Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

How we should read the Bible
OrthodoxInfo ^ | Bishop Kallistos Ware

Posted on 12/07/2011 7:00:15 PM PST by rzman21

How to Read the Bible by Bishop Kallistos Ware WE BELIEVE THAT THE SCRIPTURES constitute a coherent whole. They are at once divinely inspired and humanly expressed. They bear authoritative witness to God's revelation of Himself—in creation, in the Incarnation of the Word, and the whole history of salvation. And as such they express the word of God in human language. We know, receive, and interpret Scripture through the Church and in the Church. Our approach to the Bible is one of obedience.

We may distinguish four key qualities that mark an Orthodox reading of Scripture, namely

our reading should be obedient, it should be ecclesial, within the Church, it should be Christ-centered, it should be personal. Reading the Bible with Obedience FIRST OF ALL, when reading Scripture, we are to listen in a spirit of obedience. The Orthodox Church believes in divine inspiration of the Bible. Scripture is a "letter" from God, where Christ Himself is speaking. The Scriptures are God's authoritative witness of Himself. They express the Word of God in our human language. Since God Himself is speaking to us in the Bible, our response is rightly one of obedience, of receptivity, and listening. As we read, we wait on the Spirit.

But, while divinely inspired, the Bible is also humanly expressed. It is a whole library of different books written at varying times by distinct persons. Each book of the Bible reflects the outlook of the age in which it was written and the particular viewpoint of the author. For God does nothing in isolation, divine grace cooperates with human freedom. God does not abolish our individuality but enhances it. And so it is in the writing of inspired Scripture. The authors were not just a passive instrument, a dictation machine recording a message. Each writer of Scripture contributes his particular personal gifts. Alongside the divine aspect, there is also a human element in Scripture. We are to value both.

Each of the four Gospels, for example, has its own particular approach. Matthew presents more particularly a Jewish understanding of Christ, with an emphasis on the kingdom of heaven. Mark contains specific, picturesque details of Christ's ministry not given elsewhere. Luke expresses the universality of Christ's love, His all-embracing compassion that extends equally to Jew and to Gentile. In John there is a more inward and more mystical approach to Christ, with an emphasis on divine light and divine indwelling. We are to enjoy and explore to the full this life-giving variety within the Bible.

Because Scripture is in this way the word of God expressed in human language, there is room for honest and exacting inquiry when studying the Bible. Exploring the human aspect of the Bible, we are to use to the full our God-given human reason. The Orthodox Church does not exclude scholarly research into the origin, dates, and authorship of books of the Bible.

Alongside this human element, however, we see always the divine element. These are not simply books written by individual human writers. We hear in Scripture not just human words, marked by a greater or lesser skill and perceptiveness, but the eternal, uncreated Word of God Himself, the divine Word of salvation. When we come to the Bible, then, we come not simply out of curiosity, to gain information. We come to the Bible with a specific question, a personal question about ourselves: "How can I be saved?"

As God's divine word of salvation in human language, Scripture should evoke in us a sense of wonder. Do you ever feel, as you read or listen, that it has all become too familiar? Has the Bible grown rather boring? Continually we need to cleanse the doors of our perception and to look in amazement with new eyes at what the Lord sets before us.

We are to feel toward the Bible with a sense of wonder, and sense of expectation and surprise. There are so many rooms in Scripture that we have yet to enter. There is so much depth and majesty for us to discover. If obedience means wonder, it also means listening.

We are better at talking than listening. We hear the sound of our own voice, but often we don't pause to hear the voice of the other person who is speaking to us. So the first requirement, as we read Scripture, is to stop talking and to listen—to listen with obedience.

When we enter an Orthodox Church, decorated in the traditional manner, and look up toward the sanctuary at the east end, we see there, in the apse, an icon of the Virgin Mary with her hands raised to heaven—the ancient Scriptural manner of praying that many still use today. This icon symbolizes the attitude we are to assume as we read Scripture—an attitude of receptivity, of hands invisibly raised to heaven. Reading the Bible, we are to model ourselves on the Blessed Virgin Mary, for she is supremely the one who listens. At the Annunciation she listens with obedience and responds to the angel, "Be it unto me according to thy word" (Luke 1:38). She could not have borne the Word of God in her body if she had not first, listened to the Word of God in her heart. After the shepherds have adored the newborn Christ, it is said of her: "Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). Again, when Mary finds Jesus in the temple, we are told: "His mother kept all these things in her heart" (Luke 2:5l). The same need for listening is emphasized in the last words attributed to the Mother of God in Scripture, at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee: "Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it" (John 2:5), she says to the servants—and to all of us.

In all this the Blessed Virgin Mary serves as a mirror, as a living icon of the Biblical Christian. We are to be like her as we hear the Word of God: pondering, keeping all these things in our hearts, doing whatever He tells us. We are to listen in obedience as God speaks.

Understanding the Bible Through the Church IN THE SECOND PLACE, we should receive and interpret Scripture through the Church and in the Church. Our approach to the Bible is not only obedient but ecclesial.

It is the Church that tells us what is Scripture. A book is not part of Scripture because of any particular theory about its dating and authorship. Even if it could be proved, for example, that the Fourth Gospel was not actually written by John the beloved disciple of Christ, this would not alter the fact that we Orthodox accept the Fourth Gospel as Holy Scripture. Why? Because the Gospel of John is accepted by the Church and in the Church.

It is the Church that tells us what is Scripture, and it is also the Church that tells us how Scripture is to be understood. Coming upon the Ethiopian as he read the Old Testament in his chariot, Philip the Apostle asked him, "Understandest thou what thou readest?" And the Ethiopian answered, "How can I, unless some man should guide me?" (Acts 8:30-31). We are all in the position of the Ethiopian. The words of Scripture are not always self-explanatory. God speaks directly to the heart of each one of us as we read our Bible. Scripture reading is a personal dialogue between each one of us and Christ—but we also need guidance. And our guide is the Church. We make full use of our own personal understanding, assisted by the Spirit, we make full use of the findings of modern Biblical research, but always we submit private opinion—whether our own or that of the scholars—to the total experience of the Church throughout the ages.

The Orthodox standpoint here is summed up in the question asked of a convert at the reception service used by the Russian Church: "Do you acknowledge that the Holy Scripture must be accepted and interpreted in accordance with the belief which has been handed down by the Holy Fathers, and which the Holy Orthodox Church, our Mother, has always held and still does hold?"

We read the Bible personally, but not as isolated individuals. We read as the members of a family, the family of the Orthodox Catholic Church. When reading Scripture, we say not "I" but "We." We read in communion with all the other members of the Body of Christ, in all parts of the world and in all generations of time. The decisive test and criterion for our understanding of what the Scripture means is the mind of the Church. The Bible is the book of the Church.

To discover this "mind of the Church," where do we begin? Our first step is to see how Scripture is used in worship. How, in particular, are Biblical lessons chosen for reading at the different feasts? We should also consult the writings of the Church Fathers, and consider how they interpret the Bible. Our Orthodox manner of reading Scripture is in this way both liturgical and patristic. And this, as we all realize, is far from easy to do in practice, because we have at our disposal so few Orthodox commentaries on Scripture available in English, and most of the Western commentaries do not employ this liturgical and Patristic approach.

As an example of what it means to interpret Scripture in a liturgical way, guided by the use made of it at Church feasts, let us look at the Old Testament lessons appointed for Vespers on the Feast of the Annunciation. They are three in number: Genesis 28:10-17; Jacob's dream of a ladder set up from earth to heaven; Ezekiel 43:27-44:4; the prophet's vision of the Jerusalem sanctuary, with the closed gate through which none but the Prince may pass; Proverbs 9:1-11: one of the great Sophianic passages in the Old Testament, beginning "Wisdom has built her house."

These texts in the Old Testament, then, as their selection for the feast of the Virgin Mary indicates, are all to be understood as prophecies concerning the Incarnation from the Virgin. Mary is Jacob's ladder, supplying the flesh that God incarnate takes upon entering our human world. Mary is the closed gate who alone among women bore a child while still remaining inviolate. Mary provides the house which Christ the Wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24) takes as his dwelling. Exploring in this manner the choice of lessons for the various feasts, we discover layers of Biblical interpretation that are by no means obvious on a first reading.

Take as another example Vespers on Holy Saturday, the first part of the ancient Paschal Vigil. Here we have no less than fifteen Old Testament lessons. This sequence of lessons sets before us the whole scheme of sacred history, while at the same time underlining the deeper meaning of Christ's Resurrection. First among the lessons is Genesis 1:1-13, the account of Creation: Christ's Resurrection is a new Creation. The fourth lesson is the book of Jonah in its entirety, with the prophet's three days in the belly of the whale foreshadowing Christ's Resurrection after three days in the tomb (cf. Matthew 12:40). The sixth lesson recounts the crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites (Exodus 13:20-15:19), which anticipates the new Passover of Pascha whereby Christ passes over from death to life (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7; 10:1-4). The final lesson is the story of the three Holy Children in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3), once more a "type" or prophecy of Christ's rising from the tomb.

Such is the effect of reading Scripture ecclesially, in the Church and with the Church. Studying the Old Testament in this liturgical way and using the Fathers to help us, everywhere we uncover signposts pointing forward to the mystery of Christ and of His Mother. Reading the Old Testament in the light of the New, and the New in the light of the Old—as the Church's calendar encourages us to do—we discover the unity of Holy Scripture. One of the best ways of identifying correspondences between the Old and New Testaments is to use a good Biblical concordance. This can often tell us more about the meaning of Scripture than any commentary.

In Bible study groups within our parishes, it is helpful to give one person the special task of noting whenever a particular passage in the Old or New Testament is used for a festival or a saint's day. We can then discuss together the reasons why each specific passage has been so chosen. Others in the group can be assigned to do homework among the Fathers, using for example the Biblical homilies of Saint John Chrysostom (which have been translated into English). Christians need to acquire a patristic mind.

Christ, the Heart of the Bible THE THIRD ELEMENT in our reading of Scripture is that it should be Christ-centered. The Scriptures constitute a coherent whole because they all are Christ-centered. Salvation through the Messiah is their central and unifying topic. He is as a "thread" that runs through all of Holy Scripture, from the first sentence to the last. We have already mentioned the way in which Christ may be seen foreshadowed on the pages of the Old Testament.

Much modern critical study of Scripture in the West has adopted an analytical approach, breaking up each book into different sources. The connecting links are unraveled, and the Bible is reduced to a series of bare primary units. There is certainly value in this. But we need to see the unity as well as the diversity of Scripture, the all-embracing end as well as the scattered beginnings. Orthodoxy prefers on the whole a synthetic rather than an analytical approach, seeing Scripture as an integrated whole, with Christ everywhere as the bond of union.

Always we seek for the point of convergence between the Old Testament and the New, and this we find in Jesus Christ. Orthodoxy assigns particular significance to the "typological" method of interpretation, whereby "types" of Christ, signs and symbols of His work, are discerned throughout the Old Testament. A notable example of this is Melchizedek, the priest-king of Salem, who offered bread and wine to Abraham (Genesis 14:18), and who is seen as a type of Christ not only by the Fathers but even in the New Testament itself (Hebrews 5:6; 7:l). Another instance is the way in which, as we have seen, the Old Passover foreshadows the New; Israel's deliverance from Pharaoh at the Red Sea anticipates our deliverance from sin through the death and Resurrection of the Savior. This is the method of interpretation that we are to apply throughout the Bible. Why, for instance, in the second half of Lent are the Old Testament readings from Genesis dominated by the figure of Joseph? Why in Holy Week do we read from the book of Job? Because Joseph and Job are innocent sufferers, and as such they are types or foreshadowings of Jesus Christ, whose innocent suffering upon the Cross the Church is at the point of celebrating. It all ties up.

A Biblical Christian is the one who, wherever he looks, on every page of Scripture, finds everywhere Christ.

The Bible as Personal IN THE WORDS of an early ascetic writer in the Christian East, Saint Mark the Monk: "He who is humble in his thoughts and engaged in spiritual work, when he reads the Holy Scriptures, will apply everything to himself and not to his neighbor." As Orthodox Christians we are to look everywhere in Scripture for a personal application. We are to ask not just "What does it mean?" but "What does it mean to me?" Scripture is a personal dialogue between the Savior and myself—Christ speaking to me, and me answering. That is the fourth criterion in our Bible reading.

I am to see all the stories in Scripture as part of my own personal story. Who is Adam? The name Adam means "man," "human," and so the Genesis account of Adam's fall is also a story about me. I am Adam. It is to me that God speaks when He says to Adam, "Where art thou?" (Genesis 3:9). "Where is God?" we often ask. But the real question is what God asks the Adam in each of us: "Where art thou?"

When, in the story of Cain and Abel, we read God's words to Cain, "Where is Abel thy brother?" (Genesis 4:9), these words, too, are addressed to each of us. Who is Cain? It is myself. And God asks the Cain in each of us, "Where is thy brother?" The way to God lies through love of other people, and there is no other way. Disowning my brother, I replace the image of God with the mark of Cain, and deny my own vital humanity.

In reading Scripture, we may take three steps. First, what we have in Scripture is sacred history: the history of the world from the Creation, the history of the chosen people, the history of God Incarnate in Palestine, and the "mighty works" after Pentecost. The Christianity that we find in the Bible is not an ideology, not a philosophical theory, but a historical faith.

Then we are to take a second step. The history presented in the Bible is a personal history. We see God intervening at specific times and in specific places, as He enters into dialogue with individual persons. He addresses each one by name. We see set before us the specific calls issued by God to Abraham, Moses and David, to Rebekah and Ruth, to Isaiah and the prophets, and then to Mary and the Apostles. We see the selectivity of the divine action in history, not as a scandal but as a blessing. God's love is universal in scope, but He chooses to become Incarnate in a particular corner of the earth, at a particular time and from a particular Mother. We are in this manner to savor all the uniqueness of God's action as recorded in Scripture. The person who loves the Bible loves details of dating and geography. Orthodoxy has an intense devotion to the Holy Land, to the exact places where Christ lived and taught, died and rose again. An excellent way to enter more deeply into our Scripture reading is to undertake a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Galilee. Walk where Christ walked. Go down to the Dead Sea, sit alone on the rocks, feel how Christ felt during the forty days of His temptation in the wilderness. Drink from the well where He spoke with the Samaritan woman. Go at night to the Garden of Gethsemane, sit in the dark under the ancient olives and look across the valley to the lights of the city. Experience to the full the reality of the historical setting, and take that experience back with you to your daily Scripture reading.

Then we are to take a third step. Reliving Biblical history in all its particularity, we are to apply it directly to ourselves. We are to say to ourselves, "All these places and events are not just far away and long ago, but are also part of my own personal encounter with Christ. The stories include me."

Betrayal, for example, is part of the personal story of everyone. Have we not all betrayed others at some time in our life, and have we not all known what it is to be betrayed, and does not the memory of these moments leave continuing scars on our psyche? Reading, then, the account of Saint Peter's betrayal of Christ and of his restoration after the Resurrection, we can see ourselves as actors in the story. Imagining what both Peter and Jesus must have experienced at the moment immediately after the betrayal, we enter into their feelings and make them our own. I am Peter; in this situation can I also be Christ? Reflecting likewise on the process of reconciliation—seeing how the Risen Christ with a love utterly devoid of sentimentality restored the fallen Peter to fellowship, seeing how Peter on his side had the courage to accept this restoration—we ask ourselves: How Christ-like am I to those who have betrayed me? And, after my own acts of betrayal, am I able to accept the forgiveness of others—am I able to forgive myself? Or am I timid, mean, holding myself back, never ready to give myself fully to anything, either good or bad? As the Desert Fathers say, "Better someone who has sinned, if he knows he has sinned and repents, than a person who has not sinned and thinks of himself as righteous."

Have I gained the boldness of Saint Mary Magdalene, her constancy and loyalty, when she went out to anoint the body of Christ in the tomb (John 20:l)? Do I hear the Risen Savior call me by name, as He called her, and do I respond Rabboni (Teacher) with her simplicity and completeness (John 20:16)?

Reading Scripture in this way—in obedience, as a member of the Church, finding Christ everywhere, seeing everything as a part of my own personal story—we shall sense something of the variety and depth to be found in the Bible. Yet always we shall feel that in our Biblical exploration we are only at the very beginning. We are like someone launching out in a tiny boat across a limitless ocean.

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalm 118 [119]:105).

TOPICS: Catholic; Evangelical Christian; Orthodox Christian; Theology
KEYWORDS: bible; easternorthodox
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-4041-6061-64 next last

1 posted on 12/07/2011 7:00:16 PM PST by rzman21
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: rzman21

Can you explain to me the different linage set forth between David and Joseph (step dad of Jesus) in Mathew 1 and Luke 22 and after you get through with that irreconcilable error, would you explain why that is relevant to anything since I’m sure you will agree God was the father of Jesus.Josephs linage is a joke. Or do you think not? If Failure to worship the Bible and Mary is a sin can I ask you— are we not forgiven of our sin ? Did Jesus not atone for our sin through propitiation on the Cross. Or did Jesus die for nothing? Do we not have imputed righteousness for our sorry souls as set forth clearly and unambiguously in Romans and Galatians? Is the Bible wrong?

2 posted on 12/07/2011 7:14:19 PM PST by Ardenroad gal
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Former Fetus; Bockscar; Graybeard58; JLLH; Outlaw Woman; StarCMC; AZ .44 MAG; prairiebreeze; ...

While I have the list copied ping

3 posted on 12/07/2011 7:25:02 PM PST by WKB (Anything Obama: "What a revoltin' development this is")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Ardenroad gal

I’m sure others will jump in and explain the lineage question better than I can. But I am puzzled why you focus on the lineages and why that is so important to you? Do you believe Jesus was God and died on a cross to atone for our sins? One either believes or they don’t.

If you believe you have eternal life with Jesus (God). If don’t believe then you spend eternity without God. If you think about it we all get what we want.

4 posted on 12/07/2011 7:26:19 PM PST by plain talk
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Ardenroad gal

You can’t approach the lineage of Jesus from the perspective of an American Westerner. You need to understand the culture. The Aramaic Peshitta version of the Bible, which dates from the 4th century offers clues.

The primary fruit of the cross was the reconciliation of God and Man on a universal level. St. Paul writes: “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)

But it is up to us to cooperate with God’s grace.

Eastern Christianity doesn’t adhere to Western Christianity’s legal formalism when it comes to justification.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ

Timothy Copple

Note: It is a good idea to read first the Bible study on Genesis 1-3 on Creation before reading this one.
In the article on the creation and the fall, we saw how man was created in the image of God, and in the likeness of God. We looked at how this was lost due to man’s sin, and the image of God in man was corrupted because it no longer showed the likeness of God, but the likeness of His creation. Consequently, the goal of God in our redemption is the restoration of this oneness with God, to have the likeness of God, His energies enlivening us once again as it did Adam and Eve, and to correct the corruption of His creation.

This redemption and reuniting of man with God is why Jesus Christ came to earth, why He was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit, why He went to the cross and died, and was resurrected on the third day. The atonement centers around what Christ was accomplishing on the cross specifically, but the rest ties into it as well since it is one whole picture. However, one of the “stumbling blocks” has always been why Jesus had to die to accomplish our salvation. Why was this necessary in order to restore us to union with God as we just stated.

It should be noted here that it is significant as to what is being atoned for. The above is the reality as it has been handed down to us in the Scriptures and the teaching of the Church. However, in other traditions which attempt an explanation of this, the problem is not a lack of union with God that is being fixed, but something that God needs to extract from us which we don’t have and so all we have left to give is our lives, to die. Instead of being in death because of losing the likeness, we are in death because we have a need to pay God the Father back. The goal of atonement makes a big difference in the understanding of how Jesus Christ brought this about on the cross.

Bishop Kallistos Ware, in his little book, “How are we Saved,” list 5 theories of the atonement. One of these, “The teacher,” is not seriously considered by anyone to be complete even if there elements of it that are true, so we will not look at that one. His last one, is what I would call the reality of the atonement’s goal, our union with God. It is that which in Orthodoxy is salvation. So we are left with three other theories of the atonement: 1. Redemption, 2. Sacrifice/Substitution and 3. Satisfaction. We will take a brief look at these three and how they fit into an Orthodox understanding.


In Rom. 6 we get a picture that we are slaves to sin, which is death. We are able to overcome this bondage by uniting ourselves to Christ in baptism. Because of this we are freed from bondage and death, “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, certainly also we shall be of the resurrection….” (Rom. 6:5)

There are two way of redeeming something, either by buying it back, or by defeating the one who holds it. Rom. 6:6 indicates which of these Christ accomplished on the cross: “…knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be rendered inactive….” We also see this same concept in the Old Testament examples of redemption, most obviously in how God redeemed Israel Egypt. He didn’t come in and buy them back from Pharaoh, God forcefully took them from him. They were freed from bondage by force.

It is this understanding that we have reflected in our Paschal troparia, that Christ defeated death by death and on those in the tombs bestowed life. It was a defeat of Satan who held us bound to death with our sins. Christ invades our world and takes back what is His. St. Ireneus shows that this was the view of the early Church:

For if man, who had been created by God that he might live, after losing life, through being injured by the serpent that had corrupted him, should not any more return to life, but should be utterly [and for ever] abandoned to death, God would [in that case] have been conquered, and the wickedness of the serpent would have prevailed over the will of God. But inasmuch as God is invincible and long-suffering, He did indeed show Himself to be long-suffering in the matter of the correction of man and the probation of all, as I have already observed; and by means of the second man did He bind the strong man, and spoiled his goods, and abolished death, vivifying that man who had been in a state of death. For at the first Adam became a vessel in his (Satan’s) possession, whom he did also hold under his power, that is, by bringing sin on him iniquitously, and under color of immortality entailing death upon him. For, while promising that they should be as gods, which was in no way possible for him to be, he wrought death in them: wherefore he who had led man captive, was justly captured in his turn by God; but man, who had been led captive, was loosed from the bonds of condemnation.

St. Ireneus, “Against the Heresies,” Book 3, Chp. 23.

In this understanding, Christ defeats death in us with His life, uniting us to Him, and overcoming Satan and death with His Life.

2. Sacrificial/Substitution

Here, the “what” of atonement makes a big difference. Christ is considered the reality which the Old Testament sacrifices point to. Christ did take our place in death and defeat it, and thus He did substitute Himself in our place who were to die. The whole sacrificial nature of Christ’s death is clearly portrayed in Hebrews 9 and 10: “But He, having offered one sacrifice for sins in perpetuity, ‘sat down on the right of God….’” (Heb. 10:12). St. Peter also indicates this, “knowing that ye were not ransomed with corruptible things…but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot….” (1 Pet 1:18-19)

From the liturgical material of the Church, we understand that the one Old Testament sacrifice which points to the nature of Christ’s purpose on the cross is the Passover Lamb. The central celebration of Christ’s resurrection is called “Pascha” which is the transliteration of the Greek word for “Passover.” It was this sacrifice, the central sacrifice by which the Israelites were redeemed from Egypt, that illustrates how Christ with His sacrifice redeems us from the bondage of Satan and death. Death passes over those who have eaten Him and as St. John Chrysostom so graphically says, smeared His blood on the doorpost of our mouth. Our liturgical material on Pascha speaks frequently of Christ being the “new Pascha”, in that we have been brought from death to life.

To that end, all the sacrifices in the OT point even if they were for other purposes. They also all were icons pointing to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, where His body was broken and His blood was poured out that as St. John says in John 6, we might eat His flesh and drink His blood. In His flesh and blood is true life. To eat, He must be sacrificed and Satan is defeated.

3. Satisfaction

The above reality that we have described to this point has been described with several different analogies by the Fathers. Taken together, they can give us a complete picture. The problem has arisen because some have taken one analogy and attempted to make that describe the whole of atonement. However, because it can only point to certain truths about the atonement, any attempt to do this will inevitably result in false conclusions both about God and what needed to be fixed for us to be “saved.”

This is essentially what Anselm did, who is known as the father of satisfaction understanding of the atonement. His goal was to be able to explain to the heathen in a logical fashion why Christ had to die for our sins, without using the Bible or the Fathers. Doesn’t mean he wasn’t trying to stay within them, but because of his methodology he does drift away substantially on some points. It is known as the satisfaction theory because it indicates a need to satisfy a lack that keeps us from salvation.

Essentially, he took the concept of debt that we owe to God and made that into the whole of the atonement. We do see the debt understanding even in the Bible, as the servant who owed his master a lifetime plus of wages. Athanasius speaks of our debt we owe as well, but not as Anselm ended up using it. Because of sin, we owed God a debt due to our violation of His honor. This honor has to be repaid somehow due to the nature of God. Man can’t pay it, only God can pay it, so God becomes man to not only pay what His due is to the Father through perfect obedience, but goes beyond that to give what He didn’t have to give, His life. Since He didn’t need this “merit”, we can obtain that merit for paying our debt to God off. The sacraments then become a means of distributing these merits, as well as other good works. This is basically the Roman Catholic understanding.

The two major problems with this understanding are these: 1. God’s forgiveness is not dependant upon repaying a debt, and 2. The debt we owe is not to the Father. All we have to do to know that the first is not true is look in the Scriptures. All through the Old Testament, before Christ’s sacrifice, God is considered merciful, slow to anger, forgiving all who come to Him. He is ready to cast our sins as far as the east is from the west. The only requirement for forgiveness offered in 2 Chron. 7:14 is “if my people who are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways….” Nothing is mentioned about atoning for a past debt before forgiveness of sins can happen. Rather, God simply says: “…then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. In the New Testament we have the parable mentioned earlier, where the servant who owes his master more money than he could ever hope to repay is forgiven his entire debt without expectation of repaying it. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, likewise the father takes the son back, not asking that he restore the wealth he lost in sinful living.

Concerning the second, we see as we have already noted that death is what is being defeated, Satan is the one who we are in bondage to, not God. By placing God as the one who is unwilling to forgive us our debt, it is He who we are in bondage to death with, not Satan. This is attested to by the Fathers:

But since it was necessary also that the debt owing from all should be paid again: for, as I have already said , it was owing that all should die

St. Athanasius, “Incarnation of the Word,” Chp. 20)

…he means that the devil held possession of it, the bond which God made for Adam, saying, “In the day thou eatest of the tree, thou shalt die.” (Genesis 2:17.) This bond then the devil held in his possession. And Christ did not give it to us, but Himself tore it in two, the action of one who remits joyfully.

St. John Chrysostom, 6th homily on Colossians)

There is a third key change in Anselm’s view that makes a major shift from the view of the Early Church, indicated in the previous quote, and that is what is being atoned for. In the first understanding it was the broken relationship with God, the Lack of His life giving energies, lack of a union with. In Anselm’s view, it is the debt of broken honor with God that is the problem to solve and fix. The whole goal of Christ’s death and resurrection has moved from redeeming us from death and Satan by defeating Him, to paying back God for the honor due Him that we cannot pay ourselves. This was arrived at by deductive logic on Anselm’s part by making what should have been analogical the reality.

The Reformers modified this a bit, but used the same principles as Anselm, and thus it has the same problems. Instead of using the debt analogy, a juridical analogy replaced it. Instead of a debt of God’s honor, it is breaking God’s Law. Instead of owing a debt, we are guilty of Law breaking. Instead of Christ dying to satisfy God’s honor, He dies to satisfy God’s justice. Instead of salvation being the fulfilling of the debt, it becomes the declaring innocent of the guilty due to Christ taking our punishment.

Still, God is the one with a problem in that He cannot forgive us outright, but He must punish someone to satisfy His justice. Christ is the only one who can take it and not be defeated by it, and so He becomes man in order to take our place. Salvation is still understood in terms of something other than a relational oneness in Christ; a clearing of us from a legal problem. It still contradicts the Bible which shows God the Father as forgiving many without needing to punish someone for it. It is still based on premises about salvation and the Father that are not evident in the Early Church or Scriptures.

Missing from the satisfaction theory are the points we derive from another analogy used by the Fathers and the Scriptures, that of healing. Actually, the Greek word used for salvation is the same word translated as “heal.” Context and theology determines the translation choice. It basically is a word that means wholeness or completeness. For Orthodoxy it indicates the fullness of how we were created. We are sick, and need healing because of the corruption we are subject to. In this picture, there is no owing or guilt directly involved, though it is in the background of how we got here. Rather, there is a healing of our souls going on. The analogy of debt and justice totally miss this whole context which is much frequently used in the Fathers. Even the Eucharist is referred to as the “medicine of immortality.” That is why to get a complete picture, we need to keep all the analogies before us.

These are given us not only to understand what is salvation and how Christ chose to accomplish that in Orthodox theology, but also to show the basis for the view that many of us had as converts from Protestantism. We can see not only why Protestants understand things the way they do in relation to salvation, buy why Orthodox understanding is different. It is relational with God, not legal or financial in nature. That changes the whole perspective in how we approach salvation. It is not a one time deal, a declaring “not guilty,” but a continuing relationship with God. It is not a matter of works or faith, but a obedience to God of love which draws us closer to Him. It is not a matter of paying back something in full to God like a transaction, but a journey with Him into wholeness as we were originally created. It is the journey that saves us as we follow Him, taking His yoke upon us, carrying the cross we have been given. So we with repentance and humility work to become more in union with Him as the Church guides us.

5 posted on 12/07/2011 7:31:28 PM PST by rzman21
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Ardenroad gal

Do you believe that organized religion is a crutch for people too weak to make it through life without such a “crutch”?

6 posted on 12/07/2011 7:36:49 PM PST by PENANCE
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Ardenroad gal
This explains it much better than I can.

Lineage of Jesus - What is it? The lineage of Jesus is important according to prophecy. You see, Jesus had to be born in the line of David according to 2 Samuel 7:12-13. Referring to David, these verses say, "When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever." The Davidic line reaches through the line of Seth to Noah, through the line of Shem to Abraham. Then through the lines of Isaac, Jacob, Judah, David, and to Jesus.

The lineage of Jesus is recorded in two places: Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38. It seems as if these two genealogies of Jesus contradict. Do they? Most biblical scholars assume that Luke is referring to the genealogy of Mary and that the genealogy recorded in Matthew is of Joseph. The Matthew genealogy follows Joseph's line (Jesus' legal father), through David's son Solomon. Luke follows Mary's line (Jesus' blood mother), through David's son Nathan.

Through both of these lines, Jesus Christ is David's descendant and is eligible to be the promised Messiah. Tracing a genealogy through the mother's line is somewhat unusual, but the virgin birth is unusual as well!

7 posted on 12/07/2011 7:41:34 PM PST by Abby4116
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]


I hate to think about what secular people use as their “crutches”.

8 posted on 12/07/2011 7:48:24 PM PST by rzman21
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: rzman21

We shouldn’t READ it, we should STUDY it. :)

9 posted on 12/07/2011 8:03:49 PM PST by Just4Him (The truth shall set you free. John 8:32)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: Ardenroad gal

You wrote:

“Can you explain to me the different linage set forth between David and Joseph (step dad of Jesus) in Mathew 1 and Luke 22 and after you get through with that irreconcilable error, would you explain why that is relevant to anything since I’m sure you will agree God was the father of Jesus.”

1) Showing the relatives of a major religious figure was always important. Hence, it was often done in the Bible. It’s as simple as that.

2) There is no error. The genealogies serve different purposes, but can be reconciled:

“Josephs linage is a joke. Or do you think not?”

No, I don’t think it is. The genealogy in Matthew essentially is the one of his legal father, Joseph, and the one in Luke is that of his biological mother, Mary.

“If Failure to worship the Bible and Mary is a sin can I ask you— are we not forgiven of our sin ?”

First, no one worships the Bible. Second, no one here worships Mary. Third, all sins are already forgiven, but forgiveness is not applied to the sinner if he refuses to repent.

“Did Jesus not atone for our sin through propitiation on the Cross.”


“Or did Jesus die for nothing?”

No, Jesus died for everything.

“Do we not have imputed righteousness for our sorry souls as set forth clearly and unambiguously in Romans and Galatians?”

No. Those who have faith, repent, and are obedient recieve real righteousness, not “imputed righteousness”. Protestants believe in “imputed righteousness” while historic Christians believe in something better, stronger, and more meaningful. Imputed righteousness denies scripture. How can believers be a “new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17), or made, as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18) if righteousness is only imputed?

“Is the Bible wrong?”


10 posted on 12/07/2011 8:04:41 PM PST by vladimir998
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: vladimir998


11 posted on 12/07/2011 8:12:18 PM PST by StarFan
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: vladimir998


12 posted on 12/07/2011 8:12:21 PM PST by StarFan
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: Ardenroad gal

Did you notice that the 14th generation of the last set is missing?

13 posted on 12/07/2011 8:18:54 PM PST by Hoodat (Because they do not change, Therefore they do not fear God. -Psalm 55:19-)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: rzman21

It appears the Old Testament should be read in Hebrew and Greek and the New Testanent should be read in NT Greek..
To learn greek, latin and some hebrew is to really learn what the messseges were because especially greek is a much more exact language than english. For example in english the Pharisees called Jesus ``drinking``
-The NT greek word actually means an `excessive drinker`-
So a lot is lost in translation-
Also there is often a play on words in the greek and aramaic in the NT. For example when Jesus says `I am the light of the world`, there is a play on words from the greek and the aramaic viz:
Pharos is the term for lighthouse- the greatest light in the world at that time was the lighthouse at Alexandria whose light could be seen on the horizon. But the sound `pharo` means
pharoah means `king` in greek- So what is Jesus telling His listeners here?

14 posted on 12/07/2011 8:20:38 PM PST by bunkerhill7
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: All

"We are compelled to concede to the Papists
that they have the Word of God,
that we received it from them,
and that without them
we should have no knowledge of it at all."

~ Martin Luther

How we should read the Bible
St. Jerome and the Vulgate (completing the FIRST Bible in the year 404) [Catholic Caucus]
In Bible Times
Deuterocanonical References in the New Testament

Translations Before the King James: - The KJV Translators Speak!
EWTN Live - March 23 - A Journey Through the Bible
"Our Father's Plan" - EWTN series with Dr. Scott Hahn and Jeff Cavins on the Bible timeline
The Daunting Journey From Faith to Faith [Anglicanism to Catholicism]
Reflections on the Soon to Be Released New American Bible (Revised Edition)[Catholic Caucus]
New American Bible changes some words such as "holocaust"
Is the Bible the Only Revelation from God? (Catholic / Orthodox Caucus)
History of the Bible (caution: long)
Catholic and Protestant Bibles

Because I Love the Bible
Where Is That Taught in the Bible?
When Was the Bible Really Written?
Three Reasons for Teaching the Bible [St. Thomas Aquinas]
The Smiting Is Still Implied (God of the OT vs the NT)
Where Is That Taught in the Bible?
Friday Fast Fact: The Bible in English
Bible Reading is Central in Conversions to Catholicism in Shangai, Reports Organization
Verses (in Scripture) I Never Saw
5 Myths about 7 Books

Lectionary Statistics - How much of the Bible is included in the Lectionary for Mass? (Popquiz!)
Pope calls Catholics to daily meditation on the Bible
What Are the "Apocrypha?"
The Accuracy of Scripture
US Conference of Catholic Bishops recommendations for Bible study
CNA unveils resource to help Catholics understand the Scriptures
The Dos and Don’ts of Reading the Bible [Ecumenical]
Pope to lead marathon Bible reading on Italian TV
The Complete Bible: Why Catholics Have Seven More Books [Ecumenical]
Beginning Catholic: Books of the Catholic Bible: The Complete Scriptures [Ecumenical]

Beginning Catholic: When Was The Bible Written? [Ecumenical]
The Complete Bible: Why Catholics Have Seven More Books [Ecumenical]
U.S. among most Bible-literate nations: poll
Bible Lovers Not Defined by Denomination, Politics
Dei Verbum (Catholics and the Bible)
Vatican Offers Rich Online Source of Bible Commentary
Clergy Congregation Takes Bible Online
Knowing Mary Through the Bible: Mary's Last Words
A Bible Teaser For You... (for everyone :-)
Knowing Mary Through the Bible: New Wine, New Eve

Return of Devil's Bible to Prague draws crowds
Doctrinal Concordance of the Bible [What Catholics Believe from the Bible] Catholic Caucus
Should We Take the Bible Literally or Figuratively?
Glimpsing Words, Practices, or Beliefs Unique to Catholicism [Bible Trivia]
Catholic and Protestant Bibles: What is the Difference?
Church and the Bible(Caatholic Caucus)
Pope Urges Prayerful Reading of Bible
Catholic Caucus: It's the Church's Bible
How Tradition Gave Us the Bible
The Church or the Bible

15 posted on 12/07/2011 8:21:29 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: Salvation
" It is the Church that tells us what is Scripture, and it is also the Church that tells us how Scripture is to be understood.

Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Acts 17:11

It is the responsibility of every believer to read the Bible and check to see if those teaching them are true to the Bible..

16 posted on 12/07/2011 8:36:31 PM PST by ThomasThomas ( If you can't laugh at your self, I will for you.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

Do you believe that organized religion is a crutch for people too weak to make it through life without such a “crutch”?

I believe we're all limping.

17 posted on 12/07/2011 8:47:07 PM PST by TexasKamaAina
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: rzman21


18 posted on 12/07/2011 9:02:01 PM PST by T Minus Four
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Ardenroad gal

Not one dot or iota in the Bible is by mistake, error, or accident.

Here’s a little bit on explaining the Geneology:

Enjoy! And be saved!

19 posted on 12/07/2011 9:16:54 PM PST by Dogbert41 (Israel is real:))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: ThomasThomas

“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Acts 17:11

It is the responsibility of every believer to read the Bible and check to see if those teaching them are true to the Bible..”
This is a misunderstanding of this Scripture passage. If you read it in context, St. Paul was telling the Bereans that Christ was the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies. So they looked in their Old Testaments and confirmed that he was telling them was accurate.
It is not meant to be a model for favoring one’s private interpretation of Scripture over the teaching of the Church that Christ established to “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations...” (Matthew 28:19)
Not By Scripture Alone

20 posted on 12/07/2011 10:05:07 PM PST by fidelis (Zonie and USAF Cold Warrior)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-4041-6061-64 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson