Regarding your impression that:By the time of the Islamic invasions... most in the Holy Land were actually ethnic Greeks, not Jews
, another fact that goes against this impression is the strong use of Aramaic at the time of the invasions. Aramaic and Greek were two common languages in 1st century Judea. It would make sense for the Greek population to speak Greek and have less use for Aramaic.
Regarding population size, Greece's land size is not so many times larger than the Holy Land so that as an empire Greece's native population would naturally have overfilled Greece, Turkey, southern Italy, the Balkans, the Holy land, Egypt and other places they conquered. It seems more likely that the Greeks were simply one dominant group in those places, like the Romans would be later. It seems likely that most of the places would retain their original populations too, unless the Greeks and Romans genocided or expelled them. Both empires suppressed the local population, but it seems that absoluteist genocide and absolute expulsion weren't the rule. Take for example Gaul and Britannia, where the natives resisted Roman rule, but were suppressed instead of undergoing absolute genocide or expulsion. French people have alot of Gaulic descent today. For example, one modern political phrase refers to the crowing of the "Gaullic rooster".
In the Holy Land, there were cases of the Greeks and Romans killing or expelling the native population, like the Romans' expulsion of Jews from Jerusalem in c.70 or 135 AD. But it doesn't seem like absolute, because significant Jewish populations continue to be mentioned in the history of the Holy Land leading up to the Islamic invasions. There was for example, I think a big Jewish revolt in that intervening time.
Getting back to the language issue, the Jews in the Holy Land took the Aramaic language from the Syrians, and it became their language of common speech. It would stand to reason that the Greeks would keep Greek as their common language, because it was commonly spoken throughout the eastern Roman empire. Yet Aramaic continued to be the common language spoken in the Holy Land up to the Islamic invasions. In fact, the Crusaders referred to Aramaic-speaking Christians in the Holy Land as "Syrians," perhaps for this reason. Along with this, Aramaic has been found in pre-Islamic Byzantine church ruins in the Holy Land. This all suggests that the non-Greek Aramaic-speaking population of 1st century Judea, that is, descendents of the Jews, continued to make up a majority of the Holy Land up to the time of the Islamic invasion. It's true that there were expulsions from parts of the Holy Land, like Jews from Jerusalem c. 135 AD and I somewhat remember an expulsion of non-Christian Jews who revolted during Byzantine rule. But there remained a strong presence of Aramaic Christians and non-Christian Jews in the Holy Land at the time of the Islamic invasions. Further evidence is shown by the fact that Palestinian Arabic in particular has a significant influence from Hebrew and aramaic. (see the Wikipedia article on Palestinian Arabic.)Regards
It is interesting corresponding with you, because you know alot about Judaism, which is the religious tradition Christianity came from. I want to understand Christianity better. And the heritage of the Orthodox Christians is a big part of our Christian heritage too, because they are descended from the early Jewish Christians who played a central role in beginning our faith.
In your message, you discussed two or three issues:
(A) how Orthodox someone is,
(B) how worthy someone is of Salvation;
(C) how worthy someone is(A) How Orthodox someone is:
I think someone who is born into an Orthodox family and Baptized as an Infant is no more Orthodox... than someone Baptized as an Adult.
Someone who was born in , lets say, 1962 but whose ancestors have been Orthodox since the time of the Apostles are no more Orthodox... than any one else.
The TRADITIONS of the Orthodox Faith going back to Antiquity are worthy of maintaining.
In a comparison between two adults, one who was baptized as an infant and one baptized as an adult, the one baptized as a child could be more Orthodox because they had more time to self-identify as Orthodox, and take in more Orthodox ideas and doctrines. On the other hand, one baptized as an adult would have made a conscious decision to become Orthodox, so he/she could identify stronger with Orthodoxy and its ideas, and make more effort to learn about the faith. I'm sure that a survey would show which of the two outcomes is more likely.
On the other hand, you would be right to say that someone's age at baptism isn't a conclusive criterion to decide how Orthodox someone is.
As to the statement "Someone who was born in , lets say, 1962 but whose ancestors have been Orthodox since the time of the Apostles are no more Orthodox... than any one else", it could theoretically also be shown by a research survey whether people matching those criteria are more likely to self-identify as Orthodox and have Orthodox ideas than others. But also, you would be right that there alone are not conclusive criteria for how Orthodox someone is.
I agree and sympathize with you when you write:
The TRADITIONS of the Orthodox Faith going back to Antiquity are worthy of maintaining.
Also, please forgive me if this is arrogant, but your appreciation of Orthodoxy makes me happy. This appreciation for Orthodox traditions is one reason why I mention about the Palestinians' Jewish heritage: it's because their traditions may go stronger back to Orthodoxy's roots in antiquity, because they themselves have physical descent from Orthodoxy's roots in antiquity.
That is, they may have done an especially good job preserving Orthodox traditions and customs because it would be within their families.
So it makes sense to me why you feel that this topic- Palestinian Christians' descent from the first Christians- is related to how Orthodox someone is. The topic suggests that because someone grew up in a family with certain customs and traditions that they are more likely to have traditions and customs descending from their forebearers than someone who took those same traditions from them or their forebearers as an adult.
And I think that it's true. For example, Roman Catholics in Italy, it appears to me, have more time and contact with their forebearers collectively to gain more traditions and customs from the ancient Christians of Rome, than say, Roman Catholics in Mexico. And I think that as a result, RCs in Rome do have more customs and traditions from the early Roman Christians than Mexicans.
One example of this is art. It seems to me that Rome's churches today are more likely to have the art of the 1st-4th centuries AD, with Roman columns and Latin, than Mexicans, who may include indigenous Hispanic or native American artistic elements in their religious art.
On the other hand, Mexicans may actually have stronger self-identification as Roman Catholics, may be more deeply faithful, and have stronger adherence to Roman Catholicism, because for example they are poorer than Roman Catholics in Rome.(B) how worthy someone is of Salvation
One could say that if someone is descended from the early Christians of the Holy Land, then it's less likely they are "worthy of salvation", because about 6.5% of Palestinians are Christian, whereas about 33% of the world's population is Christian. On the other hand, Orthodoxy doesn't profess to know how God will judge people, so this isn't certain. Another response could be that everyone is worthy of salvation, but only some persons choose salvation.
Among Christians, physical descent from the early Christians- or anyone else- is irrelevant to one's salvation. In that sense you are correct when you say:
I think someone who is born into an Orthodox family and Baptized as an Infant is no more... worthy of Salvation than someone Baptized as an Adult. (C) how worthy someone is
Someone who was born in , lets say, 1962 but whose ancestors have been Orthodox since the time of the Apostles are no more... worthy of Salvation than any one else.
I am confused how you felt that I implied "that some people are more or less worthy than others":
to imply that some people are more or less worthy than others is not a good path to go down IMHO.
Christianity teaches that we people are all made in God's image, and Christianity has the view that our inherent worth as God's creatures is equal to one another. Jesus emphasized this by especially reaching out to poor people, to diseased people, to corrupt tax collectors, and to non-Jews. Furthermore, in Matthew 3, Jesus suggested that physical descent from Abraham, a primary founder of belief in Jehovah, did not in itself make people more spiritually valuable than others lacking this trait.
I neither said here, nor does Christianity say, that someone's descent means that someone is more valuable than another. You are right that such a path "is not a good path to go down IMHO", because it could lead to ideas about ethnic, biological supremacy.
On the other hand, a person physically descended from the early Christians can have some more cultural or archeological value. For example, if someone wants to artistically depict the apostles or other early Christians, the artist may choose to use someone physically descended from them as an art model. Or if an archeologist wants to know what people looked like in 1st century Judea, they might pick a person descended from its inhabitants. Likewise, if someone wishes to experience the culture of the early Christians, it would make sense for them to seek out a person who is descended from the early Christians and whose forefathers passed down parts of that culture. The person who appreciates the early Christians and their culture may place more worth on their descendants who preserved those elements, and find interacting with them to be a more authentic experience. They would have greater worth in terms of being an object of interest, attraction, and cultural and archeological value.
One conclusion, for example, is that some people might prefer to have them live in good conditions and prosper in the Holy Land out of interest for their way of life as a kind of valued artifact, like how some Christians collect religious relics, and others build recreations, like the "Holy Land" park in Florida.
To give an analogy, some scholars and academics may place value on the Eskimos because they can show us how ancient peoples lived, as well as educate us today how we can survive in such inhospitable climates.
The Christians of the Holy Land provide even more than interest for us, but spiritual value, because their religious culture traces back to our religious roots. So for example a well they have kept stories about and drawn water from for almost 2000 years has some spiritual value for us, if it is the same well mentioned in the gospels. Of course, it isn't the well itself having its own spiritual powers, but experiencing it can remind us more of our spiritual ideas, like an ikon can.
I am not sure how an appreciation of an indigenous people or their culture means that somehow they are worth more as human beings, however. The descendants of the early Christians have the same spiritual, human worth before God as other people. To me, ideas about cultural and artistic worth seem like they are separate and distinct from whether a person is himself/herself of worth, by which I assume you mean inherent spritual or moral worth.
To give another analogy, in America we may value our American heritage from the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence. In terms of human rights, our democratic system doesn't consider an American as having more value than another person, or being spiritually superior. But still, we value Americans, and say, groups like "Daughters of the American Revolution, in part because of our democratic heritage.Comparing recent converts to people "formed in cultures stepped in Orthodoxy for centuries", you commented:
I think each group has it's own advantages and disadvantages. Just keep in mind that someone born in 1962 was not actually around in the year 62. Romantic notions about people and communities can lead to disappointment.
From a Christian point of view, there is no intrinsic disadvantage to a person being "formed in cultures stepped in Orthodoxy for centuries." We consider Christianity to be true, and so there is no disadvantage in coming from a long-standing Christian culture.
On the other hand, I think that a recent convert may have an advantage over someone from the ancient Christian culture, because the convert would have more experience living within the non-ancient-Christian culture. And experience is an asset, although it can be a disadvantage at the same time.
Being from the ancient Orthodox culture has an advantage too, because the person would be more familiar with Orthodoxy. To give you an example, when I first traveled to an Orthodox country, I was impressed by the lack of pews, and the feeling that the church was more like an open place of assembly, like a Temple. Another thing that impressed me was the relations of respect and deference given to clergy.
A disadvantage to being a recent convert could be that they are less familiar with the faith and may have a weaker attachment to it at first. Another disadvantage could be that they have less knowledge about the religion's ideas, so they assume that their previous religion's ideas apply. For example, it may be that some recent Protestant converts assume that the idea about original sin remains in Orthodoxy, or that Orthodox churches use the same Western art. Of course, Orthodox people brought up in Protestant cultures may have the same confusions, but still, in that case the problem wasn't a result of coming from the ancient-Christian-culture.
You're right to say:
Just keep in mind that someone born in 1962 was not actually around in the year 62.
So for example, their legends as they have them today about something that Jesus did in their Palestinian village is of much less veracity than if they were around in the year 62 AD.
However, in a way your statement is incorrect: the person's cells came from a biological seed that was part of his/her father's body, which in turn was from a biological seed from the father's father's body and so on in a line of succession leading back to the year 62 AD. So every person alive today was around in 62 AD, in the sense that they were a part of a person living in 62 AD.
It's true that:
Romantic notions about people and communities can lead to disappointment.
But only insofar as romanticism itself can lead to disappointment, in that romanticism isn't realistic. It seems equally true that romantic notions about people can lead to positive feelings.
For example, if one has romantic ideas about Eskimos based on their ability to survive the arctic, he/she can go live with Eskimos and get disappointed when they fail to give proper medical aid for a broken bone, or he/she can have more positive feelings when he builds a big igloo.
It's a pleasure thinking through ideas about religion.Health and Happiness to youZdorovye i Schastye tebe.
You stated: "Most of the Greek population of Palestine was monks."
By itself I have some doubt about this because Greeks lived in Palestine since at least the Seleucids in the pre-Christian era. Greeks were in Palestine at the time of Alexander the Great, although I am unaware if they settled there then. It seems that some Greeks would live among the harbors, for example, because Greeks had alot of trade in the Mediterranean and lived in pre-Christian Cyprus, Crete, and Sicily for example.
On the other hand, Palestine had hundreds of monasteries in the Byzantine era, so it's possible. Plus you know alot about Christianity in the Holy Land, so you're a good source.
It also makes sense that monks "don't leave DNA evidence. Greek was widely used, the population was still Semitic." Greek was widely used as a common language in the Byzantine empire, and the DNA evidence shows that Palestine's population was still semitic then, like you said.
I agree with you when you write:
LOL. In Oriental Institute they have a stela of an Assyrian king, the bottom of which is efaced, because the people formed in the culture there for centuries was using it for a chopping block, until the archaeologist who learned about the king from dusty books stumbled across it and bought it from the natives.
These dry bones can live, but it's better to have some meat on it.
On the other hand, the people in that particular ancient culture may have had as part of their customs an intution where if they found a stela from a prior civilization, they might have also acted that way with it. For example, I read that the stones and gold from temples and castles was sometimes taken and used for other temples.
A good example is the Temple of Jerusalem. Some scholars about the Church of the Upper Room on Mount Zion propose that some of the Church's large stones were taken from the Temple and reused by Jewish Christians.
So what seems to us as a careless loss in their culture may also be one aspect of the culture they inherited.
Take for example the shepherds who found the Qumran scrolls. It appears that they didn't have much to do with the scrolls. In fact, they started to misuse some of the scrolls, I think, for non-academic purposes. But on the other hand, the shepherds still had some connection with the caves, and their profession existed at the time the scrolls were written.
To give another example, some primitive people I think in Australia or Africa have itnerpretations of the ancient cave drawings there. Their interpretations could be wrong, but they could be correct too, and they also live in ways similar to their ancestors who made the drawings. And because they could be correct, their views are important to us, who have a weaker connection to the drawings.
In response to the discussion
No one is born Orthodox. Everyone has to be received into the Church in some way (baptism, chrismation, whatever). One also does not learn Orthodoxy by osmosis. Even being brought up in an Orthodox culture requires that one learn. Parents have to teach their children how to cross themselves and why and when. One needs to develop a relationship to the Church and God in order to fulfill the vows made at baptism.
Ideally, and that happens, one learns these things not just from one's parents, but encounters them in the whole of the larger community: extended family, school, neighbours, friends, enemies, belletristic, sights he sees etc.
These mechanisms are all interconnected and when some fail, there are enough others to function as safety nets.
This is how a traditional Orthodox community is and functions.
, you responded:"Yeah, the Hebrew Church thought so too, and then came the persecutions and jump started them into what the Lord told them "GO ye therefore and make disciples of all nations. So rather than settling down into country wide ghettos, best to get to the business at hand."
I agree with you. However, I am not sure whether the persecutions jump started them.
On one hand, the persecution compelled them to move out to other areas, like the Nazarenes' move to Western Syria, some Jewish Christians' move to Jordan, Joseph of Arimathea's apparent move to Britain, some other Christians' move to India. On the other hand, St Paul didn't say that he was making his journey because persecution forced him to. Rather, it's reasonable to think that those who spread the message of Christianity were simply following Christ's command to do so. After all, the persecutors didn't command them to travel and spread the message. One possibility is that persecution pushed the Christians farther underground, which would decrease mission work.
Had there been no persecution, it's still foreseeable that they would've spread the message. Persecution weakened the Jewish Christian community in the Holy Land, and they didn't seem to continue growing alot in the mountain areas in Jordan and Syria they went to.
On the other hand, it makes sense that they would spread out to other communities to escape persecution in the Holy Land. One reason this would make sense is that I think the Romans avoided persecuting them for failure to pay homage to the Roman emperor as a god, because the Roman empire at least allowed Jews to practice Monotheism, and the Romans saw the Jewish Christians as part of the Jewish religion. Within Judea, the religious authorities would've persecuted the Christians, but outside, in the diaspora, the leaders would have less authority. So it makes sense that the Jewish Christians could've found emigration and spreading out to be preferable to escape persecution.
Also, I disagree with the description that the Hebrew Church focused on having an intergrated community but then switched away from this idea into mission work when persecution began, although you aren't exactly saying that.
1. I don't think that the early church abandoned the idea of a church community. In fact, it sounds from the NT that there was significant closeness in the Christian communities, like for example sharing finances within the church. The practice of infant baptism, baptising families, seems related to the idea that the people were together in the community. To give another example, St Paul also writes about what relations Christian families should have.
2. The early Christian Church appears to be under persecution, that is, religious suppression, from its creation, when for example some crowd wanted to push Jesus off a cliff, or when the disciples scattered when Christ was arrested.
The scattering action here reminds me of the Christians scattering and preaching to the nations, like you said. So it may be as you say that the persecution, which coincided if not caused the scattering, also jumpstarted the business at hand of making disciples of the nations.
The country wide ghettos differ from Christianity too in that Christ also went outside the ghetto, so to speak, when he went to the Samaritans and interacted with non-Jews. A ghetto on the other hand has a kind of exclusivity that closes one off from others, in contrast to the spirit of shining one's light on the world. Christ commanded the disciples to preach to all nations, so it's best for us to do that compared to our other option of staying in country-wide ghettos, like you said.Salaam.
I agree with you and it's funny when you say:
They might not be worthier of salvation , granted, but to say they are just like some guy that reads about the OC in the wikipedia, likes it and decides to convert is not bright at all.
Those people have a better intuitive grasp of Orthodoxy, having been formed in cultures stepped into orthodoxy for centuries, than a new convert has. That is the reality.
It's possible that some Orthodox with such roots from the Holy Land may grow up with little knowledge of their family or their family's faith, but it seems like an exception.
You make an insightful point when you remark:
Both ialmisry and shangaiski, you just prove my point: Orthodoxy, when received 'culturally" tends to be less cerebral, less self-conscious, more encompassing, more natural in a way.
When received outside of a larger cultural milieu, it tends to become a religion, exclusively.
That is, when it's part of the culture, Orthodoxy expands beyond simply a religious theory and into a way of living.
Ialmisry's example of the chopping block showed that, because he said that the ethnic Assyrian people were part of the Assyrian King's culture. So the act of chopping on the stela was within their culture. They were not acting cerebrally, thinking about ideas about the Assyrian King. But they were still acting within their culture, which sounds like a primitive, practical one.
Outside of that culture, someone looking with more knowledge of the group's ideology might not recognize other aspects. Here, Ialmisry is outside the Assyrian culture, and his reaction is that they are missing "meat" when they chop on the stela. But inside the Assyrian culture, the chopping makes sense because it was more primitive and practical. For example, ancient empires re-used objects from other cultural sites, like temples and gold. So for the Assyrian choppers, their action was part of the less-cerebral aspect of their culture, which someone outside the culture could miss if they focus only on pure ideology, that is, as you seem to call it: "a religion, exclusively."
Likewise, with the Russian peasants Shanghaiski mentioned, some peasants couldn't identify pictures of Jesus Christ. That strongly suggests that they had less cerebral knowledge about Christianity than a 20th century person. Plus, it isn't clear that they exactly knew the rule that one should go to church frequently unless there's a good reason. For them, they simply went to church commonly as part of their culture. Whereas today, someone who only knows pure religious ideology and spent little time in Christianity might say that they had a "good reason" to avoid Church on Sundays, because, say, they want to avoid a job conflict. But a "good reason" is a somewhat vague concept. A person inside the culture would foreseeably have a less cerebral idea of when this rule applies, even if the person didn't know the rule.
In fact, these kinds of cultural factors probably play alot bigger role in our religion than many of us realize. For example, in the OCA today, a major reason for avoiding a requirement that women wear veils is because the culture has changed. Yet the change in culture itself goes on at a less cerebral level, as you are saying.
I have not really encountered "superstition" unless you want to label as such the fact that the less educated tend to see God in places where the over-educated don't see HimBlessings.
I agree with you when you write:
While I agree in many ways that Orthodoxy can be absorbed culturally, this is not always as true as we would want it to be. One can read a lot about this by looking at studies made by 19th century Russian historians and 19th century Russian statistics. At the time, it was very popular to hold up the peasant masses as bastions of Orthodox piety. The statistical reality, however, showed a lot of superstition and ignorance. While churchgoing was common, understanding of faith was not. Some could not even identify an icon of Jesus Christ as being an icon of Jesus Christ. So, I think that one has to recognize that cradles and converts both have something to offer each other in many cases. I, personally, do not charge cradle Orthodox with anything in a general way, nor do I view them as inferior. I would appreciate it converts would not be generalized or thought of as inferior.
However, I disagree with your use of the word "however" here:
At the time, it was very popular to hold up the peasant masses as bastions of Orthodox piety. The statistical reality, however, showed a lot of superstition and ignorance.
Superstition and ignorance do not necessarily contradict Orthodox piety.
First of all, superstition is a broad enough term that could be used to refer to Orthodoxy itself from a certain viewpoint. This could be said from a purely materialist perspective that views Christianity as a myth.
Russian peasants could have a superstition that a certain well is miracle-working with healing powers, and also be pious it seems, even if the well isn't special, and the peasants are ignorant in the sense that they don't perceive the well's lack of ability to perform miracles.
Also, there was a high literacy rate in pre-revolutionary Russia, so alot of people couldn't read the scriptures. This means they had alot of ignorance about the scriptures when compared to most regular church-goers today who read the Bible. But in my opinion, this doesn't mean that they are more or less pious, that is, faithful.
When I was in Greece and the Holy Land, I was amazed by the old churches, but also amazed that many of those churches were sparsely attended or closed... Peoples who have been Christian for centuries now want little or nothing to do with Christianity. Christian culture does not exist in a vacuum. It depends upon those who practice their faith. One can identify oneself as Orthodox, but if one puts one's children in soccer practice instead of church on Sunday mornings, is one really practicing one's faith. St. Ignatius of Antioch says that we have not only to call ourselves Christians, but to be Christian. Clearly it was a problem in the Apostolic era as well.
I am sorry to hear about the sparse attendance in churches in the Holy Land. I believe that the occupation and the political/economic situation probably has a comparable portion, if not more to do with the low attendance than erosion of faith, secularism, people distancing themselves from Christianity, a lack of practicing faith, going to soccer practise instead of church, or not being Christian. In the beginning of the 20th century, the Orthodox Church had 200,000-400,000 people in the Holy Land and Jordan. Now it has 150,000 in the Holy Land and Jordan, and about another 250,000 abroad. Yet the churches were open and kept in the 20th century when there were higher numbers. So it makes sense that compared with the number of churches, as well as the size of the Christian community they should have, their churches are sparsely attended.
In the West Bank, the military checkpoints make travel to places more difficult, and in the State of Israel proper, apparently some Jewish Christians try to keep their Christianity on the low because of peer pressure. On the other hand, a strong counterargument would be that if their faith was strong enough, they would likely overcome these obstacles.
So it depends where you went to church. If you were in town or city with a significant number of Orthodox, like say 1,000, and where people could easily get to church, and you saw only a handful in church, then it would appear that attendance was low because of lack of dedication to Christianity. On the other hand, if you went to a West Bank place with few Orthodox that was blocked with checkpoint(s), then the sparse attendance would certainly be from the military situation, and have little to do with people's faithfulness on that Sunday.
The fact that "St. Ignatius of Antioch says that we have not only to call ourselves Christians, but to be Christian" doesn't show clearly that "it was a problem in the Apostolic era as well", because there are other ways one can be unChristian, like hurting others, besides low church attendance. On the other hand, Christ complained about the generation's unfaithfulness, so I assume lack of diligence and practice of faith was a problem then too.Regarding Augustin717's words:
Regardless, overall, it is more advantageous to receive the Orthodox faith along with the local culture it largely created, than to receive it in a context devoid of these cultural elements that is in an environment shaped and influenced by a different faith, like Protestantism for instance.
I am not sure what you mean when you write: "If that were the case, we should all become like Jews."
First, if what he's saying is true, then the closest to "becoming like Jews"
we would become is like the 1st-4th century Palestinian Christians, which included Jews and Romans living in Palestine like the soldier Cornelius in the New Testament. However, it's possible to say that Orthodoxy created the culture of the Byzantine empire, as well as the culture of later Orthodox countries, and that in 1st century Judea, Orthodoxy had still not as yet fully formed its culture.
Second, it seems that by "become like Jews" you might mean that religious Jews usually try to keep their religion within an ethnic Jewish culture and vice-verse, so that people have the advantage of receiving the religion inside the culture. And it's true that there's an advantage leading us to feel that we should keep the culture and ethnicity connected. For example, in the Western Rite religious community, it's advantageous to have some preservation of cultural elements related to the Western Rite, like some knowledge about Orthodox England, or some art from the style of Orthodox England.
On the other hand, preserving culture takes effort too, and it's secondary in importance for religion. So there's also a disadvantage to keeping the two- culture and religion- combined. For one, it creates "the problem" you appear to refer to, of transmitting religion across cultures, and of gaining converts from those outside the religion's national culture.
You were right when you said:But this problem was sorted out by St. Paul and the early Christians and fathers. Every Orthodox country and culture today was once pagan... Eventually, it is Orthodoxy that makes an Orthodox culture. Orthodoxy is the principle. The Orthodox culture forms later.
Except that Orthodoxy isn't the only thing that makes the Orthodox culture, and it isn't the only principle. Romania and Russia have Orthodox cultures, but they differ along national lines. So for example, language is part of the Orthodox culture. On the other hand, the language and the other aspects of the culture aren't what makes the culture Orthodox.
One advantage here for the earlier Orthodox cultures is like the advantage to earlier scholars: they are closer in line to the source of the religion, so they have a better idea, or closer link to its beginning, which in a way makes it more authentic. In this sense, there is still an advantage to being like the Jews in transmitting cultural aspects along with the religion.
In fact, some cultural aspects have been transmitted along with the religion. It seems to me, for example, that the Cyrillic alphabet, which includes Greek, Latin, and Hebrew letters, was transmitted to the russian peoples along with the religion.
The existence of some Hebrew letters in the Cyrillic alphabet appears related to the transmission of Christianity:
The early history of Bulgarian literature is closely linked with that of the Bulgarian language, and with both there are interesting Jewish associations. During the 9th century C.E., as part of his proselytizing campaign in the Balkans, the missionary monk Cyril of Salonika (also called Constantine the Philosopher) created Glagolitic, the basic Slav alphabet, later modified by Clement of Ohrid to form the Cyrillic alphabet. Since the Greek symbols on which this was based could not convey all the phonemes of the old Slav tongue, several consonantal symbols had to be drawn from other sources, including the Hebrew alphabet which yielded Б (ב), Ц (צ), Ч (ץ), Ш (ש), and Щ (ש) – the phonetic equivalents of b, ts, ch, sh, and shch. This new alphabet facilitated the translation of Greek liturgical works into the new literary language – Old Church Slavonic (or Bulgarian) – to which Cyril, his brother Methodius, and perhaps their pupils such as Clement added a version of the Bible, reputedly translated from the original Hebrew. According to some authorities, they had learned Hebrew from the Jews of Salonika and Kherson; Cyril and Methodius also translated part of a Hebrew grammar. The influence of a Hebrew textual source (as well as of Greek or Latin translations) has been detected in an Old Church Slavonic version of the Psalms – the 12th-century Psalterium Sinaiticum – now in the possession of St. Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula. Other medieval Bulgarian works translated or drawn from Jewish sources include Shestodnev ("The Six Days"), an account of the creation of the world in the biblical tradition, composed by loan (John) the Exarch (b. 860).
You're right when you say:
In another way, however, Orthodoxy, no matter its local manifestation, is its own culture. We share common rituals, understandings, beliefs, history, and theological language. We also, by and large (again!) share a common mindset (though converts and cradles work at eroding this). So, in another way, when one becomes Orthodox, one is at the same time embracing a culture. It's not Greek or Russian or Romanian or Syrian or whatever--it's Orthodoxy itself.
That is, religion is also cultural, and in that sense Orthodoxy has its own culture that is distinct from Russian culture. Peace
Dear Recent Convert:
Your name is related to our discussion.
I agree with you when you write:
"Cultural" Orthodoxy is relative and Orthodox Christianity in proper faith & worship exists only when the faithful follow Christ. High Anglicans may still have some forms in their liturgy that trace back to early Celtic Christianity in the time of St. Alban but are not considered Orthodox presently but those who convert are fulfilling their faith while having retained many aspects of Orthodox cultural tradition all along.
You make a good explanation.
When you sau "cultural" Orthodoxy is relative it sounds like you mean secondary cultural things that are related to Orthodoxy and can vary based on culture. For example, Christmas carol melodies could be considered cultural, whereas, like you said, Christ being a central figure is a relatively less mere "cultural" part of Orthodoxy, because it is a central focus of Orthodoxy itself.
It's funny when you say:
When I became Orthodox a kindly individual in our parish said I was aware of my heritage (Syrian) & I just nodded & smiled & had no idea what was being said to me.
Well, you were aware of your heritage, because you are aware that your heritage is Syrian. And Orthodoxy is part of Syria's religious heritage. So when you connect with the Antiochian Orthodox Church, you are connecting to part of your heritage. Except if your ancestors were never in the Syrian Orthodox Church, which is hypothetically possible, eg. if they were Jews in the Byzantine era and then accepted Islam.
It's also funny because you weren't connecting in your mind the fact that you were making a connection to part of your heritage. And her words appear to be suggesting that your connection to the Church showed you were aware of this connection, because you were attending the Church and interested in it. But actually it doesn't mean that you were aware of your heritage, since you could be a Syrian in their church and unaware of your own heritage. Congratulations on being a "Recent Convert," bro.