I was raised with the view that the Bible is the book which contains everything we need to know, enumerates everything which is good and everything which is evil, is the manual for how to live a human life, and is the ultimate authority regarding all matters pertaining to Christianity (maybe even everything else as well).

I have even heard people suggest that Jesus is mysteriously united to the Bible in some way because they are both the 'Word of God'.

I do not think the Orthodox believe these things. What do they believe is the Bible's purpose?


The Bible's Purpose

Archimandrite Justin Popovich lays out the reasons for reading the Bible in "How to Read the Bible and Why":

All that is necessary for this world and the people in it--the Lord has stated in the Bible. In it He has given the answers to all questions. There is no question which can torment the human soul, and not find its answer, either directly or in­directly in the Bible.


In the Bible God make known:

  1. what the world is; where came from; why it exists; what it is heading for; how it will end;

  2. what man is; where he comes from; where he is going; what he is made of; what his purpose is; how he will end;

  3. what animals and plants are; what their purpose is; what they are used for;

  4. what good is; where it comes from; what it leads to; what its purpose is; how it is attained;

  5. what evil is; where it comes from; how it came to exist; why it exists -how it will come to an end;

  6. what the righteous are and what sinners are; how a sinner becomes righteous and how an arrogant righteous man becomes a sinner; how a man serves God and how he serves satan; the whole path from good to evil, from God to satan;

  7. everything - from the beginning to the end; man is entire path from the body to God, from his conception in the womb to his resurrection from the dead;

  8. what the history of the world is, the history of heaven and earth, the history of mankind; what their path, purpose, and end are.

Rev. Dr. Eugen J. Pentiuc expresses similar thoughts in "The Untamed Textbook and Its House-Trained Handouts":

Scripture is an open textbook, an endless reservoir of wisdom in the making. But above all, Scripture is a living and ever-refreshing means of communication with God, its primus auctor. ... Scripture is not, nor does it claim to be, a complete "recording" of God's mind. Rather, it is a means through which God re-creates us each time when we approach the Scripture, as he did on the sixth day when he breathed his breathing of life on the dust and the dust became a "living breath" of God (Gen 2:7). The Lord re-creates each reader of Scripture as a partner in dialogue with him, the source of life.

The Bible's Authority

In an episode of the Ancient Faith Today podcast called "The Eastern Orthodox Approach to the Bible," Presbytera Jeannie Constantinou says this about the nature of the Bible's authority:

First of all, the Church does not rely on the Bible for its doctrine. We don't rely on the Bible, because the Church came first. ... The Church knew what it believed about Christ before the books of the New Testament were written.


There is no question that the Bible is authority, so if I gave the impression that the Bible is not authority in the Church, that's certainly not true. It is authority, but it's not over the Church, it's not under the Church, it's part of the Church. It does stand as part of the Tradition, part of apostolic Tradition. It's just the written form of apostolic Tradition. To that extent, it's not exclusive authority.


For us we have this consistency through the centuries, because we read the early Church Fathers who comment on these, who use these verses, because we have them in our hymns and in our prayers, we understood what is meant by them, so they are less susceptible to being distorted by the individual opinions of people. We have a consensus of meaning within the Church, and we do not exceed that boundary. We don't substitute our own personal opinion.

The Bible and the "Word"

Constantinou elsewhere in the episode explains the relationship between Jesus, the Bible, and the term "Word of God":

The Bible is the Word of God because the message is from God, but the ultimate Word of God is Jesus Christ, because he is the ultimate revelation of God. As we said, human language has its limitations to describe or explain God, but Christ was unlimited. The apostles experienced God in the Person of Jesus. What they experienced went beyond human language.


Holy Scripture In The Orthodox Church

"The Bible"

Compiled by Father Demetrios Serfes

Boise, Idaho, USA

August 20 2000

The Bible is the book of the Church. We therefore read Holy Scripture, not as isolated individuals, but as members of the Church. In order to keep Holy Scripture in the mind of the Church, we observe how Scripture is used in worship, and how it is interpreted by the Holy Fathers. Our approach then to the Bible is both Liturgical and Patristic.

The Eastern Orthodox Church belief about Holy Scripture that is the Bible of the Old Testament and the New Testament we must be fully aware from within Holy Tradition. Tradition, is a life, a personal encounter with Christ our Lord in the Holy Spirit. Tradition then not only is kept by the Church - it lives in the Church, it is the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church. The Bible is then the supreme expression of God's revelation to man.

This answer is pretty much the common one among all Catholics regardless of their relationship to one another. The Church is the Pillar and foundation of Truth, and the Bible is a compilation of Christian writings deemed valuable for use during the Celebration of the Mass. They are not the only writings, just those selected for that purpose, encompassing all teachings necessary for the celebration of the Eucharist and the edification of the Christian Community AKA The Mystical Body of Christ. The books compiled by the Church were never intended to be used without its guidance and understanding. To do so is dangerous and, as history has shown, results in many horrible realities the worst being a separation from the Sacraments.

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    I hesitate to accept this answer because the quote doesn't seem to answer my question. If the Bible is the supreme expression of God's revelation to man, then what do Orthodox believe is the purpose of God's revelation to man? Also, it sounds like you are lumping Orthodox and Roman Catholics together which I don't think the Orthodox would agree with.
    – sirdank
    Dec 23 '15 at 14:59
  • @sirdank I wait with you for a more compelling answer. However, the quote I provided was from a Easternothodox Priest, which could have come from any Catholic Really. The bible is nothing without proper interpretation of the words in it. "A time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine". I beleive those who preserve that sound doctrine are withen the Catholic Churches. See also Heb 13:17
    – Marc
    Dec 23 '15 at 16:27

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