Jesus Christ as the Ideal Christian Figure

The Orthodox Church’s notion of the ideal Christian was a person as close to Christ himself as it was possible for a human to be. The stories of historical figures idealized by the church display this both in their actions and in the situations which they lived in.

The Life of Theodosius, for example, contains many parallels to the life of Jesus Christ. In Childhood, Jesus was supposedly an extraordinary student (Luke 2:41-52), but we can also assume that he was not the awesome and powerful figure that he would later become from the fact that so little exists documenting his early life. Theodosius, called Feodosii in the text, also spends his youth studying the word of God, all the while being very respectful to his parents and his teachers. As he grows older, he takes on many other Christ-like qualities. He busies himself with giving aid to the poor, and insists upon being as meek and humble as he can be, even as those around him attempt to convince him to act like any other boy in his position. When he was beaten and enchained by his mother or mocked by his peers he stood strong in his faith regardless, just as Jesus was not swayed by those who did not believe in him. Just as Jesus’s actions earned him his followers, so too did Feodosii’s humble behavior and selfless actions also managed to inspire others to support him, such as the governor of the town who grew to love Feodosii more each time he gave away his nice clothing to the poor.

Unlike Jesus, Feodosii was not martyred, and was able to live the rest of his life in service to God. The ideal of giving one’s life for God is represented instead in the story of Saints Boris and Gleb, whose deaths symbolized “a particular form of piety which came to be highly regarded in Rus’ culture”. Boris and Gleb were both killed by their elder brother, Sviatopolk. Rather than attempting to fight back, they allowed him to make martyrs of them so that they would not have to corrupt their peaceful lives with acts of violence. So too did Jesus sacrifice his own life without fighting back against his killers.

3 thoughts on “Jesus Christ as the Ideal Christian Figure

  1. During the Medieval Ages, Jesus was the ultimate celebrity. He was the one everyone aspired to become. The idea that one would harm themselves to martyr themselves is completely ridiculous in today’s world, but the general idea in that time was sacrificing yourself to God or Jesus was the ultimate goal. In Theodosius’ case being beaten by his mother, being subjected to other kinds of violence because of his beliefs creates wonder, why would someone risk everything for religion. At times it seems like a blind faith leads these people to subject themselves to cruelty, however this begins to support the influence of a higher power and that these bad things must happen for a reason.

  2. I like the parallels that you bring up between Jesus and Theodosius, as well as Boris and Gleb. It seems like all of these stories were designed to demonstrate what an ideal Christian would be like. I wonder if in Russia there were any of these stories that demonstrated what a Christian should not be? For instance, were there any of these tales that showed what would happen to an individual not behaving as a Christian? It would be interesting to see the differences in these works (for example with the tone and language used), but also to see the similarities (similar plotlines, character development, etc.) In addition, through the study of these pieces, one can learn what the Church thought “God’s Law” entailed for human beings.

  3. I agree with you that this story is a tale of suffering and piety that the Russian Orthodox church wanted to demonstrate. But i would say that it was not intended as a blue print for a average christian. It would be rather impractical for any large portion of the populace to be as dedicated as him. I would say instead that the lives of the two martyr brothers of Sviatoslav who were productive members of society but when push came to shove they died peacefully.

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