The Term “Kingdom of God” is Not in the New Testament

by Fr. John Romanides

Both fundamentalist and non-fundamentalist biblical scholars, who have been victims of Augustinian and Carolingian presuppositions, become prone to misunderstandings of what they read in the Bible, especially when terms and symbols denoting glorifications which produce prophets are alluded to.

A classical example is 1 Cor. 12:26. Here St. Paul does not write, “If one is honored,” but “If one is glorified,” i.e. has become a prophet. To be glorified means that one has seen the Lord of Glory either before His incarnation or after, like Paul did on his way to Damascus to persecute the Incarnate Lord of Glory’s followers.

Another example is the phrase “kingdom of God” which makes it a creation of God instead of the uncreated ruling power of God. What is amazing is that the term “kingdom of God” appears not once in the original Greek of the New Testament. Not knowing that the “rule” or “reign of God” is the correct translation of the Greek “Basileia tou Theou,” Vaticanians, Protestants and even many Orthodox today, do not see that the promise of Christ to his apostles in Mt.16:28, Lk. 9:27 and Mk. 9:1, i.e. that they will see God’s ruling power, was fulfilled during the Transfiguration which immediately follows in the above three gospels.

Here Peter, James and John see Christ as the Lord of Glory i.e. as the source of God’s uncreated “glory” and “basileia” i.e. uncreated ruling power, denoted by the uncreated cloud or glory which appeared and covered the three of them during the Lord of Glory’s Transfiguration. It was by means of His power of Glory that Christ, as the pre-incarnate Lord (Yahweh) of Glory, had delivered Israel from its Egyptian slavery and lead it to freedom and the land of promise.

The Greek text does not speak about the “Basileion (kingdom) of God,” but about the “Basileia (rule or reign) of God,” by means of His uncreated glory and power.*

At His Transfiguration Christ clearly revealed Himself to be the source of the uncreated Glory seen by Moses and Elijah during Old Testament times and who both are now present at the Transfiguration in order to testify to the three apostles that Christ is indeed the same Yahweh of Glory, now incarnate, Whom the two had seen in the historical past and had acted on behalf of Him.

* For a typical Augustinian misunderstanding of Mk 9:1ff see “Promise and Fulfillment, The Eschatological Message of Jesus,” by W. G. Kummel, p 25-28, 44, 60 f., 66f., 88, 133, 142, 149. This so-called kingdom promised by Christ does not yet exist when He pronounces this promise, but will come into existence sometime in the future.


Why Did Christ Need Baptism

A question asked by many is, “Why did Jesus need to be baptized?” To answer this, let’s first explore the nature of baptism as explained by Saint John Chrysostom.

Jewish Baptism

Saint John Chrysostom points out that the Jewish Baptism was one of cleansing. He says,

There was a Jewish baptism, which cleansed from bodily impurities, but not to remove sins. Thus, whoever committed adultery, or decided on thievery, or who did some other kind of misdeed, it did not free him from guilt. But whoever touched the bones of the dead, whoever tasted food forbidden by the law, whoever approached from contamination, whoever consorted with lepers — that one washed, and until evening was impure, and then cleansed. “Let one wash his body in pure water — it says in the Scriptures, — and he will be unclean until evening, and then he will be clean” (Lev 15:5, 22:4).

Baptism of John

John the Baptist’s baptism was more than the Jewish rite but less than a Christian baptism. Saint John Chrysostom sees it as a bridge between the Jewish form and the Christian baptism. He writes,

“the baptism of John did not impart the Holy Spirit and it did not grant forgiveness by grace: it gave the commandment to repent, but it was powerless to absolve sins. Wherefore John did also say: “I baptize you with water…That One however will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Mt 3:11). Obviously, he did not baptize with the Spirit.” This is the key aspect of a Christian baptism is that it includes baptism by the Holy Spirit. Paul advised those who had been baptized by John to be baptized again. He said, “John indeed baptized with the baptism of repentance,” — repentance, but not remission of sins; for whom did he baptize? “Having proclaimed to the people, that they should believe in the One coming after him, namely, Christ Jesus. Having heard this, they were baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus: and Paul laying his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them” (Acts 19:1-6)

Christ’s Baptism

Christ’s baptism was something different from John’s or the Jewish Baptism. He had no need for cleansing or remission of sins and did not need the gift of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, He could not have come to the Jordan for this purpose. Saint John Chrysostom points out there were two reasons why He came for baptism.
The First Reason – to become known as God made flesh.
“Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” (Acts 19:4)
The consequence of the baptism to proclaim the arrival of the Son of God.
Saint John writes,

…when all the people thronged out from all the cities to Jordan and remained on the banks of the river, and when He Himself came to be baptized and received the testimony of the Father by a voice from above and by the coming-upon of the Spirit in the form of a dove, then the testimony of John about Him was made beyond all questioning. And since he said: “and I knew Him not” (Jn 1:31), his testimony put forth is trustworthy.

They were kindred after the flesh between themselves “wherefore Elizabeth, thy kinswoman, hath also conceived a son” — said the Angel to Mary about the mother of John (Lk. 1: 36); if however the mothers were relatives, then obviously so also were the children. Thus, since they were kinsmen — in order that it should not seem that John would testify concerning Christ because of kinship, the grace of the Spirit organized it such, that John spent all his early years in the wilderness, so that it should not seem that John had declared his testimony out of friendship or some similar reason. But John, as he was instructed of God, thus also announced about Him, wherein also he did say: “and I knew Him not.” From whence didst thou find out? “He having sent me that sayeth to baptize with water, That One did tell me” What did He tell thee? “Over Him thou shalt see the Spirit descending, like to a dove, and abiding over Him, That One is baptized by the Holy Spirit” (Jn 1:32-33). Dost thou see, that the Holy Spirit did not descend as in a first time then coming down upon Him, but in order to point out that preached by His inspiration — as though by a finger, it pointed Him out to all. For this reason He came to baptism.

The Second Reason – to fulfill every righteousness
Again we turn to the sermon by Saint John,

When John said: ““I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Mt 3:14-15). Dost thou see the meekness of the servant? Dost thou see the humility of the Master? What does He mean: “to fulfill every righteousness?” By righteousness is meant the fulfillment of all the commandments, as is said: “both were righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Lk 1:6). Since fulfilling this righteousness was necessary for all people — but no one of them kept it or fulfilled it — Christ came then and fulfilled this righteousness. And what righteousness is there, someone will say, in being baptized? Obedience for a prophet was righteous. As Christ was circumcised, offered sacrifice, kept the sabbath and observed the Jewish feasts, so also He added this remaining thing, that He was obedient to having been baptized by a prophet. It was the will of God then, that all should be baptized — about which listen, as John speaks: “He having sent me to baptize with water” (Jn 1:33); so also Christ: “the publicans and the people do justify God, having been baptized with the baptism of John; the pharisees and the lawyers reject the counsel of God concerning themselves, not having been baptized by him” (Lk 7:29-30). Thus, if obedience to God constitutes righteousness, and God sent John to baptize the nation, then Christ has also fulfilled this along with all the other commandments. (Chrysostom)

Source: Orthodox Way of Life

Why Orthodox Christians Prefer the Septuagint: Part 2

Continued from Part One.


We have written in a previous article (“The Neutralization of the Netherworld”) that the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament represents an ancient and authentic Hebrew tradition.

Due to the fact that there were variances in the Hebrew texts, the textual tradition that the Septuagint translation presents often differs widely from the Masoretic Hebrew text of today.

But there are also some surprises.

In very ancient times, it seems some anonymous rabbis felt that they needed to take some liberties with the sacred texts, mostly — it appears – out of embarrassment.

For example, in the Book of Judges, we are told that the children of Dan fell into idolatry (Judges 18:30-31). This is what the Septuagint says:

“And the children of Dan set up the graven image for themselves; and Jonathan, the son of Gerson [Gershom], the son of Manasses, he and his son were priests to the tribe of Dan till the time of the carrying away of the nation [literally: the land]. And they set up for themselves the graven image which Michaias [Micah] made, all the days that the House of God was in Selom [Shiloh].”

This, essentially, is what the Masoretic says also. The only problem here is that Gerson [Gershom] was not the son of Manasses. He was the son of the Prophet Moses! How embarrassing! The grandson of Israel’s most prominent prophet fell into idolatry! This is what author Charles D. Provan (Christian News, May 7, 2007) writes:

“…The rabbis themselves wrote that they deliberately changed some passages [of the Old Testament]. Among the most definite[changes] is Judges 18:30 where the rabbis admit they changed the text from Moses to Manasseh in order to protect Moses!”*

The teachers of Israel felt this fall on the part of the Prophet’s grandson would cast reproach on the reputation of the great Moses, so they changed the name. The translators of the Septuagint inherited this variant in the text they were given, and so they faithfully rendered this ancient rabbinical redaction into Greek.

So, two cheers to the translators of the Septuagint for their fidelity to the text they received.


In the Gospel of St. Matthew, we read the following prophetic passage:

And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. Get up, he said, and take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him. So he got up, took the child and his motherduring the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON.” (Matt. 2:12-15)

Many Protestants believe that this prophecy is found in the Old Testament book of the Prophet Hosea (chap. 11, verse 1). But this cannot be true. Why? If you read the Hosea passage in its entirety, you realize that this particular passage is speaking about God’s disobedient son, the nation of Israel. This cannot be said of our Saviour Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

There is only one Old Testament passage that clearly fulfills all the qualifications for being the prophecy that the Gospel of St. Matthew is referring to. That is Numbers 24:2-9, in the Septuagint text:

And Balaam lifted up his eyes, and sees Israel encamped by their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him. And he took up his parable and said: Balaam says to the sons of Beor, the man who sees truly says, He who hears the oracle of the Mighty One speaks, who saw a vision of God in sleep; his eyes were opened: How goodly are thy habitations, Jacob, and thy tents, Israel! As shady groves, and as gardens by a river, and as tents which God pitched, and as cedars by the waters. There shall come a man out of his seed, and he shall rule over many nations; and the kingdom of Gog shall be exalted, and his kingdom shall be increased. God led him out of Egypt; he has as it were the glory of a unicorn: he shall consume the nations of his enemies, and he shall drain their marrow, and with his darts he shall shoot through the enemy. He lay down, he rested as a lion, and as a young lion; who has stirred him up? They that bless thee are blessed, and they that curse thee are cursed.”

Scholar Charles Provan writes,

“…Though the sojourn [in Egypt] may be obtained in the Masoretic text, yet it is much easier to derive it from the Greek version. Indeed, that Numbers 24 is a Messianic prophecy is so obvious that it jumps off the page, as does the Egyptian sojourn of the Messiah.”

And also:

Notice also that one name [of our Saviour] in the New Testament is The Lion from the Tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5 ). Though there are Messianic prophecies in which it is stated that Christ would come from the Tribe of Judah, I am aware of none which refer directly to Christ as a Lion, except the Numbers 24 prophecy of Balaam. This is obtainable from the Masoretic text, but is unavoidable in Greek.”

Two and a half cheers for the Septuagint text!


As C. Provan points out,

“There are differences….between the Septuagint Old Testament and the Old Testament of the Rabbinic Jews [the Masoretic text]. To make matters worse, many Christians now suppose that since the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, the Hebrew Bible kept by the Rabbinic Jews is, in fact, the ‘original Hebrew’. In fact, it is not the original Hebrew, and it is not too old either. You see, the rabbis had very particular orders concerning the copying of the Old Testament. Among their rules is the command that all old, used copies of the Old Testament are to be destroyed. Hence, the oldest complete copy of the Hebrew Old Testament dates to about 1100 A. D. The Greek Old Testament is very much older than that.”

Some of the differences that we find between the Septuagint and Masoretic texts are the following:

In the Gospel of St. Luke, in the genealogy of Christ, in chapter three, verses 36 and 37, there are two Cainans mentioned. The Septuagint Greek Old Testament also mentions two Cainans in Genesis 10:24. The Hebrew Masoretic text, however, mentions only one.

When the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered in the middle of the last century, the Hebrew text of some two thousand years ago was examined, and that text — like the text of the New Testament and the Septuagint — had two Cainans! What happened?

C. Provan tells us the following:

“According to ancient Jewish literature, the second Cainan was involved in the reintroduction of astrology into the post-flood world. By eliminating the second Cainan [from the genealogies], Noah’s great grandson is eliminated as a problem since he was esteemed a great sinner.”

That is how the second Cainan disappeared from the genealogy of the Masoretic text! Does this remind us of the Soviet method of air-brushing the “enemies of the people” from old photographs? Apparently, some rabbis who worked on the Masoretic text felt they had even more divine authority than God!

Then, there is Acts 7:14. There, the God-inspired St. Stephen the First Martyr,

“filled with Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:54),

tells us that all the members of the Patriarch Jacob’s family were seventy-five in number. The Septuagint text also says “seventy-five“. But the Masoretic Hebrew text in Genesis 46:27 says “seventy.” Who is correct? If we check the Dead Sea scrolls, we find that they confirm what the Septuagint and the New Testament say:


Three cheers for the Septuagint text!


Psalm 144 (Ps. 145 in the Masoretic text) is an “acrostic Psalm” in Hebrew, that is, each of its verses begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. But there is a problem in today’s Hebrew Masoretic text. The verse that should begin with the Hebrew letter “N” is missing.

At the same time, people have noted that in the Greek version of the Book of Psalms (i.e. the Septuagint text), there is an “extra” verse where the missing letter “N” should be in the Hebrew text. By “reverse translating” this verse from the Greek back into Hebrew, the verse begins with the missing letter “N”!! Furthermore, when the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, the ancient Hebrew text of the Psalms had the verse exactly where the Septuagint had it.

In the Septuagint, the so-called “extra” verse is:

“Faithful is the Lord in all His words, and holy in all His works.” (Ps. 144:14)

In the Dead Sea Scrolls, the so-called “missing” Hebrew verse says:

“God is faithful in His words, and gracious in all His deeds.”

A twenty-one gun salute for the Septuagint!!


The Jewish people love the feast of Hanukkah. It is their answer to Santa Claus and Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.

But there is a little problem here.

The Feast of Hanukkah is nowhere to be found in the present-day Hebrew Scriptures. Oy! Well, where can we find it? You guessed it: It is based on an oral tradition which, in turn, is based on an incident found only in the Greek Septuagint text!!! — the First Book of Maccabees (4:36-59).

Yes, the feast that is one of the most beloved for the Jewish people today is based on a text found only in the sacred Scriptures of the Orthodox Christians, the New Israel.

Happy Hanukkah to all!


We have written about the differences between today’s Masoretic text of the Old Testament and the ancient Septuagint translation of the Old Testament. Actually, since the Septuagint translation was finished about 290 years before Christ, and the contemporary Hebrew Masoretic text was only completed a millennium after Christ, the Septuagint version is almost 1,300 years older than the current Masoretic edition!

The Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in the middle of the last century, sometimes favor the Septuagint text and sometimes the Masoretic text. As far as the Septuagint is concerned, it is important to remember that it was done by scholars of the Jewish faith almost 300 years before Christ. So it cannot possibly be argued that it has a pro-Christian bias. In the case of the Masoretic text, however, it was done in the centuries after Christ, so there are always suspicions about an anti-Christian bias in the choice of the variant Hebrew texts that were picked in order to create the Masoretic edition. These suspicions are especially strong when passages in the Septuagint which lend themselves readily to a Christian interpretation are substantially different, or even disappear entirely, in the Masoretic text.

But, the truth be told, and to be fair, there are passages in the Masoretic text that really are very beautiful and more eloquent than the Septuagint version. And, the fact of the matter is that the Septuagint is, after all, a translation of the Hebrew text. As we know, every translation from one language into another is, in reality, an interpretation. Every language has words whose full range of nuances and implications cannot possibly be translated accurately into another language.

This is especially true when we are talking about God’s language. What language does God speak? Well, it would be helpful for us to know, first of all, that God speaks in a very ancient language. This language is known by the name “Uncreated Divine Grace.” This language does not translate well into our Semitic or Indo-European languages, or, for that fact, into any manmade language. Many fine men and women have thrown up their hands in despair trying to translate God’s language (and yet, oddly, children sometimes have no problem at all understanding it).

Furthermore, nobody can duplicate the sounds of God’s language; it seems to have no vowels or consonants that human beings can articulate.

In the article, “Rationalism and Fundamentalism,” we quoted what some Saints of the Church had to say about conveying God’s language into ours.

In his work, The Hexaemeron, St. Basil the Great says the following:

It must be well understood that when we speak of the voice, of the word, of the command of God, this divine language does not mean to us a sound which escapes from the organs of speech, a collision of air struck by the tongue; it is a simple sign of the will of God, and, if we give it the form of an order, it is only the better to impress the souls whom we instruct.” (Hexaemeron II: 7)

St. Gregory of Nyssa, on his part, has this to say:

“…human speech finds it impossible to express the reality which transcends all thought and all concept; and he who obstinately tries to express it in words, unconsciously offends God.” (Commentary on Ecclesiastes, Homily 7)

And, again, he writes:

Lifted out of himself by the Spirit, (the Prophet David) glimpsed in that blessed ecstasy God’s infinity and incomprehensible beauty. He saw as much as a mere mortal can see, leaving the covering of the flesh, and by thought alone entering into the divine vision of that immaterial and spiritual realm. And though yearning to say something which would do justice to his vision, he can only cry out (in words that all can echo after him): I said in mine ecstasy, every man is a liar (Psalm 115:2 ). And this I take to mean that anyone who attempts to portray that ineffable Light in language is truly a liar — not because of any abhorrence of the truth, but merely because of the infirmity of his explanation.” (From the Homily on Virginity)

What does all this have to do with the Septuagint and the Masoretic texts? Simply this: as feeble attempts to translate God’s language into our man-made languages, both versions fall short. Each one has its own strong points, and its weak points, but neither one can adequately convey the revelation of God’s ineffable grace into our earth-bound languages. As for the differences between the Greek and Hebrew texts — except for the fact that there was some open tampering with the Old Testament texts in the Masoretic  — both versions, with certain qualifications, might often simply represent different textual traditions of the Hebrew Old Testament.

Having in mind what the Saints of the Church have said about the limitations of our human languages in dealing with divine revelation (see above), it is no surprise that Orthodox Christians do not get bent out of shape, as Roman Catholic or Protestant textual critics seem to do, about textual differences and variations in the Holy Scriptures.

However, the reason why Orthodox Christians prefer the Septuagint is simply because it represents an ancient, authentic and unbiased text of the Old Testament, translated and embraced by the Jewish people themselves for almost 400 years. Since we hold ourselves to be the New Israel, we feel pretty strongly about upholding this tradition of the God of our Fathers.

Amen. So be it.
* The Bibilical scholar Charles D. Provan has written many fine articles about the need to correct the contemporary Masoretic Old Testament text according to the texts of the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls. He cites many passages where the Septuagint Old Testament is correct, whereas the Masoretic text is faulty or has been altered.


The Trinity in the Writings of Ignatius of Antioch

It’s a bit anachronistic to speak of St. Ignatius of Antioch (died about 117 A.D.) and Trinitarian theology as the doctrine of the Trinity developed in the first centuries of Christianity and its associated terminology was finalized in the third and fourth centuries as a reflection of the realities it had experienced. J.N.D. Kelly explains that the monotheistic faith Christianity had inherited from Judaism had to be integrated with “the fresh data of the specifically Christian revelation. Reduced to their simplest, these were the convictions that God had made Himself known in the Person of Jesus, the Messiah, raising Him from the dead and offering salvation to men through Him, and that He had poured out His Holy Spirit on the Church” (Early Christian Doctrines, pp. 87-88). Kelly’s book is an excellent resource to see how the Church’s understanding of the relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit developed in the early Church.

Fr. Edmund Fortman gives this analysis which shows the high view St. Ignatius had of the Son and Holy Spirit:

Ignatius delves more deeply into some matters than do the other Apostolic Fathers and adds his personal reflections but without developing any systematic theology.1

The core of his thought is the divine ‘economy’ in the universe. God wished to save the world and humanity from the despotism of the prince of this world. And so He ‘manifested Himself in Jesus Christ His Son, who is His Word proceeding from silence, and who in all things was pleasing to Him who sent Him’ (Magn. 8.2). ‘Our God, Jesus the Christ, was born of Mary . . . of the seed of David and of the Holy Spirit’ (Eph. 18.2). He ‘was truly crucified and died. . . and was truly raised from the dead when His Father raised Him’ (Trall. 9).

For Ignatius God is Father, and by ‘Father’ he means primarily ‘Father of Jesus Christ’ : ‘There is one God, who has manifested Himself by Jesus Christ His Son’ (Magn. 8.2). Jesus is called ‘God’ 14 times (Eph. inscr. 1.1, 7.2, 15.3, 17.2, 18.2, 19.3; Trall. 7.1; Rom. inscr. 3.3, 6.3; Smyrn. 1.1; Pdyc. 8.3). He is the Father’s Word (Magn. 8.2), ‘the mind of the Father’ (Eph. 3.3), and ‘the mouth through which the Father truly spoke’ (Rom. 8.2). He is ‘His only Son’ (Rom. inscr.), ‘generate and ingenerate, God in man . . . son of Mary and Son of God . . . Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Eph. 7.2). He is the one ‘who is beyond time the Eternal the Invisible who became visible for our sake, the Impalpable, the Impassible who suffered for our sake’ (Polyc. 3.2).

It has been said that for Ignatius Jesus’ ‘divine Sonship dates from the incarnation,’ 2 and that he ‘seems rather to ascribe the divine sonship of Jesus to the fact that Mary conceived by the operation of the Holy Spirit.’ 3 If he did date Jesus’ sonship from the incarnation he did not thereby deny His pre-existence. For he declared very definitely that Jesus Christ ‘from eternity was with the Father and at last appeared to us’ (Magn. 6.1) and that He ‘came forth from one Father in whom He is and to whom He has returned’ (Magn. 7.2). But just how He was distinct from the Father, since both are God, Ignatius does not say. Perhaps he hints at an answer when he says that Christ is the Father’s ‘thought’ (Eph. 3.2).

While Ignatius concentrated most of his thought on Christ, he did not ignore the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was the principle of the Lord’s virginal conception (Eph. 18.2). Through the Holy Spirit Christ ‘confirmed . . . in stability the officers of the Church’ (Phil. inscr.). This Spirit spoke through Ignatius himself (Phil. 7.1). Ignatius does not cite the Matthean baptismal formula, but he does sometimes mention Father. Son, and Holy Spirit together. He urges the Magnesians to ‘be eager . . . to be confirmed in the commandments of our Lord and His apostles, so that “whatever you do may prosper” . . . in the Son and Father and Spirit’ (Magn. 13.2). And in one of his most famous passages he declares: ‘Like the stones of a temple, cut for a building of God the Father, you have been lifted up to the top by the crane of Jesus Christ, which is the Cross, and the rope of the Holy Spirit’ (Eph. 9.1). Thus although there is nothing remotely resembling a doctrine of the Trinity in Ignatius, the triadic pattern of thought is there, and two of its members, the Father and Jesus Christ, are clearly and often designated as God.

It has been urged 4 that for Ignatius there is no Trinity before the birth of Jesus, but that before the birth there was only God and a pre-existent Christ, who is called either Logos or Holy Spirit. There is, however, no solid evidence that Ignatius either in intention or in words made any such identification either in his letter to the Smyrnaeans (inscr.) or in that to the Magnesians (13.1,2). On the contrary. when Ignatius writes that ‘our God, Jesus Christ, was born of Mary . . . and of the Holy Spirit’ (Eph. 18.2), he seems to indicate that before this birth both ‘our God Jesus Christ’ and the Holy Spirit pre-existed distinctly and that thus there was a Trinity before His birth.


1. Quasten, Patrology, 1 : 63-76; Lawson, A Theological and Historical Introduction to the Apostolic Fathers, pp. 101-152.
2. J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (New York and London. 1965), p. 92.
3. J. Tixeront, History of Dogmas (3 vols. St. Louis, 1910) 1 : 123.
4. Wolfson, The Philosophy of the Church Fathers, pp. 184, 191.

Taken from The Triune God: A Historical Doctrine of the Doctrine of the Trinity by Edmund J. Fortman, pp.  38-40.

HT: Orthocath


The Place For Preaching: Part 2 – The Ambo

by Fr. John A. Peck

Part Two of our Five Part series.

A Short History of the Liturgical Location for Preaching: The Ambo, the Pulpit and the Lectern.

The Ambo

An Ambo (pl. Ambones) is a Greek word, supposed to signify a mountain or elevation.

The Ambo

This was understood in the west as well – and well after the Great Schism. Even Pope Innocent III of Rome so understood it, for in his work on the Liturgy (II.I. 33), after speaking of the deacon ascending the ambo to read the Gospel, he quotes the following from Isaiah (40:9):

“O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into a high mountain! O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God’”

(translation as quoted in Handel’s Messiah – a personal favorite)

An Ambo with figures of the Prophet Jonah being swallowed and regurgitated by the sea monster
Detail of Mosaic showing Prophet Jonah & the Sea Monster

And in the same connection he also alludes to Our Lord Jesus Christ preaching from a mountain:

“He went up into a mountain -and opening his mouth he taught them” (Matt. 5: 1, 2).

As an ambo is an elevated platform or pulpit from which, in the early churches and basilicas, the Gospel and Epistle were eventuallychanted or read from it, and all kinds of communications were made to the congregation, sometimes the bishop preached from it, as in the case of St. John Chrysostom, who, Socrates Scholasticus says, was accustomed to mount the ambo to address the people, in order to be more distinctly heard (Eccl. Hist., 6, 5).  Sozomen (Church History 9.2) states the same, still characterizing the ambo as bema ton anagnoston. Chrysostom spoke from the ambo

“in order to be better understood”;

Originally there was only one ambo in a church, placed in the nave, and provided with two flights of steps; one from the east, the side towards the altar; and the other from the west.

From the eastern steps the subdeacon, with his face to the altar, read the Epistles; and from the western steps the deacon, facing the people, read the Gospels. The inconvenience of having one ambo soon became manifest, and in consequence in many churches two ambones were erected. When there were two, they were usually placed one on each side of the choir, which was separated from the nave and aisles by a low wall. Very often the Gospel ambo was provided with a permanent candlestick; the one attached to the ambo in St. Clement’s  in Rome is a marble spiral column, richly decorated with mosaic, and terminated by a capital twelve feet from the floor.

In the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia it stood under the dome (Paul the Silentiary, P.G., 86, 2259), but was united with the choir

“like an island with the mainland.”

The Ambo at Ravenna today

Similarly at Ravenna the ambo of Bishop Agnellus (sixth century) stood in the central aisle of the nave, on the inner side of the old chancel screen. Bishop Agnellus, builder of the ambo of the cathedral at Ravenna (sixth century), called it pyrgus, or tower-like structure. The exterior surface of the round middle part and the steps which come far forward on the sides have panels arranged like a chess-board in six parallel bands filled with symbolic animals: fish, ducks, doves, deer, peacocks, and lambs in regular succession.

Owing to the aversion of Byzantine art of that period to delineating the human figure, animals are here presented in symbolical dependence on the words:

“Preach the Gospel to every creature.”

In large churches, therefore, the bishops, e.g. Ambrose, Augustine, and Paulinus of Nola, preached from the ambo at a very early date.

Ambones decorated with mosaic
The Ambo at Salonica

The ambo of Salonica, traditionally called “Paul’s pulpit,” appears to be the oldest remaining monument of this kind (fourth to sixth century). It is circular in form, about four meters in circumference, with two stairways, for ascending and descending, and is ornamented with carvings of the three Magi set in niches representing a shell; two ornamental bands are carried around above the niches (“Archives des missions scientifiques,” III, 1876).

A 5th century Ambo – Kalambaka, Greece

Ambones are believed by some to have taken their origin from the raised platform from which the Jewish rabbis read the Scriptures to the people, and they were first introduced into churches during the fourth century, were in universal use by the ninth, reaching their full development and artistic beauty in the twelfth, and then gradually fell out of use, until in the fourteenth century, after the fall of Constantinople, when they were largely superseded by pulpits. In the Ambrosian Rite, the Gospel is still read from the ambo. They were usually built of white marble, enriched with carvings, inlays of colored marbles, and glass mosaics.

The Ambo at Hagia Sophia today

The most celebrated ambo was the one erected by the Emperor Justinian in the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia at Constantinople, which is fully described by the contemporary poet, Paulus Silentiarius in his work peri ktismaton. He describes the body of the ambo as made of various precious metals, inlaid with ivory, overlaid with plates of silver, and further enriched with gildings and bronze. The ambo of Hagia Sophia was adorned with flowers and trees. The disappearance of this magnificent example of Christian art is involved in some obscurity. It was probably intact down to the time of the taking of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1203, when it was stripped of its beauty and wealth.

St. Mark’s “Double Decker” Ambo, on the left

In St. Mark’s, at Venice, there is a very peculiar ambo, of two stories; from the lower one was read the Epistle, and from the upper one the Gospel. This form was copied at a later date in what are known as “double-decker” pulpits. Very interesting examples may be seen in many of the Italian basilicas; in Ravenna there are a number from the sixth century.

Just when it became customary to use the ambo mainly for the sermon, which gave it a new importance and affected its position, is not known.

Isidore of Seville first employed the word pulpit (Etym., XVI, iv), then “‘tribunal,” because from this the priest gave the “precepts for the conduct of life,” proclaiming law and justice.

Isidore also derives “analogium” from logos, as

“the addresses were given”

from it. Thus the ambo became the regular place for the preacher, and its situation was dependent on local conditions.

The Small Ambo

Due to the reduction in importance of preaching, the ambo eventually became smaller in size, and lower in stature, until it slowly began to turn into the pulpit (if attached to a pillar or some other part of the nave) or a large lectern (if unattached). A good example of this is the Ambo in Cluj, Romania. (below)

An Ambo in Cluj, Romania

Ambones of this kind are not uncommon today, and can still be purchased for parish installation!

(See Part 5 of this series for vendors)

The Episcopal Ambo

In the contemporary celebration, the last public prayer of the Divine Liturgy is the “Prayer Before the Ambo”. Originally, it was a prayer of thanksgiving said as the clergy descended the ambo at the end of the service. In ancient times, there was a large collection of Prayers Before the Ambo, written for the different feast days of the church year and for those occasional services, such as weddings and funerals, that called for celebration of the Divine Liturgy.

The Modern Episcopal Ambo

There is also a low platform in the center of the nave called the episcopal ambo where the bishop is vested prior to the Divine Liturgy and where he is enthroned until the Little Entrance. If the bishop is serving in a simple parish church, an episcopal ambo is set temporarily in place. In parishes where this is permanent, when the bishop is not present, an analogion with an icon is usually placed upon it.

Compiled from various sources.

Part Three – The Pulpit can be read HERE.

On The Jesus Prayer

by St. John Chrysostom

Our father among the saints, John (347-407), Archbishop of Constantinople, was a notable Christian bishop and preacher from the fourth and fifth centuries in Syria and Constantinople. He is famous for eloquence in public speaking and his denunciation of abuse of authority in the Church and in the Roman Empire of the time. He had notable ascetic sensibilities.

St. John Chrysostom wrote the following on the Jesus Prayer:

The remembrance of the name of Jesus rouses the enemy to battle. For a soul that forces itself to pray the Prayer of Jesus can find anything by this prayer, both good and evil. First it can see evil in the recesses of its own heart, and afterwards good. This prayer can stir the snake to action, and this prayer can lay it low. This prayer can expose the sin that is living in us, and this prayer can eradicate it. This prayer can stir up in the heart all the power of the enemy, and this prayer can conquer it and gradually root it out. The name of the Lord Jesus Christ, as it descends into the depths of the heart, will subdue the snake which controls its ranges, and will save and quicken the soul. Continue constantly in the name of the Lord Jesus that the heart may swallow the Lord and the Lord the heart, and that these two may be one. However, this is not accomplished in a single day, nor in two days, but requires many years and much time. Much time and labor are needed in order to expel the enemy and instate Christ.

–  Letter to Monks (PG 60, p. 753).

St. John also wrote the following on the value of the Jesus Prayer:

…constantly call: “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me!” in order that this remembrance of the Name of our Lord Jesus should incite you to battle with the enemy. By this remembrance, a soul forcing itself to do this practice can discover everything which is within, both good and bad. First, it will see within, in the heart, what is bad, and later — what is good. This remembrance is for rousing the serpent, and the remembrance is for subduing it. This remembrance can reveal the sin living in us, and this remembrance can destroy it. This remembrance can arouse all the enemy hosts in the heart, and little by little this remembrance can conquer and uproot them.

The Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, descending into the depths of the heart, will subdue the serpent holding sway over the pastures of the heart, and will save our soul and bring it to life. Thus abide constantly with the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that the heart swallows the Lord and the Lord the heart, and the two become one. But this work is not done in one or two days; it needs many years and a long time. For great and prolonged labor is needed to cast out the foe so that Christ dwells in us….

For this great work demands great forcing, since “straight is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life” (Matthew 7:14). And only those who force themselves enter the Kingdom of Heaven, for the “violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12). I implore you therefore not to withdraw your hearts from God, but to watch them and guard them by constant remembrance of our Lord Jesus Christ, until the name of our Lord Jesus Christ is deeply rooted in your heart and you cease to think of aught but glorifying the Lord in you.

— From The Publicans Prayer Book, pp. 564-565.