My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
OVERVIEW OF THE BOOKS OF THE HOLY BIBLE
By The Right Reverend BASIL, Bishop of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America
The Old Testament
This introduction is a brief description of each of the forty-nine (49) books of the Old Testament. It is helpful to keep in mind that, like the earliest Christian community, the Orthodox Church of today continues using the Greek version of the Old Testament as the Septuagint (LXX). The Septuagint--referencing the seventy (70) scholars, from all twelve Jewish tribes, who made the translation from the Hebrew into Greek--became the universally accepted version of the Old Testament since the time of its appearance some three centuries before the birth of Christ. Our Lord Jesus Christ, together with His Apostles and Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and also Peter and Paul, used this Greek version when quoting the Old Testament in their gospels and epistles. These inspired Old Testament Books tell the story of God's with ancient Israel, from approximately 2000 B.C. until the time of Jesus.
A study of the Old Testament in the light of the authentic Apostolic Tradition will lead the reader to Him Who fulfilled the Law and the Prophets as He promised: Our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ. This collection of forty-nine Old Testament Books is traditionally subdivided into four sections: 1) the five books of the Law; 2) the books of history; 3) the books of wisdom and; and 4) the books of prophecy.
The Five Books of the Law
First there are the books of the Law: Genesis, meaning "beginning," since it recounts the beginning of God's creation; Exodus, which means "exit" or "departure," referring to the journey of the Hebrews from out of slavery in Egypt; Leviticus, a book detailing worship as led by the priests ordained from the tribe of Levi; Numbers, whose title is derived from the book's opening account of the census or numbering of the people of Israel; Deuternomy, meaning "second law," since it gives a detailed listing of the additional laws given by God through Moses.
These first five books of the Old Testament, known jointly as the Pentateuch (Penta means "five" in Greek) describe God's creation of the world, the rebellion of Adam and Eve and the fall of man, and the history of God's people from the days of Abraham, about 2000 B.C., through the days of Moses, dated by many scholars at approximately 1250 B.C.
The Books of History
The second section of the LXX Old Testament is known as the historical books. This group begins with the book of Joshua, the leader of the children of Israel following the death of Moses, who brings God's people into the Promised Land after their forty (40) years of wandering in the wilderness. Judges relates to the traditions of the various Hebrew tribes and the exploits of their own particular heroes, the Judges of whom the title speaks, who ruled the nation. The book of Ruth is the charming and heroic account of a Gentile woman who placed herself under the protection of the One True God, and in the process became an ancestor of King David, and of his descendent, Jesus Christ the Messiah of Israel.
First and Second Kingdoms (First and Second Samuel), whose principle characters are Samuel the faithful Prophet, Saul the first king to rule over God's people, and David, Saul's successor and the first king of Judah in the south of Palestine, and Israel to the north. The books of Third and Fourth Kingdoms (First and Second Kings) opens with the enthronement of David's son Solomon and ends with the fall of the kingdom, including the destruction of its capital city of Jerusalem, and the exile of God's people from Palestine to Babylon.
First and Second Chronicles (First and Second Paraleipomenon) expand on the history recorded in Third and Fourth Kingdoms. The word Paraleipomenon is translated from the Greek and means "that which is omitted" in the two preceding books. The books of First and Second Ezra and Nehemiah continue this chronicle of Divine History, focusing on the Jewish religious community after its return to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon.
The final books in the historical section of the Old Testament reveal the stories of people who lived heroic and God-directed lives under foreign domination and during the exile: Tobit, who was taken into captivity by the Assyrians; Judith, the pious and beautiful widow who saved her people from massacre by the invading Assyrian general; Esther, the Jewish queen of Persia who achieved the revocation of Haman's decree that would have allowed the persecution and mass murder of God's people; and the Maccabees, the family of the Hasmoneans and their followers, the faithful people who began the revolt and fought the wars of independence against foreign armies occupying their land. (Source: Orthodox Study Bible)
(To be continued)
THE HOLY PROPHET HABAKKUK
On December 2nd Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates the feast of the Holy Prophet Habakkuk.
The son of Sapnat, of the tribe of Simeon, he prophesied six hundred years before Christ, in the time of King Manasseh, and foretold the devastation of Jerusalem. When Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, attacked Jerusalem, Habakkuk went into the land of the Ishmaelites, whence he returned to Jerusalem and made his living working on the land. One day, when he was carrying lunch to the workers in the fields, an Angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him and said: 'Go, carry the meal that thou hast into Babylon, unto Daniel who is in the lion's den.' Habakkuk replied: 'Lord, I never saw Babylon, neither do I know where the den is' (Daniel 14:33 in the Greek text. It is omitted in the Hebrew Bible, and is to be found in the Apocrypha under Bel and the Dragon). Then the Angel seized him by the hair and carried him straight to Babylon, over an immense distance, to the lion's den where Daniel had been cast by King Cyrus because he would not worship idols. 'O Daniel, Daniel,' cried Habakkuk, 'take the dinner which God hath sent thee!' And Daniel took it and ate. Then the Angel of God again took hold of Habakkuk and carried him back to his field in Judea. Habakkuk preached and prophesied about the liberation of Jerusalem and the coming of Christ. He entered into rest in great old age and was buried at Keilah. His holy relics were discovered during the reign of Theodosius the Great.
Habakkuk (Ass. 'basil plant') c. end of 7 century BC. A Hebrew Prophet in the kingdom of Judah. Habakkuk probably lived in Jerusalem in the last phase of the kingdom of Judah. The short prophetical Book bearing his name has been dated soon after the defeat of the Egyptians by the Babylonians at Carchemish in 605 BC., when Nebuchadnezzar became the new master of the Near East.
The first part of the Book is a dialogue between the prophet and God, in the form of two complaints answered by two oracles. The reflective Habakkuk is troubled by what appears to be divine indifference to evil and oppression: "...the law is slacked and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous, so justice goes forth perverted." (Hab. 1:4). The Lord indicates that worse is yet to come, and vividly describes the coming invasion of the Chaldeans (Babylonians), "...that bitter and hasty nation who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize habitations not their own" (Hab. 1:6).
The Book ends with a psalm or hymn that appears to be taken from the Temple liturgy. It extols the power and the glory of the Lord, from Whom comes salvation for His people. The Prophet reaffirms his own faith: "God, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like hinds' feet, He makes me tread upon my high places" (Hab. 3:19). (Source: Who's Who in the Old Testament together with The Apocrypha by Joan Comay).
Please note: I am bringing the Holy Scripture, (the Old Testament and New Testament) to your attention so as to encourage you to study them and be guided and inspired by them. There should be no Orthodox Christian that is not familiar with the word of God. The Holy Scripture are Divinely inspired and best teacher of all Christian believers. The Holy Spirit that guides us to understand the Holy Scripture is our greatest and Most magnificent Spiritual Guide. "Wherefore we pray You, Lord, give us both grace and strength that we may be found worthy to praise Thee with full of understanding, and pray without ceasing, in fear and trembling working out our salvation through the grace of Thy Christ..." (The Sixth Prayer, from the twelve Prayers of Orthros (Matins) read by the priest during the Office of Orthros.).
How can anyone claim to be a Christian, especially an Orthodox Christian, but has never read the Holy Scripture? It is impossible! It is necessary for the Christian to enter into a dialogue with the Almighty God in order to be saved. When we read humbly, and with faith the Holy Scripture we enter into this divine dialogue.
If you never had any kind of formal religious instruction on the Orthodox Christian Faith, then, turn to the Holy Scripture, to find out what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, a Christian, and by obeying and adhering the commandments of Christ to be saved.
The Orthodox Priest offers the following prayer before he reads the holy gospel of the day: "Shine in our hearts, loving Master, the pure Light of Your Divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our minds that we may comprehend the message of Thy Gospel. Instill in us also reverence for Thine blessed Commandments so that, putting down all our bodily desires, we may pursue a spiritual way of life, both thinking and doing only those things that are pleasing to Thee.
For Thou art the Light of our souls and bodies, Christ our God, and to Thee we give glory, as to Thy Father Who is from everlasting and Thine All-Holy, Good and Life-Giving Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen." (Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry)
The sinner and unworthy servant of God