Biblical Archaeology Review 32:4, July/August 2006

Archaeological Views: From Monk to Archaeologist

By Vassilios Tzaferis

Archaeology was not in my mind nor in my parents’ minds when, in 1950, at the age of 14, I departed the island of Samos, Greece. The destination for my migration was Jerusalem to study theology and become a monk in the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. Six years later, when I was 20, my father’s desire was fulfilled when I undertook the vow of monasticism and was ordained deacon in a solemn ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

As a deacon and an obedient member of the “Holy Sepulchre Brotherhood” of the Patriarchate, I was sent to serve the Greek Orthodox Church in Nazareth. Two years later, in 1958, I applied for higher theological studies at the University of Athens, but the then-Patriarch Benedictos had a much different idea: Instead, he urged me to complete my academic education in Biblical studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. For my B.A. studies, I chose the history of ancient Israel and archaeology. For my M.A. and Ph.D. degrees, classical archaeology was my field of specialization.

The patriarchal exhortation favoring the Hebrew University, on one hand, and my deliberate decision to complete my academic education in archaeology, on the other, drastically changed my life. While still a student, in 1964, I reneged on my vow of monasticism and reverted to a lay life, though retaining my faith within the Greek Orthodox Church.

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