John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon

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Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon

His Excellency the Most Reverend John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon (b. 1931) is a modern theologian and titular Metropolitan of Pergamon, under the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.


The future metropolitan was born January 10, 1931. He began his studies at the University of Thessaloniki but took his first theology degree from the University of Athens in 1955. He studied patristics under Father Georges Florovsky at Harvard Divinity School, receiving his M.T.S. in 1956, and his doctorate in theology from the University of Athens in 1965. He was professor of theology for 14 years at the University of Glasgow and the University of Edinburgh, and has been a visiting professor at the University of Geneva, Gregorian University, and King's College, London. He was consecrated as a bishop on June 22, 1986 and named Metropolitan of Pergamon.

Theology and significance

Metropolitan John is one of the most important Christian theologians alive today, influencing theologians in the Roman Catholic and Protestant communions as well in the Orthodox Church. Some have suggested that his 1985 book, Being as Communion, is perhaps the most significant theological book of the late 20th century.

The principle themes in Metropolitan John’s theology are freedom and otherness, both human and divine. Grounding his work in the Cappadocian Fathers and St Maximus Confessor in particular, he articulates a relational ontology in which neither unity nor plurality have priority. His Being as Communion (1985) addressed the theme from the importance of communion for unity, while his later Communion and Otherness (2007) is a complementary analysis of the importance of otherness for communion. He thus takes up the ancient philosophical problem of reconciling the One and the Many, which he examines with respect to divinity (the three Persons of the Trinity and the monarchia of the Father), humanity (theological anthropology), and the Church (ecclesiology). The philosophical implications of the book extend to the human and social sciences. A further theme of the two studies is the eschatological ontology he derives from St Maximus the Confessor, in which the truly real is that which is real at the eschaton. This is the subject of a new book by the Metropolitan to be released in summer 2008, Remembering the Future: An Eschatological Ontology.

His first book was his doctoral dissertation in 1965, only recently published in English as Eucharist, Bishop, Church: The Unity of the Church in the Divine Eucharist and the Bishop During the First Three Centuries (2001). It was an early and significant contribution to the development of ‘eucharistic ecclesiology’, associated with Nicholas Afanasiev, that focused on the essential role of the bishop as the presider of the Church’s Divine Liturgy.

Metropolitan John has become a key figure in major ecumenical dialogues between the Orthodox Church and other Christian traditions, and in 2006 succeeded Archbishop Stylianos of Australia as president of the Commission of Orthodox in the Dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church. Metropolitan John is also well-known for his work on the environment, particularly for his lecture series, ‘Preserving God’s Creation.’


  • L'Être ecclésial (Paris: Labor et Fides, 1981). ISBN 978-2830901801.
  • E Ktise os eucharistia (Athens: Akritas, 1992). ISBN 978-9607006981. This would be rendered in English as Creation as Eucharist.
  • Being and Communion: Studies in Personhood and the Church (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimirs Seminary Press, 1997). ISBN 978-0881410297.
  • Eucharist, Bishop, Church: The Unity of the Church in the Divine Eucharist and the Bishop During the First Three Centuries (Brookline, MA: Holy Cross, 2001). ISBN 978-1885652515.
  • Ellenismos kai Christianismos: H Synantese ton duo Kosmon (Athens: ApostolikeDiakonia, 2003). This would be renderd in English as Hellenism and Christianity: The Meeting of Two Worlds.
  • Communion & Otherness: Further Studies in Personhood and the Church (London: T & T Clark, 2007). ISBN 978-0567031488.
  • Remembering the Future: An Eschatological Ontology (London: T&T Clark, 2008). ISBN 978-0567032355.
  • Lectures in Christian Dogmatics (London: T&T Clark, 2009). ISBN 978-0567033154.


  • Fox, Patricia A. God as Communion: John Zizioulas, Elizabeth Johnson, and the Retrieval of the Symbol of the Triune God (Michael Glazer, 2001). ISBN 978-0814650820.
  • Knight, Douglas, ed. The Theology of John Zizioulas: Personhood and the Church (Ashgate, 2007). ISBN 978-0754654308.
  • McPartlan, Paul. The Eucharist Makes the Church: Henri du Lubac and John Zizioulas in Dialogue. Eastern Christian Publications, 2006. ISBN 978-1892278616.
  • Papanikolaou, Aristotle. Being with God: Trinity, Apophaticism, and Divine-Human Communion (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2006). ISBN 978-0268038304.


Criticisms of Metropolitan John's work have been focused on two areas: 1. the Patristic roots of his theology of personhood, and 2. his ecclesiology and perspective on ecumenical relations.

Theology of Personhood

Like many theologians, particularly those involved in theological dialogues, Metropolitan John has undergone criticism for his theological works.

  • Lucian Turcescu argues in Person versus Individual and Other Modern Misreadings of Gregory of Nyssa that there are differences between patristic theology and the theology of John Zizioulas. Specifically, Turcescu argues that "Zizioulas is ... in error when he contends that the Cappadocians did not understand a person as an individual or when he credits them with having had the same concerns we moderns have when combating individualism today."2 These criticisms have been answered by Aristotle Papanikolaou in the same journal 3 and by Metropolitan John himself.4
  • Rodoljub Lazic, in his book, Innovatory Theology of Metropolitan Zizioulas (In Serbian, ATOS - Missionary Center, Belgrade 2002), explains why he believes the work of Zizioulas differs from traditional Orthodoxy and argues that there is a connection between Zizioulas' ecumenical orientation and his theology.

Ecclesiology and Ecumenical Relations

Rodoljub Lazić's booklet, "Innovatory Theology of Metropolitan Zizioulas" (in Serbian), argues that the Metropolitan's work differs from "traditional" Orthodoxy and that there is a connection between the Metropolitan's ecumenical orientation and his theology. However, a former student and supporter of Metropolitan John is Bishop Ignjatije Midić, Bishop of Branicevo and professor in dogmatics and ethics at the Serbian-Orthodox Theological Faculty in Belgrade. Another such critic is Archbishop Stylianos of Australia, who has criticized the Metropolitan for his stance on the Eastern Catholic Churches.6

Some are concerned by his reliance of non-Orthodox sources on his thought in both areas, pointing out the influence of French Catholic theologians Henri de Lubac and Yves Congar, as well as Martin Buber and John Macmurray. 3


1 Modern Theology 18:4, October 2002, 527-539.

2 Ibid, p.537.

3 "Is John Zizioulas an Existentialist in Disguise? Response to Lucian Turcescu," Modern Theology 20:4, October 2004, pp. 601-607).

4 In Communion and Otherness, pp. 171-177.

5 ATOS Missionary Center, Belgrade, 2002.

6 In an interview with Maria Antoniadou.

External links

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John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon
Preceded by:
Metropolitan of Pergamon
1986 - present
Succeeded by:
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