Guiding to a Blessed End

Guiding to a Blessed End: Andrew of Caesarea and His Apocalypse Commentary in the Ancient Church

Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 350
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  • Book Info
    Guiding to a Blessed End
    Book Description:

    In this interesting and insightful work, Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou, the leading expert on Andrew of Caesarea and the first to translate his Apocalypse commentary into any modern language, identifies an exact date for the commentary and a probable recipient. Her groundbreaking book, the first ever written about Andrew, analyzes his historical milieu, education, style, methodology, theology, eschatology, and pervasive and lasting influence. She explains the direct correlation between Andrew of Caesarea and fluctuating status of the Book of Revelation in Eastern Christianity through the centuries.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-2115-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xviii)

    No patristic composition has exerted more influence over the canonical acceptance and continuous interpretation of any biblical book as Andrew of Caesarea’s commentary has of the Apocalypse of John for the Orthodox Church. Andrew’s commentary stands alone as the most important ancient commentary on the Book of Revelation produced by the Greek East. It became the standard patristic commentary in the Eastern Christian tradition, significantly influenced most subsequent Eastern commentaries, and decisively influenced the reception of the Book of Revelation into the canon of the Orthodox Church.

    Long after the biblical canon was fixed in the West, the Christian East...

    (pp. 1-13)

    Every important book of the Bible became the focus of a commentary by one or more of the early Fathers of the Church. Yet not a single major patristic figure, East or West, wrote a commentary on the Book of Revelation. To the modern reader this absence of commentary on such a significant and portentous book is startling. The Apocalypse of John, with all its prophetic significance seems to us an immediate candidate for commentary. But this was not the case for the early Fathers. Without a doubt, the lack of commentaries can be attributed to the unusual subject matter...

  7. 2 THE APOCALYPSE IN THE ANCIENT EAST: From Acceptance to Rejection
    (pp. 14-34)

    Among all the New Testament books, only Revelation claims divine inspiration.¹ Self-described as prophecy in its opening and closing,² the book blesses those who read it,³ curses those who alter it,⁴ and instructs that it be read aloud in the Church.⁵ No other New Testament book makes such bold declarations, expressing the clear intent and expectation that it be regarded as Scripture. And yet, for well over a thousand years, even those claims and assertions did not suffice to secure a place for the Apocalypse in the canon of the Eastern Church.

    The process by which the Apocalypse was ultimately...

  8. 3 LATER EASTERN DEVELOPMENTS: From Rejection to Acceptance
    (pp. 35-46)

    Disagreement among ecclesiastical writers over the canon continued into later centuries. Eminent Eastern theologians and hierarchs differed over the canonical status of Revelation, which was usually denied. As the Church passed the first millennium, the vicissitudes of Muslim and Christian conflict and the decline of the Byzantine empire brought new meaning to the Book of Revelation.

    The reception history of the Apocalypse in the East indicates some ambivalence as scholars and writers of great prominence differed on the canon, and especially the status of the Apocalypse. Pseudo-Dionysios, in the early sixth century may have accepted the book but Maximos the...

    (pp. 47-71)

    The person and work of Andrew of Caesarea are veiled in mystery. Virtually nothing is known about his life. Little remains of his exegetical work, except for his Commentary on the Apocalypse and a few small fragments consisting of questions and answers.¹ Although in the past scholars have placed Andrew’s episcopal tenure as early as the fifth century and as late as the ninth century, today most locate him in the second half of the sixth century or early seventh.

    The ancient city of Caesarea, Cappadocia, was located in eastern central Asia Minor, in the geographical center of modern-day Turkey,...

  10. 5 ANDREW’S RECIPIENT: “Makarios” and the Historical Milieu
    (pp. 72-85)

    Understanding Oikoumenios’s commentary is critical to the Andreas commentary. Not only does it provide a clue for dating Andrew, but the existence of the Oikoumenian commentary was likely a primary factor prompting a request for Andrew’s commentary and motivating its composition. In the opening sentence of his commentary, Andrew refers to a number of unnamed persons who had appealed to him to write a commentary on the Book of Revelation. Apparently he resisted until he received a request from an individual whose exact identity is unclear. This person, whom Andrew addresses as “Blessed One” or “Makarios,” apparently made a request...

    (pp. 86-103)

    If Oikoumenios’s commentary was available to Andrew for his use, it follows that it was available to others as well. Since it has been established that Oikoumenios’s commentary is the first complete Greek commentary on the Book of Revelation, it is a curious phenomenon that this commentary has been scarcely utilized by the Christian East. After five hundred years without a Greek Apocalypse commentary, one would expect Oikoumenios’s work to be eagerly embraced and enthusiastically employed by Greek-speaking Christians in the centuries that followed. But it was not. It can fairly be said that the Oikoumenios commentary failed since it...

  12. 7 ANDREW’S COMMENTARY: Purpose and Motivation
    (pp. 104-111)

    As we have seen, Andrew began his commentary by expressing his reluctance to undertake the job of interpreting the Apocalypse, the most challenging of all scriptural texts. He noted that he had repeatedly demurred to previous requests and accepted the task only after being pressured to do so by “Makarios,” whose motivation and possible identity as Sergius I, Patriarch of Constantinople, have been addressed in chapter 5. Andrew’s initial incentive is simply “obedience.” He perceives himself as “deprived of the prophetic spirit”¹ but resolves to complete the task which had been “assigned” to him, placing his trust on the hope...

    (pp. 112-125)

    A notable quality of Andrew’s commentary is his pastoral disposition. His expectation that reading Revelation will result in spiritual benefit by prompting compunction may be the most noteworthy characteristic of Andrew’s orientation and is closely connected to his purpose.¹ The Apocalypse teaches that “death must be despised”² and it guides the reader “to true life”³ and “to a blessed end.”⁴ The purpose of Revelation and the commentary are to lead the reader “to compunction,” remembering the rewards promised to the righteous and punishment that awaits the wicked.⁵ He hoped the commentary would produce “contempt” for present and transitory facets of...

    (pp. 126-151)

    Andrew admits that he is incapable of fully understanding Revelation, certainly not on its highest level. “We ourselves do not understand the entire depth of the hidden spirit within it.”¹ But also not even on its most basic level. “We neither dare to understand everything according to the letter.”² These are typical expressions of modesty in a prologue of this kind. In spite of assertions of inadequacy, Andrew proceeds with his exposition, stating that he will attempt to explain it “since it has been ordered by God to be proclaimed to those who are more perfect in knowledge”³ He asserts...

    (pp. 152-180)

    As we have seen, Andrew is familiar with levels of interpretation and techniques of historia, typology, anagoge, theoria, and tropologia. Oikoumenios is not. Although he allegorizes, Oikoumenios does not seem to apply allegory in a systematic or technical manner. Furthermore, he is unskilled or untrained in basic premises such as awareness of a biblical author’s purpose (skopos), the sequence of thought or expression (akolouthia), or how to use context (ta symphrazomena) to arrive at exegetical conclusions. In fact, such terminology is entirely absent from Oikoumenios. Although occasionally one of those words may be used it by Oikoumenios, is not applied...

    (pp. 181-214)

    Andrew was Chalcedonian orthodox in doctrine and Oikoumenios non-Chalcedonian. Both Andrew and Oikoumenios sprinkle their commentaries with occasional hints of their particular theological positions. In two places¹ Oikoumenios makes rather lengthy Christological statements which clearly indicate that he is Miaphysite, but the statements have the character of extraneous creedal proclamations rather than theological comments prompted by his exegesis.² Andrew does not engage in a dogmatic duel to directly refute Oikoumenios theologically, with one exception: his comments on the Trisagion hymn, which had become a symbol of the disagreement between Chalcedonians and non-Chalcedonians. The words of the ancient and well-known hymn...

    (pp. 215-231)

    Afflictions play a positive role for sinners as well as those who are actively struggling to be saved. This view accords with synergy and the purpose of this life according to Andrew. When the temple is described as “filled with smoke” just before the pouring out of the seven bowls (Rev. 15:8), Andrew recognizes it as a symbol of the wrath of God which is brought to bear against those who engaged in apostasy.

    Through “the smoke” we learn the frightfulness, awesomeness, and chastisement of divine wrath, with which the temple is filled, and in the time of judgment it...

    (pp. 232-258)

    Andrew believes he is living in the seventh age, however, he does not believe that the end of the world is near. In fact, despite the calamities which had befallen the empire in recent years he states that the end is “not in sight” since these catastrophes did not begin to approach the scale of destruction described by Revelation.¹ The opening of the sixth seal (Rev. 6:12) will inaugurate the end times and the afflictions that will occur at that point are “of which sort as we have never known.”² Discussing “Wormwood” (Rev. 8:11), which caused one third of humanity...

    (pp. 259-287)

    Andrew’s comments on death express classic patristic concepts. “There are two deaths; the first is the separation of the soul and the body, the second is being cast into Gehenna.”¹ This traditional perspective is based on Romans 6 in which baptism is expressed as being “buried with Christ” and “dying to sin.” The specific language of “two deaths” and “two resurrections” is found in the Apocalypse itself.

    And I saw thrones, and they were seated on them, and judgment was given to them, and the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the...

    (pp. 288-297)

    The textual history of the Apocalypse is unique among the books of the New Testament. The commentary of Andrew of Caesarea has impacted the transmission of the text of Revelation itself by creating a text-type of its own, and by stimulating the production of a large portion of the existing Revelation manuscripts.¹ The Apocalypse textual transmission differs from the rest of the New Testament, primarily because the text has been generated along two lines of transmission, one of them entirely outside the stream of the biblical manuscript tradition.

    Since the Apocalypse never became part of the lectionary of the Orthodox...

    (pp. 298-310)

    In the late ninth or early tenth centuries, Arethas, an episcopal successor of Andrew at the very same see of Caesarea, Cappadocia, wrote a commentary on Revelation.¹ Arethas drew heavily from Andrew’s commentary, often quoting him word for word, and in other sections paraphrasing him rather than literally reproducing the passage.² Where Arethas copied Andrew word for word, Schmid observes that one can easily recognize the text-type of the Andreas manuscripts which Arethas used.³ Today, the commentary of Arethas is the second most significant commentary on the Apocalypse in the Greek tradition after that of Andrew.

    As discussed in chapter...

    (pp. 311-318)

    It is difficult to know which of the accomplishments of Andrew of Caesarea are more impressive or more important: his exposition of the text of Revelation, his contribution toward preserving the past, or the subsequent impact of his commentary.

    Extremely impressive are his cool, almost detached, objectivity and his conviction that in spite of the calamities of his times the end of the world had not yet arrived. He based his conclusion on his skillful interpretation of the Apocalypse. Rather than performing eisegesis—reading the events of his times into the text—he accomplished true exegesis, drawing the meaning out...

    (pp. 319-332)
    (pp. 333-336)
    (pp. 337-350)