The Bible is the book of sacred writings of God’s People of the Old and New Testaments.
The People of God of the Old Testament were the Jews, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, whose name was changed by God to Israel (Gen 32:28). These people are also called the Hebrews. They remain forever as God’s chosen people for from them “according to the flesh” Christ, the Son of God, was born (Rom 9:5). This Son of God is Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah-King of Israel and the Savior of the world (See Mt 1-2, Lk 1-2, Rom 8:3, Gal 4:4, Heb 1-5). The Old Testamental writings of the People of Israel remain forever as the Word of God for all who believe in God and wish to know His divine Truth and to do His divine Will.
The People of God of the New Testament are the Christians—those who believe in Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” and who belong to the Church which He has founded upon faith in Himself (See Mt 16:13-20). The People of God of the New Testament also have their holy writings which bear witness to Christ and which are affirmed to be the Word of God.
Thus, the Bible as a book, or a collection of many books, has two main parts. It has the Old Testament writings which prepare the world for the coming of Christ, and, it has the New Testament writings which testify to the fact that Christ has come and has saved the world.
Word of God
The Bible is called the written Word of God. This does not mean that the Bible fell from heaven ready made. Neither does this mean that God dictated the Bible word for word to men who were merely His passive instruments. It means that God has revealed Himself as the true and living God to His People, and that as one aspect of His divine self-revelation God inspired His People to produce scriptures, i.e., writings which constitute the true and genuine expressions of His Truth and His Will for His People and for the whole world.
The words of the Bible are human words, for indeed, all words are human. They are human words, however, which God Himself inspired to be written in order to remain as the scriptural witness to Himself. As human words, the words of the Bible contain all of the marks of the men who wrote them, and of the time and the culture in which they were written. Nevertheless, in the full integrity of their human condition and form, the words of the Bible are truly the very Word of God.
The Bible is truly the Word of God in human form because its origin is not in man but in God, Who willed and inspired its creation. In this sense, the Bible is not like any other book. In the Bible, in and through the words of men, one finds the self-revelation of God and can come to a true and genuine knowledge of Him and His will and purpose for man and the world. In and through the Bible, human persons can enter into communion with God.
All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
—II Timothy 3:16-17
It is the faith of the Orthodox Church that the Bible, as the divinely-inspired Word of God in the words of men, contains no formal errors or inner contradictions concerning the relationship between God and the world. There may be incidental inaccuracies of a non-essential character in the Bible. But the eternal spiritual and doctrinal message of God, presented in the Bible in many different ways, remains perfectly consistent, authentic, and true.
The Bible has many different human authors. Some books of the Bible do not indicate in any way who wrote them. Other books bear the names of persons to whom authorship is ascribed. In some cases it is perfectly clear that the indicated author is in fact the person who actually wrote the book with his own hands. In other cases it is as clear that the author of the book had another person do the actual writing of his work in the manner of a secretary. In still other cases it is the Tradition of the Church, and not seldom the opinion of biblical scholars, that the indicated author of a given book of the Bible is not the person (or persons) who wrote it, but the person who originally inspired its writing, whose name is then attached to it as its author.
In a number of instances the Tradition of the Church is not clear about the authorship of certain books of the Bible, and in many cases biblical scholars present innumerable theories about authorship which they then debate among themselves. It is impossible to establish the authorship of any book of the Bible by scholarship, however, since historical and literary studies are relative by nature.
Because the Orthodox Church teaches that the entire Bible is inspired by God Who in this sense is its one original author, the Church Tradition considers the identity of the human authors as incidental to the correct interpretation and proper significance of the books of the Bible for the believing community. In no case would the Church admit that the identity of the author determines the authenticity or validity of a book which is viewed as part of the Bible, and under no circumstances would it be admitted that the value or the proper understanding and use of any book of the Bible in the Church depends on the human writer alone.
The Bible is the book of sacred writings for God’s People, the Church. It was produced in the Church, by and for the Church, under divine inspiration as an essential part of the total reality of God’s covenant relationship with His People. It is the authentic Word of God for those who belong to God’s chosen assembly of believers, to the Israel of old and to the Church of Christ today and forever.
The Bible lives in the Church. It comes alive in the Church and has the most profound divine meaning for those who are members of the community which God has established, in which He dwells, and to which, through His Word and His Spirit, He has given Himself for participation, communion and life everlasting. Outside of the total life and experience of the community of faith, which is the Church of Christ, “the pillar and bulwark of the truth” (I Tim 3:15) no one can truly understand and correctly interpret the Bible.
First of all you must understand that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
—II Peter 1:20
Scholars of the Bible can help men to understand its divine contents and meaning. Through their archeological, historical, and literary studies they can offer much light to the words of the scriptures. But by themselves and by their academic work alone, no men can produce the proper interpretation of the Bible. Only Christ, the living and personal Word of God, Who comes from the Father and lives in His Church through the Holy Spirit, can make God known and can give the right understanding of the scriptural Word of God.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. … For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known.
Jesus Christ, the Word of God in human flesh, alone makes God known. And Jesus, besides being Himself the living incarnation of God, the living fulfillment of the law and the prophets (Mt 5:17), is also the One by whom the Bible is rightly interpreted.
And [being risen from the dead] he said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
And he said to them, “These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.
—Luke 24:44-45; also John 5:45-47
Jesus Christ remains forever in His Church by the Holy Spirit to open men’s minds to understand the Bible (Jn 14.26, 16:13). Only within Christ’s Church, in the community of faith, of grace, and of truth, can men filled with the Holy Spirit understand the meaning and purpose of the Bible’s holy words. Thus, speaking about those who do not believe in Jesus as the Messiah, the apostle Paul contends that when they read the Bible a “veil” hides its true meaning from them “because only through Christ is it taken away” (II Cor 3:14).
Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their minds; but when a man turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all [i.e. believers in Christ] with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. Therefore, … we refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God (II Cor 3:15-4:4).
In the New Testament, Christ not only provides the correct interpretation of the Bible, He also allows the believers themselves to be directly enlightened by the Holy Spirit and to be themselves “the letter from Christ. … written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts” (II Cor 3:3). Thus is fulfilled the prediction of the old covenant that in the time of the Messiah “they all shall be taught of God” by direct divine inspiration and instruction (Jn 6.45, Isa 54:13, Ezek 36:26, Jer 31:31, Joel 2:28, Micah 4:2, et. al.). It is only within the living Tradition of the Church under the direct inspiration of Christ’s Spirit that the proper interpretation of the Bible can be made.
—From The Orthodox Faith: Bible by Father Thomas Hopko
The collection of books that became the Bible developed over the first few centuries of Christian history. The canon as the Orthodox Church preserves it was was finalized and approved by the Synod of Hippo in A.D. 393. This included the 27 books of the New Testament and the 51 books of the Septuagint.*
The Old Testament
I Kingdoms (I Samuel)
II Kingdoms (II Samuel)
III Kingdoms (I Kings)
IV Kingdoms (II Kings)
I Paraleipomenon (I Chronicles)
II Paraleipomenon (II Chronicles)
II Esdras (Ezra)
Esther (all 16 chapters)
Psalms (all 151)
Prayer of Manasseh
Song of Solomon (Song of Songs)
Wisdom of Solomon
Wisdom of Sirach
Lamentations of Jeremiah
Epistle of Jeremiah
Daniel (with Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, and The Song of the Three Children)
The New Testament
Gospel of Matthew
Gospel of Mark
Gospel of Luke
Gospel of John
Acts of the Apostles
Apocalypse of John (Revelation)
- Bible at OrthodoxWiki
* The Septuagint (often abbreviated “LXX”) is the Greek translation of the “Jewish Bible”, translated around the second century before Christ. The LXX is the oldest version of the Old Testament in existence, several centuries older than the Hebrew Masoretic Text (“MT”). The Orthodox Church considers the LXX more reliable than the MT, as there is evidence that the Masorites tampered with the translation to make Christian claims about Christ more difficult, and removed several books. Those books and portions of books in the LXX not present in the MT (the “Apocrypha”) were removed from the Christian Bible by Protestants, who mistakenly believed the books to be uninspired.