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Wednesday
Nov182009

Presvytera Jeannie Constantinou, Ph.D.

Pres. Jeannie is available to speak on: The Apocalypse in the Orthodox Church, Church Fathers, Bible Basics, Cults and Heresies and others. Learn more »

Additional Information: Podcast: Search the Scriptures

Pres. Jeannie Constantinou, Ph.D.Presvytera Jeannie Constantinou is known for her dynamic speaking style and energetic presentations. Her listeners frequently comment that she makes times and people of the Bible and early Christian history come alive, becoming real and relatable to those of us in the modern age. Even back in high school she won numerous awards in speech competitions, and believes that reading from notes is the kiss of death for an audience. She adamantly refuses to read to an audience, even when presenting “a paper” at a national conference and guarantees that her presentation will not be dry or boring. Her enthusiasm for her subject matter is infectious, but not as a mere intellectual pursuit. She likes to focus on the practical application of the subject for a richer and more meaningful personal life.

Dr. Constantinou is a rising academic researcher and biblical scholar. She has presented several papers at such national conferences as the Society of Biblical Literature and Orientale Lumen. But she has a knack for making her subject matter simple and understandable to all with direct and straightforward explanations. She is very interested in all aspects of the history of biblical interpretation but is especially knowledgeable about the Church Fathers and the patristic interpretation of Scripture. She admires their tremendous insights and exemplary lives and is a particularly ardent fan of St. John Chrysostom, having studied and written about him for many years. She is undisputedly the foremost expert in the world on St. Andrew of Caesarea, the seventh century father of the Church whose commentary on the Apocalypse influenced the Orthodox acceptance and understanding of the Book of Revelation and the end times.

She has led bible studies, taught and lectured on the Bible, early Christianity and Orthodoxy at parishes, conferences, retreats and seminars for over thirty years. Last year, she made an effort to create an outreach and outlet for those Orthodox Christians who for a variety of reasons cannot attend a parish bible study and she began the first Orthodox internet bible study podcast, “an interesting and accessible bible study for busy people,” called Search the Scriptures on Ancient Faith Radio. In a short time Search the Scriptures has gained an enthusiastic following among people all over the globe. Pres. Jeannie is also featured on the Orthodox Christian Network in a series of podcasts on the Book of Revelation, called Beyond the Veil.

Biography

Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou was raised in Southern California in a typical Greek-American household. She had been blessed with good parents who were active in the church, but despite involvement in youth activities, Sunday school and church attendance, it was not until she was in college that Jeannie ever heard of such things as the Fathers of the Church, the Wednesday fast, the Jesus Prayer, or the meaning of icons. After high school, Jeannie enrolled at the University of San Diego (USD), a Catholic institution, as a Political Science major with the intention of continuing on to law school. All students at USD were required to take three religion classes. She found the religion courses to be the most interesting of all her classes and switched to Religious Studies as her major. Soon thereafter, she met an Orthodox priest who would become her first spiritual father. He began telling her things she never heard about the Church in which she grew up. Fascinated and deeply impressed by the truth, wisdom and spiritual wealth of Orthodoxy, she was changed forever and became a convert to her own faith.

As she pursued her college studies, she wrote all of her religion papers on “The Orthodox view of…” the subject under consideration. She was also blessed with highly supportive professors from various Christian traditions who encouraged her plunge into the Orthodox tradition. She learned a tremendous amount of Orthodox theology simply by her own research and self-study. Jeannie also took as many Scripture courses as possible during her years at USD and became impressed by the wisdom of the Bible, particularly the teachings of Christ, and fascinated by biblical history. As the only Orthodox Christian in her theology classes she often felt like a fish out of water and became acutely aware not only of the great divergence in theological opinions between Catholicism and Orthodoxy but also the difference in theological mentality and methodology between Christian East and the West.

Soon after becoming a Religious Studies major, she met a young Greek Orthodox Canadian seminarian, Costas Constantinou, who was pursuing a Ph.D. in Christology. They were married in the summer of 1979 and Jeannie completed her studies at USD that fall and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in 1980. Costas was ordained and assigned to serve Greek Orthodox parishes in Sacramento, Camarillo, and then San Diego, California. Presvytera Jeannie continued her education “wherever they landed,” as she likes to put it, and earned a Juris Doctorate from Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, California in 1985, passing the California Bar exam two months later, and then a Master of Arts degree in Practical Theology in 1992 from the University of San Diego. She worked as an attorney in Ventura and San Diego counties.

Father Costas had not completed his doctoral degree so the family - now blessed by the addition of their only child, Christopher, born in 1991 – decided to move to the Boston area in 1992 to be near the university libraries necessary for scholarly research. They served the Dormition of the Virgin Mary parish in Somerville, Massachusetts for eight years. Meanwhile, as Fr. Costa completed his doctoral degree, Presvytera Eugenia was delighted to be able - at last - to study theology under Orthodox professors at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, where she specialized in Orthodox theology and patristics and was won numerous awards and scholarships. She received the highest degree offered by Holy Cross, Master of Theology (Th.M.), in 1996. The subject of her Master’s thesis was “St. John Chrysostom as an Interpreter of the New Testament: Three Exegetical Principles.” She then enrolled at Harvard where she specialized in the New Testament and received another Master of Theology from Harvard Divinity School in 1998. The subject of her Master’s thesis at Harvard was, “The Roman Administration of Criminal Justice in First Century Judea.”

Presvytera Jeannie was invited to teach at Hellenic College/Holy Cross where she taught all of the New Testament courses that year, winning over even skeptical students with her devotion to the Orthodox tradition, interesting classes, straightforward approach, and pastoral sensitivities. At that time she was simultaneously enrolled as a Ph.D. student at Université Laval, Quebec City, Canada. Church responsibilities then took the family to New York, then back to California where Fr. Costa was assigned to serve mission parishes and Presvytera Jeannie began to teach at the University of San Diego.

Dr. Constantinou received her Ph.D. from Université Laval, Quebec City, Canada, in 2008, writing her doctoral dissertation on “Andrew of Caesarea and the Apocalypse in the Ancient Church of the East.” Andrew of Caesarea, Archbishop of Caesarea, Cappadocia in the early 7th century, wrote the most important patristic commentary on the Apocalypse for the Orthodox Church. The commentary also played an instrumental role in the reception of the Apocalypse into the canon of the Orthodox Church and shaping the fundamental perspective about Revelation and the end times for Orthodox Christians. The commentary had never before been translated into a modern language. Dr. Constantinou translated the commentary from the original Greek and provided extensive footnotes to the commentary with comparisons to the opinions of other Church Fathers. Her thesis was an analysis and explanation of the commentary. The commentary has been published by Catholic University of America Press in their series, The Fathers of the Church. She remains active in her study of and writing about the Church Fathers, especially Chrysostom and Andrew of Caesarea, and devotes time every week to her Ancient Faith Radio podcast.

Topics

  • The Theotokos and Orthodox Women.  Separating Life from Legend and Theology from Piety: A Scriptural, Theological and Iconographic Journey. (This topic can be modified for an audience of both men and women)
    Don’t we face enough pressure as modern women? Homemaker – Mom - Business woman – Wife- Student – Caregiver - Career Woman – Volunteer - Grandmother …..  We are expected to do it all, take care of everyone around us, look good while doing it, AND be like…the Theotokos, too!?  Talk about pressure!

    What do we REALLY know about the Theotokos? Was she simple and submissive or ardent and assertive?  A motivated perfectionist or passive and accepting?  Is she a motherly model or an unattainable ideal?  How can she possibly serve as an example for modern women? 

    The Theotokos was a REAL and COMPLEX person, just like each of us. In this presentation we will ask:  Why was she important in the early Church? What do we really know about her life? What about those “other” apocryphal stories? Why don’t we know more about her life? What does the Bible teach us about her and why are certain readings chosen for her feasts? What do the icons teach us about her? How does Orthodox theology about Mary differ from Catholic theology and piety? Which qualities did she exhibit that we can imitate?  What aspects of her life are attainable by us? 
  • The Trials and Crucifixion of Christ: A Scriptural and Patristic Lenten Journey.
    This presentation focuses on the Passion of Christ from an Orthodox perspective as a 21st century lawyer investigates the Jewish and Roman trials of Christ and his subsequent execution from a legal, historical, biblical and spiritual point of view. Who were the groups and individuals involved in orchestrating this event? What were the accusations brought against Christ and what motivated his accusers? Were the trials conducted properly according to Jewish and Roman law? Why was Jesus crucified and what did that form of capital punishment entail? What were the social implications of this mode of execution and how did early Christians respond to it? What reaction does the fact of Christ’s crucifixion still arouse in Jews and others even today? This topic is especially appropriate during Lent as it looks forward to Holy Week and offers the opportunity to truly understand those persons and events decisively associated with the final day of Christ’s life. This retreat is offered with belief that a greater knowledge of the Lord’s Passion will lead us to a deeper appreciation for His sacrifice and a more meaningful Holy Week and Pascha for each of us.
  • Beyond the Veil: The Apocalypse in the Orthodox Church
    Who wrote the book of Revelation, when, and why? What are we to make of its strange symbols, such as 666 or the mark of the beast? Why don’t we read from Revelation in the services of the Orthodox Church? Can we know when the end of the world will come? Are we living in the end times? Why don’t Orthodox Christians set dates for the end of the world but others do? Will Christ return to rule over the earth for 1,000 years? What about “the rapture?” Will Christ return to rule over the earth for 1,000 years? If Revelation is prophecy, does it have any message for us today? In this presentation, we will explore the Apocalypse of St. John in history, in the tradition of the Orthodox Church and we will examine some famous passages from the book together.
  • St. John Chrysostom: From Antioch to America, Ancient Advice for Modern Times.
    Life in Antioch in the late fourth century was – surprisingly – not so different from modern life today. People worried about advancing their careers, providing for their families and educating their children. They wanted to keep up with the latest fashion in dress and home décor. They were busy with the demands of daily life but also distracted by the enchanting pleasures of the city – the theatre, the races, parties, gambling and socializing. The greatest preacher the world has ever known graced the city of Antioch during the 390s AD. This devoted pastor worried that his flock was too distracted by daily life and too influenced by worldly pursuits. What advice did St. John Chrysostom give to his congregation for countering the influences of the world?
  • Golden Mouth, Golden Mind, Golden Heart: The Extraordinary Life of Sr. John Chrysostom.
    We know his name but what else do we know about this giant of the Church? The story of his life begins in fourth century Antioch as the only son of a young widow who made certain that her son would receive the best education and every opportunity to pursue a brilliant secular career. Although he turned his back on the world and decided to devote his life to Christ as a monk in the desert, circumstances brought him back to Antioch where he rose to fame as a celebrated preacher and then was literally spirited away to become the Patriarch of Constantinople. But the very people who brought him to the capital soon turned against him and conspired to destroy him. He died deposed and disgraced in exile literally marched to his death. The story of Chrysostom is more compelling than any Hollywood movie, with twists and turns, friends and foes, drama and intrigue. He died long ago, but he lives on in our theology, liturgy, biblical interpretation, and countless practices he introduced and established in the Orthodox Church. His voice has never been silenced and his legacy and influence remain even stronger now than at the time of his death.
  • From Persecutor to Promoter and Attacker to Advocate: The Amazing Life, Literature and Contributions of St. Paul.
    Next to Christ himself, no one had more impact on the Christian faith than St. Paul. Who was this little man who never even met the earthly Jesus? During his lifetime he was feared, then warily accepted, embraced by some distrusted by others, criticized and forced to fight for recognition in the Church, and forced to fight for his life on countless occasions. How did St. Paul go from the foremost persecutor of Christianity become its greatest promoter, such that we now regard him as the greatest of all the apostles? How did his work ultimately mold the Church into what it is today? St. Paul will come alive in this presentation as we discuss his life, including his background, passions, struggles, hardships and triumphs. We will examine his epistles and what they tell us about life in the early church, the criticisms leveled at St. Paul, the communities he founded and his relationships with them. We will become familiar with each of Paul’s epistles, which comprise half of the books of the New Testament.
  • Adam, Eve, the Serpent and Us: Genesis for Today.
    In the early Church, every catechumen began the study of Christianity by studying Genesis. During Lent, priests and bishops typically preached on Genesis. Why is understanding Genesis so important? Why is it indispensible for our understanding of the entire Bible? What do the ancient stories of Creation tell us about who we are, who God is and the meaning of our life today? How do we reconcile science with the Bible’s accounts of creation?
  • “Search the Scriptures.” Reading the Bible with Confidence and a Renewed Spirit: Patristic and Practical Advice.
    We all know that we ought to read the Bible more often, but how do we find the time? When we try, sometimes we feel intimidated by it. It’s boring. It’s confusing. Even if we want to read it, when we open its pages, how or where do we begin? What if we don’t understand what we read? This program consists of patristic and practical advice on how and why to read the bible designed to motivate people and make them feel more comfortable and confident about reading the bible. We talk about how the bible is structured, which books are found where, what kind of bible to use, whether to start at the beginning and just read through, what to do if you don’t understand what you read, what the Fathers say about importance of reading the Bible and its benefits in our spiritual lives.
  • Bible Basics
    Bored by the Bible? Scared of Scripture? This program presents simple, basic knowledge about the Bible in a nutshell, designed to help people feel more comfortable with the bible and more interested in exploring it. We will cover basic bible history from Abraham to the Apocalypse. We will get an easy explanation of bible geography – where is Galilee or Samaria? We will learn where the Bible came from, what the Old Testament contains and what the New Testament contains, how to find things in the Bible, and how to read the bible. An introductory course in the Bible in one day, with lots of handouts and no exams!
  • CSI: Canon of Scripture Investigation. Uncovering the Bible’s Past
    Where did the Bible come from? Who wrote the Bible and when? Why are certain books in the Bible and not others? Who decided what would be in the Bible? What did Bibles look like in the ancient Church? What about claims that are made about the existence of secret books, as in The Da Vinci Code or the Gospel of Judas? Pres. Eugenia Constantinou will present a program designed to jump start an important part of our spiritual lives: reading the Bible. If you want some motivation to read the Bible more often, or know you should read it but feel a little lost, out of place, or uncomfortable with the Bible, this presentation is for you. If you already feel comfortable with the Bible, this presentation is also for you. Presvytera will share inspiring insights from the Fathers on the importance of reading the Bible regularly. She will also give practical advice on how to read the Bible and get more out of it. It’s everything you never thought to ask about the Bible, but would be amazed to find out.
  • The Christmas Gospels: Voice of Joseph, Voice of the Virgin Mary
    The gospel stories of the nativity of Christ are not cute, sentimental stories designed to make Jesus’ birth interesting or charming. They are like a preview or the opening scenes of a movie. They are packed with deep theological meaning, they give us important information about the person of Christ which will be expanded upon and more fully developed later in the gospels. But only two Evangelists tell us about the birth of Christ, and the way each tells the story is very different. One gospel tells the story from the viewpoint of Joseph, the other from Mary. Why and what does each presentation tell us that is special about the birth and person of the Messiah?
  • A Crash Course in the Gospels.
    “Matthew, Mark, Luke, John – what’s the difference?” We hear the gospels read every Sunday, but what do we know about them? But every Evangelist has a style and purpose all his own. Where did the gospels come from? Since Jesus didn’t write them, why do we even have them? Why are they important? Who were the men who wrote them, why and where? What makes each one unique? Why do we have four of them instead of just combining them into one? What styles and characteristics distinguish each gospel? What about the Gospel of Judas and other apocrypha -why aren’t those books in the Bible?
  • After the Apostles and Beyond the Bible.
    Go back in time as we read the oldest Christian writings outside the New Testament, actual documents of Christians from the late first and early second centuries: letters, instructions on worship and behavior, eyewitness accounts of martyrdom, etc. We will also read the earliest Roman and Jewish writings about the Christians. What happened to the Church after the Apostles started dying out? Who were the leaders after the Apostles? What did the early Christians know and understand about Christ? Did they really think of Jesus as human and divine, or did that come later? Why did most Jews reject Jesus as the Messiah? How did the first Christians react to Jewish unbelief about Jesus being the Messiah? How, why and when did Christianity break off from Judaism? If Christianity came out of Judaism, why don’t we keep Jewish customs, such as circumcision, the kosher dietary regulations or observance of the Sabbath on Saturday? Why did the Romans start persecuting Christians at the end of the first century and not before? Why were Christians persecuted but Jews were not? Were Christians really fed to lions or was that only in the movies? Did early Christians have sacraments or were they invented later? Where did our customs come from, such as fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays?
  • Women Apostles: the Female Disciples of Christ.
    What was life like for a first century Jewish woman? What was Christ’s revolutionary attitude toward women? What role did women play during the ministry of Christ and in the early Church? What meaning does this have for the lives of lay people in the Church today?
  • Mother and Saint:Raising Children with Lessons from Five Extraordinary and Saintly Mothers.
    Our greatest saints often had extraordinary mothers. Not all female saints were nuns or virgin martyrs! What lessons can we learn from five saints, each of whom was an ordinary wife and mother yet struggled with very different life circumstances? Pres. Jeannie will take us on a journey back in time, and yet so contemporary, to share the stories of Emmelia, Nonna, Anthousa, Monica and Helen, the mothers of Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom, Augustine of Hippo and Constantine the Great.
  • Cults and Heresies: Three American Religions.
    We pass by their places of worship. We live near and work with people holding extraordinarily different religious and world views and know nothing about them. Is it enough to say you “believe in Christ” to be considered a Christian? Christian Scientists, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses all claim to be Christians, but their doctrines are among the strangest and furthest from Christianity that one can imagine. Together we will explore the history and basic teachings of these three 19th century American-born religions.
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