Original Research - Special Collection: James Alfred Loader Dedication

Some aspects of Adolf von Harnack’s criticism on Orthodox tradition

Daniel Buda
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 69, No 1 | a1949 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v69i1.1949 | © 2013 Daniel Buda | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 March 2013 | Published: 18 June 2013

About the author(s)

Daniel Buda, Department of Church History and Polity, University of Pretoria, South Africa; Program Executive, Church and Ecumenical Relations, World Council of Churches, Geneva, Switzerland; Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Romania


The aim of this article is to present the critique that Adolf von Harnack (1851–1930) formulated on the Orthodox tradition in his famous book Das Wesen des Christentums, as well as to comment on its affirmations in the context of his time and way of thinking and to try and find explanations for his criticism. The article concludes that although Harnack’s critique on the Orthodox tradition may have presented negative perception of Orthodoxy, particularly amongst Protestants and many Orthodox theologians who were furious after reading his paper, yet, his critical affirmations also have constructive aspects. However, some of the conclusions of Harnack’s criticism are genuinely rejected by the Orthodox theologians and are no longer sustainable. As a theologian, Harnack cannot be considered an opponent of the modern ecumenical movement, but rather as one of its pioneers. Harnack could be included in the category of frank ecumenists who prefer to express in a critical, but constructive way that which he believes about his own Christian tradition, as well as other Christian traditions.


The orthodox tradition; Adolf von Harnack; Das Wesen des Christentums, Greek Catholicism; Ecumenical movement


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