The Source of the New Testament

Venerable Xenia of Rome, and her two female servants

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

O Most Exalted God and Lord of mercy, we bless and glorify You, for You work with us great and unfathomable, glorious and extraordinary deeds beyond numbering. You provide us with the gift of sleep, which gives rest to our infirmities, and relaxation for the toils of our ever laboring and fatigued body. We thank You, Lord, for You have not destroyed us together with our transgressions. Rather, You have shown Your usual Loving-kindness for mankind, and, while we were prone to despair, You raised us up to praise and glorify Your dominion. For this reason we beseech Your incomparable Goodness: Enlighten the eyes of our mind, and raise our mind from the heavy sleep of indolence. Open our mouth and fill it with praises by all and in all, the Father Who is without beginning, together with Your Only-Begotten Son, and Your All-Holy, Good and Life-creating Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.



TODAY'S SAINTS: (January 24th) Saint Felician, Bishop of Foligno in Italy; Saints: Babylas, Timothy, and Agapius of Sicily; Saint Philo, Bishop of Carpasia, Saint Zosimas of Tyre; Saint Gerasimos, Bishop of Perm; St. John of Kazan; Translation of the holy relics of St. Athanasius the Persian; St. Xenia, Deaconess of Rome; St. Xenia of St. Petersburg; Holy Martyrs Hermogenes and Mamas; St. Neophytos of Cyprus; St. Philip the Presbyter and St. Barsimus of Syria and his two brothers; Saints Paul, Pausirius, and Theodotian of Egypt; St. Macdonius of Syria; St. Lupicinus of Gaul.

+By the Holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Bishops, Holy Presbyters, Holy Deaconesses, Holy Mothers and Holy Fathers, O Christ Our God have mercy on us and save us. Amen.


"Learn from your own experience to sympathize with those in trouble, and never to terrify with destructive despair those who are in danger, nor harden them with severe speeches, but rather restore them with gentle and kindly consolations and as the wise Solomon says, 'Spare not to deliver those who are led forth to death, and to redeem those who are to be slain,' (Proverbs 24:11) and after the example of our Savior, break not the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax (cf. St. Matthew 12:20), and ask of the Lord that grace, by means of which you yourself may faithfully learn both in deed and power to sing, 'the Lord has given me a learned tongue that I should know how to uphold by word him that is weary (Isaiah 50:4): for no one could bear the devices of the enemy, or extinguish or repress those carnal fires which burn with a sort of natural flame, unless God's grace assisted our weakness, or protected and supported it." (Saint John Cassian).



Thus, far, concentration has been on the New Testament's image of Jesus but there is something, which precedes something the reality of which is the foundation of the Church: there were no New Testamental writings for the earliest Christians and yet they possessed the fullness of the Truth and faith of Christianity. On the day of Pentecost, the Church was born and yet there was no New Testament in a written form. For decades, there were no Gospels, as we know them today. It would not be a theological exaggeration to assert that the Church would be the Church in her fullness even if it did not possess the New Testament. For many raised on the Protestant Reformation principal of Sola Scriptura (Latin ablative, "by Scripture alone" is the Protestant doctrine that the Bible is the supreme authority in all matters of doctrine and practice) this may seem a radical--even heretical--statement. But the fact is that we do posses the New Testament and, as such, it is a part of the sacred history of Christianity. But there was a time when the Church did not possess this corpus of inspired writings and yet the Church existed in her fullness, Christians experienced the truth of the faith in all its fullness. The historical fact, the historical reality is that the Church existed before anything was written, that the Church preceded the existence of the New Testament, that it was the Church precisely, which gave birth to the New Testament and it was the Church out of which these writings would be accepted as canonical. The authority of the writing and the authority of acceptance was the Church. Christianity is Christ--our entire religion stands or falls with belief in Christ. The sermons of Christ and those of the first Apostles were the living "Word," which first planted the seed of faith--long before a Christian literature existed. Hence, this literature did not produce faith but was the product of faith. As Karl Adam has correctly observed, "It is missionary literature. And thus, the most superior source of Christianity is not the word of the Bible, but the Living Word of the Church's proclamation of faith. Even if the Bible did not exist, a Christian religious movement would be conceivable." But without the firm support of the written documents, of the New Testament, the faith would constantly be in danger of obscuring the abundance of concrete detail "in the unique and mighty experience of Christ." But the Church would have been capable of conveying the faith to us even without the written documents, as it did in the beginning. Saint Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:23: "For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you."

The historical reality is the fact that God through the Church provided us with the New Testament and hence there is an obvious and sacred purpose in that gift. The New Testament is the revelation of and about God. But, at the same time, revelation is always a Word addressed to man, a summons and an appeal to man. The highest objectivity in the hearing and understanding of Scripture is achieved through the greatest exertion of the creative personality, through spiritual growth, through the transfiguration of the personality, which overcomes in itself "the wisdom of the flesh," ascending to "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). From man it is not self-abnegation, which is demanded, but a victorious forward movement, not self-destruction but a rebirth or transformation. Without man, Revelation would be impossible--because no one would be there to hear and God would then not speak. And God created man so that man would hear His words, receive them, and grow in them and through them become a participator of "eternal life." "And the Logos (Word) became flesh and dwelt among us...and we have beheld His glory, glory as of the Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth" (St. John 1:14). The way of life and light is open. And the human spirit has anew become capable of hearing God completely and of receiving His words.


If the teaching about Christ in the New Testament is so clear, a fundamental question arises. Why were all the historical struggles over Christology? Why the divisions, why the disruptions, why the apparent damage to the Body of Christ, the Church? Why was such controversy over that which was the cornerstone of our very redemption? It is a legitimate question. It must never be forgotten that we are warned again and again in the New Testament to guard the faith, to be aware of false teachers, to hold fast to that which we have received. It is a constant theme expressed in a variety of ways throughout the New Testament. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 warns that "the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths." Colossians 2:8 warns, "See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ." In Timothy 1:3-4; 6-7 we read, "that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the divine training that is in faith...certain persons by swerving from these have wondered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about, which they make assertions." In 1 Timothy 6:3 ff. we read, "If any one teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching, which accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit, he knows nothing; he has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words..." In the same chapter, St. Timothy is exhorted, "O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards the faith. In 2 Peter 2:1 ff. we read, "There will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master." Similar warnings occur in the epistles and the Gospels of the New Testament. It is clear that already in the earliest days of the Christian Church there were divisions that the truth had to be preserved and guarded from the very beginning.

Christ encourages His Disciples that the Holy Spirit will guide them into all truth (St. John 16:13), and the implication is that, though truth is present, though truth has been revealed and given, "all" aspects of truth will be explicated under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the Church.

And the very created nature of man allows for the possibility of corrupting that which has been revealed. But the promise that the Truth shall be preserved by the Holy Spirit reveals that, despite controversy and dispute already present within the early life of the Church, theological work is still to be active in the ongoing life of the Church--the explication and definition of the redemptive activity of the God-Man.

(Source: The Byzantine Fathers of the Fifth Century by Fr. Georges Florovsky 1893-1979)



The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servants of God

+Father George