Orthodox Answers

Have I mentioned this website, Orthodox Answers dot org (here) before? I don’t think so. Might come in handy in the future. Here’s an example of a Q/A:

If Irenaeus and other early Fathers believed in the Millennium on earth and taught this doctrine, why is this not taught by the Orthodox Church (since its position is amillenialism).

Yes, it is true that some of the early Fathers were millenialists (St. Justin the Martyr, for example); Orthodox Christians are well aware of this and of the fact that St Justin acknowledges disagreements on this point of doctrine.

However, we do not see these fathers as being anything but witnesses of the faith of the specific churches they served or interacted with. In this case, it seems that the millenarist school was localized in Asia Minor and connected with the teachings of St Papias. This view was certainly not “taught everywhere, always and by all” to paraphrase the criteria of St Vincent. It is well-established that the churches of Egypt and Cappadocia did not universally accept this interpretation, as Eusebius documents.

In the end, this interpretation fell in disfavor for three reasons:

(1) the broader consensus of the churches did not support it

(2) sound hermeneutics of Revelation did not actually support the literal view

(3) great excess were (and continue to be) connected with millenarism which discredited it

The Council of Constantinople did address the fact that the Kingdom of Christ would have no end (Luke 1), to correct the erroneous view that it would last 1000 years.

However, it does not seem that millenarism is – from an historic Orthodox perspective – strictly speaking a condemned heresy (on account of these venerable fathers who taught it) but rather a tolerable private opinion that should not be taught or promoted because of its overall rejection by generations of Orthodox bishops as a viable interpretation of the text. For more information on this point, also read http://www.orthodoxanswers.org/answer/485/

See also the Introduction to Revelation on the Eastern / Greek Orthodox Bible.

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2 thoughts on “Orthodox Answers

  1. Thanks for the link, and your example is well chosen, and the topic of millenarism very aptly covered. No, belief in the literal 1000 year reign is not a heresy as such but a tolerated private opinion and, yes, some ancient fathers espoused it. It’s the same for many beliefs in the Church, some are mainstream, some not, but only those that are destructive as well as not mainstream are anathematised, as they should be.

    Myself, I hold no opinion on the 1000 year reign, but just read it in scripture and believe it, whatever it means. Unfortunately, many people make commitments to positions on scriptural questions that should be accepted in simplicity and without controversy. Just last month, I lost a very close (evangelical) friend who attacked me and the Orthodox fathers for not believing in the literal 1000 year reign. It was very unfortunate, as he knows that I espouse no opinion, but because I accept the teaching of the Church in general, even when I have reservations about specifics, he including me in a scathing attack, and now has nothing to do with me (though my door is always open in welcome to him as to anyone else).

    Forgive me for mentioning this, but it is an example of what Holy Church has learned to avoid within itself for the most part, but in the evangelical community, such dissension and controversy is rife. It seems that escape from this unnecessary and shameful war of words is only possible in the Orthodox Church, though even here we sometimes knife each other over even more trifling matters. Lord have mercy!

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