Dan Opriș – PhD in History
The first Bishop of Byzantium – St. Andrew – is considered the Apostle of the Romanias. According to tradition, he was the first proponent of the Gospel to the Geto-Dacians.
Is that really right?
In 1997, St. Andrew was proclaimed “The Protector of Romania”.
Scotland, Georgia, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Cyprus, but also many regions or cities in Asia or even United States share their claim as a patron. On which basis?
Was St. Andrew or wasn’t he the first missionary in Romanian space?
The whole debate is based on a few references from the patristic writings that speak of a lottery among the apostles regarding the territories in which they were to carry out their missionary work. Both Origen, in Book III of Genesis Commentaries, and Eusebius of Caesarea, in Church History III, cap 1, say that Andrew’s lots fell to Scythia. And the Syriac Doctrine of the Apostles completes our information when it speaks of his work in “… Gothia.”
The sources indicate two regions that the Romanians can be interested in: Scythia and Gothia.
As for SCYTHIA, the researchers are divided into two groups. The first ones identify Scythia with Scythia Minor, meaning Dobrogea today. The others – with Scythia Major, a larger territory north of the Black Sea. Who’s right?
Concerning GOTHIA, historian Filostorgiu in Church History, II, 5 states that “…Urfila crossed the territory of the Romans with a great number of Scythians from those over Istru (Danube River), who were once called Getae and now are known as Goths.” Urfila was a missionary for the Goths (Germanic population), who at that time (330-350 AD) occupied a vast territory in Muntenia and southern Moldova. Part of the Goths receive Christianity, but after the persecutions of their pagan conationals, they passed south of the Danube into the Empire territory where they received protection. This is what Filostorgiu refers to.
The usage of the terms getae, goth, scyth with reference to the same population, even if it is not quite precise, speaks of a reality: populations living in Dobrogea, eastern Muntenia and southern Moldova. So the variant Scythia Minor (Dobrogea today) would be the most probable one.
However, in order to be able to talk about the mission of the Apostle Andrew on the territory of Dobrogea as a certain historical fact, we would also need “external” literary sources. So I mean non-Christian authors. Unfortunately, such sources are missing!
As a conclusion to those mentioned above, we can’t refer to the missionary journey of the Apostle Andrew in Dobrogea as a certain fact, but this was not only possible, but even more…probable!
My opinion is that there must not necessarily be a draconian file with evidences concerning the arrival or non-arrival of the apostle in Dobrogea. This can’t bring doctrinal or spiritual safety for anyone. Beyond this dispute, it is much more important to notice – in the centuries that followed – the evolution of Christianity into Romanian space.
If he really preached in this area, which was the topic? Certainly Christ and only Christ! What liturgy did he promote? Required: a simple, biblical one, unaccounted for by the heavy rampage of subsequent traditions!
Probably today, 2000 years away from those times, we, the Romanians, should ask ourselves: what did we do with the gift of pure Christianity received from Christ through Andrew? How does it resemble – or does not resemble – the Christianity of today with the apostolic Christianity? What values have we preserved and what values have we lost? And what about the impact of the apostle Andrew’s biblical preaching on the Romanian society today?
Dan Opris for OPINIA PRODUCTION.