Below are excerpted sections from an article written by Rev Dr John Palmer entitled “Gennadios II Scholarios’ Concerning our Faith: Introductory Notes and Translation”. A translated portion of Scholarios’ text is found at the end in bold.
…While the precise details surrounding the authoring of Concerning our Faith are still debated, there exists general agreement concerning the circumstances surrounding its composition. It is certain that the text arose out of a series of discussions between Scholarios and Mehmed II, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and conqueror of Byzantium. It seems that these discussions were initiated by the Sultan himself, who was possessed of a genuine desire to learn something of the faith professed by his new subjects. Convicted that the Patriarch was a man of great learning and virtue, he therefore set out for the Patriarchate – at that time situated in the Pammakaristos monastery – in hopes of having his questions answered.
Michael Cacouros effectively argues that notes authored by Scholarios himself reveal the following series of events: after an initial discussion, or series of discussions, Scholarios penned a twenty-one article synopsis of the session entitled Concerning the Only Way of Man’s Salvation, which he immediately, “…had translated into Arabic, and delivered to he who had requested it [i.e., the Sultan].” While all sources agree that the Sultan’s request lay behind Scholarios’ production of this synopsis, some have traced the causal chain back further, suggesting that the Sultan’s request may have been motivated by others. Protopresbyter Theodoros Zisis, for example, suggests that certain Muslim scholars traveling with the Sultan – ignorant of the Greek language – complained of their being unable to participate in the discussions and that it was for this reason that he commissioned Scholarios to produce a text that might be translated into Arabic…
While it is clear that Concerning our Faith is an apologetic work, it is also clear that Scholarios approaches his task with a great deal of discernment. On the one hand he firmly and honestly presents the fundamental truths of the Christian faith, going even beyond this to unflinchingly present these truths as fundamentally true, informing the Sultan that the Christian faith has weathered all manner of persecutions, adding that, “If this faith were not in accordance with God’s will, then it would have easily been put asunder.” According to Papadakis this is, “…an indirect reference and attack on Islam’s claim to be the definitive and final revelation of God.” On the other hand, he avoids the type of polemics one might normally associate with such a text: the work clearly differs in tone from the confessions of the hierarchs of the ancient Church before the Roman Emperors. Scholarios undoubtedly recognizes the good disposition of his interlocutor; that he stands not before a man who would judge him for his Christian faith, but rather before a man who of his own will sought to learn something of this faith, and who some say, “after having listened carefully and having learned about the faith of the Christians, came to harbour doubts concerning his own [beliefs].”
…First, that the prophets of the Jews (whom we also reverence) prophesied concerning Jesus; all that he did, all that he suffered, and all that his disciples did by his power in continuation. Similarly, in accordance with the divine dispensation, the Pagan oracles and the Persian and Greek astronomers also prophesied concerning Jesus with great eloquence. We have already demonstrated that all of these prophecies have proven true.
Second, that the scriptures of our faith are in agreement in all things because those who wrote them had a common teacher: the grace of God. Were it other than this they might disagree.
Third, that this faith, though strange and newly-revealed, was accepted eagerly and at great risk by men everywhere, and not only by the simple, but also by the prudent and wise. Thus the delusion of the Greeks was entirely abolished.
Fourth, that this faith contains nothing impossible, nothing inconsistent, nothing bodily; it is, rather, entirely spiritual. It is a path which leads the souls of men to the love of God and to eternal life.
Fifth, that those who took up this faith and lived virtuously, in accordance with Christ’s law, received great gifts and powers from God and did many things in the name of Jesus. These things would not have come to pass if this faith were opposed to the truth.
Sixth, that we are able to refute those who speak against this faith easily and by means of reason.
Seventh, that for 318 years kings and rulers the world over, polytheists and idolaters, warred against the faith by many tortures and murders to no avail. Rather, the faith has emerged victorious, persevering even until the present day and thus the Lord will find it when he comes. If this faith was not in accordance with God’s will, then it would easily have been put asunder. Glory to this God! Amen.