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Using the Old Testament


While in principle fully recognizing the merit of the Old Testament books, the Christian Church has not, in practice, had the opportunity to make use of them everywhere, always, and to their full extent. This is clear from the fact that the Old Testament Scriptures occupy four times as many pages in the Bible as the New. Before books were printed, that is to say, during the first 1500 years of the Christian era, copying the books, collecting them, and acquiring them was, in itself, a difficult matter. Only a few families could have had a complete collection of them, and certainly not every Church community did. As a source of instruction in the Faith, as a guide for Christian life in the Church, the New Testament, of course, occupies the first place. It can be said only of the Old Testament Psalter that the Church has constantly used it, and still uses it, in its complete form. From the time of the Apostles until our day, she has used it in her services and as the companion of each Christian, and she will continue to use it until the end of the world. From the other books of the Old Testament, she has been satisfied with select readings, and these not even from all the books. In particular, we know of the Russian Church that although she had already shone forth resplendently in the 11th-12th centuries, before the Tatar invasion (this fullness of her life was expressed in the writing of Church services, in iconography and church architecture, and reflected in the literary monuments of ancient Russia) she nevertheless did not have a complete collection of the Old Testament books. Only at the end of the 15th century did Archbishop Gennadius of Novgorod manage, with great difficulty, to gather Slavonic translations of the books of the Old Testament. And even this was just for one archdiocese, for one bishop's cathedra! Only the printing press gave the Russian people the first complete Bible, published at the end of the 16th century and known as the Ostrog Bible. In our time, the Bible has become readily available. However, in practice the purely liturgical use of the books of the Old Testament has remained the same as always, as it was originally established by the Church.

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