Patristic Symposium 2018

2018 St Andrew’s 8th Patristic Symposium


The Symposium was held from Friday 24 August - Saturday 25 August, 2018 at St Andrew's Greek Orthodox Theological College - 242 Cleveland St, Redfern, NSW, 2016.

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The importance of St Irenaeus of Lyons for the history of theological reflection is hardly disputed by modern scholarship today. He has been heralded as the first great father of the Christian Church in whom we see, for the very first time, all elements that came to be constitutive of Christian theology: rule of faith, tradition and succession, the recognition of the books of the New Testament as Scripture and so much more. Indeed, he was able to highlight the way these these varied elements of the Christian faith were able to be held together within the early Christian communities in much the same way that, within a symphony, different voices are brought together and in harmony. Presented as a mosaic of Christ preached by the apostles and ‘in accordance with the Scriptures’, his comprehensive theological vision came to be regarded as the very foundations and identity of Christianity. In revisiting this great father, this Symposium will enable us to look afresh at some of the foundational elements of early Christianity helping us call to mind the coherence of the Christian faith and how this might be expounded today within a pluralistic culture such as ours. 

Given this approach, the Symposium welcomes presentations from the different disciplines of Christian theology interested in further reflecting on this major figure of the Church, irrespective of their field of expertise, academic affiliation or denominational background. Indeed, it is hoped that this cross-disciplinary approach (whether this be, patristics, church history, systematic theology, ethics, biblical studies, liturgics etc.) will contribute by casting further light – indeed a more enriching and holistic perspective – to this most significant Christian father of the early Church.


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Keynote Speaker

Very Revd Prof. John Behr

The Father Georges Florovsky Distinguished Professor of Patristics, St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, New York
Metropolitan Kallistos Chair of Orthodox Theology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam



‘St Irenaeus and the School of St John’


When St Irenaeus expounded, for the first time in history, the contours of the Orthodox faith, appealing to the canon of truth, the tradition of the apostles, apostolic succession, and using, for the first time, all the books of the New Testament as Scripture, in giving, again for the first time, an account of the whole economy of God, with his Hands, the Son and the Spirit, bringing the creature formed from mud to share in his life and glory, he did so by self-consciously appealing to the tradition, and indeed, living memory of John, the disciple of the Lord. This lecture will look at the legacy of John in his ‘school’, that is figures such as St Polycarp, Melito, and Polycrates, all culminating in the person of St Irenaeus of Lyons, an Easterner in the West.


Fr John Behr is Professor of Patristics, teaching courses in patristics, dogmatics and scriptural exegesis at the seminary, and also at Fordham University, where he is the Distinguished Lecturer in Patristics.

Fr John hails from England, though his family background is Russian and German - and clerical on both sides. From the Russian side, his great-grandfather was sent to London by Metropolian Evlogy to serve there as a priest in 1926; his father was also a priest, ordained by Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom), as are his brother (at St. Paul’s Monastery on Mt. Athos) and his brother-in-law (Ss. Cyril and Methodius, Terryville, CT). His maternal grandparents met at Karl Barth’s graduate seminar in Basel, and served in the Lutheran Church in Germany, where his grandfather was a Lutheran pastor.

After completing his first degree in Philosophy in London in 1987, Fr John spent a year studying in Greece. He finished an M.Phil. in Eastern Christian Studies at Oxford University, under Bishop Kallistos (Ware), who subsequently supervised his doctoral work, which was examined by Fr Andrew Louth and Rowan Williams, now Archbishop of Canterbury. While working on his doctorate, he was invited to be a Visiting Lecturer at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in 1993, where he has been a permanent faculty member since 1995, tenured in 2000, and ordained in 2001. Before becoming Dean in 2007, he served as the editor of St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, and he still edits the Popular Patristics Series for SVS Press.

His early work was on issues of asceticism and anthropology, focusing on St Irenaeus of Lyons and Clement of Alexandria. After spending almost a decade in the second century, Fr John began the publication of a series on the Formation of Christian Theology, and has now reached the fifth and sixth centuries. He has recently completed an edition and translation of, and introduction to, the remaining texts of Diodore of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia. He has also published a synthetic presentation of the theology of the early centuries, focused on the mystery of Christ.


Select Bibiliography

  •  Irenaeus of Lyons: Identifying Christianity, Christian Theology in Context (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013)
  • Becoming Human: Meditations on Christian Anthropology in Word and Image (Crestwood, NY, SVS Press, 2013)
  • St Athanasius: On the Incarnation, translation and introduction, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY, SVS Press, 2011)
  • The Case Against Diodore and Theodore: Texts and Their Contexts, Oxford Early Christian Texts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 526pp.
  • The Mystery of Christ: Life in Death (Crestwood, NY: SVS Press, 2006). 186 pp.
  • The Nicene Faith,vol. 2 of The Formation of Christian Theology (Crestwood, NY: SVS Press, 2004). 2 vols in paper; single hardcover volume 580 pp.
  • (ed. with A. Louth and D. Conomos), Abba: The Tradition of Orthodoxy in the West: Festschrift for Bishop Kallistos Ware (New York: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2003). 376 pp.
  • The Way to Nicaea, vol. 1 of The Formation of Christian Theology (Crestwood: SVS Press, 2001). 261 pp.

Romanian translation (Bucharest: Sophia, 2004); Russian translation (Tver: Hermeneutica, 2006)

  • Asceticism and Anthropology in Irenaeus and Clement (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000). 261 pp.
  • St Irenaeus of Lyons: On the Apostolic Preaching (Crestwood: SVS Press, 1997). 121 pp.