Portal:Eastern Christianity

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The Eastern Christianity Portal

Coptic Icon in the Coptic Altar of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem


Eastern Christianity comprises the Christian traditions and churches that developed in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East, Africa, India and parts of the Far East over several centuries of religious antiquity.

The term is generally used in Western Christianity to describe all Christian traditions that did not develop in Western Europe. As such, the term does not describe any single communion or common religious tradition, and in fact some "Eastern" Churches have more in common historically and theologically with "Western" Christianity than with one another. The various "Eastern" Churches do not normally refer to themselves as "Eastern," with one exception (the Church of the East).

The terms "Eastern" and "Western" in this regard originated with divisions in the Church mirroring the cultural divide between the Hellenistic east and Latinate west and the political divide between the weak Western and strong Eastern Roman empires. Because the most powerful Church in the East was what has become known as the Eastern Orthodox church, the term "Orthodox" is often used in a similarly loose fashion as "Eastern", although strictly speaking most Churches consider themselves part of an Orthodox and Catholic communion.

Eastern Christians do not have shared religious traditions but many of these groups have shared cultural traditions. Christianity divided itself in the East during its early centuries both within and outside of the Roman Empire in disputes about Christology and fundamental theology, as well as national divisions (Roman, Persian, etc.). It would be many centuries later that Western Christianity fully split from these traditions as its own communion. Today there are four main branches or families of Eastern Christianity, each of which has distinct theology and dogma.

Selected article

1st All-American Sobor of the Orthodox Church in America, held in 1907.
The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox church in North America. Its primate is Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen), who was elected on November 12, 2008, and was formally installed on December 28, 2008. [1] The OCA's headquarters are located in Syosset, New York and consists of more than 700 parishes, missions, communities, monasteries and institutions located primarily in the United States and Canada. Additional parishes and missions are located in Mexico and Australia. Membership estimates for the OCA vary, with recent figures ranging from as low 27,169 to as high as 1,064,000.

The history of the OCA began with the arrival of eight Russian Orthodox monks at Kodiak Island, Alaska, in 1794. Due to the massive disruption brought about by the Bolshevik Revolution, Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow directed all Russian Orthodox churches outside of Russia to govern themselves autonomously in 1920 if they were not able to contact the central administration or if it were disabled. The Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in America was granted autocephaly by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1970, and was renamed the Orthodox Church in America. Although the autocephaly of the OCA is not universally recognized by all autocephalous Eastern Orthodox churches, it is in full communion with them. It also is a member of the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America (SCOBA).

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Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey
Credit: Arild Vågen

Hagia Sophia is a former Greek Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later an imperial mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. From the date of its construction in 537 until 1453, it served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. The building was a mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931. It was then secularized and opened as a museum on 1 February 1935.

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Anna of Kashin, icon about 1910

Selected biography

Pontius Pilate's wife is unnamed in the New Testament, where she appears a single time in the Gospel of Matthew. Alternate Christian traditions named her (Saint) Procula, Proculla, Procla, Prokla, Procle or Claudia. Also combinations like Claudia Procles or Claudia Procula are used. No verifiable biography exists on the life of Pilate’s wife. Details of her life are surmised from Christian legend and tradition. In the New Testament, the only reference to Pilate’s wife exists in a single sentence by Matthew. According to the Gospel of Matthew 27:19, she sent a message to her husband asking him not to condemn Jesus Christ to death: ‘While Pilate was sitting in the judgment hall, his wife sent him a message: “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, because in a dream last night, I suffered much on account of him.” Procula (Procla, Prokla) is recognized as a saint in two churches within the Eastern Christian tradition: the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, she is celebrated on 27 October. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church celebrates Pilate and Procula together on 25 June.

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  1. ^ Bishop Jonah of Fort Worth Elected Metropolitan of All America and Canada