What is the general Orthodox position on Biblical Criticism? I am thinking about issues like the JEDP Documentary hypothesis, multiple authors of Isaiah, etc.
Posted 02 April 2013 - 12:49 PM
I can only deduce, based on my exposure to younger priests coming out of the Greek Orthodox seminary, that, while they may be exposed to the various schools of "higher criticism" that it's not normative. I've never been exposed to a priest actually teaching this stuff. Thank God.
Posted 02 April 2013 - 01:46 PM
Like you I don't like this stuff much either but I was spurred to ask the question because I had run into a couple of Orthodox authors (Fr. Paul Tarazi, George Cronk, a few online Orthodox) who were teaching it.
I was raised in forms of Protestantism that outright rejected these theories of how Scripture came together because they seem to have been developed as an effort to discredit Scripture as it has been generally received.
Finding some Orthodox teaching it made me wonder whether I was mistaken in a wholesale rejection of these ideas.
Posted 03 April 2013 - 05:04 AM
It depends. If the criticism doesnt detract from the overall message as recieved and understood by the Church, then its no biggie.
From the internal evidence, I think its safe to conclude that 1Peter is of later origin than when Peter actually lived. Most likely the final chapter in the gospel of John was` added shortly after the apostes death to reassure those that though he would live till the second coming etc. It doesnt change things.
Posted 05 April 2013 - 04:13 PM
If you are interested in this topic, I would recommend that you pose the question to Presvytera Jeannie Constantinou who does the "Search the Scriptures" podcast on Ancient Faith Radio. Here is a link to the podcast:
You will notice a button saying "contact by email" near the top of the page. Presvytera Jeannie has taught courses on Patristics, the New Testament, etc. at both Orthodox and non-Orthodox institutions and is well acquainted with both the patristic approach to the Scriptures and the many different trends in Scriptural interpretation and biblical criticism in Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. Here is her bio from the site:
Eugenia Constantinou holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Religious Studies (1980) and a Master of Arts degree in Practical Theology from the University of San Diego (1992). She received a Master of Theology degree from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in 1996 where she specialized in Orthodox Theology and Patristics. She also received a Master of Theology from Harvard Divinity School in 1998 where she specialized in the New Testament. She had also previously earned a Juris Doctorate degree from Pepperdine University School of Law in 1985 and has been a member of the California Bar since that same year. Dr. Constantinou received her Ph.D. at Université Laval, Quebec City, Canada, in 2007, writing her doctoral dissertation on “Andrew of Caesarea and the Apocalypse in the Ancient Church of the East.”
Dr. Constantinou has been teaching Biblical Studies and Early Christianity at the University of San Diego since 2002. Previously she taught New Testament at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology from 1998-1999. She has led bible studies, taught and lectured on the Bible and Orthodoxy at parishes, conferences, retreats and seminars for over thirty years. She is married to Fr. Costa, who is a Greek Orthodox priest, and is simply “Mom” to son Christopher.
Posted 05 April 2013 - 04:33 PM
I might stick my neck out here, to say that Presvytera Jeannie has expressed views on certain aspects of the veneration of the Mother of God which are at odds with what Orthodoxy teaches and proclaims, particularly though the Church's icons and hymnography. Veterans and viewers of the various threads in the past couple of years on the Mother of God in the Holy of Holies may well remember ....
I would therefore suggest caveat emptor. Sift the good from the not so ...
Posted 07 April 2013 - 07:10 PM
From a scholarly basis, I don't think there should be anything wrong with Scriptural "criticism", or the evaluation of Scriptures in their origins, their culture, what the author was alluding to within the cultural context, etc. Even Church fathers have engaged in some "analysis" (I really hate that word "criticism"; I think it's more accurate to call it "analysis". The word "criticism" seems to have come about to remove the Scriptures from its supernatural element).
From a spiritual basis, the Church fathers truly trump all, but also the spirit of the Fathers I think is important. The spiritual message should not be devalued in light of the analysis of the Scriptures itself. Of course, some people have (mis)used this technique to promote atheism or immoral aspects into Christian teachings.
Edited by Mina Soliman, 07 April 2013 - 07:14 PM.
Posted 07 April 2013 - 07:22 PM
Consider George Cronk's teaching (as mentioned above):
The Bible, as we have seen, is a book of books, a collection or library of sacred writings. The books contained in Holy Scripture were written, edited and compiled at various times, in various places and by various authors; but the Orthodox Church regards this collection of writings as an authentic and authoritative (that is, "canonical") revelation of truth concerning the relationships between God, man and the universe. The Bible is the written Word of God, "the supreme expression of God's revelation to man."8
The books of the Bible were written by men — that is, by Old and New Testament saints — who were guided in their writing by divine inspiration. From the standpoint of the Orthodox Church, "the entire Bible is inspired by God," and this means that it "contains no formal errors or inner contradictions concerning the relationship between God and the world."9 The overall message of the Bible, that mankind has fallen under satanic bondage and that God has graciously acted in and through Christ to save us from that bondage, is infallibly true. According to the Orthodox doctrine of infallibility, the Church as a whole is the guardian of "the eternal spiritual and doctrinal message of God"10 and is protected from error by the Holy Spirit. The Bible, therefore, as a testimony and proclamation of the Church concerning God's revealed plan of salvation, is without error in its central theological themes and affirmations.
It is not necessary, however, for the Orthodox Christian to insist upon the literal truth of every statement contained in Holy Scripture. Many Orthodox scholars believe that the Bible may contain "incidental inaccuracies of a non-essential character."11 For example, the author of the book of Daniel describes Belshazzar as the "king" of Babylon and as the son of Nebuchadnezzar (r. 605-562 B.C.); but, in fact, Belshazzar was the son of King Nabonidus (r. 556-539 B.C.), and never became king himself, although he did serve as viceroy during his father's absences (see Dn 5:1-31). For another example, many scholars think that the story of God's creation of the world in the first chapter of Genesis assumes that "the universe [is] enwrapped in waters held back by a solid bell-shaped barrier called the firmament"12 — and such an assumption is certainly at odds with what modern science has to say about the cosmos. But these kinds of historical and scientific inaccuracies do not undermine the coherence and validity of the essential theological message of Holy Scripture. The Orthodox Church, in affirming the divine inspiration and infallibility of the Holy Bible, does not exclude the possibility that the Bible might contain some minor errors of fact, but she insists upon the absolute truth of scripture's overall message of salvation.
Compare that with Origen's teaching on the Scriptures:
from the Philocalia, compiled by Sts. Basil and Gregory the Great
20. We have said all this for the sake of showing that the aim of the Divine power which gives us the sacred Scriptures, is not to select such things only as are presented in a literal sense, for sometimes the things selected taken literally are not true, but are even unreasonable and impossible; and further, that certain things are woven into the web of actual history and of the Law, which in its literal sense has its uses. But that no one may suppose us to make a sweeping statement and maintain that no history is real,84 because some is unreal; and that no part of the Law is to be literally observed, because a particular enactment in its wording happens to be unreasonable or impossible; or that what is recorded of the Saviour is true only in a spiritual sense; or that we are not to keep any law or commandments of His: that we may not incur such an imputation, we must add that we are quite convinced of the historical truth of certain passages; for instance, that Abraham was buried in the double cave in Hebron,85 as also Isaac and Jacob, and one wife of each of these; and that Sichem was given to Joseph for his portion,86 and that Jerusalem is the capital of Judea, wherein God's temple was built by Solomon, and countless other statements. For those things which are true historically are many more than those connected with them which contain merely a spiritual sense. Again, take the commandment, "Honour thy father and thy mother that it may be well with thee." 87 Would not any one allow its usefulness apart from any anagogical 88 interpretation, and support 89 Further, there are commands in the Gospel about which there is no doubt as to whether they are to be literally observed or not; for instance, that which says, "But I say to you, whosoever shall be angry with his brother," 90 and so on; and, "But I say to you, Swear not at all." 91 And we must keep to the letter of the Apostle's words, "Admonish the disorderly, encourage the fainthearted, support the weak, be long-suffering towards all";92 though among more eager students it is possible to treasure every detail as the deep wisdom of God, without rejecting the literal meaning of the command.
21. Still, there are places where the careful reader will be distracted because he cannot without much labour decide whether he is dealing with history in the ordinary sense, or not, and whether a given commandment is to be literally observed, or not. The reader must therefore, following the Saviour's injunction to search the Scriptures,93 carefully examine where the literal meaning is true, and where it cannot possibly be so; and he must, to the best of his ability, by comparing parallel passages scattered up and down Scripture, trace out the prevalent sense of what is literally impossible. Since, then, as will be clear to readers, the literal connection is impossible, while the main connection is not impossible but even true, we must strive to grasp the general sense which intelligibly connects things literally impossible with such things as are not only not impossible, but are historically true, and capable of allegorical |23interpretation, no less than those which never literally occurred. For, regarding the whole of Divine Scripture, we hold that every portion has the spiritual meaning, but not every portion the "corporeal"; for the "corporeal" meaning is often proved to be impossible. The cautious reader must therefore very carefully bear in mind that the Divine books are Divine writings, and that there appears to be a peculiar way of understanding them, which I will now describe.
Therefore in some sense, a moderation in the use of "Biblical Criticism" actually does have some roots in Patristics.
Edited by Mina Soliman, 07 April 2013 - 07:22 PM.
Posted 07 April 2013 - 09:52 PM
Those are all good points from everyone and I will email the Presbytera to get her take. It does seem that some of the Higher Criticism is just to debunk the supernatural elements of Scripture or to debunk whatever it is in the critic's interest to call into question.
I have benefited from the constructive criticism of Scripture such as paying more attention to the literary genre of different books and being aware of the ancient "science" of the human authors especially in regards to cosmology and physiology.
I also appreciate the link to Cronk's book. I used to own it but at that time in my life I had a very fundamentalist and literalistic view of how to approach Scripture. I look forward to rereading it online with a fresh perspective.
Posted 08 April 2013 - 12:32 AM
Let's be clear about what we are talking about with such terms as "Biblical criticism." This is a movement by German and Scandanavian Protestant scholars starting in the late 18th Century. They thought they were all doing us a big favor by being able to distinguish between what was historical fact and what was myth, generated by socio-cultural-religious factors. But it goes even further than that. I once heard an Episcopal priest talk about Hebrews to an adult Sunday school class, utilizing source criticism. Turns out it is simply a propaganda piece to get Jews to convert and nothing more! If you hadn't noticed that it is one of the most significant and powerful spiritual texts in the history of mankind, you wouldn't have known it by listening to him -- but it would have been an A+ paper in seminary.
The last major figure in this movement was Bultmann, and I say last because there is nothing more to be said. This has nothing to do with what Origen is talking about. BTW, you might argue that Biblical criticism started much earlier with John Locke, who believed that all of the miraculous and mystical should be removed from Scripture and we should just stick to Jesus' moral teachings.
Posted 14 April 2013 - 04:21 PM
BTW, you might argue that Biblical criticism started much earlier with John Locke, who believed that all of the miraculous and mystical should be removed from Scripture and we should just stick to Jesus' moral teachings.
I thought it was Thomas Jefferson who said that.
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