Nathanael of Leukas and the Hottinger Circle: The Wanderings of a Seventeenth-Century Greek Archbishop
Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!
Gospel of St John, 1:471
Arrival in Zurich (1650)
If the past is a foreign country, can foreigners be seen as envoys of the past? Some theologians of the Reformed city of Zurich certainly hoped so when, on a day in January 1650, a stranger named Nathanael showed up.2 He claimed to be the Greek archbishop of Santa Maura on the island of Leukas, modern Lefkada. The Zurich clergy took an interest in him because they were eager to learn more about the early church and to undermine Roman Catholic claims to primacy and faithful tradition. In the midst of an epic confessional battle about the Eucharist, they hoped that their ventures into the foreign country of the past would finally prove that things were not done so differently there, and that the early church, the contemporary Greek church and Reformed doctrine were all in agreement on vital matters.
Nathanael said that he was by birth a Greek nobleman from the island of Chios.3He carried...