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Understanding of the Holy Scriptures

The holy scriptures or the Bible is a collection of books that we believe were written by the Prophets and Apostles, inspired and moved by the Holy Spirit. The word “Bible” (ta biblia) is a Greek word meaning “books.”

        In order to appreciate any book one needs to know its theme, the purpose that has guided its writing. The Bible is God’s written word. It is the record of God’s dealings with man. It reveals how God has acted and how man has responded. It is a book containing a library of many books, the product not of one period and place but of many minds and many ages. It is not a book of science; it is a book of religion, supreme in morals and ethics. It holds the place of highest honor and authority in the Church, for it points beyond itself to the will and the ways of God. An ancient Church Father wrote, “God did not become words, He became flesh.” We revere and believe in the Book, but we worship the God whom the Book makes known.

        The Bible is a Book for religious faith. The God of the Bible is the God of creation. The Bible opens with the words, In the beginning God....” He is the first cause, the source of all that follows. He brought form out of formlessness and light out of darkness, and finally He created life itself. Man, as he is seen in the pages of the Bible, sometimes walking with God and sometimes apart from Him, is invested by the God of the Bible with freedom of moral choice. He may do right or he may do wrong. He lives in a universe of moral laws as inexorable as the laws of nature. To lie, to cheat, to lust is to destroy personality just as surely as to take poison is to destroy the physical body. Let a man violate the laws of the moral universe and doom awaits him. This the Bible makes clear.

        But the Bible says something else. The central theme of the Bible is that since man by himself cannot lift himself, nor by his own strength keep all of the laws of God, God has acted to help him. God has entered history to save him. For the Bible is also the story of man’s redemption. God “Gave His only Son,” because He loved man and wanted him to have the fullness of life that belongs to the perfect creation which He had purposed before time was. God did not create man and then abandon him. God entered into man’s life. The life and death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is the central theme of the whole Biblical story, the purpose for which the Bible was written.

        The Bible has one story. It is the record of God’s making Himself known to man and of man’s response to God’s self-disclosure. The Old Testament is the story of a Covenant people in a community of faith, ancient Israel, journeying toward a new and better place in time, sometimes obedient and sometimes disobedient to God, Who was always striving to break through to show Himself in completeness. He spoke through His prophets, through saints, seers, and rulers, and through the events of history until the time had “Fully come when everything in heaven and earth should be unified in Christ,” (Eph. 1:10) as Paul put it, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” (John 1:14) as John put it. God spoke the living Word in terms humanity could understand, “The way, the truth, the life” in a Person. The New Testament continues the theme with the people of the New Covenant, the new Israel of God, the Body of Christ, the Church of witnessing people journeying through history. Here is the Book of man in his pilgrimage through time and beyond time, learning to know God, to discern His will and do it, living in a community of faith, ever witnessing to the coming Kingdom, the law of which is love, and the Ruler of which will be the transcendent God at the final consummation of history.

        But the major theme of the Holy Scripture is the salvation of humanity by the Messiah, the incarnate Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Old Testament proclaims salvation in the forms of symbols and prophesies about the Messiah and the Kingdom of Heaven. The New Testament enunciates the actual realization of our salvation through the incarnation, life and teachings of the God-Man, sealed through His death and Resurrection. Depending upon the times they were written, the Holy Writings are grouped into the New and Old Testaments. The first contain that which the Lord revealed to the world through God-inspired prophets before Christ’s appearance on Earth, while the second group describes that which was taught by our Lord Savior Himself and his Apostles.

How to Read the Bible by Archimandrite Justin Popovich Return to the first page

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