Christianity: Eastern Orthodox

Narratives and Myths

Primary Author
Chara Scroope,

Creation and Human Origin

One of the main narratives in Eastern is the creation of the universe by God. As detailed in Genesis chapters 1 and 2, the universe was created over a period of six days. According to the creation narrative, the first humans (Adam and Eve) were created on the sixth day. Eastern tends to emphasise the phrase found in Genesis 1:26, in which God says humankind is made in the image and likeness of God.

Human Nature

The primary narrative that explores humanity’s tendency to transgress from divine law (also known as sin) is found in Genesis 3-9. In this narrative, the first human beings, Adam and Eve, are convinced by a serpent to eat a forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge. The two humans are banished from paradise (known as the Garden of Eden) as punishment. This narrative seeks an answer to why humans are selfish by nature and also provides the basis for the theory of ‘original sin’.

Jesus of Nazareth

The life story of Jesus of Nazareth (later referred to as ‘Jesus Christ’) is one of the core narratives in the Eastern tradition found in the Gospels. Understood as the Son of God, Jesus was both divine and human in nature. Eastern tends to emphasise the divine nature of Jesus, especially through commemorative events and liturgy. The miraculous birth of Jesus by the Virgin Mary (told in the books of Luke and Matthew), the Baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17), his teachings (such as the Sermon on the Mount) and the various miraculous actions performed throughout his adult life are some of the major influential narratives.

Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection

One of the most formative narratives in Eastern is the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. As described in all four Gospels, Jesus was arrested, tried and condemned to execution. Jesus was then crucified by being nailed on a cross. Following his death, his body was removed from the cross and buried in a rock tomb. The following day, Jesus rose again from the dead, which is usually referred to as his resurrection. After his crucifixion and resurrection, he was referred to as ‘Jesus Christ’, to mean ‘Jesus the Anointed One’. The Eastern tradition generally emphasises the suffering God or divine nature of Jesus during the crucifixion, rather than his ‘human’ suffering. For instance, many prayers and hymns often speak of adoring the glorious and triumphant King on the Cross.

The Last Supper

The story of the Last Supper recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke details the final meal shared by Jesus and his disciples prior to his crucifixion. According to the narrative, Jesus blessed the bread and wine. He broke the blessed bread and stated, “Take and eat; this is my body” (Matthew 26:26). Jesus then took the wine and declared, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the Covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sin” (Matthew 26:27-28). As a central narrative in Eastern , this narrative is believed to mark the institution of the Eucharist, which continues to be practised to this day.

Theotokos (Mary, the Mother of God)

One of the distinguishing features of Eastern is the emphasis and deep devotion to the person and life narrative of the Virgin Mary. In the Eastern tradition, Mary is referred to and honoured as ‘Theotokos’ (‘Mother of God’). This is a reference to the birth of Jesus, who is one of three incarnations of God that are part of the Holy Trinity. The stories of Mary, found in the Gospels and other texts, often feature in Eastern events, iconography and liturgy. 

Life Narratives of Saints

Throughout the Eastern tradition, there are many biographies of various saints. These stories (known as hagiographies) detail the ways in which particular people lived in faith, overcame adversities and, for some saints, performed miraculous acts. Emphasis on particular saints and their stories differs from country to country. Each church in Eastern is usually dedicated to a particular saint and relics of the saint are often displayed in the church. Eastern also associates particular functions with saints. For instance, St. Tryphon is usually invoked to help one find something lost.

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