Andrey Kuraev – The Bible in Christian's life (English subtitles)

The Bible in Christian’s life. Part 1 Our conversation about the world of Orthodox theology we will begin with one subject that is, quite surprisingly, the most debatable in the Christian world. That is the subject of role of The Bible in Christian’s life It is quite odd that this question is so debatable as it seems so obvious to be the golden rule for Christian’s life, why bother discussing? And really, we almost every day encounter with people on the streets who tell us that they live only according to The Bible, unlike us, say Orthodox Christians who constantly violate It, but they, (our Protestantism brothers: Baptists, Adventists, Pentecostals and so on) were able to study Bible precisely and really live by It Well, you know, this statement always puts kind, old smile on my face Firstly, if only the world would just have one school which is claiming that it is exactly living by (The Bible) and accepts Its texts fully then it would be easier to imagine that yes, there’s a certain argument between people who state that they only live by The Bible and accept only It and other people who, say, are stating that their outlook on life is broader and their field of references is broader, that they, for instance, refer not only to The Bible but, say, also to Bhagavad Gita or also Koran and so on And so between these people there might be an argument But the most interesting part is that specifically in the Christian world there are hundreds, thousands of different denominations that insist only them are following The Bible Jehovah’s Witnesses as well as Baptists and Adventists and Pentecostals and Calvinists and Anglicans and Lutherans and whoever else there might be Nevertheless, we can see that despite the fact that all Christians appeal to the very same book they all differ among themselves Why? Well, the answer is pretty clear What I am going to talk about is indeed pretty self explanatory, but, sometimes those banalities have to be told I would like to say that some of us, some of Christians, do not live by The Bible. But instead, we all live by what we understand, it is our understanding of Bible It might be more or less deep or shallow. It might be more or less corresponding to the Bible context and Its idea or contradicting to that It might be more corresponding to, let’s say, historical concreteness of Biblical texts or more further away from this concreteness But in any case, it will after all be our perusal, our interpretation of this book Well, imagine that a person would come in your school and tell kids that he is here to convey the exact meaning of “To Have and Have Not” by Ernest Hemingway How should one react to that kind of statement? I think that this only phrase is more than enough to cut off all the communication with this person and don’t let him visit the class any longer Why? Because if he is not Ernest Miller Hemingway, what right does he have to claim that he knows the exact meaning of his writing And even if it is Ernest Miller Hemingway who’d risen from dead specifically to conduct a lesson, even then, his statements regarding the matter we would need to accept with a certain degree of caution As any genius piece of art inevitably conveys much more than an author would want to put in it Any strong works in the field of culture are written through the author not by him, they literally voice themselves And you remember how Pushkin (the author) was surprised by how eccentrically Tatyana (the character) behaved: got married and refused Onegin’s proposal There is certain disobedience in the works of art because of author’s inspiration, of his dissolving in it, what is not under his control anymore. It’s like when painter has painted a genius piece but even he might not be able to do the exact same copy later on It looks like all the lines are the same but still, something subtle, something elusive is lacking when, say, a month later, this painter made a replica of the original piece poet won’t be able to write the same verse even on the same subject. These verses will always differ from each other

So the same is true for Ernest Hemingway if he would suddenly appear in front of us with his own analysis of his work It would certainly be interesting to listen to that but, in any case, it would seem too lacking to just limit our understanding to what he has just told us Simply because when he had been writing his texts he had put a lot through himself without maybe even recognizing that Maybe a certain character or a phrase had manifested itself and he himself forgotten where that character appeared from Who told him this phrase or suggested that comparison This happens when you are growing up reading books and some of them would influence you so much that you forget their authors as it seems that you always understood stuff like that, seems that you always thought in exactly the same way And then someone from the outside would approach and say: “Honey, this is not your words, it is an actual quotation from this or that, you have just cited your mentor” and then you clutch your head and say: “Wow, indeed, now I have remembered thanks to you, that this preacher or this writer had told me this amazing phrase and it influenced me very much I even forgot who had told me that as it seems so truthful and so common to humanity But let’s remember beautiful school times Remember how discussions of “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinback or simpler texts such as Twain’s Huckleberry Finn are happening And every year, in every class there are discussions held about how Huck wants his freedom from his father and Jim wants his freedom to be a human being and be with this family. And why doesn’t Huck turn Jim in, instead, helping him evade the slave hunters That’s an easy text And when we start talking about The Bible, indeed, it is quite usually – “so many men, so many minds” How hard it is to read and interpret this text which is coming from such an ancient times and is separated from us by another language and culture and most importantly by different spiritual level, unlike the one that we are accustomed to This is why we have to be very careful when talking with Bible There is a great danger to unconsciously oppress oneself and put a false meaning in this or that part of It, the meaning that is not really there As Arthur Schopenhauer said: “We should comport ourselves with the masterpieces of art as with exalted personages – stand quietly before them and wait until they speak to us” We should humbly wait for them willing to talk to us In no case we should start talking first Of course, The Bible is much more than just a human piece of art but nonetheless, even more so, this rule should be remembered here as well You have to wait until The Bible opens Its meaning to you, otherwise, it is quite easy to mutilate It I would want to remind one episode from The Gospel Remember when devil was tempting Jesus in the desert? How was he tempting Him? He was tempting Him be quoting The Holy Scripture This means that there’s nothing, even most sacred, that can be hidden from the oppression and vulgarity in our world And eventually used against Christ or Church Same is also concerning The Bible which can be taken and mutilated freely We see that in large examples of different sects Ancient sects like Gnosticism or modern ones like, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Moonies, Rerikhism or other forms of occultism, which seemingly refer to The Bible texts but in reality simply violate It by throwing the large episodes away ignoring them or, on the contrary, make The Bible confirm own, pretty strange thoughts So again, every one of us is “doomed” to be in the state of the dialog with The Bible – listen to It, ask It But what we are going to hear back… Remember Tyutchev’s “God did not let us second-guess How our word would come back, slanted, And empathy to us is granted The same way with God’s grace we’re blessed…” Similarly, for our empathy to be awaken to the Word of Bible, the Grace is needed Is it always in us? I am afraid not So, before we start the talk on Grace, let’s discuss the subjects that are comprehensible even for the secular oriented person first As known, The Bible, Gospel texts had gotten to us in the form of manuscripts These manuscripts are from the first millennium and there are more than five thousands of them And these manuscripts have an interesting feature, especially the older ones, the so called uncials

First, all the text there is given without spaces between words Second – no capital letters Third – no punctuation Think for yourself, is it easy to read the text in which words are not separated from each other, in which there is no punctuation and no capital letters Now the serious question arises ТSay, we open The Gospel and read how John baptizes Jesus. And then this phrase follows, when John baptized Jesus: “the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him” You see, “upon him” it is upon whom? Upon John the Forerunner or upon Christ? This is the question of interpretation Moving on, the question for The Bible writer, should he be writing the word “him” from the capital letter or not? Going further, Paul the Apostle said this: “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not… (2Cor 4:3-4)” Here, in this phrase, should the word “god” be written from the small letter or capital? In our synod Bible this word is written starting from small letter and then it definitely means the god of this world – satan But say, Saint Irenaeus (AD 130), read this place differently, he said: “of them which believe not, the God blinded minds”. He uses capital letter in the word “God” In analogy with Old Testament: “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart…” (Ex 7:3), same with people who live in the spirit of this age, therefore not believing – they, it turn out, have blinded minds and they can’t comprehend The Gospel as Jesus instructed Why this nuance is so important here? Because there is a sect, called Jehovah’s Witnesses and when you start showing them places where Christ calls Himself God in The Bible texts, they usually say: “No, no, no, this means nothing. The word “god” can be used for anyone in the New Testament, here, even satan is called god” And then they refer to this quotation from Paul’s Epistles to the Corinthians Here then, it might be useful to remind that in ancient times, this fragment was known by another version This is the question on punctuation Say, there is a popular phrase: “He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias” Where should the colon (as a marker of direct speech) be placed? (Russian synod translation has a colon punctuation mark in this fragment) Should it go like: [He said (:) “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord] or [He said, I am the voice of one crying (:) ”In the wilderness make straight the way of the Lord”]? See, it is really vital to place the colon in a proper place in order to understand this phrase First example, [He said: “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness] is meaning that the prophet, John, in this case, is located in the wilderness and speaking to townspeople and saying that the God will soon come to their towns, so they should be prepared to greet Him, not to miss this moment And another version, we just move the colon in different place, [I am the voice of one crying: “In the wilderness make straight the way of Lord”] In this case, the prophet might even be speaking amongst the townspeople, this is of less relevance here, either he is in the wilderness or between people in town But now he says the opposite, he says that they should prepare for the God’s coming not in towns but in the wilderness, in the desert. Because their towns are the hub for vice and sin, and they won’t hear the Word of Jesus You should leave the common stereotypes, come into desert and there you will see the God You see, both versions might be acceptable from the Gospel’s point of view and Its plot You might remember that The Gospel contains this interestingly highlighted feature that shows that Christ’s life is happening outside towns The most important events are happening on the outskirts The Christmas is happening not in Jerusalem but outside, in Bethlehem, in the manger for cattle Then, say, Transfiguration (Matthew 17) – out of town, The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) – out of town, the Temptation of Christ in Judaean Desert (Luke 4:1-13; Matthew 4:1-11) – out of town, Baptism of Jesus and Theophany of God the Father – out of town, the crucifixion of Jesus – in the desert again, Resurrection of Christ – also in the desert and away from Jerusalem So, those two options of placing the colon are possible here As you see, placing of punctuation (which is not present in the original scriptures) largely influence our perception of the text But also, most importantly, we must remember that placing of punctuation is dependable, first of all, on the fair bit of our arbitrariness And this is exactly where the need of theology arises So that by conscious, rational effort of discipline it would be possible to restrain the oppression and our own desires and contrariness in interpretation of the holistic Bible text

Here is another example which concerns the problems that arise when we are dealing with manuscripts I have already mentioned that there are more than five thousands manuscripts of New Testament books that had come to us from the first millennium And exactly because these are manuscripts, not photocopies, they differ between each other They have differences and there are inevitable slips and errata in them When, say, copyist (the scribe) had upgraded (styled) certain grammatical form or maybe, he didn’t quite catch the word Quite often it was done when twenty people were writing while one was reading (some would really have the book in hand and carefully copied it) But there also used to be another way of doing it. When the publication was intended to be big it was done in the following manner: A person was standing in the center and was holding a book in hand, he was reading this book and there were 10 scribes sitting around him and copying what they were hearing And, it is quite understandable that when the scribe was writing like that, he could had not perfectly catch this or that word or reproduce that word and would guess on his own, assuming on his own, which word was used in that context In this case, the whole word could be misplaced Also, the scribe would do kind of a remark on the fields for himself. And the next scribe, who would start from his manuscript (where the previous scribe ended) would put that remark in the text Or the opposite, the scribe would want to shorten something because he felt like something was already used in the text, why get repetitive Or even strictly mechanical error, when the eye had slipped one line below and the whole line got lost Especially this happens in those parts of Bible where there is rhythmical prose, (verse-like forms) that repeats from phrase to phrase It is quite easy to do the mistake there It is like when you read “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees…” (Matthew 23:13-29). Once, twice, three times, four…it is easy to make an error and skip the whole phrase or even paragraph because they start or end the same way This is why, I am emphasizing again and again, there are differences between all manuscripts Let’s, for instance, take what might be familiar to people who deal with Russian culture Take the Book of Psalms, it seems that it is not changing, it was written by David and translated onto old Russian long time ago in times of Saint Cyril and Methodius and is getting read everyday during the church service Nevertheless, Russian language specialist would take the text of Psalms and only by the character of writing (how letters are written) or judging by the features of grammar and tell you exactly that this text is coming, say, from the beginning of XVI century And this Psalm was published in the middle of XVI century And this is from the end of XVI century And not just judging by the style of writing or the condition of parchment or paper but also by the grammatical nuances In the same way, this evolution of language is affecting the manuscripts This also usually allows to date the time of composition of this or that copy So, again, there is a difference between the manuscripts, and yes, sometimes it might be the semantic one, regarding the actual meaning And by the way, so that we answer the most important question: are there any fragments in The Gospel that had been crossed out (deleted)? No The thing is, that we have ways to check that Were there really such a (church) censorship? Usually different sects are claiming that they don’t trust our Gospel as those books had undergone a thousand year censorship and we (as Orthodox Christians) had extracted all the occultist ideas from them I am sorry, but this is quite easy to check At first, because there are a) quotations from The Gospel, also in paganism (non Christian) authors; b) there are plenty of translations onto the whole variety of languages, not excluding those nations that had long time ago dropped they ties with Orthodox or Catholic Churches, for instance Ethiopians, Indian Nestorians or Armenians So we can also refer to those books to compare texts Besides that, which is likely the most important, The Gospel has many unpleasant and “inconvenient” places for theologian explanation (exegesis) These places always rise certain perpexities, like the plot with the fig tree (Matthew 21:18-22) which is being cursed by the Lord It is not easy to really understand what had happened here People are really getting puzzled here

Or, say, the scene where Christ calls Peter satan (Matthew 16:23) This place seems especially attractive to just take the pen and cross it out “How could that be, name Peter, the greatest Apostle, with this name, no, let’s just cross it out” No, it is there, in every manuscript And those kind of “inconvenient” places are very common in Bible, which, by the way, are getting speculated on by different sects And the mere fact that those (really difficult for Orthodox Church to interpret) parts of Bible are still there means that our spiritual fathers, those, thanks to whom those manuscripts had come to our time, they didn’t do the censorship on it but copied it in an honest, diligent manner There is another problem There are a few parts in The Gospel that had been added there Not crossed out but added Because, in more ancient languages and prestigious manuscripts (which are not always the same in Biblical studies) some parts are missing Those parts, that, say, our modern publications do have Those are: the ending of The Gospel of Mark, last chapter – the blessing to the Apostles; in The Gospel of John, the story about woman who was taken in adultery, remember when Christ says: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7) – ancient Christian writers do not know this plot, ancient manuscripts do not have it, this plot is getting cited starting somewhere around 4th century AD; and the last one is from the Apostles epistles: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one” (1 John, 5:7-8) This phrase, indeed, is getting questioned a lot on the scientific arena and, in the scientific New Testament publications it is usually given as a footnote stating that it is not provided in the ancient manuscripts But this question is largely debatable Though, why am I emphasizing this so much? Because of the Jehovah’s Witnesses again Because people who had studied in seminaries or Sunday Schools, they remember this phrase from catechism (“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost”) to be the argument for Trinity And people usually memorize this phrase, on the catechism classes, and then, when encountering with sectarians usually refer to it But Jehovah’s Witnesses reply back that their scientists proved that this phrase is missing from the older manuscripts And I even remember my own astonishment when I, for the first time, came across this problem while disputing with Jehovah’s Witnesses I started to exclaim: “You can’t be serious, who are your scientists, let’s check it out. Let’s take Nestle-Aland’s scientific critical editions and see what is going on…” And indeed, I look it up and see, that phrase was not there but was added later on I refer to Lopukhin’s “Explained Bible” and again, it confirms that that place was added and was not originally presented in manuscripts And then, of course, I had a few “good” words to say to my New Testament teachers in the seminary that hadn’t warned us (maybe from this falsely-understood piety) that there are places like that in the Holy Writ, which, in turns, had made us vulnerable, exposed us at possible risk But this is about it Well, you see, yes, there were occasions when The Gospel was proofread and a few additions were made But this is not a reason to think some doctrines were taken out of The Bible and some deliberately put instead Because, even without this verse about three witnesses it is well understood that Bible teaches about Trinity Because even without this episode about the woman who was taken in adultery it is well understood that Bible is teaching repentance, forgiveness and non-condemnation And without this ending in The Gospel of Mark it is absolutely clear that Christ gives marvelous dwellings and power to do miracles even more than He Himself had done to His loyal followers Nonetheless, there are certain differences between the manuscripts Here is one of them, it is quite important Hebrews, Chapter 2, verse 9: “…that He (The Christ) by the grace of God should taste death for every man” Using these words, Paul the Apostle talks about the mystery of Jesus Cross (His suffering for us) But the thing is, a lot of other manuscripts have this written differently Our synod publications, for instance, comment this place by referring to the word “charity” (same as “grace”), so by the grace of God Jesus had tested death for every man But in many other manuscripts there is word “choris” instead, which means “to be far” So Christ was far from God, outside of God, had tasted death for every man This understanding is then, very well coinciding with Jesus crying: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

Here is more significant nuance Concerning Jehovah’s Witnesses dispute again The Gospel of John, piece from Last Supper, Jesus prays (Chapter 17, verse 11): “…Holy Father, keep through thine own name those (Apostles) whom thou hast given me…” But again, in some manuscripts it reads as follows: “…Holy Father, keep them (Apostles) in Your name, the name which You have given Me…” So you see, “keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me” and “keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me” The thing is, when we read those manuscripts which our synod publications do not refer to, then, it turns out, that God had given His Name to Christ Paul the Apostle epistles. Philippians, Chapter 2, verse 9: “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth” And remember, Jehovah’s Witnesses insist that the name of God is Jehovah and Christ can’t be called with that name Here, it turns out, that yes, it can, because this higher name, the Name of God, Father had given to The Son And here we see that choosing this or that manuscript will affect us directly Also, much to our regret, we have to admit that our synod Bible publications refer not to those manuscripts that are much stronger supporting Orthodox Christian tradition At last, when we talk about Holy Writ and that we inevitably have to deal with interpretation, we shouldn’t also forget that we also deal with the translation itself There are really few of us who can read, cite and preach the Holy Writ in Greek Or even simply think on Greek We are all dealing with the translation and every translation is first of all a creative work (interpretation) Take any dictionary and you will see that every word has multiple meanings Then, there is an inevitable question that pops up – how do we translate this or that word from the New or Old Testament? What is behind that word? Say, in Isaiah, the Old Testament prophet, we read his famous prophesy: “…Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” In Jewish text we see the word “almāh” which has multiple meanings It is more correct to translate onto modern English as simply “young woman” And young woman might be either recently married woman or young girl So what did Isaiah the prophet have in mind? He wanted to simply state on the presence of the sign from God that young woman would give birth to the son? I am sorry, but what has a sign from God to do with this? This happens everywhere without any miracles It would probably be more appropriate to say that he meant a miracle, that a virgin woman will give birth to the Son, “…and shall call his name Immanuel” And here is a quite frequent example of how people would interpret places like that: one Jewish journalist in Moscow had written an article in Russian daily newspaper “Nezavisimaya Gazeta”, according to which, this Isaiah text should be interpreted as “Look! This young woman is pregnant!” This is how it is ought to be translated! So you see, a lot of how we translate something from the Holy Writ will largely depend on the inner spirit or frame of mind of the translator It will inevitably depend on his, so to speak, intention, urge… What he desires? What are his aspirations? Where is he coming from? Here is an anecdotal example. Though, it surely has its realistic point but is still quite extraordinary So imagine, XIX century, (and we right away need to note that there were quite an extraordinary sort of internal code of conduct in Russian seminaries – the teaching were held only in Latin, and seminarians students were fined and punished for speaking in Russian, even in their bedrooms away from any classes Only Latin was permitted and could be used) And once, during the exam, a piece of paper with Latin text was given to this seminarian – newbie with the task to translate it. So the Latin text needed to be translated And since it all happened in seminary, the text was the excerpt from Latin translation of The Gospel And here, this young man is looking at the piece of paper in front of him… We need to clarify, that he knew Latin but was not really fond of theology So he is providing his translation… And there was a phrase from The Gospel where Christ says: “The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak” The spirit on Latin is “spiritus”, flesh is “caro”

And so he translates: “The liquor is good but the meat has gone bad” So the translation of the Biblical text can’t, in all cases, be considered as correct and truthful We can’t really foresee, a lot is depending on the translator himself A lot in our translations also depends on the level of adaptation of our language (its closeness) to the language of The Bible For example, Greek has its own peculiar grammar properties Two examples: So that it is clear I will have to remind that Church Slavonic language is an artificial language, it was never a spoken language and this is why, by the way, it can’t be said that it is outdated or archaic because it was never playing a role of widely spoken language. It was never like colloquial Russian Church Slavic language was created as an artificial language that had absolutely deliberately copied Greek grammar And this why today, and not only today I think, people who do not learn Slavic or Greek, might sometimes get confused For example, in Parable of the Sower, in The Gospel of Luke there is a phrase: “the sower went out to sow his seed…” (Luke 8:5) “…but the thief came at night and stole those seeds, trampled them” (Luke 8:12) So why is he doing that? So that people “Not believing shall receive salvation” – that is Church Slavic translation “Not believing shall receive salvation” Well, you know, it is not rare, unfortunately, that ministers do not prepare themselves for the preachment They might think: “I’ll get around somehow, didn’t have time to prepare to the service the day before, will read The Gospel and God shall put sense into that” So he comes out, opens the Church Slavic translation, sees the text and remembers his old seminar lessons, on which he went through this particular Parable of the Sower and is therefore comfortable with it, now he shall speak and interpret it easily And all of a sudden: “Not believing shall receive salvation” How can it be, be saved without believing? I don’t get it And now, after reading this, he starts making stories: “Well you know, if people would believe they would not still live by commandments and “that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.” (Luke 12:47), but if the person is not believing into Christ but is still living by his pagan laws he will be judged according to those laws and it will be even easier for him to get salvation, etc and those kind of piling up gets more and more absurd, again, sort of an aggression towards the Holy Writ, and now it turns out that you would be better off to get your salvation without believing But in reality, it is quite easily explained Greek has this grammatical construction in which the negative particle is placed in front of two verbs and is related to both of them So it would need to be translated into correct English as follows: “Not believing shall not receive salvation” That is satan’s goal – to steal our belief so that we couldn’t receive salvation King James version is pretty clear in this place and there can be no complaints here This translation is easier to comprehend than the Church Slavic one Here is another example from the Slavic translation again When satan is tempting Christ and Jesus says: “Get after me, satan” (Luke 4:8)… get after me satan… Some students theologians would start reasoning that Christ is calling him to penance, to almost become His Apostle As the matter of fact, they just forget that it is simply a Greek idiom (get after me) which means “go behind my back” or “get lost” This is what it means Which is why, New International Version translation (“Away from me satan”(Matthew 4:10)) is by all means correct here, it goes like: “Go away, get lost, satan but not like hey, go after me, I will make you an Apostle or “…Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” Here are more examples where certain confusions might occur It is when our language and culture simply do not have those realities which where common to Biblical culture For instance, how would Christ words: “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35) need to be translated onto Korean? The word “bread” as a product from wheat is present in Korean language but the thing is that bread there is served in the restaurants for Europeans, but Koreans themselves eat rice And if the word is translated literally, then, to the Korean ear it would sound similar to what – “I am borshch of stomach” would sound for us

This is why it requires a different translation – “ I am the rice of life” And Saint Innocent of Alaska translated those words as “I am the fish of life” for Aleut people because they did not really eat much else Another example, regarding us (English speakers) this time Paul the Apostle says that we don’t know the mysteries of the age to come but “For now we see through a glass, darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12) That is King James translation “…through a glass, darkly” and say, New American Standard Bible has this place as follows: “For now we see in a mirror (in a riddle) dimly” And then we look at Greek translation and there is indeed word “mirror” there. Or Church Slavic: “Ви1димъ ќбw нн7э ћкоже зерцaломъ въ гадaніи” [telephone rings] So why is it like this, while Greek or Church Slavic or New American Standard translations have the word “mirror” here, the King James version has “…through a glass, darkly”? As mirror means that if someone is looking at it, all is then visible in smaller detail and dark glass wouldn’t provide such clarity, just vague outlines and nothing else Quite an unexpected oppression towards the text, it would seem In reality, the King James version has this place translated absolutely correctly as they had actually considered to think here rather than have a blind faith in dictionary The thing is that mirrors in ancient times (in Paul’s times) were nothing like modern mirrors The so called Venice mirrors, mercury silvering ones, were not invented yet (ones with thin silver layering on the back) Mirrors were made from metal and they were very rough while providing a high level of distortion And this is why phrase “we see in a mirror dimly” would then make more sense Paul the Apostle uses this word, which has an exact clear meaning in the language of his culture, and XIX century translators interpreted this part, according to their culture, in an absolutely adequate way “For now we see through a glass, darkly” So when we deal with the Holy Writ we need to at first remember these precautions: we are dealing with the translation, we are dealing with manuscripts which have differences among themselves and only because of this, any talk on the Holy Script is already our creative dialog, our attempt to comprehend that, what was written through It So now we move from “Bible says this” to “we understand it [what Bible says] as follows” This kind of approach looks more comprehensive and honest Bible in Christian’s life. Part 2 A Christian cannot limit his life and his thoughts to only mechanical memorizing of quotations from The Bible It might seem from the outside that say, why should we bother?, it is all written and said in the Revelation and therefore we should only take these dogmas and follow them Actually it is quite the opposite, a Christian, from the very beginning, was doomed to think about The Bible texts The thing is The Bible itself has two parts It would be much easier if it would be like Koran: holistic, one part book, believed to be Heaven Sent in accordance with the Muslim belief and each word there is of equal value to the other Koran, as known, doesn’t have a plot The chapters (books) there are placed depending on the quantity value (chapter’s volume) not on the value of meaning or something like that Bible is different in this regard The Bible has its very long history And most importantly, The Bible consists of Old Testament and New Testament And who are Christians, especially ancient Christians? They are people who embrace Old Testament, do not deny it, unlike pagans or, say, Gnosticism There used to Gnosticism adherent (early Christians) heretics who stated that they accepted and followed New Testament but didn’t identify themselves with this cruel and terrifying Old Testament, saying that it was written by evil god and has nothing to do with New Testament So they refused Old Testament books Today, similar kind of argument is used by (sadly) quite famous on the Eastern Orthodox Church arena Russian politic Zhevakhov There is a book of his memories which was, quite surprisingly, published by Valaam Monastery where he directly states that Old Testament god is satan It is quite obvious that this kind of blasphemous behavior could not be tolerated by ancient or modern Christians It was the greatest joy of the Christianity – He, Who had created us, Who led Israel along their Earth history, He Himself has come to us, He has showed His absolute love by receiving the death from the Crucifixion!

So on one hand, Christians do not deny Old Testament but on the other hand, do not embrace it totally, otherwise they would be Hebrews, not Christians This is why the question has raised – how to take Old Testament books and, I would say, protect them, provide spiritually safe meaning Paul the Apostle expressed the correlation of Old Testament and New Testament in a really vivid way He said that the law (meaning Old Testament) was the schoolmaster (literal translation from Russian: child guide) to bring us to Christ This word is very odd – “childguide” As far as I know, this word is not used anywhere in Russian language, not in Pushkin’s language dictionary, not in Bunin’s or Turgenev’s or Chekhov’s dictionaries. I didn’t see this word anywhere in Russian literature And all of a sudden, we see it in Russian translation of Paul the Apostle (Galatians 3:24) What does it mean? “childguide”… If we take Greek text this can become clearer There we see “paidagogos” This seems clear – pedagogue And this word gets automaticallly translated on our modern language as “teacher” or “master” And that’s not correct It is not schoolmaster or teacher In ancient Rome or Greece, “paidagogos” was a slave and his duty, in the wealthy family, was to accompany a boy on his way from home to gymnasium or school and to make sure that the kid does not misbehave, doesn’t get naughty and kick cats, doesn’t play football, in other words so that the kid would arrive safe and untouched without losing attention and energy on his way from home to school and then back That is “paidagogos” In Church Slavic this word is translated as “pestun” and on English it would be better to translate as “usher” or “tutor” So the literal translation of “paidagogos” onto Russian is “childguige” but it would be better off translating it as “child supervisor” or “child-attendant” in regards to its meaning It is not a teacher, just someone who makes sure the kid is not getting distracted too much There were also school-dame position in pre-revolutionary Russia School-dame would sit in the class and look after students during the break, but she was not a teacher, she was not teaching Literature or Geography or Mathematics Instead, she would just make sure that students’ attention remain focused and so that they are ready to listen to the teacher after break So, Old Testament books are not The Teacher, the law is not The Teacher It is what is keeping Jew’s attention in hearing The Teacher and prepare them for the future coming of The Teacher Old Testament’s role regarding Israel and regarding New Testament can be, quite bluntly, expressed by this silly anecdote from the seventies As our conversation has a more casual format unlike the preaching in the church, we can probably go on with it So imagine, the international space flights have just started This anecdote has been created upon the “Soviet – Mongolian” astronauts return So the astronauts came back and journalists have noticed that Mongolian astronaut’s hands got black And he is being asked: “Comrade astronaut, comrade hero, why are your hands black? Other astronauts do not have this kind of reaction Is this the reaction on gravity which is inherent to your race? And he is replying: “What has race or gravity to do with it? It is all our elder Soviet brothers I would only try to do something on our station on the orbit, to reach for a tumbler or something, they would all of a sudden start beating my hands saying “Don’t touch!”, “Where are you going?!” And this is precisely what Old Testament was doing to Jews It was beating their hands and aggressively imposed Itself It is very important to understand, that Old Testament religion is not Jewish religion In a sense, that it is not created by Jewish people It is an imposed religion onto Jewish people And all the biblical history is the history of rebellion, oppositions and strong tension between spiritual elite (the prophets, The Spirit of Israel) and people Remember, as soon as Moses barely steps aside, people (“…it is a stiffnecked people” (Exodus 32:9)) would right away start making “a molten calf” Besides that, relationships between the prophets and people are known to be quite tragic

And right up to The Gospel, where this conflict is getting resolved by the Cross (Christ sacrifice) So, the Old Testament is not a religion that is being developed by people themselves but what is given from God as revelation And is getting imposed, quite aggressively And why should it be imposed? So that Jewish people do not practice customary pagan tradition: magic, occultism, fortune-telling, astrology, communication with spirits and stuff like that So in order to not let Israel’s spiritual life be influenced by paganism, by its thoughts and ideas, The Law (Old Testament) is being very rigorous with them, even punishing intermarriages between Israelis and foreigners And what is it all for? So that eventually, after all, the Teacher can come and so that at least one nation in the world would remain holistic and untouched and it could eventually provide Apostles from its environment To provide those, who could declare the Word of Truth around the world And yes, it is not a lot of them but nevertheless, all previous, stringent and cruel history of Israel had its place so that at least those, a few, are present So it means that The Bible has auxiliary books which serve to something that will follow; and there are, so called, final books – books of the New Testament Only according to this, it becomes clear that Christian has to think, differentiate and comprehend this difference And this is an everlasting “headache” for theologians What exactly (from the Old Testament) has outdated and had only a supervision, temporary role (a child guide) and what, on the contrary, was told for everyone, for all times and forever You see, a lot of what was told there is outdated Ten Commandments “Honour thy father and thy mother”, is it outdated? Or “Thou shalt not commit adultery” is outdated? Or “Thou shalt not kill” is outdated? No, those commandments are given for all times How is Christ relating to them in New Testament? He is rather, extending and clarifying them but not denying or overriding Okay, there are well known stuff, where Christ or Apostles are directly abolishing the Old Testament rules Say, you don’t anymore need to get circumcised in order to enter the “union with God” Going further, there are certain New Testament texts that, in a way, are “spiritualizing” Old Testament texts (expanding their moral depth) For instance, Christ says: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment…” (Matthew 5:21-22) But there is another problem There are many places in The Old Testament that haven’t been commented upon or clarified in the New Testament They are neither directly abolished nor spiritually interpreted by The Apostles So what should we do with those texts? On one side we have Paul the Apostle’s words that all the Writ is God given, and he spoke about Old Testament books, not New Testament as It haven’t yet come to exist And while we understand that Holy Writ was God given, God had inspired those texts and their authors beyond any doubts, but why? God had inspired this ancient author to voice certain spiritual truth for everybody, for all times and all people or God was solving certain minister’s or pedagogical task? This question is well known to Eastern Orthodox Christians It is of no surprise that there is a rule in Orthodox tradition to not tell anybody about what happened when you went to confession Not in a sense “do not tell about your sins”, but you don’t have to tell what has the confessor told you Why? Because with the help of this parishioner’s and his own as well as church’s community prayer, God has put certain feelings and words into his heart on how he should say something spiritually useful to this particular soul, to this particular human who is now kneeling in front of him And now, the minister gives his advice to this person This is not a message to everyone, not “Urbi et Orbi” or “omnibus idem” It is what is being told to this soul in this particular situation And if then you go and tell everyone “what was told to me in this situation…” I am sorry, but it was told to me, on that particular day And maybe if I approach him with this same thought and similar situation in, say, a year, he might tell me differently, he might give me another advice

And it’s even more difficult in regards to other human It is very tempting, when people start telling one another what was told to them by their ministers and eventually develop sort of a universal law The so called law of spiritual life for all times One has to be very careful with it Same is true for the Holy Writ What has to be differentiated? What was told there as a minister’s guide for that particular person in that situation and what was told for everyone A Christian here is obligated to think. Obligated to eliminate and to choose, while consciously determining what is that, that we choose Precisely see that we are doing that (choosing), how we do it and which criteria we use in this process Once, one Pentecostalism Protestant preacher came to my lecture and started to argue that they, Protestants, live only according to the New Testament unlike us, ignorant Orthodox When he finished this absurd statement, I asked: “Could you please turn around?” He said: “Why is that?” I said: “I would like to see whether you have your paddle on you” He got confused: “What paddle?” I told him that according to Deuteronomy (23:13) “And thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon; and it shall be, when thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee” It is a wise, hygienic precept Israel is nomadic at that time, it goes from Egypt to Palestine Hundreds of thousands of people, a huge camp So imagine, they find some spring, a water source and settle around it Imagine what is going to happen in a week or so? What kind of biological hazard is going to develop in the hot, desert climate And this is why our God is talking care of not only our souls but of our bodies by providing such a wise precept To avoid being like dogs – bury it So I ask my Protestant opponent: “Where is your paddle? They were told to carry their paddle with them and you don’t, how come?” He says: “That is only concerning the Old Testament and we are not obligated to live by It, we live by the New Testament” I say: “That’s very nice words, but I will begin talking as a Protestant now, please tell me, where exactly is this (Old Testament) precept getting abolished in the New Testament? You, Protestants, always insist, please show where is this or that written in The Bible and I am now returning your question Please show me where is it written in The Bible that one does not have to carry one’s paddle anymore? Where in The Gospel Christ says something like: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt carry paddle and I am saying use Pampers with wings”? There are no words like that in the New Testament, but still, you don’t carry the paddle with you, why?” And I am explaining: “As the matter of fact, we, Eastern Orthodox Christians do not carry paddles on us as well, but this precisely means that we, in this regard, are same as you, we, Protestants and Orthodox do the interpretation of the Holy Writ But just try being honest before yourselves and before God, that you do not just mechanically memorize quotations from The Bible but that you do exegesis Let’s make SALT II arrangement: I do not criticize you according to the Old Testament on the subject of paddles and you do not criticize us according to the Old Testament again, that we make icons So now we approach a very serious theology question: What had gone and what is remaining for all times I would like to provide a theologian advice here If you see that your interlocutor or opponent is only citing the words from the Old Testament this could be a sign of danger Please tell, why are you only citing the Old Testament? Maybe we are now talking about the doctrine which had outdated and is no longer relevant in the Old Testament anymore Maybe something has changed in the New Testament, something that is now making this aspect of Old Testament not important For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses or Seventh Day Adventist, they often take Old Testament quotations and by referring to them state that there is no consciousness after death, that soul is dying with the death of physical body There are indeed a lot of places like that in the Old Testament: Ecclesiastes or in the Book of Psalms.”As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes” (Book of Psalms 103:12)

But when we listen to these arguments coming from different sects you can pay attention how they cite on this subject while advocating mortality of the human soul And therefore, you do not need to pray for departed relatives and no need to pray to Saints as the body is gone therefore there is nobody to pray to, before everyone’s resurrection in the future So here, we need to remember that they always cite Old Testament, and New Testament does not contain that in Its texts In the contrary, New Testament has Revelation of John where it is directly stated: “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God” and “And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:9-10) Maybe, you can’t say that this feeling of first Christian martyrs was that spiritual and maybe more basing on the earth inertia, with eager of some sort of revenge but still you can’t deny that A. Those martyr’s souls are there, while their bodies are killed B. Those souls are located under the God’s altar but not somewhere down below. C. Those souls are well aware of what’s happening on the earth, they see that the emperor of Rome is living nice life and Christians are being persecuted and annihilated in the Roman Empire Those souls see what’s happening on earth, it bothers them, they react on the received information on what’s going on and at last, they appeal to the God and plead for the people on earth in their prayers and ask God to intervene and fix this situation in Christians favor Here is the complete justification of Orthodox prayer to Saints for those who remain on earth Yes, indeed, it was different in the Old Testament times Back then, God had not yet become a human, there was no mediator between God and men There was nobody who could defeat the kingdom of death Therefore, until the Savior came all the people went in the underworld, all the people, right up to John the Forerunner Even John the Forerunner, after his martyr’s death, went down below, went in the underworld He was not brought on Heaven and followed same Old Testament path, went into the underworld The Savior Himself went there, in the underworld, looking for these souls And before He went there, everyone, the sinners and the saints went directly in the underworld This is why Ecclesiastes cries: “All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath.” (Ecclesiastes 9:2) There is an icon of the Harrowing of Hell in Eastern Orthodox Christianity tradition (the icon of Ascension of Jesus) Remember how Christ there is descending into Hell, the gates are knocked over forming the Cross below His feet and the Savior is reaching out for Adam and Eve and sets them free from the underworld Notice, that people who surround Christ on the icon, who meet Christ there, are people with nimbus, saints and kings like David, like the prophets Saints in Hell. This Easter icon is trying to depict all the tragedy, horror and the scale of this catastrophe that happened with the humanity on the dawn of its history, when we found ourselves detached from God When even our own righteousness was not capable of constructing such a Tower of Babel of our service and good deeds which could help us in getting though the blockade and to the Heaven Nothing like that was available This is why, the Old Testament books are keeping silence and cry about death There are no bright promises These parts of The Bible are confusing a lot of sects and they are completely missing that it is nothing like that in the New Testament anymore No crying about death any longer It is quite the opposite now: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”(Philippians 1:21), says Paul the Apostle He is willing to depart from his body by receiving death, that [death] he is now constrained with will be defeated and he will be with God forever one day: “…having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Philippians 1:23) Or here is another example where sects are missing that the Old Testament times had gone. It is their relation to our icons The talk on the icon demands much more time but still, let’s highlight the most important here Yes, the Old Testament clearly stated not to depict the God who was not seen In a day of your Exodus from Egypt, you did not see God, yes you heard His voice but did not see Him. And since you didn’t see – don’t depict

The logic is quite reasonable here Yes, but everything’s changing in the New Testament: “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” (John 1:18) Therefore, when God hadn’t yet become a man – it was a forbidden ground and it is well understood You hadn’t seen God and therefore do not make things up, do not put any man-made appearances on Him But God has become a man in Christ Can Christ be depicted? Yes He can Can that which is visible be depicted? Yes it can And this is precisely what iconographers (icon-painters) do That what was seen by the Apostles, this miracle that “the Word was made flesh” (John 1:14) That miracle is expressed in the icon As John of Damascus said: “You have seen how God had become a man, so go ahead and paint it!” (paraphrased). “Give to it all the endurance of engraving and color” (St. John of Damascus “Apologia against those who decry Holy images” Part 1) So, when we talk about The Bible, it is vital for us to remember that it has two parts: there are books of the Old Testament and quite a large part of it is still a matter of vital importance for us, importance in its intelligence, in its usefulness in spiritual sense, even in the beginning of the New Testament era. Because of this only, we have to learn how to think about it properly And finally, one more aspect which requires a theologian’s clarification if we were to read The Bible carefully and thoroughly Even if a person is constructing his speech only on the quotations from the Holy Writ it is still only his speech, not The Bible’s The thing is, that selection of quotations from the Holy Writ is already a creative work It is the manifestation of his independence and self-will So how do we know where exactly is the Holy Writ commenting on this particular situation? You see, nowhere in the Holy Script you can see that, say, “You have to go and do this or that on the July 23rd of 2022” And you specifically, Mr. Smith from New York There is nothing like that in The Bible So, it is very important to understand where The Bible is talking about me In this largest complex of different situations, advices, instructions and prohibitions, what exactly is said to me about my today’s situation? Where do I recognize myself? That it is me who approached Christ and it is my question How do we know? For example, I, say, teach people in classes and two times a year I am making people’s life miserable That’s my job as a teacher when exams are starting I am therefore a buzzkiller to students and sometimes even mess up their holidays plans So imagine, there is a student in front of me, whom I didn’t really spot on my lectures and he is obviously pulling the wool over my eyes, telling me some interesting fairy tales So what should I do to him? I see that he is simply lying, he is telling something about Orthodox Christianity while not knowing what it actually is So I am thinking: “Let’s solve this in a Christian way” Opening The Bible and search for similar situation Here it is! “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?” And Lord gave an answer: “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven” So I grab my calculator and count: seven times seventy equals to four hundred ninety So that many times I’ll have to forgive Now, go ahead you can pass this exam 489 times or instead, I am, say, adding those to his overall grade (sort of giving a credit) Should I act like that in this situation with a student? I should be guided by this instruction? “I forgive you not knowing anything” Or maybe I should remember different episodes from The Bible where it is written about honest duty which is including the honest evaluation of student’s knowledge which are being demonstrated in front of me by these students? And maybe I shall remember Paul the Apostle’s words: “For he is God’s servant to do you good…for he does not bear the sword for nothing” (Romans 13:4) How do I deal with it? Another scenario. Imagine that I am a judge. Teacher’s duty, same as judge’s (and vast variety of other professions) are quite dangerous professionally and spiritually Because they require evaluating other people under certain criteria And it is said: “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1) That is very serious. A duty of (governmental, church or any other structure) leader Imagine, how, say, a head of the university or the seminary is making his decision on whether the entrant should be accepted or not, should this seminarian be discharged or not Or the abbot of the monastery who is deciding whether this novice should be taken into monastery or not, he (the abbot) ought to make an evaluation and decide whether this person is capable of living in monastery or not

Whether this was just a random episode in his life or it was a serious aspect of his personality and it is hard for him to go through it So this is extremely hard and risky. One has to evaluate other and it will inevitably hurt for the one who evaluates There is certain professional and spiritual risk once again Imagine that I am a judge and also I am Christian and there is a person accused of murdering four souls As I am Christian what should I do, remember “Until seventy times seven”? 490 minus 4 equals to 486 So I am telling him, you know what, dear, please go with peace until you kill 486 souls more, then come back and I will convict you Or I shall remember the Apostle’s “for he does not bear the sword for nothing”? So this question is always with us Where precisely is the Holy Writ talking about my current situation? Which is why, it only depends on the person on which page he will open The Bible Which quotations is he using to advocate his position? This is his choice Which quotations is he using to appeal (and what is he appealing to) to his interlocutors? That is his choice And unfortunately history knows a lot of facts where The Bible is being (used) forced to serve the most cruel agenda The Gospel, The Book of Love, Forgiveness, Confession and Reconciliation is even getting used to justify mass murders (from what we know even from present history) And some would even go as far as saying: “it were better for him [this seducer] that a millstone were hanged about his neck” (Matthew 18:6) and “it had been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:24) “Aha, better to hang a millstone? Let’s do that!” Excuse me, but this is a figure of speech of Christ This is not an instruction on how we ought to act towards someone, who we feel is seducing someone else Christ did not come to built gallows or hang millstones. He did something else Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovyov got this fair when saying: “Christ had warned the Apostles that they were going to be persecuted but He never told them that He would one day give them right to persecute others” Of course, history knows a lot of examples of this kind of aggression towards The Bible and each example of aggression got covered with some sort of quotation Say, nowadays, a lot of people believe in reincarnation and they justify it with very odd premises For instance, the Book of Leviticus (of the Old Testament) has this commandment: “If an ox gore a man or a woman, that they die: then the ox shall be surely stoned” (Exodus 21:28) According to Origen, there were heretics in past history who made the following conclusion from this place of The Bible “Aha, you see, the ox has to be stoned and that is a punishment towards the human, towards the evil-doer and if so then the ox is also a criminal, (there is a corresponding attitude towards the ox, an attitude which presumes a responsible creature) so it turns out that the ox has a soul and this soul is as intelligent as humans soul and here is a conclusion: it means that human’s soul can go into ox’s body And here we have it Saint Philastrius Gaudentius (in IV AD) provides this example of how heretics where justifying their belief in reincarnation So it is indeed quite easy to not notice the actual meaning of the Holy Writ and put, in this same phrase or symbol, something that I want Therefore, the will of one’s own is inevitable while interpreting The Bible, but! The fight with the sin starts when the human is able to spot the sin, to realize it The most frightening sin is that which is not visible to the man And this is the difference between Eastern Orthodox and a lot of Protestants Eastern Orthodox Christianity realizes that it interprets The Bible Quite often, does so in a quite extraordinary way And this extraordinary interpretation of God’s Word (and will of one’s own) is a sin This is a sin and therefore it needs to be combated, it needs to be disciplined and transformed but how? In order to control this vagary and whims in the interpretation of the Holy Writ we need to address to the tradition that had developed the norms of Canon law, address to the Apostolic succession, to norms of Church’s tradition, to dogmatic theology of Church, in agreement with the teachings of The Fathers of the Christian Church (patristics writings)

In other words, all those methods of critical work in theology, which were accumulated and preserved (guarded) by the Eastern Orthodox Church during the centuries So what can let us perceive the actual, long-standing spiritual meaning of the Holy Writ on a most adequate and profound level? The answer is: Only if my own whims and self-will is going to yield to tradition So if we are willing to be true (remain faithful) to the Holy Writ we, quite clearly, need to start searching in the depths of the tradition of Fathers of the Church spiritual understanding of the Holy Writ And this means that we are coming to the Church televison and radio fund “Radonezh”