Thus the Bible
came to be what it is, came into existence, only in the context of the living,
dynamic Church of Christ, which had its origin at Pentecost (although its
antetype, of course, was to be found in the Chosen People whose history led to
the incarnation of the Son of God). It was the life of the Church throughout
the first seventy or so years of her existence which, guided by the Holy
Spirit, gave rise to the written texts which in due course were to comprise the
New Testament. And it was the continuing life of the Church for more than
another three hundred years which was required to refine and define the exact
contents of the Scriptures.
it is pointless and misleading and even dangerous to discuss the Scriptures
apart from the life of the Church. If the Scriptures as we know them could only
come into existence through the action of the Holy Spirit upon and in the
Church over a period hundreds of years, then obviously the rest of the
experience of the Church during those same centuries (and subsequent ones as
well) is of vital importance to their understanding.
what is this “Church?” It is the same Church which was founded by Our Lord,
governed by the Apostles in the earliest decades, later guided and shepherded
by their successors, the bishops. It is the same Church which suffered
intermittent persecution for three hundred years, which finally attained
freedom under the reign of St. Constantine, which by the guidance of the Holy
Spirit defined the meaning of the Scriptures as it confronted the perpetrators
of the various heresies. It is the same Church which in the holy Councils wrote
the Nicene Creed, summarizing the very essence of the Faith and the Scriptures,
which in these same Councils wrote the Canons which are the guidelines even to
this day for its life.
is the same Church which teaches us to venerate the saints and their relics.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Church learned how to celebrate the holy
Liturgy, the Lord’s Supper, with dignity and splendor, long before the time at
which we can identify a final agreement concerning the contents of the Bible.
so we are forced, if we confront the facts with honesty and integrity, to one
inescapable conclusion: it is only through the Church that we have access to
the Bible at all. And it is likewise to the Church that we must turn for its
classic riddle “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” is very much to the
point here. In point of time, it should be apparent that the Church long
precedes the Bible as an integral collection of books, and considerably
precedes even the individual books of the New Testament. Thus, it is quite
certain that the Church founded by Our Lord was not “based on the Bible.” The
Church created by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost had no Bible as we know it and
did not have to have it to be truly the Church.
How to Read the Bible by Archimandrite Justin Popovich
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