The effects of the Origenist controversy on the pastoral theology of Barsanuphius and John

David John Mezynski, Fordham University


In the midst of the theological turmoil caused by the Second Origenist Controversy and the Chalcedonian crisis, Barsanuphius and John, two abbas often referred to as the "Old Men" living in the monastery of Seridos in Gaza, a region notoriously saturated with both Origenists and non-Chalcedonians, offered spiritual counsel to laity, monastics, bishops, patriarchs and emperors. Reflecting on their surviving correspondence, later generations of ascetics and bishops accused the Old Men of heresy, seemingly because they demurred from commenting directly on the Fourth Council and from defining their own Christological position. In this dissertation, I argued that Barsanuphius and John were indeed sympathetic the theological traditions and Christological position of the non-Chalcedonian party yet continued to support the Chalcedonian bishops. In defending my argument, I employed a historical-critical methodology to situate the Old Men in their proper historical setting in order to establish the spiritual, theological, ecclesiastical, and political milieu in which Barsanuphius and John guided their disciples along the ascetic path. With this foundation, I considered the two key facets of their ascetic program that the elders emphasized within their counsel: humility-obedience and endurance. These two virtues reveal the necessity of praxis in their teachings so that the disciple might become Christ-like and the dangers of falsely assuming the authority to teach and guide others. These chapters provide the context to address the response of Barsanuphius and John to the Second Origenist Controversy and subsequently the means to demonstrate that the Old Men indeed felt sympathy for a non-Chalcedonian Christology.

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Recommended Citation

Mezynski, David John, "The effects of the Origenist controversy on the pastoral theology of Barsanuphius and John" (2012). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3512294.