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…Continued from Part 7

The Dogma of Redemption


by St. Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky


CrossNow let us turn to the Lord’s crucifixion and His death until the third day. Let us leave for a moment even our own interpretation of the dogma — that is, the Orthodox interpretation, even though it was forgotten by our schools — and, for a moment, take the juridical point of view. From this position it is asserted that the extreme, torturous suffering of the Son of God was necessary for Adam and his descendants to be pardoned by God. So be it; but why was it necessary for it to be crucifixion on the Cross and death, even if only for three hours? In what was the value of this great deed: in physical suffering or in spiritual torment? Suppose that the first had occurred without the second, as was the case in the deaths of many martyrs, who rejoiced during physical suffering and death; would the exploit of the God-man have been so great, so saving, even from the standpoint of punishment? Where, therefore, is the principal value of His suffering? In His spiritual torment, of course! We understand it as a co-suffering love for sinful mankind, whereas the juridical theologians understand it as His taking upon Himself God’s wrath; but it seems to me that there could be no other answer to the question I have put. In this case, what significance remains in the crucifixion, the Cross, the humiliation by the Jews and the Lord’s death itself? A very profound one, of course, and we will endeavour to explain it by first posing a different question.

Let us suppose for a moment that our Lord endured His most extreme torments in His soul only, for example, during His supernatural prayer (pay attention to this expression from the Triodion), and when He had taken leave of His Body, He descended into Hades to preach to the dead and again returned to earth when He rose from the dead. Would anyone (even theologians) then be able to imagine the depth of those sorrows and to understand the inner union of His soul with the whole of human nature, with all men for whom He mourned in His prayer as a mother who mourns her son who is perishing morally (let us recall Gogol’s related image)?

And if there were one Christian who knew only of the Saviour’s spiritual suffering and another who had heard the Passion Gospels and meditated on the redemptive suffering of the God-man as only a host of physical tortures and humiliations which were suffered (that is, just as hundreds of thousands of martyrs had suffered, and no more than that), still the latter would probably glorify His passion with greater gratitude and would mourn His death with greater compunction each year than would the former.

Why is this so? Because our nature is so coarse, so enslaved by bodily sensations and the fear of death that it is very difficult for it to enter into the concept of the purely spiritual torments of Christ when He wept for the sins of others, unless those torments are combined with bodily suffering and humiliation by His fellow men. Is there anything extraordinary in a man becoming sorrowful and beginning to languish and grieve? Indeed, the eyewitnesses of the suffering of that night in Gethsemane — Peter, James and John — did not understand it, and they fell asleep three times while Christ was praying. The disciples of Apostle Paul showed just as little appreciation of his pastoral torments of birth pangs, and more readily submitted to the authority of mystification and pretentiousness. Remember Paul’s lament, “Though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved” (2Cor.12:15). “You put up with it if a man enslaves you, if a man devours you, if a man takes from you, if a man exalts himself, if a man smites you on the face. I speak in reproach as though we had been weak” (11:20).

And so Christ’s bodily suffering and death were primarily necessary so that believers would value His spiritual suffering as incomparably greater than His bodily torture, which in itself terrifies anyone who reads or hears the Gospel.

Both the Lord Himself and the apostles in His name indicate that the significance of the crucifixion is primarily in this very thing: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Me” (Jn.12: 32). “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then shall you know that I am He” (8:28). “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up…that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (3:14,16). “Jesus should die for that nation, and not for that nation only, but that also He should gather together into one the children of God that were scattered abroad” (11:51-52) through the preaching of His death on the Cross and His resurrection. Finally, Paul says of Christ, from the prophecy of Isaiah, “I have stretched forth My hands unto a disobedient and contradicting people” (Rm.10:21).

PaschaChrist’s cleansing Blood, saving Cross, life-giving Tomb and healing wounds are all expressions and images which are substituted (in the epistles of the apostles and Church fathers, and in the Church’s prayers) for the general concept of Christ’s redeeming Passion; those aspects of His struggle, of His saving grief and Passion, which make the greatest impression on us, are taken up here — especially the Cross, but also the nails, the sponge and the reed (as in the Oktoekhos). We are, of course, far from insisting that the only meaning of our Lord’s bodily suffering and, in particular, of His crucifixion and death was to provide the faithful with a way of conceiving His spiritual grief. It is probable that because of the connection between the soul and body, there is a deeper mystical sense here; but in any case, from the standpoint of moral monism, the Lord’s crucifixion and death are not without meaning for our salvation, for by bringing men to compunction, they reveal to them at least some portion of the redemptive sacrifice, and by leading them to love for Christ, they prove to be saving for them and for all of us.

“Perhaps everything you said is not far from the truth, but we have never heard or read anything like it before, and we have not come upon any similar explanation of the meaning of these passages of the Gospel and epistles, though, to tell the truth, we have never read the passages you cited from the holy fathers. But is it not too bold to dare even to touch upon such mysteries? `The things of God are known to no man, but only to the Spirit of God’ (1Cor.2:11). `Think no more highly than one ought to think’ (Rm.12:3).”

Before replying to the essence of such perplexities, I consider it an obligation to note that it is completely in vain that they support themselves with these words of Apostle Paul which have been cited above and which are always being quoted. The latter part of the passage should be translated, “Do not think more of yourself [and not of God] than you should (Rm.12:3).” Instead of explaining the first passage, let us continue the Apostle’s text: “No one has known the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, so that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God, which things also we speak”(1Cor. 2:11-13), and so on to the end of the chapter. In a word, the sense here is exactly the opposite of that which this passage is given in courses in the schools; the Russian translation of the New Testament has also introduced its italics here and distorted the meaning of the text (2:14) to read, “one must judge this spiritually,” instead of [the actual reading] “it is spiritually discerned,” or, “investigated” ( ανακρίνεται). In speaking of the inscrutability of the Divinity, St John Damascene concludes: God revealed to us everything necessary for our salvation, and everything else He concealed from us.

Salvation is our conscious process of perfection and communion with God; therefore, the truths of revelation united with it should be bound to our inner experience and not be allowed to remain as if completely incomprehensible mysteries which we do not understand.

I am convinced that the explanation of the truth of the doctrine of redemption which I have expounded is in accord with the teaching of the Church, but I am even more firmly convinced of the Church’s infallibility so that, if it were proved to me that my explanation does not coincide with her teaching, I would consciously renounce my views on our dogma. But inasmuch as no one has proved this to me (and I hope that no one will), I remain persuaded that the explanation I have proposed is in complete agreement with the Holy Scripture and the Tradition of the Church, and that its seeming novelty results only from the fact that it unfolds the Church’s teaching in the language of exact concepts and harmonizes the meaning of this dogma under consideration with the rest of the most important truths of the Faith.


1. [Originally in the text:] Except for a small leading article published in the ECCLESIASTICAL HERALD of 1890 and a short article in the THEOLOGICAL HERALD of 1894 composed by the author of this present work.

2. [Ed. Note:] Although, in fact, the roots of the Western juridical heresy of atonement must be ascribed to Augustine of Hippo.

3. [Ed. Note:] This work of Hieromonk Taras was republished in Warsaw in 1927, under the title Perelom’V Drevnerusskom Bogoslovii. it was reprinted by

Monastery Press, Montreal, P.Q. Canada in 1980. An abridged translation of it into English has appeared as a series in the journal THE CANADIAN ORTHODOX MISSIONARY, between 1978-1982.

4. [Originally in the text:] Here, by the Moscow theologians, he means Joseph of Volokolamsk, Zinovy Otensky and Maxim the Greek, and by Kiev writers, he refers to Lavrenty Zizany and Peter Mohila. Incidentally, no mention was made in this work of the almost independent Ukrainian theologian Kirill Trankvillion, who, in 1618, published his Mirror of Theology at the Pochaev Monastery (but toward the end of his life, alas, he completely apostatized from the Church and became a Uniat).

5. [Ed. Note:] Later, Holy Martyr Archbishop Ilarion Troitsky, martyred by the Communists at Solovky.

6. [Originally in the text:] This lecture appeared in the THEOLOGICAL REVIEW, issue for autumn, 1914 or 1915. Incidentally, I do not guarantee the exactness of the title and references, because I am writing these lines on Valaam Island of Lake Ladoga and have with me only the Scripture in various languages, three other books, and my memory.

7. [Originally in the text:] Ecclesiatiscal Herald, Pascha, 1890.

8. [Editor’s Note:] Bolotov, Vasili Vasilievich (1854-1900). Church historian who wrote many research papers on the ancient Christian Church, and on the Coptic, Syrian and Ethiopian Churches.

9. [Originally in the Text:] To the shame of Europe, America and, alas, post- Petrine Russia, they have so profoundly penetrated into social morals that they maintain their despotic sway over our contemporaries, even those of the most opposing convictions, such as the duellists of Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons — the nihilist Bazarov and the elderly landed gentleman, Uncle Arkady. Similar duels took place several times between members of the Russian State Duma, who were just as radically divergent between themselves in practically everything else as were those two heroes of Turgenev. The despotic power of this prejudice is so great that its practical obligation persists even in a recently promulgated law (in the reign of Alexander III), while none dare protest against it, even those types who in everything else have “renounced the old world,” beginning with faith in God. It is, however, much more incomprehensible how believers can be enslaved to this prejudice, and say: “I do not consider one to be a decent person who does not repay a slap in the face with blood.”

“This means that you will deny yourselves entry into paradise,” I once said in response to such a statement. “You see, there you would have to have been in `bad company.’ Look at the ikonostas in church: there are very few there who were not beaten on the cheek and on the whole body, beginning with Christ our Saviour and His apostles, and not a single one of them took that action, without which, in your opinion, it is impossible to be considered a decent person.”

My collocutor was at a loss for a reply, and it is doubtful if he will ever consider it possible to reconcile the prejudice of duelling with faith in the Christian God and the Divine Redeemer.

10. Saint Basil the Great is speaking with the Tradition of the Church and concensus of the Fathers when he says, in the Great Eucharistic Prayer of the Liturgy of St Basil, that Christ gave the ransom to death, to the grave. This in fully in accord with Apostle Paul: Hebrews 2:14 “ Forasmuch then as the

children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; Hebrews 2:15 And deliver them [ransom them] who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

11. [Ed. Note:] See, e.g., St Athanasios the Great, Against Arius.

12. [Author’s Note:] The Significance of the Cross in Christ’s Work, by Archpriest Svetlov is a very valuable critique of the erroneous Western teaching on the subject, and of the content of the juridical theory.

13. [Editor’s Note:] Levitov, Alxander Ivanovich (1835-1877) Russian writer who focused on the consequences for society of poverty, ignorance, alcoholism and family discord.

14. [Originally in the text:] in Faith and Reason, in 1916.

15. [Ed. Note:] “Askesis” in Greek, or “Podvig” in Russian. The word “podvig” is facile and not well defined, but in its religious sense, it is very easy to translate, and is well comprehended in the more certain and precise English term “moral struggle,” which, indeed, is even clearer than the Greek.

16. [Ed. Note:] Starogorodsky, later Patriarch Sergei of Moscow

17. [Author’s Note:] In the Russian text, “sanctification.” Here, the translators submitted to a Protestant tendency; the inaccuracy of the translation is obvious from the very content: “that you might restrain yourself from fornication,” and also from the seventh verse of the same chapter where the same Greek word, “agiasmos” is translated as “holiness” (“God will call you forth not to impurity, but to holiness”). The word is thus translated in Rm.6:19, 22; lThs.4:4; lTm.2 :15; Hb.12:14).

[Ed. Note:] This is also mistranslated in the KJV, Amplified and RSV, but correct in the NIV and Marshall’s interlinear].

18. [Ed. Note:] Dr Alexandre Kalomiros points out that in Scripture, dikaioseni, is used to render the Hebrew word tsedaka, which means precisely, “the divine energy which accomplishes man’s salvation,” and indicates “restoration” rather than “atonement.” Moreover it is closely synonymous with the Hebrew words hesed (mercy; compassion; love) and emeth (fidelity; truth). See St Nectarios Orthodox Conference, p.106 (St Nectarios American Orthodox Church, 10300 Ashworth Ave. N., Seattle, Wa. 98133). In the West, such words are usually translated according to a juridical or legalistic predisposition, borrowed from Roman law and developed in the dialectic of the law courts. Even so, the word cannot honestly be rendered as “justification” in any juridical sense.

19. [Author’s Note:] i.e., instead of pravda or pravednost’ as In the Slavonic, corresponding to the Greek dikaioseni (In Rm.3:24; 2Cor.3:9; Gal.2:21) where the context requires a moral (ethical) concept, and not a juridical one. This is true also of the other words of Apostle Paul which, even in the Russian text are rendered as pravda.

[Ed. Note:] The KJV and NIV translate correctly in Cor. and Gal., but erroneously in Rm.3:24. The Amplified gives the fulness of the meaning of Rm.3:24, though employing the term “justify”].

20. For a further discussion of this see Justification: The Path to Theosis, by Rev. Dr. Michael Azkoul (Synaxis Press, 1997).

21. [Ed. Note:] But these are correctly translated in the majority of the English versions.

22. [Ed. Note:] Justification: There is no logical reason for assigning any juridical connotation to “justification” in Paul’s epistles. Justification means to balance or set aright. The legalistic idea of “justice” as “punishment” is at the root of the problem. Justice, in fact, would demand that we be liberated from bondage to Satan and returned to the “Father’s house,” not that we be punished for being in bondage. The difficulty for the West is that both Latins and Protestants, being first of all tainted with Augustinianism, worked out their theological theories by means of the dialectic of the law courts.

23. [Ed. Note:] St Antony was precisely correct. Rev. Dr. Michael Azkoul observes: “The Church shares the Life of Christ. He is the Sun of Righteousness — helios dikaiosynes (Mal. 2:4) — the One from Whom all righteousness radiates. Righteousness is also sanctification: the transforming Grace of the Holy Spirit….Sometimes the phrase [Mal.2:4] is translated Sun of Justice; and likewise other Scriptural expressions and verses, such as: For therein is the justice of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written the just shall live by faith (Rm.1:17). “Justice” is derived from the Latin justitia (“to be made righteous”). During the course of the Latin Middle Ages, “justice” gradually appropriated a legal connotation (See K. Foelich, “Justification Language in the Middle Ages,” in Justification by Faith: Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII. ed by H. Anderson, etc. Minneapolis, 1985, 143- 161. (See Justification: the Path to Theosis, Rev. Dr. Michael Azkoul (Synaxis Press, 1998) Fn.9.

24. [Ed. Note:] In the introductory paragraphs, Metropolitan Antony refers to various of his other writings in which he had previously touched upon this subject. These other articles, however, comprise Volume 2 of his complete series relative to the main dogmas of the faith, and not in this volume.

25. [Author’s Note:] Since Apostle Paul undertakes to save people, how foolish is the indignation of the Protestants (and our own Fr Neplyuev) about the exclamation, “Most Holy Theotokos, save us.” How foolish are they to forbid the calling of spiritual shepherds “father” as if obeying Christ’s words, “call no man on earth father” (Mt.23:9). In that case, Paul would have often transgressed the Lord’s commandment, and John even mere so. Likewise, Stephen who even called the Jewish priests “father” (Acts 7:2), not to mention the fathers of old (cp.2—l5, etc; Rm.4:16).

26. [Editor’s Note:] Nekrasov, Nikolai Alexeevich (1821-1877). Poet who strove to advance the healing of society. He expressed the grief and sorrow of the common people.

27. [Ed. Note:] St Hilary of Poitlers devotes several paragraphs to refuting the idea that Christ felt fear in Gethsemane. He says that Christ’s words, “My soul is sorrowful unto death” cannot mean that He was sorrowful because of His own impending death. He was sorrowful unto death in that He sorrowed so greatly over fallen humanity that He came unto death over it. “So far from His sadness being caused by death, it was removed by it.” (see also the following endnote).

28. [Ed. Note:] Concerning the words, “Let this cup pass from Me,” St Hilary says, “For this prayer is immediately followed by the words, ‘and He came to His disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter; could you not watch one hour with Me?…the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh Is weak….’ Is the cause of this sadness and this prayer any longer in doubt?…it is not, therefore, for Himself that He is sorrowful and prays, but for those whom He exhorts….” The saint points out that Christ had no need to fear His passion and death, but that even those who were committed to Him would so fear it that at first, on account of it, they would flee and fear to confess Him, and that Christ was sorrowful over this. The whole passage is well worth reading. See On the Trinity, Book 10:30—40. See also St John Chrysostom, Against the Marcionites and Maniceans; St Cyril of Alexandria, On Luke, Sermon 146, 147 and St Ambrose of Milan, On Luke, Book 10:56—62. Both St Cyril and St Ambrose directly confirm Metropolitan Antony’s interpretation of the cause and significance of Christ’s agony in Gethsemane, and the “cup” which He asked to have removed from Him. A number of other fathers also confirm this.

29. [Ed. Note:] Hb.5:7. The KJV mistranslates the verse as “in that He feared.” The translators may have been using the word to signify “great reverence,” as the word “fear” is often used in that manner in older English, but it is very misleading, and quite incorrect. Marshall’s interlinear Version, the NEV and the 20 Century Version translate the verse more or less correctly. The Amplified translates correctly, but then adds a Calvinist interpretive note which renders itself absurd. One must also cite the correct translations in the Wycliff Version of 1380, Cranmer’s 1536 rendition, and Tyndall’s translation of 1534.

30. [Ed. Note:] See, for example, St Irenae of Lyons, Against Heresies, Book 5, 1:1.

31. [Ed. Note:] Compare St Athanasios the Great, esp. Contra the Gentiles, 35; 41; 43 in several paragraphs. Metropolitan Antony’s whole paper on redemption is deeply permeated with the spirit of St Athanasios.

32. [Ed. Note:] For a more detailed discussion of essence and hypostasis see Freedom to Believe (Synaxis Press, 2001).

33. [Ed. Note:] This is almost a summary of St Athanasios’ second treatise Contra Arius. St Athanasios says, for example, “Man would not have been deified if the Word, Who became flesh, was not of the Father by nature, the Father’s own true kind, in order that it may conjoin the created man, whose salvation and deification may be thus secured, to the uncreated God” (Contra. Arius. 2, 70:4). This union of the Divine nature with the human is the basis of the salvation of the human nature, so that to the degree man, by struggle and Grace, restores himself to the original human nature (like the human nature of Christ), he may also participate in the Divine. in a sense, man becomes deified by struggling to become a true human, to restore in himself the original human nature, in which the “image and likeness” of God is dominant. According to St Maximos the Confessor, this theology is more or less summarized in the “Our Father,” which is certainly a soteriological exposition.

34. One of Augustine of Hippo’s more serious heresies. For a compete discussion of this, see John Romanides, Original Sin (Zephyr Press, Glen Rock, NJ, 2002).

35. [Ed. Note:] This is, in fact, the case. The “in him” does refer to “death” and not at all to Adam. The KJV translates more correctly than many versions, and more correctly than the Russian: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Here, the “treacherous italics” indicating that “in Adam all sinned,” do not appear.

36. [Ed. Note:] A more direct discussion of this question will be found in Romanides, On Original Sin, (Zypheros Press, Glen Rock, NJ). Essentially, though, the problem began, as usual, with Augustine of Hippo. He interpreted Romans 5:12 as saying: “Therefore sin came into the world through one man and death as a result of sin, so death spread to all men because in [Adam] him all have sinned.” In fact, the “him” refers to death, which is in the masculine, and not at all to Adam. The KJV renders the verse at least more correctly, “Therefore, and sin came into the world through one man, and death as a result of sin, so death spread to all men because all men sin.” In fact, the verse appears to say that all men sin because of death. See also, Azkoul, M., The Teachings of the Holy Orthodox Church (Dormition Skete, Buena Vista, Co.) pp.107, 185 and 200.

37. [Ed. Note:] See also, for example, Ezekiel, Chapter 18: “… The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge …,” but, “Behold all souls are Mine: as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son, they are Mine. The soul that sins shall die. But if a man be just … he shall surely live … Now, lo, if he beget a son who sees all his father’s sins, and considers them and does not do likewise … he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, but shall surely live … The soul that sins shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father …” Compare with Rm. 5:12, “… death spread to all men because all men sin.”