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The line that separated Eastern Christendom from Western on the medieval map is similar to the "iron curtain" of recent times. Linguistic barriers, political divisions, and liturgical differences combined to isolate the two cultures from each other. Except for such episodes as the schism between East and West or the Crusades, the development of non-Western Christendom has The line that separated Eastern Christendom from Western on the medieval map is similar to the "iron curtain" of recent times. Linguistic barriers, political divisions, and liturgical differences combined to isolate the two cultures from each other. Except for such episodes as the schism between East and West or the Crusades, the development of non-Western Christendom has been largely ignored by church historians. In The Spirit of Eastern Christendom, Jaroslav Pelikan explains the divisions between Eastern and Western Christendom, and identifies and describes the development of the distinctive forms taken by Christian doctrine in its Greek, Syriac, and early Slavic expression. "It is a pleasure to salute this masterpiece of exposition. . . . The book flows like a great river, slipping easily past landscapes of the utmost diversity—the great Christological controversies of the seventh century, the debate on icons in the eighth and ninth, attitudes to Jews, to Muslims, to the dualistic heresies of the high Middle Ages, to the post-Reformation churches of Western Europe. . . . His book succeeds in being a study of the Eastern Christian religion as a whole."—Peter Brown and Sabine MacCormack, New York Review of Books "The second volume of Professor Pelikan's monumental work on The Christian Tradition is the most comprehensive historical treatment of Eastern Christian thought from 600 to 1700, written in recent years. . . . Pelikan's reinterpretation is a major scholarly and ecumenical event."—John Meyendorff "Displays the same mastery of ancient and modern theological literature, the same penetrating analytical clarity and balanced presentation of conflicting contentions, that made its predecessor such an intellectual treat."—Virgina Quarterly Review


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The line that separated Eastern Christendom from Western on the medieval map is similar to the "iron curtain" of recent times. Linguistic barriers, political divisions, and liturgical differences combined to isolate the two cultures from each other. Except for such episodes as the schism between East and West or the Crusades, the development of non-Western Christendom has The line that separated Eastern Christendom from Western on the medieval map is similar to the "iron curtain" of recent times. Linguistic barriers, political divisions, and liturgical differences combined to isolate the two cultures from each other. Except for such episodes as the schism between East and West or the Crusades, the development of non-Western Christendom has been largely ignored by church historians. In The Spirit of Eastern Christendom, Jaroslav Pelikan explains the divisions between Eastern and Western Christendom, and identifies and describes the development of the distinctive forms taken by Christian doctrine in its Greek, Syriac, and early Slavic expression. "It is a pleasure to salute this masterpiece of exposition. . . . The book flows like a great river, slipping easily past landscapes of the utmost diversity—the great Christological controversies of the seventh century, the debate on icons in the eighth and ninth, attitudes to Jews, to Muslims, to the dualistic heresies of the high Middle Ages, to the post-Reformation churches of Western Europe. . . . His book succeeds in being a study of the Eastern Christian religion as a whole."—Peter Brown and Sabine MacCormack, New York Review of Books "The second volume of Professor Pelikan's monumental work on The Christian Tradition is the most comprehensive historical treatment of Eastern Christian thought from 600 to 1700, written in recent years. . . . Pelikan's reinterpretation is a major scholarly and ecumenical event."—John Meyendorff "Displays the same mastery of ancient and modern theological literature, the same penetrating analytical clarity and balanced presentation of conflicting contentions, that made its predecessor such an intellectual treat."—Virgina Quarterly Review

30 review for The Christian Tradition 2: The Spirit of Eastern Christendom 600-1700

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Aitken

    In this volume Pelikan gives a thorough introduction and analysis of Christendom's exotic brother: The ancient Eastern Orthodox Church. Given Pelikan's overall project, doctrine can't be said to "develop" for the East in the same way it did for Rome and Protestantism. Pelikan covers the main areas of disagreement or distinction: tradition, Christology, icons, the challenge of Rome, the challenge of other Eastern monotheisms, and the fading and resurrection of Byzantine thought. Pelikan's first ch In this volume Pelikan gives a thorough introduction and analysis of Christendom's exotic brother: The ancient Eastern Orthodox Church. Given Pelikan's overall project, doctrine can't be said to "develop" for the East in the same way it did for Rome and Protestantism. Pelikan covers the main areas of disagreement or distinction: tradition, Christology, icons, the challenge of Rome, the challenge of other Eastern monotheisms, and the fading and resurrection of Byzantine thought. Pelikan's first chapter on traditions is in many ways a string of quotations from St Maximus the Confessor, arguing that the Orthodox does not change the content of the faith, but simply receives it from the fathers who have passed it down. And for the east the content of the faith, the definition of salvation, is deification. Pelikan's next chapter is a survey of Christological disputes, or more particularly it showed the disagreements and implications for the post-Chalcedonian world. His chapter on "The Challenge of Rome" is fair and balanced. He points out that Rome was on the "orthodox" side in every council (though he rebuts a common Catholic claim that the Pope called every council). Therefore, Rome's authority and honor cannot be dismissed so easily. This leads into discussions of the Filioque. While Rome may have had more impressive theologians, the Orthodox rightly pointed out that the Pope had no authority to insert that phrase into the clause. The chapter on "the Vindication of Trinitarian Monotheism" was the best. We see how the Orthodox responded to a number of different attacks, varying in intelligence, yet holding the same ground on every line: the good God, the creator of the world, is Triune and also the redeemer of th world. Thus, the Orthodox would use that to respond to Judaism, Islam, and Manicheanism (Bogomils et al). The response to the Bogomils was the best. Pelikan follows with a suprisingly brief discussion of St Gregory Palamas. In any case Palamas theology is vindicated as the theology of light. Also noted is a helpful few paragraphs on the "essence/energies" distinction. However, at this time Byzantium was fading politically. As she was overrun by the Muslim hordes, she passed on her faith to daughter Russia. The conversion of the Slavs and the earlier invention of the Cyrillic alphabet was a unique moment in Missions history. Sts Cyril and Methodius were able to facilitate a conversion to a faith without drowning national identity (something that would become a very Russian idea). This is unlike Rome, who would often convert by force and pressure and impose a foreign-language liturgy on the populace. All in all, a good book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rad

    If, as Bacon said, "Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested," then volume 2 of Pelikan's history of Christian doctrine -- like the other volumes in the series -- defines the latter appellation. This is a book that should occupy a place in every Christian's library; combined with the other volumes, one could spend a lifetime alone going over the hundreds of primary and secondary sources that each volume references. It is is a humbling undertaking If, as Bacon said, "Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested," then volume 2 of Pelikan's history of Christian doctrine -- like the other volumes in the series -- defines the latter appellation. This is a book that should occupy a place in every Christian's library; combined with the other volumes, one could spend a lifetime alone going over the hundreds of primary and secondary sources that each volume references. It is is a humbling undertaking to write a review, or even a synopsis, of any of Pelikan's books: what more possibly could be said? One has the feeling of sacrilege, as if trying to add a book to the Bible. Volume 2 addresses the growing importance the church placed on tradition; iconography; the Filioque controversy; the Trinity; the rise of Islam; and "the final break with Western doctrine," amongst other topics. Like volume 1, there is a density of prose that somehow seems necessary given the prolix subject matter -- perhaps akin to the necessity of force-feeding geese for foie gras (minus any of the negative connotations). There are authors whom one simply must read when presented with one of their books, and Pelikan is one of them. While the firehose of information is not what one would call "easy reading," continued chewing and digestion will reward the reader for years to come.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Cliff

    I finally understand the difference between and the significance of the various christological heresies of the 400's through 600's. Pelikan is the only person who helped me do this. An incredible volume.

  4. 4 out of 5

    G Walker

    The whole set is good, volume (2) is especially good. This is a very helpful contribution the understanding the theological climate of Byzantium... past and even present. Pelikan is a great communicator and is more than qualified to lead the tour.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Meyer

    Pelikan wades through a massive amount of history, theology, and culture in this volume and, as is characteristic, does so quite well.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Gregory

    Amazing, as usual ...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Melody Schwarting

    An extremely helpful exploration of Eastern Christianity. Most enlightening for me were the discussions of the Eastern encounter with Islam, divisions between East and West from the Eastern perspective, and use of icons in liturgy (“the melody of theology”). Pelikan continues to be on top of the discussion. Most of my knowledge of Eastern Christianity has been orientation to its theology and praxis, so it’s wonderful to read a history of its doctrine.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    Pelikan followed up his magisterial first volume in the development of Christian doctrine by focusing on the flowering of Byzantine doctrine. As expected, the treatment is incredibly thorough and complex. The text is so well referenced that anyone but the extreme specialist would have an incredibly difficult time finding fault with Pelikan's methodology or scholarly review. Pelikan divides the study into six major sections, the authority of the fathers, the development of eastern doctrine with re Pelikan followed up his magisterial first volume in the development of Christian doctrine by focusing on the flowering of Byzantine doctrine. As expected, the treatment is incredibly thorough and complex. The text is so well referenced that anyone but the extreme specialist would have an incredibly difficult time finding fault with Pelikan's methodology or scholarly review. Pelikan divides the study into six major sections, the authority of the fathers, the development of eastern doctrine with respect to Christ's nature, the conflict over iconography, the relationship with the Latin church, the Byzantine trinitarian & monotheistic response to Islam, and its late flowering led in part to exposure and definition brought on by the Protestant reformation. To cover so many broad topics over 1100 years of history is quite difficult, but Pelikan is more than up to the task. I had always understood Byzantine theology and doctrine to be intricate and well-grounded in the wisdom of the early church fathers. What I had not understood were many of the nuances that came to define Eastern theology, and its absolute grounding on the theological underpinnings of the early church councils. Pelikan also reveals the source material for all of the controversies and heresies throughout the ages, many of which I was unaware. The only criticism of this book is that most people, I'm afraid, would find it quite inaccessible. Pelikan presupposes a grounding in theology, history, and deep understanding of Christology. His terminology and style are both quite dense, making this thoroughly unenjoyable, I would imagine, for a reader who is not sufficiently knowledgable or passionate about the subject.

  9. 5 out of 5

    James

    The second volume of Jaroslav Pelikan's church history magnum opus focuses on the Eastern church. Much like the first volume, he visits primary sources to trace the history of the church by what the church teaches as doctrine and dogma. The constant tension between East and West was particularly engaging in this volume.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    I'm repeating myself from my review of volume one, but Pelikan really was a very fine author. This volume two of five explains the development of doctrine from about A.D. 600 to approximately 1700, but overwhelmingly from the perspective of Eastern Orthodoxy as distinct from Western Catholicism. And again, I'll say this is the best I've read for what it attempts to do. I highly recommend it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dwight Davis

    Really great and helpful volume. Pelikan's chapter on Eastern Orthodoxy's engagements with Islam are incredibly helpful and his chapter on icons is also a home run.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Phil

    This is simply the best series available in English on the history of Christian thoguht.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

    A great look at Eastern Orthodoxy from a non-Eastern Orthodox view (though the author later converted).

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Rebind

  15. 5 out of 5

    Wyatt Houtz

    Helpful.

  16. 5 out of 5

    David

  17. 5 out of 5

    Terry

  18. 4 out of 5

    Chris Smith

  19. 5 out of 5

    Greg Jones

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jason Hudak

  21. 4 out of 5

    JD

  22. 4 out of 5

    Richard

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tim Dally

  24. 5 out of 5

    David

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ephrem

  26. 5 out of 5

    Matt

  27. 4 out of 5

    Michaela Weller

  28. 5 out of 5

    Phillip

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rick

  30. 5 out of 5

    Thom Crowe

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