberal, or in any case, reformist. They contain very many severe accusations. At the same time, there is a clear effort to achieve uniformity. The “waverings” about which Tsar Ivan complains signify precisely the varied expression of regional customs. Yet the questioners do not indicate whom they are asking or who should reply. Those giving the answers display their dissatisfaction on the point through their tenacious and stubborn insistence on past custom. Even Metropolitan Makarii hardly cared for real reform.

The Council of a Hundred Chapters, conceived of as a “reformational” council, was realized as a “reactionary” one. However, this mid-century council did express something new: the will to construct and fortify a definite order. Such a plan is embodied in that most typical monument of the age, the Ordering of the House [Domostroi]. Sometimes viewed as a picture of actual daily life or as an illustration taken from nature (a view totally unjustified), the Ordering of the House actually more closely approximated a party program or project, an exemplary and idealized plan, or a variety of utopia. The book is didactic not descriptive. It sketches out a theoretical ideal, but it does not depict daily reality. In fact, many elements of undoubted Russian tradition are rejected and condemned. The, trial of Matvei Bashkin[106] provides a perfect illustration of such rejection. A series of prominent Transvolgans were summoned to his trial, not as witnesses or as men of similar views, but for the purpose of condemning them. Artemii,[107] the recent abbot of the Holy Trinity-St. Sergei Monastery, and Feodorit, the “Enlightener of the Lapps,”[108] were similarly condemned. For the historian, the individual charges in these cases are not so crucial. Undoubtedly actual freethinkers were concealed in Transvolgan sketes, and undoubtedly they went too far with their “doubts.” Feodosii Kosoi[109] certainly did. Much more instructive is the desire on the part of the judges to generalize their results and findings and to give those findings a wide currency.

The affair of Ivan Viskovatyi, the prominent and influential chancellor of the Foreign Office, is especially instructive and characteristic. Viskovatyi had the temerity to openly criticize the innovations introduced by Metropolitan Makarii and Sylvester. The controversy centered on innovations in iconography. Viskovatyi was offended by the new icons painted by Novgorod and Pskov iconographers in accordance with a directive from the priest Sylvester during the cathedral's renovation after the fire of 1547. The new wall paintings done in the Golden Chamber, which was at that time under construction, also agitated Viskovatyi. It was Viskovatyi, however, who was condemned for innovation. Although a council charged him with heresy and disorderliness, it did not give any satisfactory answer to his questions and bewilderments.

The significance of the debate about icons reaches wider and deeper than is usually believed. Viskovatyi should not be portrayed as a blind defender of a dying past or as one who denied the admissibility of any creative renovation of iconography. Viskovatyi's “doubts” disclose a very profound and penetrating religious understanding.

Russian iconography reached a watershed in the sixteenth century. Novgorod and Pskov reached it first, and from there a new current spread to Moscow. It is easy to determine the importance of this new departure or movement in iconography: it constituted a break with hieratic realism and its replacement by decorative symbolism or, more accurately, allegory. The break found formal expression in the influx of new themes and new “theological-didactic” compositions, as Buslaev[110] so aptly described them. The decisive dominance of “symbolism” signified the decline of iconography. The icon became too “literary.” The idea rather than the face came to be depicted, and even the religious idea too frequently became dimmed, lost, or dissolved in artistic ingenuity and embellishment. Frequently icons of that period were simply converted into illustrations of literary texts, sometimes Biblical ones, sometimes of a worldly and apocryphal nature. Occasionally, a miniature is even transcribed over a book cover. Various influences combined to form this literary and illustrated symbolism. A considerable influence derives from the Slavic south as a last wave of the Byzantine Renaissance. But the influence of western engraving forms its exterior.

Viskovatyi correctly sensed and diagnosed this development in iconography. “I beheld that the icons in the human form of Jesus Christ Our Lord were taken down. And those which they put there are such as I have never seen and are of many terrors. I was in fear of contamination and every sort of cunning.” It was not innovations, as such, which troubled Viskovatyi. What disturbed him was the idea underlying them. He perceived that idea as a retreat to the Old Testament, a move away from the “truths” of the Gospels toward prophetic “types” or “shadows.” He took as his point of departure the eighty-second canon of the Council in Trullo (691-92): “one must portray in human form.”[111] Viskovatyi recalled that “it is not seemly to venerate images more than truth.” Therefore, Metropolitan Makarii's reply that it is permissible to paint the image of Christ in the form of an angel “according to Isaiah's prophecy,” or that the two crimson wings can be depicted “according to the writings of the Great Dionysius” could not soothe Viskovatyi. Such a reply was untimely. For Viskovatyi's “doubts” centered precisely on the point that one should not paint according to prophecies which have already occurred or come to pass, but according to the Gospels, that is, in the fullness of the historical Incarnation. “Let the glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ's human form not be diminished.” Viskovatyi did not defend the past, he defended “truth,” that is, iconographic realism. His quarrel with Metropolitan Makarii was a clash of two religious and esthetic orientations: traditional hieratic realism as opposed to a symbolism nourished by a heightened religious imagination. It was also an encounter between a strengthened western influence and Byzantine tradition. Paradoxically, this “westernism” achieved victory under the guise of “antiquity” and “compilation.”

This paradoxical element is quite evident in the make-up of Ivan the Terrible. “He was an orator of natural eloquence in written wisdom and clever in thoughts,” one contemporary says of him. Ivan IV was not merely a tolerable man of letters or a superficial reader. He possessed a genuine gift for writing. He wrote with verve and expression, although he abused his citations and quotations. He compiled such quotations into “whole books, paramias [readings from the Old Testament] and epistles,” in the sarcastic words of Kurbskii. “A man of wonderful understanding in the science of book learning and very eloquent,” writes a later chronicler. “There is grace in his words, and force in his dialects,” writes Karamzin. Ivan the Terrible undoubtedly possessed an inquiring religious mind and a fully conceived religious outlook, although it was of a somber, heavy, and lacerating sort from which he suffered and suffered too greatly. Yet Ivan IV did not only face toward the past. Men of western faith always attracted him, even if he would descend upon them with furious accusations and threats. His famous quarrel with Jan Rokyta, the “minister of the Czech [Bohemian] Brethren,”[113] is a sufficient illustration. Nor is it accidental that an enormous influx of “west Europeans” into Muscovy begins precisely during his reign. Ivan flung his preference for the West and for westerners in the face of his contemporaries. Somewhat later, the famous official Ivan Timofeev recalled with a sigh: “Alas, everything within him was in the hands of barbarians.” By “barbarians” he meant foreigners. Not only politically but culturally, Ivan IV gravitated to the West and not to Byzantium. He recognized no historical dependence on the Greeks, nor did he wish to make such an acknowledgment. “Our faith is Christian, not Greek,” he replied to Possevino.[114]

Among the writers of the sixteenth century, Zinovii Otenskii occupies a unique position. Zinovii was the author of a quite remarkable book The Evidence of Truth, for Those Who Inquire about the New Teaching [Istiny pokazanie, k voprosivshim o novom uchenii], composed in answer to the confusions arising from Feodosii Kosoi's propaganda. Zinovii writes with great liveliness and with a genuinely literary temperament, although his style is rather ponderous and his thought is not always sufficiently disciplined. One senses a great erudition in him. He not only cites evidence, but he weighs it. This is a new trait supplied by Zinovii. His chief argument is always based on a theological reasoning linked with the use of Biblical texts, which are not wrenched out of context.

Zinovii's stance in the prevailing polemics and divisions is not easy to define. He was close to Maxim the Greek. Tradition describes him as “a disciple of the saintly elder.” The spirit of Novgorodian independence is powerfully present in him. He judges and criticizes contemporary life with a great decisiveness and conviction, which echoes Maxim the Greek. However, Zinovii disagreed with Maxim and with the entire Transvolgan tradition on one very important point: he was not a non-possessor, and he defended monastic properties, sometimes with irony, but with almost Josephite-like arguments against the “prince-monk.” From the Transvolgan movement Zinovii primarily acquired a spirit of theological deliberation, a refreshing experience in spiritual life, and a general religious and moral tension in relation to life around him. In this respect he stood apart from his age. Therefore, most likely Zinovii's book on heretics remained unknown. Only Nikon makes any reference to it.

The spirit of stagnation and torpor in Moscow congealed and hardened precisely during this age of troubled conflict and recrimination.

Heresy in Moscow is borne between fools who deceitfully babble as follows: it is not necessary to study overly much the speech of books, for men lose themselves in books, that is to say, they lose their minds and thereby fall into heresy.



True, this was written by Prince Kurbskii, and it does not follow that one should generalize on this characterization. However, such an attitude remained dominant and victorious until the end of the century. On the very eve of the Time of Troubles, during the reign of Tsar Fedor, decisive ecclesiastico-political deductions were made from the “Third Rome Theory,” which by that time had become fully transformed from an apocalyptical premonition into an official state ideology. The Moscow patriarchate was established more as evidence for the independence and preeminence of the Russian tsardom than for the independence of the Russian Church (see, for example, the establishment charter). Establishment of the patriarchate was primarily a political act which reverberated in the very depths of the national spirit. It marked the final rejection of Byzantium.


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