"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Orthodox Church -- Tradition, The Bible, The Fathers

The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware

Some Notes:

Orthodox reverence their "inheritance from the past" while realizing that "not everything received from the past is of equal value." For example John's gospel is held at a different level than Athanasius' writings.  (pg. 197)
Additionally not everything received from the past is necessarily true.  Some things are mere man-made tradition rather than Tradition.
The primary elements that make up Tradition of the Orthodox Church are as follows:
Scripture -- notice this is not separate from Tradition since the Bible came out of Tradition; how do you think those books got canonized?

The Bible "is the supreme expression of God's revelation to the human race...[and] is understood within the Church."  The author gives the example of Philip who asked the Ethiopian if he knew what he was reading.  The Ethiopian said, "How can I, unless someone guides me?"  (Acts 8:30,31)  The Orthodox Church says that "it is the Church alone which can interpret Holy Scripture with authority." 
People, though sincere, are prone to errors. This is why you have so many people in the world doing their own things and justifying it with Scripture!  And this is why contradictory views abound.  One person says this, another says that. 
The Orthodox Church uses the Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament.  Any discrepancies from the original Hebrew, in their thinking, "were made under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and are to be accepted as part of God's continuing revelation."  The example given is Isaiah 7:14 in which the Hebrew says "A young woman shall conceive" whereas the Septuagint states "A virgin shall conceive." (pg. 200)
Also mentioned are the Deutero-Canonical Books which are often referred to as The Apocrypha.  Most Orthodox consider these parts of the Bible, but on a "lower footing than the rest of the Old Testament."  (pg. 200)
The Orthodox realize the Fathers as individuals have sometimes "fallen into error and at times contradicted one another."  Therefore it is necessarily to distinguish the "Patristic wheat" from the "Patristic chaff" and "not simply know and quote the Fathers, [but] .. enter more deeply into the inner spirit of the Fathers and acquire a 'Patristic mind.'"  Do not "treat the Fathers as relics from the past, but as living witnesses and contemporaries."  (pg. 204)
"All true Orthodox theology is mystical; just as mysticism divorced from theology becomes subjective and heretical, so theology, when it is not mystical, degenerates into an arid scholasticism, 'academic' in the bad sense of the word."  (pg. 207)

Coming next:  Can you update Tradition?



Amber said...

Scripture -- notice this is not separate from Tradition since the Bible came out of Tradition; how do you think those books got canonized?

S'what I've been saying for years. I don't understand people who poohpooh the idea of the Church and say that all they need is their Bible. Everything is contained in it and it just... appeared exactly the way it is. For some of them it's like they are completely and willfully ignorant of history. I understand (though I still disagree) better the people who know how the Bible came into being and say, well, 'The Church was right in this instance'. At least that's honest about the origins of the text.

There's one very entertaining person on a board I frequent who claims that he came up with the canon of the Bible on his own. He examined all the extant ancient works and decided what was canon and what was not. It just so happens that 'his' canon matches the Protestant canon...But he didn't take it from 'tradition'! :)

Susanne said...

Yes, darling, I know you have taught me this and I am very ignorant of too much. This is precisely why I tell you - like a broken record (do you know what records are?) -- that I love your comments and posts because I learn so much from you!

And I am laughing at that goober who just so happened to have the same Bible as the Protestants based on his own investigations! Ha! :D

Daniel said...

“The Bible "is the supreme expression of God's revelation to the human race…People, though sincere, are prone to errors. This …One person says this, another says that. “

So, so, so true!!!! This is exactly what got me searching and led me away from being protestant. There are too many human errors in Protestantism. The farther away from the original we go, the less correct it becomes. This is why, IMO, the Orthodox church is as close to the original as we will ever find. It is the only organized church which has changed nothing in the areas of theology and dogma and can trace it’s teachings to the Apostles and Christ. The RCC can trace itself that far back as well, but mainly because is developed out of the original church which is now the Orthodox church. It seems arrogant when you hear someone say, “it is the Church alone which can interpret Holy Scripture with authority." until you think about the fact they have been teaching the same thing since before scripture was even written down. Rationally, they should have the best understanding of scripture, since they were the ones who canonized what we use today. There have been disagreements in history between theologians, but there has always been painstakingly and meticulous work done to stay with the original teachings of the church and remove all heretical theories and ideas from the church.

The Septuagint is hundreds of years older than the Hebrew version later written by Jews in response to the rise of Christianity. Greek was the common language used by most people in the time of Christ and the Septuagint is the version referenced by Christ when speaking of the scriptures.

The Deutero-Canonical Books were removed by Luther because he thought the RCC placed them in the scriptures without realizing the Hebrew version he was using was what I referenced in the above paragraph. It was a mistake on his part, though an honest one. He simply did not know.

“Can you update Tradition?“

No, well, you can but you would be wrong. This is the “pride” of the Orthodox church. Unwavering and inflexible in it’s teachings. If you disagree with what the church has always taught you leave. No one will change the Transitions. This is the purest form of Christianity on earth. When the Coptic and Eastern Orthodox churches started speaking with one another after 1500 years (no contact during this time) one of the main concerns was if either group had changed its Tradition. After extensive research, each group happily found the other had made no changes and each still taught the exact same thing. This would have been impossible if either group had “updated” its Traditions along the way. The only purer form of Tradition would be to go back in time and be taught by the Apostles face to face.

Susanne said...

Daniel, thanks for sharing all that. I enjoyed it a lot! :)