One often hears the question: "May I
read the Bible that I received from a Protestant? Is it true that some of the
books are missing from it?"
The generous preachers from the West in a few
years have provided the Holy Scriptures to nearly every desiring Russian. Much
of the population came to Protestant meetings only to acquire the Bible as a
gift. One must confess, in this manner the Lord turned evil into good — through
its own powers the Moscow Patriarchate would have had great difficulty
publishing so many Bibles.
But may an Orthodox person read them without
damaging his soul? The difficulty lies in not who gave the Bible, but what is
printed in it. The overwhelming majority of "Protestant" Bibles in
Russian were printed from the Synodal publication of the 19th
century, and this is noted on the back side of the title page. If this
reference is printed in the Bible — it can be read without qualm, because the
text of the holy books does not contain anything non-Orthodox.
But it is something else again if it is a
"free" translation of the Bible or separate Bible books (for example,
"The Word of Life") and also Bibles with commentaries. Naturally,
Protestants comment on the Word of God from their heretical point of view.
There is another distinctive feature of Western Bible editions — the omission
of eleven Old Testament books: Tobias, Judith, the Wisdom of Solomon, the
wisdom of Joshua son of Sirach, the Prophet Baruch, the letters of Jeremiah,
the second and third books of Ezdra, and three books of the Maccabees. They are
not part of the modern Hebrew translation of the Holy
Scriptures and are considered non-canonical, that is not entering the canon
("example," "rule" — Greek). In the truer Greek translation
of the Bible these books exist.
The Slavic translation of the Holy Scriptures is
taken from the Greek text, therefore the non-canonical
books are entered into it and traditionally remain in the national editions of
the Bible. In accordance to the Orthodox catechism of St. Philaret of Moscow,
the Church offers its children the non-canonical books as pious reading,
but does not extend to it the understanding of "God-inspired" that
belongs to the canonical books.
The non-canonical books are not read during
services, if one does not count several readings from the Book of the Wisdom of
Solomon. So a Bible taken from the Protestants may be read for one’s spiritual
benefit and edification. But one should not, as the Deacon Andrei Kurayev
states, sell one’s soul for this gift and accept the Protestant faith.
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