The making of Byzantine Orthodoxy: definition and display, inclusion and exclusion

The making of Byzantine Orthodoxy: definition and display, inclusion and exclusion

Magdalino, Paul (St Andrew’s University, Scotland)

Paper given at the 21st International Congress of Byzantine Studies (2006)


Orthodoxy means ‘right belief’, ‘correct theological doctrine’; to its adherents, it represents immutable, universal truth. Yet the convener and the invited speakers of this session are all historians, and not even – or not just – ecclesiastical historians, which tells us something about what some consensus of Byzantinists, at least, understands by the term. Not only is Byzantine Orthodoxy seen to be a historical phenomenon, subject to historical change, but it is also considered to encompass much more than theology. The word evokes, if it does not actually describe, a whole religious and political culture and the cultural identity of a group on a national or supra-national scale. In this sense, its application to the Byzantine past is heavily influenced by, and inseparable from, its use to designate the present reality of the Orthodox communion of churches.

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