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In Accordance with the Saviour's and the Apostles' Commandments

The Early Christian Church constantly dwelt in spirit in the Heavenly City, seeking the things to come, but she also organized the earthly aspect of her existence; in particular, she accumulated and took great care of the material treasures of the Faith. First among these treasures were the written documents concerning the Faith. The most important of the Scriptures were the Gospels, the sacred record of the earthly life and the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Next came all the other writings of the Apostles. After them came the holy books of the Hebrews. The Church also treasures them as sacred writings.

What makes the Old Testament Scriptures valuable to the Church? The fact that a) they teach belief in the one, true God, and the fulfillment of God's commandments and b) they speak about the Saviour. Christ Himself points this out. Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life and they are they which testify of Me, He said to the Jewish scribes. In the parable about the Rich Man and Lazarus, the Saviour puts these words about the Rich Man's brothers into the mouth of Abraham: They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. "Moses" means the first five books of the Old Testament; "the prophets" the last sixteen books. Speaking with His disciples, the Saviour mentioned the Psalter in addition to these books: ... all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Me. After the Mystical Supper, when they chanted a hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives, says the Evangelist Matthew. This refers to the chanting of psalms. The Saviour's words and examples are sufficient to make the Church esteem these books the Law of Moses, the prophets and the psalms to make her preserve them and learn from them.

In the Hebrew canon, the cycle of books recognized as sacred by the Hebrews, there were and still remain two more categories of books besides the Law and the Prophets: the didactic books, of which only the Psalter has been mentioned, and the historical books. The Church has accepted them, because the Apostles so ordained. Saint Paul writes to Timothy: From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. This means: if one reads them wisely, then one will find in them the path which leads to strengthening in Christianity. The Apostle had in mind all the books of the Old Testament, as is evident from what he says next: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16).

The Church has received the sacred Hebrew books in the Greek translation of the Septuagint, which was made long before the Nativity of Christ. This translation was used by the Apostles, as they wrote their own epistles in Greek. The canon also contained sacred books of Hebraic origin, which however were extant only in Greek. The Orthodox Christian Church includes them in the collection of Old Testament books (in the biblical science of the West they are called the "deuterocanonical" books). From the time of their Council in Jamnia in 90 A.D., the Jews ceased to make use of these books in their religious life.

In accepting the Old Testament sacred scriptures, the Church has shown that she is the heir of the Old Testament Church not of the national aspect of Judaism, but of the religious content of the Old Testament. In this heritage, some things have an eternal significance and value, but others have ceased to exist and are significant only as recollections of the past and for edification as prototypes, as, for example, the regulations concerning the tabernacle and the sacrifices, and the prescriptions for the Israelites' daily conduct. Therefore, the Church makes use of her Old Testament heritage quite authoritatively, in accordance with her understanding of the world, which is more complete than and superior to that of ancient Israel.

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