1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Prokopovich, Theofan
PROKOPOVICH, THEOFAN (1681–1736), Russian archbishop and statesman, one of the ablest coadjutors of Peter the Great, was sprung from a merchant family. He brilliantly distinguished himself at the Orthodox academy of Kiev, subsequently completing his education in Poland (for which purpose he turned Uniate), and at Rome in the College of the Propaganda. Primed with all the knowledge of the West, he returned home to seek his fortune, and, as the Orthodox monk, became one of the professors at, and subsequently rector of, the academy of Kiev. He entirely reformed the teaching of theology there, substituting the historical method of the German theologians for the antiquated Orthodox scholastic system. In 1709 Peter the Great, while passing through Kiev, was struck by the eloquence of Prokopovich in a sermon on “ the most glorious victory,” i.e. Poltava, and in 1716 summoned him to Petersburg. From henceforth it was Theofan's duty and pleasure to explain the new ideas and justify the most alarming innovations from the pulpit. So invaluable, indeed, did he become to the civil power, that, despite the determined opposition of the Russian clergy, who regarded “ the Light of Kiev ” as an interloper and semi-heretic, he was rapidly promoted, becoming, in 1718, bishop of Pskov, and finally, in 1724, archbishop of Novgorod. As the author of “ the spiritual regulation ” for the reform of the Russian Church, Theofan must, indeed, be regarded as the creator of “ the spiritual department ” superseding the patriarchate, and better known by its later name of “ the holy synod,” of which he was made the vice-president. Penetrated by the conviction that ignorance was the worst of the inveterate evils of old Russia, a pitiless enemy of superstition of every sort, a reformer by nature, overflowing with energy and resource, and with a singularly lucid mind armed at all points by a far reaching erudition, Prokopovich was the soul of the reforming party after the death of Peter the Great. To him also belongs the great merit of liberating Russian preaching from the fetters of Polish turgidity and affectation by introducing popular themes and a simple style into Orthodox pulpit eloquence.
See I. Chistovitch, Theofan Prokopooieh and his Times (Rus.; Petersburg, 1868); P. Morozov, Theophan Prokopooieh as a Writer (Rus.; Petersburg, 1880). (R. N. B.)