Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Modern Biblical Studies

[an excerpt from an e-mail response to a graduate student in biblical studies]

For the Orthodox Church, the West has generally been asking the wrong questions.  The Orthodox have always read the Bible Spiritually, not literally; so questions of inerrancy--as it has come to be understood in the context of the Liberal-Fundamentalist debate of the 20th century--have been almost completely irrelevant to us.  For example, whether or not St. Paul wrote Ephesians (historically) is not very relevant to the received tradition that St. Paul wrote it.  Ephesians is "pauline" whether Paul himself, one of his helpers, or someone with the same "rule of faith" wrote it.  The Church received it as pauline.  Similarly, that Moses actually wrote very little in the Pentateuch (the "Books of Moses") is irrelevant.  The Church (and Judaism) has received them as The Books of Moses.
Having said this, I think modern scholarship should be understood and then set on a shelf (in my experience modern scholarship is not completely bereft of insight, just mostly bereft).  The rules of modern Biblical criticism assume no God, assume modern scholars know more about the ancient texts than those who actually shared the culture and language of those who wrote the texts, and-most importantly-have removed the texts from the worshiping community where they have any meaning at all.  Outside of the communities that have preserved and given meaning to these texts, the bible is only so many words to be speculated on.

For example, in the Gospel of Luke, the Archangel greets Mary with the words that her Son would sit on the throne of David.  Now tell me, historical-critically, when did that happen?  The Bible has never been read by Christians historically.  Sure, most Christians have assumed that the historical events recorded actually happened when and how they were recorded, but that has never been the gist of the Bible.  For Christians, the Bible is a spiritual book to be read spiritually by spiritual people.  The Bible is eschatological, and only those who have begun to experience the eschaton can have any clue as to what the Bible says, can have any clue what "the throne of David" that Mary's Son will sit on refers to.

1 comment:

Ostensive Lyme said...

I used to read the scriptures like an academic, almost as a duty.
Fr Gregory told me, "Read the scriptures, yes. Not to study them but as a meeting, a communion with God. Read them that way."
This helped me to take joy in my holy bible again.