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Does the Bible state everything that is related to Christian Life? Does it include everything I need to know as a Christian?

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September 27, 2017

Does the Bible state everything that is related to Christian Life?

Does the Bible include every single detail of how a Christian ought to live his life? Sometimes, we meet some people who will say something like this: “if God wanted me to do this or that, He would have written it for me in the Bible.” However, is this an acceptable assumption? In the Orthodox Church, we believe that the Bible is the word of God, and we believe in reading and studying it, so we may live a proper Christian life. This belief is reflected in our liturgy, where prior to the reading of the Gospel, as we all stand up, the priest holds the book of the Gospel in his right hand and avoids holding the Gospel under his eyes, which symbolizes that he analyzes the Gospel (because it is under his eyes). Nevertheless, he puts it above his head and says, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord God of hosts.” The priest holds it on top of his head to declare that the Bible is the one that searches him, the one that leads him to repentance. This is a crucial detail because the Bible is truly the word of God given for our edification. Does this mean that all the details are written in the Bible and that I do not need the Tradition of the Church? No, it doesn’t.

To understand, let’s start with this question: “When Christ became 30 years old and started His service, why didn’t He get crucified immediately?” That was His main purpose after all: the cross and the resurrection. But He stayed three and a half years doing many wonders and leading people to believe in Him, but most importantly, He was disciplining His Apostles. He taught them how to pray, how to fast, how to have mercy on the sinners and tax collectors, and how to rebuke the Pharisees. He also taught them humility, sacrificing oneself for the sake of the other, etc. Finally, He taught them how to live a true Christian life. Then, as His mission on earth was coming to an end, He told them the following in Matthew 28: “19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (these apostles had received the priesthood of Christ in John 20 and that is why they could baptize) 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.” He commanded them to take the life that they had received from Him and, in turn, to disciple others. To teach others to observe all things that Christ commanded them. Therefore, He gave them a life and asked them to live it and teach others how to live it. Now that we understand that God gave us a life to live, we ought to ask ourselves can an entire life fit in a book?

At the end of his gospel, St. John clearly answers this question: he says, “25 And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.” There are not enough books in the world to hold all of what Christ did! Let us be clear on the following concept: a life leads to writing. Again: a life leads to writing, not the opposite. For example, if we read someone’s biography, it is because this person was alive and through their actions they lived a significant life, and as a consequence, their life was written down. However, can I write someone’s biography, then take that biography and let it dictate their life? Of course not. That life God gave us is the

Tradition of the Church. Capital T tradition, which means the Life of the Church that was received from Christ and, until today, we continue disciplining this life from one generation to the other as he commanded His Apostles in Matthew 28. Thus, it is normal that sometimes we find details of our Orthodox Christian Faith that are not written in the Bible. Or at least, not written in an absolute clear way.

Is this saying anti-biblical? Not at all, in fact, in Acts 1:3, St. Luke says the following about the appearances of Christ during the forty days between His resurrection and ascension: “3 to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” The kingdom of God, here, is the Church. As the Apostles are about to start establishing the Church through their preaching, Christ declares to them things pertaining to the kingdom of God. Where are these things written? They are not! Again, we cannot put a complete life in a book. Here is another example: let’s say two people go for dinner in a restaurant and spend one hour together. Can someone write down all the details of the event? What they were wearing? Who sneezed at what time? When did person A go to the bathroom? What did they eat and how was the food placed in their plates? What did they talk about? It is obviously not possible. That is why Christ never gave the command to His disciples to actually write the Bible. It is not written anywhere in the scriptures that He has given such a command. Then why did they write the Bible? We have an example in the book on Church History written by Eusebius of Caesarea, where the people weren’t sufficiently content with hearing the life of Christ that they wanted to have it written down and so St. Mark wrote down the gospel for them. The gospels were written also to defend the faith against heresies, and we are very thankful to have these written records of what is true. But it was never meant to be a sole source of how one ought to live a Christian life.

For Orthodox Christians today, the Bible is the true word of God and consists of the principal element within the Tradition of the Church (the Life of the Church) that guides us in living a genuine Christian life. If all of the above was not convincing enough, let us simply look at the dates the books of the Bible were written. Although this is not an exact science, it is common knowledge now, that St. Mark wrote his gospel in the 60s, while St. John wrote in 98 to 100 at the end of the first century. Many say that St. Mathew and St. Luke wrote between Mark and John. The obvious question now is “when did the Church start?” “Approximately in 33 AD.” So assuming the Gospel according to St. Mark was written in the mid-60s, let’s say 65, then the Church lived for about 32 years without having one Gospel written down. Was the Church strong at the time? Evidently yes. A quick glance at the Acts of the Apostles will reassure us of this. How was the Church strong if they didn’t have the Bible? Not even a Gospel?! Because the Church lived the Bible. This is the ultimate purpose of Christianity—living like Christ lived. Hence, when someone says, “Well, it is not written in the Bible,” our answer should be: “It doesn’t have to be!” because this was part of the Life of the Church from the beginning. Having said this, it needs to be clear that Orthodox Christianity doesn’t hold any dogma that is contradictory to the Bible. Absolutely not! As said before, the Bible is the most revered element of the Life of the Church

and it is held with utmost respect. In another video, we will try to explain what is the Tradition of the Church more specifically and potentially, compared to Sola Scriptura, meaning the Bible alone.

Know Your Faith, Live Your Faith & Teach Your Faith. And Glory be to God forever, Amen.

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