"The Bible did not just fall from the sky." That is a common phrase that you might hear if you are around Eastern Orthodox Christians for any length of time. Usually, an explanation will follow, which describes in a nutshell Eastern Orthodox views on the Bible: "The Bible did not produce the Church, but the Church produced the Bible." This belief influences the way the Orthodox Church understands and interprets the Bible.
Holy Tradition and the Bible
Eastern Orthodox Christians believe that the Bible is revelation from the Holy Spirit working in cooperation with human authors in the context of the Church. In the Orthodox Church, Holy Tradition is considered the vehicle through which God reveals truth to the Church and world. The Bible is the central element of Holy Tradition. Other expressions of divine guidance for the Church include the writings of men and women in the early church that have been passed down from the first four centuries, the lives of the saints, iconography and art, the Divine Liturgy, and the sacraments. These aspects of Holy Tradition together have equal authority, although the Bible is central, infuses all other aspects and is also informed by them.
The Canon of the Bible
As with Roman Catholics, the Bible in the Orthodox Church includes two collections: the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament canon, or rule. The Orthodox, like Roman Catholics, accept books that are not included in most Bibles used by Protestants, commonly referred to as the Apocrypha. The Orthodox understand the New Testament canon as coming into being over a long time as a product of the Church's life and witness.
Inspiration, Authority, Infallibility and Inerrancy
As the Rev. David Wooten, an Orthodox priest and writer, explains, the Orthodox believe that the Scriptures are divinely inspired as human agents cooperated with the grace of God to reveal truths about God. Issues surrounding infallibility and inerrancy are rarely, if ever, discussed in those terms within the Orthodox communion. The Orthodox generally do not approach the Scriptures with the same kind of literalism as many do in the West. Because of this, contradiction can be acknowledged in the Scriptures without undermining the genuine meaning of the text.
How Orthodox Christians Interpret the Bible
The Scriptures are understood by the Orthodox to infuse all other aspects of tradition, and are given primacy, but not supremacy. The Orthodox Church, unlike many Protestant communions, does not adhere to a doctrine of "Scripture alone." And unlike Roman Catholic communions, Orthodox Christians do not invest supremacy in clergy to properly interpret the Bible, either. Instead, the Bible is interpreted in the light and context of all other aspects of Holy Tradition, as all are passed down and integrated together within the life and experience of the Church through history.
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