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Author Topic: Bible reading/study in Orthodoxy  (Read 1979 times) Average Rating: 0
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Rosehip
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« on: August 30, 2010, 12:02:40 PM »

I was reading in one of Augustin's posts that in Romania the people were not encouraged by the priests to read the Bible. On one hand, this rather surprised me, because I hear so often the phrase that we are the "Church of the Bible". So, one would think we Orthodox should be even more zealous of reading it than the Protestants, who are more disconnected from it, in a sense. I'm wondering what the reasons were for not encouraging the reading of Scripture, and if it was also discouraged in other Orthodox countries, such as Ukraine, Russia, Greece, etc.

Do you think Orthodoxy would have a different appearance had people in those countries been really zealous of reading the Scriptures at home?

What are your personal opinions about all of this and about the reading of Scripture in general?
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« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2010, 02:37:07 PM »

Classical reformers like Calvin actually opposed the laity reading the scriptures, and saw that as only the prerogative of the clergy in their own God-given authority. Just stating this to point out that the root of a lot of Protestants was not about getting access of the Bible to the common man.
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« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2010, 02:46:58 PM »

ISTM that many church authorities discouraged laypeople from reading the Bible for fear they would fall into heresy apart from the teaching authority of the clergy.
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« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2010, 02:56:59 PM »

I was reading in one of Augustin's posts that in Romania the people were not encouraged by the priests to read the Bible. On one hand, this rather surprised me, because I hear so often the phrase that we are the "Church of the Bible". So, one would think we Orthodox should be even more zealous of reading it than the Protestants, who are more disconnected from it, in a sense. I'm wondering what the reasons were for not encouraging the reading of Scripture, and if it was also discouraged in other Orthodox countries, such as Ukraine, Russia, Greece, etc.

For one thing, most people were illiterate. And it was in a language they didn't speak anyways.

Those who could read couldn't afford a Bible.

Those who could afford them had a hard time getting them: for a variety of reasons, printing didn't become as widespread in the East as it was in the West until the mid 19th century.

So encouraging something that couldn't be done would be rather cruel. But everyone could come to the services, which are made up of quotations and allusions from Scripture.


Quote
Do you think Orthodoxy would have a different appearance had people in those countries been really zealous of reading the Scriptures at home?
No, but we may have had more sects adn schisms.


Quote
What are your personal opinions about all of this and about the reading of Scripture in general?
We can, and therefore should, rather must, do it. 

Btw, with all the video stuff now, we may be going to a post literate world, in which case we can still pop a Bible video in the VCR, er, DVD in the player
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« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2010, 04:06:57 PM »

If Baptist villagers were literate enough to read the Bible for themselves, then surely Orthodox villagers wouldn't have been less literate? I'm referring to the more recent past. Couldn't the priest have organized bible studies at his home so that people could both read the Bible and have the priest there to guide them?
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« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2010, 04:44:01 PM »

From what I understand, the Orthodox approach to Scripture study differs from that of Protestants. Fundamentally, Scripture seems to me to be first a part of liturgical services. As it is read in the home, this can be done through the daily assigned readings from the lectionary. Beyond this, many spiritual fathers have recommended two chapters from the epistles, and one from the Gospels every day. Added to this are private readings at home with prayer and study of the Fathers (and their explanations of Scripture) under the direction of one's spiritual father.

Without knowing the actual context of the OP situation, it's difficult to comment. It seems like there's a lot of information missing, and we're asked to comment on something from which we're quite removed.

The Orthodox do, indeed, read and study Scripture. It is the foundation of the liturgical and prayer life of the Church. The Holy Fathers memorized it and held it in their hearts.

What we avoid is individual interpretation  of Scripture which often arises from pride and ignorance. It may be to avoid certain problems at certain times in certain places because of certain heretics or sectarians that advice for simple people not to read Scripture is given.

Scripture needs to be read with reverence and understanding--and the Orthodox version of each. To approach it in the form of study, we must work on ourselves spiritually. Just because someone  is literate and educated does not mean that they are necessarily ready for such an undertaking. Maybe they are prone  to doubts and questionings. Maybe their faith is weak. For such as these and others, there are other things that should be done before embarking on the course of studying Scripture or the Holy Fathers. In the wrong hands, even Scripture can be dangerous.
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« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2010, 07:14:12 PM »

I was reading in one of Augustin's posts that in Romania the people were not encouraged by the priests to read the Bible. On one hand, this rather surprised me, because I hear so often the phrase that we are the "Church of the Bible". So, one would think we Orthodox should be even more zealous of reading it than the Protestants, who are more disconnected from it, in a sense. I'm wondering what the reasons were for not encouraging the reading of Scripture, and if it was also discouraged in other Orthodox countries, such as Ukraine, Russia, Greece, etc.

Do you think Orthodoxy would have a different appearance had people in those countries been really zealous of reading the Scriptures at home?

What are your personal opinions about all of this and about the reading of Scripture in general?

I did not catch Augustin's post that you are referring to, but it seems in line with his general approach to things. Romanian practice good, anything else bad. This allows him to make excuses for all short of strange practices in Romania, such as believing that it is a good thing to abstain from frequent communion. He has even made the point that it is good to be a nominal Christian. In any case, of course we do need to read the Holy Scriptures as we also need to have a cycle of daily prayers, read from the Holy Fathers, and generally make ourselves more knowledgeable. As Apostle Paul said, we have to use both our hearts and our minds.
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« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2010, 07:30:14 PM »

Quote from: Rosehip
"I was reading in one of Augustin's posts that in Romania the people were not encouraged by the priests to read the Bible. On one hand, this rather surprised me, because I hear so often the phrase that we are the "Church of the Bible". So, one would think we Orthodox should be even more zealous of reading it than the Protestants, who are more disconnected from it, in a sense. I'm wondering what the reasons were for not encouraging the reading of Scripture, and if it was also discouraged in other Orthodox countries, such as Ukraine, Russia, Greece, etc."

Hmmmm... I don't know about this. I know that the Roman Catholics were guilty of this (insisting on the Scriptures remaining in Latin only) but to my knowledge the Orthodox have always endeavored to translate the Scriptures into the native tongue of the region. Just look at the Alaskan natives for example.

And if I'm not mistaken - is not Russian Cyrillic(?) writing basically the creation of the Church via bringing Scripture to the people?

As for whether Orthodox laity are to read the Scriptures themselves - St. John Chrysostom certainly encouraged it.

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« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2010, 11:20:31 PM »

If Baptist villagers were literate enough to read the Bible for themselves, then surely Orthodox villagers wouldn't have been less literate? I'm referring to the more recent past. Couldn't the priest have organized bible studies at his home so that people could both read the Bible and have the priest there to guide them?
When are we talking?
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« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2010, 01:43:22 AM »

Quote from: Rosehip
"I was reading in one of Augustin's posts that in Romania the people were not encouraged by the priests to read the Bible. On one hand, this rather surprised me, because I hear so often the phrase that we are the "Church of the Bible". So, one would think we Orthodox should be even more zealous of reading it than the Protestants, who are more disconnected from it, in a sense. I'm wondering what the reasons were for not encouraging the reading of Scripture, and if it was also discouraged in other Orthodox countries, such as Ukraine, Russia, Greece, etc."

Hmmmm... I don't know about this. I know that the Roman Catholics were guilty of this (insisting on the Scriptures remaining in Latin only) but to my knowledge the Orthodox have always endeavored to translate the Scriptures into the native tongue of the region. Just look at the Alaskan natives for example.

And if I'm not mistaken - is not Russian Cyrillic(?) writing basically the creation of the Church via bringing Scripture to the people?
I believe so, that the Cyrillic language was the work of the missionary saints Cyril and Methodius who evangelized the Slavic peoples.
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« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2010, 09:16:57 AM »

Quote from: Rosehip
"I was reading in one of Augustin's posts that in Romania the people were not encouraged by the priests to read the Bible. On one hand, this rather surprised me, because I hear so often the phrase that we are the "Church of the Bible". So, one would think we Orthodox should be even more zealous of reading it than the Protestants, who are more disconnected from it, in a sense. I'm wondering what the reasons were for not encouraging the reading of Scripture, and if it was also discouraged in other Orthodox countries, such as Ukraine, Russia, Greece, etc."

Hmmmm... I don't know about this. I know that the Roman Catholics were guilty of this (insisting on the Scriptures remaining in Latin only) but to my knowledge the Orthodox have always endeavored to translate the Scriptures into the native tongue of the region. Just look at the Alaskan natives for example.

And if I'm not mistaken - is not Russian Cyrillic(?) writing basically the creation of the Church via bringing Scripture to the people?
I believe so, that the Cyrillic language was the work of the missionary saints Cyril and Methodius who evangelized the Slavic peoples.
Almost:  Cyrillic is an alphabet. SS Cyril & Methodius created an alphabet called Glagolitic in order to provide a writing system for what is now known as Old Church Slavonic. OCS was based on a standardized form of Slavic dialects of the time and which incorporated much vocabulary based on Greek terms that were needed to convey theological concepts.

It took a later generation to produce the Cyrillic alphabet, named in honour of St. Cyril, to resemble more closely the Greek alphabet for those sounds where it was possible, and still retain Glagolitic symbols to represent sounds unique to Slavonic. So I suppose it could be said that the Cyrillic alphabet is a blend and reworking of the Greek and Glagolitic alphabets.

A lot of this information can be found at www.omniglot.com
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« Reply #11 on: August 31, 2010, 09:40:26 AM »

If Baptist villagers were literate enough to read the Bible for themselves, then surely Orthodox villagers wouldn't have been less literate? I'm referring to the more recent past. Couldn't the priest have organized bible studies at his home so that people could both read the Bible and have the priest there to guide them?
When are we talking?

It would be very helpful if Augustin would weigh in here to clarify which time frame he had in mind. I was thinking of the last century up to present times. I know my Eastern European Baptist friends, due to their firm resistance of anything Communist, were denied the right to higher education, yet they were literate enough to read the bible on their own.
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« Reply #12 on: August 31, 2010, 09:48:11 AM »

I was reading in one of Augustin's posts that in Romania the people were not encouraged by the priests to read the Bible. On one hand, this rather surprised me, because I hear so often the phrase that we are the "Church of the Bible". So, one would think we Orthodox should be even more zealous of reading it than the Protestants, who are more disconnected from it, in a sense. I'm wondering what the reasons were for not encouraging the reading of Scripture, and if it was also discouraged in other Orthodox countries, such as Ukraine, Russia, Greece, etc.

Do you think Orthodoxy would have a different appearance had people in those countries been really zealous of reading the Scriptures at home?

What are your personal opinions about all of this and about the reading of Scripture in general?

I did not catch Augustin's post that you are referring to, but it seems in line with his general approach to things. Romanian practice good, anything else bad.

Please do not take Augustin as the spokesman of Romanian pracitce.  I know plenty of Romanians who would be horrified. Very few indeed look down at converts. Quite the contrary.  If you have a chance, go to Dormition Monastery in MI to see a different face of Romania.

Quote
This allows him to make excuses for all short of strange practices in Romania, such as believing that it is a good thing to abstain from frequent communion. He has even made the point that it is good to be a nominal Christian. In any case, of course we do need to read the Holy Scriptures as we also need to have a cycle of daily prayers, read from the Holy Fathers, and generally make ourselves more knowledgeable. As Apostle Paul said, we have to use both our hearts and our minds.

Speaking of Romanian practice: we have a long instruction to the Metropolitan of Transylvania (who secretly was already plotting to turn the Church over to the Emperor for the Vatican) from none other than Pat. Dositheus of Jerusalem (who wrote a long preface to the Romanian King James Version-the Bucharest Bible of 1688, speaking of the importance of having the scriptures in the language of the people, even going so far as citing Ulfina, apostle of Arianism, translating the Gospel for the Goths). The Pat. tells the Metropolitan that the services cannot be in anything but Greek or Slavonic, but states the readings must be in the language the congregation speaks.  In fact, the Church's Press at Bucharest produced books for the Orthodox of the East, even Arabs and Georgians.
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« Reply #13 on: August 31, 2010, 11:12:30 AM »

If Baptist villagers were literate enough to read the Bible for themselves, then surely Orthodox villagers wouldn't have been less literate? I'm referring to the more recent past. Couldn't the priest have organized bible studies at his home so that people could both read the Bible and have the priest there to guide them?
When are we talking?

It would be very helpful if Augustin would weigh in here to clarify which time frame he had in mind. I was thinking of the last century up to present times. I know my Eastern European Baptist friends, due to their firm resistance of anything Communist, were denied the right to higher education, yet they were literate enough to read the bible on their own.

During Communist times in Romania, the government used to confiscate Bibles and recycle them into toilet paper.  My ex wife got a Bible that used to be her uncle's, published before the monarchy was abolished.  It bore evidence of being used, for reading that is. And they were from village out in the middle of nowhere.

Among other issues is (based on my experience with Romanian Protestants), the Baptists ONLY have the Bible.  No liturgy, no devotional prayers like the acathist, no feast days, no icons, no..... They also are transplants of American culture.  What I mean by that is the factors of American colonization (as opposed to invasions and serfdom in Russia) produced a society relatively high in presupposing literacy and reading (a good thing). Compare Russian Luboki, the popular print media of the 18th century

with the popular print media of America of the same period

The results of the American revolution also show why the monarchs of Eastern Europe tried to damper development of this latter type, which of course was given free reign in the States (cf. the Federalist Papers were popular press).

It is interesting how the Romanian Protestants are more oblvious to living in America than most Romanian Orthodox. What is more interesting, and to our point, is that their well rehearsed arguments against the Church betray their origin in the polemics against the Vatican. They take no cognissance of the Orthodox Church as an entity seperate from the Vatican, i.e. much how the American Baptists view things.  I take it comes from the Baptists isolation in Romania.
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« Reply #14 on: August 31, 2010, 01:05:26 PM »

Quote
Please do not take Augustin as the spokesman of Romanian pracitce.  I know plenty of Romanians who would be horrified. Very few indeed look down at converts. Quite the contrary.  If you have a chance, go to Dormition Monastery in MI to see a different face of Romania.
ialmisry,
Again you speak as an outsider with some general bookish knowledge, but not much actual experience of a living tradition.
I do not claim to speak for all of my nation, but what I say is true for at least our region-but not only, if you have any knowledge of the matter besides the introduction of the "Bucharest Bible" (which is nowhere as important for us as KJ for the Anglophone world, for different reasons, but that's another discussion).
I was referring to a situation still present within the living memory of family members of mine. This would cover basically the whole of the last century.
You must be really naive if you think that the hierarchy distributed Orthodox Bibles among the peasantry. They didn't, because those were quite expensive, the clergy thought that reading/studying the Bible was reserved for them, and when done by the unlearned laity it became a ferment of sectarianism etc.
It was possible to own a Bible or a NT though, even then, but it wasn't encouraged.
All old people I knew that had one, had those made available by the "Britannic Society", because they were the only ones consistently interested in distributing them.
Some relatives and neighbors of ours had these British Bibles, usually the artificially sounding hyper-Latinized , etymologically written Nitulescu edition from 1874, a very massive and cumbersome book otherwise that my GM briefly owned but passed on since she couldn't understand anything.
Then, at church they were consistently warned by the parish priests-this conception is still alive with older people- that "The Gospel [Evanghelia, but often meaning the Bible] is for the priest alone to touch and handle; if you touch it your hands will start shaking (i.e. you'll get Parkinson).
Peasants had very great respect for the Gospel-in our churches a book of the Gospel is always on the analog, alongside the icon, to be kissed -but they did not quite read it.
Then I remember a grand-uncle of mine telling my mom and GM that they had a priest that knew the Bible and preached so well "as if he were a "predicator", i.e. a sectarian "preacher". Do you get the implications?

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« Reply #15 on: August 31, 2010, 01:30:51 PM »

Again you speak as an outsider with some general bookish knowledge, but not much actual experience of a living tradition.

He was married to a Romanian and can read the Romanian language (forgive me if this is not what it is called). I'd call that more than an abstract "bookish" knowledge which is totally removed.
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« Reply #16 on: August 31, 2010, 01:37:41 PM »

The thing is in some areas there seems to be just plain ignorance where there is no oppression. I am just speaking in generality here. Certain faith basics that are clearly found in the Bible can be put to memory like the 2 great commands, the 10 commandments, the Lord's Prayer, the golden rule etc. Christ says these very things actually sum up how we are to live by God's revelation to us alongside the Eucharist & confession that He instituted for us; how intellectually complex can this be? Spiritual complexity is a different matter of course.
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« Reply #17 on: August 31, 2010, 01:40:26 PM »

Again you speak as an outsider with some general bookish knowledge, but not much actual experience of a living tradition.

He was married to a Romanian and can read the Romanian language (forgive me if this is not what it is called). I'd call that more than an abstract "bookish" knowledge which is totally removed.
Anyhow, compared to a native speaker that lived there the first decades of his life, that has the benefit of being the depositary of many family memories and anecdotes, he will not have the same grasp of the subject , "unless he be born again..."
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« Reply #18 on: August 31, 2010, 04:02:50 PM »

Elder Cleopa says, "The best preparation that young people can make for life and for marriage is to grow in the fear and admonition of the Lord, as the elect vessel and mouth of Christ, the Apostle Paul, teaches us. To begin with, they must know the teachings of the Orthodox faith. They should learn by heart the Symbol of Faith (Creed), and other necessary prayers. They should have good spiritual fathers, should read the Holy Scriptures, especially the New Testament, and the Orthodox catechism and other soul-profiting books."

Elder Cleopa elsewhere makes the point that, while every Christian should read scripture, interpretation should be left in the hands of the teachers of the Church, e.g. clergy and theologians.
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« Reply #19 on: August 31, 2010, 04:15:24 PM »

Quote
Please do not take Augustin as the spokesman of Romanian pracitce.  I know plenty of Romanians who would be horrified. Very few indeed look down at converts. Quite the contrary.  If you have a chance, go to Dormition Monastery in MI to see a different face of Romania.
ialmisry,
Again you speak as an outsider with some general bookish knowledge, but not much actual experience of a living tradition.

Nominal phyletism?  The dead faith of the living is not a living tradition.

Btw, is this your answer to Rosehip's question? 
I was referring to a situation still present within the living memory of family members of mine. This would cover basically the whole of the last century
« Last Edit: August 31, 2010, 04:21:00 PM by ialmisry » Logged

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« Reply #20 on: August 31, 2010, 04:23:17 PM »

Quote from: Rosehip
"I was reading in one of Augustin's posts that in Romania the people were not encouraged by the priests to read the Bible. On one hand, this rather surprised me, because I hear so often the phrase that we are the "Church of the Bible". So, one would think we Orthodox should be even more zealous of reading it than the Protestants, who are more disconnected from it, in a sense. I'm wondering what the reasons were for not encouraging the reading of Scripture, and if it was also discouraged in other Orthodox countries, such as Ukraine, Russia, Greece, etc."

Hmmmm... I don't know about this. I know that the Roman Catholics were guilty of this (insisting on the Scriptures remaining in Latin only) but to my knowledge the Orthodox have always endeavored to translate the Scriptures into the native tongue of the region. Just look at the Alaskan natives for example.

And if I'm not mistaken - is not Russian Cyrillic(?) writing basically the creation of the Church via bringing Scripture to the people?
I believe so, that the Cyrillic language was the work of the missionary saints Cyril and Methodius who evangelized the Slavic peoples.
Almost:  Cyrillic is an alphabet. SS Cyril & Methodius created an alphabet called Glagolitic in order to provide a writing system for what is now known as Old Church Slavonic. OCS was based on a standardized form of Slavic dialects of the time and which incorporated much vocabulary based on Greek terms that were needed to convey theological concepts.

It took a later generation to produce the Cyrillic alphabet, named in honour of St. Cyril, to resemble more closely the Greek alphabet for those sounds where it was possible, and still retain Glagolitic symbols to represent sounds unique to Slavonic. So I suppose it could be said that the Cyrillic alphabet is a blend and reworking of the Greek and Glagolitic alphabets.

A lot of this information can be found at www.omniglot.com

Thanks to both of you (PeterTheAleut and genesisone [The Omniglot website is impressive!])... I knew there was some connection there.

Someday I hope to learn both Geek and Russian. I think going East is a good idea... North America is becoming a cesspool. Europe is even worse! (And I do not mean that in a racial way!) Perversions abound... Lies are everywhere.

Thank God for the Holy Orthodox Church!

Glory to Christ and His Saints!

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« Reply #21 on: August 31, 2010, 04:24:38 PM »

Elder Cleopa says, "The best preparation that young people can make for life and for marriage is to grow in the fear and admonition of the Lord, as the elect vessel and mouth of Christ, the Apostle Paul, teaches us. To begin with, they must know the teachings of the Orthodox faith. They should learn by heart the Symbol of Faith (Creed), and other necessary prayers. They should have good spiritual fathers, should read the Holy Scriptures, especially the New Testament, and the Orthodox catechism and other soul-profiting books."

Elder Cleopa elsewhere makes the point that, while every Christian should read scripture, interpretation should be left in the hands of the teachers of the Church, e.g. clergy and theologians.

A teacher cannot teach students that have not done their reading assignment. But doing your reading assignment doesn't make you the teacher (the Protestants mistakes).  The Elder is correct, of course.  Reading scripture just tills the soil and prepares the soul for the seed that the Church plants in there.
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« Reply #22 on: August 31, 2010, 05:53:08 PM »

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Please do not take Augustin as the spokesman of Romanian pracitce.  I know plenty of Romanians who would be horrified. Very few indeed look down at converts. Quite the contrary.  If you have a chance, go to Dormition Monastery in MI to see a different face of Romania.
ialmisry,
Again you speak as an outsider with some general bookish knowledge, but not much actual experience of a living tradition.
I do not claim to speak for all of my nation, but what I say is true for at least our region-but not only, if you have any knowledge of the matter besides the introduction of the "Bucharest Bible" (which is nowhere as important for us as KJ for the Anglophone world, for different reasons, but that's another discussion).
I was referring to a situation still present within the living memory of family members of mine. This would cover basically the whole of the last century.
You must be really naive if you think that the hierarchy distributed Orthodox Bibles among the peasantry. They didn't, because those were quite expensive, the clergy thought that reading/studying the Bible was reserved for them, and when done by the unlearned laity it became a ferment of sectarianism etc.
It was possible to own a Bible or a NT though, even then, but it wasn't encouraged.
All old people I knew that had one, had those made available by the "Britannic Society", because they were the only ones consistently interested in distributing them.
Some relatives and neighbors of ours had these British Bibles, usually the artificially sounding hyper-Latinized , etymologically written Nitulescu edition from 1874, a very massive and cumbersome book otherwise that my GM briefly owned but passed on since she couldn't understand anything.
Then, at church they were consistently warned by the parish priests-this conception is still alive with older people- that "The Gospel [Evanghelia, but often meaning the Bible] is for the priest alone to touch and handle; if you touch it your hands will start shaking (i.e. you'll get Parkinson).
Peasants had very great respect for the Gospel-in our churches a book of the Gospel is always on the analog, alongside the icon, to be kissed -but they did not quite read it.
Then I remember a grand-uncle of mine telling my mom and GM that they had a priest that knew the Bible and preached so well "as if he were a "predicator", i.e. a sectarian "preacher". Do you get the implications?



Isa--I think I can justifiably continue to say, albeit with some modifications that "Romania (or region thereof) good, everything else bad" is the sum total of Augustin's theology, ecclesiology, philosophy, and history.
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« Reply #23 on: August 31, 2010, 08:52:33 PM »

Quote
Please do not take Augustin as the spokesman of Romanian pracitce.  I know plenty of Romanians who would be horrified. Very few indeed look down at converts. Quite the contrary.  If you have a chance, go to Dormition Monastery in MI to see a different face of Romania.
ialmisry,
Again you speak as an outsider with some general bookish knowledge, but not much actual experience of a living tradition.
I do not claim to speak for all of my nation, but what I say is true for at least our region-but not only, if you have any knowledge of the matter besides the introduction of the "Bucharest Bible" (which is nowhere as important for us as KJ for the Anglophone world, for different reasons, but that's another discussion).
I was referring to a situation still present within the living memory of family members of mine. This would cover basically the whole of the last century.
You must be really naive if you think that the hierarchy distributed Orthodox Bibles among the peasantry. They didn't, because those were quite expensive, the clergy thought that reading/studying the Bible was reserved for them, and when done by the unlearned laity it became a ferment of sectarianism etc.
It was possible to own a Bible or a NT though, even then, but it wasn't encouraged.
All old people I knew that had one, had those made available by the "Britannic Society", because they were the only ones consistently interested in distributing them.
Some relatives and neighbors of ours had these British Bibles, usually the artificially sounding hyper-Latinized , etymologically written Nitulescu edition from 1874, a very massive and cumbersome book otherwise that my GM briefly owned but passed on since she couldn't understand anything.
Then, at church they were consistently warned by the parish priests-this conception is still alive with older people- that "The Gospel [Evanghelia, but often meaning the Bible] is for the priest alone to touch and handle; if you touch it your hands will start shaking (i.e. you'll get Parkinson).
Peasants had very great respect for the Gospel-in our churches a book of the Gospel is always on the analog, alongside the icon, to be kissed -but they did not quite read it.
Then I remember a grand-uncle of mine telling my mom and GM that they had a priest that knew the Bible and preached so well "as if he were a "predicator", i.e. a sectarian "preacher". Do you get the implications?



Isa--I think I can justifiably continue to say, albeit with some modifications that "Romania (or region thereof) good, everything else bad" is the sum total of Augustin's theology, ecclesiology, philosophy, and history.
Now re-write this in a way that woud fit your world view: just substitute my country's name for the OCA or St. Vladimir's.
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« Reply #24 on: August 31, 2010, 10:16:04 PM »

It's interesting that St John Chrysostom was constantly imploring people to read the scriptures. Jeannie Constantinou did an episode in her AFR podcast about this a long time ago. He never accepted excuses such as illiteracy (then have someone read to you), cost (then save up and buy just one Gospel), etc.

Certainly in today's world there is no excuse for not reading scripture. Most everyone is literate, and you can get a Bible for $1 or less. Shoot, you can get one for free from the Gideons. I think everyone should at least read the daily Epistle and Gospel readings.

I knew a guy once who was a semi-Messianic Jew. He read all four Gospels every week. He said, "how can I be like my rabbi if I don't know what he says?" While I don't agree with his beliefs, I admire his seriousness in learning Christ's words. I certainly don't put forth that much effort.

As far as organized study, it should ideally be headed by someone who is authorized to teach, such as a priest or deacon. My priest leads a weekly Bible study at my parish, and that's good. If that's not possible, it should be led by the Fathers. We have many good commentaries, many available for free online, that can be discussed in parallel to the scriptures.

What Bible study should *not* be is going around the table saying "This verse means to me..." It doesn't matter what it means to *you*.
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« Reply #25 on: September 01, 2010, 07:50:27 AM »

The scripture is only dangerous to someone without guidance.  If I handed someone my liturgical spear (used in the preparation of the gifts) with no instructions, they may stab someone with it; or, I can teach them about the spear, its use, the symbolism, etc., and they can in turn take care of it properly.

Something that makes scriptural study for the Orthodox easier now than ever is the (relatively) easy access to the interpretation of the Saints - it would be simple for someone with a passion for the gospels to read what St. John Chrysostom, or St. Gregory, or any one of a large number of saints has written about them.  This becomes the instruction for use, and with both available the person can be nourished and strengthened.  St. John Chrysostom encouraged scriptural reading, but that's largely because he also knew that he was actively interpreting the scriptures for his congregation(s) on a nearly constant basis, giving them instruction on how to handle a (spiritually) potentially dangerous weapon meant to be used against the forces of evil and temptation.

There is something to be said, then, for encouraging people to read the scripture with caution and care, ensuring that they have a guide for interpretation and for order (it's good to read the gospels before tackling the OT, for example).
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« Reply #26 on: September 01, 2010, 11:15:56 AM »

It's interesting that St John Chrysostom was constantly imploring people to read the scriptures. Jeannie Constantinou did an episode in her AFR podcast about this a long time ago. He never accepted excuses such as illiteracy (then have someone read to you), cost (then save up and buy just one Gospel), etc.

Certainly in today's world there is no excuse for not reading scripture. Most everyone is literate, and you can get a Bible for $1 or less. Shoot, you can get one for free from the Gideons. I think everyone should at least read the daily Epistle and Gospel readings.

I knew a guy once who was a semi-Messianic Jew. He read all four Gospels every week. He said, "how can I be like my rabbi if I don't know what he says?" While I don't agree with his beliefs, I admire his seriousness in learning Christ's words. I certainly don't put forth that much effort.

As far as organized study, it should ideally be headed by someone who is authorized to teach, such as a priest or deacon. My priest leads a weekly Bible study at my parish, and that's good. If that's not possible, it should be led by the Fathers. We have many good commentaries, many available for free online, that can be discussed in parallel to the scriptures.

What Bible study should *not* be is going around the table saying "This verse means to me..." It doesn't matter what it means to *you*.

Well put!
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« Reply #27 on: September 01, 2010, 12:51:04 PM »

The scripture is only dangerous to someone without guidance.  If I handed someone my liturgical spear (used in the preparation of the gifts) with no instructions, they may stab someone with it; or, I can teach them about the spear, its use, the symbolism, etc., and they can in turn take care of it properly.

Something that makes scriptural study for the Orthodox easier now than ever is the (relatively) easy access to the interpretation of the Saints - it would be simple for someone with a passion for the gospels to read what St. John Chrysostom, or St. Gregory, or any one of a large number of saints has written about them.  This becomes the instruction for use, and with both available the person can be nourished and strengthened.  St. John Chrysostom encouraged scriptural reading, but that's largely because he also knew that he was actively interpreting the scriptures for his congregation(s) on a nearly constant basis, giving them instruction on how to handle a (spiritually) potentially dangerous weapon meant to be used against the forces of evil and temptation.

There is something to be said, then, for encouraging people to read the scripture with caution and care, ensuring that they have a guide for interpretation and for order (it's good to read the gospels before tackling the OT, for example).

Father makes an excellent point.  One must keep in mind that we live, today, in a perversion of what was intended.  I would go as far as to say that if we followed the cycle of services, as a monk would do, we would have no need of a “personal” copy of the Bible.  Most of the Bible, at least any parts necessary for our Salvation, are read during the course of the year as part of the liturgical cycle.  In addition to this, the canons, troparia, kontakia and other hymns continuously interpret those scriptures for us.  Couple this with the readings from the Lives of the Saints (perhaps more common among the Greeks), and one would have nearly everything they need to know chanted to them during the cycle of services.

However, this is not reality.  The Bible is important to us today because we do not have daily liturgy, nor do many Churches serve the full cycle of services.  I am not sure that all monasteries do, not that it would help the average person who could not attend all the services anyway.  In addition, even the once a week Sunday services have been gutted to the point that little teaching is accomplished.  If Vespers or Matins are served at all, they are abbreviated and the canon has been removed from the Matins.  If a person would attend every service available, they would hear only a small part of the Scriptures.  That is why it is important for us to read them on our own at home as part of our private worship cycle.  In addition to the Bible, I believe it is also important for us to get as many service books and lives of the Saints as possible so that we are surrounded by the same witnesses at home as we are in Church.  Reading writings from the Saints and reading from the Menaion while we read from the Scriptures will help us from falling into the problems that Father mentions.
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« Reply #28 on: September 01, 2010, 01:24:56 PM »

One thing to consider is that the Bible had an even greater presence in the liturgy until the 8th c. since the Old Testament was read alongside the epistle & Gospel. Of course, this preceded the conversion of many eastern European lands & the tradition is divorced from them. Thankfully, the OT readings are preserved in Vespers & prominent during Great Lent; I think it would be beneficial for them to be taught more to us & to counter the doctrinal problems we see with scripture outside the church. I think the corruption that preceded & the chaos during the reformation must be understood as having hurt many people in the west & the word of God was where many rightfully sought refuge but problematic & chaotoc misunderstanding has resulted.
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« Reply #29 on: September 01, 2010, 01:28:31 PM »

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If we look back to the early days of the Church, we are astonished at its power, especially that of the newly-founded Churches. In spite of the fact that the people were simple and ignorant of the Bible- for manuscripts were only rarely possessed by individuals- and in spite of the newness of their faith in Christ and the deep influence of their old pagan customs, their spiritual life and their demonstrations of faith, love, and zeal were fine examples of a powerful life lived according to the precepts of the Gospel, a model for practical understanding of the meaning of eternal life, the Kingdom of God, living by faith, dying to the world, faithfulness to Christ, expectation of His second coming, and faith in the resurrection. Even up to the present time, we still draw on their faith and tradition, and understand only with difficulty the letters that were written to them, which they understood easily and lived out.

The secret of all this is that they lived by what they heard. Every commandment fell on faithful hearts prepared to act sincerely. All the words of Christ entered deeply into the fabric of daily life. The Gospel was translated into work and life.

Those simple people understood the Gospel. They understood the Gospel. They understood that it was a life to be lived, not principles to be discussed, and they refused to understand it on a purely academic level. Up to this day, faithful followers of Christ still draw life for themselves from the living spring of the understanding of those early Christians.

These early communities, burning with love for Christ, had no creeds, no patrology, no expositions of Scripture, but the few words of Christ that reached their ears immediately became their creed, needing no explanations or teaching or interpretation, but needing, as they saw it, to be experienced and lived. Through experience they would discover the power of the words and bring to light the mysteries they contained. And so their zeal and love and faith in Christ and the Gospel would grow.

When they heard “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” they sold everything and laid their money at the feet of the apostles.

When they heard “Blessed are those who mourn now,” they despised all suffering and weariness in the service of the Lord.

When they heard “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,” they bore the cruellest humiliations and insults and attacks.

When they heard “Watch and pray,” they met in the catacombs to watch and pray all night.

When they heard “Love your enemies,” history recorded no resistance put up by the Christians, whether positive or negative, against their persecutors. And they bowed their necks to the sword in humility and obedience to honor the word of Christ.

This was for them the meaning of reading the Gospel and understanding it. There was born in them a hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God, and this is why the Holy Spirit was at His most active in working with them. He would give power to the word, strengthen their hearts, support them in weakness, lead them in the darkness, comfort them in distress, and accompany them along the way till they gave up their spirit into the hand of its Creator with great glory.

Excerpt taken from the book: The Communion of Love, By: Matthew the Poor.
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« Reply #30 on: October 01, 2010, 02:07:28 AM »

I was reading in one of Augustin's posts that in Romania the people were not encouraged by the priests to read the Bible. On one hand, this rather surprised me, because I hear so often the phrase that we are the "Church of the Bible". So, one would think we Orthodox should be even more zealous of reading it than the Protestants, who are more disconnected from it, in a sense. I'm wondering what the reasons were for not encouraging the reading of Scripture, and if it was also discouraged in other Orthodox countries, such as Ukraine, Russia, Greece, etc.


Why the people in Romania are were forbidden to read the bible? Bible reading was the first and most important thing that the priest must to encourage to the people. Maybe it is the main culture in the Orthodox areas, but we don't consider it here because we always persuade others t read the bible as we does. 
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« Reply #31 on: October 01, 2010, 08:43:17 AM »

The scripture is only dangerous to someone without guidance.  If I handed someone my liturgical spear (used in the preparation of the gifts) with no instructions, they may stab someone with it; or, I can teach them about the spear, its use, the symbolism, etc., and they can in turn take care of it properly.

Something that makes scriptural study for the Orthodox easier now than ever is the (relatively) easy access to the interpretation of the Saints - it would be simple for someone with a passion for the gospels to read what St. John Chrysostom, or St. Gregory, or any one of a large number of saints has written about them.  This becomes the instruction for use, and with both available the person can be nourished and strengthened.  St. John Chrysostom encouraged scriptural reading, but that's largely because he also knew that he was actively interpreting the scriptures for his congregation(s) on a nearly constant basis, giving them instruction on how to handle a (spiritually) potentially dangerous weapon meant to be used against the forces of evil and temptation.

There is something to be said, then, for encouraging people to read the scripture with caution and care, ensuring that they have a guide for interpretation and for order (it's good to read the gospels before tackling the OT, for example).

Father makes an excellent point.  One must keep in mind that we live, today, in a perversion of what was intended.  I would go as far as to say that if we followed the cycle of services, as a monk would do, we would have no need of a “personal” copy of the Bible.  Most of the Bible, at least any parts necessary for our Salvation, are read during the course of the year as part of the liturgical cycle.  In addition to this, the canons, troparia, kontakia and other hymns continuously interpret those scriptures for us.  Couple this with the readings from the Lives of the Saints (perhaps more common among the Greeks), and one would have nearly everything they need to know chanted to them during the cycle of services.

However, this is not reality.  The Bible is important to us today because we do not have daily liturgy, nor do many Churches serve the full cycle of services.  I am not sure that all monasteries do, not that it would help the average person who could not attend all the services anyway.  In addition, even the once a week Sunday services have been gutted to the point that little teaching is accomplished.  If Vespers or Matins are served at all, they are abbreviated and the canon has been removed from the Matins.  If a person would attend every service available, they would hear only a small part of the Scriptures.  That is why it is important for us to read them on our own at home as part of our private worship cycle.  In addition to the Bible, I believe it is also important for us to get as many service books and lives of the Saints as possible so that we are surrounded by the same witnesses at home as we are in Church.  Reading writings from the Saints and reading from the Menaion while we read from the Scriptures will help us from falling into the problems that Father mentions.

I'll just add that the majority of our manuscript evidence for the Scriptures are lectionaries, supplimented by quotes in the Fathers as can be seen by looking at a critical edition of the Greek.
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                           and both come out of your mouth
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« Reply #32 on: October 01, 2010, 01:04:44 PM »

My friend attended a pan-Orthodox liturgy many years back at a Serbian parish.  The Serbian bishop gave a talk (a rant) on Bible studies in the churches.  He stated, according to my friend, "We don't do Bible studies in Orthodoxy, only Protestants do that! Bible studies lead to too many questions and confuse the people."  My friend and his priest found it amusing, to say the least. Smiley   
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