|Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries||Holy Bible|
The meaning of Divine Inspiration of the Holy Bible and the sources that confirm its canonicity // Classification of the books of the Holy Bible // Is the Holy Bible the ONLY source of faith?
Is it Christian, to accept ONLY what the Holy Bible says?
We very frequently hear Protestant believers saying that: “We acknowledge only the Holy Bible. We refer to nothing more, and nothing less.” Despite this reassurance, there is a plethora of differences amongst Protestant groups, and even amongst the members of the same group.
How is it possible ( since Protestants say that they “do not stray from the Holy Bible” ) that they are in disagreement amongst each other? If the Holy Bible had indeed been given by God as a “written article of faith” - a complete guide on what we should believe in – then they should all be in agreement amongst themselves, as to what it really states; in reality, however, their divergences are enormous.
If God had wanted us to use the Holy Bible as the only guide for the faith, He would have ensured that its contents were exactly the same in every language, and in every translation. However, it is a fact that apart from the different translations in Greek and Hebrew, where the words are rendered differently, there are also differences in the interpretations from language to language. In fact, it is customary for the various religions to each create their own translation, in order to alter its meaning, according to their individual dogmatic peculiarities.
Only the Bible?
As an example of this, we shall refer to an excerpt of the Holy Bible, relative to this topic, as recorded in the ancient text, and as distorted by assorted translations, after being influenced by Protestant traditions.
We refer to Timothy II, chapter 3:16, where, according to the text, it says: “Every divinely inspired scripture (is) also beneficial for teaching, for checking, for rectification, for education within justice….” However, various translations of this verse quote it as follows: “The Scripture is divinely inspired and beneficial for teaching, for checking ….…”
These translations have inserted the article “the” and have also placed the word “is” before the word “divinely inspired”, thus giving the impression that this verse is referring to “THE” Scripture overall. It is with this alternative presentation that they attempt to support their viewpoints that “ONLY the Holy Scriptures are divinely inspired”.
Nonetheless, this verse does not maintain that ONLY the Holy Bible is divinely inspired. In actual fact, it is pointing out that “Every divinely inspired writing (is) also beneficial….” This verse makes no mention whatsoever of the Holy Bible! It speaks of any (=every) divinely inspired writing! Besides, when this verse was being composed, only the Old Testament was acknowledged as the Holy Bible.
Someone may protest to this, saying: “But there is no other divinely inspired writing, apart from the Holy Scriptures!”
In reality, there is no mention in the Holy Bible that it alone is divinely inspired, nor does it say anywhere that we are obliged to accept only the Bible and nothing else! These assertions however, are something entirely different! They comprise a non-Christian, worldly tradition, which the Church never upheld during its 20 centuries.
The Holy Bible itself does not agree with the concept that we must accept it as being the article and the basis of the faith. Paul the Apostle states this very clearly, in his Epistle to Timothy I, chapter 3/III:15: “..and if I should be delayed, (I am writing to you) so that you may know how to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the Church of the Living God, the pillar and the basis of the truth.”
According to these words, if we desire to learn the truth, the basis of our faith does not lie in the Holy Bible, but in the Church!. As Holy and divinely inspired as the Bible may be, it was not written for the purpose of supporting our dogmas. The dogmas are supported by the Church. The Holy Bible is merely one of the means that the Church expresses itself! And the Church has many means for divinely inspired expression.
The verse quoted above also replies to the question that is posed by some, i.e.: “Even if it is accepted that there are other divinely inspired writings beyond the Holy Bible, how can we feel sure about anything else outside the Holy Bible that may have been written so close to Christ’s time?”
The answer is: Just as the Church had vouched for the credibility of the Holy Bible, in the same way it can vouch for the credibility of the remaining Ecclesiastic tradition. If the Church is to be considered untrustworthy to vouch for a certain text, then it will necessarily be considered untrustworthy in its selection of books for the composition of the Holy Bible! Given that the Holy Bible doesn’t contain any index of its books, the reader must necessarily resort to traditional sources outside the Holy Bible.
As we know, the New Testament took on its present form during the 4th century A.D. when the Canon of Saint Athanasios prevailed, which for the first time added the book of Revelations to the New Testament. Up to that time, no Canons had included it. So, how can anyone accept the book of Revelations (which was a 4th century choice) and reject older texts of the Church as unreliable ones?
Various Protestant religions, as by-products of the 16th century Reform era and lacking any historical continuity from the time of the Apostles, have placed in doubt the pre-existing (to Protestantism) Church and arbitrarily declare that the Church was in apostasy. In this way, they have acknowledged only the Holy Bible, which apparently dates back to the time of the Apostles. The truth is, that the 4th century Church (which they do not acknowledge) was the one that defined which books were to comprise the Holy Bible. There were other, 1st century writings at the time; on the basis of the 4th century’s tradition, Saint Athanasios selected those books that concurred with Ecclesiastic Tradition. To the extent, therefore, that Sacred Tradition is considered apostatic and wrong during the 4th century, to the same extent the Holy Bible must be considered equally apostatic and wrong.
“But then, why are there contradictions in the Holy Bible and the rest of Tradition?” one might ask.
The fact is, that there is no contradiction. Just as a non-believer reads the Holy Bible distrustfully, finding contradictions from book to book, in the same way, Protestants will find the same apparent “contradictions” if they read any of the other divinely inspired writings distrustfully.
In the Holy Bible for example, we read in Matthew 23/XXIII 9: “….do not address anyone on earth as your father”; but in another verse, in Corinthians I, 4/IV 14-15, the Apostle Paul calls himself the father of Corinthians, and he in fact tells them that they have no other father except him!
The faithful can discern the difference in the meaning of the word “father” in these two verses. In the first verse above, the word is used in its absolute sense, appropriate only for God, and in the second verse, it is used in a relative sense, which is appropriate for people also. A non-believer’s comment however, would be that these two verses are contradictory, just as a Protestant accuses the Church that it addresses ordinary people as “fathers”. It is interesting to note that this person doesn’t accuse the Apostle Paul of contradicting Jesus Christ in his Epistle! He does locate contradictions however, in the remaining Sacred Tradition…
The same occurs, with everything else in the Sacred Tradition that Protestants accuse. It would be more responsible of them if, before accusing, they enquire as to the reason something is said, and not invent reasons of their own.
All of the above indicate yet another dimension regarding the understanding of what is written. The fact that everyone indulges in interpreting the Holy Bible according to his own judgment, resulting in the thousands of miscellaneous religions each insisting that their interpretation is the correct one, is proof enough that the Holy Bible alone is not the safest guide to God. The guidance of the Church is imperative: the Church that drafted and selected the books of the Holy Bible. It is the Church, as the pillar and the basis of the truth that has preserved the Gospel unaltered throughout the centuries. Wherever there are blanks in the Holy Bible, these are filled by the other, divinely inspired sources.
“But then (a reader may persistently ask), why is it that at the end of the Bible, it prohibits the addition or the removal of whatever is written in it?”
The truth is, that the book that this verse refers to, is Revelations (Revelations, 22/XXII v.18-19), and not the Holy Bible as a whole. It could not possibly be implying the Holy Bible, because it mentions “in this prophecy”. Furthermore, the book of Revelations was added to the Holy Bible in the 4th century for the first time. And what is more important, John’s Epistles II and III were written in 98 A.D., two years after the book of Revelations! If this verse therefore implies all of the Bible books, then they too would have to be left out of the Bible.
On the contrary, the Holy Bible says that there are other sources apart from it. In the last verse of John the Evangelist, it says: “… Jesus did many other things, which, if written down one by one, there would not be enough room in the world to hold those writings”.
And elsewhere, the Holy Bible itself asks us –by the mouth of the Apostle Paul- not to reject Sacred Tradition; In Thessalonians II, 2/II 15 we read: “Therefore my brethren, stay steadfast and preserve the traditions that you were taught, either verbally, or through an Epistle of ours.”
So, apart from everything that was written in the Epistles of the Apostles, their word was also recorded, and preserved to this day, along with the remaining tradition. Why then, don’t the deniers of tradition accept these words of the Holy Bible?
They should be very careful when invoking the words of the Lord that were directed against the tradition of the Pharisees, because those words were directed against Judean tradition, and not Christian tradition.
Christian tradition also includes “solid sustenance”, which the Apostle Paul refers to in his Epistle to Hebrew, in chapter 5/V 11-14. In this most difficult epistle of the Holy Bible, the author refers to all of these as “milk”. But if that is the case, then the Holy Bible mustn’t contain the “solid sustenance”!! Consequently, “solid sustenance” must be sought in the rest of the Sacred Tradition.
The same thing is apparent in verse 19 in Peter’s Epistle II. In there, the divinely inspired prophetic word is merely a lamp that glows in a dark place, until the light-bearer comes forth inside our hearts.
Let us therefore prudently use this lamp (the Holy Bible), which is the introduction into the faith, so that we may be granted the appreciation of everything that God has to teach us.
Translation by A.N.
Article published in English on: 30-7-2005.
Last update: 4-8-2005.