2. Supernatural Divine Revelation. Holy Tradition and Holy Scripture.
Godís revelations about Himself to certain people are most
often effected by unusual means, or in a supernatural manner. God reveals
Himself directly through Himself or through His angels. Such revelation is
called supernatural divine revelation.
As not all people are able to receive revelation
from God Himself, due to their impurity through sin and weakness of soul and
body, the Lord chooses special righteous people who are able to receive this
Among the first people who declared the
revelations of God were Adam, Noah, Moses, and other prophets and righteous
people. They accepted everything from God and preached the beginnings of Divine
In fulfillment of Divine revelation, God Himself
came to earth incarnate in the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, and spread
the revelation to the whole earth through His Apostles and disciples.
This Divine revelation and its dissemination among
people is preserved in the true, holy Orthodox Church in two ways: by means of
Holy Tradition and Holy Scripture.
The primary means of dissemination of Divine
revelation is Holy Tradition. From the beginning of the world until Moses there
were no holy books. Teaching about belief in God was handed down by tradition,
that is, by word of mouth and example, from one to another, from ancestor to
descendant. Jesus Christ Himself conveyed His Divine teaching and precepts to
His disciples by word of mouth, by preaching, and by the example of His life,
not by books (scriptures). By preaching and example, the Apostles first spread
the faith and maintained the Christian Church.
Holy Tradition always precedes Holy Scriptures.
This is obvious because books are not useful for all people, but tradition is
accessible to all without exception.
Eventually, so that Godís revelation might be kept
in complete faithfulness, by the inspiration of the Lord, several holy people
wrote the most important aspects of tradition in books. The Holy Spirit helped
them invisibly, so that everything in these written books would be correct and
true. All these books, written by the Spirit of God through people sanctified
by God, prophets, apostles, and others, are called Holy Scripture, or the
The word "Bible" comes from Greek and
means "book." This name shows that holy books, as coming from God
Himself, surpass all other books.
The books of the Holy Scripture, written by
various people at different times, are divided into two parts, the books of the
Old Testament, and those of the New Testament.
The books of the Old Testament were written prior
to the birth of Christ. The books of the New Testament were written after the
birth of Christ. All of these holy books are known by the Biblical word
"testament," because the word means testimony, and the Divine
teaching contained in them is the testimony of God to mankind. The word
"Testament" further suggests the agreement or a covenant of God with
The contents of the Old Testament deal mainly with
Godís promise to give mankind a Saviour and to prepare them to accept Him. This
was accomplished by gradual revelation through holy commandments, prophesies,
prefigurations, prayers and divine services.
The main theme of the New Testament is the
fulfillment of Godís promise to send a Saviour, His Only-begotten Son, our Lord
Jesus Christ, Who gave mankind the New Testament, the new covenant.
The Old Testament books, if each one is counted
separately, number thirty-eight. Sometimes several books are combined into one,
and in this form, they number twenty-two books, according to the number of
letters in the Hebrew alphabet.
The Old Testament books are divided into four
sections, the law, history, wisdom literature, and the prophets.
I. The books of the law, which constitute the main
foundation of the Old Testament, are as follows:
These five books were written by the Prophet
Moses. They describe the creation of the world and man, the fall into sin,
Godís promise of a Saviour of the world, and the life of people in the first
times. The majority of their contents is an account of the law given by God
through Moses. Jesus Christ Himself calls them the laws of Moses (cf. Luke
II. The books of history, which primarily contain
the history of the religion and life of the Hebrew people, preserving faith in the
true God, are the following:
7. Judges, and as a supplement, the book of Ruth.
8. First and Second Kings, as two parts of the
9. Third and Fourth Kings
10. First and Second Chronicles (additional).
11. First and Second Books of Ezra and Nehemiah
III. The books of wisdom, which are composed
mainly of teachings about faith and spiritual life, are the following:
14. The Psalter, composed of 150 psalms or sacred
songs, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. A majority of the
psalms were written by King David. The Psalter is used for almost every
Orthodox service of worship.
15. Proverbs of Solomon
16. Ecclesiastes (Church teachings).
17. Song of Solomon
IV. The books of the Prophets, which contain
prophecies or predictions about the future, and their visions of the Saviour,
Jesus Christ, are the following:
22. Books of the Twelve Prophets, also known as
the lesser Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum,
Zepha-niah, Habakkuk, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.
These are the canonical books of the Old
Testament, meaning that they are undoubtedly true, judging by their origin and
by their content. The word "canonica" comes from Greek and means
"model, true, correct."
Besides the canonical books, a part of the Old
Testament is composed of non-canonical books, sometimes called the Apocrypha
among non-Orthodox. These are the books which the Jews lost and which are not
in the contemporary Hebrew text of the Old Testament. They are found in the
Greek translations of the Old Testament, made by the 70 translators of the
Septuagint three centuries before the birth of Christ (271 B.C.). These books
have been included in the Bible from ancient times and are considered by the
Church to be sacred Scripture. The translation of the Septuagint is accorded
special respect in the Orthodox Church. The Slavonic translation of the Bible
was made from it.
To the non-canonical books of the Old Testament
3. The Wisdom of Solomon
4. Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Sirach
6. Three books of Maccabees
7. The Second and Third book of Esdras
8. The additions to the (Book of Esther,) II
Chronicles (The Prayer of Manasseh) and Daniel (The Song of the Three Youths,
Susanna and Bel and the Dragon).
There are twenty-seven sacred books of the New
Testament, and all of them are canonical. In content, they, like the Old
Testament, may be subdivided into four groups, the law, history, the epistles,
I. Books of the Law which serve as the foundation
of the New Testament are:
1. The Gospel of Matthew
2. The Gospel of Mark
3. The Gospel of Luke
4. The Gospel of John
The word "gospel," or in Greek,
evangelion, means "good news." It is the good news about the arrival
in the world of the Saviour of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ, promised by
God. The Gospels relate the account of His life on earth, death on the Cross,
resurrection from the dead, and ascension into heaven. They also set forth His
Divine teachings and miracles. The Gospels were written by holy apostles,
disciples of Jesus Christ.
II. Books of History.
5. The Acts of the Apostles, written by the
Evangelist Luke, tells of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and
about the spread of the Christian Church through them.
III. The Epistles.
6-12. Seven general epistles to the churches, or,
letters to all Christians: one of the Apostle James, two of the Apostle Peter,
three of the Apostle and Evangelist John, and one of the Apostle Jude.
13-26. Fourteen epistles of the Apostle Paul: one
to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, one to the Galatians, one to the
Ephesians, one to the Philippians, one to the Colossians, two to the
Thessalonians, two to Timothy, the bishop of Ephesus, one to Titus, the bishop
of Crete, one to Philemon, and one to the Hebrews.
IV. Books of Prophecy.
27. The Apocalypse, or Revelation to John, written
by the holy Apostle and Evangelist John, contains a vision of the future
destiny of the Church of Christ and of the whole world.
The sacred books of the New Testament were first
written in Greek, which at that time was in common usage. Only the Gospel of
Matthew and the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews were first written in
Hebrew. The Gospel of Matthew, however, was translated into Greek in the first
century, most likely by the Apostle Matthew himself.
The books of both the New Testament and the Old
Testament appeared by Godís revelation, were written by the inspiration of the
Holy Spirit, and are therefore called divinely inspired. Apostle Paul says, All
Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for
reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness (II Tim. ).
The loftiness and purity of Christian teaching in
these writings, prophecies, and miracles convince one of the divine origin of
Holy Scripture. With special signs, the divine inspiration of sacred books is
revealed in the mighty acts of the word of God toward mankind. Wherever the
Apostles preached, the hearts of people submitted to the teaching of Christ.
The Jews and pagans of the world armed themselves with every evil power known
to man against the Christians. Christian martyrs died by the thousands, yet the
word of God grew and became firmly established. There are examples in which
people started to study the Bible with the hope of disproving the teachings
contained therein, and in the end became sincerely reverent and deeply
believing people. Each one of us, attentively reading Holy Scripture, can
experience in himself the Lordís almighty power, and be convinced that it is
the revelation of God Himself.
All Divine revelation is preserved in the HolyChurch. The books of Holy Scripture, and Holy Tradition ó that
is, that which was not originally written down in these books, but handed down
by word of mouth and only afterwards written down by saints in the early
centuries of Christianity (4th and 5th centuries) and consequently have
profound antiquity and authenticity ó all this is preserved in the Holy Church.
The Church was founded by the Saviour Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ, and
established as the custodian of His Divine revelation. God the Holy Spirit
invisibly guards Her.
The Holy Orthodox Church, after the death of the
Apostles, was guided by Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. We read there the
words of the prophets and Apostles as if we ourselves lived with them and
listened to them.
In special cases, for the accusation of heretics
or to resolve various misunderstandings, on the order of the Saviour Himself
(Matt. ) and by the example of the Apostles (Apostolic Council in
51 A.D., Acts 15:1-35), councils assembled. Some of these were Ecumenical, at
which were gathered from the entire known world as many pastors and teachers of
the Church as was possible. Other councils were local, where just pastors and
teachers of a particular region assembled.
The decision of an Ecumenical Council is the
highest earthly authority of the Holy Church of Christ, guided by the Holy
Spirit, as it was stated in the decision of the first Apostolic Council,
"For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us" (Acts 15:28).
There were seven Ecumenical Councils. At the first
and second councils the Orthodox Creed was formulated.