|Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries||Holy Bible|
Is it Christian, to accept ONLY what the Holy Bible says? // Is the Holy Bible the ONLY source of faith?
Is the Bible “The Word Of God”?
A reply by Protopresbyter George D. Metallinos (f. Dean of the Athens University School of Theology), during a meeting at the Church of Saint Antipas Athens at 08-nov-07, to the question:
“SHOULD WE CALL THE HOLY BIBLE ‘THE WORD OF GOD’? IF SO, WOULD IT MEAN THE LETTER (VERBATIM) , OR THE CONTENT (MESSAGE) OF THE GOSPEL?”
Transcript of the audio file by: T. F. D.
Well, first of all: The Western world (mainly the Protestant side of Western Christianity) has made us accustomed to the absolutized meaning of the phrase “Word of God”. It was taught to us in our catechism lessons; then, we too eventually came to say “The Holy Bible is the Word of God”.
It is the word of God – but only indirectly. That is to say, whatever is contained in the Holy Bible is of course ‘controlled’ by God, but if we wish to speak with scientific accuracy, it is not the (verbatim) Word of God. The Holy Bible is not –literally- the Word of God.
To begin with, God does not speak in any language. Not even Hebrew. This problem was posed by Gregory of Nyssa, who is the continuation of Plato’s “Kratylus” from the linguistic point of view. The second major Hellene linguist is Gregory of Nyssa, in his works “Against Eunomius”. He did not compose any linguistic works like Babiniotes [transl. note: =Greek lexicon author and linguist], however, he does give answers to linguistic issues.
Consequently, therefore, the problem here is the following: That the Scripture per se, as a written work, as a book, is not “the Word of God”. If this were the case, then we would be transforming it into a “Koran”. Poor Mohammed had proclaimed that God – through the Archangel Gabriel – had literally given him the Koran! Allah had supposedly thrown it down to him, from “above”…. Dare to claim that the Koran is merely a printed book? One shouldn’t even dream of saying such a thing! You know, it will actually have consequences. I have been to Iran and Iraq etc, many times for conferences and we are always very careful. Whenever we speak of the three Personae of God, their theologians (they also have their theologians) immediately stand up and say: “What? Did God get married, to have a son?” You see, they can only understand these matters from the human aspect. What can one say to them in this case? “Can’t you think through what I’m saying?”… So, you try to say: “No, it’s not like that……”
You see, they made me analyze the subject 2-3 times, and I was saying to myself “Dear God, why was it my luck to speak about the Holy Trinity?” I had asked myself this, both because of my sinfulness (in view of handling the topic), and also because those people COULD NOT UNDERSTAND; they have entirely different “inherent impressions” about certain things.
So, to reply to your question: The Bible per se, as a wording, as a text, is not THE Word of God. These things had also been analyzed by father Romanides….You know, it was fr. Romanides (may his memory be eternal!) who brought the Patristic tradition back to the surface. He did not concoct any new theological inventions of his own; because, there are some who say “oh, its just Romanides’ words…”. Well, its not “just Romanides’ words”! It is the Old and the New Testaments; it is the Ecumenical Synods; it is the Fathers and the Mothers of the Church! It is the experience of the Saints. That is what father John did: he came and shook us, he stirred up stagnant waters. Thus, it was he who said: “What is the Bible? It is the word that pertains to the Word of God”. It is a sacred book!
So, what can we conclude? Well, in the words of a Saint of our Church: “If all the Books of the Holy Bible (both the Old and the New Testament) were burnt simultaneously at once, a Saint could re-write the Holy Bible, in the Holy Spirit, because he is a true “bearer” of the Holy Bible, of God’s Revelations.” The Bible could be re-written! That is also why we assert that the parable of the Prodigal son is the gospel of gospels: Even if nothing else could be salvaged except the parable of the Prodigal son, we would learn that God exists and why He exists; we would learn about man and his relationship to God; in fact, all the mysteries of the faith could be solved therein.
Question from the audience: “Can we say that the Holy Bible is the revelation of God’s love?”
You should put aside all such sentimental-moral expressions…. Not that we don’t use them, but this is not the appropriate time. The Holy Bible (Old and New Testaments) is the “word about the Word of God”. And what is the “Word of God”? It is revelation; it is God’s revelation of Himself. In the Epistle to Hebrews, the manner of a revelation is defined as “multi-faceted and in numerous ways” (Hebr.1:1). God revealed Himself in thousands of ways, not only in the Old Testament, but everywhere in Creation. Observe how Creation makes you stop and think – if you have any degree of logic – how everything around us is not there by chance. Nature itself does not provide you with a revelation of God, but it does steer you towards the Grace of God. The Apostle Paul has said these things...
On the other hand, we have God’s supreme revelation, which is Jesus Christ - the Truth incarnate itself… Chrysostom and fr. Justin Popovic both refer to Him as the “Incarnate All-Truth” - the fulfillment of Truth… “Who will lead us to the fullness of truth.,.”. Jesus Christ Himself. In other words, God’s revelation is at its supreme peak in Christ – in the Son. This revelation is something that takes place inside Man’s heart; inside a pure heart, and not inside one’s intellect or in his nature.
This is the start of the whole thing. So here we have the matter of Augustine: By not having the experiences of the Saints and, lacking all knowledge of the Fathers of the East, Augustine (whom I honor as a saint) was under the impression that the divine manifestations recorded in the Old Testament were nothing more than passing phenomena (“made, then un-made”). But that view only applies to natural phenomena; in other words, (for argument’s sake), let’s say that we are studying the phenomenon of lightning or thunder. (Franklin, the American inventor, was one who had specifically studied lightning and thunder…) These phenomena have a beginning; then, when the sun comes out, they are gone and the rainbow appears. These are natural phenomena, which have a beginning and an end. God’s revelation however, has neither a beginning nor an end, and it takes place inside a person’s “heart”. Thus, the prophet, the apostle, or the saint who reach the same “heights”, will attain the same “inspiration”; the divine inspiration that each one experiences will not differ between them; it is the same one. Whosoever reaches the state of theosis (deification) – and it could be a grandchild of Adam or the last person living on earth prior to the Second Coming – will attain exactly the same theosis. They will all be participating in the event of the Pentecost. Therefore, whosoever attains the state of theosis, will “see” the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit; he will “see” that God has two Natures; he will “see” the Holy Virgin, etc.
These things are not a matter of logic, and one cannot be forced to accept them.
But, be careful! This is where a mistake occurs: Someone comes along (an “ignoramus”) and he says to you “in the name of astrophysics, in the name of mathematics, I refuse to acknowledge all these things!” No, my ignorant friend! Because, when you possess a telescope and claim to be studying stars that are thousands of light years away from Earth, and I –who am totally unfamiliar with this area- come along and tell you that “it is all a load of nonsense”, you will naturally say: “come and take a look through the telescope and see for yourself!”
same way, when someone has cleaned the “telescope” of his heart (the
metaphor is father John’s -may his memory be eternal; we would have
remained blind without father Romanides, who supplemented and
he will see the same “sight” – he will see what Abraham sees, what
Saint Spyridon sees, what the Apostles Paul and Peter see, and what
maybe even I could have seen. But, the thing is, we do not want to
exert ourselves – that is where the problem lies. To become a
scientist – for example an astrophysicist
So, to close the subject, whosoever reaches the stage of becoming a saint –of attaining theosis- can directly perceive what we call “revelation of God”. We who are blind, spiritually, seek support in what the Saints see, just like a blind person needs support (no offence intended here)… Intellect is an entirely different thing; I am referring to spiritual blindness here. A blind person can of course be an intellectual genius, but when he is in an unfamiliar area, he will require my support. So I will say to him: “there are steps here…now we have to go up…..now go down…” Is this considered offensive? Well, this is the way I am guided (or you, or the other person) by the Apostle Peter, the Apostle Paul, Basil the Great, i.e., they tell me: “there are steps here – you need to climb them”. In this way, we who are blind, depend on the experience of the Saints who are living inside the revelation of God, the self-revealing of God. Well, this revelation is what is known as “the word of God”, or, “there came the word of God” (Luke 3:2). What does “word of God” signify? Westerners believe that God Himself goes and whispers in a person’s ear, so they depict a little bird –the Holy Spirit- whispering something with its beak into Peter’s ear, or Paul’s, etc… Now that is a definite misinterpretation; it is the human-oriented element - the element that destroys the Bible’s spirituality.
Those who experience revelation actually experience these things, and that is what “the Word of God” means. Thereafter, it is necessary for the Prophet - or the Apostle – to disclose something of that experience. For example, Paul in his 2nd Epistle to Corinthians (12:2) says: “I know of a man in Christ, who, fourteen years ago (whether bodily I do not know, or outside his body, I do not know – only God knows) was swept up, to the third heaven”. He is using here the vernacular of his time. They just wouldn’t leave him in peace, so, at his wits’ end, he said he would tell them (because they kept saying to him “You are not an apostle – you didn’t see Christ!” and he kept insisting “I assure you, I did!”). So, he recounted his experience three times (how many more times he must have told it – five hundred and three?), of his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus. So, he reached the point of saying “do you really want to know how far I went?” You will also notice how he didn’t use the word “I” – instead, he says “I know of a man” (because he was ashamed to say “I”).
So, this was the experience that the Apostle Paul had. That experience per se, in conclusion, was “the Word of God”; it was a case of “there came the Word of God”; God’s Word…
The recounting of this experience – as narrated by the Saint – is the word of God, “second-hand”. The recording of this testimony, by those who had heard the Saint recounting the experience, is the word of God, “third-hand”. For example, Mark describes Peter’s preaching, Luke describes Paul’s preaching… And we at the University who study these things (or you, who read about them), possess the word of God, “fourth-hand”. Which is why the things that the poor Westerners’ religions tell us, are the word of God, “fourth-hand.”
You may remember an incident that I had told you in the past, of a person of German descent in America, in a dialogue that we had with Lutherans there. Professor G. approached me, saying: “Father George, don’t forget that we are temples of the Holy Spirit”. I immediately perceived what he was getting at, so, with much love, I said to him “from where did you surmise that?”
He replied: “Here, in 1 Corinthians 3:26, 2 Corinthians, it says that “you are temples of God, and the Spirit of God resides within you”.
I said: “Excuse me, but just because it says so in there, does that mean that we actually are temples of God?”
He replied: “We are baptized, therefore…”
I said: “Forgive me, but if the devil reads that tract, is he also a temple of God?”
He took my hand and said: “Brother Metallinos, I understand”.
After which, we sat down for a whole hour and discussed the subject of “when does man become a temple of the Holy Spirit”, and he agreed with everything. These things were accepted by the Lutherans! It is an entirely different issue, however (forgive me, but we must be aware of these matters), that all these matters depend on the Masonic powers in Geneva.
Finally, they removed Romanides, myself, and certain others who were involved in the dialogue on these matters (especially Romanides), and they continued without us, exchanging various “exotic fairytales” amongst themselves. Georg K., a professor from Munich and historian, realized what was going on, and one time –the last time that Romanides and myself were with them- he remarked: “Unfortunately, they don’t want us to continue this wonderful dialogue”.
Because many of them –even the Lutherans- were saying “you are trying to make us Orthodox!”, and we would reply: “Not ‘Orthodox’, you guys, just ‘Christians’! We want you to become Christians and make ourselves Christians too!”
We shall stop here, and continue this discussion another time.
Translation by: K. N.
Article published in English on: 8-12-2007.
Last update: 8-12-2007.