Vol: 5 Issue: 8
Misra 1727 / August 2011
The Study of Scripture is an Instruction for Life By: St Basil the Great The study of inspired Scripture is the chief way of finding our duty, for in it we find both instruction about conduct and the lives of blessed men, delivered in writing, as some breathing images of godly living, for the imitation of their good works. Hence, in whatever respect each one feels himself deficient, devoting himself to this imitation, he finds, as from some dispensary, the due medicine for his ailment. He who loves chastity dwells upon the history of Joseph, and from him learns chaste actions, finding him not only possessed of self-command over pleasure, but virtuously-minded in habit. He is taught endurance by Job who, not only when the circumstances of life began to turn against him, and in one moment he was plunged from wealth into penury, and from being the father of fair children into childlessness, remained the same, keeping the disposition of his soul all through uncrushed, but was not even stirred to anger against the friends who came to comfort him, and trampled on him, and aggravated his troubles. Or should he be enquiring how to be at once meek and great-hearted, hearty against sin, meek towards men, he will find David noble in warlike exploits, meek and unruffled as regards revenge on enemies. Such, too, was Moses rising up with great heart upon sinners against God, but with meek soul bearing their evilspeaking against himself. Thus, generally, as painters, when they are painting from other pictures, constantly look at the model, and do their best to transfer its fine details to their own work, so too must he who is desirous of rendering himself perfect in all branches of excellency, keep his eyes turned to the lives of the saints as though to living and moving statues, and make their virtue his own by imitation. Prayers, too, after reading, find the soul fresher, and more vigorously stirred by love towards God. And that prayer is good which imprints a clear idea of God in the soul; and the having God established in self by
means of memory is God's indwelling. Thus we become God's temple, when the continuity of our recollection is not severed by earthly cares; when the mind is harassed by no sudden sensations; when the worshipper rests from all things and retreats to God, drawing away all the feelings that invite him to self-indulgence, and passes his time in the pursuits that lead to virtue. (From: Basil the Great of Caesarea, Epistle 2: A Letter to St Gregory the Theologian)
Above: A Group of year 9 and 10 boys from St Abanoub Church spending a retreat at the monastery
Do everything according to the scripture Someone asked Abba Anthony, ‘What must one do in order to please God?’ The old man replied, ‘Pay attention to what I tell you: whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes; whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it. Keep these three precepts and you will be saved.’ Page 2
A Group of Boys from various churches spending a retreat at the monastery
A Group of boys from Archangel Michael Church Spending a retreat at the monastery
Obstacles to reading the Bible By: One of the Youth “Ignorance of the Scripturesis ignorance of Christ” St. Jerome We all know that the reading of the Bible is as essential to our Spiritual growth as food is to our physical growth. So why then do we so often neglect the Scriptures going days without opening it and sometimes even weeks? In the quest to answer this question, I sent an SMS to twenty of my friends asking them what they thought the three top obstacles were to reading the Bible. I received twenty replies with three obstacles each which gave me a list of sixty obstacles. After analysing all the responses, I realised that they all boiled down to one of four categories. I would like to share with you these four obstacles and offer some thoughts as to how to overcome these hurdles. The first and most common obstacle was Laziness in some form or other: “I’m just too lazy to read the Bible” a comment on nearly every response. In fact, Laziness is simply the disinclination to perform an activity despite having the ability to do so. Hence, I believe that laziness is a choice. We choose to be lazy in certain areas of our life. For some people, they are very motivated about their careers but lazy when it comes to fitness. For others, they may spend all day in the gym, but are too lazy to work or study. However, being lazy in our spiritual life is not a choice we can afford to make. If you ask a monk how he spends his day, he will no doubt tell you about his spiritual rule. This rule may involve reciting all the psalms, reading the Bible, praying the whole Agpia and performing a large number of prostrations each day. While their spiritual rule maybe too intensive for us beginners, but it is the concept of a spiritual rule that is important for us. It is an agreed upon rule (with your confession father) that you follow each day without wavering. This should include a certain number of chapters to be read from the Bible and becomes part of your day and is never broken no matter what. Strangely, I learnt this lesson while I was on a holiday with a group of friends. One night we stayed up very late in the night and as we were about to go to sleep, one of my friends whom I was sharing a room with suggested we read the Bible together. As I was exhausted and it was really late, I sinfully suggested that we leave it till the following day. He told me that it is not right to go a day without reading the Bible. He then suggested that I can go to sleep but he will read the Bible out loud so that I could hear the word of God before sleeping. It is this type of dedication that we should have to the Scriptures and to our spiritual rule. The second group of responses were all around the fact that life is too busy and there is just not enough time in the day. It is true that we all live very busy lives with many areas in our life demanding our time. Busy careers, family obligations, social gatherings, fitness sessions, Kids homework, weekend sports and Church services are just to name a few of the commitments that demand our time. That being said, It is still a cop out to use this is an excuse to not reading the Bible. Because Page 4
simply put, you can always make time for what you believe is important. So the issues is not a matter of time, but more so, a matter of priorities. If your spiritually is a priority in your life then finding time to read the Bible becomes a non-issue. So not having enough time, points us to a deeper problem of priorities. The third category of responses was centered on the issue that they do not see the value in the Bible. It is very true because we so often read so many books both secular and spiritual but for some reason we tend to neglect the Bible. This does not make any sense for how can we see the value in other books but not in the inspired Word of our God? When Fr. Tadros Malaty was in Sydney not so long ago, I was given the privilege of driving him to one of his appointments. I was very excited that I would get a whole hour of un-interrupted discussion with him and I could ask him all the questions I wanted. When we got in the car I thought long and hard about a good question to ask him. I wanted the question to be an intelligent one, worthy of the person I was asking. I remembered that he really enjoys reading and writing so I thought of the perfect question to ask (well at least I thought it was perfect at the time): "Abouna, what's your favorite book that you have read" I asked. Without a second to think, he responded "the Bible". After taking a moment to swallow my pride due to the not so intelligent question, I realised how essential it is for the Bible to be the centre and core of our reading. It is the most life-transforming text you will ever read. The final most common obstacle was the issue of being unable to understand the Bible and the feeling of not benefiting. There are a number of ways to help you understand what you are reading and benefit from the Bible. Some of us have the practice of just opening a random page in the Bible and reading a small passage. It is very difficult to understand the context of what you are reading with this approach. It is much better to read a book in sequence. Another common factor to not benefiting is that we tend to read the Bible just before we sleep when we are exhausted and the only thing stopping us from jumping in bed is the Bible. We will just rush it to tick the ‘I read the Bible’ box. When we give God our time, we should give Him the best of our time when we are freshest. It is also important to accompany our reading of Scripture with Orthodox commentaries which will help shed light on what we are reading. We have 2000 years of experiences from the Church fathers to help us understand the depth of the Words of God. The final area to help us benefit from reading Scripture is how we should approach reading and with which mind-set. What should be our intention as we read through sacred scripture? Very simply, reading should be approached as a lifetransforming exercise. St. Augustine used the metaphor of fire when encountering any spiritual text; "I was on fire as I read" he would say. If we read with the intension to be transformed, we will be transformed. If we read with the intention of ticking a box, then we will tick a box. Satan will put in our way all sorts of hurdles to reading the Bible because he very well knows that “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ” (St. Jerome). But with our eyes focused on Jesus Christ, may we choose to not be lazy in our spiritual life, may we have this as a priority in our lives always making the time, may we learn to love and value the sweet words of God, and may we approach the scriptures to be transformed.
How to Read the Bible By: Bishop Kallistos Ware According to Saint Mark the Monk (“Mark the Ascetic,” fifth/sixth century), “He who is humble in his thoughts and engaged in spiritual work, when he reads the Holy Scriptures, will apply everything to himself and not to his neighbor.” We are to look throughout Scripture for a personal application. Our question is not simply “What does it mean?” but “What does it mean for me?” As Saint Tikhon insists, “Christ Himself is speaking to you.” Scripture is a direct, intimate dialogue between the Savior and myself, Christ addressing me and my heart responding. I am to see all the narratives in Scripture as part of my own personal story. The description of Adam’s fall is equally an account of something in my own experience. Who is Adam? His name means simply “man,” “human”: it is I who am Adam. It is to me that God says, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9). We often ask, “Where is God?” But the real question is the one that God puts to the Adam in each one of us: “Where are you?” Who is Cain, the murderer of his brother? It is I. God’s challenge, “Where is Abel your brother?” (Gen. 4:9), is addressed to the Cain in each of us. The way to God lies through love for other people, and there is no other way. Disowning my sister or brother, I replace the image of God with the mark of Cain, and deny my essential humanity. There are three steps to be taken when reading Scripture. First, we reflect that what we have in Scripture is sacred history: the history of the world from the Creation, the history of God’s chosen people, the history of God Himself incarnate in Palestine, the history of the “wonderful works” (Acts 2:11) after Pentecost. We are never to forget that what we find in the Bible is not an ideology, not a philosophical theory, but a historical faith. Next, we observe the particularity, the specificity, of this sacred history. In the Bible we find God intervening at specific times and in particular places, entering into dialogue with individual humans. We see before us the distinctive calls issued by God to each different person, to Abraham, Moses, and David, to Rebekah and Ruth, to Isaiah and the prophets. We see God becoming incarnate once only, in a particular corner of the earth, at a particular moment and from a particular Mother. This particularity we are to regard not as a scandal but as a blessing. Divine love is universal in its scope, but always personal in its expression. This sense of the specificity of the Bible is a vital element in the Orthodox “scriptural mind.” If we really love the Bible, we will love genealogies and details of dating and geography. One of the best ways to enliven the study of Scripture is to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Walk where Christ walked. Go down near the Dead Sea, climb the mountain of the Temptation, scan the desolation, feel how Christ must
have felt during His forty days alone in the wilderness. Drink from the well where Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman. Take a boat out on the Sea of Galilee, have the sailors stop the engine, and gaze in silence across the water. Go at night to the Garden of Gethsemane, sit in the dark under the ancient olives, and look across the valley to the lights of the city. Taste to the utmost the characteristic “isness” of the historical setting, and take that experience back to the daily Scripture reading. Then we are to take a third step. After reliving Bible history in all its particularity, we are to apply it directly to ourselves. We are to say to ourselves, “These are not just distant places, events in the remote past. They belong to my own encounter with the Lord. The stories include me.” A personal approach of this kind means that in reading the Bible we are not simply detached and objective observers, absorbing information, taking note of facts. The Bible is not merely: a work of literature or a collection of historical documents, although certainly it can be approached on that level. It is, much more fundamentally, a sacred book, addressed to believers, to be read with faith and love. We shall not profit fully from reading the Gospels unless we are in love with Christ. “Heart speaks to heart” I enter into the living truth of Scripture only when my heart responds with love to the heart of God. Reading Scripture in this way – in obedience, as a member of the Church, finding Christ everywhere, and seeing everything as part of my own personal story – we shall sense something of the power and healing to be found in the Bible. Yet always in our Biblical voyage of exploration we are only at the very beginning. We are like someone launching out in a tiny boat across a limitless ocean. But, however great the journey, we can embark on it today, at this very hour, in this very moment. At the high point of his spiritual crisis, wrestling with himself alone in the garden, Saint Augustine heard a child’s voice crying out, “Take up and read, take up and read.” He took up his Bible and read, and what he read altered his entire life. Let us do the same: Take up and read.
A Group of boys from St Barbra Church Spending a retreat at the monastery Page 7
This year 2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the printing of the King James Bible. The 1611 King James Bible is described as one of the most important publications in history. King James I of England gathered the greatest religious scholars and linguists together for a new Bible translation in order to establish the most accurate and most dignified English translation to date. He appointed 54 scholars to work on the translation, and 47 worked in six groups at three locations for seven years. The 1525 Geneva Bible served as a point of comparison from which some of the 1611 King James Bible text was based. Upon completion, the King James Bible was printed for the first time in 1611 by Robert Barker, the king's printer. The Bible was a large scale 16 inch tall folio Bible. Because of the high cost and value, it was said to be secured to church pulpits with chains. The 1611 Bible was appointed (or authorized) by King James to be read in churches all over England, which is why it is called the Authorized Version. The printing continued for the next year until most churches had a copy. King James Bible Facts: •
The most popular Bible translation; an estimated 1 billion or more copies have been published
More than 169 original 1611 King James Bibles are in existance today
80 books were included (39 in Old Testament, 14 in Apocrypha, and 27 in New Testament)
The title was not originally called the "King James Version", but "THE HOLY BIBLE, Containing the Old Testament, AND THE NEW: Newly Translated out of the Original tongues: & with the former Translations diligently compared and revised, by his Majesties special Commandment"
1814 A.D. is the earliest recorded date of it being called "King James Version" or "Authorized Version" Page 8