Scriptura sola?

No such thing.

How do you know which books are the Bible, or even what’s in them?

Tradition.

Which tradition? Luther, circa AD 1517? He left some important books out. Of course, they’re all important!

The Hebrew-language Jewish Masoretic Text (MT), circa AD 800, edited to oppose Christian teachings?

Rome?*

Christian Scripture – Old Testament and New Testament – comes to us by way of the Greek-speaking world as it existed from Alexander the Great to the Fall of Byzantium in AD 1453, based throughout the eastern Mediterranean (not just modern Greece).

The same Bible as still used by the Greek-speaking Orthodox Churches today in that part of the world and elsewhere, and in translation, by the other Orthodox Churches in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. (*–There are slight differences between the original Christian Scriptures and those used by the Church of Rome until the last couple centuries, when it introduced further variances.)

(I believe for now Orthodox using Western languages provisionally – and advisedly – tend to use Western translations done by Catholics and Protestants, but their Liturgies – based largely on Scripture – are translated from the Greek and Slavonic liturgical texts in use ‘Back East,’ based on wholly-Orthodox Scriptures. An English translation of the Orthodox OT, being participated in by jurisdictional authorities and representatives from the U.S. and U.K., is under way. [The NT and Psalms currently of the Orthodox Study Bible are the unmodified New King James Version – NKJV, a Protestant translation. I have not heard that they plan to re-do them to agree in toto with traditional Orthodox texts as they are doing with the OT… but I believe there the differences are extremely small, not at all like those in the OT which they’re modifying to agree with the Septuagint – LXX.])

And scrolls and fragments discovered in recent decades have frequently shown the Orthodox Scriptures to have been, all along, closer to older Hebrew or Aramaic sources than the Masoretic Text!

God gave us the Christian Scriptures through Orthodoxy – Old and New Testament – which has preserved them faithfully. (I speak not to brag, but simply to state historical facts.)


And how do you rightly understand the Bible?

All by yourself?

No. By way of tradition.

But which tradition? Luther, less than 500 years old, who left books out of the Bible, and introduced significant changes to the Latin theology he’d inherited?

Even more recent Protestant traditions – Calvin, Zwingli, Edwards, the Wesleys, Smith, McPherson, Roberts, Falwell (may God have mercy on him), Robertson, Jakes, Hinn, Van Impe, Rev. Ike?

Rome?

Or the Tradition through which God gave us the Scriptures, and which has preserved them faithfully, and commented on them through universally-acknowledged wise Fathers and Mothers of the Christian Church – Orthodoxy? (I speak not to brag, but simply to state historical facts.)


For Orthodoxy, the Orthodox Scriptures are of course the unique touchstone for the Church’s Tradition – but that Tradition is also the source or context or conduit through which the world was originally presented with Christian Scripture – even the LXX as explained by the Lord to Saints Luke and Cleopas on the road to Emmaus (as well as throughout His Earthly Ministry), and which served almost exclusively as THE SCRIPTURES for the Lord and the Apostles for the first generation of The Church or more.

There are significant differences between how Orthodoxy traditionally has understood the Scriptures, and Catholicism and Protestantism’s understandings. Many of the most important Catholic and Protestant understandings are the more recent. There are also a number of Scriptural points on which Catholic and Protestant traditions pronounce themselves uncertain, ignorant, or agnostic, but which Orthodoxy has remembered for nearly 2000 years (more if you include the OT Church).

These differences are discussed or linked to, scattered throughout this blog, and probably will continue to be, God willing.

You have to trust somebody? Whom?


Many Catholics and Protestants claim direct inspiration by God to understand the Scriptures, whether unconsciously or even more simply through the “gift of the human intellect,” or by more dramatic means such as claimed visions, “words from the Lord,” “vocal ministry,” etc. – from the Pope of Rome, to the most Charismatic or Pentecostal layperson, “mechanic preacher,” or seminary professor with a Ph.D.

One Orthodox approach to this particular question from an author whose name I do not know is, “To believe firmly that God speaks through you is a sign of demonic delusion, dear reader. It is a repetition of the Luciferian pride that cast the ‘light-bearer’ angelic order (a supreme authority among the angelic hierarchy) to become a devil, together with his legions.” Humility is very often recommended to people by Orthodoxy as part of their collaboration with the Doing of God in their favor towards repentance and self-purification from sinfulness and the destructive influence of the passions. To not too readily identify oneself with the Holy Prophets, or the Apostles, or St. Maximos the Confessor or other Fathers or Mothers of the Church – not to mention the Lord Himself – especially in the absence of extensive, long-term self-discipline, self-restraint, and repentance.

Nevertheless, Orthodox Tradition has witnessed many spiritual fathers and mothers who have spoken for God, known things known to God, clarified the Scriptures and teachings of the Church for people and even in great councils of the Church, and counseled souls on how to, like them, bring their lives more into tune with the Doings of God, and manifest His Glory in their lives and even their bodies.

But in Methodist-cum-Episcopalian theologian Stanley Hauerwas’ expression, it’s like learning a trade, like carpentry or bricklaying – you submit yourself to the training of one who knows what s/he is doing according to others who do and according to observable results. In general, we may trust canonical Orthodox Bishops and their clergy. Throughout the years many Orthodox have also proved trust in certain canonical Orthodox monks, nuns, or laypersons, often known generally to Orthodox in their vicinity.

But nobody’s perfect, nobody faithful to Orthodoxy claims individual infallibility. But it is believed and experienced that Orthodox Tradition is nothing less than “the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church” – the whole Orthodox Church, such that even statements of great meetings of bishops have sometimes not been “received” by the Orthodox Church at-large. This is not “democracy,” and no ‘ratification votes’ were taken, but the Body of the Church arose and rejected falsehood from wherever it came, even sometimes apparent bishops’ councils themselves, because, we believe and experience, God’s Spirit fills the Body of Christ, the Orthodox Church, just as He fills the Body of Christ Incarnate. “Theology” isn’t about higher education or (necessarily) higher positions in the Church, but union with God’s Uncreated Energies/Doings… and sometimes some bishops may have lacked this, and some layfolk and/or monastics, not.

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