Touching the Web
From that day on, my friendship with Nikos had changed. At every opportunity we discussed God and His purpose for humanity. Nikos was eager to answer each one of my questions, and I received satisfactory answers every time. With admiration, but not without some doubt, I listened to him happily talk about his expectations of the “eternal life.” I was totally convinced that his love for God was genuine, not hypocritical. His joy when speaking about God was real.
I was truly elated to see a young man “live” his faith and place it first in his life. This enthusiasm was contagious, and I was beginning to “catch it” day-by-day. What made a deep impression on me was that Nikos never resorted to his opinion. Whatever he thought was the opinion of all the “witnesses,” he proved by referring to the Holy Scripture. I often wondered how he was able to find whatever he wanted so easily in the Scriptures. On my end, after our initial discussions, I searched for an old copy of the Holy Scripture, which I remember seeing somewhere in my house. After much effort, I discovered a small New Testament in the attic under a massive, dusty pile of books. A strong cough accompanied my discovery, as a cloud of dust overtook the room from the falling stacks of old books. I was overjoyed at this discovery because now I could confirm and check the validity of what I had heard. I would now see for myself if the Holy Scripture of the Orthodox is the same as the Scripture used by the “witnesses” since many were claiming that the “witnesses” have their own Holy Scripture, which is different from ours. That same evening I took my small New Testament with me as I went to meet Nikos.
“Now I will show you your delusion!” I said half-seriously, half-jokingly. “Let’s see how, in which verses you changed the Holy Scripture.”
Nikos smiled and proceeded to help me compare sections of the New Testament pages I had brought along with the corresponding sections of his Holy Scripture. Although there
was a slight difference in the language format, the overall meaning did not change.
“Your New Testament is the original text.” He went on to explain, “My version, however, is a translation of the text in a more accessible language. Since the Greek language has changed over the last 2000 years, we use something more simple. The priests, however, prefer to use the difficult ancient Greek language to keep the world in the dark.”
After seeing the older form of the language in my own New Testament, I accepted his words without any reservation. I did not know to look in the front of his book to see the author of his translation, Archimadrite Neophytos Vamvas. Afterwards, he explained that I only had one of the two sections of the Holy Scripture, the New Testament. He showed me his Bible, and referred to its “sixty-six” books, which he showed me in the contents of his translation. He told me that Christians must ONLY accept the Holy Scripture with its sixty-six books and must totally rely on this ONLY. I accepted these last words as axiomatic, assuming that this must be the common belief of all Christian confessions as advocated by Nikos. Unfortunately, I just made my second and biggest mistake to date. I failed to search and find out how many books my religion accepted as God inspired Scripture and the reasoning behind it. I never asked for proof of the axiom SOLA SCRPTURA and why “we must ONLY rely on it as the ONLY God inspired resource.”
From that day on I did not accept anything if I first did not see it written in the Holy Scripture. I asked Nikos to find a Holy Scripture for me like the one he was using, which he happily found very quickly. I was overjoyed since now I had in my possession the “entire” Holy Scripture with its sixty-six books.
I believed that I had the “entire word of God” in my hands. The next few days, I began reading the book of Genesis. Although this ancient script was rather tiring, I read with much joy up until I reached some difficult passages in Exodus. There, feeling tired from the plethora of names and technical descriptions, I made the mistake of discontinuing its “book-by-book” reading. In the years to follow, I read it selectively, like my friend.
One day my mother entered my room and asked me, “What kind of book are you always so busy reading?”
“The Holy Scripture!” I replied. “It was given to me by a classmate who is a “Jehovah’s witness.”
“What! Throw it away immediately! It is not the same as ours!”she yelled.
Not missing a beat, I took the small New Testament she was also familiar with, and I showed her that the Holy Scripture is the same.
“Well, at least be careful not to fall in their trap because they are ‘thrice-cursed,’ and they are bribed to change their religion!” she cried.
“Don’t worry! Rest assured that I will not fall away! I know what I’m doing! But you should know that they don’t get paid, because otherwise Nikos would not have to work to support himself, nor would he have to attend night school. These are ill-imagined lies!” I told my mother.
From that day on, whenever she saw me reading the Holy Scripture, she would whisper things under her breath. I considered this an added sign that Nikos was justified because he made sure to forewarn me. He said that if someone is advancing in the Christian faith, his relatives and friends will oppose him, and they will not want him to study the Scripture. This is part of the persecution the devil will enact against him. My mother must have been greatly concerned because one day she entered the house holding a newspaper of some para-ecclesiastical organization.
“Here is proof!” she said. “Take it and read it to see for yourself that the Chiliasts get paid off!” I could not believe my eyes. I read a narrative about a woman who claimed that the “witnesses” offered her a significant sum of money if she would step on the icons they had placed on the floor. I pulled myself together and ran to the phone. I dialed the number of the publishing office of the paper and asked the person who answered the phone to give me the address and the telephone number of the woman in the article.
“I’m sorry,” they replied. “We are not permitted to give out that information.”
“But if this is true, I must know so I don’t become influenced by them!” I repeated, but to no avail.
“You are all liars and deceivers!” I cried out and hung up the phone.
My mother watched me in a state of hopelessness. “See?” I snapped at her. “I don’t believe everything they tell me. But you believe!”
From that moment on, I lost my trust in everything Orthodox. I considered all the Orthodox writers liars and deceivers. On a regular basis, Nikos also brought me similar ill-imagined “antichiliast” articles showing me how much “the Orthodox and the priests like to lie.” Having been personally well-informed about certain things about the “witnesses,” I was seeing the lies of some of their enemies and was outraged. I began to be ashamed of my religion. Nikos, on the other hand, reminded me of something very true. He told me, “The truth can stand by itself! It does not need the crutches of lies.” He went on to conclude, “If they had the truth, they would stand by it, and they would not need to lie. They would show our mistakes from the Holy Scripture. Since they don’t do this, this only means that they can only resort to speaking lies.”
Notwithstanding everything that was happening and everything he was telling me, what drew me towards his religion was his overall conduct. I compared Nikos’ conduct with that of my other friends on a daily basis. My other friends constantly blasphemed God and His Saints, they did every kind of disgrace without any objection of conscience. Christianity meant nothing to them. On the contrary, I had someone here in front of me who lived, or at least he was trying to live, the Christian faith as fully as he possibly could.
However, I was willing to give Orthodoxy one more chance. I was waiting for the moment when Nikos would converse with the instructor of our religion class again so that I could finally determine who was in the right. But this did not happen for quite a while. The religion class was postponed, there were strikes, feast days came and went, and the weeks just passed by.
Finally, one evening when we resumed the lesson, the teacher said, “Nikos. I had promised that we would have a discussion concerning your faith. So let’s begin to expand beyond the information given in our course’s text book.” I rubbed my hands with excitement as the teacher took a book out and Nikos got out the Holy Scripture. But let me allow Nikos himself to narrate the events of that evening…
 Translator’s Note: This sounds so familiar! After my initial discussions with “fire-breathing” Pentecostals, I began searching for a New Testament in the original Greek. God provided for a priest’s son to be in my workplace at that very crucial time. He arranged for me to meet his father, Rev. Nicholas Kossis, in Easton, Pennsylvania. In less than an hour, I found myself in the crystal pure waters of our Holy Church. What a blessed reunion! He gave me an important book, “An Orthodox-Protestant Debate” written by Fr. Joel Gianakopoulos, which answered all of my concerns. Fr. Nicholas has been my father confessor ever since.
 Hired by sectarians to translate the ancient Greek text into the spoken Greek—not accepted by the official Church of Greece.