Sources of Orthodox Tradition: The Bible

christthewordOrthodox Christians hold that the Bible is the written Word of God. All parts of the Bible are interpreted in the Orthodox Church in the light of Christ through the lens of the cross. The Church views everything in the Bible as leading up to Christ and speaking about Him (Lk 24: 44). But how does the Bible fit into Orthodox Holy Tradition?

Orthodox Holy Tradition, Orthodox theology and the Holy Scriptures are intertwined. They all speak of the same Orthodox Christian life and faith. They come from the same apostolic and patristic sources of the early Church. Frankly, it is barely possible to fully understand the Bible without understanding the historic, ecclesiastic, liturgical and theological context of the early Church. For example it was on the basis of a common knowledge of “authentic” Church Tradition that the church fathers of the pre-Reformation Church were able to agree on the content that became the New Testament biblical canon we have today. The canon was compiled from myriad ancient text sources, many of which were spurious or even heretical.

The Orthodox Church sees the Bible as inspired by God and authoritative. However, Saint Paul in Thessalonians (2:15) wrote, “Therefore brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.” A Bible-Only (“Sola Scriptura”) criterion is therefore in conflict with the Scriptures! Orthodox Christianity sees the Christian faith in light of the whole tradition, that is, in terms that encompass the entire tradition of understanding of the faith (oral and written) from Apostolic times. This was called “The Rule of Faith”. Western Christianity (especially Protestant) often understands Christian faith through its interpretation of certain parts and interpretations of the Bible, retrospectively. The Orthodox Church affirms that authentic Apostolic Tradition comes from the Holy Spirit in the Church. This is the same Spirit who inspired the Bible and the teaching of the Apostles, whether oral or written.

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3 Comments

Filed under Sources of Orthodox Tradition: Series

3 responses to “Sources of Orthodox Tradition: The Bible

  1. Demetrios1

    The early Church did not have a “Bible” – as it was being written and agreed upon. Was it not until the second century that the Bible (as we know it) was agreed upon?

  2. s-p

    Actually the canon of the New Testament was finalized in the 6th century. By the 4th century most of it was “there”, but Hebrews, Revelation and II, III John and Jude were still debated. In the second century there was still open warfare over the “canonical books”.

  3. Gabriel Emanuel Borlean

    Demetrios1,

    I am not sure about the Eastern Church (Greek) but the Western Church (Latin) finalized the canon question … at the Council of Trent (16the century).

    In the first 5 centuries, there were numerous Christians and Church Fathers that listed the majority if not more than the 27 books of the NT.

    For a good treatment of this and great table see:
    http://www.ntcanon.org/ site “The Development of the Canon of the New Testament”

    Also in 393 and 397 (two local Synods in North Africa, belive Hippo and Carthage respectively) the current list of 27 books had been voted on. Shortly after this, there was a local Synod in Rome that voted the same.

    S-P is 100% accurate concerning the contested books. Also, the views in the Western Church were not the same as the Eastern Church’s regarding which books should not be included.

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