About Peter Bouteneff

Peter Bouteneff teaches courses in ancient and modern theology, spirituality, and the arts, at St Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary, where he is Professor of Systematic Theology. After taking a degree in music in 1983 he lived and worked in Japan, and traveled widely in Asia and Greece. He has an M.Div. from St Vladimir’s Seminary and a doctorate from Oxford University, where he studied under Kallistos Ware​. He has worked for many years in theological dialogue, notably as Executive Secretary for Faith and Order at the World Council of Churches, and has written extensively on Orthodox relations with other churches. He has broad interests in theology ancient and modern, but as a great fan of music and cinema, and as a practicing musician, he is also committed to exploring the connections between theology and culture.

He conceived of and edits the widely popular "Foundations" series for SVS Press, to which he has contributed a volume called Sweeter than Honey: Orthodox Thinking on Dogma and Truth. In 2008 he authored a study of how early Christians read the Genesis creation accounts, called Beginnings: Ancient Christian Readings of the Biblical Creation Narratives, published by Baker Academic Press.

Prof. Bouteneff directs the Arvo Pärt Project at St. Vladimir's Seminary, an in-depth endeavor involving concerts, lectures, and publications. He is author of Arvo Pärt: Out of Silence, which has been hailed as "a triumph," "a game-changer for Pärt scholarship," and "a must-read for any listener or performer of Pärt's music." He continues to write and lecture about Pärt, and is now director of the SVS Sacred Arts Initiative.

His most recent book is How to Be a Sinner, which offers compassionate reflections on the benefits (and the pitfalls) of understanding ourselves as "sinners."

He directs the choir at his parish, Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, in Yonkers, NY.

For a complete CV, visit his faculty page at www.svots.edu.

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Regarding Arvo Pärt: Out of Silence

“This illuminating meditation on the pillars of Pärt’s music – word, silence, and bright sadness – gives voice to what many intuit in the music and is a game changer for Pärt scholarship. Unafraid to traverse the same boundaries of religion, spirituality, and popular culture as Pärt’s music, Bouteneff’s book is essential reading for those devoted to Pärt’s music and interested in the place of Orthodox Christianity in public life.”

    — JEFFERS ENGELHARDT , Amherst College

“A luminous engagement of music, philosophy, and belief.” 

    — LAURIE ANDERSON, Composer, musician, performance artist

“Many of us have written about Pärt, but one thing was missing, the view from within the Orthodox Christian tradition that has guided Pärt's work since the 1970s. This has now been provided by Peter Bouteneff, writing with clarity, precision, and the graceful authority of one who knows what he is talking about.” 

    — PAUL HILLIER, Co-founder, the Hilliard Ensemble, author, Arvo Pärt (Oxford, 1997)

“By parsing the connections between Pärt’s music and the Christian faith, Bouteneff demonstrates the central paradox of the Pärt phenomenon: that a musician so deeply rooted in the particulars of a rich Christian tradition can, precisely on that basis, create music that continues to appeal to listeners across religious and cultural lines. This book is a triumph.”

    — ROBERT SALER, Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis

"All composers deserve a book written like this one, giving performers and listeners deep and spiritual insights into the music and the spirit of the composer. This book has brought me closer to the journey within Arvo Pärt’s music. It is a must-read for anyone who performs or listens to Pärt. A truly extraordinary book in scholarship, thought, and insight."

    — JAMES JORDAN, Professor and Senior Conductor, Westminster Choir College


Regarding Sweeter than Honey:


As part of the SVS Foundations Series, Sweeter than Honey is meant to be a “popular” book, but this designation does not do justice to the difficult questions that Bouteneff tackles in an attractive and highly accessible way. …a masterful job… profitable to any reader who values Christian tradition and its thoughtful defense.

Fr John A. Jillions, Sheptytsky Institute, Chancellor, Orthodox Church in America


There is an urgent need for just such a book, especially one aimed at the non-professional. …This is an excellent introduction to the Orthodox faith, written in a unique fashion, and with a view toward contemporary debates. It can be read with profit by beginners and more advanced readers alike.

George L. Parsenios, Princeton Theological Seminary


Listener reactions to audio course on Now You Know media:

These lectures are really outstanding and, in my view, should be universally recommended along with [Kallistos] Ware's two books to anyone interested in learning about Eastern Orthodoxy.  Your lectures are no doubt THE most accessible introduction to the Eastern Orthodox faith/tradition.


The Bouteneff series on the Orthodox Church was excellent.
I consider myself to be very well-versed in Catholic doctrine, but have not always understood the differences between the West and the Eastern Church.  I  found Bouteneff's talks extremely informative. The lecture series was well structured, accessible, and interesting -- a perfect course for anyone who is interested in understanding how the Eastern Orthodox Church differs and is similar to Catholicism.  Bouteneff is an outstanding teacher.
I have purchased many of your programs and found this to be one of the best.


I ordered this series last month. I just finished listening to the last lecture yesterday. It was absolutely wonderful. I hope you will have future series by this great teacher. Two thumbs way up on this series. Thank you so much for offering this course.


Regarding Beginnings:

This superb study of early Christian interpretations of Genesis 1-3 fills a major gap in the literature.

Verna E.F. Harrison


This wonderfully researched and elegantly written book provides the reader with a compelling and trustworthy portrait of how the fathers of the church read the story of Adam and Eve.

Gary Anderson, professor of Old Testament, University of Notre Dame


…historically astute, theologically sympathetic, and hermeneutically sophisticated analysis... Here at last is a work that truly sets in relief the many layers of meaning that patristic commentators saw in these rich and evocative opening chapters of the Bible. …This is a superb monograph.

Paul Blowers, Dean E. Walker Professor of Church History, Emmanuel School of Religion


I can guarantee that hardly anyone, whatever their starting point, will come away from this book without having found some new insight.

Frances M. Young, Edward Cadbury Professor of Theology, retired, University of Birmingham


[A] fine book, …a carefully researched and scholarly reading of early Christian readings of the creation account in Genesis. …Bouteneff unveils the often surprising riches of our patristic inheritance with a rare intelligence and passion.

Andrew Louth, professor of patristic and Byzantine studies, University of Durham


This work is welcome in a time of rancorous debate around the issues of creationism and evolution, both in the United States and in Europe.

Anna Van den Kerchove, Bryn Mawr Classical Review


[A] well-researched and highly readable book …This is a welcome contribution to the recent renewal of interest in the patristic writers, and one which adds greatly to the understanding of theology as an ongoing history of ideas, debates, and arguments.

Jason Wardley, Expository Times


"[Bouteneff] has done a great service to Scripture scholars and systematic theologians alike. . . . Bouteneff has proven himself capable of researching and discussing a wide range of issues pertinent to many fields of theology: Scripture, patristics, and creation theology. Beginnings deserves a place on the shelf of anyone interested in a coherent and thorough discussion of how those fields intersect.

Joseph R. Upton, First Things


Alert to theological implications, Bouteneff's understanding of both the Bible and the Fathers is well-informed, and he respects modern as well as ancient scholarly approaches. The book is a superb contribution to biblical hermeneutics, patristic interpretation, and systematic theology.

Richard J. Clifford, SJ, Theological Studies


A well-researched, thorough, and careful treatment of a complex and difficult subject.

Jonathan L. Zecher, Sobornost


'how literally did they take the creation narratives?' One may be surprised by the answer they find to that question in this book. I know I was …and am better because of it.

Bradford McCall, Reviews in Religion and Theology


A valuable contribution of the book is its detailed exposition of the Christocentric focus of much early Christian interpretation, an emphasis that offers good balance for our modern tendency to read the two testaments independently. Bouteneff's command of his sources is impressive, as is his locating of his authors in their political and theological contexts. …I found Beginnings consistently informative, occasionally provocative, and always good reading.

Mary Catherine Berglund, Interpretation


"Beginnings is obviously the work of great erudition. Bouteneff effortlessly traverses the specialized fields of biblical studies, history, and theology and brings them into conversation with one another. ... Perhaps most importantly, Bouteneff helps to peel back some of the layers of interpretation which have been added to the original story. …Bouteneff's work is likely to be extremely useful as a guide for the development of Greek theological anthropology.

Jeremy David Wallace, Koinonia Journal