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Author Topic: EO and biblical scholarship  (Read 974 times) Average Rating: 0
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Big Chris
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« on: May 22, 2012, 09:01:40 AM »

I was browsing some blogs and ran across a comment which intrigued me:

Quote
Eastern Orthodoxy has no Biblical scholarship whatsoever. Orthodox appreciation of Scripture is about at the level where Catholic appreciation was when Pope Pius IX (?) was still issuing encyclicals to the effect that it was nearly a sin to produce or read vulgar language translations instead of the Vulgate (the original vulgar language translation).

Quote
The standard Orthodox line I've heard in regards to it (Biblical scholarship) is, "The Comma Johanneum is legitimate because we believe in it" albeit from Orthodox priests, not scholars.

From those sort of statements I induced that the entire faith tradition of Orthodoxy was positively hostile to any kind of critical scholarship.

Thoughts?
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« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2012, 10:50:16 AM »

I think that to properly address those comments, I'd like to know where these statements are located. It would help because obviously, this person (people) are contrasting with what they consider biblical scholarship.

However a general answer would be that I disagree as Orthodox scholarship of the scriptures dont just go into the text itself, but the language, culture, and history of the text in addition to the text itself.

I would also state that in response to:
Quote
Orthodox appreciation of Scripture is about at the level where Catholic appreciation was when Pope Pius IX (?) was still issuing encyclicals to the effect that it was nearly a sin to produce or read vulgar language translations instead of the Vulgate (the original vulgar language translation).
Is really quite silly and has nothing to do with each other.

PP
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« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2012, 11:10:09 AM »

I think that to properly address those comments, I'd like to know where these statements are located. It would help because obviously, this person (people) are contrasting with what they consider biblical scholarship.

I personally think the comments which I posted could be addressed without the fuller context, but if you must know:

http://catholicbibles.blogspot.com/2011/10/noab-rsv-changes.html
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« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2012, 12:14:04 PM »

Does "Biblical scholarship" mean that we must use the oldest version of the Biblical text?
From an Orthodox POV, I would say no. We can acknowledge certain textual variants to be later developments, and still use them, because the Holy Spirit was active not only in the composition of Biblical texts, but also in their transmission within the Church until our day.
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« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2012, 01:17:52 PM »

I think that to properly address those comments, I'd like to know where these statements are located. It would help because obviously, this person (people) are contrasting with what they consider biblical scholarship.

I personally think the comments which I posted could be addressed without the fuller context, but if you must know:

http://catholicbibles.blogspot.com/2011/10/noab-rsv-changes.html
The only reason why I mentioned context is because in the quote concerning the scholarship, the speaker appears to try and contrast Orthodox scholarship to his opinion of "good" scholarship. I was just wanting to know what scholarship the speaker considered "good.

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« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2012, 01:28:33 PM »

I was browsing some blogs and ran across a comment which intrigued me:

Quote
Eastern Orthodoxy has no Biblical scholarship whatsoever. Orthodox appreciation of Scripture is about at the level where Catholic appreciation was when Pope Pius IX (?) was still issuing encyclicals to the effect that it was nearly a sin to produce or read vulgar language translations instead of the Vulgate (the original vulgar language translation).

Quote
The standard Orthodox line I've heard in regards to it (Biblical scholarship) is, "The Comma Johanneum is legitimate because we believe in it" albeit from Orthodox priests, not scholars.

From those sort of statements I induced that the entire faith tradition of Orthodoxy was positively hostile to any kind of critical scholarship.

Thoughts?

I think these statements badly mischaracterize the Orthodox relationship to 'Biblical scholarship', but they do rather capture the source of the misunderstanding. The thing is, 'Biblical scholarship', particularly textual scholarship arose out of specific context in Western intellectual history that really didn't have much relevence to the East. First, there was the fact that the West, for the most part, completely lost contact with the original Greek text. So when Greek manuscripts began to become available again during the Renaissance, the question naturally arose 'do we stick with the (translated) text we've been using for centuries or do we revisit it in light of this new-old data' (a question obviously completely irrelevent to the Greek East). Then on top of that came the Reformation with its movement away from authoritative Church Tradition and towards a sola scriptura stance. As the primary (or even sole) basis for doctrine became the text of Scripture, it became critically important to establish what the exact text was. Orthodoxy (and Rome) had long been aware of the existence of manuscript variants, but since all interpretation of Scripture was done within the context of the Church's established doctrine, it wasn't seen as that important. If a variant was bad enough that it really altered the meaning, then the manuscript could be corrected (or destroyed) but minor details or those affecting very fine points of meaning were simply not that important because doctrine was established by the whole Tradition of the Church and not by any one single line of Scripture.

In the same context, Orthodoxy had long been aware that the authorship of certain books was 'questionable'. The thing is this was thrashed out in the 2nd-4th centuries and the Church came to the conclusion that books like Hebrews, the Petrine epistles, the Johnnine epistles, may or may not have been written by the ascribed authors, but either way, their content was appropriate to Apostolic doctrine and they could be use authoritatively. In other words, the question of authorship was 'settled' but not in the sense of 'we've proven 2 Peter was actually written by St. Peter' but rather in the sense of 'whether it was written by St. Peter or not' the Church considers it an accurate account of Petrine doctrine. Thus, for us, new evidence or arguments about who did or did not write this or that book may be interesting--but it's not *important*, because the authority of the text is not solely in the author but in the in primatur of the Church.

Thus, in my experience, Orthodoxy is not 'hostile' to Biblical scholarship at all. Orthodox scholars are aware of it and take it into account where it's relevent--we just don't think it's nearly as relevant as many Western Christians think it is.
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« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2012, 01:33:13 PM »

I don`t really understand what the OP wants..
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« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2012, 01:41:43 PM »

In the same context, Orthodoxy had long been aware that the authorship of certain books was 'questionable'. The thing is this was thrashed out in the 2nd-4th centuries and the Church came to the conclusion that books like Hebrews, the Petrine epistles, the Johnnine epistles, may or may not have been written by the ascribed authors, but either way, their content was appropriate to Apostolic doctrine and they could be use authoritatively. In other words, the question of authorship was 'settled' but not in the sense of 'we've proven 2 Peter was actually written by St. Peter' but rather in the sense of 'whether it was written by St. Peter or not' the Church considers it an accurate account of Petrine doctrine. Thus, for us, new evidence or arguments about who did or did not write this or that book may be interesting--but it's not *important*, because the authority of the text is not solely in the author but in the in primatur of the Church.

I don't get this impression from the book introductions in the OSB.  Granted, those introductions seem to have been slapped together in a matter of hours by an undergrad; still, they do resemble your average Evangelical study Bible, placing great emphasis on the Paulicity of Colossians, the Matthewicity of Matthew, etc. in a rather fundamentalist manner.  Furthermore, there is absolutely no discussion elsewhere, that I have read, to the effect of what you say above.  I must say that your approach seems somewhat liberal.
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« Reply #8 on: May 22, 2012, 01:58:30 PM »

In the same context, Orthodoxy had long been aware that the authorship of certain books was 'questionable'. The thing is this was thrashed out in the 2nd-4th centuries and the Church came to the conclusion that books like Hebrews, the Petrine epistles, the Johnnine epistles, may or may not have been written by the ascribed authors, but either way, their content was appropriate to Apostolic doctrine and they could be use authoritatively. In other words, the question of authorship was 'settled' but not in the sense of 'we've proven 2 Peter was actually written by St. Peter' but rather in the sense of 'whether it was written by St. Peter or not' the Church considers it an accurate account of Petrine doctrine. Thus, for us, new evidence or arguments about who did or did not write this or that book may be interesting--but it's not *important*, because the authority of the text is not solely in the author but in the in primatur of the Church.

I don't get this impression from the book introductions in the OSB.  Granted, those introductions seem to have been slapped together in a matter of hours by an undergrad; still, they do resemble your average Evangelical study Bible, placing great emphasis on the Paulicity of Colossians, the Matthewicity of Matthew, etc. in a rather fundamentalist manner.  Furthermore, there is absolutely no discussion elsewhere, that I have read, to the effect of what you say above.  I must say that your approach seems somewhat liberal.

I wouldn't say that it is liberal. What witega wrote is essentially what I gather from most Orthodox when discussing authorship. Also, a book could have Matthewicity and still not be written by Matthew, it could just fall in line with the Apostolic teachings of Matthew
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« Reply #9 on: May 22, 2012, 02:22:46 PM »

Furthermore, there is absolutely no discussion elsewhere, that I have read, to the effect of what you say above.  I must say that your approach seems somewhat liberal.

Fwiw I agree with witega's entire post, and it's not often that I can say that about a post on this topic, because issues of transmission, canonicity, authorship, textual criticism, and especially the interrelations of Scripture with other authories, are areas in which I particularly enjoy nitpicking about things I disagree with.
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« Reply #10 on: May 22, 2012, 03:02:28 PM »

Fwiw I agree with witega's entire post, and it's not often that I can say that about a post on this topic, because issues of transmission, canonicity, authorship, textual criticism, and especially the interrelations of Scripture with other authories, are areas in which I particularly enjoy nitpicking about things I disagree with.

...and to think of all the time Western scholars have wasted and continue to waste on a matter which is a non-issue.
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« Reply #11 on: May 22, 2012, 03:15:44 PM »

Fwiw I agree with witega's entire post, and it's not often that I can say that about a post on this topic, because issues of transmission, canonicity, authorship, textual criticism, and especially the interrelations of Scripture with other authories, are areas in which I particularly enjoy nitpicking about things I disagree with.

...and to think of all the time Western scholars have wasted and continue to waste on a matter which is a non-issue.

If only you had meant this...
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« Reply #12 on: May 22, 2012, 03:33:37 PM »

Fwiw I agree with witega's entire post, and it's not often that I can say that about a post on this topic, because issues of transmission, canonicity, authorship, textual criticism, and especially the interrelations of Scripture with other authories, are areas in which I particularly enjoy nitpicking about things I disagree with.

...and to think of all the time Western scholars have wasted and continue to waste on a matter which is a non-issue.

If only you had meant this...

Oh, but I most sincerely do.  And I've actually told a few biblical scholars such too.  They never reply to my e-mails, tho.   Huh
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« Reply #13 on: May 22, 2012, 03:38:11 PM »

Fwiw I agree with witega's entire post, and it's not often that I can say that about a post on this topic, because issues of transmission, canonicity, authorship, textual criticism, and especially the interrelations of Scripture with other authories, are areas in which I particularly enjoy nitpicking about things I disagree with.

...and to think of all the time Western scholars have wasted and continue to waste on a matter which is a non-issue.

If only you had meant this...

Oh, but I most sincerely do.  And I've actually told a few biblical scholars such too.  They never reply to my e-mails, tho.   Huh

Sorry, but I laughed hard at that. I don't doubt your sincerity, but those last two sentences remind me of me. I've tried to email a few biblical scholars before and never got replies.  Cheesy
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« Reply #14 on: May 22, 2012, 03:45:58 PM »


Sorry, but I laughed hard at that. I don't doubt your sincerity, but those last two sentences remind me of me. I've tried to email a few biblical scholars before and never got replies.  Cheesy

I actually have gotten a few replies.  I once even had a good discussion with William Arnal, the lesser-known protege of "Q" scholar John Kloppenborg, until, quite literally, I commented on the futility of most biblical scholarship.  He never replied to that e-mail.   laugh
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« Reply #15 on: May 22, 2012, 03:55:26 PM »

In the same context, Orthodoxy had long been aware that the authorship of certain books was 'questionable'. The thing is this was thrashed out in the 2nd-4th centuries and the Church came to the conclusion that books like Hebrews, the Petrine epistles, the Johnnine epistles, may or may not have been written by the ascribed authors, but either way, their content was appropriate to Apostolic doctrine and they could be use authoritatively. In other words, the question of authorship was 'settled' but not in the sense of 'we've proven 2 Peter was actually written by St. Peter' but rather in the sense of 'whether it was written by St. Peter or not' the Church considers it an accurate account of Petrine doctrine. Thus, for us, new evidence or arguments about who did or did not write this or that book may be interesting--but it's not *important*, because the authority of the text is not solely in the author but in the in primatur of the Church.

I don't get this impression from the book introductions in the OSB.  Granted, those introductions seem to have been slapped together in a matter of hours by an undergrad; still, they do resemble your average Evangelical study Bible, placing great emphasis on the Paulicity of Colossians, the Matthewicity of Matthew, etc. in a rather fundamentalist manner.  Furthermore, there is absolutely no discussion elsewhere, that I have read, to the effect of what you say above.  I must say that your approach seems somewhat liberal.

To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of the OSB specifically because the introductions and commentary often come across as written by former evangelicals writing apologetics for an evangelical audience (and I say that as a born and raised Evangelical myself, though, by the Grace of God, I have now been Orthodox for the majority of my life) rather than Orthodox writing for Orthodox.

For what it's worth, I find this, from the introduction to his 'The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary' by the ever-memorable Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas (OCA) to be more characteristic of the Orthodox approach:

Quote
It was taken for granted by many of the great Fathers of the Church that St. Paul was the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, but even in their times there were others who doubted it. Modern biblical scholars generally question his authorship and some reject it outright, bringing forth arguments based on style and language or on differences between the known epistles of St. Paul and that addressed to the Hebrews on a number of themes, such as justification. Neither this noun nor the verby "justify" occurs in this Epistle.

[he then includes quotes from St. John Chrysostom and Eusebius, referencing St. Clement of Alexandria, who argued for Pauline authorship]

Still, it is not our purpose to enter into a discussion of the authorship of the Epistle; we only wish to explore the richness of its message for the edification of our people.

That is: acknowledgment that there is legimate scholarly dispute on the matter in the modern period, acknowledgment there was dispute in the early Patristic period, reference to the ancient authorities the Church decided to follow in finally including the book in the canon--and then setting the issue aside to focus on the content as what is important/interesting.
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« Reply #16 on: May 22, 2012, 04:17:14 PM »

I'm not a huge fan of the OSB specifically because the introductions and commentary often come across as written by former evangelicals writing apologetics for an evangelical audience (and I say that as a born and raised Evangelical myself, though, by the Grace of God, I have now been Orthodox for the majority of my life) rather than Orthodox writing for Orthodox.

I'm not knocking your comment, witega, but I almost always read these criticisms from converts.  Funny thing, neither of my priests (both cradle, one from the "old country" with almost entirely cradle congregations) had any notable problems with the commentary.

It's good for Orthodox people to be able to distinguish their faith from other versions. 
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« Reply #17 on: May 22, 2012, 05:12:25 PM »

Does "Biblical scholarship" mean that we must use the oldest version of the Biblical text?
From an Orthodox POV, I would say no. We can acknowledge certain textual variants to be later developments, and still use them, because the Holy Spirit was active not only in the composition of Biblical texts, but also in their transmission within the Church until our day.

Besides, the oldest extant texts do not reflect necessarily the oldest texts.  "Majority" texts usually do this.  As the older texts fell apart and got thrown into the holy burn pile (which almost happened with the codex Sinaiticus), the "majority" successions reflect what they replaced, that is, the texts which did not have quirks.   
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« Reply #18 on: May 22, 2012, 05:16:00 PM »

I'm not a huge fan of the OSB specifically because the introductions and commentary often come across as written by former evangelicals writing apologetics for an evangelical audience (and I say that as a born and raised Evangelical myself, though, by the Grace of God, I have now been Orthodox for the majority of my life) rather than Orthodox writing for Orthodox.

I'm not knocking your comment, witega, but I almost always read these criticisms from converts.  Funny thing, neither of my priests (both cradle, one from the "old country" with almost entirely cradle congregations) had any notable problems with the commentary.

It's good for Orthodox people to be able to distinguish their faith from other versions. 

I don't have 'any notable problems with the commentary' either (difference between 'not a huge fan' and actively oppose)--I just don't find that it covers much ground beyond what I covered 20 years ago in getting to the Church. Now that 'evangelical objections to Orthodox positions' is no longer a major concern for me, I rarely find it useful.
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« Reply #19 on: May 25, 2012, 12:09:55 PM »



That is: acknowledgment that there is legimate scholarly dispute on the matter in the modern period, acknowledgment there was dispute in the early Patristic period, reference to the ancient authorities the Church decided to follow in finally including the book in the canon--and then setting the issue aside to focus on the content as what is important/interesting.

So, are Orthodox not as concerned with the Gospels being first-hand or "eyewitness" testimony like Protestants?  Would the Orthodox say that even if Christ was "scripted," it was in accordance with apostolic tradition?  What is the relationship between Orthodoxy and Protestant scholarship which emphasizes the necessity of the Gospels as proof of the historical Jesus?
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« Reply #20 on: May 25, 2012, 01:06:14 PM »



That is: acknowledgment that there is legimate scholarly dispute on the matter in the modern period, acknowledgment there was dispute in the early Patristic period, reference to the ancient authorities the Church decided to follow in finally including the book in the canon--and then setting the issue aside to focus on the content as what is important/interesting.

So, are Orthodox not as concerned with the Gospels being first-hand or "eyewitness" testimony like Protestants?  Would the Orthodox say that even if Christ was "scripted," it was in accordance with apostolic tradition?  What is the relationship between Orthodoxy and Protestant scholarship which emphasizes the necessity of the Gospels as proof of the historical Jesus?
At odds.  If, for instance, one could prove that the Gospel of Thomas contains Christs words (as the Jesus Seminar has concluded), that wouldn't put it in the canon.  It would still be useful for historical purposes, but the Church isn't about collecting facts and trivia to know about Christ, but to know Him.
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« Reply #21 on: May 25, 2012, 03:49:16 PM »


At odds.  If, for instance, one could prove that the Gospel of Thomas contains Christs words (as the Jesus Seminar has concluded), that wouldn't put it in the canon.  It would still be useful for historical purposes, but the Church isn't about collecting facts and trivia to know about Christ, but to know Him.

Really?

I see your point though.

Something about such an approach seems careless to me, though.  Perhaps it's nothing more than Western conditioning.

Where, then, does Paul Nadim Tarazi's books fit in?  Especially his NT introduction series wherein he argues for a Pauline influenced NT canon.
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« Reply #22 on: May 26, 2012, 08:59:47 AM »

Just for note: I met a great Orthodox New Testament scholar today, Prof. Ivan Zhelev Dimitrov. I would recommend everyone who claims we have no Biblical scholarship to come to Bulgaria and meet this man.

The Russian Wikipedia article has a list of his publications:
http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%94%D0%B8%D0%BC%D0%B8%D1%82%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B2,_%D0%98%D0%B2%D0%B0%D0%BD_%D0%96%D0%B5%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%B2
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