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Frequently Asked Questions - THE BIBLE
What the Protestants call the Apocrypha is Canonical books for the Orthodox churches and so we have more than 66 books in the Bible. Even the 0. T. Canon was closed only in 100 A. D. in the Council of Jamnia, 13 miles south of Jaffa. The Jews of the Dispersion regarded the Apocryphal books also as Scriptures. During the first three centuries these books were regularly used in the Christian Churches also. St. Athanasius was one of the first fathers of the church who limited the list of scriptural books into 66 in his list. Jerome of the Western Church (342-420) had a tremendous influence in limiting the canonical books as 72. In accordance with the Hebrew Canon only 66 books. The Trent Council declared the Vulgate as the authoritative Latin Scripture of the Roman Catholic Church. Whether canonical or Deutero canonical, the apocrypha has great value. The so-called Apocryphal books, the Books of Maccabees contain prayers for the departed more unambiguously than the prayer of St. Paul in II Tim. 1: 18 for the departed Onesiphorus. The Fathers of the Church have quoted from these books which are not regarded Canonical by the Protestants. To the Orthodox Churches, therefore, there are more than 66 books which are canonical.
Is the individualistic and sectarian interpretation of the Scripture as valid as that of the historical churches with apostolic tradition behind them?
'The Bible to teach, the Church to interpret' is a good dictum. St. Peter has clearly pointed out how ignorant men twist the scripture to their own destruction (Read II Pet. 3: 15-17). In the same passage St. Peter adds, 'You therefore, beloved, knowing this before hand, beware lest you be carried away with the error of lawless men and lose your own stability.' The historic churches have a stability which sectarian groups want to shake by their unwarranted interpretations of certain scriptural passages. The reality of the Holy Spirit as a dependable Guide of the Church against which the Gates of hell shall not prevail is not taken seriously by the new sects which regard the Church since Constantine as in 'Babylonia captivity.' The correctives that come through individualistic interpretations will be slowly absorbed into the Church by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, if they are real correctives. The mistakes in the interpretation of the Scriptures as those of Arius will be rejected by the Church under the same Holy Spirit. In fact, the Johannine tradition in the Orthodox. ethics, the Petrine tradition in the Roman Catholic substance and the Pauline stress in the Protestant principle are three interpretations of the one church, maintained in three dimensions, but they will be integrated in the one ecumenical church in the making by the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Sectarian groups have only a corrective role and they should beware of rejecting the age old traditional interpretations of the Bible. After all, the Bible is that of the Church primarily and it belongs to the Christian on the authority the church has given to it in and through the canonization of the Scriptures. The Bible must be read in the context of the Church and within the theological circle of the church and not individualistically.
The Bible is only a part of the Holy Tradition of the Church. Hence the commandment of St. Paul to "stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us either by word of mouth or by letter" (2 Thes. 2:15). The Christian Church came into existence at least thirty years before the first book of the N.T. was written. Our Lord Himself showed in the Sermon on the Mount with His frequent 'But I say unto you' that His authority was greater than that of Moses who gave the Hebrews the Ten Commandments. Our Lord also knew that there ought to be a greater authority than any written book or time-bound teachings and so He said, "I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth...." (Jn. 16: 12-15). This maybe the reason for nut revealing the Mystery of Trinity fully in the Holy Bible. Even the word 'Trinity' does not appear in the Scriptures. The Holy Bible gives only the data of Trinity and not the full theology of Trinity. Those who hold on to the obsolete theory called 'sola scriptura' (only the 'Scripture' are legion and their interpretations are legion. A proof text can be found in the Bible for heretical sects like 'Sabbath Mission' who teach that Saturday is to be observed as Sabbath and not Sunday or Jehovah's witnesse's who deny the doctrine of Trinity, or the Pentecostal groups who war between themselves on minor issues like speaking in tongues or millennium as post or pre and so on. The Bible is quoted by heretics and the orthodox from the time of Arius and St. Athanasius. We must not fall a prey to those who want proof-texts for all the teachings of the Church. Theology is based on the Bible, but not limited by the Bible. Bible and Tradition are together the primary source of theology. (Gal. 1: 8; Col. 4:16; Heb. 2:1; Jn 21: 25; Trent Council, Sess. IV, 8 Apr. 1546).