The Old Testament in the Orthodox Church (Part II)


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


by Fr. R. Sergiou

On the other hand, however, neither the Old Testament nor the Church can convince the unbeliever of the Old Testament's Divine inspiration and authority. In fact, one who does not accept Divine Inspiration of the Old Testament, may subscribe to many views. Among the many possibilities which they may subscribe to, two could be:

The Natural Theory of Inspiration: which completely rules out any Divine influence in the compilation of the Old Testament, or

The Moral Theory of Inspiration: which considers that the Old Testament authors were Divinely influenced in their writings through the holy life they led.

Orthodox Theology does not accept either theory because they both emphasize the human or natural elements of the Old Testament's compilation. Whereas The Natural Theory excludes any Divine contribution, The Moral Theory perceives Divine involvement on a passive level. The importance of distinguishing between natural and Divine revelation has been sufficiently summed up by Fr. Dr. T, Adamopoulos in his book titled Divine Revelation and the Old Testament (p. 31).

"Divine revelation however is to be distinguished from natural revelation. Whereas the former involves a direct, first hand, special and unmistakable communication from God to Man, the later is directly involving the attention itself as evidence of the existence, presence, attributes and power of God within the universe."

It is therefore suffice to say that the Orthodox Church claims that the author of the Old Testament is truly God Himself, but equally the work of men in different times and places. The Church also presupposes and confesses that God can and does reveal Himself, and that man comes to know Him in His self-revelation only through a deep spiritual experience found within the Church...

"...The Holy Bible is practically the sole source of the Church's liturgy, both in form and content. The liturgical pattern of the Church, its cycles of feasting, fasting, psalmody and prayer are all expressly biblical. In the liturgy, the Holy Bible comes alive and shows itself for what it really is: the living Logos/Word of God. Typological appreciation is central in liturgical use of the Old Testament and in the very biblical character of the liturgy itself through psalms, verses, quotations and adaptations of the Old Testament in hymns and Canons.

In order to better understand just how the Orthodox Church uses the Old Testament in worship, we must focus our attention to the selection procedures of the 'readings' found in the various services. This selection of Old Testament readings did not happen fortuitously in the worship of the Orthodox Church. By choosing these texts, the Church wanted to directly unite her liturgical life with biblical revelation. By studying the liturgical books of the Orthodox Church, one may extract the following information:

  1. The reading of the Old Testament occurs during ecclesiastical periods, great feast days, and on a daily basis in certain services. During all these services, biblical representation is exclusively from the Old Testament.
  2. The Church uses many of the Old Testament's characteristics (history, prophecy, pedagogy) as criteria in her selection of readings. At times, the selection of these texts are directly related to the message of the feast, and at other times they are indirectly related. However, the Church never selected readings which were totally unrelated to the theme of the feast but selected readings with definite elements of Divine Revelation which united the Soteriological (salvific) work of Christ, and the redemptive work of the Church.
  3. In the liturgical life of the Church, some of the books of the Old Testament are read in their entirety (Genesis, Proverbs, Isaiah, And Jonah), some are not read at all but most are read as extracts directly related to the feast.

Having studied the readings of the Old Testament in Orthodox worship, we have not only confirmed their dynamic presence, but their deep theological meaning for the Church. This selection of readings made by the liturgical conscience of the Church, secured the articles of our faith which are founded in the text of the Old Testament. These articles of faith are: 1) The union of the two Testaments; 2) The place of the Old Testament in God's Divine plan; and 3) its meaning as a 'protoevangelion' of Christ.

For the Orthodox Church, a more accurate way of expressing the relationship between the Old and New Testaments would be to state that they are identified as equal to each other. Such an understanding accommodates for a biblical union in the framework of Divine Revelation which is expressed in the description "prediction - prototype - fulfillment" formulated by D. Doikos.

The Church not only saw Christ and His Soteriological work in the prophecies of the Old Testament, but in persons, events and in the laws of ancient Israel. These "types" or "prototypes" (such as the Cross, the Resurrection of Christ, and even Baptism) found their fullness in the Soteriological realities of the New Testament and the Church. And even though all aspects of the Old Testament are not a "prediction" or a "promise", nor in the New Testament is everything "fulfillment", the formula "prediction - fulfillment" is the most satisfactory description of the Church can give in attributing her liturgical union of both Testaments.

(To be continued)


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


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

+Father George