The Value of the Old Testament

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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.

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THE VALUE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
By His Eminence Metropolitan of Nafpaktos HIEROTHEOS

The Old Testament is made up of 49 books. Together with the New Testament, which consists of 27 books, it constitutes Holy Scripture. The Old Testament has been used continuously in the worship of the Church from the beginning until today. The Psalms are used the most, but readings from other books are also included in various services. Apart from passages inserted in prayers in the Divine Liturgy as well as other services, excerpts from the Old Testament are scattered throughout the language used in worship.

In spite of the abundant use made of Old Testament passages in the worship of the Church, many Christians do not read the Old Testament. It is noteworthy that, whereas most of us have read all the New Testament, we do not read the Old Testament at the same time. I could add that we are completely ignorant of it. The Holy Fathers of the Church examine many books of the Old Testament in detail. Saint John Chrysostomos, for instance, reveals the treasures of the Old Testament in a large number of commentaries.

This is important because the Old and New Testaments are closely related. I should like to emphasize a few points that reveal the spiritual link between them. Firstly, the same Holy Spirit inspired the writing of all the books of Holy Scripture. Secondly, the divine inspiration of the holy Prophets and Apostles is not a momentary enlightenment but their inspiration through illumination and deification (theosis). This means that the Old Testament also speaks about illumination and deification (theosis), and they exist there as well. In the analysis of the Prophet Samuel in this book, we shall see that Samuel's mother Hannah, had attained to illumination, because she had noetic prayer, ("noetic is the adjective formed from nous. The nous is the eye of the soul; the purest part of the soul; the highest attention. Noetic prayer is prayed with the nous within the heart, when the nous frees itself from its enslavement to the rational faculty or reason and returns to the heart."), but Samuel also reached deification (theosis). We are also well aware that when Saint Gregory of Nyssa wanted to describe the path that the Christian should follow to be saved, he analyzed the figure of Moses, in his renowned work The Life of Moses. These examples show that illumination and deification (theosis) exist in the Old Testament too. However, this deification (theosis) is temporary. Death is not abolished and the Church is not yet the Body of Christ. There is therefore an identity of experience between the Old and New Testaments. Thirdly, the Old Testament speaks constantly about the coming of the Messiah, whereas the New Testament speaks of the fact that the Messiah has come. In general, the Old Testament is Christ-centered, since it refers to appearances of the Unincarnate Logos/Word. What is more, there are many testimonies in the Old Testament to the Triune God. It is characteristic that, when the Holy Fathers want to speak about the Holy Trinity, they use many arguments from the Old Testament.

After these opening remarks we ought to consider the great figure of the Prophet Samuel. However, as Samuel is the child of Elkanah and Hannah, we shall speak first about his parents.

Elkanah, the Prophet Samuel's father, had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. It should, of course, be stated, that at the time polygamy prevailed. He had children by Peninnah but Hannah was barren, so he had no children by her. In those days, however, childlessness was regarded as a curse, so Hannah had a problem. Elkanah went up to Shiloh with his two wives to offer sacrifice to God. After the sacrifice he gave Peninnah portions of the sacrifice for herself and for each of her children, whereas he only gave one portion to Hannah. This caused Hannah to grieve. Whenever Elkanah offered sacrifice to the Lord the same thing happened. Nevertheless, Elkanah loved Hannah very much and tried to console her.

As we study this account three points come to our attention: firstly, God's Providence; secondly, Hannah's despondency; and thirdly, Elkanah's reaction. (Source: The Seer: The Life of the Prophet Samuel and its Relevance Today. Birth of the Theotokos Monastery)

(To be continued. Next: God's Providence)

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"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" -- Saint John Chrysostomos

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George