Well, there’s nothing like advertising Bibles for sale and then posting something that could be seen as undermining the very concept! But these words by Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver are worth reflecting on. I recently commented to someone that the invention of the printing press brought huge changes in how people related to and thought about Scripture, and I’m not sure that the easy appeals that some make to “the Bible” adequately take that into account. Not that this should undermine our devotion to the Scriptures – I think of accounts of Desert Fathers for whom a book of the Gospels was among the most prized of possessions – but it should perhaps give us pause for thought in assuming that something distinctly modern – and all the baggage that goes with it – always existed in the Church…

Strictly speaking, there never was a ‘Bible’ in the Orthodox Church, at least not as we commonly think of the Bible as a single volume book we can hold in our hand. Since the beginning of the Church, from the start of our liturgical tradition, there has never been a single book in an Orthodox church we could point to as ‘the Bible’. Instead, the various ‘Books’ of the Bible are found scattered throughout several service books located either on the Holy Altar itself, or at the chanter’s stand. The Gospels (or their pericopes) are complied into a single volume — usually bound in precious metal and richly decorated — placed on the Holy Altar.

The Epistles (or, again, their pericopes) are bound together in another book, called the Apostolos, which is normally found at the chanter’s stand. Usually located next to the Apostolos on the chanter’s shelf are the twelve volumes of the Menaion, as well as the books called the Triodion and Pentekostarion, containing various segments of the Old and the New Testaments.

The fact that there is no ‘Bible’ in the church should not surprise us, since our liturgical tradition is a continuation of the practices of the early Church, when the Gospels and the letters from the Apostles (the Epistles) had been freshly written and copied for distribution to the Christian communities. The ‘Hebrew Scriptures’ (what we now call the ‘Old Testament’, comprising the Law (the first five books) and the Prophets, were likewise written on various scrolls, just as they were found in the Jewish synagogues…

The Church is not based on the Bible. Rather, the Bible is a product of the Church. For the first few centuries of the Christian era, no one could have put his hands on a single volume called ‘The Bible’. In fact, there was no one put his hands on a single volume called ‘The Bible’. In fact, there was no agreement regarding which ‘books’ of Scripture were to be considered accurate and correct, or canonical. Continue

H/t Byzantine Texas.

On a related topic, Father Stephen Freeman has a very worthwhile post on Reading the Real Bible and Notes on the Real Hell.