by Rev. Fr. K.K. John
“Be admonished: of making many books no end,” Eccl.12: 12.
We, living in a so called advanced age (computer age, space age and what next! You name it.), have seen numerous books and periodicals on technology, theology, sociology, science, literature, fictions, jokes, novels, romance, paperback, hard covers, commentaries, references and so on, and indubitably, a few people are influenced by each such publication. Some are listed as ‘best sellers,’ mostly depending on the fame of the author. The curiosity of human mind for something new is never limited and always explores new heights and pastures and this, in turn, makes ‘once upon a time best seller’ the best-ignored books. In as much as there are no limits to the number of new books, the books that are forgotten in the course of time are also innumerable. But one Book, ‘The Bible’, stands out at all times.
Considering Bible as one book, it has influenced and transformed millions over centuries and still continue to do so without a parallel any time anywhere. Is it not wonderful to learn that just one sentence turned an immoral drunkard to a most dedicated Christian of all the times! and he was St. Augustine. Just one passage led to the conversion of the eunuch of Ethiopia (Acts.8: 26-38). History is full with lists of such conversions. Sadhu Sunder Singh and Oscar Wilde could transform their lives by the power of the ‘Word of God,’ the Bible.
As a literary masterpiece, it stands out of all the masterpieces combined of all ages. The great men like Mahatma Gandhi, George Washington and Tolstoy used to read it every day to derive strength and happiness. World-renowned literary men like William Shakespeare, Bernard Shaw, Dr. Samuel Johnson and so on have profusely quoted from the bible. Is it not therefore worth to spend time to understand this marvelous book! It would be a foolishness to claim that one has understood everything in the Bible. No human being can ever fathom it fully but at the same time one can understand it to the extent one is gifted by God. While it would heavily tax the intellectuals, the illiterates would easily comprehend its divine messages. However, there are two types of readers, while one tours the other explores, and I am of opinion that exploring is, no doubt, better than touring, in relation to satisfaction and divine influence.
When I suggest to spent time to understand or explore the divine revelations of this unparalleled treasure of wisdom, at least a few obdurate youngsters, I am sure, who are, more often than not, accustomed to derive oblivion out of unceasing television shows, contemporary Rock-music’s, and joke magazines which are fully infested with sex-talks and sex-ads, would dare to brand me as fanatic. Well, who around us in these days is not a fanatic on one thing or the other? Some spent a lion share of their time on viewing TV shows; some others on sports and commentaries; yet others Rock-music, Rock-dance. Some are really crazy in reading spurious publications. Many are hero worshippers, who never bother the moral or ethical standard of their heroes; instead, they are zealous about one particular trait, which often times may even be personnel charm. Some persons are ‘work-aholic.’ A miser finds pleasure when he saves one penny; a spendthrift finds his maxim when he spends one more penny; a mathematician finds solace when he solves a theorem; a poet elevates himself in a state of ecstasy upon seeing a flowering meadow and writes a sonnet; an alcoholic finds self-forgetfulness with a full drink, an artist enjoys most when others appreciate him; thus interests and tastes differ from person to person, but all are victims of one or the other uncontrollable fancy, which is nothing but fantasy, of their own merits, though many are unwilling to accept it and, such being the fact, why not be a fanatic for a better cause and spend some time each day to read, meditate and explore the Bible? I exhort everyone to read the Bible as, in doing so you are conversing with God, its real author that shall be profitable to the soul, mind and body and no other book in the world offer this complacency. Millions over centuries testify this fact and so why not try? “Heard melodies are sweet; those unheard are sweeter still,” so wrote P.B. Shelly. This is very true about reading Bible; the more you read the sweeter you will enjoy.
The word, Bible, is derived from the Greek, ‘Biblion,’ which imports the meaning, ‘An agglomeration of books,’ or in other words, a library of books. Although it is a collection of books it is referred to in singular form - the Bible - as if it is only one book, which of course, would seem paradoxical in the first sense, and the reader would be exculpated from this paradox when he/she understands the essence of each book within it. Relying upon the common notion that the first five books, namely, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, dominantly known as ‘Pentateuch’ or ‘Tora’ according to Jews, were authored by Moses, the great liberator of Israelites from the Egyptian bondage around 1400 BC and the last book namely, Revelation was authored by St. John, the beloved Apostle of Jesus Christ, around 100 AD, thus covering a span of 1500 years from first to last book and covering more than 40 different authors from different regions at different times and backgrounds.
There are several reasons to call the Bible as one book.
From Genesis to Revelation it deals with one theme, God’s ultimate redemptive plan. It bears witness to one God and His consistent nature in relation to mankind. He revealed Himself in part through the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, then Moses, Judges and Prophets and finally and fully through The Son, Heb.1: 1-2. The central character is one, who is Jesus Christ, who is the ‘Word Incarnate' or the ‘Living Word of God.’ “The word took flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). He is the ‘Word of God’ (and the word was God) who existed in the beginning (John 1:1), before all creations and who was responsible for all creations. Genesis declares him as “the seed of woman,” Gen 3:15. Old Testament is the prophecies regarding His advent. New Testament is about His manifestations and the redemptive activities and Revelation is about His Second Advent. Thus the central theme and character are one and the same and hence the whole book is one story; rather a progressive story of unraveling truth, candidly, harmoniously and in perfect and impeccable order. The Bible is the ‘inspired word of God,’ 2 Tim.3: 16. ‘Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit,’ 2 Pet.1: 21. Not only that these men wrote what they felt, but also that God inspired them and unfolded the eternal truth and this demands obeisance and careful attention.
One would confound and stumble at the fact that Bible scholars are sharply divided on so many aspects found in and of the Bible.
For instance; there is ‘Protestant and Catholic- Bible.’ While the Catholic Bible consists of 73 books (46 in Old Testament) the Protestant Bible contains only 66 (39 Old Testament).
The standard version of the Syrian Orthodox Church is “Peseetho” (Syriac, vulgate being the equivalent in Latin) which means common or simple. This oldest version was completed in first century itself. This is also the most trustworthy in exactness, being devoid of translation errors, and contains 77 books. However it can be regrouped and brought down to 73 so as to equate with Catholic Bible that is otherwise known as the “vulgate,” as translated by St. Jerome in the 4th. century and thus obviously, Latin vulgate version is a much later addition than Syriac Peseetho version and hence Syriac Peseetho Bible is highly authentic.
Another reason to make Peseetho Bible as most authentic is that Syriac-Aramaic-as known on those days- was the mother tongue of our Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel was at first preached in Jerusalem, Judea, Europe, and Asia-Minor and elsewhere in Aramaic language. Again Aramaic is one of the three languages in which Bible-books or a part thereof, was originally written. Consequent to the Babylonian captivity, almost 70 years, the younger generations of Jews happened to be Aramaic speaking when they returned to Palestine in 536. BC. and Hebrew became a dead language used only in the sacred Scriptures. Now it was necessary to translate the scriptures in Aramaic after reading it in Hebrew and this translation came to be known as “Targum," that was popular during the days of our Lord. For example, the words of our Lord, “Thalitha Kumi; Eli, Eli, Lama Sabethani,” etc are Aramaic. ‘Thabitha, Kepa, Bar-Jona, Barabbas’ etc are Aramaic personal names. Gospel of Matthew was written in Aramaic. Josephus, the historian-Jew, wrote his “Jewish War” in Aramaic. Even though other Gospels were in Greek, Aramaic words, 'Abba, Rabbi,' etc. were frequently used. Old Testament portions, Ezr. 4:8-6:18, 7:12-26, Jer.10: 11, Dan. 2:4-7:28 are Aramaic. Authentic Malayalam translation of the entire Peseetho Bible (by Very. Rev. Kurian Corepiscopa) is now available for the benefit of the faithful.
Cyrus, the king Of Persia, freed and allowed the Jews to return to Palestine in 536 BC. The Jews were very happy and thankful to the king and considered him to be a deliverer- type of Christ. Thus Aram (descendant of Aram the 5th. son of Sem-the son of Noah) became Syria, Aramean became Syrian, and Aramaic became Syriac (named after Cyrus).
The Jews were a scattered race ever after the Babylonian captivity. Alexander the Great conquered Persian Empire and reached upto India. He imposed Greek language as means to attain cohesion, which wrought considerable impacts on the life and thoughts of Jews (323 BC). Greek Language thereafter flourished. Before his premature death, he divided his empire to his generals, who later became kings in their respective territories. Palestine came under the rule of Ptolemies of Egypt under a treaty from 301-198 BC. Ptolomy II Philadelphus (283-246) in a bid to please Jews, ordered translation of Sacred Books he found in Alexandria and appointed 72 men (6 from each tribe) for the purpose and this came to be known as ‘The LXX’ (Septuagint means seventy). Jewish council met at the end of first century AD, canonized 39 books that were originally written in Hebrew.
Protestants, just for protesting sake, followed suit of the Jewish canon and they named those omitted books as “Apocryphal.” These books are Book of Tobit; Book of Judith; Book of Esther (from chapter 11); first and second Books of Maccabees; Book of Wisdom; Book of Sirach; first and second Book of Baruch; Epistle of Jeremiah and second Book of Daniel. ‘Apocryphal’ is a Greek word to mean ‘hidden,’ but the Catholics call it ‘Deutero-canonical.’ Syrian Orthodox Church values the divine origin (inspiration) of these Books.
However, there is yet another aspect known as, ‘Apocalypses’ (revelations). The venerable fathers of our Church rightly felt that there are hidden meanings in the allegories and in the very presentation of the Book of Revelation; the untaught and unstable could easily misinterpret and misguide the faithful to achieve their own vindictive ends (2 Tim: 2-4 and 2 Pet.3: 16-17) and that is why ‘annual Bible reading guide’ does not contain portions from ‘the Book of Revelation’; but there is no restriction to read at home or to quote from it to elucidate a point.
Church does not appreciate mitigating the holiness of the Bible by open criticisms and interpretations; as these do not come from pious mind but from rebellious mind of Satan who is a liar from the beginning and his sole aim is to detract the faithful from the right path and create confusion in the Church which is the body of Christ (Eph.5: 21-32). To achieve his goal he would employ any proposition (1 Cor.7: 5,2 Cor.2: 11), even use scriptures (Luke 4:8) and assume even the shape of angel of light (2 Cor.11: 14). Unstable people fall easy victim of his evils.
Liberal Protestants, more often than not, are too prone to misguide by wrong interpretations and give birth to spurious cults; relying too much on Revelations to derive authority and embolden their organizations; that this nefarious tendency has grown out of proportion and crossed all leaps and bounds, we have today more than 2000 organizations claiming to be churches. The most deplorable plight is the fact that out of over-enthusiasm to claim self-righteousness and base their authority in the Bible, they often brand all others dissenting, in culprit’s cage.
Scripture being the inspired Word of God, it has to be interpreted with the authority of God; and how do we get this authority?
“Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, all authority is given to me in heaven and on earth. Go yea therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matt.28: 19-20).
This is personal command exclusively given to disciples and not to the multitude. In other words, Jesus commissioned his disciples into the world to make disciples; to baptize; and to teach all nations with the same authority vested on Him; by means of ‘Laying of hands’ (Luk.24: 50-51) and ‘Breathing’ (John.20: 21-23). The disciples administered these 2 acts as signs of receiving and offering the gift of Holy Spirit while ordaining or appointing for the services of the Church, Acts.13: 3; 6:6; 14:23; 2 Tim.1: 6; 1 Tim.5: 22 and Titus 1:5 and the power of Jesus Christ is thus handed down by the bona fide successors to apostles by the act of ordination to generations unto this day. Therefore, the genuineness of the interpreter is very conspicuous; that is, he should be duly ordained for that purpose.
An impartial research to trace out the root of now existing groups and interpretations, would adduce, they lack the basic qualifications, though may be educated (1 Cor.1: 19-20), and hence spurious. Right thinking faithful should not heed to such nefarious interpretations (Gal.1: 8). The episode of conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch vividly explains that education is not the main criterion to apprehend the riddles of the Bible. He was learned not only in his mother tongue but also in Hebrew or Greek, he was deeply religious so as to journey unto Jerusalem for worship, and he was an enthusiastic reader of scriptures as he was reading Prophet Isaiah, he was a man of great authority who had charge of all Treasure of queen of Ethiopia, but he could not, as admitted, understand what he read. It was Philip, guided by Holy Spirit, who explained the meaning Acts (8:26-31). The Holy Spirit does the whole job, through duly ordained servants of the Church, by the laying of hands and breathing, in exercise of powers vested in them.
Another question often posed is whether Church has authority over Bible or Bible has authority over Church? This is an apple of discord for centuries.
Roman Catholic and Orthodox believe and teach that Church is supreme in matters of faith and has authority over the Bible, as opposed to the teachings of Protestants who advocate that the Bible (word of God) is supreme, above the Church and the basis of faith.
My considered opinion on this issue is that both are inter-dependent and inter-related as there cannot be Church without Bible and there cannot be Bible without Church; provided, however, that there was time when there was no Bible and there was time when Church and faith in God existed without Bible. For example, Scofield reference Bible places the most probable date of Adam’s creation as 4004 BC. and the mission of Moses as 1491 BC. General belief is that Moses authored the first 5 books, although this has been contradicted by various 18/19th. century scholars who suggest that Pentateuch were derived from different traditions namely, J (Jahuites), E (Elohites), D (Deuteronomist) and P (Priestly) and someone other-than Moses compiled it at a later date resulting in various repetitions and discrepancies and acquired full shape as we see today by the end of 5th. century, which fact, invariably, weakens the claim of Protestants.
Assuming correctness to the said dates; in the absence of an alternate date; from the first creation to the first writing of Genesis, there is a gap of about 2500 years, during which period there were men of strong faith in God. Abel offered the firstlings of flock and God was pleased Gen.4: 4. Worship started in the name of the Lord during the period of Seth, the son Adam, Gen 4: 26. Enoch walked with God ... and God took him, Gen 5:24. Then came Noah, ‘just and perfect man in his generation,’ Gen 6:9, then the great flood, then the great tower of Babel, then the confusion of languages and scattering of human race around the globe, then the choosing of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob-the patriarchs, then the settlement at Egypt and the great exodus under the leadership of Moses and so on. If people could believe in God, walk with God, demonstrate unflinching obedience to God, and worship God for more than 2500 years without the support of a written document, no one can claim a written document, whatever nomenclature it may bear, be the basis of faith.
Again, coming to New Testament: Crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ are dated as 33 AD. Probable date of Matthew’s Gospel is 37 AD. However this date is incorrect; as according to Orthodox, Catholic and ancient scholars; first Gospel ever written was ‘Gospel of Mark’ around 70 AD. and they place the date of Matthew’s Gospel after 70 AD. Even granting correctness, for argument sake, that the Gospel of Matthew was written in 37 AD and was the first, there is a time gap of 4 years from resurrection and ascension to Gospel of Matthew, during which period Church and Gospel flourished throughout Jerusalem, Judea and surroundings. Selection of Matthias as twelfth disciple (Acts.1: 26); the first sermon of Peter, followed after advent of Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost and subsequent baptism of 3000 souls (Acts. 2:41) marking the beginning of the Church; first healing lame man by Peter- the head of all apostles (Acts. 3:6); Ordination of Deacons (Acts. 6:6); Stephen’s martyrdom (Acts. 7:60); Saul’s conversion as Paul, etc. took place before even the first letter of New Testament was written.
In the case of both Old and New Testaments, ‘Church’ came first into existence and scripture followed in support, which adduces beyond any reasonable doubt that scripture is not the basis for the existence of the Church but it supports and edifies the Church. Number of instances can be cited to prove this point, but I avoid for fear of length. Most importantly, the Bible is the most praiseworthy and excellent product and priced possession of the Church; that God used devoted men to reveal Himself for the benefit of the Church which is His agile body, and the Church uses the sacred scriptures for the edification, inspiration and spiritual growth of its members and to proclaim and profess faith, deriving authority from Lord.
Be it specifically understood that Christ’s commands such as to preach, teach, heal, baptize and so on were orally given to the Apostles who were in a haste to implement and to put into practice rather than waiting to write and that all of them were in practice even before a single Letter in the Gospels was written. Also, bear in mind that holy fathers of the Church, inspired and guided by Holy Spirit, protected them from imminent betides of war and natural calamities, even at the cost of their lives, compiled and named them: “Holy Bible” (Kthobo kaadeeso in Syriac).
So the question whether, ‘chicken first or egg first,’ does not bother the faithful. Yet, some insolent people insist on Bible’s authority over the Church, often confusing both; I have already dealt with this in brief and add only that such of those claiming that they believe only what the Bible says do not understand the entirety of Bible and are simply repeating after their leaders. In other words, they conceive the Bible according to their leader’s viewpoint and never go beyond the authority of their leaders. So, in fact, they are concurring authority to the Bible relative to the leader’s opinion. Those who cannot submit to one another, as ought to be, wish always to be in first place (power mongers) at any cost, play with the scriptures; attribute new interpretations; even print their own conveniently worded Bible (didn’t you hear that, of late, some sponsors of women's activists from London have already published a new version of Bible in which “our father who art in heaven.” is replaced by the words, ‘our mother who art in heaven!’ Matt.6: 9 and this is only one of the numerous changes) to establish their own clientele. Martin Luther, in the course of reformation, attempted to delete the ‘Books of Revelations, Epistle to Hebrews and Epistle of James-he called it “epistle of straw”, and placed himself above the Holy Bible, as those Books went counter to his teachings; so is the case with all the so-called leaders.
However, reader of this article should not misconstrue that the above elucidation is a license to teach or practice extra biblical dogmas; God forbid; Church should not and our Church do not teach nor practice anything contrary to the message of the Bible and thus the mutual inter-dependence of the Bible and the Church is kept unhindered. I am strongly of the opinion that root of all present day ills emanated from the tendency of mitigating the holiness of the sacred Word of God, manipulating it to defy the authority of the Church, interpreting it to suit ones own vindictiveness and creating Pandemonium in the minds of innocent believer.
I have, in part 1, briefly discussed the need for not assuage the importance of Bible by loose and mollified interpretations. “As also in all his epistles speaking in them of these things; in which are some thing’s hard to be understood, which they that are unlearnt and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” (Peter 3:16). In this respect I must add that most Protestants use the Bible as a means of livelihood, or to muster money or to win people to support their parochial and recalcitrant views. The Bible is handled with contempt and insulted by throwing, folding, shaking, running about from one end to other end of the stage with it, putting it under armpit, uttering, shouting, laughing while holding it on hand etc. are common scenes in the TV evangelism.
The Syrian Orthodox Church attributes maximum reverence to Holy Bible and treats it as ‘God the Word.’ Many people are unaware that it is the illustrious fathers of this Church, who preserved, at the cost of their lives, compiled and named it as ‘Holy Bible’. There is not a single liturgy or prayer without readings from the Holy Bible. Deacons read from the Old Testament and Epistles and the chief celebrant himself reads from the Gospel with lighted candles on both sides and incenses in front while all the faithful stand in awe and reverence. The Bible is kept on a special table known as ‘Evangalion Mesa’ that is usually at the right hand side of the Thronos. I also said that church should not teach any extra-biblical concepts. We, the Syrian Orthodox does not, as often as branded by Protestants, especially those offshoots from this Church, but we are, more often than not, ‘more sinned against than sinning’.
In this respect one need to know that the Holy Bible is the best form of tradition handed down to us. To elucidate further, we have both written tradition that is The Holy Bible and unwritten tradition that is testimony and instructions of the fathers and doctors of the Church. The fact that the unwritten tradition is equally vibrant, important and imperative as to the written tradition is well explained in Bible itself.
“Those things which ye have both learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you,” Phil.4: 9.
“Brethren, stand fast and hold to the traditions which ye have been taught by us, whether by word or by epistle,” 2Thes.2: 15.
“Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink; but I trust to come unto you and speak with you face to face,” 2John 12.
“And the rest will I set in order when I come,” 1Cor 11:34.
” And the things thou hast heard of me among many witnesses the same commit thou to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also,” 2Tim.2: 2.
“And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book,” John 20:30, also read John 21:25; where St. John asserts that the unwritten tradition is comparatively more voluminous than the Bible and that he wrote the gospel to meet with a definite purpose, “That ye might believe that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God; and that believing, ye might have life through his name,” John 20:31. So is the case with all the books in the Bible; that they were written either to explain a point, mostly of doxology, morality or social order or in reply to specific questions and hence does not allude in any way that those matters not poignantly dealt with in such letters and Gospels would be of lesser magnitude or importance rather, we are advised to adhere to both with equal importance at the same time.
Though it is impossible here to deal with all discrepancies and inadequacies; nevertheless that is not my intention; I must point out certain aspects briefly.
First of all, we have no idea at all how many disciples wrote how many epistles or gospels and what were the contents in such writings, if any, but indubitably, we are sure that there are more things left unwritten and that a major portion of the writings was lost in the course of time due to various reasons. We read, “To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:” Acts.1: 2. We have not gotten any documentation as to what exact matters he taught them, ‘pertaining to the kingdom of God,’ or in the available writings, whether or not, all such teachings are incorporated; most probably not.
While exhorting Corinthians St. Paul says, “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators.” Evidently, St. Paul had written an earlier letter to Corinthians as now referred to, which we do not have, in other words, of the three epistles written to Corinthians, the first one is missing and as it was untraceable at the time of compiling the books of the Bible and the second and third were named first and second respectively.
“And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea,” Col.4: 16.
Two things come to light from this verse: namely,
(1) there is an epistle under the title ‘epistle to Laodicea,' most probably authored by St. Paul himself and
(2), this epistle to Laodiceans differed in contents with the epistle to Colossians and that was why both the churches were admonished to read epistle to each other.
Our present day Bible does not contain the said ‘epistle to Laodicea’ but we are most certain that there was such an epistle and that was read by the church members at both Laodicea and colossia and they had taught those things to their descendants.
“And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene,” Matt 2: 23. There is no trace of such a prophecy in any Old Testament books. According to Jews there was no chance of any goodness out of Nazareth, John 1:46. They were not aware of any prophecy concerning Messiah from Nazareth. How then and from where St. Matthew quotes like this? Or, can this be a wrong quotation? Scholar-world is confused and could not so far satisfactorily unravel the riddle. Some vaguely suggest that this can be an interpretation of the prophecy in Isaiah 11:1 where it says, “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” Hebrew word for ‘rod’ being Netzer, some scholars think that St. Matthew might have probably meant an abridged form of ‘Netzer,' as Jesus was really a branch of Jesse (Scofield ref.). Some others think that the word ‘Nazarene’ is used as an attempt to give prominence to Nazareth and to show that Jesus’ ministry actually began in Galilee, as the Jews had a contemptuous look about Galilee (New Testament Commentary of Orthodox seminary Kottayam).
However, I do not see any relevance to the opinions as expressed in the Scofield ref. and I humbly differ with it, as evidently, St. Matthew is quoting this in relation to the dwelling of Jesus in his childhood, not in relation to nativity. St. Matthew is not mentioning a point of ‘Christology,' but simply means that Jesus was called Nazarene because he lived and grew up in the village of Nazareth and the quote is in support of that claim and most probably he might have been referring to some unwritten traditions, which were familiar to Aramaic speaking people.
Nathaniel on the other hand, might have been expressing popular belief based on the documented prophecies. I am more inclined to admit it as an ‘error in memory’ similar to one found in Mark 2:26 which reads, “How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with them?” This quotation is from 1Sam.21: 1-6 and the then high priest in charge was Ahimelech, not Abiathar.
Similar phenomenon can be found throughout Old and New Testaments. “So Moses, the servant of Lord, died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulcher unto this day,” Deut.34: 5-6. We have no further information about what happened to Moses after that throughout the Old Testament, but in epistle according to St. Jude. v.9, devil and Michael, the archangel, disputed about the body of Moses and Michael said to devil, “Lord rebuke thee.” How this incident, which took place in heaven about 1400 years before his birth, was known to St. Jude when there is no trace in the now existing Bible? Again, in verse 14 it is written, “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints.” All we know about Enoch is from Gen.5: 21-24 and Heb.11: 5 where there is no mention of such a prophecy. It is apt to cogitate that St. Jude must have either read some books that are not in our present text or he might have known it from a tradition.
“Now the acts of David the King, first and last, behold they are written in the book of Samuel the seer, and in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the book of Gad the seer, 1 Chr.29: 29. Also refer 2Chr.9: 29A footnote in the Schofield ref. Pocket edition vide page 489 adds: “These books have perished.” How we would ascertain if the ‘perished books’ = might be thousands = did not contain divine instructions that we are bound to follow?
In 1883 AD Christian library witnessed a major breakthrough when Philotheos Bryennios, the metropolitan of Nicomedia, discovered and published a Book called, ‘Didache’ or Teaching of the twelve Apostles, which is believed to have written around AD 120 which contains very important admonitions of the twelve Apostles such as: ‘the ways of life and death, need to abstain from carnal body desires, fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays, observance of Sunday instead of Saturday, Confession and reconciliation before Eucharist, Baptism, need to receive and honor Apostles, Prophets, Bishops, Deacons etc., warnings about false prophets.’ Mor Clemis, Mor Athanasius etc. have recommended that every Christian should read this book. This book occupies the first position in preference after the Holy Bible. The very fact that nobody claims its authorship adduces the basic truth that it was compiled as originated from the mouths of 12 Apostles and I firmly believe, had it not been lost at the time when the Holy fathers canonized the books of the Holy Bible, ‘Didache’ would have been a sure choice.
Twentieth century scholars are all the more baffled by another discovery known as ‘The Dead Sea Scrolls.’ These were manuscripts discovered by some Bedouin boys from a cave near western coast of Dead Sea in 1947. His Eminence Mor Athanasius Yeshue Samuel, the then Metropolitan of Jerusalem, having had the good sense to recognize that hitherto unknown manuscripts in Hebrew language from an uninhabited area would be of immense importance and acquired them. He made frantic efforts to get them deciphered and having failed to get help from the home and neighboring governments, persisted in the teeth of discouragement, and finally brought the scrolls to United States and succeeded in his attempt. Some of the scrolls were found to be prophesies of Isaiah and Daniel, The book of Jubilee, The Book of Enoch, The Testament of twelve Patriarchs, The Assumption of Mosses, The Book of Lamech and Psalms which are not found in the present day Bible. A major portion of the manuscripts is still under study. Experts construe it, “Most startling discoveries of our times.” and, “A missing chapter of Bible.” (Fonta Book Publication, by Edmund Wilson). These elucidations suffice to bring home the fact that the ‘perfect Bible’ is neither 66 books nor 73 books. I also uphold that no canon ever restricted, inferred or imputed to deem that the Holy Bible should have only 66 or 73 books. The Holy Synod of the Universal Church, under the authority of Holy Spirit has the power to add to it. (This being a very vast subject I would better deal in detail in a separate article).
Now, there can be a question if I am suggesting that the present Holy Bible is imperfect. My answer is that it is not imperfect but it is perfect in its own merit. Each word in the Bible is holy and not a single word in unimportant or unholy for the very reason that each word is of a divine revelation. Holy men were moved by the Holy Spirit to reveal the will of God in different times in different fashions and who can fathom the wisdom and veracity of God?
“And who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him?”1Cor.2: 16.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for the doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works,” 2Tim.3: 16-17.
Everything in the Holy Bible is perfect, but there are more things outside the H. Bible and hence incomplete.
I am reminded of an intelligence question came up in an interview long ago to a group of contenders for a job placement. Three transparent containers filled to full capacity each measuring 1-gallon (a), 2 gallons (b) and 3 gallons (c) with colored liquid was placed on a table in front of them. The question was, ’which of the three containers is full? There were Bachelor Degree holders in science and Diploma holders in engineering. Most of them were perplexed and 80 % answered wrongly i.e. (c) and the rest answered correctly, i.e. all three containers are full, but all were unanimous in one thing that none of the vessels were equal in measure. Similar is the case regarding the perfectness of the H. Bible. Neither (a) which can be the 73 book - Bible nor (b) which can be the unwritten tradition are complete though full to their capacity and (c) can be the Church which is full and it accommodates both (a) and (b) and thus Church combines written and unwritten tradition to make it whole.
Regarding discrepancies I do not wish to deal in detail. It is a very vast subject. However I cannot resist but give a few examples. I have already hinted that according to the modern thinkers the Pentateuch is not written by Moses but derived from ‘J, E, D, P’ traditions and that these were written many years after the narration actually took place for instance, Genesis 12:6 and 13:7 says, “And the Canaanite was then in the land.”
Discrepancies, repetitions and contradictory statements of the same incident crept in as a result of compiling different traditions. For example, according to Gen.1: 1-2 God created all the living beings both animate and inanimate before creating man (man was the last creation). As per Gen.2: 9 God created another set of plants, the tree of knowledge and the tree of life after the creation of man. As per Gen 1:27 God created man in his own image, “in the image of God created he him; male and female created he him”. Here man and woman are created at the same time and by the word of mouth, but in chapter 2: 7 man is created by his own hands (formed) and given life and soul by His own breath but there is no mention of His image. God also installs man in the specially developed Garden of Eden, and parades all the animals in front of Adam so as to name them and Adam does so. Creation of Eve was a later act and of very special and distinct method Gen.2: 21-23.
Regarding creation of light there are two versions: Gen. 1:3 “let there be light; and there was light.” He divided the light from the darkness. Verse 4. That was the first day of creation. Verse 14-18 deal with the same light i.e. creation of Sun, moon and stars as the fourth day’s work, Gen. 4:14-15.
Cain asks God, “That everyone that findeth me shall slay me.” The way origin is narrated, we are led to think that Adam and Eve were the first human beings and Cain and Abel were their only children. Cain killed Abel and Cain is now sole survivor other than his parents. God pronounced judgment without knowledge of his parents. Cain is right away subjected to God’s punishment. In this situation what is the reverence of fear so as to prompt such a question? Again, God assures him that “Whoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” Who is ‘everyone’ mentioned here? Cain proceeded from there and dwelt in the land of Nod and “Cain knew his wife.” He also built a city. Where and how did Cain get a wife? and what kind of city he could build in the given situation? All these point to endless questions about the origin.
Different descriptions are seen about genealogy, Noah and the flood etc, 2 Samuel 24:22-24 says: “...So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of Silver.” The same incident is recorded in 1 Chr.21: 25, “So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight.” In the first narration the seller is ‘Aranuah’ but in the second the seller is ‘Ornan’ and the price amount and kind are remarkably different, say, fifty shekels of silver in the first place and six hundred shekels of gold by weight in the second place. There is no mention of buying oxen in the second reference.
As for the New Testament, Gospels are not written the same way. While St. Matthew starts the genealogy from Abraham to Jesus, St. Luke starts the genealogy from Jesus back to Adam. St. Matthew, in arranging 14 generations each from Abraham to David, David to Babylonian captivity, and from Babylonian captivity to Jesus has omitted some names. (New Testament commentary of Orthodox seminary, Kottayam page 18) St. Mark does not seem to be concerned about the birth or genealogy and goes straight into the public ministry. St. John elevates the reader to an entirely high plane and goes even back to creation.
The very presentations of Jesus’ public ministry, manifestations, passion, details of crucifixion, resurrection, appearances after resurrection, ascension etc. are depicted differently by different authors. St. Matthew quotes from the Old Testament forty times to assert that Jesus was the fulfillment of old prophesies. Other gospel-authors do not seem to be very curious about this aspect. The word, ‘ecclesia’ (church) is found only in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt. 16:18 and 18:17). Describing the miracle of turning water into wine at the marriage in Cana of Galilee, St. John says, it was the first and conspicuous miracle of Jesus (John 2:11). No other gospel records it. The parable of Good Samaritan is found only in Gospel of St Luke (10:30-37). Jesus uttered seven verses on the Cross-, but none of the gospels give full account and we have to collect them from all the gospels. Thus the list of differences in presentations goes on and on.
Translation errors have devastating effect. Most of them are deliberate inclusions to substantiate the divisive and parochial motives.
The first ever translation in German and English was chiefly aimed at breaking away from the Roman Catholics and to establish their own factions and to do so the original translators willfully manipulated the original contents of the Holy Bible so as to interpret to suit to their own need to rally the sentiments of common people against Roman church. Dr. Emsor, a German linguist, has pointed over 4000 translation errors. Malayalam Bible may contain even more errors.
“Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto Son of God; abideth a priest continually,” Heb.7: 3. Can anybody be born without neither mother nor father? Even Jesus the ‘Son God and Man’ had an earthly mother! Commonsense would suffice to discern that this is a typical citation of translation erratum. The actual diction ought to be, “There is no record about his father, mother, beginning of his life, end of his life or his ancestry...”(Peseetho Bible).
“Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come” (John 2:4). Protestants twist this verse to abate the éclat of St. Mary. This is a deliberate translation error. There are also many different versions about this verse. “You must not tell me what to do,” (Good news Bible). “What does your concern do with me?” (The open Bible 1982). “I can’t help you now” (Living New Testament). The correct wording is; “What to you and me” (Peseetho Bible).
“...And he did eat locusts and wild honey” (Mark 1: 6) “..And his meat was locusts and wild honey.” Matt.3: 4 (Scofield). Locust is a kind of winged insect, which flies in swarms and destroys crops. In Syriac Peseetho Bible the original word used is “kamsa,” which stands for both locust and a kind of edible root like carat or yucca. We are made to understand that John the Baptist had an excellent ascetic life and hence it is most appropriate to presume that he was a pure vegetarian and ate only ‘kamsa’-a kind of root and honey and thus the translation of ‘locust’ is inappropriate.
I have pointed out these instances only to emphasis the fact that there are so many spurious versions with lots of discrepancies and errors, which forms the basis of certain cults and self-styled churches. These are designed to detract the faithful from the real faith and ‘the only Church.’
Holy Spirit works in the Church according to the promise of Jesus Christ. “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak for himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come (John 16:12-13). “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you; and ye shall be witness unto me both in Jerusalem, and all in Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts. 1:8) The disciples experienced the fulfillment of this promise; “And they were filled with Holy Spirit...” (Acts.2: 4). The result of this fulfillment is edified in, “And he gave some, apostles, and some, prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,” (Eph.4: 11, also see 1 Cor. 12:8-28). Thus by the authority of Jesus Christ and power of Holy Spirit disciples entrusted the continuation of the work of the Church which are gospel and sacramental service to their descendants through ‘breathing and laying of hands,’ (1Tim.4: 14).
Therefore my plea to all those who encounter heresies is to resist temptation and obtain wise counsel from the bona fide priests and teachers of the Holy Church. God of peace be with you.
Date: Feb. 22. 1996. The day St. Peter, Head of all apostles established the Holy Apostolic See of Antioch (2.22.0037)
Library - Home | Baselios Church Home
A service of St. Basil's Syriac Orthodox Church, Ohio
Copyright © 2009-2020 - ICBS Group. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer
Website designed, built, and hosted by International Cyber Business Services, Inc., Hudson, Ohio