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Author Topic: Question on Equal-to-the-Bible status  (Read 5753 times) Average Rating: 0
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GabrieltheCelt
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« on: September 08, 2007, 12:30:40 AM »

Many of our saints have the title of "Equal-to-the-Apostles' and that got me thinking about certain books or writings that are well-known and very beloved in Orthodoxy. So my question is, are there certain books that are thought to be "Equal-to-the-Bible"? I have in mind The Ladder of Divine Ascent and the Philokalia, but I'm sure there are others...

 Any thoughts?
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« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2007, 12:40:10 AM »

From my understadning, the answer is a certain "no".  First and foremost: we do not include any non-Scriptural readings in the lectionary readings during the eucharistic liturgy.  This fact, after 2000 years, means something.  Secondly, I would imagine, and this is, of course, only a conjecture, that the author's of the above mentioned works would thoroughly disagree with their books being put on the same level.

Other thoughts?
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« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2007, 12:45:28 AM »

From my understadning, the answer is a certain "no".  First and foremost: we do not include any non-Scriptural readings in the lectionary readings during the eucharistic liturgy.  This fact, after 2000 years, means something.  Secondly, I would imagine, and this is, of course, only a conjecture, that the author's of the above mentioned works would thoroughly disagree with their books being put on the same level.

Other thoughts?
I see your point, but I'm just as sure that the people we deem "Equal-to-the-Apostles", in their humility, would disagree with being put on the same level. 
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« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2007, 12:51:14 AM »

From my understadning, the answer is a certain "no".  First and foremost: we do not include any non-Scriptural readings in the lectionary readings during the eucharistic liturgy.  This fact, after 2000 years, means something.  Secondly, I would imagine, and this is, of course, only a conjecture, that the author's of the above mentioned works would thoroughly disagree with their books being put on the same level.

Other thoughts?

How about the Synaxarium, the text of the liturgy itself, the creed, the prayers of the canonical hours, the antiphons, the homilies of the fathers which are read on various occasions, and many other prayers?
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« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2007, 12:59:51 AM »

Jibrail,

Indeed, I would imagine that in their lifetimes the saints deemed "equal-to-the-apostles" would have found the title somewhat offensive to their faith!  That being said, they are called equal to the apostles because, like the apostles, they spread the Word of God.  Thus we are dealing with a title regarding the spreading of the faith, not the content (though one can certainly argue that the saints are part of the content of the faith, which is true, but it is true on perhaps a different level then what we are arguing here).  Furthermore, the very fact that the title "equal to the Scriptures" hasn't appeared in 2,000 years, while "equal to the apostles" has, teaches us something as well.  The Church has not been too hestitant in giving the first title, for some reason it has been supremely hestitant in granting the second.

Falafel,

The homilies of the Fathers are, I would assume, likely homilies on the Scriptures.
As for the "text of the liturgy itself", it is centered around the Scripture reading and the Eucharist - all the parts of the liturgy lead up to, interpret, and support these two events. Even the Creed is a summation of Scripture, only the famous "homoousious" is not found verbatum in the Scriptures, though it is truly found in spirit.
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« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2007, 09:19:21 AM »

And finally, if you'll allow me to continue in my zeal, I would point out that there is one book in the Church that is kept on the altar.  There is one book that is venerated with a kiss and a prostration in many of the services.  There is one book taken on procession (as far as I know).  This book is the book of the Gospels, is it not?  My argument here, is that the way we pray (our liturgical services) put the Scripture on a level that is above any other holy book.  And is it not true that what we pray is what we believe?
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« Reply #6 on: September 08, 2007, 09:57:44 AM »

The Harrowing of Hades, which is so central to Pascha, the "Feast of Feasts" in the Orthodox Church, and the Icon of which every Orthodox Christian instantly recognises is actually based on the Apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemos, which is not in the Canon of Scripture.
Similarly, the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos to the Temple (November 21) is based on the Apocryphal Protoevangelion of James, which also is not in the Canon of Scripture.
And interestingly, there is a Book in the Canon of Scripture which is never read in any Liturgy- the Apocalypse. It wasn't fully accepted as part of the Canon of Scripture until quite late.
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« Reply #7 on: September 08, 2007, 04:55:54 PM »

The Harrowing of Hades, which is so central to Pascha, the "Feast of Feasts" in the Orthodox Church, and the Icon of which every Orthodox Christian instantly recognises is actually based on the Apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemos, which is not in the Canon of Scripture.
Similarly, the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos to the Temple (November 21) is based on the Apocryphal Protoevangelion of James, which also is not in the Canon of Scripture.
And interestingly, there is a Book in the Canon of Scripture which is never read in any Liturgy- the Apocalypse. It wasn't fully accepted as part of the Canon of Scripture until quite late.


Ozgeorge,

You certainly bring up interesting points with these two examples.  Do you the believe that the Gospel of Nicodemos and the Protoevangelion of James are equal to Scripture?  If so, do you think that you'd be able to find this testified to in the consensus of the Fathers or in the writings of our modern theologians?

But even so, the two examples you bring up - while certainly being Orthodox interpretations (and correct ones at that) of the saving events of Jesus Christ - are treated differently than Scripture in our prayer.  There is no formal time for the public reading of these texts set aside.  There is no "Liturgy of the Protoevangelion", so to speak.  The harrowing of hell is a correct way of understanding the Scriptures - thus the hymnody and iconography, but it is not Scripture per se  - or do you think it is?

Thus far we've had three folks here put forth evidence of other books being "equal" to the Scriptures (if I am not misrepresenting you all!), and only one put forth something against such a thought.  This comes as a suprise to me.  Who else has thoughts about this?
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« Reply #8 on: September 08, 2007, 05:00:44 PM »

And as for John's Apocalypse, which I forgot to address:  I believe you'd be wrong in implying is has no part in our eucharistic liturgy.  It may not be there in word but it is certainly thoroughly mixed in when it comes to form, to aesthetics and liturgical trappings.  An easy example is to discover the passage in the aforementioned book which depicts the martyrs crying out from under the altar of the Lord.  The earliest of our brethern met at the tombs of the martrys for their liturgy and even now, as you well know, the relic of a martyr is placed on Orthodox altars.  John's Revelation is part of the liturgy, though it is implicit, not explicit.
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« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2007, 05:15:57 PM »

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There is no formal time for the public reading of these texts set aside.

Sure there is.  In the Greek tradition the harrowing of hades is read on Holy Saturday. 
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« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2007, 07:56:36 PM »

Sure there is.  In the Greek tradition the harrowing of hades is read on Holy Saturday. 

This I did not know.  Thank you for informing me.  Though even with this, it doesn't seem to be a tradition received by the entire Church, but that  criteria leads us into fuzzy territory, admittedly.  But, given that it is read in the Greek tradition, do you consider it to be equal to the Scriptures, then?  And if so, on what grounds?  My criteria against it would be that it is not universally part of the liturgy and that one cannot find it endorsed as Scripture by the Church, or by a consensus of the Fathers.
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« Reply #11 on: September 08, 2007, 08:03:01 PM »

By the way, I'd like to hear other folk's answers to the original question post: are there other Orthodox books considered "equal to the Bible", and if so, what are they?  I answered no, and obviously we have the exchanges to show for it, yes - but does anyone else have a direct answer for our brother Jibrail?
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« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2007, 08:06:45 PM »

The Orthodox Church does not reject the Apocrypha, because it forms part of Holy Tradition. Similarly, the Bible is not "a more authoritative" source than Holy Tradition, but rather, the Bible is a part of Holy Tradition.
Why is it so important that the Orthodox Church be a "Bible based" Church?
The Church is not "based on the Bible" like some Evangelical Protestant sect, but rather, the Bible is based on and is the product of the Church.
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« Reply #13 on: September 09, 2007, 07:01:46 PM »

The Orthodox Church does not reject the Apocrypha, because it forms part of Holy Tradition. Similarly, the Bible is not "a more authoritative" source than Holy Tradition, but rather, the Bible is a part of Holy Tradition.
Why is it so important that the Orthodox Church be a "Bible based" Church?
The Church is not "based on the Bible" like some Evangelical Protestant sect, but rather, the Bible is based on and is the product of the Church.

As for the Orthodox Church not rejecting the apocrypha, certainly it does reject some apocryphal books, and I do not think that it uses the materials from the books that are more favored in the same manner that it uses the Scriptures.  Also, I agree with you, my friend, that the Scriptures are part of Holy Tradition, not a "more authoritive source" than Tradition, as if we had two sources of revelation that competed with one another.  But I would suggest that our bishops and teachers consider them to be the most authoritative source of praxis and doctrine in the Tradition, when read rightly.  Would you agree? 
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« Reply #14 on: September 09, 2007, 07:10:13 PM »

Quote
But, given that it is read in the Greek tradition, do you consider it to be equal to the Scriptures, then?  And if so, on what grounds?  My criteria against it would be that it is not universally part of the liturgy and that one cannot find it endorsed as Scripture by the Church, or by a consensus of the Fathers.

You are using the reasoning and terminology of Evangelical Protestants.  The entire question simply doesn't make sense in an Orthodox context. 
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« Reply #15 on: September 09, 2007, 09:31:21 PM »

You are using the reasoning and terminology of Evangelical Protestants.  The entire question simply doesn't make sense in an Orthodox context. 

I struggle to find how it is I am reasoning as an Evangelical Protestant when my assumptions on Scriptural criteria have, thus far, been stated as: The liturgy of the Orthodox Church, the Lectionary of the Church, the consensus of the Fathers, the teaching of Orthodox theologians and the teaching of Orthodox bishops.  If I am completely off track then I'd ask you to show me how: 1) my reasoning and terminology are as accused, and 2) Why questions of what is considered Scripture don't make sense in an Orthodox context.

From what I've been taught, there are many different ways different Orthodox look at the Scriptures and their relation to the entire tradition of the Church.  No where, however, have I found any opinion in these various views that the canon of the New Testament is unimportant, or that the Scriptures don't hold the most highly honored in the Orthodox Tradition.

None of this, however, is dealing directly with Jibrail's first question.  I've answered it and my answer is not popular but no one else has answered the question.  Even if my reasons for answering "no" are wrong (and God knows they may be!), I still don't know of any Orthodox teaching that could be found saying any written book outside of the Scripture is "equal to the Scriptures".  Does anyone else know?  Now that I think about it, I would actually be tempted to re-direct your accusation to say that, as a whole, this question (Jibrail's original one) does sound a bit out of Orthodox context.  But, the question was raised and thus all these words....
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« Reply #16 on: September 09, 2007, 09:43:17 PM »

our bishops and teachers consider them to be the most authoritative source of praxis and doctrine in the Tradition, when read rightly.  Would you agree? 
No, I would not agree.
The Ever Virginity of the Theotokos is Dogma in the Orthodox Church, yet there is no reference to it in the Scriptures. If we take the Scriptures as the "most authoritative" source of information on the issue of the Ever-Virginity of the Theotokos, then we would conclude that she was not "Ever Virgin" since Jesus has brothers mentioned in the Gospel. The Dogma of the Ever-Virginity of the Theotokos is based on the apocryphal Protoevangelion of James. Hence, a Dogma of the Church is based, not on the Canon of Scripture, but on an apocryphal text. So, this apocryphal text has as much authority as Scripture in determining the Dogmas of the Church.
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« Reply #17 on: September 09, 2007, 09:56:25 PM »

H.E. Archbishop Stylianos takes the position that Orthodox Dogma must at least be implicit within the Scriptures; though I don't think it follows from that position that the Scriptures are thus "the most authoritative." The context in which he made the assertion in question was a discussion on the notion of "the development of Dogma"; I think his concern was to stress that the Church only expounds upon and clarifies that which has been taught "since the beginning," and given that the Scriptures constitute the testimony of the earliest of Saints--i.e. those who were at the "beginning"--then it follows that Orthodox Dogma must have some sort of foundation in the Scriptures.
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« Reply #18 on: September 09, 2007, 10:07:07 PM »

As for the Orthodox Church not rejecting the apocrypha, certainly it does reject some apocryphal books, and I do not think that it uses the materials from the books that are more favored in the same manner that it uses the Scriptures.  Also, I agree with you, my friend, that the Scriptures are part of Holy Tradition, not a "more authoritive source" than Tradition, as if we had two sources of revelation that competed with one another.  But I would suggest that our bishops and teachers consider them to be the most authoritative source of praxis and doctrine in the Tradition, when read rightly.  Would you agree? 


Well, for one, the Orthodox Church considers "the Aporcrypha" to be scripture and no apocryphal.  Similarly, Romans of the Eastern Empire always referred to themselves as Romans.  "Byzantine" was something coined by a French Historian in the past few hundred years.  To this day, Turks still consider those Christians (Orthodox) living in Turkey (and possibly other neighboring states) to be Roman.
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« Reply #19 on: September 09, 2007, 10:13:47 PM »

Dear ozgeorge,

I think the ever-virginity of St Mary can be said to be implicit in the Scriptures according to a typological reading of Ezekiel 44:2-3:

2 And the LORD said to me, “This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the LORD God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut.

I haven't personally tried to ascertain whether or not every fundamental tenet of Orthodox doctrine can be found to be implicit in the Scriptures, but I would imagine, given the profound interconnectedness between various Dogmas that it is not at all unlikely. H.E. Archbishop Stylianos argues that the doctrine of creation ex nihilo, for example, which we find explicitly taught in one of the books of Maccabees, is sufficent to derive the very basic truths of Orthodox theology, anthropology and cosmology, which would indicate that all those theological, anthropological and cosmological truths can all be said to have adequate foundation in that one Maccabees verse.
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« Reply #20 on: September 09, 2007, 10:18:59 PM »


Thus far we've had three folks here put forth evidence of other books being "equal" to the Scriptures (if I am not misrepresenting you all!),
Actually, I didn't put forth any evidence at all. I was merely curious.
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« Reply #21 on: September 09, 2007, 10:41:45 PM »

Dear ozgeorge,

I think the ever-virginity of St Mary can be said to be implicit in the Scriptures according to a typological reading of Ezekiel 44:2-3:

2 And the LORD said to me, “This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the LORD God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut.

Dear EA,
I agree, however, for a Dogma to be implicit in the Scriptures, that Dogma must first be defined. In the case of the Ever-Virginity of the Theotokos, we would not be able to conclude that Ezekiel 44:2-3 refers to the Ever-Virginity of the Theotokos if we simply take the Scripture alone as the source of our information. In other words, if we did not already know that the Theotokos was Ever-Virgin, we would not know what Ezekiel 44:2-3 was referring to.
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« Reply #22 on: September 09, 2007, 10:57:24 PM »

So, is the consensus that there is no "Equal-to-the-Bible" status? Or is this question reflective of a non-Orthodox perspective and not deserving of an answer?
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« Reply #23 on: September 09, 2007, 11:09:55 PM »

So, is the consensus that there is no "Equal-to-the-Bible" status? Or is this question reflective of a non-Orthodox perspective and not deserving of an answer?

Jibrail,

On one level, I do think it is somewhat of a difficult question to fit into the Orthodox understanding of the Bible.  But, on the other hand, I don't think it is by any means "not worthy of an answer".  You are an Orthodox Christian and thus this, via your membership in the Church, this is an "Orthodox question", being that you are Orthodox.  And certainly any question asked in truth is worthy of an answer!
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« Reply #24 on: September 09, 2007, 11:13:17 PM »

No, I would not agree.
The Ever Virginity of the Theotokos is Dogma in the Orthodox Church, yet there is no reference to it in the Scriptures. If we take the Scriptures as the "most authoritative" source of information on the issue of the Ever-Virginity of the Theotokos, then we would conclude that she was not "Ever Virgin" since Jesus has brothers mentioned in the Gospel. The Dogma of the Ever-Virginity of the Theotokos is based on the apocryphal Protoevangelion of James. Hence, a Dogma of the Church is based, not on the Canon of Scripture, but on an apocryphal text. So, this apocryphal text has as much authority as Scripture in determining the Dogmas of the Church.

Most authors that I've come across would probably suggest that the doctrine is Scriptural, and that the Protoevangelion of James is the way in which the Holy Tradition of the Church reads the Scriptures in order to support its understanding of the Virgin.  How would you see this interpretation?
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« Reply #25 on: September 09, 2007, 11:19:06 PM »

So, is the consensus that there is no "Equal-to-the-Bible" status? Or is this question reflective of a non-Orthodox perspective and not deserving of an answer?
I'd say "neither".
Firstly, my position, as I said, is that the Orthodox Church is not based on the Bible, but rather, the Bible is based on the Orthodox Church, and the Bible is just one part of Holy Tradition, and the teachings of the Orthodox Church are based on Holy Tradition as a whole.
Secondly, I think all questions are deserving of an answer.
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« Reply #26 on: September 09, 2007, 11:21:10 PM »

Most authors that I've come across would probably suggest that the doctrine is Scriptural, and that the Protoevangelion of James is the way in which the Holy Tradition of the Church reads the Scriptures in order to support its understanding of the Virgin.  How would you see this interpretation?
See my response to EA here: http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,12719.msg173623.html#msg173623
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« Reply #27 on: September 09, 2007, 11:28:23 PM »

Quote
In other words, if we did not already know that the Theotokos was Ever-Virgin, we would not know what Ezekiel 44:2-3 was referring to.

To extent that further - if someone who had no knowledge of Christianity were given a bible to read and then asked to describe the Christian religion, it is highly doubtful he'd come up with even anything approaching the Nicene Creed.  The idea that such a person would have even a concept of the trinity would be a stretch.  So this whole discussion seems to me to flirt with the idea of some sort of sola-scriptura-lite.  It is also a very ahistorical approach - Christian communities were set up and functioning long before anything approaching a set canon of scripture existed.  And the transmission of Christianity in its early history was not really done through written works or a single codified set of scriptures.   
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« Reply #28 on: September 09, 2007, 11:42:20 PM »

My criteria against it would be that it is not universally part of the liturgy and that one cannot find it endorsed as Scripture by the Church, or by a consensus of the Fathers.
The Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos to the Temple (November 21) is a Universal Feast of the Orthodox Church, and the Liturgical Hymns for it are based on the Protoevangelion of James:

Apolytikion
Today is the prelude of God's pleasure and the proclamation of man's salvation. The Virgin is clearly made manifest in the Temple of God and foretells Christ to all. Let us also cry out to her with mighty voice, "Hail, fulfillment of the Creator's dispensation."

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Today, the most pure temple of the Savior, the precious bridal chamber and Virgin, the sacred treasure of God, enters the house of the Lord, bringing the grace of the Divine Spirit. The Angels of God praise her. She is the heavenly tabernacle.
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« Reply #29 on: September 10, 2007, 12:04:50 AM »

Dear Nektarios,

To extent that further - if someone who had no knowledge of Christianity were given a bible to read and then asked to describe the Christian religion, it is highly doubtful he'd come up with even anything approaching the Nicene Creed.

Agreed, but I am speaking strictly in the context of defining Dogma within the Church. It does not follow from the fact that non-Christians may not be able to derive a particular Orthodox Dogma, whether explicitly or implicitly, from the Scriptures, that the Dogma in question is thus not explicit or implicit in the Scriptures. Only within the Church is the clear and even the hidden meaning of the Scriptures manifest with certainty, as H.G. Paulos Mar Gregorios states:

"[T]he meaning of Scripture...is not always self-evident. Certain passages in Scripture...are like peacock's feathers. The side that is first visible may be a dull grey, but upon turning it around its beauty and glory is manifest. Such "turning around" can only be done by the one who is grounded in the Faith of the Church...The true intention or skopos of Scripture is evident only to the one who lives the Faith of the Church..." (Cosmic Man, 2)

To re-formulate my position in a way which accounts for your concern, one could say that if, given the ability to discern the clear and hidden meaning of the Scriptures (i.e. which presupposes membership to the Church, as well as an acceptance of, and well-grounded foundation in the Faith of the Church), one cannot ground a particular doctrine in the Scriptures, then there is no substantial basis to regard that doctrine Orthodox Dogma unless you wish to advocate a "development of Dogma" theory.

Quote
It is also a very ahistorical approach - Christian communities were set up and functioning long before anything approaching a set canon of scripture existed.  And the transmission of Christianity in its early history was not really done through written works or a single codified set of scriptures.   


It's only ahistorical if you misinterpret the position in question (at least insofar as I am intending it) as entailing that the Scriptures are the necessary starting point to formulating Orthodox Dogma (as if discovery of Orthodox Dogma is necessarily contingent upon an initial consideration of the Scriptures). All I am saying is that whatever is Orthodox Dogma is, corollary to it being Orthodox Dogma, necessarily grounded in the Scriptures. If you take this proposition as it is, without unwittingly reading any implications into it, you will find it to be perfectly compatible with the Orthodox understanding of the first couple of centuries of ecclesiastical history and the idea that Tradition precedes and is the source of the Scriptures.
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« Reply #30 on: September 10, 2007, 03:03:35 PM »

The Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos to the Temple (November 21) is a Universal Feast of the Orthodox Church, and the Liturgical Hymns for it are based on the Protoevangelion of James:

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Today is the prelude of God's pleasure and the proclamation of man's salvation. The Virgin is clearly made manifest in the Temple of God and foretells Christ to all. Let us also cry out to her with mighty voice, "Hail, fulfillment of the Creator's dispensation."

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Today, the most pure temple of the Savior, the precious bridal chamber and Virgin, the sacred treasure of God, enters the house of the Lord, bringing the grace of the Divine Spirit. The Angels of God praise her. She is the heavenly tabernacle.


You bring up a very good point, that for sure we do pray things that are not explicitly in Scripture, whether in our hymns or even our own little personal prayers to God.  When I spoke of "the way the Church prays", I should have been clearer.  I meant more the structure of the liturgy (with a liturgy of the Word and lectionary readings) then I did the content of the prayers, which include the different hymns prayers which are indeed essential, both as reflections on Scripture and expressions of the greater Tradition of the Church.  To give an example, during the Entrance of the Theotokos to the Temple, we do pray all the things which you've qouted - and God be praised that we do - but then we read from the Gospel of Luke and from the letter to the Hebrews, rather than the Protoevangelion.  What I am saying then, is that there is a unique place for the Scriptures in the liturgy, thus there is no "equal to" for this reason, among others.  I agree that we miss the point in "accurately" trying to define what has what levels and layers of authority - this would seem to be outside of the general concerns of the Orthodox, a very lifeless, inorganic way of finding God.  All this considered, though, I stand by the thought that somehow, some way (however we are to understand this - and we must confess that different saints have understood this differently at different times), the Scriptures maintain a unique posistion in our faith, as a touchstone, if you will and as the heart of the Father's teaching.  Again, thus is the reason I answered "no" to first question.
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« Reply #31 on: September 10, 2007, 10:19:17 PM »

EA,

I still think that is putting the cart before the horse, so to speak.  The dogma of the perpetual virginity is not derived from the biblical verses you mentioned. 

The Scriptures provide such a large textual corpus that essentially any doctrine can be derived from scriptures (as pretty much every single heretic has cited scripture to vindicate himself).  So as a pragmatist, I still think that the scriptures by themselves are a poor way to ascertain the doctrines and practices of the modern Orthodox Church and that the scriptural "roots" of various doctrines - i.e the perpetual virginity, the harrowing of hell, entrance of the Mother of God into the temple etc. are simply ad hoc and ex post facto at that. 
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« Reply #32 on: September 11, 2007, 01:04:35 AM »

The Ever Virginity of the Theotokos is Dogma in the Orthodox Church, yet there is no reference to it in the Scriptures. If we take the Scriptures as the "most authoritative" source of information on the issue of the Ever-Virginity of the Theotokos, then we would conclude that she was not "Ever Virgin" since Jesus has brothers mentioned in the Gospel. The Dogma of the Ever-Virginity of the Theotokos is based on the apocryphal Protoevangelion of James. Hence, a Dogma of the Church is based, not on the Canon of Scripture, but on an apocryphal text. So, this apocryphal text has as much authority as Scripture in determining the Dogmas of the Church.
I think you may be confusing prima Scriptura with sola Scriptura, which are not the same thing.  Unlike what you stated above, the idea that the Scriptures are our "most authoritative" source of information pertaining to doctrine (prima Scriptura) DOES NOT preclude the possibility that other sources may be deemed authoritative, such as the Protoevangelion of James you mentioned.  We may see multiple sources of doctrine as authoritative, yet still see the Bible as chief in its authority relative to the other sources, while we at the same time rely on the other lesser sources to guide our interpretation of the Scriptures.  Only the doctrine of sola Scriptura refuses to grant dogmatic authority to any source outside the Scriptures.

I would also like to know how you define the term dogma.  Do you mean those beliefs that constitute the inner faith of our Church, even though most have never been proclaimed in any way that binds us to give them our intellectual assent without question?  Surely you don't see the belief in Mary's perpetual virginity as equal in authority to the dogma of the Holy Trinity proclaimed in the Nicene Creed, do you?  Can one be deemed anathema for refusing to believe that Mary was brought into the [physical] Holy of Holies in the [Jerusalem] Temple, as one can for refusing to venerate icons?  This is how I understand the concept of dogma, so I'm interested, for the sake of clarifying discussion, to know how your definition of this concept of dogma differs from mine.
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« Reply #33 on: September 11, 2007, 03:42:59 AM »

Dear Nektarios,

I am in no disagreement with the points you raise, but they simply do not apply to the position I am arguing. Below I have quoted the relevant segments of my last post which already address the points you raise. Please do reconsider that response, particularly the parts i've highlighted.

You said:

Quote
The dogma of the perpetual virginity is not derived from the biblical verses you mentioned.
And:
Quote
I still think that the scriptures by themselves are a poor way to ascertain the doctrines and practices of the modern Orthodox Church and that the scriptural "roots" of various doctrines.

Which was addressed in anticipation by:

...you misinterpret the position in question (at least insofar as I am intending it) [when you conceive of it as entailing the idea] that the Scriptures are the necessary starting point to formulating Orthodox Dogma (as if discovery of Orthodox Dogma is necessarily contingent upon an initial consideration of the Scriptures). All I am saying is that whatever is Orthodox Dogma is, corollary to it being Orthodox Dogma, necessarily grounded in the Scriptures. If you take this proposition as it is, without unwittingly reading any implications into it, you will find it to be perfectly compatible with the Orthodox understanding of the first couple of centuries of ecclesiastical history and the idea that Tradition precedes and is the source of the Scriptures.

In other words, I do not believe the doctrine of the Ever-Virginity of St Mary to have been necessarily consciously formulated upon a necessary initial consideration of a typological reading of Ezekiel, nor do I believe that consideration of that verse is theoretically necessary to arriving at an awareness of that doctrine in the first place. All I am saying is that by virtue of that doctrine being a dogmatic truth it follows that there is necessarily a Scriptural basis for it.

With regard to the following statement:

Quote
The Scriptures provide such a large textual corpus that essentially any doctrine can be derived from scriptures (as pretty much every single heretic has cited scripture to vindicate himself). 

I addressed it in anticipation when I quoted H.G P.M Gregorios:

"[T]he meaning of Scripture...is not always self-evident. Certain passages in Scripture...are like peacock's feathers. The side that is first visible may be a dull grey, but upon turning it around its beauty and glory is manifest. Such "turning around" can only be done by the one who is grounded in the Faith of the Church...The true intention or skopos of Scripture is evident only to the one who lives the Faith of the Church..." (Cosmic Man, 2)

It obviously does not follow from the fact that a certain person may base a particular false idea or doctrine upon the Scriptural testimony that that Scriptural testimony actually supports that false idea or doctrine. There is a true intent (or true intents) of any given Scriptural verse or passage, but that doesn't mean it's discernable by everyone. For those to whom it is discernable, they will find a legitimate Scriptural basis to all Orthodox dogmas, whether implicitly or explicitly. That reference may not be a primary foundation, or a necessary foundation, but the fact remains that it exists as a foundation.
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« Reply #34 on: September 11, 2007, 06:33:17 AM »

Dear PeterTheAleut,

Quote
I would also like to know how you define the term dogma.  Do you mean those beliefs that constitute the inner faith of our Church, even though most have never been proclaimed in any way that binds us to give them our intellectual assent without question?  Surely you don't see the belief in Mary's perpetual virginity as equal in authority to the dogma of the Holy Trinity proclaimed in the Nicene Creed, do you?  Can one be deemed anathema for refusing to believe that Mary was brought into the [physical] Holy of Holies in the [Jerusalem] Temple, as one can for refusing to venerate icons?  This is how I understand the concept of dogma, so I'm interested, for the sake of clarifying discussion, to know how your definition of this concept of dogma differs from mine.

Prima facie, the doctrine of the Ever-Virginity of St Mary may seem like a pretty insignificant truth, but I believe it is dogmatic insofar as it is connected with the doctrine of St Mary as the Theotokos, which, needless to say, is dogmatic insofar as it is a corollary of our dogmatic Christological presuppositions pertaining to the Divinity of Christ and the Hypostatic Union.

I believe that in an EO context it may possibly be argued, upon the authority of the second canon of Constantinople 553, that one who denies the perpetual virginity of St Mary is under anathema: “If anyone does not confess that… [Christ] came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the holy, glorious ever virgin Mother of God Mary, and was born of her, let him be anathema.”

In light of my first paragraph, however, I would argue that denying the perpetual virginity of St Mary potentially falls under St Cyril's anathema against those who deny that St Mary is the Theotokos (even if they do not consciously deny that latter Dogma).

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« Reply #35 on: September 11, 2007, 06:42:52 AM »

prima Scriptura ...... sola Scriptura
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« Reply #36 on: September 11, 2007, 11:09:30 PM »

Think in Latin, and you think like a Latin. Wink
WTH kind of answer is that? Huh
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« Reply #37 on: September 12, 2007, 12:48:52 AM »

OK, so the Bible is a small part of Holy Tradition? At least the Holy Tradition brought us the Bible right? And if that's so, then the Saints' writings that form the Traditions would be, technically, equal-to-the Bible? Or would it be better stated as the Bible is Equal-to-the-Tradions?
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« Reply #38 on: September 12, 2007, 06:15:38 AM »

WTH kind of answer is that? Huh
An esoteric one.  Cheesy

OK, so the Bible is a small part of Holy Tradition? At least the Holy Tradition brought us the Bible right? And if that's so, then the Saints' writings that form the Traditions would be, technically, equal-to-the Bible? Or would it be better stated as the Bible is Equal-to-the-Tradions?
I think the best way to put it is in a way which does not create a duality between Scripture and Tradition. Scripture is a part of Tradition, just as signing ourselves with the Cross is a part of Tradition, and just as baptism by triple immersion is a part of Tradition....All these aspects of Tradition are different, and it makes no sense to talk of the "equality" or "inequality" of them. Making the Sign of the Cross is just as much a  part of Tradition as is the Gospel of St. John, but one can't call them "equal" or "unequal"- that would be like saying "apples are equal to oranges". Nor can we say that "oranges are more important than apples". But we can say that both apples and oranges are fruit. The same goes for the Tradition.


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« Reply #39 on: September 12, 2007, 11:18:32 PM »

An esoteric one.  Cheesy
 I think the best way to put it is in a way which does not create a duality between Scripture and Tradition. Scripture is a part of Tradition, just as signing ourselves with the Cross is a part of Tradition, and just as baptism by triple immersion is a part of Tradition....All these aspects of Tradition are different, and it makes no sense to talk of the "equality" or "inequality" of them. Making the Sign of the Cross is just as much a  part of Tradition as is the Gospel of St. John, but one can't call them "equal" or "unequal"- that would be like saying "apples are equal to oranges". Nor can we say that "oranges are more important than apples". But we can say that both apples and oranges are fruit. The same goes for the Tradition.



Great reply. I think we cleared out some cobwebs in the 'ol noggin. Cheesy
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« Reply #40 on: September 12, 2007, 11:33:04 PM »

I think the best way to put it is in a way which does not create a duality between Scripture and Tradition. Scripture is a part of Tradition, just as signing ourselves with the Cross is a part of Tradition, and just as baptism by triple immersion is a part of Tradition....All these aspects of Tradition are different, and it makes no sense to talk of the "equality" or "inequality" of them. Making the Sign of the Cross is just as much a  part of Tradition as is the Gospel of St. John, but one can't call them "equal" or "unequal"- that would be like saying "apples are equal to oranges". Nor can we say that "oranges are more important than apples". But we can say that both apples and oranges are fruit. The same goes for the Tradition.
But even within Tradition, has there not always been seen a "hierarchy" of authority?  Local synods are part of Tradition, but only Ecumenical Synods have dogmatic authority within the whole Church.  Patristic writings are part of Tradition and can elucidate the Truth authoritatively, but only the Scriptures can serve as a most sure foundation for Christian dogma.  Can it not at least be said that nothing in Tradition can contradict the Scriptures?  Yes, I do agree, though, that we must not see Scripture as something separate from Tradition, for the Tradition, of which the Scriptures are only a part, is a seamless garment that cannot be divided without tearing into the very heart of our Faith.
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« Reply #41 on: September 13, 2007, 05:38:19 AM »

Quote
Patristic writings are part of Tradition and can elucidate the Truth authoritatively, but only the Scriptures can serve as a most sure foundation for Christian dogma.  Can it not at least be said that nothing in Tradition can contradict the Scriptures?

I think it is such a programmed response for us to say we take our doctrine from the scriptures.  But instead look at how an anthropologist that observes Orthodox people would conclude - based upon on actual practice, not what we say.  The typical Orthodox child is told most of what they know of Orthodoxy from parents and grandparents - remember that the languages of the services in most Orthodox nations is very different than the vernacular, so kids aren't likely learning Orthodox dogma and practice from scriptural readings during liturgy.  Instead, I'd say within an Orthodox culture people learn about the faith through major feast days, the icons associated with them and from the practice of those around them.  So if you were to ask a typical Greek villager, why does the Church celebrate the feast of the entrance of the Theotokos into the temple - the likely response would be simply to show you the icon of feast, narrate the main facts of it and sing the troparion of it.  Over the course of generations this has formed our tradition.  Of course at the roots of everything in the Church is scripture, but this is so far removed from the American religious scene of citing chapter and verse.  But, I come to this conclusion based on a more secular/pragmatic methodology so maybe that invalidates it here.  Although I'd also so the same is true of sola scriptura adherents - most of them have the doctrines which they are supposed to extrapolate from the scriptures put into place long before they are mature enough to read scriptures themselves.  Hence they also receive their doctrines through a cultural / tradition passing system - loathe as they are to admit it. 
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« Reply #42 on: September 13, 2007, 05:58:52 AM »

But even within Tradition, has there not always been seen a "hierarchy" of authority? 
Not really. You are confusing the Holy Tradition with the hierarchical structure of the Church, especially when you say:
Local synods are part of Tradition, but only Ecumenical Synods have dogmatic authority within the whole Church
You are talking about a hierarchy of authority- Period. Councils do not "create" Tradition, they discern it. Councils are only "part of Tradition" insofar as the "Concilliarity" or "Synodical Nature" of the Church is a Tradition; but a Council itself is not a "Tradition", it merely seeks to discern what is Tradition. Such decrees of what is Tradition are clearly spelled out in the Oecumenical Councils. Other decrees of Councils are not Tradition, but merely Canons guiding the Church. These two are easily (and often) confused. For example, receiving Holy Communion via a Spoon is actually not a Holy Tradition. It's a custom which has simply come to be universally practised, and in fact, the only Canon of an Oecumenical Council which does mention the method of reception of Holy Communion decrees that we should receive it in the hand. So if all the decrees of Oecumenical and Local Councils were "Traditions", then we should receive Communion in the hand, monks should have their heads shaved, and your Bishop should arrive at your Parish Church on a white donkey. Whenever we read the term "Holy Tradition", we should always interpret it as "What has been given to us by the Apostles"- whether in Scripture, "apocrypha", oral history, etc. Just because something is not in the Canon of Scripture does not mean it was not handed down to us by the Apostles.
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« Reply #43 on: September 13, 2007, 09:48:35 AM »

It would seem that the fathers of the church know how to sort & determine oral & scriptural aspects of overall tradition based on the transmission to the apostles by our Saviour and the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost to form the wisdom of our faith. Circumstances vary around different aspects of holy tradition and even common sense. For instance, there are fanatics who believe that obtaining medical treatment from a doctor is not "Biblical"; yet the Orthodox Bible has a scripture in Sirach 38 praising the medical doctor and also healing prayer (true synergy). OTH, there are pro choice advocates who claim abortion is ok since it is not addressed in the Bible yet the Book of Enoch, the Epistle of Barnabus, & the Didache (not to mention the noble & non Christian) Hippocratic oath condemn it (I am not agreeing the Gospel & Old Testament do not condemn abortion either). An earlier poster noted the ex nihilo doctrine is only clearly stated in the Maccabean scriptures (some do not consider Maccabees as scripture, so would some consider this a "tradition of men?"). On a personal note, I believe the truth of the ever virgin Theotokos is in the Gospel. Prior to my surrender to the Orthodox faith, a sense of anguish consumed me for having neglected to venerate the Theotokos; turning to John 19:27, the truth was revealed! Despite this I still intended to be Pentecostal. When repenting & committing to Orthodoxy, the Orthodox Study Bible confirmed the meaning of John 19:27 as I had perceived months earlier. Upon reading the Protoevangelion, I asked our priest if it was conceivable that this was an honest, but secondary, account from St James himself and he said yes (not to placate either). Hence Holy Tradition is not ex nihilo but our creation ex nihilo is. The blessed saints who are equal to the apostles are equal in virtue like St.Thekla.
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« Reply #44 on: September 13, 2007, 01:56:22 PM »

And finally, if you'll allow me to continue in my zeal, I would point out that there is one book in the Church that is kept on the altar.  There is one book that is venerated with a kiss and a prostration in many of the services.  There is one book taken on procession (as far as I know).  This book is the book of the Gospels, is it not?  My argument here, is that the way we pray (our liturgical services) put the Scripture on a level that is above any other holy book.  And is it not true that what we pray is what we believe?

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« Reply #45 on: September 13, 2007, 11:58:18 PM »

You are talking about a hierarchy of authority- Period.
Thank you for picking that up.  That is exactly what I'm trying to assert, that there is a hierarchy of authority within Holy Tradition.

Quote
Councils do not "create" Tradition, they discern it.
Yet the very act of discerning Tradition often creates Tradition.  We believe in the dogma of the Holy Trinity because this is present in the public doctrine of Christ and the Apostles, but our belief in the dogma is also based on the authority of the Council of Nicea, is it not?

Quote
Councils are only "part of Tradition" insofar as the "Concilliarity" or "Synodical Nature" of the Church is a Tradition; but a Council itself is not a "Tradition", it merely seeks to discern what is Tradition. Such decrees of what is Tradition are clearly spelled out in the Oecumenical Councils. Other decrees of Councils are not Tradition, but merely Canons guiding the Church. These two are easily (and often) confused. For example, receiving Holy Communion via a Spoon is actually not a Holy Tradition. It's a custom which has simply come to be universally practised, and in fact, the only Canon of an Oecumenical Council which does mention the method of reception of Holy Communion decrees that we should receive it in the hand. So if all the decrees of Oecumenical and Local Councils were "Traditions", then we should receive Communion in the hand, monks should have their heads shaved, and your Bishop should arrive at your Parish Church on a white donkey.
ISTM that you just gave a very good distinction between dogmas and canons.  Both are equally part of Tradition, but only the former are eternally authoritative and binding on the faithful.  The latter are merely attempts to apply the truths of the former to specific circumstances the Church faces in place and time, but this does not make the latter any less part of Tradition.

Quote
Whenever we read the term "Holy Tradition", we should always interpret it as "What has been given to us by the Apostles"- whether in Scripture, "apocrypha", oral history, etc. Just because something is not in the Canon of Scripture does not mean it was not handed down to us by the Apostles.
Agreed.
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« Reply #46 on: September 14, 2007, 12:55:34 AM »

This is way late in the discussion and it is way late tonight but I recently read Catholic writer, Scott Hahn's Marriage of the Lamb in which he makes a strong case that the book of Revelation basically describes the divine liturgy - in heaven and on earth (rather than raptures and all this "left behind" literature -although I hate to term that stuff literature. Anyway there is not much in Dr. Hahn's book that would be disagreeable or harmful to an Orthodox Christian). If he is correct, it would be sort of redundant to quote from the Apocaplyse when it is describing the liturgy. It would sort of be like quoting oneself!

Just another way to look at the absence of quoting the Revelation of St. John.

Although Oz is absolutely correct regarding its late acceptance.
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« Reply #47 on: September 14, 2007, 07:36:32 AM »

Agreed.
I don't think you do agree with me Peter.
What I said was that: "Tradition" = "What has been given to us by the Apostles".
If you agree with this, you cannot possibly say in the same post that:
Yet the very act of discerning Tradition often creates Tradition.
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« Reply #48 on: September 14, 2007, 11:56:27 PM »

I don't think you do agree with me Peter.
What I said was that: "Tradition" = "What has been given to us by the Apostles".
If you agree with this, you cannot possibly say in the same post that:
Yeah, upon further review, my "agreement" does sound quite illogical within the context of what I wrote earlier.
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