Last Thursday I went to a seminar on the topic Which Bible is the normative “Word of God”: Christians and their differing Bibles.
I was asked to speak on The coming-into-being, composition and authority of the Greek Orthodox Bible, but saw among the list of other speakers and participants a bunch of learned New Testament and Old Testament scholars, and, as a mere missiologist, I felt a bit like Daniel in the lion’s den. In addition, I discovered that I was the only Orthodox Christian among a collection of Dutch Reformed dominees. The only other non-Orthodox there, as far as I could see, was the former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Pretoria, George Daniels.
The first speaker gave a bird’s eye view of the coming-into-being of the Bible, which pretty much covered all I could say on the subject, and the speaker after me was talking about theSeptuagint (in which he is a specialist), so I decided to do my missiological thing, and talk about the Bible in culture. So I changed the title toThe Bible in the Orthodox Church, and spoke about the cultural differences between the ways in which Orthodox and Protestants approached the Bible.
One of the biggest differences, of course, is that Protestantism came into being in a world in which there was a Bible. Before Gutenberg’s invention of printing in the 15th century, and the publicatrion of printed Bibles, “The Bible”, as a book you could hold, open, wave about or thump to emphasise a point, simply did not exist. The Orthodox Church never had a Bible. Instead it had “the Holy Scriptures”, plural, and so one of the biggest differences between the Orthodox and Protestant approaches to the Bible is the difference between a manuscript culture and a print culture, the difference between communal reading and private, individualistic reading. If you’re interested in reading a summary of what I said, you can find it here.
It was a very pleasant gathering, however, and I think I learnt quite a lot from it. It was held at Linquenda Landgoed, somewhere between Broederstroom and Lanseria Airport, and it was arranged between an ourfit called Scriptorium and the Department of New Testament at the University of Pretoria. The are planning to hold similar gatherings in future, but as it was mostly in Afrikaans, I think that if they need another Orthodox speaker, I’ll suggest that they invite Fr Kobus van der Riet.
And for Afrikaans-speaking people who would like to know more about Orthodoxy, see here Bedehuis Bethanie | Kerk van die Heilige Maria die Egiptenaar