Academic education and career
Metropolitan John's education began with study at the Universities of Thessalonika and Athens in 1950, and then a year at the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey in 1955. Between 1960 and 1964 Zizioulas did doctoral research under the Eastern Orthodox theologian Georges Florovsky (Chair of Eastern Church History at Harvard and a member of the Russian Orthodox Church) and was a Fellow at Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies. He received his doctorate in 1965 from the University of Athens. Zizioulas took up a post at the University of Athens in 1964 as Assistant Professor of Church History, and then six years later, worked as Professor of Patristics at the University of Edinburgh from 1970 until 1973. He moved to the University of Glasgow where he held a personal chair in systematic theology for some fourteen years. In addition, Zizioulas has been a Visiting Professor at the Research Institute in Systematic Theology of King's College London. In 1986, he was elected titular metropolitan of Pergamon. In the same year, he assumed a full-time academic post at Thessaloniki School of Theology as Professor of Dogmatics.
The theological work of Metropolitan John has focused upon the twin themes of ecclesiology and theological ontology. The theology of Metropolitan John reflects the influence of Russian émigré theologians such as Nikolai Afanassieff, Vladimir Lossky and his teacher Georges Florovsky. Zizioulas has also been significantly influenced by the ascetical theology of Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov), founder of the Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist in Essex, England.
Zizioulas' ecclesiology was first developed in his doctoral dissertation, subsequently published in English as Eucharist, Bishop, Church. Here Metropolitan John develops critically the eucharistic ecclesiology of Nikolai Afanassief. He accepts Afanassieff's principal contention that the Church is to be understood in terms of the Eucharist. However, he criticises Afanassief's understanding as overly congregational and insufficiently episcopal in its emphasis. Finally, Zizioulas advocates an episcopocentric understanding of Church structure, understanding the Bishop primarily as the president of the Divine Liturgy and the Eucharistic community.
Zizioulas worked on the theology of the person, appealing to the work of St Irenaeus and St Maximus the Confessor. The primary focus of his work was to develop his own ontology of personhood derived from an extensive investigation of Greek philosophy, patristic era writings and modern rationalist philosophy.
He argues that full humanity is achieved only as person so that they may participate (koinonia) in the Trinitarian life of God. However, an essential component of the ontology of personhood is the freedom to self-affirm the participation in relationship. He continues that man initially exists as a biological hypostasis, constrained as to the types of relationships one can have (biological) and to the eventual end of this type of being - death.
He makes use of existentialist philosophers and novelists, notably the Algerian absurdist writer Albert Camus, to show that the only type of ontological freedom in the biological hypostasis is the choice to commit suicide. He claims that Baptism constitutes an ontological change in the human, making them an ecclesial hypostasis, or a person. This rebirth 'from above' gives new ontological freedom as it is not constrained by the limits of biological existence. Such ecclesial being is eschatological, meaning it is a paradoxical 'now,' but 'not yet.' The completion of this rebirth from above is the day of resurrection when the body will no longer be subject to death.
- "Hē Henotēs Tēs Ekklēsias En Tē Theia Eucharistia Kai T Episkopō Kata Tous Treis Prōtous Aiōnas." (En Athi̲nais, 1965). Doctoral Dissertation. Published in French translation as "L' Eucharistie, L'évêque Et L'eglise Durant Les Trois Premiers Siècles." 2nd ed. Translated by Jean-Louis Palierne. (Paris: Desclée De Brouwer, 1994). Published in English translation as "Eucharist, Bishop, Church" (see below).
- L'Être ecclésial (Paris: Labor et Fides, 1981). ISBN 978-2-8309-0180-1. Published in English translation as "Being as Communion" (see below).
- E Ktise os eucharistia (Athens: Akritas, 1992). ISBN 978-960-7006-98-1. This would be rendered in English as Creation as Eucharist. This work is based on lectures previously delivered in English. Available in three parts: King's Theological Review vol. 12, no. 1 (1989): 1-5, no. 2 (1989): 41-45, vol. 13, no. 1 (1990): 1-5.
- Being as Communion: Studies in Personhood and the Church (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimirs Seminary Press, 1997). ISBN 978-0-88141-029-7.
- Eucharist, Bishop, Church: The Unity of the Church in the Divine Eucharist and the Bishop During the First Three Centuries (Brookline, MA: Holy Cross, 2001). ISBN 978-1-885652-51-5.
- Ellenismos kai Christianismos: H Synantese ton duo Kosmon (Athens: ApostolikeDiakonia, 2003). This would be rendered in English as Hellenism and Christianity: The Meeting of Two Worlds.
- Communion & Otherness: Further Studies in Personhood and the Church (London: T & T Clark, 2007). ISBN 978-0-567-03148-8.
- Lectures in Christian Dogmatics (London: T&T Clark, 2009). ISBN 978-0-567-03315-4.
- "The One And The Many" (Sebastian Press, 2010) ISBN 978-0-9719505-4-2.
- Remembering the Future: An Eschatological Ontology (London: T&T Clark, 2012). ISBN 978-0-567-03235-5.
There are extensive bibliographies devoted to Zizioulas’ published works in various languages in:
- McPartlan, Paul. The Eucharist Makes the Church: Henri De Lubac and John Zizioulas in Dialogue. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1993.
- Papanikolaou, Aristotle. Being with God: Trinity, Apophaticism, and Divine-Human Communion. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2006.
- Alan Brown, "On the Criticism of 'Being as Communion' in Anglophone Orthodox Theology", in Douglas Knight (ed.) The Theology of John Zizioulas: Personhood and the Church (Ashgate, 2006) defends Zizioulas against several of the polemical rejections of his theological ontology.
- Aristotle Papanikolaou. Being with God: Trinity, Apophaticism, and Divine-Human Communion (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2006).
- Lucian Turcescu, "Person versus Individual and Other Modern Misreadings of Gregory of Nyssa", Modern Theology 18, no. 4 (October 2002): 527-539, is a polemic against Zizioulas' use of the Cappadocian Fathers, especially St Gregory of Nyssa.
- Cf. e.g. Rowan Williams, 'Eastern Orthodox Theology', in David F. Ford (ed.) The Modern Theologians, 3rd edn. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005, pp. 572-88.
- Cf. Rowan Williams, 'Eastern Orthodox Theology', in Ford (ed.) The Modern Theologians, pp. 572-88.
- Cf. John Meyendorff, 'Foreword' in Being as Communion (1985)
- Nicholas V. Sakharov (2002). I Love, Therefore I Am: The Theological Legacy of Archimandrite Sophrony. St Vladimir's Seminary Press. p. 235. ISBN 0-88141-236-8.
- Full Bibliography for John Zizioulas with links to works available online
- Theological discussion of Zizioulas' theology
- Short biography of John Zizioulas
- Lessons On Christian Dogmatics Lectures of Professor John Zizioulas at the Poemantic Division of the Thessaloniki University’s School of Theology]
- Communion and Otherness
- Communion and Otherness
- Communion and Otherness: Chinese translation (traditional)
- Communion and Otherness: Chinese translation (simplified)
- The holy and sacred synod
- Article: Is John Zizioulas an Existentialist in Disguise?
- Article: Theo-Ontology: Notes on the Implications of Zizioulas' Engagement With Heidegger
- EUCHARIST, BISHOP, CHURCH: THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH IN THE DIVINE EUCHARIST AND THE BISHOP DURING THE FIRST THREE CENTURIES by the Professor Metropolitan of Pergamus and Chairman of the Athens Academy John Zizioulas