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The Divine Inspiration of the Scriptures


We usually qualify "scripture" with the word "sacred". "Sacred" means "sanctified," "having Grace in itself," "reflecting the wafting of the Holy Spirit." Only to the Gospels is the word "holy" always applied, and, before the reading of the Gospel, we are called upon to pray that we will be worthy to hear it: "And that we may be vouchsafed to hear the Holy Gospel let us ask of the Lord God"; and we are obliged to listen to it standing: "Wisdom; aright; let us hear the Holy Gospel," while when listening to the Old Testament readings, the parables, the Orthodox Church allows us to sit. Even while the Psalms are being read, not so much as prayers, but rather offered for meditation, for edification, as for example, the kathismas at Matins, we are allowed to sit. Thus in relation to the sacred books we can also say, in the word of the Apostle Paul, that one star differeth from another star in glory (1 Cor. 15:41). All of Scripture is divinely inspired, but its very subject matter elevates some books above others; there, the Israelites and the Old Testament law; here (in the New Testament) Christ the Saviour and His divine teaching. What constitutes the divinely inspired nature of Scripture? The sacred authors were invested or guided by that which, in supreme spiritual moments, becomes illumination and God's direct revelation. Concerning this latter state, they usually say of themselves, "I received revelation from the Lord," as we read in the prophets and in the Apostles Paul and John in the New Testament. Together with all this, however, the writers use the usual means of acquiring knowledge. Thus, for information about the past, they turn to oral tradition. Even those things that we have heard and have known and which our fathers have told us; they were not hid from their children, in another generation. They declared the praises of the Lord and His mighty acts and His wonders... (Ps. 44:1). O God, with our ears have we heard, for our fathers have told us the work which Thou hadst wrought in their days, in the days of old... (Ps. 78:2-3). The Apostle Luke, who was not one of the twelve Apostles, describes the Gospel events as one having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first (Luke 1:3).

The sacred authors use written documents, censuses of people, family genealogies; they state accounts with indications of building expenses, quantities of material, weights, prices, etc. In the historical books of the Old Testament, we find references to other books as sources; for example, in the books of Kings and Chronicles, And the rest of the acts of Ahaziah which he did, behold, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? And the rest of the words of Joatham, and all that he did, behold, are not these written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? (2 Samuel 1:18; 15:36; 2 Chron. 12:15; 13:22 and other places). Original documents are also quoted: the first book of Esdras reproduces word for word a whole series of orders and reports connected with the restoration of the Temple at Jerusalem. We must not think that the sacred authors were omniscient. That quality is not given even to the angels; it belongs to God alone. But these writers were holy. The children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance (2 Cor. 3:7), recalls Saint Paul. This sanctity of the writers, their purity of mind, and heart, their consciousness of the loftiness of their calling and of their responsibility for fulfilling it, were directly expressed in their writings: in the sanctity, purity and righteousness of their thoughts, in the truth of their words, in the clear distinction of the true from the false. They began their records with inspiration from above and being thus inspired, they completed them.

At certain moments, their spirit was enlightened by special Grace filled revelations from on high and by mystical insight into the past, as with the Prophet Moses in the book of Genesis, or into the future, as with the later prophets and Christ's Apostles. It is natural for us to imagine a vision as in a mist, like seeing behind a curtain for a moment. Now we see through a glass darkly, but then [in the age to come we shall see] face to face (1 Cor. 13:12), testifies Saint Paul. Whether the attention is directed towards the past or the future, no account of time is made in this vision; the prophets see "things that are afar off as if they were near." This is why the Evangelists depict two future events, foretold by the Lord, the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world in such a way that they almost merge into one future perspective. It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own authority (Acts 1:7), said the Lord.

Divine inspiration belongs not only to Holy Scripture. As we know, the Holy Orthodox Church recognizes Holy Tradition as a source of faith equal to Holy Scripture. For Tradition, which expresses the voice of the whole Church, is also the voice of the Holy Spirit living in the Church. All our church services are also divinely inspired, as the Holy Church sings, "Let us worthily honor the witnesses of truth and heralds of piety in divinely inspired hymns" (Kontakion to Sts. Zenobius and Zenobia, Oct. 30); and in particular, the Liturgy of the Holy Mysteries is called by the more elevated name of "Divine Liturgy," since it is divinely inspired.

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