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Understandest Thou
What Thou Readest?


According to the account in the Acts of the Apostles, when the Apostle Philip met one of Queen Candace's eunuchs on the road and saw the book of the Prophet Isaiah in his hands, he asked the eunuch, Understandest thou what thou readest? He replied, How can I except some man should guide me? (Acts 8:30-31). Philip instructed him in the Christian understanding of what he had been reading, with the result that this reading from the Old Testament was followed immediately, there on the road itself, by the eunuch's baptism. As the Apostle interpreted in the light of the Christian faith what the eunuch had been reading so we also must approach reading the Old Testament from the standpoint of the Christian Faith. It needs to be understood in a New Testament way, in the light which proceeds from the Church. For this purpose the Church offers us the patristic commentaries on the Holy Scriptures, preferring that we should assimilate the contents of the sacred books through them. It is necessary to bear in mind that the Old Testament is the shadow of good things to come (Heb. 10:1). If the reader forgets this, he may not receive the edification he should, as the Apostle Paul warns. Concerning the Jews he writes that even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their hearts: with them it remaineth untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament, that is to say, they are not spiritually enlightened unto faith. Nevertheless, when they shall turn to the Lord, the Apostle concludes his thought, the veil shall be taken away (2 Cor. 3:14-16). So we must also read these books from a Christian point of view. This means to read them while remembering the Lord's words: ... They [the Scriptures] are they which testify of Me. They require not simply reading, but searching. In them are contained the preparation for the coming of Christ, promises, prophecies, and types or antitypes of Christ. It is according to this principle that the Old Testament readings are chosen for use in the church services. Furthermore, if the Church offers us moral edification in them, she chooses such passages as are written, as it were, in the light of the Gospel, which speak, for example, of the "eternal life" of the righteous ones, of "righteousness according to faith," and of Grace. If we Christians approach the books of the Old Testament in this light, then we find in them an enormous wealth of edification. Even as drops of dew on plants shine with all the colors of the rainbow when the sunlight falls on them, even as twigs of trees that are covered with ice are iridescent with an the tints of color as they reflect the sun, so these scriptures reflect that which was foreordained to appear later: the events, deeds, and teaching of the Gospel. But when the sun has set, those dew drops and the icy covering on the trees will no longer caress our eyes, although they themselves remain the same as they were when the sun was shining. It is the same with the Old Testament Scriptures. Without the sunlight of the Gospel they remain old and decaying, as the Apostle said of them, as the Church has also called them, and that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away, as the Apostle expresses it (Heb. 8:13). The Kingdom of the chosen people of old has come to an end, the Kingdom of Christ has come: the law and the prophets were until John; from henceforth the Kingdom of God is proclaimed (Luke 16:16).

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