This article is a response to four responses to my book Europe, Byzantium, and the “Intellectual Silence” of Rus’. That book in turn responded to the question posed by Francis Thompson, “Where was the Russian Peter Abelard?” It began with two premises − that theology was “the crown jewel of disciplined thought” in both the Eastern and Western Churches during the medieval period and that medieval Christian theology represented an amalgamation of prior Christian thought with Neoplatonism. The literature of early Rus’ was little more than what would have been contained in a large Byzantine monastic library, because those in charge of educating the newly baptized pagan Rus’ on the basic principles of Christianity felt compelled to provide them only necessary information to save their souls. But why did the package not include the seven liberal arts (including dialectic), which were the basis of the Western Church curriculum?
The early modern Russian government and Russian Orthodox Church identified as one of their main duties the ransoming of Russian Christians from Muslim Tatar captors. The process of ransoming could be an involved one with negotiations being carried on by different agents and by the potential ransomees themselves. Different amounts of ransom were paid on a sliding scale depending upon the ransomee’s social status, gender, and age. One of our main sources for the justification of this practice was the Stoglav (100 Chapters) Church Council in 1551, which discussed the issue of ransom in some detail. The Law Code (Ulozhenie) of 1649 specifies the conditions and amounts to be paid to redeem captives. Church writers justified the ransoming of Christian captives of the Muslim Tatars by citing Scripture, and they also specified that the government should pay the ransom out of its own treasury.
The historiography of sixteenth-century Church parties may have arisen from historians’ misinterpreting the use of the terms “band of Josephian monks” (cheti Osiflianskikh mnikhov) and the “non-possessor way of life” (nestiazhatel’noe zhitel’stvo) by the author of The History of the Grand Prince of Moscow. But he does not juxtapose these terms against each other. Those monks who live the non-possessor way of life are, instead, directly contrasted with those who love possession (liubostiazhatel’nye), but neither they nor the Josephians are described as a Church party, let alone one that had an “ideology”. The monks in The History who loved possessions are not identified with the Josephians, nor are the monks who follow the non-possessor way of life identified with the Trans-Volga elders. Another attempt to find the antecedent of the Church parties model were historians who cite the use by Zinovii Otenskii of the term nestiazhatel’ in relation to Vassian Patrikeev, but he too was not using the term in the sense of a Church party. These attempts are examples of “thick interpretation”; that is, imposing on the source testimony an outside construct that is not contained within it.