Moderated Forums => Orthodox-Other Christian Discussion => Orthodox-Protestant Discussion => Topic started by: Shiny on July 11, 2011, 09:17:49 PM

Title: So who's Bible is it?
Post by: Shiny on July 11, 2011, 09:17:49 PM
Thought this would be an interesting question poised for Protestants.
Title: Re: So who's Bible is it?
Post by: mathetes on July 13, 2011, 11:18:39 PM
Thought this would be an interesting question poised for Protestants.

Aposphet, I'm not sure what you're getting at. The Bible is God's word and therefore belongs to God, who gave it by inspiration so that God's man (or messenger) might "be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We're told that "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). Thus, the psalmist said, "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee" (119:11).

Don't you agree that the Bible belongs to God? If it isn't his, whose is it?
Title: Re: So who's Bible is it?
Post by: Andrew Crook on July 13, 2011, 11:41:49 PM
Perhaps the question should be rephrased?  I doubt Aposphet is saying it wouldn't belong to God.
Title: Re: So who's Bible is it?
Post by: xariskai on July 14, 2011, 02:11:02 AM
I recently picked up a hardback by Jaroslav Pelikan (used for $3) with almost the same title as this thread (Pelikan, Jaroslav, Whose Bible Is It? (2005). As it happens, I also have the book in electronic form. For those who don't mind a spoiler, here is his answer as found on pp. 147ff...
(Jaroslav Pelikan, Whose Bible Is It? (2005)
After all this—
after all the commentaries;
after all the controversies;
after all the sermons;
after all that biblical scholarship, whether Jewish or
Christian or secular;
after all the heresies and all the orthodoxies, whether
Jewish or Christian or secular;
after all the other books (including this one);
after all the prayers and all the tears;
after all the forced conversions and all the pogroms;
and after the Holocaust
—after all this, the question with which this book began still remains:
Whose Bible is it?
In an ultimate sense it is presumptuous for anyone to speak about
“possessing” the Bible.As both the Jewish and the Christian commu-
nities of faith have always affirmed, the Bible is the Book of Godand
the Word of God,and therefore it does not really belong to any of us.
Psalm 119, which is one long hymn of praise about the word of God,
insists throughout that it is speaking about “thystatutes,” “thytesti-
monies.” And when Jesus defines what it means to be his disciple, he
does this with the same insistence: “If ye continue in my word, then
are ye my disciples indeed.And ye shall know the truth, and the truth
shall make you free.” Throughout Jewish and Christian history,
whenever believers, whether individually or collectively, have made
proprietary claims about Holy Scripture as though they were sover-
eign over it, the sovereignty of God over them and over Holy Scrip-
ture has eventually found a way, sometimes a dramatic way, of
vindicating itself, as the voices of Hebrew prophets and Christian re-
formers have repeatedly demonstrated. Because the purpose of the
Tanakh is, as the New Testament attests, “for teaching the truth and
refuting error, or for reformation of manners and discipline in right
living,” and because the purpose of the New Testament also is, as it
testifies concerning itself, “that you may believe,” it follows that I am
not the subject but the object in my encounter with the word of the
Bible: “O LORD, You have examined me and know me.” To speak
of possessing the Bible or even to ask “Whose Bible is it?” is, in the
light of that encounter, not only presumptuous but blasphemous.At
most we are, as Edmund Burke says of tradition, not “entire masters”
but only “temporary possessors and life-renters” of it.
On the other hand, that status of “temporary possessors and life-
renters” is one that Jews and Christians now share with the whole of
humanity. In part this is due to the unprecedented distribution and
circulation of Bibles during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries,
so that now there is virtually no language—and there should be
(though there is, but for other reasons) virtually no library—in which
the Tanakh and the New Testament are not available.But the change
is qualitative as much as it is quantitative and goes back to the Septu-
agint translation of the Tanakh into Greek during the centuries im-
mediately preceding the Common Era.Once that first step had been
taken, “the nations” (which is what gentiles or goyimmeans) could
and did read the Bible even without believing it, and they have been
doing so ever since.For if it is profoundly true that there are truths in
the Bible that only the eyes of faith can see, it is also true that the eyes
of unfaith have sometimes spotted what conventional believers have
been too preoccupied or too bemused to acknowledge.It is difficult
to imagine that the modern consensus among Jews and Christians
about the Bible not being a textbook of science or of history, for ex-
ample, would have taken the form it has without the rude questions
that came from the outsiders.The appreciation of the Bible as litera-
ture and the sensitivity to its “literary genres” are the by-products of
the new and catholic (lowercase “c”) audience that it has acquired in
going forth to those who want only to learn about it. Each in their
own way, both Jews and Christians have had to learn to live with this
more catholic readership of a text that they had thought of as exclu-
sively their own.
Yet it would be fatuous in the extreme to pretend that the primary
and special readership of that text even now can be anything but the
Jewish and Christian communities.From the Septuagint to the most
recent translation into some exotic tongue, the fundamental impulse
for making the Bible available has always come from within those
communities.The historical or literary or philological desire to com-
prehend what it says has been and is vastly less important than the re-
ligious need to understand it in order to obey it.For that reason the
study of the biblical text must always be the special business of (using
the medieval terminology) Synagogaand Ecclesia.Within both of those
traditions, moreover, “those who are charged with the responsibility
of teaching,” as Thomas Aquinas calls them, must also take special re-
sponsibility and special care not only to teach the Bible but to learn
it before they teach it. The vagaries of theological fashion or the
disciple-making of theological professors or the desire to be relevant
to contemporary society can sometimes overshadow the permanent
holdthat commentary on the sacred text has and must have in the
preparation of those who will be the professional interpreters of the
faith tradition. Every new breakthrough of insight and every new
breakout of relevance in Jewish and Christian history has been ac-
companied by “new light breaking forth from the holy Word.” Not
the only prerequisite for this to happen, but an authoritative prerequi-
site nonetheless,is the requirement that those who speak to and for the
communityin interpreting the Bible be competent to do so on the
basis of the original texts.As this applies to the teaching ofVergil and
Dante, so it applies to the Hebrew and Greek originals of the Bible.
Reverting to Handel’s Messiah: “Since by man came death, by
man came also the resurrection from the dead” is a text about the se-
ries of testaments or covenants that God has made with the human
race. It speaks about two such, the one through Adam and the one
through Christ.But there are as well covenants made with humanity
through Noah and through Abraham and through Moses.Christians
have also put each of these into a dialectical relation with the cove-
nant through Christ: death through Adam, life through Christ; prom-
isethrough Abraham, fulfillment through Christ; law through Moses,
gospel through Christ. Yet the more deeply we study the Hebrew
Scriptures, the more clearly we must recognize that, taken by itself,
this dialectic can greatly oversimplify the case.For there is also “life”
through Adam by the sheer fact of our being human, “fulfillment” in
Abraham for all who are his children, be they Jews or Christians or
Muslims, and “gospel” through Moses by the liberation from chaos
that Torah confers. Ultimately, we need therefore to look to a doc-
trine of multiple testaments, according to which the one God—the
God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who is also the Father of Jesus
Christ—has throughout the history of salvation formed a series of
covenants but has not broken covenants or repudiated them.
The Jewish tradition and the Christian tradition are “two distinct
religious communities with a common commitment to Scripture and
its interpretations,” but with two distinct, though not necessarily
contradictory and sometimes even complementary, methods of hon-
oring that commitment and carrying out those interpretations. The
new situation created by our fundamentally altered perceptions of
both the distinctness and the complementarity calls for the modern
recovery of a very old methodology of interpretation: the multiple
senses of Scripture.To put it directly, a passage of the Bible does not
mean only one thing, and the vain dispute over whether these are
“your Scriptures” or “our Scriptures” is often an argument between
two (or more) of these multiple senses. Any of the many passages
from the Tanakh / Old Testament that have been cited in the preced-
ing chapters could serve as an illustration, but so can one that has not
been cited: “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see
if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me,
wherewith the LORD hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce
anger.” As it stands and according to its literal and historical sense, it
is a plea of the prophet Jeremiah against the callousness of the inhab-
itants of Jerusalem in the sixth century BCE.As both the Lamentations
and the Book of Jeremiah (with or without the additions to it that are
classified as Apocrypha) describe in great detail, they ignored the
word of the Lord and of his prophet and went on with their everyday
business as though it did not concern them.Although it is not quoted
anywhere in the New Testament as a messianic prophecy, this cry
from the Book of Lamentations becomes for Christians, according to
its spiritual and prophetic sense as incorporated in Handel’s Messiah,
an accompaniment to “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken
me?” as a word spoken under the First Testament which has acquired
additional specific meaning under the Second Testament. And it is
surely not an unwarranted further extension of its multiple senses, in
the light of the enormity of the Holocaust and the massive indiffer-
ence to it in much of the world, including the Christian world, to ap-
ply it there as well.Nor does any of these multiple senses preclude the
possibility or the likelihood that in this fallen world new situations
will arise to which its words will be the only fitting response.
If the history of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures teaches us
anything, it is that neither of these communities would be anything
without it. The Scriptures depend on the communities not only to
preserve and transmit their texts, which has never been a trivial as-
signment, but to interpret them and reinterpret them over and over
again—and ever more studiously to do so together.The Tanakh and
the New Testament are agreed: “What therefore God hath joined to-
gether, let not man put asunder!”
Title: Re: So who's Bible is it?
Post by: primuspilus on July 14, 2011, 12:15:42 PM
If I understand, I'd say that by the Councils of Carthage and Rome that the Orthodox put what we would call "The Bible" in today's form together.

Title: Re: So who's Bible is it?
Post by: mathetes on July 15, 2011, 12:47:11 AM
I recently picked up a hardback by Jaroslav Pelikan (used for $3) with almost the same title as this thread (Pelikan, Jaroslav, Whose Bible Is It? (2005). As it happens, I also have the book in electronic form. For those who don't mind a spoiler, here is his answer as found on pp. 147ff...

Xariskai, thanks for the spoiler. I'm glad that the author, Jaroslav Pelikan, says the Bible belongs to God, but I'm uneasy that he thinks it needs reinterpreting. Maybe he should've said we need to see how it might be reapplied to our changing world, especially as new technology and medical science force us to consider ethical questions that earlier believers never had to deal with.

I'm still unsure what Aposphet was getting at in his original post or how his question should be reworded.