John Zizioulas (Greek: Ιωάννης Ζηζιούλας; born 10 January 1931, Kozani) is the Eastern Orthodox metropolitan of Pergamon. He is the Chairman of the Academy of Athens and one of the most influential Orthodox Christian theologians today.
Metropolitan John's education began with study at the Universities of Thessalonika and Athens in 1950, and then a year at the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey in 1955. Between 1960 and 1964 Zizioulas did doctoral research under the Eastern Orthodox theologian Georges Florovsky (1893-1979; Chair of Eastern Church History at Harvard and a member of the Russian Orthodox Church) and was a Fellow at Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies. He received his doctorate in 1965 from the University of Athens. Zizioulas took up a post at the University of Athens in 1964 as Assistant Professor of Church History, and then six years later, worked as Professor of Patristics at the University of Edinburgh from 1970 until 1973. He moved to the University of Glasgow where he held a personal chair in systematic theology for some fourteen years. In addition, Zizioulas has been a Visiting Professor at the Research Institute in Systematic Theology of King's College London. In 1986, he was elected titular metropolitan of Pergamon. In the same year, he assumed a full-time academic post at Thessaloniki School of Theology as Professor of Dogmatics.
The theological work of Metropolitan John has focused upon the twin themes of ecclesiology and theological ontology. The theology of Metropolitan John reflects the influence of Russian émigré theologians such as Nikolai Afanassieff, Vladimir Lossky and his teacher Georges Florovsky. Zizioulas has also been significantly influenced by the ascetical theology of Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov), founder of the Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist in Essex, England.
Zizioulas' ecclesiology was first developed in his doctoral dissertation, subsequently published in English as Eucharist, Bishop, Church. Here Metropolitan John develops critically the eucharistic ecclesiology of Nikolai Afanassief. He accepts Afanassieff's principal contention that the Church is to be understood in terms of the Eucharist. However, he criticises Afanassief's understanding as overly congregational and insufficiently episcopal in its emphasis. Finally, Zizioulas advocates an episcopocentric understanding of Church structure, understanding the Bishop primarily as the president of the Divine Liturgy and the Eucharistic community.
Zizioulas worked on the theology of the person, appealing to the work of St Irenaeus and St Maximus the Confessor. The primary focus of his work was to develop his own ontology of personhood derived from an extensive investigation of Greek philosophy, patristic era writings and modern rationalist philosophy.
He argues that full humanity is achieved only as person so that they may participate (koinonia) in the Trinitarian life of God. However, an essential component of the ontology of personhood is the freedom to self-affirm the participation in relationship. He continues that man initially exists as a biological hypostasis, constrained as to the types of relationships one can have (biological) and to the eventual end of this type of being - death.
He makes use of existentialist philosophers and novelists, notably the French absurdist writer Albert Camus, to show that the only type of ontological freedom in the biological hypostasis is the choice to commit suicide. He claims that Baptism constitutes an ontological change in the human, making them an ecclesial hypostasis, or a person. This rebirth 'from above' gives new ontological freedom as it is not constrained by the limits of biological existence. Such ecclesial being is eschatological, meaning it is a paradoxical 'now,' but 'not yet.' The completion of this rebirth from above is the day of resurrection when the body will no longer be subject to death.
There are extensive bibliographies devoted to Zizioulas’ published works in various languages in:
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