Charles Buck's Theological Dictionary

185 Greek Church


Comprehends in its bosom a considerable part of Greece, the Grecian Isles, Wallachia, Moldavia, Egypt, Abyssinia, Nubia, Libya, Arabia, Mesopotamia, Syria, Cilicia, and Palestine, which are all under the jurisdiction of the patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. If to these we add the whole of the Russian empire in Europe, great part of Siberia in Asia, Astracan, Casan, and Georgia, it will be evident that the Greek church has a wider extent of territory than the Latin, with all the branches which have sprung from it; and that it is with great impropriety that the church of Rome is called by her members the catholic or universal church. That in these widely distant countries the professors of Christianity are agreed in every minute article of belief, it would be rash to assert; but there is certainly such an agreement among them, with respect both to faith and to discipline, that they mutually hold communion with each other, and are, in fact, but one church. It is call the Greek church, in contradistinction to the Latin or Romish church; as also the Eastern, in distinction from the Western church. We shall here present the reader with a view of its rise, tenets, and discipline.

I. Greek church, rise and separation of. The Greek church is considered as a separation from the Latin. In the middle of the ninth century, the controversy relating to the procession of the Holy Ghost (which) had been started in the sixth century) became a point of great importance, on account of the jealousy and ambition which at that time were blended with it. Photius, the patriarch of Jerusalem, having been advanced to that see in the room of Ignatius, whom he procured to be deposed, was solemnly excommunicated by pope Nicholas, in a council held at Rome, and his ordination declared null and void. The Greek Emperor resented this conduct of the pope, who defended himself with great spirit and resolution . Photius, in his turn, convened what he called an aecumenical council, in which he pronounced sentence of excommunication and deposition against the pope and got it subscribed by twenty-one bishops and others, amounting in number to a thousand. This occasioned a wide breach between the sees of Rome and Constantinople. However, the death of the emperor Michael, and the deposition of Photius, subsequent thereupon, seem to have restored peace; for the emperor Basil held a council at Constantinople in the year 869, in which entire satisfaction was given to Pope Adrian; but the schism was only smothered and suppressed a while. The Greek church had several complaints against the Latin; particularly it was thought a great hardship for the Greeks to subscribe to the definition of a council according to the Roman form, prescribed by the pope, since it made the church of Constantinople dependent on that of Rome, and set the pope above an aecumenical council; but, above all, the pride and haughtiness of the Roman court gave the Greeks a great distaste; and as their deportment seemed to insult his imperial majesty, it entirely alienated the affections of the emperor Basil. Towards the middle of the eleventh century, Michael Cerularius, patriarch of Constantinople, opposed the Latins, with respect to their making use of unleavened bread in the eucharist, their observation of the sabbath, and fasting on Saturday, charging them with living in communion with the Jews. To this pope Leo IX. replied; and, in his apology for the Latins, declaimed very warmly against the false doctrine of the Greeks, and interposed at the same time, the authority of his see. He likewise, by he legates, excommunicated the patriarch in the church of Santa Sophia, which gave the last shock to the reconciliation attempted a long time after, but to no purpose; for from that time the hatred of the Greeks to the Latins, and of the Latins to the Greeks, became insuperable, insomuch that they have continued ever since separated from each other’s communion.

II. Greek church, tenets of. The following are some of the chief tenets held by the Greek church:– They disown the authority of the pope, and deny that the church of Rome is the true catholic church. They do not baptize their children till they are three, four, five, six, ten, nay, sometimes eighteen years of age: baptism is performed by trine immersion. They insist that the sacrament of the Lord’s supper ought to be administered in both kinds, and they give the sacrament to children immediately after baptism. They grant no indulgences, nor do they lay any claim to the character of infallibility, like the church of Rome. They deny that there is any such place as purgatory; notwithstanding they pray for the dead, that God would have mercy on them at the general judgment. They practise the invocation of saints; though, they say, they do not invoke them as deities, but as intercessors with God. They exclude confirmation, extreme unction, and matrimony, out of the seven sacraments. They deny auricular confession to be a divine precept, and say it is only a positive injunction of the church. They pay no religious homage to the eucharist. They administer the communion in both kinds to the laity, both in sickness and in health, though they have never applied themselves to their confessors; because they are persuaded that a lively faith is all which is requisite for the worthy receiving of the Lord’s supper. They maintain that the Holy Ghost proceeds only from the Father, and not from the Son. they believe in predestination. They admit of no images in relief or embossed work, but use paintings and sculptures in copper or silver. They approve of the marriage of priests, provided they enter into that state before their admission into holy orders. They condemn all fourth marriages. They observe a number of holy days, and keep four fasts in the year more solemn than the rest, of which the fast in Lent, before Easter, is the chief. They believe the doctrine of consubstantiation, or the union of the body of Christ with the sacrament bread.

III. Greek church, state and discipline of. Since the Greeks became subject to the Turkish yoke, they have sunk into the most deplorable ignorance, in consequence of the slavery and thraldom under which they groan; and their religion is now greatly corrupted. It is, indeed, little better than a heap of ridiculous ceremonies and absurdities. The head of the Greek church is the patriarch of Constantinople, who is chosen by the neighbouring archbishops and metropolitans, and confirmed by the emperor or grand vizier. He is a person of great dignity, being the head and director of the Eastern church. The other patriarchs are those of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria. Mr. Tournefort tells us, that the patriarchates are now generally set to sale, and bestowed upon those who are the highest bidders. The patriarchs, metropolitans, archbishops, and bishops, are always chosen from among the caloyers, or Greek monks. The next person to a bishop among the clergy, is an archimandrite, who is the director of one or more convents, which are called mandren; then comes the abbot, the arch-priest, the priest, the deacon, the under-deacon, the chanter, and the lecturer. The secular clergy are subject to no rules, and never rise higher than high-priest. The Greeks have few nunneries, but a great many convents of monks, who are all priests; and (students excepted) obliged to follow some handicraft employment, and lead a very austere life.

The Russians adhere to the doctrine and ceremonies of the Greek church, though they are now independent of the patriarch of Constantinople. The Russian church, indeed, may be reckoned the first, as to extent of empire; yet there is very little of the power of vital religion among them. The Roskolniki, or, as they now call themselves, the Starovertzi, were a sect that separated from the church of Russia, about 1666: they affected extraordinary piety and devotion, a veneration for the letter of the Holy Scriptures, and would not allow a priest to administer baptism who had that day tasted brandy. They harboured many follies and superstitions, and have been greatly persecuted; but, perhaps, there will be found among them “some that shall be counted to the Lord for a generation.” Several settlements of German Protestants have been established in the Wolga. The Moravians also have done good in Livonia, and the adjacent isles in the Baltic under the Russian government.

Charles Buck (1771-1815) was an English Independent minister, best known for the publication of his “Theological Dictionary”. According to the “Dictionary of National Biography”, a Particular Baptist minister named John C. Ryland (1723-1792) assisted Buck by writing many of the articles for the aforementioned publication. One may conclude, based not only Buck’s admiration for his friend Ryland, but also on the entries in his Theological Dictionary, that he stood head and shoulders with the High-Calvinists of his day.

Charles Buck on the Biblical Covenants (Complete)
Charles Buck's Theological Dictionary