SVOTS Dean publishes landmark work with Oxford Press

The Very Rev. Dr. John Behr, Dean of Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary here, has earned a distinction held by only two people in the world: he recently became published in both the “Oxford Early Christian Texts” and “Oxford Early Christian Studies” series at the prestigious Oxford University Press [OUP].

In May 2011, Father John published a landmark work, The Case Against Diodore and Theodore, touted by OUP as “ground-breaking” in its research.  The new title is part of OUP’s “Oxford Early Christian Texts” series. One of his earlier works, Asceticism and Anthropology in Irenaeus and Clement, was published as part of OUP’s “Oxford Early Christian Studies” series in 2000.

In his newly published work, Father John provides a complete analysis of the teachings of Diodore of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia, two key figures at the center of the Christological controversy that raged from the fourth to sixth centuries in the Church. Diodore and Theodore, who were posthumously condemned for their teachings at the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 AD, have often been depicted by modern scholars as sympathetic characters because of their concern for the “historical Jesus” and their aversion to scriptural allegory.

Father John presents an historical and theological analysis that completely revises modern scholarship, showing Diodore and Theodore to be outside the Tradition of the Church. He does this by presenting a complete collection of the extracts of their writings – in Greek, Latin, Syriac, and Armenian.  Some have been newly edited from manuscripts, and all have been newly translated and accompanied by an explanation of the historical contexts in which they were written. Although the original works of the two figures were destroyed by the Church after their condemnation, passages quoted by their supporters and opponents remain, and Father John uses these to state his theological case.

Seminary Board of Trustee member Dr. Leon Lysaght, Chair of the Academic Affairs Committee and Professor at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, praised Father John’s accomplishment, saying, “Once again Father John has demonstrated his pre-eminence as a patristics scholar and theologian. The writings of Diodore and Theodore have been understood to mark the fault lines that have separated Eastern Christianity. Father John’s comprehensive study provides a foundation for understanding the nature and context of the disputes arising out of scriptural interpretations that have been a source of contention within the Churches of the Orthodox East.  His careful and comprehensive analysis will define the agenda for discussion among the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches for generations.”

For additional information visit the seminary web site at