Byzantium and Russia
Byzantium had a powerful and permanent influence on the religion, art, and culture of Russia. In the 860s, Byzantine missionaries Cyril and Methodius, Greek brothers, devised the script now known as Cyrillic, which allowed the formerly illiterate Slavic peoples to read and write in their own languages.
St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow displays the onion domes that may have been a legacy of Byzantium.
Christian writings, translated into local languages, helped convert many Slavs to Orthodox Christianity — a process accelerated after Vladimir I of Kiev converted as well. Orthodox missions spread throughout Russia.
As Kiev became a more powerful trading state, Russian and Byzantine merchants became well acquainted, situated as they were along a nexus of East-West trade routes.
Byzantine art and architecture also colonized the young Russian state; the art of icons became a Russian specialty, and the onion domes that characterize traditional Russian architecture may have been an attempt to copy the domes of Constantinople.
People in Jesus’ time, probably more than people today, believed all these different myths. Some of the myths are beyond ridiculous, tomorrow we’ll look at…
Jesus’ Teaching on Prayer
1 And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.’
Emperor Constantine rebuilt the Greek city Byzantine and renamed the capital Constantinople. It was called “New Rome.”
The whole eastern Roman empire became known as the Byzantine Empire.
Constantinople was vitally important in the empire, linking major cities and harbors for trade.
The city was rich and prosperous. It blended ancient Greek, Roman, and Christian influences with traditions in the Mediterranean.
“Teach us to pray” – the Lord’s model prayer was given here in answer to a request and is similar to Matt 6:9-13, where it is a part of the Sermon on the Mount.
Six petitions are included in the prayer as given in the Sermon on the Mount by Matthew (combining the last two petition into one), whereas five appear in the prayer in Luke.
2 And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
3 Give us day by day our daily bread.
4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
“Forgive us our sins” – when Jesus’ disciples asked how to pray and He gave them the Lord’s Prayer, He didn’t mean for us to just quote Him on that. The Lord’s Prayer is an explanation to the question: “How to pray?”
If your heart and soul aren’t into it, if you are just speaking the words (like I used to do) you’re wasting your time. God wants you to talk to him from your heart, He doesn’t want to just hear words.
And for the non-believers or the “Conservative Christian,” there is no need for you to pray because God won’t even hear you – see Is 59:1-2.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia, by Alexander Pomerantsev.
The Byzantine Revival (also referred to as Neo-Byzantine) was an architectural revival movement, most frequently seen in religious, institutional and public buildings. It emerged in 1840s in Western Europe and peaked in the last quarter of 19th century in the Russian Empire; an isolated Neo-Byzantine school was active in Yugoslavia between World War I and World War II. Neo-Byzantine architecture incorporates elements of the Byzantine style associated with Eastern and Orthodox Christian architecture dating from the 5th through 11th centuries, notably that of Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) and the Exarchate of Ravenna.
5 And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves;
11:5-13 – Jesus now urged persistence in prayer and gave assurance that God answers prayer. The argument is from the lesser to the greater. If some humans will grant one’s petitions, “how much more” will God help His dear children.
6 For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?
7 And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.
8 I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.
9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?
12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
Peter the Great officially renamed the Tsardom of Russia the Russian Empire in 1721, and himself its first emperor. He instituted the sweeping reforms and oversaw the transformation of Russia into a major European power.
14 And he was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered.
15 But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils.
“Beelzebub” – Satan.
16 And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven.
17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth.
“Kingdom divided against itself” – if Satan gave power to Jesus, who opposed Him in every way, Satan would be supporting an attack upon himself.
That would be like breaking the law, changing your name, moving to a different state and having plastic surgery and then go and tell the cops that you committed the crime.
18 If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub.
19 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges.
“By whom do your sons…?” – Jesus didn’t say whether the followers of the Pharisees actually drove out demons, but they claimed to drive them out by he power of God, and Jesus claimed he same.
Empress Catherine the Great, who reigned from 1762 to 1796, continued the empire’s expansion and modernization. Considering herself an enlightened absolutist, she played a key role in the Russian Enlightenment.
So to accuse Jesus of using Satanic power was implicitly to condemn their own followers as well.
20 But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.
“The kingdom of God is come” – in the sense that the King was present in the person of Jesus and that the powers of evil were soon to be overthrown, and they were when Jesus was resurrected.
21 When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace:
22 But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armor wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.
23 He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.
24 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out.
25 And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished.
26 Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.
In 1888 Vasily Kosyakov found the ultimate proportion of a single-dome design. Blueprints of his Astrakhan church were copied in Kamianets-Podilskyi before the original was completed (1895–1904).
27 And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked.
28 But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
29 And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.
30 For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.
31 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
“The queen of the south” – the queen of Sheba (see Kgs 10:1-10).
32 The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.
33 No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.
“Bushel” – a container holding about one peck.
“May see the light” – a lamp is meant to give light to those who are near it. Jesus had publicly exhibited the light of the gospel for all to see, but “an evil generation requested more spectacular signs.
Nicholas II was the last Emperor of Russia, reigning from 1894 to 1917.
The problem was not with any failure on Jesus’ part in giving light (see Jn 14:6); it was with the faulty vision of His audience.
34 The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness.
“Thine eye is single” – those asking for a sign didn’t need more light, they need to clear their eyes to allow the light to enter because it was already there in front of them.
35 Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness.
36 If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light.
37 And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat.
38 And when the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that he had not first washed before dinner.
“He had not first washed before dinner” – not commanded in the law but added in the tradition of the Pharisees.
39 And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.
“Ravening and wickedness” – these Pharisees were more concerned about keeping ceremonies than about being moral. Like the Catholics, if you break their rules, such divorce, then they’ll kick you out of their church.
Boyev almshouse in Sokolniki, Moscow, completed shortly after the ascension of Nicholas II. The tented roofs of the side towers are borrowed from contemporary Russian Revival toolset.
40 Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?
“Make that which is within also” – the inside of man (the “heart” and inner righteousness) is more important than the outside (ceremonial cleansing).
41 But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you.
“All things are clean” – giving from the heart makes everything else right. If one gives to the poor, his heart is no longer in the grip of “ravening and wickedness” (v. 39).
42 But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
43 Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets.
44 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.
“Graves which appear not” – the Jews whitewashed their tombs so that no one would accidentally touch them and be defiled. Just as touching a grave resulted in ceremonial uncleanness, being influenced by these corrupt religious leaders could lead to moral uncleanness.
The ruins of an ancient Byzantine church. Russia. Loo
45 Then answered one of the lawyers, and said unto him, Master, thus saying thou reproachest us also.
46 And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.
“Lade men with burdens” – by adding rules and regulations to the authentic law of Moses and doing nothing to help others keep them, while inventing ways for themselves to circumvent them.
47 Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchers of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.
“Sepulchers of the prophets” – outwardly these “lawyers” appeared to honor the prophets in building or rebuilding memorials, but inwardly they rejected the Christ the prophets announced. They lived in opposition to the teachings of the prophets, just as their forefathers had done.
48 Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchers.
49 Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute:
“Said the wisdom of God” – not a quotation from the Old Testament or any other known book. It may refer to God speaking through Jesus, or it may be referring in quotation form to God’s decision to sense prophets and apostles even though He knew they would be rejected.
The Schism that never was: Old Norse views on Byzantium and Russia.
In general works on European medieval history there frequently appears a grand narrative about the friction and polarisation within Christianity which reached a climax with ’the great schism’ of 1054. As of that time, it has often been reiterated, Christians split into a western branch which subscribed to Roman Catholic Christianity and an eastern branch which came under the Greek Orthodox Church. Recently, historians have developed an interest in the genesis of Europe as a medieval phenomenon but this Europe is usually equated with Roman Catholicism. The powerful East Roman Empire is not regarded as a fully-fledged European state, but as on a divergent path leading eventually to a dead-end.
50 That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation;
51 From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.
52 Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.
“The key of knowledge” – the very persons who should have opened the people’s minds concerning the law obscured their understanding by faulty interpretation and an erroneous system of theology.
They kept themselves and the people in ignorance of the way of salvation or, as Mathew’s account put it, they “shut up the kingdom of heaven against men (Matt 23:123).
This is what many Christian pastors do, not just the Catholics, they just say what they think the people want to hear.
53 And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things:
54 Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.
…twelve different myths of why we have day and night.