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About the Holy Bible
by Bishop Nathanael (Lvov, 1906-1985)
Translated from Russian by Tatiana Pavlova

The Subdivision of the Bible and the Problem of Canon.

The Bible is a Greek word, meaning "books." This word is used in Greek with the definite article "ta" in the plural form, and this acquires the meaning: "The books with some definite content."

This "definite content" is the Divine revelation for people, given in order that they could find their way to salvation, i.e. would be able to live the unanimous with God life, life which is eternal and joyful, in love for the Creator and for one another.

This aim of the Bible must be remembered while one studies it, for otherwise it will not be clear, why the Bible lays accent on some phenomena, and omits the others, answers some questions and hushes up about the others, which seem to deserve no less attention.

The Bible is the document of the absolute truth. It does not have a word, which would not correspond to the perfect Divine truth. The whole paternal literature, all the authentic church writings and sermons are the continuation and the development of the teaching of the Bible, the testimony of life of the Same Life-Giving Holy Spirit, Who talked to the fathers through the prophets and will talk till the end of ages in the Holy Church of Christ.

An Orthodox Christian cannot only be content with the Bible, as the Protestants want. The more a Christian lives with the Bible, the more It will make him think over, feel, long to put into practice and develop everything, told in it. The thinking over, feeling, embodying and development of the Holy Divine Law always used to be the content of the life of saints of the Church of Christ. And an Orthodox Christian cannot "come into the contradiction with the Bible" in anything, be it a smaller or greater problem; consider anything in It to be "out-of-date," something that had lost its power, or is incorrect, as the contemporary critics of the Holy Scripture want to assure us of.

The Bible is the voice of the Holy Spirit. But this voice was heard through the human intermediates and by human means. Therefore the Bible is the book, which has Its history. It did not appear at once. It was written by many people during the long period of time in several languages in different countries.

The Bible is divided into the Old and New Testaments. The New Testament contains the fulfillment and completeness of the entire Divine truth, while the Old Testament — the preparatory, pedagogically incomplete unfolding of it.

Human nature is distorted by sin, which penetrated into it through the downfall of our forefathers and the increased multiple personal sins of people in the further generations. In order to prepare rotten mankind to accept the Son of God and His Divinely-Full Law, a most attentive and full of care process was necessary. It is that process that the Lord carries out in the Old Testament.

The very appearance of the Old Testament, the endowing of the initial Divine Revelation on the Mount of Sinai, is a rather significant stage, in its turn prepared by the careful process of the Divine selection among the people and the upbringing of this selection.

Originally, God gave Moses only the first part of the Bible, i.e. the Torah, which means "the Law," lying in the five books of the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

During the long period of time only the Pentateuch or the Torah was the Holy Scripture in the full meaning of the word, the Divine Word for the Old Testament church, though at once, after the Torah, there appeared the first lines of the following scriptures, organically proceeding from the authentic Divine Law. The Book of Joshua began to be written, when the creation of Deuteronomy was about to be finished. The Book of Judges is the continuation of the book of Joshua. The Books of Kings are the continuation of the book of Judges. The Paralipomenon, i.e. the Chronicles, are the addition for the book of Kings. The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah are continuing the Books of Kings and Paralipomenon. The Books of Ruth, Esther, Judith and Tobit draw the separate episodes of the history of the chosen nation. Finally, the books of Maccabees end the narration about the history of Israel and lead it to the threshold of the coming of Christ.

. Thus, there appears the following the Law, second section of the Holy Scripture, which is called the Historic books, or in the narrow aspect of the word — the Holy History.

In the Historic Books there can be met the embedded poetical works: chants, prayers, psalms, and edifications (for example Gen. chap.11, Ex. chap.15, many extracts of Deuteronomy, Judg. chap. 5, 2 Kings 1:19, etc., Tob. chap.13, and so on). In the later times chants and edifications grew in number and formed the whole books, which comprise to the third section of the Bible — the Edifying Books, in Hebrew — Chetubim. To this section belong the books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiasts, Songs of Solomon, the Wisdom of Jesus, Son of Sirach.

Finally, the works of the holy prophets, who acted among the Hebrew people according to the Divine will after the division of the kingdom and the Babylonian captivity, comprised to the fourth section of the Holy Books — the Prophetic Books, called in Hebrew "Nebiim." Into this section are included the books of prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, the Epistle of Jeremiah, Baruch, prophet Ezekiel, prophet Daniel, and 12 Minor Prophets, i.e. Eosin, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonas, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. Such a division of the Bible into Books: Legislative, Historical, Edifying, and Prophetic, was used in the New Testament, where the Legislative books are the Gospels, the Historical Book — the Acts of the Apostles, the Edifying Books — the Epistles of the Holy Apostles, and the Prophetic one is the Revelation of St. John the Theologian.

Besides such a division, there also are the divisions in the Holy Scripture of the Old Testament into Canonic and Non-Canonic books.

Published with the kind permission of Bishop Alexander Mileant

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