Legal and postal addresses of the publisher: office 1410a, 17 Naberezhnaya Severnoy Dviny, Arkhangelsk, 163002, Russian Federation, Northern (Arctic) Federal University named after M.V. Lomonosov

Phone: (818-2) 28-76-18


Transformation of the Category of Confession from Early Christianity to the Reformation Era. P. 102–113

Версия для печати

Section: Philosophy






Svetlana V. Vasil’eva
Petrozavodsk State University; ul. Lenina 33, Petrozavodsk, 185910, Respublika Kareliya, Russian Federation; e-mail:


This article deals with the origin of confession as a Christian sacrament and its historical transformation from voluntary recognition of one’s guilt to repentance and penance. The research aimed to describe all the development stages of this religious rite in both the Eastern Orthodox and the Western Catholic Church. As a result, common origin of the practice of confession in early Christianity was revealed. The author turned to the history of confession in the Eastern Orthodox Church (Greek, South Slavic, and Russian). In addition, the origin of Catholic confession as the cleansing of the soul once in a lifetime, i.e. in the face of death, was studied in detail, as well as the development of this rite up to the present day, when there is an established procedure carried out regularly to clear one’s conscience and absolve one from the sins committed. Further, the author traced the process of turning confession into repentance from early Christianity to the Reformation era in Europe. Through improving the sacrament of confession and making it a separate procedure whose process is known in advance to both the priest and the believer, the Catholic Church, starting from the Middle Ages, had gradually brought under control not only actions, but also thoughts of its adherents. With the Reformation, when Martin Luther published his theses against the very essence of the Catholic Church, a new religion started to evolve, and with it a new rationality, which later affected all areas of believers’ life. Protestantism set new rules excluding solemnity and pomp from spirituality. The Protestant ethic, being primarily based on rationality both in faith and in life as such, introduced radical changes to the life of the church and its parishioners, in particular the abolition of the sacrament of confession.


early Christianity, Eastern Orthodox Church, Western Catholic Church, confession, repentance, Reformation, Protestantism
Download (pdf, 4.5MB )


1. Almazov A.I. Taynaya ispoved’ v pravoslavnoy vostochnoy tserkvi: opyt vneshney istorii [Confession in the Eastern Orthodox Church: The Experience of External History]. Moscow, 1995. 1345 p.
2. Luganskaya S.A., Krapivin M.I. (comps.). Ty nuzhen Bogu: Slova i nastavleniya svyatitelya Nikolaya Serbskogo [God Needs You: Speeches and Admonitions of Saint Nikolaj Velimirović]. Moscow, 2013. 464 p.
3. Pravoslavie i sovremennost’, 11 March 2011.
4. Young J. Christianity. London, 1996. 298 p. (Russ. ed.: Yang Dzh. Khristianstvo. Moscow, 2001. 384 p.).
5. Foucault M. Les anormaux: cours au Collège de France (1974–1975). Paris, 1999. 351 p. (Russ. ed.: Fuko M. Nenormal’nye: kurs lektsiy, prochitannykh v Kollezh de Frans v 1974–1975 uchebnom godu. St. Petersburg, 2005. 432 p.).
6. Dorofeev D.Yu. (ed.). Filosofskaya antropologiya Maksa Shelera: uroki, kritika, perspektivy [Max Scheler’s Philosophical Anthropology: Lessons, Criticism, Prospects]. St. Petersburg, 2011. 567 p.
7. Il’in E.P. Psikhologiya sovesti: vina, styd, raskayanie [The Psychology of Conscience: Guilt, Shame, Penitence]. St. Petersburg, 2016. 288 p.
8. Foucault M. Histoire de la sexualité. 2. L’usage des plaisirs. Paris, 1984. 285 p. (Russ. ed.: Fuko M. Ispol’zovanie udovol’stviy. T. 2. Istoriya seksual’nosti. St. Petersburg, 2004. 432 p.).
9. Sventsitskaya I.S. Rannee khristianstvo: stranitsy istorii [Early Christianity: Pages of History]. Moscow, 1988. 336 p.
10. Antonyan Yu. M. Chelovek i Bog, tvoryashchie drug druga [Human and God Creating Each Other]. Moscow, 2003. 407 p.
11. Weber M. Izbrannoe: Protestantskaya etika i dukh kapitalizma [Selected Works: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism]. Moscow, 2016. 656 p.
12. Kostyuk K.N. CIVITAS DEI: mezhdu zemnoy vlast’yu i Bozh’ey pravdoy [CIVITAS DEI: Between Earthly Sovereignty and God’s Truth]. Moscow, 2015. 452 p.
13. Vladimirova E. (comp.). Velikie sokrovishcha mirovykh religiy [The Great Treasures of World Religions]. Moscow, 2010. 511 p.