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How to read the Bible: An Orthodox perspective

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Distruzio
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How to read the Bible: An Orthodox perspective

Postby Distruzio » Tue Aug 07, 2012 1:45 am

Hi there. I'm Distruzio, an Eastern Orthodox Christian. The Orthodox Church along with the Latin (Catholic), Oriental, and Anglican Churches (although this is hotly contested, I admit that this particularity is my own perspective and should not be considered the universal position of all the Eastern, Oriental, Latin Church, or even the Anglican Communion), wrote the New Testament and cannonized the Bible into the book we all know today. It was us who handed down the Creed and established what a Christian is to believe in order to avoid heresy against the Scripture.

We are not, however, sola scripturists.

Many consider the Protestants mere schismatics - not necessarily heretics. I however, struggle to maintain even this modicum of neutrality on the status of protestantism within Christianity and often give in to the temptation to label Protestants, by and large (with some exceptions of course) to be idolators. More specifically, bibliolators - worshippers of the Bible. They deny the authority of Christ and the Holy Spirit - they deny God and supplant him with themselves.

In this regard, I am a bigot. I do not shy from this label, but I am aware of the issues it raises both for my faithful expression of Christianity and for my relationships with individual Protestants. I confess but repentance is something that comes hard for me. It's a weakness.

But this flaw in my personality is not the topic of this thread. I merely elaborate to give the non-Protestant and potential non-Christian readers of this thread a bit of perspective before I delve into the meat. In other words, I do not play the text proofing game with anyone, although I can do it as well as the thumper on the corner (note that the thread in the link here provided is a parody). So responding to me as though I were a Baptist or a member of Westboro will get you nowhere.

The point of this thread is to address the bibliolatry itself - how does one actually read the bible and avoid worship of it?

I recently listened to a lecture on how to read the Bible, which inspired this thread. For those more knowledgeable Christians among you, please note that I'm not intentionally reproducing anyone else's arguments but following the structure of the lecture with what I can remember of it, along with my own input.

"The Scriptures constitute a coherent whole. There are at once divinely inspired and humanly expressed. They bear authoritative witness to God's revelation of Himself in creation, in the Incarnation of the Word, and in the whole history of salvation, and as such express the word of God in human language. We know, receive, and interpret Scripture through the Church and in the Church. our approach to the Bible is one of obedience."


- Moscow Conference, 1976


I'll begin with obedience. I agree with the Protestants when they say the Bible is divinely inspired. It, as the quote above explains, is uniformly coherent and speaks with a single message divided among the several books. As such, it is the Bible - not the Bibles. But, it is expressed by human beings - individually and distinct across many years and involving many different situations. Though He spoke through individuals as they wrote the words of scripture down, He did NOT diminish their individuality. Despite the rhetoric of the more militaristic Protestant sects, coercion is alien to God. He cooperates with us. No mere tool, each author of each book expressed the words of God through their own hermeneutic - an reflection of the age in which they lived.

We are to remember this fact and maintain a measured and thoughtful approach to the authority found in Scripture.

Nowhere is this more clear than in the New Testament Gospels themselves. The legalistic perspective of Matthew reflects Jesus' fulfillment of the Jewish Law and is clearly a more ecclesiastical narrative. Universalism and love pervade Luke's account and dull the bite of the harsh language surrounding biblical descriptions of the proto-Jewish State found in the Old Testament. John is more mystical and introspective. My favorite, however, is Mark. He wrote in brusque and basic Greek. His lack of flair in writing style is exactly what makes his Gospel more personal, more gentle. Each Gospel speaks of a singular message and yet reflects the individuality and personality of the author. No book was dictated. They were experiences expressed as best as could be by imperfect men.

For the curious Christian, this means that his approach to Scripture must be bound in tandem to receptiveness and awe. He must always recall that the words are not merely words written by men, but the uncreated Word of God Himself.

More than obedience, however, the Christian needs to interpret Scripture through the Church. Now I don't mean that building that we each visit from time to time. I mean the physical worldwide Church. Our approach to scripture must also be ecclesiastical - as members of a community. We are Christians - not monads. The Bible cannot be separated from the Church. It is not an atomized thing to be removed from the world and interpreted in a vacuum. Sola scriptura is inappropriate.

For an explanation of this, please refer to the first link I provided above. Simply put, the Scripture was always and yet remains received by the individual Christian through and in the Church. Christianity would have survived without the Bible, though it would have been less authoritative. It would NOT have survived without the Church. More importantly, not even the Bible would have survived without the Church - it would never have existed.

Many critics of the Bible will neglect this fact when offering criticisms. They may, for instance, call into question the authorship of a particular book within Scripture. This may be, for some, reason enough to doubt the validity and authority of the Bible itself. For the Christian, however, it needn't matter. The Church has canonized the message contained within the books of the Bible. The Bible maintains its authority vis a vis the Church, not the other way around.

Moreover, since it is the Church that defines what the Bible is, then it is the Church that defines what the Bible says. Recall Acts 8:30,31 when Phillip comes upon the Ethiopian as he struggled to read the Old testament. Did Phillip remind the Ethiopian to read for himself? Did the Ethiopian proclaim that all he needed for God's revelation was Scripture alone? Of course, the answer to both questions is obviously no. The individual Christian is the Ethiopian. The Church is Phillip, guiding our interpretation of Scripture.

This is not to say that individual study should not be undertaken. I am merely stating that, whatever your individual opinion of specific lines from the Bible, it must be submitted to the judgement of the worldwide Church. We are not isolated individuals reading Scripture. For the historic Christian (members of the various Churches I described in the introduction to this thread), this is common sense. For the Protestant, it is a strange revelation.

There is much more to describe this ecclesiastical way of interpreting Scripture, but I feel as though I am already boring you. So I'll move on to the final crux.

Christ. That unifying message the above quote reminds us of is Christ. He is the integral message of each book within Holy Scripture. His is the syncretic glue binding the history of the Jewish texts, the Old Testament, to the Gentile texts in the New Testament. Using typological methods of interpretation, whereby "types" of Christ and symbols of His work are detected and manifested throughout the Old Testament, that are expressed for us through the Church, we can see Christ everywhere in the Bible.

As each Christian is called to be perfected in the likeness of Christ, we must see ourselves reflected by Him in our study. This makes Scripture personal. Scripture is to be considered an intimate dialogue between Christ and myself. For instance, in Genesis, we read of God walking through the Garden seeking Adam out, calling to him. Reading the Scripture personally and with Christ in mind, we can see that God is calling out for us - for me.

I am Cain who turns away my brother and sister. I am the goat separated from the sheep. I am the thief on the Cross beside Jesus. I am Peter who denies Christ.

Conversely, the personal revelation of Scripture, through the Church, in obedience, do I see myself in the sinners surrounding Jesus yet forgiven and cherished by Him? Am I Mary Magdalene? Am I the tax collector? Am I the woman who rubs ointment on His feet?

"Better someone who has sinned, if he knows he has sinned and repents, than a person who has not sinned and thinks of himself as righteous."

- Desert Fathers


With all of this in mind, we see that the Scripture is not something to be read in a vacuum separated from the history, personality, and authority of the Church. It is something to be read with humility, obedience, and temperance. It is not merely a tool to absorb information, or a work of literature, or a collection of historical documents (although it can be used as such in certain contexts). It is a message directly to me, to you, by God asking where you are.

And this is exactly why I find myself so repulsed by the sola scripturist approach to salvation. They tend to use the Bible as a weapon of division - as a tool to justify their own superiority. I cannot abide that and I will ALWAYS side with the atheist who takes offense at such declarations by the bibliolator. The Protestant does not tend to see himself in scripture (although, as I admitted above, there are exceptions) but everyone else. That doesn't seem like Christianity to me. It certainly doesn't seem like they know how to read what they worship.

Thoughts?
Last edited by Distruzio on Fri Dec 27, 2013 12:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Genivaria » Tue Aug 07, 2012 4:28 am

Step 1. Pick up bible.
Step 2. Open bible to first page.
Step 3. Move your eyes down the page.
Step 4. Turn to next page.
Repeat steps 3-4 until book is finished. Congratulations, your now reading the the bible like a pro.
Last edited by Genivaria on Tue Aug 07, 2012 4:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Galloism » Tue Aug 07, 2012 8:37 am

So, if the "worldwide" church directly and unequivically contradicts the Bible, what is one to do?
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Postby Yewhohohopia » Tue Aug 07, 2012 8:39 am

I thought this was going to be "In Greek". But I'm disappointed.
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Postby Yewhohohopia » Tue Aug 07, 2012 8:40 am

Genivaria wrote:Step 1. Pick up bible.
Step 2. Open bible to first page.
Step 3. Move your eyes down the page.
Step 4. Turn to next page.
Repeat steps 3-4 until book is finished. Congratulations, your now reading the the bible like a pro.

Prostrat is to find one with(out) the apocrypha etc., to one's taste.
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Postby Distruzio » Tue Aug 07, 2012 12:08 pm

Galloism wrote:So, if the "worldwide" church directly and unequivically contradicts the Bible, what is one to do?



It doesn't contradict the bible.
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Postby Meryuma » Tue Aug 07, 2012 12:17 pm

Why don't you consider Lutherans heretics? They invented Protestantism and sola scriptura.
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Postby Just another Georgizm » Tue Aug 07, 2012 12:19 pm

Meryuma wrote:Why don't you consider Lutherans heretics? They invented Protestantism and sola scriptura.

If you hate Martin Luther King Jr. then you're a racist and that's that

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Postby Blargoblarg » Tue Aug 07, 2012 12:27 pm

Genivaria wrote:Step 1. Pick up bible.
Step 2. Open bible to first page.
Step 3. Move your eyes down the page.
Step 4. Turn to next page.
Repeat steps 3-4 until book is finished. Congratulations, you're now reading the the bible like a pro.


This, so very much. 8)
Last edited by Blargoblarg on Tue Aug 07, 2012 12:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby The Truth and Light » Tue Aug 07, 2012 12:28 pm

Meryuma wrote:Why don't you consider Lutherans heretics? They invented Protestantism and sola scriptura.

The fact is that, when it comes to religious sects (or denominations, in this case), the other sect always seems to be heretical since it does not approach the religion in the same way.

Of course, I don't think anyone is necessarily heretical. I think that Christianity as a whole has been changing since its inception, re-purposing itself, fragmenting and syncronizing, and is simply not straight-forward anymore.
Last edited by The Truth and Light on Tue Aug 07, 2012 12:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Meryuma » Tue Aug 07, 2012 12:35 pm

The Truth and Light wrote:
Meryuma wrote:Why don't you consider Lutherans heretics? They invented Protestantism and sola scriptura.

The fact is that, when it comes to religious sects (or denominations, in this case), the other sect always seems to be heretical since it does not approach the religion in the same way.

Of course, I don't think anyone is necessarily heretical. I think that Christianity as a whole has been changing since its inception, re-purposing itself, fragmenting and syncronizing, and is simply not straight-forward anymore.


I don't think anyone is heretical either (I'm not even Christian). I was just asking why they're not heretical by his standards.
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Potarius wrote:
Neo Arcad wrote:Gravity is a natural phenomenon by which physical bodies attract with a force proportional to their mass.


In layman's terms, orgy time.


Niur wrote: my soul has no soul.


Saint Clair Island wrote:The English language sucks. From now on, I will refer to the second definition of sexual as "fucktacular."


Trotskylvania wrote:Alternatively, we could go on an epic quest to Plato's Cave to find the legendary artifact, Ockham's Razor.



Norstal wrote:Gunpowder Plot: America.

Meryuma: "Well, I just hope these hyperboles don't...

*puts on sunglasses*

blow out of proportions."

YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

...so here's your future

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Postby The Truth and Light » Tue Aug 07, 2012 12:37 pm

Meryuma wrote:
The Truth and Light wrote:The fact is that, when it comes to religious sects (or denominations, in this case), the other sect always seems to be heretical since it does not approach the religion in the same way.

Of course, I don't think anyone is necessarily heretical. I think that Christianity as a whole has been changing since its inception, re-purposing itself, fragmenting and syncronizing, and is simply not straight-forward anymore.


I don't think anyone is heretical either (I'm not even Christian). I was just asking why they're not heretical by his standards.

Oh, my bad. I interpreted it as a general "you".

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Postby Distruzio » Tue Aug 07, 2012 12:40 pm

Meryuma wrote:Why don't you consider Lutherans heretics? They invented Protestantism and sola scriptura.



They approached the spirit of Protestantism correctly. They are still highly Church minded. So I consider them schismatic rather than heretical.
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Postby Distruzio » Tue Aug 07, 2012 12:41 pm

Genivaria wrote:Step 1. Pick up bible.
Step 2. Open bible to first page.
Step 3. Move your eyes down the page.
Step 4. Turn to next page.
Repeat steps 3-4 until book is finished. Congratulations, your now reading the the bible like a pro.



And established heresy like an amateur. Like every other ameteur theologian protestant, actually.
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Postby Genivaria » Tue Aug 07, 2012 1:10 pm

Distruzio wrote:
Genivaria wrote:Step 1. Pick up bible.
Step 2. Open bible to first page.
Step 3. Move your eyes down the page.
Step 4. Turn to next page.
Repeat steps 3-4 until book is finished. Congratulations, your now reading the the bible like a pro.



And established heresy like an amateur. Like every other ameteur theologian protestant, actually.

Oh but isn't Heresy such fun? And I'm not a Protestant.
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Postby Distruzio » Tue Aug 07, 2012 1:14 pm

Genivaria wrote:
Distruzio wrote:

And established heresy like an amateur. Like every other ameteur theologian protestant, actually.

Oh but isn't Heresy such fun? And I'm not a Protestant.



I didn't say you were. And heresy implies confusion about the text you read.
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Postby Genivaria » Tue Aug 07, 2012 1:18 pm

Distruzio wrote:
Genivaria wrote:Oh but isn't Heresy such fun? And I'm not a Protestant.



I didn't say you were. And heresy implies confusion about the text you read.

Well I'm certainly not confused about whats printed on the pages, I have 20/20 vision.
Last edited by Genivaria on Tue Aug 07, 2012 1:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Galloism » Tue Aug 07, 2012 1:48 pm

Distruzio wrote:
Galloism wrote:So, if the "worldwide" church directly and unequivically contradicts the Bible, what is one to do?



It doesn't contradict the bible.

The trinity belief ring a bell?

Immortality of the soul?

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Postby Salandriagado » Tue Aug 07, 2012 2:21 pm

Distruzio wrote:
Genivaria wrote:Oh but isn't Heresy such fun? And I'm not a Protestant.



I didn't say you were. And heresy implies confusion about the text you read.


No it doesn't. Heresy is defined as (using Google) "1. Belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (esp. Christian) doctrine.
2. Opinion profoundly at odds with what is generally accepted."

Neither of these definitions implies any kind of confusion. It simply implies not agreeing with the orthodox.
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Postby Galborg » Tue Aug 07, 2012 5:58 pm

Heresy is NOT confusion. Heresy is a clear and precise doctrine which contradicts official doctrine.

In the official doctrine is vague and a faction's doctrine is vague, then that faction can remain a part of the official church for generations. It is only when either side preaches a precise and clear doctrine that the charge of heresy is sustainable.
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Postby Seleucas » Tue Aug 07, 2012 6:10 pm

Distruzio, what do you think of TULIP Calvinism? I tend to like Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity more because they are more humane (I am an atheist, BTW), but the God in the Bible does seem like a creep a lot of the time, which seems to go with mass-murderer John Calvin's interpretation of the Bible.
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Postby Cetacea » Tue Aug 07, 2012 10:18 pm

First of I am not an apologist I need to state here that most Protestant congregations do not rely on sola scriptura alone, instead most rely equally on revelation of the holy spirit in accordance with the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the pentacost. Personally I only consider the words of the prophets (Ot and the Gospels) that constitute true scripture, Pauls letters were itinerant teachings seeking to define doctrine and not scripture and furthermore I also question the accuracy of modern translation of the bible. Nonetheless I'll rely on NT quote to illustrate certain points firstly:
" For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18:20 [NIV])

"What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification." (1 Cor. 14:26 [NASB]; see also Colossians 3:16, Hebrews 10:24–25)

So the early church were empowered by gifts of the holy spirit and in particular the teachings of the messiah who quoted the words of the prophets. This was not within a structure of Church and Priesthood but in small home based sharing with a few leaders (Paul etc) who helped to clarify issues. This apostolic structure is maintained with each baptised member gaining prayerful revelation when meditating upon the words of the prophets and an annointed priest being able to clarify questions in accordance with tradition/doctrine.


Pentacost Acts 2
17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:

18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:.

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Postby Christmahanikwanzikah » Tue Aug 07, 2012 10:28 pm

More than obedience, however, the Christian needs to interpret Scripture through the Church.


How To Read the Bible: An Orthodox Perspective

Step 1: Read currently-accepted Church doctrine
Step 2:

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Postby Dyakovo » Tue Aug 07, 2012 10:31 pm

Christmahanikwanzikah wrote:
More than obedience, however, the Christian needs to interpret Scripture through the Church.


How To Read the Bible: An Orthodox Perspective

Step 1: Read currently-accepted Church doctrine
Step 2:

Apparently the Orthodox perspective (at least according to Dis) is that lay people aren't smart enough to read the bible themselves...
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Postby Cetacea » Tue Aug 07, 2012 10:36 pm

Dyakovo wrote:
Christmahanikwanzikah wrote:
How To Read the Bible: An Orthodox Perspective

Step 1: Read currently-accepted Church doctrine
Step 2:

Apparently the Orthodox perspective (at least according to Dis) is that lay people aren't smart enough to read the bible themselves...


yep thats pretty much it

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