SCRIPTURE AS A MEDIUM TO BRING OUT THE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE
For the Orthodox Church, the scriptures are completely authoritative, and none may blatantly contradict them and still claim to stand within the theological mainstream of the church. All of the fathers without exception accepted the authority of the Holy Scriptures, and regarded it as axiomatic that the church must be faithful to their teaching.
The Bible is god’s word. But some of the interpretations derived from it are not. There are many cults and Christian groups that use the bible--claiming their interpretations are correct. Too often, however, the interpretations not only differ dramatically but are clearly contradictory. This does not mean that the bible is a confusing document. Rather, the problem lies in those who interpret and the methods they use.
We need, as best as can be had, the guidance of the Holy Spirit in interpreting god’s word, and in Knowing God. Interpretation of scripture needs a purpose: to understand god’s word more accurately. With a better understanding of his word, we can then more accurately apply it to the area that it addresses.
The goal of hermeneutics is to understand god the holy spirit’s intention when he carried along the human authors. Where the bible speaks, god speaks; and many of the early church fathers agree. Chrysostom finds comfort in explaining and understanding the plain meaning of the text. His focus is on what the text says, not on spiritualizing or speculating about what is not present. To witness Christ’s concern for his father’s glory is compelling, confronting, and convicting to all that call him lord. The bible in and of itself is a masterpiece incomparable to any other work of literature that has ever existed. There is no need to spiritualize what does not need spiritualizing.
According to Bishop Kallistos Ware, when reading scripture, we are to listen in a spirit of obedience. Scripture is a letter from god. Christ himself is speaking. The scriptures are god’s authoritative witness of himself. They express the word of god in our human language. They are divinely inspired. Since god himself is speaking to us in the bible, our response is rightly one of obedience, of receptivity and listening. As we read, we wait on the spirit.
Each member of the church, clergyman and layman, has the right and duty to protect the orthodox faith from misinterpretation and false statements. But this cannot be done without knowing what the correct teaching of the church is. The bible is the unmovable cornerstone which through the centuries has guided the Christian in learning the will of god. The fathers of the church, teachers and prophets, are the instruments by which the will of god is transmitted to the members of the church so that they might follow the steps which Jesus Christ revealed.
“In the beginning was the word, and the word was with god and the word was god. . . . And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. . . . For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen god; the only-begotten son, who is in the bosom of the father, he has made him known” (John 1.1–18).
Jesus Christ remains forever in his church by the Holy Spirit to open men’s minds to understand the bible (John 14.26, 16.13). Only within Christ’s church, in the community of faith, of grace, and of truth, can men filled with the Holy Spirit understand the meaning and purpose of the bible’s holy words. Thus, speaking about those who do not believe in Jesus as the messiah, the apostle Paul contends that when they read the bible a “veil” hides its true meaning from them “because only through Christ is it taken away” (2 Cor 3.14).
“Icons do with colors, what Scripture does with words.”
The life of the Orthodox Church is only rightly lived as a life of constant repentance. We need to see Church as an icon of Christ, or more than that, the very body of Christ. If the Church is not itself the proper interpretation of Scripture then no interpretation is to be found. If there is a modern “famine” in the hearing of the word of God it would be in the failure of Orthodox Christians to live as fully Orthodox and to keep the commandments of God.
“A broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17).