The Church & The Bible

The history of the development of the Bible

I. The Church provided the "context" for Sacred Scriptures

A.) What is the Church?

"The Church is Christ's work on earth; it is the image and abode of His blessed Presence in the world. . .The Holy Spirit descended on the Church . . .He lives and abides ceaselessly in the Church." (Florovsky, "The Catholicity of the Church." Sobornost: London , 1934)

B.) Outside the Church there is no salvation

"Outside the Church there is no salvation, because salvation is the Church. For salvation is the revelation of the way for everyone who believes in Christ's name. This revelation is only to be found in the Church. In the Church, as in the Body of Christ. . .the head completes the body and the body is completed by the Head." (Florovsky, p. 38)

C.) The Church is "Catholic"

"Catholic means, the inner wholeness and integrity of the Church's life. . .The first Christians when using the words "Catholic Church" never meant a world-wide Church. This word rather gave prominence to the orthodoxy of the Church, to the truth of the great Church. . .Where there is a bishop, let there be the whole multitude; just as where Jesus Christ is, there too is the Catholic Church." (Florovsky, p. 40)

D.) The Church is "Apostolic"

"It (The Church) was created and sealed by the Holy Spirit in the twelve Apostles, and the Apostolic Succession is a living and mysterious thread binding the whole historical fullness of Church Life into one catholic whole." (Florovsky. P45)

i. Objective element: uninterrupted Sacramental Succession (linking ordinations back)

ii. Subjective element: loyalty to the Apostolic tradition

E. Apostolic Tradition

"Loyalty to Tradition does not mean loyalty to bygone times and to outward authority; it is a living connection with the fullness of Church experience. . . The Church alone is a living witness of Tradition; and only from inside, from within the Church, can tradition be felt and accepted as a certainty. . .Tradition is the witness of the Spirit; the Spirit's unceasing revelation and preaching of good tidings. . .Tradition is a charismatic, not a historical principle (Florovsky, p. 46)."
"Having received this preaching and this faith, . . .the Church, although scattered in the whole world, carefully preserves it, as if living in one house. She believes these things (everywhere) alike, as if she had but one heart and one soul, and preaches them harmoniously, teaches them, and hands them down, as if she had but one mouth." (St. Irenaeus of Lyons)

II. The Sacred Scriptures were given birth to by the Church

For 300 years, the Church with a definite structure (i.e., Bishops, Presbyters and Deacons) existed without a "New Testament" as we know it today. The New Testament came about as a witness to the "Truth" as it was being revealed in the Church through its members united in Christ.

"It is the traditional teaching of the Orthodox Church that the Bible is the scripture of the Church, that it has its proper meaning only within the life and experience of the people of God, that it is not a thing-in-itself which can be isolated from its organic context within the Church community, in which and for which and from which it exists." (The Orthodox Faith,Volume I - Doctrine and Scripture, Hopko, p. 49)

1. The Gospels were witnessing the Truth and not Truth itself.

" . . . our four Gospels . . . they were received by the Church - that is, were recognized - because their content coincided with the image of Christ and the content of his teachings that the Church already knew. The Church did not "sanction" the New Testament writings; it recognized them as the Word of God, the source of its existence from the start." (Fr. Schmemann, The Historical Road of Eastern Orthodoxy, p. 43)

"We can say that Scripture is a God-inspired image of Truth, but not Truth itself. . . If we declare Scripture to be self-sufficient, we only expose it to subjective, arbitrary interpretation, thus cutting it away from its sacred source. Scripture is given to us in Tradition. The Church, as the body of Christ, stands mystically first and is fuller than scripture." (Florovsky)

2. The "Word of God"

"For the Church, the Word of God meant not only the expression of absolute truth in human language, but primarily the appearance of God Himself and the revelation of His divine life and strength. . . The preaching of the Word of God by the Apostles . . . not only told about Christ, but transmitted Christ Himself; it led men into His life and united them with it." (Schmemann, p. 42)

A. The Bible is both the work of God and the work of man (Both divine and human)

"The Bible is the divine Word in human scriptural form, fully divine and yet fully human, written in the words of men, filled with the Spirit of God to be the Word of God..." (Hopko, p. 58)

III. What was the basis for which books were included in the New Testament?

"For the Church has proclaimed the scriptures to be inspired only after examining the fruit which the scriptures yield, the communion and knowledge of God which the scriptures make possible in the life of the Church, understood as life in union with God through Christ, the divine Word enfleshed, in the Holy Spirit." (Hopko, p. 59)

IV. What scripture did the Apostles know?

"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you have learned it and how from childhood you have been aquatinted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is give by inspiration of God. (2 Tim. 3:16)

a.) What you have learned & firmly believed

  • Knowing from whom you have learned it (The Apostle Paul- the Church)
  • From birth knowing the "Old Testament Scriptures"
  • Which bring SALVATION through faith in Christ Jesus.

b.) The "Old Testament" can only be understood as being fulfilled in Christ and His Church.

V. What "Old Testament Text" did the Apostles use?

In 250 BC., 70 translators gathered in the city of Alexandria and began translating the Hebrew scriptures into Greek. The work was completed by 150 BC. 
This collection was known as the "Septuagint" (LXX) = according to the seventy. 
The (LXX) was the most common text of scriptures at the time of Christ. 
When the New Testament quotes the old it exclusively uses the LXX (see handout)

The Orthodox Church still uses the LXX 
a.) Are there any differences between the Hebraic version (Masoretic 100 AD.) and the LXX?

- Generally, the Messianic prophecies found throughout the Psalms and Prophetic writings are more explicit in the LXX than in the Masoretic.

Ex.) LXX - "You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedeck" (Psalm 110:4)

Mas. - "You are a priest of the Eternal, according to his pact."

The Reformation used the Masoretic Text of the scribes and rejected the LXX

- The Vulgate (4th C. trans. by Jerome) was based upon the Hebrew

VI. When did the 27 books of the NT come into existence?

- The Gospels were written between 30 & 70 AD. n The earliest complete listing (all 27) was first given by Athanasuis, Bishop of Egypt in 376 A.D.

A. The Bible is only part of the whole:

"The Bible is by no means a complete collection of all historical, legislative and devotional writings available, but a selection of some, authorized and authenticated by the use (first of all liturgical) in the community, and finally by the formal authority of the Church" (Florovsky, "Bible Church & Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View" p. 18)

VIII. How to read the Bible

"Only those who have the same experience of glorification as their prophetic, apostolic and patristic predecessors can understand what the Biblical and Patristic writings are saying about glorification and the spiritual stages leading to it." Romanides, "Franks, Romans, Feudalism & Doctrine, 1981 ,HCHC press, p. 41)

A.) Spiritual maturity

Always refer to the Fathers & Writings of the Saints

B.) Liturgical Usage (When is a particular passage read in Church, at what feast day etc.)

  • Liturgical year Matthew, Luke, Mark, are "pre-baptismal catechism" for the cleansing of the Heart (Romanidies, p. 50) 
  • The Gospel of John: "post-baptismal catechism" which leads to contemplation and illumination · Sunday Gospel Lessons (The Link between epistle & gospel themes
  • Great Vesper Readings from the Old Testament on Major Feast Days (Torah, Proverbs/Wisdom of Solomon/apochryphal) 
  • Usage in Hymnography & Sacramental Hymns (Marriage/Baptism/Unction/Ordination/Blessings of Bread) 
  • Hymns of Holy Week
  • "The Creed" (Biblical)
  • "Our Father"